Monday, 17 February 2014

Wheat free - what does it mean to me?

Hello! It's been a while. I've not done much blogging however I have done plenty pondering. Whilst at a friend's over Christmas (which seems a million miles away now) we got chatting about the ups and downs of recognising (and in many cases admitting to yourself) that something in your diet may not agree with you and the implications of cutting it out.

For me it was wheat. I suffered for years (as far back as being a teenager) however it took a lot of persuasion for me to cut it out. Probably because it seemed such a simple solution (why had the GP never suggested it?) but such a drastic one. And at the time it did feel drastic. Cutting out sandwiches, pasta, cakes...all the things I love.

Anyway, this post is about focusing on the positives so here goes. So what does having a wheat intolerance (or "special dietary requirement" as it's referred to) mean to me? Here are my top ten.

It means
  1. Being more in control of what you are eating (as you know what all the "hidden ingredients" are).
  2. Cooking fresh and never relying on ready made meals.
  3. Having lovely home baked goodies every week.
  4. Having more variety, especially at lunchtime. Sandwiches are replaced with soups, salads, baked potatoes or little pots of leftovers from dinner the night before.
  5. Going to a party and not being to eat all the sandwiches, sausage rolls and nibbles from the buffet - but then going home and feeling good that you haven't eaten all the sandwiches, sausage rolls and nibbles from the buffet!
  6. A sense of satisfaction when people taste your food and "can't taste the difference"
  7. Going to a restaurant and liking the fact they go the extra mile with the Gluten Free menu (and trust me, many do these days).
  8. Going to nice coffee shops and having lemon drizzle (polenta) cake or not feeling guilty about eating the crispy cakes meant for kiddies.
  9. Adapting menus and publishing my own ones.
  10. Keeping this blog and writing about my own experiences.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Fabulous Flapjacks

So I hear on the grapevine (well twitter) that Hugh will be rustling up some banana flapjacks tonight on River Cottage Fruit. Well I am afraid to say I won't be following the recipe as I have my very own which I think is the best! I would love to have a battle of the flapjacks but I'm up here in Fife and with Hugh down there in Devon I don't think it's going to happen soon!

With two sons who compete regularly at athletics we find these are a great snack, especially with a son who won't eat bananas but will eat flapjacks packed with them!

Anyway here's my tried and tested recipe.

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free No
Makes 30  

Ingredients(plain flapjack)

350g butter 
280g demerara sugar
1/2 tin condensed milk
2bsp syrup
500g porridge outs

Optional Extras
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Chopped dried apricots
Chocolate chunks
Pumpkin seeds
Anything you fancy really!

1. In a large pan melt the butter and sugar over a low heat.
2. Stir in the condensed milk and syrup.
3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the oats.
4. Add any extras (at this point I usually split the mix in two and make two different flavours, a particular favourite of ours is cranberry, apricot and coconut pictured abouve).
5. Put in two baking trays lined with baking parchment. Even the mix out but don;t press down too hard.
6. Bake in the oven for approximately 15min or until the edges start to brown. Don't overcook
7. Leave in the trays until cold then cut into squares.
8. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Fresh Veg Alert!

Everyone will probably get fed up with me banging on about fresh veg soon but I can't believe how excited I get coming home from work on a Tuesday night. I couldn't wait to get in tonight to find out what veg had been delivered and week two was as inviting looking as week one...long may it continue.

So this week's veg fest from The Little Veg Company consisted of:

Onions (both red and white)
Red pepper
Yellow pepper
Savoy cabbage
Celeriac (an old favourite of mine)
Beetrot (a new favourite of mine...nothing to do with making beetroot brownies last week!)

I also added a fruit box to my order and again this was exceptional value for money with bananas, apples, pears, plums, oranges, tangerines and grapes all for just £10.

Before I had my jacket off I was turning on the oven ready to roast the pumpkin for soup. I also diced up the leftover squash from last week. My recipe is here Pumpkin & Squash Soup Recipe to raid the recipe books and decide what to do with the rest...

Pumpkin Soup

With Halloween looming what better than a lovely bowl of pumpkin soup.

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free Yes
Makes lots

1 small pumpkin
1 small butternut squash
Drizzle of olive oil
1 large onion
2 celery sticks
3 cloves garlic
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ginger
1 chilli
2 litres vegetable stock

1. Prepare the pumpkin and squash for roasting. I find the easiest way is to cut into large chunks/slices with the skin left on. Drizzle with olive oil and put on a baking tray.
2. Cover with foil and roast at 200oC until tender. The time depends on the size of the chunks but usually around 30-40min.
3. Whilst the veg is roasting, finely chop the onion and celery. Crush the garlic and finely chop the chilli.
4. Add to a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Cover and sweat until the onion and celery have softened (but not browned).
5. Add the cumin and ginger and give a good mix.
6. Add the stock and simmer for 40min.
7. Remove the flesh from the roasted veg and add to the stock.
8. Cook for 5min then blitz in a food processor until smooth.
9. Serve with a drizzle of cream and some toasted pumpkin seeds.
10. Enjoy! 

This soup works well with other root vegetables such a parsnip.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Back to Basics

Of all the big fancy stalls at the Good Food Show in Glasgow last week, it was a little one that caught my eye and made my day. I missed it on the first wander around and to be honest it wasn't the stall but the lovely kids clambering over it that made me take a second glance. I was glad I did!

The Little Veg Co is a small family run business which deliver fresh fruit and vegetable boxes straight to your door on a weekly basis. We had a quick chat and decided to give it a try so on Tuesday our first veg box arrived. It looked as good as the ones we saw at the show and the variety (and quantity) was fantastic. We asked not to include potatoes or onions as we go through lots of these each week so for £16 we got the following:

Humongous cauliflower 
Equally huge red cabbage
Butternut squash

The quality and freshness of the vegetables was amazing and the only packaging was the bag the spinach came in. I am so impressed I plan on adding a fruit box to our order next week along with extra spuds and onions.

Seeing the veg in all its glory really made us think long and hard about our weekly shopping. We regularly use the local fishmonger and butcher but it's all too easy when in the Supermarket to pop a few things in the trolley and not bother. Well as of this week we are committed 100% to buying local.

Obviously we will still use the Supermarket for all the staple stuff but for our perishables (fruit, veg, meat, fish) we are sticking to our guns and keeping them out the trolley.

Not knowing what will arrive on a Tuesday will also have an impact on menu planning as the tables are now turned. Veggies arrive then we pick a menu for the week rather than menu planning then shopping. It is really refreshing to do this and also means we are less likely to get stuck in a rut with the same meals. It also means we don't buy things we don't need and potentially could waste.

On the menu this week is:

Cauliflower, broccoli and smoked haddock gratin
Spaghetti bolognaise (mushrooms)
Butternut squash risotto (celery)
Lamb & cauliflower curry (cauliflower still going strong!)
Fish pie  (spinach & carrots)
Smoked mackerel fishcakes & side salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber)
Veggie pasta (peppers & mushrooms)
Spicy chickpea soup (carrots & celery)

I am also deciding what to do with the beetroot. At the moment I am torn between beetroot falafels or beetroot humous...I'll probably make both.

I know some people will be skeptical that you can really taste a difference but trust me, you can! When I make bolognaise I dice mushrooms and put them through it. Tonight my teenage son actually asked what was different about the mushrooms as they had more flavour. He's a teenage boy, he rarely pays attention to anything!