Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Oat Pancakes - healthy, delicious & gluten free

Shrove Tuesday, which heralds the start of Lent in the Christian calendar, is not far off...... This year it falls on February 17th. Traditionally, it is the day when Christians indulge in rich foods and use up the contents of their larders in preparation for the fasting and religious observations of the weeks leading up to Easter. It is now commonly known as 'Pancake Day' and is celebrated with all things pancake, whether Christian or not!

Although we mainly make, flip and eat pancakes, we also seem to have a thing for 'racing' with them. This involves attempting to out-run fellow pancake racers whilst holding a pancake in a frying pan and trying not to drop it. Pancake races are held across the country in schools and towns, both for fun and to raise money for charity.

As for traditional pancake flipping, I confess that I am no good at all.....  My past incompetence has only lead to disastrous breakages, sticky ceilings and pancake carpets, so I tend to stick to turning them with a spatula...... less fun I admit, but it saves a lot of grief!

Gluten free pancakes are actually pretty easy to make and can be knocked up with a whole variety of flours alternative to wheat. This particular batter is made with home-ground oat flour which if you can tolerate it (some coeliacs can be sensitive to the protein Avenin found in oats), makes for a really healthy pancake.

If you are Coeliac and can eat oats (we are lucky enough to be able to), make absolutely sure your oats are certified gluten free to avoid cross-contamination issues. You can buy oat flour ready ground, but to be honest it is so easy to make (and far cheaper), that I always home-grind and store a stash in an airtight container.

Oat pancakes have a lovely wholesome texture and go well with both sweet and savoury fillings. I am a big fan of savoury pancakes......... they are fantastically versatile on the filling front and can be stuffed with all your favourite ingredients. Mine were filled with sliced baby leek and button mushrooms which had been gently fried until golden, mixed with warm Tuna and topped with a sprinkling of salty Parmesan cheese.

Best of all, these pancakes are a really fun way to get kids to eat a healthy meal. We ate them as a DIY pancake night! My daughter loved the simplicity of making the batter (which only contains good stuff) and really enjoyed cooking them with me, then filling her own pancakes with her favourite sausage, cheese and sweetcorn.

I am sharing my pancakes as my third and final offering to January's Family Foodies challenge with Lou at Eat Your Veg and Vanesther at Bangers & Mash. These pancakes are very nutritious and make the perfect canvas for your healthy kids to fill with lots more good stuff.

I am also offering them to Lucy at Supergolden Bakes for this week's Cook Blog Share.

Oat Pancakes (makes 6 pancakes)


75g finely ground oat flour (make as in this post)
pinch fine sea salt
2 large eggs
170 ml milk
vegetable/corn/groundnut oil for frying


  1. Blend or whisk together the flour, salt, eggs and milk until airy and smooth. Blending in a blender gets best results.
  2. Leave to stand for about 45 minutes.
  3. Blend or whisk again for 10 to 20 seconds and pour into a jug.
  4. Drizzle a tiny amount of oil into a pancake pan/small frying pan and wipe off any excess with kitchen towel. Heat the pan over a medium-high heat allowing to get good and hot. 
  5. Pour a little pancake batter into the pan and tilt the pan to swirl it round so that it covers the base.
  6. Cook for a couple of minutes and when the underside is golden, turn the pancake over using a silicone spatula (or if you are really clever, flip it!).
  7. Cook the other side for a couple of minutes and then either eat straight away or transfer to a heat proof plate. Cover with another plate to keep warm or cover and place in the oven on a low heat setting until you are ready to eat.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Blackcurrant and Dark Chocolate Macaron

A few weeks before Christmas I attempted my first ever batch of French Macaron - they were Raspberry & White Chocolate and were surprisingly successful. Chewy yet crisp, fruity but rich, filled with sweet white chocolate ganache. I was very proud.

As often happens when you achieve something you expect to fail, my confidence was seriously boosted to the point of feeling quite blasé about the trickiness of the task. Lesson 1........... just because you do something once, doesn't mean you can do it again!

My next batch was a disaster..... I managed to press a button on my digital thermometer just as the sugar was about to reach crucial temperature, so had no idea how accurately it was reached. I over-whisked the second half of egg white before I added the liquid sugar (probably because I was panicking about the communication breakdown with the thermometer). And the consistency of the almond mix became so thick (I have no idea why) that it was nye on impossible to fold in without losing every cubic millimetre of air! The result was a flat, squelchy batch of mauve blobs........ so disastrous were they, that there was nothing I could salvage them for and they went straight into the bin (not good..... I hate waste!).

Not one to be defeated, I gave myself a couple of days to recover from the humiliation of macaron deflation and tried again!

This batch, though not quite as chewy as my first (and best) batch, is a marked improvement. I think though, that I may have erred on the side of caution at every stage and probably left them in the oven a minute or two too long. Having said that, they look (and taste) like macaron.......

Blackcurrant and dark chocolate are a wonderful pairing, whether with fresh fruit, cake, trifle, or any other dessert. The macaron are no exception, although I would caution that these are a very grown up treat.......

The dark chocolate ganache is beautifully rich and creamy with deep notes of bitter cocoa, offset by the fruity tang of Summer blackcurrant. This is a macaron to leave your taste buds exhilarated and your endorphins buzzing.

I am sharing my Blackcurrant & Dark Chocolate Macaron with :

Foodie Friday with Casa Costello
Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes
Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too
And my second entry to Ness at Jibber Jabber's Love Cake, which this month is 'Feeling Fruity'.

Blackcurrant & Dark Chocolate Macaron

Ingredients - Macaron Shells

200g icing sugar
200g ground almonds
150g egg white (divided into 2x 75g portions)
3 teaspoons freeze dried blackcurrant powder
Purple (or blue & red food colouring paste)
200g caster sugar
50 ml water

Ingredients - Dark Chocolate Ganache

125 ml double cream
275g dark chocolate (cut into small pieces)
60g unsalted butter (room temperature)

Blackcurrant powder to decorate.


  1. Macaron Shells : Prepare 3 to 4 baking sheets by lining with baking paper. The baking papers should have circles drawn on the underside about the size of a 2 pence piece and spaced about 2.5 cm/1 inch apart. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, almonds and 75g egg white. Beat with an electric whisk until fully combined
  3. Add the blackcurrant powder and beat again.
  4. Preferably using a free-standing mixer, put the rest of the egg white (75g) into the bowl.
  5. In a very small saucepan, mix the caster sugar and water and heat very slowly. Use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature accurately. You want the temperature to reach exactly 117 C/242 F. 
  6. Whilst the sugar is heating, very gently whisk the egg whites in the mixer bowl until frothy and airy (do NOT over-whisk).
  7. When the sugar syrup has reached the required temperature, remove from the heat and add to the egg whites whilst continuing to whisk slowly. 
  8. Turn up the speed of the mixer a little (not to high speed) and continue to whisk until the mixture is stiff enough to form stiff peaks. You now have Italian meringue.
  9. Preheat the oven to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2.
  10. Add the food colour to the meringue and gently whisk in until you have your desired colour.
  11. Next, add the blackcurrant almond mix that you made earlier to the Italian meringue and beat slowly for about 30 seconds. 
  12. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for about 30 seconds until combined (you may choose to do the second mix by spoon if you are concerned about over-mixing). The consistency of the mix is important at this stage and should 'flow smoothly' when tipped from the spoon back into the bowl, yet 'spread back into a flat, even surface'.
  13. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm plain round nozzle.
  14. At right angles to the tray (upright), pipe small mounds of batter into the centre of the marked circles on the baking paper, until the batter almost fills the circle. Swirl the nozzle to separate, before moving on to the next circle. 
  15. Leave the piped batter circles to stand for 15 to 20 minutes until they have the appearance of a slight skin forming across the surface (this should be dry to a light touch).
  16. Bake for about 7 minutes and then swap the trays round and bake for a further 4-5 minutes. Watch very closely in case the edges begin to catch. The macaron are baked when the top is smooth and dry and they are firm to the touch. 
  17. Remove from the oven and as they begin to cool, very gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  18. Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling : Break the chocolate into small pieces in a heat proof bowl. 
  19. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just beginning to start to simmer, then remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate. Leave to sit for 4 to 5 minutes and then stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the ganache mixture is smooth. If any lumps of chocolate remain, place the bowl over a saucepan with a small amount of simmering water and gently heat and stir until smooth.
  20. Add the butter to cooled ganache and beat with a whisk or hand blender until smooth. If the mixture is still quite runny, place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to cool completely and stiffen very slightly.
  21. Pair up the macaron shells in a row one top side up, one top side down.
  22. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm nozzle.
  23. Pipe a blob of ganache into the centre of each of the flat-facing macaron shells and sandwich together with the second shell, gently squeezing together until the filling can be seen at the edge. 
  24. Sprinkle with a little freeze-dried blackcurrant powder on top for decoration.
  25. Store in the fridge, but bring back to room temperature to eat and enjoy at their best.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sausage, Apple & Bean Casserole - slow cooked

Exciting news..... I got a slow cooker for Christmas! It is a lovely large Crockpot Saute version which is set to radicalise our week-night eating. Trying to fit in time to prepare and cook meals after a long day at work can be a bit of a chore and sadly we often grab whatever is quickest (usually a baked potato) which can get pretty tedious. Don't get me wrong, I actually love baked potatoes, but after eating them night after night, the prospect of a delicious hot pot, stew, chilli or casserole hitting my nose as I walk through the front door in the evening is getting me wildly excited! I just need to find the recipes which need limited pre-prep, so that I can be ready before the early morning start......

If anyone has any hints, tips or tricks for speediness, I would love to hear them. Equally, any tried, tested and loved cook books or recipes to guide me through my slow-cook journey would be most welcome!

This is the third slow cook dish we have made..... I say 'we' because I am having to wrestle my new gadget away from my husband who has a bit of a tendency to think he is in charge of 'mains' and I regularly have to insist that I am cooking....... and no, he can't chop, stir or check the pot. Sure...... I am very lucky that I have a husband who loves to be in the kitchen as much as me, but it can also be a source of frustration, especially when we are fighting for shared work top space.

And so to Sausage, Apple & Bean Casserole..... Warming, cheap, wholesome, full of great stuff and totally delicious. The ingredients listed serve at least 6 people, so there is plenty to go round (or in our case, heat up for another night....... yay! One less BP.....). It is deep and rich in flavour, and can be varied by adding different veg, mixing up the herb choice, adding extra spice or using veggie sausages if you don't want meat (in which case leave out the bacon too).

It did require a fair amount of pre-prep with the browning of the sausages, and the frying of the bacon and veg, but having previously made a standard 'hob' version of this dish, I would definitely say that slow-cooking cut down overall direct input and the result was very satisfying.

If you don't have a slow-cooker, no worries..... this can be prepared easily on the hob too!

I kept the sausages whole and the mushrooms halved (you could leave these whole too) to give it goodly substance and interest. The apple adds a lovely fruitiness and a different texture dimension. The chilli (I used home-grown that we had dried at the end of the summer) contributed an extra warming, slightly spicy glow. The beans (kidney, butter and cannellini) made it a wonderful, filling winter stew, perfect for these cold days and nights.

The photos are pretty poor quality..... there are so few daylight hours right now and I simply don't have the time to organise myself (especially when there's hot food needing to be eaten).

I am sending a portion each of this wonderful, healthy casserole to the following challenges this month so that (hopefully) lots more people will enjoy it as much as we have.

Family Foodies with Louisa at Eat Your Veg (and Vanesther at Bangers & Mash) who are this month celebrating Healthy Kids. My daughter always loves my sausage and bean casserole and when presented with it at the weekend looked at me (somewhat patronisingly) and said 'Well Mum, I think you have outdone yourself this week. Well done!' Cheeky mare......

Extra Veg with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy (and Fuss Free Flavours). This dish is full of lots of great veggie stuff....

Cooking with Herbs with Karen at Lavender & Lovage who is getting us to rummage through our store cupboards for January to make tasty, healthy winter dishes. This casserole has dried chilli, herbs, loads of canned beans, stock, tinned tomatoes, and cider from the larder (not to mention sausages from the freezer and home-grown onions which have been hung and stored in the shed!)

Credit Crunch Munch with Helen at Fuss Free Flavours (and Fab Food 4 All). Portion for portion, this works out a good feed at a great price.

Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

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

Sausage, Apple & Bean Casserole (serves 6 to 8)


approx 3 tablespoons olive oil for frying
12 large gluten free sausages (or equivalent weight of smaller ones)
10 rashers streaky bacon - chopped
1 large white onion - chopped
1 large red onion - chopped
3 large cloves garlic - crushed
1 apple (eating variety) - peeled, cored & sliced into eighths
1 red chilli - deseeded and chopped (fresh or dried)
150g chestnut button mushrooms - halved or whole
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato puree
180 ml apple cider
Fresh or dried herbs : parsley, oregano, basil (to taste - about 4 teaspoons of dried in total)
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin kidney beans - drained
1 x 400g tin butter beans - drained
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans - drained
150 ml boiling water
1 x vegetable stock cube (make sure it is gluten free)
fresh parsley (chopped) to sprinkle on top


  1. In a large frying pan (or in the casserole of the slow cooker if your model allows), heat the oil over a medium heat on the hob and fry the sausages, turning frequently until they are nicely browned on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate with kitchen paper to drain any excess oil.
  2. Put the bacon and onion into the pan and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, apple, chilli and mushroom and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and tomato puree, stir through and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the cider and a handful of herbs, stir and bring to a simmer.
  6. Turn off the heat and put the sausages back into the pan.
  7. Add the tomatoes and beans and stir through.
  8. Make up the strong stock and pour into the pan so that the liquid is almost covering.
  9. Slow cook on high setting (according to manufacturer's instructions) for 3 hours.
  10. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley when ready to serve.
  11. Serve with rice or potatoes.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Leftover Christmas Mincemeat Ice Cream (& a Sundae) - No Churn!

Yum yum yum! If you like mincemeat, this ice cream is to die for.  It is rich, creamy, grown up and very very decadent. AND it is perfect for using up any mincemeat you might have left over from the recent festivities..... Let's face it, mince pies are done!

If that's not enough to persuade you to give it second consideration, it is incredibly easy to make and requires no special equipment, other than a basic whisk (oh..... and of course, a freezer!)

I did actually make this ice cream for Christmas, but we had so much other food around (and limited appetites due to seasonal bugs), that we have only just got round to eating it.

From the moment you start to scoop this ice cream, you just know it is going to be amazing. I think it may be because I put extra alcohol into the mix which lowers the freezing temperature, but the scoop sinks in easily, allowing for perfectly soft, luxuriant balls of creaminess, which melt easily on the tongue, letting the abundance of flavour wash over the palate. The texture is perfect!

I made this ice-cream with my home-made no suet Extra Fruity Mincemeat with Pistachio & Calvados, which was just divine even before it went into the mix. But the combination of this with the rich, vanillary cream takes it to another level. Carefully balanced for flavour, texture and intensity (I made a previous batch which was so heavily weighted towards the mincemeat that it was a chore to eat), there is no hiding the fact that this ice-cream is a remnant of the merriment of recent past. The mincemeat is the over-riding (but in no way over-powering) star of the show.

The extra alcohol (I used additional calvados) makes this a very adult ice-cream, which you can legitimately confiscate from the kids and enjoy late into the evening....... savouring every mouthful of silky, fruity, tipple-laced luxury by the warmth of the fire......

Although it doesn't need any addition, I can be a little piggie at times and decided to try it as a bit of a 'left-over sundae'. Oh man..... that was a very wise decision. What was already a great ice cream became a sundae of total delight and distinction......

Broken pieces of melt-in-the-mouth gingerbread biscuit from my gluten free gingerbread house to add crunch, bite and gingery warmth....... A mingling of candied cherries, picked from the orchard in the summer and preserved for a moment like this........ red, fruity, sweet, slightly chewy deliciousness...... And a sprinkle of chopped walnuts for extra crunchy, nutty good measure.....

In fact, this sundae is full of stuff that needs to be used up.... mincemeat, gingerbread and candied cherries...... Which makes it a great entry for the No Waste Food Challenge, with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

I am also offering it to Cook, Blog, Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

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

Christmas Mincemeat Ice Cream (makes just over 1 litre)


600 ml double cream
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
380g mincemeat (I used home made)
60 ml Calvados (or preferred spirit)


  1. In a small bowl, mix the mincemeat with the extra alcohol.
  2. Then mix the mincemeat with the condensed milk and place in the fridge to chill.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the cream and vanilla paste until thick enough to form soft peaks. 
  4. Gently fold in the condensed milk-mincemeat mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer to a freezer-safe, airtight container and freeze overnight.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Muffin Pizzas (or Pizza Muffins) - gluten free

Who loves pizza? If you answered 'me' then you'll love these! They have all the flavour of pizza in a handy, perfect for packed lunch, picnic or party table muffin. Which begs the question, are they pizza muffins or muffin pizzas? And do I really care? They are so delicious you could call them anything you like and I would happily down a basket full......

They even work well as an alternative breakfast and quick snack. Eat on their own or serve with salad or soup...... Have them warm or cold...... Enjoy them fresh or freeze and use as a speedy 'grab later'. These are fabulously versatile as well as being incredibly flavoursome. You have to try them..... really!

I have wanted to try making muffin pizzas for a year or so, having seen a number of versions out there, both made with wheat and gluten-free flours. This particular version has been amended and adapted from a fellow Canadian blog The Baking Beauties, which has some lovely, very practical day to day recipes for those of us who cannot eat gluten.

What I love about this recipe is that it produces a wonderful, fluffy, soft gluten free crumb, which stays perfectly squidgy for several days. You can store it in the fridge and just bring to room temperature before you scoff and it tastes like it has just been made. Alternatively, you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds and indulge in a perfectly warm muffin experience.

It is equally adaptable on the filling-front. If your favourite pizza topping is pepperoni, throw it in to the mix! Want a veggie version? Forget the meat and load it with sweetcorn, peppers, fried onions, mushrooms, or anything else that takes your fancy. Want to go Hawaiian? Top them with pineapple.....

If you want vegetarian cheese, just make sure you use non-rennet alternatives. And if you prefer them spicy, ditch the herbs and chuck in some chilli!

Seriously.... I think I have just found a new love. They are so full of good stuff (and just like pizza, you have complete control of what goes into them) that I may be eating a new version every week. The balance of flavours is spot on and really does taste just like pizza. Herby, cheesy, tomatoey yumciousness.....

Kids absolutely love them (I've checked), so they are perfect for a quick, healthy packed lunch (that you can also sneak some extra good stuff into)....... pretty much a meal in one!

I am sharing these muffins with a whole bunch of challenges that seem to fit the theme (which I guess is an indication of just how versatile they are)..... I want to get the word out as far as possible.... if you have never tried a muffin pizza, give them a go!

First up : Family Foodies with Lou at Eat Your Veg (and Vanesther at Bangers & Mash) which this month celebrates recipes for healthy kids. We all know that pizza is a favourite with the little ones..... If you want some control over what they are getting down and need to hide it beyond suspicion, these are perfect lunch and snack fodder...... a balanced meal or a healthy snack all in one handful!

Biscuit Barrel, which this month is being hosted by Alexandra (The Lass in the Apron) for the first time (on account of Laura from I'd Much rather Bake Than.... being swamped by college work). Alexandra has set this month's theme as Innovation & Discoveries. These little bites of Italian-infused   inspiration are the best discovery I have made in ages and I suspect I will be making a regular batch to keep in a tub in the fridge.

Tea Time Treats with Janie at The Hedgecombers (and Lavender & Lovage). January's theme is packed lunches.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Cook, Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Cooking with Herbs with Karen at Lavender & Lovage, who has designated January the month of the store cupboard. These muffins are full of store cupboard ingredients and household staples, from flours, herbs and baking essentials to a jar of passata, cheeses and frozen sweetcorn.

And finally : the No Waste food Challenge with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. I found about quarter of a bag of Mozzarella cheese lurking in the back of the fridge from before Christmas, which I fear would have been destined for a nasty green end had I not found it just in time and used it to sprinkle on top of these muffins..... just like real pizza!

Muffin Pizzas (or Pizza Muffins) Makes 18


80g brown rice flour
80g sorghum flour
80g tapioca flour
25g GF oat flour (make at home as here)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ tablespoons golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
large pinch dried thyme
30g freshly grated parmesan
250 ml soured cream
3 large eggs - room temperature
60 ml (55g) melted butter
150 ml tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
110g mature cheddar cheese - cut into small cubes
60g sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen)
50g ham - shredded/chopped
100g grated Mozzarella cheese


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4. Prepare a couple of muffin tins with muffin cases.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and herbs, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  3. Add and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together the soured cream, eggs and melted butter until fully combined and smooth.
  5. Add 60 ml passata and whisk again.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, cheddar cheese, sweetcorn and ham and fold-in until evenly combined.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases (about two-thirds full) and smooth the tops. Then make a small dip in the centre of each.
  8. Divide the remaining passata between the muffins, spooning a little on to the top of each (the dip should help to hold it)
  9. Divide and sprinkle the mozzarella on top of the passata. 
  10. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and the top springs back to the touch (use the tip of a spatula or wooden spoon to test, so that you don't burn yourself on the cheese or tomato topping)
  11. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool, or enjoy warm, fresh from the oven.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Stuffed Cashew Nut Roast

It is time to share with you my favourite nut roast ever! I have no idea where it actually originated, but I have been eating it for about 25 years and it hails from my earlier years when I was vegetarian. Sadly, I cannot claim it as entirely my own, although I know that I have altered it slightly as the years have progressed. If anyone out there recognises it, please let me know and I would be more than happy to give both credit and gratitude to its creation.

Although it is slightly time consuming to make, it is definitely worth the effort if you are having a celebration (whether you are vegetarian or not). It looks extra special, goes a long way (it will feed 10 to 12 people) and tastes fantastic. If you are replacing for a hot 'roast', it goes amazingly well with a tomato-based sauce and can be dressed up with baked fresh pineapple for a fruity twist. I personally love it cold, as the centre-piece of a celebratory or party buffet, and served with a spicy chutney or tasty coleslaw...... yum!

This is one of those dishes I make every year at Christmas.... without fail. Other nut-roasts have rarely come close. To counter the time that it takes to prepare, I generally make two at the same time and pop one in the freezer for another day.

This roast is full of the most amazing ingredients. Its nut base is a combination of cashews in the outer layer and hazelnuts in the stuffing. It is beautifully savoury and fragrant with the addition of a wonderful selection of mediterranean herbs. It is richly cheesy with a goodly handful of sharp mature cheddar. The characteristic depth and nuttiness of the sesame is unmistakable and adds an almost oriental waft across the palate.  And as a final treat, it has a hint of a sweet edge from the addition of a touch of honey and the sautéed, slightly caramelised veg.

The combination of flavours and textures is quite unique...... the crisp baked outer coat encases a soft, nutty, cheesy under-layer....... all twisted round a vibrant ribbon of contrastingly nectared leak and carrot stuffing.

If you thought nut roast was....... well...... 'nut roast', think again. This nut roast takes it one stage further. Once you have tried it, you will be hooked for good, meat-eater or not!

I say this from experience. I have, over many years, fed it to guests of all ages and all backgrounds and dietary inclinations. I have delivered it to party tables and served it as Sunday lunch. The recipe has been requested over and over again and has been adopted by many friends to be recreated in their own kitchens.

Because it is so fantastic cold, it is also perfect for slicing and taking on picnics and in packed lunches. I confess, I have also enjoyed it way too many times for breakfast, grabbed straight from the fridge, held in hand and munched down without so much as a plate in sight.

Historically, I made this roast with usual wheat-based glutinous breadcrumbs. Since becoming a gluten-avoiding family, I have made it with a number of different GF breads, but would strongly advise using either a more moist homemade crumb or adding a little extra egg if using shop-bought commercial breads which tend to be rather dry in comparison and can easily add their crumbly-nature to the roast. For this particular roast, I used a home-baked oat bread (which I hope to publish soon) which worked beautifully.

This recipe is a keeper. For those of you who venture to make it, I hope it brings as many years and meals of enjoyment as it has for me.

I am sharing this amazing roast with the following challenges this month :

Tea Time Treats with Janie at The Hedge Combers (in collaboration with Lavender & Lovage) who are looking for inspirational packed lunch goodies. This is one of my favourites!

Extra Veg with Helen at Utterly Scrummy.

Cooking with Herbs with Karen at Lavender & Lovage who asks us to reach into our winter store cupboards for helpful ingredients. This dish is packed full of good stuff from my larder....... from nuts, herbs and seeds to oil and honey. Perfect for winter cooking!

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Stuffed Cashew Nut Roast (Serves 10 to 12)


225g (8 oz) cashew nuts - finely ground
112g (4 oz) GF fresh breadcrumbs
115g (4 oz) mature cheddar cheese - grated (make sure it is vegetarian if required)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 large egg yolk
140 ml (¼ pint) milk

85g (3 oz) hazelnuts - de-skinned and coarsely ground
1 leek - chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
170g (6 oz) carrots - peeled and grated
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to season
1 tablespoon runny honey

Decorate : with a handful of whole cashew nuts


  1. Make the stuffing first : Saute the leek with the oil for about 5 minutes in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the grated carrots and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes until the carrots are soft - stirring frequently. 
  3. Add and stir in the ground hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sage, thyme and oregano, salt and pepper and honey.
  4. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  5. Outer roulade layer : Mix the ground cashew nuts with the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, parsley, basil and salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the egg yolk and the milk until all the ingredients have blended and you have a thick, sticky mix.
  7. Cut a large oblong of baking parchment and carefully spread and press the cashew nut mixture into an oblong shape about 1.5 to 2 cm thick.
  8. When cool, spread the stuffing mixture over the top evenly, leaving a gap of about 2 cm at each long side to allow for both starting the rolling process and sealing the final edge.
  9. Using the baking paper to help you. carefully roll the roulade from one long side, keeping the roll as tight as possible.
  10. Gently press the final edge together to seal and smooth with your finger tips. Seal the ends by gently squeezing together. Carefully squeeze together and smooth any cracks that appear.
  11. Decorate the top of the roulade by carefully pressing whole cashew nuts into the surface.
  12. Wrap the roulade in baking paper and chill for at least an hour before baking.
  13. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and base line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
  14. Place the roulade on the baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Check occasionally and if it appears to be browning too quickly, place a piece of foil over the top to protect it.
  15. Serve with chutney or a gravy/sauce of your choice. It goes equally well with a tomato-based sauce or traditional vegetable-stock based gravy.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Layered Dark & White Chocolate-Raspberry Cake with White Chocolate Ganache & Raspberry-Pomegranate Sauce - gluten free

Okay okay..... we've had enough indulgence recently, but birthdays have to be the exception to a bit more....... the diet can start next week.......

Cake is critical to any birthday celebration and in this case, the cake is extra special..... a real push-the-boat-out, chocolatey, fruity, slightly sticky delight. The recipient (kindly) declared it was the 'best birthday cake' he had 'ever had'..... 'a triumph!' Ahhhhhh.

Feeling creative, the intention was to make a flirt of a cake that would turn heads. Not over-perfect (I'm incapable of 'perfect'), but a bit of a looker with enough of a wow factor to show I had made a real effort. The result of my efforts is (if I say so myself) divine. It is not the sort of cake that you can knock up in a flash, but the effort required to make it is worth every luscious mouthful.

A classic combination of chocolate (dark and white) with raspberry, the flavours are combined and complimented in layered sponges, sandwiched and smothered with white chocolate ganache and decorated and drizzled with fresh fruit and a vibrant raspberry-pomegranate sauce.

Both sponges are made with melted chocolate (dark or white), moistened with ground almonds and greek yoghurt. The white chocolate-raspberry sponge is flavoured (and naturally coloured) with a goodly dose of freeze-dried raspberry powder (sourced from Healthy Supplies). The result is a perfectly fudgy cake with a slightly dense crumb........ sweet with a slightly tart, fruity backdrop....... each mouthful mingling in a delightful partnership of taste and texture.

The white chocolate ganache is literally and figuratively the icing on the cake. It is rich, creamy and incredibly luxurious. Slathered over the entire surface, it elevates the cake to a seriously decadent level......

And the sauce? What can I say? Made with juicy raspberries and pomegranate it is fresh, bright and contrasts the ganache with a slight sharpness to waken the tastebuds and liven the palate. Special indeed!

My only regret? The weather wasn't great and as a result, the photos don't show this cake at its best. I had to zip it out into the garden to get enough light...... no consideration of 'styling', but a case of grab the camera and snap! Oh well.... I can vouch for its deliciousness.

I am sending a couple of remaining slices over to Ness at Jibber Jabber for this month's Love Cake which for January is 'feeling fruity'. I know this doesn't exactly tick the 'healthy' box, but it's inclusion of freeze dried raspberry in the sponge, fresh raspberry and pomegranate in the sauce and the topping of fresh raspberries should hopefully allow its qualification.

I am also offering to Cook, Blog, Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

And finally to January's AlphaBakes with Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (and Caroline Makes). This month's random letter is 'L'. This is clearly and most definitely a 'Layered' cake so I am sharing it as this month's entry.

Layered Dark & White Chocolate-Raspberry Cake with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry-Pomegranate Sauce (makes 1x 8 inch three-layer cake)


Dark Chocolate Sponge (2 layers)

130g dark chocolate
110g unsalted butter 
95g ground almonds
175g gluten free plain flour blend (I used blend A from this post)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
25g cocoa powder
235g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 ml milk
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
135 ml greek yoghurt

White Chocolate & Raspberry Sponge (1 layer)

65g white chocolate
55g unsalted butter - room temperature
45g ground almonds
87g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch fine sea salt
8g freeze dried raspberry powder
115g caster sugar
1 large egg - room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
60 ml milk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
70 ml greek yoghurt

Raspberry-Pomegranate Sauce

80 ml water
1 tablespoon cornflour
65g caster sugar
110g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
seeds from ½ a pomegranate

White Chocolate Ganache

500g good quality white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks chocolate for cooking)
370 ml double cream


giant white chocolate buttons
chopped white chocolate
gold edible glitter
150g fresh raspberries


Sponges - For each mix :

  1. Base-line the cake tins with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together either in the microwave (medium setting - 30 second bursts - stirring between each), or in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir together until well combined and completely smooth. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the almonds, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa or raspberry powder, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. In a jug, mix together the milk and vinegar, stir and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and beginning the thicken.
  6. Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat again.
  7. Add the milk mixture and yoghurt and beat again until smooth and well combined.
  8. Add the dry ingredients and fold until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.
  9. Spoon into the cake tins and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon or spatula until even.
  10. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Raspberry-Pomegranate Sauce

  1. Mix the water and cornflour in a saucepan until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar and fruit and gently heat, crushing the fruit against the sides of the pan with the back of a spoon and stirring until the mixture comes to a simmer.
  3. Stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture becomes clear and thickened. 
  4. Remove from the heat and push through a sieve to remove the fibre.
  5. Leave the sauce to cool completely.

White Chocolate Ganache

  1. Break the chocolate into a bowl.
  2. In a saucepan or microwaveable container, bring the cream to a simmer.
  3. Remove form the heat and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes and then stir thoroughly until the chocolate has completely melted and the ganache is smooth.
  5. Leave to cool at room temperature until the ganache has reached a thick spreading consistency (this may take a couple of hours).

To put together :

  1. Layer the cake sponges with a layer of ganache and some sauce (making sure you don't spread the sauce to the edge as this will dribble down the sides making it difficult to spread the ganache on the outside of the cake cleanly).
  2. Cover the cake with the remaining ganache, spreading evenly.
  3. Drizzle raspberry and pomegranate sauce over the ganache
  4. Decorate with white chocolate buttons, raspberries chopped chocolate and glitter.
  5. Serve with the remaining sauce.
This cake should be stored in the fridge, but brought to room temperature before eating.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated