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

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

Spring Asparagus

Asparagus

Tender, juicy and full of flavour, the UK grows asparagus that is some of the best in the world. 

There is perhaps no greater ringing endorsement of spring than the bunches of asparagus that start popping up in farm shops around the country in late April.  Even the supermarkets get in on the act, and the miserable little South American tips are replaced by fat bundles of green spears emblazoned with the Union Jack.  But there is good reason to put in more than the usual effort when seeking out this British champion.  Asparagus contains natural sugars that start to deplete as soon as it is harvested; it is this troublesome characteristic that have led many to take the kitchen to the field, allowing them to cook it immediately over a portable stove.  Such effort is probably beyond most of us (unless you are growing your own), but with a little local research you can get close to this ideal. Continue reading

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The first show of these cheery green stalks with their flowery purple heads is the sign that summer is on its way, and the stubborn root vegetables that have been squatting in the vegetable drawer all winter will soon be replaced with an array of brightly coloured and richly flavoured British produce.

Purple sprouting broccoli reaches a peak around mid April – it’s available from March but the stems can be a little woody and may require some rather fiddly peeling.  By April, they’re tender all the way down to the end, and require delicate treatment and careful cooking, followed by eating with much gusto and slurping. Continue reading

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

The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Harvest Time

Apple label, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Today marks the beginning of the ten day harvest display at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Megavissey, Cornwall.  For those who’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, the story behind the gardens is a romantic tale akin to ‘The Secret Garden’; after decades of neglect the gardens were revived to their original splendour in the 1990s by a team including Tim Smit (who went on to create The Eden Project).

The real centrepiece of the gardens for me is the ‘Northern Gardens’ section, made up of the vegetable garden, walled flower garden and melon yard.  These are all in full production, and all through the year you’ll find a huge array of food being produced – amazingly, this includes oranges, lemons, melons, peaches and even pineapples!

The photos below are from our visit in early October when the weather was glorious, and should give an idea of the kind of things that will be coming together this weekend. The harvest display really needs to be seen to be believed, an army of fruit and vegetables toppling over one another, there is a temptation to dive headlong into the display and start biting…

Twitter:  @HeliganGardens
Links: Main Website, Heligan Blog

Riverford Farm – Fresh, Tasty & Organic Autumn Vegetables

Riverford Farm vegetables; butternut squash, sweet potatoes, multicoloured

On Saturday we schlepped across the countryside for a much-anticipated trip to Riverford Field Kitchen near Buckfastleigh in Devon, and learned two things in the process: one, however tempting it is to cut across Dartmoor, don’t bother – the roads get curlier and slimmer the further on you go, and as beautiful as the scenery is, it does not make for relaxed driving.  Two – if you miss the sign with the lorry on it and take the sign for the farm shop, you’ve gone too far.

However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the small but perfectly formed Riverford Farm Shop needs to be seen to be believed – a huge array of vegetables toppling over each other and begging to be popped into a basket and driven straight home.  We spent a frantic 5 minutes gathering armfuls of candy-like tomatoes and chillies, luscious green tuscan kale and swiss chard, spiky romanesco cauliflowers, squashes, sweet potatoes and sweetcorn, and still had to leave behind mountains of other tempting morsels too numerous to mention.  Even for an hour and half drive (curly roads or not), I can’t wait for the return visit.

And the field kitchen?  Just, amazing.  A real celebration of food, presented in beautiful surroundings by a team of people who have the desire and the ability to give you one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten.  We were treated to guinea fowl on a bed of kale with cannellini beans, romanesco cauliflower and fennel with walnut dressing, beetroot and squash salad, swiss chard gratin and an aubergine and tomato bake.  Perhaps the descriptions don’t really do justice to the food, though to be honest if you are looking for a review there are plenty more authoritative critics than I who have sung its praises. The freshest ingredients, produced with love and care, cooked with respect and expertise, and served humbly and unpretentiously.  I can’t think of anything better.  The whole experience was surreally but perfectly framed by a large group of local apple growers, young and old alike, engaged in the frantic but efficient process of pressing and bottling apple juice on a huge old press in front of the restaurant.

Needless to say, after following up the above with freshly prepared mango pavlova and baked cheesecake (plus the sticky toffee pudding my fellow diner graciously offered me), we left with taut trousers and big smiles, only to attempt to replicate the experience the next day with a huge sunday lunch made from the vegetables you see in the picture (and more!); creamy leeks with mature cheddar, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted butternut and onion squash with chilli and sage, heaps of greens (chard, tuscan kale and purple kale) with caper and tarragon dressing all washed down with a rich wild mushroom & madeira sauce.  At some point I’ll upload some recipes for these delights, but for now I need to find some elastic to sow into these shrinking jeans…

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!

Autumn Pork Pie – Handmade and Local

Pork Pie, Cheddar and Chutney

Many people recoil in terror at the site of a pork pie, but come back and sit down, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  In fact, if you’ve been put off by the greasy supermarket and petrol station excuses for pork pies, it’s really time you tried them again from a decent local supplier.  Yes, the best ones are supposedly made in Melton Mowbray (the PDO and PGI says so), but you’ll benefit from the freshness of a locally made pie much more if you don’t live in Leicestershire and the supermarket is your only other option.

The pie above was made by Bude Meat Supply (not the most romantic of names, I grant you), and is huddling between Denhay Farm mature cheddar and Ma’s Apple & Date chutney (not commercially available, but my mother makes so much of the stuff she’d probably send you a jar if you asked). Cue closed eyes and dreamy murmuring sounds.

So, give them another chance this autumn – crisp pastry yielding to rich pork that sits perfectly with chutney, cheese and a pickled onion if you’re feeling adventurous – it’s a food that represents traditional British cuisine at its best.

empty plate