Gluten Free Recipe Challenge: Mint & Limoncello Granita

The theme for this month’s great gluten free recipe challenge is the super summery herb, mint. As ever, Caleigh (www.glutenfreekblog.co.uk) our hostess has added another dimension for the challenge; to create a mint-tastic recipe without eggs.

When we were in the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily last year I tried an amazing granita made with the island’s own lemons. The cold, bitter ice was so refreshing on a warm and sunny day. Later that evening I was served a frozen lemon dessert with the emptied lemon shell serving as the dish. How cool, I thought, one to make when I got home. And then promptly forgot. Until Caleigh asked whether I’d like to participate in this month’s gluten free recipe challenge. To me, mint is a summery, cooling and refreshing herb. So as I thought about the challenge I was reminded of our trip to Sicily and thought how wonderful it would to make a mint and lemon granita. Only one problem at that point; the weather in London was most unlike a Sicilian summer and I was still wearing my wool winter coat to work. Fast forward a few weeks and this glorious spell of hot weather is perfect for a granita.

I decided to add some limoncello to this granita to make it a bit more grown up than eating a minty, lemony Slush Puppy (minus the freaky colours, obviosuly!). When I say “some” limoncello I should add that when I opened the lid from the freezer box the first time to stir the granita I was nearly knocked out with alcoholic fumes. Ooops. I persevered and the final product tastes of summery mint with a final – but not overpowering – kick of limoncello. Perfect for cooling down with in the garden in this current sunny weather.

Mint and Limoncello Granita

Ingredients

125g golden caster sugar

500ml cold water

125ml limoncello

Juice of 2 lemons

Large handful of mint

Method

Put the golden caster sugar and cold water into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil, the sugar will dissolve before the mixture reaches boiling point. Leave to boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from the heat and let mixture cool.

While the sugar and water mixture is cooling, prepare the lemons. Decide which end of the lemon will be the base and which will be the hat. Your call on that one, depending on the shape of the lemon! For the base, slice off a tiny piece of one end of the lemon, literally just enough so that it is flat and will stand up straight. For the hat / top of the lemon, slice off approximately one-fifth of the top of the lemon. Again, the exact amount will depend on the shape of the lemon. You will need to slice off enough so that you can get into the lemon to remove the juice and pith and later add the granita, but not so much that the lemon is too small to hold the granita.

Carefully scrape out the insides of the lemon. I did this over a glass and chucked all the pith in too. Be careful not pierce the skin of the lemon or dig through the base. I used a combination of small paring knife and teaspoon to get it all out. You could use a grapefruit knife if you wanted to be really precise and you have one. Once you’ve removed the contents of the 2 lemons, pass the juice through a sieve to ensure no pips have made it into the juice.

To finish preparing the lemon shells, gently try and get as much of the remaining pith out of the lemons. Remember the less pith, the more space for granita! Clean off the lemons and allow to dry.


Next take 4 or 5 sprigs of washed and dried mint. Remove the leaves and chop really finely.

Once the water and sugar mixture is cool to touch, add the limoncello, lemon juice and mint. Pour into a shallow dish and transfer to the freezer.

Also add the lemon shells to the freezer, standing them up if possible.

After the granita has been in the freezer for an hour or so and is just starting to freeze, remove it and give it a good stir through. Check back on it regularly until it’s frozen. It’s done when it looks like a frozen Slush Puppy.

When you’re ready to serve, fill the empty lemon shells with the granita and top with the lemon hat.

Many thanks to Caleigh for inviting me to participate in this month’s gluten free recipe challenge. Please click on this link to see a round up of all the recipes.

Sweetcheeks Ltd: Gluten Free & Vegan Cakes and Baked Goods

Owner of gluten free and vegan cake business, Sweetcheeks Ltd, Catherine Rose’s dream had always been to open up her own deli but after a trip to New York, she identified what the UK’s gluten free market was missing; healthier gluten free baked goods which, as a Coeliac herself, Cat would also like to eat.

Inspired by her discoveries in New York, Cat then set about developing and extensively testing suitable recipes for gluten free and vegan cakes (using no eggs or butter) which would taste so fabulous that her customers wouldn’t notice the difference. After 6 months of recipe development she was ready to launch Sweetcheeks in January 2010.

One rainy and miserable Saturday (aren’t they all these days?!) Cat very kindly brought around a box of her delicious cakes for me to try. What a treat! I shared them with Mr D who has no need to eat gluten free. He definitely didn’t notice the difference in the taste from their gluten containing cousins, he just enjoyed them for the fantastic cakes they are.

What we liked about the cakes was that unlike many companies which make the cakes and baked goods in their range with similar textures and consistencies, all of the Sweetcheeks cakes we tried were different to each other.

Having an allergy to almonds often proves difficult for me as many gluten free cakes contain these nuts. So I was very happy to learn that so many of the Sweetcheeks’ products do not contain almonds.

Lemon & poppy seed whoopie pie. I thought the lightness of the lemon flavour in this whoopie pie was wonderful.

Gloreo: A gluten free take on an Oreo cookie. Just looking at this photo is making me drool. Because Cat’s cakes are made with natural ingredients and without artificial substitutes, this tasted far less synthetic than the cookie which inspired it.

Mmm…doughnut! I thoroughly enjoyed this cinnamon flavoured doughnut. I served mine heated up and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And you don’t just need to take my word for how great these cakes are! Sweetcheeks were winners with both their almond biscotti and maple & pecan cupcakes at this year’s Free From Food Awards.

Cat can cater for bespoke requests such as weddings and other celebrations. She loves getting creative, working with briefs provided by customers who enjoy her style of cakes to produce something unique and wonderful for an event.

You can find Sweetcheeks at the London Allergy Show from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th May. Cat is able to offer a hand delivery service on orders to most addresses in London which I think is a truly personal touch. Alternatively, orders can be made via the Sweetcheeks website or for collection on Saturdays from the market on Marleybone High Street.

If you’re off to the Allergy Show this weekend, get in quick – those delicious doughnuts won’t hang around for long!

 

Gluten Free Slovakia: Pizza Mizza, Bratislava

Vienna and Bratislava are said to be the world’s two closest capital cities, situated just 40 miles apart. Being a bit of a geography geek, I’m not entirely sure about this stat – would Rome and the Vatican not be closer? In any case, it would be rude not to take the opportunity to speed down the Danube on a hydrofoil capable of reaching a top speed of 70 km/h to have lunch in Bratislava’s beautiful old town.

In advance of my trip I’d contacted Milos at the Slovakian Coeliac Society and he had very kindly provided me with some suggestions on where to eat and shop in Slovakia. Visitors to Slovakia should take a look at Milos’ website. A keen traveller himself, Milos has been running Slovakia’s only website about Coeliac disease since 2002. At the time of writing this blog post, the website is in Slovak language but Milos is thinking of adding an English language section as my email for info was the fourth he’d received that week from English speakers looking to visit Slovakia. Alternatively, you can use the translate function in Google Chrome and other browsers to translate from Slovakian into English.

Milos advised that a Slovakian restaurant chain, Pizza Mizza, had recently started serving gluten free pasta. I checked their website and was impressed to find the menu in 4 languages (including English) with a very extensive allergen breakdown for each dish.

After a morning wandering around a Bratislava’s quaint old town and castle under blue sky but freezing temperature, I was ready for something warm to eat.

There are 5 branches of Pizza Mizza in Bratislava and a further 2 in other parts of the country. We visited the restaurant at Tobrucká 5 which is just out of Bratislava’s old town and a couple of blocks north of the hydrofoil terminal.

The decor of the restaurant reminded me of Zizzi’s which much the same clientele; a mix of young families, couples and groups of young professionals lunching together.

We were given menus in English. I think this may possibly be the most detailed allergy menu I have ever seen anywhere. This is even more impressive since this is a mainstream restaurant which also caters for those with allergies, rather than a restaurant whose purpose is to cater specifically for allergies.

In the photo above you can see 14 allergens listed and numbered. Against each dish on the menu, the allergens it contained were written. Note that gluten is listed as “cereals”. Curiously, number 13 is “Indian beet”. I’m not sure what this is or whether something has been lost in translation.

Pizza Mizza offers a great selection of different pasta dishes which are served with gluten free pasta. I chose the Farfalle al Prosciutto Crudo.

I found it quite difficult to believe the gluten free pasta I had was gluten free, it tasted so good. I asked Mr D to try it and even asked the waiter twice if it really was gluten free. It was.

At the end of the meal I asked the waiter which brand of gluten free pasta they used. He brought me out the box and the farfalle was made by Schar. Pizza Mizza offer 4 types of gluten free pasta; spaghetti, farfalle, tagliatelle and penne.

I highly recommend a trip to explore Bratislava. If you’re in Vienna, a trip down the Danube is a highly enjoyable experience.

Address: Tobrucká 5, Bratislava, Slovakia (and 6 other locations in Slovakia)

Cost: Under EUR 30 for lunch for two people including drinks

Rating: 8.5 / 10 – Great choice of gluten free pasta dishes, generous portions and a very detailed menu listing various allergens