Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ultimate comfort food – home made smoky baked beans, cornbread muffins and the best GF brownies EVER

Because I haven’t been very well lately, I’ve found myself craving real comfort foods. Of course, it’s all the badass carb-heavy stuff that my boot camp instructor would have kittens over, but sometimes you need to do it. And there are some veggies in there…..honest!

Even though baked beans are usually gluten free, I’m not a big fan of them. I find the tomato sauce too sweet – in fact I find it all a bit sweet and a bit bland. So I decided to have a go at making my own version, with a smoky spicy twist, and made some yummy cornbread muffins with cheese and chilli and coriander to go with them.

Smoky baked beans (I added chorizo to them for an extra kick, but they would be equally yummy without if you’re veggie or on a budget)

1 tin haricot beans (you could buy them dried, but they will need soaking overnight before cooking, and then boiling/simmering in fresh water for about an hour before using)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses or treacle
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp gluten free Worcester sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
50g chopped chorizo sausage (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the chorizo in a pan to release the flavours for a few minutes and set aside.
Drain the beans. Put in a medium saucepan along with the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Once at boiling point, turn down to a simmer, and add the molasses. Stir well until dissolved. Add paprika, chilli, herbs, Worcester sauce and Tabasco, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Add the chorizo if using, along with the oil in the pan that will have been released when the chorizo was fried. Simmer on a low heat for 15-20 mins.
Hint: Tastes even better the next day if left overnight!

The cornbread muffins were actually a recipe that was on the back of the pack of polenta that I bought, and I thought they would make a nice change from rice or jacket potato to go with my beans.

Cheesy Spiced Cornbread Muffins

140g fine cornmeal/polenta
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 egg
70g grated mature cheddar cheese
220ml natural yogurt (I didn’t have any yogurt in my fridge, so I used unsweetened rice milk and it worked fine)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp salt

It’s as easy as combine everything in a bowl and mix well. I used my trusty Kenwood Chef, but if you don’t have a mixer or food processor, just get stuck in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will look pretty sloppy, but cornmeal really does absorb a LOT of liquid, so stick with it.
The recipe makes 10 muffins – divide the mix between 10 muffin cases and bake at 200/180 fan or Gas 5 for 20 mins. Enjoy!

To make this recipe completely dairy free, you could omit the cheese or use dairy free cheese in place of the cheddar. If you don’t like coriander, you could use flat leaf parsley instead.

The result:

beans and cornbread

A yummy and comforting lunch with a smoky, spicy kick. And not too much effort either!

The next recipe I’ve been meaning to post about (ok, rave about) on here is the Holy Grail of gluten free brownie recipes. I haven’t had much luck with brownies, either finding they turn out too dry or too sticky, but these were absolutely heavenly-perfect. I like my brownies crisp on the outside and squidgy in the middle, and these didn’t disappoint. No wonder the reviews were 5-star. Thank you, Tesco Real Food for making my week! Needless to say these didn’t last very long.

These are not a diet food, be warned……dark chocolate, butter, and sugar make these a definite occasional treat, but if you need a reliable recipe for chocolatey goodness that pretty much everyone is guaranteed to love, make these. You won’t regret it. Seriously.

You can find the recipe here. Instead of chopping up the remaining dark chocolate to sprinkle on top, I used white chocolate chips for a bit of variety, and the result was…..well you can see for yourself….

I wonder who's taken a cheeky slice....

I wonder who’s taken a cheeky slice….

Having had my helping of cosy comfort food for this week, I’m off to go make a salad.





BBC digs heels in over Food and Drink intolerance feature

Despite the widespread objection to the BBC Food and Drink feature on food intolerance that I blogged about earlier this week, the BBC continue to stand by their assertion that they thought the feature was balanced.

Their response was as follows:

This was one of our opinion pieces in which William Sitwell offers his own personal, at times controversial, viewpoint on the subject of food intolerances. He said he believes some are real and dangerous, but that others seem like fads. He makes it clear there are differences and this is his own view point. We did balance what was said by William in his film – during the studio discussion it’s made very clear there is a difference between intolerance and allergies, and the serious nature of such allergies. And if it came across that all food intolerances were to be treated as if they weren’t serious this wasn’t the intention either. We just wanted to discuss how modern day eating habits have changed and the challenges this gives the food industry.

The BBC missed the point that many coeliacs, including myself, made – that they didn’t mention coeliac disease at all, which is neither an allergy nor a food intolerance, but an autoimmune disease. So, they have done nothing to correct the erroneous information that the programme put across – that either you have a faddy fake “food intolerance”, in which case you don’t deserve to be taken seriously by the food industry, or an allergy, which does merit some consideration. Thank you for your concessions, oh great Michelin-star chefs.

I’m disappointed that the BBC didn’t apologise for not mentioning coeliac disease. I felt that any feature on food intolerance or allergy should have done, and should have made it absolutely clear that if you get someone coming into your restaurant saying that they are coeliac and need a gluten free meal, you should be making damn sure that’s what that person gets.

The BBC made a fair point that our eating habits have changed in the present day, and I’m sure this does present a challenge to the food industry. But shouldn’t they be ahead of the curve on this one? The modern kitchen is full of weird and wonderful gadgets to make foams and gels, even flavoured air, and yet they’re saying that it’s cooking gluten free that presents the challenge, when these are some of the greatest foodie innovators in the world?

I’m sorry BBC, I just don’t buy it.

BBC Food and Drink – you’ve got gluten free all wrong

Well, I was quite excited yesterday when I found out that BBC Food and Drink were going to do a section on food allergies and intolerances. I switched on, eager to see some coverage of the issue in the mainstream foodie media.

What greeted me, however, was William Sitwell inflating a bunch of helium balloons, presumably to illustrate the associated “bloated” feeling about which those with food intolerances often complain. He then went on to proclaim “as a child, I was intolerant of carrots” and proceeded to pose the view that the majority of food intolerances are akin to a kid disliking vegetables, i.e. plain old fashioned fussy eating. “We are awash with faddy diets and phony science” he states, in a tone that can only be described as patronisingly sardonic.

Now, I won’t deny that there are some people who will take up the latest dietary fads as readily as Kim Kardashian takes a selfie, but the assertions made on the programme were worryingly ill-informed, from the perspective of someone who has a genuine illness that means a gluten-free diet is not some kind of passing fad or weight loss craze, but a medical need. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, the only treatment for coeliac disease is a lifelong gluten free diet.

I was disappointed to hear such high profile chefs and journalists making such sweeping generalisations of such a complex issue. According to Sitwell, the only “genuine” cause for avoiding a certain food is an allergy, to which the reaction would be evident within minutes. No mention of coeliac disease whatsoever, which affects up to 1 in 100 people in the UK. A coeliac may not react to gluten immediately – in fact, it is rare for someone who has ingested gluten to react like that. The reaction may come within hours, or a day later, when the offending proteins have lodged their way into the digestive system. You might not be choking, fishing for your epi-pen and ringing 999, but you can be pretty darn sick with it – for me, it’s like a bad case of food poisoning. Some people have no reaction, but the damage is still being done even though you can’t see it. Gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, thereby impeding the ability to absorb nutrients from food. So you can see why this might be a little bit of a problem.

I have had varying reactions in eating establishments to requests for gluten free food, from the eye-roll (usually results in them losing my custom pretty quickly) to the completely clueless, to the amazingly helpful and can’t do enough to help. I am aware that it’s an inconvenience for restaurants to have to cater for those of us who can’t always just eat what’s on the menu without question, and therefore I’m super grateful to those who are accommodating. But to hear a top chef like Michel Roux Jr. saying that it “gets his back up” and Monica Galetti chiming in about the inconvenience of getting lists of gluten free people as well as vegetarians to cater for, well, it makes me feel more reticent about dining out and asking for my dietary needs to be met. It makes me less trusting of chefs and restauranteurs – if that’s how they feel about their customers with special dietary needs, how can I trust them to be careful with my food and understand what needs to be done so I can eat there safely and not get sick? When there is such misinformation as this being peddled, how can I get it through to people that I have a real, medical condition that requires a gluten free diet and I’m not just another fussy eater? Should we be required to prove at the door that we’re the real deal? Do I need to graphically describe to skeptical servers and chefs exactly what will happen if they give me gluten, and come back to camp out in their facilities if I get sick to prove a point?

Food and Drink completely missed a trick here, because just because you have a food allergy, medical condition or yes, intolerance (some of them are real, yes indeed – lactase deficiency, anyone?) that you can’t be a foodie and you don’t enjoy food. Most of us want to enjoy the experience of dining out and eating nice food – we don’t go out stalking restaurants in groups to make a hobby out of making the life of restauranteurs harder. How about discussing how restaurants can provide varied menus, that mean that fewer adaptations are needed in the kitchen when someone comes in with an allergy or intolerance, thereby making it easier for busy chefs? How about clear allergen labelling on menus, so people know what they can order and don’t take up the waiting staff’s time having to ask about what they can eat? There are a whole host of ingredients out there that are naturally gluten free, no expensive specialist ingredients required. Would you believe it, there’s more to making great gluten-free food than costly pale packaged-Frankenfood imitations as low on nutrients as they are on taste. You’d think a couple of Michelin-star chefs would be able to knock something up without too much bother, wouldn’t you?

Maybe it’s time for them to retire from the restaurant trade if it’s that upsetting to have to cater for, you know, paying customers. Because if everybody with any sort of different dietary need had to stop eating out, as did their friends, colleagues and families, there wouldn’t be too many of those left to keep the restaurants afloat, would there? After watching this piece of crass and ill-informed television, I can only hold on to the good restaurants that I have visited over the years since my diagnosis, the ones who have welcomed me with open arms and never made me feel like an inconvenience or like I’ve “got their back up”.

As for William Sitwell, I just hope his iron constitution holds up as long as he wants his career in the foodie media to last. And don’t book me a table at Le Gavroche any time soon.

Series 2, Episode 9 of BBC Food and Drink can be seen on BBC iPlayer