Several years back, when two family members were diagnosed as gluten intolerant, I thought ‘Oh no, planning meals is going to become harder’. There weren’t many products available to help alleviate my dilemma. But today I make enjoyable gluten-free meals and bakes for the whole family — all without that ‘oh no’ feeling.
Over time, gluten-free baking products have improved. The flavours are fine and baking results are pretty similar to using traditional flour. I often substitute gluten-free flour for a traditional one in a baking recipe. The only variation being adding an extra egg.
(NB Gluten is the elastic-like protein in flour that is so beneficial in baking. Raising agents, eggs and hot air trigger the gluten to stretch and the heat from the oven ‘sets’ it in place.)
Rice flour — it’s gluten-free — is great for thickening casseroles or sauces as when reheated the liquid remains thick. Cornflour can also be used but if reheated, the liquid becomes runny.
There are now plenty of gluten-free pastas available to replace standard varieties. Or use millet, cellophane noodles or buckwheat — (despite its name it's a seed not a grain). Semolina or couscous can be replaced with quinoa or polenta, and bulghur with rice.
CHICKEN PIE WITH CHEESY CRUST
When using mustard, check that there is no added wheat flour or malt vinegar.
Cheesy Pastry: 175g (1 1/2) cups gluten-free flour
75g chilled butter
50g tasty cheddar cheese, grated
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons chilled water
Filling: 500g skinned and boned chicken breast
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon each: rice flour or cornflour, water
1 teaspoon each: dried tarragon, Dijon mustard
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Place the flour in a bowl and grate in the butter. Add the cheese, egg, mustard and enough water to bind. Mix well — with your hands or a food processor — until completely combined. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Cut the chicken into 2.5cm chunks. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Lightly brown the chicken on all sides. Add the onion and cook, until softened. Add the stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour with a little water and stir into the pan, simmering until thickened. Add the tarragon, mustard, peas and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Place the chicken in a shallow pie dish or four individual pie dishes. The mixture should come close to the top.
Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until about 7mm thick. Remove the paper and place the pastry over the chicken. Trim. Make a small hole in the top. Brush the top with milk, if preferred.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Serves 4.
These gluten-free bruschetta prepared from polenta are great served as nibbles (use a small fork for eating) or as a light meal with a salad. The bruschetta are also excellent topped with sautéed mushrooms or pesto and feta.
700ml vegetable stock
3/4 cup instant fine polenta
1 teaspoon dried basil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mediterranean Topping: 6 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup each: finely diced pitted black olives, diced red capsicum
4 anchovies, mashed, (optional)
2 tablespoons each: lemon juice, olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer then slowly stir in the polenta. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in the basil, black pepper and olive oil. Pour into an oiled shallow slice pan and form a rectangle about 24cm x 18cm. Chill. Cut into twelve 6cm squares and cut each square diagonally into a rectangle. (At this stage you could freeze the polenta for a later date.) Lightly brush with olive oil and pan-grill on a ridged frying pan or under a grill until lightly coloured.
To make the topping, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Dollop on the bruschetta. Makes 24.
GF APPLE & BERRY CRUMBLE
4 large Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup frozen berries eg raspberries, cranberries, blueberries
Topping: 1/2 cup brown sugar,
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup each: shredded coconut, sliced almonds
50g butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Combine with the caster sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Turn into a 20cm x 18cm baking dish. Sprinkle with the berries.
Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden. Serves 4-6.