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You may have noticed I’ve been away for a while. My return here is but momentary. You see it turns out when you have a job you’re interested in, and one that requires your full attention and more, your time for cooking, let alone photographing food and writing recipes shrinks. Rather considerably. Don’t get me wrong, I love working out which glasses Corton-Charlemagne should be served in as much as the next person (Chardonnay glasses because it’s white, unlike Corton, which is always red) but it means that other pursuits get squeezed and thus, unable to devote as much attention to this little space as I would like, I am taking a break. Not a permanent one I hope; just until the New Year for now, to allow me time to settle into my new job, devote myself fully to all the additional training and learning required and generally recentre. This is not to say that my cooking adventures will cease. Far from it; with an exciting career move into an area that occupies much of my waking thoughts (namely food and wine) I am surrounded by new sources of inspiration at work, not least a ridiculously skilled kitchen team who work wonders on humble ingredients. I aim to continue stretching myself in the kitchen and hope to return in the new Olympic year with plenty of new recipes, photos and, I suspect, kitchen disaster stories to tell. For now, I leave you with a beautiful seasonal bridging recipe, one that combines the end of the (Indian) summer’s fruits and herbs, with autumn’s bubbling and baked goods into one amazing dish that tastes of mini Cheddars. And if that doesn’t sell it to you, frankly, you’re just weird.

Tomato Cobbler
Adapted lightly from Lottie and Doof

1 large white onion, sliced into strips
500g cherry or other tomatoes, halved or chopped into chunks
2 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons basil leaves, roughly torn
1 teaspoon crushed red chillies
2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 cup gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated parmesan
150ml single cream
More cheese for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. In a small baking dish put the sliced onion, tomatoes, garlic and basil. Sprinkle with the crushed chillies, some salt and black pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil.

2. To make the topping, stir the gluten-free flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt together in a bowl. Chop the butter into small chunks and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheddar and parmesan, and most of the cream, then bring together with a fork. Add the rest of the cream, or enough to make a sticky, but not runny, mixture.

3. Spoon this mixture on top of the tomatoes and onions in big dollops, leaving a small space in the centre of the cobble for steam to escape. Flatten any obvious peaks in the topping, so they don’t burn, then sprinkle more parmesan on top. Then transfer the dish to the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes, or until browned on top, and tomato juice can be seen bubbling at the sides.

4. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes, and serve with a green salad and reminiscences of summer.

Serves 2.


Written by guffblog

23rd October 2011 at 15:27

Posted in Main courses

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This is a very simple take on what is actually, boringly, one of my favourite soups; tomato. There’s something in particular about Heinz’s cream of tomato soup that brings back fond childhood memories; the gloopy orange liquid, slightly spicy taste, and the way I always ate it far too hot and ended up burning my mouth. I’m a big fan of real food but sometimes you just have to love the processed crap as well. Anyway, this recipe takes simple tomato soup and imbues it with a whole load of different flavours. The roasting process both sweetens the vegetables (ok, fruits) and adds a certain smokiness, since I left them in the oven for a little longer than intended; they didn’t burn as such but the onions turned a nice golden colour and the skin on the peppers blistered and bubbled.

This is a really easy soup to throw together in advance; I roasted the veggies in the oven while baking a pie, to make the most of the oven being on, and then simply blended all the ingredients in a large bowl and threw them in a tub to keep in the fridge, in anticipation of a stupidly busy week with no time for food preparation. To serve simply tip the soup into a saucepan, add a little more water to thin it out if you like, heat up and serve with a splash of cream and crusty bread.

Roasted tomato soup
From Steamy Kitchen

I just used water for this soup since I was in a rush and didn’t have stock right there under my hand, and the flavours of the ingredients were more than enough to carry it. But if you want a bit more flavour, or general savouriness, then use a vegetable or chicken stock.

6 salad tomatoes, sliced into 4 or 5 slices
1 red pepper, halved and deseeded
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into 4 or 5 slices
4-5 small red chilli peppers (mine weren’t a very hot variety)
2 tablespoons light olive oil (not the good stuff, since you’re cooking it)
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 cup of water or stock

1. Lay the sliced tomatoes, halved pepper (cut side down), sliced onion and chillies on a baking sheet. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast in a 160 C oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the onions are turning lightly brown and the skin on the pepper is blistering and turning black at the edges.

2. Remove from the oven and tip into a large bowl (or saucepan, if serving immediately) along with the spices, cheese, stock or water and plenty of salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender, blend until you have an almost smooth puree (I like a little bit of a chunky texture for most of my soups). Taste, add more salt if necessary, then either box up for future use or bring to a simmer and serve.

Serves 2. I only kept mine in the fridge for 24 hours but I imagine it would last a couple of days. If you want to keep it longer then freeze in one-serving portions for easy eating in future.

Written by guffblog

2nd March 2011 at 19:53

Posted in Soup

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This may not look like traditional French onion soup, but it is. Sort of. It’s lighter than it *should* be because I used chicken, not beef stock, and cider, not sherry, but the taste, oh the taste. The key to this recipe is time. The longer you cook the onions for, the slower you melt them down, the sweeter they are. This is not to be hurried, no quick cook down and oops they burned a bit there, and stuck there. This is an infinitesimally slow melting, sagging, slooping of onions into a translucent, then yellowy, then goldeny, soft, stringy mess. Over the course of four hours or so. So long as you’re near the kitchen you can potter about and do other things, very occasionally stirring them. Or, and this is my preferred option, curl up on the sofa under a large fleece with a trashy novel great Russian classic and wrap yourself in the sweet smell of slowly caramelising onions.

French onion soup with cheese toasties
Adapted slightly from Pithy and Cleaver

I used a frozen cube of concentrated homemade stock for this soup. If you don’t have homemade stock use fresh shop-bought stock. The richer and more jelly-like the stock, the silkier and richer the end soup will be, which is fairly crucial when the only other ingredient in the soup is essentially onion.

2 1/2 lbs white onions, preferably large or you’ll spend forever peeling the blighters
1 tablespoon butter
Tiny pinch of salt
150ml cider
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 200ml water
Pinch of nutmeg

1. In a large casserole or your biggest saucepan melt the butter over a very low heat. Slice the onions into very thin strips and put in the pan with a tiny pinch of salt. Stir very occasionally but mainly just leave over a low heat for 3-4 hours until they have melted down into a golden yellowy brown mess.

2. Once the onions are soft, golden and about a fifth of the starting volume deglaze any brown bits on the pan with the cider. Turn up the heat to a boil, and boil off most of the alcohol over a minute or two. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the stock and the nutmeg. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced by about half, then salt to taste.

3. Serve with a slice of fresh bread, covered in cheddar (yes, I know it should be Gruyère but I made do with what I had to hand) and browned under a hot grill.

Serves 2.

Written by guffblog

13th January 2011 at 21:43

Posted in Soup

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There seems to be some kind of battle raging between autumn and winter currently. Winter dawns with crisp, frosty mornings, a light fog settled over the country and steam rising from every surface, confident of its victory over autumn. Next day autumn returns with a vengeance, gales and storms, wind and rain battering the country proving it’s not over yet, before snow falls in the Highlands, as if to make a point. While they sort out their differences outside (personally, my money’s on winter to win this fight) I could do with some kind of pick me up in the food department.

Apt though the flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and clove are at this time of year, “warming” cakes and hearty soups do tend to get old after a while, so I thought I’d intersperse¬†them with something a little different, a little fresher, a bit more summery. This tastes almost Mediterranean, with the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, yet the ginger adds an essential, yes, warmth, which makes it totally fitting for an autumn/winter’s evening. I ignored the suggestion to serve it with bread and instead spooned it over creamy mashed potato so the juices soaked into the potato; it was a good combination. Warming, filling but with a scent of summer days lurking underneath.

Roasted chicken thighs with ginger and basil
Adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, via The Kitchn

1 medium white onion
2 cloves of garlic
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon Thai basil, finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt and pepper
4 chicken thighs, boned and chopped in half

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.

2. Chop the onion and place in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish. Add the minced garlic, ginger, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, white wine and salt and pepper. Mix everything together well.

3. Place the chopped chicken thighs in the middle of the vegetable mixture, nestling them amongst the veggies and spooning some of the liquid over the top of them. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Makes 2 large, or 3 small portions, when served with mash or big chunks of bread.

Written by guffblog

17th November 2010 at 19:57

Posted in Main courses

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