Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category


Rick Stein’s oven-dried tomato and thyme tart

April 6, 2010

Saturday mornings in London often involve me sitting bleary-eyed in front of Saturday Kitchen with a cup of tea. I enjoy Rick Stein’s travel segments the most because I always pick up an interesting tip from him. The most recent Rick Stein inspired addition to my repertoire was his oven-dried tomato and thyme tart which he designed around “British food hero” blue vinney cheese. Nope, I’d never heard of it either. It is a hard and crumbly blue cheese.

The method of cooking the tomatoes involves blasting them with a high heat for 15 minutes then reducing the temperature to 150C for 1 1/4 hours until they have shrivelled and the tomato flavour has become highly concentrated.

Obviously Rick’s recipe is not gluten-free. I like to use DS frozen shortcrust pastry which is available in the frozen free-from section at Sainsbury’s. It’s not puff pastry as the recipe calls for but it will do the trick.

I cooked this recently for my parents in Australia. I wasn’t able to procure blue vinney so substituted with an Australian hard blue cheese. Dad went back for seconds.


750g/1lb ripe vine-ripened or plum tomatoes
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
450g/1lb fresh puff pastry
100g/4oz blue vinney, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
handful of wild rocket leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


1. Heat the oven to its highest setting.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthways and place them cut-side up in a lightly oiled, shallow roasting tin. Sprinkle over
1½ teaspoons of salt and some black pepper and roast for 15 minutes.

3. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and roast them for a further 1¼-1½ hours until they have shrivelled in size but are still slightly juicy in the centre. Remove and set aside.
4. Increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
5. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 30×37.5cm (12x15in) rectangle. Lift it onto a lightly greased
baking sheet, prick here and there with a fork and bake blind for 18-20 minutes until crisp and golden.
6. Remove from the oven, carefully turn it over and bake for a further five minutes.
7. Arrange the tomatoes haphazardly over the tart base, leaving a narrow border free around the edge.
8. Crumble over the slices of blue vinney, sprinkle over the thyme leaves and drizzle over the olive oil. Return the tart to the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese has melted.
9. Remove the tart from the oven and scatter the rocket over the top. Cut it into 8 pieces, sprinkle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Recipe from


Virgin Atlantic – Gluten Free Failure

March 25, 2010

I’m currently enjoying a parentally enforced sojourn to Australia. Good work if you can get it! I haven’t seen my family in about 13 months (which is incredibly hard, let me tell you) and Mum insisted that I head home for Easter. I always fly between London and Sydney with Virgin Atlantic. This is for three reasons – frequent flyer miles, Gu chocolate pots and Mango Weis bars. Yes, I’m shallow but the food on a 24 hour flight is pretty much the only interesting thing that happens and a chocolate or ice cream surprise can lighten the mood momentarily.

Last year when I flew to New York for a quick break I ordered a gluten-free meal to see what it was like. I was surprised and impressed and thought the gluten-free fare was better than the regular meals. I decided to order a gluten-free meal again for this trip and review it for Food Dorks so you’ll know what to expect if you are flying with Virgin Atlantic.

London to Hong Kong – Dinner

I didn’t eat enough before I left London and was starving by the time the plane boarded. I had been engrossed in Alex James’ autobiography at the airport and hadn’t thought about eating but by the time the plane boarded I was ready to eat the mini pillow on my seat.

Dinner was the first test of my dorkiness. If I was a true food dork I would have taken some photos. I was sitting next to a young mother from the north of England. She seemed very nice so I didn’t want to come across as a weirdo by whipping out my camera and taking photos of my dinner. My meal arrived about 30 minutes before the rest of my section was served so people were watching me. I got stage fright so didn’t take any happy snaps.

Dinner included a hot main, side salad, bread roll and fruit for dessert. The main was “Mediterranean vegetables;” a ratatouille consisting of a red, yellow and green peppers, aubergines and mushrooms, with a side of long-grain wild rice and steamed peppers. Pepper overload. When I opened the foil lid I felt very disappointed.  A few vegetables in tomato sauce. It looked bland. Bland food when you are strapped into the same bland seat, watching bland movies for a whole day is depressing. Why do they default to the vegetarian option when you ask for any kind of special meal?

The tomato and wine sauce was rich but boring after a while. The green, red and yellow pepper side was bitter and so was the red and green leaf side salad with no dressing, which was very dry but not entirely awful.

The bread roll was from Lifestyle Healthcare Limited (which made me shudder. “Traditional” freefrom brand names sound so medicinal although their website has more of a friendly look and feel). There was no give when I squeezed it. The centre was dark matter. I tore a piece off. It was crumbly but the piece stayed together. Despite the density, the bread tasted like normal brown or soya and linseed bread so I would eat one again.

The rest of the meal was a fruit salad and a cup of water. All-in-all this was a pretty good meal for flying. The regular meals usually consist of pasta, potatoes, pasta salads, bread rolls and cheese and biscuits which can be bloating. On this flight the choices were beef cobbler with potato, chicken linguine, or Sicilian pasta all with a Gu pudding. I’ve given up chocolate until Easter so it would have been cruel to be served Gu and not be able to eat it.

London to Hong Kong – Breakfast

If dinner was all about blandness, breakfast was all about bitterness. I was served what was labelled a “tomato omelette” but I’m still not sure about that. Whatever it was there was bitter tomato, bitter spinach and a substance assumed to be egg. It was totally bloomin’ inedible. I moved on.

The next best looking thing on the tray was a berry yogurt so I tucked in. After a few mouthfuls I realised with alarm that I was eating oats which meant that Virgin Atlantic had served up gluten in a gluten-free meal. I checked the label and it was clearly marked “contains: gluten.” I was really angry about that. If you order a gluten-free meal you should be able to trust that you’re going to get a gluten-free meal. By that stage I had been flying for about 10 hours and was tired so didn’t think to check the label. The item in question was a Moma Jumble Wildberry so keep an eye out for those if you fly with Virgin.

I told the flight manager and he mumbled something like “I’ll send you a letter.” He didn’t seem particularly concerned. What if it had been a nut-free meal or a food allergy instead of an intolerance? If English Boy had eaten it he would have felt ill for the first few days of his holiday. It’s not good enough.

It goes to show that you need to be eternally vigilant about gluten even when you know that your food provider understands what gluten is and has systems in place to make sure you’re not served anything containing it. I found the whole thing very disappointing and frustrating. Maybe it’s time to re-think my loyalty to Virgin.


Double chorizo treat!

March 24, 2010

This week we decided to cook a tortilla for dinner; an old Jamie Oliver recipe from Sainsbury’s Magazine. I cooked it from memory so probably got a lot of it wrong but I threw in pan-fried potato, store-bought roasted red peppers, spanish onion, 5 eggs, salt and pepper and some chorizo for good measure. We ate it with a side salad. It was scrumptious and there was plenty left over for later on.

We also had left over ingredients so today I cooked up a delicious chorizo and red pepper pasta with the left over spanish onion, tomatoes, a little olive oil and Salute gluten-free spaghetti which tastes pretty much like the real stuff and holds its form pretty well when cooked. Again it was a tasty treat but not something we could eat too often. I used cooking chorizo which is new from M&S and thankfully doesn’t contain wheat. A few of their versions contain milk which I avoided and all of them contain sulphites which are a bit harder to avoid. I think I should have fried the chorizo for a bit longer so it was crisper on the outside and browned a bit more.

We’ve obviously indulged this weekend so I’ll have to eat salad for the rest of the week. I gave up ice cream in January and chocolate two weeks ago so I’m getting my fix in other food groups!

I’m off to Australia in 9 days. I’ll sure there will be plenty of treats to blog about from home but I’ll have to reconsider an appearance at the beach if I keep eating  indulgent foods with this much gusto!


Chinese New Year 2010

February 24, 2010

This year I was much more excited about Chinese New Year than Valentine’s Day. I had a duck crown in the fridge ready for roasting and decided to make a modified version of crispy duck pancakes for dinner on February 14th. Instead of making asian pancakes I planned to use the rice paper wraps that we picked up at the asian supermarket. 

I got a little help from Something for the Weekend because they were making crispy duck pancakes too on Sunday morning. They suggested using watercress as well as spring onions and cucumber for salad and to mix a little mirin and groundnut oil in with plum sauce to make a delicious dipping sauce.

I wish I took some photos! 

The London celebrations for Chinese New Year are being held next weekend in Leicester square and Chinatown. I can’t wait. I’m hoping to see a lion dance and grab some yummy food.


Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square and China town was great fun. I really recommend it if you’re in London in February. Not a lot of safely gluten-free food unfortunately.

I got to see a lion dance from inside a chinese grocery store and it was fantastic. There seemed to be a few lions going around China Town and dancing in front of chinese stores. They were followed by huge crushes of people with cameras at the ready. I have never seen so many cameras in one place before.

I worked out the path one of the lions was taking and ran ahead of the crowd hoping to get a good view of the lion while it danced in the doorway of the shop next door. A marshall came along and told me to either go into the store I was standing in front of or move out into the crush of people. I figured I would get a perfect view of the lion from inside the store so tried to stand just inside the doorway.

The marshall kept telling us to get further inside the store and pointed to a bunch of chinese green vegetables hanging from the door frame. I hadn’t realised until then that the lions were dancing in front of the stores, taking the vegetables in their mouths and then moving on to the next store. It is called “chai ching” which means “picking the greens”.

The lion danced then reached up and tore the greens from the door frame. It ducked down low with the greens in its mouth and backed out of the store. It then stood up tall and spat the leaves back into the shop! Apparently the parcel of greens contains an envelope with money inside. The lion dancers bring good luck to the store and the dancers get to keep the money as a reward. I felt so privileged to get the see the dance from inside the store right in front of the lion. My pictures aren’t great but you get the idea. 


January 31, 2010

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