Saturday, 26 August 2017

Barcelona - Experiencing the Fringes of Terror as a Visiting Tourist

This was to be a post on gluten free Barcelona, but given the events of 17th August 2017 in the city, I wanted to share an experience of the unexpected which will not and should not be forgotten. The other post can wait......

Last week we had the pleasure and misfortune of being in Barcelona...... A pleasure because Barcelona has to be one of the most interesting, welcoming, beautiful and diverse cities in Europe. Misfortune, because our visit coincided with the terror attacks in which 13 people died on Las Ramblas..... a hugely popular and extremely busy shopping area in the city centre.

We were lucky. We were close to the incident, but not so close as to witness its full horror. We were however caught within the terror and panic that followed, having been heading towards the centre at the time a van was deliberately driven into and struck hundreds of people. An act which is utterly unfathomable.

The Catalonian police were on the scene within minutes and were amazing in their instantaneous and definitive response. The evacuation of thousands from the streets to the safety of their homes and hotels was effective and like hundreds of armed and protective ants, police remained on the streets across the city and hovering overhead in loud and unnerving helicopters for hours..... searching every possible corner for the fugitive driver of the attack and his accomplices.

It was a frightening experience. Like concentric circles rippling out from a pool of water when a stone is dropped, the fear spread road by road, across the city, as people fled away from the scene...... not knowing whether the danger was behind them, or may reappear somewhere else.

Screaming, with fear etched across their faces as they ran up the hill towards us, it was clear that something utterly terrible was happening. Instinctively, we joined them in the exodus away from the centre, walking as quickly as we could towards the safety of the backstreets that would take us to the refuge of our hotel, but doing all we could to remain calm and in control for the sake of our daughter.

You could physically see the news spreading outwards...... Families, tourists, locals enjoying an evening drink in the outside seating of bars and restaurants, watching the movement of people and realising the gravity of the situation..... their smiling, social faces changing in an instant and becoming marked with worry...... picking up their phones and anxiously checking social media and contacting loved ones.

Back in our hotel, we turned on the World News to try to understand the mayhem being experienced around us. Helicopter clattering overhead and armed officers stationed at the hotel entrance, we knew the police were moving across the city in their search for the terrorists.

Being so close to such an event brings the fragility of safety into sharp focus. We had intended to go out that evening earlier than we did, but were delayed..... I am grateful for that..... ten minutes earlier and we could have been less fortunate.

Compelled to join the thousands of Catalonians the following morning in an act of solidarity and support, we made our way to the Placa de Catalunya, where we shared the mood of defiance.... "No tinc por!" (I am not afraid) repeated rhythmically in the hot sun...... spontaneous clapping from saddened, but determined hands...... silent thoughts and tears for those lost and harmed.

Dotted along Las Ramblas, shrines of candles and flowers and messages of love and support became places for thoughtful reflection, remembrance and respect...... Memorials which over the next few days grew and stretched outwards.

What makes it reasonable in the minds of terrorists to deliberately seek to harm and kill innocent people, I will never understand....... but a piece of my heart will remain in Barcelona in sorrow for those less fortunate than ourselves on 17th August 2017.

Brilliant Blog Posts - Honest Mum

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Cacao-Courgette (Zucchini) Breakfast Cake (gluten free & wholegrain)

The courgette glut continues and we seem to be getting more inventive every day with ways to consume them over at Gluten Free Alchemist. This Cacao-Courgette (Zucchini) Breakfast Cake is my latest effort in the fight to tame the deluge...... It is quite possibly my favourite yet.

I love courgettes, but they seem to be rampant little beasts and no matter how many times I tell myself to plant less of them, I always end up with too many to keep up with. I think the fact that they are so easy to grow is a big draw. There is nothing worse than trying to grow food that either fails or takes loads of effort and space for little reward. Courgettes just keep on coming no matter how little attention they are given.

This breakfast cake is a twist on my Chocolate Chunk-Courgette Oatie Cookie Mounds, which have always been well received. When I made them a couple of weeks back, I thought that if I gave them a few tweaks of ingredients and made them as a tray bake, they might make wholesome, healthy and very sustaining breakfast bars. And indeed they do. If you leave out the chocolate chunks (which are optional anyway) or replace them with some cacao nibs, they would be wonderfully healthy.... but I am a sucker for chocolate and throwing a few chocolate chips into the mix was also a good way to persuade Miss GF to ignore the fact that they contained courgette and give them a go....

Made with a rice-free flour blend that is 40% wholegrain flours, to which I have added an additional portion of whole-grain oat flour and plenty of gluten free rolled oats, the base of this cake is full of good stuff. The courgette adds extra fibre and moisture, alongside peanut butter and hazelnuts for crunch and nuttiness, cacao powder (which not only packs a flavour punch, but is full of antioxidants, minerals and B and E vitamins), all of which is sweetened with a balanced (but not over-sweet) combination of unrefined coconut palm sugar and light brown sugar.

They are so easy to make too.... I think the most fiddly part is grating the courgette! Once made they will last well for several days in an airtight container in the fridge...... Perfect for grabbing on your way out the door for breakfast on the go or a mid-morning snack in the office.

Not only are they (relatively) guilt free..... (okay.... next time I promise I will sub the chocolate for cacao nibs), but they are amazingly filling.... and unless you are a ridiculously hungry person, will sustain you for hours.

Oh..... and I needn't have worried about Miss GF..... She enjoyed them just as much as the rest of us over at Gluten Free Alchemist and didn't seem phased at all that they contained green stuff!

I am sharing my Cacao-Courgette (Zucchini) Breakfast Cake with :

Recipe Of The Week with A Mummy Too

Fiesta Friday #184

Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy

Simple & In Season with Feeding Boys

Treat Petite with The Baking Explorer

Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain

We Should Cocoa with Tin & Thyme

Eat Your Greens with Allotment to Kitchen and The Veg Hog

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

Other Courgette (Zucchini) Recipes on Gluten Free Alchemist
Courgette & Cherry Cupcakes
Giant Round Courgette (or Marrow) Stuffed with Rich Dark Puy Lentil Stuffing
Spiralized Oriental Courgette-Noodle Soup
Chocolate Chunk-Courgette Oatie Cookie Mounds
Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake
Turkey Meatballs with Hidden Veg
Manchego, Saucisson & Oregano Muffins
Marinated BBQ Veg

Cacao-Courgette (Zucchini) Breakfast Cake (makes 10 to 15 bars, depending on how big you cut them)


125g plain gluten free flour blend (I used my GFA rice-free blend that you can find here)
25g cacao powder
90g GF oats
50g GF oat flour (made as in this post)
60g tapioca flour
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
180g soft butter
75g coconut palm sugar
85g light soft brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
280g courgette/zucchini - grated
40g crunchy peanut butter
35g chopped roasted hazelnuts
150g dark chocolate chips/chunks (optional)


  1. Base-line a 9 inch/23 cm square baking tin and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flours, cacao, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, until completely blended (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously).
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until pale and light.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again to blend thoroughly.
  5. Add the dry ingredients, grated courgette/zucchini, peanut butter, hazelnuts and chocolate chips (if using) and fold together until you have an even mixture. 
  6. Spoon the batter into the baking tin and smooth the top.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is firm to the touch.
  8. Leave the cake in the tin for 20 to 30 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Cut into slices and store in an airtight container
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Best Ever Gluten Free Scones with Simple (lower-sugar) Home-Made Strawberry Jam

Although I have made some amazing scones since going gluten free, I have been seeking the perfect plain gluten free scone recipe for a long time. In my search, I have frequently asked myself the question 'what makes a great scone?' When I ask the question, I recall my pre-gluten free days and some of the best Cream Teas in my history.

One of my favourite nostalgic Cream Tea memories dates back (way too many) years to when I was a mere slip of an adolescent and I took a holiday to Devon with my sister in the family 'hand me down' orange Mini. In those days, Minis were tiny and noisy, but so so much fun. I still have the number plate indelibly etched on my brain, so memorable was that Mini...... RUR 598M! Yep..... we've been through the number plate suffix and prefix year 'letters' and have completely revamped to numbers since then...... Old I may be, but I am proud to say that we owned a Mini in the 70's...... It was bright, it was bold and it was fun.

But back to Cream Teas..... We took this Mini down the then empty motorways to Devon and there we stayed (with my brother's ex-girlfriend) in the palm-lined town of Torquay. We did what any self-respecting young women do and sought out beaches to lie on..... and the best ice creams, fish and chips and cream teas we could find. We were of an age when eating vast quantities of sugar, carbs and fats made little dent on our weight, so we indulged to our limits.....

Down there in Badgers Holt, we found the best, softest, tallest, jamiest, clotted creamiest Cream Tea ever. The weather was scorching and we took our two huge scones (each!) and accompanying tea pots outside, where we sat on a grassy bank and scoffed until we were bursting....... compelled to lie on the grass for a good couple of hours, before we could subject our stuffed bodies to further movement........ A memory was made!

What made these scones so good? They were perfect of texture...... Soft, but close of crumb and slightly dense...... Tall in rise, with little crinkles and cracks around the edges, but still slightly warm..... Mild in flavour, but with a hint of sweetness to complement the cream and jam which was generously delivered..... Rich, decadent, smooth, creamy, slightly clumpy-topped dollops of West-Country Clotted Cream spread in a thick layer across the top of each half-scone, begging to be crowned with a spoonful of joyous, dark red, gooey strawberry jam.

There you have it..... the perfect Cream Tea..... just needing to be recreated with a culinary update that is gluten free.

And here it is. The best gluten free scones..... No. The best scones I have ever eaten! Made with a rice free flour blend which is light and oh so soft to the touch, moistening buttermilk and a little ground almond, these gluten free scones are incredible..... And whereas gluten free scones will often be stale and hard within hours, these are still soft two to three days after they come out of the oven.

The jam is also home-made, with our wonderful local Kent strawberries..... At this time of year, I feel so lucky to live in the Garden of England. I often think jam is going to be a hassle to make, but it isn't and is well worth a little effort for the fruity satisfaction it gives. Better still.... this recipe has a lower sugar content for less guilt and all the pleasure. I have shared my recipe below, although there really is no magic to making it!

As I don't have any cows or a dairy, the Clotted Cream is my very favourite.... Rodda's.... all the way from Cornwall!

So before the summer is out, why don't you create your own Cream Tea memory with these delicious gluten free scones...... I promise you won't regret it......

I am sharing the Gluten Free Alchemist Best Ever Gluten Free Scones with Simple (lower sugar) Home-Made Strawberry Jam  with :

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Bake of the Week with Casa Costello

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

Cook Blog Share - this week with Easy Peasy Foodie

Fiesta Friday #183

Treat Petite with The Baking Explorer

Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys

Baking Crumbs - A brand new linky with Only Crumbs Remain

Inheritance Recipes with Pebble Soup and Coffee & Vanilla

Also celebrating International Scone Week from 7th to 13th August with Lavender & Lime

Other gluten free scones on Gluten Free Alchemist :

Blueberry & Lemon Buttermilk Scones
Chocolate Chocolate Chipe Scones with Nutella Mascarpone Cream and Roasted Caramelised Hazelnut Crumbs
Asparagus & Stilton Scones
Cheese Scones (no buttermilk)
Sun-dried Tomato, Cheese & Basil Scones
Best Buttermilk Cheese Scones

Buttermilk Scones (makes  10 to 12 large scones)


320g plain gluten free flour blend (I used my GFA Rice Free Blend that you can find here or an alternative blend would be the Free From Fairy Rice Free blend - see side bar for link)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
pinch fine sea salt
50g ground almonds
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
90g unsalted butter - cold and cubed
30g caster sugar
1 large egg - beaten
1 pot (284 ml) buttermilk

a beaten egg mixed with a little milk for glazing


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper and set aside. 
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, salt, almonds, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda until well-blended (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Rub the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
  4. Add the sugar and stir through.
  5. Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg and buttermilk. 
  6. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix the wet ingredients into the dry, until it clumps together and continue to mix, until it comes together as a very sticky dough. If it looks like the dough is too dry, then add a little milk. 
  7. Lay a large piece of baking paper on the work surface and sprinkle liberally with gluten free flour/tapioca flour. 
  8. Flour your hands well and gently bring the dough together. It should be quite wet.
  9. Tip the dough out onto the floured baking paper, sprinkle a little more flour on the top and lay a further piece of baking paper over. 
  10. Gently roll out the dough between the paper to a depth of about 3 to 4 cm.
  11. Use a round/fluted cookie cutter (I used one 3 inches/7 cm) to cut rounds from the dough and carefully transfer them to the lined baking sheets.
  12. Bring any remaining dough gently together (trying not to over-work) and repeat the rolling and cutting process, until all the dough has been used and transferred to the baking sheets.
  13. Brush the top of each scone with egg-wash and bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until well-risen, firm and golden.
  14. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
  15. Eat warm or cold, with butter and/or jam and/or cream. 
  16. Store the scones in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days if necessary. 

Simple (lower-sugar) Strawberry Jam (makes 2 jars of jam)


1 kilo/2.2 pounds fresh strawberries - trimmed, hulled and cut in half
375g granulated sugar
60 ml lemon juice


  1. Sterilise a couple of jam jars whilst you make your jam : Wash the jars in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place the clean jars and lids (rubber seals removed if using Kilner jars - these should be washed in boiling water) on a baking tray and place in the oven. Turn the oven on and heat to 140 C/275 F/Gas 1. Leave at heated oven temperature for at least 20 minutes whilst you make your jam.
  2. Place all the ingredients into a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. 
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil stirring frequently, breaking down the strawberries with the back of a spoon.
  4. Use a cooking thermometer (I use a Thermapen) and continue to boil, stirring frequently until the liquid reduces significantly and the temperature reaches jam set point (220 F/105 C).
  5. Remove from the heat and carefully pour into the sterilised jars straight away and top with the lids (be careful not to burn your fingers). As the jam cools, the tightly screwed lids will 'suck in' to create a sterile vacuum.
  6. Cool completely.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated