I’m fortunate enough not to have any specific dietary requirements or allergies – except, bizarrely, to red and green peppers. It catches me out on occasion when they find their way into something unexpected, such as a tomato-based sauce made with roasted vegetables.
Thankfully for those with food intolerances and allergies today, whether you are dining out or doing the weekly shop, there is much more awareness and much more support. There are plenty of blogs and sites that offer a wealth of information and recipes for those following a diet free of nuts, dairy, gluten and shellfish. Two blogs that I regularly read, and that often encourage me to make healthier choices, are Green Kitchen Stories and 101 Cookbooks. Both help their readers to lead a “free-from” lifestyle, whether by requirement or choice. As a result of reading more, I’m always keen to try free-from foods or recipes on the basis that some of the alternative recipes end up healthier and tastier than the originals – there’s a gluten-free muesli mix we absolutely love in our house!
An example of a big switch we’ve made as a family has been to regularly replace white rice and pastas with brown varieties. We’ve also now tried quite a few different types of gluten-free pasta and as long as you stick cook your pasta “al dente” or with a bite, you can barely tell the difference. You could even try your own hand at making gluten-free pasta dough at home. Cooking times vary: some of them take a little longer to cook, while others turn soft very quickly. Rice pasta in particular, I find, tends to cook very quickly, but as long as you keep an eye on your pan you’ll be fine. We’ve found an organic brown rice pasta that we all enjoy eating and scores extra points on the fibre.
This brown rice, gluten-free spaghetti carbonara is probably one of the quickest midweek meals I make. My kids lovingly call this dish “egg and bacon spaghetti”. It can be on the table in less than fifteen minutes and all you need are two pans and a cheese grater. I add a little garlic to my Italian pancetta (or bacon), left as a whole clove and taken out before serving – or you could use a garlic olive oil instead for a little extra flavour. You’ll also need some very fresh eggs and lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese – beware of pre-grated cheeses as sometimes they are coated and may contain traces of gluten.
Gluten-free spaghetti carbonara
400g organic, brown rice spaghetti
1 clove garlic, whole
200g Italian pancetta, cubed or chopped
3 eggs (2 whole and one yolk)
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt & black pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the brown rice spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions, checking it about a minute before the stated time to make sure it still has some bite to it.
In the meantime, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the whole clove of garlic. Add the chopped pancetta and fry until crispy.
In a small bowl, mix the whole eggs and one egg yolk with half of the grated cheese.
Check the pasta and drain it, reserving half a cupful of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the large pan but keep it off the heat.
Remove the clove of garlic from the bacon, then stir it into the pasta with the beaten egg and cheese mixture, along with a little of the pasta water.
Serve immediately with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese on top of each dish.
There is something wonderfully homely about pasta carbonara – to see what I mean knock it up or watch Antonio Carluccio’s video on Carbonara.