• Breakfast,  Gluten-free,  Sweet

    Buckwheat banana cake (gf) and a gluten free mouse

    buckwheatbananacake
    We are still being outwitted by a tiny little mouse who has become addicted to my buckwheat crackers. As she seems unfazed by the supposedly dissuasive mint essential oil with which I flood the cupboards, I did a bit of research and came across a sonic mouse deterrent. Rushing out to buy one, I discovered reading the small print while waiting to pay, that the device ‘could perturb domestic animals’. Totally panicked by this news, I explained (at some length) to the man at the checkout that my domestic animals didn’t need any more crazy in their lives, particularly my little English Setter with her fragile constitution, delicate nerves and rather unusual ways. Wondering whether the strange look he gave me was pity or amusement, I arrived home to the realisation that my extended monologue about my dogs’ mental health had been a case of the pot calling the kettle black: I was sporting a back-to-front top. And it wasn’t a subtle, hardly discernible back-to-front either; it was definitely an in-your-face ‘escaped from an asylum’ back-to-front. I made this cake to take my mind off the fact that I’m losing it, and intentionally omitted, OK totally forgot, some of the ingredients. It was however a very fortuitous error, because the result was a perfectly deliciously light, fluffy succulent cake. The bad news is though that the mouse has become a permanent fixture.
    Ingredients
    2 medium eggs
    100g cane sugar
    1 large ripe banana, cut and mashed with little lemon juice
    100ml unsweetened apple purée
    100ml plain yoghurt
    2 tablespoons walnut oil
    60g ground hazelnuts
    170g buckwheat flour
    a pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    100g raisins, pre-soaked in rum
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and smooth and slightly fluffy and then add the banana, oil, apple purée and yoghurt and whisk a bit longer. Mix the ground hazelnuts, buckwheat flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger together and then combine well with the wet mixture. Stir in the soaked raisins and pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with butter and jam. May be used a mouse bait too.

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Hazelnut mocha cake (gf) and hiring a PA

    chochazelnut
    HugojournoandJava
    Noisy is a resourceful boy: Within a day of returning to school last week, he had found himself a very efficient personal assistant. A much-needed personal assistant I might add because, although he’s a clever boy, he doesn’t do well with practical matters and is rather absent-minded. Quite often he asks me what day it is and whether or not he’s had lunch yet. His new assistant ‘phones him in the morning to tell him which classroom he should go to and at what time, and in return Noisy advises on homework matters.
    I have decided to take a leaf out of Noisy’s book and recruit a PA for myself. I believe that in some circles, you don’t even exist if you don’t have a PA. I’m having difficulty finding someone though. So far I’ve had applications from Java (ha ha, in your dreams Java), a couple of hens and a somewhat persistent hedgehog. Still, I’m quite determined because things can’t go on like this – I have too many slap-happy charges. Last week Bossy went flying over the handlebars of her mountain bike because Java chased a deer onto the track in front of her, and Java pinched a pair of Bossy’s shoes and vomited into them. I have taken to hiding in the shower for some respite. Please let me know if you can suggest any suitable applicants.
    hugoPA
    hugoshower
    Hazelnuts are a good source of oleic and linoleic acids and are also rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals.
    Ingredients (10 servings)
    150g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
    115g coconut oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    5 tablespoons black coffee
    4 eggs, separated
    100g cane sugar
    100ml plain yoghurt
    70g ground hazelnuts
    40g buckwheat flour
    75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth and add the vanilla extract and coffee. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and yogurt until light and smooth and then combine with the melted chocolate/coconut oil/coffee. Mix the ground hazelnuts, buckwheat flour, chopped hazelnuts, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and combine with the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the mocha mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

  • Breakfast,  Gluten-free,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Fresh figs with ginger mascarpone and honey and Bijou on the drums

    figsandyoghurt

    We’ve been sleeping with the all windows wide open to make the most of the slightly cooler night air, which means that I was woken at 3am a few days ago by a very noisy, metallic and somewhat unorthodox rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In. After a quick recce, which involved almost knocking myself out on a wooden beam, I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t actually fallen asleep in a sleazy jazz club, and the appalling racket was coming from the direction of the stables. Never underestimate my powers of deduction. Torch in hand, I soon discovered Bijou (our youngest horse) in full swing by the water trough, which I suppose must be the equine equivalent of a bar. He had got hold of two metal buckets, three tins, a broom and a hoof pick and was delighting in putting each item to maximum sonic use with the help of his hooves and surrounding walls, whilst strutting his funky stuff. The other horses were looking on slightly bemused and I don’t think I’m mistaken in saying that one of the more adoring hens (Bijou is very handsome) was tapping her foot in time to the surprisingly rhythmic din. Hugo and Java slept right through the performance – I don’t think they can be jazz connoisseurs.
    bijoudrum2
    My musical nights mean I’m not always in a state to contemplate elaborate recipes, but I think some of the nicest dishes are a happy marriage of flung-together ingredients. This is a good example.
    Figs are a particularly rich source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper. They are also high in fibre and vitamins A, E and K. Figs also contain prebiotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestion and general health.
    Ingredients (serves 4)
    12 fresh figs, cleaned and cut in half
    8 large tablespoons of mascarpone
    2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
    4 tablespoon runny honey
    20 walnuts, roughly broken
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    Arrange the figs in individual desert bowls. Combine the mascarpone and freshly grated ginger and add two large tablespoons per bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of honey over the figs and mascarpone, add the walnuts and finally sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately!
    bijoudrum1
     

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Double chocolate buckwheat cookies (gf) and pointless activities

    doublechoccookies

    hugotypewriter1by

    Bossy and Noisy went on holiday to the Pyrenees recently. Bossy actually considered taking Java with them for about three seconds, before coming to her senses with a jolt. It would have been funny though – the thought of Java in a hotel makes me chuckle. She doesn’t own a lead and thinks it’s OK to jump on to the table while people are eating. I don’t think she’s ever even been to a restaurant before. Unlike me, sophisticated she is not. It’s a shame that she didn’t go though, because it would have been more relaxing for me; as it was I had to put up with her incessant crying and whining. It got so much that I taught her a new game: Running Away. She got quite hooked on it and played every day they were away, much to my delight. It put the wind up The Tall One though I can tell you – I don’t think he fancied the idea of telling Bossy that he’d lost her little dog.

    lacmountain

    Bossy and Noisy got up to all sorts of foolish activities such as going up to the top of the mountain and coming back down again on two-wheeled contraptions at full pelt. How futile does that sound? I can just imagine how Bossy must have shrieked – I’m glad I wasn’t there to subject my poor ears to the certain GBH. Noisy confided in me that he went well ahead to disassociate himself from her; he’s at an age when he gets very embarrassed by his parents. In my opinion he’d be quite justified in always being at that age. He also climbed up some very tall trees and swung from branch to branch. I don’t understand the need to do that at all – it’s not as if he’s a monkey. Well, I suppose he is a bit of a monkey, but still.

    leonettree

    Then they went down a very rough and angry-looking white river on a rubber raft. Why on earth would you pay to do that? It sounded very dangerous to me and I’m beginning to worry for their sanity. Obviously their sanity is an ongoing cause for concern, but now even more than ever. The Tall One was worried all the time they were away about whether they were going to return intact as they’re both quite prone to broken bones, but they came back in one piece – or two pieces as the case may be – and normal (I use the term lightly) service was resumed.

    rafting

    Ingredients (makes 25-30 biscuits)
    125g buckwheat flour (or normal flour is you prefer)
    50g ground almonds
    50g oat flakes
    ½ teaspoon ginger powder
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    50g cocoa powder
    50g chocolate chips (I broke up some 70% dark chocolate)
    25g chopped or flaked almonds
    80g cane sugar
    80g coconut oil
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    Mix the flour, ground almonds, oats, ginger, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, flaked almonds and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Melt the coconut oil over a gentle heat and mix the eggs and vanilla together. Add the melted coconut oil to the dry mixture, combining well and then add the egg mixture, continuing to mix well. Roll into a sausage shape, roughly 5cm thick. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight.
    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the dough into slices of just under a centimetre and space out onto a greased baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes and leave to cool.

  • Gluten-free,  Sweet

    Spicy almond and raisin biscuits (gf) and being knocked senseless

    almondraisinbiscuits
    What do Hugo and a large buzzard have in common? The answer is they both have raging headaches. Hugo’s favourite thing in the world, other than mature camembert, is to jump into cars through their open windows. Much to the post lady’s dismay, he quite often ends up sitting on a massive pile of post in the passenger seat of the van. She has a tricky job explaining why the letters and parcels she delivers are covered in dog hair and paw prints. The other day though, the window was closed. Poor Hugo, who had taken a long and powerful run up, head butted the pane with a resounding thud and fell to the ground where he stayed knocked senseless. It was a good few minutes before he shook himself off and looked around to check that nobody had witnessed the fiasco. The next day, an impressive-looking buzzard did the same thing into one of our kitchen windows. It fell to the ground and staggered around a bit, before deciding to sit down and wait for the head spinning to pass. I did go out to offer a cup of tea and painkiller, as I had done with Hugo, but it just snarled at me, which I thought was a bit rich in view of the fact that it had come very close to smashing my kitchen window to smithereens.
    Yesterday 52% of voters in Britain had apparently also had the sense knocked out of them. A sad day indeed for Britain and for Europe.
    Ingredients (makes 25-30 biscuits)
    125g millet flour (or normal flour is you prefer)
    50g ground almonds
    50g oat flakes
    ½ teaspoon ginger powder
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    40g raisins
    25g chopped or flaked almonds
    80g cane sugar
    100ml olive oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 eggs, beaten
    Mix the flour, spices, raisins, almonds, oats, spices, bicarbonate of soda, raisins, almonds and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the olive oil, vanilla and eggs together and add to the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly and roll into a sausage shape, roughly 5cm thick. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight.
    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the dough into slices of just under a centimetre and space out onto a greased baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes and leave to cool.

  • Gluten-free,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Apple and raspberry crumble (gf) and patron saints

    crumble1

    I am writing this in my new-found capacity as Patron Saint of Naughty Horses. Every time horses stray in our village, it is assumed, quite mistakenly of course, that they’re ours. I got a call from the Mairie early the other morning informing me that there were two horses loose in the village, and could I please go and sort them out. Looking out of the window to do a quick head count I said, not altogether un-smugly, that mine were all present and correct and that I wasn’t the only person in the village to have wilful horses. We then went through the list of horse-owning potential suspects, all of whose phone numbers I had, which presumably made me guilty by association. She then very kindly kept me updated after every conversation, which was nice as I had nothing else planned for the morning beyond fielding calls about delinquent quadrupeds.
    My smugness was short-lived because the following Sunday brought a visit from the ‘gendarmes’; our most recent purchase had been found dazed and confused in town and, in view of the fact that he was roaming the pavements and cruising the shops and bars, they muttered something about vagabondage charges. At the suggestion of my imaginative husband however, we ended up agreeing that, just this once, they would squint and pretend he was a particularly large and docile deer (Bijou our horse; not my imaginative husband).
    castanolearner
    This crumble is made using millet flour, which is a delicious, slightly nutty-tasting gluten-free alternative. It is one of the least allergenic of all flours and very easily digestible due to its high alkalinity. It is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    For the filling:
    2kg of apples, peeled, cored sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 tablespoons of honey
    Several handfuls of raspberries, fresh or frozen
    For the topping:
    125g millet flour
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon powdered ginger
    50g coconut oil
    50g butter, cut into cubes
    50g oats
    50g almond flakes
    100g cane sugar (or rapadura sugar)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Gently poach the apples in a little water, adding the cinnamon and honey. Add the raspberries once the apples have softened and mix. Transfer to a ovenproof baking dish. For the crumble, put the flour, salt, ginger, coconut oil and butter into a mixing bowl and rub in using your fingertips. You should obtain a sandlike mixture. Add the oats, almond flakes and sugar and mix well. Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture and bake for 40 minutes or until the topping begins to turn golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream or Greek yoghurt.
    crumble2

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Raspberry cheesecake tarts (gf) and pedalling is the way forward

    raspberrylemontart

    HugojournoandJava
    hospital
    Home bears a close resemblance to an Accident and Emergency Unit at the moment. To start with, no fewer than 25% of the human knees here are toast. Burnt toast in fact. One knee belongs to The Tall One, and the other belongs to a friend who is staying with us. Both bad knees are as a result of interaction with horses; I have made my point and will say no more on the matter. The butcher told the Tall One that cycling was excellent for the sort of knee injury he has, which means that he pedals absolutely everywhere, even when pushing (or pulling) his friend’s wheelchair. Never mind the knee, what about his sanity?
    bikeandwheelchair
    Bossy has a broken little toe, but since little toes don’t count, I consider her disproportionate cursing when she hits it to be melodrama. A mild dose of laryngitis on the other hand wouldn’t go amiss. Nothing painful you understand, just enough for her to stop talking – or verbalising as the Noisy One says – for a bit.
    Moving on with the inventory, Java has a sore foot due to an impaled pine needle. Big deal – I have those nearly every day. You wouldn’t believe the fuss she made. We were all witness to her pathetic crying, whimpering and exaggerated limping for hours. Also, she keeps vomiting because she steals and eats raw eggs. I have tried to explain that lightly-poached eggs (as opposed to fully-poached in this case) are far more digestible than raw, but I’m afraid it falls on deaf ears. As for me, I have developed tinnitus and migraines because I have to sleep between two snoring girl dogs. Ladylike they are not.
    On to the volatiles, I’m a little concerned about one of the hens because she has been trying, unsuccessfully, to lay an egg for over two weeks. I think she might have an intestinal blockage. Either that, or a brain blockage, something I certainly wouldn’t rule out. Another of the hens has a very nasty-looking foot and the Tall One says she’ll probably die soon, but whoever died from a bad foot? I think it’s wishful thinking on his part because he’s irritated that she only ever lays an egg once in a blue moon. A couple of swallows have built their nest on the spotlight above the front door. Every time the spotlight comes on, they fly out crossly wiggling their singed bottoms. How many times do they have to be burnt before they realise they should relocate? How many shades of stupid can a swallow actually be?
    These tarts are nothing to write home about in my opinion, but they seem to make Bossy happy, so here you are.
    Ingredients for pastry (makes about six tarts)
    75g buckwheat flour
    35g coconut flour
    30g butter
    30g coconut oil
    ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
    Pinch of sea salt
    Roughly 6 tablespoons of cold water
    Ingredients for ‘cheesecake’ filling
    250g mascarpone cheese
    Juice of half a lemon
    3 tablespoons raspberry jam
    100g fresh raspberries
    2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
    To make the pastry, begin by cutting the butter and coconut oil into small cubes. Add to the flours and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Blend by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the cold water, mixing rapidly with a spoon. Remove the mixture from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until you obtain a ball of pastry (if the mixture isn’t ‘sticky’ enough to form a ball, you may need a drop more water). Wrap in a clean cotton tea towel or some cling film and leave to ‘rest’ in the fridge for about two hours. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to use.
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured surface and fill the tart tins. Bear in mind that buckwheat and coconut flour pastry is extremely crumbly as it contains no gluten to ‘stick’ it together. You’ll probably need to patch and press the pastry into the tins as opposed to just cutting and placing it in as you would with normal pastry. Cook the pastry cases for 15 minutes.
    Blend all of the ‘cheesecake’ ingredients together well, keeping a few raspberries aside for garnish. Fill the precooked tart cases and decorate the tops with the set-aside raspberries. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Apricot buckwheat cake (gf) and Hugo sorts things out

    apricotbuckwheatcake
    hugotypewriter1by
    As is too often the case, I feel compelled to tell my side of the story following  Bossy’s latest piece of intelligence (I use the term with a generous helping of irony). I was so annoyed that I had intended to ‘forget’ to include her silly recipe in this post, but Bossy can be very insistent. Obviously my ‘forgetting’ would have been a pedagogical measure and not out of pettiness. Between ourselves though, I consider Bossy to be a lost cause so I didn’t press the issue.
    As I mentioned before, in my spare time (sadly lacking because I’m so exploited), I am studying for a degree in psychology. This is quite a challenge as it’s very hard to find peace and quiet to study in this house. Also, I have to be careful not to leave my books lying around because Java chews them to pieces, Bossy drops them in the bath (she falls asleep while reading), the Noisy One makes aeroplanes from them and the Tall One uses them to light fires. The upshot is that there is hardly any room left for me to lie in my basket as, once I’ve finished studying I have to hide all my books under the blankets. I don’t think Bossy takes my degree very seriously, which would explain why she doesn’t understand my need for time on the couch to contemplate. The couch plays a very important part in a psychology degree.
    sofa2
    Bossy is in denial about just how annoying Java is. She thinks she’s ‘adorable and perhaps a tiny bit dizzy’, whereas in reality she’s an unrelenting and unspeakable pest. Actually, they both are. For the record, Java is also in denial about just how annoying she is. Or maybe she isn’t, which is even worse. Sigmund (I think we would have been on first name terms if he had ever been lucky enough to meet me) believed that when people explain their behaviour they rarely give a true account – not necessarily because they are deliberately lying, but because they are great deceivers of others and, to an even greater degree, themselves. Bossy meet Java, Java meet Bossy. I rest my case.
    hugojavaonback
    Ingredients (serves 8-10)
    170g dried apricots (preferably organic), chopped
    100ml olive oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4 eggs, separated
    100g cane sugar
    100ml plain yoghurt
    70g ground almonds (you could substitute ground hazelnuts)
    40g buckwheat flour
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, olive oil and yogurt until light and smooth. Mix the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together and then combine well with the wet mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

  • Sweet

    Peanut anzac biscuits and a civilised sofa and its contents

    peanutanzac
    sofa1

    This is a sofa. It is a pretty, clean sofa for humans. This is Hugo the big black dog. He is a naughty dog. This is Java the little speckled dog. She is also a naughty dog. Hugo does not like Java to join him on the sofa. Hugo kicks Java. He growls at Java. Poor little Java. She is sad. Hugo can be a sadistic son of a bitch at times.

    sofa2
    Ingredients (makes 16-20)
    125g spelt flour
    100g desiccated coconut
    40g raisins
    100g rolled oats
    Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
    150g unsalted peanuts
    Pinch of sea salt
    75g coconut oil
    50g butter
    80g honey
    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two baking trays. Combine the flour, coconut, raisins, oats, chia seeds, peanuts and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil, butter and honey in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.
    Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving space between each ball. Flatten them slightly and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

  • Breakfast,  Guest post,  Sweet

    Guest post: Sugar-free loaf

    sugarfreeloaf
    Today I’d like to welcome Susan from Our French Oasis, who, like me, lives in the South West of France with her husband, various children, chickens and naughty dogs.
    I have lived in France with my husband and five children for many years; we used to live close to the Spanish border, then work took us to Florida for four years and when we returned permanently two years ago we bought a house close to the coast in the Charente Maritime, a department we have all come to love.
    Last year I decided to give up all forms of added sugar, for absolutely no other reason than I thought I would see if I could do it, we don’t after all need sugar, and I wondered if I could really live without it? The answer is yes, seven months later and I still have not had a grain of added sugar, honey, maple syrup or any other form of non naturally occurring sugar such as that found in fruit and wine (of course). Now our French friends think I am quite mad, they all eat healthily but they don’t do fad diets and they do eat sugar, a little coffee is always taken with sugar, a little dessert after dinner, bien sur, they don’t do large portions but they do have a little, something sweet to finish a meal, in fact they look at me quite aghast! But in truth we really do not need sugar, I had no withdrawal symptons and sometimes I do look at a chocolate or a biscuit and think, gosh I’d like one, but I won’t! Why? Because I have never felt so full of energy,  I need less sleep and I feel totally invigorated and I know it is very good for me, I scarcely miss it at all and I won’t go back to eating it!
    Ingredients
    125g wholemeal spelt flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon allspice
    50g butter, softened (I use salted butter)
    100g raisins
    2 teaspoons vanilla essence
    3 large bananas mashed
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon milk
    4 dates (optional)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixer and turn on to low. Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the dates and mix further. Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin, pressing four dates along the top (optional) and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a sharp knife; if it doesn’t come out clean, cover with some tin foil to stop the top burning and bake for a further 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and try not to eat it all at once!