Alfajores de Maicena (Argentine Sandwich Cookies)

I’m on a roll over here with my nostalgic Argentine recipes, and this one for Alfajores or sandwich cookies, I can confirm, is something you will want to try at home! I spent a lot of my time in Buenos Aires eating these cookies, which are sandwiched together by the most velvety Dulce de Leche (caramel). They are often served as an accompaniment to a cup of coffee or enjoyed as an on-the-go snack by people all over the city. The basis of this particular type of alfajor is corn meal and while it would make sense for them to just be gluten free, in Argentina they can sometimes contain hidden wheat flour or traces. I’m delighted to tell you however that this recipe is 100% gluten free, and you will absolutely not miss the gluten!

I was able to score a jar of imported Dulce de Leche for this particular recipe from a lovely Argentine food stall in Borough Market in London – La Porteña – but this decadently delicious spread is available in multiple retail outlets across the UK now and can be sourced online via the likes of Amazon. The corn flour I always go for meanwhile is Harina P.A.N. – a widely used Latin American white corn flour, which is available in food markets across London and in niche local grocery stores. Alternatively of course, this flour can be purchased online via multiple webpages – just be sure to check out the shopping tab on your Google browser for all your options.

Ingredients

150g x Unsalted Butter (softened)
4 x Large Egg Yolks
300g x Harina P.A.N. White Corn Flour
60g x White Caster Sugar
4 x Teaspoons Gluten Free Baking Powder
1/3 Teaspoon Sea Salt
250g x Dulce de Leche
20g x Gluten Free Plain Flour (for rolling)

Method

  1. Using an electric whisk or hand mixer, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Sieve the corn flour into a separate bowl along with your baking powder and salt.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the combined egg and sugar, using a spatula to ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed (warning, this can take up to 10 minutes!).
  4. Using your hands, knead the mixture together for an additional 5 minutes until you have a bread dough-like consistency.
  5. Create a large ball with the dough, wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge to chill for two hours.
  6. Preheat your fan oven to 155 degrees Celsius and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  7. Sprinkle the gluten free flour on a dry surface and using a sharp knife, divide your pre-chilled dough into two portions for ease.
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough until it has a thickness of around 1cm. With a small cookie cutter create alfajor shapes out of the dough. I prefer to use a small cookie cutter for dinky-sized alfajores but the diameter of the cutter is up to you (there are alfajores of all sizes in Argentina!)
  9. Bake the cookies in the oven for 8 minutes before removing to cool on the baking trays for up to 30 minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a cooling rack.
  10. Create your alfajores by placing one tea spoon of Dulce de Leche in the centre of one cookie and placing another cookie on top. Lightly press down to bring the Dulce de Leche closer to the edges of the sandwich.
  11. Transfer your alfajores to a plate or container and chill in the fridge for up to an hour so the Dulce de Leche sets.
  12. Enjoy with tea, coffee or just simply on their own. Buen provecho!

Empanadas de Carne (Savoury Argentine Beef Pastries)

From a culinary perspective, many people associate Argentina with its prime cuts of meat and famous barbecues. Those who enjoy history meanwhile, will know that a lot of cuisine, particularly served in the capital of Buenos Aires, was inspired by Italian immigrants who began to make their way in large numbers to the South American city in the mid 1800s. Empanadas however, Argentina’s other staple foodstuff, bear resemblance to the Cornish Pasty and in fact were allegedly inspired by the English savoury treat itself.

Ever since moving back from Buenos Aires, I have been making empanadas at home and trying to recreate the flavours I would experience there multiple times a week, and sometimes even multiple times a day! Thanks to the introduction of ready to roll gluten free pastry by trusty Jus-Rol in the UK in the last couple of years, my empanada recipe is even easier to throw together and enjoy at home. Highly recommend these delicious savoury pastries as a snack or a light dinner with a side salad and a glass of Malbec, por supuesto!

Ingredients

1 x Jus-Rol Gluten Free Puff Pastry Ready Rolled Sheet (280g)
50g x Lean Beef Mince
1 x Tsp Olive Oil
1 x Small Onion, Finely Chopped
½ x Red Pepper, Finely Chopped
5 x Cherry Tomatoes, Finely Chopped
1 x Boiled Egg, Peeled and Chopped
43g x Pitted Black Olives, Chopped
2 x Eggs, Beaten (to Glaze the Empanadas)
1 x Tsp Oregano
½ x Tsp Paprika
½ x Tsp Garlic Powder
½ x Beef Stock Cube (I use Knorr)
80ml x Red Wine
Pinch Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and sautee until soft.
  2. Add the mince and stir well to ensure it mixes properly with the onion and pepper. Cook uncovered for around 10 minutes.
  3. Once the beef has browned, add the cherry tomatoes, black olives, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, red wine, salt & pepper. Crumble the stock cube in and stir mixture well.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer mixture, partially covered by a lid, for 1 hour. Check every 10 minutes and stir.
  5. Once the liquid in the mixture has evaporated, remove from heat. Leave the mixture to cool for around 30-40 minutes before adding the chopped boiled egg and mixing well (you do not want the beef filling to be hot when you prep the empanadas to avoid the pastry falling apart).
  6. When the beef mixture has cooled, heat the oven to 170 degrees (Fan) and line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. On a flat surface, lightly roll out the Jus-Rol Gluten Free pastry sheet to expand slightly but do not over-roll as this will warm up the pastry and cause it to split.
  8. Using a sharp knife, divide the rolled out sheet into three columns longways and then again across, to create 9 squares, measuring around 9-10cm across and lengthways each.
  9. To fill the empanadas, place a square of the pastry in the palm of one hand and place approximately two teaspoons of the beef mixture in the middle.
  10. Using a pastry brush, spread a little of the beaten egg around the edges of the pastry. Turn the square slightly in your hand so it’s at a diagonal, and bring the top and the bottom points of the pastry together into a rough triangle shape by folding gently.
  11. To close each empanada, twist the three edges of the triangle in towards the centre of the pastry and stick down lightly with egg wash to ensure the pastry is closed (otherwise mixture will seep out of the pastry while cooking). Feel free to also gently press the back of a fork onto the edges if this makes sealing the square easier.
  12. Place each raw empanada gently on to parchment paper-lined baking trays immediately after prepping to avoid overheating the pastry in your hands, leaving several centimetres of space in between each empanada as they will expand in the oven.
  13. Using your pastry brush once more, lightly brush all the raw empanadas with the beaten egg to create a nice glaze.
  14. Bake the empanadas for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. Leave empanadas to rest for around 15 minutes before serving.

Black Bean and four Cheese Dip

The best kind of dinners are often those centred around appetizer style dishes. They remind me of meals in the States while watching football games in sports bars or when out “just for a few drinks” and then you decide to opt for something small and end up ordering everys single starters on the menu. This dip was always one of my favourites and would come piping hot out the oven, served with a mountain of tortilla chips for dipping. Sadly, this dish rarely is gluten free friendly in restaurants and so I quickly came up with a safe version to prepare and eat at home when I didn’t fancy a big dinner or when having friends over. Be sure to serve with an ice cold gluten free beer or a good bottle of wine and you’ve got yourself a perfect night in!

Ingredients

2 x 400g Cans Black Beans (drained and rinsed)

2 x Garlic Cloves, peeled

½ x Lemon/Lime, squeezed

½ x Teaspoon Cumin

½ x Teaspoon Chilli Flakes

1 x Teaspoon Sea Salt

½ x Teaspoon Black Pepper

1 x Teaspoon Hot Sauce (I use Salsa Valentina)

200g x Cream Cheese

100g x Mild Cheddar Cheese

50g x Parmesan Cheese

100g x Shredded Mozzarella

100ml x Crème Fraiche

200g x Gluten Free Salted Tortilla Chips

For the garnish:

1 x green jalapeno, chopped

100g x cherry tomatoes, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees fan)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the black beans, cream cheese, crème fraiche, garlic cloves and lemon/lime juice with a hand blender until smooth (alternatively, this can be mixed in a food processor)
  3. Add the cumin, chilli flakes, sea salt, black pepper, hot sauce, cheddar and parmesan and blend again until smooth
  4. Transfer the mixture to an oven-proof dish. Top with the shredded mozzarella and bake the dip for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and leave to rest for five minutes before garnishing with the chopped jalapeno and tomatoes.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Gluten Free Blinis

I don’t think that there is anything that goes better with a glass of bubbles at a party or on a special night in than a freshly made, gluten free blini. Of course the gluten free variety are impossible to get hold of at the supermarkets but fear not, I have the perfect recipe for y’all here. It’s one I’ve whipped out for special occasions for years and no one can even tell they are gluten free. I like to top mine with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, lemon and freshly chopped chives. These are very versatile party snacks however, and so can be topped with whatever you fancy. Give them a whirl and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

1 x Cup Gluten Free Flour
1 x Large Egg
1 x Cup of Milk/ Dairy Free Milk
½ x Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
½ x Teaspoon Gluten Free Bouillon Powder
Cracked Black Pepper
1 x Teaspoon Vegetable/ Sunflower Oil

For the topping:

1 x Small Tub crème fraiche
50g x Smoked Salmon
Freshly Chopped Chives
½ Lemon

Method

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, Bouillon powder and black pepper.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk. When combined, add gradually to the dry ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.
3. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and use a small spoon to create small blini discs in the pan.
4. When bubbles form in the blinis, they are ready to turn over. Once turned, cook for 2-3 more minutes before removing from the pan.
5. Leave to cool and then top with ½ a teaspoon each of crème fraiche and chopped salmon.
6. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the plate of blinis when armed and then sprinkle generously with chopped chives before serving.

Wild Alaskan Salmon With White Wine Infused Spring Greens

Did y’all know that Alaska is home to some of the world’s best seafood, with fish of all varieties swimming freely it its three million lakes, 34,000 miles of coastline and 3,000 rivers? This freedom to swim and the fish’s natural diet creates the yummiest taste and texture and so I always make sure to check for the Alaska Seafood label when purchasing salmon in the shops. I’ve gone ahead and created this simple salmon dish, which is perfect to enjoy al fresco or as a quick and satisfying weeknight dinner. Happy eating!

Ingredients

2 x Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets
2 x Medium Sized Leeks (Chopped)
1 x Cup Frozen Petits Pois
1 x Tablespoon Butter/Dairy Free Butter
1 x Heaped Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/3 x Cup White Wine
25g Fresh Chives
Juice of ½ a Lemon
Salt & Pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees (FAN)
2. Arrange salmon fillets in oven dish, pouring over lemon juice and season with salt and pepper
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes
4. While salmon is baking, melt butter in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Add chopped leeks and stir well, making sure all are lightly coated in the butter. Sautee for 2-3 minutes until soft
5. Add mustard, white wine, salt and pepper and stir well, leaving to cook for another 2-3 minutes
6. Add the peas and stir again before removing from heat. Cover pan for 3-5 minutes, allowing the steam to cook the peas
7. Add fresh chives and arrange in a deep bowl, creating a bed of greens ready to serve with the salmon fillets on top
8. Garnish with fresh lemon and more chives

More on Alaska Seafood

Sustainability is so important to Alaska that it was written into the constitution in 1959, calling for all fisheries to be sustainably managed and fish sustainably sourced. Fishing in Alaska is a way of life and has been passed down through generation, where each day families continue to catch their quotas in small boats out on the water.

Each fisherman’s catch is sold to make a living, but a small quota can be kept for their own consumption, bringing families together and providing a yummy and nutritious feast. For more info on how this fish is sustainably caught and where to find Alaska Seafood products, head over to their website.

This post has been sponsored by Alaska Seafood.

Savoury Canapes on Nairn’s Crackers & Oatcakes

Spring has finally sprung and it’s time to start enjoying meals and snacks al fresco. One of my favourite pastimes is creating finger food that not only tastes and looks fantastic but that uses real and simple ingredients. Thanks to Nairn’s versatile oatcake and cracker range, creating the perfect snacks to enjoy with a glass of bubbles or by themselves as a canape or even a meal is easier than ever. So go ahead and grab yourselves some of the gluten free Nairn’s oatcake and cracker range from Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda, Tesco or Waitrose stores and give some of my topping choices a whirl!

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1. Roasted Red Pepper & Humous: 1 x tablespoon humous, ¼ of a red pepper which has been lightly roasted in the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees FAN with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper

2. Grilled Halloumi & Tomato Salsa: 1 x slice halloumi which has been grilled or lightly pan fried in a drizzle of olive oil and 1 x teaspoon of homemade tomato salsa using 2 x finely chopped cherry tomatoes, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil, ½ teaspoon lime juice, salt and pepper

3. English Brie & Grape: 2 x brie cheese wedges and 1 x washed red grape sliced lengthways, arranged on top

4. Mozzarella, Prosciutto Ham & Basil: 1 x slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, 1/2 a slice of prosciutto, 1 x washed basil leaf and freshly cracked black pepper

5. Chive Cream Cheese & Smoked Salmon: 1 x tablespoon plain cream cheese, 1 x teaspoon fresh chives, ½ teaspoon dried chives, 1 x small slice of smoked salmon, freshly cracked black pepper

6. Guacamole and Cherry Tomato: ½ mashed ripe avocado with salt, pepper, 1 x tablespoon lime juice and ½ teaspoon chilli flakes with one cherry tomato slice arranged on top

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This post has been sponsored by Nairn’s.