Seared tuna steak with zingy fennel salad

Seared tuna with zingy fennel salad

I love December. I love the comforting meals we associate with it; the stews, soups, roasts and crumbles. It’s got to be the best time of year for eating.

I can’t help but feel though, that this year I sort of want to relish the feast a little bit more. Loading up on heavy, indulgent food for the entire month doesn’t create much of a climax in Christmas dinner.

I think perhaps without wheat this festive season, I’ve turned more and more to potato … so without the tantalisingly tasty sausage rolls (cry) and comforting mince pies in my life, on dark rainy December evenings, although not particularly cold, I’ve been defaulting to jacket potatoes a lot.

So, sometimes it’s necessary to skip the beloved potato and make something like this – a tasty, lemony fennel salad with a nice piece of seared tuna. A breath of fresh air amongst the richness of December dining – and a dinner, I think, that makes you appreciate festive food all the more.

you will need

1 x tuna steak
1 x fennel bulb
1 x lemon
handful of cherry tomatoes
garlic oil

method

Put a griddle pan on really high heat, with no oil.

Chop your fennel bulb into bitesized chunks, and pop into  a bowl. Grate the zest of one lemon over the fennel, drizzling with garlic oil and seasoning well.

Put crosses in the tops of your tomatoes, and add a little oil to the hot pan. Careful – it will spit (if it’s hot enough). Coat the pan in oil and add your tomatoes. After one minute, add the tuna steak and allow to cook for about two minutes, turning it halfway through. You can do this to your taste; I like my tuna quite rare but you can quite easily cook it all the way through.

Add your tuna and tomatoes to the fennel, squeezing some lemon juice over the bowl.

Voila! Takes far less time than a jacket potato, too.

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Today was a VERY special day for me and the low FODMAP diet. It was the first day that I could chow down on some cheese and crackers in a relatively normal fashion, thanks to these flavourful friends of mine.

I find free from baking very challenging, but this recipe gets my stamp of approval for ease. I got them right first go, and I’m sure you will too!

You will need:

150g buckwheat flour
1 tbsp rosemary (you can use dried, I used freshly chopped)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 x eggs
3 x tbsp coconut oil (melted then cooled)

method:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Melt coconut oil either for a very short time in the microwave or on / near the stove. If just leaving on a warm surface it doesn’t take long at all. Once melted remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix together your flour, rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Crack two eggs into a smaller bowl and whisk in your coconut milk and combine. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well with your hands to form a dough.

Your dough needs to hold together and stay in a ball if you roll a piece in your hand. Mine was too dry so I added a small amount of water – just have a play until you get a good consistency.

This dough is quite sticky – so line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and cut another piece the same amount. Sandwich your dough between these two and then you can roll the dough out to the edges without losing half of it to your rolling pin!

Once rolled, peel the top layer of paper off and slice the dough with a pizza wheel into any shape/size you like. I used a palette knife to then just separate the pieces gently, before popping them in the oven for 15 minutes. Give them a flip halfway through so they get a bit golden on both sides.

These are really yummy on their own, and you can experiment with all sorts of flavours and flours. No more naughty midnight snacking on cream crackers for me!

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Chocolate dream cake

Chocolate dream cake

I could eat this pud every day. IT IS SO GOOD. The recipe is from My New Roots, who made this stunning layered raspberry creation  – which I’ve tried too and can assure you is fantastic. I had to pull out some serious stops recently for a dinner party though so thought I’d bling it up and make a crowd-pleasing chocolate version.

Now, beware … this recipe is high in GOS as its main ingredient is cashew. It’s also moderately high in fructose thanks to the honey but you can substitute for agave nectar. I am lucky to tolerate these FODMAPs and take a great deal of comfort in the fact that it’s still a lactose free, gluten free dessert which you can serve a group of friends and not feel self conscious about your free-from option; most people won’t even know the difference. I made a raspberry version for my team at work once and they spent about ten minutes guessing the ingredients; cashew was not high on the list.

Chocolate dream cake

you will need:

Base:
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup soft dates
1/4 tsp sea salt

Topping:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked in cold water (for at least 5 hours, soak overnight if you can. You can speed the process up by soaking in boiling water.)
juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp vanilla paste
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey / agave nectar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Decoration:
Choose anything you’d like to bling it up. Chocolate shavings…chocolate chips…some berries… I  used some candied hazelnuts and a glittery chocolate bar which I smashed up. If you want to be a show off like I did you might add some chocolate work (easier than it looks if you haven’t tried – just pipe melted chocolate onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until solid)

method:

Chuck your almonds and dates together into a food processor or mini chopper with salt and pulse until you can press the mixture with your fingers and it holds its shape. You may wish to do it in batches. I quite like the base to have a grainy, crunchy texture, but if you feel otherwise then pulse until smoother.

Press the base into a 7″ spring-form tin (or cling film a flat-based bowl) with your fingers, I find you have to persevere with the mixture to ensure it’s properly packed down.

Now dig out your blender (or clean your food processor if that’s what you used for the base – it needs to be quite large though!). Warm the coconut oil and honey in a small pan on a low heat until it melts down, whisking it to combine. It might stay a little separated but don’t worry too much.

Add this liquid to the blender / food processor and all the other topping ingredients plus extras, in this case cocoa powder. Blend until very smooth – this does take some effort. I have to keep scraping the sides of the blender and stirring the mixture round to ensure evenly blended. Do not scrimp on lemon juice; as My New Roots explains, this is what gives the dream cake its cheesecake-like tang.

You can freeze the dream cake to set it – just take out 30 mins before serving.  I’ve always just popped it in the fridge to set for a few hours before serving and it’s been perfect every time. Leftovers can be frozen too, which is a dream indeed.

Chocolate dream cake

Sundried tomato and pancetta risotto

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I know I haven’t posted in a little while, so apologies! I dashed off to Copenhagen last week for a few days to see their stunning Christmas markets and sample some delicious Nordic cuisine – something I’ve never done before! It was really wonderful and such a special treat.

Back on English soil and into my routine, I was in the mood for something warming and familiar. This is probably my favourite risotto flavour combination. I use sundried tomatoes, which I can happily eat one by one if left alone with a jar. We’re only supposed to have 2 pieces at a time due to these being quite high in fructose – but if you tolerate fructose like me, you can throw in a few more!

you will need

1/3 cup aborio risotto rice
2 (or 4 if you tolerate glucose) sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
small bunch of basil leaves
a good handful of smoked pancetta or lardons
1/2 packet of passata  or chopped tomatoes
squeeze of tomato puree
1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable)
knob of butter
25g parmesan
garlic oil
splash of white wine

method

Begin by frying your pancetta / lardons in some garlic oil and butter. You want this to become really lovely and crispy, don’t worry about it sticking to the pan a little. Once you’ve achieved desired crispiness, add a splash of wine to deglaze the pan and add a little more butter if you need to, before adding your aborio rice and stirring it all through. You want the rice to be nicely coated in butter before adding more liquid.

After about half a minute or so, add your stock, bit by bit. As the rice drinks it up, add more stock, constantly stirring. Add the passata in too, giving it a good stir. As your rice achieves the texture you’re happy with (normally takes me a good 25 minutes) you can add in the chopped sundried tomatoes, tear in some basil, and once all mixed in, two thirds of your parmesan. Season with pepper and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Return to your risotto and tweak the flavours as you see fit. Serve with another sprinkling of parmesan.

Sundried tomato and pancetta risotto