Monday, January 25, 2010

Spiked Scrambled Eggs

January in London, with its interminable dark and dank cloak that suffocates and oppresses, is not a month that I enjoy.  Certainly not this year as the uncertainty of my working and financial future lies before me as a gaping abyss and threatens to cripple the few vestiges of professional confidence I've managed to salvage after redundancy.  The relentless rain and a fear of spending money seem to be keeping me prisoner in my flat and in danger of descending into a routine of rituals and habits within which I feel safe, food included.

Today however I decided to make some changes and, after an injection of sunshine via a sykpe chat with my wonderful friend in the Seychelles, I took heed of Lucy's words and am going to try to 'be kind to myself'.  I will make plans to see friends rather than hiding away, I will escalate the (in)offensive on alerting contacts to my availability and I will soothe my tastebuds and mood by investing more time and love into my food.  I will nurture rather then feed myself - body and soul.  Or at least that's the theory.

So, on this freezing Monday lunchtime which saw me with a raging hunger (and yes, I am still going for the burn at the gym almost daily!) and an impending cold (thank you dear nephews), I decided upon a rare treat of scrambled eggs on a gluten-free but no less comforting muffin substitute of grilled portobello mushrooms.  Of course, being me, I cannot allow a meal to pass without an injection of greenery and a twist of some description, hence my strange but good version of scrambled eggs.

Spiked Scrambled Eggs (serves 1)
2 eggs
splash of fino sherry
large handful of baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper

1. Whisk the eggs, adding a splash of sherry.
2. Tear the leaves into small pieces and add to the merry egg mix.  Stir well and season as you see fit.
3. Heat a non-stick pan (or if you like the taste of butter and prefer to cook in a normal pan, warm a pan and melt a good sized nub of butter until melted).  Pour in the egg mix and stir regularly until the eggs are truly scrambled (I remove the pan from the heat after a couple of minutes but continue to stir - this prevents the eggs from suddenly veering from pillow perfection to a rubbery mess).

Serve on toasted English muffins (as in what the savoury patties we used to know as muffins rather than the toothsome, sweet American buns for which we now commonly use the term).  Or if you prefer or have to avoid gluten, tip the egg onto chargrilled large, flat mushrooms.

Serve with a glass of tomato juice and a good dollop of ketchup and your vitamin and nutritional needs are met.  And, whilst it doesn't come close to a real bear hug, I certainly felt cared for just that little bit more.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gluten and Dairy Free Double Chocolate Cookies

2009 ended on something of a sour note.  Not only was I made redundant but managed to slip on ice and break my right elbow, and yes, you guessed it, I'm right handed.  Suddenly my default mechanisms for lifting my mood were very limited.  Not only could I not write and struggled to type, or 'go for the burn' at the gym but nor could I bake myself a positive mental pie.  This was the first festive season for years that I had not reveled in knocking up batches of mince pies, baking dozens of Christmas biscuits or creating comforting casseroles.  I had to resort to buying sad little packs of pre-sliced vegetables so I could at least make soup with a hand-held liquidiser.  Thank goodness for pre-chopped ginger and chillies!

This winter feels especially cruel as Jack Frost has his icy talons gripped firmly around Europe and we are battling against unforgiving winds, dangerous black ice and blasts of snow.  It is at times a struggle to venture outdoors (other than to slide to the gym in my wellies) and this afternoon I succumbed to the need to hibernate but also to bake a pleasing, chocolatey treat and to test my fast-healing arm out.  If I can bake, I can tackle 2010 with relish and succeed.  And so much the better if it's a treat does not contain gluten or dairy and so one in which I can personally indulge.

As the pleasing, biscuity aromas leaked from the oven, I sighed with pleasure and thought '2010 may indeed be a year full of challenges and uncertainty, but I will survive.  And enjoy life.  Chocolate and all.'

So, here follows an indulgent recipe for gluten and dairy free double chocolate cookies, adapted from the ridiculously tempting 'the hummingbird bakery cookbook' that a dear friend gave me for Christmas.  Bake, breathe and consume.  And enjoy the start of a new year and whatever it may hold.

Gluten and Dairy Free Double Chocolate Cookies
(makes 6-7 large cookies)
25g soya margarine
225g dark chocolate - 125g roughly broken, remainder 100g chopped in a food processor
1 medium egg
85g light muscovado sugar
42.5g gluten free flour (I used what I had which amounted to half quantity each of rice and tapioca flours)
1/4tsp salt
1/4tsp gluten free baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 170C/gas 3.  Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
2. Put the margarine and 125g of roughly broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of just simmering water.  Ensure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Leave until it has all melted and has a smooth appearance.  Allow to cool a little.
3. Beat the egg and the sugar until well combined.  Slowly beat in the chocolate/margarine mixture until jolly well mixed.
4. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and gradually stir into the chocolate mixture, ensuring it is well combined.
5. Stir the remaining, finely chopped 100g of chocolate into the mixture until well mixed.
6. Spoon roughly equal amounts of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet (I made seven), ensuring they are evenly spaced as they will spread.  Bake in the oven for anything between 10-15 minutes - checking regularly after 10 minutes.  You are aiming for a glossy finish and cracks to appear on the top.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool somewhat on the baking sheet.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack after around 5-10 minutes.

If this virgin batch were not potentially headed for young mouths, I would have added a few teaspoons of dried chili flakes and next time I will reduce the amount of sugar and increase that of salt.  They'd also work with some salted pecan nuts thrown in and....... I shall stop there else will spoil the subject of a future blog!

And there will be more to come.  This is going to be the year of food, blogging and lots of changes.  2010 here I come!