Archives for category: celiac

Gool Peran Lowen! Or, Happy St Piran’s Day (for yesterday)! Everyone is familiar with St George, St David, St Andrew and St Patrick but not so many have heard of whom I consider to be the British Isles’ fifth patron saint – St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall. I’ve been fascinated by my family history since a small girl and feel a stronger tie to my ancestry on my maternal grandmother’s side than to that on the others, probably because she was the grandparent that I knew for the longest. My grandmother was Cornish, born in St Austell (Snozzle) in 1908, where her father was a china clay miner before he went off to fight in the First World War. With the help of censuses, parish records and other family historians far more adept than me, I’ve managed to trace my Cornish ancestry back to the 16th Century, which is as far back as most of the un-landed un-gentry can go. My great-grandmother was born in Mevagissey, to the south of St Austell, which was once the centre of Cornwall’s pilchard fishing industry. Hevva cake, also known as heavy cake, is a traditional cake which is said to have been made by the fishermen’s wives for their husbands returning from the catch. ‘Hevva’ was apparently the cry of the men as they pulled in the nets, jumping with pilchards, and was presumably also a cue for the wives to pull their finger out and get the cake in the oven! My mum making hevva cake is an enduring memory from my childhood and I remember there always being some in the cake tin. I haven’t eaten any for years and thought that there was no better way to celebrate St Piran’s this year than with a gluten-free Cornish taste of my childhood.

Gluten-free Cornish hevva cake

These cakes are very much like flat fruit scones. There are a number of variations for this recipe – some add lemon zest and others, nutmeg. I add allspice (not remotely traditional) but it’s what my mother always puts in and the taste takes me back to my childhood. If you don’t like the taste of allspice (or think it’s anathema to add it!), do leave it out. The criss-cross across the top is, however, non-negotiable: it represents the pilchard fishing nets and would be blasphemous to omit. These are great with a cup of tea or coffee, either adorned with a dollop of cream (Cornish, obviously!) or as nature intended. I tend to eat them plain, however, as I think they are rich enough.

Makes 9 servings

180g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice (optional)
90g salted butter, cut into small cubes
50g caster sugar
50g sultanas
60ml milk
2 tsp Demerara sugar

You will also need a non-stick baking (cookie) sheet

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-assisted). In a large bowl, sift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and allspice. Rub in the butter, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar and the sultanas until evenly distributed. Pour in the milk and mix to a stiff dough, first using a knife in the bowl and then kneading with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rough square or oval about 2cm in depth. Using a knife, lightly score a criss-cross pattern across the surface and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Place on a non-stick baking (cookie) sheet and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cut into 9 squares whilst still warm.

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I’m a big fan of risotto. A naturally gluten-free meal that you can almost perpetually re-invent (within certain parameters, as outlined below!). When I’m trying to think of something vegetarian to cook, which we try to do at least twice a week, I generally fall back on a risotto. Wild mushroom is a particular favourite: a comforting, earthy and almost meaty dish, served with lashings of grated Parmesan and that oh-so-British addition of a green side salad (oh, heresy!). It’s an apparently simple dish which seems to have signed the death warrant of many a Masterchef hopeful, either because it’s been served with something that has no right to co-exist on the same plate (like a fillet of chicken – oh double heresy!), or the contestant has over-stepped the boundaries of what is considered ‘cutting edge’ by adding strawberries and making it into a pudding (and thrice heresy!). We watch as Greg and John put down their forks and meet the gaze of the hapless cook with pained expressions… Over-cooking is what seems to do for most of them though. Which I can’t understand really because I’m not the most patient of cooks, when standing and stirring is involved, and I’m usually looking for some way or another to speed up the process or delegate it to another electrical appliance. I have done a fair amount of internet research to see whether stirring is strictly necessary and the answer seems to be ‘yes’ (at least as far as Italian chef Gino Locatelli and his mother are concerned, and that’s good enough for me). I know that cooking risotto in the oven is possible but something inside me seems to baulk at that. Polenta, yes, risotto, no. So I stand and stir. But as soon as I can get my tooth through it, it’s off the stove and into the bowls.

This take on risotto is inspired by a recipe for risotto con gli asparagi recorded by Claudia Roden in her book, The Food of Italy. I love asparagus risotto but asparagus isn’t in season right now so I thought I’d do my bit for the environment and try something else. Like Tenderstem broccoli…which I have subsequently found out is also not to in season right now (ahem!). Tenderstem broccoli is a beautifully delicate and elegant vegetable which is, apparently, bred by crossing broccoli with Chinese kale. It has, as its name suggests, tender stems which can be eaten in their entirety and I always think of it in the same terms as asparagus. You would think that with the broccoli stems being cooked for so long that they would take on that rather metallic flavour that overcooked broccoli usually has (when it’s all mushy and khaki-coloured) but it absolutely doesn’t.

Naturally gluten-free Tenderstem broccoli risotto

 Serves 2

300g Tenderstem broccoli
750ml vegetable stock (or boiling water made up with 2 tsp Swiss Marigold Bouillon powder)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
150g Arborio risotto rice
250ml white wine (optional, but in that case, you will need a full litre of stock)
35g Grana Padano or Parmesan, grated plus extra for serving

You will also need a large frying pan (skillet) or sauté pan

Wash the Tenderstem broccoli. Cut off the florets (about 4-5cm from the tips) and set them aside. Chop the remaining stalks into 2cm lengths. Bring the vegetable stock up to the boil and add the stalks. Boil until they are very tender (about 8 minutes). Meanwhile place the florets in a steamer over boiling water and steam until only just tender. This should only take about 3 minutes and the florets should be bright green. Refresh them in cold water to prevent them from continuing to cook and set aside. When the stalks are done, blend them with a hand blender along with the stock in the saucepan.* Return to the heat and bring back up to a bare simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a low to medium flame and add the chopped onions. Fry for several minutes until softened, pale and translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry gently for another couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat the grains with oil. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring all the while. When the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the stock containing the creamed broccoli stalks a ladleful at a time, stirring until it has all been absorbed before adding the next. After adding the final ladleful, stir in the grated cheese and gently fold in the steamed broccoli florets. Stir gently until the stock has been absorbed and you are left with creamy and al dente rice. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more Grana Padano or Parmesan.

*Blending hot liquids in a goblet blender can be quite dangerous. If you’re going to do this, I would suggest that you wait until the stock and stems have cooled before blending.

Prunes. Yick. Well, that’s most people’s reactions to them. Including mine. So why have I got three or four tins of them in the cupboard…? And why am I cooking with them…? Well, they were bought about 18 months ago for purely ‘medicinal’ purposes when I was pregnant. I mashed them into rice pudding every evening after dinner and forced them down.  I don’t know what it is about them. I love plums, both raw and cooked. They’re sweet, warm and comforting and are the embodiment of an English garden in late summer. But when they’re turned into prunes, they metamorphose into a cloying and sickly morass of yuckiness.

So why do I have a bowl of them in the fridge…? My 12-month-old son has, over the past week, rejected his early morning milk feed and I’ve had a devil of a job getting enough fluids into him. Predictably enough, he started having trouble in the nappy department so desperate measures were called for. Luckily for me, Thomas eats nearly everything that’s put in front of him, including prunes mashed into custard. Crisis averted. But that left me with a bowl of prunes in the fridge. They’ve been lurking there for the past couple of days, glowering at me every time I open the fridge door, daring me to do something with them. It was at the back of my mind that, if I left them there another couple of days, I’d be justified in throwing them out. But then I thought, “How wasteful – there’s a recession on! I’ll see if I can disguise them in a brownie…” And voilà!
You can’t actually taste the prunes but they enhance the chocolate, giving an almost licorice-like flavour, cut the sugar needed by more than half and add a velvety softness. Great with a cup of cha.

Gluten-free chocolate and prune brownies

Makes 12 brownies
3 medium eggs
95g dark Muscovado sugar
pinch salt
2 tbsp gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
70g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla essence
175g drained and pitted tinned prunes
You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm brownie tin
Preheat the oven to 150°C (mine’s fan-assisted – presumably conventional ovens would need to be about 160°C). Line the base and sides of the brownie tin with baking parchment. Lightly brush the parchment with oil.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl with a hand-held electric whisk for 5 minutes until tripled in volume.
Purée the prunes in a blender or food processor until smooth and add to the mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the bowl. Add the ground almonds and vanilla essence and beat everything until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Cook in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes*. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 20 minutes. Remove from the tin, peel off the parchment and cut into individual brownies.
*I took the brownies out after 25 minutes. I think, next time, I would see what they were doing after 20, just to see if I could get them a bit more squidgey.
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