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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 recipe comes from Sophie Michell’s gorgeous new book, Love Good Food, and is based on a dish that Sophie tried when she was in Malaysia. Malaysian food is definitely the unsung culinary hero of Asia. It’s uniquely diverse cuisine combines the original Malay cooking style along with cooking techniques and ingredients from China, India, Portugal and Holland, with Thai and Indonesian influences. The huge variety of cuisines creates a delectable mix of regional specialities and iconic dishes.
Probably the most immediately-noticeable aspect of Malaysian food is the use of an unusual mix of spices. The Chinese, Indian and Portugese spice traders brought in spices like cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, tamarind and turmeric and these are used with great effect in the dishes. Here Sophie has mixed turmeric into the pancake mixture, giving the batter a beautiful yellow colour, along with a slightly tart, peppery flavour. Mixed in with the rice flour, the creamy, sweet coconut milk and the light-onion flavour from the chive, this is a really delicious pancake mixture.
What’s more, this recipe is not only gluten-free and dairy-free but it’s egg-free. Yep – pancakes you can make without having to use eggs or egg substitutes. Brilliant! You can also use strips of pork or prawns and peanuts instead of the crab. Sophie finishes the dish off with some oyster sauce but this contains gluten, so you could simply leave it as it is, or perhaps try a squeeze of lime if you like.
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, seed-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting time Cooking time 35 minutes
- 1–2 tsp groundnut oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2.5cm/1in piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 300g/10½oz picked cooked white crab meat
- 1 tsp tamari soy sauce
- 175g/6oz/heaped 1 cup rice flour
- 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup coconut milk, plus extra as needed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp snipped chives, plus extra for sprinkling
- a pinch of sea salt
- To make the pancake batter, whisk together the rice flour, coconut milk, turmeric, chives and sea salt in a bowl with 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup water until thoroughly combined to make a smooth batter, adding more coconut and water if needed. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- To cook the pancakes, heat a frying pan with a base about 20cm/8in in diameter over a medium-high heat. Add some of the groundnut oil, and, when it is hot, pour in one-quarter of the pancake batter. Tilt the pan to spread the batter into a thin, lacy layer, then cook the pancake for 5 minutes until the batter is set and the edges are starting to turn golden. Flip the pancake over and cook for a further 2–3 minutes until golden. Turn the pancake out onto a heatproof serving plate and keep warm while you cook the remaining 3 pancakes, adding more oil to the pan as required.
- Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add the ginger and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the crab meat and tamari soy sauce and stir-fry until heated through. Divide the crab mixture onto the pancakes and roll them up. Serve immediately, sprinkled with chives.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, making the same spice paste over and over again. So I tried a new one to make this recipe – from Leemei Tan‘s Lemongrass & Ginger. I have an all-time favourite Thai green curry that I make that is hard to drag myself away from. But it uses a lot of different ingredients so it was great to try this simple paste – especially as it delivers delicious flavours and tons of oomph.
Leemei Tan is a food blogger, stylist and photographer. Her blog is gorgeous – full of Asian (inspired by her upbringing in Malaysia) and French/Asian (inspired by her French husband) recipes. Her brilliant book covers recipes from all over Asia – Japan & Korea, China, Philippines & Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam and India & Sri Lanka. Here I’ve tried one of the Malaysian recipes as I’ve become increasingly interested in this particular cuisine.
Malaysian food reflects the country’s different ethnic backgrounds. The mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, Eurasian and the indigenous people of Borneo has meant the cuisine majors on a fusion of Malay and Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques. Added to that is the effect of the spice trade in the 15th century that brought a wide range of exotic spices to Malaysia, including cardamom, cinnamon, clove and star anise, all of which often play a starring role in the dishes.
This recipe uses star anise, ginger and lemongrass, along with coconut milk, to make a truly delicious rice. (I made the rice the other morning, before I went to work, thinking that Zoe would love it for her lunch, as she loves coconut-flavoured rice. But when I came home and asked Peter whether she had liked it, he said that she’d eaten a fair bit of it but didn’t seem to enjoy it particularly. Later on, I realised that he’d given her the chopped up dried anchovies for this Sambal recipe that I’d had in the fridge instead. No wonder she hadn’t gone for it big time!)
This recipe is a great one for cooking squid. Squid can so easily be tough and rubbery when you’ve cooked it, so you have to either flash fry/stir-fry or cook it slowly, as you do here, to get a lovely tender texture. And the whole dish is full of punchy, vibrant flavours – delicious!
I went to New Loon Moon Supermarket in Chinatown, London, to get the dried anchovies, the pandan leaves and the banana leaves for this recipe. It’s always wonderful going to this store – and I generally spend far too long in there, drifting around the aisles looking at the wonderful selection of foods…
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, soya-free, nut-free
Serves: 4–6 Preparation time: 1 hour, plus soaking and resting time Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 350g/12oz/1¾ cups long-grain rice, washed and rested
- 1 star anise
- 2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves and stalk ends removed and crushed
- 3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot (optional)
- 2cm/¾in piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 100ml/3½fl oz/generous ⅓ cup coconut milk
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 4–6 banana leaves (optional)
For the Squid Sambal
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 red onions, sliced into rings
- 800g/1lb 12oz squid, cut into rings
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp lime juice or 1 recipe quantity Tamarind Water
- sea salt
For the Sambal paste
- 4 dried chillies
- 5 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 10 shallots, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp roasted shrimp paste
- 2 macadamia nuts
- 100g/3½oz/scant ⅔ cup raw, skinless peanuts
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- 1 small cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 80g/2¾oz dried anchovies
- To make the Sambal paste, soak the dried chillies in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain, deseed and roughly chop. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste.
- To make the Squid Sambal, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the spice paste and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes until fragrant and the oil starts to rise to the surface. Tip in the squid, stir until well coated and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and season with salt, then add the lime juice and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and turns a dark reddish brown. Leave to one side and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, put the rice, star anise, lemongrass, pandan leaves, if using, ginger, coconut milk and salt in a large saucepan and pour in 300ml/10½fl oz/scant 1¼ cups water. Put the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil for about 20 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent the rice sticking to the base of the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, leaving the lid tightly closed, and leave to one side to steam for 10–15 minutes until cooked. Fluff the rice with a fork and discard the star anise, lemongrass and pandan leaves, if using. Leave to one side and keep warm.
- While the Sambal and rice are cooking, heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the peanuts and dry-roast until fragrant and starting to brown. Tip the peanuts onto a plate, sprinkle over the sugar and leave to cool. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the dried anchovies until slightly browned.
- Serve the rice on plates or banana leaves. Ladle the Squid Sambal over the rice and top with the eggs. To the side, heap the cucumber, toasted anchovies and sugared peanuts. Serve hot.
Spring onions turned up in my veg box this week and it made me think of lighter, Asian-style food. I’ve been meaning to try this idea out for a while, but it’s felt too wintery recently. But as the blossom is now in full bloom on the trees and the weather has turned warmer, I thought it would be good to try this.
Spring onions are often combined with ginger and sesame oil, and these marry wonderfully well with the subtle tastes of pak choi and white fish. I’ve used pollack because the sauce makes the fish taste delicious, and I’ve added lots of the sea vegetable, arame, to maximise the healthy aspect of this dish. Arame, like all sea veg, contains high levels of iodine, which, as well as boosting your immune system, it helps to keep your metabolism working at an optimum level.
I bought some Chinese rice wine for this dish – and it was a revelation! I’m not sure what I was expecting but, to me, it tastes rather like sherry. The recipe uses 5 tablespoons of the wine and the bottle says that the wine will only keep for a week. So there was no choice, really – we had to drink the rest. (Yep, the detox is over!) I had bought Doragon Sake – and we drank it warm as the bottle suggested, slowly over the course of a couple of days. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world of wine!
Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 10 minutes Serves 4
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, citrus-free
- 2 pak choi
- 6 spring onions, cut into strips
- 1cm/½in piece root ginger, peeled and cut into strips
- 4 skinless white fish fillets, such as pollack
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 tbsp Chinese rice wine
- 3 tbsp tamari
- 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cup miso soup
- 1 handful of arame
- steamed rice or cooked rice noodles, to serve
- Remove the 2 outer leaves from each pak choi and immerse in a bowl of boiled water for about 1 minute until the leaves have softened. Refresh under cold running water and leave to one side. Cut the remaining pak choi into quarters.
- Arrange the spring onion strips and ginger on the top of the fish and wrap the softened pak choi leaves around the fish, tucking each end under the fish.
- Heat the sesame and olive oils in a large wok over a medium heat until hot. Pour in the rice wine, tamari and miso soup and add the arame, making sure the arame is immersed in the liquid. Bring to the boil, then place the fish on the top and cover with a lid. (If your wok is too small for all the fish, cook in batches.) Cook for 5 minutes, then add the remaining pak choi quarters and cook, covered, for a further 3–5 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Serve immediately with steamed rice or rice noodles.
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.
This wonderful cheesecake is filled with sweet blueberries, and accented by zesty lime, rich soya cream cheese and spicy ginger biscuits. The world is filled with people who ADORE cheesecake and, having never, seriously, ever been able to eat one, I’ve now been able to join them. YAY! Delicious and stunning, and I know from experience that it travels well (I carried it from West Dulwich (where I live) to the offices of Simon & Schuster in Bloomsbury when I presented my book Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at the Sales Conference.) I use Tofutti Creamy Smooth – a dairy-free alternative to cream cheese – because it has a beautiful taste and texture and works brilliantly in this cheesecake. It takes a while to make because you need to make the biscuits first, then put the cheesecake together, bake it and leave to chill and set. But wow is it worth it!
Serves 6–8 Preparation time 40 minutes, plus at least 3 hours setting Cooking time 1 hour
100g/3½oz dairy-free margarine, melted, plus extra for greasing
300g/10½oz/2 cups blueberries
550g/1lb 4oz soya cream cheese
175g/6oz/1 cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 limes
175g/6oz dairy-free margarine
125g/4½oz/¾ cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
100g/3½oz/heaped ½ cup rice flour
50g/1¾oz/scant ½ cup gram flour
50g/1¾oz/¹⁄₃ cup maize flour
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
scant ½ tsp xanthan gum
1cm/½in piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
1 To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Put the dairy-free margarine and sugar in a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the margarine has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 4–5 minutes until the mixture has caramelized slightly and become syrupy.
2 Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and stir in the ground ginger, gluten-free baking powder and xanthan gum. Add the root ginger and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour mixture until well mixed. Add the margarine and sugar syrup, and stir well with a wooden spoon.
3 Spoon the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, onto the baking sheets. Using your hands and the back of a metal spoon, shape each mound into a round biscuit shape about 3mm/1∕₈in thick.
4 Bake for 8–12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Break into pieces.
5 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Lightly grease a deep 20cm/8in springform cake tin with dairy-free margarine and line the base with baking parchment. Heat the dairy-free margarine in a saucepan over a low heat until melted. Put the biscuits in a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the crumbs to the melted margarine and mix well. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture evenly into the base of the cake tin. Cover with the blueberries and leave to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
6 Meanwhile, blend the soya cream cheese, sugar, and lime zest and juice together in a food processor until smooth. Add the eggs and blend until smooth and creamy.
7 Pour the cheese mixture over the blueberries and bake for 30–35 minutes until pale golden brown and the top feels firm to the touch. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake to rest in the oven for another 30 minutes.
8 Ease the cheesecake out of the tin and leave to cool completely, then chill in the fridge for 3–4 hours until completely set before serving.
I’ve started a detox this weekend. I haven’t done one since before I got pregnant with Zoë and I fell like a really need to do one. Over the summer I ate lots of sugary foods and I’m really noticing the effect – I’ve put on weight and I’m feeling really tired, especially after eating, and I don’t feel refreshed when I wake up in the morning. Of course, when you have a small child, it’s hard to tell whether tiredness is due to broken nights or your general health. But the fact that I’m really craving sweet food and I’m also waking up at the classic sugar-rush time during the early hours of the morning are telling me that it’s time to detox.
I’m going to do a combination of the detox plans from one of my all-time favourite books, Clean Up Your Diet by Max Tomlinson and herbs from the A Vogel Detox Box. I first met Max about 10 years ago and he has been an incredible inspiration in my life ever since – and he recommended this detox kit. It is made up of tincture mixes of Milk Thistle, which is meant to help your liver function, which in turn helps your body to eliminate toxins, Solidago which is a traditional tonic for your kidneys, helping to reduce fluid retention and things like puffy eyes, Frangula which is said to aid digestion and is a mild laxative and Calendula which is wonderful for boosting your immune system.
So, I’m going to cut out all alcohol, sugar, packaged, tinned or processed foods and red meat. And I’m going to seriously boost my intake of fruit and veggies and eat just organic chicken or fish. On top of that, I need to drink 2 litres of water a day, minimize my salt intake, do food combining, try not to eat after 8pm, and try to make lunch my biggest meal of the day. I’ll probably have a juice for breakfast every day and have a handful of nuts and seeds, too. And then I think I’ll try to do the protein/veggies combo – with probably a huge salad – for lunch and then the low-GI carbs/veggies combo – again with a large salad – for as early a dinner as I can possibly do. And I’ll snack on fruit and veggies during the day.
Here goes – wish me luck! This was my juice this morning. It’s a classic but I love it because of the taste and also the beautiful colours –
- 3 beetroots, scrubbed and ends removed
- 4 large carrots, scrubbed and ends removed
- 2.5cm/1in piece of root ginger
- Push the ingredients through an electric juicer and serve immediately.