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Tennis balls (aka coconut & cacao balls)

snacks, sweets | October 8, 2015 | By

My name is Lisa and I own a Thermomix. There, I said it. 

These energy-dense balls have been part of my repertoire since the very early days of owning my machine and they have recently found an appreciative audience amongst the lovely group of women I play tennis with on Thursday mornings. They are the perfect healthy post-exercise snack, quick to rustle up in the early morning when I don’t really feel like putting the oven on, and easily transported.

There are hundreds of similar recipes to be found on the net. I wrote this one with mums in mind as, unlike many others. they contain no nuts, just lots of seeds, so are safe for lunch boxes. To get a nice smooth texture you will need a high speed blender of some description, otherwise they will be rather gritty, because of all those seeds.

I sometimes roll them in more cacao, but the oil from the seeds quickly darkens it, so if you’re serving these a while after preparing them then I’d stick to the coconut coating. And as with all my recipes, modify it to suit your tastebuds or store cupboard. If you don’t have (or like) one particular type of seed then add more of one of the others. If you don’t have cacao, use cocoa. If you don’t have maple syrup, use honey. If you don’t have any seeds at all, make something else.

Coconut & cacao balls
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tbsp flax seeds
  2. 2 tbsp chia seeds
  3. 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  4. 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  5. 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  6. 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  7. 2-3 tbsp cacao (depending how chocolatey you like them)
  8. 6 medjool dates, stones removed
  9. 1 tbsp maple syrup
  10. to roll : desiccated coconut
Instructions
  1. Place all the seeds and coconut in your high speed blender and blend until fine.
  2. Add the cacao and dates and maple syrup and blend until the mixture is fine and even (it will look crumbly).
  3. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls - smaller or larger as you wish.
  4. Roll them in desiccated coconut.
  5. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (a complete guess as mine never last that long!).
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Flapjack

cakes, snacks, sweets | August 27, 2015 | By

Flapjacks are a staple of school life in the UK. At least they were when I was a child. They have now probably been overtaken by trendy pre-wrapped granola and raw bars (who am I kidding?!). But when I was a child, flapjacks were the absolute pinnacle of quality homemade goodies that could be found tucked in a lunchbox.

When I was at secondary school I remember the music teacher making flapjacks for the teachers’ coffee break every day for about 2 years to fund the purchase of a new grand piano for the school. Dedication to the cause indeed. And when I was at medical school, triangle shaped flapjacks featured regularly as a post- Dissection Room snack. I kid you not. But I think I’d better leave that particular conversation there….

Flapjacks are not tricky. Buttery, sugary, utterly sinful but ridiculously easy with one caveat – as long as you have the right sized tin and oven temp. Too large a tin and your flap jack will be too thin and crispy, too small and it will be too thick and chewy. I like mine crispy. You have been warned. And please don’t ask me for nutritional information. I like to eat mine, albeit very occasionally, without a guilt complex.

Flapjacks
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Ingredients
  1. 90g demerara sugar
  2. 90g granulated sugar
  3. 175g unsalted butter
  4. 1 heaped tbsp golden syrup
  5. good pinch sea salt
  6. 350g jumbo GF oats (old-fashioned oats)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 150C or 130C fan.
  2. Butter a tin measuring approx 20 x 27cm.
  3. Place the sugars, butter and golden syrup in a medium pan and heat over medium heat until the butter has melted.
  4. Stir in the oats and salt and mix well.
  5. Tip the mixture into a greased tin and flatten down well with a spatula.
  6. Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins until golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool and tip out of the tin as one piece before absolutely cold, or you might have trouble getting them out of the tin! Cut into squares or triangles once absolutely cold.
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Vietnamese rice paper rolls

dinner, lunch, snacks, starter | August 22, 2015 | By

 

Vietnamese rice paper rolls are easy to make but can be daunting to the uninitiated. They make a fairly regular appearance on our gluten free family table as a DIY affair, and my offspring learned to assemble their own rolls from quite a young age, although it’s fair to say their first attempts were pretty ramshackle. I prepare the poached chicken, julienned vegetables, cooked noodles and washed herbs, and rustle up a quick dipping sauce to go alongside. If time is short, then sweet Thai chill sauce will serve as an accompaniment instead.
What we prepare might bear little resemblance to an authentic Vietnamese rice paper roll, but it does make a fresh , healthy supper, which is almost fat-free. All the elements can be prepared well in advance and stored in airtight containers in the fridge. Children are always more keen to try foods they have had a hand in preparing, so why not give these a go. Be as adventurous as you like. I made a lesser-known but actually very traditional version recently with some pieces of fried white fish fillet, cucumber, fresh dill and thin slices of pineapple – delicious.
Two words of caution though – I would suggest you retain control over the dipping of the papers, as a spilled bowl of hot water is not likely to provide a fun-filled interlude at dinner time. And be careful if serving this version to a Vietnamese guest. The addition of a slick of GF hoisin sauce inside the wrapper is clearly an abomination on the part of my family. Not at all authentic, but very tasty indeed.

Vietnamese rice paper rolls
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Ingredients
  1. 2-3 chicken breasts
  2. 3 slices of ginger
  3. bee noon or vermicelli noodles, prepared according to the packet
  4. 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and julienned
  5. 3 carrots, peeled and julienned
  6. 6 spring onions, julienned
  7. handful of fresh coriander, leaves washed and picked from stems
  8. handful of fresh mint, washed
  9. handful of fresh basil, washed
  10. hoisin sauce (optional)
dipping sauce
  1. 2 tbsp fish sauce
  2. juice of 3 limes
  3. 1/2 fresh long red finger chilli, chopped finely
  4. 2 tbsp caster sugar
  5. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Poach the chicken breasts by placing them in a shallow pan and covering with water. Add the ginger, place over a medium heat and as soon as the water comes to the boil, turn off the gas, cover with a fitting lid and leave for 20 mins. Remove from the water and chill.
  2. Prepare a large shallow bowl of warm water for dipping.
  3. Dip one paper at a time into the water until just wet - several seconds only. Do not wait for the paper to soften in the bowl, or it will be impossible to handle. Place on a plate while still quite stiff, it will soften on the plate as the water is absorbed.
  4. Place some of the herbs on the bottom third of the paper, then make layers of chicken, vegetables, noodles and some hoisin sauce if using.
  5. Fold the bottom third of the paper up and then roll up, tucking in the sides as you go. Slice in half to serve, or leave open at one end for a more authentic look.
  6. Serve with the dipping sauce, made by stirring all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved, or Thai sweet chilli sauce.
For a change, try using some of the following ingredients
  1. thinly sliced rare tuna
  2. cooked prawns
  3. fresh dill
  4. avocado
  5. mango
  6. pineapple
  7. roasted duck breast
  8. grilled marinated pork
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Overnight oats

breakfast, snacks | August 19, 2015 | By

This is one of my favourite, prepare-ahead gluten free breakfasts , and it makes a great healthy snack too. Breakfast time is usually fairly busy in most homes and if you are time poor, then 3 minutes spent assembling the night before could be a great investment. My younger son likes these as a post-exercise snack too – easy to digest, quick to eat and yummy. The chia seeds help thicken the mixture and add some omega 3s into the bargain.

I tend to use vanilla yogurt – the ones sold in little glass jars in France work well. If you only have natural yogurt, then add a little vanilla extract and maple syrup to taste. In the morning I check the consistency, add a little milk if necessary, and return the oats to their cleaned glass jars. Am I the only one to enjoy seeing nice tidy rows of the same thing in the fridge? It could explain why I never run out of anchovies or capers….

Overnight Oats
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Ingredients
  1. 1 small vanilla yogurt (125g)
  2. 125 ml milk (approx) - semi-skimmed, full fat or non-dairy
  3. 2 tsp chia seeds
  4. 1/2 cup jumbo (old-fashioned) GF oats
  5. fresh fruit to serve
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Cover and stash in the fridge overnight.
  3. Stir again in the morning and add a little more milk if mixture is too thick.
  4. Serve with chopped fresh fruit.
Notes
  1. I use the yogurt jar to measure the milk.
  2. If using natural yogurt, then add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp maple syrup (or to taste).
  3. Can be stored for 24 hours if needed.
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