Friday, 27 July 2012

Is IKEA designed for us?

Well, if my posts are somewhat sparse in the next month, I'm sure you'll understand, when I tell you that it looks like we could be moving quite soon. It's an event that saw us make a trip, last weekend, to IKEA. 
Would love this in our new abode. How do I  persuade The Hub?
I was a bit stunned that The Hub was so keen to visit IKEA as well. But at the moment he is a man with a mission - Operation Move Us! 

My obsession with IKEA started long before I ever set foot inside their hallowed halls. I would spot a nice thing in someone else's house and admire it and they would airily say, 'Oh yes, that came from IKEA.' The problem, for me, was that I didn't live anywhere near any one of their stores... until more recently. 

Ah yes! There's always chips!
Even now, we don't live that near and so, as we planned our little trip, it soon became apparent that it would help out a lot if we were able to eat whilst we were there, in their onsite restaurant. Despite not being able to find information online we decided to risk it. I was sure I 'd read something by someone, somewhere recently about having allergies and being able to eat there (if that's you, and you're reading this, please remind me who and where) which surprised me, but made me keen to give it a go myself. Although we thought it might not be all that easy, we knew that at the worst they sold chips - so we wouldn't actually starve.

Busy, busy, busy
It's a bit of an understatement to say that IKEA on a Saturday is busy. It was teeming - mostly with young families and the expectant. On reflection it was odd that we decided to go at all. A few years ago, we sore off ever going to IKEA on a Saturday, for that reason alone. However, I thought Baby might enjoy bouncing on other people's beds, for a change. 

Their self-service restaurant had already been doing a brisk trade by the time we arrived, and it was only just past midday. Already most of the tables seemed occupied by at least someone. 

So we joined the food queue straight away. It's well organised - you are funnelled past tray trolleys, trays, cutlery etc. then desserts and pastries, some cold plates of food, drinks, children's food, then hot meals and finally a salad bar. I soon spotted something I thought might be safe - a bowl of jelly, priced 50p, but I was hoping for something a bit more filling than that to sustain me on my shopping trip! 

My choice
Fortunately, I spotted a plate of gravadlax, then a plate with salmon and salad and some pot of dressing. That together, with a portion of chips was probably my best bet, I decided. Not knowing what was in it, I could always pass on the dressing. The question was, what to feed Baby?

Not the salmon, obviously, but maybe the fish and chips? 

The chap serving the hot food seemed clueless, but passed us on to someone else. She looked slightly panicked and disappeared (always a bit worrying). It turned out that IKEA do not have a folder with allergy information, but she had the next best thing in her hands - the box the fish had been packed in. From this I soon worked out that the fish was pollack, there was no dairy but there was wheat in the breadcrumb. 

Baby's plate
As it had taken the lady a while to locate the box for the fish, I decided to take a bit of a risk and not ask about the fries. There was a queue backing up behind us and that always worries me, so I had to just hope they were OK. They didn't look coated with anything, and if they were, hopefully it wouldn't be very much of anything - especially as Baby seems to react less severely these days. 

Obviously, you can't afford to do this, if you are incredibly sensitive to allergens, and were likely to have an anaphylactic shock. But then, if you were, I wouldn't suggest that you eat in the IKEA restaurant anyway - due to the obvious lack of knowledge on the part of the staff that I met - I think the risk of cross-contamination would be too great. 

Baby's free fruit. Drink not free.
The lady did however helpfully inform me that children's meals came with free piece of fruit and that with each adult meal that was purchased you could help yourself to a free Plum baby pouch, that were located by the tills. 'Most helpful,' I thought, 'if you've got a real wee one!' There was a choice of two, one of which was strawberry and banana.

IKEA clearly have the whole family thing well thought out. For, as we seated ourselves in a corner of the restaurant, I noticed a baby nursing area  - there for those who like to feed their babies in private - which was screened off from public view. From what I could see, it appeared to be equipped with a bottle warmer. There was also an unsupervised children's play area (equipped with IKEA toys) ideal for little one's letting off steam.

Swedish meatballs for The Hub
In case you're worried about The Hub, yes, he ate too - he loves the meatballs, for which IKEA seem well-known. It's his 'payment in kind' for agreeing to shop there. I dread to think what's in them, but it doesn't seem to bother him! You can get them without gravy - if you manage to stop the serving staff from dolloping it on top! 

It's worth knowing (I perused the food packaging in the IKEA Food Market - the food is exactly the same) that their meatballs contain wheat.  Their chicken meatballs also contain dairy but the others don't. Who knows what's in their gravy! I didn't get to ask.

It was in the Food Market that I discovered the dressing on the salmon was also completely safe (just in case I needed some reassurance). I could have ate the dressing too. Oh well! I'll know for another time!

Another genius thing about the Food Market is that they sell ready frozen ice packs and cool bags, so if you get there and decide you want to buy some of their frozen food but are worried about how you'll get it home, without it defrosting - well the solution is right there before your eyes. See, they are clever, they think of everything, don't they? Some joined-up thinking like that at The Allergy Show, this year, would have been incredibly useful, wouldn't it? I can't be the only one who wished they could take some frozen ready meals home on the train, but worried about the consequences. Anyway, I digress...

A range of cold drinks is available in the chiller section of the restaurant. My choice was a Belvoir Organic Lemonade.

If you fancy tea or coffee, well that's 95p a cup and you can refill for free. Similarly soft drinks are also refillable, at 85p a cup.

How much?
Our meals broke down as follows:

Marinated Salmon £2.75
Chips £1.25
Belvoir Lemonade £1.60

Kids Fish and Chips £1.75
Peas 50p
Drink £1.75

Meatballs £4.50
Belvoir Blood Orange £1.60

Pretty reasonably priced, hey?

Anything to add?
Well it's not haute cuisine, obviously, so the food wasn't that great (from my point of view - my salmon was flavourless and dry). There may have been other options, that I didn't fully investigate - like the salad bar, but I get weary of asking and holding up queues. If you want a dessert, don't hold your breath - unless you like jelly. BUT, the bottom line is - we ate,  we didn't starve, we didn't suffer any nasty consequences.

Great as IKEA is, at design an at providing resources for their family clientale, with thoughtful play areas, nursing areas etc. (I so wish more restaurants would do that) I do wish that they would do something for the allergic customer - educate their staff a little more and provide clear labelling on the self service food. It would help so much, if they stated the ingredients in the food, or at the very least, whether their food contains any of the eight most common food allergens. Ah well! I can but dream!

No idea where it's come from, but since writing this post, a comment has been left below which provides a link to a nutritional information chart. The chart outlines what's in IKEA's food. Interestingly enough, it covers not just the major allergens, but also sodium, Vitamin C and Calcium too! 

Unfortunately, though, another comment suggests this might apply to IKEA in the US. Bah! That might explain why I couldn't find it online, before!!

Let's hope the UK staff have access to this chart, or similar (no more rooting around for empty cardboard boxes) and let's hope that the staff have also been properly trained about the importance of avoiding cross-contamination!

What might be even more helpful, would be a chart to which the public have easy access, when selecting their food - just as Debenhams do!! Here's hoping - the times they are a-changing!

Other posts about eating out dairy free:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Keeping my cool!

Wow! What a change there has been in the weather! Rain, rain, rain, rain and more rain, then HOT! Now if you're one of those who loves to lie in the sun and catch yourself a tan, you may not be complaining, but me, I'm not so keen to damage my skin these days and I really don't like getting hot and sticky and HOT and sticky we have been! 

In our (current) humble abode, the sun come in one side in the morning, moves around the neighbour's side during midday and comes back in the other side in the evening. So we heat up all morning and get even hotter in the afternoon. Risks of pollen and flies stop me opening the windows too much. Usually, I stick a fan on, to try and create some cooling breeze.

Yesterday, the temperature went up to at least thirty degrees in here - too much for The Hub. Used to his air-conditioned office at work, he soon switched the air con on, now why didn't I think of that? Well I had, but it needed a bit of brute force and fiddling to get it set up, so...

I must admit, I would have liked to have been sat in the shade, in a garden, with my feet dangling into a paddling pool, whilst Baby splashed about. However, not having a garden and paddling pool to hand, I have been thinking up my own ways of keeping cool - some more successful than others!

Inspired by Dietitian UK, who was challenging her followers on Twitter to have fruit with their breakfast, I started with this:

A lovely little bowl of fruit for breakfast, to which (as it was already high twenties, by the time I got 'round to breakfast) I was going to add my little tub of dairy free and soya free yoghurt, which I had stuck in the freezer the day before. 

It was the first time I had tried this little trick - inspired by a recent shopping trip, during which I noticed a stall selling frozen yoghurt. However, the yoghurt now looked like this:

It was frozen solid!! Oops! Even after five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, it was still quite solid! So I gave up, ate the fruit, and gradually chipped away at the frozen yoghurt with a spoon. Then I ate some toast - by now, my stomach needed some carbs!

'Hmm!' I thought to myself, 'maybe it just needed a few hours in the freezer, not twenty four!'

By this point, I was wishing I'd stuck some banana in the freezer too. It was a suggestion I'd come across on Mumsnet. One mum freezes bananas and mashes them with a little dairy free milk, to make her own 'ice cream'. It does sound good. 'How long does she stick them in the freezer for,' I wonder.

Fortunately, I did have something in the freezer that was just right.

And this, (adopting a French accent here) was my Piece de resistance:

It's what I'd like to call it a cornetto. The Hub had one the other day, which inspired this creation. So simple to make:

1. Take one gluten free, and dairy free ice cream cone (mine's Eskal, Barkat will do).

2. Add a couple of scoops of dairy free ice cream (Bessant and Drury's from Tesco, in this instance).

3. Place some pistachios in a small plastic bag. Bash them up, with the end of a rolling pin. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over your ice cream.

4. Hey presto, one home made cornetto!


Baby's version obviously omitted the nuts, although, I did plaster the top of hers with Moo Free dairy free chocolate buttons (available in Waitrose and Holland & Barratt or, if you prefer to shop online, at Love Lactose Free Life)! Moo Free are ideal for this kind of thing, as they're much smaller than other chocolate buttons. Must remember to do that with mine next time!

I'd like to add, that I could of course have made it more authentic by adding some vanilla dairy free ice cream as well and dribbling some ice cream sauce on the top (some seem to be dairy free) but as these thoughts only came to me later, they missed the photo -op! ;)

So what about you, how have you been keeping your cool?

Related posts:

Thursday, 19 July 2012

How to have an allergy free baby

Well, I got asked THE question the other day, the one for which I've  had to wait some time, and which I've been dreading. Some people have skirted around the question, perhaps not wanting to appear nosy, perhaps checking to see if I'll tell them that the reason my tummy is bulging is because there is another one on the way (to which the answer would be, 'Err, no!') rather than because I've just not managed to ping back to my original size. The question was, of course, the: 'Isn't it time to have another one?'

I dread this question because, being an honest person, I would feel obliged to tell them the truth, i.e. 'I really don't fancy going through all of that again,' and actually, more pertinently, 'I'm not sure that I can, because I'm not sure that my body would be up to it.' 

The thing is, I'm the wrong side of forty now (just) and I had at least one miscarriage before Baby was conceived and at least one early miscarriage or 'natural abortion' since. Then there was pregnancy - I was very tired for at least the first half of the pregnancy (falling asleep on the sofa after dinner each night), appeared at one  point as though I might be going to miscarry the pregnancy again, was terrified of catching some flu, contracted a condition that made me itchy all over, had very swollen ankles, and then to cap it all H.E.L.P syndrome (my liver'd had enough) which meant that once the doctors had worked out that it wasn't just a tummy bug (that took them a week, during which I barely ate) I had to go into hospital and have Baby induced. And, apparently, if you've had H.E.L.P syndrome once... it could happen again.

I won't even go into my birth story. 

After the birth, there was Baby's jaundice (for which we were readmitted into hospital, almost as soon as we'd left), a month of not knowing what was wrong with baby before she was diagnosed, three months of painful breastfeeding (due to contracting an infection, which none of the medical professionals seemed to be able to solve) plus, I had to give up milk (and along with it, almost all my favourite food)! And to cap it all, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the antibiotics that I had to take to overcome the breast infection, upset the flora in my gut, leaving me with the problems that I now face. Have another? You must be joking!!

Dairy Free Baby as a newborn
Don't get me wrong - I think Dairy Free Baby is gorgeous as she is, but I have often wistfully thought about how different and much more smooth life would be, if she wasn't allergic... 

And yet, a tiny part of me is tempted! You see, it would be so nice for Baby to have a playmate. However, I would want a cast iron guarantee that my next one wouldn't also have any food allergies, but as far as I can tell there's no such thing!

I have been keeping my eye on the research that has come out about children and food allergies, to try and work out why it happened, to us, in the first place, and it turns out I was doing it all wrong! I only wish I'd known. If you want a non-allergic baby, here's what you must avoid:

1. Family History 
The parents must not suffer from hay fever, or indeed any food allergies. If you do, then the chances of your children having food allergies (not necessarily the same as you) are greater. Oh dear! Bit of a risk factor here for us! Both The Hub and I have been known to be affected by the pollens and as for food allergies... where do I begin? Oh, and another thing you mustn't be Caucasian. If, like me, you are, then apparently we are more at risk - which puzzles me somewhat. I am, The Hub isn't. He's of Chinese descent! So where does that leave us? Now, although a lot of South East Asians are supposed to be allergic to milk, not one of The Hub's family is at all milk allergic and they find the whole thing very odd!

2. Location
Where you live is important. If you live in a city, you are more likely to have problems with allergies, whereas, if you were reared on a farm, you are less likely to be allergic. Apparently, just visiting a farm, or even living near one, is not enough! Well that's just unfortunate for us then!

3. Hygiene
If you are hygiene conscious (like me) then this one would be a nightmare for you. It seems that everyone really does need (just as the famous idiom declares) 'to eat a little bit of dirt'!  Antibacterial chemicals, such as Triclosan, which is in many toothpastes (including mine) have been linked to increased incidence of food allergies. Whoops! And there was me using medicated wipes and being handed cans of Dettol to use in my classroom, whilst I was pregnant - to ward off the swine flu, which was a very real concern at the time I was pregnant!

4. Nutrition
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to allergy (although the thinking on this seems to keep see-sawing back and forth, according to continuing studies)! There is, would you believe, not so much incidence of food allergy near the equator? This is one of the reasons that pregnant mums need to be taking supplements. I must admit, when I was pregnant, my Vitamin D levels can't have been too good. I spent half the summer inside, avoiding encounters with pollen, and the other half inside trying to empty my classroom and sort out the nursery (which was full of stuff commonly known as 'junk').

5. Nuts
I was interested to see this one doing the rounds again, just this week. I was told by the midwives that as I had suffered from hay fever, for most of my life, I should avoid eating nuts when pregnant to avoid a risk of Baby developing food allergies. More recently, research appeared that suggested the opposite. As a result of which, the NHS recommends including nuts as part of a varied diet whilst pregnant

Like Vitamin D deficiency, the thinking on this keeps changing with each new study. Recently, it appeared (according to one study) that one should avoid nuts again and not just during pregnancy but also breastfeeding. Doh! I just couldn't help reaching for that packet of M & Ms, when I was pregnant - I was craving them so badly! However, I'm not going to beat myself up about that one. More research seems to point in the other direction. 

Moreover, I was interested to read reactions of a number mothers, to this research. More than one parent of twins (having either eaten nuts or abstained) had interestingly enough, one child born with severe allergies to food, whilst their twin had nothing at all to worry about!

6. Primogeniture
Just thought I'd throw that term in, to confuse you! What I mean by that, is the order in which you were born. If you're the first born child in a family, you are apparently more likely to be the one who suffers. It's thought that after having her first, and indeed with each child that follows, a woman's immunity improves, so decreasing the risk of developing allergies. There's one glimmer of light for us then!

7. Autumnal Birth
This is the one that I've not seen mooted for some time, so they may have discounted it again by now. But, not long after baby was born and we discovered her cow's milk protein intolerance, I came across an article which seemed to suggest that researchers had made a link between babies born in November/December time and allergies. It was (ahem) in the Daily Mail (and so, of course, The Hub was sceptical) but the thinking behind it was that  such babies are in the crucial early stages of foetal development during the pollen season, and that this had some bearing on their immunity to allergens. Other researchers link the findings to Vitamin D deficiency (again). 

Regarding our recent family history, that kind of made sense to me. Both Baby and I were born in that period - as a teacher, I saw children who were born in the summer who found school work more difficult (it doesn't always follow) so I specifically wanted and planned an autumn baby. None of my siblings were - they were all born between March to June and none of them are allergic to hay or food, or much else for that matter! However, my parents, both born in November, have no problems and so kind of turns that theory on its head! 

A Conclusion (of sorts)
Following all this research, I have come to some kind of conclusion - that all the research becomes somewhat bewildering and confusing after a while. It leaves you not really knowing who to believe, which way to turn, or what to do. Especially as one thing I have discovered is that research teams can sometimes be funded by some company or organisation with some sort of axe to grind - which leads one to doubt the purity of their motives as well as the conclusions that they reach. Maybe, the best thing to do, is ignore it and carry on regardless and take whatever comes your way. 

If I do decide to have another (they say you should never say never) there's nothing I can do anything about my family history or location, but... I will try to reduce my dependency on anti-bacterials and other chemicals like parabens - less chemicals is better for us anyway. I will continue to take Vitamin D - there are plenty of health benefits associated with taking Vitamin D. I will plan to have a baby in September or October (or failing that February, March or April, as I'm still a teacher at heart) and will continue to eat  nuts - my diet is limited enough already and I'm just not convinced by the evidence!

Now, throw me some of your thoughts...

Similar Posts:

Simple Shepherd's Pie - dairy free, soya free, gluten free

If you're a bit of a foodie, switch off NOW - as I very much doubt you'll learn anything from me. BUT if you are  a complete novice, or are just interested in whether we do anything different, well you might just want to read on!

I suspect that when I was a child what we, as a family, called 'Shepherd's Pie' was probably more likely what is more correctly termed 'Cottage Pie' - the difference being in the meat. Cottage Pie is made with minced beef and Shepherd's Pie (the clue is in the name) is made with lamb mince. Whatever! Whether it's Shepherd's or Cottage Pie, I love it and make it completely the same way, no matter which meat we use.

Baby also loves Shepherd's Pie, and it's a great way of sneaking in the veggies, without her noticing, so we tend to make it about once a week. The great thing about it is that it is so simple to make - even I can do it. The only downside is all the prep!


750g Potato
450g mince (lamb or beef)
Half an onion
3 medium carrots
1 courgette
6 white mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Stock cube Kallo/Knorr or similar
Handful of grated Violife/cheese
Salt & pepper (to taste)


1. Heat oven to 190 degrees C.

2. Half fill a saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil.

3. While you're waiting for the saucepan to boil, peel and chop the potatoes, carrots, courgette, onion and mushrooms.

4. Once the water has come to the boil, add the potatoes and a pinch of salt. At this stage, I usually add a steamer tier to the pan and steam the carrot, as I like my carrot soft-ish.

5. Heat olive oil in cast iron casserole or large pan. Add the onion and the minced meat and mushrooms. Stir until meat is thoroughly cooked and juices run clear (about 30 minutes).

6. Once the potatoes have cooked, drain the water, add a few dollops of margarine and a splash of almond (or other) milk. Mash the potatoes until they are smooth. Before 'Baby' we would add a little salt and pepper at this point, but we try to avoid adding salt with her around, and she's not so keen on strange flavours.

7. Take the casserole/pan off the heat. If using the pan, empty the contents into the casserole dish. Add the carrots and courgette and combine the ingredients, with a spoon.

Cooking in the casserole makes for one less pan to wash ;)

8. Use boiling water and a stock cube (best to use a reduced salt version, if cooking for a little one - Marigold Swiss Bouillon make a reduced salt version) to make 250ml stock. Pour it over the meat and vegetables. I don't like my stock too runny, so will use the whole cube.

9. Now add the mash with a fork. Add it in small dollops to avoid it sinking in with the meat/stock.  I like to fork it over, so that it crisps nicely in the oven.

10. If you like a cheesy crisp, to the mash, you can sprinkle a handful of grated cheese (we use dairy and soya free Violife) over the top of the mash. I think it makes it more scrumptious!

11. Cook until the top is crispy and golden (around 30-45 mins).


Talking of all things scrumptious, I saw a tip from the Hairy Bikers the other day, which suggested adding some lardons to the mince and instead of mash using gnocci to speed things up (some gnocci is made dairy free and gluten free). Not tried it yet, but... Ooo! I'm tempted!

Please note: 

This post is not an advert. I have not been paid to write this post. I am not sponsored in any way, even by advertising. I do not receive products free to review, although I have often been offered them. This is to try and maintain an unbiased approach. All views expressed are my own (unless I've asked for The Hub's or Kiddo's).

Related Posts:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Baking with Baby 6 - Chocolate & Beetroot

Before I went dairy and gluten free, I really don't think I'd have tried this recipe. I mean chocolate yes, but beetroot? Seriously??

I think I've mentioned before that I have a bit of a tendency to be a 'glass half-empty' sort of person, so, it's a bit bizarre to find myself saying this, but looking back over recent times, I've come to a somewhat surprising conclusion. That is, that as much as I may dislike Baby's intolerance to milk and mine to various other foods, there is good that has come out of it. 

What do I mean? Well, prior to all this, I made baking and cooking much less of a priority. I bought stuff rather than baked it. I still do, to some extent (where I can) but I have been forced to push the boat out a little bit, in terms of my comfort zone, and try new things. As a result, my somewhat rusty baking skills have been sharpened up a bit, I've attempted new recipes and also we're eating less foods with strange additives and preservatives in them which, as far as I'm concerned, can only be a good thing! One of the recipes, that was new to me, came to me via my one of my sisters.

Not so long ago, my sister had a bit of what's commonly known in the world of employment as 'gardening leave.' Making herself busy, she came across a recipe that she passed on to me and which has turned out to be a bit of a God send. It's a chocolate cake recipe that is made with beetroot and is intended for muffins. I have to admit, I loved the sound of the chocolate, but wasn't so keen on the beetroot - until I gave it a go! 

Chocolate & beetroot muffins, all dressed up for Christmas!
The original recipe used wheat flour, but the good thing is, that it is so moist that it helps to keep gluten free flour from drying out the cake. We've used it time and again, not just for muffins, but also for various birthday cakes and with Baby it is a firm favourite. It has an additional benefit - when Baby is a little bit 'clogged up,' it helps her go!!

Here are some of the cakes we've made:

Baby's birthday cake. Don't be too impressed - the iced animals were bought!

Baby's birthday party cake

A cake for an Australian friend!                     Check out all those dairy free chocolate buttons!
The recipe originated from a Hummingbird Bakery book called Cake Days, which is heavily bound by copy write, so I won't be sharing it here, but I have found this recipe online that is quite similar to the one that we have used. There are heaps of other recipes online, but the reason that I've chosen this one is because, like the one we use, the only fat used is vegetable oil.

The next thing you need to know, is that (unusually, for any recipe chosen by me) it can be a bit of a faff to make - it was the main reason why I invested in a food processor!

So having turned the oven on, to warm-up, and prepared the muffin cases or cake tin, out comes the food processor. I'm a bit of a rebel. All the recipes seem to start with the dry ingredients, but not I! I start with the bit that I really want to get out of the way - puréeing the beetroot. 

We buy the beetroot vacumn packed from the supermarket, but you can always start from fresh and boil it, if you wish. The thing is, you don't want beetroot that has been pickled - take it from me - it leaves a very nasty after taste! Having emptied the beetroot into the food processor and securely fastened the lid, it's Baby's turn. I lift her up, so that she can turn the knob and watch the beetroot get blitzed into tiny pieces. Strangely enough, for a Baby who used to scream when the vacumn cleaner was used and who is still very sensitive to noise, she is somehow unphased by the hideous noise of the food processor!!

The eggs come next. No blitzing between each one for me - Baby just doesn't have the patience! They all go in and are whizzed together, followed by the oil (we use sunflower) and the vanilla essence. Sometimes we add a tablespoon of water (you could always use a milk substitute) to add extra moisture - my sister prefers to do this, when using gluten free flour, but I tend to do without.

Finally, I plonk Baby into her high chair, put the scales and an appropriate bowl in front of her, hand her a spoon and let her mix the dry ingredients together, as I weigh, measure and add them into the bowl. Then they're tipped straight into the food processor, before Baby gets one last go at turning the knob on the front of the machine.

Then it's just a case of negotiating how we empty the mixture into the waiting receptacles. Baby always wants a go and I have to try and hold back my impatience, whilst guiding her little hand on the spoon. Well, I say spoon, really we use a little ladle. It's the best thing, as by now the cake mixture, which is an interesting shade of dusky pink, is disconcertingly rather more like a batter.

Initially, the muffins go into the oven for 15-20 minutes but it usually takes about 25 in total. My sister prefers 12 minutes, but I try to strike the balance. I really don't like my cakes uncooked in the middle and am prepared to risk them getting a little bit dry. If I'm cooking a cake, as opposed to muffins, then I've found that it takes about 40-45 minutes, but it's not an exact science and very much depends on the oven.

If baking a cake, I always try to ensure that a little bit is left over for a few muffins - after all, you've got to reward the workers :)

The Hub's birthday cake - amazing what you can do with ready made icing, food dye and a few candles!

Once out of the oven and cooled on a wire rack, the next decision is how to top the cake. The Hummingbird Bakery option is not for us - it involves cream cheese! However, usually, I make a chocolate fudge type icing - dairy free margarine, icing sugar, cocoa powder, and little water, blended together with a spatula. I'm afraid I don't do amounts - I just make it up as I go along - and add a bit more if it looks like I've not made enough.

Alternatively, if I can't be bothered or am short of time, out comes my favourite little baking cheat - good old Betty Crocker!

Similar Posts

Monday, 16 July 2012

Left-over Lunch - Salmon and Carrot Fishcakes

The other day I had some steamed salmon. The salmon came in packs of two, of which  I bought two. I cooked them all together, but this meant that we had one left over. I hate wasting good food, so I determined to do something about it.

We've often made salmon fish cakes for Baby before, for dinner. Well I say me, it's more often been The Hub, as Baby has been quite clingy. However, she's got a bit better about this recently so I thought that, on this occasion, I'd make them for lunch. It does help if you have left-over veggies and mashed potato too, but on this occasion I hadn't, so it all took a bit longer.

First I peeled and chopped some potatoes (about three or four) and a carrot. The carrot had to be chopped into very small pieces, so that Baby wouldn't notice it too much! Of course you don't have to use carrot - a few frozen peas or sweetcorn might have been nice - but I used carrot because Baby won't eat anything else at the moment. The carrot was steamed over the  boiling potatoes, to soften it up a bit.

Whilst the potato and carrot were cooking, I took the skin off the salmon and checked for bones, as I broke it up, with a fork. Then I used our mini food processor to make breadcrumbs of a bread crust. The bread was The Hub's own, so completely dairy and gluten free - he made it with coconut milk, which has given it a slight sweetness. I have to say his bread made the best breadcrumbs ever! 

The mini food processor was a bit of a mistake - even for my gadget-loving husband. We didn't ever intend to have one. We added it to our online wedding list, thinking it was a full size one, and didn't check the dimensions - doh! However, I have to say it has come in very handy for little jobs like making biscuit and breadcrumbs. Then, it really comes into its own. 

If, however, you really can't be hassled to make bread crumbs, Hale & Hearty make some, which you can buy in places like Tesco and Sainsbury's. I've not used them, but it looks (from their information online) as though they are completely dairy and egg, as well as gluten free. Watch out for labels like 'vegetable oil' though - if you have a problem with soya, this may indicate a hidden unwelcome presence. That said, I enquired about their flapjacks the other day, and the oil which they used in them was palm oil - happy days!! I love their flapjacks!!

Once the potato was cooked, I strained and mashed it, with a bit of dairy free margarine and a little of the water in which the potato had been boiled. It is important at this stage not to let the potato get too soft - you need it to be a fairly stiff, in order to keep shape, when you mould it into fish cakes. At this stage you could add a little bit of pepper, salt and juice from a lime, but these fish cakes being mainly for Baby, I didn't dare! Her palate is so sensitive that she refuses fish fingers, if you get the wrong brand!

Next, I put a good load of oil (fish cakes require quite a bit) in the bottom of the frying pan and put it on a medium heat, to heat up the oil, whilst I assembled all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed them together thoroughly. 

The breadcrumbs were emptied into a shallow dish. Then I moulded the mixture into two smallish fish cakes (for Baby) and two slightly bigger (for me). These were carefully rolled in the breadcrumbs. I believe you would normally dip them into a little bit of beaten egg, first, but I didn't. I have before and it all goes a bit wrong for me - like trying to hold a slippery bar of soap in the bath! If the fish cakes look a little bit bald, when they go into the pan, I just sprinkle a few more on top and press it down a bit. That usually seems to do the trick!

Cooking is fairly quick and simple - just cook either side until the fish cakes are lightly browned, by which time, the fish cake is piping hot inside and out. It's a matter of minutes really. Then you're good to go! 

Just in case you're wondering, Baby ate just about everything I gave her - carrots and all! She was so full at the end, but just wanted to keep going! I ate all mine too, but I did think that they could definitely do with a bit of lime!

Related Post

Weaning the Dairy Free Baby - Let's do Lunch