Vegetable Pakoras

One of my favourite Indian foods are pakoras. I love this crispy, spicy, snack. It’s perfect as part of a meal, but equally good as a savoury treat. Eaten all over the Indian subcontinent they are a great way of using up bits of different vegetables, working well with cauliflower, courgettes, onions, potatoes, spinach, chard, aubergine…the list goes on. An added bonus for our family is that they’re inherently gluten free, due to their use of gram flour.

Simple in method, they do however need a few different herbs and spices to achieve the perfect pakora. For some, this would require a trip to the supermarket, or local ethnic shop (or both) to stock up on the necessary ingredients. I love having a range of spices in my cupboard, but sometimes the convenience of a spice mix is a godsend.  When I was recently contacted by Hari Ghotra about her Pakora curry kit, I thought I’d check it out.

The kit comes with all the spices and gram flour combined, and instuctions to make both vegetable and paneer pakora. There’s also a link to a video showing the process involved, but the recipe on the card is clear and easy to follow.  As mentioned before, pakora are very versatile, so I chose to use up a glut of courgettes, as well as some potatoes and onions. I love growing courgettes at the allotment, but if you look away for a moment, they seem  to grow in seconds, so another way to use them up is always handy. The one thing with using courgettes is that they have a lot of liquid in them, so after grating them they need to be squeezed of excess water, before combining them with the rest of the mix. Once your mixture is combined, it needs to be used pretty quickly, dropping spoonfuls into hot oil and frying until golden brown.

For a recipe which includes the spices needed to recreate the mix, see Hari Ghotra’s website, where you’ll also find a rnage of different curry kits and recipes to try. As a handy store cupboard emergency pack, these are pretty good. They certainly make it easy to turn a glut into a tasty, spicy treat.

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Gluten-free Lemon Ricotta Cake

The other day, I was given a load of ricotta which was going to be thrown out. Its use by date was about to pass and therefore was unable to be sold, but essentially it was fine. Given this ricotta mountain, I set myself the task of turning it into delicious food. Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from the whey left over from the production of other cheeses like mozzarella, hence its name (ricotta literally means “cooked”). It is a versatile cheese, being used in both sweet and savoury dishes, like the traditional Italian Easter pie, Torta Pasqualina. Given the family’s need for a cake this week, and one which could be used as an impromptu pudding too, I decided to start off by making a ricotta cake; not quite a Sicilian Cassata, but a cake of ricotta, eggs, sugar and a little flour.lemon ricotta cake

You will need
150g softened butter
150g granulated sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
3 large eggs, separated
250g ricotta cheese
65g gluten-free plain flour, plus a little for dusting
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
Dash of Salt
To Serve:
Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (any berries available and in season)

Preheat oven to 170°C and lightly grease and flour a 20cm spring-form pan.  Beat the butter and sugar, or use the food processer, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks and ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, before beating into the butter mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the tin, then bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool, then top with your selection of seasonal berries.

How to Make Lavender Shortbreads

An English summer afternoon is not a proper summer afternoon without afternoon tea, and afternoon tea is not afternoon tea without shortbread. The sweet biscuit works really well with the addition of a few lavender flowers. The floral notes of the lavender give the classic shortbread a scented twist. Based on the wonderful Mary Berry’s recipe in her timeless Fast Cakes, this is a real teatime treat. lavender

You will need

200g gluten-free plain flour
100g cornflour
200g butter
100g caster sugar
2 tsp. lavender flowers

Heat the oven to 160°C and grease a 20cm round, loose bottom, tin. Cream the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour together and combine with the lavender and the butter and sugar mix.. Knead together and press into the tin, before chilling for half an hour. Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a pale golden colour. The gluten-free flour results in a paler finish to normal shortbread, so don’t expect a well browned shortbread. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges, leaving the shortbread to cool in the tin. Lift out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Raspberry Friands

We always end up having egg whites left over from cooking. Apart from meringue, which can be used to make a favourite of our family, Eton Mess; I struggle to find uses for these leftover whites. I recently discovered friands; a version of the classic French financier which is popular in the antipodes. These little cakes use almond flour and lightly whipped egg whites to form a delicious sweet morsel, which compliments the acidity of raspberries brilliantly.

raspberry friands and coffee

You will need (makes 24 small friands)
4 egg whites
120ml milk
A dash of Rosewater
60g margarine melted
125g ground almonds
250g cups gluten-free icing sugar
70g gluten-free plain flour
A dash of sunflower oil
150g frozen raspberries
50g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Beat egg whites for 1 minute or so until they are frothy, but not firm. Add the milk to the melted margarine and dash of Rosewater, before combining with egg whites. Fold ground almonds into mix using a wooden spoon, before sifting the icing sugar and flour into the bowl, then gently folding it all together. The less the mixture is moved around at this point, the lighter the friands. Grease a 12-cup mini muffin (or friand )tin with a little oil, then spoon equal amounts into 12 holes. Press 2 raspberries in each friend, so they are covered with mixture and then top with a few flaked almonds.

Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to touch on the centre. Leave in pan for a few minutes before turning friands out onto a wire rack to cool.

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friands and coffee


Favourite Five Gluten Free

favorite five

Those of you who follow @spadeforkspoon on Twitter may have noticed an increase in tweets about gluten free cooking over the last few weeks. This is because my son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac and therefore needs to follow a gluten free diet. Adapting meals to fit in with his new dietary requirements has been a bit of a challenge, but we’re getting there. Little Button Diaries asked me to create a Gluten-free Favourite Five for their blog. So, take a look and see what made the final five.

What would be in your favourite five gluten-free dishes?

Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps

Since my son’s diagnosis as coeliac we’ve had to take a look at everything we eat and see how it can fit in with a gluten free diet. With the sun showing a lot more of itself recently, the prospect of a picnic becomes a real one, and one which usually involves a bag of crisps. We don’t eat many crisps, but they kind of have to be involved in a picnic. The trouble is that many crisps seem to not be gluten free, due to different flavourings and being unable to guarantee that no cross-contamination occurs in the factory. As a result, we have a limited source of commercially available crisps (although PomBears are gluten free and were a favourite anyway). This, and the discovery of a rogue beetroot at the allotment when digging last week, led me to the decision to make our own. I can guarantee no cross-contamination; it’s my kitchen.

Vegetable crisps have been around for a while, probably since the mid-19th century when the potato crisp was also popularised, however they have never been a mass market snack. They are however, delicious. They’re also pretty simple to make.

root vegetables

You will need (for the equivalent of a large bag of crisps)
1 beetroot
1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
Oil for frying (I used rape-seed oil, but any mild flavoured oil is good)
Flaked sea salt

First, make sure the vegetables are clean and free of soil on the outside of the skin (they’re best with the skins left on I think). Using a speed peeler, peel thin slices of the vegetables to form the ‘crisps’. You’ll find that the initial peelings are usually a little too small, but as you get further into the vegetable they will become more of a suitable size. Once you’ve got a pile of shaved vegetables; it’s best to remove some of the moisture by placing them on a paper towel and pressing from above with another piece to absorb any liquid. This helps to give you a crisper crisp.

The next stage is to fry the crisps and to do this you need a saucepan of hot oil. I’ve never been a fan of deep frying things, but if you get the oil to a high temperature you don’t tend to get a greasy result; just a crispy one. So, heat some oil to 150ºC and fry the vegetable slices in batches (it’s probably best to leave the beetroot to last as it does give the oil a rosy hue) until lightly golden and crisp, 2 to 5 minutes per batch. When the crisps are crisp, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing excess oil to drain away before placing the chips on a paper towel covered baking tray. Salt the hot crisps immediately and start the next batch of vegetables. Once you’ve fried all the crisps, toss them in a bowl and you’re ready to devour these moreish snacks.

Obviously, this recipe is adaptable. You can use lots of different root vegetables. Celeriac works really well, both as a snack, but also a garnish for soup. Parsnip or Jerusalem artichoke crisps on their own would be an excellent accompaniment to a simply roasted guinea fowl, or a steak. But of course, a bag of these makes a great snack for a picnic.

root vegetable crisps

 

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Favourite Five Mustard Recipes

Spadeforkspoon Favourite FiveMustard is a great ingredient offering piquancy to many a dish. It is a member of the Brassica family of plants which has tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves. Its English name, mustard, comes from a contraction of the Latin mustum ardens meaning burning must. This refers to the spicy heat of the crushed mustard seeds and the French practice of mixing the ground seeds with must, the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes. Although mustard was considered a medicinal plant initially, it has become a staple of many food cultures. Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and combine them with wine to form a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we have today. It’s a store cupboard essential and here are my favourite five uses of mustard.

Mustard Soup  – This is a delicious soup which I first tasted in Amsterdam. It combines the piquancy and texture of wholegrain mustard with a silky smooth creme fraiche based liquor. Simple to make and a great winter warmer.

Cheese and Mustard Scones – Cheese scones are one of life’s little pleasures; especially so when served warm and the butter melted slightly on top. The addition of a little grain mustard really brings out the cheesiness, and gives them a slightly more sophisticated flavour. My son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac, so this recipe is for gluten free scones, but the addition of mustard to your usual cheese scone recipe would work. Combine 275g gf plain flour, 50g ground almonds, 3tsp baking powder, 2 tsp xanthum gum and 1 tsp salt in bowl and rub 100g butter into the dry mix to make breadcrumbs. Add 100g of whatever cheese you have around (generally cheddar and Parmesan in our case). Combine 2 eggs with a tbsp wholegrain mustard and 125ml yoghurt. Pour this into breadcrumb mix and bring the ingredients together with a fork. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and flatten to 3cm thick, before cutting out into scone shapes. Transfer onto a baking sheet, brush the tops with a little milk and grate a little more cheese on top. Cook for 10 minutes at 220 °C. Leave to cool slightly before eating.

Piccalilli – This has been my food revelation of the year. For years I’ve seen the yellow pots of Piccalilli on sale and thought they looked over processed and not too tempting. Then early in 2013 I had a dish in Bridport which had a delicious Piccalilli accompanying pig’s head croquettes. It just worked so well. So, when I had a glut of veg at the plot, I made some of my own and it’s been in constant use ever since. As well as vegetables from the plot, it uses a combination of English mustard powder and mustard seeds to make a simple punchy preserve.

Mustard mash – A simple use of wholegrain mustard to give the humble mash a bit of a twist. Boil, drain and mash your potatoes, before adding a knob of butter and a spoonful of wholegrain mustard. It goes brilliantly with sausages, but would work with other meats too.

Mustard and Honey Dressing – This is our ‘go-to’ dressing. Throughout most of the year we have a jar of this in the fridge. It’s speedy to make, lasts a few days, and really compliments a range of salad leaves. To make, just add the following to a jar with a screw-top lid: 3tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 clove of garlic crushed, 1/2 tbsp honey, pinch of salt and sugar and a few twists of black pepper. Cap and shake vigorously to emulsify. It can be easily upsized for the summer months, when there isn’t a day that goes by without salad featuring on our plates.

mustard dressing
What ways do you use mustard in your cooking?