low fodmap

Low-FODMAP Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding Cakes - gluten-free and vegan recipe.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. I’m of the mind you shouldn’t restrict your romance and affection to one day a year. However, my daughter has other ideas and feels grand gestures should be compulsory. Therefore, I shall be demonstrating my love and affection to my family by making these low-fodmap, gluten-free, vegan, chocolatey-raspberry treats. In return they can show their love and affection to me by not bickering and doing their homework without me having to nag.

I’m using frozen raspberries as they’re readily available. You need to have 9 fairly good-looking ones for the tops but the others can be a bit battered. When using coconut cream, empty the can or tetrapak into a bowl first and beat with a spoon to thoroughly combine, before weighing out. Any unused cream can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container. Please do not panic if the tops go cracked – they’re going to be smothered in choccy topping. FODMAP friendly portion sizes at the bottom.

Squidgy

Squidgy

Makes 9 cakes

85g gluten-free self-raising flour blend

100g dark 72% chocolate, very finely chopped

85g dairy-free margarine

55g caster sugar

1 tbsp. golden syrup

125ml UHT coconut milk

36 frozen raspberries

160ml coconut cream

Pre-heat a fan oven to 150°C. Line a muffin tin with 9 paper cases and place 3 raspberries in the bottom of each case.

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. In a small pan, melt the margarine, sugar, golden syrup and milk over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon as it warms, do not let it get hot. When it no longer feels grainy on the spoon, stir in 30g of the chocolate and remove from the heat. Keep stirring until it is all combined and melted.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the well in the flour and whisk well with a balloon whisk. Pour the batter into a jug then pour over the raspberries, splitting the mixture evenly between all 9 cases. Bake for 25 minutes. When baked, leave to cool in the tin.

Place a tightly fitting heatproof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. Add the coconut cream and stir until it is smooth and just warm. Stir in the remaining 70g of chocolate until it just starts to melt then remove the pan from the heat. Continue stirring until it is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk for 5 minutes using an electric hand-held whisk.

Keeping the cakes in the tin, spoon the chocolate on the cakes to as near to the top of the cases as you can. Leave to cool and set. Lift the cakes out of the tin using a palette knife. I like to remove the paper cases before serving. Place a ‘good-looking’ raspberry on the top and if you’re feeling fancy, sift over a little icing sugar.

Low FODMAP servings

Dark Chocolate – 30g

Margarine – 19g

Sugar – 14g

Golden Syrup – ½ tbsp.

UHT Coconut milk – 125ml

Raspberries – 10 berries

Coconut cream – not yet tested but it is processed in the same way as coconut milk so it is likely to have a similar results. It’s high fat content means it is possible it could be even lower in FODMAPs

This is a sample of how we do Valentine's Day - Homemade Moomin Cards. Like our family sayings - I have no recollection how we started this but after 16 years we're amassing quite a collection! They no longer look like Moomins but strange creatures that find themselves in a variety of unusual situations. 

This is a sample of how we do Valentine's Day - Homemade Moomin Cards. Like our family sayings - I have no recollection how we started this but after 16 years we're amassing quite a collection! They no longer look like Moomins but strange creatures that find themselves in a variety of unusual situations. 

Low-FODMAP & Gluten-free Quick Christmas Pudding Recipe

Gone are the days of a Christmas pudding: heavy, rich and laden with pounds of FODMAP fruit and rum. The curious thing is that the only person mourning this loss seems to be me! The children were never keen on Christmas pudding and my husband is more a cake person.

Core of marmalade :-)

Core of marmalade :-)

This pudding is more of a sponge cake. I don’t usually cook cake in a microwave* but in this instance, when every surface in our tiny kitchen is covered in pans and detritus from the main course, I simply don’t have enough hob space to steam a pudding. You can weigh all the ingredients and cream the butter and sugar ahead of time. The final assembly should take no more than 5 minutes. My family love this with custard and the children can cheerfully use the recipe from the Our House For Tea cookbook to take charge of this task. You can see how quickly this comes together in the video here but do please ignore my eyes - I was having some sort of allergic reaction!

Please don’t be confused by the quantities of flour, butter, and sugar! As an example my eggs weighed 124g so I had 124g flour, 124g butter, 62g light muscovado sugar and 62g white sugar. 

Serves 6

40g dried cranberries

2 tbsp. orange juice (not from concentrate)

30g walnut pieces

2 medium eggs

1 tbsp. coconut milk (not canned)

3 tbsp. orange marmalade

½ tsp. mixed spice

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. orange extract

Extra butter for greasing the bowl

 

Weigh the eggs and have the same weight of

Soft butter

Gluten-free self-raising flour

 

Halve the weight of the eggs and have the same weight of

Light muscovado sugar

White sugar

 

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with the orange juice and leave to soak. Grease a 2 pint microwave safe basin thoroughly with butter, if you have a lid, grease that too. Otherwise grease a piece of cling film to make a lid. Put the marmalade in the bottom in an even layer.

Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl using a wooden spoon at first then graduating to an electric hand whisk. When it has become fluffy, whisk in the orange extract. Sift the flour and spices together in a separate bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add to the butter and sugar with a tablespoon of flour. Whisk thoroughly, scraping down from the sides as necessary. Using a large metal spoon fold in the remaining flour until the mixture is combined. Lightly crush any overly large pieces of walnuts and fold those into the batter along with the cranberry and orange mix.

Place the batter mix on top of the marmalade as evenly as possible. Cover with the greased lid (or greased cling film) and microwave on high (800W Cat E oven) for 6 minutes.

Remove the lid, gently loosen the edges with a palate knife and place your serving plate on top. Turn the plate and pudding over together then remove the basin. Cover any mistakes you made removing the pudding, with holly sprigs or icing sugar.

I had some enquiries about whether it is possible to steam this pudding - it is! Butter a 2 pint pudding basin (one with a lip around the outside edge.) Butter a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay it on top of a sheet of foil. Make a one inch pleat in the middle of the sheets. Place the marmalade then the batter mix in the basin. Cover with the pleated greaseproof paper and foil and tie tightly around the edge with string. It is a good idea to make a string handle to lift it out of the pan with. Steam on a trivet in a large pan of simmering water that comes halfway up the basin. 

After steaming, remove the lid and string. Run a thin palette knife around the edge of the basin and turn out onto your serving dish. These pictures aren't nearly as good as the ones my husband takes but they prove it can be done! You won't have as much of a marmalade core as a marmalade topping. 

 

Spinach Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Feta Cheese - Low-FODMAP, gluten-free and very hurried!

Looks a bit lumpy but then again, so do I!   

Looks a bit lumpy but then again, so do I!

 

This very quick recipe accompanies the very quick video ‘Spinach Pasta with Roasted Veg and Feta Cheese’. So hurried in fact I didn’t have time to write ‘vegetables’. Some teatimes are destined for lateness – children’s clubs only need to slide by ten minutes and the next thing you know it’s 7.30 and everyone’s looking famished.

 

In my book ‘Our House For Tea’ (did I mention I’ve written a book?!) I extol the virtues of pre-roasting your vegetables. Specifically useful for a very late teatime when your diet doesn’t allow you the luxury of ordering a takeaway. Without wishing to sound like an infomercial, the gluten-free spinach pasta available in my shop is the marvellous – it gives you a bit of green goodness as well as not falling apart in the boiling process. Free-from mono and diglycerides of fatty acids – what are these and when did most of the supermarkets and big brands decide it was such a good idea to change their pasta recipes to be full of them?! Sorry it’s my current bugbear – the pastas were perfectly serviceable before but there’s something about mono and diglycerides of fatty acids that the Little Miss and I cannot tolerate. Grrr.. Anyway my lovely green pasta contains nothing but rice, spinach and water.

What follows below isn’t so much of a recipe as a guide of things to throw together for a ten-minute teatime. Serve with whatever salad or vegetables you can knock up in the 5-8 minutes it takes the pasta to boil. We have ½ corncobs and lettuce.

Prep 10 minutes.

1 x 250g pack of spinach fusilli pasta

1 x 400g portion of ready roasted vegetables

1 x 200g block feta cheese (we make sure ours is sheep or goat milk)

Start boiling the pasta according to the packet. Start heating the roasted vegetables through in a microwave. Warm a serving dish. When the pasta is cooked, allow to drain and place the vegetables in the pan. Add the pasta back in then crumble in the feta. Add plenty of black pepper before transferring to the warmed serving dish. Boom, tea is served.

 

 

 

Sausage Stuffed Courgettes - Low FODMAP and gluten-free

I was recently given a very large yellow courgette – I composed it a little Low-FODMAP lullaby* and shared it on social media. The reception was mixed, from LOL’ing to accusations of sinister behaviour. Maybe I need to self-edit more. 

 

Courgette baby, funny or sinister?!

Courgette baby, funny or sinister?!

I digress, a large yellow courgette (or zucchini) is a thing of beauty and I think its FODMAP friendly nature is something to celebrate. It also provides plenty of innuendo material - vitally important at Our House For Tea. I originally made this filling for one very large courgette but realised the chances of other people laying their hands on such a magnificent beast were slim, so retested the mixture using 4 normal sized courgettes. It still worked and was still snaffled down without complaint by my teatime companions.

I buy my sausages from the butcher a whole batch at a time. They are bagged in pairs for quick freezing/defrosting and easy portion control. His special recipe is gluten-free and Low-FODMAP – I do recommend you see if your butcher can do the same for you! I also have the benefit of knowing the meat is high-welfare and locally grown. That’s a lot of plus points.

Use a teaspoon to scoop out the littler courgettes.

Use a teaspoon to scoop out the littler courgettes.

4 courgettes, yellow or green

Or a large courgette or marrow weighing around 1-1.2kg

1 tbsp. garlic oil

8 Low-FODMAP, gluten-free sausages (check ingredients)

2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano or marjoram

75g finely grated cheddar-type cheese (we use mature goats cheese)^

2 tbsp. brown rice breadcrumbs

A little oil for greasing

Serves 4, Prep 15 mins, Baking 15 mins

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Cut the courgette/s in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds and flesh making sure you don’t go all the way through the skin (see picture). Roughly chop the flesh.

Warm the garlic oil in a wide frying pan. Empty out the sausage meat from the skins into the pan and squash until you have a minced meat texture. Brown slightly. Add the courgette flesh, tomatoes, salt and chopped herbs. Cook off for 5-8 minutes until all the courgette flesh has soften, some of the water has evaporated and it has melded together unctuously.

Place the courgette halves in a lightly greased baking tray and fill centres with the sausage mix. Sprinkle over the cheese evenly and then the rice crumbs. Bake for 15 minutes until the courgette shell is tender to a knifepoint.

If you are filling a large courgette or marrow it can take 10 minutes longer to bake, depending on the size. Keep testing the edge of the shell with a knifepoint until it slides in easily. Serve with a green salad.

*Hush little courgette, don’t be shy

You’re the prettiest massive courgette I ever did espy.

Your skin makes everything seem so sunny,

You’re Low-FODMAP so won’t hurt my tummy.

 

Pretty but not worthy of a ditty.

Pretty but not worthy of a ditty.

Carrot & Walnut Bake for Autumn - low-FODMAP, gluten-free and vegan

Doesn't it scream autumn?

Doesn't it scream autumn?

Autumn weather is confusing this year and it’s confusing my usual autumn Low-FODMAP menu. Daddy-long-legs are drunkenly drifting about in the sunshine wondering what to do with themselves next. The apple tree has snapped in two under the weight of tiny red apples – as they are not FODMAP friendly I need to give these away – please pop in if you’re interested

I had intended to do something entirely different for teatime yesterday but I had an ingredients disaster and had to look to the store cupboard for salvation. Ras-el-Hanout came to my rescue again and gave a warm spiced pumpkin pie flavour to some decidedly normal carrots. Autumn means walnuts but to stop the flavour becoming too overwhelming I ‘cut’ them with some pumpkin seeds.

A low-FODMAP portion of dried cranberries is 13g so you’ll be within your ‘safe’ limit. Do check the ingredients of your ras-el-Hanout – there shouldn’t be any garlic. I seem to be strewing brown rice breadcrumbs over everything at the moment – I got mine from the local market. Eat for teatime or it slices well cold to have as leftovers.

No-one is more surprised than I that I got it out in one piece!

No-one is more surprised than I that I got it out in one piece!

Serves 4 generously, prep 15-20 mins, baking time 40 mins

1kg carrots, peeled and sliced

160g walnuts

50g pumpkin seeds

30g dried cranberries

Large pinch of salt

Heaped tsp. ras-el-Hanout

Heaped tbsp. brown rice breadcrumbs

Heaped tbsp. sesame seeds

A little olive oil for greasing.Pre-heat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 22cm pie dish.

Cook the carrots either by steaming, microwaving (or boiling, although you will lose some vitamins) until soft. While the carrots are cooking place the walnuts, pumpkin seeds and cranberries into a food processor then blitz to fine crumbs. Tip the nut mixture into a bowl and stir in the ras-el-Hanout and salt.

Drain the carrots really well and allow to cool slightly so the steam can escape. Place the carrots in the food processor (you don’t need to wash it first!) and blitz until nearly smooth. Add the nuts back in and blitz again until everything is thoroughly combined. Press the mixture evenly into the pie dish. I did make a pretty pattern on mine using a spatula but I’m not sure I’d bother next time!

Mix the rice breadcrumbs and sesame seeds together before scattering evenly over the top. Bake for 40 minutes. You may need to loose the edge of the bake with a knife before cutting out wedges.

Low-FODMAP Meringues with Raspberry or Passion Fruit

Low-FODMAP Meringues with raspberry or passion fruit

We have a phrase at Our House For Tea, ‘is that Low-FODMAP or is it you?’ It’s shorthand for ‘Can you not eat this because it is high in FODMAPs or because it is another of your intolerances?’ Eggs and cows milk fall into the ‘me’ category but seeing as three-quarters of the household can eat eggs and half can eat cows milk, it would be churlish of me to deprive them of meringuey treats. Most people with IBS can tolerate 60g of whipped cream. Meringues are terrifically quick to prep but the cooking time is a little longer. I would plead with you to try making your own but if you really can’t be faffed, simply use the cream filling on shop-bought meringues.

These little meringues have a cream filling, flavoured with either Passion Fruit or Raspberry Syrup. If you are in the mood to impress your guests, make half of the meringues passion fruit flavoured and half raspberry flavoured. For accuracy's sake, I have given the cream measure in grams as opposed to ml.

You will need an electric hand whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment fitted. When you lift the whisk out of the whisked egg white, and it holds its shape in peaks, you have reached the stiff peak stage. When the cream holds its shape briefly before flopping over, you have reached the soft peak stage.

Serves 4 – makes 8 meringue sandwiches

Prep –  15 minutes + 1 hour baking. 

 

1 medium egg, separated.

1.5 x caster sugar to the weight of egg whites

(My egg white weighed 34g so I used 51g of caster sugar)

120g whipping cream (do not use double cream)

 

For passion fruit flavour

1 tsp. Passion fruit syrup

1 flesh of 1 Passion Fruit

For raspberry flavour

1 tsp. Raspberry syrup

2 tsp. freeze-dried raspberry pieces

 

Preheat a non-fan oven to 120°C - you will need to watch the oven temperature like a hawk. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.

Ensure your bowl is dry and entirely free-from all traces of grease. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking well inbetween to make sure all the sugar is combined. Stop when the meringue is looking thick, peaky and glossy.

Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet in 16 well spaced, dessertspoon sized, peaky dollops or pipe into 16 smarter rosettes. Either way, the meringues should be between 4.5cm – 5cm in diameter. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour.

The meringues will be ready when they lift away from the paper. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for half an hour on the baking sheet.

Whip the cream until it reaches the soft peak stage, add the syrup and briefly whisk again, taking care not to over-whip and split the cream.

Sandwich the meringues together with a very heaped teaspoon of cream. Scatter the cream with either passion fruit pulp or the raspberry pieces.

 

How to Picnic - don't try too hard and other top tips.

This post is from 2013 but the points still stand!

The Contemporary Low-FODMAP Picnic.

The Contemporary Low-FODMAP Picnic.

In an Observer Food Monthly column Jay Rayner waxed lyrical about the horror of a picnic: this suggests to me he never needs to cater for someone on a Low-FODMAP style restrictive diet. We have no options but to picnic!

In the wild.

In the wild.

 

School summer holiday’s are upon us: in our house means it’s time for the Tupperware to brace itself for a lot of action. His Lordship is going to be away for a chunk of the holidays* so I have decided the only way to keep sane is to take the children out. A lot. Eating out in tearooms and museum cafes is not an option for the Little Miss and I. Rarely can we eat more than a bag of plain crisps. Also, the default price of everything in the catering outlets seems to be £3.50. I needn’t remind you how difficult a hungry child is to manage, especially in public. Trying to wrangle a child in meltdown while they scream ‘you’re choking me’ (you’re not) is at best embarrassing and at worst, soul destroying. Keeping children’s appetites sated is the make or break of a day out. We shall be hammering the National Trust Membership card and the Park Hall Countryside Experience card (http://www.parkhallfarm.co.uk) will see more than it’s fair share of action too. Without these two memberships summer holidays can be financially crippling.

I am not going to criticise the long summer holidays, yes they may be a pain for parents to organise childcare but children need a break. A long break to dream, have adventures and, (dare I say it?) to get a bit bored. Boredom can breed invention. School isn’t just a handy childcare solution; children work really hard. Can you imagine trying to learn the volume of things they learn over a school year now? It’s phenomenal!

I digress. Picnics are the obvious solution for us. Over the past couple of years I have become something of a dab hand at throwing a picnic together. The secret? Don’t try to be clever. Food needs to be portable enough not to disintegrate in a box that’s being jammed into a rucsac and easy enough for them to carry on playing while they’re eating it. In an ideal world everyone would sit down nicely on a rug (whilst remembering to keep their shoes off it), the fare would look like Ratty’s picnic from Wind In The Willows and we’d eat from pretty plates whilst quoting Wilde or Keats. The reality is usually a small spot squeezed in an adventure playround and food is shoved in the general direction of their mouths whilst new friendships are kindled or broken.

So what should go in the rucsac? Yes, a rucsac, you need as few bags as possible to lose. Carrying everything in one shoulder bag will ruin your back and you’ll only ever have one properly free hand. It’s the most practical solution for chasing children too.

Firstly, a wet flannel, no wet wipes can do the job quite as well.

A plastic carrier bag for for rubbish and another for wet things.

For this reason a spare pair of pants or knickers is a must: they can double as impromptu swimming costumes too. 

Plastic carrier bags to sit on if the ground’s wet as they are lighter than a big rug.

Another plastic bag for anything unexpected.

Drinking bottles of water. One each, not forgetting one for you.

Cherry tomatoes with a tiny pot (think film canister size) of Maldon salt mixed with freshly ground pepper. You dip your tomato in and my children will eat punnet after punnet this way. I'm not going to stress about the tiny amount of salt they actually eat here.

Carrot sticks. The children have a love/hate relationship with these. I’ll end up finishing them off but that’s fine, I like them. I need snacks too!

Bag of crisps each (shock! Horror!). They can take a long time to eat, which can be useful.

Sandwiches. Don’t go crazy, they’re not interested in how fancy they are or how artisan the bread is – they need to stick together and be posted into busy mouths by small busy hands. Wraps are useful if you can eat them. Otherwise it’s gluten free bread for the Little Miss. You’re most likely to be able to slip a bit of lettuce in sandwiches. Cheese is perennially popular as is any sliced meat. Other ‘sticky’ foodstuffs, such as peanut butter, help the picnic cause but I tend to steer clear of pate - even with my slapdash approach to food safety, pate kept for a few hours in a warm rucsac isn’t great.

Fruit. Blueberries or grapes in Tupperware hold their shape best. Bananas ruin anything else in your bag and make everything smell banana-y. Bananas are OK in sandwiches though. Apples can work if you wrap them in whatever else is in your bag to protect them. Chopped melon in a Tupperware works and dried fruit is naturally bump resistant. If you are low-FODMAP, watch how many of these you have.

Boiled eggs can provide a little amusement, however unless you are prepared to inevitably peel them all yourself, don’t bother. 

Biscuits are good when they’re flagging. Take chocolate though and you’ll have a horrible mess if it warms up. 

I usually have a box of salad that can be anything from last night’s leftovers to some hastily assembled fridge detritus. TAKE A FORK! I recently had to eat a mix with a coffee stirrer - rookie mistake.

A knife is always useful. Even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, you may be called upon to whittle something. It happens.

 

Lightweight waterproofs - even if the weather says it’s not going to rain they can keep a chilly wind off.

Suncream and sunhats that are as small and as foldable as possible.

Cash. I accept that any outing will involve me needing a coffee at some point and if, ye gods, they have a lowFODMAP suitable ice-lolly, sorbet or ice cream I will probably let the children have one. Keep this treat until later on – you may need to bribe good behaviour.

If diets are restricted it is probably worth having a ‘treat’ in your bag in case there isn’t something available and you need to placate; I don’t think it’s fair that the Young Master should always miss out.

If you’ve never played ‘tippet’ now’s the time to start learning. Take a penny piece and they can spend a surprisingly long time guessing which hand it’s in.

Even the crappiest of plastic magnifying glasses or binoculars can be diverting in even the crappiest environments. 

Never take children in a gift shop unless you’re willing to buy large amounts of bankruptcy inducing tat. Children don’t browse, they want. And they want. And they want.

Try and prepare everything the night before or you may end up wasting most of the morning sorting things out by which time they’re hungry for elevenses.

Camera/phone – you never know.

Remember to take all your litter home, close gates, don’t harass livestock etc… Consideration for others and the environment is as good a lesson as they’ll ever learn in any classroom.

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     Young Master with his shadow Little Miss, getting the most out of the National Trust card

Young Master with his shadow Little Miss, getting the most out of the National Trust card

Don’t get hung up on schedules. If I child is showing the sort of focused and locked on attention to something as only a child can, go with it. You may learn something too about a line of ants on a pavement. Enjoy it, the C16th tapestry will still be there tomorrow, your peculiar little 4 year old won’t.

There will always be a dead bird. And they will always want to poke it with something. Sometimes it can stretch to a dead lamb. This time it was a dead shrew that they needed to document. Them’s the rules. Unclench.

Ahh a Dead Shrew....lovely.

Ahh a Dead Shrew....lovely.

 

Check whether your destination is open before you go. Obvious but often overlooked.

Know when it’s time to go home. Even if you feel you haven’t visited every part of wherever you’ve been, it’s important recognise when everybody’s tired before they start showing you with their fractious behaviour. This also applies to adults.

So there are my top tips for a day out. It is hard work but hopefully a lack of picnic ambition on your part will make it easier and you may, just may, be able to enjoy your time with your children. They’re not interested in whether they’d look out of place in The White Company Catalogue, they just want to spend some time with you; don’t ruin it by trying to impress a non-existent audience.

Lastly back to Jay Rayner, who, seriously, takes a quiche on a picnic? That’s just stupid.

*This time he'll be photographing an IETF conference in Berlin. http://stonehousephotographic.com Last half term it was a WWF job in Wyoming, I'm beginning to see a link between the school holidays and his trips abroad...

Low-FODMAP Smoked Haddock Chowder Recipe (a gluten-free, low-lactose celebration of yellow).

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     Low-FODMAP Smoked Haddock Chowder

Low-FODMAP Smoked Haddock Chowder

When I was at primary school (pre- Low-FODMAP!) I remember having to paint a picture of our favourite on a sugar paper plate. Being a greedy little blighter, my plate had beef pie, spaghetti bolognaise, peas and a pile of yellow fish with yellow sauce. My mum would poach the fish in milk and make a sauce with egg yolks as a sort of savoury custard. So much yellowy-love. In the eighties it was very difficult to get anything other than the dyed smoked-haddock or cod but it’s now easier to find the un-dyed variety. Yes, natural colour is better for us, but can I say I sort of miss the unnatural explosion of colour?

After many years of failure to grow oregano in a pot, I shoved a twig in the ground and now it’s rampaging across the flowerbed. Most of our meals now contain least a tablespoon of fresh oregano in an effort to control the growth, but you can use fresh thyme if that’s what you have.

Serves 4

450g boneless smoked haddock

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. black peppercorns

500ml boiling water

1 tbsp. garlic oil

40g butter or dairy-free spread

1 large green pepper, in 1cm dice

1 corncob.

900g floury potatoes, peeled and in 1.5cm dice

500ml almond milk

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or thyme

Small handful of curly parsley leaves, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper.

In a wide, deep, lidded pan, cover the fish, bay leaves and peppercorns with boiling water. Simmer covered for 5 minutes then remove from the heat to cool slightly.

Using a sharp, heavy knife, cut the kernels from the corncob. Remove the fish from the pan using a slotted spoon. Allow to cool on a plate. Strain the remaining liquid into a measuring jug. Top up the liquid with water to make 500ml. Clean the pan.

Warm the oils and butter in the pan, and then add the pepper and sweetcorn kernels. Cover and allow to soften over a medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the potato and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Pour the fishy water over the vegetables and stir in the thyme. Cover and allow to cook for around 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, remove any skin or stray bones from the fish and flake with your fingers. When the potatoes are cooked remove from the heat and use a measuring jug to remove 500ml of the vegetables and liquid. Add the almond milk and using a potato masher, mash everything in the pan until there are no lumps of potato left.

Stir the reserved 500ml of 'lumps and liquid' back into the pan with the fish. Bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning (you may not need any if your fish was salty) and serve in warm bowls with the parsley and black pepper scattered over the top.

Parenting the poorly - learning to feed yourself Low-FODMAP and fairy cake recipe

Cocoa Lumps

Cocoa Lumps

Little Miss Low-FODMAP has been poorly with some sort of viral rash that was suspected to be shingles but having spoken to other parents I suspect wasn't as severe as all that. She had a couple of 'peaky' days but the rash has scabbed over and she's back, oh yes she's back! It was the bouncing off the window seat onto the sofa whilst singing 'Let it Go' that convinced me.

 Poorliness may not demand a lot of medical attention but it does demand a lot of attention. There is no point trying to fight that as a parent you are expected not only to be the constant carer but also the entertainer. As you'd expect, in our house my entertainment tends to involve a lot of cookery. Luckily, the poorliness co-incided with the arrival of some Masa Harina from Sous Chef (www.souschef.co.uk). She really got into the hang of making tortilla and there have been 5 different tortilla-based meals. It was worth every penny of the tortilla press! We've also had the ubiquitous green cheese sauce drowning anything that stopped moving long enough.

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     Tortilla faces in the sunshine.

Tortilla faces in the sunshine.

However, my favourite cooking activity was making Cocoa Lumps. Cocoa Lumps happen when you unclench for long enough (Let it Go) to let your children to invent something. It is highly unlikely it will be haute cuisine but it's only experience that divides those who can cook without a book from those who can't. What better time to get this experience in than now?

 Use a little gentle guidance to make sure the invention isn't an unmitigated disaster - the idea is for children to learn what does and doesn't work, not to scare them off from ever trying again!

 If you are cooking meat, be sure you cook it for the right amount of time and at the right temperature, Google if you need to.

 When using sugar, as a general rule if you bake it below 175C your baked goods will be soft. Above that will make for a harder biscuit/ cookie/ splodge.

  I'm of the school that often it is best to smell if something's cooked, particularly baked goods. If the kitchen smells of biscuits they're probably cooked. If it smells of burning use a time machine and get them out 5 minutes earlier.

Very painted nails.

Very painted nails.

Chocolate and orange goes together, lemon and sultanas go together but don't let yourself get too hung up on these details. Be curious - someone came up with the idea of salted caramel once and now there's no getting away from it. Worst-case scenario, it won't taste very nice and you won't make it again.

 Take notes. If you happen upon a brilliant idea or recipe you can replicate it. If it's awful you won't make the same mistake twice. If the experiment is 'almost' there, it's easy to fiddle with next time. Note-making is lots of writing and weighing practise that children may not even notice they're doing.

 When baking you need some sort of raising agent - self-raising flour, whisked egg whites, bicarbonate of soda, yeast, baking powder - see what happens when you don't use any and see what happens when you use too much!

 Experiment with substitution - if you have a recipe that you're missing ingredients for what happens when you use white sugar instead of brown, raisins instead of chocolate chips, maple syrup instead of golden syrup? We are constantly trying to make meals Low-FODMAP so this is particularly significant if you have a child with a restricted diet - they need to learn how to feed themselves!

Chalk Drawings

Chalk Drawings

If failure is not an option, make a basic sponge. You can ice fairy cakes if you feel so inclined or if you've run out of any other activities. The following guidelines makes enough for 12 fairy cakes but you can easily double or halve the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole bun tin with paper cases.

 Weigh 2 eggs, then weigh out the same amount of (gluten-free) self-raising flour, soft butter or (dairy-free) margarine and caster sugar.

 Cream the butter and sugar together using a wooden spoon, electric hand beaters or mixer until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add to the butter and sugar with a tablespoon of flour. You can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you fancy. Mix together thoroughly, it will curdle but that will not effect the final result. Fold in the remaining flour until it's thoroughly combined. Add a tablespoon of milk until it makes a 'dropping' consistency.  This is nothing more than it dropping off the spoon in a splodge but I suggest you use the term for added credibility. Gluten-free flour sometimes needs a 1/2 tbsp more and we would use coconut milk.

 Spoon the mixture as evenly as possible into the cases (remembering to let the child have some input) and bake for 20 minutes. Clear up during this time, it's as an important a lesson as the cooking. The cakes will be cooked when the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a rack.

 Decide whether you can bear the thought of decorating the cakes or whether it's now time for the millionth viewing of Frozen.

Elderflower fritters - low-FODMAP, gluten-free, vegan, flowery, summer treats.

The finished Elderflower fritters.

The finished Elderflower fritters.

When we moved house (pre-low-FODMAP days) I was thrilled to discover an elderflower tree in the garden. This was before I realised that outside of London, elder trees are pretty much everywhere. The children have been on elderflower-watch for a couple of weeks, monitoring the progress from tiny green balls, to white balls to sweet, fragrant flowers. It has been a tense countdown to elderflower fritter season.

A good haul of delicate green.

A good haul of delicate green.

When we moved house (pre-low-FODMAP days) I was thrilled to discover an elderflower tree in the garden. This was before I realised that outside of London, elder trees are pretty much everywhere. The children have been on elderflower-watch for a couple of weeks, monitoring the progress from tiny green balls, to white balls to sweet, fragrant flowers. It has been a tense countdown to elderflower fritter season.

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     Fritters with built in handles.

Fritters with built in handles.

Pick over your elderflowers and remove any insects or detritus. Warm a plate lined with paper kitchen towel in the oven. Place the sugar on a small plate.

Heat 2-3mm oil in a frying pan. Whilst it is heating, place the flour in a mixing bowl and pour in the soda water. Whisk together to remove any lumps and dip in the elderflowers, keeping the stem free from batter. This will be your handle when you are eating.

Fry the heads, flower side down in the hot oil until the batter is crisp and bubbled. You may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove from the pan, giving a small shake as you go and drop onto the sugar. Place on the warm plate while the rest cook. Eat by using your teeth to pull away the batter and flowers from the stem.

See you again next year pretty flowers, heralds of summer.