Italian Polenta and Quinoa “Polenta”

Serves 2-3 as a main
(No gluten, dairy, legumes, egg, or nightshades)

Polenta is the Italian word for coarse cornmeal and also the dishes made from it. This is made with maize, which grows like corn on the cob, but is chosen for its starchiness – rather than sweet eating properties – and mostly ground into flour. Traditionally, yellow maize is seasoned and cooked in stock like a savoury porridge. It is then served as a side dish similar to a vegetable mash.

Or the porridge is poured into an oiled square or round dish and chilled until firm. Immaculate golden slices can then be sliced and baked or fried, forming a satisfyingly crisp, toast-like crust with tender interior. These are consistently popular. Some restaurants slice polenta into baton shapes and serve them like chips. Read more

Quinoa ‘Risotto’ and Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 3

No gluten, dairy, nightshades or legumes

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed from Peru. It is high in protein and fibre while low in starch; a good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, flavonoids, some Omega 3 and other anti-inflammatory factors. It has a mild nutty taste; resembles and is used like a grain such as rice. Many people who are grain-sensitive (often to the gluten-containing grains) can do well on quinoa as it is not a member of the grass family. Whole quinoa (looks like bird seed) and flaked quinoa (resembles rolled oats) are in most supermarkets.

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Japanese-style Sesame Ginger Noodles

Serves 3-4
(No dairy; with options for gluten, grain and nightshades)

Light and more-ish with subtle, smoky punch. All the ingredients mentioned are now available in supermarkets. Ceres is a good organic brand that produces the sesame oil, mirin (rice wine used in cooking) and rice vinegar. Check the label on the sweet soy sauce (kecap manis): some contain wheat; some use palm sugar* or cane sugar. Or make your own combination of tamari* and palm sugar.

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Pasta Perfecto

Pasta and Noodle Dishes from Around the World

(No gluten or dairy – with options for nightshades*, legumes*, yeast, eggs and cane sugar)

Foods can suffer from discrimination and abuse especially at the hand of science segregationists. Carbs are in and fats are out; then carbs are bad and protein gets celebrity status. What makes for the confusion is looking at foods in isolation when they are rarely eaten that way. If all you ate was any one superb food your health would suffer. Plus different people experience different results from eating the same foods.

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Sicilian-Style Pasta

Serves 3
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy or legumes)

Sicily is at the bottom of the Italian boot. Due to its hot, dry climate and relative poverty its dishes use little meat and focus on an abundance of sun-ripened tomatoes. Savoury dishes are flavoured with dried fruit, nuts and sometimes a touch of chilli pepper. Meals are bulked up with lots of pasta and seasonal vegetables. The sauces that may accompany them are thickened with some of the starchy water left from cooking pasta.

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Italian-style Pasta with Chickpeas and Basil

Serves 3-4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, or soy)

Elegantly simple, this can be used as a side dish or main. Like pesto, many traditional Italian pasta sauces look more like salad dressings. They are intensely flavoured and used sparingly. Another authentic practice is to use some of the starchy, pasta cooking water to augment and thicken the sauce.

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One-Pot Rice and Pistachio Pilaf

Serves 3-4. (No dairy or gluten; with options for soy, eggs, nightshades, legumes, plant/animal protein)

This tasty and convenient one-pot meal is loved by cooks, diners and dishwashers. With the inclusion of your preferred Protein Option, it can be served as a simple meal-in-one. Different vegetables can be used but avoid those like pumpkin that are very soft when cooked – they will make the results mushy. Instead of adding a Protein Option the pilaf can be accompanied with a hearty salad. Think beyond using the traditional tomato – especially after its summer peak – and consider other fruits according to the season: grapes, persimmon, kiwifruit, nectarine, melon, peach, fig and apricot.

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