Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Huffington Post: Fodmap Classics: Beef Ragu

It has become a mini mission on my Fodmap path to adapt as many classic dishes as I can. These adaptations will be posted on my Huffington Post blog. 

The winter nights have left me wanting comfort and relaxation, so I have started with Beef Ragu. Deep, satisfying and just so god damn tasty, there is nothing better to heat up the coldest day.

For the full article and recipe hop on over to  The Huffington Post - Fomdap Classics: Beef Ragu 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Polenta Gnocchi - And my new cook book.

I am often looking for new and different foods to replace traditional pasta. Obviously, for us free from Fodmap people there are gluten and wheat free pastas, and whilst these are perfectly good and tasty, sometimes they can be lacking in the authenticity department. A limited variety of shapes, which I think can be important as each different pasta is a better carrier for different types of sauce, and almost certainly never the light fresh taste of egg pasta.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago my wonderful #twittersecretsanta present The International Cookery Book and it hasn't taken me long to start noting down my must try recipes for Fodmap adaptation.

I have always loved those little fluffy balls of Gnocchi, literally translated as "lumps", perfect description of what will follow. In the past I have had the variants made with semolina, flour and potato. Until now I hadn't thought that Gnocchi was on my Fodmap menu, but it seems it can be with my little tweaks. One of the recipes that caught my eye in my new cook book was for such delights, semolina based Gnocchi.

The original recipe:

Gnocchi (Italy)
Bring a pint of milk to the boil, sprinkle in five ounces of semolina, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook slowly for twenty minutes. Thicken with an egg yolk off the heat, and spread out on a plate half an inch thick. When cold cut into any desired shapes, and use for garnishing soup, or arrange the pieces in a greased dish, sprinkle them with melted butter or margarine and grated cheese, and brown quickly in the oven.

This gave me the perfect inspiration to attempt a Gnocchi alternative that was Fodmap friendly, and I really enjoyed the results. Lurking in my cupboard I had fine Polenta which I thought would be the perfect swap for the semolina in the original recipe. Using the Polenta with the milk base, similar to the recipe above, gives this Gnocchi a smooth, sweet and comforting taste, perfect as a carrier for many Italian sauces, soups, or simply grilling with cheese as a snack on their own.


850ml Lactofree Milk (both semi-skimmed and whole work well)
5oz Fine Polenta

Bring the milk to a slow boil.
Sprinkle in the Polenta, stirring continuously with a whisk to avoid lumps and sticking.
Cook slowly for 20 minutes over a low-medium heat, stirring continuously.
    If the Polenta becomes too think or lumpy, add a little more milk whilst stirring. Don't be too
    precious about this, remember Gnocchi translates as "lumps".
Pour into shallow, small baking tray.
Leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 4
Once cool, using a spoon shape into oval Gnocchi shaped balls or any shape that takes your hearts' desire.
Place on a baking tray, bake for 25 minutes until slightly golden and a little crispy on top.

Serve as you like it.

I love with my Beef Ragu or a Good Homemade Tomato Sauce.

Adding different ingredients such as Basil, Thyme or Parmesan for a delicate flavour, can add a little something to a special meal too.


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Slow Cooked Pork Belly Risotto

After all of the festivities and a rushed start to work I was looking forward to getting back to my flat, my kitchen and some slow cooking.

I wanted comfort and goodness.For me, most meats are delicious when cooked slowly until it melts in the mouth, wanting something kind to the purse I immediately turned to pork belly. But I was also craving some weekend luxury; I remembered reading a while back about pork belly risotto, a risotto with good ingredients always makes me feel a little indulgent so, I decided to try and make my own. I was more than delighted  with the results, so here it is, my Low Fodmap Slow Cooked Pork Belly Risotto. I chose to braise my belly of pork rather than roast, as I wanted a really moist sweet shredded meat. But I will definitely be trying smoky roast pork belly in the future.

For the Pork:
2tbsp Rapeseed Oil
Pork Belly
3 Carrots
4 sticks of celery
800ml Vegetable Stock
500ml White Wine

For the Risotto:
1 tbsp butter
300g Risotto Rice
3/4tsp Asafoetida
1tsp Garlic Granules
125ml White Wine
1 1/2tsp finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius/300 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas mark 2.
You need a large casserole/pot with a lid that can be placed on the hob and placed in oven.
Roughly chop the carrots and celery.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil (I use rapeseed) in the casserole, then seal the pork belly on all sides until it is turning golden brown.
Remove the pork.
Add carrots and celery to the casserole, fry in the oil for about 2 mins until the veg is softened and the celery is becoming translucent.
Place the pork belly on top of the veg.
Add the stock and wine, this should just cover the pork belly and no more.
Braise in oven for 2hrs.
Remove the pork belly from the liquid and place on a plate to rest for 10-15mins.
Meanwhile place the pork liquid and veg into a blender and blitz until smooth, this will  give you between 1 - 1.5l of stock.
After resting the pork meat will fall away from the fat, using two forks shred the meat, until you are left with a plate of delicious, melting pork ready for your risotto.
Now get your pan ready for your risotto.
In a large bottomed shallow pan, melt the butter, add the asafoetida and the garlic granules (by all means you can add real garlic here, would be 3 cloves, but I find granules easier on the tummy). Just as the spices are turning golden, add the rice.
Fry the rice for 2-3 mins until completely coated and is beginning to turn transparent. Then add the wine.
Let it bubble away until all of the wine has evaporated.
Then begin adding the blended stock ladle by ladle, letting each ladleful be absorbed before adding the next.
Keep stirring the risotto in between adding stock, this is what nudges the starch out of the risotto rice and creates that lovely dreamy creamy risotto texture.
The risotto is ready when the rice is cooked but still has a little bite, and the risotto is not soup like but a cosy loose texture.
Before the last ladleful of stock add the shredded pork mixing in well.
After the last ladleful of stock has been absorbed add the Parmesan, stirring until well mixed and the risotto has a smooth velveteen feeling.
Lastly, add a knob of butter to gloss the risotto (optional, but I like the thickness the butter adds right at the end).
And Serve.

I added some peppery rocket leaves on top for a little green crunch.

This recipe does take time, but the majority of it is the pork cooking in the oven. What better way to spend a late Saturday afternoon, than with a glass of wine, pork braising in the oven knowing that within a few hours it will be turned into an delicious Saturday night supper. And trust me the time is definitely worth it.

Will feed 3-4 adults depending on appetites.


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Happy New Year - A late Christmas Present

I am aware I am 8 days late with the Happy New Year, but it didn't seem right starting my first post of 2012 without saying it, so there it is.

I have struggled to get into the swing of things this first week back into reality after a very relaxing and special, almost two weeks of festive celebrations with friends and family. My first low Fodmap Christmas and New Year was special, much loved and in no way any less indulgent than previous years. The one big difference, I was healthy, happy and could enjoy myself as much as everybody else. Thank you low Fodmap.

All that said, until this moment I had hit a cooking and writing wall. I did plenty of cooking over the Festive period, but enjoying the lack of reception at my parents house, none of this was ever destined for the blog. With a premature and abrupt end to the festive period (well that's how it felt to me anyway), there seems to have been no time this week to do anything apart from the day job, eat leftovers and try to sleep.

I thought the festive period was completely over, but I had one surprise still to come. A surprise that came at just the right time.

The weekend before Christmas I agreed to take part in a Twitter Secret Santa #twittersecretsanta organised by @philiplarkin - no not the poet - but a very creative Irish laddie who lives in Glasgow. Anyway the rules were this, you agreed to take part, once Philip had all participants, he then sent you your Secret Santa to send a gift to. The budget was £5 but you could go under or over this at your discretion; time limits meant most people wouldn't be getting the gifts until after Christmas but this added to the excitement. You were given the twitter name of the person you were to buy a gift for so you could go check them out, maybe find any associated websites, blogs etc and then try and come up with the best gift you can. I did this and have since sent my gift on. No, I cant tell you what I sent or then it wouldn't be a secret but I certainly hope they liked it.

But back to my surprise. Yesterday, I received a package. And to be perfectly honest I had forgotten about #twittersecretsanta, as I had sent my gift off, and I had been rushing about yesterday so it was the last thing on my mind. I collected my parcel and brought it back to the flat, I love getting parcels, so as soon as I was inside I tore it open and this is what I found.

A beautifully wrapped gift, the effort and thought of the wrapping alone was enough to make me well up. But it was to get better; what was inside left me speechless.

It was a beautiful original edition of a book called The International Cookery Book edited by Ambrose Heath. A complete stranger took part in a social media game, got given my name and this is what they picked for me. It really is amazing. I think the word I first used in a text message to my sister was awesome. The thought and care that went into both the wrapping and the present literally blew me away.

I have since had great pleasure reading some of recipes this book has to offer. What was perhaps groundbreaking when the book came out in 1953, is now a great source for me to go back to some great recipes, time honoured traditions in cooking, that we may these days forget. For example, potato croquettes, beef soup (bouillon), fish chowder, dumplings of all varieties, goulash and many, many more. It also includes traditional recipes from many places including France, Hungary, Greece, West Indies, USA, Russia, Scandinavia, perhaps many countries that I would have never thought to look for inspiration. The pictures alone are enough to bring a kitsch smile to your face.

Ambrose Heath writes in the editors foreword:

'Perhaps the best tribute I can pay to the collections which form this book is, that when I was reading the proofs I was constantly wishing to transfer my activities from the study to the kitchen, so attractive did many recipes seem. I see no reason why the readers of this book should not feel the same: indeed, I very much hope they will' - And I certainly will.

So, if there is any chance that the stranger who bought me the book is reading this, Thank You. Thank you for the thoughtful gift, Thank You for the beautiful wrapping (it certainly added a certain something) and Thank You for inspiration. It has certainly got 2012 off to a good start for me. It has inspired me, and given me faith that even when all seems rubbish and difficult, there are a lot of good people in the world that can do nice things. Restoring faith in human nature; No better way to start a year.

Now thank you to you for allowing me this indulgent post without Fodmap content, but be rest assured that this book will provide many hours of cooking and recipes for me to adapt, and for you to enjoy.

Happy New Year!