Soda bread, coconut cakes and rainbow potions

Over the past year I’ve been given a number of GF recipe books by friends who are keen to make sure that I don’t waste away. First was “Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache”, followed by “Nosh – Gluten Free” and then “The Deliciously Conscious Cookbook”.  I’ve been gradually trying out new recipes – a slow process as I don’t often have time to experiment and when I do have time, I might not have the right ingredients in the kitchen. My local Tescos does not reliably stock rice flour or GF bread flour, let alone the more exotic buckwheat flour, potato flour, psyllium husk and chia seeds. Still, experimenting has been done and, from time to time, I will share some of the results here, along with their pros and cons.

My most pressing problem has been bread. I have always loved bread in all its forms: sourdough, baguettes, brioches, croissants, teacakes, hot cross buns, crusty rolls, bagels, naan, pita, wraps…you name it, I would eat it. I know the Bible says that man shall not live by bread alone, but I think I could have a good go at it. So finding a reliable bread recipe has been vital, especially as the GF offerings in supermarkets are sad, dry, crumbly disappointments.

A few months ago I wrote about a fantastic bread recipe, bursting with nuts and seeds. This “Deliciously-Ella-bread” has become a staple. (Click on the link for the recipe).

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Pros: It tastes really good even without any topping at all. It’s very nutritious and holds together well for a GF loaf. It survives being carried around the countryside on my long walks. It’s very quick to make. It doesn’t dry out and it keeps for ages in the fridge. I have some for lunch most days.

Cons: It uses large amounts of expensive ingredients and some of those I can only get mail-order, so if I run out, I’m left bread-less. When toasted, it isn’t as absorbent as “normal” toast, so it’s not suitable for mopping up poached egg.

I rather like poached eggs, so I have been keen to find an alternative bread-for-toasting recipe. The “Nosh – Gluten Free” book has a very useful Seeded Soda bread recipe (below).

gluten free 001

Pros: I can buy all the ingredients locally (even xanthan gum). It’s not as expensive as the Deliciously-Ella-bread. When toasted, it’s suitably absorbent so it’s better for poached eggs. It’s quick to make and tastes wonderful.

Cons: it has to be eaten as fresh as possible, as it gets tough and dry after 1-2 days. Still, chewing something is a rare and unusual pleasure in the GF world so tough isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, it can be sliced and frozen, then toasted when needed, which softens it up a little.

To make this bread, all you have to do is combine 350g GF white bread flour with 2 tsps xanthan gum, 3 tsps bicarb of soda, 2 tsps cream of tartar, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp brown sugar, a handful of pumpkin seeds, another handful of sunflower seeds and 300mls buttermilk. (You don’t actually have to use buttermilk for soda bread – ordinary milk with a dash of lemon juice or vinegar will work just as well). Mix it all together, add a little water if it’s too dry, bake for 45 mins at 200C and that’s it. I customise it by throwing in a few oats.

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I’ve been experimenting with a few other recipes from “Nosh – Gluten-Free”, including some lovely Coconut and Lime Cakes. These work just as well with lemons (see picture below). They were made by creaming 175g butter and 175g sugar, adding 3 eggs, then mixing with 125g rice flour, 1 tsp xanthan gum, 2 tsps baking powder, 50g desiccated coconut, and the rind and juice of 4 lemons/limes. Bake for 25 mins at 160 C, cool, then glaze with icing sugar mixed with lemon/lime juice and rind.

Pros: Delicious. Interesting texture. Quick to make.

Cons: They don’t keep well and tend to dry out after a few days. (So eat them quickly or freeze them).

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There has been one further development in our kitchen. Our friends Jimmy and Linda are positively evangelistic about the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. I was a little cynical at first, but having visited them recently and tried some of the juices myself, I yielded and went and bought a juicer. Over the past few weeks, we have consumed more fruit and vegetables than I would have thought possible. Our recycling bin – now full of pulp and rind – weighs a ton. The main benefit is that we’re eating a much wider variety of fruit and veg: Paul usually avoids avocado, celery, pear, pineapple and mango, but when they’re hidden in juices, he really likes them.

Sometimes I feel like a scientist in a lab, blending the most unpromising of vegetables into weird and wonderful froths and foams. At other times I feel more like an alchemist or apothecary, concocting potions as I add a touch of root ginger here, a wedge of lime or dash of mint there and then swirl it all together. After a few weeks of this, I’m definitely feeling more invigorated and healthy. I don’t know if that’s due to the nutrients themselves or simply the visual appeal of the juices and the fun I have experimenting with flavours.

gluten free 008      gluten free 004

IMG_0891      gluten free 010

More GF recipe ideas will follow soon, but I expect the next post to be about walking. Caralyn and I have another training weekend ahead of us. We are aiming to complete 60 miles over 2 days by doing a repeat performance of both the Sandstone Trail and the Towpath of Desolation. Hopefully this time we won’t get lost and I will stay calm and unruffled in the presence of cows. I will let you know how we get on!

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2 thoughts on “Soda bread, coconut cakes and rainbow potions

  1. Can’t say I’m a fan of the bread but I’m definitely looking forward to some more weird and wonderful fruit juices when I get back! 🙂

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