Rice noodles – a naturally DF, GF product 1

One of the most important things I have learned since we became a ‘free from’ family is that the ‘world food’ aisles of the supermarkets hold many hidden treasures. Not all foods on the Free From shelves are suitable for us, as too many have dairy. And not all foods elsewhere in store are unsuitable. There are a good number that are naturally gluten free and dairy free, and rice noodles are a great example of this. They are easy to find, not particularly expensive, easy to cook, versatile and delicious to eat. A perfect ‘free from’ food.

They are becoming easier to find too. Just this week I have seen Tesco and Asda have stocked their own in their chiller sections with the packs of prepared stir fry veg. Both supermarkets had deals on the noodles if you buy with the veg and a sauce. A rare bargain. When you shop DF and GF you are used to paying over the top for everything, so when you find something suitable that is discounted and with the ‘normal’ foods, you start feel that there is hope!

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My Jubilee Treats – flapjacks, fairy cakes and ‘Elizabeth Sponge’ 4

There is a ‘street party’ in the playground of the children’s school on Thursday afternoon. The excellent PTA has arranged a fun afternoon of maypole dancing, ‘crown’ decorating competitions and most important of all a ‘tea party’. As ever, those words fill me with dread. Apparently, there are cakes and jelly and ice cream on the menu. So, as usual, I need to create something fun for Zac to take along, so he feels part of the celebration. Obviously, I cannot send him in with his ice cream, in this heat it wouldn’t make it as far as the car, but I can make him some cakes. I think.

His favourites still seem to be my rock cakes, which makes me happy, because they are so quick and easy to make. But in an attempt to get in the Jubilee mood, I feel I need to supply him with something even more English, pretty and suitable for a party. No doubt the other children will be eating amazing looking cupcakes, made by the army of skilled baker/mothers who live in the village.

I am not in that class and to be honest, am a bit bored by this new obsession with cupcakes. It is almost at a competitive level now and I know I cannot ever get excited enough to make the effort. I don’t even like to eat them. The swirly thick, creamy looking toppings turn my stomach and they are certain to do the same to Zac, quite literally.

So I decided to push against it and stick to what I know. I am pretty sure cupcakes are an American thing anyway, and I am fairly confident it is based on their measuring system of ‘cups’. When I was a little girl, sweet little cakes in the pretty cases were called ‘fairy cakes’ and were much smaller. In an age when obesity and greed is becoming an issue, perhaps we should return to baking our more traditional bitesize English teatime treats, starting with fairy cakes. I am sure the Queen would approve.

I have found some recipes, in my mother’s cooking notebook, the one she handwrote at cookery class back in the seventies. I plan to attack the fairy cakes tomorrow. I have found a recipe for a Victoria Sponge, also in the book. Obviously I have to make them all dairy free, gluten free and wheat free but even so – they look beautifully simple, which baking has to be to entice me to get my pinny on. The sponge has a regal enough name but perhaps, as this is ‘my’ recipe and I have created it for the Jubilee of our queen, it will be known as an Elizabeth sponge.

But as I am so nervous about baking and Zac loves cakes with ‘fruit’ I decided to start with a flapjack today. It has just come out of the oven and I am happy to say it was the easiest thing I have ever made. It took minutes and was relatively mess free. I am sure it is very nutritious and relatively wholesome. It certainly smells amazing and I can’t wait for the children to come home and try it. I hope they like it, but not too much, otherwise I will need to make a fresh batch for the party.

Here’s an interesting thing I have learned about homemade cakes – they never go stale, because they are never around long enough! I have about fifteen pounds worth of Asda’s own brand ‘free from’ cakes in my cupboard – they have been there weeks and are still not stale or even out of date! Yet whenever I make a cake, it is gone in less than 48 hours.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get organised enough to do this! I think it is saving me money too.

So the party is on Thursday. The flapjacks are made and now I just need to pluck up the courage to make the fairy cakes and Elizabeth sponge! Here is the recipe for the flapjack and some photos. I will post the fairy cakes and Elizabeth sponge tomorrow.

Flapjack recipe

200g Pure sunflower spread

1 dessert spoon ‘The Groovy Food Company’ organic virgin coconut oil

200g caster sugar

150g golden syrup

1 dessert spoon ‘The Groovy Food Company’ premium agave nectar (light and mild)

375g gluten free porridge oats

2 handfuls of sultanas and a small handful of chopped apricots

Heat oven to 180C. Lightly oil and line the base of a 20x30cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Melt the ‘Pure’ spread, sugar, coconut oil, syrup, agave nectar in a medium pan, over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, sultanas and apricots. You could add chocolate chips – e.g. MooFree chocolate drops, if you prefer.

Spread the mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Cut into even sized bars and leave until cold. Turn out of the tin and cut into slices.

I got the porridge oats in the free from section of Waitrose and the agave nectar from the free from section in Tesco. The coconut oil was among all other cooking oils in the ‘normal’ aisles.

I added the coconut oil purely for flavour and because it melts so well at a high temperature. I was also running a bit low on Pure spread and thought I would improvise. I added the agave nectar just because I bought some the other day and haven’t had the courage to use it yet. It is a low GI sugar substitute, totally organic and I keep reading about it so thought I should try it. It tastes a bit more like honey than syrup but, it works. So you could leave both out and just add a bit more butter and a bit more syrup and I am sure the end result would be the same.

Chocolate buttons – my favourite baking ingredient Reply

My chocolate brownies were a success and I have to give a lot of credit to a key ingredient. Chocolate buttons, dairy free of course.

I have always loved chocolate buttons – the Cadbury’s version. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth but when I need a chocolate fix, nothing hits the spot like a packet of chocolate buttons, straight from the fridge. They have to be cold enough to ‘snap’.

When we worked out Zac was intolerant to dairy, we were so pleased to find alternative chocolate buttons. They are not a major part of his diet, obviously we are very careful about the balance of his diet, but I still believe little ones need the odd treat and I think ‘chocolate’ is better than sweets. I have also found myself snacking on them from time to time and think they are just as good as the real thing.

The first ones we discovered were the ‘Dairy Free’ brand, which appeared in most supermarkets. They disappeared from the shelves recently but apparently are coming back soon. I hope.

Asda have an own brand of chocolate button and they also have a chocolate orange variety. Zac really loves the chocolate orange ones, so we usually have several packs in the house. Good job too. When I started baking the brownies, I realised that I didn’t have enough of my dairy free dark chocolate slab, so started rummaging around the cupboards to see what I could find. That is when I had a happy accident. I found two packets of the Asda chocolate orange buttons, so decided to throw them in too.

http://groceries.asda.com/asda-estore/search/searchcontainer.jsp?trailSize=1&searchString=free+from+chocolate+buttons&domainName=Products&headerVersion=v1&_requestid=114773

When you are using non-dairy chocolate you are obviously in the realms of seriously strong dark chocolate so do need a fake milk chocolate to take the edge off the bitterness. These chocolate buttons worked a treat and gave the brownies a really lovely faint orange flavour, which everyone who has tasted them, has noticed and loved.

The other reason I love working with chocolate buttons is that they melt easily. Melting my chocolate and butter was another challenge. Just recently my beloved range cooker was condemned by the gas man who came to fix our broken boiler. Not a good month for us. Anyway, he disconnected the hob from the gas, as it was unsafe! Thankfully, it is a dual fuel cooker, so I can use my ovens.

I had originally promised to make the children my special ‘fake’ pancakes, then remembered that would be impossible – unless there is such a thing as an oven baked pancake?! So that is how I came to cut a deal and agreed to make brownies instead. My brain was clearly having an off day, because I had forgotten you also need a ‘flame’ to melt the chocolate and non-dairy butter together.

The oven was already on and that is when it occurred to me, I could just put the bowl of chocolate and ‘butter’ in the oven for a few minutes. It worked. The little buttons melted down so quickly and infused the rich dark chocolate with a gentle orange aroma and flavour. This was the first thing my sister noticed when she had a taste of the brownies this evening. She declared them delicious and had another one. So I have to call this batch of brownies a big success. I hadn’t planned to make them, I hadn’t planned for them to be chocolate orange brownies, but thanks to my love of chocolate buttons, and Zac’s intolerance, a new recipe was born, along with an alternative method for melting chocolate.

The White Chocolate buttons are coming back 1

Very excited. Just got an email from the people at Humdingers and they are bringing their ‘Dairy Free’ brand back. The chocolate buttons should be back on the shelves of Tesco by 1st July. They did not say why they are bringing them back. I suspect they received lots of letters from people like me asking them to reconsider. So now we all need to keep buying them so they don’t get delisted again.

When I first contacted Humdinger they said they had decided to abandon their dairy free range as the supermarkets were bringing out their own brands. I have not seen any evidence to suggest this is the case. Asda is the only store that has any kind of self branded ‘free from’ chocolate. The others occasionally stock Moo Free, which have become a new favourite with us, but they are not there every time we shop.

To be honest, I would say that at the moment it looks like there is less variety on the Free From shelves, which seems utterly bizarre to me, as so many people seem to need these alternatives. Aside from the all the people who have contacted me since I started the blog, it seems whenever I am in a supermarket I meet more people who have these problems.

On Friday, Zac and I were checking out in Asda and the lady saw all of Zac’s foods going through and asked what his allergies were. I explained and she said she has the same problem with wheat and gluten but she thinks the free from foods are just horrible and no better for you. She believed that the supermarkets are just replacing one lot of junk with another. She says she just makes her own food and prefers to follow a whole food diet. Sensible lady.

So that is two people in just two days, the nurse at the asthma clinic and the lady in the supermarket. With statistics like these I think Humdinger should consider expanding their ranges and not just bringing back their old products. More pressure is needed on the manufacturers and the supermarkets. Now we have got the buttons back, I think it is time to move on to those ice cream cones – just in case the summer does arrive!

Fairy cakes and brownies 4

Here are a  couple more simple recipes that are useful. Everywhere you go these days mums are talking about their fabulous adventures in baking and producing cupcakes that look like works of art. As the mum of an intolerant child, I always feel a bit inadequate when I turn up with shop bought, ‘free from’ fake cherry bakewells. So I have had a crack at altering a few easy recipes. I ‘blind’ tasted them on my family and no-one could tell that they were dairy free, gluten free and wheat free.

Fairy Cakes

150g/6oz of Pure sunflower spread

150g/6oz caster sugar

3 eggs

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract or almond extract

150g/6oz of Doves Farm self-raising flour

3 tablespoons of Alpro Soya Junior milk

3 tablespoons of full fat coconut milk

Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, followed by the flour and milk. Half fill some paper cake cases, on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven (200 for an electric oven, 180 for a fan oven, gas 6) for 10/15 minutes.

Chocolate Brownies

100g/4oz Pure sunflower spread

150g/6oz of dark chocolate (dairy free), or melt down 150g of dairy free chocolate drops or buttons, try the Asda chocolate orange flavour ones to make the recipe a bit more interesting and less bitter

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of coconut milk

100g/4oz Doves Farm self-raising flour

200g/8oz sugar

3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180, 160 for a fan oven , gas 4.

Beat the eggs together and then add the flour and sugar. Next add the coconut milk and vanilla extract.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Constantly stirring until all melted. Be careful not to let it get too hot. If the chocolate mix is too bitter try adding an extra sprinkle of caster sugar, splash of vanilla extract and or a splash of coconut milk. Let it cool slightly and then add this to the egg mixture and pour it into a well-greased (with Pure sunflower spread) baking tin, ideally 150x200mm. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.

Ice cream is NOT off the menu Reply

One of the hardest things to explain to Zac last year, was that he could no longer have ice cream. Like most children he loved it and squealed with excitement whenever the local ice cream van drove in to our street. I spent a lot of time trying to track down some alternatives, and while I don’t think we will find it in restaurants or on ice cream vans for a while yet, you can find it in the supermarkets.

The first one we found was called Freedom frozen dessert. It comes in a variety of flavours, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The children liked the chocolate the best. It is very nice and was developed by a very entrepreneurial mum who has a son with a range of food intolerances. She pitched her product on Dragon’s Den successfully, and has gone on to great things and is constantly expanding her range of foods. www.kirstys.co.uk

These foods are mostly just available in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s at the moment and she has launched an alternative milk product, currently available in Asda.

The other ice cream product we discovered is Swedish Glace. http://www.swedishglace.com/ These frozen desserts also come in a variety of flavours – vanilla, raspberry, Neapolitan, chocolate and blueberry.  According to their website they are all available in Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Co-op. I have only ever seen them in these stores sporadically and I have never seen the full range, just vanilla, Neapolitan and raspberry so far. Apparently they are also launching an ice cream ‘lolly’ and ‘cone’ this year. So I will be looking out for those.  Our favourites are the vanilla and the Neapolitan. Well my favourite is the vanilla and the children prefer the Neapolitan. Both are really delicious and it is easy to forget that they are not ‘real’ ice cream.

The thing that I have found hardest to track down is a suitable cone, so I can make Zac an ice cream that looks like the ones Sophia sometimes gets from the ice cream van. The only ones I have ever found are ‘Barkat’ http://www.auravita.com/product/Barkat-Ice-Cream-Cones.GLFR10644.html

I have only ever found them in Sainsbury’s and that was last summer. I cannot remember the last time I saw them on the shelves. They were of course, dreadfully expensive, and often over half in the pack were broken, but they were delicious and in the style of a ‘waffle cone’. If they reappear this summer I will certainly buy them. They are available online through www.auravita.com and www.goodnessdirect.co.uk

The other ice cream alternative is coconut milk sorbet. The first time we came across this was on holiday in Spain last year, just at an ordinary ice cream vendor. It was absolutely delicious. I have never found it on sale anywhere yet, but have found a recipe that looks simple. Best made with a full fat coconut milk.

http://www.vietnamese-recipes.com/vietnamese-recipes/desserts-drinks/coconut-sorbet.php