Intro

What's WIDE CIRCLE COOKING about?
I blog information, news and recipes about gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, alcohol-free and vegan cooking. Right now I've been working on an exciting project where I avoid refined sugar and create recipes using a range of healthier alternatives.

Happy cooking!

ps. ask all guests if they have an allergy (because the recipes use some unusual combinations and they may not expect to find citrus and soya in the chocolate cake, for example).
pps.if you are cooking for someone with an allergy, please read my allergy page first.

A dinner party you don't have to cook



If hosting a dinner party stresses you out, then you're not alone. And if the cooking is the worst part, there's now a convenient solution.
Apparently, nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of people* admitted that they found hosting a dinner party a stressful experience, with over a third (37 per cent) planning their menu two weeks in advance. In addition, one third of hosts (37 per cent) even dream about their event in the lead up.
It's the food preparation and cooking that is considered the most stressful hurdle though (41 per cent of those surveyed). This was followed by ensuring guests are happy and having fun (25 per cent), getting the shopping organised (10 per cent) and planning the evening (6.5 per cent). Debbie Salter is MD of MyChef, a new chef-comes-to-your-house-and-does-the-cooking-for-you. She said: “More people are choosing to entertain family and friends from the comfort of their own home, both for convenience and financial reasons, but the expectations of what will be served have increased since the party’s heyday in the 80s. That’s why we created My Chef, a new fully vetted service offering the full dinner party service, meal planning and the best chefs, all from your own home without any of the hassle.”
However, as with all these things, the question I had to ask was: is this relevant to anyone who can't have gluten, or dairy or eggs, or has a vegan diet. And apparently the answer is yes - the team says the service is designed to be completely tailored to the customer's dietary or personal needs.
Many of the chefs have experience working in Michelin starred or Rosette environments, and the service includes all of the planning, preparation and clearing up. See www.mychefonline.co.uk.


* The survey questioned 2,000 people across the UK who have hosted a dinner party - it was commissioned by My Chef and run by OnePoll.

OFF-THE-SHELF VEGAN AND GLUTEN-FREE #3: Orgran


The Orgran brand is a good one to look out for if you want vegan and/or gluten-free foods. Established in 1953 it offers a variety of products, including pasta, breadcrumb alternatives – and now a pancake mix and spaghetti in tomato sauce.
I was kindly sent a few samples to try.

First up was the buckwheat pancake mix. This doesn’t make pancakes in the flat English/French way – these are more of your Scotch/American style, but none the worse for that. The buckwheat flavour isn’t strong thanks to a mix of buckwheat, rice, maize and tapioca. Initially I was a bit surprised because the instructions on the back say you need an egg – but then I read further down the packet and found how to do it the vegan way. I love pancakes, and these were quick, easy and everyone enjoyed them with maple syrup. I also think that by using extra liquid you could make them thinner if you like them like that.

Next up was the gluten-free and vegan spaghetti in tomato sauce. My kids love those pasta shapes in sauce – the ones with cartoon character shapes especially (what is is about Peppa Pig reimagined in pasta that is so appealing?) So how would they react to the gluten-free version? I liked the look of the ingredients - the pasta is made from rice and yellow split peas, while the sauce is essentially tomato sweeted with pear juice and thickened with cornstarch. One minute in the microwave later (obviously after I had removed it from the can) and I was ready to try. It has slightly denser texture than a standard pasta and the sauce was good. The kids liked it too… a definite addition to my shopping basket as an option for a quick lunch.

Read my new column!

I'm really happy to announce I have a new regular slot in the Guardian newspaper's Saturday 'Cook' supplement! This is where my recipes will be for the time being (unless I get super organised and manage to post a few here too!)

I'll still be updating on news etc. so keep looking, plus there will be links to my Guardian webpage.

So far we've had Patatas Bravas Soup with egg-free Alioli and Chocolate and cherry creme brulee... yum yum yum...

Caterers for vegan and gluten-free diets


Ah, it is so lovely to have an alluring shot of a plate of beautiful cupcakes on my blog. Sadly, these haven't been made by me! But if your mouth is watering, then you're not the only one. These delicious cakes are from multi-award-winning catering company Sweetcheeks, which provides vegan and gluten-free catering for anyone who wants an inclusive selection of treats. I couldn't ignore their lovely stand at the Allergy & Free From Show (pictured below) – tasty and stylish. They also offer cookery lessons and cake decorating parties.


Also worth checking out is Nia's Foods – I had a great chat with Nia herself and can tell you her vegan and gluten-free lemon meringue pie is AWESOME, with a crisp base, tangy lemon layer and an extraordinary 'meringue' topping complete with a crispy crust. She'll even deliver within London zones 1-4 and some other areas.

Going like hot cakes... erm, I mean bread...

Yes, it's me again, reporting as I do with all the new and yummy things I come across! This time I wanted to let you know about a new gluten-free bread, just launched with Ocado. Sim Smith, the founder of Knead, started the business to cater for multiple-allergy sufferers. She tells me the launch quantity sold out in just three hours!
If you don't use Ocado, the bread is also available in some independent stores.
Like other gluten-free breads isn't vegan (it contains egg) but unlike many others in the genre it is yeast-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and free from cane sugar. As if that wasn't interesting enough, it has a crunchy crust and a soft and fluffy inside, and it keeps for three days.
Check out the website for more details – including a stockist list and a list of all the other amazing products they have, like cookies, carrot cake and brownies.

OFF-THE-SHELF VEGAN AND GLUTEN-FREE #2: Vegan marshmallows


I've just been at the Allergy and Free From Show and there, among the other stands, was something that got my vegan friends really excited... marshmallows! (Yeah, I wondered about the rabbits too... it's nothing to do with carrots, they are happy bunnies, apparently). Naturally, I felt compelled to try some as my duty to you all. As an inital report I can tell you they are vanilla flavoured, soft, chewy, bouncy, fluffy and generally very yummy. They are also kosher, halal and have the Vegetarian Society logo. New flavours are coming soon, apparently.

Ah, but I'm hearing your thoughts... "Yes, yes, yes that's all very well", you're all thinking, "BUT CAN YOU TOAST THEM?" Do not worry, because that is exactly the thought that occurred to me too. I duly skewered a few of them and gave them a roasting over a candle.



The answer is YES! Toasty, gooey and with a crispy blackened skin. The campfire is calling, guys...

(oh, and no you're asking "where can I get them?" Try here... they are about £2.50 for a 75g bag).

Rhubarb Danish




I am lucky to have inherited a rhubarb forcer, a sort of enormous terracotta pot with a lid. Basically it is placed on top of a rhubarb plant when it first starts to shoot and provides an early and particularly tender crop. The lack of light also changes the coloration of the stalks and leaves so when I removed the forcer yesterday the sight of the practically neon pink stems made me dead keen to do something interesting.


It so happens that a few months ago, I came across a classic Danish baking book of my mother’s on her bookshelf: Vi Bager (we bake). In it are several recipes just ripe for adaptation and with this in mind I created what would probably be termed a rabarbersnitte, but I’ll call a Rhubarb Danish. Of course, you don’t have to used forced rhubarb and it’d work well with stewed apple instead. It makes an absolutely delicious slice, but make sure you eat it the same day.

Makes 12 slices

For the pastry
250g potato (Desiree work well)
100g dairy-free margarine, eg Pure
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp apple puree or golden syrup
250g Doves Farm gluten-free self raising flour blend
Extra gluten-free flour for rolling out

For the filling/topping
200g rhubarb
2 tsp water
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp icing sugar

Oven at 200C. Peel and dice the potato, then cook for a good 15-20 minutes until really soft. Drain and mash. Allow to cool, then stir in the margarine, oil and apple/syrup. Stir in the flour, finally kneading the mix to form a dough. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool.
Wipe the rhubarb clean and slice into roughly 1cm slices. Cook in a pan on a medium heat with a teaspoon of the water and the caster sugar until the pieces are soft, but still keeping their shape. Remove from the heat.
Lightly dust a large baking tray with flour and place the chilled dough on it. Using your fingers and/or a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it covers the whole tray. Place the cooked rhubarb in a strip about 10cm wide lengthwise down the centre of the dough. Now fold either side of bare dough into the centre of the rhubarb strip (don’t worry if the dough breaks up a bit as you do this, just make good as best you can). You will now have a long strip-shaped pastry. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
When it comes out of the oven, mix together the icing sugar with a teaspoon of water and drizzle the icing in zigzags across the pastry. Slice the pastry widthways into 12 strips and serve.

OFF-THE-SHELF VEGAN AND GLUTEN-FREE #1: Waitrose pilau rice


Welcome to my new series on quick-and-easy vegan and gluten-free foods from around the supermarket. Some are designed for making your life easier, the others are foods that might surprise you!

The first on my list is Waitrose's 'Colourful spinach and carrot pilau rice', which makes a tasty lunchtime snack as it requires only three minutes in the microwave. I like to liven it up with a dollop of lime pickle or mango chutney.

Look out for more soon!

Even Gwyneth goes vegan

It's not often you hear about vegan celebs but a friend of mine passed on this article from the Daily Mail about Gwyneth and her new book, It's All Good (written by Gwyneth and Julia Turshen). Gwyneth went on a strict elimination diet after suffering a health scare. It required her to eat a diet with no coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deepwater fish, no potatoes, no tomatoes, no bell peppers, no aubergines, no corn, no wheat, no meat, no soya, nothing processed at allideally for ever. Anyhow, she teamed up with a friend to create a book of recipes that would suit such a lifestyle, many of which are vegan
 
 It's All Good is an impressive book - the photos look terrific (so important these days for moments of gastro-longing) and there are some great recipes. I'm particularly jealous of 'many-mushroom soup'... somehow the alliteration really appeals to the writer in me! However, those needing to avoid gluten should beware because many of the ingredients (such as miso paste and fish sauce) are not gluten-free as standard. In addition, even though Gwyneth specifies no soya, she does actually use tofu and soy sauce (and technically, she also uses wheat in the form of spelt...)!
 
But I leave the final verdict to you. Here's the link - check out the story and take a look at the recipes! 

And I like this one... spicy sweet potato soup that is both vegan and gluten-free.

Mmm... haggis


Yes, yes, yes I know Burns Night was back in January, but I wanted to tell you all about haggis! I bought a McSween Vegetarian Haggis in mid-Jan, but I confess it didn't look that appetising so it was nearly the end of Feb before I actually ate it (luckily there was a long use-by date!). But I must admit I was so pleasantly surprised that I went and bought another. They are still available in Waitrose and they make a great quick lunch when served with a fresh salad. The salad is the key because otherwise they might be a bit nnrgh, in a sort of peanut butter way. This haggis would also work with roasted veg as there is a touch of the falafel about it.

My brothers used to tell me a story about haggis - they said they were a  type of small pig that ran around on the moors and that the legs on the left were shorter than those on the right, with the result that they could only run in a circle. This McSween version is suitable for vegans, though sadly not our non-gluten-eating friends because it does contain oats. Rabbie, I salute you!


Coconut snowflake biscuits

Wow, so it's cold and snowy out there. We've all been enjoying it on the whole, especially the pink sunrises. On Friday, there were the most amazing snowflakes – each one a perfect 2D snowflake shape, it was like sequins falling from the sky (pictured here on my friend's dog's fur).


Inspired by this, I have come up with some coconut snowflake biscuits. They're quick and easy to make – I am currently enjoying the coconut smells as they cook.

Makes about 12

50g dairy-free margarine
25g caster sugar
60g Doves Farm gluten free self raising flour blend
40g rice flour
25g unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 tsp water
2 tbsp caster sugar for the topping

Oven at 160C. Cream together the margarine and sugar in a bowl. Pour in the two flours and coconut and mix together until you get a breadcrumby consistency. Next, add the water and, using your hand, mix the whole lot together to form a dough. Once you've created a ball, grip it in your hand for about 15 seconds to allow the warmth from your hand to stick everything together. Roll out to about 2-3mm thick, using a little rice flour to prevent the dough sticking.
Here I have made snowflakes, using cutters I bought from Cox & Cox but you can of course use any shape you like. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking tray and sprinkle with sugar before baking. Cook for 15 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from the tray.