Banana Pancakes

For Shrove Tuesday Mr Allergy and I made some fabulously fluffy American style banana pancakes.

We used this recipe from Once Upon a Chef: Banana Pancakes

To make it dairy and egg free we used Hemp milk and egg replacer in the batter and fried the pancakes in dairy free margarine.

Unfortunately the pan got a little bit too hot and I burnt a couple, but once they were slathered in maple syrup and topped with fresh mixed berries it didn’t matter! Mr Allergy topped his with sliced banana, Nutella and peanut butter, a deadly combination for a dairy and nut allergy sufferer, which meant he had to do the washing up!

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Tried and tested: The Coconut Collaborative Double Chocolate Paradise Pot

Mr Allergy and I normally have left overs for lunch, but today we realised we had no left overs and had to resort to buying lunch. On my way into work from the tube I popped into Boots to grab a meal deal. I didn’t fancy a bag of crisps or my usual carrots and hummus, but spotted a little purple package from The Coconut Collaborative.

I’m a massive fan of The Coconut Collaborative, and I love their Chocolate Snowconut frozen yogurt, coconut and mango yogurt and Little Chocolate Pots. I assumed this was just a larger sized Chocolate Pot. But when I peeled back the silver foil and popped my spoon in (the spoon which I was given at my cousin’s Mary Poppins “spoonful of sugar” party), I was delighted to find a light, fluffy, bubbly texture.

Now, the story goes that when I was a baby I was in hospital with pneumonia. The hospital fed me a chocolate mousse, which I was immediately allergic to, and that’s how my allergies were discovered. Since that day several decades ago I’ve not eaten a chocolate mousse and I have no idea what the texture is like, but in my mind I imagine the texture is like this paradise pot. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before (that I remember, anyway) and I like that! It sort of almost pops on my tongue and then melts into gooey, creamy chocolatiness!!

The normals out there will probably wonder what on earth I’m talking about, but someone with food allergies has all these questions. What do peanuts taste like? Is eating squid like eating rubber? Does cheese taste like feet? Do eggs taste like farts? It’s hard to imagine something you’ve never had.

If any of my readers get the chance to try one of these paradise pots, perhaps you can tell me if it’s like mousse? For now I’m going to happily believe that it is, and I can tick one more thing off my list of new experiences!

P.s I’d also welcome your thoughts on eggs and cheese!!

I’ll have the air biryani with a side of O2 bhaji

I went for a curry this evening…..or so I thought. Here’s the story of what happened when I got there.

A group of us were going to belatedly celebrate the new year, and we chose an Indian Restaurant where I’ve eaten many times before and they’ve been really good with my allergies.

When the waiter finally came around, after about an hour of waiting, I gave my order for starter and asked to speak to him about the main because of my allergies. I normally have the lamb lahorei but fancied trying something different. To my astonishment he replied that because I’m allergic to dairy I couldn’t have any curry from the menu as every single one has milk in the sauce base.

I argued my very valid point that I’ve eaten there many times before, and even have written correspondence from the restaurant saying which dishes are suitable. The only thing they could offer was a dry vegetable dish.

This provoked a reaction in me that hasn’t arisen for quite some time, and I’m not proud of it. I was hungry and just wanted to be able eat a nice meal with no problem. So I simply got up, took my coat and bag and left.

I hate it when situations bring this reaction out in me, but I just don’t know what to do. It’s a mixture of frustration, disappointment and shame that once again I’m feeling victimised for having an allergy. So I leave.

I usually come back, feeling slightly sheepish and wondering what was said while I was gone.

This evening I walked out of the door not really sure where I would go. I didn’t really want to get in the car and drive home as I’d miss out on the conversation and fun of a night out with the group. So I did something I’ve never done before. I went into the Indian restaurant next door to see if they could do me a take away (which I thought I could take back into the original restaurant and eat)!! It turns out they couldn’t cater for me either, which really baffles me. I’ve been eating Indian food for 20+ years and I’ve never before experienced an entire menu that I’m allergic to, never mind two menus!

I went back in to the original restaurant and they agreed to make my starter a large portion, so I could have it as a main. It was ok, but not what I wanted.

The restaurant clearly understands about allergies as the waiter knew the difference between allergies, intolerances and people who just don’t like something, so I just don’t get why they do not offer allergy friendly options, particularly when they previously did. I am being discriminated against for being born differently to normal people, and I don’t think this is right. It put a complete downer on my night and that of the people I was with, when it could have been easily resolved. Don’t put the milk in it. Simple.

I feel I should mention the name of the restaurants so other allergy sufferers in the Portsmouth area don’t get caught out. The restaurant we ate at is Massala Room. Interestingly, one of the reviews on their website mentions how well they catered for the reviewer’s Vegan niece. How did they manage this, then, if all the sauces have milk in them? The restaurant next door is Indian Cottage.

I can safely say I won’t be going back any time soon. After all, what’s the point?

Rant over.

A sprout is for life, not just for Christmas

I’m in the minority of people that like sprouts, and I think it’s a shame that I only eat them once or maybe twice a year.

They are a bit of a pain to prepare, but then so is an avocado and they’re the cool kid everyone wants to be BFFs with. In comparison the humble sprout is the geeky quiet kid in glasses that everyone shuns. But, just as the geeky kid in most teen movies gets their girl/boy/new found popularity delete as appropriate), I’d like to see the sprout have its day.

I think a lot of the bad press with sprouts is that they’ve been sorely mistreated. Some chefs will be bringing theirs to the boil now, ready for Christmas 2018! Others will wait until 11:52 on Christmas morning, and they’ll be so hard you’ll need to wear safety glasses while attempting to get them on your fork, in fear of a stray sprout pinging off your plate and whacking you in the eye!

If I’m having sprouts with Christmas dinner, I like to gently part boil them, then stir fry them in a wok with a bit of chorizo. The flavours work really well together. Chorizo makes everything better, so even the sprout haters in my family find these palatable.

I’ve embarked on a low carb, high fat diet for the new year, and being allergic to eggs and dairy, breakfast is a particularly tricky meal for me. When I tried this diet a few years ago I had cold meats and dairy free cheese for breakfast, which was ok, but not great on a cold January morning.

I scoured Pinterest trying to find something suitable to try, and came up with nothing. So I turned to my cupboard of recipe books and remembered that a few months back I tried Hemsley + Hemsley’s bacon and bean hash, which was nice. However for the first two weeks of the diet beans should be limited, so I got my thinking cap on for ideas of how to bulk the recipe out. My mind said sprouts. And why not? They’re in season, they add flavour and bulk, and I know they work in bubble and squeak.

So I pimped the recipe slightly, and cake up with my own breakfast bubble and squeak. Really you can add whatever you fancy, but I used chopped streaky bacon, onions, celery, white cabbage and sprouts. I part boiled the sprouts so they were easier to mash into the mix.

I stir fried the mixture until it was begging to brown in places, and added a little hot paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper.

I served it this morning with a couple of slices of black pudding. Yum! Just what I needed at 6am on a chilly Monday. I’m hoping it will keep me going until lunch time.

Dessert for breakfast

The time between Christmas and New Year is a weird time. Ordinary meal times go out of the window and it becomes acceptable to eat nothing but chocolate for dinner.

For New Year’s Eve we had my dad round for tapas and we gorged our way through paella, albondigas, patatas bravas and chorizo in cider. It was great, but there was no room left for the dessert I prepared. So we decided to have it for breakfast!

The dessert was a creation I came up with a few years ago. I like to call it “Bananachiladas.” It’s quick, easy, dairy, egg and nut free and extremely tasty!

Ingredients

1 banana per person

1 flour tortilla per person

Runny honey/agave syrup

Light brown sugar

Cinnamon

Method

1. Mix cinnamon in with the sugar and sprinkle over each tortilla

2. Add a banana to each tortilla

3. Sprinkle more sugar and cinnamon mix over the banana and add a drizzle of honey or agave

4. Roll up the tortilla and place in an ovenproof dish with the seam side down

5. Mix the remaining cinnamon sugar mix with a little boiling water and drizzle over the tortillas

6. Cover dish with tin foil and bake on approx 180 C (fan) for 20 mins or until the bananas are soft and squidgy

7. For crispy tortillas uncover for the last couple of minutes

8. Serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

I used a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate Swedish Glace dairy free ice cream and Askey’s Chocolate Chunk Crackin Sauce

Tried and tested: Lola’s Cupcakes vegan chocolate cupcake

Whilst on a Festive trip to the capital last weekend to sing along with carols at the Royal Albert Hall, I found myself walking past a Lola’s Cupcakes stand on the way from the Jubilee Line to London Waterloo.

I fancied something sweet to keep me going until I got home, so I treated myself to a Vegan chocolate cupcake, which is dairy, egg and nut free.

It’s not the first time I’ve purchased one of these beautifully presented cupcakes, but last time I was so excited to have found something that I wasn’t allergic to that I wolfed it all down and forgot to get a picture.

The previous purchase was at Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford. On both occasions I was impressed by the way the cake looked and the packaging. The little carry handle is handy for getting your cake to the train in one piece, if indeed you can wait that long (and the first time of testing at Stratford I most definitely didn’t need the carry handle)!

Upon opening the box the cupcake is sat there snugly, a little chocolatey gift waiting to be devoured.

The cake is topped with a rich, gooey frosting, with a slight bitterness of dark chocolate. The bitterness helps it not be too sickly sweet, which is good as there’s so much of it you need a spoon or fork to handle it. I made this mistake the first time around and tried to eat it from the cupcake case, chomping right into it. I ended up with gooey chocolate all around my face, which is adorable when you’re six years old, but not so much when you’re thirty-six!!

I learnt from my mistake the second time around, however, being on a train with no tray table (how inconvenient), I had to try and balance it on my lap whilst not getting crumbs and frosting everywhere. I was partially successful. As I ate further and further through the cake, it started disappearing down the hole in the middle of the box until I could no longer get to it. I would suggest this wouldn’t be a problem if you’re eating it on a plate or can take it out of the box, but not so convenient on the train (and after all, Lola’s are situated at the station, so they must be expecting some muppet like me to try eating it whilst balancing it on their lap).

The taste of the sponge was nice, again, cocoa-y without being too sweet. However, for me they haven’t got the texture quite right and I found it a bit too dry and crumbly. I was hoping that the first time around was just a blip but unfortunately it was the same both times. With a little bit of tweaking on the recipe this could be a very good cake, but for me I prefer my own recipe. It wouldn’t put me off buying one again if I’m in urgent need of cake, but given the choice and time to bake, I’d choose my own every time.

If you’d like to try my recipe, check out my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe and look for the option of adding chocolate flavour. Here are some of mine:

Happy baking!!

Starter as you mean to go on?

The humble starter. I think Great British Chefs description is good, “A well-chosen starter recipe can set the tone for an entire meal.” So why is the starter often such a disappointment?

I had my Christmas lunch today at work. There was a set menu which was supposed to cater for all tastes and diets, but of course, me being me, it didn’t cater for my weird variety of allergies.

I should get it out there and say that the main was good:

Turkey ✅

Roast potatoes ✅

Sprouts ✅

Carrots ✅

Pigs in blankets ✅

Gravy ✅

The waitress wasn’t sure if I could eat the stuffing, so I went without.

The dessert was the usual fruit salad, but after a big lunch I didn’t mind.

It was the starter that really got my goat, and to be honest the normal people’s one didn’t look great either.

The normals got a big cold tomato filled with guacamole and cream cheese with a little salad garnish and a bread roll.

I got a big cold tomato (I don’t like tomatoes) stuffed with cubes of melon and cold chopped asparagus with a salad garnish and no bread roll. You’ll see from my picture that this was just sad looking, and it tastes no better. It was just weird. I mean, who looks at my allergy list (dairy, egg, nuts, fish, avocado(maybe)) and thinks, “I know just the perfect combination of food. Cold tomato, asparagus and melon!” Why do we not see this classic combination used in Masterchef?! There was a funny little drizzle of something on the plate which I must concede was quite nice. I ate everything (except the tomato), but that was only because I’d paid for it, not because I liked it.

I got into a discussion with my neighbour at the table next to me, as we couldn’t fathom why this odd starter had been chosen in the first place. On a cold wintery day we were expecting something with a little substance. A nice chunky vegetable or lentil soup for instance.

This got me thinking about starters in general and why starters for special diets are always so terrible. Yes, I’m fairly limited in what I can eat, but I would have been happy with melon and cured ham. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it tastes so good.

Generally restaurants (in particular the chain restaurants) have an ok selection of one or two things I can eat. Chicken wings are always a winner, but I’m also partial to bread and olive oil, olives, hummus or a nice meaty terrine. Event caterers really struggle and I normally end up with a plate of melon or some other fruit or something random thing like today’s designer dish. There are so many good recipes out there and these are professional caterers so why is it so difficult?

I love reading food magazines and pinning recipes on Pinterest, and my favourite starter recipe is Good Food’s Ham hock and mustard terrine which is delicious served with a dollop of Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney and some lovely fresh bread. In fact, this is what Mr Allergy and I are making for Christmas this year. On second thoughts I could be tempted to test out the tomato/melon/asparagus combo on my unsuspecting family and see what they make of it….