Tasters freefrom summer party

Since the FreeFrom Food Awards went all professional and we concertina-ed all our tasting/judging sessions into ten days in February, our loyal band of tasters has not only been out of work but seriously deprived of freefrom food! (They do still get one bite at the cherry before Christmas as we cannot leave our Christmas category judging until February or there would be no Christmas foods left!)

A summer Pimms party for everyone just to get together and say hello has now, therefore, become somewhat of a tradition. This year’s happened last Sunday – the first hour sipping Pimms and nibbling Inspiral raw crackits in the garden, the second half hour huddled round the barbecue under the gazebo hoping that the rain would go away and the rest of the afternoon round the kitchen table watching stair-rods lashing my delphiniums!

However, this gathering did inspire me to a burst of freefrom cooking and recipes for Griddled aubergines with mushrooms, Quinoa with anchovies and black olives, Marinated lamb with chillis and Puy lentils, Beetroot and carrot salad with horseradish, Courgettes, pepper and spinach salad  and Barbecued chicken thighs marinated in coconut milk with lemongrass and chillis, either have already made their way into our recipe files, or soon will.

However, I did have what I thought was one stroke of genius which scarcely justifies a recipe but which would certainly cheer up a gluten-free drinks party. I spread a delicious salami onto thick slices of steamed new potato.

To quote from the ‘recipe':
‘Nduja is a very hot and soft Calabrian salami – soft so that it could be spread thinly on bread; hot so that a little would go a long way! Very important in the poor Calabrian countryside where meat would have been at a premium.
Provided you are not allergic to nightshades, it is a good freefrom paté as it is made from meat, chillis and oil.
And provided that you are not allergic to nightshades, thick slices of steamed new potatoes make an excellent base for canapés as an alternative to breads, toasts, oatcakes etc.
Just steam some scrubbed new potatoes until cooked, then sliced them thickly  and spread them with ‘Nduja or any other paté or dip that you fancy. Serve at room temperature.

I also made a delicious (well, I thought it was!)  alternative hummus with butter beans and coconut milk – well, I had coconut milk left over from the chicken marinade…. In case you cannot wait for it to arrive on the FreeFrom Recipes Matter site, here you go:

Serves 4–6
2 x 400g/14oz tins butter beans, drained
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 small bird’s eye green peppers, deseeded and chopped small
100ml / 3 floz coconut milk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients except the seasoning into a food processor and whizz, then season to taste. Serve with raw or blanched vegetables (I used yellow peppers and very lightly steamed thin green beans) or crackers.

Just hope it doesn’t rain on you!!


Please look at our new sites…..

Whew! Two weeks of having one’s head buried in computer code is enough to turn one grey-er… but, hopefully, it was worth it.

The purpose of the upgrade was to make all the sites more navigable (easier to find your way around), to make them all look a bit more 21st  century, to give them more ‘brand identity’ and to improve their ‘search engine optimisation’ (to make it easier for people who would benefit from the information on our sites to be able to find us).

We now have five sites (plus our Skinsmatter site which has yet to receive its makeover) but we hope that they are now set up in such a  way that you will be able to move around them without being aware that you are actually doing so. There are, inevitably, still things to be done (pages and pictures which will not look quite right as the size/shape has changed etc) but we hope to sort these out as we go.  However, if anyone notices anything that they think could be improved, we would be delighted to know about it.

Meanwhile, happy browsing………

PS  While on the subject of our web presence…

In case you are wondering about the new pictures that appear every two weeks at the head of the blog, they are all pictures of various bits of my garden – plus ginger Boris, fluffy grey Frodo and tabby Mushkin…. I am hoping to be able to be able keep them up through the year as the seasons change… Today’s is my herbaceous patch with my lovely delphiniums, of which I am inordinately proud, this being the first year I have ever managed to grow them. The pretty little red flowers on the left, if anyone wishes to know, are Salvia Hot lips.

Chocolate – and yet more chocolate…

Now that is the kind of Monday morning I like! Three points up in the Ryder Cup (sorry, golf-haters…) and some research which says that not only is dark chocolate good for Alzheimer’s and emotional stress – but, if you have a stroke, it may prevent your brain from suffering too much damage!!

We reported on the first two back in February – see the report in our Nutrition and Mood section but now I read a report from Johns Hopkins Medical School saying that a compound called epicatechin found in  dark chocolate ‘stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways — Nrf2 and heme oxygenase 1 — are activated.’

Apparently the idea came from the Kuna Indians who live on islands off the coast of Panama who rarely got heart problems – until they moved away from Kuna. When researchers could find no genetic reason for this they started to look at their environment and found that ‘the residents of Kuna regularly drank a very bitter cocoa drink, with a consistency like molasses, instead of coffee or soda. The drink was high in epicatechin.’

However,  before you get too excited ‘The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light. In the process of making chocolate, you have to make sure you don’t destroy it. Only few chocolates have the active ingredient. The fact that it says ‘dark chocolate’ is not sufficient.’

So, obviously, we need to add another criterion to our ‘freefrom’ chocolate suppliers list – and maybe we should insist that any chocolates entered for the chocolate category of the FreeFromFood Awards includes epicatechin!

If you are interested in pursuing epicatechin-laden chocolate, raw chocolate would probably be the way to go – have a look the Raw Chocolate Company or check in with Sweet Sensations – Liz Bygrave’s excellent raw food site. There is a good article about Liz who creates the most amazing cakes and desserts without ever cooking anything on the Foods Matter site.