Winter warmers: new ways with granola

If you like my Chocolate and seed granola but are finding the current weather conditions a bit chilly in the mornings, try one of my alternative ways to serve it.

Hearty warming porridge topped with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola

I make a dairy free porridge using jumbo porridge oats with hemp milk. Once my porridge is cooked I top it with a sprinkling of my granola, which adds a nice bit of crunch, some fresh berries and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey. It keeps me going for ages and is really hearty.

Warm berry compote with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola and coconut yogurt

This is super easy and great for a cold morning when you need extra time to go out and scrape the ice off the windscreen!

I buy a bag of frozen mixed berries from Sainsbury’s. I’m the morning I grab a handful of frozen berries and zap them in the microwave on full power for 60-90 seconds. Then I add a generous portion of granola and top with a dollop of Alpro coconut yogurt. Perfect!

How do you like to serve your granola in the morning? I’d love to hear your favourite ways!

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Dairy, egg and nut free banana and date loaf

I discovered this recipe several years ago. I was busy googling dairy and egg free cake recipes and I came across this. Now, this was back in the day when a mobile phone was just that, which meant the search was carried out on my PC and I had to print the recipe out and stick it in my recipe folder (which is still going strong today). I have no idea where the recipe came from, but this is what it looks like:

I pretty much follow the recipe as written, but the more alert reader will note there are two lots of oil in the recipe. I use 4 tablespoons of light olive oil and it works every time. Please don’t put a third of a cup of sunflower oil in as well, you’ll end up with a goopy oily mess. Yuk!

I add a little bit extra bicarbonate as I found that the loaf didn’t rise particularly well. I also amended the temperature and cooking time as 200 c for 30 mins just didn’t work in my oven. I have a fan assisted oven and I do it on 160 c for 45-50 mins.

I always bake it in a silicone loaf mould and the cake pops out easily when partly cool.

When you take the loaf out it might initially seem a bit dry, but it’s one of those tea breads that gets better with time, and will moisten up.

Once the loaf is cool, I slice it, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. As and when I want a slice for work I take one out in the morning and wrap it in cling film. By the time I want to eat it it’s nicely defrosted and perfect with a cuppa!

Because there is no added sugar the loaf is a lovely little treat that isn’t too naughty. It also makes a great alternative to energy bars when exercising. A loaf of this got me through the Three Peaks Challenge in 2011, and it was an ideal snack to take on each hike.

The recipe is easily modified to change the flavour. For example you could swap one of the bananas for a carrot or courgette and add a bit of cinnamon. It’s also really nice topped with Betty Crocker’s cream cheese style icing and sprinkled with chopped pumpkin seeds.

Greek inspired chickpea and chicken salad

As February is drawing to an end and spring is in the horizon Mr Allergy and I thought we’d switch to lighter lunches this week.

Lunch is one of my more difficult meals, and many of the options are just really boring. We often have leftovers from the night before, but for one reason or another this week doesn’t work out that way.

I love browsing Pinterest and recently I’ve seen a number of Greek inspired chickpea salads, and this piqued my interest. Chickpeas are a great source of protein and dietary fibre, and they add extra oomf to a lettucy salad.

I couldn’t find one recipe that suited my taste, so decided to use a mish-mash of ideas to create my own.

I began by marinading some chicken breasts, using the juice of one lemon, 2 cloves of garlic, a glug of extra virgin olive oil and approx one teaspoon dried oregano, plus salt and pepper to season. I blended it all together in a pestle and mortar and marinaded the chicken for about an hour before roasting it in a medium oven for about 35 mins, until it was nice and juicy.

While the chicken was roasting I whizzed up some more of the marinade, this time to make a dressing. I chopped a red and yellow pepper, red onion and flat leaf parsley, drained and rinsed 2 tins of cooked chickpeas and put it all together in a bowl. I was very proud of my Instagram worthy display of colour, but decided next time I’ll add green pepper or cucumber to add extra rainbow!

I then cooked some quinoa. I don’t often have much luck with quinoa, it usually comes out sticky and wet and not very pleasant. I always follow the instructions on the packet, but it just never works. So I googled “what is the best way to cook quinoa?” I found this: Perfect quinoa and it works!!! I now had perfect fluffy quinoa!

I added the quinoa and dressing to the bowl and gave it a good old stir. The aroma of garlic and lemon juice was wafting up nicely, and I really wanted to try some, but I held off, deciding to wait for the surprise at lunchtime. The mixture by now looked like this:

My chicken was now ready, so I sliced it into bit sized chunks and allowed it to cool before adding it to my lunch box, along with some dairy free Feta alternative from Sainsbury’s. My lunch was now virtually ready to go. All I would need in the morning before going to work was a handful of salad leaves! I think there will be enough mixture and chicken to do us both two or three lunches each, and it’s great having it prepped and ready in the fridge.

The finished dish was the perfect post gym class lunch today, and Mr Allergy sent me a text saying his was awesome, so I guess I’ll be making this again!

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!

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

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….