When life hands you lemons…

Life has thrown me a bit of a curve ball these last couple of weeks in that I’ve found out I have a few severe food intolerances and so have to adapt to a pretty restricted diet for the foreseeable future. I’ve been gluten-free for a long time but now I also have to avoid all dairy, eggs and yeast as well as move to a low-FODMAPS diet.

Dear readers, my reaction was not pretty. I wept, I railed at the unfairness of it all and mourned for the loss of my beloved cheese and wine. I ignored the fact that I had found out what was causing some of my health problems and would possibly feel loads better once I started following the eating plan and instead focussed on how it was another thing I was having to give up in life….rant, moan, rage etc.

And then I remembered about moving with ease through life and started to focus on what I can still eat. I remembered that I’m luckier than most people in that I’ve already been through one dramatic life/eating change when I had to give up gluten and so I know the process. I know it gets easier once you get into it but if I’m honest, I’m still grumbling a bit. But I’ve pulled out the recipe books and started playing a bit and it  is getting better.

Here are some of the things I’ve been making:

Lemony roast chicken soup

Lemony roast chicken soup


Roasted seabass with rosemary potatoes, peppers and spinach

Roasted seabass with rosemary potatoes, peppers and spinach

And made some attempts at baking, which I have to say were not wholly successful!

First batch of baking

First batch of baking

There’s some choc chip cookie bites adapted from a recipe at Elana’s Pantry which worked perfectly and tasted lovely. Some peanut butter biscuits which tasted nice but spread all over the baking sheet because the egg replacer changed the consistency and so I ended up with random bits of biscuits. Finally an attempt at bread which I have to say was an abject failure…completely inedible! Will have to try again on that one, I think gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free bread is going to be a bit of a holy grail mission. By any weird chance does anyone know a reliable recipe for this?!

So it’s a steep learning curve but one that will hopefully be really worth it. If you happen to see Mr Purly Queen at any point in the next few weeks, give him a hug won’t you? I suspect I am not that easy to live with while I work all of this out…:)

Sorry Mr Purly Queen!

Sorry Mr Purly Queen!


March is finally here, meaning that Spring is on its way! It’s also St David’s Day so in honour of all the Welshies (my family live in Wales) I decided to make a batch of gluten-free Welsh cakes. For those of you that have never had Welsh cakes, they are rather like drop scones and usually served warm and with a generous slather of butter.

I found a recipe for a gluten-free version in a great cookbook on my shelf: Gluten-Free Baking by Phil Vickery. I do have another of his books Gluten-Free Cooking which is also pretty good with more ideas for meals etc.

Gluten-free Baking...yummy!

Gluten-free Baking…yummy!

Here’s my slight adaptation of his recipe:

Phil Vickery’s Gluten-Free Welsh Cakes

Makes about 10-15 (I got 15 cakes out of this recipe but it depends on the size of your cutter)

Prep time: About 10 mins

Cooking time: 15-20 mins

225g Gluten-Free flour (Phil uses a blend made up of rice, potato and tapioca flour that you can make up yourself, I have done this in the past but now find Dove’s Farm brand much quicker and easier)

1 teaspoon mixed spice

100g butter (Phil suggests cooking margarine but I’m not a fan, feel free to use any fat that works for you)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of glycerine

80g fairtrade unrefined caster sugar (Obviously sugar is not great for you but at least if its unrefined, there is some goodness in it and buying fairtrade is something we should all aim for if we can!)

80g sultanas (I had to use raisins as that’s what I had in but I think sultanas or even currants are actually more traditional)

1 medium egg, beaten

1.Put the flour, spice, butter, xanthan gum and bicarb in a bowl and rub through gently until you get the consistency of fine breadcumbs.

2. Add the glycerine, sugar, sultanas and egg and mix through till you get a soft douch

3. Dust a work surface with some flour or corn flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of about 5mm. Using a cutter, cut out as many little cakes as you can get out of the dough.

4. Heat a griddle pan or normal frying pan over a medium heat. Add 4 cakes to the pan at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are lightly coloured and puffed.

5. Once cooked, remove from the pan and serve warm. (Phil suggests sprinkling with caster sugar but to my taste they are quite sweet already).

Storage: Can be kept for 2 days stored in an airtight container. Warm them through for 10 seconds in the microwave before serving. They can also be frozen in an airtight container. Defrost for an hour and pop in the microwave for 10 seconds before serving.

Welsh cakes and daffodils for St. David's Day!

Welsh cakes and daffodils for St. David’s Day!

Ta da! They’re quite yummy! I am going to have to get some in the freezer straight away as otherwise I can see me scoffing them all at once. Have you got any baking plans for this weekend?x


As I write this, the snow is coming down thick and fast again and you can feel everything take on a slower pace. In fact it’s been a slow few days around here, with both of us a bit tired and sniffly and feeling the need to just nest and rest and recuperate. This weekend was perfect, where the most arduous chore was taking the dog to the park and marveling at how different the park looks without the thick coating of snow it had just a few days before.

Do you think Pepper might want to go and play in the snow?

Do you think Pepper might want to go and play in the snow?

A bit of gentle de-cluttering in the house meant a trip to the nearest charity shops, the only kind of shops other than wool and book shops that I could happily lose a few hours in. (In fact, so enduring is my love for the chazza shops that I remember being told as a small child that I could have some money to spend in a shop of my choice as a gift and I asked to go to the charity shop…bless my weird little self!) Happily, the shops are next to one of my other favourite places, the library, so I grabbed some new books to take home with me.

Then there was reading under cosy blankets with lots of cups of tea, a bit of baking, a bit of knitting, but all at a wonderful, leisurely pace.

There was pie...

There was pie…

Seeing friends and doing stuff is obviously lovely too but that feeling of being able to do exactly what you want, with no rush and no demands on your time is just delicious. I’m trying to keep that feeling in mind as all too often I end up working at weekends and really need to keep them a bit more sacred so there can be more weekends like this.

I loved seeing that my friend Jess thinks the same about staying in. I’ve known Jess since I moved secondary schools when I was about 14 and I believe our first ‘friend date’ was to see Flintstones the Movie…Jess, is that right?! Anyway, Jess has a lovely blog here called Once upon a Home, all about the ups and downs of renovating a home and definitely worth a read.

As for today, today is slow too. The falling snow means that I can’t take any decent photos of new knits for the shop and I’ve just realised that all the blog posts I thought I had scheduled for last week haven’t actually posted. But you know what, it’ll all get done eventually so for now, I’m going to make a lovely cup of tea, stare out of the window at the snow (and the little field mouse that is currently munching on the bird feeder!) and snaffle up the last bit of that pie before Mr PQ gets his mitts on it. Hope you all have some slow time in your day too x

Autumn days, as the grass is jeweled…

Does anyone else remember this song? I have very happy childhood memories of belting it out at primary school. Autumn is definitely here and whilst the grass here oop north is best described as completely sodden rather than jeweled, I do still rather like this time of year with that ‘new pencil case’ kind of feeling.

There’s a distinct chill in the air and I’ve been working on some woolly hats and hand warmers which I’ll hopefully get in the shop over the weekend. Things have been very busy PhD-wise over the last few weeks and so every thing else apart from bits of knitting time snatched here and there have been rather on hold. One thing I have been making time for though is the Great British Bake Off, have you been watching it too? Mr Purly Queen has taken to calling one of the contestants my new boyfriend as I’m always raving about his amazing real Shetland fair-isle jumpers! (And he’s not too shabby in the baking department either).

GBBO James: Look at that fair isle!

Speaking of baking, last week my lovely friend Liz came to visit at PQ Towers and I wanted to try out a recipe for some biscuits that my sister had sent me. My sister works in My Favourite Shop In The World TM and one of the perks is that they get lots of foodie magazines into the shop for inspiration. She spotted some gluten-free recipes and kindly sent them on to me. There was one recipe that caught my eye immediately: Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Cookies! I luuuuurve Peanut Butter and thought they would be a perfect autumn recipe to scoff down over a cup of tea and a natter. The recipe originally comes from Jamie magazine and I made some tweaks to it to use up what I had in the cupboards. (By the way Jamie, if you’re reading, and I’m sure you are, spelt flour isn’t gluten free. It has very low levels of gluten and great for people who struggle with wheat but if you can’t tolerate any gluten at all like me, it’s a no-no).

Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Cookies

(Makes between 12 and 24 biccies depending on how big you make them)

300g Gluten-Free flour (I use Dove’s Farm)

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

3/4 tsp of fine sea salt

250g chunky peanut butter

150 ml honey

100ml molasses (The recipe suggests 250ml Maple Syrup instead of the honey and molasses. Molasses has the benefit of being really good for you but is an absolute bugger to get out of the jar)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sea salt flakes to finish

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ Gas Mark 4 (or if you’ve got a temperamental oven like mine, just put the dial somewhere in the middle and hope for the best). Line your baking sheets with some baking parchment.

2. Combine the flour, bicarb and fine salt in a mixing bowl.

3. In a separate bowl (which should be a bit bigger than the first one), stir the peanut butter, honey, molasses, olive oil and vanilla extract. Pour the flour mixture over the peanut butter mixture and stir until barely combined. It should look a bit dusty looking. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and then stir again.

4. Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture on your baking sheets and press down with a the back of a fork.

5. Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

The Mad Spaniel is outraged that the scrummy biscuits aren’t for her!

Yum! Does the Autumn weather make you want to bake more? What have you been baking recently?