I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.

Gluten and lactose are not my friends.

Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.

I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

October 31, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name, Ispahan

I love the scent and flavour of Rose.

The rich, velvety, warm taste is unmistakable. But this time it's combined with lychee and raspberries! I have heard of this magic sounding combination in the past, but it somehow failed to sink in to my consciousness until this weekend when I saw a post about it on Darjeeling Dreams, a lovely blog with some yummy recipes.

The flavour, called Ispahan, was originally discovered by the great Pierre Herme who created a macaroon in it's honour. I have decided to sponge off his genius and turn it into something a bit different.....

Enter my creation- Ispahan Parfait: layered Rose and Lychee Gelee with Raspberry Mousse.

Every now and then I feel the need to make a fancy-pancy dinner party type dessert that is elegant and grown up and of course, delicious. A bit like a culinary posh frock; always handy to have lurking in the back of the wardrobe as you never know when you might need to use it for something special. It does happen, sometimes, well, it might.....

When I was at the Good Food and Wine show in Sydney earlier this year, there was a little stall selling Rose flavoured drinks. Of course I just had to try them! The company is called 'Sence' and had a rose nectar, rose wine and rose liquor. I got some of the nectar and definitely had to buy some of the liquor too. The labelling states " Made from the essential nectar of the Kazaniak Rose from central Bulgaria, harvested at the peak of aroma and flavour." Now I'm not telling you to rush off and buy some, this is just what I've got on hand. I think you could probably make quite a nice substitute with a sugar syrup and rose water, tinted with a couple of tiny drops of pink colouring for the slightest touch of rosiness.

I decided to layer rose and lychee gelee as I want the lychee and rose to be the star of this dish, as they are lovely and subtle. The trick will be to get the raspberry to play second fiddle. Gelee- or just plain jelly or gello- has a nice clean taste that I don't to lose, just highlight.

I got the gelee recipe from Martha Stewart, a very simple combination of juice/nectar and gelatin. Easy peasy.

1 cup of juice- from a drained tin of lychees, keep the fruit aside you'll need it for later

1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin

1 tablespoon cold water

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and stand until softened, a couple of minutes.

Heat the juice in a small pan until just starting to simmer.

Stir the gelatin mix into the hot juice until dissolved.

Allow to cool a little.

Follow the same directions using the nectar.

Choose a pretty bowl, glass, dish or something that will show your gelee off to it's best advantage

Place a layer of gelee in the base and let it set well enough to hold a lychee without sinking.

Told you you'd need them. Let's have a think about these lychees for a minute. If you look carefully, you will notice there is a convenient hole in the middle.This is where the raspberry comes into it. Carefully stuff a frozen raspberry into the middle of the lychee. Fresh ones are too squishy, frozen ones are much easier to use.This is now a neat and tidy litte surprise!
Place a layer of filled lychees on top of the jelly and gently fill with the other liquid gellee flavour.

Place in the fridge until nice and set.

Originally I made a raspberry mousse and placed a layer of this on top of the glass, but it was overpowering the subtley of the dessert. This is a simple but elegant way to finish a meal on a lovely light note when you don't want something too rich or sweet. It would also be nice after an asian style dinner. Perfect for those hot summer nights around Christmas!

So tell me Readers, what is your favourite light way to end a meal?


October 24, 2010

Asian Style Poached Chicken Salad

As promised, here is the second salad from my catering weekend. This time it's an Asian Style Poached Chicken Salad with Rice Noodles.

This salad is gluten and dairy free and also very yummy! I make a very blingy version of this salad with seared beef for my family and it is our ultimate favourite dish ever. I add lots of chilli for us, but to keep it friendly for the masses I kindly forgo the bitey bits.

The first job on hand is to poach the chicken.

I allow 100g per lunch serve, that's plenty for this type of thing when it's bulked up with the rest of the salad ingredients. You can be really simple and just poach in water, but I like to infuse the chicken with some yummy asian inspired flavours. I use a tin or 2 of coconut milk, some ginger, a stalk or 2 of lemongrass that I've bashed around to release it's yumminess, and a couple of scrumpled up kaffir lime leaves too. Leave the chicken in whole breasts to avoid it drying out and place it into the simmering poaching liquid, just make sure there's enough for the chicken to be covered by and a bit more for evaporation. Leave on the heat and keep at a simmer for about 10mins, then turn off the heat, cover, and leave it for about an hour to finish cooking. Don't peek, just check at the end of this time and they should be perfect. If by some chance they're not, bring them back to the simmer for about 5 more minutes. Drain the meat and don't forget to save the liquid for stock, you could turn it into a very yummy wonton soup or something, or if you can't be bothered, take out the chunky bits and feed it to the dog, ours is so happy when mummy has run out of fridge room!

Once the chicken has chilled, chop or shred it into pieces that can easily be stabbed with a fork. Remember this salad is being balanced in one hand and eaten with the other. This will probably take longer to read than to get this going at this point!

Have I mentioned before that I love the products by Changs? I am not paid to advertise their stuff, I just love it very much. They are so kind to us InTolerants, and I just want to share the love!

The base of this salad is a nice rice noodle. These little packets come in 4 little cake portions and 1 cake will do 2 serves for a lunch box, or 1 serve for dinner. Just pour some boiling water over the little cake and let it sit for about 10mins. The noodles will swell, so make sure they are totally submerged and the bowl is big enough.

Now prepare yourself for lots of chopping.The good news is that once the chopping is done, the salad comes together in record time.

Finely slice or shred equal quantities of some iceberg lettuce - you need this type of lettuce for the crunch it delivers, don't try and use a soft butter leaf , and some chinese cabbage- we call it wombok.

Also a big handful of mint and for home I also use corriander. I always say that herbs should be used as ingredients not garnishes so be generous and you will really appreciate the freshness they bring.

Also a big pinch of shredded carrot per person, a few slices of lebanese cucumber and about 3 halved cherry tomatoes for the squirt of sweetness they bring.

Layer all these ingredients together in the lunch box, or toss it all together in a big bowl.

For the dressing, I combine equal quantities of vinegar and water and bring to a boil with a good spoon of castor sugar- just enough to take the harshness off. Add in a good spoon of lime juice and fish sauce. You are trying to get a nice balance of sweet, salty and sour so adjust accordingly.

Simmer until just a little reduced and a little syrupy. When it's cool add about a third of its amount with a neutral oil like peanut or ricebran, and a good splash of sesame oil for richness and nuttiness.
Put a good tablespoon of dressing on top of the mix in each salad box.

Toss this all together, the trick is to get everyone to shake,shake,shake their boxes up to mix it and distribute the dressing evenly through it all.
Grab a fork and dig in! There should be a nice freshness from the herbs and slight tang from the dressing, but a lightness overall without any heaviness on your palate or in your tummy!

So Readers, what is your families favourite salad?

October 15, 2010

Gluten Free Muesli

I don't think I get enough fibre.

A lot of gluten free breads and products contain little fibre and lots of high GI carbs with no whole grains or chewy bits. I know that fibre is pretty essential for all sort of health reasons, and as I head towards 40 I should probably start to pay attention to these kinds of things.

We eat very well overall, I don't like pre- packaged stuff, we eat lots of 'real' foods and a have a very varied diet. I'm supposed to eat low GI and of course, gluten and lactose free are a given. One of the other problems we face in my household is that we are carnivores. Flesh eating, canine teeth bearing, carnivores. A large percentage of our dinner plate has a slab of meat on it. That's fine, I looove my veggies too, and we have a big garden of our own, but I need to keep a balance, and I think I need to boost my fibre intake.

According to Wikkipedia, some of the functions and benefits of dietary fibre include:

'Adds bulk to your diet, making you feel full faster, May reduce appetite,
Attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, trapping carbohydrates and slowing absorption of glucose, Lowers variance in blood sugar levels
Lowers total and LDL cholesterol, Reduces risk of heart disease
Regulates blood sugar, May reduce onset risk or symptoms of metabolic syndrome and diabetes
Speeds the passage of foods through the digestive system, Facilitates regularity
Adds bulk to the stool ,Alleviates constipation
Balances intestinal pH and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids, May reduce risk of colorectal cancer'

Hmmm, so it does seem rather important.

I can increase the amount of fibre we eat as a family at dinner, I grab a quick bite at work for lunch, but the meal that jumped out at me for change was breakfast. BigJ and the kiddies eat cereal every day, and we stock about 5 types at any given time, including oats and weetbix. My usual morning fix is a small tin of tuna, 4 rice crackers, and a tablespoon of mayo. That's an OK meal, and I get my dose of omega 3's, but I think I can do better.

I need something that's tasty, easy, tasty, quick to bolt down in a hurry, and that tastes really good.

Of course, being gluten and dairy free, I can't eat regular cereal, the ones at the supermarket did not look appealing and the ones I tasted weren't nice at all! A friend has been on a successful mega health and exercise kick lately and gave me the recipe he's been using from his trainer. It seemed to tick all the boxes regarding InTolerances, flavour and fibre, so I stole some from his cupboard when he wasn't looking.... I mean got a small sample to try at home, and decided to give it a go.
Now, you know I can't just follow the recipe for something like this, I felt it needed just a little 'bling'. The original called for whole sunflower seeds, and crushed linseeds, I decided to go with LSA mix instead, as it's easy to find in the supermarket and just a lot less hassle. I also like almonds.The cocoa nibs and cranberries are mine too- hey a bit of luxury never hurts, and you need something to look forward to in the morning!

50g lecithin
200g linseeds coarsely ground
500g rice bran
300g pepita
300g sunflower seeds
600g walnuts pieces
200g coconut chips
50g cocoa nibs
100g dried cranberries- I know that they're sweetened, but that's all they had

Mix all of the ingredients together gently, bear in mind that the smaller particles will filter down to the bottom of the bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Serve your muslei with your milk-like beverage of choice, I like Zymil lactose free milk, and chew, and chew, and chew your way to better health.

As you can see, this made a lot of muesli, which is good as it cost me $34 dollars to make- not including cocoa nibs. I did some experimenting with serving size, and discovered that a 50gram scoop is plenty for a fibre full breakfast. That's about 40 serves at 85cents a serve. That put it in perspective for me, 85c is really not much money, and incidentally half the price of my tin of tuna.

One more piece of advice Readers, I like to brush my teeth AFTER I eat breakfast, but some people like my Dad, for some reason I cannott fathom, brush theirs BEFORE breakfast. If you like this muslei, please follow my sensible example or you will be picking little bits out of your teeth for ages. I know, sounds attractive doesn't it, but the same can happen with pesto, or pasley, or spinach or many other worth while things - so don't let that deter you, just take precautions and check your smile before you leave the house!

So Readers, what do you usually have for breakfast, and do you brush before, or after?

October 10, 2010

Felafel Salad

I have a big catering job coming up.

A group of ladies that come together to craft and talk and eat. I have been doing their lunches for the last few times and always like to make it interesting. I need a lunch box that is yummy, has gluten and dairy free options, yummy, healthy, easily eaten without mess, and of course, yummy. I happily adjust my menu to accommodate InTolerances and if people have special requests I always try my best. Some requests I've had are for 'squishy' food- lady has braces; no garlic- quite common actually; and 2 ladies have a chicken farm and cannot abide chicken!

This salad covers most of these, but I make a 50/50 split with another meal, so people can always swap if they want to. I'll write about the other salad shortly, but today is all about my Baked Pumpkin Chickpea and Felafel Salad.

Start off with a decent felafel mix. Yes, of course you can make your own, but I'm looking at A LOT of salads and need to save time somewhere- I still have morning and afternoon teas to make as well. These are a couple of great gluten free mixes, they are both yummy and taste fairly similar, but I actually like to blend them together and get the best of both worlds.

The Mix is so very simple. Just add water. That's it. Leave for a while to firm up, then mold into balls. I'm making mini ones so they can be stabbed easily with a fork and eaten in one little ladylike chomp. If you are using your hands, keeping them wet stops the mix sticking to you, but as I need uniformity I use a little scoop for shaping, don't compress it too much or it won't bi nice and fluffy inside. Set aside for a bit to rest and start preparing the pumpkin.

Pumpkin is such a yummy vegetable. It has a lovely sweetness and pretty colour that this dish really needs to give it a lift. You can use any sort of pumpkin, today I chose butternut simply because it was on special!

Peel and chop the pumpkin into little cubes. Again, mine are quite small, but make yours the size you want them.

Toss in some oil and a little salt and bake them on a lined tray until browned and softened. Be careful not to cook them until squishy as they will disintegrate in the salad as soon as you try to toss it.

Now, you have a couple of options. Traditionally, felafels are deep fried until crisp on the outside and piping hot on the inside. This of course, is the best way to have them. But... they can also be shallow fried, or even baked. Which ever method you choose, just be really careful not to overcook them, remember there is no meat or such to cook through, so they don't take long. If you leave them too long they will be horrible, hard lumps that can be used as weapons to throw at people you don't like. Today I'm shallow frying as I'm just doing the dry run for testing weights and quantities, but on the actual day I'll probably deep fry them for speed and convenience.

Let your little felafelly and pumpkiny treasures cool down while you get on with things.

Drain a good quality tin of chickpeas and rinse them well to get rid of any goopiness. If you have time feel free to soak and cook your own, but remember I need a bit of a hand preparing for crowds.

This salad needs a tasty dressing that will compliment the spiciness of the felafels while not overpowering the pumpkin. I like to use a yogurt base with a bit of tahini and a splash of lemon juice for sharpness, and throw in a clove of garlic. Blend it all together and thin it down with a bit of water if you need to.

Now the greens.... spinach is so tasty and good for you, think of Popeye! A good handful for each person is usually enough. Also chop up some nice flat leafed parsley, stems and all, and mix in. 3-4 cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half add that extra burst of sweet juiciness to finish the lot off.

Toss the felafels, pumpkin, chickpeas, greens and tomatoes together gently.

Drizzle lightly with the yoghurt dressing and pop into cute little containers like these noodle boxes. Or for more of a family meal serve the salad on it's own, with the felafels served hot on the side.

Along with the salad box, my ladies get: a small roll and butter, a cute little juice, some dainty fresh fruit and, most importantly, some chocolate. Doesn't that sound nice?

So Readers, what do you like to eat for lunch?

October 3, 2010

Chocolate Pastry

Who doesn't love chocolate? Especially when it's gluten and dairy free too!

I found this great chocolate pastry at the fantastic Allergy Centre at The Jamison centre. Now I have seen the plain shortcrust and puff style at Coles supermarket, but the Allergy Centre has a wider and yummier selection.

The Pastry Pantry is 100% gluten and wheat free, soy,trans fats, lactose, preservative, yeast and nut free too! It's also fructose friendly and IBS friendly.

It's sold in a packet of 3 sheets and each sheet makes 1 large tart, 3-4 small tarts, or 20 mini tarts.

It is nice to have a quick freezer option for entertaining, or just plain hungry days, and this is something often denied to us InTolerants, so this is indeed a valuable find!

The instructions require that you defrost the pastry for 3 hours at room temperature, so not something to whip up in an instant, but definitely do-able on even a busy day.

The pastry is a nice consistency and quite manageable as I manipulated it into the tart pan. I hate waste, and was determined to make one sheet fit. The sheet is the standard square size of other supermarket pastry which is another plus.

There, I did it! A bit of a patch job, but that will be covered by yumminess anyway. No tearing or splitting as I fiddled around and even as it dried out a little, so yet another plus!

The instructions also recommend blind baking the sheets first, but I was feeling impatient with all the mucking about and just docked it well with a fork instead. I popped it into the oven.... and waited with crossed fingers.

Riiiiiiiiiinnnnngggggg!!!!!!!! The timer went off and I ran to the oven. Smelt good... looked good, not much shrinking at all... firm texture, not soggy.... no minuses! The taste though, we'll have to wait and see.

Once cooled, I tried lifting the shell out of the pan, and it was fine with again no problems. There was a very small amount of shrinkage, and the patches had worked well, without coming away or falling off the top.

Decisions, decisions...what to put in the tart? I didn't want something too rich, so I chose raspberries, one of my bestest combinations. Isn't this pretty? Lined with ruby jewels of juiciness. I made a filling with 1 cup lactose free cream, 1 packet of 70% dark Lindt chocolate melted together, then cooled and mixed with 3 eggs. I poured this over the berries and then baked it at 170* for 30 minutes. I was concerned that the pastry might sogg a little, but again, it performed perfectly.

Now, the hardest part of all...... waiting for the tart to cool enough to devour! I let my little lovely cool at room temperature to firm up before attempting to push it out of the tin. It came away perfectly without a hitch. I tentatively held the knife over my tart, then plunged it in.... no breaking! no crumbling! no snapping either!

I have to admit that when I read the ingredient list and saw besan flour I was a little concerned as it has a distinctive flavour, but I needn't have worried as there is a nice chocolate taste. The texture isn't as short as one made with lots of butter, but it's not crumbly or rubbery either. There is a nice bit of bite to it and it holds up beautifully to being held in one hand without drooping and dropping filling in laps. A very important concern for lady-like behaviour my dears, especially when balancing a cup of Earl Gray Tea in the other hand.

I highly recommend this product and am eager to try the others in the range. It costs about $10 a packet, but well worth it as pastry making can be a real pain, and rolling it a perfect thickness is not my strongest point. I'll keep you posted on my findings.

So tell me Readers, what is your weakest point in baking?