Thursday 24 November 2011

Gluten-free Cookery

Gluten is a protein found predominantly in wheat and barley, but also in their close relatives, rye. Gluten is what makes baking possible, as, when the dough is worked the gluten molecules cross-link and bind together giving you a smooth and elastic dough.

However, those suffering from ceoliac/celiac disease are intolerant to gluten and cannot eat products based on wheat, barley or rye.

It is possible, however, to create a Gluten-free Dry Flour Mix that can be used to substitute for wheat flour in a number of baked goods and you can use this flour to replace plain flour in cakes, pastries, pies and tarts.

Below is a classic gluten-free recipes that uses the gluten-free dry flour mix.

This is a classic individual Christmas cake alternative that uses gluten-free flour mix in its creation:

Gluten-free Cardamom, Orange and Plum Cakes


200g unsalted butter, chopped
100g soft brown sugar
120g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp finely-grated orange zest
330g Gluten-free Dry Flour Mix
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
180ml milk
4 tinned plums, drained, patted dry and halved
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Cream together the butter and sugars in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition. Now stir in the orange zest. Sift the flour, baking soda and ground cardamom into a bowl. Fold the flour mix into the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Continue stirring until the batter is smooth.

Grease and flour eight 250ml ceramic ramekins. Divide the batter between these then place a plum half, cut side down, into the top of the batter. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar then arrange the ramekins on a baking tray and transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the tough.

Serve warm, accompanied by thick double cream or ice cream.

For hundreds of gluten-free recipes, check out the Celtnet gluten-free recipes page
For more classic and modern Christmas recipes, visit the Celtnet Christmas recipes page

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Classic Leftovers Recipes

With Thanksgiving almost upon us and Christmas only a month away, rather than the usual festive recipes I'm presenting here two traditional recipes to make the most of any leftovers after the main feast.

Below I present an adaption of a classic Francatelli recipe for a dish cooked ‘a la Gitana’ (Gypsy Style)  that, in the true spirit of Francatelli has been modified to be suitable for left-over turkey (he would have used game birds, fowl or even fish). This makes an excellent and frugal way of doing something different with left-over Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey (it was Charles Dickens, the quintessential Victorian who popularized turkey as the centrepiece of the English Christmas dinner).

Turkey Leftovers à la Gitana


400g (about) turkey leftovers, sliced
225g streaky bacon, cut into 2.5cm squares
30g butter
1 garlic cloves, sliced
2 white onions, thinly sliced
4 rip tomatoes, thinly sliced
300ml sherry
1 tsp paprika


Melt the butter in a large pan, add the turkey, bacon and garlic and fry over medium heat, turning the turkey over until it is gently browned all over. Pour off all the fat from the pan then add the onions and tomatoes.

Pour in the sherry, secure a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the turkey is cooked through. Occasionally stir or shake the pan during the cooking time to ensure the contents do not catch and burn.

Just before serving, stir in the paprika then transfer the turkey pieces to a serving dish, pour over the sauce and serve.

If you want to know more about the Victorian chef Francatelli and his recipes, then check out the page on George Francatelli and his cuisine.

The next recipe is a much more modern one:

Turkey Risotto

3 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1l turkey stock (make with the turkey bones)
400g risotto rice (eg arborio rice, carnaroli rice etc)
1 tbsp whole green peppercorns
2 tbsp butter
250g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
500g leftover turkey meat, finely chopped
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (eg thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon, rosemary, chives)
4 tbsp freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil to a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and fry for about 3 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Now add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes more.

In the meantime, pour the turkey stock into a pan and bring to a simmer. Stir the rice into the pan with the onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the rice is coated in the oil and looks translucent. At this point add two ladlefuls of the stock to the rice and stir well to combine before adding the green peppercorns.

Continue cooking until all the stock has been absorbed then add a further ladleful of stock. Continue cooking in this way, adding more stock as soon as the rice begins to dry out, until the rice is creamy and cooked through but is still al dente (about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, heat the remaining oil with the butter in a pan. When foaming, add the mushroom slices and fry for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Take off the heat then fold the mushroom mixture into the cooked risotto. Now add the turkey meat and fold through the rice to combine. Finally add the herbs and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper then divide the rice between four serving dishes and bring to the table.

For hundreds more recipes for leftovers, check out the Celtnet leftovers recipes page where you can find hundreds of recipes for Christmas and Thanksgiving leftovers as well as leftovers form other meals.

Friday 11 November 2011

Mincemeat Recipes for Christmas

Today, mincemeat is essentially vegetarian, being a blend of dried fruit, butter, suet, fruit juice and alcohol which is a classic British Christmas staple.

However, as the name suggests, it actually evolved from 'noumbles' of the middle ages. When the wealthy on the top tables were eating venison and roast meats, the poorer echelons of society had to make do with the the cast-offs, the offal and the intestines. To make these go further they would chop them with dried fruit and use this mixture to stuff pies. This product was called 'mincemeat'.

During the Elizabethan period, the quantity of meat was reduced to about 1/4 of the total, and through the ages the meat content reduced more and more, until there was no meat left, and the only meat component was beef suet. This was the classic Victorian mincemeat. Today vegetable suets or butter tend to be used, so that most mincemeats are truly vegetarian.

Mincemeats are readily available commercially and you can pep-up a basic commercial version by adding more exciting fruit (sour cherries, blueberries, cranberries etc), by adding chopped nuts or stirring in more alcohol. However, if you want to make your own, then why not check out these home-made mincemeat recipes.

The mince pie is, of course, the classic recipe made with mincemeat. Below is a recipe for a twist on the mince pie, using chocolate pastry instead of plain.

Chocolate Mince Pies

For the Chocolate Pastry:
275g plain flour
125g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
pinch of fine sea salt
200g chilled butter, diced
2 egg yolks

For the Filling:
500g good quality mincemeat
juice of 2 clementine oranges
finely-grated zest of 2 clementine oranges
2 tbsp whole milk
1 large egg, beaten

Sift together the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg yolks and mix into the batter until the mixture comes together in clumps (you may need to add a little cold water). Use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until it comes together as a solid dough. Cover in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for 60 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the mincemeat, orange zest and orange juice together in a bowl then set aside. Once chilled, turn the chocolate pastry out onto a lightly-floured work surface and roll out to about 5mm thick. Use a 7.5cm diameter fluted pastry cutter to stamp out 12 rounds from the pastry. Use these to line the wells of a 12-hole bun tin. Fill each piece of pastry with 2 tsp of the mincemeat mix and brush the edges with a little milk.

Now take a 6cm diameter fluted cutter and stamp our 12 more rounds from the pastry. Use these to cover the tops of each mince pie, pressing the edges of the two pastry pieces together to seal. Re-roll the remaining pastry scraps and use a snowflake or star-shaped cutter to stamp patterns from the dough.

Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg then gently sit the patterns in place then brush the tops of the mince pies again. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then carefully slide out onto a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm with a dollop of clotted cream.

Find more classic and modern Classic Christmas Recipes Here.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Kindle eBook to Support the Celtnet Site

Ok, so today I am making a massive plug. Having dipped my toe into the publishing world (after having been out of the business for over 12 years now), I have my first kindle eBook for sale on Amazon:


This is a proper book, published as a kindle eBook. Indeed, there are over 500 recipes in the book, all available for less than $3.50. The eBook covers everything you need for a classic traditional Christmas, from the roast, the accompaniments, cakes, desserts, drinks and even recipes for the left-overs.

All proceeds go into helping keep this website and the main Celtnet Recipes site going so that I can keep making recipes and ancient cookery books freely available on the web.

The eBook will give you all the recipes you need for a classic Christmas and will help me keep working to make ancient and classic recipe texts freely available on the web, as well as providing thousands of recipes freely available to everyone.

Why not check the eBook out and help this blog and the Celtnet Recipes site keep running.

Thursday 3 November 2011

A Warming dish for Bonfire Night

With Bonfire Night only a few days away now, here is a classic sausage-based dish to warm any revellers.

Note that in English parlance, sausages are often colloquially referred to as 'bangers'

Bonfire Bangers with Beans


3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée
800g (ie 2 tins) chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 sprigs thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
400g cooked haricot beans (tinned is fine), drained
400g cooked barlotti beans (tinned is fine), drained
2 red bell peppers, de-seeded and chopped
12 herby sausages (about 900g)
4 tbsp parsley, chopped, to serve

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large flame-proof casserole. Stir in the onion, celery and bacon and fry for about 6 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Increase the heat then stir in the tomato purée. Continue cooking for 2 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, mustard, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and 200ml water. Stir to combine then bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for 15 minutes. At this point add the beans and bell peppers. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes more, topping-up the water, as needed.

In the meantime, add the sausages to a baking tray, toss with the remaining oil and spread out in the pan. Place in an oven pre-heated to 190°C and cook for 30 minutes, or until well browned all over. After this time remove the sausages from the oven and arrange them in the bean mixture. Cover the casserole and place in the oven.

Continue cooking for 20 minutes more then remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the top. Serve immediately, accompanied by baked potato. This dish can be made up to two days in advance and can be re-heated in a low oven (or on the hot). Indeed, if made before hand and re-heated it will taste even better as the flavours have a chance to meld and intensify.

Serve hot.

For more Bonfire Night recipes, and for a brief history of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night, see the Bonfire Night information and recipes page.
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