Thursday 21 March 2013

Gluten-Free Baking For All The Family with Naomi Devlin

I feel very blessed to be living in an area of the UK where I still have access to local green grocers, bakeries, butchers, and fish mongers all on the high street with fabulous farm shops in the near vicinity too. That’s rare in this day and age so I’m a very happy bunny indeed to be living where I am.

We are near to River Cottage HQ, 10 mins from the coast and the ability to live a more free-range existance particularly for the children is much more possible here than it would have been if we’d settled back in the Home Counties again after returning from France.

Today’s post is by my lovely friend, homeopath and nutritionist, Naomi Devlin. She has a wealth of knowledge and one of her areas of expertise is with gluten-free cooking. I thought it would be great to have Naomi guest blog here to share with you some of the yummy gluten-free recipes you can do with your children. Gluten-free doesn’t have to mean tasteless.


When she was 11, Naomi moved to a commune in Dorset with her family. Home-schooled and rarely shod, she spent most of her waking hours digging in the walled garden, milking the jersey cows, tending fat chickens and learning to cook in the warm kitchen. With a garden to plunder, fresh, un-pasteurised milk and a larder stocked with dry goods, she learnt early to enjoy produce and maintained a real connection to the land.

Many years later, after a short career in costume and then fashion, she found herself drawn back to the land, to healing and food and away from the city. One pregnancy, a coeliac diagnosis and a training in homeopathy later – she embarked on a gluten free journey that continues to feed and inspire her.
She writes a blog, teaches Gluten Free at River Cottage, Lectures at homeopathic colleges and bootcamps and has a private practice in Bridport, Dorset. She is currently writing a book on Gluten Free Middle Eastern Cookery and has plans for a baking book.


Every parent wants to help their children eat well. Developing a healthy relationship with food starts with an awareness of where it comes from. Children can learn to press an onion to find if it’s gone soft, recognise different meats, nuts, fish or vegetables and experience produce in the raw, every time you go shopping together. Even those who aren’t lucky enough to live near a farm, can get a sense of ingredients and what to do with them. Growing food is another great way to get children involved – even just cress in an upturned eggshell, or some radishes on the windowsill. We need to be connected to our food from an early age, to shape our tastebuds and develop a sense of ourselves as people who cook from scratch.

If your child needs to eat gluten free, it’s important to give them the message that the food they eat is every bit as delicious, nutritious and exciting as what their friends eat. This doesn’t mean that you need to give them white bread versions of the foods they miss. Start educating them about the different gluten free flours, nut meals and starchy vegetables they can use for baking and by the time they leave for college, they’ll be able to cook for themselves, stay safe and be well nourished.

I often use ground almonds in my gluten free recipes, as they increase the fibre, protein and nutrient value, slowing down the rate at which starch is digested. You can substitute coconut flour if you have a child who cannot tolerate nuts, or ground sunflower seeds if they can eat these. I always aim to use nutritious wholegrain gluten free flours rather than gluten free flour mixes (such as Doves Farm) because these have very few nutrients and lots of fast release carbohydrate, that can upset blood sugar balance. This is the site I recommend for getting real, wholegrain gluten free flours from:

When you’re cooking with kids, step back as much as possible. Set things up so that spills are ok, bowls are hard to break and spoons are wooden! If they can read, let them have the recipe and be there as a facilitator rather than the sergeant major. You will notice their chests puff up with pride at the sense of achievement they get from producing something delicious in the alchemy of mixing bowl and oven. Ask them questions about what you’re doing together, laugh and feel that lovely camaraderie that baking a batch of muffins in a steamy kitchen can bring. Baking is very bonding when you do it right.

My son Finley is also celiac like me. Now 11, (as I was when I first started cooking seriously), he can bake a gluten free loaf, make truffles, cakes, muffins and pastry – inventing his own sugar free mincemeat at Christmas to fill his almond pastry cases.

Below I give you a selection of simple recipes – none of them require much more than weighing and mixing. Just have a cloth ready for the flour and a hand ready to catch any wayward eggs!

Raspberry Cupcakes  (Grain Free – makes 12)

Gluten Free Raspberry Cupcakes
Photo Credit: Naomi Devlin

These can be made as muffins – reduce the sugar if you like and add a couple more raspberries. Or you can go to town and dress them up with whipped cream topped by raspberries - arranged closely together to form a juicy red crown. In the Autumn choose blackberries and add a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon to the mix.

120g Organic Salted Butter (softened)
100g Light Muscovado Sugar
300g Ground Almonds (or half almond / half coconut)
100ml Maple Syrup
2 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
1 level tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
30g Golden Linseeds (crushed in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder)
4 Large Organic Eggs
2 tsp Cider Vinegar
48 Raspberries – approx 220g
Optional – swap vanilla for zest of a lemon and two tsp of juice

Line a 24 hole muffin tray with tall muffin cases. Or cut squares of baking parchment and press into the cavity, forming pleats with the spare paper.

In a mixing bowl beat together the sugar and soft butter until completely smooth and creamy. You can do this with an electric mixer – or make the whole thing in a food processor.

Beat in ground almonds until the mix looks like damp clumpy sand.

Beat in maple syrup, vanilla, bicarb (sieve if lumpy or dissolve in vanilla), & linseeds.

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat well between each egg until smooth again.

Finally beat in vinegar and if using lemon in place of vanilla, beat this in now too. Adding either of these any earlier will activate the bicarb and affect the rise.

Half fill cases with mixture and press a couple of raspberries in. Top with the rest of the mix and add another couple of raspberries, pressing them down a little.

If your raspberries are large, you may find that your muffins overflow their cases a little – I quite like this effect, although it does depend on the tray, as to how easy it is to pry the muffins off! A simple way to avoid this conundrum is to make your own cases as above, or line each hole with a strip of baking parchment that acts as a collar for the case – giving you a lovely high-rise cupcake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 160ºC (fan oven) until risen, firm and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Buckwheat Pancakes (makes 30 small ones) – delicious with maple syrup and butter, banana and yogurt, or even liver paté!

Buckwheat Pancakes
Photo Credit: Naomi Devlin

All you need to do is get prepared the day before and you'll wake up to a pancake batter all ready to go. A true fast food breakfast!

They can also be made, frozen on a tray and bagged up to use as handy snacks. Just sandwich a couple together with some butter and a bit of cheese for a snack on the go, or pop them under the grill to have hot.

I've used gelatin granules here for two reasons, firstly, to help the pancakes have body (in place of something like xanthan gum) and secondly, gelatine helps digestion of carbohydrates - Linseeds are also excellent.

American Cup Measures

1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour
1/8 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/8 cup Ground Almonds (or buckwheat flour or coconut flour to make these nut free)
1/2 cup Live Wholemilk Yogurt
1/4 cup Unhomogenised Whole Milk (preferably unpasteurised)
2 Large Free Range Eggs
Pinch Sea Salt
1 tsp Geltine Granules or 3 tsp crushed linseeds (flax seeds)
1/4 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda dissolved in 1 tbsp milk

24 hours before you plan to eat these pancakes, put buckwheat flour, rice flour and ground almonds (or alternative) in a bowl. Add milk and yogurt and give the whole thing a good stir. Set aside at room temperature for at least 12, but ideally 24 hours.

When you're ready to make pancakes, gently heat a heavy bottomed frying pan (skillet) and add a knob of your fat of choice (duck fat, beef fat, chicken fat, goose fat, lard, olive oil) - I wouldn't cook these in butter as it can burn quickly.

To the soaked flours add eggs, gelatine, salt and soda dissolved in a tbs of milk.

Beat well until smooth and add a touch more milk if it seems too stiff. It should be like softly whipped cream - American style batter, not a crepe batter.

Increase the heat under your pan to medium and add spoonfuls of the mixture. Wait until bubbles have risen to the surface and it starts to set (around 2 minutes), then flip gently with a palette knife and briefly cook the other side until golden (under a minute).

If your mix doesn't form bubbles in the pan, increase the heat slightly.

Hand straight onto waiting breakfast plates, or cool on a rack.

Poppy Seed Soda Bread – Slice and freeze so that you always have a slice handy for buttered toast and peanut butter after school.

Poppy Seed Soda Bread
Photo Credit: Naomi Devlin

This makes a very small loaf, double the quantities if you want a larger slice and cook for extra time.

Double line the inside of a small loaf tin or butter and flour it. Preheat the oven to 180C fan assisted, 200C if not.

Whisk the following together in a bowl until frothy.

100ml olive or almond oil
2 large eggs
3 tsp honey (or 2 tbs of maple syrup)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Sift these dry ingredients into the bowl.

2oz sorghum flour (or millet flour)
2oz white teff flour (or brown teff / buckwheat flour)
1 oz maize flour (or more ground almonds)
1 oz ground almonds (or coconut flour)
2oz brazil nut meal (or Brazils ground fine or more ground almonds, or other nuts)
2 tbs poppy seeds
4 tsp ground flax / linseed, or 25g crushed flax
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Sprinkle over the juice of half a lemon and 150ml soda water (plain water will do) and stir everything gently until mixed. Scrape into the loaf tin, level the surface and bake for 25-30 minutes until springy and deep golden brown on top. If you like a crisper crust, take the loaf out of the tin and give an extra 5 minutes in the oven.

Cool on a rack and eat when cool. Slice and freeze any you don't eat there and then, to toast for breakfast.

Soaked version: Put all the flours/nut meals/seeds, flax, cinnamon, lemon juice, oil, honey and water in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside overnight (for 12 - 24 hours) to soak at room temperature.

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven, prepare your tin and mix in all the other ingredients, beating well to get some air in and make sure that everything is well incorporated. Bake as above.

To read the full, original blog post article click here: 


If you would like to indulge further in Naomi's wonderful gluten free creations, then hop across to her fabulous blog, “Milk for the Morning Cake” here:

You can also follow her on Twitter: @naomidevlin


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