Thursday, 27 September 2012

Trust the NT for GF treats

When on holiday in Devon at the beginning of September, we paid our 'usual' trips to National Trust properties... we make use of our annual membership with many, often fleeting, visits to properties.  I like to marvel at the gardens, B enjoys the history and Sous Chef J just likes "the open airy-ness".  Of course, we also make use of "the facilities" which rarely disappoint.

This time, we even walked (yes, walked) all the way over Baggy Point to Croyde Bay with the incentive of a cuppa and cake at the marvellous Sandleigh Tea Room & Garden.  This is a NT cafe leased by some great people and they have oodles of gluten free goodies on offer.  We had lunch there one day - B chose gluten free pastie and J and I had savoury cream tea (a real find - cheese scone, chilli jam and cream cheese, pic above).  They also offered savoury tarts, the ubiquitous jacket potato and Honeybuns bars.

Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, had a gluten free citrus cake on offer which went very nicely with our afternoon cuppa.  The walled garden there is amazing and the tea room is in a courtyard setting and was very busy.  Some lovely plants were on offer in the garden shop but I resisted the urge to purchase but, naturally, now I'm home, wish I'd succumbed.

On a wet morning coffee stop we visited Arlington Court where we had a choice of Mrs Crimbles pre-wrapped macaroons or home made gluten free chocolate brownies.  Then we went in search of the bats in the basement.  We watched the batcam, listened to the bats and then worked out, using the plan, where in the house the bats were living.  Once we'd done this we went to look at the outside of the house to see the spot where the bats have set up home.  Arlington Court has a carriage collection, woodland and lawns.  We've been many times in the past and always enjoy eating at the picnic tables as the local birds are very cheeky and like to forage for crumbs as much as they can... J is always a good candidate for dropping crumbs!

Once back home, we went on a day out to Cambridgeshire.  We called at Wicken Fen, where we chatted to a very lovely lady in the shop who encouraged us to take an Explorer Pack out on our meanderings around the boardwalk.  Here's J making the most of his favourite item within the pack... for a boy that is reluctant to touch new things, this was a real 'find'.  He loved it - it's called a magnifying sheet - and has asked for one for his birthday.

Another MOST AMAZING find was that, as part of their cycle hire operation, the National Trust have special needs trikes on offer at Wicken Fen.  It takes a bit of finding on the website, but we've seen them IN REAL LIFE.  There's an adult one and a child's one (which has backrest, side supports and safety belt).  Also there's a tagalong (although this is a standard one wheel bike so kids need to be able to balance to use this), a tandem and the usual kids and adult bikes.  Next time J thinks he *may* try the trike... so that's something for us to work towards.... perhaps in the spring?!

Finally, we headed over to Anglesey Abbey.   It was dahlia week and the car park was overflowing... but, as the property is so immense, there was still plenty of space and nowhere was too crowded for J to manage.  Also, eagle eyed lad that he is... he spotted this sign on the notice board which says Redwoods Restaurant "enjoy our delicious selection of gluten free cakes".  Well, we didn't need long to make our minds up that we would indeed have a cake... and very tasty and moist it was too.  J had a luxury hot chocolate to drink, with gluten free marshmallows, and it and the cake were gone in a flash - I was too slow to get a pic for this blog.

Last year I emailed the National Trust about their tea rooms and restaurants and the importance of reliability of availability of gluten free offerings.  Based on this unscientific test, we think things are looking pretty good these days.  Given that one of our first blog posts was about Annie's Lemon Cake recipe from Berrington Hall a NT property in North Herefordshire, we're delighted to find other properties are following in the lovely Annie's footsteps. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Lots of Lunchbox Loveliness... and all Gluten Free!

The other day, Sous Chef J was asking about what food he'd be having for lunch.  We came up with so many options that we started to make a list... and it kept getting longer!  In fact, it contains so many ideas that it's going to take more than one post, but this is a starting point.

As a fast sandwich option, when we can source it, we use Genius Gluten Free Seeded Bread to make sandwiches - Sous Chef J likes grated cheese and homemade chutney (or if he's making them he chooses jam) as fillings.  To follow he may have an individual, home made, gluten free Lemon Drizzle Cake (sliced) or mini muffin. 

In warmer weather, a firm favourite is dip and dippers.  Avocado dip is an easy one to make, is full of 'goodness' and the range of dippers that can be used is wide - (Burt's) crisps, vegetable crisps, sticks of cheese, vegetable sticks, sliced peppers, gluten free mini breadsticks, slices of apple and so on.  Parmesan crisps are also good for dipping...

If we've made pizza, we try to freeze some slices for use in lunchboxes.  It's ready to be grabbed, put in the bag and will be defrosted by lunchtime.  Sous Chef J likes it with gluten free mayo.

When there's time, and we are planning days out, then some nut crackers will be made.  These go well with cheddar cheese, coleslaw and apple to make our own version of a gluten free ploughman's lunch.

Slices of our pastryless quiche are also good for lunchboxes.  Served with some coleslaw and a packet of Burt's chips and Sous Chef J is very happy indeed.

We have ventured into the realms of purpose made savoury lunch/brunch muffins and they were a hearty option.  Although Sous Chef J preferred them warm, they were eaten speedily with an accompanying sachet of tomato ketchup.

Recently Sous Chef J has been experimenting with lunchtime toast... a big success was grated cheese on Genius Seeded Toast with mango chutney.  So long as the toast was presented cut into 'soldiers' he was delighted with his concoction.  If making them for a lunchbox, he will "just do the cheese on toast and take a small pot of the mango chutney for dipping purposes".

Sweet things to take out and about with us are a little easier to sort out when we've had a batch baking weekend... like the one we've just had.  We made lemon drizzle loaf and two mini lemon drizzle loaves (see the top pic to see what these look like sliced!) as well as a whole tray of mini chocolate muffins (using our quick mix chocolate cake recipe and chocolate fudge icing).  Half of all we baked were cooled, bagged, labelled and frozen for easy lunchbox fixes over the coming days.

We hope the things that work for us provide ideas and inspiration to you - we have more to cover in a later post so watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Lemon and Lime CheatsCake

On a search through the cupboard (looking for an elusive tin of chickpeas) we spotted a can of condensed milk and wondered what we could make to use it up.  As Sous Chef J is a fan of all things citrus we decided to try to make something similar to a key lime pie.

However, after 'auditing' supplies, we realised there weren't enough limes to make a lime pie... but we had lemons too and, so, lemon and lime was the citrus blend we decided to go with.  On the day we made this, it was quite warm (strangely, for a UK summer!) and we didn't want to have to use the oven to cook it (which some internet recipes require.)  This made us think of alternatives and we decided on a no-cook biscuit base.
With our pudding in mind, we gathered all the ingredients together.  There was a pot of double cream,  200g of gluten free digestives (we used Tesco free from) and 100g of butter to add to the condensed milk and lemons and limes.

The biscuits were crushed (you could whiz them in a food processor) and, whilst this was happening, the butter was melted.  Next the melted butter was added to the biscuit crumb and mixed well.  This was then spread out evenly over the base of a well greased, 20cm spring form tin and placed in the fridge to chill.

The double cream and condensed milk were then whisked together.  After squeezing and zesting the lemons and limes, the juice and zest was added to the cream/milk and mixed well.  This was then spooned over the chilled biscuit base and returned to the fridge to set.

Just prior to serving, the top of the cake was decorated with slices of lemon and lime and the springform tin was (carefully) removed.

Then it was time for the 'will it stay together' and taste test.  Luckily, it DID stay together and it tasted "yummy" too.

Our Lemon and Lime CheatsCake... named because it's not really a cheesecake but has similarities.  Whatever it is, it's tasty and doesn't last long!