New Year Granola

Saturday, 31 December 2011

This time of year I can’t help getting a bit contemplative...a fresh year full of new possibilities and adventures.  I know I’m pretty excited and have started making plans, things I want to achieve, changes I want to make... I don’t always write them down, there’s no list as I’d probably lose it within five seconds but I like to feel I have a few goals in sight, if nothing else it gets me through the winter months.  So this granola, like the New Year, can be what you want to make it.  You need oats as your base, a wholesome starting point but then you can start building your own combination, nuts, coconut, dried fruit, whatever flavours work for you.  You can make your own granola adventure.  I attacked this granola like I go about many things in life.  I got it out of the oven and barely let it cool before I started eating handfuls from the tray...impatient for things to begin... Happy 2012!
Makes enough for about 6 servings, easily doubled.  Great with milk or natural yoghurt.  I used rice milk here.
150g certified gluten free rolled oats
50g nuts (I used mainly pecans and a few brazil nuts)
25g desiccated coconut
25g coconut flakes
50g dried fruit (I used cranberries and sultanas)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (honey or agave would also work)
1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil melted
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to gas mark 4 180°C/350°F
In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients (apart from the cranberries and sultanas) then add the coconut oil, maple syrup and brown sugar and combine.  Spread the mixture across a shallow baking tray.  Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Every ten minutes stir the granola so that everything is evenly baked.  Once the granola is golden, remove from the oven and add the cranberries and sultanas to the tray.  Leave to cool and transfer to an airtight container.  It will keep for up to two weeks.

Brussels Sprouts 101

Friday, 23 December 2011

Brussels sprouts, one of those Christmas traditions that not everyone appreciates.  I’ve eaten my fair share of over cooked, sludgy green coloured sprouts that can also have a charming side effect which I’m sure I don’t need to explain here (you don’t want to be around my husband after he’s eaten too many).  Lately however I have come to appreciate the brussels sprout in a whole new light.  I’ve started to cook them in different ways and have discovered that they can actually taste good.  Who knew?  My current favourite way to cook brussels sprouts is to roast them as my recipe below shows but since sprouts seem to be so popular on food blogs at the moment I thought I would round up all the fantastic recipes I’ve seen as my Christmas present to you.  I’ve got your brussels sprout dilemmas covered.





I’ve been making this rice bowl for a few weeks now, its easy, healthy and is great for roasting up veggies loitering in the bottom of the fridge. More importantly its a great way to use up brussels sprouts.  Chuck in some turkey or chicken, some walnuts and cranberries and you have a lovely meal that uses all those Christmas flavours.  You can use any mix of roasted vegetables.  Carrots work really well too as does celeriac and beetroot.
Serves 2
50g (2oz) brown rice
50g (2oz) red camargue rice (wild rice would also work, or just more brown rice)
100g (4oz) brussels sprouts cut in half (I used a purple variety as I’m a sucker for a pretty looking vegetable but regular ones are good too)
100g (4oz) parsnip or 1 large parsnip peeled and diced
1 red onion cut in to wedges
50g (2oz) toasted walnuts
25g (1oz) dried cranberries
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional extras: bacon diced and fried, roast chicken or turkey, feta crumbled. I didn’t dress mine but if you want to try a dressing I think a little honey, olive oil and mustard would work well with these flavours.  Experiment and enjoy!
Preheat oven to gas mark 7 220°C
Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the parsnips for two minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In a roasting tray greased with olive oil add the parsnips, sprouts and red onion.  Roast in the oven until the vegetables are golden, approx 35 minutes.
Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil.  Rinse your rice thoroughly in a sieve then add to the boiling water.  Simmer for 35 minutes.  Once your rice is cooked drain and rinse.  Add the rice to the roasted vegetables and combine.  Add the walnuts and cranberries.  Serve in bowls with the toppings of your choice.  I used fried bacon and crumbled feta cheese.
Happy Christmas xx

Mince Pies

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I promised more Christmas baking and here it is... my favourite mince pie recipe.  These are the ultimate mince pies.  Strong words I know but trust me, you will love these.  I think I may actually like these mince pies better than my pre coeliac days but maybe the fact I didn’t bake back then might explain this.  These have been a Christmas staple in our house for the last few years.  As soon as November appears I start to think is it too early?  Can I get away with mince pies yet?  I didn’t always feel this way.  When I was a child I hated mince pies and Christmas pudding.  My uncle would make me jam tarts to have on Christmas day instead.  With maturity I got over that, my dislike for Brussels sprouts (which will also be making an appearance here soon) and the need to open my presents at 6am, well almost. 

Adapted from BBC Good Food
Makes 12 – 15 depending on your pastry cutter.
125g (4.5oz) butter, diced
200g (7oz) gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm plain flour)
1 tbsp icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange
200g (7oz) gluten free mincemeat (I used Meridian organic mince pie filling)
4 tbsp water
1 egg for glazing
In a large bowl rub the butter in to the flour to form fine breadcrumbs.  Add the icing sugar and orange zest.  Add the water and mix with a knife until the dough starts to form.  Knead the dough lightly and flatten in to a disc.  Wrap the disc in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180°C.  Flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to 2-3mm thickness.  Cut out your bases and lids using fluted cutters.  I used a 7.5cm cutter for the base and a 5.5cm for the lid.  (Ideally it should have been 6.5cm but I lost my middle sized cutter who knows where).  Grease a muffin tin and line with the pastry bases.  Fill each base with a teaspoon of mincemeat then place your pastry lids on top.  Brush each pie with egg wash.  Place in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then eat warm or cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in an air tight container for up to 4 days.

Christmas Shortbread

Thursday, 15 December 2011

It’s about to get Christmassy around here.  Only ten days away, there is no escape.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of Christmas baking lately.  Just because I can’t eat gluten doesn’t mean I’m going to miss out on all the delicious food and general face stuffing that goes on this time of year.  First off, this shortbread.  It’s so easy to make and all you need is a Christmas cookie cutter to make it festive.  The texture is very light and a bit crumbly, sweet with a hint of orange but most importantly when my friend dunked one of these shortbread in his cup of tea it didn’t disintegrate.  If you wanted to spruce these up a bit (and if I’d had more time) I think they could be iced or dipped in melted dark chocolate.  They are very good just as they are.
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food


100g (4oz) butter softened
50g (2oz) golden caster sugar
Grated zest of one orange
Juice of half an orange
175g (6oz) gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm Plain Flour)
½ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5, 190°C
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or lightly oil.  In a bowl cream together the butter and caster sugar until light then add the orange zest and beat in.  Add the baking powder to the flour then begin to add the flour to the zest mixture and combine (I found I had to do this in stages).  If the dough is dry add the orange juice and combine until the dough comes together.  Flatten in to a round disc, wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
Flour a work surface and roll out the dough to required thickness.  Begin cutting out your biscuits with a cookie cutter.  I managed to make 12 Christmas Trees from my dough.  Place biscuits on the baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden.  Remove the cookies from the oven, leave on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then move to a wire rack using a pallet knife.  Once cooled store in an air tight container for up to a week.

Banana and Cranberry Muffins

Saturday, 10 December 2011

I’m all about the cranberry at the moment.  I chuck them in my morning porridge, I find ways to sneak them in to my dinner and I love how they worked in these banana muffins.  It is nearly Christmas after all.  Cranberries are just so right at this time of year.  These muffins are wonderfully light, they make a great mid morning snack washed down with a cup of coffee. 

Recipe adapted from Healthy Gluten-free Eating by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney

110g (4oz) dried cranberries  
110g (4oz) butter, softened
50g (2oz) unrefined golden caster sugar
2 large eggs free range
3 large ripe bananas
175g (6oz) brown rice flour
50g (2oz) corn flour
2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 180 °C gas mark 4.  Line a muffin tray with 12 muffin cases
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale, light and soft.  Add the eggs one by one beating well.
Mash the bananas and add them to the creamed mixture.  Sift the rice flour, corn flour, gluten free baking powder and salt in to the bowl and fold them in to the mixture.  Now stir in your cranberries until they are spread evenly throughout the mixture.
Using a desert spoon fill your muffin cases ¾ full with the mixture.  Bake in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted in to the middle comes out clean.
Cool the muffins in their paper cases on a wire rack.

Soup by candlelight

Friday, 2 December 2011

I made this soup in the dark.  Not because I’m weird... although I am a little weird... no comment.  I made this soup in the dark because we had a power cut.  I made this soup in the dark because I walked home from the train station after work in the pouring rain.  I entered the house which was empty because my husband was working late.  I removed my soaking shoes and clothes.  I was about to step in to the lovely hot shower I had been dreaming about all the way home and bam, power cut.  Me naked, alone, pitch black.  I froze, I waited, nothing happened.  Somehow I didn’t panic.  I suddenly went all stiff upper lip and began organising myself.  Dressing gown was found and thrown on, slippers were put on back to front, down the stairs I went only bashing in to the wall once.  I peered out the window, the street was dark.  Not just me then.  Matches were found, just two left gah.  We both kept saying we must buy matches but we never did.  Ok, torch was found, candles were located.  One candle successfully lit, one match left.  Bits of card board were lit from the candle to light other candles, small fires almost happened.  It was a fun time.  Foremost on my mind was food.  I scoured the cupboards with the torch but nothing easy jumped out at me.  Then I remembered making this soup at the weekend (when I luckily took some pictures).  I had all the ingredients so I thought why not.  Surely I can do this in the dark.  To cut an already too long story short I did.  It was a mean feat of planning and organising and I didn’t burn the house down.  Thank goodness we have a gas oven, although it would help if the lighter worked and I didn’t have to use matches.  As I was contemplating sitting down to my bowl of soup the power came back on.  A small part of me was slightly disappointed, only because I thought I wouldn’t need to wash up.  But within minutes I had the lap top switched on grateful that I didn’t have to spend the rest of the evening alone in the dark, it is kind of boring on your own.
This soup was inspired by this recipe from Molly Wizenburg of Orangette.  It’s simple and warming.  I used gluten free pasta instead of pearl barley which contains gluten.  Just cook your favourite gluten free pasta according to the pack instructions and stir in to your soup before serving.  I also used fennel and kale instead of celery and cabbage just because that’s what I had to hand.  You can reduce the amount significantly depending on how many you are feeding.  You definitely don’t need to wait for a power cut to make it. 

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

Saturday, 26 November 2011

These cookies are so good.  Don’t be fooled by the picture (my stupid oven slightly overcooked them).  So good are these cookies that I couldn’t stop eating them.  I almost got on my exercise bike because I had been stuffing so many... almost.  This would have involved removing washing which was hanging on said bike and then removing a thick layer of dust from the seat and handle bars, a work out in itself.  When I set out to make these cookies I wasn’t convinced they would work.  No butter, no sugar... could they really be considered cookies?  The result was a wholesome cookie with a chewy texture and delicious bursts of thick dark chocolate which worked wonderfully with the hazelnuts.  You also get to work out your aggression while making these cookies as you can bash up the chocolate with a rolling pin.  Just make sure it doesn’t fly everywhere like mine did. 

Recipe adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Makes 20 – 24 cookies depending on size.
12 oz 340g mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60ml barely warmed extra virgin coconut oil
4.25oz 120g gluten free oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
2oz 60g ground almonds
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3.5oz 100g hazelnuts or other nut of your choice
6oz 170g dark chocolate chopped in to small chunks
75oz 20g quinoa pops
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180°C.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
In a mixing bowl or blender combine the bananas, vanilla and coconut oil (rather than mashing my bananas I just chucked them in the blender).  In another bowl mix together the oats, ground almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  Add the chocolate and hazelnuts followed by the quinoa pops and fold these in to the mixture.  Shape the mixture in to small balls about 1 heaped tablespoon in size and flatten to a cookie shape.  I left mine quite chunky.  Place on the baking sheets.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven, swapping the baking sheets from top to bottom half way through cooking.  Once the cookies are golden on top and bottom remove from the oven and place the cookies on a wire rack to cool.

A few of my favourite things

Friday, 18 November 2011


Beans on toast, when I first found out I was coeliac one of the first foods I checked for gluten was Heinz baked beans.  Enough said.  FYI the bread is home made.  Recipe soon.
Already dreaming of a gluten free version of this
Love this restaurant a safe haven for coeliacs, I’ll be back again soon.
Wish I’d found this before my last trip to Paris.  The terrifying speed of French waiters had me flummoxed.
On a favourite walk with my lovely husband, this tree.

And coffee with my Dad by the sea on a sunny day in September.

Have a good weekend.

Sort of Pizza but not exactly

Sunday, 13 November 2011

When you are first diagnosed with coeliac disease or find out you are gluten intolerant you start to run through the foods you aren’t going to be able to eat anymore.  Aside from the obvious things like bread, pizza is often pretty high on the list.  For me the hardship was not going out for pizza anymore.  I have learned to sit across from friends in a restaurant while they tuck in to pizza and I eat a salad without glaring at them enviously.  I have grown...but I have also forgotten what pizza tastes like.  Although in the cookery book this recipe calls itself pizza its really more pizza meets tart as the crust is made from pastry.  It still works pretty well to satisfy my pizza cravings.  Because it is essentially a pastry crust it is much heavier than normal pizza. Also it will crumble like all gluten free pastry.  It is imperfect or rustic as I like to call it but just go with it.  The result is delicious and can be eaten cold the next day.  This recipe serves 4 with salad or 2 on its own.

Recipe from Apple Tree Cafe Wheat and Gluten Free Recipes
Making the crust
200g rice flour
100g soya flour  *you can sub another flour here, I quite often use quinoa
150g margarine or butter
1 egg
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 190°C.  Sieve the flours into a bowl then rub in the margarine to make a breadcrumb like consistency.  Add the egg and mix together until the pastry begins to form.  You might have to knead it with your hands a little here.  Sprinkle a baking tray with rice flour then press the pasty into the tray to make your base.  Blind bake your pastry in the oven for 5-7 minutes.
Adding your toppings
Passata
Toppings of your choice.  I topped my pizza with roasted aubergine, courgette and red onion.
Mozzarella cheese sliced
2 large tomatoes sliced
Spread the passata over your pizza base then add the sliced tomato and mozarella.  Finish with the toppings of your choice.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown.

Mini Scones!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


No it’s not summer, there are no strawberries and cream.  It’s grey outside and you just sat next to a man who smells on the train home from work.  But there are scones warm from the oven with butter and jam (not the homemade one, we ate that!) and on a cold, grey day that’s more than enough.  These scones are light and buttery, studded with sultanas they melt in the mouth.  Brew up your favourite tea (because you have to have tea with scones) and eat as many as you can allow yourself.


Slightly adapted from Healthy Gluten-free Eating by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney
275g/10oz brown rice flour
50g /2oz tapioca flour
4 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons organic golden caster sugar
110g/4oz butter diced
110g/4oz sultanas or other dried fruit
2 eggs
175ml/6fl oz natural yoghurt (I used sheep milk yoghurt)
Egg wash
Directions:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 9, 250°C
Sift the dry ingredients in to a large bowl and mix well.  Add the butter and rub in to the flour to form breadcrumbs then add the dried fruit and gently fold in.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yoghurt until well combined.  Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the egg and yoghurt mixture.  Combine to make a soft dough. 
Turn the dough out on to a rice floured surface and knead gently.  Shape the dough in to a round and roll out to about 2.5cm thick.  Using a 5cm cutter stamp out the scones and place them on a rice floured baking sheet.  Brush with egg wash.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.  Move the scones to a wire rack to cool.  They are delicious warm or cold with butter and jam and a cup of tea.
Makes 15 to 18 scones.

Burgers and Bonfires

Friday, 4 November 2011


You may have guessed by now I’m not a big meat eater, I love my veggies and always have, even as a small child.  Except broad beans, I still can’t stand broad beans.  I’m always in search of a good veggie burger and I think I have found it in these quinoa burgers from 101 Cookbooks.  (I know quinoa again).  They are my current favourite thing to have for lunch at weekends.  They also keep really well so are great for packed lunches or if you are going to a firework display this weekend they’d make a good fireside snack.  I also made some sweet potato chips to go on the side. 
I made these just as Heidi’s recipe says.  The only thing I omitted was the toasted cumin and the baking powder but they still tasted so good.  For the bread crumbs I used gluten free bread.  Everything I have made from 101 Cookbooks and from Heidi’s book Super Natural Every Day has turned out perfectly.  You can find the recipe here



Sweet Potato Chips couldn’t be easier.  Simply peel, wash and cut your sweet potatoes in to long thin wedges.  Line a baking tray with baking paper, place the chips on top and drizzle with olive oil.  I also like to sprinkle some dried rosemary over the chips, the flavours go so well together.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on Gas Mark 7, 220°C until crisp.  Don’t be tempted to make these without the baking paper as you may end up with soggy chips stuck to the tray and nobody wants to eat soggy chips by a bonfire no matter how good the fireworks are.
Enjoy your weekend!

Roasted Fennel Risotto

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Until recently I found risotto pretty daunting.  I have flash backs of early attempts resulting in undercooked rice and a dried out sticky mess at the bottom of the saucepan.  Of course at the time we were renting a crummy flat with an electric ring for a stove top that was difficult to control...it couldn’t possibly be my fault.  Now risotto and I are great friends and I’ve begun to get more adventurous with my ingredients.


This risotto mixes arborio rice with quinoa which gives it a health boost without being over powering.  If you hate the thought of quinoa in your risotto then just substitute it for more rice. The quinoa adds a nutty flavour, the lemon gives the risotto an extra kick and pairs beautifully with the fennel.  Roasted chicken works really well here too if, like me, you happen to live with a carnivore.
Roasted Fennel Risotto adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine

Serves 2
1 large fennel bulb
knob of butter
1 onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
100g arborio rice
50g quinoa
150ml white wine (optional)
550ml chicken or vegetable stock
zest of 1 lemon
25g parmesan, grated
olive oil
Directions
Thoroughly rinse the quinoa and set aside.  Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 220°C.  Chop the fennel in to chunks removing the green leafy fronds.  Put some oil in a roasting tin and add the half the fennel.  Roast until the edges are crispy.  Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a deep frying pan, add the onion, garlic and half the fennel and cook until soft but not coloured.
Add the butter and the quinoa and stir for 1 minute.  Then add the rice and stir for another minute.  Pour over the wine if using and simmer until evaporated (if not using wine then use a bit of stock instead).  Keep your stock hot by heating it in a separate saucepan on low and begin to add it a ladleful at a time to the risotto, stirring between each addition until it is absorbed and has reached the desired consistency.  You may find you need more or less stock.  This process should take between 20 and 25 minutes.
When the quinoa and rice are cooked, stir in the lemon zest and parmesan.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave for 2 minutes.  Serve in bowls topped with the oven roasted fennel and roast chicken if using.  Sprinkle a bit of extra parmesan on top too.


Lunch in Lausanne

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


This weekend we took a trip to Switzerland to catch up with a friend.  Travelling abroad when you have to maintain a gluten free diet can be pretty daunting.  My first challenge was eating out in a traditional Swiss restaurant in Lausanne.  My friend contacted the restaurant in advance and explained my condition with the help of these travel cards from Celiac Travel  This is a great site for advice about travelling to a variety of destinations on a gluten free diet.


Restaurants are busy places, things can get lost in communication between the waiter and the kitchen, cross contamination can be a big risk.  Throw in a foreign language too and it can all seem like too much trouble.  I was lucky.  I had my friend to speak with the waiter on my behalf.  I ended up having a rösti which is a traditional Swiss potato cake with a fried egg on top and a variety of mushrooms including chanterelles and shiitake sautéed in butter on the side.  The food was delicious and I ate safely.

Sadly I don’t have any pictures!  Thinking only of my stomach I left my camera in the car.  I managed to take a few more pictures once I had retrieved it.
To aid digestion our friend took us up this tower after lunch!
We ended our afternoon of site seeing with fresh mint tea at a local cafe.




Jam Story

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A few weeks ago towards the end of summer we decided to go blackberry picking on the downs. This year the blackberries seemed to be early and in huge abundance.  We came back with several containers of all shapes and sizes loaded with black ripe juicy berries.  I didn’t know what I wanted to make but for some reason I decided on blackberry jam.  I had never made jam before and I don’t know why I thought it would be a good time to start when I was already cooking dinner late on a Sunday afternoon.


The process was surprisingly quick and easy.  The recipe below is faithful to the original but also open to being adapted.  I decided to halve the recipe since it was all a bit of an experiment and put the leftover berries in the freezer.  I also discovered that I didn’t have enough sugar or the right sort so ended up reducing the sugar amount by a third which suited my healthy sensibilities.  You may not know this...but jam contains A LOT of sugar.  Watching the sheer amount of the stuff as I weighed it out on the scales was scary.   I ended up using half granulated brown sugar and half demerara.  The end result didn’t seem to suffer for this.  In fact my husband, who never eats jam unless a scone is involved, became a jam eating monster.  I’d never seen him consume so much jam on toast.




Makes 1.2 litres/4 jam jars
900g/2lb fruit
900g/2lb sugar
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
Put the blackberries in to a heavy based saucepan or if you are really flash a preserving pan.
Add 50ml of water and 1 ½ tbsp of lemon juice.  Bring to the boil.
Simmer for 15 minutes until the fruit is soft.
Pour in the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved then turn up the heat to bring it to a full rolling boil for about 15 minutes.  Do not stir until the setting point of 105°C is reached.  (I ended up boiling mine for about 20 minutes before reaching setting point.  You may find yours takes a longer or shorter time.)
Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any excess scum.  Leave for about 15 minutes before pouring in to sterilized jars, label and seal.
Some extra notes:
I don’t have a jam thermometer so I used the frozen plate method.  Place a plate in the freezer until it is nice and cold.  To test if your jam has reached setting point remove the plate from the freezer, take a small dollop of jam from your boiling pot and drop it onto the plate, if it sets then it’s ready, if it remains runny then keep boiling the jam and try again in a few minutes.  I found this took several attempts.
I am not an expert on sterilizing jars.  You can find many different methods by looking this up online.  I’d hate to think I’d given you rogue jam jar sterilizing advice.