Posts tagged Gluten-free

We’re completely addicted to tahini in our household. Our weekly rate of consumption has diminished only slightly in the last week or so after I discovered I was buying a 600gm jar at each weekly supermarket shop. This seemed a little on the excessive side plus I was in danger of fooling myself into thinking tahini sauce was indeed the appropriate accompaniment for every meal. It’s good but not that good.

Tahini is ridiculously versatile though and I continue to use it at high volume. My favourite ways of incorporating it into our diet are in said tahini sauce (greek yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a little water), homemade hummus (chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and water) and the unfathomably good tahini cookies of Jerusalem fame.

These cookies are loosely based on that recipe. Mostly I wanted to see if I could use honey in place of the sugar but I was also keen experiment with making them gluten-free and incorporate some different flavours which I think are very well matched.

These little gems are incredibly moreish. The texture is very light and crumbly and they have a delicious chewiness thanks to the coconut. The honey provides ample sweetness so I’m feeling pretty pleased that I’ve discovered another healthier, less sugary treat to offer my toddler.

INGREDIENTS (makes approx 30 cookies)
150g butter – at room temperature
1/3 cup liquid honey
85g hulled tahini
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups desiccated coconut
1 cup ground almonds
1.5 cups gluten-free flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two oven trays with baking paper.
2. Put the butter, honey, tahini and vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed until thick, creamy and pale.
3. Add the coconut, almonds and gluten-free flour and mix on a low speed until everything is just incorporated. The dough will be quite sticky.

4. Roll tablespoons of the dough between your hands into walnut-sized balls.
5. Place the balls onto the lined oven trays allowing about 5cm between each cookie. Flatten each one slightly with the back of a fork.

6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes – set a timer as they will burn quickly if left any longer. They should be a lovely golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

8. Store in an airtight container. These cookies will keep well for up to a week.

I didn’t exactly set out to turn last night’s dinner into a blog post. It was so tasty though that we ate dinner in near-silence, compulsively shoveling each forkful into our mouths, slightly surprised that a salad could be this delicious. I only managed to snap one photo of it, half-devoured, before the light fell too low to capture it with any level of success.

Of course any meal containing quinoa equals nutritious with a capital ‘N’ which also leaves me feeling virtuous with a capital ‘V’. I actually cooked up a load of quinoa with The Girl in mind. I used two thirds of the cooked volume for our dinner and reserved one third for her. My cunning plan being to use this quinoa as a base for a filo parcel filling so if all goes well I’ll follow this post with another Mini-me meal idea.

I prefer to cook quinoa using the steaming method as I think the flavour is better but you can also simmer it if you aren’t confident with this technique. All you need to do is bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the quinoa (no pre-rinsing required) and gently simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain well through a sieve then spread out on a board to allow the excess moisture to steam off.

Oh and one more thing…I may have mentioned The Red Onion Trick before but it’s so great that it certainly warrants repeating. I love the flavour of red onion but I’m not so fond of the morning-after breath. By soaking the sliced onion in cold water for 10 minutes you remove the intensity that can overwhelm the taste buds, leaving behind just the delicious red onion flavour.


INGREDIENTS (serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side)
1 cup red quinoa (dry volume) – white quinoa also fine, just not quite as pretty
1/2 red onion
1 clove garlic – crushed to a paste with a pinch of sea salt
4 tbsp good quality olive oil
Juice and rind of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
150g green beans
Large handful each of flat-leaf parsley and basil – roughly chopped
2 tbsp pinenuts – lightly toasted
50g goat feta

1. Cook the quinoa and reserve one third of the cooked volume in the fridge. Place the remaining quinoa into a large bowl and allow to cool.
2. Slice the onion as thinly as possible, place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes then strain through a sieve and turn out onto on paper towels to drain.
3. Add the drained onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and rind to the quinoa and season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Stir well to incorporate all the flavours and leave to rest while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
4. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, add a generous pinch of sea salt and blanch the beans for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Drain and run under cold water for a minute to stop them cooking further, then drain well.
5. Add the beans, chopped herbs, toasted pinenuts and crumbled feta to the quinoa and toss a few times to combine well.
6. Transfer the salad to a large platter or bowl and serve!

These hot summer days beg a refreshing treat from time to time. I’m not completely averse to sweet treats for the littlies, everything in moderation is my mantra, but I do like to keep the sugar levels in check where I can. The genius of this recipe is that you can fool the kids into thinking they’re about to eat something slightly naughty when in fact it’s packed full of goodness. By all rights they should be spitting it back out, not that they need to know that.

Naturally this recipe is a cheat’s version, we’re busy people after all. It’s another gem of an idea I garnered from my friend Ruth, whose kids clearly eat like miniature Kings and Queens on a daily basis. I personally think it’s best served immediately after making. It’s not icecream per se, more of a soft-serve which goes quite frosty when put into the freezer. You can get around this by removing portions from the freezer and allowing them to sit for about half an hour prior to eating and give them a quick whip with a spoon to return them to their original soft, gooey consistency.

The recipe below is quite virtuous in that it uses plain yoghurt in combination with the berries and banana. On the second occasion I made this I didn’t quite have enough yoghurt in the fridge so I supplemented it with a decent dollop of whipped cream, which happened to be on hand thanks to a delicious cake I’d just served up for friends. This version was, unsurprisingly, a little more on the luscious side…so give that a go too if the contents of your fridge are playing ball.

Ruth’s recipe uses raspberries but I chose to use strawberries as my fussy little princess turns her nose up at raspberry seeds. If you use strawberries it’s helpful to chop them roughly first so the blender doesn’t have a meltdown trying to dissemble them whilst frozen.


INGREDIENTS (makes four little-person-sized serves)
100g banana – peeled weight
40g frozen berries – strawberries or raspberries work well
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp natural yoghurt (I used the very delicious Retro Organics)
1.5 tsp manuka honey (any other type of liquid honey will do)

1. Chop the banana into small pieces and put in the freezer until solid. Do the same with fresh berries if you have them, otherwise pre-frozen berries from the supermarket are fine.

2. Place the frozen banana into a food processor and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add the berries, vanilla, yoghurt and honey to the blender and blitz again until smooth and luscious.

4. Serve immediately in small bowls or freeze in individual portions until required.


It would appear I’m starting off my 2014 blogging year with a hiss and a roar. This enthusiasm and frequency is highly unlikely to continue once the busy year as I know it kicks in good and proper. It must be because I’ve had a bit more time on my hands than usual through the summer break and a few new recipes have snuck in the back door.

It’s not everyday I embark on a kitchen experiment and get it right. Especially when it comes to cake baking which can so often go from risen to deflated in seconds, taking my fragile ego along with it. Happily on this occasion I can say I’m just a teeny tiny little bit stoked with how this cake recipe turned out.

I got the inspiration for this cake from a notebook I’ve had stockpiled since my traveling days, as lost to memory now as my youth. It’s full of handwritten notes and divine-sounding recipes I found along my route which oddly enough have taken 10 or more years to try out. I actually attempted the rather convoluted original recipe a few weeks ago with mixed results. The flavours were great but I wasn’t overly excited by the texture, being a bit too on the spongy side for my liking. There was too much sugar, too many eggs and one step too many to keep me coming back for more. I prefer moist, moreish cakes and I usually find this comes from gluten-free varieties. More specifically, cakes which are gluten-free due to almond meal taking the place of flour.

So, motivated by a good flavour-profile, I threw all my eggs in one basket and experimented blindly and somewhat stupidly considering I had friends arriving for cake late morning. Luckily, they are still my friends and I’m going to give most of the credit to this cake (gotta save just a few props for my sparkling wit). As it turned out this baked beauty just might have pipped my all-time-favourite cake at the post.

It’s a very easy cake to make which is always a bonus. You won’t lose any sleep over fears of deflating pockets of air nor will you have to fold ingredients together whilst holding your breath.

So here it is, in all its deliciously nutty, minty, almondy goodness. It will keep well for 3-4 days due to it being divinely moist. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream on the side. Oh. My. God.


160g butter – at room temperature
200g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
200g ground almonds
100g desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
Finely grated rind of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp well-flavoued honey (I used Rewarewa)
20g mint leaves – roughly chopped
60g slivered almonds – lightly toasted until golden

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the almonds, coconut, baking powder and finely grated orange rind. Mix with your fingers to infuse the dry ingredients with the orange rind.
5. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir to combine well (try not to over-mix).
6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin, smooth the surface with the back of a spoon and bake for 55 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin while you make the syrup.

1. Put the orange juice, water, caster sugar, honey and chopped mint into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce to a low setting and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and strain the syrup through a sieve, discarding the mint leaves.

3. Stir the toasted almonds into the syrup and spoon carefully over the surface of the warm cake. It’s a good idea to put the cake tin on top of a board or oven tray in case some of the syrup leaks out.

4. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin, then run a knife around the sides of the tin and also around the base of the cake before gently lifting it onto a serving plate.

This fritter recipe is an idea my foodie friend Ruth sent my way some time ago with the littlies in mind. The Girl gave them a bit of a nudge first time I made them but turned her fussy little nose up at them after a bite or two. Where my little darling (said through gritted teeth) is concerned I only have success getting courgette into her if I craftily hide it within the dish itself. Ruth’s kids loved them though, served with natural yoghurt, so they’re well worth a try for the little ones in your life. Plus you get to gobble up any rejects, which won’t be an issue where this recipe is concerned. It’s fast become one of my favourite midweek meals…convenient, quick and easy to make, delicious and nutritious. Tick, tick and tick!

I’ve had very little success with courgette fritters over the years. I always find they end up being soggy and seemingly uncooked. I’d all but given up on them, truth be told, having had one too many failed attempts for me to keep pursuing their nutritious, delicious promise.

Rather satisfyingly however, it seems I’ve discovered the secret to achieving, light, fluffy courgette fritters each and every time you make them. The simple remedy involves squeezing the grated courgette with your hands as tightly as you can muster until you’ve extracted as much excess liquid as possible. In doing this you remove a sufficient volume of liquid to avoid the sogginess yet still retain the lovely moist texture they are well known for. Genius!

This is a very summery dish to me, perfect for a sunny late lunch with a glass of chilled pinot gris. The courgette is complimented with lemon zest, feta and fresh mint and panfried until lightly golden in rice bran oil giving them a beautifully delicate crunch with a soft, comforting centre.

Now that we are well into summer my tomato plants are so laden with fruit that they are dragging their bedraggled branches on the ground, awaiting my attention. To help alleviate the daily ripening I came up with this delicious tomato and red pepper salsa which as luck will have it, is a perfect accompaniment to the fritters. It keeps well for 3-4 days in the fridge, though I guarantee it won’t last that long.

NOTE: if your kids don’t like feta you could replace it with cheddar or parmesan. Feel free to omit the mint also if you think that’ll be a problem for your beloved fusspots.


INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3)
1 medium-large courgette – grated
3 tbsp plain flour (gluten-free also works)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Small handful mint leaves – roughly chopped
1 egg – lightly whisked
2 tbsp milk
50g greek-style feta – crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rice bran oil for frying

1. Squeeze the grated courgette between your hands as tightly as possible, removing as much excess liquid as you can, then put into a mixing bowl along with the lemon zest.
2. Add the flour and toss lightly with a fork to evenly coat the courgette.

3. Add the baking powder, zest, mint, egg, milk and feta to the courgettes and season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Stir well to combine all ingredients into a wet, slightly sloppy mix. The idea is for the fritters to be thin and crispy, rather than fat and chunky so the wetness is not an issue provided you have squeezed excess liquid from the courgette.

5. Heat 3 tbsp of the rice bran oil over a medium heat and drop large tablespoons of the mix into the pan in batches (be careful to give them enough space, the wet mix will spread a bit).

6. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until a lovely golden colour then remove onto kitchen paper while you fry the remaining batter (add more oil if necessary).

7. Serve immediately topped with generous spoonfuls of the following salsa and a delicate drizzle of olive oil to finish with a show-offy flourish.


INGREDIENTS (makes enough for four portions)
1 red bell pepper – hulled and seeds removed
8 cherry tomatoes – hulled and seeds removed
1/2 avocado – chopped into 1cm chunks
2 spring onions, halved lengthwise and finely sliced, white part only
Small bunch fresh coriander – leaves only, roughly chopped
Juice 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp good quality olive oil (I use The Village Press)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Remove the stalk and seeds from the bell pepper and chop the flesh into small chunks. Hull the tomatoes, remove the seeds and chop as for the pepper. Set aside in a bowl.
2. Add the chopped avocado, finely sliced spring onions, chopped coriander, lemon juice and olive oil and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Leave the salsa to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
4. Serve in large spoonfuls on top of the fritters and reserve any remaining salsa in an airtight container in the fridge. The salsa will keep well for up to four days. This salsa is also seriously delicious with barbecued sausages and homemade chunky fries.

Mmmm…these are truly delish. It’s a very quick dish to put together and great for a nutritious breakfast or lunch. I’ve made this a couple of times now; the first incarnation involved blitzing the bean mix to a smooth purée and spreading it thickly over sliced and toasted sourdough. I then finished it off with roughly crumbled goat feta, a few rocket leaves, an extra drizzle of good quality olive oil and a decent grind of black pepper. The purée would also work wonderfully served with seared eye fillet steak.

For breakfast I mashed the beans roughly with a fork and topped it with a fried egg and a small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.

The beans are very gently steeped in olive oil, lemon and garlic, a combinbation of ingredients which permeates the air with the most divine aromas. Make sure you linger directly over the saucepan as they steep and inhale deeply…


INGREDIENTS (serves two for lunch or breakfast)
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans – rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic – crushed to a paste with sea salt
1 lemon – rind and juice
4 tbsp good quality olive oil (I use The Village Press)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a small saucepan over the lowest heat on the stovetop and add the oil, garlic and lemon rind.

2. Steep very gently for five minutes, then add the cannellini beans and stir to coat in the infused oil. Continue to warm through for a further 10 minutes without allowing the oil to bubble or simmer at any time.

3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely in the saucepan.
4. Transfer the beans to a food processor, add the lemon juice and season well with freshly ground black pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy then serve as desired.

So, it’s been a while since I last posted. Stating the obvious most likely. I’ve been running myself ragged getting the Spring 2013 range ready so I can finally start taking over the world. Every other aspect of my life has taken second place for a few weeks but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now and I think it’s time to spread the love elsewhere. Whenever I’m this busy my kitchen world becomes one sorrowful broken record. The old faithfuls come out, week on week, caressing me reassuringly with familiarity and efficiency. Coriander Chicken CurryChili Beans, Parsley Pesto Pasta, Herb PieChickpea Fritters and dirty old fish ‘n chip Fridays. Yee old faithfuls…how would I survive without you.

Inviting friends over for dinner always ups the ante when you’ve gotten complacent in the kitchen. A recent, memorable discovery is the legendary Madhur Jaffrey’s Saag Paneer…a more textured version of the well-known puréed spinach paneer. Her version, along with everything else she puts her magic touch to, is so much more impressive and interesting than any other spinach curry I’ve had. If you can be bothered getting your chop-on (it involves a bit of manual spinach deconstruction) it’s well worth the sore arm muscles the day after. I always think having a glass of wine on hand makes the chopping much more enjoyable. But then wine has that effect on most of life’s pursuits, let’s be honest.

Anyway, I did manage to make a seedy, nutty bread recipe I’ve been hoarding since I got back from Copenhagen. If you’ve ever been to Denmark you would have noticed that the Danes have a penchant for hefty, dense breads. I’m not a huge fan of malty, weight-a-body-to-the-river-bed loaves. I prefer a bit of levity interspersed with tasty seeds but without getting into supermarket fluff territory. I was surprised then, when my sister-in-law offered me a slice of what is quite possibly the most dense loaf I’ve ever encountered in my life, that I liked it immensely. The difference with this loaf is that it is essentially half a tonne of seeds and nuts held together with the binding brilliance of our friend the egg. It’s gluten-free so any density is comprised simply of protein-packed nuts, rather than flour.

It’s super easy to make, ridiculously healthy and really lets the flavour of the seeds and nuts shine to their fullest. The only downside in an otherwise pious recipe is that it is a little bit pricey to make. You could easily halve this recipe so you wince a little less at the checkout, but the full recipe does make two loaves which will last around a week each, depending on how greedy your family is. I usually make the full recipe and give one of the loaves away (polishing my halo in the process) but if you decide to keep both for yourself, wrap one in cling film and keep in the fridge.

A couple of things to note:
- be careful not to overcook. It won’t be the end of the world, but it will be a bit harder to cut without it crumbling back into the piles of seeds and nuts you started with (as with any recipe involving a high volume of nuts, I strongly recommend setting a timer).
- you could play with the quantity of the seeds and nuts to find a balance of flavours to suit your taste.
- slice as thinly as possible, 5mm or thereabouts, and eat as is with your favourite topping. No toasting necessary.

I’ve been meaning to try this recipe with the addition of cinnamon, or even finely grated orange rind. If anyone gives that a go I’d love to hear about the results…

150g each linseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds – use whole
150g each almonds, walnuts – roughly chopped
1 cup dates – roughly chopped
5 free-range eggs – very lightly beaten (try to just break down the yolks into the whites without making frothy)
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon OR finely grated rind of an orange (both optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line two loaf tins with baking paper.
2. Put the seeds, chopped nuts and dates into a large bowl and turn a few times with your hands to mix together.
3. Add a pinch of sea salt along with the olive oil and the eggs (and spice or orange, if using).

4. Divide the mix between the two tins. Press the mixture into the tins and smooth flat the surface with a spatula.

5. Bake for 55 minutes until lightly golden on top. The mixture will be bubbling a bit.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tins. When cool, use a bread knife to help ease the nut loaves out of the tins. Store in airtight containers.

Absolutely delicious served thinly sliced and topped with either goat feta or blue cheese and a drizzle of honey. Would also be delicious served simply with a light smearing of butter.


It would seem I’ve found just time enough to sneak one final recipe in before we hit the road. I made a salad earlier this week which got me thinking that I could make a cake using similar flavours. A cake inspired by a salad. How enticing, I hear you say. The salad in question is an über-healthy combination of grated carrot, orange juice, flat-leaf parsley, caraway seeds, raisins and toasted pumpkin seeds. The basic premise is that you combine the carrot, caraway and raisins with the juice of an orange and leave it to sit for an hour or two so the raisins plump up with the juice and the caraway imparts its beautiful nuttiness throughout. Carrot and caraway are such a delicious combination and being more than just a bit of a fan of cakes with a savoury bent, I thought this must surely be the seed of a great idea. Surely!

And things turned out just peachy, in case you’re wondering. This is a very tasty cake…beautiful and moist with a moreish, crumbly texture thanks to the inclusion of ground almonds. It’s quite a departure from the usual carrot cake we know and love. The carrots are first roasted to enhance their sweetness, then pureed until smooth, rather than grated and added raw to the cake batter. The effect is that the carroty goodness is spread throughout the cake giving it a beautiful golden orange colour and deep, rich flavour.

You can roast and purée the carrots the day prior to baking the cake and store in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to bring the purée to room temperature before you begin.

This cake is best served still warm from the oven…but then I’m not sure there’s a cake in existence for which this would not be the case.

300g carrots (weight once trimmed and peeled)
1 orange (juice and finely grated rind)
3/4 tsp caraway seeds
100g butter – at room temperature
1/2 cup demerara sugar
2 whole free-range eggs plus one extra egg white
150g ground almonds
1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
200g mascarpone

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Slice the peeled carrots in half lengthwise, then again into quarters. Slice each length in half so you have chunky fingers of carrot. Place into an ovenproof dish, cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

2. Trim off any dark areas which have caramelised during roasting then chop into rough chunks. Put the carrot into a food processor and purée until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and add the caraway seeds and the juice of half the orange. Stir well and set aside while you make the rest of the cake.

3. Reduce the oven to 160°C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm round cake tin.
4. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for five minutes (the sugar will still be grainy at the end of this time) then beat in the two whole eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
5. Combine the almonds, gluten-free flour and baking powder in a separate bowl then add the egg mixture and stir well to combine.
6. Put the extra egg white into the bowl of an electric mixer (discard the yolk), add a pinch of salt and beat until stiff peaks form. Add the egg whites to the cake mix and fold through very gently until the last bit of egg white has just been incorporated (the mix will be quite heavy). Don’t be tempted to over-mix!

7. Tip into the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for 50-55 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for five minutes in the tin, then carefully transfer to a wire rack.

8. Put the mascarpone into a small bowl and stir through the orange rind and juice from the other half of the orange.

9. Serve cake warm with a generous dollop of the mascarpone cream on the side.


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