Sausages and Mash (serves 4)

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 gluten-free 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 free-falling 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 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 the green tips of spring onions instead of a normal white onion also added a sharp sweetness to the mash which complemented the green tips of 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 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 grandmothers will be looking down and heartily approving of my offering of a sensible plate of sausages and mash with rich gravy.

Ingredients:

8 gluten-free sausages (or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, you could even make your own with a homemade sausage maker!)

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

50g green leek tips (thinly sliced) – only the green tips of a leek are low FODMAP

30g of green spring onion tips (thinly sliced) – only the green tips of a spring onion are low FODMAP

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

60g butter (or non-dairy version)

A splash of rice milk

Gluten-free gravy granules

40g celery (finely sliced)

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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 greens and spring onion tips in another pan along with the tbsp. of oil and gently cook until soft.

Place your sausages in a baking tray, add the celery and a little water and cook the sausages in the oven until done.

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 rice 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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Make a jug of thick gravy and add the celery that cooked alongside the sausages (and the sausage juices too, if you’re feeling naughty!)

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

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Vegan Moroccan Tagine (serves 8)

Vegan Moroccan Tagine by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Moroccan Tagine by The Fat Foodie

One of my favourite meals is a Moroccan tagine, so the other day when I was searching for inspiration in the fridge and I realised that I had quite a few vegetables that needed used up I decided to make a vegan Moroccan tagine recipe. Whenever I’ve made tagines in the past I’ve always used lamb in them and cooked them in the slow cooker for hours, so it felt a bit odd to make this vegan Moroccan tagine within an hour. However, it turned out to be really tasty, with a wide variety of spiced vegetables incorporated within it, and it was pretty substantial thanks to the inclusion of chickpeas.

It’s easy for non-vegans to discount vegan food as being bland or boring because they think that the omission of meat from a dish equates with a lack of flavour, but I think the opposite can often be said of vegan food. A dish without meat can frequently surprise you because it allows the unique and delicate flavours of the vegetables, pulses and spices to sing due to the fact that they are not being overpowered by the strong taste of meat.

If you enjoy Moroccan flavours and fancy a light, but hearty vegan tagine then this is the recipe for you. One of the benefits of this meal is that the choice of vegetables can be altered to suit whatever you have in the fridge and whatever suits your FODMAP needs. You can tweak the recipe to suit your own tastes too, so add less cinnamon if you’re not a fan of it or feel free to go to town with the fresh chilli if you’ve got a mouth made of asbestos. It’s all about cooking something that works for you.

I was concerned in case it would be very spicy so I served my family’s tagines with a dollop of crème fraiche resting on top, but you could use coconut yoghurt if you can’t tolerate dairy and want to keep it a completely vegan Moroccan tagine. I also served mine with a generous scattering of toasted flaked almonds, a component I would wholly recommend you use because it adds a lovely nutty crunch to each spoonful you munch. You can serve it with rice, cous cous, flatbreads or on its own, but either way, it’s just a really easy, big ol’ comforting bowl of spicy, tasty veg that’s just the ticket on a cool, drizzly autumn evening.

Ingredients:
200g red bell pepper (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 carrots (cut into bite-sized pieces)
150ml water
4 tbsps. soy sauce (or tamari – a gluten-free soy sauce)
1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsps. ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. fresh ginger (minced)
½ a fresh red chilli (deseeded and thinly sliced, but optional)
The juice of ½ a lime
300g of tinned chickpeas (drained & well rinsed)
700g of tinned chopped tomatoes

To serve (optional):
20g flaked toasted almonds
Freshly chopped coriander
Chopped fresh chilli
Lactose-free crème fraiche or coconut yoghurt
Rice, cous cous or flatbreads.

Method:

This is a really easy one that doesn’t really require much work apart from the veg prep.

Prepare all of your ingredients as directed.

Put a large pan over a medium heat.

Put the soy sauce and water in the pot and then add all of your vegetables.

Cook for 10 mins and then add all of your spices and the lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and cook for another 10 mins.

Add the chickpeas and chopped tomatoes and stir well.

Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for another 15-20 mins.

Put your flaked almonds in a dry frying pan and toast them, stirring frequently so that they don’t burn. Once they’re golden brown remove them from the frying pan.

Garnish each bowl of tagine with chopped fresh coriander and flaked almonds and add any other accompaniments as desired.

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Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche (serves 4-6)

Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche by The Fat Foodie

Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche by The Fat Foodie

My friend and I had made a date to have lunch the other day, but for a number of reasons I couldn’t make it into town so she kindly came to my house instead. In return I promised I’d make us a tasty Mediterranean vegetable quiche for lunch and as she’s a vegetarian I figured I’d make use of some of the baby summer vegetables that were ready to be picked from my garden.

This year I’ve tried growing tomatoes (utter failure), courgettes (pretty successful, but very small), cucumbers (I managed to harvest a small one, but it was really nice), and aubergines (a simple ‘nope’ would cover the aubergine fiasco). Although the courgette plant was my favourite because it was the plant which yielded the most produce, my favourite part of the courgette plant was the flowers it produced. The spreading plant exploded with big, blousy blossoms that made me wish I owned a deep fat fryer so I could make crisp cheese-stuffed courgette flowers, but instead I had to settle for adding them to salads. I know you can bake stuffed courgette flowers in the oven, but sadly it doesn’t produce the same effect as that of a brief dunking in a bath of hot oil.

Courgette Flowers

Courgette Flowers

I had three small, sweet courgettes at hand that I’d picked that morning and I thought they’d work well in a vegetable quiche. This Mediterranean vegetable quiche uses the Hairy Bikers’ parmesan and spelt crust that I’ve used before and it works very well with the courgettes and yellow peppers, adding a cheesy nuttiness to the creamy egg filling. The beauty of this recipe is that you can add whatever vegetables take your fancy, but broccoli florets, oyster mushrooms, sliced red peppers or fresh tomatoes are suggestions which would work beautifully.

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

180g gluten-free flour (plus extra for dusting) (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.)

100g cold non-dairy butter

2 tsp chopped fresh lemon thyme

50g Parmesan (finely grated) or non-dairy version

1 egg yolk

1 tsp ice-cold water

For the quiche filling:

3 medium eggs & the egg white left over from making the pastry

30g of sundried tomatoes (finely chopped)

1 tsp of mild American mustard

30g green spring onion tips (chopped)

1 tbsp chives (finely chopped)

40g parmesan, Grana Padano (finely grated) or non-dairy version

3 baby courgettes or 1 small normal one (cut into thin discs) – no more than 240g of prepared courgette in total

200g red bell peppers (diced)

8 pitted green olives (sliced)

100g cheddar cheese (grated) or non-dairy version

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method:

To make the pastry:

Put all of the pastry ingredients into a large bowl and then rub the butter in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk and cold water and mix until it forms a ball. (If you feel it’s too dry, add a little bit more water until it comes together).

Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and put it into the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4.

Line a quiche tin with greaseproof paper.

Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll out the pastry until it’s the right size for the quiche tin.

Place the pastry into the tin, leaving the sides to slightly overhang the edges of the quiche tin.

Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork a few times (this releases any air that might get trapped underneath).

If you have them, fill the tin with baking beans, if not don’t worry about it.

Bake in the oven for about 15-20 mins, or until it’s golden brown. (Baking the pie crust first will ensure your quiche won’t have a soggy bottom.)

To make the quiche filling:

Put aside 50g of the grated cheddar and a small quantity of sliced courgettes and red pepper for decorating the quiche.

Mix all of the remaining ingredients together.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top before decorating with the slices of courgette and red pepper.

Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the egg mixture no longer wobbles when shaken.

Trim off any excess pastry from the side of the quiche and serve with a nice fresh green salad.

Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche by The Fat Foodie

Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche by The Fat Foodie

A fresh, crisp garden salad by The Fat Foodie

A fresh, crisp garden salad by The Fat Foodie

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Steak Fajitas with a Side Helping of Science and Guacamole (serves 4)

Steak Fajitas by The Fat Foodie

Steak Fajitas by The Fat Foodie

Some time ago a friend of mine asked me if I’d consider doing a blog post on fajitas, but every time I made chicken fajitas I never felt as though they were interesting enough to feature on my website. However, I came to realise that this was down to two reasons. One, I’m utterly bored to death with eating chicken in fajitas when there are much more interesting options out there instead. And two, I needed to know more about how Mexicans created authentic fajitas (i.e. what meat did they tend to use? How did they marinate it? And what herbs and spices did they use?). This realisation led me into an investigative journey into the chemistry that creates a fantastic fajita.

WARNING! SCIENCE AHEAD! READ ON AT YOUR PERIL!

(But it’s quite interesting so I’d keep reading if I were you…)

The perfect fajita is made up of a number of components which come together to produce a wonderful medley of Mexican flavours: a warmed soft tortilla; juicy, slightly seared around the edges meat which is encrusted in paprika, cumin and chilli; and soft, buttery guacamole that’s sharp, but aromatic, with freshly squeezed lime juice. Bliss.

Although, there’s more to it than just serving the right combination of ingredients for people to cram into a tortilla, the meat’s got to be treated right in the first place in order for it to give its all to the diner’s palate. That’s where the chemistry comes in. Upon investigation, I’ve discovered that the best meat to serve when making fajitas is beef. To be precise, good quality lean skirt steak (also known as flank).

The unique structural fibres of steak enable it to absorb the oils, acids and salts of a marinade much better than chicken or pork ever could and allow it to retain the flavours of the herbs and spices we choose to add, but it’s the important chemical effect of the marinade that leads to the production of a beautifully soft and juicy piece of cooked beef.

The best steak fajita marinade will always contain three elements: oil; acid; and salt. The oil works on three levels: it emulsifies the marinade and allows it to coat the beef efficiently; it dissolves the oil-soluble flavour compounds within the spices, enabling them to be absorbed into the meat; and it also provides a protective layer around the meat when you cook it over a high heat, hopefully helping it to retain its natural moisture. The acid, in the form of fresh lime juice, tenderises the meat and breaks down the connective tissue, leading to a softer and easier to chew mouthful of beef. And lastly, the marinade’s salt content dissolves myosin (a muscle protein) which gives the beef a slacker texture and helps retain its moisture. Also, by using soy sauce instead of plain old salt it introduces glutamate and protease (found naturally in soy sauce) into the marinade which add umami flavours and tenderise the meat further.

I did warn you there’d be science.

In an ideal world I’d marinade the steak fajita strips overnight to really let the flavours be absorbed by the meat, but if you take the notion to make these I think you can get away with an hour’s marinating (that’s what I did, to be honest). And in terms of cooking the meat, cook it fast over a really high heat and try to cook the steak medium to enable the natural juices of the steak to remain.

Serve the steak fajitas with a plethora of delicious accompaniments so that the people at your dining table can build the perfect fajita to suit themselves. Sombreros and stick-on handlebar moustaches are entirely optional though.

Ingredients for the marinade:

500g of skirt steak (cut into strips)

1 heaped tsp paprika

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp celery salt

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground chilli

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsps. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

The juice of 1 lime

Additional ingredients:

100g red bell pepper (cut into thin slices)

100g green bell pepper (cut into thin slices)

8 corn tortillas (or gluten-free tortillas)

To make a basic guacamole:

80g avocado

The juice of ½ a lime

8 cherry tomatoes (quartered)

¼ tsp fine salt

Method:

Put the steak strips in a large bowl and add all the ingredients into the bowl with it (apart from your guacamole ingredients, obviously). Stir it all thoroughly and leave to marinade.

When you’re happy that your meat’s marinated enough put a griddle pan or a large frying pan over a high heat.

Drain and discard the liquid from the steak marinade before putting the steak and the slices of pepper into the hot pan.

Cook the steak to your preferred liking. Once cooked, put the steak in a serving bowl and cover with foil and let it rest for 5 mins while you make the guacamole.

To make the guacamole:

Half your avocados and remove the stone. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it in a bowl before adding the rest of the guacamole ingredients. Mix them all together and place in a serving bowl.

Serve your steak fajitas with warm, soft tortilla wraps, the guacamole, chopped fresh coriander, salsa, crème fraiche or sour cream (or a non-dairy version), re-fried beans, grated cheese (or a non-dairy version), and slices of fresh chilli.

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