Friday, 23 November 2012

Gluten Free Smoked Salmon Soufflé Tart

A soufflé tart isn't normally the sort of thing I'd cook but I saw this recipe in a magazine recently and it sounded divine so I thought I'd give it a go. I had a sneaky cheat as I opted for a ready-made gluten free pastry by DS gluten free which was available from Tesco. Gluten free or not, ready-made pastry is great for a mid-week dinner if you want something quick and hassle free. I say hassle free... gluten free pastry is a little more crumbly than normal pastry so it was a little tricky to work with but the results were great. I'm usually one to play around with the recipe but this one I followed to the letter and it worked really well. You can see the full recipe on BBC good food here. I served it with some green beans with a little drizzle of lemon juice and celeriac cubed and sautéed in oil.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Your comprehensive guide to eating gluten free in Paris!

The French, famed for their love of baguettes, croissants and with patisseries on every corner, you may think that Paris would be a coeliac's worst nightmare, but hopefully this blog will make you think again. With a bit of research and help from twitter followers, we had some fantastic gluten free eating experiences in France's capital.

I do speak French which certainly helps but you can find coeliac translation cards online which I'd urge you to take on any foreign trips. Here's a great site which provides them. I took some emergency gluten free cereal bars but didn't need them as we found some fantastic places.

Le Jules Verne by Alain Ducasse at the Eiffel Tour

First up was quite an extraordinary dining experience. We were lucky enough to go to Le Jules Verne which is situated half way up the Eiffel tour and therefore has a spectacular view! It's also Michelin starred which usually means they're pretty clued up on what's gluten free. They were great at adapting the dishes, I did ask what a 'Savarin' was on the dessert menu and was told in no uncertain terms that it was "absolutely impossible for you", but you just have to get used to the direct style of French waiters! The food was sensational. A definite highlight was my starter of Meurette-style egg -  a baked egg in a red wine sauce with bacon and vegetables. It sounds simple, but was beautifully rich with flavour, the way French cuisine often is. The dessert was one of the best I've eaten anywhere. Soft chocolate mousse with shards of tempered chocolate, cubes of mint jelly and a mint 'snow', a beautifully fresh way to end the meal.

Meurette style Egg
Cep mushroom soup
Roasted pork with stuffed onion
Slow cooked ox cheek
Chocolate and mint
Mme Shawn

Red Thai Curry
Paris is a city full of foreign influences, especially in it's food. We found this fantastic Thai restaurant, which happened to be my first dining out Thai experience since being gluten free. I had a little trouble establishing that I was gluten free but basically reinforced that I couldn't eat soy sauce as I know this is often used in Thai cooking. Both my fiancée and I had the red thai curries, I had duck and she had beef. Both were fantastically  fresh curries with the ripped thai basil over the top giving it an authentic taste. The accompanying rice was also fresh and fragrant. We stumbled across this place and I'm very glad we did! We then realised there's a few dotted around Paris, so if you're visiting be sure to be on the look out.


Breakfast can be a little more challenging but there's plenty of brasseries that will serve you an omelette. If however, you fancy some authentic bread, French madeleines and macaroons then get to Noglu! Noglu is a totally gluten free restaurant and if we were heading back I'd definitely check it out for dinner. We arrived hungry at 10am on the dot and in true French fashion they weren't quite ready for us, but I'm glad we hung around! The fresh gluten free bread was one of the best I've ever had and was served with some excellent jams. The picture says it all really - a great gluten free breakfast!
Breakfast at Noglu
Breakfast at Noglu

Twitter is a great tool for finding like minded coeliacs and this was how I discovered this gem. It's a vegetarian restaurant near the Sorbonne and serves a select number of specials at lunch. They label what's gluten free clearly and all the desserts were gluten free. We had a hearty fish dish, served on some crushed potatoes with greens in a white sauce. It was a really warming dish, especially as it provided a perfect escape from the showery weather. We shared a carrot cake and chocolate cake and both were great, you wouldn't have been able to tell they were gluten free!

Lunch at Tugalik
Bo Man Café

Our original dinner choice, didn't quite go to plan. The place I remembered visiting a few years ago was empty so we headed off in search of somewhere else which looked a bit more lively. We found Bo Man Café, an excellent brasserie which was bustling with natives, so we  went in. There was a great atmosphere and both of us went for the classic Steak & Frites. Chips are a fairly safe option in France as they don't deep fry much else but it's always worth checking. The rib eye steak was great, cooked medium and rare and full of flavour. We shared another classic for dessert - creme brulée - often a safe bet for those looking for gluten free options. And of course, it was all washed down with a compulsory caraf of red wine!

'Steak frites'
Creme brulée
Helmut Newcake

Helmut Newcake is a coeliac's heaven! You're greeted with a display of lots of delicate looking pastries, normally a torturous sight, but in Helmut Newcake, there's one difference, they're totally gluten free! It's a fantastic place which also sells gluten free products if you're planning on doing any cooking. The cakes were simply divine, so good that we had to buy some for the Eurostar home!

Pastry selection at Helmut Newcake
Lemon meringue pastry
Salted caramel choux bun

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Reindeer, Norwich

The Reindeer is one of many traditional British pubs up and down the country that you would drive past everyday without even a consideration. You'd expect to walk in and see some people propping up the bar having a pint of lager and a few people dotted around, perhaps having some oven cooked fish and chips or a well done steak with peppercorn sauce. Unfortunately, people judge books by their covers but The Reindeer in Norwich is proof that you shouldn't.

The Reindeer has undergone something of a food revolution. It's focus, seemingly to take under used cuts of meat and transform them in to great British dishes. The menu has duck hearts, lamb's tongue, hanger steak and humble pie to name a few - fantastic to see somewhere making use of cuts which are often discarded. Even better to see somewhere take these cuts and make them taste fantastic too.

Being gluten free wasn't an issue either, the waitress explained what I could and couldn't have with ease. A number of the starters came on toast but she said gluten free bread was available if I wanted any of those. It would have been nice to be offered the gluten free bread when everyone else got their customary bread rolls but she may have just forgotten. On the whole though the service was spot on, friendly and informative (it's the sort of menu where people ask a lot of questions!). I went for the pigeon breast with beetroot and greengage for starter. The flavours were balanced really well, the gamey pigeon offset by the fruit and beetroot. My pigeon was slightly overdone for me but it didn't detract from the overall dish. In a big group it's difficult to get comprehensive reviews but the starters seemed to go down well and a lot of people were trying things for the first time! Main course was excellent - venison haunch, cottage pie and greens. On the opposite end of the scale this was a little rarer than I'd normally go for but the meat was beautifully tender and packed with flavour. The highlight of the dish was the cottage pie - smooth mash on top of flavour packed venison mince - incredibly moreish. My fiancee had the celebration of cauliflower 4 ways dish which received an excellent write up too.

Pigeon breast with beetroot and greengage
Haunch of venison, cottage pie and green beans
It wasn't particularly busy for a Saturday night, hopefully that will change as word of mouth spreads. In the meantime they should maybe think about giving the book a new cover, the food is certainly worthy of it.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Gluten Free Arancini (Risotto balls)

You really shouldn't be restricted when eating on a gluten free diet. Gluten free breads are now readily available and tasting good, so bread-crumbed products are no longer off limits. You might just have to put a bit of effort in, but the results are definitely worth it.

My fiancée made these fantastic Arancini (risotto balls), using a leftover mushroom risotto I had frozen.

Ingredients you'll need:

- Leftover risotto
- Mozzarella
- Gluten Free Breadcrumbs (whizz a couple of slices of genius bread in a food processor)
- 2 eggs, whisked
- Gluten Free plain flour
- Vegetable oil for deep drying
Tomato Sauce
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 clover of garlic chopped
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- Salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce fry the onion in and garlic in a pan till soft, add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer to reduce. This should take around 15 to 20 minutes.
For the Arancini roll some risotto into a golf ball shape then push in a cube of mozzarella and re-roll. Repeat this until you have rolled all your risotto balls. Then roll in flour, dip in the egg mix and finally roll in the bread crumbs. Once you have your risotto balls ready, heat a large pan of vegetable oil. The oil needs to be hot, you can test this by dropping a small cube of gluten free bread in, it should brown in around 30 seconds. Once your oil is hot use a spoon to lower the risotto balls in (you might need to do them in batches), they should only take a few minutes and are done when golden brown.

Serve as below with a green salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Hungry Fiancé

Last week the Hungry Boyfriend became the Hungry Fiancé (although for the purposes of the blog the title will remain the same)! I proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes! We were at the amazing Morston Hall, so I thought I'd share the food snaps. It was as faultless as ever...

Canapés of scallop and mushroom duxelle and Binham blue pannacotta with pear
Home-made gluten free bread
Chef's appetiser of smoked haddock with a parmesan foam and a parsley, chive and shallot jelly
Sheringham sea bass with trompette de la mort and hazlenut dressing
Gressingham duck breast with bashed Norfolk peer potatoes, onion fondue and a white port jus
Greengage Fool
Pineapple with lemongrass panna cotta
Petit Fours

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Merchants of Spice, Norwich

We stumbled upon Merchants of Spice when we were looking to organise a work night out. It wasn't somewhere I had ever heard anyone talk about which isn't usually a positive sign, but the menu looked good. The website boasted of 'Fine Indian Dining' which I often find with Indian restaurants isn't more than a hot towel before you leave, so I wasn't too sure what to expect.

I booked for a group of 6 on a Saturday night and the restaurant was full when we were seated to eat at 8.30pm. The first thing I noticed about Merchants of Spice was that the décor was much nicer than the usual run of the mill Indian in Norwich; wooden floors and high backed cream dining chairs in an elegantly decorated room. I had previously tweeted to check that they could cater for my gluten free requirements and I was assured there were plenty of options. The waiters were extremely attentive and checked my options to ensure they were suitable. The dishes you would find at most Indian restaurants up and down the country were extremely reasonable ranging from between £6.95 and £8.95. Even their signature dishes such as Rabbit Bhuna and Crab Curry were only £12.95. My girlfriend and I shared a Goan Green Chicken Curry and a Lamb Korai. Both were perfectly cooked with soft tender meat, the green curry fresh with coriander and chilli and the Korai packed with ginger, garlic and warming spices. We had sides of Pilau Rice and Tarka Dall which were equally well cooked, seasoned and flavoured. 

Goan Green Chicken Curry
Lamb Korai
Pilau Rice
Fine dining might be a stretch (although we did get that complimentary hot towel!), but a tasty, reasonably priced Indian meal in a well decorated restaurant certainly fits the bill. There wasn't a grumble between the 6 of us. I had previously reviewed Passage to India in Norwich on my blog, but I think Merchants of Spice pips it to the post. The food is of a similar standard but Merchants of Spice creates a better atmosphere and I would be much more likely to return.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Pigs at Edgefield, Norfolk

We had been to the food festival at Holkham Hall when we decided to head to the Pigs at Edgefield on the way home for lunch. This was our second visit and I remembered the first being filled with porky delights so we were looking forward to it. We had friends visiting so there's always that added pressure when suggesting somewhere to eat! The Pigs is a relaxed pub with chunky wooden furniture and a laid back atmosphere. We had a look through the menu and settled on the 'Iffits', The Pigs' version of Norfolk tapas. They're served on long boards and at £11.95 for 4, good value. I had forgotten that they provide a gluten free menu so we'd made a guess at what I could eat and then checked at the bar. The waitress checked this against the gluten free menu and we were good to go. Except for one slight problem, the menu refers to low gluten rather than gluten free, so unfortunately that meant I couldn't have anything that was deep fried due to the risk of cross contamination. It's a real shame as some of these dishes looked great, crispy fried pigs ears and the hand cut chips were unfortunately off limits. I'm not sure if they're always off limits and I'm planning on writing to them to confirm. I understand the pressures of a commercial kitchen and they obviously have to cater to the majority but it would be great if they could introduce a gluten free fryer.

Those minor niggles withstanding the food is great. We tucked into tender ribs which were coated in marmalade which made a tasty change to BBQ sauce. Locally smoked prawns were another favourite, as was the smoked salmon and beetroot. The only one which received mixed reviews from my gluten eating friends was the Binham Blue with toasted muffin; lemony flavours with the blue cheese clashing rather than complimenting. All in all though, its good tasty local food which showcases some great Norfolk produce.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pitt Cue Co., Soho, London

We found Pitt Cue Co. in one of my girlfriend's monthly food magazines on where best to eat certain nationality foods during the Olympics. As you can see from some of my previous posts on Pulled Pork and Ribs, American food is definitely one of my favourites. So when we went to London to soak up some of the Olympic fever and watch team GB get humped at Volleyball, we decided we'd sneak a visit to this hotly tipped Soho restaurant.

My girlfriend had previously emailed Pitt Cue Co. to check on gluten free options and they reassuringly and promptly emailed back to say most things were naturally gluten free and that the chef himself was gluten free so he knew what he was doing. We arrived in sunny Soho at about 2pm and was told there'd be about a 20 minute wait for a table so we grabbed a tasty Cornish cider and stood in the street. After 20 minutes we were escorted downstairs to a darkish room which couldn't have sat more than 20 people. If you don't like sharing your table then this probably isn't the place for you. We got our own table for 4 but there were plently sharing and the place had a real buzz. It is tiny, and the very limited website says that they only operate a first come first served basis as it's so small. But it's true what they say good things come in small packages!
Cornish Cider
Our server explained the menu with an enthusiasm that demonstrated how passionate Pitt Cue Co. are about their food, explaining in detail the different cuts of meat on offer and how each is cooked. There were plenty of options for those who are gluten free / coeliac and lots that could be adapted (e.g taking away the bread bun).  I couldn't turn down the Beef ribs which were beautifully tender, the meat falling off the bone and packed with smoky BBQ flavour. There's a good selection of sides. I had mine served with pickles, a green chilli slaw and bone marrow mash which were all extremely tasty. A friend had a lardo dog which received a review as impressive as the dog looked! A hot dog topped with pulled pork, lardo (an Italian pig fat) and american mustard. If you like American food, Pitt Cue Co. does it very well indeed and better than almost any I've tasted State-side.

Beef Ribs and Bone Marrow Mash
Lardo Dog with BBQ beans

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Morston Hall, Norfolk - Dinner

After such a sensational lunch I could hardly wait to sit down that evening for dinner. There's only one sitting at Morston which seems to add to the sense of occasion. Guests make their way into the various lounges for drinks at around 7pm, ready to be seated for 7.30pm. Pre-dinner drinks also gave them the opportunity to dazzle their guests with more food, some stunning scotch quails eggs. As I mentioned in my previous post Morston is the best place I've been for catering for dietary requirements. My scotch quail egg was done in polenta rather than bread crumbs which worked perfectly and ensured mine was gluten free.
The menu is pre-set at Morston, although they are happy to change dishes if there's something you don't like or eat. I really enjoy this in the same way I enjoy the restrictive choice of lunch menus. I don't find the fun in choosing, I find the fun in eating things I wouldn't normally order. When the cooking is of such a high standard it's the perfect he time to experiment.

Richard Bainbridge, the Head Chef at Morston Hall was in the kitchen for this evenings service and he just proved what an accomplished chef he is.

We started with the chef's appetizer of mackerel with radish which was beautifully presented and set the tone for the high class presentation throughout the meal. The first course was Tamworth pork belly with apple soup. A sumptuous piece of pork with small pieces of puffed up crackling and a velvety smooth apple sauce. With classic flavour combinations it's all about the cooking and at Morston this is superb.
The fish course for me was the knock-out dish and quite possibly one of the best dishes I've ever tasted. North Sea Cod, Etuvée cabbage and Morston lobster. Once again, Cod cooked to absolute perfection with a beautiful colour to it on top of a rich lobster bisque with beautiful succulent pieces of lobster. 
Main course, sirloin of Blickling Estate Aberdeen Angus with fondant potatoes and Marsham asparagus was equally as accomplished and equally well cooked. It really demonstrated the quality you can get from using high class local produce.
Finally, in this master class of cuisine, they really pulled out all the stops with a gluten free soufflé! Most would struggle to get a normal soufflé tasting this amazing but my gluten free rhubarb and custard soufflé with vanilla pod ice cream was divine and the perfect way to end a perfect day. I really couldn't recommend Morston Hall enough an absolute gem on the North Norfolk coast.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Morston Hall, Norfolk - Cookery demonstration and lunch

Morston Hall is situated 2 miles from Blakeney on the picturesque north Norfolk coast. It's the creation of the extremely talented Galton Blackiston and his wife Tracey. I had ridiculously high expectations as we pulled up the drive on a sunny morning to attend one of Galton's cookery demonstrations and dine there that evening. My girlfriend had attended one of his residential cookery courses last year and couldn't speak highly enough of the amazing time she had. It lived up to expectations and surpassed them! I'm going to do this blog in two parts, the first on lunch and the second on dinner.

We attended the May cookery demo which was a 'morning of fish and summer cooking'. The day started around 10am with coffees and some delicious macaroons. We then all assembled in the Morston kitchen to watch Galton at work. It's a brilliant way to spend a morning. Galton guided us through the dishes in a relaxed and informal way with plenty of opportunity to ask questions along the way. It's great watching him and the other kitchen staff at work as they effortlessly make lunch for 25 people right before your eyes. It was also great as a coeliac to see the precautions they take in the kitchen to avoid any cross contamination. Where my dishes required any modifications these were kept and cooked separate. Morston is by far the best place I've been in terms of their ability to modify dishes for those on a gluten free diet. You also come away with recipe sheets for each of the dishes to create at home.

Each dish was absolutely exquisite, the highlights for me were a poached fillet of turbot with tarragon butter sauce and tomato fondue. It was beautifully balanced with the tomato cutting through the buttery sauce and fish cooked to perfection. The fish curry was also great, made with apple, banana and pineapple the subtle fruity flavours really lifted the curry and with chunks of monkfish, salmon, scallops and prawns it was a fantastic dish. Gooseberry and mackerel is not something I'd have ever put together but this worked really well. The gooseberry jelly was beautifully smooth and really lifted the mackerel to new heights.

I'd definitely recommend one of the cookery demonstrations. They also had the best gluten free bread rolls I've ever tasted! Take a look at the pictures of all the dishes:
Delicious gluten free bread rolls
Fish curry with sautéed spinach
Crab cakes with avocado cubes
Poached fillet of turbot with tarragon butter sauce and tomato fondue
Fillets of mackerel with gooseberry jelly and horseradish mayonnaise and
pan fried fillet of sea trout with champagne sauce
Morston's own honey ice cream 
You can find our more about the Morston Hall cookery demonstrations here and there's more to follow soon on dinner at Morston Hall!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

For a number of reasons, expectations were extremely high when we went to the Hand and Flowers. First, was the fact that it had been awarded 2 Michelin stars in the latest Michelin guide. An extremely high accolade and the first awarded to a 'pub'. Second, Tom Kerridge's appearances and masterful dishes on Great British Menu had certainly wet the appetite. Finally, I think our recent trip to Texture, had set the bar high with impeccable service and food to match. The dishes we had at the Hand and Flowers were outstanding but with some little touches missing, I think it fell slightly short of the mark.

It's in a beautiful setting in the picturesque town of Marlow. The pub itself has a warm, cosy atmosphere with low ceilings and rustic tables. The service was friendly but not as attentive as I expected. Rightly or wrongly from a 2 Michelin star, I expect them to be on the ball at catering for allergies. Although our waitress, frequently checked with the kitchen on what was and wasn't gluten free, their inability to modify dishes was a little disappointing. A pre-starter of white bait arrived which I wasn't able to eat and no gluten free bread was offered. They also provided some pickled vegetables but these weren't anything special. At no point were we offered water and dishes weren't explained when they were delivered to the table.

My choices for starter, main and dessert were also somewhat restricted by which were gluten free. Contrast this with our recent experience at Texture where they immediately offered to attempt to modify anything, this can make a big difference. I had the scallops with kohlrabi and beef boullion for starter. It was suppose to come with some breaded bone marrow and again as this was prepared in advance they couldn't modify this, in the end I suggested to the waitress to just see what the chef could do and they did me a non-breaded version. It was a beautiful starter, the scallops impeccably cooked and the beef boullion served as a jelly. At £14.50 though it was certainly on the steep side for a starter. My girlfriend opted for the crispy pigs head. Served in a block, deep fried and breaded this did look fantastic and received excellent reviews. The meat inside tender and pulled away easily with a fork, a really good dish.
Crispy Pigs Head with artichokes and pancetta
Hand dived scallops with kohlrabi and beef bouillon
For the main course, my girlfriend chose the Great British Menu winning dish of slow cooked duck breast with duck fat chips. Duck cooked to absolute perfection was simply superb. The chips were thankfully gluten free, so I pinched a couple and these had such a fantastic flavour from the duck fat and a proper chip cirspness to them. I had the tenderloin of pork with the malt glazed cheek, which once again was a display of how to cook meat to absolute perfection. Probably the most tender pork I have had.
Slow cooked duck breast with peas, duck fat chips and gravy
Tenderloin of Wiltshire pork with pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek and frakfurter and potato dauphine
The dessert was also stunning, a combination of eye catching presentation and beautifully married flavours. A tonka bean panna cotta with poached strawberries, liquorice meringue and strawberry ice cream all worked perfectly. The texture of both the panna cotta and ice cream were silky smooth and the whole dish exhibited a real lightness of touch.
Tonka bean panna cotta with poached strawberries, liquorice meringue and strawberry ice cream
Expectations were extremely high and there was some truly outstanding cooking at the Hand and Flowers. The 2 Michelin star expectation though I think may be difficult to live up to. With mains at around the £25 mark, it was certainly priced in the Michelin bracket. I definitely think they could do more to cater for those who are gluten free and sometimes it's just the small touches which can detract from the overall experience. For those who can choose from the entire menu, it is a cracking menu, really celebrating the best of british. If you're expectation is an excellent plate of food, you certainly won't be disappointed.