Coeliac Awareness Week: because for some gluten free is not a lifestyle choice

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Coeliac Awareness Week

 

Next week is coeliac awareness week, which made me think about the following:

1. Gluten free gets a bad rap, as a fad, and yet for some it’s most definitely not a fad, and is a disease with serious consequences

2. Whilst not easy, it’s certainly easier than even 5 years ago to eat gluten free.

For heavens sake, even Pizza Hut are advertising a gluten free pizza base.

I’ve had several adventures in gluten free, but am lucky in that I can pick and choose, I just feel a bit rubbish if I eat too much gluten. There are still tales told of some dreadful gluten free bread I once made (no, Phil Vickery, I am not trusting your recipes again). And I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of the disease, gluten-free for some is not a choice, it’s life, literally.

 

Flavor Flours

 

For those that can’t choose, then there are so many more gluten-free choices available in the mainstream. I have two favourite books for gluten free baking at home, and hard to pick between them. I’ve baked more from Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache, from little cakes to celebration cakes, and loved all of them. Flavor Flours is newer to me, but I’ve loved experimenting with the different flours of each chapter.

I still miss Flour Bin as it was an incredible source of unusual flour, but there are now more options than ever. M&S are big sponsors of next week, and have both products and ingredients in most of their food halls. I usually find Holland & Barrett pretty good, and Amazon have a great selection, particularly of Bob’s Red Mill products.

The Coeliac UK site has loads of helpful information if you’re not sure what to look for as symptoms, or a whole heap of support and recipes if you’re already living with this, or just want to support someone else who is.

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The Friday Five – gluten free but not taste free

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Next week is Coeliac Awareness Week, so gluten free is going to be hopefully top of mind, given the strides forward we’ve taken both in availability and taste of gluten free products. For those of you wanting to keep it gluten free on the home front, for whatever reason, then these are five that tackle the subject, but keep taste at the forefront as well.

The Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking

 

The Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking

 

This one is almost all gluten-free, combined with being plant based, so will meet lots of dietary requirements. Great looking food, packed with huge amounts of different textures and tastes, but apparently each recipe needs 10 ingredients or less. Makes it appealing and less intimidating.

 

My Gluten-Free Kitchen: Meals You Miss Made Easy

 

My gluten-free kitchen

 

Hmm, the last gluten-free cookbook I had written by a chef led to the great bread disaster, so let’s hope Gearóid Lynch has better testing and proof reading! But as a chef diagnosed with coeliac disease you would expect him to come from a starting point of great knowledge, and a good palate. Covering everything from buttermilk scones to a savoury pastry and an apple and pecan crumble tart, it sounds like it would cover eating like gluten wasn’t an issue.

 

Good and Simple: Recipes to Eat Well and Thrive

 

Hemsley & Hemsley Good & Simple

 

The Hemsley sisters irk me a lot less than others of their ilk, as long as they are not talking about bone broth endlessly. Their second book continues the theme of eliminating gluten, grains and refined sugars, but still manages to come up with things I’m a bit intrigued to try. I mean, cannellini vanilla sponge cake with chocolate avocado frosting? Got to give that a go at least once. Though probably just go with the recipes, ignore the pseudo-science.

 

Pure Artistry: Extraordinary Vegan and Gluten Free Cakes

 

Pure Aristry - extraordinary vegan and gluten free cakes

 

Talking of cakes, this book is about gluten free baking at the next level, but still approachable for a home baker. Emily Lael Aumiller of Lael Cakes make extraordinary cakes by any measure, even more so when you see they are vegan and gluten free. This books focuses not just on the cakes but also the decorating techniques, so perfect for a keen cake maker really looking to add to their skills. Out 13th May.

 

Chickpea Flour Does It All

 

Chickpea Flour Does It All

 

Really? Who knew? I’ve made Indian breads with it but not much more, but it appears I have been missing out. I’ve used it to make Indian breads, but apparently it can cover everything from savoury to sweet, from pancakes to cupcakes. Great book to gift to someone who likes experimenting with new ingredients, and chickpea flour is pretty easy to find. Check out the world food aisles, you’ll often see it labelled as gram flour or garbanzo bean flour.

So, whether through necessity or just a desire to try new things, there is no shortage of inspiration around, and these days the variety of flours available is growing, and much more accessible. Good luck, you can do no worse than my chestnut and carmelised onion bread.

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Let your food intolerances run free at Free Go

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Gluten Free but not taste free

 

It’s no surprise that I like my food. And cooking. And baking. So it’s always a bit of a shock when your food doesn’t like you back. Now, I’m really lucky, I just feel better generally when I stay off the wheat, and when I don’t then I’m the one with a bag of pills and a hot water bottle.

Which is nothing compared to those with absolute proper allergies, who have my every sympathy. But more of us are choosing to eat in different ways, for different reasons, and Free Go is probably the best site I’ve come across recently for those avoiding gluten for whatever reason.

Now, some of this has me holding my hands up in horror. I mean, really, edamame spaghetti?

 

Edamame Spaghetti - jury's out!

 

I’m going to have to order some to try, as I know I’ve had some very varied results with gluten free pastas. Now I have the spiraliser then it’s tending to be courgette spaghetti for me, but there is a whole heap of variety on here.

If you’re craving bread of some version, then they have some great bread mixes, which have been selected for taste and ease of bake apparently. I like the sound of the Italian one, and there are a number of sweet mixes too.

 

Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Bread Mix

 

You can choose by product category or by diet, which covers everything from paleo to sprouted. Hence being able to get sprouted organic whole buckwheat flour. Not usually seen in your average Morrisons.

 

Rude Health Sprouted Whole Buckwheat Flour

 

There’s also a whole family section, which I would think was terrifically useful if it’s not you but your little ones that need something a bit different. From baking together to school lunchboxes, there are some good products in here for everyone.

There’s a great recipe section and a blog for articles on general healthy living, so definitely one to keep an eye on. I haven’t ordered anything from them as yet, so interested in any experiences any one has had, but can see some interesting experiments ahead.

 

Photo by Memphis CVB on Flickr

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The Friday Five – free from many things but not taste

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I’ve already written about my tribulations with flour moths this week. One of the reasons there was quite a variety of flour in the pantry is that I like to play with different flours, in an attempt to deliver gluten free goodies. I have a mild wheat intolerance, which started this, but I now have a colleague with a serious wheat allergy, and a friend’s husband who has given up gluten on health grounds.

I also have another friend’s husband who once practically spat one of my gluten free attempts across the room. I’ve never let him forget it, but he does always check whether something is one of my “funny” flours or not. I’ve stopped telling him.

So these are five to inspire if you are living a “free from” kind of life, or have other people to cook for who are, or just fancy an experiment.

 

Free from food for family & friends

 

Free-From Food for Family and Friends – this is gluten, egg and dairy free, so would be beyond my normal experiments. I love the chapter titles, this book covers breakfast, elevenses, family favourites and fireside suppers. All of which means it sounds delicious, rather than worthy. Which is just fine with me.

 

the savoury gluten-free baker

 

The Savoury Gluten-free Baker – I like this for a bit of variety, as I’ve had a few gluten-free baking books but they’ve always tended towards cakes. This one gives you classic savoury indulgences such as sausage rolls and cheese straws, even a gluten-free lasagne. I would imagine that this would give you meal options, not just indulgences.

 

Guilt-Free Gourmet

 

The Guilt-free Gourmet – oh, isn’t this what we all want? I’m tempted to buy this one to challenge my own eating habits, as this covers sugar, wheat and dairy. Sugar is definitely my vice, so would be interested to see if this could keep me interested. Even if just for a week! But those definitely look like brownies on the front, and they would always have me interested!

 

Extra Virgin Kitchen

 

The Extra Virgin Kitchen – ah, we love an attention grabbing book title here! This again is sugar, wheat and dairy free, and does everything from breakfast to treats and snacks. I know that a book like this would challenge with different ingredients, and I’ll be waiting to invest in those until I know I am moth free!

 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook

 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook – ok, I admit it, the title got me. Who doesn’t want to get their glow on? And doing it through food sounds easier than the gym! This is a vegan cookbook, so obviously dairy free and plant based, along with beautiful photography, even if some is very perfect lifestyle like! But I could cope with a walnut, avocado and pear salad, that doesn’t sound like any kind of compromise to me.

 

So whether you have to, or want to, I think there are some great books coming out to really help you to explore the possibilities. Let’s face it, most things you turn out have to be better than a lot of the sad free-from offers in the mainstream supermarkets!

Well, other than my onion and chestnut bread experiment. Thankfully it missed my white walls!

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Time for tea and Simnel cake

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Simnel: too good just for Easter!

 

I was all set today to make a Simnel cake, ready for the arrival of the marzipan loving, house-sitting aunt and uncle. Well, when I say I was all set, I mean that I had it in mind that I would. Requests across the twitterverse brought forth an unusual twist with @Domestic_Jules’ recipe for Simnel loaf and cupcakes. Perfect

Requests of the cake baking cupboard brought forth only very dried up, dog end of marzipan.

Request of the village shop brought back a negative response.

So, I am facing either late night baking, or buying one in. If you don’t have a bakers on hand, here’s a few good looking ones that I’ve found:

* I would trust Bettys of Harrogate to turn out a rather splendid Simnel cake, and they have three very attractive looking options. There is the traditional route with 11 balls of marzipan, the appropriately named Apostle Simnel cake, then a large round one, and two sizes of oval. Without apostles but still with plenty of marzipan. Lovely looking to send as a gift. Or just eat yourself with a nice cup of tea.

* If you want to go posh, then Fortnum & Mason will send you a very attractive looking cake. There is a dinky 2 inch Baby Simnel, through to a full on 700g version. My friend from LA was most impressed with Fortnum’s, declared it the height of Englishness in her view, and baby Simnel would be hand luggage friendly. Although whether that’s allowed I’m not sure! If you need royal approval, then the Highgrove Shop do one too.

* If you want a very pretty version to send as a gift, then have a look at The Original Hat Box Cake Co. If the cake is as tasty as the packaging is beautiful, then it should be a cake to remember. If you have someone to buy for who (shock horror) doesn’t like chocolate, then this is a great seasonal foodie gift. And no wrapping required!

* Finally, if there is a marzipan loather in the family, then Simnel cake will be their idea of hell! Perhaps try an Italian tradition, with La Torinese Colomba with chocolate from Luigi’s. Mind you, if they don’t like candied peel, then this is out too. Otherwise imagine this would go down very well with an espresso.

I’m hoping that I can still fit in the baking, but I think, to be on the safe side, the Bettys version may just be winging its way down from Yorkshire to us!

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What’s new for Spring?

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Just having a quick virtual browse round to see what’s new for Spring for the foodies, and here’s just a few of the things that have caught my eye:

 

Gluten Free Fishcakes. Only free from gluten, not great taste

 

* From The Fish Society, a tasty treat for those needing a gluten free diet. Norcakes are fishcakes from Norway that have seen neither potato (so you get more fish) or a breadcrumb (so you get no gluten). Great sounding flavours, either Pollock & Lemongrass or Salmon & Dill. Perfect standby comfort food for me.

* I love TheDrinkShop.com, it’s such a great source of such a huge variety of different drinks, the stuff you don’t necessarily see in the supermarket. They’ve just listed SW4 Dry Gin, which I have yet to see on sale round here, or make it into my glass, but it sounds great. And I’m intrigued by the Bitter Truth Pimento Dram, which is pimento and rum. Could make for an interesting evening!

Light my Fire, with chocolate, from Jamie Oliver

* Always a sucker for chocolate, I like the cheeky bars that Jamie Oliver is doing, which include Light My Fire (dark chocolate with mandarin and ginger) and Get Fresh (dark chocolate with a hint of mint). The flavours are nothing new, but the chocolate is 72% cocoa solids, as well as organic and fairtrade, so on top of that to have great looking packaging is a real positive. Cheer someone’s day up, any day, with one of these.

* I know this won’t tick the local box, but it is seasonal. Natoora have Wild Pink Radicchio in from Verona, which they say is very nice grilled, and I would be tempted to try it in risotto, having made one before with “normal” radicchio. I am expecting this to be slightly less bitter than the red version.

* The Eden Project is one of my favourite places, but it’s a bit of a drive from here in the East Midlands. Pleased to see their online shop suddenly looking really snazzy and interesting with some great things on it. For the foodies, then there is the Olive Lovers Gift, which has an olive sapling, and a jar of their own marinated olives. This is going to be one of those taste good, do good gifts, going to support the ongoing work at the Project. They’ve got some great chicken houses too, if keeping your own is on your to do list this year.

So just a few new things that have caught my eye, that I’ll be storing away as ideas for great gift ideas for someone, at some stage, this Spring. What’s caught your eye? I’d love to know.

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Foodie Gifts for Sensitive Lovers This Valentine’s Day

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In a perfect world, we would all be able to eat exactly what we want, stay in perfect health and feeling great and, preferably, not putting an ounce on! But it can’t be that way for everyone and if you have food intolerances, that’s bad enough, but if you absolutely adore your food then that’s even harder. I have a fabulous foodie friend who is wheat, dairy and nut intolerant, not to mention red meat not being a friend to her system.

Should the love of your life be a sensitive foodie soul, then here’s a few suggestions on gifts that tick the boxes on the foodie front but won’t make the night end in tears.

 

Walnut & Cinnamon Biscuits from Sharpham Park

 

* Something tasty to accompany the morning cup of tea might go down well, so have a look at these wonderful sounding Cinnamon & Walnut Spelt Biscuits from Sharpham Park. Suitable for those avoiding wheat, these will perk up a cuppa and if you want to bring something special to evening drinks too, then add a packet of the Tomato & Onion Spelt Bites.

* Going a step further, then try treating them to Organic Hazelnut Macaroons from Popina. These are suitable for those who need either a gluten or dairy free treat. Incredibly tasty, they will make you forget about the things they don’t contain and just concentrate on the fabulous tastes that they do.

 

Little Wallop Goats Cheese

 

* For something a bit more savoury, but without the cows milk, then how about the wonderfully named Little Wallop Goats Cheese. It’s washed in cider, and wrapped in vine leaves, so looks as good as it tastes. To add a little extra something on the side then add in the Beetroot & Apple Chutney from Godminster.

* Of course most intolerances don’t necessarily mean you don’t get to eat meat but if you have to avoid gluten then you’ve probably been avoiding most sausages. Search no more though, as Sally’s Sizzling Sausage Co only makes gluten free variants, in flavours from Pork & Leek to Chicken & Tarragon. If you’re feeling indecisive, then buy your loved one the sausage taster pack, and put a bit of sizzle into Sunday.

* Something sweet to follow on from all that sizzling? Limit the temptation with theseindividual gluten free cakes from Honeybuns. Presented in a great looking gift tin, these are little parcels of gluten free goodness that make a great treat for any time of the day.

* And finally if they’re avoiding caffeine, then I’d buy them the Rooibos tea from Bellevue Tea. Naturally caffeine free, this tea tastes great, and comes beautifully packed, in individual envelopes. Very stylish, very tasty.

Most places are getting better at labelling these days, so you should have an easier job of identifying great gifts for even the most sensitive of foodies. Failing that, skip food that day and just order the biggest bottle of champagne (if they’re not avoiding alcohol) or a mammoth bouquet (assuming they don’t get hayfever). Lets hope they’re not so sensitive that whatever you do makes them cry!

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Healthy foodie gifts

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Gadgets are go this Christmas! Great gifts for food lovers who like it gadgety

 

I am not sure why, but there aren’t so many foodie gift lists come out of the UK, most seem to come out of the US. It’s possibly down to the fact they use the word more, but then I’m not sure what the English (UK) alternative is, as gourmet, epicure and gourmand always feel a little bit more elitist, a bit more out of reach. Anyway, whatever the linguistic differences, the list on Health.com was great, and here are my UK alternatives to their Ultimate Foodie Gift Guide.

1. I loved the idea of the Apple Tree to Be, a great gift for a keen gardener or allotment keeper, a healthy eater, or just for that person you never have a clue what to buy them. For a British alternative, try the Miniature Apple by Trees Direct or a Bramley Apple Tree from Trees2MyDoor, which would be a great gift for a cook or home baker.

2.Whilst I can see that this scrapes into a healthy foodie gifts on the basis of the health benefits of garlic, really the Chef’n Garlic Zoom is just a great gizmo for the kitchen. Given that it’s just under £8 on Amazon, it would make a great stocking filler for anyone really, even for a serious cook, just for a laugh. I would probably make this my top foodie gadget for under £10 this Christmas.

3. Not sure if the health benefits of gingerbread are well documented, but missing parts Gingerbread Men may make you laugh, which is good for your health. Your gingerbread man could end up headless before you get to him, but at least you’ll know he’s “armless”. Sorry, bit early for panto, but cute gift for kids and homebakers. I love that these are called ABC Cookie Cutters, as in already been chewed!

4. Sadly, I can’t find a UK source for the Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan, which is a real shame. These are apparently a real delicacy in their native Denmark, and they look delightful. Should you be passing a branch of Williams Sonoma anytime soon, they have a great one. The rest of us, well, we’ll have to campaign for Williams Sonoma to open up over here! We’ve got Anthropologie now, surely this should be the next import?

5. Perfect for coffee lovers with an eco-conscience, I Am Not a Paper Cup looks just like a proper take out cup, but can be used time and time again. Save the planet, still get good coffee. Perfect.

6. The Cook or Be Cooked Wii game is not available here in the UK. Buy a decent cookbook instead.

7. Growing your own herbs is brilliant and so worthwhile. There are all kinds of options for this, from pretty windowsill growing versions, through to the high tec approach of the Aero Garden. What seeds you add in is up to you.

8. The lunchskins are not available in the UK, but the principle of using less plastic at lunchtime is good. I love the bright coloured tiffin tin that John Lewis have, which would allow you to have several lovely courses at lunchtime without them getting mixed up.

9. The Breville Smart Oven looks like a perfect bachelor pad gadget, and lots of pre-settings mean it’s perfect for non-cooks and gadget geeks alike. Again, not available here yet, so maybe one to add to Santa’s list for next year.

10. I like the sound of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, a cookbook from self-proclaimed accidental country girl, Ree Drummond. Cook up Cowboy Calzones and Cheese Grits for a very, very different take on Christmas lunch.

11. This is something I could do with, as I always get the amount wrong so I would be grateful for a spaghetti measure. The Joseph Joseph one is funky looking and neat, and a good gift for under £10.

12. For seriously accurate cutting, dicing, slicing and julienning fruit and veg, then they need a good mandoline, and the De Buyer is the one recommended by Health.com. Four interchangeable blades give them the ability to even do waffle and crinkle cuts. Fancy!

13. I wish there was something like the EcoVine organic wine club membership but sadly not. The best bet in the UK is Vintage Roots, who specialise only in organic wine. Order them a bottle once a month.

14. Glow Gluten Free Cookies are not available here, but there are plenty of good gluten free goodies now on offer throughout the UK. M&S have a whole gluten-free hamper this Christmas, which would be great for those who don’t normally get such tasty treats. Or try Gower Cottage for gluten free brownies, chocolate loveliness without the gluten!

So, the term healthy has perhaps been applied a bit loosely, but I really like a lot of these ideas. Worth adding to your own Christmas wishlist, or help solve your gift buying problems for difficult foodies! Happy shopping!

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These are not just any foodie gifts…

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Go nostalgic this Christmas with Marks & Spencer

Lets face it, Marks & Spencer is a Christmas institution, which is not necessarily where you want to spend Christmas. But if it was the only place still open on Christmas Eve, then there are some choices I would make on the foodie gift front. Actually, some of these are definitely worth turning up for before Christmas Eve! Here’s my choices:

1. I’ve actually really loved all the retro stuff they’ve done this year, and I would happily give some of these as gifts. I don’t think you can have too many cake tins, and this set of two is lovely looking. Could be quite tempted by the teapot and the mugs as well.

2. For kids big and small, and for a guilty foodie treat, then I love the limited edition Percy Pig Union Flag money box. Practical, stylish and tasty, all in one nightmare to wrap package! Sadly, I’d love to show you this but it appears you can only get this in the shops. And not online. Bit of a M&S fail I would say. There is an online Percy Pig special though, should you not want to face the High Street.

3. If there are chocolate lovers on your list, then have a look at the Chocoholics hamper. All presented in an attractive and practical magazine holder/wrapper holder, there is a veritable chocolate feast inside. They can snuggle up with Fairtrade drinking chocolate sprinkled with mini marshmallows, and dunk in a milk chocolate Florentine. They can drool over chocolate recipes, whilst eating dark chocolate or spooning chocolate sauce straight from the jar. Perfect!

4. For the vintage lover, then there is a full on 125 Year Souvenir Gift. The gold label tea caddy is great looking, and I love the Hedgerow Jam, not something you see much these days. With two mugs and a tea towel, you’re on your way to a nice cup of a tea and a sit down. Just get some toast on and you’re all set!

5. Food intolerances are no fun, and I’m thrilled to see M&S offering a great gluten free hamper. No need to feel left out, there is gluten free Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, plus a great selection of jams and chutney, tea and coffee, chocolates and cava. This just feels like great tasting products, rather than “specialist food”, which is how most people with intolerances would want to feel.

6. For something a bit simpler, and cheaper, but still with good taste, then I like the Risotto Set. The grater both looks attractive and useful, and comes with a bowl for grating into. It comes with the essential wooden spoon and also a packet of risotto rice with dried porcini mushrooms, which should be very tasty. If you want to make it truly authentic, then you need to add a good piece of Parmesan too.

So, some really good standbys and useful options for people you might normally find it difficult to buy gifts for. Of course I would still prefer to order everything online and get them to deliver it, but if you had to go somewhere on Christmas Eve for last minute gifts, these would be pretty good choices.

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More make it yourself kits

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Panasonic Breadmaker - for the best smells a kitchen can emit!

 

After the cheese making kit, I began to think of the other essentials that you could make yourself, and the things that make it easier.

Starting with the basics really, and bread. And we would not be without our Panasonic Bread Maker. The SD255 is one of the most hardworking gadgets in our kitchen, probably second only to the kettle.

The smell of baking bread is one of the best smells in the world, there really is nothing like it. And this little machine turns out great loaves, sometimes very quickly, often overnight. It can add in fruit and nuts, it even copes with gluten free flours. Although sadly even it can’t magic them into a loaf that is like real bread!

And we don’t buy pizzas much any more. Just knock up the dough in this and then create away! With a great tomato base (normally onion, garlic and passata cooked down a bit) your imagination can run riot, limited only to what’s in your fridge or store cupboard. It’s a great activity with kids, and all happens before they can get bored with the idea. From prep to table in under an hour, perfect timespan for cooking with kids.

And of course you don’t need to be limited to plain old white flour. I love the huge variety on offer at The Flourbin, and am still working through my last order. I got a bit carried away, but there are so many different flours you end up wanting to try them all!

And if you need some other inspiration for recipes, then I would recommend Fresh Bread in the Morning, and Bread Machine Magic. More bread than even a French bakery might stock!

Truly money well spent, and each loaf costs less than 50p to make. You won’t get a bread that quality for that cost at the supermarket, so really it’s a cost saving machine, but one that is not dull and will fill  your house with the delightful smell of warm bread. Just don’t time a loaf to cook as you’re going to bed! You won’t be able to sleep!

UPDATE – sadly The Flourbin is no longer trading, great loss

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