Sunday, 30 March 2014

Homity Pies - gluten free (vegetarian or not)

I have been eating Homity Pies for about 25 years! I first had them when I was a student.............. bought from a delightful little bakery round the corner from my practice placement. It was at a time when I didn't eat meat and I loved that this was a vegetarian fresh-baked pie that I could eat on the go at lunch, which was really tasty, quite unusual and sort of cemented the fact that I could present as a bit 'trendy' (which most of the time I wasn't).

I also loved that the recipe came from Cranks which at the time, was well-known in vegetarian circles to be hip, healthy and alternative. It was vegetarian food taken to a new level, but with a social conscience! Well........  studying social work, the cultural experience sort of came as expected!

In search of the ability to make this perfection of vegetarian pies, I rushed out and bought The Cranks Recipe Book (1982) and there on page 141 I found them. I have been making them ever since, with a few variations of ingredients along the way and now in gluten free form.

One of the things I really like about Homity is the simplicity of the ingredients, yet they are packed with flavour. The filling to the crisp pastry base is essentially potato, onion, garlic and cheese. The original recipe uses boiled or steamed potatoes, but I have always used left over baked potatoes (or baked them especially), because I think they taste better and you retain the goodness and texture of the potato skins. In the past, I have made them with sweet potato as well, which adds a sweeter, alternative dimension and a delightful orange hue to the pies.

I have also sometimes varied the ratios of the vegetables going in, added other options such as broccoli or leek to the bake, changed the cheese used for the topping, spiced up with a bit of chilli, varied the herbs and even 'meatified' with cooked sausage or chopped-up bacon. The possibilities and variations are endless. Just let your imagination run............

The recipe that I have given below is fairly close to the original, but for dietary reasons I have used a crisp gluten free almond-pastry base, which works beautifully with the wholesomeness of the filling.

Eaten warm, the filling is soft with the potato and tangy with the sweetness of caramelised onion and garlic, offset by the slight sharpness of the cheddar cheese (I always use at least mature, if not extra mature for depth and strength of flavour). The parsley adds an iron-richness and the almond pastry provides a wonderful nutty, background bite.

They are equally as delicious cold............ Eat them in packed lunches or on picnics for the perfect alternative to sandwiches and sausage rolls. Much tastier and heaps better for you!

I have belatedly decided to offer Homity Pies as my entry for this month's Four Seasons Food Challenge. I wouldn't generally 'back-date' for a blog challenge, but these pies are so amazingly delicious, that I wanted to put them back on the map.............

Hosted by Anneli at Delicieux (and Lou from Eat Your Veg) the theme for April is 'Celebrate Vegetables'. Homities are a fantastic cheesy base for any number of vegetable combinations, providing there is a bit of 'root' going on in there. And the onions in mine come straight from my garden. I can certainly celebrate the fact that my last year's home-grown veg is still feeding us even in April!

Homity Pies (gluten free) - makes 6 individual pies (adapted from the Cranks Recipe Book (1982)


1 batch of gluten free almond pastry as from this recipe

300g baked potatoes (cooked weight) - cut into pieces (including skin)
300g onions (unpeeled weight) - chopped
2 large garlic cloves - crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
25g butter
15g fresh parsley - chopped
100g mature cheddar cheese - grated
1 tablespoon milk
salt and pepper to taste

Optional (to 'meatify')
3 sausages - cooked and cut into small pieces
5 rashers of bacon - raw and cut into small pieces


  1. Make your pastry as in this post and roll out to line 6 individual (10 cm/4 inch) pie tins or foil dishes. Because you are using gluten free pastry which you do not want to 'over-work', split the pastry dough into individual portions before you roll out. This will prevent it from becoming crumbly. 
  2. Place the pastry cases in the fridge to rest for about an hour.
  3. Cut your baked potatoes into small pieces.
  4. In a large pan, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until very soft, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the garlic and cut potatoes, stir and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter (so that it melts), parsley, half of the cheese, milk and seasoning. Stir to combine thoroughly. If you are adding bacon or sausage, do so at this stage.
  7. Cool the mixture slightly, whilst you pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7.
  8. When cool enough (warm is fine), spoon the mixture into the uncooked pastry cases so that you have chunky tops.
  9. Sprinkle the top of each pie with the remaining cheese and bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are golden.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Coconut Cake (gluten and dairy free sponge) with Lime Butter Frosting & Marshmallow Flowers

This week I am celebrating 2 anniversaries............ my birthday and (more importantly) my 1st blogiversary. I cannot believe that my blog is a year old already (well officially it will be on Sunday, anyway). Where did the time go?

In the last year I have learnt a lot (with a lot still to learn), become more inventive,  enjoyed developing a whole load of tasty new treats and loved the opportunity to share my kitchen creations with the world. My primary reason for blogging remains the need to record recipes for my daughter's future, but I know from experience that cooking (and particularly baking) gluten free can be a tricky learning curve, so it is great to be able to offer my thoughts and recipes to others who are in the same boat. I am also very aware that much of what we eat at home does not come out of recipe books, or is so far removed from the original recipe that if it is not written down, will be quickly lost and forgotten.......... Blogging is my motivation for writing it down!

To celebrate my two special dates, I decided to make a new cake......... Coconut sponge with a lime frosting, decorated with marshmallow flowers........... vibrant, colourful and absolutely made for Spring. The pastel shades and fresh flavours would be perfect for Easter and Mother's Day too.

The sponge for the cake is completely gluten and dairy free, although I did make the frosting with butter, as I didn't feel confident with revamping the recipe for coconut oil and didn't have any dairy-free spread in the fridge. It would be very easy to substitute the spread if you want to do so.......

I have definitely had a bit of an experimental time with coconut this month and made this sponge using four different elements of this amazing wonder food........ Coconut oil (as a dairy-free healthier substitute for the butter), coconut flour, coconut cream (to enrich the sponge) and shredded coconut (for the distinctive coconut bite).

It is actually the first time that I have used Coconut oil in place of butter, but it certainly won't be the last. Having looked at the research, eating it is amazingly good for you, with suggested benefits ranging from decreasing the risk of heart disease and potentially improving brain function in Alzheimer's patients, to helping to reduce body fat. Once I had got my head around how to use the stuff, it was amazingly straight forward and I think, ensured the moistness of the cake without adding an oily texture.

I did consider adding coconut palm sugar as well, in place of the caster and brown sugar, but I wanted the cake to have a paler appearance and decided that the darkness of the coconut palm sugar would probably also over-caramelise the flavour.

The recipe posted here is my second attempt (my first 'experiment' resulting in a stodgy brick!), but I have now tested it twice and it has come out amazingly both times.

I confess the marshmallow flowers are not my own idea and were found in the Australian Women's Weekly book 'Kids' Party Cakes' (2005) that I bought when my daughter was very small.....  I have used the flowers before on cupcakes (for which they were originally designed), but wanted to see how they worked on a large cake. I think they look fab........... but did have to search around for the 'right' brightly coloured marshmallows, eventually finding some in the local farm shop made by a company called Fairco. And beware, 'Smarties' are NOT gluten free, so you need to find alternative safe chocolate beans if you cannot eat wheat or gluten.

The end bake for this cake is deliciously coconutty throughout, with a slightly chewy edge from the pieces of coconut contained within. It is beautifully moist and tastes very natural. Although it is quite dense, it has a lightness which is quite unexpected, alongside a depth of flavour and richness which exudes tropical indulgence. The smooth sweetness of the sponge is contrasted by the lime-citrus tang of the frosting which perfectly compliments the coconut. The marshmallows add a touch of sugar-sweetness and a wonderful extra soft, squishy texture (that only marshmallows can give)............ like eating little sweet pillows.............. a delightful treat on the side!

I am entering my celebratory cake into this month's Tea Time Treats challenge, being hosted by Janie at The Hedge Combers (alongside Karen at Lavender & Lovage). March's theme is 'Decorative Cakes'............. I think this pretty much fits the bill!

I am also entering it into March's Love Cake, the theme of which is 'Giving Up'. Hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber, we have this month been challenged to bake without at least one of the four basic ingredients (wheat flour, butter, eggs or sugar). I feel a little bit cheeky entering this one on account of using butter in the frosting, but as the bake is entirely gluten and dairy free (and using coconut oil was definitely a new and experimental process for me), I have decided to push my luck! Hope that's okay Ness...............

Coconut Cake with Lime Butter Frosting


Coconut Sponge (gluten & dairy free) (makes 1 x 9 inch sandwich cake)

360g gluten free plain flour mix (I used Mix A from this post)
40g coconut flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
50g shredded coconut
150g golden caster sugar
150g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons coconut cream
280 ml almond milk / rice milk
130g coconut oil


  1. Base line two 9 inch/23 cm round cake tins with baking paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, and shredded coconut, making sure they are fully combined. Set aside.
  4. Melt the coconut oil by gently heating on low in a microwave on 20 second bursts, stirring between each (or in a bowl over a pan of warm water).  Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the sugars with the eggs and then add the vanilla, lime zest, lime juice, coconut cream and milk. Beat thoroughly until completely combined, light and frothy.
  6. Add the melted coconut oil and beat again until combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients and fold into the liquid, allowing to stand for a couple of minutes about half way through the process to enable the liquid to be absorbed. Be careful not to over-mix. The batter should be a soft dropping consistency.
  8. Spoon the batter into the cake tins and smooth the tops so that they are level.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch.
  10. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Place a clean dry tea-cloth over the top whilst cooling.


Lime Butter Frosting

210g unsalted butter - softened at room temperature (or an alternative vegetable spread/margarine for dairy free)
4 tablespoons coconut cream
500g icing sugar - sifted
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt

Large bag of marshmallows and a handful of chocolate beans for decoration (NOTE : Smarties are NOT gluten free, so check the ingredients of your chosen product carefully)


  1. Beat the butter with the coconut cream, 100g of the icing sugar, lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and salt using either a whisk or a wooden/silicone spoon.
  2. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar until you have a smooth, but spreadable butter icing. If it is too wet, add a little more icing sugar.
  3. Carefully spread the icing on the base layer of the cake and sandwich together with the top layer. 
  4. Spread the rest of the icing onto the cake covering the top and the sides and using a palate knife or icing spreader to smooth.
  5. Make flowers with the marshmallows by cutting each marshmallow in half horizontally through the middle. Squeeze together the 'ends' of each piece holding it cut side up, so that it forms a petal shape. Arrange the petals into flowers on the cake and place a chocolate bean in the centre of each. 

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Apple & Cinnamon Upside-Downuts - Baked Doughnuts with a 'Twist' (gluten free)

Doughnuts......... Generally defined as small cakes made of rich, light dough, that are fried in hot fat and are typically either ring-shaped with a hole in the middle, or filled with jam.

More recently however, some doughnuts got more healthy and moved from the frying pan into the oven. Baked in special ring-shaped baking pans, this allows for the versatility to create any number of new generation flavours and ingredient variations and in addition to being less bad for you, they are also far less messy to make. The texture may be slightly different from the traditional fried variety, but they are just as delicious!

My inspiration for the Upside-Downut comes from this month's Alphabakes challenge, being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes, March's letter being 'U'.

And I thought 'Z' was tricky? This month, I rifled through about ten different recipe books searching for ingredients or dishes beginning with U.............. Ugli fruit, Unleavened bread, Upside-down pudding was about as far as it went. I even resorted to foreign spellings and almost went for 'Uova' which (I think) means eggs in Italian?

I figure that there have probably been a whole bunch of upside-down cakes and puddings made this month thanks to Alphabakes and in the absence of any knowledge of how best to use an Ugli fruit (although I guess it is probably much like any other citrus), decided that I might as well add to them. What the heck....... I love upside-down cake!

But then I got to thinking about doughnuts........... and started playing around with words in my head......... Mmmm.......... 'upside doughnut'? 'Upside-downut'? Could be delicious....... I wonder if it can be done?

Well...... It can! Oh yes...... Delicious fruity topped baked doughnuts, which look fantastic and taste even better. Doughnuts with a twist! AND gluten free!

I made my doughnuts with a pumpkin and apple-based batter as I thought this would ensure they were both moist and flavoursome and would compliment the apple-cinnamon caramel top best. Instead of using pure oil, I used coconut cream alongside a small amount of sunflower oil, both to enrich the flavour of the doughnut sponge as well as add to the healthiness of the purees.

These little rings are full of exotic cinnamon spice which pairs perfectly with the apple and delivers a wave of warmth and luxury with each bite. Soft, fruity, sweet, moist, doughnutty deliciousness. They are wonderful eaten fresh from the oven, but equally enjoyable when they are cold. Eat as they are or add custard or ice cream for more of a dessert.

Doughnuts can be notorious for going stale quickly and are often best eaten the day they are made. Not these! I had to go away for work last week and accidentally left one uneaten. When I returned two days later, it was still amazingly soft, moist and just as delicious.........

So there you have it........ My offering for Alphabakes 'U'.......... My own special take on the good old baked doughnut....... and upside-down cake...... all in one tasty little ring. I present to you....... the gluten free Apple & Cinnamon Upside-Downut.........

Baked Apple & Cinnamon Upside-Downuts (makes 8 doughnuts)


toffee-apple base
60g unsalted butter
60g soft light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cold water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small-medium sized cooking apple (e.g. Bramley)

doughnut batter
80g white rice flour (finely ground)
35g tapioca flour
30g sorghum flour
20g potato flour
20g ground almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
100g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
30 ml/2 tablespoons sunflower oil
45 ml/3 tablespoons coconut cream
130g pumpkin puree
40g apple sauce/puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Get ready your doughnut pan(s). If they are not non-stick, lightly grease with a little butter.
  2. To make the toffee-apple base, put the butter, sugar, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan and gently heat and stir until the butter melts.
  3. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook on a low heat, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and spoon a small amount of the syrup into the doughnut moulds, ensuring that there is an even covering.
  5. Peel and core the apple and cut into small, flat pieces. Place a layer of apple pieces on top of the syrup in the doughnut moulds. Set aside.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  7. To make the doughnut batter, weigh and mix together the flours, almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt and brown sugar in a medium-sized bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  8. In a separate large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and then add the sunflower oil, coconut cream, pumpkin and apple purees and vanilla extract. Continue to beat with a whisk until fully combined, light and airy. 
  9. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and gently fold to combine completely. Be careful not to over-mix.
  10. Pipe or spoon the batter into the doughnut moulds on top of the apple and syrup. I used a disposable plastic piping bag with the end cut off, but you could equally use a large food freezer-bag with a corner cut off.
  11. Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave in the tray for 10 minutes to start to cool.
  13. To remove from the doughnut pan, place a clean baking tray over the top of the doughnut pan and holding carefully but tightly, turn so that the doughnuts release onto the baking tray, toffee-apple side up.
  14. Move to a wire rack and cool completely.
  15. To serve, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy as they are, or with custard/ice cream.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Orange & Raspberry Friands (gluten free) - heavenly bites of fluffy deliciousness

If you have never made Friands, take note...........They are a fantastic alternative to cupcakes and they are absolutely delicious!

Originating in France, they are also popular in Australia and New Zealand, and are similar to financiers. Usually made with a base of ground almonds, icing sugar and lightly whipped egg whites, they are fluffy and airy with a wonderful nutty bite. It is the egg whites which give them their magic fairy-like lift............. you'll find no baking powder in these! They are also perfect for using up surplus egg whites, which is just as well, because I had a stash of them lurking in the fridge, begging to be used every time I opened the door.

Like cupcakes, friands can be flavoured in any number of ways. I used tangy orange zest and orange extract and beautiful red, tart raspberries which complemented the sweetness of the sponge and sat perfectly against the nuttiness of the almonds.

When I opened the oven door, the aroma was intoxicating with the citrus freshness of the orange, which left me drooling to taste them as quickly as possible. The raspberries look incredibly inviting nestling in the sponge and sprinkled with a dusting of icing sugar are pretty as a picture.

The edges are crisp and sweet, but inside, the sponge is moist and heavenly, textured with a slight coarseness from the almonds. With the arrival of spring, these little morsels - fresh-flavoured and very light, promise warmer days.

I am entering my gluten free orange and raspberry friands into March's Biscuit Barrel Challenge brought to us by Laura at 'I'd Much rather Bake Than....'. This month's theme is Spring.
Citrus and berries taste of sunshine and wake the taste-buds....... definitely the perfect way to celebrate the end of winter.......

Traditionally, friands are made using a friand pan which has oval-shaped holes a little larger than muffin moulds. As I don't have one of those, I used a standard non-stick muffin tin. I much prefer the shape of the friand moulds........ Somehow their ovalness promises something special and a little bit different from the usual offerings of cake. I may just have to invest in yet another piece of cooking equipment......

For some reason though, my daughter just can't get the hang of their name........... 'I like these friends Mummy'......... 'Can I have another one?'

Orange & Raspberry Friands (gluten free)


130g ground almonds
190g icing sugar
50g gluten free plain flour (I used mix A from this post)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
zest of 1 orange - finely grated
160g unsalted butter - melted and cooled slightly
5 large egg whites 
1½ teaspoons orange extract
125g fresh raspberries


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and prepare a 12 hole muffin tin (or friand tin if you have one) by lightly greasing if it is not non-stick.
  2. Weigh and mix the almonds, icing sugar, flour, xanthan gum and orange zest in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are broken down. 
  3. Lightly whisk the egg whites until they have become a light, frothy foam.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter, orange extract and whisked egg whites. Gently fold to combine completely.
  5. Spoon/pour the mixture into the moulds (about two-thirds full) - I used an ice cream scoop to cut down the mess.
  6. Place 2 to 3 raspberries on the top of each friand (depending on the size of your moulds), gently pushing into the batter so that they are partly submerged.
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the friands are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool. If the friand has stuck, gently ease the tip of a silicone spatula or knife round the edge to release.
  9. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Fish Bolognese - A Foodie Memory from the Maldives

Many years ago (long before I had parenting responsibilities), I was fortunate enough to visit the islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. A most beautiful country made up of tiny coral-reef islands set in atolls and surrounded by the lapping warm Indian Ocean waves. There is little to do other than enjoy the heat, relaxation and swim, snorkel or dive with the incredible array of reef fish and ocean life. It is the only place that I have ever been where I instantly stopped.......... where time seemed to stand still and it really didn't matter whether it was morning, afternoon or somewhere in-between.

The Maldivian people are by necessity incredibly self-sufficient. There are no grass fields and thus no cows, sheep or other large land animals bred for food. They are a nation of fish eaters, all caught sustainably and by hand to protect the fragile eco-system of coral reefs that form the nation's atolls. But you won't find cold-water cod, plaice or salmon on the menu. Dinner is served according to the catch of the day........... Grouper, Parrot Fish, Tuna, Snapper, Mahi Mahi, Barracuda, eels amongst many many others.

One of the dishes served when I was visiting the Maldives was a fish bolognese, made with Grouper. It was delicious. The Grouper (a firm white fish) was minced and cooked in tomatoes with onions and chilli. I was so impressed that I went back to my room and wrote down the ingredients my tastebuds recalled, so that I could try to replicate the dish when I got home.

Of course, Grouper is not much available in the UK (although I did try hard to find it), so I sought the advice of a local fishmonger, who recommended Monkfish as an available alternative which he thought might have enough firmness for the required texture of the dish. Unless by some very occasional, very lucky chance I manage to source a suitable reef fish in the UK, I have been making my fish bolognese with Monkfish ever since.

It is much lighter than it's beef counterpart, and tastes as fresh and healthy as it's ingredients suggest. Although it has a distinct fish-ness about it, it is not over-fishy in flavour, so that even potentially fish-fussy children seem to enjoy it. Maybe it helps that it is dressed up as their favourite, familiar pasta dish?

The mushrooms are heavily disguised as they are chopped very small (even my daughter who baulks at them didn't even notice they were there!) and the onions are sautéed so that they are very soft and slightly caramelised. The tarragon compliments the fish beautifully and gives a background hint of aniseed and the chilli provides a warming kick (which you can either intensify with more chilli or play down by using less for those little people who haven't quite got their chilli-legs yet).

I am entering my Fish Bolognese for this month's Four Season's Food Challenge, being hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg (co-hosted by Anneli at Delicieux). March's theme is 'Something Fishy', so I think this is a good opportunity to share my favourite Maldivian food memory in the hope that some of you may choose to enjoy it too. Perfect for kids. Perfect for grown ups.

This is one incredibly flavoursome, very very healthy pasta dish.......... We sprinkle ours with the 'expected' Parmesan cheese and a little extra chopped parsley, which gives an additional iron-richness. Serve it with spaghetti (gluten free or not), and enjoy!

Fish Bolognese

Ingredients (serves 4)             

500 g/1 lb Monkfish or an alternative very firm white fish - minced, 'grated' or finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion - finely chopped
1 white onion - finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves - finely chopped
1 small red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
1 small green chilli - finely chopped
3 largish closed-cup mushrooms - finely chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons marmite / yeast extract spread
3 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried tarragon or handful finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon dried parsley or handful finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to season

To serve : 
spaghetti (I used gluten free spaghetti)
grated parmesan
chopped fresh parsley


  1. Make sure your fish is completely skinned and de-boned, then mince, grate or chop finely. I use a food processor with a grating attachment so that the fish resembles a minced texture.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then sauté the chopped onions and garlic for about 10 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the chopped chilli and mushrooms and continue to cook gently for a further 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the fish and continue to gently cook, stirring frequently for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, marmite/yeast extract and tomato puree and stir through thoroughly. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Do not panic about the appearance of the sauce at this stage. As it cooks, the fish will take on the tomato colour and will thicken.
  6. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir.
  7. Leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes, uncovered. This will allow the liquid to reduce and the fish to absorb the tomato redness, so that the bolognese sauce becomes thick and rich.
  8. Serve with spaghetti, with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a parsley garnish.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Coco-Banana Freeze Bites - gluten free (optional dairy free)

Am I alone in always buying too many bananas and neglecting them in the fruit bowl? I think it is at the top of Mr GF's '10 reasons to divorce my wife' list..... I am regularly shamed into hurried creation, to avoid the sarcastic 'see you over-stocked on bananas again' comments. If this sounds familiar and the guilt is rising as you read, my Coco-Banana Freeze Bites recipe may just be your rescue (and could save your relationship!).

Whether you are a regular offender or not, it's always a good thing to have a few ideas for using 'gone past attractive' bananas up your sleeve, as research would suggest that they are an over-regular occurrence in most homes.  Apparently (according to a government report quoted in the Independent in 2008) Britons throw away 1.6 million bananas every day. That is astounding and frankly outrageous. We can definitely do better than that. 

In the past, I have tried to freeze brown bananas to use another time, but I can be pretty useless in remembering they are there and before long, I have a freezer full of frozen over-ripe bananas.... (in addition to a fruit bowl which requires attention).

Miss GF however, does have a bit if a liking for frozen food..... as a small child, she ate bucket loads of frozen peas and sweetcorn and would get quite upset at the suggestion they might be heated before they went on her plate..... So I got to thinking, what if I lengthen the life of those sorry soft bananas just a little longer, by creating a healthy frozen treat with them?

Perhaps I could mash them and combine them with a load of other good stuff? They could be stored in the freezer ready to eat without any further preparation. Genius!

And so, my Coco-Banana Freeze Bites were born. No doubt they have already been created somewhere else by someone much cleverer than me, but I didn't bother checking. I didn't want to take away my moment of inspirational glory (in my head anyway).

These little balls of sweet, fruity frozen deliciousness are really healthy (especially if you use carob instead of chocolate chips, which I admit I didn't....). They are also completely raw.... No cooking involved whatsoever.... You just mash up the bananas, throw the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir it all together. If there are any ingredients you don't fancy or don't have, just substitute with something you do. Roll the dough into balls and stick them in the freezer.... done!

What do they taste like? Sort of soft, cold, naturally sweetened breakfast bars...... lots of coconut flavour and texture, mingling with soft banana, shot through with creamy oatiness, interspersed with crunchy chocolaty bitey bits set against a nutty background with a hint of cinnamon. As the warmth of your mouth envelopes each bite, it experiences cold anticipation of what is to come..... The balls quickly soften and melt into the array of flavours contained within. Unexpected and very very tasty.

My daughter and I eat Coco-Banana Freeze Bites for breakfast, not only because they are delicious and full of good energy-giving ingredients to get the day off to a fantastic start, but because they are incredibly quick if you need to grab and run (which in our house is pretty much every morning). Perfect for growing children, they are easily adaptable to your own larder contents and the novelty value with little ones ('frozen breakfast mummy?') is way too good to miss........

Don't love the thought of frozen breakfast? Coco-Banana Freeze Bites are also perfect as instant after-school sustenance when energy levels are sagging. In updating this post three and a half years on, I can honestly say that they are one of the most requested recipes our house..... Which is a good thing! I love that there is a healthy 'no thought required' snack in the freezer ready after school which might just avoid reaching for crisps and sweets.

I am sharing my updated post for these amazing Coco-Banana Freeze Bites with :

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching For Spice
Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse
Got To Be Gluten Free (#G2BGF) with Myself and Glutarama

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum
Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie

Coco-Banana Freeze Bites


2 ripe bananas
30g gluten free oat flour (easy to make yourself as in this post)
60g gluten free oats
30g ground almonds
25g ground hazelnuts
50g coconut flour
35g shredded coconut
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
100g chocolate chips/chunks (mixed) or carob chips if you are feeling really healthy!
25g crushed macademia nuts (optional)
2 tablespoons runny honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
20g coconut palm sugar (or substitute with soft light brown sugar)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a large bowl, mash the bananas.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden/silicone spoon until the mixture has a 'wet' appearance.
  3. Take spoonfuls of the dough and roll into balls using your hands.
  4. Place on a baking tray and cover with cling film and freeze. 
  5. Once frozen, store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Previously shared with : Family Foodies, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash and co-hosted by Lou at Eat Your Veg and the 'No Waste Food Challenge' with Cooking Around The World on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-18 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Chocolate-Banana-Coconut Brownies - gluten free

Who can resist brownies? Soft, gooey, chewy chunks of chocolatey deliciousness. Well these take brownie heaven one stage further and are the most delicious way to use up those bananas which otherwise would be destined for the bin. Forget banana bread (lovely though it is), chocolate-banana-coconut brownies are the way to go!

This week I ended up with several over-ripe brown bananas in the house. I could sense trouble was brewing............ wasting bananas is not the done thing under our roof. So I thought I had better find a way to use them........ and quick!

I didn't want to make banana bread, but I did really fancy brownies.......... So why not combine the flavours? For additional interest and texture, I decided to add coconut, which turned out to be a really good decision.

The resulting bake is extra moist and gooey from the banana, but not in any way 'runny'. Made with chocolate rather than cocoa, it is dark and decadent and very very chocolatey. The combination of brown sugar and coconut palm sugar gives a further natural depth of flavour and some lovely caramel notes.

This brownie is a wonderful combination.......... the rich coconut and creamy banana adding a very distinct tropical fruitiness which perfectly off-sets the chocolate. As you bite, the chocolate and banana mingle beautifully together and then the shredded coconut comes through........... tiny chewy coconutty bits, sitting alongside melty chocolatey chunks.

They are amazing on their own........ Truly yumcious and very very moreish. But they are also delicious with custard or ice cream if you want to turn them into more of a dessert.

My daughter has decided they are even addictive.......... Mmmm, I'm not sure my eight year old should be consciously aware of the language of addiction just yet. The idea of brownie detox sounds quite scary!

I am entering these delicious brownies into two challenges this month :

The 'No Waste Food Challenge' being hosted by Chris from Cooking Around The World on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. It is always a good thing to find new and interesting ways of using up food before it ends up in the composter or walks out of the door and bananas are the worst offenders for turning from yellow to brown between visits to the fruit bowl. These brownies are definitely worth mashing them up for. Trust me...... once you have tried one, there is no escape from the hold they have on you!

I am also entering them into 'We should Cocoa', being hosted by Laura over at 'I'd Much Rather Bake Than...' on behalf of Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog. The secret added ingredient this month is coconut. I love coconut (although I probably don't use it enough in my cooking). I have memories of drilling and hammering coconuts from the fair when I was little, just to be able to pick off enough flesh to feed a mouse with more effort than climbing Mount Everest. Ok...... maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but there was a LOT of effort for very little reward and I think it is now associated in my head with being a demanding ingredient.

Thank goodness for processing! It seems you can now get pretty much every element of coconut helpfully harvested and divided to bring us (very conveniently) anything from coconut milk, cream, butter, flour and coconut palm sugar to chunks, strips, and dessications of dried flesh. Not to mention the amazing works of matting and incredible beauty products that are made out of it. It is easy to see why it is considered such a wonder-plant in so many parts of the world.

These brownies use coconut palm sugar and shredded coconut, both of which add unique elements to the bake and are significant to the final flavour and texture produced. I have a funny feeling that they may just become one of the most requested cake-bakes in our house!

Chocolate-Banana-Coconut Brownies


180g good quality dark chocolate - cut into pieces
175g unsalted butter
75g coconut palm sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
100g gluten free plain flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if not already in your flour mix)
2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
30g shredded coconut
2 very ripe bananas - mashed
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g milk chocolate chunks


  1. Base line a 23 cm/9 inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Melt the chocolate, sugars and butter in a large non-stick saucepan on a low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.
  4. Weigh and mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, almonds, cocoa and coconut in a bowl, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  5. Mash the banana in a separate bowl and then add to the chocolate mixture, beating in with a wooden spoon/spatula.
  6. Add the dry flour mix to the chocolate batter and mix thoroughly.
  7. Beat the eggs with the vanilla extract in a bowl and then also add that and the chocolate chips to the chocolate mixture, beating well with the spoon until completely combined.
  8. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and spread and smooth the top evenly with the spoon.
  9. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. When baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
  11. Transfer the brownie to a cutting board and slice into pieces. Enjoy warm or cold.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated