Regina George: 120 calories and 48 calories from fat. What percent is that?
Gretchen: Uh, 48 into 120?
Regina: I’m only eating foods with less than 30 percent calories from fat.
Cady: It’s 40 percent. Well 48 over 120 equals X over 100 and then you cross multiply and get the value of X.
Regina: Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.
Regina’s attitude to food could, quite neatly, be used to sum up what happens in the Sunday Times Style office. We’re as faddy as Gwyneth Paltrow, one day swapping all sugar for agave syrup, another eating nothing but beef and milk (yes, really), but then a caseload of Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes will be delivered and we’ll all fall face first into the frosting. Self-denial is just too hard. We’re competitive, egging each other on (with albumen substitute, obvs) to avoid even more supposedly unhealthy ingredients, or try some new natural diet aid just in from the States. We have good intentions – wanting a healthier body, mind and spirit - but the problem is that we simply love food too much, and our schemes rarely last past the 4pm tea run.
So when The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick - out this coming Thursday - landed on my desk it appealed to the desperate dieter in me. Geared towards people who can’t handle dairy, or gluten, or – in my case - the temptation of a box of Krispy Kremes, the pictures with every recipe looked salivatingly seductive. I don’t know whether gluten or dairy is actually bad for me, but if someone is going to be cutting it out of their diet then I want in on that action, too.
The problem is that, traipsing around my local Tesco on a snowy Sunday morning, I couldn’t find such delights as oat cream, gluten free flour, or xantham gum. “Whatever, I’m getting the regular sort,” I said with my best Regina George hair toss, loading up my basket with as much dairy and gluten as I could find. Yes, fine, I know this breaks my own rules about cooking exactly as the book suggests, but having stayed over at my boyfriend’s the night before and not brought sensible snowy footwear, I was wearing his hiking boots that were two sizes too small, and mildly crippling my feet. So that makes it ok, right?
The official Butternut Squash, Coconut and Chilli Soup
Anyway, the Butternut Squash, Coconut and Chilli Soup couldn’t have been easier. Roasting the squash with some spices, and then blending it up with the coconut milk and some stock I didn’t have to deviate from the recipe at all. “I can totally do the Intolerant thing” I said, scoffing the Sweet Chilli Kettle Chips my boyfriend’s sister and her boyfriend had brought over. And it tasted divine. The squash had become all caramelised, the coconut milk added a creamy nuttiness. “I don’t know what those lactose-avoiders complain about,” I thought, stacking up the bowls, which had all be drained of their last drop. “This is easy.”
And my version. Tolerably Intolerant
The main course was similarly simple. A chicken and mushroom base with a potato topping – like a poultryfied Shepherd’s pie, and therefore the best thing in the world ever. Sure, I used real butter in the potato instead of Pure Sunflower Spread, and regular flour in the roux instead of gluten free, but what are you gonna do? Even Intolerants have to slip up sometimes, amiright? What’s crippling stomach pain compared to the joy of perfectly creamy mash?
The book’s Chicken Pie. You just want to take that spoon and dive in. And who’d blame you?
In fact, the incredibleness of the pie was so great that you wondered why no one had ever thought to do it before. Next time I’d add tarragon instead of thyme, use white wine and milk to make the sauce, but it was undeniably ace.
My pie. Phwoar, etc
After all, it was chicken, mushroom and potato. That’s the holy trinity, the ultimate Sunday lunch, the meal which actually prompted my sort-of sister-in-law to ask when I was moving in with her brother. “Um, anyone for a top up?” I asked, grabbing the wine, before suddenly becoming very busy with the sauce for the pudding.
Their Sticky Toffee Puddings
Of course, my Intolerant Sticky Toffee Pudding was made intolerable for Intolerants by the addition of normal flour, regular cream, and actual eggs. But it tasted awesome – the dates working as the substitute to actual toffee, the high level of sugar enough to send the Style office into a frenzy (but it was sanctioned by the book, so presumably not unhealthy. That’s how it works, yeah?). The individual desserts didn’t quite come out of their pots in one piece as the book implied, but with a dousing of sauce you could barely tell.
And mine. Not suitable for Intolerants, or anyone on a diet
“So, how are you finding this whole Cook the Books thing?” my sort-of sister-in-law asked, as she got the last scraping of sauce off her plate.
“Well, there is a moment shortly before the dishing up of the first course where Pip has a meltdown and shouts at me,” my poor boyfriend said sadly, harking back to the time earlier in the day when I’d asked him to mash the potatoes and he’d suggested doing it in the dirty roasting tin, of all places “but that’s ok because it means it’s nearly time to eat.”
I’m so lucky he’s more tolerant than those the recipes were intended for.
Cost of ingredients: £19.71 (not including ingredients already in store cupboard)
Starter * * * * *
Main * * * *
Pudding * * * *
Easiness * * * * *
Overall: 9/10 (as long as you substitute the suggested ingredients for the real thing, and aren’t actually intolerant)
The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick. Published by Collins. Official photographs by Jan Baldwin