Plum Tart with Honey Frangipane

Since April, I have been doing an internship at a very small, London based charity, the Women’s Environmental Network. Over the past 27 years, WEN has campaigned on a number of environmental issues, from climate change to real nappies. At the moment, however, their main focus is promoting growing and eating local food as a way to ensure a healthier lifestyle and planet.

I have always been keen on eating seasonal and local food- where possible of course, I have to admit I am quite partial to the odd avocado….

Eating as much local and seasonal food as you can is one of the best ways of promoting a healthy diet. It also ensures that your food is as delicious as possible. I love browsing my local farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, picking out the freshest produce.

IMG_0914

I am also very lucky because my parents’ garden is full of fruit trees and berry bushes, as well as the odd tomato and cucumber plant. Plums are one of their most abundant fruits, so our summer diets are always full of plum pies.

This year, the plums seemed to come slightly later- eating into apple season!

This is my gluten free take on a plum classic. It also contains no refined sugar, so is slightly healthier than the traditional version too! Honey is used to sweeten the frangipane, which gives it a slightly different, but equally delicious flavour.

IMG_0915

Even if you can happily and without worry eat gluten, I would still highly recommend gluten free flour for pastry. I discovered the pastry like qualities of rice flour one evening as I attempted to make myself a gluten free flatbread to accompany a lentil curry, and it was impossibly crumbly. I finally managed to wrangle the dough into a vague flatbread shape and throw it into a frying pan. When it was the perfect amount of charred on each side, I eagerly began mopping up my lentils, only to find that the texture was crumbly and much more similar to a slab of pastry.

Using gluten free flour completely eradicates the risk of a tough, over worked pastry. It makes for a crumbly, melt in the mouth texture, but it is slightly more difficult to work with and takes a lot more liquid. You might need to do a bit of experimenting to get it right (I have!), but once you’ve found the perfect formula, you’ll love it!

IMG_0925

Plum Tart with Honey Frangipane

For the pastry:
225g riceflour
125g butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the honey. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then gently stir it into the flour mixture. Add the water gradually, bringing the mixture together into a ball of dough. You don’t have to worry as much about the risk of an overworked, tough pastry. What is more of a concern is a pastry that is too crumbly to work with, so it is okay to be a bit rougher with it than usual. Knead it for about 30 seconds, just to bring it together. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:
75g butter, softened
3 tablespoons honey, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
pinch of salt
75g ground almonds
10g rice flour
3 tablespoons almond milk
10 ten ripe plums

Beat the butter and honey together until you have a smooth paste, then beat in the egg. Add the salt, ground almonds and rice flour, and fold into the butter mixture, then stir in the milk. The mixture should be like a fairly stiff cake batter.

Set to one side while you roll out the pastry. Grease and line a pie dish and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Gluten free pastry can be very very crumbly, so the easiest way to do this is sandwiched between two sheets of cling film. Place one, large piece of cling film on your work top, flatten the pastry onto the cling film slightly, then place another piece on top. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry out to about ½ an inch thick.

Peel the top layer of cling film off, then using the bottom layer as support, lift the pastry into the pie dish, flipping it so thee pastry is on the bottom and the cling film on the top. Peel the cling film off, and press the pastry into the grooves of the tin.

Place a piece of greaseproof paper over the pastry and fill the case with baking beans (or real dried beans or rice- just something to weigh it down!) Bake your pastry blind for about 15 minutes, or until it is just starting to go golden brown.

Meanwhile, slice the plums in half and remove the pip.

When the pastry case is just baked, pour in the frangipane and spread it until it’s level. Arrange the plums on top, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the frangipane feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden brown. You might need to cover with a piece of tin foil for the last 10-15 minutes to stop the top burning.

IMG_0934

xxR

Butternut Squash, Halloumi and Amaranth Salad with Kale and Almonds

I graduated from uni in July and since then (give or take a few holidays) I have been spending my unemployed days frantically searching for a job. I started out with high aspirations (and hopes), applying for jobs in prestigious art museums and magazines but, after a string of (rather painful) rejections, I have lowered my sights to babysitting and waitressing jobs. Welcome to the real world Rosie!

However, there is a positive side to this apparently chronic unemployment. It gives me the chance to do all the Londony things that I never got around to during my degree. I had a huge list of exhibitions I was desperate to see, which I am working my through.

I’ve also had the chance to do a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. I’ve bought a whole range of gluten-free flours and I’m working my way through my baking repertoire, attempting to remove gluten from all my favourite recipes.

IMG_0958

Okay, so this recipe never had gluten in it to begin with- but it was still a bit of an experiment. I was experimenting with a new grain- amaranth. Similarly to quinoa, to which it is closely related, amaranth is a naturally gluten-free whole grain. But, believe it or not, it might actually be better than quinoa. It has more protein than most other grains, and has also shown potential to lower cholesterol. Like quinoa, it has been a staple ingredient in Mexican and Central American food for thousands of years.

It’s smaller than quinoa, but cooks in the exact same way- simply boil it for about 15 minutes, and then serve with your favourite salad ingredients. If you need some salad inspiration, read on…

This salad is the perfect combination of everything you could want in a salad. The butternut squash is roasted in garam marsala (an Indian spice blend), so it is sweet and rich in flavours. The halloumi is salty, the kale is garlicky and the chopped almonds add just the right amount of bite. Just trust me, you want to try this!

IMG_0961

Butternut Squash, Halloumi and Amaranth Salad with Kale and Almonds

to serve 4

1 butternut squash

splash of olive oil

6 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 tablespoon garam marsala

1 cup amaranth (just use a regular sized mug if you don’t have a measuring jug that does cups)

1 block of halloumi

1oog kale

large handful almonds

salt and pepper, to serve

Preheat your oven to 18o degrees. Begin by peeling your butternut squash. Cut it in half and remove the seeds, then cut it into wedges. Place the wedges in an oven dish, and drizzle over the olive oil. Toss in the garam marsala and half the garlic cloves, then roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. The butternut squash should be soft all the way through.

Meanwhile, cook your amaranth. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to the boil (again, just use a mug if you don’t have a measuring jug- but just make sure it’s the same size as the one you measured the amaranth in!), then add the amaranth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.

To cook your kale, finely chop it and remove any of the really tough stalks that aren’t nice to eat. In a large griddle pan, heat up a splash of olive oil and the remaining garlic cloves, then add the kale. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is tender.

On a large serving dish, arrange your amaranth, then place the sautéed kale on top.

To cook the halloumi, cut it into thin slices. Using the same griddle pan that you cooked the kale in, fry the halloumi for 5-7 minutes on each side, until it is golden brown and soft.

Arrange the halloumi slices and butternut squash wedges on top of the kale.

Finally, roughly chop your almonds and sprinkle over the salad. Season the whole thing with a good pinch of salt and pepper and devour!

IMG_0959

xxR

Not (Yo’) Nachos

Today is Mexican Independence day!

I feel very attached to Mexico- as you might know, I have recently graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art with an MA in History of Dress, and my dissertation was all about nationalism in representations of Mexican dress immediately after the 1910-1920 revolution. I know I know, it sounds kinda boring, but I loved every minute I spent cooped up in the British library, pouring over photographs of Frida Kahlo and Mexican newspapers from the 1930s. I spent months reading everything I could on Mexican politics and culture, and then just as long writing 10,000 words exploring the subject further.

IMG_9236_2

It was hard work, and very stressful at times but I found the subject so engrossing that I was actually quite sad to have to hand in my essay when I finally reached the deadline (but I was also, of course, immensely relieved!)

On a selfish, personal level, I love Mexican Independence day, because, if it wasn’t for Mexican independence, I really wouldn’t have had anything to write my dissertation about! I’m definitely going to be having my own one-person party to celebrate today, and gorge myself on Mexican food (which has always been my favourite!)

IMG_9234_2

This is a new way, healthier way to make nachos, with much less saturated fat and salt than the traditional kind (even though those are, of course, delicious!)

Sweet potatoes! The solution to everything. To make your very own sweet potato nachos to celebrate all things Mexican (independence, food, tequila…) peel your sweet potatoes (allow about 1 potato per person).

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice your sweet potatoes as thinly as you can (think nacho chip!) and spread them out in an oven dish. Drizzle with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle over a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until they are soft in the middle but crisp on the outside.

IMG_9235_2

Then, use them as you would normal nachos. Cover them with your favourite Mexican toppings (I went for black beans, with plenty of salsa, guacamole, coriander and lime- of course!) For my bean recipe, click here. Or be creative!

Happy Mexican Independence!

xxR

Gluten-Free Bread

Bread is all about gluten. It’s the gluten in wheat, spelt and rye flours that give the dough its stretchy, elastic consistency and bread it’s distinct chewiness. There is nothing better than biting into the crisp crust and fluffy inside of a homemade loaf, fresh out of the oven.

IMG_0462

A really good loaf, one that’s crunchy on the outside and perfectly light and soft in the middle is very difficult to find in a gluten free world. I have often found myself lingering by a freshly baked loaf, trying to get a whiff of the familiar and unmistakable bread smell.

I dread ever going to France again- I think the sheer temptation of baguettes that I can’t eat would get too much.

This loaf is no baguette. But it is bread (in some sense of the word!) I was absolutely thrilled when I pulled this out of the oven. After having some frankly disastrous attempts at constructing a loaf that is both gluten free and won’t break a tooth, this one seemed like a miracle.

The texture is slightly different, I have to admit- it’s not soft and fluffy like the best baguette, but it’s close enough that you could be fooled, especially when it’s smeared with a good dollop of houmous. It’s also dairy and sugar free, and won’t make you feel bloated and too full, like so many of the best breads out there!

IMG_0483

Gluten Free Bread

325ml almond milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

45og gf flour (use your favourite here- I used a mixture of rice flour, corn flour and buckwheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons honey

1og fast action dried yeast

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

handful of pumpkin seeds

Begin by heating the almond milk in a small saucepan, then leave to cool slightly. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the vinegar, and then gradually stir in the milk until it is well mixed.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until they form a smooth dough. Add the olive oil and bring it together into a ball. Add more flour if it is too sticky.

Oil a baking tray, place your ball of dough in the middle and cover. Leave to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 2oo degrees Celsius. Once the dough has risen, use a sharp knife to score a cross into the top. Brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds over the loaf, then bake for around 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Eat fresh out of the oven!

IMG_0466

xxR