Tag Archives: gluten free

Lunch at the Jade Hotel

We’re about two thirds of the way up Vietnam now, in Hue. The clouds are are deeper than Saigon. I really should do better research before we travel! It’s a much smaller city than Saigon, still lots of traffic but we are getting the hang of crossing the road.Basically no one really wants to run you over and they are masters of avoidance so you just take a deep breath and launch yourself into the traffic and hope no ones driving the wrong way as you can’t look in two directions at once. The traffic is 90% scooters and bikes.

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We are staying in a little guest-house run by the sweetest people who offered to show us how to make a ‘family dinner’ so we headed off this morning on scooters to the market.

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Off we zoomed and it began to rain. The market was busy.  Lots of wet people and mountains of food. All sorts of fruit and vegetables, live fish hopping in the baskets, fresh prawns and squid and dodgy looking meat.

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We gathered up lots of vegetables, fresh noodles and prawns and headed back to cook. We unpacked and cleaned up all the veg and set cooking in the mini kitchen. The kitchen was very small in every dimension and Con and I were like giants, nearly decapitating ourselves on the cooker hood on several occasions.

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The girls were great, masters of the large sharp knife and in no time at all we had made a feast of nem – Vietnamese spring rolls,

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noodle soup,

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prawns with tamarind sauce

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and morning glory with chilli and garlic.

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We sat down together and ate the lot!

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Xmas Baking Frenzy

Our kitchen has turned into a cookie/cake/truffle factory and we are all feeling slightly sick from eating so many sweet things. All in the name of research that is.

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We have made Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti,

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Hand Made Truffles – absolutely the best even if I say so myself

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Xmas Jewel Cakes, jam packed with candied fruit and nuts

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Torta di Nocciole e Clementini – an Italian extravaganza which we make with home made candied clementines, soaked in brandy and mixed with toasted almonds and hazelnuts, fatty sultanas and chocolate

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There are also hand made chocolates , raw chocolate truffles, Baci di Dama and all manner of home-made cookies waiting to be packed.

And I have finally finished packing the Xmas puddings.

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Time for lunch – we’re off to Deasy’s!


Funky Carrot Cake

Now that the cookbook is up and out there it’s time to get back blogging. This has been sadly neglected in the past month.

I have recently rediscovered one of my original cookbooks. It was printed in 1973 ‘The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook’, and it is so well thumbed that it’s held together with sticky tape.

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It was printed when cookbooks contained very few pictures which means there are in fact an awful lot of recipes. I reckon we probably tried near enough fifty percent – it was one of our only cookbooks – before it retired quietly to the back of the shelf. Rereading it is like a trip down memory lane – food’s like that – and I find myself remembering all sorts of gatherings and occasions. There was one recipe, which did have a picture , for a carrot cake.

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This was before carrot cake became famous and in every cafe. What attracted me was not only the cake made with a vegetable but it was also orange. I thought that was so funky that I had to try it. I made it for a friends birthday. I vaguely remember it being an outrageously expensive cake to make – ground almonds were expensive and we were as broke as church mice. I was living in an apartment in Antwerp with a dodgy oven. It was before I owned any kitchen gadgets and the cake was made with the aid of a potato masher and a whisk .

On rediscovering this recipe I’ve realised that it is also gluten and dairy free which most carrot cakes aren’t and also is why the cake is orange. It’s made with eggs, almonds, sugar and carrots.

Here’s the recipe made with the help of a food mixer and a magic wand – aka hand held blender.

350g carrots

225g sugar

6 eggs

350g ground almonds

grated rind of 1 orange

1tbs brandy or similar booze

Peel the carrots and chop into equal sized pieces. Put them into a small saucepan, cover with water and a little salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for about fifteen minutes or until tender. Drain and buzz to a smooth puree. Leave to cool.

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Pre heat the oven 170c

Line a 24cm cake tin with parchment paper

Separate the eggs.

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Put the yolks into a bowl and whisk until they are pale and frothy, add the sugar and continue beating until the mix is blond and creamy.

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Add the carrots, ground almond, orange zest and tablespoon of booze.

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Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then add a tbs sugar and whisk until stiff peaks.

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Using a large metal spoon fold half of the egg whites into the carrot mix then tips the remainder of the egg whites onto the mix and fold them in.

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Pou the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50minutes.

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To test the cake is done poke skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean it’s ready

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Courgette Pizza

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This is a courgette on the bottom, not on the top type pizza. No yeast or flour involved just grated courgettes stuck together with polenta and egg. It works very well and although the base doesn’t taste like a regular pizza it behaves like one and will carry whatever your personal pizza topping fantasy is, without collapsing on the way, from your plate to your mouth.

Our courgette patch was producing a bucket of courgettes a day last week and even though we picked them each day there were always one or two elusive ones. This recipe is the perfect home for the slightly large courgettes.

Grate 3-4  courgettes on the coarse side of the grater.IMG_1647

 

Put them into a bowl, toss them with a scant tsp of salt and mix well. Tip the courgettes into a colander, set it over a bowl  and leave for half an hour . Quite a lot of water will come off.  Next tip the courgettes onto a clean t-towel.

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Pre heat the oven 180c

Gather the four corners together and squeeze. You will be surprised how much more water comes out.

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Tip the grated courgettes into bowl, Crack in 2 eggs, a tsp dried oregano and a little salt and pepper. Mix well then stir in 2 heaped tbs of polenta

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Line a baking tray with some parchment paper and spread the courgette mix out evenly. You can make the pizzas round, square or rectangle – whatever you fancy. Tidy up the edges.

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Bake the base for about 20minutes, turn the tray halfway if your oven has a hot spot.

Bake until the base is lightly golden.

When the base has been pre baked spread with a little tomato sauce then whatever else you fancy (sliced very thinly) and some grated mozzarella and pop it back in the oven until golden and bubbling at the edges, about another 15-20minutes.

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Warning! This makes a very large pizza – I made it at the shop!


Arroz Negre aka Black Rice

Last night we ate a Catalan speciality – Arroz Negre, meaning black rice. This spectacular dish, a relation of paella, is made using squid ink and although I have made this before, last nights version was the first time that i had made it with fresh ink.

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We bought some beautiful little calamari in the market and also asked for some ‘tinta’ which is the ink. Instead of handing over little sanitised sachets of the ink the fish monger rummaged around under the counter and came up with a little sac of fresh ink from a sepia, a close relative of calamari.  A sepia is a cuttle fish in English but somehow sepia sounds more attractive. It didn’t look like a lot of ink and i was a little worried that there might not be enough but believe you me there was plenty. By the time I had finished there was  ink everywhere. Running down the walls, dripping off the sink and the cooker and all over me. I couldn’t believe that I had made such an incredible mess. I have no photos to prove it as touching my camera was out of the question.

In a culinary way the ink gives a delicious rich ‘seafood’ flavour and it’s a very funky colour. Black. Incredibly black. It is powerful stuff. The squid uses it for protection, spraying it a bit like a smoke screen to overcome it’s foe or indeed sometimes stepped up into chemical warfare mode where compounds are released that stun or desensitise the agressors.

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We ate this with alioli and a few prawns on top but to be quite honest I would skip the prawns in future if they weren’t super doopa fatties as frozen prawns just don’t hit the spot. When we had finished eating our lips were black and we looked like a bunch of Goths.

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It’s delicious and very simple to make so if you fancy a ‘Goth’ dinner search out some squid and ink and try this out.

Arroz Negre

1 onion, peeled and chopped

olive oil

3 cloves garlic. peeled and chopped

1 very big ripe tomato, grated

about 700g squid – preferably not too big

300g bomba or calaspara rice

1 glass white wine

1 sac of squid/sepia ink or 2 small sachets squid ink

900mls seafood/fish/whatever stock

Clean the squid and cut into rings. Heat a large frying pan and pour in enough oil to spread over the bottom. Add the squid and fry quickly until translucent and just cooked. Tip into a bowl and leave aside.

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Put the pan back on the heat, add a little more olive oil and the onion. Cook on a medium high heat until the onion melts down then stir in the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the grated tomato. Let this all bubble up then stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the wine and when that boils  add the stock and the ink. Season with a little salt but take it easy as the stock will reduce during the cooking.

When everything is bubbling away turn the heat down to medium/medium high. There should still be plenty of action but not enough to burn. After fifteen minutes strew the cooled calamari back on top and push down a little with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for three more minutes then turn the heat off and leave it to relax for five minutes before serving with a little aioli to spoon over

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Happy Courgettes

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Contrary to my firm belief that courgettes love sunshine I now realise they equally love the rain. We watered our courgettes every day during the heat-wave and although the plants looked super healthy there weren’t very many courgettes. Since the weather has returned to a more ‘normal’  warm rain/sun showers they are thriving. I swear they are growing before our eyes. Each day we pick a bucketful, which means the courgettes are at least doubling in size each twenty four hours.

Here’s a recipe that we enjoyed the other night. It is called Firinda Kabak and it is an old Turkish recipe. In English this translates to a courgette and herb bake. We have tweaked the recipe over the years and this version uses polenta instead of flour, It gives it an interesting texture and makes it suitable for coeliacs and people with wheat intolerance. If you prefer to use flour just substitute flour for polenta. Use small courgettes if you can as they will have the best flavour.

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COURGETTE AND HERB BAKE aka Firinda Kabak

6 small courgettes

3 eggs

6 spring onions- cleaned and chopped

a generous handful of chopped mint

a generous handful of chopped dill or fennel

a generous handful chopped parsley

75g grated Gruyere, Comte or Emmental cheese

75g feta

100g polenta

50g butter

12 black olives

Pre heat the oven to 180c

Line a 9”/23cm tin or baking dish with parchment paper.

Grate the courgettes coarsely, gather them into your hands and squeeze gently to extract excess water then put them into a bowl.

Add the eggs, spring onions and chopped herbs and both cheeses. Mix well. Then add the polenta and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin.

Scatter the olives on top and dot with little pieces of butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bake is golden on top.

Cut into wedges or squares and serve hot or cold.


Cucumber Taste Experience

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The fine weather has been doing it’s magic. The garden is happy and the vegetables are growing.

We are at the delightful stage of eating the ‘first’ of everything. Beautiful big artichokes eaten with a little vinaigrette to dip the leaves in, squeaky bright green French beans and cucumbers were all in last nights dinner.

The cucumbers are amazing. They taste just as they should – like cucumbers. There are no other words to describe cucumber flavour, unlike wines which can be likened to an amazing variety of things, cucumbers are fairly unique and taste of themselves. Unfortunately the cucumbers bought in the shops, cling wrapped or not, are well travelled and don’t deliver this taste impact. If I ever need reminding why we go to all the bother of growing our own vegetables I just have to think of this.

Now is the time to get down to the farmers markets and buy yourself a homegrown cucumber. You will appreciate what I am trying to say when you take the first bite.

We have fifteen cucumber plants growing in our tunnels and soon we will be awash with them. Our general plan is to be self sufficient in cucumbers until, hopefully, October. I have already picked the first bucketful and delivered them to the shop for the salads and all going well we’ll soon be tripping over them.

They’re not the easiest plant to establish. Cucumbers are like Princesses – rather fussy. They don’t like drafts and they don’t like to get their stems wet. They do like to drink a lot so we plant them in their personal mounds and water around them. The plants grow pretty tall, anything up to eight or nine feet high so they are trained up a piece of twine to stop them collapsing in a heap. One cucumber plant will produce about six or seven cucumbers a week so there’s plenty of eating to be done.

In celebration of the new season cucumbers I’ve sorted out some easy recipes ideas. Cucumbers are the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world so the choice is global. Here’s a Turkish cucumber and tomato salad, a Lebanese yoghurt and cucumber salad and the classic French crème fraiche and lemon juice combo. I might also mention that cucumber and Marmite sandwiches are the business, I was bought up on those!!

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Turkish Cucumber and Tomato Salad

About 500g fatty tomatoes –  beefsteak style are best as they can be diced

1 cucumber

1 small green pepper

half of a smallish red onion

a handful of flat leaf parsley

a handful of mint

1 tsp sumac = optional but very nice if you have some

salt

about 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

about 3 tbs lemon juice

Peel and slice the red onion, cover with cold water and leave aside for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with more cold water and put aside. This gives a milder and crisper onion.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise  then chop into an equal size dice – about 1cm

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices – about 1cm thick then chop into an equal size dice.

Wash the green pepper, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Cut the pepper into slices , then dice.

Chop the parsley and mint.

Put all the vegetables and herbs into a bowl, sprinkle over a little salt, one teaspoon of sumac, olive oil and lemon juice and gently toss everything together.

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Lebanese Cucumber Salad

Half a cucumber

200mls full fat natural yoghurt

1 garlic clove = peeled and crushed

1 tbs chopped mint

1 tbs chopped parsley.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise then thinly slice.

Put into a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix well.

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Cucumbers with Crème Fraiche

1 cucumber

200g creme fraiche

1 tbs lemon juice

a handful of chopped dill

salt and black pepper

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out of each half using a spoon and discard the seeds.

Slice the cucumber quite thickly, toss with a little salt and put into a colander or sieve. Leave aside for 30 minutes then pat the cumbers dry with some kitchen paper and put into a bowl. Mix the crème fraiche with the lemon juice and chopped dill then pour over the cucumbers. Toss everything together and season with salt (if needed) and a little black pepper

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The Cauliflower Pizza Experiment

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I came across this odd sounding recipe for cauliflower pizza in my new cookbook, The Green Kitchen.

We just so happened to have a cauliflower in the house which had been destined for pakoras but this sounded so curious I had to try it

The recipe is very simple, just four ingredients – cauliflower, ground almonds, oregano and eggs. The cauliflower is blitzed to a fine crumb – raw – and then mixed with beaten eggs, ground almonds and oregano and squished onto a baking tray. My mix behaved very well and squished out nicely .

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I baked it in the oven for about fifteen minutes.Then I filled it with sauteed  red onions and sweet little courgettes, mint and chevre (creamy goats cheese)and finished it off under the grill.

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When it was ready I headed off to the Cultural Brunch In Clonakilty which is a gathering of people who all bring a dish from the country they come from to share. I’m not sure where that put me countrywise but everyone that was there was a very good guinea pig.

The pizza was sliced, could be picked up and eaten like any normal slice of pizza and it tasted delicious!

Funny thing was, when I got home I found the ground almonds still sitting in the weighing scales!!