Here’s one of the very first posts I wrote, one of the very first recipes and bad pictures when I first started Eat Allergy safe back in 2014. This post got deleted somehow when I completely revamped the website but I had a backup on my hard drive so I’ve decided to repost it. This lockdown has been the time to spring clean and tidy up. I’ve also realised that I have a ridiculous amount of content I’ve written, photographed, but never posted…I’m still stumped as to how and why…Enjoy the recipe, it’s pretty delicious, (and the rambling story of a much young Nina!).
January 5th-11th 2014
Sweet Potato Soup: Something hot and steamy to cure all ills
To begin again…
I am sure I am not the only person who planned to start 2015 with a flourish. I thought “a new year, a new and better me. I want to make 2015 better than 2014”. Now that I am older, I find there is such a rejuvenating anticipation and excitement about a new year. As if the slate has been wiped clean and an expectant confidence for the future quietly fuels one’s mood. The future is exciting and scary but the only way we can go is forwards, so why not make the most of it?!
2015 started well for me. I had made my new year’s resolution that I was going to get stronger and more flexible. Day 1, January 1st, I started as I had meant to go on. A leisurely 20 minute stretch and then a New Year’s Day walk up a big hill with friends. “There,” I thought, “a little bit of exercise and stretching achieved for day one”. The continuation of said resolutions, however, at least for the first week of the year was thwarted by the flu from the afternoon of day one – what a right nuisance! As I felt my body begin to ache and my temperature begin to rise, my will power ebbed away too. I blame this on the illness: no energy = no will power. I am now, two weeks into the year, regaining my will power and reclaiming my resolutions.
The best laid schemes of mice and men…
Being ill is so inconvenient and it certainly wasn’t in my plan for 2015. The worst thing about being ill is not being able to eat and being too tired to prepare food, which often means the food you’re eating may not be as nutritious as you need it to be. While thinking about thwarted plans (isn’t ‘thwarted’ such a great word! It makes a really pleasant shape of your mouth while saying it. Have a go! TH-WAR-TED. See, so fun! ☺), I realised plans which do not go as expected are usually because I have not prepared enough or because of something unexpected, like illness. Although, better care of myself in the preceding weeks would have stopped the illness…But you live and you learn.
While I was writing this post “The best laid plans of mice and men…” popped into my head, and I thought I would share it with you. This phrase is actually a mis-quote from the Robert Burns Poem To a Mouse. It’s an apology from Robert Burns to a mouse whose nest he had turned over while ploughing a field. I wanted to share it with you because I felt it was uplifting. Sometimes you might be turfed out of where you are comfortable, but you might actually have a better situation than the other person. You can’t see into the future, all you can do is go forward into it. Here are the last two verses:
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
(Robert Burns, To a Mouse, 1786, http://www.robertburns.org.uk/Assets/Poems_Songs/toamouse.htm)
And on I went, but not far, to the kitchen…
As soon as my brain had de-fuzzed itself, I was figuring out what I could cook that would make me and my boyfriend, who was also ill, feel better. What immediately came to mind was soup! A hot steaming bowl of soup tucked up on the sofa with a blanket and a movie. Doesn’t it sound just so warm and cosy! (Of course with lots of tissue for your runny nose and aspirin for your headache, but for a moment you can feel better.)
Store cupboards medicines…
So into the kitchen I went. I wanted ingredients that would provide health benefits as well as tasting great. Ginger and garlic have been used in Chinese and alternative medicine for decades, they have anti-inflammatory properties, good for making teas to help soother headaches and sore throats – perfect! Bone broth is coming back into fashion now, but it has always been a good for you. It contains minerals in a form your body can digest such as calcium, magnesium, it fights colds and flu, and has anti-inflammatory amino acids! How fantastic is that?! These were my base ingredients and some of the things I had lying around the kitchen. Other ingredients were chosen, partly because they were in the kitchen and because they are yummy!
I was still feeling rubbish when making this soup so I came up with this yummy and easy to prepare recipe. It also gives you time to have a sit down between operations if you are sick or just having a very long day.
I hope you enjoy!
Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion Soup Recipe
- 4 small red onions, cut into sixths
- 400g sweet potato, cut to roughly the same size as the onions
- Glug of olive oil
- ½ a leek, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, diced finely
- 10g finely diced fresh ginger root
- Beef fat/duck fat/goose fat/ coconut oil/olive oil/butter
- 800ml beef stock
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Cut the onions and the sweet potato then put on a baking tray. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and stir until all the pieces are covered evenly. Now place the tray in your preheated oven. They will need to cook for 30-40mins until the onions are glistening and caramelised and the potatoes are an orangey-brown on the outside and soft on the inside.
- While the onions and sweet potato are roasting, cut the leek and dice the garlic and ginger.
- Take out a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan or stock pot and put it on the stove. Add your choice of fat to the pan and put on a medium heat. (I used beef fat because I had just slow cooked a brisket joint and some of the fat had settled at the top of the stock. No point in wasting such good quality and incredible tasting ingredient! I believe using animal fat when cooking, especially when its grass fed and free range, makes such a difference. It adds a depth to the flavour of the dish that is irreplaceable.)
- Add the chopped leek, garlic and ginger to the pan and stir until it is coated in fat.
- Turn on to a low heat and let it slowly cook until the onion and potatoes are done, stirring occasionally making sure they don’t burn.
- Now is also the time to take out your food processor and get it ready to use and measure out your beef stock.
- Once the onions and potato are cooked, take them out of the oven and put them to the side. Reserve a few of the roasted onions for decoration.
- Put your beef stock in the sauce pan and simmer gently on low.
- While the stock is simmering, put all the sweet potato and remaining onions in the food processor. Blend until a paste. I like my soup to be a bit chunky so I didn’t blend until pureed, but that’s my personal preference. You keep blending until you’re happy! You may need some liquid to help with the process. Take a few table spoons from the saucepan to help.
- Once blended to your satisfaction, add the onion and potato mix to the saucepan and mix. The stock should look more like soup now. Now stir in 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
Et voilà, a hearty, warming bowl of soup! May it make you feel warm and cosy!
I’ve compiled a handy list of foods containing gluten to help you know where some sneaky gluten invaders that could be lurking.
Use this to help you do your food shopping and avoid being glutened again.
Don’t Get Glutened! List of Foods You Would Never Know Contained Gluten
- Wholegrains (oats are often bulked with wheat or grown in a field next to wheat, spelt, couscous)
- Deli Meats (sliced ham, beef, chicken, salami and other dried meats)
- Burgers and Sausages
- Marinaded Meat, Fish and Vegetables
- Dry Roast Nuts
- Sushi (Barley)
- Crisps (such as Doritos, Cheese and Onion flavour, etc)
- Chips (cross contamination through fryer or coating)
- Mashed Potato
- Ground Spices (wheat flour could be used as an anti-caking agent)
- Stock Cubes
- Pickles (malt vinegar, made barley, is often used to pickled eggs or vegetables)
- Salad Dressings (often the thick creamy dressings can use wheat flour as a thickener. Vinegarettes are usually ok, but still check the ingredients label.)
- Dips (Taramasalata and other dips could have wheat flour as a thickening agent)
- Mint Sauce (barley malt vinegar can be used)
- Soy Sauce
- Mustard (such as English mustard can often contain wheat flour)
- Mustard powder (can often contain wheat flour)
- Asfoetida (used in Indian cooking and can often contain wheat flour as a bulking agent)
- Icing Sugar
- Ice Cream
- Quick Action Yeast
- Baking Powder
- Beer and Ale
- Medicine – Check your calpol, contraceptive pill, vitamins and mineral pills
Have you found gluten or wheat lurking in other products? Leave a comment below and let me know where else we should be aware of.
GIVEAWAY!: How to Enter
Win a copy of my debut recipe book “Chocolate treats: decadent delights free from the top 14 allergens”!
To enter, all you need to do is leave a note in the comment section at the bottom of this post with your answer to this question:
What is the number 1 allergy-related problem that you wish you could solve tomorrow?
Deadline: Sunday 29th July at 23:59 GMT
*Entry is open for international participants. The winner will be emailed upon close and then I’ll post out your prize!
I can’t believe after over a years worth of work my debut recipe book “Chocolate Treats: Decadent delights free from the top 14 allergens” is now available on Amazon.co.uk AND Amazon.com!! I am SO excited proud and thankful to everyone who had a hand in getting this book published and that includes you EAS community!
Thank you to the very first people to email in with recipes requests and suggestions, it was you who got me on this path and inspired me to create more. Thank you to those of you who bought the first edition back in December 2017! I couldn’t quite believe it when the first orders came in.
As a thank you, in today’s post I am going to give you a little preview of what you will find in the book including: the key things to make great chocolate treats that are free from the top 14 allergens, a little bit about my favourite recipes as well as a GIVEAWAY!!
The Key To Working with Dairy Free Chocolate
Dark chocolate naturally shouldn’t contain dairy but you will often find that it has a warning label due to cross-contamination risks. As such dairy free dark chocolate works in basically the same way as ‘normal’ dark chocolate. Dairy free ‘white’ chocolate on the other hand is a complete diva! The number of times I have ruined a batch during melting or thinking that I could leave it for a bit like I do the dark chocolate is unbelievable! The dairy free white chocolate requires constant attention, hence the Diva tag.
The key to melting dark, and especially white chocolate is to use the Bain Marie method. A Bain Marie is when you melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. The rising steam from the water gently heats the underneath of the bowl. While you stir the chocolate it will melt evenly without getting too hot. If chocolate gets too hot it will separate. This is especially true when it comes to dairy free white chocolate, it has to be stirred constantly! It’s lack of cocoa solids is part of the reason for this, it is more unstable than its dark counterpart. So, being the diva she is, she must have constant attention (I.e. stirring) to keep her silky smooth once melted.
In my recipe book I have a whole section talking more in depth about the characteristics and techniques for working with chocolate and how to get the most out of it for your bakes.
Using Gluten Free Flours
In many of the recipes I use a combination of gluten free flours in various recipes. Each gluten free flour has its own properties, some are starchy, others are sticky when mixed with water, others are just thirsty little things. However when mixed in a various combination they create different textures in the bakes. For example, in my Chocolate Fudge Cake I use combination of rice flour and tapioca flour. Tapioca is a starchy flour made from the cassava root, when mixed with water it can be used as a thickener in savoury foods such as soups and stews, but for baking it can create a sticky texture in a batter when baked. Perfect when you want your fudge cake to be a thick chocolate sponge!
In many of my cakes I like using coconut flour. In the UK, coconut is not included as a nut in the top 14 allergen list. It is also one of the gluten free flours I can eat (as I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts). I like that it has a sweetness all of its own which means I don’t have to add a huge amount of sugar to cakes. Not only is too much sugar not good for you, I found in a lot of store bought free from cakes the amount of sugar is horrendous! I also find you get a clawing after taste when there is too much sugar in the recipe and it just tastes a bit fake…not pleasant at all! The coconut flour also has a very light texture, almost fluffy. I mix it with rice flour or tapioca flour in various recipes to add texture to the cake. I find the sponges come out lovely and light! Even my non-allergic friends think so!
Baking with No Eggs…How do you get cakes to rise??
Now this is something that wasn’t actually as hard as you may think. I use a combination of gluten free baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to create the rise in my bakes. A bit confused as to how or why this works? Well, think back to your school science projects, particularly how you get a volcano to erupt. The ingredients you would use are vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. The vinegar and bicarb react and create a fizzing and this is what happens in the bakes too, hence the rising.
I always like to find the natural way to make food and my general food philosophy is you should be able to eat each ingredient individually, so random replacers are not my favourite. Vinegar and raising agents on the other hand are a good option and they work. I use different quantities depending on the size of the cake, but don’t worry I’ve specified exactly how much in each recipe.
My 3 Favourite Recipes
I have a couple recipes in this book which are my favourite: Sweet Potato Brownies, Date Orange and Chocolate Truffles and the American Style Chocolate Chip Cookies.
In reverse order, the Chocolate Chip Cookies took quite a few tries to get the recipe right (I burned quite a few batches and some others just fell apart). I had a real sense of triumph when I got it right! Not to mention the taste is brilliant! They are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, my version of an American Cookie.
The Date Orange and Chocolate Truffles was a recipe I dreamed up 3 months before I actually finished it. It just kept going round and round until I actually finished making them. Then once I did the taste of the fresh orange came bursting through with the sweetness of the dates and the richness of the chocolate I could just keep eating them all day!
Finally the Sweet Potato Brownies, again took a couple tries to get right. The first time it just went hard and burned, the second was slightly better but still not great and then I got the ratios of ingredients just right and they were perfection! They were bouncy and SO chocolatey, even 3 days after I made them (because I couldn’t get to photograph them until then). My other half and his brother (who has no allergies) helped me taste test them and we finished the brownies in one sitting, they were that good!
Where You Can Buy the Book
If you are thinking of birthday or Christmas presents, or just a recipe book to add to your collection I would of course highly recommend my Chocolate Treats recipe book (how could I not?!).
I’ve aimed it at anyone who loves to bake, has multiple food allergies or wants to bake for someone with food allergies. All the instructions are easy to follow and you don’t need to buy any fancy equipment! I started off allergy free baking while I was at university so I wanted to keep it so that you could do it in any kitchen with just a bowl, a fork and an oven at the most basic level.
Along with the recipes I have also added lots of information about living with allergies, as well as links to resources that may be useful to you. Its about choosing to make allergy living your lifestyle choice rather than just something that was forced on you. I’ve found that making that choice makes it more manageable and absolutely more fun!
I wanted to make sure the book was as widely available as possible so I have published on:
Amazon.com (USA & Canada)
(You can get next day delivery if you have Prime too!)
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