A Gluten-Free Deep-Fry Party. And Vodka.

Home again, home again, cluckety-cluck. Only took me a whole year to think of that one. Back to St. John’s and still reeling from the aftereffects of Roots, Rants and Roars, little red chicken attempts first new recipe on home turf since May. But not at home in the little red kitchen. Sandy and I were in the middle of rehearsing Oedipus Rex and Antigone and playing Ismene and Antigone respectively. What better way to bring two genetically messed up Greek sisters closer together than a gluten-free deep-fry party? After discovering she had to give up gluten this past summer, Sandy attacked her intolerance head-on. As you might remember from previous entries, we sure had a hell of a lot of fun with sorghum flour and xanthan gum. Sandy now laughs in the face of gluten (I merely chuckle…I can still pound the face off a loaf of Nanny’s homemade bread) but she mourned the loss of fried chicken. She decided to treat herself to a shiny new deep-fryer, one that would be strictly reserved for gluten-free treats. We decided to break it in one evening after rehearsal with some onion bhaji and veggie pakoras. You know, like the ancient Greeks would have done.

Sandy had done some poking around online and found these sweet little recipes on unsolvedmysteries.com. I have no idea how these recipes ended up on a site like this, but it’s pretty flashy, looks like the nineties, and makes me afraid to click links for fear of downloading something that will make my computer blow up. But awesome nonetheless. Though “not affiliated with Unsolved Mysteries Television Show” for all you Robert Stack fans.

Since leaving Cow Head and losing regular access to Didi’s super-camera I’ve been bribing friends with food if they take photos for the blog with their iPhones. Sandy graciously took most of these pics…and I will openly admit I cheated with this recipe. I chopped, stirred and dipped but made Sandy do most of the dirty work, as deep-fryers frighten the shit out of me. I think it’s a product of growing up with a mother who scared the bejesus out of us when it came to deep-frying. It was the eighties and the height of “don’t burn your house down when you’re making fries” warnings on the evening news. She would stand over an open pot of hot oil, my sisters and I huddled in fear on the other side of the kitchen while she glared at us and hissed “Don’t you ever let me catch you doing this.” Her homemade pogo sticks kicked ass but to this day I’ve never deep-fried anything. Also wondering if anyone else’s mother told them that Linda on Sesame Street was deaf from Q-tip misusage? Anyone?

Gluten-Free Onion Bhajis  (adapted from unsolvedmysteries.com)

4 oz chickpea flour
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 oz fresh coriander, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 large onion, cut into chunky slices
cold water to mix
vegetable oil to fry

Sift the flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped coriander, onions and chillies and mix well, pressing the onions firmly to release the juices. Mix well and leave to one side. Preheat the oil to 350F. Gradually add a little water to the flour mixture until it just sticks together. Take small handfuls of the mixture and form into flattened patties. Drop gently into hot oil and cook until browned. Do not make them too large or they will not cook through. Golf ball-sized pieces are large enough. Drain well and serve hot.

Vegetable Pakoras

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 tsp crushed green chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp mango powder (optional)
1/2 tsp crushed pomegranate seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
cold water to mix

Mix all ingredients with cold water to reach a thick, smooth batter consistency. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Prepare a selection of vegetables of your choice (eggplant, sweet potato, cauliflower, etc.) to either coat with the batter or mix into the batter. For dipping, simply dip the vegetable into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and fry immediately. For the mixed in vegetables, mix well into the batter and drop spoonfuls into the hot oil. Both types are ready when they begin to brown.

Mint and Cucumber Raita

plain yogurt
chopped fresh mint leaves
finely chopped cucumber
sprinkle of red chilli powder

Mix desired amounts to taste by hand or in a food processor.

Ancient Greek gluten-free deep-fry party: success. Everything was crispy and delicious, nothing blew up, and I am one step closer to deep-frying completely on my own. We went a little loosey-goosey with the raita and played around til we had something tasty. I’ve made a sauce similar to this for homemade samosas, oftentimes replacing yogurt with sour cream (I know! So deliciously evil!!) and the chilli powder with ground cumin. Mess around, see what you come up with and let me know how it works out. All very good with (ahem, gluten-free) Strongbow cider.

Shamefully, shamefully trying to squeeze five weeks’ worth of new recipes into one blog. Onward. Weeks 43 and 44 and a not so gluten-free evening with my yogi. A Friday night a couple of weeks later and Melanie and I decided to have a night in with some red wine and heavy carbs. Some of you might remember the Waldorf salad from ages ago, made on a whim from Jamie Oliver’s newish book Jamie’s America. I found a recipe for a vodka arrabbiata from the same book, and although vodka makes me fall out of lawn chairs, I’m all over spicy food, so I hoped that one would cancel out the other and off we went to Sobey’s.

Mel’s a stickler when it comes to whole wheat pasta. I was on that kick for a while, but man, white pasta just tastes better. And it feels…wrong with any other other kind. Like somewhere a little old Italian woman is laughing at me when I pick up a box of Catelli Healthy Harvest. So I stopped eating it. This decision was cemented when I heard my friend Karen mention one day that whole wheat pasta was like cat tongues (which is weird because she owns two wiener dogs). Every whole wheat pasta dish has been a little off ever since. Done. We hit the pasta aisle and I casually reached for a box of spaghettini and said “You’re cool with white pasta for this one, right?” Silence. Mel screwed up her nose. I told her that the Italian guy in the Barilla commercial would never leave a box of whole wheat pasta on the doorstep of his blond neighbour. Because if a fella whole-wheated me like that I’d heave it back out the window at him. “But we’re going authentic and I’m pretty sure whole wheat pasta’s illegal in Italy.” No go. I relented. What could I do? The woman’s my yogi and taught me how to do a headstand without crying like a seven year old. We compromised. Went wholegrain instead of whole wheat. I don’t even know what that means. It’s all cat tongues to me. See? I’m ruined.

Jamie Oliver’s Vodka Arrabbiata ( from Jamie’s America, Penguin, 2010)

4 fresh red chillies
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
a small bunch of fresh Italian parsley, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 x 14 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
3 shots of vodka
1 lb spaghetti
1 lemon
optional: extra virgin olive oil

Prick the chillies (Jamie said it, not me) 6 to 8 times with a small, sharp knife. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and chillies and let them cook slowly for 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to full whack (Jamie said it, not me) and add the garlic, parsley stalks and anchovies. Keep moving everything around in the pan and when the garlic starts to take on some colour add the canned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil, add the vodka, and turn the heat down so the sauce simmers. Gently bash up your chillies with a wooden spoon to release more of their great flavour into the sauce. Add your pasta to a saucepan of boiling salted water and cook following the package instructions. Drain in a colander, then toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide between bowls or serve on a big platter. Roughly chop the reserved parsley leaves and sprinkle them over your pasta. Finely grate the lemon zest over the top, then squeeze in the juice, making sure you catch the pips in your hands. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil to finish it off. Serve with a fresh green salad.

This recipe was off the hook, cat tongues or no. Tastes very…like pasta was meant to be? That sounds food-snobby, but you know how most of us were reared on spaghetti and meat sauce (not knocking it, I love it) and had no idea what real Italian pasta was until we went there or had someone Italian cook it for us? This tastes like that. Like a fresh, salty, lemony burst of something that you would eat in a stone house in Tuscany somewhere. Dead easy, tastes fancy. I made it four more times in ten days and finally got to use the tin of anchovies that had been in my fridge for months. If you’re making this dish for anyone who doesn’t like anchovies (because let’s face it, they’re weird and smelly) don’t tell them. We fed the leftovers to Mel’s boyfriend who’s not a fan and he didn’t notice. They give the pasta a salty-smoky flavour that I think might be impossible to replicate. I totally endorse lying to picky eaters (but not vegetarians, that would just be mean…most times) but check for fish allergies because there’s nothing like an epi-pen to ruin a Friday night in.

We were a little wary about the chillies, seeing as how we had to cook them whole without de-seeding, so we played it safe and used Fresnos. I say that like I’ve used them before when what it actually means to me is a check in the number two box (ten being the highest) on the plastic pack you can get at Sobey’s.  Also never divided anything into plates, just tossed sauce, parsley, lemon zest and juice all together in the pan to save time and it worked out just fine.  Best with white spaghettini (sorry Mel).  We finished the night off with peanut butter squares, a recipe from a friend of Melanie’s who adapted them into gluten-free treats. The red wine convinced us that a dessert with no wheat would cancel out the pasta we had just eaten.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Squares

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup teff flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
4 oz chopped chocolate (or you know, a pile of chocolate chips)
1 tsp xanthan gum

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8″x8″ pan and set aside. Cream together butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Combine the oats, flours, soda, salt and xanthan gum in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter/peanut butter mixture and stir well. Fold in the chocolate. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but you get the idea. Peanut-buttery, chocolatey, chewy squares that will impress your gluten-free pals and fool you into feeling less guilty for eating half the pan just because you’re eating quinoa flour.

A very good Friday night in.

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