There’s not many dishes that Mr Crush turns his nose up at, but pasta is one dish that doesn’t tug at his heartstrings. Another is my achingly good, slow-cooked beef casserole, but let’s not go there. The point is we don’t cook much pasta in the Food Crush household. The problem with this scenario is that I like pasta (gluten-free, of course) and I wouldn’t mind the occasional bowl of comforting carbs swimming in a luxurious sauce. So, to help turn around Mr C’s pasta aversion, I’ve been trying my hand at a handful of pasta dishes of late. None of them have converted him into a pasta fiend mind you, but this Slut’s spaghetti by the gorgeous Nigella Lawson certainly had him asking for seconds. A good sign if ever there was one. Also known as ‘whore’s pasta’, what I love about this dish is it mainly contains pantry ingredients – perfect for nights when your fridge is running on empty. Nigella claims that even anchovy haters (like me) will like this dish and I have to say that she is 100% correct.
I’ve eaten a few tomatoes in my time, and sadly, most of them were forgettable. But occasionally in life you sink your teeth into a plump, sweet and juicy tomato that tastes so good you could cry. This is what happened to me when I ate these cherry tomatoes that my friend, Jo, bought for me from a grocer in Derby. They tasted so good, I found it hard to believe that they weren’t laced with MSG, sugar and maybe a touch of tomato enhancer. I vow to never eat a tasteless tomato again. Woolies and Coles, I’m looking at you.
I’m not sure what inspired us to make Hungarian goulash. It’s not the kind of dish that usually enters our cooking radar, but alas, this big pot of Eastern European comfort food made its way onto our menu this week. It’s like a casserole of sorts, but with a big dash of sour cream and a couple of capsicums (peppers) in the place of ingredients like leek, carrots and celery. Paul and I both liked it (even though he did admit it was a bit too “casseroley” for his tastes), but we agreed it needed a touch more paprika as it didn’t pack as much punch as we would have liked. One of my favourite food bloggers, John from He Needs Food, recommends serving goulash with Croatian or Hungarian bread dumplings like the ones his mum makes. I will endeavour to find a gluten-free dumpling version for next time this dish graces our dinner table.
Tomato and avocado salsa
Gorgeous green Queensland avocados are one of the things I miss about Australia. In particular, I miss mashing them up into the best guacamole on the planet. Here in the UK, ripe and fleshy avocado seem to elude me as much as balmy weather. Not that I’m complaining as the Brits have their fair share of exotic fare like gooseberries and sloe berries that we can’t get our hands on Down Under. Anyway, you can imagine my delight at finding a good avocado this week. Not a showstopper by any means, but good enough to dice up and transform into a nice salsa with some vine-ripened tomatoes, coriander, olive oil and generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Heaven on earth, I tell you.
The ultimate antidote to cold weather is a roast dinner, preferably one involving chicken. So with the thermometer lurking scarily towards zero on Sunday afternoon, we decided to cook Jamie Oliver’s perfect roast chicken. We bought a free-range chicken from our amazing local butcher, A Pig’s Tale. This is about as close to the source as you can get as the butcher is based on the farm where the produce is farmed. The only downside of this shopping experience is getting eye contact with a cow whilst exiting the butcher with a big bag of beef thrown over your shoulder. But alas, the beauty of this recipe lies in the lemon which you prick with a fork and stuff inside the cavity of the chook. We poured extra lemon juice all over the chicken for extra zing. My only criticism of Jamie’s recipe was his suggestion of roasting the chicken on top of the veggies. We found this resulted in unevenly cooked veggies – some were charred while others, like the carrots, needed a tad more cooking. Next time we’ll roast the veggies in a separate tray.
The problem with Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8 is it’s too damn delicious, so deciding on a cake to bake can be challenging. I’ve baked a few of its cakes now and I’m yet to bake a bad one. I’m not sure what drew me to the St Clement’s cake on page 151. Maybe it was the fact that I had all the ingredients in the house. You’re unlikely to find an easier cake to bake than this one. It reminded me of a lemon drizzle cake, but with orange instead of lemon and a good dose of desiccated coconut thrown in for texture. What’s more, this cake is gluten-free and only uses one type of flour – rice flour. So it’s a piece of cake for anyone who can’t get their hands on a good gluten-free flour or who isn’t inclined to make up their own blend.
Gluten-free Christmas cake
And last but by no means least, is this year’s gluten-free Christmas cake. This is my third year in a row of baking a Christmas cake, so the tradition has well and truly been set in stone. Last year’s cake tasted good, but let us down in the texture department (too crumbly). I’m hoping this year’s version is a winner. We are planning to cut it this weekend, so stay tuned for the verdict. If it’s any good, I might just share my special recipe with you in time for Christmas.