Thursday, 30 January 2014

Strawberry & White Chocolate Hearts (gluten free biscuits for Valentine's Day)

Valentine's day is coming close and although I find the whole thing a bit of a commercial rip off, the sentiment is there. As I love anything heart-shaped, it is always a good excuse to make a load of pretty things and I have a good selection of heart-shaped cutters, tins and sprinkles to help me.

Interestingly, Valentine's day has its roots in the Christian Church and is linked to stories about the martyrdom of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. In particular, one of them (a young priest in third century Rome) was executed for marrying young couples secretly at a time when marriage had been banned by the Emperor Claudius.

Valentine's day appears to have become more significantly associated with the modern notion of expressing romantic love in the Middle Ages when young lovers started to demonstrate their love for one another by presenting flowers, confectionary and greetings cards. These days, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion cards are sent each year, which seems like a winner if you're in the card trade! Heaven knows how much money is spent on flowers and other gifts……..

Pink and Red are the colours of the day - pink apparently symbolising love and care and red symbolising passion.

Personally, I am more than happy to ditch the commercialism of it all and show my love through something home-made and edible. These heart biscuits are perfect. Not only are they the most beautiful dusky pink colour, but their amazingly deep strawberry flavour is totally natural, coming only from the freeze dried strawberry powder they contain.

They are crisp, sweet (but not over-sugary) and are decadently dipped in white chocolate which makes them extra special and nicely off-sets the fruity-sharpness of the strawberry. But beware…… they are incredibly moreish……… and they may all be devoured long before they reach the intended recipient (especially if you have a little person in the family)!

February's Tea Time Treats may be predictably 'Chocolate' in celebration of all the love, but who cares about 'predictability'? Chocolate is always good by me, definitely where it's at for Valentine's and the white chocolate on these delicious Strawberry Hearts means they also qualify perfectly as my entry for the challenge this month. Don't forget to check out the host blogs - Lavender & Lovage and The Hedge Combers, who do such a fantastic job in getting us to produce and share our decadent delights........

They are also spot-on as my entry for February's Biscuit Barrel Challenge being hosted by Laura over at 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than...', who has further decreed this as the month to blog 'chocolate'. Perfect Laura! Any excuse will do for me............

Strawberry & White Chocolate Biscuits


30g white rice flour
60g corn flour
30g potato flour
60g tapioca flour
20g sorghum flour
120g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
50g icing sugar
30g caster sugar
20g ground freeze dried strawberry powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
150g white chocolate
sprinkles to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
  2. In a large bowl, weigh and mix the flours, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add and stir in the sugars and strawberry powder.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and milk (a little at a time) and using a flat knife or the back of a silicone spoon, gradually bring the ingredients together to form a firm dough.
  6. Knead the dough by hand to ensure it is fully combined.
  7. Using a sprinkling of either corn flour or rice flour on both your rolling surface and the rolling pin to prevent sticking, roll the dough out to a thickness of about ½ cm.
  8. Cut the dough using a cookie cutter into your chosen shapes and place onto baking trays lined with baking paper.
  9. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges of the cookies are just beginning to darken. Be very careful not to over-cook and check frequently during the cooking process, swapping and turning the trays around in the oven to ensure an even bake.
  10. When cooked, turn off the oven and open the oven door for a few minutes to allow to cool slightly. Leave the biscuits in the oven to allow to dry out as the oven cools. Check very frequently at the start of this process to make sure that the biscuits are not continuing to brown (if you are concerned, leave the oven door open for a little longer).
  11. When the oven has almost cooled, remove the biscuits to a wire tray.
  12. To make the chocolate coating, melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl either stirring over a gently simmering pan of water or in the microwave (on 30 second bursts, medium setting, stirring between each).
  13. Once melted, half dip each biscuit in the chocolate and carefully place on a clean sheet of baking paper to allow to cool and set at room temperature. Whilst the chocolate is still wet, add your favourite sprinkles to decorate.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Home-Made White Bread Rolls - gluten free, dairy free and yet just like I remember!

Do you remember the first time you made bread? I was at secondary school and it was pretty much standard that you had to do bread week in cookery as a 'staple' skill. We were taught all about the properties of yeast and the importance of good kneading to get good bread. The instructions were to think of something that made you feel really angry and take it out on the dough by kneading as hard as you could. Not just a cookery lesson, but therapy as well………..

I got an 'A' for my bread which was only matched by the boy who's parents ran the local bakers. Either I was a natural or very angry!

The bread we made was white….. shaped into lovely round rolls which were soft and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside. They smelt amazing from the point of adding the yeast to being devoured warm, by our hungry class. From that point on, making bread by hand (although not a frequent event) was nostalgic, therapeutic and something to be relished.

These days, being gluten free has made kneading dough a thing of the past. Gluten free bread is not something that requires kneading (there being no gluten to develop), and good gluten free bread can be pretty elusive. Yet it is something that I now have to make lots of, so I am always striving to develop better and get closer to the bread I remember eating when I had no dietary cares.

Those of you out there who don't experience gluten intolerance may not understand what it means to give up normal bread, but it was hard…… really hard! Something which is so much a part of every day life, from sandwiches to dinner rolls, pizza bases to breakfast toast, burger buns and hot dogs to baguettes for lunch………….. suddenly all of that changes. And then you are searching…… trying to find the brand or the bake to fill that empty hole.

The rolls in this post are the result of a process which has gone through several prototypes, lots of flour tweaking and three alternative measurements of yeast. But I am as proud of them as I was when I got that 'A'. These rolls actually taste like bread……. Real bread! The type that I used to eat in the days when gluten was fine and I could eat 'normal' bread in abundance. Really!

I am now making a couple of batches a week, because not only are they great for lunch, but I can make them long enough to fit sausages, and my daughter is thrilled that she can now have a decent hot dog. The flavour is quite neutral (as white bread should be), so goes well topped with just about anything. The texture is soft and quite airy on the inside, but with a nice crusty edge. The smell of them when cooking and the taste when eaten, takes me straight back to that class room…………... fresh baked bread……..

I reckon that as white bread goes, they are also pretty healthy! A good blend of flours with some almonds thrown in for good measure……….. a little olive oil and dairy as well as gluten free. Give them a go………. you might be pleasantly surprised…………….

White Bread Rolls


120g tapioca flour
70g white rice flour
90g potato flour
70g cornflour
60g fine ground polenta
60g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
21g easy bake yeast (I used Allinsons)
355 ml warm water (hand temperature)
1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Get ready a couple of baking sheets - lining them with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and mix together in a large bowl all the flours, polenta, almonds, xanthan gum and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, weigh the yeast and sugar.
  4. Measure the water into a jug, checking the temperature is hand-warm.
  5. Pour the water onto the yeast and sugar and whisk until combined and bubbly. Leave for about 10 minutes to allow to ferment.
  6. Add the olive oil to the dry ingredients and then add the yeast mixture.
  7. Mix and bring together the dough using either a flat knife or the back of a silicone spoon. Continue to gently 'knead' using the knife/spoon until smooth and evenly combined. The mixture should be a thick dough consistency which holds its shape yet drops off the spoon.
  8. Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet and using either the back of a silicone spoon or dampen an ordinary spoon, shape the dough mounds into roll shapes. You can make these slightly larger, long, round or any other shape you fancy.
  9. Place the tray in a warm place, cover with a clean cloth and leave the rolls to rise for about 45 minutes.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  11. When well-risen, glaze the rolls with a wash of milk or egg using a pastry brush.
  12. Bake the rolls for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
  13. When cooked, cool the rolls on a wire rack.
  14. If you plan to freeze any, do this as soon as they are cold to keep them as fresh as possible.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Raspberry Meringue Pie with Lime & Pistachio Pastry - gluten free

These are simply divine! No other description will suffice. A twist on an old favourite from my childhood - lemon meringue pie, but brought into the 21st century, de-glutenised and made so much better.

Ok…. I made them and maybe I am biased (just a tiny bit) but really, they are one of the best desserts I have ever made. Even my husband (who is usually a trifle man) called them 'one of my triumphs'. High praise indeed!

The raspberry filling is soft, moussey, rich with raspberry, delightfully tangy with a wonderful hint of lime and is the most beautiful colour! The pastry is crisp, deep with the pistachio, slightly tart with the lime zest (which smells totally amazing and hits you instantly as you open the oven door) but sweetly balanced with caramelly brown sugar. And all this is topped with a light, pillowy, sugar-sweet meringue - crisp on the outside and oh so melt-in-the-mouth on the inside.

Have I convinced you yet? This really is one to try! Savour every mouthful….. it will be gone way too soon………..

Sadly, it was an absolute pig to photograph and I don't think the pictures do it justice. Maybe it is the time of year and the poor light. More likely it was my impatience in desperately wanting to eat it as quickly as possible. Either way, I hope they give you enough of a sense of just how delicious this is.

Because of the significant and varied use of egg in this recipe (which is this month's theme), I have decided to share it as my second offering to January's Tea Time Treats Challenge hosted by Janie over at Hedge Combers and Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

There are no less than 4 eggs in this recipe - all large and all free range. One whole egg is used in the pastry to help it bind. 3 egg yolks add richness to the filling and help it to set. And the 3 remaining whites are whipped furiously to make that delicious meringue which tops the pie and hides the magic within!

Decadent, glorious………. gone! Need I say more?

Raspberry Meringue Pie with Lime & Pistachio Pastry (makes one large or several smaller pies)

Lime & Pistachio Pastry 


130g brown rice flour
60g corn flour
40g finely ground pistachio nuts
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
110g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
60g soft light brown sugar
grated zest of 1 lime
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cold water


  1. Get ready your pie tin(s).
  2. Weigh and mix the flours, ground pistachio, xanthan gum and salt in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add and stir in the lime zest and sugar.
  5. Lightly beat the egg with the water and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix with a flat knife until it comes together as a dough.
  6. Dust your hands with corn flour and gently knead the dough to ensure it is evenly blended.
  7. Using a floured surface and a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of about 2mm.
  8. Line the pie tins with the pastry straight away (do not chill) and carefully trim the edges with a sharp knife. 
  9. Now chill the pastry in the fridge for about half an hour to allow to rest.
  10. Whilst chilling, pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  11. Line the pastry cases with baking paper and fill with baking beans. 
  12. Blind bake for 10 minutes with the baking beans and then remove the beans and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the pastry is golden.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  14. Once cold, remove the pastry cases from the tins.

Raspberry Filling


530g fresh or frozen raspberries (makes about 460 ml puree)
juice of 1 lime
70g golden caster sugar
30g corn flour
3 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
40g unsalted butter


  1. Puree the raspberries with the lime juice in a liquidizer and then sieve to remove the pips. You should now have about 460 ml puree. 
  2. Mix the raspberry puree with the sugar in a large saucepan.
  3. Mix the corn flour with a little water in a small bowl to make a paste and then stir this into the raspberry-sugar liquid.
  4. Heat gently, stirring continually until the mixture comes to a simmer. Continue to stir over a low heat for about a minute until the mixture thickens.
  5. Remove from the heat and cool very slightly. 
  6. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time using an electric whisk and then beat in the butter.
  7. Spoon the filling into the pastry cases and smooth the surface.
  8. Chill for at least 30 minutes to allow the filling to set.

Meringue Topping


3 large egg whites                
150g caster sugar


  1. Whilst you are making the meringue, pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and place the baking tray that you intend to cook the pies on in the oven to heat up.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
  3. Gradually add the sugar a little at a time continuing to whisk until the meringue has reached a stiff, glossy appearance. 
  4. Spread and pile the meringue onto the raspberry tarts, making sure it reaches the edges to seal.
  5. Carefully remove the hot baking tray from the oven and place the tarts onto it. 
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes in the middle of the oven until the meringue surface is golden brown and crisp. Check frequently to make sure it is not burning and turn the oven down slightly if you are concerned.
  7. Eat warm or cold. Delicious with cream!

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot (and other vegetables) - gluten free

It is always a battle getting my daughter to eat vegetables. Whilst there are some she will eat willingly (sweetcorn, green beans, broccoli and (strangely) sprouts) and others she will just about tolerate (an occasional mushroom, a bit of onion….), for the most part she just won't touch them. Unless, of course, they are hidden. I am sure she is not unusual in her refusal to entertain most things good for her, but as parents, we worry and try to find ways and means to ensure her consumption of the full range of vitamins and minerals, fruit and veg wherever we can.

My daughter insists she hates tomatoes…… We cook them, squish them, sieve them, puree them and she eats them in abundance. Bolognaise, chilli con carne, tortilla stack, pies, soups, the list is endless. It is quite amazing how many of her favourite dishes contain vast amounts of the tomatoes she so detests!

And carrots? Chop them up small enough and they can be hidden in any variety of meals! In fact, chop any vegetable, herb or fruit into tiny bits and you can conceal it just about anywhere……. Trust me, most of the time, they won't even know they have eaten it and you can be sure it will be doing its good without any sign of protest.

The fact that my daughter enjoys anything with minced beef is a major bonus……. it being the perfect ingredient to camouflage lots of things she says she doesn't like.

This pie is one of my daughter's most favourite meals. I quote : 'Mummy….. I love, love, LOVE this pie…..when can we have it again?' It is also one of my favourite dishes in which to hide the 'evil carrot' (my daughter's description, not mine!). It also contains a goodly quantity of parsley, onion, garlic, sweetcorn and tomato, which (alongside the rest of the ingredients) makes it a pretty healthy meal for a growing eight year old.

The pastry I use is my lovely gluten free almond pastry, which in itself is pretty nutritious (as pastry goes). It is crisp and flavourful and pretty versatile. I use it for a whole number of dishes, adding sugar when I need a sweeter base, but also freeze-dried fruit and other flavourings when I want something a bit different.

The filling is made with a lovely moist, but not wet consistency so that the pie doesn't sog and can be eaten hot or cold. The flavour is rich, beefy, tomatoey, slightly sweet from the carrot, onion, garlic, sweetcorn and honey, but with a depth of flavour drawn from the seasoning, herbs and soy (which must be checked for gluten-free status). All encased in a crisp almond pastry………….. delicious!

We love this pie so much, I am sharing it with this month's Family Foodies challenge being hosted by Vanesther over at Bangers & Mash (co-hosted with Louise at Eat Your Veg). The theme for January is 'hidden goodies' - dedicated to all those parents of fussy eaters and our attempts to ensure a balanced diet. This pie is definitely a winner on all scores in our house.

Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot - gluten free

Ingredients - Pastry   

195g brown rice flour
75g corn flour
60g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
165g butter (cold)
2 medium eggs (lightly beaten)
approx 1 tablespoon cold water


Make the pastry as shown in the method from this post. Make the filling for the pie before you make the pastry to allow time to cool.

Ingredients - filling

500g lean beef steak mince
1 large onion - finely chopped
1 large carrot - finely chopped
1 clove garlic - crushed
1 small tin (142g) concentrated tomato puree
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon gluten free shoyu soy sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
3 large handfuls sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen)
100 ml water
Salt & pepper to season


  1. Make the filling for the pie first, so that it has time to cool before being put in the pastry.
  2. Finely chop and gently fry the onion, carrot and garlic together in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat, until soft.
  3. Add the beef mince and continue to fry gently until the mince has browned.
  4. Continue to cook whilst you add the tomato puree, honey and GF soy sauce. Stir through until completely combined. 
  5. Add the water and stir until the mix is simmering.
  6. Add the sweetcorn and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir through and continue to simmer gently (stirring occasionally) for a further 10 minutes to complete the cooking process. The filling should be moist, but without excess liquid. If it seems too dry, add a little more water and stir through. If it seems too wet, allow to simmer for a little longer, stirring until the excess liquid has steamed-off. 
  7. Once cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool as quickly as possible (leave the pan lid off and stir frequently). 
  8. Whilst the filling is cooling, make the pastry. Cut off about two thirds of the pastry dough and use immediately (without chilling) to roll and line a 9 inch/23 cm round pie tin. Do not cook.
  9. Once cool, spoon the filling into the pie base and roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid. Make sure you moisten the underside edges of the lid and the top edge of the pastry base with milk, beaten egg or cold water where they will join, so that the edges stick together.
  10. Trim and pinch the edges together to seal. 
  11. Decorate as you wish. Brush with an egg-wash or cold milk to glaze. (If you wish to freeze the pie, do so at this stage before cooking). If you are cooking the pie later, leave to chill in the fridge until you are ready to use. It is worth allowing to chill for half an hour anyway as this helps the pastry to rest and prevents shrinkage.
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown on top. 
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Lemon, Cherry & Basil Muffins - gluten free

These are so exciting, I have to share them with you!

I had a hankering for some muffins this week, but wanted to try doing something a bit different. I haven't made anything lemony for ages, but with all the recent seasonal binging, really fancied the fresh, light, clean flavour and aroma that lemon adds to any dish.

I didn't want to make just lemon muffins though. No matter how lovely lemon is, it sounded a bit uninteresting as a single ingredient and I thought it would be good to have a sweeter fruit to offset the acidity of the lemon. Being the new year (and starting to look forward to the spring), I have been reminding myself of the contents of my freezer in an attempt to start planning dishes to use up the remains of last year's frozen goodies and make way for the new season. Remember the mountain of cherries I got from the orchards last summer (carefully pitted and frozen for the winter months)? Well, I still have a load left…... Yay!!

So cherries it is………. They sit perfectly alongside lemon, add a wonderful sweet, fruity reminder of warm summer days and look so inviting poking through the sides of the muffin sponge.

Then I got to thinking 'lemon and basil is a great combination. I wonder whether it would work with lemon & cherry?' I have never put basil in a cake before, but it sounded like it might work and I love to experiment, so why not give it a go? There seems to have been quite a big shift in recent months towards using herbs in sweet cooking. All herbs seem fair game for exploration, but lavender, rosemary, thyme and basil seem to be particularly common. And why not? It seems there are no limits for the use of these garden culinary treasures and we seem to have an insatiable desire to discover new food experiences.

And so, my Lemon, Cherry & Basil muffins have come to be…………… and what a find they are! These are probably the nicest muffins I have had in years. Not only is the sponge a wonderful moist texture, but the flavours are pretty unique and quite delicious. A good lemony base, through which is threaded a notable hint of complimentary basil, dotted with sweet, moist, fruity cherry pieces, all topped with a sharp, tangy lemon icing.

They taste lovely without the icing too and I think this way would make a delicious, fresh breakfast cake - warm or cold. The addition of a good quantity of ground almonds to the mix gives them a wholesome, extra healthy bite and makes them that little bit extra filling to get you through until lunch.

I am SO excited about this recipe (not sure they will last the day the way I am eating them), that I have decided to share it with three challenges this month :

January's Tea Time Treats - hosted by Janie over at the Hedge Combers. Janie has just taken up the Tea Time Treats baton and is hosting her very first Tea Time Treats party this month. Welcome Janie! Tea Time Treats (which is co-hosted by Karen from Lavender & Lovage) has challenged us this month to use eggs. This recipe has three of them - all large and all free-range!

I am very lucky, as my daughter's child minder has parents who have a free-range egg farm. I really do know where my eggs have come from and how fresh they are………….. which is a good thing………. Gluten free baking tends to require the use of more eggs than most traditional baking as the flours are often more absorbent and need a higher level of liquid to prevent a dry, crumbly result.

This month's Alphabakes being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (co-hosted by Caroline Makes). January's letter has come up as 'Y'. Tricky one! I have gone for 'yellow' as my link to 'Y' to celebrate the beautiful yellow lemon contained within my muffins as a key flavour ingredient, without which they would not be……….

And finally, the No Waste Food Challenge, hosted at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, on account of my need to use up all those wonderful cherries, lovingly saved and frozen straight from the orchard last summer and lurking at the back of freezer, hoping to be enjoyed before the next harvest arrives. I also used the recipe to finish off some buttermilk which was reaching its 'use by' date. I am really not good with half-used pots of cultured milks and creams. They are probably the one thing I am most guilty of throwing away. Muffins are always perfect for using up buttermilk!

Anyway, these little beauties are definitely worth making. And now I have taken the risk in trying herbs in sweet stuff, the possibilities are endless…………….. Watch this space!

Lemon, Cherry & Basil Muffins - gluten free


180g plain gluten free flour mix (I used mix B from this post)
120g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
150g unsalted butter - room temperature
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons lemon extract
finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
175 ml buttermilk
150g cherries (fresh or frozen) - pitted and cut into small pieces

Icing :
Approx 100g icing sugar
lemon juice
a little lemon zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. 
  2. Either line a muffin pan with muffin cases or lightly oil the muffin pan (if it is not non-stick).
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time until completely blended.
  6. Add and beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts, lemon zest and chopped basil.
  7. Fold in the flour mix alternately with the butter milk about a third at a time, until just combined. 
  8. Finally, fold in the fruit very gently, being careful not to over-mix.
  9. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin/cases and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
  10. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and the tops spring back to the touch.
  11. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
  12. To make the icing, mix lemon juice a little at a time with the icing sugar until it reaches a thick drizzling consistency. 
  13. Drizzle over the muffins and top with a little grated lemon zest for decoration.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Butternut, Quinoa & Pine Nut Patties - gluten free

It is definitely the time of year to pull in the stomach muscles and think healthy. I've long since given up making New Year's resolutions. The sheer guilt and disappointment in myself when I fail to keep them has become too much to bare and just taunts me with how little self-control I possess. But not setting resolutions does not mean that I lack the desire to eat more healthily or take care of my body. I keep my weight (and hopefully my health) in check by following the 5:2 diet and have definitely noticed some positive spin-offs from the weekly 'detox and self-repair' process, - more energy, less back pain, healthier skin, better digestion………….

In between fast days, we generally eat a well-balanced diet, so I don't feel too bad about the treats we fit in alongside. As my mother used to tell me, 'a little of what you fancy does you good', - providing of course it remains 'a little' and does not become 'to excess'.

This week I had another dip into the pages of my new cook book '500 Gluten Free Recipes' by Carol Beckerman and Deb Wheaton and came across a really healthy dish : butternut squash & quinoa patties. Inspired, I decided to make them, although I have made a few changes (I just can't leave things as they are!). I have tried to keep broadly to the recipe, but added roasted pine nuts, sweetcorn and parmesan, took out the cranberries, changed the herbs, used different onions and altered the suggested wild rice to Thai black rice (as I didn't have any wild rice left). I also added a couple of eggs to bind the patties as there was no way I was going to get the mixture to stay moulded without them!

This recipe is so healthy and wholesome that I am making it my entry for this month's Four Season's Food challenge organised by Louisa over at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux. January's theme is seasonally 'Virtuous' and this dish is certainly virtuous in my house!

Made with butternut squash, quinoa, black rice, brown rice and pine nuts, it is full of stuff which is very good for you and tastes absolutely delicious. Full of flavour and very well balanced, it makes a perfect 'stand alone' lunch, a side to accompany a larger meal, a starter or a snack.

I have been taking them into work every day since I made them, with a diddy pot of Harissa Mayo (see next post). These patties are just as good cold as they are hot and there is no guilt attached whatsoever!

The experience? First you get the natural soft sweetness of the butternut squash combined with the roasted earthiness and crunch of the pine nuts. The quinoa and rice make the main texture wholesome and firm but chewy and eaten straight after baking, the edges are crisp from the heat of the oven. There is a slight but distinct bitterness that comes through from the oregano, contrasted by the unmistakable natural sugar-sweetness of the fried onion and sweetcorn and the saltiness of the stock. Truly wonderful!

Although they are a bit of a pfaff to make, they are worth every bit of the process. They will definitely be a regular on my menu!

Butternut, Quinoa & Pine Nut Patties (makes about 16 patties)


1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
200g quinoa
450ml  boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
100g brown basmati rice
50g Thai black rice
1 small red onion (approx 140g) - finely chopped
60g pine nuts
40g sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen)
45g parmesan cheese (grated)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to season
2 large eggs (beaten) to bind


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas 6.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Brush with olive oil and bake for about 1 hour in the oven until soft. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
  3. Whilst the butternut is baking, cook the rice, drain and set aside.
  4. Mix the boiling water with the stock cube and quinoa in a saucepan and bring back to the boil. Allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Set aside.
  5. Put the pine nuts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 8 minutes until nicely browned, then set aside.
  6. Gently fry the chopped onion for about 10 minutes until soft and just beginning to caramelise.
  7. When the butternut has cooled, remove the soft flesh from the skin into a large bowl. Discard the skin and mash the flesh with a fork.
  8. Add the onion, rice, quinoa, pine nuts, sweetcorn, grated parmesan, herbs and seasoning to the squash and mix with a large spoon until evenly combined. 
  9. Add the beaten egg and mix again to combine.
  10. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper and re-heat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas 6 (if it has cooled in between processes).
  11. Place a large spoonful of the mixture in your hands and squeeze gently to mould into a pattie shape. Gently place on the baking sheet.
  12. Continue this process of moulding until all of the mixture has been used.
  13. Carefully brush the top of each pattie with a little olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Allow to cool on the trays or eat straight out of the oven. Delicious hot or cold! 

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Banana, Apple, Walnut & Ginger Bread - gluten free

Christmas and New Year celebrations are now a distant memory, but with many chocolate gifts piled up waiting to be eaten, and a still expanding waist-line, I feel the need to try and move away from cream and sugar at least for a little while.

Like many cooks, bakers and food-interested people out there, I received a new recipe book for Christmas from a very good friend of mine. Actually, I rarely get cook books given to me these days, not because I have so many that people are worried about duplication, but because being gluten free, friends want to avoid publications which are not diet-friendly. Although I absolutely understand their worry and really appreciate their sensitivity, I sometimes feel that (if I didn't go out and buy them myself) I would miss out on so many fantastic recipes and ideas found in traditional 'all-diet' recipe books. I love the challenge of finding a dish that looks and sounds totally delicious, but is made with gluten-containing ingredients and trying to work out the best way to make a gluten free alternative.

The recipe book that was given to me is aptly titled '500 gluten-free recipes' and is authored by Carol Beckerman and Deb Wheaton. It contains some really interesting recipes and inspiring ideas from savoury to sweet, meals to snacks and extremely healthy to cream topped puds. One of the things I like about the book is that it gives you a base recipe and then suggests a number of variations of ingredients to get you thinking creatively about the infinite possibilities of the dish and your own larder!

With so many new and exciting recipes to explore, and spurred on by my foray last month into the larder-exposing Random Recipe Challenge hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, I have decided to jump in feet first with my first cooking Random Recipe challenge, which this month is themed 'new year, new book'.

The challenge (the randomness of which feels slightly daunting) is to grab one of your new Christmas cook books, allow it to fall open wherever it so chooses and make the recipe that your book has picked for you. Where did it take me?……….. Page 136……… 'variations on banana, date and walnut bread'.

I chose banana, apple and ginger bread from the four options listed and flipped back a few pages to the associated base recipe. As instructed, I have followed the recipe as written, although chose to make a few very minor alterations to fit in with my available ingredients and to add additional moisture (as half way through making I was fearful of ending up with a disaster).

The recipe listed the need to use 'dried apples', which I took to mean the usual, slightly chewy variety that you find packaged in the supermarket. As I only had freeze-dried apples available, I have used these but reduced the quantity stated to allow for their weightlessness and tendency to absorb liquid. Because the mixture felt a little dry, I also doubled the quantity of buttermilk suggested, and for flavour and texture I added a dash of vanilla extract and some walnuts (which were listed in the base recipe). Strangely, the book's introductory blurb for the dish states that there is honey in the recipe, yet none appeared to be listed in the ingredients. As I love the flavour and goodness of honey and figured that it would add a little extra moistness to the bake, I threw in a couple of tablespoons for good measure.

The end result? Delicious……….. Very moist……. Soft bread texture……..Full of sweet banana, with a crunch of walnut, a contrasting slightly sharp fruitiness of apple and finally a warming hit of ginger. This is definitely a sweet bread rather than a cake and was delicious with a spread of butter and served for breakfast.

The first batch (which was made in a loaf tin) disappeared so quick that I have already made a second lot - this time using mini individual loaf moulds. Perfect portioned bites of winter-warming gingery, fruity deliciousness that can be kept in the freezer (if they last that long) ready for when you need them. If you don't want to freeze them, keep them in a tin for a few days (although trust me, they won't last that long) and give them a few seconds in the microwave if you fancy them warm (which I thoroughly recommend).

This month, the Biscuit Barrel Challenge hosted by Laura over at 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than….' is asking us to produce our little treats around the theme of 'spices'. The ginger in this bread definitely adds something a little bit special (and unexpected) to the mix, so I am offering my spicy little loaves (which just about fit into the biscuit tin) as a January entry.

Banana, Apple, Walnut & Ginger Bread - gluten free (slightly adapted from 500 gluten-free dishes - Beckerman and Wheaton)

Ingredients (makes 1 x medium loaf or about 16 mini loaves)

85g unsalted butter - room temperature
110g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
255g plain gluten free flour mix
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 very ripe medium-sized bananas
120 ml butter milk
20g freeze-dried cubed apple
60g finely chopped walnuts


  1. Base-line a non-stick 1 lb/450g loaf tin with baking paper, or get ready some mini loaf moulds.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add and beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add the honey and thoroughly mix.
  6. In a separate bowl, weigh and mix the flour, salt, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and ginger, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  7. In a third bowl, mash 2 of the bananas with the buttermilk, then add to the egg mix and stir through.
  8. Add the apple, walnuts and flour mix and fold into the wet mix until just combined.
  9. Thinly slice the last banana and fold into the dough batter. Be careful not to over-mix.
  10. Spoon the dough into the loaf tin(s) and bake for about 40 minutes for a larger loaf (about 20 minutes for mini-loaves) until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  11. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated