December has arrived which means two things for those of us residing in the UK – it’s now officially freezing and we can start saying, “Merry Christmas” (unless of course you ask my Mum who will tell you that Christmas doesn’t start until after her birthday on 11 December). Don’t worry Mum, the Christmas tree isn’t up just yet. Although, the town Christmas tree was officially lit on Friday night. All the townsfolk huddled together in the main square rubbing their hands together in the freezing cold while singing Christmas carols to a brass band. We then let out a collective gasp as the lights on the gigantic (real) tree were switched on. I’m not why I got a lump in my throat … maybe it was seeing Santa waving at me from the procession making its way up the high street.
And just to prove that it really is freezing, here’s a photo that I took on my walk through the fields the other day of some leaves covered in winter frost. Makes me cold just looking at it!
All this cold weather and festive spirit has me dreaming of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and mince pies. But alas, we can’t eat like gluttons all month, so it’s been business as usual in the Food Crush household. Unless you count the gluten-free Christmas cake that we’ve been gobbling up on a daily basis (all in the interests of quality control, of course).
Beetroot is at its best during spring and summer, so don’t ask what inspired me to buy a bunch of beetroot during my trip to the grocer. Maybe it was its rosy hues and verdant green leaves that led me astray. Similarly to carrots, beetroot is one of those veggies that works a treat in both sweet and savoury concoctions. I will admit to being tempted to whip it into a gluten-free version of Nigel Slater’s beetroot chocolate cake, but given we had four cakes in the house last week, I thought a savoury dish was more in order. With this in mind, my bunch of beetroot gave birth to a blushing bowl of hummus that I adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day. This dip is a refreshing departure from traditional hummus thanks to its shock of pink which you can beautifully offset by adorning the bowl with a sprig or two of basil. Here’s the recipe.
I make no secret of the fact that I can’t get enough of the cooking shows here in the UK. When I’m not watching Masterchefs the Professionals, I’m squeezing in an episode of Nigellisma, kicking back to Saturday Kitchen or drooling over one of the belief-defying creations on Heston’s Fantastical Food. And just when I thought I couldn’t possibly add another cooking show to my repertoire, along comes Hugh’s Three Good Things, Great British Food Revivial, Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast and Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. It really is a full-time job. Don’t worry, I draw the line at Come Dine with Me. This black bean beef burger creation was inspired by an episode of Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. I will confess that trying to cook the meal in 15 minutes was enough to break Paul and I into a cold sweat (I think an hour is more realistic), but the results were worth it. The highlight of the dish was the honey and sesame encrusted burgers. Pure bliss. And if you’re looking for gluten-free black bean sauce, Changs is your answer.
Apparently my face always lights up when Paul suggests that we cook chicken fajitas for dinner. This is another Jamie Oliver-inspired dish that we cook on a regular basis. We add our own touch and vary the recipe each time – either in the way of chickpea pancakes, guacamole, tomato salsa or a red kidney beans and rice mixed with feta cheese. All that’s missing is a fiery chilli salsa to smother over the dish. It almost seems wrong to share this meal with one other person as it really is made for a crowd. The leftovers are great in sandwiches the next day though.
Cucumber, apple and mint salsa
Don’t laugh, but this recipe for cucumber, apple and mint salsa was inspired by yet another cooking series, Spice Trip. In the debut episode, the hosts journeyed to Oaxaca, Mexico where chillies go back thousands of years. Watching this program made me realise two things – I want to go to Mexico and I want to brush up on my chilli knowledge. I am ashamed to say that my chilli know-how is about as limited as the pathetic range on offer at most shops – Bird’s Eye, Jalapeño and Scotch Bonnets (if you’re lucky). This recipe for cucumber, apple and mint salsa won’t improve your chilli IQ, but it’s damn delicious and goes down a treat with chicken fajitas. Simply dice up a green apple and half a cucumber, thrown in a handful of fresh mint and about 1 tsp of dried mint, squeeze in the juice of one lime and a splash of olive oil and finish with a generous grinding of sea salt and cracked pepper. Gorgeous.
I love to graze throughout the day, so you can imagine my delight at discovering a bag of pistachio nuts in my pantry. Paul suggested we roast them to help imbue the flavour, and boy was he right. The only problem being, when something tastes this good, one tends to eat them all in one go. Tut tut.
Paul’s Sunday roast
Few things in life make me happier than a Sunday roast, especially when it’s cooked by Paul. He even goes to the trouble of making me gluten-free Yorkshire pudding. We weren’t able to photograph the Yorkshire pud in the photo below as it took a bit longer to cook than expected. Nevertheless, it was delicious – as were the crunchy and golden Paultatoes and the perfectly-roasted beef topside doused in onion gravy.
After a recent visit to the dentist, I was told to cut back on my daily tea habit as the tannins have been staining my teeth. I went cold turkey for a few weeks and then realised that trying to endure an English winter without hot cups of tea is tantamount to insanity. So in the interests of white teeth, I’ve cut it back to one cup a day rather than the three cups that I was drinking at one stage. To help things along, I’ve upped my dosage of herbal tea. Who am I kidding, it’s nothing compared to the real deal, but at least it’s nice and warm and leaves my teeth unharmed. Tea tastes even better when you have a cookie to dunk into it, so I baked a batch of gluten-free chocolate chunk and walnut cookies and dunked my heart out. Bliss.
Remember my lemon yogurt cake that a Brit mistook as a “lemon yoga cake” thanks to my Aussie accent? Well, here it is again. I made this light and luscious cake for Paul’s mates who gathered together for a boy fest last weekend. I grated some orange zest on top of the iced cake to impart it with an extra zing. Boy did it smell good. Apparently it was demolished in lightening speed, but they managed to save me a slice which I devoured for breakfast the next day.
My gluten-free banana bread recipe is an oldie but a goodie. It tends to make itself known quite regularly in our kitchen due to the constant presence of overripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl. Not that I’m complaining – I love banana bread, especially when it’s toasted and smeared with unsalted butter… and washed down with a cup of tea (herbal, of course).
So there you have it, another week in the Food Crush kitchen. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for a wheat-free apple and cinnamon cake recipe from the baking guru who lives next door to me. It’s really good.