Archives for posts with tag: dinner

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.

It’s been a week of downs and ups since I last posted. The downs consisted of me being glutenated in rather strange circumstances which I’m still investigating. The suspected culprit is currently the food additive maltodextrin which was in a fruit bar masquerading as a gluten-free product. I’m still doing my research on the topic and I’ll do another post when I’m a bit clearer but I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had either a confirmed or suspected adverse reaction to maltodextrin.

Anyway, on to the ups. My very first guest blog post at LiveGlutenFree went  live on Monday morning (April 30th). It was so exciting to see my recipe published on another site and to get so much positive feedback from Twitter and from visitors to the blog itself. If you haven’t discovered LiveGlutenFree yet, you should go and check them out. They have gluten-free recipes, information about gluten-free-friendly restaurants, advice for coeliacs, guest blogs (mine included!) and much more. Last month’s recipe was Millionaire’s Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries, inspired by a packet of gluten-free caramel slices kindly brought round to our house by a visitor.

If the look of it has tantalised your tastebuds, do click on the link and have a gander at the recipe. I’m now busily thinking up what this month’s recipe is going to be!

But enough of the self-promotion 😉 … on to this week’s recipe!! Everyone’s got a wok, right? Um, no. I DID have one once. A beautiful, brand-spanking-new non-stick one that my Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas. I brought it home full of big ideas about all the sumptuous Chinese banquets I would cook. I in fact used it just the once to make a stir-fry. My flatmate (strange girl) decided to do the washing-up. I looked over her shoulder to see her SCOURING it with a BRILLO PAD. RIP beautiful new wok. I haven’t had one since. If I ever fancied Chinese food, I’d just go to the takeaway…then gluten decided that it hated me and that particular avenue of gastronomic pleasure was shut off. I’ve never been to a Chinese takeaway since to attempt to order anything gluten-free. I just think that there’s probably too much rogue soy sauce splashing about to be worth the risk but I’d be really interested to know if anyone else has tried it.

If I want anything vaguely ‘Chinese-style’, I have to cook it at home now with gluten-free tamari. My egg noodle recipe is a variation on my pasta recipe – after all, you can’t really get as much as a cigarette paper between the difference. I did, in my research, however, discover that Chinese egg noodles are chewier than Italian pasta because alkaline, or lye, water (which is sodium carbonate and NOT to be confused with sodium BIcarbonate) is added. This, however, can be toxic if you don’t know what you’re doing. Nice… So I’ve made my noodles chewier by increasing the starch-to-flour ratio and adding a smidgen more xanthan gum. Seemed to work!

Chicken chow mein with gluten-free egg noodles

Serves 3

150g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
cold water
toasted sesame seed oil to drizzle on cooked noodles

250-300g chicken fillet (breast or leg), skinned, deboned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tbsp gluten-free tamari
2 tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1-2 medium red chillis, chopped OR 1-2 tsp Very Lazy Chilli (optional)
1 onion, peeled, quartered then quartered again (I find it easier to leave the root attached until I’ve finished slicing and then remove it at the end)
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
150g mushrooms (field or shiitake), thinly sliced
200g beansprouts
1-2 tbsp gluten-free tamari
1-2 tbsp water

You will also need a pasta rolling machine with a spaghetti attachment (mine came from Lakeland) and a wok or large non-stick frying pan (don’t use non-non-stick because the cornflour-coated chicken WILL stick to the bottom and burn).

First of all, place the chicken in either a Ziploc bag or a plastic container with a lid, along with the Chinese 5-spice and tamari, seal and shake so that all pieces are coated. Leave to marinate.

Then, make the noodles. Cut a strip of greaseproof baking paper about 30cm long and wide enough to fit underneath the rolling machine. You will need this when cutting the noodle dough with the spaghetti attachment.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and both oils. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and sticky and feel quite light and pliable*. Now either wrap the ball in clingfilm or return it to the bowl of the food processor and put the lid back on to keep the noodle dough from drying out.

Place a large plate dusted with flour next to the rolling machine. Working with a tomato-sized piece at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Try to get either the width or the length approximately the same width as the pasta rolling machine. Pass the dough just once through thickness setting 3**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. Dust each side of the sheet of dough with flour*** and make sure that the greaseproof paper is in place underneath before putting it through the spaghetti attachment. Slide the greaseproof paper out from under the machine and tip the noodles onto a plate. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to heat. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add a handful of the noodles****. The noodles will float to the top almost immediately and the water should very quickly return to the boil. Allow the noodles to bob about on the surface for about 30 seconds and then start scooping them out into a bowl (I use a spaghetti spoon – I think they might also be called kitchen spiders – over a wad of kitchen roll so that they drain properly). Add a drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil and toss through so that they don’t stick. Continue cooking the rest of the noodles in batches and dress with oil. Cover and set aside to cool until ready to cook the rest of the chow mein.

When you’re ready to cook the chow mein, add the cornflour to the marinated chicken and stir until all the pieces are coated. Heat the oil in either a wok or a large, non-stick frying pan (skillet). When the oil is very hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilli (if using). Stir quickly to avoid burning for about 30 seconds and then add the chicken. Brown the chicken for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Next add the onion and red pepper and continue to stir for another couple of minutes. Then add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Next, add the tamari and a couple of tablespoons of water to form a sauce and stir for another minute. Then finally add the beansprouts and noodles. Cook for another minute or so until the beansprouts have started to wilt slightly and the noodles are heated through. Serve with extra tamari for drizzling.

* If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the flood processor. Blitz into small piece to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball. Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges and may have a few holes. This is to be expected and it won’t be noticeable when cut into noodles. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

*** This is really important because it will stop the noodles from sticking and clumping together.

**** I cook the noodles in small batches – this allows the water to quickly come back up to the boil and avoids the noodles becoming overcooked.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. I’ve been meaning to post these fish cakes and their accompanying celeriac rémoulade on the blog for months but every time I’ve planned it, something has conspired to stop me. And it almost happened again this evening. The first time, I had the heat turned up too high when I was cooking them, and by the time I’d chipped them off the bottom of the pan, the crust was dark brown and slightly burnt in places. My husband and I did try valiantly to resurrect them in Photoshop but after our efforts, they wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 1960s Technicolor cookbook…

The second time, I had cooked them perfectly and had positioned, primped and preened them on the plate. Nothing’s going to stop me now, I rashly thought as I switched the camera on. And found that the battery was flat…

The third time, I managed to be really badly organised and, by the time I’d got round to cooking them, it was really late in the evening and spending time photographing them when bellies were rumbling loudly just wasn’t going to happen…

So, fourth time lucky this evening…or so I thought. They looked beautifully golden when I took them out of the pan and put them on the plate. I had already checked that the camera battery was fully charged and I’d prepared everything earlier in the day so I wasn’t in a rush. As a bonus, the celeriac rémoulade has also undergone an evolutionary process since I first started making it: now julienned and blanched, instead of just grated and raw, it glistened appetisingly in its mustard dressing. I positioned the plate in the window to get the last of the evening light (natural light, even if it’s fading, is far, far, FAR superior to tungsten). What could go wrong? Unfortunately, it’s been raining incessantly today and the sky was grey and gloomy at 7 o’clock. A slow shutter speed has led to a string of slightly blurred pictures. I’ve managed to salvage the best of them. I do hope they do these really tasty fish cakes justice!

Gluten-free smoked mackerel, watercress and horseradish fish cakes with celeriac rémoulade

Serves 4 (makes 8 fish cakes)

For the fish cakes:
260-270g Desirée potatoes (or other floury potato), peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1½ tbsp horseradish sauce
260-270g smoked mackerel (skinned weight)
85g watercress, chopped finely
juice half a lemon
gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten*
100g gluten-free breadcrumbs
80g fine cornmeal
olive oil for shallow frying

For the rémoulade:
250g celeriac (peeled weight)**
1 tbsp mayonnaise
4 tbsp 0% fat Greek yoghurt (I used Total)
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the diced potatoes. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender to the point of a knife. Drain and allow to sit in the colander for 5 minutes covered with a clean tea towel to absorb the steam: you want them to be as dry as possible. Mash while still warm with the horseradish sauce and pepper. Set aside to cool in a large bowl.

Flake the smoked mackerel into the potatoes, removing any bones. Add the watercress (before chopping this seems like an impossibly huge mound but after I’ve savaged it with my trusty mezzaluna, it looks much more manageable) and the lemon juice. Mix with a spoon until well-combined. Form into eight equally-sized patties with your hands. I’m terrible at dividing bowls of mixture into equal portions by eye and always end up with fishcakes of all different sizes. I describe my foolproof technique here (at the *).

Toast the breadcrumbs under a hot grill until they are golden-brown and then mix with the fine cornmeal and a grinding of pepper on a plate (I don’t usually add salt because I find the smoked mackerel salty enough). Dust each fishcake with gluten-free flour, dip in egg and then coat in the crumbs***. Place the fishcakes on a plate and refrigerate until required.

To make the rémoulade, cut the celeriac into julienne strips****. Blanch in a large pan of slightly salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water to prevent further cooking. Allow to dry – I usually dab the strips with some kitchen roll. Add the mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Gently fry the fishcakes for 4 minutes each side until golden-brown and piping hot. Serve with the rémoulade and a green salad.

* Sometimes it takes 2 eggs, when coating and breadcrumbing, and sometimes only 1. I think it probably depends upon the size of the egg and its freshness.

** This is about half of a medium celeriac. If you like, you can make double the amount to use up the whole vegetable (it’s delicious served with Parma ham or bresaola) or the rest can be made into a warming and hearty soup.

*** If you don’t want to end up with fingers like goujons, I advise using one hand for dry dipping (the flour and the breadcrumbs) and the other for wet dipping (the egg).

**** Celeriac goes brown when it comes into contact with the air unless it’s been dressed with something acidic. Have a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed into it and keep any celeriac you’re not currently working with in it, i.e. work on a few pieces at a time and return the julienned strips to the water immediately afterwards.

This ravioli recipe is a development of the tagliatelle from my last post. I’ve been tinkering with the flour-to-starch ratio for the tagliatelle for quite some time because there is a delicate balance to be found between enough starch to give the pasta a modicum of elasticity but not too much that it becomes gummy and chewy. I’ve found that you can get away with less starch in a tagliatelle recipe than in a ravioli or tortellini one because you’re not moulding it and if the strands break in half, it really doesn’t matter. I had previously tried using this recipe for tortellini and the pasta just wasn’t playing ball. So I’ve added a bit more cornflour and perhaps a smidgen more water and it seems to work.

Obviously, gluten-free pasta is neither as giving nor as forgiving as its glutenicious cousin. In fact, it can be a temperamental little diva at times, stamping its foot, folding its arms and pursing its lips, so it needs humouring and handling with kid gloves. When forming the ravioli, there are a couple of things to watch out for. When laying the top sheet down over the filling, don’t put the whole sheet down in one go. If you do, you run the risk of it snagging and pulling on the other mounds of filling. Make sure you keep the rest of the pasta strip supported on one hand and only seal one raviolo at a time with the other hand.

You are also supposed to ensure that all the air is extracted because when the ravioli are in the boiling water, the air expands inside them and they run the risk of bursting. The trouble with gluten-free pasta is that the more you prod it and the longer it is in contact with the air and, therefore, drying out, the more likely it is to tear anyway. My advice is to not be too precious about pressing out all the air. Where the pasta is draped over the filling, rather than stretched, there seems to be enough ‘give’ to allow them to expand without bursting.

There should be a large plum-sized ball of dough left over at the end to allow for wastage but you could always make up a little more filling if you like to use it up.

Gluten-free sausage, chilli and fennel ravioli with wild mushroom sauce

Serves 2 generously (makes about 30 ravioli)

For the pasta:
160g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
2/3 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt (optional)
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
cold water

For the filling:
1 tsp olive oil
200g gluten-free sausages (I used 3 of The Black Farmer sausages), skins removed
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 medium red chillis, chopped finely or 1-2 tsp Very Lazy Chilli (I used just 1 and it was pleasantly warm but I’d probably use 2 next time to give it a bit more poke)
½ – 1 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for sealing the ravioli)
1 tbsp ricotta

For the sauce:
25g dried porcini
1 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
200g chestnut mushrooms
15g butter, chilled and cubed

To garnish:
Parmesan cheese, grated

You will also need a pasta rolling machine and a 5 cm biscuit (cookie) cutter

First, make the filling. Cut the sausage meat into small pieces (I use a pair of scissors) and heat the oil over a low to medium heat in a frying pan. Gently fry the sausage meat for a couple of minutes until lightly coloured. Add the garlic, chilli and crushed fennel seeds and continue frying gently until the sausage is cooked through (another couple of minutes). Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. When cooled, place in a food processor with the egg yolk and ricotta and whizz to a rough paste.

Now, make the pasta. Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and the oil. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and ever so slightly sticky to the touch*. Now either wrap the ball in clingfilm or return it to the bowl of the food processor and put the lid back on to keep the pasta from drying out.

Working with one small, plum-sized piece at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Passing the dough just once through each thickness setting, starting at 2 and ending 5, roll the piece through the machine**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. You’re looking for a strip at least 6 or 7cm wide – the length will vary so it doesn’t really matter.

Lay the strip on the work surface and place teaspoonfuls of filling at about 5cm intervals. Using a pastry brush, brush egg white around each spoonful of filling. This will stick the pasta together. Roll another pasta strip to go over the top: starting from the left (I’m right-handed), gently drape and press this pasta strip around the first mound of filling, making sure that it is sealed all the way around. Go on to the next mound of filling and continue until you have used up the pasta strip. Minor tears can be mended by smoothing them over with a little egg white on a pastry brush. Using a biscuit (cookie) cutter, cut the ravioli to shape and gently lift away the surplus pasta. Gently lift the ravioli onto a plate (I use a palette knife to loosen them from the surface). The ravioli can be covered with clingfilm and refrigerated until needed. Scrunch the surplus pasta up again and add to it, if needed to get a plum-sized ball. Reroll and continue making ravioli until all of the filling is used up.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, put a large pan of salted water on to boil. To make the sauce, put the porcini in a heatproof bowl and add 250ml of boiling water. Leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquor, and chop. Heat the oil and the first quantity of butter in a large, non-stick frying pan (skillet). Add the chopped onions and fry gently for several minutes until they are pale and translucent. Add the garlic and chestnut mushrooms and continue to cook gently until the mushrooms have softened and have started to release their juices back into the pan (about 4-5 minutes). Add the soaking liquor, making sure you avoid the gritty bits in the bottom of the bowl, and the chopped porcini and allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes. Add the chilled butter cubes to the mushrooms and stir until the sauce becomes glossy. Check for seasoning.

Cook the ravioli in two batches. As soon as you put the ravioli in the boiling water, put the lid of the saucepan on to help the water come back up to the boil quickly and time them for 4 minutes. Scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon held over a wad of kitchen paper and put in a warmed bowl. Repeat with the second batch. Pour the mushroom sauce over the ravioli and garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.


*If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball.  Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface and knead.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges. This is to be expected. If there are numerous holes, scrunch the ball of dough up and reroll. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *





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