Thursday, 20 December 2012

Countdown to Christmas Cookery 6: Gluten-free Stuffing and Sauce: Cranberry Sauce and Gluten-free Apricot Stuffing

These gluten-free stuffing balls make a great addition to your Christmas roast dinner

Whatever main course you decide to have at Christmas, it's nice to make it really special by having at least one accompaniment to it besides gravy or sauce, and "stuffing" is the ideal one for any kind of roast meal. This stuffing blends an unusual fruity element with pleasantly earthy and gluten-free buckwheat for a treat that everyone an have on their plate. (I have avoided nuts in this as there will likely be nuts in your main course and I was going for complimentary flavours and textures here; but if you want, some chopped hazelnuts would go well in this.) This recipe makes 16 balls- so you may want to scale it down.

200g whole buckwheat grains(dry weight)
100-150g semi-dried apricots, finely chopped
2 celery sticks
olive oil for saute-ing
1/2-1 tsp coarse black pepper
1 tab dried thyme
1/2 tp compound hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp seasalt

  • Cook the buckwheat until really soft in about 400ml water, keep cooking until all the water is absorbed.
  • Meawhile, finely slice and saute the celery in the oil. When it's cooked stir in the apricots and add to the cooked buckwheat. 
  • Blitz half of the mixture in a blender/ food processor until smooth and sticky and recombine with the rest in a large mixing bowl.
  • Now mix in the rest of the ingredients thoroughly and roll into balls.
  • Place on an oiled baking sheet in an oven pre-heated to 200C and cook until nicely browned (but not crispy!) turning once. This should take around 20 minutes or so, a little less than a nut roast, so put them in the oven last.

Another fruity offering for your Christmas table has to be cranberry sauce, and here I'm linking to the one I made last year. It's super-simple to make (cranberries are high in pectin so the sauce will set readily) and just that little bit tangy as a foil for all that other rich food on your plate! Click here  for the link.

Who doesn't love sweet, tangy and fruity cranberry sauce?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Countdown to Christmas Cookery 5: More Veggies- Maple-Glazed Sprouts (vegan)

Even sprout-haters will find them tempting glazed with maple syrup!
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the humble Brussels sprout, now would it? And love 'em or hate 'em, they are bound to be on your shopping list come next week. I thought it would be fun to find out a few facts about Brussels sprouts, and here's what I came up with:
  1. Sprouts have an ancient pedigree; their forerunners were known to the Romans, and the modern sprout was first recorded in the 13th Century- but some say the 11th, some the 16th and some the 18th!- in what is now the country of Belgium (hence the name...).
  2. Sprouts are cruciferous vegetables, from the same family as cabbage, kale and collard greens.
  3. They are grown mainly in Holland, Germany and the UK these days. French settlers in the Eighteenth Century also took them to the USA.
  4. Like all cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and kale, Brussels sprouts are really good for you: they contain sulphoraphane, a potent ant-carcinogen (steaming and stir-frying does not destroy this, but boiling does.) Amongst many other vitamins and minerals, Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin C and iron. Look here for some more info on this amazing family of vegetables from this blog.
(Source: Wikipedia)

So now, having a little background knowledge about sprouts and their benefits, it was just a case of finding a really tasty way to prepare them, whilst still retaining as many of their nutritional properties as possible. This is what I came up with: (Serves up to 4 sprout- lovers, 6+ sprout-haters)
500g Brussels sprouts
1 tsp fine seasalt
1/4-1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
1 1/2 tabs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tab pure maple syrup
100ml water

  • Wash, peel and slit the sprouts by making a cross-shaped slit across the stem ends of the larger ones.
  • Place in a pan with the salt, pepper and oil, and gently stir them over a medium heat to coat them.
  • Once they are coated, turn the heat right down and put the lids o the pan. Sweat them like this for a couple of minutes.
  • Remove the lid, add the water and replace the lid. Steam over a medium heat until the sprouts are just soft and all the water has been absorbed. 
  • Now stir in the secret anti-sprout-haters weapon: the maple syrup. Keep warm until needed, but do not overheat.
  • Just before eating, garnish with some finely-grate orange zest. (I was in a hurry, so I didn't manage this.)