Thai Bean Cakes

Gluten Free Thai Fish Cakes

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to go on a gluten free baking course run by the delightful Naomi Devlin at the delightful River Cottage HQ. I had really been looking forward to finding out how to make a gluten free sourdough loaf as well as finding out about some more unusual baking ingredients and Naomi did not disappoint. I’m used to cooking with pretty processed gluten free ingredients, think white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca etc, but Naomi’s baking centres around using wholemeal ingredients that actually have a decent nutritional benefit as well as tasting great. She’s a sucker for chocolate though – never stand between her and a block of 90% dark chocolate, your life would be in danger I’m sure. Continue reading

Gluten Free Fresh Pasta – A Tale of Two Pastas

Gluten Free Fresh Pasta

Now no-one is going to chance upon these recipes and think ‘Good Lord! I can finally have pasta again!’. These days even the dingiest supermarket will have some kind of gluten free pasta on their shelves (the best is Salute from Waitrose, in case you’re wondering). But still, if you’re thinking of making your own ravioli, lasagne or even just for a special occasion, it’s a good recipe to have in the arsenal.

Rather than start from scratch, I thought I’d try out two very different recipes. The first is from Shauna James Ahern of glutenfreegirl.com, which has the rare benefit of being an American recipe that gives the ingredients by weight, rather than volume.  The second is from Michela Chiappa, a Welsh-Italian (or perhaps Italian-Welsh) cook who presented the show Simply Italian on Channel 4. Continue reading

Gluten, Dairy and Egg Free Pancakes – Suitable for all, yet still delicious

gluten dairy and egg free pancakes

I’ve had to rush this recipe out in time for pancake day, so there is hardly any time for the usual babbling (which I’m sure most people will be thankful for). Although I usually just cover gluten free stuff on the site, I though gluten free pancakes were so simple that anyone could manage them, and a vegan, gluten free, egg free and dairy free pancake recipe that everyone could enjoy would be more useful on a day which should be about people coming together and enjoying fun food together.

These pancakes are very thin and crispy on the outside, almost like crepes. If you’re not used to cooking with ingredients that sound fairly weird, have faith; avocado and apple are common substitutes for egg, and they help bind the mixture along with the xantham gum. For anyone who wants more of the same, I took a lot of inspiration from Erin Mckenna’s book Babycakes Covers the Classics which offers vegan and gluten free sweet treats along with covering a few other allergies. Continue reading

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie – One Brownie to Rule Them All

Gluten Free Chocolate BrownieThere’s no reason why a gluten free diet should preclude some of the finer things in life. And this rich, sticky, unctuous gluten free chocolate brownie is certainly one of those things. There can be fewer greater pleasures than biting through a brittle crust to reveal endless rivers of squidgy, chocolatey goo.

But make no mistake, we’re not settling for some half baked (‘scuse the pun) gluten free knock off of the wheatier brownie cousin. Serve this up to your gluteny friends with impunity – it is as fine as any gluten filled brownie they will ever taste. It almost seems like cheating to call this ‘gluten free’, after all flour is such a minor ingredient that you could probably swap it for sand or shredded paper without anyone noticing. Continue reading

Basic Gluten Free Flour Blend

Gluten free flour blend

Most store bought gluten free flour blends centre around three main ingredients; rice flour (base),  potato starch (stretchy) and tapioca flour (more stretchy). Xantham gum is added for yet more stretchyness.

This flour blend is a good general base for cakes, breads, pancakes, and cookies. It doesn’t have an especially complex flavour, but this can be useful when you are adding other flavouring ingredients. It’s the base for a lot of the recipes on the site, including five minute gluten free flatbread, quick gluten free pizza, gluten free lemon tart and probably many more to come. Continue reading

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring RollsMy Christmas consisted mainly of something I like to call ‘chain snacking’. No sooner was my right hand picking the last of the mince pie crumbs off my expanding belly, I would find my other hand ferreting tentacle-like in the box of salted caramels nearby.  My right hand, not to be outdone, would then search out a cube of Turkish delight and be ready to shotgun it before the caramel had even had the chance to cling to one of my teeth. I suspect I looked like a combination of Homer Simpson and Vishnu, each of my 8 hands tossing the next treat into open jaws while a bowling ball sized lump expanded steadily at my midriff.

So now it is time for penance, and it will take more than holding of the breath and prodding of the belly to loosen these trousers. But the depths of winter is no time to turn to salads, so we must instead make comfort foods that are satisfying and wholesome, yet light. Most importantly, we cannot sacrifice flavour, otherwise our snouts will be back in the biscuit box before you can say oompa loompa. Continue reading

How to Portion a Chicken in Five Minutes Using Only Kitchen Scissors

I’m reading a book called ‘The Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford. It’s very much in the gist of books like Freakonomics, brimming with anecdotes that cause one eyebrow to raise, beard stroking to commence and the reader to emit tuneful humming noises. The book recounts the never-ending ambition of big corporations to find new and inventive ways of drilling more money out of consumers when they least expect it. It makes some points that are almost terrifyingly obvious, and yet that most of us get duped by every day. I work with businesses accounts, finances, revenue, profit margins and other thrilling conversation-killers on a regular basis and yet I was genuinely shocked to realise that it doesn’t actually cost a cafe an extra 50 pence to pile squirty cream and marshmallows on to my hot chocolate.

As corporations go, supermarkets are a particularly wiley bunch, happily embracing organic, fair trade and high welfare food as they can jack up the price well beyond what the genuine additional cost is. When you pick up one of these ‘ethical’ choices, you’re telling them that you are happy to pay more, not just the actual extra cost, but much more. Continue reading

Grilled Turmeric Chicken

Grilled Turmeric Chicken

When I was a wee foodie, home cooked Indian food was becoming very fashionable in the UK, and my mother embraced the trend with great fervour and enthusiasm. Several Indian cookbooks were added to her already mountainous collection and the kitchen became a smoke filled den of pungent spicy aromas, with mother furiously chopping and stirring amid the chaos. At the time I had just discovered Indian food, having realised that a Korma from the local takeaway meant that I could enjoy rich and creamy eastern flavours without the scorched lips, and I was very supportive of her attempts to replicate such fineries in our own home. Continue reading

Filleting Wrasse – Knowing this could save you a lot of money

Wrasse and Bream

Look at the two fish above.  Fairly similar size and weight, both caught within the last 24 hours, so about as fresh as you can get. But the price difference between the two is huge – the bream at the bottom cost £6.51 ($10.22), while the wrasse was £1.34 ($2.10)!  And bream isn’t really an expensive fish – if we were comparing Monkfish, it would be around 10 times more expensive per kg than the wrasse. Continue reading

Using Dried Chillies

Dried Guindilla and Nora Chillies

A friend who makes chilli sauces once gave me a jar full of various exotic dried chillies, then gave me a concerned look and said ”You do know how to use dried chillies, don’t you?”. I snorted and rolled my eyes a few times to imply that, yes, of course I did, how could anyone not know, but then sheepishly admitted, “No”.

And to be fair, most people would probably look at a dried chilli and make very little connection between this and a finished meal, but using dried chillies in cooking gives you a great resouce that unlike fresh chillies is always available.  Some chillies such as Chipotle (dried and smoked jalapeno chillies) can just be thrown in the pot whole with other ingredients and removed at the end, but traditional Spanish chillies such as the Guindilla and Nora from Brindisa Spanish Foods in the photo above require some simple preparation before use, as follows: Continue reading