Monday 26 May 2014

Exploring Sheffield Food Festival

This weekend there has been a food festival going on in Sheffield. Street food, market stalls and local restaurants have been lined up snaking throughout the city centre. I had planned to explore it on Saturday, but the weather was so dreadful with torrential rain that I postponed until Sunday when the weather was slightly improved (although still raining)!

The first sight that greeted me was a real shire horse in a pen. This was a stand displaying naturally grown veg with plants arranged in vegetable plot style design. I’m not entirely sure what the horse was about, but I think the stall was from a local farm and they had brought along the horse to attract people. He really was a lovely specimen.

The first food stand I visited was a stand called Karkli, a new business selling pouches of Indian snacks made from fried lentil flour. I loved the spiky shape; they reminded me of spiky edged caterpillars. They were very crunchy and at first all you could taste was a savoury saltiness but there turned out to be a few cumin seeds in the mix and after a few chews you were left with an aromatic spiciness. Very good.

I then explored the rest of the stands on offer.

The Yorkshire Crisp company was giving tasters of their hand cooked tubs of crisps with some new interesting flavours. Not all of them were gluten free, but I got to taste a Hendersons Relish flavour. Hendersons Relish is a bit like Worcestershire sauce with the added benefit of being gluten free and vegetarian. Yorkshire folk are very protective and proud of this relish, (don’t ever say it’s similar to Worcestershire Sauce within anyone earshot or they get very offended) and my boyfriend eats it on everything!
I also tried a sweet chili and lime variety, which was nice but more of a paprika flavour to me and I didn’t detect the lime.

A bakery stand had some very cool Lego cupcakes. Those Lego bricks and even the little Lego men were edible!

Another stand had some beautiful looking gourmet marshmallows in a whole assortment of pastel colours and flavours. The black cherry & anise one looked amazing and such a fabulous colour.

A Mediterranean stand was selling olives, cheeses and sundried tomatoes. I tried a taster of feta and wow, it was amazing. It was more like a stiffly set cream cheese than any feta I’ve ever had before. It was so smooth and creamy, it just melted in the mouth. I bought a slice and had it with some roasted peppers for lunch today, so delicious.

I wanted to buy something for lunch from one of the pop up restaurant stands and there was quite an assortment to choose from.
Caribbean – goat curry anyone?

A selection of salads and roasted meats from The Showroom looked very inviting

I was drawn to the stand selling fat burritos stuffed with rice, beans and meat of your choice. I couldn’t have the burrito, as wheat tortillas aren’t gluten free, but I asked if I could have the filling of the burrito just on its own which they were happy to do for me. I was given a plate of a little bit of rice, bean chilli, jalapeno salsa and a couple of corn chips. I was slightly disappointed at the small portion but it was warm and filling which is what I needed as it had started raining again. The salsa had a gentle heat to it.

It made for a fun morning out, and I hope there is another event next year.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Lemon Drizzle Mashed Potato Cake

It’s been a gloriously warm and sunny week here in Sheffield – about time too! Earlier in the week I had planned to bake some form of chocolate cake, but the sunshine made me yearn for something fresh and zingy instead, and lemon was the obvious choice. I wanted to try something a bit different and remembered seeing an old episode of River Cottage on TV where one of the chefs who works with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made a lemon cake with a secret ingredient – mashed potato!

On first consideration mashed potato may sound like an odd ingredient for a cake, but if I had suggested pumpkin or sweet potato cake I doubt many people would have been overly surprised. The cake is also gluten free and potato flour is a common ingredient in gluten free baking, so on reflection using mashed potato in a cake is not that odd a concept. That being said I was still very eager and excited to try it out myself.

The mashed potato doesn’t replace any of the standard cake ingredients – they are all still there in their equal quantities, it is simply an additional ingredient. I imagined using mashed potato in a cake would result in a very dense and heavy sort of cake – maybe even one a little gummy, but let me re-assure you this cake turned out to be amazingly light and soft. Not heavy or dense in the slightest.

The cake baked evenly and despite its rather compact crumb appearance it was incredibly light, soft and moist. The lemon flavour really shone through, especially as it’s doused in a zingy lemon syrup once removed from the oven. I would describe it as ‘damp’ but in the most delicious way possible, rather than ‘damp and soggy’ which is not good for a cake.

Surprisingly despite using 3 lemons it wasn’t overpoweringly lemony. The potato seemed to mellow out the lemons sharp acidity giving the finished cake a flavour similar to a well made lemon curd. Fresh and lemony, but nicely balanced and sweet too.

It has to be one of the simplest looking, yet most delicious lemon cakes I’ve ever made. The potato gave it a fabulous texture, reminiscent of cakes made with sour cream. It kept just as damp and delicious for the 4 days it lasted. I didn’t have any berries with me at the time but I can imagine it would be great with some fresh raspberries on the side. Worthy of a picnic or BBQ dessert. Do give it a go.

Lemon Drizzle Mashed Potato Cake
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
4 eggs
100g ground almonds
75g white rice flour
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
2 large baking potatoes (around 400g raw = 250g cooked & mashed)
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons

For the topping
Juice of 2 lemons
55g caster sugar

Prepare you mashed potato in advance. Cook it in the skin, then mash it without adding any additional butter or milk and set aside until cold.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 8inch/20cm springform cake tin.
Finely grate the zest of the lemons and set it aside to use later. Mix the ground almonds, rice flour and baking powder together and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light, pale and fluffy, around 3-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of almond flour mix with each addition to stop the mixture curdling.
Once the last egg is added, scatter the rest of the almond flour mix over the top and fold into the mixture.
Weigh out and add 250g of cold mashed potato to the bowl and gently whisk until the potato is incorporated and no large clumps remain. Try not to beat all the air out of the batter.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Check it after 30 minutes to make sure it is not browning too much, and quickly cover with a sheet of foil if it is.
Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the lemons and stir in the caster sugar.
Remove the cake from the oven and immediately prick the top all over with a skewer. Use a spoon to gradually pour the lemon syrup over the top of the cake, letting it soak in before adding more. Make sure to spread it all over the cake evenly.

Leave the cake to cool completely before serving

Sunday 11 May 2014

Free From Food Fair in York & Coeliac Awareness Week

Yesterday I attended a free from food fair hosted in York. This annual food fair is quite well known on the gluten free circuit but this was the first year I had been to it myself.

It was wonderful to explore all the delights on offer, knowing they were suitable for me. I was with a non coeliac who was quite amazed that people were queuing to get in before the event actually opened. I tried to explain the sheer delight and excitement at being able to enter a room and know you could eat everything on offer without having to ask multiple questions first.

There were some of the usual suspects in the gluten free world – Genius, Dietary Specials, Warburtons to name a few as well as some new ones, which are always great to discover. Most were giving away free tasters which is always nice as it means you get to try before you buy.

Delicious Alchemy (love the name) are new to the food show scene. They have been around for a few years but have recently launched a whole range of gluten and dairy free baking mixes, cereals and breads. I love the colourful packaging and the products taste just as delicious as the gluten equivalents I remember. They were giving out samples of some super fudgy brownie made from one of the baking mixes, really intensely chocolaty.

I also had a lovely chat to the people of Hayloft Foods who had a range of fresh soups and chutneys. I bought a jar of the apple & beetroot chutney. It was such a gorgeous colour with real large chunks of apple and beetroot. I loved the beetroot addition; you don’t see enough beetroot things in my opinion.

Fairly Scrumptious were a stall selling a delicious array of cupcakes and slices, which did indeed look fairly scrumptious – wonder how many times they’ve heard that before!?

Al-Ameen was another stand selling honey and bee pollen granules. Honey has many health related properties and I’ve heard of bee pollen but never seen it before. From the sound of it it’s a superfood full of all sorts of B vitamins. I loved its golden colour.

The weather was horrible outside so it was the perfect day to stay safely undercover at the show and enjoy sampling some of the delicious gluten free delights on offer. Anyone else go? It was also the perfect event to attend before the start of Coeliac Awareness Week which runs from 12th – 18th May.

1 in 100 people in the UK are currently diagnosed with coeliac disease (myself included). It is a condition where the person’s immune system detects gluten – the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, as being harmful to the body, which caused the body to react and produce antibodies to fight what it determines to be a poison. This in turn damages the gut of the person with coeliac disease which leads to all sorts of symptoms and other related health issues. There is no cure and the only treatment is a lifelong and strict following of a gluten free diet.

It’s not as simple as just cutting out bread as gluten is used in all sorts of things you may not even realise – soups, sauces, seasonings, sausages, flavourings on crisps, salad dressings, pasta, cous cous, beer, sweeteners on breakfast cereals and bars of chocolate etc. It can appear in the most unlikely of places. Even on things such as bags of prepared salad! There is also the risk of cross contamination to consider meaning you can’t share packs of butter, jam, mayonnaise, toasters, bread boards etc as only tiny amounts of gluten are needed to make a person with coeliac disease ill. So dunking your butter knife into a jar that’s previously been used to make a gluten containing sandwich is a no-no. I know ‘going gluten free’ is starting to be seen as a bit of a fad diet, which is disappointing, as for people like myself who really are coeliac, it is a serious, lifelong and often complicated condition that is not helped by people not taking it seriously or saying they are gluten free and then happily tucking into the office birthday cake!

During coeliac awareness week, as you sit down to a meal, maybe stop and think about the food you are about it eat. Would it be safe for a coeliac to eat? What would you eat instead if you couldn’t have what you were about it eat? How would it affect your everyday life? Which of your favourite foods would now be off the menu? Would you trust your local restaurant to understand and not feed you something containing gluten?

During Coeliac UK awareness week why not try eating gluten free for just one meal a day? Maybe wander down the free from section in your local supermarket (if they even have one) and seeing the types of food on offer. Ask local restaurants about their menu choices or trying baking with some alternative gluten free flours. Thankfully there are now a fantastic range of alternative products on offer, as highlighted in the food show above, meaning missing gluten doesn’t mean missing out!

Sunday 4 May 2014

Roasted Cauliflower, Squash & Bean Salad in a Spicy Tomato Dressing

One of my Easter presents from my parents was a large round terracotta coloured Acorn squash. I adore the flavour and earthy sweetness of squash and this was a much better present for me than an Easter egg which they knew I wouldn’t eat (I’m rather picky about my chocolate). One of my favourite ways to enjoy squash is roasted, and as I’ve been so busy recently I decided to turn my squash into a colourful salad I could take for lunch during the week to save those early morning ‘what I can take to eat for lunch?’ moments.

I paired my squash with some florets of cauliflower, a veg that can be a little bland on its own but transforms into something sweet and nutty after a gentle roasting in the oven. I love the bits where the edges have become slightly charred and smoky.

The deep intense earthy sweetness of the squash can handle some quite bold flavours, so I decided to pair it with a spicy sundried tomato dressing for a bit of kick. I used chipotle chili powder and a few shakes of Tabasco to add a smoky chili spiciness. To make it more of a meal I stirred in a tin of mixed beans and some sweetcorn for colour and crunch.

It was quick and easy to prepare and kept me going for 3 days of work time lunches. I loved the mix of flavours, colours and textures. The deep rich squash was sweet and creamy, the lightly charred cauliflower being nutty and crunchy, the dressing tangy, smoky and with a little kick of chili heat that slowly intensified as I ate it, helping to perk me up ready for the afternoon.

Roasted Cauliflower, Squash & Bean Salad in a Spicy Tomato Dressing
½ Acorn squash or butternut squash
½ large head cauliflower
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbsp sweetcorn
1 x 400g tin mixed beans
3 spring onions
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
1½ tbsp olive oil
½ tsp chipotle chili powder
Few drops Tabasco

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the seeds from the squash and cut into 2-3cm chunks. You can leave the skin on as its nice to eat once roasted. Cut the cauliflower into florets and then into similar sized chunks to the squash.
Place the squash only (not the cauliflower) onto a large baking tray, drizzle over the 1 tbsp sunflower oil and some freshly ground pepper.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, add the cauliflower chunks to the squash and mix gently. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20-25 minutes until the squash is softened and the cauliflower lightly roasted.
Tip the roasted veg into a large bowl. Add the sweetcorn and a tin of mixed beans that have been drained and rinsed.
Slice the spring onions and add to the mix.
In a small bowl, combine the sundried tomato paste, olive oil, chili powder and a little Tabasco. Mix well and then pour over the veg. Mix everything together until all the beans and veg are lightly coated in the dressing.
Store in the fridge until required. Give everything a quick stir before serving to remix any dressing.

Serves 4 as a main meal or delicious as an accompaniment to other buffet/picnic/BBQ style things