Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka

One of the meals that seems to be very popular within the FODMAP community is moussaka. I must admit, I love when Marks and Spencer includes their moussaka as a main meal option when they have their Dine In For £10 deal on, but sadly it’s unsuitable for me now because it contains loads of dairy in the form of its generous topping made of rich, butter and cream-filled béchamel sauce. Oh, and I think it’s got gluten in it too. Sigh.

However, I’m not one to shirk at a challenge so I decided that I would try to create a dairy-free and gluten-free moussaka that would rival the decadent M&S one. I headed off to my lab (aka the kitchen) and started tinkering with a recipe which resulted in a very tasty moussaka that had layers of soft flavoursome vegetables sandwiching a rich tomato beef mince ragù and was topped with a thick, creamy béchamel sauce. I’m quite proud of it actually!

Traditional moussakas are made with layers of aubergines and potato, but I’m not a massive fan of aubergines because quite frankly they bore me. They have hardly any flavour and no real texture to speak of. I’m hard pushed to think of a vegetable that could rival the aubergine to claim the title of most boring vegetable in the world. I know they’re supposed to be great at soaking up flavours in dishes, but my view is, why not just use a tastier alternative in the first place?

As a result of these strongly held opinions I have regarding the aubergine, I have used sliced courgettes and sweet potatoes in the moussaka which I believe enhance the flavours of the herbs and spices in the tomato ragù. Feel free to go with the traditional if you like, but I’d urge you to try this version instead. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And although this is a dairy-free and gluten-free moussaka, if you don’t have any dietary restrictions you could just make it with normal butter and flour. It’ll taste just as good regardless.

Ingredients for the tomato mince:

2 courgettes (sliced thinly lengthwise)

1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

400g beef mince

1 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsps dried mint

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp gluten-free plain flour

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsps tomato puree

2 tbsps olive oil

2 sweet potatoes (thinly sliced)

For the béchamel sauce:

50g dairy-free butter

50g gluten-free plain flour

400ml rice milk

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

3 tbsps of Engevita (or 25g parmesan if you’re not dairy-free)

1 egg

Method:

Thinly slice your courgettes and place them on a microwaveable plate. Cook in the microwave until soft. Do the same with the sweet potatoes.

Place a saucepan on a medium heat, add the olive oil to the pan and cook the mince.

Once the mince is cooked add the salt and pepper, cinnamon, oregano, mint, flour, tomato puree and the tin of chopped tomatoes. Cook until hot.

To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan before whisking in the flour, Engevita and nutmeg.

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 béchamel sauce is thick, take it off the heat and add parmesan if you’re using it. Leave to one side to cool a little while you build your moussaka.

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

Take a large casserole dish and spread a third of the mince over the bottom of the dish.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka Base Layer

Place your courgettes on top of the mince in an even layer and top with another third of the mince.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka Second Layer

Top the mince with the slices of sweet potato.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka Third Layer

Add the last of the mince on top.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka Fourth Layer

Whisk the egg thoroughly into the white sauce mixture. Pour the béchamel sauce over the mince and bake in the oven for 45 mins.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka Béchamel Sauce Topping

Freshly Baked Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka

Serve either on its own or with a fresh salad.

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka

Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Moussaka

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Potato Wedges

Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

Fact: There’s nothing better than a homemade chip.

Second fact: Fried chips have been sold in Britain since 1854, but they’ve actually been eaten in British homes for centuries.

Third fact: Homemade chips taste way better than a frozen ready-prepared chip ever could.

Fourth fact: Homemade potato wedges are unbelievably easy to make. So, let me show you how…

I made my family lentil ragù the other night, but because I’m following the FODMAP diet (to help manage my IBS better) it wasn’t suitable for me to eat. I was then faced with the decision about what I was going to make for my own dinner. I had a bag of potatoes in the fridge (which are fine to eat for FODMAP followers) so I figured that a plate of potato wedges would go down nicely while also serving as a nice side to go with the lentil ragù the family were having.

Potatoes are packed full of vitamins and minerals. In terms of vitamins, you’re talking about getting a healthy portion of vitamin C, E and K, B6, and folate. Their minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. That’s better for you than a plateful of starchy wheat-based pasta any day, isn’t it really?

I had two varieties of potato in the fridge, not for a particularly exciting reason, it was just that they were left over from two separate bags of potatoes. My point is that the blend of two varieties lent a nice variation in texture and flavour to the potato wedges because some of them were really sweet and firm whereas others were dry and floury. For such a plain plate of food, it truly was a celebration of the humble potato.

I cut my potato wedges by hand with paring knife, but you can buy really clever potato chip makers produced by companies like Lakeland which make it really easy to make perfect chips. Equally, you could use a tool such as an Easy Grip Potato Slicer which is much cheaper and would give you uniformly cut potato wedges. I’m happy with oddly shaped, non-uniform potato wedges personally though, so I’ll just stick to using a plain old knife.

You don’t need me to tell you what to serve potato wedges with, but I had mine with a tin of mackerel in spicy tomato sauce and it was a delicious meal. The potato wedges had far more flavour to them than any frozen chips I’ve ever had (even the expensive upmarket ones). If you fancy more exciting potato wedges you could add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to your seasoning before you pop them in the oven which will give them a smokey, BBQ sort of flavour. Whether you pep up their seasoning or not, these potato wedges were sweet and crunchy around the edges, but soft and fluffy in the middle, just like any good potato wedges should be.

Ingredients:

Enough potatoes for the number of people you’re going to be feeding (I normally go with around 2 medium sized potatoes each)

Sunflower oil

Salt and pepper

Method:

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

Peel your potatoes and cut them through the middle into halves and then into wedges. I normally get around 8 wedges from a medium sized potato.

Place on a non-stick baking tray and coat them lightly with sunflower oil. (Only use enough so that they’re just lightly coated because you don’t want them swimming in oil.)

Season generously with salt and pepper and place in the oven.

Raw Potato Wedges About to be Baked by The Fat Foodie

Raw Potato Wedges About to be Baked by The Fat Foodie

Once your wedges are golden brown and soft when pierced with a fork, remove from the oven and serve.

Freshly Cooked Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

Freshly Cooked Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

Potato Wedges by The Fat Foodie

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A Hearty Corned Beef Soup

 Corned Beef Soup

Corned Beef Soup by The Fat Foodie’s Mum

The weather’s been overcast and freezing for days now, requiring us to put the heating on to combat the thick layer of thorn-like crisp frost that’s coating the world outside. It seems weird to feel so chilly when it’s only late November, but the other day I decided something warming would have to be on the cards for lunch after nipping out to bring in my frozen washing (which I had to break as if it was made of strong cardboard in order to fit it back in the washing basket).

I had a rummage around in the fridge and cupboards, but no inspiration struck. However, a glance in the freezer unearthed a carton of Mum’s family-famous corned beef soup, a hearty meal-in-a-bowl that’s guaranteed to warm a person up from the inside out. As Mum would say, her corned beef soup is a soup that really ‘sticks to your ribs’.

I remember having this soup one evening in late autumn when I was a young teenager. We lived in Dumfries and Galloway (the part of Scotland with the highest rainfall level on a yearly basis) and on this particular day my Dad had swung by in the car after he’d finished work to pick me and my brother up from school on his way home because the rain was so heavy that it was falling to the pavement and then bouncing back up to knee level. After relishing the warmth of the car we arrived home and, after changing out of our sodden school uniform and getting into our nightwear and dressing gowns, we joined Mum and Dad in the kitchen for dinner. The relief and excitement I felt when I realised that we were having Mum’s amazing hot corned beef soup for dinner was overwhelming and I remember feeling sorry for some of my friends whose fathers demanded a full, roasted meat-centric dinner every evening and being wholeheartedly grateful that I was blessed with a family that could come together over a simple cooking pot full of soup.

Corned beef soup is really easy to make and it’s packed full of flavour. You can adapt the vegetables to suit whatever you have on-hand to use up in the fridge. For instance, if you have them to use up, turnip, leeks and parsnips work well in this recipe. It’s perfect served with a generous slice (or two) of nice, fresh, yeasty bread slathered in plenty of good salted butter.

As a rule, I don’t really like brown sauce, but in this case I can highly recommend adding a little dollop of HP Sauce to your bowl, as evidenced in the photo, because it adds a lovely deep, fruity, vinegary note to the soup. Regardless of whether you add the HP sauce to your bowl or not, as my Mum would say, after a bowl of this soup ‘your cockles will soon be warmed up’.

Ingredients:

2 tins of good quality corned beef

3 large carrots

3 potatoes

2 or 3 Oxo cubes (to taste)

1.5 litres of hot water

Method:

Chop up your vegetables into bite-sized pieces (or grate them) and put them in a large soup pot.

Add enough hot water so it just covers the vegetables and bring to the boil.

Chop up your corned beef and add it to the pot.

Simmer gently until your veg is cooked and then add the stock cubes one at a time, tasting after stirring each one in to make sure you don’t over-season the soup. (You might not need all 3 stock cubes, depending on your personal taste.)

After simmering it for a wee while longer serve it with good bread and butter.





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Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes

Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes by The Fat Foodie

Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes by The Fat Foodie

In the past few months I’ve discovered a great food blog called Cooking Without Limits which focuses on lovely recipes and gorgeous food photography. She recently put up a blog post on half Hasselback potatoes which inspired me to have a bash at creating my own variation, garlic and parmesan Hasselback potatoes.

Hasselback potatoes are a Swedish baked potato dish which looks really stunning and tastes fantastic, incorporating thinly sliced, crisp, buttery fanned out wedges of potato with whatever you choose to season them with. Although they are delicious with a simple addition of salt, if you add rosemary, minced garlic and parmesan cheese it truly lifts them up to the level of sublime.

Although they look tricky to make, they’re actually surprisingly easy to prepare and you could make garlic and parmesan hasselback potatoes with sweet potatoes if you had a mind to. I made them to accompany a dinner of chicken en croute, but you could serve them with any meal that you would normally serve roast potatoes with. Actually, if you added crispy shards of smoked bacon, chilli flakes and sour cream you’d have the makings of a very satisfying main meal in itself.

I made my hasselback potatoes with a minced garlic rub, a sprinkling of rosemary and a generous topping of parmesan shavings and they were divine, producing forkfuls of butter-toasted soft potato with a well-seasoned garlicky, cheesy crust. Although I made mine with little new potatoes you could easily make them with large baking potatoes too. It’d probably make one of the fanciest, but tastiest baked potatoes you’ve ever eaten!

I’d strongly encourage you to try making these garlic and parmesan hasselback potatoes because once you’ve mastered them they’re a great addition to your repertoire and instantly make any meal look enticing and more polished overall. Imagine your family’s faces when you produce a batch of these golden brown wee tatties to go with their roast chicken on Sunday!

Ingredients:

New potatoes

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary (dried or fresh, but you might need a bit more if using fresh)

2 minced garlic cloves

3 tbsps. melted butter

75g finely grated parmesan

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Wash (but don’t peel) all of your potatoes and skewer them horizontally through their middles with a kebab skewer. (You can put more than one potato on each skewer.)

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How To Skewer Your Potatoes

Lay the skewered potatoes on a chopping board and cut through each of them until your knife meets the skewer. Once you’ve done them all, flip the skewer over and repeat on the other side of the potatoes.

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How To Cut The Potatoes

Put the potatoes on a large baking tray. Massage the minced garlic into the cuts on the potatoes and then brush the potatoes generously all over with melted butter, reserving some of the butter to use halfway through their cooking process. But don’t worry if you use up all of the butter before baking them because you can always use more butter, right?

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Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes Ready For The Oven

Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle on the rosemary and then put them in the oven for about 25 mins.

After this initial 25 minutes of cooking the potato slices will have started to fan out, so take the potatoes out of the oven and give them another brushing with melted butter. Put them back in the oven for another 20-30 mins.

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Baked Garlic and Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes by The Fat Foodie

Once the potatoes are cooked and have soft interiors and golden brown skins, take them out, sprinkle the parmesan cheese over them and put them back in the oven for a few minutes to let the cheese melt and go crispy.

Carefully remove the skewers (they’re roasting hot!) and serve.

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Dinner by The Fat Foodie!

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Sausages and Mash

Sausages and Mash by The Fat Foodie

Sausages and Mash by The Fat Foodie

For all that I enjoy cooking new and interesting meals, sometimes it’s the simple old favourites that really hit the spot. One meal that undoubtedly falls into this category is sausages and mash.

A while ago I bought a pack of really good quality butchers sausages from Marks and Spencer, but I froze them because the weather was too nice at the time for a hearty dinner such as sausages and mash. However, the leaves on the trees are not only starting to turn colour on the branches, they’re voluntarily freefalling to the ground to be crunched underfoot as we move throughout our day. This, to me, means it’s time to start revisiting classic recipes which have seen our elders through the cold, but cosy, evenings of autumn.

My initial plan for the sausages had been to slice them and put them through a pasta dish, but when I remembered that I still had some of my home-grown potatoes to use up I decided to make sausages and mash. As much as I adore good, lightly whipped mashed potato with a generous quantity of real butter lovingly folded through it, sometimes it needs to be made a little bit more exciting so when I realised I had a leek in the fridge I figured it’d go very nicely with the mash. And the use of spring onions instead of a normal white onion also added a sharp sweetness to the mash which complemented the leeks.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the old meals our elder family members cooked for us in the past, but I think they’re just as important to our approach to food as trying new recipes from countries far away from our own. These ‘classics’ help us to retain our link with our past, both in terms of our human forebears and the landscape we lived within, and I’d even go so far as to say that I think they can contribute towards our sense of self. I, for one, know that my grandmother will be looking down and heartily approving of my offering of a sensible plate of sausages and mash with onion gravy.

Ingredients:

1 pack of sausages (or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, you could even make your own with a homemade sausage maker!)

1 onion (cut into large slices)

1 bag of new potatoes (cut into equal sized pieces)

1 leek (thinly sliced)

4 spring onions (thinly sliced)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

Butter

A splash of milk

Gravy granules

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Method:

Preheat the oven for your sausages.

Put your potatoes in a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil.

While the potatoes are boiling put the leek and spring onions in another pan along with the tbsp. of oil and gently cook until soft.

Place your sliced onion in a baking tray, add a little water and put your sausages on top. Cook the sausages in the oven until done.

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When your potatoes are soft drain them. Mash the potatoes and then add the leek and spring onion mix along with a generous amount of butter and a splash of milk to it. Mash it all together and then taste it, adding salt and pepper and any more butter if you’d like.

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Scoop the cooked onion out of the baking tray that holds the sausages, put the onions in a jug and then add your gravy granules to make an onion gravy.

Serve a nice big dollop of creamy mash on each plate with a couple of sausages and a generous drizzle of rich onion gravy. I’d recommend a little spoonful of sharp wholegrain mustard on the side too.

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