Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Poblanos - baked with a stuffing of Puy Lentils, Vegetables & Cheese


We've had a bumper harvest this year with a whole range of garden and greenhouse veg. I don't count myself as a major gardener......... more of a dabbler......... but I find it amazing that with so little skill and equally small amounts of effort, you can successfully grow your own food.

I have grown chillies abundantly before, mainly buying small plants from the local garden centre of common varieties. This year however, I decided to grow a wider selection from seed which I bought on line through the South Devon Chilli Farm. If you like chillies, check out their site. It has a wonderful specialist selection of everything from chilli seeds to plants to produce, which can be posted to your home.


My harvested haul has been both very abundant and very colourful.......... The beautiful long thin red 'Ring of Fire', which gives a powerful, earthy heat; the almost as hot small 'Peruvian Purple'; the contrasting (but still hot), slightly sweeter yellow 'Bulgarian Carrot'; a milder pretty round 'Cherry Bomb' variety; and the larger, mild Poblano. I am still picking enough to be both giving away the surplus and drying them to spice up the winter months and beyond!

A few weeks back, I lightly roasted the Cherry Bombs and stuffed some of them with goats cheese and a little basil. You can find the recipe posted here. The contrast of the cold, cream-cheese filling against the cautious heat of the chilli made for a perfect hors d'oeuvres or lunch salad.


The milder Poblano is a variety that I have been wanting to grow for years. I love that it is a perfect pepper for stuffing, but with a mild chilli back-kick, it warms the throat and livens the taste buds.

The Poblanos here are stuffed with a delicious combination of Puy lentils, vegetables, herbs and cheese, cooked in a base of rich roasted cherry tomatoes (also home grown) and topped with crispy parmesan gluten free breadcrumbs.


Sadly, the photos don't do them justice. It was piddling down and getting dark outside when I made them. Whilst this added impact to the comforting warmth they exuded, it completely screwed up the opportunity to photograph them in any way which did them justice........ so you'll have to take my word for it......... they were really very very good indeed!



I am sharing my stuffed Poblanos with a handful of food challenges this month :


Simple & in Season......... I think my third entry this month...... Sorry Ren! There is still so much abundant fruit and veg to harvest at this time of the year........ Nip over to Renbehan.com to check out all the amazing things that people have been cooking up this month.

The Poblanos and onions in this dish are straight out of the garden and the purple and yellow carrots were locally sourced from a nearby farm shop.


For that reason, I am also entering it into Shop Local with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.


And last, but not least..... Cook, Blog, Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Poblanos - baked with a stuffing of Puy Lentils, Vegetables & Cheese

Ingredients

400g (approx) cherry tomatoes - roasted as in this post (but without the balsamic vinegar)
10 to 12 Poblano chilli peppers
170g Puy Lentils
vegetable stock (either cube, bouillon or fresh)
olive oil for frying
½ stick celery - chopped into small pieces
2 medium carrots (I used 1x purple & 1x yellow) - chopped into tiny cubes
1 medium onion - chopped
2 large cloves garlic - crushed
salt & pepper to taste
large handful of chopped fresh coriander
large handful of chopped fresh parsley
dash GF shoyu (soy) sauce
250g grated mozzarella cheese
100g grated parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative)
GF breadcrumbs (made by gently drying a GF bread roll in the oven and then grinding into crumbs)

Method 

  1. Prepare your tomatoes by cutting in half and roasting as in this post (but without the balsamic vinegar)
  2. Prepare the peppers by cutting in half lengthways and deseeding.
  3. Simmer the lentils in vegetable stock (as per instructions on the packet), for 20 minutes (you want to stop cooking before they go mushy). Then drain immediately and set aside.
  4. In a little olive oil, gently sauté the chopped celery, carrots, onion and garlic until soft. 
  5. Add the roasted tomatoes and stir thoroughly, continuing to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. 
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped herbs and a dash of GF shoyu (soy) sauce to taste.
  7. Add the lentils and stir through thoroughly, then remove from the heat.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  9. Use the lentil-veg mixture to stuff the peppers and carefully pack into a roasting tin, stuffing side up.
  10. Cover the dish in foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese and a handful of breadcrumbs.
  12. Place back in the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes uncovered until golden brown.
  13. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Halloween Cake Pop Spiders


It's nearly Halloween....... time to celebrate all things spooky, scary and spine-shiveringly dark. All Hallows Eve or the Festival of the Dead apparently has its origins with Celtic tribes and the Druids who used this date to celebrate the transition from life to death.


I'm not sure the meaning is actually recognised at all these days......... but the kids (and plenty of adults) love to dress up as witches, ghouls and vampires and head for the streets........ visiting houses lit with candled pumpkins, to scare as many neighbours as possible whilst scrounging for sweets and treats. My daughter would knock on doors all night long given the chance and is never happy until she has enough sweets to open a sweet shop.


Frankly, I feel really uncomfortable with the whole concept of trick or treating. We spend lots of energy and time trying to persuade our children that it is not safe to 'take sweets from strangers' in an effort to protect them and then on one night a year we encourage them to knock on as many doors as possible, freely asking for them! I supervise like a maternal hawk........


Still, that aside....... I do enjoy the carving of pumpkins, the making of spooky treats and the opportunity to see my daughter dressed up in wonderful halloween colours, incredibly excited at the anticipation of partying with her friends and gathering her stash.


Being half term, it is definitely the time to make stuff together. And after our Easter foray into the world of cake pops, we figured it was time to try again with a Halloween version.


If there's one mutual fear we share, it's spiders. Big fat, black, furry house spiders in particular send us all into terrified shakes. Over the years, I have had to get braver in the art of spider disposal, if only because neither my husband or daughter have shown any signs of doing this for me and the thought of a house filled with spiders hiding in dark corners ready to leap out seems worse than the panic of grabbing a large glass and tentatively carrying it down the road as far as possible before emptying the spider hysterically into the road. I always hope that the further away and the more determinedly this is done, the less chance of them finding their way 'home' again.


So it seemed apt to make Spider cake pops for Halloween........... Maybe we are entering a therapeutic desensitisation process, but give them cute little eyes and liquorice flavoured legs and they seem quite friendly!

Filled with chocolate cake, moistened and moulded with a splash of coconut cream and honey (which avoids them being over-sweet) and covered with candy melts, these are very tasty little spiders. Definitely to be recommended, even for arachnophobes........


I am allowing a few of these furry friends to crawl off to some of the Halloween challenges this month :


Treat Petite with Kat over at The Baking Explorer and Stuart at Cakeyboi, who celebrate this month with the theme of Trick or Treat.


We Should Cocoa, being guest-hosted by Honey & Dough on behalf of Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog.


Let's Cook for Halloween with Nayna at Simply Food.


Love Cake with Ness over at Jibber Jabber, who's Halloween theme is 'Dark'.


.......and lastly, a few are crawling over to Vanesther at Bangers & Mash for October's Family Foodies Challenge (joint hosted with Lou at Eat Your Veg), who are encouraging Cooking with Kids this month. Cake pops are always such fun to make with children. It's one of the things me and my daughter love to do together. Just accept the mess!


I have (latterly) decided to link these little cuties into this week's Recipe of the Week as well, with Emily over at A Mummy Too, as they were so eager to join as many challenges as possible!


And Halloween Foodie Friday with Otilia over at Romanian Mum Blog.


Halloween Cake Pop Spiders (makes 8 spiders)

Ingredients

1 x 7 inch chocolate cake sponge (broken into crumbs)
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut cream
a squeeze of runny honey/golden syrup

black liquorice laces or, if not available, liquorice wheels (unravelled) - cut into 8 equal-length pieces for each spider 
black candy melts
black sprinkles (make sure they are gluten free as needed) (optional)
candy eyes

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix the cake crumbs with the coconut cream and honey/syrup until sticky and well-blended.
  2. Using your hands, mould and roll the mixture into 8 equal-sized quite condense cake balls.
  3. Place in the fridge to chill for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Use a skewer to poke 4 holes in each side of each cake-ball, where you want the legs to go.
  5. Carefully push a piece of liquorice into each hole about 1 cm deep.
  6. Melt a couple of handfuls of candy melts according to the manufacturer's instructions (if you need more later, you can add and re-melt).
  7. Use a small pastry brush to paint each cake spider with candy melt ensuring the sponge is covered completely. (I used a skewer poked into the bottom to hold, allowing for maximum coverage without having to touch the cake. I then removed the skewer when the candy melt had set and finally covered the hole with a blob of remaining melt).
  8. Whilst the candy melt is still sticky, dip the spider's head into sprinkles if using and then leave the melt to set.
  9. To stick the eyes, use a small spot of candy melt to stick each eye in place on the spider.
  10. Leave the spider to set completely (This process will be quickened by placing in the fridge for 10 minutes).
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Baci di Dama Cookies - gluten free



These are divine! My daughter has declared them the best cookies she's tasted..... Although I wouldn't go quite that far, they are pretty damn good!

Baci di Dama - which in Italian apparently means "Lady's Kisses' are little Italian hazelnut biscuits, sandwiched together with dark chocolate. They originate from the Piedmont region where the best Italian hazelnuts are grown, and have been traced back to a small town called Tortona, where they appeared in the latter half of the 19th century.


One legend suggests they were made a by a chef who was trying to impress King Vittorio Emanuelle, by shaping them to remind him of a kiss between two lovers. I have no idea what the truth is, but Mr chef........ you can come and impress me any time...... these little bites of hazelnutty deliciousness are just amazing.

Traditionally made with wheat flour, there are a number of gluten-free copies on the internet, some of which seem closer to the traditional recipe than others. The recipe that I stumbled across when looking for something completely unconnected was one from David Lebovitz, which is definitely in the category of 'keeps as close to the original as possible'.


The recipe however suggests using rice flour, which in its usual form tends to produce a rather gritty bake. To get away from this, I substituted a portion of the usual rice flour for glutinous rice flour, which I first used here, and is easily sourced through Asian supermarkets and delis. Glutinous rice flour (which contains no gluten) has a much finer, slightly sticky quality, which I thought would make the bake a little smoother. As a consequence though, I have had to slightly amend the recipe as it progressed through the making, to add a little more butter, as the dough was reluctant to come together. I think the flour sucked up more moisture than expected, but an extra 20g of butter did the trick perfectly.


The texture of these Baci di Dama is crisp yet soft........ reminiscent of Viennese biscuits...... a good snap as you bite, which then melts in the mouth, revealing crunchy tiny pieces of roasted hazelnut and a wash of dark chocolate. Dangerously moreish unfortunately!

They are really easy to make too..... You just need a bit of time to allow the dough to chill before you roll it into balls (otherwise the result will be a crumbly mess) and enough patience to make absolutely sure your balls are even in size. I confess, I actually weighed each of mine as I prepared the dough-mounds...... That may sound a bit OCD, but really...... it is worth it if you want perfectly matched, evenly-baked kisses.


The David Leibovitz recipe is very detailed in method and definitely worth a look, but try as I might, I couldn't get my dough to roll into an even sausage shape that could be cut, so gave up and just rolled one ball at a time. I also made mine 3 grams larger........ I have a big mouth!


As the recipe was found completely randomly (and I had no intention of making biscuits this week at all), I am entering my Baci di Dama into Belleau Kitchen's Random Recipe challenge. For October, the lovely Dom went all cyber-space on us and suggested we test our computer literacy skills with a random internet recipe search.


Sadly, I actually can remember a time when 'social networking' meant heading to the pub or gate-crashing a party and having a real live chat with real live people. But when it comes to cooking, I can honestly say that my world has been truly enriched by the wealth of experience and food creativity that I have found on the internet. Well done Dom...... great challenge!


I am also offering my cookies to this week's Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.


And to Recipe of the Week with Emily over at A Mummy Too.


Well I can't keep these to myself can I?

Baci di Dama Cookies (slightly adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe) - makes approximately 30 cookies

Ingredients

140g hazelnuts - roasted, de-skinned and ground
80g glutinous rice flour 
60g white rice flour
120g unsalted butter - room temperature
100g caster sugar
pinch fine sea salt
80g good quality dark chocolate

Method

  1. Mix the ground hazelnuts and flours together in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour with the sugar and salt.
  3. Use hands to mix the ingredients together and knead until you have a smooth dough.
  4. Divide the dough into small pieces (I weighed mine at about 8g each) and bring together into rough ball shapes. The dough will be too soft to get perfect balls at this stage, but you want about 30 equal-sized, compact 'lumps'.
  5. Place the lumps of dough on a lined baking tray and either chill in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours or in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  7. When chilled, take each lump of dough and gently roll into an even ball in your hands. Place on a freshly lined baking sheet with a small space between each. If the dough becomes too soft to roll, place back in the fridge/freezer to re-harden.
  8. Re-chill the dough-balls before baking in the oven for about 15 minutes, swapping the baking trays in the oven part way through, to ensure an even bake. Remove when the tops are just golden brown (be careful not to over-bake).
  9. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking trays.
  10. When completely cold, melt the chocolate until smooth either in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave (medium setting - 30 second bursts - stirring between each).
  11. Spoon a small blob of chocolate onto the centre of the flat side of a biscuit and sandwich together with a second biscuit. 
  12. Continue this process until all the biscuits are used. 
  13. Stand each biscuit sandwich upright on a wire rack to allow the chocolate to set.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Patty Pan, Purple Carrot, Pine Nut & Cheese Savoury Muffins


A while back I made some savoury muffins which were baked with a courgette-based polenta sponge. They were good! We ate through them pretty quick....... mainly for lunches. We had them straight, filled like little round sandwiches and also toasted. They were really good toasted!

Unfortunately all our fresh home-grown courgettes have long since been eaten, but in their place we now have a store of beautiful yellow patty pan squashes, harvested from the veg patch and carefully stored in the larder.


I love patty pans. Apart from the fact that they are amazingly easy to grow, they also last well into the winter (if you don't eat them all at once). They are delicious roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning and make a fantastic curry. But if you grate them, they also make a perfect alternative to courgettes if you want to liven up a savoury sponge. This recipe is definitely testament to their versatility.


After my last batch of meaty muffins, this time I wanted to go for a vegetarian option. But unsure what I wanted to incorporate into the recipe, I took a trip down to my favourite local farm shop - Macknade in Faversham, Kent and had a scout along their veg tables. I love Macknade....... the sheer variety of vegetables, fruit, cheese and other foodie delights they sell is quite astounding, with stock from abroad as well as lots of local offerings from Kent producers.


Rummaging through their selection, I came across some beautiful purple carrots produced locally and instantly knew they were the right pairing for my squashes. I've never eaten carrots this purple before and they seriously coloured my fingers when I grated them, but the depth of flavour is so worth it. Definitely carrot........ but with a much more earthy, country flavour hidden within.

To enrich the muffins further I have thrown in some mature English cheddar and a handful of toasted pine nuts which give each mouthful a nutty tang and a contrasting 'bite'.


I love the colour of the finished bake............ the yellow flecks in the sponge, the purply splodges, the hidden pine nuts and the golden crust. Like the meaty version, they are delicious toasted and taste absolutely fabulous slathered with spoonfuls of houmous, topped with spicy beetroot.

I am sharing my muffins with a few challenges for October :


Tea Time Treats with Karen at Lavender & Lovage (co-hosted by Janie over at The Hedge Combers), who is this month celebrating a very seasonal 'cooking and baking with vegetables'. These little savoury bakes are stuffed full of them and I am sure are much healthier for it!

For that reason, they are also a perfect offering to this month's Extra Veg challenge brought to us by A Mummy Too, Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. The hidden patty pan squash and purple carrot definitely qualifies as 'extra'.


Shop Local with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary : The purple carrots are locally grown and sourced from a local farm shop and the pattypans are straight from the garden!


Simple & in Season with Ren Behan. This is the best time of year for squashes and the carrots are as fresh as they come......


And finally Vegetable Palette over at Allotment2Kitchen. This month, Shaheen has picked 'halloween colours' to cook with. Although they weren't produced with any halloween intent, when I looked at the pictures of these muffins, even I had to admit they looked like they had been beaten up!






Patty Pan, Purple Carrot, Pine Nut & Cheese Savoury Muffins (makes 24 muffins)

Ingredients

160g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
160g fine ground polenta
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
ground black pepper (to taste)
1½ teaspoons paprika
140g mature cheddar (grated) - choose a vegetarian version if you need to.
3 large eggs 
90 ml olive oil
160 ml plain yoghurt
180 ml milk
150g grated weight -  patty pan squash (de-seeded and peeled)
1 medium purple carrot - grated
2 to 3 tablespoons pine nuts (toasted)

Method

  1. Prepare non-stick muffin tins by either lining with baking cases or lightly greasing.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4. 
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, polenta, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, pepper and paprika, making sure any lumps are broken down.
  4. Add and stir in the grated cheese.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, yoghurt and milk. 
  6. Add and fold in the grated squash, carrot, pine nuts and flour-cheese mix until evenly combined (do not over-mix).
  7. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the tops spring back to the touch.
  8. Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rhubarb, Blueberry and Honey No Churn Ice Cream


Summer has definitely left us. But in one last ditch attempt to revive those warmer moments I made some ice cream last week in the hope that the sun might just reappear to complement the experience of eating it.

Did the sun oblige? No! But the ice cream was so good, it no longer seemed to matter........ What might have been a hot weather refresher a few weeks back, has now become an eat from the tub, big spoon, snuggle in front of the TV comfort munch.......


The ice cream was made to use up the last of the garden rhubarb before it started to rot with the Autumn dew. The rhubarb ice cream I made a few weeks back had all gone, but had been so delicious, that more was being demanded. It seemed the logical solution to give the rhubarb a better purpose, and keep it from clogging up fridge space. Being a 'no churn' recipe also meant it would be a quick job, which is pretty much essential right now.


I didn't want to make exactly the same recipe again, so varied it slightly with the addition of some blueberries, pomegranate syrup and acacia honey. Smart move! This ice cream is even better than the original mix......

It is still rich, thick and very creamy and still has the wonderfully earthy tang of the rhubarb, but the blueberries add extra depth of flavour, a fruity bite from the pieces of berry that remain after cooking and turn the ice cream the prettiest pinky-purple!


The pomegranate and honey are swirled into the mix just before freezing, adding a mild and subtle honey-pomegranate back-note as you allow the ice cream to melt soothingly across your tongue.

The best way to eat this ice cream is in tiny spoonfuls, allowing the flavours to envelop your palate as it liquifies, so that they all dance together in harmony. It needs no 'dressing up' into sundaes and no smothering in sauces and sprinkles........ this ice cream is just perfect as it is. Truly divine and truly decadent.


I am offering my Rhubarb, Blueberry and Honey Ice Cream to a handful of challenges this month :


First up : Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream with Kavey Eats. October's theme is 'anything goes'...... Sounds like a good mantra for ice cream eating!


Next : Alpha Bakes hosted by Caroline Makes (with Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker). October's alphabet conundrum has come up with a very tricky 'I'....... I did consider Italian meringue, or could have knocked up something Indian...... I even considered just going for Icing or making some Halloween Eyes (ok...... the spelling isn't quite there)..... but in the end, I took the lazy route. I was already doing some Ice Cream, and rather than run out of challenge time again, figured this would be fine. Admittedly, there's not much baking here, but I checked back some old posts and ice cream seems to be allowed!


Simple & In Season with Ren Behan. The rhubarb is straight from the garden, although I am certain it will be the last I get this year!


and finally......... Cook Blog Share with Lucy over at Supergolden Bakes.


Lavender & Lovage

Farmersgirl Kitchen




Rhubarb, Blueberry & Honey No Churn Ice Cream

Ingredients

380g rhubarb - cut into pieces (1 to 2 cm)
100g blueberries
180g caster sugar
2½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
600 ml double cream
1-2 tablespoon pomegranate syrup (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons acacia honey

Method

  1. Place the cut rhubarb, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the rhubarb softens and breaks down (8 to 10 minutes). Add and stir in the vanilla extract and set aside to cool completely.
  2. When cool, stir in the condensed milk and place in the fridge to chill.
  3. In a chilled bowl, whip the double cream until it holds its shape in soft peaks.
  4. Stir a spoonful of cream into the chilled rhubarb-blueberry mix to make it a little lighter and then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.
  5. Add and gently swirl in the honey and pomegranate syrup (if using).
  6. Transfer the ice cream into a freezable container and freeze overnight to harden.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated