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Autumn comfort food – mushroom and chestnut risotto

It’s autumn and we’re starting to feel the bite here in Yorkshire. November has well and truly kicked in after a mild September and October, so it’s time for some proper stick-to-your-ribs home comfort food.

I love risotto. I know a lot of coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans say they hate it, because it’s always the default gluten-free or meat-free option in restaurants and they never get to eat anything else, but if a risotto is made well and has good flavour then I love the stuff. OK, it’s kind of a pain to cook because you can’t leave it for a second, but that’s why it’s rewarding. You know you’ve been cooking when you’ve made one.

This risotto is full of autumn flavours of mushrooms and chestnuts and has truffle and garlic for that little bit of indulgence – I’ve kept it plant-based, so it’s suitable for vegetarians and contains no animal products that I’m aware of (I’m hesitant to say vegan, because calling something vegan inevitably gets you into a debate about whether one of your ingredients is vegan or not and I’ve used truffles here, which I’m aware are controversial).

Mushroom and Chestnut Risotto

Ingredients:

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1 large banana shallot (or two smaller ones)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup roughly chopped shiitake mushrooms (or you could use a wild mushroom mix if you prefer)

2 cups finely chopped chestnut or portabella mushrooms

1 cup chestnuts, roughly chopped

1 cup risotto rice (I used carnaroli)

2 pints vegetable stock

1/3 cup dry sherry

salt and pepper to taste

To stir through at the end:

2 tsp Salsa Truffina mushroom and truffle sauce (or you could use porcini mushroom paste if you can’t find this or don’t like truffle)

2 tbsp vegan cream cheese  (I like Violife or Tofutti cream cheese style spread – Violife is available in most larger Tesco stores)

chopped parsley and garlic flavoured oil to garnish

 

Method:

Heat half the oil in the pan and fry the the chopped shiitake mushrooms and chestnuts for 2 minutes.

Add crushed garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and finely chopped chestnut mushrooms. Stir fry until soft. Set aside.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the chopped shallots until translucent. Add the rice and ensure the rice is coated in the oil, stirring for around 1-2 mins.

Add the sherry and stir well, ensuring the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. It’s now ready to begin adding the stock, one ladleful at a time. Keep stirring the rice so the starch begins to break down and add more stock once the rice has absorbed the liquid, but before the rice gets to the stage of starting to stick. This will take about 25-30 mins.

Add the mushroom and chestnut mixture and stir through well. Taste the risotto and add seasoning if required.

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Stir through the Salsa Truffina and vegan cream cheese (tip: get the cream cheese out of the fridge around 15 mins before you need it so it blends into the risotto more easily)

Serve with a drizzle of garlic-flavoured oil (I used Yorkshire Drizzle‘s garlic extra virgin rapeseed oil) and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Easy, naturally gluten free and packed with flavour!

 

 

 

Gluten Dodging in the Brecon Beacons

I’ve just returned from a week away in the Brecon Beacons in Wales – and all I can say is thank goodness for all the exercise we did, because otherwise I think I’d be the size of a small house. The Welsh love their food, and rest assured, even if you have coeliac, they won’t want you to miss out!

As it turned out, the pub opposite our cottage was a fantastic find for gluten dodgers. The Star Inn at Talybont-on-Usk served not only gluten free fish n’ chips, which I sampled and can definitely vouch for, but they will also do gluten free onion rings with your steak, as well as GF chips! I was sorely tempted, I must admit, to ask for a bowl of them on the side, but there is such a thing as too much batter, I am told. I needed to leave room for the gluten free Sticky Toffee Pudding, anyway (oh yes, really). Don’t be put off by what looks like a small portion, I promise you, you’ll be bursting the seams, because it’s rich, sweet, sticky, and everything you’d expect from a proper British pud!

The Star wasn’t the only fantastic foodie find. The Bear Hotel at Crickhowell served up a fine feast after a hard afternoon’s mountain biking around the area. They do a gluten free menu, which has a decent selection of starters and mains, and a cheeseboard that they will do with GF oatcakes. Top marks however for being able to adapt most of the specials dishes for a GF diner too – just to be super-awkward, I decided I fancied the tuna dish on the board, and when I tentatively asked, they happily went and asked the chef, who obliged willingly. The tuna was cooked to absolute perfection, with yummy saute potatoes and fennel and a tomato salsa. Although not GF, Mr Dodger’s slow cooked rib of beef and sweet potato fries looked amazing and went down a storm – he even ate the side salad.

I have one criticism though, it was light on the puddings. Vanilla panna cotta isn’t my favourite dessert, but it’s one that often appears on gluten free menus for obvious reasons, however if like me you’re not a vanilla fan, there wasn’t much else, so we ended up skipping dessert and polishing off the rest of my birthday chocolates.

However, after a week of all these foodie indulgences, I’m feeling the need for a few more vegetables and fruits in my life, so I’m going to be dusting off the juicer. If you’ve got a favourite juice recipe, why not post it and I’ll try it out – winning recipes featured on the next post!

Humpit Leeds – thumbs up for the hummus, but not for charging extra for gluten free

I’ve been wanting to try the Humpit in the Corn Exchange for ages, having heard the rave reviews from work colleagues and on Facebook.

On Thursday, I finally got to give it a go, as I had to be in the city centre for a meeting, so I was able to stop in to get lunch on my way back to work.

I’d checked beforehand via the Humpit’s Facebook page that they could cater for gluten free, and was impressed when told that everything was GF except the pita bread, but they could provide an alternative. However, when I got there, I was informed that I’d have to pay 25p extra for gluten free bread, which turned out to be one of the Warburtons’ Newburn Bakehouse wraps.

I know it’s only 25p, but I’m afraid there’s a principle at stake here.

I think I’d have objected less if I’d known upfront that there was an extra charge, but I didn’t see it on the board, and it wasn’t mentioned when I initially enquired about gluten free via Facebook, so to be told about it at the till when I’d already placed my order and was about to pay was not good customer service.

I don’t want to unfairly single out the Humpit, as I know they are not the only ones who put on a gluten free surcharge, but  I’m sick of paying the “coeliac premium”. I know that gluten free foods are more expensive – I live this every day, but I don’t have a choice! I know there are some people who eat gluten free out of choice, or because they think it will help them lose weight or something, but really, those people are few and far between, and frankly have more money than sense. Who the heck would want to pay three times the price for a loaf of bread if you didn’t have to! Most customers asking for gluten free foods are the real deal, and we don’t earn extra wages to cover the extra cost of our food.

If you’re going to put a surcharge on for gluten free foods, then I want to know about it upfront, and then I have a choice about whether I eat at your establishment or not. To be fair to the Humpit staff, when I challenged the extra charge, they did take it off and offered an apology, but I’d like to see them either being upfront about the prices, or removing the surcharge altogether.

I’m sympathetic to small businesses, as I run one myself (albeit just me sat at a computer) but I don’t charge extra for proofreading or editing services to someone with dyslexia, for example. I know it will take me more time, and therefore eat into my profit margin a bit, but it’s not that person’s fault they have that condition, so I accept that there will be some jobs that are more profitable than others. You don’t get to demand from me that you pay less because you are not dyslexic, either.

Either you cater for coeliacs or you don’t, and if you do cater for us (which I wholeheartedly encourage, by the way!) then you work the extra cost into your whole pricing structure. Or you find ways not to have to use those more expensive gluten free products – the Humpit special, which I had, could easily have been done with some extra salad rather than the gluten free wrap. The Warburtons wraps are something I don’t buy myself unless they are on offer, either, because I do think they are overpriced, so I’m sure a cheaper product could be found. Plain gluten free pittas are available, freeze well, and are around £1 cheaper per pack in the supermarkets.

Pricing problems aside, the food from the Humpit is fantastic – the hummus has a ton of flavour, a real garlicky hit, and was lovely served with the warm chickpeas and spices and drizzle of oil. It’s hard to find vegan and vegetarian food that’s also gluten free, so I’ll give them full marks for also making their falafels gluten free, as that’s a dish that’s often off-limits to coeliacs.

I’d definitely recommend the Humpit for tasty and reasonably priced vegan food that will fill you up til tea time, but I’m disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be as coeliac-friendly as it first seemed.

Ultimate comfort food – home made smoky baked beans, cornbread muffins and the best GF brownies EVER

Because I haven’t been very well lately, I’ve found myself craving real comfort foods. Of course, it’s all the badass carb-heavy stuff that my boot camp instructor would have kittens over, but sometimes you need to do it. And there are some veggies in there…..honest!

Even though baked beans are usually gluten free, I’m not a big fan of them. I find the tomato sauce too sweet – in fact I find it all a bit sweet and a bit bland. So I decided to have a go at making my own version, with a smoky spicy twist, and made some yummy cornbread muffins with cheese and chilli and coriander to go with them.

Smoky baked beans (I added chorizo to them for an extra kick, but they would be equally yummy without if you’re veggie or on a budget)

1 tin haricot beans (you could buy them dried, but they will need soaking overnight before cooking, and then boiling/simmering in fresh water for about an hour before using)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses or treacle
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp gluten free Worcester sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
50g chopped chorizo sausage (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the chorizo in a pan to release the flavours for a few minutes and set aside.
Drain the beans. Put in a medium saucepan along with the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Once at boiling point, turn down to a simmer, and add the molasses. Stir well until dissolved. Add paprika, chilli, herbs, Worcester sauce and Tabasco, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Add the chorizo if using, along with the oil in the pan that will have been released when the chorizo was fried. Simmer on a low heat for 15-20 mins.
Hint: Tastes even better the next day if left overnight!

The cornbread muffins were actually a recipe that was on the back of the pack of polenta that I bought, and I thought they would make a nice change from rice or jacket potato to go with my beans.

Cheesy Spiced Cornbread Muffins

140g fine cornmeal/polenta
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 egg
70g grated mature cheddar cheese
220ml natural yogurt (I didn’t have any yogurt in my fridge, so I used unsweetened rice milk and it worked fine)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp salt

It’s as easy as combine everything in a bowl and mix well. I used my trusty Kenwood Chef, but if you don’t have a mixer or food processor, just get stuck in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will look pretty sloppy, but cornmeal really does absorb a LOT of liquid, so stick with it.
The recipe makes 10 muffins – divide the mix between 10 muffin cases and bake at 200/180 fan or Gas 5 for 20 mins. Enjoy!

To make this recipe completely dairy free, you could omit the cheese or use dairy free cheese in place of the cheddar. If you don’t like coriander, you could use flat leaf parsley instead.

The result:

beans and cornbread

A yummy and comforting lunch with a smoky, spicy kick. And not too much effort either!

The next recipe I’ve been meaning to post about (ok, rave about) on here is the Holy Grail of gluten free brownie recipes. I haven’t had much luck with brownies, either finding they turn out too dry or too sticky, but these were absolutely heavenly-perfect. I like my brownies crisp on the outside and squidgy in the middle, and these didn’t disappoint. No wonder the reviews were 5-star. Thank you, Tesco Real Food for making my week! Needless to say these didn’t last very long.

These are not a diet food, be warned……dark chocolate, butter, and sugar make these a definite occasional treat, but if you need a reliable recipe for chocolatey goodness that pretty much everyone is guaranteed to love, make these. You won’t regret it. Seriously.

You can find the recipe here. Instead of chopping up the remaining dark chocolate to sprinkle on top, I used white chocolate chips for a bit of variety, and the result was…..well you can see for yourself….

I wonder who's taken a cheeky slice....

I wonder who’s taken a cheeky slice….

Having had my helping of cosy comfort food for this week, I’m off to go make a salad.