Gluten Free Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies

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A few weeks ago I said I would put my hand to chocolate and beetroot brownies and I finally got round to making them today. I adore spending a Sunday in the kitchen experimenting and trying new recipes and that’s exactly what I got up to today. I made these brownies and then a gorgeous mild curry which I’ll blog about during the week.

Now I have mentioned before that I’m not much of a baker and a few of my gluten free attempts at baked goods have failed miserably but these turned out perfectly. To guide me on my way I used the basis of this recipe by James from the Great British Bake Off. I wanted to make these brownies a little less indulgent so I tweaked the recipe slightly and added beetroot.

To make these delicious brownies you will need:

250g Half Fat Butter

3 eggs

250g of Dark Chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)

3 tsp of vanilla extract

75g of Self Raising Gluten-Free Flour

60g cocoa powder

300g of fresh cooked beetroot, cut in to small chunks

Begin by lining a small deep oven dish and preheat your oven to 160C

Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in a bain-marie or in the microwave. I used the microwave and cooked for 1 minute, stirred and cooked for another minute, the chocolate had melted by this point.

Using my chopper attachment I was able to get the beetroot rather fine but if you don’t have a blender/food processor you could grate the beetroot finely (make sure you wear gloves and beetroot dye is a pain to get off). I then whisked my eggs and vanilla extract using my electric whisk attachment for about two minutes. After years of using good aul fashioned elbow grease this was such a treat to my poor arm. I wanted to keep this recipe low on sugar so instead of using the caster sugar the original recipe called for, I just added extra vanilla extract. I was apprehensive about this but the brownies tasted just as sweet as sugary ones.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder as the chocolate/butter mix cools slightly. Add the chocolate to the eggs, quickly whisking, then fold in the beetroot. Finally, carefully fold in the flour and the cocoa to the mixture. Once this is done you can pour in to your oven dish and cook for about 40 minutes.

Leave to cool and then cut. Due to the deepness of the dish I cut these brownies quite small, getting 15 out of the small oven tray. I’ve already had two and I’m super stuffed and don’t think I can manage any for dessert.

I’m pretty darn pleased with these, its restored my faith in gluten free baking but to be honest it was probably the original recipe that helped perfect them. Maybe I’ll try my hand and more tray bakes next weekend.

Dom

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Comforting Fish Pie

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Whilst I wouldn’t say the comfort food I make is high in fat I do have a tendency for massive bowls of bolognese with GF pasta, risottos and stews. It may just be my portion size that I need to cut down on but I hate the guilty feeling you have after you eat too much or something fatty. However, my fish pie is guilt free and super comforting. I always think its an inexpensive way of getting your weekly fish intake and as I usually put lots of veg on the side, most of your five a day.

It can take some time to make so I wouldn’t suggest making it after a long day at work if your desperate for a cooked dinner. Using a decent size dish though, means I usually have enough to do my boyfriend and myself two days and I can just heat it up quickly the day after.

To make this dish you will need:

300g of salmon

300g of cod

300g of smoked haddock

handful of cooked prawns

pint of skimmed milk

nutmeg

bay leaves

lemon zest

6 meduim sized maris piper potatoes

25g GF flour

25 g half fat butter

a large knob of half fat butter

large handful of frozen peas

2 large handfuls of grated cheddar (light cheese if you want to keep it healthy)

To serve:

corn on the cob

green veg of your choice.

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Start by peeling and boiling your potatoes for 20 minutes.

Whilst they cook, in a pan, add the fish and pour in enough milk so the fish is covered. Add a grating of nutmeg, lemon zest  and the bay leaves and lightly simmer until the fish is cooked.

Strain the fish ensuring you keep the milk as you’ll need this for the sauce (you don’t need to keep the bay leaves). Add the fish to your pie dish , along with the prawns and start making the sauce. In a pan on a low heat, slowly melt some butter adding a small amount of flour at a time and whisking constantly until the butter and flour turn in to a roux. Gradually add the milk you used for the fish, again whisking constantly until you make a sauce. Take off the heat once the right thickness has been reached and pour over the fish, along with your frozen peas.

Your potatoes should be cooked by the time you have done this. Make a lovely thick mash by adding the large knob of butter and the rest of the milk left over from the pint. Whisk until thick and creamy (alternatively you can use cream but I prefer to use skimmed milk and half fat butter to try and make this dish healthier). Once your mash is done, spread over the fish mixture. Add the grated cheese on top and some salt and pepper if desired, although this dish has so much flavour I don’t think seasoning is really necessary.

Pop in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden.

Whilst your fish pie is cooking, you can cook your chosen accompaniment. I usually go for some corn on the cob, which I just boil for a few minutes, along with green beans or asparagus. I must admit the veg I put with this dish in the picture looks a bit dry but I usually add some butter (YES I KNOW THERE’S ALREADY LOADS OF BUTTER IN THIS DISH) and hadn’t yet done so when I took the picture. The creamy sauce with the fish pie will also ensure this dish isn’t at all dry.

This is perfect for a family of four too as I usually get about four decent sized servings from my pie dish. Super tasty, healthy and warming,  this is one of my ultimate comfort foods. What comfort food do you crave?

Dom x

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Essentials

There are certain cupboard, fridge and freezer essentials which I swear by. I buy these every time I go for a food shop because I know they will be used and can be an essential ingredient to loads of different dishes. They aren’t exclusive to a gluten free diet but are definitely important when keeping on a budget and maintaining healthy.

I always think its important to have a well stocked cupboard full of tins and jars. There are those times where you just can’t be bothered to cook or you realise you forgot something in your last shop, so ensuring you have a plenty of food in your cupboard means a nutritious and tasty meal is never far away.

IMG_0539[1]Gluten Free Bread, Roasted Red Peppers and Caramelised Onion Hummus

I’ve mentioned my love for roasted peppers in a jar before and I cannot praise these enough. They are pretty expensive in supermarkets but I stock up on them when I go to my local Home Bargains. They are usually 99p a jar and there are loads of different varieties. Preserved peppers have a very long shelf life even once opened. I use these in salads, pasta sauces or sometimes I just eat the jar in one go. You can make a lovely lunch using a nice piece of gluten free bread (hey, we all know it does exist) with hummus or some cream cheese. Once you’re finished with the peppers, keep the oil and use it for cooking or in a dressing. I used the oil on the Tuna steaks I made in a previous recipe and the flavour makes all the difference.

Another cupboard essential I think is important is quinoa. Although more expensive than cous cous (the grain it is so often compared to), when you consider how far a small amount of this goes once cooked then its good value for money. I usually make a batch on a Sunday night and would add it to veg for lunches in work and mix with spices for an accompaniment to a main meal. I’ve seen recipes using quinoa as a basis to porridge too so its a very versatile grain.

I wanted to quickly mention the ASDA Gluten Free Cous Cous I recently bought. I’m not usually overly critical of products but I would urge people to avoid this. I bought it out of sheer curiosity and I was unimpressed. The grain failed to absorb the water and just turned in to mush. Has anyone tried this product before? What was your experience with it?

Having a well stocked freezer is essential in my opinion. You can defrost most things pretty quickly if you have a microwave so a dinner is never far away. I tend to buy a lot of meat, fish and poultry in the ‘reduced aisle’ of the supermarket. I sometimes plan my meals around what they have available or I’ll check if they have what I need before buying the item full price. Due to the sell by dates I do have to freeze most of what I buy when I get home but it means I always have food in.

I don’t tend to buy a lot  of pre-frozen foods but there are certain things I like to pick up when I’m shopping. I will try and buy a bag of frozen king prawns that you can cook from frozen. These are perfect with pasta, risotto and stir fry, well just about anything really. A bag will last me around a  month and I’ll get about four dinners out of them. Usually I see frozen seafood at a reasonable price or on offer.

P1000706Mango and blueberry smoothie, coffee and porridge with frozen fruit

My next freezer essential is frozen fruit. I had ummed and ahhed about buying frozen fruit for ages but as the fruit is usually frozen the day its picked it keeps its freshness better than it being shipped and left to ripe on it way to the supermarket. This is also the same with frozen veg. Bags of frozen fruit are a lot cheaper than their fresh counterparts and will last a lot longer too. They are brilliant for making smoothies and I add frozen fruit to my porridge most mornings.

I’m sure I’ll think of more essential items I can’t live without soon. What are the products you always put in your shopping trolley?

Dom x

Pulled pork, Brown Rice and Butternut Squash with plum Sauce

So I’ve been pretty busy the past two weeks. My boyfriend and I went to Glasgow to see our friends last weekend. It was great catching up with everyone. I’ve not been in Glasgow since graduating in July and I miss it so much. It’s such an amazing city, there’s always something on and the restaurants are incredible. There is a massive range of cuisine and specialist dining.

On our first night there we went to Firebird, which I reviewed before. It is possibly my favourite restaurant I’ve ever been to. I had an amazing GF pizza with hanger steak and butter nut squash. I also tried GF beer for the first time. I was never a massive beer drinker so it wasn’t something I ever thought to ask for but I’ve heard that Lavery’s Bar in Belfast are serving it now and I’ve seen four packs of GF beer in Sainsbury’s. The only brand I can see available is Estrella Damm Daura and as someone who liked lite beers this goes down a treat. Are there any other GF beers that are worth trying?

On Sunday evening my friends had planned to go out for dinner to a place called Buddy’s BBQ and Burgers in the Southside of Glasgow. Knowing in advance I was going for dinner I messaged the restaurant and asked about their gluten free choices on the menu. Sadly I was informed that they didn’t explicitly cater for people with gluten allergies and could not guarantee any of their food would be free from contamination. I was pretty disappointed as the menu was positively mouth watering. It’s also sad to hear this as so many restaurants have become more allergy and dietary aware, not just with coeliac disease but other needs. I was pretty surprised that they couldn’t cater for me. They did, however, say that I was more than welcome to bring my own buns with me if I wanted a burger or have the burger bun free. I opted for a bun free burger as the portions looked massive. I was super impressed with the burger and all the other food looked incredible. I didn’t feel ill the next day but then I don’t often get sick from a slight contamination. I wouldn’t recommend this place if you are super sensitive but hopefully they’ll update their menu soon so accommodate us coeliacs.

burger

tasty bun-less burger, bad quality photo

The rest of the trip was spent wondering around parks, floating about and catching up with friends. It was such a lovely break and I’ve made a promise to myself to visit more often this year.

One thing that seems to be everywhere these days is pulled pork, mostly with a barbecue inspired dish but this doesn’t have to be done Americana. I’m not a massive pork fan, its not something I would eat on a regular basis and I’ll never understand the western worlds obsession with bacon but I do love a slow cooked cut of meat with plenty of flavour. I thought about trying to do a healthy pulled pork dish that would also ensure plenty of leftovers for the next day.

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After having  a browse online I thought about an Asian style dish packed with veg, diary free and filling but healthy. I used brown rice instead of white rice as its lighter on the stomach and easier to digest and made my own plum sauce. Warning: this dish does take about five hours to make so may be one for a lazy Sunday.

To feed two you will need:

For the pulled pork

One medium boneless shoulder of pork, trimmed

two tbsp of Chinese five spice

1 pint of water

two tbsp of sesame oil

two tbsp of honey

a large glug of GF soy sauce

The plum sauce

4 plums cut in to small chunks

two tbsp of sweet chilli sauce

2 cloves of garlic, grated

3 shallots finely chopped

2 tbsp of GF soy sauce

And the rest

1/4 of a large butter nut squash cut in to small cubes

100g of rice

handful of mange tout

5 bits of baby corn, sliced in to quarters

one red onion in thick (width) slices

pumpkin and sunflower seeds to garnish.

You need to start making this dish five hours before you plan to eat. Take the pork shoulder and rub the five spice and sesame oil all over it, make sure you get every single nook and cranny. Place it in a deep set oven dish and add the water, honey and soy sauce. Cook at 200 C for the first two hours.

After two hours take the pork out and baste it with the sauce that is forming in the dish. Cover in tinfoil, turn down to 160 C and cook for another three hours. Keep an eye on your pork and check how tender it is becoming with a fork throughout its cooking time.

In the meantime you can start on the plum sauce. In a pan, on a medium heat, add all the ingredient and stir until the plums have reduced. Ensure you continuously taste this as it can become a bit tart so you may have to add some honey or sugar to sweeten it slightly. Once the sauce is ready, add to a jug and leave at room temperature. This sauce can be kept in the fridge for two weeks and can also be frozen. If it’s cold by the time you wish to serve, just pop it in a microwave for two minutes.

About half an hour before you plan to eat cook the rice and boil the butter nut squash for about twenty minutes. I dry fried the red onion, baby corn and mange tout for about seven minutes until they just lost the raw texture but still had bite. Once the rice is cooked, add it along with the squash and other veg to a large bowl.

Take your pulled pork out of the oven and tear apart with a fork, in the oven dish ensuring you mop up all that juice. We only used half the shoulder for this dish so had plenty for the next day. Add the pork to the bowl along with the plum sauce and stir well then serve individually with the seeds. I put the plum sauce on the table in case the dish was a bit dry but the pork was so juicy and delicious we didn’t need any more.

This was a brilliant dish as it was so comforting. My flat smelt amazing all day as I was cooking, added bonus. The next day we heated the pork in the microwave and had a salad of avocado, baby gem lettuce, pork and plum sauce.

salad

Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts you can buy. The medium joint cost £2.80 and did four portions, as long as you cook for long enough to ensure the fat is totally rendered down then it makes a delicious and relatively healthy meal. The more I think about this dish the more I could eat it again and again, if only it didn’t take so long to cook.

Dom

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Apricot and Hazelnut Flapjacks

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‘Snacking’ is a tough concept for us coeliacs. When your friends are tucking in to a packet of crisps or buns and biscuits it does feel like salt is being rubbed all over that wound. To be honest snacking on the aforementioned isn’t probably the best idea for a healthy lifestyle. There’s nothing stopping us from having a piece of fruit or something equally as appetizing but sometimes you do just want to grab something sweet and sugary and its hard to know what to eat.

These flapjacks are so easy to make and can be kept for around three days. Perfect for bringing to school, uni or work as a mid day treat. I know some coeliacs are okay with oats, personally they don’t seem to bother me so I used normal porridge oats for this recipe but obviously use gluten free ones if you need to.

To make ten flapjacks you will need:

140g of half fat butter

200g of porridge oats

140g of soft brown sugar

2 tsp of honey

10 dried apricots roughly chopped

200g of chopped hazelnuts

Preheats your oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Grab a smallish deep oven tray, line with butter and baking paper.

In a pan, heat the butter, sugar and honey together. Melt it slowly so it doesn’t boil. Chop the apricots and mix them in a bowl with the porridge oats and hazelnuts. Once the mix on the pan is ready, stir it in to the oats, ensuring all the oats are covered.

Pack the mixture tightly on to your baking tray making sure the surface is even level. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Once baked, leave them to rest for about 15 minutes and then cut them. I made ten decent sized rectangles out of this batch but if you want to get more out of them you can cut them in to mini flapjacks.

I used apricots and hazelnuts because I had them in the cupboard, but you can add anything you like. Personally I’m a massive fan of white chocolate and blueberry. It’s also nice to drizzle a bit of melted chocolate over them for ‘presentation’ of course.

I’m really keen to try my hand at a few more traybakes this week, I’ve been thinking about making gluten free beetroot brownies so I’ll keep you updated as to how my rubbish baking skills ruin this brilliant idea.

Dom

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Catch of the Day

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As I was saying, I’ve been trying to eat super healthy at the minute. Although I’m finding it difficult to avoid chocolate and other tempting snacks, cooking healthy dinners has always come pretty easy to me. I cooked another lovely fish dish during the week, which included a super comforting bean ‘stew’. I was getting pretty fed up with the permanent December food baby and I’m currently enjoying the guiltless feeling I have after eating a decent portion of something scrummy and healthy.

Now in this recipe I used Tuna steaks. I admit they are pretty expensive to buy but after a much loved visit to the reduced aisle in Sainsbury’s I managed to grab two decent sized steaks for £3.00. I couldn’t believe my luck! If you can’t afford Tuna, you could try salmon or even a nice piece of smoked haddock, which won’t break the bank.

To make this dish for two you will need:

Two tuna steaks (or fish of your choice)

the oil from the pepper jar

eight asparagus spears

a tin of cannellini beans

half a tin of chopped tomatoes

one large grilled pepper from a jar

six cherry tomatoes

a handful of fresh basil

squeeze of lemon juice

a small glug of white wine

salt and pepper

I began by making the bean ‘stew’. I call it a stew for want of a better word. It doesn’t need to cook for hours, like a stew but I couldn’t for the life of me think of another term that would suit it.

In a pot I fried some cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil. I managed to pick up a jar of large red peppers in oil in a home bargains style shop for 99p. If you can get your hands on these then buy in bulk. They are perfect in salads and pasta dishes and definitely a cupboard essential. I chopped the peppers in to medium sized chunks and fired them in with the tomatoes. I then added the beans including the juice and the chopped tomatoes. Add a glug of white wine, lemon juice, some salt and pepper and leave to cook for about twenty minutes until the liquid reduces.

To prepare my tuna steaks I rubbed some of the oil from the jar of peppers into them and some seasoning. Tuna should be served slightly pink in the middle so its important to ensure they aren’t overcooked. I was using a griddle pan for the steaks so they didn’t need any more than two minutes on each side. Once the bean stew has reduced, turn down on a low heat to ensure it stays warm.

I didn’t add oil to my griddle pan as I was cooking the asparagus at the same time as the tuna and like to dry cook asparagus. I think it has a better flavour. The oil on the steaks itself should be enough to ensure they don’t stick. After two minutes on one side, add the asparagus and turn the steaks over for another two minutes.

Add the basil to the bean stew and serve in a pasta bowl. Place your tuna on top and add the asparagus. There you have it, a beautifully presented, tasty guilt free dish. With the bean stew acting as the perfect ‘comfort food’ accompaniment.

The meatiness of the tuna makes this a perfect dish for those who tend to avoid fish. I think its such a shame to hear people cast off  (pardon the pun) liking fish when there’s such a broad range out there to suit every taste.

I’ll be back soon with some healthy winter warmers.

Dom

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Happy New Year

Well I’ve been a way for a long time. Coming to terms with post-uni life has distracted me but what better way to start off the new year by getting back in to the swing of things with my blog!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday period and managed to avoid getting glutened. In the winter months its very easy to be overly indulgent. I don’t want to look at another piece of cheese, chocolate or roast meat for a good few months so I’m going to be cooking delicious healthy, feel good food with maybe the odd treat thrown in.

The first dish of the year is a tasty sea bass recipe with a polenta mash. This is the first time I’ve ever used polenta. Its been sitting in my cupboard for months and I really don’t know why I haven’t experimented with it.

seabass

To make this for two, you will need:

2 fillets of seabass

8 cherry tomatoes

2 large handfuls of spinach

sea salt

ground black pepper

a drizzle of olive oil

For the polenta mash:

1 cup of polenta

2 cups of water

a large knob of half fat butter

salt

pepper

a tbsp of natural yoghurt

a small handful of parmesan cheese

For the dressing:

three tbsp of natural yoghurt

juice of half a lemon

tsp of dried tarragon

I started by making the polenta mash. I was pretty apprehensive about getting this right as timing seems to be everything when working with this grain.

Bring the water to boiling point and slowly whisk the polenta in to the water until it thickens. Turn the heat down and continue whisking on the heat. If you think it is thickening up too much take it off the heat and whisk. Ideally you want to make sure its softened and doesn’t feel grainy when you eat it.

Stir in the yoghurt, parmesan and butter. Most recipes call for cream but as I am wanting to cut down on my fat intake I used low fat natural yoghurt, which worked really well. Finally season with salt and pepper. I was looking for a rather creamy mash but I ended up having a more solidified polenta. It actually worked really well with the dish so I wasn’t too upset that I didn’t get the polenta mash I’ve tasted in restaurants before.

I left the polenta on a very low heat, just so it didn’t go cold. This didn’t affect the character of the mash at all but ensure it’s a very very low heat as you don’t want it to solidify entirely.

Now you can prepare your seabass. Make some shallow cuts in to the skin of the fish. Grab a piece of kitchen roll and gently blot away any moisture on the skin. This will help your skin crisp up perfectly. Rub some sea salt and black pepper on the fish, both sides.

In a pan drizzle your olive oil and fry the cherry tomatoes on a medium heat. I’m allergic to raw tomatoes so I need to ensure these are well cooked before I eat them, which is why I put them on before the seabass but you can serve them whatever way you want them.

Gently place your fish fillet on the pan, skin side down. Cooking this for four minutes should ensure the skin of the fish is nice and crispy. As the fish is cooking, make your dressing by mixing the yoghurt, lemon juice and tarragon together.

After four minutes, turn the fish over and cook on the other side for two minutes. Your fish should be perfect. Take the pan off the heat, and add the spinach. the heat of the pan should cook the spinach nicely and give it flavour from the fish and tomatoes.

Now all you have to do is plate up. I tried to make it look ‘chefy’ but the dollops of dressing make the plate a bit messy. I’m sure someone with a better eye for detail could make the dish look more pleasing.

People may think seabass isn’t really within the ‘student budget’ I themed my blog on when I first started but its important to shop about. I managed to get these two fillets, along with two salmon fillets and a large portion of lean beef mince in Sainsburys on the 3 for £10 offer. Its good value for a weeks worth (if not more) of meat and fish.

Now that I’m working and can no longer take time out of studying to cook long dinners, I want to cook food that I can eat soon after I get home. This dish is perfect for those with a busy lifestyle, it took about 15 minutes to make (eh Jamie?) and didn’t require a lot of dishes.

I’m excited to blog a lot more now and to hear your feedback about my recipes.

Happy 2014 to you all!

Dom

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