Category Archives: gluten-free

Birthday Bean Feast

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Birthday cakes are obligatory in our household. When the kids were small they would pour over the ‘Special Occasions’ cookbook and request cakes in the shape of houses, robots  and trains. The trains involved swiss rolls which made excellent wheels. There was also the ’emergency’ cake which was an upended tub of ice cream embellished with chocolate buttons, smarties and candles – a guaranteed success  which was always eaten. The ingredients didn’t get  much scrutiny unlike today where we are super aware of what we eat. I now realise why all the kids were stuck to the walls at the parties – all that sugar and fizz….

The birthday boys request this time was for a cake with lots of different layers and flavours – you can tell our kids grew up in a restaurant, they are very good at ordering food – and with all the dietary restrictions of the gathered party people the cake needed to be gluten and dairy free.

Inspired by Emma Galloways black bean torte I  made a bean and lentil cake  Beginning with a black bean and chocolate sponge  followed by butter beans and beetroot for a pink layer and red lentils, turmeric and orange for a golden yellow layer.

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It worked a treat. The layers were sandwiched with coconut cream and chilled in the fridge

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– before being enrobed in Chocolate ganache.

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The cake looked like top hat and tasted delicious – everyone enjoyed it and there were no’ ughh’ lentils or beans comments, in fact it would have been difficult to name the ingredients

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A mighty cake!

 

 

 


Chilli Kale

I can happily munch away at bowls of stir fried chilli kale.

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It’s delicious  on the side of a dinner or piled on top. Last night I made a risotto with the last of the tomatoes and borlotti beans and piled some chilli kale on top.

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We grow a few different kinds of kale. My favourites are the Asparagus kale and Raggedy Jack or Red Russian as it’s also known. Both of these kales are more tender than curly kale or the more fashionable Cavalo de Nero but whatever you have got will work with the recipe below. Just cook a little longer if you are using curly or cavalo.

It’s quite a loose recipe – you need a big handful of kale for each serving as it cooks down considerably. Wash the kale, strip the central stem from each leaf then roll a few leaves together and cut finely.

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Heat a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom and then add half teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and a about a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.

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Keep the heat low whilst the flakes, seeds and garlic gently flavour the oil then raise the heat and stir in the kale. You might have to add the kale  in two stages, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second. Keep stirring the kale , season with a little salt and after a few minutes add couple of table spoons of water. The steam created will help the kale to cook.

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Test for doneness. If you think the kale’s still too coarse add another couple of tablespoons of water and repeat the process then serve with whatever you’re having.

Absolutely yummy!

 


Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.

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The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

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Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.

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We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.

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The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.

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The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.

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Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!

 

 

 


Courgettes on the Grill

I’m sitting here writing this surrounded by buckets of courgettes.

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The sunshine, followed by an intense blast of rain, has sped up the growth and todays picking produced an interesting assortment of different shapes and colours.. Some are huge – it’s amazing how much a courgette grows each day if the conditions are good.

The weather definitely affects their production. The plants need a good amount of water and love sunshine. They are better cared for when we have a heat wave as I’m all up for an all over tanning opportunity. Standing in the garden spraying water is on my list of relaxing jobs. The days when it’s overcast and looks like rain are the worst because the watering doesn’t happen. Somehow my brain equates sunshine with watering, not clouds.

As the summer moves on so do the plants. They get bigger and begin to sprawl. We have eaten the first flush and are no longer hovering over the plants waiting for them to grow as there are other exciting vegetables maturing and sneaking into first place. This means that quite a few pass under the radar and get very big.

This all brings us to the annual courgette conundrum. We have been enjoying a variety of recipes – soups, salads, stews, pizzas, cakes etc.

I particularly like this salad of grilled courgettes. Very simple and easy to make and size doesn’t matter. Big, small and medium courgettes are all fine.

I use a cast iron grill pan for grilling which leaves funky looking griddle marks but a barbecue or regular grill would do the job too. The important thing is the heat. It must be hot. Whichever method you use it’s important to pre heat to sizzling.

Grilled Courgettes and Halloumi

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4-6 medium courgettes

200g halloumi

2tb sunflower seeds

2tbs pumpkin seeds

a big handful of mint, chopped

1 lemon, washed well

approx 150mls olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.. Sprinkle over a little salt and put into a bowl. Toss gently then leave for 20- 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the excess water. Put the courgettes onto a clean t-towel and pat dry. Wipe out the bowl and return the courgettes and toss with a little olive oil.

Heat the grill to very hot, griddle pan to very hot or have good barbie on the go.

Put the courgette halves on the pan/grill etc. Don’t overcrowd. Best to do in a couple of batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Less if it looks like it’s burning rather than a light char.

Put the cooked courgettes in a large clean bowl and leave to cool

Slice the halloumi – medium/thick slices – and rub a very little olive oil over them – too much and the cheese will burn.. Grill for a minute or two each side, until lightly golden. Put aside to cool.

Heat a dry frying pan then stir in the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toast on a medium heat. Keep tossing the seeds so they cook evenly until lightly golden. Take off the heat, tip into a small bowl and leave to cool.

Slice the grilled courgettes on the diagonal into strips.

Slice the halloumi on the diagonal into strips

Put the courgettes and halloumi into a large bowl together with the zest of the lemon, juice of half, the chopped mint and a good glug of olive oil.

Grind a little black pepper over then toss everything together with your hands.

Taste. Add some salt if you think the flavour is a bit dull or more lemon juice if you think it needs further brightening up.

Eat warm or room temperature.

 


It’s pea time!

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Our peas are up and podding up nicely. They enjoy sun and rain, so have been steadily coming on.

We don’t grow too many real peas and truth be told half the time our peas end up in a serious muddle, the mange tout look very similar until a certain stage and often the ‘pea’ peas get harvested too early in a case of mistaken identity. We’re well aware of this problem but don’t seem to be able to get on top of it. Each year finds us humming and hawing and scrabbling around looking for the identifying markers that were carefully put in at the end of the row when the peas were planted. They mysteriously seem to relocate and confusion abounds.

Not many people grow regular peas anymore, there’s time involved and by the time enough are podded for dinner it’s easier to buy them frozen but it surely is a sweet treat. I like to eat them like sweeties, picking a few pods and munching away whilst gardening. They bring back childhood memories of sitting on the doorstep with my mum in the sunshine when I would help with the shelling and no doubt eat as many as landed in the colander.

It’s worth noting that peas began to deteriorate as soon as they’re picked, the sugar rapidly converts to starch, which is why frozen peas are so successful. If you can get you hands on recently picked peas they are delicious, but if they’ve travelled far it’s maybe not worth the effort.

There must be some massive pea farms out there somewhere, filling freezers worldwide with packets of neat green peas. I checked out the processing and came up with these interesting facts;

Peas are harvested, transported from the fields and frozen within 150  minutes, that’s only two and a half hours – 30 minutes picking by a machine called a ”viner’ which sucks up the peas from the field and removes the pods, 30 minutes travelling to the factory then 90 minutes to wash grade and freeze. It takes only 6 minutes to freeze a pea!

This all makes them the ultimate convenience vegetable, ready to use and very easy to prepare.

Here’s a recipe for a light and fresh pea soup, equally simple to make with fresh peas or frozen peas.  It can be eaten hot or, if the heat-wave comes, chilled. I like it with a little creme fraiche but that’s optional.

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Pea and Mint Soup

 

1 onion

1 medium potato

25g butter or olive oil

750mls vegetable stock

450g peas – fresh or frozen

a bunch of mint, roughly chopped

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, melt the butter or add the olive oil then stir in the chopped onion. Cook on a gentle heat.

Peel the potato and dice small, stir in with the onion and add a little salt and pepper to season. Cook gently for ten minutes without browning. This slow cooking is important as it adds depth of flavour,

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the potato is tender then add the peas. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the chopped mint and puree using whichever gadget you own – stick blender, liquidiser or food processor, until smooth. Adjust the consistency by adding some water if the soup is too thick and check the seasoning.

Serve either hot or chilled, with a little dollop of crème fraiche if you fancy.

Easy Peasy!

 


Rhubarb, Rhubarb

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The garden has speeded up big time in the past few weeks. The rise in temperature and some sunshine had all the little seedlings that were at the ‘Will I or Won’t I” live or die stage zoom into action and grow like mad. Suddenly the glass house wasn’t big enough to hold everything. There has been a frenzied potting up and transplanting out session and it’s looking good. Everything is thriving with the sunshine and rain treatment.

Taking into consideration that everything is a few weeks behind with the cold start there’s still a bit of a gap on the eating front. We have spinach and chard again in the tunnels and lots of young herbs in the garden but apart from that and the thriving clump of rhubarb it’s all potential. Potential beans, peas, spuds, fennel, kales etc., all settling in to their newly made beds outside.

The rhubarb is looking great as usual. It’s obviously happy and grows prolifically. The trouble is that apart from the initial excitement at a rhubarb tart or crumble it’s uses are quite limited. I do make a rhubarb and ginger jam which is delicious but with so much else to do jam making isn’t the top of the list.

I decided to play around and put the rhubarb in a salad. I googled for recipes but most called for roasted rhubarb, which might be delicious but not the texture I was looking for in a salad so I decided to try a light pickling and the result was very good, lovely sweet, sour and crispy and excellent together with beetroots, quinoa and orange.

Here’s the recipe, and I will be carting bunches of our rhubarb to the shop so if you fancy trying it without cooking pop in and pick some up

Beetroot , Rhubarb and Quinoa Salad

 

2-3 beetroots

1 red onion

2 stems rhubarb

1 orange

150g quinoa

2 tbs white balsamic vinegar

1dsp caster sugar

a bunch of mint – chopped

100mls olive oil

100g fresh goats cheese or feta – optional

 

Cook the beetroots. Give them a wash and tidy up the top where the greenery was then either rub them with olive oil and put in an oven tray and cover with silver foil and bake them for I hour to one hour and a half (180c) or put them in a saucepan and cover with water and simmer covered with a lid for 25=40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the beetroot. Test whether the beetroots are cooked by piercing with a small sharp knife. If it goes in with no resistance, the beetroot is cooked.

Measure the quinoa and water into a small saucepan. Add a little salt and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12-15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Tip the quinoa into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Peel the red onion and slice finely. Sprinkle over a little salt and rub into the onion. The rings will fall apart.

Wash the rhubarb then slice , on the diagonal into skinny pieces.

Put the vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and mix until dissolved. Stir in the onion and rhubarb and put aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Peel the cooked beetroots and dice into equal sized cubes.

Peel the orange with a sharp knife to remove all the skin and pith then remove each segment of orange with a sharp knife by cutting each side of the segment, leaving the skin behind. Do this over the onion and rhubarb to reserve any juice.

Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, then add the beetroot, chopped mint and orange pieces. Lift the onion and rhubarb out of the bowl leaving the vinegar mix behind and add to the quinoa. Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar then pour over the salad. Quickly toss everything together , check the seasoning – it may need a little more salt.

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Serve with fresh goats cheese or feta crumbled on top or without if you want to keep it vegan and dairy free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Funky Vegetable Wraps

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These wraps are completely different. They’re made from only vegetables, ground almonds and pysllium husks. No gluten, no dairy, no eggs  and they are alkaline. Perfect for anyone on a restrictive diet that fancies a sandwich or wrap.

It is a recipe that I have been playing around with, inspired by a recipe from Green Kitchen Stories.

So far it seems that anything that I have in the vegetable basket, whizzed up with almonds and pysllium make perfect wraps. I have used beetroot, carrots, courgette and carrot, broccoli and carrot and for sure a cauliflower will work.

My measurements are still a bit vague but roughly speaking you need something like the following. Choose 1 combo plus the pysllium, almonds and salt

6 small beetroots, 2 carrots

7-8 carrots

1 head broccoli, 4 carrots

3 beetroots, 4 carrots, 1 courgette

half tsp salt,

2 tbs pysllium husks

2tbs ground almonds.

Wash or peel your vegetable selection and chop into small pieces. Put these into a food processor and whizz until finely ground.

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Add 2 heaped tbs psyllium husks, 2 heaped tbs ground almonds and half a teaspoon of salt. Buzz everything together then tip onto a large parchment lined tray – or trays – my tray is big 42cmx30cm.

Use your hands to spread the vegetable out evenly. Press down firmly and tidy up the edges.

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Bake at 190c for 10-15 minutes. The vegetable sheet should firm up. It needs to be firm enough to flip over on the tray.

Carefully, or should I say quickly and carefully, flip the wrap over and gently peel the parchment paper off. Put the wrap back into the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Cut the warps into appropriate sized pieces – depending whether you want to make sandwich or a wrap.

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We ate them with cannellini bean and almond hummus, avocado and salad. Absolutely yum!

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