Beetroot Falafel!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

These deserve an exclamation mark.  I know the exclamation mark is over used in life and more often than not by me but these falafel are that good.  Healthy and with a lovely vibrant colour, the sweet earthiness of the beetroot works perfectly with the warming spice from the cumin.  I made gluten free flatbreads to go with these.  The falafel kept in the fridge for a couple of days and we used them in our lunches so they’re pretty versatile too.

Find the recipe here at BBC Good Food.  I halved the recipe which made 12 falafel.  I didn’t use the egg as it’s pretty hard to halve an egg but the mixture held together really well without it.  I used gluten free bread for the breadcrumbs.  I baked the falafel in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  The yoghurt dressing is a great compliment or natural yoghurt on its own works just fine.  I think hummus would also be a great addition.  Serve with salad of your choosing.  I used lambs lettuce, baby chard and avocado.
Flatbread recipe here, (also originally from BBC Good Food).

Happy 100 and a Revisit

Saturday, 26 January 2013

I realised the other day that I was about to hit 100 posts on this blog.  This happy event coincided nicely with the fact that I’d just made the cake from my first ever blog post.  Although I cringe to look back at that post now I thought it was appropriate to revisit that cake because it really is a good cake and shouldn’t be languishing back there in obscurity.  At one time this cake was almost a weekly staple, especially through the winter months when citrus is at its best.  The cake is very moist and pretty dense.  The texture is almost pudding like.  Perfect with ice cream or my old favourite natural yoghurt.  For this version I used prunes rather than apricots because that’s what I had on hand.  I think they lend more moisture to the cake. 
My sister gave me the recipe and we have adapted it quite a bit.  I hunted around to find the original which is from Christine Bailey. 
Orange Polenta Cake
Zest of 2 oranges
Then peel and cut those oranges in to chunks
5oz dried prunes or apricots (or 7oz if not using the cranberries)
2oz dried cranberries
100g (4 ½ oz) butter
3 eggs
2 tbsp honey
35g (1 ½ oz) tapioca flour
50g (2 oz) brown rice flour
75g (3 oz) polenta
60g (2 ½ 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, 190°C, 375°F.
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 approx 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted in to the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the cake tin for about ten minutes then turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Roasted Roots Frittata

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

For those who don’t live in the UK we’ve had snow over the past week and quite a bit of it too which is an event here that generally brings our transport systems to a standstill.  Even when it’s forecast we don’t seem to believe it and then when it actually happens we react like a rabbit caught in the head lights.  As a commuter I am pretty ambivalent about snow.  I see it first as a huge inconvenience and only second as something really quite beautiful.  Sadly the beauty doesn’t last long.  We’re in the slightly melted grey sludge phase now where pavement walking has become a dangerous sport.  When we ventured out in our wellington boots to the market on Saturday I was pleased to see that the world hadn’t completely stopped turning and that the market had managed to open.  I couldn’t resist buying a bunch of purple carrots, ever the one to be charmed by an unusual looking vegetable.  I feel like I’ve been all about the roasted roots lately and here I go again.  This hearty frittata brought a much needed ray of sunshine to the wintery weather and it sort of looks like a big yellow sun too.  It’s another way to make the best of the seasons vegetables.
Recipe adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 2-3
Mixed winter veg, I used the following: 2 parsnips, 1 large carrot, 1 beetroot, 1 large shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
Olive Oil
4 large free range organic eggs
Fresh herbs chopped (I used thyme)
10g hard goat’s cheese or other well flavoured hard cheese, grated.
Notes: You can make the whole thing in a roasting dish.  I roasted my vegetables first and then transferred them to a 9 inch (22cm) skillet which I preheated.
Preheat the oven Gas Mark 5, 190°C, 375°F
Peel and slice your vegetables in to chunks about 1-2cm in size.  Place the vegetables and garlic on a baking tray and toss in olive oil.  Roast for about 35-40 minutes turning half way through until they are beginning to brown and caramelise.
Meanwhile beat the eggs with the herbs and season with salt and pepper if you like.  Transfer the vegetables in to a preheated skillet or use the oven dish you roasted them in if it is the right size.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and scatter with the grated cheese.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the egg is set and the top is starting to brown.  I finished this off under the grill to get a nice even brown top.  Serve warm or cold.

Roasted Pears and Porridge

Friday, 18 January 2013

Yes, that is a bowl of porridge with a roasted pear dumped in the middle and it is absolutely one of the most delicious bowls of porridge I’ve had.

Being forced to go gluten free did me so many favours.  Ok, it can be inconvenient but it got me cooking, it made me think about where my food comes from, what and how I want to eat, choosing food for my health, understanding fully that what I put in to my body mattered.  One of the first things I was introduced to on my gluten free diet was porridge.  I’d been a strictly toast or cereal girl up until that point.  Now in my new world of food I was looking for a new breakfast.  A friend suggested I try making porridge from rice flakes.  I was addicted immediately and started experimenting with different toppings.  Nearly eight years later porridge is still my everyday breakfast, especially through winter.  It has evolved considerably along with the toppings I choose. 

I could never persuade my husband to try porridge.  In his eyes it might as well have been a bowl of gruel.  Finally, last October after an illness caused him to re assess his diet he relented to trying my daily bowl of slop and as I predicted he would, he loved it.  Now each morning, I am making up a double batch of porridge and filling two bowls.  Porridge is also a brilliant vehicle for getting your dose of super foods while hardly noticing.  Currently on an average day we’ll have linseed, chia seed, bee pollen, honey and dried fruits.  At weekends there might be fruit and toasted nuts.  I try and mix it up a bit.  So last weekend on Sunday morning I stuck a bowl of porridge under his nose with a roasted pear dumped in the middle and he took it all in his stride.

When roasted the pear becomes lovely and soft.  Its natural sweetness is enhanced as is the way with roasting fruits but it was also helped here by a little Demerara sugar and some cinnamon for a little spice.  If I haven’t convinced you that a pear sat in the middle of your porridge is a good idea try it with yoghurt or dress it up with ice cream and chocolate sauce.  We kept left over pears in the fridge and had them for desserts for a day or so.

Porridge (serves 2)
These days I make my porridge with a mix of gluten free oats and rice flakes.  You could also try millet flakes, quinoa flakes, whatever takes your fancy.
1 cup of porridge flakes (I use a rough ratio of 70% gluten free oats, 30% rice flakes)
1 ½ - 2 cups rice milk (or milk of your choice).  I’ve always used rice milk so I can’t vouch for others.
Place your porridge oats, rice flakes and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and stir gently for about 5 minutes until the porridge flakes are cooked and it has reached your desired consistency.  Add more milk to your liking.
Cinnamon Roasted Pears adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Choose pears that are slightly ripe but not too soft. 
Lemon juice
Demerara or Brown sugar
Preheat oven Gas Mark 5, 190°C, 375°F.
Wash the pears and chop them in half.  (You can peel the skin if you prefer, I didn’t bother).  Remove the core and lay the pears cut side up on a baking dish.  Sprinkle with lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar then top each pear with a small knob of butter.  Roast for 40-45 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.  You can turn the pears half way through cooking.


Roasted Fennel Gluten Free Flatbread Pizzas

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ever since the man of the house started to get a hyper acidic stomach he hasn’t gone near a tomato.  Among other acidic friends the tomato is currently out of bounds.  Cutting out tomatoes isn’t exactly as hard as cutting out gluten, especially as its winter but still, it is surprising how often the humble tomato pops up.  Pizza toppings are one area that has given us a new challenge.  This is our current favourite...Roasted fennel and goat cheese.  The fennel gets sliced super thin with a mandoline and then roasted in olive oil for about 15 minutes.  Once atop the flatbread it is then joined by crumbled goat cheese which in turn becomes lovely and melted under the grill.  I’ve raved about these flatbread pizzas before, if you haven’t already tried, you should.  They are a revelation!

Flatbread recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
Makes 2 small pizzas.  You can cook the fennel while you are making the pizzas, that way everything is ready at once.
100g (4oz) gluten free self raising flour (I used Doves Farm)
75ml natural yoghurt (I used sheep’s milk yoghurt)
25ml water
For the top:
Olive oil
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Hard goat cheese (or mozzarella may work).
For the Flatbreads
Preheat the grill to medium and dust a baking sheet (or grill pan) with flour. In a bowl combine the flour and yoghurt then start to add the water and mix well until a slightly wet dough forms. Don’t be tempted to add more flour as you want the dough to be a little wet.
Divide the dough in half.  Flatten each half of dough to form a rough circle about ½ cm thick.  Dust with a little flour as you do this to stop them from sticking to the surface.  (I use baking parchment which I sprinkle with flour to do this, it helps stop the dough sticking and can be used to transfer the dough to the baking sheet).  Place the flatbreads on a floured baking sheet and cook under the grill. Cook the first side until golden brown (about 5 minutes) then turn and cook the other side. As the second side begins to brown remove the flatbreads on the baking sheet from the grill to add the topping.
For the Fennel Topping inspired by My New Roots
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F.  Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, finely slice the fennel.  Place on a baking tray and roast in olive oil for about 15 – 20 minutes until just cooked but not browning as it will be cooking more under the grill.  When the fennel is ready lay it out across your cooked flatbreads until evenly covered. Next top with sliced goat cheese.  Return the flatbreads to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and just turning golden.

Winter Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

This is my concession to salad this winter.  I struggle with eating salads at this time of year.  My body tells me it wants soups and stews, comfort food.  Salad is not in vogue around here come January.  This is probably why I shy away from New Year resolutions involving cleansing and dieting.  It stands to reason that when it’s cold out your body craves warmth.  This salad bridges the void between a plate of lettuce leaves and the comfort food I crave.  The combination of my favourite winter vegetables with toasted almonds for crunch, goat cheese or feta for tangy flavour and dried cherries for a hint of sweetness is perfect.  It’s bright and colourful too which doesn’t hurt when the sky is grey.
Inspired by Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl.
You can use any combination of winter vegetables you like.  I think beetroot would be superb in this but I didn’t have any at the time!
Serves 2 (amounts are approximate depending on the size of your vegetables)
½ celeriac head peeled and chopped in to chunks.
2 parsnips peeled and cut in to batons.
2 carrots peeled and cut in to batons.
1 shallot cut in to wedges.
1 tsp dried rosemary (optional).
Handful of flaked almonds, toasted.
Feta or hard goat cheese, crumbled.
Salad leaves (I used a mixture of lambs lettuce, baby chard and spinach).
Dried cherries (or other dried fruit)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 200°C, 400°F.
Peel and chop your vegetables.  Place them in a roasting tin, sprinkle with dried rosemary if using and douse with olive oil.  Roast for 30 – 40 minutes turning occasionally until golden.  About five minutes before the vegetables are done add the flaked almonds to the roasting tin to toast. Then with a minute or so left add the dried cherries so they plump up a bit.  I often chuck them in and turn the oven off so they just soak up the heat rather than roasting.  Arrange the salad leaves on plates, top with the roasted vegetables, almonds, dried cherries and crumbled cheese.  Dress and eat.
To make the dressing combine the ingredients and mix well. 


Gluten Free Molasses Gingerbread

Friday, 4 January 2013

In these dark days of winter I found myself craving gingerbread.  It might be that I’d had a cold recently and was thinking of ginger’s medicinal properties but mostly I just wanted to sink my teeth in to a sticky, spiced, dark slab of cake in an attempt to find warmth and comfort from the cold.  I hunted around for a recipe that looked like it might work gluten free.  As ever, Heidi Swanson of 101 cookbooks delivered.
I followed Heidi’s recipe simply subbing gluten free all purpose flour (Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour) for the flour in the recipe, weight for weight.  I also halved the recipe and made the cake using a loaf pan because I didn’t have the right size cake tin.  It satisfied my gingerbread cravings perfectly.  Warm out of the oven is was sticky, rich and delicious. The top of the cake turns to a slightly caramelised crumb which is superb.  Heidi recommends keeping the cake in the fridge which I did.  The cake certainly became more dense but not really more sticky as I hoped.  This was most likely due to the tendency of gluten free flour to dry things out a little.  Despite this, it tasted fantastic.  The intensity of the ginger, molasses and spices seemed to heighten by being kept in the fridge.  We happily ate it over a few days bringing it up to room temperature before serving it with plain yoghurt or ice cream.  
You can find the recipe here.

A Year in Books

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year everybody!  I’m a little late with this but better late than never.  Since the new year is a time for looking forward but also taking stock of the past year I thought I’d share with you my year of reading.  This has nothing to do with food but since this is a food blog I put some gluten free banana millet muffins in the picture to make us all feel comfortable.  Recipe here.  (They are really good by the way).  Regulars may know I have a big commute to my day job.  I honestly don’t think I would keep my sanity half so well on this commute if it wasn’t for the joy of reading a good book on the train.  Reading transports you away from the train delays, the dubious smelling person you are sitting next to, the man coughing up phlegm behind, the tall woman resting her newspaper on your head (I’m short and this actually happened).  I don’t keep track of what I’ve read but I wish I had.  I know I average about one book a week. I’m guessing maybe 45 in a year.  The reason for this review is purely self indulgent.  In about a month my job relocates (even further away) and I will have to drive to work instead of getting the train.  No more stories to transport me into another world as I sit staring at the bumper of the car in front of me.  Books will have to become my occasional friends rather than my constant companions.  Books, I will miss you...unless anyone fancies sitting in my car and reading to me...

If I had to choose a top five:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: If you read one book on writing this should be it.  I’ve seen it recommended on quite a few different blogs.  It is instantly readable and it tells the truth about writing, warts and all. I devoured it in one sitting and found it so inspiring.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Beautifully written, a chilling mystery set in an elite New England college.  So good I made my husband read it too so we could discuss.  He devoured it as speedily as I did.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain:  The story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife.  Set in the glamour of Jazz age Paris among artists and writers.  I love everything about this era.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield:  A chilling and twisted tale of twin sisters and a mysterious house.  This prompted an American lady sitting next to me on the train to start up a discussion about how great this book is.

The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy:  I’ve read quite a few Kennedy books this year.  His writing is always instantly gripping and this is probably the most well known and best of his novels.  Set in post war Manhattan during the time of McCarthyism this is a thrilling tale of love and betrayal.  If you are reading this Mr Kennedy, please get your book covers re-designed.  They look like Mills and Boon.