Ok. I never thought that the day would come when I would sing the praises of a rice noodle. Let alone consider it a valid, gluten-free alternative to pasta. But I've come to understand and love the little blighters.
In olden times (that is until about 4 months ago) I thought I couldn't live without pasta; then I tried - and discovered how much better I felt. My body certainly is a happier creature on rice noodles.
But pasta is a fantastic vehicle for carrying flavours, and rice noodles, truth to tell, are not. Still rice noodles have the edge in that you can get them from packet to table, sauced, within about 15 minutes flat.
There's no need to bring huge vats of water to the boil, salt humungously and then drain off a veritable sea of potentially lethal, scalding water. (Never a good idea with small children and furry companions in the kitchen.) All you have to do is boil a kettle full of water, throw the noodles into a bowl, pour the contents of the kettle over and leave to sit for a few minutes while you prepare the sauce.
(Oops! That's my English heritage revealed. If you live without the joy of a kettle for boiling the water for your daily 'fix' of tea, then you'll have to bring a couple of litres of water to the boil as you normally do and then proceed as above.)
Now the sauce is, of course, the interesting part. The trick is to build up layers of flavour and then cook the noodles in the sauce for a couple of minutes, so that the noodles really absorb the sauce. But this takes chutzpah (aka barefaced cheek) and flies in the face of received wisdom about what you do, when and how.
So be it, I say. The end result is delicious. It's filling, but light enough on the digestion for a picky maiden aunt.
Leftovers, if you have any, are great at room temperature. And it showcases lots of great Italian flavours in a slightly unconventional way.
Oh, and if you ever need to, you could probably keep a self-respecting vampire away with this one. But, hey, everyone's got to live and garlic's health giving properties are not to be sneered at.
("Gloriously Gluten Free", the cookbook, boasts a number of more conventional conventional recipes for corn pasta and polenta.)
Rice noodles with tomatoes and tuna
Makes 6 appetizer portions, 3-4 main course servings
1 x 250 g/ 8 oz packet medium rice noodles
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 or 4 plump garlic cloves (crushed, peeled, green germ removed and
1 good pinch, or as much as 1/4 tsp, dried chilli flakes
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil (drained and finely chopped)
4 tbs tomato paste/puree
125ml/ 4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup dry white wine (good enough to drink)
250g/ 8 oz cherry, or mini plum tomatoes cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
200g/ 7 oz can tuna in olive oil (drained)
3-4 tbs diced black olives (stones removed)
Place the rice noodles in a bowl and, as directed above, pour approximately 2 litres of boiling water over. (If it's slightly less or slightly more, it really doesn't matter, provided the noodles are fully covered. Give them a quick stir around with a wooden spoon, so you don't get the odd gummy clump that has not absorbed the water evenly.)
Now ignore the noodles for a few minutes while you deal with the other ingredients. Place the garlic and chilli flakes with the olive oil in a medium-large frying pan over medium-high heat. ( Adjust the heat, as necessary, to prevent burning.)
As soon as the mixture becomes fragrant and the garlic starts to turn golden, add the anchovies and stir well.
Now add the tomato paste/puree and stir furiously, to dissolve it.
Add the wine and leave to bubble away for a couple of minutes while you drain the noodles and hack them into smaller lengths with a pair of kitchen scissors. (Sure, you're not meant to do this for Oriental dishes; it's meant to bring bad luck, but it makes eating them easier, andit will protect your shirt.)
Add the sliced tomatoes, turn the heat up to high and give them a minute to soften. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bearing in mind that rice noodles are naturally flavour vampires, this is no time to go light on the salt.
Break the tuna into flakes as you add it to the pan and stir. Quickly add the noodles and toss for a minute or two until all the noodles are well coated.
Finally add the chopped olives, stir again, transfer to a serving dish and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
© 2006Annie Kaszina
Annie Kaszina, Coach, writer and 'foodie'is not a Celiac, but has foresworn wheat in the interest of 'caring for a delicate digestion'. She works with Celiac Gina Gardiner to provide great information and recipes to restore the confidence and zest for eating of Celiacs who have had their easy enjoyment of food taken away from them by their disease.
Annie's e-cookbook "Gloriously Gluten Free" and Gina's handbook for Celiacs "Live Well - Eat Well With Celiac Disease" are available through their website: http://www.celiacliving.com.