Digestive Biscuits

For such unassuming ingredients, these make remarkably well received biscuits (Am: cookies). Well known to Brits as a slightly sweet, slightly salty biscuit (cookie) often adorned with chocolate, they aren’t frequently found this side of the pond. I can’t say I’ve ever seen them commercially in gluten free format. Normally, if they’re not smothered in chocolate, they are good with cheez, or cream cheez and a dollop of jam. They are also traditionally dunked in cups of tea regardless of chocolate status. Just don’t make them while under the illusion that they’re a health food!

Digestive biscuits coated with dark (dairy free) chocolate.

Digestive biscuits coated with dark (dairy free) chocolate.

When they first come out of the oven, they will still be soft, and you’ll have to wait about 15 minutes while they cool and crisp up. I have a problem keeping them around for long enough to do that here, and my husband reckons they could be rolled 1/2″ thick so they stay soft. Yes, they’re good like that, but I was trying to make digestives! Rolling these no more than 1/4″ thick allows them to crisp up as they cool, so they have a satisfying snap.

I recently had an epiphany regarding the preparation of these treats. I realized that if I turned my cookie sheet upside down, I could roll the dough out to the size of the sheet (between the pieces of parchment paper) without bumping into the raised edges. If I then used a cookie cutter on the dough, but didn’t remove the excess from the edges, it was easier for me, and folks that wanted to nibble before the biscuits had cooled could do so around the circles, and leave the circles intact ready for proper presentation later on.

1/2 cup (4 oz) margarine
3/4 cup (4 oz) brown sugar
1 cup (4 oz) buckwheat flour
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) cornstarch/potato starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond or rice milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). It doesn’t take long to make these cookies.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl or food processor, cream together the margarine and the sugar.

Sift the flours and salt over the margarine, and stir.

Stir in the milk until mixture forms a thick paste.

Cookie Dough

Kneaded dough

Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth (not needed if you used a food processor).

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to approximately 1/4″ thickness. Remove the top piece of parchment.

Cut the dough into rounds with a cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, or just cut into squares with a pizza wheel.

Transfer to a cookie sheet (or two) and prick with a fork.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden. Do not overcook. Let cool on wire rack.

To make chocolate digestives, melt some dairy free chocolate in the microwave, and spread the top of each cooling biscuit with chocolate (with the help of a knife), and allow to cool/set.

Vegetable Tagine

The first time I ever had a tagine was on a ferry crossing between England and France, when I’d only just realized that I needed to stay off gluten, and this was the only gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian option on the menu ….. providing I didn’t eat the couscous. I can’t say I was disappointed. Surprised, but not disappointed. This is my version of that dish: a slightly spicy, warming take on ratatouille.

Frying the vegetables in the oil first helps them to retain their shape during the simmering time, so I wouldn’t skip that step if you can help it. Although the list of ingredients looks pretty long, the recipe doesn’t really take that long to make, and it is most definitely worth the effort.


The sweet fruit contrast with the warming spices, and the soft vegetable contrast with the crunchy almonds.

pinch of saffron threads
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, cut into 3/4” dice
1 large or two small zucchini (courgette), cut into 3/4” cubes
1 cup slices of mixed bell pepper
1 small eggplant (aubergine), cut into 3/4” cubes
~28oz tin diced tomatoes in juice
4 clove garlic, sliced
2” fresh ginger, grated
1 cup raisins
2 tbsp sweet white miso (optional)
1 tsp salt
5 oz (18-20) prunes
1 oz (1/4 cup) slivered almonds
2 tsps sugar, if needed to counteract tart tomatoes

Gather all the dried spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan, then gently fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the zucchini (courgette) and bell pepper, and cook gently for 5 minutes until well coated in the oil and starting to soften.

Add the eggplant (aubergine) and spices, and stir to coat all the veggies with the spice mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients, and cook, covered, until the eggplant (aubergine) is cooked, stirring occasionally. (~20-30 minutes)

Serve hot over cooked quinoa, or in a baked potato.

Optional extra: 10 oz cooked chickpeas, drained (1 standard tin)

Lima Bean Salad

I’ve managed a relatively laid back day today. We went for breakfast out and about this morning, and didn’t need to eat until this evening, which rather freed me from the kitchen for the day. Don’t get me wrong; I love cooking, but every now and again, I like a break.

However, all I could bring myself to make for dinner this evening was my Lima Bean Salad. I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t already on the blog! Mild tasting baby lima beans; rich, salty, black olives; slightly sweet vinaigrette; a bit of a tang from red onion slivers; we tend to eat it just as it is without much in the way of an accompaniment, but I confess I find it even better the next day between two slices of almond bread.

Lima Bean Salad with Vegan Almond bread.

Lima Bean Salad with Vegan Almond bread, as the sun goes down.

2 tblsp olive/flax oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar, or other mild salad vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp mild mustard (optional – I use French honey Dijon)

2 tins baby lima beans, drained
2 fresh tomatoes, diced, or equal amount of baby tomatoes
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, drained (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 red onion, diced
1 avocado, skinned and diced
large handful of Greek black olives, not the tasteless Californian variety, halved
8 oz baby spinach, sliced Romaine, or mixed leaves, washed
sugar snap or French green beans, lightly steamed (optional)

Whisk salad dressing ingredients together in a large salad bowl with a fork. Add the remaining salad ingredients, and toss gently to coat with the dressing.

Potato and Tofu Tagine

When I first started avoiding gluten, I had real problems figuring out what to eat. Initially, I lost weight (hurray), and then came the slow old process of figuring out how to make substitutions for glutenous favorites such as bread and pasta. There are days when I wonder how wise this was. Like most folks in the developed world, I have to keep a sharp eye on my weight, and to be honest, following a diet that was predominantly vegetables (as I did when first gluten free), was actually pretty invigorating, and made weight control a no-brainer. However, moving on, we do now eat more stews, soups, and salads than we used to, despite the fact I’ve found tasty GF dried pasta and a bread recipe that I could indulge in daily. This tagine is a lightly spiced, lightly fruit sweetened stew, with a flavor intensity that comes from the relatively long simmering time. Serve up with quinoa or rice, instead of the more traditional couscous which is made from wheat.

You’d think that simmering for upwards of 40 minutes would leave everything in a stew with a soft texture. However, the almonds retain some of their crunch, the potatoes (because they’re cooked in tomatoes) retain their integrity, and have a slightly more resilient surface in comparison with their soft insides, and the tofu ends up with a minor league springy bite. Note that when you test the potatoes for being cooked, you should bite a piece because their firm exterior can be misleading if you only prod them with a fork. This stew is actually better for sitting for a while after being cooked, as the flavors meld and develop, so don’t feel you have to rush it.

Potato and Tofu Tagine

Potato and Tofu Tagine served with quinoa.

This recipe calls for both fresh and powdered root ginger. It’s up to you whether you include slices of the fresh ginger, or grate it for a uniform flavor. I think if you’re not used to fresh ginger in your food, then it can come as a bit of a surprise to bite into a whole slice of the stuff, though the flavor is mellowed somewhat during the cooking. I’ve stipulated grating the ginger in this recipe, but you could also try it with slices.

I keep my fresh root ginger in a freezer bag in the freezer, and then use a sharp knife to scrape off the skin, and a microplane to grate off as much as a recipe calls for, when I’m ready for it. However, if you find yourself with raw, unfrozen ginger, skinning it and putting it in an electric coffee grinder (which is dedicated to spices and has never seen coffee) along with the garlic, is a good way to prepare it.

Pinch of saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 – 2 shakes of ground cayenne pepper (or enough so its heat is just discernible)
1/8 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp margarine / olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, coarsely diced

14 – 16 oz tofu, frozen and defrosted
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1” cube of ginger, peeled and minced
28 oz can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) raisins or sultanas
3 tbsp tomato puree or minced sun dried tomatoes preserved in oil
2 tbsp light or chickpea miso
5 tbsp dried mushroom powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
18-20 (5 oz) pitted prunes
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup water
2 tsps sugar, if your tomatoes are a bit too sharp

Gather all the dry spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the margarine/oil in a large pot, and cook the onion over a medium low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown.

Place the tofu between two stacked plates and squeeze the plates together, tilted over a sink to remove the water. This shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Finely chop the garlic, and finely grate the ginger (I use a microplane).

Once the onions are brown, reduce the heat under them; add the garlic and ginger, and allow to warm through for a minute.

Stir in the spices, and allow to warm for another minute.

Crumble the tofu onto the onion, leaving many pieces in bite-size chunks. Stir to cover with the spice mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients; stir to amalgamate; cover and cook over gentle heat for ~40 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked, and the sauce has thickened.

Adjust seasoning with salt and sugar, and serve hot over cooked quinoa.

Bakewell Tarts

My husband and girls are off to marshal at a bike race in town this morning. They’ve done so for the last 3 years, and the girls now expect a minor league feast to be provided to protect against the cold, and entice passers by to stop, chat, and share. This year the feast included mince pies, individual carrot and raisin muffins, fruit scones, pizza, and these Bakewell tarts, along with 4 Thermos flasks of hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. As you can imagine, I spent all of yesterday afternoon cooking gratuitously.

I remember enjoying Bakewell Tarts when I was a child. Pastry encrusted tarts filled with a smear of home made jam, topped with a moist almond flavored cake layer. I don’t think I’ve seen them since we moved state side of the pond, but of course commercially prepared ones would be totally unsuitable for me to eat these days anyway.

Traditionally, the jam included should be raspberry, but since I really dislike pips, I sieve it if I use raspberry. However, since I don’t have raspberries in my garden, and I do have apricots, I used apricot jam for the tarts pictured here, and no sieving was involved.

Apricot flavored Bakewell Tart

Apricot and Almond flavored Bakewell Tart

This recipe makes 24 individual pies.

Margarine for greasing 24 muffin tins
1 recipe of sweet almond pastry
~12 fl. oz raspberry or other jam (sieved if desired)

4 eggs
4 oz sugar
2 oz margarine
4 oz smooth apple sauce
juice of ½ a lemon
1/2 tsps vanilla essence
1/4 tsp almond essence
10 oz (2 1/2 cups) blanched almond flour
5 oz tapioca flour or tapioca/cornstarch mix
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

flaked almonds for decoration

Heavily grease 2 muffin trays (for 24 muffins).

Roll out the pastry to about 1/4″ thick, and use a circular cookie cutter to cut out circles and use to line the muffin tins.

In the bottom of each pastry case put 2 – 3 tsp jam.

Break the eggs into a large bowl (food processor works) and beat for 30 seconds (or with a large whisk for about 2 minutes) until the eggs have turned a pale yellow and frothy all the way through. This doesn’t come out right unless the eggs are beaten first.

Add the sugar and beat for another 20 seconds (or a little longer by hand), then beat in the margarine.

Sprinkle the rest of the cake ingredients over the egg mixture, and either beat until they have been incorporated (10 seconds plus a scraping down in the middle), or fold in by hand with a large metal spoon.

Top the jam with enough of the almond cake mixture to fill the case 2/3rds of the way up.

Place 2 or 3 almond flakes in the middle of each cake, for decoration.

Cook in the middle of the oven with a sheet of foil on the rack above to protect from over-browning for 40 minutes at 360F, or until the cake mixture has cooked (and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean).

Fruit Scones

I’ve been fighting with this scone recipe for a while now, but I’ve finally hit upon a flour combination which seems to suit us. My two main problems have been:

a) I generally don’t want to have more than 1/3 of the flour in a recipe represented by starches or rice flour.

b) The intervals between experiments have to be quite long so that I don’t put on too much weight.

My husband says that scones aren’t supposed to be health food, so I should stop fretting about the starch, but it goes against the grain (so to speak) to just completely give in, on the health watch. After six different variations on a theme, I finally came up with this recipe in which I relented and included brown rice flour. The brown rice flour and starch ended up accounting for 50% of the flour mixture, so not as bad as some of the recipes out there, and the almond/flax/coconut flours are pretty good nutritionally. The 3/4 cup of sugar that I included makes the scones vaguely sweet, but you can reduce it to 1/2 cup if that suits you better.

These scones are moist, not-starchy bland, and sturdy enough to spread with margarine or vegan cream cheez and jam, without disintegrating into a pile of crumbs. You can cook them up in a single large scone, and cut into wedges to serve, or make individual scones. Note that they don’t rise much after the processing, so to retain their lightness, avoid compressing the mixture while turning it out onto the baking sheet. I’m now here hoping that the rest of the family will get back from being out, before I eat the lot!

Raisin and cranberry scone

Raisin and cranberry scone

6 oz (1 1/2 cups) almond flour (blanched or unblanched)
4 oz brown rice flour
4 oz potato or corn starch – to lighten the mix
1 oz coconut flour – to make the mixture fluffy
1 oz flax
1 tsp xanthan gum – for its binding properties
2 oz (1/4 cup) cold margarine

6 oz (3/4 cup) sugar (or 4 oz (1/2 cup) for less sweet)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
6 fl. oz almond milk
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, or blueberries work well.)

Combine all flours and the margarine in a food processor, or rub in by hand.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the dried fruit, and process  (or mash with a wooden spoon) for about a minute until the coconut has absorbed the milk, and a soft dough has been formed.

Stir in the dried fruit.

Line a cookie tray with baking parchment, and spoon the dough into 12 individual scone piles, or one large round ~1” thick.

Cover the scones lightly with a sheet of parchment paper or foil to prevent over browning.

Cook for 30 – 35 minutes at 350F.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes to allow structure to set, then serve warm, cut in half and spread with margarine or cream cheez and jam.

Greek Style Salad

Oh, how I’ve missed salad over the winter! Today, it is hot and sunny; a short respite from the chill, with the winds blowing off the desert, and a feeling that spring is on the way! There are days when I just want to eat, and the only things that really satisfy are vegetables en masse, so this is what we had for lunch today.

Greek Salad

If you want to make this vegan, check your mustard for honey, and while you’re at it, check your vinegar and mustard for gluten ingredients.

2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mild salad vinegar (I use Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1 tsp mild made mustard (I use a French honey mustard.)
1 good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1 tin chickpeas / garbanzo beans, drained
5 oz yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 thin slices red onion, diced OR 2 spring (green) onions
1 large handful of baby tomatoes, halved
1/2 head of lettuce
3 -4″ cucumber (English/hothouse), sliced
~24 black olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes marinated in oil, drained and minced

Beat together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and honey, either by hand or in a small blender (such as Magic Bullet).

Toss everything together in a large salad bowl, and serve up somewhere sunny, with hummus and almond bread, if desired.