gluten-free lemon cookies

Lemon cookies. Just because.
Lemon cookies. Just because.

Is it cookie time again already? Well, when isn’t it?

I have a weakness for lemony desserts and lately I’ve been spending a little time indulging in the sweeter side of life. As the cooler weather sets in, traipsing through London’s streets in search of the next great party has taken a backseat to warm, intimate coffees and good conversation with friends. And how could you possibly have coffee without a little something to go on the side?

Moreish little morsels.
Moreish little morsels.

On days that start with frosty mornings and slip into rainy evenings, I like to sit on my couch with a really good book, a cup of coffee and a biscuit. The smell of lemon cookies wafts through my place, filling the air with something not unlike happiness.

Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!
Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!

These lemon cookies are a variation on the chocolate chip cookies I did earlier. I urge you all to bake a batch, keep warm and embrace cheerfulness. The festive season is peeking around the corner – can you feel it?

Gluten-free lemon cookies
1¼ cups almond meal
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of a lemon

Mix together the almond meal, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar. Zest the lemon and mix well, making sure there are no clumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until fluffy and doubled in volume, then whisk in the coconut oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the dough from the fridge and shape into flat 7cm discs. These will relax a little more than the chocolate chip cookies, so leave some room in between.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove and allow to cool on the tray.

These cookies should be eaten within two days. Not because they go bad or anything, but even in an airtight container they start to go soft, sticky and chewy.

honey soy salmon, kale & sweet potato mash

Salmon. It's nutritious and delicious!
Salmon. It’s nutritious and delicious!

I really ought to eat more fish.

I tell myself things like this on a regular basis. Fish is delicious – tender, light yet filling and full of delicate flavour – and it’s good for you, too; packed full of vitamins, protein and omega 3s, fish is rightfully known as brain food. It’s the heart-healthy meat that can be farmed sustainably and your body will love you for it.

But just between you and me, I may be a wee bit – scared – of cooking fish. I mean, it has this reputation, doesn’t it? It’s fiddly, it falls apart not just on your fork but also in the pan, or sticks with a stubbornness that only a determined spatula can overcome. It cooks unevenly. It can turn dry and tough. When you cook fish you’re taking the chance that it all may come to a ruinous, nightmarish mess resulting in pasta and sauce for dinner.

honey and soy salmon
honey and soy salmon, served with a gingery kale and sweet potato mash.

Worry not, friends. The dense, tender flesh of salmon stands up to flavours well, is significantly less likely to fall apart and is much more forgiving than your average fish when it comes to cooking times. Its high fatty acid content means it’s unlikely to dry out, and most importantly it makes for wonderful eating. If you’re at all wary about cooking fish, salmon’s where you start.

Honey and soy, two things I always have in the cupboard, make an excellent marinade for the salmon, highlighting its natural sweetness. To balance this, I’ve added ginger and garlic to the kale – yet another so-good-for-you-it’s-hard-to-believe ingredient. Kale is nutrient-rich, high in calcium, fibre and iron, not to mention vitamins C and K.

And please, let us not have me begin waxing lyrical about sweet potato again. Suffice it to say that a good bed of buttery sweet potato mash completes this delicious and nutritious feelgood trinity.

oh, that sweet potato.
oh, that sweet potato.

Make the most of the last rays of the summer sun – or indeed, welcome spring as they are back in Oz. Enjoy!

Honey soy salmon with ginger kale and sweet potato mash
For the salmon:
2 salmon fillets
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp light soy sauce
For the kale:
100g kale
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated OR garlic oil
For the sweet potato mash:
500g sweet potatoes
25g butter

Mix the honey and soy together and pour over the salmon fillets. You can do this the night before and store them in a ziplock bag, or marinate 30 minutes before you start.

Peel and wash the sweet potatoes, then cut into large chunks and boil in a pot until soft (this takes around 20 minutes depending on the size of your chunks). Drain and add the butter before mashing, then cover and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the grated ginger and garlic. For low-FODMAPpers, leave out the garlic and use garlic oil.

Add the kale and fry gently until the leaves go glossy and dark green – this should only take about 2-3 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan (the same one, if you like!) and then add the salmon, skin-side down. Fry for 4 minutes, taking care the honey isn’t burning the skin. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
Little treasures.

Cookies are one of life’s bite-sized little pleasures. I’m not even sure it matters, sometimes, what kind of cookie it is or even if it’s very good or elaborate or artisanal or experimental. On long days filled with an endless list of chores, on cranky days with befuddling annoyances, on rainy days with grey skies, what’s important is taking a minute to sit down with a cookie and a cup of tea and acknowledging that you deserve this.

You really do.

When was the last time you had a chocolate chip cookie?
When was the last time you had a chocolate chip cookie?

I’m all for weird and wonderful flavours and bold, daring culinary contortions, but sometimes I crave a very simple treat: a chocolate chip cookie. Not one laden with three kinds of chocolate and cocoa powder everywhere, either, like you’re biting into an entire Cadbury’s factory. Standard, plain chocolate chip. It’s the simple things that are often the best.

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

Of course, I couldn’t go very long without trying to find a gluten-free solution for my coeliac buddies, and happily I didn’t have to search very far: Sprouted Kitchen has crafted a wonderfully easy recipe that uses very few ingredients and makes delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (the Minimalist Baker captures it beautifully here).

I’m not going to say that these cookies could possibly be better than regular cookies. But we both know that I’ll be thinking it, quietly, over here in the corner of my little kitchen.

Enjoy! xx

gluten free chocolate chip cookies
Everyone deserves these.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
1¼ cups almond meal
½ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the almond meal, coconut, chocolate, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until fluffy and doubled in volume, then whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the dough from the fridge and shape into 7cm discs. They don’t flatten very much during cooking, so how they go into the oven is pretty much how they’ll stay. They do relax slightly, though, so make sure you leave a little room between the discs.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove and allow to cool on the tray.

pumpkin & cheddar frittata

It's sunshine in cake form.
It’s sunshine in cake form.

Frittatas are gloriously summery. Sweet and eggy, deliciously filling and incredibly versatile, frittatas are this lovely golden yellow that always makes me think that they’ve found a way to catch Italian sunshine and smuggle it back for the rest of us. Somehow, despite being basically a collection of eggs and odds and ends, they’re unfailingly cheerful. I challenge you to stare at a frittata and not feel uplifted by its simple goodness.

It’s pretty difficult to stray too far off the path with a frittata, even if you’re not following a recipe. They’re the kind of thing you vaguely know how to make almost instinctively, and they’re fairly forgiving, so they’re the ultimate in stress-free cookery. What’s not to love?

I love making frittatas with sweeter vegetables like pumpkin and zucchini to bring out the natural sweetness of eggs. You can serve frittatas hot or cold and they’re great accompanied by a fresh salad, beans or some quinoa.

Serve with salad and quinoa.
Serve with salad and quinoa.

Pumpkin and cheddar frittata
1 x medium butternut squash
200g cheddar cheese, half grated, half cubed
9 eggs
Small bunch of chives
Salt and pepper

Cut the butternut squash into small chunks and roast in a 200C oven for around 20 minutes, or until soft.

Take it out and remove the skin – I find it easier and faster to do after it’s been cooked, but you do lose a little more pumpkin flesh.

Chop into cubes and place into a cake tin (one that doesn’t leak is helpful!) with the cubes of cheddar.

In a bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy, then snip the chives in and add a good strong pinch of salt and white pepper. Stir in the grated cheese and pour the lot into the cake tin.

Bake in a 200C oven for 40 minutes.

gluten-free lemon cake

gluten free lemon drizzle cake
I confess: I really only got into baking because of the pretty pictures.

I’ve always had this endless enthusiasm for potatoes. Where others would look longingly towards the dessert section, I would revel in the salty crunch of fries. Crisps filled my dreams at night and roasties haunted my days. My comfort was a sea of creamy mash, my excitement a bed of rosti. Oh yes. Leave no chip behind.

Was it inevitable, then, that I’d eventually find a way to incorporate potato into everything, including a lemon cake? I’ll admit I was slightly dubious when I found this recipe for a gluten-free lemon cake – sorry, you want me to put what in it? – but allow my own incredulity to reassure you: it sounds completely batty, but it works. Potato is a friend that keeps the cake light and reassuringly moist and doesn’t get in the way of the lemon at all.

It's lemon cake with a surprising helper: the humble potato.
The humble potato gives this lemon cake a light moistness.

Lemon, for me, is tremendously exciting. Its ability to enhance and be enhanced by the contrast of salt or sweet, to lurk pleasantly in the background or take centre stage as the main flavour, to hold fragrant oils and piquant juice in the one fruit – well, it’s kind of amazing. Somehow the moreish tang of lemon tempered with sugar dangles you precariously between the worlds of sharp and sweet, each clamouring for attention and yet working together in a curious harmony.

And harmonious is just how this cake turns out. It’s such a surprising and unexpected marriage between lemon and potato, but it’s a joyous celebration nevertheless and you get to be good to your coeliac and IBS friends.

Share the lemony love this summer (with a tall glass of Pimms, naturally).

Grab a fork. I promise you won't taste the potato.
Grab a fork. I promise you won’t taste the potato.

Gluten-free lemon cake
For the cake:
200g butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
175g ground almonds
250g mashed potatoes (cooled)
zest of 3 lemons
2 tsp baking powder

To drizzle:
4 tbsp sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius, and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg.

Add the baking powder and mix, then fold in the mashed potato, almonds and lemon zest.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Put the cake on the serving tray before you drizzle, and serve with double cream.

low-fodmap meatballs

low-fodmap meatballs are comforting, delicious and safe for friends with IBS
Low-fodmap meatballs are comforting, delicious and safe for friends with IBS

One of my dearest friends is following the low-FODMAP diet to combat IBS, and it can be a little challenging to stick with the ‘no wheat, onion and garlic’ rule when you’re eating out. It’s not impossible, but I’ve seen the struggle – poring over menus, referencing the extensive list of prohibited foods and interrogating waiters as to the contents of a dish while your dining companions wait to order. A menu becomes a minefield and what should be a lovely, free and happy choice based purely on what you feel like eating becomes stressful, difficult and a little isolating.

Serve with rice or rice pasta for a FODMAP-friendly meal
Serve with rice or rice pasta for a FODMAP-friendly meal

So sometimes we eat in, and whenever I have her around I like to make something she can eat safely and share with everyone else. It’s maybe a little complicated, but with a bit of creativity and an understanding of good substitutions, everyone can tuck into the same dish.

The simple act of sharing – good food, a cheeky glass of wine and lots of laughter with friends – is a powerfully healing experience. I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!

Low-FODMAP meatballs (makes 60)
For the meatballs:
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
2 bunches spring onions (green part only), finely diced
5 sprigs of parsley, finely diced
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp garlic oil
4 tbsp parmesan
4 eggs
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 tsp baking soda
3-4 tbsp cornstarch

For the tomato sauce:
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 x 500g passata
1 bunch spring onions (green part only), finely diced
3 bay leaves
3 mozzarella balls, to bake

Put it in the oven to bake and go and join your friends for a chat.
Put it in the oven to bake and go and join your friends for a chat.

Mix all the ingredients except the cornstarch together with a fork.

The cornstarch is there to regulate the wetness of the mix, so start with 2 tablespoons, mix thoroughly and see how wet it is. You want it to be moist, but easy to handle.

Roll into small balls.

From here, there are a few ways to go about cooking the dish. The easiest is to place them directly into the sauce, top with mozzarella and bake the whole thing for 90 minutes in a 200 degree oven.

Alternatively, you can bake your meatballs separately for 30 minutes so they brown nicely, then place them into the sauce and bake for 30 minutes. This is also a good method if you like to drain the fat from your mince.

Finally, if you don’t have an oven, you can simmer them in the sauce. Don’t stir them at the start as they’ll break up – wait until the egg has cooked and will hold them together. Total cooking time is about 30 minutes, starting with a fast simmer for the first 15 minutes and coming back down to a low simmer.

Serve with brown rice or mashed potatoes.

FODMAP notes: I’ve included parmesan in the recipe, because even though lactose is a no-go, parmesan has very little lactose. I’m not quite sure what it is about the ageing process, but hard cheeses have far less lactose than soft cheeses and milk.

Having just said that, mozzarella is also on the safe list for FODMAP. Nevertheless, some people are super-sensitive to lactose, so leave it out if you have to.