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


2 Sep


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)


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!


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)

Slow roast Ratatouille with Feta

6 Aug

Slow roast Ratatouille with Feta

I was faced with a minor conundrum the other day.  Friends were coming to stay, but would not arrive until quite late at night.  I didn’t want a meal that would require a lot of “last minute” work, drawing me away from my guests.  I wanted a meal that I could just pull together with ease when they arrived.

I went through a whole range of dishes:

  • Paella, but the rice would have to be perfectly cooked.  Not ideal when you don’t know when your guests are going to arrive
  • Thai curry, but I didn’t want to leave the curry simmering on the hob for hours on end, whilst I waited for them to arrive
  • Gluten free Pizza, but there would be a lot of last minute work as I really don’t know how the dough would last (gluten free dough’s tend to go very soggy quite quickly)

A ratatouille I thought would be ideal for several reasons; 1 I haven’t made one for a LONG time; 2, I can still have fun creating my own version of it; 3, I could leave it in the oven for ages should my guests be later than expected, and the flavours would only enhance!

So here is my version of a ratatouille.  Not exactly classical, but it went down a storm nonetheless.   You will notice I haven’t included peppers in this ratatouille.  Peppers are a staple in this dish in my eyes, but due to dietary requirements of my fellow diners, I left them out on this occasion.  I don’t think it really impacted the dish at all as there was so much flavour and variety of texture in the dish with the peppers.

TOP TIP: Do you ever find that courgettes go soggy when cooked?  Well a way to reduce that is by choosing a courgette which is less than 15cm in length.  The longer they get, the more watery they tend to become.

The ingredients for the sauce:

3 fresh tomatoes (diced)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 very small pinch of chilli flakes (maybe about 10)

1 tbsp Tomato puree

2 cloves garlic (crushed)

Salt and pepper

Splash of single cream (about 100ml)

Splash of red wine (roughly 100ml)

Splash of balsamic vinegar (about 2 tbsp)

The other ingredients:

1 large Red onion

1 large aubergine

2 courgettes

200g feta cheese

Fresh basil


The recipe:

  1. Put ALL the ingredients for the sauce into an oven proof dish (one with a lid), stir together and put into the oven at 200 degrees (Celsius), uncovered.
  2. Cut the red onion, aubergine and courgette into wedges.  Sprinkle the aubergine with salt (to draw out some of the bitterness) and leave for 10 minutes.
  3. Grill the onion, aubergine and courgette on a lightly greased griddle pan in batches.  The red onion will take longer than the aubergine and courgette as you will want the onion to be translucent and to start caramelising.  As each batch is cooked, add it to the tomato sauce in the oven and stir in.
  4. When all the vegetables are grilled, and stirred into the tomato sauce in the oven, add the lid to the dish and leave in the oven for anywhere up to an hour!  The flavours will only get more intense.
  5. To serve, add chopped feta cheese and a few basil leaves.  I served this will long grain and wild rice, but if you have some nice crusty fresh gluten free bread, that will also work very nicely.

Lentil Dahl

1 Aug

Lentil Dahl

After a girl at work bought in some dahl for lunch, I just couldn’t get it out my head.  So I picked up some chilies on the way home and this is what I created.  I used a mix of green lentils and puy lentils (because that is what we had in the cupboard), but there is a whole world of knowledge behind the simple dahl.

In Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan cuisines dahl is the cornerstone, a staple food that varies across the region, across the climates and throughout the seasons.  Yellow split peas are probably the most commonplace, the most well known, and have that recognizable yellow colour (obviously), but dahls can be made from a whole variety of split peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas.

I love a thick creamy dahl, as seen in the hilly and mountainous regions because of its high protein content.  But in the more tropical climates of southern India, you tend to see more watery dahls, to help cope with the dehydration and make a lighter meal.

Having said all this, my approach to dahls, is that almost any split pea or lentil will do.  Feel free to play around with the thickness by adding more water to get make a soup like consistency, or simmering off the excess water to get a thicker, more porridge-like viscosity.

Serves 4

The ingredients:

250g lentils/split peas (I used a mix of green and puy lentils)
1 litre vegetable stock (gluten free)
2 cloves garlic
2cm root ginger
2 tsp turmeric
2 green chilies
50g butter (or you can use ghee (clarified butter) if you have it)
2 small red onions (alternatively you could use shallots)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
Juice of a lime (optional)
Splash of single cream/natural yoghurt/coconut milk (optional)
Fresh coriander

The recipe:

  1. Wash the lentils/split peas thoroughly until the water runs clear. Put lentils/split peas in a large saucepan and cover with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface (you can do this delicately with a ladle).
  2. Peal and crush the garlic, grate the ginger and finely chop the chili and add to the lentils along with the turmeric and a large pinch of salt
  3. Simmer for 40 minutes (or longer if the lentils/split peas require.  Check the packet instructions).  Add extra water/stock if you see the lentils are drying out
  4. Whilst the lentils/split peas are simmering, finely slice the onions
  5. Heat the butter/ghee in a frying pan and add the onions.  Sauté until golden and starting to crisp
  6. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and chili flakes – BEWARE the mustard seeds pop and will jump out of the pan so have a lid to the frying pan to hand to keep the seeds in the pan!
  7. Add the onions and spices to the dahl.
  8. Add a squeeze of lime juice and stir
  9. Add some chopped fresh coriander and a little splash of cream/natural yoghurt/coconut milk (to taste – this will also help tame the spice if you find this too hot) and serve with basmati rice (or gluten free naan bread)

Broccoli and Ricotta Quiche with a Potato Crust

30 Jul

Broccoli and Ricotta Quiche with a Potato Crust

I’ve seen a fair few recipes over the months detailing how you can substitute the pastry base in a quiche (fabulous news for us coeliacs!).  I’ve never had the occasion to try this myself, up until now.  Hosting a low key Saturday lunch seemed to be the perfect opportunity to debut my twist on this French favourite.

As I am playing with the crust, I decided to keep the filling to a firm favourite, and went for broccoli and ricotta.  I am pleased to say, it went down a storm.  Luckily I made 2, with the second quiche providing me my lunch for the next week.

The ingredients:

1 large potato

40g butter, melted

5 eggs

50ml milk

1 large onion

250g ricotta

1 large broccoli

50g parmesan

Salt and pepper


The recipe:

  1. Put the oven on at 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Grate the potato and leave to drain for 15 minutes
  3. Mix the melted butter into the potato and push this mix into the base of a lightly greased cake tin/oven dish.  Make sure you have an even thin layer on the base of the tin. Pop this in the oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Finely dice the onion and cut the broccoli into small florets
  5. Whisk together the eggs and milk, and season with salt and pepper
  6. When the potato bases have browned nicely and starting to crisp up, remove from the oven and distribute the onion, broccoli and ricotta evenly over the potato
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and ricotta and grate the parmesan over the top
  8. Put the quiche in the oven for 40 minutes (or until the egg has set and the quiche is browning nicely)
  9. Leave the quiche to rest for 15 minutes before serving