Sunday, December 11, 2011

Impending doom, and Pistachio Shortbread

It's my 21st party in under a week. I won't be 21 on the day, but because my actual birthday is so close to Christmas, it's kind of impossible to have a party on my actual birthday.

As you can probably imagine I'm excited and nervous, but also I'm dreading it.

It's exciting to be having so many of my family, and hopefully a lot of my friends, all in the one place because of me, celebrating something with me. There will be great food, good conversations, bangin' music, maybe a bit of dancing, and a bit of booze flowing.
Nervous because I hope it all goes well.

The impeding doom is another thing.

My sisters.

I get it. I'm on the outside when it comes to my sisters. I'll admit I prefer one to the other, but I know they prefer to be with each other than with me. They both are into art and stuff like that, one art history and the theory behind it, the other is an artiste. And me? I don't really care much about art. It looks pretty or it doesn't. I think food is an art - the science behind it, the creation of it, the presentation of it. If everything we ate was just brown slop on our plates, no matter the taste, no one would get excited about food. I love to hear people comment on how beautiful a cupcake or a decorated chocolate looks, I love to hear "Wow, you made that?!"
It makes my day.

Anyway, why I'm dreading the combination of my sisters and my 21st party.
Traditionally there are speeches at 21st parties. I know I wasn't a nice kid a fair bit of the time. I know I was a pain in the butt teenager. But I'm different now, I'm a lot more mature and calmer. I don't want that stuff brought up because that just isn't who I am anymore. It will embarrass me. And that is what my sisters do.

Pistachio Shortbread

I love these biscuits. I made something very much like them when I did some work experience at a major hotel in town a year and a half ago (OMG was it THAT long ago?!). Then a few months ago I went looking for a similar recipe to try and recreate them and I found this.
I was so nervous going to this work experience. I was so worried about screwing up and embarrassing myself, but it ended up being so much fun, I can only hope my 21st party will be the same, pleasantly suprised.
The lemon zest cuts through the butter and brightens the biscuit, making you able to eat a whole tray full of them.

250g butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 1/2 cup plain flour
70g pistachios chopped
Zest of one lemon

Cream the butter and icing sugar until it is pale and fluffy.
Mix in sifted flour - at this point mine looked like sweet pastry before you add the egg, I had some coconut milk left over so added a couple of small spoonfuls of the thick part to the dough so it just started to come together. Not sure if it was the right thing to do but it ended up being fine.
Add the pistachios and lemon zest. Mix. The original recipe called for the pistachios to be toasted, which would have brought out the nutty flavour a bit more but I didn't bother, and for them to be finely chopped, but I like being able to see the nuts and the texture when they are only roughly chopped.
Turn out and shape into four logs, you may want to lightly flour your bench first.
Wrap in baking paper and/or gladwrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
With a sharp knife slice 8mm (or however thick/thin you like) rounds and place on a baking tray. Bake at 160C for about 15 minutes. You want them to be firm, but not browned like mine, then again I liked the extra crunch.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coconut Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream
1 can coconut milk
2 egg yolks (one of my eggs was a double yolker, so I guess I used three)
1/4 cup sugar
Vanilla essence to taste (or anything else you may like)

Heat your coconut milk in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, until it is hot but not boiling. You can add your flavourings at this stage, so the flavours really infuse with the c/milk.
While the c/milk is heating, separate your yolks and mix with the sugar. Don't leave the sugar sitting on your yolks while you go do something else, because if you leave it sitting unmixed then a chemical reaction will start to take place where your egg yolks start to get cooked. So mix first. Mix until pale and creamy.
When your c/milk is hot enough pour a small ladle of the hot c/milk into your egg yolk mix and whisk together. Add the rest of your c/milk to the egg mix, whisking all the time, then return to the bowl over the pot of simmering water.
Stir the mix until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. This means that when you lift the spoon out of the mix and run your finger along, the mix is thick enough that it doesn't run and the line where you swiped your finger remains. It's ready.
At this point you can strain (helpful if you used something like vanilla pods or lavender) into a cold bowl and leave to cool, or place the bowl that was over the pot into another with ice and cold water in the bottom. This stops your mix continuing to cook and cools it down.
Wait until mix is cool/cold. Can put in the fridge to help once it has cooled sufficiently.
At this point you can put it into your fancy pants ice cream maker machine thing, or do it my way. Old school yo.
Place in freezer until it has just started to freeze around the edge. Then mix with your hand mixer. Repeat for about 3 or four hours (tip: do this on a day where you will be home all day. Don't start at 8.30 at night or when you have school/work the next day).
Freeze over night.
Ice cream!

It might not be as smooth or light/airy as normal ice cream, but that is because bought icecream has been churned constantly while being frozen so has had the air fully incorporated into the mix.
I know it seems super complicated, but really it's easy! Just time consuming!

Super Easy Yummy Chocolate Sauce
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp custard powder (I accidently used 1 Tbsp, but I still thought it was super delicious, your choice what you do really)
1 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup water

Melt butter in microwave. Mix in rest of ingedients. Cook in microwave until thick (mine took about a minute/a minute, 30 on high).
I then beat in with a fork about a teaspoon of extra butter and some raspberry liqueur. Nom.


Sometimes I make cakes for people. They either ask me to, and pay me, or I choose to. Simple.
Here's an example of me going all out:
Four layers of rainbow cake on each tier, filled and covered with cream cheese icing, covered in white fondant. Whole thing = not dairy free, but look pretty good, ya!

In other news, here's my version of a quickie job for an awesome workmate:
Three layers of chocolate cake, filled with chocolate butter icing, covered in chocolate ganache (using Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate, no dairy or soy!, and coconut milk). White chocolate decoration (picked off of my piece when eating because that isn't dairy/soy free!).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

About Lactose Intolerance

I'm allergic to dairy.
You've probably heard someone say that before right?
But what exactly do they mean?
There are two "allergies".
1) allergic to the milk protien
2) Lactose intolerant - I'm going to go more in depth into this one.

So being lactose intolerant isn't actually an allergy.
Let's first do a little background.

The sugar in milk is called lactose.
In order to digest lactose you need to be producing an enzyme called lactase.
Most mammals stop producing lactase while they are young, thus becoming lactose intolerant. But, typically *sigh*, humans have to be different.
A large proportion of humans have developed lactase persistence. This is where the body continues to develop lactase, instead of stopping, although adults do have lower rates of lactase production than younger people.
Interestingly, people from African and Asian areas have much lower rates of lactase production. When you think about it, European people, back in the day, continued to eat a lot of dishes that used milk, and other products that included milk. Where as people from Africa/Asia weren't particularly likely to do so.
Another interesting point, human milk is quite high in lactose compared to other milks.

So I guess what I'm trying to get at is you aren't allergic to lactose, it's an enzyme deficiency (lactase deficient). I could theorise that us lactose intolerants are more normal, and more following the natural order like than everyone else.

To aid in digesting lactose, you can eat those slightly pricier yogurts (you know the ones: Acidophilus!, Cultured Yogurt!, Bacteria!, Lactillobactus!). The bacteria in the yogurt (unless you leave it sitting on your bench or in your bag all day, in which case it will be teeming with bad bacteria that will make you sicker) contains lactase or aids production of lactase, so some lactose intolerants can have these yogurts because the bacteria in it helps digest the lactose in the yogurt.
Am I making sense? i get the feeling I'm going in cirlces. I'm sure you get what I mean.

So anyway, I'm onto tub 2/4 of my gut repair vomit enducing powder, then I can start the desensitisation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


So, after a slightly drunk conversation with my boyfriend last night, I realise that I can have Noodle Canteen still!!! There goes my eating out problems!
For those of you that have the misfortune of not knowing about Noodle Canteen, your life is not worth living (slight exaggeration? Maybe? No?). Noodle Canteen is the most delicious, freshest take-away I've found ever (ignore whatever the boyfriend says about Subway).
Because I can have soya bean oil and fermented soy products (eg soy sauce and miso), using my excellent culinary knowledge, I have figured out that I should be able to eat just about anything they serve up!
This little revelation comes just in time as I'm heading to the boyfriends tomorrow and he doesn't cook, and doesn't have anything in the house to cook *sigh*.

Just watch out for the molten-lava-hot temperature of the sauce, that stuff will burn all your taste-buds off so you can't taste the deliciousness.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lemon and Coconut Loaf

I found this recipe cruising my favourite news website, but changed the milk to coconut milk.

1 x lemon
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups coconut
1 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 160°C.
Finely zest lemon and mix with sugar (or whizz in food processor).
Add next four ingredients and the juice of the lemon and mix until pale.
Add the last four ingredients and mix until just combined on low speed (or pulse if using food processor).
Pour into loaf tin and bake for 30-40 minutes (this is what the recipe said, it might have been because of me changing the milk, or because my oven is a pain, but I had to cook mine for at least a half hour longer). If it's getting too brown on top you can cover it with brown paper.
Is nice cold with butter, but also while it is still warm with lemon curd (and the rest of the family had cream too).

I thought the flavour was nice, but it was denser than I imagined it would be and I wasn't impressed with how long it took to bake, and the centre of the loaf ended up being not what it should have.
Let's just chalk this one up to experience.
How about you try it, and tell us how it went?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning to cook

I read this today here:

" "I now feel extremely lucky that my mother was happy to encourage me to cook," she says.

"It distresses me that people have an incredibly limited knowledge of how food goes together. I think that's very disempowering.

"Start children off on baking, don't ask them to clean up because that's off-putting, and encourage them to have fun." "

This is so true. I guess I always enjoyed baking, probably because I liked eating the end product, and did a lot of it during my year at university as a comfort sort of thing. But then I started chef school and it opened my eyes to cookery. Now I can do all sorts, although I admit I do need to practice some things more. But I can still do it.

My little sister can participate in a political debate and hold her own, but not cook. Neither can my boyfriend, his cooking skills go as far as cooking toast. Don't get me wrong, I love him to bits and think he's fantastic, and I like cooking for him, but the response to me being a chef from too many people is "Oh wow that's so cool, I can't cook at all."

Maybe they're stretching the truth a bit, but some basic culinary skills are absolutely necessary in adult life, not the useless sandwiches and smoothie classes in home ec I remember from the first year of high school.

Easy Roast Chicken
A chicken (dead, plucked and defrosted)
sesame seeds
salt and pepper
a large lemon

Preheat oven to 200°C.
Rinse chicken under cold water, inside and out, or not if you're lazy.
Pat dry with paper towels, even if you didn't rinse it.
Chop your lemon in half. Put both halves up the chickens bum and give them a bit of a squeeze as you do to release some of the juices into the cavity. You could also use orange if you want. This juice will (in theory) turn to steam and you'll get a lemony flavour through the flesh.
Tie or tuck the wings and legs if you want, not necessary though.
Rub oil over your chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, sesame seeds, and season (lightly!) with salt and pepper.
Put chicken breast side up on a tray with a rack on it. If you don't have a rack, don't stress too much, but it's better if you do.
Put chicken in oven and turn down to 180°C after 5-10 minutes. Leave in oven for about an hour and a half. When juices run clear chicken is cooked. If you're not sure, put it back in the oven. Better safe than sorry.

Have with roast veggies, or any way veggies, or make yummy easy chicken salad sandwiches.
Leftovers are good through pasta or in sandwiches for lunches.

Make sure you clean down surfaces and anything the chicken touched. Or if you touched things like drawer handles with chickeny hands, clean them. I use boiling water and disinfectant spray.

Happy cooking everyone.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First time eating out

So I was in a different town over the weekend for my grandmothers funeral.
The fam was going out for dinner to my grandparents favourite restaurant, but I was kind of nervous (is that the right word? worried? apprehensive?) about it. Reason being is because I know a lot of chefs find it a huge pain to have to cater to people with allergies.
I called ahead to the restaurant and they told me to just let them know when I arrived and ordered. When the waitress came to the table I identified myself as having allergies, she said the chef would be out to talk to me.
The chef came out, pulled up a chair and asked me "What would you like off the menu? Doesn't matter what's in it, what would you like?" I chose the ribs. He told me all the seasonings he put on, and brought me out the sauce bottle so that I could read the ingredients on that too. Everything was fine, I could have it, but they were just so accommodating and helpful, I am now much more confident about eating out and not having to worry about my allergies.

Moral of the story: call ahead before you go, if you can. They will tell you straight out if they can or can't cater to your needs.
Find friendly helpful restaurants and remember them, they are worth your custom.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Milk Substitutes

My first thoughts when told I was allergic to dairy AND soy was F my life, what will I eat?! I'll be left with rabbit food!
Luckily, not the case.
Most lactose intolerant people switch to soy milk, which has most of the same properties as cows milk, and also comes in different flavours, like cows milk.
Us lucky few who can not have soy milk either, still have options though.

1) Sanitarium So Good Rice Milk
I didn't particularly like this, it was just a bit too watery and flavourless. Although it was the first one I tried, it could have been me not liking it because it was such a change.

2) Vitasoy Rice Milk
I preferred this one, it has a fuller, smoother taste, and the consistency was more like regular milk.

3) Vitasoy Rice Milk Vitamin and Mineral Enriched
I was happy using this one, it is very similar to the Vitasoy Rice Milk Original.

4) Vitasoy Rice Milk Protein Enriched
I wasn't so keen on this one. It's protein enriched by adding chickpeas to the mix. It's more yellow in colour, and required vigorous shaking to break up those slimy little lumps you can sometimes get. The flavour was also not quite to my liking.

5) Liddells Lactose Free Cows Milk (Low Fat)
This is milk by an Australian company, I've only been able to find the Low Fat milk here in New Zealand, but on their website they have a range of milks and also cream! I would be very excited to get my hand on some of that. It is sweeter than regular cows milk because the lactose in it has been converted to galactose and glucose. I guess an easy way of describing it is us lactose intolerants can't digest and convert the lactose into these chemicals, so it has been already pre-digested.
Because of the conversion it is sweeter than regular cows milk, but it seems to still have all the same properties as regular cows milk, and so I've found it is the best substitute in baking and cooking where milk is called for.

6) Oatmilk
I haven't been able to find this yet, if anyone knows where to get it in NZ, do tell me!
Edit: So I found Oatmilk (in Masterton of all places). It's also made by the Vitasoy company. It took a little while to get used to, but it's the closest in consistency to regular milk. It isn't as sweet as the rice milk, or the lactose free milk, and when having it by itself I found it had a slight odd after taste. I hear that it is a good dairy substitute in baking, although I didn't try.

7) Coconut milk/cream
There are a lot of recipes out there that are twists on usual favourites, but use coconut milk or cream instead of cows milk. You can also get it in powder form - Maggi Coconut Milk Powder Mix. You can make both coconut milk and cream from this, but it does have milk protein in it so is useless for people allergic to that. It has a fantastic rice pudding recipe on the back, which is great because I was always a fan of that delicious dessert.
I've read that you can make whipped cream by putting a can of coconut milk in the fridge for a couple of hours or over night, then opening it, separating the watery part and the thicker creamy part, and whipping the creamy part in a cold bowl with cold beaters. You can add a bit of icing sugar to sweeten it if needed, I'm yet to try this but I'm keen to. You can use the leftover watery part in smoothies or something.

A lot of these substitutes are sweeter than regular milk, so if I use them in sweet baking I like to cut down on the sugar a bit.
The main thing when changing your milk is to shop around and try different products to see which you prefer.

Date and orange scones

Today, being a Sunday and the parents spending it in the garden, I was somewhat ordered to make some scones. Since I can't have cheese, I make some sweet scones. In the USA scones are called biscuits.
I like using dates, they are just soooo tasty. But you can use raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, any dried fruit really. The orange just adds extra flavour, so you can omit it if you want.

3 c flour (don't be afraid to make these large!)
5 tsp baking powder
about 1/4 c sugar
pinch of salt
50 -100 g butter (or your preferred substitute)
a handful or two of chopped dates
zest and juice of an orange
hot water
milk - I used Liddels Lactose Free cows milk

Preheat your oven to 180°C, and boil your kettle for the hot water.
Chop your dates, chunky is fine, but whole is just a bit too big, and mix in a bowl with your zest and orange juice. Add some hot water, maybe about half a cup, depe
nding on how many dates you put in.
Sieve your flour, baking powder, sugar and pinch of salt together in a large bowl.
Grate in butter. I find tossing the block of butter in the flour before grating making it a lot easier to handle and grip, and helps somewhat with the melting.
Toss your grated butter through the flour so it is evenly distributed.
Add you date mix and mix through a bit with a butter knife.
Add milk and mix through with butter knife. You want to end up with a firmish but very sticky dough. I haven't given a measurement for the milk because I just do it by touch and look. If there's still flour in the bottom of your bowl, add a little more milk.
Turn dough out onto bench or large board sprinkled with flour. Pat out into a large block, about an inch thick. Using a ring cutter, cut out rounds and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Have them spaced about at least 3/4 inch apart.
Beat a small egg in a small bowl or cup, then brush the top of your scones with the egg, using a pastry brush.
Bake in the oven, depending on how big you made your scones and how hot or cool your oven runs, maybe about 25 minutes. But I just really judge their done-ness by look, smell and touch. When they are golden, smell tasty, and are crunchy and crusty on the outside but still soft but cooked on the inside they are done.

Serve warm with butter (or variation), jam, lemon curd, honey, whipped cream, anything else you like on your scones, with a cup of tea.
Top o' the mornin' guvnor!

About my allergies

So it was only a few weeks ago that I found out I'm allergic to all this stuff. Good thing I didn't accept the two or three bakery/patisserie jobs I was offered!!!
I'm lactose intolerant. There are two types of dairy allergies. 1) allergic to lactose (the sugar in cows milk) and 2) allergy to the protien found in cows milk.
I'm highly allergic to lactose (my naturopath describes it as 3 plus signs out of 5, 5 being the most extreme), but it isn't going to kill me.
I can still have butter as is is very very low in lactose, so a lot of my recipes will still use butter, but I can imagine you can substitute it with margarine or some form of shortening. Most lactose intolerant people will know of a butter substitute they can use if they can't have butter.
I can also still have yogurt that is high in acidophilus. This yogurt contains lactobacillus which makes the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose. Lots of L words!
I'm allergic to soy. Easy enough you say, not so! Soy is in so many things now days. In nearly all breads there is soy (as well as milk solids), or soy flour. I've found a couple of breads that I can have, I tend to keep them in the freezer and defrost pieces as I need them because I don't eat a lot of bread. I can also have bagels, yay! But still soy is in so many things, it is an emulsifier in chewing gum, in 95% of chocolate (in the form of soy lechtin, an emulsifier), and ugh, so many other things. I mean even the mayo and tartare sauce at my work contain milk and soy. Something I still need to do is figure out which numbers indicate the inclusion of soy. Any tips?
Fermented soy products such as miso, tamari and soy sauce are okay as the fermentation kills the whatever it is in the soy that causes the allergic reaction. Tofu is usually okay, and soy oil is fine.
Additive 220
Additive 220 is a preservative, it's in the family of sulfites so watch out for that word. I've found it in the muesli that my family eats. It can be found in dried fruit and veggies, dessicated coconut, cookies, cakes, pastries, pasta, juices, cordials, and syrups, tomato paste, mayo, sausages, cheeses, wine, and the list goes on.

Aparently I've had these allergies all my life, but I've only just found out about them. I have tried dairy-free diets in the past, but replaced dairy milk with soy milk, so surprise surprise there was no difference. These allergies aren't outright killing me, but they do make life unpleasant. I get eczema from it, have had all my life, when I was younger I would get colds, glue ear, ear and nose infections a lot, and in the past few years I've developed bad sinus problems, to the point where I've been struggling with a sinus infection since December.

So to damnation with lactose and soy and additives! I can be happy without you!! Ha!