Category Archives: Gluten Free

Ajvar sauce and friends…

It’s not news that I like making and eating sauces and dips and pastes, there is currently 10 jars of different ones in my fridge right now, and this week I’ve made a few new concoctions to my collection. As one lead to the development of another, then another, and so on, I thought I’d share them all at once. I’m also co hosting the weekly Fiesta Friday blog party this week with my lovely friend, and her great blog, Jhuls, so please do join us and see what everyone is bringing to the table this week..

So my saucy week all began with ‘ajvar’. Ajvar is historically a Serbian ‘salad’ made with roasted red peppers and aubergines, garlic and sometimes chilli; I realised I’ve virtually made this previously without realising that I was making somehing that exists with a name, I was just chucking things together one day…like you do! Then I saw this on Instagram and looked it up and decided to make my version of it.

The inclusion of the aubergine flesh to the sauce adds more texture than flavour – I have found this in some of my experiments, roasted aubergine flesh often adds a ‘whipped’ lightness to a sauce or dip, and of course adds a healthy fresh addition too πŸ™‚ the sauce therefore tastes more of the lovely sweetness of the red peppers, and the finished texture is quite thick so can be used in a variety of ways: on toast topped with goats cheese screams out to me! 

Also, all of the recipes I read called for roasting and peeling the red peppers, which I did here, but next time I make it I will leave the skins on; I have found that the skins often add an almost emulsifying effect to sauces that I like. 

Ingredients 

4 red peppers (i used 2 long red and 2 red bell peppers because that’s what I had!)

2 small/medium aubergines

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Olive oil (some recipes have said 1/3 cup, I just poured a decent amount in, but probably not as much as that)

Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar 

Salt to taste

Chilli flakes (optional)

Method 

Heat oven to 200C

Place the peppers and aubergines (prick the skins first) on a baking tray and roast until the skins of the peppers are charred and the aubergines are completely soft to the touch

Place the peppers in a plastic bag to cool and sweat, this makes it easier to remove the skin

Once the aubergine and peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and stalks of all of them, and the seeds of the peppers

Add them to a blender with the garlic, a good amount of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt, and blend until smooth

Transfer to a saucepan and simmer over a very low heat for 20-30 minutes until thickened

Add salt to your taste. 

Add chilli flakes/powder as it cooks if you choose 

Either use it warm as a sauce, or transfer to a jar and allow to cool

NOTE: Mine definitely benefitted from developing its flavour more overnight and being used the next day

Of course, making ajvar started a range of ideas bubbling in my mind, and as I had a lot of carrots that needed using, I peeled and roasted them all, ate some with my dinner, and used the rest in some sauce ideas. Like this one, above, which basically followed the ajvar idea and quantities, just with carrots instead of peppers.

It is made of roasted carrots, roasted aubergine, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Aleppo chilli flakes & a pinch of salt, again left overnight to develop the flavour, and it worked very well! The aubergine flesh really lightens up the density of the root vegetables, and a squeeze of lemon juice is always good with carrots. I keep dipping a spoon into it quite happily πŸ™‚ 

As I had so many roasted carrots, I also created this sauce by blending roasted carrot, roasted red onion, roasted garlic, olive oil and some of my own harissa. 

And this one, which is made up of roasted carrots, roasted red onions, passata, olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, and a spice mix of ground roasted cumin seeds, roasted caraway seeds and roasted coriander seeds. 

I blended this with some added water but still kept it quite thick and ate some heated and topped with goats cheese, alongside some sweet potato wedges. I aim to use it as a sauce or spread, I’m sure it would make a tasty soup with added liquid. 

And so ends my collection of sauces from this week, I hope you have found one or some of them interesting. It’s just a case of chucking things together and seei what emerges really! 

Happy Friday and happy weekend πŸ™‚ 

Right, I’m heading over to Fiesta Friday to start reading as soon as it kicks off…

The butternut squash wedges files…

In my last post I shared a butternut squash kibbeh, and I casually stated how I threw together my kibbeh mixture and that I used roasted butternut squash. I thought I’d clarify something about that point: I usually have a ready stock of roasted butternut squash to hand, hence how it was easy enough to throw the dish together…I shall explain…

I routinely buy large butternut squashes (Costco is good for them in the U.K.) and I cut them into wedges (or in half if they’re smaller), remove the seeds, and roast them. I don’t peel them, I don’t use oil, just put them in a hot oven, usually when I’m cooking something else too, and leave them until I’m happy with them. 

Before

After

Usually I’ll eat some of the freshly roasted squash at the time of cooking, and then I leave the rest of it to cool down and store it in the fridge. This way, I can pull a couple of wedges out and reheat them for lunches, or scrape the flesh from the skin and use them in recipes, like the kibbeh or thick soups. Having them already roasted means that the wedges can be reheated really quickly in the oven and the edges crisp up nicely and they make a great base for all sorts of toppings…

This is basically my alternative to a baked potato I guess – but with more flavour as far as I’m concerned. Or they can be loaded up like nachos or tacos, or spread with goats cheese instead of bread, or just drizzled with tahini. Or chopped up to be part of a salad, warm or cold, or added to cooked grains…I could happily go on and on….

Or used to throw together an easy kibbeh, as I did again this weekend…

So I’m not sharing a recipe today, but more a kitchen habit that I find useful and that I thought I would share. I like having a fridge full of things made and ready to go, because when I get hungry I need to eat right then! So along with endless dips and sauces and middle eastern style ‘salad’ concoctions, you’ll often find a tub of butternut squash wedges in my fridge πŸ™‚ 

I think I’ll add this to my ‘pimp your veg‘ collection…have a good week! 

Loaded sweet potato wedges…

This dish was part of a Mexican feast that I served for lunch last weekend, and it was so good, I’m still salivating about it!!!! 

So although it’s not ground breaking in any way, I’m sharing it for the sheer joy of it πŸ™‚ 

It’s basically loaded nachos, but with sweet potato wedges instead of nacho chips. 

I roasted some sweet potato wedges and laid them in a single layer on a large plate; I covered them with some of my mixed bean chilli, made with one of my homemade Mexican chilli sauces; then covered it all with a mixture of grated cheddar and Red Leicester cheeses. That went in the oven for the cheese to melt, then I topped it all with jalapeΓ±os, chopped mild green chillies, chopped spring onion and soured cream. 

I can tell you, it didn’t last very long at all!!!! 

Need I say anymore?! πŸ™‚ 

I hope you’ve all had a great week and have a great weekend ahead. Now, it’s  Fiesta Friday time…! 

Cauliflower and chickpeas β€

There are some dishes that stay in your heart, that you never tire of…my marinated cauliflower is one of them…I made it again last week, and this time made my version with added chickpeas, and fell in love all over again!!! (I have to make it in small batches because I know I will eat the whole thing!)

Heavenly!

I’ve learnt from each time I’ve cooked this dish, and I now know to cook it for longer than I did originally. I can’t tell you exactly how long though, I just keep a watch on it. If you can be patience and take it right to the edge, it will reward you with crunchy cauliflower and gorgeous chickpeas πŸ™‚ 

Spiced coconut chips..

I’ve been play in my kitchen…nothing new there, I know…;)

This time it’s been with coconut chips. 

I don’t eat crisps or chips (whatever you call them in your part of the globe) but if you’d like an alternative option to those fried potato morsels, give this a go, if you get the flavouring right, I’d challenge you to miss your usual crisps, and you’ll have a healthier version.

It all started with a big bag of raw coconut chips, which I toasted in the oven:

I laid the chips out in a single layer on my oven tray then put it in the oven at 180C. To be honest, the oven could be set a bit lower and I think it would still have been fine. You really need to watch them, they toast very quickly so you need to stay on hand to take the tray out, move the chips around, then put the tray back in the oven and keep doing this until they’re all toasted how you want..

Whilst they’re warm, they remain soft. As they cool, they get nice and crispy, and they’re good just like that. 

However, whilst they’re warm is the perfect time to toss them with your chosen flavouring, then leave them to crisp up and take on the spices. 

I mixed some of the chips with my chai spice mix…

…some with my rose harissa spice mix…

…and (no individual photo) some with my barbecue spice mix from my previous post (which I’m very proud to say has been featured on this week’s Fiesta Friday picks).

They work REALLY well, if you like barbecue spiced crisps, this combination is a winner, the harissa ones are good too, and the chai spiced ones are a great addition to your breakfast. And if you don’t like coconut, don’t be put off, to be honest, you don’t really taste it! 

I hope you like my creations, happy Friday and happy weekend!

My BBQ spice mix: all the flavour, none of the sugar…

If you buy any barbecue spice mixes or rubs or seasonings, they will include a smoky element, maybe a spicy element, usually a lot of salt, and pretty much always a HUGE amount of sugar. That mix of flavours epitomises BBQ seasonings, and aids the caramelisation of whatever is being cooked with it. 

If you search up recipes to make your own, you will find a similar story. But by choosing to make your own, you can amend the recipe to suit your tastes and preferences. If I make a barbecue based sauce or marinade for my boys, I will typically use honey or maple syrup, and I use a lot less than recipes suggest…I’ve never made a barbecue spice rub because I just couldn’t get my head round all that sugar, until now…

If you have seen my previous two posts, for my chilli cause and my salsa, you will have seen that I used ground freeze dried pineapple as the sweetnener. It intrigued me whether this could be used in a spice mix in the same way, or would it just burn when cooked? Pineapple caramelises if you grill it, so what would the freeze dried version do?

Well, I’m here to tell you it works very well. So, I introduce MY BBQ spice mix…

The photo above shows the freeze dried pineapple as it comes, plus some that I’ve broken down, as well as the finished mix 

I have so far used this spice mix to flavour a dip (very nice!), I used it as a rub on chicken which I grilled for the boys (thumbs up from both), and today I used it to roast some cauliflower…

I cut the florets into halves and quarters, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with a couple of teaspoons of the spice mix and mixed it all well. I then roasted it at 200C (fan) until it was all nicely cooked and bit crunchy…

And served it on a bed of homous…

What looks like burnt bits isn’t, it didn’t taste burnt, merely crunchy and tasty. I think if I’d cooked it any longer, it would have taken it too far. 
But the fact is, it works! I’m so chuffed πŸ™‚

This is what I mixed..

4 tbsp ground freeze dried pineapple (for my tastes, I could happily use only 2 tablespoons, so you need to experiment)

2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground roasted cumin

1 tbsp Aleppo chilli flakes

1/2 tbsp ground black pepper

1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder 

1 tsp dried oregano 

I mixed it all and ground it to a fine mix, but you could keep it more textured if you wish. 

The mix stores well in a sealed glass jar. If it clumps together just break it up before you use it – any mix using garlic powder tends to clump as it’s quite moist. 

The mix of flavours is so good, it’s still not as sweet as store bought mixes would be, because that’s my choice, but you could play with that. Do keep in mind that the pineapple is very sweet, so you may not need as much as you think. 

So, success, I think? What do you reckon…?

I hope that everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday like my creation πŸ™‚ this week, the lovely Petra and Ai are co hosting, pop over and have a visit…happy weekend!

Parsley and pineapple salsa…but not as you know it…

I couldn’t help myself, I just had to have another play with leafy greens and pineapple for Angie’s Fiesta Friday Healthy Eating Recipe Challenge…Angie stated that the ‘greens’ could be herbs if they were the main element of the recipe, which they are in this case. 

Salsas often call for a pinch of sugar, and, as ever, I never include any in my salsas, so I have no idea what difference it might make to the finished article. The success of using ground freeze dried pineapple in my chilli sauce in my previous post lead me to experiment with it again in a salsa..

And again it worked well, and added a nice finish to the sauce. 

When I first added the freeze dried pineapple to the salsa, it was not completely ground up and remained crunchy, so that as I tried the salsa, it provided shots of sweet crunch, which you might like. After a while, the pineapple dissolved into the salsa and provided a good balance with the vinegar, which was my preference.

I made this today and ate it with roasted sweet potato wedges, roasted tomatoes and cooked peas, with toasted pine nuts..

I make salsa, often along the lines of chimichurri, regularly with bunches of flat leaf parsley, coriander, dill, and whatever else is available; today I only had parsley available. 


Ingredients

Handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves stripped from stalks

2 garlic cloves, peeled 

1 tsp roasted ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp crushed freeze dried pineapple 

Method

Put it all in a small bowl blender and chop to a consistency that you like. If it requires additional liquid, you can add extra olive oil and vinegar, or even a splash of water. 

I’m loving this experimenting, there’s more to come!