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8 Dec



The ingredients:

1 large aubergine

2 cloves of garlic

Squeeze ½ lime

1 tsp cumin seeds (toast and grind)

1 tsp tahini

2 tbsp Olive oil

Pinch of salt and grind of pepper

The recipe:

  • Light the gas on the hob, then lay the aubergine directly on it.  It will blackened on the flame, and when the skin begins to blister and flake, use tongs to turn the aubergine until it is completely charred on all sides.

roasting aubergine 2

  • Once done, place the aubergine in a plastic bag and when cool enough to handle, strip away the blackened skin and put the flesh (which should be cooked and soft) in the blender along with the garlic, cumin seeds and tahini.
  • Blend in short bursts until smooth, adding the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

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!


16 Aug


I love sushi.  I really love sushi.  You may think this is strange as I am a vegetarian, but I love the textures and the clean flavours of such a complex food made with such simple ingredients.

In my mind, soy sauce makes sushi.  Don’t let this put you coeliacs out there off sushi, I sometimes carry around a little pot of gluten free soy sauce when I know I’m going to enjoy some sushi.  Problem solved!

I taught myself how to make sushi by watching an unhealthy number of YouTube videos, so I don’t claim to be a sushi master, but I like to think I have done some thorough research.  And every time I make sushi, I think I get better.  Practice makes perfect!

I think the key to making good/great sushi is good ingredients.  You may find it hard to find some of these ingredients (nori sheets, mirin, rice wine vinegar), but these are available in most large supermarkets in the UK.  Alternatively visit a Japanese or Korean supermarket as they will definitely stock these ingredients.

Sushi rice: this is stocked in most super markets so you should have too much problem finding it.  Sushi rice is a short grain rice that is really glutinous when cooked, so it sticks to everything from nori to fingers.  Don’t be tempted to rinse the rice before cooking as you want to retain as much of the starch as possible

Mirin: this is rice wine.  You can make sushi without it, but it does add another flavour dimension to the rice.  If you can’t find mirin, just use a pinch of sugar and stir that into the rice whilst it is still hot.

Rice wine vinegar:  if you can’t find this, I wouldn’t replace it with any other vinegar, I would just make sure the rice is well seasoned with salt.

Nori: this is toasted seaweed sheets.  Store them in a dry place as slightly damp nori is not a nice taste sensation!  You can’t make too much sushi without nori, so I would recommend trying to source this (I know that waitrose sell this).

Please don’t be put off by the length of my recipe, it is mainly hints and tips I have picked up along the way.

The ingredients:

200g Sushi rice

Splash of Rice wine vinegar

30ml mirin (sweet rice wine) (or alternatively use a pinch of white sugar (granulated)

Salt (for seasoning)

5 Nori (Seaweed sheets)


Sesame seeds

Gluten free soy sauce


The recipe:

1.  Cook the sushi rice according to the packet instructions.  Take care not to overcook; the rice is the centre piece of this dish so you want to cook it perfectly.  Also you want the rice to absorb all the cooking water, so only add just enough water to cook the rice.  This way you won’t have to drain the rice and you retain the key quality of sushi rice: stickiness.

2.  When the rice is cooked, add a splash of rice wine vinegar and a large pinch of sugar and gently stir in, taking care not to aggravate the rice too much.  Leave the rice to cool (I usually spread it out on a large plate to speed up cooling time).

3.  Whilst the rice is cooling, prepare the vegetables.  Gently steam the asparagus and pepper for a couple of minutes.  Cut the cucumber, avocado and steamed pepper into long strips.

4.  Cover your sushi rolling mat with clingfilm (I don’t even want to think how nasty washing up a bamboo rolling mat would be if you didn’t cover it in cling film!)

5.  Place a nori sheet onto the rolling mat.  If you look closely at the nori, you will see that one side is slightly rough and the other is smooth.  Make sure that the rough side is facing upwards, the rice will stick to this rough side better.

6.  Wash your hands and leave them a bit wet as it will stop the rice sticking to your hands.

7.  Take a small handful of the cooled rice and gently spread out onto the nori, using your fingers, taking care not to squash the rice kernels.   Spread the rice right to the bottom (closest to you), left and right of the nori, but at the top, leave an inch of nori without rice.

8. Choose the filling of your choice and line it up about 1 inch up from the bottom of the rice/nori (the bit closest to you).  Don’t put too much in as you will end up struggling to roll the sushi.

9.  Rolling the sushi.  Curl up the bamboo mat with the nori/rice on top, and carefully fold over the filling, making sure it is rolled nice and tight, but don’t apply too much pressure on the bamboo mat when you are rolling or you will squash all the rice.  Now you have rolled over the filling, before you continue rolling, gently pull the rolled bit of the sushi towards you, and simultaneously push the other end of the sushi mat away from you.  Continue rolling the sushi and at interval, repeat this move of pulling the roll towards you and pushing the unrolled part of the sushi away from you.  Roll until the sushi has formed a cylinder.

10.  Cutting the sushi.  You will need a very sharp knife and quite a heavy one.  Make sure the knife is clean and slightly wet as this will prevent it from sticking to all the rice and squishing the roll (I wash the knife between slice to get a cleaner cut).  Start by cutting the roll in half, letting the weight of the knife do most of the work.  Place the 2 halves side by side, then cut each half into 3 pieces of equal size.

11.  If you want to make a California roll, spread the rice on the rough side of the nori, as described above, then flip the nori over, so the rice is between the bamboo mat and the nori.  Line your filling along the nori, 1 inch up from the bottom, and then roll as before.  I then roll the rice in sesame seeds.

Serve with gluten free soy sauce, wasabi and miso soup (you may have to hunt around to find a vegetarian miso soup, but Clearspring sell it in large waitrose and sainsburys stores)

River Cottage and Dorset

9 Jun
Luscombe drinksBattered cauliflower and watercress mayonnaiseMy lunchGluten free and vegetarian pastyThe menu at River CottageRiver Cottage canteen
Dorset DrizzleRiver cottage shopCheese CounterRiver cottage iconRiver cottage frontageAfternoon tea
Lyme Regis cobbGluten free Fish and chipsSeaside at Lyme Regis

River Cottage and Dorset, a set on Flickr.

Whilst exploring the Dorset countryside, we decided to take a break from the incessant rain in Axminster. Home to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen. I’d heard great things, but Hugh hadn’t got round to inviting me so I took it upon myself to pop in.

As you may expect from the campaigns and petitions Hugh has been involved in, the deli, canteen and shop are packed full of local and seasonal produce. Lettuce leaves from Park Farm and beetroot, carrots, asparagus, etc from local producers. These are all showcased alongside a plethora of local Dorset, Devon and Somerset Cheeses. I’d also bet my bottom dollar that the fish and seafood is caught a few short miles away on the coast, and the meat sourced from local farms. That Hugh and his ever diminishing carbon footprint!

Just walking through the door is enough to tickle your taste buds, with fresh pasties, pies and bakery goods wafting their luscious aromas around you. On closer inspection I find freshly baked gluten free bread (honestly priced and good enough to rival the best on the supermarket shelves), and gluten free pasties. What a shocker! This is my first dabble into gluten free pastry and I was not disappointed.

We couldn’t fault the staff. They were very friendly and chatty, which is just as well because we were waiting for about an hour for a table during lunch service (it was bucketing it down outside, what else were we going to do?!)

They also informed us of the true River Cottage experience:

Eat loads, then buy loads more and eat it at home afterwards.

Check out my photo roll for more details.

Start as you mean to go on

22 May

Welcome to Larafriendly.

There are a whole host of things I should be writing here to portray myself as the intelligent, professional, witty person I am want to be.  This is my golden opportunity to showcase my skills, demonstrate the value of my education, etc etc.

The irony is that when one tries to be inspired, you realise that your mind is a desert of inspiration, tumbleweed central, vacant parkway.  You get the picture.  Whilst trying to craft a short and sweet paragraph detailing the purpose of this here blog, all I can think of are The Beatles. More precisely “…I am the eggman, I am the eggman, I am the walrus…”

(Hardly an ideal platform from which to launch this (hopefully) inspirational blog!!)

I guess that’s why a blog can be good.  An easily accessible record of my (*bias alert*) pearls of wisdom, inventive ideas and creative flare.

Anyway, have a browse, follow me, and I hope you enjoy my blog.