Archives for posts with tag: recipe

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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This Great Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge has certainly lived up to its name. I tend to cook with a lot of eggs. Mint, well, not so much. So you can imagine my ‘delight’ when I found out that, as well as being gluten-free, the recipe ALSO had to be egg-free AND showcase mint.

Hmmm. Not a propitious combination.

Luckily I can still eat eggs although I don’t take this for granted. Food sensitivities seem to have a lot in common with buses – there isn’t one for ages and then several all pitch up in one go. Over the last few months I seem to have developed a sensitivity for alcohol and/or sulphites but I’m not sure which, as most alcoholic beverages contain sulphites anyway to halt the fermentation process. Eggs could easily be next for me.

Not only do I love eggs for their own sake, when they’re scrambled, poached, boiled and fried but I also rely on them a lot to compensate for the lack of gluten in my baking. And mint is one of those tastes that I’m still in the process of acquiring: I do like it but it has to be quite subtle and also be combined with other flavours. So this challenge was going to be tough because every mint recipe I thought of (that I would like to eat) had eggs in it and in such a way too that I didn’t think egg substitute would work.

This recipe came about quite by chance. I was originally planning a microwaveable mint chocolate fondant dessert based upon an eggless sponge recipe. I made a batch and poured a portion into a coffee cup. ‘One minute should do it!’ I thought as I set the timer on the microwave with gay abandon and gazed expectantly through the glass door. Ping! Yuk. Didn’t work. Another portion. 40 seconds, set more hesitantly this time. I gazed doubtfully through the glass door. Ping! Ew! All I can say is, if you want to be cheffy and decorate a dessert plate with edible (mint-flavoured) soil, I’ve got just the recipe…

I still had about a third of the mixture left. I hate waste so I thought I’d put it in a pan and chuck it in the oven just to see what happened. When it came out, it didn’t look so good so I tossed it aside on the worktop and sat down to come up with another idea (which I did do and I will get around to posting it sometime soon). When I came back to it some hours later so that I could put it in the bin, I realised that it had started taking on the texture of a brownie. Still a little powdery but my mind started to tick over. More butter, more chocolate and added golden syrup…

Gluten-free and egg-free mint-triple-choc-chip brownies

Don’t be tempted to do anything with the brownies until they have had their requisite 3 or 4 hours in the fridge. Don’t try to cut them and definitely DO NOT taste them. They will be dry and they will crumble. They will also taste of overheated peppermint. Take it from someone who knows… They are worth the wait though. Once they’ve been chilled, they become dense, fudgy and chocolatey and the peppermint flavour is deliciously fresh and light.

Makes 16

85g butter, cubed
150g gluten-free plain chocolate, coarsely chopped (at least 74% cocoa solids)
200g sweetened condensed milk
1½ tsp peppermint extract
2 tbsp golden syrup
90ml water
80g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g Community Foods potato flour (potato starch)
30g cocoa powder
2 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
100g ground almonds
50g gluten-free white chocolate chips

You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm cake/brownie tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Put the butter in a microwaveable jug or bowl and microwave on ‘high’ for 40 seconds or until the butter has melted. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted.

Whisk the condensed milk, in a large bowl, with the peppermint essence, golden syrup and 60ml of the water for a minute or so with an electric whisk until well-combined.

Sift the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and xanthan gum into the chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet. The mixture needs to have the texture of chocolate mousse so, if it is on the dry side, add the remaining 30ml of water, a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until you have a uniform mixture. Fold in the ground almonds and white chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the tin and smoothe the surface with an oiled palette knife. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before putting the tin in the refrigerator and chilling for at least 3 to 4 hours. Cut in half lengthways and then in eighths widthways to create 16 brownie fingers. Store in the refrigerator.

I feel like I’ve been working incessantly on the blog for the last two weeks and yet have had nothing to post on it! This has been a mixture of disasters learning experiences – Cornish fried ravioli (let’s not even go there!) – AND preparing for my next guest blog at LiveGlutenFree, which should be going live sometime at the end of next week (here’s my last one!), AND developing my contribution for the upcoming Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge hosted by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k] (here’s my last one!).

Both of these have not been without their problems. My first effort for LiveGlutenFree was a gluten-free version of ‘le pounti’, a speciality of the Auvergne in France, which I can best describe as a cross-between a crustless quiche and a savoury clafoutis: it’s made with smoked bacon (or lardons), ham, onion and Swiss chard or spinach, mixed with a batter and baked in the oven. Sounds pretty good so far, I hear you say.

On paper, it was a winner. In reality, it was horrible. The batter had a rather unpleasant soapy texture and there was a noxious reek and aftertaste of still-raw spinach. My husband and I stoically munched our way through our portions and I even managed to sneak a couple of spoonfuls into my toddler. When the meal was over, I wordlessly ushered the rest of it down the food waste disposal chute and we didn’t speak of it again… So, no ‘le pounti’ and it was back to the drawing-board… Do give the LiveGlutenFree blog a visit next week and see what I managed to come up with instead!

My travails with the gluten-free, egg-free, minty-licious recipe challenge, I will regale you with on Monday when I unveil my contribution…

Gluten-free gnocchi with bacon and artichokes

I made this dish last week with stuff from the fridge and a packet of ready-made gluten-free pasta, when I realised that the meat I had taken out of the freezer hadn’t defrosted in time. It was so good, I decided to do it again, but this time I thought I’d ring the changes by using gnocchi rather than pasta. The sauce is extremely reminiscent of ‘alla carbonara’ although I’m not sure if it’s even remotely authentic. Artichokes are my current favourite vegetable (high in prebiotics!) but, if you’re not keen, I think blanched asparagus spears would work just as well.

When gnocchi are done well, they are bee-yute-ee-full. When they’re not, they’re horrendous. In the years BGF, I used to buy them already made and found the taste of flour overpowering.  Homemade are soooo much better, and I think particularly so when they’re gluten-free and made with potato starch. They are the lightest and fluffiest gnocchi imaginable and the starch allows the unadulterated taste of the potato to shine through.

Lots of recipes I’ve seen are quite precious about the way in which you cook the potatoes: some bake the potatoes in the oven first and scoop the insides out and others boil the potatoes whole in their skins and peel them in a tea-towel when they’re cooked. These methods don’t sit well with me. They take ages, the oven going on is an added expense, I always manage to burn myself and there’s a mucky tea-towel to be washed . Basically, you need dry potatoes so I cut them small, boil them for a short time and allow them to steam dry in the colander. It still works and takes a fraction of the time and effort. You really do need to use a potato ricer or equivalent though so that you get lump-free mash. They’re not massively expensive and once you’ve eaten mash that’s been riced, you’ll never look back. If you’ve never seen a potato ricer, imagine a garlic crusher on steroids…

The consistency of the dough is really important. If it’s too wet, it will disintegrate in the water; too dry and you’ll end up with stodgy, glutinous cannonballs which will lodge in your throat and weigh heavy in your gut. So don’t be too cavalier with the flour – if you add too much, you’re faced with the unenviable choice of either boiling more potatoes to redress the balance or a post-prandial snack of a packet of Rennies.

Serves 2-3

500g floury potatoes (peeled weight – equivalent to 3 medium-large King Edward’s)
25g butter or butter substitute (I used a low-fat olive spread)
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
115g Community Foods potato flour (potato starch)

125ml double cream or low-fat thick cream equivalent (I used WeightWatchers)
60ml milk
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated finely
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
4 rashers of smoked back bacon, trimmed of fat and cut into pieces (I usually cut into 1 cm strips and then halve)
6 tinned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

You will also need a potato ricer, mouli-légume or a sieve.

Cut the potatoes into 1-2cm pieces. Place in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife, and then drain in a colander. Leave in the colander to dry for five minutes, shaking them once after a couple of minutes to enable steam to escape – you want the cut edges of the potato pieces to look floury and fluffy.  Don’t leave them any longer than this, as you need them to be warm in order to melt and absorb the butter and egg yolk.

Push the potatoes either through a potato ricer or a mouli-légume (or, at a pinch, through a sieve) into a large bowl. This will ensure the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi possible. I really wouldn’t recommend using a masher because it always seems to come out lumpy. Add the butter (or butter substitute) and the egg yolk. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix well to combine.

Now stir in about two-thirds of the potato starch. Using your hand, gently bring the mixture together, gradually adding more starch until you have a soft and silky dough. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and gently knead: you shouldn’t need to flour the surface – if you do, your dough is too wet and you need to add more starch.

Take a handful of the dough at a time and roll out gently into a snake about 1.5cm thick. Cut into pieces about 2.5 cm long and lay out on a plate. Continue until the dough has been used up. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate whilst you make the sauce (or at least 15-20 minutes if you’re using a ready-made sauce).

Mix the cream, milk, grated cheese and egg yolks in a bowl or jug and season with pepper (you shouldn’t need any salt because of the cheese and bacon) and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying-pan (skillet) or sauté pan over a low flame. Add the chopped onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the chopped bacon and continue to fry for another five or so minutes. Then add the quartered artichoke hearts to the pan and continue cooking until they are heated through.  Switch the heat off. (If you’re cooking this in advance, you can refrigerate this mix at this point until you need it).

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Take the gnocchi out of the refrigerator and gently press each one of them with the back of the prongs of a fork (I usually do them diagonally because I think they look better!). When the water has come up to the boil, cook the gnocchi in three batches. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom of the pan when they go in the water but they will gradually float to the surface. When they’re all merrily bobbing up and down on the surface, put the timer on for one minute. At the end of the minute, scoop them out, using a slotted spoon, into the bacon and artichoke mixture and continue with the next batch.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, turn the heat back on under the pan (a low flame again). Pour in the cream and egg mixture and stir gently until the gnocchi and bacon are piping hot and the sauce has thickened and is bubbling (about 5 minutes).

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