A pleasing resemblance to food

Jun.11, 2010, filed under Food/drink, Miscellany

avatarThere used to be a food section on this website, before the grand redesign prompted by Blogger’s removal of ftp support (the bar stewards). It had recipes on it for things like the carrot cake recipe that makes the sunflower seeds turn budgerigar green; the rabbit and puy lentil stew that went down so well that time in Oxford; the salad dressing that had everyone from the Britwitch New Forest camp asking for it; and the chilli that has more chocolate in it than any sane person would think sensible, until tasting.

There currently is no food section on this website. In fact, most of the legacy pages — the science, the not-pagan, the megalithomania, the short fiction and the other weblog — have not made it across. This is mostly not much of an issue and I have no intention of putting it back. However, I think I might need a new food section.

Cooking is one of my interests. I take it seriously. It’s not because I harbour any great ambition to carve out my living as a chef, otherwise I’d enter Masterchef; I’m one of those people who takes any given interest seriously. If a thing is interesting enough for me to spend time doing it, it’s interesting enough for me to get good at it. I do things properly.

I’m also synaesthetic, and my synaesthesia is a taste/smell/shape sort of affair. Flavours and aromas are important to me because my life is imbued with them.

Recently I had a stomach upset, which has left me unable to tolerate animal products in any great quantity. I’m not best pleased about this. While I have no issue with other people making whatever choice they wish to make about their diet, I tried vegetarianism before, for a number of years, and I didn’t thrive on it. I’ve always been healthier with flesh in my diet.

The other issue is that I’m intolerant of tomatoes and peppers (and, more recently, of wheat) and we can’t have nuts in the house because Frood is allergic in a get-him-to-hospital-pronto sort of a way. This has left us with what would seem to be a fairly restrictive diet. And it’s about now that my years-long obsession with food and diet and nutrition comes into its own.

We’re eating more Japanese. We’re looking at classical cuisines from the Far East, where it took longer for the ubiquitous American foodstuffs of peppers, potatoes and tomatoes to penetrate. I’m discovering new ways of flavouring and balancing seasoning, and I’m doing it all without recourse to the junk food option of tubs with obfuscated ingredients.

I managed some vegetarian stovies recently, a recipe simple enough that it can be deduced from the series of photos on my Flickr site. They were quite nice.

What we were missing, though, was a recipe for macaroni cheese, one of the great comfort foods. I decided that I would make it my mission to come up with a wheat-free, dairy-free alternative. It’s not macaroni cheese and it tastes only very vaguely cheesy, however — and it does pain me to say this, for reasons with which Munky will be only too familiar — it does bear a comforting resemblance to macaroni cheese. And it’s quite nice in and of itself.

So, because it has been requested, here is how to make it,

Wheat, gluten and dairy-free savoury pasta in the style of macaroni cheese

Serves, er, probably 4. 2 hungry cyclists if served with garlic bread. Quantities are approximate because I was making it up as I went along.

  • 200g brown rice pasta shapes
  • 3 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 4 heaped tbsp Dove’s farm gluten-free all purpose flour (or use corn flour)
  • Half a cup (100ml) white wine
  • 400ml rice or soy milk
  • 3tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • Pinch saffron threads (I suppose you could use turmeric)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • (If using low salt bouillon) 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp plain soy yoghurt
  • Nutmeg and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (or approx. 200ml) nutritional yeast (available from health food stores)

Put the pasta shapes on to cook according to the directions. Use plenty of water in a big pot. Pre-heat oven to 170°C.

Make the bouillon powder up to about 200ml with boiling water. Add the saffron and stir in the miso and the soy sauce.

Melt the margarine in a medium pot over a low heat and fry off the crushed garlic gently, avoiding colouring it. Grate some nutmeg in there or add some pre-ground. Add the flour. Stir vigorously until the flour has absorbed all the fat. Add the wine, a little at a time, stirring continuously, to make a smooth paste. Switch your wooden spoon for a small hand whisk if you have one. Add the stock mixture, a little at a time, stirring rapidly so as not to create lumps. Once the stock mixture has been used, switch to the soy/rice milk. Add a bit at a time and then turn up the heat, if necessary, to bring to a boil and allow to thicken. Add the yoghurt. Add more milk-substitute if it gets too thick. Stir all the time. Any lumps can be whisked out. If it’s too thin, (or you want more sauce) mix a tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of milk substitute until it is smooth and add it to the mix, stirring rapidly.

Grind some pepper in there and whisk in the nutritional yeast. Taste to check seasoning.

Once pasta has cooked to just al dente, drain and pour sauce over the top. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread (gluten-free bread spread with crushed garlic in olive oil) or salad.

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