New Gluten Free Menu at Henry Wong

It is notoriously hard to find a Cantonese restaurant that caters for a gluten free diet. The desire for chefs to coat everything in soy sauce and batter is a common occurrence and it is for this reason that I hadn’t eaten a Chinese meal in a restaurant in about nine or ten years, which is crazy considering how much I love this cuisine. You can imagine my delight when I was invited along to sample the new gluten free menu at Henry Wong in Harborne to find that I could eat a large selection of beautiful dishes.

Henry Wong specialises in both traditional and contemporary Chinese dishes and the diverse menu could satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. Thanks to the freshness of the food on offer, a large amount of the normal menu can be made gluten free and it was fantastic to be able to visit a restaurant where the staff were so knowledgeable about allergens and could prepare vibrant dishes without any fuss.

For starters, we were treated to the popular chicken and shitake mushroom yuk sung with pinenuts, as well as asparagus and soft shell crab with garlic and chilli. The dish that particularly stood out for me here was the crab, it was really succulent, coated in a delicious batter and drizzled in a garlic and chilli sauce which is always a winning combination for me. I can sometimes find that chefs overcook asparagus, but here it was cooked to perfection and complimented the crab dish perfectly.

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Next on the menu was the main course of honey pepper king prawn, sweet and sour chicken, steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onion, pak choy in garlic sauce, sizzling beef fillet in black pepper sauce, accompanied with egg fried rice.

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When I was younger and still eating normal Chinese food, I always opted for sweet and sour chicken and beef in black bean sauce, so I was chuffed to be able to tuck into these amazing dishes once more – the beef dish in particular was really tender and juicy and much more tasty than how I remember it from takeaways years ago. Another pleasant surprise was the sea bass; other than prawns I wouldn’t usually opt for seafood at a Chinese restaurant but combined with the ginger and spring onion – two of my favourite ingredients for oriental food, I was really impressed by the dish and would definitely order again.

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For dessert, a beautifully presented fruit platter came out bursting with a variety of berries and melon, as well as strawberry cheesecake and fudge cake, topping off what was a fantastic night of amazing food – the cocktails and mocktails on offer were amazing too by the way!

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Overall, I can’t praise the gluten free menu enough at Henry Wong. The staff  have obviously put a lot of effort into learning about Coeliac disease and how to cater for special diets, whilst maintaining the same standards of exceptional cooking that goes into the normal dishes.  The great thing was that they are so keyed up on how to prepare gluten free food that you don’t feel different when eating there, you are made to feel like a regular diner. I can say for certain that I will be visiting again in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to be sat around the table with my chopsticks, tucking into another beautiful selection of gluten free dishes. If you’re ever in the Birmingham area, you must take a trip down to Henry Wong, it’ll be a firm favourite with both gluten free and normal eaters.

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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

How to host a gluten free Mediterranean night

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I love the Mediterranean! I love the countries, I love the climate, I love the people and most of all, I love the food. So it’s only natural that every so often in my family, we throw a Mediterranean night filled with sangria, wine, olives and tapas, i.e. my idea of heaven itself.

This year I was the host and sous chef, in fact I was the only chef on the night. I’d settled the famalam in with a river of wine and lager and had put on some cultured music courtesy of the Gypsy Kings and Latino Lounge – okay, not technically Mediterranean but it added to the atmosphere.

So, with a Spanish rendition of Hotel California and Bamboleo ringing out in the background, I got busy in the kitchen creating eleven dishes of absolute scrumptiousness. Here’s what I served up on the night.

Appetisers

Tortilla chips, cucumber and carrot sticks with tzatziki and houmous

Pimento stuffed olives

Tapas dishes

Chickpeas with feta, chilli and fresh mint

Griddled chicken salad in a chilli and garlic butter with quinoa, rocket, red onion and chives

Tray bake of butternut squash with courgettes, sweet potato and peppers

Baked aubergines in a honey and lime dressing

Pan fried Scallops and king prawns with chorizo, finished off with a sprinkle of coriander and parsley

Focaccia bread served alongside a selection of cooked hams, feta and grilled halloumi cheese

Mains

Lamb tagine with toasted pine nuts

Chicken, chilli and bacon pasta in a creamy sauce

Griddled steak with rocket and a balsamic vinegar dressing

Dessert

Tiramisu

Strawberries, apples, grapes and cranberry cheese with honey

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Okay, so here’s where I go all Miranda on you and admit that my tiramisu was purchased from Sainsbury’s. But, the thing to note is that everything else was fresh, home cooked and most importantly, gluten and wheat free.

Tip: If you don’t believe that a whole host of fussy eaters can enjoy a night of eating gluten free food, then think again. Nobody would have guessed that any of these dishes were lacking in what I like to call ‘evil ingredients.’

Some of the dishes that I whipped up, such as the gorgeous lamb tagine courtesy of my favourite free from chef Pippa Kendrick and my very own creamy chicken and chilli pasta, were tried and tested. However, some were sort of created on the spot after raiding my cupboards and seeing what I had in – after all, it’s not the most cost effective ‘come round for dinner guys’ kind of night. The baked aubergines in a honey and lime dressing was inspired by my trip to Barcelona earlier in the year, and it was a recipe which I had noted down at the time as it was extremely simple to make and bloody delicious. The fruit concoction I served up at the end of the meal was also extremely refreshing and light after so many dishes.

Anywho, over the next few weeks I want to share some of these beautiful recipes with you to demonstrate how gluten free cooking doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, my cousin remarked after eating everything that ‘you would never guess that it was all gluten free,’ and thankfully, everyone went back for seconds. Pheww!

Even though somehow I managed to get all of my dishes out at the exact time that I said I wanted everything ready, the important thing to remember if you are hosting a dinner party is that in the Mediterranean, you don’t need to be in a rush. My Rhodian friends like to use the phrase ‘slowly, slowly,’ which basically means ‘your dinner will be ready when we’ve finished cooking it and not before.’

On that note, Yammas, Cin Cin and Salud! May you always be in possession of a smooth red wine.

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Golden chicken salad with a garlic and chilli butter and quinoa

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This gorgeous salad is a firm favourite in my family after I recently made it for everyone at a Mediterranean night that I hosted. It’s bursting with flavours and takes no time at all to whip up, making it a perfect quick weekday meal or side dish. I’ve made it a couple of times now and have both pan fried the chicken and oven baked it; thankfully both methods of cooking leave the meat really tender and succulent, so it’s completely up to you as to how you want to do it.

The warm garlic and chilli dressing is a beautiful addition to the dish and allows for the ingredients to literally melt in your mouth. Throwing in some quinoa also gives the salad a nice texture and a bit of a crunch to really fill you up. I finished it off with a drizzle of honey, a handful of chives and a generous helping of fresh herbs. This is one of my personal favourites and one which I think everyone will enjoy.

The picture shows the chicken when I oven baked it for 30 minutes, although the recipe below will give you details of pan frying it for a quick alternative.

Ingredients

  • Half mug of quinoa
  • 1-2 chicken fillets
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • Handful rocket
  • Salad leaves
  • Tbsp dairy free butter
  • Oregano or mixed herbs
  • Juice of half lemon
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Pimento stuffed olives
  • Handful fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp honey

 

  1. Cook the quinoa according to pack instructions, adding in a tsp cooking salt
  2. Put some butter in a mug and microwave it for 20 seconds until melted. Mix in the garlic and chilli
  3. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a frying pan and dice the chicken before placing it in the pan. Season well with salt and pepper, pour over half of the butter mixture and cook until golden
  4. In a bowl, mix the salad leaves, rocket, olives, chives and lemon juice. Drizzle over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  5. Once the quinoa is cooked, allow it to cool and then throw it on with the salad
  6. Transfer the chicken to the bowl and toss well to ensure that all the ingredients have mixed. Pour over the remaining butter dressing and finish off by scattering a handful of chopped mint and drizzling over the honey

Salmon fillet with avocado, mangetout, baby corn and cashew nuts

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This beautiful salmon salad was another terrific concoction I worked up in 15 minutes when I was home late from work. Luckily, I’d done a big food shop prior to getting back and had a mixture of ingredients that I’d popped into my trolley with no real idea of what I’d do with it all. Thankfully, every single ingredient in this dish blended together really well and I enjoyed every bite, so much so, I had to share it.

There’s a nice mix of sweetness, crunch and creaminess in this bowl thanks to a generous helping of babycorn, pepper, cashew nuts and avocado. Finished off with a hint of balsamic and runny honey, this is a really satisfying, protein packed dinner that you’ll want to make again and again.

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillet
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 red pepper
  • Mange tout
  • Baby corn
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Lemon juice
  • Handful cashew nuts
  • Dried parsley
  • 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp honey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Slice the skin off the salmon fillet and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Place in the oven on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes depending on how rare you like the fish
  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the mangetout and baby corn for 5-6 minutes until soft
  3. On a plate, mix up the lettuce and spinach
  4. Chop up the pepper into slices and scoop out the avocado and place on top of the bed of salad
  5. In a mug, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey
  6. Once the fish is cooked through, chop into squares and place on the bed of salad
  7. Scatter a handful of cashew nuts on the plate and drizzle over the dressing

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Sticky maple pork with apples and crispy onion rice

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This is one of my favourite meals and an absolute keeper because it only takes 20 minutes to whip up. In true Jamie Oliver style I had a little race around the kitchen, throwing and chopping with both speed and precision in order to get my dinner ready and in front of the TV in time for whatever programme was taking my fancy that night.

Let’s face it, sometimes quick meals that require no effort can be bland and boring, but I always find that with a dollop of maple syrup smothering a chop and roasted apples following closely behind in the procession, a dry piece of meat can be transformed into something succulent and down-right bloody delicious.

So, let’s have a look at what’s in this delicious dish and get cracking.

Ingredients

  • 2 pork chops
  • Red or yellow pepper
  • ½ chopped onion
  • ½ mug full of rice
  • Handful of fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 apple cut into chunks
  • Dairy free butter or sunflower spread

 

  1. Warm the oven and align a baking tray with foil and olive oil
  2. Chop up the sweet potato, season the pork chop with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, boil the rice and cook according to packet instructions
  4. Slice the pepper and cut the apple into chunks. Add to the baking tray 15 minutes before the end of cooking
  5. Melt some butter in a small frying pan and add the chopped onion, cooking until crispy
  6. 5 minutes before the chops are ready to be served, smother the pork chops in maple syrup and place back in the oven
  7. Once the rice is cooked through, throw the onions in and mix well
  8. Serve up the rice and chops alongside the sweet potato, peppers and apples
  9. Sprinkle the chives on top and pour the juice from the tray over the plate

Meat Free Monday’s: Veggie Chilli

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I love chilli and it’s one of the easiest meals to whip up and pop in the oven for a good hour or two whilst settling in to a good book or TV programme during the cold winter nights.

Once or twice a week I have a meat free meal, usually of fish, to ensure I get a good boost of vitamins in my diet to keep me fit and healthy. I’d never tried a veggie chilli before, as to be honest, chilli without meat seemed ludicrous to me, but boy how wrong was I.

The best thing about this recipe is that I managed to get two large lunches out of it and it tasted even better after having a couple of days in the fridge where all of the flavours really had chance to mature. Mine had a real kick to it too which was great for warming me up after a cold drive home from work.

Served alongside quinoa, this was a really satisfying meal that left me full for ages after. It would make a great dip for nachos or on a baked spud for a simple and quick snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 red or green pepper
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 1 courgette chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn
  • Sweet potato cubed
  • 150g quinoa
  • Bunch fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until softened. Throw in the chilli powder and cumin seeds and mix well.
  2. Chop the sweet potato and cook in oven for 30-35 minutes until crispy and golden.
  3. Add the peppers and fry for 5 minutes. Next, add the tomato puree, peas, tin of tomatoes and stock. Leave to cook for 25 minutes on a low heat.
  4. In a saucepan, cook the quinoa in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes until soft.
  5. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the courgette and tin of sweetcorn and simmer.
  6. In the last 5 minutes, add the cooked sweet potato to the saucepan and mix well. Drain the quinoa and dish up alongside the chilli.
  7. Chop up a handful of coriander and sprinkle on top.

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

Sainsbury’s Free From Christmas chocolate logs

One of the things I used to love as a kid was the small Cadbury chocolate cakes that were sold in shops at Christmas and Easter. Covered in chocolate with a spongy centre, they were finished off with a mini egg or flake on top for a yummy finish.  I can remember being given them for a treat on a Sunday night when my cousins came round and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Over the past few years however, being on a gluten, wheat and milk free diet has meant that I had to give up these little luxuries and I have often found myself stopping by them in the supermarket wishing I could eat them once more. Luckily for me, Sainsbury’s has come to my rescue this year by launching mini chocolate logs as part of their free from range.

Boxed up in a pack of five, these sugar coated brownie styled cakes are my new favourite free from find. At nearly 200 calories per cake and with 18g of sugar, they are the ultimate naughty indulgence and I can’t have more than one due to the effect high sugar consumption has on me, but I can’t deny the fact that they are truly delicious.

They are a  must have for any free from chocolate lover and I honestly can’t believe they are gluten, wheat and dairy free as I find them tastier even than what I can remember of the Cadbury’s version I ate as a child. After tasting them, I believe that Sainsbury’s has really upped their game with their free from range and I can’t rate them enough.

If you’re missing out on the traditional Christmas yule log this year, I think a box of these little lovelies will satisfy your seasonal cravings and I truly hope that they will be making an annual appearance at Christmas time on the shelves of the Sainsbury’s free from aisle.