Faux pho (or…the simplest cosy supper for one, like, ever)

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One of the most annoying things about being an off-grid eater is how hard it is to be lazy. Gone are the days when calling for a curry, or Pizza Man on those days that, as supper time approaches, it turns out that one really can’t be fagged. So even on the days (many) when I have zero desire to cook, I generally have to – whether I like it or not. As a result, I am always extra excited to find ways to rustle up a meal  in minutes and this happy little surprise coincided with watching the last-but-one Bake Off last week when I was home alone. I do find that having only myself to please always unleashes the spirit of experimentation.

I was going to cook my shop-spiralised courgetti (now that IS what I call lazy) by frying it as usual. I tend to do things like this (by which I mean disrespecting the courgetti with oil, instead of steaming it) because even though I’ve been forced down a much healthier road than I’d ideally travel, food-wise, I’m always looking for loop holes, and opportunities for a bit of indulgence, like a bit of deviant frying. But on this particular night I was feeling sad about the lack of noodle soup in my life, which led to a brainwave. I chopped up some tomatoes with garlic and roasted them with olive oil at 170 degrees for about 40 minutes, to make a sort of tomato confit.

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When they were cooked, I cooked the courgetti in a generous slosh of chicken stock in my wok frying pan. About four minutes later I’d made what I decided to call Faux Pho. I added the tomatoes and some grated cheddar and sat eating, with no-one to hear me slurp, what felt for all the world like a comforting bowl of noodle soup. But the best thing about it was that it took only minutes to make. Who needs pizza, man?

Hygge, hunkering…call it what you will

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I’m treating Sunday nights with kid gloves at the moment; something about the transition to Monday isn’t sitting easily. But luckily  I know what the antidote is: extreme cosiness, and the right food. Last night we had my current signature dish (by which I mean I’m cooking it two or three times a week due to not being able to remember what else to cook or eat, mainly because this is so good). I’m calling it, ‘Roasted ratatouille’, but it’s not mine at all: I nicked off Em, who got it from Rachel Roddy. I then bought Rachel Roddy’s book, Five Quarters, purely on the strength of how delicious the ratatouille is. The book is gorgeous, but I can’t find the ratatouille anywhere in it, so this is a handed-down, word-of-mouth version of the original (which has potatoes in, by the way. And I’d have ’em too if I could – but don’t in any way feel the lack of them). Anyway, props to R. Roddy for the idea. The first time I cooked it I questioned the 90 minute cooking time (are there any nutrition left in those veg? Possibly not…) and also the amount of oil. But I went with it and By Gum it’s seriously good; the veg sort of caramelise and come together with sweet intensity. Last night we had it with roast chicken. But the other day I just had a big bowl of it with grated cheese (if I could have been fagged, a zesty salad would have been a good aside). But however way you have it, it’s got hygge written all over it and it seriously took the edge off our Sunday evening. See? Food helps!

Roasted ratatouille

4 courgettes

2-3 red onions

8 large tomatoes

few cloves of garlic thickly chopped

100 ml olive oil

100ml water

Heat the oven to 190 degrees. Cut the courgettes into discs slightly thicker than a pound coin. Peel the onions, cut in half and then cut each half into four quarters. Core the tomatoes and chop into quarters with the garlic. Put into a baking tray (I prefer to use glass because I think it cooks more nicely in a way I cannot explain scientifically) and gently toss in the oil. Salt and pepper and then pour the water into one corner of the tray (rather than all over the vegetables) so it resides at the bottom. Check and gently turn every 20 minutes or so. After 90 minutes it should all have cooked down and resemble a sort of caramelised  tray bake, at which point it is ready. Hurrah!

Sprouts are for life – not just for Christmas

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There are some unexpected silver linings about living in the land of the (grain) free. And one of those linings is sprouts.

I know what you’re thinking. Sprouts are yuck; the worst thing on the Christmas lunch plate and a once-a-year horror.

But seriously people, if you think you hate sprouts I urge, nay, implore you to think again.

Sure, boiled, overcooked sprouts are foul. And, true, when you cook sprouts you have to apologise the smell away to anyone who steps over your threshold for the next 24 hours. But just open the window and don’t get hung up on that. When I discovered the roasted sprout, cooked with a bit of garlic, served with a sprinkle of parmesan and dipped in home-made mayo,  well it’s fair to say that things, in a modest way, started looking up.

I’d actually forgotten about the joy of sprouts until about a month ago. Then, suddenly, they started appearing in shops again and it was another reason to embrace autumn. If you buy a ready prepared bag you barely need to do anything to them except maybe cut them in half, depending on their size, roughly chop some garlic, put both in a bowl with a slick of oil, stir and season then transfer it a roasting tin and roast away at 180 for 30-40 minutes, depending on size. Grate on some parmesan and get dipping and they are delicious on their own or on the side.

There’s no telling some people though. Every time I get some sprouts out to cook, Tom still says, “Wow you really do love sprouts, don’t you?”

Well yes I really, really do – so, sue me!

 

 

So what’s the alternative to chips?

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If you have ever tried to give up carbs, or even just tried to eat fewer of them then I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to feel full – and how easy it is to feel deprived.

Now I am seven years into my own carb-free journey, I am much less deranged with deprivation than I was for the first year during which I would – literally – go to bed dreaming about bread, cake and crisps. But there is no denying the fact that sometimes all the green veg in the world, delicious as they may be, just don’t quite cut the mustard on the fullness front.

And, since the secret to being happy on a carb-free diet is to find ways not to feel deprived, these three dishes are total stalwarts on my weekly menu, being that holy trinity of easy, delicious – and satisfying.

They each involve quite large and unwieldy vegetables though, so these are three recipes where it really pays to have a robust and sharp knife and, in the case of the cauliflower rice, a food processor. Having said that, I have made it with a grater, and it’s fine – just a bit more work. The other thing to mention about cauliflower rice is that when I first made it, I used to microwave it, which totally does the trick. But roasting it, with a bit of oil, both brings out the flavour and dries it out too, which is a good thing when you are eating it with curry or something else a little bit saucy that needs mopping up.

The faff of both the celeriac and the squash is mainly in the preparation. You really do need a decent peeler but once you have one – I use the sharp peeler from Lakeland which is under a fiver but honestly the best peeler I have ever used – you will make short work of even the toughest and rootiest veg. And the faff-factor is so worth it for the resulting crispy gorgeousness, which is so good it can even eclipse actual chips!

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Cauliflower rice

1 medium sized cauliflower

½ fresh chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

handful chopped coriander

ground nut oil

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, cut it into quarters and remove most of the thick core, then cut each quarter into two or three chunks. To avoid overloading the blender, blitz it in two or three batches, for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice. If you are grating, use the coarse side of the grater.

Toss the rice in a drizzle of oil in a baking tray and spread it out to a thin, even layer. Then roast for 12 minutes, mixing halfway through cooking. Season after cooking, and add the finely chopped chilli and coriander (or other herbs, depending on what you are making to serve with it).

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Celeriac chips with home-made aioli.

 1 celeriac

ground nut oil

salt and pepper

paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C.
 Wash and peel the celeriac, which is no mean feat! Slice off the top and bottom and cut the celeriac into thumb-thick slices and then into fat chip shapes (or thin, if you prefer).

Put in to a large bowl and toss in a little oil, and sea salt then put into the oven. After 15 minutes carefully toss the chips with two spatulas (so they don’t disintegrate) then cook for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Season with a dusting of paprika.

Aioli

½ small clove garlic , peeled

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large free-range egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

285 ml extra virgin olive oil

285 ml olive oil

lemon juice , to taste

Smash up the garlic with one teaspoon of salt in a pestle and mortar, or with the flat of a large knife. Place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk together, then start to add your oils bit by bit. Once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, you can start to add the rest in larger amounts. When the mixture thickens, add lemon juice. When all the oil has gone in, add the garlic then season to taste. Et voila!

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Spicy butternut squash

1 squash

oil

salt and pepper

mild chilli powder

Preheat your oven to 190C. Peel and de-seed your squash, cut into 1cm cubes as evenly as possible (easier said than done, so don’t get too hung up on accuracy).

Before putting into the roasting pan, I put them into a large bowl to toss them in oil using my hands to make sure they are evenly coated. Once in the pan, shake pretty liberal quantities of chilli powder and sea salt and again, toss to make sure they are coated. A word about chilli powders: I use Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder which is as good as its word but be warned that other types of mild chilli powders can be no such thing so it is a good idea to proceed with caution if you haven’t tried whatever brand you are using before.

Roast for 25-30 minutes before gently tossing and dislodging any cubes that are stuck, and finish cooking for another 20 or so minutes or until they are totally soft when you fork them, and deliciously chewy and caramelised.

Easy peasy Boxing Day hollandaise

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One of the nicest things about this time of year is that everything stops. Suddenly, there is time to do things like squander a whole morning looking through old photos in your pyjamas, or embark on a spontaneous decluttering toy-culling frenzy to make room for the new. And, of course, there is time to cook!

The other day we went on a blustery Boxing Day walk at what felt like the crack of dawn but was really 10am and, after a couple of hours out and about, felt therefore perfectly justified in heading home for a late morning sherry (Tom, not me – I can’t drink fortified things, more is the pity) and a very leisurely and decadent breakfast of eggs royale (without the muffin, obv).

This was the first time I’ve felt brave enough to depart from my known breakfast repertoire in order to try the extremely easy-peasy (but nerve-wracking just by virtue of being new) version of hollandaise sauce that I learned during my week at Leiths. I have made hollandaise before, but it’s one of those fearful sauces that has the potential to split. And a split sauce means not only a waste of both butter and time but, more than that, the colossal disappointment of having to be hollandaise-less.

This version, though, is  more like making mayonnaise, which I do all the time and therefore feel fearless about.  I’m sure there are some people out there who thing that if you are not fiddling around with a bain-marie, constant whisking and extreme red-faced tension, then it’s not proper. But, frankly, if they do it at Leiths, then it’s proper enough for me. More importantly though it’s completely darned delicious! Plus I can’t tell you how do-able it felt (don’t be spooked by the reduction, which is the work of moments). In fact my main fear about this is that it’s *so* easy to make, we are going to start making it at the drop of a hat, willy nilly, and then buttery ruin will ensue as none of our trousers will fit any more. Oh dear.  

Hollandaise

Makes 250-300ml

For the reduction

50ml white wine vinegar

50 ml water

6 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 mace blade

For the sauce

150 g unsalted butter

3 egg yolks

Few drops lemon juice, to taste

salt and white ground pepper

Since this was a spontaneous affair, I had to forgo the mace for the reduction, as we didn’t have any. And although I’m sure mace adds to the flavour, I didn’t rue the lack of it.

Make the reduction by putting ingredients into a small pan and bringing it to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by at least two thirds. Keep an eye out as this happens quite quickly. Leave to cool.

Then place your egg yolk, 2 tsp of reduction and pinch of salt into your blender. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once it is starting to separate and is bubbling, pour a little into the blender with the motor running. Add a little more and the emulsion should be created. Continue to add the butter, very slowly, in a thin stream until all but the milk solids are added. Avoid adding the solids as they can thin the sauce. Taste and season with more reduction, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, poach a couple of eggs (or get a willing assistant to, as timing is of the essence with this dish) and place lovingly onto some smoked salmon, although ham works too.

Eat immediately!

Excellent breakfasting solution

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Blimey, times have really changed in the seven years or so since I have started following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Back then, even being coeliac was considered a bit niche, so when I described the regime I was following to people they’d often just look at me, agog, at all the things I avoid eating (rightly so, quite frankly).

These days, though, ‘free from’ goodies are positively mainstream and I only have to say the words ‘restricted diet’ to a waiter for them to send the chef over to talk through exactly what I can and can’t eat and . So really it’s never been a better time to be in the special needs food camp in terms of tolerance and understanding from the wider world. But I still don’t know anyone else at all following the SCD, which is partly why I wrote this piece for the Telegraph last week about it:

So if you are reading this and also following the SCD I would really love to hear from you about your experiences on the diet. If you are a new subscriber: welcome! And I would  love to hear from you too. Are you following the SCD? Or are you cutting down on certain foods for another reason? Or maybe you are doing something else altogether, but I’d love to know more about your experiences with cooking and eating, so please do get in touch.

I also thought this would be a good moment to tell you about a really important part of the SCD, and that is homemade yoghurt, which I wrote about recently on my guest blog at woman&home

When most of the significant carbohydrates were taken away from my life, I faced many challenges, but by far the biggest was breakfast! Seriously, have you ever tried eating breakfast without carbs?

For ages, my rather unsustainable solution was just to avoid breakfast altogether. Then, at the weekends when I had more time, I remembered the joy of omelettes; the best protein fix ever. And, perhaps most joyously of all, I learned how to make gorgeously puffy pancakes using almond flour, served with warm cinnamon honey instead of maple syrup.

And because – honestly – I couldn’t be fagged, I just ignored the fact that a big part of the SCD is homemade yoghurt. If you make this correctly (according to the SCD recipe) over 24 hours, the yoghurt has a concentration of 3 billion cfu/ml. So just 250 ml of yoghurt contains more than 700 billion beneficial bacteria. To put that into context, that’s about 50 times more than that a typical 15 billion capsule. So eating this yoghurt every day really helps to correct the balance of bacteria types in the gut by eliminating the food supply of the undesirable bacteria and repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria. Obviously, I am following this diet to cure colitis – but I think everybody could do with a blast of beneficial bacteria, couldn’t they? It’s also cheaper than buying probiotics, and curiously satisfying to grow your own breakfast.

And actually, if you have a yoghurt maker, the basic process is very simple. I started off using a yoghurt maker from Lakeland but the problem with that is that there is no temperature control. As this is a precision process, and a really important part of my diet, I wanted to be sure I was getting it right. So I ended up getting this TANIKA one from Japan  because it has a digital temperature control. It’s not cheap, but since I eat yoghurt every day, I broke the overall price into price-per-bowl and decided I could justify it.

Then once I’d mastered the yoghurt, I started toasting my own granola (without any grains, obviously). So breakfast is now a bowl of yoghurt, my amazing nutty granola, raisins and blue/other berries/banana/apple with a squirt of honey. Which is not too shabby at all considering I used to have nothing at all for breakfast. I’ve gone from breakfast rags to breakfast riches, in fact.

DIY grain-free granola

 You need a couple of handfuls each of the following:

Almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans

Sesame, sunflower pumpkin and poppy seeds.

Roughly chop the nuts then put them plus the seeds into a large frying pan and dry fry on a medium heat, tossing every so often, until they are deliciously toasted, which takes 5-10 minutes. Once cooled, add some raisins. This will keep in a sealed box for up to two weeks – if it lasts that long, that is.

Beneficial bacteria blast yoghurt

You need:

Enough milk to fill your yoghurt maker. I use full fat organic milk, but you can use semi-skimmed too.

Some commercial yoghurt to use as a ‘starter’. I use Woodland yogurt as per the SCD yoghurt instructions, which recommend only starter cultures with lactobacillus bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, and S. thermophilus.

First, heat the milk to boiling point then simmer for two minutes to kill the existing bacteria, stirring all the time to avoid burning. Sterilise your yoghurt maker container, sieve and spoon by pouring boiled water on it. After two minutes, cover the pan to prevent airborne bacteria and dust contamination and cool the milk to below 110F (body temperature). You can speed this up by standing the pan in cold water in the sink.

When it’s cooled, mix ¼ cup of your starter yoghurt with half a cup of cooled milk and mix into a smooth paste. Then add the rest of the milk, put the lid on and switch your yoghurt maker on. The Yoghurt maker needs to be 100 to 110F and you need to leave it for 24 hours so the starter culture multiplies and consumes the milk to produce your good bacteria packed yoghurt. After 24 hours, put it in the fridge where the bacteria will remain active for two weeks.

And if that has piqued your curiosity, you can read more about SCD yoghurt here 

 

 

 

How to make a ‘ta-da’ meal (that is undercover special needs)

Beetroot-starter Chorizo-stew

When I first started my unfeasibly-restrictive-diet I not only stopped eating out in restaurants and accepting invitations, but I assumed that it was curtains for my days as a hostess. I really love nothing more than cooking a huge meal for my friends and family – but how could I inflict my diet upon them?

As luck would have it, that turned out to be just the panic talking and, if anything, I have become even more of a dedicated and enthusiastic cook for other people since starting this diet. I just love the uniting effect that delicious food can have on people, and conversation. And what I have found is that although my diet is restrictive, I can make huge feasts and serve them to people who have absolutely no idea that I’m cooking around restrictions.

However, there is nothing worse than turning up for supper to a hostess who is red-faced, furious and stressed out; unable to properly talk or even offer you a drink, dammit, because she is either trying out a new recipe that’s going wrong, or because the timing of the meal is so precise and complicated that there is room in her brain for nothing else. Not even a little martini.

So please note: by ‘ta-da’ I do NOT mean complex or complicated, with a capucino froth wrapped in a sugar basket.

What I mean is a meal that is delicious, a bit decadent, makes people feel looked after and – crucially – doesn’t taste compromised. But also which can be made with minimal fuss and bother, ideally in advance, so you can get on with the important business of martini-making and putting the world to rights with your friends.

I have fed this chorizo stew to many many people over the years and I honestly don’t think anyone has noticed that it’s grain-free, sugar-free and, now I come to think of it, dairy-free too.

A quick note on ingredients: When I’m buying the chorizo, I scrutinise the label to make sure it hasn’t got dextrose or sugar in (lots do). Ideally, it should just have pork, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Also, I can’t emphasise enough how worth it it is to splash a bit of cash on the jars of posh beans (which are only £3.50 but that seems a lot compared to 50p for a tin). I like Navaricco, which you can find in the big branches of M&S and some delis but be warned: once you have tried them there is no going back. When I go to a shop that sells them I automatically buy as many as I can carry, because running out is just WOEFUL when you are grain-free, because these beans are so good at taking your mind off the fact that you are.

Beets with rocket pesto

Serves 6

Beets – I allow about 2 small beets per person for a starter

Red wine vinegar for cooking

2 bags rocket leaves

200 g walnuts roughly chopped

150 g parmesan (grated or chopped into small chunks)

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

extra virgin oil

salt and pepper

Boil the beets in water with a splash of red wine vinegar until they are tender (which depends on the size). Drain and cool and then peel and chop them into quarters.

Put the rocket, walnuts, parmesan with a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper and blitz it in your food processor, adding olive oil until it’s the consistency of pesto. Dress your beets with as much pesto as people like and hey PESTO! (sorry).

Chorizo, red pepper and posh bean stew

Serves 6 

2 medium onions, chopped

2 chorizo sausages (uncooked)

5 red/yellow/orange peppers

2 tins tomatoes

1 jar posh haricot beans (though any white bean will do).

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper

This stew is so easy to cook it’s almost embarrassing.

Fry the onions until they are soft. While you are doing that, chop the peppers into thinnish slices then cut them in half. Then cut the chorizo into thick slices. I then cut the slices in half because it’s easier to eat – but I’ll leave that to your discretion. Also, drain and rinse the beans.

When the onion is cooked, add the chorizo and let it cook for a bit before adding the peppers, stirring every so often. After about five minutes add the beans and, a few minutes later, the tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika. Definitely taste before you salt as chorizo is often quite salty. Then cook slowly on a low heat for about an hour before eating. I served it with purple sprouting broccoli and I didn’t even spare a thought for the patatas bravas that might have gone with it if I could eat potatoes.

I had a dream about carrot soup with Wensleydale

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Oh it’s this weather, isn’t it? It just creates an extreme need for comforting, cosy soup. On which note, I did actually have a dream the other night (because that’s the kind of person I am – food never far from my mind) about roasting carrots, onion and garlic before making the whole lot into soup. Then, when I woke up, I had a mini reverie about what it would be like to crumble Wensleydale in to it.

The thing about soup is that it’s minimum effort to maximum yield of both quantity and veg-per-bite. It can live in the fridge for a week or so, at which point it is quicker than a ready meal to prepare. Plus, on a rainy, windy, leaf strewn day,  it’s the very definition of comfort to have a bowl of soup for lunch.  And, if you dream up a recipe that is this easy peasy, you don’t even have to consult a cookery book.

The only problem with this particular dream was that, despite an exhaustive search (of two local shops), I couldn’t find Wensleydale. And so I made do with cheddar which was nice enough. But next time I will not rest until I have found some Wensleydale!

Roasted carrot soup

1 bag of carrots, or 2 if you want to make a mega soup

2 small onions

3 or 4 garlic cloves, skin on

Stock – home-made chicken stock if you have it, or 2 or 3 vegetable stock  pouches (which tend to be free from additives, gluten and sugar)

salt and pepper

Peel the carrots and slice in half lengthways and then cut in half. Peel and quarter the onions and put them in a baking tray with the garlic. Roast (with a little ground nut oil) at 180 for 30-40 minutes then transfer everything into a heavy based pan, add the stock and bring to the boil and cook for ten minutes or so before blitzing with a hand held blender – for a really long time, to ensure maximum silken smoothness. You can add more stock or water, depending on how you like your soup. I added a knob of butter too, but you don’t have to. Then I served, with cheddar, trying not to rue the absence of Wensleydale.

speedy midweek melange

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Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve gone right off the notion of processed meat lately. And it’s not just the cancer risks (although obviously that’s enough to make one think twice about one’s burger’n’bacon yens). I do actually incline towards vegetarianism…it’s just that I’m loathe, on this diet, to cut yet more things out if I am technically allowed to eat them. But all that aside, sometimes – particularly on a Monday night when the nights are drawing in and you want to go to pilates, read stories to your son and still have a healthy home-cooked supper before it gets to 10pm – you just want to eat some veggies. And fast.

This was whipped up last night in the blink of an eye and yet was so good I think I might make a version of it again tonight. It’s so easy that there’s barely a recipe but it’s the kind of thing that I never would have even thought about eating before starting the SCD – I mean, where’s the pasta/potatoes/bread – right? However, it gives me pleasure to report that Tom ate this too, with gusto, and not even a mention of missing carbs. I added a sprinkle of grated cheddar and a dollop of home-made mayo; we had our satisfying veggie blast, only one pan to wash up, and it was all done and dusted in time to watch a bit of telly and still be in bed by 10pm, which is my kind of Monday night. I know – rock and roll, right?

Speedy midweek melange for two

3 courgettes, finely sliced (I use the slicing bit on a grater)

1 box mushrooms sliced

1 bag spinach

2 tins tuna (optional, obv)

handful or two of black olives (Also optional. I like the tinned kind which are unsophisticated but not too salty or dominant. )

1 or 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Fry up the sliced courgettes in ground nut oil for about ten minutes before adding the mushrooms. Cook together for a bit before adding the garlic then add the tuna. When it’s all cooked together add the spinach until it’s wilted to your liking. Serve with grated cheese. See – told you it was easy!

Exciting news (and a vegan cake)

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First, the exciting news, which is that woman&home.com (one of my favourite sites for do-able-yet-inspiring recipes when I have no idea what to cook, which is often) have invited me to continue my guest blog for them. Massive hurrah! Today’s post is about gadgets that have changed my life; a bold claim I realise, but it’s true. If you want to check it out, it’s here: http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/538389/kitchen-gadgets-that-will-change-your-life

And now, the cake. I am not at all proud to admit that I was, in a previous existence, unforgivably unforgiving about people on special diets coming to eat at my house. ‘What, I have to cook a separate dish, just for one person?’ I’d think indignantly when, say, my sister mentioned that her new boyfriend w as a vegetarian the day before they came for supper. Well, needless to say, I now reside in a different universe and feel quite strongly that EVERYONE deserves delicious food, whatever the restrictions they operate around. So I take genuine pleasure in trying to find lovely vegetarian or gluten-free recipes for people who are that way inclined when they come over. And that is how I came to make this vegan cake at the weekend, the recipe for which is courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s new book ‘Simply Nigella’. I was sold by the fact that this is now her favourite cake to make, even for people without dietary restrictions. Enough said – right? And, although the ingredients are a bit off the beaten path and probably require a visit to somewhere along the lines of Planet Organic, the method itself was pretty much easy peasy. And, most importantly, it went down well with the vegan visitors! (although, if you are following the SCD as I am, I’m very sorry to say that you cannot share the love with this particular cake).

Dark and sumptuous chocolate cake

FOR THE ICING 

60ml cold water

75g coconut butter (which is not the same as oil)

50g soft dark sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso

1 1/2 x 15ml tablespoons cocoa

150g dark chocolate very finely chopped (min. 70% cocoa solids and vegan. I  used Montezuma’s)

FOR THE CAKE 

225g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

75g cocoa

300g soft dark brown sugar

375 ml hot water, fro a recently boiled kettle

90ml (75g if weighed when solid) coconut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 x 15 ml tablespoons chopped pistachios

1 x 20 cm round springform cake tin.

Preheat the oven to 180C and put a baking sheet into it, then start with the icing. Put all of the icing ingredients expect the chopped chocolate into a heavy based pan and bring to the boil, making sure that everything is dissolved. Then turn off the heat and add the chocolate, swilling around so everything melts, then after a minute whisk until it’s dark and glossy. Leave to cool for the time it takes for the cake to cook, stirring every so often.

Line the tin with baking parchment.

Put the flour, bicarb, salt, espresso and cocoa into a bowl and fork to mix.

Mix together the sugar, water, coconut oil and vinegar until the oil has melted and stir into the dry ingredients, then pour into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the edges are coming away from the tin and a fork comes out clean apart from a few crumbs. Transfer and cool on a wire rack.

Stir the icing, which should still be runny enough to cover the cake, then pour on top of it and use a spatula to ease it to the edges. Then add chopped pistachios and leave for half an hour before eating it with enthusiasm.