1. Gluten Free Chestnut & Vanilla Cake by Victoria Glass

    Did you know it’s National Coeliac Awareness Week and also this weekend the Allergy and Free From Show is on at London Olympia?  Both events show an ever growing demand for gluten free food in the UK.  Victoria Glass - new guest blogger to Great British Chefs is here to show that “gluten dodging” doesn’t have to lead to heavy or dull food and shares her recipe for a delicious gluten free Chestnut & Vanilla Cake:

    Blog post and photography by Victoria Glass - @victoria_glass

    It’s National Coeliac Awareness Week and I’m here to prove that gluten-dodging doesn’t need to be boring. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, with women two to three times more likely to suffer*.

    This ever-growing demand for GF foods has led to a revolution in supermarket aisles. No longer confined to half a shelf in a dark, poky corner, I found Genius bread lumped in with the wheat at my local Co-op. Free-from foods are spilling into the mainstream. They’re easier to find and the quality is getting better all the time. This is all excellent news, of course, but it doesn’t always come cheap. A 600g gluten free loaf comes in at just under £3, while you can get an 800g wheat loaf for under a quid. Although diagnosed coeliacs are entitled to GF food on prescription, it’s only free if you already qualify for free prescriptions. With a suspected 500,000 undiagnosed coeliacs in the UK alone, perhaps it’s time to curb our reliance on gluten as a staple.

    “Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease. In coeliac disease, eating gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged. Other parts of the body may be affected.”  www.coeliac.org.uk

    I live with a gluten dodger and, as a result, I’ve had to change my baking habits. It’s second nature to most to reach for the plain flour when making pancakes, but lately, I’d rather have a savoury socca any day of the week. They’re incredibly quick and simple to make. For two pancakes, sift 100g of gram flour (chickpea flour), and stir in cold water until the batter is the consistency of single cream, season, fry in a hot oiled pan and tuck in. This cheap southern French street food is also delicious with the addition of almost any herb or spice. Another more recent addition to my new gluten light lifestyle is chestnut flour.

    I am currently in the midst of a true and meaningful love affair with this nutty purveyor of all things delicious. Available in specialist shops and online from Shipton Mill, it makes a delicious alternative to wheat flour in gnocchi, and creates stunningly light, moist and moreish cakes. A gluten-free lifestyle might sound like a drag, but thinking outside the Weetos box makes for many exciting new discoveries. My recipe for chestnut and vanilla cake is delicious served with poached pears and will make you wonder, “why aren’t more of us voluntarily leaving the wheat in the cupboard?

    Chestnut and Vanilla cake

    Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan)/320°F/Gas mark 3 and grease and line two 6” sandwich tins.

    For the cake

    100g runny honey

    4 large eggs, separated

    40g unsalted butter, melted

    75g chestnut flour

    25g ground almonds or hazelnuts

    A pinch of salt

    A splash of vanilla extract

    For the filling

    125g full fat Mascarpone

    250g Sweet Chestnut Puree (I used Clement Faugier “Creme de Marrons”)

    250ml double cream, softly whipped

    A splash of vanilla extract

    Icing sugar, sifted and added to taste


    For the cake

    ·      Whisk the sugar, honey and egg yolks together to the ribbon stage – pale, thick and creamy. This will take a good few minutes with an electric whisk, so be patient.

    ·      Mix in the melted butter, before folding in the ground almonds/hazelnuts and chestnut flour.

    ·      In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form.

    ·      Use a large metal spoon to fold in the egg whites – be careful not to knock out the air in the batter.

    ·      Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

    ·      Once baked, pop the cakes, still in their tins, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely. Slice each cake horizontally in half.

    For the filling

    ·      Simply mix together all the ingredients with a fork. Don’t be tempted to get your electric whisk out here or your Mascarpone will become unusably runny.

    ·      Layer your cake up with generous spreadings of the chestnut Mascarpone

    ·      You can add a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds or a dusting of cocoa for an extra touch of glamour, if you fancy.

    * All information on coeliac disease taken from the NHS website and Coeliac UK.

    Blog post, photography & recipe by  Victoria Glass who has her first book Boutique Wedding Cakes coming out Autumn 2012

    Is there anyone in your family who follows a gluten free diet?  What are some of their favourite dishes? What are your favourite wheat free dishes? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

  2. Pollen – bane of your life or an undiscovered kitchen gem?

    The Allergy and Free From Show runs from 18th -20th May 2012. Welcome news for those with hayfever, as they prepare for the high pollen season. Some people who are allergic to pollen like  Great British Chefs blogger Urvashi Roe (aka @BotanicalBaker) and suffer from hayfever can build up their tolerance before the season starts by eating local honey and pollen.   Find out more about this and also discover some delicious recipes that use pollen 

    Blog post by Urvashi Roe 

    I suffer from hayfever and so at this time of year, pollen really is the bane of my life. I wake up sneezing with sore itchy eyes and spend most of the day with a bunged up nose.  I can see those little pollen grains in the air and feel wheezy just looking at them.  But every dark cloud, and in this case, pollen grain has a silver lining. Some forms of pollen are edible and highly nutritious.

    My local beekeeper told me that in a beehive, both honey and pollen grains are eaten.  We generally tend to eat honey which is high in antioxidants.  But pollen is far more nutritious as 35% of each grain is protein and also contains high levels of vitamins. Of course you’d have to eat a lot to get your daily dose of goodness because one pinch of contains thousands of grains!

    Most people who are allergic to pollen like me and suffer from hayfever can build up their tolerance before the season starts by eating local honey and pollen but some could find the same or different allergic reactions start to appear.

    Luckily I can eat honey and pollen without any allergic reactions.  There are plenty of pollen varieties to choose from.  First off saffron which are the strands of crocus flowers, cultivated with the pollen grains in some cases.  It has a subtle, sweet flavour with tones of hay and works well in sauces and sweet dishes.  Here are some dishes you can try using saffron.

    Steamed wild sea bass, razor clams, asparagus, pastis and saffron sauce - Morgan Meunier

    Gratinated pine nut-basil chicken with saffron mayo - Vineet Bhatia

    Zaffrani Pulao - Alfred Prasad

    Next you have fennel pollen, the potent granules harvested from the buds of flowering fennel plant. It’s a culinary tradition in Northern Italy and its flavour combines the liquorice zing of fresh fennel seeds and anise with citrus and honey. 

    Fennel Pollen photo by Global Harvest

    Here are some great dishes using fennel pollen:

    Lemon parfait, fennel pollen ice cream, fennel granita, and olive oil jelly - Adam Simmonds

    Halibut, fregola and scallops - Alan Murchison

    Halibut fillet glazed with lardo, parsnip purée and a verjuice and spring onion sauce - Simon Hulstone

    Instead of fennel pollen, you could use dill pollen which is dill in its purest form.  Use it as you would fresh dill for a more intense flavour.

    Dill Pollen photo by Global Harvest

    Try substituting the fresh dill with dill pollen in these recipes:

    Cured salmon - Marcello Tully

    Chilled cucumber and horseradish gazpacho with Lymington crab salad and pickled white radish - Matthew Tomkinson

    If you have hayfever like me or other allergies and would like some inspiration for recipes why not visit the Allergy and Free From Show which runs from Friday 18th May to Sunday 20th May 2012 at Olympia.  There are a whole host of exhibitors, workshops and recipe demonstrations as well as support groups.