I was tempted to call this store-cupboard guacamole or cheat’s guacamole because it is the one I make most often and it bears only a passing resemblance to the real McCoy. It also takes about five seconds to make. Yeah I sometimes get the proper ingredients, and faff about de-seeding and peeling big tomatoes. If I’ve planned to make it as part of a larger meal then I might well, but I often find myself with a very ripe avocado and I need to use it up fast. Perhaps I should have just called this chunky avocado and tomato spread! I can usually shoehorn guacamole, or whatever it really is, into what we’re having for dinner. This recipe is for you if you’re the sort of cook I used to be, before having C. I remember once having a meltdown because I didn’t have feta cheese and I needed it for the salad I was making. Not a shouty, cursing, having a cry meltdown. Just a panicked, I don’t know what to do instead, everything is ruined meltdown. Chuckle. I can’t imagine losing it over a salad any more, but then life has changed somewhat since I would consider that a big deal. Now you’d get any cheese I’ve got in your salad and I’d brazen out any suggestion it wasn’t supposed to be like that, and believe you should be grateful to be seeing any sort of cheese at all! It may not be authentic but you can make a delicious guacamole type dip with just a handful of ingredients and only five minutes. Embrace what you’ve got to hand and make it anyway, however improper it might be! You may recall I’m not keen on raw onion, so this has none but feel free to add some if you love it. I also believe guacamole should be creamy and not spicy. Salsa spicy, guacamole creamy. Again, if you want some pep, chop a chilli nice and fine and whack it in there. Now I love garlic, and I would usually go with the premise that you can never have too much. Of course raw garlic can be a bit potent and in my many years of cooking, and when I was less wise, I ruined otherwise perfectly serviceable guacamoles by being heavy-handed. A small clove people, is all you need. Trust me.
I’m back! (I can hear the collected sigh of relief…) France was lovely! Ok, so the weather wasn’t all that, but it hardly rained and when it did it was very light and brief. And it was lovely and warm with occasional lovely sunshine. C even started to get freckles, which I guess is just another sign of her growing up. The ferry journey over was a bit choppy (hello, and goodbye again, for the mini pain au chocolat and croissants she ate immediately on boarding) but we had a cabin on the way back and so just slept through that crossing. In France C really enjoyed ‘speaking French’, and we pretty much have the same phrases – bonjour, merci and au revoir pretty much covers it. My stepmum speaks good French so I didn’t need to say too much, and a lot of the people we met spoke English and were happy to do so. I mostly stayed well – just one day when I was properly poorly and I have my suspicions about how that came about. Pushed my luck on what might be safe to eat just one too many times! But mostly people were happy and able to accommodate my dietary requests and we ate out almost every day. I also discovered in a hypermarket sized Intermarché a shelf of foods ‘sans gluten’. I was thrilled to discover many of the brands I know from home were stocked so I had bread, cake, biscuit, pasta and breakfast cereal. I was also able to buy soya, coconut and almond milk in the same aisle. In case you are wondering, that aisle is the one with the organic and low sugar foods, and I nearly missed it! Luckily my stepmum was on the ball. I could also get soya milk in the local supermarket sized Intermarché which was helpful, but nothing more specialised than that. And of course, we mostly ate meat, fish, cheese, fruit and vegetables in the cottage when cooking for ourselves, which are all naturally gluten-free, so I certainly didn’t starve. And now to the recipe! In honour of my French trip here is ratatouille. I didn’t eat this while there but I returned to a selection of appropriate vegetables and it seemed fitting. I chop my veggies up a bit smaller than one might otherwise because I like to use leftovers as a filling for buckwheat crepes, and it is easier to roll them up if the filling is less chunky. So this time I’ve served it with that traditional French accompaniment, cheesy polenta! I know this is terrible mix of cuisines and only top chefs get away with ‘fusion’ but I think it goes really well. You may, of course, serve yours with whatever you prefer, or as a side dish to a meat, fish or a veggie main course.
I guess I’m a bit addicted to caponata but back when I was eating wheat it was specifically the one at Carluccio’s, high-street Italian restaurant extraordinaire and friend to the gluten-free. Choice people, their menu has CHOICE! But not the caponata, apparently. What the…..? I have no idea why the caponata would contain gluten, unless they’re sloshing malt vinegar in there instead of wine or balsamic. Even then malt vinegar is a contentious gluten-free point. But anyway, it is excluded from the gluten-free menu. Bah!! I don’t need you Antonio Carluccio. I shall just make my own. This is directly from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall because I implore you to buy it. Even though there’s a big old section about ‘magic dough’ and, believe me, before I went gluten-free I made it, loved it, and it was magic. The non-bread recipes though totally make this cook book worth it even if you are gluten-free. See vegetables in a different light. I may not be vegan, or even veggie, but I do firmly believe in the Michael Pollen quote, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. I’d like to add my own addition. “And some cake”. He, he, he. But back to the caponata, this sweet and sour aubergine stew with tomato, capers and olives is completely delicious. I’m sure you’ve all realised how much I love the aubergine by now. Use this stew hot as a side dish, a BBQ accompaniment, or as a dip with breadsticks or even (sacrilege) tortilla chips. I’d like to draw a tenuous link between gluten-free tortilla chips being made from corn, and polenta being corn. See, this is ALMOST a natural paring. Am I right?! Of course caponata is Sicilian and not Italian. I’ll get my coat…
Adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up!’s Cheesy Spanish Rice
Today’s recipe is probably not for anyone that can make a macaron successfully. This is easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. But I’m excited to post this because I probably eat a version of this most weeks. And anyone can make it, even someone who has never really cooked before. Savoury Rice or Student Rice, if you like, which is probably when I first started cooking something similar. The recipe at Jamie Cooks It Up! is the easiest route I’ve found to savoury rice nirvana, but then I also love her blog because she is just so funny. There are lots of good family orientated meals there. I find it very inspirational when I’m looking to cook something that C and I will both appreciate. This dish only requires one pot (unless you’re cooking a protein separately), it can be a main or a side and you can add whatever you like. Endless versatility is definitely its virtue. I’d say I usually stick with the basic bones of the dish every time: onions, garlic, pepper, long-grain rice, cumin, passata and stock. But you can add, or swap, almost any element. Herbs instead of spice, vegan, veggie, meaty, fishy proteins. Leftovers, frozen veg, tinned tomatoes instead of passata, this dish doesn’t care what you add in! It’ll just take it and be all the better for it. I’ve gone with a sausage version this time – the sausage is also your choice. Big or small, spicy or plain, veggie or meat. The base recipe is vegan until you add either your stock or your protein, so make of this what you will. I’ve added leftover roast beef and broccoli before. I’ve added prawns and frozen peas. I’ve added a vast quantity of mixed veg and some sriracha, or mushrooms with cheese popped on the top at the end (see Jamie’s original recipe for the cheesy version). It’s all good. Just remember to add uncooked meat or vegetables at a time that will allow them to cook through by the time the rice is done, which might be as early as the first step. Double the quantities for a horde – I make it for four and save some as I’d rather not have half a pepper and half an onion sitting the fridge, but you should just go with the flow.* And it can be done on a budget, when you’re short of time, and when there’s barely anything in your cupboard. If you’re nervous about cooking give this a go, because just as long as you stir it a couple of times it is very forgiving. Love it.
Adapted from Tasty Arbuz’s Spinach Saag
As I mentioned in my beef curry post, I do find some curries are a bit vegetable light. Sometimes it is possible to bung in more veg, but this alternative is delicious and also satisfies my coconut obsession! Wonderful as a side dish, this is so nice it is worth trying to get leftovers so you can use some gluten-free flatbread and have it for lunch the next day. The original called for whipping cream, but by using coconut cream this recipe becomes lactose-free, and consequently also vegan. It is therefore a good side dish for vegetarian and vegan curries as well as meat ones. Again I suspect the coconut cream makes this terribly inauthentic, but it tastes really good and that can’t be a bad thing!
So Spring has finally turned up in dear old England, but it’s got its summer hat on. The unthinkable has happened and we’re actually having nice weather over the May bank holiday weekend. Some might even say it’s a miracle. Was it worth all the snow though? I’m going with yes! Consequently some of us have been cracking out BBQs for the first time this year. I feel there’s been some major grilling going on this weekend up and down our fair country. I give you, therefore, a cheeky little coleslaw accompaniment filled with delicious raw veggies. Good for the actual vegetarians and also the meat-eaters to give them some nutrient balance! I like this coleslaw for two reasons – one it has apple in it, and I LOVE apple in salads and so do the kids usually. It broadens the appeal in my opinion. Secondly, no one really knows what to do with a kholrabi, yet they are so easy to grow they turn up in vegetable boxes here until they’re coming out of your ears. You can never have too many kholrabi recipes in my opinion, just to keep up with the supply of them. You can also make this a couple of hours ahead and chill until it is needed which is handy if you’re wrestling other things on the actual BBQ.
Adapted from 200 gluten-free recipes by Louise Blair
Oh happy day! I have found a sour cream alternative low enough in lactose that I don’t get symptoms. I’ve read in several places that food with lactose under 2g per 100g should be okay for most of those with lactose intolerance, and I’m pleased to say that this seems to be the case for me. (As usual please note I’m no doctor, so don’t take my word for it – your health is in your hands, and always seek medical advice before changing your diet). So stand up Rodda’s Crème Fraîche, which at 1.9g carbohydrate per 100g happily comes in just under the 2g mark. Obviously I won’t be eating an entire mountain of the stuff, but it is nice to have a little blob on a chilli or swirled into a spicy soup. I take great comfort when I can do something I consider normal, regardless of how bullish I may seem when it comes to making things gluten-free. I am at peace with never consuming wheaty things again, but it feels like a victory when I can outsmart lactose intolerance. I’ll have every inch of leeway I can get out of lactose thank you very much! So, I gave you the veggie chilli I like to do in my slow-cooker in a prevous post, and here is something I like to serve with it (along with a little blob of that delicious crème fraîche). C and I eat a lot of rice, so having an alternative just gives me more options when I’m juggling the menu plan. It is relatively quick to make at 40-45 minutes from start to finish, so not as quick as rice (if like me you’ll be making it on the stove that’s only 20 minutes). But if you’ve got a bit of spare time during the slow cook then this is very good. Also, as this is better the day you make it, it might be worth considering when you know you’ve got enough people around to eat it all in one go. It does go nicely with soup the next day though, warmed up a little bit in the oven first. And crumbled it’s good for a gratin topping too. Although this recipe makes a whole square of bread, with some planning you won’t have any waste.