Category Archives: Pasta

The Free-From Food Awards Shortlist (and Slim Noodles and Zero Noodles)

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The Free-From Food Awards Shortlist has just been published. Set up six years ago by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson of freefromfoodsmatter.com, these Awards celebrate the innovation and imagination shown by the food industry in creating foods for the free-from market (ie foods that do not include one or more of wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, yeast, soya and sugar.) It’s worth mentioning the website Foods Matter here… Originally a magazine offering information and support both to food allergic/intolerant consumers and to the health professionals caring for them, it went on-line in 2010 and has become the most awesome reference site for people with food allergies/intolerances or coeliac disease (logging over 13 million hits per year!)

I took part in the judging for a day and was hugely impressed with the whole process. There were 11 of us that day and we blind-tasted every entry in our categories in silence, making notes and scoring each one out of ten. Once we had finished, we discussed every entry and then came to our conclusions as a group. This done, we could look at who had produced what. During the day I was there, we covered Breakfast Cereals and Grocery Ambient, including pastas, sauces and condiments.

It was great to taste so many of the entries. Some of them (especially some from outside Britain) I hadn’t come across before. And it was fascinating to sit there, tasting pasta after pasta, cereal after cereal etc against each other. The variety of ingredients, and combinations of those – and the resulting tastes and textures – were really interesting. The results of the awards will be announced in April…

One of the products we tasted was especially interesting. Shortlisted for the Pasta Award, the Slim Noodles were a subject of a great deal of discussion. Recently launched, it is gluten-free and it claims to deliver not only a feeling of fullness, but also an unbelievably low calorie content (7.7 calories per 100g serving). Made from a vegetable extract called Konjac (or Konnyaku) which has apparently been eaten in Asia for centuries because of its health benefits, it expands in your stomach, leading to the sensation of being full for up to four hours. Zero fat, zero sugar, low-calorie and low-carb, it’s currently being hailed (along with a very similar product called Zero Noodles which is made of exactly the same ingredient) as the answer to weight loss for many, many people. What’s more, independent studies apparently show that it can help increase insulin in your blood sugar levels, making it great for diabetics, and can help lower cholesterol. Wow!

Slim and Zero Noodles

Slim Noodles comes in three different guises – Slim Pasta, Slim Rice and Slim Noodles. The Slim Noodles – and Zero Noodles – look very similar to glass noodles and thin rice noodles in that they are white-coloured and very thin. They have a slightly rubbery texture (the Slim Noodles I find more so than the Zero Noodles) and almost no taste. I tested these at home this weekend with a recipe (see below) and they both worked really well with noodle-style recipes, such as stir-frys and Asian-style dishes. I haven’t tasted the Slim Rice yet but the Slim Pasta was very similar to Slim Noodles – just thicker, apparently more like a pasta-shape. I’m not convinced about the concept of Slim Pasta, though, as it doesn’t work for me as something that would work with pasta sauces, such as tomato-based sauces, and there was a slightly ‘fishy’ aroma to these, I thought.

You’ll find both the Slim Noodles and Zero Noodles in health food stores. In Holland & Barrett the Slim Noodles sell for £2.49 and the Zero Noodles (organic) for £1.99. They’re the same size – so go for the cheaper Zero Noodles if you’re looking to try the product!

Asian-fish Zero Noodles

Steamed Asia-Style Fish with Zero Noodles

gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free

Serves 2     Preparation time 10 minutes, plus at least 1 hour marinating time     Cooking time 12–15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 fish fillets, such as salmon, trout or cod
  • 2 large salad onions or 6 spring onions, white part finely chopped
  • stir-fry vegetables, such as beansprouts, pak choi

Marinade:

  • 2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stick, finely chopped
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 serving of Zero Noodles, to serve
  1. Put the fish in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl or jug and pour over the tuna. Cover with a lid or cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.
  2. Spoon the marinade into a large wok and heat over a medium-high heat. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the onion starts to soften and turn translucent. Add the vegetables and then place the fish on the top. Cover with a lid and steam for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Serve hot with the prepared Zero Noodles.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Spinach Lasagne

It’s a wonderful feeling to bite into a lasagne – and know that it’s gluten-free and dairy-free! This is a vegetarian one made with earthy sweet spinach and pine nuts, with a nutmeg-flavoured cheese sauce and a layer of dairy-free pesto to add zing. Packed with nutrition from the antioxidant-, calcium-, magnesium- and iron-packed spinach and the pine nuts, this is comfort food at its very best.

gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, citrus-free

Serves 4–6     Preparation time 5 minutes     Cooking time

  • 50g/1¾oz/⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 500g/1lb 2oz baby spinach leaves
  • 100g/3½oz dairy-free soya cheese, grated
  • 8–12 no-pre-cook gluten-free lasagne sheets
  • a few basil leaves, torn, to serve
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cheese Sauce

  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup dairy-free soya milk
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 85g/3oz dairy-free margarine
  • 60g/2¼oz/⅓ cup rice flour
  • 30g/1oz/⅓ cup gram flour
  • 30g/1oz/scant ⅓ cup maize flour
  • 1l/35fl oz/4 cups gluten-free and dairy-free vegetable stock
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g/10½oz dairy-free soya cheese, grated

Dairy-free Pesto:

  • 30g/1oz basil leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 25g/1oz dairy-free cheese
  1. To make the cheese sauce, put the soya milk, onion and bay leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down, cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the pine nuts for the pesto and dry-fry until just starting to turn golden. Remove from the heat, remove the pine nuts and divide and leave to one side. (This is made without any oil, because it would be too oily for the lasagne with oil.) Wash the basil and pat dry in a clean kitchen towel. Put the ingredients into a mini-food processor and blend until a paste forms.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the flours and gradually stir in the infused milk mixture and then the vegetable stock, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil and stir as it thickens. If it goes lumpy, beat with a whisk until smooth. One the sauce has boiled, stir in the dairy-free cheese, turn the heat down and leave to simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If needed, stir in another 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup stock to make a smooth sauce that is fairly thick but runny. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Wash the spinach thoroughly and put in the frying pan. Cook over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes until the spinach has wilted, stirring occasionally. Put the spinach into a fine sieve and push all the juice out of the leaves with the back of a spoon. Drain the liquid from the pan and return the spinach to the pan. Add the pine nuts and the soya cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper and mix together.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Spread a third of the cheese sauce over the bottom of a large baking dish. The best shape is a square shape, ideally about 23 x 18cm/9 x 7in size, although I’ve used a circular dish in this picture. Put half of the spinach mixture over the top and cover with a layer of 4–6 lasagne sheets, depending on the size of your dish. Spread the pesto over the top. Layer again with the a third of the cheese sauce, the remaining spinach mixture and 4–6 lasagne sheets. Cover with the  remaining cheese sauce, making sure that the cheese sauce covers everything on top.
  6. Bake for 50–60 minutes, depending on the type of lasagne sheets used, until the cheese sauce is golden brown and the pasta is soft. Sprinkle with basil and serve hot.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Crayfish & Asparagus Pasta


The asparagus season has officially started here – yay! (You can get organic asparagus now from Riverford Organic Vegetables.) This recipe is one of Peter’s (hubby’s) favourites – he loves the clean sharp tastes of the chilli and lemon combined with the herbs and seafood (he is Australian, so no surprises there). Gluten-free pasta needs more liquid in the sauce than traditional kinds, so I’ve added fish stock, lemon juice and olive oil. It’s still a fairly minimalist sauce, but enough liquid and flavours to work well with the pasta. You could use other types of seafood such as cooked prawns, crab or squid, and you could use different herbs, too, such as coriander or mint. And if you have home-made fish stock, it will add a delicious depth of the flavours. This recipe from my new book, Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free is so super-easy – just perfect for a holiday weekend like this one, when you want to enjoy gorgeous food without any hassle. Happy Easter!

gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free

Serves 4 Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 15 minutes

  • 2 shallots, halved
  • 1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 strips of lemon zest
  • 7 tbsp olive oil
  • 350g/12oz gluten-free pasta
  • 350g/12oz asparagus, woody ends removed and stalks cut into thirds
  • 100ml/3½fl oz/scant ½ cup gluten-free & dairy-free fish stock or stock made from gluten- and dairy-free stock powder
  • 350g/12oz crayfish tails
  • 1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon, plus lemon quarters to serve
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the shallots, chilli, garlic and lemon zest in a mini food processor or spice mill and blend until finely chopped, making sure the zest is coarsely chopped.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pasta and cook over a medium heat for 8–10 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet, until soft. Make sure you stir occasionally to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick. Drain and rinse well with freshly boiled water, then drain again.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the remaining oil over a medium heat. Add the shallot mixture and fry, stirring, for about 1 minute until starting to turn golden. Add the asparagus and stir well. Fry for another minute, then add the fish stock. Cook, covered, for 4 minutes, then add the crayfish. Cook for another 2 minutes until the asparagus is tender but still slightly crunchy.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and mix well. Add the parsley, lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with lemon quarters for squeezing over.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Lobster Spaghetti


A beautiful dish for Valentine’s Day, this is delicious – with sweet succulent lobster, deep, rich tomato flavours, fresh herbs and fiery chilli, and soft pasta. I’ve used the traditional flat-leaf parsley, but I’ve also used mint and basil to add extra aromatic, fresh tastes. This recipe does take time to make – and, of course, you could speed it up enormously by not bothering to remove the seeds from the tomatoes and using boiling water instead of the stock, but finessing the tomatoes like this and adding probably the most beautiful stock you’ll ever make(!) deepens the flavours and makes this a seriously gorgeous dish. (And you’re left with a lobster stock that rocks – use it to make a bisque or a risotto that takes a million miles away from a shop-bought one.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small cooked lobsters (about 600g/1lb 5oz)
  • 1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1kg/2lb 4oz plum or vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g/9oz gluten-free spaghetti
  • 1 large handful chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lobster stock:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small leek, white part chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 6 parsley stalks without leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Put the lobster onto a chopping board and flatten the tail. With a heavy knife, cut down the middle of the tail lengthways. Pull off the head and claws and open the claws by breaking the shell with the knife. Remove the flesh from the tail and claws and any from the head. Put the shells in a large saucepan to make the stock and leave the lobster meat to one side.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients for the stock to the pan, cover with 1.5l/52fl oz/6 cups water and bring just to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down to low and leave to simmer, covered with a lid, for 40 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl and discard the remaining ingredients.
  3. Put the chilli and garlic in a mini food processor or spice mill and blend until finely chopped.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the skins of the tomatoes, place in a large, heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 2–3 minutes, then take out of the water, peel off the skins, remove the seeds and chop coarsely.
  5. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the spaghetti and cook over a medium heat for 8–10 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet, until soft. Make sure you stir frequently to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick. Drain and rinse well with freshly boiled water, then drain again.
  6. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the chilli and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Cook for 5–6 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and formed a sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the lobster. Cook for a couple of minutes. When the pasta and tomato sauce are cooked, add to the pan and stir in well. Add 3 tablespoons of the hot stock and the herbs and stir in thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Watercress & Pea Tagliatelle

Jenny from Juvela very kindly sent me some samples of the Juvela range of products (many thanks, Jenny!) and I thought the Tagliatelle was great – incredibly easy to cook, with no need to add oil or keep stirring to stop it sticking together. And it’s made from good ingredients – Maize starch, Egg, Rice Starch, Emulsifier (Mono- & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids).

I tend to eat gluten-free pasta that’s either got a lot of corn in it, or made completely with corn – so they’re always a yellow colour. Having a beautifully light – almost cream-coloured – pasta in my cupboard inspired me to make a very light/fresh-coloured dish. So I made a Watercress & Pea Tagliatelle. Watercress is an often-unsung food hero. With a spectacularly unique, peppery taste, it’s absolutely packed with nutrition. It normally comes into season May–October but I found some last weekend. So, when autumn arrives and most of the seasonal veggies are root veggies or squashes, watercress stands out as a wonderfully fresh, zingy ingredient to work with. (I have cheated, though, and used completely non-seasonal frozen peas, too!)

gluten-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, nut-free, seed-free

Preparation time 5 minutes     Cooking time 10–12 minutes     Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150g/5½oz gluten-free tagliatelle or other gluten-free pasta
  • 200g/7oz shelled peas
  • 2 egg yolks
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 200g/7oz/scant 1 cup soya yogurt
  • 50g/1¾oz watercress
  • 50g/1¾oz soya cheese, grated
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook over a medium-high heat for 8–10 minutes, or according to the packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, put the peas in a steamer and steam, covered, over a high heat for 3–4 minutes until tender. Remove and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice and soya yogurt and set aside.
  4. Drain the tagliatelle and rinse well with boiling water, then drain again. Put the tagliatelle back in the saucepan and quickly stir in the egg mixture. Quickly add the peas and watercress, stir thoroughly and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the grated soya cheese sprinkled over the top.