Gluten Free Honeycakes

I’ve pretty much abandoned the recipe blog these days, so this can go here.

Preheat the oven to about 160c

Grease three loaf tins or theoretically a bundt tin if you’ve got one.

Make the things:

In a small jug, mix: A fresh cup of coffee, 1 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium bowl, mix: 2.5 cups gluten-free flour, 2tsp baking powder if your GF flour isn’t self-raising, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 of each of ginger and nutmeg. The latter will mostly get drowned by the honey, so more if you like nutmeg.

In a large bowl (or your mixer’s bowl if you’ve got one) add: A couple of eggs, a cup and a half of sugar (I use 2:1 ratio of white to brown sugar), 3/4 cup of oil (Fancy tasty oil if you like, or just sunflower oil or something), a cup of honey (and some more for luck), half a lemon of juice. Beat this up until it’s smooth.

A mixer mixing mixily

This bit’s easier if you’ve got a mixer: add some of the coffee mix to the liquid mix, beat it until integrated, then add some of the flour mix, and alternate each until you run out and it’s all one colour. Slowly does it, this doesn’t need airing. It’ll come out as an unattractive sloppy liquid.

Pour into the tin/s, put into the oven for an hour or so, then test every ten minutes until a sharp knife or skewer comes out of the middle clean.

After cooling, dust with some icing sugar to make it look pretty, because the extra sugar’s not going to matter at this stage. If you feel the need to frost or sandwich-cake it, you’ll want a slightly less sweet frosting mix. More carrot-cake style than victoria sponge.

How this works depends a lot on the honey, I find a less sweet honey works really well (it’s got enough sugar that it’s still going to hit the sweetness either way), but it’s quite easy to tilt it towards a more honey-gingerbread which works really well too. It’s not a pedantic recipe, and you can fiddle with the core concepts a lot before you’ll get something that doesn’t work as a cake. My electric fan oven reliably does three loaf tins in an hour, but previous ovens have taken nearly two with juggling of positioning of each loaf tin. Milage will vary.




Bath of Beer 2: FOOM.

It’s just over a year since the last experiment with making Porter resulted in an “over lively” beer that fountained over the top a bit.

Over the last couple of months, I decided to retry this experiment. I bought a kit for “Pernickety Porter” and something else from Brew Craft Beer, with the intention of playing with this one and then some kind of photo-essay review of the other one. When it came to the bottling of the beer, I happened to have made some simple syrup (for cocktails and coffee) that morning, so instead of the weak sugar solution, I used that.

This, it turns out, wasn’t my greatest idea ever. The first glass I tried this evening, I opened the bottle over the sink, because occasionally I learn from my mistakes. It bubbled over a bit… well, a lot… and I ended up with a half-litre glass like this out of a 330ml bottle:

Funny. Ha ha. So I waited for the bubbles to go down, got most of the bottle of beer into the glass, and thought “What would be funny is if I took a video of opening the bottle, with the bottle in the glass, so it fills up the glass, and I can make a joke about the world’s first self-pouring beer!”

Nah. Not so much.

Second bottle, followed by second bottle in full “oh fuck” x8 slow motion:

Now, of course, I had one bottle that fizzed a bit, and another that did the volcano thing. What this required was SCIENCE. So, science. Note, under “sometimes I learn from my mistakes” above, the new addition to my method: Experiment is now done in a baking tray with a teatowel underneath it.

This weekend, I’m going to attempt the Grubby Teapot Brown Ale from the same place.

This time, I think I’ll follow the recipe more carefully.

Now, however, I need to clean the kitchen floor a bit.

food Personal

The saga of Aquarion and the second bath of beer.

The title is not a typo.

As part of my attempt to vary the kinds of geek that I am, I’ve taken up Interesting Alcohol. I’ve been playing with vodka infusions for a while, mostly to delight and disturb fellow larpers, and coffee/rum liquors to make you see though time though a sparking haze. But last year I got some home brew equipment and started playing with stuff from the Brooklyn Beer Shop. First their Brewdog-licenced Punk IPA pack, which tasted close enough to the real thing to impress, and latterly with their Chocolate Maple Porter, a beer whose style I’m a fan of. Dutifully I Sanitized, Mashed and Sparged, Boiled, Fermented, Waited, Bottled and Waited a bit more.

Today, we were playing D&D over Google Hangouts, and our characters chanced upon an inn, and ordered some beer. A player needed to take five, so we took a time out, and I – inspired by my character’s actions – decided beer was a fine idea, and got a bottle of the new home-brew. Now, this was not the first bottle I’d opened, and last night’s, while a little lively, mostly lulled me into a false sense of security for what was about to happen:

I have created a beer volcano.

I think I must have oversugared the bottling process a bit, because once the cap was off it leapt half a foot in the air. I tried to get as much in the glass as possible, but in the end my desk was awash, and the floor below a spreading puddle of porter. Thank general deities for laminate floors, is all I can say.

I quit the chat channel – my collegues were tremendously amused – cleaned it up, changed trousers and shirt, and – like an idiot – decided that must have been a fluke and got another bottle from the cupboard.

Being a wiser man, I opened this one carefully over the sink. This helped somewhat, in that most of the beer went down the plughole, but sadly it did so via my shirt, glasses, hair, and also the walls, cupboards ceiling, and yay unto the window beside me.

I gave up and went to get, in short order, a shower, a glasses cloth, a new set of clothes and a moderate glass of whisky.

I’ll deal with the other bottles when I have waterproofs and it’s not raining outside.


Almond “Milk”

In theory, this kind of post is what is for, but in a content drought, spreading around what I _do_ write is probably unwise. So, a food thing.

I like iced-coffee during the summer. Generally I’ve got a bottle of cold-brew in the fridge, and that plus milk and a bit of sugar syrup (generally on hand due to a cocktail habit) makes a nice iced coffee. I’m also generally interested in other food types. I’m not vegan, or vegetarian, or even allergic to anything, but I think that that’s no good reason to ignore “vegan alternatives” in a more omnivorous diet for their own properties and tastes. So since I quite like almonds, I bought almond milk and attempted to use it as a milk alternative, to mixed results.

The store-bought stuff wasn’t “right” in tea (It’s going to take more than a few days to retrain thirty-odd years of tea with skimmed milk, though I trained myself out of sugar in tea to the point where tea and sugar just tastes wrong, so it’s all possible). It was fine with cereal, if a little thin, but worked great in iced-coffee.

Almond milk & cold brew coffee. Groot for scale.
Almond milk & cold brew coffee. Groot for scale.

With a half bag of decaff ground coffee slowly drifting towards its use-by date, I decided to make a batch of cold-brew with it. Using a tip I’d seen online, I bought a nut milk bag for it (it’s quicker and easier than the muslin filters I was using before), which is basically a draw string nylon bag.

Cold Brew Coffee: Twice as much cold water as coffee. In a jug. In the fridge. For a day. Strain, bottle, fridge, drink within a week or so, maybe two. If it’s going to go beyond that, fill an ice-tray with it (ideally plastic rather than silicon) and freeze.

Since I now had a  nut milk bag, it also made sense to attempt to make my own nut milk, if that seemed easy. The bag came with a recipe, which I’ve summarised without adding any more detail than the recipe did:

Almond Milk:You soak some almonds in water for some hours, attack them with a blender and more water, and aggressively filter the mush until it’s mostly dry and you have a small lake of almond milk, which you then bottle and fridge. Lasts a few days.

I soaked the almonds overnight. The soaked almonds killed my (cheap) blender – smoke and electronics, the best combination – but the hand whizzer and some more water made short work of it. Fridged it for a while, then tried. Added a blob of agave nectar to sweeten, and some more fridge time. 500g of almonds made for about 1 litre of “milk”. Works really nicely in iced coffee. And if you have frozen some of the cold-brew from earlier, that would be even more perfect…




Sage Tea Maker

The Sage Tea Maker (image supplied by Sage)
The Sage Tea Maker (image supplied by Sage)

The great and all-powerful rise of the espresso is confusing to me.

I live in a country which has a cultural obsession with tea, where people will wax lyrical about the restorative properties of a cuppa, where it is a symbol of the unbroken british spirit, a place which worships and adores the every concept of tea.

But also a place where you can go to almost any staffed train station in the country and order a half-fat hazelnut soy latte, but not any grade of tea above that sold thirty years ago. Tea bags were, for stations, the last great revolution for tea making, and everything has stuck since then.

So where we need a revolution, we need a revolutionary, but what we get is Heston Blumenthal.

In my tradition of getting over-priced kettles, I asked for a Sage Tea Maker for my birthday (Or, in this modern age, I put it on my Amazon Wishlist) without expecting anyone to actually get me it. My out-laws surprised me slightly by getting it. So, it is this:

It’s a kettle, foremost. You can select water temperature in bands of five degrees, and it’ll boil to there and stop (An improvement on cheaper variable-temperature kettles – including the iKettle – which will repeat the boil-and-test cycle a few times until it gets the temperature right, resulting in taking longer). A Keep Warm function will keep it at the desired temperature, but in general you boil the water and there is boiling water. Very kettle, much boil.

A Drop-Tower ride
A Drop-Tower ride


There’s a kind of fairground ride which seems to be generically known as a Drop Tower, where the customers are slowly raised up in a cage, and then this is “dropped” down a controlled-fall.

In the tea maker, you put the tea in the cage at the top, attach it to the post (which is done with magnets) looking very like a miniaturized chrome drop-tower, and then you turn on the kettle.

Once the water below is bubbling and churning away, the device switches from fairground ride to Bond Villain Trap, as the tea cage is slowly lowered into the choppy, boiling water, to release its life force into the water around it.

“No, Mr Bond, we expect you to steep for 3-5 minutes in boiling freshly-drawn water”

Once the tea has either escaped with a shiny gadget or been boiled until its goodness has been drawn out, the basket is slowly lifted above the water-line, and the tea is ready (Again, a Warm function will keep it at optimal tea temperature for an hour or so after steeping. You can even tell the machine to occasionally dip the basket back in, if you want it to get increasingly strong).

I can’t control it from bed, but I can set it to wake me up with tea in the morning. It’s not great at making tea for one person, but it’s not as if my array of tiny teapots will form a suicide pact because I own it. Plus, it’s a shiny electronic device that works with magnets, what is there not to like?

Well, there’s Heston Blumenthal, I suppose. Here’s him demonstrating how it works:


The last Rolo

So, of the opinion that cooking things was not going to happen this fine winter’s evening, we turned unto the Internet to send us food. Our preferred supplier of local internet foods at the moment is called SZS, and has a new item on the burger menu:

A rolo meal.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, a rolo looks like this:

A rolo and a half

Note that the rolo is not pictured alone. A final rolo contains an important cultural concept that is so sacrosanct, so deeply embedded into our culture, and so pedestalised that it can only be expressed by getting your own solid gold (and thus, inedible) last rolo for £79.99 + P&P.

But in the context of a burger menu, the concept of a rolo, singular, alone, possibly melting forlornly inside a toasted seseme seed bun, seems not to fit. So I want to know what the rolo is.

But, alas, I don’t want to spend £3.99 finding out. So I ordered the chicken burger instead.

food love


This is the second type of tea.

(Shot, Edited and posted using the iPad as an experiement)


Red Chicken

Heat oil, some chop chicken, some garlic, some onion, fry.

Add some random spices to make spicy-fried-chicken base. Realism that the sour cream is more important than you thought. Give up on fajitas.

Turn down heat on flash-fry, find a saucepan and throw together a roux and then a white sauce. Put some water on for rice.

(A few months ago I decided that missing from my basic stock of “things I can cook with my eyes closed” was a white sauce. I know the theory, but I spent a few nights playing until I could produce a servicable white sauce by guesswork and feedback loop. This has served me well)

Add tomato puree, splash of ketchup and a bit of nutmeg for a basic tomato sauce (variant 3 “What do you mean we have no chopped tomato left?”). Combine red sauce with chicken for seven minutes while the rice cooks.



Books food

Pears and Sausages

Lets start with a quote. From the Lies Of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch:

The white-robed boys swept back their hoods and Locke saw that they were twins; perhaps a year or two older than himself, and far sturdier-looking. They had the olive skin and black hair of the true Camorri; their identical long, hook-ended noses, however, were something of an anomaly. Smiling, they joined hands and bowed in unison from the waist.

‘Um, hi,’ Locke said. ‘Which of you is . . . which?’

‘Today, I am Galdo,’ said the one on Locke’s left.

‘Tomorrow, I will probably be Galdo,’ said the other one.

‘Or perhaps we’ll both want to be Calo,’ added the one that had first spoken.

‘In time,’ Father Chains interrupted, ‘you’ll learn to tell them apart by the number of dents I’ve kicked in their respective arses; one of them always manages to be ahead of the other, somehow.’ He stood behind Locke and placed both of his wide, heavy hands on Locke’s shoulders. ‘Idiots, this is Locke Lamora. As you can see, I’ve just bought him from your old benefactor, the master of Shades’ Hill.’

‘We remember you,’ said presumed-Galdo.

‘A Catchfire orphan,’ said presumed-Calo.

‘Father Chains bought us just after you arrived,’ they said in unison, grinning.

‘Knock that bullshit off,’ Father Chains said, his voice somehow regal. ‘You two have just volunteered to cook dinner. Pears and sausage in oil, and a double portion for your new little brother. Get. Locke and I will deal with the kettle.’

That’s what I was reading yesterday, and so, casting around for something to do for dinner today, the quote popped into my head. Pears and sausage in oil.

(If you like the book, you can buy it in most decent book stores. If you’re not quite sure, there’s another 29 and a half pages of the book in extract form on Mr Lynch’s site. I’d highly recommend both the book and the sequel).

Tescos supplied me with some “Cumberland style” sausages and a few pears, edibly ripe.

The frying pan has yet to recover from the weekend, so we won’t be frying them. Pears are quite delicate to the taste, and we want to bring out the flavour rather the bury it, so this is going to end up as simple as possible.

A roasting tin, into which we throw four of the sausages, each sliced into three. The pears are peeled (which is a bastard) sliced and then stripped of the core bits, then thrown in without any more slicing. Olive oil is drizzled over that to help it cook, and Onto that goes a sprinkling of basil with a dash of thyme, ginger, salt (Basil because I like it, thyme because I think it’ll work well with the pear, and a pinch of ginger to add an subliminal edge. The salt helps bring out the flavour too); some sliced tomatoes go over the top because I think that’ll help, and then the whole kit and caboodle gets thrown into the oven for an hour and a half on 150°c while I go attempt to work out why so many people like World of Warcraft.

A while later, I come to the conclusion this isn’t quite enough of a balanced meal, throw some rice on, and serve that lot over it about ten minutes later.

Then I have an idea.


And a small foam axe

On my home from work last week, I went via Asda.

Specifically, I went via Asda to pick up for that evening, milk and bread.

I bought some food for that evening, a George Foreman Grill to replace the broken one my brother bought me for christmas many years ago, Green Apple vodka, coke, lemonade, elixir of holy hand grenade, pizza, duck, pasta, a kitchen timer, a pizza cutter, seven pairs of socks,

and a small foam axe:

Not a coat of arms

I am aware that there is a rule of “Do not go shopping when you are hungry”. I’m pretty sure I need to expand that to “Do not go shopping when you’re distractable” or possibly just “Do not go shopping when you are me”.