• Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Double chocolate buckwheat cookies (gf) and pointless activities



    Bossy and Noisy went on holiday to the Pyrenees recently. Bossy actually considered taking Java with them for about three seconds, before coming to her senses with a jolt. It would have been funny though – the thought of Java in a hotel makes me chuckle. She doesn’t own a lead and thinks it’s OK to jump on to the table while people are eating. I don’t think she’s ever even been to a restaurant before. Unlike me, sophisticated she is not. It’s a shame that she didn’t go though, because it would have been more relaxing for me; as it was I had to put up with her incessant crying and whining. It got so much that I taught her a new game: Running Away. She got quite hooked on it and played every day they were away, much to my delight. It put the wind up The Tall One though I can tell you – I don’t think he fancied the idea of telling Bossy that he’d lost her little dog.


    Bossy and Noisy got up to all sorts of foolish activities such as going up to the top of the mountain and coming back down again on two-wheeled contraptions at full pelt. How futile does that sound? I can just imagine how Bossy must have shrieked – I’m glad I wasn’t there to subject my poor ears to the certain GBH. Noisy confided in me that he went well ahead to disassociate himself from her; he’s at an age when he gets very embarrassed by his parents. In my opinion he’d be quite justified in always being at that age. He also climbed up some very tall trees and swung from branch to branch. I don’t understand the need to do that at all – it’s not as if he’s a monkey. Well, I suppose he is a bit of a monkey, but still.


    Then they went down a very rough and angry-looking white river on a rubber raft. Why on earth would you pay to do that? It sounded very dangerous to me and I’m beginning to worry for their sanity. Obviously their sanity is an ongoing cause for concern, but now even more than ever. The Tall One was worried all the time they were away about whether they were going to return intact as they’re both quite prone to broken bones, but they came back in one piece – or two pieces as the case may be – and normal (I use the term lightly) service was resumed.


    Ingredients (makes 25-30 biscuits)
    125g buckwheat flour (or normal flour is you prefer)
    50g ground almonds
    50g oat flakes
    ½ teaspoon ginger powder
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    50g cocoa powder
    50g chocolate chips (I broke up some 70% dark chocolate)
    25g chopped or flaked almonds
    80g cane sugar
    80g coconut oil
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    Mix the flour, ground almonds, oats, ginger, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, flaked almonds and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Melt the coconut oil over a gentle heat and mix the eggs and vanilla together. Add the melted coconut oil to the dry mixture, combining well and then add the egg mixture, continuing to mix well. Roll into a sausage shape, roughly 5cm thick. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight.
    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the dough into slices of just under a centimetre and space out onto a greased baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes and leave to cool.

  • Gluten-free,  Sweet

    Spicy almond and raisin biscuits (gf) and being knocked senseless

    What do Hugo and a large buzzard have in common? The answer is they both have raging headaches. Hugo’s favourite thing in the world, other than mature camembert, is to jump into cars through their open windows. Much to the post lady’s dismay, he quite often ends up sitting on a massive pile of post in the passenger seat of the van. She has a tricky job explaining why the letters and parcels she delivers are covered in dog hair and paw prints. The other day though, the window was closed. Poor Hugo, who had taken a long and powerful run up, head butted the pane with a resounding thud and fell to the ground where he stayed knocked senseless. It was a good few minutes before he shook himself off and looked around to check that nobody had witnessed the fiasco. The next day, an impressive-looking buzzard did the same thing into one of our kitchen windows. It fell to the ground and staggered around a bit, before deciding to sit down and wait for the head spinning to pass. I did go out to offer a cup of tea and painkiller, as I had done with Hugo, but it just snarled at me, which I thought was a bit rich in view of the fact that it had come very close to smashing my kitchen window to smithereens.
    Yesterday 52% of voters in Britain had apparently also had the sense knocked out of them. A sad day indeed for Britain and for Europe.
    Ingredients (makes 25-30 biscuits)
    125g millet flour (or normal flour is you prefer)
    50g ground almonds
    50g oat flakes
    ½ teaspoon ginger powder
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    40g raisins
    25g chopped or flaked almonds
    80g cane sugar
    100ml olive oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 eggs, beaten
    Mix the flour, spices, raisins, almonds, oats, spices, bicarbonate of soda, raisins, almonds and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the olive oil, vanilla and eggs together and add to the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly and roll into a sausage shape, roughly 5cm thick. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight.
    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the dough into slices of just under a centimetre and space out onto a greased baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes and leave to cool.

  • Gluten-free,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Apple and raspberry crumble (gf) and patron saints


    I am writing this in my new-found capacity as Patron Saint of Naughty Horses. Every time horses stray in our village, it is assumed, quite mistakenly of course, that they’re ours. I got a call from the Mairie early the other morning informing me that there were two horses loose in the village, and could I please go and sort them out. Looking out of the window to do a quick head count I said, not altogether un-smugly, that mine were all present and correct and that I wasn’t the only person in the village to have wilful horses. We then went through the list of horse-owning potential suspects, all of whose phone numbers I had, which presumably made me guilty by association. She then very kindly kept me updated after every conversation, which was nice as I had nothing else planned for the morning beyond fielding calls about delinquent quadrupeds.
    My smugness was short-lived because the following Sunday brought a visit from the ‘gendarmes’; our most recent purchase had been found dazed and confused in town and, in view of the fact that he was roaming the pavements and cruising the shops and bars, they muttered something about vagabondage charges. At the suggestion of my imaginative husband however, we ended up agreeing that, just this once, they would squint and pretend he was a particularly large and docile deer (Bijou our horse; not my imaginative husband).
    This crumble is made using millet flour, which is a delicious, slightly nutty-tasting gluten-free alternative. It is one of the least allergenic of all flours and very easily digestible due to its high alkalinity. It is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    For the filling:
    2kg of apples, peeled, cored sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 tablespoons of honey
    Several handfuls of raspberries, fresh or frozen
    For the topping:
    125g millet flour
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon powdered ginger
    50g coconut oil
    50g butter, cut into cubes
    50g oats
    50g almond flakes
    100g cane sugar (or rapadura sugar)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Gently poach the apples in a little water, adding the cinnamon and honey. Add the raspberries once the apples have softened and mix. Transfer to a ovenproof baking dish. For the crumble, put the flour, salt, ginger, coconut oil and butter into a mixing bowl and rub in using your fingertips. You should obtain a sandlike mixture. Add the oats, almond flakes and sugar and mix well. Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture and bake for 40 minutes or until the topping begins to turn golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream or Greek yoghurt.

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Raspberry cheesecake tarts (gf) and pedalling is the way forward


    Home bears a close resemblance to an Accident and Emergency Unit at the moment. To start with, no fewer than 25% of the human knees here are toast. Burnt toast in fact. One knee belongs to The Tall One, and the other belongs to a friend who is staying with us. Both bad knees are as a result of interaction with horses; I have made my point and will say no more on the matter. The butcher told the Tall One that cycling was excellent for the sort of knee injury he has, which means that he pedals absolutely everywhere, even when pushing (or pulling) his friend’s wheelchair. Never mind the knee, what about his sanity?
    Bossy has a broken little toe, but since little toes don’t count, I consider her disproportionate cursing when she hits it to be melodrama. A mild dose of laryngitis on the other hand wouldn’t go amiss. Nothing painful you understand, just enough for her to stop talking – or verbalising as the Noisy One says – for a bit.
    Moving on with the inventory, Java has a sore foot due to an impaled pine needle. Big deal – I have those nearly every day. You wouldn’t believe the fuss she made. We were all witness to her pathetic crying, whimpering and exaggerated limping for hours. Also, she keeps vomiting because she steals and eats raw eggs. I have tried to explain that lightly-poached eggs (as opposed to fully-poached in this case) are far more digestible than raw, but I’m afraid it falls on deaf ears. As for me, I have developed tinnitus and migraines because I have to sleep between two snoring girl dogs. Ladylike they are not.
    On to the volatiles, I’m a little concerned about one of the hens because she has been trying, unsuccessfully, to lay an egg for over two weeks. I think she might have an intestinal blockage. Either that, or a brain blockage, something I certainly wouldn’t rule out. Another of the hens has a very nasty-looking foot and the Tall One says she’ll probably die soon, but whoever died from a bad foot? I think it’s wishful thinking on his part because he’s irritated that she only ever lays an egg once in a blue moon. A couple of swallows have built their nest on the spotlight above the front door. Every time the spotlight comes on, they fly out crossly wiggling their singed bottoms. How many times do they have to be burnt before they realise they should relocate? How many shades of stupid can a swallow actually be?
    These tarts are nothing to write home about in my opinion, but they seem to make Bossy happy, so here you are.
    Ingredients for pastry (makes about six tarts)
    75g buckwheat flour
    35g coconut flour
    30g butter
    30g coconut oil
    ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
    Pinch of sea salt
    Roughly 6 tablespoons of cold water
    Ingredients for ‘cheesecake’ filling
    250g mascarpone cheese
    Juice of half a lemon
    3 tablespoons raspberry jam
    100g fresh raspberries
    2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
    To make the pastry, begin by cutting the butter and coconut oil into small cubes. Add to the flours and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Blend by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the cold water, mixing rapidly with a spoon. Remove the mixture from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until you obtain a ball of pastry (if the mixture isn’t ‘sticky’ enough to form a ball, you may need a drop more water). Wrap in a clean cotton tea towel or some cling film and leave to ‘rest’ in the fridge for about two hours. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to use.
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured surface and fill the tart tins. Bear in mind that buckwheat and coconut flour pastry is extremely crumbly as it contains no gluten to ‘stick’ it together. You’ll probably need to patch and press the pastry into the tins as opposed to just cutting and placing it in as you would with normal pastry. Cook the pastry cases for 15 minutes.
    Blend all of the ‘cheesecake’ ingredients together well, keeping a few raspberries aside for garnish. Fill the precooked tart cases and decorate the tops with the set-aside raspberries. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

  • Gluten-free,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Apricot buckwheat cake (gf) and Hugo sorts things out

    As is too often the case, I feel compelled to tell my side of the story following  Bossy’s latest piece of intelligence (I use the term with a generous helping of irony). I was so annoyed that I had intended to ‘forget’ to include her silly recipe in this post, but Bossy can be very insistent. Obviously my ‘forgetting’ would have been a pedagogical measure and not out of pettiness. Between ourselves though, I consider Bossy to be a lost cause so I didn’t press the issue.
    As I mentioned before, in my spare time (sadly lacking because I’m so exploited), I am studying for a degree in psychology. This is quite a challenge as it’s very hard to find peace and quiet to study in this house. Also, I have to be careful not to leave my books lying around because Java chews them to pieces, Bossy drops them in the bath (she falls asleep while reading), the Noisy One makes aeroplanes from them and the Tall One uses them to light fires. The upshot is that there is hardly any room left for me to lie in my basket as, once I’ve finished studying I have to hide all my books under the blankets. I don’t think Bossy takes my degree very seriously, which would explain why she doesn’t understand my need for time on the couch to contemplate. The couch plays a very important part in a psychology degree.
    Bossy is in denial about just how annoying Java is. She thinks she’s ‘adorable and perhaps a tiny bit dizzy’, whereas in reality she’s an unrelenting and unspeakable pest. Actually, they both are. For the record, Java is also in denial about just how annoying she is. Or maybe she isn’t, which is even worse. Sigmund (I think we would have been on first name terms if he had ever been lucky enough to meet me) believed that when people explain their behaviour they rarely give a true account – not necessarily because they are deliberately lying, but because they are great deceivers of others and, to an even greater degree, themselves. Bossy meet Java, Java meet Bossy. I rest my case.
    Ingredients (serves 8-10)
    170g dried apricots (preferably organic), chopped
    100ml olive oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4 eggs, separated
    100g cane sugar
    100ml plain yoghurt
    70g ground almonds (you could substitute ground hazelnuts)
    40g buckwheat flour
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, olive oil and yogurt until light and smooth. Mix the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together and then combine well with the wet mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

  • Sweet

    Peanut anzac biscuits and a civilised sofa and its contents


    This is a sofa. It is a pretty, clean sofa for humans. This is Hugo the big black dog. He is a naughty dog. This is Java the little speckled dog. She is also a naughty dog. Hugo does not like Java to join him on the sofa. Hugo kicks Java. He growls at Java. Poor little Java. She is sad. Hugo can be a sadistic son of a bitch at times.

    Ingredients (makes 16-20)
    125g spelt flour
    100g desiccated coconut
    40g raisins
    100g rolled oats
    Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
    150g unsalted peanuts
    Pinch of sea salt
    75g coconut oil
    50g butter
    80g honey
    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two baking trays. Combine the flour, coconut, raisins, oats, chia seeds, peanuts and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil, butter and honey in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.
    Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving space between each ball. Flatten them slightly and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

  • Breakfast,  Guest post,  Sweet

    Guest post: Sugar-free loaf

    Today I’d like to welcome Susan from Our French Oasis, who, like me, lives in the South West of France with her husband, various children, chickens and naughty dogs.
    I have lived in France with my husband and five children for many years; we used to live close to the Spanish border, then work took us to Florida for four years and when we returned permanently two years ago we bought a house close to the coast in the Charente Maritime, a department we have all come to love.
    Last year I decided to give up all forms of added sugar, for absolutely no other reason than I thought I would see if I could do it, we don’t after all need sugar, and I wondered if I could really live without it? The answer is yes, seven months later and I still have not had a grain of added sugar, honey, maple syrup or any other form of non naturally occurring sugar such as that found in fruit and wine (of course). Now our French friends think I am quite mad, they all eat healthily but they don’t do fad diets and they do eat sugar, a little coffee is always taken with sugar, a little dessert after dinner, bien sur, they don’t do large portions but they do have a little, something sweet to finish a meal, in fact they look at me quite aghast! But in truth we really do not need sugar, I had no withdrawal symptons and sometimes I do look at a chocolate or a biscuit and think, gosh I’d like one, but I won’t! Why? Because I have never felt so full of energy,  I need less sleep and I feel totally invigorated and I know it is very good for me, I scarcely miss it at all and I won’t go back to eating it!
    125g wholemeal spelt flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon allspice
    50g butter, softened (I use salted butter)
    100g raisins
    2 teaspoons vanilla essence
    3 large bananas mashed
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon milk
    4 dates (optional)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixer and turn on to low. Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the dates and mix further. Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin, pressing four dates along the top (optional) and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a sharp knife; if it doesn’t come out clean, cover with some tin foil to stop the top burning and bake for a further 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and try not to eat it all at once!

  • Gluten-free,  Sweet

    Buckwheat chocolate cake (gf) and unfettered ambitions

    My latest goal in life is to photograph Hugo and Java together, at the same time, in the same place and, if at all possible, sitting still. Never let it be said that I lack ambition. I recently told Hugo — well asked really; Hugo isn’t the sort of dog you order about — to sit while I took a photo of him. Since then, the moment he catches a glimpse of a camera lens he sits and tilts his head just enough to do his profile justice. I think he may be the reincarnation of one of Pavlov’s dogs. Java, on the other hand, not so much. Once she’s outside, under no circumstances does she ‘do’ sitting. Or even standing still. So I have one unnaturally static dog pouting into the camera and flaunting his best side like a runway model who’s just tossed her cookies, and the other who is nothing but a distant white blur. I have a feeling that I set the bar pretty high for myself, because so far all I’ve managed are these: The Pout and The Blur.
    This cake, on the other hand, was a great success. Inspired from a David Lobowitz recipe, it really is one of the lightest, most delicious chocolate cakes ever…
    Ingredients (10 servings)
    170g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
    115g coconut oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon rum (optional)
    4 eggs, separated
    100g cane sugar
    100ml plain yoghurt
    70g ground almonds (you could substitute ground hazelnuts)
    40g buckwheat flour
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth and add the vanilla extract and rum. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and yogurt until light and smooth and then combine with the melted chocolate/coconut oil. Mix the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and then combine well with the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

  • Sweet

    Chocolate coconut cream and a dry sense of humour

    Léo told me that he’d been chatting to one of his teachers today and that the subject of careers had come up. Apparently he had said that he wasn’t tempted to follow in the footsteps of either of his parents, as his mother was a drug dealer and his father a lumberjack. The worst thing is, the next time I meet this teacher, I’ll obsess so much about coming across as normal and un-drug-dealerish that I’ll certainly end up doing my very best impression of a high-security psychiatric ward escapee strung out on crack cocaine.
    I’m reminded of when Léo was three and had just started nursery school. He was chatting to his teacher (sensing a theme?) and told her about the day his grandmother, who was meant to be looking after him, had left him to fend for himself while she took off to her dentist appointment (!?) on her Harley Davidson.
    I just hope that Léo’s teachers will continue to appreciate his sense of irony, because the day he ‘chats’ to one that takes what he says at face value, we could be in for a visit from social services…
    Ingredients (makes 4-6 ramekins)
    200ml coconut milk
    2 eggs, beaten
    120g dark chocolate, melted
    75g honey
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon rum (optional)
    Prepare six ramekins. Heat the coconut milk until just before boiling, add the eggs, blending well. Add the chocolate, honey, vanilla extract and rum if using and continue to heat for a few minutes being sure not to let the mixture boil. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and chill in the fridge for at least four hours before eating.

  • Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Chocolate pound cake and an imminent trip to China

    Customer service in mobile phone shops in France has done a 180: The motto, ‘the customer is always wrong’ used to be de rigueur, and the only way to get what you wanted was either to flirt outrageously or scream like a harridan (I had both techniques down pat). Now it seems all of a sudden that ‘the customer is always right’, which is oddly disconcerting.
    Yesterday I visited not one, but two mobile phone suppliers. Before anyone thinks I’ve totally lost it, let me quickly point out that this was out of absolute necessity and not choice. One of the horses had tested the sturdiness of my phone’s glass screen with its hoof (hoof: one, phone: nil) and as a mobile phone is essential given my inclination to fall into deep ditches in the middle of nowhere, replacing it was a matter of urgency.
    The first boutique was unable to help me because, despite having the phone I had painstakingly tracked down, ordered and already paid for online in their possession, they claimed that ‘my order had failed’. They unequivocally agreed that it was outrageous/unbelievable/infuriating/beyond obtuse and criminally time-wasting, which completely took the wind out of my sails. Unfortunately there was nothing they could do because their ‘management are scumbags’.
    After a 45 minute wait surrounded by people with banana-shaped upper bodies, it was much the same story in the second shop. It would appear that from a telecom point of view, I have ‘special needs’ far too complex to fulfil, especially in view of the fact that everyone’s bosses are unprincipled reprobates. I’m still not sure how I feel about having my phone requirements sentenced to the ‘special needs’ category.
    Despite returning home 20 years older and still phoneless, I was able to muster just enough courage to once again locate what I wanted online. It was delivered the next day and I was so anxious to get it up and running that I inadvertently set the language to Chinese.  It was a long and arduous task – 長和艱鉅任務 – coaxing it back to French, but I definitely felt it was a sign; in future I’m off to Beijing to buy my phones –  it’ll be far less hassle and I’m keen to test my new-found language skills.
    This recipe uses raw cocoa powder which means that the cocoa beans have been processed without using the high temperatures detrimental to its nutritional content. Raw cocoa powder contains natural mood stimulants as well as arginine, an essential amino acid that helps to reduce blood pressure. It is also a very rich source of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, including high levels of magnesium to aid heart health, build strong bones and relax the muscles and the mind.
    100g spelt flour
    75g almond flour
    75g raw cocoa powder (can be replaced by regular cocoa powder)
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    125g butter
    125g extra virgin organic coconut oil
    200g cane sugar
    4 large organic eggs
    1 teaspoons almond essence
    2 tablespoon rum
    Sift the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside. Cut the butter and coconut oil into cubes and leave to soften at room temperature for a few minutes. Beat with an electric mixer for about ten minutes until fluffy and then gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk for another few minutes. Lastly, add the rum and almond essence and gently fold in the flour. Transfer the mixture to a buttered loaf tin and cook in a non-preheated oven at 160°C for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.