Food

Christmas Cooking with Catherine Fulvio

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While most of the time it seems that the only benefit to writing about food is an ever expanding waistline there is also the occassional invite to a food event that allows you to meet and mingle with other food writers and is a good reminder that there is a great community of people out there, writers, chefs, restauranters and food producers that are working away to constantly improve and bring attention to the quality of food available in Ireland.

This week I swaped out my office for an evening spent with Catherine Fulvio in the cookery school at Ballyknocken House in Co. Wicklow, Catherine has partnered with Whirlpool and her school is now a showcase of the new generation of ovens, hobs and most fascinating to me Microwaves that can bake. As soon as I graduate out of rented accomodation I will definitely start looking in to these fancy kitchen appliances, particularly a nice wall fitted waist high oven, the day I no longer have to contort myself to try and look through an oven door or wrench my back while trying to lift a hefty roast out of the oven will be the day I feel I have finally arrived!

We were greeted with prosecco and talked through the menu we would be prepping with Catherine’s guidance, Tomato &Yellow Pepper soup, Mango & Salmon Salad, Cranberry & Mozarell Scones, Turkey & Ham Risotto and Amaretti Biscuits. Catherine also prepared a three tired, chocolate cream and fruit filled meringue with a red wine sauce. I will include two of the recipe’s here and when I get a chance to try the cranberry and mozarella pinwheel scones with gluten free flour I will write about those as I think they would be a lovely option for a festive brunch.

The first recipe is the Yellow Pepper and Tomato Swirl Soup and the second is for the Three Tiered Meringue, both of these are simple, delicious and best of all very impressive looking.

Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup & Tomato Basil Soup

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By Catherine Fulvio
Serves 4-6

For the yellow pepper soup
4 yellow peppers
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp thyme, chopped
250ml vegetable stock, plus extra to thin soup if required (Gluten Free for a GF soup)
3 tbsp cream
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato soup
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 potato, peeled and diced
300ml vegetable stock, plus extra to thin soup if required
2 tsp basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4

  • To make the yellow pepper soup, place the peppers on a roasting tray, rub with olive oil and roast until the skin has browned. Remove immediately from the oven, place in a plastic bag and seal.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the peppers and peel away the skin.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion until soft.
  • Deseed and roughly chop the peppers. Add the peppers, thyme and stock to the onion and heat through.
  • Using a hand blender, puree the soup.
  • Add the cream and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required.
  • To make the tomato soup, heat some oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and sundried tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, potato and stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is cooked through.
  • Add in the basil and remove from the heat.
  • Puree the soup and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required.

To serve,  fill to jugs, one with tomato and one with pepper soup and gently pour the yellow pepper and tomato soup into a bowl at the same time. They will stay separate for an amazing looking and even better tasting yellow pepper and tomato soup. Use a knife or the handle of a spoon to swirl the two soups for a lovely pattern

Blueberry, Strawberry & Pomegranate Meringue Tower

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By Catherine Fulvio
Serves 10–12

For the meringue:
6 egg whites
360g caster sugar

For the filling:
350g dark chocolate
90g butter
150ml double cream, whipped

For the strawberries and blueberries:
300ml red wine
4 tbsp honey
2 sprigs of thyme
300g Strawberries
300g blueberries
2 tsp arrowroot mixed with a little water, to thicken the sauce
1 Pomegranate
Thyme sprigs, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1.

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw large, medium and small heart shapes, measuring 24cm, 20cm and 16cm, on the underside of the parchment paper, ensuring that you can see the shape through the paper.
  • Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean, dry bowl. With an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually whisk in half of the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
  • Fold in the remaining caster sugar.
  • Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Following the outline of the heart shapes, fill in the shapes.
  • Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet with a little of the meringue mixture to ensure the paper doesn’t lift in the oven.
  • Bake immediately for 1 1⁄2 hours, or until set. When they’re done, leave them in the oven with the oven door slightly open so that the meringues can cool.
  • Meanwhile, to prepare the strawberries and blueberries, place the red wine, honey and thyme in a saucepan and warm through.
  • Remove from the heat and add the berries. Cool and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • To make the filling, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  • Allow to cool, then fold in the whipped cream with some of the pomegranate juice.
  • To make the sauce, gently remove the berries from the liquid with a slotted spoon, taking care not to break them, and set aside.
  • Strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add the arrowroot mixture and heat the liquid to thicken it to a light sauce consistency.
  • Spread the large and medium meringue hearts with some of the chocolate mixture and top with the berries & pomegranate seeds.
  • Starting with the largest heart at the bottom, pile the meringues on top of each other.
  • Drizzle generously with the berry thyme sauce & garnish with edible flowers & thyme sprigs.

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Begining the evening with Prosecco and finishing with Amaretti and homemade Orangecello, with a lovely meal and some great cooking tips in between, this was a lovely way to spend a grey Tuesday and a good start to the festive season.

 

Two Restaurant Reviews: Gluten Free Eating in Dublin 7

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It would appear that I have not cooked anything in five days. I have used my kitchen for defrosting and reheating only since last Saturday. This is an unusual occurrence as I am a person who likes to cook, I like to eat and I cook to relax so it is very unusual for me to step back from my oven for so long. Life has been busy and I have been either out in the evenings or so late home from work that the best I can manage is throwing a potato in the microwave to bake. I’m not complaining though, it is good to be busy but I am looking forward to getting back in to my kitchen this weekend.
Although I haven’t been cooking I have been eating and I have two reviews here for restaurants local to my area of Smithfield. One is an update on my review last year of Mulligans the Grocer and the other is of the BBQ place My Meat Wagon which has great food even if it has a name I find strangely off putting.
I love that there are so many restaurants in the Smithfield / Stonybatter area of Dublin 7 where as a celiac I can eat. Mulligans, Oscars, Wuff and My Eat Wagon all offer gluten free options or will adapt their dishes to be celiac friendly if requested and all are a short walk from my front door.
All of these restaurants are convenient to the Light House cinema if you are planning on doing the classic dinner and a movie evening.

 

L Mulligan Grocer

I wrote a review of Mulligans last year in which I was a little scathing of their lack of gluten free sides, one evening I went in and not even the mashed potato was gluten free however I do love the atmosphere in there and also the fact that they serve one of my favourite GF beers, Daas Blond Ale. The other night we wandered in for a pint and to see if there was anything on the menu I could eat and low and behold they presented me with a separate menu listing all the dishes suitable for different allergies / dietary restrictions. It is also mentioned on this menu that they now have a separate fryer for gluten free chips . Good stuff. For starters I ordered the potted crab which was served with a lovely pile of gluten free toast cut in to soldiers and to follow I had the pork belly and a healthy portion of chips which had been fried to crispy perfection in the gluten free fryer. I left happy and very very full.
I really love when restaurants evolve the way they prepare and cook in order to facilitate the needs of hungry diners so well done Mulligans.
L Mulligan Grocer

 

My Meat Wagon
My Meat Wagon has been open for over a year now but I have never been in as there was no indication on their menu, website or facebook page as to whether they catered for a celiac diet or not. The other night I took a chance and just went in and asked the waiter as I was seated and he kindly went through the entire menu with me indicating what I could or couldn’t eat. The waiter also mentioned that they usually have a seperate fryer for gluten free chips but that unfortunately it was out of commission that evening.

 

All of the meat is gluten free and many of the sides so I went for a board with pulled pork and belly pork and slaw and bacon studded mashed potatoes as sides. It was all delicious and there was so much food I asked for a take away box and had the remainder for lunch the following day.
They also serve gluten free beer but alas it was the Damn Daura which is frankly the Bud Light of GF beers so I stuck with wine.
I am not sure why My Meat Wagon don’t make a point about the fact that they can cater for a gluten free diet on their website or on the menu which is pinned up outside the restaurant but I am here to tell you that they do so enjoy!
My Meat Wagon

 

 

Food: Or  Why I Live in Dublin

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There are times, usually around the date my rent is paid that I wonder why I still live in the city. I have friends who seem to be fine living in the suburbs where the rents are cheaper, the nights quieter and the back gardens are larger than a postage stamp. Every time I try to convince myself that I could move I come back to the same thought, food. Living in the city means that I have access to food at all times. There is never a time day or night that I can’t pop to the local store for at least the basic necessities and there is always a 24 Tesco’s somewhere nearby for anything else.

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I also have access to a wide variety of restaurants which as a celiac makes finding somewhere to eat an much easier prospect as I have more options to choose from. I can  choose from Indian food, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Italian, French, Mexican, American Style BBQ and the best of home grown produce served in an ever increasing number of really good and interesting restaurants.

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Every now and then, when I have some spare shillings (or a voucher) I like to take a day and spend it wandering around Dublin, walking through markets, checking out new food stores or coffee places, stopping for good food and maybe a drink or two. If there was an equivalent of Cork’s English Market here life would be perfect but even without that, things are pretty good.

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One of the many benefits of immigration is the surge in restaurants featuring food from different cultures. If you are in Dublin take the time to walk down Parnell St or Capel St past all the Asian restaurants, you will see everything from Sushi to Korean BBQ. With these restaurants come the markets that supply them and this means ingredients that in the past were exotically unobtainable are easily sourced.

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Ireland has been enjoying a food revolution over the last few years. There has been a growth in interest in all things food related from great BBQ and burgers to Michelin starred cooking and everything in between. Food trucks are everywhere doing savage trade. The Slow Food Movement has allowed Irish people to re-engage with locally grown and sourced foods. We take ourselves and our food seriously and that has led to the emergence of some really interesting chefs and cooks.

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Tourists come to Dublin for many reasons, right now food should be the top of that list. Take a day, walk around, grab some cheese and artisan bread (or gluten free crackers) and head to St Stephen’s Green Park for a picnic, if money is no object try one of higher end places for a tasting menu, check out the outdoor Market in Temple Bar on Saturday, stop for some great Mexican food at 777, almost everything on the menu is gluten free. Head down to the Wine Cellar in Fallon & Byrne for charcuterie and gluten free bread. Have a cocktail in one of the many fine cocktail establishments springing up around the City, Sophie’s in the Dean Hotel, The Vintage Cocktail Club or Mint in the Westin Hotel. Go back to Capel St to the Black Sheep for a gluten free beer and some gluten free calamari.

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The food opportunities are ever increasing and definitely almost worth the price of rent!

Cookbook Review: Alcoholic Cupcakes from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me

Eat Me Cookbook

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says I have come to party, but in a controlled safety-switch-on sort of way, like an alcoholic cupcake. They are perfect for hens/bachelorettes, birthdays, afternoon tea; events of any sort really, where there will be plenty of alcohol on hand but possibly not much soakage. These cupcakes are a way of slipping in a little safety net for those who can’t drink like a hobo at Christmas, but like to think that they can. They work well at the start of the festivities when people are sipping the classy wine, heels and hair intact, discussing political events in a sophisticated way. They are less effective if the flip-flops are on, makeup askew and the words ‘And Another Thing’ have been uttered more than once. At that stage, just start laying tarpaulin.

 

However, alcohol in food is a delicate balancing act (excluding jelly-shots which I categorise as solidified alcohol rather than a food product). Unlike a liquid which races through your mouth and is only on your palette for seconds, food is chewed and swirled around your mouth for a few minutes. So something that is delicious as a drink can be overpowering as a food no matter how much you like the flavour. If these cupcakes are to succeed you must remember one simple rule; food is not the medium through which to consume alcohol; if you want to get drunk I suggest stop eating and start drinking. Do not be tempted to add extra shots into recipes to get everyone drunk. The result tastes so disgusting it is inedible which makes the action self-defeating,

 

My favourite recipes are some I have modified from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me cookbook. For those that don’t know Cookie Girl is a lady otherwise known as Xanthe Milton. Ms Milton got into baking professionally while taking a break from acting. She began selling baked goods to West London office workers, before setting up a stall in the Portobello Market, and then going on to supply Selfridges nationwide.

 

In her Eat Me cookbook she has 4 alcoholic recipes – Jack Daniels, Kahula White Russian, Malibu Pina Colada and Margarita. Myself and the Cookie Girl have different tastes in alcohol, so rather than going out and buying an expensive bottle of liquor only to use a few tablespoons, I instead modified her recipes in order to use alcohol I did have in my house. The results work very well so long as you substitute similar flavours. So for instance, I don’t have Jack Daniels but I do like the occasional Southern Comfort and coke, so I exchanged shots of Jack for Sunny C. I don’t have Kahula, but I do have Tia Maria, this exchange works quiet well.

 

However, sometimes exchanges are not possible. Nothing tastes like tequila. It is unique. However, it would be a shame to have to fork out about €40 for a bottle only to use 2 tablespoons, so instead bring a flask down to your local pub and buy two shots for closer to €5. The barman might give you a funny look, and the bar flies might think that you are more pissed than they are, but really, if it means the success or failure of your cupcakes do you really care about their opinions?

 

Another tip is to be careful of the decoration that you propose to use. Most of Cookie Girl’s recipes rely on the action of both the cupcake and the icing together to make the flavour, so if you plan to use rolled icing or some other decoration, make sure you have a strategy to add it on top of the flavoured icing in the recipes. I find that little cocktail umbrellas are a great way to decorate these cupcakes, because nothing says sophisticated fun like a little umbrella.

 

However, if you have all the ingredients that she calls for, these are simple recipes that are easy to follow and have great results.

Review: Tesco Free From Gluten Free Frozen Pizza

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Over cooked because that is how I like my frozen pizza, the crispy cheese is not the fault of Tesco!

I have to say I am a big fan of the Tesco Gluten Free range, it is relatively affordable and their Microwavable GF hot chocolate puddings have cheered up many a miserably rainy evening for me. Sometimes they get it wrong, the GF version of Tiramisu is just not pleasant, but the bread, pasta and digestive cookies (which I always use for cheesecake bases) are great and I defy anyone to try the new Tesco Finest GF All Butter White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies and find them anything but delicious.

One hung over Sunday afternoon while attempting to grocery shop and dinner plan I found the Tesco GF Frozen Pizza, annoyingly it wasn’t with all the other pizza’s it was off with the Weight Watchers frozen dinners for some reason and I only found it because I was in that glazed state where I had to stare at all the shelves until my brain could focus on what I might actually be shopping for.

The packaging couldn’t be more secure to prevent contamination, this thing is literally hermetically sealed in hard plastic and, bonus, it was only €3.99. This is not too far from the price of a regular frozen pizza and in fact is less than many of the Goodfellas and Chicago Town pizza’s.

Given my fragile state this was a very welcome find as I was in no mood to actually do anything more complicated than open a package and put something in the oven. In fairness to Tesco this is pretty good value and wasn’t bad. The base is quite thick and bread like, it reminded me of the bases you would find in supermarket delis where you make up your own pizza at the counter. The tomato sauce was good and there was a fair amount of cheese and all in all it was a tasty pizza, nothing fancy but it hit the spot.

I think this pizza would be great for anyone with celiac kids who might be fussy about eating anything more than a plain cheese pizza and if you had a kid’s party you could give this to everyone and I don’t think you would get any complaints.
This is also a nice frugal find for the days when you don’t want to pay €7+ for a gluten free pizza.

Barbequing Gluten Free

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The Sun is out the weather is glorious (well it was yesterday!) and it is the season of the BBQ. Whether you have a serious BBQ set up in your back garden, a lovingly constructed brick number that doubles as a pizza oven or a disposable tray barbie there is nothing like firing up the gas or coals and enjoying some al fresco cooking.

If you are celiac, or have some celiac friends you want to cater for, barbequing can present some challenges but they are easy enough to overcome. The main job of a host is to put their guests at ease and make them feel welcome. Many people with celiac get stressed out at the thought of the stress they are putting their prospective hosts under and will often volunteer to not eat or to bring their own food. This isn’t good for either party so communication is key, chat to your GF friend, ask for advice or suggestions and let them know that you take their condition seriously.

The main thing to think about is your cooking surface, the grill tray. If you have previously cooked breaded food stuffs or anything in a bbq sauce or marinade that had gluten containing ingredients such as wheat, barley, oats and rye then you need to scald and scrub that tray. If it will fit put it in the dishwasher otherwise really get in there with a metal grill scourer.

Another option, if you plan on cooking a limited selection of meat specifically for your GF buddy, would be to get a disposable BBQ that can be a dedicated GF area.

Check the ingredients of your meat. If you are using fresh meat such as chops or steaks then buy them free of marinades or rubs and then either make your own or buy a Gluten Free version.

Check the ingredients of burgers and sausages. For burgers you want a burger patty that is all meat with no breadcrumb filler. Ask the butcher or if you are buying pre-packed check the label. You could also buy some mince and make your own. There is a much larger selection of GF sausages about now than there used to be, Hodgins, Clonakilty and Jane Russell sausages are all available in a variety of super markets and Marks & Spencer’s do a nice selection of sausies using a gluten free crumb.

GF bread can be a minefield, people tend to have preferences and you should where possible abide by them. For instance I like the Kelkin Sourdough bread, my nephew who is also celiac thinks it is wretched stuff. Ask your GF guest if they have a particular brand of bread they would like you to get, they may suggest they bring their own and that will solve the problem.

Set up a little GF serving section, have separate cheese, tomatoes and pickles etc. For sauces you could either get squeezy bottles of condiments or decant tomato sauce, mayonnaise and mustard in to little serving bowls or jars so that your GF guest will know they are safe from cross contamination.

If you are making salads you should again check ingredients, avoid croutons and dressings that have gluten. If you are making a variety of salads some with gluten containing ingredients then each bowl should have its own serving spoon to avoid cross contamination. Let your guests know the importance of keep the spoons in their assigned bowls, label them if you have to, to avoid cross contamination. Another handy thing to do would be to make little ingredients cards that you can put next to each salad so your GF guest knows what is and isn’t safe to eat without having to find you and ask you. For label inspiration look at pintrest, you can do many cute things with card and twine.

It may seem a daunting task to prepare food for someone with celiac but with a little planning and research you should have no problem organising a bbq where everyone is happy and well fed. Your Gluten Free friends will really appreciate any effort you go to.

 

Friday Review: Guten Free Black Pudding

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A few years ago you couldn’t go to a restaurant without there being some kind of Black Pudding starter on the menu. Black Pudding salads, Black Pudding Bruschetta, Black Pudding Croquettes, black pudding was the height of food fashion just about the time I stopped being able to eat it. Given the rise of artisan butchers creating their own quality pudding and sausages the humble black pudding has managed to stay in vogue. Pudding was always a breakfast staple, one of my favourite food memories is of my dad mashing crumbly black pudding with tomato sauce and smearing this glorious paste on toast for us on weekend mornings, it may sound odd but don’t knock it until you have tried it. Outside of breakfast black pudding with its lovely complex flavour and texture can be a great addition to many dishes.

I have already waxed lyrical on my joy at the ready availability of gluten free sausages but I was even more delighted to find Gluten Free black pudding. In an effort to fill the craving I had gone so far as finding a recipe to make my own but it began with locating a few quarts of pigs blood and I wasn’t quite sure how to go about sourcing that in city centre Dublin.

Both Hodgins (featured here) and Clonakilty do very good gluten free black puddings. They have slightly different textures, Hodgins is firmer which is great for grilling while the Clonakilty pudding is slightly looser and therefore great for crumbling into other dishes. They are both equally delicious and if you are planning a breakfast that includes both celiacs and non- celiacs you could serve everyone either of these puddings and the non celiacs would never know the difference.

One point in Clonakilty’s favour is that they do a duo pack of mini Gluten Free Black and White Pudding which is very handy for a two person household. I have found the Hodgins and Clonakilty puddings in Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Super Value but like a lot of gluten free products their availability can be sporadic. If you can find them pick some up and enjoy a gluten free full Irish breakfast this weekend!

 

 

Guest Blog: Maire Brophy with Vegan Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a delightful way to add a touch of class to any party. We are big fans of it here at A Home Made By Committee and it is something that we have discussed previously in our coverage of Galentines Day. However, the task of hosting such an event is made a little more difficult if your guest of honour has strict dietary requirements, such as being vegan. Some creativity and inventiveness is required to fulfill these requirements without losing the look and feel of a traditional Afternoon Tea. Here is how Maire rose to the challenge …..

 

As a special celebration for a vegan friend of mine, I decided to make us some afternoon tea.

 

Menu

Finger sandwiches with hummus, rocket and red onion

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Bruschetta

Basil and plum tomatoes

Roasted red peppers and avocado

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Raspberry scones with coconut cream and jam

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Pinwheel cookies and chocolate brownies

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Tea and Prosecco

 

 

Vegan Finger Sandwiches and Bruschetta

As a baker I knew there was plenty of recipes that would work. The hardest thing, as it happens, was to find the fillings for some lovely finger sandwiches. I think these ones are much superior to the traditional cucumber sambos. Make these just before serving.

Vegan Brushetta

  1. Spread hummus on to two slices of fresh white bread, add leaves of rocket and thin slices of red onion. Cut the crusts off and cut into finger sandwich sizes
  2.  Get some fresh, Italian bread, or some other crusty bread, cut into bite size servings (we’re being civilised here remember). Toast lightly.
  3.  In a bowl mix diced fresh tomatoes with some finely chopped red onion, finely chopped fresh basil, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar. Spread this on half of your toasted bread, and heat briefly under the grill.
  4.   Chop some avocado into small cubes, mix with roasted peppers and add some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on to the other half of your toasted bread and grill briefly. Serve warm.

 

Raspberry Scones

My usual scone recipe is egg-free anyway, so this was just a matter of substituting the regular milk to soy milk

scone Collage

Ingredients

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 120g dairy-free margarine (stork or similar)
  • 100g sugar
  • 300ml soya milk
  • small punnet of fresh raspberries, washed

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C
  2. Rub the marg and flour together, or just use a mixer… I used a mixer. Stick it on for a bit and check that the flour and marg are evenly mixed together – and there aren’t any large lumps. Then add your sugar and mix again.
  3. Next add the soy milk and mix. When the mixture is uniform, you can add the raspberries. The raspberries are fragile and will break as you mix. If you want large raspberry pieces, don’t mix for too long.
  4. Flour a clean work-surface and put your mix on it. Knead the mixture gently until it forms a smooth dough, this should only take a minute or two. The fresh raspberries will make your mixture wetter so you might need to use a bit of extra flour at this point.
  5. Flatten it out to about 1 or 2 cm thick and use a glass or cutter to cut out the size you want.
  6. Put your scones on floured baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes – until they’re turning a little golden on top. The cooking time will depend on how big your scones are. Larger scones will take a little longer
  7. This mix makes 10-12 medium to large scones. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. And then have at least one just to check that they’re ok, and not because you want to have greedy scoffingtons.

 

 

Pinwheel cookies

vegan pinwheel cookies

Ingredients

  • 275g plain flour
  • 200g dairy free margarine (stork or similar) room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and grease some flat baking trays.
  2.  Cream the butter and sugar together – again I just through them in the mixer. It helps if you leave the margarine out for a few hours before using it. Add in the flour and mix into a manageable dough.
  3.  Divide the mixture roughly in half and add the cocoa powder to one have.
  4.  Roll out each mixture between two sheets of greaseproof paper or parchment. Try to make them roughly the same size. When done place one on top of the other. Trim the edges to make a rectangle (trimmings also make delicious cookies), roll it up ala a swiss roll and then put it in the fridge for half an hour or so.
  5.  When it’s had a chance to chill and harden a little bit, take it out and slice it to give you the pinwheel cookie shape. Place on the greased trays and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6.  When out of the oven leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

 

 Vegan brownies

These are very good, although they do lack the chewy edges you get from usual brownies. The original recipe called for 250ml of oil, although I saw a suggestion that you could lower the amount oil by using apple sauce or chocolate pudding. I found vegan chocolate pudding in my local supermarket, and so replace 100ml of oil with two chocolate puddings.

 

Ingredients

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 350g brown sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 250ml water
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 vegan chocolate puddings (or just use 250ml oil)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment
  2. Mix all the dry ingredient together and then add the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined.
  3. Pour into your tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is no longer shiny. Allow it to cool in the try before cutting it into squares.

 

Obviously taste one… quality control you know.

You might have to have a second one, just to be sure.

 

Vegan Tea

Make sure you scald the pot first (that’s not especially for vegans, that’s just being a civilised human being!)

Use soya or almond milk instead of cow’s milk

 

Vegan Prosecco

Just use regular prosecco…. add some fruit, because you know, 5 a day and all that.

 

 

 

End results:Scoffingtons!

vegan tea the end

 

 

 

 

 

Goodness Grain Gluten Free Bread Review

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When I was first diagnosed as celiac my fist big cry was over bread, ten year ago Gluten Free bread options were not what they are today. Bread was dry, tasteless and bizarrely small. Wee slices of bread, with the texture of a dish washing sponge and they always needed to be toasted.

Farewell, crusty baguettes slathered in butter, soft yielding brioche burger buns, white sliced bread sandwiching crisps or chips, the future looked bleak.

Ten years on and the situation has improved dramatically. For one thing you can get GF bread that is the almost the same size as non GF bread, which is a bonus when you are making sandwiches. The flavour of the bread and the texture has also improved. I think more and more companies are spending time and money researching ways to improve the overall quality of gluten free products which I appreciate given the extravagant cost of GF products.

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My treat bread right now is the Goodness Grain Bread, my favourite being the Sundried Tomato and Olive Loaf.
This is the first GF bread I have found that is truly pleasant to eat. I would sit there with a pound of butter and munch my way through a loaf. The texture is great, nicely soft and it slices really well. It also looks appetizing and so is great for dinner parties where you want to put bread out for your guests. I have served this the people who haven’t guessed that it is gluten free.

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A loaf is priced at €4.95 from Fallon & Byrne but also available online at http://goodnessgrains.com/ The website also has a full list of stockists.

HAS No: Gluten Free Muffins by Aldi

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As I was doing the groceries a few weeks ago I noted that Aldi is now doing a Gluten Free range. I spotted bread, pasta, cereal, biscuits and chocolate muffins. Shopping Gluten Free can be very expensive, particularly if you are in a situation where a few people in the one household are celiac so it is great to see a range of low cost products.
I don’t usually buy Gluten Free baked goods, I prefer to make my own as it annoys me that I am expected to pay between €2 and €4 for individual baked goods that have been made with margarine rather than butter, I don’t like margarine. Like all muffins though these were made with oil so I picked up one of the double pack of chocolate muffins.
The packaging is bright and the ingredients clearly labelled. I liked the way the muffins were presented, wrapped in paper in a solid container. The muffins are a good dark chocolate brown with a nice sheen. The producers have decided to counteract the usually dryness of GF baked goods by having a chocolate flavour filling almost as if they drizzled chocolate syrup over the muffin after it was baked.

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The muffins themselves were nice, not earth shatteringly great but nice, soft with a moist crumby texture and not at all dry or heavy like many gluten free products. I really enjoyed eating a treat I hadn’t baked myself that didn’t cost the earth. The muffins lovely with a cup of tea and I think that if you heated one up and served it with a scoop of ice cream it would be delicious. The pack of two muffins cost €1.99 which is an unbelievable bargain when you consider that one Goodness Grain Blueberry Muffin is €2.40 and one Delicious GF Brownie is €1.25 (if purchased online).
I opened the pack on Monday evening and had one muffin and on Wednesday morning grabbed the second muffin to have with coffee in work. The muffin was still nice and soft two days after the packaging had been opened so that was a nice surprise.
I would recommend anyone shopping GF on a budget to check out this range. I haven’t tried anything else yet but I am hoping that the muffin and the Aldi GF bread, which I also like, give a good indication of the quality of the range.

 

Alastair Hendy’s Asia: Food and Travel, A Cookbook Review

I am growing a nice collection of cookbooks and aside from a few specialist gluten free cookbooks that I purchased when I was first diagnosed celiac I tend to choose my books by their covers, or to be more accurate for their design. I prefer a beautifully put together, lovingly photographed book to a more straight- forward collection of recipes, no matter how good the recipes may be.

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Good cookbooks set a scene and tell a story. They are as much about experiencing the pleasure of food, cooking and eating as they are about the recipes. Alastair Hendy’s Asia: Food & Travels is one of the most inviting and enthralling storytelling cookbooks that I have ever had the pleasure to sit down and read. If National Geographic published cookbooks this is what they would look like. This book follows Hendy’s travels in Asia and recreates recipes he encountered along the way. The photographs are amazing and the recipes that I have tried have also been amazing.

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I found this book one Saturday after a lovely, but ultimately unsatisfying lunch (€40 later I was still hungry) in a Japanese restaurant. Because I am celiac I can be somewhat limited in what I can eat in Asian restaurants mainly due to the inclusion of soy sauce. Thai food is usually gluten free, sashimi is fine, sushi can be ok depending on the rice but anything like a bento box or a great steaming bowl of ramen is definitely a no go for me. Determined to learn to cook / adapt for gluten free at least a few recipes from this part of the world I headed to Chapters book shop. Chapters can be great for finding good discount priced books. Browsing the shelves I came across this beauty reduced down to €5 and initially just started flicking through it because the photographs are so lovely. A few minutes later and I was at the till, book in hand and then straight across to the Asian store on Moore Street for ingredients.

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Another thing that raises cookbooks above the norm for me is when they inspire other people in my life to cook for me and this is one of those books. One happy day I stood in my kitchen, camera in one hand glass of wine in the other while my partner Dave cooked up the Keralan Mussels with Ginger & Chilli.
This simple recipe: 1 kg net of Mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded, 2 shallots, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 mild chilli’s, all finely chopped, a grated 4 cm piece of ginger, 1 tsp of paprika, some coriander and a splash of coconut milk to finish was absolutely gorgeous. The aroma of the cooking was unbelievable and the combination of flavours was beautiful. We served this in bowls filled with rice noodles so none of the sauce or any errant mussels that escaped their shells went to waste.

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This book collects food memories and recipes from India to Japan and places in between and I look forward to working my way through the book from country to country. Already the Floating Market Noodles with their garnish of prawns caramelised in fish sauce and sugar and the Hill Station Curry with New Potatoes have become regular dinners in our house.
If you are looking for a really beautiful gift for a friend who loves food or a pressie for yourself I would heartily recommend this book.

 

 

Galentine’s Day: Beginners guide to throwing an Afternoon Tea party

 

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Inspired by Leslie from Parks and Recreation, this bespoke day is an annual celebration of your female friendships, which is supposed to take place the day before Valentine’s Day. However, I think such a wonderful idea should not be limited by calendar dates, but instead be allowed run free throughout the year, to land of any day of your choosing. The day of my choosing was last weekend, when I threw an afternoon tea-party for six of my very favourite gal pals.

 

Now, it’s all very well to decide to throw afternoon tea, but as the date drew closer and the realisation dawned on me that not only would I have to feed these people without giving them food poisoning (I and my husband have built up a digestional resistance to my cooking but I worry when I have to inflict it on the innocent) but they would also be in my permanently-partially-decorated home, free to roam and open doors and drawers at will. This required a strategy.

 

Food:

First thing was the menu. I need something that I could easily prepare, would earn me a shot at the domestic goddess title, without actually requiring too much effort. The golden rule from Ms Delia Smith is that you should buy something and make something, so I decided on:

  • Three types of sandwich cut into triangles

These are easy, make as normal, cut into triangles held together with toothpick, arrange nicely on display stand

  • Scones with jam, cream and butter

For the scones you could make from scratch, but I bought a ready-mixed Odlum QuickMix packet and added what was needed. My special touch was using my heart shaped scone cutters to make heart shaped scones – so cute. Jam, cream and butter I just served in cute little dishes

  • Croissants

Bought a Bake-it-fresh JusRol pack, rolled and popped in the oven

  • Brioche

This I just bought in a packet from Tescos. Took from packet and placed artistically on plate, job done.

  • Brownies with cream and strawberries for dessert

I bought a ready-mixed packet and once I had cooked them, I simply arranged on a pretty plate

  • Tea
  • Champagne with strawberry icecubes

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Getting Ready. The Timeline:

 

Three or Four Days before G-Day

  • I cleaned the house top to bottom. I scrubbed bathrooms, hovered, cleaned and put away clothes, emptied bins: the works. I gave it the full mother-in-law-about-to-visit treatment.
  • I also did the shopping, and got in all the supplies that I needed.

 

Night before G-Day

  • Cleaned again, but this time it only needed a light spruce, the heavy work having been already completed.
  • Made heart-shaped strawberry ice-cubes, by dicing strawberries into a heart-shaped ice-cube tray.
  • Picked out and tried on clothes for tomorrow – when you are in a rush it is not the time to discover your skinny jeans no longer fit.
  • Make sure you have enough display plates and stands for the amount of food you will be serving, and that you have enough delph and cutlery for all the courses, and all your guests.

 

G-day morning;

  • Up out of the bed at 7am.
  • Set alarm to 12pm, two hours before arrival time of 2pm.
  • I started cooking at 8am by turning on the oven to preheat.
  • I checked all the cooking instructions, and the first things made were the scones as they took the longest to cook.
  • While they were cooking I made the sandwiches.
  • Once the scones were done, I put them on the cooling rack and started the croissants: they were rolled and put in the oven.
  • While they were cooking I set the table and laid out the brioche and sandwiches.
  • Once the croissants were ready they went onto the cooling rack and the brownies were next.
  • As the brownies cooked, I finished laying the table.
  • Then I cleaned dishes and started to clean the kitchen when alarm went off – 2 hours to go. I decided to finish cleaning the kitchen, which took a half hour, before going and getting washed and dressed myself.

Point to note: It is always better to be dressed long before guests arrive, in case somebody arrives early. You can always get an early bird to help you with the set-up, you cannot invite them to help you apply your makeup. And you certainly don’t want to run over time and have all your guests arrive when you are only half dressed.

  • Once dressed, I laid out the scones and croissants on the table, and put the brownies to one side for later.
  • I cleaned dishes again (because I did not want the dishwasher whirling away while we were eating), and was just pouring a glass of champagne when bing-bong, the doorbell rang to signal the arrival of the first guests.

 

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Be Free Wraps

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If you work on Baggot st in Dublin 4 chances are you have bought lunch in Donnybrook Fair at some point. If you have been tothe sandwich counter you have most definitely heard people ordering a Number 13, I reckon it is the most frequently ordered sandwich they make. This wrap, filled with breaded chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and a taco mayonnaise has kept body and soul together for a lot of the people I work with and I have long envied them.
Tortilla wraps were big a while back as a low carb alternative to bread but I have always liked them because they allow you to concentrate on the filling rather than the bread of a sandwich. I love burritos; meat, rice, beans, cheese, salsa and sour cream all together in a neat little tube of tasty goodness. My favorite though is a toasted wrap, a crisp, slightly scorched wrap oozing melted cheese.
When I was diagnosed celiac I resigned myself to a life of hard or soft corn tacos but while they were great for mexican food they didnot fill my sandwich needs. I learned to make my own gluten free wraps and they were fine if a bit labour intensive
and not great for mid week work lunches.
The Be Free Wraps are that rare gluten free productthat is so close to the gluten filled version that it is hard to tell between the
two. The Be Free Warps are as soft and as pliant as regular flour wraps, you can eat them straight out of the pack so
they are great for lunches and they toast really well.

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A great lunch time or post pub snack is a wrap filled with tuna mayonnaise and cheese. Fill the wrap with cheese and tuna, fold two ends of the wrap up over the filling and then roll the wrap tight. Place in a hot dry frying pan with the join side
down and toast until crisp and golden brown, or if you are me slightly blackened, then turn and toast the other side. Remove from thepan and cut in half and enjoy.

Peanut Carmel Corn

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It has been many a year since I stayed up all night to watch the Oscars, firstly because I still miss Barry Norman’s commentary and secondly because I don’t receive any television broadcast signal on my TV. My TV is for Xbox use and DVD watching only, unfortunately this doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the TV License man but that is a rant for another day.

Happily this year I was invited to a party for the 2014 Academy Awards, thank you Bren and Charlene! There was the drinking of blueberry cocktails, the critiquing of gowns and betting on results. All in all, great craic.

Not wanting to turn up empty handed and also knowing I would need something gluten free to nibble on I made a large bowl of Peanut Caramel Corn.

The best nibbles are always a mix of savory and sweet, I am a girl who loves to combine the saltiness of crisps with a bit of chocolate. This caramel corn, sweet but with the salty crunch of peanuts can lead to compulsive eating so it is best to make it when you know you have a crowd to share it with.

You will need a very large pot for the popcorn, 1/2 cup of kernels makes more popcorn than you might think, and a very large bowl for mixing in the caramel.

  • 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil + extra for the trays (you don’t want to use a strong flavored olive oil for this)
  • 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 2 cups of salted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  1. Coat a large bowl or roasting dish and two baking sheets with a thin coating of oil
  2. In a large saucepan heat the oil over a medium high heat and add the kernels. Cover the saucepan with a lid and move it about over the heat as the pop corn pops. Keep the pan moving so the pop corn doesn’t burn. Keep the lid on until the popping slows down. This should take five or six minutes.
  3. Put the pop corn in to the prepped very large bowl or roasting tin and stir in the 2 cups of peanuts.
  4. Put the 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder in to a small dish, this will make it easier to tip in to the carmel later.
  5. In a medium saucepan with a heavy add the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup of water.
  6. Cook over a high heat without stirring, you will be tempted but do not stir.
  7. Cook until the mixture turns a light golden caramel color, this should take between 10 and fifteen minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and with exaggerated care add the baking soda, the mixture will fizz and bubble up.
  9. Whisk in the soda and immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn and peanuts and stir to combine. Try very hard to not spill the carmel on your fingers and don’t be tempted to taste, I managed to get a drop of caramel on the tip of my finger and was left with a lovely big blister a few minutes later. Caramel is extremely hot and will burn so be careful and take it slow.
  10. Once the carmel, nuts and popcorn are combined  divide the mixture between the two baking sheets and spread it out as best you can.
  11. Leave to cool and then break in to bite size pieces, you can use your hands for this or some gentle tapping with a rolling pin also works.
  12. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

Hustler’s Breakfast In Bed

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Everyone has been in the situation. It’s a weekend morning. You wake up a little bit earlier than necessary, and very quietly slip out of bed. Without waking anyone else, you steal downstairs, avoiding that one creaky step, into the kitchen. This is your moment.

Whether the person upstairs is a new beau, or a long-time love in need of a romantic gesture, or even (because not all our motivations have to be about sex) a guest you would like to impress, nothing says “You got lucky when you landed here” like a selection of freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolate with just brewed coffee being delivered as breakfast in bed.

Just one tiny snag you think, the reason the object of my affections is not getting a full fry for breakfast is because the last time I tried to do that on my own the neighbours called the fire brigade when they saw the smoke billowing from the kitchen window. I can barely boil an egg let alone produce edible croissants. I can brew the coffee but that’s it, I’ll have to sneak to Tesco’s for the rest.

Well before you venture outside wearing whatever you woke up in, and making the person upstairs think you have abandoned ship, I have the magic solution; JusRol’s Bake-it-fresh.
In Tesco’s this product generally lives somewhere around the baking aisle. It shouldn’t. Bakers don’t need it; they have their own special powers of seduction. It should live beside the ‘I love you’ flowers, the ‘I was thinking of you’ chocolates, or the ‘You lookin’ so fine’ bottles of wine. Brandished effectively it is as much a weapon on the field of war, that is love, as push-up bras and stilettos.

Also unlike flowers and chocolates, which if you stockpile you look like some sort of player or dejected stalker, this item can live an innocuous life in your press for several months, behind the sugar and the pasta, hinting to nobody your ulterior motives, until bam, your moment to strike.

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The preparation
JusRol tubes are incredibly easy to use, so easy in fact the instructions don’t even have words, just little pictures. You bust open the pack, roll up the pastry and pop in the oven. While you do that, boil the kettle and make the coffee. Done. The whole process takes 20 minutes tops. Then just pop on a tray*, whisk upstairs and be ready for the waves of praise and admiration.
*If the object of your affections is likely to wake up with a hangover add two solphodine and a large glass of water to the tray or else all this will have been all for nothing.

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Eating out in Dublin while Celiac: A Review

V21. Review

Today I have two restaurant reviews that are less reviews of the food and more reviews of eating out while celiac. My issues may come across as a bit whiney and to be honest I think it is fear of the appearance of whinging that stops a lot of celiacs complaining to or about restaurants.

If your significant other has brought you out for dinner the last thing you want to do is be unhappy with their choice of restaurant, particularly if you know they have double and triple checked that the restaurant caters for GF. One anniversary I ended up in the Ely on Grand Canal Place and while serving me my lamb burger without a bun the waitress asked if could recommend a good GF bun to the chef. To that chef I say try the internet, wander over to any grocery store, get on to the Celiac Society but don’t ask the lady who has been brought to your restaurant because you promised her boyfriend you could cater for GF.

If you are with a large group you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to your dietary restrictions, it makes you feel fussy and a bit of a bore when all you want to do is have a the craic with your mates.

In a perfect world if you call a restaurant and they say their menu can be adapted for celiacs you should be able to trust that and relax. However the world is far from perfect, celiacs know this. You start to wonder if the kitchen staff really know what it means to be celiac, do they think you are just on some gluten free diet because you are trying to lose weight? You start to imagine that the kitchen is a seething mess of cross contamination. The fear sets in and you have to start asking questions.

I understand how difficult it can be to make a kitchen safe for GF cooking and I appreciate every restaurant kitchen that tries however there are somethings that drive me crackers when eating out and unfortunately for the two restaurants I am writing about today, they both managed annoyed me.

Mulligans the Grocer on Manor Street.

Ah Mulligans, you are right around the corner from me and you have an excellent whiskey collection, your desert coffees, lifted above and beyond the mere Irish Coffee are luscious and good. You stock gluten free beers and a nice selection of wines. For all of this I thank you.

Dave and I used to eat in Mulligans a lot, the prices were very reasonable and the staff informed and very good about advising me on what I could and couldn’t eat. Although the starters and deserts were mostly out of bounds a main course was usually all I wanted anyway.

Then things started to change, main course prices went up and the dishes which had been lovely in their simplicity became a little too adorned. Everything seemed to come with some kind of croquette or other garnish that was in no way adaptable for GF.

The last time I ate there I asked about my go-to dish which was always the slow roast pork belly, golden with crackling, served with lovely mash to soak up the even lovelier gravy which cheered my heart by always being GF. It was food that was good for the soul. Dave, a man who never orders chicken in a restaurant always got the Chicken Kiev, the chicken was always tasty as were the chips but the real attraction was the creamed corn, this he would eat from the pot with a spoon given half a chance.

So as usual I asked our server what I could eat and true to form he went to the kitchen to check. The pork and thankfully the gravy were fine as long as I forgo the accompanying croquette and crumble. However there wasn’t a potato dish on the menu that I could eat, not twice cooked chips nor mash. What I ask are you doing to mash that fills it with gluten? What I ask you is the good of gravy without a carb to soak it up? The lovely chef did fill my plate with a variety of vegetable sides and made me one of the aforementioned crumbles without crumbs but with bubbly cheese topping. If I was eating Paleo it would have been a perfect meal but I missed the mash, so many restaurants cannot do a good mash but Mulligans was always buttery perfection.

The mother of all peeves for me though is that finding a GF chip in Dublin is akin to searching for the Holy Grail, I challenge both Indiana Jones and Dan Brown to find one. Beshoffs you will remind me, and indeed Beshoffs do GF chips but in fairness Beshoffs is a chipper, they have the skills, it is what they do. I am grateful for their efforts but I am talking about non chipper restaurants.

How hard is it to keep a separate deep fat fryer in a kitchen for GF chips, and why not go mad and throw a few GF onion rings in there. This is a simple solution to my chip needs and if there is a reason that prevents restaurants from doing this simple thing then someone needs to explain it to me.

As for Dave his Kiev arrived with a wee pail of chips on the plate and sorrow of sorrows only a thin slick of the creamed corn painted artfully on to the plate in the style of Master Chef contestants.

While Mulligans gets so many things right there are little mistakes that take away from the experience. And it isn’t just me, talking to friends who used to wander over from the south side to eat in Mulligans I have found that it just isn’t the draw it used to be. I hope this changes as I like to support local businesses and to see this part of Dublin thriving.

Brasserie 66 on Georges Street.

I hadn’t eaten here before but I heard good things about the brunch and also that the menu had a lot of GF options. My parents were visiting recently so a group of six of us headed out for dinner on a Saturday night. We were seated, drink orders taken and I perused the menu. Very promisingly there was C for celiac on the menu to denote what I could eat. I decided on a Chicken Skewer for starter and the Stuffed Pork for main. When I went to make my order however I was told the pork was not GF despite the bloody great C printed right next to it, I was vexed to say the least. Why tempt me with pork and then say no. A mistake I was told, the menu needed to be reprinted. Apparently the roast chicken was GF so in a bit of a panic I said ok to that and ended up with a chicken starter and a chicken main course.

So having had this discussion about my GF requirements the waiter returned to the table with half a loaf of crusty bread on a board with a bread knife, so the bread could be cut as needed. A lovely idea but even with my dad and his near surgical skill with a bread knife crumbs flew everywhere in the natural manner of bread crumbs. Hither and yon over the table they went, my hand reflexively shot out to cover both my wine glass and top of the carafe. As discretely as I could I brushed the crumbs away and sat there sadly watching as bread was slathered in butter and munched. There was no bread for me, apparently celiacs are ok with waiting in a busy restaurant for their starter without anything to nibble on.

I want to buy flowers for restaurants that bring me GF bread, they have me at that small gesture that says we acknowledge that you might also be a bit peckish and need something to soak up the wine you are sipping while waiting for your meal.

It isn’t rocket science, if you don’t want to bake GF bread in house there are a number of good breads out there, keep some in the freezer, I will take toast over nothing.

My skewer came without the pitta bread it should have been served with although I know that right across the street in Dunnes Stores there are GF pitta breads, right across the street people!

And now I seem churlish, surely the fact that I could eat there at all should be enough. I had a great night, I was with family and the food I had was good but I have been diagnosed celiac for almost ten years now and the ease of sourcing products, the availability of information should mean the restaurants shouldn’t have these annoying restrictions around catering for GF.
Things are better, indeed they are, when I was first diagnosed I didn’t eat out for a long time for fear of cross contamination, it was all a bit stressful and took the good out of what should have been a treat. But things can still be better. If as a restaurant you can’t fully to commit to catering for celiacs then make a decision not to and make this known when you are contacted with queries. I won’t be mad, I will be relieved that you are being honest, just don’t half ass it, that is letting you and me down. If you do want to cater for GF then think it through, try and make our dining experience comparable to our fellow diners. We will thank you with our repeated custom.

Marcos Gluten Free Irish Pizza

V15 Marco GF Pizza Review
Sometimes I tell myself I should just be grateful that certain gluten free products exist. Whether they are very good or not it feels slightly mean spirited to look at someone’s gluten free offering and say that it just isn’t great. They are trying after all and I applaud that effort but given the price consumers are asked to pay for gluten free products I have decided that I am going to expect a little bit more from the producers even if that makes me seem ungrateful.

Case in point would be the Marco’s Gluten Free Irish Pizza I picked up for the bargain price of €4.99 on my way home from a very long day at work. I am in the midst of getting a hole in my kitchen ceiling repaired so the contents of my kitchen currently live in my sitting room, this makes cooking an adventure. On this particular evening I was tired and unwilling to prep food in a building site, convenience is what I was looking for and I found it in the freezer section.

It isn’t too hard to find gluten free pizza, a few restaurants offer it as an option and Domino’s will even deliver one right to my door. I make my own pizza base using the recipe on the back of the Dove’s Farm Bread Flour mix and I would recommend this base to anyone. My point is that GF pizza is not the Holy Grail it once was and as such I want my pizza to be good. Marco’s pizza was just not that good.

On the plus side the base was very good, it was thin and crisp just the way I like it. As the GF base is normally the most difficult thing to get right I don’t understand how in getting this part so right Marco got the rest of the pizza so wrong.

I don’t know if you remember the little individual pizza’s that used to come in packs of five; grim little discs with a smear of tomato sauce and a sparse sprinkling of processed mozzarella, Soviet era pizza. Well that is all this pizza reminded me of when I took it out of the box. Looking over my shoulder my best beloved remarked that it reminded him of a St Bernard value pizza from the 80’s. I gently reminded him that we in Ireland didn’t get frozen pizzas until at least the 1990’s. Before that we had to make do with thick based pizza’s they made up a deli counters and gave to you in big styrofoam containers to cook at home. Those were the days.

Back to Marco’s pizza, it cooked well, sat nicely on the oven rack and didn’t disintegrate and end up a burnt crumbled mess on the floor of my oven. This has happened to me before and not just with GF pizza. Unfortunately it just didn’t really taste of anything. It was bland, unsatisfying and felt like it wasn’t really trying. I looked over at the non GF pizza I had also cooked, oozing sauce, bubbling strings of melted cheese stretching as each new slice was lifted off the plate and just felt hard done by. The fact that the fault lay not in the base but in the lack of flavour and the skimping on cheese, which must be a cardinal sin when it comes to pizza, annoyed me, I was in fact peeved. Post pizza I should be in a happy carb induced stupor, not peeved.

To Marco I say, you are halfway there, a little bit of work and you may have a pizza I am happy to pay a fiver for!

Be Free Gluten Free Bagels

V6. Be Free Bagel review

I am old enough to remember an Ireland before fancy things like take away pizza and pitta breads. Sandwich options were limited to cheese, ham, corned beef and coleslaw, coffee was served white or black and if you wanted froth on the top you achieved this with a big dollop of whipped cream.

It was a simpler time when a fish finger sandwich was something you made when your mother wasn’t looking, not something that you paid €7 for in a gourmet cafe.  In this era, the 80’s, a bagel was something I first saw on a documentary about some artist and their highly bohemian life in London. I don’t remember the artist but I remember that bagel shop and the queue of people waiting for their bagel smeared with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon.

Many years later when I was visiting my sister in Dublin she took me to It’s A Bagel in the Epicurian Food Hall and I had my first real bagel. I had once had a vile approximation of a bagel back in the UCC cafeteria, it was dry, tasteless and could have caused serious damage if thrown forcefully. This bagel, however, was a revelation, there was a lovely golden gleam to it, the texture was new and unusual, the combination of salmon and cream cheese (I had to finally taste what I had seen on that documentary) was one of the best things I had ever tasted.

Now bagels are everywhere, you can get packs of 5 for less than €2 in your local supermarket.  If you are celiac It’s  A Bagel is your bagel haven, you can eat in or buy a pack of bagels to take home. Unfortunately while I truly appreciate this the texture of the bagels is not quite right. This could be because the baking process requires that the dough be boiled briefly before being baked and this most likely cannot be done with gluten free dough, that is pure conjecture on my part so if anyone has a definitive answer please let me know.

The other day while picking up some groceries I spotted the Be Free Gluten Free bagels and felt that here was Saturday’s breakfast. On Saturday morning I checked the pack for the reheating instructions as in my previous GF bagel experience a period in the oven wrapped in tinfoil before toasting was required to make the bagels edible. I had a good look and there were no instructions of any kind so I took a chance and cut one in half, toasted the cut side briefly on the grill and let it cool slightly before lashing on the cream cheese and the salmon.  Bagels and coffee were put on a tray and I went back up to bed and there enjoyed one of the best and easiest to prepare breakfasts I have had in a long time.

The texture is almost what I remember a non GF bagel to have, it is dense and chewy, the seed topping gives a lovely crunch and more importantly they are the same size as a non GF bagel, happy days! In GF food terms the price is reasonable, I paid €3.49 for a pack of four, one for Saturday, one for Sunday and two in the freezer for next weekend.

 

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Guest Blog: Paddy’s Day Cocktails from Bob Owens

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In honour of our national day of being as Irish* as we possibly can be, we present you with two alternative beverages to McD’s Green Milkshake! Created for your delectation by mixologist in the making, my little brother Robert, who is about two head’s taller than me.

(*read: drunk)

Irish Eyes Martini. 

R1. Irish Eyes Cocktail

This is a fun and entertaining drink and will have you geared up for a great night out. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 shot Dry Vermouth (martini)
  • 3 Shots Gin (chilled)
  • 1/2 shot Simple Syrup (sugar syrup)
  • 1/2 Shot fresh Orange Juice.
  • 1 Drop green food colouring.

Method:

  1. Chill a martini glass.
  2. In a cocktail shaker with ice, shake gin and simple syrup and dry vermouth.
  3. Add orange juice.
  4. Using a straw. Take a drop of green food colouring and add to shaker.
  5. Shake again.
  6. Strain into martini glass using a hawthorn strainer.
  7. Garnish with an orange twist.

 

Irish Mudslide. 

The next drink is made with Irish products. Mostly. If you use Bewley’s coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. It is a delicious smooth desert of a cocktail. Silky, with a little kick of coffee and the enticing  aroma of cinnamon.

R2irishmudslide2.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 Shot Irish Whiskey. (Jameson)
  • 1 Shot Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 Shot coffee (chilled)
  • 1 Shot Heavy Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon

Method:

  1. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Strain into an old fashioned glass with a hawthorn strainer.
  3. Garnish with a grated chocolate on top and a light dusting of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

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My best beloved Microplane

V8.microplane

The Microplane range of graters has an interesting history. I recommend googling if like me you like to know how things are made. They were originally designed as wood work tools and not for kitchen use. That there is now a range of these lovely instruments for kitchen use is a happy accident for which we should all be grateful.

My Microplane grater was a gift a two Christmases ago. It is super sharp so it came with a plastic shield to stop you cutting your fingers on it. It took me a while to use it as I was convinced I would do myself some damage with it. I am very accident prone, I tend to shatter glasses, cut myself with knives and repeatedly burn my forearms when getting stuff in and out of my oven. I once managed to slice my wrist open while washing a dish which led to an interesting conversation about the emotional health while being stitched up in the Emergency Room. So you can understand my reluctance to unleash potential disaster in my kitchen. However, to this day (and know I am looking for a piece of wood to touch) I have not cut myself on my Microplane.

Once that cover came off my Microplane became my favourite kitchen implement. I use it most days when cooking. It grates garlic, ginger, shallots and onions. I use it to grate chocolate and cheese. I have used it to grate potato for Latkes and carrots for carrot cake.  While you can buy purpose designed Microplane zesters I use my grater to zest and it works very well just skimming the surface of the fruit to give the zest without the pith.

A Microplane grater shaves where a standard grater shreds. This means with cheese and chocolate you get lovely delicate meltingly light slivers. There is no comparison between the rough shards of parmesan cheese you get from a standard box grater and the soft, cloud like pile of flakes you get from grating on a Microplane.

Had I the funds I would happily buy the full range of Microplane products however right now I am more than happy with the grater I have and would heartily recommend this as a very useful addition to anyone’s kitchen.

******************************************************

Cooking while Celiac

7. raining

Saturday morning I had a sausage sandwich for breakfast, made of buttery toast, cheese, tomato sauce and some whole grain mustard just to be fancy. Curled on the couch with a mug of coffee, season one of Supernatural and a comfort food breakfast I couldn’t have been happier. It was a lovely, lazy, gluten free treat on a miserable February morning.

People always make a sympathetic face when I tell them I’m celiac. Most people aren’t quite sure what being celiac means, but some people have heard about the dreaded gluten as it has become a healthy eating buzz word lately. To those people eating gluten free implies denial and sacrifice; it certainly does not suggest sausage sarnies.

I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist so I do not have an opinion on whether eating gluten free is a step on a magical road to wellness for all.  I am, however, celiac and therefore I know what eating gluten free means for me. I no longer feel exhausted as soon as I open my eyes, not just tired but bone weary. My brain doesn’t feel like it is full of cotton wool. My stomach isn’t bloated and sore and I no longer get stomach pains that land me crying in a heap on the floor. I am healthier because I am following a diet that manages an autoimmune condition.

Although I eat gluten free my life and my relationship with food is not about denial. Avoidance is a better word, I avoid foods that I know make me ill but I am not really one for denying myself much of anything, within reason of course. There is an abundance of foods I can eat and I do. I know I am lucky because I can cook and more importantly I can bake for myself. For anyone who is celiac acquiring basic cooking and baking skills is a necessity if only because gluten free food can be ridiculously expensive

It can seem daunting, the idea of finding substitutions or letting an ingredient containing gluten slip by you but eventually cooking gluten free becomes second nature.  That is what I want to write about here, how easy it can be to cook gluten free, for yourself, for family, friends, work colleagues or potential soul mates who may be celiac.

sausage sandwich

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