Roasted Fennel Risotto

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Until recently I found risotto pretty daunting.  I have flash backs of early attempts resulting in undercooked rice and a dried out sticky mess at the bottom of the saucepan.  Of course at the time we were renting a crummy flat with an electric ring for a stove top that was difficult to couldn’t possibly be my fault.  Now risotto and I are great friends and I’ve begun to get more adventurous with my ingredients.

This risotto mixes arborio rice with quinoa which gives it a health boost without being over powering.  If you hate the thought of quinoa in your risotto then just substitute it for more rice. The quinoa adds a nutty flavour, the lemon gives the risotto an extra kick and pairs beautifully with the fennel.  Roasted chicken works really well here too if, like me, you happen to live with a carnivore.
Roasted Fennel Risotto adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine

Serves 2
1 large fennel bulb
knob of butter
1 onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
100g arborio rice
50g quinoa
150ml white wine (optional)
550ml chicken or vegetable stock
zest of 1 lemon
25g parmesan, grated
olive oil
Thoroughly rinse the quinoa and set aside.  Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 220°C.  Chop the fennel in to chunks removing the green leafy fronds.  Put some oil in a roasting tin and add the half the fennel.  Roast until the edges are crispy.  Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a deep frying pan, add the onion, garlic and half the fennel and cook until soft but not coloured.
Add the butter and the quinoa and stir for 1 minute.  Then add the rice and stir for another minute.  Pour over the wine if using and simmer until evaporated (if not using wine then use a bit of stock instead).  Keep your stock hot by heating it in a separate saucepan on low and begin to add it a ladleful at a time to the risotto, stirring between each addition until it is absorbed and has reached the desired consistency.  You may find you need more or less stock.  This process should take between 20 and 25 minutes.
When the quinoa and rice are cooked, stir in the lemon zest and parmesan.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave for 2 minutes.  Serve in bowls topped with the oven roasted fennel and roast chicken if using.  Sprinkle a bit of extra parmesan on top too.

Lunch in Lausanne

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

This weekend we took a trip to Switzerland to catch up with a friend.  Travelling abroad when you have to maintain a gluten free diet can be pretty daunting.  My first challenge was eating out in a traditional Swiss restaurant in Lausanne.  My friend contacted the restaurant in advance and explained my condition with the help of these travel cards from Celiac Travel  This is a great site for advice about travelling to a variety of destinations on a gluten free diet.

Restaurants are busy places, things can get lost in communication between the waiter and the kitchen, cross contamination can be a big risk.  Throw in a foreign language too and it can all seem like too much trouble.  I was lucky.  I had my friend to speak with the waiter on my behalf.  I ended up having a rösti which is a traditional Swiss potato cake with a fried egg on top and a variety of mushrooms including chanterelles and shiitake sautéed in butter on the side.  The food was delicious and I ate safely.

Sadly I don’t have any pictures!  Thinking only of my stomach I left my camera in the car.  I managed to take a few more pictures once I had retrieved it.
To aid digestion our friend took us up this tower after lunch!
We ended our afternoon of site seeing with fresh mint tea at a local cafe.

Jam Story

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A few weeks ago towards the end of summer we decided to go blackberry picking on the downs. This year the blackberries seemed to be early and in huge abundance.  We came back with several containers of all shapes and sizes loaded with black ripe juicy berries.  I didn’t know what I wanted to make but for some reason I decided on blackberry jam.  I had never made jam before and I don’t know why I thought it would be a good time to start when I was already cooking dinner late on a Sunday afternoon.

The process was surprisingly quick and easy.  The recipe below is faithful to the original but also open to being adapted.  I decided to halve the recipe since it was all a bit of an experiment and put the leftover berries in the freezer.  I also discovered that I didn’t have enough sugar or the right sort so ended up reducing the sugar amount by a third which suited my healthy sensibilities.  You may not know this...but jam contains A LOT of sugar.  Watching the sheer amount of the stuff as I weighed it out on the scales was scary.   I ended up using half granulated brown sugar and half demerara.  The end result didn’t seem to suffer for this.  In fact my husband, who never eats jam unless a scone is involved, became a jam eating monster.  I’d never seen him consume so much jam on toast.

Makes 1.2 litres/4 jam jars
900g/2lb fruit
900g/2lb sugar
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
Put the blackberries in to a heavy based saucepan or if you are really flash a preserving pan.
Add 50ml of water and 1 ½ tbsp of lemon juice.  Bring to the boil.
Simmer for 15 minutes until the fruit is soft.
Pour in the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved then turn up the heat to bring it to a full rolling boil for about 15 minutes.  Do not stir until the setting point of 105°C is reached.  (I ended up boiling mine for about 20 minutes before reaching setting point.  You may find yours takes a longer or shorter time.)
Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any excess scum.  Leave for about 15 minutes before pouring in to sterilized jars, label and seal.
Some extra notes:
I don’t have a jam thermometer so I used the frozen plate method.  Place a plate in the freezer until it is nice and cold.  To test if your jam has reached setting point remove the plate from the freezer, take a small dollop of jam from your boiling pot and drop it onto the plate, if it sets then it’s ready, if it remains runny then keep boiling the jam and try again in a few minutes.  I found this took several attempts.
I am not an expert on sterilizing jars.  You can find many different methods by looking this up online.  I’d hate to think I’d given you rogue jam jar sterilizing advice. 

A walk in the countryside

Sunday, 16 October 2011

This is the story of boy meets hot bacon roll and girl fights jealousy with an apple...
Anyone who knows me will be aware of how much I love to go walking and I’m lucky enough to live in a place surrounded by beautiful countryside.  A few weekends ago my husband and I went for walk on the downs...

We saw the sun coming up through the trees

We marvelled at the way the light fell through the trees as the seasons were changing before us

We admired the view

We came across a cafe.  Then my husband ate this...

Is there moral to this story? Always have a gluten free snack with you when you go out, it won’t get rid of the smell of bacon but at least you can distract yourself with food.  Sigh.

Banana, Quinoa, Coconut Squares

Saturday, 15 October 2011

By the time I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, I had become very thin because of the effect gluten was having on my body.  Once I cut it out the speed with which I recovered was incredible.  However, I needed sustenance.  My body had gone through months of illness.  These banana, quinoa and coconut squares were one of the first things I made on a regular basis.
They are very healthy, which means you can have more than one, in fact you definitely should.  Quinoa is a bit of a super grain, you’ll see it popping up quite a lot in the food I cook.  These squares are moist in texture and the cardamom and coconut compliment the banana very well.

Adapted from The Detox Cook by Louisa Walters, Aliza Baron Cohen and Adrian Mercuri

9oz ripe bananas cut in to chunks
4 tbsp sunflower oil
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
2oz cashew nuts
2oz desiccated coconut
2oz quinoa flakes
1 carrot grated
Line a square baking pan with baking parchment.  Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5 or 190°C for electric.  In a food processor or blender combine the bananas, sunflower oil, vanilla essence, cinnamon, cardamom and the grated carrot.  Start to add the dry ingredients one by one until well combined.  Pour the batter in to the prepared baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until nicely brown on top.  Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the baking pan for five minutes then turn out on to a rack.  Once cooled, cut in to squares and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Snug Breakfast

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

This is my regular go to everyday breakfast porridge.  I love this plain or spruced up a bit with raspberries and flaxseeds or chopped dried apricots, raisins, strawberries, the possibilities are endless.  It couldn’t be easier to make and takes only five minutes.
For one portion
½ cup brown rice flakes
1 cup rice milk
Combine the milk and rice flakes in a saucepan. Give them a stir, bring to a boil then turn the heat down and cook gently, stirring occasionally until the rice flakes absorb the rice milk and resemble a porridge consistency.  Eat plain or add the toppings of your choice.  Head off for the day feeling full, warm and happy...well I can't promise happy but full and warm is pretty good.

Orange and Apricot Polenta Cake

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Welcome to Separate Toasters, my space to share with you my gluten free cooking and baking experiences.  What better way to start this blog than with my favourite gluten free cake recipe!
Last week this cake made my work lunches just a little bit special.  As much as I love to cook I am incredibly lazy and unimaginative when it comes to the food I take with me to work.  I don’t have time she wails to make interesting packed lunches.  The best I can hope for is that I’ve managed to make something at the weekend that will sustain me through the week and help those mid morning cravings.  
Juicy oranges paired with dried apricots make this cake lovely and moist.  I also love to throw in some dried cranberries to add a bit of sweetness and extra colour to the mix.  The cake will keep pretty well in a cake tin for about four days.  It is full of so many good and wholesome things that I can’t feel too bad about reaching for a big slice.
My sister gave me this recipe and she’s not sure where it came from.  We’ve both made our own adaptions to the original. 
Zest of 2 oranges
Then peel and cut those oranges in to chunks
5oz dried apricots chopped (or 7oz if you don’t want to include cranberries)
2oz dried cranberries
4 1/2 oz butter
3 eggs
2 tbsp honey (I use Manuka Honey for the added health benefits)
1 1/2 oz tapioca flour
2oz brown rice flour
3 oz polenta
2 1/2 oz ground almonds
2 tsp gluten free baking powder

Grease and line a 9inch round cake tin with baking paper.  Preheat Oven to Gas Mark 5 or 190°C for electric (you will notice mine is in a loaf tin.  The recipe is intended for a round cake tin but on this occasion I decided to try making a loaf and I had a bit left over to make some muffins too.)
In a food processor or blender mix together the orange zest, oranges, apricots, cranberries, butter, eggs and honey.  You can do this by adding one ingredient at a time depending on how good your machine is.  The end result should be a puree like consistency.
In a separate bowl mix the flours, polenta, almonds and baking powder together.  Then beat in the puree.
Once well combined pour in to your cake tin and bake for aprox 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the cake tin for about ten minutes then turn the cake out on to a wire rack.
This is delicious served with raspberry jam and natural yogurt.