About me

After being diagnosed with a long list of food intolerances seven years ago, I was forced into getting more creative in the kitchen.

For me, the best recipes are those which are easy to prepare and deliver heaps of flavour, perfect for sharing with friends and family without having to single anyone out because of a specialised diet.

My love for cooking and adapting recipes for my own dietary requirements has given me the incentive to share tips with others who also live with restricted diets.

I hope you find a bit of cooking inspiration from my blog. Please feel free to comment and post any questions...

Monday, 18 March 2013

North East meets North Africa

The unsightly snows of March have encouraged this cook to prolong the winter hibernation. With it still not being warm enough to start the salads I chose to cook two very warming, filling and (it may be bad manners to say) delicious dishes on a recent chilly Sunday.

Saturday morning cookery shows inspired me to cook a Moroccan chicken tagine (In a slow cooker) we are in the north after all, which has now swiftly become a staple favourite in the recipe book. I adapted a recipe to suit my dietary requirements and although I used chicken thighs, you can of course use a Quorn chicken substitute. 

I began by blitzing a mixture of chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp garlic, 1 tsp ginger, a cardamom pod and a diced white onion in a food processor, then set this aside for later. I then browned a roughly chopped white onion in the deep, heavy based pan with a little olive oil, mixing in a blend of paprika, cumin, ginger and chilli. Once the onions had a little colour, I sealed the chicken thighs, before pouring in the puréed mixture and allowing to bubble a little while, before mixing in a generous spoonful of honey, followed by 3/4 pint of chicken stock. 

Meanwhile I roasted diced butter nut squash in the oven at 200 degrees C with honey, thyme, black pepper and paprika until golden brown. 

Turning my attention back to the chicken, I brought the whole pot to the boil, before turning down to a simmer and covering to allow the flavours to infuse. After about twenty minutes, I adjusted the flavours, adding seasoning, spice and a little more honey to taste. At this point I added chopped, sweet dried dates and the butter nut squash, before covering for a final ten minutes until the chicken was fully cooked and soft. I served it with al dente green beans and honey roast parsnips and it went down a treat!

In a writing seminar, I chose to describe the dish to improve my sensory writing, with a little artistic licence:

I stand, leaning over the bubbling, aromatic pot, heavy with the smells of North African spices; cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, ginger and paprika. The swirling steam is rich in flavour as well as scent and the colour provides you with an instant feeling of warmth. The thickening burnt orange sauce is nicely complimented by the deep red varnish of the tagine lid. Plump chicken thighs bob up and down, bathing in the liquid which is dotted with brassy, shining dates, slowly releasing their sweet flavour into the dish. Little, golden chunks of roast butternut squash adorned with honey, sweet garlic and a grind of black pepper are toppled into the tagine as it teeters on the edge of precision and readiness, the hungry diner looking on with excitement and anticipation.

Several hours later, it was time for something sweet. As a sceptical baker (gluten, dairy intolerances make it a tricky feat) I knew that a layered fruit crumble would be a safe bet when using wheat free plain flour, dairy free spread and sweetener.

Start by preheating the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a large dish, place frozen mixed berries (easy to buy from the supermarket), sweet dried cherries and golden sultanas and a sprinkle of sweetener and cinnamon, with a drizzle of honey. In another bowl, mix 3 cups of flour, 1 ½ cups sweetener and 1 ½ cups soft, cubed butter. Crumble the mixture between your fingers, rubbing in the butter until you have an even texture. Don’t rub the butter in too far though; it should still have a good crumbly texture. I then loosely mixed crushed hazelnuts and a tbsp of cinnamon through the crumble topping, before tumbling on to the top of the crumble, evenly covering the fruit.

Cook in the oven for roughly 45 minutes or until the top of the crumble is golden brown. Serve the crumble with dairy free custard or ice cream, get cosy on the sofa with a blanket and enjoy!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

My first Sunday Lunch

Is it wrong or just plain sad that since living in Newcastle, I have never before, independently cooked a Sunday lunch. In retrospect, probably a bit of both, but for those of you living with food intolerances and dietary requirements I am sure you can understand where I'm coming from.

Generally, whilst everyone else looks forward to the pork crackling, Yorkshire puddings, gravy and crispy roast potatoes of a Sunday, we know that all that awaits us will be a plate of plain, cooked vegetables. But this need not be the case!

After recently making the decision to reintroduce poultry into my diet (on the rare occasion and for health reasons) I was treated to a taste of the incredibly rich, sweet sauce which accompanies the 'Confit crispy duck' at work.

A bold and flavoursome chicken stock sets the base. Fresh chicken bouillon is available in all good supermarkets and is a good choice for a special occasion. Just be careful to check the ingredients, as some can contain wheat. I have seen wheat free alternatives in the major supermarkets and health food shops for those of you who do eat meat. But for the vegetarians and vegans, some vegetable bouillon stock powder would do the job, perhaps with a tsp of Marmite blended in.

In a separate pan, whilst the gravy is gently simmering, helped along with the occasional stir of a wooden spoon, you can prepare the second sauce, to be added to the gravy.

In a shallow pan, reduce a good few glugs of red wine with a generous squeeze of honey. Add a cinnamon stick, a few star anise and some orange peel to the pan and allow to bubble down until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Make sure you keep an eye on the pan, so that it doesn't over reduce and end up ruining your pan. You need not stir the sauce either as the flavours will all meet in the middle eventually. Once both sauces are ready, slowly pour the sweet wine sauce into the gravy, whilst stirring slowly and season to taste.

As a vegetable advocate, I see no reason to simply steam a load of greens and be done with it. For my Sunday lunch, honey glazed carrots, sugar snaps and green beans in garlic and creamy mashed sweet potato and swede accompanied poached chicken breasts. Similarly you could cook Quorn chicken style fillets or sausages for the non meat eaters.

Lightly boil slender carrot sticks, before melting down some honey and tossing the carrots through the sweet syrup. Add a handful of chopped fresh parsley and a grind of black pepper before serving.

Steam your greens and then transfer them to a hot, lightly oiled griddle pan, add a couple of tsps of lazy garlic or freshly crushed, seasoning and allow to char slightly for extra taste.

The sweet potato/swede mash is a nice alternative to regular spud mash as it's got a lot more flavour and a lot less starch, which can be irritating for the digestive system. I like to cube a large sweet potato and swede (to serve 3-4 people) and allow to boil with a little seasoning or veg stock in the water until soft to the bite. Drain the water and get heavy handed with the masher to get rid of lumps. Stir in a drizzle of honey, splash of soya milk OR nob of dairy free butter and a generous grind of black pepper. Stir the added extras evenly throughout the mash and heat through once more before serving.

After a lazy morning in bed, followed by a drive through the country on a chilly, yet bright Sunday, I was at the height of relaxation and ready to get in the kitchen to prepare our real Sunday roast. And after what seemed like very little effort, perhaps helped along by a Crabbie's ginger beer with wedges of sharp lemon and lime, I was ready to sit down to our healthy, tasty feast and a childhood favourite film.