Monday, 14 June 2010

Jab Night Comfort Food 1: Crème Brûlée

Every Monday night I get a fairly sharp reminder that my life isn’t quite free of everything to do with MS: it arrives in the form of an intramuscular injection of Avonex. Whatever else is happening in my life, I might be on holiday, stressed at work or just kicking back at home, it focusses me like nothing else can. Like anything we face, the injection brings up some really varied emotions for me. The first is the injection itself: even after two years, it still takes guts to do it, so much so, that I can’t wait until the end of the day to inject, as the doctors suggest. The fact that I know I’ve got to do it, is usually on my mind just after midday. So, I pop my Nurofen, then an hour or so later I do the injection early evening, (it now takes less than five minutes as opposed to the full forty minutes at the beginning). Then I get what I call the “window of opportunity”, which is an hour off before the side effects hit. This encompasses real relief at having injected successfully, pride in having achieved it, and gratitude that the NHS has prescribed me a really good DMD. So, all good then. When I was first dating my boyfriend, this was when I’d call him and either have a chat, or leave the perkiest voicemail ever. After an hour, the first signs of the side-effects will come on - usually some heaviness in the legs, and a general feeling of my body sliding downwards. Maybe a sneeze or two, sluggishness, and if I’m unlucky, nausea. This will last 24 hours, might involve some delirious sleep (in which I apparently kick, sorry boyf).

I'm aware of the increasing debate over the efficacy of interferons, and I struggled even with Avonex after diagnosis until I changed to Dr Jelinek's diet. For all the hassle it involves, I experience great health now, six days a week, and will always be grateful for my neurologist giving me the pick of DMDs, and I will continue to do jab night. Because I am also aware that what I go through for 24 hours, once a week, is just a drop in the ocean compared to how I once was.

So, quite a preamble. But something I like to do on jab night, to keep myself busy through the onset of side-effects is BAKE. Seeing as I'm heading towards a state of discomfort, it's usually comfort food, so this first recipe is something I thought I'd never be able to eat again, but thanks to Vegan Visitor is totally doable!

You'll need:

1 pack of Silken Tofu

1/2 Cup of Fruit Sugar (Agave Nectar works really well)

1/3 Cup of Soya Milk

2 Tablespoons of Vanilla Essence

2 Tablespoons of Ground Arrowroot Powder

1 Pinch of Salt

Sugar to brûlée the tops

1. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F) and boil a kettle of water

2. Drain the tofu.

3. Prepare 6 ramekins in a shallow large pan, and cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover it.

4. Combine the tofu, Agave Nectar, soya milk and vanilla and blend it in a food processor until smooth.

5. Add the ground arrowroot powder to the smooth mix for about four pulses so it's all nicely mixed in.

6. Distribute the mix equally into the ramekins

7. Pour boiling water from the kettle into the bottom of the shallow pan creating a "Bain Marie" so that it comes 2/3rds of the way up to the edges of the ramekins

8. Cover the ramekins with baking parchment and carefully transfer it to the oven (wobbly and hot, never a good combination)

9. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until set. The centre might still be jiggly, but it'll set more as it cools.

10. Remover the ramekins from the water pan, cool for a bit and then refrigerate for an hour.

11. To brûlée the sugar, you can either grill it, or wield the fun blowtorch. You'll be passing the tip of the flame over the sugar until it turns amber and caramelizes. Once it cools a bit it'll be deliciously crackly and you can tap to break the surface. Highly satisfying!


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Fat-Free Crisps!

Yep, they do exist, huzzah! And you don’t have to install a monolothic dehydrator to make’em. (You do need a microwave though.) It’s not as quick as ripping opening the aforementioned Roast Chicken Walkers, but seeing as that's not really an option anyway, spending a little time on these is worth it. Especially if, like me, you’d been missing the whole crisp experience for eighteen months: shoving three or four in one go is completely satisfying.

This recipe is taken from Susan V’s awesome Fat-Free Vegan Blog

You’ll need:

  • 1 microwave
  • 1 medium potato - maris piper work best
  • parchment paper
  • salt (I prefer to use Lo-Salt)

1. Using a mandolin or - if you have one - a food processor, slice one medium potato as thinly as possible, taking care that all slices are the same thickness.

2. Cut a circle of parchment paper to the size of your microwave glass turntable. Place the parchment circle directly onto the turntable and then distribute the potato slices on the paper in a rodial fashion, without overlapping.

3. Salt lightly.

4. Microwave at full power for about 4-6 minutes. Peek in as the crisps are cooking after 3 minutes, and turn off the microwave when spots of brown begin to appear on the sliced potatoes.

5. Leave the sliced potatoes in the microwave, door shut, for 1 minute. This dries them out a bit more.

6. Microwave again at full power until the slices are golden brown. Depending on how brown the spots were before the 1 minute standing, this won’t take long - probably only about 30 secs. Until you know what your microwave can do, it's best to keep looking, otherwise you'll end up with charred discs.

7. Remove from the microwave and allow to cool. Ta-dah! Your potato slices have become crisps! The crisps will be crackling on the parchment paper. Repeat until all potato slices are cooked.

You can reuse the baking parchment each time, and the crisps will take less time to cook. If you want to make a big batch of crisps, you can alternate between two parchments.

"Bacon-Tea" Scallops

One of the hardest foods to relinquish has undoubtedly been bacon; streaky sarnies with ketchup, Frazzles crisps, mini streaks wrapped around those neat little Christmas cocktails sausages, and my favourite, my mum’s fabulous roasted red cabbage and bacon (ngh...). Bacon is a dangerous temptress indeed, seducing the most hardened of vegetarians back into the pig eating fray because there’s no real substitute. Sadly, anything vegetarian resembling the vast array of pork products usually has vegetable oil in it, so Linda McCartney products might as well have once been rolling around the mud with Babe.

Well, there is hope.... Bringing me nicely on to Lapsang Souchong tea which, with its bonfire smokiness, can flavour up foods and is the closest I reckon we can get to bacon (hence it’s known as “bacon tea” in my house).

Use the tea to marinate the scallops and then grill the scallops on either side. You can serve this with any kinda rice and some green veggies or salad. This is a totally fat-free recipe.

Prep Time: 40 min. marinate time

6 min. grilling time

Serving Size: 4

You'll need:

12 Sea Scallops

12 oz. extra strong brewed Lapsang Souchong Tea

(4 tsp. Lapsang Souchong to 12 oz. boiling water)

1/2 cup chopped spring onions

1 clove garlic crushed

1/2 tsp chopped ginger

2 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. tahini (100% Sesame like Cypressa)

3 tsp. sugar

salt & Pepper to taste

1. Brew up the Lapsang tea, and make it extra strong.

2. Finely chop the spring onions, and add along with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, tahini, sugar, salt and pepper and the tea to a small saucepan

3. Bring the mixture to the boil, and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. This steeps the ingredients and incorporates all the yummy flavours.

4. Pour mixture into a tuppaware and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. When cooled, add scallops, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate. Turn scallops after twenty minutes.

6. When marinated, remove scallops. Pat dry and grill for 3-4 min. per side until done.