Experimenting with Food Substitutes

Recently there has been a few changes in regards to diet in our household. Alongside my father being warned he was at risk for diabetes and therefore should be avoiding sugar and too many carbohydrates, dear Bear has been to an allergy specialist and been found to be anti-cow-dairy, and anti-caffeine. This doesn’t include my poor sister whose test came back with a list including (but not only) citrus, cow-dairy, tomatoes and peppers – for which I am hoping to come up with some tasty recipes soon.

This wouldn’t be too much of a big deal if all sorts of foods didn’t add cow-product into their foods for no good reason, or if Bear wasn’t a big fan of cheese, or if chocolate didn’t have caffeine in it.

But all those things are true and hence cooking has needed a little more fore-thought, especially desserts. Whereas I could make dairy-free brownies for someone and replace the sugar with natural sweetener, but cocoa is pretty hard to substitute in brownies..

So today I decided to experiment with Apple Crumble. I needed to replace the butter with a goat’s variety, and add enough natural sweetness to balance out the lack of sugar. My solution and a possible experiment was the use of stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener take from a leaf and it is gaining popularity especially with those not wanting to lose every sweet delicious moment from their lives when health calls for a lack of sugar in their lives.

I made a crumble mix in the normal way you would but using goats’ butter and then added porridge oats, as well as a seed and nut mix. These, as well as producing a yummy texture to the crumble, also bring their own sweetness which means you save a few spoonfuls of sugar. When it came to the apples, I also used normal apples rather than attempting to add sweetness to cooking apples, and then gave it a light sprinkling of stevia over the top. In retrospect I may have added a little more but the boys seemed to think it was perfect – maybe I just have a sweeter tooth!

Using soya single cream and/or sheeps milk ice cream also worked well as choices alongside it and everyone seemed pleased with the result. Personally I’m not sure anyone could’ve picked out the differences without me telling them.

I also produced a roast dinner (which crumble was the dessert) and gained inspiration from the Hairy Dieters recipe book for a moisture barrier over chicken. Adding a decent few spoonfuls of soya yoghurt to a bowl I heaped a generous amount of herbs and a little curry powder and created a creamy sauce/paste. This was lathered generously over a chicken and put into the oven to cook. It came out so succulent that even after draining the juices to make a gravy/sauce, the pan was full again once we’d cut into the beautiful soft breast meat. It was great to know that soya yoghurt worked so well in this recipe and we’ll definitely be trying again.

I also created a sauce/gravy by using flour and the cooked chicken juices to create a roux, and then adding goats’ milk before heating gently to gain the right consistency. Bear is not a fan of goats’ milk but in this case loved the sauce and even suggested other uses for it.

I’m beginning to realise that there’s often a trick in experimenting and retrying ingredients. The more I work at it the less it will feel like making alterations and the more it will feel like normal tasty food – which for most people is the main goal.

Next on my list is using quince and/or sour cherries as a substitute for citrus, creating tasty varieties of dairy-free, sugar-free welshcakes, and the most recently requested: dairy-free Yorkshire puddings, which I may attempt as desserts as well as a tasty Sunday roast side. Watch this space!

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