A Life In Food – Recipes – Gluten Free Salmon Fishcakes with Beetroot & Radish Salsa

salmon fishcakes with beetroot salsa

Gluten Free Salmon Fishcakes with Beetroot & Radish Salsa

Better late than never!  Here is the promised second beetroot recipe, not exactly focused on beetroot but nevertheless, the little purple chaps are definitely in there somewhere.

This a variation on several Italian themed fishcake recipes using polenta.  I have seen a version that uses salt cod, also soaking the polenta in hot water and including in the main mix (in Maxine Clark’s Flavours of Tuscany). Nigella Lawson’s recipe recommends the use of tinned salmon over fresh fish, and let’s be honest, we should be grateful for some way of using the otherwise inedible pink tinned mush (though I’ve found it goes well on rye bread with watercress if you use just the first 6 ingredients below)… Continue reading

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Fresh Pesto Dressing

Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad

This is a hearty and robust warm beetrot and butternut squash salad with pesto dressing that makes a great addition to any meal.

On opening my laptop a few days ago, the first message of the day was from eat the seasons, cheerily but firmly instructing me to ‘eat BEETROOT’.  Who could argue with such advice? I love their emails, they really help you to get a feel for the seasonal food of the time that leeches into your consciousness, and you know you will definitely eat BEETROOT if the chance arises.

Truth being, I never stopped eating beetroot.  A few weeks ago I put out a teaser of all the vegetables I bought from Riverford Farm Shop, promising recipes in abundance which I failed to deliver.  Well, now’s the time to come good on my promise – two, yes TWO recipes if not dedicated to, then at least containing that humble purple rogue – the beetroot.  Say goodbye to that crystal white choppping board, and say hello to rich earthy goodness.

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Pesto Dressing

2 Beetroot
1 Butternut Squash
A Handful of baby spinach leaves
1 chicory bulb
Other mild flavoured salad leaves such as Lambs lettuce

Pesto dressing

1 good handful of basil leaves
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Place the two beetroot in the middle of a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place two sprigs of rosemary or thyme on them.  Roast for around 1 hour until the beetroot has softened but still remains slightly firm throughout (use a skewer to test).
3. Meanwhile chop the butternut squash (don’t peel it!) into chunks about the length of the beetroot – you’ll eventually be chopping the beetroot into wedges too, and you want them to all be a similar size.   Toss in olive oil.
4. Halfway through cooking the beetroot scatter the butternut squash around them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to the oven for the remaining 30 minutes.
5. Once cooked (the butternut squash will be lightly browned and caramelised), remove from the oven and set aside and keep warm – the vegetables should still be warm for the salad, but not hot.

roast beetroot and squash in the roasting tray

6. Make the pesto by toasting the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden brown all over, then puree in a small food processor or pestle and mortar with the garlic, olive oil, basil and parmesan.  Taste the dressing and adjust any ingredients.
7. Arrange the chicory, baby spinach and leaves in a salad bowl.  Add the beetroot and butternut squash, then drizzle over the dressing.  If you want some additional sharpness, toss in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.  Mix together thoroughly and serve warm.
tossing the salad

This is a great recipe that would go equally well with Roast Turkey, a vegetarian Christmas Roast, or as a hearty and robust addition to any meal.  The next recipe will follow soon (ish) !

Links: Eat The Seasons, Riverford Farm Shop
Twitter: @RiverfordShops

Lemon Polenta Cake with Amaretto Syrup

lemon polenta cake

I never consciously intended to put a lot of gluten free recipes on this blog, but given that my partner is on a gluten free diet, inevitably a lot of them come up.  I’ve mentioned before the awful commercially produced gluten free versions of wheat products, and I think there is something to be said for avoiding these duplicates and just incorporates the best food available that fits within the dietary requirements.  In fact, this could be extended to any diet – why would a vegetarian want to eat a plastic sausage when there are so many fantastic vegetables available all year round? I once ate a nut replica of cheese in a vegan restaurant – at first it was quite a novelty, but when they brought out an entire ‘cheese’ course with three nutty pasty varieties, I was tempted to hide it in a fellow diners handbag…

So this is a recipe that is gluten free, but has not been adapted – it has always been gluten free.  There are a variety of recipes around the web for lemon polenta cake, which is a traditional italian recipe, but all generally involve the same quantities of butter, caster sugar and ground almonds (around 200-250g), half as much polenta (100g), 3 eggs, baking powder and a lemon syrup poured over the cake at the end.  Variations are plentiful – Nigella keeps it simple and includes syrup, River Cafe double the size (with a touch of vanilla and salt) and puts the lemon in the cake instead of as a syrup, Nigel Slater halves the size (emphasis on a light and fluffy texture) and fills with cream, others increase the lemonyness to the bounds of decency and load it with alcohol.  I’ve tried to take a little something from all of them, and include a little twist of my own – Amaretto liquor, which brings out the sweet almond flavour (especially if you are using freshly ground almonds).

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds (if you have the time and inclination, you would benefit from grinding your own using blanched almonds)
100g fine polenta (if you can only get coarse, you could grind it finer in a clean coffee grinder or food processor)
1 tsp baking powder (gluten free, of course)
zest of 2 lemons (also juice for syrup)
3 eggs
a few drops of lemon extract
pinch of salt

Syrup

juice of 2 lemons
4 tbsp Amaretto (I use Lazzaroni Amaretto, which is flavoured by soaking with Amaretti biscotti, also gluten free)
125g icing sugar

  1. Line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas mark 4.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and creamy.
  4. Combine the almonds, polenta, lemon zest and baking powder and add gradually alternating with an egg, and beating thoroughly.  If you want a lighter texture, you can separate out the yolks and whites, add the yolks only at this stage, then whip the whites separately until not quite stiff and fold in at the end.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, then hold the side and tap the underside to level out the mixture.
  6. Bake for around 40 minutes – the cake will shrink away from the edge when it is done.  Cool in the tin on a wire rack.
  7. Make the syrup by warming the icing sugar, lemon juice and amaretto together until clear.
  8. Prick the cake all over with a skewer or cake tester, then pour over the syrup and leave to cool.
  9. Remove the cake from the tin then turn upside down onto a plate (so all the holes are at the bottom and the syrup will start to move back through the cake).
  10. Serve with clotted cream and grated lemon zest.

Tips & Confessions

– I didn’t separate out the yolks and whites – it was still light and fluffy (I did beat everything quite thoroughly though).
– I couldn’t get fine polenta, and I didn’t grind it.  There was no discernible grittiness, and tasted great.
– 4tbsp of Amaretto is a guess, I think I just chugged the bottle into the mix a few times, try more or less to taste.

Chargrilled Tuscan Lamb

Chargrilled Tuscan Lamb

Tradition dictates that barbecuing is a summer sport, but the method is ideally suited to cooking throughout the year.  Admittedly, you’re unlikely to get much success from an open barbecue in the driving rain, but a kettle bbq can account for most weather conditions, and effectively gives you an entire additional oven for cooking in.  Believe it or not, our Christmas lunch joints have been cooked on the barbecue for three years running now.

This is a beautiful, simple recipe that is ideally done over charcoal, but also works under a grill (broiler for our American friends).  It is a variation on a recipe from Maxine Clark’s fantastic book ‘Flavours of Tuscany’, which gives a range of traditional Tuscan recipes with an exciting modern twist.  Maxine is a cooking school teacher in Tuscany, so she knows her stuff.

Ingredients

2 kg leg of lamb
4 crushed garlic cloves
4 tbsp chopped rosemary
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper

to serve:
chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley and good extra virgin olive oil

– Ask your butcher to bone and butterfly the lamb, or do it yourself by cutting towards the bone where it is closest to the skin, then trimming closely around the bone until you can remove it.

– The meat should lie fairly flat – place it skin side down and score through any areas that are thicker to even out the thickness, and remove excess fat.

– Mix all other ingredients together except for the salt and pepper and rub into the cut side of the meat.  Season with pepper only:

marinading lamb– Leave to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour or ideally overnight. Remove from the marinade and reserve any left over marinade for basting.

– If you have one, put the lamb into a square grill rack, which should allow for easier turning and control flare-ups:

grilling lamb

– Cook for around 30-40 min each side, basting every so often and turning regularly to ensure the surface does not burn.

– Once cooked, season with salt and rest in a warm place before slicing, then dress with the chopped parsley and olive oil.

Tips

– The picture above is actually a smaller leg of lamb than in the recipe (about 850g boned), so I just halved all the quantities and cooked for around 15 minutes each side.

– You will need to control flare ups if you’re cooking on an open barbecue – keep turning the meet and move it off the heat if the flames are out of control.  On a kettle barbecue, cook over direct heat with the lid on and all vents open, turning occasionally.

– Although I’ve given cooking timing guides above (which produce medium done meat), it is best to get familiar with the feeling of meat as the temperature of your barbecue could vary – have a look at this link.

Five Minute Gluten Free Flatbread

gluten free flatbread

Gluten free baked food products tend to either aim for a vague approximation of the original, or completely bypass it and settle themselves happily into the category of ‘mysterious wad’.  Until recently, most gluten-free breads have tried earnestly (and very successfully) to replicate cardboard rather than a genuine loaf (thank God for Genius). Cakes and biscuits are usually more successful, relying less on a well-formed gluten structure than bread, though occasionally they can be mouth-numbingly dry.

Home recipes can meet with a similar range of results, from unusual brown dollops in the bottom of a baking tray, to fantastic fresh rustic (and often unusual) loaves that have to be greedily gobbled down with butter while still warm. Even the best recipes can be inconsistent though (in my experience), except for this little gem I discovered last week.

So then, 5 minutes before dinner is ready (minestrone soup, since you ask), what do you do?  Set the table? Open a bottle of wine?  Sensible ideas, but not me, I decided to ‘have a go’ at gluten free flatbread.  Never done it before (not in 5 minutes anyway), but hey, why not.  And how was it?  It was fantastic, incredibly easy to make and definitely one of the best savoury gluten-free recipes I’ve ever cooked – crispy and light with a delicious fresh bread flavour.  You can use whichever shop bought gluten free flour blend with xantham gum you can get (e.g. Doves Farm in the UK, Bob’s Red Mill in the USA), I use my gluten free flour blend here, which gives measurements by weight (g or oz) or volume (cups).

Gluten Free Flatbread

150g gluten free flour blend (my recipe here)
Warm water
Olive oil
Sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds

  1. Preheat the grill to as hot as it will go.
  2. Add water gradually to the flour in a bowl and mix until the mixture is the consistency of creamed butter and sugar (i.e. like cake mixture).
  3. Oil a baking tray (or grill pan) with the olive oil.  Spoon the mixture roughly on to the tray, then drizzle oil over the top.  Oil your hands too.
  4. With your hands, flatten the mixture out into a rough rectangle – it should be as thin as you can get it, with areas where the dough is almost translucent (“windowpaning”).
  5. Sprinkle sea salt over the top and then put under the grill.  Keep an eye on it – the dough will start to bubble and char in places – take it out and turn it over.
  6. Before the dough is charring on the other side, take it out and scatter cumin seeds over the flatbread, then place back under the grill until it is lightly charred.
  7. Cut into smaller rectangles and scatter with parsley or basil. Serve immediately with soup or dips.

Tips

You may find the dough lifts up at the edges after turning, and start to cook too quickly – in this case, just wait until the edges have browned then cut them off and carry on cooking the remainder.

Experiment – you could try black onion seeds or fennel in place of cumin, or even pine nuts and rosemary. Heck, I reckon if you get the moisture levels of the tomato sauce right and the grill hot enough, you could turn this into a decent thin and crispy pizza.  Somewhere between Jeff Varasano’s epic pizza recipe and Heston Blumenthal’s home pizza method lies the answer.

UPDATE: Just as I suspected, this makes great pizza – here is my quick gluten free pizza recipe.

Mango Pavlova

Mango Pavlova

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a recent trip to Riverford Field Kitchen in Devon, where amongst other delights there was a beautifully light but deeply satisfying Mango Pavlova.  Amidst the chaos of sunday lunch yesterday we decided to give it a go, so here’s our version:

Meringue
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Topping
500ml double cream
2 mangoes
1 tsp caster sugar

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (fan oven)
  2. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar gradually, continue beating until shiny and stiff.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and gently fold through until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Put onto a large baking sheet or baking tray into a vaguely rectangular shape – don’t smooth over, leave the top fairly rough.
  5. Put in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 150 C.
    Cook for about 1 hour 10 minutes. The meringue will be ready when the edges are crisp but light pressure on top should suggest softness underneath.
  6. While the meringue is cooking, peel and chop 1 mango roughly.  Add 1tsp sugar Puree with a stick blender and set aside in the fridge.
  7. When the meringue is cooked, turn off the oven, open the door and allow to cool (this prevents the meringue from cracking excessively).
  8. Whip the double cream and spoon onto the cooled meringue base evenly.
  9. Chop the other mango into 1cm cubes (or smaller), scatter over the cream and pour the reserved mango coulis over the top. Serve immediately.

Tips

– For beating egg whites use a glass, ceramic or a metal bowl ideally (or best of all, copper) – plastic bowls can harbour tiny droplets of oil which can stop the whites from beating correctly.

– The size and form of the meringue is up to you – ours was a rectangle, you could make a circle if you like. It’s also up to you whether you smooth over the top or leave it rough – the method above gives an ‘undulating landscape’ of meringue which results in thicker and thinner areas of cream and topping, and makes for an interesting contrast.

– Children may appreciate some additional sweetening in the mango coulis, so add another teaspoon of caster sugar to the mix.

– If you don’t allow it to cool in the oven (we didn’t, it was in the midst of cooking sunday lunch), it’s not a disaster, you’ll just get more cracking.

– While we’re being honest, we could also have made our meringue a bit thicker.  The balance of flavours was perfect, but you can always afford more squishy meringue goodness…

Golden Manchego & Polenta Tomatoes

Polenta tomatoes
In the spirit of Nigel Slater’s programme last night on soft and crisp food textures, this is a great recipe that combines the winning combination of tomato and basil with that most desirable of things – crispy cheese.  You know when cheese pools in the bottom of the grill pan and forms that delicious hard disc of salty cheesiness, the kind of stuff that wars could be started over?  Well that’s what you’re getting on each of these tomato slices. The tomatoes cook down and intensify in flavour, the cheese bubbles away and the polenta soaks up all of the flavour from everything else and seals it into a crunchy coating. Just fabulous.  I last made them in Spain, so Manchego cheese seemed the right thing to use, but you could also use a firm goats cheese, or even a crumbly English cheese like Lancashire, Cheshire or Wensleydale.  Ideal for when you need to cook something both vegetarian and gluten free.

INGREDIENTS

6 tomatoes
250g coarse polenta
Manchego cheese (or alternatively a firm goats cheese)
Basil
1 egg
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

 

  1. Cut the tomatoes into slices – try to keep them uniform, put the ends aside and use them in a salsa instead.
  2. Put the tomatoes in a colander over a bowl with 2tsp salt and leave for around 20 minutes until liquid has formed in the bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the manchego cheese into small squarish slices around two thirds the size of the tomato slices. Set aside as many single basil leaves as there are slices of tomato.
  4. Season the polenta with pepper only (the tomatoes will already have enough salt) and put into a dish, whisk the egg and place in another bowl next to the polenta. Put a grill rack to the other side of the polenta dish.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 C and dry the tomatoes on some kitchen towel.
  6. In one motion, dip each tomato in the egg, then into the polenta on one side only, then place on the rack.
  7. Place a basil leaf on each tomato slice, followed by a slice of cheese:tomatoes ready for the cheese
  8. Brush over with the remaining egg (I didn’t have a brush, so had to just fling the egg in the general direction of the tomatoes, but they still came out fine).
  9. Scatter more polenta generously over the tomatoes, then tap the grill rack to dislodge any loose grains.
  10. Transfer the tomatoes to a lightly oiled oven tray or baking tray, then drizzle olive oil over the top.
  11. Cook in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are golden brown (you can finish off under the grill briefly to add some colour).
Serve hot with aioli and big smiles.

Smoky Chipotle Paella – Warming Autumnal Fare

smoky chipotle paella

After a summer trip to Valencia, and a rather beautiful Paella Valenciana, I’ve been inspired to come up with my own alternative interpretation.  Paella was traditionally cooked over wood from orange trees which gave it a smoky aroma, so I’ve used smoked ‘Chipotle Meco’ chillies to try and reproduce this effect.  Chipotle Meco are Jalapeno chillies that have been smoked for long periods of time (often several days) to impart a really smoky and rich flavour that can do incredible things to a dish.  They’re quite rare, and most of them don’t get outside Mexico (the chipotle more often seen in the UK are the smaller and cheaper ‘Chipotle Morita’ variety).  Handily I have a small store that I sell them through on ebay, so I always have plenty to hand!!

The dish is medium hot, a mild version can be made by using only 1 chipotle meco chilli.  This version contains no meat, but is richly flavoured thanks to the chipotle chilli – feel free to use chicken stock and add meat if you like, I’d recommend rabbit or hare in the spirit of the original recipe (they’re also at their best in Autumn), duck is also an option.  Use seasonal greens, and add green beans or runner beans if they’re still in season.  Remember – whatever you think the authentic paella is, it probably isn’t, so experiment!

RICE

1 shallot
2 carrots
1 long red pepper
1 small chilli pepper, deseeded
olive oil
1-2 chipotle meco chillies
1 pint (568ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp tumeric
1tsp paprika
250g short grain rice (paella rice or
arborio)

GREENS

1 handful sliced kale (cavolo nero if in season)
1 handful sliced pointed cabbage or savoy cabbage
small handful frozen green peas
juice of 1 lemon

CHIPOTLE FINISHING SAUCE

1 tsp fennel seeds
9 black peppercorns
1-2 tsp sea salt crystals
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tsp red wine vinegar
soaked reserved chipotle from
above

1. Put the chipotle meco chillies into a pan with the hot vegetable stock and turmeric and keep on a low heat.

2. Meanwhile, dice the shallots, carrots, peppers and chillies and fry in olive oil with the paprika over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the rice, stir for 5 minutes until coated.

4. Remove the chipotle chillies and reserve, then add the vegetable stock to the rice mixture. Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, slice the greens and place in a bowl with frozen peas and the lemon juice. Set aside.

6. Grind the dry dressing ingredients then add the reserved chipotle chillies, olive oil and vinegar and puree.

7. Add the greens to the rice mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes.

8. Take the rice mixture off the heat, stir through the finishing sauce, serve and enjoy!

Mint Sauce

mintAugust and September is the best time to harvest summer mint leaves for mint sauce – a versatile ingredient that is great in salad dressings as well as roast lamb.

Mint is an amazingly versatile herb equally at home in both sweet and savoury dishes, able to lift new potatoes or fresh peas to new levels of flavour or cut through rich curry dishes in raita.  Summer always brings a glut of mint to our garden, and the leaves are strewn extravangantly over even the most unlikely of meals (‘Any mint with your beans on toast?’).  But in these happy times the memory of winter lurks menacingly in the distance, and the time comes to squirrel away some of the leaves to secure the bright flavour for the coming seasons.

Mint Sauce

Ingredients
A handful of fresh mint leaves, stalks removed
Cider vinegar (enough to cover)
1tsp sugar

1. Chop the mint leaves finely.
2. Place in a ‘Kilner’ type jar as in the above photo.
3. Press down and pour in enough cider vinegar to cover.
4. Add sugar and mix thoroughly.

The sauce is ready after a few hours, but you’ll find the flavour will improve after a few weeks.  As well as the usual uses with roast lamb, mint sauce is great in salad dressings – mix a few tablespoons with honey, cracked black pepper and olive oil for a fantastic summer salad dressing.  Maybe not this summer though – looking out of my window it’s starting to feel distinctly wintery already…