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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…

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

 

Fodmap Tips and Tricks*

chips

I know I sound completely obsessed by Fodmaps at the moment and I think I probably am. You can’t make a major dietary change and stick to it for life without going a bit tunnel vision in the process. Not only does it help focus your mind, it distracts you from the sense of tedium you get as you eat the same meal again. And again. And again.

I’ve been attempting to be free of my particular Fodmap triggers since just after Christmas so have managed the guts (pun intended) of six months of it and learned plenty along the way so thought I’d share a few nuggets of information I’ve picked up. I’m pretty much fine with wheat and lactose unless I combine them with other Fodmap triggers, so my experiences might not be as helpful for the wheat-free brigade, but you never know.

The main thing I’ve learned is that people will put onions and garlic in every single bloody thing possible. I won’t even be surprised if someone serves me an onion based dessert or sticks a clove of garlic in my cocktail (and yes, I do know there’s a bar called Garlic and Shots in London before you ask. I had a terrible night there once.)

Being an allium dodger in this town is hard. No cuisine completely eschews them and between onions, garlic, shallots, spring onions, leeks and their powdered versions, there’s a lot of ways to add them to things. I find lunchtime easier because not only am I lucky enough to be able to eat a sandwich, eggs are still on the menu before 5pm. Variations of breakfast  and brunch food work well here if you avoid black pudding with its dried onion evilness.

My other lunchtime option is always sushi or sashimi. Not only is it less expensive at lunchtime, it’s now relatively easy to come by on the go (just avoid Marks and Spencer here. Theirs is vile.) Scotch eggs are another potential if you don’t mind a blast of sulphurousness as an accompaniment to lunch. Cocktail sausages are surprisingly filling with a bag of crisps on the side and make any bus journey seem like an actual picnic.

Yet crisps are a Fodmap minefield. Gone forever are my beloved Tayto cheese and onion or a pickled onion Monster Munch, but so are just about any ‘fancy’ versions that sound like a meal in a bag. From prawn cocktail to roast pork with mustard or the suchlike, they will have dried onion in. I have become the person who always chooses ready salted now.

And don’t even think of trying vegetable crisps instead. The beetroot are little deep fried Fodmap bombs covered in salt. Kale chips smell like death itself and come doused in onion powder or garlic salt. Prawn crackers and mini poppadoms should be surrounded at parties and guarded fiercely because they are the only snack foods in town you can still eat. Cashews and pistachios inexplicably have Fodmaps and let’s not even remind ourselves of the existence of dip because it is gone to you forever. Lactose, pulses, vegetables and alliums combine to do their worst here.

Ironically the fact you have to basically give up savoury snacking (and sweet ones if you like Haribo. Those fizzy ones will kill you off trust me) means you will be even hungrier by the time of the main meal which can make it harder to concentrate and spot potential menu pitfalls. Instead of adding joy to life, chorizo adds problems to every dish it finds its porky charms into, which in 2015 is most of them. Soup is a complete no go as all stock will have onions in it. Pasta is problematic as a base and a vehicle for Fodmappy sauces. Pulses have to be avoided and the foodie fascination with avocado and cauliflower with their tricksy little polyols cannot end soon enough for my innards.

In fact this whole ‘healthy’ eating kick at the moment that constantly replaces certain foodstuffs with fruit and veg products is a nightmare for me. Date syrup or agave instead of sugar, root veg instead of flour, cauliflower instead of rice, green juicing and smoothies, all agonising for me. Especially accompanied with the constant refrain that they are ‘healthier’ so I end up with envy of other people’s cast iron digestive systems as I politely shuffle their wonder food round my plate without being able to eat it.

My failsafe on most menus these days is steak and chips or salmon and potatoes which means that ‘ethnic’ food tends to be a no no. I may think I’m all cosmopolitan living in Brixton but my small bowel is acting like UKIP and classing everything as ‘foreign muck’ to be viewed with culinary suspicion. About all I can eat from outside Northern Europe is dim sum and some Vietnamese dishes. On a recent trip to The Real Greek, the only thing on the entire menu I could safely eat were the boiled potatoes. Thank god for white wine.

Because the Fodmap fun doesn’t stop with drinks. Oh no, fruit juice is a complete no go for me now along with anything dandelion, fennel, chicory or chamomile based. Cocktails have to be checked carefully for certain juices and purees and rogue agave syrup. Red wine bloats me and gives me terrible hangovers in any amount. Beer, except oddly Guinness, is an occasional treat. Luckily prosecco and cava work fine as do espresso martinis, so I’m sure I’ll survive Happy Hour if not the main meal itself.

After years of mocking those people, I now understand why they bring their own portion of fish to be steamed alongside some rice. Only now that I’m in eating disorder recovery do I actually look strange around food. Alanis Morrissette would have a field day.

I’ve tried the Monash University Fodmap app and it’s mainly only been useful in acquainting me with the names of fruit and vegetable varieties. I cannot become the person who asks if the tomatoes in the sauce are baby plums or cherry or vine ripened after some of the responses from wait staff to queries about garlic and onions. I see why people with food intolerances stick to chains where they serve the same thing repeatedly and can consult their big binder of facts. Wahaca were helpful and can adapt five or six dishes for me. Nandos suggested the chips and shrugged on everything else but since I live in South London I can always go to the chicken shop on the way home or simply eat before I go out.

So if anyone has any tips on Fodmap free dips or tips on what the hell to serve wheat and dairy free Fodmappers who of course can’t eat fruit for dessert, do tell me in the comments. I’ll buy you a drink in thanks. We should both be ok with soda water…

*the trick is that you can’t live without potatoes on this diet.

Spelt Choux Pastry

chouxI love choux pastry. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Paris-Brest, a profiterole or an éclair, I adore it. Not even having grown up with tales of my mum’s summer job at Bird’s Eye on the frozen éclair line and still being traumatised at the sight of one decades later could convince me otherwise.

But oddly enough I’d never made choux pastry, thinking it was incredibly difficult and demanding to do. But when I decided to throw a party the other week, I immediately decided to do difficult and demanding because God forbid you’d make entertaining easy in my mind. I’m surprised I didn’t decide to go full croquembouche just to be sure I gave myself real stress.

My only choux dilemma was if you could make it with spelt flour to be wheat free for a fellow Fodmapper. Spoiler alert: it works just fine. This is because spelt still contains gluten so gets a nice texture and structure. You just need slightly more liquid than with wheat flour or it gets almost impossible to beat even with an electric whisk.

I found making the choux incredibly easy and kept thinking something was bound to go wrong because it just seemed *too* simple (why yes, I do collect anxiety disorders like cookbooks since you ask.) Nothing malfunctioned, but I discovered I hate hate hate piping choux pastry so gave up and just dolloped it on the baking tray instead before I turned the air blue and my hand white with squeezing the piping bag.

I filled the choux with creme patisserie which also worked marvellously and then whipped up a few coffee mini pavlovas with the remaining egg whites to be economical. This would have worked better if I hadn’t forgotten about a tray of them and found them cooled in the oven a week later. But honestly, with a bit of mise-en-place and good music on the radio, this was a great way to cater for a party of people with food intolerances with minimum trickiness.

Spelt Choux Pastry (makes approx 40 large profiteroles)

  • 120g butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 350ml water or half and half water and milk
  • 300g spelt flour, sifted well
  • 6 eggs

I do have one piece of sad news from the world of choux. When researching recipes, I discovered it is the first time Dan Lepard has ever let me down. There was no indication how much pastry the recipe made and it took me a moment or two to stop reeling and start doing some maths to adapt this internet based recipe into one that worked and served enough people.

Start by heating the butter, salt and water together until the butter is melted and reaches boiling point. Lower the heat and add the sifted spelt flour. I sifted mine twice as spelt has a tendency to clumping and one does not want clumpy choux. Stir it all well until combined until the mix pulls away from the sides of the pan. Mine did it almost instantly.

Take it off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Beat each whole egg in one at a time until well combined. This is best with an electric mixer. My fifth egg caused my slightly dry choux to pull up the beater like a tornado so I had to hand mix the last one in. It should be glossy and just the stiff side of sloppy.

I then tried to pipe my slightly too stiff choux out of a slightly too small nozzle and ended up with tiny pointed topped buns and a general sense of rage. I switched to using a warmed spoon to dollop out blobs onto trays lined with baking paper before baking the buns at 200℃ for 20 minutes. I then reduced the heat to 170℃ for another 20 minutes to allow the choux to dry out slightly.

Once lifted out of the oven, I used rubber gloves to lift them off the trays and poked a hole in the base of each one to let the steam out as they cooled to stop them going soft. Then they then cooled on a rack while I made creme pat.

This is another one of those things people talk about in terms of being tricky and it might well be and I only had beginners’ luck, but I used my other baking bible in Rachel Allen’s fabulous Bake and it was easier to make than falling off a log. It will need to come back to room temperature to be easier to pipe though if you make it in advance. I used cornflour to keep it wheat and gluten free.

Creme Patisserie (will fill all those choux buns)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 25g cornflour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Begin by beating the sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl until as light and fluffy as possible. I used the electric whisk. I also never use caster sugar because I’m not organised enough to buy it and granulated works fine for me. Stir in the cornflour.

Warm the milk in a saucepan until it just starts to boil and then gently pour the milk over the egg and sugar mix, beating continuously so it doesn’t scramble. I used the electric mixer again as it seemed to require less hand eye co-ordination.

Pour it all back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to whisk constantly. Mine foamed as it came to the boil and then flattened down as it thickened as it came to the boil and it made it easier to see what it was doing. I cooked it for a minute or two and then removed it from the heat and beat the vanilla into it.

I poured it into a bowl and allowed to cool slightly before covering well and chilling overnight. It set firmly in the fridge and I left it it out for about an hour before piping into the choux. I had intended to mix the creme pat with some apricot jam for an Austrian vibe but I totally forgot. The choux buns went down well despite this. I suspect I’ll be doing the whole thing again very soon anyway.

 

 

Fodmap Friendly Frikadellen

 

frikadellenThis was going to be my year of meatballs and then life got in the way and I haven’t made any at all, let alone hosted soirees filled with them, but when I decided to throw a Eurovision party, I knew they would be on my menu.

I was catering for one non pork eater, a wheat free Fodmapper and a roomful of people with appetites like gannets (the best kind of people I find) so I wanted something substantial. I looked for Austrian inspired recipes, got sidetracked into wurst jokes and decided to go German with frikadellen instead.

These are a slightly flattened meatball which makes them easier to cook and quicker to roll than small ones so when making loads they cut that corner quite well. My dilemma was what to lighten them with. Pork mince was out and so were breadcrumbs. I went for everyone’s favourite anti-carb and used grated courgette instead and it worked very well alongside the small amount of apple I used and the fresh rosemary that gave the sweetness and flavour onion and garlic usually offers. I know some Fodmappers can’t do apple but the amounts are small enough that most people could.

I then rolled and flattened the frikadellen and chilled them well before pan frying them for about 3 minutes each side in advance to give a nice crust. I then put them on oven trays close together and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes at 180℃ when I wanted to serve them. This allowed me to serve hot food with a minimum of fuss and washing up.

A plate of these each with a mountain of dill and gherkin infused potato salad fortified us beautifully for all night Eurovision fun. I’m sure it was them and not the export strength gin that saw my friend and I still celebrating the Irish referendum at 5am by listening to Jedward’s Lipstick

Fodmap Friendly Frikadellen (serves 4-6)

  • 750g beef mince or 250g pork and 500g beef
  • 1 medium sized apple such as a Bramley or Braeburn
  • 2 medium or 1 large courgette
  • 3 stalks fresh rosemary
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper

These are lovely and easy to make but need chilling time so don’t rush them.

Put the chilled mince into a large bowl and break it up really well with your hands. This is surprisingly hard work. Peel and grate the apple into it.

Grate the courgette and then chop it roughly too. You want something slightly shorter than grated but not actual pulp so don’t use one of those electric choppers. Add the courgette along with the well chopped fresh parsley. I have finally got a spice grinder and was able to turn my rosemary into a fine powder. It’s the best thing I’ve bought in an age and where electricity trumps doing stuff by hand.

Whichever way you chop your rosemary, add it in too and season it all generously. You want a little bite from the pepper. I used a little bit of white pepper too as I really like its flavour. (I was always under the impression it was ‘common’ when I was a kid, but I bought mine in Waitrose for the slow cooker…)

Mix all the flavourings into the meat well and add the egg half at a time and then keep mixing well with your hands. It should be quite a stiff paste. Then pinch up a good hefty handful and roll roughly into a ball and then flatten it so it looks like a mini burger or slider. Put on a plate or lined baking tray and chill for at least 30 minutes. I gave mine an hour to be sure.

Then fry on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes each side, turning every 2-3 minutes to allow them to brown but not burn. You’ll need to do them in batches in the pan to give you room to flip so if you scale up, it’s easier to finish them in the oven as above. Rest them for 10 minutes to make them juicier and easier to eat. I’m going to try them in the slow cooker next time too!

Any potato salad will go well or a nice crunchy slaw of finely mandolined  red cabbage, carrot and radish or daikon. But be careful if you mandolin. I had to give my leftover meatballs to a friend who spent Friday night in A&E thanks to one. Her finger was too bandaged to cook but she said the frikadellen made an outstanding meatball sandwich that almost made up for it all!

*PS, no photos of the cooked ones. They got devoured too fast for that and the kitchen was too chaotic for pre table photos.