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.

February 22, 2011

Evolution Of A Dish

It's no surprise that my mind continually turns toward food. No, not always about eating it, but how it should be made or served or what would go well with what. I'm going to call it An Occupational Hazard.

I can't speak for any other chefs, but I like to keep a notebook handy for when inspiration strikes. Sometimes it might be while I'm watching TV, reading a book, grocery shopping, or pretty much any other time. I scribble stuff down with a name or description and usually a little sketch. I can't even clean out my handbag without checking the back of receipts for one of my cryptic messages.

Sometimes these ideas come to nothing. Sometimes I can't even read my own writing! But "Great oaks from little acorns grow" and you never can tell, one of these might be my ticket to culinary fame and fortune- maybe.

This is how my dish started, an idea rattling around my mind. As you can see, I cross things out, change things around and put ideas out there that I realise are a bad idea even as I write them down. The end result might not resemble the original in the slightest, it's the process that's important to me.

I started off by braising the pork belly. Now if I was making this 'for real' I would get one that wasn't already scored. I put in a small size pan with apple cider and some thyme and cook it on about 160* until the pork is very,very tender, topping up the cider as needed. Be careful not to get a sweet cider, it won't be nice in the end product.

When the pork is cooked, place it in a clean tray and weigh it down overnight. This will compress the meat to a nice firmness and make it nice and flat for uniformity. As you can see, due to fridge space, I didn't really follow my own advice and didn't get it flat enough. I pour the cooking liquid back in with the meat as it helps keep it moist and it needs to be saved anyway.

You can do these steps a couple of days ahead of time. You don't think we make a dish like this from scratch while you wait in the restaurant, do you?

Once the meat is ready to this point, scrape off all the fat and jellied liquid, turn it skin side down and slice into thick pieces. It's easier and tidier this way. Bear in mind the size of the apples and the plate the meal will be served on when slicing.

This leaves the sauce. The liquid the pork was cooked in will have set to a firm jelly overnight and the fat risen to the surface. Scrape off the fat and discard. Put the jelly in a pan and melt down. Reduce by about half, add in a good splash of brandy- apple brandy preferably, and a good knob of butter. Check the seasoning. This should now be a lovely, rich, sticky sauce that tastes fantastic. Yumm.

I thought celeriac would work really well with these flavours. If you haven't tried it, its a beautifully mellow, celery tasting, ugly looking beast, but please give it a try- it's so worth while.

Peel and chop into chunks- be quick as it'll go brown like a peeled apple. Place in a saucepan with milk and season with salt and white pepper, brown flecks won't be attractive. Cook down until very, very soft then drain and blend with cream and tiny bit of butter to a velvety smoothness. Again, this can be made well in advance and heated up before serving.

The apple component changed quite a bit from my original plan. I still don't like it, so I'll give you instructions for the new and improved version, but be warned, I may still change my mind before I dish it up for you at my next dinner party.

Peel the apple, then cut it thickly BEFORE you core it. Trust me, it's easier this way. I also peeled an onion and cut a cored section from it's middle. This core needs to be briefly cooked as it takes longer than the apple. Stuff the onion into the apple. I think next time I'd tidy them up by using a ring cutter to tidy the edges and make it a smaller diameter, or possibly slicing them into a thick baton to fit the profile of the pork slice. In my photos the apple is very wonky, and the apple to pork ratio was a bit overpowering, so it definitely needs tweaking.

In a heavy based pan, put a decent knob of butter with a little oil and cook the apple until it's nice and golden. Turn it over carefully then season and top up with chicken stock and a sprig of thyme. Cook slowly until the apple is lovely and soft and cooked through- not mushy! The stock should evaporate away and the bottom of the apple will be beautifully burnished.

Now to plate the dish and pull it altogether into a harmonious whole.
Make sure everything is hot and ready to go, hot plates are best as well.

When ready for serving, heat a pan with some oil to hot, then place skin side down and allow to start crisping. Turn it over then pop into a preheated oven to keep crackling and to heat through. My pork is rather over browned (burnt), but my cat distracted me by leaping onto the bench and sniffing around the rest of the meat. I can assure you, this would be unlikely to happen in a commercial kitchen, at least I hope not! Cat bribed away with scraps, continue. With the pork nice and flat, it's easier to get an even crackle with a lovely shattering crunch.

Put a decent dollop of celeriac puree at the side of the plate and pull the spoon over to the other side leaving a nice smear.

Place the apple pieces slightly apart on the puree and top with a piece of pork.

Spoon some of the rich golden sauce over the meat, it will pool on the plate so don't add too much or it won't look balanced.

Top with a garnish. I think a thin fried beetroot chip would be good and add some much needed colour, otherwise some pretty red stemmed micro herbs, we don't want a symphony in beige on the plate. I had neither, so just use your imagination.

Serve with some nice earthy tasting greens like broccolini, as you can see, mine were rather past their prime. The yellow is not desirable in a GREEN vegetable.

I'm still not happy with the finished dish. The flavour is there, and the cooking techniques are fine, but the look still needs some work. I also need to say that the correct plate adds to effect. I actually borrowed this plate from my friend Pony, as I don't have any white plates. I have an eclectic mix of styles and colours that all blend together well. This way it doesn't matter if something gets broken, I haven't ruined a matching set.

I think this would look better on a rectangular white plate. It would add to the linear effect of the puree and the nice slices of pork.

So Dear Readers, what do you think of my Evolution Of A Dish? The next time you flick through a cookbook or eat out, will you spare a thought for the amount of effort that goes into just creating, let alone the actual act of cooking, the meal?

February 17, 2011

Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffle

Goat - robust both by nature and aroma, but delicious just the same....

Being the sensitive petal I am, I am InTolerant to lactose. Luckily for me though, through some sneaky technicality, I can handle small amounts of goat and sheep milk products. I know there are all sorts of medical reasoning's behind this, something to do with protein strands etc, etc, All I need to know though, is that they are delicious, and they don't give me nasty, nasty side effects (as I love you, I will spare you graphic details)

As you can see, I have quite a little selection of yumminess at my command. I seem to have collected them over the holiday season and need to use them up before they turn nasty and I have wasted all that money.

Hmmm.... how to share the love? Not everyone confronted with a delicious array of goat and sheep products will be as thrilled as I am. Somehow a chunk of cheese can be intimidating. The answer, sneak it into a souffle! Once they have exclaimed over it's lip-smacking loveliness you can gently break it to them that it is all due to the ovine, not bovine, characteristics.

According to my mother, I was a culinary prodigy who made my first souffle at age 6. She cannot remember what flavour it was, but I'm sure it was wonderful! So is my mother, who always let me mess up her kitchen and play around with ingredients.

Today we'll do a great souffle for beginners, or those who are not child prodigies, a Double Baked Cheese Souffle. "Double baked?" I hear you cry! Yes, but think of other tasty treats like Twice cooked pork belly and Biscotti, and you will see it will be all O.K. By baking it twice you get to skip the nail-biting uncertainty of whether or not your souffle will rise to golden topped glory and whether or not you can get it to the table before it deflates defeatedly. Another bonus is that you can make the recipe through to the first baking, then stick them in the fridge or even freeze them until you're ready. Let's see you do that with a normal souffle!


450ml/ about 2 cups lactose free milk or substitute
80g butter or substitute- Nuttlex is good
1/2 cup gluten free flour
100g soft goat/sheep cheese
100g grated hard goat/sheep cheese
6 eggs, separated
seasoning to taste- but be careful, most cheese is pretty salty anyway
1 cup or so of lactose free cream or substitute
Extra grated cheese for serving

Grease 6 medium size ramekins or souffle dishes-about 1cup or so capacity.

Pre heat the oven to 180*C

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add in all the flour and stir until it goes slightly golden.

Now stir CONSTANTLY while adding in the milk. You don't want lumps. They are the cellulite of custards and bechamels everywhere, and while we may not be in control our own cellulite, we should take care not to carry it over into the cooking arena. Keep cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens and boils.It will be really quite thick now.

Add in the cheeses and let them gently melt through.(I used blue cheese, so any little weird coloured bits you can see are just that and black pepper)

Take off the heat and cool for about 5mins. Stir in the egg yolks until well combined.

Cool for another 10mins or so.

Now, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until you get soft peaks. Not stiff peaks, you are not making a meringue, or showing off by holding the bowl upside down over your head.

Place about a third of the whites into the cheesy mix and gently combine. This is to lighten the mix and allow you to incorporate the rest of the whites without knocking out all the airiness. Gently fold through the rest of them.

Divide among the dishes, but be careful not to be rough and destroy the delicate little bubbliness of the mix.

Boil the kettle. Place the dishes in a roasting dish and place it in the oven. Working quickly, pour in enough of the boiling water to come halfway up the height of the dishes. Why not do this first? Well, its hard to manoeuvre a pan full of little dishes and hot, hot water around the kitchen without splashing the water all over yourself, or even worse, into the souffles themselves, rendering all that hard work pointless. The choice is yours, dear Reader, choose wisely.

Cook for about 25 minutes until puffed and golden. They need to be firm looking on top, with some structural integrity so we can turn them out. Remove from the oven and water bath, and stand for 10 minutes. Do Not Be Alarmed! The precious beauties WILL deflate a bit. This is not a problem. They are MEANT to do this. It is in their nature. Loosen their edges with a silicon spatula, then pop them out of their dishes and onto a tray. Let them cool.

This is the stage where you can continue on straight away for serving, or tuck them away in the fridge- or even freezer until later. Remember what I said in my Gingerbread post about being prepared? If your friends are impressed with the biscuits, they will be Blown Away by a souffle!

Anyway, to finish off the little lovelies,

Preheat the oven to about 180-200*

Place souffles on a baking tray or dish.

Spoon a little cream over them and sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Bake for 15-20 mins until nurture overcomes nature and they again puff up with air the way you will with pride when you serve them to your crowd of admiring diners.

These are lovely for lunch with a rocket and fig salad, perhaps with some prosciutto, and a white balsamic vinaigrette. Don't forget they're quite rich. (And yummy!) and a nice white wine, of course.

So Dear Readers, do you like goat or sheep cheese, and what makes you puff with pride?

February 13, 2011

Beauty Spots

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things...

Well, these are Maria Von Trapps favourite things, how about I show you some of mine in my kitchen?
What have we here?

My lovely big oven that holds the largest size commercial bain marie tray. Yes, it's the same one that burnt out, but it's all better now.

My single dish drawer. We really don't need two. When we had a full size washer it would take a couple of days to fill it. These ones are surprisingly roomy and accommodating.

My two tone kitchen. We have offset drawers and cupboards here and there for a bit of interest. The colours are actually much better in real life.

A cute little Two Timer. This has two dials so you can be monitoring two things at once. I like the old style 'brrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiing' when the time is up.

My gas top. If you have a close look at this, you'll notice that it's actually sunken. If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm probably a bit shorter than you. Just a tad under 5'2". When we built the house we made the whole kitchen bench top an inch lower than average, but next time I'll go still lower. When we went to a gas top, I realised that they sit really high- the burners sit higher than the benches, the racks sit even higher still, and I already have height issues! I opted for this top that has the racks sitting at bench level. It has the added bonus of catching any spills before they overflow onto the floor too.

My cheffy qualifications. This is my apprenticeship certificate. Yes, I have it framed in the kitchen. I am very proud of achieving this. I came to cheffing later than most, and felt I needed to prove something. I did consider copying and laminating it to use as placemats for my family. That way If they had any complaints about my food - not that they would of course!- I could instantly prove that I indeed, know best.

These are some of my Shun knives. Japanese sharpness. Very strong and light, also great for smaller hands like mine. A sharp knife is less dangerous than a blunt knife. You should use a steel each time you use your knives, and get them sharpened properly every now and then too.

My big mortar and pestle. Made of stone and great for making curry pastes. It's very therapeutic to smash the dickens out of something now and then. As you can see, when not in use, it makes a very stylish door stop.

My favourite teabag tea. Strong and flavoursome. The perfect pick-me-up any time of day. I even take them to work with me.

This is my tasting spoon. Every chef needs one. You see them stuck in our little arm pockets on our uniforms. You really don't want us sticking our fingers into your food, so a handy spoon is the answer. BigJ had these specially engraved for me for my birthday one year. I wanted something a bit different and unique, with a bit of attitude- like me!

My fridge door. Stuffed to the brim with exciting odds and ends. These door shelves hold my sauces, pastes and condiments. There is pomegranate molasses, wasabi mustard, flavoured oils, and goodness knows what else.

Moving on to one of my pantry shelves. I need a much bigger pantry. As you can see, I like things lined up neatly and labeled. My fridge shelves are labeled too. No, I don't have issues- really! I can see wasabi sesame seeds, tinned sugar cane, and other weird stuff that I'll get around to using eventually.

This is a cute picture stuck on my fridge. It makes me smile.

Here is my absolutely fantabulous Kenwood mixer. With a 6.7lt bowl, it's about the largest non commercial unit available. Actually, you can get smaller commercial ones. The reason I went for this particular mixer came down to weight. The same type in a professional machine was much heavier at 20ish kilos instead of a more reasonable 12ish. This way I can manipulate it around the benches and even take it on catering jobs if I need too. I love it. I have a drawer full of attachments- food processor, icecream bowl, and others. The only problem is...... Kenwood have just bought a new model out in the same size that also has an induction plate. Just imagine, cooking and mixing at the same time! Risotto, custards, sauces, and my nemesis- caramel. I have many a fading scar from splashes of that sticky beast. I just can't justify buying a new mixer just yet. But if Kenwood ever wanted to give a deserving chef a break.........

And finally, my De Longhi coffee machine. It's top of the line, fully automated, and very fancy pantcy. We actually won it at the Good Food and Wine Show one year. It makes a yummy coffee, but I use it to make my half-strength lactose-free decaff. At work I have it with soy milk and they call it my 'crappachino'. I think this is very rude of them, and I chose to extract my revenge on the staff meals when they are not looking. Just by saying this, I have sown a seed of doubt in their minds and stomachs. Whether it's true or not, maybe I will now get the respect I deserve!

I won't bore you with any more bits and pieces- like my cookie cutter collection, engraved chopsticks, herb and spice drawer, etc, etc. These I will save for another day.

So dear Readers, what makes you happy in your kitchen? And do you get the respect you deserve?

February 8, 2011

Brookfarm, Slow Food for Fast People

I was recently contacted by the lovely Chontelle and Office Buddies from Brookfarm asking if I would like to try some of their gluten free products.
In my box of goodies I received packet of Cranberry and Macadamia Muesli, a box of Brookfarm Bars, some pouches of Walkabout Snacks and a bottle of Macadamia oil. How exciting!

Living with food InTolerances does not have to be restrictive, companies like Brookfarm that make great gluten free food available 'main stream' are doing such a great job, and I'm sure all us InTolerants are extremely grateful for the thought and effort - and yumminess- that goes into these products.

Founded in 1999 by Pam and Martin Brook, Brookfarm is today Australia's leading producer of premium quality Macadamia products and works on the 3 P's principal, Passion for Quality, Passion for a better environment and Passion for great tasting healthy food.

"At Brookfarm we believe it is not enough to produce healthy nutritious food, the customers have to taste the difference. People with gluten intolerance often have a limited choice of foods, our mission was to create a Gluten Free Muesli that was full of flavour and didn't taste like cardboard. Pam Brook, the creator of Brookfarm's Gluten Free Muesli, took over 12 months to source the high quality ingredients, create and refine the recipes"

First I tried out the muesli.

It has a nice mix of textures with lots of fruit and big chunks of nuts.(I hate it when manufacturers skimp on the good bits) I poured on my lactose free milk and tasted.... a light taste of honey was my first impression, followed by the great crunchiness of a cereal that can take a dousing without going instantly soggy- it even maintained it's structural integrity while I took a few photos. As with all good muesli's, you really don't need a lot to be satisfied, but it is yummy, so try to take it easy!

Brookfarm bar with Macadamias and Cranberries

I'm not usually a fan of these type of bars, they are way too sickly sweet for my taste, but these ones are much better, as they're geared for grownups instead of the kiddies. They hold together crisply with a nice amount of fruit and nuts and manage to escape the stickiness that I also find unappealing in other commercial bars. I'm not a big snacker, so used these as a light breakfast on the go instead. I enjoyed them very much and hid them from the children citing 'research' as my excuse.

Walkabout snacks

Now these were really yummy. What impressed me was how fresh tasting everything was. You know what it's like with nut mixes, all the flavours melding together with one slightly dominating and a slight mustiness over all. But I could taste all the flavours properly and they worked together beautifully. My favourite was the with the dark chocolate buds. They are tiny little gems of sweetness like gracenotes in the nuttiness. The only downside of these little baggies, is that I was soo full after having one. That's when I read the packaging and realised it served 3. Ooops! That just shows how much I liked it I guess.

These are the type of thing I keep in my handbag or locker for those emergency times when no one has thought of me, the InTolerant, and think that some rice crackers are a suitable option for me at a luncheon buffet. The only option. That's when I break out my yummy stash and think happy thoughts, instead of plotting revenge on the host.

There was also a recipe card tucked in with my goodies for an interesting sounding chocolate cake. I really wanted to try it, but begrudged the amount of muesli needed (see, told you I liked it). I decided to compromise by making a half quantity instead.

For those of you not lucky enough to have some Brookfarm muesli available, substitute it with another-probably less yummy one or use almond meal.
I also used butter as it's practically lactose free, and Lindt extra dark chocolate for the same reason.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
Recipe created by Anthony Telford. Serves 12

125g/4oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz quality dark chocolate
250g/9oz Brookfarm Gluten Free Muesli
4 large eggs
225g/8oz caster sugar

- Line a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper
- Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F
- Place butter and chocolate together in a heat proof bowl over gently simmering water
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature
- Place muesli in food processor and blitz until it resembles a "nut meal"
- Mix the eggs with the sugar until combined
- Stir the egg mixture into the chocolate mix with the muesli meal.
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 45 mins or until skewer comes out clean
- Remove from oven and allow to cool
- Serve with cream and fresh berries
- This cake will last one week in an airtight container in the pantry or fridge, but I bet you won't leave it that long!

The end result is a lovely, rich fudginess with the surprise of an odd bit of cranberry here and there. Because I used a smaller tin it created a higher cake which is why mine has the exaggerated cave in. It doesn't matter with such a dense cake like this, merely dust it with some icing sugar or cocoa or maybe a spoonful of cream or berries or coulis, or perhaps them all, and no one will complain. There will be silence around your table except for the scraping of spoons on plates and surreptitious licking of fingers when no one is looking.

For more information on the lovely Brookfarm and online shop and distributor list, check them out at http://www.brookfarm.com.au/ **I also just discovered they are stocked at Belconnen Westfield in the little health food shop, oh so dangerously close and accessible to me!

See, we can change the world, one Gluten at a time! Thanks Brookfarm for helping me make this possible!

So Readers, what do you think of companies who make gluten free mainstream?

Goodies supplied by the lovely people at Brookfarm. Thanks Guys!