Baby A was born on the winter solstice, so I was more aware of the light evenings than usual when she reached 6 months on the longest day of the year. That, and of course the fact that the earlier dawn chorus wakes us all up! Longer days, and light evenings are definitely one of the biggest Summer Perks – it’s so nice to be able to get back from work and still feel like you have some of the day left, and perhaps enjoy dinner outside in the last of the sunshine.
When I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease, I predominantly ate a naturally gluten free diet, with much more focus on gluten free whole grains, fresh produce and cooking from scratch. Then as life changed I became more time-poor and tired, and REALLY missed cake. I increasingly relied on fatty and sugary gluten free products. Now I’m returning to making quick dinners (or tea, or supper, depending on how far north you hail from) that are naturally gluten free and low on stodgy carbohydrates ahead of a good night’s sleep, so my second healthier summer perk is…
Light Suppers for Long Evenings
No dietary advice here, for that you need to talk to your dietitian! But here are some of my favourite ingredients to lighten up my evening meal.
Cauliflower makes a great substitute for rice when it’s whizzed in a food processor or grated, but don’t make the mistake of having it plain – add flavourings as you would with quinoa or cous cous – cook with a little stock in the microwave and stir through herbs, seasoning or a dressing. I particularly like this Jamie Oliver recipe for veggie korma with cauliflower pilau and this beautiful jewelled cauliflower tabbouleh from Ottolenghi.
Courgetti (when you grate and sauté a courgette and use it like spaghetti) – makes a brilliant 5 minute dinner. You could invest in a fancy vegetable spiralizer for the purpose, but my julienne peeler does a perfect job and takes up half of the space. Try it with sultanas and pinenuts like in this recipe by Ceri, or of course with your regular bolognese! Finely lengthways-sliced courgettes dried with kitchen towel also make a lighter alternative for the pasta layers in a lasagne.
Fish We’re lucky to have a good local fishmonger, so I try to make use of them weekly for quick-cooking, high-protein meals. We don’t have fish on fridays in this house, but on ‘Whiffy Wednesdays’ – the day before our rubbish is collected! Fish parcels (or as I like to call them, ‘fish in a bag‘) are very quick and easy. There are lots of ideas for flavour combinations to chose from on BBC Good Food.
Turkey is not just for Christmas. Banish thoughts of dried-out, over-baked whole birds, and try out my favourite meatball recipe (using glutenfree breadcrumbs and pasta of course). Or, riff on the theme with high protein, low fat and flavour-filled turkey kofta or burgers. You’ll never (ok, sometimes) look back at beef. Check out the British Turkey website for more ideas.
Beans & Pulses
And finally, here’s a little recipe. If you haven’t made your own pasta before, using gram (chickpea) flour really is the easiest way. It’s cheaply available from the Indian section of most major supermarkets, and has a real ‘stretch’ that most gluten-free flours lack. Add in the fact that it has double the protein content of wheat flour, and almost 4 times that in rice or corn, and you have a virtuous meal that’s bound to impress.
Simple Chickpea Ravioli with Spinach & Walnut Pesto
Makes 12-14 ravioli. Serves 2.
For the Pasta:
- 100g gram (chickpea) flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 medium egg
For the filling:
- 75g raw spinach
- 25g fresh basil
- 50g walnuts, toasted and cooled
- 1tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 25g mozzarella (or dairy-free alternative – I used Mozzarisella)
- First, make the pasta dough. Put the gram flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle. Break the egg into the well.
- Mix the flour & egg together roughly with a knife, until it starts to clump. Then, get your hands in to bring it together into a dough.
- Knead the dough until it is smooth, adding a little more flour if it is very sticky.
- Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest whilst you make the filling.
- For the filling, simply throw all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse to make a chunky pesto. Any leftover pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days.
- Make the ravioli – lightly flour your work surface. Break off quarters of the dough, and roll until very thin with a rolling pin, taking care that it doesn’t stick. You really want this as thin as possible – don’t worry, the gram flour can take it!
- Cut rounds or squares of the dough – you can use a fancy ravioli stamp, or a pastry cutter, or a knife! You should get about 6 x 3 inch rounds from each piece of dough.
- Place a small teaspoon of pesto in the centre of a round, dampen the edges with water, then press another round on top to seal. Keep the ravioli covered on a plate until you are ready to cook them.
- To cook, gently place in a large pan of boiling water for about 2 minutes, when there is still a slight ‘bite’ to the pasta. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve drizzled with olive oil.
This post was inspired by Perk!er Foods who would like to know what your #SummerPerks are! What are your favourite light and naturally gluten free meals? I’d love to know so I can add them to my ‘Less Cake, More of This’ Pinterest board.