Archives for category: gluten free

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

I’ve just spent a fascinating ten minutes having a metaphorical ramble through the online Oxford dictionary. I am a bit of a word nerd – I love language and etymology and I was musing on the words “cookie”, “biscuit” and “scone” and the differences between them. “Cookies” have been imported into the British lexicon from the American (originally from the Dutch, meaning “little cake”) but, to us, the word denotes a particular type of chewy biscuit containing chocolate chips. When I was growing up, “cookies” weren’t as prevalent as they are today. We ate “biscuits” – the biscuit barrel would contain an array of Mr McVitie’s finest digestives, rich teas, fig rolls, custard creams, bourbons and, the ones that always got left, half-broken and woebegone in the bottom, Garibaldis or “squashed fly” biscuits as they were commonly known (Yuk. They still make me shudder).

Anyway, my summary of my lesson courtesy of the Oxford dictionary is that: cookies are biscuits and biscuits are scones. Unless you’re Scottish – then they’re buns. Cookies, that is, not biscuits. Clear? Good!

I’ve been fiddling with this cookie recipe for quite a while. We’ve had to munch our way through quite a few clumps of melted chocolate chips surrounded by congealed puddles of over-cooked, crackly butter and sugar. Then I decided to add extra tapioca flour to the mix which is excellent if you want to add a chewy texture to your baking…and chewy is exactly what you want with a cookie. I used dark chocolate chips but you could use milk or white or any combination of the three.

I think the traditional American way to eat these would probably be accompanied by a glass of milk but that’s not something I’ve grown up with, so we eat ours with a nice cup of tea. How very British.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies 2

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

Makes 12 large cookies

115g butter, softened
80g light brown soft sugar
80g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g tapioca flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g chocolate chips

You will also need 1-3 baking (cookie) sheets lined with baking parchment*.

Preheat the oven to 170°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the two sugars until light and creamy (I used an electric hand whisk). Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract. Sift in the plain flour, tapioca flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Beat to combine until you have a soft and sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using well-floured hands, take 50g portions of the mixture and form into patties, about 1cm deep and 6cm across. Place one in each of the four corners of the baking sheet. Continue until all of the dough is used up. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden and spread-out. Leave to cool on the baking parchment and remove with the aid of a palette knife. Don’t try to remove them until they are cooled or they will crumble.

* I only have two baking sheets, so I baked the cookies in two batches.

gluten-free egg-free fat-free soft flour tortillas

our-growing-edge-badgeI was recently invited by Genie over at the blog Bunny. Eats. Design. to take part in a monthly event she is hosting called Our Growing Edge. Genie describes Our Growing Edge as the part of ourselves that is still learning and experimenting and the aim of this food-related event is to encourage us to challenge ourselves by trying new things. I was very pleased to be invited: as I told her, nearly every time I set foot in the kitchen, I have a challenge of one sort or another facing me! Do check out her round-up of all the entries at the beginning of next month and see what everyone else has been up to. You never know, it may inspire you to try something new as well!

These soft flour tortillas seemed perfect for this challenge. Tortillas are so versatile: they are relatively quick to make, especially if you’ve run out of bread; they’re perfect for making a wrap if you just want a snack at lunchtime but you can also make them into something more substantial, like fajitas or burritos, for an evening meal.

There was just a slight problem though: it was difficult to get them to be both flexible AND soft… oh, AND I wanted to do all this without egg because my mum can’t eat egg whites and I wanted to make something she could eat as well.

I thought my prayers had been answered when I discovered psyllium husk. Psyllium helps to add some much-needed elasticity which is missing from gluten-free flour. What makes gluten so beautiful, and yet so evil all at the same time, is its ability to mimic bubble gum in its uncooked state and then, by some quasi-alchemical process, turn into cotton wool once cooked.

Unfortunately, psyllium husk hasn’t made this pact with the devil: any elasticity it adds in its uncooked state can become somewhat rubbery when cooked if too much is used. And that’s what my first attempt at these was. They rolled beautifully but they also gave your jaw a great workout whilst chewing your way through them.

Then, I had a brainwave: what about mashed potato to add some softness? So I tried it…and it worked! We ate these this evening as chicken fajitas with guacamole, salsa and spicy beans and rice. Delicious.

gluten-free egg-free fat-free soft flour tortillas 2

Serving suggestion: Gluten-free chicken fajitas served with guacamole and salsa

Gluten-free, egg-free and fat-free soft flour tortillas

Makes 6 medium tortillas

1 tsp psyllium husk
3 tbsp cold water
90g cold mashed potato
110 gluten-free self-raising flour
50g potato flour
25g tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
100g fat-free natural Greek yoghurt (I used Total 0%)

You will also need 6 x approx. 25cm squares baking parchment and a large, non-stick frying pan (skillet)

Put the psyllium husk into a small bowl or mug with 3 tablespoons of water, give it a good stir and set aside whilst you measure out the rest of the ingredients. The psyllium should now be gloopy.

Put everything into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz it until the mixture comes together in one ball of very sticky dough.

Dust your hands with flour and divide the mixture into 6 equal balls (they should be about 70g each). Liberally dust a square of parchment with flour and place a ball of dough in the centre. Using the heel and blade of your hand, gently flatten the dough into a circle, a couple of millimetres in thickness. Then finish it off with a rolling pin until it’s about 1mm in diameter. Prick all over with a fork. This will help to prevent the tortilla from puffing up with air when it’s in the frying pan. Make the remaining tortillas in the same way. These can now be stored in the fridge, stacked and covered with clingfilm until ready to use – although I think they are better cooked from fresh.

Place your frying pan (skillet) over a moderately high heat. When the pan is hot, balance the tortilla, still on its parchment, on the palm of your hand and carefully flip it into the pan. Peel off the parchment from the top of the tortilla. When the tortilla is browned and blistered on the bottom (a couple of minutes), toss it or flip it over with a palette knife and toast the other side.

gluten-free and dairy-free orange and almond biscuits 2

I’ve had a jar of ground almonds in the cupboard for some time and I’ve been wondering what to do with them. I’ve used them before in my gluten-free and egg-free double-mint-choc-chip brownies, but I fancied something a little different. So, they’ve just sat there. And sat there. And sat there… 

Last week, we arranged for some friends to come round for afternoon coffee. I always bake something when people come round for coffee. (Hey, who am I kidding? I always bake something, whether people come round or not…!!!!) But this time it was a little more challenging. Not only did it have to be gluten-free for me (and, coincidentally and unbeknownst to me at the time, also for my friend’s wife!) but it also had to be potato-free. In the normal scheme of things, this wouldn’t be a problem. Potatoes don’t figure hugely in the world of cakes and biscuits… Unless you’re gluten-free, and then they figure massively, as one of the main constituents of gluten-free flour blends is, of course, potato flour (starch).

I could have faffed about making up a blend without potato flour because I have a veritable array of flours in the cupboard but I’m not sure of the ratios of flours to starches in commercial flour blends, I was out of cornflour (cornstarch), and didn’t think a large proportion of tapioca flour (starch) would be wise. Then I remembered the ground almonds in the cupboard and it all fell into place.

And so these gluten-free and potato-free orange and almond biscuits were born. They also have the added bonus of being dairy-free as well. This recipe uses a tiny amount of flour – I used rice flour – but if I were to make them again and didn’t have the potato-free condition, I would use a plain (all-purpose) blend.

gluten-free and dairy-free orange and almond biscuits

Serving suggestion: gluten-free and dairy-free orange and almond biscuits with a cappuccino and the Sunday papers

Gluten-free orange and almond biscuits

These biscuits are beautifully light and moist: the almond and orange flavourings are subtle, warming and aromatic. They look delicious served with a light dusting of icing sugar (which I forgot to do before I took the pictures – doh!) You need a very light hand when mixing the dough because you don’t want to knock all the air out of the egg whites. It’s sufficient to mix only until the egg white has disappeared and you are left with a lumpy, crumby mixture.

Makes 10-12 biscuits

90g ground almonds
45g icing (confectioner’s) sugar + extra for rolling and dusting
1 tbsp rice flour or gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
Zest 1 large orange
1 egg white

You will also need an electric whisk and a baking (cookie) sheet lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the ground almonds in a mixing bowl and sift in the icing sugar and the rice flour. Give it a swirl with a balloon whisk and add the orange zest. Gently rub in the orange zest with your fingertips to evenly distribute it throughout.

Whisk the egg white in a scrupulously clean bowl until it reaches the stiff peak stage. Add this to the almond and sugar mixture and gently stir in with a metal spoon. Don’t over-mix but stop when the egg white has disappeared even if you do not have one ball of dough.

Using your hands, form small balls of dough, with a diameter about the size of a 10p piece. Roll the balls gently in the extra icing sugar, place on the baking sheet and gently squash with your fingers. Bake for 10 minutes until risen and golden. Carefully remove from the baking sheet with a palette knife and cool on a wire rack. Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.

Gluten-free coffee and walnut blondies

I had a yen for a coffee and walnut combo the other day. In a cake, it has to be my favourite one of all time. It is the doyenne, paper doily and all, of the village fête cake stall. (I hear Middle England gasping, affronted, as I wantonly overlook the Victoria sponge…) Now I’m going to say something extremely controversial and I’ll probably get shot down in flames, but I really can’t understand why people get so worked up about a Victoria sponge sandwich. It must be one of the most pedestrian cakes ever. It’s nice enough but nothing to write home about. (I appreciate that this is tantamount to treason. I’ve totally messed up my chances of being admitted into the hallowed ranks of the Women’s Institute now…)

I think also that my sudden craving for coffee and walnut has something to do with the fact that I took myself off coffee a couple of months ago. I’d read a few reports which suggested that in people with coeliac disease/gluten sensitivity, the body may confuse the proteins in coffee with gluten and cause a reaction. I decided to come off it and see if it made a difference. I didn’t seem to feel any better (or any worse, for that matter).

I was in a branch of Caffe Nero with my friends and our toddlers. I had intended to have a hot chocolate but, whilst they were happy to say that it had no gluten-containing ingredients, they were also quick to state that it had been produced in a factory blah blah blah. (Am I the only one who finds this REALLY frustrating?!??) Anyway, the queue was building behind me and I didn’t want to cause a fuss, so I ordered a decaffeinated cappuccino.

And boy, did I live to regret it! The tummy pains started about half an hour later and I felt ropey for the rest of the afternoon and evening. So, even though I didn’t appear to feel better when I came off it, going back on to it made me feel ill.

So, why am I baking with coffee? Because I’m not convinced that in my case it is cross-reaction. My symptoms weren’t my classic ‘glutened’ ones – I didn’t get a headache or any joint ache or any other flu-like symptoms. My tummy just didn’t feel right which, ironically, is not how I usually suffer. I’m not sure what it was, exactly. Perhaps the coffee’s acidity: it was rather strong and bitter.

Anyway, I’ve cooked with it and haven’t had a reaction. I would be really interested to know if anyone else suffers with coffee or avoids it altogether?

Gluten-free coffee and walnut blondies 2

Gluten-free coffee and walnut blondies

These are blondies in the American sense of the word, meaning that their main ingredient is brown sugar. In Britain, we tend to reserve the term for a brownie made out of white chocolate. This is, however, actually still technically a brownie. Even though it isn’t brown…

Makes 12 blondies

1 tbsp instant coffee
100g butter, melted
190g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
120g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
20g tapioca flour
1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped

You will also need an electric whisk and a 23cm x 20cm x 4cm non-stick rectangular cake tin lined with greased baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Dissolve the instant coffee in 1 tablespoon of boiling water and set aside to cool.

Whisk the butter and soft light brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until they are well combined. Add the coffee and the egg and continue to whisk to incorporate.

Sift the flours, baking powder, xanthan gum and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. Mix well until you have a light brown, sticky batter. Fold in the chopped walnuts and pour into the cake tin. Smooth flat and bake for 20 minutes or until the surface is shiny and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Leave in the tin until completely cool before removing, peeling off the baking parchment and cutting into 12 portions.

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 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.

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