The reassuringly classic taste of gluten-free European cuisine
From teatime treats to light lunches, The Gluten-Free Cookbook combines modern dietary demands with European classics
Cutting out gluten doesn’t mean missing out on great, home-cooked classics. The Italian chef and author Cristian Broglia has toured the world finding and refining popular dishes that happen to exclude gluten, that tricky plant protein that irritates so many of us. The Gluten-Free Cookbook collects together Broglia’s knowledge, with a hugely diverse range of dishes that pay heed to modern dietary needs while still serving up great, popular, traditional dishes.
“Today my work is a mix between innovation and history, creativity and rigour, respect for the rules and revolution,” writes the chef in the book’s introduction. “I can say without a doubt that gluten-free cooking is now a major part of my professional life.” Of course, there are plenty of recipes drawn from far beyond Brogila’s homeland; Mexican, Indian, and Japanese dishes feature quite widely, as these places tend to favour rice or maize over other gluten-rich cereals. However, there are plenty of recipes from Europe in the book, and they’re often fairly light dishes, since that commonest form of European carbohydrate - -wheat is missing.
Take for example, France’s delicate macarons. “These French sweets made with almond flour have achieved world-wide popularity, in part because they tend to be so colorful, often with a contrasting color of filling,” he writes. “The ingredients are simple, but the technique has some aspects that must be strictly observed for the best results.”
Broglia’s exact recipe appears in the book, though we can offer you a bit of an outline. It calls for confectioners’ (icing) sugar; almond flour; eggs, separated, superfine (caster) sugar; food colouring; white chocolate; heavy (whipping) cream, and a vanilla bean, halved lengthwise.
First stir together the confectioners’ (icing) sugar, the almond flour, and half of the egg whites. In a bowl, with an electric mixer, start whisking the remaining half of the egg whites. At the same time, in a small saucepan, combine the superfine (caster) sugar and some water and heat over low heat to 245°F (118°C). With the mixer running, pour the hot syrup into the egg whites while continuing to whip. Add your chosen food colouring and continue mixing until the color is homogeneous.
Add the meringue to the bowl with the almond dough and gently fold together, taking care to deflate the meringue as little as possible. If you want to have different colored macarons, divide the dough into different bowls and add one colour for each one. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Fit a piping bag with a plain tip. Fill the piping bag with the mixture and squeeze to create 3/4-inch (2 cm) discs on the lined sheet pan. Let them dry at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C/Gas Mark 3). Bake the macarons for about 15 minutes. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Add the cream, scrape in some vanilla seeds to taste, and stir until smooth. Let the ganache cool for 15 minutes. Spread the ganache on the flat side of a macaron. Top with another macaron flat-side down to make a sandwich.
If that all sounds a little indulgent, you could instead opt for another French classic included in the book: ratatouille. The chef characterises this as "a humble home-style dish, often made with whatever vegetables are languishing in the fridge, but it is also a dish that has made it onto the menus of some of the most famous restaurants. This dish can be prepared on the stovetop or in the oven, but this stovetop method is the most common and the original.”
His recipe is a stovetop one, and requires cherry tomatoes; extra-virgin olive oil; red onions; a green bell pepper; a red bell pepper; half a stalk celery; garlic cloves; basil leaves; a thyme sprig; bay leaves; peanut (groundnut) oil; zucchini (courgettes); eggplant (aubergine); saffron threads; and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Set a sieve over a bowl to catch the juices. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in the sieve to drain. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and cook over low heat until they soften. Add the bell peppers, celery, garlic, basil, thyme, and bay leaves. Add the drained tomatoes. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add half the liquid collected from draining the tomatoes. Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, heat the peanut (groundnut) oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini (courgettes) and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove and set on paper towels to drain. Add the eggplant (aubergine) to the pan and cook until soft and golden. Pat the eggplant dry with the paper towels. Add the eggplant and zucchini to the pan with the pepper/tomato mixture. Add the saffron and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Salt cod and white bean salad
Meanwhile for an equally light dish from a little further south, you could try a Spanish classic: salt cod and white bean salad. "From Catalonia, a region in the northeast corner of Spain, xató de Sitges is a cod salad named for the city of Sitges and dressed with a chili-based sauce called xató, similar to a romesco sauce,” he writes. “The salad originally was served during Carnival, before Lent, but since the end of the nineteenth century, ritual Lenten meals called xatonades have been dedicated to the dish.”
To make this you’ll need salt cod; extra-virgin olive oil; garlic; roasted almonds; roasted hazelnuts; salt-packed anchovies; ñora peppers; a fresh chilli pepper; red wine vinegar; sea salt; canned oil-packed tuna; Belgian endive (chicory); and unpitted olives.
First soak the salt cod in cold water for 2 days. Drain well and pull into shreds. In a medium frying pan, heat a little oil over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly browned. In a mortar, pound the garlic, almonds, hazelnuts, anchovies, ñoras, and chilli pepper until a paste is formed. Add the vinegar and salt to taste and pound again, then add the olive oil and continue to pound until it becomes a smooth and emulsified sauce. In a bowl, combine the tuna, salt cod, and endive (chicory). Add the olives and sauce. Mix everything gently and serve.
For full recipes for all these dishes as well as much more besides order a copy of The Gluten-Free Cookbook here.