On cravings, a cookbook and wheat-free soda bread

It’s been tough this week…the cravings have kicked in!

One morning I woke up desperate for toast and headed straight to the little Sainsbury’s round the corner for some free-from bread. The slices were disappointingly miniature. I toasted them up and smothered them with peanut butter and then they were just about edible.

I’ve been feeling like I ‘need’ to eat an apple. That’s probably just because I know I can’t.

I am envious of my mince pie and cinnamon bagel eating boyfriend.

I’ve also been stranded away from home due to flooding, causing me to run out of all the FODMAP friendly goodies I brought with me…granola, home-made ginger cookies, chocolate torte (which was amazing, by the way).But all this exclusion is seeming worth it. I have an appetite again! The other night I ate steak and potato wedges and still had room for rice pudding afterwards. A month ago I wouldn’t have been able to stomach even a spoonful of something like rice pudding after a heavy dinner like steak and chips. My stomach hasn’t been distending and feeling generally uncomfortable after every meal I eat and just like my old, food-enthusiast self, I go to sleep thinking up recipes and wake up excited for breakfast. It makes for a happy Fleur.

Could it still all be a placebo effect though? I’m not sure. But I’m feeling a lot better for it either way.

Another thing I have to be happy about is discovering Pippa Kendrick’s gorgeous book ‘The Intolerant Gourmet’. I bought it primarily for the wheat-free baking recipes but have found so many tempting recipes in it which I can’t wait to try out: lots of comforting casseroles and curries and ideas for quinoa salads. Granted, the recipes do need some tweaking to make FODMAP friendly, the inevitable onion and garlic continue to crop up at the beginning of numerous recipes, but with my trusty garlic oil and asafoetida powder, we can work our way round this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough, even for people without allergies. There are plenty of inspiring recipes to keep anyone happy, the photography is beautiful and Pippa’s recipe introductions ring with a generous warmth and true passion for good food.

Unlike my Sainsbury’s free-from bread, Pippa’s recipe for wheat-free soda bread definitely helps satisfy my need for bread, even if it is pretty far away from your standard wheat and yeasted loaf. As soda bread tends to be, it was closer to cakey than bready in texture. Craving something doughy and carby as I was though, its dense, heavy texture was perfectly satisfying. It also has a quirky, cauliflower-esque look about it, which is kinda charming.

Even better, it takes minutes to prepare the dough and there’s no hanging around waiting for it to rise. The loaf is at its best straight from the oven, torn into chunky hunks, smeared generously with butter and dunked into soup. The left-overs made a great breakfast, sliced and toasted under the grill.

Add jam, marmalade and tea and you’re winning.

Wheat-free soda bread – recipe adapted from ‘The Intolerant Gourmet’

If you can’t get hold of buttermilk, you could use soured regular milk instead, although you will need to prepare this the night before. To make soured milk, place 425ml milk in a saucepan and warm through over a gentle heat (don’t let it get too hot – it should only just be starting to steam very slightly). Remove from the heat and pour over the juice of half a lemon. Cover the saucepan with cling-film and leave at room temperature overnight.

If you’re avoiding lactose/dairy you could sour the same quantity of rice milk as above, which is the option given in the original recipe.

  • 450g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 425ml buttermilk (or soured milk/ rice milk – see note above)
  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C / 450°F. Dust a baking sheet with a little flour.
  2. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
  3. Pour most of the buttermilk/ soured milk into the well, reserving about 50ml. Holding your hand like a claw, stir the flour into the milk with your fingers. You want to end up with a soft dough but not a sticky one. If the dough feels a bit dry, add a little of the reserved buttermilk/ soured milk.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Avoiding working the dough too hard, shape it into a round, about 4cm thick.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the loaf, about 1cm deep, then place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 200°C/ 400°F and continuing to bake for about 30 minutes until golden. The loaf will feel pretty heavy and the crust thick and crispy. Cool on a wire rack. It’s best eaten fresh from the oven. Any left-overs can be frozen (although try to do this as soon as possible before the loaf gets a chance to start going stale) and refreshed in a medium-high oven for 5 -8 minutes. It’s pretty tricky to cut slices out of the loaf, but if you can mange it, they’re good toasted under the grill.
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