Saturday, 23 August 2014

Tuna and Courgette "Lasagne"

This recipe has been a favourite of Sous Chef J's since being a young toddler.  I think it was originally from a cooking for your baby/child recipe book a pal gave me.  The original recipe used standard wheat based lasagne sheets but, since following a gluten free diet, we have used gluten free pasta and, this time, used a vegetable substitute.  We were lucky enough to be offered a HUGE courgette (zucchini) by someone at B's office and decided it would be perfect for making a lasagne with.

Listed ingredients for the dish are -

1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 courgettes, trimmed and sliced
125g sweetcorn kernels
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
250ml water
2 Tablespoons tomato puree
300g tinned tuna (drained and flaked)
cheese sauce - cornflour, butter, milk and cheese (see below)
6 sheets lasagne (we used courgette!)
grated cheese

First of all the courgette was trimmed to size to fit the lasagne dish.  the main 'body' was then lightly peeled and carefully sliced to provide 6 'lasagne' sheets.

We tested them for size by putting them in the dish.

Adding the oil to a frying pan, we added the chopped onion and garlic and lightly sauteed it until it became soft.

The remainder of the courgette was chopped into chunks and added to the fried onion together with the sweetcorn.  This was allowed to cook, over a moderate heat, for a few minutes.

Next, the tinned tomatoes, water and tomato puree were added to the pan.  This was brought to the boil then simmered for about 30 minutes.

Whilst the sauce was cooking, we got on with making the cheese sauce.  This is a really simple recipe using -

30g butter
30g cornflour
300ml milk
75g grated cheese (we used cheddar)

The butter was melted in a small pan.  The cornflour was then added and mixed well to make a paste before being stirred over a low heat for about a minute.

Next the milk was gradually added, whilst whisking the mix gently.  Once all the milk had been addded,  the sauce was brought to the boil until it became thick and smooth (make sure you whisk/stir well throughout).

Finally, with the pan removed from the heat, the grated cheese was added and incorporated using the whisk.

Once the tomato sauce had thoroughly cooked, it was taken off the heat and allowed to cool slightly before adding the drained tuna. 

Then began the task of assembling the 'lasagne'... the first third of the tuna mix was put in the base of the dish before being covered with two slices of the courgette. 

A third of the cheese sauce was put on top of the courgettes and the next third of the tuna mix was placed on top.

The layering was repeated again until the final two slices of courgette had been covered with cheese sauce.

We then seasoned the top with freshly ground black pepper and sprinkled over the grated cheese before adding the dish to a pre-heated oven at 180ÂșC for about 45-55 minutes. We like to wait until the top of the dish is bubbling and the cheese is just beginning to brown in places.  (The cooking time will vary depending on the shape/size of dish used so keep an eye on it!)

Once cooked, the tuna lasagne was served with some peas.  The quantities in this recipe easily feed 4 but you can serve smaller portions and accompany it with green salad if you need to feed 6.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Simple Sausage Pasta

We were chatting on twitter about our favourite gluten free sausages last week - Sous Chef J has long been a fan of the Good Little Company's teeny weeny sausages but we haven't been able to find them in the supermarket for a while.  The final batch from the freezer had been used up so we entered into a conversation with the manufacturers and they reassured us the teeny weenies will be in stores again soon.   Sous Chef J likes the teeny weeny sausages as they are easier for him to eat and have a soft consistency.  He rates them as "the best gluten free sausages to eat." 

In the meantime, we were sent a parcel of the current range of sausages they have on sale which was very kind and much appreciated.  It contained  great BIG sausages and good little sausages (chipolatas).  The covering letter was addressed to J and explained about how the company donates meals through Christian aids food security projects. 

Now came the challenge to find a suitable recipe to tempt Sous Chef J to try the 'larger' sausages... I decided to use my old standby technique of 'rebranding' and thought a sausage used as a meat ball in a tomato sauce with pasta would be a good idea.

To make the re-brand into a tomato and meatball pasta sauce, we used:-

Sausages - cut into 2cm chunks (meatballs)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
one small salad onion or a crushed clove of garlic
one Tablespoon tomato puree

The chopped onion and tomato puree were sauteed in a skillet for a few minutes.

Then we added the sausage meatball chunks and left them to cook for a little under 10 minutes until they were lightly cooked throughout.

At this point the tinned tomatoes were added and the lid was placed on the pan to allow the mix to boil.

Once boiling, the heat was reduced and the sausage mix was allowed to simmer whilst we cooked the pasta.  We chose to have Dove's Farm Gluten Free penne with our tomato sausage meatballs.

The tomato and sausage sauce could easily be cooked in a slow cooker - ready to use after a day out.  Just add all ingredients to the crock pot and cook on low for a few hours.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Slow Cooker Peach Jam

In the supermarket the other day there was an offer on punnets of peaches... we bought 2 for £3 and decided to give slow cooker jam making a go using them.
Ingredients we used were -

2 punnets of peaches, peeled, stoned and chopped
Juice of half a lemon (about 30ml)
1kg jam sugar (this has pectin already in it and should allow setting)

First, we took the peaches in turn and scored a cross, carefully, on the 'opposite end to the stalk'... actually, this was Sous Chef J's chore.  He did very well and managed to complete the scoring of all 14 of the peaches despite his initial dislike of their hairiness!

Whilst Sous Chef J was hard at work battling his sensory demons and scoring the peaches, I filled a large saucepan with water and brought it to the boil.  We then dropped half the scored peaches into the water and allowed them to bubble for a minute or so before carefully removing them with a slotted spoon. 

Whilst the first batch were cooling, we added the remaining peaches to the pan and repeated the boiling, removing and cooling.  Then, we carefully peeled the (now smooth) skin from the peaches.

Next, I was assigned the task of stone removal and Sous Chef J was 'chopper-upper'.  The halved and stoned peaches were placed in a pyrex dish and Sous Chef J carefully chopped the fruit into smaller pieces.

Having prepared the peaches, Sous Chef J busied himself with getting the juice out of half a lemon.  This came to about 30ml juice and was added to and mixed through the peaches. We put a sideplate in the fridge at this point, to chill for use later...

The peach and juice mix was placed in the slow cooker pot and the sugar was added before being stirred through.  Putting the cooker on low, we placed on the lid and left it for an hour.  After an hour, we stirred the mix and left it for a further hour.

After two hours on low, the sugar had dissolved and, as there was a rather uneven 'peach bit' size noted... so we got out the trusty potato masher and gave the pot a bit of a light bashing.  Probably not in the Mary Berry book of how to make jam but appears to have worked for us!

The slow cooker was then put to the high setting and the jam was left to bubble away with the lid ajar, filling the house with a lovely aroma, for another hour.  Stirring thoroughly and returning the lid to its jaunty angle, we left it again - for an hour.

Now was the time for the 'wrinkle test' to see if it was ready to set... so we retrieved the chilled plate from the fridge, dropped a little of the jam on, left it for the count of 30 and tried to push a finger through it... not a hint of a wrinkle.  So, the mix was stirred, the timer set, and we left it for a further 30 minutes.  Sous Chef J 'tested' the non-wrinkling jam and declared it "delish".

We sterilised some jam jars and their lids by running them through the dishwasher and then putting them in the washing up bowl and filling with boiling water just before we were ready to bottle up the jam.

Finally, after 2 hours on high, the jam wrinkled (very slightly) so was declared ready for bottling... we drained the jam jars (making sure not to touch the insides) and used a non-stick wide funnel to share the jam between the jars.
 We bought the peaches for £3 and the jam was £1.99.  The Kilner jars we used for the jam we were giving away were 75p each (250ml).  The ingredients yielded three 250ml Kilner jars, two 340g jars and one 454g jar plus a small left over "cook's reward" amount of about 100ml.  Approximately 2kg of jam for £5 of ingredients which is £2.50 a kilo (excluding electricity) - whereas the peach jams I found online were
about £5.90 a kilo. 

This made a 'soft set' jam (a bit like the consistency of mango chutney) and it was taste tested on a slice of gluten free seeded toast.  YUMMY!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Chicken Fajitas Kit

At the Birmingham Coeliac UK food fair last month (held in Sutton Coldfield) we bought a Fajita Kit (containing  6 gluten and wheat free multigrain wraps, a seasoning sachet and a double sachet of salsa) from @BFreeFoods.  They looked like a fab idea for a quick evening meal for the three of us and, as Sous Chef J likes spicy foods, he was keen to try them. 

All we needed to make our speedy evening meal yesterday was the Fajita Kit, peppers, onion and chicken.

Making the fajitas is simple.  We sliced some peppers and onion.

A tablespoon of oil was added to a warm frying pan and the chicken was cooked until no pink was showing.

Next the onions, peppers and fajita seasoning were added to the pan and stirred through. 

Whilst the spicy meat and veg mix was being cooked, we heated up the wraps - we don't have a microwave (don't all gasp in horror... life can continue without one!!) - we used silicone sheet in a lidded skillet to quickly heat them through for a minute on a high flame... then left them in the pan to absorb the heat.

Once all was ready, the wraps were spread with salsa, meat mix was added and rolling began...

... remembering to fold in one end so the contents didn't deposit themselves in Sous Chef J's lap as he ate the fajita!

We think this is a great kit and will be taking one on our next holiday... once we find out where to buy more!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Duck Pancakes with Hoisin Sauce

This is a meal we decided to make using some slow cooked duck legs, Blue Dragon pancakes and hoisin sauce.   Sous Chef J is very fond of finger food and we hoped this would be a dish he'd like to get his hands on.

Preparing the ingredients was easy.  The duck legs were cooked in the slow cooker (seasoning added). 

We removed the skin from the duck legs before the meat was 'pulled' from the bones using two forks to give a pile of shredded meat.

A 10cm length of cucumber was cut in half then sliced into thin sticks.  A handful of salad (spring?) onions were also sliced into thin sticks, of similar size to the cucumber.

Next, it was simply a matter of preparing the pancakes according to the instructions on the packet. 
It's really easy - just place them in just boiled water for 15 to 20 seconds - we did a batch and then stacked them on a clean tea towel before assembling.

Finally, assembly began... by layng the cucumber and onion in a line, adding some shredded duck and then rolling the pancake (taking care to fold in one end to stop escaping innards).

Serving the rolls with hoisin dipping sauce and prawn crackers meant we had a tasty meal of finger food.

The skin, which we'd removed from the joints prior to shredding, was added to a hot frying pan and quickly crisped up.  Tasty either with the pancake rolls or as an addition to a salad another time.