When my son Reuben was tiny he suffered from Gastroesophageal Reflux. There are many ways to treat this not-uncommon condition in infants – ranging from pharmaceuticals through to probiotics, positioning and homeopathy – and what is prescribed depends both on the gravity of the condition and the opinions of the child’s parents and/or caregivers. Although Reuben was prescribed medicine, we chose not to medicate him, and instead sought a variety of non-pharmaceutical aids. Hand-on-heart, I will attest that – aside from the infant probiotics (which did wonders, I tell you) – our most efficacious approach was simply my diet, and the changes I made to it as a breast-feeding mother.
Six months ago, I stopped eating dairy products (both infant and adult reflux has been linked to dairy for some time), refined sugars and caffeine, and – short of indulging at a wedding, barmitzvah, shiver (purely out of respect, of course), or the delightful Colonna & Smalls coffee house in nearby Bath – I doubt I’ll ever gobble another bowl of macaroni cheese (sob), guzzle a bag of milk chocolate buttons, or sup a cup of freshly roasted coffee again. Yes, seriously. And it has been amazing.
Aside from the ebb of sick, Reuben stopped shrieking and writhing around in pain, and I felt (and still feel) incredible. You know that energy lull you get in the middle of the day? You know, the one they tell us is all about carbs. Well, I’m sorry to rain on those women magazines’ parades, but it’s all about sugar and caffeine. I no longer feel tired – and I’m a full-time mother to two children under three people! – and my skin is amazing. And best of all, I feel really positive and high all the time. Not wishing to sound totally evangelical about my new-found self-nourishment, here’s a link which is worth a read, and I’ll just leave you to do your own research, as I did. (But it doesn’t mean I won’t try to surreptitiously introduce you to this eatable revolution through my cooking.)
The following recipe is both dairy- and sugar-free and offers a dense, sweet and moist cake. It is also incredibly child-friendly because it doesn’t contain refined sugars (which kids eat far too much of nowadays) and introduces little ones to the idea that puddings can be made using vegetables.
My recipe is an adaptation of a lovely one that I found on the Heavenly Cakes blog – thank you Heike. You can read it here.
250g grated carrots
200g white spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
3 large eggs
100ml agave syrup
180ml sunflower oil, plus extra for oiling your cake tin
150g ground nuts (I used 100g almonds and 50g hazelnuts)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4 and then oil and line a 30cm round cake tin with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then, in a second bowl, combine the grated carrots, orange zest, oil, eggs, salt and agave syrup.
Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and carefully mix together. Finally, fold in the ground nuts.
Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes or until the top is a golden colour and a skewer comes out clean. Whilst your cake is baking, squeeze the juice of the orange into a jug.
Leave your cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Place a large dinner plate under the rack and, using a skewer, pierce 7-10 holes evenly around the top of the cake. Lastly, drizzle the orange juice over the top of the cake.