Tag Archives: Vegan

Bananas’ Best Bits

One of the nicest things about adding some new foods to M’s limited list, other than the obvious of…well, you know, the addition of new foods to a highly restricted diet…is that just 3 new ingredients have added a huge number of new recipes for him to enjoy. Each one has brought something different to the cookery table, but the best one in many ways, or so M would have you believe, is the mighty banana. I first started playing with recipes back in March for M’s birthday, when I adapted an old favourite to bake a banana bread birthday cake with reasonable success. M wasn’t impressed by what he felt was an overwhelming flavour of nutmeg, so the recipe has had a few more tweaks to reach what is, by M’s exacting standards, almost complete perfection. It’s no exaggeration to say that the introduction of a 3rd fruit has been a game-changer in our household and so I thought I’d share the best bits about bananas with you all:

Banana Bread – it’s never easy to find recipes that can be adapted, and adapted well, to suit M’s restricted diet and these days vegan recipes are almost always my automatic go-to starter for 10. I found a wonderful vegan banana bread recipe on the BBC Good Food website and it took just a few subtle tweaks to turn it into a tasty, gluten-free, M-friendly baked treat that has been a big teatime hit. The latest twist has been to add some dairy- and soya-free chocolate chips to the dough, which makes the cake taste even more indulgent and a welcome addition to his daily packed lunch for school.

Banana & Chocolate Chip cookies – so often my recipes are a response to an unexpected need and these cookies are no different. One of M’s English lessons recently revolved around a tale of children stealing cookies from the staff office and his tutor group were given the opportunity to re-enact the story during a lesson. M came home from school very upset that he hadn’t been chosen to be one of these wannabe thieves and felt excluded because he knew he wouldn’t be able to share eating the cookies once they had successfully been taken. Fortunately, a quick call to the Head of Year 7 and an even quicker Google search found this wonderful recipe, which again required just a few tweaks to make a batch of M-friendly cookies that could be smuggled out of the school office alongside the ones for the rest of his class.

Banana, Apple & Lime Smoothie – one of M’s most precious possessions at the moment is the Nutribullet and Smoothies recipe book that my Aunt has given him as a memory of my Uncle. M feels even closer to him as he peruses the different recipes, trying to work out which he can safely make and enjoy and smoothies have quickly become a staple of his everyday diet. It’s even given him a great vehicle to trial raspberries as a handful added to the fruit mix works a treat. Despite his regular reluctance to get up and get ready for school, M can frequently be found whipping up a smoothie as an alternative to a more normal breakfast and he happily drinks it as he and G walk to school each morning. For a child who has always struggled with what to eat first thing in the day, these smoothies have been a real success story and a welcome break from the stresses that have all too often been a constant part of our morning routine.

 

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I scream…

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Ice cream: that perennial favourite of children everywhere. What image does ice cream conjure up for you? Summer sun and beach holidays? Bowls of jelly and ice cream at birthday parties? The necessary accompaniment to just about every dessert you can think of, from apple crumble to treacle tart and, if you’re British, the 99 – vanilla soft-whip ice cream in a cone and topped with a chocolate flake. Mmm, my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

For M, ice cream has been the one pudding he has missed most in the 2 years since he went elemental and it has taken a painfully long time to find and adapt a recipe to make the perfect M-friendly alternative to this popular frozen treat. I have long had an ice-cream maker as part of my essential bits of kitchen equipment as once M had gone MEWS-free, I quickly realised that the simplest way to find a dairy- and soya-free ice cream was to make my own. img_13421M and I are also big fans of sorbet and we have enjoyed some deliciously indulgent home-made lemon, orange or raspberry sorbet over the years. I even attempted a wine sorbet, thanks to the recipe book that came with my machine, but it was a disappointing disaster that really couldn’t be saved.

Over the last couple of years, I have tried an apple sorbet for him, but M was less than impressed and I struggled to get the consistency right as the sorbet failed to “set”. Since the summer, I have been determined to find a way to successfully make a safe vanilla ice cream and finally found a simple, vegan recipe with just a handful of ingredients that I knew I could easily replace. The discovery of a palatable rice cream last year was the key to my success and I shut myself into the kitchen in the lead up to Christmas in order to perfect my recipe in time for the festive period.

I struck gold in that very first attempt and I was delighted with just how close to the “real” thing this version came. M and G were absolutely thrilled with that first bowl of vanilla ice cream and it’s been a good alternative for Mike too, who is unable to eat a bowlful of dairy ice cream without suffering the consequences. I love being able to whip up this easy dessert in less than an hour and know that it will continue to be a favourite for a long time to come!16830691_10154166034751123_1184328170820370385_n

*Interesting piece of trivia – the song “I scream, You scream, We all scream for ice cream” was a popular song first recorded in 1927 as a novelty song, before becoming a jazz standard and part of popular culture!

The Sunday Roast

It seems to be one of those dishes that is quintessentially British and yet its exact origins are not exactly clear. First published in recipe books dating back to the early 1700s, over the last 300-odd years it has become a key component of the Sunday roast, especially when that roast joint is beef.  roast-beef-hero-006b0a8d-916f-4b1e-bffe-b6f00c34b96d-0-472x310Beef is actually the next on our hit-list of foods to trial with M, but when this recipe for vegan Yorkshire puddings caught my eye, posted somewhere that I can’t quite remember, I knew that, inclusion of beef or not, adapting this to a M-friendly version was high on my list of priorities.

Despite numerous food challenges over the last few months, we haven’t been able to find a new safe food for M to enjoy since last August, when pear became lucky number 5. The monotony of only being able to eat the same 5 foods day in, day out has understandably taken its toll on his spirit and it has become something of a life’s mission for me to create new and varied ways of preparing those foods to help him enjoy them as much as possible. That aim has resulted in the absolute flurry of new recipes that has hit my blog over the last few weeks and which will continue to do so, until no stone is left unturned from a culinary point of view.

IMG_0263[1]The recipe was surprisingly easy to adapt and delightfully successful in its bake. M and G had no idea what I was preparing to accompany our Easter lunch and despite some optimistic guesses of chocolate pancakes from M, neither child got close with their hunches. As ever, I was slightly nervous until they took the first bite, but I really didn’t need to worry. My batch of 12 quickly dwindled down to 3 – well Mike and I had 2 each too, just to taste test you understand – and M declared them a hit. He took great pleasure in stuffing each pudding with some of his seasoned rice, which actually led to Monday night’s dinner of the remaining 3 puddings stuffed with rice, chicken and a home-made and M-friendly dressing. The greatest pleasure for me was being able to turn yet another popular dish into a M-friendly equivalent and know that his EGID and food allergies have been driven into the background once again.

“Little pockets of heaven”

That was G’s description of the amazing Borough 22 doughnuts that I brought back for her from my stint as a judge at the Free From Food Awards 2016 at the beginning of February. I had been impressed with the quality of these delicious allergy-friendly treats when I’d tasted them during the Tea-time treats category of the awards and was delighted to find that my somewhat fussy 12 year-old was showing a similar enthusiasm as soon as the first bite entered her mouth. She’s not usually given to waxing lyrical about anything, so these words constituted high praise indeed and the only disappointment was the look on M’s face which he just couldn’t hide, even whilst masterfully trying to celebrate his sister’s excitement with her. It was at that point a tiny seed of inspiration started to sprout and I soon had a cunning plan up my sleeve which I was determined to pull off if at all possible.

My hope was based on the comprehensive ingredients list found on Borough 22’s website and these promising words “We use the following ingredients which, where possible, can be substituted if you have an intolerance to them or are vegan/ vegetarian/ lifestyle conscious…if there are any that don’t agree with you then please let us know. Because we bake to order in small batches we will try our very best to substitute it for something that you can have!” Hardly pausing for breath and most definitely with every part of my body tightly crossly, I penned a quick email to ask if there was any possibility of a doughnut recipe that would cater for M’s particular and restrictive food requirements, stressing that I completely understood that this might be a challenge too far. I included my review from the #FFFA16, told them just how thrilled G had been to taste their doughnuts and then sat back to nervously wait a response. The return email, when it came, led to a lengthy phone-call, a flurry of e-mails and the development of what is rapidly growing into a great new friendship.

IMG_3397Ryan Panchoo, owner of Borough 22, is a truly inspirational man, who had a vision and didn’t just make it a reality for himself and his family, but chose to share it with the greater food allergy community too. It all started with the observations of his food-allergic wife and children that restaurant desserts were usually fruit or sorbet and lacking in quality and imagination, and the dream to create one dessert for everyone; something that tasted great, was of a great quality and that initially was both gluten- and dairy-free. He started with chocolate brownies, created a recipe that received the thumbs-up from family and friends alike and could then quite easily have stopped there. However, in a move that I feel really reflects his determined nature, Ryan decided to experiment with doughnuts and despite never having baked one before in his life, researched and tweaked recipes until his multiple allergen-friendly and delicious treat was perfected.

Ryan tells me that his ambition was never to sell his brownies or doughnuts, instead he simply wanted to be able to enjoy safe sweet treats at home with his family; but his friends had a different idea and in October 2014, Borough 22 was launched. It really is in the tradition of the very best “rags-to-riches” fairy stories to learn that he has never invested millions in some snazzy marketing campaign, instead depending on personal recommendations and his use of social media to spread the word. 12694884_571032356387193_4099041063554217609_oHis colourful and eye-catching Instagram photographs led to a situation that he willingly admits was surreal, when he found himself sitting in a meeting with a buyer for Selfridges, discussing exactly what he needed to do to sell in their prestigious food hall and, even more impressively, how they could help him achieve it.

Nearly 18 months on, Borough 22 is a flourishing business, who sells its wares in several outlets in South East London (The Plumstead Pantry & Good Food Catford) as well as through mail-order via their website. The business with Selfridges is currently on hold as Ryan searches for a suitable manufacturing partner to help him meet demand as he still works full-time as a Project Manager for a property investment company. Once that trickiest of partnerships is settled, the plan is to return to Selfridges and hopefully develop the business even further. 12717848_563378083819287_7037755747881912271_nI’m delighted to be able to share that Borough 22 was also shortlisted in both the “Teatime!” and “Start ups and Small Producers” categories of the #FFFA16, although everyone, Ryan included, will have to wait until the awards ceremony in late April to find out just how well they did. To shortlist once is impressive, twice simply astonishing, but I’m honestly not surprised as this is a product we are more than happy to endorse and recommend to everyone, food allergies or not.

Even better news for the 7Y2D household’s youngest member at least, Ryan agreed to try his best to adapt his recipe and accommodate M’s complicated food allergies. I decided not to mention our plans to M or G until I knew whether it was a possibility or not and even on the day I took delivery, kept quiet until the doughnuts were safely in my hands. However, as those who know me will attest, my excitement on that Friday was impossible to hide and I spent the day counting down the hours until I could pick my pair up from their respective schools and share the news. I captured every precious moment of the “big reveal” not just for posterity’s sake, or for my blog, but most importantly to share with Ryan himself:

I’m not sure that you really need my words to tell you about M’s response as these photos pretty much capture it all. I will tell you that M was left speechless and in tears when he realised these doughnuts were for him. I will confess that as he squeezed me tight and desperately sought to compose himself, I had to swallow down the huge lump in my own throat and wipe away a few stray, but happy tears. I will gladly share M’s own endorsement that Ryan can “…succeed at whatever he bakes Mum, because these doughnuts are almost better than birthdays..!

Ryan, you may be a full-time project manager by day, but in my little allergy-sufferer’s eyes, you’re a true superhero by night.

The Croissants Adventures: Part Deux

One of my biggest challenges for last week was set by M’s teacher, when she let me know on the Tuesday that they would be engaging in a spot of French role-play and would be tasting hot chocolate, croissants and other traditional French breakfast foods during the lesson. She was anxious that M shouldn’t feel left out and asked whether there was any chance I could send in something “…M-friendly and close to a pastry…” for the activity. The thing is that there really isn’t anything readily available that is even vaguely similar to a French pastry that is based on M’s handful of safe foods and so I knew this was going to be a baking challenge I needed to tackle and quickly. break05My starting point was actually a conversation with M as there was no need to stress about how to create a French-inspired masterpiece for him, if he’d simply be satisfied with a rice krispie treat instead. We started on the matter of the hot chocolate and despite his desperate bids to start his cocoa trial weeks before Easter, rather than when planned, he quickly changed his tune – well who’d want to miss out on an Easter Egg if it’s up for offer?! – and settled on rice milk flavoured with banana nesquik for his drink. However, he was less open to be swayed on the matter of the croissants and I promised to at least investigate if there was anything I could do before the Friday deadline dawned. Fortunately, 2 years ago the school had hosted a MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) Day and whilst G’s needs were met by the purchase of some delicious Genius pain au chocolat, even then there was nothing I could buy that would suit M’s trickier requirements. I had researched and adapted a great vegan recipe for croissants and baked a batch that kept him happy, even if they were not quite up to my more exacting standards. I knew I had added that recipe to my blog and quickly had a skim-through the list of ingredients to see if a new and improved M-friendly version was even possible.

For once, luck seemed to be on M’s side and, after a quick internet search for possible alternatives to the yeast I’d needed before, I was able to tell my excited child that I was willing to at very least give it a go. With plenty of warnings that there were no guarantees regarding taste or texture, I tentatively started the long and drawn-out process of making the pastry dough. I swapped coconut oil for the Trex and a bicarbonate of soda and xanthum gum mix for the yeast. The dough was prepped on the Tuesday night and I popped it into the fridge for a couple of days until I needed it: that was a big mistake. IMG_0207[1]The coconut oil solidifies at cold temperatures and by the time I was ready to make and bake the croissants on Thursday evening, my pastry was now filled with marble-sized lumps of coconut oil that I just had to remove. Whether this made much of a difference to my final product, I really don’t know, but given that a lot of the flavour in a French pastry comes from the fat added to it, I don’t think I did myself any favours.

I rolled and folded, and folded and rolled for a good 25 minutes on Thursday evening, until my dough was smooth and no longer a sticky mess that couldn’t be worked and I carefully cut triangles and rolled each one into the croissant shape, complete with slight curve. With the excess dough, I formed 2 pastry cases and attempted a couple of apple turnovers as an unexpected treat. Once all my pastries were ready, IMG_0209[1]I popped them into the oven, set the timer and attempted to forget all about them until the bell rang. The turnovers ended up being a little overdone and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the croissants either, though both children devoured them eagerly and with far more gusto than I was expecting!

This morning I was asked by a friend if I was planning to make a third attempt and I didn’t know what exact answer to give. The time and patience needed to make this pastry was tough to fit in alongside the everyday hustle and bustle of our household, but I reaped huge rewards. M and G were delighted with this different treat and I know that with a little more tweaking and a lot more practice, I might end up with a M-friendly pastry that would open up a lot more possibilities for meals for him. Not just croissants or apple turnovers, but chicken pot pies spring to mind too. So my honest answer probably should be:

Just watch this space!

Lemon Meringue Pie with a twist

fathers dayCelebrating Fathers’ Day last weekend meant attempting to create Mike’s all-time favourite dessert, Lemon Meringue Pie.  I’ve found it difficult to make a good M-friendly pastry in the past and I wasn’t sure I wanted to struggle with it again, so instead I took inspiration from Mike’s other favourite pudding, cheesecake and decided to create my “pie” with a biscuit base.  I whipped up a double batch of my digestive biscuits recipe, pressed it into a greased springform cake tin and popped it into the oven for about 25 minutes.

Once this was in the oven, I scoured the internet looking for an allergy-friendly lemon meringue recipe that I could adapt, if necessary, to suit us all.  I found this great vegan recipe, which needed only the smallest of tweaks and set to making the lemon filling to put on top of the biscuit base.  I was lucky to have nearly all of the ingredients in my cupboard, though I had to use gelatin instead of agar to set the filling and here I nearly failed.  I had no idea of how much gelatin to add, so I added an amount that seemed reasonable for what I was making and kept my fingers crossed that it would all work out.  The good news is that 2 (and a bit) sachets of powdered gelatin set the filling enough to create the layer I was looking for, but trust me, it was certainly more luck than judgement.  Next time I will try more as I think it really needs to be a firmer layer.

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This is what I was aiming for…

Base baked, filling added and sitting in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours, I came to the final, and possibly the hardest, part of my Lemon meringue challenge – the meringue topping itself.   I have successfully made small egg-free meringues before, but I wasn’t convinced that that recipe would work as the topping for a pie.  Instead, I decided to attempt the meringue mix suggested on the vegan recipe I was following as it seemed easy enough and I had enough egg replacement powder in the cupboard to give it a whirl.  It all started well, but I then added the rest of the water needed and things started to go horribly wrong. What I really should have done was stop there and start again, but I foolishly thought I’d attempt to rescue the gloop I was holding and added more sugar and egg replacement until I reached the consistency I thought I was after.  You can find my adapted recipe here.

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…this is what I got!

I doubtfully poured the meringue mix on top of the chilled base and put it in the oven, with everything crossed for a good result.  The recommended baking time was nowhere near long enough and I ended up leaving it in for a whole hour.  The end result?  Well, Mike and the kids kindly said it was delicious and for a first attempt, I would agree that it wasn’t too bad. However, it was not up to my exacting standards and I will definitely be trying this one out again with a few more tweaks along the way as I attempt to bake the perfect M-friendly lemon meringue pie.

 

BBQs and Bakewell tarts

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The incredible summer weather that we’ve been enjoying this weekend, can only mean one thing; it’s time for a barbecue.  True to form, by around 5pm on Friday evening, the shelves of all the local supermarkets had been cleared of the sausages, burgers and other BBQ meats, but for once that didn’t spoil our plans.  Most of the BBQ selections available contain wheat, gluten or even soya, which makes them unsuitable for use in our household.

Instead, I took to a recipe that we developed after seeing a similar meal prepared on Canadian TV programme “You’ve gotta eat here“.  For those of you who haven’t seen this series, and I highly recommend that you don’t even attempt to watch it when feeling peckish,  presenter John Catucci tours Canada, searching out exceptional meals found at various cafes, diners and restaurants across the country.  The food featured not only tastes good, but often comes in proportions that defeat even those with the healthiest of appetites.  Whilst the burgers we watched being made were traditional in using beef, I adapted them to use family favourites, Welsh lamb and fresh mint.  You can find the recipe here.

The final recipe is easy and quick to prepare, delicious to eat and best of all, contains nothing that is not M-friendly.  They take around 5 minutes to cook on the BBQ or indeed in the oven and were perfect for a Saturday lunch in the sun.

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One of things that M has been missing, other than the by now famous egg mayonnaise sandwiches, is Bakewell tarts.  Around 12 months ago, we had discovered Costa‘s gluten-free Cherry bakewells and, as they were dairy, soya and wheat-free and M was trialling egg at the time, we were able to try them out as a treat.  M loved them and we had found something he could eat when we popped out for a coffee or were on a road trip.

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However, this January’s decision to tighten up M’s diet meant these had to go back on to his forbidden list.  It was a disappointment as there is so little available when we’re out and about, but we had the hope that the next trial of egg would mean that he might be able to start eating them once again.  Sadly, the current relapse and subsequent medical response means that there is no likelihood of this for the foreseeable future.

M has been hit hard by his current flare-up and so I decided to make a weekend of it and bake some much needed M-friendly treats for both M and G.  I quickly decided to investigate whether there was any possibility of making a M-friendly Bakewell tart. Having never even attempted to make Bakewell tarts in my lifetime, even before all the food allergies hit my kitchen, I looked up a recipe to see if I could adapt it.

I was confident I could make a reasonable everything-free pastry base, having successfully mastered pastry at Christmas for mince pies.  I have quickly learned that vegan recipes are my friends as they don’t contain any animal products and so instantly remove the issue of being dairy- and egg-free.  So, I quickly moved on to the next item on the list, raspberry jam.  Fortunately, M suffers no ill-effects from fruit jams at the moment, so that was an easy tick and on to the final element of the recipe: the frangipane.

This filled me with dread.  Frangipane is an almond-flavoured sweet pastry cream which, depending on the particular recipe you decide to follow, contains anywhere between 1 and 3 eggs and I just couldn’t see a way round it.  With little hope and as a somewhat last-ditch attempt, I used that faithful friend, Dr Google, once again to see if someone, somewhere had created a vegan alternative to frangipane.  Imagine my delight on discovering this wonderful recipe from fellow blogger, lucysfriendlyfoods.

I noted the ingredients, checked my store cupboards to see what I already had in stock and drew up my shopping list.  A quick visit to the supermarket and we had everything I needed to bake this masterpiece.  To my delight, every step of this recipe was easy to follow and put together.  40 minutes in the oven and my work was done.

SAM_1240M was thrilled and had to try a slice before it had cooled fully.  The slice I gave him disappeared quickly and his only comment was that he would prefer me to make individual tarts next time.  What’s more, G also tried some and enjoyed it.  All in all, this weekend has been a resounding success, be it the BBQ burgers or the Bakewell tart.