Dairy and nut free chocolate Oreo truffles

I’m addicted to food magazines. I love looking at pictures of food, reading recipes and making food. Of course, the eating part is pretty fabulous too.

Every month I have Good Food Magazine delivered to my door. It’s exciting when I hear it fall through the letter box. I like to sit down with a cup of tea or glass of wine and decide what I’m going to try making.

I also regularly buy Sainsbury’s Magazine, although I wish they’d do away with the home and lifestyle stuff and just concentrate on food!

While browsing the pages of last month’s Sainsbury’s Magazine I came across an Easter recipe for Oreo Egg Truffles. I’ve never attempted anything like this before, but I thought I’d take a crack at making them over Easter weekend.

The recipe seemed quite straightforward and most ingredients could be substituted for non-dairy options. I couldn’t find non-dairy double cream, and I’m not aware of anywhere that sells it, so I had to buy Alpro single cream. I found a dairy free cook’s dark chocolate in the baking aisle of Sainsbury’s (I think it was from their Taste the Difference range), and a bar of dairy free white chocolate in the free from aisle.

The recipe was really easy to follow, I used 175ml of the Alpro cream instead of 200ml and it worked really well. The egg shapes were a bit wonky and I ran out of white chocolate (note to self, buy two bars next time), but the finished products were amazing. They were rich and creamy and oh so moreish! To make the white chocolate stretch further I completely coated some in the white chocolate, drizzled others with it and rolled the remainder in cocoa powder.

I will definitely make these again, and I’m really pleased that a normal recipe could be modified so easily.

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You’re having a Giraffe!

It has always been a tradition for my kickboxing class to go for a cheeky Nando’s after class on a Wednesday. I’m not sure where this originated, but it’s quick and easy, and packs the protein needed after a workout.

In true tradition we met at Nando’s in Gunwharf Quays yesterday evening only to find that our group of thirteen couldn’t be seated together and there would be a wait of 45 minutes to an hour.  Why so busy, we thought, then it dawned on us that it’s half term.

We split up and trudged around every food establishment in Gunwharf looking for an available table. Just as we were about to settle for a few plastic tables in Burger King, Giraffe said they could fit us in.  They moved tables around and made space for us to sit as a group, which was no mean feat at such short notice. 

I’ve never eaten at Giraffe, but I knew that their philosophy was to serve food from around the world, so thought there must be something on the menu that’s Allergy Girl friendly. 

Not wanting to cause a fuss, I went onto their website and found their interactive allergy menu, which at a first glance looked good. It allowed me to tick the different allergens and would show the dishes that don’t contain those allergens. In theory……..

In practice it was just wrong. One of the items it said I could have was the Bao Buns, so I looked at these on the main menu. In small letters underneath the description of the dish it said “please be aware the buns are topped with peanuts.”  Now we had a problem.

By this point everyone was ordering and I still didn’t have a clue if I could eat anything on the menu, so I asked the waiter the question they all hate to be asked.  He brought the allergy menu over, took the rest of the orders and said he’d give me a few minutes to look at it.

The allergy menu was fairly standard looking.  It had a grid with the main allergens, and there was a tick in the box if it contained the allergen or “M” for might contain.  The only problem was the grid clearly didn’t fit the A4 paper it had  been printed on and half of each dish name was missing, meaning I had to guess what it was I was actually looking at. This took forever and I was getting fed up. 

I wasn’t convinced by the allergen information on the allergy menu either. For example, it told me there was no milk present in the chicken curry with naan bread, but as naan is usually made with butter or ghee I thought this was incorrect.

I eventually settled on a steak with sweet potato fries and a side salad, as you can’t go wrong with meat and veg. The steak was a little rarer than I’d normally have it, but it was delicious and I’d definitely have it cooked that way again. The salad of spinach, rocket and cucumber was nice and made a welcome change from the watery iceberg lettuce that often accompanies steak in chain restaurants.

I spoke to the waiter about the allergy menu, pointing out that the website didn’t work and that you couldn’t read the paper menu properly.  He said they were aware of the problems with the website and the paper menu was only a temporary solution while the website was being sorted. 

I personally think it’s not good enough.  It’s hard enough when you have an allergy trying to work out what you can and can’t eat. The information you’re given needs to be clear and accurate.  Allergies are not be taken lightly and one small error in allergen information could kill someone with a serious allergy.

Although the food was nice, I won’t be going back as Giraffe simply do not take their responsibilities towards customers with allergies seriously, and probably won’t until they find themselves trying to defend a compensation claim or prosecution.

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. 

Dairy, egg and nut free Cinnamon doughnut cupcakes

I like cinnamon. I like doughnuts. I like cupcakes. Therefore I like cinnamon doughnut cupcakes!  

I’ll get the disclaimer out of the way early. These are not doughnuts. They just remind me of the hot cinnamon doughnuts I used to get at Bognor Regis beach when I was younger.   As no frosting is required they’re quick to make and are super yummy whilst still warm from the oven, just like the doughnuts from my childhood. 

The recipe uses my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe. 

Ingredients 

As per Basic dairy and egg free sponge

2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon 

Approx half a cup of light brown granulated sugar

1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

Method

1. Make as per Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe.  At step 3 add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon with your flour.

2. While the cakes are baking, mix together the light brown sugar and 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon in a small dish or bowl (must be larger than the circumference of your cakes). These amounts are approximate and you can add more or less cinnamon depending on how you like the taste.  If I end up mixing too much cinnamon sugar, I keep the leftovers in a Tupperware container ready for next time.  Pour the olive oil into a small dish or bowl. 

3. Once baked and still warm, brush the olive oil onto the top of each cake with a pastry brush, then dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture. 

4. Leave to cool or eat straightaway!! 

I’d love to know how you get on and what you think of these little gems (that are my 87 year old Nan’s favourites).  Happy baking!! 

Garlic bread for one

I recently found myself on a business trip to Manchester. I’d never visited the city before, and while there was a myriad of eateries to choose from I found myself sticking with chain restaurants. With a chain restaurant you know exactly what you’re getting, which is the safe option. It can also be pretty boring, always having the same old dishes.

After sheepishly asking for a table for one at Zizzi on King Street, the staff gave me a warm welcome and showed me to a quiet table, tucked away, which was nice as I didn’t feel too inconspicuous. The waitress came to take my drink order and I uttered the words that usually fill restaurant workers with fear; “Please could I see your allergy menu?”

Rather than fear, the waitress proudly produced the menu with a flourish! And after a brief glance I could see why.  With my bizarre mix of allergies there are usually only one or two items on the menu that I can have.  I was amazed by the choice on offer and decided to try some of the new offerings on the menu.  

For my starter I ordered the dairy free garlic bread.  I expected a couple of bits of ciabatta to nibble on whilst waiting for my main, but what appeared could only be described as a plank full of garlicky yumminess! My initial reaction was “how on earth am I going to eat that by myself?”  The pizza dough bread was crisp, fluffy and delicious, drizzled with olive oil and topped with whole cloves of roasted garlic. Just writing this is making my mouth water! 

Next up was the main, and again I was spoiled for choice; Pasta, grilled meats, even dairy free pizza (made with coconut oil dairy free cheese). I decided to stick to my usual – the spiedini pollo (without the white wine and lemon sauce, which isn’t Allergy Girl friendly). I love the spiedini pollo, and never feel like I’m simply making do with this dish.
By the time I worked my way through the huge skewer of grilled chicken, veg and herby potatoes, my tummy was bursting. However I wouldn’t let such a thing stop me from trying dessert. You see, dessert is a thing of mystery to me. It is rare that a restaurant offers an Allergy Girl friendly dessert. It’s even rarer if that dessert isn’t fruit salad or lemon sorbet. Of course, Zizzi does offer lemon sorbet, it wouldn’t be an Italian restaurant without it. They also had a strawberry sorbet, which was a nice alternative. 

But my eye (and tummy) was drawn to the coconut and chocolate swirl gelato. The waiter convinced me that as the gelato/sorbet menu is mix and match that I shouldn’t limit myself to just one flavour, so I had two scoops of coconut and chocolate and one scoop of lemon.  The lemon sorbet was sharp and refreshing, however I did find myself wishing I’d stuck to three scoops of the coconut and chocolate, which had  just the right balance of flavour.  

I’m already looking forward to the next time I can visit Zizzi and try more things from the allergy menu. Until then, dear reader, I leave you with this image.  Garlic bread for one, done! 

Basic dairy and egg free sponge cake

This recipe came from Allergy Mum. She’s had it for years (and I have absolutely no idea where it came from). Allergy Mum used to make Allergy Boy and me the most amazing cakes for our birthdays.
This has to be the easiest cake recipe ever. It uses mostly normal ingredients that you’d find in any store cupboard. The texture is quite open and it does have the tendency to crack, but no one will ever know if you slather on enough frosting!!
Basic dairy and egg free sponge cake (makes approx. 12 cupcakes or one large cake)

4oz caster sugar
4oz dairy free margarine (Pure works very well in these as well)

1 tablespoon golden syrup

8oz self raising flour

1/4 pint soya milk

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160c

2. In a mixing bowl add the sugar, margarine and golden syrup and cream together (I prefer to do this by hand, but it can be done in a mixer)

3. Add the flour and gently mix until you get a bread crumb like texture.

4. Slowly add the soya milk and mix until light and fluffy.

5. Bake for approx. 20 mins for cupcakes (or just slightly longer if making one large cake)

Adding flavours

Vanilla or other essences – add essence at the same time as the soya milk

Chocolate – add 1oz cocoa powder and reduce flour by 1oz. Add at the same time as the flour. You can also use chocolate flavoured soya milk, which adds some more flavour, or Cadbury’s drinking chocolate (which is dairy free) in a small amount of boiled water, which is added at the same time as the soya milk.
I make the basic sponge all the time and it’s great because the golden syrup binds the ingredients and acts as a raising agent so you don’t need to add egg replacer.
Icing

I often cheat and use Betty Crocker icing as it’s dairy free and tastes really good. If I’m making vegan buttercream I just replace butter with dairy free margarine and mix it with icing sugar and sometimes a little drop of soya milk.
I’d really love to know how you get on with this recipe, so please feel free to leave comments!