Category Archives: Coeliac Friendly

Autumnal Lamb and Pumpkin Stew

pumpkin and lamb stew spice mix

I love the colours of autumn, and being able to have thick stews and warming robust meals with a glass of gutsy red wine. This lamb and pumpkin stew is one of my absolute favourite dinners for this time of year, it takes time to cook but it’s really really easy. Serve with some roasted vegetables, cous cous and finely chopped salad (with leaves, cucumber, red onion, parsley). I also took on board Fiona Beckett’s suggestion in her Guardian column of the Argentine Fairtrade Malbec Reserva 2009 wine from the Co-op and it went very well with this dinner (and I’m still enjoying it as I type this blog post…)

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • flesh of one butternut squash, weighing approx 900g before preparation
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp dried chillis
  • 450g diced lamb
  • 300 ml stock
How to make it

To start, cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Put three cloves of garlic, in their skins, into the hollowed out sections and roast for 30 minutes. I also roast my carrots and parsnips at the same time to make use of the oven heat and give them a head start. Leave to cool before scooping out the flesh and squeezing the cloves out of their jackets. I do this in the same pan (see first photo) and then add all the spices, tahini and honey together.

In a separate pan, brown the lamb in batches. Once this is done, simply pour in the pumpkin/squash mixture, add the stock and turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I simmer it on the hob for the delicious smell and the extra warmth it gives to the house.
When the lamb is tender, serve the stew with some roasted vegetables (peppers and courgettes work just as well as carrots and parsnips), finely chopped salad and cous cous.

Autumnal Spicy Lamb and Pumpkin Stew

Thai Fish Soup (Tom Yum Gai)

My hilarious attempts to speak Thai should not be left in Thailand, so I present to you: tom yum gai nam kohn – what I believe could mean fish soup with coconut milk. I can’t find exactly what ‘tom yum’ means, it could describe the sauce or could be the word for soup, but it is a very popular dish in Thailand. Tom yum goong (tom yum with prawns) was one of my favourite meals during out trip and so when I saw tom yum paste in Wing Yip, our local Asian supermarket, I had to get some.

I know mixing a sauce in with some vegetables and protein isn’t much of an achievement, but I was pleasantly surprised by how this came together. Guided by the servings per jar, I used a tablespoon and a half of tom yum sauce (which made the soup -ahem- very very very spicy), fried it with onions and green peppers, then I added reconstituted creamed coconut, juice of half a lemon (lime is the best, but we didn’t have any), some carrot, some cabbage and at the last minute some cubed fish. I used monkfish because we happened to have some in the freezer from the last time I fell foul of the fishmonger, and its firm and meaty texture really stood up to the spices.

I added some rice noodles, which sucked up some of the soup but it was worth it! Next time I will use less tom yum sauce (oh the joys of a new ingredient!) but overall I was very pleased, and it proved to be a less fearsome version of a hot and sour prawn soups I’ve made in the past.

Thai Green Pea Green Curry

After a week of picnics, barbeques and celebratory dinners we were 1) very full and 2) left with only a packet of pea shoots in the fridge. It was 8:30 pm by the time we realised we were hungry, and on a Sunday there’s not a lot you can do to remedy the situation. What with Glastonbury coming up, we predicted being sick with take away very shortly so we really wanted something homemade. I posted about our trip to Thailand in the afternoon and after a quick look in the kitchen I realised I could make up the basic curry (had all the ingredients in – as an easy storecupboard meal) and add pea shoots and frozen peas and frozen soya beans.

I couldn’t be bothered with rice, so we used noodles. This worked remarkably well and we were fed by 9pm. Woop!

Thailand, and a Superfast Authentic Thai Green Curry Recipe

Last summer I had a few days stopping over in Thailand en route to Australia and ultimately the Solomon Islands. It was the first time I’d ever been to Asia, and what struck me most was the contradiction that seemed to be everywhere: relaxed contemplation with constant erratic bustling; dingy and dirty corners with vibrant colour; smells that brought a tear to your eye and smells that made your mouth water.

We had a few days in the north of the country which was somewhat less hectic than Bangkok (!). Below is a snap from Sekothai (which is ruined ancient city, rather like a Thai Pompeii) where I saw my first deadly poisonous snake, and barely flinched and encountered an enormous harmless spider and screamed blue murder.

Bangkok was incredible, and we had a couple of lovely days sight-seeing with a Thai contact, which meant we were able to communicate and have an insider’s knowledge.

We visited the markets in Bangkok, and I gorged myself on the incredible fruit there: dragon fruit (the bright pink fruit below, which is white with black polka dots inside!), mangosteens (which you pinch open, they taste sweet like a lychee but not sickly) and longans (below, on the right hand side growing in stick branches).

The fresh produce was just so bountiful, it’s clear why the food was so fantastic! It was really helpful to have a local who was really keen to discuss the ingredients and the flavours of the food and explain the methods of preparation and cooking. A favourite of mine was a green papaya salad, and it was so interesting to be shown how the papaya was shredded with a giant machete and a great amount of care and patience. One flavour that I found was particularly pervasive was the kaffir lime (above photo, on the left) which has a very distinctive, aromatic flavour which took me a while to fully appreciate, but really encapsulates the Thai flavour.

At the time we went, I wasn’t in to keeping a photographic record, so I only have one very bad snap of a typical meal we had: sat barefoot and cross-legged, Singha beers garlanded with flowers and spicy soups and rice dishes.
We also enjoyed a lovely Thai massage at this lovely spa, tucked away on Soi 11. Oh, it was painful in places (maybe I should have put ‘very light’ on the massage form beforehand?!) but it was exquisitely relaxing and kept me in a doped-up mood throughout the long hail flight to Australia (quite an achievement!)

In the airport on the way out, I bought a couple of slim Thai cookery books (after all, we were backpacking) so I could attempt to re-create the flavours I enjoyed so much when we returned home. The following is probably the most famous Thai dish, and it is EXTREMELY fast to put together and tastes just fantastically authentic.

Thai Green Curry (for 2)
  • lamb fillet, finely sliced
  • 50 g creamed coconut
  • 300 ml water
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste (it’s not cheating…)
  • rind and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
  • spring onions, if desired

How to Make it

Re-constitute the coconut by adding the creamed coconut to the water. Fry the lamb, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the curry paste followed by the coconut and water mixture. Add the lime. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for five minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander and spring onions (if using) and serve! It is that easy.

The only thing missing from this dish is the use of kaffir lime leaves, but I can’t find them around but will be keeping my eyes open!

Pea Shoot Pesto

Whizzed this up today: pea shoots, chives, pine nuts, parmaggiano reggiano and a slug of olive oil. This was less successful than the previous experiments, not because it didn’t taste good but because I’m so indoctrinated by basil pesto. I really liked the fresh flavour, and it certainly did taste of the hedgerow/field (not in a bad way!) but I think it would be better paired with something more robust like a good piece of fish. I’ll be freezing the rest (hope that’s possible…) and taking it out when we have fish, or maybe stuffed in a chicken breast with some sundried tomatoes? Hmmm…

Eton Mess with Orange Infused Cream and Pomegranate Seeds

My first British strawberries of the year…
My favourite story of this pudding’s origin is that some floppy-haired, wicker-basket bearing public schoolboys ventured out on a picnic and after finding the perfect spot discovered that their pavlova had been upended. Thus the name, Eton Mess.

I don’t know if this is true, but Eton Mess is truly a fantastic English summer pudding made traditionally from cream, strawberries and meringues. However, I sometimes find it a bit too sweet and a little cloying so I made a couple of adjustments.

Firstly, I love cream but I really felt it needed a kick. So I infused the cream with orange (sounds fancy…) by combining the double cream with the juice and grated rind of one big orange. I left it, unwhipped, in the fridge to mingle.

When it was time for pudding, I broke the ready-made meringues (life’s too short) into fairly sizable pieces, to keep their crunch. I sliced the strawberries and mixed them with the meringue. I poured the softly whipped orange double cream over the top. It should have the rumpled, soft consistency of an unmade bed! I mixed gently – you don’t want to break anything up too much and you definitely don’t want a total coverage of cream or it’s too uniform and spoils the ‘mess’. Then, simply sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds to give colour and bite and just cut through the sweetness.

It was divine.

Eton Mess was the pudding for my ‘indoor picnic’ dinner, which started with creamy mushrooms with bacon and parmigiano reggiano (a soupier version of this) followed by potatoes, salmon, prosciutto, grilled Mediterranean vegetables and Feta salad.

Pea Shoot and Bacon Soup

When I had peashoots the other week, the back of the packet said it made a very nice soup with bacon. So I had a go, and this made for a summery version of pea and ham soup.

To make the soup for two, I used four shallots, two rashers of bacon, a packet of pea shoots, ham stock from the freezer and salt and pepper. I cooked the shallots and bacon, added the stock and seasoning and let it simmer for a while before adding the peashoots at the last minute.

I whizzed the lot up (this was very difficult as the peashoots were determined to escape) and it made this pleasuringly lurid soup. It was tasty, and I think I will cook it again as long as the peashoots are in the shop.

I kept some shoots and bacon aside as a garnish, but unfortunately it sunk as the soup was thinner in consistency than my soups usually end up!

Pimm’s O’Clock

When I was at uni in Cambridge, Pimm’s was a total staple of the “summer season” of garden parties, punting trips and post-exam jubilation. There were no worries, no appointments, no timetables. Of course, we were so lost without structure that we imposed Pimm’s o’clock in the afternoon. For me, there is little else that screams summer relaxation like Pimm’s. At least not in England.

I don’t think I had a glass last summer (what with being on a desert island and everything) so I was so happy to stop off at the supermarket after work and gather the necessaries for my first Pimm’s in a long time. On my list was cucumber, apple, orange, lemon, strawberries, mint, ice cubes, lemonade and of course the classic Pimm’s number one cup.

When I arrived at my friend’s house she was totally excited because she’d never had Pimm’s before! I supposed it was maybe a Southern thing (living oop north as I do now) but she said, “nah, it’s just posh”.

The fruit is sliced up, Pimm’s and lemonade added in a 1:3 ratio (but I tend to go on the stronger side). I go overboard on the fruit, partly because I think it tastes ace, but mainly because everyone loves delving into the jug and having a nibble.

The ingredients of Pimm’s are a bit of a mystery, but after a phonecall to Diageo today the main ones are gin, orange liqueur, spirit caramel and sugar. And best of all it is suitable for a gluten -free diet!

I’m feeling like it’s Pimm’s o’clock again already…

p.s. I have some Pimm’s cocktail stirrers and should have used them in my picture!

Lamb, Pea Shoot and Mint Salad

I read in one of my cookery books that lamb, peas and mint is a classic combination. When I saw pea shoots at the supermarket, I immediately thought of a small piece of lamb in the freezer and the mint I’ve been growing in a pot on the windowsill.

With TLM revising hard for his finals, there was only me to feed at lunchtime. I popped the pea shoots and some cucumber on a plate, mixed up some garlic, chillis, fresh chopped mint and a dash of wine vinegar together and then flash fried the lamb.

It made a very nice combination. I think it would work really nicely with chives rather than garlic, but I only got the seeds yesterday so that’s out of the question! Might go for a drizzle of olive oil next time too… (but was trying to be good today)

Stifado with Orzo

I’ve been searching for orzo for months – none in M&S, Sainsbury’s, Asda or Morrison’s – but today I stumbled across a shelf of orzo in the world foods section of an out-of-the-way Tesco. I was so happy. So what’s an orzo when it’s at home? As far as I can tell, it’s a Mediterranean rice-like pasta, often used in soups but equally in salads (this is how I found out about orzo on a flight to Honiara from Fiji strangely enough!) and served as any other warm pasta. As someone who dislikes rice and doesn’t particularly succeed in the cooking of it, orzo is my perfect solution. And at 45p for a 500g bag, it’s pretty good value too!

I’ve had stifado on my mind for a while. Again, from what I gather it’s a Greek beef and onion stew – but any meat seems to go and any variety of veg chucked in too. Its hallmark is the combination of wine, wine vinegar, cinnamon, rosemary and sometimes honey to make an aromatic almost sweet and sour stew. My recipe called for the addition of potatoes, but I wasn’t in a potato mood so I was going to go for a doorstop of bread to soak up the gravy until I spotted the orzo and I knew I had to have it with the stifado. Is it unorthodox? Who knows, but it was a pretty good taste combination.

I have been plundering my one pot book that I bought from Oxfam before Christmas. Its winning quality is that it consists of easy recipes that you bung into a stockpot or wok, but the downside is that it tends to anglicise and tone down the flavours so I just use my judgement and add a bit more. I’ll add even more next time for more depth of flavour, but this is what I did today:

Ingredients serves 3

  • 1 tin tomatoes (450g ish)
  • 150 ml beef stock
  • 400 g shallots, peeled but whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 400 g diced beef
  • veg (I used carrots, the recipe specified potatoes – whatever)
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper

How to Make it

In a large pan, cook the shallots and garlic over a low heat for about 5 minutes until coloured. Remove from pan and brown the beef in batches. Add the shallots and garlic back. Tip in the tomatoes, stock, wine, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, bay leaves and honey. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 2 hours on the lowest possible heat until meat is tender.

p.s. the stifado is coeliac friendly, the orzo is TOTALLY not