Archives for posts with tag: comfort food

gluten-free apple crumble

I don’t know where March has gone. I had lots of big ideas for recipes for this month and I haven’t managed to get any of them on the blog. I’m still tinkering with my bread recipe…and I think I probably always will be until it’s just like the glutenicious variety (!) I’ve been trying to reach the optimal level of psyllium husk so that there’s enough to get a good rise, but yet not so much that it has a clammy texture. I’m also playing around with a butter shortbread recipe and I think my remastered puff pastry sausage roll recipe is ready to be unveiled to the world very soon. But what with three birthdays (my own included), visiting family, a christening, looking after the house, trying to keep up with my toddler’s busy social life and experimenting with some recipes that I need to faff a bit more with, I haven’t managed to blog anything apart from my monthly recipe for LiveGlutenFree:

gluten-free chocolate fondants

Gluten-free chocolate fondants

So here is something I’ve been meaning to try for ages: an improved apple crumble recipe. I’m very partial to an apple crumble, especially if it’s served with lashings of hot custard, but I have been less than impressed with the bog- standard gluten-free variety that uses a like-for-like flour substitution. The finished product is always very powdery and tends to go a bit gluey in the mouth. One way of getting round this is to sub some of the flour/butter/sugar combo for crushed biscuits which I do when I’m making my delicious pear and ginger crumble.

Oats are often added to crumbles to give them a bit of ‘bite’ but, unfortunately, I’m unable to eat even gluten-free oats. Enter rice and buckwheat porridge flakes (available from Sainsbury’s). I think they’re really useful and that they have a not un-oaty flavour. They are, however, very hard and you can’t just substitute them for oats without softening them up first. I usually do this with hot apple juice. I made this last night for my family and it all disappeared. It’s not really the Easterlicious treat I was planning (improved hot cross buns) but it was yummy all the same.

gluten-free apple crumble 2

Serving suggestion: Gluten-free apple crumble with lashings of hot custard

Gluten-free apple crumble with rice and buckwheat flakes

Serves 4 generously

60ml apple juice
120g rice and buckwheat porridge flakes (I used Sainsbury’s)
120g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
2 x 60g butter
2 x 60g light brown soft sugar + 2 tsp
400g apples (I used eating, rather than cooking, apples)

You will also need an approximately 1.3l-capacity ovenproof dish.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted so adjust accordingly).

Heat the apple juice in the microwave on ‘high’ for 1 minute. Combine with the rice and buckwheat flakes in a small bowl. Stir and set aside.

Sift the gluten-free plain flour into a large bowl and rub in 60g of butter until you have the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in 60g of light brown soft sugar.

In a small saucepan melt the remaining 60g of butter with the remaining 60g of light brown soft sugar over a low heat. When melted, pour over the rice and buckwheat mixture and stir to combine. Allow to cool slightly.

Peel, core and chop the apples into large chunks. Place in the base of the ovenproof dish and scatter 2 teaspoons of light brown soft sugar over them.

Combine the rice and buckwheat mixture with the flour and butter mixture and scatter over the top of the apples. Bake for 25 minutes or until the crumble topping is golden and the apples are tender. Serve with cream, ice cream, yoghurt or custard.

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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).

Eating out when you can’t eat your country’s staple crop is a real pain. Most dishes are accompanied by pasta or bread or swathed in pastry or breadcrumbs and soups, stews and sauces are usually thickened with flour. Eating on the run is even worse: most snacks – sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, sandwiches, cakes, panini, chocolate bars, fast food of the burger and fried chicken variety from chains whose names I dare not speak – are out of bounds. You can’t even pick up a packet of Gary Lineker’s favourite crisps anymore. Like a vicious moray eel, gluten also lurks in menus, waiting to pounce, where you least expect to find it. Something that seems innocuous and that you would never in a million years suspect contained gluten, has had flour bunged into it to make it go further and/or last longer.

You have to educate yourself and do it fast or you make painful mistakes. I got caught out early on in my glutenfreebie life with a mushroom omelette and chips in a greasy spoon. I blithely munched my way through it, enjoying every mouthful, secure in the knowledge that mushrooms, eggs and potatoes don’t contain gluten… It enjoyed me half-an-hour later when the banging headache, constricted throat and nausea kicked in. Little had I known that, not only were those cheap chips made from potato reconstituted with wheat but that they were probably also fried in the same oil as the battered fish and onion rings the rather sticky menu in the café was also advertising. My mantra is now “Assume Nothing!” and I always ensure that everything I order has none in it because I ask, which is a good job or I would have been caught out with the poached salmon salad in a pub in Cheltenham (the vinaigrette salad dressing?!) and the poached salmon and steamed potatoes in a restaurant in Cardiff (the hollandaise?!).

I’m not complaining (much). I understand that profitability in the food industry means ensuring the happiness (or full tummies) of the greatest number at the cheapest price and adulterating naturally gluten-free food with wheat is a way of doing it. And I don’t expect, as a member of a minority, to be universally catered for. Although there is an increasing number of restaurants who are willing to cater for those with dietary restrictions, I do think that the others who don’t are missing a trick. Restaurants, take note! We might only make up a small percentage of people who go out to dine but when we do, we don’t usually do it alone (we may not eat gluten but, funnily enough, we DON’T have two heads!). We therefore not only take our own custom to a restaurant that can cater for us but we also take the rest of our party, potentially increasing that percentage three-, four-, five-fold… Just a thought…

Anyway, if I want a burger now, I have to make them at home. On the upside, at least I know that what’s in them is healthy and nutritious. This is non-junk comfort food at its best.

And I don’t have to eat them out of a polystyrene carton either.

Gluten-free harissa lamb, feta and olive burgers with garlic lemon mayonnaise

Makes 4 burgers

1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
400g minced lamb
1 tbsp harissa
100g feta, cut into 5mm cubes
50g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
40g gluten-free breadcrumbs
olive oil for shallow frying
150g quality gluten-free mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced or ¼ tsp garlic granules
zest of half a lemon and juice of a whole lemon
salt and pepper
4 gluten-free hamburger buns or rolls (I used Sainsbury’s seeded rolls, pictured)
chopped lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Fry the onion gently in the olive oil for several minutes until softened, golden and translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes until the edges are slightly tinged with brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, cooled onions, harissa, feta, olives, eggs and breadcrumbs. Form into four equally sized burgers and chill until ready to cook.

To make the mayonnaise, simply combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the burgers and fry for about 7-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through, turning just once.  Serve in a toasted gluten-free hamburger bun garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and the garlic lemon mayonnaise.

NB These can be frozen but their texture is much better when cooked from fresh.

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