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The Free-From Food Awards Shortlist has just been published. Set up six years ago by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson of freefromfoodsmatter.com, these Awards celebrate the innovation and imagination shown by the food industry in creating foods for the free-from market (ie foods that do not include one or more of wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, yeast, soya and sugar.) It’s worth mentioning the website Foods Matter here… Originally a magazine offering information and support both to food allergic/intolerant consumers and to the health professionals caring for them, it went on-line in 2010 and has become the most awesome reference site for people with food allergies/intolerances or coeliac disease (logging over 13 million hits per year!)
I took part in the judging for a day and was hugely impressed with the whole process. There were 11 of us that day and we blind-tasted every entry in our categories in silence, making notes and scoring each one out of ten. Once we had finished, we discussed every entry and then came to our conclusions as a group. This done, we could look at who had produced what. During the day I was there, we covered Breakfast Cereals and Grocery Ambient, including pastas, sauces and condiments.
It was great to taste so many of the entries. Some of them (especially some from outside Britain) I hadn’t come across before. And it was fascinating to sit there, tasting pasta after pasta, cereal after cereal etc against each other. The variety of ingredients, and combinations of those – and the resulting tastes and textures – were really interesting. The results of the awards will be announced in April…
One of the products we tasted was especially interesting. Shortlisted for the Pasta Award, the Slim Noodles were a subject of a great deal of discussion. Recently launched, it is gluten-free and it claims to deliver not only a feeling of fullness, but also an unbelievably low calorie content (7.7 calories per 100g serving). Made from a vegetable extract called Konjac (or Konnyaku) which has apparently been eaten in Asia for centuries because of its health benefits, it expands in your stomach, leading to the sensation of being full for up to four hours. Zero fat, zero sugar, low-calorie and low-carb, it’s currently being hailed (along with a very similar product called Zero Noodles which is made of exactly the same ingredient) as the answer to weight loss for many, many people. What’s more, independent studies apparently show that it can help increase insulin in your blood sugar levels, making it great for diabetics, and can help lower cholesterol. Wow!
Slim Noodles comes in three different guises – Slim Pasta, Slim Rice and Slim Noodles. The Slim Noodles – and Zero Noodles – look very similar to glass noodles and thin rice noodles in that they are white-coloured and very thin. They have a slightly rubbery texture (the Slim Noodles I find more so than the Zero Noodles) and almost no taste. I tested these at home this weekend with a recipe (see below) and they both worked really well with noodle-style recipes, such as stir-frys and Asian-style dishes. I haven’t tasted the Slim Rice yet but the Slim Pasta was very similar to Slim Noodles – just thicker, apparently more like a pasta-shape. I’m not convinced about the concept of Slim Pasta, though, as it doesn’t work for me as something that would work with pasta sauces, such as tomato-based sauces, and there was a slightly ‘fishy’ aroma to these, I thought.
You’ll find both the Slim Noodles and Zero Noodles in health food stores. In Holland & Barrett the Slim Noodles sell for £2.49 and the Zero Noodles (organic) for £1.99. They’re the same size – so go for the cheaper Zero Noodles if you’re looking to try the product!
Steamed Asia-Style Fish with Zero Noodles
gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
Serves 2 Preparation time 10 minutes, plus at least 1 hour marinating time Cooking time 12–15 minutes
- 2 fish fillets, such as salmon, trout or cod
- 2 large salad onions or 6 spring onions, white part finely chopped
- stir-fry vegetables, such as beansprouts, pak choi
- 2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 lemongrass stick, finely chopped
- 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 large handfuls of coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
- 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 serving of Zero Noodles, to serve
- Put the fish in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl or jug and pour over the tuna. Cover with a lid or cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.
- Spoon the marinade into a large wok and heat over a medium-high heat. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the onion starts to soften and turn translucent. Add the vegetables and then place the fish on the top. Cover with a lid and steam for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Serve hot with the prepared Zero Noodles.
This soup came about because of a pile of root veggies sitting in my veggie box. When I have beetroot, I usually bake it and make a salad with avocado, nuts, seeds, that sort of thing. Or steam it and serve it as a veggie. But I wanted to do something different, and this was the result.
This is a really delicious soup – and fantastically good for you, too. A combination of sweet, earthy beetroot and carrot, with the creamy cannellini beans and herby parsley make a great flavour combination. What’s more, this soup is great for cleansing and boosting your immune system. Beetroot has powerful detoxing qualities (mainly from the antioxidant betacyanin) as well as being rich in iron and folic acid (which help prevent anaemia and fatigue). The humble carrot is one of the richest sources of beta-carotene which helps fight infection and colds, as well as enhancing vision, skin and digestive function. Carrots and beetroots are also fantastic sources of fibre – as cannellini beans are, too. And this is a great example of how you don’t need to spend tons of money on ingredients to eat nutrient-dense food. Excellent!
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 10 minutes, plus soaking the beans Cooking time 1½ hours
- 200g/7oz/1 cup dried cannellini beans
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 4 beetroots, peeled and diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1.25l/44fl oz/5 cups gluten-free and dairy-free vegetable Stock, boiling, plus extra if needed
- 1 handful parsley leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- dairy-free yogurt, to serve (optional)
- coriander leaves, to serve (optional)
- Put the cannellini beans in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, cover with warm water and leave to soak, covered, for 12 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the beans and put in a large saucepan. Cover with 1.2l/40fl oz/4¾ cups water and bring to the boil over a high heat. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down to low and leave to simmer for 1 hour, until the beans are tender. Drain and leave to one side.
- When the beans are nearly cooked, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat until hot. Add the onion and fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to turn golden, then stir in the garlic. Add the celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2–3 minutes, then add the carrots and beetroot. Pour in the stock and season lightly with salt. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 15–20 minutes until the carrots and beetroot are soft.
- Add the cooked beans and parsley, then blend the soup until smooth and add more salt, to taste, and pepper. Serve hot with a spoonful of yogurt drizzled over and some coriander leaves sprinkled on top, if you like.
If, like me, you’re keen to clean up your diet a bit, following on from a cake-filled Christmas holiday (!), you might like The S Factor Diet, by Lowri Turner. You probably know Lowri from TV but she’s also a nutritionist who writes for, among others Grazia, Now Diet and Mother & Baby. According to Lowri, this is “a diet that can put a smile on your face!”. Apparently certain hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, leptin and adrenals, can increase your appetite, send cravings sky-high, make you feel depressed and demotivated, and cause your body’s natural fat-burning process to dwindle. You can rebalance those hormones in your body easily with certain foods like chicken, avocados, bananas, fish, nuts and seeds, and dark green and brightly coloured veggies. And Lowri’s book shows you how to work out which hormones are out of kilter, and which foods you need to eat to rebalance them – and gives you lovely recipes, too.
I tried this recipe yesterday for lunch. And, although Zoë insisted on a version without chopped herbs (“yuk, green bits”), it was really good. I have been wanting to try cauliflower ‘couscous’ for a while and it was great. Super-easy to make (you just whizz cauliflower florets in a food processor) and, with the lemon juice, sweet paprika and herbs, it had a lovely taste. And the prawns were gorgeous – really tender, with loads of garlic.
Prawns are a good source of lean protein, which is great for all your S Factor hormones, especially dopamine. And, by swapping normal wheat couscous for cauliflower ‘couscous’ you immediately reduce the starch and calorie content, which helps rebalance all of these hormones – and, of course, it’s gluten-free!
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, soya-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
Preparation time 15 minutes, plus 3 hours marinating Cooking time 6 minutes Serves 4
- 400g/14oz raw tiger prawns, peeled and deveined
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
For the marinade:
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the couscous:
- 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 handful of finely chopped mint leaves
- 1 handful of finely chopped parsley leaves, plus extra to serve
- ½ red onion, finely sliced
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 large handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- If using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. To make the marinade, put all of the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add the prawns to the marinade and toss well, making sure the prawns are covered in the marinade. Cover and chill in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the “couscous”. Put the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until it resembles couscous grains. Transfer to a bowl, stir in all of the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Leave to one side.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the prawns from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thread about 6 prawns onto each of 4 skewers. Heat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat and cook the prawns, brushing with the reserved marinade, for about 2–3 minutes on each side until they are pink and cooked through. Remove the skewers and divide the prawns and “couscous” into 4 equal portions. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over, if you like.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 148kcal Protein 21.3g Carbohydrates 4.3g Fat 5.6g
Recently I worked with Beverly le Blanc on her brilliant new book, I Love My Slow Cooker, which was published last month. She very kindly gave me one of the slow cookers she’d bought to do all the testing and didn’t need any longer (many thanks, Bev!!) so I’ve been having a lovely time trying out lots of the recipes from her book. My mother didn’t have a slow cooker, and I’d never tried one before, so it was all new to me. But oh wow, are slow cookers great!
The back of I Love My Slow Cooker says “Discover how your slow cooker can transform your life in the kitchen from a frantic, stressful time into a wonderfully calm one”. Sounds like a big claim, doesn’t it? Well I wrote that so now I need to back up my words! Trust me, though, it’s true! I work full-time and my husband stays at home (doing cartoons for The Guardian), so he collects Zoё from school and makes her evening meal for her. For me, one of the fantastic things about the slow cooker is that I can quickly put a recipe together in the cooker before I leave the house in the morning, and by dinner time it can be ready and waiting for Peter to dish up for her. It’s easy to make stews and casseroles that are healthy and full of delicious flavours, that warm Zoё up in this cold weather and give her a lovely comforting meal. The slow cooker can then keep the meal warm until I get home from work and Peter and I tuck in. Great. Truly great. But then you’ve probably heard that sort of story from lots of people…
What you probably haven’t heard is how slow cookers are wonderful for making a whole variety of dishes. Yes, of course, soups, stews and sauces. They’re great, too, for cheap cuts of meat (which you can cook for numerous hours until meltingly tender) and dried beans (which you can leave to bubble away without worrying about them going mushy). But they’re also brilliant for cooking fish. Whether you’re cooking a fish stew fairly quickly, or cooking something like squid on a low heat over several hours, you’ll find that the fish cooks perfectly and doesn’t overcook. And what’s more, the slow, gentle, steam cooking can create superb puddings, too. No need to mess about doing a bain-marie method – you can just put it in a slow cooker.
I have some firm favourites already from this book. And one of them is this Asian-Style Poached Chicken & Pak Choi. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly so that it’s completely gluten-free and dairy-free. But basically, you put a whole chicken in the slow cooker, add the Asian-style ingredients, and 4 hours later it’s bubbling away, ready to be served. I serve it with coconut rice because Zoё loves that (I do equal parts coconut milk and water and a few coriander leaves in at the end) and often add more veggies to the pot. It’s a lovely family meal but it also gets lots of oohs and aahs when people come round.
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free
Serves 4–6 Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 4 hours
- a few coriander sprigs, with crushed stalks, plus extra leaves to serve
- 2 onions, 1 halved and 1 sliced
- 1 oven-ready chicken, about 1.5kg/3lb 5oz, any fat in the cavity removed
- 600ml/21fl oz/scant 2½ cups gluten-free and dairy-free chicken stock, boiling, plus extra if needed
- 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup tamari soy sauce, plus extra to taste
- 4 tbsp rice wine
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2.5cm/1in piece of galangal or ginger, sliced
- 1 dried red Thai chilli, deseeded if you like
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 2 pak choi, quartered
- ground Szechuan pepper or freshly ground black pepper
- cooked long-grain rice, to serve
- Put an upturned heatproof saucer in the slow cooker. (Check that the chicken will be able to sit on top of the saucer with the cooker lid in place.) Preheat the covered cooker on HIGH.
- Put the coriander and halved onion in the chicken’s cavity and season with pepper. Secure the opening with wooden cocktail sticks. Put the chicken in the cooker, breast-side down, then pour over the stock, tamari and rice wine. Add extra stock to fill the container, if necessary, leaving a 2.5cm/1in gap at the top of the pot. The chicken will not be completely covered with liquid. Push the sliced onion, garlic, galangal and chilli into the liquid.
- Cover the cooker with the lid. Cook on HIGH for 3¾ hours until the juices from the chicken run clear when the thickest part of the meat is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife or skewer. Remove the chicken from the cooker, wrap in foil and leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put the spring onions and pak choi in the cooker, re-cover and cook for a further 20 minutes until the pak choi is tender. Remove the pak choi from the cooker, and wrap in the foil with the chicken.
- Pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then boil vigorously for at least 3 minutes until reduced. Add a little more tamari and pepper, if you like. Remove the skin from the chicken and carve. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids. Sprinkle the chicken with coriander and serve with the cooking liquid, pak choi and rice.
This is a wonderfully robust soup – with a great mixture of flavours from the sweet, earthy chestnuts, the salty pancetta and the aromatic rosemary. It makes a lovely lunch-time soup for 4 – or a evening bowl for 2. And if your toddler can tolerate nuts, it’s guaranteed to be a hit with him or her.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to forage or get some fresh chestnuts, all good. Simply cut a cross in the top of them and roast in the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for about 10 minutes. Then just peel and use. Or, of course, you can use the vacuum-packed chestnuts you can buy in packets. With these you just soak the packets in boiling water for a minute or so, before opening.
gluten-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, seed-free, citrus-free
Preparation time 5 minutes Cooking time 20 minutes Serves 4
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200g/7oz pancetta
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 celery stalk, sliced
- ½ leek, sliced
- 2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
- 400g/14oz cooked chestnuts
- 1.2l/42fl oz/scant 5 cups stock made with gluten- and dairy-free stock powder
- sea salt (optional as the pancetta is already salty) and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat until hot. Add the pancetta and fry for 5–6 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to one side.
- Put the onion in the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, until just starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring all the time. Add the carrot, celery and leek and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, until the leek starts to turn translucent. Stir in the rosemary and chestnuts and cook for a further 5 minutes until the carrot is starting to soften. Add the cooked pancetta and pour in the stock. Season lightly, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
- Using a immersion blender or blender, whiz the mixture to make a slightly textured soup. Serve hot.
Full of the flavours of the Mediterranean, this recipe transports you to sun-drenched Italy! As someone who has been intolerant to gluten and dairy for many, many years, I’ve generally stayed away from Italian food, thinking that it’s mainly based around pasta, pizza and a lot of cheese. But when we went to Tuscany recently, I discovered that real Italian food is a wonderfully, all-embracing cuisine. Of course there’s pasta and pizza and of course there are many different cheese showcased throughout the menus. But there’s also a delicious range of recipes that create little bites of heaven with vegetables, meat, fish and fruit, as well. In Tuscany I gained enormous respect for the way Italians work with local produce and hope that this (dairy-free) Italian-style recipe does the cuisine justice.
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, seed-free, citrus-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 35 minutes
- 60g/2¼oz basil leaves
- 30g/1oz/scant ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 50g/1¾oz dairy-free cheese
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large aubergines, sliced widthways and ends removed
- 3–4 tbsp olive oil
- 6 large tomatoes, sliced and ends removed
- 200g/7oz dairy-free soya cheese, cut into small square-shaped slices
- 1 large, ripe avocado
- a few basil leaves, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and put the aubergine slices onto a baking tray. Drizzle over the oil and bake for 20 minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and dry-fry until just starting to turn golden. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Wash the basil and pat dry in a clean kitchen towel. Put the pine nuts, basil, garlic and dairy-free cheese into a food processor and blitz. With the motor running, pour the oil until a thick, dense sauce forms.
- When the aubergines have cooked, put a slice of tomato on top of each aubergine slice. Then put a small dollop of the pesto sauce on top and cover with a slice of dairy-free cheese.
- Return to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the dairy-free cheese is starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven.
- To make the stacks, put one pile of aubergine/tomato/pesto/dairy-free cheese on top of another, on a serving plate, using the smaller piles to put on top of the larger ones. Press the stacks down slightly to anchor them. This will make about 12 stacks.
- Cut the avocado into quarters and remove the skins and stone. Slice each quarter into thirds and half each slice. Top the stacks with a couple of pieces of avocado each and sprinkle the basil over. Serve hot or cold.
Just back from a heavenly week in Tuscany. Ahhhhhhh. I’ve never been (other than a weekend in Florence for Peter’s 40th) and have longed to go for years and years – and we finally made it. We stayed in an agriturismo appartment on the side of a beautifully-restored old farmhouse and spent the week travelling around, seeing the stunning countryside and persuading Zoe to look round Pisa and Sienna with us… Every morning I would get up and go for a swim in the salt-water pool pictured above. Truly, life doesn’t get much better than those early morning swims as the sunlight bounced on the water and the scent of the lavender bushes filled the air. (We’re now back in grey, chilly London and I’m dreaming of those swims!)
The farmer grows olives and makes the most delicious olive oil – smooth and clean yet full of depths of flavours.
We swam and swam and swam some more – in the pool, at the beach and even in this river where there were hot springs. The smell of sulphur was strong but somehow not unpleasant and we lay in the water, and then covered ourselves with the mud and sat in the water, letting the water do its magic. The waters are mainly detoxifying, drawing out toxins and impurities, but they also act as a relaxant and stress-reliever (so you come out feeling very sleepy!) and are also great for various allergic/intolerant conditions, especially eczema, psoriasis, asthma and sinusitis.
We went to Sienna which was stunning. The medieval buildings, famous Piazza and Duomo were awe-inspiring. According to Roman legend, Sienna was founded by Senius, who was the son of Remus. (Remus, and his brother Romulus, were the legendary founders of Rome. They were the sons of Mars who were abandoned as babies but saved by a she-wolf who suckled them and a woodpecker who fed them, and then rescued by a shepherd.)
Sienna is full of statues and artwork showing the she-wolf suckling the young babies. And the duomo is bursting with beautiful paintings, statues and glass windows.
And I was wowed by the Siennese style of paintings (you can see a rather bad photo of one of them below) which are full of bright, bold colour blocks and a modern-feeling graphic styling (despite the medieval style of painting.)
We went to Pisa, too, and took Zoe round the Duomo there. The audio equipment was brilliant as it meant Zoe was intrigued by the handsets and chatted into those while we gazed at the paintings! The Italians are generally lovely about kids and let them play and run around. We kept it to a minimum in the Cathedral (!) but even when Zoe was ordering rice and chocolate cake down the audio handset, they didn’t bat an eyelid.
And on the subject of food – yes it was amazing! The fruit was sweet and juicy and the vegetables full of the flavours of sunshine; the selection of prosciutto and hams in the delis were joyous; and the fresh fish and seafood were all gorgeous. But generally gluten-free or dairy-free in restaurants or cafés weren’t an option. We were in deepest, rural Tuscany – where they would serve just a few dishes with home-made gluten pasta and rich cheeses. But I happened on a selection of gluten-free breads in the small supermarket in the local town and, from then on, happily munched my way through the gluten-free breadsticks, buns and bread…
And I made a wonderful, wonderful bruschetta with toasted gluten-free buns, rich, plump tomatoes, pungent garlic and sweet, earthy basil leaves.
This recipe (inspired by her home-grown tomatoes) came from Renée Elliott’s website and it’s utterly delicious.
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter Preparation time 20 minutes Cooking time 15 minutes
- 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- freshly-ground black pepper
- 4 thick slices of gluten-free bread, or 4 gluten-free rolls, halved
- 4 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
- 10g/¼oz basil leaves, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Heat the oven to 220˚C/440˚F/gas 7. Pour the oil into a medium bowl, add the salt and pepper and mix well. Dip each side of the bread in the oil until lightly coated with oil and put the bread in a shallow baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until crisp.
- Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, basil and garlic to the oil and mix well. Transfer the toasted bread to a serving plate, top generously with the tomato mixture and serve.
This weekend I visited Bethany Kehdy, a food writer and blogger (dirtykitchensecrets.com) who also leads culinary tours across Lebanon and organises Food Blogger Connect, a conference and forum for food bloggers. Peter, Zoë and I had some wonderful meals and ate some beautiful ingredients that Bethany has brought back from her father’s farm in Lebanon, including gorgeous olives and some incredible preserved sheep fat (the brown topping on the hummus on the right) that tasted really delicious. Thank you so much, Bethany, for a wonderful time!
I’ve come back from Bethany’s knowing much, much more about hummus, one of her favourite dishes. What I didn’t know is that hummus actually means in Arabic is chickpea, and that what we usually call hummus is called hummus b’tahini, meaning ‘with tahini’ in Lebanon and the Middle East. This is the one that’s creamy and smooth and Bethany’s was truly delicious. Unlike shop-bought ones it had a velvety texture and a very clean taste. We had it with eggs, olives, M’tabbal (smokey aubergine dip) and (gluten-free) flatbread. There are other types of hummus, including hummus balila (with cumin and toasted pine nuts), hummus Beiruti (a spicier version, usually with chilli, and herbs such as parsley) and also hummus b’awarma (hummus b’tahini with preserved meat – minced meat that is preserved with the rendered fat from the tail of Fat Tail Sheep, plus salt) which also we had.
The other thing that I learnt is that you must never add oil to your hummus as you’re mixing it. You can drizzle a little olive oil over the top at the end but if you mix oil in when you’re blitzing the hummus, it will muddle the taste. (I never knew that – and now I know why Bethany’s tasted so clear!) As Bethany will tell you, you also need to soak dried chickpeas and boil them, rather than using tinned chickpeas, as it will taste much better. And if you take the time to skin them, you’ll enjoy a wonderfully smooth textured-hummus.
I have a pot of Bethany’s hummus sitting in my fridge right now. I’m hoping to have some when I get home…. if Peter or Zoë haven’t got there first!
Bethany’s recipe for hummus b’tahini (many thanks, Bethany, for letting me use it) from her website is here –
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, soya-free
Makes: about a 300g/10½oz tub Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 12 hours soaking time and resting time Cooking time:1½–2hours
- 250g/9 oz/scant 1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked will make 500g/1lb 2oz)
- ¼ tsp baking soda (optional)
- 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cups tahini
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ tsp dry cumin, allspice, or 7-spices
- 2 lemons, plus more to taste
- olive oil, for drizzling
- salt to taste
- paprika, finely chopped coriander and (gluten-free) pitta bread, to serve.
- Begin by sorting thru the chickpeas and getting rid of any rotted chickpeas. Rinse them well under cold water. Put in a large bowl and fill with twice the amount of water. Be sure to use a big enough bowl as the chickpeas will expand. Let it sit overnight. Now, if your thinking: “What a waste of time and energy! I’ll just get canned chickpeas and save time and energy!” Well, yes you could, but you’ll just be wasting the TASTE! C’mon it’s not that bad! You can sort thru the chickpeas while watching your favorite TV show… don’t get too distracted though!
- The next day, rinse the soaked chickpeas really well under running water, add the chickpeas to a deep pot (I recommend a pressure cooker which will drastically reduce the cooking time, follow manual instructions) and fill the pot with water to cover the chickpeas. Now double the water. If you’re not using a pressure cooker you may need to use baking soda to help soften the chickpeas and reduce cooking time, though I prefer not to as it lends a soapy taste. Place pot on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1.5 hours- 2 hours, depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove any of the white foam with a slotted spoon. Chickpeas are ready when they smash between two fingers with the gentlest pressure applied. Drain chickpeas. If you’re feeling so inclined, then I do recommend shocking the cooked chickpeas under cold running water, then cover them with cold water and swish them a few times with your hands. Discard the skins that have loosened. This helps in achieving a smoother, less grainy, velvety smooth hummus.
- Throw the garlic cloves and a little bit of salt in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the chickpeas (reserve a handful for garnish, if you’d like), pulse a few more times (maybe add a little water here to get the blades moving), then add tahini, lemon juice and spice of choice (allspice traditional to Lebanon) and process until a creamy consistency is reached. You may find that you need to add some more water to loosen the mixture, drizzle it in little by little, till you reach the texture you’re after.
- If you like your hummus more zesty, then feel free to add more at this point. I like to leave my hummus to rest for an hour or two, and then taste. This allows all the flavors to sit and you can then better gauge if you will need more lemon to your taste. Hummus will tend to thicken overnight and you can loosen the mixture by adding water or more lemon, to taste. Hummus tastes the best when made fresh but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good days after it’s made. It’s incredibly convenient and necessary to have hummus in your fridge throughout the week. Home-made hummus can keep up to 7 days, if it is not consumed before then.
- To serve the hummus: Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus. Into the well, drizzle olive oil, sprinklings of paprika, reserved chickpeas, if using and finely chopped coriander. Serve with warm (gluten-free) Arabic bread.
The truth is that I don’t like kale normally. Try as I might, it tastes bitter and unappealing to me. But I know it’s packed with nutrients and fantastically good for you. And it’s wonderfully cheap. So I’ve been experimenting with different flavours to add to it and I think I’ve come up with a winning formula! Bursting with fresh, fiery tastes, this Asian-style version can be served with rice for a light lunch or as a side dish with, say, steamed fish and rice. Enjoy!
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, nut-free, citrus-free
Serves 1 as a main course or 2 as a side dish Preparation time 5 minutes Cooking time 5 minutes
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemongrass stalk, finely sliced
- 1cm/½in piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 200g/7oz kale, chopped
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
- 1–2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
- Heat both of the oils in a wok or large frying pan over a high heat. Add the lemongrass, ginger, chilli and then the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the kale and stir-fry for about 2 minutes until the kale is starting to look cooked.
- Mix together the rice wine vinegar, agarve syrup and 1 tablespoon of the tamari and pour into the pan. Cook, stirring, for another 1–2 minutes until all of the kale is cooked but remains quite crunchy. Check the seasoning and add the other tablespoon of tamari if you like. Serve hot.