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naturally gluten-free seafood risotto with roasted tomatoes, orange and fennel

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a happy and a healthy festive season. We, in the GFN household, had a fabulous time – lots of family, friends and food. My son, just shy of his second birthday, really “got” Christmas this year. It was lovely to see him fascinated by the Christmas tree, trying to see his reflection in the baubles and pointing to all the stars and lights. He also managed to grasp the concept of “presents” and had great fun ripping into the wrapping paper and playing with the toys and books he found inside.

I also did extremely well on the present front – the highlights including a Lakeland voucher (yippee!) and a library of cookery books, two of my favourites being Italian Home Baking by Gino D’Acampo and The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. The first book is a cornucopia of tasty Italian baked goodies which are ripe for a gluten-free makeover (watch this space! I’ve already made Version 1.0 of his panettone classico…) The second book is a pure joy to read – a year of Nigel Slater’s life in his kitchen and garden and the recipes which came out of it.  I’ve almost finished it in about three sittings and I’m planning to go back to the beginning as soon as I’ve finished it to pick out some recipes to make. What I love about him is that he is not in the slightest bit cheffy or precious, he eats according to what’s in season (which I intend to do more of this year) and rustles up great recipes out of sometimes what is just left in his fridge or cupboard. This recipe has evolved out of my having been inspired by him. The cupboards were looking a bit bare last week and I remembered that I had a couple of sea bass fillets in the freezer. These were duly defrosted and we had them pan-fried with leftover roasted cherry tomatoes and basmati rice dressed with lemon, olive oil and fresh dill, left over from the smoked salmon pâté I made for a family lunch. This got me thinking of seafood risotto with roasted tomatoes and flavoured with orange and dill.

naturally gluten-free seafood risotto with roasted tomatoes, orange and fennel 2

Naturally gluten-free seafood risotto with roasted tomatoes, orange and dill

Serves 2 generously

250g baby plum tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 litre fish stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
175g Arborio risotto rice
125ml white wine
zest of half an orange, pared into strips with a potato peeler
225g mixed cooked seafood (I used king prawns, mussels and squid)
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

You will also need a non-stick roasting tin and a large frying pan (skillet).

Preheat the oven to 190°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways, put them in a non-stick roasting tin, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Gently shake the tin so that the tomatoes are evenly coated and roast them in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, place the fish stock in a small saucepan and heat to simmering point over a gentle heat. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a low to medium flame and add the chopped onions. Fry for several minutes until softened, pale and translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry gently for another couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat the grains with oil.

Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring all the while. When the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add a ladleful of the fish stock and the strips of orange zest. Gently stir until all the fish stock has been absorbed. a ladleful at a time, stirring until it has all been absorbed before adding the next. Before adding the final ladleful, fish out the strips of orange zest and discard. After adding the final ladleful, stir in the mixed seafood and half the chopped dill and gently fold in the roasted tomatoes. Stir gently until the stock has been absorbed and you are left with creamy and al dente rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining dill.

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The nights really are drawing in now – it gets dark at about 4 o’clock round our way at the moment and we’re talking about changing the timing on the heating. Brrrrr! Christmas is pleasantly on the horizon: the Christmas lights were switched on in the town centre last Saturday and television ad breaks are peppered with the festive offerings of Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Coke but haven’t yet reached that fever pitch when we’re bombarded with this season’s ‘must-have’ toys for our kids and Old Spice gift sets for our dads.  The local radio station is running competitions to win Christmas turkeys but Slade, Shakin’ Stevens, Wham! and Jona Lewie have not yet hijacked their playlist. So it’s close enough that I’m starting to feel a bit festive but not so close that I’m rushing around doing food shopping/present shopping/laundry/changing beds.

So, not a Christmassy recipe – those are to come over the next few weeks! – but another comfort food one. Fisherman’s pie is one of my, and my family’s, all-time favourites and even my toddler scoffs it down. It’s not the best-looking of dishes, I’ll grant you, but it more than makes up for it in flavour – the smokiness of the fish, the fluffiness of the mash and the ooziness of the cheese. To unashamedly steal from Gregg Wallace’s lexicon, it’s a hug on a plate.

Gluten-free fisherman’s pie

You can mix up the fish in this recipe. You can add more (not less!), use different fish or perhaps swap prawns for mussels. What I would say is, make sure one of them is smoked.

Serves 4

300ml milk
320g mixed fish, cut into bite-sized chunks (I used a mix of salmon, haddock and smoked pollock)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns*
1/2 gluten-free fish stockpot or stock cube** (if using 1/2 a stock cube, finely grate it)
200g cooked and peeled prawns (shrimp)
25g butter, cubed
25g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
500g Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes (peeled weight)
100g cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

You will also need a 1.2-litre capacity ovenproof dish and a potato ricer (or masher).

Place the milk in a heavy-based small saucepan along with the mixed fish, the bay leaf and the peppercorns and bring up to a simmer over a low heat. As soon as the milk looks like it’s about to boil, strain the fish and return the milk to the saucepan. Pick out the bay leaf and peppercorns from the fish and discard. Scatter the fish over the base of the ovenproof dish and scatter the prawns over the top.

Add the stockpot/stock cube to the milk and gently heat, stirring so that it dissolves. Leave over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the butter with the flour, whisking continuously to form a roux. Continue cooking for about a minute then, add the hot milk in a slow, continuous stream, whisking all the while to form a smooth, creamy béchamel***. Don’t season at this point. Pour the béchamel over the prepared fish and leave to cool****. Avoid stirring to incorporate it: you run the risk of breaking up the fish. As it bakes in the oven, the sauce will become more liquid and will seep down to coat all the fish.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place in a large saucepan of cold water. Bring up to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the chunks are tender to the point of a knife. Drain and leave to dry for a couple of minutes. Rice (or mash) the potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Resist the temptation to add butter/milk/cream to the potatoes. You want the top to remain fluffy in the oven. If the potatoes have anything added, they will collapse. Spoon the mashed potato over the top of the fish – I use two dessertspoons to dollop it over. Leave it rough and craggy rather than smooth. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden and you can see the béchamel bubbling away under the crust. Serve with steamed green vegetables or, if there aren’t enough calories already, some buttered leeks.

*I know it sounds finicky to specify exactly 10 peppercorns but, if you know exactly how many went in, you know exactly how many to take back out again. Biting on a whole black peppercorn when you’re not expecting it, is not a pleasant experience!

** Most stock cubes aren’t gluten-free. I use Knorr stockpots. The beef and chicken ones are labelled gluten-free but the fish ones aren’t. I checked the label and it doesn’t include any gluten-containing ingredients. I use them and they don’t make me ill. Their fish stock cubes ARE labelled gluten-free, so if you don’t want to risk it, I used those instead.

*** I always used to end up with a lumpy béchamel until I started using hot milk rather than cold. If there are a few lumps, just take the sauce off the heat and whisk furiously for a minute or so.

****This is really important. The bechamel needs to cool and set so that the mashed potato doesn’t sink into it.

gluten-free turkey kiev bites

Comfort food isn’t just about stews, casseroles and mashed potato to me. It’s also about burgers, fishfingers and, dare I utter it?, chicken nuggets. (I know, I know…! What can I say? They speak to my inner child, so shoot me…!) All of these products, if you’re on a completely unrestricted diet, you can pick up ready made and reasonably cheaply whenever and wherever the whim takes you.

There is also an ever-burgeoning array of Free From products you can get your mitts on now and I’m sure if I’d got in the car and gone down to my local Sainsbury’s, I could have got myself something of that ilk without any hassle. The thing is, and I hate to say it because I’m grateful, really I am, that gluten-free options are more readily available now than they’ve ever been, is that much of it, unfortunately, is a load of ****. It’s jam-packed full of salt, fat and sugar – more so than ‘normal’ convenience food. If you don’t believe me, pop along to my fellow blogger Laura’s post where she lays it all out in tabular form.

A few years ago (before I realised that homemade gluten-free pastry didn’t inhabit the land of unicorns), I bought a ready-made beef pie (I’ll spare the brand its blushes). I was so excited. I got it home, slapped it in the oven and salivated whilst it heated through. I bit into it. Yuk. And I’m not talking about the pastry either. I’m talking about the beef. It was salty, grey, gristly, bland and gelatinous and, well, it just didn’t taste like beef. I’ve seen dog food that, quite frankly, looked more appetising.

Why? I asked myself. Beef is beef. Beef is naturally gluten-free. It should taste the same as beef in a ‘normal’ pie.  Did the beef taste disgusting because the cost of manufacturing the gluten-free bit of the pie made decent meat prohibitively expensive? Or was it the producer’s reasoning that our poor, deprived tastebuds have become so desensitised from eating cardboard bread that we would be grateful for anything, however meagre, that was tossed in our direction?  Both thoughts made me feel angry and not a little sad and I vowed that I would make most of my own food from scratch from that time forward.

In other news, I can’t believe that the month goes by so quickly. The other day, my most recent blog post and recipe for LiveGlutenFree went live. Here’s a sneaky peek at my gluten-free chocolate, orange and cardamom melting moments. I’m really into cardamom at the moment and I’ve started grinding it into my peppermint tea, along with cinnamon, chocolate and dried orange peel – sounds bizarre, but it really works! Melting moments are self-explanatory really – biscuits that melt as soon as you put them in your mouth. They’re usually piped with a star nozzle and sandwiched with buttercream but that’s a bit retro-and-not-in-a-good-way for me, so I used a plain cutter and drizzled them with chocolate flavoured with orange. If you like what you see, do click on the link to have a look at the recipe.

Gluten-free chocolate, orange and cardamom melting moments

Anyway, without further ado, here are the stars of the show: mouth-sized morsels of turkey with a garlicky, herby centre, encased in crispy gluten-free breadcrumbs. Serve with boiled potatoes and a green salad or, as I much more sophisticatedly did, with sautéd potatoes and haricots blancs in a tomato sauce chips and beans.

gluten-free turkey kiev bites

Gluten-free oven-baked turkey Kiev bites

Serves 4 (makes 20 turkey Kiev bites)

For the garlic parsley butter:
50g butter, cubed
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp flatleaf parsley, chopped

For the breadcrumbs:
150g gluten-free white bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp salt

500g lean minced (ground) turkey
gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

You will also need a food processor, a sheet of greaseproof paper about 30cm x 30cm and a baking (cookie) sheet, lined with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

First of all, make the garlic parsley butter. Place the cubed butter, crushed garlic and coarsely chopped flatleaf parsley into the food processor and whizz on high speed until everything is well-incorporated and the mixture is soft and flecked with pale green.

Now, you need to form the butter into a log shape about 1cm in diameter and 20cm in length. This is a lot easier to do than to describe, so apologies if it’s a bit long-winded. It’s a *bit* like rolling sushi, if you’ve ever done that before. Lay the piece of greaseproof paper on the work surface and spoon the garlic parsley butter in a blob about halfway along, and 5cm from, the bottom edge. (Now, I’m right-handed, so if you’re left-handed, you might want to do the next bit the other way around). Holding the bottom edge of the greaseproof paper against the work surface with your left hand, bring the top edge of the greaseproof paper over the butter so that it snugly encloses it. Keeping your left hand in place to keep the bottom layer of paper secure, use the blade of your right hand to gently push and nudge against the top layer of paper at the base of the enclosed butter. As you push, the butter travels up the greaseproof paper and it should form itself into a log: the more you push, the thinner it should get.

When the log is the right size, trim off the excess paper at the bottom and twist the ends to secure the butter. Place in the freezer until ready to assemble the Kiev bites.

* Now, make the breadcrumbs. Tear the slices of gluten-free bread into pieces and place in the food processor. Blitz until you have made coarse crumbs. Heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat until the pan is smoking and add the tablespoon of olive oil. Tip the breadcrumbs into the frying pan and fry for several minutes. These burn very easily, so make sure you keep stirring and breaking up any clumps of crumbs caused by the oil. The breadcrumbs are ready to come out when they have turned a golden-brown colour and sound crisp against the bottom of the frying pan. Tip the crumbs back into the food processor and add the garlic, lemon pepper and salt. Blitz again until fine. Tip out into a shallow bowl and set aside.

Now, tip the minced (ground) turkey into a mixing bowl and gently massage with your hands to create a more homogeneous mixture. Form into 20 balls of 25g each. Using your index finger, make an indentation in each (making sure you don’t poke through to the other side).

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Remove the butter log from the freezer and cut into 20 equal slices. Push a slice into the indentation in the ball of turkey meat. Pinch the meat closed and then roll the ball between the palms of your hands so that the meat completely seals the slice of butter. Repeat with the other balls of mince.

This next bit might sound a bit pernickety, but it’s the only way if you don’t want to end up with goujons for fingers… Basically, the rule is: one hand for dry, the other hand for wet. Place a shallow bowl with the beaten egg to your left, the plate/tray of turkey balls in the middle and a plate with a few tablespoons of gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour and the shallow bowl of breadcrumbs to your right.

Using your right hand, coat a turkey ball in flour then drop gently in the bowl of egg. Using your left hand, make sure the ball is evenly coated with egg before dropping it gently into the bowl of breadcrumbs. Using your right hand, scoop and pat the breadcrumbs gently over the ball before placing it on a baking (cookie) sheet lined with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the Kiev bites are golden-brown and cooked through.

* This is how I now make all my breadcrumbs. If I make a larger batch than I need, I put the excess into a sealed container in the refrigerator and keep them there up to a week. If they’ve been in contact with raw meat, like in this recipe, I only use them when I’m going to cook with them (rather than using to sprinkle on fishy pasta dishes).

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