18/12/2007

Dairy-free Chocolate Fudge

½ cup soya milk
1¼ cups sugar
60g dairy-free margarine
½ cup plain chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the soya milk and sugar in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 7 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan at all times and stir frequently.

Remove from the heat; immediately add the margarine, chocolate, and vanilla. Stir until the margarine and chocolate chips have melted, then beat for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into an oiled 20cm x 20cm dish (or a a smaller dish for thicker pieces). Refrigerate overnight, then cut into squares.

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I would never have believed that fudge could be dairy free - I thought it had to use real butter in order to set properly. I also thought that all the ingredients had to be taken to very high temperature in order for the chemistry to work. In this, it's only the soya milk and sugar which are boiled to high temperature - but of course it's the sugar which is significant, as its structure changes when heated in this way.

My (adult) son is mostly dairy-free, since he gets glue ear if he has any cow's milk products, and he loves fudge. So I tried this recipe, not expecting very much. I was impressed that it did set to give the consistency of fudge, and it's delicious! Next time we will add the grated rind of an orange, to make chocolate-orange dairy-free fudge.

Note: as someone mentioned in the comments, it's important to check ingredients in anything you buy. If you are allergic to dairy products (as opposed to simply cutting down) then obviously it's important to make sure there is no trace of dairy in the margarine and the chocolate chips. Using plain (semi-sweet) chips should be all right, but apparently some brands do contain some milk products. If so, perhaps carob chips would work instead; I haven't tried them but many people use them regularly as substitutes for chocolate.

Incidentally, the measurements in the ingredients are a slightly odd mixture. The cups are American cups (8 fluid ounces). But I can't measure margarine in cups; it's too messy. So I translated the original - which was probably 2 ounces, or half a stick - to 60g, as that's what my kitchen scales measure. However I left everything else in cups as it's simple to do and I have a full set of American measuring cups.

(I found this recipe online, when searching for dairy-free recipes. I made a note of it so I could try it - but, alas, have lost the reference. If it's your recipe, please let me know in the comments, and I'll link to the site where I found it)

12/12/2007

Courgette (zucchini) and tomato soup


serves 4-5

1 tblsp butter or oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
350g/12oz courgettes (zucchini), grated
1 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
600ml/2 1/2 cups chicken or veg stock
1 tblsp tomato ketchup or puree
1 tblsp dried basil

Cook the onion in the fat until soft. Add the garlic and grated courgette, cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add rest of ingredients, bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then blend in a liquidizer, a little at a time, until smooth. Return to the pan, reheat gently, adding salt and pepper if wished.

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This is very quick and easy; even someone who doesn't normally like courgettes (which are called zucchini in America) will probably enjoy this soup. It looks like canned tomato soup when it's smoothly blended, but of course the taste of home-made soup is always vastly superior to that in cans!

Serve with freshly-baked bread for a filling and nutritious lunch. If you make it with vegetable stock, it's suitable for vegetarians.

30/07/2007

Simple fruit smoothies

Serves: 2-3

Several pieces of fruit, such as peaches, strawberries, apricots, etc (2-3 types), fresh or frozen
About 250ml pure fruit juice, either fresh or from a packet or concentrate
A few ice cubes

Method:
Put the juice in a blender (liquidiser), then the ice cubes and any frozen fruit. Wash the fruit, remove any stones or stems, and chop into smallish pieces, then add to the blender. Switch on for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth and well-mixed. Add extra juice if it's too thick and blend for a few seconds more. Refrigerate until needed. Serve in tall glasses, with extra ice and straws if liked.

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What can be better for a hot summer's day than a cold fruit smoothie? A year ago I tried looking for recipes online, but the majority of them contained either milk, or yogurt, or bananas. My teenage son gets 'glue ear' if he has any dairy products, and soya milk just doesn't taste right in a fruit drink. And he loathes bananas. Finally I was given a wonderful book - The Big Book of Juices and Smoothies - and learned that a recipe isn't really needed. You just choose fruit that you happen to have - even if it's getting a bit squashy - and add it to juice and ice. No sugar, no diary products, no additives.... just pure fruit goodness.

We particularly like smoothies made with peaches and strawberries, and freshly squeezed orange juice. When strawberries are in season, I buy a lot and open freeze them, so I can add a handful straight from the freezer to a smoothie. Four peaches and about eight strawberries gives an excellent blend.

Apricots and raspberries are a good mixture, too, in either orange juice or apple juice. Raspberries, too, can be frozen. And, of course, if you can't get any fresh fruit and don't have any in the freezer, you can always use canned fruit (in pure juice of course, not syrup) although it doesn't have the health benefits of fresh/frozen fruit.

Oh, and if your family does happen to like bananas, they make an excellent addition to a smoothie, in combination with almost any other fruit.

I tend to make a smoothie in the afternoon during the summer, while preparing our evening meal, and then keep it in the fridge for an hour or two, to ensure it gets really cold. We drink it after our meal, instead of a dessert.

One of the great things about smoothies is that you can use fruit that's going a bit soft and squashy, so long as it still smells all right and doesn't have any mould on it. I often buy bags of fruit that's on special low offer prices as it's a day or two old, since riper fruit are better for smoothies.

If you happen to have any left over, you can pour it into ice lolly (US: popsicle) moulds, and freeze. Much better for a quick snack than commercially made lollies or ice pops!

11/07/2007

Stove-top barbecue chicken

Serves 4
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 finely chopped onion
1/3 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup water
4 tsp vinegar
4 tsp dark soft brown sugar
1.5 tsp worcestershire sauce (optional)
.5 tsp chili powder
600g skinned chicken or turkey pieces

Method:
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, and cook the onion until soft. Stir in all the other ingredients except the chicken and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, spoon the sauce over. Bring to the boil again then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the meat, to coat in the sauce, then simmer for 20-30 minutes more.

Alternatively, if you have a slow cooker, you can leave out the oil; double the ingredients and place the onions and chicken on the bottom of the crockpot (make sure the chicken is fully thawed if it was frozen) then mix the other ingredients together and spoon over. Cook for an hour on 'high' and then simmer on 'medium' for 6-8 hours. This works well with boneless, skinless chicken thighs which become very tender when cooked in the crockpot.

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I'm not entirely sure why this is called 'barbecue' chicken, since it's not cooked anywhere near a barbecue. Maybe the sauce tastes somewhat like some barbecue sauces (nicer, though, as there are no artificial taste-enhancers). It's a simple meal to make in a short time, and tastes good. Worcestershire sauce unfortunately has some additives that may be migraine triggers, but if this is not a problem, add it to taste.

We usually serve this with baked jacket potatoes or potato wedges, but it would probably go equally well with rice or pasta, or even bread. Broccoli and sweetcorn go particularly well with this, but you could serve any vegetables or salad.

17/05/2007

Apricot jam

(makes about four 340g jars)

1 kg apricots or loquats
225ml water
juice of 1 small lemon
1kg sugar


Method:
Wash the fruit, cut in half and remove the stones. Crack a few stones to remove the kernels and blanch them by dipping in boiling water so the skins come off. Put the apricots in a large pan with the water, lemon juice and blanched kernels, and simmer gently until the fruit is soft and reduced (about 20-30 minutes). Add the sugar, stir until dissolved, and boil rapidly for about 15 minutes or until setting point is reached, stirring occasionally. Pot in hot clean jars, and cover.

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Apricots are only in season for a short time, but can sometimes be found very inexpensively. They don't need to be top quality for making jam - they can be a bit under-ripe, or even a bit over-ripe, although it's not so easy to remove the stones if they are becoming squashy.

Do ensure the pan is big enough! When you've added the sugar, the mixture should not come more than half way up the sides of the pan, or it is likely to boil over. A jam-pan is ideal; you can then double or even triple the quantities.

To test for setting, let a few drops of the jam fall onto a cold saucer, and leave it for a minute until it's cold. Then gently blow on it, or press with your finger. If it begins to wrinkle, the jam is ready. If it still reacts like a liquid, it needs further cooking. Use a large wooden spoon and stir occasionally as it nears setting point - this may provoke extra-violent stirring (hence the need for a LONG spoon!) but this jam is liable to stick if you don't stir at all.

When it's ready, turn it off and wait until the jam has stopped boiling. Then using a small jug or scoop (rinsed in boiled water to sterilise), put the jam in hot jars. These can be heated in the oven at about 100C, or put in the microwave with a little water inside, and heated until the water boils. Do not let the jars get too hot or they will crack when the jam is poured in. But they will also crack if it's too cold!

You can use special jam covers, or jars with metal lids, but I prefer to use plastic screw-top lids. Rinse them in boiling water and shake to dry, then put on the jam as soon as it's in the jars, and tighten when the jam is cool. This makes an almost airtight seal, and I find the jam keeps for at least a year.

17/04/2007

Chocolate Crumb Cake

(serves 4)

150g soft margarine
1 tblsp honey
1 medium (approx 410g) can apricots or peaches, drained
50g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
100g dark cooking chocolate
75g self-raising flour
75g breadcrumbs
4 tblsp milk (or soya milk)

Method:
Heat the oven to 180C.

Beat the honey with 25g of the margarine, then spread over the base of a greased 1-litre ovenproof dish.

Using a wooden spoon, beat the rest of the margarine with the sugar (you can use the same bowl) until light and fluffy. Beat in half the egg, then the rest. Melt the chocolate gently, either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave (being very careful not to let it overcook), then add to the mixture with the flour, breadcrumbs and milk. Fold it all together with a metal spoon until well-mixed.

Roughly chop the drained fruit, and put in the pan. Then spoon the cake mixture of the top and smooth it down. Put in the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes until it feels firm to the touch (up to an hour, if you use a deep dish).

After about ten minutes cooling, you can turn the cake out onto a serving dish, or simply serve it straight from the cooking pan.

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Chocolate crumb cake is a fairly frugal recipe that goes extremely well with home-made ice cream. Use any breadcrumbs - we use the blender to turn leftover crusts or bread that's getting stale into crumbs, and then keep in the freezer for stuffings or other recipes such as this one. Of course, you may get a slightly odd taste if your crumbs are from bread made with chili or cheese!

If you want to add to the fibre and nutritional value, you can use self-raising wholewheat flour, or ordinary wholewheat flour with about a teaspoon of baking powder.

19/03/2007

Chinese savoury beef

Serves 4

1 tblsp oil
500g beef, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tblsp brown sugar
pinch of black pepper
2 1/2 cups water

Method:
Quick-fry beef in oil until brown, then add and quickly fry the onion, and garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 3 hours, adding extra water if needed. Serve over rice.

If you have a crockpot/slow-cooker, just put all the ingedients inside (doubling or tripling if necessary, so the crockpot is at least half full), then cook on High for a couple of hours, followed by 8-10 hours on low (or 5-6 on high if you don't have all day).
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If you have a bit of leftover wine in the fridge, you can add it with the water. You can also add in some sliced red or green bell pepper with the onion, if you wish. The amounts used are approximate - and I usually leave out the black pepper. Do remember to check the pan frequently while it's cooking, and top up with extra water when needed. It can cook for more than three hours if you wish.

We eat this with brown basmati rice, and stir-fried vegetables. If there's a vegetarian in the house, I serve something else oriental that can be eaten with the rice and vegetables.

01/03/2007

Chocolate chip oat cookies

(makes about 30-40)

1/2 cup margarine [125g]
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tblsp milk or soya milk
7/8 cup wholewheat or spelt flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (US: baking soda)
1 1/4 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and milk, and beat well. Add flour and bicarb; mix in. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips gently, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 180C (approx 350F). Cool for about a minute, then move the cookies to wire rack using a spatula.

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Chocolate chip oat cookies are an easy and delicious variation of the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe which is a little healthier than some as it uses wholewheat flour and oats. You can use whatever margarine you like, so long as it's suitable for baking: avoid hydrogenated fats if you can. You could even substitute carob chips for chocolate if you wish.

Pre-heat the oven to the correct temperature; then ten minutes should be the correct cooking time. The cookies may look rather soft, but don't leave them in the oven for longer or they will over-cook. Take them out, but don't try to transfer to a wire rack until they have hardened for a minute, or they will collapse.

20/02/2007

Teriyaki chicken

(serves 3-4)

500g/1lb chicken breast or fillet
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground ginger

Mix all sauce ingredients to make marinade. About 6 hours before cooking, coat the chicken (cut into appropriate sized pieces) with the marinade and refrigerate, turning and re-coating occasionally. Half an hour before cooking, remove from the fridge. Bake, covered, for about 30 minutes in a hottish (350C/Gas 6) oven, then uncover and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.

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This is a Westernised version of a Japanese recipe. Teriyaki refers to a sweet, soy-based sauce which looks shiny when it's cooked. Turkey breast can be used in place of chicken, if wished.

I tend to add a little water during the final cooking, which probably makes it even less authentic, but I like a little sauce remaining - sometimes it can all get absorbed into the meat. We usually serve with baked jacket potatoes or potato wedges, and a couple of veggies, although it should probably be served with rice and a variety of other Japanese food.

22/01/2007

Curried Carrot and Ginger Soup

(serves 6-8)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5cm (2 inches) ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tblsp curry powder
900g (2lb) carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1.6 litres (about 2.5 UK pints or 3 American pints) stock or water and stock cube

Method:
Gently cook the onion and garlic in the oil in a large pan, stirring, until softened. Stir in the ginger and curry powder, and cook for another minute. Add the carrots and a little of the stock, and cook for another minute or two. Add the rest of the stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, then blend in a liquidizer until it turns into a thick soup. Return to the heat and cook gently, stirring, until piping hot.

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This is a tasty soup which is quite spicy - if you don't like hot tastes, reduce the amount of the ginger and curry powder, or even leave the curry powder out. The ginger does give a pleasant tang to what would otherwise be quite a bland soup.

You can adjust other ingredients to taste - any kind of stock can be used, meat or vegetable, or even just water. If you have leftover wine that can be added too.

After the simmering, this looks most unappetising, with bits of vegetable floating in a sea of dark-coloured stock. Don't worry! The liquidizer turns it into a lovely orange soup that is excellent for a cold day, eaten with fresh bread.

15/01/2007

French stew

(serves 4)

750g stewing steak, chopped
150ml stock or water and marmite
1 large peeled, sliced carrot
1 cup french beans (optional)
1 onion, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water or wine
2 tblsp vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
pinch pepper
1 tsp mixed dried herbs

Method:
Mix all ingredients in a suitable-sized ovenproof dish with a lid. Bake in a slow oven (140C) for 4-6 hours, adding extra water if needed. Alternatively cook in a slow-cooker/crockpot for 8-10 hours on low. Excellent served with baked jacket potatoes and more veggies. Freezes well.

This can also be done in a slow-cooker (crockpot), doubling or trebling ingredients if necessary so the crockpot is at least half full. Place the carrots and onions at the bottom and the stewing steak on top, then the rest of the ingredients poured over. Cook for about an hour on high, then simmer on low all day. Even the cheapest stewing steak becomes tender with this method.

08/01/2007

Apple cake

(makes one large flat cake,can be cut into many pieces)

4 cups chopped apple (leave the skin on - just remove the core!)
1 1/2 cups sugar (or subst ½ cup honey)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 cups plain flour (can be half wholewheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons bicarb (baking soda)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Blend the sugar with the chopped apples and stand for a half hour. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Add the beaten egg, honey (if used), oil and vanilla essence to the apple/sugar mixture, and beat in with a wooden spoon. Then add all the dry ingredients and stir well. Pour in to a greased, lined roasting pan and put in the preheated oven. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Cool a bit, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely before cutting into pieces.

02/01/2007

Vegetable and Nut Cobbler

Vegetable nut cobbler
vegetable nut cobblerServes 3-4

Ingredients:
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small cauliflower in florets
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
180g green beans, sliced
1 tblsp curry powder
1 tblsp turmeric
200ml milk or almond milk

100g grated cheese (cow or goat)

For scone topping:
225g flour (can be half wholewheat)
3 tsp baking powder
100g butter or spread
120ml milk or almond milk
50g chopped walnuts
extra flour for rolling

Method:

Cook the vegetables in the oil, stirring, for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the onions are softened. minutes. Stir in the spices and milk. Put in a covered casserole and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C.

Meanwhile mix the flour with the baking powder, rub in the fat, and add the nuts. Stir in the milk and mix to a soft dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes. It will be very soft and sticky, so use liberal amounts of extra flour, and roll on a work surface to about 1cm thick. Cut into 12-15 rounds.

Remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables, then place the scone rounds on top, overlapping as shown. Brush with milk (or keep some of the cheese to sprinkle on top). Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, then lower heat to 180C and continue cooking until the scones are golden brown.

We like to serve this with roasted garlic tomatoes and braised red cabbage. For hungry teens, you could bake some potatoes too.