Check out these time saving low FODMAP cooking tips with busy mum Laura Stonehouse and discover simple family friendly recipes in her book ‘Our House For Tea’.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How did Laura came across the low FODMAP diet?
- How Laura helps also her young daughter to manage her IBS symptoms.
- What is her Our House For Tea book about?
- Laura’s top 5 Low FODMAP Diet life hacks for busy people.
- How to make low FODMAP tortillas.
- Why does Laura put coconut milk in her pizza base?
- Cooking low FODMAP recipes in the slow cooker.
- How to have convenient and safe food ready in a moment.
- Fantastic recipes for family cooking that are quick and delicious!
- How Laura includes the entire family in the excitement of coming up with delicious recipes for all.
- AND MORE!
LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD THE LOW FODMAP DIET & IBS PODCAST EPISODE 35 HERE
Can’t listen to this episode right now? Read the transcript below!
Hi, and welcome to the Low FODMAP Diet and IBS Podcast. My guest today is Laura Stonehouse. I had the pleasure of having Laura on the podcast just a few months ago. If you remember, she was together with other guests in The Special Holidays Recipes edition of this podcast. I had asked Laura to come back on the podcast because we had so much fun chatting together last time about England. As you may know, I lived in England for about ten years, so it’s like a second home to me. We chatted about Marks & Spencer, about food, about the low FODMAP diet of course, but most importantly, about spiralized vegetables. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to listen to episode #24, and then you’ll understand.
I will let my guest introduce herself properly, but just to let you know, Laura has followed a modified low FODMAP diet since 2012 and she has a blog called Our House for Tea with articles, videos, and recipes, as well as a very beautiful book that is also called Our House for Tea – Real Life Low FODMAP and Free From Family Cookery.
So, here she is… Laura Stonehouse.
LARAH: Hi Laura.
LAURA: Hello, Larah. Listen, I’ve got a quick update on the spiralized veg situation. I don’t know if you know, but there was a bit of a vegetable shortage here at the beginning of the year. It meant that we didn’t have any courgettes for about two months. You can imagine what that did to me!
LARAH: I know. I can imagine. It’s tragic!
LAURA: We’re back with courgettes again now!
LARAH: So, you didn’t have the spiralized version, or the normal version — the whole zucchini — the whole courgettes.
LAURA: No. There were just loads of empty baskets in the supermarket. We didn’t have any spinach, either, for quite a while, which as a low FODMAPer, you can understand my plight.
LARAH: Yes. They could have gotten rid of, let’s say, cauliflower, for example, because we can’t have cauliflower.
LAURA: Yes, we had tons of cauliflower. It’s a great British vegetable — tons of cauliflower, tons of swede, tons of parsnips. But, yeah, very little of the low FODMAP foods for us.
LARAH: Ah….I feel sorry for you guys, really. You’re so short in the vegetables and fruits department and you have to depend so much on other countries to give them to you.
LAURA: Ah…bless us.
LARAH: All right…all is good then. I’m glad that the courgettes came back.
LAURA: Yes. we’re back on all four vegetable cylinders again.
LARAH: That’s awesome. All right, for those of you who haven’t heard that episode back in December and haven’t heard your story, would you mind just explaining again who you are and how you came across the low FODMAP diet?
LAURA: Well, I started in 2012. I’ve had IBS all my life, mainly constipation — mainly feeling so bloated and couldn’t work out why I was so much bigger than my weight, if that makes sense. I’d had years of people telling me to just eat more fibre and eat more broccoli and things like that. Eventually, I was very lucky that my GP sent me to a dietitian who had just been on a course about the low FODMAP diet and asked if I’d like to go on the King’s College trial. It worked immediately for me and my life just changed overnight, it felt like. All this sort of bulk and bloating sort of dropped away. And then, a few months afterwards, I noticed that my daughter had the same problem. She was only very little at the time, and she said something to me that really chilled me. She said, “There’s something in my tummy that makes me feel naughty.” And I thought, “Oh, yes, I remember that feeling from being little. I remember that feeling.” It was actually that your tummy was causing so many problems and you didn’t know how to react to that. It just seemed to be naughty.
Anyway, I took her to the dietitian, who also agreed that it did seem very alike to what I had. Her little life has changed as well. Now she’s very regular, bless her. She’s a much a happier little girl. So we’ve been ‘low FODMAPing’ it for quite some time now. It’s become a way of life, really. I mean, we still have to do the reintroduction because that’s what we have to do. And it’s very difficult doing the reintroduction when you’re giving your little daughter, who’s perfectly happy, something that you think might hurt her tummy a little. But you just have to be very Mary Poppins about the whole thing: “Isn’t this great? Isn’t this fun? We’re going to try this,” and then just carry on being very cheerful about it. And then, poor little love has got a tummy ache.
On the whole, it’s a very good thing for us. So that’s how it led to low FODMAP. I started the Our House for Tea blog in 2013, I think it was, and it’s basically the realities of the low FODMAP diet and how we cope — what we actually have at our house for tea every night and the recipes for it. But it’s very real life and very family oriented. And then I wrote a book because I don’t like to do things by halves. It’s a recipe book also called Our House for Tea.
In Britain, you have tea in the northern sense, which is the meal you have in the evening. It’s not all dainty sandwiches and dainty cakes, it’s your evening meal, basically. And you always have friends. So, yeah, everyone’s welcome at our house for tea. We can serve all sorts of freaky eaters.
LARAH: That’s so funny. So at what time would you have tea at your house. About 5:00?
LAURA: Um…yes, but it has been shifting a bit later as the children’s activities have been shifting slightly later. So, tea is now around half five in our house, but depending on whether we have dance, or cubs, or scouts, or brownies, or etc. etc. It’s just trying to get them fed before I have to take them to the next thing. I’m sure you can relate to that one…a grown up taxi.
LARAH: Totally, yes. For all the listeners out in the UK, remember, tea time at Laura’s house is at 5:30, so just knock on the door. I will put the details on my blog.????
LAURA: Yes, anyone can turn up. I’m sure I’ll find something in the cupboards or in the freezer.????
LARAH: Especially if you suffer from IBS or anything else that requires a particular diet, Laura would be thrilled to cook for you.????
LAURA: Family is really important for me, from the children’s point of view, that the food looked like what everyone else had. They actually don’t want to be singled out as having strange food, so it was always important to me that I made food that looked like what everyone else was eating and tasted like what everyone else was eating. It’s just that it didn’t make myself or Eliza ill.
My son and my husband, they’ve got the constitution of an ox, and I will make them high FODMAP foods, obviously. It’s not so barred, but for the main part, our tea times are usually low FODMAP.
LARAH: Yeah, and that’s exactly what happens in my house as well. When they have their lunches, yes, they can have high FODMAP food. If I cook dinner for the family, then I just make some adjustments, so it’s suitable for me as well.
LAURA: Yeah, it’s all about managing things in real life because with the best will in the world, you can’t do everything from scratch every night without losing your mind. I also can’t bear the thought of us all having to have different meals as well. We should all be eating the same I feel. So it’s a real life way of managing that situation.
LARAH: Yes, absolutely. In talking about your book, I have it in my hand and it’s a really good book. Just before getting on Skype with you, I was looking through it and it has so many recipes and the pictures are beautiful.
LAURA: Thank you.
LARAH: You’re welcome. It’s really beautiful. Just talking about your book, and, of course, there are lots of different recipes that you are trying to make suitable for everyone, but also, as you said, not completely different from everyday food that every family has.
I know that you have some cooking shortcuts to make quick and easy recipes. Could you share your top 5 low FODMAP life hacks for busy cooks, please?
LAURA: I would never, never, never make one meal at one time if you have the opportunity to make two or three meals because that’s another night you don’t have to cook. I will always, always double my recipe.
And, this sounds bizarre — we actually got rid of our tumble dryer last year because we’ve got another freezer instead in the space. We haven’t got a big house, but we actually got another freezer, which is just invaluable, really. Everything is portioned up so I can defrost it, as I need it, for however many people are going to be eating. I can’t tell you how important it is to have food in the freezer. It’s just knowing that if you’ve been at work and you come home and know there’s food everybody can eat without making anyone ill afterwards. So, yes, make friends with your freezer. That’s my top tip, actually.
LARAH: Would you freeze like, let’s say, a sauce? And then you would cook whatever goes with that sauce fresh, or would you cook the whole meal and then put it in the freezer for later on?
LAURA: I think the lesson from this is that there are very few things that I won’t freeze. If it was a pasta sauce, I would generally cook the pasta separately. But having said that, if I have leftover pasta and sauce to go with it, then I will basically a ready meal. That’s really useful for occasions where just one person, perhaps, needs to eat and leave.
Sauces I’ll always freeze because I make double. The green cheese sauce, for example, that’s always in portion in the freezer because you can use it with anything. You can put it on pasta or on a jacked potato with your choice of protein on the side.
Yeah, there are very few things I won’t freeze, so that’s my top tip. But you do have to — a quick health and safety note — you do have to make sure things are properly cold before they go in the freezer. And you shouldn’t reheat things again after they’ve been frozen, so just cool it, freeze it, reheat it once. Don’t start reheating and freezing and reheating and freezing that same food because that’s not good for hygiene. So as much as I like shortcuts, I’m not that keen on poisoning people either.
Another top tip is stock. Because we have to make our own stock — there aren’t many low FODMAP things available where I live, basically, just make friends with your butcher and your butcher, if you ask nicely, will give you no end of bones. We actually use our butcher as well to make low FODMAP sausages for us, using my recipe which we buy in bulk, and then he portions them up into two in a bag, so that we can always take out the amount of sausages we need for people. I’m sure it must take him hours. Those sausages then go to my daughter school and the school cook prepares them. This is to make sure that, when she’s eating in school, her food looks the same as everyone else’s. Yes, making friends with your butcher is paramount in importance — and you’ll also find them quite funny. He’s singing incessantly! You may not have singing butchers, but we do.
LARAH: That’s wonderful. You have a very good butcher from the sound of it.
LAURA: Well it’s Shropshire. It’s what we do in Shropshire…a lot of meat. So, yes, stocks are very important. I do end up doing two different sorts of stocks. I’ll do a boiled chicken and then I’ve got all the different chicken meat. The liquid from that is quite a light stock, so that’s useful to throw in to stews and things like that. You don’t necessarily need the total chicken flavour, but you just need to fill up with the liquid somehow.
So, my beef stock is a slightly richer one, and that’s quite good if you can get it down to a jellied state for freezing in portions, again, because it’s like those little jelly stock cube things that you get, so you feel quite productive having done that. And then, a vegetable one as well that I make is really useful because, again, you don’t really know who’s going to turn up for tea. It’s good to have stock in your freezer, it’s always a blessing.
What are some of my other top tips? With my children, one of my top tips is, basically, you’ve got to let them experiment in the kitchen. It’s particularly important with my daughter as well, because I’m aware of the fact that she’s going to be feeding herself in a world that’s not necessarily adapted to her needs. My children are actually very good cooks, and I think a lot of that has come from allowing them the freedom to make as many mistakes as they like in the kitchen because people will often say to me: how did you come up with that recipe? It’s because I just tried it and it worked. I mean, I’ve made lots of mistakes. Don’t get me wrong. But I feel it’s one of the most important things you can give to your children is the ability to let them create their own food and enjoy food and to experiment and see what goes right and what goes wrong. On the whole, they haven’t had that many bad mistakes recently. And certainly, my son, as well, because he loves mushrooms, but obviously, we don’t do mushrooms. He’ll make his own mushroom soup these days and he’s been tweaking his recipe and tweaking it and tweaking it, and it’s getting better and better all the time. Although the other day, he ate too much mushroom soup. He felt a bit poorly afterwards, but he’d had about two litres of the stuff by that point. So, you know, he’s learned something else.
LARAH: Yes, even if you don’t have IBS, maybe you shouldn’t have a lot of mushroom soup.
LAURA: I did say to him, “Carry on eating that, Blake. You’re going to be feeling really poorly.” And he said, “No, I’m going to keep eating it. I really love it,” And I said, “All right, fine. You’re going to learn the hard way.” And he did.
LARAH: That’s great that you’re giving your kids a go in the kitchen as well. That’s awesome..
LAURA: Yeah, and eventually, I want them to be able to look after me when I’m old and frail and can’t cook anymore.
LARAH: Yeah, and then you can just start next week and say that’s it!
LAURA: Tacos are one of my good low FODMAP tips, I have no idea if they’re anywhere near authentic. Probably not. I’ve often found that if you make a tortilla, you can put any leftover on top of it and it looks like a new meal. God, I sound awful, don’t I?
LARAH: No. It is absolutely true. Why not?
LAURA: And everyone gets really excited to see these tortillas which don’t take me that long to make. And then, basically put some food yesterday on top of it, but it’s all new. It’s the presentation. Presentation is a good tip. It’s about what you call things as well. If you can think of a funny, alliterative name for just about anything, it always sounds nicer.
LAURA: It’s like the green cheese sauce thing, coming back to that. We first came to it when my son wanted green eggs and ham. I didn’t really know how to make green eggs and ham, and thank you Dr. Seuss for giving me that challenge. So, I made this green cheese sauce, I called it, and he was very convinced that, yes, he liked green eggs and ham. And then we came back to it again when my daughter was refusing to eat spinach and so I suggested that maybe she could try green cheese. So as much you have to tell them not to eat cheese, if it’s green because that’s not good for you. Again, it’s the presentation — the excitement of green cheese sauce. So, yeah, presentation and what you call things is quite important with kids, I think.
LARAH: That’s quite funny that they’re not turned off by the green cheese. Do friends ask, “What’d you have yesterday?” “Well, a green cheese ..” And other kids will think, “What is that?”
LAURA: Well, I’ve got a friend across the road whose daughter also has IBS, and whenever she’s having a particular flare up, she’s always requesting if I could possibly make her some green cheese sauce, so I run across the green with some green cheese sauce all portioned up for her, and that always makes things better, apparently.
LARAH: So that would be like melted cheese with spinach?
LAURA: It’s just cheese sauce with spinach in it and then whisked up with a hand held blender so it goes completely green
LARAH: That sounds good to me. Things do not need to be complicated to be good.
LAURA: That’s another top tip that I’ll give you now. It’s, give yourself a break, really. Occasionally things will go wrong and you’ll accidentally eat something and feel dreadful, but you can’t beat yourself up for not being able to do everything right all the time. That causes you stress, and that will, in the end, make you sicker than you were, so have a bit of a zen attitude about the low FODMAP I think.
LARAH: That’s absolutely fine. And in your book, you have some very simple recipes and you have some that are a bit more elaborate, but not massively, so people have the choice of what they feel like cooking. If it’s too much of a stress, then go for the simple option.
LAURA: Absolutely. And that was quite important to me as well because I’ve always enjoyed cooking before the low FODMAP thing, and I’d always really enjoyed making ridiculously elaborate dinners for dinner parties and putting myself in a state of nervous exhaustion. There is a time and a place for complicated cookery, and it can be wonderful, but on the other hand, if you’re trying to do that every single night, you’re going to collapse, basically. So I think that’s to manage your own expectations as much as the other people eating the food.
LARAH: Yes, that’s true. Plus, the more you stress, the more your IBS symptoms appear.
LARAH: So, before you were mentioning low FODMAP tortillas, and Mexican food is one of my favourites. Could you share with us your tortilla recipe?
LAURA: Well, the most important thing, I think, with the tortilla is that you have masa harina. Where I live it’s not readily available and I do have to buy it online. It’s maize flour that has been soaked in lime juice and then dried and then ground. But it you try to make a tortilla with anything other than this particular flour, it just breaks apart and makes you wonder why you bothered with it in the first place. So I do buy my masa harina online, and it’s terribly useful. If you get it from some places, they won’t have expiry dates online, so you need to check online to see if they’re able to give you expiry dates of the package because they can go off.
Another tip — me and my little machines. I put off buying a tortilla press for years and I don’t know why I did. Ever since I got it I suddenly realised just how quick this is using the press. It really wasn’t that expensive and I don’t really know why I put it off for so long. The most important thing is that when you know your dough is ready — and I use about 200 grams of masa harina and 250 milligrams of boiling water — stir it together, and when you start kneading it, when I know it’s ready is when it has a bounce to it. You’ve got your ball of dough and you can drop it on the work surface and it will bounce ever so slightly. That’s how I know that it’s ready
Another little top tip when I’m making my tortilla is that I weigh my little balls, which I know sounds terribly uptight of me, but it means I always know how many I’m going to make and they’re always going to be the same size and so no one ever argues about who’s got the biggest tortilla. So I do them in little balls that are only around 18 grams, so they’re tiny tortillas. I’m trying to work out what that would be in diameter, but it’s a few inches. And then, I dry fry them in a pan. You can make them so they’re jazzier by frying them in oil as well to make them puff up, but my general go-to one is one I can do very quickly. It’s just the plain corn tortilla. I have been known to, as well, when I’ve gone away for a weekend, I’ve actually taken my tortilla press with me and my masa harina. I went away on a sort of girls’ weekend and we were having them for breakfast the next morning with cheese and berries and things. We set up a little production line, so I had one person getting the weight right, and another person sort of squashing them into a ball and then another person pressing them and then dry frying them. So it was quite a production line. If you can rope your friends into helping you make them it’s a great help.
LARAH: That’s awesome. So, literally, it’s the masa harina flour and water and nothing else? Salt? Do you add salt?
LAURA: You can add salt. I think I put in about a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Not a fancy salt, just a standard table salt. I’ve been meaning to try — I’ve got these wonderful herb salts and I was wondering if I could add that in just to give it a bit more flavour. It’s on my list of things to do.
LARAH: Yes, and the dry frying method is not even using a spray oil? Nothing at all?
LAURA: Yes, I literally just dry fry them until they’re speckled on one side and then turn them over and speckle them on the other side. And then I just put them in a warm dish and cover the warm dish with foil until I’ve made them all. You’re supposed to use fry slicer to turn them, but I never do. And then my children see me and I tell my children they must never do it like this. The joy of parenting — I can be a hypocrite.
LARAH: So you use your hands?
LAURA: Yes, but you must use a fry slicer.
LARAH: Okay. So those sound good and quite simple. I’ve never made my own tortillas. I usually by the corn ones and the safe one, and that’s it.
LAURA: It’s because of not being able to find pure corn ones for sale which is why I started in the first place. Obviously, you’ve got a better market for it over there, but I’ve never been able to find just pure corn tortilla around here.
LARAH: I have to say that they don’t taste as good as the normal flour one. They break really easily, but it’s okay. You adapt.
LAURA: I think it also has to with them being made freshly they’re a different beast. I know because I’ve made so many of them so I can have them the next day, if you were listening earlier. The next day they are slightly crumblier almost than the fresh ones.
LARAH: So do you reckon it’s better to have them fresh straight away?
LAURA: Yes, the fresh ones straight from the pan are lovely.
LARAH: Yes, beautiful. I should try that sometime. I’m not sure where I’ll find the masa harina. It will probably have to be online. I’ve seen them in South American type shops. They sell something, I think it’s called maize flour. I’m not really sure if it’s exactly the same.
LAURA: It’s not the same as the maize flour I’ve found around here. It’s this process it goes through. I don’t know why, I just know it does.
LARAH: Yes, it must be slightly different there.
Okay, so let’s talk about pizza now. I’m Italian so I love, love, love pizza. Of course, it has to a suitable pizza now. I can’t just have the normal ones anymore. Here and there I’ll have a slice of a normal one, but if it’s a whole pizza it has to be safe. But what I found interesting in your pizza recipe, your pizza base has coconut milk, and it’s really weird for me to think about coconut milk being inside pizza, so I’m not sure. Does it taste good?
LAURA: It doesn’t taste of coconuts which is always a relief on your pizza. We actually had pizza night on Friday again. I don’t know why we got into this habit of pizza night on Friday’s. It’s a nice way of marking the end of the week, and actually, it’s one of the nights that we don’t have children’s clubs either. And while making them, there’s a particular radio show that I always listen to, and I know that when it gets to half past five, I can start making pizzas and I can have a gin and tonic. So Friday night is pizza night and half past five is gin and tonic. Maybe this is why I’ve got such fond memories of pizza night.
LARAH: And maybe that’s why you cook coconut milk with pizza because you have it with your gin and tonic.
LAURA: Literally anything on it that sounds good. Smarties…? Coconut, mainly because I can’t eat yeast either. It’s a hystamine issue. So all the gluten free things, they’ve all got yeast in them, so I knew I had to make my own. And I’ve never liked thick crust pizza. It just doesn’t do it for me at all. I get it really, really thin as you can. So it took me quite awhile to get there — to get this recipe — and I was looking to the idea of using buttermilk. Obviously, we can’t have buttermilk, so the coconut milk with lemon juice is how I sort of came to it in a roundabout way of making that. Otherwise, it’s very quick to do. It has soda water in it as well. One of the most important things is to make sure that your soda water is really, really cold. You could have vodka and soda as well, if you don’t want gin and tonic. Just make sure you use all that up. But it has to be very, very sparkly as well. So I do like getting the small cans of soda water as opposed to the bottles all the time because then you know that each time you open one it’s going to be completely bubbly. So I do use soda water quite a lot in the absence of yeast. I roll them very thinly. I actually roll them in between two pieces of cling film.
Where the fun starts is with toppings. They are quite floppy pizzas if you overload them, so you can end up with a whole load of toppings down your shirt front. You do have to be careful not to completely overload them. But the toppings I would go for are normally a tomato sauce that I’ve made and nothing more elaborate than tomatoes with herbs. Sometimes I do roasted veg because I’ve got roasted veg in the freezer and it’s a good way to mix that in with tomatoes and whiz it all up. And again, it’s a good way of getting hidden veg into children. There’s a chance as well for the high FODMAP people in our family to put what they like on theirs. For example, mushrooms came up again this week and my son had mushrooms on his. He likes freshly torn basil on the top of his mushroom pizza. I really like having roasted aubergines slices on the top of mine. It can come from something you’ve done the day before. Roasted fennel can be something from the day before, leftover, put on top of a pizza. I’m making it sound like I have food on one day and the next day we serve it on something flat.
LARAH: And why not, it’s a great idea.
LAURA: The good thing is, as well, that the children can get involved with their toppings, and it’s also a chance for me to eat chili. I love chili, but the children aren’t keen on large amounts of finely chopped fresh red chilies. It’s a chance for my husband and I to really get freaky on the chili.
My son feels there should always be pineapple on a pizza. My mom feels it’s an absolute abomination and no one should have pineapple on a pizza….
LARAH: I agree with that. I thought it was a joke. The first time… I used to be an au pair for this family in London. One day I was making pizza for them and then I was putting all these different ingredients in them,,,lots of roasted vegetables. Then they handed me a can of pineapple and I kind of thought she was mocking me like, “You put on so much stuff. Chuck a pineapple on the pizza”. I laughed my head off. I said, “Ha Ha, that’s funny!” and then realised they were serious. They actually put pineapple on pizza which I’d never heard before. But now, obviously, I’m married to an Aussie. What’s his favourite pizza? It’s pineapple pizza.
LAURA: I know. It feels so wrong, but it tastes so good. So, yes, it’s also an objective as well for different sorts of cheeses because my daughter and I can’t have cow’s milk. We find a sort of buffalo mozzarella — which I’m sure you’ll be more on the side of the buffalo mozzarella — whereas my son and husband like to have a really strong cheddar on theirs. But it’s a really nice Friday night tradition. The pizzas we make — and we make about eight of them. That does mean there’s room for people to come back and have extras, but I will cook all of them at the same time because I’ve then got picnic lunch for the next day. At least my daughter and I will have something ready for a picnic lunch on Saturday. We’re not constantly picnicking every Saturday, but it’s quite useful to have your food with you and ready as I’m sure any low FODMAPPers would agree. We tend to eat about six in the evening so we’ve got about two left over for the next day.
LARAH: Sounds good! So, if I have to pick a night to come to your house for tea, I think I’ll pick a Friday night because I love pizza
LAURA: You do have to join in with the kitchen disco which it invariably turns into as well. Is that okay?
LARAH: Okay. You can explain later what that consists of.
LAURA: It’s basically Mummy has had a gin and tonic and she is quite lively in the kitchen.
LARAH: It must be such a fun Friday night at your house.
All right, let’s talk about other recipes from your book. There are so many…and so yummy. Let’s think about the listeners who might not have a lot of time to cook. I’m thinking about something nice and easy — something you can put in a slow cooker in the morning, go to work, forget about it and come back home and voila! Dinner is ready. Your pulled pork, chicken, beef…whatever you want to use to make different meals. You can do mixed sliders or lettuce cups…whatever you want.
LAURA: Yes, to be honest, many meats in the slow cooker. Again, you can use almost any sort of meat and throw it on top of jacket potatoes. Or in sandwiches as well if you’ve got some gluten free bread. They are very useful, and again, because it tends to make more than one meal as well. What I’ll often do is I’ll use the vegetables that I’ve cooked in the slow cook briskets or pork and often whiz up the remaining vegetables and stock into some sort of sauce in lieu of a gravy. There’s enough moist in the meal.
There’s this comedian in Britain who does a phrase — he’s northern and gone to London. He was having some chips and said, “You got any gravy? You got any peas?” Then he says, “Are they not moist,” so this is a sort of family phrase that we play…we need something moist. Sorry, I’ve gone completely off pace with that, but it just reminded me of it. So we always try to have something moist on the plate.
So, yeah, slow cookers are just fantastic and useful. You may think you’re not the sort of person who can perhaps chop up some veg and chuck it in the pan and leave it all day, but the feeling of achievement! When you come home through that door in the evening and the whole house just smells like an amazing stew or something, you just feel so competent. In fact, there’s very few chances in life to feel competent at something, so you have to grab them while you take them. So, yeah, the slow cookers are ideal for us who lack competency as well. That’s a really quick one.
Another quick one I like. I really like this and I often just do it for myself. It’s a spaghetti with walnuts. Have you seen that one?
LARAH: I think so.
LAURA: It’s such a simple recipe. All it is is spaghetti with some toasted walnuts and parsley almost used to the point it’s almost a vegetable because I do like that…and some pecorino. It’s ready in a matter of moments, and, again, it’s just a nice, “Oh, look at that. I’ve made a lovely pasta dish in minutes.” That one actually made it to the front cover of the book because it is sort of the epitome of Our House for Tea. I need to make some food very quickly that everyone’s going to like.
LARAH: In Italy, if you want to have a very quick dish, it would be spaghetti with garlic — but you can use garlic infused oil — and chili and parmesan. That’s it and it’s ready in no time and it’s very satisfying. So that could be the equivalent of your walnut and parsley.
LAURA: You could also use pine nuts and basil. You could call it deconstructed pesto. But it does annoy me slightly I have to say.
LARAH: It’s been overused, hasn’t it?
LAURA: My husband once ordered something and hadn’t realised it was a deconstructed trifle. You’d never seen such a sad look on his face when it arrived. It sort of moved all these bits all over the plate and his custard was in one place and his trifle sponge in another. He was almost in tears — “I just wanted trifle.”
LARAH: Poor thing. Next time just go to Asda and by a whole one.
All right. Talking about recipes again, could you please share a dessert now? Just a simple one — one that is simple and tasty that you can share and can have with your tea or coffee? Something nice and easy.
LAURA: So the recipe for the first cake is called the Versatile Cake because as you run out of the amount of pages that have all the different options for it. It can be a vanilla cake, and it’s in a slab sheet…or it can be a chocolate cake. Or you can do it half and half and make it a vanilla and chocolate marble cake almost. And then you can put all sorts of things on top of it. You can add a blueberry compote on top of it. It’s almost like a blueberry topping. It can go on top of it either as a marble cake or as a chocolate or vanilla cake. Or you can get some butter icing and put that on top. That’s the way that the kid’s seem to like that quite a lot. Or you can cut it in half and make it into a sandwich cake with one of these many toppings. It’s called The Versatile Cake because there’s so many different options for it from this one recipe. It’s also quite useful as well because it’s a vegan one. I can’t eat eggs, and then I’ve obviously got the cow’s milk issue as well so this is using flaxseeds. Because you’ve got the dairy free sunflower margarine and you’ve got the coconut milk in it as well, so a vegan cake can be quite useful for when you’re catering to people with lots of intolerances between them.
That’s a really, really useful one as well as having in your freezer. This freezes really well. What you can do is cut it into 5 cm x 5 cm squares, layer it with greaseproof paper and then put it in an airtight container in the freezer. You can take out just one piece at a time, so it’s really good for lunch boxes or if my daughter is going to a birthday party. I can just wipe some sort of topping on the top of it. It does freeze really well for that purpose. Actually, you could have it with custard as well for a pudding. It’s called the Versatile Cake for a reason.
LARAH: Yes, it looks simple but really delicious. I’ll have to try that as well. I’m a big fan of the marble cakes, so that, I think, would taste very similar.
LAURA: It’s quite difficult to get the marbling even, isn’t it? It’s 5 x 5 squares so it’s a bit difficult trying to get a bit of both in each one.
LARAH: Yes, yes.
Well I’m sure we have whetted the appetite of all the people listening. The one afterwards is like a raspberry cheescake and that looks absolutely delicious. I wish I could have a piece of that now.
LAURA: That really is delicious. Although it’s got goat cheese in it, it doesn’t taste of goat you’d be relieved to know. You can use a cow’s soft cheese — not a cream cheese. It’s not hard at all…it’s just one that takes slightly longer to make a cheesecake than say a spaghetti. But that’s the way of the world.
I really like the pink and the brown together — the brown on the bottom and the pink raspberry on the top. It’s really nice colour wise. The picture in the book — those pretty little plates are also pastel colours. I actually got those from a charity shop some years ago and was going to use them for every birthday. Sure enough, whenever we have birthday cake, everyone has pastel coloured plates, apart from the birthday person, who has one in a sort of gold coloured way. All the props in the book have come from our house and all been eaten at our house. It’s all real food and all photographed at our house. It’s a very family, real life cookbook. It’s what we’re actually eating.
LARAH: That’s right. It is real food for real people. It’s not something that you would make once upon a time.
All right. Those were delicious recipes. Thank you so much for sharing those, Laura.
LAURA: Well thank you for having me on.
LARAH: Thank you again for your time and if you want to tell people how they can get ahold of a copy of your book and where can they get it from?
LAURA: Well, it is available on Amazon. It is available in bookshops if you like to patronise your local bookshop, as much as I do, because it’s on the distribution system. It is also available on the Our House for Tea website.
LARAH: Perfect. So either through your website or Amazon or in local bookstores.
LARAH: Excellent and would you like to share your website and social media addresses?
LAURA: So I’m at OurHouseForTea.com and my Instagram is also @OurHouseForTea. My Twitter is @OurHouseForTea and my Facebook is Our House for Tea Limited — so do pop in. It would be lovely to have you for tea. I’m not very creative with my names, am I? Everything is Our House for Tea.
LARAH: Yeah, but that’s absolutely fine because at least it’s simple and consistent.
LAURA: Very consistent.
LARAH: That was absolutely great. Thank you so much, Laura. I had so much fun and thank you for sharing all those delicious recipes. If people want to get ahold of your book, I would really recommend it. There are some beautiful, beautiful recipes and lots of good hints. Lots of tips. A lot of the recipes are very simple as well — very easy to make.
LAURA: Thank you so much, and thank you for the nice words as well. Yes, it is all about just real life cookery, basically.
LARAH: It is. Real life, for real families where there are people that have to follow special dietary requirements and others don’t. It has to cater for both.
Great. Thank you again, Laura.
LAURA: Thank you very much, and, yes, you keep enjoying the sunshine and one of these days it might be warmer in the UK.
LARAH: Yes, you can always wish for that. All right….goodbye.
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