Saturday, 17 October 2009

a light supper of chicken and coleslaw for two

  • one large chicken breast or a leg of chicken - you can use cold roast chicken
    • if preparing raw chicken plunge into boiling water or light stock for 15m and set aside to cool, covered
    • make light stock by adding sprigs of fresh coriander, peppercorns and garlic
    • reserve the water in which chicken was cooked - you can use it for soup
 for oriental coleslaw
    • small white cabbage or 1/4 large white cabbage
    • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
    • 1 capsicum pepper or 1 carrot
    • small onion
    • 1 lime
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 large tbsp sweet chilli sauce

 cook chicken if necessary

prepare dressing:
  • finely chop garlic
  • squeeze lime
  • mix lime juice with all other ingredients in a bowl and set aside
 preparing coleslaw:
  • finely slice the onion, cabbage, carrot (you can use a peeler to make peelings of carrot to put into the salad)
  • rinse bunch of coriander and mint and chop roughly
  • put all ingredients in a large bowl and add the dressing
  • mix thoroughly 
  • set aside for 15m
 slice the chicken

place sliced chicken on bed of coleslaw

bon appetit

    • some limes are a bit dry, you can add water or more lime
    • if it's too sharp add a little sugar
    • use fish sauce instead of soy sauce
    • supermarket coriander is sold in small bunches, if you get a large bunch use about a third of the bunch
    • don't add salt or pepper - there is seasoning and salt in the soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce
make large amount of coleslaw, it keeps for several days, increase other ingredients accordingly

for a more substantial meal serve with boiled rice

the coleslaw is delicious as an accompaniment to curries or roasts

Thursday, 24 September 2009

chocolate ganache

I'm experimenting with chocolate ganache. This is a concoction that makes people very enthusiastic. My first outing with it resulted in a cake which looked, to put it politely, as though it was melting. The creamy ganache coated the cake but had little body, so the cake sat in a milk- meets-chocolate pool. The ganache in the centre of the cake contributed to this unattractive puddle, having abandoned the interior. I was disappointed, as the cake was for a friend's party, and the other food looked very elegant and appetising. I needn't have worried. Apparently the simple anticipation of cake combined with a reputation established with a completely different baked item at a previous shindig drew people to the table. The first taste, by a chocolate lover, sealed the deal. I'd walked away from the table after delivering my shameful offering, returning for a taste five minutes later, driven by greed and the belief that people might not realise I was responsible for the dish, only to be disappointed. The plate was empty, although someone was paying tribute to the ganache by cleaning the plate by finger. Apparently it was delicious.

So, living dangerously, I'm trying again.


I'm clearing out the spice collection. Apart from getting depressed at the patina of filth that coats the glass shelves of the cupboards I also can't find anything when I need it. I know, spices are supposed to go off, however I operate a frugal (forgetful) approach and keep them 'til they are used up, hence the oriental style chicken stock that is perfuming the house at the moment and, no doubt, adding to the grease-based patina mentioned before.

And that is patina as in pat in a, none of that pat tina mullarkey, thank you. I'm busy but pedantry is fundamental.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

banana bread

I'm just prizing bits of this banana bread out of my teeth. There's a lingering banana-y-ness in my mouth, a slightly sticky sweetness on my lips and a wee bit of a weighty feeling in my stomach. Perhaps that second slice wasn't wise. Maybe I should have waited for it to cool completly. Too late now, I'm just reckless.

The sultanas were a nice touch.

So, driven back into the arms of gluten free cooking, by a constant feeling of breathlessness, I had over-ripe bananas and visitors coming. Going back to the wheat thing, I started eating it again because I was bored with not eating it. Toast beckoned and I was sick of reading all the damned labels. I went for it, although I somehow never got around to pizza. Back on the gluten free path, I'm not going to mention it so much, better to just say no thanks.

So, over-ripe bananas says just one thing: banana bread.


2 very ripe bananas - mashed
2 eggs
150g marg
150g sugar (or a bit less)
150g cornflour
100g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
zest of one lemon
1tsp mixed spice
handful of sultanas

prepare tin, buttering and flouring or using baking parchment - I use a 22cm oblong tin

set oven to gas mark 6

peel and mash bananas and set to one side
beat together the marg and the sugar
beat in the eggs
beat in bananas and dry ingredients - I add a bit of mashed banana then some flour/raising agent mixture alternately, until all ingredients are evenly blended.
pour into prepared tin and put in pre-heated oven
bake for 20 mins, then lower the temperature and back for another 10 minutes
check cake is ready by inserting skewer - it should come out clean

cool cake for ten minutes on rack in tin, then turn out carefully

Sunday, 17 May 2009

pumpkin seeds for snacking

these seeds make good snacking, and are great in salads, or if you want to grind them up you can sprinkle them as seasoning along with pepper, like on baba ghanoush or tomato salad


pumpkin seeds
soy sauce


use heavy-based frying pan

put pan on high heat

cover base of pan with pumpkin seeds
shake or push the seeds around til you start to hear popping
keep stirring or shaking until you smell a nice toasty smell and see some browning of the seeds
turn the heat off

drizzle a little soy sauce over the seeds and stir/shake until all are coated

leave to cool

eat, or store in jar

mixed salad

250g runner beans
250g potatoes
handful pumpkin seeds with soy sauce (previous recipe)
4 radishes

one lot of family dressing (previous recipe)

boil potatoes in their skins, when cooked drain and leave in pot with lid on

steam runner beans 4 mins, remove from heat, keep warm

peel hot cooked potatoes and cut into cubes, put in bowl

cut up runner beans to 3cm lengths, put in bowl with cubed potatoes

add salad dressing while veg is hot

add pumpkin seeds and finely sliced radish

eat warm or cold, good on bed of rocket leaves


chocolate brownies

There's a lot of debate about who makes the best brownies around here, and, I reckon it is me. Or Kit, now she's using my recipe. Some might say there is no way for me to know, since I am not the most chocolate focused person, preferring to spread my net wider, however I love these brownies. They have the chocolate intensity loved by many, as they are made with pure cocoa. They are good and chewy, and surely they must have less calories than their use-five-bars-of-chocolate cousin recipes.

This recipe is dedicated to all households where the cooking chocolate disappears before cooking can start.


125g Butter/margarine
40g Cocoa powder
250g Castor sugar 
2 Eggs 
50g Self-raising flour

… add if you like
handful of chopped walnuts
handful of chocolate chunks

also apparently some people like to put in dried blueberries or sour cherries


1 Set oven to Gas mark 5 or equivalent.

2 Grease and line 7” square line baking tin.

3 Melt fat in heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. When melted mix in sifted cocoa powder. Leave to cool slightly.

4 Whisk eggs 1 minute then slowly add sugar and keep whisking until egg mixture becomes thick. Use an electric whisk or your arm may fall off

5 Combine cocoa and fat mixture with egg and sugar mixture.

6 Fold in flour.

7 Pour batter into baking tin.

8 Cook for 25-30 minutes. Do not cut until cooled.

9 Don’t overeat.

Friday, 15 May 2009

wheat free american style pancakes

3 eggs
3/4 cup corn flour
3/4 cup rice flour (or potato flour, or wheat free flour)
3/4 cup milk (or water)
1 tbsp veg oil
1tsp baking powder
1tsp sugar
pinch salt

break eggs into bowl
add cornflour, baking powder, sugar, salt and beat
add other flour and beat
add oil and beat
slowly add liquid, beating all the time

heat pan, use a little fat, pour on enough mixture to make small round pancake
when pancake bubbles and looks cooked around the edges, flip and cook other side

this mixture will keep in the fridge, but stir well before using as flours tend to sink

to make British type pancake/crepe, leave out baking powder and double the liquid

Friday, 1 May 2009

how I cook rice

family cooking lore (source: my mother) offers this approach for basmati rice

pour a small amount of oil into pan
warm the pan on low heat
add required quantity of rice, swirling around in oil until covered
add double the amount of boiling water as rice
bring to the boil, add a pinch of salt
lower heat so that water just simmers
cover with lid
cook 15 mins


As a guide measure one mug of uncooked basmati rice is enough for two people, when cooked as described.

all rice is different, even different batches of the same brand/type. The original recipe from mum involved sealing the pan by wrapping a cloth around the lid andmaking sure no steam snuck out so that the rice got all of the moisture, on this basis you could guarantee wonderful rice in 20 minutes exactly. Since I learned this method something has happened to rice, it cooks quicker, hence the change in approach.

I like to put a bay leaf in the rice, which gives a gentle flavour, brilliant with curries. You can do the same with a curry leaf, or a kaffir lime leaf.

I mostly use basmati. I know it's limited, but I love basmati. If I branch out, I use japonese rice, and follow the recipe on the packet.

easy chocolate cake - wheat free

I've come up with another recipe for chocolate cake. It seems to satisfy chocolate lovers, and me. It's moist, but not too moist and it's got texture. It's a little bit chewy, not soft and melting, in case that's what you're looking for. If you can eat wheat you can substitute ordinary plain flour for the gluten free flour. 

you don't need chocolate for this, just cocoa powder

this cake doesn't need icing, and is great with ice cream and/or cream. It's also wonderful on it's own.


50g cocoa powder
50g gluten free plain flower
100g ground almonds*
125g margarine or butter
150g castor sugar
4 eggs
2tsp baking powder
few drops of vanilla essence

*you can make the ground the almonds yourself, which I prefer, with their skins on, it gives a bit more texture

prepare a 9" cake tin, lining the base with baking parchment and buttering the sides


  • sift the dry ingredients together, or break up any lumps by stirring them together thoroughtly using a whisk
  • beat the margarine and sugar together until smooth, or light and fluffy, if you're over 50
  • add eggs one by one, beating them in as you go
  • add a few drops of vanilla essence
  • stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed
  • pour into prepared, lined tin

bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes at gas mark 7 then 10 minutes at gas mark 4 - the cake is ready when a skewer stuck into it comes out clean

photo to follow

Friday, 3 April 2009


any fan of chocolate wants to know how to make a marvellous chocolate cake...

I'm not that big on chocolate, however, since I feel I need some treats cake looms large on my cookery horizon. Wheat free flour is expensive and you run out all the time, it's also mostly rice flour as far as I can make out, so I keep rice flour around and mix it with other ingredients, making my own flour combinations. 

Gluten has some magic property that means it holds sugar and fat very well. It's a winning combination that most of us like the feel of, in the mouth. So, when you're making food without gluten you need to load up with something moisturising in another way - with cake that means icing, or syrups, or in this case a glorious ganache.

That's ganache that rhymes with panache - please don't start throwing in an accent at the end. Not that I'm pernickety.

That is ganache, not Ganesh. Ganache is a chocolate cream filling, Ganesh is an elephant faced Hindu god, not suitable as a cake filling, although I think he looks like he's enjoyed a few cakes.


chocolate cake

50g cornmeal
50g rice flour
100g ground almonds
heaped teaspoon baking powder
5 eggs
150g castor sugar
150g margarine or butter
50g dark chocolate (best use a chocolate with over 50% cocoa solids)

line cake tin - this is enough to make a sponge type sandwich cake using two 9" tins, or two 8" tins, if you want it to come out fatter

weigh out dry ingredients (cornmeal/flour/almonds) and set aside, stirring in the baking powder

melt marg (or butter) over low heat, adding chocolate broken into pieces into it, stir until chocolate and fat are mixed together and set aside to cool

whisk eggs using an electric whisk for one minute, slowly add sugar, making a thick frothy cream, which usually takes another minute

stir in the chocolate/marg mixture - use a spatula or metal spoon, and don't stir so much that you reduce the volume of the eggy froth

follow the chocolate mixture witht ej dry ingredeients, stirring in in the smae way, keeping the volume as high as possible

pour into the cake tins and cook at gas mark 6 for 20 minutes

the cake is cooked whe you stick a skewer in in, and it comes out clean

cool slowly on a rack in the tin - the cake is slightly delicate, so don't hurry to take it out of the tin

take one cake out of it's tin and put on a serving plate
spread the chocolate ganache liberally over this cake, so that it doesn't quite reach the edges
carefully place the other cake on top, lining the two cakes up, gently setlling it down, until the ganache spreads to the edges of the cake. dust the top of the cake with icing sugar


for the chocolate cream ganache

make once the cake has cooled
don't be in a hurry

double cream
100g dark chocolate
small cup of milk
vanilla essence (optional)

break the chocolate into pieces and melt over boiling water
heat the milk to just under boiling point
pour the hot milk into the melted chocolate, beating while you poor. the chocolate may get stiff and grainy, keep beating and stirring until you get a glossy mixture. you can add a few drops of vanilla at any point - beating them in too

set to one side to cool - don't let chocolate mixture get cold

whip the cream until it makes soft peaks. I prefer to do this with a mechanised hand whisk. If you use an electric whisk keep checking the consistency, so it doesn't get too dry. Once it's whipped fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. keep folding it in until the cream is all the same chocolate-y colour.

if your ganache seems a little runny, put it in the fridge for a while

when you have a ganache you can spread with a knife you know it's ready to use...

alternatives and subsitutions

for this chocolate cake you could use cocoa powder in place of some of the flour, it'll flavour and colour the cake well too. 

I'll get back to this later

Saturday, 28 February 2009

gluten free bread and stuff

Being gluten free can make you miserable. Even after the anger at not having access to the contentment that wheat can give you, walking around you soon realise that bread rules, especially when it comes to convenience food. Pastry, pasticceria, cakes, croissants, goodness croissants, that's what I want, the flaky fat pleasure you get from a mouthful of croissant. If it's not a sandwich it's pastry, reminding you what you're missing. Flaky pastry... filo pastry... all the lightness that can be created with wheat, that's why it rules supreme. And if you're not that into chocolate consolsation is slim. 

So I've been on a quest for gluten free bread that doesn't drive me back into the arms of wheat.

I've tried all sorts. Some I've even taken pictures of. None has given me bready satisfaction. Some have pretended to be bread, but once I'd taken a mouthful I felt like I was chewing through mud in bread's clothing. I'm all for earthy - but not in the form of bread.

My best alternative so far has been assorted pancakes. I'll run up another batch and pop the recipe in later. Some pancakes can be very bread-y. But fried, with loads of fat and eggs. Also I am desperate for toast, and that's not something a pancake can do, really. I think I want the bloated feeling, it is rather comforting. 
I'm going to go for rye. Of which, more later,

Thursday, 26 February 2009

birthday cake

It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm going to make my own birthday cake. It'll be wheat free and it'll be oranges and lemons. It'll be based on quatre quarts with extra eggs.  No icing per se. It'll be giving a nod to tipsy drizzle cake, with invisible drizzle. If you put it on when the cake is hot, it should pass through, so that when you turn it out you just get a bit of stickiness one side and moisture all the way through. I'm going to add extra baking powder to make it a bit airy, or I may whisk up the egg whites. 

whatever I do with the cake, I expect to raise my cholesterol significantly by eating the foie gras Nigel gave us 1 Jan, and drinking the wine he also gave us. I'll have a lovely green salad in between as a treat for my system.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

wheat free apple lemon cake

As part of my new regime I am not eating wheat. It's annoying, but it seems to be helping my breathing, so I am giving it a go.

I've already cooked quite a bit without wheat, for family and friends, so at least it hasn't been a shock to the cooking system. I do buy gluten free flour, for convenience, but it's quite expensive, and I resent the price difference, so I've now bought a large bag of fine cornflour and a matching bag of rice flour. I already had a bag of grits, or polenta flour, not sure why, as I hate polenta. I love lemon cake, so I came up with this recipe.

I'm about to go on about my logic for putting this recipe together. I'm no Heston B and it may be seriously flawed, in scientific terms. You might do me a favour by not reading this bit, in case I expose my ignorance, also you may not find it useful or interesting. You'll make up your own mind, whatever I write. The demerara sugar is intended to open up what's likely to be a close-textured cake. Another way would be to separate the eggs and whip the whites up, this might result in a cake that doesn't keep well at all. The topping/puree is a way of giving moisture to would be a very dry cake otherwise.  

I think I've spent enough time exposing my internal debate. The point of the recipe is to make something tasty to eat. So now I'll just knuckle under.

apple lemon cake

1 cup/mugful apple puree
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cox's apple
handful of coarse cornmeal

100g rice flour
100g fine cornmeal
200g demerara sugar
200g margarine or butter
juice of one lemon
3 eggs
1tsp baking powder

  • line your cake tin with non-stick baking paper
  • set oven to gas mark 5 /375 F / 190 C moderately hot
  • 9"/20cm round cake tin or a 10"/23cm long loaf-type cake tin
  • put the apple puree in a pan over a low heat, stir in three heaped spoonfuls of dark brown sugar, stir until the mixture bubbles, take off the heat and add the zest of one lemon. 
  • set aside to cool
  • while apple puree mixture is cooling 
  • wash one cox's apple, remove core and cut into thin slices
  • pour apple puree mixture into lined tin, spreading to cover base
  • sprinkle some coarse polenta evenly
  • spread sliced apple evenly over the apple puree mixture
  • beat the fat and sugar together until blended
  • add the eggs and beat together until blended
  • add the flours and baking powder and beat until blended
  • beat in the juice from one lemon
  • pour the cake mixture into the lined tin
  • spread mixture out to make it level
  • put mixture into preheated oven, cook for 40minutes
  • insert skewer/sharp knife into cake - if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked
  • leave to cool on rack for 10 minutes
  • turn out the cake onto a plate - for safety, put the plate over the cake and turn it holding the plate and tin in a kind of sandwich
  • lift the tin off and gently lift the baking parchment off - have a knife or spatula handy and ease any topping sticking to the paper back onto the cake
  • eat hot or cold 

If you cook much you'll do what we all do. You read a recipe and decide to give it a go. You know you haven't got all the ingredients, so you think you'll just substitute a few things. Feel free, not that you need my permission. I'll be doing the same, and it's my recipe! I've already thought of a few changes... ...

use more apple - it'll make it wetter, and slices will fall apart more: live dangerously

forget the apple - you could use jam, thin it a bit with water and still use the coarse cornmeal, I wouldn't forego the lemon zest

use lemon curd - with or without the apple, still use the cornmeal