Archive for the ‘Special ingredients’ Category


Gluten-free Mexican ingredients & a pork pibil recipe

May 6, 2012

A lot of people are obsessed with Wahaca’s pork pibil tacos and want to find out if they’re gluten-free. I know because it’s the most searched item on Food Dorks. And who can blame them? Pork pibil tacos are mouthwatering parcels of tender deliciousness and I order them every time I go to Wahaca, without fail. (And, yes, the Wahaca recipe is gluten-free!)

So I know people will understand my launching on a crusade to find an easy way to make (or better yet, buy) gluten-free corn tortillas to make pork pibil at home so I can eat tacos all the time.

I have a Thomasina Miers’ cookbook, Mexican Food Made Simple, but she has cleverly omitted her most popular taco recipe so I’ve had to do a lot more searching. (Tommi does include recipes for refried beans, tortillas, pickled pink onions and other Mexican essentials so the book is still highly recommended!)

The best looking recipe I’ve found on the interwebs is this one from Food.People.Want. (Cheers buddy!)

So, after a lot of homework, I had recipes but I still needed ingredients and these are not easy to come by in the UK. My search for ingredients led me to Mex Grocer… which led me to spending about 40 pounds on dried chillies, Mexican spices, tortillas, black beans, banana leaves, mesa harina, and marinades. These magic ingredients, when combined with humble rice, pork, onions and garlic make the most amazing food to be sampled on the planet. The Mex Grocer delivery was speedy and the products were great, especially the gluten-free soft tortillas. Believe it or not but the hardest thing to source to make a Mexican feast was fresh bay leaves; Tesco and Sainsbury’s do not stock them so I had to drive across town to Waitrose to get some.

After all the effort of gathering the ingredients I let myself down by not cooking the pork in a “dutch oven” or what i imagine is a cast iron pot like a Le Creuset. I don’t own one and didn’t feel like forking out on one. So the pork was not tender and melt-in-the-mouth as you get at Wahaca but it tasted just as delicious. The stars of the dish really seemed to be the toppings; pink pickled onions, the refried black beans and fresh sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro).

Nevertheless, the goodies I picked up at are a very welcome addition to my kitchen. Although it took a bit of effort, my batch of Thomasina Miers’ chipotles en adobo is smokey, tangy and delicious. Her refried black beans also took a lot of time and blending but the result was so tasty we ate til we were far too full to do anything for the rest of the afternoon. Siesta time!


Alright, I have to confess that I wrote the above MONTHS ago (Hi! I’m back. *waves*). Since then I have tried again and this time I nailed the recipe. My hot tips are:

  • you don’t need banana leaves.
  • you DO need a cast iron pot so the meat slow-cooks in the oven and all of the juices are sealed in. Since the failed attempt I got this beautiful teal Cook’s Collection pot from Sainsbury’s. The colour is a nice happy bright teal and it reminds me of Tommi’s book and the bright colours of Mexican decorations so it’s perfect to prep a Mexican feast.
  • You don’t need dried black beans and hours of soaking as per Tommi’s recipe. Just use tinned black beans. I got some in a tetra pack from Sainsbury’s. I threw a batch of black beans together in about 20 minutes while I boiled some rice and they tasted amazing.
  • DON’T add salt to boiling beans until they are nearly ready. Salt makes them go hard.
  • You do need epazote for black beans though, or at least anise seeds or star anise as a substitute.
  • Dried bay leaves are fine. You don’t need fresh.
  • Don’t skip the pink pickled onions. They pull the whole dish together. I prefer Tommi’s recipe for these – although again, I cut the time down to about 15 minutes.
  • The Mex Grocer tortillas are fantastic. Last weekend I tried to make my own with the masa harina I bought and it was an almighty failure. Does anyone know how to stop tortillas from going hard in the frying pan? I’ve always struggled with pancakes and tortillas!
  • Tommi Miers has a new book coming out in 2012 so keep an eye out to see if it has all the recipes you need before you buy the first book

Let me know if this has been helpful in the comments section. Thanks!


Gluten-Free Treats: Soft Amaretti Biscuits

January 5, 2011

Happy New Year from Food Dorks!

We were lucky to receive a few gluten-free treats for Christmas including soft Amaretti Virginia biscuits in a beautiful spaghetti tin. Amaretti are Italian almond biscuits with a soft and chewy texture. They are sometimes flavoured with apricot kernels and honey. The biscuits are individually wrapped in colourful wax paper so they look like giant sweets. Amaretti are a new discovery for me and I was very surprised that there are gluten-free biscuits out there that I don’t know about!

I had spent a lot of pre-Christmas weeks daydreaming about Italian Christmas treats (especially panettone) but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to share any with the family since most are made with wheat flour. I had completely overlooked the fact that amaretti are safe for coeliacs.

I found them to have a subtle aniseed aftertaste but thought they were quite nice on their own. I’ve heard that Italians like to dip them in red wine or have them with espresso. Over the new year I heard Genarro Contaldo talking about crunching amaretti biscuits over chocolate desserts and thought that sounded like a great idea. I also remembered one of Nigella’s old trifle recipes included crumbled amaretti and thought I must be on to something so suggested to English Boy that he should crumble a little amaretti over his Worthingshaw’s vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The result was absolutely delicious (although I’m sure it wouldn’t exactly be approved by an Italian). We’ll be stocking the cupboard with amaretti from now on. If you don’t like your biscuits to be too sweet I recommend amaretti for a gluten-free treat.


Sainsbury’s Magazine – Gluten-free cover star

September 12, 2010

This month Sainsbury’s Magazine has relaunched with a more modern and stylish design to make their recipes easier to follow.

The beautiful cover shot features double chocolate fudge cakes decorated with glossy chocolate ganache and sugared violets from Jane Asher. It’s easy to see why this gorgeous image shot by Jonathan Gregson and styled by Kim Morphew was chosen to be the cover star; the cakes look irresistible.

To my surprise and delight this recipe is gluten-free! At first they appear to be rich floury mud cakes that would be off-limits, but upon closer inspection these are in fact flourless chocolate cakes and the coarse, muddy texture comes courtesy of ground almonds in place of flour. This is a fantastic example of a treat that can be served up to a gathering of coeliacs and wheat-eaters without having to announce that it’s gluten-free.

I can’t publish the recipe as it’s not available online but Sainsbury’s mag is a bargain at £1.40 so I recommend that you race out to get a copy for this recipe alone. Better still, do a shop online at, throw a load of your usual freefrom goodies in the basket and a copy of Sainsbury’s Magazine and have it delivered to your front door.

Well done to Sainsbury’s Magazine for featuring a gluten-free recipe on the cover. Shame you have to flick to page 88 to find out that it’s gluten-free though and a lot of coeliac shoppers will miss this… unless, of course, they are fellow Food Dorks!

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If you’re looking for similar flourless cake recipes I can recommend the flourless chocolate cake recipe in Sweet food by Murdoch books. It’s another lovely, nutty cake based on ground hazelnuts but I substitute ground almonds and it is delicious.

Nigella Lawson’s clementine cake is another foolproof gluten-free recipe and is a perfect Christmas treat. Substituting lemons for clementines in this recipe is not so foolproof – it was an unmitigated disaster and not the syrupy lemon drizzle cake I imagined. Still, both versions fill the house with glorious citrus scents.

For more info on the October issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine click here.


More to come soon…

June 24, 2010

Life takes over, doesn’t it? I have been so busy since I arrived back from Australia that I’ve had no time to keep you up to date with my latest gluten-free news. Plenty has happened and I have loads to update you with including:

  • Tips for gluten-free travel in Spain
  • My first attempt at gluten-free pork pibil tacos, chipotle adobe and pickled red onions
  • Gluten-free dining at Cafe Rouge
  • The 2010 Allergy & Gluten-Free Show
  • Gluten-free Mexican groceries

I feel hungry just thinking about it. I hope to catch up this weekend so keep your eyes peeled or sign-up for updates straight into your inbox at the bottom right of the page.



Delia’s Rhubarb and Ginger Brûlée Dairy-Free Style

May 17, 2010

Why shouldn’t we be able to partake in the fun?

Today I experimented with Delia’s Rhubarb Brûlée recipe from Waitrose.

For the uninitiated the Delia of whom I write is Delia Smith, England’s home cooking doyenne. In the UK, Delia is known only by her Christian name, a la Beyoncé, and has a legion of loyal followers. Legend has it that Delia taught England how to cook, including simple tasks such as boiling an egg. In the past few years Delia has taught home cooks how to cut corners with her Cheats book and television series. She is famous for the Delia effect – if she recommends something, English supermarkets sell out of the product within days. Recently, she has become the co-spokesperson for Waitrose’s latest foodie campaign with Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck.

The first recipe of Waitrose’s new campaign was Delia’s rhubarb brûlée. True to form, Delia’s recipe soon caused a shortage of British rhubarb and Waitrose had to import stocks from Germany. In four days Waitrose sold 12 week’s worth of rhubarb. Tesco and other supermarkets also experienced the effect and thanked Waitrose for the extra sales.

I am a little dubious about this recipe being a brûlée because it doesn’t contain a custard or any eggs. The brûlée topping consists of cream, yogurt and demerara sugar. OK so technically it could be a burnt cream but it’s not custard like a true creme brûlée. Something that really bothers me about many yogurts in the UK is that WHIPPED CREAM is the main ingredient. I find that completely disgusting. Obviously Delia doesn’t. I can understand adding a little yogurt to your whipped cream to make it a little healthier in a dessert. But adding whipped cream to your healthy fruit yogurt to make it a little more atheriosclerosis-inducing is just gross. So I don’t mix yogurt with cream. It’s like eating a handful of M&Ms and pretending that a glass of water balances it all out. Anyway, I digress.

I bought a carton of Alpro soya vanilla custard and a pot of Alpro chilled single soya cream intending to mix them together as per the recipe. But I couldn’t bring myself to add cream to custard so just poured the custard over the baked rhubarb and ginger. As I suspected, being a runny custard and not a baked custard, the brûlée just melted and didn’t set into a crackly caramel top. But all was not lost – it was a rhubarb creme caramel! So not an abject failure as I feared. It was delicious but not the same as creme brûlée. Incidentally, I have successfully used Alpro products to make dairy-free baked custards and creme brûlées before and it doesn’t take much effort so will probably stick with that in the future. Nevertheless, the blend of rhubarb and stem ginger is scrummy and worth a try if you like ginger.

The original recipe is:


800g rhubarb
1 rounded dessertspoon Cooks’ Ingredients Organic Ground Ginger
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
3 heaped tablespoons demerara sugar
200g Greek yogurt
300ml Waitrose Extra Thick Jersey Double Cream or essential Waitrose Extra Thick Double Cream

For the brûlée
175g demerara sugar

I used a heatproof oval dish measuring 23 x 15cm at the base


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. You need to begin this by trimming and chopping the rhubarb into 2.5cm chunks, then pile them into a bowl, add the sugar and the ground and chopped ginger and toss them all together. After that, transfer everything to the baking dish, pop it into the oven on the centre shelf and bake for 20 minutes. Then carefully stir the rhubarb, turning it over, and bake for another 10–15 minutes or until it’s tender.
  2. When it’s cooked, leave the rhubarb to get completely cold, then tip as much of the juice out by drawing the fruit back gently with a draining spoon and allowing the juice to drain from one end of the tilted dish.
  3. When you’re ready to do the brûlée, preheat the grill to its highest setting for 15 minutes. Now combine the yogurt and thick cream in a bowl, and spoon it evenly over the top, making sure it goes right up to the edges of the dish. Next spoon the sugar evenly over the cream right up to the edges, and when the grill is really hot, place the dish about 7.5cm from the heat, and just let the sugar melt, bubble and caramelise to a rich golden brown. This will take about 8 minutes, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it as it may need a bit more or less time.
  4. When it’s cooled and the caramel has set, you can cover with clingfilm and keep it in the fridge till needed (it can be made up to 8 hours in advance). To serve, tap the caramel with a spoon and serve just as it is – nothing else needed.

Special ingredients and food science

February 11, 2010

My dorkiness is not confined to the realm of food. I was also a major geek at school and uni and have always loved learning new things. High school chemistry was always a challenge for me but, as it was such an ongoing struggle, I loved those moments of clarity when I understood what was going on. It didn’t last long though. Chemical reactions was one of the topics I actually got when my teacher explained that it was just like baking a cake! 

To bake a cake you need different ingredients that will react together when heat is added. Some ingredients are liquids, some are solids, and some gas is produced during the reaction. Baking powder is added in some recipes to increase the amount of gas in the cake batter so the cake is lighter and fluffier. 

I got to thinking of chemistry when considering what happens to food when you take gluten out of the equation. The gluten doesn’t just affect your stomach, it is fundamental to the structure of the cake. When the gluten in the flour becomes wet it becomes stretchy. The gluten forms a protective layer around the air bubbles in the cake batter and when the cake reaches the right temperature in the oven, the gluten stops being stretchy and the cake holds its fluffy form. So, unfortunately for people with coeliacs, without gluten you don’t get fluffy light cakes or breads. If you’ve tried most of the gluten-free baked goods on the market over the past five years then you know what I mean. A lot of gluten-free products have been like bricks; heavy, leaden dough with little air inside.

So, I’ve decided to look at special ingredients for a gluten-free kitchen that help to make food taste and feel the way it’s supposed to. Ingredients like ground almonds, rice paper, tamari, and xanthan gum can expand your options for meals and treats.

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