While I’m not a big ready meal eater I can’t argue with the fact that they can be a quick and easy meal when you need one. While I was living in London Marks and Spencer brought out their free from wheat ready meals and they became a really useful thing I could grab after a too busy day.
I hadn’t heard much about Tesco’s new range of free from ready meals so thought I’d get one and try it out (now I’m back home I’m far more likely to be grabbing something from Tesco than M&S). I chose this pasta dish
I chose this partly because much of the rest of the range didn’t really appeal to me, and partly because the spaghetti bolognaise in the M&S range was a very late but favourite discovery of mine.
When I first got it out of the microwave I wasn’t very sold on it – it looked pretty watery and not all that appetising. I gave it a good stir though and served it up, it looked better then even if I wasn’t sure that the portion size was particularly generous.
It tasted pretty good. I hadn’t noticed on the packaging that the sauce was tomato and lentil based. I’m not a fan of lentils so it wasn’t entirely to my taste but that’s entirely down to my lack of reading skills. The pasta within it was great and there was plenty of it.
Despite the lentils I enjoyed this enough that I would grab it again if I needed something super quick and filling.
Last weekend while I was staying with my friends in Dorset we visited Gullivers Farm Shop in West Moors a couple of times. We dropped in for mid afternoon tea and cake one day and went for lunch on another. It’s a really lovely setting, there’s a little farm shop with a deli and cafe – there’s a good sized seating area outside and a small number of seats indoors. The farm shop is part of Sturts Community Trust, an organisation which supports adults who have a learning disability or other support needs.
I was thrilled to discover they have gluten free lunch items and gluten free cakes on offer. I tried their gluten free chocolate cake on our first visit
And then had gluten free mushroom and aubergine quiche (which I ate before thinking I should maybe take a photo) and lemon and polenta cake on our second visit.
As you can see everything’s beautifully presented. I’m certainly looking forward to visiting again on my future visits to my friends’.
It feels at the moment like every time I go into a supermarket there’s a new gluten free range on the shelves. This is in itself great, but time and again the products aren’t actually that exciting – often they’re another brand’s version of something someone else is already producing. Sometimes though they’re something completely and utterly different, and sometimes they’re down right brilliant.
I spotted Dean’s gluten free shortbread on the shelves in Morrison’s. A quick look at their website has taught me that their gluten free range contains three varieties and then they do regular shortbread ranges for the non-Coeliacs. I chose to try the choc chip & stem ginger version as I’m a real fan of ginger in things (a family friend makes orange and ginger marmalade and it’s absolutely the best).
I tried a couple with my morning coffee and was really impressed with them. They’re not entirely the way I remember shortbread being, but I’ve been gluten free for well over 7 years now so I accept that my memory of things is probably more than a little shakey by now. As an actually biscuit they’re delicious – I had to put the packet away so I could resist eating them all in one sitting!
I’ll try the plain shortbread and the choc chip versions – I like to be thorough and scientific after all – but I’m pretty sure I’ve found my favourite already!
After my success with the Delicious Alchemy Brownie mix a couple of weeks back I was excited to discover that Morrisons’ revamp of their free from department brings Betty Crocker gluten free mixes to my local supermarket shelves. I’d been aware that these mixes exist – there’s a choice of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies and devil’s food cake in the UK and more in the States – but I’d never seen them to buy myself.
I decided to give the chocolate chip cookies a try, it’s been quite a while since I last baked cookies. The mix makes it very simple, you only need to add an egg and some vegetable oil.
The instructions were very straightforward, once I’d got the dough part way mixed I switched from using a wooden spoon to getting stuck in and mixing it with my hands – I’ve always preferred to bake this way. The instructions did say to put heaped teaspoons of the dough on the trays to bake but I divided it into the right number of pieces and then made each one into a rough ball shape and then slightly flattened it. I found this was a much easier way to make sure the cookies were all approximately the same size.
The cookies took a little longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but I’m pretty confident that’s down to my oven rather than anything else. The instructions advised leaving 5cm between each biscuit so they had room to spread – mine didn’t spread that much and next time I think I’d flatten them a little more to start with.
The cookies taste really good. They have a good texture, they hold together really well and don’t crumble as soon as you bite into them. They were really good when they were still warm from the oven, and by the following day they were soft and chewy and reminded me of the cookies I used to get from the Millie’s Cookies that was opposite the book shop I worked in. I think if I flattened them more before baking then they’d have been an even better cookie.
I’m really impressed with this mix. I’ll be trying the other two out, I’ve seen that on the Betty Crocker UK website there are other recipe ideas for using the mix, I’m particularly keen on the look of this gluten free caramel cake that uses the devil’s food cake mix. I’ll make sure I blog about it once I’ve tried it!
Yesterday I turned my hand back to a little gluten free baking. It’s the first baking I’ve done in ages – my kitchen in London wasn’t ideally set up for any baking (the oven for starters was somewhat untrustworthy) so it was one of my things that I let slide. Now I’m back home I definitely want to be baking more – it’s another creative pursuit that I enjoy and find hugely beneficial to my well being, plus I get hopefully delicious things to eat at the end of it.
I was given a pack of Delicious Alchemy’s Chocolate Brownie mix as part of a Christmas present, I thought they’d be a great way of easing my way back into baking. The instructions seemed simple, you only need to add butter and eggs. I got set up and ready to start.
Making the brownies was super easy, and generated very little washing up. From first opening the cupboard to get the mixing bowl out to putting them in the oven would have probably taken under 10 minutes but as I was recording the process on my Instagram Story it took me a little longer.
The instructions said to bake the brownies for 18-22 minutes. I checked them at both 18 and 22 minutes but they were still very soft at 22 minutes so I left them in a few minutes more. Once they’ve finished baking they do have to be left in the tin for another 20 minutes before you take them out, then allowing to cool fully before you cut them. I did all of this and still when I came to cut them up they were very soft and fudgey. I prefer my brownies and the soft and fudgey side but I think that if I make these brownies again I’d leave them a little longer in the oven – these would be difficult to take out in a lunch box for instance.
The brownies taste delicious. I’ve been disappointed lately by a few gluten free chocolate cakes and desserts that look like they’re going to taste amazing but actually end up tasting only of a hint of chocolate. These brownies certainly don’t disappoint on this, they taste very chocolatey and are full of chocolate chips. I cut the 8 inch square tin of brownies into 12 pieces. I would be tempted next time to cut them into 9 instead and have slightly bigger portions.
I’m really impressed with this mix. I think it’s one I’ll be keeping in my store cupboard as an easy baking fall back. It’s the first Delicious Alchemy product I’ve tried, based on how good it is I think I need to check out the rest of their range.
Tonight I tried one of Marks and Spencer new free from desserts, the St Clements Pudding. I must start by mentioning that I don’t really have a perfect frame of reference for this, I don’t think I ever had St Clements Pudding before I became Coeliac. I have however eaten plenty of sponge puddings, both gluten free and gluten containing, so I do at least have that.
The sponge is very soft and holds together very well (gluten free sponge has a tendency to be quite crumbly). The sauce is delicious, it’s tangy without being overpowering and there’s plenty of candied peel. The sauce to sponge ratio is really good, and unlike other sponge puddings I’ve tried the sauce doesn’t remain stuck in the pot once it’s been cooked.
This is my favour pudding like this that I’ve tried. The range also includes a chocolate pudding, based on this one I’m really looking forward to giving that one a try too.
Part of my routine on Sundays when I travel back to London from a weekend at home has been to stop at Lola’s Cupcakes in Kings Cross underground station, and to treat myself to one of their free from cupcakes. Today I made that trip for the last time for a good while, and paused like normal to survey the display of cakes.
Something had changed today. They had a whole selection of cakes, individually boxed, all gluten free. After much thought I decided on a raspberry and chocolate cupcake.
The cake was pretty good. The sponge itself is quite dense and moist, it’s rippled vanilla and chocolate and very tasty. There’s a small core of raspberry coulis (?) in the centre, though I’d eaten about three quarters of my cake before I discovered it. The frosting is sweet but not overly so, I think I prefer the cream cheese frosting from their red velvet though.
Overall it was a really tasty cake. I do still prefer the vanilla cupcake from Hummingbird but this is a very good alternative.
I’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease for seven years now, it’s an autoimmune disorder that can only be controlled by following a strict gluten free diet. I love the fact more and more companies are now understanding that there’s a need for gluten free options. I thought I’d start sharing my thoughts on some of the new things I try.
Marks and Spencer were on the slow side to introduce their Made Without range, but it was worth the wait as they now produce so many great gluten free options (it’s all labelled as Made Without Wheat rather than gluten for some reason but carries the all important crossed grain symbol to show that it is gluten free). I particularly love that they offer sandwiches, wraps and pasta salads for lunch options. And they don’t just offer one of each like most places, there are options within each category – this level of choice is unheard of anywhere else.
The sandwich options get changed periodically. I was very excited this week to see that one of the new options is a cheese and ham sandwich – sometimes I want something simpler, or without loads of salad.
The sandwich is pretty good, the ham and cheese are tasty and there’s a decent layer of cream cheese too. There’s a seasoned mayonnaise that, to me, feels a little surplus to requirements. I enjoyed it a lot and will certainly be choosing it again in the future.
My only grumble about the range is that the sandwiches are all, always, on seeded / brown bread. I know it’s healthier but it really isn’t my preference and it would just be nice to have options on white bread – there are plenty for people eating bread that has the gluten in. I will remain a fan of M&S sandwich options and keep hoping for a white bread treat in the future.
Over the weekend I baked a lime meringue pie and it was so good I have to blog about it! The recipe is from the ever growing collection of gluten free recipes on Domestic Sluttery. I had it bookmarked, when I saw Jo make it a couple of weeks ago I knew I needed to make it sooner rather than later. My grandad was with us for lunch on Sunday and he has as sweet a tooth as me so it seemed like a perfect time.
Overall I was really happy with how it turned out. The recipe was very easy to follow and the end result looked and tasted good. The only problem I found was that the base was quite crumbly, the recipe uses Bourbon biscuits and no additional melted butter to bind it – apparently the cream centre of the biscuits should be sufficient. I don’t think it was, and when I next make it I’ll be adding some melted butter to make sure my base binds well.
This recipe was of course written for a gluten free dessert, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use regular biscuits in your base.
The Throw in the Saucepan cake was one of my Granny’s trademark cakes. I wouldn’t want to begin to guess how many she baked, or how many slices I ate over the years. I can’t remember when I started making them too, but I know that until a couple of weeks ago it had been a few years since I’d made my last, sometime before she died. I asked my Grandad this morning and like me he can’t remember exactly where she found the recipe, we know my Granny cut it from a newspaper some years ago so it was probably the Express and Star or the Sunday Mercury – both papers they read regularly.
I made a regular version of the Throw in the Saucepan cake a couple of weeks ago for him for Father’s Day and the verdict was entirely positive. As I made it I wondered how it would be if I made it with gluten free flour – I didn’t want to miss out on revisiting this cake. I made one yesterday, and today’s taste test has been a great success – I’m so happy with how it has turned out. It’s certainly going to be one of my regular bakes from now on.
1 teacup sugar
1 teacup milk
1 teacup mixed dried fruit
2 eggs beaten with 2 tbsp milk
2 teacups self raising flour
Put sugar, milk, fruit and margarine in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil whilst stirring, then allow to cool.
Add eggs and flour, and stir well.
Pour into a 7 inch greased and floured tin.
Cook at 180C for an hour, turning down to 150C after 45 minutes.
And that’s it. A lovely simple recipe that makes a lovely cake. For the gluten free version I used Dove’ Farm flour, and of course you need to make sure your mixed dried fruit is gluten free as not every manufacturer’s is.