Archives for posts with tag: gluten-free

gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread

I can’t leave gluten-free bread alone. It sounds obvious to say, but I really just want to get it as close to the ‘real thing’ as I can. The brands you can buy have got a lot going for them: they’re light, they remain reasonably fresh and they’re hassle-free. What I don’t like about them, and some brands are more guilty of this than others, is that they tend to dissolve into a gluey mass in your mouth and get stuck in your molars. Oh, not to mention the fact that they’re almost £3 a loaf… I tend to alternate between buying loaves (the M&S loaf is my very favourite, followed by Sainsbury’s own brown multi-seeded and then, if there’s nothing else, Genius multi-seeded) and baking my own.

I can’t get along with the white loaves though. Not only do they have the aforementioned faults but they also have a sweet aftertaste which I find very cloying. Oh, and I suspect that a piece of cardboard would have more nutritional value. So, if I want white bread, I tend to bake my own. I was ecstatic when I discovered psyllium husk several months ago and I’ve been experimenting with it to work out the optimal amount: too much, and the bread can have a bit of a clammy texture. I’ve managed to cut down on the amount considerably, so much so that I’m going to rework some of my previous bread recipes on here to get them as best as they can be.

Something else I’ve noticed with homemade gluten-free bread, is that it takes much longer to toast than commercial brands and there’s always a loud sizzling noise emanating from the toaster. To reduce this, I’ve subbed dried egg white for the fresh one I usually use. I used Dr Oetker which is available in large Tesco stores. A big improvement, I think.

gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread 2

Gluten-free and dairy-free crusty white bread

Makes 1 small loaf

1 tsp psyllium husk
1 tbsp cold water
140g + 40g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
75g + 25g potato flour
12g tapioca flour
4g powdered egg white (half a sachet, equivalent of 1 egg white)
2 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 heaped tsp fast-action yeast
1/4 tsp Vitamin C
250ml cold water with 1 tsp of salt dissolved
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Olive oil

You will also need an electric whisk and a 1-lb non-stick loaf tin.

Begin by placing the psyllium husk in a small bowl or mug with a tablespoon of cold water. Give it a stir and leave it to one side whilst you weigh out all the other ingredients.

Sift 140g of gluten-free plain flour, 75g of potato flour, the tapioca flour, powdered egg white, caster sugar, gluten-free baking powder, fast-action yeast and Vitamin C into a large mixing bowl.

Give the psyllium husk a good stir (it should have become jelly-like). Add this to the mixing bowl, along with the salted water. Whisk with an electric hand whisk for several minutes until the mixture is light and bubbly. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the top and continue to whisk for another couple of minutes. The mixture will thicken up considerably (watch out that the mixture doesn’t crawl up the beaters and foul up the motor of your whisk).

Sift in the remaining 40g of gluten-free plain flour and 25g of potato flour. Fold in with a metal spoon until thoroughly combined. Pour into the loaf tin, smooth the top with a palette knife and cover with an oiled piece of clingfilm (plastic wrap). Leave in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge about three hours before you wish to bake it. (It should have started to rise slightly). Leave to rise at room temperature then remove the clingfilm.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (I used my top oven which is a conventional oven, so adjust the temperature accordingly). Place a roasting tray at the bottom of the oven to heat up. Before putting the loaf in the oven, throw half a glass of water into the roasting tray to create steam. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is domed and dark golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle.

Leave to cool COMPLETELY before slicing (this can take a couple of hours).

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One thing I really love about the Great Gluten-Free Recipe Challenges, set so fiendishly by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k], is that they really ARE challenging. The additional restrictions and essential ingredient, vegan as well as gluten-free and beetroot this time, make me think very hard and put me out of my comfort zone. This challenge has been no exception.

I’ve come round to beetroot only in the last few years when I’ve had it grated raw in salads. I’ve had a devil of a job tracking it down though. The only type I’ve been able to find in the supermarket is cooked beetroot, swathed in plastic and drenched in vinegar: yuk.

I’ve started using a High Street greengrocer to buy my veggies, rather than going to the supermarket: it’s cheaper and the produce is generally of much better quality. I’ve talked before of my pet peeve about tomatoes. The tomatoes that you can buy at this shop are beautifully red and flavoursome and you get almost twice as much for your money. I decided to pay them a visit and, sure enough, there were bundles of raw beetroot in all their purple glory.

Caught in the act: a sneaky photo taken by my husband through the kitchen window this morning!

This is my first foray into the world of silken tofu but it won’t be my last. I know that I can rely too much on milk, cream and eggs and this seems a perfect alternative when I want to make desserts and quiches. The filling is beautifully creamy and the beetroot not only adds an earthy, but not intrusive, undertone, but a gorgeous purple colour.

Gluten-free and vegan chocolate, beetroot and orange mousse cake

Serves 8-12

200g gluten-free, vegan biscuits (I used Sainsbury’s Free From Rich Tea biscuits)
50g dairy-free spread
200g peeled raw beetroot, cut into 1cm dice
350g silken tofu
3 tbsp caster sugar
zest 1 large orange
60ml dairy-free single cream (I used Alpro soya single cream)
4 level tbsp cocoa powder
170g gluten-free, vegan plain chocolate (I used Kinnerton), broken into squares

You will also need a 20cm diameter, loose-bottomed non-stick cake tin

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

Crush the biscuits to a coarse meal, either in a food processor or put them in a plastic bag and give them a good bashing with a rolling pin. Put the dairy-free spread in a small saucepan and melt over a low flame. When the spread is completely liquid, add the crushed biscuits and stir until completely combined. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and press firmly into the base with your fingers. Put in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160°C.

While the biscuit base is baking, place the diced beetroot in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain and blend to a smooth purée.

In a large bowl, place the silken tofu, the caster sugar, the orange zest and the dairy-free single cream. Whisk for several minutes until smooth. Sift the cocoa powder over the mixture and stir in manually with the beaters (to avoid spraying cocoa powder all over the kitchen!) before whisking again until well-combined.

Place the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water), and stir until melted. Stir the melted chocolate and beetroot purée into the silken tofu mixture. Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. When cool, put in the refrigerator and chill for several hours before serving.

Serve chilled with dairy-free single cream.

When we arrived in our new home in Cheltenham last December, the garden was hibernating: the trees were bare and the borders were straggly and uninteresting. I didn’t spend much time out there because it looked cold and muddy and our son, who had only just started to walk, was still spending more of his time on his hands and knees than on his feet.

Even though we had viewed the house over the summer, I couldn’t remember at all what it had been like. I’m the first to admit that I’m no gardener and what had been important to me was that a) it was big enough to kick a football around in and b) (after having lived in a house for eight years with a gloomy north-east facing garden) it faced south.

So it has been a complete joy since the start of the spring to watch our new garden slowly re-awakening because we really have had no idea what to expect: one morning I pulled the curtains in my son’s bedroom to find the tree at the bottom covered in a billowing snowy duvet of blossom; on other days, I’ve been greeted with slashes of orange, hot pink and pale blue or the delicate aroma wafting from the rose tree.

We were aware that we had inherited three fruit trees, neatly espaliered against the fence, but we didn’t know what they were, until I discovered miniature pears and apples shortly after the blossom dropped. I’ve been carefully monitoring them ever since.

This cake has been made from the first pears that I harvested from our tree yesterday. The variations are endless though: chopped stem ginger or crushed walnuts would be a delicious addition to the pears; I also made one a couple of weeks ago using a medium cooking apple and 150g blackberries. The recipe is based upon one that my mum copied down from Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 show about 30 years ago. Originally it was made with apples and oats but I unfortunately can’t even eat gluten-free oats these days. I have used a rice and buckwheat porridge mix instead that I found at Sainsbury’s. If you can eat gluten-free oats, feel free to make it with them instead: the original recipe didn’t use milk but I found that I had to add it to the rice and buckwheat otherwise it was too dry and made a very crumbly cake.

Gluten-free pear cake

A beautifully moist cake with a crunchy crust. Perfect for afternoon tea with a cuppa or for dessert with cream.

100g gluten-free self-raising flour
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
200g gluten-free rice and buckwheat porridge flakes
200g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200ml milk
2 medium firm pears, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 5mm slices

You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm rectangular cake tin, lined with baking parchment

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

Sift the flours into a bowl and mix in the rice and buckwheat porridge flakes. Place the cubed butter and caster sugar in a solid-bottomed saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted. When it has reached a consistency and colour akin to lemon curd, take the pan off the heat. Quickly stir the flour and porridge into the butter and sugar mixture. When the flour is thoroughly combined, stir in the eggs and milk.

Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly over the base. Now place the pear slices in a single layer. Pour the remaining cake batter over the top and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack before taking out of the tin. To remove the baking parchment, place a dinner plate over the top of the cake, so that it is sandwiched between the cooling rack and the plate and carefully invert. Remove the cooling rack and peel off the baking parchment. Replace the cooling rack and carefully invert once more.

Eat cut into slabs, with cream, custard, ice cream or as nature intended.

It’s true to say, due to family illness and the lots of travel that that is involving at the moment, that I’ve somewhat lost my blogging mojo. Hence the distinct lack of recipes over the last month. My toddler has also chosen this moment to become, yes, you’ve guessed it, a TODDLER! I thought I had been blessed with an incredibly easy baby… he’s generally very even-tempered, smiley, doesn’t seem to mind being taken on car journeys and being lugged round the shops. He also, much to the envy of some of my friends, will nap for three to four hours in the afternoon and then go a full twelve hours at night. That’s not to say he’s a placid baby though: he’s full of energy and into absolutely everything. A complete joy.

Most of the time.

He is, however, turning into a bit of a fusspot at the dinner table. The range of foods he is prepared to eat seems to narrow on a daily basis; but luckily, the majority of them are relatively healthy…bananas, strawberries, satsumas, tomatoes, fromage frais, yoghurt, hummus, brown bread, cereal, milk, corned beef, salami, frankfurters and chorizo (?!?!?!)… as well as biscuits, chocolate and ice cream, which he can always find room for, funnily enough!

Anyway, enough about my son – this is a cooking blog, not a ‘mummy’ blog, after all…! The upshot of all of this is that, currently, creating, cooking and blogging has slipped down my list of priorities: I’m eating a lot of grilled meat and salad at the moment: easy to buy, easy to cook and easy to eat and…not really worthy of a blog post! I’ve still managed to contribute my monthly guest blog recipe at LiveGlutenFree, though, which I have also been somewhat neglectful in advertising:

Gluten-free orange-double-choc-chip refrigerator cookies

Gluten-free lime-frosted carrot cake muffins

Then I received an email, the day before yesterday, from Caleigh over at the lifestyle blog Domestic Sluttery asking for gluten-free contributions of a chocolate pudding nature for the blog’s newly-launched pudding club. So I switched on the oven, dusted off the mixing bowls and cracked open a packet of the brown stuff.

Once again, please forgive the main photos – not being prepared has meant that the camera battery wasn’t charged yet again. Enter dodgy, ever-so-slightly fuzzy, smartphone photography…

Gluten-free souffléed mocha pots

Salt is one of those ingredients which really brings out the flavour of chocolate. Coffee is another. I used decaffeinated espresso but feel free to substitute whatever you’ve got. I should imagine that 1-1.5 teaspoons of instant in two tablespoons of boiling water would be about right, but that’s just an educated guess. The cooking time is flexible, depending upon how squidgy or how souffléed you want them. At ten minutes, mine were slightly underdone and could have done with another couple of minutes. I would suggest 12-15 minutes. Don’t overfill the ramekins because as they rise, they have the tendency to overflow. If aesthetics are important to you, it is imperative to eat them immediately. My photo was taken about 5 minutes after it had come out of the oven and it was already starting to sink. A spoonful (or three) of single cream helps to cut through the richness (let’s face it, this isn’t diet food!)

Serves 4

butter, for greasing
4 medium eggs, separated
140g caster sugar
30g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1tsp gluten-free baking powder
100g gluten-free dark chocolate (I used 74% cocoa solids), broken up into small pieces
2 tablespoons strong espresso
350ml milk

You will also need 4 200ml-capacity ramekins

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly) and place a baking (cookie) sheet on the top shelf. Liberally butter the insides of the ramekins.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar for several minutes until pale yellow, thick and creamy. Add the flour and baking powder and stir until well-combined.

Put the chocolate pieces and espresso in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water) until melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Heat the milk up in a small saucepan until just below boiling point. Take off the heat.

Add the coffee and chocolate mixture to the egg yolks, sugar and flour and stir until well-combined. Add the heated milk and stir until smooth. Return to the saucepan and put back on a low heat. Whisk until thickened (a couple of minutes). Take off the heat, return to the mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl until at the stiff peak stage. Using a metal spoon, stir one-third of the egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it. Fold in the remaining two-thirds in two lots, until no streaks of egg white can still be seen. Pour carefully into the ramekins, making sure not to spill any on the rim, otherwise they will not rise.

Place on the heated baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes according to how squidgy you want them (resist the temptation to peek by opening the door – if you haven’t got an oven light, do what I do and use a torch). Eat immediately with single cream slathered all over.

It’s been a busy week, what with keeping up with my son’s social life, seeing my second guest post at LiveGlutenFree going live last Friday and going out to (gluten-free!) dinner with my husband (sans bébé for the first time in 16 months!) on Saturday.

I talked a couple of posts ago about the troubles I had coming up with a recipe for my second post for LiveGlutenFree. Well, it all came out in the wash and I created a caramelized red onion and goat’s cheese tart in a thyme crust. It was even a hit with my toddler! Do stop by the blog to have a look at the recipe.

My husband and I were given a voucher for a dinner for two at a hotel in Cheltenham for Christmas by my elder sister, Kim, and her family. We’ve only just got around to using it because procuring the services of a trustworthy babysitter in a town you’ve only just moved to is quite a big ask. But the voucher was nearing its expiry date and Kim told me in no uncertain terms that if we didn’t use it, we’d have to manufacture a very believable account of a fantasy meal that we’d ‘eaten’ or else… Not one willing to stir the wrath of Khan Kim, I procured a babysitter toute suite.

I’ve talked already about the problems of eating out when you’re gluten-free. Now I’m going to talk about the successes. Unfortunately, they come with a price tag. The two most enjoyable meals out that I’ve had since being gluten-free have been in 4 star hotels: the first for my ‘significant’ birthday this year at the Barceló Hotel in Oxford and the second, this last weekend at Parker’s Restaurant at The Hotel on the Park in Cheltenham. This should come as no surprise – the more you pay, the less likely processed food is to make a shifty appearance – everything is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. I could eat most things on the menu, i.e. the ones that if you cooked them at home, they would naturally be gluten-free anyway, and the restaurants, on both occasions, provided me with gluten-free bread (although the waiter in Oxford DID have to be educated not to serve gluten and gluten-free bread in the same basket…) So, what did I have? A beautiful starter of seared scallops with lardons and carrot and cumin purée, followed by a delicious piece of slow-cooked lamb on a bed of potatoes Lyonnaise and peas and bacon, followed by crème brûlée (without its accompanying almond tuile). Scrump-shuss.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d far rather eat out less frequently at higher-end restaurants with a good choice and not have such a big fear of cross-contamination than more frequently at cheaper eateries where gluten-free often means the ‘choice’ of half of one thing on the menu that’s had the other glutenicious half unceremoniously scraped off by surly waiting staff…

Gluten-free smoked mackerel and lemon ravioli with a parsley and chive butter

My tips for making gluten-free ravioli can be found here. But the challenge and also the charm of gluten-free cooking and baking is that you’re always learning on the job. So in addition to those tips, I would add: make sure that you have floured fingers when sealing the ravioli – this will prevent the top layer of pasta sticking to your fingers and unsealing itself. When cutting the ravioli, use repeated downward strokes rather than pulling the knife as you are likely to snag the pasta.

Smoked mackerel is probably not the most conventional or authentic filling for ravioli but it was absolutely delicious. Even if I say so myself!

Serves 3 (makes 40-50 ravioli)

For the pasta:
160g plain (all-purpose) gluten-free flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
2/3 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt (optional)
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
cold water

For the filling:
250g smoked mackerel (skinned weight)
2 tbsp ricotta
zest and juice half a lemon
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for sealing the ravioli)

For the sauce:
75g butter (or low-fat butter alternative)
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped chives

You will also need a pasta-rolling machine

First, make the pasta. Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and the oil. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and ever so slightly sticky to the touch*. Now wrap the ball in clingfilm to keep the pasta from drying out.

Give the inside of the food processor a wipe around with a damp cloth. Blitz all of the ingredients for the filling until you have a smooth paste.

Working with one small, plum-sized piece of pasta at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Passing the dough just once through each thickness setting, starting at 2 and ending 6, roll the piece through the machine**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. You’re looking for a strip at least 6cm wide – the length will vary so it doesn’t really matter.

Lay the strip horizontally on the work surface and trim the top and bottom long sides with a sharp knife so that the pasta is 5½ – 6cm deep. Place teaspoonfuls of filling at about 5cm intervals. Using a pastry brush, brush egg white around each spoonful of filling. This will stick the pasta together. Roll another pasta strip to go over the top: dust your fingers with flour and, starting from the left (I’m right-handed), gently drape and press this pasta strip around the first mound of filling, making sure that it is sealed all the way around. Go on to the next mound of filling and continue until you have used up the pasta strip. Minor tears can be mended by smoothing them over with a little egg white on a pastry brush.  Cut the ravioli into squares with a sharp knife and gently lift away the surplus pasta. Gently lift the ravioli on to a plate (I use a palette knife to ease them from the work surface). The ravioli can be covered with clingfilm and refrigerated until needed. Scrunch the surplus pasta up again and add to it, if needed, to get a plum-sized ball.  Re-roll and continue making ravioli until all the filling is used up.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small frying pan (skillet), simply melt the butter and add the chopped herbs. Leave to heat through gently whilst cooking the ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in two or three batches. As soon as you put the ravioli in the boiling water, put the lid of the saucepan on to help the water come back up to the boil quickly and time them for 2½ minutes. Scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon held over a wad of kitchen paper and put in a warmed bowl. Repeat with the second and third batch. Dress with the parsley and chive butter.

*If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball. Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface and knead.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges. This is to be expected. If there are numerous holes, scrunch the ball of dough up and reroll. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

This Great Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge has certainly lived up to its name. I tend to cook with a lot of eggs. Mint, well, not so much. So you can imagine my ‘delight’ when I found out that, as well as being gluten-free, the recipe ALSO had to be egg-free AND showcase mint.

Hmmm. Not a propitious combination.

Luckily I can still eat eggs although I don’t take this for granted. Food sensitivities seem to have a lot in common with buses – there isn’t one for ages and then several all pitch up in one go. Over the last few months I seem to have developed a sensitivity for alcohol and/or sulphites but I’m not sure which, as most alcoholic beverages contain sulphites anyway to halt the fermentation process. Eggs could easily be next for me.

Not only do I love eggs for their own sake, when they’re scrambled, poached, boiled and fried but I also rely on them a lot to compensate for the lack of gluten in my baking. And mint is one of those tastes that I’m still in the process of acquiring: I do like it but it has to be quite subtle and also be combined with other flavours. So this challenge was going to be tough because every mint recipe I thought of (that I would like to eat) had eggs in it and in such a way too that I didn’t think egg substitute would work.

This recipe came about quite by chance. I was originally planning a microwaveable mint chocolate fondant dessert based upon an eggless sponge recipe. I made a batch and poured a portion into a coffee cup. ‘One minute should do it!’ I thought as I set the timer on the microwave with gay abandon and gazed expectantly through the glass door. Ping! Yuk. Didn’t work. Another portion. 40 seconds, set more hesitantly this time. I gazed doubtfully through the glass door. Ping! Ew! All I can say is, if you want to be cheffy and decorate a dessert plate with edible (mint-flavoured) soil, I’ve got just the recipe…

I still had about a third of the mixture left. I hate waste so I thought I’d put it in a pan and chuck it in the oven just to see what happened. When it came out, it didn’t look so good so I tossed it aside on the worktop and sat down to come up with another idea (which I did do and I will get around to posting it sometime soon). When I came back to it some hours later so that I could put it in the bin, I realised that it had started taking on the texture of a brownie. Still a little powdery but my mind started to tick over. More butter, more chocolate and added golden syrup…

Gluten-free and egg-free mint-triple-choc-chip brownies

Don’t be tempted to do anything with the brownies until they have had their requisite 3 or 4 hours in the fridge. Don’t try to cut them and definitely DO NOT taste them. They will be dry and they will crumble. They will also taste of overheated peppermint. Take it from someone who knows… They are worth the wait though. Once they’ve been chilled, they become dense, fudgy and chocolatey and the peppermint flavour is deliciously fresh and light.

Makes 16

85g butter, cubed
150g gluten-free plain chocolate, coarsely chopped (at least 74% cocoa solids)
200g sweetened condensed milk
1½ tsp peppermint extract
2 tbsp golden syrup
90ml water
80g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g Community Foods potato flour (potato starch)
30g cocoa powder
2 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
100g ground almonds
50g gluten-free white chocolate chips

You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm cake/brownie tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Put the butter in a microwaveable jug or bowl and microwave on ‘high’ for 40 seconds or until the butter has melted. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted.

Whisk the condensed milk, in a large bowl, with the peppermint essence, golden syrup and 60ml of the water for a minute or so with an electric whisk until well-combined.

Sift the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and xanthan gum into the chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet. The mixture needs to have the texture of chocolate mousse so, if it is on the dry side, add the remaining 30ml of water, a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until you have a uniform mixture. Fold in the ground almonds and white chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the tin and smoothe the surface with an oiled palette knife. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before putting the tin in the refrigerator and chilling for at least 3 to 4 hours. Cut in half lengthways and then in eighths widthways to create 16 brownie fingers. Store in the refrigerator.

I feel like I’ve been working incessantly on the blog for the last two weeks and yet have had nothing to post on it! This has been a mixture of disasters learning experiences – Cornish fried ravioli (let’s not even go there!) – AND preparing for my next guest blog at LiveGlutenFree, which should be going live sometime at the end of next week (here’s my last one!), AND developing my contribution for the upcoming Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge hosted by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k] (here’s my last one!).

Both of these have not been without their problems. My first effort for LiveGlutenFree was a gluten-free version of ‘le pounti’, a speciality of the Auvergne in France, which I can best describe as a cross-between a crustless quiche and a savoury clafoutis: it’s made with smoked bacon (or lardons), ham, onion and Swiss chard or spinach, mixed with a batter and baked in the oven. Sounds pretty good so far, I hear you say.

On paper, it was a winner. In reality, it was horrible. The batter had a rather unpleasant soapy texture and there was a noxious reek and aftertaste of still-raw spinach. My husband and I stoically munched our way through our portions and I even managed to sneak a couple of spoonfuls into my toddler. When the meal was over, I wordlessly ushered the rest of it down the food waste disposal chute and we didn’t speak of it again… So, no ‘le pounti’ and it was back to the drawing-board… Do give the LiveGlutenFree blog a visit next week and see what I managed to come up with instead!

My travails with the gluten-free, egg-free, minty-licious recipe challenge, I will regale you with on Monday when I unveil my contribution…

Gluten-free gnocchi with bacon and artichokes

I made this dish last week with stuff from the fridge and a packet of ready-made gluten-free pasta, when I realised that the meat I had taken out of the freezer hadn’t defrosted in time. It was so good, I decided to do it again, but this time I thought I’d ring the changes by using gnocchi rather than pasta. The sauce is extremely reminiscent of ‘alla carbonara’ although I’m not sure if it’s even remotely authentic. Artichokes are my current favourite vegetable (high in prebiotics!) but, if you’re not keen, I think blanched asparagus spears would work just as well.

When gnocchi are done well, they are bee-yute-ee-full. When they’re not, they’re horrendous. In the years BGF, I used to buy them already made and found the taste of flour overpowering.  Homemade are soooo much better, and I think particularly so when they’re gluten-free and made with potato starch. They are the lightest and fluffiest gnocchi imaginable and the starch allows the unadulterated taste of the potato to shine through.

Lots of recipes I’ve seen are quite precious about the way in which you cook the potatoes: some bake the potatoes in the oven first and scoop the insides out and others boil the potatoes whole in their skins and peel them in a tea-towel when they’re cooked. These methods don’t sit well with me. They take ages, the oven going on is an added expense, I always manage to burn myself and there’s a mucky tea-towel to be washed . Basically, you need dry potatoes so I cut them small, boil them for a short time and allow them to steam dry in the colander. It still works and takes a fraction of the time and effort. You really do need to use a potato ricer or equivalent though so that you get lump-free mash. They’re not massively expensive and once you’ve eaten mash that’s been riced, you’ll never look back. If you’ve never seen a potato ricer, imagine a garlic crusher on steroids…

The consistency of the dough is really important. If it’s too wet, it will disintegrate in the water; too dry and you’ll end up with stodgy, glutinous cannonballs which will lodge in your throat and weigh heavy in your gut. So don’t be too cavalier with the flour – if you add too much, you’re faced with the unenviable choice of either boiling more potatoes to redress the balance or a post-prandial snack of a packet of Rennies.

Serves 2-3

500g floury potatoes (peeled weight – equivalent to 3 medium-large King Edward’s)
25g butter or butter substitute (I used a low-fat olive spread)
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
115g Community Foods potato flour (potato starch)

125ml double cream or low-fat thick cream equivalent (I used WeightWatchers)
60ml milk
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated finely
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
4 rashers of smoked back bacon, trimmed of fat and cut into pieces (I usually cut into 1 cm strips and then halve)
6 tinned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

You will also need a potato ricer, mouli-légume or a sieve.

Cut the potatoes into 1-2cm pieces. Place in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife, and then drain in a colander. Leave in the colander to dry for five minutes, shaking them once after a couple of minutes to enable steam to escape – you want the cut edges of the potato pieces to look floury and fluffy.  Don’t leave them any longer than this, as you need them to be warm in order to melt and absorb the butter and egg yolk.

Push the potatoes either through a potato ricer or a mouli-légume (or, at a pinch, through a sieve) into a large bowl. This will ensure the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi possible. I really wouldn’t recommend using a masher because it always seems to come out lumpy. Add the butter (or butter substitute) and the egg yolk. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix well to combine.

Now stir in about two-thirds of the potato starch. Using your hand, gently bring the mixture together, gradually adding more starch until you have a soft and silky dough. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and gently knead: you shouldn’t need to flour the surface – if you do, your dough is too wet and you need to add more starch.

Take a handful of the dough at a time and roll out gently into a snake about 1.5cm thick. Cut into pieces about 2.5 cm long and lay out on a plate. Continue until the dough has been used up. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate whilst you make the sauce (or at least 15-20 minutes if you’re using a ready-made sauce).

Mix the cream, milk, grated cheese and egg yolks in a bowl or jug and season with pepper (you shouldn’t need any salt because of the cheese and bacon) and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying-pan (skillet) or sauté pan over a low flame. Add the chopped onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the chopped bacon and continue to fry for another five or so minutes. Then add the quartered artichoke hearts to the pan and continue cooking until they are heated through.  Switch the heat off. (If you’re cooking this in advance, you can refrigerate this mix at this point until you need it).

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Take the gnocchi out of the refrigerator and gently press each one of them with the back of the prongs of a fork (I usually do them diagonally because I think they look better!). When the water has come up to the boil, cook the gnocchi in three batches. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom of the pan when they go in the water but they will gradually float to the surface. When they’re all merrily bobbing up and down on the surface, put the timer on for one minute. At the end of the minute, scoop them out, using a slotted spoon, into the bacon and artichoke mixture and continue with the next batch.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, turn the heat back on under the pan (a low flame again). Pour in the cream and egg mixture and stir gently until the gnocchi and bacon are piping hot and the sauce has thickened and is bubbling (about 5 minutes).

When is a gluten-free pizza not a gluten-free pizza? When it comes from Domino’s, it seems. (This is in the US. As far as I’m aware, Domino’s UK don’t offer one but I am prepared to stand corrected). The furore over their purveying a gluten-free pizza which is prepared and cooked cheek-by-jowl with their other glutenicious offerings and which, therefore, is as gluten-free as the Pillsbury Doughboy, has lit up the Twittersphere like Piccadilly Circus. On steroids.

I would like to think that Domino’s somewhat misguided effort springs from an awakening, if poorly researched, desire to cater for a hitherto untapped market, i.e. coeliacs and the gluten-sensitive. Sadly, however, I believe that it’s another example of a multi-million dollar company cynically catering for a repeatedly tapped market, i.e. the hard-of-thinking bandwagon-jumpers who believe (this week at least) that gluten-free is the ‘hot new diet’. So they’ll blithely stuff their faces with pepperoni and mozzarella, dripping with grease, safe in the ‘knowledge’ that they’re shedding pounds. And it won’t matter one iota that this ‘gluten-free’ pizza is anything but. The tills will be ringing and it won’t actually make these idiots ill. It’s us who’ll suffer, the coeliacs and the gluten-sensitive, but, in the world of big business, we are, I’m afraid, just ‘collateral damage’… Anyway, mini-rant over…

There are any number of reputable restaurants in the UK now offering gluten-free pizzas but, if you’re not in the mood for eating out, why not try one of my ‘Easter Riviera’ pizzas at home? Easter Riviera pies are traditional in the south of France and consist of spinach, artichokes and hard-boiled eggs. When I came across the recipe in Good Food magazine, I immediately knew that it would make a good pizza and that Easter was too long to wait to try it. And I was right.

Gluten-free ‘Easter Riviera’ pizza

This recipe uses the base of a loose-bottomed cake tin (one with a rim) to aid the rolling out process but it really isn’t necessary if you don’t have one. (One of) the problems with gluten-free dough is that it is very difficult to shape and you often end up with raggedy edges when you’re rolling out. I just fancied having a pizza that was purty and circular for a change, rather than ‘rustic’! It does, however, also help when sizing it to fit in the frying pan. The dough has rather a long rising time for, what seems like, relatively little reward. I dare say that the rising time can be speeded up in a warm place like the airing cupboard if time is of the essence. I made these well ahead of time, so I was more than happy for them to just sit there and do their own thing. I do advise leaving them to rise though. They don’t look like they’ve done a lot but if you press them lightly with your finger, you’ll feel that they have puffed up and the finished article does have a lovely light and crispy texture. I’ve also included the ingredients for my easy-peasy tomato sauce but, of course, feel free to sub your own! Don’t overcook the egg – you want the yolk to still be liquid so that when you burst it, it covers the pizza in all its creamy yumminess.

Makes 3 23cm pizzas

250g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
25g cornflour (cornstarch)
25 potato flour/starch*
1 scant tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 heaped tsp caster sugar
1 scant tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 scant tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt
100ml milk
100g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

300g frozen spinach, defrosted (6 briquettes)**
1-2 tbsp olive spread or butter
1 plump clove garlic, crushed
125ml tomato passata
1 heaped tbsp sundried tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
¼ tsp garlic granules
150g grated mozzarella***
6 tinned artichoke hearts, quartered
3 eggs
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

You will also need the base of a 23cm diameter loose-bottomed cake tin, a large frying pan (skillet), at least 23cm in diameter, and 3 baking (cookie) sheets

Sift the flours, yeast, caster sugar, baking powder and xanthan gum into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir with a balloon whisk to break up any lumps. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the beaten egg. In a small microwaveable bowl, lightly beat the milk and yoghurt together and warm in the microwave for about 40 seconds on ‘high’. Add the oil, beat and again and add to the flour and egg. Make your hand into the shape of a claw and gradually incorporate the flour into the liquid by making circular movements with your hand. As the mixture comes together as a sticky dough, start to knead. If it is a bit dry, add a little water, i.e. a tablespoon. As soon as the dough has come together, tip it out onto the work surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into three balls (they should weigh approximately 180g each).

Lightly brush the three baking sheets and the cake tin base (rim uppermost) with olive oil. Place one of the balls of dough in the middle of the base and flatten slightly with your hand. Dust the top of the dough with flour and then, using a rolling pin, roll it out so that it fills the base. You might need to coax the dough the last few millimetres to the edge with your fingers. (If you’re not using a cake tin base, just roll out the dough into a rough round, 2-3mm thick). Now either slide or carefully flip the base onto one of the oiled baking sheets****.  Repeat with the other two balls of dough. Cover the trays of dough with a tea towel and allow to rise for 3 hours at room temperature.

Meanwhile, get the topping ready. Squeeze as much of the water out of the defrosted spinach as you can and chop it finely. Heat up the olive spread or butter in a small frying pan (skillet). When it has melted, add the spinach and the crushed garlic and cook gently for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the spinach mixture to cool.

In a bowl, mix together the tomato passata, sundried tomato paste, dried basil and garlic granules. Set aside.

At the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 190°C (my oven is fan-assisted). Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat. When hot, slide or reverse flip (as above) one of the bases into the hot oil. Spoon a third of the tomato mixture onto the top of the base and spread to within about a centimetre of the edge. Cook for several minutes until the base is golden brown and slightly blistered. Slide the base back onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the other two bases.

Scatter a third of the mozzarella over the tomato sauce on each pizza. Then, scatter a third of the garlicky spinach, leaving the centre clear. Arrange a third of the quartered artichoke hearts around the edge each pizza and finally break an egg into the centre.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the egg white is just losing its translucency and is still slightly wobbly.

 

* I find the whole potato flour/potato starch thing confusing. I’ve read lots of American recipes that state that potato starch and potato flour are not the same thing. I’m wondering if, in the UK at least, they are. For the purposes of clarity, I use the Community Foods brand which is readily available at Tesco which says ‘Potato Flour (Potato Starch)‘ on the front of the packet and ‘Potato Starch’ on the back.

** I’m not sure what this equates to in fresh spinach – I tend to use frozen because I never need a whole bag and end up with a slimy green mess in the bottom of my fridge.

*** Pre-grated mozzarella tends to be coated with an anti-caking agent which may, or may not, be gluten-free. I use Tesco’s own brand which uses potato starch.

****I found a delicate flipping technique worked, where I inverted the base over my spread hand and allowed the dough to slide off onto it before flipping it back onto the baking sheet.

It’s been a week of downs and ups since I last posted. The downs consisted of me being glutenated in rather strange circumstances which I’m still investigating. The suspected culprit is currently the food additive maltodextrin which was in a fruit bar masquerading as a gluten-free product. I’m still doing my research on the topic and I’ll do another post when I’m a bit clearer but I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had either a confirmed or suspected adverse reaction to maltodextrin.

Anyway, on to the ups. My very first guest blog post at LiveGlutenFree went  live on Monday morning (April 30th). It was so exciting to see my recipe published on another site and to get so much positive feedback from Twitter and from visitors to the blog itself. If you haven’t discovered LiveGlutenFree yet, you should go and check them out. They have gluten-free recipes, information about gluten-free-friendly restaurants, advice for coeliacs, guest blogs (mine included!) and much more. Last month’s recipe was Millionaire’s Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries, inspired by a packet of gluten-free caramel slices kindly brought round to our house by a visitor.

If the look of it has tantalised your tastebuds, do click on the link and have a gander at the recipe. I’m now busily thinking up what this month’s recipe is going to be!

But enough of the self-promotion 😉 … on to this week’s recipe!! Everyone’s got a wok, right? Um, no. I DID have one once. A beautiful, brand-spanking-new non-stick one that my Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas. I brought it home full of big ideas about all the sumptuous Chinese banquets I would cook. I in fact used it just the once to make a stir-fry. My flatmate (strange girl) decided to do the washing-up. I looked over her shoulder to see her SCOURING it with a BRILLO PAD. RIP beautiful new wok. I haven’t had one since. If I ever fancied Chinese food, I’d just go to the takeaway…then gluten decided that it hated me and that particular avenue of gastronomic pleasure was shut off. I’ve never been to a Chinese takeaway since to attempt to order anything gluten-free. I just think that there’s probably too much rogue soy sauce splashing about to be worth the risk but I’d be really interested to know if anyone else has tried it.

If I want anything vaguely ‘Chinese-style’, I have to cook it at home now with gluten-free tamari. My egg noodle recipe is a variation on my pasta recipe – after all, you can’t really get as much as a cigarette paper between the difference. I did, in my research, however, discover that Chinese egg noodles are chewier than Italian pasta because alkaline, or lye, water (which is sodium carbonate and NOT to be confused with sodium BIcarbonate) is added. This, however, can be toxic if you don’t know what you’re doing. Nice… So I’ve made my noodles chewier by increasing the starch-to-flour ratio and adding a smidgen more xanthan gum. Seemed to work!


Chicken chow mein with gluten-free egg noodles

Serves 3

150g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
30g cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
cold water
toasted sesame seed oil to drizzle on cooked noodles

250-300g chicken fillet (breast or leg), skinned, deboned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tbsp gluten-free tamari
2 tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1-2 medium red chillis, chopped OR 1-2 tsp Very Lazy Chilli (optional)
1 onion, peeled, quartered then quartered again (I find it easier to leave the root attached until I’ve finished slicing and then remove it at the end)
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
150g mushrooms (field or shiitake), thinly sliced
200g beansprouts
1-2 tbsp gluten-free tamari
1-2 tbsp water

You will also need a pasta rolling machine with a spaghetti attachment (mine came from Lakeland) and a wok or large non-stick frying pan (don’t use non-non-stick because the cornflour-coated chicken WILL stick to the bottom and burn).

First of all, place the chicken in either a Ziploc bag or a plastic container with a lid, along with the Chinese 5-spice and tamari, seal and shake so that all pieces are coated. Leave to marinate.

Then, make the noodles. Cut a strip of greaseproof baking paper about 30cm long and wide enough to fit underneath the rolling machine. You will need this when cutting the noodle dough with the spaghetti attachment.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and both oils. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and sticky and feel quite light and pliable*. Now either wrap the ball in clingfilm or return it to the bowl of the food processor and put the lid back on to keep the noodle dough from drying out.

Place a large plate dusted with flour next to the rolling machine. Working with a tomato-sized piece at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Try to get either the width or the length approximately the same width as the pasta rolling machine. Pass the dough just once through thickness setting 3**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. Dust each side of the sheet of dough with flour*** and make sure that the greaseproof paper is in place underneath before putting it through the spaghetti attachment. Slide the greaseproof paper out from under the machine and tip the noodles onto a plate. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to heat. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add a handful of the noodles****. The noodles will float to the top almost immediately and the water should very quickly return to the boil. Allow the noodles to bob about on the surface for about 30 seconds and then start scooping them out into a bowl (I use a spaghetti spoon – I think they might also be called kitchen spiders – over a wad of kitchen roll so that they drain properly). Add a drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil and toss through so that they don’t stick. Continue cooking the rest of the noodles in batches and dress with oil. Cover and set aside to cool until ready to cook the rest of the chow mein.

When you’re ready to cook the chow mein, add the cornflour to the marinated chicken and stir until all the pieces are coated. Heat the oil in either a wok or a large, non-stick frying pan (skillet). When the oil is very hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilli (if using). Stir quickly to avoid burning for about 30 seconds and then add the chicken. Brown the chicken for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Next add the onion and red pepper and continue to stir for another couple of minutes. Then add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Next, add the tamari and a couple of tablespoons of water to form a sauce and stir for another minute. Then finally add the beansprouts and noodles. Cook for another minute or so until the beansprouts have started to wilt slightly and the noodles are heated through. Serve with extra tamari for drizzling.

* If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the flood processor. Blitz into small piece to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball. Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges and may have a few holes. This is to be expected and it won’t be noticeable when cut into noodles. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

*** This is really important because it will stop the noodles from sticking and clumping together.

**** I cook the noodles in small batches – this allows the water to quickly come back up to the boil and avoids the noodles becoming overcooked.

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