Wholegrain bread sauce

It’s day 23 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar and it’s only 2 days to go until the big day! Recipe-wise, we’re down to the nitty gritty, the little extras that complement the main dish of the day. Even though we’re not serving a roast meat, there is one condiment we will not be doing without – bread sauce.

Traditionally made with butter, milk and/or cream, it may seem an unlikely side to serve. But we all love it and it’s surprisingly easy to make dairy-free and even bread (and therefore gluten) free. There’s something delightful about clove infused gloop that just hits the Christmas spot!

There are so many milk alternatives to choose from that side of things is pretty easy. I use oat milk as it is still a little creamy; almond milk is another good option. To make it extra creamy, I add a little oat cream during the last bit of cooking – Oatley cream is great for this.

For the bread crumbs, I use wholemeal bread for the rest of the family. As I am yeast intolerant, that doesn’t work for me, so I keep a little of the infused milk to one side and make a small portion of bread sauce using brown rice crumbs. It tastes just as good, although the texture is slightly more grainy.

The only downside of making your own bread sauce is you need to ensure there’s adequate infusing time; the milk needs time to absorb the onion and clove flavours. A couple of hours is enough, more if possible. If you remember, do it the night before and then it’s super quick to bring it all together on Christmas Day.

My Advent Calendar is is nearly at it’s end – only 1 more post to go! Don’t forget to let me know how you’ve been getting on with the recipes.

Wholegrain or gluten free bread sauce

  • 500ml creamy dairy-free milk like Oatley or Almond Milk
  • 1 onion, peeled but left whole
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 black pepper corns
  • 100g wholemeal bread or brown rice crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons oat cream
  • salt to taste
  • flaxseed oil (optional)

Infuse the milk at least 2 hours before you want to make the bread sauce. Pour the dairy-free milk into a small saucepan. Stick the whole cloves into the side of the onion. Drop this into the milk along with the bay leaf and pepper corns. Slowly bring to the boil, simmer for a minute then turn off the heat and leave to infuse. If you are doing this the night before, transfer the milk and flavourings into a bowl and leave covered in a cool place.

Blitz the wholemeal bread into fine breadcrumbs. When you are ready to make the bread sauce, remove the clove-onion, bay leaf and pepper corns from the milk. Pour the milk back into a saucepan (if you have removed it) and place over a low heat. Add the breadcrumbs or rice crumbs and gently bring to a simmer, stirring regularly. The crumbs will swell and the mix thicken until it’s thick and gloopy. This may take up to 15 minutes.

Add the oat cream (if using) when it’s thick along with a little salt and stir well. Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving dish and place the onion and bay leaf back in the top until you’re ready to serve. Remove these and add a little flaxseed oil if using before serving.

Celeriac ‘steak’ and red wine gravy

It’s 2 for the price of 1 for day 20 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar – another gravy for you to try, and a super easy yet delicious celeriac ‘steak’ to pair it with.

Celeriac or Ood?

If you’ve not tried celeriac before, I’d definitely recommend it. It has a mild celery flavour, but not overpoweringly so, that is also slightly nutty. Incredibly versatile, you can use it for soup, mash or roast is. It’s also lovely raw in salads; celeriac remoulade is delicious! Eating it raw also retains the wonderful nutrients hidden inside this funny looking root (we always think it looks like an Ood from Dr Who!). Vitamin  C and potassium can be found in good amounts, but can seep away when cooked. There are other benefits as well including vitamin K and B6, and lots of lovely fibre.

Of course, to get a ‘steak’ you need to cook it! They are super simple to make, in fact the most difficult bit is cutting it into equal sized slices. Once cut, celeriac starts to oxidise quite quickly. I like a little savoury marinade on my steaks, so I coat each slice as soon as it’s cut. Then it’s just a matter of popping it on a baking tray and cooking. Job done. 

Red wine gravy is the perfect pairing for celeriac steaks, or any roast including Christmas dinner. I’ve added this one for those who cannot tolerate the red onion gravy from day 16. Although it’s featured in the recipe, it’s optional (as opposed to red onion gravy when it’s kinda essential!). If you have food intolerances or are 100% vegan, don’t forget to check the red wine label to make sure there aren’t any hidden ingredients that might ruin your day. 

If nut roasts or chestnut tarts are just too much like hard work for you this Christmas season, or you fancy something a little lighter and easier on the waistline, then why not give this delicious pairing a go? And if you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Celeriac steak (serves 4)

  • 1 medium sized celeriac
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Mix the marinade ingredients together in bowl. Peel the celeriac with a sharp knife, and carefully slice into 2cm thick slices.  Coat each slice with the marinade and place on a non-stick baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once to ensure both sides are browned. Serve immediately.

Red wine gravy

  • 1 onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
  • bay leaf
  • fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 250ml red wine (vegan)
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons cornflower or arrowroot powder
  • salt and pepper

Place the cornflower/arrowroot into a small dish and stir in a little of the vegetable stock to make a thick gloopy mix. Put to one side for now.

Heat a little water in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for another couple of minutes until things start to brown. Pour in the wine, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the vegetable stock, tamari, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cornflower mix to thicken, simmer for another couple of minutes then turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Place a sieve over a large bowl or wide jug and pour in the mix, mashing it down so that as much fluid and flavour comes out into the bowl. Discard the veggie leftovers. Once ready to use, reheat gently and spoon over the bake.


Red onion gravy

I love gravy! To me it’s a key part of any roast dinner, but particularly Christmas dinner. I think it’s so key that I’m giving you two versions as part of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar (spoilers!). For day 16, I bring you a delicious red onion version.

If you’ve not made gravy from scratch before, particularly a meat-free version, you’ll be glad to know it’s not difficult. It does tastes different from shop-bought or instant versions (which often contain added extras you may want to avoid like gluten or yeast), and takes a little time. But you’ll be glad to know it is not too labour intensive and not only do you know what’s in it, it tastes gorgeous too!

Red onion is the key ingredient. Giving a slightly sweeter flavour than white, it gives a rich, caramelised flavour when cooked down. That’s the key to the depth of flavour which is why it’s worth giving it a little time to brew.

Red onions also have some extra nutritional properties that can benefit your health; the red pigment contains flavonoids, phytonutrients that can help reduce inflammation and are particularly good for people with allergies and asthma, a bonus for the sensitive eater. Eating red onion raw provides the best amounts, but if you cook slowly on a low heat like this gravy, much of the beneficial properties remain. Horray!

I make this plant-based gravy throughout the year, but for Christmas I’ve added a little extra sweetness by including some of my homemade rosemary jelly. Shop-bought recurrent jelly or something similar works just as well.

So if you need a gravy that’s tasty but safe to eat, then give this a go. But if you’re not an onion lover, don’t fret – there’s another option to come!

Red onion gravy

  • 2 red onions chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1-2 tablespoons rosemary or redcurrant jelly
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons of stock in the bottom of a large pan. Add the onions, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and sauté on a low heat until soft and caramelised. Stir from time to time to make sure they don’t burn. Add a little extra stock if needed and make sure you scrape up any caramelised bit from the bottom of the pan.  Once they are super soft, turn off the heat, pour in 250ml of stock then leave to cool. Pop the mix into a blender and blend until smooth – remember to remove the bay leaf beforehand.

Pour the onion mix into a clean saucepan. Mix the cornflour with a little of the remaining stock. Pour the rest of the stock into the pan with the tamari, rosemary jelly, salt and pepper. Heat gently then once simmering, add the cornflour mix and stir continuously as it thickens and becomes glossy.

Taste and add more seasoning or jelly as needed. Serve piping hot, but remember to remove any whole herbs before hand. 

Dairy-free coriander yoghurt dressing

Here’s a super-quick and tasty dressing to liven up any salad or to drizzle over a spicy soup, curry or baked dish (like the Baked Spicy Stuffed Aubergine).

I prefer unsweetened soya yoghurt for this dressing. If you can find Sojade, I would highly recommend as I think it has the best flavour. Otherwise I use Tesco own brand soya yoghurt. If you are soya-free you could try a coconut based yoghurt but make sure there’s no added sugar. It would taste foul!

If you are not a fan of coriander (and I know there are a few people out there who have a passionate dislike) you could add fresh mint leaves instead; they would have a similar cooling effect.

As this is so easy to make, I usually make it in small amounts for a specific dish, but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days so if you want to make a larger amount just double or quadruple the amounts.

I hope you enjoy making this super-quick but tasty dressing – let me know how you get on.

Dairy-free coriander yoghurt dressing
150ml dairy-free yoghurt of choice
1/2 bunch fresh coriander (or mint) leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice (optional but makes it zing)
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a small blender pot and whizz for 10 seconds or so to combine. Taste and add more seasoning, lime or coriander as needed and whizz again. Serve chilled.

Cashew and tahini dressing

You know how sometimes you just need a simple, go-to tasty dressing that will liven up any dull dish (not that we have much dullness in The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen!) – you know, the thing you can splash all over a salad, dip your roasted veggies in or liven up a simple sandwich? Well, this is mine, and it works a treat.

Of course, a simple dressing of lemon juice and unrefined oil is lovely and refreshing, but it doesn’t really hit the sumptuous button. This creamy cashew and tahini dressing really does. It’s rich but still light and you can adapt it to suit your tastebuds. And with the whole goodness of both cashews and sesame seeds, it’s packed with nutritional benefits too, including good amounts of manganese, magnesium and zinc.

Our bodies are made up of a complex mixture of minerals; some get a lot of attention, others not so much. We hear a lot about calcium and strong bones (dairy is not the answer!), zinc for our immune system and magnesium for healthy hearts. Manganese is rarely in the mineral limelight, so today I’m going to remedy this, as it deserves attention of it’s own.

Whilst we only need a small amount every day to keep our body stores full, manganese is essential for growth and bone health, as well as strong hair, nails and healthy skin. It’s also needed for numerous enzymes involved in metabolic processes like blood sugar control and thyroid function. As with much essential nutrition, a type Western diet high in animal products and refined foods will be stripped of manganese; just maybe that contributes to the massive increase in chronic health problems? Anyone who eats a mainly plant based diet, however, will have no problem getting enough manganese as it features in nuts, grains and veggies.

So a good dollop of this dressing will help stock up your manganese reserves. If you add it to a salad including spinach and chickpeas, you’ll be super stocked! And it tastes so good, your mouth will be as happy as your body. This recipe makes enough for 4 servings and keeps in the fridge for 5 days. Enjoy!

Cashew and tahini dressing
1/2 cup cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
1 heaped tablespoon tahini (make sure no added oil)
pinch of salt
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional but good)
good squeeze lemon juice

Drain the cashew nuts. Place in a blender with the water and blend until smooth (add a little more water if too thick). Add the remain ingredients and blend again for a minute or so until everything is combined and smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

The photo is roasted sweet potato and mini peppers alongside pan fried pak choi topped with the cashew and tahini dressing and pine nuts. Gorgeous! Follow me on Instagram for regular food pics and ideas – @the.sensitive.foodie.


Saucy cauliflower

There are some recipes that just seem to work best with dairy – white sauce is one. Melting rich butter, frantically stirring in flour to form a roux, then slowly adding creamy milk whilst whisking madly, sending out a little prayer that it won’t be too runny or lumpy. If the white sauce works, the rest of the dish does too.

Since going dairy free, making a good white sauce has been a challenge. Dairy free spread makes a great butter replacement (as long as the pan is not too hot) but soya milk has too much flavour of it’s own and rice milk is too watery. As they were my only options in India, I used vegetable stock to make a savoury sauce for pies but was never really satisfied with the results.

After visiting Vegefest earlier this year, I discovered Kara (or Koko, not really sure which one it’s called!). Made from coconut milk, it’s rich and creamy and perfect for cooking with, particularly sauces. Surprisingly, fresh Kara doesn’t have a strong flavour; the long life one is more coconutty. So white sauce is no longer a challenge if I want to make it the traditional way and dairy eating family members can’t tell the difference!

But this is not necessarily the healthiest route to go. My food journey is about using food to heal, not just sustain the body, so I’m always looking to maximise my nutrition intake by reducing anything processed and inflammatory and focusing on whole foods.

And that’s where the humble cauliflower comes in.

When cooked and pureed, cauliflower makes a wonderful creamy sauce that can be used for pasta dishes, lasagna or even a kind of bechemal sauce. Apparently, you can add nutritinal yeast to create a cheese sauce, but as yeast is a no go area I can’t comment!

Because it’s one of those super-healthy cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is packed full of nutrients, including a whopping amount of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate, and is pretty good for manganese, B5, potassium and fibre. It’s anti-inflammatory, packed with anti-oxidants and phytonutrients and helps your cells to detox.Of course, every positive has to have a negative, and cauliflower can have a smell issue! Some of the phytonutrients release sulphur compounds when cooked so the house can take on a farty aroma for a while! Minimal cooking produces minimal smell, but for sauce making the cauliflower has to be soft, so keep those windows open!!

To get a good savoury flavour, use vegetable stock; place your chopped cauli in a pan with a tight-fitting lid and pour over the stock, not quite covering all the veg, then boil with the lid on, stirring it up every now and then to make sure everything is cooking. The cauli will break down as it cooks and release its own water. Once cooked, leave to cool in the stock, then blitz it all together (this is why you don’t want too much stock otherwise it’s too watery). This way you retain as many of the nutrients as possible that may have leached out into the cooking water. Then season and serve.

I recently made a pasta sauce this way – whilst the cauli was bubbling away, I sauteed some onion, red pepper, garlic and mixed herbs until everything softened, then added some broccoli and sweetcorn for another few minutes, adding a tiny bit of water from the pasta to stop everything from sticking. Once it was all cooked and properly seasoned, I added the veg to the pureed cauliflower to create a beautifully light, creamy sauce, dolloped it onto the pasta (wholewheat of course!) and watched my 14 year old giant-boy wolf it down, declaring it to be lovely. As macaroni cheese is his favourite meal, that’s quite a compliment!

Lip-smacking lime dressing

If you read my post about vitamin C and, like me, are looking for ways to increase your daily intake, try this amazingly gorgeous lime, ginger and chilli dressing. So often dressings contain some form of dairy, it’s great to have one that’s completely dairy free. And it’s so tasty you can’t believe it’s so good for you!

The combination of fresh lime, ginger and chilli is so fresh and wonderfully healthy that it puts a smile on your face, and in your belly! Lime is packed full of vitamin C and flavonoids which act as anti-oxidants and also have antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic properties. It’s great for the digestion, stimulating the release of digestive juices as well as aiding the whole digestive process.

Ginger has fabulous medicinal properties, and the good news is you only need a little to get the benefits. It also works on the digestive system, particularly on reducing gas! It has many anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and is particularly good for joint pains. It’s also anti-carcinogenic and boosts your immunity – amazing properties in such an ordinary looking root.

Finally, chilli is also packed with vitamin C, A and B complex and adds a fiery kick to this zingy dressing.

This dressing works brilliantly in Thai style salads, with baked salmon, or any dish that can handle a fresh, sharp dressing – in this case with roasted sweet potato slices and watercress – a seriously delicious, nutrient-packed lunch. All dairy free but definitely not taste free!

Ginger, lime and chilli dressing
Juice of one large lime
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
2 teaspoons agave syrup*
Mix all the ingredients together and taste – adjust the flavours accordingly before pouring over your dish of choice and enjoy!

*I used agave syrup to make this dressing vegan, but runny honey can be used instead, just check how strong the flavour is before using too much

Simply Tasty Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes play a major role in my everyday food.  As creamy sauces are generally off the menu, tomato based ones are always the tasty option, and very easy to make. I’ve already posted about the nutritional wonders of tomatoes (see http://www.foodiesensitive.blogspot.in/2012/10/tasty-tomatoes.html); just to add that tomatoes are fabulous for your hair and skin, repairing sun damage and helping you look vibrant and younger, just like sweet potatoes!

Tomatoes are packed full of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. These protect your eyes, skin and hair and can help to reverse cell damage done by carcinogenic substances and toxins that come from our food and environment. Beta-carotenes are also anti-inflammatory and so can help reduce chronic pain caused by inflammatory conditions, although like aubergines, tomatoes are part of the nightshade family which some sensitive souls are allergic too. It seems in the world of food intolerance and allergies, anything and everything can cause problems for somebody, somewhere.

But for those who don’t have a problem, tomatoes are amazing and really should be included as part of a plant based diet as often as possible.

The tomato sauce in Tomato Power is made by simply roasting fresh tomatoes with some garlic and olive oil, then blitzing them together to create a delicious, flavoursome sauce. Living in India, beautiful, fresh, vibrant tomatoes bursting with flavour were available all year round. Back in the UK, tomatoes are really seasonal and those available in the supermarkets tend to be lacking in lustre and taste. So tinned tomatoes are the only option, which is a shame as much of the wonderfully high potassium content is lost in the tinning process. However, adding in other fabulously nutrient-dense produces like celery, carrot, garlic and basil helps to counter balance some of these loses.

A word of warning if you’re eating out and choose a tomato sauce based dish – check whether the chef has used butter instead of oil. As butter creates a richer flavour, it’s more common than you think. I’ve left a restaurant many times thinking I’ve eaten a dairy free dish, only to be struck by a headache or migraine later on.

This sauce is really easy and the one I used for my sweet potato stack. Best cooked over a low heat, the flavours are intense and can by used as a sauce for pasta, vegetables, bakes etc or watered down with vegetable stock to make delicious soup. Make a large batch and freeze some, so you’ve always got a quick, easy dinner to hand.

Tasty tomato sauce
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 large stick celery
1 -2 cloves garlic (depending on size/taste)
olive oil
400g tin chopped tomatoes
handful basil leaves
salt and pepper
Finely chop the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Heat a glug of olive oil on a gentle heat, and lightly saute the onion until it begins to soften, the add the celery and carrot. Continue cooking on a low heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, keeping the heat low, and cook for a few minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the tinned tomatoes, stir well and simmer until everything feels soft and well cooked. Turn off the heat and add the torn basil leaves and season to taste (not much salt as the tinned tomatoes are already a little salty). Cool a little then use a blender to blitz it to a smooth sauce. Use straight away, or reheat when ready – and enjoy!!!

Dairy free sour cream

Sometimes I wish I could freeze frame moments so that I can capture the look of incredulity on peoples faces when I tell them that I don’t eat dairy or meat. It’s really quite funny to see and they always ask the same question – so what do you eat? Then when I explain about eating a whole food, plant based diet, a shadow of concern clouds their faces – surely you can’t survive on that?

There’s so many different foods to eat other than meat or dairy, it’s just our way of thinking that makes it seem impossible to not only survive, but to heal, become really healthy and energetic and generally feel much better than before. I guess I am lucky that I have a food intolerance to yeast and not wheat as it makes it much easier – at least I can eat cake! And eating a whole food plant based diet means that when I do have the occasional fried or greasy option, I not only enjoy it but don’t feel any guilt about eating it, as I don’t seem to put on weight any more either!

There are so many different plant foods to try, and a whole array of recipes on the internet, it’s really a new adventure in cooking, which I find quite exciting (sad as it may be!). Plus on top of that, eating this way means I never feel really full and bloated, my chronic itching has stopped and my skin is looking great – in fact a friend said the other day it looked like I’d had botox! Cutting out processed foods and getting all the vitamins and minerals in wholefoods really does make a difference.

But finding dairy free alternatives is still a challenge. This week I experimented with dairy free sour cream, using it as a dressing on a beetroot salad I made for a party we had on Saturday night. It tastes pretty good, and lots of it was eaten, so I guess others thought so too. Obviously sour cream can be used with many dishes – I especially look forward to trying it with a veggie chilli which I’m planning on making later in the week. It is cashew nut based again, as that gives the creamy texture, so apologies to those with nut allergies.
Here is the recipe for the sour cream and the beetroot salad as it was really yummy!

Dairy free sour cream
1 cup cashew nuts
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 – 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
Soaks the cashew nuts in water for at least two hours. Drain off this water and grind in a processor into a thick paste, adding a little water. I find I have to grind for 30 seconds or so, then stop, give it a scrape off the edges then grind again. Repeat and grind for a third time, adding water if you need to to get a thick creamy consistency. Add in the lemon juice and salt and blend again until it’s combined. Taste and adjust to how you want it. To make it richer, add the olive oil (but remember this is a refined oil and not a whole food and the fat content will increase). If it’s too thick, add a little more water. Then it’s ready to go!

Beetroot salad
3 or 4 beetroots cleaned (organic if possible)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
salt and pepper
dairy free sour cream
chopped chives to garnish
Cook the beetroot until soft, but not too soft – I use the pressure cooker to save time, but boiling, roasting or steaming works just as well. Leave to cool. Dry fry the fennel seeds in a hot pan until they start to colour and emit a lovely smell. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Chop the beetroot into small dice and place in a serving bowl along with the cooled fennel seeds, add seasoning and stir. Place a few good dollops of dairy free sour cream on the top and sprinkle with chives. That’s it – eat and enjoy!