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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Gourmet nights #3: Demuths

There was a small delay in the execution of Gourmet Nights #3. It was supposed to be last week but rather shockingly we had a social life and I couldn’t fit it in! Don’t worry – no such impediment this week.

There are a load of reasons why people are vegetarian – concern for the environment, love of animals, health, the taste or texture of meat. The list goes on.

I’m unlikely to ever become fully veggo – cutting another food group out of my diet is just not a good idea, but I have reduced it to the bare minimum. But if I did it would just be because I LOVE VEGETARIAN FOOD! I JUST LOVE IT!

Spinach and potato koftas

Easy to make and contained lots of great spices but the gram flour batter went soft within a few minutes which was a shame – I assume it was because the filling is quite moist. Tasty nonetheless. As a bonus they are vegan and gluten free.

spinach koftas

spinach and potato koftas with mango chutney

Souffle topped mushrooms with panzanella

Delicious! The souffle and mushrooms were deeply savoury – I don’t think meat eaters would even notice they’d gone veggie. The panzanella was super garlicky. Which I LOVED at the time, but not so much the next morning … The dressing includes red wine which gave the dish an amazing depth of flavour. Croutons were essential to offer a change in texture and taste from the rich salad and souffle.

souffle topped mushroom

stilton topped mushrooms with panzanella and spicy croutons

Plum frangipane tart

Oh my! There’s not very much of this left. I think that speaks for itself. Yum, yum, yum!

plum frangipane tart

red plum frangipane tart

Admissions of deviation from the recipe

Koftas: I forgot to buy more spinach so they were a little light on the green stuff! And since we already had homemade mango chutney, I didn’t make the tomato and mango one that was suggested

Souffle and panzanella: These days Oz make some pretty good cheese, so I went with a local Jindi Blue rather than insisting my cheese travel 10,500 miles. For the sake of calories, I put the croutons on the barbie and served them with a drizzle of oil instead of frying them. Also, I didn’t have red grape juice and wasn’t go to buy some for the tiny amount required so I used cranberry

Plum frangipane tart: I used spelt flour for the pastry – always a great substitute for pastry

 

pão de queijo

I promised Roxanne at The Lemon and Jar I would make them and I did.

The technique was easy – a bit like making choux pastry but, good grief tapioca flour is an odd fish! Gummy is a massive understatement. I thought I’d completely screwed it up. But, lo and behold, they turned out like this!

pao de queijo

 

cheesy puffsThey were yum! Mr Eleanor and I decided they would be even better with jalapeno cream cheese and a beer, enjoying Melbourne summer’s very last hurrah out on the deck. And today it’s raining like the ark needs another outing.

 

These will definitely go on the menu for Friday night snacks and beer.

Next time, I think I might try cheddar instead of Parmesan because I think it gets a bit bitter when baked – it will also give me the option to make them truly vegetarian. And I will definitely beat the mix in the food processor to ensure a better texture – some of the balls were hollow and I think that’s cos I didn’t beat it enough. My arms were getting tired!

Gluten free cous cous

I realise that I’m a bit late joining this particular band-wagon but – cauliflower cous cous? Delicious or what???cauliflower

  • Take a cauliflower
  • Blitz it to a crumb in the food processor
  • Stir fry, or steam in the microwave, to cook it
  • Duh nah! Cauliflower cous cous… or rice … whatever you want to call it

Had this pomegranate and chickpea cauli cous cous with barbecued lamb, tzatziki and fresh sweetcorn last night – DELICIOUS! It would also be great just with a little feta crumbled on the top

cauliflower cous cous

It’s gluten free, high in vitamin C and is low GI. It’s a great option for keeping down the calories/carbs at dinner time.

Although I don’t recommend you stay up too late.

You might find you start to get a bit hungry.

And accidentally eat a piece of Christmas cake that you realised was still in the back of the cupboard.

I’m just guessing here …

What to do with a squash as big as your head

Autumn produce is just irresistible, isn’t it? Blood red peppers, glossy purple-black aubergine, mountains of pale golden sweetcorn; earthy sweet beetroot, perfumed apples and crisp white cauliflower. I could wax lyrical endlessly.

One of my favourites has got to be squash (or pumpkin if that’s what you wanna call them). I picked up a big, beautiful organic squash the other day with a view to, er … no, I didn’t think that one through.

Shit! Gonna be eating squash every day for a week. But with some careful thought, this is where our squash went:

• Sliced into thick wedges, grilled on the barbie and served with tahini yoghurt dressing – beaut!
• Pumpkin, sage and ricotta filled pasta – the leftover filling made a fantastic vegetarian pate
• Chicken and pumpkin curry – switched out the mango for pumpkin and this recipe worked a treat
• The rest was cubed and roasted for the freezer, ready for risotto, pasta or salad whenever I need it

filled spelt pasta

I miss filled pasta! This is my rather clumsy oversized version made with spelt flour – I don’t have the patience or dexterity to make them any smaller. It doesn’t make them any less delicious.

For the filling: mix 2 parts roasted, mashed squashed with 1 part ricotta. Add grated parmesan, minced garlic, chopped sage and the zest and juice of a lemon to your taste and seasonal well. Don’t worry if you’ve got any leftover – it’s great with crudites or crackers.

Gourmet Nights is Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant

Seasonal produce in Melbourne confuses me a little bit, and I don’t mean because of the whole Christmas is in the summer bit, etc.

  • Peas grow in the cooler months
  • That’s when you’ll also find the best fennel
  • And the plums come in in December!

WTF?

These should give you an idea of the best eats by season:

So March 1st has passed, that means we’re officially in autumn and our thoughts should be turning to hearty, substantial veg with deeper flavours than their summer cousins.

Except that in Melbourne we’re in throes of an Indian summer and it’s going to be 40 degrees today. And that’s why it’s taken me so long to decide what I want to cook for the next Gourmet Night. Plus there were just so many wonderful options that I couldn’t choose.

Anyway, here’s the menu, with all credit to Green World and Green Seasons Cookbooks by Rachel Demuth. I’ll just have to hope that by 2 April, the weather has calmed down a bit.

Gourmet nights #3

gourmet nights 3

 

 

Mango chutney gets fresh

We always have mango chutney with curry. Is that a British thing? It’s also great with ham and cheese, barbecued lamb and in sandwiches.

The stuff that you buy in the shops is sticky and quite, well, jammy! If you make it yourself it’s incredibly sweet and fresh. Plus it’s a doddle so why wouldn’t you?

mangoes

This is a fresh chutney so won’t store in the pantry. In the fridge, it will keep in sterilised jars for up to a month; otherwise put into small pots and store in the freezer for use over the winter.

In Australia, mango season runs November to April so if you want to make some, you’d better get going!

Green World

Scouring my vegetarian cook book collection this week I’ve bumped into some of those veggie dishes that once were my favourites. You know the sort: you eat them once a week without fail. And you couldn’t ever imagine not doing so. But they fell by the wayside when new and exciting dishes came along.

A lot like shoes. Or boyfriends.

Green World Cookbook by Rachel Demuth has got a tonne of such gems: green haloumi stir fry, cheddar and squash rissoles, the list goes on and on. But imagine my delight when I realised I had leftover rice in the fridge. And eggs, and smoked cheese. Vedgeree for my lunch? Oh, yes, please.

vedgeree

The recipe calls for an absolutely delicious tomato and papaya chutney but all I had to hand was homemade mango chutney. I also think this would be great with some sprouted lentils.

The author of this book used to run Demuths, a vegetarian restaurant in Bath. She gave it up a few years ago to focus on her cookery school (I will get there one day!) In its place stands a very reasonable substitute in Acorn.

But I miss going to Demuths. So, as a little nod to sentiment, Gourmet Nights will be Demuths for the night – menu to follow 🙂

Gourmet nights goes veggie

I was thinking that it’s time I did another Gourmet Nights. Perhaps Italian this time – some silky, homemade pasta (from spelt flour); a decadent dessert (that’s lactose free). But, do you know, I don’t have any Italian cookery books. I have no idea why not. But whilst I was staring at my collection of culinary tomes, I realised what I do have is vegetarian books 🙂 Duh! OF COURSE I’ve got vegetarian books!

veggie books

I am a bit predisposed to eat vegetarian but don’t you find that if you choose the vegetarian option when you eat out, chef seems to have made so much more effort with it than the ‘meat and 2 veg’ ? I assume that’s because they think they have to make up for the dish’s inherent short-comings. For God’s sake, no one tell them that we’re not missing out!

So away to my library for some inspiration. Some of these I have, some I aspire to:

Love these

Vegetarian: A Delicious Celebation of Fresh Ingredients – Alice Hart
Green Work Cookbook – Rachel Demuth
Plenty – Yottam Ottolenghi

Classics

The Cranks Vegetarian Bible – Nadine Absensur
Leith’s Vegetable Bible – Polly Tyrer
Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian

Newcomers

Deliciously Ella – Ella Woodward
Veggiestan: A Vegetable Lover’s Tour of the Middle East – Sally Butcher
A Modern Way to Eat – Anna Jones
My New Roots – Sarah Britton
Thug Kitchen – Thug Kitchen
The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Angela Liddon

Desperate to get my hands on

The New Vege​taria​n Cook​ing for Ever​yone – Debo​rah Madi​son
For The Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the Heart – Denis Cotter