Can gluten free cake be as good as “normal” cake? Well, it depends… in this case, it was. It is also a very long list of ingredients to make it taste like and feel like cake. Worthwhile the effort? Well, yes. It was pretty good cake, with a unusual texture.
The beasts My lovely co-workers had it all in a single meeting… I still have to let them know this was a specially healthy version of what they usually get…
Carrot cake (gluten free; adapted from Dias com Mafalda blog)
- 100g of brown or unrefined sugar
- 100mL of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 3 slightly beaten eggs
- 3 grated carrots
- 1 grated apple
- 100g of crated cocunut
- 100g raisin
- the zest of one orange and 1 tablespoon of orange juice
- 175g gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 of powdered clove.
Grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180oC
Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs with wooden spoon. Fold in the grated carrots, apple and coconut together with the raisins, the orange zest and juice. On top of this mix, sift the flour, the spices, baking-powder and baking soda.
Put the batter in the tin and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 20min. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should come out dry.
Take it out from the tin while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.
I love to bits my nephews and nieces, but sadly, I don’t know very well. I don’t go to Lisbon that often, maybe once or twice a year and only for a few days. It is a real shame that I missing out the kiddies growing up. I try to keep up with their everyday life, and always find amusing when I found in these kiddies my own quirks. F, the oldest one is fearless in the water. I, the youngest one and my goddaughter, always wakes up in a bed mood and take her time to engage with the rest of the world. And, this Christmas I found out that V, the middle one refuses to eat his soup. “Oh, my dear boy, how can I understand you!”, I thought.
At the table the drama start to unfold, while I was having a déjà moment. “Eat you soup, V. Now.” said his mother. “You won’t eat anything else”. “No”, he answered and smiled defiantly. “V, try the soup”, replied the mother. V is a sweet kid and forced himself to have a spoon of the greenish liquid. “I don’t like soup”, he told his mother. “You don’t like soup???”, I asked him. “No, I don’t like soup” he retorted “I only like pumpkin soup. Or carrot”. Qed– not liking soup and taste preferences seems to have a strong genetic correlation. What else could I do but support V not to have his soup? He eventually moved to the main dish and dessert, soup uneaten… That is my boy!
This one is not a pumping soup, now out of season, but I guess carrots would have been enough for V to take at least 5 spoons. Or maybe even six.
Carrot and potato soup with cumin and ginger (adapted from a recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 floury potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 750ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until it is pipping hot. Then, add the onion, garlic and ginger and let them fry for 3 mins or until just soft.
Add carrots, potatoes and half the cumin seeds. Cover, reduce heat to low and let them sweat for 7 mins or until just golden.
Add stock, cover and simmer for 15 mins or until vegetables are just tender. Cool slightly then blend until smooth.
Season to taste, and sprinkle with some cumins if you like.
It’s carrots, enough said. And if it wasn’t, it has orange. And cumin. The perfect side dish for your roast…
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 750g carrots, peeled and cut into thick batons
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange, plus some juice
Preheat the oven to 175oC
Put the oil and butter into a large baking dish and leave in the oven for a couple of minutes, until the butter melts. Remove from the oven and add the carrots, cumin, and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss together, cover with foil, and return to the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
Remove from the oven, take off the foil, and give everything a good stir. Then return to the oven, uncovered, for about 20 to 30 minutes, so the carrots start to caramelise.
When you take the dish from the oven, stir in the orange zest and a good squeeze or two of the juice. Serve at once
In short, this is such a good chicken pie, it is totally worthwhile to endure cooking process. It is arguably one of the best I have ever had. It is hard to believe this dish actually start from, God forgive, leftovers…
A few shortcuts, though: I used pre-made pastry. I know – home made pastry is not that hard to do. But, I didn’t feel brave enough for it… and, the one in the supermarket is also perfectly fine for this purpose… If you don’t have any chicken leftovers, and need to cook it from scratch, add some herbs and vegetables when boiling it (this recipe work just fine). Everything else is so tasty, it is a crying shame to put in some bland rubbery chicken.
2 sheets of basic pie pastry
Chicken Pie Filling
- 1 cup of potatoes cut in about 6cm pieces
- 1 1/4 of carrots cut diagonally in 6cm pieces
- 12 white pearl onions
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 24 black peppercorns
- 1 1/4 cups of 4-6cm of pieces of celery, cut on the diagonally
- 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
- 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 3 cups of whole milk
- 1 salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1 egg, beaten
Roll out the dough and line the baking tray with one of the sheets. Put the other one a plate. Refrigerate both.
Place the potatoes, carrots and onions in a saucepan with the bay, thyme and peppercorns. Top with cold water to cover. Gently bring to a simmer. Cook until just tender, about 8-10min (the original recipe asked for each vegetable to cooked in individual pans, but I just put everything together in the same one). Once cooked, drain the water and discard bay, thyme, and peppercorns. Cut the onions in 2 and set aside to cool.
Blanch the celery for just over a minute in a large pot of boiling salted water, until they are tender/crispy. Drain and let it cool in a bowl of iced water. Set aside with the other vegetables
You can now start the béchamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking ofter to ensure it doesn’t burn. It should take about 30-40minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups. Season to taste with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.
Put the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 190 oC (about 375oF).
Remove the pastry sheets rom the refrigerator. Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the béchamel over them. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with the tip of a paring knife to allow the steam to escape.
Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the centre rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. On the other hand, if crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminium foil.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.
I could be writing about lovely Spring dishes, with plenty of asparagus, rhubarb and green stuff all around. But not – cottage pie it is. No Spring, no Spring food. Anyway, it is either this or start a monumental rant about the weather on Facebook… The pie itself, is delicious, warming and comforting.
Cottage pie (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 400g of lean minced beef
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon of tomato purée
- 500mL beefstock, made with 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato topping
- 750g of floury potatoes
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 2 slender leeks, timed and cut into 1cm slices
- 150mL of low fat milk
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non stick sauce pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. No need to add olive oil – it is a non stick pan, after all. Put in the minced meat and cook it together with the onions, celery and carrots for about 10min, until lightly coloured. Use a couple of wooden spoons to break up the meat as it cooks
Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato purée, the beef stock, the Worcestershire sauce and the mixed herbs. Season with a generous pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. Cover loosely and simmer gently for about 40min, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender.
You can start preparing the potato topping. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rough 4cm chunks. Put them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then down the heat slightly and simmer for 18-20min or until the potatoes are very tender. Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and fry the leeks for 5min until softened but not coloured, stirring often. Drain the potatoes, then tip them back into the pan, season to taste and mash with the milk (and a little butter) until smooth. Stir in the sautéed leeks and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220oC. When the beef has been simmering for 40min, mix the cornflour with the cold flour to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the beef and cook for another 1-2min or until the sauce is thickened, stirring often.
Poor the beef mixture into a 2-liter shallow ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, top the beef with the mash potatoes and leeks. Spoon the mixture all around the edge of the dish before heading into the middle, then fluff it up with a fork.
Bake for 30min until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.
I have promised not to complaint about the weather on Facebook and extended the ban to all other social media outlets I normally hang out. In here, I shall just carry on posting Winter-appropriate dishes until the weather gets finally better, as a sign of protest. It is a good thing I have plenty of unpublished dishes, as it might be a while before we can move to lighter food… This casserole dish says comfort food all over – it is delicious, filling and feels like something my Mother could have done for Sunday lunch. What else would you want to eat while the snow is slowly pilling outside?
Chicken casserole (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned and cut in half
- 2 tsp of olive oil
- 4 smoked bacon stripes, fat cut off and cut cut into 1cm-wide bits
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
- 150g of button mushrooms sliced
- 500mL dry cider
- 300mL low fat chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 large carrots, cut into 2cm slices
- 1 large leek, cut into 2cm slices
- salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 180c/Fan 160c/Gas 4
Mix the flour and the thyme with a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large freezer bag or bowl. Place chicken into the bag, a few pieces at a time and shake until evenly coated. Reserve the left over flour.
Heat oil in a non stick frying pan until is piping hot. Add the chicken a few pieces at a time and let it fry until golden brown (saving any remaining flour in bag). Transfer to heat proof casserole, like a le creuset or equivalent.
In the same frying pan you used for the chicken, put the bacon, onions and celery . Sauté for 4-5 mins until lightly browned, stirring often. Add the mushrooms to the frying pan and cook for 2 more min. Tip everything into the casserole with the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with the reserved flour.
Pour half the cider to frying pan and stir well to deglaze and remove all the sediments. Simmer for a few seconds, and add to the casserole. Finally, drop in the remaining cider, the stock, carrots and bay leaves.
Cover with the lid and place in the center of the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and add in the leeks.
Return to the stove and let it cook for about half hour, until the leeks are soft.
The calendar claims Spring will be here in a few days, but the weather man (and the knees) say otherwise. As snow starts falling again, it seems Winter will be here forever. It is definitely time for another comforting stew…. Believe it or not, each portion has less than 500 calories.
Rich beef and ale casserole with mash potato (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 1 kg lean braising beef, trimmed from hard fat and cut in 3cm chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- 500 mL of dark ale or stout
- 250 mL of beef stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato puréee
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 5 carrots (about 275g), peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 parsnips (about 300g) peeled, halved lengthways and sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato mash
- 750g floury potato, peeled and cut in 4cm chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks thinly sliced
- 100 mL low fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oC
Put the flour and dried herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Fold in the beef chunks and toss in until they evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a oven- and flame- proof casserole dish.When the oil is pipping hot, drop in the onions and season then with salt and pepper. Fry them over medium heat until they are lightly browned (about 5min).
Tip in the beef and mix until coated.
Add the bay leaf, ale, stock, tomato purée and sugar. Stir well and bring to boil. Cover with the lid.
Transfer the casserole from to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. At the end of this time, take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the parsnips and carrots. Put the lid again, and return to the over for about 45min until the vegetables are tender.
Leeky potato mash
Put the potato chunks in a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let boil for about 20min, until the potatoes are very tender.
In the meanwhile, put the oil in a frying pan and heat. When is hot, drop in the sliced leeks and sautée until soft and tender, stirring often.
Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper and mash with the milk until smooth.
Stir in the sautéeed leeks. Mix until they are well incorporated.
You may have noticed a lot of Middle Eastern flavors in this blog as of late. Jerusalem – the latest Yotam Ottolenghi‘s book – is partly to be blamed, but… this was how everything really started: The Laughinglemon‘s Moroccan Feast. I knew I would like it when I saw it, and registered without further ado. What I was not expecting was Jack’s pulling his mother’s old family recipes and throw at us a family meal cooked from the heart with all love and care. The kind of thing I will cherish for a very long time. * grab kleenex to wipe a stubborn tear *
As most mothers, Jack’s mother didn’t write her recipes down – why bother if they are normally passed down from generation to generation? And, when she explained the dishes to her sons, she did it as every mother would do. An essential ingredient was forgotten, directions would range from “let a cook for little while, but be careful not to overcook” to a whole time mother classic “add a little bit just like that” or failing to mention the little detail which would have avoided to set the kitchen on fire. Jack and his brother are trying to recover the recipes slowly but surely. and this Moroccan feast is the result of it. The most curious of all was the sudden realization that Jack and I might actually be related. Both our families are of Jewish extraction. Mine became Roman Catholic to escape the Spanish Inquisition. His, most likely fled to Morocco around the same time…
Religion and familiar disputes apart, this spicy carrot and fennel salad was one of the heroes of the day. It is not so straightforward as it might seem and it has a long list of spices, herbs and condiments. The result is totally worthwhile the effort – a fresh and crunchy dish with bold flavors. The type of thing which made K. lose her normal calm-cool-collected state to fight for the last bit (She won. I still have a black eye…).
Apparently, my first chemical overexposure was to β-carotene. If legend is true, I convinced one of my Aunties to fed me with so many carrots I become orange, much to parents dismay. Unfortunately, I can no longer ask my Auntie whether this might have been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effects or indeed this was the beginning of a delictive career… In any case, the truth is that I love my carrots. Specially, if they come in the form of a colorful, light and soothing soup.
Carrot ginger soup
- 2 kg of onions, peeled and sliced
- 5 medium sized yellow yellow onion roughly chopped (about 1 kg)
- 2 large thumbs of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- about 1 liter of chicken stock (or water)
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil or butter as needed (enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thick film)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When is pipping hot, toss in the onion and generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let cook stirring occasionally, until soft (about 10min)
2. Add the carrots and the grated ginger and let them sweat for about 20min, until soft and fragrant
3. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let simmer until the carrots are very tender. It will take about 45 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and using a hand held mixer , puree the soup. (if you prefer a smoother texture, strain the pure through a sieve)
4. Bring the soup to the heat, add another spoon of olive oil and check for salt. Let simmer for about 15min.
5. If you wish, add some nutmeg.
No use to fight Autumn anymore – it is arrived and is here to stay until Winter shows up. It is now time to start cooking food that makes you forget the cold outside and puts a note of color in your day.
Beef stew with sweet carrots, peas and mushrooms
- 450g of beef, cut in cubes
- 50g of flour (or maizena)
- 250g of button mushrooms
- 3 onions, cut in half moons
- 5 carrots, cut in 2cm slices
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 100ml of red wine
- 1 spring of rosemary
- 200ml of stock
- 250g of peas (I used frozen peas)
- olive oil as required
- salt and pepper to taste
In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it shimmer. Toss the mushrooms. Let them fry until soft and fragrant. Reserve.
Place the beef cubes and flour in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Shake off the excess of flour. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat until it shimmer. Add half the floured meat and fry until sealed and meat has begun to brown. Be careful not too put too many pieces in the frying pan. Instead of frying, the meat will boil to death, with rather unpleasant results. Reserve the meat.
To the same frying pan, add the onion and the carrots. Pan fry until the onions are caramelised and the carrots are soft, stirring occasionally (It will take about 15minutes). Add the grounded garlic and let it combine with the vegetables, stirring for about 1 minute. Take all out of the frying pan and reserve. Pour in the pan approximately 100 mL of red wine stir well to combine and deglaze the frying pan. When the sauce starts to thicken, toss in the meat and reserved vegetables. Mix well to combine, and then add the vegetable stock. Add the bay leave and the rosemary spring.
When it comes to boil, toss the peas in and let simmer for about 15min, until the stock reduces to half and the sauce is a bit thick. Take out from the stove and let it rest for a bit.