My day revolves around food. Starting with a chat with my three year old about what we’ll have for breakfast (usually porridge in the winter, with sliced banana or mashed, a big difference when you’re three). I work part time at a surplus food cafe, Transition Cafe in Fishguard, and also run cookery workshops with my business Pembrokeshire Cook. So my day generally involves lots of talking, thinking and eating food.
As I walk through the door in the evening it’s time to think about dinner. I’m vegetarian, my husband a committed omnivore and our son will sometimes eat whatever he’s given, and other days is exceedingly choosy (pretty normal for a young child I think). Over the years we’ve got pretty good at cooking essentially the same recipe, just adding meat to one pan or dish, so the meal will satisfy all tastes.
We make pizzas with different toppings (dough balls with sauce and toppings on the side when our son prefers his food deconstructed), pasta with beef or lentil Bolognese sauce, roast leg of lamb or whole roasted cauliflower with all the trimmings… Always two dishes but most of the ingredients are prepared simultaneously.
However, my husband is coming round to the idea of a meal without meat and we’re going to have wholly vegetarian family meals more often. This does present a new challenge – cooking a convincingly tasty veggie meal for someone so used to having meat on every plate.
For dinner tonight I decided to cook curry. I looked to India for inspiration as much of the population is vegetarian, resulting in many excellent recipes and styles for cooking veggie food. The layers of flavour should mean the lack of meat is quickly forgotten.
This recipe is really adaptable, more of a guide really, use whatever veg (or leftovers from a roast dinner) you have and perk it up with some spices. I often use ready mixed spice blends as it’s quicker and cheaper (I find individual spices can lose their pungency before I’ve finished the packet). We ate it with boiled rice and chutneys, on toast or with baked potatoes would also be good.
Roast Vegetable Sambhar (serves 6)
1 kg mixed veg (eg cauliflower, courgette, peppers, carrots, squash, broccoli…), cut into chunks4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons sambhar spice mix (or spice mix of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
150g red lentils, rinse well and soak in water, ideally overnight, but 10mins is better than nothing
1 onion, finely sliced
1 – Heat oven to 200c. Toss vegetables with two tablespoons of oil then place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until browning a little at the edges.
2 – Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, add the spice mix, stir for a minute or so until you can smell the spices and then add the garlic, stir for another minute and when you can smell it add the lentils with water to cover them by about 1cm. Put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 15-30 minutes until the lentils have softened, stir occasionally and top up with water as necessary.
3 —In a separate pan fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil until brown and crispy. These are to sprinkle on top of curry as you serve it.
4 — Add the roast vegetables to the lentil mix and stir to combine, heat through gently.
This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.
After browsing bags of blogs and recipe books, copious experimentation and a freezer full of trial loaves I have developed a number of recipes for gluten free sourdough breads. Some are light and airy, others are stuffed full of seeds and other delicious ingredients to add flavour and colour.
The recipe I’m sharing here was designed with ease and adaptability in mind. The method is very simple, the dough a pleasure to handle and timings are pretty flexible. You’ll need to buy a few different ingredients but I’ve pared it back as much as possible (especially compared to some gluten free breads).
When trying to replicate wheat flour in gluten free bread making it’s not as simple as using flour ground from one other grain or root. To mimic the various components of wheat flour – stretchy gluten, bulky starch – I use a blend of other flours and natural ingredients. I shy away from gums and similar additives in favour of less refined ingredients.
My initial forays into gluten free breads were relatively traditional, using off-the-shelf blended gluten free flours and yeast to leaven it. When I started experimenting with my own combinations of gluten free flours and to have a go at making gluten free sourdough loaves the results were much more interesting. By fermenting the flours before baking the nutrients in the various flours are easier to digest, with the added bonus of those tangy sourdough bacteria.
As any fan of sourdough breads might expect the results were better, great texture and flavour and the breads kept for longer. A further benefit is that they don’t have a grainy or crumbly texture, as many gluten free loaves do.
I use a rice flour sourdough starter, made as you would make any sourdough starter (see my Facebook or Instagram for method). As the flours do not contain gluten there’s no need to knead the dough as you would if using wheat flour. Students attending my gluten free cookery workshops are always surprised at how easy it is compared to a traditional wheat sourdough loaf, another bonus!
Simple gluten free sourdough bread recipe (and pizza base, bread sticks…)
100g sorghum flour
100g tapioca starch
50g rice flour
50g gram flour
8g (lrg tblsp) psyllium husks
4g (1/2 tsp) ground sea salt
240g rice flour sourdough starter (140% hydration)
Whisk together the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and add the sourdough starter and half the water. Whisking from the centre, gradually draw the dry ingredients into the mix. Continue mixing, use a spoon as the mixture becomes stiffer, and add the rest of the water. You should have a wet dough, almost a batter. Leave, covered by a tea towel/muslin, in the bowl for 12-16 hours in a cool draft free place. The dough will rise, cracks will appear on the surface and it will be firmer and easier to handle when ready.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it a little to deflate, then shape it gently into a round loaf (at this stage I used a third of the dough to make two small pizza with, and used the remaining two-thirds for the loaf. If making pizza bases press into shape gently with your hands, no need to roll it out – as there’s no gluten there’s little resistance when creating the shape you want).
Line a bowl with muslin/tea towel and dust with rice flour (or use a proving basket if you have one). Place your ball of dough in, dust the top with more flour and cover with the edges of the muslin/tea towel. Leave to rise for 2-4 hours, until it’s obviously risen (if making pizza add toppings when the loaf is well risen and bake at the same time. Pizza will take 10-15 minutes to bake).
I bake all my bread in a cast iron pan/glass dish with a lid in an attempt to recreate the heat and steam in a bread oven. However this isn’t necessary, a baking tray will be fine. Heat oven to maximum temperature, mine goes to about 250c, place cast iron pan/glass dish/baking tray in the oven to heat up. When it is up to temperature remove pan/dish/tray and tip your loaf of bread in/on, score the top with a sharp knife, put lid on if using pan/dish and place loaf in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turn loaf around (if your oven is as uneven when baking as mine!), bake for a further 15 minutes. Turn again and reduce oven temperature to 200c (Gas 6/400F), bake for a further 10 minutes. Check your loaf, it should be browned all over with a firm crust and sound hollow when tapped in the bottom. It may need a further 5-10 minutes.
Last week I had a great evening with an interesting group of women in Haverfordwest while giving a cookery demo and talk to ‘The Ladies Who Can’t Lunch’. I was asked to demonstrate a couple of recipes which are quick to produce and tasty (and facilities were limited so it also had to be something I could make on a camping stove!).
I started by making a tortilla wrap dough, this is so simple, just flour, water and a pinch of salt, it’s barely a recipe really.
I use 25g/heaped tablespoon plain flour per wrap, a pinch of salt and about half the amount of water to flour (approx 12g/a level tablespoon per wrap), just enough to bring it together into a pliable dough – too firm and it’s tough to roll out, too wet and it’s too sticky to roll out – add water/flour as necessary to get a workable consistency. I mix it together by hand, knead it a little until it’s a smooth ball of dough, then I leave this dough on one side while I prepare the filling.
Leftovers work well in the filling if you have them or anything in your fridge/cupboard that you think will taste good together. For example I often use leftover veg and meat from a roast; chilli con carne; bolognese sauce; or fresh vegetables and cheese if there are no leftovers around (if adding meat I’d cook it first). I imagine a sweet filling would also work well but I’ve not tried it (yet), maybe apples and blackberries… Chop/dice/grate your filling so it’s all in small pieces – so they’ll heat through quickly.
Divide your dough into equal portions, depending on how much flour you used and how many you plan to make. Knead each small portion into a smooth ball, squash flat and roll out into a disc about half a millimetre thick and 20cm diameter. If you’d like to make tortillas/flat bread; these are now ready to pan fry, in a lightly greased frying pan on a medium-high heat.
Alternatively you can fill the centre and fold the edges over the filling to make a parcel. Pan fry these in a little oil on a medium high heat. I fry on the folded side first and when it has changed colour and started browning I flip over to cook the other side. Adjust heat as necessary, they need to brown but not too quickly as the filling needs to warm up too. They parcel is cooked when it’s turned opaque white all over with golden brown patches. You can keep them warm in the oven, serve straight away or cool and have them cold for packed lunches.