Homemade Mayonnaise

mayonnaiseWhen I moved to London in the early 2000s, it was a mythical land where you could afford the rent to live in Zone 1 and had to actually go out of your way to find a branch of Pret a Manger. Clutching a crayfish and rocket sarnie at lunch in those was a statement (mainly that you weren’t doing Atkins) but also that you were in some way young and trendy.

That feeling lasted about six months and then I realised that Pret’s utter obsession with mayonnaise was ruining my life. The occasional sandwich I bought from there was limp with the stuff. They applied it to unsuspecting bread the way estate agents apply gel to their hair. I didn’t just stop eating in Pret; I stopped eating mayonnaise completely.

I suddenly, after a childhood spent smuggling tubes of lemon juiced spiked Continental stuff home from Italy and eating potato salad at any opportunity, couldn’t even look at the stuff. Where only ‘low fat’ mayonnaise had seemed to have that shudderingly globular appearance, all mayonnaise started to resemble something as slick and oily as Vaseline.

I couldn’t bear it. I pitched myself firmly in team salad cream and only ventured back to Pret when they made the Jamon Buerre easier to get. My potato salad went vinaigrette based. And then on August Bank Holiday I woke up and craved mayonnaise so badly I almost made the effort to go out in the rain to get some.

It is testament to my combination of dedication to not getting dressed and agoraphobia that I decided it would actually be easier to just make my own homemade version for the first time. I had eggs, I had oil, I had a whisk and I had nothing better to do.

Turns out making it from scratch is quicker than trying to find a clean bra, locate your purse and find out where Tesco Express have moved everything to this time. It’s also easier and more fulfilling in every possible way. I had no fear of it splitting on me having heard a little trick from my friend Adriana about adding a teaspoon of water to the egg yolk first to stabilise it all (this article explains why but the video autoplays.)

I used some beautiful golden rapeseed oil from Broighter Gold from Northern Ireland to add some summer feel to my grey kitchen and then added dill, capers and anchovies. I ate it dolloped onto homemade oven chips and congratulated myself heartily on my life choices. The rest went into the most magnificient egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten to keep the Bank Holiday joy alive on a Tuesday.

Homemade Mayonnaise (makes about a cupful)

  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 45ml olive or rapeseed or garlic infused oil
  • 75ml flavourless oil such as sunflower oil
  • flavourings of choice such as lemon, mustard, fresh herbs etc

This is incredibly easy and much less hard work than you’d expect. I didn’t actually find it tiring to make and I’ve got spectacularly low energy levels. I wanted a mix of flavoured oil and something neutral so have gone for the balance above to allow you to add more flavours in as desired. Garlic infused oil is fodmap friendly so this a great way to add garlickiness to meals.

Separate your egg and put the yolk into a deep bowl. Beat lightly with a balloon whisk and add a pinch of salt. Add exactly a teaspoon of cold water and beat it in slightly.

Mix your two oils together in a small jug and start off by dripping a few drops of them into the egg yolk while beating steadily. Almost instantly you get a foreshadowing of what will happen and it starts to emulsify. Beat until the oil is combined and then add a drip or two more, repeating three of four times.

Start to add the oil a little more generously at this point as the mayonnaise goes from cautious baby steps to all singing all dancing emulsifying. It literally comes together into a smooth glossy miracle. It’s like comparing an Arab horse to the Shetland pony of commercial brands like Hellmans.

Leave it as it is or add a squirt of lemon and a pinch of mustard powder if you want a good basic mayonnaise you could lick off your fingers in joy. Allow your imagination to take over if you want to personalise it to a particular dish or desire. If I can crack making a garlic free harissa paste soon then that’s my next batch of this sorted.

You can scale the amounts up but remember it does involve raw egg so it will only keep for a day or two in the fridge and if you want more, you can just make more. This is the kind of stuff that impresses the hell out of people no matter their condiment of choice!

mayo & chips

gherkin soup

Gherkin Soup

gherkin soupI have several loves in my life. Black eyeliner. Slow cookers. Carmex. But my heart really belongs to gherkins. Just say the word to yourself. It’s delightful to utter. It looks comical to write. And you get to decide how deep your relationships with people will be depending how they feel about them in burgers.

I always keep a jar in the house and have to ration myself from crunching through a gherkin every time I open the fridge (and yes, I know pickling preserves them. There’s just more room in there.) I garnish sandwiches with them and add them to salads, but I’ve never cooked with them.

Like most people, by late August, I’m in courgette apathy. Allotmenteers have gluts of them, but for fodmappers like me, this lasts all year as they are one of the few vegetables I can eat.

Staring glumly at a courgette on a chilly August lunchtime, I wondered how I could perk things up a bit. Deciding soup would be more acceptable than turning the heating on, I used a jar of gherkins to add some bite and interest to the whole thing. My Polish friends might clutch their pearls in horror at how inauthentic it all is but it tasted great and made courgettes interesting again.

Gherkin Soup (serves 2)

  • 1 large courgette, grated
  • 1 large potato, grated
  • 1 parmesan rind or 25g grated parmesan
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 450ml stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 100g gherkins, chopped finely
  • 25g fresh dill or parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream

This is so easy and quick, writing the recipe out as a blogpost definitely took longer than cooking it from scratch (and I’m a speedy writer!)

Peel the potato and grate it and the courgette on the largest hole of a box grater and put into a large saucepan and cover with the stock. Add the anchovy fillet and the parmesan rind if you are using it. I stash mine in the freezer in a Tupperware until needed.

Simmer for about 10 minutes until the veg is soft and the anchovy has dissolved. I’m still working on a homemade fodmap friendly stock as it’s the place I miss the depth of onion the most, but I’m using the Knorr Touch of Taste one from a bottle. It’s onion and chicory fibre free for fodmappers and the least cheap roast chicken crisp flavoured commercial one I’ve found. Stop me if I sound too like Marco Pierre White though…

Fish the parmesan rind out and add in the chopped gherkins. Chuck in the grated parmesan if you’re using it instead and carefully blitz the soup with a stick blender, remembering hot liquids expand.

Add the chopped dill (I went fancy and added the parsley too. Mint would work if you are a dill-phobe) and stir in the sour cream and serve. It’s the perfect late summer soup, all fresh and tangy but warming and soothing at the same time. I’ve made it twice in a week which means my gherkin usage is about to fill my whole recycling bag singlehanded, but who cares when it’s this good?


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…