One of the most well-known Thai dishes, Pad Thai is a wonderful street food meal. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be whizzed up in minutes. But it’s easy to get it wrong. Too much sugar, too little lime juice, or lacklustre prawns are a commonplace failing. Here I’ve added just a small amount of sweetness, along with a good amount of spiciness and saltiness. And I’ve used spring onions and beansprouts but then also added sprouted seeds, including mung beans, chickpea sprouts and lentil sprouts – for added munchiness and a good dollop of nutrients. Fast food doesn’t need to be junk food – and this dish proves it in one fell scoop.
Serves 4 Preparation time 5 minutes Cooking time 8 minutes
500g/1lb 2oz rice noodles
1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
3cm/1¼in piece of root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste
3 tbsp olive oil
8 spring onions, white part only, finely sliced
4 tbsp fish sauce
1½ tbsp fruit sugar or caster sugar
200g/7oz/2 cups beansprouts
200g/7oz sprouted seeds, such as mung bean, chickpea and lentil
400g/14oz cooked large prawns
2 eggs, beaten
juice 2 limes
banana leaves, to serve (optional)
100g/3½oz/⅔ cup peanuts, to serve
2 large handfuls of coriander leaves, chopped, to serve
tamari soy sauce, to serve
1. Put the noodles in a large heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to stand for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, put the chilli, garlic, ginger and shrimp paste in a mini food processor or spice mill and blend until finely chopped.
3. Heat the oil in a large wok over a medium-high heat until hot. Add the chilli mixture and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the spring onions and stir-fry for a further minute until they soften. Pour the fish sauce in and sprinkle the sugar over. Add the beansprouts, sprouted seeds and prawns and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until cooked through but the vegetables are still slightly crunchy.
4. Push the ingredients to one side of the pan, add the egg to the other side and stir-fry the egg until cooked. Mix the egg into the other ingredients and add the cooked noodles and stir thoroughly to mix everything in. Add the lime juice and stir through. Serve immediately (on banana leaves if you like) with the peanuts and coriander scattered over, and with tamari sauce on the side.
When I was young, I loved Crème Caramel. I adored the taste and texture of the slightly burnt caramel against the soft, vanilla custard. Sometimes when we went to visit my granny, we’d go out for lunch. She had a favourite restaurant that we invariably went to – and they often had this on the desserts trolley. (They also had steak for 75p extra – which my father always let us have when he was able to join us.) Happy times!
When I found out that I was allergic/intolerant to dairy products, this was just one of many, many recipes I couldn’t eat. I stored it away in my mind. I hadn’t thought to try making a dairy-free version until recently, when I saw Bonne Maman Crème Caramels in a shop, and thought I’d give it a go. It was surprisingly easy – and brought lovely memories of lunch with my granny flooding back…
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 1 hour 10 minutes
dairy-free margarine, for greasing
150g/5½oz/⅔ cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
350ml/21fl oz/scant 2½ cups dairy-free milk
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2 and grease four 250ml/9fl oz/1-cup ramekins with dairy-free margarine.
2. Put 125g/4½oz/heaped ½ cup of the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of water. Shake the pan gently to incorporate the water into the sugar. Heat over a medium-high heat for 6–8 minutes, without stirring, until the sugar has turned a deep golden brown and caramelised. Make sure you don’t leave the sugar for too long as it will turn dark brown and burn. Pour the caramel mixture equally into the ramekins.
3. Meanwhile, pour the dairy-free milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and pour the dairy-free milk through a sieve into a bowl.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and egg yolk, the vanilla extract and the remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl, until pale and thick. Add the strained milk and beat thoroughly.
5. Divide the mixture into the ramekins and put them in a large baking dish or roasting tin. Pour enough boiling water in to the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30–35 minutes until firm to the touch and starting to turn golden.
6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Serve cold.
Yesterday, I woke up at 4am, pushed the curtains to one side, and took a quick look outside. It was one of those magical mornings, with whisps of morning mist, and all the signs that it was going to be a sunny day. I went back to sleep, thinking ‘I’ll make a picnic for lunch’. And, yep, the sun shone, the birds sang – and, at last, it was time for summery food!
This cake is an absolute joy to eat. It’s beautifully moist but holds together well. And it’s full of flavours from the pomegranates, almonds and pistachios. I made it with a very simple dairy-free yogurt and honey topping (but, of course, you can do a different frosting if you want a more conventional sugary one!)
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, seed-free, citrus-free
Makes 1 cake Preparation time 25 minutes Cooking time 40 minutes
- 150g/5½oz dairy-free margarine, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 2 pomegranates
- 175g/6oz/scant 1 cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 60g/2¼oz/scant ¼ cup rice flour
- 20g/¾oz/scant ⅓ cup gram flour
- 20g/¾oz/scant ⅓ cup maize flour
- 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- 50g/1¾oz/½ cup ground almonds
- 100g/3½oz/⅔ cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
- 100g/3½oz dairy-free yogurt
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and lightly grease a deep 20cm/8in springform cake tins with dairy-free margarine. Halve the pomegranates and, holding each half over a large mixing bowl, bash the outer skin with a wooden spoon until all of the seeds fall into the bowl. You’ll need to bash the skin a few times before the seeds begin to fall out, but they will. And you might need to pick a few pieces of pith out of the bowl. Put a quarter of the pomegranate seeds into another dish and leave to one side, covered in cling film, to decorate the cake.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the dairy-free margarine and sugar together in another large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flours, gluten-free baking powder and xanthan gum into the mixture, add the ground almonds, and fold in. Add the pistachios and three-quarters of the pomegranate seeds and mix in gently. Make sure the mixture is well mixed but take care not to overmix it. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the surfaces with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and leave to cool completely.
- Mix together the yogurt and honey in a bowl until smooth. Spread the topping over the cake, cover with the remaining pomegranate seeds and serve. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2–3 days.
Rice dishes are very common in Italy, especially in the northern areas, because rice was so plentiful (rice has been grown in Italy since the 15th century). Traditionally Torta di Riso was served as a celebration cake – for weddings, baptisms, Christmas and Easter. A particular favourite in Tuscany, apparently, it’s a flourless cake that uses risotto rice instead of flour, and can also be eaten as a dessert.
It’s lovely to make a cake without the usual flour-combination-method. Not for those on a low-carb diet(!), this cake is mouthful after mouthful of sweet, substantial comfort. The risotto rice is simmered in flavoured milk (I’ve used dairy-free, of course) until soft and creamy, then mixed with lots of beaten eggs and the remaining ingredients, before being baked in the oven. The vanilla and cinnamon imbue the cake with sweet tones, and the lemon zest gives a citrusy kick. Make sure you don’t overcook the rice in the first stage (take it off the hob while it still has some bite) and use really good quality eggs, preferably organic.
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, seed-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 15 minutes plus cooling time Cooking time 1 hour 35 minutes
- 50g/1¾oz dairy-free margarine, plus extra for greasing
- 150g/5½oz/⅔ cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split
- 1.25l/44 fl oz/5 cups dairy-free milk
- 250g/9oz/heaped 1 cup arborio or risotto rice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 large eggs, plus 5 large egg yolks
- 25g/1oz/scant ¼ cup ground almonds
- 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- icing sugar, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and lightly grease a deep, springform 20cm/8in cake tin with dairy-free margarine and line the base with baking parchment.
- Put the margarine, sugar, vanilla pod and milk in a large, heavy-based saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat. Add the rice and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is creamy and soft, but still has a slight bite. Remove from the heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add, then add the cinnamon and lemon zest and stir in thoroughly. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and leave to cool completely.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and egg yolks until pale and thick. Fold the ground almonds, gluten-free baking powder and xanthan gum into the mixture. Make sure the mixture is well mixed but take care not to overmix it.
- Remove the vanilla pod from the rice mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the rice and stir gently until combined. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for about 60 minutes until firm to the touch and cooked through. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, sprinkle icing sugar over and serve.
My birthday falls at the beginning of January, and I find that Christmas, New Year and my birthday tends to roll into one long celebratory period! We generally eat lots of chocolate from Santa, indulge in delicious, rich meals and, of course, eat our way through the ubiquitous Christmas and birthday cakes… It’s lovely to breathe a deep sigh of delight when the festivities are over, and then focus on cleaning up our diet a fair bit afterwards!
Omelettes make great healthy, fresh meals. They work brilliantly any time of the day, whether it’s breakfast time, lunchtime or even dinner time. And you can literally pack them with nutrient-dense ingredients. Here I’ve used red pepper, sprouted seeds and and alfalfa sprouts. Sprouted nuts and seeds are fantastic. The sprouting process increases digestibility and greatly enhances the nutritional content. They become powerhouses of vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients, and packed with energizing and health-promoting enzymes. Besides this, alfalfa sprouts also contains amino acids and phytochemicals that can balance hormones and protect against disease.
Sprouts can be difficult to get, though, so you can make your own very easily. You can buy special seed sprouters, but a jam jar will do just as well. Simply take a small handful of seeds, wash them and place in the jar. Fill the jar with about three times the amount of water and soak for at least eight hours. Drain and rinse the seeds and leave in a warm, dark place. Rinse thoroughly every 12 hours for three days, then bring them out into sunlight and repeat the process for another two days until they’re ready to eat.
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, soya-free, nut-free, citrus-free
Preparation time 5 minutes Cooking time 5–6 minutes Serves 2
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
- 50g/1¾oz sprouted seeds, such as mung bean, chickpea and lentil
- 50g/1¾oz alfalfa sprouts
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Beat the eggs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat, tilting the pan so that the base is covered with oil. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and sprinkle over the red pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the base of the omelette is golden and the egg is almost set, but still soft.
- Sprinkle the sprouted seeds and alfalfa sprouts over the top and serve immediately.