Monthly Archives: May 2011

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Jewelled Persian Rice

Last weekend Peter, Zoe and I went to stay with a friend (also called Peter) who lives near Saffron Walden in Essex. It was wonderfully sunny and we swam outside for the first time this year (hard to believe now, after the gales we’ve had this week…) Huge thanks, Peter, for a truly lovely weekend – full of great fun and delicious food!

We wandered around Saffron Walden itself, too – a medieval market town that was originally called Chipping Walden. Initially the town’s primary trade was in wool but in the 16th century and 17th century saffron became widely grown in the area. This precious plant was used in medicines, as a condiment, a perfume, an aphrodisiac, a yellow dye, and a (luxury) ingredient. This industry gave its name to the town and Chipping Walden became known as Saffron Walden.

When I came home I wanted to make a recipe using saffron – and found this one for Jewelled Persian Rice.

This recipe comes from the recently-published New Vegetarian Kitchen that has been named one of the top 10 vegetarian cookbooks by The Independent. Written by Nicola Graimes, an award-winning cookery writer and ex-editor of Vegetarian Living, it’s full of truly inspirational recipes that prove that there’s a lot more to vegetarian cooking than pastas and bean burgers!

It’s always great to find a new way to cook rice as it’s such an important staple on a gluten-free diet. The wonderful flavours of the saffron strands, with the cinnamon and cumin seeds, give the rice a lovely exotic flavour and the onion, courgette, dried fruits and nuts add even more delicious flavours and textures. And this method is wonderful – you get light, fluffy rice that’s absolutely not stodgy or watery – and with a slightly crunchy crust. Lovely! I couldn’t find dried barberries locally so I used dried cranberries instead.

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, seed-free

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking the rice if you like     Cooking time 20 minutes

  • 250g/9oz/1¼ cups basmati rice
  • ½ tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ½ tsp saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 60g/2¼oz/⅓ cup unsulphured dried apricots, chopped
  • 55g/2oz/⅓ cup blanched almonds, chopped
  • 35g/1¼oz butter
  • 3 tbsp dried barberries
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. If time allows, soak the rice for 1 hour, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Put the rice and salt in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain again and set aside. Clean the pan.
  2. Put the saffron and 4 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl and set aside to infuse. Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry the onion for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the courgette and cook for another 3 minutes, then stir in the orange zest, cumin seeds, cinnamon, dried apricots and almonds. Add the saffron and its soaking liquid, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  3. Heat the butter and remaining oil in the cleaned saucepan over a medium-low heat. When melted, add half of the rice and top with half of the vegetable mixture, then layer again with the rest of the rice and then the vegetable mixture. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke five holes into the rice and pour 1 teaspoon of boiling water into each. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a low heat for 10–15 minutes until the rice is tender and there is a light golden ‘crust’ on the bottom. Sprinkle with the barberries and serve.

Review of Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in Waitrose Weekend

Huge thanks to the team at Waitrose Weekend for recommending my book, Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free (and saying lovely things about it!) in their piece on Coeliac UK’s Awareness Week. I’m so excited that they think my book is so good!

It looks as if Coeliac UK’s Gluten-Free Challenge, launched during the Awareness Week, has been really successful. There’s been a lot in the press, on blogs and on twitter – and it has been backed by people like Gino D’Acampo, Phillip Schofield and Dr Chris Steele (This Morning’s doctor). Their aim was to get people thinking about gluten-free diets, and help them understand what it is like to live with coeliac disease. They also wanted to make it clear to the catering industry that gluten-free food is in high demand, to encourage them to provide options for those on the gluten-free diet. This is all brilliant – and it does seem as if the message is starting to get through….

Gluten-free and Dairy-Free Laksa

This is show-stopper of a meal – with a wonderful blend of tastes and aromas – and very beautiful.

Laksa recipes can differ hugely – and I’ve made my version with far more peanuts than any laksa I’ve ever eaten. I think it gives it a wonderfully nutty base to the fiery tastes. Don’t be put off by the idea of making your own paste – it’s actually amazingly quick and easy. You simply put the ingredients in a mini-blender or mini-food processor and whiz – and you have a beautifully fresh, aromatic paste which is worlds away from the ready-made pastes you can buy.

gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, seed-free

Preparation time 15 minutes     Cooking time 20 minutes    Serves 4 ⅓

  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 150g/5½oz/1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 750ml/26fl oz/3 cups coconut cream
  • 500ml/17fl oz/2 cups stock made from gluten-, yeast- and dairy-free stock powder
  • 4 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 200g/7oz rice noodles
  • 100g/3½oz beansprouts
  • 250g/9oz cooked large, king prawns
  • 1 large handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 handful mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped, to serve
  • 2 spring onions, white part finely sliced, to serve
  • 2 limes, quartered, to serve


  • 2 large red chillies, halved
  • 3 sticks lemongrass, cut into thirds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2.5cm/1in piece root ginger, peeled
  • 4 shallots, quartered
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Pour the oil into a small saucepan and heat over a medium-high heat until hot. Add the sliced shallots and fry for 5–6 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on kitchen paper.
  2. Heat a wok over a medium-high heat until hot. Add the peanuts and dry-fry for 3–4 minutes until starting to turn brown, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan, put into the bowl of a mini-blender and process until finely chopped. Remove and leave to one side.
  3. Put the ingredients for the paste into the bowl of the mini-blender or mini-food processor and blend thoroughly until the mixture becomes a paste.
  4. Pour the oil into the wok and heat over a medium heat until hot. Add the paste and stir in the chopped peanuts. Fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the coconut cream, stock and fish sauce and stir well, whisking if necessary, to mix the coconut cream in thoroughly. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the rice noodles in a large, heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to stand for 5 minutes until soft. Tip into a colander and rinse well under cold running water.
  6. Add the rice noodles to the wok, along with the beansprouts and prawns, stir in thoroughly and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the coriander and mint and stir in gently. Serve immediately with the chopped chilli, spring onions and fried shallots sprinkled over, and served with lime quarters.

Barcelona and Canoves

Jo and Patrick, huge thanks for an awesome holiday! Peter, Zoe and I just come back from a week in Spain. We stayed with our friends who live in a village called Canoves, just by the Parc Natural del Montseny, about 40 minutes outside Barcelona. We went into Barcelona a few times, walking through as much of it as we could, through the Old Town, Gothic Quarter, Montjuic and Eixample; going to see galleries and museums, such as the Museu Picasso and Palau de la Musica Catalana and, of course, the Gaudi greats, such as Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Casa Milo. We were blown away by the beauty, diversity and cultural richness of the city. And the food was wonderful…

inside Sagrada Familia (above)

(above) inside the dome of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

(Above) an installation in the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona that I loved. Called A Chain of Events it was by an artist called Pep Duran. It was brilliant the way it was placed against the old stonework of what used to be a chapel and is now used to showcase new artworks – the ceramic modules gleaming, almost shimmering.

Zoe in the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona looking at (I hope I’ve got this right – I had to use one of Zoe’s crayons to write this down as I didn’t have a pen on me!) Moonstrips Empire News avec General Dinamic F.U.N.

Zoe fast asleep on the terrace of Fundacio Joan Miro (this is a Miro sculpture.)

Barcelona has the most extensive and complete subterranean Roman ruins in the world. It’s amazing – you can see entire streets and squares of old Barcino, complete with drainage systems, laundries, dye works, baths and mosaic flooring, and kitchen areas such as this one (above) where fish was salted.

We spent time in Canoves, too. We went to watch the procession of the replica of the village Saint along the streets and onto the Honey Fair, where it was installed in the marquee for the day (below).

Some of the villagers dressed up in traditional dress and they carried the Catalan flag, sang the anthem, made speeches – all great. If you were to ask Zoe her highlight of the morning, though, I’ll bet she will tell you it was riding on Mickey Mouse in the funfair!

We spent time on beaches, too. We went to the palm-fringed beach at Port Olimpic, part of the most dramatic rebuilding of the city for the Barcelona Olympics, and Barceloneta, the old fishing village area. And we went to a gorgeous town on the coast called Tossa (below).

We had lunch here in Tossa and Zoe had her first proper paella, loving the mussels and prawns.

Whenever I go to Spain, I’m always blown away by how wonderful the produce is, especially the fruit, veggies, fish and seafood and, of course, the charcuterie. We ate Escalivada, a mix of grilled peppers, onions and aubergine, Patatas (fried potatoes) with a wonderfully spicy Romesco sauce and garlicky Allioli, fantastic olives and many different types of jamon, chorizo and salami. I’ve also come back inspired by Paamb Tomaquet, where you rub halved cloves of garlic onto toast (I’ve been making this with my gluten-free bread), then squeeze halved very-ripe tomatoes slightly over the top and rub them in.

We went to the market, Mercat de San Josep, bursting with gorgeous food as you can see below. (You’ll even see white asparagus – ahh!) We came home very happy!

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Lamb Tagine

This recipe, by award-winning chef and cookery writer Valentina Harris, is taken from the Real Food Cookbook by the Real Food Festival (which showcases the very best produce that has been sustainably- and ethically-produced in the UK). This book is a collection of more than 100 recipes from the brilliant chefs who have taken part at the Festival, including Raymond Blanc, Giorgio Locatelli, Thomasina Miers, Willie Harcourt-Cooze and Cyrus Todiwala, as well as recipes from some of the wonderful artisan producers from the show.

The festival was on this weekend (5–8 May) this year. Sadly I missed it because I was in Barcelona (more of that later…) but it sounds as if it was a huge success again. (It’s a great experience, as well as a fantastic way to discover new producers and products. When I went last year, I came across some lovely gluten-free goodies, for example.) Held at Earls Court, it showcases 500 of the finest artisan food producers plus the Real Food Chef Theatre, with chefs including Giorgio Locatelli, Jason Atherton, Valentine Warner and Silvena Rowe, and the Real Food Cookery School where both children and adults can learn kitchen skills, such as butchery and artisan food workshops. On top of that, there’s the Taste Experience Tent and special talks, demos and tastings. I’m very sad to have missed it this year – but at least there’s the cookbook!

This is a lovely spicy recipe with sweet notes, that’s incredibly easy to make. You can experiment with this basic method, adding more spices or varying the vegetables. This recipe also works well with chicken or fish.

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes, plus soaking the apricots     Cooking time 1 hour 40 minutes

  • 55g/2oz/ 1/3 cup dried apricots, halved
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g/llb 2oz diced leg of lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200g/7oz canned tomatoes
  • 300ml/10½fl oz/1¼ cup gluten-free and dairy-free lamb stock
  • a small pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 large courgettes, cut into large pieces
  • 200g/7oz butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned and quartered
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the apricots in a small bowl and just cover them with boiling water. Leave to soak for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the lamb in batches all over, then lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the casserole and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and spices and cook them for a further 2 minutes, then return the lamb to the casserole.
  4. Add the apricots and their soaking liquid, the canned tomatoes and the stock. Stir in the saffron and ground almonds and season with sea salt.
  5. Heat to simmering point, then cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Add the courgettes, squash, tomatoes and harissa, with a little extra water if necessary. Put the lid back on and return the casserole to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, adding extra harissa if desired, then scatter over the parsley and serve.