A not so traditional Spaghetti Bolognese

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There’s one recipe that never fails to be met with lots of ‘mmms’ when it’s placed on the dinner table and that is Spaghetti Bolognaise. It’s easy to make and has all of the ingredients you could wish for; hearty meat, a delicious sauce, a sprinkling of cheese and a messy face when you’ve finishing eating.

Now, if you’ve been to Italy then you will know that as a nation we’ve killed the traditional Bolognese recipe. Not only are we using the wrong pasta – a proper Bolognese is partnered with tagliatelle, but we do inexcusable things like add herbs to our recipe. I will hold my hands up and say, I’m guilty of all of these sins!

However, if like myself you are gluten free and living anywhere but London where there is a huge selection of gluten free goodies, you will know how difficult it is to source tagliatelle. It’s one of those rare delicacies that I stock up on when I come across it, usually in farm shops or strangely enough, service stations. I agree that Bolognese with tagliatelle tastes more delicious, the thickness of the pasta soaks up the mince and juices more, but we will have to go on with what we’ve got and let’s face it, I love basil and oregano so they are thrown in to many of my meals for added flavour.

In my recipe, I’ve missed out on some traditional ingredients such as carrots as unfortunately we ate them all with our Sunday roast. But, with a little love and care, a generous glug of wine and some yummy bacon, I can promise you won’t miss them at all.

Little tip: My family go to special measures to obtain David’s Chilli Oil – it really adds depth and flavour to even the blandest of dishes and is perfect for use in chilli’s, spaghetti and curries.

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Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 400g Steak mince
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 rashers bacon
  • Sprinkle dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1-2 tsp chilli oil depending on heat (I used David’s Chilli Oil)
  • A good glug of red wine (I just went for it but around 100ml)
  • 1 tsp cooking salt
  • Generous sprinkle of pepper
  • Gluten free spaghetti or tagliatelle
  • Dairy free cheese (I usually use Violife)

 

  • Heat up 1 tsp olive oil in a medium sized saucepan. Chop up the bacon into squares and add to the pan, heating for 10 minutes or until golden
  • Chop up the onion and cook until soft
  • Next, throw in the garlic and rosemary and stir in
  • Add the mince steak and breakdown, stir until browned
  • Add the plum tomatoes, crumble in the beef stock cube and sprinkle in the basil and oregano
  • Add the chilli oil and pour in a good glug of wine
  • Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding seasoning as desired
  • Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions
  • Grate a handful of cheese
  • Once the sauce is nice and thick, drain the spaghetti and add the bolognaise on top
  • Sprinkle on the cheese and some basil to finish

Buon Appetito!

 

Scallop, chorizo and prawn salad with wilted spinach

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Scallops are very much a new addition to my diet due to the fact that year’s ago, they were expensive and actually not that easy to get your hands on if you lived slap bang in the middle of the Midlands. In fact, the first time that I taste tested the squishy little delicacies was on a holiday to Wales a few years ago and I can still remember the trouble we had trying to release, prepare and cook the live shellfish.

Thanks to their wide spread popularity, scallops can now be found at most supermarkets up and down the country, washed and sealed for the convenience of lazy people like myself who are put off by the thought of trying to manhandle a shellfish.

I made this easy peasy dish at my recent Mediterranean night and it was well loved by everyone sat around the table. So without further ado, let’s get cooking.

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Ingredients

  • Prepared pack of scallops
  • Half ring of chorizo
  • Large handful of spinach
  • Parsley
  • Baby or king prawns
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the chorizo, turning until golden and crisp. Transfer to a plate, making sure to leave plenty of juice in the pan
  2. Next, toss in the scallops and prawns and fry for 3 minutes on each side on a moderate heat
  3. Place a handful of spinach into the pan and leave to wilt
  4. Prepare a plate with lettuce and tomatoes
  5. Add the chorizo back into the pan and mix well with the shellfish
  6. Throw in some parsley and serve on the bed of salad

Paprika chicken with mango, avocado and sweet potato in a red wine vinegar and honey dressing

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I’ve never been one to make a boring salad. Some people will rustle together some tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce and call it done, but I like to go to town with a salad and throw in some really simple but delicious ingredients.

I invented this dish after raiding the fridge and wondering what I could put together in under half an hour with leftovers and it’s one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted. The sweetness of the mango and honey, mixed in with the spice of the paprika and the creaminess of the avocado work really well together and it makes for a great weeknight meal when you’re in a rush to get to yoga.

If you fancy adding a few carbs into the mix, slice up a nice, fresh ciabatta and layer on the ingredients for a quick, on the move meal.

 Ingredients

  • Chicken breast or leftover meat
  • 1 – 2 tsp of paprika
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 mango
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • Half sweet potato
  • Mixed salad leaves
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 

  1. First preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius and layer the bottom of a tray with foil
  2. Make slashes on the top of the chicken and place on the tray, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp of paprika depending on personal spice preferences and season with salt and pepper
  3. Chop the sweet potato into chunks and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil onto the whole tray. Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes
  4. Chop the mango into chunks and the avocado and pepper into slices
  5. Meanwhile, layer a plate with the salad leaves and prepare the dressing by adding a tsp of red wine vinegar, honey and olive oil into a mug and mixing well
  6. After 15 minutes into cooking, add the pepper onto the tray
  7. Eight minutes before full cooking time, add the mango and avocado to the tray and drizzle on the dressing to complete
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, take out the tray and add the ingredients to the salad

Rosemary lamb salad with shredded sweet potato in a mint and honey sauce

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This has to be the most delicious salad I have ever invented. The juice of the lamb blended in with the honey and mint is to die for and it’s a perfect, filling salad to throw together in just a few short minutes using left over ingredients.

You have the option here of using the leftover meat from a Sunday roast, but if you’re anything like me and scoff a whole leg of lamb in a single afternoon, a nice tender lamb steak will work just as well. The combination of olives and mint add a touch of Morrocan influence to the dish which works really well alongside the shredded sweet potato.

Ingredients

  • Lamb steak
  • Quarter of sweet potato
  • Two spring onions
  • Pine nuts
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Stuffed olives
  • Honey
  • Mint sauce
  • Mint jelly
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary
  • Salad leaves
  1. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan
  2. Chop up the lamb, place in the frying pan and sprinkle with rosemary
  3. Slice the sweet potato into thin slices and fry in the pan with plenty of olive oil until golden
  4. Chop the spring onions and add to the pan
  5. In a bowl, add a generous helping of honey and mint jelly and half teaspoon of mint sauce
  6. Drizzle the sauce over the lamb in the frying pan and mix well
  7. Prepare the salad by chopping the cherry tomatoes in half and the cucumber into quarters and placing on a bed of lettuce leaves
  8. Dot the olives around the plate and sprinkle on the pine nuts
  9. Transfer the meat onto the salad and serve

Bacon baguette with melted cheese, fig jam and drizzled honey

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Friday night is snack night at my house, and I love nothing more than to get back home and begin the weekend with a delicious meal that takes just minutes to whip up, leaving me with more time to re-watch my Game of Thrones box set with a small, okay, large glass or two of wine.

It is tradition to have bacon sarnies in my family, mainly so we have a good appetite left over to enjoy a whole two days of good wining and dining. However, in true ‘whatever you make, I can make better gluten free’ style, I decided to go one step further this week and cook up a bacon baguette with melted cheese and spring onion, drizzled in a sweet fig and honey sauce for good measure. Well, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I have to say it beats a bacon and tommie sauce cob any day!

So, without further delay let’s have a look at how this fantastic concoction was first invented. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Ingredients

  • Gluten free baguette or ciabatta
  • 3 good strips of crispy bacon
  • Cheese – I used Violife dairy free cheese
  • Spring onion
  • 3-4 figs with the flesh scooped out
  • Honey
  • Coriander
  • Dairy free spread
  • Lettuce
  1. Grill the bacon until crispy
  2. Half the figs and scoop out the flesh. Mash into a fine jam
  3. Chop the onion and butter the baguette
  4. Place the cheese on the baguette and grill for 5 minutes until melted
  5. Put a layer of lettuce on top of the cheese and layer on half of the fig jam
  6. Put the bacon on top, sprinkle on the onion and coriander, then finish off with the rest of the fig jam and drizzle on some honey
  7. Serve and enjoy

Chipolata and cannellini bean casserole

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I often find that some of the best recipes I’ve ever discovered are the ones I’ve made up on the spot using leftovers in the fridge and a few condiments from the store cupboard. This recipe is no exception. It was a Friday night, I hadn’t planned what I would have for tea that day and so got to work digging through my freezer to find meat that I could defrost in the microwave relatively quickly.

The fantastic thing about this dish is that it can be made using whatever you have in your kitchen. I have used cannellini beans because I always keep a tin in just in case I want to liven a dish up, but kidney beans or chickpeas would work just as nicely. The incorporation of some leftover soya cream and half eaten dairy free chocolate also produces a casserole with a really creamy consistency which is truly beautiful on the palette when mixed up with the spice of the chilli powder.

I did leave the casserole to stew for a good 20 minutes after I had thrown everything in to ensure that all the flavours could fully express themselves, but I reckon this dish could give some of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals a run for their money. It really is an easy peasy weekday meal that the whole family will enjoy.

Little tip – this casserole would taste great with quinoa or even brown rice, but in true last minute.com style, I discovered that the packs I had in my cupboard were quite a few months out of date, so I had to substitute them for basmati rice.

Ingredients

  • Six to eight gluten free chipolatas chopped into 2cm pieces (Marks and Spencer sell GF or Black Farmer chipolatas can be found at major supermarkets)
  • Red onion
  • Red, yellow or orange pepper
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • Cannellini beans
  • 1 and half teaspoon single soya cream
  • 1 and a half chunks of dairy free dark chocolate such as Kinnerton or Celtic
  • Chilli powder to taste (Start with 1 teaspoon and add more depending on personal taste)
  • Splash of Heinz BBQ sauce
  • Rice or quinoa
  • Salt & pepper
  • Teaspoon sugar
  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Coriander
  1. Heat olive oil in the frying pan and caramelise the onion
  2. Boil salted water in a pan and cook the rice according to pack instructions
  3. Add the chopped up chipolatas and cook until golden
  4. Add the pepper and mix together well
  5. Pour in the cannellini beans and tin tomatoes and stir. Add a teaspoon sugar to sweeten the tomatoes
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add the chilli powder, a sprinkle of basil and marjoram
  7. Throw in the cube of chocolate and mix well
  8. Add a splash of BBQ sauce
  9. Pour in the soya cream and mix together well
  10. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and add further chilli powder depending on personal preferences
  11. Allow to stew for around 20 minutes until thickened nicely
  12. Serve alongside the rice and sprinkle coriander on top

 

Chinese sweet chilli turkey with king prawns

One of the things I have without a doubt missed most being gluten, wheat and milk free….is Chinese takeaway. Being surrounded by people on a Saturday night scoffing their way messily through sweet and sour chicken, crispy shredded beef and chow mein is one of the hardest things to resist.

In my opinion Chinese food is one of the cuisines in the Free From range that really needs addressing. There is a big market for an easy Gluten free Chinese takeaway meal but in my experience, restaurants and take away houses aren’t really catering for our needs and it is extremely hard to find something to eat when a main meal can consist of wheat laden noodles and flour battered chicken.

I have to admit, I invented this dish as a bit of a spur of the moment thing. I had a selection of food in my fridge and really felt like having a sweet and sour based dish. Thankfully, Sweet Mandarins Sauces came to my rescue with their gorgeous sweet chilli condiment which I use on a wide variety of dishes. If you haven’t tried their sauces already, you really are missing out. Here is a link to their website – http://www.sweetmandarin.com/

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 turkey breasts
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 red onion
  • Tamari soya sauce (I used Meridian’s Free From sauce which can be found in supermarkets and Holland and Barrat)
  • Sweet Mandarin’s sweet chilli or sweet and sour sauce (can be found at Tesco and Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 – 2 peppers of any colour
  • Chinese five spices
  • Paprika
  • Basmati rice
  • King prawns

1)    Chop the sweet potato, pepper and red onion and place in the oven for 30 minutes to go soft and crispy.

2)    Heat some olive oil in a pan and brown the turkey – sprinkle on around half to one tsp of Chinese five spice and half a tsp of paprika to taste and turn down the heat.

3)    Boil the basmati rice according to pack instructions.

4)    Pour in some of the Sweet Mandarin’s sauce according to personal taste (I used around 25ml)

5)    Drizzle in some of the Tamari soya sauce.

6)    Pour in the king prawns and fry until golden.

7)    Season with a little salt and pepper.

8)    Toss the sweet potato, pepper and onion in with the turkey sauce mixture and blend together.

9)    Drain the rice and serve with the turkey mix.

Souvlaki sticks with a twist

If I had to pick three foods to live off in the event of rationing, I would without a doubt grab a jar of honey, sweet potatoes and chorizo. These three things are my favourite foods of all time and taste amazing when all put together. When I was working in Spain, I consumed so much chorizo I was in danger of turning into one, and compared to England, the homeland of the spicy sausage offered a huge variety of chorizo at all different price ranges and varieties. The chorizo found in Spain was so tasty that I often found myself cooking up a bowl to eat for my dinner all on its own – it was on a whole other level taste wise compared to what can be found at British supermarkets I am sad to say.

Still my love of chorizo has never left me and I use it a lot in different types of dishes ranging from pizza toppings, pasta and salads, to an accompaniment to chicken or roasted vegetables. Here I am putting a spicy twist on the traditional Greek dish of souvlaki, most commonly made using chicken or pork meat and partnered with peppers and onions.

On my recent trip to Rhodes, I brought back a huge amount of herbs, including some fresh from the mountains of Siana, a tiny village famous for its olive oil and honey which are out of this world (so amazing that I am saving the last drops of olive oil I have left for if the Queen ever comes round for tea) I have coated the chicken in the souvlaki mixture which consists of oregano, parsley, cayenne pepper and onion, as well as sprinkling over some paprika to give the chicken a bit of spice.

Souvlaki is great because it can be served as a healthy lunchtime snack, or can be partnered with roasted vegetables, rice, pitta breads or potatoes for a more filling dinner. Of course in the summertime, it is perfect BBQ food and quick and easy to prepare for guests. All that is needed is a bit of Zorba the Greek, cocktail in hand and memories of holidays on the beach.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 courgette
  • Half of a chorizo sausage
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Mozzarella (I used the dairy free MozzaRisella)

 Herbs for the marinade

  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika

 1)     Begin by chopping up the chicken, pepper, onion, courgette and chorizo into bite sized chunks.

2)     Sprinkle the mixture generously with the herb mixes and season with salt and pepper.

3)     Pierce all of the ingredients with the skewers to ensure they are firmly in place and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are going nice and crispy.

4)     Heat up the oven and put the tomatoes and any leftover souvlakia ingredients on a baking tray and sprinkle with the herb mix and drizzle over a good amount of olive oil. Roast for around 15 to 20 minutes.

5)     Chop up round slices of mozzarella and place on the roasting tray in the last few minutes of cooking to give them time to soften and melt nicely.

6)     Once the meat is cooked they are ready to serve.

Potatoes fried in olive oil are a lovely accompaniment to the dish and serve as a healthier alternative.

Spicy Chicken Fajitas

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I love Mexican food, it is one of the easiest yet all round delicious cuisines available and makes a perfect dinner on a cold night. One of the things I loved most used to be enchiladas and fajitas, not only are they a really quick dinner to make, but they are also brilliant for serving to friends and family when you don’t have the time or expertise to cook a complicated meal.

Over the years, with the exception of chilli con carne, I have not made fajitas purely due to the fact that wheat, gluten and dairy free wraps have been so hard to find. It wasn’t until I went along to the Allergy and Free From Show in Liverpool that I came across a company called BFree who make wraps, bread and bagels all without the nasty ingredients my body can’t cope with. I was delighted and of course took home a pack of their multi-grain bagels, as well as their wraps which at only 99 calories helps keep lunch or dinner really healthy. I would highly recommend the BFree range – to me their wraps taste exactly how I remember the wheat kind to taste like, but also their bagels are really flavoursome and do not fall apart as soon as you cut into them, (I find that a lot of Free From bread can fall apart very easily.)

To make the fajitas, I followed the Jamie Oliver recipe but changed a few things to make it free-from. The recipe incorporates all of the traditional ingredients which often accompany the Old El Paso ready-made kits that are found in supermarkets, only the freshly cooked sauces taste much fresher than the stuff that starts off as a powder in the kits for obvious reasons.

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Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Sprinkle of ground cumin
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 free-from tortillas (could use BFree or Warburtons)
  • Natural yoghurt (I used goats but Alpro would work just as well)
  • Cheese to sprinkle on at the end
  • Guacomole (optional)

For the salsa sauce

  • 1 red chilli or enough for your liking
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • Coriander
  • Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

1)      Turn your frying pan to a high heat and chop your pepper into thin slices. Cut up your red onion into small chunks.

2)      Slice your chicken into thin slices about the same size as the peppers.

3)      Put the pepper, onion and chicken into a bowl and mix in the paprika and cumin. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and season with salt and pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. Leave to marinate whilst you are preparing the other ingredients.

4)      Finely chop your chilli and roughly chop the tomatoes into small chunks, do the same with the coriander if using. Pour all together into a bowl and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and season well.

5)      Mix in 1-2 tablespoons of the yoghurt to the salsa mix to create a creamier tasting sauce.

6)      Transfer the chicken, pepper and onion into the frying pan and fry until the chicken turns a golden brown.

7)      Warm the tortillas up in the microwave.

8)      Lay out the tortillas on a plate and divide the chicken mixture along with the salsa dip in the middle and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Fold all of the ingredients in by wrapping up the tortillas and serve.

 

Leek and Potato Soup

Bonfire night is one of my favourite times of the year. Ever since I was little, me and my family would always come together on the 5th November to celebrate the occasion. The night would begin with a trip to an organised community display just down the road from where I live, where everyone would throw their old stuff onto the bonfire before Guy Fawkes was placed at the top and set alight. This marked the beginning of the fireworks and as the bonfire was placed so close to a residential home, it became an annual event for the fire alarm to be ringing out for the duration of the colourful display.

Another tradition in my family though has always been to host our own firework display in our back garden. I have to admit that health and safety goes out the window a little bit at our Bonfire Night, but it is always much more entertaining when you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen or the fireworks fizzle out before take-off.  Bonfire Night in my house however, would not be official without my Mom’s leek and potato soup. For as long as I can remember, this soup has been dished out whilst we stand out in the rain watching the night sky, keeping us warm as the meat cooks on the BBQ. For me leek and potato soup is like the traditional turkey on Christmas day, it just wouldn’t be Bonfire Night without it.

Serves 4-6

  • 2 medium leeks chopped
  • 1 small onion
  • 25g (1oz) dairy free butter
  • 350g (12oz) potatoes thinly sliced
  • 568ml (1 pint) gluten free chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 150ml of double cream – optional (I used Alpro soya single cream to add at the end for a creamier taste but can be made without cream.)

1)     Heat the butter in a saucepan and fry the leeks and onion gently for about 7-8 minutes until soft but be careful not to brown.

2)     Add the potatoes and stock to the pan and season well.

3)     Bring to the boil, lower the heat and cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

4)     Remove the soup from the pan and pour into a food processor and blend until smooth.

5)     If adding cream pour into the soup just before serving.

Bonfire Night would not be complete without a dairy free hot chocolate made using Plamil chocolate flakes and Eskal gluten free marshmallows
Bonfire Night would not be complete without a dairy free hot chocolate made using Plamil chocolate flakes and Eskal gluten free marshmallows