Category Archives: gluten-free

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

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Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp
In my quest to deliver the tastiest food to you I am absolutely determined to get the dishes out that have been tested and approved by my family, dishes that are equally loved by children and adults, dishes that are quick, easy and inexpensive and preferably a one pot meal. That’s one tall order but Cajun Dirty Rice is exactly that! My kids dance for joy when I say it’s for dinner and, unsurprisingly, so does my husband? It’s been our staple for more than a decade and we are yet to get tired of it.

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

The origin of this dish is from the south of the United States, probably Louisiana, where it’s still very popular. It takes its name from its appearance as you can see. It used to be cooked with gizzards and livers which made rice look dark or “dirty”. If you have boys in your family the name will be a BIG seller! My boy loves it! You will also be happy to learn that no organ meat was used in this version. ūüôā
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil- 2 tbsp.
  • Extra Lean Ground Pork- 1lbs/450gr
  • Onion, chopped- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Green bell pepper, diced- 1 medium
  • Garlic, minced- 1-2 cloves
  • Cayenne- 1/4 tsp.
  • Paprika- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dried Oregano- 1/2 tsp.
  • Bay leaf- 1
  • Salt- 1 3/4 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Rice- 1 1/2 cups
  • Chicken stock- 3 cups
  • Shrimp- 1lbs/450gr
  • Green Onions, sliced- 2

Note: Instead of adding all the spices listed I often use a premixed spice. My two favourite ones are Louisiana Hot and Spicy by Victorian Epicure and Cajun Spice by Aromatica Organic Spices. Depending on where you live you can find any Cajun type spice mix from your local grocery store or use what I listed above. 

Method:

In a large pan heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and cook your pork over medium heat until no longer pink. Then push the meat to the side of the pan, add remaining tablespoon of oil and add chopped onion, celery, green bell pepper and garlic, cook for 5 minutes, stir in all the spices mentioned, salt and pepper and rice and fry while stirring for 2 minutes. Now add your stock, bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

Take the lid off and if the rice is too dry or burned to the bottom a bit add a splash of water (1/4 cup) and stir in your shrimp, cover with a lid and let it cook for 2 more minutes until shrimp turns pink. Taste if the rice is fully cooked. (If not, let it stand covered for 5 minutes, off the heat). Gently stir in sliced green onions. Voila. A beautiful Cajun dish is done!Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp This recipe was adapted from “Quick from scratch one dish meals cookbook”.

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DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup
Isn’t autumn glorious!! The colours, the smells, the flavours that are inspired by this time of the year are simply incredible. ¬†Who doesn’t love curling up with a warm cup of coffee to read a good book while nature is getting ready for a long winter sleep. The only thing that makes a cup of coffee better is a slice of this Apple Spice Cake and a drizzle of Pumpkin Spice Syrup to go along.¬†Pumpkin Spice Syrup
When we first moved to England three years ago Pumpkin Spice Latte at a local Starbucks was ¬†something of a myth, a tale from a faraway land called America. The baristas heard of it but had not idea why anyone would want to consume pumpkins in a drink form. I complained loudly mostly on Facebook and a friend suggested making my own syrup. Now, since I own little and stylish Italian Gaggia, enjoying homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes has become an everyday treat. ūüôā My bank account and my waist line thanked me. Happiness is…Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Ingredients: (Makes about 750 ml)

  • Water-2 cups/500ml
  • Demerara/Turbinado Sugar- 2 1/2 cups
  • Cinnamon- 1 tsp. ¬†and 1 stick of cinnamon
  • Nutmeg- 1/2 tsp.
  • Ground Ginger- 1/2 tsp.
  • Cloves- 1/4 tsp.
  • Canned pumpkin (or use your own like I did)- 4 tbsp.

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot and stir to combine, bring to a boil and then cook 5 more minutes over medium low heat.

2.  Strain the syrup through a fine sieve and bottle it. Keep refrigerated!

3. If you have an espresso machine chances are you know already how to make a latte, so just add 1-2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Spice Syrup ¬†and a swirl of whipped cream for a special occasion. As for me, I rarely indulge ( by which I mean “never”) in a cream topping but I do love me some Pumpkin Spice Syrup!

4. If you don’t own an espresso machine, not to worry! Just brew some strong coffee and add steamed milk to it at 1:1 ratio, ¬†then stir in some pumpkin spice syrup to taste. Relax and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Note: If you do decide to prepare your own pumpkin puree here is what you need to do. Split your pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Place your pumpkin halves on a baking sheet cut side down and roast at 400F/200C for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin. Pierce it with a knife to check for doneness, it should go in and out easily.

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry Brad and I have considered Indian food to be our comfort food for ages. Although we are both of European decent somehow the taste of warm and slightly spicy curries make us feel at home. It’s no wonder we eat them regularly, especially since we moved to Britain where it’s basically a national dish. There are not too many things that are better than a good curry coupled with crispy poppadums dipped in mango chutney and lime chilli pickle!¬†Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry
I get so many requests to post a curry recipe which tells me you guys love Indian food too! I am not claiming to be an expert so what I am sharing today is something I cook often and is loved by everyone in my family. It’s a vegetarian curry and so delicious you won’t miss meat! This particular curry is called Korma which is a blend of aromatic spices like ginger and coriander and yogurt. ¬†If you are not familiar with Indian food it’s an excellent one to start with because of its creamy consistency and mild taste, even kids will love it. Traditionally, korma is cooked with meat but this version is meat free.

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Many people are very hesitant to venture out in the world of Indian cuisine. Rightly so, as the ingredient list is long enough to intimidate the most experienced cook! ¬†Cooking is fun for me and the more complicated the recipe the better, so I usually have all the right spices on hand. However when we moved to England almost 3 years ago I had to get rid of my very large collection of spices and still haven’t replaced all of them. Since then I’ve discovered Patak’s Curry Pastes which I use almost exclusively for my curries. The taste is excellent and the variety is immense. Why worry about making it from scratch when someone has already put in all the hard work for you!
Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry
Ingredients: {Serves 6-8}

  • Oil-1 tbs.
  • Onion, chopped-2 medium
  • Garlic, chopped – 3-4 cloves
  • Cilantro, chopped (stalks and leaves separated, stalks reserved)-¬†1 bunch
  • Butternut Squash, diced- 1 medium
  • Chickpeas- 1 can
  • Patak’s Korma Paste or any other curry paste ¬†(not cooking sauce)- 2 tbsp.
  • Coconut Milk- 1 can
  • Water- 2 cups
  • Spinach- 100 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Desiccated unsweetened coconut (optional)- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- to taste
  • Basmati Rice- 2 cups

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Method:

1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large and deep pan and cook chopped onions, garlic and cilantro stalks over low heat for 10 minutes until soft and slightly coloured.

2.  Meanwhile dice your butternut squash to match the size of chickpeas.  I leave the skin on as I discovered it cooks very nicely and eliminates a lot of unnecessary work. When the onions are tender add the curry paste and cook for a minute or so stirring the whole time, then add your squash, chickpeas, coconut milk, desiccated coconut, water and a pinch of salt,  bring it to a boil by turning the heat up, then turn the heat down to a low-medium and simmer it covered for 35-40 minutes.  Stir it occasionally to prevent from burning and add a few splashes of water if it gets too dry.

3. Start on the rice. Cook your rice in the rice cooker according to the manufacture’s instructions.

4. ¬†Test the butternut squash, it should be fork tender by this point but not falling apart. Your curry should be thick so if it’s too runny, uncover and let the liquid cook down for a few more minutes. When you are satisfied with the consistency of the curry stir in peas, spinach and cilantro leaves, cover with a lid and take off the heat.

5. Serve with steaming hot basmati rice. We love having  naan bread or chapattis and various Indian pickles and chutney with our curries. My children go crazy for crunchy poppadums!

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Persian Chicken Salad

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Persian Chicken Salad
Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.

Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!Persian Chicken Salad
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Persian Chicken Salad

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
  • Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
  • Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
  • Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
  • Lime juice- from 2 limes
  • Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
  • English Cucumbers (diced)-2
  • Celery (diced)-2 ribs
  • Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
  • Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
  • Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
  • Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Wholewheat pitas-4

Method:

1. ¬†Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides ¬†over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick. ¬†Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.

3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch. Persian Chicken SaladPersian chicken salad

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

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Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
Another school year announced itself with the arrival of true British weather-rain, rain and more rain. I am writing this while grieving our canceled park plans and listening to the heavy rain drops pounding on the roof of my conservatory. The message is clear-summer is over.
However, there is a silver lining in all of this. Cosy blankets, great books and delicious autumn food.
Roasted Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes is a one pot type of dish that never disappoints. The easiest yet the tastiest thing to throw together- no marinade, no countless dishes, everything prepped and done within an hour and, because it uses the cheapest parts of the chicken like thighs and legs, is also economical. No wonder it earned a permanent place on the menu in our house!
Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (halved or quartered_-1 lbs
  • Chicken legs and thighs- 6-8
  • Chestnut/Crimini Mushrooms (optional)- 8-10
  • Lemons-2
  • Garlic cloves-3
  • Rosemary- 3 sprigs
  • Olive oil- 3 tbs.
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450F/250C

On the cutting board chop up rosemary leaves roughly. In a mortar combine chopped rosemary, garlic, a pinch of coarse salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil and bash it all together with a pestle until you have a paste, then add the rest of the olive oil and the juice of the lemons, reserve the lemon halves.

Arrange the chicken pieces, potatoes and mushrooms on a baking tray and spoon the rosemary mixture on top making sure it covers chicken and potatoes. Stick the lemon halves wherever you have free space on the tray, they will infuse more flavour into the dish.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken
Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear. Halfway through the cooking baste your chicken and potatoes with the liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
The recipe was adapted from Minimally Invasive.

French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

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Are you ready for another family classic?

This recipe is something my grandma cooked and my mom cooked and I cook ALL summer long…and sometimes in the winter and in-between. In Russia it’s called “Baklajannaya Ikra” or “Eggplant Caviar”. Surprisingly enough the recipe is almost identical to French Ratatouille. There is also Sicilian Caponata that is oh so similar with an addition of olives and capers. After travelling the world and discovering all the food similarities you realise we are a lot more connected than we think.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

This dish is incredibly flavourful and so versatile. It’s eaten as a warm side dish or as a tasty topping for your crusty bread, a favourite with Russian children. As a little girl I remember eating it cold with bread for an afternoon snack. I still love doing it but Brad really prefers it warm so you are going to discover for yourself which way is your favourite.
Ingredients:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Zucchini-2-3 medium
  • Onions-2
  • Red, yellow, green peppers( I use whatever I have on hand)-2
  • Garlic-2-3 cloves
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Cilantro-1/2 bunch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Ketchup or tomato paste-1 tbsp.
  • Olive oil-2 tbsp.

Method:

There is a long version and a speedy version. The long one involves slicing eggplant, putting it in a colander and sprinkling it with salt and letting it sit for an hour under a heavy weight. That draws bitterness and extra moisture out. It really does. However, I often skip that step and never regret it. If you decided to skip the first step as well the dish will take a bit longer to cook. Lately I’ve been using a cast iron casserole which cuts the cooking time in half. After years of not wanting to spend the money I finally broke down and bought an Ikea version (still can’t bring myself to pay the Le Creuset price tag) and I’ve never been happier. A cast iron pot is truly a must have tool for every kitchen. Now I have a small size and a big size and 3 skillets!

Back to our Eggplant caviar. Dice your onions, eggplant, zucchini, red or green peppers, set aside. Preheat the olive oil in a heavy casserole type dish and add onions and peppers first, let them saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes and then add your eggplant. Eggplants takes longer to cook than zucchini so if you put them together zucchini will turn into a mush and eggplants will still be spongy. Cook eggplant together with onions and peppers until it’s nearly done, about 7 minutes, then add zucchini, parsley, cilantro, minced garlic and a tablespoon of ketchup. Here is my confession, I never cook with ketchup, I don’t even like it but I found it gives this dish just a right amount of sweetness! You can add ¬†some tomato paste, it’s up to you. Cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.

You will see quite a bit of liquid after you’ve added zucchini, at this point you can turn the heat up and cook it down or keep it a vegetable stew consistency. Mine varies depending on how I feel or how hungry my family is!

The batch right here was pretty dry and perfect to use as a bruschetta topping.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar The recipe given here is a basic recipe that you could be altered by adding any other vegetables that you like.
Just a few examples of what I’ve done in the past: At various times I’ve added green peas (frozen), asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, chick peas and red kidney beans. They all work well. Play with it and find your favourite combo!French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

Hummus with Grilled Eggplant

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Hummus with Roasted Eggplant
When my life is super busy I like to keep tasty and nutritious snacks in the fridge that help me recharge during the day and hummus is one of those things. I usually make my own as I find the pre-made varieties are often overpriced and lacking in the taste department. I also love to mess with different flavour combinations which is exactly what happened last night. Our friends were coming over for a game night and hummus is a pretty safe snacky thing to server to a crowd. ¬†So I opened a can of chickpeas and threw them in the food processor only to find out a minute later there was really nothing else to add to that! ¬†I guess have been working a little be too hard on emptying the fridge before our holiday. I loving putting fresh herbs in my hummus like cilantro or dill but this time I had to go without and had to improvise…fast. After the second and more thorough look in the fridge I discovered a forgotten and pushed to the back jar of grilled eggplant packed in oil. I remember buying it for a pizza topping but not using it. I love eggplant as I am sure you’ve noticed by the frequency of eggplant posts in this blog. It must be a Russian thing.

So I threw the eggplant slices in there, squeezed some lemon juice, garlic, salt and gave it a whirl. Not bad, not bad at all.  I always put tahini paste in my hummus but this time I wanted it to have a distinct eggplant taste so I held it back.

Note: The jarred eggplant I am using is this recipe is similar to a jar of artichokes and usually would be found in the deli section next to sundried tomatoes or olives.

Ingredients:

  • Chick Peas- 1 can
  • Lemon juice- from one lemon
  • Garlic- 2-3 cloves
  • Grilled Eggplant slices preserved in oil (from a jar)-1 cup
  • Oil from eggplant/olive oil- 1/4 cup
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients except for oil in the food processor and pulse until smooth, with the motor still running pour in the oil in slow and steady stream, blend for a few seconds longer, then stop the food processor, taste your hummus and adjust seasoning if needed.

Everyone absolutely loved that new concoction which tasted like a cross between a regular hummus and a baba ganoush that I briefly considered calling it Baba Hummoush¬†but in the end decided to stick with a boring “Hummus with Grilled Eggplant”. If you can think of a more clever name could you please let me know?!!

Hummus with Roasted Eggplant