Friday, 15 May 2009

Milk Kefir

Just realised I never posted properly about milk kefir. I've been making it for over a year now. I started off just using it in smoothies as it was yeasty and tasted horrible to me. But once the grains settled down they started making a really tasty drink. For information on the wonderful properties of kefir I can highly recommend this epic website. I can't think there can be any questions about kefir not addressed there somewhere!

To make kefir you just add some grains to some milk and leave them alone at room temperature. The time taken to turn the milk into kefir depends on how many grains you have, the temperature and how much milk they are in. The kefir is done when the milk starts to coagulate. You can then strain out the grains and either drink the kefir straight away, or put in a clean jar to further ripen (for more info see website linked above).

Apple juice kefir

Sadly the almond milk kefir was a bust. So I tried out apple juice kefir instead and boy#1 has declared it delicious. I agree - not as sweet as apple juice (which I find too sweet) and slightly acid and fizzy. A great replacement for Appletizer (which I have a serious weakness for!) and a strong probiotic to boot. Instructions are again fantastically easy to follow.

1 cup apple juice
kefir grains

Rinse the grains thoroughly in filtered water to remove all traces of milk. You might want to make a couple of batches in juice before trying it out with dairy sensitive folk (who may still react but many don't apparently so it could be worth a try). Add the grains to the juice in a clean jar and leave in a cupboard overnight. Strain out the grains. You can either drink the kefir now, or put into a jar and refrigerate. I did this for a few hours and it made the drink fizzier.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


I love lacto-fermented sauerkraut. It is so easy to make the real deal and it has so many health benefits. When I first started making it I used 1.5 litre jars. But now I have found a big ceramic pot that works really well. Not perfect - it has a lip that means I can't get a plate in to cover all the vegetables, but it does fine.
I basically follow the instructions here for making it. I chop my cabbage because it is easier than putting it through my decrepit and slightly broken food processor. Then I add lots of grated carrot and thinly sliced onion. Apple is also really nice. When you have your veggies prepared then you need to salt them. Add about 3 tbsp sea salt to 5 lbs veggies. I also like to add a bit of the last batch of sauerkraut to get things started but this isn't necessary. Mix thoroughly and then add to your container. You then need to give them a good bashing, to squash them down tight and to start to break down the cell walls of the veg. I use the end of a rolling pin in jars and my fist in the big pot. Keep pounding until you have all that tension worked out and the veg is tightly packed. Then you need to weigh it down with something. If you have a plate that fits your container then put that in with a jar full of water on top to keep it down. If not, then fill a plastic food bag with water, seal tightly and put on top. Over the next 24 hours keep pressing the veg down as you remember. Water will be drawn out of the veg by the salt slowly. After about 24 hours the veg should be covered. If it isn't then you can add a little more brine - mix a tsp salt in a cup of water and put in enough that the veg is covered. Then leave it to ferment for 1-4 weeks. After the first week then you can start to sample the sauerkraut to see if it is done to your taste. How long it takes really depends on the temperature and how much salt is in there. When it is finished you can store it in the fridge if you have space. If not then put it in a cool place and make sure that the brine is always covering the vegetables after you have taken some out.

Here are two rubbish photos trying to show my arrangement for fermenting sauerkraut. It is a ceramic bread crock from Tesco and a freezer bag full of water on top for a weight. If you are sitting down then have a look at the 'proper' fermenting crocks (click on 'wholesome gadgets' in the link). There - looks a lot less naff when you have seen the price of real ones doesn't it!

Almond milk kefir

Today's kitchen science experiment (and I do lots of these - regular visitors are getting very wary of peering into jars and bowls in my house ;0) ) is almond milk kefir. Normally my kids eat lots of yogurt and take a probiotic to keep them stocked up with good bacteria. Now that my son is off dairy for the time being (at least) I needed to find new sources. Lucky for me he likes sauerkraut, but he isn't going to love it if I feed it to him every day!
I have been making milk kefir for a while and I did know that the grains could be used to make other kefir drinks. But it didn't occur to me to make some for boy#1 until I read this. I'm trying out almond milk kefir first because I think it sounds tasty. If he doesn't like it then I'll use it to make pancakes and try fruit juice kefir. Let's just hope the poor child doesn't mind being experimented on...!

Instructions are the same as for milk kefir - put the liquid to be 'kefired' in a clean jar with the grains, leave for 24 hours, strain out grains and drink. The only big difference is that the grains won't grow in non-dairy milk and will eventually die. So you need to keep some growing in dairy milk to replace them or this will quickly become very expensive!

Almond milk #2

This method isn't much more effort than using ground almonds but it does need starting ahead. I found that it wasn't quite as strongly almond flavoured but was still delicious. And better than milk (and nearly as good as cream) in coffee.

1 pack almonds - either in skins or skinless
warm water
pinch salt
more water, stock or wine

Put the almonds in warm water with a good pinch of sea salt and soak overnight. In the morning drain and rinse them and place in a blender with some more water, or some stock or wine (depending on what you will be using the milk for). Blend into a smooth paste and then dilute to the texture of double cream. Leave to stand for 5 - 10 minutes.
Strain through cloth into a clean jar or jug. You can then use the milk as is or dilute it further, depending on what you are using it for. A thick milk can substitute for cream, and a thinner milk is great over cereal.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Gluten and dairy free stuffing

Stuffing is an important part of Sunday dinners for my kids. In fact if it didn't appear I think I would have a riot on my hands! So I experimented with some gluten and dairy free this week. It came out quite nice - every one liked it.

1 gluten free bread roll (I used a Tesco's multi seeded one)
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried herbs (plain sage or mixed)
stock or water

Grease an oven proof dish. Grate the bread into crumbs. Heat the olive oil and saute the onions until starting to turn golden. In a bowl, beat the egg and then add the onion, breadcrumbs and herbs and a pinch of sea salt. Slowly add some of the stock, stirring until the stuffing mix is moist. Then put into the oven proof dish and bake in the bottom of the oven until cooked through.

Coconut jellies

I made a couple of different jellies for pudding last night and all have been very popular with the kids. I wasn't keen on the chocolate one but it disappeared super fast and my eldest declared it great. I think next time I will try it with melted chocolate and almond milk.

Raspberry coconut jelly
1 tin coconut milk
3 tbsp sugar/sweetener (I used coconut sugar and I bet maple syrup would be great)
1 sachet (10g) unflavoured gelatin
1 cup raspberries (I used some blue berries too)

Heat the coconut milk in a saucepan. Add the gelatin and whisk in until dissolved (don't let the mixture boil). Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree half the berries. Mix the sugar into the milk and then fold in all the berries. Put into glasses or bowls and chill until set.

I got this recipe from here and it uses lime oil and zest which sounds great.

Chocolate jelly
1 tin coconut milk
1 sachet gelatin
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Heat the coconut milk in the saucepan and whisk in the gelatin (as above don't boil!). Allow to cool slightly and then whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. Put into bowls or glasses and chill until set.

Friday, 8 May 2009


I love home made mayonnaise - so creamy and delicious. It isn't that hard to make (despite it's reputation) and the process is like magic - how the glossy and creamy mayo appears from yolks and oil! Plus it makes a great dairy-free butter substitute for my son (we have also been using hummus but I can't see that making a great egg salad).

1 egg yolk
6 fl oz oil (I used a light olive oil but any oil or fat will work - even lard)
pinch salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tsp whey or sauerkraut juice (optional)

Whisk or blend the egg yolk with a pinch of salt. Add a drop of oil and whisk/blend in. Once that is gone then add another drop. Keep adding oil - really slowly - for a few minutes. The mixture should be getting thicker. Add the mustard and lemon juice and whisk in. Then keep adding the oil. As you go on you can start adding the oil a little faster but be patient and don't rush things. If you do add the oil too quickly and the mixture curdles then don't panic. It can be fixed really easily. When no one is looking grab a clean bowl and a new yolk and slowly add the curdled mixture a drop at a time (like you were adding oil). It will come out just as normal. You can also get creative and add things like garlic, chopped herbs and spices to make flavoured mayonnaise's. They will keep for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

* If you can tolerate dairy then you can also add a tsp of whey to the mixture. Then if you leave it to stand for 7 hours at room temp before refrigerating you get a probiotic mayonnaise which will be a little thicker and last longer. If dairy is a problem then you can substitute sauerkraut juice to the same effect.

Almond milk #1

I made this milk today and it is sooo tasty! Sweet and almondy and super easy. It tastes great on cereal and can be used in cooking. I will be trying making milk with soaked almonds at the weekend but I had some ground almonds around and wanted to see if my son liked the milk.

Makes 1 cup
2 oz ground almonds
8 fl oz boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the ground almonds and leave to stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a sieve or in a muslin bag. Alternatively blend until all the almond is combined.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Dairy and Gluten free waffles

These turn out really nice. Sweet all by themselves and very kid friendly. They don't get really crispy and they are prone to catching a little from the sugars in the apple juice so turn your waffle maker right down.

1 cup grain of your choice (I used rice but any grain will do)
1 1/4 cup apple juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg
pinch salt
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp coconut oil (or any other fat you like to use)

Put the grain, apple juice and vinegar into a blender and blend for a few minutes until smooth. Leave to soak for 12 - 24 hours (you can skip this if you like but it helps to release more of the nutrients in the grain and make it more digestible). Add the rest of the ingredients and blend smooth again. Cook in a waffle iron. If you don't have a waffle iron then you can cook these as griddle scones (Scotch or American pancakes) - just reduce the apple juice to 1 cup.

Gluten and dairy free chocolate muffins

We are trying out a gluten, dairy and soy free diet out with my eldest at the moment and I wanted to make him a treat to start it off. They worked well - very tasty and with a pretty good texture. And very popular with the kids!

4 1/2 oz gluten free flour mix (I used Dove farm's)
pinch salt
1/2 tbsp gluten free baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 oz sugar (I used coconut sugar but any would do)
1 egg
3 fl oz oil (I like coconut oil for this)
4 fl oz apple juice

Preheat oven to 325 oF/190 oC/ gm5. Place the egg, oil and apple juice in a bowl and whisk together. Sift the other ingredients on top and mix together. Put into muffin tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.