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Preview: Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried

Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried

Updated: 2018-03-06T07:20:05.125+00:00


Four fantastic days at Otter Farm


If you saw the Grand Designs episode featuring Otter Farm, you'll already know something about the beautiful rural retreat and cookery school crowdfunded and built by award winning food writer Mark Diacono and his wife Candida. I know something about the joy and pain of building your own house, but to attempt something on the scale of a cookery school is either madness or genius! Mark has a delightful mix of both, an enthusiastic springer spaniel of a chap, who will definitely get you enthused about pretty much anything you can think of. He is also a grower of forgotten food, exotic fruit and makes wine from vines that stretch away from the cookery school towards the horizon. There are kiwis, sweet cicely, chocolate vines, Japanese wineberries and Vietnamese coriander, orchards of pecans, quince, almonds, Szechuan pepper and apricots, as well as a forest garden, a vineyard and a perennial garden.I currently teach four day courses at Otter Farm and they are a fantastic opportunity to share what I know with smaller groups than I usually teach. I love the intimacy of a small group that gives everyone the chance for a little spontaneity and some personal interaction. The Otter Farm course programme features luminaries such as Diana Henry, Rachel Roddy, Gill Meller and Catherine Phipps - so say that I am thrilled to be included is a massive understatement. If you're interested in the courses outlined below, head over to Otter Farm to book - if you become a member there's money off and you can also do the courses as two dayers, for a full Naomi immersion.Gluten Free Everyday focuses on the wholesome, delicious bakes that make week day meals a joy. The stuff you miss when you're gluten free. We make sourdough bread (gluten free of course), shortcrust pastry, buckwheat pasta for our lunch of homemade lasagne, moreish linseed crackers a a couple of little savoury tarts that you can take home for supper (they won't last the journey). Through the day I explain the flours that we use and answer questions about being gluten free. dairy free and egg free options are available if they are necessary for health reasons.Gluten Free Celebration is all about party food! we'll make some light and tender olive or walnut bread, I'll demonstrate a genoise sponge and make it into a delicious cream filled, ganache topped gateau that we can slice into later. For lunch we'll make our own thin, crispy pizzas and eat them with some delicious salads from Mark's kitchen. After lunch, we will make a Yorkshire pudding batter and turn it into toad in the hole, (or roast veg in the hole) and make gyoza dumplings using our own handmade dumpling wrappers, which we will cook into some delicious pot stickers for you to taste before you head home with your fresh baked bread and toad in the hole. Dishes can be made dairy free if necessary for health reasons, but not all dishes can be made egg free.Food for a Happy Gut (Calm) is a day based on my forthcoming book of the same name (check it out and pre-order here!). This is a day to soothe troubled digestion and learn about how your gut works and why it can be sensitive. Although Rome wasn't built in a day, I will give you tips and pointers  so that you can start eating in a way that calms, heals and restores comfortable digestion. We start the day by tasting some digestive bitters, that stimulate the liver to work better before making a jar to take home and mature. I'll demonstrate some delicious jelly sweets that are a medicinal treat for soothing inflamed tums. We'll make our own ramen bowl for lunch with bone broth, noodles, fermented pickles and other anti-inflammatory delights. After lunch we'll make a simple gluten free oat pastry and turn it into a delicious savoury tart using seasonal ingredients. Our tea break is an opportunity to taste some anti-inflammatory herb teas (not the kind that promise a fruit bowl and taste of dishwater) and our jelly sweets. For our last session of the day we look at some fermented food that is easily digested and a few probiotic drinks. Finally, we'll make a j[...]

Make a Gluten Free or Rye Sourdough Starter from Scratch


Gluten free or rye sourdough starterIn addition to baking my own gluten free sourdough bread, I use a sourdough starter to ferment pancakes, breakfast muffins, crumpets, pastry and farinata. You can make a gluten free starter using any wholegrain gluten free flour, or use, rye, spelt, emmer or einkorn flour if you can tolerate gluten. For gluten free sourdough bread recipes, check out my book RiverCottage Gluten Free and for a book containing this recipe and a delicious sourdough crumpet recipe see my forthcoming book, Food for a Happy Gut (published April 2017)Follow the method below to make your starter in 5 days and then you can use it and keep it dormant in the fridge between bakes for years (as long as you feed it regularly!). Read the pointers below before you get started.Day 1120g brown rice flour or rye flour180g luke warm mineral or filtered water (240g for rye)Small bunch of unwashed grapes (optional) or pear water, see below*      Mix flour and water in a bowl, nestle the grapes in (if using), cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place. Day 2120g brown rice flour or rye flour160g luke warm mineral or filtered water (240g for rye)*      Lift out the grapes, add the flour and water ‘feed’, whisk, replace grapes and cover again. Day 3240g brown rice flour or rye flour320g luke warm mineral or filtered water (480g for rye)*      Lift out the grapes, add the flour and water feed, whisk, replace grapes and cover again. Day 4 morning300g brown rice flour or rye flour (alternatively for gluten free: a mixture of rice & teff, buckwheat, sorghum, millet or quinoa flour, or for those who can eat gluten: rye, spelt, emmer or einkorn flour)400g mineral or filtered water (600g for rye)*      By now the sourdough starter should have started to bubble and smell a little yeasty. Take out the grapes, squeeze a little to release a small amount of juice and discard the grapes. Whisk the starter well, weigh out 700g (900g for rye), discard the rest or make pancakes or crumpets with it, stir in the feed and cover again.Day 4 evening*      Before bed, whisk the starter and measure out 700g (900g for rye) again and feed it as for day 4 morning.Day 5 morning*      Whisk and measure out 700g of starter again (900g for rye) and discard the rest as before, feed the starter with 300g of flour and 400g of water (600g for rye) and allow the starter to bubble up. It should be ready to bake with and this is referred to as an ‘active’ starter. If it doesn’t seem powerful enough, weigh out 700g of starter (900g for rye) and feed again every 6-8 hours. Each time you feed it, you must weigh out 700g (900g for rye) and discard the rest, otherwise your kitchen will overflow with starter and you will have to increase the feed amount each time. You can store any discarded starter (discard) in the fridge until you have enough to make some pancakes or a batch of crumpets. If you plan to bake a lot of loaves each time, you might want to keep a larger amount of starter reserve, just remember to increase the amount of feed you give it accordingly.Which flour to use?Rice flour works well for a gluten free sourdough starter because it is mild flavoured and cheap to maintain. You need to use brown rice flour, or at the very least a rice flour with some brown rice in it such as Doves Farm rice flour (a 50/50 mix of brown and white). This is because the yeasts and bacteria that will come to life and flourish when you give them heat and water, live in the brown part (germ) of the grain. Teff, sorghum, millet and quinoa flour can be great to give a starter a kick start - all are yeasty and more sour than rice flour. If you like the flavour, you could switch to a mixture of rice and another flour for all feeds. For a gluten starter, rye makes a great start and then you can change the flavour once it is established by adding other ancient grains such as spelt or emmer.[...]

Malty gluten free sourdough (my new favourite)


Coeliac Awareness Week runs from 9th-15th May this year. Although awareness of my own coeliac disease is pretty much a year round thing for me, it is wonderful that information will be extra visible this week and ideas for delicious gluten free food celebrated around the web.It is tempting to post something sweet and chocolatey here - cakes get the most hits on any website, especially if they claim to be refined sugar free or good for you. There is definitely a place in everyone's life for a little cake, gluten free or not! However, this week is about living with coeliac disease and eating the sort of everyday food that sustains, nourishes and heals, as well as delighting our tastebuds. The holy grail of which is bread, no? How to make a loaf that rises, holds together when you slice it, has flavour and depth, a satisfying crumb and thin crust? How to make this mythical loaf without recourse to gums and stabilisers, starch, strange fats and added sugar? Since the gluten free bread available to buy in supermarkets is both full of rubbish and unpleasant to eat, the only solution is to make your own.I love a deeply flavoured loaf and brown teff is the perfect flour for something with hints of malt loaf - without the sweetness - and a touch of Weetabix on the finish. It would probably be my desert island flour if I had to choose one. When fermented, teff has a particularly sour quality that is perfectly balanced by the sweet nutty flavour of chestnut flour. Because I use both sweet rice flour and chia seed, the loaf has a very slightly chewy crumb with a great structure that is wonderful toasted straight from the freezer, or as bakers perk spread thickly with butter as soon as the loaf has cooled and settled. All of the flours are available from Shipton MillIn my book River Cottage Gluten Free, I give instructions on how to make a gluten free sourdough starter and in this post you will find troubleshooting tips for making and managing your new pet. If you want to make the loaf without a sourdough starter, just follow instructions for making it with yogurt instead of starter. I find that adding a little extra yeast does help get a little more rise in the loaf, but if you would like to make it as a pure sourdough, just leave it out and allow the loaf to rise for longer - up to 5 hours depending on how vigorous your starter is.Before you start baking, you will need to activate your starter. It will need several hours to properly wake up if it has been in the fridge so to make sure it is nice and vigorous, you can feed it the night before you plan to bake and then feed it again as soon as you wake up. I generally keep about 700ml of starter, so I feed it with 300g flour and 400g water each feed and discard any excess that isn't used, leaving 700ml to go back in the fridge when I have finished baking. You can use the excess, or 'discard' for making pancakes, crumpets etc or throw it away.Malty sourdough with pumpkin & chia seeds150g chestnut flour100g brown teff flour50g sweet rice flour50g buckwheat flour200g active gluten free sourdough starter (or 90g live yogurt + 110g brown teff flour)1 tsp (4g) quick dried yeast (or 12g fresh yeast)100g potato starch7g fine sea salt10g chia seeds (or golden linseed)1 tsp blackstrap molasses (optional)2 - 2 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk40g pumpkin seeds or sunflower seedsbutter/lard/coconut oil to grease tins & sesame or sunflower seeds to coata 2 lb loaf tin - approx dimensions 25cm x 11cm x 8 cm (I use Vogue brand)First make the sponge. In a mixing bowl beat together the chestnut flour, brown teff flour, sweet rice flour, buckwheat flour, sourdough starter (or yogurt + flour) and 400g tepid unchlorinated water until smooth. Cover and leave at room temperature for 4-6 hours or overnight for a more sour loaf. When the sponge has fermented, make the dough. Sprinkle dried yeast into the sponge mix and beat well, or mash fresh yeast in a little of the wet mix until completely smooth and add back to the bowl. Leave for [...]

Orange & Rose Geranium Brownies - gluten free!


My stepmother used to bake the most amazing flapjacks and sunflower seed cookies when I was small, parcelling up a few with a handwritten letter and posting them to my sister and I. Like Proust's madeleine - the sight of a sunflower seed cookie takes me straight back to the wonder of receiving treats in the post.When someone I love has a birthday, I get busy making a tray of brownies to parcel up with their present and imagine that same look of delight as they unwrap the chocolatey scented package and tuck into a gooey slice. If I can't be there with them on the day, it's the next best thing!For my lovely sister Amelias birthday, I used the Mocha Muscovado Brownie recipe in my book and gave it a twist by swapping the coffee notes for orange and rose and scattering over some Montezuma's orange and geranium chocolate. I also used coconut sugar throughout for a deeply caramel tone with a little less sweetness than cane sugar. They were pretty darned incredible (she said modestly!), orange and chocolate are old friends, but the exotic fragrance of geranium and rosewater takes you away from Terry's chocolate orange territory and drops you somewhere in the Middle East. If you're thinking that these brownies have anything Turkish delight about them however, I can reassure you that they are hedonistically chocolatey, without a hint of soapiness.Amelia asked me the next day whether I had put anything extra into the brownies. As a respectable upstanding person, I assured her that there was nothing but good clean chocolate in them and wondered why on earth she would ask me that. Apparently, she had shared them with her colleagues, who felt inexplicably giddy for the rest of the afternoon! I wondered if it could have been the nourishing teff flour, heady geranium and rose combination, or sprinkle of sea buckthorn berries that had made them giddy, but couldn't really pin it down to anything. I guess it was just a little magic alchemy, that you'll have to try for yourself.Orange & Rose Geranium BrowniesUsing the Mocha Muscovado Brownie recipe in River Cottage Gluten Free (or find it here, in the Telegraph article featuring the book) simply make the following substitutions:Swap muscovado sugar for coconut sugarSwap 70% chocolate for 50-60% cocoa content plain chocolateSwap 4 tsp of strong coffee or coffee liqueur for 2 tsp of vanilla extract and 2 tsp of Iranian rosewater and add the zest of an orange to the batter too.Swap coffee flavoured chocolate for Montezuma's orange & geranium chocolateOptional - after drizzling the cooled brownies with melted chocolate, I also sprinkled some dehydrated sea buckthorn berries over the top from Arctic Power Berries - although you could candy some orange peel and sprinkle this over the top instead.I used Shipton Mill brown teff flour.[...]

Pancakes for your valentine


Chocolates, roses and jewellery may flood the shops in advance of valentine's day and card shops groan with pink endorsements of love, but I find it all a little prefabricated for my tastes. Whilst it is a wonderful thing to celebrate love in all its forms, surely I can't be the only one who finds the whole thing a little unsettlingly commercial? This is not a contest in wallet size, but a chance to put yourself out a little and show that you care by doing something a little more thoughtful or time-consuming than you would in the everyday bustle.My favourite way to let someone know I love them is to get up a little early, put a cast iron pan on the heat and make them some pancakes for breakfast. I will have soaked the pancake mix the night before and maybe cooked up some tender pink stalks of rhubarb or roasted a few pears. I'll make sure there is some good organic butter, maybe a little paté and a bowl of creamy yogurt so that those pancakes can be adorned in whatever way my beloved sees fit.When the pancakes are done, I'll cut heart shapes from a few of them and scatter them over the stack of pancakes - like the fairies came and sprinkled a little magic over the breakfast table.Then I'll tell my beloved how much I love them and we'll eat breakfast together quietly, remembering all the pancakes that have come before and imagining those yet to come.Heart Shaped Pancakesmakes about 10 pancakes (10cm diameter) more if smallerThese pancakes are grain free and soaked overnight using live yogurt. The friendly bacteria in the yogurt digest antinutients in the almond and chestnut flours and resting the batter makes for a fluffier pancake. For a simpler pure almond pancake, try this recipe - or check out the blinis or squash drop scones in my book, River Cottage Gluten Free.100g ground almonds50g chestnut flour150g Greek yogurt60-70g water or milk2 large eggspinch sea salt2 tsp ground psyllium husk1/2 tsp bicarbonate of sodaButter to fryheart shaped pastry cutterPut ground almonds, chestnut flour, yogurt and enough water/milk to make a stiff dropping consistency batter - the mixture should fall off the spoon if you give it a little flick, rather than sliding off if you just hold the spoon up. If you use runnier yogurt you may not need much water at all. Cover and set aside for 6-12 hours at room temperature.When you are ready to make pancakes, whisk in eggs and psyllium husk and set aside for a minute while you get a heavy frying pan on a low heat.When the pan has heated through, put a knob of butter into it - this shouldn't sizzle too much, but just melt quickly. Wipe the butter around the pan using some folded up kitchen paper, just leaving a film of butter.Quickly and thoroughly whisk the bicarbonate of soda into the batter and place spoonfuls into your pan - they will expand a little, so don't crowd them. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes, until the edge of the pancakes look matte and then flip gently, giving then 30-40 seconds on the other side. If they seem dark on the bottom, turn down the heat and give a little less time to the next ones.Keep your pancakes warm under a very low grill or in a warming oven, whilst you cook the rest. When they are done, cut heart shapes out of them with a pastry cutter and eat whilst still warm.[...]

Troubleshooting for gluten free sourdough starters


Many of the breads in my book, River Cottage Gluten Free, use a sourdough starter to make the grain more digestible and bring that wonderful sourdough flavour that so many of us miss when we follow a gluten free diet. Embarking on your first gluten free sourdough starter can be both daunting and exciting. What should it look, smell and taste like? How do you know if you've got the right place for it to live as it changes from unpromising flour and water to a bubbling, living thing that will bring your loaves to life and infuse your pancakes with the umami tang you crave? If you are asking any or all of these questions, read on and I will attempt to help you breathe life into that unpromising mixture.Rice flourI generally use brown rice flour for my sourdough starter because it is mild, vigorous and cheap to maintain. You can make a sourdough starter from nearly any wholegrain available to you, but more of that below. You need to use brown rice flour, or at the very least a rice flour with some brown rice in it such as Doves Farm rice flour (a 50/50 mix of brown and white). This is because the yeasts and bacteria that will come to life and flourish when you give them heat and water, live in the brown part (germ) of the grain. Brown rice flour is available from Shipton Mill - who also have a great range of other gluten free flours. Their flours are not certified gluten free, but they are tested to 5 parts per million, which is better than Bobs Red Mill, who only test to 20 parts per million.WaterAlways use filtered or bottled water for starting and maintaining your starter because chlorine is the enemy of yeast and bacteria. If you don't have access to either, leave some water out for 24 hours uncovered to allow the chlorine to evaporate and then use this to feed your starter.Ratio for a gluten free sourdough starterI find that you need to use more water to encourage the yeasts to grow. The ratio is 3 parts flour to 4 parts water. For example 150g of flour will need 200g of water. The consistency of the starter if fed like this should look like lightly whipped double cream. If it is very thick and pasty to start with, give it a little more water and return to the correct proportions when things are bubbling and have loosened up.How much to feed my starter?You need to double the starter each time you feed it. I keep a reservoir of 700g of starter and each time I feed it I give it 300g of flour and 400g of water. When I am finished baking, I pour off 700g of starter and keep this in the fridge until next time - anything left over can be used to make pancakes and crumpets or give the compost a kick start. If you keep a larger amount of starter, you must feed it more each time. just keep to the ratio of 3 parts flour to 4 parts water.Whisk!When you add your flour and water, give the mixture a good whisk. Aerating the mixture helps things to stay fresh and vigorous.GrapesA small bunch of grapes can bring much needed yeast and some sugars to your starter - yeast loves a little bit of sugar, but too much can kill it. When you get your starter going, dunk some unwashed grapes - preferably organic - into the mixture and leave them there for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours. Take them out when the grapes start to split a little and give them a gentle squeeze to release a little juice. Continue to feed the starter as per instructions during the whole time that you have the grapes in there as the starter still needs flour and water to keep it alive.Pear Alternatively, if you make your starter in the winter, a pear might be more appropriate. Grate a whole pear, put into a soup bowl and pour over just enough chlorine free water to cover. Cover the bowl and leave for 12 -24 hours. Strain and use the water when you feed your starterWater kefirI make a probiotic drink called water kefir (also called tibicos) that is a natural source of yeasts and probiotics. You can obtain the water kefir grains (al[...]

Carob Fudge - a wickedly nutritious winter treat


Follow my blog with BloglovinA few months ago after a period of intense work, long days and not a little stress had ended, I noticed that I felt permanently on edge. It was a kind of excitable, nervy, thrilled feeling - the kind you get on Christmas eve. Sleepy tea seemed to help and I always felt better after a run - elated and spent enough to sigh from the bottom of my lungs and flop down in a chair for a few minutes.So I checked in with myself - what on earth was going on? I had no worries of any sort; book done, roof over head, lovely husband and son, work that I adored, friends a plenty. I went to bed early, ate well, exercised regularly and contemplated the fat pigeons in the garden tree just as often as ever. Yet some internal itch had me dancing the tarantella and shallow breathing.Eventually of course, I worked it out - caffeine! I don't drink tea or coffee any more, preferring a smooth cup of rooibos, or soothing chamomile tea. But what I have been eating daily - almost as a religious habit, is dark, dark chocolate of the 90% variety. I checked out the caffeine content and it's not even that high - much like a cup of tea, or very small cup of weak coffee. However, the theobromine in cocoa can affect the body just like caffeine, in much smaller amounts. The two combined can set some people's pulses racing as effectively as a shot of espresso. I cut it out and hey presto! My serenity returned.Chocolate is an old friend of mine, I love her bitterness and melting smoothness. Without her I started to crave dark flavours and longed for something cool to sink my teeth into and melt with the heat of my tongue. I went searching in the health food shop for something to appease my longing and amongst the sickly sweet halva and fruit leathers I chanced upon a carob bar - an old friend from my youth, when it was sanctioned by my hippy mother as an alternative to the tooth rotting sweets of the 1970s. Commercial carob bars are unfortunately full of ingredients like soya flour, agave syrup and damaged vegetable fats. So I grabbed a pot of raw carob flour and started to experiment with my own fudgy freezer treats. I find that a tray of these can last a week, just popping a couple out when I feel the need for a little something - the high fat content and lack of sweetness makes them satisfying without leading to a Cookie Monster style episode in front of the freezer.Carob is not chocolate. It has some similar flavour notes - dark, nutty, slightly bitter - but it has a totally different identity with caramel, dried figs, coffee, molasses and salt coming through to make something altogether less bitter and more fruity. It is almost completely caffeine and theobromine free and packed with lots of minerals, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains anti-inflammatory gallic acid and is reputed to lower cholesterol. Carob is naturally sweet and if you have a penchant for bitterness like me, you can reduce or even eliminate the honey from the recipe below. Luckily for me, I love the flavour of carob and am fully aware that it is not chocolate and never will be. When I eat some carob, my brain is not looking into the cupboard and hoping to find chocolate there - it's happy to find some carob! Some people dislike it intensely and make the same face as our cat whenever we tempt her to eat a chilli king prawn - know yourself and only eat carob if it brings you joy.Carob FudgeThis fudge is not cooked, has no refined sugar in it and will require only the most modest of kitchen skills - you can make it with your toddler if they are a carobophile. You can flavour your carob fudge with a few drops of mint essential oil, ground cardamom seeds, finely grated orange zest or chopped roasted hazelnuts. I also like to swap a teaspoon of the honey for one of blackstrap molasses to add treacly depth to the flavour.60g coconut oil or soft unsalted butter40g [...]

A pink pickle pick me up


Follow my blog with BloglovinAlthough Christmas has been and gone, New Year celebrated with kisses in Bridport's town square, my body is still waiting for winter to arrive. I brace myself for every trip to the compost bin and yet I have skipped there bare legged on all but a few days so far. The garden is churned muddy as a summer festival and my eyes long for a clear blue sky in which to soar.So the usual wintry food feels out of place and I find that I want to eat pickles, salads and stir fries instead of comforting stodge. It's all possible and quite revelatory to cook up such light colourful dishes from winter veg. Shaved carrots and beets, matchsticks of parsnip and celeriac, deep purple cabbage shreds and rose pink chicory leaves. The garlicky, ginger hot flavours feel like piquant medicine against bugs that have lingered on without a proper frost to see them off.I've been making instant pickles too, from finely chopped or shaved veg doused in lemon juice and left overnight with somegarlic squashed in its skin. Sour, salty, savoury and sweet from the roots, these pickles add punch to the simplest rice bowl supper, or bubble and squeak breakfast.I give you my current favourite, turnip and beet pickle. It makes a virtue of the watery crunch of raw turnip and takes on a heart warming fuchsia tone from the beets - use more or less beet according to the shade of pink you crave most on your plate. Then spoon into anything you can think of, from roast beef sandwiches to quinoa salads, or even alongside a wintry shepherds pie. I guarantee it will perk you up no end.Instant pink pickleChoose smaller turnips and beets for this as they will be juicier and sweeter than larger woody specimens. Adjust the seasoning according to the sharpness of your lemon and use proper chefs pinches - a hefty pinch.6 small turnips2-3 small beetroots3-4 cloves of garlic3-4 large pinches of salt4-6 pinches sugar - or spoonful of honey1 1/2 -2 lemonsPeel turnips and beetroots - I use latex gloves to avoid bright pink hands. Slice thinly and then pile up a few slices at a time and slice these into matchsticks. This takes time, but it's worth it to have lovely thin strips and grating produces too much juice and bruises the flesh of the roots. Crush the garlic under the heel of your hand and peel off the loose skin.Place the strips into a bowl and add garlic, salt, sugar (or honey) and the juice of one lemon. Turn it all over to cover and taste a little bit - it should taste very sharp, but with the edge taken off a little by the sugar. The garlicky flavour will develop overnight. Add more lemon juice only if there doesn't seem like much liquid, or the taste isn't sharp enough. you can add more later if needed. Stir a couple of times during that period to intensify the pink colour.Put the pickle into a clean jar, non reactive lidded box or covered bowl and let it sit for 6-24 hours before tucking in. It will keep in the fridge for at least 3 days.[...]

River Cottage Gluten Free


For many months I've been dying to tell you all about the gluten free cook book that I have written for River Cottage, published by Bloomsbury.

I wanted to take you aside and talk about how exciting it was to have the support of a team. How sensitively they did their very best to smooth away the wrinkles and snip off any excesses until my recipes were as simple and easy to follow as possible. That process felt like an education.

When everything was written up and fully checked out by recipe testers and food enthusiasts, gluten free or not (thank you all!), we started to photograph everything. We ate our way through each shoot with glee, licking our fingers before cracking on with yet another gorgeous photo. At the end of every day I gave a huge sigh of pride, the kind that you feel when your children do something just wonderful. That team made my babies look just about as good as they possibly could have. I wanted to tell you then too. But we agreed to wait, because there is nothing worse than being told you have a treat in store and having to wait months and months for it to arrive!

The book is full of everyday recipes, stuff I hope you'll make again and again. It is a celebration of gluten free food, not a list of what you can't eat. There are also some complex projects like puff pastry, to save for a rainy day when you feel like doing something a little more impressive. From sourdough to brioche, you'll find breads to keep even the most determined of gluten eaters happy. My starting point was to look at the qualities inherent in gluten free flours and grains, asking myself - what would taste great with this? I learnt that Teff tastes great with chocolate and makes a cracking sourdough, buckwheat likes squash, chestnut gives a delicious bready flavour and sorghum a mild wheaty chew. Every time I pulled out my bags of flour I felt the thrill of those endless possibilities ahead of me, what combination to try today? I hope that bakers of all persuasions will embrace these incredible flours for the depth and nutritional value that they can bring to a dish - not just us gluten freebies.

It's worth stating here that I don't believe there is anything wrong with gluten - if you can eat it then I am happy for you. But if you do need to eat gluten free, or are one of those lovely people who care to cook delicious food for friends and family who need to eat gluten free - this one's for you, enjoy!

The book will be published on January 14th 2016. You can pre-order copies from Amazon and Bloomsbury.

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Wild Garlic Pesto


If you're lucky enough to live near some woodland, a walk along any shady path at the moment will be flanked by a carpet of dark green leaves and a sprinkling of starry white flowers. You certainly won't be able to miss the unmistakeable scent of wild garlic, like the freshest, fruitiest garlic you can imagine. The leaves bring life to salads and sandwiches and are best torn rather than cut, as they oxidise and turn black in the same way that basil does. Heating tends to turn wild garlic bitter, so add them to your plate at the table, or stir through food off the heat. You can also eat the flowers, which look gorgeous scattered over almost anything.My favourite way to enjoy wild garlic is to make it into a rustic pesto, substituting the leaves for the traditional clove of garlic. Because the leaves have less punch, I find this pesto lets the basil really shine. If you would like to make wild garlic the king of the dish, just use all wild garlic leaves instead.Wild Garlic Pesto10-12 wild garlic leaves, thoroughly washed and torn into pieces85g basil leaves40g raw pine nuts40g Parmesan or Grana Padano cheeselarge pinch sea salt and grind of pepper100ml olive oilPut everything except the oil into a pestle and mortar and grind into a rough paste. Then add half of the oil and grind again until you have a smoothish paste. Add the rest of the oil if you think it needs it and a little more if necessary - you are looking for a soft paste, on the runny side. You can do this in a food processor, but the paste will be much smoother.Scrape into a jar, cover the top with more olive oil and keep for up to a week in the fridge (if you can resist it that long)[...]

Christmas Morning Muffins - grain free


You've probably noticed that I haven't posted much around here for a pretty long time. Things are busy in a very good way that unfortunately prevents me from devoting time to blogging. I can't tell you about it quite yet - but I promise you will be the first to know when I get the green light.Although busy, cooking, writing, teaching, treating and tweeting - rather than flog myself half dead with work, I have made a conscious decision to make time for myself. At first it feels like skiving, if I sit with a novel and freshly brewed pot of rooibos. I catch myself thinking that I must do this and that, racking up the tasks and chores like a shepherd's tally. The weight of unfinishedness can be paralysing when I allow it to lay heavily, sleepily over my shoulders.Instead, I have taken up Italian. Every monday morning I cram a little work into the space between breakfast and my lesson and then sprint on my beloved road bike to screech in by the seat of my pants and pretend I am in Tuscany for 90 minutes. Mi piace studiare l'italiano.After a year of injuries and frustration, I'm back to running again. My body sighs with relief as endorphins flood through my bloodstream to reach the parts that nothing else can reach. I like to run in the dark, under the streetlights, when the world is settling down to watch Strictly and tuck into supper. I'm running hills at last and my knees don't mind - unless I get carried away, pelting down the other side of a steep climb with my arms outstretched, a cry of joy streaming out behind like a cloud of icing sugar. And so comes Christmas, my most cherished time of year. Although I long for the heat of summer, my soul is warmed by the cocoon of yuletide. Cinnamon scented, twinkling days spread out before me like a picnic blanket. I have my boys and my family to keep me toasty and we can do what we will, when we want, as long as we choose. Bliss.I like to make muffins on Christmas morning - I weigh everything out the night before and just blitz everything together when we get up. A few rounds of cards and a pot of tea later, the kitchen is filled with the scent of Christmas and our tummies are full of spicy muffin. These are grain free and lowish in sugar, to help avoid any unpleasant crashes later on.Christmas Morning Muffins makes 7These are dense, sticky muffins for date lovers. On cooling, they start to resemble crinkly snickerdoodle biscuits, with a craggly, mischievous, smiling face. If you want to make them look a little more festive, you could dust with icing sugar before you serve them - after all, it is Christmas! You can measure the syrups in dessertspoonfuls - 1 heaped = about 50g, so 2 level dessertspoons will probably get you to the right ball park and a heaped dessertspoon of greek yogurt is about right too.90g dried, pitted dates, chopped90g flaked almonds80g salted butter - or coconut oil + a pinch of sea salt60g date syrup or maple syrup or molasses + dessertspoon sugar2 large eggs1 tsp ground cinnamon2 tsp ground ginger1/2 tsp bicarbonate of sodagood pinch of allspice90g ground almondszest and juice of a clementine or half an orange60g greek yogurt large handful of currantsSet the oven to 160C and put 7 muffin cases in a muffin tray. (6 without currants)Blitz dates and flaked almonds to fine crumbs in a blender.Add butter and blitz to combine.Add date syrup, 1 egg, bicarb and spices, blitz till smooth, add the second egg and blitz again.Add ground almonds, yogurt, zest and juice, blitz until smooth. It should be a soft dropping cake mix consistency - if it isn't, add a bit more juice or yogurt.Stir in currants.Spoon into muffin cases almost to the top as they don't rise that much. Bake for 25-30 minutes until brown, risen and firmish. Cool for 15 minutes before transferring t[...]

Pear & Almond Turnovers


The other day I woke up to find that there were no eggs for my breakfast, no sardines for my toast and nothing left-overish to heat up. With a rainy morning of admin ahead of me, the need for comfort was strong. A cup of almond rooibos in hand, I contemplated the barely stocked larder and my eye fell on a couple of ripe british conference pears, bought the week before as bullets and now at the peak of their loveliness. There at the back of the fridge was a piece of pastry left over from a teaching day. My heart lifted at once!The rest as they say, is history. Some tender shortcrust pastry folded over a simple filling and offered up to the oven as I pottered happily, my tummy occasionally growling with anticipation.Barely half an hour later I drew a pair of golden turnovers from the oven and the kitchen was filled with the soothing scent of warm pear and almond. The baking tray was glossy with a slick of butter that had oozed from the centre of the turnover, crisping the base of the pastry on the way.I broke off a corner and popped it in my mouth, still almost too hot, and breathed out a steamy, pear sweet sigh. I cracked my novel and thanked the universe for a rainy morning and no eggs.If you have been on any of my courses I will have no doubt taught you my shortcrust pastry recipe. I made mine for this one with sorghum and a little buckwheat and added a tsp of potato starch to the recipe, just to give it a little extra crispness. If you don't have my shortcrust recipe, use your own - it should work just fine.I just added a couple of pinches of rapadura sugar to my turnover, but the recipe I give here is more treaty and pudding-ish. I'll let you be the judge of how much sugar you want to add, or none at all if your pears are sweet. The turnovers would also be delicious made with any seasonal berries, or rhubarb, depending on what you can find in season.Pear and Almond Turnovers      makes about 41 quantity                  gluten free shortcrust pastry3                                  medium sized pears100g                           salted butter75g                              light muscovado or rapadura sugar50g                             ground almonds2 tsp                           vanilla extractMake your pastry and while it chills, make up your filling.Peel and chop the pears into small dice. Cut the cold butter into roughly the same size dice.Add ground almonds, sugar and vanilla extract to the butter and turn gently to coat the butter lumps completely, separating the lumps as you go. Mix in the pear and use immediately.Roll out half the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment to a thickness of 5-6mm. Lift off the top sheet and cut the pastry into two circles using a side plate (about 15cm diameter) and sharp knife. Smaller pasties are easier to control, so you might like to choose a smaller plate and make more pasties.Peel off the excess pastry, leaving the circle on the sheet. Make a l[...]

Happy Meat - Delivered Straight to Your Door!


I'm always looking for great suppliers to recommend, so when I came across Green Pasture Farms, I was excited to try their free range (grass fed) meat.Buying a regular meat box allows you to plan ahead, avoid queues, support a sustainable business and buy quality you will struggle to find on the high street. All the animals are pastured, ensuring that your meat is not flabby with barn induced fat. It will also contain more omega 3 than un-pastured meat, simply from grazing on grass and pecking in the dirt. As it is increasingly hard to find genuinely pastured pork these days - this is reason enough to buy from them.In my box I received some delicious gluten free sausages. I have struggled to find free range or organic gluten free sausages, even in my beloved Waitrose! One solution is to ask your local butcher to put some pastured pork through their equipment, but you'll have to buy a large quantity and work out all the seasoning yourself. These pastured sausages are very meaty and flavoursome - although worth checking exactly what is in them before you buy, just in case you are sensitive to any of the seasonings.Because Green Pasture Farms offer nose-to-tail eating, all those delicious hard working cuts and organ meats are available. For anyone eating a 'real food' diet, including offal, bones & meat on the bone is an important way to massively increase the nutrient content of your diet. Look for, 'Odd Cuts' on the website to find marrow bones, tongue, scrag end and other delights you simply won't find in the supermarket.For those of you who are interested in rendering your own beef dripping (tallow), you can buy pastured beef suet - for a really clean fat that will keep for ages. Rare and delicious pastured lard  and beef dripping are also available.Finally, for anyone who doesn't have the luxury of a local supplier of raw milk, Green Pasture supply this. It is quite expensive, but if you buy in bulk and freeze it, you can get a discount that makes it worth adding to your order.One of the cuts in my box of delicious meat was some fat lamb shanks. Any meat on the bone (except beef rib) benefits from long, gentle cooking, encouraging all the connective tissues to relax and dissolve, minerals and gelatine to come out of the bone and the meat to become as tender as you like. With a savoury, flavoursome cut you can break out some fragrant herbs and spices. Although lamb is often paired with powerful rosemary and deeply savoury anchovies, I love it with saffron, for an unmistakably Middle Eastern twist.You don't need much saffron to infuse the whole dish with flavour. In fact, a heavy hand will turn your fragrant supper into something that tastes quite medicinal! Sweet onions, coriander seed and cinnamon balance those medicinal notes perfectly.Saffron Lamb Shanks (serves 4)2-3 fat lamb shanks (approx 900g)1 large red onion1 heaped tsp ground coriander seed    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon1 pinch saffron threads1 tablespoon tomato puree4 large carrots cut into batonssea salt and black pepperlamb, beef or duck fat to cookflat leaf parsley or fresh coriander leaf and pomegranate seeds to serveChoose a pan that will comfortably fit all your shanks in it. Brown the shanks in a heaped tsp of fat and then take them out and set aside.Finely chop onion and sauté gently in the browning fat until starting to smell sweet and take on a little colour.Add saffron, cinnamon and coriander, stir for 30 seconds.Add tomato puree and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. The tomato should start to smell sweet and concentrated. Don't let it burn!Add shanks and enough water to come about an inch up the pan. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Cover with a lid and bring up to a [...]

Teaching & Event Calendar


I am not currently taking on new clients as my practice is full. Please keep checking for updates, I expect to be taking on new clients in the Autumn for more informationNutritionSessions last about an hour and include recipes and information sheets sent out by email. I work with food rather than supplements.Initial visit (about 1 1/2 hours for an adult, slightly less for a child)Adult                   £60Child (0-16)        £45All following visitsAdult                   £45Child                   £30TeachingI regularly teach gluten free baking at River Cottage in Devon. Check out the Basic Day for everyday bakes and  the Advanced Day for party food.I also teach Gluten Free and Food for a Happy Gut days at Otter Farm in Devon.I run fermenting courses throughout the year in Bridport. Contact me by email to find out when the next classes are happening.You can visit my home in Bridport and have a virtually one to one gluten free or bespoke teaching day if you and a friend (up to three people) would like to club together. During the day we can cover whatever you would like to learn: basic or advanced gluten free cooking using a range of wholegrain flours, cooking without grains, glutenfree sourdough, labneh making, kefir, fermented foods and nourishing meals. Through the day you get to ask as many questions as you like!If you would like me to come to your venue and demonstrate gluten free cooking or talk about nutrition, please contact me to discuss a fee and availability.Teaching CalendarOtter FarmGluten free two days (day 1 Every day, day 2 Celebration,) two day or do individual days6-7th Jan 201710-11th Feb 201731st April-1st May 2017Otter Farm Food for a Happy Gut - two day or do individual days3rd-5th Feb 2017May date TBCAshburton Cookery School - Gluten Free Chef Module1st June 20178th Dec 2017Ashburton Cookery School - Patisserie13th & 14th June 20175th & 6th Dec 2017Gluten Free Cookery at River Cottage in DevonSee website for datesAdvanced Gluten Free Cookery at River Cottage in DevonSee website for datesSeasonal Nutrition at River Cottage in DevonSee website for datesHappy Digestion at River Cottage in DevonSee website for datesSouth Downs School of Homeopathy10th April 2017Gluten Free days, Fermenting days and Gut Health days in BridportDates TBCDemonstrations Cheltenham Food festival 10th June 2017Other 2017 food festivals TBC[...]

Gluten & Dairy Free Carrot & Ginger Parkin


Yesterday was Autumnal right down to its muddy boots. Between sudden heavy downpours, the sky sang like mid-summer, painting the fields a spectrum of toffee colours, from barley sugar to muscovado.The wind blew and blew, like an Oscar Wilde children's story. Picking up the lid of the post box and letting it drop again, flattening my baby hedge and casting great gusts of yellow leaves to dance through the telegraph wires and off into the fields beyond.We watched it all from our warm kitchen, enjoying the effects of all that insulation and attention to detail in the airtightness of our home. Inside, everything is muted, softened to a dull swish and thud. Opening the back door to empty compost, bought the full force of the noise outside to our startled ears.So we settled down to poker and pottering, a few cups of rooibos and some gentle baking.Just before evening drew in, we headed out for a run and returned damp and jubilant, cobwebs cleared and hungry for soup. For dessert, a dark, gingery slice of parkin, tucked up in a blanket of custard.Ginger feels so right when the nights draw in, comfortingly warm and yet piquant with heat that reminds you this is spice. Parkin is a dark ginger cake with a moist, toothsome texture from the combination of treacle and oats.  I wanted to make something oat free, so I've used grated carrots to give a succulent, open texture and blackstrap molasses for dark, sticky, nourishing sweetness. It would be great with some poached pears and a dollop of Greek Yogurt too.Carrot & Ginger Parkin - serves 6If you want to make this with butter, simply substitute 80g butter for the lard/duckfat, for coconut oil, substitute 70g.70g blackstrap molasses50g dark muscovado sugar - or palm sugar40g duck fat - or goose fat30g lard2 large organic eggszest of 1 orange100g ground almonds (almond flour in the US)30g tapioca1 1/2 tsp ground ginger1/2 tsp ground cinnamon1 1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder) or 1/2 tsp bicarb & 1 tsp vinegar150g finely grated organic carrotLine an 8inch / 20cm sandwich tin with a circle of baking parchment and set the oven to 160ºCIn a food processor, or with an electric whisk, beat together fats, sugar & molasses until creamy. Add bicarb now if you are using instead of baking powder - but not the vinegar!Add eggs, ground almond, tapioca and spices. Blitz for a while, until thoroughly creamy and lighter in colour.Add baking powder and blend well to incorporate, scraping down the sides. Add vinegar now if using this instead of baking powder.Add carrots and pulse just enough to combine.Scrape into the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.Cool in the tin and serve warm or room temperature. Eat within a couple of days.[...]

A Gently Spooky Breakfast


I'm not much for Halloween, but I did start the day with a gently spooky spider's web on my toast. Black sourdough bread, slathered with tahini and a drizzle of blackstrap molasses. Mmmm!

Prosciutto and Egg Muffins


Most of the food I cook at home these days is simple and wholesome. After hunting down the best seasonable produce and stowing it lovingly in the larder, I want to bring it to the table with the minimum of fuss.Of course I bake and invent, with any number of bubbling jars a testament to my love of fermentation. But it's mostly humble stuff.Occasionally I get the urge to do something fancy, a few profiteroles, a show off cake, or plate of quail egg canapés perhaps? These dishes require a hefty chunk of kitchen graft; sauces, ganache, tricky timings and much beating and folding. At the end of a day spent this way I feel sated by my efforts and slightly tipsy on the joyous reception they recieve.If I want to appear to have made the effort, without actually making it, there are always parma ham and egg muffins to turn to. A high protein, portable snack - made in minutes and yet strangely fancy, due to their frilly collar of crisp, oven toasted ham and dainty size.These can make a delicious weekend breakfast, quick supper, pic-nic contribution or fridge standby for unexpected hunger. Bear in mind that they are high in protein, fat, salt and not much else - so accompany with some delicious vegetables in any form you like for mealtime balance.Prosciutto and Egg Muffins - with feta and oven roast tomatoesThis recipe makes six - enough for breakfast for two with extra veg.You can vary the ingredients that you add depending on your taste, or what you have in the fridge. Wilted spinach, caramelised onions, spring onions, cheddar cheese grated over the top, roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts in oil... The picture above shows spinach with grated cheddar.6 slices of prosciutto (parma ham, serrano ham, speck)4 large free range eggsa large slice of feta25-30 cherry tomatoes1 slice red onionmilk (dairy or non dairy)pepper and sea saltPut the cherry tomatoes onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and roast for about 45 mins to an hour at 160ºC until collapsed and starting to colour on the skin. Set aside.Line six holes of a muffin tray with a little collar of non stick baking parchment. If you're not fussy about the way these muffins look, then you can dispense with this bit.Set the oven to 180ºC.Lay a slice of prosciutto into each of the lined muffin tray holes (or straight into the tin). Be gentle and try not to break the slice as you lay it in. Leave the long ends draped over the edge. The slice won't completely fill the hole - hence the benefit of lining the tin. But the egg will just bake around the ham if it spills round the edges.Finely chop onion.Gently place a few tomatoes onto each piece of prosciutto, crumble in the feta and sprinkle in onion.In a jug, beat the eggs well with a fork, adding a glug of milk to loosen the mixture. Season with lots of black pepper and a very small pinch of salt (lots of salt in feta and prosciutto).Pour egg mix evenly into the holes and drop in the remaining tomatoes. Grind over a little more black pepper and bake for 10 minutes, until risen and starting to turn a little golden.Leave in the tray for a few minutes and then run a knife around the edge to loosen before taking out of the tins. Eat hot or cold.[...]

Arroz Dulce con Manteca (dairy and gluten free rice pudding)


Nick and I grabbed ourselves a little break in Andalucia last week. We stayed in Gaucín - a pueblo blanco perched improbably on the side of a deep valley - forty five minutes drive up winding mountain roads in a rather reluctant Ford Fiesta. From the roof terrace of our casita, you could have sailed a paper aeroplane all the way to the Rif mountains in Morocco. Before bed, we inhaled the herb scented air and let our gaze sweep out across the night sky to enjoy the expanse of space in the valley. A vast pool of treacle dark air, studded with stars, inviting our eyes to swim across. Africa twinkled back, thrillingly close.As we were staying in a fairly rural town, nobody spoke English. This suits us fine, as Nick can get by and I'm learning. However, in the south people are too relaxed to bother finishing a word properly - so some interpretation of any sentence is always needed. 'Buenas dias!' becomes 'Buen dia' and so on, leading to some confusion if the understanding of a word relies on hearing the ultimate syllable. No matter, we crashed through any number of social interactions, misconjugating and laughing with the locals in a very satisfying way.On our journey to the casita, we had stopped at a large El Campo for provisions, but neglected to buy anything to fry our breakfast eggs in. We had olive oil for our delicious tomates negros, but no lard or duck fat. I despatched Nick to the local shop to see what he could find and he returned looking delighted with himself. In his hand was a tub of locally produced Manteca (lard), I popped the lid off and inside was creamy, acorn fed, piggy goodness.Nick told me that the shop keeper had questioned his desire to buy the manteca several times before accepting his cash. He couldn't believe that somebody English and below the age of sixty would prefer to cook in old fashioned pig fat over the more modern vegetable fats now coating the palates of Spain. Across Spain people have absorbed the message that the pig fat they have prized and eaten for generations is now forbidden, a cause of heart disease and weight gain. Shops are filled with bottles of heat expelled vegetable oil and tubs of margarine. In a country where butter is still a novelty - it's a real shame to see them giving away their culinary heritage so easily.Thankfully, there were still plates of delicious jamon de bellota to be eaten in the bars - slick and soft with warm fat, sweet and salty in equal measure.In the carniceria we found morcilla (blood sausage) made entirely without grain. I questioned the butcher about the ingredients a couple of times, in case he had neglected to mention the breadcrumbs, flour or suspicious looking powders that are often added into spanish sausage. It was simply, inherently gluten free - the way they make it up here in the mountains; blood, onion, garlic, salt and cinnamon. Each morning, we sliced off a little more and fried it up to eat with our eggs, peppers and tomatoes. It was unbelievably delicious - tender, savoury, delicately spiced and richly sustaining.One evening I found I had a hankering for something like pudding. Dessert in spain relies on dairy or wheat - both off the menu for me. So I bought some paella rice and fashioned a rice pudding for myself using almond milk, a little sugar and a vanilla rooibos teabag. It was ok, but lacking something. Definitely not the creamy pudding I was after. A little head scratching and a rootle in the fridge produced the manteca - creamy for sure, but maybe a little too porky for a rice pudding? I scooped some in anyway, in a moment of culinary recklessness and it was completely d[...]

Advanced Gluten Free Baking


Anyone who has been on one of my courses will know how excitable I can be when it comes to baking! River Cottage have been hosting my baking course for a couple of years now and it is always fully booked out with folks keen to improve their knowledge.

I have watched a host of trepidatious bakers hold their creations out with shining eyes after a pile of unassuming flour becomes a buttery cookie or a slice of sourdough bread. Their questions and enthusiasm to learn a whole new way of baking always make my heart swell fit to burst with the joy of it all.

After many requests, we have developed an Advanced Gluten Free Day for those of you who already bake gluten free and wish to tackle something a little more complex - or folks who have been on one of my courses.

Whilst remaining as true as possible to my mantra of fermentation and whole grains, the advanced day will cover the mysteries of flaky Puff Pastry, airy Choux Pastry, Yeasted Pastry, using starchy veg in baking and how to make a Pitta puff.

We will discuss in greater depth the myriad flour possibilities available to the gluten free baker and inspire you with greater confidence to experiment meaningfully in your own kitchen.

If you're interested in my Gluten Free Day - read a wonderful review from Caleigh here. Tickets available for the January 2014 course here.

For my November 2013 Advanced Gluten Free Day, tickets are available here - or call 01297 630300 to speak to the lovely River Cottage staff.

I can't wait to see you there! x x x

Raspberry Kleicha for Lubna


I haven't written much here at all lately. Life seems to have picked me up on it's back and carried me running this year. I have been writing, but none of it here.One of my many projects is a book on gluten free Middle Eastern cookery. Anyone who has been following long enough will remember khoreshts, cardamom cakes, saffron infused desserts, stuffed quinces and rose scented ice-creams scattered among the other dishes I have shared over the years. Middle eastern flavours particularly tickle my palate, subtle and complex, fragrant and warming.So it was with delight that I heard my bother-in-law had fallen head first in love with an Iraqi woman called Lubna. A photo of her on his Facebook page said all I wanted to know, a million watt smile and crinkles round the eyes that showed she laughed a lot. I couldn't wait to talk food with her.When we did finally meet her, that smile was like a five bar radiator. I could have curled up in front of it and purred. Nick's brother looked like a new man. Lucky Simon, we thought happily.Unluckily, this story is a tragedy, not a comedy. Not long after we met her, Lubna found that she was dying of cancer. They didn't know how long. Simon and Lubna started their comet trail, doing things that should not be put off. Carpe Diem.Simon proposed and Lubna accepted. Although the wedding was a small family gathering (small by Iraqi standards), the feast table groaned. Bowls of grapes, cut pineapple and fat dates, jostled with cake stands strewn with shiny sweets. Two large cakes sat patiently waiting for the end of the ceremony, whilst the children's eyes shone like silver paper. Nestled amongst it all were pastries; syrupy, spiral zoolbia, baklava and kleicha - the national pastry of Iraq - filled with dates, figs, pistachios and rosewater.I urged Nick to taste everything he could and describe it to me in detail."Mmm! Nice!" he enthused.Not quite the detailed description I was hoping for...Lubna changed from her wedding dress into a cape sleeved, chiffon confection that made her look like an exotic butterfly. Her cheeks must have ached that night from grinning. Finley declared it the best wedding ever as he patted his tummy, still full of slow cooked lamb and fragrant rice.A few short weeks later we were back at the same table, tears coursing down our cheeks. The day was bitterly cold and we no longer had Lubna's smile to warm us.This weekend was six months since the wedding. My heart aches for what should have been and never will be.I give you a recipe for kleicha filled with fresh raspberries. Not traditional, but then Lubna wasn't a traditional sort of girl. You can use any seasonal fruit you have for these, or fill them with dates and rosewater. You will need to start making the pastry 4 - 24 hours before you want to bake them and they are best still warm from the oven.This is my submission for this month's Go Ahead Honey It's Gluten Free, hosted by Nooshin of For The Love of Food.  The theme is, Something Fruity.Raspberry Kleicha  Gluten Free Yeasted Pastry Makes about 12Mix together the following and set aside for 3-6 hours or up to 24 hours in the fridge.60g sorghum flour60g rice flour40g buckwheat flour10g fresh yeast or 4g dried140g warm bottled or filtered waterThen beat in:60g soft, salted butter60g ground almonds40g tapioca starch20g fine maize flour (the yellow kind)20g light muscovado sugar10g ground flax seed4g fine sea saltSet the mixture in the fridge to chill for 30 mins to an hour and then make your kleicha below.about 35 fresh raspberrieslight mus[...]

Gluten Free at Ashburton Cookery School


Yesterday was my first teaching day at the Ashburton Cookery School - a deliciously well oiled machine of a place! It's an exciting new strand on my bow, because I was teaching trainee chefs and sending them off out into the world to spread the word about wholesome gluten free.

It's so important that chefs understand more about food intolerance, allergies and coeliac disease. Not purely to keep those of us who are blessed with sensitive tums, safe while we eat - but for their own culinary development. It's good to get the message across that gluten free needn't be a compromise, because it can be something in itself. Chefs can be ambassadors for the many different grains available to everyone - not just coeliacs! They are the clever people who can experiment with cakes made with starchy vegetables, pastries that have a unique flavour because of the different flours, nuts and fats used, breads that taste of something other than rice flour and potato starch.

Around the world people are eating gluten free grains as a matter of course - Injeera bread in Ethiopia (teff), Sorghum porridge across Africa, Buckwheat blinis in Russia, Maize tortillas in SouthAmerica. People don't eat these foods because they suffer food intolerance - they simply use what grows around them, and their diet is the better for it. Western diets have relied for too long on wheat flour and we all need to spread out net as wide as we can, to catch all those varied flavours, textures and nutrients.

The chef school at Ashburton was run like the best of kitchens - clean, ordered, light and full of laughter. After a day of teaching I always long for a kitchen porter in my own kitchen, because chefs get to do the fun cooking bit, without all the onerous washing up! The trainee chefs were a delight - bright, polite and able, full of interesting questions that set me thinking and cheffy tips about how to finesse my rustic style.

I wish them well, wherever they end up cooking. I know that if you happen to eat at one of their places, you'll be sure of a warm welcome and a good gluten free meal.

The school also runs a wide range of courses for the public. Visit the Ashburton Cookery School website here.

Pin It Forward UK


Pinterest how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...You know that feeling you get when you crack open the freshly minted spine of  new magazine? Interiors magazines are my poison - but yours may be something else, food, fashion, gossip? The point is that I love the act of settling down with a new magazine, untouched by any other hand but mine, propped on my elbows, a cup of assam in one hand and my belly on the sheepskin rug.However, I am often disappointed by what I find there - I hope to graze on images of interiors that I love until my greedy eyes are sated. But what I find is a mix of uninspiring and the odd gem, that sometimes appears to be a bit less sparkly the more I look.At least this was the case until I discovered Pinterest - an online scrapbook of images pinned by people like you and me, from around the globe.I'm a visual person - actually, I think we all are. I love to look at images of things that delight me as much as I love to read well written articles and listen to mind expanding radio. I love reading blogs - but I just don't have the time to trawl through all that information. So if I love something and want to look at it later, I can pop it on a Pinterest board (the modern equivalent of a newspaper clipping) and come back to it later (with my cup of assam).But I'm also a bit of a magpie, so I can use these boards as a way to collect all those shiny things that delight me and pop back every few days to have a look and gloat over my treasures. I have a board of inspirational home images that satisfies my craving for interiors magazines (and with the money saved, I can probably buy something new for the house!). My Primal Food board makes me feel as though I've chased down a bowl of wild greens with chicken broth and wild pigeon pie - plus it links me to all those other primal bloggers that I love, and a few I didn't even know about.Of course I have a Gluten Free Baking board where I post interesting looking recipes, images from this blog and links to my courses. It's become part of my communication repertoire - like a visual tweet.I guess Pinterest is a little like Facebook - without the feeling that you're wasting your time. You're building something here! A treasure trove, a recipe box, a font of inspiration for those days when it just isn't flowing.During the design process for a new venture I'm setting up (very hush hush at the moment) I used the secret board facility to post images for my colleagues in Bahrain and London to see - and they posted images and comments for me. It worked fantastically! In a few days we had achieved what many meetings and 'mood boards' would have done, with the minimum of fuss. Try it yourself!Suffice it to say that I'm a convert, a devotee even. I would recommend Pinterest to anyone with the smallest particle of visual sense to start creating their own online scrapbook - toss those expensive magazines in the bin.Check out my Gluten Free board here and sign up if you haven't already done so. You won't regret it.To check out the next blogger in the Pin it Forward campaign visit Sarah at Maison Cupcake or check out her deliciously sugary boards here[...]

Greek Olive Oil - Direct from the producer!


It's not often I get a request to review a product I can honestly say is 'real food'. As a result, product reviews are few and far between. However, when I'm asked if I would like to try some olive oil, or a local veg box, maybe a new type of free range sausage or a whole-grain flour I leap for joy - pleased to be able to do my bit to remind the world that it's not all supermarkets, ready meals and packet mixes out there. When Pelia asked me to taste their olive oil and let them know what I thought - how could I say no?

Olive oil is great stuff! Full of monounsaturated oleic acid that reduces levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. Olive oil aids absorption of lycopene from tomatoes, has antibacterial qualities, tonifies the liver and may even keep you regular!

It's important not to overheat olive oil as it is only moderately chemically stable. Unstable fats cause inflammation in the body and should be avoided at all costs. So add your olive oil to food after it has been cooked, or stir a little into your tomato ragout at the end of cooking. If you are gently roasting meat, fish or vegetables (160ºC or lower) then use olive oil for this - otherwise, use a stable fat such as duck fat, lard (also high in oleic acid) or coconut oil that can survive the heat.

I'm generally a fan of Spanish olive oil. I like the extra virgin unfiltered stuff, deep golden green and cloudy, sweet, buttery and fruity - without the pepper kick you get from an Italian olive oil. Pelia is a Greek Olive oil sold in 3 litre packs direct from the producer. It's cold pressed from manaki olives and has a light olive gold colour.

When I tasted it I was reminded of kalamata olives - although these are black and fruity, the oil shares some of the walnut flavour you find in the olives. It's light, creamy textured and with very little acidity - which is great if like me you don't appreciate an oil that burns the back of your throat! High on grassy, seedy flavours in a way that is specifically Greek, I found it was beautifully balanced by my sweet / tart cherry tomatoes at breakfast this morning. Quite moreish actually...

If you're looking for an oil that tastes really distinctive, without the challenging aspects of some more worthy brands, I would visit the Pelia website and check it out yourself. Salad weather is surely on the way and you want to be ready with your olive oil and lemons to celebrate its arrival!

Gluten Free at River Cottage - last minute places on next week's course!


Quick! Hurry, hurry! We've had two last minute cancellations on next week's gluten free day at River Cottage!

Bear in mind if you are hesitating, that this course has been fully booked for well over a month, June's course is also closed and May is going fast. If you are hesitating about booking a place for yourself or a loved one - do it now!

If you have a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, it's a day that could change your life. We don't just churn out the same old gluten free staples - I'm talking wholegrain, traditional method, real food here people!

The feedback I usually get is that participants leave the day with their head full of new information, excited about getting in their kitchen and baking up a storm. We cover much, much more than just gluten - the whole gamut of food questions are there to be pounced on with delight and tossed in the air like a seal with a ball.

Can you afford not to book a place?

x x x

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes - Comfort Food


Before we had Finn, we would buy the papers of a weekend and spread them over the breakfast table, whilst our hands cradled cups of coffee and crumbs lingered on our fingers, well into the idle morning. I unashamedly bypassed the serious news sections in favour of the magazine and Nigel Slater's weekly food column - comfort food was his speciality. One weekend he wrote a piece on coffee cake accompanied by a gorgeous photo of a messy forkful, all walnut crumb and soft buttery icing.I made that cake every chance I got - whenever some comfort was needed. The cake never failed to bring a smile through even the worst of times. It was my tender cake blanket, that I tucked around us and kept the world out of the kitchen just a little bit longer. The recipe was folded and smoothed again and again, sticky with coffee splashes and finger prints.Recently, Finley fancied looking through my old recipe books at bedtime - the ones that are full of gluten and sugar, but I keep anyway because I love to have them on my shelf. We oohed and aahed over sticky desserts and buttery pastry, truffles and tortes. Then out fell a loose sheet and Finley snatched it up, uncreasing its long folded pages to reveal a very faded recipe for coffee cake - the very one I had probably folded up the year before he was born and consigned to the shelves with all the rest.I let out a sigh and told Finn all about the cake and what it meant to me. He stroked the furrow out of my brow and told me that I could make a coffee cake if I liked - detailing all the ways I could make it without caffeine, sugar and wheat. What a boy.After my Aunt's funeral I had a real urge for something treaty. Something buttery and moreish, with crumbs that would stick to my fingers and lips. I remembered the coffee cake and knew that this was exactly the sticking plaster I needed for my sore heart.I made cupcakes because, somehow, they are even more comforting than a cake to me. Just looking at their frosted tops, adorned with a perfect walnut half makes me feel complete.I made them without refined sugar, or grains, or caffeine - because I don't want to feel high, just nourished.x x xThis month's Go Ahead Honey, hosted by Alta of Tasty Eats at Home is all about Comfort Food. This is my contribution. If you would like to contribute something, please post it as soon as you can and email the link to Alta. You can use an old post if you like - just update with a link to Alta's blog.If you are following SCD or GAPS - these are a very advanced food as they contain lots of dates and coffee. Don't even attempt to eat them until you have been clear of symptoms for 3-6 months and accompany with a dose of probiotic!Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes (makes 6)Walnut Cakes80g Dried Dates - finely chopped20g Palm Sugar (optional & leave out for SCD)130g Ground Almonds3 Large Free Range Eggs80g Salted Butter80g Walnuts1 1/2 tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder (1/2 tsp bicarb for SCD)2 tsp Vanilla Extract2 tsp Lemon JuiceFor coffee cake and icing, replace vanilla extract and lemon juice with four tsp of very strong cold coffee. I prefer a walnuty cake and coffee icing.Preheat oven to 160ºC. Pop six paper muffin cases into a deep muffin tray.In a food processor, blend dates, palm sugar and ground almonds until they are like coarse bread crumbs.Add butter, eggs, baking powder and vanilla - or coffee - and blend again until smooth, creamy and paler in colour.A[...]