French Shepherd’s Pie

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Some years ago I first heard this mentioned in an online forum.  Carol, who is sadly no longer with us, described a meal served by their French hosts which was essentially an upside-down shepherd’s pie but with much less meat than we traditionally use and with the addition of ratatouille.  I did not really take a lot of notice at the time but the general principle stuck with me and I recently created this version of my own.

First layer – mashed sweet potato – simply cooked and mashed with nothing added.

Second layer:

1 onion, finely chopped
250g mince
1 cup red lentils, soaked in 3 cups boiling water
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
Tomato paste, tomato sauce or 1/2 cup canned or fresh tomatoes

Saute the onion, add mince and brown, add lentils and any excess water. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until moisture is reduced and lentils are soft.  Add seasoning/flavouring as desired.

Spread the mince/lentil mixture over the sweet potato.

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Third layer:

6 mushrooms, sliced finely
1/4 large red capsicum, sliced finely
1/2 large eggplant, sliced finely
1 can crushed tomatoes
Heaped teaspoon mixed herbs

Add a small amount of oil to a pan and add the eggplant and capsicum.  After a couple of minutes add the mushroom then the tomatoes and herbs.  Simmer gently until liquid is reduced.

Add the vegetable mixture to the dish.

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Topping:

1 tablespoon each of flaxseed meal, almond meal, grated parmesan and cheddar cheeses.

Combine in a small bowl.

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You can bake this in the oven but since the components are all cooked and it really only needs heating, I heat it thoroughly in the microwave.

Finally, add the topping and place under the grill to finish off the topping.

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This is virtually a meal by itself so I simply serve it with some stir-fried cabbage.

Finely shredded cabbage tossed in a little coconut oil and seasoned with black pepper and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.

NOTE:  This is my own creation and it is based on the ingredients I had available as well as personal preference with respect to the flavours.  Change and substitute to suit your own tastes and circumstances.

Daily Bread

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Bread has long been a staple of our Western diet.  It comes in many and varied guises from the square white slices bagged in plastic bought from the supermarket to artisan sourdough loaves from trendy cafes and delis.

Then there is the seemingly elusive quest for a decent gluten free loaf.

Add the desire to reduce or eliminate plastic packaging and buying a loaf of bread really becomes a minefield.

For over 20 years GMan has made our bread.  This was before I began eating a gluten-free diet and we had 2 children at home.  He made white bread, grain bread and fruit loaf in a breadmaker using bread mixes from Laucke Flour Mills.  We made sandwiches, toast and toasted sandwiches – all with minimal packaging from the bread mix bags.

Things have changed and GMan now makes white bread from scratch in the breadmaker as well as fruit loaf using a premix with added fruit.  Here is a loaf he made tonight.

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The white loaf is the same shape but generally not as high.

However, his real love is sourdough bread which has led GMan on a quest to create a perfect sourdough loaf.  For those who have asked for the recipe, all I can offer is this link which he found and has followed (in general terms).  It appears to be an art and one in which I have not got involved.  After months of varying degrees of success this was the result from a couple of weeks ago.  Gman believes that it is definitely worth the effort.

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I eat very little bread these days as most gluten-free breads are not that great, expensive and heavily packaged in plastic.

Credit to inspired + delicious Facebook page for this bread recipe.

1 cup buckwheat groats
2 cups hot water (almost boiling)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons psyllium husk
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak the buckwheat in hot water with apple cider vinegar overnight.

Next day, place buckwheat plus liquid in a blender and blend until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and blend well.  Place mixture in a greased, lined loaf tin and allow to stand for 15 – 30minutes to allow psyllium to soak in properly.  Bake at 200C until browned and it bounces back when you poke it.  This is approximately 30 – 40 minutes.

This is the basic recipe but you can add whatever else you choose.

My first loaf had a handful each of sunflower seeds and pepitas added to the basic mixture.

Here are a couple of slices toasted.  While it is perfectly edible as bread it is really delicious as toast.

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One of the things I do miss about bread is having grilled cheese on toast.  This is not an everyday food but an occasional treat.  I really enjoyed this for lunch the other day.

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Since I regarded my first attempt as a success, I decided to expand my repertoire and modify it to make a spicy fruit loaf.  I added 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of mixed spice, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, some sultanas and dried cranberries and omitted the pepitas.

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I am now happily dreaming of other flavour options.  I think the next attempt may be a savoury one – sun-dried tomato and olive.

While I am not going to be eating bread for every meal, it is great to have a plastic-free, unpackaged, gluten-free bread that is quick and easy to make.

Unpackaged bread has been my major success for Plastic-Free July this year.

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A Sweet Treat

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Here is a simple and delicious idea for those occasions when you need to produce a shared plate of sweets.

3 ingredients – a packet of gingernut biscuits, whipping cream and strawberries.

Pre-heat the oven to 150C.  Place the biscuits on a baking tray in the oven for 5 – 8 minutes.  This will soften the biscuits slightly.  Place the biscuit between 2 soup spoons and press together.

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This will create a slightly bowl-shaped biscuit case once it is cooled.

You will need to work fairly quickly so that all of the biscuits remain softened until you press them into shape.  To do this I leave the tray in the oven with the door open and take them out one at a time.

Once the biscuit cases are prepared , they can be stored in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.

Whip the cream and place a dollop into each biscuit case and top with a wedge of fresh strawberry.

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These are best assembled just before serving but the cream can be whipped beforehand along with cutting up the strawberries.

GMan is took these to work yesterday for a special morning tea.  The biscuit cases in an airtight container, the whipped cream in a jar and the pre-cut strawberries in another container.  They only took a few minutes to assemble and were voted a clear winner.

If strawberries are not in season you can use any fruit – a sliver of mango or kiwifruit are good, too.  However, my favourite is a piece of crystallised ginger on top.

Option: use gluten-free gingernut biscuits to make this gluten-free.

Making Breakfast

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It is Saturday morning here in Australia so it was time for a slightly more leisurely breakfast than our normal weekday routine.  We leave too early to consider having breakfast before we go so I have all of the necessities in my desk and I eat breakfast at the office.

Today, however, I had to make up some more cereal as I had run out.  I eat a gluten-free diet so I make my version of muesli.

Gluten-free Muesli (bulk quantity)

3 cups pepitas
3 cups sunflower seeds2 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup flaxseed meal
2 cups almonds (chopped)
2 cups sultanas
1/4 cup powdered cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and then store in an airtight container.

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Breakfast

3 spoons of muesli
1 spoon chia seeds
1 spoon psyllium husk

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I then add 2 – 3 serves of fruit and enough water to absorb the chia and psyllium.  You could use milk or yoghurt if you wish but I choose not to have them on my cereal.  If the fruit you have is lacking in moisture or intense flavour you could also use a little fruit juice.

Today I used 2 cubes each of frozen mango puree and passionfruit pulp which were surplus from the summer as well as 1/4 of a home-grown pawpaw which was given to me yesterday.

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A truly refreshing start to the day.

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Pizza Recipe – An Update

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2017-04-20 01

It has been brought to my attention that I made what could only be described as a monumental error in the recipe for the pizza bases which I posted yesterday.

There were 2 lines which were different quantities of olive oil – one line should have read ‘warm water’.  This has now been corrected and I sincerely hope that no-one has made it from the original copy.

Secondly, in response to a comment on the post I will explain a little about psyllium.  Yes, it is a laxative but that is not the reason for using it in the pizza bases.  As Monica Topliss, the author of the recipe book explains, it is the ‘secret ingredient’ in many of her gluten-free recipes as it provides the elasticity that is lacking with the absence of gluten.  Using this theory I have managed to successfully make my own gluten-free pasta.  Psyllium is also purported to assist in lowering cholesterol levels.  Here in Australia it is readily available in supermarkets and health food shops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Pizza

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For the past couple of years I have been making gluten-free pizza bases and tonight I want to share the recipe with you.

I have previously posted about making pizzas here but did not published the recipe as it included a specific blend of flour which was only available in the recipe book.  However, the ‘recipe’ for the flour blend is now available on the internet and you can look it up here.

The recipe below is the quantities I use.  It is actually double the original recipe and I find it makes 6 bases.

Pizza Bases

Ingredients

600g MGF flour blend
16g psyllium
2 teaspoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons dried yeast
40ml olive oil
520ml warm water

Method

  1.  Turn the oven on to 100 degrees C and set a timer for 5 minutes.  Turn the oven off after 5 minutes.
  2.  Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Add warm water and oil.  Mix well.  (I use the Kitchen Aid mixer on a low speed).
  3.  The mixture will seem quite runny at first but will soon firm up as the psyllium absorbs the moisture.
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in the warm oven to rise for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and divide into 6 equal pieces.

The original recipe suggests rolling the dough out on a greased tray, allow to rise for 20 minutes then add toppings and bake for 15 minutes at 220 degrees C.

My version is a little different.  I roll the dough out on baking paper, bake on a tray for 8 minutes at 180 degrees C.  When cooled I freeze the pre-cooked bases ready for future use.

This is the pizza maker that I use which has a pizza stone set into it.

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Here is a sample of the end result.  We ate it tonight.

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NOTE:  I reuse the baking paper and store it in a ziplock bag in the freezer between uses.

A Family Favourite

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As promised yesterday, here is the recipe for cold curried chicken.

Cold Curried Chicken

3 – 4 chicken breast fillets (around 800g)
1 onion, finely diced3 tablespoons butter
3 – 4 tablespoons flour
900ml chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
150ml cream
Salt and pepper

Cold cooked rice
French dressing

Steam the chicken and shred into bite-sized pieces.  Place in a shallow serving dish.

Melt butter, add onion and cook until soft.  Add curry powder and cook for 5 minutes.  Add flour and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.Gradually add the stock and stir until blended well.  Bring to the boil while stirring then simmer for 30 minutes.  Add lemon juice and red currant jelly.  Mix well and allow to cool.  Stir in cream and season to taste.  Pour over the chicken and chill before serving.  Toss the rice in a little french dressing before serving.

Unfortunately, there are no photographs at present although I may add some in the future when I next make this recipe.

I have successfully made this gluten-free by using gluten free flour to thicken it.  You may need a bit more flour if using gluten free.  I also substituted evaporated skim milk instead of the cream.  You can make your own evaporated milk using equal parts of milk powder and water.  If you want it a bit creamier just add more milk powder.

Something Different

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We usually eat salmon once every fortnight.  It is cooked the same way each time – GMan grills it on the barbecue.  I vary the accompaniments – sometimes it is kale salad or coleslaw and sweet potato fries, other times it is a a bed of sweet potato mash or wilted bok choy plus other vegetables on the side.

The other day I came across this link on Facebook.  So, I decided that I would try one for a change from our normal grilled salmon.

I made the Tomato Pesto Salmon and this is what it looked like once I had assembled it.

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Cooked, served and ready to eat.

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Even better, was the fact that the basil, tomatoes, zucchini and sweet potato were all from the garden.

I know that fresh salmon is not exactly a budget meal but with almost everything else home-grown it means that we can splash out a little on good quality meat and fish.

Dinner – Tuna Mornay

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Here is another dinner recipe and as a bonus, my version is gluten free.

I don’t remember tuna mornay being a meal we ate when I was a child but GMan certainly ate it when he was growing up.  So, I learned how to make it.  About 4 years ago I changed to a gluten free diet so tuna mornay was off the recipe plan.

After various experiments, I have managed to make a very satisfactory white sauce, therefore I can make tuna mornay as well as bechamel sauce for lasagne and cauliflower in cheese sauce.

Now, on to the recipe.

TUNA MORNAY

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 heaped tablespoons chickpea flour
2 heaped tablespoons potato flour
2 cups milk
Ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon herb salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large tin tuna
1/2 tin corn kernels
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Here are my ingredients assembled and ready to begin.

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Method

Melt the butter over a low heat, add flour and stir until it combines to a stiff paste.

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Cook for about 1 minute, making sure it does not burn.  Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly.

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The gluten free flours will not combine and thicken as nicely as regular wheat flour so my secret weapon is my hand-held stick blender.

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I use this to combine the milk and flour mixture and it quickly thickens as required.  Add seasonings and mustard to taste and then the drained tuna, drain corn kernels and peas.

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Break up any large pieces of tuna and stir the tuna and vegetables through the sauce.  Cook gently for a few minutes and finally add the grated cheese and stir through.  The mornay is ready to serve with rice and/or vegetables.

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There are many ways you can adapt this recipe.

I use powdered skim milk for cooking and make up 2 cups of milk before starting the cooking.

If you do not need it to be gluten free, simply use regular plain flour.

I choose to use a mixture of chickpea and potato flours as I find it gives the best result.  The potato flour can be a bit like glue and the chickpea flour has a nice savoury flavour which offsets this.

You can also use this mixture as the base of a pie and top it with mashed potato – like a shepherd’s pie.  Use as a filling for crepes or burritos for another variation.  You may wish to use a bit less milk in order to create a stiffer mixture for these options.

Tinned salmon, leftover shredded chicken or a selection of vegetables could also be used.

I generally prefer to have more vegetables in my meal but this will not hurt you every now and then.  It is a great last minute option as all of the ingredients come from the pantry and refrigerator.

Dinner – BBQ Salmon

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Some of our meals are very inexpensive, particularly those based on eggs (from our own chickens) or vegetables and dried legumes.  At the other end of the scale, tonight’s meal might seem quite extravagant.

We had salmon which GMan cooked on the BBQ.  I buy the salmon from a large fish and chip shop in Caloundra and pay about $36/kg for it.  I buy 4 large pieces at a time and freeze them.  It works out at about $10 per piece, however, 1 piece is sufficient to serve the two of us.

Tonight I served it with sweet potato chips, cherry tomatoes and a creation which I call Waldorf coleslaw.  It is shredded cabbage, chopped apple and chopped walnuts tossed with some mayonnaise.

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The sweet potatoes and cherry tomatoes are free from the garden.  I mean totally free – they cost nothing to plant – both came up self-sown in the compost and they receive no supplementary water or fertiliser.  If I allowed $2 for the coleslaw I would be being generous.  So, we end up with a meal that cost $6 per serve.  While that is relatively extravagant compared to many of the meals I make and possibly out of reach for someone on a really tight budget, I am very pleased with the quality and content of this meal.