This week you proved there are no limits to free-from food., and the stories behind your recipes this week were as intriguing as the dishes themselves. Jenny Barret tells us how, as a child, she discovered crisp, doughy bhajis after gluten-rich cakes had suddenly become off-limits. On the savoury side, Fadime's cornbread with fragrant dill and salty halloumi recalls a childhood among Kurdish pastures and the smell of fresh bread. It makes for a hearty breakfast with sliced tomatoes, and is just as good packed up for lunch. Meanwhile, Rachel Kelly's devotion to her friends knows no bounds, and you can discover how she baked them a perfect gluten-free pizza base below.
The gluten-free theme also seems to have attracted the sweet-toothed among you, as Sophie James' rich and moreish bitter chocolate and olive oil cake attests.
My recipe of the week, though, is a celebration of glorious apples from TwinnyDip, with caramelised almonds for added crunch - all wrapped up in a light, cinnamon-spiked cake batter. Who needs pastry when an apple pud can be as good as this?
This thousand layer apple cake is time consuming to prepare, but all the effort is worth it when you cut a slice to reveal how pretty it looks.
1 In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, lemon juice and salt, then cover with water and stir. Peel and core the apples, then slice as thinly as possible. Put them in the sugar and lemon juice solution, then add more water until completely covered. Set aside.
2 To prepare the batter, combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the butter, then add the eggs and milk, and mix well.
3 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 20cm-diameter baking tin (preferably with a loose bottom). Drain the sliced apples and lightly pat them with a kitchen towel to prevent a soggy cake. Arrange all the apples in the baking tin in multiple layers so they overlap slightly. Pour the batter over the apples. Tap the tin against the work surface, then set aside for 5-10 minutes to let the batter seep through. Bake the cake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown on top and set, and the apples are soft.
4 Meanwhile, prepare the topping. In a saucepan, heat the butter on a low to medium heat. When melted, add the sugar and a small pinch of salt. Stir until the sugar is melted and mixed well with the butter. Turn off the heat and add the almond flakes. Mix well.
5 Pour the almond/butter mixture on to the cake. Bake for a further 12-15 minutes, until the almond flakes are also golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Gluten-free options are so much better now than when I was a child over 30 years ago. For kids not allowed to eat bread, pastry or cakes, the doughy texture of bhajis - made from gram flour - was so good!
1 Heat the cumin, coriander, mustard and fennel seeds in a dry pan till toasted, then grind in a pestle and mortar.
2 Add the spice mix, salt and turmeric to the gram flour. Add the lemon juice and enough water to form a thick batter. Stir in the fresh chilli and coriander, then set aside.
3 Set the oven to 125C/275F/gas mark 1, to keep the bhajis warm, then heat the oil in a saucepan to 180C/350F.
4 Take 1 tbsp of the mix, drop into the hot oil and cook till dark golden brown all over - around 3-5 minutes. You can cook a few at a time but don't overcrowd the pan - and make sure you take each one out as it's ready, replacing it with a new one, so you don't lower the oil temperature too much. Serve warm.
Almonds, extra virgin olive oil, the darkest chocolate ... rich, yet olive oil makes the crumb lighter and it also slumps delightfully once baked. Using almonds instead of flour means this cake keeps very well, becoming moister by the day. Serve with thin lapping cream and a sprinkling of flaky salt. Hard to resist.
1 Put a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 170C/335F/gas mark 3½. Grease a 20cm-diameter cake tin with a bit of olive oil. If using whole almonds (recommended) toast them for a minute or so over a medium heat until they start to smell nice and turn a little golden. Then grind them with the cocoa powder in a blender or coffee grinder until powdery but with a few stray bits of nut left, for texture. If using ground almonds, combine with the cocoa powder.
2 Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. As it begins to melt, add the oil and the pinch of sea salt and stir. Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk in ⅔ of the sugar, and the almond mixture, until combined.
3 Whisk in the egg yolks. If the mixture starts to get cold, it may "seize" or look grainy. If this happens, place the bowl back over the simmering pan and stir until it loosens again.
4 Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl and whisk until just frothy. Then add the cream of tartar and continue until foamy. Sprinkle in the remaining sugar, continuing to whisk until the whites hold soft peaks.
5 Without delay, use a rubber spatula to stir a small portion of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the remaining whites until the batter is just combined and no streaks remain.
6 Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth out the top and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let the cake cool completely, then remove from the pan and sprinkle with sea salt. The cake improves with time, courtesy of the almonds.
Pizza is one of the dishes that I know my friends on a gluten-free diet miss the most. So I just use socca, a chickpea pancake, as my dough base. Now I am not sure whether I don't actually prefer it... Because this is nothing if not inauthentic, I decided to top my "pizza" base with the sort of thing that you'd have on a Turkish "pide" - a sort of pizza bread.
1 Combine the chickpea flour and salt. Slowly whisk in the water until a smooth batter forms. Set aside for about 1 hour to rest while you make the filling.
2 Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the onion for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
3 Add the mince and fry until it begins to colour. Add the aubergine and combine well in the oily mixture. Cook for 2-3 mins. Add the ground spices and stir well until combined.
4 Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir well and add water or stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 mins. (Add more liquid to prevent the stew from drying out.) If using as a topping for socca, turn up the heat to reduce the liquid.
5 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Add 3 tbsp olive oil, the chilli flakes and rosemary to the batter and stir to combine.
6 Add about 1-2 tbsp olive oil to an ovenproof frying pan. When the oil is sizzling hot, ladle in the batter. Immediately put in the oven and cook for 12 minutes.
7 Top with the lamb mix, crumbled feta and coriander, then return to the oven for 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Wild herbs are used in so many ways in Kurdish cooking. As soon as the spring arrived Kurds used to move to mountain pastures with their herds. In the village I grew up in, I was so fond of this warm bread baked with various herbs on iron stoves. You can have it with a simple mixed or greek salad, or with sliced tomatoes, olives and a cup of tea as part of a traditional Kurdish breakfast.
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Oil and line the base and sides of a 25cm-diameter cake tin with baking paper.
2 Combine the polentas, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the oil with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the cold water while stirring, then the hot water, until you get a cake mixture consistency. Set aside.
3 Finely chop all the herbs and the spring onions together (or use a food processor) and mix in the cheese. Combine the herb-and-cheese mix and the batter, then pour it into the tin.
This cake is truly wonderful. Growing up in South Africa and long before carrot cakes were in vogue, my mother "invented" this wonderful hazelnut cake. She realised that by adding finely grated carrot to the finely chopped nuts, she was able to produce a beautifully moist cake. It was a firm family favourite, being very light and not at all rich.
1 Grease and line the base of a 25cm springform tin, then beat the yolks with the sugar and salt until snow-white.
2 Fold in the ground hazelnuts, then fold in the grated carrot. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then pour into the springform tin, heaping the mixture in the centre.
3 Bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 1 hour, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely before icing.
4 Make the icing by mMeanwhile, mix the icing sugar with the rum and only a few drops of boiling water to . It should have a thin spreading consistency. Spread thinly over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip over the edges. It will harden as it dries.
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