gluten free

Daily Bread

Bread has been getting a bad press for sometime and appears to have become the enemy. I could quite happily inhale the bread basket every time it's placed in front of me in a restaurant, but I spar with that voice in my head demonising the humble bread roll. I can definitely stuff my face with every kind of carb known to man and bread I find is particularly difficult to resist. I drool at the thought of focaccia, olive ciabatta, poilâne, bagels and brioche. However, it's with great sadness that bread and myself have had a very toxic relationship and as with any torrid love affair we have had to part ways.

My blissful childhood was filled with weekend picnics to the Lake District, family and friends in tow. My mother and all my aunts would make a mountain of puris and parathas accompanied with spicy potatoes and mango pickle. Bombay sandwiches and Frankie rolls were devoured in minutes. We would sit on blankets savouring this delicious carb laden food, all washed down with thermos flasks of hot cardamom chai and finished off with delicate homemade saffron and pistachio Indian cookies, Nankhatai. Those innocent, nostalgic, heady days were fun-filled and full of laughter, often resulting in food eating competitions. This often rendered me into a food coma and any maladies were put down to greed!

However, when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in my early adulthood, I was able to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together. Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The only cure for this autoimmune disease is to eliminate all gluten from your diet and hey presto you're fine! Over the last few years, the market in gluten free products has exploded and being gluten free is seen as being fashionable, a fad even. Always wanting to be a purveyor of fashion, this is not something I had ever desired, to give up a part of my comforting, ingrained bread eating life. It was what I thought at the time a travesty and I even mourned the ramifications. The upside of this so called 'trend,' is that gluten free options are ubiquitous in supermarkets and most restaurants. London's gluten free bakery, Beyond Bread offers a smorgasbord of everything gluten free. I no longer have to pine for freshly baked baguette and finally I can have my gluten free cake and eat it!

I don't shy away from making everything for my family, I just don't eat it myself. Breads, cakes, pasta all feature in my repertoire, but I occasionally substitute certain ingredients for gluten free ones whenever I feel the need to satiate my desire for bread. One of my family's favourite desserts, that I would like to share with you, is Bread and Butter Pudding. The denouement of any meal, with this dessert will certainly result in happy endings. Let's break bread.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 Brioche Loaf 400g

  • 400ml Milk

  • 600ml Double Cream

  • 6 Free Range Eggs, large

  • 225g Vanilla Sugar

  • 40g Golden Raisins

  • 30g Butter, softened

  • 50g Pistachio Nuts, shelled & unsalted

  • Few strands of Saffron (optional)

Method

  • Slice the brioche loaf into thin slices and cut each slice into two triangles.

  • Place the milk and double cream and saffron if you are using it, into a heavy based pan and slowly bring to the boil.

  • Once boiled, take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

  • Whisk the eggs and the sugar together until it is pale, light and leaves a trail.

  • Add the cooled cream and milk to the egg mixture and whisk together.

  • Butter a baking dish with the 30g of softened butter and arrange all the brioche triangles into it.

  • Scatter the golden raisins on top of the bread and carefully pour on the custard.

  • If any of the bread floats to the top, push it down with the back of a spoon, ensuring it is immersed in the liquid.

  • Chop the pistachio nuts into thin slivers and scatter over the pudding.

  • Leave the pudding for several hours or overnight to ensure that the bread has soaked up all the liquid.

  • Place the baking dish into a larger roasting tin, which has been lined with a newspaper. Fill the roasting tin with warm water so the water comes up half way up the side of the baking dish. This is a bain-marie, or a water bath and will prevent the milk from boiling and curdling the eggs.

  • Place into the oven and cook in a pre-heated fan-assisted oven at 165 degrees celsius or equivalent, for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, but there will still be a slight wobble.

  • Serve hot or cold.

Tips

  • If you do wish to make this dessert gluten free, use gluten free brioche rolls, slice and follow the instructions.

  • If you do not have vanilla sugar, just use regular caster sugar.

  • If you want to make vanilla sugar, add a vanilla pod into a container of caster sugar. Store and use as required.

  • It is best to use golden raisins, or even green raisins if you wish.

  • Using saffron is optional. It will change the flavour of the custard and will add a mellow yellow tinge to it.

Photo 30-06-2016, 23 50 16.jpg

Time to Detox?

The term 'detox' is being bandied around rather a lot these days. We are told that we need to detox physically, mentally and emotionally. This colloquialism refers to healthy eating, healthy living and healthy thinking. We are lured into a world of smoothies bursting with greens, spiralized vegetables hoodwinking us into thinking we are eating pasta, super finely grated vegetables impersonating rice; and salads loaded with micro leaves, sprouted beans, seeds and nuts. Does all this healthy eating cleanse our chocolate binging, our overt weekend wine quaffing or our post-drinking craving for greasy foods?

Admittedly, I've been quite cynical about all the detox hype, despite the fact I'm all for nutritious, healthy eating. Freshly pressed vegetable juices are a great boost to our immune systems and fresh leafy green cruciferous salads are full of antioxidants. The star of the show at the moment is kale, it's the trending superfood vegetable of the season. From Beyonce's kale t-shirt to Gwyneth Paltrow advocating kale chips, kale it seems is here to stay. It has made an appearance in every supermarket and curly kale is King. With its anti-cancerous properties and with enormous amount of iron and calcium, it's definitely the super model on the catwalk of vegetables and it's strutting its stuff!

So in honour of the mighty kale, I've decided to follow the herd and I've created my very own detox kale salad. 

Detox kale salad

Serves 4-6

  • 200g Kale, very finely shredded or grated with the stalks removed
  • 300g Red Cabbage, shredded or finely grated
  • 2 Carrots, shredded or finely grated
  • 2 Tomatoes, chopped into small dice
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 2 Ripe Avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 110g Paneer, chopped into small cubes (Optional)
  • 1 400g Can Kala Channa (Dark Brown Chickpeas), drained and rinsed 
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Lime
  • 50g Coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Green Chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 Handful of Pine Nuts

Method

  • Place the very finely chopped kale into a large bowl.
  • Add the red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, red pepper, avocados, paneer, chickpeas, pine nuts and the coriander. 
  • Mix everything together and add the juice of the lemon and the lime.
  • Add the salt and the green chilli and mix well into the salad.
  • Allow the salad to rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes, allowing the flavours to develop and the citrus to work its magic on the kale before serving.

Tips

  • You can toast the pine nuts in a dry frypan on a low to medium heat for a couple of minutes. Just keep an eye on them as they burn very quickly.
  • I sometimes chop up leftover homemade polenta into cubes and shallow fry until crispy. Sprinkle over the salad just before serving.
  • Cans of kala channa (dark brown chickpeas) are available from some supermarkets, however if you can't get these, just use a can of the regular chickpeas. The kala channa has a much nuttier flavour than regular chickpeas.
  • This salad is also the perfect accompaniment to my brunch dish, Indian Eggs with Tomatoes and Paneer.