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Purple carrot spaghetti

27 Oct

Purple carrot spaghetti

After a bit of a jog on a very cold October morning, I found myself in the supermarket looking for something inspirational for lunch.  And what did I find?  Purple carrots!  I assume, given the rather colourful packaging, that this product was aimed at children, to try and encourage them to eat vegetables and piggy-backing on the commercial wonderland of Halloween.  Nonetheless, i was sucked in.  Well done marketers.  Cartoons and bright colours obviously work in our supermarket aisles.

I have seen a couple of recipes recently profiling the “vegetable spaghetti”, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me to give it a whirl.  I chose  to add some rice noodles as well to mix the dish up a bit, but you could use (gluten free) spaghetti instead, or even try some other veggies to “spaghetti”.

Now I used sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil to finish this off, but you could use pine nuts or other such ingredients.

The ingredients:

1 regular orange carrot

1 purple carrot

1 clove of garlic

1 red chilli (if you don’t like spicy food, only add ½ a chilli)

A good glug of good quality olive oil/rapeseed oil (maybe 5 tbsp)

Salt and pepper

A small sprinkling of Sesame seeds (optional)

1 tsp Toasted sesame oil (optional)

Fresh Basil

150g rice noodles (fresh, or dried, but if you use dried, make sure you have cooked them according to the packet instructions before use)

 

The Recipe:

  1. Cut both carrots into long thin sections.  I used a mandolin to get them all uniform (ish) so it was quite fast, but if you don’t have a mandolin, this could be quite a lengthy process, but a good excuse to practice your knife skills!
  2. Thinly slice the chilli and crush the garlic.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the chilli and garlic and fry for about a minute, make sure the garlic doesn’t burn
  4. Add the carrot spaghetti and toss to coat in the oil and fry until the carrot has softened.  This will take maybe about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice noodles and toss to mix in with the carrot, chilli and garlic.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and add the toasted sesame oil.
  7. Serve and sprinkle with a couple of sesame seeds and fresh basil.
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Macaroni cheese with a twist

11 Oct

Macaroni cheese with a twist

It’s cold dark and rainy outside and summer is a long distant memory.  However, there is a plus side to this.  Wintery food: rich sauces, unctuous cheeses, sweet parsnips, roast potatoes, all the best bits!

So after a miserable journey home through endless puddles and delayed trains, I was ready for some cheesy goodness.

As much as I love macaroni cheese, I always find that an entire plate of nothing but pasta and cheesy sauce gets a bit monotonous.  So I decided to mix it up.  Not just by adding the mushrooms and a few slices of tomato, but by adding some heat to the mushrooms to cut through the cheese and enliven the taste buds.  This comes in the form of smoked paprika (my ingredient numero uno) and cayenne pepper.

And should you be short of time, or the inclination to make a cheese sauce, there is a simple solution.  Philadelphia. Or any other such soft cheese you may find on your supermarket shelves.  Just mix this into the pasta with a little splash of the pasta cooking water and bingo!  Instant gluten free cheese sauce.

The ingredients:

500g Pasta – macaroni/penne/etc – I used Sainsbury’s freefrom corn penne pasta

150g mushrooms, sliced

4 medium tomatoes, sliced

¼ tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

150g cheddar – the stronger the better if you ask me.  You will need ½ for the sauce and ½ for the topping

And for the sauce:

50g butter

50g plain flour – I used Doves farm gluten free plain white flour

½ pint milk

 

The recipe:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and drain
  2. Heat a frying pan and 1 tbsp rapeseed oil and when hot, add the sliced mushrooms.   Make sure the oil is hot so the mushrooms go golden brown rather than soggy and watery.
  3. When the mushrooms are cooked (about 4-5 mins), add the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika, making sure that all mushrooms are evenly coated and cook for another minute.
  4. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour and stir until it forms a paste and cook out for 1-2 mins
  5. Add the milk bit by bit, stirring/whisking vigorously to make sure you don’t get any lumps
  6. Once you have added all the milk, add ½ the cheese and stir in until you have a smooth sauce
  7. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and stir to coat.
  8. Put ½ the pasta in a shallow oven proof dish, followed by the mushrooms in a layer on top, then the rest of the pasta on top of the mushrooms.
  9. Place the sliced tomato on the top of the pasta, and then sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the tomatoes and pasta.
  10. Put the dish in a pre heated grill for 5 mins or until golden brown.
  11. Serve

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

3 Oct

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Now, I made gnocchi once before, but with sweet potato, but I think they were too dense and not the fluffy little pillows that I was hoping for.  I think part of the reason was because I boiled the sweet potato rather than roasted and so it retained a lot of water, so I had to compensate by adding LOADS of (gluten free) flour.  I learnt my lesson, so this time, roasting was on the cards.

What with Hallowe’en round the corner, I was contemplating pumpkin gnocchi.  But obviously my local supermarket didn’t have the same idea as me, so I had to plump for butternut squash.  If you don’t fancy this, you could try with (roasted) sweet potato, normal potatoes, maybe even parsnip gnocchi might work… maybe too sweet… I’m sure someone out there has tried it.

The ingredients:

2 butternut squash (medium)

Drizzle of olive oil/vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

At least 400g Gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm Plain white flour blend) the amount will probably vary depending on how watery your butternut squash is, so it is best to have a plentiful supply.

The recipe:

  1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into chunks (smaller pieces will cook faster)
  2. Put into a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, toss to make sure the squash is coated in the oil and put into a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees Celsius until cooked through (about 30 mins, but again this depends on the size you cut the squash into!)
  3. When cooked, mash the butternut squash until smooth (I even squished mine through a sieve but I don’t think it was entirely necessary)
  4. Put the mash into a mixing bowl and add the flour (about 50g) at a time, mixing well, until you get a dough like consistency.
  5. Lightly dust a clean work surface with (gluten free) flour, take a ball of the dough and roll out into a long thin sausage.  It should be about the width of your little finger, and even.
  6. Chop the butternut squash sausage into little sections of about 1cm each.  These are your gnocchi.  Try to make sure each piece is the same size so that it cook evenly.
  7. Boil a sauce pan of water and add about a large handful of the gnocchi.  Be gentle with it and don’t try to put too much in the saucepan as it will all stick together.
  8. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are cooked.  This should take about 3 minutes.
  9. Drain and serve with your favourite sauce (I did mine with a beurre noisette sauce with roasted tomatoes and basil, in case you were interested!)

 

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

19 Sep

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

A Saturday night in.  What better way to recover from the week than with some home cooking and a trivial pursuit marathon.  So here is what I created and served it alongside steamed green beans, served with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

And as if there wasn’t enough cheese in this meal anyway, we found an extensive cheese plate and a beautiful red wine to be a delightful accompaniment to the trivial pursuit and a perfect way to round off the meal.  Although in the interests of everyone’s cholesterol levels, the cheese plate isn’t a necessary finale to this meal.

The ingredients:

For the tomato sauce

1 medium onion

1 clove garlic

Pinch of dried chilli flakes

300g cherry tomatoes

1tbsp tomato puree

Salt and pepper

For the pancakes

110g plain flour, I used doves farm gluten free plain white flour

2 eggs

275ml milk

50g butter

For the filling

250g ricotta cheese

50g parmesan cheese

250g fresh spinach

Handful of fresh parsley

50g Pine nuts (save some for sprinkling over the cannelloni when you serve)

Pinch of ground nutmeg

To finish

50-100g Parmesan cheese

Pine nuts

The recipe:

  1. Dice the onion and crush the garlic.  Sauté with a splash of oil (~1tsp) on a medium/low heat with the chilli flakes until the onion has softened and is translucent.
  2. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and add to the onion with the tomato puree and about 150ml cold water and simmer for 20-30 mins, adding a little more water if it dries out.  Season to taste.
  3. Roughly chop the spinach and parsley and add to the ricotta in a mixing bowl, along with the nutmeg.  Grate in the Parmesan cheese Grate and season to taste.
  4. Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan (don’t use any oil for this, there is enough oil in the pine nuts), but take care not to burn them.  Add to the spinach and ricotta mix, saving a few that you can use to sprinkle over the cannelloni when you serve up.
  5. For the pancakes: I could tell you how I did it, but Delia pretty much has it covered, so just follow her recipe (but with gluten free flour) and instructions (leaving out the lemon and sugar topping) here.
  6. To compile the cannelloni, take a pancake, spoon the spinach and ricotta mix down the middle and roll up.  Lay the cannelloni rolls in an oven proof dish.  I made my rolls quite fat like this
  7. Pour the tomato sauce over the pancake rolls (cannelloni), grate parmesan over the top (top tip, don’t hold back on the parmesan!  But then again, I am a cheese fiend)
  8. Pop the dish under the grill for ~5 mins, or until the parmesan is golden and bubbling.
  9. Serve with greens and a sprinkling of pine nuts.

Broad bean and leek risotto

9 Sep

Broad bean and leek risotto

For some reason, risotto is known as the “death dish” in Masterchef as it is so tough to “master”.  Now I don’t profess to be a “master chef”, but I do think my risotto is pretty tasty (even though I do say so myself), and no matter how much of it I make, it always disappears as people go back for seconds and even thirds.

I think there are a couple of points to take note of when making a risotto and these are:

  1. Never add all the stock at once.  Add in bit by bit and wait until it has been absorbed by the rice before adding more.  This way you won’t end up overcooking the rice and left with a soggy pan of rice.
  2. Don’t let the risotto run dry, make sure that there is always just enough liquid in the rice to keep a nice creamy texture and not thick and stodgy
  3. Use fresh parmesan and lots of it.  Ready grated parmesan just doesn’t give the right taste and texture.

The ingredients (Serves 3-4 people):

100g of butter/buttery margarine equivalent

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium white onion (diced)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)

2  leeks (sliced into circles)

125ml white wine (a dry wine is best)

~2 pints gluten free vegetable stock (you probably won’t need all of this)

300g Arborio rice

~200g fresh or frozen broad beans (shelled)

Juice of ½ lemon

100g Parmigiano Reggiano (or other hard cheese similar to parmesan)

Salt and pepper

The recipe:

  1. If you are using fresh broad beans, make sure that you remove the beans from the pod, but also to take the beans out of their little shells.  Pod the beans by popping the beans into boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, rinse in cold water, make a slit down each pod and using your fingers, push the beans out.  Then remove the thin skin that covers each bean using your fingernail to slit the skin and the bean will pop out!
  2. Melt about 30g of the butter in a pan with the oil and when hot, add the diced onion and crushed garlic and sauté on a low heat until the onion is translucent and soft.  Keep moving the onion around the pan to make sure it doesn’t brown.
  3. Add the sliced leek and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the rice to the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure the rice kernels are coated with the oil/butter
  5.  Add the white wine to the rice and let it gently simmer until the liquid has been absorbed
  6. Add about 100ml of the vegetable stock to the rice, and again, let it gently simmer, stirring occasionally
  7. Once the liquid has been mostly absorbed by the rice, add in another ~100ml of the stock.  Continue until the rice is cooked (soft but with a bit of a bite), but make sure that stock has been absorbed before you add the next splash of stock.  NEVER ADD ALL THE STOCK IN ONE HIT!!!  If you find you need more liquid, add boiling water in the same fashion until the rice is cooked.
  8. Just before the rice is cooked, add in the broad beans as these only need a couple of minutes to cook and the heat from the rice will do this nicely.
  9. When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon juice, a knob of butter and about 50g of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  Stir in and season to taste.  You probably won’t need much salt because of the stock, butter and cheese, but freshly ground black pepper will be a beautiful addition to the dish.
  10. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Falafel

2 Sep

Falafel

As a vegetarian, I am very familiar with falafels.  An Israeli/middle eastern favourite showcasing the beauty of the humble chickpea.  Delicious eaten alone as a little snack, or as part of a meal with salad and hummus with a pitta and maybe a few grilled veggies, aubergines, peppers, courgettes and the like.

Sadly now I can no longer eat the pitta, so I decided to replace it with sweet potato chips when I was making dinner the other night and it worked perfectly (although I say so myself)!

I was tempted to play around with the falafel, maybe adding a bit of sweet potato, or a few different herbs and spices.  Then I changed my mind.  Sometimes you just don’t need to play with a dish.  Falafel are amazing in their pure form. Having said that, maybe if I had more time on my hands…

You’ll also notice that I baked these falafel rather than fried them.  This is simply because I’m not a fan of deep fried foods.  You could deep fry the falafel for a couple of minutes until golden brown (about 4 minutes).

The ingredients:

1 tin Chickpeas

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

Small pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Parsley

1 egg

½ lemon

The recipes:

  1. Dice the onion and crush the garlic
  2. Sauté over a medium heat until soft and translucent
  3. Add the cumin, coriander and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes
  4. Drain and wash the chickpeas and add to the onion mix, off the heat.
  5. Mash the chickpea mixture and add in a handful of chopped parsley and squeeze in the lemon juice
  6. Whisk the egg and add in bit-by-bit to the chickpeas and mix until it sticks together to form a dough-like consistency (if you find the mix is too sticky/wet, use a bit of gluten free flour – chickpea flour (aka besan/gram flour) to bind the mixture.)
  7. Lightly grease a baking tray
  8. Using 2 tablespoons, shape the mix into balls and place onto the baking tray
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown) at 180 degrees Celsius

Gluten free pizza

30 Aug

Gluten free pizza – Product review: Isabel’s Pizza base mix

I think pizza is one of those things I miss the most as a coeliac.  Maybe it is the simplicity of the dish letting the ingredients shine, or memories of childhood holidays in Italy, or the ease of popping a pizza in the oven when you can’t be bothered to cook, or the fact that there is a pizzeria on every street corner so it is a constant reminder.  So when I found this pizza base mix, I was hopeful that it would give me that doughy, cheesy, tomato-y hit!

The dough:

Isabels mix is made of cassava starch, and I’m not going to lie, you can taste the cassava.  It isn’t overwhelming, and I actually quite liked it, but it isn’t the pizza dough the Italian dream of.  Also the preparation/cooking process is a bit abstract.  Blind baking the base on both sides before adding the toppings isn’t your typical method for making pizzas, but it works here.  I was quite surprised when I opened the oven 10 minutes after I put the base in to see a cassava starch balloon in there!  You can easily deflate these “balloons” as long as you don’t forget it is in the oven and over cook it…

The toppings:

I went pure and simple.  Tomato and mozzarella, but decided to spice it up with some caramelised balsamic onions.   You could also add grilled vegetables (like peppers, aubergine, and courgette), other cheeses (goats cheese, gorgonzola etc), olives, an egg, spinach, the possibilities are endless really!

Would Iuse this pizza base mix again?  Definitely.

The ingredients (to make 2 medium pizzas)

1 sachet of Isabels pizza base mix (Cassava starch, milk powder, salt and natural flavours)

1 egg

Olive oil

200g Passata

2 medium onions

1 clove garlic

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sugar (granulated)

Handful of cherry tomatoes

100g mozzarella

 

The recipe:

  1. Make up the pizza dough according to the packet instructions by adding the olive oil and whisked egg (add the egg little by little to get the right consistency of the dough.  If your dough is a bit dry add a little splash of cold water and if it gets too wet add a bit of gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain White Flour).  Knead the dough. Split the dough into 2 and roll each half into a thin circle.  Don’t forget to use the gluten free flour when rolling out the dough as well.  Each sachet of pizza mix will make 2 medium sized pizzas
  2. Put the pizza base in the oven for 20 mins at 200 degrees Celsius, turning the base over after 10 minutes to bake the other side.  I sprinkled the base with a bit of polenta just to add a bit of crunch, but that is optional.  You’ll find these bases blow up like balloons in the oven, but after 20 minutes, you can carefully puncture the pizza base to release the hot air and flatten the base to a more regular pizza shape!
  3. Whilst the base is in the oven, make up the tomato sauce by dicing one onion and the garlic.  Sauté gently in a splash of olive oil and when translucent, add the passata, season, with salt and pepper and leave to simmer.
  4. Thinly slice the second onion and sauté gentle in a frying pan on a low heat.  When it has softened and translucent, add a large splash of balsamic vinegar and the sugar.  Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes but keep an eye on it to make sure it does burn.
  5. Halve the cherry tomatoes and slice/tear the mozzarella.
  6. Spread the passata on the pizza base, add the tomatoes, balsamic onions and the mozzarella.
  7. Put the pizza base back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the toppings have cooked
  8. Serve!