Archives for category: coeliac

I’ve been on a very steep learning curve this week. I love hot cross buns and it’s that time of year again. I really fancied making my own this year but they are, of course, based on a yeasted bread dough. My bread-making travails are well-documented. Apart from my focaccia flop with which I have already regaled you, I’ve also tried making the bread recipe on the back of the Dove’s Farm gluten-free brown bread flour bag. It came out of the oven a claggy brick which then disintegrated into a cloying mush in the mouth. Truly unpleasant and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without some serious tinkering first. My bread-making pedigree then did not promise great things…

My first attempt at these hot cross buns was OK-ish. I made them with a mixture of rice flour and ground tapioca. I wasn’t sure about them even before they went in the oven though: the dough had seemed quite firm when it went in and I know that gluten-free bread dough should be more of a sticky batter. When they came out of the oven, I was right to be suspicious. The taste was definitely there but the texture was still quite dense. So I started musing about how to give them more spring. I looked on the ingredients label of my shop-bought gluten-free loaf: the ingredient listed first, I assume because it’s in the greatest quantity, is tapioca starch and it also contains other starches. I then researched the topic quite widely on the internet and, after all this, came to the conclusion that I really needed to up the starch to flour ratio…! I ditched the rice flour and ground tapioca in favour of a flour blend with added cornflour and potato flour. I added more egg and decided to beat this together with the sugar like in a muffin recipe to get as much lift in as possible. The resulting buns are much more successful – they’re moist, soft and have air in them. Do they taste like glutenicious hot cross buns? Absolutely. Do they have the texture of glutenicious hot cross buns? Um, no. I’m not a miracle worker. They’re a halfway house between a bread and a muffin – they’re too muffiny to be a bread but too bready to be a muffin. So that’s why I’ve called them bunmuffins.

Gluten-free hot cross bunmuffins

Makes 9

210g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
60g cornflour (cornstarch)
60g custard powder
60g potato flour
25g milk powder
7g fast-action yeast
1 tbsp xanthan gum
1½  tsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp salt
75g sultanas
25g candied peel
185ml whole milk
60g butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
60g caster sugar
125ml tepid water
1 tsp cider vinegar

For the top:
2 ½ tbsp gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp golden syrup

You will also need a 9-hole muffin tin, muffin paper cases, a baking sheet, a large polythene bag, a piping bag with a 5mm nozzle or a plastic food bag and a roasting tin.

First, prepare the muffin cases by putting them in the muffin tin and brushing them with olive oil.

In a large mixing bowl and using a balloon whisk, whisk the plain flour, cornflour (cornstarch), custard powder, potato flour, milk powder, yeast, xanthan gum, baking powder, mixed spice, salt, sultanas and candied peel until everything is well-mixed and all lumps have disappeared.

In another bowl, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the eggs and the sugar for 2-3 minutes until they are pale yellow and have tripled in size.

Place the butter and milk into a microwaveable bowl and put in the microwave on ‘high’ for about 20 seconds. Remove from the oven and let sit until the butter has melted into the milk. Mix in the olive oil. In a separate glass, mix the water and the cider vinegar.

Pour the egg mixture and the milk and butter mixture into the flour and, using a wooden spoon, give it a couple of stirs. Then add the water and cider vinegar and continue stirring until everything is well-combined. The mixture should be a sticky batter.

Distribute this batter evenly among the muffin cases, put the muffin tin on the baking sheet inside the large polythene bag (make sure the plastic isn’t touching the top of the batter) and put somewhere warm to rise for an hour (I put mine in the airing cupboard).

Ten minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 170°C (fan-assisted). Mix the 2 ½ tablespoons of plain flour with 1 tablespoon of water and mix until it has the consistency of double (heavy) cream. Spoon the mixture into the piping bag or plastic bag. If using the plastic bag, squeeze the mixture into one of the corners, and just before piping, snip the end off. Pipe a cross over the top of each bunmuffin and place in the oven. Place a roasting tin of water at the bottom of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bunmuffins are risen and golden.

Take the bunmuffins out of the muffin tin and place on a cooling rack. Microwave the golden syrup on ‘high’ for about 10-15 seconds or until hot and runny. Brush the top of each bunmuffin with hot golden syrup until glistening.

Best eaten whilst still warm but they’re also lovely toasted and slathered with butter.

In my last post, I talked about the trials and tribulations of eating out when you’re on a gluten-free diet. At the weekend, when we’re out and about, we like stopping off in coffee shops for a decaffeinated cappuccino and a snack. In my pre-glutenfreebie days, I would join my husband in having a hot panino (I think that when the word panini was imported into English from the Italian it got transmogrified somewhere over the Appenines from the plural to the singular but I can’t bring myself to do that when all I can hear is the equivalent of “a sandwiches”. Call me pedantic…)

But I digress. I used to like having a panino but that avenue of gastronomic pleasure is now closed off to me. Whenever we go out now, we either go to Starbucks where I can have a sandwich made from Genius bread or to Costa Coffee where I can have a chocolate brownie. But neither is as satisfying as a piping-hot sandwich that is oozing with melting cheese of Vesuvian proportions. Gluten-free quesadillas are much easier to create at home than panini and they are big on the melted-cheese-satisfaction-factor. My gluten-free flatbread wrap recipe is perfect for them.

Gluten-free garlic and herb quesadillas with chorizo, artichokes and mozzarella

Makes 6

1 x garlic and herb flatbread wrap recipe
180g chorizo, sliced and quartered
8 tinned artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
420g grated mozzarella *
olive oil

Make up the garlic and herb flatbread recipe up to the point where the dough is divided into six balls. Divide each ball into two, so that you’ve got 12 smaller balls, and wrap each one loosely in microwaveable clingfilm.  Place them on a microwaveable plate and warm in the microwave on ‘high’ for 10 seconds. Leave somewhere warm for 20-30 minutes, by which time each ball should have puffed up slightly.

Meanwhile, mix the chorizo, artichoke hearts and mozzarella in a bowl and put to one side. When you’re ready to cook the quesadillas, unwrap one of the balls and place it on a floured surface. Flatten it out with the heel of your hand into a thick circle. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rough circle about 20cm in diameter. Put on a plate and repeat with the remaining balls (You can flatten out the clingfilm that was wrapping each ball of dough and put that in between the rolled-out wraps to prevent them from sticking to one another).

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan with a few drops of oil over a high heat. When the pan is hot, place one piece of the rolled-out dough in it (I find draping it over the rolling pin makes it easier) and toast one side only for a couple of minutes, or until the surface is browned and slightly blistered. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the next piece of rolled-out dough, but this time both sides will be toasted. As soon as it has been turned over to toast the second side, sprinkle one-sixth of the chorizo, artichoke and mozzarella mixture over the wrap and place the wrap that you cooked first, raw side uppermost over the top. Press down with a fish slice or spatula. After a minute or so, carefully turn the quesadilla over to toast the final side. Remove to a board and cut into quarters with either a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough to create five more.

* Ready-grated mozzarella has often got an anti-caking agent added to it which is, sometimes, not gluten-free. I use Tesco’s own which is.

Eating out when you can’t eat your country’s staple crop is a real pain. Most dishes are accompanied by pasta or bread or swathed in pastry or breadcrumbs and soups, stews and sauces are usually thickened with flour. Eating on the run is even worse: most snacks – sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, sandwiches, cakes, panini, chocolate bars, fast food of the burger and fried chicken variety from chains whose names I dare not speak – are out of bounds. You can’t even pick up a packet of Gary Lineker’s favourite crisps anymore. Like a vicious moray eel, gluten also lurks in menus, waiting to pounce, where you least expect to find it. Something that seems innocuous and that you would never in a million years suspect contained gluten, has had flour bunged into it to make it go further and/or last longer.

You have to educate yourself and do it fast or you make painful mistakes. I got caught out early on in my glutenfreebie life with a mushroom omelette and chips in a greasy spoon. I blithely munched my way through it, enjoying every mouthful, secure in the knowledge that mushrooms, eggs and potatoes don’t contain gluten… It enjoyed me half-an-hour later when the banging headache, constricted throat and nausea kicked in. Little had I known that, not only were those cheap chips made from potato reconstituted with wheat but that they were probably also fried in the same oil as the battered fish and onion rings the rather sticky menu in the café was also advertising. My mantra is now “Assume Nothing!” and I always ensure that everything I order has none in it because I ask, which is a good job or I would have been caught out with the poached salmon salad in a pub in Cheltenham (the vinaigrette salad dressing?!) and the poached salmon and steamed potatoes in a restaurant in Cardiff (the hollandaise?!).

I’m not complaining (much). I understand that profitability in the food industry means ensuring the happiness (or full tummies) of the greatest number at the cheapest price and adulterating naturally gluten-free food with wheat is a way of doing it. And I don’t expect, as a member of a minority, to be universally catered for. Although there is an increasing number of restaurants who are willing to cater for those with dietary restrictions, I do think that the others who don’t are missing a trick. Restaurants, take note! We might only make up a small percentage of people who go out to dine but when we do, we don’t usually do it alone (we may not eat gluten but, funnily enough, we DON’T have two heads!). We therefore not only take our own custom to a restaurant that can cater for us but we also take the rest of our party, potentially increasing that percentage three-, four-, five-fold… Just a thought…

Anyway, if I want a burger now, I have to make them at home. On the upside, at least I know that what’s in them is healthy and nutritious. This is non-junk comfort food at its best.

And I don’t have to eat them out of a polystyrene carton either.

Gluten-free harissa lamb, feta and olive burgers with garlic lemon mayonnaise

Makes 4 burgers

1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
400g minced lamb
1 tbsp harissa
100g feta, cut into 5mm cubes
50g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
40g gluten-free breadcrumbs
olive oil for shallow frying
150g quality gluten-free mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced or ¼ tsp garlic granules
zest of half a lemon and juice of a whole lemon
salt and pepper
4 gluten-free hamburger buns or rolls (I used Sainsbury’s seeded rolls, pictured)
chopped lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Fry the onion gently in the olive oil for several minutes until softened, golden and translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes until the edges are slightly tinged with brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, cooled onions, harissa, feta, olives, eggs and breadcrumbs. Form into four equally sized burgers and chill until ready to cook.

To make the mayonnaise, simply combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the burgers and fry for about 7-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through, turning just once.  Serve in a toasted gluten-free hamburger bun garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and the garlic lemon mayonnaise.

NB These can be frozen but their texture is much better when cooked from fresh.

When I got the message from Caleigh over at Gluten Free[k], inviting me to take part in the Great Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge that she was hosting, I was really excited. Firstly, it’s great to feel part of a community that not only understands this part of my life because it’s part of theirs too but that also celebrates it and says, “You know what? I’m not going to accept this restriction on my diet lying down. Gluten-free food can be just as delicious and I’m going to show you. So there!” One of the reasons that I started blogging was that I didn’t know anyone else who ate the same diet as me, who suffered the same frustration in restaurants (WHY does the hollandaise have gluten in it?) and who suffered the same rudeness and ignorance from waiting staff. This is just one of my experiences: My husband and I went out to breakfast in a (not inexpensive) restaurant in Bristol. When I asked to not have the sausage and black pudding on my meal, it arrived without bacon as well. On questioning it, I was challenged with a surly “What’s the difference between bacon and sausages?!” Not the reaction I was expecting. “Um, cereal…” I said. Extra bacon was begrudgingly slapped down on a side plate next to me five minutes later. We never went back there.

Secondly  I love a challenge. The rules were laid down. Not only did we have a deadline – to publish our recipe on Monday 12th March – but we were also given an ingredient that had to feature prominently – orange – and the recipe had not only to be gluten-free (naturally!) but also dairy-free and almond-, hazelnut- and chestnut-free. I’m a firm believer that rules, rather than being restrictive, lead to even greater creativity. In my previous incarnation as an English teacher, I would dread setting my students a free creative writing task. Inevitably, I’d end up marking 30+ rambling, incoherent and grammatically-suspect pastiches of whatever they had been reading, watching, gaming the night before… “Enough already!” I said, “We need some rules!” Some of the most creative and beautiful pieces of work I’ve read, especially by lower-ability pupils, are in the style of the haiku – Japanese 17-syllable (no more, no less) poems – that distil a single thought into its pure essence, necessitating a purge of most articles (definite and indefinite), prepositions and pronouns. A valuable teaching tool which frees the child to focus on the simple beauty of creating metaphor.

So I had my rules. What to make? I had a choice: to make something which was naturally gluten-, dairy- and nut-free or, to make something which ordinarily would be jam-packed with them all and see how I could get around it. I chose the latter path (I like making things difficult for myself): gluten-free, I’m of course used to – dairy-free is another story. It would necessitate a journey of discovery into the world of vegan chocolate and soya substitutes. These days, rather than feel resentful at the food I can no longer eat in restaurants and cafés, if I see something that I really want, I go home and create it myself. This recipe is one such. Just before we moved to our new home in Cheltenham in December, my husband, our son and I needed to vacate our house while the prospective buyer measured up for her new kitchen. We found ourselves wandering aimlessly around Cabot Circus (the new shopping mall in the centre of Bristol) and decided to warm ourselves up with a brew at Costa Coffee. Sitting behind the glass counter, brazenly flirting with me, was an orange curd and chocolate ganache tart. I knew I’d have to have it sooner or later. So here it is. My culinary haiku which celebrates the symbiotic beauty that occurs when chocolate meets orange. Whether or not you eat it in seventeen bites is entirely up to you.

Gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate and blood orange curd tarts

This is a decadent and rich tart, perfect for sharing. You could, however, make smaller individual tartlets. I didn’t have any, but I think they would look beautiful garnished with physalis.

Makes 4 largish tarts, serves 8

For the pastry:
240g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
65g Trex (or other vegan shortening), cut into cubes
½ medium egg, lightly beaten
cold water

For the orange curd:
1 blood orange
juice ½ lemon
4 eggs, lightly beaten
37g dairy-free spread (such as Pure soya spread)
150g caster sugar

For the chocolate ganache:
200g vegan and gluten-free plain chocolate, roughly chopped
250ml soya single cream (such as Alpro)
20g dairy-free spread

You will also need 4 13cm x 3cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tins*.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-assisted; 365°F). In a food processor, blitz together the flour, xanthan gum and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and pulse to combine until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add enough cold water to bring the mixture together to a slightly tacky dough.

Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together as a ball with your hands. Slightly flatten and cut into four portions. Form each portion into a ball and flatten into a disc about 5mm thick. I tend to do this with the heel of my hand, perhaps finishing it off with the rolling pin. Carefully lift the disc into the tartlet tin and press it in firmly. Remove the surplus pastry from around the rim, either with a knife or your thumb. Mend any tears in the base with surplus pastry and then prick it with a fork. Line the cases with baking parchment* and baking beans.

Place the cases on a baking sheet and bake them blind in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment, return to the oven and bake until the pastry is cooked which should take about another 15 minutes (my pastry didn’t go golden but I’m assuming that this is because there is no butter). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the blood orange curd, wash the fruit and, using a potato peeler, pare the skin away from both the orange and the lemon in strips, making sure to leave the bitter white pith behind. Juice both the orange and the half lemon, making sure to remove any pips and pith. In a heatproof bowl, mix the juices and the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved orange and lemon peel. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the water, and whisk continuously until the soya spread has melted and the mixture has thickened to the consistency of double (heavy) cream. This should take about 20 minutes**. Strain the orange curd through a sieve into a jug to remove the strips of peel and distribute equally amongst the four pastry cases, smoothing with a palette knife. Allow to cool and set.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chopped chocolate into a bowl. Put the soya cream and soya spread into a microwaveable jug or bowl and microwave on ‘high’ until the cream is bubbling and the soya spread has melted (this should take between a minute and a minute-and-a-half). Pour the hot cream mixture onto the chopped chocolate and stir with a spatula until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is a dark, glossy brown. Distribute equally amongst the four tarts, smoothing the surface with a palette knife. Allow to cool and set before cutting in half and serving.

* I use Heston Blumenthal’s trick which is to scrunch the parchment up several times and smooth it out before putting it in the tins.

**If the orange curd hasn’t set after 20 minutes, take the bowl of the heat, strain it through a sieve to remove the strips of peel and put it into a small saucepan over a very low heat. Mix 1 tsp of cornflour (cornstarch) with 1 tsp of water and add to the curd. Stir continuously until the curd has thickened up.

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.

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.
Notes from the Ledge

The secret to balancing it all is...well, I'll tell you if I ever figure it out.


The rise of a health nut

gf and me

Gluten Free Recipes & Tips

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

sensitive flour

Gluten-free cooking, baking, eating

Little Gal in the City

Live and Love with your whole heart

No wheat please, I'm allergic

This site is the cat’s pajamas


Pre-publishing Services for eBooks and Print Publications

afra cooking

taking pleasure in all things food

colour me happy kitchen

Because there's more than one way to make a cake.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living


vibrant inspiring nourishing yoga

Pizzi e Fichi

Lo style del buon gusto

Fabulously Free From

Living Gluten Free, fabulously!

DO NOT feed the back packer!

A diary of my interests, my travels and my quest to find good Gluten Free food!

Mix It Up & Make It Nice

Amateur baker with a passion for eating!

My Blog

Just another site

Growing Up Gluten Free

Rantings, recipes, and reviews

Southerners in the Great White North

Ken & Becca's Canadian Adventure


Smile! You’re at the best site ever

travels around my kitchen

Just live, read, eat and travel!

Making myself useful

Striving for daily self-accountability

The Foodies

Traditional and New Recipes for All Food Lovers

Gluten Free Gus

Baking Joy Into Every Gluten-free Bite

An Orange Kitchen

A year of food adventures in my Boston kitchen