Browse Month by June 2015

Lemon and Sultana Scones

Lemon and sultana scones - A Free From Life

The word ‘scone’ instantly reminds me of childhood holidays in Devon, where idyllic little teashops beckoned you in with the promise of homemade versions served with oodles of clotted cream. Of course, you can have a cream tea anywhere nowadays and why not? This simple little baked good, with its fruity and creamy companions, makes the perfect treat for a summer’s day.

As usual, my first attempts at making anything gluten and dairy free tend to come out dense, hard and often brick-like. Based on some of the things I’ve made in the past, I could quite easily go and work for the Ministry of Defence. I keep working on my recipes, though and I get there in the end. That’s the time to share them on this blog.

The scones in this recipe are no bricks, let me tell you. The result is light and fluffy with a lemony freshness. Unfortunately, clotted cream is a no-no for the dairy intolerant contingent of our family, but with the addition of my chia jam and some coconut cream, this makes for a cream tea to rival any traditional one.

200g ground almonds
100g tapioca starch
100g brown rice flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120g dairy free alternative to butter
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp honey
120g yoghurt (dairy free if required)
70g sultanas
Grate rind of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk

Instructions (makes 12)

Preheat the oven to 180/gas 4

– Mix the ground almonds together with the flour, starch and bicarbonate of soda
– Add the butter in cubes and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
– Thoroughly mix in the egg, honey and yoghurt
– Fold in the sultanas and grated lemon rind

Don’t be alarmed if you have a soft and sticky mixture that’s more of a batter than a dough. You are not working with a dough that you roll out and cut, as you would if making traditional scones. A dough of this consistency, when baking gluten free, will result in a baked good that is dry and hard.

– Using a desert spoon, drop heaped spoonfuls of the mixture on to a lined baking sheets, making sure there is space in between each one
– Brush the tops with the egg yolk
– Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown

Vary this recipe by changing the sultanas for other dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or cherries. You could also substitute the lemon zest for orange.

Casa Costello

Strawberry and Raspberry Chia Jam

Strawberry and raspberry chia jam - A Free From Life

I made an error with my on-line grocery shop the other day and ended up with an enormous amount of strawberries. Knowing how quickly they turn, I needed to make something that used up a decent amount of them (I really did over order). The traditional thing to do if you have too much of a fruit or vegetable, is to make chutney, pickles or jams, so that’s what I decided to do. I combined my extra strawberries with some raspberries to make a chia jam.

200g strawberries
200g raspberries
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp chia seeds

– Top the strawberries and add them to a large pan with the honey
– Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the raspberries and continuing to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the fruit is soft
– Add the chia seeds and stir well
– Continue to simmer for a further 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens
– Allow to cool before pouring in to a jar

I sterilised my jam jar in the dishwasher, taking it straight from the dishwasher, pouring in the cooled jam and then sealing and putting it in the fridge (put on a heat proof mat if the bottom of the jar is still hot, so as not to crack the glass shelves of your fridge). It will keep for a week, if it lasts that long!

This jam is lovely on gluten free toasted bread. It also works well with my lemon and sultana scones, combined with whipped coconut cream for a gluten and dairy free creamed tea.

Savoury Dishes

A Gluten and Dairy Free Picnic

Gluten and dairy free picnic and packed lunch ideas - A Free From Life

I wanted to share with you some ideas I had for picnic and packed lunch snacks. They are all gluten and dairy free and make an interesting change from sandwiches.

Making a batch of each of these will last a few days, or even better, freeze them in handy portion sizes. Team with salad and a dip such as houmous for a complete meal on the go.

Tuna patties

Tuna and thyme patties - A Free From Life


  • 2 tins of tuna
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice of gluten free bread
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Beat the eggs in a bowl and mix in the tuna
  • Add the thyme, salt and pepper
  • Whizz the bread to make crumbs and add to the tuna mix
  • Stir well to incorporate and then chill in the fridge for half an hour
  • Once chilled form into patties the size of mini burgers
  • Fry in olive oil or coconut oil until brown on both sides and cooked through

Crusted chicken

Sunflower, pumpkin and almond crusted chicken pieces - A Free From Life


  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut in to goujon-style strips

You will also need:

  • Cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper


  • Whizz the seeds and the almonds together to form a mixed crumb
  • Spread half of this mix on to a wide plate
  • Sprinkle another plate with the cornmeal and season
  • Whisk the egg, along with 1 tbsp water in a large shallow dish
  • Coat the chicken pieces in the seasoned cornmeal, then add them to the beaten egg. Transfer from here to the plate with the crumbs. Cover with the remaining half of the crumb mix and coat completely
  • Fry the chicken pieces in olive oil or coconut oil until browned on both sides and cooked through

Courgette and Chive Tartlets

Courgette tartlets - A Free From Life


For the pastry:

  • 75g sorghum flour
  • 25g tapioca starch
  • 100g gram flour
  • 100g butter
  • 4 tbsp water

For the filling:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheese or alternative dairy free variety


Pre heat the oven to 180/gas 4

  • Measure the flours and starch and mix well
  • Add the butter in cubes and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  • Add the water and mix until it forms a smooth dough
  • Wrap in cling film and transfer to the fridge to cool
  • Beat the eggs together in a large bowl
  • Add the grated courgette, dried chives and salt and pepper
  • Set to one side
  • Grease four mini tart baking cases
  • Divide the pastry dough in to four pieces and roll each piece between the cling film until you have a round that is just wider than the tart cases
  • Line each tart case with pastry, trimming the edges
  • Put the four tart cases on a baking tray and divide the egg mixture evenly between each one
  • Grate some cheese on the top, if using, then transfer to the oven
  • Cook for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and set on the surface

Gluten and dairy free picnic and packed lunch ideas - A Free From Life

Tasty Tuesdays on

Free From Farmhouse
Casa Costello

Dairy Intolerance – What You Need To Know

Dairy Intolerance - what you need to know - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of Naypong via

There is often confusion as to what you should avoid if you think you are intolerant to dairy. For some, the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk, is the main cause of dairy intolerance. This causes symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhoea and bloating. For others, the main proteins found in cow’s milk, including casein, whey and albumin can cause a reaction.

Dairy Intolerance - what you need to know - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of tiverlucky at

Dairy intolerance should not be confused with cow’s milk allergy. In this case, even a trace amount of milk-containing products can cause an instant immune response and can lead to severe symptoms of wheezing, itching, vomiting or a rash.

When my son was a baby, it was clear that he could not tolerate milk. I won’t go in to details, but if I were to use the words ‘projectile’ and ‘explosion’ you might get the general idea. When it didn’t look as though it was something he was going to grow out of, I took action to find out what the problem might be.

I first took him off cow’s milk and tried goat’s milk instead. The symptoms reduced slightly, but they didn’t clear up, so I tried him on lactose free milk instead. This really helped, but it didn’t fully clear up the problem. That’s when I realised he needed to not only avoid lactose, but cow’s milk protein as well.

My son does not produce the enzyme, lactase, which is needed to digest lactose in the body. For him, even a small amount of lactose seems to cause a problem. Secondary to this, is his intolerance to cow’s milk and also to gluten and wheat.

Not all dairy intolerant individuals suffer to the same extent though. If you cannot tolerate lactose, you can buy a range of lactose free dairy products, which are basically cow’s milk with the lactase enzyme added. These products look, taste and behave in the same way that ordinary cow’s milk products do.

Others find they can tolerate a small amount of lactose and manage on lower lactose products such as those made with goat’s milk. Yoghurt contains live cultures that breakdown lactose to produce lactic acid. This gives the yoghurt it’s sour flavour, however, not all of the lactose is broken down, so whilst some individuals could tolerate a small amount of yoghurt, others would have to completely avoid.

The same goes with cheeses. Fermented, natural and aged cheeses such as Swiss, parmesan and blue cheese, typically contain trace amounts of lactose. Similarly, fresh, unripened cheese, such as ricotta and mozzarella contain low levels of lactose. Look at the amount of sugar or carbohydrate on the nutrition information. If it’s around 5 grams per serving or less, you may find you can tolerate small amounts.

Although many find their symptoms improve when staying off cow’s milk, it’s important to know that all milk produced by mammals contains lactose in varying degrees. Unfortunately goat’s milk also contains similar proteins to cow’s milk, so it is not necessarily an alternative option.

So what do you do if you think you need to avoid dairy?

First of all, consult your GP for advice. If he or she suspects a dairy intolerance, they will advise you of the best course of action. In the meantime, keep a food and symptoms diary as a record to take to your doctor. It will help to identify what foods may be causing you problems.

Remember that everybody is different and some can tolerate a small amount of lactose where others have to avoid completely. For some, even lactose free products, which may contain traces of lactose, are best avoided. You will get to know what you need to avoid to keep your symptoms clear.

If avoiding milk and dairy products completely, look at increasing the level of calcium-containing foods in your diet. This means including green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale, along with seafood and tinned fish, such as tuna, salmon and sardines. Fresh sardines, eaten along with the soft bones, is an excellent source of calcium.

Alternative sources of milk include almond, rice, oat and soya milk. Some varieties contain added calcium, but beware of other added ingredients such as sugars when considering an overall healthy diet. Oat milk is not necessarily made with gluten free oats, so should be avoided if you suffer with gluten sensitivities too.

Other foods that are fortified with calcium include breakfast cereals.

I cannot put hand on heart and say that I have found a non-dairy alternative to cheese that I like. Most are soya-based and have a strong flavour and unique taste all of their own, which I guess is an acquired taste, but not one that I have grown accustomed to. Violife, is slightly better and you can also melt it, although it reminds me of melted cheese slices in the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth. Dairy free foods, unfortunately, still have a long way to go.




Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Glutenfree, Dairyfree, Egg Free

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - glutenfree, dairyfree, egg free - a free from life

I’ve been desperate to re-create an allergen friendly version of my ultimate favourite cookie – oatmeal raisin. There has always felt something wholesome and comforting about these cookies and you can’t get better than homemade, especially for an after school treat.

Getting the right balance of crunch and chewiness in a gluten and dairy free version hasn’t been easy. That’s not to say that the attempts along the way haven’t been edible. My family will testify that they have been more than willing to act as taste testers, but I rejected each batch as being either too crumbly, to cakey or too chewy until I finally hit the right combination. It just so happens that my preferred recipe also excludes eggs, which is a bonus for anyone needing to avoid them and looking for an easy to make cookie recipe.

I replaced the egg with milled flaxseeds. The sticky texture when mixed with water acts as a binder for the ingredients, but at the same time, flaxseeds are rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, so they’re good for you too. I used coconut oil instead of butter and cut the sugar content down by using rapadura whole cane sugar. This is made from raw cane juice and has a stronger caramel and molasses flavour, compared with ordinary sugar. You don’t need much of it to sweeten your recipes.

You could say that this is as healthy a cookie as you are likely to get – a little sweet treat, made with wholesome natural ingredients.


150g coconut oil (you can use butter or a dairy alternative if preferred)

2tbsp organic honey

2tsp vanilla extract

50g sugar

4tbsp milled flaxseeds mixed with 2tbsp water

80g sorghum flour

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g gluten free oats

75g raisins


  • Pre heat the oven to 180/gas 4.
  • Melt the coconut oil and add it to a mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flaxseeds and water to form a smooth paste.
  • Add this paste to the melted coconut oil, along with the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Mix well – using a hand mixer or blender is best to incorporate all the ingredients.
  • Add the oats and raisins and stir well.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place walnut sized balls of the mixture on to them in rows of four, ensuring there is space between each. I find it’s best to use your hands at this stage, to bring the mixture together and shape the balls of dough.
  • Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.
  • Bake for ten minutes, until golden brown.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The cookies should last for three to four days (if you are lucky enough to have any left after this time!).