If you enjoy these recipes and are looking for more, please check out my iPad apps of gluten-free recipes: Gluten Free Me by Laura Pope and Christmas Gluten Free Me, both available to download from the App Store now. For more information on the apps, recipes, photos and other culinary musings, you can like my Facebook page.
Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-Free)
This Thanksgiving classic comes with an Italian twist from the mascarpone, which gives the filling a lovely richness and depth of flavour. The spice in the filling, the orange zest in the gluten-free pastry and the maple syrup in the cream make this a particularly delicious dessert for Thanksgiving, or any special occasion this season. This is taken from my iPad app Christmas Gluten Free Me.
Prep time: 20 mins
Chilling time: 1 hours 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 180g (6⅜ oz) gluten-free plain flour
- 20g (¾ oz) gram flour
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Zest of 1 small orange
- 100g 3½ oz) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons cold water
- 600g (21oz) pumpkin (or butternut squash) flesh (peeled and deseeded weight), cut into 3cm (1”) chunks
- 30g (1oz) unsalted butter
- 175g (6oz) light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 75g (2⅝ oz) mascarpone
- 75g (2⅝ oz) double cream
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 100g (3½ oz) double cream
- 5 tablespoons maple syrup
To make the pastry: put the flours, icing sugar, cinnamon, zest and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of the water and process just until the mix comes together to form a dough – add the remaining water, if needed.
Form the dough into a disc with squared-off edges (you’ll see why when you’re lining the tart tin) and wrap it in clingfilm, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 180℃ (355℉) fan oven or 200℃ (390℉) normal oven.
To make the filling: cut out a square of foil big enough to hold the pumpkin chunks and place the pumpkin in the middle with the unsalted butter. Wrap loosely in the foil, but seal the edges tightly, put the parcel on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Leave to cool.
Slice the pastry into strips and line a loose-bottomed 22cm (8½”) tart tin with it, pressing it into the corners – reserve a little ball of pastry to fill in any gaps that open up in the pastry case as it cooks. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut a piece of baking paper into a circle a bit larger than the tart tin and scrunch it up in your hand to take some of the stiffness out of the paper, then use it to line the pastry case and fill it with baking beans, then bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the paper and beans, fill in any gaps that have opened up in the case with little bits of the reserved pastry and cook for a further 10 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Turn oven down to 160℃ (320℉) fan oven or 140℃ (285℉) normal oven.
Meanwhile, put the roasted pumpkin, including the buttery juices, with the sugar, eggs, mascarpone, cream and spices in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pour this into the pastry case and bake for 1 hour. The filling will puff up in the middle while cooking, then settle as it cools.
When tart is cool, remove from tin and serve on a plate. You can sprinkle over some icing sugar once it is cool.
To make the maple cream: whip the double cream with the maple syrup and serve with the tart.
Baby courgettes stuffed with herby cheese
If you grow courgettes, you’ll see that they’re currently blooming with lovely yellow flowers. If you go to farmers’ markets right now, you’ll probably see those flowers being sold for scary amounts of money – I suppose the cost is to make it worthwhile transporting something so delicate and prone to tearing… but it’s still eye-watering when I think how many of them are there for the picking in veg patches up and down the country. I think they’re usually “pannéd” (breaded) by being dipped in flour, then beaten egg and finally crispy breadcrumbs, but I skip the flour and use polenta instead of breadcrumbs to give a lovely crunch, with the added benefit of making them gluten-free, too. These make a lovely starter or canapé.
- Baby courgettes, with the flowers attached
- Soft cheese, eg ricotta or creamy goat’s cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and grated Parmesan, with chopped soft herbs, eg basil, parsley and mint stirred through. Or you can cheat and use a ready-made herbed-up soft cheese like Boursin, which will still taste fantastic
- Egg, beaten (start with one and see how you go, depending on how many courgettes you’re doing)
- Finely ground polenta
- Knob of butter and a little sunflower oil for frying
Gently clean any dirt or insects off your courgettes and rinse carefully with a little cold water – you don’t want to damage the flowers. If the stamen are very big, remove them to allow you to fit more cheese in. Take about a teaspoon of soft cheese and roll into a ball in your fingers, then insert it into the flower, folding the petals around the ball of cheese and twisting the flower around it. Dip the courgette and flower in the beaten egg, shake off the excess and roll it in the polenta to give a light coating. Put the stuffed courgettes on a plate and refrigerate them, covered, until ready to cook if not cooking them straight away (I wouldn’t leave them longer than a couple of hours).
Heat up a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil and butter in the pan (oil is easier to fry in and has a higher burning point, but butter gives colour and flavour, hence why I sometimes mix them). Fry the courgettes for a minute or two on each side until golden brown and crunchy. Move onto plates and serve immediately – the outside should be really crisp and the cheese inside soft, gooey and delicious (and very hot – don’t burn your mouth!)
Cheese scones with fig & vanilla jam
I recently did a cookery demonstration with Comté, the lovely, nutty French cheese, at Divertimenti cookery school in Knightsbridge. Although scones are so quintessentially English, they taste (dare I say it) even better with this little French twist, but if you want to go English all the way, then a good, mature Cheddar or similar would do the job nicely. If you haven’t tried the combination of cheese and jam, then I hope you give it a go; other berry jams such as strawberry, raspberry or blackberry would be equally delicious.
Makes at least 8 scones
For the fig & vanilla jam:
- 750g ripe figs (discard any mouldy ones), stalks removed
- 2 vanilla pods, cut in half vertically and then in three lengthways
- 500g jam sugar
For the scones:
- 250g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 60g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
- 100g Comté, grated (I like a mature one, aged 24 or 36 months)
- 1 free range egg, beaten
- 100ml whole milk
- 1 free range egg yolk, beaten
- First, make your jam: turn the oven to 80°C (60°C fan oven) and put a saucer into the freezer. Wash your jam jars and lids, rinse and dry, then put the jars on their sides into the oven for 10 minutes to sterilise them. Remove the jars and leave them to cool until they are warm, but not scalding hot.
- Cut figs into eights and put them with the sugar and vanilla into a large sauce pan over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and cooking gently until the sugar has dissolved and the figs are mushy. Turn up the heat and let the jam bubble for about 10 minutes. Test if the jam is at setting point by dropping a small blob on the cold saucer (from the freezer). Leave for a few seconds then push very gently with the tip of your finger – if the surface of the jam wrinkles, it is ready. Remove pan from heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
- Stir to ensure the figs and vanilla pods are evenly distributed, then pour the hot jam into the warm jars (leave the vanilla pods in), immediately screwing a lid onto each jar – the heat will create a tight seal and help preserve the jam for 6-12 months.
- Now, make your scones: preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven). Mix the flour and baking powder together with a balloon whisk (to break up any lumps and aerate the flour), mix in the salt and sugar and rub in the butter until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Gently stir in most of the grated Comté (keep a little for the topping later). Beat the egg and milk together, add to the dry ingredients and mix everything together with a cutlery knife and then one hand to bring it all into a dough. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 3cm thick and cut into circles using a 4cm diameter cutter. Place the scones onto a greased baking tray and rest again for 10 minutes.
- Brush the scones with beaten egg yolk and top with the remaining grated Comté.
- Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool.
- Best eaten freshly baked, buttered, with a slice of Comté and a dollop of jam.
Seed, nut & oat bread
This nutrient-packed loaf is delicious eaten fresh or toasted as a much healthier alternative to regular bread. A client gave me the original recipe by Sarah Britton and I made this loaf for her every week and, in doing so, made a few tweaks. It’s totally free from gluten (if you choose gluten-free oats), dairy and sugar and you can use different combinations of nuts and seeds each time you make it. It’s utterly simple to make and requires no fancy equipment. Chia seeds, psyllium husk powder and brown rice syrup can all be found in health food shops – if you don’t see them on the shelves, do ask if the shop can order them for you.
Makes 1 loaf.
- 225g (8¼oz) mixed seeds, eg sunflower, poppy, linseeds (flax), sesame
- 65g (2oz) nuts, eg hazelnuts, cashews, brazils, almonds, pinenuts
- 145g (5¼oz) rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons psyllium husk powder
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt / ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup (or you can use maple syrup or honey if you prefer)
- 3 tablespoons (25g / 1 oz) melted coconut oil
- 350ml (12fl oz) water
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well.
- Whisk together the maple syrup, coconut oil and water, add to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is completely soaked and the dough becomes very thick – if it’s too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until it is manageable.
- Pour into the a non-stick loaf tin, smooth out the top of the dough with the back of a spoon. Leave for at least two hours, all day or overnight. The dough should retain its shape by this stage.
- Preheat the oven to 175℃ / 350℉ / gas mark 4 normal oven (155℃ / 310℉ fan oven).
- Bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the loaf from the tin and place it upside down onto the bars of the oven rack and bake for a further 60 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when it’s tapped.
- Allow to cool completely before slicing.
- The loaf will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. It freezes well, too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast.
Jerusalem artichoke soup
We recently ate at Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House… A few keen restaurant-goers had raved about it and it turns out they really were not exaggerating – in fact, from start to finish, we were blown away by the amazing food. One of the first courses was a velvety, flavour-packed Jerusalem Artichoke soup served with a plump, seared scallop & crispy pancetta – it was utterly delicious. When I saw Jerusalem Artichokes in my local farmers’ market, I jumped on them and made this soup at home. It’s such a simple recipe – the ingredients really speak for themselves, so it’s important to go for good quality all the way.
- 50g unsalted butter
- Light olive oil
- 500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and finely sliced
- 600g floury potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 litre whole milk
- 750ml chicken stock
- Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Melt the butter in a large pan with a splash of oil.
Add the artichokes, potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, covered, over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, until the artichokes and potatoes are cooked but not coloured.
Add the milk and stock, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Blitz the soup in a blender. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
White chocolate, apricot & pistachio blondies
The perfect winter tea-time treat. I forgot about these for a few years, preferring their more-obvious (though still delicious) cousin, the brownie, then rediscovered and fell in love with these gooey, sweet beauties all over again.
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 300 soft light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 100g dried, chopped apricots
- 100g white chocolate chips
- 100g pistachio kernels
Line a deepish tin (about 20x30cm) with baking parchment. Preheat oven to 180℃ / 355℉ normal oven (160℃ / 320℉ fan oven).
In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla, then sift and fold in the flour and baking powder. Mix in the apricots, chocolate and pistachios.
Spread the mix into the lined tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Leave to cool to room temperature, remove from tin and cut into squares. Delicious eaten fresh (or warm it up to serve as a pudding with a scoop of ice cream and even a drizzle of salted caramel sauce), or store them in an airtight container.
Sundried tomato, green olive & Comté loaf cake
This makes the most fantastic simple, rustic canapé – this recipes makes two loaves, which are lovely eaten slightly warm from the oven, but the great thing is that you can eat one warm and freeze the other. Just defrost and reheat a loaf when you need it – perfect when friends pop over for last-minute drinks.
Makes 2 small loaves.
- 200g self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Few twists of ground black pepper
- 3 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
- 100ml olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
- 100ml whole milk
- 100g pitted olives, halved
- 100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 100g Comté cheese, finely grated (I like a milder one here, aged 12 or 18 months)
Heat oven to 190°C (170°C fan oven) and grease 2 small loaf tins (about 19x7x5cm).
Mix flour, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Add the eggs, oil and milk – beat with an electric whisk for 1 minute to form a smooth batter.
Mix in the olives, tomatoes and three quarters of the cheese.
Pour the batter into the two loaf tins, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until the loaves are firm, golden and crusty on top.
Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, then turn onto a wire rack. Can serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
If freezing a loaf, defrost it fully before baking in an oven pre-heated to 190°C (170°C fan oven) for 5 to 10 minutes to reheat.
Spelt sourdough bread
I’ve always loved the taste of sourdough bread but didn’t start making it myself until about four years ago, once I realised how ridiculously easy it was. I don’t wish to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs (if you don’t know what I’m on about, do please feel free to ask), but all you have to do to get the mysterious starter up and running is mix together some flour and water. And that’s it. Sometimes people get things going with a bit of added yeast, but I’ve always found that it gets going all by itself without any help. There is yeast naturally present in the flour and also in the air – I got my first starter going all by itself in the Swiss Alps in the middle of winter, where there were no plants flowering, no tree pollen, nada. If it works there, where the air is dry and barren at that time of year, it should work just about anywhere.
But, until this week, I’d never made sourdough with anything other than wheat flour… I absolutely love sourdough and I adore spelt bread, so I decided to merge the two. And the union was beautiful (and I write this in a time when unions are looking a bit shaky…)
So, I had a little play and – joy of joys – hit the jackpot, the motherload, the holy grail. I am currently munching on some beautiful spelt sourdough toast with a bowl of homemade pea & broad bean soup: a truly simple and utterly perfect supper. (I may finish it off with a wee dram of Islay’s finest whisky and sing a few verses of Flower of Scotland to myself, just in case we Sasannachs are no longer allowed to join the Scottish party after tomorrow…)
Makes one medium-sized loaf.
For the starter
- 1 cup slightly warm filtered or spring water (the chlorine and other chemicals in most tap water can prohibit or kill off the natural yeast)
- 1 cup organic spelt flour (you need organic for the same reasons you use filtered or spring water: no chemicals)
Blend the water and flour, and pour it into a glass jar with a rubber and wireframe seal or a glass jar with a screw-top lid that you’ve pierced with holes.
Feed the starter
You should keep the starter in a warm place: 20-28℃ / 70-80°F, which allows the yeast already present in the flour (and in the air) to grow rapidly. Temperatures hotter than 37℃ / 100℉ or so will kill it, but rest assured that almost nothing else can. The way you feed the starter is to (A) throw away half of it and then (B) add a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water. Do this every 24 hours. Within 3 or 4 days (it can take longer: a week or more, or it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughout, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here’s the gist: when your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that’s because it is.
Refrigerate the Starter
Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid – this is why, if you’re using a jam jar, you punch holes in the lid. Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. Realistically, you can get away with less; it’s important to remember that your starter is a colony of life-forms that are almost impossible to kill (except with extreme heat). Even starving them is difficult.
(A little word on caring for your starter: aside from weekly feeding, the only other thing you need to worry about is hooch, a layer of watery liquid (often dark) that contains alchohol. It smells a bit like beer, because it is a bit like beer – but don’t drink it! Hooch builds up in your starter, especially in the fridge. Just pour it off or stir it back in. It doesn’t hurt anything. If your starter is looking dry, stir it back in. If your starter is quite wet enough, pour it off. Just remember that hooch is nothing to worry about!)
For the sponge
- 350ml / 12oz spring water at about 27°C / 80°F (this is important because the bleach in tap water hinders the starter)
- 115g / 4oz sourdough starter brought to room temperature
- 340g / 12oz organic spelt flour (again, organic here is imperative. The chemicals used to kill pests on the growing spelt will also kill the good organisms needed for the bread to rise properly when using a natural yeast)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (you can put Maldon or another coarse salt in a morter and grind it down)
In a medium sized bowl or container that will fit into your fridge, combine your spring water, starter and spelt flour with a wooden spoon. It is fine if there are lumps of flour or starter, because as the sponge start working, it will all meld together. It will be a wonderfully spongy consistency, much too wet to form a dough at this stage. Set this aside in a warm area of your kitchen, draped with a clean cloth. You can use plastic, but I like the idea that the yeast is breathing and catching organisms out of the air. Ideally the temperature should be in the upper 20’s (centigrade) / late 70s (fahrenheit). I imagine this is easy on a hot summer’s day, but in the winter or spring, you might put it near the radiator or the oven while doing other cooking. Let this rise for 4 hours.
At this point, feed your starter: depending on how much you take out or how much you have left, add about an equal portion of organic flour to your starter along with half that amount in spring water at about 27°C / 80°F. Leave the starter out at room temperature until you are ready to put the sponge in the fridge.
Put the sponge and the starter in the fridge. The sponge will rest in the fridge for at least 6 and up to 24 hours.
For the dough
- 60ml / 2oz spring water at 27°C / 80°F
- 400g / 14oz organic spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Take your sponge out of the fridge and put it into a mixing bowl. I use my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, but you can do this by hand, of course. Add all of the above ingredients and mix for about 8 – 10 minutes. You will have smooth and elastic dough that is ever so slightly tacky. If you must knead by hand to feel like you are really making bread, then now is your chance. You really don’t need much flour down on the counter, so avoid working too much flour into the dough. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it again and place it back in its warm spot for 3 – 4 hours.
Line a bowl with a muslin cloth or a fresh tea towel and generously dust it with flour. Turn your dough out and knock it around a bit to get some of the air out. This also gets the yeasts acting again. Then shape it into a round. Plop the bread into the flour-lined bowl and cover it with another cloth. Let it sit in the warm spot for about 5 hours (can prove in fridge to really bring out the sourdough flavour).
This is very important: turn your oven on a good 45 minutes before you are ready to put the loaf inside it. Get it as hot as your oven will go. Put your baking sheet into the oven and get it really hot, too. Also place a baking tray on the floor of your oven ready to hold water. Place a jug of water (tap is fine here, as we are only trying to create humidity for a nice chewy crust) next to the oven, ready to pour into the tray. Now, uncover your loaf. When everything is ready, remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and quickly close the door. It is so so important to keep the heat in there. This was the best bit of advice I received for getting the dark crusty crust I was after. Now, turn the loaf out onto the baking sheet and slice four slits into the loaf in the shape of a square. Quickly open the oven, slide the loaf in, and pour water into the tray on the floor of your oven (be careful the steam does not burn your hand) and close the door fast! Set your timer for 20 minutes, and open the door before then! After 20 minutes, take a look, and it will probably need 10 minutes more. I like mine to get nice and dark, almost burnt in places. Cool on a wire rack.
Peach & raspberry pavlova with salted caramel sauce
I like a good pav at any time of the year, but being able to pile it high with sweet, ripe summer fruits makes this pretty special. I’ve used peaches and raspberries but you can use any seasonal, soft fruits you like. The salted caramel sauce finishes it off beautifully, as would a tart fruit coulis if you prefer.
Serves 6 to 8
For the meringue:
- 4 x egg whites
- 250g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornflower
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- Few drops vanilla extract
For the salted caramel sauce:
- 75g good quality unsalted butter
- 50g soft light brown sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g golden syrup
- 125ml double cream
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel (don’t add it all at once – start by adding half and see how it tastes)
- 300ml double cream
- 4 x ripe peaches, cut into slices or chunks
- 250g punnet raspberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (normal or 165°C fan) and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cornflower and vinegar, and the vanilla. Then gently fold everything until it is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 21cm in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C (normal, or 135°C fan) and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the meringue disc cool completely.
Make the sauce: melt butter, sugars, syrup and butter in a small heavy-based pan and let it all simmer for three minutes, swirling every now and again. Add the cream and half a teaspoon of fleur de sel and swirl again, stir with a wooden spoon and taste (careful not to burn your mouth) to see if you want more salt before letting it cook for another minute on the stove, then pour into a jug to cool.
When you’re ready to serve, move the meringue on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the fruit and drizzle over the sauce.
Puy lentils with broad beans, peas, radishes and mint in a lime vinaigrette
I recently made this as part of a summer’s evening feast that included roast fillet of beef, spiced beetroot purée, chickpea & herb purée, griddled summer vegetables, baby leaf salad and my Norwegian crispbreads (you can find the recipe in my Gluten Free Me app for the iPad). The earthiness of the lentils is the perfect base for the tanginess of the lime and mint, while the bright green peas, tender broad beans and lovely radishes in various shades of red and purple turn this into a colourful gem of a dish.
Serves about 8 people.
- 200g Puy lentils, uncooked
- 155g fresh green peas
- About 15 pods of broad beans
- About 10 baby radishes in various colours
- Small bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water, add them to a sauce pan and cover with three times as much water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender – about 12 minutes. Drain, run under the cold tap and leave in the sieve to drain and cool fully.
Make the dressing by mixing the zest and juice of the limes with about the same quantity of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Pod the broad beans and boils for a couple of minutes until just cooked, then drain and run under cold water. Do the same with the peas, but only cook for about a minute. Finely slice the radishes into discs – use a mandolin if you have one.
Mix the lentils, broad beans, peas, radishes and mint with the dressing – add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve at room temperature.
There’s a definite whiff of summer in my little west London garden at the moment thanks to the delicate scent of elderflower from the neighbours’ tree (technically a bush, but it looks pretty much like a tree to me), its fragrant blooms hanging temptingly over the fence. Being a child of the countryside and not adverse to a little foraging, I have scrumped (or whatever the correct term is for harvesting someone else’s elderflowers) a few blooms to turn them into the essence of summertime: elderflower cordial.
First things first, a few ground rules: only pick the blooms when they’re dry – if they’re wet, the pollen (which gives the cordial its heady fragrance) will be all soggy and your cordial won’t be up to much. Don’t pick any brown blooms, but do make sure the buds are open – if they’re not, wait a bit as they need a bit more time to blossom. Don’t wash the blooms (same effect as picking them when wet) – just shake and brush off any little flies that are lurking.
- 36 elderflower blooms
- 2kg granulated sugar
- 70g citric acid (sold in pharmacies)
- 3 lemons, thinly sliced
- 2 litres boiling water
Put your elderflower blooms, sugar, citric acid and sliced lemons into a non-metal (ie plastic, Pyrex, tempered glass, ceramic, etc), sterilised container and pour over the boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for three days, stirring and squeezing the lemons with your clean hands once a day. After three days, strain your cordial through a sieve lined with a clean muslin cloth or through a clean straining bag (I have a sturdy, machine-washable straining bag I also use for making jellies and nut milks) into a clean container. Pour some of the cordial into a bottle to keep in the fridge and freeze the rest in batches to defrost and use as needed (even in the fridge, the cordial will get stringy bits in it after a while). I love mixing it with fizzy water (you only need a splash of cordial as the flavour is very pronounced) and it’s also fantastic with cucumber gin, lime juice and fizzy water in a gorgeous summer cocktail called Garden of Eden.
Honey & Almond Granola
My clients, family and friends love this so much and always ask me to make it. I have made this recipe so many times I could probably do it with my eyes closed… it’s super easy, utterly delicious (not too sweet, with a subtle hint of vanilla to compliment the almonds), contains no processed sugar and can be made gluten- and dairy-free. Store it in an airtight container and it will keep for weeks.
- 400g rolled oats (gluten-free, if required)
- 115g oat bran (gluten-free, if required)
- 110g dried skimmed milk powder (can use a non-dairy alternative, such as almond milk powder or soya milk powder if needed)
- 200g whole almonds, roughly chopped in half
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 150g sunflower oil
- 150g runny honey
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
Turn oven to 150℃ / 300℉ fan (165℃ / 330℉ normal oven). Mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl, then mix all together. Spread over two baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. With a heat-proof spatula, move the granola around (so it doesn’t catch and burn) and return the baking sheets to the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and getting crunchy. Leave to cool on the baking sheets – it will crisp up as it cools. When cold, store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Egg-fried brown rice
After god-knows-how-many months of bleak, cold, wet winter, the fact that I can now eat my lunch outside is thrillingly good news. What I eat for my lunch is practically irrelevant… well, it might be to many, but for a girl like me – no chance. However, when I’m having a busy day working from home and the sun is shining invitingly, my lunch has to pack maximum punch for minimum effort: Delicious. Nutritious. Super-speedy. So, this is why I am a big fan of stir-fried rice, using brown rice for its nutritional value and nutty flavour instead of its bland, processed white cousin. This is another one of my fly-by-the-seat of your pants recipes – that is, don’t read it as gospel, feel free to go off-piste and add, remove or replace ingredients as you see fit. The one command I will issue, though, is about the rice. Food poisoning from rice is serious stuff and to be avoided at all costs. So, the key thing is to cook your rice and then very quickly cool whatever you’re not eating immediately, then either cover and refrigerate it for no more than 48 hours or freeze it in portions to defrost and reheat as needed. When you reheat it, make sure it is piping hot.
To serve one person – multiply the quantities as needed:
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil or sunflower oil
- 3 x rashers of streaky smoked bacon, chopped into strips
- 2 x spring onions, chopped
- 1 x clove garlic, grated or crushed
- 1cm piece of ginger, grated
- 1 x handful cooked brown rice
- 1 x large egg
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce (use Tamari if you’re wanting gluten-free)
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon Vietnamese dipping sauce (again, if you’re wanting gluten-free, check it says so on the sauce you’re using)
- Half bunch of coriander, chopped (stalks and leaves)
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
Heat the oil in a frying pan and, when hot, fry the bacon until golden, add in the spring onions, garlic and ginger. Add in the rice and cook until piping hot, keeping it moving so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
In a small bowl, beat the egg, soy sauce (or Tamari), sesame oil and Vietnamese dipping sauce, then add this to the rice and stir through. When the egg is just cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the coriander, lime juice and chia seeds. Serve and eat immediately.
Tasty little canapés or an unbeatably good starter. Use the best quality fresh tuna you can get – ask the fishmonger for sushi grade. Utterly delicious, this tartare is easy to make and it’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, low fat and has no added sugar (you could even leave out the honey if you wish).
To serve one person for a starter or two to three people for canapés (multiply the quantities as needed):
- 75g/2¾oz fresh tuna steak, finely chopped
- ½ green chilli, finely diced
- 1 salad onion, white only, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- ½ lime, juice only
- ½ tsp sesame seeds to garnish
Mix the tuna, chilli and onion and, when ready to serve, mix in the tamari, sesame oil and lime juice. Put spoonfuls on discs of cucumber to make tasty little canapés, or supersize them by spooning the tartare into a metal ring on a plate to make a starter, with some avocado on the side.
Hands down the best way to start your day, this juice is packed full of nutrients and it tastes fantastic. You’ll need a juicer for this – I really love mine and the money you save on buying cartons of juice will eventually pay for the juicer itself!
Makes enough juice for 2 servings:
- 1 x small beetroot, raw and scrubbed clean
- 1 x large carrot
- 1 x small lemon or 1 x lime, zest cut off unless its unwaxed (you can leave the pith on)
- 1 stick celery
- ½ thumb-sized piece of ginger
- 1 x apple
- 1 x pear
- ½ cucumber
- Handful blueberries
I’ve used these fruit and veg because they combine amazing colours, flavours and vitamins, but do feel free to add, substitute or remove whatever you fancy – enjoy experimenting with your juicer!
Blini with Smoked Salmon, Ricotta & Dill
Now this is a true Christmas classic! To be honest, I could start eating these at breakfast time on Christmas Day and, if left undisturbed, work my way through the entire plateful and have no room for lunch. (Un)luckily, I am forced to share them with friends and family…
- 16 ready-made mini blini (if you want to make your own gluten-free buckwheat blini, do check out my Christmas Gluten Free Me app or ebook for the recipe)
- 100g ricotta cheese
- 50g dill, half of it chopped and the other half reserved for garnish
- 150g smoked salmon or trout
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- Optional: small jar of salmon roe or, if you are really pushing the boat out, caviar
Turn your oven high, lay the blini on a baking sheet and heat for a three to five minutes until they’re warmed throughout and slightly toasted – just check they don’t burn! Take them out the oven and transfer to a serving plate.
For the ricotta & dill, mix the ricotta with half the lemon zest and juice, the dill and season with salt and pepper. Check the taste – you may wish to add more lemon juice, though you don’t want the mixture too sloppy or it will fall off the blini.
To assemble, put a little piece of smoked salmon onto each blini, then a small dollop of the ricotta mixture, followed by a few salmon roe and a little leaf of dill on top. Squeeze a little lemon juice just before serving to give them an extra zing.
Slow-Cooked Lamb with Tomatoes & Olives
Thinking about last month’s butternut squash dish, this would be a perfect bedfellow: tender, succulent lamb that is falling apart in a rich sauce of tomatoes, red wine & olives. It’s a great dish to make for dinner as the effort (which is minimal) happens hours before you eat and then you just leave it to cook for seven hours in the oven. This is my kind of food on a chilly winter’s evening – bliss.
Serves about 8 people.
- 1 large leg of lamb, about 3kg/6lb 8oz
- 4 onions, sliced
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled, but left whole
- 4 carrots, peeled, cut in half and then quartered
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 250g black and green pitted olives
- 300ml red wine
- 300ml stock
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, to garnish
Rub your leg of lamb with oil and season it all over with salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 120℃/fan 100℃. Turn your extractor fan on high, put a large casserole dish over a high heat on the hob and brown the leg of lamb on all sides – do this very thoroughly until it is a good dark brown as it will not brown during the cooking. If the lamb sticks, add a drizzle more oil. This browning process takes about 10 minutes.
Pour away any fat that has collected in the bottom of the pan, throw in the onions, garlic and carrots, then the tomatoes, olives, wine and stock. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to the boil, then put on the lid and place it in the oven. Bake for seven hours.
There is no need to rest the meat when cooked in this way, but to finish the sauce, transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving dish. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and pour off the excess fat. Boil the liquid hard to reduce it by a half. Taste the sauce and season if needed, then pour it over the lamb, which will be so meltingly tender that you can serve it with a spoon.
This is wonderful served with small pasta, such as farfallini, mashed potato or roasted butternut squash (recipe just below).
Roasted Butternut Squash with a Maple Dressing
This side dish has great depth of flavour, making it a lovely accompaniment for rich meat dishes. Roasting the butternut squash really brings out the flavour and texture of this gorgeous autumnal vegetable. The maple syrup in the dressing makes it wonderfully sweet and woody, while the sunflower seeds add crunch.
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 3cm (1”) cubes
- Olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Small bunch basil leaves, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat your oven to 180℃ (355℉) fan or 195℃ (380℉) normal oven. Toss the butternut squash in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in a single layer – not too cramped together – in a roasting tray. Cook for about 45 minutes, checking every 15 minutes or so and giving it a gentle move around so it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. You want it to be nicely browned and cooked through, but not mush. In a hot, dry frying pan, toast the sunflower seeds until they’re browned. In a jam jar, mix together the vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and maple syrup and season with salt and pepper. When the butternut squash has cooled slightly, mix with the dressing, sunflower seeds and chervil to serve.
Back-to-school Blueberry Muffins
These little beauties contain no dairy (I use almond milk) or refined flour – the wholemeal makes them far more substantial and nutritious than using white flour and the juicy blueberries give scrumptious bursts of flavour and vitamins.
- 225g self-raising wholemeal flour
- 115g wholemeal flour / spelt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 lemon – zest and juice
- 135g sugar (or xylitol if you don’t want to add sugar)
- 225g fresh blueberries
- 1 small, very ripe banana with black skin (about 85g peeled weight)
- 1 egg
- 280ml almond milk
- 5 tablespoons sunflower oil
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put 12 paper cases in muffin tin.
Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into milk mix (to create buttermilk-like consistency).
Mix both flours with the baking powder and lemon zest. Stir sugar (or xylitol) into the flour with the cinnamon. Toss in the blueberries and stir.
Mash the banana well and beat in the egg, milk mix and oil.
Using a large metal spoon, very lightly stir the liquid into the flour mix, just to combine. Over-mixing will make the muffins tough.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases – each one should be very full. Bake for 20-25 mins until risen and golden.
Once cool enough to handle, remove muffins to a wire rack. Best eaten the day of making, but will keep for up to 2 days.
Thank you to Pam Corbin and her wonderful book “Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2” for this recipe.
- Allow 600ml/1 pint white wine vinegar to each 450g/1 lb raspberries.
- Crush the fruit in a large bowl and pour over the vinegar.
- Leave to steep for 3 to 5 days, stirring daily.
- Strain through a muslin-lined sieve into a large measuring jug.
- Add 225g/8 oz sugar to each pint of juice in a pan and heat to boiling, then boil for 10 mins.
- Pour into sterilised bottles and seal tightly.
- Keep the vinegar out of direct sunlight and use within one year.
Crab salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes & pink grapefruit
Summer on a plate, this is packed full of citrus zing, which is offset by the creamy sweetness of the avocado and crab. The key to this dish is getting fresh, fantastic white crab meat – and the avocados need to be perfectly ripe. But, once you’ve sourced your ingredients, this starter is an absolute doddle. Serves 4.
For the salad:
- 460g (1 lb) white crab meat
- 225g (8 oz) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 avocados, flesh cut into cubes
- 2 pink grapefruit, segmented, juice kept for the dressing
- Small bunch coriander, leaves removed
For the dressing:
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
In advance, make the dressing by mixing all the zests and juices with the olive oil and seasoning to taste – different citrus fruit yield different quantities of juice, so add enough oil to balance out the acidity. If it makes more dressing than you need, keep it in a jar in the fridge for a few days to use on other salads.
When ready to serve, mix enough dressing through the crab, tomatoes, avocado, grapefruit and two-thirds of the coriander, then scatter over a platter and sprinkle over the remaining coriander.