Sunday, 29 November 2009

Local smoked duck

I never thought that I would write this, but it is possible to have too much comfort food. I’ve spent the week serving and making food for those who have been clearing-up the flood damage at work in Cockermouth. Hot and filling comfort food has been pouring forth, but now I’ve had enough of chilli, stews and casseroles!!!

PB290081 I picked up a fresh cabbage and some oak smoked duck breast at a local farmers’ market. Along with some of my homemade plum and damson sauce, this shopping formed the basis for supper this evening. Smoked duck on a bed of cabbage and rice noodles.

Riverside Smoked Foods, in Frizington, make the most wonderful smoked food. The duck breast had been marinated in damson juice, before being smoked. Delicious. Unfortunately, they don’t have a website at the moment, but I believe one will be online soon. I’ll put a link up here when one is available.

This dish is quick and easy to make, and can be made partly in advance, making it ideal as a starter for a dinner party or for an informal supper.


Chop the cabbage finely, and steam for 5 minutes. Soak the rice noodles for 5 minutes, then drain. Cut up some ginger and garlic and thinly slice the duck breast. These steps can all be done in advance.

Heat some oil in wok, add the garlic and ginger. Fry for a minute or two. Add the cabbage and noodles, along with a splash of soy sauce. Place in a warmed bowl, with the duck on top and drizzle with plum sauce.PB290080

Friday, 20 November 2009

Lamb, Rosemary and Leek Pie

Well, what a day. The floods in Cockermouth (10 miles away) have been making headline news all day. It’s strange to think that where we were standing yesterday afternoon is still under 4ft of water and is likely to be inundated for some time to come. My heart goes out to the people who live in and around Main Street, I can not even imagine what they must be feeling.

PB200070 With the winds and rain set to continue tomorrow, it’s a night for comfort food (I don’t need much of an excuse for comfort food!). We had a wonderful joint of local lamb the other night for Nick’s birthday, so the leftovers now need using up. I’ve set about making a lamb pie, loosely based around my steak pie recipe. The filling is currently simmering away, or trying to simmer on our useless hob!

I’ve not yet attempted wheat-free (gluten-free in this case) pastry. My wheat free bread, made in our bread machine was a disaster, although I’ve since been told to try using chestnut flour. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the pastry.


Pie filing

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs gluten-free plain flour
  • A good pinch of herbs de Provence
  • Any left-over cooked lamb, or 300-400gr of fresh lamb, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pasata
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1/2 cup of good stock, I used chicken stock as I had some in the fridge.
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp (heaped) of dried rosemary
  • 6 mushrooms chopped in half
  • 2 tsp of redcurrant jelly
  • 1 leek, chopped into 1cm circle
  1. Heat the oil, add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes in an oven-safe dish until the onion is soft.
  2. Toss the lamb in the flour and herbs, add a good grind of black pepper and a little salt. Add to the onion.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 3/4 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, make the pastry.
  5. After the meat has simmer for 45 mins, remove the lid, add the leek and allow the sauce/gravy to reduce for 15 mins. At this stage you can also fish out the rosemary stems and the cinnamon stick.



The pastry recipe is from Stephen Howarth. I’m expecting great things Stephen!

  • 8oz gluten-free plain flour
  • 2oz butter, I used goat’s, but I’m going to try using Pure next time to make it totally dairy-free, cubed
  • 2oz lard, cubed
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  1. PB200066Rub the butter into the flour.
  2. Stir in the egg and a couple of tablespoons of cold water.
  3. Turn out the crumbly dough and knead it. Or, like I did, knead it in the bowl. Unlike normal pastry, apparently ‘gluten-free pastry likes to be handled’.
  4. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 mins.


  1. Roll-out 2/3 and line the base of a pie dish. This is easier said than done. You will use a lot more flour to keep the surface dusted, and it’s best to use short strokes of the rolling pin. As there is no gluten, there is not much elasticity in the pastry, so it splits easily as you roll it. When you turn the pastry, or need to handle it, use the rolling pin and the plate knife. You’ll quickly come unstuck if you use your hands!
  2. Fill the base with the lamb.
  3. Roll out the other piece of pastry, as above.
  4. Use a fork to press down the edges of the pie. Pierce the top and place in a preheated oven (180 degrees celcius) for 45 mins.


Result: It was good! The pastry was extremely short, which meant it cracked on top in the oven, but that didn’t matter. Also, the gluten-free flour tasty made the pastry taste quite floury. Having said that, I would definitely make it again!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Homemade hot chocolate

Driving home this afternoon, we got caught in a hail storm. Amazingly, the hail completely covered the road with ice. It was suddenly like being plunged into mid-winter and I quickly had to remember how to drive on frozen roads, not something I’ve had to do since February. 

On such a wet and cold afternoon hot chocolate was needed.

PB070042Green & Black’s website says that their cocoa has been made in a factory that handles dairy and wheat, but they are not direct ingredients. In fact, their cocoa is one of the few things that doesn’t contain any diary products. I think that’s good enough for us!

 Homemade hot chocolate recipe

  • 25gr good quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa)
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • Milk

PB070045 Mix the cocoa and sugar in the ratio above (2 sugar: 1 cocoa). I used 125gr cocoa powder and 250gr sugar to make a large batch for using over the next few weeks. I put these ingedients into a Kilner jar, closed the lid and gave it a good shake. This jar will also provide the hot chocolate’s home until is made into a drink.  

To make up the hot chocolate, simply put 1.5 tbls of the dry mix in the bottom of a mug, add a little milk (normal, soya or goat’s) and mix to form a paste. Then, top up with hot milk, stir well and enjoy!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wheat and dairy free peanut butter and chocolate biscuits

We’ve adopted a wheat and dairy free diet. I think this might be quite a challenge.

Nick used to be on a diet of no dairy, no yeast and no-lots-of-other things for health reasons. Then, medication was prescribed and for the last five years he has eaten more-or-less whatever he chooses to. However, over the last couple of years he has been battling with depression (it’s ok – he’s given me permission to mention this!). 

With the news earlier in the week that there appears to be a link between depression and diet, and with my slight intolerance of wheat and diary, we decided to go back to restricting what we eat. My addiction to all things bad, pastry (especially pies), cakes and cream (particularly homemade ice cream) is not to help…

On my last visit to our local Sainsbury's I was surprised by how much 'free-from' food was available. Certainly, there were far more products than 5 years ago. My best find so far has been goat's milk. Yesterday, I gingerly sipped at my first cup of tea with goat's milk, I have to say that I could not taste any difference. Amazing. St Helens’ Farm also produce cream, so maybe I'll be able to survive after all!

This afternoon I tried to make some cookies, this recipe is just a slight variation of one from the back of a packet of PB050038 Dove's Farm rice flour. They turn out very crisp (unless you eat them straight from the oven), a bit like the texture of a gingernut. So I think ‘biscuits’ is a better name for these little bundles of yumminess, rather than ‘cookies’.

Wheat and dairy free peanut butter and chocolate biscuits

  • 125gr goat’s butter
  • 90gr light brown sugar
  • 90gr dark brown sugar
  • 125gr crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp wheat-free baking powder
  • 175gr rice flour
  • 50gr dairy and wheat free chocolatePB050036
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and  grease two baking sheets with a little butter or olive oil.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the peanut butter and egg and mix thoroughly.
  4. Mix in the flour, chocolate and baking powder.
  5. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and make it in to a ball. Place on the baking tray and push down slightly to squash it flat. I put 8 on one tray, 9 on another and froze the rest of the dough.
  6. Place the trays in the oven for 15 mins.
  7. When they are cooked, place on a rack to cool.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Mix and match pie and a lost camera

My camera has gone missing. How can I post anything without pictures? It's like beans on toast, but without the beans. We have two wonderful kittens, who are just 10 weeks old and I'm blaming them for 'moving' the camera. Or at least knocking it off a shelf or behind a rickety bookcase as they rocket round the house chasing each other.

I've been dining alone the last few days, so I've taken this opportunity to try to use up some of the mysterious packages of food in the freezer. When they originally went in to the freezer I was certain that they didn't need labels. Clearly, I would remember exactly what was where. Or not as the case may be. I've since learnt my lesson, and now everything that goes in to the freezer is labelled with: the date, exactly what it is and how many it will feed.

But the bag of brown splodge that came out of the freezer yesterday morning was from the pre-labelling days.
Tonight's dish was the second half of a wonderful stew. But having had the same last night, I wanted to do somehting different with it. I decided to wrap it in some short-crust pastry that was left-over (in the fridge this time) and make an impromptu pie. Served with some stir-fried kale from my friend's allotment and leeks it was a great supper and really quick!

'Left-over stew pie' will definitetely be on the menu again, maybe for two next time, especially now that I've started labelling the freezer food.