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!

 

Gluten Free Greek at El Greco

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If you’ve read any of my other blog posts then you will most likely come to realise that I love Greece and Greek food. I have spent many happy holidays over my lifetime visiting the beautiful islands and sampling all of the local dishes, including rabbit stews and goat which are popular specialities on the island of Rhodes. However, I have never visited a Greek restaurant in England before, mainly due to the fact that I never really feel like the quality of food is going to live up to that in places like Rhodes.

I recently took a trip to a little Greek restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon named El Greco after receiving some glowing reviews from people I know. My cousin even told me that they served the best Calamari that she had ever tasted outside of Greece and so it was only apt that I went and taste tested the food for myself.

Within the first few minutes I was already quizzing the waitress on what was gluten. wheat and milk free. I was a little hesitant as she didn’t seem to be completely sure and I had that worrying feeling that this was going to be a night of playing Russian Roulette with my food, but thankfully she went off and came back with a gluten free menu to set my mind at rest. There is a big choice of starters, appetisers, mains and desserts on the menu, but I chose the Mezze so that I’d be able to try a selection of dishes all at once.

I opted for the Dolmades, which is the stuffed vine leaves, Chicken Souvlaki, the slow cooked beef stew Stifado, as well as the Greek sausage Loukanika, which I was surprised to learn was gluten free as I often steer clear of it when in Greece just in case it contains rusk. I couldn’t have the Calamari due to the breadcrumbs, but I was pleased that there were so many other dishes on offer to tickle my fancy.

I had greedily thought that if these dishes didn’t fill me up then I would order more later, but the chefs don’t skimp on size and I was full to the brim after dipping in and out of all the dishes. If you know Greek food well then you will know that it is simple, no fuss food that does the job and El Greco was no exception.

The sausage for me was a little spicy tasting –  I have always found that foreign meat doesn’t quite live up to its British equivalents anyway so this wasn’t exactly a surprise, but that said it was nice to be able to have it on my plate. The Dolmades and Chicken Souvlaki were lovely, but the one dish that really stood out for me was the Beef Stifado as I believe that slow cooking meat and its juices really makes a dish taste a whole lot better than one that hasn’t had time to stew for long.

Overall, the food was typically Greek. If you’re looking for fancy food then you won’t get it here, but it is wholesome, hearty food that fills you up and is reasonably priced considering how many dishes you get to sample. If you’re ever looking to relive your memories of a Greek holiday by means of food or simply want to try something different for an evening out, El Greco is the place to go.

Yammas!

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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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My top gluten free friendly restaurants in Rhodes

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This summer I was lucky enough to head back to what I otherwise class as my second home, the island of Rhodes. If I have counted correctly, it was my sixth time back to this beautiful island situated in the Aegean Sea and I couldn’t have been happier to be back.

As you may well know from reading my other posts, Greece is my absolute favourite place on Earth. I have spent many happy holidays here throughout my childhood and it seems to me to be the one place that never changes. Even if the year is 2070 and technology has moved on heaps and bounds, I’m sure that if you visit a tiny Greek village in the mountains called Siana, the men will still be sat around a table drinking Ouzo or Souma and playing backgammon. Not to mention the crystal blue waters and beautiful coast lines have, in my experience, been enough to make even the most far flung of travellers fall in love with Rhodes and the lifestyle.

Thankfully for me, the freshly prepared meat, fish and vegetable dishes that are typical of Greek cuisine has meant that I have never had much of a problem when eating out in any area of Greece. However, I do have a few favourite restaurants that I have gone back to time again when staying in Rhodes and also a few newly discovered ones that I would like to recommend as they are real winners for anyone who adores food as much as me.

Hellas Restaurant, Pefkos

Hellas restaurant is located at the bottom of the Pefkos strip and offers traditional Greek dishes with a traditional, more courdon bleu spin. Sadly for me, I only got around to dining at Hellas on the last night of my holiday, but boy was I glad that I hadn’t missed out on this little gem of a restaurant.

The thing that stood out for me on the menu was the fact that they offered gluten free. In all my years of visiting the Greek islands I have never actually come across a restaurant that advertised this. As it happens, the menu only specified that they could do gluten free pasta, but after a conversation with the very helpful waiter, a few minutes later the chef came out and asked me what I would really like off the menu, to which I said ‘calamari.’ As you can imagine, although I absolutely love calamari the fact that it is cooked in breadcrumbs or wheat flour means that it is always off-limits for me, so you can imagine my joy when a big plate of gluten free battered squid arrived at my table.

The lamb dish was just as delicious and although I was absolutely stuffed to the brim, I was so impressed by the quality of the food that I finished every single mouthful. To sum it all up, if you’re ever in Pefkos you have to check this place out, if only for the gluten free calamari that can be cooked on special request.

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Artemis Garden, Pefkos

Artemis is set in a beautiful garden restaurant in the middle of Pefkos village and it’s a lovely little place to settle in for the night with its colourful tree lanterns that glisten as the night sets in. The menu here was extensive, so much so, that I really couldn’t decide on what to order. In the end I opted for Gigantes Plaki (giant butterbeans in a tomato sauce) and a fillet of seabass.

The Gigantes Plaki was wholesome and tasted much like the traditional dish that I have had at many a tavern, although the seabass was the complete opposite and came out looking like it had gone through a laboratory before being served, as it was accompanied by a lemon foam with two very colourful sauces on the side. If you’re looking to take yourself away from traditional Greek cooking for a night and to try something a little more modern and experimental then I would definitely recommend Artemis.

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Village House, Lindos

When in Lindos it can be difficult to find a nice restaurant that is affordable but still has great views over the acropolis. In the past I had frequented the same rooftop restaurant with my family, but over the years it had gone downhill while still being overpriced for what you get, so I was really pleased when I discovered the Village House whilst mooching around the cobbled streets.

A great sign when sitting at the table was that everyone that was coming through the door knew the waiters. For me I know that a restaurant must serve great food when people come back so many times that they know the staff well. The menu is very traditional and they change their specials menu each day – I opted for the octopus which was really tender and the daily special of pork with courgettes and carrots with roasted potatoes and cooked in a delicious apple sauce. Washed down with a nice glass of red, I had a fantastic night gazing out at the white washed Lindian houses under the stars.

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Valentina’s, Lardos

This must have been my third or fourth time back to Valentina’s in the village of Lardos. We were told years ago to go to this restaurant as it is a favourite with the locals and even the taxi driver that ferried me around for some of my holiday told me that he often ate there with his family. You know you’re on to a good place when the locals quote it as being a personal favourite. The great thing about Lardos is that every couple of weeks during the summer they host festivals whereby Greek dancers and musicians celebrate late into the night. It’s definitely worth a visit if only to immerse yourself in a bit of Greek culture.

Valentina’s again prides itself on serving up local cuisine that looks and tastes like it has just been pulled straight from the oven without much fuss. I opted for mussels with crispy bacon for starters followed by a delicious pork dish served with potatoes, veg and a lovely, delicate gravy which soaked up the meat well. I really like Valentina’s because they don’t go overboard with the presentation like some restaurants do, they just serve great, home cooked food that will satisfy your tastebuds.

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Flyer’s Café, Pefkos

Why have I gone back to Pefkos I hear you ask? Simply because I saved the best until last. Flyer’s Café is owned by my good friend Nikos who we actually met on our first visit to the island back in the early noughties. His hospitality and generosity means that most people who visit his café leave as friends and if you mention his name in and around Pefkos and Lindos, most people know him due to the fact that he flies a bright orange plane and his mother lives in the oldest house in Lindos, which happens to be a major tourist attraction. Over the years Nikos has taken us out for meals to sample local dishes and even hosted my cousin’s wedding reception in 2013 – Nikos’ mom made the best slow cooked lamb dish that I have ever tasted in my life!

Flyer’s has a wonderful selection of traditional Greek dishes such as stuffed vine leaves, moussaka, and souvlaki, as well as more traditional village specialities such as locally caught octopus and a Lindos salad which incorporates walnuts and figs with honey on a bed of salad. If you check out both the website and the menu then you will see a beautiful photo that my Dad took of Nikos’ plane taking off at sunset. I have been up in the plane a couple of times which was an amazing experience and he does offer rides up over Lindos and Pefkos if the weather is okay. Sitting at Flyer’s with a cold beverage in hand and a little Mezze overlooking the glittering ocean, I can most certainly say that you will feel like you’ve actually entered paradise.

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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