Monday, 19 December 2011

Eating Out is an Option: Carluccio's Glasgow

It is an annual ritual that myself and my best girlies, and sometimes honorary girlie who is actually a gentleman, do a Christmas night/day out; generally eat drink and be merry. With myself based in Manchester and the flock in Glasgow, this is of the utmost of importance to us and something we look forward to for months.

It was a concern for me this year due to my limited low Fodmap diet, when I am out and about is certainly not going to be the time that I be adventurous and go off plan. Eating out, therefore, can be tricky.

I needed not worry, the lunch I had was beautiful and I enjoyed a long day out with my friends. Just perfect.

The plan for the day was lunch in Carluccio's at 2, Glasgow Film Theatre for It's A Wonderful Life at 5.30pm and then drinks.

Before Fodmap I was a regular at the Carluccio's Spinnningfields, normally for breakfast. I have not been in since the Fodmap diet as I thought it would have been difficult with the fabulous Italian bread, the pasta and the onion/garlic issue.

On arrival at Carluccio's Glasgow, situated on West Nile Street, I noticed the different interior to the Spinnigfields version. Cosier, ambient and much more suited to the adult (a little boozy) lunch we were all looking for. We were led to a lovely half moon booth that was perfect for lunch for 5 of us; the perfect table can really enhance a restaurant visit. Our first reaction was that it felt like sitting in some cool Italian movie, a not so fierce Scarface maybe, and certainly not part of a big restaurant chain.

We ordered some aperitifs, 4 Bellini's and a beer (the beer was one of the girlies not the gentleman). The Bellini's were peach, which was a slight risk for me, but a small amount of fruit puree I did not think was going to spoil my day, and it never. It was the perfect start to my meal.

I opened the menu with trepidation, as I had no idea what I was going to order; being so fed up of spoiling many a night out I didn't want to let on to my friends my fears. With options of meats, cheeses and fish for both starter and main I quickly realised I needn't be fearful. I was even able to choose off the menu, exactly as the dishes came, no special ordering needed for me. I was also delighted to see Carluccio's have a gluten free menu; some of these dishes are still difficult for low Fodmap, but, its a really good gluten free menu with plenty of variety.

I decided to order from the main menu. For starter I ordered Mozzarella Dell'Isolla - Melting Buffalo Mozzarella, roasted peppers, sliced Parma ham and rocket. The Parma ham had a perfect sweet and salty intensity. The peppers were sweetly roasted and just enough oil to keep them moist and the Buffalo mozzarella was meltingly good. An ideal light starter for any meal; could there be a better Fodmap starter? All other starters went down just as well, with the fishcakes being picked as a highlight by my girls.

For my second course I chose Branzino Con Salsa E Patate - Fillet of Sea Bass, pan-fried, with tomato salsa and sautéed potatoes. My picture (must get better at photography) does not do the dish justice. Beneath the crispy, golden top lay perfect soft, meaty white fish that flaked away from the skin that held it together underneath. The potatoes were sautéed in skins with enough oil, salt and rosemary to have a great taste, feel naughty, but, without that chip pan feeling. The tomato salsa had evidently (obviously) been made with garlic and onion but I just ate the nice chunky pieces of tomato along with my fish and emitted the pieces of onion, easy. All other main courses in the party were enjoyed, not a clean plate among 4 us; one particularly large plate of pasta left MC defeated. In the second course I think the sea bass came out on top. Just think of that a low Fodmap meal being the tastiest!

Dessert, was a different ball game. There was not a suitable dessert for me; very rarely is there a suitable low Fodmap option. This was fine by me. I was happy with my peppermint tea and glass of wine. The others did choose a dessert: 2 ice creams (coffee and bitter chocolate), 1 chocolate fondant and 1 meringue fruit thingy (when you can't have dessert you don't pay much attention). The desserts did not go down as well as the other courses, apart from the ice cream which was met with oohs, ahhhs and spoon sharing around the table.

Coffees all round, apart from me with my peppermint tea, we sat back and commented what a lovely lunch we had just had; all 3 hours of it. The atmosphere was welcome, warm and Christmassy, the service was spot on. This low Fodmap girl walked away happily full, feeling great and arm in arm with her girlies in the glow of a good meal, good wine and good company.

"A man is never a failure as long as he has friends" Clarence the Angel from It's A Wonderful Life.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Hot off the Press: The Huffington Post

So, I have really good news. I am now, officially, a blogger for The Huffington Post Uk. I will be doing exclusive blog posts as often as I can, but still about Fodmap, recipes, foods and all the things you see here on my blog.

And today I am on the front page, what a start!

The Huffington Post: Fodmap - A Relief for a Right Pain in the Arse

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Smoky Stuffed Pepper

During the week, especially in the cold weather, I love nothing more than a comforting, cosy meal to come home too. My day job can be pretty demanding and I need something quick, not something that takes loads of prep as I would be eating at 10'o'clock at night - not good for anybody.

There is another thing, I am not always very organised (Mammy if you are reading this I know this is something you try to help me with, I am trying), so I often need to make my meal with whatever I have left in the fridge and my essential store cupboard.

Recently on such a night I came up with this:

Smoky Stuffed Pepper

1 Red Pepper
100g Rice - cooked
200g tin chopped tomatoes
100g pancetta or bacon
1/4tsp asafoetida
1/2tsp cumin ground or seeds
1/2tsp hot paprika

Cut the top off the pepper and scoop out all of the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, 350 degrees Fahrenheit, Gas Mark 4.
Cook the rice as per the packet or as you normally cook your rice. I like to leave it a little wet for mixing in other ingredients.
Fry the pancetta or bacon off until a little crispy - I do not add oil, I let the pancetta/bacon cook in its own oils.
To the cooked rice add the chopped tomatoes, asafoetida, cumin and hot paprika. Mix well.Then stir in pancetta/bacon allowing some of the natural oil to seep into the rice.
Spoon rice into pepper, pop top back onto the pepper.

Bake for 30 -35 minutes. Until the pepper is softened and, just as the pepper starts to char it is ready.

Serve and enjoy!
Delicious with a crisp green salad.

I use red peppers as they add a lovely sweetness against the smoky, spicy paprika, but in theory you could use whatever colour you have. No more than the quoted asfoetida amount should be added, as it does add a lovely onion flavour, but can ruin the best dishes if over used. I say use cumin ground or seeds as, I have used both depending on what I have in my store cupboard, same with the pancetta or bacon, and if you like things really spicy then by all means add more hot paprika. I beg anybody to tell me they miss garlic and onion in this dish.

It is also a great way of using up leftover rice or try any ingredients you have lying about, begging for something lovely to be made with them.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Pizza Fiorentina

One of my favourite quick tasty meals is pizza. I love pizza with a tangy homemade tomato sauce and fresh flavoursome toppings. On a low Fodmap diet I thought I was going to have say goodbye to this meal. Not so.

I came across Hale & Hearty quick and easy pizza mix in a recent big shop at Sainsbury's. It is Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Soya Free, organic, vegan suitable and with no artificial flavourings, colourings or preservatives. I decided to give it a go as none of my own attempts at a gluten free pizza base have been the right taste or texture.

The type of pizza base I was looking for was of the thin and crispy variety, that stays a little bit doughy in the middle and, this is exactly what I got. It has a earthy wholemeal taste to it, but, with the right toppings I see this as no bad thing.

And for my Pizza Fiorentina it was perfect.

     Hale & Hearty Quick & Easy Pizza Mix

Tomato Sauce
     Olive oil or Garlic oil
     200g chopped tomatoes
     1 clove of garlic finely chopped or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
     Granulated Sugar

     100g Spinach
     1 ball Mozzarella
     1 egg
     Finely grated parmesan

Heat 1tbsp of oil gently in a pan (if using fresh garlic fry it gently in the oil for 1 minute). Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic powder, and after 1 minute a pinch of sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 450degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 7.

Make the dough as per the pack instructions, but using it to make one large pizza base instead of mini versions.
Place on a baking tray, or if you are lucky a pizza stone, ready to get topping.

Wilt the spinach in a little olive oil.
Spoon the tomato sauce onto the base, spreading as close to the edges as you can get it.
Now, add the spinach to the base, all around the edges and close to the middle but, leaving enough space in the centre for the egg.
Tear over the mozzarella, adding as much or as little as you like.

Place in the oven. After 10 minutes remove from the oven, crack the egg into the space in the middle and then sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese. Put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes, until the edges are crispy, the egg is cooked and the cheese has formed crispy bubbles.

Serve and enjoy!

A note on the use of Garlic: Use what is comfortable for you. If you are completely intolerant to garlic then just use the oil, the sauce will still be sweet and tangy. If you are lucky and garlic doesn't bother you then use the fresh, as we all know the taste is lovely. I use the garlic powder, this never bothers me in small doses and the taste is still delicious

A note on the cheese: Mozzarella and Parmesan are both fine on the low Fodmap diet. I say use 1 mozzarella ball to give you the opportunity to use as much or as little that you want, tear over exactly the amount you are comfortable with. The Parmesan is simply a sprinkling, no more than a tablespoon.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

No need to be a vampire....yet!

I cannot believe it is already the 7th  and I have failed to post in December. Poor show by me, but life has certainly been hectic.

This hectic-ness has been a real test on my low Fodmap life. I have not been home for 6 nights, and whilst staying at my sisters (Sister T) is lovely, her family (all one big man, one sister and 3 little angels of them) eat a much different diet to me.

I must add here that my family have been wonderfully supportive and each time I visit there is always the pre-emptive phone call, what can you eat again? what about this? What is that milk called? What about broccolli? and so on and so on. The questions are getting less and less each visit and they are all helping me find new foods, recipes and ideas, which is fabulous.

Yet, staying away from home, long working hours and other commotions can reek havoc on a healthy eating plan never mind a low Fodmap life. At no point did I have to eat something that wasn't low Fodmap, I am always pretty strict about that, but the balance can get off kilter, when the ease of reach and quickness of food comes to the forefront. I am already more aware that my body is suffering due to lack of fruit and veg, and this is something, now back at home and I must fix.

Anyway, back to the vampires. Last week I introduced Garlic, after my onion re-introduction highlighting the fact I have a problem with onion, I wasn't holding out much hope. But, I was pleasantly surprised, garlic it seems does not have an adverse effect on me.

The first night I added garlic to a homemade tomato sauce, 1 clove, no adverse reaction, absolutely fine. Second night I added the equivalent of 2 cloves of Garlic Salt to a risotto, still absolutely fine, marvellous. 3rd night I had 3 clove garlic bread (using gluten free ciabatta - Sainsbury's FreeFrom to be precise), and again, I was good, didn't have the best breath but I was good.

I will be testing garlic again, as I have a fear that the garlic salts may have eased the build up of the actual carbohydrates. Certainly, I will not be immediately allowing garlic into my diet willy nilly. But, it is nice to know that when I am eating out and garlic is part of the meal I will not immediately be rushing to the bathroom in agony.

So, I need not be a vampire yet, garlic, for now, remains, not so much a friend, but a distant acquaintance.

Now, I am taking a few deep breaths, getting back to cooking (new recipes on here soon) and eating a very balanced and varied Fodmap diet , which may just include a wee bit garlic.