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.

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.

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.

Creamy Baked Gnocchi (Aka Stay At Home Gnocchi)

So here it is folks – a recipe y’all probably never thought you’d see on this page – MORE GNOCCHI. Creating this dish, believe it or not, was a big deal for me as I rarely stray far from my classic Gnocchi Alla Marie, which over the years I’m so pleased to say many of you guys have given a whirl and enjoyed. As we currently find ourselves in strange times, I wanted to use fewer store-cupboard ingredients to show you how you can whip up something hearty and delicious, even if you can’t get your hands on canned tomatoes. Meanwhile, I’ve opted for courgettes as the main vegetable stars of the dish as they seem to still be widely available in the shops, so give this a go and let me know what y’all think. Stay safe everyone!

Ingredients

500g Gluten Free Gnocchi
1 x Tablespoon olive oil
1 x Medium Onion, Chopped
2 x Garlic Cloves, Chopped
1 x Tablespoon Grainy Mustard
250ml Creme Fraîche
100g Grated Parmesan/Italian Hard Cheese
30ml Boiling Water
2 x Courgettes, Chopped into Small Cubes
½ Teaspoon Chilli Flakes
½ Teaspoon Dried Parsley
½ Knorr Vegetable Stock Cube

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan/200 degrees gas.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 1-2 minutes. Drain immediately and set to one side.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add the onions and garlic, sauteeing until soft.
  4. Add the courgettes to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. Stir in the creme fraîche, grainy mustard, 80g of the grated cheese, chilli flakes, parsley and crumbled half stock cube.
  6. When all ingredients are combined, add the boiling water and stir quickly again.
  7. Reduce the heat and cover the pot, leaving the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  8. Prepare the cooled gnocchi in a small-medium oven casserole dish and cover with the sauce, stirring the two together so the sauce is evenly distributed around the dish.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top as well as cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of salt.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until the gnocchi is golden brown.
  11. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving with a fresh green salad.

Fluffy Cloud Bread

Even though there is a wide array of gluten free bread available on the market today, sometimes I still need a break. Growing up, my mom would come up with all sorts of things for breakfast, lunch and dinner that were bread free, just to give us an alternative from time to time. I therefore never got used to bread on the table at every meal and I still see it as quite a luxury!

When I’m in the mood for something a little different, and something lighter than gluten free bread, which can often be quite heavy, I turn to my trusty fluffy cloud bread. This alternative is made from eggs and cream cheese and yet still comes out of the oven resembling bread! It makes a delicious sandwich, or accompaniment to any meal. For years I hand whisked the eggs and I am delighted to say that a brand new electric whisk has just changed my life! Let me know what y’all think!

Fluffy Cloud Bread
(Makes between 12 and 15 portions)

Ingredients

4 x Eggs (separated)
65g Full Fat Cream Cheese (I use Philadelphia)
½ x Teaspoon Gluten Free Baking Powder
½ x Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
½ x Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ x Teaspoon Sesame Seeds
¼ x Teaspoon Sea Salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks. No liquid from the white should remain in the bowl and all the mixture should be foam that doesn’t slide across the bowl (this may take up to ten minutes).
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks, cream cheese and rest of the ingredients until smooth.
  4. Spoonful by spoonful, fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Word of warning: take your time here. The quicker you go, the more likely the whites will fall flat and turn to liquid again, which is not the appropriate consistency for fluffy cloud bread.
  5. When all the mixture is combined, spoon the mixture on to the baking trays using a tablespoon. Allow at least 6cm between each cloud bread as they do spread in the oven.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool for up to 15 minutes before serving in sandwich form with an array of fillings or on their own as a snack.

Kaliyoga

Since becoming gluten free, travelling has become a tall task. Exploring the world, anyone with allergies, intolerances or autoimmune diseases will know, always involves a lot of research, preparation and a significant amount of stress upon arrival to ensure that eateries will cater well and not result in illness. It is incredibly unusual therefore, that I get the chance to travel to a 100% gluten free destination. Being invited with my good friend Alice (@glutenfreealice) to experience not only the yoga on offer at Kaliyoga but the totally free from cuisine too was a huge privilege.

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Kaliyoga was founded by Rosie and Jonathon Miles back in 2002, who ventured to Spain in search of a location for a brand new yoga retreat. It was there, in the Alpujarra region in Andalucia, that they set up the first branch and 11 years later went on to establish a sister retreat in Puglia, Italy. The retreats offer a 6 day yoga experience, with cycling or walking activities too and work according to three basic principles: truth, wisdom and love. Guests are served three beautiful vegan meals a day, put together by a hard working team with guest seasonal chefs who all share one thing in common – a passion for delicious, plant-based food.

I had never followed a vegan diet before and what I was met with on day one totally exceeded my expectations. Upon arrival, we were met by the smell and sight of freshly baked gluten free bread, summer minestrone soup and beautiful, vibrant salads with mounds of crunchy seeds and herbs. “People fail to realize that there are a hundred times more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains than there are animal products,” guest chef Francesca, who has a vegan catering business in her hometown of Colorado, told me in an interview. “When you realize this, you start to see cooking vegan as a limitless possibility of flavors, textures and combinations, and cooking with the natural foods the earth grows and the sun nourishes is a truly beautiful thing,” Francesca added.

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Obviously elated that everything on the menu was gluten free, I could not wait to see what other delicious concoctions Francesca had in store for us. “A fully gluten free kitchen is very important to Kaliyoga,” Francesca told me. Founders Rosie and Jonathon began to see the demand for coeliac friendly cuisine several years ago and decided to make the switch to ensure that it was a totally inclusive space. “Before coming to work for Kaliyoga, I wasn’t a fully GF chef, but working here and eating the food I’ve been making made me realize that gluten free can sometimes mean much more natural and wholesome foods that are very high in fiber and minerals,” Francesca said, listing buckwheat flour for pasta or almond or sorghum flour for use in pizza crusts as her top discoveries in the kitchen.

Francesca admitted that gluten free cooking is sometimes challenging, especially when it comes to baking. “It’s definitely a science and it takes a bit of manoeuvring but once you get to know your best flours (mine are: quinoa flour, buckwheat, brown rice, almond flour, organic corn flour, chickpea flour) then the rest is just practice,” she said.

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The food choices were always a welcome surprise, and the menus kept a secret until the moment of the meal. As someone who cooks a lot for friends and family, I was positively overwhelmed to be free from decision making in this regard for a week and presented instead with colourful, filling meals each day, which at dinnertime involved three delicious courses. I don’t think I will ever forget the taste, texture and smell of the homemade pumpkin gnocchi I was served one night, which came tossed in a spicy red pepper sauce with local asparagus on the side, or the smooth fennel and pear soup which came topped with local olive oil and crunchy seeds.

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Desserts always exceeded expectations – a course which was undoubtedly won by the raw cheesecake with berry coulis and fresh strawberries. On two days, the non vegan crowd were surprised with a selection of local cheeses and eggs to accompany brunch, which were all delectable and allowed us to sample more of the local Puglian produce.

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After just 24 hours at Kaliyoga and three yoga classes lead by the incredible Tashi Dawa, I already felt a release. My body was less tense, my mind less heavy and my stomach free of complaints. I totally embraced the opportunity to be caffeine and alcohol free for the week, which allowed me to focus on my yoga practice and nourishment – two things which I had rarely given time to back home in London.

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It is also easy to be relaxed at Kaliyoga. When you’re not taking part in a yoga class, or cycling in the countryside, the environment onsite encourages tranquility and breaks from social media or technology. When I first heard this I will admit I was nervous, as my lifestyle means I am usually glued to my phone. There was however something incredibly refreshing about removing myself from the outside world, and totally focusing on rejuvenating my mind and being kind to my body, which included spending time with the retreat dogs, Tommy and Akira and their friend – Nabuco the donkey.

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Rejuvenation also came thanks to the food I was eating. Gluten free food can often be full of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients but at Kaliyoga I was able to consume food that was only doing my body good, which is a feeling so great, I honestly can not put it down into words. Thank you, Kaliyoga for such a wonderful and refreshing experience – I am already planning my return and cannot wait for more yoga, peace and gnocchi!

For more information and to book your stay at Kaliyoga, please visit the company website