I’ve had a bag of amaranth sitting in my kitchen cupboard for a while now, so I thought it was time to use it. Like quinoa, amaranth is a true superfood, but unlike quinoa, it hasn’t started to become mainstream – people generally haven’t heard of it and don’t know how to use it. Amaranth dates back about 8,000 years and was a staple part of the diet for the Aztecs in Mexico. Although it’s a grain, it’s a fantastic source of non-meat, complete protein (it is about 15% protein), along with complex carbs and fibre. Packed with nutrients, too, especially calcium and iron, as well as vitamins A, B6, C, folate and riboflavin, and phytochemicals that are great for boosting the immune system and reducing blood pressure and high cholesterol.
You can cook amaranth exactly like quinoa (simmer in boiling water or stock until tender and the water has been absorbed, or toast the grains and then simmer). And, just like quinoa, it’s incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet – use it instead of couscous or rice and add fruit, nuts, herbs or spices to flavour it. Here I’ve used it to make the stuffing for the aubergines – and I’ve made a dish with layers of flavours. You can take it back by leaving out the fruity bit (the sultanas) and/or the cheesy bit, leaving just the harissa, lemon and herbs, or you can add the whole caboodle. Either way, it’s delicious!
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
Serves 4 Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 50 minutes
- 4 aubergines, halved lengthways
- 2 tbsp harissa paste
- 300g/10½oz/1½ cups amaranth
- 100g/3½oz/heaped ¾ cup sultanas (optional)
- 600ml/21fl oz/scant 2½ cups gluten-free and dairy-free vegetable stock
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 handfuls finely chopped mint leaves
- 2 large handfuls finely chopped coriander leaves
- 8 spring onions, white part finely sliced
- 200g/7oz dairy-free cheese, crumbled or grated (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- salad, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Using a sharp knife, score the flesh of the aubergines with a diagonal crisscross pattern, making sure not to pierce the skin. Put the aubergine halves on baking trays and spread the harissa paste evenly over. Bake for 40 minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile, put the amaranth in a fine sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Transfer to a saucepan, add the sultanas, if using, and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes until the amaranth is tender and the water has been absorbed.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the lemon juice, herbs, spring onions, and add the dairy-free cheese, if using. Mix together thoroughly and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- When the aubergines have cooked, remove from the oven and carefully scoop most of the flesh out of the aubergines, leaving a layer of flesh next to the skins. Mash the flesh, then add to the amaranth mixture, and mix in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into the aubergine cases and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve hot with salad, if you like.
Christmas pudding is a great part of the countdown to Christmas. Traditionally you make it a few weeks (up to 6 weeks) before and, once you’ve piled all the ingredients into a large bowl, everyone has a good stir and a wish. This year, Zoe’s friend, Emily, came round to stir. We hope your wish comes true, Emily! Here’s the recipe I used – it makes a much lighter, yet still very rich and moist, version of the classic – and all without gluten or dairy. As with the Christmas cake, you can feed it with more brandy while you wait for the day. If you’re making it in advance, leave to cool in the bowl once cooked, then wrap tightly in foil and store in a cool place or freezer. Then recover with foil and steam for 1 hour to reheat.
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 6½ hours Makes 1 pudding to serve 10–12
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, seed-free, citrus-free
- dairy-free margarine, for greasing
- 750g/1lb 10oz mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants
- 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cups brandy or apple juice
- 300g/10½oz/gluten-free and dairy-free bread, crusts removed
- 50g/1¾oz/heaped ¼ cup rice flour
- 25g/1oz/scant ¼ cup gram flour
- 50g/1¾oz/½ cup ground almonds
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- a large pinch of ground cloves
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 175g/6oz/1 cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
- 100g/3½oz gluten-free vegetarian suet
- 50g/1¾oz dried mango, chopped
- 1 small apple, grated
- 30g/1oz/scant ½ cup flaked almonds
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Lightly grease a pudding basin with dairy-free margarine and cover the base with a circle of greased baking paper. Put the sultanas, raisins and currants and 500ml/17fl oz/2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 30–40 minutes until all of the fruit has softened and the water has been absorbed. Pour the brandy in, mix thoroughly, and leave to one side.
- Put the bread in a food processor and blend to make (about 200g/7oz) breadcrumbs. Remove and leave to one side.
- Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds, breadcrumbs, xanthan gum and spices and mix well. Add in the sugar, suet, chopped mango, grated apple and flaked almonds and stir well with a wooden spoon. (Ask everyone to stir at this point – and don’t forget to make a wish!)
- Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Pour into the pudding mixture and stir in thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the basin and smooth the surface with the back of a metal spoon. Cover with 2 layers of greased foil and tie a piece of string tightly around the basin rim to secure it.
- Put the basin into a large saucepan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the bowl. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 6 hours, adding more boiling water if needed.
- Leave to cool in the bowls for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and turn out. Serve hot.
I’m so excited about Christmas this year! Zoe is 2 years old, so I think she’ll get it this year. She was only a couple of months’ old for her first Christmas, 2 years ago – and she slept through most of it, including the very loud Mama Mia karaoke my sister had organized! And while she dressed up for the festivities last year, she didn’t understand the concept of presents or Santa Claus. But this year, we’re going to see Santa and I know she’s going to love all the presents, Christmas tree decorations, crackers, party hats etc etc. Can’t wait! Here’s a recipe for a fantastically delicious gluten-free and dairy-free Christmas cake – very rich and moist. By all means feed it with more brandy while you wait for the day. And wrap it tightly in foil, then in an airtight container to store it. I’ve made 2 cakes here, because I wanted one for Christmas day and one to freeze (it freezes brilliantly). But you could always make 1 very large one, instead. Just cook for another hour or so, peering at it frequently to make sure you don’t overcook it.
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 3 hours Makes 2 cakes, each serve 8–10
gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, seed-free, citrus-free
- 350g/12oz dairy-free margarine, plus extra for greasing
- 1.5kg/3lb 5oz mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants
- 300ml/10½fl oz/scant 1¼ cups brandy
- 250g/9oz/1⅔ cups almonds
- 150g/5½oz/heaped ¾ cup rice flour
- 100g/3½oz/scant 1 cup gram flour
- 100g/3½oz/⅔ cup maize flour
- 100g/3½oz/1 cup ground almonds
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- a large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 350g/12oz/2 cups fruit sugar or caster sugar
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsp molasses (I used pomegranate molasses)
- 200g/7oz dried pineapple or mango, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2 and lightly grease 2 x 23cm/9in springform cake tins with dairy-free margarine. Put the sultanas, raisins and currants and 1l/35fl oz/4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 30–40 minutes until all of the fruit has softened and the water has been absorbed. Pour the brandy in, mix thoroughly, and leave to one side.
- Put the almonds in a food processor and pulse until chopped.
- Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds, salt, gluten-free baking powder, xanthan gum and spices and mix well.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the dairy-free margarine and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed, then stir in the softened fruits, chopped almonds and pineapple or mango pieces, using a spoon. Quickly fold in the flour mixture. Make sure the batter is well blended, but take care not to overmix. Pour the batter into the tins and smooth the surfaces with the back of a metal spoon.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then cover both tins with baking parchment, tucking the ends under the tins securely. Bake for another 1¾–2 hours until browned on top, well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before serving.