Friday 29 May 2015

Buckwheat Banana, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Chocolate Mousse: An Amazing Breakfast Treat

I’ve said it plenty of time before, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. I’m usually pretty varied with my breakfasts, while keeping things fairly healthy. Since moving to London my breakfasts have mostly consisted of cereal and a piece of fruit that I can eat quickly before heading out to work. I’ve made myself porridge twice but it’s definitely not been up to my usual standards.

This weekend, I decided to treat myself to an extra special breakfast – pancakes! I still need to gather a wider range of ingredients for my baking cupboard, but did had an overripe banana and a few chocolate chips and a bag of buckwheat flour at my disposal, so banana chocolate chip pancakes was it was to be.

Banana is the magic ingredient here, as not only did it add natural sweetness to the pancake mix but also replaced the egg in the batter, adding moistness and binding properties. I also had the last remnants of a jar of peanut butter so in that went too, along with a pinch of mixed spice which always compliments the flavour of banana.

While the pancakes were cooking I hunted for something to serve them with and hit a snag. I had no yoghurt, jam, sauce, syrup, nutella, berries, or any more peanut butter with which to serve them. I could have eaten them on their own but I like dipping or spreading my pancakes with something – it’s part of the enjoyment of eating them. Then I saw a small glass of chocolate mousse that I’d made earlier in the week…..ohhhh chocolate mousse on warm pancake, that would work!

I assembled the pancakes, added a dollop of the dark chocolate mousse and scurried away to my room to eat them in bed. Warm pancakes with chunks of sweet banana, melty chocolate chips served with cold light and airy dark chocolate mousse is amazing! I believe that all pancakes should be served with chocolate mousse in future. The combination is fantastic! The light airy mousse was rich and silky smooth while being the perfect soft and spreadable consistency. The little bubbles dissolving in the mouth and melting into the warm pancakes. Best thing I’ve eaten all week!

I happily devoured the lot and didn’t feel the remotest bit guilty about eating chocolate mousse for breakfast. The pancakes themselves are egg-less, butter-less and sugar-less so I feel justified in being a bit more extravagant with the accompaniment. The chocolate mousse in question is also dairy free and contains only 40g sugar in the entire recipe (serves 6 and I only used half of 1) so it didn’t feel too sweet or dessert-like. In fact they are probably healthier than many sugary cereals or jam slathered slices of toast people eat for breakfast without batting an eye. Pancakes and chocolate mousse, who’d have thought?! So so good, you’ve got to try it!

The perfect bank holiday weekend breakfast. I should also mention It’s an essential requirement to eat them on a tray, in bed, while still in your PJ’s.

Buckwheat Banana, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Chocolate Mousse
4 tbsp buckwheat flour
1 tbsp dark chocolate chips
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp baking powder
1 large banana (¾ batter and ¼ to serve)
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
4-6 tbsp milk*
1 tsp oil

To Serve
Banana slices
Large scoop of chocolate mousse
OR, chocolate sauce, nutella, yogurt, peanut butter, fruit compote, maple syrup etc

Heat the oven to 75C and place a plate inside to warm up.
Weigh the buckwheat flour, chocolate chips, mixed spice and baking powder into a small mixing bowl.
Slice the banana into thin slices and reserve 5-6 slices for serving. Roughly chop the remaining banana and add to the dry mix.
Add the peanut butter on top along with 4 tbsp milk. Mix to form a batter. Add more milk as required until you have a thick batter that will drop off the end of the spoon, but is not too runny.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Spoon the batter into the pan in 4 blobs to form 4 pancakes, leaving room between each one.
Allow to cool gently for 1 minute, until bubbles start to appear on the surface and the edges are just set. Flip each pancake over quickly and allow to cool for a further 30-45 seconds until lightly golden and cooked through.
Serve the pancake on the warmed plate. Top with the slices of reserved banana and extra toppings or your choice. It’s just to have something spreadable or dippy to eat them with – yoghurt, compote, mousse, cream, sauce etc.
Eat and enjoy – preferably on a tray in bed for a relaxing treat
Serves 1 – easily doubled.

*Note: Replace the milk with almond or coconut milk to make these pancakes dairy free and vegan too! Also, make sure your baking powder and buckwheat flour are gluten free, as some are not.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Dinner at Dishoom & One Mind Blowing Dessert

Last week I met my sister for dinner at Dishoom near Kings Cross. Dishoom is a modern representation of the old traditional Iranian cafes of Bombay. A very unique and flavoursome style of Indian food, unlike any of the so-called ‘traditional’ Indian dishes we commonly think of in the UK. They now have a few branches in London, with the Kings Cross one being located in a large old warehouse which gives it a great atmosphere and impact the minute you walk through the door. High ceilings, exposed brick, hanging lights and multi floored dining areas.

The King Cross branch don’t take bookings and as we discovered, it’s incredibly popular. My advice if you want to eat before 8pm is to get there early. We arrived at around 6:15pm on a Tuesday evening and were 4th in the queue to even be let through the door! There was a server with a clipboard taking names and giving you an EET (Estimated Eating Time) and when we got to the front we were told there was 1hr 20min wait for a table – you what?!

As we dithered over whether to stay (we were both very hungry had had been up since the small hours) we were served a complimentary glass of hot sweet house chai tea and told we were welcome to wait in the bar where we could get drinks and nibbles. We had both heard such glowing reviews of the restaurant that we decided to stay (fyi it’s worth the wait!)

The bar area is downstairs/underground and poorly lit. Rather than seeming dingy, this gave it an exciting, hushed yet relaxing feel. I drank a couple of sweet spicy chai teas which was the perfect pick-me-up I needed after a long day, and my sister C had a delicious watermelon cocktail. We shared one of the two bar snacks on offer, described as crunchy banana chips and dips. These were amazing and so addictive. We wanted to save ourselves for the meal but couldn’t stop eating them. The banana chips were thin and crunchy and lightly spiced with chilli. They were accompanied by a fresh onion salsa, a wedge of lime and then 3 little dips. A spiced tomato chutney, some sort of sweet & sour tamarind combo and a yummy fresh mint chutney. We couldn’t decided which was our favourite, each was so different and tasty.

In the end our table was ready after only an hour wait, so not too bad and the drinks and spicy banana chips had kept us more than satisfied. Dishoom are also very well know for their impressive choice of gluten free options. I should think nearly half the menu was gluten free, and naturally gluten free rather than having to be specially adapted which was fantastic.

We had a hard choice choosing what to try from the menu, everything sounded delicious and so authentic. You could have everything from Pau Bhaji - traditional warm buttery bread rolls stuffed with mashed curried vegetables, Prawn Koliwada – prawns in tamarind and date chutney, Black Lentil Daal – a house specialty and even Nalli Nihari with Bheja – a spicy lamb dish complete with lambs brains (yes really!)

As C is so lovely she agreed that we choose two mains that were gluten free so we could both have a taste of each, and then some sides. I went for the house black daal which is one of their signature dishes. It’s simmered for over 24 hours to allow the spices and flavours to fully develop and blend, now that’s dedication! The black lentils give it a dark mysterious colour and the flavour was rich, spicy and surprisingly smoky. It had a complex multi layered range of aromatic flavours that was unique. Cardamom, cinnamon, something smoky and then a bit of aniseed tang combined with the thick earthy lentils. The best daal I’ve ever had and so soothing and comforting. I’d love to have a bowl of this waiting for me after a tiring day at work. I also had a bowl of green veg which again was deliciously flavoured with chilli and fresh lime, I’m going to try adding this combo on my veg at home.

We also had the Mahi Tikka which was fish in a lightly spiced yoghurt marinade before being cooked in a tandoor. This had quite a delicate subtle flavour which didn’t overpower the fish. However, the flavours here too were multi layered and unique, not hot and spicy, but more fragrant and aromatic. There were some spices in our dishes I’ve never tasted before and couldn’t identify. It really made for a delicious and special meal. As the fish is not a saucy dish we had some raita on the side (a colossal amount) and C also enjoyed a paper thin freshly cooked roti.

We were quite full at this point but couldn’t resist the chance to sample some of the desserts. These too were very impressive with everything apart the intriguing sounding pineapple black pepper crumble being gluten free!

C chose mango Kulfi on a stick. This was the richest, creamiest, freshest sort of ice cream you can imagine, presented in a pointy spire for good measure (apparently this shape is traditional. Much more exciting than the UK’s boring cheap choc-ice blocks). You could tell it was made with real mango, it was very fresh and fruity. The perfect tongue soother and sweet treat after a meal. C happily devoured the lot.

I decided to be daring and go for the most unusual and intriguing sounding desert I have ever heard of, Kala Khatta Gola Ice. Frozen ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, with chilli, lime, white and black salt and fresh blueberries. The waiter actually tried to dissuade me from having it – well maybe not dissuade, but warn me. He said a lot of people don’t like it and that it’s very unique. I said it sounded so interesting I had to try it. He looked a little dubious and said they wouldn’t mind if I didn’t like it. As he walked away my sister and I exchanged looks, what had I let myself in for?!

It arrived looking like a harmless tall glass of ruby purple coloured ice chips topped with blueberries. I took my first spoonful and….my mind exploded. Apparently my face was a picture of shock, confusion, excitement and then delight. It was so bizarre, so unexpected, such an amazingly mind blowing assault on my taste buds and senses that I almost felt dizzy. The first sensation is of cold ice, then an intense sweetness and fruitiness from the syrup before suddenly whooshing in with a strong whack of fiery chilli, causing my tongue to tingle and burn while still being cold. Then as you swallow your mouth is flooded with a strong, almost unpleasantly, salty taste which then rushes back to sweet fruitiness and a lingering spice. I am not joking when I say I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. After getting over the shock I started to laugh and sat there grinning. WOW!

I went back for another spoonful and it was just as multi layered and confusing yet delightful as the first. Cold, sweet, spicy, heat, fruity, salty, sweet, throat burning fire yet freezing cold tongue and a great rush of emotions. The waiter came over to see what I thought and I told him it was incredible. He seemed amazed I actually like it. I was grinning like an idiot and said
‘I want one every day.’
He laughed and said ‘you’re a little crazy, no’
I said ‘oh yes’
To which he replied ‘well at least your self aware’….and walked away.
I’m not sure what to make of that comment, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. I enjoy being unique and different and if it means I get to experience things such as this dessert then so much the better. I only managed half the glass, my senses just couldn’t cope after that. I was giddy all the way home. If you try just one dish – try this one. I don’t care if you don’t like it – you just have to experience it!! It is truly a memory that will stay with me for years.

Fantastic food and a fabulous evening. I can’t recommend Dishoom highly enough. The breakfasts are also meant to be legendary – I foresee another visit on the horizon!

Note: I visited the restaurant by my own accord and choosing after hearing good reports about them and their range of gluten free options. We paid for our meal in full. No one invited us to come, we turned up out of the blue like any other customer, and I decided to review it based on my own fantastic experience. All opinions expressed here are my own. 

Monday 11 May 2015

Coeliac Awareness Week & Dinner at Pho

Today is the start of Coeliac Awareness week. Every year it makes me stop and think about my own diagnosis. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was life changing, both for the better and worse. However, every year I like to think it’s getting a little bit better. Along with wider knowledge and awareness of coeliac disease, means more people are being diagnosed, increasing the demand for gluten free food in shops, restaurants, supermarkets and even airlines. This means more gluten free companies, a greater variety of food and a better quality, both inn terms of taste and nutrition. There are now some gluten free products on the market that you genuinely wouldn’t know where gluten free. Others I feel still have some way to go and others are still distant longing memories….but I’m sure they will be available one day J

I recently learnt that Caroline Quentin, of Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek fame, has herself been diagnosed coeliac. I read an interview she gave and I think its one of the best, most genuine and informative stories I’ve read. If you yourself suspect you may be coeliac or have a problem with gluten, it’s imperative to go to the Dr for tests FIRST. Under no circumstances stop eating gluten, you need to have been eating it in order to get an accurate result and your symptoms could do down to something different, so don’t self diagnose.

And now for something completely different
I’ve now moved to London after starting my new job, meaning the 4 hour daily commute is no more – yay! I’m now living in a lovely house with 6 new flat mates. I feel quite settled in the area already but sharing with so many people means I haven’t been able to being all my ‘stuff.’ I’ve also had no time to do any baking yet (not to mention lack of tins etc), it may take a few weeks, but rest assured I will be baking again soon!

To celebrate my move to London I went out with a friend for dinner. We chose a restaurant called Pho as it was close to work and we both love Vietnamese, oriental flavours. This turned out to be a fantastic choice and upon arrival I was told that apart from the steamed buns (fair enough), I could have any other dish on the menu – most of it naturally gluten free. Wow, what choice and I was impressed they knew exactly what I meant when I said ‘gluten free’

The restaurant was quite compact, but we got a nice table for two and enjoyed carrot, apple and ginger juice while perusing the menu. I liked the vast selection of chilli dressings and sauces on the table for you to spice up your dinner if you liked.

I decided on two smaller dishes to make my main. Summer rolls to start, which are just like spring rolls, only made with a sticky, chewy rice wrapper rather than a crisp wheaty one. I’ve heard lots about them but had never tried them until now. They are stuffed with veg, rice noodles, mint and your choice of extra veg or prawns. There was a choice of chilli sauce or spiced peanut sauce, I was dithering over the choice and the waitress kindly bought me both. My favourite by far was the peanut one. Nutty, creamy and with a gentle kick. Delicious.

The Summer Rolls were great. Very fresh and packed with crunchy crisp veg and I loved the chewy rice wrapper. A little hard to eat with chopsticks, but fun.

For the main I had a green mango salad with citrus dressing and peanuts. Again another dish I’d never had before. You don’t eat it and think ‘mango’ its green mango meaning it’s crunchy and shredded in strips. It adds just a subtle fruity note, but more salad than fruit. The dressing was amazing. At first it was very zingy and citrusy, then as I ate more I got little hits of chilli coming through. I love that. It doesn’t look that special on the plate, but there were hidden layers.

My dining partner went for a big bowl of Chicken Pho – an iconic dish which is described as: “Pho [ pronounced fuh] is the Vietnamese national dish; an aromatic, nutritious and delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs and chilli to add as you please. The addition of these herbs and table condiments is an essential part of eating phở and adds another dimension to the dish - our chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for extra saltiness, garlic vinegar for sourness.”
She loved it and it was such a huge portion she couldn’t quite finish it.

We were both very impressed. The whole meal came to £12 each and they do takeaways too if you don’t have time to sit and want to grab something on the go. They have a few locations in London and I’d be happy to visit one again. It’s so nice to get something so fresh and tasty as a quick option. Plus, extra bonus points for most of it being gluten friendly – hurrah!

London Hints & Tips Please!
As I’m new to London I’d love any hints of tips of nice (affordable) places to eat that offer some good gluten free options. Restaurants, food markets, little cafes, hidden gems, places for cake or lunch on the run etc. I’m open to anything including raw, vegan, veggie, sushi (hold the meat through please). All advice welcome. The areas I visit most are Kings Cross, Farringdon, Kentish Town, Camden

Thanks J

Monday 4 May 2015

Gluten Free Fair Trade Marmalade Steamed Sponge with Fresh Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise (custard)

Steamed sponge puddings are my ideal dessert when the nights are chilly and drizzly or when I am simply in need of something comforting. Is there anything more nostalgic and comforting than a steaming hot sponge topped with sweet sticky jam and lashing of custard? It’s the food equivalent of a hug.

Raspberry jam or golden syrup are the classic childhood steamed sponges, but I’ve given mine a more modern twist by using Seville orange marmalade in place of the jam, while the sponge contains dark mucovado sugar, ginger and a little extra marmalade. This gives the sponge a deeper, almost burnt caramel flavour with just a hint of warming ginger which goes brilliantly with the bittersweet marmalade and prevents it being too sweet. Dousing it with a creamy fresh vanilla bean speckled crème anglaise (custard) really elevates this pud to a level almost deemed sophisticated, but you can of course serve it with the instant Birds custard (just like my mum used to) if you want full on nostalgia.

Grab yourself a spoon and a slice of steaming hot, lightly spiced sponge with its glossy sticky marmalade topping; pour over pools of creamy fragrant vanilla infused custard, snuggle into your favourite chair and enjoy!

I made this gluten free steamed marmalade sponge with crème anglaise (or custard!) for the recipe inspiration section of Wayfair. They challenged me to create a recipe using some of their amazing selection of cookery and bakery equipment to celebrate World Fair Trade Day on 9th May. There are now lots of fair-trade products available in the shops and this one makes use of fair-trade sugar and a jar of fair-trade marmalade, just look out for the Fair Trade symbol on packs. This symbol means the farmers are paid a fair price for their products

Next week is also the start of Coeliac Awareness week (11th – 17th May) another event close to my heart, so it’s a fitting recipe all round.

If marmalade is not your thing, you can replace this with the jam of your choice, or even lemon curd, golden syrup, mincemeat or chunks of fresh fruit. Get creative with the spices and flavours too by adding cinnamon, cocoa powder, chocolate chips or lemon zest to make it your own.

You can see the full recipe here.