100% Rye Bread (vegan)

Having had a gut full of wheat and lactose this week and suffering for it, I was determined to be good this weekend. In order to breakfast on my favourite avocado on rye, I needed rye bread.  It’s also a vegan recipe, if that suits your circumstances.


  • 400ml warm water
  • 1 sachet dried yeast (7g)
  • 4 cups rye flour (or 2 each of rye and spelt)
  • 1 & 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt (or treacle)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for greasing

Combine the yeast and warm water, and set aside until the yeast starts to bubble at the surface.


IMG_5846Place flour, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of your mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand), mix together.

Place the barley malt, sugar & caraway seeds, sesame seeds in a bowl and mix well until combined.IMG_5849

Add the malt mix and yeast mix together and stir to combine.IMG_5850

Add to the flour and process using a dough hook (or wear out your mixing  arm if you’re being all manual about it) for about 5 minutes. It will be very sticky!

Coat a bowl with the olive oil with your hands and scrape the dough into it. Turn it over a couple of times to coat it with oil (your hands will still be oily which should help stop the dough sticking to you). IMG_5852Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm place for the dough to rise. It needs to double in size.IMG_5856I put mine outside in the weak spring sunshine and it doubled in about an hour.

Knock the dough back – ie give it a couple of whacks to remove all the air – re-cover and leave it to rise a second time – another 1 – 1 1/2 hours.


Knocked back


Risen again

Finally, oil a loaf tin and gently ease the twice risen dough into it.IMG_5860

Cover again and leave another half an hour or so to prove.


Pre heat your oven to 190ºC. Whack the loaf tin in and bake for 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base (slip it out of the tin first!).

I got distracted talking to next door about their chickens and I let the loaf stay in just a little bit too long – hence this next photo shows a slightly over-browned bread!


Try to restrain yourself until the bread cools before slicing & slathering in butter* and jam.

*(that bit not vegan….)


“You’ve lost that bloating feeling…”

The Challenge Diet

Now that I’d cleared me and my diet of as much of the fermentable sugars as I could (it’s important to be really rigorous about this in the exclusion phase), I started by adding in a couple of foods from each of the ‘banned’ food groups, one group at a time – a challenge diet. After each challenge, there’s a process of eliminating all the FODMAPs foods from my diet again – and obviously when challenging it’s really critical to carry on avoiding foods from the other groups so as to not confuse any symptoms. The elimination process between the challenges was a shortened version of the initial phase – 3 days if I had no symptoms from the challenge, or at least 5 days (or however long it took to be symptom free) if I did have symptoms. 

I started with the polyols group – wine, beer and artificial sweeteners, avocado, cherries, watermelon, pears, mushrooms….lots. The challenge was to eat 1 – 2 servings of apricot, avocado nectarine or snow peas, which I did whilst continuing to exclude all the other FODMAPs groups. I found that after 3 or 4 days I wasn’t getting any symptoms of bloating (hurrah for wine and beer!), and moved on through the various groups :

Fructose: challenge was to add 1 tbspn honey or eat a mango a day. Not a bad challenge! I was fine with this one too.

Lactose: challenge by using 1 -2 cups of milk or yoghurt (not diet/low sugar varieties, because of the polyol artificial sweeteners). This one did make me a little bloaty, so I did a 5 day break from all FODMAPs instead of the usual 3, until my symptoms subsided.

Fructo-oligosaccharides: part one was onions – and lots of them! Starting with cooked, and then – gulp – raw. This was a great challenge as cooking without onions had been hard! I think I went a little crazy with the onions, and had a session with way too much raw onion (I know, it sounds kinky, right?) which made me feel fairly sick. Won’t do that again. Part two of the test, done separately, was garlic. All good. God, I love garlic.

Wheat Fructans: my favourite challenge as it meant I could add bread to my diet again! I started with rye bread for 2 days, had 1 day off, and then tested barley. I hadn’t eaten pearl barley in years, and discovered I rather liked it! It makes a pretty good substitute for brown rice or cous cous (which is of course, wheat). Barley and rye were both fine. Then it was time for the biggy – the one I’d pretty much suspected was the problem all along – wheat. In the form of wholemeal bread.

And of course, as I’d thought, this was what I had the strongest reaction to. After a few days of wheat, I was back to wearing larger clothes, feeling uncomfortable, sluggish, bloaty and full. I needed the full 5 days low FODMAPs to recover from that! Next up was….

Galacto-Oligosacharides/Galactans – lentils and legumes, cabbage and sprouts. Apparently everyone reacts a bit to this group – hence the famous beans=wind symptoms – but it was nothing too serious for me, so I counted this one a pass.

And In Summary….

The biggest difficultly was eating out. Finding somewhere where I could avoid wheat, milk and onion/garlic and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables was a very tricky combination! I ate an awful lot of sushi during that time. And drank lots of sake! Luckily, I like sushi, but needed to bear in mind little hidden traps such as that miso and soy sauce can contain wheat. I discovered that I really didn’t like most gluten free breads (gluten is the wheat protein, not a sugar, but it’s convenient when eating out to refer to gluten free – as if there’s no gluten there’s unlikely to be wheat sugars either), and that they can go mouldy really quickly if not refrigerated. 

On the upside; I lost about 8lbs in weight. This wasn’t the point of the diet at all, but as I was a couple of stone overweight anyway, it wasn’t unwelcome! I think it was a combination of not eating out, and pretty much stopping snacking, that did it.  My diet was really pretty healthy in the first place – though my portion sizes were too big – and whilst I don’t really snack much (I rarely if ever eat chocolate bars or crisps for instance) there is something about writing down everything that passes your lips for rationalising your intake of food!

The findings? Well, probably the first thing to say is my symptoms are not at all severe. I think this is because more or less at the same time as I was trialling FODMAPs, I had corrected a non dietary issue (via surgery) which was causing the majority of my symptoms, so what I have left is really quite mild. But I do find that my symptoms are worst if I overindulge in lactose, and wheat sugars (the fructans group). They also worsen depending on my menstrual cycle – I’d be really interested to hear from gals who may have the same issue?

My strategy now is to try to have wheat free days. It’s not too hard, knowing that if I abstain most of the time, it’s OK to allow myself the occasional  toast/pasta day! I also use lactose free milk 99% of the time. It tastes sweeter than normal milk, but that’s usually OK. Bit trickier in savoury cooking, but you can adjust for that normally.  (Be wary of lactose free yoghurt in savoury dishes eg tandoori chicken – it can be hard to mask the sweetness!!)

I hope that if you’re going through a FODMAPs challenge or are reading this because you’re looking for answers to your symptoms, that it’s been of help. But I would say – get in touch with a dietician before starting out. It really is worth it; and fodmaps may not be for you if there are serious underlying causes of your bloating.

Excluding all the good things in life? The FODMAPs Total Exclusion phase!

Last time, I described the first part of my journey along the FODMAPs highway.  This time, I want to tell you more about the exclusion phase of the FODMAPs testing process.

Clearing out the potential source of the problem first is important because I needed to know if cutting out everything fermentable actually did make me feel better. So, working with my dietician, I embarked on 3 weeks of removing as much of the high FODMAPs foods as possible from my diet.

We decided early on that there was no point in cooking two lots of meals every day, so Mr Chopsticks effectively went on the FODMAPs diet too.  I discovered that he hates pumpkin, and quinoa, and even refuses to pronounce it correctly out of sheer cussedness. Neither of us are crazy about polenta now, either*. Continue reading

Gluten Free Muffin-ettes, that are actually damn fine!

You’ll have noticed already that I’m not a fan of gluten free bread and cake products. Usually, the texture is just horrid. But this: this is a recipe which is not only fool proof, it’s actually damn fine tasting! Even Mr Chopsticks, who can be a harsh critic (taking a bite, going “bleagh!”, spitting out and making gagging faces is not unknown) really really likes these. He actually chooses to eat them. They’re that good.

  • ½ cup   polenta
  • ½ cup   GF flour (I use Organ brand or make up my own mix from corn flour, tapioca, brown rice flour and sometimes buckwheat)
  • 1tsp       baking powder*
  • 1 tsp      baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)*
  • ½ tsp     salt
  • ½ cup   grated parmesan (more if you like – it’ll take it)
  • 1/3 cup natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I use olive)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup   corn kernels (cut from cob, or if you must, frozen (defrost first!))
  • ¼ cup   chopped spring onion
  • ½ cup   chopped speck (or ham/salami) – finely diced
  • Chopped fresh herbs (eg, parsley, thyme or whatever is to hand – possibly not mint) and pepper to taste

Oil a 12 hole muffin tin, pre heat oven to 175 C. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Separately, mix the oil, yoghurt and eggs until combined. Dry fry the speck until crispy (or salami) – skip this stage if using ham. Continue reading

Guffs and Bellyaches -Trials and Tribulations of FODMAPs

Sounds quite scary huh? Sounds to me a little like something incurable and possibly involving a nasty rash. Actually, FODMAPs refers to the fermentable sugars in the foods we eat.

Last year, I finally caved in and sought advice from a dietician to try to work out what was making me bloat up periodically. I’m well known amongst my friends for being a bit ‘windy’; what they didn’t appreciate was that (how to phrase this…) the wind ‘not released into the wild’, was causing me more problems than that let fly free!

 By chance I came across a lovely dietician, who just happened to specialise in bloating and FODMAPs (Monica Kubizniak of BJC Health). See, the idea is that a diet rich in fermentable sugars that aren’t absorbed correctly by the gut, are basically left IN the gut for a while – to bubble away, and release gas. The gas causes the uncomfortable bloating. I did a week’s food diary which revealed my lovely healthy diet was absolutely chock full of fermentable sugars. Having established that I don’t have anything nasty such as celiac or Crohn’s disease, I started an elimination diet to clear me of all the major FODMAPs groups. These are:

F: Fermentable

O: oligo-saccharides

D: di-saccharides

M: mono-saccharides

A: and!

P: polyols

Continue reading