Tropical Island cupcakes 

Aloha!! I made these fun little cupcakes a couple of years ago for a summer fundraiser at my church.  They use my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe.  They would be great for a Hawaiian themed party or a fun thing to make with kids during the summer holidays. 

To give the cakes that tropical flavour I used a bit of lime juice into the mix and used coconut milk instead of soya milk.

Decorating was the really fun part. I used Betty Crocker’s vanilla icing and added a little bit of blue food colouring. I swirled the blue colour into the icing, making sure not to completely mix it so there were still white bits that looked like little waves.

I used crushed ginger biscuits to make the sand and added little jelly bears and cocktail umbrellas, and my little tropical island was complete!


To make a sunbathing bear I used Fizzy strawberry belts, cut them just larger than the bear, then laid the bear on top. 

Since making these I’ve discovered that edible sand can also be made using a combination of granulated light brown sugar and crushed rich tea biscuits, which is great if you don’t like ginger biscuits.

As always, let me know how you get on with making these, I’d love to hear from you. 

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The Golden Lion, Winchester: A roaring success

I went out for lunch yesterday with my family.  My sister in law and I chose a pub just outside of Winchester with a really nice looking menu. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that the whole world and his dog would be out for lunch on the first Sunday of the school holidays and our choice of pub was fully booked.  My sister in law phoned around and managed to find a space at The Golden Lion in Winchester. 

At a glance the menu looked quite limited. The usual lunch menu wasn’t available on a Sunday, as the pub explained, they focus on roast dinners and don’t open up the whole kitchen.  I didn’t fancy a roast, so I thought I’d see what was on the Vegan menu.  My readers will know that I’m not Vegan, but being allergic to dairy, egg and fish, Vegan food can sometimes suit me, although I have to be aware of nuts. The menu is colour coded with little smiley faces, each colour corresponding to a different allergen, which is a novel idea, but no good if you have allergies and are colour blind like my brother! Some of the colours looked fairly similar on the paper, so I personally would have preferred symbols, words or letters. However, on the plus side this pub takes allergies very seriously.

I passed the Vegan menu around the table and two of us ended up ordering the olives and ciabatta with olive oil and balsamic dip as a starter. This was meant to be a dish for one, but there were so many olives that even with Mr Allergy’s help we couldn’t finish them all! There were three slices of fresh ciabatta, which was about right for one, but it could have done with a little bit more of the olive oil and balsamic dip. 

For my main course I decided to skip the meat (which is unusual for me, I like meat), and ordered the falafel burger in a pretzel bun. I’m not sure what made this a pretzel bun, it tasted just like any other bread but at least it wasn’t brioche. Everywhere I go now burgers seem to be served in brioche, but I noticed even on The Golden Lion’s standard menu they don’t use brioche, which gets the thumbs up from me (they also have a ‘skinny’ option with no bun, and a gluten free one).  

The falafel was absolutely delicious, it was bursting with fragrant herbs and the mango chutney worked really well with it (I wasn’t sure it would when I read the menu). 

The burger was definitely the star of the show flavour wise, but not wanting to be outdone, the chips were served  in a mini fryer and the side salad in a tiny colander.  This was quirky. The chips were easy to eat from the little metal basket, but there were far too many of them. The salad was pretty tricky to eat as I couldn’t cut the food in the little colander. In hindsight I probably should have tipped the salad onto the plate, but then what would have been the point of the colander? 

I was disappointed that the portions were so large, as there were three dessert options on the menu and I was looking forward to trying the millionaire’s shortbread, but I just couldn’t eat any more food!

This is clearly a pub that not only understands the law regarding allergens in food, but tries to make the choices offered as interesting as possible. I would recommend this pub, and suggest if you’re feeling adventurous like me, try the Vegan menu.  You might be surprised at how good it is! 

Tried and tested: Protein Haus Vegan Protein Bounty

First things first, I’m not Vegan. It’s just a good starting point if I’m looking for food without dairy or eggs. I do have to be careful and read the labels as a lot of Vegan things have nuts in them. Luckily for me, this bad boy didn’t (but shame about the Vegan Protein ‘Snickers’ bar, which was laden with pesky peanuts)! 

I’ll move to the price. Three of my hard earned British pounds. I could buy three items from the McDonald’s Poundsaver Menu. Or borrow three supermarket trolleys.  £3 seems a lot for a lump of coconut and chocolate. 

Sat on the train, I open the little plastic bag to free my afternoon snack from its packaging. I’m not ready for the slidy, melty chocolate that ensues and quickly place my Bounty on the plastic packaging, narrowly missing the train’s tray table (thank god, imagine what nastiness is lurking there).  I now have chocolate all over the outside of the plastic packaging.

I lick my fingers, take a hold of my Bounty and take my first bite.  The texture is good, if a little crumbly, and I find myself trying not to shower my lap in desiccated coconut. Back to the plastic packing. Fingers licked again. I take in the taste, which is creamy, coconutty, chocolatey yumminess! I’ve tried making low sugar Vegan Bounty bars at home and mine were not a patch on this. 

After my second bite I find more chocolate on my hands. The heat of the train and warmth of my fingers every time I pick it up is making things worse. I manage to find a (used) tissue in my jacket pocket. Not great, but it’ll do.

There’s about half of it left now, and half the chocolate has melted from the bottom onto the plastic packaging. There’s only one thing for it. I shove the rest of it in my mouth. 

Despite all the melting on the outside and crumbling of the inside it really is delicious.  However, I’d have to take out a second mortgage if this was any more than a rare treat, so I might just go back to making my own! 

Tried and tested: Sainsbury’s Free From Greek Style coconut-based alternative to cheese

For about two years of my thirty-something, I was able to eat Feta without swelling up like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It was short lived and feta ended up on the list of things I’m allergic to.

One Sunday in the supermarket a new product caught my eye. Free From Greek Style coconut-based alternative to cheese. Not the snappiest name I’ve ever seen, but it piqued my interest. 

Unlike most Free From foods, I know what the real deal should taste like, and this really isn’t bad at all. The texture is less crumbly than feta, but the taste is almost spot on. It’s got that slight tang and is a beautiful addition to any salad. 

My favourite recipe featuring the FFGSC-BATC (nope, not snappy either) is BBC Good Food’s Cajun Blackened Chicken with super green quinoa. Mr Allergy and I love this meal on a weeknight, and we swap the quinoa for cauli rice to lower the carb content slightly. 

My second favourite recipe is adapted from this Chicken and asparagus caprese salad. As there are no decent dairy free mozzarella alternatives on the market that I’m aware of, I use FFGSC-BATC instead. I don’t like tomatoes so only Mr Allergy has those, and I may or may not be allergic to avocado (the jury’s still out on that one), so I don’t have that either but it’s delicious all the same.

Hidden in plain sight: The Trading House, Gresham St

I walk along Gresham St in the City of London every day to get to the tube. I’ve probably noticed the unobtrusive sign or the menu moderately displayed on the wall.  But I’ve never really ‘noticed’ it.  In my quest for Allergy Girl friendly lunches I looked at several menus for bars and restaurants in the vicinity and my fellow eaters and I decided to give The Trading House a go.


Upon arrival my first impression is that the venue is quite dark. And there’s a step down almost immediately when you enter, so take care, especially if it’s a bright sunny day outside. The deco is interesting; probably what you would call Art Deco, with lots of tropical looking plants and the odd taxidermy zebra head on the wall. The feel is of a comfortable safari lodge from the 1920s/30s.  The building itself is magnificent, but really you’d expect nothing less nestled in between the Guildhall, St Lawrence Jewry and the London Central Courts. 

Following the usual question, the waitress swiftly arrived with the allergy menu. This was an A4 grid listing all of the menu items down one edge, the 14 major allergens listed along the top and a dot in each square of the grid signified that the allergen was present in the dish. Simples! 

The rest of the group were having starters (and I wouldn’t usually at lunchtime), so I chose one of the dishes from the ‘Nibbles’ section, pork crackling.  On arrival it was no ordinary dry bowl of pork fat. The portion was pretty big for a ‘nibble’, but I wouldn’t complain. The crackling was still slightly warm and topped with sliced green and red chillis. Alongside was a little dish of apple sauce, which was delicious. I pigged my way through the bowl of crackling, which left little room for my main. I could imagine this dish would be perfect for an after work snack with a beer or glass of wine, and would be perfect for sharing. You could order a few of the little nibbles and pick at them throughout the evening.

Sticking with the picky things theme I decided on the deli board for my main. This was approximately £11 and you could choose any four items from a choice of vegetables, cold meat, cheese and warm dishes.  This comes with an individual fougasse bread (which I had to Google, it’s a traditional French bread). I went for the hommous, roasted red and yellow peppers, lamb meatballs and honey roasted ham. 

The fougasse bread was delicious, particularly when dunked in the fresh, garlicky hommous.  The peppers were slightly blackened and drizzled in olive oil, which was the perfect pair for the hommous.  The lamb meatballs were almost cold when they arrived but the staff quickly swapped them and were extremely apologetic.  They came in a tomato and bean sauce which had a nice smoky, spicy kick to offset the garlic and oil from the other two dishes. With hindsight the ham didn’t work with the rest of it, and olives or prosciutto probably would have been a better combination. 

Unfortunately there were no dishes on the dessert menu that were Allergy Girl friendly, they all featured milk or eggs. Had I had room in my tummy for more food I might have been disappointed but I couldn’t have fit any more food in if I’d tried.  I ordered a chai tea instead to finish off my meal, and it was the perfect finish. 

I would highly recommend this restaurant for people with allergies and I’m certainly looking forward to finding another excuse to visit. Perhaps next time I’ll go for one of the speciality kebabs or half roasted chicken. My only criticism is that the allergy menu isn’t currently available online. 

Cheat’s chicken and chorizo paella 

Ok, so this isn’t technically paella. For one, it isn’t cooked in a paella pan. It also doesn’t have any fish in it as that would make my face swell up and I’d stop breathing. So it’s more like paella rice and things. But all the same, it uses Spanish ingredients and flavours and goes brilliantly with a nice glass of Rioja (or two).

Serves 2

Ingredients 

1 skinless chicken breast, diced

1 red (bell) pepper, chopped

1 large white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 chorizo ring, sliced

Approx 250g paella rice

Pinch saffron

1/2 pint Chicken stock

1 small tin chopped tomatoes or one large fresh tomato, chopped

2 teaspoons sweet/smoked paprika or pimienton 

1 teaspoon hot paprika or pimienton (optional)

2 bay leaves 

Handful Frozen peas

Method

  1. Heat oven to approx 200c (190c if fan assisted).
  2. In a wok or sauté pan, fry the chorizo on a medium-high heat until the fat starts to come out. You shouldn’t need to add any additional fat or oil but if you do, use a drizzle of olive oil.
  3. Next add your chicken and brown. 
  4. Add the pepper, onions and garlic and cook until softened. 
  5. While the veg is softening, add the bay leaves to the pan.  Make up your chicken stock and add the saffron strands into the stock. The saffron will release its flavour into the stock. 
  6. Now add the paella rice, and the paprika/pimienton and stir together, making sure the paprika coats all of the rice.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock and stir together. 
  8. Add the frozen peas. I’ve suggested a handful but you can add as many as you like. If you don’t like peas you could substitute these with chickpeas. 
  9. Reduce the heat and cook for approx 5 mins, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking. Once the liquid has begun to reduce, tip your paella into an ovenproof dish with a lid. 
  10. Cook for approx 20 mins in the oven with the lid on, until the rice is soft and the edges of your paella are going a little bit crispy. You may want to stir it halfway through to make sure all the rice is fully cooked.
  11. Remove the bay leaves (and don’t be tempted to lick them, I did this once and it wasn’t good!)
  12. Enjoy! 

This recipe is very versatile and you can change the quantities of the ingredients quite easily.  I sometimes like to mix up different chorizos in my paella to give different flavours. Our local Sainsbury’s sells sweet (dolce) and hot (picante) chorizo so I’ll often add a bit of each. My recipe only uses one chicken breast but you can add two if you want more protein. If I fancy a spicy paella (which isn’t the traditional flavour) I add more hot pimienton. You could also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.