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