I was recently sent a copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new book: River Cottage Light & Easy. From the title it sounds like a regular, traditional style cookbook from a much loved chef – yes? However, there is a twist to this cookbook. Every recipe is both wheat and dairy free!
Now, from any other chef I would probably have rolled my eyes and mumbled something about jumping on the ‘special diet band-wagon’, but not from Hugh, instead I was intrigued and excited. Hugh has done a great deal to raise food awareness in recent years, both with battery farmed chickens and sustainable fish. He also did a recent series where he went veggie for a few months in order to highlight the gloriousness and versatility of vegetables. I have always loved his recipes and tv programmes which focus on local, seasonal, fresh produce and so was excited to see what his new book would bring to the table.
While every recipe in the book is wheat and dairy free, they are not always guaranteed to be gluten free, as quite a few of them do use rye flour, or ingredients containing gluten such as Worchester sauce. That said I should think 85-90% are also gluten free which is fantastic. The approach to the book is recipes that are ‘Light’ and ‘Easy.’ This by no means this is a low fat or weight loss book. Instead the term ‘light’ is used to represent food that is fresh and light on the digestion. You know if you eat a lunch of soup and salad compared to a heavy stodgy pie and mash, you feel more light, alert and full of energy. This is the premises behind this book, food that is delicious, fresh and energy boosting. Again, why wheat and dairy free? In the intro in the front of the book, Hugh reveals why he has chosen to go down this route. A few years ago he was diagnosed with high cholesterol and rather than go on statins, he decided to control his cholesterol through diet, by reducing the amount of dairy he ate. He still wanted to enjoy the wide range of foods and recipes he loved and so began experimenting with alternative non-dairy ingredients and found a whole new set of ingredients and flavours opened up to him, almond milk and rapeseed oil etc. At the same time he began looking more into ancient grains and alternative cereals to wheat which opened up ingredients such as buckwheat, quinoa and rye. He says he never excluded wheat and dairy from his diet and does not encourage people to do that either, merely to open your eyes and your tastes buds to the range of different alternatives out there, and discover some new delicious, nutritious recipes along the way. This is something I agree with wholeheartedly and was so excited to try out a few recipes!
The book is filled with recipes for all occasions, from breakfast, main meals including meats, fish, veggie and not forgetting desserts. Each recipe is beautifully laid out and is accompanied by a tempting looking photo. The recipe that caught my eye was for a savoury porridge with baked onions. Hugh described this as a lighter version of risotto and as porridge is one of my favourite comfort foods I was intrigued to try it myself. White rice is high on the glycemic index and quite low in fibre meaning you will have a quick rise in energy followed by a crash in energy soon afterwards. Oats on the other hand are high in fibre and low on the glycemic index meaning they will keep you feeling fuller for longer with more sustained energy. Oats have also been shown to help lower cholesterol so it’s a win-win.
As the weather last weekend was rather wet and dismal, I decided a big bowl of comforting savoury porridge was just what was called for. I didn’t have any large onions for roasting, but I did have plenty of mushrooms and so decided to use those instead.
I love the woodsy earthy flavour mushrooms bring, and they worked so well with the porridge/risotto. Both risotto rice and oats contain starch that are released during cooking, while help thicken up the surrounding liquid to create a thick, creamy and comforting dish. The other bonus with oats is that unlike rice, they are ready in just a few minutes meaning the whole recipe only took me about 15 minutes from start to finish. Perfect!
I fried the mushrooms off first, before adding the oats and giving them a gentle toast in the pan before adding veg stock. This created a fabulous dark earthy flavour and colour to the porridge. It looked so autumnal and comforting. I added garlic and thyme which always enhance the flavour of mushrooms.
I know lots of people serve risotto with a grating of parmesan, but of course that was off the menu here. Instead grate over a few toasted nuts (I chose almonds) for a nice visual appearance and subtle nutty undertone which went so brilliantly with the woodsy mushrooms. I also added a dried sage leaf at the end, which also enhanced the savoury comforting flavour of the oats and mushrooms.
This was such a delight of a meal. Warming, comforting, creamy, thick oaty risotto with a slight bite to the oats and intense woodsy mushrooms with their strong savoury umami flavour. It was fabulous. I enjoyed it so much I would have no qualms serving this up to friends and the fact it was ready in a mere 15 minutes means its perfect mid week meal food. Hugh calls it a savoury porridge, which it is, but I think Oat-otto sounds more fun.
Fresh, light, easy, comforting, nutritious and delicious. What more could you want from meal!? I enjoyed it so much I’m not sure I’ll ever make risotto with rice again. I can’t wait to try out some of the other recipes.
Now if you weren’t excited enough to try the recipe below, then I am thrilled to be able to give you the chance to win a copy of the book for yourself! To enter just leave a comment below and tell me how you would flavour your own Oat-otto – keeping to the wheat and dairy free theme.
Only 1 entry per person. The giveaway will close at midnight Friday 17th October with the winner picked at random. Entrants must be a
resident and must leave me a way to contact you, within your comment, should
you win. Best of luck.
I’ve given you my version of Hugh’s recipe below. For his Baked Onion version, you’ll have to buy the book (or win a copy)!
Mushroom Oat-otto: Savoury Porridge
(Recipe adapted from River Cottage Light & Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
250g chestnut or white capped mushrooms
1 red onion
3 springs fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
350ml vegetable stock
80g porridge oats (I used gluten free oats)
10 skin on hazelnuts or almonds
Salt & pepper
Thyme or dried sage to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Slice the mushrooms and red onion and add to the pan. Strip the thyme leaves off their stalk and sprinkle over the mushrooms along with the garlic. Cook until the mushrooms and softened and are a light golden brown colour around the edges.
Heat your stock in a jug and have close to hand.
Add the oats to the pan and stir to mix them through the mushrooms, allowing them to absorb any of the juices.
Add a third of the stock and allow to simmer, stirring often until the stock is absorbed. Pour over half the remaining stock and again cook until the liquid is absorbed. Add the rest of the stock and allow to simmer until the oats are softened and have broken down to create a thick creamy textured porridge/risotto. Season generously with freshly milled pepper and a pinch of salt to taste. (Add a little extra water if you want a thinner texture).
Set aside 2 of the nuts before chopping the rest and stirring into the oat-otto.
Spoon into warm bowls and grate the 2 reserved nuts over the top using a very fine grater, this gives a parmesan cheese appearance and provides a lovely nutty aroma and taste.
Garnish with some extra sprigs of thyme or sage leaves.
Eat and enjoyServes 2