Pesto perfection!

Pesto is one of those things that I love to have in the house at all times. It’s so easy to use to make a quick pesto pasta for tea when I get home from work. I love to just layer it on crusty bread for a lunch or snack too. Full of flavour and ready to go it’s great! Finding a good Free From pesto was high on the agenda when we first recognised the dairy free dietary needs of the family. We love “Le conserve Della Nona”. We first tried this at one of the free From shows and bought a few jars on the spot! We haven’t looked back since. It’s so nice!

Our favourite cheesey Free From crisps

One thing that was a favourite and was very missed when Steve first had to go dairy free was cheese and onion crisps! Many crisps have milk in and some contain wheat. Finding tasty dairy free and gluten free was a mission. Chilli cheese hummus crisps are perfect when you want a bit of crunch and jalapeño and cheddar corn puffs are yummy! These crisps by Eat Real are now our favourites as we do also like a bit of spice. The hummus crisps are also 40% less fat so are a great healthier guilt free alternative!

Rich Chocolate Orange Cake

This is very rich and indulgent but delicious! It’s dairy free and gluten free so ticks all of the boxes for us. The cake it makes is big enough to serve 8-10 people comfortably as you only need a small slice. Ellie loves making it with me and Steve gives it a solid “10 out of 5“ hahaha!

Ingredients

  • 100g dairy free spread (I use vitalite)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g gluten free plain flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 200g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2 Oranges

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin (loose bottomed is best).
  3. Cream the sugar and spread together in a bowl until pale and fluffy.
  4. Lightly beat 2 of the eggs before adding them to the sugar and spread mixture bit-by-bit mixing as you go.
  5. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together before folding half into the egg mixture. Fold in the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the surface.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until risen and firm.
  8. Leave in the tin to completely cool.
  9. Melt the chocolate over simmering water before leaving to cool.
  10. Grate the rind off the two oranges and add to the cooled chocolate.
  11. Juice one of the oranges and add the juice to the chocolate mix.
  12. Separate the remaining 4 eggs and add the yolks to the chocolate mix. Stir well.
  13. Whisk the 4 egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining egg white.
  14. Put the chocolate mixture on the top of the cooled cake and refrigerate until set. Decorate with sliced orange rind.

Handy hint: a loose bottomed tin is best as you can leave the sides on the tin when you pour your chocolate mousse onto the cake. This gives a more “professional look” to the finished cake.

Salmon fingers with wedges

These are tasty but are a little bit time consuming to make when you consider that supermarkets now stock gluten free fish fingers. They are nice as a “posh fish finger” for a change though.

Ingredients

  • 150g polenta
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 400g salmon fillet
  • 1 egg
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 500g potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Half a tsp paprika
  • Salt

Method for Wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Cut the washed potatoes into thick wedges and pat dry with a clean tea towel.
  2. Add the olive oil to a roasting tin and put in the oven to warm the oil.
  3. Toss the potatoes in the oil before sprinkling with paprika and salt.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Method for Salmon Fingers

  1. Mix the polenta and paprika together on a plate.
  2. Lightly beat the egg in a bowl.
  3. Skin and cut the salmon into chunky fingers.
  4. Dip each salmon finger into the beaten egg before rolling in the polenta mixture until evenly coated.
  5. Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan on a medium heat.
  6. Place the salmon fingers into the pan and cook for 6 minutes, turning half way through cooking time.

Tomato and lentil soup in the slow cooker

Being a full time teacher and a Mum, time is a very precious commodity! I love cooking but often get home from work and want to spend time with my family rather than in the kitchen. This soup is great as you can make it when you have the time and then reheat it when needed. The prep is a bit time consuming but once it’s done you have enough for 6 good servings. Dairy free, gluten free, vegan and delicious!

Ingredients

  • Half a cup of green lentils
  • 1kg tomotoes
  • 1.5 diced onions
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Black pepper
  • Half a cup of fresh basil (plus extra for garnish)

Method

  1. Add the lentils to a large pan of boiling water and boils for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside for later.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with water for 30 seconds before draining, peeling, deseeding and chopping them.
  3. Put the slow cooker on high and add the diced onions, tomatoes, tomato purée, vegetable stock, bay leaf, chilli flakes if using and black pepper. Cover and leave to cook for 2.25 hours.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup until smooth. Add the lentils and chopped basil before stirring and heating again.
  5. To serve add basil garnish to each bowl.

Handy hint: If you’ve got kids get them involved in peeling and deseeding the tomatoes, they’ll love getting messy and because it’s all going to be a purée it doesn’t matter if the tomatoes get a bit “scrunched”.

A good dairy and gluten free squirty cream!

This dairy free squirty cream has been a bit of a game changer for us. It’s quick and convenient, has a good shelf life and tastes yummy. The only down side we’ve found is that it does go a bit runny quite quickly after being squirted onto your pudding. We always have a can in the fridge to go with puddings or put onto a “posh coffee”. It can be found in ASDA, Morrison’s and Tesco and isn’t always in the free from section, we’ve found it by the regular squirty cream a few times. Get a can in your fridge for those cheeky sweet treats!

Our dairy free milk preferences

We have tried many different dairy free milk alternatives and I know that people do have their own personal preferences. When you look at all that’s on offer it can be a little overwhelming where to start! We’ve been through almond, soy, oat, coconut…… after all of that trying and testing here’s our thoughts! Our favourites are Koko original for tea, coffee and baking. Oatly original milk for cereal. Lactose free milk for Ellie who is lactose intolerant rather than dairy intolerant and the yummy Alpro chocolate milk. It’s worth pointing out that when it comes to lactose free milk we haven’t found any taste difference between the shops own brand and the likes of Arla branded milk. We just see what’s on offer at the time.

The winners for us!

Oak Bistro afternoon tea party was amazing!

We live in a little village called Greasby on the Wirral. We decided to host my eldest daughter’s birthday party in Oak Bistro. She’d chosen to have afternoon tea with all of the family so we booked our party and let them know about the dietary requirements. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect them to be able to cater fully for the dairy and wheat intolerance. We also had my nephew in attendance who has an egg, sesame and mustard allergy. I offered to take food with us for Steve but they said they’d see what they could do. A few days before the party I received a phone call from one of the catering staff who clarified exactly what could and couldn’t be eaten. She managed to create a fantastic afternoon tea of sandwiches and various little cakes for Steve and our nephew also had his own food to eat. It was fantastic and they definitely went above and beyond. I’ll be honest and say I don’t know how well they can cater for dietary requirements if you just “pop in” for some food without prior notice but for a pre-booked party they were absolutely brilliant!

Bella Italia is belissima!

We booked Bella Italia in New Brighton for Steve’s birthday meal. The menu looked quite accommodating so we decided to give it a go. We weren’t disappointed. Steve had the gluten free calabrese with no mascarpone so it was also dairy free. He really enjoyed it. The staff were very accommodating as on this occasion we also had my nephew with us who has egg, mustard and sesame allergies. A fantastic meal for all of us! Again, Bella Italia is a chain so you should be able to find one near you! Enjoy!

Bella Italia, New Brighton, Wirral

Our “go to” free From restaurant!

As a family with both parents working full time we sometimes want to forget the cooking and go somewhere we know will give us all a great meal. Our “go to” restaurant is the Marino Lounge in New Brighton on the Wirral. Not near you? This restaurant is part of a chain and we have also visited Torello in Prestatyn, Wales which had the same great menu and food although they were very busy when we went and the service wasn’t quite as en pointe as it is at the Marino Lounge. They have a vegan and gluten free menu, various dairy free milk alternatives for your cappuccino and we always dine well. The tapas selection is great and Steve’s fave is the gluten free hero burger without cheese and with a side of gluten free hummus with bread. Visit their website (thelounges.co.uk) to find one near you, you won’t be disappointed!

Great menu
Marino Lounge, Wirral