Foodie Friday: Gluten Free Carrot and Apple Oat Muffins

Gluten Free Carrot and Apple Oat Breakfast Muffins

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it loads, but for a while now we’ve been getting an organic vegetable box delivered fortnightly. It’s a great way to eat seasonally, support local farmers and force yourself to make different things all the time. The only downside is that you can end up with too much of one thing….we’ve recently had a spate of cucumbers and we always seem to have too many carrots!

My husband’s mum and brother also have a glut of cooking apples this year, so I set out to find a recipe to use up a whole load of carrots and apples! As usual, I couldn’t find *quite* what I was looking for, so ended up adapting a few recipes into my own. For a first go, I’m pretty impressed too! I usually have to tweak a recipe a few times, but these came out really well on the first attempt. My only goal now is to replace the caster sugar with unrefined sugar, but that’s a challenge for another day!

These make excellent breakfast treats, and you could easily make them the day prior to serve to overnight guests. They’re also pretty healthy (*I* think!) and are a great gluten free, low fat treat.

Gluten Free Carrot and Apple Oat Breakfast Muffins Recipe

Ingredients (makes about 12 large and 12 mini muffins):

  • 240g organic oats (buy carefully if you are gluten intolerant!)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 60g organic coconut flour
  • 200g fair trade golden caster sugar
  • 4 tspn baking soda
  • 2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 tspn all spice
  • 1/2 tspn ground ginger
  • 1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
  • 6 organic eggs
  • 100ml organic coconut oil
  • 100ml water
  • 340ml organic milk
  • 200g grated organic carrot (about four)
  • 125g grated cooking apple (one medium)
  • 120g sultanas
  • 120g chopped mixed nuts (optional)
  • extra nutmeg and nuts, plus some demerara sugar for topping

Gluten Free Carrot and Apple Oat Breakfast Muffins Recipe

How to make them:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C /gas mark 4.
  2. Pop your sultanas in a bowl and cover with hot water to soften them…you can leave them like this until they need to go into the mixture later
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients (oats, almonds, flour, sugar, baking soda and spices)
  4. Beat your eggs and melt the coconut oil, then mix those together with the water and milk
  5. Add the fruit to this, then add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients
  6. Combine until you have a nicely mixed battery-dough, and mix the nuts in if you’re using them
  7. Grease your muffin tins and line with cases if you like, then pour in the mixture level with the top
  8. Sprinkle some extra nuts, demerara sugar and / or grated nutmeg on top, then pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out clean
  9. Once baked, remove and cool a little before removing the muffins from the tins
  10. Serve warm and with a little creme fraiche or yoghurt if you like!

Do you have a veggie box delivered? What recipes do you use to finish up those gluts of courgettes etc.?

Ems x

Organic Beauty Week….and my vow to go Cruelty Free


For the longest time I’ve been planning to write about this. Early last year I made a vow to go ‘cruelty free’ with all the cosmetics and cleaning products I buy, in-line with my rules on the animal products I will and won’t eat. It’s taken me until now to really feel like I’ve got the hang of it though, because of the ridiculous rules on labelling (or lack thereof!), misleading claims, and generally struggling to decide what my absolute rules were. But because I feel I’m finally in a position to share my thoughts on this, AND because it’s Organic Beauty Week, I thought I’d get down to writing up some of my experiences.

As I’ve tried SO many products, I figure I’m best writing about each ‘category’ separately, so that I can share a more comprehensive review for the things I would (and wouldn’t!) recommend. For now though, I thought I’d share the basic principals of what I decided to do.


My reasons for going cruelty free were nearly completely to do with animal welfare. It’s true that there are personal, human gains to be made by choosing better products of course, and there are certainly environmental benefits….but we have to pick our battles, and for me it’s all about the animals. As far as I’m concerned, there is no excuse for mistreating animals. We’re not more important than them, and even if treating them cruelly is the ONLY way to get that amazing lipstick, I just can’t see how that can be a fair trade off. Besides, many companies use human testers to check the safety and quality of their products, instead of animals….and certain products don’t even need testing because they’re created from all natural ingredients. So why should we support companies who needlessly torture our defenceless, animal friends?

In short, I strongly feel that animals are not ours to treat however we like for our own gain.

In Europe, as of March 2013, a new law was implemented that made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was done outside Europe. The result has been a boom in investment in non-animal testing methods, with many major companies turning their backs completely on animal testing. A number of animal tests have even been completely replaced with superior, cheaper and more effective non-animal methods.

This is of course great news, but it’s not all that simple and rosy….in fact, in some ways, it makes it even trickier for us consumers!


Although companies are no longer allowed to sell animal-tested cosmetics here in Europe, they *can* continue to test cosmetics on animals outside Europe and sell them in other markets. This means a company that sells here can still profit from cruelty to animals…just not in Europe. The problem is exasperated because many large emerging markets, actually have laws that say cosmetics *must* be tested on animals before they can be sold there. So, you could be buying a mascara that isn’t itself tested on animals, but from a company that *does* test on animals….and therefore supporting their cruel practises and adding to their profit.

And as if that doesn’t make things tricky enough, some companies who label themselves as ‘cruelty free’ have sold out to larger companies who certainly are not….which I personally think is even worse! I like to write positive things, and certainly don’t want to advertise any companies who I believe are bad (*cough*), but you can find lists online to help you avoid them (more on that later).

There is also the matter of animal *products* in cosmetics. Again, this is not essential, and so I would largely argue that all cosmetics ought to be vegan. The exception (as far as I’m concerned at least) are products that support the environment and the protection of certain creatures… Neal’s Yard for example have an organic honey-based collection and campaign called ‘Bee Lovely‘ which raise funds and awareness to help save our declining bee population.

So… with that in mind, here are my own *personal* rules. They’re by no means permanently set, and in fact have been slowly evolving since I decided to do this…..

  1. First and foremost, I don’t want the cosmetics and household products I buy to be tested on animals.
  2. Secondly, I don’t want to buy anything which contains any ingredients that are tested on animals. This includes make up, beauty products, laundry products, household cleaners and gardening products.
  3. Ideally, I want to buy things which have *never* been tested on animals, however in certain circumstances I will buy products that contain ingredients with a ‘Fixed Cut Off Date’ as I feel that this can send a message to companies that I want them to make a move towards non-animal testing.
  4. I will not buy cosmetics or household products from companies who are owned by a company that tests on animals, even if they do not test their products or ingredients themselves. As far as I see it, I’d be helping the parent company to make a profit and therefore supporting their cruel practises.
  5. Mostly I’d prefer to buy vegan products (ie. that contain no ingredients derived from animal products), but I will make exceptions for ingredients that have been responsibly sourced, especially if they promote the safe and cruelty free increase of declining populations.
  6. I’d prefer to buy from cosmetic companies that only sell vegan products, and I will definitely not buy from a company who sells animal-tested products, even if the product I’d like to buy hasn’t been tested itself.
  7. I will vote with my feet….supporting brands that I feel are making a concerted effort and ditching those that I think are not.
  8. But I won’t waste and throw away any unfinished products that I bought before setting these rules, or that I purchased in good faith according to these rules (and subsequently found that I’d been mislead!)….I see this as a terrible waste of resources and having to replace all my makeup, beauty and laundry products and household cleaners all in one go would have been impossible!

That’s my list for now, but I’m sure it will continue to develop as I learn more and more. It can be really hard to find out whether a product meets these criteria, so I try not to beat myself up about making mistakes along the way….things change rapidly, companies are sold off, others change policy or start to sell in different countries…it’s a minefield, but I’m trying my darnedest and that’s all I can do!

If you feel you’d like to make a similar vow, I would advise you to check your products thoroughly before going shopping. It’s time consuming and infuriating, and sometimes you just want to buy on a whim, but largely it’s the only way to be sure what you’re buying really is cruelty free. The Soil Association’s Campaign for Clarity highlights just how ambiguous labelling has become, and it really is important to use several tools to check before you buy. Here are some resources I’ve found good to use holistically:


The ‘Leaping Bunny‘ is probably the label you’re going to see most in your quest to find cruelty free products, and you’ll find it on cosmetics as well as household products. The label is issued by Cruelty Free International, and you can read their criteria on their website. Basically though, companies displaying this logo must guarantee that no animal testing takes place on their products or the ingredients these products are made up of, after a fixed cut-off date. They must also actively monitor their supply chains, obtaining yearly assurances that no animal testing has been conducted after this fixed cut-off date, and agree to an independent audit of their supplier monitoring system.

They have a helpful product search on their website too, as well as PDF lists which I like to save in my phone so that I can check on some things on the go.


PETA also issue their own ‘cruelty free’ bunny logo. Their website offers a search facility too, and you can also view lists of companies who *do* test as well as ones that don’t, which I find useful (although depressing at times!). All companies that are included on PETA’s cruelty-free list have signed PETA’s statement of assurance or submitted a statement verifying that neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products. Companies must pay a license fee to use the bunny logo though, in addition to meeting these criteria. Oh, and there’s an additional logo in the same style which also states if a product is vegan too.

Unlike the Leaping Bunny, PETA does not conduct audits of company facilities, instead relying on the fact that companies are putting their integrity on the line.


The International Vegan Trademark can be seen on all sorts of products, and is well regarded as a pretty stringent benchmark. In order to use the logo a company and its products must not involve, or have involved, the use of any animal product, by-product or derivative. Furthermore, the development and/or manufacture of the product, as well as its ingredients, must not involve, or have involved, “testing of any sort on animals conducted at the initiative of the manufacturer or on its behalf, or by parties over whom the manufacturer has effective control”.

Other logos can be helpful, such as the Soil Association’s organic logo (because their criteria also include animal welfare) but do be careful as there are a myriad of misleading labels out there. There is no international regulation to rely on and many companies will make claims such as ‘Not Tested on Animals’ on their packaging, when in fact they do. I’ve taken to typing the name of a brand into a search engine along with the words “animal testing” to throw up useful information, and have also found this helpful guide to reading packaging, and avoiding being mislead. Another good thing to do is to write to any company you’re unsure about….this will help put your mind at rest and sends a message to them that animal welfare is something they ought to think about.

As I say though, you have to do a lot of sleuthing as things change so rapidly and many companies will make claims that are heavily misleading. I’ve found a load of useful posts on personal blogs though, often by people like me who share information they’ve found and review products that are worth trying. You simply can’t take for granted that the products you use every day are not tested on animals though, sadly, and in my opinion we consumers have a responsibility to think about what we’re buying and send a clear message to companies that animal testing is not acceptable.

I hope this has all been helpful, and has encouraged you to think about going cruelty free. It’s good to remember that it takes time to get things right, and that there is a steep learning curve to follow, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it all figured out right away. Decide on your own personal standards, work on one product at a time, and enjoy trying new things. And as a reward for making it through this rather lengthy post, here’s a baby rat picture for your enjoyment….

Ems x



N.B. My posts always reflect my own, personal views. All information here is written to the best of my knowledge, but is certainly not exhaustive. I’m always delighted to hear the views of others, and to continue learning, so please let me know if you have anything to add!

Foodie Friday: The Wedding Edition

Well, you were warned. As I’m celebrating our anniversary month, I thought I’d share some of the details from our wedding last year. And as Fridays are usually all about food here on Under A Glass Sky, I thought I’d tell you all about the yummy food and drinks we had at our reception.

Food and drink, as you’ve probably surmised, is a big deal for me, and my husband too. So when it came to planning our wedding festivities, these two tasks were top of the list. Whilst I totally agree that it’s all about what you want on your wedding day, I also think (having seen hundreds of weddings through my job!) that there is a duty of care to your guests at a wedding too. Adam and I love to host, and really wanted to ensure that all our guests had an amazing time with as little effort and expense on their part as possible.

We knew from early on that we didn’t want a very formal reception with a sit down meal and table plans etc. I had actually planned a wedding years ago where the Bride and Groom had chosen to serve canapés and bowl food so that their guests could circulate and catch up with everyone there, rather than mostly just the people at their table, and it was honestly one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever experienced. This really appealed to us, as we weren’t starting until four o’clock, and with only the reception happening on that day. It also gave us the opportunity to choose LOTS of different dishes (I love having a little bit of lots of things!) and also ensure there was something everyone liked. Ever concerned though about making sure that everyone had enough to eat, we opted to have a few extras too, so that there was basically food on the go for the whole event!

Starting things at four o’clock felt like a great excuse to serve a bit of afternoon tea. It’s often tricky at weddings when people have been travelling all morning to get there…they often don’t get chance to have all their usual meals, so we wanted people to have something right away to line their stomachs! So, first up we circulated finger sandwiches with different traditional fillings, followed by plain and fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream (we had to request they go on in that order, as at our tasting the caterers did it the other way round….Adam looking at me nervously as they served them in the way I don’t like!). We had collected lots of vintage tea stands to serve the tea on, the caterers also using some of their nice slate flats.

Our Wedding: The Menu

To accompany the tea, we decided to serve an arrival cocktail we called ‘Hitchin Lavender G and Tea’….Hitchin (where we held our reception and lived at the time) is famous for its lavender growing, and our amazing mixologist devised this lovely cocktail for us to feature it. They served the ‘tea’ from glass tea pots using dry ice to create a steam effect, then poured the cocktail into mis-matched vintage tea cups that we’d collected from flea markets. It was a lovely alternative start and went beautifully with the food.

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

DIY Wedding, Lavender 'Tea' Cocktail in vintage china from tea pots with dry ice, reception drink

Shortly after tea was served, our gorgeous little vintage ice cream van arrived to the playground (our venue used to be a school and is now a museum) for everyone to enjoy a sweet treat. Adam is crazy for ice cream, and someone I worked with told me about the adorable little van local to us. Ice Baby was actually the first thing we booked (yes, even before the venue!) and it was lovely seeing her wonderful owner, Tasha, around town often in the run up to the party.

We chose all our favourite flavours (after much careful taste testing!) including coconut for me, as well as frozen yoghurt which I love too. We were very lucky that the sun shone at the right time so people got to enjoy their ice creams outside whilst playing on the little crazy golf we’d made, and luckily not needing the umbrellas we kept on hand!

Our Wedding: Ice Baby vintage ice cream van Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_422 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_424 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_425 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_428  Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_442 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_447 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_450 Emily_Adam_SharonCooper_451

Back inside and we’d set up our Welsh dresser as a sweet shop, filled with naughty things we love (I am a real sweet fiend) such as flying saucers, strawberry laces and sherbet straws. We bought pretty striped bags for people to fill and take away with them, as well as some cute stripey paper cups for people to fill and eat around the room.

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

DIY Wedding Sweet Station, Pastel Colours

Then it wasn’t long before the main meal! We began with bite sized canapés, circulated on lovely olive boards and slate flats….we chose sweet pepper and goats cheese tarts, and minted pea blinis for our veggie options, then fish and mushy pea rosti for our fish choice, with miniature burgers and tadpole in the whole (tiny toad in the holes with gravy!) as our meat options. Although bite sized (necessary for chatting and not getting gravy all over your face!) these were pretty filling!

Then for ‘mains’ we served what I call ‘passing plates’….again, we collected LOTS of vintage side plates to serve small, sort of tapas size portions of main dishes. These were designed to be easily eaten with just an oyster fork whilst people were standing, and meant that people could choose the sort of thing they fancied (or, like me and a good few others, have some of everything!). Our vegetarian dishes were vegetable tempura served on jasmine rice, and a pea and ricotta gnocchi. We went for poached salmon tagliatelle as our fish option, and (my favourite) rump steak with chips and bearnaise sauce for our meat dish. After one of each of those I was totally stuffed….although I believe some people (who had probably eaten fewer sweets than me!) managed several more!

Alongside supper, our bar served some amazing wines that a friend of Adam’s family had collected from Germany for us. For white we chose an incredible Bacchus, Spatgurgunder for our red, and a lovely rose Portugieser. Adam also brought across some Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot for those who prefer something bigger too, plus we bought in a couple of mini kegs of some of my favourite ales, and a keg of Adam’s favourite cider!

Then (after we were sure everyone had eaten something!) we opened a full cocktail bar, featuring a short list carefully chosen by us at a lengthy tasting! These went down very well indeed, and many of our guests made it a mission to try each one! We made sure the non-drinkers were well catered for by asking our bar staff to serve all the cocktails as ‘virgin’ on request, and also had a good stock of teas available too.

DIY Wedding Hand Typed Menu displayed in vintage typewriter

DIY Wedding Cocktail Bar

Next up, was the cake. Neither of us were fond of the idea of one big cake, as we like lots of different types, and didn’t really want to go in for the formal cutting bit either. Instead we asked a bunch of friends to make some little individual cakes and sweets for us, so that people could help themselves to as much or as little as they liked, and had a choice of different kinds too. The wonderful Brigitte (who, luckily for us happens to be a pastry chef!) made us a whole host of miniature cakes, including some seriously yummy tiny blueberry muffins. Then Hannah P made her famous chocolate covered cinder toffee, which was very popular! Adam’s Mum made a load of her lovely meringues for us, and we also bought some of the incredible chocolate brownies from our local artisan baker, Quotidian. And last, but perhaps my favourite, were Hannah G’s macaroons….she made lots of different flavours for us, in pretty pastel colours to match our decor, and they were divine!

Being fervently British when it comes to the cheese course, I insisted our cheese ‘cake’ was brought out after puddings, although our guests were able to enjoy them alongside each other as they were all set out at the sweet station. We ordered six tiers of cheese from the wonderful people at Liverpool Cheese Company as I’d heard they were pretty good. Their advice and service was impeccable actually, and the cheese itself (including carefully sourced decorations according to our guidelines) was amazing. From bottom (largest) to top (smallest) we chose Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, Snowdonia Extra Mature Cheddar, Delice Cremiers, Cashel Blue, Somerset Camembert and Capricorn Goat’s cheese. Half of these were regular favourites of mine, but it was lovely to have some that were new to me too, especially as the lovely cheese people sent us samples before hand so we could be sure!

DIY Wedding, tiered cheese course cheese cake with flowers and fruit

DIY Wedding, tiered cheese course cheese cake with flowers and fruit

For alongside the cheese, we made a huge batch of sloe port. We’ve been making sloe gin for a few years now, and after the success of the first batch, started to branch out into port, brandy and even chocolate to use up the gin-soaked berries. This was a great accompaniment, as well as the huge stack of bread we also bought in from Quotidian….although disaster nearly struck when we forgot to collect it all earlier in the day! The shop has usually sold out of bread and so closes by noon, but at 5pm Adam realised we’d forgotten to pop round there, and so we panicked! He decided to try our luck by running round there though (all in his wedding suit finery!) and the lovely owners had left a note on their door to tell us they’d left our order with the bike shop next door! We couldn’t believe our luck, although poor Adam then had a huge, heavy box of baked goods to carry back to the venue! Thankfully Hitchin is pretty small though, and so nobody had to go without bread to put their cheese on!

We sent our guests home with party bags filled with sweets too, and so all in all I think everyone was pretty well fed! We had LOTS of cake and cheese, and even a little bread left over (as well as a huge amount of booze!), but we made a good dent in that on the following day when we had a bunch of friends who’d stayed over nearby round in the afternoon. It was lovely to extend the celebrations, and we didn’t really mind having to eat a lot of cheese and cake for several days after!

We really lucked out on all our suppliers…..we took a LONG time to choose our caterers, How Can We Help You, as before Adam found them we’d really struggled to find a company who could offer what we wanted. The format of the menu was really important to us, and many companies didn’t really understand the concept, then we had to insist that all the meat and dairy were organic too, because of our feelings about animal welfare. They really did do everything that we asked though, and nothing was too much trouble…even when I was being picky about the size of forks, the texture of the sugar snap peas and the order things appeared on the plate…I for one was a very tough client, but they really did meet all our expectations.

Our bar team and mixologists, Liquid Chefs, I’d actually worked with before, so I knew how great they are. It was great to be the end client though this time, rather than hiring them on my client’s behalf, so we very much enjoyed choosing what *we* wanted (not to mention trying out all manner of different options first!).

Thinking about it all is making me rather hungry and thirsty….and keen to do it all again, actually! I’ll have to make do with a sandwich though, so off to the kitchen I go!

Ems x

Foodie Friday: Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake Recipe

One of the big benefits of our recent move has been our proximity to Costco. I know. What a loser. But I’m totally in love with the place. I love wandering around seeing what totally random things they’re selling (a hot tub, a wooden castle, multi packs of Sharpies, TVs bigger than a car….) and honing in on the bargains on offer. Their own-brand stuff is just wonderful….the Kirkland maple syrup is some of the best I’ve ever had, and their vodka is terrific!

They also have some really great organic and whole-food offerings now too, and we’re now getting all our pasta there as well as buying organic virgin coconut oil in bulk. Whilst wandering the aisles there recently we came across a bumper pack of organic coconut flour. Noticing that it’s gluten free and you can use it as a substitute for regular flour, we thought we’d give it a whirl.

Apparently, coconut flour is one of the healthiest available…. because it’s not grain-based like most flour, it is non-inflammatory like those which contain gluten, and is also very low in carbs. The fats are of the more healthy kind (as with coconut oil they are primarily medium-chain saturated fatty acids or ‘MCTs’) and have been shown to improve metabolism, being used up for energy, not stored in fatty tissue. It is also high in fibre, which helps fill you up!

Whilst looking up what we could do with our coconut flour, we found that a little goes a long way….you can’t use it as a straight substitute for regular flour for this reason, and it also requires more liquid. There are however lots of great recipes out there, especially for cakes and breads….and why not use it to make a more-healthy-than-usual treat?!

As we were off to a friend’s birthday party around the time we bought the flour, and especially as that friend is wheat intolerant, we decided to bake her a birthday chocolate cake! We scoped out some recipes, and actually baked the cake a second time to perfect this recipe. I’m pretty pleased with it now though, and as it’s made up of ingredients we tend to always have in, I know that it will be a bit of a staple when a baking session is in order!

The texture of the cake is very even….nicely moist but also solid enough to comfortably eat a slice without necessarily needing a plate and fork. Initially it wasn’t sweet enough for me, which is why I tweaked the recipe….now though it is wonderfully velvety and chocolatey, not too sickly but also very satisfying. Especially when you consider it’s so quick and easy to make, plus low in carbs and naughty sugars!

Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake Recipe by Under A Glass Sky


30g good quality cocoa
35g coconut flour (ours is made by Nutiva)
7g baking powder (gluten free if you’re gluten intolerant)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
4  free range eggs
3 tablespoons organic honey
3 tablespoons grade A maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60ml melted virgin coconut oil

For the icing:

approx. 5 tablespoons softened virgin coconut oil
approx. 3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
approx. 2 tablespoons organic honey
approx. 2 tablespoons grade A maple syrup

Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake Recipe by Under A Glass Sky

 How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 c and grease and line a 15cm diameter baking tin
  2. Mix together the cocoa (which you may need to sift), coconut flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
  3. Fold in the eggs, honey, vanilla and oil
  4. Mix well until smooth….you will find it takes on an almost mousse-like texture
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack whilst you make the icing
  7. Combine the oil, cocoa, honey and maple syrup using a metal spoon
  8. Depending on the temperature (coconut oil has a very high melting temperature) you may find you want to add more oil or cocoa, and you can also add more honey or syrup to taste, depending on how sweet a tooth you have
  9. You can pop the icing in the fridge to cool it down if it’s too runny, or warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds if it’s too hard….then once you have it to a nice soft fudgey consistency, cut the cake in half horizontally and sandwich together the two parts with icing
  10. Then just use the rest of the icing to coat the assembled cake (it’s so quick and easy to make that you can always make a bit more if you run out), slice and enjoy!

Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake Recipe by Under A Glass Sky

I bet this cake would work wonderfully with some raspberries and creme fraiche or yoghurt, although we very much enjoyed it on its own. The icing is pretty handy to make a nice chocolate fudge sauce for ice cream or whatever too, as you can make it all runny and gooey by heating it up.

Next I plan to try a banana bread with the coconut flour….I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on!

Ems x

Meat Free Week

As you’ve probably seen on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere already, this week is Meat Free Week! The global campaign is challenging us all to give up meat for the week, to get us thinking about how much meat we eat, and the impact of that on our health, the environment and animal welfare. It’s not just about red meat (beef, lamb and pork), but all meat, including poultry, processed meat (like ham, bacon, salami and packaged sandwich meats), fish and seafood.

Going meat free for one week is a really positive step for anyone; The hope being that for the other 51 weeks of the year you’ll consider eating smaller portions or fewer meat-based meals as part of a balanced diet, and also ensure that the meat, fish, eggs or poultry you eat is ethically and sustainably produced. I’ve written about my feelings on meat-eating before, and because this means I eat very little meat (those ‘meat-free mondays’ actually work better in opposite in our house as we’re only really likely to eat meat once a week!) I suppose this week will be relatively easy for me.

And that’s why I thought I’d share a load of recipes to encourage you to take part, and to show you how easy it is to eat meat free….really well! I adore my food, and I love meat and fish and all the rest, but because I am now very picky about these (in terms of welfare mostly) the increased cost means that it’s more of a treat than a staple. I’m sure that this has benefitted my health which is of course a bonus too.

Anyway, for our main meal today (we have this at lunch time, with a lighter supper later) I made a super delicious dish that took only ten minutes and didn’t require any special ingredients at all (in fact, all stuff we had in the fridge already). I cut a courgette into small cubes, and finely chopped up a small white onion (both from our excellent organic veg box from a local farm), frying them both in a knob of butter until soft and golden.

I then whipped up a simple four cheese sauce, by melting another knob of butter in a pan and adding a small carton of organic single cream. I grated in some of the AMAZING smoked Mrs Kirkham’s Lanchashire I bought at a farm shop recently, some organic mature cheddar, organic parmesan, and a little left over goats cheese that needed using up. Once that was all nice and melty, I thickened with a little sauce flour and cooked some fresh gnocchi in a second pan. Then it was just a case of combining the veg, cheese sauce and gnocchi…serving it up and scoffing the lot! SO quick and easy…..very satisying….and of course, meat free!

Well hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetite, and perhaps you’d also like to try some of these recipes to enjoy a week of meat free meals…..

I hope that gives you some inspiration to go meat free for the week….if you’d like any more ideas or advice please do leave a comment as I’d love to encourage anyone to join in!

You can sign up to the campaign here….. Good luck, and enjoy!

Ems x

British Pie Week, and my regular Friday Pie-day!

I never needed an excuse to eat pie. I’ve loved pie since very young, and I have fond memories of burning my tongue on scalding hot pie filling erupting from freshly made Wrights Pies (a delicacy of my native Stoke on Trent!). My all time favourite dish my Mummy cooks is her incredible mince meat pie and onion gravy….one day I will perfect it!

But in case unlike me you need an excuse, or perhaps the humble pie isn’t something you often opt for (I won’t hold it against you, promise), you may be interested to hear that we are currently in the middle of British Pie Week! Conceived to share the pie love, promote this wonderful British dish and to show people new and wonderful recipes, Pie Week is a perfect time to indulge in something yummy and pastry-encrusted!

Now we have a bit of a tradition in our house…..Friday Pie-day! Whilst we sometimes swap out for Fish Friday, we very often like to scoff a home made pie on a Friday….a sort of ‘you made it through the week!’ treat, and a way to use up whatever ingredients we may have languishing at the back of the fridge to boot!

For me, pie is best served with a creamy mash, but gravy is an absolute MUST (another Potteries, or perhaps Midlands thing I think!). But beyond that, anything goes in my book! I often use up the end of a ham in a pie with cheese sauce and leeks….I adore a fish pie….and anything with a mashed potato topping is a grand idea as far as I’m concerned (cottage pie and shepherds pie feature heavily).

We’ve recently taken up a new organic vegetable box subscription though, from nearby St Helen’s Farm in Tadcaster, and so this week I’ve had some squash that I need to use up. I visited Fodder in Harrogate yesterday and came away with a log of Yellison Goats Cheese which is also made nearby in Skipton. So along with some other things I needed to use up, I made up a tasty pie filling in a rich tomato-based sauce.

It always feels quite rewarding to home-make a pie, but it’s really the easiest thing. I like making pies when we have guests as I can pre-prepare the filling, then clean up before finishing them off in the oven once our guests arrive.

For this pie I simply peeled and cubed the squash, and roasted it in the oven until soft. Then I fried up some onion and garlic, followed by sliced fennel and spring greens. Oh and some chick peas left over from a salad earlier in the week. Next I added a tin of chopped tomatoes (the fresh ones we got in our box are long gone!) to the whole lot, seasoned well and reduced slightly before spooning into pie dishes, crumbling in some of the cheese and topping with puff pastry. Lush!

Ems x

Foody Friday: Church Farm Ardeley and the Jolly Waggoner

A few months ago, on a drive into the countryside to visit friends, we passed Church Farm in Ardeley and our attention was grabbed….. a mixed, ecological farm, producing the widest range of meat, fruit and vegetables, Church Farm also serve fresh food from the farm at the Farm Butchery & Store, Farm Cafe and Jolly Waggoner Pub. We made a quick stop on our way back to explore the lovely little farm shop, buying up some amazing fresh eggs and other bits, and made a mental note to find out more about the place once back at home.

And we were so delighted we did! We soon discovered we could get a weekly delivery of vegetables from the farm and quickly placed our order….we now look forward to each delivery of amazingly fresh and carefully grown veg, not to mention cooking it and eating it! The produce tastes like things used to in my opinion….carrots have that wonderfully sweet and earthy fragrance, and cauliflowers have that great peppery taste. We used to have an Able and Cole box whilst we lived in London, but are finding the Church Farm box much more home-grown and honest, and it’s wonderful to know our food has barely travelled!

And it doesn’t end with the veggie stuff…. The free range livestock (and subsequent produce!) ticks all the boxes for us….They keep their animals in small extensive herds & flocks, using older slower growing traditional breeds to produce the best meat from healthy, happy animals. You can visit the animals to see for yourself, and the farm was set up with the advice and help of some of the UK’s foremost farm animal welfare experts.

“All the animals are kept extensively and allowed to mature before slaughter. All animals can and are seen everyday by our farmers, co-farmers, and visitors. Our mortality rates are very low and our animals live on average twice as long as those in more intensive farm systems. We have a fully qualified on-site vet and call upon the RVC/Westpoint vet partnership for support where needed. The only way we differ from the Soil Association husbandry guides for all species (the highest welfare standards in the UK) is that we buy local straw and silage feed from local farms which are not organic.”

Well how could we resist?! As a treat to ourselves then earlier this week, we visited the charming pub opposite the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, to sample some of the farm’s other produce. The menu totally spoiled us, with stacks of us-friendly meat choices, as well as several very tempting veggie options. Adam and I both opted for the lamb though, his Dad the fish and chips, and his Mum the pork belly. ALL the dishes were amazing! Our lamb was perfectly cooked and accompanied by delicious pommes Anna and a scrummy jus….the pork belly was laden with amazing crackling and the huge battered hake was just perfect.

Prone to temptation as we are, we all went on to relish a pudding of walnut cake with butterscotch sauce….this too was just to die for and left us all very jolly and contented indeed! They serve real ales too, with a selection of guest ales from local breweries, and the wine list is pretty impressive too. We are sure to be back in search of a Sunday Roast!

Church Farm also boasts a woodland play area, walking trails, tea rooms and a campsite! All in all, seriosuly worth a visit!

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: What’s in your fridge?

“Describe and/or photograph what is in your fridge right now. Be honest!”

So my fridge contains all the usual things, organic butter, yoghurt and milk; free range eggs; leeks; charlotte carrots; half a butternut squash and some mixers….but rather than share a complete list of all those types of things, I thought I’d write about some of the more ‘special’ things that are in there.

We regularly buy fancy and posh jars of stuff from food festivals, markets and whatnot, and they inevitably hang around in the fridge for ages before we finally get around to finishing them. At the moment we have lots of really yummy jars in the fridge, including but not limited to….

Humbers Homemade Rosemary Jelly….this is made locally to us and you can buy it from local markets as well as delis. It’s lovely to cook sausages in or to serve with lamb!

We found the wonderful Pink’s range of chilli products at the Maltby Street Market whilst we still lived in London, and we just love their Green Chilli Jelly and Smoked Tomato Tapenade. They make great dips or sauces to cook fish with.

There are currently four full jars of Jules & Sharpie jams and jellies in the fridge….we discovered them at the local chilli festival last year and love the Hot Marmalade, Hot Apple & Sage Jelly, Hot Rhubarb & Ginger Jam, and Hot Lime & Green Pepper Jelly. These are lovely along with a cheese board.

Other regulars are Alfez Harissa (which I chuck into tagines and hot sauces) and Thai Taste Green Curry Paste which is a great base for a yummy curry. We also tend to keep in a few nice jams and marmalades, and currently still have a delicious Fig & Walnut Ball homemade by our friend Hannah.

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Food Glorious Food!

“Share your favourite recipe. Talk about the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted. Or maybe share you fave restaurant experience. Lets talking about food!”

Whilst I was tempted to use this opportunity to share a recipe or restaurant recommendation, as I’ve been meaning to write about the way I eat for, like, ever, I thought I really ought to do just that! I touched on this yesterday in my Go Green post, but today I’m going to tell you all about my being (a rather ponsey sounding) Ethicurean.

I’ve always loved my food. I like to eat lots, eat well and then eat more. I used to be fussy as a child but my Mum did spoil me with really good home cooking (her roast dinners and pies are to die for!) but once I moved away from home I got to being more adventurous and now there’s hardly any type of food I won’t eat. If any. And Marmite isn’t a food by the way.

And whilst I toyed with the idea of vegetarianism as a teen, I’ve always happily enjoyed eating meat and animal products. Until about five years ago.

It was a TV show that changed my views on how I ate. Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners on Channel Four, and the associated Chicken Out campaign spearheaded by the marvelous Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, offered an insight into the terrible standards in British chicken farming, and it alarmed me horribly. I very quickly decided that I would only eat free range chicken and free range eggs, as well as avoiding foods with eggs in (later it would become easier to find pasta which uses free range eggs, and when Hellman’s announced all their mayo was going to solely use free range eggs I think I cheered!). I was horrified how chickens were being treated, to get their eggs and to breed for their meat, and I just couldn’t stomach a meal that supported or encouraged that.

The following year there appeared another programme. Jamie was this time going to ‘Save our Bacon’ and in his TV show (also featuring the wonderful Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) he revealed the desperately poor state of pig farming. I was beyond horrified this time. I remember crying and vowing never to eat meat again. I remember the cries and shrieks of pigs being pushed around between vile metal bars, and wondering how any person could do such a thing.

I very quickly went off my food entirely, and gave up meat altogether for a few months. I felt responsible for those poor suffering animals, and ashamed that I had supported an industry that could allow such abhorrent behaviour.

Once I’d had time to absorb all this though, I really did come to the decision that as a human being and born omnivore, I would like to try at eating meat again, and should be able to if I was mindful. Whilst the farming that I’d seen in the programmes disgusted me to the core, I knew that there were farms out there who care about their animals, and I wanted to support them. And at the end of the day, if we were all vegan there would be massive economic ramifications, not to mention a lack of lovely fields filled with sheep and cows and whatnot!

I knew though that if I was going to go back to eating animal products, that I had to be as sure as I possibly could be that I wasn’t eating any of those poorly treated animals. That meant an holistic approach…not just eating whatever free range meat I could find, but also being mindful of all the other animal products hiding in all manner of foods.

I personally don’t see the point in vegetarianism for this reason, unless you’re just veggie because you don’t *like* meat of course! I find pescetarianism even more baffling, not to mention people who call themselves vegetarian and eat fish! I know I won’t make any friends by being this opinionated, but I do feel very strongly about this….if you won’t eat meat because of the impact on animals and their environment, why will you eat animal products (I have known SO many veggies who will eat cheese with rennet, Worcestershire sauce, and sweets containing gelatin!!) that have probably come from just as bad a process of welfare, if not worse?! Loads of things contain animal products, and although it’s a bit of a minefield, I have certainly been able to adapt very well to this mantra.

The biggest impact it’s had is on the amount of meat I eat. Whilst I do believe humans should eat meat, I don’t believe we need it with every meal! A common excuse I hear for not eating more welfare conscious meat is ‘I can’t afford it.’ My simple answer is ‘eat less meat then’. I manage just fine on one or two meat meals a week (although sometimes less) and so having cut my meat bill in half, I can afford to spend twice as much on the meat I do buy. Simple! There are so many healthy, easy, quick and yummy dishes to make without using meat, so I just don’t buy that particular excuse!

Another big thing is eating out. Whilst ten years or so ago it was quite normal to be vegetarian, I rather feel that it’s gone out of fashion of late! I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve gone somewhere to eat out and been offered only one very poor vegetarian ‘choice’ (it’s not a choice if there’s only one!!). And often the veggie dishes are totally bland, not worth the money and incongruous with the rest of the menu…I feel like there ought to be a vegetarian and vegan module at catering college as most chefs clearly lack in imagination for such dishes!

And whilst you’d expect by now that lots of restaurants would have taken on board a free range and/or organic animal product policy, even the likes of Jamie Oliver himself seem reluctant to commit! (NB. I can find no evidence that Jamie’s Italian restaurants for example serve free range meat….I have contacted them though to check and will update when I get a response!)

The result of this is that we don’t often eat out, which is a shame as we’d like to support our local restaurants, but when my choices are limited so pitifully and I’m asked to subsidise meat eaters by paying the same for my curry with no meat in it as someone’s exact same curry but packed with lamb, I’m afraid I’d just rather eat at home!

Another thing that’s been tricky is actually knowing when a product meets my decided standards. I’ve spent hours researching all the criteria that give a product free range or organic status, and whilst I can rest relatively easy if something is marked as such, there are so many other confusing labels that it becomes a real pain! Most of our friends and family  know that we eat this way, but unfortunately they are very often taken in by the sneaky marketing the supermarkets have come up with to make people feel better about buying certain things, whilst still remaining competitively priced.

I am often told (when I ask politely in a restaurant if the dish is free range and/or organic) ‘yes, it’s British’. ‘Aaaand???’ I’ll say….that’s just where it comes from!!! Unfortunately ‘British’ doesn’t mean the same as free range or organic…and neither does ‘Freedom Foods’, ‘RSPCA Monitored’, ‘Red Tractor’, ‘Outdoor Bred’ or ‘Outdoor Reared’. And whilst Waitrose and Sainsburys are fairly good, just buying any meat from them doesn’t mean it’s free range either! I’m often unsure as to whether I’m more cross with people for being sucked in by these labels (if it was Organic, don’t you just think they’d call it that rather than coming up with a new name for it?!) or with the people who make them up to try and fool us. Either way, I would certainly welcome some legislation to stop this misleading rubbish!

Probably the best impact this has had on me though is my health. Too much meat isn’t good for you, and ensuring you have a well balanced diet (which I’m now more mindful of) is the best anyone can really be expected to do for themselves. Because I have to think about all animal products, I don’t eat a lot of processed food because I can’t be sure where the animal products in them come from, and we now eat organic dairy products to have the best chance of supporting the right kind of farming in that respect (it’s not all about meat!).

I now appreciate where all my food comes from, I’m knowledgeable about it and I care.

Now you’re either thinking ‘what a goody bloody two shoes’ about here, or ‘she can’t possibly stick to that!’ And you’re possibly right on either count….I do feel a bit smug that I put so much thought into my food, especially because I have given up things that I really love to eat (if someone opened an all free range KFC tomorrow I would eat nothing else for a month…don’t judge me!)….and I don’t want to mislead anyone by claiming that I am 100% virtuous. I do slip up from time to time, eating sweets offered to me without checking what’s in them, and allowing myself a little leeway when on holiday for example. I’m no Saint, but I do try bally hard!

I hope I’ve not come across as too aggressive in this…I’m aware this is not my usual happy post about bunting or glittery shoes…but I do feel extremely passionately about animal welfare and I’ve been very glad to have this push to finally get me to talk about it!

Now, at risk of tipping over the aggressive line, I’m going to share a video that I personally think it’s important for anyone who eats non-free range meat to watch, in order to understand where their food can come from. I can appreciate that this is very extreme and that it will more than likely upset people, but I just feel that one shouldn’t eat something they don’t know the possible origins of. Needless to say, this comes with a personal warning and I’d ask anyone particularly sensitive or anyone vegan not to watch it. I’m not sharing this because I want to upset anyone or preach to them. That said, I think it’s jolly important that such reports are made and that people are aware:

Ems x

Vienna: Eats

Whilst I’ve never actually *chosen* a holiday destination based on the food I’d expect to get there, food is often the first thing that makes me fall in love with a place. And Vienna will certainly be remembered as one of my favourite cities for that very reason!

We were so impressed by the meals we had on our little city break there last October, whether it was in a traditional restaurant, a quirky canteen or from an outdoor vendor. The biggest benefit for us was that so much of the meat there is Organic…..Adam and I only eat free range meat, so eating out is often a bit tricky for us, although we do allow ourselves a little more freedom whilst on holidays. It wasn’t just the meat that impressed us though….everything we ate was of such high quality, served with a smile (not to mention a great deal of patience with my poor German-speaking-ordering!) and I’d definitely say the food was a highlight of our trip!

To that end, I thought I’d share with you some of the places we most enjoyed eating whilst in Vienna….I hope you’ll want to try them if you’re ever there!

One of our most memorable meals was the incredible lunch buffet at Brandauer’s Schlossbrau. A grand ‘beer hall’ (and huge beer garden in the warmer months!) set inside one of Vienna’s last Biedermeier dance halls, this place feels both fancy and informal, with dozens of tables all over the former dance floor and even on the old velvet-draped stage. There is a wonderful beer selection (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one I had, but it was the waitress’ recommendation and very yummy!) as well as an incredibly good value all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Never one to turn down such a challenge, I relished the chance to try all the different traditional Austrian dishes, and I would heartily recommend doing so yourself, especially for the bargainous price of €7.50 (Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 3pm). I devoured three plates full, including an amazing potato soup, sauerkraut, schnitzel and goulash. I can imagine it pays to get there early during the summer months, especially if you’d like a pretty table outside under a chestnut tree, but it’s certainly an excellent place to visit if you’re going to see the nearby Schloss Shonbrunn…..Get the U4 to Shonbrunn (just about half a dozen stops from Karlsplatz going towards Hutteldorf) and visit the Schloss in the morning, and then walk off your big lunch around the Schloss grounds, zoo and very good copy of Kew!

I love a foody market, so Vienna’s Naschmarkt was a must for our trip. The Borough Market sized treasure is a few minutes’ walk from the centre (about ten minutes from the opera house and just over the road from the stunning Secession gallery) and is crammed with cute wooden stalls bursting with fresh produce. There are a good few sit-in restaurants and cafes there, but you’ll possibly be even more tempted to buy up lots of treats from the various stalls.

And still on markets, I couldn’t resist raving about the famous Viennese Christmas markets, which provided me with some of my favourite meals during our trip! There are a number of wonderful traditional dishes available at the various Chistkindlmarkts, and all of the ones I tried were AMAZING! I adored the savoury Pretzels and Langos (huge deep fried bread smothered in garlic sauce), but most of all the incredible Kartoffelpuffer (a sort of giant hash brown brushed with a yummy garlic sauce). We also enjoyed some amazing sweet things, like Lebkuchen (gingerbread biscuits), Maroni (roasted chestnuts),  and the yummy marshmallow-filled pastry rolls (can’t remember the name, but it was like the Hungarian Chimney Cakes, only filled like a Tunnocks Tea Cake!) as well as several mugs of the glorious Gluhwein (mulled wine). The biggest market is the one in front of the Rathaus, but you’ll find Christkindlmarkts all over the city from November onwards.

Still outdoors, I just have to share in the joy of the amazing Bitzinger Wurstelstand. You can find this gem right behind the iconic Staatsoper opera house, just around the corner from the famous Cafe Sacher. Famous in its own right, this sausage stand is often frequented by smart businessmen on their way home, as well as glamourously dressed opera-goers, all yumming up the no-frills offerings. There’s a good range of different sausages, sauces, breads and sides, and I just loved standing at the tall table integrated into the stand, underneath their heat lamp. This is how fast food should be!

Lastly, and probably our best meal whilst in Vienna, I can’t recommend enough the delicious offerings at Shone Perle. It’s a bit of a jaunt out of the main hub (nearest U-bahn station is Taborstrasse on U2), but this all-orgainc canteen style Neo-Beisl serves the most amazing food and is well worth the trip. I chose the Wiener Schnitzel (massive favourite of mine) which came with yummy potato salad, whilst Adam had the incredible Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) which came along with a sort of giant potato rosti. Both dishes were accompanied with lovely sauces and sides, and we were delighted with the Austrian wines we chose too. I’d happily take the trip back here at the first chance….whilst the place isn’t fancy or terribly convenient to the main tourist attractions, I’d say you can’t beat it for quality and value.


Ems x