Sunday, 28 February 2016

Recipe: Gluten-Free Stem Ginger Biscuits

I had the loveliest Saturday this weekend. Usually, my weekends are chock-a-block with plans but this Saturday, the mister was out on a course all day and my diary was free. I decided to spend the day just pottering at home - giving the place a good spring clean (haven't the blue skies this week made you want to throw open the windows and give everything an airing?!), cooking a delicious dinner and doing a spot of baking.

I love to bake but I don't get to do it as often as I'd like to...although that's probably a good thing because home-baked treats never last too long in our house! As we're off the chocolate at the moment, I decided to bake a batch of stem ginger biscuits, which always go down well. (I use a recipe found in a book called 'the gluten-free baker' which I wholeheartedly recommend for coeliacs with a sweet tooth, like myself.)

You'll need the following:
Apparently the sun had gone in when I
started baking...

♥ 160g gluten free self-raising flour
♥ 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
♥ 180g ground almonds
♥ 180g granulated sugar
♥ 2 teaspoons ground ginger
♥ zest of 2 limes
♥ 125g butter
♥ 6 pieces of stem ginger (chop them quite finely) - use the stem ginger in syrup because you'll also need 3 tablespoons of the syrup from the jar

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (/gas mark 4).

Combine all the 'dry' ingredients in a mixing bowl (flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds, sugar, ground ginger and lime zest) and stir together well.

Yum! They're like sweets!
Chop the stem ginger pieces as finely as you like - without nibbling pieces as you go along, if you can.

Melt the butter with the ginger syrup over a low heat and let this cool for a short while, before adding it to the mixing bowl with the chopped ginger. Mix it all together - you might find that some of the mixture remains quite dry but don't worry about this.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and take about a tablespoon of the mixture at a time. I usually roll each spoonful almost into a ball because sometimes the mixture needs a little 'encouragement' to stay together and the mixture does spread out during the baking process.

Less than 20 - definitely a post-cuppa shot.
The mixture should make about 20 biscuits, so you may need to bake in batches depending on the size of your tray...and oven. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the biscuits are a gorgeous golden brown in colour. They can still be a little soft and crumbly when you take them out of the oven so it's best to let them cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving them on to a wire rack to cool...if you're able to let them last that long.

Then put the kettle on, make a big pot of tea and enjoy. Bliss!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Getting Hyggey with it - Thoughts on 'The Year of Living Danishly'

Taken from my Instagram here
Ok ok, I know that title doesn't really work. 'Hygge' is actually pronounced 'hooga' but that didn't open itself up to quite so many obvious jokes, or at least the one that's sat above. What is hygge though and why am I so excited about it? Read on.

I had high expectations about this book - so many people had raved about it and mentioned wanting to move to Denmark afterwards, or at least recreating a little of Denmark at home. The author, Helen Russell, is persuaded to move from London to Denmark for a year after her husband gets a job at Lego. As a journalist, she decides to investigate why Denmark is labelled the happiest country in the world, speaking to famous names from Denmark's worlds of art, culture and education (to mention just a few). The book is divided up into the months of the year, focusing on a specific topic and discoveries that month, wrapped up with a 'things I've learned this month' section. If the book had simply focused on facts and statistics, I don't think I'd have kept reading but I really enjoyed discovering Danish culture through Helen's eyes, as she was even able to find the funny side of moving to a new country in January, when the cold and dark drives everyone indoors, and they're sternly reprimanded by their bearded neighbours (the Misters Beard) for running the wrong flag up their flag pole. It turns out that Denmark is a country that loves a rule, where tradition is keenly prized, where although the citizens are eye-wateringly taxed, they are really well looked after by the state and this fills them with a sense of national pride and people appear to genuinely trust each other.

Image found on Pinterest here
To be fair, I was hooked as soon as I picked up this book and opened the prologue, where Helen initially talks about her life in London. Phrases like "Sunday evenings had become characterised by a familiar tightening in my chest at the prospect of the week ahead, and it was getting harder and harder to  keep from hitting the snooze button several times each morning" and "I was always trying to do too many things at once and always felt as though I was falling behind" felt terrifyingly familiar. I was keen to discover if there's anything I can do to try to avoid feeling like this all the time, without having to relocate to another country.


Trust, as I mentioned above, seems to be the key to happiness - making people around you happy, and yourself happier by not stressing so much. There's also so much importance placed on family and friends, which I love - the traditions and rituals which form a great part of Danish society all focus on spending more time with the people who are important to you. Doing activities outside work is massively encouraged - sport, craft, whatever you're interested in. As play forms a huge part of children's education, it's something we shouldn't stop doing as adults - life is to be enjoyed! And what about hygge, which after reading this book, seemed to be a concept I've spent my whole life looking for without realising it...

Image found here
I'd describe it as 'cosiness', about searching for contentment rather than perfection in life, about taking pleasure in the small things. Candlelight is an important part of hygge - the simple act of lighting a candle makes me feel calmer and there's nothing cosier than sitting in a room filled with flickering candle light or, the ultimate cosy, beside a roaring fire. When it's dark and cold outside, hygge is spending time with people you love, creating a warm and cosy environment and also just making time for yourself so that you become more content. That's not to be sniffed at.

Also, if this book doesn't leave you craving Danish pastries, then you're a stronger person than I am. They're hygge too, you know.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

40 days*

Image found via Pinterest here

I may have done something stupid.

I've decided to give up chocolate *gulp* AND crisps for Lent. 

I'm not a hugely religious person but I always usually try to give something up for this period, or do something special. There was a year or so after I was first diagnosed coeliac and felt like being forced to give up gluten was enough. That was before the gluten free options were so good though...now I definitely don't feel like I'm missing out on anything (apart from maybe fish and chips without planning waaay in advance because fish and chip shops that do gf nights usually do them during the week, when I crave them particularly on a Friday night... But I digress.)

Chocolate is my vice. I adore it. It's got to the point where I can happily munch through one of those large snack bags over the course of one evening, which as I only have about 2 hours by the time I get home from work and before I drag myself to bed, that's not a long time. And I'm always so hungry by the time I get home from work that I fall on crisps like a piranha. These are definitely not going to be easy things to give up over the next six weeks.

Perhaps I'm hoping that I'll be able to recondition myself into eating slightly more healthily? Hopefully it won't mean that I just line up larger quantities of cake and biscuits. That would not be good.

Are you giving anything up for Lent? Please tell me there's someone else doing this too - we could 'spot' each other, like at the gym. Is that even the right term?! I never go. I should have given up the gym, that would have been much easier.


* Looking at the calendar, Lent is actually 46 days...if the six Sundays are included. They're not usually because you don't have to fast on a holy day but that seems slightly like cheating. Well, we'll see how desperate I get for something chocolatey and delicious, or some kettle chips, or nachos. Wait, do nachos count as crisps?! Oh gosh, what have I done?!