Gluten Free Courgette Fritters and a little rant

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Before I get to my recipe today I want to have a little rant about the practice certain restaurants have of charging a small extra fee for the apparently onerous task of providing celiac diners with gluten free bread, pasta or pizza bases. I get that keeping gluten free products would have been expensive in the past however with the rise of supermarket Free From brands, particularly the likes of Tesco and Aldi these products are easily available and affordable.

I had two experiences recently which brought this practice back to my attention with one lovely lunch highlighting a disappointing brunch. I met a few friends for a mid-week lunch last month and they suggested Bibi’s Café in Dublin 8. The website wasn’t clear if they catered for a gluten free diet but as the important thing was meeting up with my friends I decided to risk it figuring that I could always have a coffee and then grab a sandwich on my way back to work. When we arrived at this lovely little spot I spotted a hopeful looking salad on the menu and also a delicious sounding toasted sandwich, I asked if there was any possibility I could get the toastie on GF bread and the waitress said of course and then clarified that I was in fact celiac and stated that she would ensure that my sandwich was fried / toasted on a clean pan. If you have never had a pan toasted sandwich please try one soon, it is the only way I make toasties and it is the best.

Not only was I able to have the lovely sandwich  there was no suggestion of an extra charge and even better when my sandwich arrived I had been given two sandwiches so that my lunch was equivalent in size to that of my companions who were also having sandwiches. When you are used to getting miniature bread and being charged extra for the pleasure this seemed like a very magnanimous gesture on the part of Bibi’s and I left lunch stuffed and happy.

Last weekend having failed to shop and needing breakfast before facing the day I went to Oscars in Smithfield for brunch, I have eaten here before and knew they would have gluten free bread however on requesting the Eggs Benedict on GF bread I was told there would be an extra charge. I honestly don’t remember ever being charged extra in Oscars before and was a little annoyed but what could I do, I was hungry and so agreed. When the my meal came out and the bread was a pretty basic role, it may have been the GF burger bun from Aldi I went from a little annoyed to just plain mad. This was cheap bread, easy to source, suitable for freezing and all the kitchen needed to do to keep it GF was pop it under a grill on some tinfoil rather than put it in a toaster.  At a time when restaurants pride themselves on serving artisan sourdough or farmhouse loaves, every type of fancy bread you can imagine why am I paying €1 to €1.50 extra for cheap GF bread.

Cop on restaurants.

On to a nice simple recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, as always when I am looking for brunch suggestions I head to Deb Perelman’s website which is an endless source of brunch inspiration. A woman I work with had given me some home grown courgette’s so I wanted to make them the feature of the dish so courgette fritters it was. While the original recipe has then served with a yogurt sauce I thought this would be perfect with bacon, a poached egg and a liberal helping of hollandaise sauce and I was right.

If you need a good hollandaise sauce try Rachel Allen’s, I have found it to be fool proof even on slightly hungover weekend mornings when I was not giving the sauce my full attention.

Courgette Fritters adapted to be gluten free

Ingredients

2 medium courgettes, washed, topped and grated on a box grater or in your food processor if you are lucky enough to have one.

I teaspoon of salt

2 green onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 large egg, beaten

Black pepper

½ cup of Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Palin Four

½ teaspoon of gluten free baking powder

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Olive oil for frying

 

Sprinkle the grated courgette with salt and allow it to stand for ten minutes.

After ten minutes place the courgette in some muslin or an old but clean tea towel and squeeze to remove the excess moisture. When you think you have all the water out keep squeezing, courgettes hold a lot of water.

Place the courgette in a bowl, taste to see if you need to add more salt and then stir in the green onions, egg and black pepper.

Stir together the GF flour and baking powder and then add to the courgette batter and stir until everything is combined.

Pour two tablespoons of oil in a pan or skillet set over a medium heat and turn on your oven to a low temperature, about 150, so you can keep the fritters warm as you cook in batches.

When the oil is hot place tablespoons of the batter in the pan, flatten each fritter out slightly with the back of the spoon. Don’t crowd the pan, I cooked four at a time and that worked well.

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Cook over the medium heat for three to four minutes until the underside is golden and then flip the fritters and fry on the other side for a further two to three minutes. If you feel they are browning too fast then reduce the heat. Place the cooked fritters on a baking sheet and put in the warm oven while you cook the next batch. Once all the batter has been used allow the fritters to sit in the oven for about ten minutes to make sure they are fully cooked through.

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This will give you enough time to poach some eggs, fry some bacon and make the hollandaise if you are planning on having these for brunch but they would also make a great vegetable side served with grilled chicken or lamb chops.

Gluten Free Granola

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It is easy enough to find gluten free granola now, however it is likely that when you find the tiny box and check the price and see that you are expected to pay near €7 for a breakfast cereal that you will feel the need to put the box back and step away.

 
I know that the price of gluten free ingredients is high and that many of the companies producing gluten free goods are small local companies and I would like to support them however I cannot justify paying that much money for the small amount of product these boxes of cereal / muesli / granola tend to contain.

 
Now that Aldi and Tesco are doing very affordable Gluten Free Porridge Oats I thought it was high time I made my own granola. Prior to the easy availability of GF oats I had made my own grain free versions of granola, substituting slivered almonds, large flakes of desiccated coconut and pumpkin seeds for oats and it was delicious but there is something reminiscent of flapjacks in the flavour of toasted oats in granola that makes this feel more like a treat than a breakfast. Paired with some unsweetened yogurt and fresh fruit this makes a great start to the day and would be great to serve for brunch.
Store the granola in an airtight container and it should keep for two weeks.

 
Ingredients

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3 cups of Gluten Free porridge oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded / desiccated coconut
1 cup of pecan nuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of ground almonds
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup of maple maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups of a mix of dried cherries and dried cranberries.

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  • Preheat your oven to Gas 2/ 150 / 300f degrees.
  • Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Combine all the dry ingredients except for the dried fruit in a large bowl
  • In a separate bowl use a fork to lightly whisk the egg white, olive oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup
  • Pour the liquid ingredients in to the dry and stir to thoroughly combine
  • Scrape on to the prepared baking tray and place in the oven
  • Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, every 20 minutes or so use a spatula or spoon to gently turn the granola over on the tray so it toasts evenly, bring any darker pieces in from the edge of the tray so they don’t burn. Be gentle though as you want to keep some nice clusters of granola there rather than having crumbs.

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  • Once the granola is toasted and even deep golden colour remove from the oven and allow to cool fully.
  • Once cooled stir in the dried fruit and pour in to an airtight storage jar.

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Enjoy!

Gluten Free Brunch: Shakshuka

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A casual brunch on a Sunday morning is one of my favourite ways to entertain, keep things simple and think of a meal you can serve from one pot with some nice bread, gluten free if necessary and a big jug of fresh orange juice with a bottle of prosecco and you will have a chilled out host and happy guests.
Better still would be to find a recipe that can be prepped or cooked the night before that just needs a few minutes attention when your guests arrive and you will have a very pleasant afternoon.

 
Shakshuka is something I have been meaning to try for a long time, I tend to make variations on this theme of eggs, pan cooked with fresh tomatoes, usually adding potatoes, peppers and chorizo, quite a bit but I felt that eggs served so simply in a simmering tomato sauce could be either a bit too acidic for breakfast or a bit too boring to serve for brunch. I can happily report I was wrong and I will be making this again and again, for brunch and also as a simple supper. I loosely followed the recipe from My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz (I will eventually be able to put this cook book down and try recipes from other books I promise!) but I used shallots instead of onion, nixed the caraway seed and I reduced my sauce until it was almost a thick paste as that is how I prefer my tomato based sauces but you can reduce the cooking time if you want a more liquid sauce.

 
I served the Shakshuka with crusty bread for my guests, a nice gluten free baguette from Marks & Spencer’s for me, extra feta and some chorizo I sliced and fried, I think next time I will add the chorizo to the sauce so all of the lovely chorizo oil is incorporated
Ingredients
To serve 4

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• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1/2 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, if you are using table salt then salt to taste
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
• 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato puree
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 1 teaspoon red wine
• 2 good handfuls of baby spinach (about 100 grams) , well washed and drained
• 1 pack (150 grams) feta cheese, cut in ½ inch cubes
• 4 large free range eggs

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• In a wide pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
• Add in the shallots onions and garlic and cook gently for five to eight minutes until soft and translucent but not browned.
• Stir in the chopped chilli, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika salt and pepper. Cook for a minute.
• Pour in the tinned tomatoes and then stir in the tomato puree, honey, and vinegar.
• Keep the heat at medium and cook for 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.

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• If you are cooking this the night before you could turn off the heat now and cover the pan until the morning before reheating the sauce and following the next two steps. If you would like a thicker sauce allow the pan to sit over a low heat, stirring every now and then until the sauce has reduced to your preferred consistency.
• Add your washed, drained spinach to the pan and allow it to wilt down before stirring it in to the sauce.
• With the pan on a very low heat add the cubed feta to the sauce and use your spoon to gently bury the cheese in the tomato sauce.
• Just before you are ready to serve make four indentations in the sauce and crack in the eggs, use a spatula or a fork to pull the egg whites in to the sauce, being careful not to break the yolks.
• Keep the pan on a low simmer and cook until you are happy the eggs whites are set but the yolks are still deliciously runny, this could take up to ten minutes depending on the size of your eggs. If you have a liquid sauce you could baste the eggs with the tomato sauce. My sauce was too thick for this.

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• Bring your pan to the table and serve the Shakshuka on preheated plates with plenty of bread, GF or otherwise, some crisp bacon if you can’t go without bacon at breakfast or some fried potatoes.

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Simple but very tasty.

Potato Rosti: For a Lazy Weekend Breakfast

 

VO45Rosti5If you are lucky and you don’t have to get up for work, kids, pets or a serious commitment to working out in the morning, weekends are for waking up slowly, sipping the first cup of coffee, hopefully delivered in to your hands before you even properly open your eyes, while contemplating the pleasures of a whole day ahead of you with no work. Breakfast or better yet brunch should be a leisurely affair, the perfect combination of food and relaxation.

As my mid -week breakfast tends to be a smoothie gulped down in between getting dressed and legging it out the door for work I like to take my time over prepping breakfast on the weekend.

Potato Rosti are a great basis on which to build a breakfast and if you don’t add flour they are naturally gluten free. You could have them with sausages, bacon and eggs, topped with a pile of golden fried mushrooms, asparagus and hollandaise sauce or crème fraiche and smoked salmon.

This is pretty much a no recipe recipe and you can use as many potatoes as you have people for breakfast. All you need is potatoes, a grater, some oil and a frying pan. Here I have used one medium and two small potatoes to make two rosti each for two people. Some recipes call for flour and some don’t. I have added a level tablespoon here but if you don’t keep gluten free flour in your cupboard and are making this for a celiac friend who happened to stop over you can leave it out. I also added chives, a bit on onion salt and some parmesan ( I always do my best to find a way to add cheese to any recipe) but all of these are optional and you could replace the chives with any herb of your choice.

 

Ingredients

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Makes enough for two people

1 medium and two small potatoes, peeled

¼ teaspoon of onion salt

1 tablespoon of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour

A small bunch of chives, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

I tablespoon of olive oil

I knob of butter

Heat your oven to Gas 5/ 190c/375

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  1. Grate the potatoes in to a bowel. If you have a muslin square or a clean cotton tea towel use this to squeeze the grated potato to remove the liquid. You can use your hands for this, just take a bit of time and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You will be surprised at how much water there is in a potato!
  2. Put the grated, squeezed potato in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the flour, cheese, chives, onion salt and salt and pepper to the potato and mix thoroughly.
  3. Heat the oil and the butter over a medium high heat in a frying pan
  4. Divide the potato mix in to four equal parts and form each into patties with your hand.
  5. Place in the heated pan and cook for 2 ½ minutes. Turn the rosti and cook for a further 2 ½ minutes before placing in the pre heated oven for 15 minutes until cooked through. If you have a cast iron pan that can go in to your oven that would be perfect for this. If not you can put the browned rosti on a baking sheet in your oven. You could cook the rosti on the hob, turning regularly until cooked through but I like to pop them in the oven to finish cooking so I can work on the accompanying dishes.

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I served these rosti with some crisp bacon, lovely fried mushrooms and a poached egg but as I said rosti are very versatile and are a great alternative to bread if you are looking for a nice carby way to start the day.

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