‘Junk’ food: potato waffles

Sometimes one needs something junky to indulge in, and I was most impressed how unhealthy this tastes haha :D — must be the high fat content! This is a great snack that is free of gluten and sugar.

Making this potato snack or side dish couldn’t be easier. Simply make mashed potatoes by combining boiled waxy potatoes with butter, milk/broth/water, salt and pepper. Spoon into a waffle iron, which has been brushed with melted butter or oil.The final result was not crispy though….

Unlike some frozen potato products, by making this at home you can be assured that there are only natural ingredients.

‘Junk’ food: popcorn

When coated in artificial flavourings, tons of salt and/or sugar, popcorn can be very nasty (think of that fake butter smell from cinema popcorn — yuck!). However, natural popcorn is a great snack option which in its plain form is gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and low in fat, so one can happily indulge!

Here’s how I make it:
* find a large pot with lid
* measure out the desired amount of raw corn kernels — I use three-quarters of one small rice bowl to make a huge salad bowl amount of cooked popcorn
* poor into pot just enough oil to coat all the kernels of corn
* turn on medium-high heat and wait for oil to heat up
* once hot, put in the corn kernels, stir to coat all kernels with oil and try to make sure that as many kernels as possible are in touch with the bottom surface of the pot (to get them heated up as effectively as possible)
* cover and wait for popping to cease
* occasionally shake the pot — whilst holding the lid on tight — to encourage all the kernels to pop
* occasionally lift the lid a crack to allow the steam to escape (or use the steam vent if your pot lid has one), but be careful not to open so wide as to allow popping corn to spring out!
* remove popcorn from pot, I put in a large plastic basket to allow the popcorn to cool down
* store in airtight containers as soon as it has cooled down as popcorn goes soft very quickly

As I try to avoid sugar, I go with salted popcorn and simply sprinkle salt on the cooked popcorn.

Food intolerance-friendly airline meals

Hello again after a long break! I have been away and will be travelling again soon so have some possibly helpful travel tips for anyone flying by Singapore Airlines.

The last time I went overseas by Cathay Pacific, I prepared an elaborate set of bento boxes to last me halfway round the globe, as I described here. This time, it was just a short 5-hour flight and I decided to order one of Singapore Airlines’ special ‘Medical Meals’.

Here is the amazing list of ‘Medical Meal’ choices:

  • Bland Meal: No “irritants” (e.g. black pepper, chilli powder, caffeine, cocoa, alcohol)
  • Diabetic Meal: No sugar; limited salt
  • Fruit Platter Meal: Fresh fruits only
  • Gluten Free Meal: No wheat, rye, barley, oats in any form
  • Low Sodium, No Salt Added Meal: Avoid naturally-salted, sodium-added processed foods (e.g. Baking powder, soda, MSG); no salt added during preparation
  • Low Calorie Meal: Limited fats, sauces, gravy and fried items; limited sugar-rich items
  • Low Fat/Cholesterol Meal: No animal fats but poly-unsaturated fatty acids allowed; limited fats, sauces, and gravy fried items; no butter, cream, whole milk cheese; only lean meat allowed
  • Low Fibre/Residue Meal: Limited fibrous items (e.g. fruit, legumes, vegetables, wholegrain products)
  • Non-Carbohydrate Meal: No starch and carbohydrates in any form
  • Non-Lactose Meal: No lactose and dairy products (e.g. milk, milk solids, casein, cheese, cream, butter, margarine)
  • Soft Fluid Meal: Mainly sieved, soupy items
  • Semi Fluid Meal: Mainly pureed, minced, easily digestible items (e.g. pureed vegetables, potatoes, fruits, minced, homogenized meat, porridge, congee)
  • Ulcer Diet Meal: Contains easily digestive plain poached/broiled foods (e.g. white meat, fish); no acidic food and fruits
  • Nut Free Meal: Please contact our Reservation Office for the necessary arrangement

After a short discussion on the phone with the airline staff, I chose the ‘Low Sodium, No Salt Added Meal’. On my return flight, the meal label was in Chinese, which said “無調味料”, which actually means  no added seasoning. I found out there is a option of Asian or Western versions, and I chose Western. It was a chicken breast with side vegetables and rice on the outgoing flight, and a very tender beef steak with side vegetables and potatoes on the return flight. There were also no sweet desserts. I loved the way they were all totally plain with no sauces or spices/herbs etc. yet the ingredients were flavourful enough on their own. Fabulous! Amines in the meats and salicylates in the vegetables aside, this is a pretty safe choice for me. No need to starve on long-distance travel anymore! (As long as I fly on Singapore Airlines, that is.)

P.S. Don’t forget Singapore Airlines offers also offers Religious Meals, Infant & Child Meals, a Seafood Meal and a range of Vegetarian Meals:

  • Raw Vegetarian Meal: Only raw fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetarian Oriental Meal: No meat or seafood of any sort; no dairy products; cooked Chinese-style
  • Vegetarian Indian Meal (non-strict): No meat of any sort; can contain dairy products; cooked Indian-style
  • Vegetarian Jain Meal (strict; suitable for Jain): No meat of any sort; no onion, garlic, ginger and all root vegetables; cooked Indian-style
  • Western Vegetarian (non-strict; ovo-lacto): No meat of any sort; can contain dairy products; cooked Western-style
  • Vegetarian Vegan Meal (strict): No meat of any sort; no dairy products; cooked Western-style

Gluten-free waffles

Gluten-free waffles

Gluten-free waffles

I’m afraid I’ve been very slack at updating my blog. The truth is I have experimented with several gluten-free waffle recipes, one of which was wonderful – but because I didn’t make notes, I can’t remember which one it was now :(!

The last recipe I tried was from the book Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America. This recipe uses ‘Flour Blend #5′ which of all the flour blends in the book, is the one with the highest protein content. As you can read in my earlier notes, I modified the flour mix slightly too. If my inference is correct, this could be the reason for these waffles having a rather bread-like texture. I personally prefer my waffles more crisp, so perhaps I should experiment with using different flour blends with this same recipe.

This recipe also uses additional whisked egg whites to add more lift to the batter (just as my grandmother’s waffle recipe does). Actually I haven’t noticed a huge difference between waffle recipes that used the extra egg whites and those that don’t (although others swear that whipped egg whites are critical). Since I’m lazy and would also prefer not to use up four eggs on one batch of waffles, I’d probably choose another recipe as my basic waffle staple.

One thing I do like about this recipe is that it’s not as oily as the first waffle recipe I tried. Overall, it’s quite a good recipe.

1 1/3 cups (7.7 oz) Flour Blend #5: rice, tapioca, soy flours – see here.
1/2 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt [omitted]
1/2 cup (4 oz) sugar [omitted]
2 eggs
1/4 cup (2 oz.) butter, melted
3/4 cup (6 oz.) milk
2 egg whites

1. Mix together dry ingredients.
2. Mix together wet ingredients separately.
3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix thoroughly.
4. Whip egg whites to medium peaks.
5. Temper egg whites by adding one-third of batter to egg whites and mixing gently.
6. Fold tempered whites into remaining batter.
7. Bake in oiled waffle iron.

Related posts:
A waffles novice
Four-grain waffles

Improvised gluten-free muffins (basic recipe)

improvised gluten-free pear muffins

improvised gluten-free pear muffins

I remember the time when I was really scared to start gluten-free baking because it seemed so complicated, so many types of flour, so easy for things to go wrong, for the baking to fail. A couple of weeks ago, I baked some muffins (if you can call them that) without following any gluten-free recipe book and amazingly, the product was edible!

All I did was to try a direct substition of wheat flour with a gluten-free flour blend in my original basic muffin recipe. Yes, the very first basic muffin recipe, which I subsequently stopped using when I found basic recipe no. 2 gave better results. Basic muffin recipe no. 1 is so easy that you can easily by heart:

2 cups flour
1 cup milk/liquid
1/4 cup oil/butter
1 egg (2 , if you prefer)
1 tsp baking powder
other ingredients of choice – e.g. 1 chopped apple, handful of nuts/dried fruit etc.

I used exactly those quantities together with a few large chunks of tinned pears, and made up the 1 cup liquid with half milk and half pear juice from the tin. Apart from the pears and pear juice, no added sugar. (If you are avoiding salicylates, remember to choose pears in syrup as commercial pear juice contains the peel which has salicylates. Of course if you are on an anti-candida diet, the syrup is probably worse!)

The gluten-free flour blend is the one I described earlier:

8oz/225g brown rice flour
8oz/225g tapioca starch
8oz/225g soy flour

No xanthan gum, no gelatine.

The batter was extremely wet, but I decided to go ahead without adding extra flour. The consistency (and eventual effect) reminded on a crazy improvisation attempt when I dumped a load of mashed pumpkin into a gluten-free sponge cake recipe, thereby completely altering the ratio of liquid to other ingredients — a crazy attempt which I did not blog about because I can’t even remember exactly what I did (brain must have gone on strike, hence giving rise to the mad improvisation to begin with); started out being utterly disappointed with the result and subsequently very pleased when put aside my preconceptions and realised the texture was quite appealing and the taste pretty good.

The result:

It looked beautiful at the end of baking, but collapsed as it cooled after coming out of the oven, just as this gluten-free bean bread did. I’ve discovered the quick bread gluten-free recipe that doesn’t sink is this one that uses gelatine as well.

Taste-wise, I was very pleased although visitors to my home who tasted a bite responded only with a grimace masquerading as a polite smile :). Texture-wise, I’ll repeat what I’ve said in my other gluten-free baking entries; it reminds me of Southeast Asian kueh or steamed cakes, soft and very close-textured, no ‘crumb’, kind of squishy.

The overall effect of the non-wheat taste and texture is certainly very reminiscent of local desserts, so perhaps if I dropped names like ‘muffin’ or ‘cake’ and called it kueh, people would have different expectations and not react so negatively towards my gluten-free baking!

Gluten-free muffins with bean, rice & tapioca flours

Muffin with chickpea, rice and tapioca flours
This recipe is from The Best-Ever Wheat and Gluten Free Baking Book and like the other recipes from this book I’ve used, it turned out excellently. The book credits the recipe to the Bob’s Red Mill website by Carol Fenster, of which this is an adaptation. It’s actually a recipe for Blueberry Muffins but I didn’t have blueberries so I adapted it with the dried fruits in my fridge — sultanas and cranberries.

If you’ve read my posting on Gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread or my improved recipe for gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread, you’ll notice this flour mix also uses chickpea (garbanzo) bean flour and tapioca flour, although the other flours and proportions are different. An additional ingredient here is the gelatin powder, which I purchased in Phoon Huat. Like the bean bread recipe, this uses the muffin method (explained here).

And the results of this recipe are actually much better than the earlier bean bread ones! There’s only very minimal sinking of the muffin tops after baking, and the inner texture has more even rising, with no centre that is denser than the outer sections.

A highly recommended basic recipe.

DRY INGREDIENTS

1 cup (140g) chickpea (garbanzo) bean flour and/or fava bean flour [I used all chickpea flour from the Indian grocery store]
1/2 cup (110g) rice flour
1/2 cup (80g) tapioca flour
2 tsp flaxseed meal
1 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder
2 tsp xantham gum
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (100g) sugar or 170g honey [omitted]
1 tsp sea salt [omitted]

WET INGREDIENTS
1 cup (235ml) milk – rice, soy, nut or dairy milk
1/2 cup (55g) butter, softened [I used coconut oil instead as too lazy to melt the butter]
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mixed dried fruit [original recipe calls for 1 Tbs grated lemon peel and 1 cup blueberries]

1) Mix dry ingredients together.
2) Whisk together wet ingredients.
3) Combine wet & dry ingredients. Stir till just mixed, be careful not to overmix.
4) Fold in fruit.
5) Bake in preheated oven at 200°C for 25 mins.

Just like instant packet ramen

Ramen

Ramen

After watching too many Korean TV shows with people slurping enticing-looking noodles, the ramen craving became quite unbearable! Of course commercial packet instant noodles are quite out of the question for me. Not only do the noodles themselves contain plenty of additives, the flavouring is usually more MSG (or other similarly glutamate-heavy MSG-substitute in ‘No MSG’ varieties) than anything else. The last time I gave into a packet noodle craving some years ago, I suffered indigestion, fuzzy-headedness and terrible itching — not worth it at all!

So this time, I whipped up a midnight ramen snack using what was on-hand in my kitchen cupboard. At least with control over individual ingredients, I would stand a much better chance of surviving — and enjoying! — my noodles.

Ingredients for ramen

Ingredients for ramen

INGREDIENTS
Multigrain ramen — packet is divided into single serve sections
Organic wheat-free tamari
Sesame oil
Furikake , Muso brand (white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, salted shiso leaves, ao nori)
Shredded nori seaweed (make sure it’s plain without any seasoning)

To prepare the ramen, cook the noodles in boiling water. This multigrain variety takes at least 4 minutes but it’s much more substantial and more chewy than regular noodles, which I like because it gives a good ‘bite’ and is more filling. Drain noodles and simply toss with other ingredients to taste!

It’s worth mentioning that my ‘safe’ version is only relatively safe. The tamari and seaweed are rich in glutamates and the ramen, although a multigrain variety from the health food shop, is certainly not gluten-free. Watch out also for high salicylate level in the sesame oil. Personally, I would only resort to this once in a way.

Chye tau kueh (fried savoury radish cake)

Recently, some friends gobbled down two plates of chye tau kueh from the hawker centre in front of me whilst I munched on my gluten-free carob muffin. They felt a bit guilty comparing their fried dish with my healthy snack but actually I really wished I could eat chye tau kueh too!

I came home and flipped through my mountain of cookbooks and finally found a somewhat poorly-written recipe for ‘Singapore-Styled Stir-Fried Turnip Pudding 星洲炒蘿蔔糕’ in a Hong Kong produced cookbook called Asian Snacks Cooking Course 亞洲小食製作教程.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a more authentic recipe in any of my Malaysian cookbooks (an excuse to buy even more :) ?!?). Anyway, it worked really well so am sharing here with you. You may want to compare this recipe with the one from Lily’s Wai Sek Hong.

This is a great snack option that’s wheat- and gluten-free, also no sugar. As long as you don’t find fried foods too unhealthy :).

INGREDIENTS FOR STEAMED RADISH CAKE

960g white radish/daikon
320g rice flour

Wash, peel and chop the daikon.

Use a blender to puree it, then using a sieve, squeeze out as much juice as possible. You need 3 cups of daikon juice.

Mix rice flour with daikon juice in a pot over low heat. The original recipe only uses the juice, but I put in all the daikon pulp as well so as not to waste it.

Stir until it the mixture thickens. This part requires careful attention as it can take quite a while to thicken on low heat but if the stove is too hot, it will clump together very quickly.

Pour the thickened batter into a greased mould, such as an aluminium cake tin. A 9-inch round tin is actually better than the one I used in the photo because it won’t be so full, and because the cake won’t be in such a thick layer, it will take a shorter time to be fully cook. Dark-coloured heavy cake tins are not good for steaming, they don’t seem to conduct heat very well.

Steam for 1 hour. Test for doneness with a chopstick, which should come out clean.


FRIED RADISH CAKE

Cut the steamed and cooled cake into cubes.

Fry ingredients of your choice until fragrant, such as garlic, shallots, minced meat, red or green chilli, spring onions. Add seasonings of your choice.  Traditionally, this is cooked with thick dark soya sauce and preserved turnip and preserved Chinese sausages are a must, with a special chilli sauce for those who like it spicy.

Add the steamed radish cake cubes and fry until browned.

Push ingredients to one side of the wok (or remove from pan), add a beaten egg and when semi-cooked, toss well with all the other ingredients.

My version shown below is cooked with salt (or organic tamari), garlic, stir-fried shallots, green and red capsicums, and topped with raw spring onions and deep fried shallots.

Verdict: close enough to the real thing to keep me happy! Loved the distinct daikon taste in the cake. Now if I can just figure out how to make preserved turnip or chye poh at home, the other members of the family might actually enjoy this as much as me :).

Nearly 1kg of daikon makes a lot of chye tau kueh and I had this in my lunch bento for days!! Next time I’ll only make half the quantity!

Breakfast: baked beans, brown rice cake & Chinese tea

Now I can join the rest of my family when they eat baked beans & toast for breakfast with my own version :)!

* homemade baked beans

* organic, salt-free brown rice cake from Lundberg — a crumbly rice cake, not as smooth a texture as Kallo brand, but then again, this one is brown rice. Most rice cakes are soft and taste stale straight out of the packed, especially Lundberg, but nothing a couple of minutes in the oven toaster won’t fix. Be careful as rice cakes burn easily, so set the oven toaster timer for just 2 minutes but leave the rice cakes in for 5 minutes to crisp up slowly in low heat.

* Pearl of the Orient tea from Gryphon brand — Singapore brand of gourmet teas in elegant packing. The extra-large fine mesh bags seem excessive but actually tea leaves need space to expand and release their full flavour. Gryphon’s Earl Grey is lovely (the brand’s best-selling tea in Singapore) but Pearl of the Orient, a jasmine+rose Chinese tea is definitely over-fragranced. Cheapest place to buy Gryphon teas is NTUC Finest at S$10.50 a box of 20 tea bags, $2 cheaper than chi-chi gourmet delis like Culina.

Spelt pumpkin muffins (no sugar)

Here’s my first experiment with non-wheat flour. It really doesn’t taste very different, but that’s because spelt is actually a variety of wheat. Even if you don’t have an outright wheat intolerance problem, food rotation is a good idea.

I came up with this recipe after comparing the Pumpkin muffin recipes from the following books:
Diana Linfoot, Muffin Magic (Perth, Western Australia: Diana Linfoot, 1990)
Miriam Kasin Hospodar, Heaven’s Banquet: Vegetarian Cooking for Lifelong Health the Ayurveda Way
Mary Ann and Mace Wenniger, The Best-Ever Wheat and Gluten Free Baking Book

Spelt is not gluten-free so there really was no need for the last book, but it was still interesting to note the spices, raisins and nuts as well as orange juice used as milk replacement in the recipe (no citrus juices in large quantities for me – high in salicylates).

Both the vegetarian and gluten-free books’ muffin recipes use buttermilk or yoghurt, and I’ve found I prefer the texture from this mix than the old recipe I was using. I also use 2 eggs now instead of the 1 egg I did before.

The Ayurvedic book also melted ghee, butter or oil interchangeably for muffins, so I opened the first tin of ghee I’ve ever used . I already had it sitting in the cupboard, waiting to be experimented with.

For the flour mix, you can replace up to half a cup out of a total of two cups with alternative non-gluten flours.

You don’t need any sugar as the pumpkin, raisins and walnuts give this plenty of flavour.

speltpumpkinmuffins-0.jpg

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs
1/4 cup melted ghee
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup water

1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin (if you have extra you can freeze it)

1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly roasted by dry-frying without oil in a skillet over low heat – you may want to sieve out the tiny pieces which get burnt during the roasting process
1/2 cup sultanas

1) Sift together dry ingredients. This is important to combine the leavening agents and flours properly. If they are not evenly mixed, there will be large holes in your muffins. I often have a problem sifting wholegrain flours with leavening agents because the large flakes in wholegrain flour don’t go through the sieve and I can’t get at the smaller clumps of baking powder/soda to break them up and press them through the mesh. Right now, I’m trying to get round the problem by using my sieve which has a coarser mesh.

2) Mix wet ingredients together. Put the eggs in last, because if you mix raw eggs with hot melted butter you will get cooked egg (yes, this happened to me before!).

3) Mix the pumpkin puree thoroughly with the wet ingredients. I like to use a whisk for the wet ingredients.

4) Coat the raisins and nuts with flour to prevent them from sinking in the batter whilst baking.

5) Mix all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients all at once quickly and lightly with just a few strokes. It’s ok if there mixture is clumpy.

6) Mix in the raisins & nuts.

7) Put into greased muffin tins. Paper casing is unnecessary. I have discovered that unless the cake has a high fat content (such as this cake recipe), it will stick to the casing. Pour water into any unused holes in the muffin tin to keep the tin from warping, and to produce steam which helps to create crispy tops on the muffins.

8) Bake at 180°C for at least 20 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are fragrant.

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