Tag Archives: gluten-free bread

Sunshine, Gluten-Free Bread & Bruschetta in Tuscany

Just back from a heavenly week in Tuscany. Ahhhhhhh. I’ve never been (other than a weekend in Florence for Peter’s 40th) and have longed to go for years and years – and we finally made it. We stayed in an agriturismo appartment on the side of a beautifully-restored old farmhouse and spent the week travelling around, seeing the stunning countryside and persuading Zoe to look round Pisa and Sienna with us… Every morning I would get up and go for a swim in the salt-water pool pictured above. Truly, life doesn’t get much better than those early morning swims as the sunlight bounced on the water and the scent of the lavender bushes filled the air. (We’re now back in grey, chilly London and I’m dreaming of those swims!)

The farmer grows olives and makes the most delicious olive oil – smooth and clean yet full of depths of flavours.

We swam and swam and swam some more – in the pool, at the beach and even in this river where there were hot springs. The smell of sulphur was strong but somehow not unpleasant and we lay in the water, and then covered ourselves with the mud and sat in the water, letting the water do its magic. The waters are mainly detoxifying, drawing out toxins and impurities, but they also act as a relaxant and stress-reliever (so you come out feeling very sleepy!) and are also great for various allergic/intolerant conditions, especially eczema, psoriasis, asthma and sinusitis.

We went to Sienna which was stunning. The medieval buildings, famous Piazza and Duomo were awe-inspiring. According to Roman legend, Sienna was founded by Senius, who was the son of Remus. (Remus, and his brother Romulus, were the legendary founders of Rome. They were the sons of Mars who were abandoned as babies but saved by a she-wolf who suckled them and a woodpecker who fed them, and then rescued by a shepherd.)

Sienna is full of statues and artwork showing the she-wolf suckling the young babies. And the duomo is bursting with beautiful paintings, statues and glass windows.

And I was wowed by the Siennese style of paintings (you can see a rather bad photo of one of them below) which are full of bright, bold colour blocks and a modern-feeling graphic styling (despite the medieval style of painting.)

We went to Pisa, too, and took Zoe round the Duomo there. The audio equipment was brilliant as it meant Zoe was intrigued by the handsets and chatted into those while we gazed at the paintings! The Italians are generally lovely about kids and let them play and run around. We kept it to a minimum in the Cathedral (!) but even when Zoe was ordering rice and chocolate cake down the audio handset, they didn’t bat an eyelid.

And on the subject of food – yes it was amazing! The fruit was sweet and juicy and the vegetables full of the flavours of sunshine; the selection of prosciutto and hams in the delis were joyous; and the fresh fish and seafood were all gorgeous. But generally gluten-free or dairy-free in restaurants or cafés weren’t an option. We were in deepest, rural Tuscany – where they would serve just a few dishes with home-made gluten pasta and rich cheeses. But I happened on a selection of gluten-free breads in the small supermarket in the local town and, from then on, happily munched my way through the gluten-free breadsticks, buns and bread…

And I made a wonderful, wonderful bruschetta with toasted gluten-free buns, rich, plump tomatoes, pungent garlic and sweet, earthy basil leaves.

This recipe (inspired by her home-grown tomatoes) came from Renée Elliott’s website and it’s utterly delicious.

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

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter    Preparation time 20 minutes     Cooking time 15 minutes

  • 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 thick slices of gluten-free bread, or 4 gluten-free rolls, halved
  • 4 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 10g/¼oz basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  1. Heat the oven to 220˚C/440˚F/gas 7.  Pour the oil into a medium bowl, add the salt and pepper and mix well.  Dip each side of the bread in the oil until lightly coated with oil and put the bread in a shallow baking tray.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, basil and garlic to the oil and mix well.  Transfer the toasted bread to a serving plate, top generously with the tomato mixture and serve.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Roast Leg of Lamb with a Pine Nut & Herb Stuffing

It’s totally true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – well, certainly my husband’s. And if Peter’s reaction to this recipe is anything to go by, then THIS recipe is the way to his heart. I knew Peter would like this – he likes strong, robust flavours and loves red meat (a true Aussie bloke!) but, to be honest, I was surprised by quite how much he liked it. This wasn’t just awesome, it was apparently the best thing I’d ever cooked him. Wow!

We eat lamb at Easter, like many people, but as the season for Welsh lamb starts in March and English lamb in April, I find it’s nice to focus on eating lamb in springtime, anyway. Red meat is sometimes viewed by people as an unhealthy choice. The BSE and Foot and Mouth crises seem to have turned people away from eating red meat, and the fear of high amounts of saturated fat in those meats seem to have kept them away. But if you buy good-quality meat (I always buy organic meat because I want to eat meat that has been humanely reared and doesn’t have residues of pesticides, chemicals or antibiotics), and either buy meat that is lean or remove the fat after cooking, then you are eating something that is incredibly good for you. Meat is truly full of goodness – and is crammed with protein, the building block for our bones, tissues and teeth – which keeps us strong and healthy.

As well as being rich in protein, lamb is also an amazing sourced of two vital minerals – iron and zinc. Iron keeps us strong and full of energy (when you’re low in iron, you can become anaemic, and this will make you feel tired and weak). Zinc is probably the most important mineral in terms of your immune system. (If you get a cold or infection, it’s always worth increasing your zinc intake as it will help to fight these infections.)

Lamb is also a great source of many vitamins, including vitamin B3 (which helps boost your memory) and vitamin B12 (which is key to the production of red blood cells and cell metabolism). Lamb also contains selenium (great for your heart) and sulphur (good for your hair, nails and joints).

This is an incredibly easy recipe to make. You just whizz the stuffing ingredients up, stuff the joint and into the oven. Serve with lots of veggies and I promise you’ll love every mouthful!

Preparation time 10 minutes     Cooking time 1 hour 11 minutes, plus 10 minutes resting time     Serves 6–8

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

Ingredients:

2–3 slices gluten-free bread (or 100g/3½oz gluten-free breadcrumbs)
12 drained stoneless black olives in brine
3 garlic cloves
3 drained, bottled anchovy fillets in oil
8 drained, bottled sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 small handful of rosemary leaves
1 small handful of thyme leaves
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 handfuls pine nuts
1 leg of lamb, approximately 2.5kg/5lb 8oz with the H bone and thigh bone tunnel-boned and removed (ask your butcher to do this)

1    Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/gas 9. Put the bread in a food processor and blend until the mixture becomes fine breadcrumbs. Remove from the food processor and leave to one side.
2    Rinse the olives and drain them. Put in a mini food processor and add the garlic, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary and thyme. Blend to form a finely chopped paste. Transfer to the food processor and add the parsley. Pulse until the parsley is finely chopped, then add the pine nuts and breadcrumbs and pulse until the pine nuts are chopped.
3    Spoon the stuffing mixture into the cavity of the lamb, pressing down well with the back of a spoon to pack the stuffing in, and secure by tying with string. (Next time I make this recipe, I’ll use more string and tie it up more!) Rub the olive oil over the lamb then transfer to a baking tray.
4    Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook for a further 55 minutes – 1 hour 10 minutes, depending on how pink you like the meat. Remove from the oven and cover with baking parchment, ensuring the ends of the paper are tucked under the tin. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then remove the baking parchment and serve.