Sunday, September 27, 2009
The potato's legend comes from Peru, and tells of conflict between the people living on the plains, and those living in the Andean mountains. The people of the plains had grown strong on quinoa, and wishing for more land on which to grow their crops, they began stealing the food of the mountain-people in the hopes of starving them out. The mountain people prayed to their gods, and were answered when a great bird dropped large fleshy seeds form the sky, which the mountain people planted. However, the people from the plains stole these crops, too, before the berries on the plants were harvested. The great bird returned, telling them that the plains people had fallen for a trick taking the poisonous berries, and that they should dig the hidden crop of potatoes from the ground.
The mixture of chopped red capsicum, fresh herbs, and spring onions that goes between the layers of potato was delicious by itself. Here it is:
Tasty tasty foods. Tasty!
In a fit of laziness, I used frozen potato slices. (Also, our potatoes were soft and sprouting, and I'd just bought the newly released frozen pre-sliced potatoes, so it was quite lucky.) Here's a hint for working with frozen potato slices: don't put them on a wet chopping board if you want to be able to get them off again easily! Uh... how do I know? Oh, just a guess, I certainly didn't let them freeze onto the chopping board by mistake...
Frozen potato. Wet chopping board. Oops.
Product placement! These are like the first frozen potato product I've come across that wasn't battered for roasting. It's just potato! Perfect! Oh, I have no stake in this company and bought the product myself, blah blah. :)
I made half with blue cheese as called for, and the other half with feta, so I didn't have to inflict blue cheese on Neil. The feta was easier to crumble than the blue cheese, so probably not a bad alternative. Neil appreciated the swap, and though he was brave enough to try a bit with blue cheese just in case, he still didn't like it.
Potatoes, blue cheese, and feta.
Left half has feta. Right half has blue cheese. Bottom half has red pepper - though after I took the photo I sprinkled it over the whole lot ;)
Because I used frozen potatoes, and the instructions had only short cooking times listed, I baked them for 30 minutes rather than the 60 called for in the recipe (followed by 15 minutes without a cover to brown the dish). This worked a treat.
It didn't get particularly brown, but good anyways.
This was seriously tasty, I was more than impressed. I preferred the blue cheese to the feta - it had a smoky flavour while the feta half was strangely slightly sweet. This was also good as leftovers. It didn't serve 4-6 though - perhaps it would as a side to something else. We started off making it into four servings, then we polished off another half-serve each at the same meal. I had the final serve for lunch the next day, and was still slightly peckish afterwards.
This will definitely be a make-again sort of dish! I'll have to think of a nice protein dish to pair it with, I think, to make the recipe go a little further.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The first recipe I tried from Food Legends of the World was... Beans Tijuana!
As I mentioned in my previous post (almost a month ago!), the book presents the legends of 25 ingredients and follows each with a recipe. My first recipe choice was based upon beans, and a Mayan legend is told.
A clever, virtuous man, finding himself in unfortunate circumstances, decides to make a deal with the Devil - trading seven wishes for his soul. His first six wishes are the predictable ones: his home, family, food; health; riches; friends; power; travel. His seventh wish, "one last whim", was to wash some black beans until they turned white. Once he had granted the final wish, keen to get his hands on the "full and luminous soul", the Devil saw that he had been tricked - no matter how much the man washed the black beans, they would not turn white. In order to prevent such trickery in the future, the devil demanded that there would also be beans of all different colours: white, yellow, green, brown, red... and so there are today.
Now for the cooking - Beans Tijuana
It's quite a simple recipe, calling for red beans, adzuki beans, and kidney beans, as well as onion, garlic, chilli, tomato, and other seasonings. I used adzuki and kidney beans - aren't red beans red kidney beans? Probably not, I don't know that much about beans, but that's okay.
The recipe called for four tablespoons of fresh chopped chillies (maybe four or five chillies), and then asked for another tablespoon of chilli powder and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Both Neil and I thought that sounded like a lot, so debated putting in less chilli, but in the end decided to follow the recipe and see what would happen.
Onion before adding chilli
Onion after adding chilli! Yum!
No more photos... I guess I got distracted :)
Apart from a small spoon to check for cookedness, I didn't try it the night it was made (instead, I felt unwell and had plain rice with honey). Neil had some and said it was quite hot - and he does like things hotter than I do in general, so neither of us were sure I would be able to palate it!
It made a quite thin chilli - almost soup like. We've been serving it mixed with rice, which does well. I've frozen some and have found it good defrosted, too. I've also drained some and scooped it onto pizza (with leftover greens), which was actually pretty stunning. I wrote about that pizza already, here.
The beans were on the only just cooked side, though I think the freezer improved this. I had read previously that beans should not be cooked with anything acidic, else they would not soften. This recipe cooked the beans with lime and tomato, among other things, perhaps explaining the lack of cookedness?
As for the heat - It's much hotter than the last chilli I made, but luckily not too hot for me! It also has quite a nice tang to it. Due to its thinness, it would probably be best for an accompanying dish, like a spicy bean soup. Nice!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Then, I read somewhere, that Niccolinis offer gluten-free pasta! But don't expect to just turn up and have it, like I did! If you wish to come for gluten-free pasta, order it the day before.
They do have other gluten-free offerings on the menu. When I mentioned that I was also vegetarian, the waiter went to see what the chef could do, and came back offering a mushroom risotto. They do a risotto special, but that wouldn't usually be vegetarian.
Neil ordered garlic bread, and remembered when it arrived that it was four pieces, usually plenty even shared between two. That's one thing I miss, their crispy buttery garlic bread. Oh well! I lived! And Neil managed to eat it all!
The risotto was good, tasty, but very creamy. Creamy as in with lots of cream. I don't really do well with creamy things, especially creamy pasta or risotto. I really struggled, especially near the end. In fact, I didn't finish it - by the end I was picking out the mushroom and trying to get the 'dryest' bits of rice out. While we had considered going out to a show afterwards, I just wanted to go home, my belly was quite sore. In fact, I almost think that the creamy risotto was worse for my stomach than glutenous pasta would have been (since I'm starting to think gluten is not the problem, rather, either stress, IBS, or some other mystery ingredient). But - they were accommodating for my requirements and I appreciated that.
Personally, I think putting cream in risotto is sort of cheating. Risotto is plenty creamy even without dairy if you make it well. The addition of a bit of parmesan if desired is fine to hold it all together, but cream is so unnecessary and to me lowers the quality of the meal! It must be a matter of taste, and since I don't have much dairy at all... it wasn't to mine.
But, I do like Nicollinis. Their menu is a mess, but the place has a nice feel, a painting (or print) of Vernazza (Cinque Terre) on the wall (which makes me feel cultured for having been to Cinque Terre!), and their food is generally pretty good. They're often packed, though. I would like to go there for gluten-free pasta one night! I know my option will be pasta puttanesca, but that's okay with me!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The occasion was a celebration of my exams being over, and we wanted to try something new.
The restaurant itself was nice, small, and located in one of those neat villas that line lower Mount Vic streets.
The restaurant had no vegetarian entrées, which I failed to notice on the sample menu I'd checked out before we came. However, once I asked if they could do something for me, and after the slightly taken aback waitress went off to check with the chef, it transpired that they were able to do a half size of one of the four vegetarian mains. Two of these mains were gluten free, so I had a buffalo mozzarella and spiced pear salad as an entrée, and a pumpkin and goats feta risotto as a main.
The salad was light and very tasty. I'd never had buffalo mozzarella, and this was tender and soft. Perhaps softer than it should have been in the middle, but I don't know how it should have been, because I'd only had quite hard mozzarella from the supermarket in the past.
The risotto, too, was really tasty. Not too creamy, and with nice tangy feta, I was glad I'd chosen this as my main. If I recall correctly, that was also served with some spinach stirred through.
All very yummy. I had ice cream and sorbet for dessert - a very generous serving - perhaps a bit too much, in fact. Two balls of icecream and two of sorbet, stacked on a plate.
Overall, a good meal out. The atmosphere was good, after getting over the initial apparent resistance of the waitress to provide me with something I could eat. It seemed strange to me to offer so many vegetarian options (four is a lot for that kind of restaurant!), but nothing on the entrée menu! Anyway... The food was definitely up there, though the desserts were slightly less exciting for some reason. Still, recommended for a meal out, and accommodating for gluten-free folk - even when vegetarian!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Back about a year ago, I was eating a lot of couscous. This was just before I cut gluten out of my diet. It was the ultimate easy lunch food - pour boiling water over it and stand while you heat up some baked beans.
I was a bit sad to lose that particular convenience.
I don't believe it took me so long to try instant polenta. I'd made polenta a few times from scratch, but stirring for 20 minutes is at the upper end of intensive for me. Recently, as in within the last week, I bought some instant polenta and gave it a go.
I didn't expect it to be so easy. Pour into boiling water with some seasonings, and stir until thick - about 3 minutes. Pour onto a plate to set. I could make this at work!!! It's ridiculous!
1 c water
62.5 g instant polenta
dash of salt
smoked herb salt mix (or other favourite seasoning)
fancy extra virgin olive oil
Boil the water and put in a pot (or boil it in the pot!). Pour instant polenta into the pot, stirring as you do so. Add the salt. Keep stirring until thick. Pour or spread onto a plate and let set.
Sprinkle seasoned salt liberally over the top, and drizzle with some nice olive oil. You could eat it as is, look at it:
Instant polenta with smoked salt and olive oil
I served this one a few days ago with fried eggs on top. Today I had it with baked beans, in a fit of too-lazy-to-cook, and with a nod back to my baked beans on couscous days.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Excellent service. Not busy at all - suspect they would be in summer. They made me an entrée salad that was apparently new to the menu with a blue cheese cream that was seriously tasty. The vegetables were baby veg and were perhaps marinated in some sort of vinegar. Very strong and tasty making the small portion much more satisfying than I expected. The main I had was an adapted dish as their menu vegetarian main was not gluten free (perhaps it was a soufflé, which seems to be the trendy vegetarian main this winter). The dish had some really nice polenta cubes, and jerusalem artichoke which I love. It was also very tasty. Though I had wanted dessert, by the time I'd had an entrée and a main I was actually full! (I also had a sore back so was keen to get home.) They also had gluten free bread rolls on the starter menu, which I will definitely try at some stage. This was a really tasty dinner and I highly recommend Cobar!
Monday, August 17, 2009
This was the last one cooking - also the most photogenic one
There were only a couple of blueberries in that one, as it was the bottom of the bowl.
Here's the pile of pikelets in the background, and frying bananas in the foreground.
I served them with maple syrup, but we ate them too fast to take photos of everything together on the plate... !
They were pretty good, though a couple were a bit tough - I think it's because each batch was cooked a bit differently. I'll have to learn how to get the right temperature, and I think they'll be fine.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I used Bakel's multi seed bread mix, which I wrote about in this post. We were a little late to lunch, as even though I had the temperature a bit higher, it still took longer to bake than it was supposed to! Oh well.
Cheese Toasties, plus flowers!
I grilled one side of each piece, then turned them over, topping one with 'Festive Relish', one with Tamarillo Chutney, and one with jalapenos. I added a couple of slices of parmesan (it's all we had, but was a good choice because it gave good flavour without too much cheese), and grilled until bubbly and ready.
Here's a closer look at the toasties, in case you're not already hungry enough:
And a closer look at the tulips. My grandmother gave these to me for my birthday (along with a couple of other very thoughtful gifts - I felt very spoilt).
Tulips on the table
This is them a couple of days later, it was such a simple joy watching them open, and seeing them each time I passed the dining table.
Aren't they pretty?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Anyway, moving on.
I burnt my cereal this morning!
This sounds like a slightly unusual statement to make - I was toasting puffed millet and amaranth under the grill, but got distracted by something on the internet and forgot I was toasting cereal until I wondered what the strange popping sounds coming from the kitchen were.
No great catastrophe, a wee bit black on one side, but I ate it anyway as I hate to waste. (Also, I don't mind things a little bit dark sometimes.)
I guess this could be a good opportunity to talk about cereal. Man gluten-free cereal can be expensive! And some of it's pretty uninspiring, as well. I've always been a fan of nice toasted muesli with crunchy oats and lots of good bits and pieces. Most gluten-free 'muesli' is basically just some blend of different things that I consider 'cereal', such as puffs or processed bran flakes - things that don't hold their crunch in the face of milk. Other so called 'muesli' has turned out to just be rice bubbles with a very sparse sprinkling of seeds and fruit. I know I shouldn't be sucked in by the pictures on the boxes, but I am still disappointed every time they exaggerate the proportion of delicious to boring ingredients.
The cereal/'muesli' I buy most commonly is Healtheries Apricot and Coconut Muesli. This is generally one of the cheapest products I can find in the supermarket without completely giving up on the type of thing I like to eat for breakfast. At $7 a box it's still not actually cheap, but it's often got a small discount, and it's way better value than the $10 or $11 that most boxes of similar products seem to be.
I did once find a small stone in my cereal - but I was happy with the response from Healtheries, who sent me a courier bag to send them the stone for analysis, as well as a voucher for free cereal. Yay!
Not having that voucher with me one day when I went to buy cereal, I decided to try a new and very fancy looking product: Brookfarm gluten-free macadamia muesli. This Australian cereal had two silver medals and a bronze medal stuck on the front (well - not the medals themselves, but icons that represented them), and I could see (and taste!) why. This was some seriously gourmet muesli. It did cost about $13 for a mere 350g, but I am still sure I would buy this again. Actually, I tried to, but the supermarket only had two gluten-containing varieties.
The macadamia muesli has buckwheat (puffed and not-puffed), rice (bran and puffed), and amaranth, as well as cranberries, currants, and sultanas, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin seeds. These were tastily toasted and crunchy - and I fell instantly in love with the crunch of the buckwheat, which sunk to the bottom of my cereal bowl for me to enjoy at the end! My only half-hearted complaint about the taste of the cereal is that it was really a bit too sweet. At 14.3g of sugar per 100g, it's actually lower sugar than my regular cereal (19.9g!), but it certainly tastes sweeter. Actually, because rice milk is so sweet by itself, I prefer a somewhat less sweet cereal to go with it.
Actually, I'm surprised that the macadamia muesli is lower in sugar, higher in protein and fibre, and though higher in fat overall, it's lower in saturated fat!
My plan is to combat the sweetness (and the price!) of the almost perfect macadamia muesli by mixing it with some plain grains to tome down the sweetness and make it go a bit further. That's why I was toasting puffed millet and amaranth - I had bought both for this purpose and I was testing out ways to give them a bit more crunch. It occurred to me that this might not save money, given that the millet and amaranth were about $6 a bag each - but perhaps I can get them cheaper elsewhere. I do hope I can source the macadamia muesli again, even though the puffed cereals alone make quite a tasty breakfast.
So that's me on gluten-free cereals. Apart from hot cereals - I haven't perfected those yet. I currently mix rice flakes and cornmeal, but they don't match the flavour of good old hearty porridge (don't forget the salt)!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I bought the book from a local craft market, directly from the author. A storyteller by trade, the author tells the legends of 25 ingredients, following each one with a recipe. I loved this concept and was tempted to buy the book.
While not all the recipes are suitable for my diet, I was able to choose some recipes that I could play with. My choices were:
Potato Pepper Bake
Tomato chilli with marinated mozzarella
Maple syrup, ginger, and rum ice cream
Egg and milk in a baked ice cream dessert
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Their menu is impressively both vegetarian and gluten-free friendly, leaving me two dishes to choose from which were both. (Actually, it's that the only two vegetarian options were gluten-free - these were available as either an entrée or a main.) Those who are gluten-free but not vegetarian had a much wider choice. There were no vegan options on the menu.
After debating whether I should order a main and dessert, or two entrées and dessert, my sister and I decided to order one main each, and go half and half. She ordered Stilton Stuffed Mushrooms (after recently discovering her love for blue cheese), and I ordered Arancini with Buffalo Mozzarella.
Arancini are essentially crumbed risotto balls. These were served on a plate of a red pepper sauce that was, quite simple, yummy! Each vegetarian dish had three 'pieces' so we swapped plates twice during the meal. The stilton stuffed mushroom was also tasty, for those who like the strength of the cheese at least, but I was pleased to start and finish with the arancini - it seemed a more filling meal.
The size of the mains was such that we were happy without having had an entrée - though we'd started with an olive and almond platter. Neil and my mum both had the fish of the day, I think with fennel and a leek purée. Most of us just had space for dessert.
The dessert I had was butterscotch crème brulée. Truly my favourite fancy dessert! This was served with chocolate-dipped gingerbread which I palmed off to mum for a work snack the next day. The crème brulée itself, I have to admit, was not the best I've had. It was very thick, and a bit heavy for my liking. This could well be a result of using actual double cream, which is difficult to find in NZ (if even possible!) Or it could have been a result of the butterscotch perhaps being too buttery. Apart from the sugar on top, it wasn't particularly sweet, either. It was probably nice, but not quite they way I would have liked it!
Neil and mum were twins again and ordered cherry chocolate crumble. This looked pretty good, but both of them said they probably wouldn't bother with it again. The crumble topping did actually look a bit breakfast cereal-y, and I guess the inside just wasn't quite right?
The service throughout the meal was good, the people were friendly. They apologised for the wait for food, but we hadn't even noticed. (Perhaps they were used to hotel patrons who want to eat quickly before going out - whereas we were having a dinner event so were happy to take our time, chat, and look at the old family photos my grandmother sent with a birthday card!)
The cost was fairly high, but not unreasonable considering a main dish was enough for a meal, rather than tiny serves where you need the whole three courses to have enough. The atmosphere was good, as was the shiny view of the city from the 7th floor location.
Given that their menu could accommodate me without adjustment, and I was impressed with the arancini, I'd definitely go there again. We'd just go without desserts!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
No. 1 Upland Rd - No.
Plate - No. (Though maybe a salad.)
Herd St. - Answer machine.
La Belle Histoire - Nothing on menu, but kitchen staff suggested chef should be able to do something. (Chef wasn't in yet.)
I finally got her to call one of the few places in the Entertainment Book who had some items marked as either (v) or (gf), so I thought they may be able to do something that was both!:
One80 (Copthorne Hotel) - Yes! Summary of options was: Starters - olive thing. Entrée/Main - stuffed mushroom or risotto ball. Dessert - crème brulée. So we've booked. This was the priciest of our options (and the one review I've read said excellent service, average food), but hopefully everything will work out okay!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Mushrooms and Mash
Originally uploaded by bezajel
How to serve mash that's less boring than just mash.
On the left we have: Mashed potato and broccoli, with bok choi.
On the right we have: Mashed potato, kumara, and chickpeas.
Both mashes include liberal salt, pepper, olive oil, and rice milk.
Topped off with sauteed mushroom.
Only - don't try and use mash as a way to sneak chickpeas in for someone who doesn't like chickpeas - even though you can't taste them, the person who doesn't like chickpeas will!
(I wasn't really trying to sneak chickpeas in, just boost the protein!)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The dough was much wetter than I imagined to be normal for bread - but then again I'd only ever made bread in a bread maker. The dough is more like thick pikelet dough. It's pretty easy to make - there's no kneading, just beating with the hand beater and hey presto!
I left it to rise on the floor in front of the heater. I couldn't think of anywhere else that would be even vaguely warm. That seemed to do. It didn't really rise, but it did get a bit lighter, which seemed about right for the consistency of the dough.
It took ages to cook, I kept sticking a skewer in and it came out doughy. I don't know, perhaps I had the oven temperature wrong. In fact, our oven only does a few temperatures, so if the recipe asks for something in between, you're left to choose. I chose low - would have been fine if I'd chosen high, as my oven is probably low anyway. We tried fan bake for a little bit, realised we were just crisping the outside, then just left the oven on higher for the last while. It probably took almost twice as long to cook as it was supposed to because of all the temperature changing!
Mmmm cooked bread
When it finally cooked and came out of the oven, and I cut some up while it was still fairly hot and soft. As I was giving a piece to my sister, Neil tasted the bread and exclaimed from the kitchen with GREAT surprise: "What????? This is really good!!! It's not all heavy and bad like gluten free bread!!!!!", which really goes to show that what you get at the supermarket is crapola. When I served the soup to go with the bread he was like: "Can I just have bread?" Not a bad endorsement from a gluten-eater.
Slightly ragged slice of bread
So... success! (even if it did take three hours).
The bread was fantastic that night. I took the rest of the loaf to work with some sandwich fillings to give it the next-day test. The bread wasn't quite suitable for sandwiches - the top broke off as I tried to cut it, and the inside was fairly fragile. I had a few small squares with a peice of tomato on top, and then made a rough sandiwch with cheese and tomato which I toasted. This sealed the outside of the bread and held it together, leaving the inside soft and yummy. The slices were enormously thick to be able to cut the bread without it breaking too much! This made the toastie machine hard to close. But the results were good.
Cheese toasted sandwich (one I made at home, later).
The most fun thing about taking the bread to work was having a few discussions with random people about making bread, and about gluten free bread. One guy I talked to has a daughter who is GFCF and vegetarian. Snap! (Well, almost...)
I'll be happy to make this bread again. In fact, I wish I could eat it right now, so hungry!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Actually, to be honest, I've never particularly disliked brussells sprouts. I've had some so-so ones that tasted a little strange, but I've also had ones that almost melted in my mouth in a cluster of texturey goodness. Mmm!
Arriving home with my stash, I thought of ways to cook the sprouts. I had seen a few recipes for roasted sprouts, and I seemed to remember seeing a recipe pairing brussells sprouts and maple syrup. I used the trusty Internet to find myself a few recipes, many of them for maple mustard sprouts. Using a couple of recipes as a basis for experimentation, I pulled out the gas burner and heated up the wok...
The results were yummy. And so they should be - I almost finished our bottle of maple syrup. Our little 237ml (8 fl.oz.) bottle of maple syrup, that cost $20 to replace. Why so expensive? Well, Neil says it's organic and tapped by naked virgins.
Ridiculously expensive maple syrup aside, here's a sort of vague recipe-ish type thing!:
Maple Mustard Brussells Sprouts
Maple Mustard Brussells Sprouts
a generous amount of olive oil and butter
brussells sprouts, trimmed and halved, or quartered if large
a generous spoon of dijon mustard
about a quarter cup of maple syrup
a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
Heat the oil and butter in a wok.
Brown the sprouts for a few minutes on each side, adding salt and pepper.
Mix the mustard, maple syrup, and cider vinegar, add to the wok, and cook, tossing often, until the sprouts are cooked through and the sauce sticks to the sprouts.
Serve, eat, and savour.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I had a bunch of leftovers from my green stir-fry, and a little bit of chilli leftover from some I had frozen recently. Instead of my usual pizza toppings, I used chilli in place of tomato paste, and cooked greens as the vegetable component.
Freshly Made Leftover Pizza
Not expecting too much from my leftover concoction, I was pleasantly surprised that this was one of the best pizzas I've made! I'll definitely be trying to re-create this one when I have the right leftovers lying around.