Surf's up, grub's up
Do what you love, love what you eat, says Finn Ní Fhaoláin, who surfs and cooks her way to a happier life. Try her gluten-free lunch recipes.
A few years ago I spent a summer in America with my friends. We worked in surf schools and beach clubs and teased the lads for being cabana boys. With all the joys of travelling skint, we lived in an apartment with a strange little grill oven and a stove that was more interested in gassing us than cooking anything, so most of our food had to be bought on the hoof. It's pretty scary for a coeliac to be reliant on the outside world for daily meals and I did get poisoned once in New York. But my absolute favourite place to shop was a Mexican grocer's around the corner from our apartment.
Mexico has one of the most naturally gluten-free diets in the world, since it's based around veg, meat, beans, corn and rice. We loved chatting to the owner, Jose, about food, weather - everything really - while he made up the delicious wraps and we drooled watching. I've tried many different ingredient combos since then and still think this is the winner. In Ireland I have only been able to source multigrain GF wraps, which are lovely but not that big. If you're in a country where you can get the big corn tortillas, you're a lucky duck. Please send me some.
Jose's Game-Changing Chicken Wrap
Makes 1-2 wraps, depending on the size
1 big free-range chicken breast *happy chickens
taste better and are better for you*
Olive oil, for roasting
Salt and pepper
1 red bell pepper
½ ball low-fat mozzarella
1-2 GF tortilla wraps *the bigger the better*
Handful baby leaf spinach
For the dressing:
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60ml) balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cloves raw garlic or 3 roasted
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C. Pop the chicken breast into a small baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop the whole pepper on its own dish and rub it with a little olive oil. Put the cloves of garlic for the dressing in with the pepper (with their skin still on). Roast garlic is even nicer than raw in the dressing and easier for your stomach to digest, too. Lash both dishes in the oven. Cook the chicken for up to 30 minutes or until white the whole way through. The pepper will only take about 20 minutes (turn over once after 10 minutes) so remember to take it out early.
2 When the pepper is blackened a little and nice and soft, it's done. Jose used to peel the peppers, but I like the blackened bits of skin on the outside. Cut off the top of the pepper and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Cut the flesh into rough chunks.
3 Cut the avocado into long strips. Finely slice the mozzarella.
4 I like to 'refresh' the GF wraps for about 20 seconds on high in the microwave and then lay them out on a big sheet of tinfoil on a plate.
5 Slice the chicken breast and line it along the centre of the wrap. Add the avocado, peppers, spinach and mozzarella. If the wrap is small, I just use half the pepper; if it's a big 'un, I use the lot for extra veginess.
6 I like to make a jar of the dressing so I can use it for other salads too. Simply mix the oil and vinegar and then season with salt and pepper. If you're using roasted garlic, remove the skins, crush and add. If using raw garlic, chop two cloves into quarters and mix them in. The dressing will get more deliciously garlicky the longer it sits - just be careful not to pour the big chunks of garlic onto anything later.
Jose used to wrap it all up at this point, chop it in half and give us little containers of the dressing to pour over the halves as we ate them. This trick also stops the wrap getting soggy if you're taking it to work or college with you. The wrap is delicious even without the dressing, but I'd totally encourage you to try it. This wrap is high in healthy fats from the avocado and olive oil. If you are watching your calorie intake, you might want to ensure the cheese is low fat and sub in a tasty green leaf like rocket instead of the avocado.
Sunny Summer Quinoa Salad
There are lots of little bits to this salad, but, it is so good. I use this quantity either as a main event at a summer lunch or I keep it portioned in the fridge to take out with me.
Serves 3 or 2 ravenous humans
1 cup (185g) uncooked quinoa
2 cups (470ml) GF vegetable stock
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice *more if you like extra zip!*
2 bell peppers, sliced *I use yellow mostly, for some reason I can't stand the green ones*
1 cup (170g) green seedless grapes
300g cooked tikka masala chicken *I get Green Farm as it uses certified GF seasoning*
½ cup (25g) fresh coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp craisins *dried cranberries, not crazy raisins*
4 tbsp toasted seeds *I use sunflower and pumpkin*
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Give the quinoa a good rinse with cold water to stop it getting a bitter taste as it cooks (due to a coating on the outside of the grain). I do this in a sieve, since the quinoa grains are itty-bitty and they fall out of a colander.
Add the quinoa, water, stock and bay leaf to a pot and bring to the boil. I don't tend to add salt as I find the stock cube/pot is usually salty enough by itself. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. I find my stove works best on a lower setting with the lid on - if it's too high the quinoa can bubble over. After this, I take a teeny bit out and have a nibble. If it's done (cooked through and no gritty feeling) I take the quinoa off the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes with the lid on to fluffy-ize itself. In theory, you would let this cool down, go off on your merry way and come back later when it was cool to complete the salad. But I'm usually hungry, so that doesn't tend to happen.
2 Slice the onion in super-thin strips and soak them in the lemon juice. This takes the raw-onion-esque whack off them (and colours the lemon juice pink, which looks cool in the salad). Slice the peppers into long thin strips. Cut the grapes in half lengthways.
3 Find a lovely big salad bowl - I love the turned wooden ones - and layer up the salad: quinoa first (don't forget to take out the bay leaf), then chicken, grapes and veggies. Chuck the lemon juice on with the onions and sprinkle over the coriander, dried cranberries and toasted seeds. Follow with the olive oil and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Disco Barbie Beetroot Soup
I love this soup, as it reminds me of the Barbie pink of my little girl days - when you could find me up a tree, covered in mud, in a pink dress with frilly white socks and little patent leather shoes. The decadent shade of this soup comes from fresh beetroots, and you might want to wear gloves while you prep them so you don't end up staining your hands. Also, I implore you - please, please, please don't use cooked vacuum-packed beets - they just aren't the same.
Makes enough for 5 neon-coloured lunches
3 uncooked beetroots
1 red onion
2 sticks celery *nick the top and bottom and do your best to pull out the stringy bits, which are not nice in smooth soups*
400g tinned mixed beans, drained and rinsed *this thickens the soup as would potato, but adds a little more protein*
4 cups (940ml) GF vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Peel the beetroot. You might want to wear rubber gloves and use a non-favourite plastic chopping board for this, as it can be pretty messy. Roughly chop the beetroot, carrots, onion and celery.
2 Put a good, large non-stick pot on a medium-high heat. When it's hot, lash in a glug of olive oil and chuck all of the veggies in. That's right, all of them. No fancy sautéing. Cover with a lid and let them steam away to their hearts' content. If after 10 minutes it's freaking you out a bit that you're not doing anything, give it a little stir. Reduce the heat a bit and cover again. Let the veggies hang out this way for about 30 minutes.
3 When the veggies are soft, lash in the beans, water and stock. Cook away for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat, blend with a hand blender and season to taste.
This awesomely bright soup is lovely with a dollop of crème fraiche and a bit of greenery on top; I tend to use parsley.