I regularly get requests for special diet recipes, gluten free, low sugar and dairy free are top of the list.
Dairy free is easy, to change to extra virgin olive oil is no great sacrifice. There are many delicious cake and pastry recipes where oil can be substituted for butter and we’ve also got lots of terrific wheat free and gluten free recipes.
Those of you who must have reduced sugar recipes seem to have a deep and constant craving for something sweet and yummy. They feel deprived of one of the greatest pleasures in life.
Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson discovered a few years ago that he was a prime candidate for diabetes, his resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps the body to process sugar and use it as a fuel, was so high that his doctor ordered him to take drastic steps to reduce his weight and sugar intake. Antony took on the challenge with characteristic enthusiasm but still hankered after a bit of pud and some cookies every now and then. He began to experiment with artificial sweeteners, most of which got the thumbs down, but then he started to test recipes with one called Splenda. He got terrific results and still managed to dramatically reduce his family’s calorie intake.
With his usual exuberance he wanted to spread the word so he wrote ‘The Sweet Life’, 101 indulgent recipes with less sugar for those who want to reduce their sugar consumption and calorie intake. If you are a diabetic, a little sugar can be fine but you will need to check with your doctor or nutritionist for advice on your particular condition.
Splenda is suitable for people with diabetes to use as part of a healthy balanced diet. Sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in Splenda, is not metabolized by the body. As a result, Splenda has an insignificant effect on insulin or blood glucose levels. This means that by replacing sugar with Splenda, even people with diabetes can enjoy sweet dishes and baked treats.
Antony has also written a book on ‘Healthy Eating for Diabetes’ which I have recommended to diabetics on several occasions. Here is a selection of sweet treats from
‘The Sweet Life’ by Antony Worrall Thompson, published by Kyle Cathie.

Fresh Strawberry Sponge
Serves 8

This cake uses a Genoise sponge as a base – a light and airy whisked sponge- with the addition of melted butter that adds extra flavour and moisture, and makes it keep slightly longer. Its delicious served as it is here, in a single layer with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, or you can sandwich the cream and fruit between the two layers.
Try this cake with the first of the new season’s Irish strawberries.

40g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing.
25g caster sugar
4 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
5 eggs
100g plain flour

For the topping:
400g strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon Splenda granulated sweetener
200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and base line two 20cm loose base sandwich tins.
Put the sugar, sweetener and eggs in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisk with a hand-held electric whisk until the whisk leaves a trail when lifted from the bowl. Remove from the heat ad whisk for a further 2 minutes.
Pour the melted butter around the edges of the mixture. Sift half the flour into the bowl and fold in with the butter, using a large metal spoon. Sift the remaining flour into the bowl and fold in. Divide between the tins and spread gently to the edges.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until pale golden around the edges and just firm to the touch. Loosen the edges and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, make a sauce by blitzing half the strawberries with the Splenda in a food processor. Pass through a sieve into a little bowl. Slice the remaining strawberries.
Whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks. Spread over the cake , and top with sliced strawberries and the sauce.

Raspberry and Banana Muffins

Makes 8

Antony used frozen raspberries in this recipe as he feels they have a more intense flavour than fresh ones.

200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
100g frozen raspberries, briefly thawed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g butter, melted
100ml semi-skimmed milk
1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Place 8 paper muffin cases into a muffin tray, or use squares of greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sweetener and raspberries.
Beat together the egg, vanilla extract, melted butter and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients with the mashed banana until just combined. Avoid overmixing and do not beat. The mixture will be quite lumpy, but there should not be any traces of dry flour. Spoon into the paper cases.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 15

Everyone loves chocolate brownies – they don’t stay on the plate for long!

250g plain chocolate, chopped
175g unsalted butter
3 eggs
25g Splenda granulated sweetener
60g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and line a shallow 27x18cm baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and rest it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Leave until melted, stirring frequently. Alternatively melt in the microwave for 2 minutes at maximum power.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, gradually whisking in the sweetener until combined. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl. Add the walnuts and stir the ingredients together until just combined.
Turn into the tin and spread the mixture into the corners. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the surface is set but the mixture feels very soft underneath.
Leave to cool in the tin. Cut into squares and store in an airtight tin.

Apple Pie

Serves 6

This is a double crust apple pie that’s best made on a metal plate so the bottom has a chance to crisp up. If you don’t have a metal pie plate, use a small shallow pie dish and line the sides and top of the dish only.

50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced
4 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
10 cloves
1½ teaspoons mixed spice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
375g sweet shortcrust or puff pastry
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6, adding a baking sheet to heat through. Grease a 22cm pie plate.
Melt half the butter in a large frying pan. Add the apples and sweetener and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples start to soften. Stir in the spices and lemon juice and leave to cool.
Roll out half the pastry on a lightly floured board and use to line the pie plate. Scatter the apples and juices over the top, piling them up in the centre. Dot with the remaining butter. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork to seal. Trim off any excess pastry and use to decorate if desired. Make a few slashes in the top with a sharp knife – this will allow the steam to escape. Brush the top with more beaten egg and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until pale golden.

Apricot Jam

Makes about 600g

This delicious, tangy fruit spread technically isn’t a jam – without sugar used in the method, it doesn’t have the same preservative qualities a ‘real’ jam would have. Its therefore best made in small quantities and it keeps in the fridge for up to three weeks.

1½ teaspoons gelatine powder
500g fresh apricots, stoned and roughly chopped
200ml apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener

Put 2 tablespoons water into a bowl and stir in the gelatine. Leave to soak whilst you cook the apricots.
Put the apricots into a saucepan and pour in the apple and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the apricots are soft. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface using a slotted spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sweetener. Add the gelatine and stir again until dissolved. Ladle into sterilised jars and cover with discs of greaseproof paper and lids whilst still hot.

Fruit, nut and seed bars

Makes 12

175g butter, plus extra for greasing
175g set honey
6 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
200g porridge oats
Pinch of salt
200g fruit and nut mix (dried apricots, raisins or sultanas, cashew nuts and coconut shavings are nice)
50g dried cranberries
75g mixed seeds (like sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds)
50g desiccated coconut

These yummy energy bars are just the thing for a mid-morning boost, and they’re a perfect fit for a packed lunch or picnic.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with greaseproof paper, leaving an overhang to make it easier to remove the bars later.
Melt the butter and honey in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
Mix together the sweetener, porridge oats, salt, fruit and nut mix, cranberries, mixed seeds and coconut. Add to the saucepan and stir together until thoroughly mixed. Tip into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 30 minutes, then remove from the tin and cut into bars. Cool completely on a wire rack. Keep in an airtight container, or wrap in greaseproof paper.

Hot Tips

All-Ireland Farmers Market Competition
Enniscorthy Farmers Market will host an all-Ireland Farmers Market Competition on Saturday 28th June and Sunday 29th June in the Abbey Square Enniscorthy. The competition will take place during the weekend of the Strawberry Fair and all markets are invited to get involved. Closing date 30th May – contact Anne Jordan, Enniscorthy Town Council, Market Square, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford for application form. Tel 053-9233540 or anne.jordan@enniscorthytc.ie

Driving the Industry Forward
The must-attend 2008 BIM Seafood Event ‘Fish Ireland 2008’ – Conference on Innovation and Sustainability – Thursday 26th June – Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel, Donegal.
Online registration and latest information are available on the BIM website at www.bim.ie/killybegsconference Tel 01-2144204 killybegsconference@bim.ie

Debenhams ban Unhealthy Ingredients from Cafes and Restaurants
Department store chain Debenhams has announced that it has banned a number of unhealthy ingredients in all of the food products served at its restaurants and cafes –
The group has removed all hydrogenated fats, genetically modified ingredients and artificial colours from the menus at the dining outlets at its 166 stores across the UK and Ireland. The move came after Debenhams launched a £5m overhaul of its instore restaurants earlier this year, including the update of interiors and menus.
‘Banning hydrogenated fats, GM and azo colours has been on our agenda for some time but the logistics involved in banning every product which contains them are extensive’ a spokesman stated.

How to Keep a Few Chickens in the Garden
– this course at Ballymaloe Cookery School has been rescheduled to Saturday 21st June (due to the death of Darina Allen’s mother it was cancelled on an earlier date) 9.30- 5 Tel 021-4646785 info@cookingisfun.ie

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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