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 7
These 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, chopped
90g flaked almonds
80g salted butter - or coconut oil + a pinch of sea salt
60g date syrup or maple syrup or molasses + dessertspoon sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
good pinch of allspice
90g ground almonds
zest and juice of a clementine or half an orange
60g greek yogurt 
large handful of currants


  • Set 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 to a rack to cool completely. Eat warm or cool - we like them cool, spreading each mouthful with Greek yogurt sweetened with a spoonful of honey.

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 4

1 quantity                  gluten free shortcrust pastry

3                                  medium sized pears
100g                           salted butter
75g                              light muscovado or rapadura sugar
50g                             ground almonds
2 tsp                           vanilla extract

Make 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 little half moon shape of filling on one side of the circle, leaving a 1.5cm border around the edge. Don’t be tempted to put too much filling in, or your turnover won’t close!

Damp the outside edge of the circle with fingers dipped into water. Put your hand under the paper, bring the empty side of the pastry up over the filling and press it down gently – using the paper to help you guide the pastry and stop it cracking. Push the filling back into the turnover if it starts to escape. Crimp the edges of the turnover with a fork, to ensure it stays closed.

Make a couple of slashes in the top of your turnover and egg or milk wash if you like – to give the pastry some colour and a sheen. An egg wash can also help keep a slightly crumbly turnover together!

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180ºC, or until the pastry is crisp underneath and golden brown around the edges. Cool on a rack or eat as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Be careful about moving them while they are still hot, as the pastry will firm up as it cools.





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 onion
1 heaped tsp ground coriander seed    
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch saffron threads
1 tablespoon tomato puree
4 large carrots cut into batons

sea salt and black pepper
lamb, beef or duck fat to cook
flat leaf parsley or fresh coriander leaf and pomegranate seeds to serve

Choose 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 simmer.

Simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours until completely tender. Turn the shanks a couple of times to evenly absorb the saffron colour. Keep the water topped up, but don't add too much or you will dilute the flavour.

Add the carrots about 30 minutes before the end of your cooking time.

Once the meat is tender, remove shanks, season (if needed) and reduce the liquid until it has a thin gravy consistency. Take meat off the bone and return to the sauce to heat through.

Serve with rice cooked in lamb or chicken stock and scented with a couple of cardamon pods. A dark green parsley and spinach salad and scattering of pomegranate seeds makes a delicious winter meal.


Teaching & Event Calendar

I will try to keep this page as up to date as possible. Please contact me if you can't find the information you need or you would like to book me for a demonstration or workshop.

Teaching

Ashburton Cookery School - Gluten Free Chef Module
11th Dec 2014

Gluten Free Cookery at River Cottage in Devon
5th Dec 2014
10th Jan 2015
23rd Feb 2015
19th March 2015
15th April 2015
13th May 2015

Advanced Gluten Free Cookery at River Cottage in Devon
11th Jan 2015
20th March 2015
14th May 2015

South Downs School of Homeopathy
TBC

Reboot Dorset
Various dates - please see website for details

Gluten Free Days in Bridport
Dates TBC please contact me if you are interested

Demonstrations 

Oxon Coeliac Society
October 5th 2013

Salisbury Coeliac Society
September 18th 2014

Bridport Food Festival
8-15th June 2014

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 6


If you want to make this with butter, simply substitute 80g butter for the lard/duckfat, for coconut oil, substitute 70g.

70g blackstrap molasses
50g dark muscovado sugar - or palm sugar
40g duck fat - or goose fat
30g lard
2 large organic eggs
zest of 1 orange
100g ground almonds (almond flour in the US)
30g tapioca
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder) or 1/2 tsp bicarb & 1 tsp vinegar
150g finely grated organic carrot

Line an 8inch / 20cm sandwich tin with a circle of baking parchment and set the oven to 160ºC

In 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 tomatoes

This 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 eggs
a large slice of feta
25-30 cherry tomatoes
1 slice red onion
milk (dairy or non dairy)
pepper and sea salt

Put 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.