Gluten and tomato free lasagne

My big guys are gone and they thoroughly enjoyed their last decent meal for a week. They tell me that the week ahead at their father’s will be full of boring food and not enough of it. The last Thursday of every term, I try to cook something a little special. Once upon a time, we’d go out for dinner but with such limited options these days, my middle guy prefers to eat at home. So gluten and tomato free lasagne it was.

I’ll tell you, it was a bit of a challenge for my brain. My lasagne normally consists of lots of sliced,  roasted veggies, tomato passata and cheese. Well not this time. With so few veggies to work with, I had to add meat and with no tomato passata to work with, I had to find an alternative. This is where my rhubarb ketchup/rhubarto sauce came into play but you could use any tomato sauce replacement you have or like. I found this one to be particularly good as it isn’t sweet and has a similar tang to tomato.

I “slaved” all afternoon in the kitchen but you could certainly use left over veggies from the day before or roast fresh ones up at an earlier stage and set aside until required. Cooking all afternoon was a great excuse to get out of doing housework!

Meat sauce

500g of mince

2 large shallots, diced

1 stalk of celery finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3/4 cup of rhubarb ketchup

1 cup of chicken stock

1/2 tsp of saffron soaked in a tbsp of hot water

salt to taste

Over low-medium heat, sweat the shallots, celery and garlic until just tender. Add the mince and brown lightly. Toss in the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Roasted veggies

3 chokoes

3 medium swedes

1 large sweet potato

oil

salt

garlic powder

Slice all veggies to about 1/2 centimetre thick then coat in oil, salt and garlic powder. (I find that tossing them in a bowl with a mix of the oil, salt and garlic works best for me) Lay them onto baking sheets, preferably in a single layer (a bit of overlap is ok) and roast at 200° for 10-15 minutes or until just tender when poked with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Lasagne

1 batch of meat sauce

1 batch of roasted veggies

a good wedge of fresh ricotta (optional) or you could make a bechemel sauce

Gluten free lasagne sheets

In a lasagne dish, place a small amount of meat sauce on the bottom then lay lasagne sheets over. Arrange a layer of roasted veggies on top of the lasagne sheets, spoon over a little meat sauce then top with some crumbled ricotta or bechemel sauce and another layer of lasagne sheets. Continue this process until the dish is full or you run out of ingredients. I like to put only one variety of roasted veggie in each layer but you could mix it up if you like. Now normally I would top my lasagne off with a layer of pasta sheets then a very generous covering of mixed grated cheeses but since my middle son can’t eat matured cheese, I finished it off with a layer of mixed veggies to stop the lasagne sheets from drying out and going crispy. Cover with foil and bake at 180° for about 1 hour or until pasta is tender. Some ovens may take just 45 minutes.

Not the daintiest dish but certainly YUM

Rhubarb ketchup…Rhubarto Sauce…a better replacement for tomato sauce whatever we call it

A couple of weeks back I made a rhubarb and choko chutney. The kids loved it but my other half didn’t, it was too sweet for him. I was lucky enough to score a bunch of fresh homegrown rhubarb recently so decided to have another bash, only this time with no sugar, using just pear as the sweetener. Well I think I have had a triumph in the kitchen!

My motivation for today’s chutney fest was the promise of a lasagne for dinner tonight. My big guys are off to their father’s tomorrow for the first week of school holidays so tonight, as they say, is their last decent meal for a week. I always try to make something a little special the night before they go. I decided to be very organised today and the lasagne is already assembled and ready to cover with foil and pop in the oven at about 5. This way I can spend some time with the kids instead of slaving over a hot stove…..and here I am blogging? That’s ok, they like to sit with me and read as I type. I’ll be posting about the lasagne tomorrow if it is a success but I can tell you now that the meat sauce I made for it was and this new abridged chutney is the perfect tomato replacement.

So what do I call it? Rhubarb ketchup? Rhubarto sauce? Whatever tickles your fancy.

1 bunch of rhubarb (about 10 stalks)

2 pears peeled and diced

2 large shallots finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 large stalk of celery, chopped finely

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of citric acid

1 1/2 cups of water

About 1/2 teaspoon of saffron

1 tbsp of oil

Heat oil in a saucepan over low heat then sweat the shallots, celery and garlic until tender. Throw in the rhubarb and pear and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced and thick (about 1 hour), stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Store in sterilised jars.

This is how much saffron I added.

 

 

Frittata Muffins

Sunday’s school lunch cook up continues. I had grand plans to bake cookies and everything but all I managed was the rice echidnas and these little eggy treats. I do try to have left overs from dinner for the boys to take for lunch, but that isn’t always possible. They get bored with rice cakes and veggie sticks and so the hell would I! I got bored with sandwiches at school and I could have pretty much whatever I wanted on them so I can only imagine what it’s like for my guys.

These little frittatas can be made with almost any veggies you like….grated zucchini, swede, pumpkin, just to name a few, and you could add whatever cheese you like, or leave it out completely. I use ricotta because my middle son only tolerates fresh cheeses and let’s face it, ricotta is YUM! If you wanted to make a family sized frittata, you could simply pour the same mixture into a large pie dish or baking tray and cook until set, which I find usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour. Certainly not a true frittata, as they are started on the stove top, but just as good.

I must also tell you that I bought my very first lot of silicone bake ware yesterday (yes yes, I know, I’m a little behind the times) and knowing nothing about how to use them, I wasted my time greasing each little muffin hole, only to discover (thanks to the little spillage on the top of the tray) that I didn’t have to at all. I used to use regular, supposedly non stick muffin trays but always found that no matter how much I greased them , the frittatas would stick dreadfully. I also tried lining the trays with muffin cases but the kids complained that it was really difficult to get the frittatas out of these too, hence my purchase of silicone ones.

12 eggs lightly beaten

3 medium potatoes (juice squeezed out) or the equivalent amount of any other veggie

2 – 3 tbsp of chopped fresh chives

1 tsp of salt

ricotta (or about a cup of grated cheese)

Pre heat oven to 180° C. Place all ingredients, except the ricotta, into a jug and mix well. If using regular grated cheese, add that to the mix too if you like. Half fill each muffin hole with the mix then crumble in a few smallish pieces of ricotta (or sprinkle in a little grated cheese) then top up with more egg mix. Don’t overfill as they will spill over in the oven, try to leave about a 1cm gap. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until set. I found in the silicone that they came away from the sides once they were cooked through. allow to cool for just a few minutes in the muffin trays before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. I then bag them up into zip lock snack bags and freeze them.

A pile of eggy goodness

Rice echidnas

It’s Sunday afternoon and I needed to make some stuff to freeze for the kids’ lunches.  I wanted something a little different but easy and delicious, so on went my thinking cap and out came the idea of rice balls. I’ve never made anything like them before, nor have I ever seen a recipe for them so I just had to wing it. As I was rolling them into lovely little ball shapes, I realised that lovely little ball shapes was not going to happen and I discovered that using a damp soup spoon and a wet hand worked better to form a spheroid shape, but they certainly didn’t look like balls. So what could I call them then???? Spheroidal rice? Rice spheres? Rice globules? Nah, they all sounded boring or like some form of drug or disease. Once they were cooked they reminded me of little animals for some reason and because they are kind of spiky, rice echidnas seemed to fit….and the kids loved it!

3 cups of uncooked rice

1/2 tsp of saffron

1 tsp of salt

2 cloves of crushed garlic

1 bunch of spring onions finely sliced

1 tbsp of chopped chives

250g of ricotta

1/2 tsp of salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

 

Cook the rice with the saffron, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. I use a rice cooker to make my life that little bit easier. Allow to cool for just a few minutes then stir through the spring onions and chives then the ricotta and salt and mix well. Allow to cool to at least lukewarm then add the beaten egg and stir until well combined. Using a damp soup spoon and a wet hand, press mixture onto the spoon using the wet hand then slide carefully onto a baking tray that is lined with baking paper (saves washing up). Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove to wire rack and allow to cool.

A pile of echidnas cooling on the bench

Close up of the little critters

 

 

A replacement for tomato sauce??

My middle son loves rhubarb and fortunately it is one of the few things he reacts to. I am forever trying to come up with new condiments to use in cooking but had never thought of rhubarb chutney until I was watching “Great British Food Revival” on Foxtel last week. Gregg Wallace did a segment on rhubarb and showed us how to make a spiced rhubarb chutney. I got excited and inspired, although I couldn’t even think of using the spices if my son was going to be eating it.

I got motivated yesterday afternoon and busied myself in the kitchen. I wasn’t at all sure how it would turn out and, like with so many things I experiment with, I worried that it would be a complete flop and no-one in the family would like it. After it had been simmering for about 30 minutes, I decided I’d better taste it…it was good. A real sweet and sour combination that I imagined would go well with a number of things and I could also use it as a marinade 0r perhaps even a replacement for tomato sauce or tinned tomatoes! Still not convinced on that one so I will be giving it a go next week….stay tuned 😉

Rhubarb and choko chutney

10 thick stalks of rhubarb roughly chopped

2 chokoes, diced into approximately 1/2cm cubes (peeled of course)

3-4 medium to large shallots finely diced

1 tbsp of very finely chopped garlic

3 tbsp of brown sugar

2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of citric acid

1/4 tsp of saffron

1 cup of water

Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour and a half, stirring frequently to avoid burning and sticking. While still hot, spoon into sterilized jars. It should keep in the cupboard for a few months. Alternatively, store in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer.

Father’s Day and beetroot and cashew dip

My big guys were with their father for father’s day so lunch at mum and dad’s was a totally non failsafe affair. Nothing had to be Griffin friendly which made my job of choosing a soup to make very difficult indeed. What does one do when faced with such a plethora of choices? Mum was cooking a roast leg of lamb with veggies and my brother and his missus were bringing dessert, which I just knew would be chocolate mud cake, so I wanted to make something a little out of the ordinary. I agonised for days and lost sleep at night trying to decide then finally, one night, with just 2 days to spare, I had an epiphany! I was going to make a Middle Eastern inspired, roasted sweet potato soup, garnished with coriander and perfectly toasted pine nuts. I had no recipe, nor had I ever made it before…this was going to be ground breaking soup!
Father’s day morning, I was up and at it bright and early, cooking by 9.30. Fortunately my other half doesn’t eat breakfast and our little fella is too young to insist on soggy toast for either of us on mum’s or dad’s days so I was free to get creative. As the spice coated sweet potato was roasting away I had the dreadful thought that this soup was possibly going to taste quite awful…had I achieved the correct balance of spices? Was it going to be spicy enough? Was it going to be too spicy and blow everyone’s head off? Were the spices going to taste burnt? I soldiered on anyway, deciding that if it tasted bad I’d just pop up to the supermarket and put together a cheese platter instead. Everything finally made it into the pot and I hadn’t bought enough stock…it was looking so thick, but fortunately I had just made a huge batch of failsafe stock the day before so was able to add some of that but of course, I then worried that others would find that stock wishy washy and flavourless as they would all be used to the commercial variety.

“Mmmm, that smells fantastic!” were the words I heard from the sitting room. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had tasted it earlier but with my screwed up pregnancy taste buds I wasn’t convinced that it tasted any good at all, but I pressed on. Perhaps it was just me, afterall, I have been ridiculously fussy with food of late and have been struck down with the dreadful affliction that wine tastes like poison and coffee like cow manure!

Well, it was a raging success with everyone raving about my soup….pity I didn’t measure out my ingredients or write any of it down because I even enjoyed it immensely and want to make it again 😦

So now to the beets. Mum cooked up a tray of roasted beetroot but only 2 beets were eaten so during the lunch clean up, she went to throw them all out. “STOP! What did you cook them in?” I found myself almost screaming. “Just canola oil”…”Anything else?”…”No, just the oil”….”Fantastic! I’ll take them home and make a dip out of them for the boys”

They sat in my fridge for 2 days…I had forgotten about them. Tuesday (yesterday) I had kept my middle guy home because we needed some quality time together after an arduous day in the family courts on Monday and my big guy was on school camp. Poor Griff was really feeling a little, shall we say exhausted and sad. We decided that since it was such a beautiful spring day, we’d go to the local park (which, mind you, is more like a bit of bushland in the middle of suburbia with walking tracks, a playground, wetlands, wildlife and is just stunning) for a picnic. I remembered the beets and decided some fresh dip with rice crackers would be perfect for our adventure.

Of course I didn’t get a photo as it all disappeared so fast!

1/2 cup of raw cashews

About 6 beets (not baby ones), roasted and skin removed

1 clove of garlic, crushed (I had run out of fresh garlic so used half a teaspoon of garlic powder)

1/2 tsp of citric acid

1 tsp of salt

Few tbsps of canola oil

1 tbsp of water

Place the cashews in a food processor and process until chopped. Add the remaining ingredients with the water and a bit of oil and process until smooth. Add more oil as required to achieve a smooth consistency. If lemon juice is tolerated, ad a squeeze of that instead of the water and citric acid.