A Simple Spring ‘Pasta’

Sometimes you find yourself home alone for dinner and all you want is a comforting, creamy bowl of pasta. On a grain-free diet it’s not that straight forward, but inspiration hit me the other day and I think I managed to create a dish that really hits the spot.

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Jamie Oliver, in his 30 Minute Meals book and programme really inspired me to create freshly made quick meals and some of the methods he uses really come through in this recipes, just because I think they are so cleaver and useful.

You can make this recipe with almost any veg you have lying around in your fridge and create flavour combinations that suit your pallet. Add chilli flakes for a kick of heat or butter for a richer flavour.

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A Simple Spring ‘Pasta’

Serves 1

Ingredients:
3-4 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I like using lots of garlic)
Half a punet Mushrooms (chestnut, oyster or button), cleaned and sliced
1 small bunch Asparagus, chopped as you like it
1 large courgette, outer flesh shaved into strips using a peeler (making your ‘pasta’) and the core cut into cubes
3 heaped Tbsp SCD yogurt (or any other yogurt you like, I used sheep’s milk yogurt)
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, chives, oregano or thyme, roughly chopped
40gr Parmesan
a handful or pine nuts
Nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat one tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add a quantity of two garlic cloves to the pan.
  2. When the garlic has infused the oil but before it burns add the mushrooms and toss in the oil.
  3. When the mushrooms have stated colouring, add the asparagus and courgette core.
  4. Whilst the vegetables are frying, and keeping an eye that they don’t burn, prepare the yogurt sauce: Place the yogurt in the bowl you are planning to eat from, dress with the rest of the olive oil, grate in most of the the parmesan and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good mix and taste. Amend seasoning and set aside.
  5. Give the vegetables a mix and add in the courgette ‘pasta’ strips, the rest of the garlic and the herbs. Toss gently, making sure not to tear the strips. Cook for a few minutes until the courgette goes a bit translucent but not over cooked.
  6. Pour the veg into the bowl with the yogurt sauce and mix quickly. Leave the hob on.
  7. Return the pan to the hob and put the pine nuts on to roast. In the mean while grate the rest of the parmesan on your dish. When the nuts started taking colour sprinkle them over the ‘pasta’ and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Enjoy!

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Lovingly grain free

Making love happen is so much better when you aren’t bloated, uncomfortable and in pain. here are some ideas for a grain free Valentines Day meal that will leave you with enough energy and spunk for the real deal:

First Course: Herby cracker wedges with a Labaneh dip

For the herby Crackers:
Original recipe from Elena’s Pantry

2 cups Ground Almonds
1 tsp Salt
2 Dired Figs, chopped into small cubes (if figs don’t agree with you, used dates)
1 Rosemary Sprigs, roughly chopped
1 Egg
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp water (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 160˚c
  2. In a bowl mix together the ground almonds, salt, figs and rosemary.
  3. In a separate small bowl whisk together the egg and olive oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine with a spoon to a greedy dough. If the dough is too dry and won’t come together, add some water, a little at a time.
  5. Roll the dough out between two sheets of  parchment paper and slice the raw dough into wedges (like slicing a pizza)
  6. Bake for 10min or until the crackers are golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 min before serving with SCD Labaneh.

* If you are vegan these wedges work great without the egg.

Fig and Rosemary crackers in the making

For the Labaneh (a Lebanese style cream cheese spread):

The night before your dinner, line a sieve with a muslin cloth and place over a bowl. Pour into the lined sieve 3 cups of SCD yogurt (if you can tolerate it, shop bought sheep or goat’s yogurt are also good). Gather the edges of the muslin over the yogurt so nothing falls in and leave in the fridge or a very cool place over night. When you are ready to serve scrape the creamy cheese from the muslin into the serving dish and decorate with olive oil and Zaatar if you have. If not, use thyme or smoky paprika.

Meatballs and Cavolo Nero 'Pasta'

Main Course: Meatballs in tomato sauce and cavolo nero ‘pasta’

Inspired by Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Cavolo Nero is ‘black cabbage’ and is both yummy and healthy. It’s available this time of year and it’s shape lends itself to be a great replacement to pasta, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it in the shops, use kale instead.

For the meatballs:

1 Onion, finely chopped
2 tbp fresh or dry herbs (whatever you have at home… rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil…)
500gr Minced Beef
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
Oil for frying

For the tomato sauce:

1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic
2 Carrots, grated
2 cans Chopped Tomatoes or 1 bottle of legal Passata
1/2 cup Dry Red Wine (add more to taste or if sauce is too dry)
2 tbsp herbs of your choice (I used rosemary)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Method:

  1. Make the meatballs: Combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and leave to rest at room temperature whilst you make the sauce.
  2. In a deep pan heat a glugg of oil and an equal amount of water, add the chopped onion and fry on a medium heat until translucent and golden brown. If the onions start to burn add a little more water. Browning them slowly will develop a sweet taste but burning them will give a bitter flavour. Add the garlic and grated carrots and continue frying for 3-5min.
  3. Add the tomatoes, red wine and herbs and season to taste.
  4. Cook, uncovered, on a medium heat whilst you are frying the meatballs.
  5. Heat a glugg of olive oil in a pan.
  6. Roll meat balls to the size of a ping-pong ball and brown in the heated oil, about 2-3 min on each side. Make sure the meatballs are not crammed in the pan, as this will make them boil rather than fry. This might take a few batches, so transfer the cooked balls into the bubbling sauce.
  7. Once all the balls are fried and cooking in the tomato sauce, make you ‘pasta’

For the Cavolo Nero ‘Pasta’:

1/2 ‘head’ of Cavolo Nero cabbage or half bag of ready to use chopped Kale
1 sprig Rosemary
2 garlic cloves (if you are both eating garlic than it won’t matter when you kiss)
1tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Ghee
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan to taste

Method:

  1. Fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil.
  2. Wash the cavolo nero thoroughly and shake to dry, then place each leaf up-side-down on a cutting bore and using a sharp knife, cut the dark leaf away from the light green stem. The stem is quite woody even when cooked so I usually discard it. The leaves are now long strips and resemble pasta noodles.
  3. When the water is boiling, drop the leaves in and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Whilst the leaves are cooking, finely slice the garlic cloves and rosemary.
  5. When the Cavolo Nero is cooked, drain into a colander. Leave the leaves in the colander and return the saucepan to the heat, melt the ghee and oil together, add the garlic and rosemary and stir gently for about 1 minute before adding the cavolo nero leaves. Warm through and make sure the leaves are covered. Season to taste.

Assemble:

  1. The cavolo nero is your pasta, so pile it in the middle of a pasta dish and top with the meatballs and tomato sauce (I usually serve 4 balls for each diner).
  2. Grate or shave parmesan over everything and enjoy.

* If you are gentle, you might even be able to re-inact the movie scene.

Layered Dessert

Dessert: Fruit, Crumble and Cream Layered Heaven

Make the crumble and whipped coconut crease in advance the assemble just before serving.

First thing’s first: The night before your dinner, put 1 can Coconut Milk (Make sure you get pure coconut milk with no stabilisers and additives) in the fridge. Don’t shake it. The milk will separate to water and cream and you want the cream for whipping later.

1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup pecan nuts
(use any nut combination you like and have in the house: Walnuts, Macadamia or Brazil nuts work really well too)
2 tbsp coconut flakes, optional (shredded coconut is also fine just make sure you use an unsweetened product)
2 tbsp Ghee
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of salt (use pink Himalayan if you have)
1 Mango / 1 punnet Strawberries / 1 punnet blueberries / pitted cherries or any other fruit you like and works with a soft and crunchy combination.

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170˚c and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Scatter all the nuts and coconut flakes, if using, on the tray, drop little clumps of ghee in and around the nuts and drizzle the honey over everything, then sprinkle the salt.
  3. Roast in the hot oven for 10-15min, checking and shaking the pan every 5min. You what the nuts to turn golden and the honey to caramelise, but nothing should burn, so keep an eye on it.
  4. Once golden and beautiful, remove from the oven and cool completely. The nuts may seam soggy at the start but as they cool they will crunch up.
  5. Put the cold nuts in a food processor and pulse to brake them up. DON’T MAKE A POWDER! Set aside until you are ready to serve.
  6. Prepare the fruit you are using (peel and slice the mango or hull and quarter the strawberries) and set aside until you are ready to serve.
  7. Open the cooled coconut milk can and scoop the hardened cream into a mixing bowl. Save the ‘water’ for cooking but make sure none of it gets into the bowl.
  8. Using an electric mixer whisk the coconut until it resembles fluffy whipped cream. Sweeten with a little honey if required. Store the cream in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Assemble:

In wine glasses or martini cocktail glasses, layer the fruit and then the nut crumble, a bit at a time. When the glass is full, dollop the coconut whipped cream and top with a mint leaf or lemon verbena garnish.

Enjoy and may you have a happy and loving Valentines day. x

Wintery Thoughts

The weather seamed to have gone crazy and reports on TV look a bit like the film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. Here in the UK we have been waking up at night to the sound or rain trickling on the roof and the whistles of wind blowing in our window. No snow yet.

More dedicated bloggers than me dedicated their end of year posts to summarising and listing 10 of the best… But I’m afraid I just cook and post. I enjoy other’s dedication to photography, styling and creative writing.

Out New Year resolution is to stick to the SCD diet strictly, and hope that this will increase energy levels and decrease the chances of that horrid illness returning to haunt our lives. Lots of will power and creativity required.

There are so many recipes and information out there (like roost, SCD recipe and Hold The bread, Please) but sometimes I like to look at my baking drawer and see what I can come up with. This time cocoa butter, vanilla and cherries (unseasonal but reduced price in the supermarket) popped at me.

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White Forest Muffins

Basic muffin recipe inspired by roost
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
4 cups Ground Almonds
1/2tsp Salt
3/4tsp Baking Soda
2tbsp Coconut oil
1/4 cup Cocoa Butter
1/2 cup  + 1 tbsp Honey
3 Eggs
250gr fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 Vanilla pod (optional)

Method:

  1. Het the oven to 160˚c and line a muffin tin with 12 muffin or cupcake liners (I used a silicone muffin tray so didn’t use paper liners).
  2. In a small bowl, mix the pitted cherries with 1tbsp honey and some of the vanilla beans (if using), then scatter a few cherry halves on the bottom of each lined muffin cup.
  3. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter in a small pot on a low heat, then remove form the heat and add the 1/2 cup honey.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  5. Whisk the eggs and mix them into the other wet ingredients. Add the rest of the vanilla if using.
  6. Mix wet ingredients into dry until incorporated and pour the batter into each cup, covering the cherries.
  7. Bake for 20-25min until golden brown
  8. Cool completely and serve.

Enjoy

Picnic under the oak tree

It’s been a year since my now husband J popped the question. A whole year has passed, since one of the happiest days of my life and a start of this great journey we are taking together.

A few good months into our engagement, in the midst of our wedding perp, on a sunny day in March, our photographer Blake Ezra came over to our house (which was also the wedding venue) to take some pre-shoot photos of us and the of the venue. I’d highly recommend doing this, as it get’s you used to having someone with a camera following you around and also gets you great professional photos that aren’t in a white dress and all dressed up.

We took Blake for a lovely walk in the woods, past the spot where we got engaged, and had some fun re-enacting the moment.

Shira and Jon Engagement shoot Shira and Jon Engagement shoot Shira and Jon Engagement shoot Shira and Jon Engagement shoot

So a year later, we thought it would be fun to go back to that beautiful spot where we got engaged  and have a nice afternoon picnic (all SCD friendly of course).

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An SCD friendly Picnic

The picnic included: Roasted veg with Tahini, Beetroot Carpaccio with Manchego, a green salad, SCD bread (coming soon, an improved recipe) and carrot and courgette cupcakes for dessert.

Quantities for the recipes depend on how many people you are serving. Also, use any veg you like and are available to you.

Roasted Vegetables with Tahini (served cold):

Ingredients:
Courgettes
Cauliflower
Sweet Peppers (I used mini sweet peppers but use any red/yellow/orange you can find)
Garlic, chopped
Olive Oil
Oregano or Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Line a baking sheet (or two) with aluminium foil and heat your oven to 190˚c.
  2. Slice the vegetables into a large mixing bowl (you can mix them together, but if you are using beetroot, make sure you dress it separately so you don’t stain all your veg)
  3. Add the garlic, a good glugg of olive oil, herbs and seasoning and toss the veg until they are well coated in the oil and herbs.
  4. Arrange the veg on the baking sheet (I like to arrange them neatly but you also tip the contents of your bowl and scatter the veg).
  5. Roast in the oven for aprox 40min, or until nicely golden on top with slightly charred edges, then remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy with a dollop of tahini dressing (equal parts of Tahini paste and water, garlic and salt to taste, chopped parsley and lemon juice. Mix together to a runny consistency, adding more water and seasoning if needed).

Beetroot Carpaccio with Manchego 

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
2 Fresh Beets, washed and peeled (I only had red beets, but by all means, use a variety of colours if you can)
2tbs Olive Oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 sprig Mint
Salt and pepper to taste
Manchego, Parmesan or even Blue cheese

Method:

  1. If you have a mandolin, use it to slice the beets on thickness 1. If no, slice the beets very thinly with a very sharp knife.
  2. Place the sliced beets in a bowl (or even in the box you will be taking them to the picnic in), add the rest of the ingredients and mix very well, making sure all the beet ‘pages’ are smothered in the dressing.
  3. Leave in the fridge until ready to use.
  4. Wash the mandolin from the beetroot juices and slice the Manchego on the same setting. Keep the cheese separate from the beets and at the picnic. combine them on the plate or on a sandwich.

Note: On another occasion I served the beetroot carpaccio as an accompaniment to lemon and dill Salmon Gravad Lax with a herby pesto dressing and no mint. Yum!

Enjoy!

Don’t waste your food, make quiche!

Last week I was introduced to a great organisation called Feeding the 5000. It’s a UK based organisation, working worldwide to fight food waste. J and I spent the afternoon in central London, helping them distribute perfectly good peppers and cherry tomatoes that were rejected by the supermarkets for not being ‘perfect’ enough to go on their shelves.

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The cleaver thing is that the Feeding the 5K guys didn’t just give away the vegetables. To anyone who would stop and listen to our shpiel, we gave out a bag with lots of veg which included a recipe for Gezpacho soup by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. We asked them to maybe make the gezpacho and invite friends over to enjoy their soup, and in the ‘pop-up’ restaurant spirit maybe ask them for a donation to the organisation and sign up to the no-food-waste pledge.

This activity really brought to light the detachment we have from the food production process and the lack of awareness to the amount of food that is wasted every day.

At the end of the afternoon, we were still left with a good amount of peppers and as the City people went back to their offices we loaded our bags with peppers and headed back home to grill, cook and preserve about 30kg of red, yellow and green peppers.

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Upside Down Pepper Quiche

Inspired by this recipe by Dvarim Bealma
There are a few steps to this quiche, but it can be made all in one go.

Ingredients:
4-6 Peppers (asorted colours)
1 whole garlic bulb
4 Eggs
500ml Goats Milk Yogurt (SCD yogurt if possible)
30gr Parmesan Cheese, grated
12 Pitted Kalamata Olives, roughly chopped
6 Dried tomatoes, sliced
1tbsp fresh mint
1tbsp Fresh Thyme
Salt & Pepper to taste

Note about the herbs: Use any herb combination you like/have. If you don’t have fresh herbs, use dry.

Method:

First roast the peppers and garlic: 

  1. Heat the oven to 250˚c and line a baking tray with aluminium foil.
  2. Take another (smal-ish) piece of aluminium foil, place it flat on your work board and dress with a little olive oil, salt and a sprig of thyme, then cut off the bottom of the garlic bulb and place it, cut side down, on the dressed foil. Wrap up the garlic and place it on the baking trey.
  3. Place all of your peppers, whole and washed, on the baking tray and place in the hot oven.
  4. Important: the peppers need to be turned every aprox 10min so they are evenly roasted on all sides.
  5. After the peppers are roasted remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 170˚c. Set the roasted garlic aside to cool.
  6. Place all the peppers in a large glass bowl and cover the top with cling film. Leave the peppers to steam and cool. This process with make separating the peel from the flesh a very easy job.

Whilst the peppers are steaming and cooling, make the quiche filing by combining all the ingredients and whisking them in a bowl. Don’t forget to unwrap the garlic and squeeze the roasted cloves into the batter.

Assembling the quiche:

  1. Peel the roasted peppers, one by one, by pulling the loose burnt bits away from the soft flesh, then gently remove the flesh from the stem, trying to pull from the bottom, so the seeds stay on the stem.
  2. Gently slice the flesh on one side so the pepper can be spread out flat, then clean any seeds from the surface.
  3. When all your peppers are peeled and clean, start lining your pie dish with the peppers, making sure they overlap so the filling doesn’t seep through, just like a normal pie crust.
  4. Pour in the filling batter and bake in the oven for 35min, or until the filling is slightly wobbly but not runny.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15min, then place a plate , up-side-down on top of the pie and flip it over (do this over the sink as there will be some liquid spilling out).
  6. Release the quiche from the pie dish and serve with salad.

Enjoy!

I see your unleavened and I raise you SCD friendly: Passover recipe roundup No. 1

It’s been a long time since I posted on this blog and that’s one of the reasons I was so reluctant to start one in the first place. I knew I didn’t have the self discipline to post on a regular basis. But, I’m here now, so if you want some good, Pesscah recipes, read on.

Since my last post we started experimenting with a new diet to try and help my other half’s Crohn’s symptoms. After making gluten free bread sticks for Valentines day, which sent him in a downwards spiral for about a week, we decided to introduce the  Specific Carbohydrates Diet which you can read all about on the Breaking the Vicious Cycle website and book. It worked for about two – three weeks until we had some lentils which, again, caused a week of pain and suffering. So we went back to basics and now stick to the allowed meat and fish, eggs, dairy, fruit and veg. No pulses or legumes and it seams to be working.

It’s relatively easy to follow the diet on a daily basis, if you enjoy cooking and are open to experimentation. Eating out is a bit more of a challenge, but this week it’s the Jewish holiday of Passover and whilst grains aren’t allowed for anyone, Matzah and it’s products is still made out of wheat. The challenge for this week was making traditional Passover food suitable for the SCD diet, without compromising on taste, texture and variety. In some cases, the only change was replacing the sugar with honey. In other the main ingredients had to be replaced and the process amended to suit the SCD way.

These are the foods we made and the recipes to make them:

Steamed CSD Keneidalach (Matzo Balls) Makes about 17 ping pong size balls

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Original recipe by SCD Recipe Roundup and tweaked by me

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 1/4 cup Blanched ground almonds and more as needed.
1/4 cup Coconut flour (this absorbs liquids really well, like the Matzo Mill does in the regular recipe)
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Method:

1. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk eggs with oil.
2. Add flours, salt, parsley and baking soda and stir till smooth. If the mixture is too wet, add more ground almonds. If it’s too dry, add some water, a spoon-full at a time until it’s smoother.
3. Let mixture stand for 20 minutes so the flours absorbs liquid.
4. If you don’t have bamboo steaming baskets, place a small heat proof bowl up-side-down in a deep saucepan (that has a lid) and place a lightly oiled plate on top of the bowl, then pour hot water half way up the bowl and bring back to a simmer. If you have steaming baskets, bring water  to a boil in a suitably sized saucepan. Prepare about 5 greaseproof paper linings for your baskets and oil them as you go.
5. With wet hands, roll about 1 teaspoon of mixture between your palms into a ball; mixture will be very soft.
6. Place the balls in your baskets or on the plate in the saucepan (I cooked about 5 balls in each basket, they expand but not by much) and steam for 6min. Try one to see if it’s cooked through.
7. Cool on an oiled plate or plop directly into your soup.

Notes on Matzo balls:

Steaming: The first trial I did for this recipe ended up a total mess. I tried boiling the balls and they fell apart in the water. For the second trial I decided to let the batter rest for longer and steamed the balls like Chinese dumplings. That worked a treat and made J very happy.

Flavour and Texture: As we aren’t using Matzo Mill, the flavour isn’t identical to regular Keneidalach, but the outcome has it’s own unique flavour and the egg taste is quite strong. The parsley adds a nice taste and you can try adding a grated carrot too. The balls go hard as they cool but soften a bit in the hot soup. the coconut flout ads a flakey texture.

SCD Matzo Makes a good batch of ‘half matzo’ sized crackers

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Recipe inspiration from Elena’s Pantry

Ingredients:

400gr (4 cups) blanched ground Almonds

A hand full (aprox 1/4 cup) of Pecan nut halves (these are optional and are used for visual purposes only. I think they make the Matzo look a bit more realistic and they do add a gentle roasted pecan flavour)

2tsp Salt (I used Maldon)

2-3 medium Eggs

3tbsp Olive Oil

3tbsp Water

* Make sure you have enough parchment paper

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180˚c (350˚f) and prepare all your cookie baking pans as you will need them all.
  2. In a small food processor or spice grinder pulls the Pecan halves so they resemble thick crumbs (they are meant to look like the brown bubbles on a real Matzo).
  3. Place the Almonds, crushed Pecans and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whist together the eggs (start with two and add one more if dough is too dry), Oil and 2tbsp of water.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry and form a dough. If mixture is very crumbly, add the third spoon of water. if it’s still crumbly, add the third egg, whisked and add more water as needed. If it’s too wet, ass ground almonds. The texture of the dough should be soft and pliable.
  6. Tear a handful of dough and place between two baking parchment sheets, then roll out the dough until 3-5mm thick.
  7. Using a knife, or even better, a Pizza rolling knife, cut out rectangles the size of half a Matzo size and remove the excess dough from around it.
  8. Make it look like a matzo: Using a fork, poke vertical lines of dots onto the dough, so it looks like real Matzo.
  9. Bake for 10 min, until golden brown, then cool on a rack.
  10. Repeat the rolling, poking and baking with the rest of your dough