Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart by The Fat Foodie

I’m a huge fan of pastry, particularly puff pastry because it’s such a versatile base ingredient upon which to base a meal around. I tend to keep a block of it in the freezer for whenever inspiration strikes so when I looked in the fridge the other day and saw that there were a number of summer vegetables that needed to be used up I decided to make a tomato and mozzarella tart with them.

Puff pastry is a very cheap way to make a tasty meal that can be topped with loads of delicious ingredients and it works particularly well with soft, sweet roasted vegetables, such as tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and the likes. I’ve recently discovered (and fallen in love with) jars of roasted red peppers. Although they’re on the expensive side to buy from supermarkets, I’ve found them to be fairly cheap in discount stores (such as B&M and Poundstretcher’s). They’re gorgeous stuffed into sandwiches or served on the side of salads, but I’ve also been adding them onto pizzas because their natural sweetness goes really well with creamy, melted mozzarella.

The beauty of this tomato and mozzarella tart is that you can add any other ingredients you fancy. I’ll bet some chopped bacon or smoked ham would be lovely on top of it or some shredded pieces of roast chicken. I dare say a few strips of smoked salmon would be outstanding on it too, especially if you served the tart with a fresh green salad and a cold, crisp glass of white wine.

This tomato and mozzarella tart is a celebration of summer vegetables. It’s a crisp, flaky puff pastry base that’s topped with walnut and basil pesto and adorned with a plethora of delicately roasted tomatoes, courgettes and black olives which are nestled underneath a crisp blanket of grated creamy mozzarella. It’s simply an excellent dish for a summer lunch or dinner.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart by The Fat Foodie

Ingredients:

500g block of gluten-free puff pastry (or normal puff pastry)

2 large tomatoes (sliced)

1 courgette (sliced)

1 red pepper (jar)

8 black olives (halved)

Freshly ground black pepper

50g grated dairy-free mozzarella (or normal mozzarella)

For the walnut pesto:

15g fresh basil

40g walnuts

30g sundried tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

Method:

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

Line a flat baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Roll out the block of puff pastry on top of the greaseproof paper and use a plate to cut a large circle out. Cut a second circle that is slightly smaller than the outer circle, leaving a gap of around 1 cm around the edge.

The rolled out puff pastry base.

Lay the puff pastry circle onto your baking tray.

Make your pesto by blending the pesto ingredients together (I used my Nutribullet) and spread the pesto over the puff pastry base.

Spreading the walnut pesto over the puff pastry base.

Lay your tomato and courgette slices on top of the tart and add freshly ground black pepper.

Laying the tomatoes and courgettes over the tart.

Add the pieces of sliced red pepper and black olives.

Adding the red peppers and olives.

And top with grated mozzarella before baking in the oven for around 30 mins.

Topping the tart with grated mozzarella before baking.

Once the vegetables are soft and the pastry is cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before serving with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart by The Fat Foodie

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart by The Fat Foodie

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Beef Casserole with Buttered Neeps (serves 4)

Beef Casserole with Buttered Neeps by The Fat Foodie

Yesterday morning I realised that I wasn’t really in the mood for cooking anything complicated for dinner so I made a beef casserole in the slow cooker which I served with buttered neeps and it was delicious. Although I would usually make the base of my casseroles with diced onion or shredded white leeks it’s sadly a very high FODMAP food so it’s off the menu. However, I’ve read that the green leafy tops of leeks are actually low FODMAP and therefore are suitable to eat without feeling any unwanted side effects.

Now, I’ve thought about testing this before, but I’m so reluctant to buy leeks (or spring onions whose green tops are also fine) because I’d be unable to use the full vegetable and it would go to waste. Thankfully however, my aunt and uncle who have an allotment generously gave me two huge leeks that had beautiful, massive, flourishing green tops and I certainly wasn’t going to waste time in putting them to good use. The oniony flavour of the leek tops within the beef casserole was also enhanced by the addition of a bouquet garni, which is a muslin bag or tea bag case that’s filled with dried herbs, such as thyme, bay leaves and rosemary and it infuses the herby flavours throughout the casserole as it slowly cooks throughout the day.

I’ve written about the numerous benefits of using a slow cooker before and today is no different. I just love the fact that you can throw fairly cheap ingredients into the slow cooker and leave it to cook throughout the day, allowing all of the composite flavours to meld together to create a rich, unctuous casserole that greets you after a long day at work.

This beef casserole with buttered neeps is an incredibly easy, but luxurious and flavoursome, meal. Its slow cooked beef melts in the mouth and is accompanied by the soft, sweet carrots that have been lightly seasoned with the herby flavours of the bouquet garni. It’s just a great slow cooked casserole that’ll satisfy the whole family.

Ingredients:

700g casserole beef

4 large carrots (cut into bite-sized pieces)

The green tops of 2 leeks (thinly shredded)

bouquet garni

80g Isabel’s Gluten Free Gravy Granules

A litre of boiling water

1 neep (or turnip) cut into small chunks

30g butter (or dairy-free version)

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Method:

Put your slow cooker on low and make your gravy by mixing the gravy granules into the litre of boiling water and stirring until it forms a thick gravy.

Put the beef, carrot pieces, shredded leeks, bouquet garni and gravy into the slow cooker and stir well.

Leave your slow cooker to cook all day.

To make the buttered neeps cut your neep or turnip into small chunks and boil in heavily salted water until soft.

Drain and mash before adding the butter and white pepper and mashing further. Taste for seasoning and then serve alongside the beef casserole.

Beef Casserole with Buttered Neeps 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 either shouldn’t be included in a low FODMAP recipe because they’re irritating to the gut (even though they are actually low FODMAP foods) or that the portion sizes and quantities should be adjusted because in high numbers they become a high FODMAP food.

This has irritated me, to be honest, because 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 different 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 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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Thai Green Curry (serves 4)

Thai Green Curry by The Fat Foodie

When I was at work yesterday I found myself pondering over what I was going to make for dinner. I knew I had a pack of chicken breasts in the fridge, but I was a bit fed up of making the same chicken dishes over and over again. However, I remembered that I had a thick chunk of fresh root ginger in the fridge as well as a jar of minced lemongrass in the cupboard, so I found myself thinking about making a Thai curry.

I’ve never made a Thai green curry from scratch before because I’ve always thought that they require ridiculous amounts of individual ingredients and, let’s be honest here, sometimes after a long day at work you can’t be bothered with all of that faff-on, can you? However, after a brief mootch in the Thai cookbook section at work (one of the benefits of working in a bookshop!) I actually realised that it doesn’t really take that much to make a Thai green curry after all and that, with the exception of having to buy fish sauce and a packet of mangetout on my way home, I was all set.

Now, I’m going to offer a word of advice here and I really hope you take it. I’ve never cooked with fish sauce before so I added it after sweating off my spices, ginger and lemongrass, but this was a huge mistake. IT FREAKIN’ STINKS!!! I’m not kidding, this was an ‘open all of the doors and windows’ job. This was a ‘thank God the living room door was closed so the smell didn’t meander up into any of the bedrooms’ jobs. It was horrific. So my advice is: only add the fish sauce after you’ve already added the coconut milk so that it blends into the curry sauce without releasing its infernal pungent aroma into your kitchen.

After I’d added the coconut milk and allowed my nasal passages to dissipate the strong stench of the fish sauce I steeled myself and tasted the curry sauce and… it was delicious. You couldn’t taste any aspect of the fish sauce whatsoever, but it had definitely added a richness to the Thai green curry that it would have sorely lacked had I omitted it. Please trust me and use the fish sauce, just don’t smell it. Ever.

I loved this Thai green curry and so did my family. It’s rich, multi-flavoured and very satisfying and it makes a nice change from the usual Indian curries I tend to make a lot. Its coconut milk base carries the delicate notes of root ginger and lemongrass without overpowering the chicken and making it taste too sweet. I don’t think it’ll be long before I’m making this for dinner again, but you can be damn sure I’ll be adding the fish sauce AFTER I’ve added the coconut milk. I won’t make that mistake again!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsps minced fresh root ginger

1 tbsp minced lemongrass (or 2 crushed lemongrass stalks)

1 mild red chilli (finely chopped)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp asafoetida

1/2 a bunch of fresh coriander (chopped)

1/2 a bunch of basil (chopped)

2 tbsps fish sauce

2 tbsps lime juice (or the juice of 2 limes)

1 tin of coconut milk

1/3 of a block of coconut cream (around 75g)

4 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)

200g mangetout (cut into bite-sized pieces)

Rice

Method:

In a large saucepan heat the sesame oil and once hot add the ginger, lemongrass, chopped chilli, cumin and asafoetida.

Add the chicken pieces, tin of coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce and leave to simmer for 10-15 mins.

Start your rice cooking.

Add the mangetout, basil, coriander and coconut cream and cook for another couple of minutes.

Drain your rice.

If you used whole lemongrass stalks then just before serving remove them from the Thai green curry.

Serve on top of the rice with fresh basil (and a bit more chopped chilli if you like).

Thai Green Curry by The Fat Foodie

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Aloo Palak (Potato and Spinach Curry) (serves 4)

Aloo Palak (Potato and Spinach Curry) by The Fat Foodie

I love aloos, potato-based Indian dishes, because they’re so hearty and flavoursome and they make a lovely light alternative to heavy dairy and meat-based curries. I’m particularly a fan of aloo palak, a potato and spinach curry, because the addition of spinach leaves makes the dish very fresh tasting and brings out the natural sweetness of the potatoes.

I know a lot of people who would never dream about making a curry from scratch because they think it’s too hard or that it involves too many ingredients, an attitude I can understand because some curries are pretty labour and ingredient intensive. However, this aloo palak is really easy to make and its ingredients list isn’t that extensive either.

The beauty of making a curry yourself lies in the fact that you can use fresh flavours that really pack a wallop, such as minced ginger root and fresh coriander leaf. Accordingly, you’re rewarded with an aloo palak that tastes much nicer than a curry sauce that comes from a jar. As an added bonus there’s no onion or garlic in this recipe because asafoetida powder is used to impart those flavours instead, so it’s FODMAP friendly.

Although this aloo palak is vegetarian, it’s substantial, requiring little more than some crisp and crunchy poppadums to accompany it, but even though there’s no meat in it it’s rich and stuffed full of a variety of flavours. It’s a vegetarian curry that’s well worth making.

Ingredients:

800g potatoes cut into small cubes (peeled weight)

3 tbsps vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

1 tsp asafoetida powder

1 tsp hot madras powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsps sesame seeds

2 tbsps dessicated coconut

200g fresh washed spinach

Fresh coriander and poppadums for serving

Method:

Parboil the potatoes in generously salted boiling water until just soft and then drain.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and add all of your spices and cook for a minute.

Add the potatoes and desiccated coconut and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the spinach.

Cook until the spinach has wilted down and add a little water if you’d prefer the curry to be a bit saucier. Taste for seasoning (it might require a generous seasoning of salt at this point).

Serve with freshly chopped coriander and crisp poppadums. (It’s also lovely with fresh chopped chilli and a cucumber and mint raita.)

Aloo Palak (Potato and Spinach Curry) by The Fat Foodie

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