This year I went to Olympia, London, to take part in the judging for the Great Taste Awards. Organised by The Guild of Fine Food, these awards are now in their tenth year and the food industry seems to have truly embraced them. This year the Guild received a record number of entries this year – showing definitely that fine foods and drink are holding their own in the marketplace.
I had a great day judging (and chatting!) And tasted some truly great food. Throughout the day, we awarded 10 Gold One Stars and 3 Gold Two Stars. One of the products that received a Gold One Star was a gluten-free breakfast cereal, made with quinoa and buckwheat flakes. I realise now that this was the Perfekt Organic Quinoa Granola (although, of course, I didn’t know this at the time.) This really was very good – and nutritionally excellent. The sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, brazil nuts and golden linseeds gave the muesli a delicious balance of tastes and textures, and the quinoa and buckwheat flakes were lovely. The quinoa, in particular, was very well produced – it had been toasted and remained crunchy even after it had been immersed in milk for a while.
During the day, a couple of Gold Three Stars were awarded. Unfortunately neither of them came by my table, so I didn’t taste them. But one was a Polenta Cake which apparently was utterly wonderful. Polenta is a great gluten-free ingredient for making cakes – giving them a slightly-crunchy texture and deliciously sweet taste. And the other product was a roasted nori seaweed. Huge congratulations to those producers.
Once again I was hugely impressed with the judges I met. Most of them are involved in producing, selling or marketing high-quality, often artisan, food, and they’re all utterly passionate about great food. Each entry is blind tasted and points are given or deducted in a thorough, comprehensive way. If a product is thought to be worth a gold, it goes to a total of 16 people, who must all agree with the award. This year, I got to taste a very wide range of foods, ranging from biscuits, breads and cakes; to ice creams, chocolates and truffles; and sauces, pickles and chutneys. Some weren’t good – but the majority were – and those that stood out and received awards were truly excellent.
These cupcakes are full of wonderful Italian flavours. The slightly crunchy texture of polenta, along with the ground almonds and the tangy lemon make these cupcakes delicious. And they’re incredibly quick and easy to make. This recipe is taken from Masterchef finalist Caroline Brewster’s book, Yummy, which gives you wonderful desserts you can make in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 minutes. These are from the 20 minute chapter, and you really can make these in under 20 minutes – and even do the washing up while you’re waiting for the cakes to bake!
I’ve adapted them slightly, using dairy-free margarine instead of butter, fruit sugar instead of the sugar or icing sugar, and I used less of the syrup topping.
- 115g/4oz dairy-free margarine
- 115g/4oz/1/2½cup fruit sugar, plus 4 tbsp for the topping
- 115g/4oz/heaped 1 cup ground almonds
- 55g/2oz/⅓ cup quick-cook polenta
- ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- a large pinch of salt
- juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- P reheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and line a muffin tin with 8 paper cupcake cases. Put the margarine, sugar, ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, vanilla extract, egg, egg yolk and salt in a food processor and blend for 1 minute until combined. Add the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and pulse 2 or 3 times to mix.
- Spoon the mixture evenly into the cupcake cases and bake for 12–14 minutes until the tops are browned and firm. Rotate the tin halfway through baking.
- While the cupcakes are baking, put the remaining sugar for the topping in a mini food processor or spice mile and pulse until very fine and resembles icing sugar. Mix with 1 tablespoon of the remaining lemon juice to make a syrup.
- Carefully lift the warm cupcakes from the muffin tin, using a palette knife, and peel off the paper cases. Spoon over as much of the syrup as you want and serve.
Great times – asparagus is in season! I’ve used it here with a herb-crusted rack of lamb. This recipe looks impressive yet it’s extremely easy. The combination of honey and pine nuts with the herbs for the lamb give this dish a suggestion of sweetness amongst the savoury tastes. And the roasted asparagus add more sweet, tender tastes.
I’ve made this recipe using gluten-free polenta, instead of the traditional breadcrumbs to make a delicious crust – and it is well worth finding the quick-cook variety as this works the best. Instead of the usual Dijon mustard, I’ve used honey, both for the taste combination and because honey doesn’t contain any preservatives.
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, seed-free, soya-free, egg-free, citrus-free
Preparation time 5 minutes cooking time 30–35 minutes serves 4
- 2 French-trimmed racks of lamb
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large handfuls chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 50g pine nuts
- 40g quick-cook polenta
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 500g asparagus, woody ends removed
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- boiled new potatoes, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Score the layer of fat on each lamb rack and sprinkle salt over them. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the lamb racks and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned all over.
- Put the herbs, garlic, pine nuts and polenta into a food processor and blend to form a paste. With the motor running, pour in 2 tbsp of the oil until well combined.
- Heat the honey in a small saucepan over a gentle heat until almost bubbling. When the lamb has browned, remove from the frying pan and place on a roasting tin, fat-side up. Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of honey over the top of the fat and then cover with the herb mixture, pressing down well. Cook the lamb for 25-30 minutes, depending on how pink you like the meat.
- When the lamb has been cooking for 20 minutes, place the asparagus on a baking tray. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp oil, season lightly with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes until tender.
- When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven, cover with greaseproof paper, ensuring the ends of the paper are tucked under the tin, and leave to stand in a warm place for 5 minutes.
- Carve the lamb into cutlets, taking care not to dislodge the crust, and serve with the roasted asparagus and boiled new potatoes.