Tag Archive | baking

Autumn Leaves pie

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vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

No, we have not taken vegetarianism this far, don’t worry. I have not (yet) resorted to eating fallen leaves from my garden. I just named this pie “Autumn leaves” because the colours remind me of autumn and I wanted to sound really clever.

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Look at the vegetables before they’re added to the sauce – aren’t they pretty?

This is a lovely, warming pie for a cold evening. It’s relatively easy to make but rather time consuming to prepare so maybe one for a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining and you want an excuse not to leave your nice cosy kitchen.

A warning: When I was shopping for ingredients to make this a few weeks ago I got very excited because next to the usual butternut squashes in the supermarket they had something called coquina squash. It looked the exactly same but was far more expensive, labelled as part of the supermarket’s premium range. Naturally, assuming it must be a far superior exotic squash variety, I bought it, only to find out when I got home that coquina is just another name for butternut squash. Probably you’re all now rolling in the aisles at my silly squashy ignorance but I thought it fair to mention.

Recipe Tips

  • In the pictures, the purple that you can see is purple carrot. I used these as I had some left over from Halloween and I’m a bit obsessed with purple vegetables. I might hesitate to do so if serving this to guests however as they turned the cooked pie filling a rather strange shade of pink. This pie works with any root vegetables really as long as you make sure they’re roasted first to soften them and eliminate excess moisture. Roast peppers or sundried tomatoes also work very well.
  • The best tip for making gluten-free pastry that I’ve ever come across was from a book about pies that friend owned. I wish I could remember the name of it. Next time I see her I’ll find out so I can link to it here because it was a very good book. The tip was to add polenta to the mix of flour. It gives the pastry a fantastic flavour, helps to hold it together and creates a warm yellow colour that makes a welcome change from the usual paleness of gluten-free pastry. Polenta is sometimes called cornmeal and it’s the fine ground, uncooked kind that you want. Most supermarkets these days stock it but you might have to hunt for a bit – try the “word foods” section.
  • If you want to make the pastry completely vegan it is totally ok to leave out the egg – just add a little more water instead. The pastry will be slightly crumblier if you do this as the egg acts as a binder. If you want to avoid this, you can use vegan egg replacer (just follow the instructions on the packet) or chia seeds. See this excellent tutorial for how to do this http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-make-egg-substitute-chia-seeds/
  • Adding the xanthan gum is absolutely vital if you want it to stick together. I’ve also found that adding Lactofree cheese to the pastry, apart from making it taste great, helps to hold it together as well.
  • Unfortunately, even with all the xanthan gum and will in the world, gluten free pastry is never going to look pretty. The best you can hope for is “charmingly rustic”. It will still try to fall apart when you lift it onto the pie and you will never get it rolled thinly. One easy way to get the pastry onto the pie in one piece is to roll it out on a plastic mat or chopping board, then quickly turn it upside down onto the pie.
  • So, you could just leave it OR if you’ve got guests coming over, you’ve had enough wine to pretend you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off or you’re photographing it for a food blog and want to look like you know what you’re doing, you could jazz it up a bit. Here are some ideas to impress those Bake Off judges with:

– Use the inevitable little bits of pastry left over and some cookie cutters to cover over the unsightly areas with pretty shapes. (Leaves in this case)

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– Use a knife to gently score patterns into the pastry.

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– Make the rough edges look deliberately quaint and homespun by squishing them all along with a fork. Put it on a gingham tablecloth for added effect.

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  • Note: The method for making the pastry that I’ll give is the old-fashioned version. I don’t actually do this because if you have a food processor you can just chuck all of the pastry ingredients in there at once and press the “on” switch. The future is here.

 

Ingredients

(To make one pie that serves roughly 4 people)

 

Pastry

  • 6oz gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 3oz fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz vegan margarine
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • 2tbs cold water
  • A handful of Lactofree cheese (optional)

 

Sauce

  • ½ pint milk or milk substitute (Soya milk works well, as does Lactofree)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 4oz cheddar cheese (melty vegan or Lactofree extra mature work fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard

 

Filling

  • Half a butternut squash
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium courgette
  • A handful of sundried tomatoes
  • I small packet of Quorn chunks

 

Method

 

  1. Prepare the vegetables.

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    More pretty colours…

 

Peel the carrots and squash (or any other root veg/peppers) and cut into bite sized cubes. Place on a roasting tray (I cover it in tin foil to save washing up if I’m short for time) and roast on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for about half an hour or until the edges start to brown. Chop the courgette into very small cubes and put straight into the pie dish with any extras like the sundried tomatoes.

 

  1. Meanwhile, make the pastry…

 

  • Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add the fat straight out of the fridge so that it is as cold as possible and cut it up into small chunks before adding it the bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg (or substitute) and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball.

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    If you’re using a food processor the dough should look roughly like this when it’s done.

 

Remind you of anything? That’s right – it’s the same method as the one we used for the pizza, just slightly different ingredients. Turns out the component parts of many different recipes are pretty much the same – once you learn the basic skills they’re easy to remember and adapt.

 

  1. And the sauce? This is exactly the same as the one for macaroni cheese. It’s a Mornay (cheese) sauce.

 

To save you reading that recipe twice, (although if you haven’t yet, please do) here it is again. Thank you, copy and paste function:

 

  • Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a glass until it dissolves.
  • Add the milk to the carrot water (if a lot has boiled off you might need to top it up – you should have roughly 1 pint of liquid in total)
  • Add the salt, pepper and herbs.
  • Heat until it starts to simmer then remove from the heat.
  • Tip in the cornflour and stir. (A balloon whisk can help here) pie-1
  • Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Grate and add the cheese. Stir until it melts.
  • Add the mustard and a generous pinch of yeast flakes.

 

  1. Now put it all together…

 

  • Put the vegetables and sauce in a large pie dish with thin slices or tiny cubes of the courgette – as small as you can get them.

 

  • If you have one, pop a pie funnel in the middle of the pie.

 

  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and transfer to the top of the pie. Trim the edges with a knife and cut an X shape in the centre and use it to make a little hole – either for the pie funnel to poke out of or just as it is to release some of the steam.

 

  • Decorate as you prefer. If you have any holes or bits that don’t quite look nice you cn cover them up with the extra bits of pastry like I have in the corner here.
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    Fixing the broken bit on the corner to make it look deliberate…

 

  • Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for half an hour or until the top has browned slightly and the vegetables are cooked through.
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All done!

Fun with Flapjacks

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(Yes, my life really is this exciting)

wheat free/gluten free/vegan

So, Monday sees me going back to work after a little holiday and I am standing in the kitchen again staring at my empty lunchbox wondering what on earth I’m going to do about it this time.

I hate lunch. It is my bête noir. I have never really enjoyed standard Western lunch foods and it’s even tricker now wheat and dairy are out of the picture. Lunch time at home usually sees my moodily crunching on some toast and fantasising about expensive sushi banquets. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to work at a place that has jacket potatoes in the cafeteria every day so at least I can bring in my own vegan cheese and have someting nutritious and filling for lunch at work.

But that still leaves me with the rest of the day…

I work fairly long hours so snacks are a necessity if I am not to swoon like some Victorian maiden in a Gothic novel. There are only so many bananas a girl can eat so I have been experimenting recently with alternatives to the expensive (and often sugar-loaded) gluten free vegan cereal bars that I had been relying on for my afternoon snack. What I didn’t want to do however was spend hours of my free time cooking food for work so I settled on flapjacks as a good start. I’m hoping that despite still being in the “naughty” category of food in my mind due to their calorie content, flapjacks will at least be partially healthy and a lot more filling. They are quick, cheap, easy and require very little washing up or prep time so they have at least delivered on that score. Having never made flapjacks before I looked for the most basic recipe I could find so that it could be easily modified. I found a good one on AllRecipes.co.uk (http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/34253/simple-honey-flapjacks.aspx) and so far I have made 4 batches, changing it slightly each time.

Recipe Notes

  • To make this 100% gluten free make sure that you use specific gluten free oats – normal oats are not guaranteed to be gluten free unless it says so on the packet.
  • When adding the extra ingredients, I found it easiest to mix any spices/essences with the melted honey and oil before adding the rest as it coated it all more evenly.
  • In terms of quantities, I just threw in handfuls until it looked about right – there wasn’t much method to it. If adding extra dry ingredients such as the desiccated coconut however, it’s best to add a little extra oil or remove some of the oats so that the mixture isn’t too dry.
  • I used a roasting tin (the kind you do roast potatoes in) lined with baking parchment to make my flapjacks in but you can use any kind of baking tray or tin really. The paper makes them a lot easier to lift out though.

Basic Ingredients

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Molten honey and “butter” – could there be a better smell?

  • 200g coconut oil
  • 300g oats
  • 7-8 tablespoons honey

Method

1. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan.

2. Turn off the heat and stir in the honey and oats.

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Stage 2

3. Line a roasting pan with greaseproof paper and tip the mixture into it, flattening it down with the back of a spoon until it is as thick as you think a flapjack should be. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut it into squares.

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I like my flapjacks thin – here is a teaspoon for refernce.

 

 

4. Bake for approximately 20mins at 180C or until the top is toasted a nice golden colour.

1st attempt  

Basic recipe plus: raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, sesame seeds (my local health food shop does a great 4 seed pre-mix) and extra chia seeds.

These tasted great and sort of, well, mostly held together but it was a lot of seeds. Anyone with a delicate digestive system (like me) might want to reduce the amount slightly.

2nd attempt

Basic recipe plus: raisins, desiccated coconut, rum flavouring, lime juice, 4 seed mix

These were my least favourite and didn’t hold together so well. Bizarrely, they tasted better after 24hrs in the biscuit tin however.

3rd attempt

Basic recipe plus: half of the coconut oil substituted for vegan sunflower spread, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla essence, much less seed mix than before.

These taste quite bland but pleasant and hold together nicely.

4th attempt

Sunflower spread instead of coconut oil, 4 tbs honey, 250g oats, 50g desiccated coconut, a handful each of raisins, crystallised pineapple and papaya pieces, 1/3 tsp powdered ginger.

My favourite so far. The sugar in the crystalized fruit means that less honey is needed but the mixture still holds together very well. The ginger adds a warming note – next time I might even add a little more and the flavours work beautifully together. The vegan spread works much better than the coconut oil I think and gives it a more “buttery” flavour which is what I want in a flapjack.

I will be trying more of these variations as time goes on so will let you know of any good ones I come across. Or, if anyone has any good suggestions I will bake them and see.