Tag Archives: cheese

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

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

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!

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.

Mexican Summer Salad

3 Jul

Mexican Summer Salad

As the weather has been anything but summery recently, I have taken matters into my own hands and decided to create summer on a plate.  This also nicely coincided with a craving for corn on the cob.  So here goes my attempt at a Mexican summer dinner (disclaimer alert: I have never been to Mexico so this may not be totally authentic!)

I’m giving you the know how to make the salad and the corn, but use your foodie wisdom to finish off the meal with something like tortilla chips (make sure they are 100% corn/maize, 100% gluten free), and maybe a fresh guacamole dip.

The ingredients…

…For the salad (I’m gonna leave the amounts up to you.  I trust your salad wisdom and judgement):

Gem lettuce

Cherry tomatoes



Sweetcorn (optional here really.  I just fancied max-ing out on the little yellow niblets!)

Sunflower seeds

Sundried tomatoes


A little drizzle of olive oil (I used some of the olive oil I use to store my sun/oven dried tomatoes in so it is nicely infused with all that tomato-y goodness)

Shavings of Manchego cheese (or other hard cheese)

…For the corn on the cob:

2 ears of Corn (on the cob, stripped of the husks)

1 tbsp Mayonnaise

½ tsp Smoked paprika

Wedge of lime

The recipe:

  1. Chop or tear the lettuce, slice the cucumber and tomatoes and toss together with all the other salad ingredients.  Voila!  Your salad.
  2. Steam the corn ears for 7-8 mins
  3. Mix the mayonnaise and the paprika in bowl
  4. Serve the corn with a dollop of the mayonnaise and a wedge of lime
  5. Serve


Post meal analysis:  Very tasty and a thoroughly enjoyable dinner, however it is still raining outside.

5 Bean Medley and Grilled Hallumi

9 Jun

5 Bean Medley and Grilled Hallumi









The ingredients:

1 large Onion (I used red, but you could you any)

1 clove Garlic

½ tsp dried chilli flakes (add more or less depending on your love for spicy food)

¼-1/2 tsp smoked paprika (depending  on how spicy you like your food)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a handful of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc)

1 Courgette, sliced (but you could use equal amounts of aubergine, mushrooms, peppers, or most other Mediterranean veggies of your choice)

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp tomato ketchup (optional, but does add another dimension)

1 tin of tomatoes

A few sliced olives (optional)

2 tins of beans – I used a mix of kidney beans, black eyed beans, borlotti beans, pea navy beans, baby green lima beans and sweetcorn.  Make sure the beans are tinned in water or brine.  Alternatively you could use dried beans, but make sure you leave them to soak overnight.


The recipe:

  1. Dice the onions and garlic
  2. Heat oil in a big saucepan.  Add the onion, garlic, and dried chilli flakes.  Sauté gently until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
  3. Add courgette (or other vegetables) and sauté for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add herbs, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and smoked paprika. Stir through
  5. Rinse the beans and add to the saucepan
  6. Add the tin of tomatoes.  (I also add the olives here)
  7. Half refill the tin from the tomatoes with water and add to the saucepan.  Stir and simmer gently
  8. Whilst the beans are simmering, heat grill pan (or oven grill). Add a little oil to the pan
  9. Slice hallumi (~2mm thick slices), and grill on each side for 1-2  minutes

To serve:

Spoon the bean medley into bowls and lay hallumi slices over.