Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pizzaphilia

Hi.

Just stopping by to tell you about the pizza I made for dinner this evening.

I left all my exciting new flours in Brighton so this base is standard wholemeal flour, you can use the gluten-free one if you like.

From bottom to top:

Pizza base, pre-baked.
One avocado, whizzed up with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Spinach, blanched.
Parmesan cheese.
Steamed butternut squash.
Sundried tomatoes.
Egg, poached or fried.
Rocket.

Warm toppings through in oven for about 10 minutes once the base is cooked.

Is there anything more satisfying, nutritious, diverse, delicious and quite frankly perfect than home-made pizza ?

You couldn’t find a more straightforward path to my heart.

Summer is here and the Squirrell family are having a barbecue tomorrow.

See you then x

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Breakfast Party for One

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton.

Now that university is on hold for another summer, I find myself short on cash and long on time, which means taking up my old job back in Kent as a clinical assistant/receptionist in an independent optician.

Which means revisiting the 9-5 lifestyle.

Which means moving back in with my parents.

Which means sharing a room with my sister. Sharing meal times. Sharing the TV, stories of each others’ days. Sharing a house with people (ie. my parents) who are more morally qualified to get their own way than I am when it comes to running said house. You see, at uni, my housemates and I assume an equal level of responsibility and entitlement when it comes to household matters, because we all arrived at the same time, we all pay the same rent, and are all the same age with similar lifestyles, commitments and incomes. At home, my parents pay the mortgage, the bills; I was born of them and regardless of the fact that I am 21 and am perfectly capable of looking after my own finance, health and cleanliness, when I live under their roof, I must do as I am told. That’s fine, I get it. They built this family, they should be the ones in charge. They love my brother, my sister and I and they look after us admirably. Family life just all gets a bit much every now and then.

Which is when I escape to my Brighton hideaway.

Gareth has Wednesdays off, so if I’m not working, we travel down to Brighton and spend Tuesday night together. He goes home Wednesday evening in time for work at 7am on Thursday, and I stay for another day or two teaching cello lessons, and having the silent alone time that I come to crave so desperately after living in what feels like such a crowded house. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I love spending time with them; it’s lively and fun, there are four other lifestyles to learn about – the mechanics, the fireman, the nursery nurse, the student. The teenager, the young woman, the married couple. I thrive, but I get stressed with the compromise this vibrancy entails. I can’t live my life in the way I have become used to living it.

My kitchen in Brighton has it all. I have white flours, brown flours, rye flour, gluten-free flours. I have flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts. I have rice, pasta, lentils, quinoa, oats. I have prunes and raisins and dried sour cherries. I have edamame beans in the freezer. I have dark chocolate hidden away in the door of the fridge, should I feel the need. I have two round pizza trays. I have kitchen foil, cling film, greaseproof paper. I have cardamom pods, vanilla extract, caraway seed, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda. I have agave nectar and maple syrup. I never run out of peanut butter or garlic. This is a list of all the culinary things I feel I need to conduct my activities, the absence of which I find it hard to overcome when trying to cook in my family home. I am a kitchen prima donna, I know. But I can’t help it. Cooking is my hobby, and I am very particular.

I rent this house despite not having much time to enjoy it this summer. My money goes into my bank account and straight back out again. The opticians gives me numbers in exchange for my time, presence and good manners. The letting agent, the phone and the energy companies take away my numbers. Different combinations of numbers and the absence or presence of a minus sign dictates how many pairs of silver, high-waisted leggings or second-hand American Apparel wrap dresses I can buy at any given time. Numbers go up at the pump. The dial goes up in my car’s petrol gauge. The dial goes down in my car’s petrol gauge. I impart what knowledge I have gained from my 13 years of playing the cello to a charming autistic 12-year old in exchange for paper that represents some other numbers, but that doesn’t really represent anything because the bank made too many I.O.Us and that’s why spinach has gone up from £1 a bag to £1.75, and why I now buy kale, which still costs £1 in my local supermarket. Who cares, it’s just numbers on a screen, false promises on paper, needles on a gauge, and one day we’re all gonna die.

What matters is that I made gluten-free pancakes for breakfast (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef).

First, make sure you are fresh out of bed. You must retain cockatoo bed hair, and the pancakes will taste better if all you are wearing is your bed t-shirt and knickers. After all, everyone’s gone home for the summer. Get a cafetiere on the go, this is true me-time. You can see your friends later.

Eat the pancakes in bed.

Maybe stick on some crap TV…

… around this point was where I started to feel full.

… fuller still…

… but I finished them all anyway.

That’s the thing about bouncing back and forth between abodes; you never get a decent food shop in. The best thing about a giant, extravagant breakfast is knowing there’s no food in for lunch.

Banana Maple Pecan Pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)

You need:

70g sweet brown rice flour

30g tapioca flour

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of salt

A dash of cinnamon

100ml of buttermilk (or milk/soy milk with a few drops of lemon juice, left to stand)

A drop of vanilla extract

A tablespoon of mild olive oil/vegetable oil

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Combine.

Heat frying pan with oil. Make pancakes.

Top with delicious morsels; I used maple syrup, banana and chopped pecans.

Eat pancakes.

This would probably serve 2. It served me just fine. Pig.

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton. But don’t worry, I like it.

Amy x

Gluten, Schmluten

So I’ve done the vegetarian thing for more than 10 years now…

…and some readers of this blog and weary friends of mine will remember my brief encounter with veganism a few months ago…

…but guess what food group I am ill-advisedly cutting out of my diet today !

…GLUTEN !

I have no need to go gluten-free for health reasons. I recently stumbled across a website called Gluten-free Girl and the Chef – the whole deal is just fantastic and adorable, you should check it out. Shauna Ahern has coeliac disease, which means she can’t eat gluten or she gets sick. Like, really sick. Read this post. I felt for her. I also fell completely in love with the website and all the exciting recipes I found there – she writes so passionately about all of them, and I’m happy that she has not allowed her condition to affect her life negatively. I wanted to give it a try for myself (gluten-free cooking that is, not coeliac disease).

I’m not cutting gluten out entirely (I have too many delicious bagels in my freezer that were reduced to clear in the supermarket), I just want to experiment with different cooking methods and ingredients, the challenge being, I’m not allowed to use regular flour ! I’m enjoying the learning experience. I’d never thought of trying gluten-free before but know this: gluten-free does not equal carb-free. You can still eat potatoes, rice and oats, provided you make sure they have been certified uncontaminated.

So what to do when you want a cosy pasta dinner ? Eat lentils or quinoa; they’re much higher in protein and contain more magical disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than pasta. And they’ll fill you up more, often for less calories, depending what you choose. You can mix whatever it was you were going to put in the pasta with your new protein-y friends without much difference in satisfaction, in my opinion.

So I’ve been trying to opt for pulses, beans and seeds in favour of pasta and bread dishes wherever possible recently. However, I wanted to make a gluten-free version of a meal very close to my heart; a dish I love so much it could be used to bribe me into doing literally anything; a meal that contains more than its fair share of gluten; one could say it was based entirely on gluten…

Get the pun now ?

Yep, that’s my first gluten-free pizza base right there, complete with obligatory side-salad.

I’d flicked through a fair number of internet recipes that called for many different types of gluten-free flours, some of which I already had. It’s all very interesting – I had no idea you could make flour from so many different things: coconut, chickpea, quinoa, rice, corn, potato. What I loved about Gluten-free Girl’s recipe was that you can substitute flours and starches for pretty much whatever you have, as long as you work within the correct ratios.

I used equal parts (about 50-60g each) of cornflour, sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour and maize starch.

Whisk up about 2 teaspoons of milled flaxseed with a tablespoon of boiling water until you have a thick paste. Then the rest is pretty much like a regular pizza base recipe – set up your yeast and olive oil, chuck some salt in the flour and make a well. Add the flax paste (this acts as a binding agent to help the gluten-free flours along a bit), then the yeast and oil mixture and stir and knead until you have a dough. In a way in which I find it hard to describe, the dough will not be stretchy and you will not be able to throw it in the air and use your fists to shape it – do not be alarmed. Use a rolling pin, or your hands, directly onto your foiled and oiled pizza tray. I was nervous that the dough would crumble under my fingers but trust me, brush that baby with olive oil and pre-bake for about 8 minutes and all your troubles will melt away. Just be gentle.

Today my pizza toppings consist of: meatless balls, kale and red onion, as well as tomato, garlic and mozzarella (well, it just wouldn’t be pizza without these). I dare you to feed this to your friends without telling them it’s gluten free, and see if they notice. It’s just that chewy and delicious.

I almost used dairy-free cheese on this, along with the meat-free meatballs. But I thought that was going too far. Meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free pizza, you say ? Don’t make me sick/laugh/die. My loved-ones will despair of me, I know. I just have to be different.

(I eat most of my food in bed…)

So hey there, everyone, I’m still blogging. And eating. And running. Getting by.

I plan to detail my excursion into the realms of gluten-free a little further. I’m not done yet, no sir.

Until the next time !

Amy x