Yorkshire Day

One of the main things I’ve enjoyed since moving to the Dales has to be the food. In London, locally-grown produce is unsurprisingly in short supply – a quick trip to Spitalfields City Farm was our best bet.

Up here, though, we’ve been enjoying the proud dairy tradition, as well as growing our own produce. There’s an excellent farm shop in Skipton that pulls together a mixture of locally-grown fruit and veg, as well as providing an outlet for excess allotment produce to be sold. They also sell local meat and, where minced steak from the supermarket is a bland affair, making a burger from Keelham’s mince makes you completely reconsider how good it can taste.

As an old git in training, I was used to thinking that food always had more flavour when I was a child, and put it down to nostalgia and the rose-tinted specs of memory. Now, I’m more inclined to trust my memory and instead turn from supermarket meat to the better quality local meat from the farm shop, which is also very reasonably priced.

Lunch today was simple but full of flavour. Bright, peppery radishes, sumptuous figs, local vine tomatoes, and two Yorkshire cheeses: Wensleydale and a mild, citrussy sheep’s cheese, Yorkshire Fettle.

And as I sat there after, looking out over the garden, I realised there was nowhere I’d rather be. I will probably always sound like a southerner. But in Yorkshire I’ve found my home.

Raspberry and lemon roulade recipe

Delicious layers of meringue, creamy filling and raspberries combine to make a simple but indulgent dessert

One of the things we’ve been having to get to grips with recently has been having H on a low FODMAP diet, as advised by the GP. Even for someone as used to dealing with food intolerance and allergy as I have become, this one is a bit daunting. I suppose the big issue is that with a nut allergy, or gluten-free, or lactose intolerance, the substance you’re avoiding is relatively easy to spot in the ingredients and in most cases doesn’t lead to huge problems when creating meals without them. Not so with FODMAPs.

FODMAPs – Fermentable Oligo- Di- Mono- And Polysaccharides – are in lots of different things, and this can make having a varied diet difficult. One of the chief problems is with the allium family. No more onions. No more crushed garlic. The tender white part of spring onions and leeks? Nope. You can still have garlic-infused oil, or the green part of those spring onions and leeks, but since so many things contain onions and garlic, because they taste delicious, it has a big impact on eating out, buying stock cubes, the taste of so many favourite recipes, etc. And then fruit: no more stone fruit, no apples, no bananas unless they are speckle free, because the state of ripeness impacts the type of sugar in the fruit. And that’s just the start of it.

So you can imagine that trying to sort out a birthday cake for H was not as simple as it once was. In the end, we went less cake and more dessert, and kept things as simple as possible. The main objective was to give him something that was uncompromisingly delicious, and so we called on an old favourite, the roulade. H has a bit of a thing for lemon curd, but given the propensity of manufacturers to add fructose and other potentially problematic sugars, we went for home-made, which also meant we could use the egg yolks left over from the meringue.

The final curveball to negotiate was that this slightly fragile dessert was going to have to travel 35 minutes in the car on a warm day to the birthday party. Fortunately, Tesco have started selling a rather good lactose-free mascarpone, so instead of folding the lemon curd into whipped cream, I whipped cream and mascarpone together to make the filling stiffer and less prone to collapse, and gave the whole thing a couple of hours in the freezer for a little extra staying power, which meant it still looked – and tasted – as delicious on serving as it had in my kitchen.

I will at some point see what happens if you freeze it and serve it direct from freezing, because it seems logical that it would be a nice pseudo ice-cream.

Variations:

Naturally enough, this is a base recipe on which many variations are possible.

For example, Lakeland Artisan make a delicious Great Taste Award-winning chocolate orange curd that could be used in place of the lemon curd I used here, and you could swap the raspberries for blood orange segments, and pop a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder into the meringue.

Alternatively, passion fruit curd and mango pieces, lime curd and strawberries… there are many winning combinations you could use according to what’s seasonal or on offer. I’d love to see your versions in the comments if you make this at home 🙂

Yield: 10

Raspberry and Lemon Meringue Roulade

Raspberry and Lemon Meringue Roulade
The perfect indulgent dessert for coeliacs and people on a low FODMAP diet that leaves nobody feeling they're compromising.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 43 minutes

Ingredients

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 260g golden caster sugar
  • 30g flaked almonds, lightly toasted (optional)
  • 9 x 13 inch baking sheet, lined with baking parchment

For the filling:

  • 250ml Lactofree cream
  • 250g lactose-free mascarpone (ours came from Tesco)
  • 220g lemon curd (our recipe will follow as a separate post)
  • 200g raspberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas 6
  2. Line the tray with the baking parchment - I use a dab of oil in the corners of the tray to anchor the paper
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they're stiff, but still smooth
  4. Start adding the sugar, spoonful by spoonful. You can use either a teaspoon or dessert spoon for this: the idea is to slow you down so the sugar gets properly incorporated before more is added. So with my arthritis, I use the larger spoon but add it slowly.
  5. When all the sugar has been mixed in and the mixture looks all glossy and is stiff enough to hold the pattern made by the whisk, you're ready to transfer it to the tray. This is a no-fuss operation: spoon it out over the parchment and spread evenly with the back of the spoon as you want it all the same thickness.
  6. If you're using the toasted almonds, sprinkle them evenly across the surface. We didn't to avoid nut allergy issues.
  7. Place the meringue in the oven - near the top if it's not a fan oven - and bake for 9 minutes to get the golden surface colour, then turn it down to 160°C/140°C Fan/Gas 3 for a further 9 minutes, so it's firm to the touch.
  8. Prepare a sheet of baking parchment while you're waiting and, when you take the meringue out, place the parchment over the top and, holding the parchment tight to the edge of the tray, flip it and place it parchment side down onto a cooling rack. Peel off the lining paper.meringue base for roulade
  9. Put the lemon curd and the mascarpone in a bowl and mix thoroughly
  10. Whisk the cream until stiff
  11. Add the curd and mascarpone mix a spoonful at a time until it's all incorporated. If you're not using a stand mixer and this feels like a faff, you can instead loosen the curd mix with a little of the whipped cream, and then fold it carefully together, trying not to knock the air out of the cream. You'll get a stiffer mix with whisking, which was what we wanted to make it easier to transport.
  12. Spread the resulting mixture over the meringue, leaving a 2 inch gap at one edge, which makes it easier to roll.meringue roulade ready to roll with cream topping and raspberries
  13. Scatter the raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries, etc) over the creamy filling until you're left with something like this:
  14. Starting from the long edge with the uncovered gap, gently roll your roulade. Once the first edge is carefully folded forward onto the filling, I find it easiest to use the baking parchment to help me keep it in shape and roll it evenly.

 

Notes

Low FODMAP, lactose-free, gluten-free, coeliac, wheat-free, vegetarian

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 398 Total Fat: 26g Saturated Fat: 15g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 92mg Sodium: 192mg Carbohydrates: 40g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 37g Protein: 5g
The nutritional values given here are an estimate and provided for guidance only.

Brain fog

Every now and then, when you have a chronic illness and are used to its presence, you think that you know what it can throw at you and that, unpleasant as it is, you can deal with. Knowledge is power and all that. This is possibly the worst thing you can think. When it comes to religion, I’m agnostic. But I’m a firm believer in the law of sod, so I should know better than to think I really have a handle on how bad things can be.

Case in point, my fibromyalgia. There are people out there – medical professionals among them – who think that fibromyalgia is a made-up condition that doesn’t really exist, experienced only by white, middle-class females and closely linked to neurosis and hypochondria. This is not a helpful approach, but it is nonetheless shared by a substantial number of people. As imaginary illnesses go, though, it’s pretty unpleasant. It can drain all of your energy. It really, really hurts: I’ve described it before as feeling like someone has stabbed your muscles with a thousand sharp blades, then run electricity through them for fun. It causes weird things like hypothermia because your body is so lacking in energy it will prioritise doing one thing only: eating a meal can therefore lead your body to focus entirely on digestion, and ditch any thought of keeping you warm. Cue a three degree drop in body temperature and a very concerned husband.

None of this is fun. I’ve come to accept the fatigue and the pain and react accordingly, and I thought I knew what brain fog was. I was so very wrong. It’s brain fog that has kept me quiet on here for so long, because I struggle to maintain a train of thought. My train of thought is actually more like a tardy bus driving at speed past the bus stop where I’m waiting and generating a plume of puddle that soaks me on its way through, leaving me in the same place as I was but colder and more frustrated.

I can start to write things, only for them to make no sense when I try to re-read them. Or for me to re-read the lot and realise that I can’t remember where it started, still less what the middle was as I try to prepare an ending. At this point, if I can’t complete a piece of writing in one session and as no more than a first draft, it won’t be completed at all. I’d really like to have my brain back, and I’m doing what I can myself to manage my condition, but I don’t know when or if I’ll be back to normal. All I do know is that I’m not giving up. It may be that I have to fall back on posting recipes for a bit, because at least I’ve been having some fun in the kitchen. Or you’ll have to put up with me posting first drafts. But I’m still here. Please bear with me until normal service is resumed.

Kick me when I’m down

Picture the scene: there’s a woman in a wheelchair ahead of you in the pedestrian area of a nice city. You may or may not want to see her, because nobody likes to see disabled people going about their lives. After all, we’re a reminder that human biology is frail and that Bad Things can happen to seemingly normal people. People like you. But for now, just look at her. She’s pale, tears streaming down her cheeks, and she’s looking around her, desperately seeking eye contact with the strangers that pass, while repeating the same two sentences, over and over, stuck in a terrifying loop: “He punched me. That man just punched me.”

You have a choice. You can walk on by, and there will be no ill consequences to you for doing just that and leaving her – in shock and obvious distress – in the middle of the street while you continue window shopping or appreciating the architectural beauty of the place. Or you can stop and talk to her, ask her how you can help, reassure her she’s safe and help her find a police officer to report the crime. Your choice, whatever that may be, and it stays a secret between you and your conscience.

If I were to ask my eleven year old son what he would do in this situation, his answer would be swift and clear: he would talk to the woman and ask if he could help, or bring her to his parent’s attention and get them to help. Because in his view, that is what a decent person does. So you can imagine how it is that I have been unable to tell him about this incident. I am the woman in the wheelchair, and not one of the upstanding citizens with whom I made eye contact that day stopped to help, uttered a word of reassurance, or sought a police officer to help me in their stead.

Having only minutes before found myself on the street that inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, it was as if I’d stopped to buy and put on an invisibility cloak while I was passing. In shock, suddenly freezing, and alone in a sea of people consciously ignoring me, I was trembling. The threat had gone, the man who punched me and the person with him moving on through the streets like nothing had happened. Like somebody hadn’t assaulted someone for the sole crime of being in a wheelchair in a public place. Finally able to summon a couple more words, I asked a market vendor where I might find the police, and rolled, still shaking, up the street towards a police van, looking around for the hi-vis vests that would signal safety.

I was fortunate that I was eventually able to contact friends in the city, who came to find me and make sure I was out of harm’s way, ate lunch, and had a drink before I returned to the Dales. Once I was safely at home, I tried to take refuge in statistics – facts over feelings, trying to use logic and knowledge to overcome the emotional impact. I found that the number of disability-related hate crimes recorded in 2016/7 increased by 53% over the previous year, which in itself was an increase of 44% over the year before. And that while the government report into hate crime for that period suggests the sharp increase is likely due to improved recognition and reporting by police forces, the figure may fall far short of the actual numbers. Public order offences, in particular, are likely to be under-reported, with many disabled people becoming accustomed to verbal abuse and threatening behaviour when they’re out and about: in my experience, just daring to use a wheelchair space on a bus can be incitement enough for some people to let rip. So while I’m used to catching all kinds of pleasant epithets when I’m out and about, I was probably naive in thinking it would never go beyond words to actual assault. But all the rational consideration of the facts doesn’t lessen the impact of what happened that day. If only.

Maybe at this point you’re thinking that I should be moving on and dismissing the event as a horrible one-off, happy in the knowledge that this is not the rule, but the exception. I wish I could. Last Thursday, almost two weeks later, I had to go for a routine hospital appointment in Harrogate. Other than making sure to charge up the wheelchair battery, I didn’t give it much thought beyond making sure I allowed time for the journey and parking at the other end.

I sat behind the wheel and started driving. The further I got from home, the more I struggled to breathe. My chest was tight, I felt sick, a feeling of inexplicable dread bringing me out in a cold sweat on a hot day. Pushing on through to Harrogate was torture. Air con on full, consciously taking deep breaths in a desperate effort to ward off the light-headedness that threatened to have me pulling up far short of the hospital and bolting for home.

If I had been hoping that the return journey would be easier, since I’d at least be heading toward the protection of home and a door I can lock against the world, I was disappointed to meet with a repeat of the outward anxiety attack. Approaching Threshfield I felt so light-headed I knew I couldn’t continue and had to stop at the garage. Stepping from the car, my legs useless and rubbery beneath me, I feared I would pass out and leaned against the hot metal of the passenger door, gulping in warm air beneath a beautiful blue sky, and wondering where the oxygen had gone.

At some point in all this, I have lost the outwardly confident, determined me, to have her replaced by a fearful creature, unable to consider leaving the house on her own without bringing on another anxiety attack. I have had to tell H what happened because he couldn’t understand why I was non-committal about my chances of going out yesterday – to the shops or anywhere else – and that I spent much of the afternoon struggling to breathe or get warm. My son now knows that there are people out there who would physically hurt his mother for going out in her wheelchair, and that such actions can have a lasting impact on the mental well-being of the victim. He knows that the social contract is so badly broken that people won’t help a disabled woman in distress when she so clearly needs it.

My attacker walks free. The CCTV was pointing the wrong way, and the police have no way to find him unless, emboldened by the impunity with which he assaulted me, he decides to do it again somewhere the cameras can catch and follow him. And so I have to hope he remains free, because I wouldn’t wish this experience on anybody. The only person facing consequences for that moment is me, and I’ll probably never know why. Just that in that moment I wasn’t human to him, just someone he could attack without risk to himself. Just being disabled made me a target. A victim.

I don’t know which part of the experience has caused the most lasting damage. Is it the knowledge that I’m fair game to some people? Or is it that I now know for sure that, if shit happens, I am on my own?