Book, spoons

Helen’s Chocolate Cupcake Mix

I was low on treat items for the children’s lunch boxes and more importantly in need of indulgence for myself.   After a brief rummage in the cupboard I discovered a packet of Helen’s Chocolate Cupcake Mix.

Helens chocolate cupcake mix 257x300 Helen’s Chocolate Cupcake Mix

Helen’s Chocolate Cupcake Mix
Picture courtesy Helen’s

Now, I’m not normally one for mixes, preferring to make things from scratch.  However, I’ve been sent a few of Helen’s mixes to try and have already reviewed her crumble mix which you can read about here.

Whilst it slightly goes agains the grain for me, I can appreciate the appeal of merely opening a packet with everything already weighed out and only a minimum amount of ingredients required.

I enjoy baking so the GF&G children and indeed I are a tad spoilt in that category.  So, as I opened the packet I wondered, “could Helen’s chocolate cupcake mix pass the strict GF&G taste test?”

Helen’s chocolate cupcake mix is wheat and gluten free and merely requires eggs, butter and water.  It really is very easy.  You can tell the cocoa powder is a good quality one when you’re mixing the ingredients together as the aroma is simply wonderful.

A bit of background info. Helen’s chocolate cupcake mix is one of a range developed by qualified nutritionist and food scientist Helen O’Dowd.  Helen believes in staying as close to nature as possible and doesn’t use preservatives or flavourings in her products.  Helen’s is definitely a company to watch as their quick seeded bread mix has been shortlisted in this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards.

Back to the chocolate cupcakes which were so easy to make, baked beautifully and once cooled sat the GF&G taste test.

Helens cupcakes in tray e1394547389970 225x300 Helen’s Chocolate Cupcake Mix

A trayful of heavenly cupcakes made with Helen’s chocolate cupcake mix

Wow!  They were amazing, really light and very, very chocolatey!  They didn’t taste like an inferior “packet mix” at all.  The mixture is rich so I opted out on the buttercream icing which is suggested on the packet.

Helen’s chocolate cupcake mix even passed the scrupulous palettes of the gluten eating GF&G children.  It was a big thumbs up all round!  We gave the product a GF&G score of 10/10!

The cupcake mix has a RRP of £2.69 and is available from food by helen, Ocado and selected Sainsbury’s and Asda stores. 

What gluten free packet mixes do you use?  Are they worth it or is it purely out of convenience?

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Book, spoons

Almondy gluten free desserts

Gluten free desserts, what’s your favourite?  If you’ve ever peered into the frozen section at a supermarket you’ll know the gluten free selection is somewhat limited by all the pastry involved.  But, my gluten free budies things are a changing!

That’s courtesy of Swedish baker Almondy, who produce frozen, naturally gluten free desserts and are available in the UK.  As the name suggests the cake base is made of almonds and you can rest assured the desserts are produced in a dedicated, gluten free factory.

whole cake and two servings MariaBrannigan 225x300 Almondy gluten free desserts

Almondy Philadelphia lemon cheesecake
Picture courtesy Almondy

Recently,  Almondy held a press event to showcase the latest venture with their gluten free desserts which is to partner with Cadbury’s and Philadelphia, but not in the same cake you understand!

So in the name of research I went along to the event.  The promise of gluten free desserts and a cup of tea was more than I could do to resist!  We were even given the chance to personalise the cakes, and this … err was my attempt.  

photo 1 e1394457533325 225x300 Almondy gluten free desserts

Gluten free deserts… my personalised version of Almondy’s Philadelphia lemon cheesecake

But onto the important stuff.  According to their press release, Almondy has boosted its year-on sales by 5.5% to become one of the top five brands in the frozen desert retail market.  Their cakes are also suitable for Kosher and Halal diets.  I wonder how much of their special diets appeal has increased their market share?

Whatever the reason, the supermarket frozen dessert aisle is no longer one for gluten free- ers to whizz past.  After all it could very well be home to Almondy’s Cadbury Chocolate Mousse and Almond Cake AND Almondy’s Philadelphia Almond Layered Cheesecake with Lemon.  Yah! That’s two BIG names for one Swedish bakery to team up with.

Cadbury Pack Shot MariaBrannigan 300x297 Almondy gluten free desserts

Almondy Cadbury chocolate cake
Picture courtesy Almondy


Cheesecake Pack Shot MariaBrannigan 300x300 Almondy gluten free desserts

Almondy Philadelphia lemon cheesecake
Picture courtesy Almondy








Back at the press event the practical aspect of my research got underway.  The Cadbury chocolate cake dessert has the trademark almond  base with a chocolate cream and mousse in the middle, topped off with a layering of Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate and buttons.  It tastes good!  It’s sweet of course, but the combination of the almond crunch and the smoothness of Cadbury’s chocolate works very well.

Another cuppa later (peppermint you understand to cleanse the palette!) and I moved effortlessly onto the next gluten free dessert offering.  This was the Philadelphia lemon cheesecake which combines the trademark Almondy almond base with layers of creamy Philadelphia  covered in fresh lemon frosting.  It was good but not as tasty as the chocolate one.   I was surprised by this because in general I would lean more towards a lemon desert than a chocolate one. However, in this instance the taste was sweet and the lemon flavour was quite subtle. Whereas I prefer more of a zesty flavour. So it was fine but if I had to I would choose the chocolate.

A major plus for both gluten free desserts is the price point.  Unlike a lot of other gluten free alternatives these are reasonably priced at RRP of £3.19  which is not bad for a desert that would satisfy both gluten free and non gluten free diners alike.   I’d say one cake would serve 4 generous portions, 6 modest ones.  You should be able to find Almondy at most major supermarkets.

I wouldn’t say the Almondy gluten free deserts are a luxury product but they are the kind of item that’s handy to have in the freezer and would suit adults and children alike.  

I’d love to know if you’ve tried the desserts and what you thought? More importantly are you a Cadbury’s chocolate or Philadelphia lemon type of person?

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Book. spoons, polenta 1

Gluten Free Banana Loaf

This recipe for gluten free banana loaf is up there in my top gluten free recipes ever!  So much so I can’t believe I haven’t posted it before.   It really is a small slice of heaven on a plate, eagerly consumed by adults and children alike.

Gluten free banana loaf is a fantastic way to use up over ripe bananas.  It lasts for several days in an airtight container and once sliced also freezes well too.

The recipe is courtesy of the Gluten Free Student Cookbook and uses store cupboard ingredients so all very accessible and inexpensive too.

 Gluten free banana loaf


2 very ripe bananas (I have used entirely black ones before)

110g brown sugar  (the GF student cookbook uses muscovado sugar but regular brown sugar is just fine)

110g butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

225 gluten free self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder


Pre heat oven to 180C

In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork

In a separate bowl add the butter and brown sugar and cream together

Add the mashed bananas and mix together.

Add the egg, vanilla extract and vegetable oil and mix together

Add the flour and baking powder and give it a good mix until combined. *

Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper

Add the mixture to the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 mins.  To check it’s cooked insert a toothpick/fork into the middle, it needs to come out clean.

Once cooked place the loaf tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes before taking out of the tin.

* I sift the flour and baking powder before adding to create a smoother texture.

Banana loaf e1394111676140 225x300 Gluten Free Banana Loaf

gluten free banana loaf, recipe courtesy gluten free student cookbook

At this point the GF Student Cookbook advocated putting the kettle on to make yourself a brew to enjoy with a large slice of banana loaf.  I must admit I always do and it’s bliss!  Thank you GF Student Cookbook this is one of my fav recipes ever.

So stop looking at those bananas turning black, use them to make your very own gluten free banana loaf!

What’s in your top 5 list of favourite GF recipes?


Recipe book and spoons

Gluten Free Baking Course

Would you like to attend a gluten free baking course?  How about a 10% discount such a course?  Sounds good?  Read on..

I haven’t been on gluten free baking course but would like to. The chance to ask questions whilst baking really appeals.  After all gluten free bread and pastry are the hardest things to make.  An environment where you could pick up tips and techniques from an experienced chef could possibly transform even my attempts!  

So you lucky readers, I’ve been offered a 10% discount to share with you for the gluten free baking course at Braxted Park, Cookery School, Essex .  The cookery school has just launched a one day gluten free baking course which  Dr Vivien D’Arcy of Darcy’s Delicious Treats will teach.  Vivien is described as a gluten free food specialist who’s been cooking gluten and dairy free for 5 years.  

Braxted Park Cookery School 300x199 Gluten Free Baking Course

A one day gluten free baking course is now available at Braxted Park

But what’s the Dr thing all about?  My thoughts exactly!  Vivien has a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology and worked as Research Scientist in London.   However, after being made redundant from that job she  set up her own baking business specialising in wheat, gluten and diary free treats.  She is intolerant to all 3 so must know what she’s talking/baking about!

Not only that Vivien was a finalist in the National Cupcake competition and the Essex Business awards of 2012.

Now I must stress that I haven’t been to the cookery school or attended the gluten see baking course so you must check all the info and details for yourself on their website.  I accept no responsibility for it.

Having said that it looks like a wonderful environment and the course covers baking bread and cakes.  So do check it out and don’t forget your extra special discount code of GFCookery which you will need when you book over the phone.   Don’t forget to tell them I sent you!  The code expires when the course runs which is 30 April 2014.

If you do go on the gluten free baking course please drop me a line and tell me what you thought of it as I’d love to know.

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Books & eggs

Gluten Free lunch ideas

As promised here is more of my Lunchoff foodie chat with the Great British Bakeoff’s  Howard Middleton.  Howard is carrying the illustrious title of gluten free ambassador for Newburn Bakehouse. As explained in my earlier post, Howard isn’t Coeliac or intolerant but has experience of cooking for those who are.

me and howard 300x300 Gluten Free lunch ideas

Me and Howard at the launch of Newburn Bakehouse #Lunchoff

Howard has teamed up with Warburton’s Newburn Bakehouse to make gluten free lunchtimes more interesting.  It’s aim is to get you out of your lunch time rut by giving you more interesting but easy lunch ideas. Howard says “if you’re a nervous cook, stick to tried and tested recipes to begin with.  As your confidence builds try different things.  If you spot an interesting ingredient just buy it and try it’”

I asked Howard how to come up with different lunch ideas whilst on a budget especially when gluten free products tend to be more costly.   Howard’s advice was “Don’t skimp on spices and flavourings, buy the best quality you can even with cheese.  Used sparingly these items will provide more flavour than cheaper alternatives.  You can economise on the products you need to provide bulk so things like carrots, celery and lentils. ”

As a lunch idea, Howard admitted he’s a big fan of Newburn Bakehouse’s Sweet Chilli Cracker Thins which can be used like nachos in a salsa dish.  You can find the recipe for it here.  I agree with Howard, the cracker thins are delicious, definitely a quality gluten free product there Newburn Bakehouse!

GF Sweet Chilli Thins Natchos main re 300x224 Gluten Free lunch ideas

Newburn Bakehouse Sweet Chilli Thins Nachos
Photo courtesy Newburn Bakehouse

If you’re in need of something sweet after all that savoury excitement head over to Howard’s blog to drool over his gluten free cherry bakewell.  The base of which is a mix of ground almonds and rice flour.  Wouldn’t a hunk of that go down well with a steaming mug of tea?!  Heaven.

For more inspirational lunch ideas check out Newburn Bakehouse’s #Lunchoff campaign.  Submit your own ideas and you could be in with a chance to win a hamper.  All recipe ideas judged by Howard.

Right I’m off to rummage in the fridge and see what I can create for lunch on this very rainy Friday!

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Polenta, puffed rice, eggs

Gluten Free Burgers at GBK!


Recently I had the arduous task of trying the gluten free burger at The Gourmet Burger Kitchen.   The restaurant chain recently joined forces with BFree to offer gluten free buns with their gluten free burgers in 60 outlets across the UK.   This is very good news folks but GBK need to advertise it on their website.  I really don’t understand why it isn’t?!

But down to the nitty gritty of the gluten free burgers at GBK. There’s no need to book beforehand,  just turn up and you are handed a specific gluten free menu which is refreshing because you’re not having to sift through everything on the menu deciphering what you can and can’t eat.  Top marks for that!


GBK menu e1392637480193 225x300 Gluten Free Burgers at GBK!

The Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s Gluten Free Menu

Fries are not included on the gluten free menu because they are cooked in oil which contains some wheat / gluten.  It would really top the whole experience off if they were available too.  A burger without fries is not quite the full deal but that’s not to say I don’t appreciate being able to eat a burger and of course I could … er… have a …. healthy salad with it!



The burger?  Well it looked the part as did the BFree bun!


GBK burger e1392637368118 225x300 Gluten Free Burgers at GBK!

GBK’s Gluten Free burger with a BFree bun


GBK burger 2 e1392637283798 225x300 Gluten Free Burgers at GBK!

Inside the Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s gluten free burger and bun (by BFree)

Although my bun held together pretty well my husband’s fell apart, a common problem, as we all know with gluten free bread products.  So looks like some consistency of product may be required unless the crumbly one was a one off.

The burger tasted like a proper gourmet burger, full of meat and tastiness, really good!  The roll was a little sweet for me and slightly fought with the flavours coming through from the burger but overall it was a very enjoyable eating experience.  And a real thrill to be able to eat a 100% gluten free burger in a relatively fast food type environment.  No more paying for a bun and not being able to eat it!

The GBK and BFree gluten free burger achieve a GF&G score of 8/10 (marks lost for sweetness, lack of GF fries and crumbling of husband’s bun).

However, I did enjoy the overall experience and would definitely have a gluten free burger at GBK again. I urge you to give them a go and report back!

I was given a PR voucher to try the gluten free burgers which entitled me and a dining partner to the burgers for free, but any sides or drinks had to be paid for.  As ever I agreed to use the vouchers on the basis that I would give an honest review, which as ever…  I have done! 

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Books & eggs

Gluten Free Pizza

A lot of gluten free pizza has been consumed by me recently.  I don’t know why, it just happened!

On the convenience front I tried Venice Bakery’s vegan and gluten free pizza base.

JPG e1392369416483 225x300 Gluten Free Pizza

Venice Bakery gluten and vegan free pizza base

It boasts no artificial ingredients and no preservatives.  Venice Bakery is a family owned business based in LA and now available in the UK.  The company started making vegan and gluten free bases as a result of being approached by a practitioner of holistic medicine Dr Karima Hirani from the University of Southern California.  Dr Hirani asked the Venice Bakery to create a good tasting gluten free pizza for her students and patients because she said a gluten free diet improved the behavioural patterns of many of the autistic children she treated.  Voila sometime later Chef Jimmy DeSisto created their vegan and gluten free pizza base.  The recipe of which is a secret!


Venice pizza e1392369549475 225x300 Gluten Free Pizza

Venice Bakery vegan and gluten free pizza base with GF&G homemade toppings

So did it tickle the GF&G tastebuds?  Well it was very easy to use I gave it a quick whack in a hot oven first and then piled it with my own homemade toppings.  I was concerned that being gluten AND vegan free, taste may also be eliminated but do you know what it tasted really good!  And I mean really good, even the GF&G children agreed! The crust had a lovely firm but not dry texture and although not fluffy like it’s glutened counterpart it was a close second.

A GF&G score of  9.5/10      (It loses .5 of a point because you have to order online and pay for delivery unless over £30). One large (12″) pizza base is £3.79 so pretty good value.

Prezzo pizza e1392369729837 225x300 Gluten Free Pizza

Prezzo gluten free pizza – the 2nd version

After that followed my first experience of Prezzo’s gluten free pizza.  Oh what a disappointing experience that was!  When it arrived the pizza base looked barely cooked and tasted pretty much the same so I asked for it to be re-cooked.  The waitress was obliging about it all and although the replacement gluten free pizza certainly looked better it was very poor on the taste and consistency front.  It was dry and a tad cardboard like.  I have contacted Prezzo about it via Twitter but still waiting to hear back from them.

A GF&G score of 2/10 (because at least they offer a GF base!)

GF Pizza Express 1 e1392369989966 225x300 Gluten Free Pizza

Pizza Express gluten free.. the munched version

Then I retreated to the safety of Pizza Express where I not only enjoyed the usual good standard of a gluten free base but was also given a phone charger to charge my dead phone.  Thank you Mr lovely waiter of the Bow Street, London!

A GF&G score of 8/10



So there you go a quick run down of my recent excesses in the gluten free pizza department!  I’d love to hear about yours

©Maria Brannigan 2014

polenta, Puffed Rice, Egg, Flour, Quinona

Alex Corbisiero’s favourite Newburn Bakehouse products


Alex Corbisiero 300x200 Alex Corbisieros favourite Newburn Bakehouse products

Alex Corbisiero Ambassador of Newburn Bakehouse with the MD Chris Hook
Photo credit : Phil Tragen

In my previous post, you’ll have read about how British and Irish Lions rugby player Alex Corbisiero discovered he was intolerant and that he’s very partial to his mum’s gluten free apple crumble!

Here I reveal what Alex’s favourite Newburn Bakehouse products are, what he likes to cook and where he likes to eat out.  Although he is ambassador for the Warbuton’s gluten free brand, Alex insists that he wouldn’t have taken up the role if he didn’t believe in the products.

So, at number one on the list is Newburn Bakehouse’s seeded wraps.  Alex says ” I haven’t had another one that compares to it! I can stuff a wrap full of as much meat as I physically can and it’s not going to fall apart!”  By the way his favourite filling is chicken breast, lettuce, bacon and avocado.


Alex clearly has a sweet tooth because the product he’d most like Warbuton’s Newburn Bakehouse to develop is another form of desert or pie.

Talking about sweet things and the issue surrounding some gluten free products containing more sugar than their non gluten counterparts, Alex says “you have to take that into account and be aware of what your intake is.  Moderation is the key”.

When it comes to cooking gluten free for himself, Alex says ” I live with 5 other players so we all take turns cooking.  They cook gluten free for me.  My favourite dish is slow cooked pork steads with  a red sauce, gluten free pasta and green veg.  The next day I’ll use the leftover sauce to make Chicken Parmigiano with gluten free breadcrumbs.” Mmm sounds good!

When it comes to eating out Alex says Nando’s is definitely his favourite.  But Bruschetta’s in Kingston is also up there because it is entirely gluten free, a  result no doubt, of a Coeliac chef!  On the topic of eating out, Alex says “It’s definitely easier to eat out gluten free especially with places like Carluccio’s providing specialist menus’”

It was great to talk to Alex and find out how a top sportsman incorporates gluten free living into his lifestyle.

Where’s your favourite place to eat out?  Have you noticed an improvement in awareness recently?

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Book. spoons, polenta 1

Newburn Bakehouse, Alex Corbisiero and his free from diet

British and Irish Lions rugby player, Alex Corbisiero is ambassador for Warburton’s gluten free brand, Newburn Bakehouse.  The company is celebrating it’s first anniversary this month so they arranged for lucky old me to have a chat with Alex about all things gluten free!

Alex Corbisiero 300x200 Newburn Bakehouse, Alex Corbisiero and his free from diet

Alex Corbisiero Ambassador of Newburn Bakehouse with the MD Chris Hook
Photo credit : Phil Tragen

As his name suggest Alex is from an Italian family.  They  were somewhat perplexed when, two years ago, he announced he was intolerant to both wheat and gluten.  How on earth could a good Italian boy not be able to eat all that delicious Italian pasta and bread?!  As if to add insult to injury, Alex also follows a dairy free diet. However, once he’d explained the condition his family were incredibly supportive, trying everything they could to ensure he could still eat Italian style food, albeit gluten free.

These days, in Alex’s words his mum makes him “the most amazing wheat, gluten and dairy free apple crumble”.  Whilst his Dad has risen to the challenge of making all sorts of gluten free meals ranging from calamri to gluten free pasta along with his American grandmother’s recipe of red sauce and meatballs.

Alex’s intolerance  was highlighted by a nutritionist at his old club London Irish.  He was concerned about Alex’s responses to a health questionnaire about game day.  The information revealed that he always felt more lethargic on match days with his legs feeling heavier than earlier in the week and was always physically sick before every match.  Alex always put this down to nerves.

So he was tested for wheat and gluten intolerance and the results came back as positive.  Alex says “when I was told I found it daunting at first and surprised that something I ate could make me feel like that.  But once I did some research and looked into substitutes I realised it wasn’t as daunting as I thought.”

Alex says the transition was helped by the products that were available and that he ” wouldn’t be with Newburn Bakehouse if I didn’t believe in their products & that they were a quality substitute.  Being able to have my gluten free wraps or the bread means I can eat how I still want to eat around training but still have the benefits of free from”.

 Alex’s training menu looks something like this: - 

Breakfast- Scrambled egg, green veg and two pieces of gluten free toast

I’ll train and then have a protein shake with some carbs in it.

Lunch -  Chicken breast with broccoli & rice for lunch, or there might be some gluten free pasta or a wrap.  

Then I’ll train again & have another shake with some carbs in it.  

Dinner - As the day goes on I’ll stick to more veg, meat and nuts and cut my carb intake later in the day when I’m not as active.

Alex says he copes well with his dietary restrictions on a day to day basis,  ”England (Rugby Club) are very good at providing gluten free food for me to have whether at home or travelling away. A lot of the other guys I play with may avoid wheat and gluten from time to time and enjoy my Newburn Bakehouse wraps!  My housemates will happily eat them and the muffins too”

Watch out for my next post which will reveal what Alex’s favourite Newburn Bakehouse product is and what he’d like them to develop next!

Alex Corbisiero is the ambassador of Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons, a range of gluten and wheat free products by Britain’s biggest baker. For more information go to Newburn Bakehouse.

©Maria Brannigan 2014


Book. spoons, polenta 1

My favourite gluten free recipes

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite gluten free recipes.  These are the ones that are guaranteed to work time after time and always hit the mark on the taste and feel good scale.

Gluten Free Brownies 2 300x179 My favourite gluten free recipes

Gluten free brownies

In at number 1 is the Doves Farm brownie recipe which I often make as a gift and is guaranteed to go down well whoever I give it to.  Often to cries of “these can’t be gluten free,  I need the recipe!”  It’s so easy to make,  uses store cupboard ingredients  and is always a success.  Check out the recipe here.


flapjack 300x300 My favourite gluten free recipes

A gluten free and gorgeous flapjack packed with oats

At number 2 it has to be flapjacks which the GF&G husband often asks for to keep him going during  unsociable working hours.  Again it’s a fail safe recipe which works just as well with gluten free oats as regular oats .  Also, you can add whatever dried fruit and nuts you have in the cupboard.  The oats keep you going and they taste divine, great for adults and children alike.  Try this flapjack recipe, I’m sure it’ll become one of your favourite gluten free recipes too!


mac4 300x179 My favourite gluten free recipes

gluten free macaroni cheese

A winter meal time favourite with the GF&G children is macaroni cheese.   They are gluten eaters so for ease I make one batch of gluten free cheese sauce but two lots of pasta.  Then just pour the sauce over the individual pasta dishes.  Simple and comforting on a dark winters evening.

What are your failsafe gluten free recipes?  Are they ones that stun other people or just easy comforting meals for yourself?  Do tell!

©Maria Brannigan 2014

Gluten Free Diet

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