Gluten-free fig, asparagus and stilton quiche recipe

As a card-carrying Brit, I’ve just enjoyed a fabulous long weekend, courtesy of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Like much of the country, we got caught up in the street party thing, eating and drinking far too much, but enjoying spending time with our neighbours in the sun while it lasted – our street party was on the Saturday, so we were much luckier with the weather than some.

Anyone who follows a gluten free diet knows how hard events like street parties can be from a food perspective.  You either take a lunchbox and stay in a little culinary ghetto of your own devising, or you take along a couple of dishes to share but make sure you dive in before anyone else can contaminate your hard work, and hope a couple more people might have brought something that could work so you don’t have to look stand-offish.

In the case of our street party, we were lucky enough that a certain level of catering was to be provided by Angela Hartnett, our local celebrity chef, but since the number of people responding was higher than anticipated, we were all asked to bring food with us to share so there was enough for us to eat, and those with special diets were warned that this would apply particularly to them.  Fair enough, I thought, and started thinking about what to take.

In the end, I settled for my trusty balsamic anchovy potato salad and a quiche.  I hadn’t been sure what kind of quiche to make, but since I had asparagus and some fresh figs in the house, and some stilton in the fridge that was beckoning, putting them together seemed the right thing to do.  And it really was.  Seems I’m not the only one to think so, either, since a mention of the quiche on the Coeliac UK Facebook page this morning led to a request for the recipe so here, for Hayley – and anyone else who would like it – is my recipe for fig, asparagus and stilton quiche.  I hope you enjoy it.

Fig, asparagus and stilton quiche

For the base:

  • 400g Dove’s Farm GF plain flour blend
  • 250g mature grated cheddar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1/2tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 8″ loose bottom flan tin

 For the filling:

  • 100g mature stilton, crumbled
  • 8 asparagus spears, steamed until just tender
  • 4 fresh figs, tough stems removed, halved
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 100ml Lactofree (or normal double) cream
  • 1tsp thyme
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • A good grind of black pepper, to taste

First of all, pre-heat the oven to 180C.  Now let me say that the amount of pastry the base recipe will make is rather more than you will need, but since this is actually the recipe I use to make my cheese and chilli biscuits, I simply roll any leftover pastry into a sausage and cut 1cm slices to make biscuits afterwards.  Throw all the ingredients for the base into a Kenwood Chef/Kitchenaid stand mixer if you have one, until it’s all thoroughly mixed, then bring it together with your hands.  If you don’t have the mixer, rub the cheese and butter into the flour, then mix in the egg and a little water or milk if needed to make a fairly stiff dough.

Chill the dough for 15 minutes in the fridge, then roll it out between two sheets of clingfilm until it’s large enough to cover your flan base.  Remove the clingfilm from one side, then turn the pastry onto the flan base and remove the other sheet of clingfilm.  Press the pastry into the flan base and then trim round the edges.  Cover the inside with a crumpled sheet of baking parchment, weight with either baking beads or 250g rice, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  At this point, remove the parchment along with the beads/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the case is cooling, beat the eggs together with the cream, thyme, salt and pepper and leave to stand.

Once the case is cool to the touch, arrange the asparagus in it to radiate out from the centre.  Sprinkle the stilton all over, then place the fig halves evenly round the base between the asparagus stalks.  If the figs are particularly plump and look like they’ll be much taller than your pastry case, simply trim some of the skin from the outside of the fig.

When you’ve arranged all these ingredients, pour in the egg mixture, avoiding pouring over the top of the figs if you can.  Place the quiche in the oven and allow to cook for 25-30 minutes, or until tipping it no longer results in obvious fluid movement or wobbling – my fan oven plays very differently to my gas oven on this, so start checking at 5 minute intervals from 25 minutes onwards.  Et voilà!  Remove from the oven and serve hot, cold or cooling, depending on how much willpower you have.

Gluten-free Heroes Part 2: Dove’s Farm

My second gluten-free hero this week is Dove’s Farm.  It’s fair to say that, without them, my diet would be a lot less varied and baking would take a lot longer.  This is because I would have to blend flours myself in order to get the right characteristics and, frankly, I simply don’t have the time or the energy to be doing that most of the time, especially given how much I bake.  So I probably wouldn’t bother.  Yes, I know, other GF flour blends are available, but since so many of the prescribables contain either lactose or soya, they’re not going to work for me, and those that don’t contain any nasties somehow don’t result in the lovely texture I get with the Dove’s Farm flours.

They don’t just do flours, either: they have a range of breakfast cereals that appeals to my 5 year old, even thought he doesn’t have to follow a gluten-free diet, which is praise indeed, and must be a godsend for parents of coeliac children.  Their chocolate stars really do taste very good, as well as being appealingly packaged.  And don’t get me started on the biscuits… once the packet’s opened, that’s it!

I’m less keen on their pasta, which you’ll find used by restaurant chains like Zizzi, but then I’m not all that gone on corn pasta in general.

Anyway, if you’ve ever tasted one of my cakes and not been able to tell the difference between that and a cake made with wheat flour, it’s at least in part because of these guys. Thank you 🙂

Suzzle banana cake recipe

Just the other day in the shop I had a sample plate of banana cake out. Yes, I know, many people already know what banana cake tastes like, but they’ve not necessarily tasted mine, and it’s nice to give people a little taste of something from time to time.

Suzzle banana cake

Anyway, I was going somewhere with this, I promise. On the day in question, a young couple came in with their incredibly cute baby intending – I think – just to look at the art in the shop, but ultimately leaving with a piece of the banana cake they’d sampled, and a request for me to post the recipe on the blog.

The mum had also asked me about sugar content, because the cake doesn’t taste too sweet, and she was thinking about whether or not she could give some to her baby once the first birthday milestone had been reached, since banana cake ‘felt’ like a healthy starter cake, or at least healthier than some.

This got me thinking, because even though there’s not masses of sugar in my banana cake, it might yet be possible to reduce it, so I’ll be having a play over the next few weeks to see how far I can get it down without completely killing the cake.  In the meantime, here’s my original recipe if you want to make the fully sinful version before I take out most of the sugar.

When I first made this cake I had actually set out to make a carrot cake.  I’d got the oil, golden syrup and eggs in the jug before realising I’d managed to run out of light brown soft sugar, and that all I had left was caster.  This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but when you’re baking at 4am, the option to just nip out to the corner shop and grab some more is simply not there, even where I live in central London.  I couldn’t unmix the ingredients that were already in the jug, so instead I scouted around for an alternative to carrots and came across some overripe bananas and thought they had to be worth a try.  They were certainly a better option than the savoy cabbage or the onions, although part of me is now wondering whether there might not be an option for a savoury onion cake type thingy to go with soup.  Hmmmm…..

But back to the banana cake!  You will need:

Bowl ingredients:
125g Dove’s Farm GF plain flour
125g Dove’s Farm GF self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8g bicarbonate of soda
3 large or 4 medium ripe bananas

Jug ingredients:
110g vegetable oil – I generally use rapeseed, sunflower is fine
80g golden syrup
140g caster/golden caster sugar (can substitute light/dark brown soft sugar, see recipe)
3 large free range eggs
5ml vanilla essence/seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 5/180C.  Measure the ingredients into their respective containers.  Beat the jug ingredients with a metal spoon until they’ve formed a thick, gloopy liquid.  Mash the bananas into the flour mixture with a fork.  In terms of which sugar to use, I tend to work on the basis of how ripe the bananas are and therefore how much and what kind of flavour they’re going to bring to the recipe.  If the skins of the bananas are very yellow or slightly green, use a sugar with a higher molasses content, like light or dark brown soft sugar or, at a pinch, golden caster.  If the bananas are good and ripe/overripe and speckly-skinned, use plain old caster to counter the slightly acetoney taste.

Using a silicone spatula, stir the jug ingredients into the bowl ingredients until it’s all very thoroughly mixed.  Pour the lot into a lined traybake tray (and by lined I just mean with a long strip of greaseproof paper the width of the base of the tray, not fussing with the corners) measuring around 12″x7″ (30cm x 17.5cm), and cook for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester/cocktail stick comes out clean.  Fan ovens will cook it a little quicker.

Once it’s on the cooling rack, I generally sprinkle over a little demerara sugar, which then sticks in the still-moist top crust of the cake, or you can leave it to cool and frost it if you prefer.  I tend not to frost it because it’s nice as it is, but a good lemon or coconut frosting would work, as would vanilla buttercream, or even sandwiching it with chocolate spread.  It probably goes without saying that mixing in some chocolate chips before baking produces a more than edible result, or a handful of sultanas/dates is also nice, but it’s the simpler version I serve in the shop.  If you fancy experimenting, try adding a little grated orange or lime zest, then coating cubes of the finished cake in chocolate and coconut to make banana lamingtons.  Yum!

NB: For those not using GF flours, I’d recommend using medium eggs instead of large, as gluten-free flours tend to be thirstier than wheat flour.

The great gluten-free pork pie experiment – part 3

If there’s one thing I really ought to do, it’s finish off – for now at least – my gluten-free pork pie experiment posts.  To recap, I had done a little research, as I was sickening for a decent pork pie, worked out a couple of recipes to fiddle with to see what might result, and then done the initial experiment.  All that was lacking – from the blog, at any rate – was the results of that process… which is when the computer and other issues kicked in.

Gluten-free pork pie, cut in half and ready to eatAnd this is what we ended up with, although the camera flash has bleached it out a bit. Once chilled, the pies had a delicious filling and jelly – good – and a nice, crunchy crust. However, for all that the crust was crunchy, it was realistically also a bit hard. Not tough the way a crust with gluten can go, because from experience it’s pretty much impossible to overwork a gluten-free flour.

It’s entirely possible I’m being too demanding, of course, and that this is as good as it gets, but since it’s only my first attempt at a raised crust, I’m convinced at this point that there has to be a way of improving upon it and getting a result that is crunchy on the outside, but tender and crumbly enough to have that proper melt in the mouth texture I associate with Mum’s pork pies in my childhood.  Fingers crossed!

The Allergy and Gluten-Free Show, London Olympia 2

I hate exhibitions.  No, really, I do.  Loathe them.  While I have friends who relish the opportunity to go and sample products, enter prize draws at different stands – one has an impressive record for winning such things, too – and come away with bagfuls of free samples, I generally steer well clear.  After all, it’s not my idea of fun to wander round a crowded exhibition hall along with hundreds of other people all crammed into the same space trying generally to see the same things at something approximating the same time.

So I’ll admit that since dragging my long-suffering husband to the Baby Show back in 2005, when I was pregnant with Harvey, I haven’t been to any others.

There was, however, one other show I went to in 2005, and that was what was – at the time – just called The Allergy Show.  I went with a friend who was a member of Coeliac UK and had free tickets, and we wandered around tasting gluten-free foods and trying out some of the cosmetics – this was before any dietary diagnoses for me, so I was far more concerned at the time with my reaction to cosmetics.  Overall, we hadn’t been impressed, and the highlight of the day proved to be sitting in a bar opposite Olympia 2 after we’d exhausted the show, enjoying an ice-cold drink and sharing a nice bowl of chips.

Still, things do move on and, as I’d not been since having to drop gluten, lactose and soy from my diet, it seemed as good a time as ever to go back, see what was new and hope to see something that made it worth the trip.

The biggest clue to how things have developed is in the name – The Allergy and Gluten-Free Show.  Where my previous visit seemed to show more of a balance of stands, with perhaps a predominance of products for asthma sufferers (although that may be the size of the stands, of necessity bigger when you’re thinking of bedding etc), food intolerances and allergies seem to be the bulk of the exhibition these days.  And while there are some big high street players in there – Sainsbury’s and Asda both have demo stands, M&S had a stand sampling cakes and some rolls – as well as some of the larger brands from the ‘free from’ universe – Juvela, Dietary Specials, Orgran, Amisa, Dove’s Farm and Lactofree to name but a few – it was refreshing to see that there are also some smaller companies booking stands.  Which is perhaps testament to the power of the internet to transform the way we buy things.  Either way, you won’t find me complaining to see the likes of Sweet Cheeks, WAG Free Café or Cake Crusader exhibiting at the show, because they all started from a similar position of being sick of the status quo and are doing their bit to change it.

Of course, the exhibition hall was crowded.  Of course, there wasn’t enough room to allow people to walk freely between the stands, especially once you factored in the buggies and bags and everything else, which meant I probably didn’t see everything I might have wanted, purely out of frustration trying to get from one place to another.

Of course it was hot and stuffy and noisy in there, which saps your patience and make you far less likely to persist in your quest to find all the stalls you’d earmarked in advance.  And of course it turned into a scrum when M&S decided to just dump their boxed products on the counter and let people take them home for free – one minute I was innocently holding a box of lemon cake to check the ingredients, the next someone was trying to grab it out of my hands – but I’m not going to blame that one on the organisers.

Overall, however, it was a positive experience.  I’ve tasted some delicious things today, and some passable ones.  Mostly, I’ve met people who were passionate about what they were doing, wanting to make their product the best they can, and that can only be good for those of us who suffer with food intolerances and allergies, whether we like exhibitions or not.  I’d give the event 8/10 for content, but 6.5/10 for realisation.

Will I be going back next year?  On the strength of this year’s exhibitors, probably.  But it would be nice for the exhibition’s organisers to look into taking on more space so that people can move freely, sit down and rest from time to time and generally enjoy the show, rather than endure it.

ETA: If you were wondering why I’ve not described any stalls and their offerings in particular detail, it’s because I found a few that I really liked, with some truly fabby things on them, and wanted to do them justice separately, rather than them getting lost in my views on the Allergy Show.  I’ll be posting them up in the next few days 🙂