Friday, 29 May 2009

Doughnuts - Mrs Beeton style

So there I was flicking through Mrs B looking for basic biscuit recipes to make the small ones something for a picnic tea and I come across the batter section. Having been playing with various batter recipes recently I thought I'd have a look and got to her Indian Fritter recipes, which are basically jam filled doughnuts and sounded pretty simple! So I'm sure you know where this is headed..

Doughnuts or Indian Fritters based on a Mrs Beeton recipe.

3oz basic gluten free flour mix, I used Dove Farm.
pinch of salt
boiling water
3 eggs (she used 2 eggs and 2 yolks)
jam or jelly
deep fat fried oil (and pan)

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Then stir in enough boiling water to make a stiff paste, she says a good 1/2 gill, I just added it till it was stiff but reasonably lump free. Leave to cool for a short while.

Beat the eggs in a bit at a time until smooth.

Make sure the fat is up to heat, I ended up having it quite high as it seemed to need it, she says when it is just beginning to haze as she didn't have temperature based deep fat friers!

Now comes the difficult bit she says take a half filled tablespoon, add a tsp of jam in the middle then cover with more mix to fill the spoon and then drop into the fat. I found it pretty impossible to stop the jam leaking out and deepfried burnt jam is very unpleasant! So after a couple of goes I made unfilled ones and they were great. The two below are the jam filled ones.

Cook till golden brown then drain well and roll in sugar.

They are really nice and did taste just like doughnuts, the batter itself has no sugar so you can easily decide how much you want when you cover them.

Don't do much more than a tablespoon at a time as they puff up a fair bit and I found any bigger ones were slightly under cooked in the middle.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Weekly Menu 25th to 29th May

Apple and strawberry Muffin.

This week is half term for school and today was a bank holiday in England. The menu will be very fluid this week as the kids are home and we haven't firmed up exactly what we will do each day. Also I will be doing most of the cooking with the boys in tow and no other adults in the house so it is likely to be simple.

The gluten free menu plan is hosted this week by Angela's Kitchen and her chosen ingredient is avocado. i do like avocado but we don't often have them as they aren't exactly cheap.. I like them in salad and as a dip mostly.

We have been making muffins a fair bit recently and they have been going down very well. We started with corn and bacon ones, then my five year old requested apple and strawberry, made with very little sugar which worked well. I also made sun dried tomato and feta ones for the adults.Sun-dried tomato and Feta

I have a question. Years ago a muffin to me was a flat round bread like thing you cut in half and toast. Then we started getting American muffins which were like huge buns (cupcakes) normally chocolate or blueberry. However recently I've found lots of recipes for savoury ones.. so what defines a muffin and makes it different to a cupcake?

On to the menu.

Monday - went out swimming and had lunch at Nandos, very good chicken and chips so just nibbles of tea. Oh and Nandos sell fabulous pure fruit juice lollies !

four other days.

1) Gammon, pineapple, mange-tout peas, mash or chips.

2) pasta and sauce

3) Silly salad (a silly salad is one that has fruit in it not just vegs according to my five year old !)

4) scones or muffins and soup or omelets.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Yorkshire puds

One of the things i've been trying to replicate without a huge amount of success is Yorkshire pudding, something that i have mentioned on the gluten free Yahoo group a few times so when Better Batter posted a recipe it was passed on to me as something to try.

Of course I did try it, that night in fact !

You can see the results above. I think next time I will lave them a minute or two more as they were still a bit soggy in the middle but I have NEVER got a Yorkshire to rise like that before. They are very good and miles better than anything else I managed to come up with.

Now I live in the UK so I can't get the Better Batter mix so I used a faux version I'd been give which is below. If I did live where it is sold I'd be seriously considering adding it to my shopping list on this recipe alone. I'd certainly be very interested to try their mix to see what the differences are.

The faux Better Batter flour blend:
4 cups Tapioca Starch
2 cups Potato Starch
1 cup potato flour (which as far as I can see is mashed potato powder)
1/4 cup xanthan gum

The mix is quite a funny texture, when they say it's like a whipped topping they arn't kidding, it was almost like marshmallow. see the picture below.Noddles thought they should have a hole in the middle like normal ones and after the first bite he said the middle tasted of potato, which i didn't really notice, but he though they were "YUMMMMY" which i agreed with.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Weekly menu 18th to 22nd May 2009

Sea from Book of Yum is hosting the gluten free menu swap this week and picked zucchini as her ingredient.. we call them courgettes and I often cook with them though I don't have any currently but I do have some plants coming on well which will be planted out soon and with any luck with have lots of courgettes later this summer !

This weeks menu

Monday -beef stir fry including new season sugar snap peas and asparagus!

Tuesday - Gammon, chips and eggs because sometimes you just want comfort food.

Wednesday - something veggy based, depending on what i have left before getting the new box on thursday

Thursday - chicken breast with sun-dried tomato stuffing served with rice and greens.

Friday fish and chips as we ended up having sausage and yorkshire puds a post to come later) on Friday last week so the fish is still in the freezer.

Baking - plan to try the scones from my new book and possibly the bakewell tart or millionares shortbread.

Next Monday is a bank Holiday here in the UK (one of two in May) so I'm not sure if I will get round to posting on time. The rest of the week is half term so if I do post it will be easy, quick and kid friendly recipes !

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Book Review - Seriously Good Gluten Free Cooking

Seriously Good Gluten Free Cooking by Phil Vickery.
ISBN 978 1 85626 828 8

This is a new book by Phil Vickery in association with Coeliac UK. Most people in the UK will probably know Phil Vickery as he is one of our many TV chefs, probably most well known on day time TV but he has done programs on British Puddings and is generally a well known and talented chef.

I rarely buy Gluten Free cooking books, the way I see it most of them are mainly re-doing recipes I probably have elsewhere as they are most general everyday recipe type books, quite understandably as most people want everyday cooking. However with the exception of baking I can normally do any adjustments myself so why buy another book that is mostly naturally gluten free recipes as I don't struggle with those sort of dishes?

With that said why did i buy this one? Mostly because it was by a good BRITISH chef and backed by Coeliac UK. Most of the books out there are American or very basic and some of the commonly used flours etc in America are not found here easily. Also Phil Vickery is known for his love of British food and I was interested to see a proper British gluten free cookbook.

So what did I think? Well this is not a book to buy if you want specifically to learn to cook with gluten free flours and replace all those banned foods. He does do some baked products including some British classics like Bakewell tart but they are not the focus of the book. If however you are looking for a book that celebrates all the wonderful food we CAN eat this would be a great one to get. The recipes in the book are a very eclectic mix inspired by many regions of the world and in that it feels very British and there are plenty traditionally British dishes in there as well. The book is very strong on fresh ingredients and uses lots of herbs, fruit and veg, there are many really tasty sounding dishes mostly naturally gluten free, it is a really uplifting book in many ways. He does use frozen and packaged things as well where they are easier and still safe so it is quite a practical book for normal people, which is not always true of chefy books.

This is a book I would have happily bought even if it wasn't Gluten Free as there are plenty of recipes that had me thinking "Oh must try that" and in some ways that is great as it makes being gluten free feel less 'odd'. From the way the introduction is written I get the impression that is what he was after and it's a good thing. It doens't make you feel that cooking gluten free is difficult or that you will need lots of new and difficult to find ingredients and for most people I think that will be very helpful. This is a book I'd happily suggest to someone new to eating gluten free which isn't true of all gluten free cook books.

From a personal view point I would have liked a little more in the way of adaptions of gluten based recipes, I suppose I did slightly hope he'd cracked yorkshire puds and when he says in the blurb for the one bread in the book that he could write a whole book on the subject of gluten free bread my reaction was "yes please!!" Though to be fair he does do scones, various cakes and pancakes etc so the the book is not without such things and indeed probably has as many as a normal cooking book that is covering everything from breakfast to puds..

The picture at the top is of one of his breakfast dishes I did my boys for tea a couple of nights ago, salt and pepper eggs on rice waffles. The waffle mix was very good and easy to make though fairly bland on their own.. Good as a base for other things though which is the point and I had one topped with garlic soft cheese and it was very good that way. I will certainly be trying some more recipes soon. His onions rings I'm definitely trying soon and some of the salads, juices etc will be on the list for later in the year when I have the main ingredients fresh on the allotment.

In summery, really attractive, and interesting book that just happens to be gluten free !

Thursday, 14 May 2009

First Daring Cooks Challenge ! - Ricotta Gnocchi

For those that don't know Daring Bakers now has a sister.. Daring Cooks for all those out there who prefer none baking recipes. The posting date for Daring cooks is halfway between the Baking ones to give those of us doing both more chance to manage it without going mad !

As this is the first month there could be only one set of hosts the two who started the whole thing in the first place Lis and Ivonne from La mia Cucina and cream puffs in Venice.

For our first challenge they chose Ricotta Gnocchi!

As they said" a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook."

I like this challenge, for a start with the exception of the dusting flour it's naturally gluten free, secondly I have been meaning to try Gnocchi for ages, you see I never even heard of the potato sort before I went gluten free and all the pre-made ones have wheat flour in them so I've never had gnocchi at all but had been wanting to have a go at them for a good while now and I'd never even heard of ricotta gnocchi till we were presented with the recipe !

This was one challenge I got on with and completed within days of it being posted, before I did the Baking challenge I've already posted in fact but I have had to hang on till now to tell you all about it which was a struggle as it is a great Gluten Free dish !

I even made the ricotta myself from scratch partly so I could show my five year old what curds and whey are, he remembered the nursery rhyme without probing too and asked if that was what Miss Tuffet was eating ! He thought it was fascinating but refused to actually try the cheese. I though it was very tasty though. I got the instructions from the Daring Baker forum posted by Libby and they were very simple. I used organic milk and it was very creamy and tasty, more so than most shop bought I've tried..

Home made ricotta

5 cups milk
2 tbs lemon juice

Boil milk till foamy. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth and press for several hours to remove water. Yield: 1 cup cheese.


As for the gnoochi, the recipe as we were given it is below.

The mix was very soft but I did not find shaping the dumplings difficult though I disagree that putting them in the fridge helped firm them up I just found that it made them more sticky. The amount from this recipe made enough for three of us for two meals so one cup of cheese would be enough for one meal for us. It did however allow me to try freezing the dumplings and I am pleased to tell you that worked very well, though they needed another liberal coating of flour to be move able and to stop them sticking to the plate they defrosted on.

We had the gnoochi for two meals, once with a simple tomato, onion and bacon sauce and once on a bed of spinach with green beans and a vegetable rice dish as an accompaniment. Both were very good and others have fried them and even done sweet versions.

Pop over to the Daring Kitchen to see other versions, as this is the first month I am not sure if there is a blog roll as such yet but I am sure they will be posting something up, or you could join and start doing the challanges yourself. I know I've learnt a lot on the last couple of years doing the Daring Bakers and had a huge amount of fun and lots of great food !.


Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

Equipment required:

- Sieve
- Cheesecloth or paper towels
- Large mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Tablespoon
- Baking dish or baking sheet
- Wax or parchment paper
- Small pot
- Large skillet
- Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

Videos that might help:

- Judy Rodgers Gnocchi Demo
- Making fresh ricotta demo
- Making ricotta gnocchi

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi (I used Dove Farm Gluten Free Plain flour)

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion, sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your chance to go nuts. Enjoy yourselves. Surprise us!!!

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Weekly Menu 11th to 15th May 2009

This week I'm hosting the gluten free menu swap and have chosen potatoes as my ingredient. We love potatoes and for the firs year ever we are growing them on our allotment. This is really the first year we are growing vegs in general though I did grow some years ago.. never potatoes however. The picture above is our first earlies growing on well and indeed some of them are close to flowering already. Our later potatoes some weeks behind these but in all we do have quite a few potatoes and indeed a good few varieties, around 20 I think!

So what can I say about potatoes? Good question. I think we all know them pretty well and I expect most of us eat them regularly. I think one of the things I have learnt over the last couple of years is that actually one potato doesn't do everything. Some are good for mash, others better for chips and still others work well cooked whole and used in salads. Know your varieties and ask your green grocer what the potatoes they are selling are and I don't mean are they red or white !! This year we have planted many varieties and they all differ.. there are early ones, salad ones, red ones, white ones, blue ones!, multicoloured ones, round ones, long thin knobbly one and so on.

So tell me how will you eat your potatoes this week? Either email me on esther dot reeves at gmail dot com or leave a comment here.


Monday - shepherd's pie.. lamb mince topped with mashed potato.

Tuesday - Bubble and squeak with an egg on top. Left over mashed potato and cabbage cooked together.

Wednesday - chicken casserole with rice.

Thursday - Salad plate, including roasted vegs and probably some sort of protein but need to go shopping first.

Friday - Fish and chips.

Other menus

Wendy at Celiacs in the house muses about the potato famine and family history she has been researching. She has a wonderfully varied menu to go with it.

Sea at Book of Yum - As always a lovely sounding menu and she has linked to a bunch of interesting sounding potato recipes, I'm particularly tempted by spinach shepherds pie as nearly all the ingredients are favourites of mine and it may well sneak in as an extra dish one day this week as not everyone love spinach as much as me.

Elizabeth at Modern Gal has another great sounding menu and several bean recipes. We are constantly trying to up the amount of pulses we eat so I may well be checking some of those out.

Angela from Angela's Kitchen is cooking up a whole host of things this week and has so much rhubarb that she is planning a variety of ways to use it up I'm really jealous. I love rhubarb ! She adds dandy lion leaves to her potato salad, I keep meaning to try them and that sounds a mild way to do it.

Heather from Celiac Family is cooking a lovely family friendly menu that I'd happily have here. She is trying her hand at making GF pizza so good luck it is well worth finding a version that works for you as pizza is one of those things so many people miss when they go gluten free.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Weekly menu 5th to 9th May 2009

Opps late again !! It was a bank holiday here yesterday so no school, work etc.. threw my sense of what day it was right out.

Photo is the apple blossom on one of our apple trees, actually from a week ago as it has now mostly dropped.

We went to a family party on Sunday that was really nice though I got a headache, not anyone's fault my normal glasses are broken and I'm wearing my next best pair which are a slightly old prescription, everything looks clear but I keep dropping things and getting headaches so a trip to get my eyes checked and see if the other glasses can be fixed is needed. Food however was not a problem as they got a local Indian restaurant to cater and all the dishes apart from the bread were gluten free which was fantastic.. I also met someone who is new to being diagnosed Celiac so we had one of those chats where you conpare notes as it were :)

Anyway to the menu.

Monday we had pizza. Mine had asparagus, bacon and mushroom.. asparagus worked really well !

Tuesday - pork chops with asparagus and green beans.

Wednesday - some form of bubble and squeak.. ie greens and potatoes bound together in cakes of some form. Lots of greens to eat up.

Thursday - home made fish in batter, possibly with a chinese slant, depends on what vegs are left.

Friday - sausage casserole

Other cooking. - I want to try and make some pickled cauliflower as we have a back log of cauliflowers and i love pickles so any favoured recipes gladly accepted!