Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Really Rather Good For You Carrot Cake

I thought I'd start by introducing you to my carrot cake; I'll be adding more recipes as I go on. This is adapted from a James Martin carrot cake recipe. I reduced the oil content massively from the original recipe and substituted it for soya milk, but it is actually the "fattiest" of anything I bake, but I've been eating it for about a year now with no nasties so I reckon it's good to go. The cake is moist and really light and has a lovely crunchiness from the pecan nuts along with the occasional zesty hit of lemon. It's always very popular. If I bake one, chances are it'll be wolfed by the end of the day. Other people may also get to eat some too....

You'll need:
  • 175g/6oz light muscavado sugar
  • 3 large egg-whites
  • 60ml/ cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 60ml soya milk
  • 200g/7oz wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g/7oz carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
  • 80g/3oz pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 110g/4oz raisins (Sun-Maid are best!)
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/370F/Gas 5. I use a large square silicon tin, so there’s no oiling needed, (and the cake will come out easily).

2. Whisk the egg whites first so they form peaks. Then add the sugar, soya milk and olive oil and mix for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth.

3. Sift the the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl, tipping in the grains left in the sieve. Stir in gently.

4. Fold the grated carrot, pecan nuts, lemon zest and raisins into the mixture.

5. Spoon the mixture into the cake mould - if you tip it, the consistency will move really slowly, like a B-movie slime monster.

6. Smooth the surface with a spatula.

7. Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes (fan ovens need a bit less). It will have risen satisfyingly and feel firm and springy to the touch when lightly pressed in the centre; if not, cook for a little longer before testing again.

8. When ready, cool the cake down until you can peel the silicon mould away from the cake and let it finish cooling.

9. Then ice! And EAT!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Dream of Cheese

In May 2006, I was diagnosed with RRMS and suddenly I was forced to take a long hard look at everything in my life and face the fact that I had been neglecting what was really important. I was lucky to find a brilliant Neurologist who understood that all I craved was a "normal" life, in which everything I'd previously taken for granted, like waking up assuming I could get out of bed, or being able to plan a holiday, could be achievable again. After a brief and rather unhappy dalliance with Betaferon, I started using Avonex, and am still injecting it once a week. Sadly, being on medication, however good it was, didn't prevent the following two years post-diagnosis from being pretty horrendous - you name it, I experienced it: blindness, deafness, dizziness, shooting pains, depression, struggling with ascending tube escalators; then dealing with the obliterating IV Steroid treatment which either rocketed me sky high, or made me want to jump off the nearest high thing. (Not to mention turning my face into a moon and giving me the the kind of ravenous munchies that made my futon seem delicious).

My mum told me about Dr Jelinek's diet months before I started it, but there was a culinary life I couldn't bear to give up. I would tell anyone recommending the diet to me that my life was hard enough without having to give up the comfort food I adored. I used to love picking the delicious chicken skin off a Sunday roast, troughing a crispy skinned sausage in one go. Relishing the greasy fingers from eating lamb chops with rosemary, the roasted bud of garlic squeezed over the top. I cooked a mean Delia Smith crispy roast duck with fatty crunchy roasted potatoes (and still do for loved ones when they get sick of fish). And cheese. Oh, lovely, dearest cheese.... Lashings of dolcelatte on crispy baguette, wolfing a circle of Dairylea triangles in one sitting, and edam. EEE-DAM!!! The clean slightly rubbery but delectable sensation of sinking my teeth down, down into Edam and admiring the teeth print I left behind, like footprints in fresh snow.... I still dream of it.

It was all worth giving up.

I finally decided to give Dr Jelinek's Taking Control of MS a go because I was at my wits' end. It seemed like I was facing an endless cycle of remission and relapse every month or so, and I was so beaten that I just found myself waiting for the next bit of me to go wrong. It was like being followed around by a dark scary hooded figure and wondering when he was going to strike next. So, I decided I would try anything - anything! - to escape from my vicious cycle. It was a rocky start, but almost two years down the line, just like Dr Jelinek, I am now completely symptom free. I will do the science bit at some point, but just to get you reading, I've linked his page here just so he can explain his thinking. He's utterly inspirational.

I now live a normal life.

I can now plan for the future.

I am well!

I've re-learnt learnt how to cook, using some vegan techniques, egg white and mainly using extra virgin olive oil very sparingly, I have almost completely eradicated saturated fat from my diet. I'm a fish-eating vegan (which make-a no sense), but that's what my diet essentially entails: the only other animal produce I eat is egg-white (and I can now watch a field of spring lambs with impunity). It's certainly not straightforward - sometimes I get a little bored of having to have "the conversation" with waiters in restaurants or when I'd just love to buy a packet of Walkers Roast Chicken and munch'em down in one sitting. But the benefits have been extraordinary. I feel so well and my saturated-fat eating friends and family happily tuck away the fat-free food I cook. So I thought, with the wealth of fat-free recipes out there, I would share some of my own recipes to make the transition easier for someone who wants to change their lifestyle as I have. There are excellent fat-free vegan websites out there, which I'll link to, but because if, like me, you think you'll miss eating meat, there are quite a few fish substitutes out there that can help with that. My saturated-fat eating boyfriend is happy to eat my diet, so it is possible to make the transition. I would be very honoured if, by reading this blog, just one person gave the diet and lifestyle idea a go and transformed their life as mine has.

Given the choice between dreaming of living a normal life, and only dreaming of eating cheese, I know which one I'd choose....