Deliciously Decadent Chocolate Brownies from Udi’s

IMG_8198Spring may have almost sprung, but there’s still a chill in the air and there really is nothing more decadent than settling down with a good book, a cuppa and a deliciously gooey brownie. The lovely people at Udi’s have made this all possible with their wonderfully quick and easy Chocolate Chip Brownie mix. This new product from Udi’s is brilliant if, like me, you occasionally – OK, more than occasionally – get the urge to indulge in some ‘me time’ with something chocolatey. You can whip up a batch of these beauties in less than an hour – just add two eggs and melted butter and pop in the oven for 35 minutes. The finished result is a brownie lovers dream – a sweet chocolatey crust which gives way to a darkly rich, smooth but gooey inner. Perfection.

IMG_8668Why not try adding some chopped nuts or fruit for some interesting texture and an even richer end result? I plan to give the mix another whirl with some peppermint essence for a real mint choc chip hit!

Top tip: The batter for this mix is super thick, so don’t be alarmed if it’s difficult to spread when you get it in the tin. If you think it looks too gloopy when you’re mixing, then add a tablespoon of milk for a looser batter.

It’s Been A While…

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After a brief blogging hiatus I am back and raring to go with some really super recipes and reviews to share with you! I’ll confess – I have been hibernating, keeping warm and trudging through these dark winter months. But now there seems to be a whiff of spring in the air and a spring in my step and I can’t wait to start sharing some exciting posts with you!

Although I’ve not been posting lately, my gluten-free mission is as strong as ever and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting with some incredible recipes that you can try at home – from pies, pastries, soups and stews, to quick and easy dinner party dishes.

It’s good to be back!

Watch this space for my next post very soon.

In the meantime – anyone for a cup of tea and a brownie?

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A Brief History Of Pastry

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There are two facts you need to know about me.

1. I come from a long line of excellent pastry makers.

2. Growing up no one wanted to hold my hand as my hands were too clammy and hot.

These two facts, while seemingly random are actually inextricably linked. For years, I’ve been told by the pastry chefs in my family that unfortunately, due to my clammy little mitts I will never make decent pastry – my hands are simply too warm to handle dough that requires such coolness of touch. This news was a blow for a pastry fiend like me. Never would I make an apple pie as sweetly delicious as Grandma Jane’s or sausage rolls, flaky and hot from the oven like Nanny Sylvia; Mum’s icing-sugar dusted mince pies would never adorn my table at Christmas.

It’s long been said that necessity is the mother of invention and so it came to pass that one Sunday evening, I bit the bullet and attempted gluten-free pastry. We’d not done any shopping and the cupboard was bare. I had eggs, milk, spinach and some feta. And crucially, Dove’s Farm gluten-free plain flour and butter. So using a combination of mind over matter, running my wrists under cold water and standing in front of a fan, I made a quiche. And boy, was it worth it.

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OK, so it’s not the prettiest of quiches, but the pastry was buttery and flaky and aside from the slightly different texture before it went in the oven – it wasn’t as stretchy and malleable as normal pastry as it doesn’t have the gluten – it tasted just like the real thing and naturally, the first person I called to rave about it was my mum. Since my first foray into pastry making I’ve mastered the art of the cool hand and I’ve made a couple of pies from scratch, much to the delight of my other half who said he’d make an honest woman of me tomorrow if I carried on making pies on a regular basis – three pies later and I’m still waiting. I’ve also made pastry using the Mrs Crimbles Pastry Mix which is a great standby to use if you haven’t got time to weigh before you whip up dinner and is going to be my go-to pastry mix for my mince pies this year over the festive period when I have to make a batch for Father Christmas.

Basic Pastry:

Ingredients:

  • 125g gluten-free flour
  • 55g butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons of water

Method:

In a deep bowl, rub together the flour and butter with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs and there are no visible lumps of butter remaining. Using a knife, stir in enough of the water to bind the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before using.

 

 

 

 

Fruit Salad Is Not Dessert – Quick and Easy Cheat’s Tiramisu

 

Sweet tooth #2My name is Finola and I have an incurable sweet tooth.

In fact, it’s so bad that my boyfriend puts my special treats right at the back of the highest cupboard in the kitchen, so I have to climb up onto the counter to get at them, because I’m too small to reach. Yes, it’s an addiction and I’m not ashamed to say I regularly scale the worktops to get my fix. Chocolate, cakes, biscuits… If it’s sugary-sweet and delicious, then it’s got my name on it.

Now, herein lies the problem – since embarking on my gluten-free adventure, my choice of dessert has become rather limited to a selection of uninspiring afters. And top of that list is fruit salad.

Let me put one thing straight, dear reader – fruit salad is not a dessert and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fruit salad is something you serve with a dessert. Served on the side of a deliciously moist, delicately flavoured polenta cake or drizzled over crisp, chewy snow-white meringues.

Such is my disdain for fruit salad as dessert, in my quest to find an alternative, I have selflessly tried and tested a new favourite of mine which I’ve called Cheat’s Tiramisu – my favourite and most missed dessert from the days before. It’s really easy and there’s even a bit of banana in there to prove I’m not totally anti-fruit. I tweaked a recipe from the BBC Good Food website. This recipes serves 4, but we made 2 giant ones to share.


Ingredients:

Method:

Using 150ml of water, dissolve the coffee in a shallow dish. Whisk together the mascarpone, custard, sugar and Baileys if using, until smooth. Dip your trifle sponges into the cold coffee until soaked but not soggy – I used Udi’s gluten-free muffins instead of trifle sponges, which held together really well – and begin layering the bottom of your glass. Spoon over the mascarpone custard and top with some sliced banana. Repeat layers and pop in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving.

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Verdict:

These giant tiramisus were a real treat on a hot weekend – too much for one, but perfect to share. The bitterness of the coffee was just right, so the mascarpone custard wasn’t too sweet. Even my “I’d-rather-have-cheese-and-biscuits” boyfriend gave it a thumbs up.

Top Tip: This dessert really improves the longer it chills. The first taste test was delicious, but after 24 hours, the second was even more delightful as the sponge had absorbed more of the coffee/mascarpone goodness making it even more unctuous and decadent. And the best bit? It’s totally calorie (and fruit salad) free*.

 

 

*It’s not.

Smug Dinner: Stuffed Aubergine and Spinach Quinoa

If like me, you struggle to get your 5 a day (or is it 9 a day?), then this recipe will go some way towards you reaching your quota. It’s super easy to make and is really versatile, so can be tweaked to your liking.

I made this dish for my sister when we were having a girl’s night in. Big Sis also follows a gluten-free diet and tends to prefer veggie food, so this quick and easy comfort food went down a storm.

Ingredients:

1 large aubergine
2 large flat mushrooms
Half an onion
125g ball of mozzarella
1 tbsp of pesto
6 cherry tomatoes

Method:

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Cut the aubergine in half lengthways. Being careful not to pierce the skin, score around the inside of the aubergine, leaving about a 1cm border. Scoop out the white flesh, chop and set aside. Finely chop the onion and fry in a pan until soft and translucent. Once the onions have softened, add the chopped aubergine flesh and the mushrooms. Try and keep the mushrooms chunky when you chop them, as then they’ll hold their shape. When the mixture is nicely softened, place the hollowed aubergine halves on a baking tray and spoon in the aubergine, mushrooms and onion. Slice the mozzarella and place on top of the mixture along with quartered cherry tomatoes. Drizzled with some pesto and bake in a pre-heated oven at about 180c for about 15 minutes. Serve with spinach quinoa or a simple salad.

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Honestly – it’s Gluten-Free: Friday Night Dinner at Honest Burger

Honest Burger GoodnessIt sounds silly, but one of the things I miss most about being a gluten and wheat eater is a good old fashioned burger. Lashings of mayo, maybe a gherkin or two, a deliciously pink-in-the-middle beef patty… Oh and maybe a nice cold beer to wash it all down. Since starting my gluten-free adventure, I dream about proper burgers. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve had to plump for the ‘skinny’ burger – a burger without a bun and a side salad – because there’s no gluten-free option on the menu.

So, all hail London’s Honest Burger, who now not only serve gluten-free burgers in gluten-free buns, but all of their sides are gluten-free. Not to mention, they also stock Estrella Daura gluten-free beer (which I reviewed here last month). Honest Burger is basically a gluten-free burger lover’s paradise. Our very helpful server at the Market Place branch answered all of my questions when my boyfriend and I stopped by late on Friday night and didn’t laugh at me when I positively squealed with delight at the thought of gluten-free onion rings.

Now, I was lucky enough to enjoy Honest in the old pre-gluten-free days – so I am aware just how delicious their signature brioche bun tastes, but I had high hopes for the gluten-free version and I wasn’t disappointed. I went for the Honest Cheese Burger, served with red onion relish, lettuce, mature cheddar and a side of triple-cooked rosemary chips, which are heavenly.

 

Verdict:

The gluten-free bun doesn’t have the high shine of the brioche, so it doesn’t look the same, but it’s soft and light as air. It’s served lightly toasted and unlike other free-from brands, holds together well, which is essential when eating with your hands! All Honest Burgers are served medium/pink (unless otherwise requested) and mine was juicy, fat and cooked to perfection. My boyfriend wasn’t convinced he’d be trading his brioche bun for my gluten-free option anytime soon, but I couldn’t have been happier. My only quibble – that I didn’t didn’t have enough room to try the delicious looking onion rings.

So will I go back? Most definitely – why have a ‘skinny’ burger, when you can have an Honest Burger?

A Mid-Week Treat – Apricot, Pistachio & Honey Flapjacks

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When the weather is rainy, all I want to do is bake and this week there’s only been one thing on my mind – finding the perfect recipe for a sweet, sticky, oaty flapjack. Now, to clear up any confusion, I’m talking about the British-style flapjack, rather than the US pancake version – oats tossed in butter and sugar, baked in the oven until golden and cut up into bars of gooey goodness to enjoy with a cup of tea. The traditional golden syrup flapjack has always been a favourite in our house and it was one of the first recipes my mum taught me when I was a little girl, but this time I was looking for something a little more grown up. This recipe from the BBC Good Food website sounded too good not to try – and the great thing is, it’s so versatile that if apricots and pistachios don’t tickle your fancy, you can add anything you want!


Ingredients:

  • 140g butter
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 175g gluten-free oats
  • 75g chopped pistachios
  • 140g dried chopped apricots
  • Chia seeds

Method:

20140605-120410-43450793.jpgIn a saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and honey over a low heat. Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl – I added chia seeds to make my oat mixture a little more interesting. Pour over the melted butter mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer the mixture into a greased and lined baking try and bake in the oven at 160°C or gas mark 4 for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin to firm up. Once cooled, cut into 16 bars and try not to eat them all in one sitting!


Verdict:

These were a big hit all round, even my non-sweet toothed boyfriend loved them, and they’re super easy to make. The hardest part was being patient while they baked in the oven because the smell was amazing! Rich, sticky and sweet, the apricots glistened like little jewels and the slight saltiness of the pistachios cut through the almost caramel-like sugar coating. Delicious!

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