Category Archives: Breakfast

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 

 

 

 

Hangover cakes 

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Although I am about 89.5% there on the journey of complete acceptance of my carb-free life, there are some times when it feels like only carbs will do. Pregnancy and breastfeeding was probably the worst and most extended time of needing pizza, cake and Pringles really, really badly. But being hungover and feeling like only a serious carb injection will improve matters…well that’s another really good time for feeling really cross about it all.

However, I am happy to inform that if you need cake these ones really hit the mark. Although look away if you are also nut-free as they are a total festival of nutty happiness. And also, just to be clear, despite being carb-free, they are neither slimline, virtuous, nor particularly healthy either. But nor should they be: they are CAKES for goodness sake!

Anyway, don’t get too hung up on the hangover thing. They were named this by Lady Maria (who has recently been made to live a gluten-free life) the morning after she stayed here and woke up in a fug of Prosecco fumes when we whipped up a batch of ’em for her to take on her merry way with a view to trying to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted by lining her stomach in preparation for her day ahead. Point being, you can eat them pretty much any time and still feel actively happy that the universe made you carb or gluten free and thus led you to discover them. They are particularly good with a strong cup of black coffee. They are also really robust, so can withstand a day wrapped in foil at the bottom of your bag if you want to take emergency snacks with you (which is, like, always obviously).

 But if you ARE making these because you are hungover, the other really great thing is that the quantities – I have found out over the years – are a totally moveable feast. Many is the time that I have adjusted amounts of one thing and another quite significantly due either to running out of one thing, or just general slapdashery, and they pretty much always turn out really pretty damn fine.

The other thing to mention is that I have made these cakes for people who avoid gluten-free food like the plague thinking it will be inferior – and I have watched with satisfaction as they go back for a second and then a third.

And one day I will tell you the story of the time that I tried to create a gluten free brand, and mass-produce these little beauties to sell at a well known café. But that is a really long story and, so, for another time (I know – you’re on tenterhooks, right?).

One other thing to mention: I favour the silicone cake moulds, and mine are small heart-shaped, but you do need to grease them. If you are using something bigger you might need to cook them for longer – I’ve made them in cup cake cases and regular metal tins and they work well but those buns do need a bit longer in the oven.

Hangover cakes

2 cups almond flour

2-3 eggs (depending on size)

½ cup Honey

50 g butter, melted

1 cup Peanut butter/hazelnut butter/cashew or almond butter (or a blend)

3/4 cup Raisins

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla essence.

One of the glories of this recipe is that there isn’t really a ‘method’. You just put the almond flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and make a hole in the middle to crack the eggs into. Add the vanilla essence to the eggs and whisk together within the hole before stirring the almonds in so everything is amalgamated. Then add the nut butter and melted butter and stir again so it’s all mixed in before adding in the honey and raisins. The consistency should be slightly runny, so if it is too stiff, whisk up another egg and integrate it and remember that as you spoon it into your mould, they will rise a bit (so don’t fill it too full). Cook at 170 for 18-15 minutes, depending on the size of your moulds, and try to let them cool for a few minutes before scoffing the lot.

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy New Year’s Day eggs (and Prosecco)

SPICY NEW YEARS EGGS AND PROSECCOSPICY NEW YEARS EGGS AND PROSECCO 2

 

Somehow, I woke up with a massive yen for something spicy on New Year’s Day. And eggs. And a bit of chilli zing was just what I needed after slight martini head (only slight, due to inevitable 7am wake up, obviously). So I made a spicy tomato sauce, which is one of those very-little-effort-to-a-high-yield-of-deliciousness dishes, and we cracked eggs into it; a sort of poor man’s version of huevos rancheros.

The secret to a good tomato sauce (I discovered when I did a cooking afternoon at the Cucina Caldesi a few years ago) is lashings – and I really do mean lashings; glugs more than you’d ever even consider normally – of extra virgin olive oil. Also, if you put your garlic cloves in whole – slightly crushed with the back of a knife – it flavours, without over powering. You can add your chilli to taste and, obviously, you don’t have to add eggs, but it’s a really great one pot supper if you do (and also stops you from asking, “But where is the pasta?”).

Tomato sauce (from Giancarlo Caldesi) 

Red onion, finely chopped

About 6 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and whole

1 chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

chilli flakes (if you like it really spicy)

2 tins of tomatoes

salt and pepper

200 ml warm veg stock or water

Fry the onion for about 5 minutes until it’s soft. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute making sure you don’t burn the garlic. Add the salt and pepper and tomatoes (bash them with a wooden spoon to break them up a bit) and then the stock (which makes sure that the sauce doesn’t catch on the pan and burn). Add the oil and turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.

You can eat straight away but it also keeps for at least a week, so you can heat it up when you need it, and if you want to add eggs, wait until it’s hot; make a dip for each egg and put a lid on the top so they cook on top too (or you could put them under a grill if you are slightly phobic about uncooked albumen, as I am). I served it with grated cheese on top and a green salad but slightly wished I’d made some really limey guacamole too.

The joy of omelettes

SATURDAY MORNING OMELETTE GUACAMOLE AND TOMATO AND COFFEE

It’s easy to forget about omelettes, and I often do, partly I think because they are a bit ‘mono’ for supper, as in lots of one thing, a bit like risotto, that you might tire of halfway through.

However, once in a while, when I am asking Tom what we should have for supper and he says ‘omelette?’ I remember their glory. Omelettes for supper come in to their own when a) they are cooked in lashings of butter, the kind of quantities you’d never allow if you gave two hoots about weight gain or cholesterol, b) you’ve got some kind of exciting filling already cooked in the fridge eg cooked sausages, roasted peppers or any roasted veg and c) no matter what else is in there you add cheddar cheese.

Personally, I fear the presence of albumen so greatly that I request that Tom (who is the omelette chef of the house and who has got the technique down so brilliantly that it feels wrong to even attempt it myself) cook it to within an inch of it’s life. I know this is technically wrong and probably quite unsophisticated but I have made peace with my fear of under cooked food and nothing (eggy) could be more pleasing to me than the sight of a blatantly overcooked omelette waiting on a board (because it is too big for a plates to be eaten.

We generally have ‘threggers’ (as in, three eggs). This is because I am always, always on the lookout for leftover potential and quite often put a third of my omelette, uneaten, into a tupperware for tomorrow. This is the kind of thing that I would never, ever have considered doing before I crossed into the Special Needs Food spectrum, but now feels like planting a little seed of hope for those moments when I am looking in the fridge, yearning to eat something I don’t have to actually cook because I really cannot be arsed. However, just as often as I leave some in the fridge, I eat the whole thing up because it’s so delicious I actually can’t help myself. These omelettes were for brunch, but if you serve it with lettuce and tomato and home-made mayo – or even a dollop of pesto, or guacamole – then it can transform itself into supper rather than breakfast. Best of all, it takes about six minutes to prepare and cook and there is only one pan to wash up.

Obviously, there are loads of ways to make omelettes, and it’s harder than it looks (which is why it’s the ultimate test for a new chef in a kitchen). I personally favour the non-elegant, overstuffed omelette that is substantial rather than a tease. But that may well be to do with the fact that I I have not eaten bread or potatoes for six years so always try to avoid feeling hungry.

The only thing I would add is that since we invested in an omelette pan (the kind of thing I used to think was unnecessary – isn’t a pan just a pan?) our omelettes, got a lot better. You can get them quite cheaply and if you are serious about welcoming The Omelette into your life, it’s worth the space it will take up on your pan shelf. That is all.

Ingredients

Three eggs

Salt pepper

Grated cheese

Whatever filling you fancy from spring onions to roasted veg to ham and cheese

Method

If you are cooking your filling eg mushrooms, or spring onions, then sauté those with oil or butter in a pan before you start the omelette.

Whisk the eggs, get the pan sizzlingly hot, add a large knob of butter and pour the eggs in, easing the edge of cooked egg into the middle with a wooden spoon every few seconds, then tilting the pan to fill in the edges with uncooked egg, distributing it evenly. After a minute or two, sprinkle in your cheese and filling, then cook a bit more – very much according to how soft you like your omelettes. Serve by slipping half of the omelette carefully onto a board, then flipping the second half on top with a flick of the wrist.

Serve with salad and tomato, or guacamole if you can be bothered.

 

 

 

 

Almond pancakes with cinnamon honey

ALMOND PANCAKES AND CINNAMON HONEY

I love it when it turns out that there are things I can cook and eat that are entirely about indulgence and don’t feel even the slightest bit ‘making-do’-ish, which is how one feel so much of the time when you are on a special needs diet (especially if you go out! There’s nothing like taking away the sauce and the sides of potato or rice to render most dishes duller than ditchwater).

These pancakes are a bit of a faff, but only in that you are stove-bound for a while as you meticulously turn out pancake after pancake. But if you have a lazy Sunday morning on your hands, and the desire/greed is strong enough, I can’t tell you how worth it it is. The best thing is that civilians enjoy eating them even more than I do because they have every appearance of ‘normal’ pancakes but the nut flour and honey mean that they are about ten times as delicious – and rich. So they really deliver.

You can serve this with very crispy streaky bacon, which elevates the whole experience to decadent. But I’m trying to avoid red meat at the moment and have discovered that although the bacon massively adds to things, you don’t actually notice its absence because you are too busy having a love-in with every bite of pancake, dipped liberally in cinnamony honey.

Almond pancakes

Ingredients

Cup and a quarter of nut flour (I use almond; you can do half almond and half hazelnut, especially if you are grinding your own nuts).

4 eggs

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon baking powder

Teaspoon vanilla essence

Put the ground nuts and baking powder into a bowl and make a well for the eggs, which you then crack in. Add the vanilla and whisk up before adding in the honey and mixing some more.

Melt some butter in a frying pan (you want it hot but not so hot that it burns) and use a spoon to drop batter into the pan, creating small rounds about the width of a bagel, or a bit bigger. Cook for about a minute or until you can nudge it as one entity across the pan, then flip. When both sides are cooked, put on a plate in a gently warmed oven and slowly build your stack. Then serve and talk about nothing other than how much you are enjoying every mouthful until you have eaten so many, you feel faintly queasy. Now, let that be a lesson to you!

Cinnamon honey

Half a cup honey, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla essence, a good shake of cinnamon powder (the latter two depending on how much you like vanilla and cinnamon).

Heat gently in a pan then put in to a bowl to drizzle freely onto pancakes as desired.