Thursday, 30 May 2013

Chocolate Torte with Mascarpone Cream & Cherry Sauce

Someone asked me recently why I had decided to do a gluten free cooking blog. It certainly hadn't been in my plans until early March, just before I began the venture. It was then that I thought about all the time I was spending in the kitchen......... creating, amending, tasting and adapting recipes, until I finally developed something I was happy to feed my family (and my friends). The results were receiving positive feedback from gluten free and gluten eaters alike, which was great. But then I got to thinking that all this hard work was actually, primarily for my daughter. Because I wanted her to feel that being gluten free did not mean she couldn't eat stuff ......... That she could embrace her condition and feel good about being coeliac, develop a normalised way of eating for life and never, ever feel deprived just because she can't eat gluten.

We all look back on our childhood and remember that particular recipe that mum, or granny or dad or whoever used to make for us with love. The recipe that unless we asked for it at the time, is lost forever when we no longer have the comfort of that special relationship. For my daughter that could be most of what she is eating! I realised that all of the time I was spending developing recipes for my little girl would be worth nothing if she did not have them for her future.

Sure I could write them down, but life gets busy and without something extra to motivate me I found that I was getting very behind with keeping a note of what I had done, let alone a full recipe.

A blog seemed the way forward.................. Mainly to ensure a detailed record for her future, but also to share all that hard work with anyone else who might be interested.

Flourless Chocolate Torte is one of my daughter's favourites. Not only is it delicious, but it is naturally gluten free. It makes a fantastic dessert which can be dressed up in a number of ways. Rich, dark, fudgy and decadent, it has the benefit of being best made in advance and being left to mature overnight or so, which saves time when you are entertaining.

I have a number of different flourless chocolate cake recipes, but over time, they seem to have merged into a single amalgamation in my head, and have been tweaked so many times, I have no idea where this recipe originated. But it is truly delicious...................

It is worth using really good quality chocolate for the sponge and making sure the eggs are as fresh as possible (and preferably free range) to ensure the cake is both deep and light. When the sponge has cooled it will sink in the middle, but this makes a fantastic 'bowl' for filling with cream, fruit, ganache or anything else you wish to use.

I have 'filled' mine with a fresh, cool, mascarpone cream and off-set the richness with a fruity cherry drizzled sauce.

Flourless Chocolate Torte


150g unsalted butter - cubed
300g dark chocolate - chopped
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120g golden caster sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4 and base line a 9 inch / 22 cm non-stick, deep, spring-clip cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of steaming (not boiling)water, stirring frequently, until liquid and combined. Do not allow to over-heat or the chocolate will seize. (Alternatively, you can place in a glass bowl in a microwave and set to medium-low for 30 second bursts, stirring in between each until the chocolate and butter are melted and combined)
  3. Once melted, remove immediately from the heat and set aside whilst you prepare the eggs.
  4. Whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar on full power until very thick and about 5 times the original volume. This will take at least 5 minutes.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate-butter into the egg mixture and gently fold the two together until completely combined. Be careful to ensure all the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl is fully amalgamated.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Be careful not to over cook.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Ensure it is completely cold before removing from the tin.
  8. Although you can use as soon as cool, this cake becomes more fudgy and delicious if covered in cling film and left overnight before decorating.

Mascarpone Cream


300 ml double cream
100g Mascarpone
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Beat the cream, icing sugar and vanilla to fully combine.
  2. Add the Mascarpone and continue to beat until the cream reaches a spreading consistency.
  3. Use to fill the bowl in the sponge, or serve alongside the torte.

Cherry Sauce


1 ½ teaspoons corn flour
50 ml cold water
40g caster sugar
100g pitted sweet cherries (fresh or frozen)


  1. Mix the water and corn flour in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar and cherries and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring.
  3. As the cherries soften, squash them with the back of the spoon to release the juice.
  4. Continue to stir and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the liquid becomes clear and slightly thickened.
  5. Remove from the heat and blend the sauce into a thick puree using either a hand-held or standard blender.
  6. Strain the mixture through a clean sieve into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
  7. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Putting it all together

Fill the cake 'bowl' with mascarpone cream and decorate with grated chocolate and fresh cherries.
Serve the cherry sauce with the cake as it is cut.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 27 May 2013

Honey & Vanilla Ice Cream

I have never made ice cream before, but a couple of months back I was given an ice cream maker as a birthday present. It was very unexpected and very exciting. However my joy turned to disappointment when I realised that I didn't have enough available space in my freezer to store and freeze it.

A couple of months on and we have made enough space in the garage to buy a new freezer, especially to accommodate it! An ice cream freezer.................. idea of heaven! Do you think it could be the female equivalent of a beer fridge?

Having frozen the ice cream bowl for the required number of hours, I set to work this weekend on my first ever ice cream. I thought I would go for a relatively simple flavour to start with (without 'bits'), on the basis that I probably need to try a number of different smooth base-recipes to test textures and see how different combinations of wet ingredients work.

This particular recipe has been adapted from one that I found in The MasterChef Cookbook (2010) from the 2009 professionals champion (Steve Groves). I have omitted the lavender from his recipe and added vanilla instead. I didn't have any fresh vanilla pods in the larder, so I substituted with some vanilla bean paste which I always keep in the fridge. I had some raspberry sauce left over from a couple of weeks back which I had frozen, and added some fruit and pistachios, to make a bit of a sundae out of it.

The ice cream is delicious. Very smooth and very creamy...................... definitely rich enough for just one scoop...................... a decadent, luxurious scoop!

Honey & Vanilla Ice Cream (with fruit and pistachio nuts)


500 ml double cream
4 egg yolks
175g clear honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla pod)

nectarines or an alternative favourite fruit - cut into cubes
a few pistachio nuts (unsalted) - chopped
raspberry sauce (made from the recipe in this post)


  1. Whisk the honey, vanilla and egg yolks together until thick.
  2. Bring the cream to the boil.
  3. Cool for a couple of minutes, then pour half onto the honey-egg mixture whilst still whisking. Continue to whisk until thoroughly combined and airy.
  4. Return to the pan with the rest of the cream and heat to 80⁰ C (176⁰ F).
  5. When the correct temperature is reached, turn off the heat and pass through a sieve.
  6. Cool and chill the mixture, before
    putting into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions.
  7. Spoon into a freezer container to store and allow to harden for a few hours in the freezer.
  8. Once your ice cream is fully frozen, eat with your favourite fruit and decorate as you wish.

(If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture at stage 6 into a shallow container and freeze until mushy. Then turn into a chilled bowl and beat until the ice crystals are broken down. Return to the freezer and freeze again until mushy. Repeat the whisking and freeze a final time)

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Tuna & Asparagus Pasta

This week, I have continued to enjoy the asparagus season which always coincides with the bluebell season. The bluebells are just stunning at this time of year. They suddenly appear overnight, coating the woods with a carpet of blue, which lasts for a couple of beautiful weeks before disappearing for another year.

When I was a child, pasta was a staple in our house. My maternal grandparents were Italian and I have nostalgic memories of visiting my grandmother to find pasta being dried, draped around her kitchen.

It has remained one of my favourite foods, not least because you can grab a bag of dried pasta and it can be combined with any number of sauces for a really quick, tasty and nutritious meal. Unfortunately, becoming gluten free set an unexpected challenge. Traditional durum wheat pasta was off the menu and I was faced with a whole plethora of different gluten free pasta brands on the market which are made from any number of flours and all taste very different.

I have yet to be brave enough to attempt to make gluten free pasta (if anyone can recommend a good recipe, I would love to hear about it), but have tried a good many of the commercial brands on the market to find one our family are happy with. The one we like best is by Salute (imported from Italy) and comes in Penne, Fusilli and Spaghetti form. It is closer in flavour and texture to traditional pasta than many of the brands we have tried, although like all gluten free pasta, you have to be really careful not to over-cook or it will disintegrate.

Many years ago, I invented my tuna and asparagus sauce to pour over Penne. It uses a combination of fresh tuna, asparagus, mushrooms and baby corn in a cheesy, creamy base. The combination of flavours and textures combine beautifully with just the right amount of softness and bite. I have shared this meal with many friends and it has always been well received. My daughter now enjoys it too, so I thought it would be nice to share it more widely.............

Tuna & Asparagus Pasta   (serves 4)                


320g gluten free pasta (penne)
2 medium tuna steaks (approx. 330g)
100g button mushrooms
100g asparagus tips
100g baby corn
120 ml cream (double or single)
150g mature cheddar cheese
½ tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or sprinkle of dried)
salt & pepper to season
1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Cut the tuna into cubes, the button mushrooms into halves, and chop the asparagus and baby corn into small lengths. Set aside.
  2. Grate the cheese and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta until almost cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside covered with a lid to keep warm. (I pour boiling water over to rinse through as I drain in a colander to prevent sticking)
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the tuna for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms, asparagus and corn. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to brown, but still crisp and quite firm.
  5. Pour in about half of the cream and add the tarragon and seasoning. Stir and allow to cook for a minute or so to coat the other ingredients.
  6. Add the rest of the cream and the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has fully melted.
  7. Add the pasta to the mix and stir fully.
  8. Heat through, stirring intermittently. This will allow the pasta to finish cooking and blend the flavours through the dish.
  9. Serve with a sprig of tarragon and some grated parmesan.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Fruity Crumble Shortbread Traybake

I love the incredible access we have to fruit and vegetables from all over the world. If there is one thing that globalisation has achieved for the kitchen, it is variety! One of the things I love about travel is the opportunity to try new foods, but increasingly they are available in the local supermarket (albeit not as fresh or exciting as having them in the place where they were produced). Either way, I love to experiment with different (and sometimes unusual) combinations of fresh fruit and find that some of the flavours and textures achieved can be surprising, delightful and quite a tease all at the same time.

Last weekend, I needed to make a batch of 'fruit shortbread' to send with my daughter for her gluten free school lunch. I often make a shortbread base with a fruit crumble topping and as we are just coming into English strawberry season, I thought it would be a nice idea to use some. Wandering round the supermarket, I saw some particularly tempting pineapples and mangos, so decided I would mix them up into a fruity 'goo' for the middle layer of the pud. My daughter loves pineapple, so it seemed a good option and as it has a firm 'bite', I thought it would combine nicely with the softness of the mango and strawberry.

Weirdly, once I had made a jammy mix out of the three fruits, it tasted decidedly like rhubarb........... even the colour matched......... It had a delicious tang (which I didn't expect) and tasted perfect against the sweet melting shortbread base and the crunchy, oaty crumble topping. So I had to share it with you, because I will definitely be making it again! It was a hit with the whole family, so I am not sure how much will be left for school.........

You can try any combination of fruit (local or global) for this recipe. I often use apples, raspberries, blackberries and cherries, especially when in season, and throw in the odd mango, pineapple, melon, lychee, rhubarb, passion fruit, kiwi fruit or anything else that takes my fancy. Mostly, the flavours work........... occasionally they don't................ but it is great fun, and very therapeutic, chopping, mixing, tasting and seeing what you end up with.

I have given recipes below for 2 combinations - Pineapple, mango and strawberry. And apple and raspberry. Both are yum!

You can adjust both the consistency of the fruit filling and the texture of the crumble to your preference (to make it either more of a hand-held pudding or an eat out of a bowl with custard or ice-cream pudding). Either way, it tastes great.........

Shortbread Base

120g unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
90g cornflour
90g white gluten free flour blend (I use Mix A from this post)
60g caster sugar
20g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon vanilla essence


  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4 and base line an 8 inch/20 cm square (approx. 2 inch/5 cm deep), non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and combine all the dry ingredients (not the butter and vanilla) in a food processor and blend for a few seconds until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Add the butter and vanilla extract and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together.
  4. Tip the dough mix into the cake tin and push down firmly and evenly so that it forms a firm biscuit base covering.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes until beginning to turn golden brown. Then remove from the oven and set aside.
(If you do not have a food processor, rub the butter into the flours, then add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly by hand. Squeeze the mixture together with your hands to start the binding process, then continue from step 4 as above)

Pineapple, Mango & Strawberry Filling

1 small pineapple - cored, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 medium mango - peeled, de-stoned and cut into small pieces
200g strawberries - hulled and cut into quarters
25g soft light brown sugar
25g honey
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
(1 teaspoon cornflour to thicken)


  1. Put the pineapple, sugar, honey and spices into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring on medium heat.
  2. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  3. Add the mango and strawberry and continue to simmer until the mixture has reduced to the required gooey jam consistency. If the mixture feels too runny, mix a teaspoon of cornflour with a tiny amount of water and stir into the fruit mix until it thickens slightly.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you are ready to put the whole thing together.

Alternative Apple & Raspberry Filling 

350g cooking apples (peeled and cored weight) - chopped into small pieces 
150g raspberries
50g soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple sauce
1 ½ tablespoons apple or pineapple juice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Put all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil gradually, stirring on medium heat.
  2. Simmer, stirring intermittently, until the mixture has reduced to the required gooey, jam consistency.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you are ready to put the whole thing together.

Oaty Crumble Topping    

100g unsalted butter - chilled and cut into small pieces
120g gluten free oat flour (make your own as in this post
90g gluten free oats
40g caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
runny honey (to drizzle over the crumble top) - optional



  1. Rub the butter into the oat flour and oats until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the sugars and stir thoroughly until evenly mixed.
  3. Squeeze together lightly with your finger tips until you have a slightly clumpy mixture.

 Putting it all together     

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4.
  2. Spread the fruit mixture over the shortbread base evenly.
  3. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit layer.
  4. If you are using, drizzle a little honey over the crumble topping. This helps to give a golden, sweet finish to the bake.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares, or eat as a hot pudding, served with custard, cream or ice cream.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Seasonal English Quiche - Asparagus & Stilton

Every year around the month of May in Kent, dozens of hand-made signs spring up on country lanes, main roads, at junctions and farms, proclaiming the Asparagus season has arrived.

I love the delicate, fragrant, tender stalks of luxury and always wait eagerly for the opportunity to buy bunches which are freshly picked and locally grown. We do our best to resist any temptation to buy foreign imports and although the English season is very short, we think it is worth holding on for the superior taste of our English crop. It also helps to support our local farmers.

Asparagus always strikes me as a very English vegetable, although originally is appears to have been grown in southern Europe and beyond. It is prized for its delicate taste, but it is also low in calories, has plenty of fibre and is packed full of vitamins and minerals. In the UK, it even demands its very own festival!

This year due to the cold weather and lateness of Spring, the Asparagus has been delayed and sadly, seems much diminished. The local producers have been struggling for the loss of their prized crop, which makes it even more important to support them ....... and I intend to munch as much as I can over the next month or so.......... 

A different, but still very English product is Stilton. - A traditional blue cheese made in the UK since the 18th Century. Often snapped up by visiting tourists as a taste of England to take home with them, it is known for its distinctive strong smell and taste. It has a slightly knobbly, creamy texture and a musty, deep flavour which sits beautifully against the subtly sweet, slightly firm bite of tender Asparagus tips.

You can combine the two by simply baking Asparagus (brushed with olive oil) sprinkled with Stilton in the oven. And in quiche, when mixed together, they add an alternative dimension of seasonal luxury for a delicious late spring lunch.

Pastry Base - Follow recipe for Rice & Almond Shortcrust Pastry from previous post via this link.

Asparagus & Stilton Filling

130g Stilton cheese (if you do not have Stilton, then use an alternative strong blue cheese)
200g Asparagus tips
a drizzle of olive oil
250ml double cream
50ml milk
3 large eggs
salt & pepper to season


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4.
  2. Crumble the blue cheese into small pieces and set aside.
  3. Cut the Asparagus tips into lengths of about 2 centimetres (stalks only), and leave the flowery tips whole. Reserve 2-3 full length tips to decorate the top of the quiche.
  4. Put a little drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan and gently sauté the cut Asparagus over a high heat for a couple of minutes to seal in the flavour and soften slightly.
  5. When this process is complete, remove from the pan and set aside and do the same with the reserved whole Asparagus tips.
  6. Beat the eggs, cream, milk and seasoning together in a bowl until well combined, light and airy.
  7. When your pastry cases are cooked and ready, sprinkle the blue cheese and cut Asparagus pieces evenly over the base.
  8. Ensure your pastry base and tin are placed on a separate baking tray (in case of any leaks during cooking) and pour the egg-cream mixture over the top until the case is almost full.
  9. Decorate by placing the remaining full Asparagus tips across the top and bake in the oven immediately for about 30 minutes until the top is set and there is no 'wobble' to the wet mixture.
  10. Eat hot, warm or cool and take on a picnic.....

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Layered Berry Pavlova

Whenever I have left over egg whites I take the opportunity to make meringues. They are great for several reasons - Firstly they use up the egg whites which otherwise would probably go to waste in our house. Secondly, the meringues keep for ages, which means you have them ready for a party-piece of a quick pudding when someone comes to stay. Thirdly, they are naturally gluten free. And fourthly, they taste fantastic when dressed with fruit and cream or can be used crushed and sprinkled into smoothies, sundaes and other puddings.

Last weekend, I suddenly remembered that I had some meringue discs which I had carefully wrapped in cling film and stored in an airtight container on top of a cupboard. They had been there for some weeks (or was that months?). I have no idea why I had forgotten them, but with my sudden recollection of memory, I decided they had to be used.......

As luck would have it, I also happened to have a load of fresh berries and double cream in the fridge and that could only mean one thing,.......... Pavlova!

If you have your meringues already made, Pavlova is a really quick pudding which cannot fail to impress with its amazing contrast of zingy colourful fruit against sweet crunchy, melt-in-the-mouth meringue, and rich, decadent pillows of cream. You can use any combination of soft fruits, but I prefer to use ones which have a sharper tang to off-set the sugary sweetness of the meringue. Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries work really well and together, have such an amazing colour combination that they look incredible against the pale cream and meringue.

Although now a distant memory (the Pavlova has been devoured and the plate washed and put away), I thought I would share this one with you as it was thoroughly delicious. I used  (as I always do if I am intending to store meringue), a basic 'meringue suisse' recipe which dates back to my school days, as this tends to last longer in storage and holds its crispness better when smothered with fruit and cream.

As I found that I had discs of meringue rather than a traditional Pavlova 'basket' shape, I decided to create a layered pavlova, which resulted in an enormous mound of pudding................. nonetheless quick to disappear!

I made a fruit compote (from this post) to swirl into the cream, so that each layer had an additional fruity dimension. Then I topped with a drizzle of raspberry sauce for extra zing.



4 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 150⁰ C / 300⁰ F / Gas 2 
  2. Prepare trays with baking paper for spreading the meringue mixture into your chosen shapes.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until very stiff and dry.
  4. When stiff enough, add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition.
  5. Finally, whisk in the cornflour and vanilla extract. The meringue mix should be glossy and form soft peaks.
  6. Use immediately to make into discs, baskets, shells, etc
  7. Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 120⁰ C / 250⁰ F / Gas 1/2
  8. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until firm and dry. Check from time to time and if there is any indication of browning, turn the oven down a little further until firm and dry.
  9. Turn off the oven leaving the meringues in there until the oven has completely cooled. Then remove the meringues and either wrap and store in an airtight container,  or use immediately.

Raspberry Sauce (taken from Artisanal Gluten Free Cupcakes (2011) - Kelli & Peter Bronski)


80ml cool water 
1 ½ teaspoons cornflour
65g caster sugar
110g raspberries (fresh or frozen)


  1. Mix the water and cornflour together in a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar and raspberries and heat until the mixture comes to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is clear and slightly thickened.
  4. Remove from the heat. Use an immersion or standard blender to puree the mixture until smooth.
  5. Strain the blended sauce through a sieve to remove all the seeds.
  6. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Putting it all together

You will need :    
  • Prepared meringues
  • 1 portion of berry compote (from this post)
  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 portion of raspberry sauce
  • A handful of fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries (hulled and cut into quarters), blueberries) to top the Pavlova


  1. Whip the double cream with a whisk until it has a soft dropping consistency and leaves a trail.
  2. Gently fold in the compote with the cream so that it has a swirled (not fully mixed) effect.
  3. Place your first meringue layer onto a serving plate and generously dollop and spread a layer of the cream-compote mix on top.
  4. Top with another meringue layer followed by cream and repeat until you have used all your meringue layers (I had three), ending with a layer of cream.
  5. Generously pile some fresh berries in the centre of your Pavlova.
  6. Drizzle raspberry sauce over the top and enjoy!

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Oat Choc Chunk Cookies

This week it is Coeliac Awareness Week which runs from the 13th to 19th May 2013. Awareness week is centred around raising the awareness and understanding of Coeliac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), - autoimmune conditions which are often genetically linked, the ill-effects of which are triggered by eating gluten containing ingredients (wheat, barley and rye). The chances are that even if you do not have a diagnosis, you know someone who does have to live with one of these conditions, which means they have to avoid gluten in their diet.

Each year Coeliac UK dedicate a week to high profile campaigning on a particular aspect of Coeliac Disease. This year the campaign has been named 'Gut Feeling Awareness Week' and is focussed on  improving the diagnosis of Coeliac Disease and helping to find the estimated half a million people who have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed.

We were lucky...... really lucky. We have a fantastic GP who is obviously knowledgeable about the condition and when we first took my daughter to see her because she was having the very typical and non-descript childhood complaint of 'stomach aches', we were asked just a couple of further questions about symptoms before being sent for a diagnostic blood test. One of those questions was about 'whether there was anyone in the family who we knew to have Coeliac disease?' My father had, but it never crossed my mind that it was genetic or that it might reappear somewhere else in the family. When the blood test came back positive for the offending anti-body, we were surprised, but grateful to the alertness and awareness of our GP. I know people who have children who have suffered terribly and are still struggling to receive a formal diagnosis and adults with symptoms which indicate they could well be in that half a million, but have not been referred for a screen. For us, diagnosis was astute and efficient.

As a family we have embraced eating gluten free whole-heartedly. We have no gluten in our cupboards and do everything we can to ensure life is as normal as possible. We don't feel deprived of any particular food, as there is almost always a way to create an alternative without gluten. If it isn't obviously available, then I set about finding a way around the problem.

My daughter sees her Coeliac status as a bit of a virtue and she is very confident (at just 7) in telling people why she can't eat gluten. She already knows how to read food labels and has no hesitation in asking shopkeepers if she can do so before she buys an ice-cream or a bag of crisps. She never complains and accepts that this is her normality. I am really very proud of her!

One of the things I do for my daughter is to provide puddings to go with her school dinners......... Yes, we have been incredibly lucky there too and have school kitchen staff who work with us to adapt the lunch menu and let me wander freely round their larders checking their labels and reading their recipes. Sometimes there are cookies on the menu. The recipe below is one of the favourites that I send in with her.............

It does contain oats, to which some people with coeliac have an additional sensitivity. Even if they don't, it is always important to make sure gluten free oats are used to avoid cross-contamination risk from other gluten containing crops grown or milled in the same space.

This recipe mix has been through a number of adaptations over the last few months, but we are all now happy with the balance of creamy oatiness alongside smooth sweet chocolate and biscuit bite. These cookies need no dressing up. They are delicious just as they are.

Ingredients (makes about 22 cookies)

100g GF oat flour (instructions on how to make in this post)
90g GF oats
60g tapioca flour
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
135g butter (room temperature)
120g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg (room temperature)
100g dark chocolate chunks/chips
100g white chocolate chunks/chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4
  2. Line 2 to 3 baking trays with baking paper (or if you only have one, you can batch-bake the cookies).
  3. Weigh and mix the oat flour, oats, tapioca flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until light in texture and well mixed.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and using a wooden or silicone spoon, stir together firmly until fully combined and the dry ingredients have become moist. 
  6. Add the chocolate chunks/chips and stir again until fully and evenly combined.
  7. Divide the mixture into small balls either by hand, or I prefer to use a cake pop scoop (as this results in cookies which are more even in size and shape). Place each ball on the baking sheet leaving space between for them to spread in the oven.
  8. Using your hand, gently flatten each dough ball slightly to form a disk about 1 cm thick.
  9. Bake for about 15 minutes until the cookies are pale golden on top and beginning to darken around the edges.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes on the trays before transferring to a wire rack.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Indian Flat Breads - gluten free

I love India. The colours, aromas, people, city chaos contrasting with rural peace, subtly spiced food and all that is different really excite me.

I had the best curries ever in the little back street restaurants of Mumbai and Hospet and in the really cheap beach huts of Goa. The incredible variety of spices, each distinguishable from the next as they hit the tongue from a single dish. How do they do that without the flavours all getting mixed up together? Amazing!

I have never had that same taste-bud awakening experience in England. I have no idea why. Perhaps England just lacks the weather or the thrill of 'being there'. Perhaps the spices aren't so fresh. Perhaps I can't afford a good enough restaurant........

Indian food is generally one of the safer restaurant options when you are eating gluten free. The curries are often thickened with coconut milk and yoghurt and the papadums are usually made with gram (chickpea) flour. With rice as the most likely accompaniment, the chances are there is something you can eat on the menu. Except the bread......

Before going gluten free, I loved being able to dollop spoonfuls of curry into a chapati or dip naan bread into my raita and saag paneer. So trying to make a good gluten free alternative became a bit of a priority.
I have struggled to find a good gluten free, easy to make recipe, so figured I had to create one myself. It has taken many attempts and trying to create a flat bread which is pliable enough not to crack as soon as you wrap it, and is still plain enough to suit Indian cuisine has not been easy. But I think I have finally achieved a formula which works and tastes good too.

Near where I live, we have a great takeaway Curry Hut called the Chai Stop. All their curries are gluten free and taste infinitely better than the usual local takeaway. We usually buy a few for the freezer, ready for those warm nights in front of the fire.

This flat bread recipe is really quick and easy so we always knock up a few to go with our meal. I can never roll out mine perfectly enough to get them 'round', but they taste great and it is always good to have them home-made and fresh.

Indian Flat Breads


125g potato starch (flour)
60g gram flour
45g brown rice flour
25g tapioca flour
½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ tablespoons sunflower oil
130ml lukewarm water


  1. Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum, salt, and bicarbonate of soda in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and warm water.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together with a flat knife until fully combined.
  4. With lightly floured hands, knead the mixture until smooth and pliable.
  5. Cover with cling-film or a clean damp cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
  6. Divide and roll the mixture (using your hands) into 10 to 12 dough balls, making sure they are kept covered with cling film or a damp cloth when you set them aside, to prevent them from drying out.
  7. Roll each dough ball out between two sheets of baking paper or on a lightly floured (use just a dusting of rice flour) board with a floured rolling pin, to about 2mm thickness.
  8. Use a large flat bottomed frying pan or skillet, and heat empty until very hot.
  9. Place each flat bread in the centre of the pan to cook, one at a time. 
  10. When the uncooked side of the bread develops lots of air bubbles, turn the bread over using tongs or a spatula and cook the other side. The bread should puff up as it cooks.
  11. Adjust the temperature of the pan if the flat breads are cooking either too fast or too slow. If you find that any flour used to roll the breads gets left behind in the pan and starts to burn, carefully use a handful of dry kitchen roll or a clean dry cloth to wipe out the pan (being really careful not to burn yourself).
  12. I usually cook my flat breads until they are nicely puffed up, with a few small charred patches as this adds to the flavour. Set aside on a wooden board or plate and cover with a clean dry tea towel to keep warm until ready to eat.

 Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated