I remember, vaguely, a time when I cooked food using any ingredients (within reason – kidneys were frowned upon but liver was, occasionally, acceptable, but only because none of us liked ‘the idea of kidneys’). But then, a toxic cocktail of fashion, gossip and ‘research’ meant that people starting ‘developing’ intolerances to certain ingredients. To be ‘wheat free’ (or rather ‘gluten free’), or ‘dairy-free’, or ‘sugar-free’ or whatever else became to an extent, hot. Like the increase in diagnoses of ADHD I suspect that the prevalence of food intolerances and allergies is a false epidemic. I’m not saying that no-one is allergic (or intollerant) to anything, but I am saying that I think a lot of people, (after a visit to their kinesiologist and having phials of inert liquid held near them while the quacktitioner applies pressure to their extended arm to test for resistance), think they are when probably they’re not. Perhaps as organised religion has been gradually exposed for the fairy-story that it is people need to have something else to believe in, something external on which they can lay the blame for lethargy and lack of motivation? Laced with the forbidden wheat, sugar, chocolate and diary, Devil’s Food Cake really has become for many the comestible beast that it purports to be.
It’s a hugely sensitive area and I’m inviting criticism from those who’ll tell me that I’d feel very differently about it if I’d experienced the misery they had suffered as a Coeliac. I know. But I’m not basting everybody with the same (tar-loaded) pastry brush. I’m just saying that I think there’s an element of trendiness that’s responsible for a lot of this increase.
We’ve dozens, perhaps scores of friends who for one reason or another can’t eat, or certainly avoid a whole myriad of these forbidden food groups. And being the mischievous imp that I am, having been invited to a ‘bring a dish’ party some years back I made a Syrup Sponge Pudding, rich in butter, sugar, flour, eggs (and I think a little ginger too). I’d timed it so that it was steaming away on the hob right up until the moment we had to leave and I was able to turn it out of it’s basin, hot and ready, at the party – large jug of double cream on the side. Eye’s widened and I imagine saliva glands started activating. It was a party populated by a rather generous percentage of the aforementioned ‘type’ of people for whom a food intolerance was a badge of honour and I couldn’t resist. “And this is actually wheat AND sugar free” I said. “Really!?”. Smiles, looks of ‘you-must-give-me-the-recipe’ and ‘you-genius-your-family-is-so-lucky-to-have-you’. Bowls and spoons were taken up rapidly in anticipation. “Not really” I said.
They ate it anyway. Most of them.
It’s a band wagon that we have inevitably joined at various times over the last couple of decades for a variety of reasons – weight-loss, health and so on. While it’s at times been frustrating I’ve actually found that it can be a challenge to rise to and that limitation breeds creativity.
As I wrote in a recent blog about my own dietary adaptation due to high blood-pressure, we used to live in a much smaller flat with a really tiny kitchen that I spent a lot of time designing, building and adapting. In many ways it worked better than the larger kitchen we have now. Everything was closer to hand and solutions to problems were found because they had to be. And it’s been the same when it’s come to the recipe-creating constraints I’ve been prescribed when certain ingredients have been off the list.
Presently my wife is following a diet which is chiefly vegan but which allows fish (preferably in abundance), egg white (but not yolk), and the only added oil has to be extra virgin olive or extra virgin rapeseed. It means there’s a lot of ingredients-list-studying when buying anything that comes in a packet, which isn’t so bad since most things I cook use components in their raw state. The diet is supposed to be low-fat and most of the time it is, but you’ve got to have treats (and I don’t think ‘raw mushrooms’ is enough Candice Marie). As it was a birthday recently I made a carrot cake within those limitations. It’s an adapted Delia Smith recipe, certainly not low fat, but there’s no butter and the only dairy in it is a few egg whites. Lots of nuts though. But the fat from them is good. Isn’t it? It is at the moment. I think. I’d better check with a dietician/nutritionist/homeopath/aromatherapist/acupuncturist/bi-auratherapist etc. It’s Brighton so I’m sure it won’t be hard to find one.
250g soft brown sugar
4 egg whites (save those yolks for pasta-making, or ridiculously decadent scrambled eggs)
225g extra virgin rapeseed oil
150g wholemeal self-raising flour
150g ground almonds
4 teaspoons mixed spice
1.5 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
300g carrots (peeled and grated)
the zest of an orange and a lemon
75g desiccated coconut
75g pecans or walnuts
75 g soft brown sugar
the juice of one orange
100g macadamia nuts
50g raw cashew nuts
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
almond breeze (almond milk)
You’ll need two 20cm sandwich tins, lined with baking parchment. And set the oven to 170 degrees C.
Toast the nuts first by putting them in the oven for 9 minutes, and do use a timer or you’ll forget and burn them, which can happen in an instant. When they’er cool enough, chop them coarsely.
Beat together the sugar, eggs and oil with a whisk (electric is easiest) for a few minutes until everything is well amalgamated, and then sift in the flour, ground almonds, spice and bicarbonate of soda and fold it all together. Then add the rest of the ingredients and divide between the cake tins. It’ll be rough on top and it will rise up surprisingly little (it will rise but the addition of the grated carrot will have made the texture of the mix quite open so a lot of the rising will happen inside as the mixture expands to fill those gaps in the mix), so it’s important to smooth the tops and get them as flat as possible before they go in the oven. Use a wetted palette knife.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
While it’s baking make the glaze by whisking together the orange juice and sugar over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. As soon as the cake is done, pierce them all over with a skewer and carefully spoon over the syrup until it’s absorbed and leave them in the tins until they’re completely cold.
To make the icing, in a food processor blend together the nuts, maple syrup, coconut oil and about a dessertspoonful each of almond breeze and lemon juice. Then add more sugar if you think it needs it, or more almond breeze if you think it’s too thick (bearing in mind it will thicken a little in the fridge).
Once the cakes are cold sandwich them together with a layer of the icing and spread the rest on the top. (George)