Food reviews and recipes

The Cake and Bake Show 2014 [gluten free]

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the Cake and Bake Show 2014, which took place in the exhibition centre at Earl’s Court (thanks, Baking Mad!).

Cake and Bake Show 2014

The centre was filled stalls of every baked confectionery imaginable. Brownies, macarons, cupcakes, you name it – they had it. There were also the most tempting sausage rolls I’ve ever seen (blood pudding and apple, anyone?), as well as stands with the latest must-have culinary gadgets.

I was really impressed with a lot of the baking that I saw. I couldn’t really believe some of the things were cakes – not all of them looked particularly appetising, but they were certainly works of art. The subjects of the following pictures are all edible.

Scary cake - cake and bake show 2014 bear macarons monkey cake and bake show 2014 paul and mary cake and bake show 2014

(Yes, that is Mary Berry on a unicorn and Paul Hollywood as a zombie.)

troll cake and bake show 2014High heel cake and bake show 2014

On the stages there were various demonstrations and competitions. The crowd was going wild at the sight of some of the celebrity bakers – and I was expecting everyone to be fairly civilised!

As a gluten free baker, I was really interested to see some of the latest trends in GF baking, and to see if there were any special flours I could purchase.

No luck on the flour front, but there were a couple of gluten free brands that I was really impressed with, that I’d like to feature.

One of the biggest qualms I have with gluten free baking is that it often gets relegated to the realm of ‘healthy eating’, or ‘health food’. The only places you can really get a big selection of gluten free flours and products are often health food shops, and, while this is all very well, it doesn’t do much for someone like me who loves baking. I’m definitely more into the aesthetic side of baking – in fact, I don’t really like cake. At all. But I love decorating and baking.

Which is why whenever I see any gluten free baked goods for inspiration, I’m always a tad disappointed. There’s a lot of brown, and it’s not very pretty. So when I came across the Mr. Prempy’s stand, I looked admiringly and then walked away at first, thinking that it was too pretty to be gluten free. But I was in luck – their products are gluten-free, dairy-free and all that jazz, but they look amazing too! I took home a Gerald, a lime and ginger cheesecake made from cashews and coconut oil.

Mr Prempys Gerald cake Mr Prempys cake

The other discovery I made at the show was the visually exquisite work of the Meringue Girls.

Meringue girls cake and bake show 2014 Meringue girls cake and bake show 2014

I have never had meringues like these before. The variety of colours and flavours were amazing. Watermelon, raspberry, lavender, pistachio and rose and salted caramel were among the few I tried. I was absolutely gutted when I found out they’d run out of gin and tonic flavoured ones. I brought a few home with me, and I’m afraid to say these have become my new obsession. The Meringue Girls also do classes, so I’m definitely going to try and get myself on one of them soon.

Meringue girls Meringue girls Meringue girls

Although I enjoyed myself at the Cake and Bake Show, I would’ve liked to see more savoury baking present. Gluten-free baking particularly: I would’ve loved to see some GF pies, or sausage rolls (especially that blood pudding and apple one!). I didn’t manage to spot any gluten-free bread, either. I’d like to see a stall next year filled with all sorts of savoury gluten free baked goods – if not, I might just have to set up a stand of my own!

Gluten-free Billington’s Brownies #Bakeface

Last week, I got an adorable hamper through the post from the lovely The challenge? To show them my best #bakeface – the face you make when you take the all-important first bite of something deliciously warm and fresh out of the oven.

Billingtons HamperBillingtons Bakeface Hamper

The recipe provided was for Billington’s Brownies – gooey, chocolatey and indulgent, with cherries throughout. I deviated from the recipe provided to make it gluten-free, of course.

Gluten-free Billington's Brownies #Bakeface
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This delicious and indulgent gluten-free chocolate brownie recipe is perfect for afternoon tea.
Recipe type: Baking, Gluten-free
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: Dozen
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g Billington’s dark muscovado sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and milk)
  • 110g gluten free plain flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g glace cherries
  • pinch of salt
  1. To make the brownies gluten free, I used gluten free flour (shocker).
  2. I followed the recipe on the site, with two exceptions.
  3. While you are folding the flour in, add the cocoa powder and baking powder for best results.
  4. I also combined dark and milk chocolate – I’d like to say for a deeper, more complex flavour.
  5. (I’d run out of dark chocolate).

Gluten free billingtons brownies Gluten free Billingtons BrownieGluten free brownies Gluten free billingtons brownies

The #Bakeface challenge was a great excuse to bake something I wouldn’t usually – and I had a great time! Here’s my bakeface below – although I’m not eating that particular gluten-filled brownie – taken at the Cake and Bake Show, which I will be covering in my next post!

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Uncle Katsuyuki’s Japanese Fried Chicken [gluten free]

I love fried chicken, especially when it’s done right. My favourite is the Japanese twist on the dish, known as karaage. I’ve wanted to do this recipe on the blog for a while: the soy sauce marinade gives it a wonderful flavour, and it goes perfectly with a nice cold beer.

Gluten free karaage japanese fried chicken

Unfortunately, his version contains soy sauce, wheat flour and shaoxing wine, all containing gluten. I’ve adapted my recipe to be gluten free, and honestly? Not that much difference flavour. If anything, it tastes better. Being gluten free means you have to be creative with your ingredients, and it’s been fun discovering what works and what doesn’t. In this case, I substituted the flour for potato starch. Potato starch, known as katakuriko in Japanese, is what is usually used to coat karaage in Japan: just not in my family – until now! And once again, I can sing along to this classic by Ms. Peachez:


For a piece of my fingerlickin’ Japanese fried chicken, you’ll need:

Uncle Katsuyuki's Japanese Fried Chicken [gluten free]
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Serves: 4 portions
  • 500g chicken thighs
  • 3 tsp tamari (gluten free) soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sherry
  • 1tsp mirin (Japanese cooking wine, available at most supermarkets)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp potato starch (I used Encona)
  • kitchen roll
  • lemon to serve
  1. First, trim the thighs and discard any skin and excess fat, and cut into cubes.
  2. I would really recommend using chicken thighs for this recipe.
  3. It’s cheaper than breast meat, and almost always more moist and flavourful.
  4. Put the thighs in the bowl, and add the tamari, mirin and crushed garlic.
  5. Let it marinate in the fridge for at least an hour – for extra flavour, leave it overnight.
  6. After the hour, remove the chicken from the fridge and set to one side.
  7. Heat up enough oil in the pan on a high temperature so the cubes will be at least half submerged.
  8. While the oil is heating, wipe off each piece of chicken lightly with some kitchen roll and dab dry. This ensures that the marinade doesn’t drip, and removes the crushed garlic.
  9. Pour the potato starch on the plate, and lightly roll each chicken piece until coated.
  10. Try putting a wooden spoon or chopsticks in the pan of oil: if it bubbles around it, it’s ready.
  11. Start frying the chicken until brown and crispy.
  12. Once the chicken has fried, pop the pieces on a plate covered in kitchen roll to catch the oil.

Encona potato stach gluten freePotato starch japanese fried chicken karaage blue platepotato starch japanese fried chicken karaage recipegluten free japanese fried chicken karaage recipejapanese fried chicken karaage gluten free recipe

Serve with a squeeze of lemon. Mr. A and I had it ours with some miso soup and rice, but they work perfectly as an appetizer too!

gluten free japanese fried chicken recipeestrella damm daura gluten free beer

And as for the cold beer? I’ve discovered Estrella Damm Daura gluten free beer – was expecting the worst, and was so very pleasantly surprised. No difference in taste, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to my version of Uncle Katsuyuki’s famous dish!

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Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies [gluten-free]

I’ve begun to experiment more with gluten-free baking, and with Japanese ingredients in particular, which I’ve found are usually low in gluten anyway. Kinako is a Japanese roasted soybean flour, frequently used in Japanese confectionery. I’d never used it for baking before, but as it’s gluten free I thought I’d have a go at a cookie recipe.

kinako flour (gluten-free)

Kinako has a nutty flavour, with the texture of icing sugar or flour. The taste is subtle, and reminiscent of maple syrup or peanut butter. Kinako, which means ‘yellow flour’ in Japanese can be made fairly easily: if you are lucky enough to have a thermomix, you simply blend roasted soybeans into a light powder. For those of us who don’t, you can get your hands on it here in the UK, and on Amazon in the US (here).

One of my favourite ways of eating kinako is ohagi, which is a Japanese dessert. I’m also a massive fan of mixing kinako with vanilla ice cream. For breakfast, my grandmother occasionally eats plain yogurt topped with kinako powder, dried blueberries and a brown sugar syrup. This was my inspiration for these cookies, and I think they turned out really well!

They have a soft, crumbly texture, similar to Russian teacakes. This recipe makes 12 cookies.

Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)

Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies [gluten-free]
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These kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies are a gluten-free tea-time treat, perfect with a cup of green tea.
Recipe type: Gluten-Free
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: Dozen
  • 100g salted butter
  • 50g muscovado sugar
  • 5g sesame seeds
  • 25g dried blueberries
  • 130g kinako (roasted soybean) flour
  • 2tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 25g icing sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (celsius).
  2. Whip the butter and sugar until creamy, then fold the egg in gently.
  3. Add the kinako, baking powder, blueberries and sesame (saving some of the seeds for later).
  4. On a lined baking tray, separate the batter into balls, and top with the remaining sesame seeds.
  5. Pop the cookies into the oven for 15 minutes, until the sesame seeds have toasted.
  6. Place on a baking tray to cool, but be careful as they are very crumbly!
  7. Once the cookies have slightly cooled, top with icing sugar.
Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)Kinako cookies topped with sesame seeds (gluten-free)Kinako cookies (gluten-free)Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)

Serve with a cup of hojicha (roasted green tea), or a pot of English Breakfast!

Kinako, blueberry and sesame cookies (gluten-free)

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Islandbell goes gluten-free

The last few weeks have flown by, and so much has changed! Firstly, I left my job, which is always bittersweet – terrifying, but exciting. Secondly, after several visits to the doctor it has emerged that I am gluten-intolerant. In all honesty, I thought that the change would be more dramatic than it has been – luckily I’ve always been more of a rice fan, so my diet hasn’t changed too drastically. I’m excited to explore a whole new area of baking and cooking and I can’t wait to document that journey on this blog.

So far, my local Planet Organic has been an absolute savior. Although most mainstream supermarkets to cater to coeliacs and gluten intolerant people there is such a great selection at Planet Organic that it’s been the only place so far I don’t feel like I’m strapped for choice.

Planet Organic Gluten free haul

One of the first things I invested in after finding out was a spiralizer. I’d read so much about them on other food blogs and I am so happy with mine! Pasta is definitely a major staple at ours, and this gluten and carb free version even impressed the resident sceptic.


First thing I tried out was a Thai green chicken curry (recipe here) with courgette noodles. It was perfect for a hot day, as the heat from the sauce and the crisp noodles really went well together.

Thai green curry courgette noodles

I’m really excited for this new direction and I can’t wait to see where it goes.