Archive | February, 2011

Gluten-free dinner party menu

If the thought of throwing a dinner party breaks you into a cold sweat, you’re not alone. It’s right up there with public speaking as one of those big, scary things that turns fully-functioning people to mush. Not that I’m judging you. I’m not a big fan of public speaking and I have been known to have the odd freak-out attack at the prospect of hosting a dinner party. Performance anxiety often sets in and I draw a blank at what to cook.

Sound familiar? Food Crush has put together the ultimate fuss-free dinner party menu to take all the fretting out of your next soiree.

1. The ice breaker:
Jamie Oliver’s Charlotta champagne cocktail

Carlotta champagne cocktail

 Charlotta champagne cocktail | Jamie Oliver recipes.

Serve a welcome cocktail on arrival. It’s a nice touch that gets people talking and makes you look like a bit of a legend. Easy peasy. Grab some cocktail glasses (or champagne glasses will do), place a sugar cube in each one and sprinkle a few drops of Angostura bitters into each glass. Fill with bubbles and a splash of brandy, and finish it off with some finely-sliced orange rind. Tres chic!

2. The starter:
My cooking hero, Nigella Lawson believes entrees make everything too complicated. Talk about taking the pressure off! Instead, take the less formal approach of serving an Italian-style antipasti plate which your guests can graze on whilst sipping on their cocktails. Jamie Oliver serves his antipasti plate with ciabatta bread, but in the interests of being gluten-free, you can serve yours without bread or with gluten-free soda bread.

Italian-style antipasti plate

Italian-style antipasti plate

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Gluten-free desserts

When I first embarked on this food blogging caper last year, I was oblivious to the world of blogging (and food blogging, for that matter). I felt like a voyager chartering unknown territories and discovering new lands. Sadly for this late adopter, these “new lands” were by no means new, but rather, I was a bit behind the times. Nevertheless, it did beg me to wonder how blogging and I had managed to evade each other for so long. We were a perfect match and our union was long overdue… what, with me being a frustrated writer and it being so accessible and all.

I liken blogging to being in a relationship – you keep learning about each other as you peel off the layers. This has what happened over recent months as I’ve delved deeper into the blogosphere. You see, I’ve had to kiss dairy, gluten, eggs and shellfish goodbye for health reasons (it was a teary farewell), but the good news for sensitive souls like me is there’s loads of amazing recipes out there. I’m only scratching the surface of what seems to be a treasure chest of food-sensitivity nirvana. In the interests of sharing the love, here’s a round-up of gluten, egg and dairy-free desserts from some of the most talented food bloggers around.

1. Sweet pear and polenta muffins
The Gluten-free Goddess is a one of the best blogs I’ve come across. As well as being a God-send for people with food sensitivities, this blog is chock full of wisdom and anecdotes on relationships, love and life. Its fabulous author, Karina injects so much of herself into the blog that you just want to invite her over for dinner and give her a big hug. I’m yet to cook these vegan sweet pear and polenta muffins. Karina describes them as grainy and tender with soft sweet bites of pear that almost melt in your mouth.

Sweet pear and polenta muffins

2. Gluten-free carrot bread with Chai spices
Yet another marvel from The Gluten-free Goddess. I’m thinking of whipping up this tasty number this weekend. Doesn’t it look moorish?

Gluten-free carrot bread with Chai spices

3.Sweet potato biscuits
I only recently discovered The Sensitive Pantry and boy do I love it. It has my name written all over it with its spotlight on gluten, egg and dairy-free recipes. When I first found out that I had to give up dairy, eggs and grains, I pretty much kissed dessert goodbye. But recipes like this one for sweet potato biscuits just go to show that anything is possible with a bit of creativity.

Sweet potato biscuits

4. Lemon drizzle cake
I love cake and I love lemon, so this lemon drizzle cake from Pig in the Kitchen makes me as happy as a pig in mud. The secret ingredient to this allergy-free cake is an egg replacement product called Orgran ‘no egg’. It is made from potato starch, tapioca flour, vegetable gum, calcium, carbonate and citric acid. Talk about taking resourcefulness to the next level!

Lemon drizzle cake

5. No bake brownie fifteens
The best brownies I ever made contained sour cream and walnuts. I would share the recipe with you, but since I wouldn’t be able to eat it, I thought it best to share these allergy-friendly brownies with you instead. I found these on a fabulous Canadian blog, Healthful Pursuit. The majority of recipes on this holistic nutritionist’s blog are dairy, gluten, corn, yeast, and citrus free.

No bake brownie fifteens

6. Maple and almond cookies
And the prize for the most resourceful cook in the world goes to the person who invented an egg substitute from flaxseed, baking powder and water. Wonders will never cease. Admittedly, I am yet to bake these biscuits, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know if they taste as good as they look.

Maple and almond cookies

 

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Luke Nguyen’s crispy tofu cooked in tomato-pepper sauce

Have you ever tracked down a long, lost friend and reconnected after years of silence? If you’re on Facebook, I’m guessing the answer is a resounding yes. Reunions can go one of two ways – you either pick up where you left off or you remember why you lost touch in the first place.

I reunited with tofu recently. We became well-acquainted during my 20’s. Admittedly, I was never very creative with it. I would mainly chuck it in stir-fries and gobble it up with lots or rice and soy sauce. At some point in my late 20’s, I dumped tofu. It was either a case of seeing too much of each other or not realising its true potential. Whatever the case, I haven’t really looked back since… until now.

Now that I’m forbidden to eat grains, eggs, shellfish and dairy (get out the violin), I’ve decided to put a positive spin on the situation by looking at what I can eat. And tofu just happens to be an Amy-safe food. Having recently deep-fried it and drowned it in spicy tomato-pepper sauce, I have to say that I’ve fallen back in love with the stuff. I would describe tofu as the chameleon of the food world – able to adapt to different dishes and take on different flavours with ease and flexibility. In fact, if it were a person, I dare say that I’d really like to meet it.

One of my favourite Australian chefs, Luke Nguyen is the reason behind my rediscovery of tofu. I saw him cook Crispy tofu cooked in tomato-pepper sauce on his awesome show, Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam. I’m not normally one for deep-fried food, but when you can’t have grains, dairy and eggs, you’ve gotta get your kicks somehow.

Luke Nguyen’s crisp tofu cooked in tomato-pepper sauce

This has become a regular mid-week meal in our house.

Think of this dish as a ragout or a bolognese sauce without meat and with lots of spice. The recipe calls for silken tofu, but you’re best to use the firm variety. I highly recommend using vine-ripened tomatoes as they really enhance the flavour of the dish. The sauce turns a nice orange colour after it’s been bubbling away for a while. In theory, you could probably serve four people with this recipe, but Paul and I easily polish off the whole dish between us (served on a bed of rice). I love it so much that I’ve cooked it four weeks in a row!

If you like Vietnamese food, check out Kylie Kwong’s chicken soup.

 

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Kedgeree

Picture this. You’re a food blogger. You love to eat and you love to cook (in no particular order). You constantly think about cooking, eating and food blogging. One day, you go to the doctor and he says, “Your blood tests show you are sensitive to dairy, eggs, grains and shellfish. Stop eating them for at least three months.”

Kedgeree

Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This is what happened to me at the end of last year. I think I experienced the five stages of grief within five minutes flat – shock, denial, anger, sadness and a deep sense of loss for all the buttermilk and ricotta pancakes that I would no longer be able to wolf down on a Sunday morning.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the silver lining of this dark cloud to emerge. A new focus for my blog was born – recipes for people with food sensitivities. Now there’s a niche in the market but is there a market in the niche? Well, we’ll soon find out. Whatever the case, from now on Food Crush will be posting recipes that are free of wheat, dairy, eggs and shellfish. Think vegan minus the grains, with some meat thrown in for good measure. Before you throw your hands in the air and say, “How boring!”, stay with me while I show you how yummy food-sensitivity recipes can be!

I’ve been on this good health crusade for two months now (yes, I did it over Christmas). All things considered, it’s going pretty well, apart from breakfast which is no longer worth getting out of bed for. Try going to a cafe for breakfast and ordering something that doesn’t contain grains, eggs or dairy. Not possible!

To shake up the daily grind of corn flakes with soy milk and sliced banana, I recently whipped up a kedgeree. “A what?” I hear you say. Kedgeree is a Scottish dish made with smoked fish, rice, eggs (I left these out), tomatoes and spices. Not exactly what westerners like me have developed a palate for first thing in the morning, but who said we can’t have spicy food for breakfast?

I first cooked Jamie Oliver’s kedgeree recipe when I was living in Edinburgh about 10 years ago. I used smoked haddock over there, but since we can’t get it here in Australia, I used trout instead (you could also try smoked cod). Other adjustments include replacing the butter ghee with a good glug of olive oil and giving the yoghurt dressing a miss. Jamie’s recipe calls for basmati rice, but I recommend using brown rice to create extra nuttiness and texture. It’s also a handy way to use up left over boiled rice. I served it with lots of cracked pepper and fresh coriander, and a nice cuppa tea. As Jamie Oliver would say, “it’s pucker”.

If you like Jamie Oliver, you might also enjoy this adaptation of his chilli con carne recipe.

 

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