colour me happy kitchen

Because there's more than one way to make a cake.


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Marshmallow rice cake with double chocolate scribble

dark-and-white-chocolate.jpg

There’s that age-old question asked of “stay-at-home” parents (whatever that means these days).

“What do you do all day?”

Well, seeing as my 4 year old is more of an ideas man and I get to do the leg work, some of my biggest achievements today (with him as onlooker) include:

  • making a bubble wrap cactus (“it’s a bit, er…” says fitter half, “phallic?” I say…”yes” he says)
  • building a giant wall out of Duplo (to surround an imaginary temple at playgroup obvs)
  • singing several nursery rhymes (with lots of other mums/carers) without forgetting the words or the actions (I think we’ve all stopped caring how ridiculous we look).
  • put together a 40 piece toy aeroplane in record time (“Mummy do this for me”)
  • made a trip to the shops with a child in a pushchair without accidentally shoplifting or breaking anything. Which considering I went to an opticians (wall to wall breakables) was pretty special.
  • played I-spy with a pre-schooler (he has no idea what letter things begin with). If you’ve never tried this it’s very, very hard but pretty funny, and it’s a good way to keep them awake when you know that bed time will be tortuous if they drop off for a millisecond.

leave to setOne thing my little boy really engaged with though was making this. From squeezing syrup, spooning margarine and helping the marshmallows melt to mixing in puffed rice and scribbling chocolate on top, this was a really fun thing to do together. It’s also really delicious with a cup of coffee, even though I usually have a small person trying to sit on my head while I’m drinking it. I should just cut the middle man and tip the first one over the carpet.

So here it is, a gluten free and dairy free version of marshmallow rice crispy cake. To be fair, even though we toasted the Kallo puffed brown rice in a pan this cake is still less crispy than if I’d used gluten free Rice Krispies, but it does give me an excuse to make it again. And again. And I feel a bit smug about using brown rice, despite the marshmallow content.

the ingredients

PS Even though there’s no dairy or egg, these are not vegan or even vegetarian due to the beef gelatine in the marshmallows.

Ingredients: 110g Kallo puffed rice (or other gluten free rice cereal), 50g golden syrup, 50g dairy free margarine, a pinch of sea salt, 100g marshmallows. To decorate, a few squares of dairy free dark and white chocolate.

Method*:  If using plain puffed brown rice, toast it on a baking sheet in the oven at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes to crisp it up a bit. Line an 18cm cake tin (sides and base) Melt everything else except the chocolate in a pan, then add the rice and stir well. Quickly scoop into the tin, smooth the surface and leave to set. Melt the chocolates separately and scribble over the surface.

(*Clearly the level of child involvement depends on age and ability, and I don’t need to tell you to check any pans or utensils are cool enough for a small person to handle before letting them loose with any stirring…)

closer look

I also “helped out” at Brownies this evening without actually helping at all. I tried, I’m just not very good at that sort of thing.

Here I am in the glasses I have finally admitted I need. I’m trying to work out whether the bonus that I can see clearly now outweighs the fact that I can see my wrinkles really clearly now. Regardless, the irony of me bumping into the door of the opticians on the way out (whilst wearing new glasses) wasn’t lost on anyone (except maybe the 4-year-old).

new glasses

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Courgette honey and raisin muffins

I’m writing this on Winnie-the-Pooh day. (Or more accurately January 18th is the birth date of the man who created him, AA Milne.)

When my biggest little one was two it was Winnie-the-Pooh day every day in our house. Every. Single. Bedtime. We thought she’d taught herself to read at one point when she started reciting the books word for word but no, she just knew them by heart.

Anyway, seeing as Winnie the Pooh does love a bit of honey, here’s my favourite muffin recipe that uses honey instead of refined sugar. I LOVE these muffins, in fact I like to keep a clip top box of them in my freezer so I always have one to hand.

courgette honey raisin

I started making these to use up the huge numbers of yellow and green courgettes we grew in our kitchen garden this summer – these can be made with either variety. Turns out courgettes keep a muffin marvellously moist and add a fabulous texture without imparting any flavour.

So much as I’m pretty sure the bear wouldn’t have approved of the courgette being the biggest ingredient in these, you can’t actually taste them at all. *

Which is a shame if you like courgette (like me), but not if you’re a bear. Or a small child.

*In fact you’d never know these are secretly a pretty healthy teatime treat.

yum.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 2 large courgettes, finely grated to provide 380g grated courgette
  • 280g Dove’s Farm self-raising flour
  • 130g light olive oil
  • 140g honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Preheat a fan oven to 180 degrees C. Line a silicone muffin tray with cases.
  2. Pop the grated courgette in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze gently with your hands to remove excess liquid. Keep re-weighing the courgette after squeezing until you have 300g grated courgette.
  3. Put the raisins, self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and mix to coat the raisins (this will stop them sinking to the bottom of the muffins).
  4. Add the courgette to the dry bowl, mix a little with a fork then add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
  5. Divide the mix between the cases (it should reach half a centimetre or so from the tops).
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen, golden and firm to the touch.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. Enjoy with your favourite cuppa (and feel a bit smug about all those nutrients – and the fact that we don’t have to climb into bee hives to get our honey…)

 

 


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The perfect gluten free sponge cake

There are two ingredients here that might look out of place in a sponge cake. But they are what gives this moist, light cake it’s fabulous texture.

now for icing

Firstly, coconut yogurt (I use plain Koko dairy free). So many gluten-free sponges are dry and a bit flat and lifeless. Here, the yogurt adds body, retains moisture and the acidity helps with lift. If you can tolerate soy, sheep or cow’s yogurt you can use those just make sure it isn’t zero fat.

Cornmeal, or you could use instant polenta, adds a lightness of texture and a gorgeous crumb. (I use Natco as there’s no gluten warning or “processed with wheat” label like there is on some polentas, but you can sub your favourite instant polenta if you like).

It’s not unusual to use margarine instead of butter in a cake for a better rise (I think its the higher water content) – I’ve used half olive oil for a healthier cake, and my margarine is dairy-free.

So here’s the line-up.

the perfect gf sponge lineup

And here’s how to make it. What you put on top of it is entirely up to you. This mix makes 10- 12 decent sized cupcakes, If you’re not icing to the edge just fill 10 cases, if you are then it will make 12. If you want to make a sharing cake, use a lined 20 cm sandwich tin to make one layer of a Victoria Sponge, or a lined 18cm tin to make a single layer cake).

lovely rise

PS This recipe is so simple it’s great for baking with kids (my 4 year old is scared of the blender…)

Ingredients:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g coconut yogurt (I used Koko dairy free plain) or other yogurt, see above
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 50g dairy-free margarine, melted (I used Pure)
  • 50g light olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30g cornmeal (I used Natco)
  • 130g gluten-free self-raising flour (I used Dove’s Farm)
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

Now here’s the not-very-tricky bit:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan.
  2. Get a bowl. Mix everything together to a smooth batter. (Start by mixing the liquids together, then whisk in the dry stuff. Done.)
  3. Divide the mix between 10-12 muffin cases and bake for 20-15 minutes until well-risen and lightly browned. (Pop your ear next to them and you should hear them crackling.)
  4. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. Decorate!

lemon meringe cupcakes

 

 

 


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Could this be the healthiest chocolate cake ever

Well could it?

healthy_cake

It’s quite a claim to say that a chocolate cake is “healthier” than the rest. Clearly, it has to be lower in fat. But – here’s the thing – it must have enough fat to satisfy. And the fats it does contain must be healthier than butter (preferably not just a dairy-free spread, though there are some fabulous ones and I rely on them a lot.)

Here’s where olive and coconut oil come into their own.

It should have little or no refined sugar. Honey is a perfect sweetener for a chocolate cake, and agave nectar sweetens a chocolate frosting beautifully without taking over.

A bit of fibre and some micronutrients (in addition to the ones already present in cocoa and dark chocolate) would be nice.  Step up, buckwheat and brown rice flour.

Gluten and dairy free? That’s just a happy coincidence.

(If you’re avoiding nuts or soy for any reason they aren’t here either).

The crucial thing is that a healthier chocolate cake MUST be ACTUAL cake. Not a collection of dried fruit and nuts whizzed up in a blender with some cocoa. I’m not averse to the idea of a raw brownie but it’s not chocolate cake. In my opinion.

To recap. No gluten. No dairy. No refined sugar. Healthy fats. High fibre. No palm oil. Packed with micronutrients.

And so good that, based on taste, you would actively choose it over a regular chocolate cake any day.

Dive in.

mine_all_mine

PS A big thank you to Plamil Foods no-sugar dark chocolate sweetened with coconut blossom sugar, which makes the perfect chocolate icing…

Here’s how to make:

For the cake:

  • 25g cocoa
  • 50g rice flour
  • 40g potato flour
  • 30g buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 tsp bicarbonate
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 40g extra virgin coconut oil, melted**
  • 60g light olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g honey
  • 120g pitted dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract*
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 15ml hot water
  1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Preheat a fan oven to 160C. Place a silicone muffin tray on a baking sheet and line with muffin cases (these are decent sized cakes)
  2. Chop the dates and put in the base of a stick blender. (Chopping helps with blending and checks for any rogue stones at the same time.) Add the water.
  3. Add the honey, vanilla, lime juice, cocoa, oils, eggs and blitz with a stick blender.
  4. Add the flour mixture and blitz again to a smooth chocolatey batter.
  5. Divide between muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch (listen closely and you’ll hear them crackling too.)

naked_and_freefrom.jpg

For the frosting:

  • 120g no-sugar chocolate
  • 30g extra-virgin coconut oil**
  • 40g agave nectar `
  • 40g coconut cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract*

6. Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil then add the agave, vanilla and coconut cream. Carefully spoon onto the cakes and smooth to the edges with the back of a teaspoon.

with_frosting.jpg

*If you’re strict about refined sugar check your vanilla extract ingredients, many have added sugar, some of the really good ones don’t.

**If you don’t like the taste of coconut (it does come through a little) use refined coconut oil (organic if you can get it)

 

 


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Crunchy fish fingers with crushed cornflake and quinoa coating

I’m not knocking the gluten-free fish fingers in the freezer section (Young’s are my favourite).

But when you can encourage healthy eating, indulge in a little messy play and teach your child to cook at the same time that’s a win-win in my book.

homemade_fish_fingers

If I’m honest, I don’t cook with my daughter nearly enough. It didn’t go so well in the early years. (We have a very, very different approach to following instructions). But now that she is seven I’m keen for her to learn that healthy food doesn’t just mean eating her broccoli (though that would be nice).

This was really fun, much more harmonious than I expected, and the result was delicious.

ingredients

 

To make enough for 2 adults or 3-4 kids: 240g boneless white fish fillets (I used basa, you could use pollock, or cod if you’re feeling flush), a small bowl of gluten-free cornflakes (I used Whole Earth), a couple of handfuls of quinoa flakes (see note below on alternatives), an egg plus a yolk, 2 tablespoons of light olive oil and a handful of rice flour (I used Doves Farm), plus salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Adult: Use a sharp knife to cut the fish into short strips. Put the flour on a flat plate and the cornflakes on another. Beat the egg and place in a bowl. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and brush this with a little of the oil. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan.

“Helper”: Wash hands. Crush the cornflakes into tiny pieces. Mix in the quinoa flakes. Take each strip of fish and coat it in the flour. Dip in the egg. Rolling in the flake mix. Pop on the prepared tray. Brush with the oil.

Adult: Season with salt and pepper then bake for about 15 minutes until crispy, turning once during this time.

Yum.

In another rare moment of kitchen harmony my 7 and 4 year old have broken out into a spontaneous rendition of “He’s got the whole world in his hands”. Literally as I write.

Life is beautiful.

sunset over the downs.jpg

PS Please don’t think I’m the sort of person who would spend over £8 on a packet of quinoa flakes. Clearly I bought them because they were reduced. When I run out I’ll use buckwheat flakes, or you could use gluten-free oats if you can tolerate them.

 

 


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Totally guilt free chocolate truffle pots

It’s January, it’s cold, grey and all around me people are heroically outdoing each other in turning down booze, sugar, meat, replacing food in general with funny green potions. They’ve probably even turned their heating off.

Though I’ve noticed no-one has given up the bobble hat. People are out-bobble-hatting each other every where I look.

bobble-hat.jpgTruth be told, I’m just jealous. I’m just trying to get through the day with a smile. And I look terrible in a bobble hat.

Unlike bobble hats, and whatever diet you’re on, these little pots of chocolatey loveliness might just do the trick. (Unless you can’t have soy. Then, I apologise, I will road test some more dairy-free chocolate pot recipes…oh the hardship…)

Back to these. They are easy to make, super-chocolatey, truffly (I don’t know if that is a word), indulgent and a little goes a long way. It’s a bit like taking a big spoonful of Nutella and skipping the toast part.

Except not only are there no nuts, dairy or gluten, there’s no guilt either. (If I believed in food guilt that is.)  Thanks to a base of tofu (eek, I know!) these are low in fat, high in protein and almost completely refined sugar free. (In fact if you swapped out your regular dark chocolate for a no-sugar variety – I love Plamil Foods coconut blosson sugar one – they would be). Plus we all know cocoa is packed with antioxidants. 

WHATEVER! It’s CHOCOLATE PUDDING. Dive in!dive_in.jpg

PS These are also vegan and booze-free (see note on vanilla below). They won’t keep your head warm though. And they aren’t green.

To make: Take a pack of silken tofu* (350g). Drain it and blitz with 100g agave nectar, a good pinch of sea salt, 30g cocoa and either the seeds from a vanilla pod or a teaspoon of very good vanilla extract (warning mine contains alcohol). Then melt 120g good dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum) and stir through until completely combined.

Divide between 8-10 espresso cups (or little plastic shot glasses are perfect for kids) and chill. Unless you’re wearing a bobble hat, then you’ll be toasty warm…)

chocolate_tofu_pots

 

 


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Walnut, polenta and coconut yogurt cake with olive oil

scattering_of_walnut_honey_caramel

This might just be my new favourite cake. Not just because it’s totally scrummy. Or because it’s fats are omega 3’s, and instead of refined flour there’s fibre-rich cornmeal, rice flour and walnuts. (In fact this cake is healthier and lower in fat than your average cake.) 

But mainly because it’s living proof that there really is more than one way to bake a cake. And that you don’t need wheat or dairy to make a cake to rival the best of their flour and butter filled peers.

moment_of_truth

When I was taught to cook there were 4 distinct methods of making a cake (whisking, all-in-one, melting, creaming) and usually 4 essential ingredients (wheat flour, butter, egg and sugar,)

And if you watch Bake Off you’d be forgiven for thinking that baking is all about the science, with recipes and rules developed by scientists that must be obeyed or your cakes will fail and you will never reach domestic hero status.

But if there’s anything that balances on that fine line halfway between art and science it’s baking.  With a little inspiration, the right ingredients and a bit of scientific understanding you can bake pretty much any cake.

And besides, we’re all heroes, domestic or otherwise.

Anything and everything can inspire me to bake a cake. Even the giant parsnip we pulled up at Christmas became Boxing Day’s chocolate cake (I didn’t tell anyone until afterwards.)

Here the inspiration was simply half price packets of nuts in the supermarket. I do love a bargain.

straight_from_the_oven

For the ingredients there is method in my choices. I’ve swapped wheat flour for a mix of cornmeal, rice flour and walnuts. With the fat from the nuts I’ve gone easy on the added fat with a small amount of olive oil. For extra moisture and lift (gluten-free cakes being notoriously dry and dense) I’ve used some coconut yogurt too.

Then there’s how to make it. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve borrowed theory from two cake methods, whisking and all-in-one. I’ve whisked up the eggs and sugar to a light mousse, then folded everything in with a bit of raising agent (bicarbonate and lemon juice) to replace some of the air my clumsy fists have knocked out in the process.

Is anyone still with me? Because I think it might just be worth it…

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 75g shelled walnuts, blitzed in a food processor or crushed in a pestle and mortar to crumbs
  • 50g rice flour
  • 50g cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of good vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 50g coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 40g light olive oil (don’t use extra virgin, the flavour will overpower the cake)

Method:

  1. Brush an 18cm round cake tin with light olive oil and line the base with baking paper. Preheat a fan oven to 180 degrees C and pop a baking tray in there to heat.
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and use an electric whisk to make a light fluffy mousse that leaves a trail from the beaters when you lift them.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together and carefully add to the mousse around the edge of the bowl. Add the liquids too and fold everything in with a spatula or large spoon, trying to knockout as little air as possible.
  4. Scoop into the tin and place on the hot tray in the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 160C.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes or until well risen, golden and makes a crackle sound when you put your ear to it. Don’t burn your ear.
  6. Leave in the tin to cool for about 15 minutes, then run a pallet knife round the edge and turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  7. Decorate as you wish. (I dusted mine with icing sugar, then toasted a handful of walnuts in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, before adding a spoonful of honey and caramelising then spooning over the top).

PS I spotted the elephant in the room too. Refined sugar. Some of my cakes still have that. I’m such a dinosaur still put it in my tea. But I’m working on it…