Sitting here with grey skies outside, I’m left wondering whether we’ll be seeing hail or snow next, after we’ve just experienced the might of Storm Ciara over the weekend.
As a rule, the weather doesn’t bother me a huge amount. You don’t move this far north if a bit of rain is going to bring out your inner sugar mouse. The weekend’s storm was something else, though. I’ve seen some quite extreme displays from the elements since we moved, but I was glad I had taken the precaution to lock up the chickens in their run on Saturday night. The beck earned its very own flood warning from the Environment Agency, and I was very glad there was no chance of the girls getting blown into it and washing up somewhere like Bolton Abbey.
With rugby cancelled for one weekend, and reports of trees down and floods across roads throughout the area, the monster and I chose to stay home for the day. He took a walk out at one point to see how high the beck had got, since it steadfastly refused to flood the bottom of the garden. He came back with videos of fast-flowing water further down the hill and standing water cutting off a road out of the village, full of enthusiasm for the idea the village might be cut off by the floodwaters long enough for a day off school on Monday. Then he settled happily in the warm, doubtless doing an inner rain dance to help things along.
In the meantime, I made biscuits. A delicate, buttery shortbread with a hint of citrus to go with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea. It’s one of the simplest gluten-free recipes I know. It doesn’t need any xanthan gum. It doesn’t use egg as a binder. There’s no fancy flour blend to find. You don’t even need to roll the dough out: just bake and enjoy. A quick comfort hit for a grey day.
I’ve shared the recipe a couple of times recently with friends, who’ve also pointed out that I’ve not posted much recently – more of that in a separate post at some point – so here it is for all to find.
Yield: 45 approx
Lemon Shortbread Biscuits: Low FODMAP and Gluten-Free
A delicious tea-time staple that melts in your mouth. You'd never know they were gluten-free!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
200g soft salted butter
85g caster sugar (ideally golden caster)
200g rice flour
45g corn flour
40g ground rice
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
Cream the butter and sugar together. If I know I'm making these the next day, I take the butter from the fridge the night before to speed up the mixing, but you can use the butter straight from the fridge and leave it in the mixer for longer if this is an impulse bake 🙂
Put the lemon zest into the butter and sugar mix and beat for a couple of minutes to allow the zest to release oils evenly through the mixture.
Add the rice flour, corn flour and ground rice to the bowl and beat thoroughly until you reach an even, slightly sticky dough, stopping once to scrape down the sides.
Make the dough into a ball and place in the centre of a piece of either cling film or baking parchment.
Shape the dough into a sausage around 2in/5cm in diameter, and roll the cling film or parchment around it evenly.
Lightly roll your dough sausage parcel back and forth until the sides are even and any lumps or inconsistencies largely dealt with. When you're happy with it, put the parcel in the fridge and chill for 45-60 minutes.
When your parcel is nice and firm, remove it from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 160C fan/180 traditional/Gas mark 3
Line a couple of oven trays with baking parchment, unwrap your dough sausage and, using a sharp knife, slice it into even discs 7mm or 1/4in thick. Spread them over the trays, leaving space for the biscuits to spread. This doesn't have to be done with military precision: you can also make them a little thicker, but allow more room for them to spread if you do.
Put the trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check them after this time. They should be a light golden colour, but all ovens are different: you know your oven best. If it's usually a little fierce, check them after 17 minutes; if it's a little low, check at 20 minutes and be prepared to add a couple of minutes at the end to achieve the desired result.
When baked, take the trays from the oven and put the trays on your cooling racks for 5 minutes. Do not attempt to move the biscuits from the rack yet, as they will break. You need to let them cool in situ so they will hold together.
When the biscuits have cooled slightly, gently transfer them to the cooling racks and leave them to finish cooling.
Enjoy - and prepare to be asked to make them quite often!
How much of a lemon flavour you want is down to personal taste, and this recipe will vary depending on the size and freshness of your lemons.
If you want the flavour more intense, you can either melt the butter ahead of time and mix in the lemon zest so it can infuse well before you start mixing. You can also make sure it's zested as finely as possible - I have a small, microplane zester that does this really well, gathering the zest in a small container. Or you can use 3 lemons instead of 2 if you prefer.
The final option would be to use a lemon extract from the baking section of the supermarket. This would certainly give you a consistent result, but I find the flavour less satisfying myself. Your mileage may vary 🙂
There are a few sacrifices I’ve had to make since H started his low FODMAP diet, but one of the hardest was having to drop alliums from the repertoire, or at least the more frequent forms of them. No more onions, no more perfectly pureed garlic. So while we can still include the green stalks and leaves of various things like leeks, spring onions, garlic, etc, the flavour is undeniably different, and the ingredients simply don’t behave in the same way.
At the same time, I still want us to enjoy the same foods we did before as much as possible, because it’s tough for a teen to stand out sometimes, to be the “difficult” one, and the more I can do to normalise his dietary requirements and make them accessible for people to prepare, the better it will be in future for him and others on the same diet. So, much as I used to do for coeliac-friendly food at the shop in London.
H has always counted roast lamb and mutton among his favourite dinners, and now we’re in Yorkshire we’re lucky enough to have a phenomenal butcher at Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton, where they buy in locally-raised meat that has incredible flavour. And it doesn’t get much better than a whole shoulder of mutton. I’ve used this recipe for both dinner parties and simple family lunches, and it’s one of those glorious dishes that offers a huge reward for relatively little effort: 15 minutes of prep and you’re pretty much done until you have to cook the accompaniments, which themselves can be pretty low effort if needed.
Today, it’s just the three of us in the house for dinner, which means we’ll also get to enjoy a pile of leftovers. I write this as the mutton is slowly filling the downstairs with delicious smells, and knowing I’ve the rest of the afternoon free for a little gardening, and to pack away summer clothes that have barely been used this year. It’s time to embrace autumn, and this dish, served with fresh, seasonal vegetables, is a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of colder days.
Yield: 6-8 plus leftovers
Slow-roasted shoulder of mutton - low FODMAP style
Roast mutton and lamb are great with onions and garlic, but with these off the menu for low FODMAP diets, I needed a new recipe. This has all the flavour you could wish for, with tender meat that just falls off the bone. Can be made with mutton or lamb shoulder.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Additional Time15 minutes
Total Time5 hours30 minutes
4kg whole shoulder bone-in mutton
1 large carrot
1 bulb of fennel
400ml red wine
1 tbsp garlic-infused oil
2 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes
4 bay leaves
Garlic stalks and seed heads (optional)
Take the meat out of the fridge an hour or two before you're ready to start cooking to bring it up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan.
Slice the carrot and the fennel and use them to create a trivet in the bottom of a large roasting tin.
Spread the fresh herb sprigs and bay leaves over the top of the trivet: if you're using the garlic stalks and seed heads, pop them on the top. If like me you're prone to caution, feel free to pop the seed heads into a muslin wrap so you can extract them easily later.
Pat the shoulder of mutton/lamb dry with some kitchen paper or a clean tea towel, then season the bottom of the joint with half of the sea salt.
Place the joint skin side up on the vegetable trivet and score it.
Rub the garlic-infused oil over the scored skin, then season with the remainder of the sea salt.
Put the joint in the oven for 30 minutes
After 30 minutes, pour the red wine over the mutton, and the water into the tin, then cover the tin in foil to keep the steam in and put it back in the oven at 170C/150C fan.
Cook for a further 4 hours and 30 minutes, until the meat is tender.
Remove the tin from the oven and place the meat on a new tray, covering it with foil (reusing the foil from the original roasting is fine) before leaving it to rest for 15 minutes (or more if you like, but in that case wrap with a tea towel to help keep it warm).
Pour the juices from the tin into a jug and skim off the fat.
At this point, you have a choice: you can discard the vegetables completely, because they've already served their purpose and given their flavour to the juices, or since I hate food waste, I prefer to keep them to one side and put them into the soup next time I'm making some and in the colder months, that's fairly often.
The retained juices make a good gravy: reduce it down a touch to concentrate it a bit further, thicken with a roux if you prefer it that way, and consider adding a splash of balsamic vinegar before seasoning and serving.
And that's it: serve the meat with the gravy and your choice of accompaniments. We're fond of green beans and broccoli and either new potatoes or jacket spuds in this house, depending on the level of comfort food required. Naturally, as a family of three, we tend to have plenty of leftovers from this, which are great in sandwiches, stir-fries, or in a shepherd's pie. Tell me what your favourite way of using the leftovers is in the comments 🙂
My fibromyalgia has been getting in the way a lot these last few weeks. It plays hell with lots of things, and for the last couple of weeks it’s meant parenting in survival mode while S is away on a business trip. I get up long enough to get H out of the door to school, then rest until he is home and needing dinner and parenting until bed time.
I’ve long since learned not to sweat the small stuff at these times. Granted, I’ve never had a fibro flare last quite this long before, and it’s enough to make this grown woman cry on occasion. It hurts, and I have no energy or strength. And while nobody will die if the house doesn’t get hoovered for a week or two and things get a bit untidy, when it reaches the point where I struggle to stand long enough to cook dinner, it’s a bigger issue. We’re no longer living somewhere we’re surrounded by take-away options, and while the village store has a really amazing range of things for village this small, what it doesn’t have is biscuits we can eat. And sometimes, dear reader, a biscuit – or a cookie, for my American readers – is very much what is called for. This is one such time.
H has a tendency to bemoan the lack of a biscuit option in the shops, because a lot of the gluten free ones you can buy in the shops contain things that are incompatible with a low FODMAP diet. Fortunately, these ginger biscuits hit the spot for a crumbly, satisfyingly spicy mouthful to dunk in a cup of Yorkshire tea, and they don’t require much work: just put the ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer and let it do its thing then, like today, leave the dough to rest until a willing 12 year old comes home from school and can do the hard work of rolling and cutting the dough and putting things in the oven to bake.
Spicy gluten free ginger biscuits
Spicy, GF and low FODMAP ginger biscuits: easy to make and a great way to get kids in the kitchen
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
450g plain GF flour (e.g. Doves Farm)
210g caster sugar
3g baking powder
11g ground ginger
10g ground cinnamon
2g cayenne pepper
1 large pinch of salt
1 large free range egg
95g maple syrup
30ml cold water
Sift the flour, salt and spices into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you're doing this by hand)
Add the sugar and butter to the dry ingredients and start the mixer on a low speed, or rub the butter into the ingredients by hand until the mixture is a lightly crumbed texture
With the mixer still on a low speed, add the egg and the maple syrup to the mixture and leave to mix. Depending on how thirsty the flour is - not all gluten free flours are created equal - you may need to add all of the 30ml of water to the mixture as well to achieve a stiff, even dough. As you've probably gathered, you can do this step by hand as well, but if I'm making these it's usually because I'm not feeling up to doing much, and the mixer wins. Every. Single. Time.
Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour to rest.
When you're ready to make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 180 C and sprinkle some flour over your work surface. Roll out a quarter of the dough on the surface until it's around 5mm thick. Using a 2 inch cutter, cut circles of the dough and place on an oven tray lined with baking parchment. Again, we're going low effort here, so it's worth spending the extra on siliconised parchment rather than greaseproof paper.
Bake for 20 minutes, then leave for 5 minutes before transferring the biscuits to a cooling rack. Using a 2 inch cutter should get you 95-100 biscuits/cookies. The dough will happily keep for a day or two in the fridge if you want to split the baking. I've not tried freezing it for future use, but I suspect this would freeze fine.
When the biscuits are cool, transfer to an airtight container, where they will last as long as your willpower dictates. Now you know why I've not tried freezing the dough yet!
Suitable for the following diets: gluten free, lactose free, low FODMAP, vegetarian
These are also excellent when crushed and used as the base to a baked cheesecake.
One of the things we’ve been having to get to grips with recently has been having H on a low FODMAP diet, as advised by the GP. Even for someone as used to dealing with food intolerance and allergy as I have become, this one is a bit daunting. I suppose the big issue is that with a nut allergy, or gluten-free, or lactose intolerance, the substance you’re avoiding is relatively easy to spot in the ingredients and in most cases doesn’t lead to huge problems when creating meals without them. Not so with FODMAPs.
FODMAPs – Fermentable Oligo- Di- Mono- And Polysaccharides – are in lots of different things, and this can make having a varied diet difficult. One of the chief problems is with the allium family. No more onions. No more crushed garlic. The tender white part of spring onions and leeks? Nope. You can still have garlic-infused oil, or the green part of those spring onions and leeks, but since so many things contain onions and garlic, because they taste delicious, it has a big impact on eating out, buying stock cubes, the taste of so many favourite recipes, etc. And then fruit: no more stone fruit, no apples, no bananas unless they are speckle free, because the state of ripeness impacts the type of sugar in the fruit. And that’s just the start of it.
So you can imagine that trying to sort out a birthday cake for H was not as simple as it once was. In the end, we went less cake and more dessert, and kept things as simple as possible. The main objective was to give him something that was uncompromisingly delicious, and so we called on an old favourite, the roulade. H has a bit of a thing for lemon curd, but given the propensity of manufacturers to add fructose and other potentially problematic sugars, we went for home-made, which also meant we could use the egg yolks left over from the meringue.
The final curveball to negotiate was that this slightly fragile dessert was going to have to travel 35 minutes in the car on a warm day to the birthday party. Fortunately, Tesco have started selling a rather good lactose-free mascarpone, so instead of folding the lemon curd into whipped cream, I whipped cream and mascarpone together to make the filling stiffer and less prone to collapse, and gave the whole thing a couple of hours in the freezer for a little extra staying power, which meant it still looked – and tasted – as delicious on serving as it had in my kitchen.
I will at some point see what happens if you freeze it and serve it direct from freezing, because it seems logical that it would be a nice pseudo ice-cream.
Naturally enough, this is a base recipe on which many variations are possible.
For example, Lakeland Artisan make a delicious Great Taste Award-winning chocolate orange curd that could be used in place of the lemon curd I used here, and you could swap the raspberries for blood orange segments, and pop a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder into the meringue.
Alternatively, passion fruit curd and mango pieces, lime curd and strawberries… there are many winning combinations you could use according to what’s seasonal or on offer. I’d love to see your versions in the comments if you make this at home 🙂
Raspberry and Lemon Meringue Roulade
The perfect indulgent dessert for coeliacs and people on a low FODMAP diet that leaves nobody feeling they're compromising.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time18 minutes
Additional Time10 minutes
Total Time43 minutes
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
260g golden caster sugar
30g flaked almonds, lightly toasted (optional)
9 x 13 inch baking sheet, lined with baking parchment
For the filling:
250ml Lactofree cream
250g lactose-free mascarpone (ours came from Tesco)
220g lemon curd (our recipe will follow as a separate post)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas 6
Line the tray with the baking parchment - I use a dab of oil in the corners of the tray to anchor the paper
Whisk the egg whites until they're stiff, but still smooth
Start adding the sugar, spoonful by spoonful. You can use either a teaspoon or dessert spoon for this: the idea is to slow you down so the sugar gets properly incorporated before more is added. So with my arthritis, I use the larger spoon but add it slowly.
When all the sugar has been mixed in and the mixture looks all glossy and is stiff enough to hold the pattern made by the whisk, you're ready to transfer it to the tray. This is a no-fuss operation: spoon it out over the parchment and spread evenly with the back of the spoon as you want it all the same thickness.
If you're using the toasted almonds, sprinkle them evenly across the surface. We didn't to avoid nut allergy issues.
Place the meringue in the oven - near the top if it's not a fan oven - and bake for 9 minutes to get the golden surface colour, then turn it down to 160°C/140°C Fan/Gas 3 for a further 9 minutes, so it's firm to the touch.
Prepare a sheet of baking parchment while you're waiting and, when you take the meringue out, place the parchment over the top and, holding the parchment tight to the edge of the tray, flip it and place it parchment side down onto a cooling rack. Peel off the lining paper.
Put the lemon curd and the mascarpone in a bowl and mix thoroughly
Whisk the cream until stiff
Add the curd and mascarpone mix a spoonful at a time until it's all incorporated. If you're not using a stand mixer and this feels like a faff, you can instead loosen the curd mix with a little of the whipped cream, and then fold it carefully together, trying not to knock the air out of the cream. You'll get a stiffer mix with whisking, which was what we wanted to make it easier to transport.
Spread the resulting mixture over the meringue, leaving a 2 inch gap at one edge, which makes it easier to roll.
Scatter the raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries, etc) over the creamy filling until you're left with something like this:
Starting from the long edge with the uncovered gap, gently roll your roulade. Once the first edge is carefully folded forward onto the filling, I find it easiest to use the baking parchment to help me keep it in shape and roll it evenly.