Gluten free at Abama Hotel Tenerife

With a  multitude of food intolerances holidaying at a Hotel for me is a very daunting thought. Something I’d almost rather not consider.  But after a tough year with health issues and a house move we really felt we needed a break away. A break where we both had complete relaxation , no cooking or worrying about what to eat.

My husband had heard good things about the Abama in Tenerife . A Ritz Carlton Hotel in Guia de Isora . After a little persuassion we booked a week in the winter sun.

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Abama Hotel

In advance we emailed the food and beverage manager at the hotel . Giving a hotel advanced notice I think is a good idea, whether you are gluten free due to having coeliac disease or a dairy intolerance or like me a long list of foods I have to avoid. The restaurants then have time to make sure they can be fully prepared.

I felt far calmer about the holiday once the email was sent and a reply had been received. My husband researched all the restaurants at Abama and pre booked every night before we flew. Abama has two Michelin star Restaurants , neither was something we felt we needed to try , although I’m sure they are amazing . With so much other choice we knew we would eat well . We chose to go half board to get the best deal.

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Restaurants –

La Miramar – locally sourced Seafood restaurant / Breakfast venue for Villa guests

Verona  – Italian

20/20 Steak house

TXOKO – Traditional Spanish

Beach club restaurant

Los Chozos – Bar and restaurant ( not visited )

La Casa club ( not visited )

Sports bar ( not visited )

Lobby bar

M.B – Michelin star restaurant ( not visited )

Abama Kabuki – Japanese fusion Michelin star restaurant (not visited )

 

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and after checking in we were met by the Executive chef and we were given a glass of Cava . He instantly made me feel at ease about my week at Abama . Opening up his laptop he took more notes as I chatted him through my list including onions, garlic, paprika, chilli’s, yeast including wine & vinegar and Gluten . He was so reassuring making notes in both english and Spanish to send to all the restaurants. A fantastic start!

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Our villa

Our first meal was lunch at the beautiful beach side restaurant local fish grilled with the softest mash , just perfect alfresco dinning in a relaxed atmosphere. In the evening we ate at the Seafood restaurant overlooking the sea. With the weather in Tenerife warm enough to sit outside with heaters just like a UK good summer. We enjoyed a salt crusted Sea bass with traditional Tenerife style potatoes and vegetables.

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stunning view from our villa

Day 2 was our first chance to experience breakfast on the veranda of La Mirabar Alfresco this restaurant is for Villa guests only . A big plus for me, close to our villa and views straight out to the sea and the island of La Gomera. At 9am in the morning it was warm enough to sit outside with just a cardigan. From the very first minute I felt like a very special guest . Post it notes were on all our bookings and every day I was told reasuringly that they were informed about my intolerances. There was a huge buffet but also an a la cart menu Which I chose from every day. Sometimes asking for things off menu which the chef was happy to provide . Delicious omelettes , poached eggs, salmon bacon, avocado etc.

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Stunning views at breakfast

They struggled to understand that I couldn’t eat the gluten free bread and rolls and occasionally offered it to me. The good thing was I was able to have a look at what was on offer and the gluten free rolls etc looked really nice. I also noticed that lactose free milk was available and soya milk was available at the buffet. Plenty of fresh fruit as you would expect and hams and cheeses were on offer. I had these brought directly from the kitchen rather than the buffet to avoid the cross contamination .

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Alfresco breakfast in January

Our evening was spent at the steak restaurant 20/20 This restaurant is up at the hotel a steep walk or a 5 min buggy ride away. The waiting staff here were a little slow but on the whole it was a fine meal of Spanish cheese and Iberian ham , Steak and gluten free fries and a creme brûlée . It reminded me of eating at Côte.

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20/20 Steak house

Our third Evening was spent at the Amazing Spanish restaurant our favourite . The waiting and front of house team were exceptional The surrounding were lovely an indoor restaurant up at the hotel again but very Spanish in feel and just that extra bit special. The food was a real treat the best aged Iberian ham I have ever tasted along with some good quality Manchego cheese .

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Aged Iberian ham and Manchego cheese

My main course was some beautifully cooked fish with crispy skin , steamed veg and fries made specially for me in separate oil . Gluten free desserts are always more difficult to find on a menu it seems. But here I was offered the most incredible Spanish decadent rice pudding I had ever tasted with a brûlée style topping . At the end of the meal unexpectedly the wonderful Chef came out to be introduced and shook our hands . I’m sure the other customers thought we were very special , they made such a fuss of us.

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Decadent sweet rice pudding

Days were spent by the adult only pool very close to our villa looking out to sea and beyond to La Gomera , With complimentary water and fruit there was no need to move at all, or pay out for lunch  .

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January winter sun

Just plenty of time for absorbing some much needed vitamin D and reading some gentle books . Perfect for improving your mental health and completely switching off from all the pressures of life. The pool staff were attentive and friendly the pool area was very clean and quiet . The water was 24 degrees perfect for a little light exercise . There was a bar on site for tapas style lunches and a cheeky drink.

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The Adult only pool

Day 4 we had booked to eat at 20/20 again but as we were not over enamoured with the quality of the food we changed to the Spanish restaurant where we knew we would eat like Kings. It might sound strange but I had virtually the same meal as i’d had the night before. Being a Spanish restaurant the majority of main courses contained onions and garlic etc  But I was quite happy having more beautiful fish and this time special mash made for me by the chef in advance as he had asked on our last visit if there was anything he could make for me specially . The rice pudding the night before had been so amazing an even though there was other choices apart from fruit . I couldn’t resist ordering it a second time. So sweet and creamy it somehow felt very homely and comforting . Although I’ve never eaten quite such an amazing rice pudding in the UK.

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A very memorable evening meal was the special Paella the chef created at La Miramar

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Chef created a special paella just for me

Our final evening was spent at the Italian restaurant at the hotel, This restaurant did have gluten free pastas available , but I chose some lovely fish and fresh veggies followed by a delicious raspberry panna cotta .

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If you are thinking of spending a week on Tenerife, I can recommend a drive up the volcano Mount Teide , the scenery is absolutely stunning and surprised me enormously.

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view from the volcano

The small coastal villages are beautiful as are the historic inland villages like Garachico with quiet squares for people watching and welcome shade in the heat of the day.

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Garachico

The hotel we stayed at was really lovely and I can definitely recommend . I would particularly recommend a villa rather than a hotel room . It has the edge on the hotel and feels just that little more special.  Our room was clean , nicely decorated and had the most stunning views from our balcony.

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Family pool and our villa

Well worth a stay if you are celebrating a special birthday or anniversary . Just be aware the hotel is on a hill , with relatively steep slopes and numerous steps around the resort. There is though a team of drivers to taxi you around in golf buggies ( allow 15mins plus ) , a resort train to take you to the beach and hotel.

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resort train

and a funicular railway down to the golden sand beach .

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View of the beach

We had a fabulous time, and would definitely return, when we’ve saved up !

its certainly not a cheap holiday but for a special occasion you can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gluten free at the Medicine garden Cobham

On one of the hottest days of the year I decided to go and investigate a walled garden with cafe’s and shops in Cobham. I only recently found out about this beautiful walled garden on  Instagram. After seeing lovely pics I was keen to go and explore.

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Not far from the centre of Cobham Surrey the Walled garden can be found on Downside road KT11 3LU . My sat nav didn’t quite get the position right , undeterred I phoned up and a helpful lady explained that it was just a little further up the road. Medicine garden shares an entrance with a fencing company. Both sets of signs are clear to see from the road. There is plenty of free parking and the Gardens themselves are free to enter. A donation is requested for the upkeep of the gardens but this is not compulsory .

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As I visited towards the end of August many of the beautiful flowers were going over, but this did not take away from my overall experience. Bees and butterflies were still busy amongst the remaining bright colours and seed heads stood to attention in the heat on the midday sun.

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It was quite a lot to take in at first, I hadn’t gone with any preconceived ideas. The Medicine garden is enclosed in a gorgeous old wall and with the bright blue sky and honey coloured stone and palm tree you could have been somewhere far more exotic than Cobham. Not that Cobham isn’t a lovely destination !

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Firstly I took a tour around the entire area taking in the Airstream converted to a cafe, a canopied south facing raised seating area with miss match of bright coloured chairs a huge pink leather settee and large ornate mirror.

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A more shady area to the left with white roses growing up the wall and long tables perfect for a large group.

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A small play area fort for 4yrs and up surrounded by sand , full of little ones making the most of the school holidays. Next to a small veggie patch.

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Bike stands available for cyclists  making it a perfect half way spot for an espresso.

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This bike had seen better days but made a perfect container for flowers.

Glistening in the sunshine the vintage Airstream has pride of place serving teas and coffee’s etc from late spring to early autumn.

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On through to the most quirky garden pod cafe, set in the courtyard and formerly the potting shed open daily throughout the year. I was here to seek out any gluten free offerings, and I wasn’t to be disappointed. The staff were very friendly and helpful and explained that all the gluten free cakes and biscuits came from a local bakery Le Papillon Patisserie ( this is not a dedicated gluten free bakery ) but the GF labeled cakes on site in the cafe were stored in separate glass covered containers. There were three choices of gluten free and a vegan choice.

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I chose a gluten free macaroon and a cup of english breakfast tea, I tend to take my own milk as I prefer unsweetend almond. I imagine that the cafe would offer a dairy free alternative to milk. I think my bill was about £4 about average for anywhere in Surrey.

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I carried my tray out onto the south facing terrace under the shade of the huge white canopy . It was maybe a little to hot to be sitting in the sun but it looked so welcoming that I embraced the heat! For those who prefer the shade there was a cool shady courtyard on the other side of the cafe offering relief from the hot sun and many people were sensibly enjoying their lunches in the cool.

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Even though the car park was very busy there was plenty of places to sit I chose a tiny table and chair looking out onto the grass slowly getting scorched in the sun. My gluten free macaroon was a real treat , I have to admit I am always nervous of eating baked goods out as I worry about cross contamination. I have been absolutely fine after eating it and I’m sure they are careful to avoid causing any ill effects. I really liked my mug, and the tea and would definitely take friends along next time.

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Soon the heat became too much so I retreated into the shade of the courtyard. A selection of tiny shops. The Art shed, The Beehive, Blid and Hattan gatherings, The White Orchid flower shop and The Pineapple store entice you in. Plenty of plants for sale too and garden pots etc .

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Most of the little shops were in the shade and on the more northerly side of the courtyard allowing a rest bite from the intense heat of the day. I enjoyed a browse and could think of quite a few friends who would enjoy these indie shops too.

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The courtyard is also home to The Hothouse cafe, on my visit it certainly was a hot house! but on a regular English day I’m sure it would be lovely to sit inside. Gluten free bread was on offer but as always if you are Coeliac check first about their cross contamination policy ( separate toaster etc )

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The Medicine garden does not allow you to bring picnics along, but encourages you to buy something tasty from the cafe’s and eat it in or alfresco on one of the sun decks and for a picnic style you can borrow a blanket or sit on one of the extra large deckchairs.

Babies food is an exception and home prepared can be eaten in the gardens. Many families with young children where gathered in groups under the shade of the trees. Ice creams and lollies were available and I noticed a sign saying most flavours were gluten free. To upkeep the beautiful gardens and walls they  encourage you to purchase something from the cafe’s . A small price to pay to spend as long as you like in this stunning environment and to maintain it for the future.

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I made time to walk around the circle of trees reading carefully the inspirational texts written at each point . Even with the sun beating down it was a few moments of calm.

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My next visit won’t be too far away I’m sure. But I particularly look forward to late spring / early summer 2017 when I’m sure the gardens will be at their best.

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I can really recommend this hidden gem, why not go and check it out for yourself .

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You can follow Medicine garden on Instagram @medicinegardencobham 

Twitter @medicinegarden 

 

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My review of Honeybuns Squillionaire and Fruity nut bar

Honeybuns  New Squillionaire is a gluten free polenta and date shortbread , topped with date and chocolate –  less sweet than your average millionaire square but still tastes like a treat. Containing no refined sugar its obviously still sweet but instead of refined sugar it contains date syrup and date paste . I love that it clearly says I’m a cake not a health bar .

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Its good to see Honeybuns listening to many of us requesting refined sugar free treats.

Honeybuns are hoping to make the Squillionaire bar Dairy free in the future . But please be aware that at present it may contain traces of dairy.

 

My next challenge to Honeybuns is for 100% dairy free treats using coconut oil and I would love to see a Grain free , refined sugar free treat too?

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I picked mine up from my local Waitrose cafe , located near the till. Priced at £1.85

 

I really enjoyed this new cake bar, I actually prefer the lower sugar taste and would select it again .

Also available online at Honeybuns.co.uk at £1.70 per slice.

The new Fruity nut bar is a dairy free and gluten free bar packed with cranberries, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. This is still most definitely a treat and does contain a small amount of sugar in the sweetened cranberries  , the bar also contains dates. Each bite is full of delicious dried fruit and nuts.  I enjoyed it but not sure I would choose it again.

cost £1.70

Honeybuns say ” It tastes like a decadent cake, not a health bar ! ”

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online at honeybuns.co.uk it costs £1.70 per bar

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Follow Honeybuns on Twitter @honeybunsbakery 

Coconut Muffins grain free

I was looking to make a light spongy cake that could be made grain free and dairy free , these are delicious!

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I’ve made these twice now in a hotter oven 200c. But think they would be better at 180c as mine caught slightly on top.

They really are very light and were enjoyed by the family.

Coconut Muffins

Recipe –

300g ground almonds

pinch salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 large eggs

1 tin coconut milk ( use 300ml of the thick cream inside and a little of the coconut water )

1 tsp vanilla essence

4 tbsp honey

Topping of your choice – I used low sugar jam and strawberries

Method 

pre heat fan oven to 180c

put all the dry ingredients in the bowl, the ground almonds , salt and bicarbonate of soda

add the beaten eggs, honey and vanilla

Open a can of coconut milk . Using a measuring jug spoon in the lovely thick cream that comes to the top of the tin and a little of the coconut water to make up to the 300ml mark

add to the mix

mix well

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prepare muffin tray and paper cases

spoon mixture into the cases, I made 11 muffins

You can add desiccated coconut on the top if you wish

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( I added dessicated coconut and lime zest to these )

Bake for 15mins at 180c and then check if they need slightly longer .

Cool before eating on a wire rack

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We enjoyed them topped with lower sugar strawberry jam and a fresh strawberry on each perfect for Wimbledon week

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you could make lime and coconut muffins

or maybe top with chocolate

These muffins also work well with a hidden spoonful of jam inside, put a little mix in your muffin case then add a spoonful of jam then top with more muffin cake mix.

Happy Baking!

 

My visit to the stunning Wiveton Hall, normal for Norfolk!

I love the North Norfolk coast and I’m a regular visit to Wiveton Hall ,café and fruit farm . Usually I go along for tea and gluten free cake and buy seasonal fruit and vegetables . I find it a great place to take friends and family.

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The location is just perfect with views stretching down towards the marshes and sea. After watching the BBC 2 series Normal for Norfolk the documentary about Wiveton Hall and the undeniably slightly eccentric character that is Norfolk gentleman farmer Desmond MacCarthy . His mother the lovely Chloe at 100 is still very much part of the farm and cafe and who I spotted enjoying a gluten free brownie , which I have to say looked delicious.

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On Sunday inspired by the tv series I made the drive along the coast road to Wiveton hall fruit farm with my husband. The sun was shining brightly and although the car thermometer was only reading 12c it felt much warmer. The scenery along the coast road was gorgeous. winding through pretty villages, passing a windmill , fields of rapeseed and hedgerows of cow parsley.

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I had pre booked a lunch for two at 1. 30pm We arrived and parked up, as always it was packed . Do book in advance online if you want to eat at Wiveton Hall. Its always been very busy but I’m sure due to Normal for Norfolk’s popularity this summer will be its best!

We were shown to a large clean table with views down to the sea in the distance. Bright coloured chairs and fun patterned table cloths make this light bright airy cafe the perfect place for a sunny Sunday lunch. I was delighted that Desmond himself was in the cafe chatting to families. He kindly agreed to a photo for my blog post and was interested to hear where we had come from.

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Chloe, Desmonds mother has her own designated table. Where she was sitting waiting for her Sunday lunch and possibly waiting for Desmond to finish chatting with one and all and come and sit down!

The big table next to us was a family celebrating the grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. Wiveton cafe is very family friendly and if you prefer there is a seating area outside for families and dogs. The chairs and tables outside are painted in zingy bright colours and have an outstanding view of the Norfolk countryside and distant views of the sea.

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Before I booked online I contacted the cafe by email to explain my dietary requirements. Charlotte emailed me back straight away assuring we I would be well looked after and also giving me a menu idea for my visit that would fit in with my many intolerances. This was very reassuring .

At the cafe you take your order to the till where you can pay in advance or at the end. The  kitchen is open and right next door and if you had any questions, which I did about choice of gluten free puddings they were quickly answered.

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I chose Hot smoked salmon and Wiveton asparagus salad with a horseradish, tomato and lime creme fraise dressing, this was the menu idea from Charlotte.  Followed by homemade Wiveton strawberry sorbet. My husband went for the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with roasties and asparagus. His dessert choice was cappuccino panna cotta  with nut praline and raisins soaked in rum. Tea for one and a ginger beer.

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The drinks and food arrived promptly and were well presented. My salmon and asparagus salad was a good size and delicious the flavours delicate and a flavour combination I hadn’t tried before. Baby salad leaves, fresh asparagus picked from Wiveton farm and a good size piece of salmon with tomatoes. I would definitely chose it again.

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I eat out so rarely that when I do, and feel confident in the chefs , I always get a little emotional. The sheer joy of not having to cook and to be able to eat out like everyone else. That might seem quite crazy and difficult to understand but when you are intolerant to gluten , yeast thats vinegar, wine etc. Onions, garlic and paprika. Eating out becomes so difficult especially with the worry of cross contamination from gluten. These days any of these foods can cause me to be extremely ill for days and weeks to come.

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My husband enjoyed his large roast dinner with perfectly cooked pink slices of beef with crispy Yorkshire with plenty of hot meaty gravy.

Our desserts were both gluten free so I was able to sample to cappuccino panna cotta. My husband wasn’t convinced on the flavour combination with the nut brittle and the rum soaked raisins but I thought it was a clever idea that I’m sure worked well. My Wiveton strawberry homemade sorbet was a real treat. Bursting with early english strawberry flavour and more than a little sugar! ( well it was a treat pud ! )

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I thought the prices were ok my salad was £13.50 and the roast was £16.50 the desserts were £6 each. I found the waiting staff were friendly and very helpful.

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After my delicious meal I suggested we took a walk around the gardens this costs £2.50 each from the shop. Which by the way is amazing and I got carried away buying a Wiveton mug, postcards and Wiveton jam. Some lovely things, much of which is locally made.

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The gardens was something after seeing the tv show I really wanted to explore.

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Unfortunately the hall itself isn’t open to the public this is very much Desmond and his families home. But the walled garden , the outside of the hall and wild woodland gardens  are truly worth an afternoon stroll. I properly fell in love with the place and could of quite easily spent hours there.

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If you are up in Norfolk it is well worth a visit. Just don’t forget to book in advance if you want to eat at the cafe. You can click through here to find availability. There are also holiday cottages to stay in.

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Wiveton cafe is open for lunch and afternoon tea. Friday evenings for Beef and Reef. Saturdays are Tapas night, also pizza evenings . Special events are on the website too.

Before you leave its well worth checking out the plants, fruit and vegetables available to buy.

Wiveton Hall website

follow on Twitter @wivetonhall 

check out @Iizzirainey handmade lovely things available in the Wiveton shop

Missed the series Normal for Norfolk? click here to view 

 

These views and this stunning scenery is really Normal for Norfolk! come and see for yourself

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Grain free bakes from against all grain cook book

I had a go at making two grain free bakes from Danielle Walkers book Against all grain, this was Danielle’s first book from 2013 . The book is packed full of delicious bakes and meals that are grain free

I needed to use up some ripe bananas and I spotted Danielle’s Allergy free breakfast cookies. Made using apple sauce, dates, coconut flour, coconut raisins and bananas I knew they would taste good.

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The recipe was easy to follow in fact I just popped it on in the food processor and made a perfect cookie dough.

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I expected them to be quite firm but theses cookies I thought were more like the texture and taste of a date bar or raw paleo bar, a soft cookie . Saying this I still really liked them and preferred them to shop bought bars and would definitely make the again. They freeze well so I froze in bags of two for those moments when you are desperate for a sweet treat. they would make a good quick breakfast on the go. Here is the recipe Allergy free Breakfast cookies

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Secondly I made the world-famous sandwich bread   ( this recipe took Danielle’s blog global )

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With a very strange list of ingredients I did have my doubts . Eggs, cashew butter,honey, almond milk , coconut flour etc didn’t sound much like a bread recipe but I thought it was worth a go. The recipe used apple cider vinegar but as I’m yeast free and avoid vinegar I guessed lemon juice would do the trick and fortunately it worked well.

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I was so pleased with the result. The bread tasted very nice with a springy texture. It was time consuming to make and quite messy with lots of washing up. But well worth the effort. Very different from a regular gluten filled loaf but still suitable to make a sandwich or toast the slices are quite small but it does the job well .

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For me, having a bread I can slice and make sandwiches yet still stay grain free is amazing!

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Danielle was diagnosed with ulcerated colitis , like Crohn’s disease this is an inflammatory bowel disease. She is on a grain free diet to improve her health and control the disease. Danielle hasn’t had a flair up since 2011. She is now following a Paleo diet and staying well and free from IBD symptoms . Story’s like this encourage me to continue grain free.

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You can follow Danielle on Twitter  @againstallgrain

Her website is packed full of recipes and inspiration –  againstallgrain.com

The book is available on Amazon for £21.24

Book 2 – Against all grain meals made simple is available too

3rd book – Against all grain Celebrations will be released on September 27th

Simple gluten free banana bread

I always buy more bananas than I can eat before they start going brown and over ripe. So banana bread is a favourite to make, to use up this over soft extra sweet fruit.

Usually I make a grain free version for me, but this recipe is just gluten free and you would be hard pushed to tell this apart from its gluten filled version. Perfect for an afternoon sweet treat. I made this for my Son’s birthday

Recipe

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Banana bread

100g unsalted softened butter ( you could also use coconut oil  )

175g sugar ( I used Coconut sugar which I prefer )

2 large free range eggs

2 large over ripe Bananas

225g gluten free self raising flour ( I used Doves Farm )

1 tsp gluten free baking powder

2 tbsp milk ( I used almond milk )

Method

Really simple

pre heat oven fan 160c

I used a hand blender and mixed everything together, the blender mashes the banana really well and helps to cream together the sugar and softened butter.

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If you don’t have a hand blender or processor you can use a potato masher to mash the bananas or a fork and elbow grease to mix together the other ingredients.

Top tip – make sure you use a mixing spoon that is not used for making gluten bakes especially if it is a wooden spoon as gluten loves to hide in them.

I lined a 2 lb loaf tin and spooned in the batter

the loaf then goes in a pre heated oven at fan 160c for 1 hr

leave to cool, then turn out on to a wire cooling rack.

As mine was for a celebration, I added icing and chocolate shavings.

slice and enjoy with a cuppa!

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