Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Beef Bolognese Pie (gluten free) using Schwartz sauce mix

Ever had a Bolognese Pie? No? Neither had I before I made this one! Will I make it again? For sure! It turned out to be a deliciously tasty twist on an old pasta favourite.

The idea came from a fusion of two foodie things on my 'to do' list. The first : a need to re-test my exciting new Gluten Free Alchemist shortcrust pastry recipe (first used with my Mini Picnic Pies) on a larger pie, to see how it handled, rolled and baked in 'big' form. The second : a need to test the versatility of the Schwartz gluten free Bolognese sauce mix, that I was gifted in a goody bag when I attended a Schwartz gluten free supper club earlier in the year.

Like any busy parent with a full-time job, it is always great to find a few dinner-time short cuts to make life easier. The new Schwartz gluten free sauces are full of flavour and a cinch to use , but as with any committed foodie, it's always fun to think outside the box and find new or interesting ways to use them.

This Bolognese Pie uses beef bolognese, made to the letter with the Schwartz mix, but with some extra simmer time (lid off) to reduce the liquid and thicken the sauce, so that the pastry remains crisp when filled. You'll find no soggy bottoms in my house!

The pastry was as amazing for this pie as it had been for the Mini Picnic Pies. Made with a carefully-combined blend of wholegrain and white starch flours, it is nutritionally balanced and also rice-free. Most importantly though, this pastry dough is incredibly smooth and pliable, rolls perfectly and is flexible enough to line a large pie base without having to patch up the holes.

Filled with thick beef Bolognese sauce and topped with a decorated crust, it bakes beautifully...... Crisp and short on the outside..... rich, meaty, red and saucy on the inside. Miss GF couldn't get enough of it, but I have to agree with her....., it was rather moreish.

I am offering my Bolognese Pie to the following linkies, to share some gluten free love :

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Fiesta Friday #174

Beef Bolognese Pie (makes 1 x 8 to 9 inch pie)


Pastry (1 batch GFA rice-free shortcrust (as below also = 440g rice free flour blend from this post) or use your favourite short-crust pastry - home-made or packet)
110g tapioca flour
88g potato starch flour
88g sorghum flour
66g cornflour
44g teff flour
44g buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
220g unsalted butter - cold and cubed (or dairy-free alternative)
2 large eggs
approx 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water (iced if possible)

Beef Bolognese Filling (using Schwartz GF mix or use your favourite Bolognese recipe)
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
450g/1lb extra lean beef mince
1 large onion - chopped
100g button mushrooms - sliced/halved/quartered
2 tablespoons tomato puree
150 ml/¼ pint water
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x sachet gluten free Schwartz Spaghetti Bolognese mix

grated cheddar cheese and/or
grated parmesan cheese

1 egg and a little milk - beaten together for egg-wash


  1. Pastry : Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum and salt, making sure all lumps are completely broken down (I put mine in an air-tight container and shake vigorously).
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mix using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  3. Beat the eggs together in a small bowl and then add to the flour mix with 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water.
  4. Bring the dough together with a flat knife or your hands, adding more water a teaspoon at a time, until you achieve a firm, but slightly sticky dough-ball. Knead slightly to ensure a smooth even texture (you may choose to 'fraiser' the dough instead of kneading, for an extra smooth consistency - as in this post)
  5. Wrap in clingfilm until ready to use and chill in the fridge.
  6. Meanwhile make your Beef Bolognese Filling : In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the mince and onion and fry for 4 to 5 minutes until the onion is softening and the mince is browning nicely.
  7. Add the mushrooms and continue to fry for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Drain the excess liquid from the pan, before adding the tomato puree. Stir through and fry for a further minute.
  9. Add the water, chopped tomatoes and Schwartz sauce mix. Bring to the boil, stirring continually to ensure the mixture is well-blended.
  10. Turn the heat down and stirring intermittently, simmer with the lid off for about 20 to 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced considerably and you have a thickened bolognese sauce. (If you are concerned that it is not thickening enough, you can mix a heaped teaspoon cornflour (starch) with a dribble of water to make a paste and add to the pan, stirring into the boiling liquid until thickening, although I didn't find this necessary).
  11. Remove from the heat and allow the Bolognese filling to cool completely (stir from time to time whilst it is doing so).
  12. Whilst the filling is cooling, cut off about two-thirds of your pastry and lightly dust the base of an 8 or 9 inch pie tin (I used one with a loose base to make it easier to remove later) with cornflour.
  13. If the pastry is very hard from being in the fridge, gently warm slightly with your hands to soften and then roll out (between 2 sheets of flour-dusted clingfilm) to a size large enough to line the base and sides of the pie tin. 
  14. Remove the top sheet of clingfilm and flip the pastry over into the tin, gently easing into the base and up the sides until it fits snuggly. Try and remove the clingfilm, but if the pastry has stuck to the base, just pop the whole thing into the fridge for about half an hour and the clingfilm should then come away easily.
  15. Remove the clingfilm and carefully cut away the excess pastry at the top edge with a sharp knife, making sure you leave a slight overhang to stick the pastry lid (save the left-overs and amalgamate with the remaining pastry by kneading slightly).
  16. Place the raw pastry base in the fridge to firm up.
  17. When the filling is cold, heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
  18. Take the pie base and fill with the Bolognese sauce.
  19. Sprinkle the top of the sauce with a little Cheddar and/or Parmesan cheese.
  20. Roll out the remaining pastry to the size of the pie top (for a lid). Make the egg-wash by beating an egg with a little milk and use to brush round the top sides of the pastry base. Drape the pastry lid over.
  21. Using your fingers, gently push the lid together with the wet pastry-base sides to stick and then cut away any excess pastry to tidy the pie edges.
  22. If you have any remaining pastry, you can use to cut out some decorations. Stick these to the top of the pie with a little egg-wash.
  23. Carefully cut a couple of small slits into the top of the pie with a sharp knife (to allow steam to escape when cooking) and brush the whole top surface with egg wash.
  24. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry is golden on top and crisp.
  25. Carefully remove from the tin and enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cherry-Chocolate Battenberg Cake with Cherry-Almond Marzipan (gluten free)

Who loves a good Battenberg cake? Moist chequerboard sponge surrounded by rich, soft, nutty marzipan....... Just gorgeous.

For those of you unfamiliar with Battenberg, it traditionally incorporates pink and yellow sponge squares, with a distinct, almond flavoured marzipan coat. Some while back, I perfected an incredible gluten free version of this original gem, which was quite frankly, the Best Battenberg Cake I Had Ever Tasted.....!

Being one of the wonders of my childhood teatime however, I couldn't leave it there. Ever since my 'Best Battenberg', I have been dreaming of chequerboard sponges in any number of colour and flavour combinations..... Finally, I have grabbed my baking tins and succumbed to experimentation..... and boy, has it been worth it.

This gluten free Battenberg is smart, sophisticated and just a little bit different..... Different is good right? The central chequerboard of contrasting chocolate and cherry sponge cakes, rich and moist from the ground almonds they contain, sandwiched together with fruity cherry jam..... all enrobed with easy-to-make, deliciously sweet, home-made no-cook marzipan...... pinked up and given a flavour-makeover with some tart, summery, freeze-dried cherry powder.

Tempted? You should be! This cake is delicious. An age-old classic (which apparently dates back to Victorian times) updated with a modern favourite chocolate-cherry flavour combo, fit for the smartest of afternoon teas..... Ritz and Fortnum and Mason take note.....

I mentioned that the marzipan is home made and no-cook. If you ever thought making marzipan would be tricky, think again. Whilst some recipes are more complex than others, this one is the simplest on the planet and tastes way better than those ready-packets in the supermarket. It literally takes 5 minutes to mix up.

It is a recipe which (in its basic form) I first discovered over at I'd Much Rather Bake Than.... It tastes so good and is so easy to work, that it has found its way into a number of recipes on The Gluten Free Alchemist :

Best Battenberg Cake
Chocolate-Covered Marzipan Stars
Pistachio, Orange and Raspberry Fondant Fancies
Almond, Cherry, Apricot and Marzipan Hot Cross Buns
Christmas Cake
Autumnal Spiced Pumpkin and Walnut Cakes

All you need to make it are some ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and an egg. If you don't want to use egg yolk, just leave it out and substitute with extra white. It's probable that you could make it with aqua faba too, if you want to attempt a vegan version, although I have not tried.... yet. But hey! Give it a go..... If it works, let me know.

Once you have your marzipan ingredients, just throw them together in a large bowl, mix to combine and then knead until smooth. How easy is that?

If you want to get clever with different flavour versions, just add freeze-dried fruit powders or change your flavourings and extracts as you wish..... I love the pretty pink attention-seeking hue from the cherry powder added to the marzipan on this Battenberg cake, with its little love-hearts that lure you to come taste.... Will you?

I am sharing my gluten free Cherry-Chocolate Battenberg Cake with the following :

Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes

Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Love Cake with Jibber Jabber - This month's theme is 'get in shape'.

We Should Cocoa with Tin & Thyme

Fiesta Fridays

Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello

Cherry-Chocolate Battenberg Cake


Chocolate Sponge
80g plain gluten free flour blend - I used blend A from this post)
20g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
pinch fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
110g milk
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
50g unsalted butter - softened
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Cherry Sponge
100g plain gluten free flour blend - I used blend A from this post)
½ teaspoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
pinch fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
1½ tablespoons freeze dried cherry powder (I get mine for Healthy Supplies)
110g milk
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
50g unsalted butter - softened
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon natural cherry flavouring (optional) - source : Lakeland
a little red food colouring

approx 200g cherry jam

Cherry-Almond Marzipan
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
2 tablespoons freeze dried cherry powder
¾ teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg (or 1½ to 2 large egg whites)

GF sprinkles to decorate (optional)


Sponge :
  1. Either use a multi-size cake tin (divide into 4 equal width strips with dividers), a Battenberg tin or free-wheel by preparing a 1x 9 inch/23 cm square loose-bottomed cake tin. Base-line your tin/divided areas with baking paper. If making your own dividers, cut a thick piece of card to snuggly fit across the centre of the tin and cover the card with foil, followed by a layer of baking paper. Divide the tin in half with the covered card, so that it is split into 2 oblongs. 
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Unless you plan to bake each cake separately, you will need to make the two cake batters in tandem, therefore weigh each set of ingredients separately into two separate sets of bowls as you go.
  4. Weigh and mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt, almonds and either cocoa or cherry powder for each mix, making sure any lumps are broken down. Set aside.
  5. In each of two jugs, measure the milk and mix with the vinegar. Stir and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cream the butter with the sugar in two large bowls (for each cake batter) until pale and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs for each mix one at a time and beat until well blended.
  8. Add the vanilla extract to one bowl for the chocolate mix and beat to combine with the butter-paste.
  9. Add the cherry flavouring and a little red food colour to the other bowl and beat to combine with the butter-paste.
  10. Starting with the chocolate mix, fold in the dry ingredients with cocoa, alternately with one of the portions of milk-vinegar mixture, about a third at a time, until all are added and JUST combined.  
  11. Now repeat the process in 10 for the cherry batter mix.
  12. Spoon the mixtures into your portioned tin - splitting between sections evenly - either 2 x cherry/2 x chocolate (Battenberg or divider tin) or 1 x cherry 1 x chocolate for home-made 2-part divided tin (to be cut in half after baking).
  13. Smooth the tops of the cake mixtures and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch. 
  14. When cooked, leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes and then carefully turn the sponges out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  15. Once cold, wrap the sponges in baking paper and cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to firm up slightly, which will make them easier to cut and shape.
Marzipan :
  1. Weigh the almonds into a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar, stirring to fully combine.
  2. Add the cherry powder, almond extract and egg and stir with a flat knife to bring together until the mixture forms a dough. 
  3. Knead the dough until smooth. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film until ready to use. If you chill, make sure you remove to come to room temperature before using.
Putting the cake together :
  1. Carefully trim the edges of each sponge. (If you only have 2 cakes - 1 cherry and 1 chocolate, cut each oblong in half lengthways, as evenly as you can). Measure each piece alongside the others and trim slightly to even up as necessary, so that each strip is as uniform as possible. (You get to eat the trimmings!). You should now have four even strips of cake - two cherry and two chocolate.
  2. Heat the cherry jam in a small saucepan over a low heat, or microwave on medium until warm and liquid.
  3. Use a pastry brush to coat the inside sides of the sponge lengthways (piece by piece), sticking together in a chequer-board pattern : cherry and chocolate next to each other on the bottom layer, followed by chocolate and cherry (opposite sides) on a second layer. 
  4. Roll out the marzipan onto some baking paper (to prevent it sticking), so that you have a large rectangle that will wrap around the whole of the cake.
  5. Brush some jam onto a middle strip of the marzipan and carefully place the sponge on top of the jam (using a spatula or palette knife to help support the sponge when moving).
  6. Brush the remaining long sides of the sponge with jam and carefully fold the marzipan up over the sponge, keeping it as tight as possible to the cake sides and sticking to the jam.
  7. Trim the marzipan to make a neat join and gently smooth together with your finger. Trim any excess marzipan at each end.
  8. Turn the cake over so that the join is hidden on the underside.
  9. Use any off-cuts of marzipan to make decorative marzipan shapes (I made hearts using a cutter) or decorate the cake as you wish. Use a tiny bit of jam or some edible glue to stick the marzipan hearts or other decorations to the cake.
  10. Chill the cake for about an hour, before cutting a thin slice off each end with a sharp knife to tidy up. 
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Quinoa Rainbow Breakfast Bowl (gluten free, dairy free, vegan, egg free, soy free, refined-sugar free)

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) has to be one of the most incredible seeds on the planet. It is so amazing that 2013 was designated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as the International Year of Quinoa. And rightly so! It is nutritional magic.

Importantly, it is a complete protein, which means that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs to regenerate and grow. This little gem contains twice the level of protein that you will find in either rice or barley. That makes it a perfect base for a breakfast that will set you up for the day and of course, perfect if you follow a vegan diet.

It is naturally gluten free, contains high levels of calcium, magnesium and manganese and is a great source of vitamins B, E and dietary fibre. It is also considered to be among the least allergenic of grains.... What's not to love?

This is not my first Quinoa Breakfast Bowl recipe, but for this one, I have taken the perfect little seed to a new level. I have added some freeze-dried fruit powder and a little maple syrup to the pan for flavour and colour and instead of using water, I have cooked it in a delicious new dairy free alternative to cows milk, made by Vita Coco. It is so simple to make..... you literally weigh up your ingredients into a pan and simmer for a few minutes!

I am already a Vita Coco fan and regularly drink their coconut water, which I find incredibly refreshing. So when I heard they had bottled a new coconut milk, I was keen to get hold of some.

I drink a lot of coconut milk, both straight and in coffee, as I generally prefer it to cows milk, especially when I am at work. There are a number of brands on the market, but they vary considerably in taste, wateriness and also the slightly grainy residue that they leave at the bottom of the cup.

Trying the Vita Coco Coconut Milk however, I am impressed. Vita Coco Coconut Milk is made with 70% coconut so it tastes creamy and has the slight viscosity that you get with cows milk. Unlike some non-dairy milk alternatives, it has no added sugar and is also soy free...... and I can verify (having just drunk a very large glass of it 'straight', that it is delicious. I think I have just been converted....

Try it for yourself! You'll find Vita Coco Coconut Milk in most major supermarkets.... usually in the Free From chilled section.

I wasn't sure how it would work in place of water to cook quinoa, but as you don't 'drain' quinoa or rinse it following cooking, it was a perfect choice. All the goodness and creaminess of the coconut milk remained in the dish, enhancing every mouthful with a little extra very healthy breakfast decadence.

Set against the slight tartness of the freeze-dried cherry, the perfectly pink, slightly nutty, cooked quinoa makes a delicious and very wholesome base on which to add fruit, nuts and other additions of choice. When cooked, quinoa seeds maintain a little crunch which is set against an internal fluffiness.

Mine is topped with a veritable array of textures and rainbow colours..... Soft, squidgy, fruity blueberries with their amazing anti-oxidant properties (as well as a healthy dose of vitamins)..... Crunchy green Iranian pistachios for extra protein and heart-healthy fat...... Some soft, slightly chewy dried peaches (another great source of vitamins and fibre)..... Some of my favourite freeze-dried melt-in-the-mouth raspberry pieces, adding tangy sweetness and extra vitamin C...... and a show-stopping physalis for good measure.

Because I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I have also added a sprinkle of coconut palm sugar, which has much lower ratios of fructose than standard sugars, making it a healthier choice for those of us who are prone to guilty indulgence.

Since I have made this amazing Quinoa Rainbow Breakfast Bowl, it seems churlish not to share as widely as possible. I noticed that Foodies 100 has teamed up this month with Vita Coco in a challenge to create a delicious, dairy-free breakfast using Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative. Yay! Perfect!

So..... This recipe is an entry into the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. 
See more great breakfast ideas at 

I am also sharing my incredibly healthy, set you up for the day Quinoa Rainbow Breakfast Bowl with the following linkies, to share the Quinoa-Vita Coco love :

Meat Free Mondays with Tinned Tomatoes - also celebrating National Vegetarian Week

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice - If you cook up extra quinoa, you can store it in the fridge until ready to use each morning.

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Quinoa Rainbow Breakfast Bowl (serves 2 or 1 large, protein-filled  breakfast)


80g quinoa 
200 ml/g Vita Coco Coconut Milk (Original)
½ tablespoon freeze-dried cherry powder (or ground freeze-dried raspberry/strawberry)
½ tablespoon maple syrup

2 physalis fruits
1 to 2 tablespoons freeze-dried raspberry pieces
4 to 5 dried peaches (or apricots) - cut into small pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons Iranian Pistachio nuts (or chopped standard unsalted pistachios)
large handful fresh blueberries
approx 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar of choice)


(You can prepare the quinoa the night before and eat it cold, or warm in the microwave in the morning with a little additional Vita Coco Coconut Milk if you prefer a warm breakfast)
  1. Weigh and mix together the quinoa, Vita Coco Coconut Milk, freeze dried fruit powder and maple syrup in a small pan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring.
  2. Turn down the heat and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  3. After 8 minutes, turn off the heat and place a lid on the pan. Leave for about 20 minutes to sit.
  4. You can either eat the quinoa warm, or if you prefer it cold, allow to cool completely or place in an airtight container and chill over night if you have made it the night before.
  5. When you are ready for your Rainbow Breakfast Bowl, place a layer of cooked quinoa in a bowl and arrange your fruit as you choose on top. 
  6. Sprinkle with a little coconut sugar and enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Naturally Sweet Raw Green Smoothie - Magic in a Glass (with no added sugar or sweeteners)

This naturally gluten free, naturally sweet Raw Green Smoothie is a perfect pick me up. It is born out of a need to find some energy in what has been a difficult few weeks. Full of an incredible array of beautiful green and yellow fruit, veg and nuts, it packs a punch of health and vitality to restore some balance.

Sometimes life throws so many side-balls that you feel like you are sinking. None of your anchors are down and you are caught in a sea swirl so powerful, all you experience is the spin of the current dragging you down. Right now, I am in that place. For all sorts of reasons. I won't 'go there' in public, but as a consequence, my energy levels are so low and are being challenged in so many ways, that the blog may go quiet, or intermittent for a while. Other things need my attention and they must come first.....

As is the timing of these things, I typically have a number of amazing recipes and new things I have developed that I want to share with you, but they will have to wait in line. As and when I have a need (or an opportunity) to escape from the reality of the crap that is life right now, I will snatch my computer and reach for you.

When I can, I will also keep contact through social media (I have a load of photos I want to smarten up and re-publish, which will keep me going with less effort than the full blog-works)...... after all, I don't want you to forget me!

Meanwhile, if you need something to energise, go find the ingredients below, grab a liquidiser and blend until smooth, green and vibrant.....

This superfood smoothie is packed with Amazing!.....
Kale - The great green detoxifier..... High in vitamins K,A and C and well known for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients. It even plays a role in reducing glaucoma risk.
Spinach - Another great provider of vitamins K and A, as well as the minerals manganese, folate, magnesium & iron. and praised for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Baobab powder - A powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and found to have about six times more vitamin C than orange.
Pistachio Nuts - A rich energy source, full of vitamin E, protein and healthy fats (including oleic acid) which can help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Coconut Water - containing simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals (particularly potassium and sodium) to help rehydrate.

If that's not enough for you, the whole lot is pepped up with grapes, pear, pineapple, kiwi, banana, cucumber and a squeeze of tangy lime to give it an incredible hit of fruity loveliness..... just what you need to bring a smile to your face and chase away that feeling of blaaahhhh...... at least for a while....

I have no doubt I will be making quite a few of these over the next few weeks.

I am sharing my Naturally Sweet Green Smoothie with the following :

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie

Eat Your Greens with Allotment To Kitchen and The Veg Hog

Meat Free Mondays with Tinned Tomatoes

Naturally Sweet Raw Green Smoothie (makes 2 large or 3 small smoothie glasses)


handful raw green curly kale
handful raw baby spinach
approx 10 seedless green grapes
½ pear - peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes
approx 5 chunks frozen pineapple
approx 2 inch/5 cm length cucumber - cubed
½ banana - peeled
½ kiwi fruit - peeled
juice of ½ a lime
1 heaped tablespoon baobab powder
handful raw, unsalted pistachio nuts - shells removed
approx 220 ml 100% coconut water


  1. Put all the ingredients into a high powered liquidiser or smoothie maker and liquidise until smooth. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A Trio Of Mini Picnic Pies - Chicken-Pesto; Sausage; Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton : #FreeFromPicnics (gluten free, optional dairy free, nut free, rice free, soy free)

The weather is warming, the grass is growing and the trees and flowers are blooming..... which must mean that it is picnic season.

There is something about the idea of picnics which is very romantic. The freedom to grab a basket of food and a bottle of wine, head out on the road, stop wherever takes your fancy and drop a warm rug in the long grass to lounge and eat in the sunshine is just perfect.....

OK. So in reality, the kids might be screaming at each other (with the parents joining them intermittently), the whole journey might be filled with 'are we there yet?',the British weather is less than predictable and if you're driving, that bottle of Prosecco might just have to be left at home....., but if you find the right spot, the weather holds and you remember to take the frisbee, you won't regret making the effort to get there...... Especially if that basket if full of delicious, home-made goodies.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have joined an amazing group of free from bloggers for a monthly recipe-share based around seasonal themes. In February, we offered an incredible variety of #FreeFromPancakes. In March we gave you a #FreeFromEaster. In April, some of the group filmed some vlogs sharing free from recipes to cook with the kids (I missed that one on account of sheer lack of confidence with using and editing video).

This month, we are offering our allergy-free ideas and intolerance-avoidant creativity to set you up for the (hopefully) hot Summer season..... with #FreeFromPicnics. Throughout May, our free from gang of bloggers will be posting recipes across the web. Keep an eye on the blogs listed below to see what wonders are shared (they are all amazingly talented).

My offering for this post has been buzzing round my head for months, just waiting for the right moment to make an appearance...... Mini Picnic Pies!

I first made the Sausage Pie when I had some left over sausage meat at Christmas. They were such a hit on the buffet table and with Miss GF, that I started dreaming up all sorts of alternative fillings.

For this post, I have created one of Miss GF's other favourite flavour combos.... Chicken & Pesto, as well as my favourite.... Crushed Roasted Butternut Squash, Toasted Pine Nut & Stilton. All of them are simple to make with some basic baking skills and a little time.

I have used a new pastry recipe for these pies. Since becoming gluten free in 2011, I have always blended my own flours as I have found this allows greater flexibility to tweak to the needs and desired texture of the bake and is cheaper for us, on account of Miss GF being entitled to some flours on prescription (currently). For this recipe, I have heeded the recent warnings to cut down on rice consumption (due to concerns about arsenic contamination - particularly relevant for those following a gluten free diet) and have made the pastry free from rice flour.

The pastry dough worked really well. It felt completely different to rice-based blends and behaved completely differently too..... It was soft to touch, kneadable, pliable and rollable...... It didn't crack, even after 3 or 4 re-rolls and it baked crisp and delicious..... A fluke? Possibly. Or lucky ratios? (To be fair, I did use my knowledge of the qualities of different flours and how they behave)..... Either way, it was good.

If you don't want to mix your own flour blend, I thoroughly recommend you get your hands on some of Vicki, The Free From Fairy's gluten free, rice free flour, which is currently available via Amazon. She's done all the hard work for you and brings a superb flour (which won a Free From Food Silver Award for innovation), packaged and ready to use.

On my picnic table, you can also see some other home-baked goodies.... an amazing gluten-free baguette recipe which I am just tweaking in preparation to share with you and some of Miss GF's 'very first recipe out of her head with no guidance' oat cookies, which we will bring you soon too....

Other places I am sharing my Mini Picnic Pies :

Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Treat Petite with The Baking Explorer

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching For Spice

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Happy Picnicking - Check out the bloggers below for lots of ideas for #FreeFromPicnics
Gluten Free Vegan Oatmeal Cookies : Mel at Le Coin De Mel
Egg Free-Gluten Free Scotch 'Eggs' : Rebecca at Glutarama
7-Layer Dip Picnic Pots : Emma at Free From Farmhouse
Vegan Red Onion & Chilli Cheese Scones : Midge over at The Peachicks Bakery
Rainbow Fruit Salad : Nathalie at Intolerant Gourmand
Egg Muffin Cups : Laura at Dairy Free Kids
Spinach & Mushroom Crustless Quiche : Chloe at The Adventures of an Allergy Mummy
Chocolate Tiffin made with Insect Flour : Vicki at The Free From Fairy
Rainbow Salad Jars : Jo at Paleo Crust
Asparagus, New Potato & Spring Vegetable Frittata : Mandy at Sneaky Veg

Other Gluten Free Savoury Picnic Ideas on Gluten Free Alchemist :
Picnic Salad Jar - Summer Picnic Trick
Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake
Mediterranean Summer Tart
Summer Tortilla
Scotch Eggs
Cheddar, Gruyere & Bacon Quiche
Muffin Pizzas/Pizza Muffins
Butternut, Quinoa & Pine Nut Patties
Two Cheese, Chorizo & Walnut Biscuits
Goats Cheese Stuffed Cherry Bomb Chillies
Goose Egg Frittata
Sun-Dried Tomato, Parmesan & Walnut Puff Pastry Tarts
Cheese Scones
White Bread Rolls - gluten, dairy & yeast free
Chicken, Squash & Gruyere Quiche

Trio of Mini Picnic Pies : Chicken-Pesto; Sausage; Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton (makes 36 mini pies)

Ingredients : Pastry (or blend of the 6 flours also equivalent to 440g rice free flour blend from this post use your favourite GF shortcrust pastry recipe)

110g tapioca flour
88g potato starch flour
88g sorghum flour
66g cornflour
44g teff flour
44g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
220g unsalted butter - cold and cubed (or dairy-free alternative)
2 large eggs
approx 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water (iced if possible)

Fillings :

Chicken-Pesto (for 12 mini pies)
1 boneless, skinned chicken breast
2 to 3 tablespoons pesto of choice

Sausage (for 12 mini pies)
150g sausage meat - seasoned to taste

Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton (for 12 mini pies)
1 small butternut squash 
a little olive oil
salt and pepper to season
handful pine nuts
approx 50g stilton (or other strong blue cheese)

1 egg and a little milk to make some egg-wash


  1. Pastry : Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum and salt, making sure all lumps are completely broken down (I put mine in an air-tight container and shake vigorously).
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mix using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  3. Beat the eggs together in a cup and then add to the flour mix with 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water.
  4. Bring the dough together with a flat knife or your hands, adding more water a teaspoon at a time, until you achieve a firm, but slightly sticky dough-ball. Knead slightly to ensure a smooth even texture (you may choose to 'fraiser' the dough instead of kneading, for an extra smooth consistency - as in this post)
  5. Wrap in clingfilm until ready to use and chill in the fridge.
  6. Fillings : You may wish to prepare these ahead of making the pastry. 
  7. Chicken-Pesto - Cut the chicken breast with a sharp knife into very small cubes (they need to fit in the pies). Mix with the pesto in a small bowl until well coated. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  8. Sausage - If your sausage meat needs it, season to taste - set aside until ready to use.
  9. Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton : Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and cut into small cubes. 
  10. Put in a roasting tin, drizzle and coat with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 for about 45 minutes, turning the squash occasionally until soft and beginning to brown at the edges very slightly.
  11. Whilst the butternut is in the oven, toast your pine nuts by placing in an oven-proof dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes to ensure they don't burn. When done, remove from the oven and set aside.
  12. When the butternut is cooked and soft, remove from the oven and crush with the back of a fork. Add the pine nuts and stir through. Leave to cool.
  13. Once cold, crumble and add the stilton cheese. Set aside until ready to use. 
  14. When ready to assemble the pies, take your pastry and soften slightly using the warm palms of your hands. Get ready a couple of mini pie trays. - Depending on how many 'holes' you have, you may need to make in batches (make sure you re-wrap the pastry in cling-film between processes).
  15. Take a small piece of pastry dough about the size of a walnut and roll into a ball. Press into the base of one of the holes in the tin and using a floured small pastry tamper (or a flat ended small rolling pin), gently press the pastry dough into the hole, carefully rocking a little to push the dough up the sides of the hole. The pastry should not be too thick, but should come to a little above the top of the hole making a basket shape. (if you see any holes in the pastry dough, remove and repeat the process until you have got the knack).
  16. Fill 12 of your raw pastry cases with one of your fillings, almost to the top, but allowing for a little turn-in of the pastry-sides at the top. 
  17. Using your finger, gently 'turn-down' the pastry sides over the edge of the filling to make a small ledge (this will form the base to stick the pastry lids).
  18. Repeat the processes 15 to 17 until you have filled 12 pies with one filling.
  19. To top the first batch of pies, take a piece of dough and using a floured surface and floured rolling pin, roll to a thickness of about 3 millimetres. 
  20. Use a round cookie cutter the size of the pie tops to cut 12 rounds of pastry.
  21. Mix up an egg with a little milk and beat together to make an egg-wash. 
  22. Brush a little egg wash on the underside of the raw pastry lid and around the pastry ledge at the top of the pie.  Stick the round lid to the pie, gently pressing down and smoothing at the edges with a dampened finger to seal.
  23. Repeat this process until all the pies are filled and lidded. You may want to differentiate your tops between pie fillings, by sticking a small star/heart/pine nut to the tops with a little egg-wash. 
  24. Repeat the process from 14 above to make pies with your other fillings.
  25. Place the pies in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm up slightly. Reserve the remaining egg wash until ready to bake.
  26. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and brush the tops of the uncooked pies with the remaining egg wash to form a glaze.
  27. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and crisp.
  28. Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes, before carefully removing (you may need to ease a flat knife down the edges of the tops to help unstick if necessary) to a wire rack to cool.
  29. Enjoy hot or cold.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated