Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Salad dressing

So important if you are going to absorb all the good stuff from your salads and veggies.  This also tastes fab on an avocado. There is no hard and fast rule as everyone has their own preference and different vinegars and oils have varying tastes.  However a good starting point is a ratio of about two thirds oil, one third vinegar . 

This makes a little under a jars worth (approximately 340ml) - the reason for not filling the jar straight off is you can add more of things and adjust to taste. 

This will taste better if you allow the garlic a few hours to infuse the mixture. 

You can add pepper to taste - we don't as children don't like it 


1 large clove of garlic 
Generous pinch of salt (to taste) 
Tsp of mustard powder 
Olive oil
Cider or wine vinegar 
3 tbsp of honey 


Crush the garlic and add this to the jar along with the salt, mustard powder and honey 
Add 150 olive oil
Add 100 vinegar 
Close jar and give it a good shake (be vigorous) 
Taste. If it tastes thin then add more oil. If it is too tangy then add a bit more oil. If still not sweet enough for your liking add half a tsp of honey 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Meatballs (with hidden liver)

Liver is fantastic for iron and other nutrients but the taste and texture can be offputting. So I thought about sitting down with my kids and explaining rationally how good it is for their growing bodies but then realised the better option is just to lie. Well not declare the whole truth. So I grind liver up and put it into meatballs which are then smothered in tomato sauce. Even kids coming over for tea have been tricked into eating it!

The ratio of liver is up to you but I would suggest starting with a bit less and building up gradually. 

I always double the quantities below so that I can have a meal in the freezer 

I don't normally like to dictate in the recipe that ingredients must be organic but with liver it's a must as you anything the animal is subject to will affect its liver. 

If you prefer you could use the minced mixture in a bolognese sauce.  

For the meatballs: 
400-500g minced beef
100g organic calves or beef liver 

For the tomato sauce: 
1 jar of passata 
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
Tbsp oregano (optional) 

1.Grind the liver up until it is a mince consistency (it will be rather gloopy)
2. Mix thoroughly with the beef mince 
3. Season with salt and pepper 
4. Shape into small balls and place in a glass shallow dish
5. Grill until the meatballs are brown rather than light pink when cut open 

For the tomato sauce 
1.Heat 2-3tbsp of ghee or olive oil on a low heat
2. Chop the onion and add to the pan, sweating gently for about 10 minutes
2. Crush the garlic and add to the onions. Cook for a further two minutes constantly stirring so the garlic doesn't burn 
3. Add the jar of tomato sauce and season well, adding oregano if you wish 
4. Cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes or longer of you want a thicker sauce 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Biltong (a bit like beef jerky but a million times better)

Biltong is air dried beef.  Originating from Africa this was how tribesman would 'cure' meat and preserve it so that protein was available on the move.   We find it is a perfect snack for lunchboxes (or long train journeys!) and is also impressive enough to be part of a tapas or hors d'ouevre offering.

If you want to buy this in the UK you either pay through the nose at the Selfridges or Harrod's counter or online  (£32 - £50 a kilo!!!).  Or you can suffer the cheap nasty version that has hit the high street called beef jerky which is frankly a sugary abomination that should not be mentioned in the same breath as the original.  Even shop bought biltong can have sugar and MSG which is totally unnecessary if the right spice mix is used.

It's not a particularly pretty snack and sometimes we have had to employ a bit of arm twisting to get our more conservative friends to try it but they are soon converted.  Don't be put off by the look of the fat - I am not a lover of big chunks of animal fat and will refuse even the crispiest pork crackling (much to the dismay of the rest of my family) but I would kill anyone who tried to steal the fat off my biltong.

We don't always use organic but you have to go for the best you can afford.  Certainly the first time you try out the recipe it is probably best to go for an affordable joint just incase you make a mistake and find it is too salty or strong to taste

A dehydrator is a must unless you have space for a dedicated biltong maker.

You could invest in a coffee grinder or electric pepper grinder but we have managed fine with a pestle and mortar.

We would normally prepare about  2 kilos of beef 9 (a good sized roasting joint) as it does shrink and it can be frozen.  The ingredients below are based on 500g for testing purposes - just multiply ingredients equally as joint gets bigger.

We find we get the best results with Aspall vinegar.

Some tips for cutting the beef:

  • You need different amounts of salt depending on the thickness of the beef strips.  If you want to try thinner strips use less salt but remember there will be a lot of shrinkage during drying
  • Normally when you are carving you would cut against the grain but when cutting into strips, go with the grain. 
  • As this is a curing process it is vital that every surface of the meat is coated in salt and vinegar 


500g of beef (silverside or topside roasting joint)
2 tbsp of sea salt or 1.5tbsp of himalayan rock salt (which is much stronger!)
1 tbsp of coriander seeds
1 tbsp of peppercorns.  If using ground pepper use 1/2 to 2/3 of tbsp
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar.  (Can replace with cider vinegar)


  • Grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar.
  • Add the salt and mix together the dry ingredients in a large dish. 
  • Cut the meat into equal size strips of approximately 2 centimere width.  
  • Coat each surface of the meat in the mix and leave in the dish
  • Pour the vinegar over the meat and move the meat around to ensure every side of the meat has been in contact with the vinegar 
  • Wrap the dish in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 2 days.  Every 12 hours rotate and move the meat around to ensure that the marinade is covering the meat equally
  • After two days the meat should all be brown with no red areas - any red areas means there is not enough salt and vinegar and you may need to marinade for longer
  • Lay the meat out onto the dehydrator racks so that the pieces are not touching
  • Set the dehydrator or 35c and set for continuous.  Smaller pieces will be ready in 72 hours,  Larger bits will be ready in 5 days. 
  • The pieces are ready when they are half the size of the original meat and are thoroughly dried.  You can test this by checking there is no 'give' or 'squashiness' when you press the meat.  Thin bits should splinter if twisted
  • The drier it is the longer it will last at room temperature. Wrap in greaseproof paper and store in a dry place (we use kitchen, Simon's mum using the airing cupboard!)
  • To store for longer than a week: cool, store in a air tight freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.  (We would store longer - this are cautious guidelines!)

This is served on its own as a snack - delicious sitting outside a tent with a glass of wine or as a paleo snack watching the box! Just make sure you have a sharp knife, cut in thin slices against the grain... 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Chocolate muffins

These are perfect for parties or lunch boxes (although they make for a sticky lunchtime!)

Follow the recipe for chocolate cake but divide mixture into 12 muffin cases and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes.

To make the chocolate icing take the topping 1/3 mixture that was set aside and add in 2 tbsp of yoghurt and a tsp of honey to thin. (If you do not want to use dairy you can use the mixture as is, or add in some coconut milk)

Allow the cakes to cook before icing

One happy customer! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014


My daughters reaction to this recipe was 'wow I feel like I am not on that funny diet any more'.  This is incredibly rich.  The only downside is that because there are no stabilisers etc it goes liquid if left at room temperature so if you want 'block' chocolate it needs to be eaten straight from freezer. However that also means it works as a chocolate cream for cakes or chocolate sauce for ice-cream or pancakes.

I can't actually claim this is a recipe more of a happy accident. I made the chocolate mix for the cake (see post) and decided that it was too thick to spread between cake layers so I added approximately half the amount of yoghurt to sauce.  Then add more honey to taste.

Spread into a shallow dish, cover in clingfilm and bung in freezer.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Chocolate birthday cake

So this was the first grain free chocolate cake I attempted and I left it until 8pm the night before my son's birthday so I was very relieved to find out it is delicious. (And firm enough to be cut into the requested batman shape!)

Before we were gluten free I used to make a Jamie Oliver chocolate cake which was reminiscent of chocolate orange and delicious so this cake has a lot to live up to!

I have researched recipes in the web and amalgamated two - always a risky manoeuvre. Most recipes seemed to favour coconut flour over almond flour so I have gone with that even though I generally prefer the texture of sponge from nut flours.

The second time I made this I doubled the portions for a bigger cake (but I only used 1.5 times bicarbonate of soda and 1/2 tsp salt).   My cake needed 55 minutes - best to cook for 50 and then check

Here goes!


113g butter / ghee. (Could probably use olive oil or coconut oil as well)
6 large eggs
255 g honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla
90g cocoa
56g coconut flour
Zest of 2 oranges


- Preheat the oven at 140c (fan) / Gm 3
- Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl
- In a separate bowl beat the eggs until frothy
- On a low heat, melt the butter, vanilla and honey together. Add in the cocoa powder and stir.
- Put aside one third of the cocoa mixture in a bowl to make the topping later.
- Add the eggs into the flour and mix well until there are no lumps (coconut flour is harder work than normal flour!)
- Stir in the orange zest
- Add in 2/3 of the cocoa mixture you set aside earlier
- Pour into a 9 inch tin. Ensure the tin is well lined / greased as coconut flour can stick to the sides.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean
- Allow to cool
- Spoon the remaining cocoa mixture over the top. If it is too thick it can be thinned out using some natural yoghurt

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Buckwheat bread

This is a great bread for those who can tolerate buckwheat.  A relation to rhubarb rather than wheat buckwheat can be bought as a 'groat' looking like larger couscous or flour. We use the groats so we can soak them over night.  The weight is the dry weight not the soaked weight which will include water.

Approx 225 grams of buckwheat groats (soaked overnight and repeatedly rinsed in water) 
4 tbsp of natural yoghurt 
76g melted butter or oil 
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 eggs 
1/4 tsp salt 

- Soak the buckwheat overnight, drain and rinse repeatedly 

Preheat the oven at gas mark 4 
Line a 2 1b loaf tin (or two small ones) 
Mix buckwheat in blender 
- Add the other ingredients and mix 
Pour into the lined tin and cook in the middle of the oven for approx 50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Saving time on a clean, grain free or gluten free diet

I nearly choked on my chicken wing when I read the bit in the GAPS book where Natasha McCampbell bride says 'it takes no longer than normal cooking'.  Similarly there is a cheery australian vlogger who I could cheerily slap in the face if I hear her say once more that 'I find cooking this way is actually easier'.  Even with a tenuous grasp on maths its easy to see that going down to the local polish baker and ordering a couple of rye breads, some ham and some hummus is going to be quicker than baking a loaf, soaking some haricot beans and curing your own meat!  However there are some tricks that once mastered have shortened my time in the kitchen.  After all its no good putting all this effort into making your kids super healthy and active if you actually have no time to play games with them! (Or god forbid have some of your own time doing something completely pointless and selfish)

Batch cooking
When you try a new recipe its advisable to only make one serving incase everyone refuses it or it is not quite right for your family tastes .  I often find I have to adapt American recipes as they are sweeter than we are used to in England.  Once I know something is workable (good enough, remember we are not aiming for perfection here!) then I always make at least two at once and freeze some.  This not only saves cooking time and washing up but saves money on gas and electric.
Good candidates for this are breads, cakes, curries, cottage pie, casseroles, stock, soups, pates and dips, sauerkraut and yoghurt.  (I always slice the loaves before freezing so we only need to take out what we need.  Given that a loaf of almond bread can cost near a fiver to make I don't want to waste any! We even bought a second yoghurt maker as I reckoned £20 to only have to make yoghurt every other day instead of every day was well worth it.  Although biscuits and crackers don't freeze well you can make big batches of the dough and pop into bags so  you only have to roll out and cook.  Ideally only make small batches of biscuits if you use honey as the sweetener as honey attracts moisture out of the air making the biscuits go soft quickly.

Limit choice
At the beginning of our dietary changes I was still used to having half a dozen different baked goods in the house at any time - oatcakes, rice-cakes, biscuits, cakes, etc. I also tried out at least one new recipe a week  I fell into the trap of thinking it would be cruel if the kids didn't continue to have this much choice.  I have toughened up now.  It is not the end of the world if you are not given a choice of what cake you get in your lunch box or what you get for supper and neither is it the end of the world to serve the same dinner two days running (especially when chances are you are only doing that because you are either working / ferrying kids to appts or taking a child who shoved a pea up his nose to Accident and Emergency.  And for that situation its also good to ...

Have a tried and tested emergency dinner 
Sometimes is just all goes tits up.  Even if you start planning the dinner two hours before there could be a massive tantrum, a work call or you get caught up bidding on a bargain retro chair on Ebay (that is an emergency in my house).  Or you have little children they really can't wait if the casserole needs another half an hour and you can't just sling them a sandwich.  In our house it is an omelette. I mean literally two eggs whisked together and thrown into hot frying pan with coated in butter.  I also try to have some cooked meat in the fridge at all times and frozen peas in which will make a passable lunch easily supplemented by pickles, olives, crackers etc.

Internet shopping
Set up a list on amazon and you can have repeat orders every month or as you wish, meaning you never have to remember to order again.  Set up an order list with a supermarket for the basics you don't pick up at speciality shops.  Ok so you may have to pay to deliver and your mum points out there is a Sainsburys five minutes from your house but you have to start thinking about what your time costs (and frankly your sanity)   See here for my post on online suppliers and where to go for what

Make lists and menus
Personally I have OCD and quite like writing lists anyway so it works for me.  However even if you find writing them a ball ache, as they have proved on all those terrible BBC 3 programmes about money it does save you time and money to shop from a list.  Going to Tesco metro on the way home is fine when you are just going to get home and sling some pesto in pan with some pasta.  When you have to go home soak beans, drain yoghurt and stick a lemon up a chicken's bum you really want to limit your hours spent shopping.   It also really does pay to work out a week or even a couple of day's menu in advance because there are very few short cuts when cooking from scratch and its really annoying to find out you can't make something because you forgot to soak the peas or lentils!

Invest in some gadgets
Going green and organic is great but I think its bordering on martyrdom to try and do everything the traditional way like our grannies would have.   See here for my post on kitchen gadgets

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Weekly shopping list - where to get GAPS / WAP products

Supermarkets and online stockists

I have included supermarkets because although in an ideal world we would buy everything from independent producers in reality sometimes you need to buy stuff from a supermarket.

Expensive but good quality food with lots of organic options.  Surprisingly short on goat and sheep dairy.  I don't order from them online a lot but good service when I have and they have free delivery over £50.

Morrison's meat and fish may not be organic but its normally of a lot higher quality than Tesco or ASDA. They were one of the few supermarkets not implicated in the horse meat fiasco and they mainly sell British. They offer reasonably priced organic and free range chicken  (both whole and pieces) and venison.  Some organic fruit and vegetables

Sainsbury's have a good selection of goats products from St Helen's farm which we have found to be the best tasting milk, cheese and yoghurt.  They also sell a sheep's cheese which is good for yoghurt making.  They have a good range of organic fruit and vegetables, frozen organic peas and often have wild salmon, responsibly sourced fish etc.  They also have a good selection of un-pasteurised honey, olives etc.  I find online shopping with them unbearable as the site is really not user friendly but I think once you have a repeatable list it's probably bearable. 

The service is fab and the phone app is dead simple. They have their own range as well as Waitrose stuff, again bit disappointing on the goat and sheep dairy. They sell meat from various well regarded suppliers including Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles' stuff) and Laverstoke Park.  Once registered Ocado often email money off vouchers for orders in a set period and its normally at least 10% off so its worth doing.

Abel and Cole 
People who use them sing their praises but I think they are expensive compared to some other suppliers.  If I didn't have a local shop with a good range of organic fresh produce I would probably grit my teeth and pay their prices rather than rely on supermarkets where even the organic food is hanging around under plastic.  

Graig Farm
I order from them regularly and the meat is always of a really high standard, all be it some stuff is out of my price range.  They have different minces, bones for stock, one hundred percent meat sausages, oxtail etc.  They also have game and wild duck.  They allow you to dictate the day of delivery and you can normally get hold of a real person on the phone if you want to ask any questions about the products too!  Shame they don't sell dripping or lard...

Kitchen gadgets

If you can afford to invest in some kitchen equipment here is what we have found works and saves us time and or space.   

Additonal fridge / freezer
I think unless you have a huge American style fridge you soon run out of space for all the food.  (especially when you are ordering meat and bones over the internet and have to order in bulk). We were donated some from family friends but generally they can be picked up pretty cheaply second hand.

Magimix / Food processor 
Uses: pate, hummus, cakes, biscuits, pancake mix, grinding nuts, chopping vegetables, prepping sauerkraut and coleslaw
 Its a sad day when the best thing that has happened to me recently is finding a 'fixed while you wait' Magimix repairer but that's how much I rely on it.  I couldnt give a fig if beating by hand gets better results. That's fine if you are contestent on the Great British Bake off, not when you have to simultaneously make biscuits, tell a toddler to stop sticking his electric toothbrush down his pants and get everyone out of the house in five minutes to get to Rainbows!  Here is a list of things we couldn't do without

Hand blender
Used for smoothies, soup and mash
Saves washing up all the bits of the bigger food processor and also can be taken with you on your travels (if anyone invites you to stay or you have any money left to go on holiday!)

Electric yoghurt maker
Less than £20 from Lakeland, we bought 2 so we could double up yoghurt making.  We also bought a glass Kilner jar to go inside as we didnt want to warm milk in a plastic container.

Used when making yoghurt, jam, chutney, sweets and lollipops

We discovered after we bought ours that our daughter hates juices so we don't use it as often as would like and I think it has the potential in a lot of houses to be an under utilised gadget.  However if you are going to buy one this is the best we saw for under a hundred quid as you don't have to peel / chop stuff in advance and its easy to clean

It seems like a bit of a luxury but we use it for making biltong, vegetable crisps and drying out nuts.  You could of course do most of this in the oven but then your oven is used up for long periods of time (and it always seems to be just when you realise you have to make a casserole or the meat will go off!)

Pyrex containers with lids
Used to store main meals, stock cooked meat etc
We don't like using plastic to store hot food. We use tons of these as they also stack well in the fridge or freezer.  Look out for BOGOFF's at supermarkets too.

Kilner jars 
These are perfect for homemade yoghurt, sauerkraut etc as they can be resealed, don't contaminate food and take up less space than bowls in the fridge.  They are better value in supermarkets (Sainsbury's often have them) than on Amazon.

Loaf cases
Purists would say this are unnecessary because you can line anything with baking paper but its a lot easier if you can just pop one of these in a tin.  You can get unbleached ones from Sainsbury's.

Additional tea towels or napkins
You need these for straining yoghurt or covering bowls of things that are soaking.

What we have learnt by changing our diet....

It is now one year since we went (cow) dairy free, almost a year since we removed gluten and six months since we took sugar and grains out of our diet.  Sounds like a really fun year when you put it like that!  And a lot of it hasn't been fun, its been bloody hard work.  For every positive blogger telling us all about how marvellous it is to be feeding their family from scratch (and apparently being able to do it all organically for £5 a week - pah!) there are plenty of families still having daily battles with food and mum's tearing their hair out at the thought of making another nut loaf.  In order to save our sanity we have had to rethink lots of things over the last year and this is what we have learnt (or have been told by our nutritionist!)

1. No diet is perfect.  There is no one size fits all.  
This was one of the hardest things for me to accept and if I am honest I still struggle with it.  It would be fantastic if someone could hand you down a set of rules and if you followed them perfect family health would follow.  When we started GAPS I was sure it would be the solution to all our ills.  However it quickly became apparent that whilst my daughter thrived my son didn't.  A bad nutritionist at this point will tell you that you just need to try harder.  A good nutritionist will help you accept that different bodies have different needs (and at different times).  Unfortunately no-one author or even any nutritionist can give you all the answers because sometimes it is just trial and error and if you are too rigid then maybe you will never be in tune with your body enough to listen to it telling you what it needs.  This is a work in progress for us!
As a nutritionist pointed out, the way we eat today is a relatively new phenomenon - small family units all sharing the same meal.  Not so long ago in evolutionary terms we would have existed in larger communal groups and large scale food preparation would have been the norm and that would have meant more variety of dishes. That would have naturally allowed people to choose which food they want depending on what they needed that day.  I think it can be very tricky as a parent to judge whether or not you should make your child 'clean their plate' or let them choose what to eat.  My rule of thumb is if they have never tried something and are being picky I am happy to use a bit of bribery or strong arming (not literally) to get them to try stuff.  However if generally your children eat a good variety of foods but wont eat every broccoli stalk you give them or don't feel like much meat one day, maybe they know what their body needs

2.  Your friends, family and kid's teachers may well think you are bonkers ...or worse, a food bore
When we started changing our diet I went round with the evangelical enthusiasm of a new jehovah witness telling anyone who would listen about the horrors of gluten and how large scale dairy production was the work of the devil.  A couple of friends tried goats milk for a couple of weeks.  My dad claimed he eats like us anyway (completely forgetting he likes to eat Frosties every morning). Some friends feigned disinterest but have on the quiet adopted some of our practises.  Some 'friends' have stopped inviting my children over to play, either because they panic about what to give them if they need a snack or don't want to say no to their own child if they ask for something that's contraband to us.  Other friends have gone out of their way to invite us to dinner, take detailed instructions about what we can and cannot eat and have been very generous with their time and money making meals that fit our diet.  People may tell you how 'stressed' it makes them to have you in their house - they may even start telling you guiltily the last time they ate fast food like they are in some food related confessional.  Your work mates will think its all a big elaborate excuse because you just want to lose a few pounds and are dressing it up as a 'lifestyle improvement'.  Your kid's teachers will probably think you are nuts.  I know mine do although they kindly do everything I ask them to.  NHS health professionals will probably tell you it's rubbish - they are still handing out leaflets that tell people to eat low fat dairy and swap butter for margarine so don't expect any support from them.  After explaining our diet to a health professional involved with my daughter I suddenly started getting letters from my GP asking me if I would like to go in and 'have a chat' (in other words I was clearly a bit mad and needed some Seroxat)

I am slowly learning to accept that I cannot force anyone else to change their diet and its really not my business.  A lot of people really are happy to eat shit.  Even when you have pointed out that it is shit. They just like you less for pointing it out.  Save your energy its bad enough having to get your kids to eat what you want them to without stressing that you need to save the rest of the world too.  Also, and I hate to admit this it is more than a bit arrogant to go around telling everyone else what they should eat. Refer back to point one - your diet might not be the right diet for them, or the right diet for them at this time.  Instead start a blog where you can be as dictatorial or as bossy as you like - no-one is forced to read a post!

3. Any fool can post something up to the internet (or read it) 
I had a rash and I panicked.  I decided I had chronic candidasis within five minutes on my phone I had self diagnosed myself and was all ready to spend a fortune on anti-candida supplements.  I then discovered what I had was stress induced psoriasis. The internet is a fantastic resource for recipes and for inspirational stories of people who have succeeded in improving their lives by changing their diet. However it is not a substitute for a doctor a nutritionist or a therapist.

4. Know one's limits  
My husband understands the chemistry of cooking.  Put him on one of those shows where they give you five ingredients and he would come up with a fantastic curry or noodle bowl.  Put me on a show with five ingredients and time pressure and I would come up with five cooked ingredients.  They would be cooked properly but there would be little flair.  However that is okay because most of the time with two small children what is needed is the ability to understand or adapt basic recipes.  Oh and cook at the same time as helping one child do their homework and also glueing a bit of broken lego back together.

5. Be wary of hidden motives 
I realised that I was spending an inordinate amount of time coming up with the best biscuit recipe ever, when my kids were perfectly happy with the recipe we already had. I was also moaning I had no time for myself. In reality I had made a choice and cooking was becoming a competition.  Being a stay at home mum can be boring and thankless and its easy to turn things into 'projects' but actually its bloody hard making home made food all the time and  add in the pressure for perfection and you are starting down the path towards a nervous breakdown.   Also, and deep breath this is a contentious one, diets can be used as weapons to punish yourself or your family for not being 'perfect enough'. Parents with children with a disability or health issue are often overcome with guilt and sometimes forcing yourself (and possibly them too) into a punishing food regime is a dangerous form of self punishment.  Or a desire to try and control everything in an unhealthy way.  I recollect a party when I  rushed to grab a banana out of my son's mouth because no one had checked if it was 'ripe with brown spots'.  Hmmm not healthy behaviour and leads on to...

6. Don't make food an enemy 
When we first started eliminating food groups I developed an unexplained infection.  I lay in bed with terrible cramps and was unable to eat anything for almost a week.  I realise now that was a physical reaction to how I was feeling mentally.  I couldn't eat anything because I had become obsessed with what was wrong with all food types.  I had become sick of checking labels and feeling like all food producers were bastards not to be trusted, putting all sorts of things in our food and not telling us. I was exhausted from trying to work out whether to go for the organic supermarket meat or the butchers non-organic local meat. There was literally not a thing I wanted to put near my mouth.  Eventually a diabetic friend came to see me and force fed me a blueberry muffin.  It was crap, caloric and definitely not gluten free.  But for some reason it was what I needed to get back out of bed and start again.
There is also a tricky balance to maintain when you have children, particularly girls, and you change their diet.  You want them to eat well but you don't want them to be so obsessed about what goes in their mouths that they develop an eating disorder.  For us the health benefits for my daughter not eating gluten and sugar (for a prescribed period of time) outweigh that risk.  But we are hoping that way before her teenage years we can introduce a bit more flexibility.  We also try to monitor the language we use, we try to use words like 'strong' and 'healthy' and 'energy' rather than 'bad, good or crap' (easier said than done when they ask you why they cant have a MacDonalds!)

7. Forget romantic notions of back to basics and saving money - good food costs more
I don't know how anyone in Britain can save money by changing to a 'clean' 'gaps' or 'paleo' or even bog standard gluten free diet. There is a lot of cheap food in supermarkets that is no longer allowable. Cutting biscuits, bread and fast food out of the diet are not going to save you much money unless you mainly ate microwave meals from Marks and Spencers or out at restaurants.  Most families with kids, even if we cook healthily use carbohydrates and pulses to bulk out meals and stretch budgets.  Buying organic or grass fed meat is not cheap.  Lots of cuts of meat that used to be cheap - lamb neck, oxtail are now rather trendy and can command a high price at the butchers.  Raw dairy is astronomical.  For us the improvement in health has made it worthwhile but we have had to make sacrifices - no foreign holiday, less days out etc.  Initially I was so manic about change I never looked at what I was spending and maybe that is fine for a diet that has a specified time limit.  However if you want to change eating habits for life chances are you are going to have to make some compromises.  Again its easy to be consumed with guilt if not everything is organic or if you buy supermarket milk instead of sourcing it from a biodynamic farm in South Wales.  I keep having to remind myself that we are eating a lot better than we used to and we are moving in the right direction.  Perfection is not achievable!

8.  Yawn, but organisation is essential
Gone are the days when I can rush home and stick on some Fishfingers (all be it Jamie Oliver fish fingers) or throw together a fried rice from left overs. If I want baked beans I need to think about this at least 24 hours before hand so we can soak the beans.  Same with hummus.  Nuts should be soaked and dried. You cant nip out and buy aluminium free baking soda in the corner shop.  You can't just throw a packet or Organix at the kids to keep them quiet when you are at the bank.  Even visiting my parents for one evening is a military operation ensuring I have home made yoghurt, stock, snacks etc.  I have written more about this in my post about saving time but lets be honest, it s always going to be a million miles away from Jamie's fifteen minute dinners.  I am trying to make peace with that.  And I am going to have a telly installed in the kitchen.

9.  Cold turkey or gradual withdrawal? 
It took us six months to move to full GAPS.  It was not necessarily intentional but the way it worked out we took out cows dairy, then gluten, then processed food and sugar and then grains.  This might not be the ideal for everyone but certainly for us it gave our bodies more time to adjust and also time to come up with recipes.  I think adults can cope with more change but for small children who think eating a melon is outrageous need to be given a chance to adapt.  It is also useful to see which restriction actually makes the most difference.  For example I think my son's health was improved by taking out dairy but I didn't really notice much difference with gluten.  My daughter doesn't seem to behave differently when she has sugar.  I felt better removing gluten but worse when I took out all grains.

10. Praise yourself for every positive change 
Okay it sounds like something you would get on an American self love website but I mean it.  Its bloody hard work changing your diet.  You are swimming against the tide.  You will spend more time and money doing something that you might, whisper it, find quite boring.   It is easy to feel cheated, stupid, daft for having eaten stuff for years without questioning it but turn that on its head - it is hard to eat 'natural' food in a country where large scale food manufacturers exert such power.   Fifty years ago  people didn't have to go into a shop and worry about what to buy and spend half an hour reading labels because on the whole everything there was 'fresh' and 'natural'.  They didn't have to deal with toddlers screaming because they are tormented by chocolate at eye level (not only in food shops but bloody Boots the chemist for god sake!).  Don't kill yourself with stress because your child mineswept a mini Mars Bar at a kids party.  (Says the crazed woman who spot checks bananas).

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Bread - the best of the bunch (almond flour)

Bread is a very tricky subject if you are gluten free / grain free.   It is one of the few things my children said they missed (more than chocolate or sweets) and we spent a fortune trying different commercial breads that just didn't hit the mark.

As we are currently grain free we have no option but to make our own.  I have tried coconut flour, almond flour, GAPs bread, paleo bread etc.  I have ended up coming back to the one of the first recipes I found by Lois Lang, beautifully titled 'Lois Lang Luscious bread'.  I avoided the recipe initially because it required me to drain homemade yoghurt to make dry curd which just seemed like another faff in a long week of domestic faffery (soaking beans, making yoghurt etc).  However it really is worth it because this bread is the nearest I have found to normal bread - even my dad, will eat it!  The sourness of the yoghurt is a good contrast to the sweetness you get with almond flour which is what puts me off a lot of other nut 'bread' recipes.

However let's have some honesty here.  There are so many people raving about non-grain bread online but in reality they are still different and slightly more cake like in structure. For this reason I prefer this bread toasted and slathered in butter.  Then it is the perfect accompaniment to a soft boiled egg or some liver pate.  My son is very happy to have it fresh as a sandwich.  My husband likes cheese on toast.  My daughter likes it with jam.  Which kind of proves the point about family cooking - even the simplest meal requires variation to suit everyone's taste!!!

What is great about this recipe is it is easy to double up and freeze one.  You can also make one bread mixture but split in two, adding different herbs into both.  So for example I often use two 11b loaf tins and make one plain bread, and one with caraway which makes a yummy 'rye' bread which I find much more palatable untoasted.

I have reprinted the recipe here because although it is available online it is the American version and they (lucky buggers) can buy dry curd.  Also,  in the original recipe the 'dough' is quite firm where as with drained homemade yoghurt the mixture is a lot runnier.  I spent ages trying to sort this out until I realised it baked fine.

The measurements for making dry curd are approximate because it depends on how watery your homemade yoghurt is - I would always err on the side of using more as there is nothing worse than dripping something for 8 hours and not having enough!
'Rye' bread with caraway

To make the drained yoghurt or 'dry curd':
  • Line a colander with a piece of muslim, a clean napkin or a teatowel.
  • Place the colander in a bowl so that there is enough space between the colander and the bottom of the bowl for liquid to drip through
  • Pour approximately 350ml of homemade yoghurt into the cloth. Cover with a plate or cloth
  • Leave for 8 hours for the whey to drip through the cloth. (Do not need to refrigerate) You are left with a thick creamy 'dry curd

To make the bread 


250g almond flour
70g of melted butter (or ghee)
245g drained homemade yoghurt
1 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350c / Gas Mark 4
  • Put the eggs, yoghurt, baking soda, salt and melted butter in a food processor and blend till smooth.  
  • Add in the almond flour and mix well
  • Pour into one lined 21b loaf tin and bake for 1 hour in the middle of the oven.  Alternatively separate into two 1 1b loaf tins and cook for 45 mins.
  • Check that a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.
  • When cooked take out of the tin and leave to cool on a rack 

Based on one  21b loaf  - adjust accordingly for smaller / double loaves

  • 1 tbsp of caraway seeds to create a 'rye' bread
  • 2 tbsp of linseed or flax seed 
  • 75 grams of dried fruit (with an optional 2 tbsp of honey) to create a tea bread 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Beef curry

The whole family love this one and it's mild enough for my 3 year old but tasty enough for adults (who you could always provide with extra chillies on the side if they like a kick ass hit from their curries)

The onions and peppers melt into the sauce meaning its a great dish for kids how wont eat veggies if they can spot them a mile off.

Our curry powder is put together at a local health store so we know it doesn't have any extra ingredients.  Otherwise it is probably best making your own mix of spices and saving it in a glass jar.

The amounts below are for 2 meals for a family of 4 as I like to freeze half.   As with all curries you can change amounts of ingredients / add extra vegetables very easily.

This works well with the cauliflower rice or basmati rice if you can eat grains


1 -1.5 kilos of braising / casserole beef (depending on how meaty you are feeling!)
2 large onions
2 large red pepper
3 heaped tsp of medium curry powder
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
Approx 1/2  inch piece of ginger grated (we always say top half of thumb!)
2 bottles of passata (approx 1.3litres)
Tbsp of ghee / beef dripping / olive oil 
Fresh coriander for serving


  • In an oven proof dish fry the onions in ghee / oil / fat until they have colour (5-10 minutes)
  • Add the crushed garlic and stir round for one minute 
  • Add the curry powder and stir around to ensure the onion is well coated
  • Add the beef and brown 
  • Put in the peppers, grated ginger and the passata.
  • Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer
To cook you can either:
Cook on the hob for approximately an hour until the meat is tender and you have the thickness you would like
Cook in the oven at GM 4 for 2 hours
Slow cook for 5-8 hours depending on your cooker (our slow cook is so gentle we could leave it on for the longer period but it may vary between appliances so keep an eye on it the first time you make it)

Garnish with fresh chopped coriander just before serving

Poached chicken and chicken stock in one!

It is lovely to make a chicken stock from a carcass and flavour the stock with vegetables and herbs but for a basic stock in a hurry this 'recipe' is perfect.

What is fab as you can use this to make a big batch of chicken soup or use the stock for something else and have poached chicken as a meal / lunch meat.  Therefore it fits my criteria of making two things at once - I spent the first six months on our gluten free diet trying to find new recipes and exciting things to cook. Now my energy is based around cooking good food very simply and quickly so we can have more time freed up - it is no good being on a great diet if you are totally stressed because you are stuck in the kitchen all day every day!

 I am going to try mincing it up next week to make satay chicken or chicken sausages.  Poached chicken is also very easy to digest making it an ideal food for the intro stage of any healing diet.



Method (if you could call it that!)

  • Get a large stock pot.  Throw in a chicken breast side down.  
  • Cover with water and bring to the boil then simmer for 1.5 - 2 hours.  The chicken will now be cooked
  • Remove the chicken and take off all meat and skin (dont worry about making this look pretty)
  • Throw all the bones back in the stock pot and simmer for at least another 1.5  hours 

Chicken soup

Here is a basic chicken soup recipe with some carbs which can be severely lacking on GAPS or SCD if you are not careful!

This is great if you have had a tummy bug or just feel your digestion needs a rest.  I have suggested an amount of stock but basically you fill the pan to what you feel depending on whether you like a thick or thin soup.  I like to have it chunky but the kids prefer it blended.

I poach a chicken and then use the stock and meat from this to make double portions of this.  It's a handy lunch for my husband and I to have on school days when the kids take a packed lunch.  You could throw in some chillies or other ingredients as desired.


1-1.5 litres of chicken stock (homemade ideally)
Cooked chicken chopped into small pieces including chicken skin (approximately a handful per person, more if you want a thicker soup)
1/2 butternut squash
1 large onion
3 medium carrots
1/2 broccoli (optional)  Stalk removed
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cut up the carrots and squash into small chunks.
  • Break the cauliflower into small florets
  • Chop the onion finely
  • Put all the vegetables in a pan and add the chicken stock 
  • Bring to a boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are just tender
  • Add the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes
  • Ensure chicken is piping hot before serving 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Fairy cakes / basic cake recipe

This recipe is my go to recipe for plain sponge cakes.  They can be frozen and put in lunch boxes or jazzed up for parties.  You can add dried fruit, lemon, blueberries, chopped nuts to taste.

I also like to use lemon which lifts the taste of the sponge which is heavier than a traditional sponge by virtue of the nut flour. (This can be missed out) 

They are totally edible with 3 eggs but the 4th egg makes for a lighter cake. 

Sponge is quite tricky with nut flour, it is common for cakes to not rise well or to burnt on the top and still wet inside but this is (fingers crossed) a failsafe.


250g almond flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
3 or 4 large eggs
45 grams melted butter 
80ml honey 
1 tbsp vanilla extract 
Zest of one lemon (optional) 
2 tbsp of lemon juice (optional) 


  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170C  (put butter in heat proof bowl in oven to melt)
  • Mix the eggs in the food processor
  • Add the butter, honey, vanilla and lemon and mix again.
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large mixing bowl
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients into the processor.  The mixture will look very wet
  • Fill muffin cases to about half way
  • Put in the middle or lower part of the oven for approximately 20 minutes until they are golden brown and springy on top (or a cocktail stick inserted into the cake comes out clean) 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Vanilla 'buttercream'

This is a useful 'cream' for putting in a victoria sponge or to make fairy cakes.  It can also be used on top of a fruit salad.  The amount below give you a thin layer on a 7-8 inch sponge.


70g of drained yoghurt
1 tsp of vanilla extract 
2-3 tsp of honey


Mix the ingredients together and taste.  If it is still too tart keep adding honey by 1/2 tsp until you get the desired sweetness.   Keep in fridge until needed.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Temperature Conversion chart

Oven temperature guide

Gas Mark
Very cool/very slow
very moderate
moderately hot
very hot