Fakin’ filo

On a wheat-free diet there are now very few foods which are just totally irreplaceable. There’s always some means, some kind of flour that will just about pass for whatever cooking need you have. The foods that we’ve been unable to imitate are the ones which rely heavily on the structure that wheat gluten provides.

The one that stands out for me is filo pastry.

Spanokopita …. baklava … samosas … chicken pastilla … strudel …. and any number of food combinations, sweet or savoury, wrapped into a filo cigar. Crispy, buttery goodness. Godammit. I miss filo.

But have you heard of Mountain Bread? It’s an Aussie flatbread, not unlike a sheet of cooked filo. Sort of. Obviously they don’t have quite the pliable nature of uncooked filo – since I found out that there is an entirely spelt* version of the product, that is not going to stop me!

filo veggie tart

Spelt ‘filo’ cheese and vegetable tart

Sometimes you’re gonna spring a leak but as long as you’re careful, it works – here’s how I did it. I’ve also made chicken and mushroom parcels, fruit mince cigars, and a spectactular pear and berry frangipane strudel. Samosas next.

Happy baking!

 

*(I realise this doesn’t help out coeliacs, and for that I am sorry – perhaps one day Mountain Bread will perfect a gluten free formula.)

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Pea and avo pasta with fennel

This might be my new pasta obsession – I always have to have one on the go. I would cheerfully lick the blades of the food processor to get at the smears of sauce hiding from my persistent spatula.

pea and avo pasta with fennel

Pasta with pea, avocado and goats cheese sauce, with caramelised fennel and Parmesan and almonds

The avocado sauce so smooth and has a really good bite of raw garlic; the caramelised fennel gives a great sweet balance to it, with the Parmesan providing the salty umami flavour.

This is easily adapted for all sorts of food intolerance without losing much:

  • GF – use GF pasta
  • LF – use lactose free cream instead of goats
  • Vegetarian – use a vegetarian hard cheese instead of Parmesan
  • Vegan – omit cheese
  • Nut free – omit almonds

I’m REALLY glad I outgrew my childhood avocado allergy though!

If you wanna make it, the recipe’s here.

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Spelt vs croissants

Spelt flour is a great substitute in a lot of baking situations: scones, biscuits, pastry. In fact in all the baked goods that don’t need a strong protein structure to be developed through kneading. This is because spelt contains a different type of gluten than wheat, as less of it. In fact, the lower gluten results in a more delicate crumb and lighter texture.

croissants and pain au chocolate

But for bread products spelt can be a bit troublesome. To keep the bread moist, make sure the dough is as wet as you dare, and don’t knead it too much – the fragile glutens won’t take it and you’ll have a dry, crumbly bread.

Anyway, this week’s kitchen adventure is viennoiserie. Think:

  • Croissants
  • Pain au chocolate
  • Croissants aux amandes
  • Pain aux raisin
  • Chasson aux pomme

There doesn’t seem to be much consensus about how long croissants have been around but there are hundreds of recipes out there on the world wide internet. I used the recipe from Bake by Rachel Allen. I reckon you could probably trust Paul Hollywood too 😛

spelt croissants

 

These are definitely the best I’ve made. That’ll be because I followed the recipe. Who knew?

Oh yes, I make my own croissants … said no-one, ever

Do you find that there are foods that it doesn’t even cross your mind to make at home? Products that you just pick up off the shelf or out of the refrigerated aisle like an automaton?

For example, who the hell makes croissants at home when they are so many extraordinary examples to be found in artisan bakeries up and down the land?

Me.

I do.croissant

Because I’ve been living with food intolerance for 11 years, and 11 years ago you were lucky to even find pasta that didn’t disintegrate upon contact with hot water.

If I wanted a bagel, pitta bread, sweet potato fries, brioche, tortellini, or gnocchi I had to make it myself. I’ve made yoghurt with lactose-free milk and icecream from coconut milk. I’ve even made marzipan out of macadamias, although I’m buggered if I can remembered why. What’s even more bizarre is that at the time I didn’t have a food processor so had to chop the nuts to a ridiculously fine crumb BY HAND. Nope, no idea. It was frickin’ delicious though.

Also on the list along the same vein are:

  • Crumpets
  • Pita bread
  • Granola
  • Corn tortillas
  • Yoghurt
  • Croissants
  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Corn dogs
  • And the piece de resistance: Findus Crispy Pancakes!

These days, things are better for us food freaks; now you can by a great deal more than just cakes and biscuits in the ‘free from’ aisle – apparently that’s all coeliacs needed in the early noughties. So these days I just take on these ridiculous kitchen escapades for fun. Yes, fun.

This week I have a hankering for spelt croissants, but in the meantime, this story might keep you amused:

French mock Tesco

 

 

Eating myself clean

I always feel a bit toxic after Christmas. Sort of dirty on the inside. Know what I mean? The only thing that I want to eat is broccoli, lots and lots of broccoli with just a squeeze of lemon.

Mmmmm, brooooccooooliiiiii …

broccoli clipart

It’s a bit of cliché, but I’m getting CLEAN this New Year. I’ve heard about clean eating but haven’t really understood exactly what that actually means.

Cue a little light googling.

Ah, right! So, clean eating focuses on eating whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods but as with vegetarianism it seems to be all things to all people – there’s no right or wrong, you just go with what feels right for you and take it just as far as you want.

Here are some good explanations
Cooking Light
Clean Eating Australia

So what I’ve realised is that an advantage of having multiple food intolerances (advantage??!) is that they necessitate me cooking almost everything from scratch – so that ticks the ‘unprocessed’ box. Cooking from scratch keeps out those pesky preservatives and additives, including salt and sugar.

And as for whole/unrefined, I’ve found that as I’ve got older I’ve already become more drawn to the ‘brown’ version of foods – brown rice, wholegrain spelt flour, wholegrain spelt pasta. These foods suit me miles better – higher levels of fibre slow the release of sugar from the food and better keep my blood sugar on an even keel.

As an aside, it has long been my complaint than many market-targeted gluten-free foods are incredibly over processed, lacking in fibre whilst being high in sugar. It all seems so unnecessary. It’s this reason that drives me to make my own spelt bread rather than rely on the gf alternatives. (Although note that spelt DOES contain gluten but I’m wheat intolerant not coeliac and can tolerate spelt)

So this January, I’m looking forward to eating plenty of fresh vegetables, nuts and legumes, brown rice and quinoa with a little cheese, fish and chicken, and feeling all the better for it.

Addendum: Aubergine, butternut squash and French bean curry with brown rice and raita for dinner – that’s a win for clean eating!