Sunday, 30 June 2013

Pasta Please - Cheeseless Wonders!

It's my lucky turn to be hosting this month's Pasta Please challenge. It is organised and expertly marshalled by Tinned Tomatoes, who sorts out a different blogger each month to choose a theme, introduce the challenge and write the roundup, and for July, it's me.

Pasta is awesome. It's cheap, it's quick, it's easy, it's filling, and you can use it in a million and one ways, so it is a worthy candidate for a dedicated blog challenge. Indeed since the challenge began, participants have been encourage to cook up dishes with the following themes:

#1 - cheese
#2 - peppers
#3 - homemade pesto
#4 - chillies
#5 - homemade pasta
#6 - nuts

So onto my theme - well, I'm going to turn the first challenge on its head, and choose 'Cheeseless Wonders' as my theme. That's right - no cheese allowed!
Now before you all stomp off in a strop at the thought of macaroni cheese deprivation, let me explain my choice...  If you take a moment to browse around my blog, you'll see that most of the recipes I post are dairy free. Both myself and Mini-M are intolerant to dairy produce. I've become a dab hand at substituting dairy ingredients for non-dairy alternatives - milk, butter, cream, yoghurt - no problem. Cheese isn't quite so easy a substitution - and don't get me started on the multitude of cheese-substitute products out there that either wont melt unless subjected to temperatures hotter than my oven can manage, or alternatively dissolve into a puddle of grainy oily goo as soon as they are even warm - not to mention the ones that just taste vile! Which is a shame, as my ultimate comfort food used to be macaroni cheese with sweetcorn.

To cut a long story short, the thought of having to post a roundup of everyone's fabulous cheesy creations, knowing I had no hope of recreating any of them was more than I could bear, so instead I'm challenging you all to go cheese-less, but still create something wonderful.

It's super simple to enter too - all you have to do is post a pasta dish (cheese free of course!) on your blog before the 28th July. In your post ...
  • Link to this month's host - me!
  • Link to the organiser - Tinned Tomatoes
  • Use the Pasta Please logo in your post somewhere
  • If you use twitter, tweet your post with @tinnedtoms and #PastaPlease - and if you've got characters left, you can add @MakeyCakeyRuth!
Only one entry per blog please, and bear in mind the theme :-)

I was one (small) step ahead of the game and made mine for dinner today, but you'll have to wait until later in the week to find out what went into it...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

French Holiday Food Round-Up: The photographic walk of shame

We've just been to France - Brittany so be specific, for our summer holiday, and as someone who writes a blog that is at least 80% about food (and the other 20% is generally nonsense), I can't help feeling I should have some beautiful photos of the lovely French food we enjoyed.

Just that...

  • We spent a week of our fortnight in the UK, getting to and from France (thus reducing the scope for sampling French cuisine
  • French cuisine is lovely but fairly heaving on the butter and cheese (so not great for dairy intolerance)
  • Neither Mr E or myself speak very good French, or were feeling particularly like enduring the consequences of getting it wrong, in a small caravan, with a very small bathroom, so we didn't actually eat out in France (!)
  • Mini-M gets a bit impatient about meal times - when she's hungry, she's starving, and that's generally at 6:30am, 11:30am and 4:30pm which aren't particularly sociable mealtimes
So instead I am posting photographic walk of shame - no beautiful French cuisine - but a true culinary representation of our holiday nonetheless!

So to kick off with - a service station about an hour outside Bristol at about 08:30am on a Sunday morning, after having left home at 3am and making good progress down the road. It was probably too early in the day to be eating popcorn as a snack... but we did, and it had the added function of being the ideal medium for some table-top blow-football entertainment!!!

In Bristol, and we discovered we were staying very close toe PepeNero - an organic pizzeria that specialised in vegan pizzas and pastas! (Not that we're vegan, but vegan = dairy free = much less complicated dining).

So of course it would have been rude not to sample the vegan pizza delights (with vegan ham substituted for real ham, at the slight confusion of the waitress!) It went down well with Mini-M and Mr E, as did my vegan tofu cannelloni.

And in fact the also did vegan hazelnut chocolate cake. Specifically, the label titled it as "Double Vegan Chocolate Cake" but I'm guessing they were hoping to emphasises the double chocolatey-ness, rather than double vegan-ness! We bought a piece to take home and enjoy in our hotel room after Mini-M had gone to sleep... just that she wouldn't unless we did too - so we had it for breakfast the next day. Holiday food standards slipping... (although I would happily start everyday with chocolate hazelnut cake).

The civil engineer in me couldn't help but be tickled by the name of this cafe along the quayside in Bristol and judging by the huge queue, Brunel's Buttery is good - although we didn't stop since Mini-M was asleep in the buggy.

On the boat eventually, and the in-cabin tea and coffee sachets provided a good hour of pre-bedtime entertainment for Mini-M.

Rain. In France. In a caravan. But with wine :-)

Porride - yep we are so Scottish we travel with oatmeal..... or it's a useful portable fallback if all else fails for Mini-M. We enjoyed it for breakfast with honey and bananas.

A BBQ that wouldn't light properly since it was rather gusty, and never quite got hot enough to properly cook on - but we tried... it wouldn't be a summer holiday without at least one bad BBQ.

Apricots - huge ones that were peach sized and lovely.

Waiting excitedly for crepes which we made in our caravan since they had to be dairy free. The plate on the far right is giraffe's tea - Mini-M collected some leaves and sticks for her teddy. We weren't allowed to put the plate away for the duration of the holiday, as apparently giraffe hadn't finished it.

Crepes - made with soya milk, and eaten with banana and honey, with second helpings spread with melon jam.

Trying some artichoke at a fruit and veg event- it got the thumbs down from Mini-M and Mr E. I didn't taste, as twice chewed artichoke was not that appealing!

At the same fruit and veg event - some cross-over veg / flower arranging. Leek and lily bouquets - not sure it'll catch on...

Some really really really vile cranberry beer. It may have been locally made in Brittany, but it went down the sink!

And of course on the way back on the boat, the in-cabin coffee shop was in full swing again.

Meal out no. 2... in the Brewer's Fayre. In our defence, it was attempting another 35min drive from the ring road into Gloucester, with a hungry toddler at rush our, or a 2 min walk across the car park to somewhere that had a kids playpark and we could both have a drink after a long day, since neither of us had to drive. Are you surprised the Brewer's Fayre won? But what is really worrying is that we now have a loyalty card??!!!?

Baking cakes in the duplo kitchen at the Legoland Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre

Holiday food shame confession complete! 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Fruity Chocolate Cornflake Crispies

Can someone please remind the weather what season it is? We're 3 days off July, and whilst not expecting tropical sunshine (it is Scotland after all) I'd like to not have to put the heater on, like I did this evening!

I have a cold nose as I type :-( maybe I'm part dog - but my nose is generally a good few hours behind the rest of me when it comes to warming up.

Enough pointless preamble though - time for the chocolate crispies. I'm not entirely sure they should be called chocolate crispies, since they don't actually have any chocolate in them - not of the melted variety at least, although they are made chocolatey with cocoa powder. They don't taste too strongly of chocolate either - more of gooey delicious stickiness.

But the absence of chocolate means they don't set so firmly - when a significant proportion of your ingredients are liquid at room temperature, the result is always going to be on the soft side.

I think if you used golden syrup in place of the honey they would probably set a bit more firmly, but since we have a very sticky cracked squeeze bottle of honey we carefully wrapped in plastic bags, kept upright and transported back from France miraculously without mishap, I decided to go with honey.

It goes without saying that these are dairy free. If you make sure that your corn flakes don't have any hidden wheat or barley (like mine did) and likewise your cocoa powder, then they could very easily be gluten free. And if you used agave or some other sticky syrup (date syrup would probably work) and make sure your icing sugar is OK (not all are) then they'd be vegan. Altogether a versatile recipe for whipping up for allergic or principled friends!

Fruity Chocolate Cornflake Crispies (makes 12)

  • 4 tbsp dairy free margarine (I used Pure sunflower)
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 100g mixed dried fruit and nuts
  • Cornflakes

Line a bun tin with 12 paper cases in preparation.
Melt the margarine, icing sugar, cocoa and honey in a medium pan over a low heat until smooth and glossy.
Bring gently to the boil, stirring constantly, and allow to boil gently for a minute or so.
Add the fruit and nuts, then add the cornflakes little by little until there's no longer any spare sticky syrup sloshing about in the bottom of the pan, but everything has a good thick coating (a useless measurement, but I forgot to weigh them - I'd guess at 100g but it will depend on the density vs shape and area of your flakes).
Spoon into the paper cases - unlike real chocolate crispies, you don't have to work fast before the chocolate hardens.
Allow to cool on the worktop for an hour so, the cover and allow to firm up overnight. You could help them along in the fridge if you wanted - since there is no chocolate, you don't have to worry about them getting a condensation bloom.

I took these into work where they went down a treat, although pretty much anything with sugar in would I think - my colleagues are a sweet toothed bunch. The jury was out on the best way to eat them without getting too sticky - some opted for several bites, some broke off little bits and liked fingers or washed hands afters, and a few advocated the hold-on-to-the-paper-then-put-it-in-your-mouth-whole school of desk crumb minimisation!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Blueberry Honey Pies

After reading the title of this post - Blueberry Honey Pies - I can't help thinking that it sounds like the name of a Carebear, or My Little Pony, however it is in fact my Daring Bakers' June challenge submission, and what we had for pudding tonight.

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers' host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There's nothing like pie!

That's not a typo above, there really is such a thing as crack pie, that is entirely legal (although also entirely unhealthy). It's an oatmeal cookie crust, filled with a gooey sweet fudgy chewy filling - and also really really really full of dairy things (like butter, more butter, powdered milk and whipping cream). Whilst I do like to pick up the de-dairification gauntlet, that seemed a bit beyond me. Plus there's something decadent about eating lots of butter, which just doesn't work with soya margarine!

The other challenge recipes suggested to us were a crostata (an Italian pie filled with fruit preserve), chocolate caramel pie (again, difficult to de-dairy) and a traditional double crust apple pie.

I ended up making what is probably closer to the progeny of a union between said crostata and double crust apple pie: little double crust pies filled with blueberry preserves and honey.

I made an olive oil pastry, which I always find turns out slightly tougher than a butter pastry, but very quick and easy to make. I used this recipe from The First Mess, which other than substituting the spelt flours for regular white plain flour, I followed fairly closely. It uses extra virgin olive oil, but the taste isn't overpowering, and I would hazard a guess that the 'extra virgin' bit isn't critical - most oils should work, although some might impart more or less flavour and sophistication than others... 

For the filling, I mixed together some lovely blueberry preserve we were given as a gift (about 1/3 of a jar) and a heaped teaspoon of honey. Not any honey, Colonsay Wildflower Honey which we brought back from our summer travels last year and have been carefully rationing! It's gorgeous stuff - and made by very lovely happy bees - Mr E survived 3 days of a hands-on beekeeping course with the Colonsay bees and emerged un-stung which is a testament to their good nature.

The blueberry and honey flavour combination was delicious - and the pastry recipe is a keeper - one even survived the journey to work unscathed, to be rather unglamorously photographed at coffee time - cling film, dusty keyboard and all!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Daring Cooks' June 2013 Challenge - Meatballs Around The World

I'm hoping, that if post scheduling is my friend and cooperates nicely, this post will magically pop up on the 14th June...

And by that point it will be Daring Cooks' challenge posting time again!

The June Daring Cooks' challenge sure kept us rolling - meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice

So I went for Hawaiian (pizza, rather than the country) inspired Ham and Pineapple Meatballs. These were super easy to make, and really tasty.

We heart meatballs!
Mr E was also in on the meatballing this month, and he also went bacony. Hmmm the red squiggles whilst I'm typing suggest that neither meatballing or bacony are words, which is a shame - I think they should be, and shall use them anyway...

His post should also be up at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes, where you can see the four ingredient Bacon and Sauerkraut meatballs he cooked up.

My Hawaiian meatballs also ended up being four ingredient creations - bacon, sausages, pineapple and breadcrumbs. I had been intending to use pork mince but our local ASDA does not stock such weird and wonderful ingredients (I'm not joking. Lots of cola, pizza, pot noodles and ready meals though... and quite often fights in the aisles which always makes shopping interesting!). I'd probably recommend using pork mince, since sausages are generally already fairly highly seasoned with sage and other savoury spices which overrode the pineapple a little. I went with the highest meat content sausages I could find which also happened to be gluten free ones.

Just 4 ingredients - quick and easy (although not especially healthy...)
Hawaiian Meatballs (makes around 40)

  • 180g bacon (I used a 6 rasher unsmoked pack)
  • 454g sausage meat or pork mince (if you're using sausages chose the highest meat content you can)
  • 1 small tin of pineapple
  • Dry breadcrumbs - I used about 3 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line some baking sheets with parchment or foil.
Drain the pineapple (drink the juice if you're so inclined - I always am!).
Slit the sausages from their skins and tip into a food processor along with the drained pineapple and bacon (trim off the fat with scissors as you're putting them in).
Add 2 tbsp of dry breadcrumbs the blitz until combined. Add another tbsp or two of breadcrumbs as needed to reach a soft but rollable consistency.
Shape into balls and place on the prepared trays.
Bake for around 20 mins until cooked through in the middle and golden on the outside.

Rolled and ready to bake
And 20 mins later... voila
These were fab. We enjoyed them a whole range of ways - as part of a picnic, chopped up in pasta salad, in sweet and sour sauce and alternated with veg for BBQ kebabs. Only the sweet and sour was snapped though!
Sweet and sour meatballs with cashews, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots
Thanks for a tasty challenge :-)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Random Recipes #29: Squidgy Spiced Date and Fig Cake

I'm out of the blocks early this month, as I wanted to get some blog posts done and dusted pre-holiday. We're hitting the road and heading for France at the weekend, so based on our usual luck with the weather, the good people of Brittany should be expecting snow by the middle of next week!

I made this cake last night and took it into work today, where it went down a treat. In fact I'm fairly sure some folk had it for breakfast, because they couldn't wait until coffee time!

High class crockery as always chez Makey-Cakey... plastic toddler plates ahoy!
I'm making it for June's Random Recipes challenge, masterminded and hosted as ever by Belleau Kitchen, and the theme for June is Healthy. Whilst I'm not claiming that on balance this cake is health food, I'll perhaps instead just suggest that is marginally better for you than, say, a 1kg bar of Dairy Milk, or some supermarket cake full of all sorts of weirdness. It has fruit, and nuts in abundance in it which at least means it has some nutritional content, and that's probably about as much you can hope for in a cake!
Cooled, cut and ready to go into the tin
It is inspired by / adapted from my current favourite cookbook - The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Hendrick. In fact I bought it for myself last week, after repeatedly renewing the library copy up to my limit! So I was very please when I found a recipe I could use from it to fit my chosen healthy ingredient of figs (which had been lurking in abundance at the back of the cupboard for quite a while. Can figs breed when left abandoned in the dark forgotten extents of the kitchen? Perhaps that is what happened - I'm sure the jar wasn't that full the last time I checked!). After deciding it was time to reduce the fig population, I started browsing through books until I found a suitable recipe, and I was very restrained - I didn't dive straight for my new book. It was the third I got to, although perhaps the first two were subconsciously chosen based on their unlikeliness of containing fig recipes: River Cottage Veg and The Polish Kitchen!

Digression over - back to the recipe. The book has a recipe for Sticky Apricot Slice which is amazing - I have made it before and it bowled me, and everyone who tasted it over. If you have Gluten, or egg, or dairy free friends - make it for them. They will love you forever and ever - it really is that good. I decided it was time to try substituting the apricots for figs and dates, then realised I didn't have light brown sugar, or a GF flour blend, or rice milk - so I went a little off piste as usual.

Squidgy Spiced Date and Fig Cake (Serves 12)

  • 100g soft dried figs
  • 75g dried dates
  • 175g soya margarine
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 3 tsp egg replacer powder
  • 5tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp xanathan gum
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g brown rice flour
  • 225g ground almonds

Chop the figs into quarters and put in a medium saucepan along with the dates, margarine, sugar and 3 tbsp water.
Allow the sugar and marge to melt over a low heat, then bring up to the boil and boil for 5 minutes.
Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 150C (140C fan) and grease and line a 9" square tin.
Once cool, tip into a mixing bowl (unless you're using a big enough pan).
Add the mixed spice and almond milk, and breathe in the sugary, dried fruit, spice smell - it is amazing!
Whisk up with egg replacer with the 5 tbsp water as specified on the packet then mix that in to.
Next add the flour, xanathan gum and bicarb and beat well.
Stir in the ground almonds, then tip the mixture into the tin - it will be more like a soft dough than cake mix but that's OK.
Bake for around 30 mins until risen a little, golden on top and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 mins then carefully turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely.
I wrapped mine in clingfilm and left it in the fridge overnight before cutting it the next day which helped get neat slices.

Squidgy date and fig close up
Pass around the tin and enjoy :o)

And just to help assuage the cake related guilt, I stuck the ingredients into an online nutritional analysis package, based on a 12 serving cake, and each serving will provide around 10% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, 5% or iron, 6% of calcium and 16% of dietary fibre. Win!

Unassuming exterior concealing hidden awesomeness

Guest Bean Burgers

I have a rather ambitious pre-holiday blogging to-do list,  and since it's now raining outside after a few days of glorious sunshine, tonight seemed a good evening to tackle it!

So assuming no laptop disasters, or anything really riveting on the TV, this will be the first of a few posts.

I'm starting off with an easy one - and by that I mean one I don't really have to write myself, since it was written for my by my sister, the lovely Auntie L, as part of the Spring Surprise Ingredient Swap I rounded-up back in April.

She bucked the sweet trend and made some burgers... bean burgers to be precise.

She says:
"I'm not sure what to call this burger… I guess bean burger?  It was based on a falafel burger recipe but I didn't have chickpeas so ended up with this.  You might ask why I picked a recipe in which I don't have the main ingredient… Hmm… not sure."

It's obviously a family trait - not having any of the right ingredients has never deterred me either.
She goes on to say:

"Here are two photos from my ingredient swap.  Don't feel you have to put in the chopped up veg one… that was just because I was pleased with my fine chopping skills having spent an excessively long time on it due to a power cut!"

Jeeps! If I had to chop all the veg to that size by hand rather than bunging it in the food processor and blitzing it to pieces, there is a high chance I'd not be typing this now... or at least not with all 10 fingers!

Bean Burgers
  • A LOT of red onions, maybe about 6 or 7 (finely chopped) 
  • (that's in the onion bowl and this gets softened first!)
  • half a bulb of garlic (pressed)
  • about a tablespoon of ground cumin
  • QUITE a lot of carrot, about 6 or 7 but I think some of mine were diddy
  • parsley (a good handful, chopped)
  • chilli peppers (about 2 or 3 dried ones, chopped, depending how spicy you like it)
  • (that's in the orange bowl and this gets added to the onion to cook a little)
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and mashed
  • half a tin of baked beans, mashed
  • third of a jar of tahini
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup of flour
  • (that's in the mashed up bowl and this gets added to the vegetables)
Once you've cooked the various bits, mix it all together and make into burgers and fry!  Easy peasy and actually pretty unattractive to look at as I realised later, hence why I have attempted to spruce it up with some peas and chips I found in the freezer :o)

And what did it taste like... she rated it 'quite decent' but I think that's stinting praise - they sound yum!


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