Mrs Crimbles Gluten Free Pasta & Sauce: Review

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I was well in to my second glass of wine last Friday before I realised I hadn’t put up my post for the day. That is the kind of tizz I was in after the news about Brexit broke that morning. My  friends from the North of Ireland and England were devastated and the day was spent in a daze, hoping this was all some vast joke and by the end of the day everything would be back to normal.

The intended post was a product review for Mrs Crimbles Gluten Free Pasta & Sauce. I do like Mrs Crimbles products, I am partially to an almond slice and their cheese crackers are my favourites so I was more than willing to give these pre -packaged dinners a shot. Strangely I have only ever seen them in the Centra around the corner from my house so I am not sure what their distribution is like nationwide.

The packs are 90 grams in weight and come in three flavours, fusilli with a tomato and mediteranean  herb sauce, fusilli with a white wine and cream sauce and fusilli with a gourmet mushroom and cream sauce. I opted for the mushroom sauce as I tend to find pre packaged food a bit bland but mushrrom flavour does tend to fair better than most when it is freeze dried.

The instructions are simple, on the hob you bring 150ml of water to the boil, add the contents of the pack and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occassionally for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through. You can also cook this in the microwave. When I opened the pack there was a pleasant if slightly confusing scent of chocolate mixed with the mushroom but I just shrugged and emptied the pasta and sauce in to the pot.

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This was a quick dinner for one, the label says it could be lunch for two but I would have to dispute this as the if I offered up half of this portion to anyone I know I would expect a sharpley raised eyebrow in response.

The finished dish definitely benefitted from the addition of salt and pepper and a generous grating of parmesan but it was grand. Although I can cook and I like good food I refuse to be a food snob about products like these, this is emergency food for celiacs and in that this product is definitely filling a gap. If you have a teenager at home who needs a something they can cook for themselves when they get in from school or you have a first year college student with celiac you are sending out in to world and you are worried about them cooking gluten free for themselves this is ideal. I would definitely keep one or two packs of these in the cupboards for days when I am too busy or tired to cook. For festival season, if you are camping and bring a wee gas stove this is a cheap and easy gluten free meal to have on stand by, all you need is a pot, some water and a spoon, job done.

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This is convenience food for celiacs and I hope that similar products start coming on to the market soon, anything that will make our lives easier is fine by me.

 

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Gluten Free Naan Bread

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Indian food is great for celiacs as so many dishes are made without gluten containing ingredients so a trip to an Indian restaurant is usually the one time I can indulge in one of my favourite things, eating from other people plates. I grew up in a family of food sharers, if we go out as a group we will try to order different things, passing forkfuls of food across the table with regularity so we can each get a taste of everything on offer. Being diagnosed celiac has meant that I can rarely indulge in that kind of behaviour so when I do head out with my Mum and sisters it is usually to the local Indian Restaurant, Spice, where we will order a variety of dishes to share.

 

The one thing I really miss from that experience is tearing off a piece of Naan bread to sop up whatever fragrant sauce is on my plate. I know Tesco do gluten free Naans but they are dry and hard rather than soft, yielding and burnt in all the right places the way good Naan bread should be.

 

I was home recently and my sister made homemade Naan breads and it seemed so easy that I was inspired to give a gluten free version a try. I found a Jamie Oliver recipe and added some psyllium husks to give the dough a bit of stretch and basted each bread with garlicky melted butter and fresh coriander. These worked well and are definitely worth trying yourself but I am not done experimenting, next time I am going to use the Dove’s Farm Bread Flour instead of Plain Flour to see if I can get an extra bit of lift when the dough is rising.

 

Ingredients; Adapted from Jamie Oliver

½ x 7 g sachet of dried yeast

125 ml warm water

1 teaspoon of honey

I tablespoon of melted unsalted butter

250 grams of Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour

2 teaspoons of psyllium husks

¼ teaspoon of salt

3 heaped tablespoons of natural yogurt, I used Greek yogurt

 

I tablespoon of butter

2 cloves of garlic

Fresh coriander roughly chopped

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Mix the yeast with the honey and the warm water in a small bowl and set aside while the yeast activates

 

In another larger bowl stir together the flour, salt and the psyllium husks and then make a well in the centre.

 

Pour in the melted butter, yogurt and activate yeast and mix everything together with a fork until you have a rough dough.

 

The dough should be soft and sticky so add a bit of water if your dough feels dry.

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Knead the dough of a lightly floured surface for about five minutes and then shape in to a smooth ball, place the dough ball in a clean bowl and cover with clean tea towel.

 

Put the covered bowl somewhere warm and leave for on and a half to two hours so the dough can rise.

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Once the dough is risen give it one more quick knead and then divide it in to six or eight equal sized portions and form these in to balls, it depends on how big you want the breads.

Roll out each ball on a lightly floured surface until they are about one cm thick.

Heat a heavy bottomed pan, cast iron if you have it and non- stick if you don’t, over a high heat.

Grate the garlic cloves in to the melted butter and set aside.

Flick a small bit of water on to the pan with your fingers and while it is sizzling place the naan bread in the pan. Cook for two to three minutes until the bread is bubbling and browning and then turn it over, while the underside is cooking brush the topside with the melted garlic butter.

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Once the underside is cooked remove the bread, sprinkle on some chopped coriander and wrap it loosely in tin fil to keep warm while you cook the remaining breads.

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Serve warm with the Indian dishes of your choice. These naan were pleasantly soft , moist from the garlic butter but still nicely chewy at the edges. They were perfect for tearing and wrapping around pieces of my tandoori chicken and I will definitely be making them again, and again tweaking the recipe until I get the perfect gluten free Naan.

 

 

 

Lemon Risotto with Smoked Fish and Petite Pois

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I always thought that risotto was up there with a soufflé in terms of the technical skill required for a good result. I was convinced I would get the texture wrong and I would end up with a dry and hard risotto. One day however my mind made the simple connection between the texture of a good creamy rice pudding and the correct texture for risotto, I am very fond of rice pudding, particularly served with a crimson swirl of strawberry jam so I have made it a point to learn how to make rice pudding whether baked, cooked on the stove top or microwaved. Once I had rice pudding as a reference point I was much more confident in approaching risotto.

Risotto is one of the perfect comfort foods, it can be cooked in a near meditative state, standing by the heat of the stove, wine glass in hand, listening to music, stirring intermittently, while you are lulled in to a relaxed state because risotto cannot be rushed. It is creamy, savoury and can be as basic or as complex as you like depending on your mood. This risotto was pulled together from the ingredients I could find in Aldi late one Sunday evening and the result was much more luxurious than the cost of the ingredients would suggest. This kind of dish is great for a Sunday evening supper, particularly if you have indulged in brunch and have no mind for a proper dinner.  The ingredients here made for two hearty two portions with enough left for seconds.

Ingredients

50 grams of butter

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ cup of white wine

2 fat shallots, peeled and finely chopped

3 cups of gluten free vegetable or fish stock, keep this heating in a pot over a low heat

½ cup of petite pois

250 grams of smoked fish, I used coley but haddock or cod would be good

1 cup of milk

1 bay leaf

4 – 5 pepper corns

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Lemon wedges and grated parmesan to serve

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Put the smoked fish in a pot and cover with the milk, add the bay leaf and pepper corn and bring to the boil, as soon as the milk starts to bubble reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes, turn off the heat and allow the fish to sit in the milk and infuse with the flavours of the bay leaf and pepper corns

Melt the butter in a wide bottomed pan over a medium heat and add the chopped shallots, saute  gently until the shallots have softened but not browned, this should take about 5 to 7 minutes

Add the rice to the pan and stir for one minute, coating the rice with the butter

Pour in the wine and stir until it evaporates

Add 1 ½ cups of the stock and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently

Add the remaining stock ½ cup at a time, stirring until each pour is absorbed before adding the next

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Once you have used all the stock remove the fish from the milk strain the milk and start adding to the rice, ½ cup at a time.

Continue until the rice is almost completely cooked through with a creamy consistency, this should take about 35 to 40 minutes.

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Flake the cooked fish, removing any bones and the skin and then add to the rice with the petite pois, lemon zest and juice, stir gently to combine without breaking up the flaked fish, let this sit for a few minutes until the peas and the fish are warmed through. The rice should be tender and at this point you are ready to serve. Check for seasoning but depending on your fish and stock you may not need extra salt.

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Spoon into bowls and top with large shavings or parmesan cheese and some fresh ground black pepper,  serve with a wedge of lemon and the remainder of the white wine.

 

Grain Free, Gluten Free, Crumbed Fried Chicken

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This is barely a recipe but it is something I love to eat when I am craving something with the texture of a good old fashioned chicken burger or chicken wrap. Nowadays I forgo the bun or tortilla wrap in favour of  a butterhead letture leaf having seen this nifty idea used for Korean Wraps. The lettuce allows you to pile lots of falvours into one tasty package but without overwhelming the taste or texture which I find can sometimes happen with gluten free bread products.

These grain free chicken strips would also be a great finger food at a party and served with mashed potato or homemade fries would also please the palate of even the fussiest celiac child or adult.

I first starting using ground almonds (almond meal)  to coat chicken when I found I always seemed to have a few tablespoons left over in the end of a bag and didn’t want it to go to waste but it has since become my preferred option. You can flavour this with any herbs or spices you like, a little GF cajun spice or some Old Bay Seasoning would be perfect.

You can forgo the coconut flour altogether or use corn flour instead if you aren’t keeping grain free but I find that dredging the chicken in a little flour gives the eggwash something to cling to.

The amount here was enough to cover 2 large free range chicken breast cut in to strips but you can adjust by adding a little bit more of each ingredient if you feel like you are about to run out. You could also bake these in the oven if you are more health conscious than I am but I absolutely love the flavour of the pan fried version.

 

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts

 

4 tablspoons ground almonds (almond meal)

1 heaped tablespoon of grated parmesan

1 teaspoon of salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 heaped teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

 

2 tablespoons of coconut flour

2 eggs beaten

olive oil for frying

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  • Put the almond meal, cheese, thyme, salt & pepper in a flat bottomed pan or plate and stir with a fork to combine
  • Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of cling film or parchement paper and beat with a rolling pin until the flatten out, you don’t want the chicken too thick or the crumb will burn before the chicken is cooked through.
  • Slice the chicken in to trips, about one inch wide
  • Place the eggs in a bowl and the two tablesppons of coconut flour on a plate
  • Dip each chicken strip  first in the coconut flour, flipping over to cover both sides, then submerge in the egg wash and then place the chicken in to the almond crumb and again flip it over to make sure it is fully coated. Put the coated strips on a plate while you heat your oil

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  • Heat your pan over a medium high heat and coat the base with oilve oil, when the oil starts to shimmer gently add the chicken strips, a few at a time as you don’t want to crowd the pan.
  • Allow to cook for four minutes on each side before turning them over and cooking for another four minutes. If you feel like they are browning too fast reduce the eat under the pan.
  • Check for to see if they are cooked through be slicing in to the thickest part of the one strip, if they are fairly uniform in size they should all cook in the same time.
  • Place the cooked strips on a plate in a warmed oven while you fry the next lot, adding more oil to the pan with each batch and continue until they are all cooked.

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Serve with  salad and cheese in a wrap or a bun, with fries or mashed potatoes or simply on their own with a green slad or even more simply with some dipping sauce to be nibbled on while enjoying a chilled Gluten Free Beer.

 

Gluten FreeRoasted Tomato & Goats Cheese Tart

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Sometimes I get to write for other sites and this article appeared last year on Savour.ie, given the sudden emergence of the sun I thought this would be a good recipe to share.

As soon as there is a bit of heat in the sun and the days start to stretch in to long relaxed evenings my mind turns to summer flavours. Tomato’s, basil, olives, crisp green salads, fresh goats cheese and mozzarella all served on platters with bread or crackers and chilled rose.

 

The combination of tomato’s, tapenade and goat’s chefs smeared on a crust of bread, eaten while sitting in the sun is one of life’s easily achieved pleasures but I wanted to pull those flavours together in to something more structured, something good for a picnic lunch or a light supper. My first thought was a sandwich but as gluten free bread can be hit or miss I decided on a tart with a lovely crumbly butter crust, a layer of tapenade covered in with a creamy goats cheese mousse all topped with roasted cherry tomato’s.

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If you are nervous about making gluten free pastry it is good to know that the flours that are available now make it much less of a panic inducing chore than it used to be. This all butter pastry made with a whole egg comes together easily and bakes beautifully. You could make your own tapenade but to make life easy I picked up a fresh tub in the market while getting the tomato’s and parsley,  as long as you use one that is good quality the tart will be fine. If you are not a fan of olives you can substitute pesto.

 

9 inch gluten free pastry shell

Ingredients

6 ounces of Doves Farm gluten free plain flour

3 ounces of cold salted butter

1 large egg

Butter a 9 inch loose bottomed tart tin

 

  • put the flour in a clean chilled bowl
  • grate or slice in the cold butter and using your finger tips rub the butter in to the flour until you get the consistency of fine bread crumbs
  • beat the egg with a fork in a small bowl and add to the flour, mixing with a knife, use enough of the egg to bring the dough together
  • wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge to chill for at least an hour
  • preheat the oven to 180, Gas 4, 350f
  • remove the dough from the fridge and taking it from the cling film press it in to the buttered tin using your fingers
  • trim around the edges but leave enough of the pastry above the edge of the tin to allow for the fact that the pastry will shrink while baking
  • line the pastry shell with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans
  • bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes and then remove the shell from the oven. Lift the foil and beans out of the par baked she’ll and brush the pastry with egg wash.
  • return the pastry shell to the oven, on the middle shelf for a further 15 minutes until nicely browned
  • leave the baked pastry shell to cool in the tin

 

Roasted tomatos

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  • slice the cherry tomato’s and toss them in a spoon of olive oil
  • place the tomatoes, cut side up on an oiled tray and sprinkle with sea salt.
  • place the tomato’s on the top shelf of the pre heated oven for 15 minutes. To be super efficient you can roast the tomato’s on the top shelf while the pastry is baking for its final fifteen minutes on the middle shelf.
  • after fifteen minutes remove the tomato’s from the oven and leave to cool on the tray

 

While the pastry shell and tomatoes are cooling make the goats cheese mousse

 

Goats Cheese Mousse

Ingredients

8 ounces of goats cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup of crewm

1 ounce of grated parmesan

a good handful of parsley finely grated

salt and pepper to taste

 

  • place the goats cheese in a bowl with the parsley and parmesan.
  • pour in half of the cream and using a mixer beat together, adding more cream to make a smooth mousse. You don’t want the mousse to be too soft or it won’t hold its shape when you slice the tart
  • add slat and peeper to taste and place in the fridge to chill

 

To construct the tart

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  • Take the cooled tart shell and smear the base with tapenade
  • Remve the mousses from the fridge and beat with a wooden spoon to soften, spoon the mousse in to the tart and spread gently over the tapenade with a flat knife
  • carefully place the cooled roasted tomato’s in a circle on top of the mousse

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When you are ready to serve remove the tart form the loose bottomed tin and transfer to your serving plate. Serve at room temperature with a crisp green salad simply dressed and a chilled glass of wine.

 

 

Cleriac, Kohlrabi and Green Apple Remoulade

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Apologies for the lack of a post last week, I took an impromptu holiday for St Patrick’s Day!

There is an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables available in Ireland right now and occasionally I get a bit annoyed at myself for not taking more advantage of this new bounty. It is easy to fall in to a trap of knowing what you like and the best ways to prepare that but I want to try new tastes and find new favourites.

I was in a market recently and found myself staring at Kohlrabi and wondering what could be done with this pale green slightly alien looking vegetable with its trailing green leafed stems. Having done a bit of internet research and finding that the flavour was good in coleslaw I decided to try mixing it with some celeriac in a remoulade, at least that way I figured if the flavour wasn’t great it would be mostly disguised by the mustardy mayonnaise dressing. For extra flavour and texture I added a crisp granny smith apple.

Kohlrabi smells like broccoli and has a somewhat similar flavour but the texture is more akin to the watery crispness of watermelon and is nicely refreshing and I can see why it is added raw to summer salads. You can cook the leaves as you would spinach but mine were a bit wilted so to the compost they went, there is a tough outer skin which is easily peeled away.

This trio of celeriac, apple and kohlrabi worked really well together and the resulting remoulade was a great side to serve with a good thick pan fried pork chop and I think it would be excellent with sausages, black pudding or pulled pork.

Ingredients

½ a celeriac

½ bulb of kohlrabi

1 sharp crisp green apple

1 cup of good mayonnaise , make your own if so inclined

3 – 4 heaped teaspoons of wholegrain Dijon mustard

Juice of one lemon

Salt & Pepper

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Peel the kohlrabi and slice thinly, stack the slices and cut in to thin strips, repeat the process with the celeriac and the apple but leave the skin on the apple for a bit of colour.

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In a bowl mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and the lemon juice. I like a good punch of heat from my mustard and a sharp dressing so I add a lot of mustard and lemon so here is where you need to start testing the dressing as you are mixing. Start small and then keep adding and tasting until the dressing tastes right to you.

Once you have the ratio of mayo to mustard to lemon correct then add salt and pepper to taste.

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Place the thinly sliced vegetables and apple in a bowl and pour over the dressing, mixing until everything is well coated.

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This is less a true remoulade than a slaw with a remoulade style dressing but it is crisp, bright, creamy and full of flavour,  serve with your meat of choice as a side or tucked in to a hearty sandwich.

 

Gluten Free Eggplant (Aubergine) Parmigiana

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I left work late last night , it was dark and miserable and by the time I made it to the supermarket the the vegetable shelves were depressingly empty, there were a few sad, wrinkled aubergine and a couple of peppers and something about them sitting there, unwanted at the end of the day inspired me to make something glorious and tasty out of them. Eggplant, or aubergine as we would say in Ireland, parmigiana is not a dish for anyone with an aversion to cheese, it is however hearty and delicious and has a promise of Summer in the bright red of the peppers and the tomato sauce. When cooked the top should be golden with bubbly melted parmesan and each layer you spoon out should pull strands of gooey melted mozzarella with it.

 
I always expect that the dish will take longer to prepare than it does and this always puts it out of my list for mid- week dinners however it actually takes only about an hour in total, 30 minutes to prep and 25 minutes to bake, so once you have the prep done and the dish in the oven you have just enough time to shower, wash of your make up or just climb in some comfy pyjamas while dinner bakes, or if you have a lot more energy than I do of an evening you can set the table, open the wine and light some candles as this meal is great for either a cosy dinner on the couch or a romantic meal for two.

 
This is also great for a casual dinner party, put the dish straight on to the table in the along with a green salad and lots of crusty bread or good Gluten free bread if you are celiac and let everyone helpthemselves.

 
Ingredients: serves four

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3 medium aubergine
Olive oil
1 large onion
5 large cloves garlic
2 large red peppers
A good handful of basil, finely chopped
500 gram carton of tomato passata
3 150 gram packs of mozzarella, if you are feeling spendy use a good brand but I was being frugal and the €0.59 Tesco mozzarella was absolutely fine.
Parmesan cheese, to grate over the parmigiana

Preheat the oven to Gas 7/ 220/425f

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Remove the stalk from the aubergine and slice in to 1 cm slices, lay the slices on a baking sheet lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt, leave for a few minutes while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
Peel and finely slice the onion and then finely slice the red peppers, peel the garlic.

 
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onions and peppers, cook slowly as you want them to soften but not brown. Grate in the garlic and allow to cook over a low heat.
Take another sheet of kitchen paper and press over the aubergine to absorb the liquid that has been drawn out by the salt.

 
Cover the base of a wide bottomed pan with about 1 cm of olive oil, heat over a medium high heat. Add the aubergine slices, a few at a time as you don’t want to over crowd the pan, cook for a few moments untilt he base is golden and then turn the slices over. Once each slice is cooke place it on another tray lined with kitchen paper, to absorb the excess oil.

 
Continue this process, adding more oil to the pan as necessary until all the aubergine slices are cooked.

 
Heat the passata in a pot over a low heat, add the chopped basil and stir gently. Add salt and pepper to taste

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Cut the mozzarella balls into thin slices

 
Take an oven proof baking dish and spoon a layer of the tomato sauce on the base of the dish, add a layer of fried aubergine and then spoon over half of the onion and pepper mix, next layer will be the finely sliced mozzarella and then another layer of tomato sauce, repeat this process of aubergine, onion & pepper mix, mozzarella and sauce until you have one final layer of aubergine, cover this with the remaining sauce and then grate over a thick layer of parmesan cheese.

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Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

VO113eggplantp7aAllow to settle for a few minutes and then dig in!