Strawberry and Lime Gin Cupcakes [GF/DF]

With Christmas coming up I thought I’d start experimenting with some alcohol containing cupcake recipes. For mine I wanted a sweet flavour rather than a huge alcoholic hit so I used Koppaberg strawberry and lime gin. If you don’t have any flavoured gin to hand, I’m sure a standard gin will do as the coulis already has a fruity flavour. Makes 12 medium – large cupcakes.

Ingredients
For sponge:
200g gluten free self raising flour
200g dairy free spread (room temperature)
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pink/red food colouring (optional).

For coulis:
150g strawberries
50g raspberries
2-3 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp gin

Buttercream and decoration
200g dairy free spread/butter (room temperature)
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 tbsp gin
1 lime zest for decoration

Method
Preheat oven to 160*C fan/180*C standard
I use an all in one method for my cakes as I find this works better with the allergy free/special dietary ingredients.
1. Mix with a whisk in a large bowl the flour, dairy free spread, caster sugar, eggs, baking powder and vanilla extract until all combined and a smooth batter is achieved. Add food colouring if using it and mix again until pink/red.
2. Split the cake mixture evenly between 12 cupcake cases.
3. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until a starting to brown and a bouncy consistency is achieved.
4. While the cakes are baking, start the coulis. In a pan on a low to medium heat mix the strawberries, raspberries, icing sugar and 4 tbsp gin. I recommend just using 2 tbsp of icing sugar, but add more if it looks watery.
5. Keep pan on the heat for approximately 10 minutes until fruit has collapsed into a coulis.
6. Mash up any larger lumps of fruit and use a blender if need be.
7. Allow cakes and coulis to cool.
8. In a clean bowl mix the buttercream, first cream the butter, then add icing sugar and slowly turn up the whisk speed. Then add the vanilla and gin and continue to whisk.
9. Cut a 20 pence piece size hole into the centre of the cool cupcakes, this should go about 2/3 of the way down into the cupcakes.
10. Syringe/spoon the coulis into the holes in the cupcakes, make sure they are pretty much full to the top.
11. Pipe the buttercream on top of the cakes in whatever pattern you like. (Sprinkle lime zest onto buttercream to decorate)
12. Serve and enjoy!

Caramelised onion and mozzarella tarts [GF/Veggie]

This recipe is a bit of a cheat using shop bought, pre rolled, gluten free pastry. However it does include the process of caramelising onions which takes about 45 minutes, so make sure you leave yourself some time to let them cool before assembling the tarts. Makes 3-4 tarts.

Ingredients

For caramelised onions:
3 large red onions.
2 tbsp of garlic olive oil. (normal is fine but garlic does add to taste)
3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar.
Pinch of salt.
1 tbsp of brown sugar (caster is also fine)

Fot tart:
1 packet of pre rolled, gluten free pastry. (obviously if you want to make your own you can)
3-4 tbsp of green pesto.
125g mozarella.

Method

To caramelise onions:
1. Start by chopping onions into thin long strands.
2. Add to pan with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar.
3. Cook on a low to medium heat for about 45 minutes, stirring at regular intervals to ensure everything is mixed and nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. The onions will eventually start to caramelise and go a nice deep purple colour and of a sticky consistency.
5. Put in a bowl and leave to the side to cool, as adding hot ingredients to the pastry can cause problems with rising.

Tarts:
Preheat the oven to 170*C fan oven.
1. Cut pastry into approximately 5cm circles.
2. First add the pesto, spread a layer out across the base of your pastry rings.
3. Add about a table spoon and a half of the onions on top of the pesto.
4. Tear up the mozzarella and spread across the onions.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes until the outside of the pastry has browned nicely.
6. Serve with chips or a salad!

Low histamine ‘nomato’ sauce (GF/DF/Vegan)

I’ve very recently gone back onto a low histamine diet in an attempt to reduce some of the severe digestive system symptoms I’ve been having. I’m not sure if a histamine intolerance/undiagnosed allergy issues could be further impacting whatever else is going on. As the diet avoids a lot of common ingredients found in store bought sauces, whilst avoiding preservatives, I’ve found it can be quite tricky. I thought I’d share some of my new recipes with you, starting with this basic pasta sauce using no tomato! This makes approximately enough for two to three meals.

Ingredients:
2 large red peppers (cut in half) *I use sweet pointed ones but any is fine*
1 red onion (cut into quarters)
1 butternut squash (peeled and cut into chunks)
1/2 a beetroot
2 garlic bulbs (top cut off)
Garlic olive oil
Sea Salt
Black pepper

10 basil leaves
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
1tsp lemon juice

Method:
1. Heat oven to 200*C/180*C fan oven.
2. Prepare veg for roasting as per instructions in ingredients.
3. Spread the vegetables out on two trays lined with baking paper. Try to keep the butternut squash on its own tray as it cooks for longer.
4. Drizzle veg generously with garlic olive oil, sprinkle over sea salt and pepper.
5. Cook the tray with the pepper, onion and beetroot in the oven for 30-45 mins until starting to brown. Cook the tray with the butternut squash for a total of 1 hour to 1h15 until soft.
6. Using a blender blend all the veg together adding the basil, oregano, parsley and lemon juice.
7. Once completely blended your sauce should resemble a standard tomato pasta sauce.
8. When cooking the sauce add water to get the desired consistency for your meal!

If you wish to keep some of the sauce for another day, simply sterilise a glass jar and store in the fridge!

Ego at the Punchbowl, Sefton. First meal out since lockdown.

Since the UK first went into lockdown, I’ve been really weary and cautious about the places and scenarios I put myself in. I haven’t been completely shielded, however as someone with a chronic illness I am vulnerable and ‘at risk’. I would literally only go into shops at like 8am when I knew they’d be empty. Finally, last weekend, I decided to be brave and re-introduce myself into society by going out for food on the Friday night. We visited Ego at the Punchbowl in Sefton and I must admit it really has reduced the anxiety I feel about visiting restaurants in the future. This will cover a little about Coronavirus measures and then obviously the amazing gluten free food.

Health/safety/cleanliness
Before arriving at the restaurant, I must admit I had quite bad anxiety on how the new procedures would be put into place to protect customers and staff and whether or not they were being monitored and followed throughout the night. As soon as I arrived it was like a huge sigh of relief seeing one staff member completely cleaning and disinfecting both tables and chairs in between customers. The tables were spread out to a safe distance and there was a lot less loitering about as drinks were table service only, no people queuing or chatting at the bar. Drinks were delivered to the table on a clean plastic tray, you took them off their yourself, so staff aren’t leaning over you and touching the glasses and then they took the tray away. Food ordering was pretty much the same as previously, but with staff taking extra precautions staying a safe distance away from the table.

Gluten free choices
Onto the good stuff, food. I must really begin by mentioning that Ego has one of the most varied gluten free menus I have seen. Don’t worry if you don’t live locally to Liverpool/Sefton, as they have a chain of restaurants scattered around the country. They are a Mediterranean style restaurant so the menu has everything ranging from pastas, to Moroccan mains, fish courses and steak.

Starter
For my starter I got Chorizo Frito Al Vino. This was chorizo in red wine, garlic, rosemary and thyme. It was absolutely gorgeous, literally some of the best tasting chorizo I’ve ever had. The portion size was just right for me. It was even served with toasted gluten free bread, which I used to mop up the sauce as it was so good! A few other starters to choose from included a vegetarian goats cheese starter, chicken liver pate and they even had vegan friendly options of soup or garlic mushrooms.

Chorizo

Main Course
This was a very tough choice for me as their are so many mains to choose from, but I went with the hanging piri-piri chicken kebab, with a side of skin on fries. I was not disappointed. The kebab contained chicken chunks, onions, courgette and peppers all skewered together and char-grilled served on a bed of salad. It was cooked to perfection with a lovely char-grilled aftertaste, would definitely recommend. Fries were nice and crispy, just how I like them. Once again the menu not only catered for gluten free, but covered gluten free vegans and vegetarians with dishes such as a vegetable paella and Moroccan falafel. If I visited again I’d definitely try a pasta dish or steak, other people’s meals coming out the kitchen looked amazing.

Hanging peri-peri chicken kebab

Dessert
For dessert I went with my general go to when I see that it’s on the gluten free menu, warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. It was so rich, gooey and delicious, I feel like I could have ate another and felt sickly all night, with no regrets haha. They had a selection of desserts available on the menu including creme brulee and eton mess, both of which I love, but I’m such a chocolate fiend that nothing could sway me.

Triple chocolate brownie

The experience overall I would say has put me at ease when it comes to dining out in these times of a post covid lockdown, ‘new normal’. The food here is absolutely worth a try as I cannot find fault in any of it. This is a restaurant I would definitely visit again and would have no issues in ordering a different meal on 3 or even 4 visits, without having to order the same thing over, as the gluten free menu is so big and varied.

Onion rings [GF/DF/Vegan]

Ingredients
1 Large white onion cut into rings (I found batter sticks better to white than red onions)
Vegetable oil
85g GF plain flour
1Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp chilli powder
1 Tsp cajun seasoning
50ml almond milk
50ml water
1 Tbsp cornflour

Method
Heat up enough oil in a pan to completely cover onions when dropped in.
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, chilli powder and cajun seasoning in a bowl.
Add almond milk and water to form a thick batter that sticks to the back of a spoon.
Put cornflour in a food bag with sliced onion and shake until onion gets a slight coating on.
Shake off any excess flour.
Dip the coated onions in the batter until generously coated.
Add coated onions to hot oil and fry until crispy (depending on pan size you might need to repeat this process more than once until all onions are done).
Drain off the excess oil, I used kitchen paper.
Serve as a starter, side dish or a snack and enjoy!

Crispy, gluten free onion rings!
Onions and batter
Coating in cornflour
Frying