Chocolate zucchini fruit rainbow cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Chocolate zucchini cake with fruit rainbowWe interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging about foods of the world to bring you probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Because, well… chocolate cake. Need I say more? This one actually contains zucchini (courgette) and is gluten-free and dairy-free. Not that you’d ever know. I topped it with a rainbow of fruit for my five-year-old’s birthday party and it was divine – moist, the perfect balance between dense and fluffy, with a fine crumb. It was sweet enough but not TOO sweet and the juicy fruit perfectly complemented the dark chocolatiness. Heaven!

With the exception of the little girl with the dairy allergy, none of the kids knew it was a gluten-free, dairy-free cake. Nor did any of them know it contained zucchini. I gave all the kids generous slices after a substantial snack of fruit, veg, crackers, and cheese. Yet almost without exception the cake slices were gobbled up practically before the candles were blown out. I can think of no better testimonial from a roomful of five-year-olds. Continue reading

Peanut butter and banana Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo barsNanaimo bars are the quintessentially Canadian dessert, at least as far as English Canada is concerned. They’re a no-bake, three-layer affair: a biscuit layer on the bottom, a chocolate layer on top, and a soft middle layer that most often tastes custardy, though there are plenty of variations such as mint or peanut butter.

I like Nanaimo bars well enough but to be honest, I don’t love them. They’re a bit too sweet, a bit too rich, and the middle layer tends to be a bit too squooshy for me, too similar to buttercream icing, which is something I only like in small quantities. So I made up a healthier version: gluten-free, high-protein, low-lactose, low-sugar. Honestly, though, you won’t notice that it’s healthier than the standard Nanaimo bar. This version is still plenty rich, sweet and delicious. Continue reading

Chicken mole (gluten-free, low-FODMAP)

Chicken mole with saffron rice and corn salsaFeliz cinco de mayo! We celebrated Mexico’s day (not Mexico’s independence day, as I previously thought, but the commemoration of the Mexican army’s “unlikely victory” over the French at the Battle of Puebla, according to the all-knowing and ever-infallible Wikipedia) by making mole poblano (meaning from Puebla). Or, as I called it to sell it to my four-year-old, chocolate stew.

I love mole but haven’t made it often because the many recipes out there always seemed so complex and involved lots of ingredients not readily available to me. I don’t have the time or resources to search out three different kinds of chiles, nor the inclination to cook with a cup of lard. I can’t readily find tomatillos or avocado leaves (?!? one recipe I saw called for these) in England and high-FODMAP ingredients like garlic, onions and raisins would bother my belly.

Without all the above-named ingredients, was I going to be able to come up with an authentic-tasting, relatively easy-to-make mole? If you’re sceptical, I don’t blame you. I wasn’t entirely sure myself that I’d be able to pull it off. But I DID. Oh, how I did. This mole had all the rich, complex, smoky taste I craved, and yet I could serve it to my kids without them complaining it was too spicy (I added more cayenne pepper at the table for myself). Continue reading

Chocolate strawberry daifuku

Strawberry daifukuFor a long time I thought there was nothing better than strawberries dipped in chocolate. I was wrong. Because now I know there are strawberries dipped in chocolate and wrapped in mochi. The succulence of the strawberry and the sweetness of the chocolate combine perfectly with the chewiness of the mochi to create a taste and texture experience like no other.

Ichigo daifuku (“strawberry great fortune,” which I think is the perfect name) is often eaten in spring in Japan and is particularly associated with Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Festival). Normally people use sweet bean paste as the middle layer, not chocolate. However, to be honest, I don’t much like sweet bean paste. Besides, it’s high in FODMAPs, so now I have an excuse not to eat it. It’s not very often that low-FODMAP is convenient, so I’ll take it!

Mochi is normally pounded glutinous rice, AKA sweet rice, AKA sticky rice. (“Glutinous” does not mean it contains gluten; don’t worry.) Traditionally, people put a lot of sticky rice (which is not the same thing as the slightly sticky short-grained rice eaten with most meals in Japan) into an usu, which is a huge wooden platform of sorts with a depression on top. Then they take big wooden mallets and pound the heck out of it. (You can see a dramatic rice-pounding performance here. The men in the video are making a coloured mochi.) Don’t worry; I’m not going to make you do that. Continue reading