Hello world! I can only apologise for the lack of posts (I mean, what’s 2 years between friends?) but I’m determined to get the blog back up and running with some regular content for my fellow readers.
So, what’s happened in 2 years? Well, a lot actually. I travelled to Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar and Laos on the way back to my beloved Australia; my long-term relationship ended and a new one has begun (hopefully also long-term); I’m on a quest to stay in Australia permanently and am currently undergoing the visa application process; and I’ve moved several times, not including in-between countries. Oh, and I’ve also acquired a cat. Phew! Time really has flown.
Note: I’ve just got back from a trip home to England for 3 weeks and am currently in my apartment in Brisbane, at 4am, writing this blog post whilst eating Schar Gluten Free Milk Chocolate Nobbles, drinking tea and being shaded by the cat for being up at such an ungodly hour.
Life’s thrown a lot of curveballs in the past two years and I’ve gone along with most of them – sometimes without choice and sometimes with somewhat of a desire for change. Approaching 30 I’m at the point in my life where I’m less phased by blocks in the road and am more open to trying something different. Some of these blocks or curveballs are incredibly sad and difficult to deal with (for example my Grandfather passing away just 2 weeks before I made it back to the UK) but some are also incredibly exciting and are leading to brand new chapters in my life (for example my new relationship). C’est la vie.
Why am I back? Writing a blog is something that I’ve always wanted to do (which can be seen by just how many different blogs I have) but I’m also terrible at finishing things (which can also be seen by just how many different blogs I have *hides face in shame*). One thing that has remained my passion throughout has always been food. If you’ve read the About Me page then you’ll know how my Coeliac diagnosis affected my diet and my lifestyle – mostly for the better. So, I’ll continue to update you with my delicious gluten-free discoveries, recipes and anything else that might be worth writing about. I’m determined to stick at it, keep motivated and treat my body and mind with the respect it so deserves.
Instead of going out for a fancy meal this Valentine’s Day, we decided to make one for ourselves. Dessert consisted of a delicious chocolate trifle with some added fruit to cut through the richness of the chocolate and cream. The recipe below can be adapted to an easier version by simply buying pre-made gluten free shortbread and cake. However, if you have the time, making your own is much more satisfying.
INGREDIENTS: For the chocolate cake (cupcakes):
15g gluten free self-raising flour (I use Doves Farm)
15g cocoa powder
30g caster sugar
30g butter or margarine
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk (if the mixture is too thick)
For the shortbread (optional):
175g plain flour
75g caster sugar
2 tbsp milk (optional)
For the layers:
1/2 tin of nectarines in syrup
2-3 ripe strawberries
75g melted chocolate
100g soft cream cheese
150ml double cream
1) Preheat the oven to 180C. Make the cupcakes by combining the ingredients together to make a thick cake batter. Pour into individual cupcake cases and bake in the oven at 180C for around 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack or plate to cool.
2) Turn the oven down to 150C. Make the shortbread by combining the ingredients (except the milk) in a bowl and rubbing together with your fingers to form a crumb. If the mixture does not combine to form a ball of dough, add a couple of tablespoons of milk until the dough is just wet enough to form a ball. Grease a round cake tin and press the dough into the tin. Bake in the oven for around 25-30 minutes at 150C until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3) Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water or microwave on a low heat until just melted. Stir the melted chocolate into the cream cheese and set aside. Whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks (best achieved with an electric mixer).
4) Start to layer your trifle. You can either layer into individual glasses (I got mine for 99p from a charity shop!) or you can use a larger glass dish to showcase the different layers.
Here’s how I layered mine:
– Slice the cupcakes in half horizontally and place at the bottom
– Add a layer of nectarines and some of the juices (or add a tablespoon of orange juice)
– Add a layer of the chocolatey cream cheese
– Add a layer of sliced strawberries
– Another layer of cupcake
– Another layer of nectarines
– More chocolate cream cheese
– Top with a layer of whipped double cream and crumbed shortbread with a heart-shaped strawberry slice.
This recipe made 3 glasses of trifle but could’ve stretched to 4 by adding more thinner layers.
I’ve seen these little balls all over the internet and decided to try some for myself, however the majority of recipes use really expensive and hard-to-find ingredients so I decided to try a more affordable version. These energy balls are low in fat, affordable and packed with energy-boosting ingredients for a little lift when you need it most.
For this recipe, you’ll need a blender or a mini-chopper to make your own almond butter. This step takes a while but will make enough almond butter for 2 batches of balls. The more almonds you use, the more almond butter you’ll get!
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey (Vegans can use maple syrup)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup gluten free oats
Pinch of salt
First you will need to make your own almond butter. This takes a bit of patience but is worth it for the money-saving value! Evenly spread the almonds onto a baking tray (preferably lined with grease-proof paper) and roast in the oven at 180C for around 10 minutes until the almonds puff up and the oil starts to release. Take out of the oven to cool.
Once cooled, add 1/3 of the almonds into your food processor and blend away! You will need to keep stopping every minute or so to scrape the almonds off the sides. Keep adding the remaining almonds in a bit at a time and blend until you achieve a smooth buttery paste.
In a saucepan, melt the almond butter, vanilla and honey on a low heat. Once melted, add to the gluten-free oats in a large bowl and combined. Add the salt and chia seeds and mix together thoroughly until all the ingredients are combined.
Roll the mixture into small 3-4cm balls and store in a air-tight container.
(The ‘all-in-one’ method also works for this recipe!)
1. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, lemon curd and mix thoroughly.
2. Add the flour and baking powder and stir through until you have a light mixture. If the mixture is too dense, add a little more milk or lemon curd.
3. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake in the oven at 180C for around 35-40 minutes. Test the cake is cooked by piercing with a knife. If the knife is clean the cake is cooked.
4. Take the cake out of the loaf tin and place on a rack to cool.
5. Once cooled, slice in half horizontally and add a layer of lemon curd in the middle (optional)
Best served warm with double cream or ice cream… delicious!
Sometimes, you just want to cook something in the oven and forget about it whilst you carry on doing whatever it is you do.
On evenings like this, I like to use a simple recipe and roasting method where the flavour of the food speaks for itself.
Cooking time: 1.5 – 2 hours
1/3 butternut squash
1 red onion
1 yellow bell pepper
1 – 2 cups baby potatoes
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 free range medium chicken
1 – 2 tablespoons butter
3 – 4 cloves garlic
Dried or fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1) Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the butter in a small bowl. Chop fresh basil or add dried basil and mix thoroughly.
2) Prepare your chicken. Use a spoon to loosen the skin from the breast meat. Carefully spoon the butter underneath the skin and smooth out to get even coverage. Season the outside of the chicken and place in a roasting tin in the oven. Cooking time is 45 minutes per kilogram plus an extra 20 minutes. My chicken was 1.5kg so I set the timer for 1.5 hours.
3) Chop the potatoes into medium chunks (leaving skin on) and part boil in a pan for 10-15 minutes then strain.
4) Whilst the potatoes are boiling, chop the rest of the vegetables into 1 inch chunks and smash the garlic using the flat edge of a knife.
The oven pan I use is a deep pan with a meat rack on top. I placed the chicken onto of the meat rack and added a little oil into the bottom of the pan to heat up and to cook the vegetables. Alternatively, place the chicken in a roasting tin and place a separate roasting tin in the oven with the olive oil in it.
5) When the chicken has 35 minutes left in the oven, add the potatoes, carrot, butternut squash and garlic into the bottom of the pan or the separate pan with the heated up olive oil and place back in the oven.
6) With 15 minutes left on the oven timer, add the rest of the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and add into the vegetable pan and continue to roast until brown.
7) When the timer is up, take out the chicken and check that it is cooked by slicing the leg of the chicken with a knife and see if the juices run clear. Set the chicken aside to rest and place some foil over the top to keep warm.
8) Once the vegetables are cooked, remove from the oven and serve with some sliced chicken.
What’s been happening in the world of Coeliac’s Disease and gluten free living….
Nima tests for gluten in under 2 minutes
This month has seen the launch of some exciting new tech available to the public in the coming year – the majority of which was launched at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
Among the array of mind-boggling new gadgets was something that Coeliac’s may find very useful – a portable gluten detector. The Nima (from 6SensorLabs) is a portable device which can detect gluten in under 2 minutes. Simply select a sample of your chosen substance, load it into a pod and away Nima goes. A smiley face indicates that your sample is gluten-free, whereas a sad face indicates your sample is a toxic, gluten-containing no-go.
Although the Nima is set to retail at $249 with an additional $3.99 per sampler pod, this could prove to be a very useful, and very sort-after gadget for us folks with a medical intolerance to gluten. Personally, I’d love to get my hands on one!
Greggs launches gluten-free range
In other news, there’s been an awful amount of hysteria surrounding that well-known high street baker Greggs. This week, rumours have spread that Greggs would be producing its very own gluten-free range which is to be rolled out in stores nationwide.
“Excellent news!” I hear you say. Well, yes – on the face of it this does sound like perfect news. However, there appears to be no official word from Greggs as of yet and there is a lot of worry surrounding cross contamination. As Greggs haven’t officially announced the range (as far as I can see online), I’m still unsure if they would be physically baking gluten-free delights such as their scrummy patries in-store, or if they will simply be offering a range of pre-packaged gluten-free sandwiches and snacks. Whatever they decide, this move would be yet another triumph for us non-gluten consumers, with a slowly expanding range of lunch and snack alternatives appearing on our high-streets. I’ll keep you posted!
Carluccio’s is, and always has been, one of my favourite places to eat out since my diagnosis. They were one of the first restaurant chains (that I was aware of) that had a completely separate gluten free menu. I remember the first time I went to one of their restaurants as a Coeliac and I was so excited about having a whole menu to choose from. Today, their menu still has a great choice and all of their gluten free pasta is made fresh on site.
The restaurant in Walton on Thames doesn’t feel like a chain. Yes it’s quite large in terms if space but there aren’t that many covers and you hardly ever see the staff running around like headless chickens. It’s always calm, reasonably quiet and pretty relaxed – quite unheard of for a chain restaurant.
Tonight, we selected a cushty corner table and ordered a few glasses of wine. Well, for me it was the Cranberry Reviver – a refreshingly light cranberry mocktail – as I was the taxi driver for the night.
No starter for me as I always know that I’ll want dessert (we’ll come to that later) and I fancied a risotto which is always dependent on the Specials Board which I imagine changes daily or weekly. Today, it was Risotto Di Pollo E Spinaci – a beautifully creamy chicken, spinach and garlic risotto in a very generous portion. I have to sincerely apologise.. I was so hungry and excited that I forgot to take any photos of my main meal. Infact, I didn’t remember that I needed to take a photo until the plates had been taken away, which is when I had my delayed “d’oh!” moment. I’m still new at this blogging thing!
My acquaintances had a normal pasta with meatballs which look delicious, and a chicken in sauce with roasted potatoes which was apparently quite bland. Overall, they were reasonably happy with their main meals and the portion sizes.
Onto the dessert. My favourite dessert of ALL time and the main reason I visit Carluccio’s. The Dolce Di Cioccolato is a divine, melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding made with almonds, Kahlua and served with creamy vanilla ice cream. It is SO good I get excited every time I see it. Gooey, creamy, chocolatey and nutty – what more could you want from a chocolate pudding? A perfect ending to a lovely meal.
Me and Pizza Express go way back. Back to the days of being able to enjoy delicious gluten-y menu items with the Tesco Clubcard vouchers that our parents would save for us during our University years. Since the Coeliac diagnosis, we’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship.
In this particular trip, we visited the Pizza Express restaurant on the High Street in Lymington. We decided to visit Lymington as part of our New Year’s getaway, and Pizza Express seemed the perfect place for lunch. We had an online voucher (courtesy of their regular newsletters) which included a deal for a starter and main course. The gluten-y options were fairly reasonable, whereas the gluten-free starter/side option was merely a Mixed salad. To accompany this I chose the Risotto Mio (appears under the Starters menu but can be selected as a main).
When my Mixed Salad arrived dowsed in a white dressing, I was a little concerned and had to confirm with the waitress who kindly went through the allergen list to double check. It turned out to be the House Dressing which was indeed gluten-free. The Risotto Mio was a reasonable portion, however I found that it was lacking in flavour – it seemed a little watery and bland. It was definitely lacking a little more cheese and seasoning.
Despite this, the staff were very friendly and seemed to be up-to-date and knowledgable of the gluten-free options on the menu. They were more than happy to answer my array of questions and check the ingredients for me.
Overall, this was a pleasant enough meal for a quick lunch, however I would like to see more gluten free starter and pasta options on the menu.