Hi everyone,

I’m in the process of tying my blog up into my website. It’s not going smoothly(!) and the design isn’t right yet. But if you go to my website, allergyfreecook.com, you’ll find my blog. Apologies for the design – I’m working on it… You’ll also find a whole host of other stuff, including information about different allergy diets, ingredients and food families.

And, of course, all thoughts and comments very welcome!

Gx

SweetcornPancakes

Happy Pancake Day! For pancakes with a difference, try these Sweetcorn Pancakes from my book, Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free. Although they’re a healthy, savoury version, the sweetcorn gives them a sweet flavour. And I’ve used soya cream, instead of milk, to get a lovely thick, creamy batter. These make a delicious light meal – and a great alternative to the usual thin pancakes with lemon and sugar.

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free, vegetarian

Makes 12 pancakes     Preparation time 10 minutes     Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 tomatoes
  • 350g/12oz/2¹⁄₃ cups sweetcorn
  • 50g/1¾oz/heaped ¼ cup brown rice flour
  • 50g/1¾oz/¹⁄₃ cup maize flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup soya cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced, to serve
  • 1 large handful of rocket leaves, to serve
  1. Preheat the grill to high. Grill the tomatoes for 3–4 minutes until just starting to turn brown, then set aside.
  2. Put the sweetcorn in a steamer and steam over a high heat for 3–4 minutes until just tender.
  3. Sift the flours, salt and gluten-free baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Beat together the eggs and soya cream in another bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the egg mixture. Beat slowly with a wooden spoon to draw in the flours to make a smooth batter. Stir in the sweetcorn.
  4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat until hot. Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into one half of the pan to make a pancake and then pour 2 more tablespoons into the other half. Cook for 2–3 minutes on each side or until golden.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Stack the freshly cooked pancakes between sheets of non-stick baking parchment to prevent them from sticking together and to keep them warm. Note that the later pancakes will take less time on each side as the pan will have heated up. Season with black pepper, then serve hot with the grilled tomatoes, avocados and rocket leaves.

Creme caramel 2

When I was young, I loved Crème Caramel. I adored the taste and texture of the slightly burnt caramel against the soft, vanilla custard. Sometimes when we went to visit my granny, we’d go out for lunch. She had a favourite restaurant that we invariably went to – and they often had this on the desserts trolley. (They also had steak for 75p extra – which my father always let us have when he was able to join us.) Happy times!

When I found out that I was allergic/intolerant to dairy products, this was just one of many, many recipes I couldn’t eat. I stored it away in my mind. I hadn’t thought to try making a dairy-free version until recently, when I saw Bonne Maman Crème Caramels in a shop, and thought I’d give it a go. It was surprisingly easy – and brought lovely memories of lunch with my granny flooding back…

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes     Cooking time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • dairy-free margarine, for greasing
  • 150g/5½oz/⅔ cup fruit sugar or caster sugar
  • 350ml/21fl oz/scant 2½ cups dairy-free milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2 and grease four 250ml/9fl oz/1-cup ramekins with dairy-free margarine.
  2. Put 125g/4½oz/heaped ½ cup of the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of water. Shake the pan gently to incorporate the water into the sugar. Heat over a medium-high heat for 6–8 minutes, without stirring, until the sugar has turned a deep golden brown and caramelised. Make sure you don’t leave the sugar for too long as it will turn dark brown and burn. Pour the caramel mixture equally into the ramekins.
  3. Meanwhile, pour the dairy-free milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and pour the dairy-free milk through a sieve into a bowl.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and egg yolk, the vanilla extract and the remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl, until pale and thick. Add the strained milk and beat thoroughly.
  5. Divide the mixture into the ramekins and put them in a large baking dish or roasting tin. Pour enough boiling water in to the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30–35 minutes until firm to the touch and starting to turn golden.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Serve cold.

Hix prawn cocktail

A little while ago, I went to see Mark Hix do a cookery demo at Fortnum & Mason. His demo was theoretically about cooking with spelt*, but as I sat watching him, I realised his demonstration was actually a brilliant example of how to cook. As Hix stood at the hob, he chatted to his colleague and sipped white wine – letting the dish bubble away on the hob, stirring every now and then. No stress. No poking or peering. Just leaving the ingredients to come together in the time they needed. The impression you got was that his cooking is all about instinct – knowing when it looks right and tastes right. So we don’t all have 17 years of experience running top restaurants to know when the fish or the dish is cooked to perfection. But we can take on board the fundamentals that he seems to practice – great ingredients (preferably local and seasonal), and cooking with your heart, rather than rigidly from some instructions.

[* no, spelt's not gluten-free, but I was interested anyway...]

Mark Hix ran the kitchens at the Ivy and Le Caprice, before opening his Oyster and Chop House and various other venues. Since then he has opened in Lyme Regis (Oyster and Fish House), near my all-time favourite beach, Charmouth (I’m a Dorset girl). Unfortunately I couldn’t get to the beach, but I did go to his restaurant in Soho…

Hix Soho is a smart joint. You walk in and, with the wood-panelling and formal table settings, it feels rather clubby. The walls feature works by YBAs including some fish in glass bricks by Damien Hirst. This combination of the traditional and the modern reflects Hix’s signature style – working with old recipes and traditional ingredients, giving them a modern twist.

Hix fish

I started with a (retro) Prawn Cocktail. Delicious, juicy prawns – without the Marie Rose sauce, though, as their version is made with dairy. (The bowl was small – making it fiddly to eat – but that’s just a tiny moan.) And then I moved onto the Red Mullet with Mussels and Sea Beet. I’d never had sea beet before and it was fantastic. It’s like a wild spinach but with overtones of salty-seaside flavours. The fish was beautifully cooked and the different textures and flavours of the dish were a great match. Hix is famous for introducing ingredients such as wood sorrel, sea purslane, rock samphire et al – and regularly goes foraging, as well as fishing in his own boat and checking his lobster pots for the restaurants.

The restaurant isn’t cheap. But if you want wonderful food, full of old-style real flavours and modern interpretations – all cooked gluten-free and dairy-free – this is a great place to go.

Lamb shanks

HUGE apologies to everyone for the silence on the blogging front. I’ve been starting to write a new book – and living and breathing new recipes! But coming back onto the blog is lovely (hello everyone!) and I thought the best recipe to do would be a warming, reviving comfort food one. This recipe is utterly delicious, but also incredibly simple to make, and perfect for the weekend. Enjoy!

gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes     Cooking time 3¼–4¼ hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 leek, white part diced
  • 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup dry red wine
  • 375ml/13fl oz/1½ cups gluten-free and dairy-free beef or vegetable stock
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Working in batches, add the lamb shanks and cook, turning over, for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the lamb from the pan with a slotted spoon, transfer to an ovenproof casserole and leave to one side.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C/315°F/gas 2–3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2–3 minutes until starting to turn golden, then stir in the garlic. Add the carrots and leek and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, until softened. Add the red wine, stock, tomatoes, bay leaves and sage. Cover and bring to the boil over a high heat. Pour the mixture into the casserole and stir. Transfer to the oven and cook, covered, for 3–4 hours, depending on how much time you have, until the lamb is meltingly tender.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve.

Chia seed salad

The sun is streaming into the kitchen and it feels great to be making hot-weather food. Step forward salads – with zingy, fresh ingredients and clean, clear tastes. Making food in this heat becomes as simple as putting some ingredients in a bowl. And when it’s this simple, it’s supereasy to make healthy, nutrient-packed meals.

This salad is full of antioxidant-rich veggies. But the stars of the bowl are the chia seeds. They are literally bursting with vitamins, minerals and the highest amount of omega-3 in any fruit or vegetable. You can use chia seeds to thicken stews, soups, juices and smoothies, to bind flour mixtures together as a substitute for eggs when baking, but also very simply to sprinkle into stir-frys and salads. Ahhh, sunshine and superfoods – a wonderful combination!

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, nut-free

Serves 4     Preparation time 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 150g/5½oz mixed salad leaves
  • ½ cucumber, peeled and halved lengthways
  • 2 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
  • ½ red, orange or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 2 spring onions, white part finely sliced
  • 1 small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

Dressing:

  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. To make the dressing, mix together the ingredients in a small jug.
  2. Using a teaspoon, deseed the cucumber by running the spoon down the centre of the cucumber. Discard the seeds and cut the cucumber into thin matchsticks. Put the cucumber and the remaining vegetables into a serving bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the dressing and the herbs and mix in gently. Sprinkle the seeds over the top and serve.

Ceviche ceviche

Ceviche opened last year to great reviews – and with it, Peruvian food hit the culinary map in London. The small dishes, bold, stunning flavours and buzzy atmosphere (and apparently the cocktails are great, but I went at lunchtime…) has ensured that the restaurant has been packed ever since. And for gluten-free folk, Peruvian food has the added attraction of being the homeplace of quinoa (yep, that’s where quinoa originated). Step in and mention that you’re gluten-free and/or dairy-free and they don’t bat an eyelid. Our waitress went through the menu methodically, and even gave me a marked-up menu of what I could and couldn’t have.

True to its name, the main star of the restaurant is Peru’s national dish of fish marinated in lime, salt and chilli. You’ll find Don Ceviche (seabass marinated in amarillo chilli tiger’s milk), Wasabi Ceviche (seabass in wasabi tiger’s milk), Chacalón (mushroom and sweet potato), Alianza Lima (mixed seabass, mussels, prawns and octopus), Drunk Scallops (king scallops marinated in pisco, the Peruvian white brandy) – all of which are gluten-free and dairy-free. (And there’s also Sakura Maru, but that’s salmon with soy sauce.) I had the Don Ceviche (mainly because I loved the sound of the name) and it was completely delicious. Wonderful bold, punchy flavours explode in your mouth – and the combination of citrus with spicy notes works brilliantly with the firm yet tenderized fish.

Ceviche salmon

But it’s not all about ceviche. On the menu you’ll also find South American staples such as plantain chips and corn bites, as well as rice and potato cake dishes, all of which are g-f and d-f. Then there are Grilled Skewer dishes (I had the Salmón Rosado which was a lovely combination of marinated salmon with a sweet cucumber and rocoto pepper pickle salad) – and these, too, are all g-f and d-f. And there are hot dishes such as Lomo Saltado (beef fillet, flame cooked) and Arroz con Pato (confit duck in coriander rice) – but beware of these as they all contain dairy and/or gluten.

Ceviche quinoa

The star, for me, though, was the Ensalada de Quinoa. Seemingly a simple salad of quinoa, tomatoes, avocado, butter beans and coriander with lime and limo chilli vinaigrette, it was a brilliant marriage of textures and flavours. And when it arrived, it looked extremely pretty. The roughly-blended avocadoes provided a soft base to the mixed textures of the quinoa, tomatoes, beans, onion and coriander. And the mingling of the sour, spicy and sweet tastes of the lime/limo and chilli vinaigrette were fantastic. In fact, it’s worth going to Ceviche, just for this dish alone!

You’ll find Ceviche at 17 Frith Street, Soho. They also run masterclasses. And this summer Ceviche goes on tour. Starting on July 1st the team will be taking Ceviche in a ten date tour visiting restaurants and locations including The Ethicurean near Bristol, Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh, Rick Stein’s Padstow Seafood School, Moshimo in Brighton, The River Café in North Shields and Mr Scruff’s Teacup on Thomas St in Manchester among others.

EFS Salmon Quinoa

Intermittent fasting hit the headlines last year, and hit fever pitch when Horizon broadcasted a programme by Dr Michael Mosley called Eat, Fast and Live Longer, which was watched by two and a half million people. IF is based on the premise that short periods of fasting enable you to shift weight and change shape – but the really incredible thing is that apparently it can radically transform your health as well. Scientific research shows that this age-old practice (dating back to the Ancient Greeks, as well as yogic traditions) of fasting for short breaks of time lowers the levels of a hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor) and, in doing so, protects you from some of the major diseases, including cancer. It has also been shown that IF has potent anti-ageing benefits, and helps reduce inflammation which, in turn, helps with conditions such as eczema and asthma.

It’s a diet that is extremely easy to put into practice. There are 3 types of IF. You can follow the 16/8 plan – and eat healthily for 8 hours and fast for 16 (in other words either skip breakfast or dinner). Or you can try the 5/2 plan – and eat healthily for 5 days of the week and follow a 500-calorie diet for the other two. The final plan is the most full-on and least popular of all the plans – whereby you fast for one day and then eat healthily for the next. This is called alternate day fasting.

Sounds simple? It is! And that’s probably the main reason why it has become so popular so quickly. You choose the plan that seems right for you and then simply fast when you’re meant to. And when you’re not fasting, you eat healthily. A few IF diet books have been published recently, including one called Eat, Fast, Slim by Amanda Hamilton. The beauty of Amanda’s book is that she shows you all the types of fasting but also shows you how to ensure it’s a superhealthy diet for you. It’s important to ensure that you balance the types of food you’re eating, and especially that you get enough protein and nutrients during the plan. Amanda explains the diets, and explains what you’ll get out of them. And then gives you Fasting Plans and a whole load of mouth-watering recipes.

I tried the Grilled Salmon with Harissa Quinoa and it was delicious. The lime-zesty salmon along with the harissa-spicy quinoa was a great combination. And the colours and textures of the food were lovely. Hmmm I think I might even try this IF dieting!

gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, soya-free, nut-free, seed-free

Serves 1     Preparation time 5 minutes     Cooking time 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 140g/5oz salmon fillet
  • zest and juice of ½ lime
  • 40g/1½oz/scant ¼ cup quinoa
  • 1 tsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 3 spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced
  • ¾ courgette, diced
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • lime wedge, to serve
  1. Put the salmon on a plate and rub the lime zest over the flesh, then sprinkle with half the lime juice. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  2. Put the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Put it in a saucepan and cover with 160ml/5¼fl oz/2⁄3 cup boiling water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Brush the grill rack with oil and preheat the grill to medium. Put the salmon on the grill rack and grill for 5–6 minutes on each side or until cooked through and the flesh is opaque.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the spring onions, courgette and harissa paste, and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to soften. Remove the pan from the heat, add the quinoa and its cooking liquid and toss to coat with the harissa. Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed, then fluff up with a fork and stir in the coriander and remaining lime juice.
  5. Serve the salmon with the quinoa and a lime wedge on the side for squeezing over.

wahaca beef tacos

wahaca chicken tostadas

wahaca salad

Recently Wahaca has been focusing on street food. The signs outside the restaurants shout it out, the menus are built around it, and they even bring you Street food specials (with 20p going towards street kids in Mexico City).

Street food is nothing new. The population of Asia, South America and the Middle East have all been eating food bought from stalls on the road or street for centuries. In fact, there’s even evidence of street food way back in Ancient Rome (because the urban poor didn’t have kitchens of their own). And in truth, we’ve been eating things like sandwiches and pasties in Britain for yonks, too. But street food is now officially designated a ‘hot trend’. And who best to fill us up with delectable dishes, singing with fiery flavours, than Wahaca?

For gluten-free and dairy-free folk, Wahaca is a good choice. I went to the restaurant on Charlotte Street and our waiter was brilliant – he consulted the crib sheet carefully and one by one, went through the menu ticking off what we could eat. He was reassuring and immensely helpful.

I went for the Chicken Guajillo Tostadas. Two crisp tortillas piled high with chunks of chicken marinated in a chipotle dressing, layered with crunchy salad mix, guacamole, salsa fresca and thier smoky guajillo oil. I’m typing this from the menu but it’s all true. The corn tortillas (and wow, it’s great to be able to eat a tortilla as even the corn ones usually have wheat in them) were crispy, and they were piled high with tender chicken and all the components of this great dish. The freshly-made guacamole was lovely, as was the chipotle dressing, salsa and guajillo oil. This is layers of flavours – all mouth-tingling and full-on. I ordered, too, the Grilled British Steak (yay, British!) Tacos. The menu tells me this is three soft corn tortillas with the steak and chipotle salsa. The steak was delicious – good beef, cooked well, and it was excellent as a follow-on from the chicken, especially because the tortillas were different, as they were soft this time. (And I’m loving the chipotle theme, by the way…) My final choice (as in most sharing dishes places three plates is definitely enough per person) wasn’t nearly as exciting, though. The Corn and Bean Salad had good ingredients (including pumpkin seeds) but the sum, unfortunately, wasn’t as good as the parts.

But I’ll come back – and very soon, too. There’s the Green Rice (blitzed with coriander, onion and garlic), the Spicy Slaw (with a chipotle dressing) and the Fish a la Pimienta (an onion, black pepper, lime and pumpkin seed sauce) that I want to try. And next time, too, I want to make it upstairs to the very, very funky bar, and try some of the tequila (I’m thinking the Don Julio which tastes, apparently, smooth, honey and of dark chocolate.)

A while ago, I took Zoe to a pizza-making class at our local farmers’ market. Surrounded by other kids piling on different toppings, Zoe made a very simple pizza, using just pineapple and ham. I asked her whether she wanted to add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, or anything else, but she was very clear that she only wanted to add the two ingredients. Of course, it’s a much-loved combination with kids but I was surprised that she didn’t go for the peppers or mushrooms as well. As she munched her way through it – very happily – it led me to think about the beauty of using just a few ingredients in dishes. At home, I often cook very simple meals – baking fish, for example, in olive oil, or grilling meat, and serving it with steamed veggies and salad. If you use good quality (preferably organic) ingredients, you can enjoy every mouthful of pure, unadulterated food.

So it makes sense that you can apply the same idea to pizza. This weekend I tried out Zoe’s combo and it was great. Peter, especially, loved it. Long live the good, simple classics!

gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, citrus-free

Serves 2     Preparation time 25 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting     Cooking time 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 220g/7¾oz tinned pineapple, drained and cut into chunks
  • 50g/1¾oz Parma ham, thinly sliced
  • 30–60g/1–2¼oz/⅓–⅔ cup soya cheese, shaved

Pizza Dough:

  • 85g/3oz/scant ½ cup brown rice flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
  • 85g/3oz/¾ cup gram flour
  • 30g/1¼oz/¼ cup maize flour
  • scant ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. To make the pizza dough, sift the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and, using a metal whisk, mix thoroughly. Add the oil and mix in. Pour in 100ml/3½fl oz/scant ½ cup warm water and, using either a wooden spoon or your hands, mix to form a soft dough. Alternatively, sift the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a food processor. Add the yeast and blend to mix together. Add the oil and blend well. Add 100ml/3½fl oz/scant ½ cup warm water, a little at a time, and continue blending to form a soft dough. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Turn the dough out again onto a lightly floured surface and knead a little, then shape it into a ball. Flatten the dough slightly, roll it out into a large circle about 5mm/¼in thick and neaten the edge, using a sharp knife, if you like. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.
  3. Put the passata and tomato purée in a bowl and mix well, then spread it over the pizza base and sprinkle with the pineapple and ham. Bake for 12 minutes until the base is starting to turn brown and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Remove the pizza from the oven and scatter the cheese over the top, then return to the oven for 3–4 minutes until the cheese has started to melt. Serve immediately.
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