Saturday, 24 December 2011

cantuccini - gluten free

I'm cooking a batch of cantuccini to give as presents, with port. I couldn't decide on a pudding wine, so fell back on port. My memory of dipping these hard biscuits in alcohol is a fond, and slightly bleary one. I've made them wheat free, using Dove's Farm plain gluten free flour. I hope they turn out really hard. There is no fat in this recipe, apart from what is in the nuts.

Tasters trying this recipe part way through are mmm mmm-ing like mad. Cutting the biscuits half way through, I can see that the dough is much more crumbly than its wheat-packed compadre. The smell is great. I’m cooking the sliced dough at a slightly lower temperature. Pics follow

Here's a reminder of the recipe




325g (12oz) plain gluten free flour

300g (11oz) caster sugar

1½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

200g (12oz) whole unpeeled almonds

125g ground almonds

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Around 1 coffee cup/1/2 small glass alcohol amaretto or brandy


Set your oven to Gas Mark 4 (180°C/350°F).

Prepare two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roughly crush about a third of the almonds or chop them a bit

Mix the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and almonds.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together and stir them into the dry ingredients, working it into a stiff dough (I use a fork). Add the alcohol bit by bit, by the end if it’s not all sticking together add a few drops of water.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and divide into two.

Roll each half into a sausage and divide again into two, so you have four pieces. I do this because it fits on my baking tray, and makes slightly smaller biscotti.

Put the sausage shaped dough on the lined trays and flatten a little – they will spread a bit, so keep them well spaced.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the logs are well risen and have almost doubled in size.

Leave the oven on.

Cut into slices about 1cm thick. Some people say they should be smaller, but I can’t cut them that small. Don’t worry about leaving space between the slices.

Put the sliced dough back and cook for around 20 minutes more, until they are lightly toasted. Let them cool before storing (or eating).

Makes lots and lots.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Gluten free Christmas

I'm making a new stuffing this year, gluten free for simplicity in the family catering. I've got chicken, pork, beef and bacon, sitting and waiting for me to crack on. I'm intending to make extra as sausages for another meal. Gluten-free toad in the hole perhaps.

I will also make some parsley and sage stuffing, also gluten free. I'm not doing bread sauce, because the potential heart attack on a plate, that is the Christmas meal, doesn't need any help. More later...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Duck for a month

I've just divvied up a duck. It was a lovely day, and I thought I'd try a little amateur butchery on the kitchen table.

I fell upon a video online, with a French lady preparing a duck, taking the flesh off the carcass in one piece, calling it 'removing the duck's overcoat'. I had a go, and the confit has been started - the meat is sitting in salt as I type.

One medium duck should serve well, two good size magrets to eat this week, served with prune sauce. The two wings, legs and aiguillettes,will be confit, cooked and preserved in fat, so they'll be eaten in the new year, with salad. The carcass is being made into stock, which will be part of our gravy on Christmas day. The geziers, liver and heart will also be part of the gravy and stuffing. Not bad for £7.50. Oh, plus the fat and salt, call it £12. The fat will make roasties more tasty as well.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Sorry to give this away, to anyone who knows me, and might be on the receiving end, but gifts are going to be in part edible this year. Cantucchini, spicy biscuits and chocolate fridge cake. In terms of easy, the fridge cake wins, the spicy biscuits are always popular and are quite simple, and the cantucchini are excellent, especially dipped in coffee or alcohol. Yum.

celeri remoulade


When I lived in Paris I used to treat myself to celeri remoulade from the traiteur every now and then. Once I'd got a job. It was long ago and far away, and I never thought to look for it in the supermarket, but it's never the same. It is one of my fantasy foods, and for a long time I've tried to make it, and failed. I think I thought it was all more mysterious than it is. I've finally done it.

Celeriac is an unattractive veg, usually about the same size as a large swede, or rutabaga as they call it in the US. It's very knobbly and a bit slimy when you peel it, in general it's rather weird. When you buy it avoid one with any soft bits if possible. If you find any, just cut them out.

What does it taste like? The flavour is particular, it is sweet, slightly rooty, with a little touch of aniseed. The texture in remoulade is firm, a bit like a part cooked carrot, because the veg is blanched and then steeped in the dressing. So you have to make it in advance.

I've seen recipes which add capers or gherkins into the sauce. I've no idea why. The remoulade that I like is a very mustardy maionnaise. I make it with a whole celeriac, which is enough for a week or a party of people as a starter. So I'm giving the recipe for a quarter of a large celeriac - make the rest into soup (recipe to follow).

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 heaped tbsp maionnaise
1/4 celeriac (peeled)
pepper and salt

Cook the celeriac for no more than five minutes in boiling water.
Drain, and while it cools mix the mustard and mayo together thoroughly
Cut the celeriac into slices about 2mm thick, then cut into strips about 2mm wide
Mix together the celeriac, finely chopped onion and mustardy mayo and set aside for at least six hours, taste and adjust seasoning, adding a squeeze of lemon juice if it seems too rich.

Eat as part of a mixed salad. Goes particularly well with sliced cooked beetroot and cucumber.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Champignons a la grecque

Making mixed starters (or assorted horses dovers(sic) as they are known at ours)  for a family gathering I returned to an old favourite, champignons a la grecque,  a quickly made cooked mushroom salad. Although I think of this dish as something for the summer, it works very well in the winter, the dressing is lightly acid and softly spicy, and the mushrooms have a fleshy firmness, and stay surprisingly pale. Best of all this recipe is wonderfully simple. It's taken from Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, almost verbatim. Having made a swift stab at trying to find a similar recipe in Greek recipes (in translation, of course), and came up with nothing. So, I'll keep looking, out of curiosity. In the meantime it's a lovely little recipe for a tasty little dish.

It's very nice on its own with a piece of toast, or with some hummous, or as part of a mixed hors d'oeuvres. At this time of year it's a nice and light little something to go with roast meat, hot or cold. 

Cooking notes
Resist the temptation to add more liquid, it really isn’t necessary, even though it looks like there isn't much there.
You can substitute two tinned tomatoes or two large spoonfuls of chopped tomatoes for the fresh ones. It may make extra liquid, but it will reduce down.

On the same basis, it’s worth using a nice olive oil, but not necessarily the best, as it'll lose its body once it's boiled to reduce it.


Large bowl of small mushrooms, around 180g (or large ones cut in quarters)
juice of half a lemon
tsp of coriander seeds
1 tsp of peppercorns, cracked
Large pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
2 peeled and chopped tomatoes

·        Shake off/rub clean the mushrooms
·        Put the mushrooms into a bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice and shake gently, and set aside
·        Put all the other ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil, simmer for a couple of minutes
·        Add the mushrooms and any juice in the bottom of the bowl
·        Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for five minutes
·        Take out the mushrooms and set aside back in bowl
·        Boil the liquid, uncovered until it’s  reduced by half, then pour it over the cooked mushrooms, stirring gently to mix

If you like you can sprinkle a teaspoonful of finely chopped parsley over the mushrooms, or a mixture of parsley and fresh coriander. It adds a little something, and looks pretty.

That’s it.

My mixed starters included mushrooms a la grecque, celery remoulade, sliced cooked beetroot and sliced cucumbers, roast veg, green salad. For meat lovers I included some mixed salami.