Tag Archive | lactose free

Simple Courgette Pasta for Dinosaurs

dinosaur courgette

This is the giga-courgette. The latest in a series of giant courgettes to have grown apparently overnight in my garden. The picture includes an actual, genuine, totally-real-life dinosaur for size reference. (I found him grazing on my herbaceous border last week) I would call it a marrow except it’s not quite there yet. I have been very impressed with this year’s variety of plant that seems to let courgettes grow to mammoth size before they develop the texture and seeds of marrows. I would buy it again next year except I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called.

Excellent though all this is, it does leave me with a bit of a surplus. Which is ironic given that the inhabitants of this city are still reeling from “that month when Sainsburys didn’t have courgettes.” How we all survived that apocalyptic event I can’t fathom…

I’m pleased to say (not a little smugly) that my home-grown courgettes do taste nicer than the supermarket one, especially this yellow variety which is much sweeter. This means that I really want to enjoy them in simple recipes without a lot of flavour competition. The recipe below is really simple and great for summer. You can make this with any courgettes of course and it will still taste good, but if you do have access to a farmers’ market, organic store or a kindly friend with a courgette problem then I would urge you to try it with the nicest courgettes you can get your hands on. Even if that means wresting a dinosaur for them.

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Two normal sized courgettes from my plants last week

Recipe notes

I prefer using spelt pasta these days because it doesn’t stick together in the pan like lots of the gluten free ones do, however it’s not suitable for people with a serious gluten intolerance. Spelt pasta comes in white and brown, and the white version tastes just like normal pasta to me. Having said that, I actually prefer the brown as it is more flavoursome and filling. You can actually use any shape of pasta for these recipes but I find spaghetti works best.

I have taken to peeling courgettes instead of chopping them – you basically peel them like a carrot and keep going until there’s nothing left (mind your fingers!). They cook much quicker that way and I prefer the texture. If you have one of those fancy spiralizers you could also use that.

Since I am a fearsome carnivorous velociraptor I use bacon in this recipe when eating alone. If my herbivorous brachiosaur mate is joining me however, we substitute it with Quorn hot dogs. The flavour seems to work better than Quorn bacon for some reason. They come in frozen and non-frozen packets and as far as I can tell they’re exactly the same thing; we just use the frozen ones because they’re cheaper. They are not vegan however.

If you are using standard out of season courgettes for this and want to add a little extra flavour, a little green “FreeFrom” brand pesto works brilliantly to perk it up.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry dinosaurs)

  • 1 giga-courgette or 2 smaller ones
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 pieces of streaky bacon OR 5 Quorn hot dogs
  • Seeds – I use a pre-mixed packet of pumpkin, linseed, sunflower and sesame seeds.
  • Cashew nut pieces
  • Cold-pressed olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Approx 200g pasta – gluten free or spelt

 

Method

(Vegetarian instructions in green)

  1. Cook the pasta, following the times given on the packet. If using gluten free, heating it up in cold water (as opposed to using boiling water from the kettle) may help it to stick less. Remember to stir often throughout the cooking process.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, peel and/or chop the vegetables. Courgette pasta 2.jpg
  3. If using bacon, cut into little squares and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Cook the hot dogs as per the instructions on the packet (for the frozen ones this involves removing them from the packet and microwaving for 2mins).
  5. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook for about 5mins until they soften. Courgette pasta 3.jpg
  6. Chop the hot dogs into pieces and add them to the pan about halfway through cooking the veg.
  7. Toss in a handful of chopped nuts and seeds. Fry for 1 minute.
  8. Add the pasta and stir it all up until it is thoroughly mixed and warmed through. Courgette pasta 4.jpg
  9. Plate up and drizzle over a little olive oil.  Courgette pasta 5.jpg
  10. Roar victoriously.

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Cranberry and Cinnamon Granola Bars

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Wheat free/lactose free/can be made vegan & gluten free

I never want to see another flapjack again.

Allow me to elaborate…

The gods of medicine have seen fit to impose upon me a fun list of strange dietary requirements. While I can get around this easily enough at meal times, finding vaguely healthy and edible snack foods can be a real headache. Added to the fact that I cannot digest many things, my place of work has a strict no-nuts policy. A little while ago I settled on homemade fruit flapjacks as a suitable solution. Trouble is, after a year of eating them nearly every weekday I need a break.

Dietary requirements aside, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find recipes for simple, healthy(ish) snack bars. All a general googling turns up are flapjacks and granola bars. Everything else out there seems to involve vast amounts of either chocolate, sugar, biscuit or nuts. While I have nothing against vast amounts of the above (preferably all together, with some butter and marshmallows…mmm…) it’s not exactly something I should be eating every day.

I have held out against making granola bars for a long time. Mainly because of the haunting spectre of this trope looking over my shoulder. After seriously having had my fill of flapjacks though, I gave in and tried granola bars.

I tried literally the first recipe I found, which was this one from the BBC’s Good Food site. I didn’t have any suitable oats in the house at the time so used up some old spelt flakes I had hanging around at the back of the cupboard instead. It turns out the result is pretty much the same. While this recipe does contain an awful lot more sugar than my usual flapjack recipe, I have to admit it is pretty delicious and provides a welcome respite.

Recipe notes

All of the recipes for granola bars that I’ve found start with the step of toasting your grains and seeds first. I’ve tried this and have been very confused because even after toasting for double than the amount of recommended time, my grains and seeds look almost exactly the same. I’ve still been doing it because it’s in all the recipes and I figure, what do I know? It must be doing something.

 

 

The original recipe on the Good Food website includes walnuts. I have tried cooking this both with and without the walnuts now and frankly, I can’t taste the difference. I have change the types of seed though so maybe that’s why.

As I mentioned, I have used spelt flakes instead of oats in this recipe, purely because that was what I had lurking in the cupboard. They taste lovely but aren’t gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 100g butter (or vegan substitute)
  • 200g whole rolled spelt flakes
  • 200g mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower & linseed)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g dried cranberries

Method

  1. Grease a roasting tin with butter or line it with greaseproof paper (my preferred solution as it make it easier to get things out). Mix the spelt flakes and seeds in the tin, then toast in the oven for 5-10 mins at 150°C.
  2. While that does whatever invisible thing it’s supposed to be doing, warm the butter, honey and sugar in a pan and stir until melted.granola bars 3.jpggranola bars 4.jpg
  3. Add the spelt/seed mix, cinnamon and dried fruit, then mix it all up until everything is coated in sugary, sugary goodness.granola bars 6.jpg
  4. Tip into the tin, press down lightly, then bake at 150°C for 30 mins.granola bars 7.jpg
  5. After it’s cooked, some molten sugar may seep out of the sides if it doesn’t quite fill the tin (my roasting tin is pretty big). Just smoosh it back in with a spoon. Do not try to eat the molten sugar while hot. I speak from experience. granola bars 8.jpg
  6. Cool in tin, then cut into 12 bars. Do not try to cut it while warm as it just falls apart and sticks to the knife and your hand. And then you have to eat loads of it off your hand. And then you notice that it has fallen all over the floor. And then the cat tries to eat the floor because it’s now apparently made of warm butter. And then you try to pick up the cat. And then you realise that you are all sticky and you have now just stuck to the cat. And then the cat tries to eat you. Be warned.

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Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

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If you ask me, there is something comical about rhubarb. I don’t know why. I think it’s got something to do with this.

My Uncle has a new allotment and has given much care to his rhubarb plants. I haven’t seen them but apparently, they are luscious, thriving and have stems as thick as your arm. He’s thinking of showing them. I was given some of this rhubarb when I visited my Nan a week or so ago and as far as I’m concerned, there is only one thing to do with rhubarb…

…Crumble!*

*I know crumble is technically more of an autumn dish, but never mind.

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Recipe Notes

  • There are recipes out there for all sorts of fancy and wonderful things you can do with rhubarb, crumble and both. But seeing as the focus of this blog is on simple, tasty, home cooking, it would be remiss of me not to start with the real basics. I grew up eating a lot of crumble but it does contain our old friends, wheat and dairy. Luckily, these are so easy to substitute in a crumble recipe you barely notice the difference.
  • Sometimes, I like to substitute some of the flour for a handful of porridge oats and/or chopped nuts to give it an interesting texture. It depends what mood I’m in.
  • If you prefer your fruit crunchy you can skip the pre-cooking step and just bake it from raw. I don’t as I like my fruit more cooked but I still take care not to simmer it for too long.

Ingredients

  • 8oz of cooking apples
  • 8oz fresh rhubarb
  • 6oz plain flour (or gf substitute flour of choice)
  • 3oz butter, chilled (or vegan/lactofree substitute)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • An orange
  • 3oz caster sugar (I like golden caster sugar but white works fine)

Method

  1. Wash the apples and rhubarb. Cut both into small-ish chunks.Crumble5
  2. Finely grate the orange rind and squeeze the juice.
  3. Place the fruit in a pan with, the cinnamon, orange rind and a tablespoon of orange juice.
  4. Place a lid on the pan with a little gap to let the air out and simmer for roughly 5mins, or until the fruit begins to soften, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom.Crumble4
  5. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour. “Rub it in” to the flour using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make sure the butter is as cold as possible for this to work best. (Alternatively, stick it all in the food processor and let that do the work for you!)
  6. Add the sugar.
  7. Place the fruit mixture in the bottom of a large oven-proof dish. (1.5 pint should do)
  8. Spread the crumble mixture on top and dot with little chunks of butter.Crumble3
  9. Bake at 210°C for 20mins and reduce to 180°C for 45mins.
  10. Eat before you can take a decent photo of it for your food blog.

 

  1. Crumble2

    Observe my truly excellent photography skills. I particularly like the shadow of the camera I have managed to capture in the corner…

A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)

Ingredients

  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 
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    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

Curry for the unadventurous

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Image source: Flickr. Matt Oldfield. The kitchen UWRF13. Wikimedia Commons.

 

Well hello there. My, what a time is has been! We have feasted, we have frolicked and we have made merry. We have roasted, fried, dipped, marinated, drizzled, boiled, crushed, glazed, baked, squeezed and sprinkled until we are fit to burst. I have (ironically) been so busy in the kitchen over the festive period that I haven’t even had time to write about it. The good news is that the fruits of my labours have provided lots of new recipes and tips to tell you all about in time for next year.

But for now, February…

Oh.

As I write this at 4pm the sun is just caressing the horizon, gilding the neighbours’ Cypress tree with warm light. Below, the pond is frozen solid and slivers of frost still linger in the shady patches of ground. This time of year is often undeniably beautiful yet we seem do our best to hate it anyway. In my daily life, I rarely encounter anyone with a good word to say about February. All of the fresh January enthusiasm has faded leaving ice on the car windscreen and a fridge full of wilting salad. I totally understand the compulsion to feel healthy after the splurge of December. I for one am craving apples. I normally hate apples. But I have never got to grips with the whole raw vegetables thing when it below zero outside. Surely, I think, there must be a better way. And I think I have found it in curry.

I would love to know more about cooking curry but have always been held back by the long lists of unfamiliar ingredients involved and a vague terror of making things too spicy. (IBS will do that to you) Despite liking the idea of curry the furthest I was prepared to venture in the past was a mild chicken korma. Even black pepper on my dinner was living wild as far as I was concerned. My husband however can tolerate food so hot that the sales assistant in our local spice shop once speculated that there must be something wrong with him.

Over the last couple of years of cooking together and trying to find a middle ground between our tastes I have gradually increased my tolerance for spice without really knowing it. So much so that the other day while eating one of my standard chicken with super-mild-korma-sauce-from-jar I was actually moved to get up out of my comfy chair to add some extra chilli powder before I even realised what I was doing.

Curry for me embodies everything you need on a cold February day. It’s colourful, warming and can be filled with fresh vegetables. Some ingredients in curries (i.e. ginger) can also be good for battling the dreaded plague demons that regularly beset us fragile mortals at this time of year. (Plus, it sort of looks like witches’ brew and that pleases me greatly. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to cackle manically as I stir a cauldron of bubbling curry on the stove).

So, I propose a quest. An adventure into the world of curry for the chronically unadventurous. Join me as I start by re-tracing my steps through the easy, mild curries that I am familiar with and then boldly venturing into delicious and unchartered realms. I’ll go and get the ingredients, you check back for the start of the quest soon!

(insert manic cackle here)

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Autumn Leaves pie

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

No, we have not taken vegetarianism this far, don’t worry. I have not (yet) resorted to eating fallen leaves from my garden. I just named this pie “Autumn leaves” because the colours remind me of autumn and I wanted to sound really clever.

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Look at the vegetables before they’re added to the sauce – aren’t they pretty?

This is a lovely, warming pie for a cold evening. It’s relatively easy to make but rather time consuming to prepare so maybe one for a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining and you want an excuse not to leave your nice cosy kitchen.

A warning: When I was shopping for ingredients to make this a few weeks ago I got very excited because next to the usual butternut squashes in the supermarket they had something called coquina squash. It looked the exactly same but was far more expensive, labelled as part of the supermarket’s premium range. Naturally, assuming it must be a far superior exotic squash variety, I bought it, only to find out when I got home that coquina is just another name for butternut squash. Probably you’re all now rolling in the aisles at my silly squashy ignorance but I thought it fair to mention.

Recipe Tips

  • In the pictures, the purple that you can see is purple carrot. I used these as I had some left over from Halloween and I’m a bit obsessed with purple vegetables. I might hesitate to do so if serving this to guests however as they turned the cooked pie filling a rather strange shade of pink. This pie works with any root vegetables really as long as you make sure they’re roasted first to soften them and eliminate excess moisture. Roast peppers or sundried tomatoes also work very well.
  • The best tip for making gluten-free pastry that I’ve ever come across was from a book about pies that friend owned. I wish I could remember the name of it. Next time I see her I’ll find out so I can link to it here because it was a very good book. The tip was to add polenta to the mix of flour. It gives the pastry a fantastic flavour, helps to hold it together and creates a warm yellow colour that makes a welcome change from the usual paleness of gluten-free pastry. Polenta is sometimes called cornmeal and it’s the fine ground, uncooked kind that you want. Most supermarkets these days stock it but you might have to hunt for a bit – try the “word foods” section.
  • If you want to make the pastry completely vegan it is totally ok to leave out the egg – just add a little more water instead. The pastry will be slightly crumblier if you do this as the egg acts as a binder. If you want to avoid this, you can use vegan egg replacer (just follow the instructions on the packet) or chia seeds. See this excellent tutorial for how to do this http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-make-egg-substitute-chia-seeds/
  • Adding the xanthan gum is absolutely vital if you want it to stick together. I’ve also found that adding Lactofree cheese to the pastry, apart from making it taste great, helps to hold it together as well.
  • Unfortunately, even with all the xanthan gum and will in the world, gluten free pastry is never going to look pretty. The best you can hope for is “charmingly rustic”. It will still try to fall apart when you lift it onto the pie and you will never get it rolled thinly. One easy way to get the pastry onto the pie in one piece is to roll it out on a plastic mat or chopping board, then quickly turn it upside down onto the pie.
  • So, you could just leave it OR if you’ve got guests coming over, you’ve had enough wine to pretend you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off or you’re photographing it for a food blog and want to look like you know what you’re doing, you could jazz it up a bit. Here are some ideas to impress those Bake Off judges with:

– Use the inevitable little bits of pastry left over and some cookie cutters to cover over the unsightly areas with pretty shapes. (Leaves in this case)

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– Use a knife to gently score patterns into the pastry.

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– Make the rough edges look deliberately quaint and homespun by squishing them all along with a fork. Put it on a gingham tablecloth for added effect.

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  • Note: The method for making the pastry that I’ll give is the old-fashioned version. I don’t actually do this because if you have a food processor you can just chuck all of the pastry ingredients in there at once and press the “on” switch. The future is here.

 

Ingredients

(To make one pie that serves roughly 4 people)

 

Pastry

  • 6oz gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 3oz fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz vegan margarine
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • 2tbs cold water
  • A handful of Lactofree cheese (optional)

 

Sauce

  • ½ pint milk or milk substitute (Soya milk works well, as does Lactofree)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 4oz cheddar cheese (melty vegan or Lactofree extra mature work fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard

 

Filling

  • Half a butternut squash
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium courgette
  • A handful of sundried tomatoes
  • I small packet of Quorn chunks

 

Method

 

  1. Prepare the vegetables.

    pie-2

    More pretty colours…

 

Peel the carrots and squash (or any other root veg/peppers) and cut into bite sized cubes. Place on a roasting tray (I cover it in tin foil to save washing up if I’m short for time) and roast on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for about half an hour or until the edges start to brown. Chop the courgette into very small cubes and put straight into the pie dish with any extras like the sundried tomatoes.

 

  1. Meanwhile, make the pastry…

 

  • Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • 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.
  • Add the egg (or substitute) and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball.

    pie-4

    If you’re using a food processor the dough should look roughly like this when it’s done.

 

Remind you of anything? That’s right – it’s the same method as the one we used for the pizza, just slightly different ingredients. Turns out the component parts of many different recipes are pretty much the same – once you learn the basic skills they’re easy to remember and adapt.

 

  1. And the sauce? This is exactly the same as the one for macaroni cheese. It’s a Mornay (cheese) sauce.

 

To save you reading that recipe twice, (although if you haven’t yet, please do) here it is again. Thank you, copy and paste function:

 

  • Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a glass until it dissolves.
  • Add the milk to the carrot water (if a lot has boiled off you might need to top it up – you should have roughly 1 pint of liquid in total)
  • Add the salt, pepper and herbs.
  • Heat until it starts to simmer then remove from the heat.
  • Tip in the cornflour and stir. (A balloon whisk can help here) pie-1
  • Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Grate and add the cheese. Stir until it melts.
  • Add the mustard and a generous pinch of yeast flakes.

 

  1. Now put it all together…

 

  • Put the vegetables and sauce in a large pie dish with thin slices or tiny cubes of the courgette – as small as you can get them.

 

  • If you have one, pop a pie funnel in the middle of the pie.

 

  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and transfer to the top of the pie. Trim the edges with a knife and cut an X shape in the centre and use it to make a little hole – either for the pie funnel to poke out of or just as it is to release some of the steam.

 

  • Decorate as you prefer. If you have any holes or bits that don’t quite look nice you cn cover them up with the extra bits of pastry like I have in the corner here.
  • pie-6

    Fixing the broken bit on the corner to make it look deliberate…

 

  • Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for half an hour or until the top has browned slightly and the vegetables are cooked through.
Pie 7.jpg

All done!

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.

veggie-dish-5

 

 

 

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)

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    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).