Archive | November 2016

Cheesy vegetable bake

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Vegetable bake with Quorn sausages

vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

One week until the end of the month. That means it’s time to get creative. We may not have any money right now but what we do have is a tray full of mushrooms that are on the turn, half a loaf of stale bread and a couple of wrinkly peppers. What more does a girl need?

I don’t know exactly what this recipe is. It’s one I inherited from my Mum and in our house it was just called “veggie dish”. It’s sort of a delicious baked vegetable mush with a cheesy crispy, topping. It’s great for those times when you have a load of old odds and ends rattling around in the fridge and not much money in your bank account.

Assuming that bears had raided your kitchen and you had to buy every single ingredient in this recipe from a mid-range supermarket (I used Sainsburys prices to work this out) the cost would be roughly £4.50. This gives 4 portions at £1.12 each which is pretty good considering how nutritious it is. I love it because it uses up ingredients that I often have in anyway and prevents any waste.

In my local Sainsburys the celery, peppers, courgettes and mushroom are all cheaper to buy in gigantic packets than they are individually. This seems like a bizarre system to me and a silly waste of plastic but what do I know? I just take advantage of it while I can.

 

Recipe Tips

  • This one really works best if you have a food processor. I have made it without and it tastes just fine but you don’t quite get the same texture and the chopping takes ages. If you are doing this without a food processor you will need really stale bread to make the breadcrumb; it has to be totally dried out or else it just won’t work, especially if that bread is shop-bought gluten free.
  • If you’re like me and hate green peppers then this is an excellent way to disguise them. Also, despite the vast quantities of mushrooms in this, my husband who hates mushrooms cannot tell they’re in it.
  • If you want to make this vegan, then just leave out the egg or use egg replacer/chia seeds. It’s not a vital ingredient; it just helps to bind it.
  • My Mum’s version of this recipe used an onion, not a courgette but as I cannot eat onions in large amounts courgette is a good replacement.
  • This can be served with pretty much anything. I like it with sausages or with baked beans and half a jacket potato.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 peppers – 1 red and 1 green works best
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 12oz mushrooms
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 6oz cheddar cheese (Lactofree or vegan cheddar style)
  • 8oz stale bread (brown is best)
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables as fine as you can. Use a food processor if possible.

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2. Fry the vegetables in a little vegetable oil for about 5mins.veggie-dish-3

3. Either use a food processor to turn the bread into breadcrumbs or rub it between your fingers.

4. Grate the cheese.

5. Beat the egg a little in a cup with the salt and pepper and add to the mixture.

 

 

6. Add 6oz of the breadcrumbs and 4oz of the cheese to the mixture.

 

7. Stir everything in and cook for another couple of minutes.

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8. Put the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and smooth down. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top.

 

 

 

9. Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and crispy.veggie-dish-2

 

Simple Vegetable “Risotto” with Pesto

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vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/lactose free

We are recovering from a nasty bug here at the moment. My husband has been sick all week and I have felt stranger than a blue hippopotamus with wings.

Despite being nominally hungry the very thought of cooking makes me want to leap out of the kitchen window. It’s hard to know what to do when you’re feeling sick. Should you eat properly to keep your strength up or should you follow your first instinct and hide under a blanket with a bag of crisps until it all goes away?

My go-to choice for times like these is a simple vegetable risotto. This can be made as safe and bland or as exotic and exciting as you need. It doesn’t use too many ingredients and is quick to prepare. This isn’t the proper way to make an authentic Italian risotto, especially since I always insist on ruining the suble flavours by adding large amounts pesto at the end – this recipe is probably more accurately described as “risotto rice with mixed veg”  – but it is tasty, nutritious and very easy to make.

Recipe Tips.

  • This recipe can be made with whatever vegetables you have lurking in the fridge, which is especially handy if you’ve been feeling too ill to get to the shops. I have used pepper, courgette and kale here because that’s what I had to hand but pretty much anything goes. If you are planning on using root vegetables however they may need to be pre-cooked as they do take longer to cook through.
  • I like to add a protein element to my vegetable risottos. Here I’ve used some Quorn chunks, vegetarian hot dogs and mixed seeds but you could try nuts, tofu or any other vegetarian meat substitute. Or, of course, there’s meat if you’re not vegetarian. Chicken is probably best. If you are using meat this will require a longer cooking time so it’s be best to add that before the veg instead of after.
  • At the end, I like to add extras for flavour such as pesto and/or cheese but you don’t have to.

Ingredients

(To serve 2 people)

  • 200g Arborio risotto rice
  • Approx 700ml boiling water
  • A vegetable stock cube (gluten free)
  • A pinch of mixed Italian herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of white wine – optional – (about half a glass should do it)
  • Mixed vegetables. I generally use: a red pepper, half a courgette, a handful or kale or spinach, half a carrot.
  • A jar of tomato pesto (gluten/dairy free brand)
  • A handful of grated cheese (vegan or Lactofree if necessary)

Method

  • Peel and/or chop the vegetables into small cubes.
  • Fry the vegetables in a little oil for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.
  • Add any protein, if desired, and fry with the vegetables. (If using meat, a longer cooking time may be required – you may need to add it before the veg.

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  • Meanwhile, make up 700ml of vegetable stock by adding boiling water to a stock cube. Add the herbs and seasoning to the stock.
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pan and fry with the vegetables for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add a splash of wine if desired and stir until the wine disappears.
  • Add a splash of the stock to the pan, stir and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer (you should see gentle little bubbles, not big violent ones).

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  • When the stock has disappeared, add a little more. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through – taste it to check – and all the stock has been absorbed. (The amount of time this takes and how much stock you need will vary depending on how absorbent and quick-cooking your ingredients are. As a rough guide this should take around 15 minutes)
  • Add the kale or spinach and cook for a few minutes until softened.
  • Add any extras such as pesto, cream or grated cheese. Continue to cook until these are melted/absorbed/dissolved.

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  • Enjoy and feel better.

 

Saturday Night Pizza

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Mmm…egg, Quorn and mixed veg

gluten free/vegetarian/ lactose free/can be made vegan

In preparation for the weekend, I bring you… homemade pizza. This is our Saturday night treat and my own spin on the one my Mum used to make for us growing up.

When I made this the other week I was talking to my Mum on the phone as I made the bases, absentmindedly adding the familiar ingredients to my food processor while balancing the phone between ear and shoulder. Normally this recipe is one I can virtually make in my sleep, however this time something went wrong. While I was distracted by the tale of Mum’s near-forensic removal of every fuchsia in her new garden and their subsequent herbaceous replacements I forgot one vital thing.

In horror I watched as, instead of coming together satisfyingly to form a smooth ball in the food processor, the dough rapidly separated into soggy breadcrumbs that resembled nothing so much as curdled cheese. I tipped it out onto the work surface in an attempt to kneed it into submission but the crumbs not only refused to submit, they defiantly bounced all over the kitchen in a bid for freedom. I told my Mum I would have to phone her back; this was a disaster that needed my undivided attention. I contemplated the disintegrated mess with the sort of dismay usually reserved for a small-scale nuclear war. Why? Why? What went wrong? And then it hit me.

Xanthan gum.

Gluten free friends, heed ye this warning! If you have ever doubted the efficacy of adding extra xanthan gum to your gluten free flour believe in it’s awesome power now!

Xanthan gum is a magical substance that acts as binder in gluten-free baking – it basically mimics what the gluten would normally do. It seems like such a little thing to add to your cooking – just a teaspoon of innocuous white powder – what could it possibly be doing? It’s not until you forget it that you can truly see its effects.

In the end, I scraped the mixture back into the machine, added the extra xanthan gum and a few desert spoons of flour and it was just fine, if a little doughy when cooked. A happy ending for a hungry gardening enthusiast.

Recipe Tips

  • This is a scone base so it is a little different from a traditional pizza in that it is much thicker and more filling but it’s still just as delicious. I use a food processor for this recipe to save time but you can do it the traditional way just as well. The polenta in the recipe is optional – you can just use 8oz of flour instead of 6oz – but I find the polenta gives it a lighter texture and a nicer taste.
  • If you want to make the base vegan you can replace the egg with any of the following: a little more soya milk, vegan egg replacer, chia seed goo, or a handful of grated “melty” vegan cheese. The last three will help to bind the mixture in the same way that the egg would. If you go for the soya milk option be prepared for a slightly crumblier base.
  • The vegan cheese I use is a brand specially designed to be “melty” and suitable for pizza. I have found however that it only does this if you put it directly onto the tomato sauce, before the rest of the toppings. If you sprinkle it right on top it just goes crispy. (Also nice in its own way if you like crispy cheese) I do a combination of both for a crispy cheese top and molten under-layer of deliciousness.

Ingredients

To make two large gluten/dairy free pizzas.

Base

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A giant ball of dough

  • 12oz self-raising flour (gluten free mix)
  • 4oz polenta
  • 2tsp xanthan gum
  • 4oz vegan spread
  • 2 eggs (or substitute)
  • Large pinch of salt and pepper
  • Large pinch of Italian herb mix
  • Soya milk (or substitute)

Tomato sauce for 2 pizzas

  • A jar of tomato passata (or tin of chopped tomatoes if using the food processor)
  • A teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar (optional if you are sugar-free, but does bring out the flavour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • A teaspoon Italian herb mix
  • A shake of salt and pepper
  • Optional extras to be added at the dictates of whimsy and the contents of your kitchen cupboard include: garlic, red wine, concentrated tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, red peppers.

 

Traditional method…

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the fat straight out of the fridge so that it is as cold as possible and cut it up into small chunks before adding it the bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some soy milk or water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about half an hour (this step is optional but does help when rolling it out)
  4. Roll out into a pizza shape on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, as thin as you can before it starts falling apart. (It will probably crumble a little around the edges, if this happens just fold them back in and roll again. Using your fingers can be easier than a rolling pin at this stage)

    pizza1

    The base

For the sauce…

Locate bowl. Mix ingredients in bowl. Gosh that was complicated.

Alternatively…

  1. To make the base, gleefully tip everything into the food processor, turn on and marvel at the wonders of technology. Gradually add some milk or water, just a little bit at a time until the mixture comes together to form one solid ball. Wrap and chill the dough.
  2. Pop the tomato sauce ingredients into the food processor (I might give it a quick wipe first but it’s usually fine as it is) and pulse for a few seconds to mix and chop the sauce more finely.

Add the toppings of your choice.

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Toppings…

In my house this can be any combination from the following list but your pizza can be as creative as you are.

I like: vegan “pizza” cheese, vegan cream cheese, peppers, mushrooms, courgette, aubergine, mixed seafood, smoked mackerel, egg, ham, pineapple, vegetarian hot dogs, Quorn chunks, bacon, anchovies, olives, spinach…

…Maybe one day I should try them all at once and see what happens…

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Before cooking

Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for approximately half an hour.

Cottage Pie

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Gluten free/vegetarian/lactose free/can be made vegan

Last night felt like a cottage pie sort of night. You know, cold, crisp, generally autumnal. Cottage pie is an easy variation of the all-purpose bolognaise base although when making cottage pie I definitely like to make sure I add red wine to the mix. Of course, then I do have to drink the rest of the bottle. You know, to stop it going off. It’s a selfless act that somebody has to do.

Method

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Make the all-purpose bolognaise base.

Place in a deep casserole dish and spread a generous layer of mashed potato on top. Make a criss-cross pattern in it with a fork and sprinkle on a little grated cheese.

I then like to put it on a baking tray covered with tin foil to catch the inevitable drips that bubble over and cement themselves to the bottom of your oven if you don’t catch them in time.

Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for roughly half an hour (depending how crispy you like your topping).

All-purpose vegetarian bolognaise base

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vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

This is a really easy way to start lots of different recipes. It is basically a vegetarian bolognaise-plus, packed with flavour and good-for-you feelings. You can practically taste the vitamins. Use it as it is for spaghetti bolognaise or combine it with other stuff for dishes such as lasagne or chilli con carne.

I am not vegetarian myself but I much prefer to use this recipe rather than standard mince and many people I have served this to never even guess that it’s vegetarian. When I was growing up my Mum used to produce batches of this and freeze it for a handy quick-start to dinner on busy days. I normally just make slightly more than I need each time and freeze a portion or two.

Recipe Tips

  • The vegetables that you add to this can actually be really varied, it’s great for using up all of that old veg that accumulates in the back of the fridge. I like to swap out the celery for mushrooms when my mushroom-hating husband isn’t eating it and add some aubergine too. Just experiment and see what you prefer. If you cannot eat onion/garlic it is possible to omit the ingredients containing it from this recipe with no adverse effects – you might just want to add a bit more of the other flavoursome ingredients)
  • The Quorn mince that I use is not vegan as it contains egg however many supermarkets do their own brand of vegetarian mince that is vegan – I know Sainsburys do, you might just need to shop around. Or, if you’d rather omit the mince altogether it’s just as nice with extra veg added instead. Mushroom is good substitute I think.
  • At the time of writing, standard Marmite contains barley but not wheat, which is fine for me but not for the totally gluten-free. For bizarre reasons which I can’t quite fathom, their vegetarian version however does contain wheat. Again, supermarket own brands often have different ingredients so it might be worth double checking. If you really can’t find any that’s gluten free and/or vegan don’t worry – it’s totally optional. Try some vegan yeast flakes instead or just add another stock cube.
  • The cooking times on this can also vary depending on how much time you have. This recipe can be cooked pretty quickly (as given in the instructions) or left to gently simmer for longer. I prefer this option as I like my veg thoroughly cooked and I think it gives a better favour. I either use the slow cooker for this or fry everything up in a wok with a lid instead of a frying pan, pop the lid on, turn the temperature to the lowest setting and leave it for about half an hour or more, checking occasionally and stirring to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Makes 5-6 portions

Basic Ingredients

  • A packet of Quorn mince
  • 1 large sweet pepper (I prefer red but whatever colour’s your preference)
  • A couple of sticks of celery
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree
  • A tablespoon of Marmite or Vegemite
  • Salt and pepper
  • Italian herb mix

Optional Ingredients for added flavour

  • 1 small onion
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • A vegetable stock cube (most contain garlic)
  • Worcester Sauce (most brands contain garlic)
  • A splash of red wine
  • A pinch of paprika

 

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables into small cubes. Fry on a medium heat with a drizzle of veg oil until they start to brown and soften (usually about 5-10mins)

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    Colourful veg tastes better…

  2. Add the mince still frozen, straight from the packet. Stir in and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, marmite, Worcester sauce, the stock cube, herbs and seasonings. Stir in.
  4. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for another 10-15 minutes.

Fun with Flapjacks

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(Yes, my life really is this exciting)

wheat free/gluten free/vegan

So, Monday sees me going back to work after a little holiday and I am standing in the kitchen again staring at my empty lunchbox wondering what on earth I’m going to do about it this time.

I hate lunch. It is my bête noir. I have never really enjoyed standard Western lunch foods and it’s even tricker now wheat and dairy are out of the picture. Lunch time at home usually sees my moodily crunching on some toast and fantasising about expensive sushi banquets. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to work at a place that has jacket potatoes in the cafeteria every day so at least I can bring in my own vegan cheese and have someting nutritious and filling for lunch at work.

But that still leaves me with the rest of the day…

I work fairly long hours so snacks are a necessity if I am not to swoon like some Victorian maiden in a Gothic novel. There are only so many bananas a girl can eat so I have been experimenting recently with alternatives to the expensive (and often sugar-loaded) gluten free vegan cereal bars that I had been relying on for my afternoon snack. What I didn’t want to do however was spend hours of my free time cooking food for work so I settled on flapjacks as a good start. I’m hoping that despite still being in the “naughty” category of food in my mind due to their calorie content, flapjacks will at least be partially healthy and a lot more filling. They are quick, cheap, easy and require very little washing up or prep time so they have at least delivered on that score. Having never made flapjacks before I looked for the most basic recipe I could find so that it could be easily modified. I found a good one on AllRecipes.co.uk (http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/34253/simple-honey-flapjacks.aspx) and so far I have made 4 batches, changing it slightly each time.

Recipe Notes

  • To make this 100% gluten free make sure that you use specific gluten free oats – normal oats are not guaranteed to be gluten free unless it says so on the packet.
  • When adding the extra ingredients, I found it easiest to mix any spices/essences with the melted honey and oil before adding the rest as it coated it all more evenly.
  • In terms of quantities, I just threw in handfuls until it looked about right – there wasn’t much method to it. If adding extra dry ingredients such as the desiccated coconut however, it’s best to add a little extra oil or remove some of the oats so that the mixture isn’t too dry.
  • I used a roasting tin (the kind you do roast potatoes in) lined with baking parchment to make my flapjacks in but you can use any kind of baking tray or tin really. The paper makes them a lot easier to lift out though.

Basic Ingredients

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Molten honey and “butter” – could there be a better smell?

  • 200g coconut oil
  • 300g oats
  • 7-8 tablespoons honey

Method

1. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan.

2. Turn off the heat and stir in the honey and oats.

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Stage 2

3. Line a roasting pan with greaseproof paper and tip the mixture into it, flattening it down with the back of a spoon until it is as thick as you think a flapjack should be. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut it into squares.

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I like my flapjacks thin – here is a teaspoon for refernce.

 

 

4. Bake for approximately 20mins at 180C or until the top is toasted a nice golden colour.

1st attempt  

Basic recipe plus: raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, sesame seeds (my local health food shop does a great 4 seed pre-mix) and extra chia seeds.

These tasted great and sort of, well, mostly held together but it was a lot of seeds. Anyone with a delicate digestive system (like me) might want to reduce the amount slightly.

2nd attempt

Basic recipe plus: raisins, desiccated coconut, rum flavouring, lime juice, 4 seed mix

These were my least favourite and didn’t hold together so well. Bizarrely, they tasted better after 24hrs in the biscuit tin however.

3rd attempt

Basic recipe plus: half of the coconut oil substituted for vegan sunflower spread, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla essence, much less seed mix than before.

These taste quite bland but pleasant and hold together nicely.

4th attempt

Sunflower spread instead of coconut oil, 4 tbs honey, 250g oats, 50g desiccated coconut, a handful each of raisins, crystallised pineapple and papaya pieces, 1/3 tsp powdered ginger.

My favourite so far. The sugar in the crystalized fruit means that less honey is needed but the mixture still holds together very well. The ginger adds a warming note – next time I might even add a little more and the flavours work beautifully together. The vegan spread works much better than the coconut oil I think and gives it a more “buttery” flavour which is what I want in a flapjack.

I will be trying more of these variations as time goes on so will let you know of any good ones I come across. Or, if anyone has any good suggestions I will bake them and see.

Vegan Fondue

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vegan/gluten free

In honour of the UK’s Great Vegan Challenge month, (see http://www.govegan.org.uk/) may I present for your enjoyment, vegan fondue.

One of the things I miss most since going lactose-free is cheese. I love cheese. I especially love the really stinky, runny, disgusting kind. The kind that makes guests think something must’ve crawled into your fridge and died sometime in 1992 and has stayed there ever since. I used to buy one particular brand that my husband claimed he could smell when he came in through the front door, even though it was wrapped up in tin foil and sealed in a Tupperware box safely in the fridge. Sigh…

These days I have to be content with getting my fix from the many brands of vegan cheese out there. I’m lucky in that my local wholefoods shop stocks a very wide range. I haven’t tried them all yet but the one I’ve found most useful for cooking purposes has been Violife. They do several different varieties all of which are very nice and haven’t got that chalky, mushy texture a lot of vegan cheese seems to have. Their original flavour is the best for eating just as it is. It comes in a blue packet and tastes pleasantly like Edam. The green packet however is the exciting one. It’s melty pizza cheese and I love it. I love it more than real cheese on pizza. I recommend it to so many people that they should probably give me job, or at least some free cheese. This is the one that I used for the fondue.

Vegan fondue is dead easy to make as you really just              substitute the dairy ingredients for their vegan equivalents. There’s no tricky alteration required. Having said that, I did make some changes to the recipe I used to suit my own personal tastes. I adapted Nigella’s fondue recipe from her “Nigella Express” book (online version found here: https://www.nigella.com/recipes/cheese-fondue). I served this to guests on Halloween and it went down very well. (It’s even better with red food colouring in and served in a cauldron) This recipe does make a tonne though. We had enough to feed 7 people and then there was plenty left over so you might want to halve the quantities if you don’t want to find yourself swimming in molten cheese. Or maybe you do. In which case go for it.

Recipe Tips

  • The original recipe includes a clove of garlic however as I can’t eat much garlic I left it out and just sprinkled in a small pinch of garlic powder instead. It tasted just fine.
  • The wine really is necessary if you’re using vegan cheese. It gives it a tang that helps to mimic the taste of real cheese and stops it being too sweet or sickly.
  • Traditionally a fondue should be made with kirsch as well as wine but I use gin as don’t want the expense of buying a whole bottle of kirsch for the sake of 3 tablespoons. The sharpness of the gin also helps to offset the mildness of the vegan cheese.
  • I added a splash of soya cream to my fondue as I wanted it to be a little runnier and creamier, and also some salt as I find vegan cheese I use to be less salty than real cheese.

Ingredients

  • 600g vegan “melty” cheese (grated)
  • 300ml white wine
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons kirsch or gin
  • A pinch of garlic powder
  • A splash of soya cream (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper.

 

Method

Put the cheese, wine, cream, nutmeg and garlic into a saucepan or a fondue bowl if you have one. Cook over a low heat for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. Mix the cornflour with the gin in a small glass and add to the cheese. Stir everything well and season it to taste.

Serve with accompaniments of your choice. We like a combination of the following:

  • Toasted bread (gluten free)
  • Bread sticks (gluten free)
  • Vegetarian sausages cut up and skewered on cocktail sticks
  • Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks
  • Slices of sweet pepper