Stuffed Aubergine Parcels (serves 4)

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels by The Fat Foodie

I bought an aubergine the other day and I’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike ever since. The problem was that although there are plenty of aubergine recipes that just ask you to chop it up and add it into stews and tagines, I really wanted to showcase (and try to celebrate) the vegetable itself. That’s when the lightbulb switched on and I realised that the robust texture of the aubergine flesh would be ideal for making stuffed aubergine parcels.

I’ve written before about how I don’t think aubergines are a very exciting vegetable, but I think I might have changed my mind after using them in this meal. The aubergine slowly cooks down to produce the silky soft, creamy texture that I’ve read others applauding so loudly about and it’s further enhanced by the presence of the rich, tangy tomato ragu.

I really enjoyed the large amount of vegetables I used in this dish and I think an argument could be made that, unlike many other recipes which include meat in them, the sausagemeat wasn’t the star of the show. It’s just there to add a meaty richness to the meal. Also, although I made my stuffed aubergine parcels with sausagemeat I think you could make an awesome vegetarian version by using strips of halloumi cheese to stuff the parcels with instead. I served two parcels per person, which is a low FODMAP portion size, but you might find that one is quite sufficient.

However you decide to make these stuffed aubergine parcels, I’ll guarantee you’ll love it. How could you not when you’ve got soft, silky aubergine wrapped around strips of sweet red and green peppers, smooth courgette slices, and rich well-seasoned sausagemeat that’s all coated in a thick tomato ragu and a crisp topping of grated parmesan. It’s a real winner in my book.

Ingredients:

1 aubergine (sliced into thin strips length ways) – no more than 160g in total of prepared aubergine

1 large courgette (sliced into thin strips lengthways)

2 red peppers (sliced into thin strips)

12 green olives (halved)

50g dairy-free parmesan (or normal)

Ingredients for the sausage stuffing:

6 gluten-free pork sausages (remove the skins)

1/2 tsp white ground pepper

A handful of fresh parsley (chopped finely)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp asafoetida powder

To make the tomato ragu:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 red chilli (finely chopped) (optional)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp asafoetida

1 tsp dried oregano

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels by The Fat Foodie

Method:

Prepare your vegetables as directed.

Vegetables Prepared for the Stuffed Aubergine Parcels

Cook the slices of aubergine and courgette in the microwave so that they become soft.

Make the tomato ragu by putting the ragu ingredients into a microwavable jug and cooking in the microwave for 4 – 5 mins.

Place a strip of aubergine on your chopping board and add a slice of courgette on top. Add a lump of sausagemeat and some strips of red pepper before rolling up into parcels.

Repeat until all of the aubergine is used up. (If you have any vegetables left over then just add them to the tomato ragu.)

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels Ready to be Wrapped

Place the aubergine parcels in a casserole dish and pour over the tomato ragu before topping with the halved olives and parmesan cheese.

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels Ready to be Topped with Tomato Ragu

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels Almost Ready to be Cooked

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels Ready to be Cooked

Bake in the oven for 40-50 mins and then serve with a fresh green salad.

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels by The Fat Foodie

Stuffed Aubergine Parcels by The Fat Foodie

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FODMAP Progress Update

The Fat Foodie

I’ve now been following the low FODMAP diet for a couple of months and I have to say that I’m feeling much better overall. I navigated the 6 to 8 week elimination phase without too many hiccups and have started to reintroduce some higher FODMAP foods back into my diet. Sadly, some foods remain difficult for me to process, a list that’s quite lengthy unfortunately, but the overall benefits of eating low FODMAP foods is reward in itself.

I think the FODMAP diet journey is an incredibly individual one and everyone will respond differently to it, just as they will respond differently to certain foods. I’ve had a few encounters online recently in which people have stated that particular foods shouldn’t be included in a low FODMAP recipe because they’re high FODMAP, even though they are actually a perfectly fine low FODMAP food if eaten at the correct serving size that’s recommended in the Monash app.

This has irritated me, to be honest, because I feel it is important to learn as much as possible about the health conditions which we suffer from. I’m all about educating myself to the best of my abilities as to what foods I can safely incorporate into my low FODMAP diet because it’s vital that we try to eat a wide variety of foods in our diet in order to get the best forms of nutrition our bodies require.

I’ve seen a lot of people online who are permanently living solely on the exclusion part of the low FODMAP diet and, as any good nutritionist will tell you, that’s not good at all because they are cutting out important nutritious dietary ingredients for no good reason. They’re also missing out on being able to eat delicious foods which would actually not cause them any digestive discomfort anyway!

Also, if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear when it comes to the FODMAP diet it’s that everyone is different. That’s the whole freakin’ point of the FODMAP diet! Individuals will be able to tolerate or not tolerate a variety of foods differently. I don’t understand why people can’t just assess their own potential response to recipes or a meal and make suitable adjustments. For instance, if you know that you can handle a small amount of oats then have one small Anzac biscuit. If you can’t, then don’t eat them! It really doesn’t have to be hard.

Anzac Biscuits by The Fat Foodie

One thing that has been hard is that I miss bread a lot. I’ve tried a number of shop bought gluten-free loaves, but I find it difficult to get past their grainy texture and general lack of flavour. (I’ve found the £3 price point for a Genius loaf pretty hard to swallow too). I’ve also made my own gluten-free loaves. They’ve turned out okay and have been tasty enough, but they still don’t compare to a normal wheat loaf.

Wholemeal Seeded Gluten-Free Bread by The Fat Foodie

I recently tried sourdough bread, but I don’t think my system liked it. It’s quite an acquired taste at the best of times due to its sour aftertaste, but I suspect my body still isn’t that keen on processing either gluten or the fructans found in wheat. I’m in the process of getting a sourdough bread culture on the go which I intend to use to make a spelt sourdough loaf, so I’ll see what my body makes of that.

Sourdough Bread Starter by The Fat Foodie

As I said at the start of this post, it’s clear that the FODMAP diet is very much a personal endeavour and I think the journey’s very much about identifying what your own personal triggers are. All I can say with certainty is that I feel infinitely better as a result of finding out about the FODMAP diet and I’m happy to help spread the word to other IBS sufferers in order to help them too.

The Fat Foodie

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Free-From Custard Creams

Free-From Custard Creams

When I first went gluten-free and dairy-free one of the free-from products that astonished me at their cost was biscuits. I mean, £3 for a Genius gluten-free loaf from Sainsbury’s is ridiculous, but £1.80 for 8 chocolate chip biscuits from the Sainsbury’s free-from range is just obscene. I know you’re paying for the convenience factor, but fresh biscuits cost next to nothing to make at home so I felt really cheated and ripped off at the cost of free-from versions from a number of shops.

These free-from custard creams are so cheap to make (I’d estimate that a batch of around 12 custard creams cost considerably less than £1 to produce) and they’re really easy to whip up in a hurry. I just measure all of my ingredients into a plastic jug and use an electric whisk to blend it together into a biscuit dough. You don’t even need to roll out the dough and cut them out because you just roll them up in your palms and flatten them out on the baking tray. You can’t get any easier, can you?

I normally sandwich my custard creams with buttercream icing, but these have a little bit more caster sugar in them than my standard custard cream recipe so they’re really nice plain without a filling, but by all means sandwich them if you like. My buttercream recipe can be found here and you can just use dairy-free butter to keep the mix free-from. Equally, you could drizzle melted chocolate over the top of them or icing sugar.

Whether you decide to use the filling or use a sweet drizzle over the top of the biscuits, they’ll still save you a huge amount of money compared to buying them ready made in a shop.

Ingredients:

70g dairy-free butter (or normal butter)

30g coconut oil

80g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

20g cornflour

50g custard powder

70g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp xanthan gum

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Measure all of your ingredients into a plastic jug and then mix it all together with an electric whisk.

Lay greaseproof paper out onto two baking trays.

Take small handfulls of custard cream dough and roll into a ball before flattening between your palms and placing them on the baking trays. Continue until the mix is all used up.

Press the tines of a fork onto the top of each biscuit to create the distinctive mark of a custard cream and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 mins or until they are golden brown.

Free-From Custard Creams About to be Baked

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Once cold you can sandwich them with buttercream icing or drizzle with a topping if you like.

Freshly Baked Free-From Custard Creams

Free-From Custard Creams

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Free-From Lasagne (serves 4-6)

Free From Lasagne by The Fat Foodie

Everyone loves lasagne, it’s just one of those universally adored dishes that Italy’s renowned for. However, when I went dairy-free and onto the low FODMAP diet I was concerned that it would be off the cards because it normally has lots of onion, garlic and cheese in it, but I made a conscious effort to adapt my usual lasagne recipe into a FODMAP friendly one and it seemed to have been successful.

When I started looking into the FODMAP diet and for ways to incorporate onion and garlic flavours into my cooking I discovered that you can use chives without it having any impact on your IBS and that garlic-infused oil is fine to use too, as long as you don’t consume the actual garlic itself. During my onion-based investigations though (forgive me, I’ve been reading a lot of old-school crime novels lately), I also found out that there is an Indian spice called asafoetida which mimics the flavour of onion. I was pretty sceptical to be honest, but I ordered some asafoetida online and was thrilled to find out that it genuinely does taste like onion!

Now, you’ve got to be careful when buying asafoetida because some of the spice mixes are blended with gluten flours to make it less potent (it’s a very strong spice), but there are some, such as this one, which are blended with other spices like ground fenugreek instead.

I’d really recommend trying asafoetida if you’re on the low FODMAP diet and you ordinarily enjoy onion and garlic flavours in your cooking because it definitely does what it says on the tin. As a result, my lasagne sheets were layered between a rich, thick, onion-infused meaty ragù that was just as satisfying as the standard version. This free-from lasagne is also topped with a creamy, cheesy dairy-free white sauce that definitely doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out on dairy (although if you’re not dairy-free you could just use a couple of sachets of cheese sauce mix instead).

I served the free-from lasagne with a fresh green salad that was liberally dotted with fat, plump little jewel-green caperberries whose piquancy cut through the richness of the lasagne and added a tart freshness to the dish, but feel free to just serve it with chips if you’d prefer. You’ll find no judgement here from me, my friends.

Ingredients for the pork ragù:

450g pork mince (use beef if you’d prefer)

200g red bell pepper (diced)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsps dried oregano

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsps tomato puree

1 tsp salt

1 tsp asafoetida

Gluten-free lasagne sheets

Dairy-free cheese for lasagne topping

For the white sauce:

25g dairy-free butter

25g gluten-free flour

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsps Engevita

1 egg

200ml rice milk

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F/ Gas mark 5.

Method to make the ragù:

Put the pork mince in a saucepan with 1 tbsp olive oil and cook until done.

Add the red peppers, oregano, salt, asafoetida, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and cook until hot.

To make the white sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat before whisking in the flour, black pepper and Engevita.

Slowly add a little rice milk at a time, stirring continuously, so that eventually a thick sauce is created. (Don’t panic if it looks really lumpy, just keep stirring and adding more milk and it’ll come together.)

Once the white sauce is thick take it off the heat .

Take a rectangular casserole dish and put a layer of ragù on the bottom and top it with lasagne sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the ragù.

Whisk the egg thoroughly into the white sauce mixture, pour on top of the lasagne, top with the dairy-free cheese and bake in the oven for around 45 mins.

Serve with a salad (and/or chips!).

Free From Lasagne by The Fat Foodie

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Fruit Custard Tarts (makes 4)

Fruit Custard Tarts by The Fat Foodie

Now that we’re starting to see a bit more sun on a daily basis thanks to the arrival of spring I’m finding myself more inclined to make desserts that incorporate lighter flavours, such as these fruit custard tarts. When I started eating dairy-free one of my best revelations to come from the vegan community was finding out that Bird’s Custard Powder doesn’t contain dairy. I found this really surprising, but I suppose it’s just because you expect such a sweet vanilla-based substance to be already creamy even before you add anything to it. Regardless, I’m grateful!

It feels a bit cheeky to be posting the recipe for these fruit custard tarts because they’re so easy to make, especially when I haven’t made my own custard, but they are really delicious so I figured I’d share it anyway. The pastry is very light and a bit crumbly, but I think that works very well with the sweet custard and berries.

It makes life so much easier if you bake the pastry in tart tins which have a removable base, but it’s not absolutely essential and you can just use a piece of greaseproof paper in the base to help take the pastry cases out of the tins instead. Also, don’t try to take the pastry cases out of the tins until they’re completely cold otherwise they’re more likely to break.

You can use any fruit you like in these tarts. I’d bought some raspberries and blueberries that were reduced to a ridiculously cheap price and that’s what I used, but you could make them more exotic by using coconut oil instead of butter for the pastry tarts and topping them with chunks of fresh pineapple. Whatever you choose to top them with, these fruit custard tarts are light, creamy and filled with flavour, perfect for dessert on a warm summer’s evening (or an optimistic Scottish spring night).

Ingredients for the tart cases:

70g gluten-free plain flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

30g ground almonds

1 tsp xanthan gum

20g caster sugar

3 tbsps rice milk

40g butter (or dairy-free version)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the custard filling:

80g Bird’s Custard Powder

40g sugar

1 pint (580ml) rice milk

Method:

Make the custard in accordance with the instructions on the pack and set it aside to cool.

To make the pastry for the tarts, put everything except the milk into a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it looks like fine sand.

Preparing the Dough for the Fruit Custard Tarts

Add the milk a little at a time, stirring all the while, until it forms a dough. (You might not need to use all of the milk. It can depend on the individual batch of flour you’re using.)

Preparing the Dough for the Fruit Custard Tarts

Set your tart tins out on a large baking tray and cut out two little squares of greaseproof paper for each tart that are big enough to line the base of your tart tins. (See the photo below if necessary.)

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Put a piece of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each tart tin. Divide your dough into four and place a small lump of dough in each tart tin and mould to fit the tart tin.

Put another piece of greaseproof paper on top of the pastry and put baking beans on top.

Putting the Dough in the Tart Tins

Bake in the oven for 15 mins and then remove the baking beans and bake for another 10 mins (or until the pastry cases are golden brown). Leave the tarts to cool on a cooling rack.

Baked Tart Cases

When the tarts and custard are cold, fill each tart case with custard and top with fresh fruit. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Freshly Filled Fruit Custard Tarts by The Fat Foodie

Freshly Filled Fruit Custard Tarts by The Fat Foodie

Freshly Filled Fruit Custard Tarts by The Fat Foodie

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