Archives for posts with tag: lemon

It’s been a busy week, what with keeping up with my son’s social life, seeing my second guest post at LiveGlutenFree going live last Friday and going out to (gluten-free!) dinner with my husband (sans bébé for the first time in 16 months!) on Saturday.

I talked a couple of posts ago about the troubles I had coming up with a recipe for my second post for LiveGlutenFree. Well, it all came out in the wash and I created a caramelized red onion and goat’s cheese tart in a thyme crust. It was even a hit with my toddler! Do stop by the blog to have a look at the recipe.

My husband and I were given a voucher for a dinner for two at a hotel in Cheltenham for Christmas by my elder sister, Kim, and her family. We’ve only just got around to using it because procuring the services of a trustworthy babysitter in a town you’ve only just moved to is quite a big ask. But the voucher was nearing its expiry date and Kim told me in no uncertain terms that if we didn’t use it, we’d have to manufacture a very believable account of a fantasy meal that we’d ‘eaten’ or else… Not one willing to stir the wrath of Khan Kim, I procured a babysitter toute suite.

I’ve talked already about the problems of eating out when you’re gluten-free. Now I’m going to talk about the successes. Unfortunately, they come with a price tag. The two most enjoyable meals out that I’ve had since being gluten-free have been in 4 star hotels: the first for my ‘significant’ birthday this year at the Barceló Hotel in Oxford and the second, this last weekend at Parker’s Restaurant at The Hotel on the Park in Cheltenham. This should come as no surprise – the more you pay, the less likely processed food is to make a shifty appearance – everything is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. I could eat most things on the menu, i.e. the ones that if you cooked them at home, they would naturally be gluten-free anyway, and the restaurants, on both occasions, provided me with gluten-free bread (although the waiter in Oxford DID have to be educated not to serve gluten and gluten-free bread in the same basket…) So, what did I have? A beautiful starter of seared scallops with lardons and carrot and cumin purée, followed by a delicious piece of slow-cooked lamb on a bed of potatoes Lyonnaise and peas and bacon, followed by crème brûlée (without its accompanying almond tuile). Scrump-shuss.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d far rather eat out less frequently at higher-end restaurants with a good choice and not have such a big fear of cross-contamination than more frequently at cheaper eateries where gluten-free often means the ‘choice’ of half of one thing on the menu that’s had the other glutenicious half unceremoniously scraped off by surly waiting staff…

Gluten-free smoked mackerel and lemon ravioli with a parsley and chive butter

My tips for making gluten-free ravioli can be found here. But the challenge and also the charm of gluten-free cooking and baking is that you’re always learning on the job. So in addition to those tips, I would add: make sure that you have floured fingers when sealing the ravioli – this will prevent the top layer of pasta sticking to your fingers and unsealing itself. When cutting the ravioli, use repeated downward strokes rather than pulling the knife as you are likely to snag the pasta.

Smoked mackerel is probably not the most conventional or authentic filling for ravioli but it was absolutely delicious. Even if I say so myself!

Serves 3 (makes 40-50 ravioli)

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

For the filling:
250g smoked mackerel (skinned weight)
2 tbsp ricotta
zest and juice half a lemon
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for sealing the ravioli)

For the sauce:
75g butter (or low-fat butter alternative)
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped chives

You will also need a pasta-rolling machine

First, 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 wrap the ball in clingfilm to keep the pasta from drying out.

Give the inside of the food processor a wipe around with a damp cloth. Blitz all of the ingredients for the filling until you have a smooth paste.

Working with one small, plum-sized piece of pasta 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 6, 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 6cm wide – the length will vary so it doesn’t really matter.

Lay the strip horizontally on the work surface and trim the top and bottom long sides with a sharp knife so that the pasta is 5½ – 6cm deep. 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: dust your fingers with flour and, 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.  Cut the ravioli into squares with a sharp knife and gently lift away the surplus pasta. Gently lift the ravioli on to a plate (I use a palette knife to ease them from the work 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.  Re-roll and continue making ravioli until all the filling is used up.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small frying pan (skillet), simply melt the butter and add the chopped herbs. Leave to heat through gently whilst cooking the ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in two or three 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 2½ 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 and third batch. Dress with the parsley and chive butter.

*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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I first came across polenta in Florence where I spent the third year of my degree in 1993. I was taken, by some Italian friends, to a rather dingy restaurant somewhere behind Santa Croce. It was away from the tourist traps on the main drag and I was told that this was where the locals ate. The menu came but I wasn’t given a choice. Polenta was ordered for me. I was told that it was a speciality of the restaurant. It arrived in a bowl, looking as unprepossessing as the locale. I stuck a spoon in and took a bite, expecting to be blown away as I was with all Italian food. Sadly (for me), I wasn’t impressed, finding it rather bland and a bit too ‘corny’. I added Parmesan and managed to eat the bowlful. I haven’t eaten it since then because how it was prepared wasn’t really to my palate.

Until tonight, that is. I wanted to make a Mediterranean-style pork casserole with red wine, tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms and olives and I know that polenta is a classic accompaniment to such slow-cooked recipes. I thought that lemon and thyme would complement the flavours in this really well. So I chucked in some lemon juice and zest, some dried thyme, some Parmesan and garlic for good measure. I’m converted.

A word of warning if you’ve never cooked polenta before:  If you’re adding extra ingredients to it, you really need to have all your ducks lined up before you start because the polenta needs vigorously whisking until it all of a sudden thickens and starts spitting. You really haven’t got time to be opening jars and measuring stuff out. Finally, finishing it off in the oven is not a traditional way to cook polenta but who’s got time to stand in front of the stove, stirring the pot for 45 minutes…?

Naturally gluten-free griddled polenta with Parmesan, lemon and thyme

Serves 6

olive oil
1.25l cold water
300g polenta/fine cornmeal
1½ tsp salt
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated
zest and juice 1 lemon
2 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp dried thyme

You will also need a slab tin, 24cm x 20cm x 4cm

Preheat the oven to 190°C (fan-assisted). Grease and line the tin with baking parchment. Put the cold water in a very large saucepan and slowly add the polenta. You will need to whisk furiously in order to break up any lumps. Add the salt and bring slowly to the boil over a low to medium flame, whisking all the while (if you stop, the polenta sinks like silt to the bottom of the pan). Nothing will seem to happen for a while then, all of a sudden, it will thicken up and start spitting like a hot mud spring and you have to work quite fast. Add the cheese, lemon juice and zest, garlic granules and thyme and continue to whisk for a couple of minutes.

Take the polenta off the heat and pour into the prepared tin. Cover with aluminium foil and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and take off the foil. Allow to cool slightly in the tin for about 20 minutes, then remove from the tin, peel off the parchment and allow to cool on a wire rack. When cool, cut into six rectangles (in half vertically and into three horizontally). Cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal.

Heat a cast-iron griddle pan or ordinary frying pan (skillet) over a high heat and brush each portion of polenta with olive oil. Griddle each side for about 3 minutes or until golden-brown. I served these with a Mediterranean-style pork and olive casserole (see pictures).

For several years I lived with pounding headaches, aching joints, a runny nose, fatigue and digestive problems on a daily basis. I popped painkillers as though they were Smarties and had a stash of mentholated 4head sticks on the bedside table, in coat pockets, at the bottom of bags and at the back of desk drawers. The thing is, I didn’t really question what was causing all of this discomfort. I just assumed that the stresses of a long commute and a day of teaching secondary school pupils with learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties were grinding me down.  I left the job but the symptoms persisted. I would wake up in the morning, feeling absolutely fine but, half an hour after a wheat-packed breakfast, I would get that expanding, burning aching in my head which would start at my temples, spread to my throat and make me feel queasy. I would automatically reach for the co-codamol whilst furiously smearing my forehead with menthol. It wasn’t until I decided that it was time I lost the stone and a half of excess weight that I’d been carrying around for far too long and went on the South Beach Diet, which cuts out gluten-containing foods, amongst others, for the first fortnight, that I found out, quite by accident that I was gluten intolerant. On my doctor’s advice, I’ve recently decided to find out if I’m actually coeliac or not. The diagnosis will make little difference to my everyday life, however. I’ve eaten gluten-free for the past two years and haven’t looked back. I’ve never felt so well. And the only thing I now eat like Smarties are, well, Smarties.
Naturally gluten-free chicken pilaf with artichokes and preserved lemons
The taste of the cumin and the lemons take me back to a restaurant overlooking Jemaa El-Fna in Marrakech where I first had a chicken, olive and lemon tagine. Preserved lemons have a fairly strong, medicinal flavour which I love but which isn’t to everyone’s taste. The first time I cooked this recipe, I put in two lemons and the flavour was quite over-powering. The second time, I only used one. The flavour is now far more subtle. I would imagine that a fresher lemon flavour could be achieved through the substitution of preserved lemons for the juice of a fresh one and the zest of half of it.
Serves 2-3 (We usually manage to eat the whole thing between the two of us, but then we’re just plain greedy).
·         Handful flaked almonds
·         2 tsp cumin seeds
·         Medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
·         2 tbsp olive oil
·         2 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
·         200g basmati rice, rinsed under cold running water until the water runs clear
·         600ml chicken or vegetable stock or plain water
·         5 tinned artichoke hearts, quartered
·         1 small preserved lemon, chopped into small pieces
·         Handful fresh coriander, stalks removed and roughly chopped
·         Salt and pepper
Gently toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until golden brown. This should take about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside in a small bowl. Carefully wipe the hot pan with a piece of kitchen roll to remove any shards of almond and return to the heat. Now gently toast the cumin seeds in the dry pan, still over a medium heat, until they become fragrant. This should take about a minute. Remove from the pan and grind to a powder, using a pestle and mortar.
Return the pan to the heat and pour in the olive oil. When hot, add the onions and cook until soft but not coloured. This should take about 7-8 minutes. Add the cumin powder to the onions and stir. Allow to cook for another couple of minutes, stirring to avoid the onions and cumin sticking and catching.
Add the rice to the pan and stir until all the grains are coated and glistening with oil. Add about 580ml of the stock and bring the mixture up to a simmer. Add the preserved lemon to the pan and allow to gently bubble away for about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken pieces and the quartered artichoke hearts to the pan and continue to simmer until the rice is tender, the chicken is cooked through and all the liquid has been absorbed. If the rice absorbs all of the liquid before it’s cooked, add more stock, a ladle at a time, to keep the mixture moist. This should take about 10 minutes.
Check the seasoning, adding pepper, and salt if required (I find that the stock has plenty of salt in it and I never need to add more). Stir half the coriander into the rice and scatter the remainder over the top, along with the toasted flaked almonds. Serve with a green salad.
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