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Cover: Gluten free cooking

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19Apr 12

Baked Aubergine Parmesan with Tofu Pesto

Baked aubergine parmesan with tofu pestoThis baked aubergine parmesan with tofu pesto has got to be one of my all-time favourite comfort foods.  Filled with lots of cheese and literally dripping with sauce, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  If you’re not a fan of aubergine (like my son) you could substitute it for courgette, wild mushrooms or even a mix of vegetables.

You Need:

For the baked aubergine:

  • 1kg aubergines
  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 750ml tomato sauce
  • 300g mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 250g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

For the tofu pesto:

  • 125g firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
  • 500g fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 125g fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
  2. Peel the aubergine and slice into 1cm thick pieces.
  3. Sprinkle salt on each side and drain on kitchen towels for about 20 minutes.
  4. Turn the pieces over and drain on the other side for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
  5. Drizzle the oil on the aubergine and then grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.
  6. Combine the oregano and tomato sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour a small amount on the bottom of a 23cm x 30cm pan.
  7. Arrange a layer of aubergine along the bottom of the pan, cover with some sauce and the shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Continue layering until you have used all the aubergine, sauce and cheese, ending with the cheese.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until the cheese is bubbly.
  9. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  10. While the aubergine is baking, prepare the pesto topping.  Combine all the ingredients in a blender, starting with the liquid ingredients at the bottom to facilitate blending.  Process on medium speed until the pesto is very smooth. (Click here for another pesto sauce recipe.)
  11. Pour the pesto sauce over the baked aubergine and serve immediately.

Note: Some people like pesto more than others, and so I often put the pest in a bowl on the side so that my guests can serve themselves according to personal preference.

Ready In:  75 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:   2 out of 5

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17Apr 12

Hot and Spicy Chicken with Almonds

Hot and spicy chicken with almondsThe Chinese takeaway just down the road from me serves a great spicy almond chicken which I can never seem to get enough of, so this week I decided to try and make my own.  This hot and spicy chicken with almonds recipe is the result, and while I have to admit it’s almost nothing like the original, it is definitely very tasty!

Make sure you buy the best chicken breasts and almonds you can (preferably organic), as this really does make all the difference. (Feeling nutty this week? I also recommend this chicken stir-fry with ginger and cashews.)

You Need:

For the chicken:

  • 650g skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 250g water chestnuts
  • 125g  unsalted almonds

For the marinade:

  • 1tsp sesame oil
  • 1tsp arrowroot
  • 2tbsps wheat-free tamari sauce
  • 2tbsps sherry or red wine

For the vegetables:

  • 4–5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp peeled and  grated fresh ginger
  • 3 green onions, chopped

For the sauce:

  • 125ml chicken broth
  • 1tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 2tbsps wheat-free tamari sauce
  • 2tbsps Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5tsps arrowroot

Steps:

  1. Begin by making the marinade. Combine the sesame oil, arrowroot, wheat-free tamari and sherry/red wine and place in a re-sealable plastic bag or a large bowl with a lid.
  2. Submerge the chicken in the liquid and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  3. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the veggies. Mix together the garlic, ginger and green onions. Set aside.
  4. Combine all the ingredients for the chicken sauce in a separate bowl and mix very well. Set aside.
  5. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place it in a medium-size frying pan that has been heated over medium-high heat.
  6. Sauté, turning often, for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside.
  7. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, add the vegetables, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick. Keep stirring to avoid burning.
  8. Add the cooked chicken and toss to cover well.
  9. Add the water chestnuts and the almonds.
  10. Heat through and serve over rice or rice noodles.

 

Ready In:  90 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:   3 out of 5

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09Apr 12

Gluten-free Pizza Crust

Gluten-free pizza crustIt’s taken years of searching and trial and error, but I’ve finally managed to find a decent gluten-free pizza crust.  And what’s even better, it’s not too hard to make!  The result is crispy on the outside and just a little chewy in the centre and the dough is strong enough to hold a good quantity of toppings without falling apart in your hands when you try to eat it.  And let’s face it, pizza (such as this spinach, tomato and blue cheese pizza) is meant to be eaten with your hands, not a knife and fork!

Once the dough is ready, you can top it off with your favourite sauce, toppings and cheese.  Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the cheese!  Mozzarella is the typical choice, but I suggest picking something with a little more originality and flair to branch out and try new flavours; you won’t be disappointed!

You Need:

  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 335 ml milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 80 ml gluten-free corn meal

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just a little warmer than room temperature.  It should not be too hot to touch with your finger.
  3. Mix the milk, sugar and yeast in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  4. Mix the flour, salt and xanthan gum well in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.
  5. The yeast mixture should now be foaming.  If it isn’t, wait until it is.
  6. Mix the apple cider vinegar and olive oil into the yeast mixture.
  7. Pour the yeast mixture onto the flour mixture and mix well.
  8. Roll out the dough on baking parchment paper with a roller and sprinkle the corn meal  onto both sides as you go.  You should roll it out to about a little less than half a centimetre thick.
  9. Transfer the dough and baking parchment to a baking sheet and bake it in the preheated oven until it starts to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  10. Add your sauce, toppings and cheese and bake until the cheese melts.

Ready In: 40 minutes

Serves: 2

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

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05Apr 12

Oat and Buckwheat Pancakes

Oat and Buckwheat pancakes

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s good to make sure you eat lots of high energy and healthy foods, especially if you’re going to be doing any energy-intensive activities later on in the day.  These oat and buckwheat pancakes provide a real kick-start to your morning and help keep you going all day long.

If you don’t want to use oats, you can use millet or quinoa flakes, which will give you a higher protein content.  Brown rice flakes could also be substituted.  I’ve used soy milk in the recipe because I’m trying to stay away from dairy as much as possible these days, but if you prefer, you can go ahead and use regular milk.

If I’m going to go out trekking in the mountains all day (something I often do), I usually double the recipe and wrap the leftovers to take with me for a quick energy boost later on in the afternoon.  They’re not as yummy without the maple syrup, of course, but as long as you’ve got something to wash them down with, they’re still pretty good. (For a sugary indulgence, try these lemon meringue pancakes.)

You Need:

  • 250g buckwheat flour
  • 70g oats
  • 2 tablespoons corn meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 250ml soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg

Steps:

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Combine the buckwheat flour, oats, corn meal, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar. Stir well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, oil and egg.
  4. Beat until well mixed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients about a third at a time and stir until smooth.
  6. Spoon about 50ml of batter for each pancake onto the frying pan.
  7. Cook for about 2 minutes each side, until golden brown.
  8. Serve with butter and maple syrup, jam, yogurt, or whatever topping you prefer.

Ready In:  20 minutes

Serves:  4-6

Difficulty:   2 out of 5

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04Apr 12

Broiled Salmon with Spicy Bell Pepper Sauce

Broiled Salmon with spicy bell pepper sauceHigh in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin-D, fresh salmon is a great addition to any diet, and just happens to be one of the only kinds of fish I actually like!  This broiled salmon with spicy bell pepper sauce makes for a fast and satisfying meal, especially if accompanied with whole-grain rice or even pasta.  The slightly spicy bell pepper sauce nicely offsets the rather subtle flavour of the salmon and definitely makes it more palatable if you are not much of a fish enthusiast, like me.

The latest scientific evidence seems to suggest that salmon from fish farms are much higher in dioxins and lower in omega-3 content, so try to get wild salmon if you can.  I’ve also tried the same recipe with trout, and it was pretty good too. (Here is another rather tasty fish and bell pepper recipe for tuna steaks with roast peppers.)

You Need:

For the salmon:

  • 4 fresh salmon fillets (about 100g each)
  • 1tsp salt
  • ¼tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼tsp paprika
  • ¼tsp ground cumin
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 fresh lemon, quartered, for garnish

For the sauce:

  • 125g diced red onion
  • 125g diced red bell pepper
  • 125g diced yellow bell pepper
  • 125g diced green bell pepper
  • 125g diced plum tomato
  • 60g chopped fresh coriander
  • 2tbsps sherry or champagne vinegar
  • 1tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2tsp paprika
  • 1/2tsp ground cumin

Steps:

  1. Sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt, pepper, paprika and ground cumin.
  2. Let sit for 15 minutes so that the fish absorbs the flavours.
  3. While the salmon sits, place a broiler rack about 15 centimetres away from the heat source.
  4. Preheat the broiler while you prepare the sauce.
  5. In a bowl, combine the red onion, bell peppers, plum tomato, coriander, vinegar, olive oil and spices.
  6. Place in the refrigerator and let it marinate until the salmon is ready.
  7. Coat broiler and salmon fillets with cooking spray.
  8. Broil the salmon, skin side down, for about 8 to 10 minutes. The exact time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. When the fish is just barely opaque when cut in the thickest part, or when it flakes easily with a fork, it’s done.
  9. Pour the sauce over the broiled salmon fillets and serve immediately with the fresh lemon wedges.  The idea is to squeeze the lemon juice over the fish just before eating.

Ready In:  30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty:   2 out of 5

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27Mar 12

Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus RisottoSmooth and creamy, sticky and cheesy, what’s not to like about risotto?  This Asparagus Risotto is my take on the classic Italian dish which is traditionally made using Arborio or Carnaroli rice due to their high-starch content (that’s what makes it sticky and creamy).  However, if you can’t find these kinds of rice at your local supermarket, then any short-grained rice will work well.  I’ve personally had a lot of success with whole, short-grain organic rice, although this does add almost double the time to the cooking process.  Either way, don’t skimp on the cheese, or try to rush the cooking process, as these two points are key to prepare a delicious authentic-tasting risotto. If you decide that you like your rice with more vegetables, try a squash and garlic risotto. Simply delicious.

You need:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups fresh asparagus cut into inch-long sticks
  • 1 large garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 5 – 7 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Steps:

  1. Heat up the broth in a saucepan and leave it on a back burner at the lowest setting in order to keep it warm.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
  3. When the oil is hot, but before it starts to smoke, stir in the onion and sauté until translucent, but not browned.
  4. Stir in the garlic and asparagus and keep cooking until the onion is nice and tender, making sure it doesn’t brown.
  5. Stir in the rice and sauté for a minute or two, making sure that each grain of rice gets coated with oil and toasted.
  6. Add around ¾ of a cup of the broth to the rice and stir continuously until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Continue adding the broth ¾ of a cup at a time, letting the liquid get absorbed each time.
  8. Continue cooking and adding broth until the rice is creamy and just slightly al dente, around 30 minutes.  There may be some broth left over.
  9. Remove from the heat and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  10. Stir in the parsley and parmesan cheese.
  11. Serve while it’s still hot, with a fresh bowl of Parmesan cheese on the side so your guests can add more as they desire.

Ready In:  45 minutes

Serves:  4-6

Difficulty:  Out of 5, it’s a 3!

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14Feb 12

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Spinach Lentil SoupThis easy-to-prepare Spinach and Lentil Soup makes a great starter or first course, and if you combine it with whole grain rice it provides a complete meal.  I find it is the perfect thing to warm me up when I come in from a run on a cold winter’s day, especially with the heat of the red chilli peppers.  In fact, I’ve toned down the spiciness of this version quite a lot as I know a lot of people don’t like it too spicy.  If you’re like me though, and you do like it hot, then I recommend increasing the quantity of red chili pepper significantly, anywhere from  ¾  of a teaspoon up to 1½ or even 2 teaspoons.

As always, the best results are obtained if you try and get the best possible quality fresh ingredients you can find – nobody likes wilted, damp spinach, not even in a soup!  So make sure it’s fresh, organic if possible, and be sure to wash it well under running cold water to clean off all the dirt.

For a bit of an exotic touch, try substituting the parsley for fresh coriander.  If you do this, add it just before serving so that it maintains its aroma.  Enjoy!

You need:

  • 2 cups of dried lentils
  • 9 cups of water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 150g of tomato paste
  • 2 bunches of spinach, cleaned & chopped
  • ½ cup of fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red chili peppers
  • ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Put the water, bay leaf and salt in a large pot and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the lentils, cover, and cook for 30 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  3. Add the onion, tomato paste and garlic and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach, parsley, ground pepper and red pepper.
  5. Mix well and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Add more salt to taste.
  7. Add the lemon juice, mix well and serve at once.
  8. Garnish with a bit of fresh ground nutmeg and a sprig of fresh parsley.

Ready In:  75 minutes

Serves:  3-4

Difficulty:  Out of 5 (most difficult), it’s a 2!

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