dairy-free and egg-free cooking for pleasure

lactose intolerant

Crème au chocolat: an indulgent dairy-free and gluten-free pudding

Crème au chocolat 2

An easy chocolate pudding made with neither dairy nor egg, but don’t let that fool you – it’s rich, chocolatey and delicious. You can prepare it a day or two in advance, making it a perfect dish for entertaining.

  • 100 g good quality dark chocolate (dairy-free of course) such as Green and Blacks
  • 300 ml coconut cream
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 heaped tbsp freeze-dried raspberries (optional)
  • a handful of fresh summer fruits (optional)

Put a bain-marie (easily made by putting boiling water into a saucepan and placing a smaller saucepan inside it so it’s sitting in the hot water) on the hob on the lowest heat, and melt the chocolate and coconut cream together. Give it a stir every few minutes until all the chocolate is melted. Taste it at this point. If it needs to be more chocolatey, sift in the cocoa, so that it doesn’t make lumps. If the mixture needs sweetening (which it probably will unless your dark chocolate is very sweet) add the sugar. Stir for a few more minutes on the hob. Remove from the heat when you’ve got a smooth mixture that tastes right to you.

The next step of the recipe will ensure the mixture stays smooth as it comes down to room temperature.  For this, transfer to a mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously by hand (or equivalent speed in a mixer) for 5 minutes. Cover and leave to cool in the fridge (this speeds up the process), whisking again every 10 minutes or so, as it cools down. This should take about 30–45 minutes.

When the mixture has come down to room temperature, you can add the freeze-dried raspberries, whisk one last time and your work is nearly done. By this point, it should have taken on a slightly lighter colour, and be about the consistency of thick cream. Pour into ramekins, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Remove from the fridge just before serving, top with a handful of fresh raspberries and blueberries or other summer fruits, and tuck in!


Beef and beer casserole – Carbonade de boeuf

The ingredients assembled

Even in Provence it gets cold, especially in the evening, and the idea of a beef and beer casserole has had particular appeal this winter, to warm the kitchen and ourselves. Finally, one got made.

Carbonade de boeuf  is traditional in Northern France and Belgium, what might be termed Flanders, an area famous for its bleak weather – and its beers. You don’t need a special beer to cook this, though one might wash it down a treat. For myself, I’d rather have a robust red wine.

Along with the brown sugar, vinegar, black peppercorns, and onion, the beer and long slow cooking make for beef that melts in the mouth while diffusing wonderful hints of all those flavours – it’s a far cry indeed from leathery, tasteless fried steak.

Lard is the traditional cooking medium, olive oil less authentic but arguably nicer. The stale bread acts as a primitive thickener, but can be omitted without problems. If you have time, cook the carbonade for as long as 3–4 hours, in a lower oven.

Baked potatoes go well especially as there should be lots of sauce. Other possible accompaniments are red cabbage and apple, or a potato, chicory, and bacon salad – for recipes for these see the Book.

  • 300–400 g onions
  • lard or olive oil
  • 800 g – 1 kg lean braising steak, in thin slices, cut on the bias, if possible
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 2–3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 1 heaped tsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns
  • 500 ml light beer or lager
  • 1 slice of stale bread, optional
  • 1 tbsp strong Dijon mustard

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C.

Slice the onions thinly.

On top of the stove, heat enough lard or olive oil to cover the base of a heavy casserole, and brown the beef on both sides, a couple of pieces at a time, adding more fat or oil as necessary between batches.

When all the meat is done, toss the onion in the same pot, having reduced the heat and added more lard or oil, until they are soft (about 8–10 min), then stir in the brown sugar and the vinegar and cook a further 1–2 minutes, not more.

Return the beef to the pot, layering it alternately with the onion. Place the thyme and bay leaf in the middle and season with salt and the crushed peppercorns. Pour in enough beer to cover by just under 1 cm and crumble in the bread.

Cover, place in the oven, and cook for a minimum of 1½ h.

Away from the heat, work the mustard into the sauce, taste, and serve from the casserole, or, if you prefer, transfer the meat to a hot dish and keep it warm while you blend in the mustard and adjust the seasoning. Pour the finished sauce over the meat having removed the thyme and bay leaf.

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Taking the bait – how to cook whitebait

Frying fish, said Elizabeth David, is something best left to restaurants. However, whitebait (in the UK, the small fry of herring and sprats, according to Jane Grigson), should you be able to get hold of some, can easily and successfully be cooked at home. How do you deal with them?

The first thing (once de-frosted, if bought frozen) is to rinse them in cold water, and turn them over in the process, as you may find bits of seaweed here and there, particularly if they are fresh. Then either leave them to drain, or pat them dry with a clean tea-towel. Coat lightly and evenly with flour, and season with salt and pepper. Chop some parsley.

Heat some olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan or skillet. You do not need lots of oil, just enough (about a millimetre in depth all over) to avoid it all being absorbed by the whitebait.

Once the oil is hot enough to be almost smoking, carefully (and it may well spit from residual water) put the whitebait in the pan so the fish are all separate, and fry quickly (around 2–3 minutes) until browned, turning them over once in the process (very delicately as they become fragile and break up very easily). Once they look done – as in the picture below – they need to be served straight to warmed plates, parsley-adorned, and eaten immediately: being small and individual, they cool very quickly.

Serve with either lemon juice or white-wine or cider vinegar.

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Spaghetti with scallops in olive oil, garlic and parsley

Scallops start arriving fresh in the autumn and are so delicious in combination with olive oil, garlic and parsley that our book has a variation on the same theme that can be eaten just with bread.

The present dish comes from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Italian Cooking. However, we’ve found that a splash of rosé or white wine improves the original. Although scallops that are shelled when you buy them are the nicest, they can equally be bought pre-shelled or frozen.

Don’t worry if the scallops are ready before the pasta: they can wait a few minutes.

The following quantities are enough for four people.

  • 450–500 g spaghetti
  • 2–4 scallops per person
  • 1 lge clove of garlic
  • a handful of parsley
  • 1 fresh chilli, red or green, or 2–3 dried red chillis
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 50–75 ml rosé or dry white wine
  • 1–2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Put a generous pan of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, rinse the scallops thoroughly, separating the coral (the orange part) from the white part, to remove grit. Pat as dry as possible with a cloth or kitchen roll and cut the white parts into quarters and the corals in half, discarding any black bits.

Chop the garlic, parsley, and chilli very finely; the latter two can be done together.

Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water when you are ready to cook the garlic. (If the pasta is ready before the sauce, keep it warm having mixed in a trickle of olive oil.)

During the time the spaghetti is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and the garlic together gently in a frying or sauté pan until the garlic begins to take colour, then stir in the parsley and chilli. Add the scallops and a pinch of salt and cook for 3–4 min, stirring almost constantly. The scallops are done when they begin to look white rather than translucent.

If the scallops have released too much liquid, reduce it by turning up the heat briefly, having removed the scallops with a slotted spoon; then return these to the pan, pour in the wine and toss them in it until the wine bubbles.

Turn the scallops and the sauce into the pasta.

Finally, stir in the breadcrumbs and serve.

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Guinea-fowl with quince and cider or apple juice

Quinces are hanging off the hedgerows in Provence, so we picked several from an abandoned tree. But apart from making quince jelly, what can you do with them? One answer is to pot-roast a guinea-fowl with one or two. After choosing the best bits of the fruit, we only had about a single quince’s worth. This turned out to be a perfect quantity for flavouring, and, combined with the cider or apple juice, made for a very succulent dish.

The goodly size of the guinea-fowl meant that for two it lasted two evenings (with mushrooms added for the second sitting) and there were still a couple of joints left for a dish with rice (see Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley – the book for a recipe). A series of lovely meals.

As for the carcass, that was made into a stock (see book for a method) and this became the basis of a tomato and red pepper soup (about which more in a later post).

Chicken or, better still, pheasant could undoubtedly be done in the same way.

  • 1 lge or 2 med onions
  • 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
  • olive oil
  • 1 guinea-fowl, weighing approx 1.5 kg
  • 1 quince
  • 1 bouquet garni: 4–5 sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lge clove of garlic
  • 1 heaped tsp black peppercorns
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 200–300 ml cider or (clear) apple juice
  • 250–300 g mushrooms (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5/190°C.

Peel and cut the onions into eighths or quarters and the bacon or pancetta into strips.

Fry both lightly in a thick casserole (that will hold the guinea-fowl comfortably) in a spoonful of olive oil, transfer with a draining spoon, and reserve.

Brown the guinea-fowl all over in the same oil, having added some if needed. Meanwhile, peel and slice the quince small.

Return the onion and bacon to the pot, along with the quince, the bouquet garni, the garlic, peeled but whole, and the black peppercorns. Season generously with salt and some freshly ground pepper.

Pour in approx 200 ml cider/apple juice, bring to a bubble, cover, and place the casserole in the middle of the hot oven for 45–60 min, checking after 30–40 min whether more cider or apple juice is required and after 50 min whether the bird is already cooked.

Should you be including mushrooms, clean and slice or quarter them (depending on size), sauté them quickly in hot olive oil, and add them to the pot 10–15 min before the end of the cooking time.

Serve the bird on a hot platter with the sauce poured over. It can be carved at the table as the meat will just fall apart.

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Setting the scene – food for pleasure

Dairy and egg-free cooking for pleasure – this is the raison-d´être of both this food diary and our book.  And the emphasis is on pleasure, because cooking and eating should never be a chore, even and especially when the range of ingredients is limited by dietary needs.  This is the challenge that many of us face, if we, our families, or our friends are dairy- or egg-intolerant.

But let us not give the impression that this is about “diet” cuisine – on the contrary, this is about real food, home-cooked dishes that have evolved to tempt palates and satisfy appetites through the use of natural, high quality ingredients. No suspect soya substitutes, no attempts to emulate any of the forbidden ingredients – just delicious, honest food.

This diary comes to you mostly from a village in the craggy hills of the Vaucluse in Provence, occasionally from the UK where we have family, and anywhere else our culinary curiosity takes us. Wherever you may be and whatever your interest in reading, we hope you will join us in our exploration of the almost limitless possibilities available to anyone who can get their hands on a bottle of unctuous extra virgin olive oil, a handful of crunchy cloves of garlic, and a bunch of fresh green parsley…

Bon appétit!

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