Easy Peasy Shepherd’s Pie

Now that we’re in the throes of January blues I need more than just my weekly roast to see me through! I’m currently working my way through a list of childhood homemade favourites to cook for my boyfriend (I’m a typical girlfriend who loves to spoil him with food!) and a couple of weeks ago it was the turn of Shepherd’s Pie.

There’s lots of different variations to this recipe and although it’s traditionally made with lamb mince, I grew up with it being made with beef mince, which is what I used here. It’s probably similar to many that you’ve seen before, but it’s one my Nan has passed on to me so clearly it’s a popular variation! I’ve also used this as a chance to try the new Knorr stock pots, which boast that they add a rich and intense flavour to any dish. As most of these are gluten free, and their stock cubes are the only ones I use for the same reason, I was excited to see how they worked in this dish!

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Ingredients

1 tbsp oil, for the pan (I avidly use Lucy Bee Coconut Oil for all cooking!)

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

3tbsp tomato purée

1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes

500g beef mince

290ml beef stock (I used Knorr Beef Stock Pots)

1tsp dried Rosemary and Thyme

Season with salt & pepper as desired

850g potatoes, peeled and chopped

100g butter

75ml milk

25g grated cheese

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and carrots and cook until they soften and brown.

2. Add the mince and cook until brown.

3. Add the tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, rosemary & thyme and stir in well. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring in well before adding the rest.

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4. Cover and simmer for around 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened. Add seasoning as desired.

5. Whilst the meat is simmering, make up the mashed potato topping. Boil the potatoes in a pan until they are soft and breaking up. Drain, return to the pan and mash until smooth.

6. Add the milk and butter a little at a time and mash/mix thoroughly into the mixture. To get a smooth mix, I first mash them into the potato and then give it a good stir, repeating until all the milk and butter has been added.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC. Once cooked, turn the meat mixture out into a large dish and spread evenly. Top with the mashed potato, smoothing the mixture evenly and into all of the corners.

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8. Using a fork, drag it in long lines across the potato to create the classic pattern. I like to sprinkle the grated cheese on the top for extra flavour, it’s delicious melted on to the mash!

9. Cook for around 30 minutes, until the potato is golden.

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Knorr Pots

 

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The little pots are just like jelly! To use, you turn them into a jug and make up with 500ml of boiling water, just like you would with a stock cube. Stir continuosly until the jelly dissolves and you have your stock. Personally, I don’t think they’re any more amazing than the stock cubes, but some people might find them easier to use or have a better flavour, particularly if you are only really using stock in your recipe for the liquid (unlike this, where I also had chopped tomatoes). They’re available in the shops now, at around £2.50 for 8 pots.

 

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Simply delicious Apple Crumble

Like most people, Apple Crumble is a childhood favourite of mine. I’ve tried many different variations over the years and in particular since my Coeliac diagnosis, but I keep coming back to this recipe. It’s the one passed on to me by my Nan after we made my first apple crumble together when I was little. It’s simple, doesn’t need any complicated substitutions to make it gluten free and tastes delicious!! I think it tastes best served with Ambrosia Devonshire Custard 😉

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Ingredients

3-4 Bramley Cooking Apples
125g granulated sugar
115g salted butter
225g gluten free plain flour ( I use Dove’s Farm )
2 tbsp water
Custard to serve

1. Peel and slice the apples. Place them in a pan of cold water as you go along to prevent them from browning until you have sliced all of the apples.

2. Drain the water. Add 50g of the sugar to the pan.

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3. Heat on a medium heat, stirring, until the apples turn to mush. Remove from the heat and tip into your ovenproof dish.
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4. In a bowl add the flour, butter and the rest of the sugar. With your finger tips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs ( this will only take a couple of minutes but if you prefer, you can whizz it up in a mixer ).

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5. Pour the crumble mixture over the top of the apples, spreading evenly.

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6. Bake in the oven at 200 ° C for 10-15 minutes or until the apples start to bubble and the crumble has hardened.

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7. If you wish you can place the crumble under the grill for a few minutes to brown the topping, but watch it doesn’t burn.

8. Serve with delicious hot custard.

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This really is a great simple recipe that’s perfect for those cold winter evenings, and even better served after a yummy Sunday roast! If you give this recipe a try I’d love to know how you get on!

Quinoa Risotto

I love making up a quick risotto on rubbish Autumn evenings and adding any veg I can get my hands on. It’s warming and comforting and takes very little brain power to make- perfect after a long commute in the remains of Hurricane Gonzalez! My only issue last night was the lack of rice in my kitchen cupboard, so instead I grabbed my tub of quinoa and thought ‘what the hell’?

I had quinoa risotto last year after seeing a recipe in a foodie magazine, but last night I couldn’t find the magazine nor remember the recipe. So instead I decided, in my signature dinner fashion, to grab what I could find in the cupboards and fridge and throw it in all a pan in the hope of coming up with something remotely risotto-like. Luckily for me, it worked.

I found that using quinoa left me feeling less bloated and ‘heavy’, despite eating the same sized portion I would with normal risotto. It was quick, easy and gloriously tasty, and now I just cannot wait to experiment with different flavours and vegetable combinations.

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Quinoa Risotto

1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup quinoa

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 pepper, chopped

Vegetable stock cube (I use Knorr cubes as these are gluten free)

Handful of pine nuts

Mixed herbs & spices- I used dried mixed herbs, black pepper, crushed chillies and crushed garlic

Rocket to serve

Parmesan to serve

 

1. Add the chopped tomatoes to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the quinoa and water and stir well.

2. Crumble the stock cube into the mixture and stir well. Add your chosen spices and herbs and stir well again. Add the chopped vegetables and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced.

3. Just before you’re ready to serve, stir in the pine nuts and some cheese (if you wish).

4. Serve with rocket and your preferred cheese.

It’s that simple….Enjoy!

Quinoa stuffed peppers

Being a wannabe vegetarian (honestly, I’m quite fussy with meat and aside from increasing it in my diet lately due to my fitness training, I usually go for vegetarian options over meat), I’ve always loved stuffed peppers. Whenever my Mum and I have made them at home in the past, Cous Cous or rice have always formed the base of the stuffing, so for a protein-rich and Coeliac friendly option I’ve started to make them with quinoa instead. I actually think I prefer them this way.

 

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Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is an ancient grain that’s naturally gluten free. In recent years, its popularity has increased and it’s the perfect gluten free substite for pasta and Cous Cous. It’s much more nutrient-rich unlike the glutinous counterparts too. Many people struggle to warm to quinoa, but this was never the case for me. Aside from a few cooking issues when I first got hold of some, I’ve never questioned the taste or texture. I far prefer it to the Cous Cous in my pre-Coeliac days and I find it much lighter than rice. It’s a great accompaniment to a hot dish, brilliant in summery salads and even makes a great porridge alternative. I’ve even converted my Mum!

For the stuffed peppers, I used a couple of tablespoons of quinoa mixed with basil pesto, pine nuts, red onion, spinach and cherry tomatoes. Topped with a little cheddar cheese, it’s a great dish to make for just yourself or for a dinner party. We’d run out of salad so I lazily ate these on their own, however they’d be fantastic served on a bed of rocket or spinach.

 

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

(I made just one for myself, I’d suggest doubling the recipe for two people, or just sharing this along with other dishes)

 

1 red pepper, halved from top to bottom

1/4 small red onion, finely chopped

5 cherry tomatoes, halved then halved again

6 spinach leaves, chopped finely

Handful of pine nuts

2 tbsp Sacla Fiery Chilli Pesto

2-3 tbsp cooked quinoa

Small block of cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

 

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the pepper halves on a baking tray and place to one side.
  2. In a bowl, place the quinoa, red onion, tomatoes and spinach. Mix together well.
  3. Add the pine nuts and pesto and mix well again.
  4. Spoon the mixture into each pepper half, making sure you push it into the corners.
  5. Top with the cheese slices and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the pepper has softened.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

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Sweetcorn Fritters

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Sweetcorn fritters are a childhood favourite of mine…or Sweetcorn Critters as they were called in my kids cookbook. I can clearly remember having friends over and all we would do is make chocolate cornflake cakes (yum), then cook fritters for lunch whilst they chilled. Any time my friends came round they would ask if we could have them for lunch! Years later and about to turn 25, these are still a firm favourite and a comfort food for me. These days, I like to add herbs and spices to them for a bit of flavour, but I still like to keep things simple. After all, you don’t change a good forumla!

These are perfect for kids, great for a savoury breakfast or brunch and also good for a quick lunch at work. Serve on their own topped with grated cheese, with a little yoghurt and parsley (my adult favourite), as an accompaniment to bacon and eggs or with salad…there’s plenty of ways to enjoy them!

Even variations are simple to do! Why not add spring onion or ham? Replace the sweetcorn with courgette or pepper? The variations are fun to play with and don’t make the recipe any more complicated, so you can tailor them to any tastes.

A simple recipe that makes everyone happy!

Sweetcorn Fritters

2 eggs
2tbsp self-raising flour (I use Dove’s Farm)
2tbsp milk (I use St Helen’s Farm Goat’s milk, semi-skimmed)
225g/ 1 can sweetcorn, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry Lite

  1. In a bowl, crack the egg and add the flour and milk. Beat until well combined.
  2. Add the sweetcorn mix well. Add the seasoning and repeat.
  3. Heat a couple of sprays of Fry Lite in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add 2 tablespoons of the fritter mixture to make mini fritters.
  4. Cook for around 3 minutes on a medium heat until brown underneath, then carefully flip and repeat on the other side.
  5. Repeat with the remaining mixture
  6. Serve on a plate with the toppings/accompaniments and enjoy.

 

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Variations I often use:

  • Add a handful of chopped parsley to the mixture at the same time as the seasoning. Then serve topped with yoghurt (Total Greek yoghurt works really well or I’m currently trying Alpro Soya yoghurt) and a couple of parsley leaves.
  • Add some chopped ham to the mixture at the same time as the sweetcorn.
  • Add some finely chopped spring onion to the mixture at the same time as the sweetcorn.
  • Omit the sweetcorn and use courgette instead- grate it then add to the mixture.
  • I often had 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes at the same time as the seasoning
  • For a tomato base, add 1tbsp tomato puree into the mixture and combine well

Serving suggestion for Brunch (or a brunch style dinner)

Make the sweetcorn fritters as per the recipe above, using the first variation with parsley. I like to make these whilst the tomato mixture is simmering, so I can serve them at the same time.

1 rasher bacon
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1tsp coconut oil (I use LucyBee)
1/2 small red onion, chopped into large chunks
1/4 red pepper, chopped into large chunks
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
Salt, pepper and chopped parsley to taste
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 egg, poached

  1. In a pan, heat the oil and add the garlic. Cook until softened, watching it doesn’t burn, then add the bacon.
  2. Once the bacon has cooked, add the rest of the vegetables and sautee for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes , chilli flakes and seasoning and stir well. Simmer for around 15 minutes until it has reduced down.
  4. Poach the egg in water.
  5. One the sauce has reduced, transfer it to a serving dish and place the egg on top.
  6. Garnish with some parsley leaves and serve with the fritters

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If you have a mini skillet, make the mixture as above but in the skillet rather than a pan. The you can crack the egg on top of the mixture (make sure it’s cooking at a high temperature) and poach the egg that way. Then, you can just serve that straight to the table rather than transferring between dishes.

This mixture was perfect for me for dinner. If making for two I’d suggest doubling it.

Homemade Fajitas

I love fajitas. LOVE them. I’d eat them every week if I could,  and if my family liked to have them as much as me. Lately I’ve been craving them ridiculous amounts, it seems that every time I choose to have chicken for dinner fajitas is the first dish that pops into my head. To satisfy my cravings, I’ve had to come up with an alternative to the Ole Del Paso kits I’m used to using.

Most importantly- the wraps. For a long time after my diagnosis I had fajitas with gluten free pitta bread. This was not the best solution, with the pockets hard to open and fill, and the ‘bread’ so thick that I was quickly full. Since these days we’ve seen the launch of two gluten free wraps on the market, the first from Newburn Bakehouse ( a thick rectangle wrap, available in both white and seeded and recently also dairy free) and the second from Bfree (traditional, thin and round fibre wrap, also dairy free). Now I’m fond of the Newburn wraps but for a dish like fajitas the Bfree wraps are the best, as they’re thinner and therefore don’t fill you up too much.

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Onto the filling. I love using the spice mixes readily available in the shops complete with salsa, but as I’m currently trying to lean down a little for holiday (not to mention  the cost) I’m avoiding them. My new favourite cupboard staple is a Schwartz PerfectShake Herb & Spice blend for chicken. Mixed with some tomato puree and coconut oil,  it makes the perfect sauce for chicken and therefore for my fajitas.

 

 

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These are ready within 20 minutes,  so they’re perfect for a quick weekday dinner.  If I’m feeling like I need a lighter dish, I swap the wraps for some large lettuce leaves- low carb and healthy! I use whatever veg I have in my fridge and with the sauce I don’t feel the need for any extra salsa, maybe just a little cheese. If you’re dairy free you can just remove the cheese and you’re good to go…simples!

 

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Ingredients
For 1 person/ 2 meals

1 large chicken breast
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/4 green pepper
1/4 red onion
One large chunk of courgette, thinly sliced
Large handful of cherry tomatoes
Schwartz Herb & Spice blend
2-4 tbsp tomato puree
2 Bfree wraps
1tbsp coconut oil
Extras: Cheese, spinach, salsa, guacamole- if desired.

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan. Add the chicken.
  2. Once cooked, add a good shake of the spice blend (enough to cover all the chicken) and stir until fully covered. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the tomato puree and stir through again.
  3. Add the vegetables and cook until softened.
  4. Repeat the process with the spices and tomato puree.
  5. Serve into two Bfree wraps and enjoy!

Homemade tortilla chips

Earlier this week I made my homemade fajitas but I was seriously craving nachos to go with them. Nachos are amazing,  put nachos on a menu and it’s very rare that I won’t choose them! Refusing to choose an unhealthy option I decided to make some myself…not rocket science but I thought I’d share my recipe with you.

First if all you’ll need some Bfree wraps- other brands will work but these are my favourite- which are both gluten and dairy free. You can find these in Asda stores and also online at Ocado, plus they’re featured in the Tesco Lifestyle food fair until the end of August.

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Cut these into strips or triangles and place in a baking tray. Then brush with a little coconut oil (I use Lucy Bee) and sprinkle with some sea salt or pink Himalyan salt.

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Then bake in the oven at 200°C for 5-7 minutes- keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

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It’s that simple,  but they crisp but amazingly and the combination of coconut oil with the sea salt it great. I use Bfree wraps they’re thinner so create the perfect chip.

Enjoy on their own, cover with cheese (if you can tolerate dairy or grab a dairy free version) or dip into something yummy!