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Review: a2 Milk

For my regular readers you know one of the things I like experimenting with in the kitchen is making dairy-free versions of recipes I love. It’s not only because I have a dear friend who’s lactose intolerant, but also because I’ve had periods in my life where dairy has seemed to have been a contributing factor to horrible eczema.

Cutting out dairy products during those periods was incredibly difficult for me.  I love dairy! I love milk, I love cheese (the smellier the better!), I love yogurt, I love ice cream…

My Aussie grandparents had a house cow. ‘What’s a house cow?’ you might be asking. Well it’s when you don’t live on a farm, but have enough backyard for a ‘pet’ cow who keeps you supplied with milk! Because of my grandma and her love of dairy, I can’t eat cornflakes. This is because, as a very little girl, she got be used to eating cornflakes not with milk but with cream! I’d happily munch through a bowl of cornflakes and cream now, but it’s not the healthiest start to the day.

Anyway, I love dairy and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve married a man who loves dairy too. We get through 12 pints of milk a week (I think that’s almost 7 litres)!!! But hubby complains of bloating and I’ve also started noticing my tummy going from a reasonable size on waking up to being much bigger after even a small breakfast.

Enter the absolutely lovely Lindsay who hand-delivered some a2 Milk for us to try.

a2 Milk
A2 milk was actually introduced in Australia many years ago (here in the UK we’re a bit behind when it comes to allergy-friendly products) and many people swear by it. People say it’s cleared up allergic rashes, stopped bloating and even improved behaviour in children. But what is A2 milk you ask?

To put it simply, cows’ milk contains protein. There are two differents types of protein (A1 and A2). Interestingly all cows used to only produce A2 protein until a naturally-occurring genetic mutation in European cows changed the genetics, making A1 cows the predominant ones in European and UK herds.

The A2 protein is supposedly easier to digest. So it’s possible that for people who have a physical reaction from drinking milk (not those who’ve been medically diagnosed as lactose intolerant), may simply be reacting to the A1 protein in regular milk rather than the lactose.

Let me make that clear again, a2 Milk is not suitable for people with a cows’ milk allergy, galactosaemia or a diagnosed lactose intolerance.

Hubby and I drank a2 Milk for 5 days (and I also bought some more to use in cooking). While hubby said he didn’t notice any difference in his usual bloating, I believe I did notice a little reduction. The thing I noticed more though was the taste. We normally drink semi-skimmed milk and the semi-skimmed a2 Milk tasted far less watery and closer to whole milk. Cooking with the a2 Milk was no different to cooking with normal milk (well it is milk after all!).

A2 Milk range

Price-wise at £1.99 for 2 litres, a2 Milk is more expensive than the supermarket brands, but is similar to Cravendale and some branded organic milk, and cheaper than Lactofree.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep buying a2 Milk, but at least now in the UK we’re getting more choice. I think that’s the best thing about a2 Milk, giving people a choice and allowing some who’ve been affected by milk in the past to get back to enjoying dairy once again.

a2 Milk (whole or semi-skimmed) is available to buy at Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado and is normally priced at £1.99 for 2 litres (the only size available at the moment).

Find out more information about a2 Milk on their website.

Disclosure: I was given a2 Milk to try for the purposes of this review. My opinions are honest and my own.

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Dairy-free strawberry bread

One of the foods that shouts ‘SUMMER!’ to me is strawberries and when I recently bought too many punnets of them at the supermarket (who can resist a ‘buy one get one free’ offer?), I thought I’d use some of them to bake a lovely sweet treat.

strawberry loaf

This recipe is an adaptation of my dairy-free banana bread although I’ve reduced the sugar content a little (you could reduce it even more if your strawberries are wonderfully sweet). Regular readers will know how much I love to decrease the sugar in recipes before my taste testers can tell the difference ;).

Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert, enjoy a little taste of summer to make your day better (I guarantee it!).

DAIRY-FREE STRAWBERRY BREAD

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

175g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Approx. 300g strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
50g walnuts (or pecans), chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Take a couple of spoonfuls of flour from your 175g of self-raising flour and put into a small bowl. Lightly stir your strawberries through the small amount of flour (this will stop them sinking to the bottom of your bread while it cooks).

Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together at a medium speed using a handheld beater or in an electric mixer. Whisk for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until combined using a low speed. Gently stir through the strawberries and walnuts.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Variations:

  • Make individual muffins instead of a loaf (easier to freeze if you’re not going to eat all of it)
  • Dust with icing sugar

Refined sugar-free Easter nests

Nicholas’ preschool has had an Easter display up for a couple of weeks now so Nicholas is already getting excited. We had lots of fun making these simple nests together and even more fun eating the eggs that unfortunately wouldn’t fit in the nests!

AAA1

The nests are based on a recipe all Australians know. Honey Joys were pretty much a prerequisite at birthday parties when I was growing up and now they give me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.

The standard Honey Joy recipe uses butter, sugar and honey, which are melted together and then stirred through cornflakes. I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, and so replaced the sugar and honey with Sweet Freedom (a natural sweetener made from 100% fruit). You could also use agave nectar, or even honey (as you’re still cutting out the original refined sugar). The end result is just as sugary sweet as I remember but with fewer calories. And I believe that means you can eat more of them!

I’ve also successfully made a dairy-free version of these, using a dairy-free spread instead of the butter. They turned out just slightly softer than using butter, but otherwise I was very happy with the result.

Sweet Freedom nests

SUGAR-FREE EASTER NESTS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 12 nests

45g butter or dairy-free spread
2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave nectar or honey)
2 cups cornflakes
Some small chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 150C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and Sweet Freedom over a low heat until the butter is frothing a little (if using a dairy-free spread, just melt as it won’t froth).

While you’re waiting, put the cornflakes into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the melted sweetened butter over the cornflakes and quickly mix to combine.

Spoon the cornflake mixture into the cupcake cases, making nest shapes by leaving a hollow in the centre of each.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool a little and while the nests are still sticky, push in some small chocolate eggs.

Cool completely.

Dairy-free one-ingredient strawberry ice cream

Since discovering how easy it is to make banana ice cream by simply blending frozen banana until it becomes creamy, I’ve wanted to try other fruit flavours. However, living in the UK doesn’t usually lend itself to eating much summery food. But this glorious summer, yes!

Banana is the perfect fruit to use in a one-ingredient ice cream because it’s naturally creamy and high in sugar. Strawberries on the other hand have a high water content (that’s why frozen strawberries become mushy after defrosting) so can easily produce an icy consistency when blended. But I thought I’d give strawberry ice cream a go seeing as it’s Nicholas’ favourite ice cream flavour.

sugar-free strawberry ice cream

The frozen strawberries blend at a very similar speed to frozen banana and you need to regularly scrape down the sides of the bowl. The result using strawberries was definitely less creamy with a texture of ice cream verging on icy sorbetto. It was sweet enough for both Nicholas and me, but hubby (being Italian and therefore believing strawberries are never sweet enough on their own!) wasn’t so sure. If you’re not sure either, you could add a little honey, agave nectar or icing sugar while you’re blending.

I’ve since read adding a handful of frozen banana slices to the frozen strawberries adds creaminess and sweetness without taking away from the berry flavour. That’s definitely something I’ll try next time.

Like the banana version, it’s easier to blend the pieces of frozen fruit if they’ve been left to defrost for a couple of minutes. If the resulting ‘soft serve’ texture is too soft for you, put the blended mix into the freezer for 15 minutes or so for it to firm up.

If there’s any leftover ice cream, put it into a freezer-safe container for another day (letting it defrost for a couple of minutes and then reblending it before eating, or mush it up with the back of a spoon if you’re lazy like me). I’ve also poured leftovers into ice lolly moulds (sometimes also adding a layer of plain yogurt).

There are lots of other fruit I want to try this with. Jamie Oliver does a similar thing with mango in his 30-Minute Meals although he also adds yogurt, honey and lime juice.

DAIRY-FREE ONE-INGREDIENT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

Preparation time is cutting up the strawberries, waiting for them to freeze and then blending them.
A 300-400g punnet of strawberries makes about 4 adult servings.

Cut your strawberries into quarters (or halves if they’re small) and lay them on a tray covered with baking paper. Put in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. If you’re not going to use them immediately, put them in a bag after they’re frozen and keep in the freezer.

Put your frozen strawberry pieces into a food processor. Blend and blend, scraping down the sides, until it becomes creamy (about 5 mins). Don’t worry if you think it’s not going to get creamy, just be patient and keep blending.

Variations:

  • add a handful of sliced frozen banana for a creamier texture
  • freeze a variety of berries, not just strawberries
  • add a little honey, agave nectar or icing sugar for extra sweetness
  • add a little rose water as you’re blending

Other uses:

  • pour leftovers into ice lolly moulds, alternating with layers of plain yogurt

What fruits would you love to try making into healthier ice cream?

Dairy-free lime cupcakes

At the weekend I became a godmother! And I couldn’t be prouder of my gorgeous (and incredibly cheeky) godson, Lorenzo.

Before he was born, Lorenzo’s parents decided on a colour for his nursery, his pram, etc – lovely lime green. His mum even later incorporated the colour into her wedding dress (which was stunning, by the way). So when I was deciding what I could make for his christening party, I knew I had to include his colour somehow. Voila – lime cupcakes!

dairy-free lime cupcakes

Lorenzo’s papa is lactose-intolerant so I made them completely dairy-free. Even the frosting is dairy-free, topped with some green ‘Ls’ I cut out of ready to roll icing (you need to make these in advance so they can dry and harden).

I was aiming for a lovely marbled green and cream effect as you bit into each cupcake, but in my haste to make them, the green hue was more like a splodge in the centre! I’m sure you can have more success than me swirling the coloured batter through. Or let your kids have fun with different colours.

dairy-free lime cupcakes

This recipe is an adaption of my dairy-free chocolate cupcakes, which I’d adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate olive oil cake. Using healthier olive oil is a great way to eliminate dairy from cakes, and the unanimous decision from the people who’ve tried my chocolate and lime dairy-free cupcakes is that they taste just like ‘normal’ cupcakes!

I used this recipe as the basis for my dairy-free icing, but it’s basically dairy-free spread beaten up with icing sugar to which you then add your choice of flavouring (and colouring if you want). The quantities below make a large amount of icing which is perfect if you want lovely big mountains of piped icing on top. If you just want to spread it on like me (I must learn how to properly pipe!), reduce the quantities. Using a dairy-free spread instead of butter also means the icing will be quite runny after you’ve beaten it; pop it into the fridge for a while to cool before icing your cupcakes.

DAIRY-FREE LIME CUPCAKES

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 12 cupcakes
Uniced cupcakes can be frozen

200g caster sugar
150ml olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
3 eggs
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g self-raising flour

For the icing:
2/3 cup dairy-free spread
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 limes, zested and juiced
green food colouring (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C and line your cupcake tray with paper cases.

Cream the sugar, olive oil and eggs quite vigorously (about 3 minutes) until you have a pale creamy texture. Turn the speed of your beater or mixer down a little. Add the vanilla extract, lime zest and juice, beating until combined.

Slowly add the flour and gently mix until combined.

Put about 1/4 cup of the mixture into a small bowl and mix through a little food colouring.

Divide the rest of your uncoloured mixture evenly between the paper cases. Add a spoonful of your green mixture to each and swirl through using a skewer. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack while you make the icing. Briefly cream the dairy-free spread using a hand-held beater or mixer then slowly add the icing sugar a bit at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Add in half of the zest and juice, and taste. Keep adding a little more zest and juice, tasting as you go, until you’re happy with the flavour. Mix through the food colouring if using.

Have fun decorating your cakes.

Variations:

  • for dairy-free lemon cupcakes, replace the zest and juice of the 2 limes with the zest and juice of 1 lemon;
  • for an indulgent gluten-free squidgy dessert, substitute the flour with the same amount of ground almonds and instead of the icing, drizzle with a lime sugar syrup.

Dairy-free chocolate cupcakes

Here in the UK the weather is glorious (and what a difference that makes to everyone’s mood!). Although I’ve lived here for (hang on while I count…) almost eight years (EIGHT YEARS – where did that time go?!) and I’m half-British, I find it really difficult to do the very British thing of stripping down to summer clothes the instant the sun drags itself out. My head just needs time to adjust (and often by that time, ‘summer’ is over!).

But, what my friends and I are very good at is having barbecues to make the most of our limited sun exposure. Thankfully Nicholas, growing up in the UK, isn’t missing out on seeing the men folk standing around a sizzling barbecue, stubby in hand (how many of you are going to have to look that one up?!), tending the flames, while the women folk do pretty much everything else (and I wouldn’t have it any other way!).

diary-free chocolate cupcakes

I made these cupcakes last weekend for our friends’ barbecue. I’ve been wanting to try Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake for a while, especially as the barbecue-tending half of our dearest friends is lactose intolerant. The original recipe makes a dense and squidgy flourless cake (well it’s Nigella after all!) which I’m sure is amazing, but for a sunny day, after eating loads of meat, I wanted to make something a bit lighter. I also thought by the time we’d want dessert we’d be lazily enjoying the sun, not wanting to move, therefore ‘pop-in-the-mouth-without-effort’ cupcakes would be better than a whole cake 🙂

If you followed Nigella’s original recipe, using all ground almonds and no flour, these would make fabulous gooey individual puddings. They’re also easy enough, with lots of measuring and mixing, to get your little ones to help you make them.

diary-free chocolate cupcakes

DAIRY-FREE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 12 cupcakes
Freezable

150ml olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
50g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
125ml boiling water
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
75g ground almonds
65g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pinch of salt
200g caster sugar
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 170C and line your cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small bowl or jug, whisk the sifted cocoa powder with the boiling water until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in the vanilla and leave to cool.

Cream the sugar, olive oil and eggs quite vigorously (about 3 minutes) until you have a pale creamy texture. Turn the speed of your beater or mixer down a little and pour in the cocoa paste, beating until combined.

Slowly add the flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and gently mix until combined.

Divide your mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes (when you stick a skewer in to test, it should come out mainly clean possibly with some chocolate cake crumbs attached).

Eat warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar or not.

Variations:

  • for a gluton-free squidgy cupcake, substitute the flour with more ground almonds (140g in total).