Sexy Sandwiches

I don’t know about you, but I find the typical dry ham sandwich with soggy lettuce boring each day at work. In fact, if I had my way each workplace would be kitted out with a mini oven so that each day during my lunch break, I could go into the kitchen and cook up a feast – it would certainly make getting through a long afternoon that much easier. So, when the weekend finally creeps up on me I like to go to town with my sandwiches, and I’m talking about getting out the frying pan, throwing in some peppers and onions and giving it a good old mix up before dolloping on some old fashioned mayo and basil pesto to really get your taste buds tingling. I know that as a nation of sandwich lovers we can often get stuck in our ways when it comes to fillings, but allow me to let you in on my secret ingredients for a killer sandwich and you’ll never want to go back to your old, quick-fix ways again.

Beginning with sandwich filling number one!

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The main ingredient here is basil pesto and a nice crusty cob. Too much of it can ruin any dish, but a fine overlay of it on your meat can really get it fired up. Follow the steps below for a truly delicious combination of herbs, salad and sauces.

Ingredients

  • Meat of your choice (I used ham)
  • Dairy free cheese (I used VioLife Pizza Mozzarella)
  • Yellow pepper
  • 2 cherry tomatoes halved
  • Half red onion
  • Basil pesto (Sacla)
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Gluten free bread (I used Newburn Bakehouse Artisan loaf)
  • Lettuce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil

 

  1. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and thrown in half a red onion and pepper, turning until the pepper is soft and the onion is getting crispy
  2. Spread a generous tea spoon of basil pesto onto the base of your bread
  3. Add the ham and spoon on another generous helping of pesto, before layering on a teaspoon of mayonnaise
  4. Cover the base with cheese and a sprinkling of chives before putting under the grill and allowing to melt
  5. Once the cheese is done, spoon up the onion and pepper and layer on top
  6. Chop up the cherry tomatoes and place on top of the mix
  7. Finish off with a nice handful of fresh lettuce leaves

Now to wrap, grab and get stuck in with filling number two!

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Here, the quinoa and buckwheat rice really gives the sandwich a crunchy texture. Mixed in with classic, full fat Hellmans mayonnaise and roasted red peppers, you really can’t go wrong with this one. Make sure to fold the pitta in half so that all the ingredients mingle together and don’t worry about getting your hands messy in the process, it adds to the enjoyment.

Ingredients

  • Quinoa and buckwheat rice (I purchased from Waitrose)
  • Meat of your choice (I used gammon)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red pepper
  • Half red onion
  • Lettuce
  • Gluten free pitta breads
  • Olive oil

1. Cook the rice according to packet instructionHeat up some olive oil and throw in the onion and pepper, cooking until soft

2. Warm the pitta bread up in the microwave for 20 seconds

3. Once the rice is cooked, put it in a bowl and add a tablespoon of mayonnaise before mixing well

4. Add your meat topping and then spoon on the onion and pepper

5. Add a handful of lettuce and then fold the pitta in half before tucking in

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

A very British pastime: Fish and Chips at The Wheelhouse in Dartmouth

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Anyone who calls themselves British will know how much we as a nation love the humble fish and chips. It’s painstakingly difficult when you become gluten free to have to give up this luxury. There’s simply no way to describe it, you feel as if you’ve failed at being British and you wonder if you’ll ever enjoy a Friday night treat again.

Well hold your horses, because I’ve discovered a new dig to get your cheeky Friday night takeaway. Yes, it might be in Devon, a good 150 something miles away from where I live, but that’s the added benefit, you’ll just have to venture there on holiday.

When I first walked past The Wheelhouse on a typically rainy English afternoon in Dartmouth, I thought ‘bingo’ there is a purpose to being soaked from head to toe. After drying off and warming up with a good old cuppa, me and my family ventured down to the town to sample for ourselves the fresh fish and potato concoctions, otherwise known as chips.

Alas, I could have my gluten free batter with either haddock or cod. Being sensible, I ordered haddock , after all I didn’t have much to lose as I’ve tasted some sinfully dreadful gluten free fish in my time. Luckily for me, the batter was cooked to perfection and the chips were nice and fresh. We had warned them half an hour earlier of our arrival when we were walking back to our holiday apartment, which was a benefit as the staff had time to mix the gluten free batter and let it stand for a while. I am told that much like pancake mix, letting the batter rest will allow it to set better when frying the fish and I would vouch for that as the batter was golden and crispy.

If you ever do venture down to the beautiful seaside town of Dartmouth in South Devon, I would highly recommend taking a little trip to this chippie. If low and behold you happen to be there on a sunny day, take your fish and chips down to the front and grab a bench where you’ll be able to sit and watch all the comings and goings of the boats on the estuary. Make sure to keep your dinner close by as the seagulls have a habit of sneaking in and flying off with a chip, or in the case of my brother when we were younger, his whole sandwich. A crabbing kit is a necessity too whether you’re young or old – just make sure to use bacon as bait and you’ll have a never ending line of sideways walking friends clinging onto the line to come up and say hello.

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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Gluten free at The Quay: A new place to drink Prosecco

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Very recently me and my Mom took a trip into the beautiful city of Worcester for the day for a spot of lunch and a mooch around the shops. Although I live in the West Midlands, this was my first real visit to the historic hub and a chance for me to sample one of the gluten free restaurants in the area. My cousins had recommended Browns at the Quay as a great place to stop when on a girly day out and in need of a rest from carrying heavy shopping bags, so without hesitation we booked a table and headed down to the cosmopolitan water side restaurant to see what all the fuss was about.

The restaurant is in a fantastic location and would be a lovely place to visit on a sunny summer’s day to enjoy the views of the river over a glass of prosecco, although being a chilly spring day, we sat inside. We were given the daytime menu, which featured sharing platters, a selection of sandwiches, burgers and steaks to choose from, some of which could be made gluten free. Me and my Mom both opted for the same – grilled Moroccan chicken, served with roasted red pepper and tzatziki. Obviously being dairy free, I asked if I could have mine without the dip and on gluten free bread.

I have to admit, I was expecting a sandwich, but what came out was more like a club sandwich in that there were multiple slices of toasted bread together, alongside chips which were cooked to perfection and a nice portion of greenery. The chicken was absolutely delicious and coated in a spice that tasted much like turmeric, which blended in really nicely with the roast pepper and onion. Washed down with a lovely glass of prosecco and a good old chin wag, it was the perfect afternoon out and I’d highly recommend the place. The staff were really friendly, the restaurant was a great place to be wining and dining during both the daytime and the evening, and most of all, the food was top notch.

 

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.