If you think back ten years ago, catering for someone with special dietary requirements was pretty rare. Sure there were vegetarians and people who had religious dietary requirements and of course people who just didn’t like some things (like me and bananas). Apart from that, in my world it was rare to come across people allergic to food.
These days, it seems, food allergies and intolerances are almost becoming the norm. According to Wikipedia, 3-4% of the US population are effected by food allergies and anywhere from 2-20% are impacted by food intolerances. There are signs of this trend emerging – given that innocent peanut butter sandwiches are being banned from school lunchboxes .
In my day job, it’s pretty hard to avoid the impact of increasing awareness of food allergens has on the business. One of our factories is classified as ‘nut free’. Sales of our rice cookies – made without wheat – are on the rise. Intensive cleaning procedures are in place at the end of each production run for biscuits containing known ‘allergens’.
But the thing that has really brought it home to me is my dear old Dad.
When I was little, I fondly remember being able to rely on Dad to ‘get rid of’ anything we didn’t want to eat. When there were icky black jelly beans around, or you chose unwisely from the chocolate box – Dad was always there to polish off the offending item.
But a few years ago, when he was in the midst of depression and being treated for a number of problems, one doctor sent Dad for an allergy test. The results came back with a positive reaction to four little ingredients – wheat, dairy, eggs and peas.
At the time I remember thinking it was going to be tough. Savoury food has been surprisingly OK. Think fish or meat and salads or veg. We’ve even found some gluten free pasta that isn’t too bad. Sweet treats and dessert, on the other hand have been incredibly tough.
Sometimes, when I’ve been cooking for a crowd at the farm I serve a separate dessert for Dad. I usually feel a little guilty. No one ever gets as excited about Dad’s ‘special’ dessert as they do about the decadent treat the rest of us are enjoying.
This weekend, I’m happy to say, I tackled the challenge of a Dad compliant dessert. Something wheat-free, egg-free and dairy-free that would also taste delicious. Lets just thank heavens dark chocolate doesn’t contain dairy. Oh and that my sister discovered a lactose free yoghurt.
wheat, dairy, egg & pea-free supermoist chocolate cake
serves 8 – 12
Apart from being suitable for my Dad, the biggest bonus of this recipe is how good it tastes. Decadently moist and rich, it is a serious dessert cake – fit for the fanciest of dinner parties. Although it would be very remiss of me if I forgot to mention how easy it is to make. With only 6 ingredients and a two step food processor mixing method – it’s only fractionally more challenging than mixing up a cake out of a packet.
If you are cooking for someone who is allergic to almonds, you may be able to use a different nut. I have made this cake with hazelnuts. Cashews, walnuts, pistachios or brazil nuts would all work well.
If you don’t have access to a food processor, you could try pre-ground almond meal. Melt the chocolate and stir through the almond meal. Then mash together the banana, sugar and vanilla. Stir this through the almond chocolate mix. I haven’t tried it, but feel free to have a go and report back.
250g (9oz) whole almonds
250g (9oz) dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% cocoa solids)
1t baking powder
4 ripe bananas (approx 310g or 11oz)
150g (5 1/2oz) sugar
2t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 150C (300F) non-fan forced. Wet a piece of baking paper and use it to line a 22cm (9in) cake tin with a removable base.
In a food processor whizz almonds until you have a fine-ish meal. Add chocolate and baking powder and whizz until finely chopped and well combined with the almond. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Peel bananas and add to the food processor with sugar and vanilla. Whizz for a few minutes until the sugar is well combined and all the banana lumps are removed. Add in the chocolate mixture and whizz until it is mixed through.
Transfer to the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the cake feels spongy and a little bit firm when pressed on top.
Serve warm or cool with your favourite cake accompaniment – lactose free vanilla yoghurt worked well for us.
Going bananas – for a supermoist banana cake
Befriending the banana, the story continues for a banana tart tatin
Back to bread – the ending of my brief encounter with living gluten free