Smoky Gluten Free Salt & Pepper Squid


Last time, we looked at cleaning squid – or calamari – and this time I’m sharing my easy Smoky Salt & Pepper Squid, which serves 4 as a starter.

I’ve served this with a nam jim dipping sauce.


  • 2 medium squid, cleaned
  • 4 heaped tablespoons tapioca flour (you could use ordinary wheat flour, but it won’t be as light)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon salt (I have used smoked salt),
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper,
  • 1 teaspoon smoked chilli/paprika
  • Plain Oil for deep frying, I used basic vegetable oil

Dipping sauce

  • 2 tablespoons nam jim (or you could use sweet chilli sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Lime juice

Start by cleaning the squid, see this post for more details. Continue reading


Rye, Millet & Sunflower seed bread

As I was enjoying my wonderful carrot soup recently I realised it’d been a while since I’d made any rye bread. It was a cold winters day and so, with nothing better to do, I dug around in the cupboard for some rye flour, and came across a bag of millet flour and some sunflower seeds as well. So I’ve combined them all in this adaptation. It does take a few hours but it’s not as if you have to stand around watching it, and the full, rich flavour of the bread is worth it.


  • 3 2/3 cups rye flour
  • 1/3 cup of millet flour (or just use all rye)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • couple of pinches caraway seeds
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
  • 1 sachet dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 100ml milk
  • warm water

Start by warming the milk to lukewarm, add the sugar and stir in the yeast. Leave for 15 minutes for the yeast to start. It should develop a foamy head. Continue reading

“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

Toad in the Hole

These GF bratwurst appeared in my local Woolies recently – and as I’d been to Bavarian Beer Café the night before, all things Germanic were foremost in my mind. So naturally I immediately thought of Toad in the Hole. Well, actually, I thought of beer first, but toad in the hole a close second.

We’re not natural sausage eaters, Mr Chopsticks and I. It’s the whole lips ‘n’ hoof and fat thing. And all that salt to cover the horridness of it all.  Plus – Australians! What’s with the beef sausages?? Basic sausages are meant to be pork. Fancy sausages are allowed to be chicken, lamb or perhaps venison, contain herbs and other fripparies, but yer banger? Pork. Anyhow, I digress. We like to think our diet is pretty junk free (yes, sausages usually qualify as junk) so sausage just don’t feature much. Consequently I haven’t cooked toad in the hole in about 20 years – maybe I was feeling nostalgic (frankly probably just hungover). Anyway, dear reader, I bought those bratwurst, and here they are.

I’m not going to include the recipe I used – basically it was from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef – because to be honest, it’s pancake batter and sausage. He uses rosemary too, so, being as I was clearly in unadventurous mode, so did I. That’s about it. What I did do was stick the oven on hotter than hades (250 C) and heat the tray and the oil first. This seemed to do the trick. Gotta say though Jamie, I think 1cm of oil in the tray is a tad overkill. Next time I’ll use much less.

Eat with abandon. And beer.