Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

These gluten free and low lactose Portuguese inspired custard tarts are quick, easy and tasty – adjectives I don’t tend to associate with free-from baking!

While food shopping last week I spotted a product I got really excited about.

Silly Yak gluten free ready to roll pastry block

Silly Yak’s gluten free, Ready to Roll Pastry Block.

That’s going straight in my basket.

This is something I haven’t really seen before, and because every homemade GF dough/pastry I’ve attempted so far hasn’t really worked, I was definitely ready to roll with this.

One thing I will say is that this isn’t suitable for freezing, so you will need to buy it and use it within the sell by date. Seeing that I had reached this date and the pastry was indeed starting to look a little sad, I decided to make some quick little Portuguese style custard tarts, inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe video from 30 Minute Meals. These are gluten free, low in lactose (just a little yoghurt but we’re allowed 2 tbsp a day, so even if you went ape and ate all the tarts at once… you’d probably be ok). They’re almost totally low FODMAP – be aware there is soya flour in the pastry block.

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

You will need:

1 x block of Silly Yak Gluten Free Ready to Roll Pastry Block
sprinkle of cinnamon..
butter (for greasing)

For the custard:
1 large egg
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tbsp caster sugar
grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1 tsp vanilla paste


Makes 6 custard tarts.

Heat your oven to 200C.

Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface – I used gluten free but a little plain flour would have been ok too. This pastry is quite sticky so you may want to flour your rolling pin too. Roll it out to about a centimetre thick – and then sprinkle a good pinch of cinnamon over the pastry.

Using a large circular cookie cutter (or floured glass if you don’t have), cut out as many tarts as your pastry will allow. I made six, but had some leftover custard so just see how you go – it’s likely that if you stick to the sell by date (unlike me), you won’t have to trim any pastry away (like me!)

Now grease a muffin tin (or better yet, use a silicone one) and press each pastry circle into the base of each hole and pull them up the sides too. Blind bake for about ten minutes.

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

Now it’s time to make the custard.

In a bowl, whisk together your custard ingredients. Again I can’t stress enough how much better this recipe will be if you use the vanilla paste rather than just vanilla extract. Trust me – invest in the paste, it’s so much more potent and will go way further than vanilla extract anyway in anything you’re making.

Once the tarts are almost baked (prick the bottoms to see if they’ve firmed up before adding the custard), spoon your custard into each one – be brave and fill nearly to the top! The custard will set and they will firm up once in the oven.

Bake for about 8 minutes – just keep your eye on them.

These really are so quick and easy to make and it feels like a real treat to be able to eat something warm and comforting straight from the oven – I think largely because it’s a very convincing pastry – which I’m not used to nowadays. I think this kind of product is a testament to the fact that wheat free products are really coming along – and it’s exciting!

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts


Easy peasy Pad Thai

Easy peasy Pad Thai

This easy peasy, low FODMAP pad thai is top drawer comfort food. Once again I slightly cheated with peanut butter, but why not – life’s too short and my beloved peanut butter needs to be put to use now that I can’t have lashings of it on fluffy white bread (sob). If you feel this pain, I suggest you channel your grief for peanut butter sandwiches with this delicious pad thai like I did last night.

you will need:

1 x nest of thick rice noodles
2 x spring onions (green parts only, you know the drill)
3 x tsp fish sauce
1 x small chilli / smattering of chilli flakes
2 x tsp tamarind paste
2 x tbsp crunchy peanut butter
garlic oil
1 x lime
optional: a portion of fully defrosted prawns or chicken, bean sprouts, or other veggies – I used some bok choi which was nice! Coriander finishes the dish off nicely too.

Slice your spring onions, and any additional ingredients such as chicken or vegetables that need it. Pop your rice noodles in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.

Add some garlic oil to a pan / wok and fry spring onions with the chilli and any meat that you’re using. Add any vegetables in once your meat is cooked. Mix together the tamarind, peanut butter, fish sauce and a good squeeze of lime in a mug. When all ingredients are cooked to your liking, add this to the stir fry. Stir through as best you can, removing the pan from the heat if necessary.

Drain the noodles, reserving a little water, and add them to the pan. The water will loosen the stir fry and sauce a little bit. Stir until the noodles are well coated, and dish up. Serve up with a slice of lime and some fresh chopped coriander.

Beetroot and orange quinoa, millet and red rice salad with fried halloumi

Beetroot and orange quinoa salad with fried halloumi

How cheerful does this blushing beetroot salad look on an Autumn day?

Our family had a rare girls-only dinner last week when all the males were away – so we wanted to make the most of it with a meat-free dinner that was healthy but still hearty. Enter this little number.

This used a lot of weird, lonely looking ingredients in our kitchen which is extremely satisfying: three pitiful portion sizes of quinoa, millet and red rice, dwelling miserably at the bottom of three separate plastic packets… as well a sad looking orange, some parsley and some halloumi which, although it was well in date, was on its way to becoming a fridge relic, in danger of soon being forgotten about I think.

Beetroot and orange quinoa salad with fried halloumi

Herby, earthy, zesty, salty and dare I say it… wholesome.


200g mixed quinoa, red (or brown) rice, millet (whatever you have really)
4 cooked beetroots (unpickled), and remember to keep portions down to 4 slices
1 orange
handful of chopped parsley
handful of chopped mint
glug of olive oil
big squeeze of lemon juice
1 x packet of halloumi, sliced.

Firstly, rinse and cook your grains / psuedocereals / whatever they may be, so that you have a filling, comforting cooked base for your salad.

While they are cooking, chop your beetroot and herbs. Zest your orange, then chop it up into smallish, bitesized chunks. Heat a griddle pan on a very high heat. Add your salad ingredients to the grains and mix well. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over it, along with a good squeeze of lemon, adding pepper, but not too much salt (remember halloumi is going on top).

The grains will turn a gorgeous pinky colour (thanks to the beetroot) – be sure to taste it and play with the dressing depending on what you think it needs. The orange I used turned out to be very sweet which was a bit of a shame, so I had to compensate with more acidity – but if your orange is particularly tart and the zest is coming through, then you may want to add more oil, or indeed nothing at all.

Once it’s hot, toast some mixed seeds in the dry pan. Remove from the pan once popping around a little. Now it’s time to add some oil and fry your halloumi. This is best done in a scorching hot pan – be careful with the oil, which will spit as you add it, and you just want to sear both sides of the cheese, at which point you can turn down the heat if you want to.

Add the halloumi and the seeds to the salad when you’re ready to serve.


Orange Polenta Cake with orange and cardamom syrup

Orange polenta cake with orange and cardamom syrup

I’ve sampled two polenta cakes in London over the past few months. The really standout one came from Lily Vanilli Bakery just off Columbia Road. It was a very simple polenta slice topped with black sesame seeds, I think using olive oil rather than butter, which gave it such a gorgeous and distinctive flavour that I haven’t really stopped thinking about since.

Lily Vanilli Bakery

Since that heavenly cake, I’ve been keen to attempt my own. The mood really struck me last week, cold and hungry for cake. I dug out my slightly neglected pack of polenta and decided on a buttery version of the cake over olive oil, just to try things out. It seemed to go down really well, and take it from someone who is definitely not a baker (yet, anyway), it was a totally not-a-palaver polenta cake.

Orange polenta cake with orange and cardamom syrup

you will need:

for the cake

200unsalted butter at room temperature (plus some for greasing)
200caster sugar (we always like to use golden for a nicer colour)
200ground almonds
100fine polenta (or cornmeal)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
large eggs
zest of  oranges

for the syrup

juice of  3 oranges
125g caster sugar
5 cardamom pods, crushed

Heat the oven to 180°C / 340°F. (Aga users, use the baking oven if you have)

Dig out a 9inch springform tin, or any size you have really, as polenta cakes still look lovely when they’re quite flat and disc like. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper and grease the sides with some butter.

Keep the butter out to soften and weigh out your ingredients.

You can buy ground almonds easily, but I had a load in the larder so decided to blanch and grind my own almond meal. Very easy, just a bit time consuming and requires a food processor / mini chopper (my weapon of choice). To do this, weigh out 200g of the almonds and boil the kettle. Cover the almonds in a large bowl with boiling water and leave to soak for a good 5 minutes. Drain and fill the bowl with cold water. Stick something very diverting on your nearest device and get going. Took me about half an hour but was really easy, you literally just squeeze the almond out of the skins, which will be loose. I found it weirdly therapeutic, but if this sounds like hell to you then treat yourself to the pre-ground stuff.

Once your almonds are all naked, dry them with some kitchen towel and lay them out somewhere warm to just dry off completely. You’re going to need to grind these in a food processor of some kind, so you don’t want them to be wet or it’ll just smush down and be a nightmare. Once dry, add to a food processor / mini chopper in batches and grind into a slightly grainy meal.

While they’re drying, zest two oranges and squeeze the juice from three. Set aside.

Chop your butter into cubes to make it easier to work with, and once it seems reasonably malleable beat together the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. You can use a food processor I guess on a mix setting too.

When you’ve combined the butter and sugar and ground your almonds, in a separate bowl you can mix together your gorgeous golden polenta, almonds and baking powder.

Now we can make the cake! Add a third of the butter / sugar mix to the dry ingredients and combine, then add an egg and beat in. Add another third of the butter / sugar, beat, add an egg, beat, and continue to do this until everything’s combined. Add the orange zest last and beat together. Scoop mixture into the tin and even out before popping in the oven for about 40 mins.

Mine was catching slightly after about 30 minutes but still not cooked (a curse often thrown upon me when I bake… I blame the Aga) at which point I put some foil over it and carried on cooking it, actually for a further 15 / 20 minutes. My advice would be to use a skewer to check the cake very carefully – it’s wobbly before it cools, which is normal but you do want the skewer to be clean. Be careful though, I think prodding mine with a knife caused it to sink quite badly!

Take out and allow to cool in it’s tin on a wire rack. Don’t remove from the tin until you’re ready to serve.

This is a sweet cake that doesn’t necessarily need the syrup at all. It does add to it though, and I think is worth doing. To make it, combine the crushed cardamom, orange juice and sugar in a pan on a low heat and allow to thicken and reduce. When ready to serve, prick the cake all over slightly with a skewer and then brush the syrup all over it and take out the tin when ready to serve.

I know this is delicious served up with a dollop of creme fraiche for the rest of the family / friends, but it’s also really good with a spoonful of plain yoghurt to balance out the sweetness. Less than 2 spoonfuls are low lactose and should be tolerated by most of us!

I’m so glad I finally made this cake – it’s such a comforting treat. I can’t wait to make it again!

Orange Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom Syrup