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From time to time, I have the chance to work from home – which makes me giddy like a small child at Christmas for two reasons:
1. It’s another 30 or 40 minutes wrapped in the cocoon of my duvet. Bliss.
2. I can make lunch at home and eat something that I wouldn’t normally even think about bringing into the office.
Cherry and goat’s cheese salad from The Sunday Times (Style section), Lucas Hollweg
Serves 4 but it’s pretty easy to cut down to one
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 big handfuls of baby spinach
4 handfuls of cherries, pitted
200g soft white goat’s cheese (the stuff that comes in plastic tubs, not the rinded logs)
2 handfuls of whole or flaked blanched almonds toasted in a dry frying pan until tinged gold
1. Whisk together the vinegar and oil, and season well.
2. Toss in a salad bowl with the leaves and cherries. Add the goat’s cheese and gently fold in, then scatter with the almonds. Serve.
Oops – I misread the recipe and used two tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Happily, this turned out to be a good thing as I hate oily dressing anyway.
I only had the oozy, gooey type of goat’s cheese in the fridge and the recipe was none the worse for it.
Lucas also has a rather tempting-looking cherry frangipane tart in the same article. I think I’ve got enough cherries left over…
After all the sweet shenanigans of my last post, I need something savoury to to bring my tastebuds back into balance (and maybe my waistline too 😉 ).
Although, considering that there are two lemons, a tablespoon of capers and a healthy dose of chopped onion in this earthy salad, you might think I’ve gone too far in the other direction… However, it mellows down a bit after a night in the fridge and the flavours mingle to produce something that’s not quite as mouth-puckeringly tart but still definitely satisfies all my savoury leanings.
Happily, it’s also turned out to be an easy-and-versatile little number – which guarantees both a place in my heart and my regular repetoire. So far we’ve served it warm with baked trout for dinner and I’ve taken the leftovers in to work for lunch as part of a salad, layered up with veggies and some salty feta to top it off. Now that’s savoury and no mistake.
When the weather gets colder (not yet! not yet!) I’m thinking it would go well with roasted veggies, or act nicely as a sharp foil against the creaminess of a cheesy potato bake. In fact, you could dollop it on the side of just about anything you care to think of. Maybe just scoop it out straight of the bowl with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the dressing…
This recipe is my entry for the June edition of No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen. The latest challenge was to produce a soup or salad based on legumes/pulses – always handy to have as part of a healthier lifestyle, so I can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with 🙂
Lemony lentil salad from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.
1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed (preferably something like Puy or Beluga lentils, ones that will hold their shape well)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup minced fresh chives, shallot or red onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Put the lentils in a medium pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add the bay leaf and the garlic, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat so that the lentils bubble gently. Cook until just tender but not burst – 20 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure there is always enough water at the bottom of the pan to keep the lentils from burning.
2. Squeeze the juice from one of the lemons into a large bowl. Peel the other lemon and chop the segments roughly into smaller pieces, taking care to remove the seeds. Add the segments to the bowl along with the olive oil, capers and minced onion. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and stir.
3. Drain whatever water remains from the lentils and stir into the dressing while hot. Let the salad rest, stirring occasionally to distribute the dressing, until it cools down a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve warm or refridgerate for up to several days.
Interesting alternative: Bittman suggests using two tangerines instead of the lemons. Will be trying that version out as soon as the current batch is used up. Which will be very soon at this rate 🙂
… but I defy anyone to have any patience whatsoever when putting this dessert together.
There was supposed to be grated orange zest scattered over the top. There was supposed to be vanilla scenting the whipped cream and roasted, chopped hazlenuts dotted throughout the mix. The chocolate sauce was supposed to be artfully drizzled, not dolloped on in an excited hurry of -oh-my-god-I-need-to-eat-this-NOW!
Clearly none of those things happened. In fact, I was in such an excited, giddy rush to eat this that when I transferred a slice to my plate, the meringue collapsed under the weight of that luscious chocolate-pear-cream combination and ended up looking like this:
I’m happy to report that this didn’t affect the taste in any way, shape or form. But I did have a second slice, just to be sure 🙂
Tray-baked meringue with pears, cream, toasted hazlenuts and chocolate sauce from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 to 8 people
4 large egg whites
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
a pinch of sea salt
100g hazlenuts, skins removed
2 x 400g tins of halved pears, in syrup
optional: 2 pieces of stem ginger, thinly sliced
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
400ml double cream
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
zest of 1 orange
1. Preheat your oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2 and line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.
2. Put your egg whites into a clean bowl, making sure there are absolutely no little pieces of egg shell or yolk in them. Whisk on a medium speed until the whites form firm peaks.
3. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and the pinch of salt. Turn the mixer to the highest setting and whisk for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the meringue mixture is thick and glossy. To test whether it’s done, you can pinch some between your fingers – if it feels completely smooth, it’s ready; if it’s slightly granular then it needs a little more whisking.
4. Dot each corner of the greaseproof paper with a blob of meringue, then turn it over and stick it to the baking tray. Spoon the meringue out on to the paper. Using the back of the spoon, shape and swirl it into an A4-sized rectangle. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until crisp on the outside and a little soft and sticky inside. At the same time, bake the hazlenuts on a separate tray until golden brown (watch out – they burn easily).
5. Drain the tin of pears, reserving the syrup from one tin. Cut each pear half into three slices. Pour the pear syrup into a saucepan with the ginger and warm gently over a medium hear until it starts to simmer. Take off the heat and snap the chocolate into the saucepan, stirring with a spoon until it’s all melted.
6. Take the meringue and the hazlenuts out of the oven and leave to cool. Place the meringue on a nice rustic board or platter.
7. Whip the cream with the sifted icing sugar and the vanilla seeds until it forms smooth, soft peaks. Smash the toasted hazlenuts in a tea towel and sprinkle half of them over the top of the meringue.
8. Spoon half of the whipped cream over the top and drizzle with some of the chocolate sauce. (If the sauce has firmed up, melt it slightly by holding the saucepan over a large pan of boiling water.).
9. Divide most of the pear pieces evenly over the top. Pile over the rest of the whipped cream and pears. Drizzle with some more chocolate sauce, then sprinkle over the remaining toasted hazlenuts with some grated orange zest.
10. Serve straight away. Or eat leftovers for dinner the next day and don’t look at the bathroom scales. Ahem.
I didn’t have any tinned pears. So I poached some rock-hard little numbers that were just sitting and laughing at me from the fruit bowl – taunting me with the fact that one day soon they would just turn to mush without ever passing through a ‘ripe’ phase. Eddie Izzard has a joke about that somewhere…
Now, who wants to lick the bowl?
…but for some reason, I’m thinking that toasty, crunchy bits of tortilla might go down a treat with this black bean chili soup – my entry for Holler and Lisa’s monthly challenge. Maybe some melty cheese too. Mmmmmm. Melty cheese…
There will be some more text here, hopefully by tomorrow evening, but I’m sliding under the slowly-closing temple door, Indy style, to get this one in on time (deadline = midnight tonight), so please excuse the lack of usual waffle in the meantime (or maybe you’ll be happy about that!). Let’s just say it’s a real corker – I mean, two whole tablespoons of chili powder, folks – it more than qualifies for this month’s ‘spicy’ theme! (Naturally, there’s a cinnamon hit in there too 🙂 )
Espresso Black Bean Chili Soup adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Chili serves 6 to 8 (Soup serves 3 to 4)
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups canned tomatoes
1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed espresso, 1 to 2 cups brewed coffee or 2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup dark brown sugar or 3 tablespoons molasses
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 pound dried black beans, washed, picked over and soaked for around 8 hours (easy to do before slogging off to work)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Put the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over a medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Stir in the tomato, espresso, brown sugar, cinnamon and beans, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not violently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans begin to soften, 30 to 40 minutes. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Continue cooking until the beans are tender – anywhere from another 45 minutes to 1 hour and 30 mins. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt or pepper.
4. This is actually the point that the real recipe stops and I started playing around because the recipe produced a lot of chili and I had to think of different ways to use it all up. So, for a soupy treat…
5. Take about half the beans and place in a separate pan with 1 pint of stock. Whizz the lot up, until reasonably smooth.
6. Spoon in some more beans if you’d like a bit more texture. Freeze the rest of the chili to eat another day/turn into soup or feed it to your starving husband who says he ‘gets a bit of a tingle from the chili but it’s not blow-your-head-off hot’.
Yep – I should have made about half of the recipe but didn’t think it through. And, with limited freezer space, I had to find ways of squeezing black bean chili into everything, except maybe my morning cereal.
Didn’t have any espresso, so I nicked some of Mr B’s fresh coffee. He was a bit upset about that until he tasted the end result. He is a convert 🙂
There may even be a better photo, if I get the chance to take a snap during daylight hours…
Some days I think I should just rename this blog ‘I ♥ Soup’ or ‘Queen of Soups’, because we seem to be getting through lot of it around here at the moment. Tis the season, I guess. We all crave something hot, simple and hearty when the weather is playing silly buggers and daylight is just a dim memory.
And right now I feel like the soup witch as I huddle over my bubbling cauldron of mysterious gloop, mumbling incantations to ward off the winter blues (and cackling like a mad ‘un, of course).
Except it’s just a big pot on the stove, filled with spicy dal-pumpkin soup and I’m not that bad or mad (yet) – just wishing February would get its skates on and disappear. It’s such an uninspiring time for anyone who loves cooking.
So it’s a big thanks to Holler at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen for coming up with No Croutons Required – a new monthly challenge to create a veggie soup or salad, sometimes according to a theme. It’s the kick in the backside I’ve needed to look at my kitchen cupboards and cookbooks with a fresh eye.
The inaugural challenge is to cook a veggie soup ‘that even the most carnivorous diner would drool over’. Hence my witchy attempts to cast a spell over all soup-lovers out there with this offering from Nigel Slater 😉
Silky roasted pumpkin marries perfectly with the grainy texture of the lentils… the zingy spices make this a soup to warm your soul as well as your body… the fresh note of coriander lifts your spirits, whispering of better, brighter times around the corner. And in these dark, dreary days, who couldn’t do with a bit of hope like that in their belly?
Just remember, I’ll turn you all into toads if you don’t like it.
Dal and pumpkin soup from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
Serves 4 generous bowlfuls
a small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
walnut-sized knob of ginger, cut into thin shreds
little bit of olive oil
225g split red lentils, picked over and washed
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon ground chilli
250g pumpkin, peeled weight, cut into fat chunks
small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1.5 litres veg or chicken stock
1. Put the onion, garlic, ginger and olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the lentils and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to an enthusiastic simmer. Stir in the tumeric and chilli and leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
2. While the soup is cooking, bring a medium-sized pan of water to the boil. Boil the pumpkin pieces for 10 minutes until they are tender enough to take a skewer without much pressure. Drain and set aside. (Or roast it in the oven for 20 to 30 mins at 200C/gas mark 6.)
3. Remove the lid from the lentils and turn up the heat, boiling hard for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the drained pumpkin. Put the soup through the blender until smooth. Stir in the roughly chopped coriander and check the seasoning (Nigel mentions that he likes more than the usual amount of salt in this soup).
I didn’t have any ground chilli, so I guesstimated with some chilli flakes. Seemed to do the trick.
I roasted the squash – I was shoving a bunch of other veggies into the oven, so it made sense.
Ah soup, glorious soup – there’s nothing quicker to make or better at warding off the cold, or offering comfort after you slip on some ice and measure your admittedly short length along the pavement.
Still, not too much bruised except my pride 🙂
This recipe from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Express is fantastic, not just for the comfort factor but because it pretty much makes itself: roast the vegetables, then liquidise – that’s all there is to it. My kind of soup.
Rose also mentions that because the ingredients are rich in beta-carotene, this soup is good for healthy eyes, hair, nails, lungs and throat, and increased resistance to infection. So if anyone’s got the sniffles/lurgy/man flu this weekend, you’re practically on orders to try this out!
Roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup adapted from Vegetarian Express by Rose Elliot
3 red peppers, halved and seeded
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 pint vegetable stock
Red chilli flakes to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
2. Toss the vegetables together with some olive oil in a large roasting dish.
3. Roast in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
4. Blend the cooked vegetables in a liquidiser, together with the stock and red chilli flakes to taste.
5. Reheat, season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve.
I served this up with some chunky garlic croutons – see the recipe below. Very addictive…
A friend of mine (hi Susan! 🙂 ) has a nice variation where you chuck a whole chilli in to roast with the veg. It all depends on how much heat you like.
Scroll down to the recipe and you’ll see the reason for this post’s title…
There’s a fair bit of chopping involved to get Fat Tuesday’s Skinny Red Beans on the table. But sometimes, perversely, that’s exactly what I want to do – stand at the kitchen counter and do a bit of slicing and dicing for a while, letting my brain wander… (not too far, though – I’d like to keep all my fingers and thumbs). It can be an extremely relaxing and satisfying activity – which is the order of the day after all the recent seasonal mayhem.
Edward Espe Brown has a great quote about the mediative nature of chopping veg – I must go and look it up. And I can heartily recommend the sound advice offered by Shauna over at Gluten-Free Girl about how to chop an onion. This is going to sound silly but it turns out I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. I bet I’ll never be able to do it as quickly as the Chef, although I’m one heck of a lot better at it than I used to be 🙂
Anyhoo, once you’ve accumulated a multi-coloured mountain of diced veggies (just looking at them makes you feel healthier – if only that translated into reality, eh?), this dish is a snap to put together – just a bit of pushing round in the pan, some simmering and you’re ready to curl up with a big bowl of something comforting while you watch the weather report on the TV. In fact, as I type this, it’s just starting to snow…
Fat Tuesday’s Skinny Red Beans from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers (red, green, yellow, orange or a combination)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
pinch of cayenne, or more to taste
3 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes (or two 400g tins)
1½ cups cooked or canned kidney beans (one 400g tin – although I often throw in two tins’ worth)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley or minced spring onions
1. Combine the onions, garlic and olive oil in a large pot with a heavy base. Cover and cook on a medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
2. Add the carrots, celery, peppers, oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram and cayenne. Cover and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
3. When the veggies are just tender, stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans, mustard, brown sugar and okra (if you want it). Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with rice/crusty bread/cornbread and topped with parsley or spring onions.
This is a great ‘make a big batch for the freezer’ recipe – it’s easy to multiply up and it’s one of those rare dishes that actually tastes just as good, if not better, after a while in the big chill.
Inspired by Holler’s smoothie making the other day, I went off in search of our juicer to give it a whirl after far too long on the shelf (along with all the other ‘must have’ kitchen widgets that we’ve accumulated over the years). But then, quite typically, I was distracted by the first shiny object that I saw – the mandoline.
And so I rushed off to find things to slice (apart from my fingers). And look up recipes that required lots of finely sliced things. If you’re in the mood for a mighty fine potato tortilla, then I can highly recommend this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. But if you want something that looks and tastes a little bit Christmassy, then please give this fennel and smoked salmon salad a try. It’s one of those dishes that offers maximum flavour and enjoyment in return for not much effort. Let’s face it, we could all do with a few more time-savers at this time of year 🙂
For the record, I only nearly lost the tip of a finger – when I took the safety guard off the mandoline and tried to squeeze through one last wafer thin slice of fennel. And almost slipped. That was a close call!
Smoked salmon and fennel salad from Tossed, 200 fast, fresh and fabulous salads
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
200g smoked salmon, cut into strips
2 tbsp snipped chives
rocket leaves, to serve
4 lemon wedges
For the dressing:
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp caster sugar
125 ml olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Thoroughly whisk all the dressing ingredients together and put to one side. Chop enough fennel fronds to make up 1 tablespoon and add to the dressing.
2. Arrange the rocket, fennel, salmon and chives on a plate and serve, with the dressing and lemon wedges along side. Or toss all the salad ingredients with the dressing and then serve – however you prefer to do these things.
I used a little less oil than the recipe suggested. I couldn’t tell you exactly how much as I just guess-timated in order to have a sharper, less oily salad.
I forgot the chives. Oh well – that’s nothing new. Spring onions were a perfect substitution.
It worked out suprisingly well as a main course salad. I thought it would leave us hungry for something else afterwards but, with a bit of crusty bread along side, it was all we needed for dinner.
Yay, my laptop was returned yesterday! The scribbled note that accompanied it said there had been something wrong with the mainboard. Does that mean anything to anyone? My lack of techno-knowledge is shameful. Anyhoo, they fixed it and I’m back up and running 🙂
So, what have I been cooking in the meantime? Lots of things that went wrong, as it turns out! I tried making rugelach for the first time and managed to weld them firmly to the baking sheet. A cranberry orange sorbet turned out a brilliant deep red colour but only tasted of oranges (nice but not the point…). Then a salmon dish I was convinced would be a total stunner ended up just being, meh, ok. Soon I’ll be burning toast.
When it all goes wrong in the kitchen, there are certain fall-back recipes that I return to repeatedly because they never ever, ever let me down. Like this shepherdless pie – it’s certainly a great big wodge of stodge with all that mashed potato on top but it’s also crammed with veggies in the lentil layer, so you feel like it’s doing you some good, even as you roll away from the table to collapse on the sofa in a starch haze. Perfect cold weather food.
Right, now that I’ve got my proper list of favourites back, I’m off to catch up with the rest of the blogosphere!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 celery sticks, diced into small pieces
3 carrots, diced into small pieces
2 peppers, diced
400g can of chopped tomatoes
¾ pint / 425ml veggie stock
2 tbsp tomato pureé
100g red lentils, rinsed
3 tbsp green pesto
For the mash:
1.5kg floury potatoes, such as Roosters (told you there was a substantial starch element)
Cheddar cheese, grated
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1. Heat the oil in a large pan with a heavy base. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery, carrots and peppers, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, stock, tomato pureé and lentils. Bring the mixture to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
3. Take off the heat, season well, stir in the pesto and then spread the mixture in a 1.7 litre capacity ovenproof dish.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and get on with whipping up the mash – you don’t have to use the version above if you have a particular or favourite way of making it. But you’ll need about 1 to 1.5kg of potatoes, depending on how much you love spuds. Me, I love them, so I err on the side of greed and chuck in a couple of extra.
5. Spoon the mash over the filling, sprinkle some more cheese over the top and then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
My friend uses red pesto for this recipe and we sometimes argue (nicely) about which is better – green or red. I still think green wins out – adds a real zip to the recipe.
This is a great one for the freezer – divvied up into individual portions and stashed away, it can be a bit of a lifesaver in the dark, miserable days of winter when the inspiration/motivation/energy to cook goes right out the window.
The great NaBloPoMo marathon has kicked off and I’ve got to confess that I’m too chicken to sign up. Partly this is because I’m going to be away for a couple of days this month and may not be able to post, but mostly it’s just that I’m a whole barrel-load of lazy. OK, I’ll commit to writing for as many days of the month as I have access to a computer. (I don’t think they have a blogging group set up for the partially committed…) Although, much like Hellojed over at It Had Better Be Good, I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about. Guess that’s all part of the fun!
So here’s the first post of 30(ish).
Something magical happens when you drop kale into a saucepan of boiling water. Almost instantly, the dark green leaves take on a striking emerald hue, becoming a little transparent in the process. In fact, they wouldn’t look out of place in a stained glass window. (Hmmm – a great vegetable window anyone? No?) How can eating in winter be considered dull or a deprivation when you have such wonderful produce to play with? And I love playing with my food 🙂
This dish was my lunch the other day (and the day after – it reheated well). I had to fiddle with the recipe a bit to suit what I had in the house (not enough kale, basically) but I think it worked out ok: the higher bean-to-kale ratio made it more of a main course than a side dish.
Kale with cannellini beans adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Provides 2 main course portions
250g kale or mixed greens, stems and ribs removed
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
1½ tablespoon olive oil
2 plump cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red chilli flakes
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
½ cup white wine or water
1 x 400g tin cooked cannellini beans, rinsed well
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Croutons to serve
1. Simmer the kale in salted water until tender – around 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve the cooking water, and chop the kale.
2. In a large pan, sauté the onion in the oil with the garlic, pepper flakes and rosemary for about 3 minutes. Add the wine/water and cook until it’s reduced to a syrupy sauce.
3. Add the beans, kale and enough cooking water to keep the mixture loose. Heat through, taste for salt and season with pepper, and serve with a dusting of Parmesan.
Just for interest, Deborah specifies 1½ to 2 pounds of kale, in order to serve 2 to 4 people. The rest of the recipe is exactly the same as shown above.
I didn’t have any white wine around, so I just used water. Sounds dull but worked well. But I’d like to try the wine version at some point – it probably adds an extra savoury note.