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I’ve been in a bit of a baking rut for the last few months – just being lazy and going back and forward between banana cake or chocolate brownies, two delicious, tried and true recipes that I love but, honestly, was getting a little tired of. I never thought I’d get tired of banana cake! But it happened.
Seeing as we’re trying to make the most of the last days of summer, I felt a tropical, refreshing flavour was called for – so lemon and coconut it was. Lemon and ginger was another flavour contender but it’ll have to wait for another day. Maybe until next weekend…
These cakes are incredibly light, fluffy and moist – something that doesn’t come as easily to gluten free baked goods as wheat flour products. Honestly, I’m pretty proud of them. The subtle lemon and coconut flavour is gorgeous, not in your face at all, as I know quite a few people who aren’t coconut fans. For those who are, simply add in a few drops of coconut extract to up the flavour. Voila. I think the best compliment that I received for these cakes was Ev eating an entire muffin himself and enjoying it. If you knew him, you’d know he hates cakes, he’s a pastry man. These are that good.
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Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F.
Grease and line a 9 inch round cake tin, or a 12 hole muffin pan.
If not already soft, in a small saucepan, very gently melt the coconut oil, do not let it boil. Set it aside to cool (refrigeration will help). If using the chia gel, rather than the xanthan gum, mix the chia seed meal in the water now, then set aside.
Next, separate the eggs, putting the yolks aside. Beat the egg whites and salt at a high speed until light and fluffy, then add in the sugars and continue beating on high until stiff peaks form (as if you were making a pavlova).
Thoroughly mix the cooled coconut oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract and coconut cream together and whisk briskly, then pour into the meringue batter and stir on a medium speed until combined. Add in the chia gel at this stage, if you are using it instead of xanthan gum.
Place the gluten free flour blend, xanthan gum (if you are using it rather than the chia gel), baking powder and lemon zest in a small, separate bowl, mix through and then pour into the rest of the batter in thirds. Mix the finished batter on a medium speed for a minute to properly combine all the ingredients, scraping down the sides as required.
Bake at 180C/350 F for:
I serve these dusted with icing sugar (as it looks pretty) at dinner parties but it does not need it for the flavour, so if you’re just baking for you, feel free to leave it off.
When we moved into our new house in February just been, there was a run-down little veggie patch by the front door. I looked at it in dismay – I had just left behind the gorgeous wooden planter box that Ev built for me the year before at our last rental – and then proceeded to ignore it every time I walked by it. The box was cheap plastic, the soil full of weeds and the dried out remnants of what was once a zucchini plant were splayed out on a trellis.
After a couple of weeks, I looked at the “garden” tab of the house folder the previous owners had left us and got a little shock. Apparently, the veggie patch was full of leeks, chives and kale. Yum. I checked the garden again and there were the leeks and chives, hidden among the weeds; no kale, though, it obviously hadn’t made it through the winter. There was one problem, though. There was grass growing up throughout the chives and the leeks were apparently planted next to some small agapanthus, whose leaves look a lot like a leek but are not edible. Why on earth? Anyway, it was still February, so these hardy little plants hadn’t begun to flower yet. I was reasonably confident that I could tell them apart from the bulb/lack of bulb (agapanthus vs leek) but, to be sure, I wanted to see the flowers.
Finally, the leeks and agapanthus flowered a week ago and last weekend we decided it was time to get rid of the sad little veggie patch and replace it with a lawn, instead. Unfortunately, our backyard is surrounded by pine trees and gets very little sunlight, so I understand why they chose the front yard for the veggie garden – I just wouldn’t have done it in quite the same way. Also, because our backyard gets basically no sunlight, the “lawn” is about 95% weeds, so we’re going for a forest/path/hidden surprise backyard with shade loving plants and we want to get as much lawn out of the front yard as possible. But I digress. Even after ditching the leeks that were growing so close to the agapanthus that they were intertwined (and all the chives, because they were thoroughly knotted together with grass and nobody had time to sort that mess out), we had a sink-full of leeks. I’m not even kidding, our extra deep, double-sized kitchen sink was overflowing.
This wasn’t even half of what we kept, which was half of what was there. Please excuse the weeds, the garden is a work in progress.
What on earth could we do with so many leeks? It’s warming up, so it’s no longer really soup weather and simply processing the leeks and freezing them seemed like a cop out. A few weeks ago we had watched an episode of No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain’s show) and they had dipped leeks into chimichurri. Why not make leeks into chimichurri, instead?
Chimichurri is a very versatile sauce. It’s primary use is for grilling meats but you can use it as a dipping sauce, a condiment, a sandwich spread (mixed with mayo – yum!), a pasta sauce, a salad dressing, to spice up omelettes and add flavour to mashed potatoes. You can also use it as a base from which to build an entirely new sauce. It’s definitely handy to have around, as it allows you to cut some corners during dinner prep – I won’t say no to that!
Makes about 600 ml of sauce, depending on how firmly packed the leeks are.
Place the garlic oil (or actual garlic if you can tolerate it), roughly chopped leek tips and red wine vinegar into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until combined. Add some salt and pepper (and the optional herbs if you like) and keep blitzing until smooth. Taste the chimichurri, then add in more salt and pepper (or garlic oil or red wine vinegar) to get the exact taste and consistency that you like. We like ours a little thicker, so feel free to add more oil if you see fit.
That’s it. It’s very simple. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to two months. It’s especially important to practise safe food handling if you’ve used an homemade infused oil, due to the risks of botulism that rise when infused oils are stored incorrectly/for too long. Store bought infused oils have been prepared in such a way that they have a much longer shelf life.
But please don’t let that put you off making chimichurri! The simple measure of freezing extra jars right away will keep the sauce safe for a couple of months. I know our batch won’t last longer than that, and it made 10 jars. It’s that good.
Here is our leek chimichurri, served with a yolk porn-worthy poached egg on top of polenta and wilted spinach. Simple, delicious and nourishing. The perfect meal.
About a month ago, Jesse and Kate Watson of Nicer Foods contacted me and asked me if I’d like to test drive their newest product. Given how much I liked their last effort (chocolate peanut butter flavoured protein bars, mmmmmmmm…….) I of course said yes. Please realise, though, that the opinions here are my own; even though they very generously sent me a full-sized version of each of the four flavours, I was not bound to give them a good review.
Firstly, 10 points to Gryffindor – I mean Nicer Foods – for great customer service; they have always replied promptly to my enquiries and these little beauties reached me just two days after I agreed to review them, in a well padded parcel.
For the uninitiated, the low FODMAP diet restricts garlic and onion, among other foods, based on their high quantities of fermentable carbohydrates, known as fructans (or fructooligosaccharides/FOS, part of the O group), which aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so travel on into the colon, where your resident gut flora digest them, leading to gas production, bloating, cramps and altered bowel movements. You know, exactly what you want to read about in the review of a gourmet food product. Sorry.
For the less than savoury reasons mentioned above, those following the low FODMAP diet for relief of digestive complaints will eliminate garlic and onion varieties, which for some might seem like the end of the world for their taste buds. However, luckily for us, FODMAPs are water soluble, so foods like garlic and onion can be sauteed in oil until their flavours have seeped in, leaving the fructans behind. This means that oils infused with the essences of higher FODMAP foods can impart the flavour into your meals, without the FODMAPs. Sounds great and easy enough, right? Well, the down side to this is that you really shouldn’t store your homemade infused oils; you can make them but only if you plan to use them right there and then. Botulism, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, is caused by the food-borne bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which thrives in low oxygen, alkaline, warm environments – just like infused oils.
Personally, I’m not happy to risk a case of Botulism to have the convenience of homemade infused oils lying around and, while I’m happy to throw a couple of garlic cloves into simmering oil when I’m cooking, I most likely won’t be bothered when I am making a heat-free-prep meal, like dips or salad dressings.
So, what to do? Supermarkets and websites sell varieties of infused olive oils that we can take advantage of. But what makes Nicer Foods’ infused oils stand out from the crowd? Firstly (and most importantly), they are made with the intention of being completely FODMAP friendly, so you don’t have to worry about garlic or onion “juice” getting into the oils, like you do with others. Have you ever seen the garlic infused oils on the supermarket shelves that have bits of garlic sitting at the bottom? Chances are you may react to that particular oil – depending on how sensitive your gut is. Secondly, they taste great – more on that later – and thirdly, I’d happily support a family owned start up company over a chain-brand that probably doesn’t care as much about quality control and its customers.
So, to the oils!… Which are available online for purchase at Nicer Foods’ website for a reasonable price.
Great taste, a little strong but pleasant. It works wonders as a simple salad dressing with a pinch of sea salt or as part of a cooked meal. Just beware, though, that as it’s an “extra virgin olive oil,” (EVOO) I’d keep your heat low, so don’t use it while stir frying, or simply add it in at the end of the cooking process.
I like the shallot oil so much that it has earnt it’s own pouring spout. If I had to pick, it’d be my favourite.
A pleasant and mild garlic flavour. I’ve tried store bought garlic oils before and some have had an obnoxious garlic taste but this one, thankfully, does not.
Pictured here in a green leek chimichurri sauce.
Refreshingly zingy. I like the other oils a lot, too, as the steadily emptying bottles can attest – but this one speaks to my inner baker and dessert-aholic. The flavour reminds me of a lemon biscuit (cookie) that my Gran used to buy and that I now want to replicate. I wish it came in a bigger bottle!
Herby! I love the versatility of this oil. Good quality oil – as are all the others – that can be used in a variety of ways.
All in all I can safely say that I recommend these oils. The team at Nicer Foods has done a great job. The fresh flavours, combined with no ill reactions on my behalf, and a friend’s rave review of my shallot oil/sea salt salad dressing (“That’s all that was in the dressing?!”) makes this a win-win product in my books.
As much as I love Seattle, it does suck a little bit (at least), living literally half a world away from your family. Even more-so around holidays; Skype is great but it’s not the same as being there in person. It might be just another Hallmark Holiday to some but I do like having a chance to show my mum (and my dad, when it’s his turn) how much I am grateful for the time they spent caring for and raising me as a kid.
Given that I’m not going to make it to Melbourne by Sunday, even if I could, a phone call will have to do until we’re next together and I can make Mum her chocolate cake and Dad his pecan pie. But for those of you lucky enough to live in the same city as your family, here’s a collection of low FODMAP and gluten free recipes with which you can spoil your mum, whether you chose morning tea, brunch (my favourite) or just fitting it in whenever you can. Hopefully there’s a variety to suit everyone’s needs, including vegan/dairy free, some healthy and others not so much.
There are twenty-seven recipes, one for each year that my beautiful Mum has
put up with been graced by my presence.
I have my priorities sorted, thank you.
Updated on 28.01.17
For reasons that I have mentioned before, it is crucial to get tested for Coeliac disease (CD) before you begin any elimination diets that cut out the gluten containing grains – this includes the low FODMAP diet, which eliminates wheat, barley and rye for the two month elimination period due to their fructan content. Oats also contain a protein called avenin, which is very similar to gluten and can also cause issues in overly sensitive individuals. There are many reasons why it’s important to be correctly diagnosed (which includes ruling possible differential diagnoses out) but I’ll expand on the most relevant to fructose malabsorption (FM) or the low FODMAP diet.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition in which your body’s immune system reacts to the plant-protein gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives) in such a way that your small intestine lining becomes the target, causing damage to your small bowel and villous atrophy. Villous atrophy in turn leads to a reduced surface area for nutrient absorption, which can contribute to malnutrition, malabsorptive disorders, osteoporosis and many other secondary complications, such as an increased risk of certain cancers. To rule CD in or out, a blood test to check for tissue transglutaminase antibodies is performed and followed up with an endoscopy to confirm any damage to the small intestine.
Non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), on the other hand, is not as well understood. It is the label given to those who test negative for CD, yet are still apparently affected by gluten. One study suggests that it is not the gluten in the grains but the fructans (acting alone or in combination with the gluten) that are causing sufferers to be symptomatic. Other research hints that it might be an innate immune response, rather than the adaptive immune response of CD, which causes the reaction to gluten-full foods and leads to symptoms that are very similar to those experienced by Coeliacs. Because there is no science-based standardised test to check for NCGS, the diagnosis is one of elimination – other conditions, like CD or a wheat allergy, are ruled out but you find you still improve on a gluten free diet – and NCGS is the possibility that is left.
If you do in fact have undiagnosed CD or NCGS, the low FODMAP diet isn’t anywhere near strict enough to be considered safe for you, as after the elimination phase comes the reintroduction phase, in which you are encouraged to test out foods higher in fermentable carbohydrates – this includes offending grains, which will just make you sick again. If you have CD, you must limit your gluten exposure to basically nothing (less than 20 ppm in the USA is considered safe), so even a contaminated chopping board or deep fryer could make you sick, let alone testing out a full slice of bread. If you have already been diagnosed with CD, you can skip those foods, saving you time and gut hurt… or any of your other symptoms that are caused by gluten.
Furthermore, if you have undiagnosed CD or NCGS, once you have finished the elimination phase and begin to test out wheat, rye and barley, you’ll realise that they bring on symptoms (either IBS or other) and you won’t know whether FM or CD is behind them – and to test for CD, you need to have gluten in your system for an established autoimmune reaction to be visible. If you haven’t been eating gluten, any damage from CD, or any sign of the relevant antibodies, will begin to disappear, meaning that you may test negative, regardless of whether you have active Coeliac disease or not. This is called a false negative result.
If, for one reason or another, you find yourself having been on a long term gluten free diet, yet needing to test for Coeliac disease, there is unfortunately no other way to confirm the diagnosis than to complete a gluten challenge. Instructions vary slightly but, in general, it is recommended that every day, for somewhere between six to twelve weeks (ask your gastroenterologist what they would prefer), you must consume the equivalent of four slices of bread if you’re an adult, or two slices of bread if you’re a child.
After writing the previous post, it seems almost hypocritical to tell you that I had to complete a three month gluten challenge in 2014. You can read my diagnosis story here but, long story short, I tested negative to Coeliac disease (both the antibody blood test and endoscopy) back in 2006 but then tested positive for fructose malabsorption. However, after eating largely gluten free (I didn’t worry about minute levels of contamination), I found myself, at the beginning of 2014, experiencing worsening IBS symptoms and extreme fatigue/brain fog. Ev even asked if I was broken. Now, I felt pretty certain that the culprit was the spelt flour (non-sourdough) that I had been consuming, after reading that it was low FODMAP – note, only sourdough spelt is considered low FODMAP, I had just read inaccurate information. However, the question stood: was it the fructans or the gluten that was causing this relapse?
I know that many people out there would happily re-eliminate the spelt flour and move on with their lives – but I’m not one of them. If there’s a question, I’m the type of person who needs to know the answer. So, I spoke to my GP, who referred me to a gastroenterologist and I began a twelve week gluten challenge. However, I know that fructans in wheat (and to some extent, rye) make me sick – what was I to do? The answer to your low FODMAP gluten challenge question is: SEITAN.
Seitan is a vegan protein/meat replacement that is made from vital wheat gluten, which is normally 75-80% gluten – and coincidentally, registers as low FODMAP. Now, let’s do some maths… stand back.
You could just pop your seitan chunks like a form of medicine and be done with it but it was fun to experiment with it in cooking and I probably ended up consuming more than the 12.0 g of gluten on the days when we did so… which might have contributed to my gut’s unhappiness and the fatigue.
Based off Bob’s Red Mill’s basic seitan recipe.
In a large pot (I cannot emphasise this enough, seitan balloons!) bring the broth mixture to a boil.
Meanwhile, mix the gluten flour, herbs, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Slowly add in the stock and stir/knead until it’s a sponge-like dough. It should be tacky to the touch but not wet. Tip it out onto a well floured bench (use more gluten flour) and knead it for a minute or two, until it becomes tougher and more elastic.
Cut it into sixths, then roll them out into logs and divide each one into twenty. There you go, you now have 120 pieces and four pieces equals one daily serving of gluten for an adult.
Place the seitan dough in the boiling water and boil for one hour. Watch how it expands – I needed to swap saucepans halfway through.
After boiling, the seitan still isn’t good to eat. At this point, I like to think of it as “raw” meat. The flavour is nice, thanks to the spices, but the texture isn’t great. Spread the seitan out on a tray to dry, then use it in stir fries, pan fry it, bake it – it all works.
Pan fried seitan with mirepoix as a dipping sauce:
For those who were just curious, I hope you found this piece interesting. For those who have fructose malabsorption or IBS and need to complete a gluten challenge – good luck. I didn’t find it fun, in terms of fatigue, but I hope you fare differently.
After getting back to a normal diet (still no active Coeliac disease, phew), I have learnt that I can cope with a bit of gluten every now and then, so it’s clearly not as big of an issue for me as the fructans are. Luckily, that means that I can still enjoy (proper) sourdough breads in moderation. Yum.
This post is intended for educational purposes only. Please run anything that I have written here by your doctor or dietitian (etc) to make sure it is suitable for your individual case.
In terms of FODMAPs, vital wheat gluten is generally considered low but it is not recommended for consumption during the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. As always, it’s best to not need to do a gluten challenge at all, by testing for gluten/wheat related conditions before an elimination diet has begun but this isn’t always possible, for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, you might react during a gluten challenge (that’s the point, after all); this method just minimises the chance of that reaction being due to the fructans in wheat as much as possible.
Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. I have already shared part one, so here goes part two:
“Last week I talked about fructose malabsorption, its link to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the similarities it shares with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This week, I will expand on the “fructose friendly” dietary management strategy for fructose malabsorption – the complete low FODMAP diet – that is gaining traction as the frontline dietary method for combating IBS symptoms.
IBS is generally understood as a long-term or recurrent disorder involving the function of your gastrointestinal system, usually due to imbalances of intestinal motility, function and sensation, leading to symptoms of digestive distress. It is a common occurrence in Western countries, with up to 30% of the population being affected at some point in their lives, women generally more-so than men.
What are FODMAPs?
“FODMAPs” is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols and describes a group of readily fermentable carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestines of some people; if these carbohydrates are not broken down and/or transported through the intestinal wall and into your blood stream, they continue down into your colon, where the resident gut bacteria digest them, leading to a build-up of certain gases and short chain fatty acids, which can alter the water content of your large intestine. These products of fermentation are the causes for the wind, bloating, abdominal cramps/pain and altered bowel movements that you associate with your fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance or IBS.
The list of FODMAPs includes:
There are hydrogen/methane breath tests that can check whether you malabsorb fructose, lactose and/or sorbitol but the other FODMAPs must be properly eliminated and then tested with a reintroduction trial (outlined below) to know whether they are causing your symptoms…”
Once again, let me know what you guys think! I sincerely hope I didn’t miss anything out – I’m planning on writing more about the links between carbohydrate malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies soon, when I have some time over the holidays.
Thank you for taking the time to read it! Have a great weekend guys – and stay tuned for the easy to make chocolate peanut butter cookie ball recipe that’s very coming soon.
Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. Here goes part one:
“So you’ve gone gluten free. You had coeliac disease ruled out first – as you should – but you still felt that wheat was a big trigger for your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You feel better off wheat – less bloated, more energy – but you’re not quite 100 %. What could it be?
I’m sure that many of you have by now heard of the study behind the media storm that apparently refutes the existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Gluten is a protein that is common to the grains wheat, barley and rye. Contrary to what many of those journalists would have you believe, the researchers did not say that people who identify with NCGS are imagining it; rather, that it might actually be a different component of wheat, other than gluten, or in combination with it, that is causing them to experience IBS-like symptoms, including digestive distress, bloating and others, such as fatigue.
What then could be the culprit behind your wheat-triggered IBS? The answer: it might be fructans (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS). Fructans coincidentally happen to be found in large enough amounts to cause symptoms in the gluten containing grains, which includes all varieties of wheat, barley and rye; and they, along with fructose, made my first year of university… let us just say, “interesting.”
Growing up, I always had a fussy gut. When I was going through the last two years of secondary school, it got a little worse but not bad enough for me to really take notice, other than joke about it with friends. It was not until I was in my first year of university that it really got going, dictating not only the parties I could go to but things as seemingly insignificant as which seat I would take in the lecture theatres and what I could wear (think room for bloating). Luckily, my mum had an eye on me and about half way through the year (after end of semester exams really took their toll on my IBS) she read an article about coeliac disease. Digestive distress, nausea, fatigue, brain fog… I ticked most of the boxes, however, I did not have active coeliac disease. My gastroenterologist (since retired) had a game plan though and the next thing I knew I was being sent off to have hydrogen/methane breath tests to check for both lactose and fructose malabsorption*.
I had heard of lactose intolerance before, but fructose malabsorption? Well, fructose malabsorption was my answer and explained why the gluten free diet that my GP had advised me to trial earlier had helped significantly – but not completely…”
Let me know what you guys think and please share – as awareness of fructose malabsorption spreads, it is more likely that people will be correctly diagnosed and the variety of food choices for us will increase, both at restaurants and in supermarkets.
Read part two here.
Have a great night!