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.

Gluten free at the Colesbourne Inn, Cheltenham

I recently headed to the Cotswolds for a weekend away before the busy Christmas period and stayed in a little hotel in Cheltenham, not far from quaint, pretty villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Morton in Marsh where we stopped off to do a spot of shopping and have a wine or two in cosy pubs.

When searching for a hotel, I came upon a lovely place called the Colesbourne Inn not far from where I was staying that had a great coeliac friendly menu. After spending the day in the lovely Roman village of Cirencester, we headed out on the night with a big appetite and a longing for good wine.

My first impression of the pub was that it was the perfect place to stop after what had been a cold day walking around in the rain. A roaring log fire next to a huge sofa and bookshelf greeted us as we walked through the door and we couldn’t have hoped for a better place to settle down for the night. I was presented with a two-sided gluten free menu which not only had a wide choice of main courses, but also had an excellent selection of meat and cheese boards, sandwiches and baguettes, as well as yummy puddings for those diners who can have dairy. The great thing about the coeliac menu was that there were barely any changes when compared to what was listed on the regular menu, which I was told by the waiter was because the dishes are all homemade and the ingredients sourced by the chefs.

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Due to my massive love for calamari, which is often coated in bread batter, I opted for the grilled octopus with lime, apple and fennel for starter. The dish was supposed to be served alongside crème fraiche, but due to my dairy intolerance I had it without the sauce. The octopus was really fresh and tender, and also really meaty so could have been a meal in itself.

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For mains, I chose the shoulder of lamb with beetroot, keel and mash with a port jus from the specials menu. I can’t big the meal up enough apart from saying that it was possibly the best gluten free meal I have ever had in a restaurant. My knife was gliding through the lamb and the port jus was absolutely divine, so much so that I need to learn the recipe so I can re-create it at home with roast dinners. I have never had lamb without mint sauce, but the port jus really complemented the meat and I may have driven my thumb along my plate at the end to mop it all up – shhhh!

To finish, there was a delicious selection of gluten free puds such as chocolate brownie and vanilla panna cotta but unfortunately due to my dairy intolerance I could only have the blackcurrant sorbet, which was deliciously refreshing after such as big meal. A bottle of wine later and I was absolutely reeling from the amazing meal I had just eaten. I really wish that I lived closer to Cheltenham so that I could go to the Colesbourne Inn all the time for dinner. The pub was really cosy, it was reasonably priced and most of all, both gluten free and regular diners came out full of praise for the food. I give the Colesbourne Inn one massive 10/10 for effort.

 

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

Creamy harissa Tunisian chicken bake

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I only discovered harissa paste a few years ago, but boy am I glad I did, as it is must be one of the best things to keep in your store cupboard for when you need to throw in a bit of flavour to a bland piece of meat or fish.
Harissa paste is actually very simple to make yourself at home, but for convenience and ease, keeping a jar in for a week night when you need a quick fix is great. I love to add a few dollops of harissa to homemade meatballs to introduce a bit of a kick, but it also really helps to moisten the beef mince and create a nice juice that isn’t too greasy.
The great thing about this tray bake is that you can incorporate any ingredients you see fit. If there’s vegetables stuck in your fridge waiting to go out of date, throw them into the mix and with a pinch of pepper and herbs, a good few minutes in the oven will make them taste yumcious. Although I’ve used rice in this recipe, the dish tastes equally great with quinoa or gluten free cous cous.
Ingredients
• 3 tbsp harissa paste
• Quarter pot of dairy free yoghurt, such as Alpro soya
• 2 pieces chicken slashed
• Half sweet potato
• 1 red onion
• Basmati rice
• Coriander
• Salt & pepper

1) Mix 2tbsp of the harissa with the soya yoghurt. Slash the chicken breasts and marinate with the harissa.
2) Chop the sweet potato into wedges and slice the red onions into curves. Throw in another tbsp of harissa and mix well with olive oil.
3) Season well with salt and pepper and place on the tray.
4) Roast in the oven for 35 minutes until golden and soft.
5) Cook the basmati rice and sprinkle with coriander.