Christmas Cake

One of the problems with going on an Autumn holiday and not getting home until Christmas is only a shout away is that everything becomes a rush to catch up. However, I have today at last made my Christmas Cake and have just extricated it from the oven.

We don’t eat a lot of cake these days so I don’t do much baking, but Christmas is that bit special and I usually make a point of making my own. Last year I didn’t get home from our Autumn vacation until early December, giving me even less time, so I admit I cheated and bought one. It was nice, but this year I was determined to do it myself once more. (Sorry, no picture as it is still cooling down in the tin and won’t be decorated until nearer the time.)

In the past I have made a recipe inherited from my mother but this has caused a few problems in recent years. It requires the cake to be put in a cold electric oven which is then turned on and the cake baked for however many hours, then you turn it off and leave it in until the oven is cold. I usually arranged to turn it off just before I went to bed and it could then stay there cooling down until morning. The first problem with this is that the recipe was devised pre-fan ovens and although my oven is electric it is a fan oven. This simply fact actually alters the required cooking time and I never managed to perfect the adjustment so sometimes the cake came out just a little too well done around the edges – still nice in the middle though. The other problem is that most of my family are not actually over-fond of rich fruit cake (I love it!) and now the offspring have all-but left the roost this particular recipe makes a cake that is far too big for my current needs, and again, with the cooking problems it presents too much of a problem to half the quantity and re-adjust the cooking time – it’s not as if it is something I do on a regular basis so that I can practice variations, it needs to be right first time.

For the last several years I have been thinking of trying a different recipe to make a smaller cake and have from time to time researched in various recipe books. Just before we went away and conscious of the fact that I am trying to edge towards a wheat/gluten-free diet (see previous post here) I found a couple of recipes in two gluten-free cook books I have acquired and decided to try one of those. Gluten-free? The only discernible difference from your average rich fruit cake recipe is that it uses rice flour rather than wheat flour.

I have made the one that I thought sounded easiest, though there was not much to choose between them. If I am sufficiently well organised I might make some notes on what I think of it and maybe try the other one next year so that I can decide between the two which one to favour in the future. I can’t wait to try it.

 

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Small Changes

If you were told that one small change to your life-style/diet could improve your health and possible even save your life would you make that change?

I ask the question because, though I may be wrong, I suspect that many people, once they know what that change is, would say ‘let me think about it’ and then do nothing! Certainly you would want to know before you commit. If it was say, simply to stop eating lettuce then possibly, no problem.

It is undeniable that there has been an increase over the last 50+ years in the incidence of obesity, high blood-pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stomach problems, cancer and many other complaints, yet it seems that one small change to diet might just, if not cure then at least relive many of these issues. So what is that change?

Wheat. Simply eliminate wheat from your diet. A book recently caught my eye in my local charity shop and attracted my interest so I bought it – I doubt I would have bought it at full price. The book is by William Davis, MD and is called ‘Wheat Belly’. I started reading it at once and found it considerably more interesting than I had expected. All his claims are backed up by references to scientific papers and research projects. Much of the information is now freely available but as yet it has not filtered through into the common consciousness.

The point that he makes is that although wheat has been the staple diet of western society for centuries, causing no problems, during the last 50+ years it has changed, due to hybridisation and GM into something that bears very little resemblance to the early types of wheat that mankind ate, and those changes are harmful to mankind. Coupled with this has been dietary advice to eat more whole grains (wheat) and it is during these recent years that the incidence of all the diseases of modern life have ballooned. People have got more obese, diabetes and all the other ailments are more prevalent and there is  also an increase in obesity in children on a scale never seen before.

Dr. Davis argues most convincingly for wheat being the culprit, and I reiterate, his assertions are backed up by science. I haven’t time to go into all the science here, for that you will have to read the book. However, giving up wheat is probably not quite as simple as it sounds. First to go are bread, cakes and biscuits, but far more of the foodstuffs found in our local supermarkets contain wheat – from tinned soups, gravy and sauce mixes, beverages, some yoghurts and much more besides, to chewing gum and lipstick – read the labels. (Modified food starch on the label? That’s wheat!)

Now I’m not obese, probably you wouldn’t even describe me as fat but I can pinch more than an inch of spare flesh around my middle – not healthy! Also I have been troubled with what would probably, if I went to the doctor, be diagnosed as ‘IBS’ for as long as I can remember, certainly since childhood. I haven’t let it interfere with my life, I just ignore it and suffer in silence. Apart from that I am physically fit and healthy, I do not suffer from high-blood pressure, as far as I am aware I do not have diabetes or any heart problems nor do I have arthritis, although as I am getting older I do have more aches and pains which no doubt will develop into arthritis if I am not careful. I am not on any prescribed medication.

However, I have been sufficiently impressed by what I have read to give it a go. It’s not a topic that normally fills me with enthusiasm (I eat to live not live to eat!) but I’m going to have to get rather more interested in food as I learn to cook and eat without wheat. The advice is to make a clean break and chuck out all the wheat-containing products is your kitchen. I can’t bring myself to waste stuff like that so I will phase it out gradually. Meanwhile I have been researching recipes for meals without wheat and there is plenty out there, including alternatives to cake and bread (note: ‘Gluten-Free’ from your supermarket is not advised as it contains all sorts of other undesirables, but can be used now and again. Also note ‘wheat-free’ and ‘gluten-free’ are not the same thing, although of course there are overlaps).

If you are interested I suggest you read the book and/or others on the same topic that are also available. There is also plenty of information on the internet. Take a look at http://www.wheat-free.org and www.elanaspantry.com for starters, both contain some delicious-looking recipes I am going to experiment with over the coming weeks, including wheat-free alternatives to popular favourites.  I will keep you informed of progress and will be more than pleased if I lose that spare flesh and improve my temperamental tummy.

Incidentally, I met a friend a couple of days ago whose weight has ballooned in recent months for no apparent reason (he has some other health issues too). His doctor had no advice to help and has since retired. What has his new younger doctor advised? – cut out wheat!

 

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