Thursday, 13 October 2011

Celebrating Our First Birthday

It is now a whole year since we launched Annie's Supperclub.  The first in Bromley and as far as I know still the only one in the UK that is 100% gluten free.

We decided to host two dinners working on the theory that several of our "regulars" would want to celebrate with us and so we could have more interest that we could have accommodated on one night.

On Friday we hosted 8 guests, one lady returning for the second time (with a friend in tow this time!) and 7 newbies.  Saturday we were full with 10 guests. This time we had 4 newbies, the rest being returning guests.
Our first course was our "Butternut Cups".  I peeled and cut a butternut squash, sprinkled over chopped rosemary (fresh from our garden) and thyme (from the windowsill), plenty of sea salt, and tossed it all in olive oil.  It roasted for about an hour after which I pureed the flesh and added a splash of lemon juice and some black pepper.

Just before guests arrived I crumbled in some gorgeous Kentish Blue cheese - after I'd removed a portion of the puree to save for our dairy free guest (Saturday). The Blue is ideal not just for its taste but also because it is a vegetarian blue cheese and we had two vegetarian guests join us on Friday.

Earlier in the day I had cut out some small circles of gluten free bread, soaked them in olive oil then pressed them into my Pampered Chef mini muffin tin and then baked them in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

These little "cups" were full of the flavour of the extra virgin olive oil and were perfect to stuff with the butternut squash puree.

We served them with a small bowl of onion relish - made to my normal onion "jam" recipe but the onions had retained more bite and sharpness than usual which complemented the sweet squash perfectly.

Next was a pasta course.  I'd served pasta before at Annie's using the pasta recipe from Shauna Ahern's The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef book.  The pasta tastes lovely but I hadn't managed to get it thinner than a "3" setting on my pasta machine.

I'd been inspired to see all the gorgeous pasta recipes in the recent Gluten Free Ratio Rally (see list of recipes at the bottom of this page).   I read through them all, looked through my army of gluten free flours, and worked out a new recipe.

I was very excited - the dough was soft, pliable and *dramatic drum roll sound effect* I managed to roll it out to a "1" on the machine! I could even read my supperclub prep timetable through it!

It seemed an ideal time to use my new ravioli tray.

The filling for the ravioli was one that I had used last November for larger ravioli.  I sauteed onion and garlic, added chestnuts and diced apple, parsley and seasoning.  In a separate pan I rendered some pancetta, letting it get very crispy.  I mixed the filling in my battered 20 year old Masterchef Moulinex mixer (*hint* anyone want to give me some lovely shiny mixer to review?!) and removed some for my vegetarian ravioli.  I then added pancetta to the rest and blended it again.

It only took half a teaspoon of filling to fill the ravioli (I had plenty left over lol).  The pasta dough behaved beautifully and I had no trouble getting the raviolo out of the tray.

I put the finished ravioli onto a tray covered with cling film and put them into the fridge until service.
The pasta was served in a cherry tomato sauce - sweet and tart at the same time - made by roasting 2lb of cherry tomatoes and several red peppers which were then pureed and passed through a fine sieve.  A bunch of freshly chopped herbs and the simple sauce coated the ravioli.  When we served I did remark that it looked like I'd just opened a tin of ravioli but hopefully the guests didn't think so!

I forgot to add the freshly chopped basil to the plates - a shame because the green would have added something to the picture if nothing else!

For our main course we had given guests a choice of Halibut or Steak.  I was surprised at how many people chose the fish!

The halibut steaks were individually poached in olive oil, in a very low oven, for about 40 minutes.  Lemon slices, lemon smoked salt and capers gently flavoured the fish.  Despite being cooked in the oil the fish doesn't come out at all oily.  On Friday a timing error meant that (to my tastes) the fish was slightly over but all the guests said it was good.  The fish was accompanied by sauteed Pink Fir Apple potatoes from our own kitchen garden.

The fillet steaks were HUGE!  The smallest ones were 6oz and the largest 10oz.  With hindsight I should most certainly have trimmed them - but in my defence a) I'm a carnivore who firmly believes there is no such thing as too much steak and b) I'm used to serving teenagers with appetites like horses!  I may have to invest in some Annie's branded doggy bags...

I served the steaks in the style of a Tournedos Rossini - on a fried crouton and topped with home made chicken liver pate.  I explained to guests that whilst my palate may appreciate the splendour of fois gras I cannot support the methods used to obtain it.  I prefer therefore to use chicken liver pate as a topping.

My dauphinoise style potatoes have become a bit of a signature dish and were served as a (very rich!) accompaniment to the steaks.  On Friday the potatoes were PERFECT and a very very big hit with our diners.  Sadly on Saturday I had every chef's nightmare when the oven appeared to malfunction resulting in underdone potatoes.  I tried my best to rescue them and guests were keen to convince me that they tasted great but *I* was extremely distressed.  It didn't help that I had an ex-fine dining head chef at the table that night - NOT the night to screw up!

All the meals were served with Petits Pois à la Française.  I hope to add some photos later on from guests as (as usual) I failed to get a photo of the main courses!

Due to licensing laws we are unable to offer alcohol to our guests (although diners made a donation for their food because money changes hands offering alcohol still counts as "passing off").  In order to be able to celebrate our anniversary in style therefore we served a lovely Champagne Sorbet!  They were served in individual tasting glass jars which we did rather cram full!  Miscommunication between front of house and chef meant that our guests on Friday were offered their desserts before they had finished the generous portion of sorbet - we sorted that for Saturday!

Desserts were a choice of either caramel and honeycomb ice cream served "Jenga" style or our double chocolate steamed pudding with chocolate sauce.  Our dairy free guest on Saturday had a duo of ice creams - a cashew nut ice cream and a dairy free kulfi (made for our Asian Dinner!).

Home made chocolates accompanied the coffees (with a dairy free selection for our guest on Saturday).

Dark chocolates were filled with a home made gooseberry soft pastille, white chocolates filled with a blueberry pastille and another dark chocolate flavoured with peppermint.

We had a lovely weekend and made some great new friends.  It was good to meet the people behind several twitter friendships!

With our Christmas dates selling out fast, we've also added another date to our European Dinner weekend.

We are looking forward to our final 6 events of 2011 and are already well into planning next year - including Valentines Day!  If you are a coeliac or your partner is, why not book in early to ensure you can join us for our 10 course tasting menu and celebrate Valentine's Day in style AND without fear :-)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Daas Gluten Free Beers

I may have mentioned before that prior to going gluten free I was a real ale kind of girl.

It was therefore a matter of concern to me to find gluten free beers that I could drink.

To date I have tried Estrella Damm Daura, Green's Gluten Free Beers, Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales GFL and GFA, and St Peter's G-Free beer, all of which I have been pleased with.

I was therefore very interested when I was contacted by Lucy from Instinctive PR about one of her clients, a Belgium craft beer maker who produced two gluten free beers.  Lucy was interested to hear my verdict of the beers and kindly offered to send me some samples.

Daas Beers are apparently the only brewer in Belgium to carry both the UK Soil Association Organic certification and the Belgian Certsys certification. They are based in the Belgium province of Hainaut which has a reputation for fine hand crafted beers.

From September their two gluten free beers have been available to buy in the UK.  They are stocked by Waitrose and Ocado and apparently also by some health food shops - somewhat unusual I would think for a beer!

I read up about the beer before the samples arrived and found out that secondary fermentation occurs inside the bottle to mature and carbonate the beer naturally in a similar way (apparently) to the production of Champagne.  Beer made using a process similar to making champagne sounded intriguing!

The samples arrived and I must admit my original intention had been to cook with them however the day they arrived had been a particularly long and difficult one and my husband and I decided that instead we would do a serious taste test and just drink them!

Daas Ambre Gluten Free Beer
Daas Ambre

First we opened the Daas Ambre, listed as a "traditional rich and complex Belgian amber ale".

The beer poured well and had a really great malty aroma.  I mean it as a compliment to say that it tasted like any other "ordinary" ale!  It reminded me strongly of another beer I'd had before, a gluten beer, but I couldn't remember which one (and sadly cannot run a taste test to find it anymore!).  There was nothing "free from" about the taste of the Daas Ambre.

It was quite smooth tasting, managing to be both sweet and dry at the same time and a good hop taste.  It was the sort of beer I could happily (given half the chance) work through a pack of without any trouble at all.

In addition to being gluten free the Daas Ambre is also suitable for vegans.  The ingredients are listed as Water, Malted Barley, Hops and Yeast with the hops and barley being organic.

Daas Blond Gluten Free Beer
Strength wise it is 6.5% ABV / 33 cl / 2.15 units.  All in all it was a very pleasant drink.

Daas Blond

Next we opened the Daas Blond.

This beer received a "Commended" in the Soil Association Organic Food Awards in 2009 and is a golden "larger" style beer.

My husband and I have very different palates and it was interesting that whilst the Ambre was my favourite, he preferred the Blond (typical woman I go for the strong dark silent type and he, being a typical bloke, goes for the blond lol).

Whilst the Amber reminded me of any good ale, the Blond had a totally unique flavour.  That was the appeal for my husband but as I never used to like lagers it wasn't my preference.

Don't get me wrong, it is still a great beer!  It had a sweet, almost honey taste with a slightly spicy finish.  It is also vegan (as well as gluten free) and also 6.5% ABV with the same ingredients listed as the Ambre.

Both the beers showed that "free from" beers can rightly take their place alongside their gluten filled counterparts.  They were strong, complex and pleasurable to drink - something that is a huge relief to a poor ale loving coeliac like me!

For more information about Daas Beers visit their website

Ocado and Waitrose stock Daas Blond, with it retailing at  £2.54 for a 330ml bottle (£.7.70 per litre). It is also available from a number of health and organic online shops.

Thanks once again to Lucy for the chance to try these new beers - and if anyone else out there would like me to taste their gluten free beers *ahem* please feel free to contact me ;-)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

No Cream Ice Cream

I had my mother over today to celebrate her 69th birthday. I had planned to do a roast beef dinner. With hindsight temperatures of 26C plus here in Bromley meant that a meal involving three ovens was probably not a good idea...

However, that is what I had decided so that is what I did.  I roasted the topside beef joint at 80C for 7 1/2 hours.  I then took it out, turned the oven up to 250C and put it back in for about 10 minutes to crisp the outside.  It produced a lovely, moist, perfectly medium rare roast.  The advantage of taking it out to turn the oven up was also that I managed to scrap the pan of all the yummy bits to make a great gravy whilst the beef finished off.

We served it with fresh plain pink fir apple potatoes from the garden and Petit Pois à La Française (practising for our dinners next weekend!).  I also had gluten free stuffing and bacon wrapped sausages courtesy of a trip to Marks & Spencers earlier in the day.

Anyway, the title of this post refers to the fact that I needed to make a dessert for the meal.  I figured that we needed something light - and something cold! 

Ice cream.

However when old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard/fridge she found she didn't have any cream.

What I did have was a large number of seriously over ripe bananas.

I don't like bananas.  I will tolerate them if they are very ripe and I have nothing else to eat and I am very hungry.  I detest banana-flavoured things.  I definitely don't like banana ice cream.

You know where this is going, don't you?

I also don't like peanut butter.  I don't actually like peanuts.  I will eat dry roasted peanuts. Actually I eat the stuff left at the bottom of the packet.  Mind you, they probably aren't gluten free and I certainly haven't eaten any for years.

I do like my own home made peanut butter cookies.  Peanut butter was something I realised I had to learn to bake with when I was both gluten, dairy, egg and soya free for the two years I was breastfeeding DS4.  I discovered that peanut butter cookies didn't exactly taste a) like peanuts b) like peanut butter.  Result!

Sainsbury's have recently started stocking Peanut Butter & Co's range of peanut butter products.  This was a great discovery as they are actually labelled as being gluten free.  It means I can make tiger butter *sigh* which is not such a great discovery for my waistline...

So, with just three ingredients, I decided to make a no-cream ice cream.  If you have a dairy free chocolate spread, then this is a vegan ice cream.


2 tbsps Belgium chocolate spread
2 tbsps pure Peanut Butter
4 bananas

This can hardly be called a recipe! 

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.  Grab your stick blender.  Blend.

Taste and adjust to your preference.  If like me you have an unadulterated peanut butter then you may want to add a pinch of salt, or a tablespoon of icing sugar.  Weirdly, despite the fact that ice cream mixtures usually lose sweetness as they freeze this mixture came out sweeter than it did at room temperature so be wary of making it too sweet.

If you like peanut butter, or if you have very ripe bananas, you may want to add more peanut butter to increase the peanut butter flavour above that of the bananas.

Tip the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn.

Due to the heat of the kitchen I stood mine in the (relatively) cool dining room.  The lead didn't reach from the table which is why this picture is of the ice cream maker on a (Christmas!) tray on one of my dining room chairs.  The mixture took about 20 minutes to reach soft whip stage. 

I could have put it on for another 20 minutes but I put it straight into the freezer instead.

We served it up a few hours later and everyone agreed it was successful.  As my bananas were very ripe the ice cream was more banana flavoured than peanut butter flavour but as I know that now, I can adjust it to taste in the future.

Before I put the mixture into the freezer I blobbed more chocolate spread over the top and swirled it through with a knife.  This gave a lovely ripple effect when it was scooped out.

This is a great, stand by, store cupboard ice cream.  You could serve it barely half an hour after starting to make it if you need a dessert in a hurry. It was gluten free, egg free, and could easily have been made dairy free with a dairy free chocolate spread or simply melted chocolate.


Friday, 30 September 2011

Annie's Celebrates One Year of Gluten Free Dining

A year! A whole year!

On 2nd October 2010 we opened the first 100% gluten free underground restaurant in the UK and the first in the London Borough of Bromley.

Over the past year we have been blessed by opening our home to over 150 guests, many of whom have returned on a number of occasions to share with us.

We made many new friends, had some hilarious evenings, been entertained by a jazz singer, hosted a band, and been impressed by the courtesy shown towards us by our diners who have obviously appreciated that they were being welcomed in to our home.

We have a guests book that is filling up with lovely comments, constructive feedback but thankfully to date no complaints (other than once when we were told we'd served too much food!).

Next weekend, on 7th and 8th October, we are celebrating the year with friends old and new.


First Course

Roasted Butternut Squash & Gorgonzola "Cups" V

Second Course

Fresh Ravioli stuffed with Prosciutto, Chestnuts & Apple in a Cherry Tomato Sauce 

Fresh Ravioli stuffed with Porcini, Chestnuts & Apple in a Cherry Tomato Sauce V

Third Course

Tournedos Rossini - Fillet steak on a Crouton topped with Chicken Liver Pate

Alaskan Halibut Steak on a Crouton topped with Anchovy Pate  V
Both served with Annie's Daupinoise Potatoes and Petits Pois à la Française

Fourth Course

Celebratory Champagne Sorbet V

Fifth Course

"Jenga" Honeycomb Ice Cream  V

Double Chocolate Steamed Pudding  V

Coffee & Chocolates