Banana butterscotch fudge muffins


Adapted from Nigella’s Banana Butterscotch Muffins

We’re all about banana at the moment.  This is the third recipe in a row containing this most useful of ingredients but it’s just how things have shaken out recently.  After torturing my guinea pigs (hello long-suffering friends!) with all sorts of trial bakes in a variety of sorry states I owed them something good.  Step in the banana muffin.  I usually do these with a chocolate chip (and you can certainly substitute those if you’d rather) but I thought I’d go a slightly different direction with these.  Pottering around the internet I found that Nigella has a recipe, but her butterscotch morsels are, I think, those found in the US which have the consistency of white chocolate chips.  (I’ve seen peanut butter morsels too – am very jealous).  I thought briefly about using a chopped Caramac bar, as I figure this is the most likely UK equivalent.  But further online delving suggests the Caramac is laced with gluten.  Delicious!  Not.  So I went to the ‘ole faithful’ that is Waitrose.  Here you have a choice of butterscotch pieces, which are hard, not soft, and bubble up crazily creating molten hot streaks of sweet crunch in the muffin, or fudge chunks, all soft and melty.  Neither are quite like the butterscotch pieces originally used in all likelihood, but both will create a very satisfying muffin.  You could try mixing the two in one muffin, or splitting the batch and doing half and half.  Any way you decide to go you will not be disappointed.  Please note though that both the butterscotch pieces and fudge chunks I’ve used contain condensed milk, and so this recipe is not dairy-free.  Since the proportion of lactose in the final portions is likely to be very small I’ve gone with it.  Also, both are made using glucose from wheat syrup, which Coeliac UK states is suitable for those avoiding gluten but will not be for those with a wheat allergy.

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Hale & Hearty banana brownies: product review


I’ve not posted a product review on this blog yet – mostly because that’s not what I’m here to do, by my choosing, and people don’t send me free stuff!  And I’m more of a fan of making things from scratch, because taking a ‘normal’ recipe and removing the gluten, or finding something delicious that is naturally gluten-free is just more interesting to me.  This is therefore likely to be one of very few indeed.  But I have recently been away a little bit, (term has now started so normal service will shortly be resumed), pretty much for the first time since going gluten-free and where “self-catering” has been the order of the day.  Although I think I’ve found a flour blend that works for most cakes, and a different one that works for most cookies, I still find myself dipping into various jars when I’m testing out how to convert a recipe.  No one would take 10 different flours on holiday, would they?  So what should you do when you’re not familiar with an area, and are not sure what the local shops will sell you, but being gluten-free means you’re unlikely to just find brown rice flour at the nearest corner shop?  I also think this sort of box mix might be the middle ground answer for anyone catering for someone gluten-free who doesn’t want to buy something ready made, but doesn’t want to spend money on a ton of different flours they’ll likely not use again.  Usual disclaimer stuff – I didn’t get the product free, I’m not being paid, and I don’t know anyone who works for the company.

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Date, honey and walnut cake

Date, honey and walnut cake

Adapted from Walnut, date & honey cake by Mary Cadogan at BBC Good Food

I’ve adapted this recipe primarily to test out for the next camping trip to the Isle of Wight.  Upon arrival a nice cup of tea and a restorative slice of cake is required to ensure the smooth erection of a tent!  Chocolate cake does not go down well with this audience so I’ve been investigating other options, and in this case something with dates and walnuts, which should meet with approval.  It is also super easy so I should be able to whip it up, get it in the oven, cooled and spread with a little honey topping before I set off for our afternoon sailing.  Then we can have a nice fresh slice on arrival.  Yum, yum.  This cake, as with many other gluten-free cakes I’ve found, looks a little like it is curdling after you’ve whisked it up.  Don’t panic!  If you find you’ve left it in the bowl a bit too long before tipping it into the tin, just give it another quick whisk before pouring it in.  It’ll be fine – just trust me!  You should wait until this loaf is completely cold before spreading the honey on top or it’ll just slide right off AND before cutting it so you get the best texture.  I bet you don’t hold out long enough… 🙂  This cake also doesn’t keep terribly well so you’ll have to just eat it all.  Such a shame!!

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Marbled banana and chocolate buns

Marbled banana and chocolate buns

Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen’s Marbled Banana Bread

I’ve called these little treats buns, although they are not yeasted.  I derived the recipe from one for a banana bread, and they don’t rise as much as a muffin and retain a heavier texture than a regular sponge.  So I’m going with buns and you can’t stop me!  I’ve also left these nut-free so it would be safe to feed a herd of kiddy-winks over the summer holidays without fear of anyone whipping out their epi-pen.  I’m starting to get pre-school nut fear.  Not because C is allergic, but because almond milk is my go-to non-dairy milk and I just don’t think about it being ‘nutty’.  I know people can be allergic to pretty much anything so it’d be difficult to avoid everything that might set someone off.  They play with salt dough made with wheat at pre-school so I’m thinking of sheep dipping C at the front door on her return every day!  We’ve been told though to avoid nuts and kiwi fruit.  I should be able to do this very easily, but I still have the fear that I’ll send C off one day with some fairly boring leftovers to consume and then be running back down the street some minutes later shouting, “Nooooooooooooooooo”, because I’ve put almond milk in a biscuit I made four days ago and just forgot.  Maybe I’ll have to tape a note to the front door.  Perhaps it should just say, “NUTS”, because some days that could help me on a number of levels.

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Chocolate cookie and coconut ice cream sandwiches

Coconut and chocolate ice cream sandwich

Adapted from Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Ice Cream Sandwich Chocolate Wafer Cookies and Vegan Coconut Ice Cream by Cate Alexandra on She Knows

A while back I got an ice cream maker because although Swedish Glace is delicious, the choice of flavours is a bit boring after a while.  I wanted to be able to make versions of all the Häagen-Daz and Ben & Jerry’s flavours I used to love but without the lactose.  Swirls, chunks, sprinkles and sauces – I want them all!  But we’re starting with the basics.  Here is a plain coconut ice cream, unsurprisingly made from coconut milk, with a bit of sugar and a bit of cornstarch.  It is creamy and delicious.  And, although I had my gluten-free ice cream cones on order (I’ve got to draw the line somewhere on homemade, and since I don’t like waffle cones I can’t imagine how I might recreate a rice paper one at home), I knew I needed something to hold my ice cream.  A bowl, you say?  Too easy!!  Plus I wanted something portable that C and I didn’t have to sit still to eat.  After some searching I decided on the ice cream sandwich cookies from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  I was convinced by Nicole’s description of the perfect ice cream cookie not shattering on the first bite.  Sold!  I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to remove the xanthan gum, and I make only half the amount as I’ve not got that many mouths to feed.  A quick mention of cocoa powder – in the USA they distinguish between ‘Dutch Process’ and ‘natural’ cocoa powders and we don’t do that in the UK.  The way to tell here what you are buying is to look at the ingredients to see if an alkalising agent has been added.  If yes, then it is Dutch Process, if not then it is natural.  I use Green & Black’s cocoa powder which is Dutch Process.  If you have an ice cream maker with a built in refrigeration unit (fancy!) then you don’t need to plan ahead, but with mine you chill the bowl before use and it’s got to be really cold or the ice cream won’t form and you’ll just have coconut soup.  Also you’re making a kind of custard with the ingredients which also needs chilling down before you try to make the ice cream.  So this recipe actually takes two days to make unless you have a posh ice cream maker, which is worth bearing in mind.  The cookies can be made on the day but I’ve found they keep quite well so you could make them advance.  The ice cream is vegan by the way, but the cookies have an egg and butter and so are not.

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Chunky guacamole

Chunky guacamole

I was tempted to call this store-cupboard guacamole or cheat’s guacamole because it is the one I make most often and it bears only a passing resemblance to the real McCoy.  It also takes about five seconds to make.  Yeah I sometimes get the proper ingredients, and faff about de-seeding and peeling big tomatoes.  If I’ve planned to make it as part of a larger meal then I might well, but I often find myself with a very ripe avocado and I need to use it up fast.  Perhaps I should have just called this chunky avocado and tomato spread!  I can usually shoehorn guacamole, or whatever it really is, into what we’re having for dinner.  This recipe is for you if you’re the sort of cook I used to be, before having C. I remember once having a meltdown because I didn’t have feta cheese and I needed it for the salad I was making.  Not a shouty, cursing, having a cry meltdown.  Just a panicked, I don’t know what to do instead, everything is ruined meltdown.  Chuckle.  I can’t imagine losing it over a salad any more, but then life has changed somewhat since I would consider that a big deal.  Now you’d get any cheese I’ve got in your salad and I’d brazen out any suggestion it wasn’t supposed to be like that, and believe you should be grateful to be seeing any sort of cheese at all!  It may not be authentic but you can make a delicious guacamole type dip with just a handful of ingredients and only five minutes.  Embrace what you’ve got to hand and make it anyway, however improper it might be!  You may recall I’m not keen on raw onion, so this has none but feel free to add some if you love it.  I also believe guacamole should be creamy and not spicy.  Salsa spicy, guacamole creamy.  Again, if you want some pep, chop a chilli nice and fine and whack it in there.  Now I love garlic, and I would usually go with the premise that you can never have too much.  Of course raw garlic can be a bit potent and in my many years of cooking, and when I was less wise, I ruined otherwise perfectly serviceable guacamoles by being heavy-handed.  A small clove people, is all you need.  Trust me.

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Homemade apple and redcurrant frozen yogurt lollies

Homemade apple and redcurrant frozen yogurt lollies

So, it’s been as hot as since we got back from France, pretty much.  I know it’s not that hot, when compared to most other places, but it is for us on this fair British isle.  We got past 30ºC this week.  Can you believe it?!  Whereas I’m not a fan of dry heat on a still day with no shelter, I am a big fan of hot days with cool breezes and shady trees.  This means C and I been getting outside a lot, and that means less baking.  And for proper meals I’ve been grilling ‘things’ with simple vegetable accompaniments such asparagus, courgette, aubergine, new potatoes and salads, or stir frying a few bits quickly.  It is too hot to bake or spend too long in the kitchen.  This does not make for a lot of blog posts, for which I apologise.  After all, this is not a ‘what I ate’ blog so I’d feel bad just posting ‘chop vegetables, add dressing’ a million times over.  What we really need is a big old week of rain, which will increase productivity and give me something to moan about (I am joking…)  So in the meantime I guess my posting schedule will be a bit light and infrequent until the weather becomes more conducive to culinary activities.  I have managed this recipe however to celebrate the gorgeous weather.  I have nothing against a shop-bought lolly, especially one full of fruit juices and with natural colours and natural sweeteners.  But when it is hot like this the shops often sell out, and also it is sometimes just nice to make up your own thing and use what you’ve got in the house.  I had eight small apples left over from whenever and they had started to wrinkle, so they didn’t look too appetizing for just eating.  We also have a redcurrant bush and the berries are getting ripe, so I popped some of those in too.  Use whatever you have to hand.  You just need a fruit purée to combine with your yogurt.  Mine is homemade, because I do that, but you absolutely don’t have to. This recipe is a bit vague, because it all depends on your taste-buds and what you’ve got to hand.  Agave, honey, other sugar substitutes should work.  Apples are a good base but throw in whatever else you’ve got.  Just bear in mind that when frozen you cannot taste the sweetness as much, so you need your mixture to be overly sweet before you freeze it.  I also use silicon lolly moulds and they have been, by far, the best and easiest moulds I’ve ever owned.  No more running lollies under the tap, or banging them on a work surface to release them.  Just peel and go.

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