recipes

Pineapple and Ginger Fizz Recipe - virgin or boozy

Pinapple and Ginger Fizz-1.jpg

We happened upon Pineapple and Ginger Fizz one evening when The Little Miss and I found ourselves waiting for my son to finish Scouts. It was belting down with rain and I’d run out of things to do while we waited. Every café was shut and we ended up in quite a nice bar. Little Miss clearly thought this was quite ‘the thing’, going for a grown up drink and took it all very seriously.

However, going out for a simple drink is not an easy thing, when your drink needs to be non-alcoholic and ideally not too heavy with FODMAPs. She also doesn’t really like classic fizzy drinks, which is a blessing, but our options were now very limited. Luckily the place was otherwise empty so we asked the bartender to make up this cocktail (please!)

The key to this drink is the crushed ice: the volume of ice is deceptive and can trick you into thinking you’re having more of a potentially tummy troubling ingredient like fruit juice, than you actually are. Meaning you can have another!

For a grown-up drink, do feel free to add a measure of vodka and lose the straws and umbrellas. You can watch me knock this together on the my video here

50ml fresh pineapple juice (not from concentrate)

Lime wedge

Crushed ice

Soda water

¼ tsp. finely grated root ginger

Optional measure of vodka

Fresh pineapple wedge to decorate

Fill a margarita glass 2/3 full of crushed ice. You can of course use any glass but I like to make it feel special. Add the pineapple juice and grate in the ginger root. Squeeze the lime wedge over the ice and top the glass up with soda water (and vodka if you are using it!). Decorate with the pineapple wedge and straws / umbrellas/ dancing girls as you see fit. Cheers Little Miss!

 

 

Perfect Roast Potatoes and Parsnips - low-FODMAP, gluten-free, crispy and golden.

A perfect roast potato is for life, not just for Christmas. I make my low-FODMAP roasties a little more festive by adding parsnips – this can help your Christmas cooking schedule, as you just need one roasting tray. Although I enjoy a maple roast parsnip as much as the next glutton, I find maple is one flavour too many on an already rich and flavourful Christmas plate. Both parsnips and potatoes have the Monash listing of 'FODMAPs were not detected in this food. Eat freely and according to appetite' - there you go guys, get roasting!

Perfect low FODMAP Roast Potatoes and Parsnips

 

You can peel and chop the potatoes and parsnips the night before and keep in separate pans of water. Do not soak them together as the parsnips will flavour the potatoes. Soaking the veg will remove some of their starchiness and make for a crispier roast potato. If you wish to be even more prepared, then you can also par-boil the veg the night before. Allow the steam to escape and fully cool before keeping in a cold place. You can substitute sunflower oil for the goose fat but it won’t be as crispy.

So here you are, crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy and sweet inside, I give you my perfect low-FODMAP roast potatoes and parsnips. You can watch my how-to guide here.

 

Serves 6

Prep 15 minutes + 1 hour roasting

1.5kg Maris Piper potatoes

500g parsnips

2 pinches of table salt

5 tablespoons goose fat

Small bunch of thyme

Pinch of sea salt flakes

 

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/ 185°C Fan oven.

Peel the potatoes and parsnips. Cut the potatoes into similar sized pieces (if you want to be exact, each piece is between 35g and 45g!) Cut the parsnips into similar sized pieces, I usually cut the thick piece into two and the longer stem whole. See my video for a guide. Either soak the potatoes and parsnips in separate pans of cold water overnight or give them a rinse to remove some of the starch.

Change the water in the pans and add a large pinch of salt to each pan. Bring to the boil. Once boiling, boil the parsnips for 4 minutes and the potatoes for 8 minutes. Drain separately in a colander. Allow the veg to cool slightly and the steam to escape. Place the goose fat in a large, heavy-duty roasting tray and pop into the oven for a minute.

Place a lid over the colander and give the potatoes and parsnips and shake to rough up the edges. When the fat is smoking hot remove from the oven. Using a spoon, very carefully add the potatoes and parsnips. Turn everything over in the pan until it is fully coated in goose fat and in one even layer. Scatter the thyme stalks over the top of the potatoes and parsnips and return to the oven for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes check in on the potatoes and turn over to ensure maximum crispiness. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, remove the thyme stalks and place into a warmed dish - I like my potatoes and parsnips to be piled high. Scrunch the sea salt flakes over the top. 

Low-FODMAP Tomato Salad - (Salade de Tomates)

Low-FODMAP Tomato Salad - (Salade de Tomates)

If I was told I couldn’t eat fragrant, ripe, gloriously red tomatoes any longer I think I would cry - I would grieve for them far more than I have for any other food I have had to eliminate on the Low-FODMAP diet. You can keep your Chanel No.5; I think there is no aroma that matches the luscious, verdant smell of a greenhouse full of tomatoes in summer.

How best to celebrate the tomato? With this simple salad of course! A dish that is elegant enough to serve to others but quick enough to knock up for a snatched kitchen supper. Shush, don’t tell anyone the secret ingredient in this salad until after they have eaten. People can be peculiarly snobbish about tomato ketchup.

You can add a torn up ball of buffalo mozzarella to turn this into a more substantial lunch dish. Although I have used extra virgin olive oil here, do try using different oils such as the basil oil or Aromatic Spiced Oil for variety. Use the salad to top The Greatest Garlic Bread to make The Greatest Bruschetta Ever - divine.

I have used the Natural Grey Sea Salt with Herbs de Provence as it feels right that a tomato dish should taste of Provencal sunshine but equally the Natural Grey Sea Salt with Garden Herbs bring you flavours an English country garden. For a yeast-free version, use non-brewed condiment in place of the vinegar.

I use Chippa gluten-free Tomato Ketchup, as it is low-FODMAP, but use any good quality ketchup you can tolerate. For an entirely different smoky flavour – please use the barbeque tomato ketchup from the recipe in my book, Our House For Tea.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Prep – 5-10 minutes

4 large ripe tomatoes, at room temperature

1 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. white wine vinegar

½ tsp. Natural Grey Sea Salt with Herbs de Provence

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. finely chopped parsley (optional)

Slice the tomatoes horizontally into 5mm slices, cutting out the ‘stalky’ middle nearer the top. For this I use the end of a vegetable peeler. Lay the slices artistically in a shallow dish, putting the less attractive slices on the bottom. Whisk all the remaining ingredients, except the parsley, in a small bowl and pour over the slices in an even layer. If you are using the parsley, scatter it over the top. This salad benefits from standing for 10 minutes to mingle but it is not essential. 

 

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.

The Greatest Garlic Bread, that happens to be Gluten-free and Low-FODMAP

The Greatest Garlic Bread, that happens to be Gluten-free and Low-FODMAP

Garlic Bread, gluten-free, low-FODMAP

Since eliminating garlic and gluten from your diet you may be puzzling how or why I’ve given you a recipe for garlic bread? Well, I have developed this recipe because I miss garlic bread as much as you do and some things are worth fighting for. This has held my husband in rapture. Seriously, it’s delicious and should not be over-looked by those with no dietary issues! To turn this into The Greatest Bruschetta ever, cover the pieces of cooked garlic bread with my tomato salad. When the food is this good at Our House For Tea, it makes it very difficult to bother eating out.

The FODMAPs in garlic, Oligo-fructans, are held in the water of the garlic. Science is a wonderful thing for ensuring that oil and water does not mix - oil can be infused with garlic without the oligo-fructans getting in! Consider Garlic Oil your new best friend.

If you can eat gluten, please use a ‘normal’ artisan or sourdough bread. I have cut the bread into 1.5cm wide slices.

Serves 4

Prep – 10 minutes

 

4 slices gluten-free bloomer style bread

4 tbsp. Garlic Oil

40g finely grated pecorino

1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

Under a hot grill on a baking sheet, toast the bread on one side, and then remove from the grill. Mix together all the other ingredients in a small bowl.

Spread the untoasted side of the bread with the oil mix, try and be as equal as you can then under the grill. Grill for 3 minutes until the top is looking crisp and the edges are beginning to char.

 

 

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.

 

Aromatic Spiced Prawns - low-FODMAP, gluten-free and quick!

Aromatic Spiced Prawns - low-FODMAP, gluten-free and quick!

Aromatic Spiced Prawns and noodles, low-FODMAP

Two things I have found whilst on my Low-FODMAP, gluten-free adventures – a ridiculously restrictive diet means a lot of time spent cooking everything from scratch: between childcare and work, we don’t seem to have a lot of time. It’s an impossible equation.

I do find it frustrating when ‘quick and easy’ recipes include stir-fries and then list an overwhelming number of vegetables that need chopping: chopping carrots into matchstick-sized pieces can take an eternity. Bagged, ready-chopped stir-fry mixes often contain a few brown ends on the vegetables or have a curiously dried-out-yet-soggy texture. The exception to the ready-prepped veg rule seems to be ready-spiralised courgette, also know as ‘zoodles’ (zucchini noodles) or ‘courgetti’. I don’t have the space to store a spiraliser but if you do, then please use your own! In my book, Our House For Tea, I would put this under the ‘Making An Effort’ chapter – not because of the time spent in preparation but because you need to remember to buy the courgette noodles!

I’m always grateful to find a shortcut – the shortcut for this recipe comes via Aromatic Spiced Oil, next time maybe you could try garlic oil? If you can't buy a ready made oil, I'll give you the recipe for that too at the end. If you would like a more carb-heavy meal, serve over some rice-noodles that cook in minutes.

 

Serves 2 as a light meal

Prep – 10 minutes

2 tbsp. Aromatic Spiced Oil

300g courgette noodles

150g cooked large peeled prawns

Pinch of salt

Bring a pan of water to the boil with the salt. Drop the courgette ‘noodles’ into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain through a sieve and leave in the sieve to drain further while you heat the prawns

Shake the oil bottle well before measuring out the oil and any spices that come out, into a wide frying pan. Heat over a high heat then tip in the prawns. Cook for one minute on each side. Whilst the prawns are heating through, arrange the courgette noodles into piles on two warmed plates. Tip the hot prawns onto the courgette piles and drizzle over the pan juices over the top.

 

Aromatic Spiced Oil

1.5 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds

1 tsp. dried herbs de Provence (savory, marjoram, thyme, oregano, rosemary mix)

Pinch of dried chilli flakes.

Lightly crush the coriander seeds with your thumbs, they do not need to be obliterated! Mix everything together and use in your recipe.

 

 

 

THE BEST Low-FODMAP, Gluten-free, Vegan Chocolate-chip Cookies!

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     Gotta catch 'em all!

Gotta catch 'em all!

Please excuse my excitable heading and font – but these really are THE BEST low-FODMAP, gluten-free, vegan chocolate-chip cookies EVER! Anyone who follows my Instagram feed (@ourhousefortea) will have witnessed the baking disasters I’ve created whilst getting to this point. I kept trying to replace the eggs with various ingredients and it was only when I wondered what would happen if I didn’t, that these little beauties emerged. They are crisp on the outside and a bit squishier and crumblier in the middle - perfect. I must confess I’ve had no breakfast but have eaten three cookies in a row… bad low-FODMAP evangelist ;-) Won’t ramble on now and will let you get to the good stuff. I’m just about to try substituting half the chips with crystallised ginger pieces*, will let you know how I get on, promise you’ll tell me how you get on too?

Makes 16 Prep – 10 minutes Baking time – 12-14 minutes

125g free-from sunflower margarine (Pure Sunflower for preference)

75g caster sugar

50g soft light brown sugar

2 tsps. vanilla extract

200g self-raising gluten free flour blend (Doves Farm for preference)

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsps. almond milk

150g dark (semi-sweet) chocolate chips

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   FYI, the raw dough won't do you any harm...

FYI, the raw dough won't do you any harm...

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof baking paper.

Using an electric hand whisk beat together the margarine, sugars and vanilla in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift flour mix into the margarine and stir until it is combined. (If you use the electric beaters for this stage, the flour will fly everywhere.) When the flour is safely combined, add the almond milk and then whisk until you have a smooth, sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.

Dollop the dough in dessertspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, keeping them well spaced apart. You should have 8 dollops per sheet. Smooth the tops a little with a clean finger until they are around 6cm across.

Bake for 14 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through to ensure they brown evenly. Allow to cool on the tray for 2-3 minutes to harden slightly then move to a wire rack to cool. If you are going to store them, wait until they are cold and store in an airtight container.

Eaten warm, (she says from experience) they are delicious with a glass of milk, or whatever you’re drinking these days that passes for milk. The chips are still a bit soft and the chocolate can travel a surprisingly long way, particularly if for some reason you have it on your elbow. How?!

*Half ginger, half choc chips worked! I also added 1/2 tps. of ground ginger with the flour - delicious!


As a special treat here's a pic of one of my many disasters - follow me on Instagram for more kitchen disasters @ourhousefortea

Hmm...

Hmm...

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...

Cantaloupe Granita - Low-FODMAP and gloriously orange

Low FODMAP Cantaloupe Granita 2

Cantaloupe Granita - Low-FODMAP and gloriously orange

Aside from IBS and accidental-ingestion-of-a FODMAP associated pain, lots of childhood ‘illnesses’ elicit the same response from me. These are responses that can be said with a degree of concern in my voice but without betraying the scepticism I’m feeling. Nothing will quicken the turn of a perceived illness or injury into a full-blown illness, than a child who doesn’t believe you are genuinely concerned.

Low-FODMAP Cantaloupe Granita 1

Child – “Mummy, I’ve got a…”

Me, (in my best concerned voice, wearing my best concerned face) “Oh dear. Have you tried having a glass of water/ going to the loo/ having a little lie-down on the window seat/ putting a wet flannel on it/ opening a window/ running it under a cold tap/ putting on a jumper/ having a bath to relax your muscles/ putting a plaster on it/ not bending your leg/finger/arm backwards?”

Any of these seem familiar?

Heartless I know, but sometimes just having someone acknowledge your stress and pain is all that is needed. Often it turns out the illness/ injury was just a prelude to what has really been bugging them. A bad day at school, an injustice on the playground or disappointment that something didn’t turn out quite as anticipated. I think this is also true for grown-ups. When was the last time someone gave you their best concerned face? A little kindness can go a long way.

Sometimes, the struggle is real and you need to bring down a high temperature. Granita is a great to administer as a cooling-aid. Give 90g of cantaloupe melon granita, safe in the knowledge that you won’t also be tending to FODMAP related pain.

Check out the matching nails ;-)

Check out the matching nails ;-)

Prep - 5-10 minutes,

Freezing time 3 hours.

 1 ripe cantaloupe melon

Juice of half a lime.

Deseed the melon. If you have a hand-held blender, scrape the gorgeously orange flesh and lime-juice into a bowl. You could also use a blender or food processor. Whizz together, taking a moment to enjoy the wonderful perfume and wish you had a nail varnish the same colour.

Pour into a shallow freezer safe container. Cover and freeze. Every 30 minutes scrape in the ice that starts to form around the sides back into the mix, using fork. The mixture will start to get a granular slushy consistency. After 3 hours your granita will be ready.

For a grown-up slushie I recommend a shot of limoncello poured over the top.

If you keep it frozen, it will turn into a solid block. Leave to defrost slightly and show it some welly with either a food processor or blender to loosen things up.

Just realised I've given you a Low-FODMAP, sugar-free, vegan recipe - my life has changed immeasurably since 2012...

 

LowFODMAP Canteloupe Melon Granita 3

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.