Archives for category: food

gluten-free double-chocolate-chip gingerbread cake with brandy buttercream icing small

The final week of Caleigh’s Festive Free-From Challenge and what a challenge it has been! A big thanks to Caleigh for organising such a creative challenge and for posting the round-up on her blog. And the inspiration for the finale is “Christmas Future” or, festive food that fails to deliver, reinvented.

I’ve already mentioned that traditional Christmas fare in the form of nuts, dried fruit, suet, marzipan and slabs of rock-hard icing do little for me so you can imagine that Christmas cake is my worst nightmare. Thankfully I’m not alone in my family so we never have it in the house. Two years ago, I made instead a beautiful cider and apple cake from Harry Eastwood’s book Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, and last year we had a Christmas-spiced ricotta cheesecake. So, all things considered, this challenge was right up my street!

Gingerbread cake is very popular at this time of year but ginger is one of those spices that I either like in moderation or tempered with another flavour. I find that there is little food that is not improved by the addition of pastry and/or chocolate. For example, a sausage is delicious: but a sausage roll is sublime. Peanuts are the Devil’s food: but a Snickers is/was (are they gluten-free?) extremely palatable. So the addition of chocolate to a gingerbread cake recipe was a no-brainer for me. Not only have I replaced some of the flour with cocoa powder but I’ve also added a shed-load of chocolate chips. These melt into the cake to form little gooey nuggets of chocolatey loveliness. The ginger is there as a subtle, warming undertone but if you like your ginger to be a little more pugnacious, either bump up the quantity of powdered ginger or add 50g of chopped stem ginger with the chocolate chips.

gluten-free double-chocolate-chip gingerbread cake with brandy buttercream icing 2 small

Gluten-free double-chocolate-chip gingerbread cake with brandy buttercream icing

I’ve used a brandy butter from the supermarket because I don’t keep a bottle of brandy in the house but feel free to sub your own homemade butter.

Makes 1 medium cake

115g butter
115g soft light brown sugar
4 tbsp black treacle (molasses)
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs
150ml milk
250g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
150g milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp ground ginger
200g brandy butter, softened
70g butter, softened
100g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
2 tsp milk

You will also need a 23-cm diameter springform cake tin, greased and lined with a circle of baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly).

In a small saucepan, place the butter, sugar, black treacle and golden syrup and warm gently over a low heat until the butter has melted. Give it a stir every now and again to thoroughly mix the ingredients and to stop it from catching. Remove from the heat.

In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and the milk. In a larger mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ginger. Beat in the egg mixture and the butter mixture until you have a rich, dark and sticky cake batter. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the centre of the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin when the edges of the cake should have begun to shrink away from the sides. Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

To make the buttercream icing, place the brandy butter and the butter in a mixing bowl. Beat until soft and creamy. Sift half the icing sugar into the mixture and beat to incorporate before sifting and beating in the second half. Add the milk and beat again until creamy. Smoothe the icing over the top and sides of the cake with a palette knife. Decorate, if so inclined.

gluten-free white chocolate orange and pistachio biscottini_small

Another week, another challenge set by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k]! This week, the inspiration is “Christmas Present”, as in an edible Christmas gift.

Christmas shopping shouldn’t be stressful and yet it so often is for me. I can feel that it is a somewhat pointless exercise in finding something tenuously appropriate for someone within a given budget. Time after time frustratingly I find the perfect present for someone which is, unfortunately, laughably out of my budget…or I find the perfect present for someone who I’m not buying for at all…or I find the perfect present for ME…which most certainly isn’t the plan! And I’d hate to think that people who are buying me presents are going through exactly the same stress too.

Of course I’m very appreciative of any presents that are bought for me but I think that there is no better way to show someone that you care than to make something for them, especially if you’re on a budget. The time and thought that go into creating a gift are of far more value to me than money. And as cooking is my thing, an edible gift is what immediately springs to mind.

gluten-free white chocolate orange and pistachio biscottini 3_small

Gluten-free white chocolate, orange and pistachio biscottini

I’ve called these biscotti “biscottini” because they seem much smaller than normal ones.

Makes 30

125g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
25g tapioca flour
100g caster sugar
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
100g good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped*
90g shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
Zest 2 oranges
2 eggs, lightly beaten

You will also need two baking (cookie) sheets lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F – my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

In a bowl, sift the flours, caster sugar, baking powder and xanthan gum. Stir in the chopped chocolate and pistachios and orange zest. Make a well in the centre and stir in the egg to make a sticky dough. You may need to get your hands in there to knead it together. It will seem at first as though there’s not enough liquid but persevere and it will come together.

Tip the dough out of the mixing bowl and divide in half. Shape each half into a rectangular log, about 25cm long by 5cm wide, and place on one of the baking sheets. Make sure you leave space in between them to allow for any spreading.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. The loaves are easy to remove from the baking parchment with a palette knife and place on a wire cooling rack.

Reduce the oven temperature to 140°C (275°F). Cut each loaf into thin slices (about 5mm wide), on a slight diagonal, using a sharp bread knife. Spread the biscuits out over both the baking trays (I use fresh baking parchment on the tray I’ve already used) and bake for a further 20 minutes, turning them halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and place on wire cooling racks.

When cool, place in either a fancy gift bag, gift box, tin or jar and give to your loved one.

* I used a luxury supermarket brand white chocolate. If you go for something cheaper, then I would suggest adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the dough when you stir in the eggs.

gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat 2

It’s official: the Christmas season has started. Slade’s rendition of “Merry Christmas, Everyone” has at last been played on local radio and my son has cracked open his advent calendar.

So, also time for another round of challenges set by the ever-ingenious Caleigh over at Glutenfree[k]. This challenge has as its inspiration “Christmas Past”, for example, a traditional recipe that’s been passed down through the family.

As a family, we’re not very keen on the traditional Christmas fare of pies, puddings and cakes, stuffed with dried fruits, nuts and suet and smothered in marzipan. I find them far too rich, sickly and cloying and a little almond flavouring goes a long way with me.

My mum has been making this low-fat mincemeat for the last twenty-five years. I think she copied it down off the telly or from the Radio Times. It’s much lighter, fresher and fruitier than traditional mincemeat and much less sweet but is still packed full of the flavours of Christmas. People who profess not to like mincemeat love this.

This recipe makes a good three or four jars of mincemeat and you’ll only want about two-thirds of one jar for the mince pies here. But I guarantee, once you’ve eaten the first batch, you’ll be knocking up the second. And then the third…

gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat

Gluten-free low-fat mincemeat

Makes about 1.6kg

225g soft dark sugar
200ml apple juice
900g cooking apples, peeled and cored
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
225g raisins
225g sultanas (golden raisins)
55g slivered almonds
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Zest and juice of half an orange

You will also need sterilised jam jars and greaseproof paper discs.

In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the apple juice over a medium heat. While the sugar is dissolving, chop the apples into small pieces. When the sugar has dissolved, add the apple and all the other ingredients. Bring up to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the apple has turned to a mush and the raisins and sultanas (golden raisins) have become swollen and plump.

Bottle in sterilised jars whilst still hot. Put greaseproof paper discs on top of the mincemeat before screwing on the lids.

Because this contains no preservatives, it won’t keep indefinitely. Keep it somewhere cool and use it up over the Christmas season.

Gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat

Makes 12 mince pies

250g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp icing (confectioner’s) sugar
140g chilled butter, cubed
Zest 1 lemon
Zest 1 orange
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water
12 tbsp mincemeat (about 270g)
Icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting.

You will also need a 7.5cm, a 6cm and a star-shaped biscuit (cookie) cutter and a 12-hole shallow bun tin.

Place the flour, icing (confectioner’s) sugar, butter and lemon and orange zests in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add half the egg (reserving the other half for glazing the pies) and the tablespoon of cold water and pulse until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. Add a little extra water if the dough appears dry but avoid adding too much as it makes the pastry tough. Tip the dough out of the food processor, form into a ball,wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted so adjust accordingly). Dust a sheet of greaseproof paper and your rolling pin with cornflour (cornstarch) and roll out two-thirds of your pastry to about 2-3mm thick (wrap the remaining third in clingfilm to avoid it drying out). Cut out 12 discs with the 7.5cm cutter and use these to line the bun tin, re-rolling scraps as necessary. It’s a good idea to put each disc into the bun tin as you cut it, as the longer it is in contact with the air, the drier it becomes and, therefore, more likely to crack when it is moulded into the tin.

Spoon a tablespoonful of mincemeat into each pastry case then roll out the rest of the pastry. Cut 6 discs with the 6cm cutter and cut star shapes out of the centre of each. Place the 6 lids and 6 stars on top of the pies and press the lids down gently. Brush each pastry top with a little beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and take out each pie carefully from the tin with a palette knife. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar before serving.

The nights really are drawing in now – it gets dark at about 4 o’clock round our way at the moment and we’re talking about changing the timing on the heating. Brrrrr! Christmas is pleasantly on the horizon: the Christmas lights were switched on in the town centre last Saturday and television ad breaks are peppered with the festive offerings of Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Coke but haven’t yet reached that fever pitch when we’re bombarded with this season’s ‘must-have’ toys for our kids and Old Spice gift sets for our dads.  The local radio station is running competitions to win Christmas turkeys but Slade, Shakin’ Stevens, Wham! and Jona Lewie have not yet hijacked their playlist. So it’s close enough that I’m starting to feel a bit festive but not so close that I’m rushing around doing food shopping/present shopping/laundry/changing beds.

So, not a Christmassy recipe – those are to come over the next few weeks! – but another comfort food one. Fisherman’s pie is one of my, and my family’s, all-time favourites and even my toddler scoffs it down. It’s not the best-looking of dishes, I’ll grant you, but it more than makes up for it in flavour – the smokiness of the fish, the fluffiness of the mash and the ooziness of the cheese. To unashamedly steal from Gregg Wallace’s lexicon, it’s a hug on a plate.

Gluten-free fisherman’s pie

You can mix up the fish in this recipe. You can add more (not less!), use different fish or perhaps swap prawns for mussels. What I would say is, make sure one of them is smoked.

Serves 4

300ml milk
320g mixed fish, cut into bite-sized chunks (I used a mix of salmon, haddock and smoked pollock)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns*
1/2 gluten-free fish stockpot or stock cube** (if using 1/2 a stock cube, finely grate it)
200g cooked and peeled prawns (shrimp)
25g butter, cubed
25g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
500g Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes (peeled weight)
100g cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

You will also need a 1.2-litre capacity ovenproof dish and a potato ricer (or masher).

Place the milk in a heavy-based small saucepan along with the mixed fish, the bay leaf and the peppercorns and bring up to a simmer over a low heat. As soon as the milk looks like it’s about to boil, strain the fish and return the milk to the saucepan. Pick out the bay leaf and peppercorns from the fish and discard. Scatter the fish over the base of the ovenproof dish and scatter the prawns over the top.

Add the stockpot/stock cube to the milk and gently heat, stirring so that it dissolves. Leave over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the butter with the flour, whisking continuously to form a roux. Continue cooking for about a minute then, add the hot milk in a slow, continuous stream, whisking all the while to form a smooth, creamy béchamel***. Don’t season at this point. Pour the béchamel over the prepared fish and leave to cool****. Avoid stirring to incorporate it: you run the risk of breaking up the fish. As it bakes in the oven, the sauce will become more liquid and will seep down to coat all the fish.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place in a large saucepan of cold water. Bring up to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the chunks are tender to the point of a knife. Drain and leave to dry for a couple of minutes. Rice (or mash) the potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Resist the temptation to add butter/milk/cream to the potatoes. You want the top to remain fluffy in the oven. If the potatoes have anything added, they will collapse. Spoon the mashed potato over the top of the fish – I use two dessertspoons to dollop it over. Leave it rough and craggy rather than smooth. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden and you can see the béchamel bubbling away under the crust. Serve with steamed green vegetables or, if there aren’t enough calories already, some buttered leeks.

*I know it sounds finicky to specify exactly 10 peppercorns but, if you know exactly how many went in, you know exactly how many to take back out again. Biting on a whole black peppercorn when you’re not expecting it, is not a pleasant experience!

** Most stock cubes aren’t gluten-free. I use Knorr stockpots. The beef and chicken ones are labelled gluten-free but the fish ones aren’t. I checked the label and it doesn’t include any gluten-containing ingredients. I use them and they don’t make me ill. Their fish stock cubes ARE labelled gluten-free, so if you don’t want to risk it, I used those instead.

*** I always used to end up with a lumpy béchamel until I started using hot milk rather than cold. If there are a few lumps, just take the sauce off the heat and whisk furiously for a minute or so.

****This is really important. The bechamel needs to cool and set so that the mashed potato doesn’t sink into it.

gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Aahhh, bread: the Holy Grail of gluten-free baking. Something that is so simple when you are in league with the devil have gluten on your side, becomes a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, when it decides it hates you. I know, I know, that’s Churchill’s take on Russia, but you get my meaning…

I have struggled with gluten-free breadmaking, I’m not going to lie. I have already regaled you with my early woeful attempts to master the art. I almost gave up. But I’m stubborn, me, and I really hate it when something or someone gets the better of me. I decided that I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. This recipe started off as an adaptation of my flatbread recipe but has undergone so many changes that it’s no longer recognisable as such. I have been tweaking this for months and months, trying new flour and starch combinations and ratios, increasing and decreasing fat, milk and liquid and I’ve never been satisfied.

It was starting to become my Moby Dick, though, and I finally thought, enough is enough. I’ve been trying to recreate a glutenous loaf but what makes a glutenous loaf a glutenous loaf is…well, the gluten and no amount of xanthan gum is going to produce that. Commercial brands are light and fluffy but that’s because they’re mainly starch and have little nutritional value. I find that they stick to my teeth and undergo some kind of alchemical change to cement in my digestive tract.

This is the best loaf I’ve come up with so far – it’s not light and fluffy – but it’s moist and flavoursome and smells delicious coming out of the oven. I’ve subbed some of the plain flour for buckwheat to boost the nutritional value and I’ve added sunflower seeds and linseeds to give the digestive system something to fight.

One of the problems I’ve found with making gluten-free bread has been that by the time I’ve mixed the ingredients, left the batter to rise, baked the loaf and allowed it to cool, it’s mid-afternoon, I’ve already had my breakfast and lunch and now don’t need bread again until tomorrow morning, by which time the loaf is no longer fresh. So this time, I mixed the ingredients late (it was about 10.30 last night) and left the tin of batter to rise by a cold radiator overnight, but which I knew would be coming on at about 6.00-6.30 this morning. By the time I went down at 8.00 this morning, the loaf was beautifully risen and ready to go in the oven. It was baked and cool enough to cut by about 10.00 so I had a lovely late breakfast of boiled eggs and soldiers (!) and then I had some more for lunch. If you don’t have a radiator that comes on by itself like this, you could easily leave it out overnight and then pop it in the airing cupboard a couple of hours before you need it. Cooling it before cutting is really important – if you cut it too warm, it’ll go claggy and horrible. I must confess I did cheat somewhat and stuck it outside the back door for 10 minutes to speed things up a bit.

As with all gluten-free bread, it’s best eaten fresh on the day of baking and toasted thereafter. You can also rejuvenate it in the microwave for a few seconds. Any bread that I don’t think I’ll eat in two days, I slice thinly and freeze. Make sure you separate each slice with a piece of greaseproof paper before bagging.  One tip for toasting – wait a couple of minutes before adding butter/spread to allow the steam to escape – you’ll get a crisper result.

gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

240g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
135g potato flour (starch)
50g buckwheat flour
25g tapioca flour (starch)
10g skimmed milk powder
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp + 1 tsp xanthan gum
3 tbsp linseeds
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp fast-action yeast
25g butter, cubed
1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
1-1 1/2 tsp salt*
1 tsp cider vinegar
150ml boiling water
200ml cold water
2 medium eggs, separated

You will also need an electric whisk and a non-stick, 1.3l capacity loaf tin.

First, grease and line your loaf tin with a strip of parchment that is long enough to line the base as well as the two short sides, leaving a couple of inches either end for ease of lifting.

Sift the plain, potato, buckwheat and tapioca flours into a large mixing bowl, along with the milk powder, baking powder and 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. Sprinkle in the linseeds, sunflower seeds and fast-action yeast. Stir with a large balloon whisk to distribute all the ingredients uniformly.

Put the butter, honey, salt and vinegar in a heatproof jug and add 150ml boiling water and set aside. Put the egg whites into a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk for 15-20 seconds until light and frothy. Add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum and continue to whisk. The egg whites will go white and marshmallowy. YOU MUST BE VIGILANT! All of a sudden, the egg whites will seem to take on a life of their own and will begin to swarm up the beaters like something out of a 1950s black-and-white B-movie. Make sure you lift the beaters clear and they will crawl back down again but if you’re not careful, they could end up fouling up the motor of your whisk. When they begin to crawl, they’re ready. Set aside.

Go back to your butter, honey and vinegar mixture. Give it a quick stir with a balloon whisk to mix all the ingredients then top up with 200ml of cold water. Add the two egg yolks, lightly beaten and give it a final whisk.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the butter, honey, vinegar and egg mixture and then scoop the marshmallowy egg whites on top. Gradually fold everything together until you have a sticky batter. I tend to use a spatula for this as you can scrape all the flour off the sides of the bowl. Tip the batter into the lined loaf tin and smooth down with the spatula (it should come up to about a centimetre to a centimetre-and-a-half below the rim of the tin). Cover loosely with a sheet of oiled clingfilm (plastic wrap). Set on a baking (cookie) sheet and place near a radiator (that you know will come on in the morning). Leave overnight to rise.

Check the loaf in the morning – it should have risen about a centimetre-and-a-half to two centimetres above the rim of the tin and have a domed top. If it hasn’t, leave for a while longer in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Remove the clingfilm from the top of the loaf and bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when you knock the base with your knuckle.

Remove from the oven and take the loaf out of the tin using the greaseproof paper straps. Remove the paper and leave on a cooling rack until completely cool before slicing.

* I used 1 teaspoon of salt and I don’t think it was quite enough.

gluten-free turkey kiev bites

Comfort food isn’t just about stews, casseroles and mashed potato to me. It’s also about burgers, fishfingers and, dare I utter it?, chicken nuggets. (I know, I know…! What can I say? They speak to my inner child, so shoot me…!) All of these products, if you’re on a completely unrestricted diet, you can pick up ready made and reasonably cheaply whenever and wherever the whim takes you.

There is also an ever-burgeoning array of Free From products you can get your mitts on now and I’m sure if I’d got in the car and gone down to my local Sainsbury’s, I could have got myself something of that ilk without any hassle. The thing is, and I hate to say it because I’m grateful, really I am, that gluten-free options are more readily available now than they’ve ever been, is that much of it, unfortunately, is a load of ****. It’s jam-packed full of salt, fat and sugar – more so than ‘normal’ convenience food. If you don’t believe me, pop along to my fellow blogger Laura’s post where she lays it all out in tabular form.

A few years ago (before I realised that homemade gluten-free pastry didn’t inhabit the land of unicorns), I bought a ready-made beef pie (I’ll spare the brand its blushes). I was so excited. I got it home, slapped it in the oven and salivated whilst it heated through. I bit into it. Yuk. And I’m not talking about the pastry either. I’m talking about the beef. It was salty, grey, gristly, bland and gelatinous and, well, it just didn’t taste like beef. I’ve seen dog food that, quite frankly, looked more appetising.

Why? I asked myself. Beef is beef. Beef is naturally gluten-free. It should taste the same as beef in a ‘normal’ pie.  Did the beef taste disgusting because the cost of manufacturing the gluten-free bit of the pie made decent meat prohibitively expensive? Or was it the producer’s reasoning that our poor, deprived tastebuds have become so desensitised from eating cardboard bread that we would be grateful for anything, however meagre, that was tossed in our direction?  Both thoughts made me feel angry and not a little sad and I vowed that I would make most of my own food from scratch from that time forward.

In other news, I can’t believe that the month goes by so quickly. The other day, my most recent blog post and recipe for LiveGlutenFree went live. Here’s a sneaky peek at my gluten-free chocolate, orange and cardamom melting moments. I’m really into cardamom at the moment and I’ve started grinding it into my peppermint tea, along with cinnamon, chocolate and dried orange peel – sounds bizarre, but it really works! Melting moments are self-explanatory really – biscuits that melt as soon as you put them in your mouth. They’re usually piped with a star nozzle and sandwiched with buttercream but that’s a bit retro-and-not-in-a-good-way for me, so I used a plain cutter and drizzled them with chocolate flavoured with orange. If you like what you see, do click on the link to have a look at the recipe.

Gluten-free chocolate, orange and cardamom melting moments

Anyway, without further ado, here are the stars of the show: mouth-sized morsels of turkey with a garlicky, herby centre, encased in crispy gluten-free breadcrumbs. Serve with boiled potatoes and a green salad or, as I much more sophisticatedly did, with sautéd potatoes and haricots blancs in a tomato sauce chips and beans.

gluten-free turkey kiev bites

Gluten-free oven-baked turkey Kiev bites

Serves 4 (makes 20 turkey Kiev bites)

For the garlic parsley butter:
50g butter, cubed
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp flatleaf parsley, chopped

For the breadcrumbs:
150g gluten-free white bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp salt

500g lean minced (ground) turkey
gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

You will also need a food processor, a sheet of greaseproof paper about 30cm x 30cm and a baking (cookie) sheet, lined with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

First of all, make the garlic parsley butter. Place the cubed butter, crushed garlic and coarsely chopped flatleaf parsley into the food processor and whizz on high speed until everything is well-incorporated and the mixture is soft and flecked with pale green.

Now, you need to form the butter into a log shape about 1cm in diameter and 20cm in length. This is a lot easier to do than to describe, so apologies if it’s a bit long-winded. It’s a *bit* like rolling sushi, if you’ve ever done that before. Lay the piece of greaseproof paper on the work surface and spoon the garlic parsley butter in a blob about halfway along, and 5cm from, the bottom edge. (Now, I’m right-handed, so if you’re left-handed, you might want to do the next bit the other way around). Holding the bottom edge of the greaseproof paper against the work surface with your left hand, bring the top edge of the greaseproof paper over the butter so that it snugly encloses it. Keeping your left hand in place to keep the bottom layer of paper secure, use the blade of your right hand to gently push and nudge against the top layer of paper at the base of the enclosed butter. As you push, the butter travels up the greaseproof paper and it should form itself into a log: the more you push, the thinner it should get.

When the log is the right size, trim off the excess paper at the bottom and twist the ends to secure the butter. Place in the freezer until ready to assemble the Kiev bites.

* Now, make the breadcrumbs. Tear the slices of gluten-free bread into pieces and place in the food processor. Blitz until you have made coarse crumbs. Heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat until the pan is smoking and add the tablespoon of olive oil. Tip the breadcrumbs into the frying pan and fry for several minutes. These burn very easily, so make sure you keep stirring and breaking up any clumps of crumbs caused by the oil. The breadcrumbs are ready to come out when they have turned a golden-brown colour and sound crisp against the bottom of the frying pan. Tip the crumbs back into the food processor and add the garlic, lemon pepper and salt. Blitz again until fine. Tip out into a shallow bowl and set aside.

Now, tip the minced (ground) turkey into a mixing bowl and gently massage with your hands to create a more homogeneous mixture. Form into 20 balls of 25g each. Using your index finger, make an indentation in each (making sure you don’t poke through to the other side).

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Remove the butter log from the freezer and cut into 20 equal slices. Push a slice into the indentation in the ball of turkey meat. Pinch the meat closed and then roll the ball between the palms of your hands so that the meat completely seals the slice of butter. Repeat with the other balls of mince.

This next bit might sound a bit pernickety, but it’s the only way if you don’t want to end up with goujons for fingers… Basically, the rule is: one hand for dry, the other hand for wet. Place a shallow bowl with the beaten egg to your left, the plate/tray of turkey balls in the middle and a plate with a few tablespoons of gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour and the shallow bowl of breadcrumbs to your right.

Using your right hand, coat a turkey ball in flour then drop gently in the bowl of egg. Using your left hand, make sure the ball is evenly coated with egg before dropping it gently into the bowl of breadcrumbs. Using your right hand, scoop and pat the breadcrumbs gently over the ball before placing it on a baking (cookie) sheet lined with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the Kiev bites are golden-brown and cooked through.

* This is how I now make all my breadcrumbs. If I make a larger batch than I need, I put the excess into a sealed container in the refrigerator and keep them there up to a week. If they’ve been in contact with raw meat, like in this recipe, I only use them when I’m going to cook with them (rather than using to sprinkle on fishy pasta dishes).

Another naturally gluten-free recipe, featuring my all-time favourite carb: potato! I stumbled across this recipe in my Good Housekeeping World Cookery book which I inherited from my husband’s father. I’ve talked before of my kitchen library and my love of the forgotten, the old and the obscure: books which I’ve either inherited, adopted, rescued or acquired under rather murky circumstances. I can flick through these books endlessly and I always seem to find something new in them.

Like this recipe for pan haggerty in the British Isles section of the book. Which surprises me as it was originally entitled “Northumberland Pan Haggerty”. I have spoken before of my ancestry on my maternal grandmother’s side, which is Cornish through and through, and my fondness for the cuisine of that region (aah, pasties…!, spoken in a Homer-esque kind of way).

But I haven’t spoken of that on my father’s, which is as northern as it gets, hailing from both Northumberland and Scotland. I was lucky enough to go up to Alnwick a few years ago to explore the town and nearby villages of Bolton and Edlingham, where my great-great-grandfather grew up in the blacksmith’s forge. If you’ve never visited Northumberland, I urge you to go. It is stunningly beautiful and has everything you could wish for: beaches to die for, ruined castles, and sweeping and craggy moorland which gives way to the most idyllic and bucolic of landscapes. The gardens at Alnwick Castle are also some of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame I live so far away. Sigh.

Anyway, I’ve dispensed with the “Northumberland” bit for three reasons. Firstly, I haven’t made it on the stove in a frying pan, as the recipe directed, but slapped it in the oven, as is my wont; secondly, I don’t know what cheese it would have had in it originally but I’d put money on the fact that it wasn’t emmental; and, thirdly, even without the emmental, I remain suspicious about its authenticity, having also read the book’s section on Italian cookery…

Naturally gluten-free pan haggerty with emmental cheese

Slices of crisp then tender potatoes, layered with sweet onions and oozing cheese. Comfort food that can be eaten either as a side-dish or as a light lunch with a salad. The variations are endless: add grilled bacon, wilted spinach or fried mushrooms to the layers…or all three!

700g (peeled weight) potatoes
1 very large, or 2 medium, onions, peeled
150g emmental cheese (I used ready-sliced emmental which works out as 6 slices at 25g each)
50g butter
salt and pepper

You will also need a buttered non-stick baking tin, measuring approximately 24cm x 20cm x 4cm.

Preheat the oven to its hottest setting. Slice the peeled potatoes into 2mm slices and place in a pan of cold water. Slice the onions into 2mm slices. Drain the potatoes and rinse once or twice more in cold water until the water is clear. Drain, place the slices on a dry tea towel and pat dry.

Place a third of the potato slices in a layer on the bottom of the buttered baking tin. Season with salt and pepper and lay three slices of emmental over the top. Spread half of the onion slices in a layer over the top of the cheese, then repeat with the next third of potato slices. Season well with salt and pepper and dot with half the butter. Lay the final three slices of emmental over the top, then the remaining onions and finish with the final third of potato slices. Season well with salt and pepper and dot with the remaining butter.

Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until the top is golden and the potato feels tender to the point of a sharp knife.

Serve as a side dish with grilled or roasted meat or as the star of the show, with a green side salad.

gluten free pear and ginger crumble

I usually hate winter…and I hate autumn because of what it foreshadows. I live for the spring and the summer…or, in reality, I live for the springs and summers that I remember from my childhood: when the six-week summer holiday stretched endlessly and the sun seemed to shine every day in a cloudless cornflower blue sky.

But after what has been the most waterlogged and depressing British summer ever, I’ve resolved to take pleasure in both autumn and winter this year, and henceforward. Otherwise, I’m going to spend the rest of my life vacillating between states of wishing my life away and constant disappointment.

So, so far, I’ve enjoyed the farmers’ market starting up again in Cirencester last Saturday (and the gorgeous gluten-free sausages and brownies that we found there!), the fragrance of the damp leaves we went tramping through on our woodland walk on Monday, the sense of comfort emanating from the radiators now that we’ve switched the heating on…and the smells of baking, stewing and casseroling that have been wafting from the oven. We picked the last of the pears from the tree in our garden today – I hope I did them justice!

gluten free pear and ginger crumble

Gluten-free pear and ginger crumble

The ripeness of your uncooked pears will determine the texture of the finished dish. I prefer the cooked pears to be quite firm to the bite so I used fairly unripe ones. If you prefer a softer texture, use ripe pears and cut down on the sugar in the filling.

Serves 4-6

For the crumble:
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
50g butter, cubed
25g demerara sugar
100g gluten-free stem ginger biscuits (they’re available in both Sainsbury’s and Asda)

For the filling:
500g prepared pears (peeled, quartered, cored and cut into chunks)
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar

You will also need a 2-litre capacity ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly).

First, make the crumble topping. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Rub the chunks of butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the demerara sugar. Whizz the stem ginger biscuits in a food processor to a coarse crumb (or put them in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin). Stir into the flour, butter and sugar mixture.

Next, scatter the pear chunks in the bottom of the ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the soft brown sugar and cover with the crumble mixture. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve with cream, custard or ice cream.

I haven’t posted much on here in the last week or so but that’s not to say I haven’t been a busy little bee. First, I forgot to mention a while back that I’ve created a handy new recipe index page which can be accessed through the menu at the top. I didn’t do one to start with because it seemed a bit silly when I only had three recipes on here but the next time I thought about it, I realised that the site had become a bit unwieldy. Hope you find it useful. I’ve categorised it according to type of dish and have also included a section of links to my guest posts over at LiveGlutenFree.

And, speaking of which, I forgot to tell you that I’ve also posted a couple of recipes over there:

Gluten-free cheese and walnut scones

Gluten-free stuffed tomato and herb potato breads

I’ve also created a Links page to the websites and blogs that I follow and find useful. I shall talk more about them in the next couple of weeks as I reach my first bloggiversary and reflect on what I’ve learned and the people I’ve (virtually) met! And also I’ve been sucked into Pinterest…who knew that I had even more spare hours in the day to get sucked into that black hole otherwise known as social media! 🙂 Anyway, I’ve started a couple of boards: one called ‘inspirational food photography’, where I’ve pinned some photos that make me go ‘wow!’ and make me feel not a little jealous of the photographer’s ability and kit; and another called ‘glutilicious’ where I’ve pinned some recipes that contain gluten but that no-one’s going to stop me eating so I’ve suggested how I might make them non-toxic. There’s not much on there at the moment but I’m going to gradually add to them.

But on to the most exciting news… I’ve talked on and off and in passing about my attempts to create a gluten-free croissant. I don’t do it very often because, even when you’ve got gluten on your side, it’s a bit of a faff. But I felt like trying again this weekend and I kind of made it up as I went along. I was extremely pleased and not a little shocked at the results. Here they are:

They’re not quite there yet but I have a feeling that it was more to do with the bake, rather than a gluten-free thing. I’m planning to give them another go either this weekend or next, so hopefully I’ll be able to share the recipe soon!

Anyway, that’s enough wittering on. Crespelle ripiene originate in the Campania region of Italy and are generally filled with cheese. This recipe, however, is very versatile. It can have a spinach and ricotta filling or a plain mushroom one. I added the chicken just to ring the changes but I don’t see why it couldn’t also be adapted to any cannelloni or lasagne filling. It’s also an economic recipe – I manage to make one chicken breast fillet stretch to feed four people!

Gluten-free stuffed pancakes

Serves 4

For the pancakes:
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml milk

For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
250g closed cup mushrooms, very finely chopped
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
25oml milk
150ml cooked chicken breast, very finely chopped
handful flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce:
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 x 410g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tsp caster sugar
salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan and fresh, finely chopped flatleaf parsley to serve

You will also need a 20cm frying pan for the pancakes and an ovenproof baking dish

First, make the pancake batter. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and make a well in the centre. Pour in the eggs and 150ml of milk. Using a balloon whisk, gradually incorporate the flour from around the edges into eggs and milk and whisk until a smooth but bubbly mixture is formed. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes and then add the remaining 100ml of milk. Whisk well then allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Whilst the pancake batter is resting, make the pancake filling. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Fry gently for a couple of minutes until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mushrooms have darkened, reduced and have lost their moisture. Sprinkle the cornflour over the mushrooms and stir until the whiteness of the cornflour has disappeared (make sure any lumps of flour have been broken up with the back of the spatula). Add the milk, stir and bring up to a gentle boil. Simmer, stirring all the while, until the sauce has thickened considerably (several minutes). Take off the heat and allow to cool. When cool, stir in the chopped chicken and chopped parsley. Set aside.

Now, make the pancakes. Put a small frying pan over a medium to high heat and add a splash of oil. When the pan is smoking, add about a third of a ladleful of pancake batter. Swirl the batter around the pan until the base is covered. Cook for about 30 seconds or until small bubbles have appeared on the surface and the underside is a dappled dark golden brown. Carefully flip the pancake using a palette knife and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Remove to a plate and cook the rest of the pancakes (eight in total), re-oiling the pan when necessary and stacking the cooked pancakes one on top of the other. Allow to cool.

Now make the tomato sauce. In a frying pan or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a low flame. When hot, add the tins of chopped tomatoes, the sugar and some salt and pepper and allow to bubble and reduce to a thick sauce for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Meanwhile, assemble the pancakes. Divide the pancake filling into eight (or into as many portions as you have pancakes) and put a line of filling down the centre of each pancake. Roll the pancake around the filling to enclose it. Place the pancakes side by side in the baking dish and cover with tomato sauce. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped flatleaf parsley.

I’ve already talked about how the smells of food and cooking are very evocative to me of particular people, places and things. What has come as a shock to me this morning, is that they are also very evocative of more nebulous concepts and ideas that are probably the accumulation of many different, and hitherto forgotten, experiences.

This recipe calls for oven-baked potatoes and there are two ways of doing them: the long, but less labour-intensive and arguably much more expensive, way of chucking them straight in the oven and leaving them for about an hour or the much quicker way of nuking them for a few minutes in the microwave to get the lion’s share of the cooking done, before chucking them in the oven for about 20 minutes to crisp the skin.

I must admit that I usually fall back on the latter method because either I’m incredibly disorganised and don’t get the oven heated up in time or I decide, far too late, that a jacket potato is what I want. Today, though, I decided to do it the more traditional way: I wanted to go to the supermarket and it was far easier to chuck them in the oven, put the timer on and forget about them.

And forget about them I did…that is, until I was struggling in through the front door, and out of the driving rain, with four groaning carrier bags (I’d only gone out for a chicken and a newspaper!) All I can say is that I was engulfed in the most warming bear-hug of an aroma that I have ever experienced. I suddenly felt all festive and as though the house should be full of family and their chatter and laughter, ready to sit down around the table to eat, drink and be merry. When I realised that it is, in fact, still three months until Christmas, I felt quite disappointed and impatient! The holiday spirit does seem to be kicking in earlier and earlier with me and the only thing I can put it down to is that, for the last two years, I’ve been a mum and I seem to be recapturing and reliving my childhood with my son.

All of this from the smell of a baking potato. Who’d have thunk it?!

Gluten-free Welsh rarebit loaded potato skins

There’s nothing like toasted cheese to warm you up on a chilly Autumn day. My recipe makes for quite a creamy centre – if you prefer yours a bit more solid, cut down on the quantity of ale – I’d say, probably to 190-200ml.

Makes 6

3 medium baking potatoes, washed and dried
220ml gluten-free ale (I used Green’s Golden Ale)
30g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g butter
150g mature Cheddar, grated + a little extra for sprinkling
2 tsp English mustard powder*, made up with 2 tsp water
1 tbsp gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (I used Life Free From, which is also fish-free and, therefore, vegetarian)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (mine is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Prick the potatoes all over with the tip of a sharp knife and place directly on the oven shelf. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the skins are brown and crispy and the flesh within appears to have shrunken away slightly. Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

While the potatoes are cooling, make the Welsh rarebit sauce: place the gluten-free ale into a small saucepan and bring up to a gentle boil**. Meanwhile, place the flour and butter into another small saucepan and place over a gentle heat. Stir with a whisk until the butter has melted and the flour has become incorporated to make a roux: you’re looking for the consistency and colour of lemon curd. Allow to bubble away for about 30 seconds or so, still stirring. Now pour the hot ale into the roux, whisking all the time, to create a thick, golden-brown sauce. Add the grated cheddar and whisk to combine. Finally add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce, stir to incorporate and take off the heat.

Carefully, using a tea towel to protect your hand if necessary, slice each potato in half horizontally. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft insides and put in a bowl. Place the potato skins, cut side up, in a cake tin or on a baking tray. Roughly mash the scooped-out potato and stir into the Welsh rarebit sauce. Pile the potato and cheese mixture into the potato skins and sprinkle with grated Cheddar. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden-brown and the cheese is bubbling.

* Make sure you use English mustard powder and NOT ready-made English mustard. The former is just mustard powder, whereas the latter is produced using wheat flour.

** The hot liquid going into the hot roux should ensure a lump-free sauce.

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