coconut tart

Coconut Spelt Tart

 

coconut tart

I have to say, I don’t really get the current coconut craze where it seems to be the new food Messiah du jour. I’m a fructose malabsorber so coconut milk doesn’t agree with me, mainly use coconut oil in the shower rather than cooking with it due to its strong coconut flavour and tend to only drink coconut water when hungover when I don’t mind the mustiness it has.

The one way I really like coconut is desiccated which I think is a throwback to my Northern Irish Proddy background where it crept into all kinds of traybakes and sweet treats promising ‘a taste of paradise‘ in a small grey skied country with small minded views. I love a bit of it on a Fifteen or a raspberry ruffle bar and occasionally inhale a dark chocolate Bounty with indecent speed.

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth so it takes a lot for a dessert to knock my socks off but the treacle tart I had at the Rochelle Canteen a few months ago was so good I’m still thinking about it. The lightest pastry and butteriest filling, it was dessert perfection in my eyes and I’ve been itching to play around with it since.

I volunteered to bring dessert for book group the other week and needed something that was non wheat, low fodmap, low fructose and without chocolate or caffeine to fit all our dietary requirements and the idea of reworking that treacle tart into a coconut version popped into my head. I’ll leave to the utter brilliant Low Fodmap for Life to pick apart the coconut question for hardcore Fodmappers here and get on with baking.

This recipe is one of the few times you see me pick coconut oil over butter for cooking (even I draw the line at using butter as body moisturiser or hair conditioner though!) I wanted that extra heft of coconut flavour but if you don’t have any, just sub in butter. Please don’t ask me if you can use other liquid sweetners such as honey or agave syrup instead of golden syrup as they are incredibly problematic on the Fodmap diet and I never use them.

Coconut Spelt Tart (makes one 9 inch tart)

For the pastry: (adapted from Dan Lepard’s sweet shortcrust pastry)

  • 250g white spelt flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 125g cold butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • scant tablespoon ice cold water
  • pinch salt

For the tart:

  • 200g desiccated coconut, toasted
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 50ml golden syrup
  • 120ml water
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

I am not a good pastry maker despite having deathly cold hands. It can sense my fear I think and shrinks away from me. I think I often add too much liquid to it but this Dan Lepard version for sweet shortcrust is the best version I’ve used. (I know it looks like it shrank in the photos, but I actually cut the block I rolled slightly too small.)

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the icing sugar and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and rub into the flour until it disappears. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the cold water and beat it into the mix. I use a fork to just combine it and then switch to my hands to bring the pastry together.

It’s quite a soft almost sticky pastry and it needs a serious chill to be able to roll it. I usually put it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then fridge for 30 minutes if I need it then and there, but find it works best chilled overnight. Cut the block of pastry in two and roll one out to fit a 9 inch tart tin and then freeze the lined tin for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180℃ and spread the desiccated coconut out on two lined baking trays and toast it for about 7 minutes. Hover awkwardly by the oven keeping an eye on it as it browns as it goes from slightly tanned to smouldering almost instantly. Take out and allow to cool.

Line your tart tin with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice and blind bake for 25 minutes. I don’t prick spelt pastry usually as it’s lower gluten and doesn’t seem to like it. I have no idea if there’s science behind this or me just being superstitious, but I’m sticking to it.

Put the brown sugar, coconut oil, golden syrup and water in a saucepan and heat to melt it all together. (If you do it in that order the golden syrup behaves itself nicely on an oiled spoon and cuts down sticky drips in the kitchen.) Add the toasted coconut and allow it to absorb some of the liquid for 2-3 minutes before turning the mix out into a big mixing bowl to cool.

Once it’s not hot to the touch, separate your eggs and add in the yolks along with the vanilla extract and salt and allow to sit for a few minutes. Take the baking beans out of the tart tin and bake it for another 5 minutes to crisp up slightly.

Beat the egg whites with an electric whisk until they are peaked and pillowy and then fold them into the coconut mixture. Pour the coconut filling straight into the tart tin and bake for 15 minutes until set in the middle. You might have a tiny bit of coconut mix that doesn’t fit the tin but it can be baked pastry free in a ramekin if you can want to serve a gluten free version of the dessert.

Take the tart out before it looks dry and don’t worry if there is a hint of moisture to the very middle when you test it with a skewer. It’ll be grand when you come to eat it. Cool on a rack completely. I baked mine the night before and it kept fine wrapped in a tea towel.

Serve in slices with some thick cream or creme fraiche on the side. It’s surprisingly buttery despite using coconut oil and not too sweet compared to some desserts so I liked something slightly lactic on the side as contrast. I was really pleased with how this tart worked out and would definitely make it again. The only time the book group was silent was when they were eating this which I’ll take as a good sign!

 

chicken meatballs

Asian Style Chicken Meatballs

chicken meatballs

I think anyone who bought Slow Cooked got a flavour of my love of meatballs. I am delighted to have enabled so many other people too as they are amongst the most popular recipes from it and popular as a summer dish with the slow cooker too.

However sometimes, you want a dinner you can make really quickly without much prior thinking and effort and these Asian style chicken meatballs are a good one for that. I suspect it will take longer for me to write this post than make them…

On the #fodmap diet these days, my two ‘safe’ foods are always chicken and rice and I fall back on them when I cannot risk anything going wrong. I have almost superhuman abilities to eat plain chicken and brown rice but sometimes I need my staples to be jazzed up a bit so I blitzed some leftover rice with raw chicken and all the Asian style flavours in my kitchen and voila!

Bobbed in some homemade chicken broth with courgette, carrot, broccoli and some radish and fresh herbs I had a fodmap friendly dinner that didn’t feel worthy and used up lots of odds and sods. You could chuck any flavourings in that you liked or need using up. If you go Asian inspired, don’t forget to squeeze some lime over it all. I was limeless and it suffered slightly.

This dish also allowed me to try my newest fodmap trick with a julienne peeler. This turns carrots and courgettes etc into ribbons or julienne that makes small amounts of veg go further and bulk meals up when you can’t do much fibre or need to make one lone courgette serve several people to avoid a trip to the shop. I do like a useful kitchen gadget…

Chicken Meatballs (serves 2 if hungry, 4 if decorous)

  • 4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned
  • 150g cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp or anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (use tamari if avoiding wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste (if not avoiding barley)
  • 1 teaspoon oil (sesame would be lovely if you have it)
  • 3cm fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass or equivalent paste
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley

Take the chicken off the bone. I usually just snip it off with kitchen scissors and then chop it roughly. Add in the cooked rice. I used some leftover stuff I had but if you keep an emergency packet of that microwaveable stuff in the house, it works well.

Put in all the flavourings and the oil in with it all and using a stick blender or food processor blitz it all together into a thick paste. It will will look revolting and oddly reminiscent of a documentary on McDonalds Chicken Nuggets and the shrimp paste will smell vile. Resist the temptation to curse my name and trust me because they will be great.

Wet your hands with cold water and pinch off walnut sized balls of the chicken mixture and roll into meatballs. Place on a plate and repeat until they are all rolled, wetting your hands again as needed. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge or pop in the freezer for 15.

Heat a pan and add a little oil (not sesame) if it isn’t non stick. Fry the meatballs on each side on a medium hot heat for about 3 minutes, turning to get an even golden-ness on each side. Allow them to rest for about 3 minutes before serving. They have that bouncy chewy texture like Thai fish cakes but if you serve them too hot they are a bit rubbery.

Serve in a big bowl of chicken broth and veggies, maybe some rice noodles if you are super hungry and some chopped red chilli and fresh coriander and lime juice over the top and slurp them up out of the bowl. You could also serve them as a chicken meatball sandwich in a tortilla or flatbread for some serious fusion cooking going on. They are excellent cold as a lunch so it’s worth making a batch and playing around with flavours as you fancy.

teff cookies

Teff and Spelt Brown Butter Cookies

teff cookiesMy lovely blog readers know this already, but many people don’t know that gluten free doesn’t automatically mean wheat free. My wheat free Fodmap friends have to explain this one everytime and I’m guilty of it myself when checking labels for them, seeing gluten free and assuming it’ll be fine. Ahem…

I’ve been on a mission to try and make desserts for a friend who can’t do lactose or wheat while I can’t do fruit. It’s incredibly difficult. A dry meringue? Dark chocolate? That’s about it so far and just to be helpful, I hate dark chocolate on its own. Far too worthy for me when I occasionally crave something sweet.

I’ve been reading up about baking with non wheat flours that are Fodmap friendly and then when I went to the Nour Cash and Carry in Brixton a few days ago, they had bags of red teff flour for under £2 which is a massive bargain. (I also got millet and sorghum to try as well as I’m trying to cut down my wheat consumption so I don’t overload my temperamental body any further.)

I was in the mood to bake and while cleaning out my fridge, found a bar of dark chocolate that might have been in there as long as the beetroot that expired last May. I needed to distract myself from my poor housekeeping and thought chocolate chip cookies would be an idea as teff flour is supposed to have a rich cocoa flavour that works well with butter and chocolate.

Teff flour

I adapted this recipe for a no chill dough that uses melted butter to give a chewier cookie, subbing spelt and teff flours in and browning the butter. They tasted amazing but were a little dry on the first go. I’ve reduced the teff flour as it absorbs liquid which is lower here because of browning the butter.

I’ve also made the cookies are smaller than the original writer suggests to keep them softer. You also need to work the spelt more to activate the gluten it does have which is a big adjustment for me since I’ve trained myself never to overwork wheat gluten. This is all part of the fun of trying new baking!

Spelt and Teff Brown Butter Cookies (makes 24)

  • 120g butter, browned (see below)
  • 75g white sugar
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 200g white spelt flour
  • 50g red teff flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bar dark chocolate

Some people with very high lactose sensitivity may not be able to handle the butter here, but for me, vegan baking is a big no-no. Not only is butter the closest thing I get to a religion, the vegan substitutes of chickpea water, applesauce and flax egg are all massive Fodmap triggers for me. I also can’t have honey or agave. My body wants Tate and Lyle and proper butter or it will have a digestive tantrum. And if my body demands butter, who am I to argue?

Start by browning the butter. Put the butter in a pan and melt it well, turning the heat up slightly once it is liquid to get it to foam and reduce some of the water content. Keep stirring it and let it heat until the butter turns brown and smells nutty but not burned. Watch it closely and take it off the heat at this point, pouring it into a bowl to cool slightly.

Give it five minutes and then use an electric whisk to beat the sugars in until it is a gorgeous creamy toffee coloured emulsion. Add the egg and beat in lightly and then add the vanilla.

Sift in the spelt flour. I find it clumps a lot in the packet and can be lumpy when you bake with it if you don’t sift or sieve it well. Mix it in well and add the teff flour and baking powder. The dough should come together in a soft ball that comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate. I bashed my bar up with a rolling pin and chopped it roughly so the chunks were big.

teff dough

Pull balls of the dough off and roll into walnut sized balls. Flatten them with a fork on trays lined with baking paper. Don’t go crazy handling the dough but don’t worry about playing around with it. Spelt likes a bit of affection. Bake for 7-8 minutes on 180℃. The dough will be very dark when it goes in and come out considerably paler. Don’t let the cookies look cooked as you want them to stay as soft as possible.

Cool on the tray for 2 minutes and then onto a rack and allow to cool slowly. They will be deliciously chocolately and buttery with the best flavour of a cookie I’ve had in a long time and softer and chewier than my first batch. I still want to refine them further so if you have any tips on teff or spelt or make these, let me know in the comments. I’ll get some lactose free milk in for you…

pork spelt salad

Pork and Lemon Balm Spelt Salad

pork spelt salad

If I’m honest, I have blogged little recently and cooked even less. Other people get inspired by hot summer weather and create wonderful meals of seasonal produce to be eaten outdoors. I tend to hide indoors eating a Magnum for dinner in front of an open window which is blissful but hard to write about.

My summer eating has also been cramped (literally) by the whole Fodmap thing. All stone fruit are a no-no. One small roasted flat peach the other week made me so ill I had to spend the next day in a darkened room with a fruit induced hangover basically. Asparagus is out. So are avocados. Corn and peas are only allowed in homeopathic amounts. Cherry tomatoes are causing issues. My innards wish it was mid winter and they could have some nice swede and curly kale.

Thank god for spinach is all I can say. Sometimes you just need something green and leafy and it does the trick. But it’s not what I’d call filling so I’m always looking for ways to bulk it up a bit. My friend Alex is a fellow Fodmapper who has issues with the wheat-rye-barley school and she introduce me to pearled spelt recently as a barley alternative.

Sadly much more expensive and only really available in Waitrose or through Sharpham Park, pearled spelt looks very like pearl barley but is more robust and hearty. It would be great in soups where I love that chewy grain texture but I’m wishing winter back again to talk about that, so I made a spelt salad.

I’m eating a LOT of meat right now. I’m trying a higher protein diet for gut issues generally while I learn more about leaky gut syndrome and auto immune illnesses (warning: Google is full of woo on this subject so read carefully) and because with most fruit and veg and all pulses being excluded and cheese limited, I don’t have many other choices. You need much more protein to fill you up when you can’t really bulk up on fibre as well. I’m trying to eat a variety of types of meat and fish and vary the cuts to keep it interesting.

I got a pork tenderloin inexpensively in Tesco recently (somewhere I alamost never shop but went into to enjoy their air con). Still a well priced cut, there’s no waste on it and a whole one does me about four meals. I combined it with some impulse purchase lemon balm, green beans and spinach and drizzled it with a lemon vinaigrette. It was delicious, but if anyone has any tips on giving vinaigrette a new twist or can suggest other Fodmap friendly dressings, please let me know!

Pork and Lemon Balm Spelt Salad (serves 4)

  • 450g pork (I used tenderloin or fillet)
  • 150g spelt (uncooked weight)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced and 1 lemon sliced
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • 150g green beans
  • 1 tablespoon garlic oil
  • 1 big bag spinach
  • 50g green olives
  • 4 stalks lemon balm
  • small handful fresh parsley
  • small handful fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar with a dash of lemon juice
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Start by soaking the spelt in cold water for at least half an hour if you have time. I did mine in the morning and left it all day. It makes it quicker to cook, saves on labourious washing and gives a lovely texture to the cooked grain.

Add the soaked spelt to a large pan and cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the spelt still has slight bite but is cooked. Drain and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Season the pork well. Seal it on each side for about 2 minutes to add some colour and then lay out some tinfoil and set the sliced lemon on it. Wrap the pork up in the foil like a parcel and pop in the oven for 12 minutes on 180 ℃. Leave to rest for 5-7 minutes and then slice thinly.

While the spelt is cooling, slice your courgette and fry in the garlic oil (remember Fodmaps are not oil soluble so garlic oil is fine). When they are cooked, dry fry the green beans in the remaining oil until slightly softened. Add both to the cooked spelt along with the lemon juice and zest.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, vinegar and mustard and mixing well. Tear the lemon balm with your hands. It will discolour if you use a metal knife. Toss it into the spelt along with the sliced pork and add the chopped parsley and chives. Add the spinach and the olives and toss it all well so the warmth of the pork wilts the spinach just slightly.

Serve and eat outside if possible to give you that proper summer feeling. Excellent with a Magnum for afters too, preferably a Dark Espresso one…

 

 

bag octopus

Octopus Salad with Dill Salsa Verde

bag octopus

You know you are what most people would term a ‘foodie’ when you tend to keep some octopus in the house for an emergency. (That’s a dinner based emergency by the way. Anything else would just be weird.)

This is mainly because my local branch of the 99p Stores tends to sell tinned octopus cheaply and I stash it in the cupboard to go with pasta when I don’t much want to cook. However, this time my emergency octopus was the fancy Iberian stuff from Brindisa. Bought with a voucher, this packet of massive tentacles steamed in its own juices has been sitting in my fridge for ages. It’s been waiting for one of those moments where I want to pretend I’m Nigel Slater and make a meal more interesting that most people’s dinner parties but with stuff I happen to have to hand.

That moment came when I invited a friend round for dinner and was more interested in sitting on my patio gossiping about men and drinking dry Riesling than cooking per se. I had the octopus, I had some new potatoes and I had a thumping great bunch of dill. I also watched a lot of Ready Steady Cook in its day…

Octopus Salad with Dill Salsa Verde (serves 4)

  • 500g octopus
  • 500g new potatoes
  • 1/2 large bunch of fresh dill
  • 1/2 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 75g green olives
  • 30g capers
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 hard boiled egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

If you don’t have a bag of octopus around the house, you could use tinned or frozen baby ones from the Chinese supermarket you’ve simmered with lemon and bay leaves for about an hour and then cooled. I do this quite often in the slow cooker (see page 80 of Slow Cooked) and then freeze them for later use. Unlike squid, there isn’t much shrinkage or waste on an octopus so they are surprisingly good value.

If you do have a bag of octopus in the house, it’s literally boil in the bag as it’s packed in its own juices. Either simmer in a pot of water for 15 minutes or pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes and then allow to cool again for 3 minutes.

I also almost always steam my potatoes in the microwave these days. I cut them in quarters, put in a microwave proof bowl with a lid on and give them about 5 minutes per 250g. So give this amount 10 minutes and then allow to sit for a minute to absorb steam. Or boil them as normal and drain well.

Make the salsa verde by combing the dill and parsley in a hand blender with the oil, vinegar and egg yolk (this is optional. I had a spare hard boiled egg and know it helps emulsify the sauce. Double the mustard if you don’t have one.) Add the anchovies, olives, capers and mustard. Pulse to a thick but pourable consistency. Season and add any more mustard or anchovies or capers to taste. You could even chuck in a bit of garlic or fresh mint if you had some.

Slice your octopus into chunks and toss with the warm potatoes and stir the salsa verde through it all. Add some chopped fresh dill and parsley to look pretty, pour another glass of wine (Lidl’s dry Riesling is my current obsession) and tuck in. A simple barely cook dinner with almost no washing up which tastes of summer and luxury. What’s not to like?

octopus salad