Wednesday 30 May 2012

Homemade Maple Almond Butter

When in Los Angeles a couple of months ago I picked up a sample sachet of maple almond butter. I adore peanut butter, but had never tried other types of nut butter before and I was intrigued. I’m not always a huge fan of maple syrup, as I find sometimes the flavour can be quite overpowering and so at the time I only bought the sample sachet in order to give it a try. How I wish I’d bought a huge jar of it – it was delicious. Not too sweet and wonderfully creamy and nutty, with a slightly coarse texture. I hunted for something similar in the shops here, but to no avail. I could find plain almond nut butter in a health food shop (at an axtausionate price), but no flavoured ones.

After a little pondering I decided the best thing to do would be to make some myself. It turns out that making your own nut butter is surprisingly easy and much tastier and fresher than simply buying a jar. I’m a homemade nut butter convert!

I roasted my almonds first before grinding them, to really enhance their natural nuttiness and help release some of the natural oils from the nuts. I also left the skin on, as I wanted it to be a relatively healthy nut butter, despite its added maple syrup.

The nuts blitzed into a wonderfully fine breadcrumb-like texture. Neither crunchy nor smooth, but just coarse enough to left you know it was packed with fresh nuts. The almond skin gave it a lovely earthy rich almond brown colour too.

The almond aroma was quite intense, the scent of toasted nuts wafting up at me each time I opened the lid of the mixer. I knew it would taste good before I even tried it. I only added a little maple syrup, which gave it a subtle sweetness with just a hint of maple lingering in the background. A delicious combination with the almond.

This recipe only makes a small amount, but its best eaten fresh. Plus this way you get the opportunity to experiment with other flavours. I’m thinking of maybe something with cinnamon next time…possibly pecans…?

Do try making your own nut butter, it tastes fabulous, is cheaper than supermarkets and probably healthier too (depending on what you put in there!)

Maple Almond Butter
Ingredients150g whole almonds, skin on
½ tbsp rapeseed oil
½ - 1tbsp pure maple syrup
½ tsp sea salt

MethodPreheat the oven to 200C.
Lay the almonds out in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then give them a toss and mix up, before returning to the oven for a further 3 minutes. When they start to crack, smell toasted and are a golden brown colour, they are done.
Leave the nuts to cool for 20 minutes.
Blitz the nuts and salt in a small food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. This will take several minutes and you may need to scrape down the sides once or twice.
Add the rapeseed oil and the maple syrup to taste. Blitz again to create a creamy spreadable consistency. Add more maple syrup to taste.
The nut butter will be slightly coarse in texture, not crunchy or smooth. Blitz for longer if you want a smooth butter and add a few more nuts at the end if you want to create a crunchy texture.
Transfer the nut butter to a small airtight container and eat within 2 weeks.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Red, White & Blue Crisps!

With the Queens Jubilee only a matter of days away the country seems in full patriotic swing. Posters and food packaging is being adored with the English flag and people are organising street parties up and down the country. I myself intend to try and bake something along the red, white and blue theme, ideas are being formed…

On a recent shopping excursion I spotted some new patriotic crisps from Tyrrells. They have gone one step further by making not only their packaging, red, white and blue, but also the crisps inside!!

Fear not – they have not dyed their crisps – but used naturally red, white and blue varieties of English potatoes in order to create some iconic and eye catching crisps! How cool is that!!

The English varieties used are Highland Burgundy Red, White Lady Claire and Salad Blue. There are also a few beetroot crisps snuck in for extra an extra red boost. I’m sure the queen would highly approve!

I found the crisps to be quite thickly cut which gave them a wonderful crunch and meant you could actually taste the difference between the different potato varieties. The beetroot ones were also deliciously sweet.

They are only lightly flavoured with sea salt, so are bound to suit everyone’s tastes. I’m going to buy another bag for the family gathering next weekend, I can imagine them looking great on the table amongst all the other food. Found in Waitrose, but also from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or Fortnum & Masons if you happen to be in London.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Apple & Cinnamon Buns – Cookbook Review

No Meat, No Dairy, No Gluten, Just Flavour…and Goodness. This is the title of the cookery book by Wendy Horne that I was recently sent to review. Being both vegetarian and coeliac it captured my attention as it is quite rare to find a vegetarian friendly gluten free cookbook. A number of coeliacs I know also can’t tolerate dairy, so the fact this book encompassed all three was great. It is probably worth a mention thought that it’s vegetarian friendly, but not vegan friendly, as even though no dairy products are used, the recipes do contain eggs.

My first impression of the book was a little sceptical. The pictures on the front looked a bit dull and dated and inside the recipes are simply set out with no photos or pictures. However, I know it’s rather clichéd but as the saying goes ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’ as while flicking through the book I kept coming across delicious sounding dishes and have ended up with lots of tags stuck out the top for recipes I want to try. It was lovely having the pick of the entire book without the need to - ignore the chicken or work out a suitable flour substitute as I usually have to.

The recipes are split into soups, salads, main courses, terrines, potatoes, puddings & cakes and odds & ends such as chutneys. While trying to decide which recipe to make first it was a toss up between some little lentil pies or these apple & cinnamon buns. The buns won out in the end! The recipe intrigued me as:
1)      it was made entirely in a food processor
2)      it contained raw blitzed apple puree in the batter, not cooked like most recipes call and…
3)      it was apple and cinnamon – how could I resist!?

I followed the recipe to the letter, even using the requested dairy free Pure spread as I fortunately had some in the fridge after recently making a dairy free cake for a friend. The little buns contain apple in two forms. A large amount is blitzed into the cake batter and then some more finely chopped chunks are stirred in at the end. The recipe just stated ‘apple’ rather than specifying cooking or eating apples and so I decided to use a Bramley cooking apple in the blitzed up batter and a sweeter red eating apple for the little chunks. This worked well and resulted in a tart fresh tasting apple flavour to the cake while any little chunks bitten into were sweet and pleasant. I left the skin on the chunks of apple too, as the little red flecks looked pretty when you took a bite.

The cakes were incredibly light and moist and scattered with tiny air pockets throughout. The cinnamon flavour was quite pronounced which I adored and was the perfect pairing for the apple.

All the fresh pureed apple meant by the following morning the buns had come away from their cases and had developed a sticky top surface, becoming even more moist and tender, just like a good ginger cake. I had one slightly warmed with custard for pudding and it was gorgeous.

I’m sure the recipe would work well with other fruit too, maybe a firm pear and ginger combo, or fresh cranberry and orange zest…? No one would ever guess they were gluten and dairy free! I can’t wait to bake something else from the book, I think those little lentil pies are next on the list.

Apple & Cinnamon Buns
Recipe from No Meat, No Dairy, No Gluten, Just Flavour and Goodness by Wendy Horne
110g Pure dairy free spread
110g golden caster sugar
¼ tsp xanthan gum
175g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm Plain)
2 eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp cinnamon
50g ground almonds
175g apple, peeled and chopped (I used Bramley)
50g apple, peeled and finely diced (I used unpeeled red eating apple)

Heat the oven to 160C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
In a food processor, whiz the pure dairy free spread and sugar together until smooth.
Add half the flour and mix briefly. Add the eggs, blitz again and then add the rest of the flour, cinnamon and the xanthan gum.
Add the large amount of chopped apple and blitz until mostly broken down and only little flecks remain.
Add the almonds, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and blitz to incorporate.
Add the diced apple and pulse once to combine, you don’t want to break the apple up though.
Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cases, about 1½ tbsp of mix in each.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes (mine took 24 minutes)
Once baked, leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack until cold.
Makes 12

Sunday 20 May 2012

Minty Broad Bean & Ricotta Bruschetta

Every few weeks my sister and I like to get together for lunch, to catch up on each others latest news. Sometimes we meet at a restaurant, but more often than not we meet up and cook something together, which is exactly what we did last weekend. We have a few rules for such occasions:
1)      The food must be something neither of us has made before
2)      It must be vegetarian
3)      It must be gluten free

With a little recipe hunting, this is not actually as difficult as it sounds. We sent a few emails back and forth, discussing ideas, but in the end it was a simple dish by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that won. Some of you may remember he did a River Cottage Veg series on TV a few months back, where he lived and cooked only vegetarian food for the summer. I absolutely adored the series, and a dish that really stood out to me was his broad bean bruschetta.

We ended up making a few tweaks to his recipe, but the essence of it was Hugh’s. We didn’t have enough broad beans and so substituted some peas, used extra mint in the puree and added some fresh lemon juice and zest to the mix, which I think always goes wonderfully with fresh mint and peas. Oh, and obviously we served in on toasted gluten free pitta and ciabatta bread.

The results were absolutely delicious! Considering how simple the ingredients and method is, the flavours and textures at the end were fabulous. The broad beans were soft and creamy, while the peas stayed a little chunky, giving it a nice texture. The dollops of ricotta on top were milky and fresh, while the mint and lemon were the perfect summery seasonings. I really don’t use mint often enough. So good, we both agreed it’s definitely one we’ll make again.

It would be delicious to take along on a picnic too, sealed in little pots with some breads or crisps for dipping. Thanks Hugh!

Minty Broad Bean & Ricotta Bruschetta
(Recipe adapted from River Cottage Veg Every Day)
1 x 300g tin broad beans (200g drained weight)
75g thawed frozen peas
15g butter
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
8 fresh mint leaves (approx)
Salt and pepper
60g ricotta, feta or goats cheese

To Serve
Toasted GF pitta or ciabatta bread

Drain the broad beans and remove their outer skins. Place into a bowl along with the thawed peas. Mash roughly using a potato masher.
Melt the butter in a small frying pan, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Fry gently until the garlic is just beginning to colour, you don’t want it brown though!
Add the butter and garlic to the bean mixture and mash well to create a chunky puree. (The peas won’t break down much, but this is fine.)
Finely chop the mint and add most of it to the bean mix, reserving a little for garnish. Stir in the lemon juice, zest and season with salt and pepper. (Add a little olive oil if you thick it’s too dry)
Lightly toast your pitta bread or ciabatta and place onto warm plates.
Pile the minty bean puree on top of the hot bread and dot on a few spoonfuls of ricotta or crumble over some goats cheese or feta. Scatter over the reserved mint and a final squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve with a colourful side salad and enjoy!
Serves 2

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Go Gluten Free! The Roundup

Today is the second day of Coeliac Awareness Week which this year runs 14th–20th May 2012. For the past few days I have run an event, challenging people to bake/cook and blog about a recipe they adapted in some way to make it gluten free. The entry deadline was last night and so here is the roundup of the tasty submissions.

I kicked off the event with some Gluten Free Sour Cream Scones. Perfect for afternoon tea.

Quick off the mark was Chef Annie from Annie’s Supper Club. A fellow coeliac who I had the pleasure of meeting a few months back. She’s provided us with a delicious recipe for Gluten Free Waffles – perfect for sweet or savoury toppings. Here Annie has topped hers with three cheeses, crispy spicy chorizo and some sautéed cherry tomatoes – wow!

Next up was Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog with her Brown Butter & Choc Chip Friands. These tasty little cakes are made using ground almonds instead of flour for a moist and tender cake, you’d never know they were gluten free. Love the idea of using browned butter too – must try!

Another recipe from me, a GF version of Minni’s Chocolate Pie. The infamous pie from the book/film ‘The Help’ Chocolaty, sticky and decedent, everything you’d want in a pie. Made with crisp gluten free pastry.

Nipping in at the last minute we have this gorgeous looking Banana and Coffee Cake from Nic of Cherrapeno. I love the idea of pairing coffee and banana together (and some chocolate chips!) Nic shows that subsisting wheat flour with gluten free flours can produce delicious cakes. Looks wonderful moist – save me a slice!
As Coeliac Awareness Week is going on all week, why not try eating one day completely gluten free and seeing how you could adapt your diet or try ordering a gluten free meal off a restaurant menu or simply looking at the everyday foods you take for granted and seeing where gluten can sneak in.
Thank you to everyone who took part or gave support in some way. I hope you’ll try out a few of the recipes and see that missing gluten doesn’t mean missing out!

Thursday 10 May 2012

Minny’s Chocolate Pie - Gluten Free Version

Several months back I went to the cinema to see ‘The Help’ The film adaption of Kathryn Stockett book by the same name. It’s set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and is about the struggle of black maids raising the children of rich white families. One of the maids, Minny, is a wonderful cook and becomes well know for her special chocolate pie. The pie features quite heavily in the story (I won’t give the plot away) but a lot of the characters went crazy over it and I came away wondering what it tasted like. A short while later I was doing some background research into the story itself and happened to come across a recipe for ‘Minny’s Chocolate Pie’ submitted to a magazine by the home economist who made the actual pies for the film! I had the actually recipe and would get to taste the pie after all – hurrah!

Somehow it got added to my ‘to bake’ list and then I forgot about it for several months, until I rediscovered it again last week and decided it was high time I baked myself a Chocolate Pie.

The pie itself was very easy to adapt to being gluten free as the filling contained no flour at all, so it was simply a matter of making my own GF pastry. I was delighted about this as the chocolate pie filling is essentially the essence of the pie and so I was thrilled I’d get to taste it in its true form, without the need for any substitutions.

The filling contains evaporated milk, which you can find it tins next to the long life milk. Regular milk or condensed milk is NOT the same and can’t be substituted. Surprisingly enough for a chocolate pie, it contains no actually chocolate and instead gets its flavour from cocoa powder. I was initially a little sceptical of this – how good could a chocolate pie be made with no actual chocolate? Well, let me say this is by far the BEST chocolate pie I have ever tasted. Actually, it’s the best of any kind of pie I’ve ever tasted. It’s truly amazing!

The filling is unlike nothing I’ve quite experienced before. Its soft and satin smooth, but also rich, sticky and ever so slightly chewy. You know the wonderful sticky layer in the bottom of a treacle tart or pecan pie, well it’s that sort of texture and stickiness, only in rich chocolate form. Utterly divine!

It’s not too sweet and stays fabulously soft and jiggly even a couple of days after baking. It also didn’t seep or make the pastry go soggy, all in all was the perfect pie. Adorn each slice with a little swirl of lightly whipped cream and its forks at the ready! Seriously, you MUST bake this pie – after that first bite you’ll understand just how good it is!

Don’t forget to submit your entries to my Go Gluten Free! event, in the run up to Coeliac awareness week.

Minny’s Chocolate Pie - Gluten Free Version
(Recipe adapted from Food & Wine magazine)
Sweet Gluten Free Pastry – my own
220g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
100g soft butter
30g icing sugar
½ tsp xanthan gum
1 egg
2-3 tbsp cold water

Chocolate Pie Filling
335g caster sugar (I used 260g)
40g cocoa powder
60g butter
2 eggs
180ml evaporated milk (not regular milk or condensed milk)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

Method – Pastry
Mix the flour, sugar and the xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.
Make sure you butter is soft, if not blast it in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to the flour along with the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Beat with a spoon or spatula to form a dough. (Yes I know this goes against all traditional pastry making!)
Switch to your hands to bring the mixture together at the end. Add a little more water if necessary. Knead the dough gently for 30seconds to ensure everything is well combined. Use straight away or wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate until required.
Makes enough for one 8-9inch pie

Method – Pie Filling
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place a large baking tray into the oven to heat up.
Roll out your pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until 2-3mm thick and large enough to fit your pie dish.
Remove the top layer of clingfilm and flip the pastry into the pie dish and ease it into the sides. Use the clingfilm to help you, and then remove it.
Roll any overhanging pastry up under the lip of the dish and then use your fingers to crimp the edges in a decorative design.
Prick the pastry lightly with a fork and place on the preheated baking tray (this will help brown the base) Bake for 18minutes until lightly golden and set (see note below).
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a mixing bowl and add the rest of the filling ingredients. Whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for about 40-45 minutes (not on the baking tray). The filling should develop a thin top crust but still wobble when lightly shaken.
Remove from the oven and transfer the pie to a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely for 3-4 hours before serving.
Serve with lightly whipped cream
Makes 1 x 9inch pie
The pie will keep for 3 days and can be made a day in advance

Note: If you use regular pastry, then fill the pastry with baking beans or rice to blind bake it during the initial baking stage

Friday 4 May 2012

Go Gluten Free! Event & Gluten Free Sour Cream Scones

I’ve decided to host my first Event and I want you all to help!

As my regular readers will know, just over a year ago I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Coeliac disease affects around 1 in 100 people and is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to wrongly attack itself when it comes into contact with gluten. This damages the lining of the intestines, resulting in illness and poor absorption of food and nutrients. There is no cure, but thankfully if you follow a gluten free diet your body goes back to being healthy and happy again.

Being coeliac means you have to avoid all products containing gluten including wheat, rye, barley, oats and its by-products including bread, cakes, semolina, cous cous, soy sauce, malt, beer, pasta, breakfast cereals, some crisps/chocolates/sauces and liquorice etc…

For a girl who loved to bake and classed bread and breakfast cereal in her top 5 favourite foods you can imagine this meant quite a drastic change of lifestyle. However, after a bit on tinkering in the kitchen I soon learnt that missing gluten doesn’t have to mean on missing out on delicious meals or treats.

To help raise awareness of coeliac disease, each year Coeliac UK hold a Coeliac Awareness Week which this year runs 14th–20th May 2012. To do my part to help spread acceptance and understanding of the condition I’ve decided to host my first event, which I'd love you all to help me with – Go Gluten Free!

To take part in Go Gluten Free!

* Bake/cook a recipe that you have adapted in some way to make it Gluten Free
* Blog about it before 14th May
* Include a link back to this post along with the event logo (A little blurb about coeliac disease would be great too – you can use the top 2 paragraphs to the post)
* Email it to me, along with your name, blog name, recipe name, recipe URL and a small photo of the dish.
* Email Katie at (appleandspice[AT] with ‘Go Gluten Free!’ in the subject box
* Open world wide. Entries must be in by midnight on 14th May 2012

I will then make a roundup, after 14th so everyone can enjoy a whole host of delicious GF recipes just in time for awareness week! Try making your favourite lasagne using GF pasta, bake a cake, brownies or cookies using ground almonds or a bag of GF flour. It can be sweet or savoury, the only thing I ask is that it be something that is not naturally GF. So don’t send in a bowl of veg soup, but a bowl of veg soup with some homemade GF bread would be great!

I really hope you’ll join me in helping raise awareness and proving to people that going gluten free doesn’t have to mean going without! To get things started, here is my own version of a delicious afternoon tea treat – gluten free scones!

Gluten Free Sour Cream Scones
(These are soft and tender on the inside, just like a good scone should be)
200g gluten free self raising flour (Doves Farm brand)
40g cold butter
20g caster sugar
½ tsp xanthan gum
1tsp gluten free baking powder
75ml sour cream
90ml milk

Heat oven to 220C. Lightly dust a baking tray with a little gluten free flour and set aside.
Mix the milk and sour cream together and set aside.
Chop the butter into tiny cubes. Measure out the flour, baking powder, sugar and xanthan gum and add to the butter. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up above the bowl and letting the mixture fall back as you rub it together. It’s done when the mixture resembles a crumble/breadcrumb mixture.
Pour most of the milk/cream over the crumbs and mix together in a folding motion using a butter knife.
When starting to form a dough, switch to your hands and bring the mixture together into a ball. Add a little more milk if needed. Knead gently for about 5 seconds.
Scatter the work surface with a little flour and pat out the dough using the palm of your hand, until around an inch thick.
Cut out rounds using a 2inch/5cm cutter. Press down firmly when cutting the scones out and don’t twist at all or else they won’t rise straight.
Place the scones onto the baking tray and brush the tops with any leftover milk mixture. Don’t let the milk drip down the side of the scones.
Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden and risen.
Eat straight away with jam and cream.
Best eaten within a few hours of baking (not a problem in my household)
Makes 8 scones