With food allergies appearing to be on the increase, I thought it was high time that I started to work on a few allergen free recipes. One of the ladies who attends my sugarcraft class is gluten intolerant, since I always provide cake or cookies to my sugarcraft class I felt really mean giving Holly shop bought gluten-free food. In addition my son’s best friend, Lisa has recently been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Lisa regularly eats with us so I have had to radically rethink my menus.
Gluten free flour is readily available in most supermarkets these days as is lactose free milk and cheese. This recipe uses a vegetable oil based margarine and gluten-free self-raising flour. The resulting biscuit is crisp on the outside and soft inside.
There are some recipes that are just so simple and so brilliant that they can be overlooked when searching for something yummy to bake. Flapjacks is one of those recipes. Yes, I know they are not the healthiest of snacks but I’m not suggesting you eat the entire batch to yourself and they keep really well in an airtight container.
I love the fact they are so versatile too. The ones in the photo are plain ones because my son is culinary challenged but I love them with a handful of glace cherries in, or a bit of coconut, topped with melted chocolate or with a bit a cinnamon and raisins in. I’ve even chopped up an eating apple and thrown that in too. This is a very forgiving recipe.
It has been a while since I have blogged but in fairness I have been ridiculously busy with birthday and wedding cakes. I am pleased to say I have become so popular that I am turning work away as I simply cannot fit another cake in!
I have, however, discovered the magical art of jam making! I have been making chutney for a few years, much to my son’s disgust! He cannot abide the smell of it cooking! If truth be told, I was always a bit frightened of having a go at jam making. It brought back disturbing memories of standing on a chair stirring my grandmother’s gooseberry jam which was that tough you couldn’t get a spoon into the jar!
I plucked up some courage, however, and decided to give it a go. Rather than waste money on lots of expensive fruit (in case I ruined it) I bought 800g of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries from the bargain bin of my local supermarket. Yes, they might not be the prettiest of fruit or value for money if I wanted to keep them in a fridge for a week but they were ideal for my purpose. Let’s face it, they were going to be cut up, mashed and boiled they didn’t need to be pretty.
The first time I tried this I bought special preserving sugar and it worked beautifully but that sugar can be quite expensive so I switched to regular granulated sugar and powdered pectin. It works just as well and at a fraction of the price.
Jumbleberry jam is, quite literally, a jumble of different soft fruits. The jam is naturally scarlet in colour and tastes just like the jam you get in jam doughnuts! Mmmm!
800g mixed soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
1kg granulated sugar
1pk Silver Spoon pectin
Knob of butter (to stop a scum forming)
Sterilise your jam jars and lids. I did mine in the dishwasher but boiling water or heating in the oven works just as well. By doing it in the dishwasher I can time the cycle finishing with when the jam is ready.
Prepare the fruit by removing any cores and slicing the larger fruit.
Mash the fruit or blitz in a food processor for a few minutes. The more you mash them the less lumpy your jam will be.
Add the fruit to a large saucepan, add the sugar and pectin.
Heat gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the knob of butter
Slowly increase the heat, stirring constantly.
Once the jam reaches a rolling boil i.e. when the volume rises and the bubbles dont disappear when you stir the jam, start timing for exactly FOUR MINUTES.
Immediately remove from the heat and ladle into hot jam jars. Seal immediately and allow to cool and set.
The jam will keep a good 6-9 months in a sealed jam.
I’m sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that my big weakness is biscuits. I can take of leave cake and don’t go overboard about chocolate but biscuits! Oh, my goodness! I have no self-control at all.
As a child I only ever got “posh” biscuits at Christmas and that was because Mum was a nurse. As you might expect her ward would be inundated with tins of biscuits for the nurses at Christmas. The ward sister would do a “lucky dip” so the nurses all had a fair chance of getting the expensive biscuits as well as the less expensive. So Mum might come home with a box of chocolate fingers or a really posh box of Marks and Spencer’s Continental biscuits! You can imagine my excitement!
One year, however, she came home with a box of individually wrapped amaretti biscuits. I had never seen them before and was intrigued by them. Unfortunately, one bite and I’ve been hooked on them ever since!
This particular recipe is from The Hairy Bikers’ Big Book of Baking. It is so easy to make but I found that I couldn’t pipe the biscuits as Si and Dave suggest because the dough was simply too stiff so I rolled them into ball instead. They are crisp on the outside with a slightly soft centre and taste absolutely gorgeous.
I have come to the conclusion that I must have been Genghis Khan in a previous life! I’m a good girl! I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs (I don’t think HRT can be considered hardcore!). I have been single for 13 years and to be honest I haven’t got time or the inclination for man hunting! Now that I’ve said all that, all I seem to get at the moment is stress!
My son, as I have mentioned before, as Chronic Pain Syndrome so for the past 3 weeks we have struggled to keep his legs moving. This resulted in him collapsing in the bathroom the other night. Ben is about 8 inches taller than me and a big strapping 15-year-old! Needless to say trying to rescue him was interesting to say the least! Thank goodness we have very large bath towels!
Then to top it all, my poor little whippet, Felix, who broke his leg in August, was rushed back into the veterinary hospital to have some of the metalwork removed from his leg as it was causing him problems. In fact his femur had not healed properly because one of the wires was rubbing the newly forming bone away.
I will add at this point that after a few days rest and strong pain killers Felix is back to his usual self, terrorising the household.
I’m sharing this carrot cake recipe because it is one of those cakes that instantly hits the spot! You know the ones, where the room goes quiet except for the odd “mmm”. And let’s face it, I could so with a bit of peace and quiet at the moment!
When it comes to Millionaire shortbread I am only allowed to make it if my sister is visiting! She is a bit of a Millionaire shortbread expert through years of taste testing. She doesn’t make it, of course, simply eats it!
Over the years I have tried several recipes but have always found them to be lacking somewhat. Eventually I decided to make my own version and knew I was on to a winner when Naomi phoned me up on complain. Not about the shortbread, I hasten to add, but because in her words “You’ve spoilt it for me! I will never be able to eat another piece without comparing it to yours! They just don’t compete, not even Marks and Sparks!”
I did point out that was a good thing because she would lose loads of weight to which her reply was “No, I’ll still eat them but I will complain whilst I do it!” Little sisters! What are you supposed to do with them?
The very fact that I have photographed this batch of millionaire shortbread is testament to the fact that my sister and her family are visiting me this week-end. I can guarantee that after the initial “hellos” the first thing Naomi will say is “Got any cake?”. This is usually said as she has her head buried in my fridge or she is rummaging through my cupboards.
I do find it really funny that even though I’m 42 now and Naomi is 34, that we automatically slip into our Big Sis / Little Sis roles. If she sits next to me on the sofa Naomi has to lean on me; she will insist on “doing my hair” (that is until I get bored – my hair is very long and very thick so it is usually washed, brushed and plaited and that is it!); she will pinch the last of my drink rather than go and fetch her own!
But, dear reader, don’t feel sorry for me because I will always get me revenge! You see, Naomi is terrified of, wait for it, tortoises! Sha has been since she was a little girl when she got trapped in a tent in the garden by one. It wasn’t exactly the Usain Bolt of tortoises so why she couldn’t just run away I will never know! So when the opportunity arises for a tortoise to be included in some way we take it. I had a tiny sugar one put on her wedding cake; we bought a cuddly toy one for my nephew when he was a baby; my son put a wooden one in her bed when she came to stay with us; on a visit to Mum’s, Ben hid a brass tortoise in the biscuit barrel, knowing that is always Naomi’s first port of call. As I said I always get my revenge!
325g chocolate ( I tend to use a mixture of milk and dark)
Preheat the oven to 170C / 150C fan. Line the base and sides of a 10 inch square cake tin.
Rub together the flour, butter and sugar together to form a soft dough (i do it in the Kenwood mixer)
Tip the dough into the cake tin and press down. Make sure the dough is evenly spread over the base.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until pale gold in colour. Leave in the tin to cool.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan put the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup.
heat the mixture until it has all melted together. Stir to combine.
Increase the heat slightly and bring to a rolling boil and heat until the mixture has thickened and is a golden brown colour. Stir constantly to prevent it burning. (be very careful as this mixture is like molten lava and is prone to spitting!)
This is possibly the easiest fudge that I have ever made! My great-aunt, Ollie, was the family fudge-maker and her recipe was closely guarded secret. I inherited all her cook books and with that her highly prized chocolate fudge recipe. Her recipe used evaporated milk, a whole bag of granulated sugar and several hours of beating the fudge into submission!
Yes, Ollie’s fudge was lovely, if a little sweet for my palate, but to be honest I just do not have the time or the energy to make it these days. It is, however, my grandmother’s favourite sweet.
When I stumbles upon this recipe in the “Good To Know” magazine I thought it was worth a try. It only have four ingredients so if it didn’t work I wouldn’t have wasted too much money.
I have to say it really is a doddle! My tip would be to pour the mixture into your Kenwood mixer or food processor and let the machine do the tiny bit of mixing for you. It will save you lots of energy and prevent you burning yourself in the process.
I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate but you could just as easily use all dark or all milk. Cut it up, pop it in a fancy box with a bit of tissue paper and “Hey, Presto!” you have a beautiful gift for someone! How easy is that!
400g milk or dark chocolate (I used 300g milk and 100g dark)