Gluten-Free at Lammastide

Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet
It was upon a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
I held awa to Annie;
The time flew by, wi’ tentless heed,
Till, ‘tween the late and early,
Wi’ sma’ persuasion she agreed
To see me thro’ the barley.

— excerpt, Rigs o’Barley
by Robert Burns

Lugnasad, Calan Awst, Lammas, Gathering Day, whatever you choose to call it, the start of the harvest brings us images that echo in our bones: the reaping of the grain, stacks of bundled sheaves, “… for amber waves of grain…” The history of agriculture is the history of human civilisation for over eleven millenia. It is no wonder that grain and its life cycle resonate for humans so deeply.

Real estate professionals will even tell you, if you’re trying to sell a house, bake fresh bread before a showing. At the very least, says one website, “The fresh bread smell is achieved by buying a large white loaf and opening up its belly and pouring a bottle of vanilla essence into it and popping it into the oven at medium heat for half an hour before the inspection begins. … The result is a home that smells of freshly baked bread which, as you know, is the warmest, cleanest, most home-caring smell there is.”

Modern Pagans rarely have the opportunity to harvest grain themselves, much less thresh it or undertake the many other steps required to turn it into flour. Still, many Wiccan groups will celebrate the “first harvest” and recognize the ties of community by sharing bread with each other.

Current estimates are that 1 in 133 people suffering coeliac disease, and still more suffering from wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. Further, many people are choosing a gluten-free diet without being wheat or gluten intolerant. It can be hard to be part of a harvest celebration if you’re avoiding wheat and gluten.

The good news is, there are a number of grains that can safely be enjoyed by those who, for whatever reason, avoid gluten. Among them are amaranth, buckwheat, corn millet, quinoa, and sorghum. (click here for a list of gluten-free grains.)

Since starting my own exploration of wheat-free eating, I’ve been collecting recipes for the foods I love, determined that wheat-free doesn’t have to mean giving them up. In my house, one of our favourite lazy weekend morning breakfasts is pancakes. Below is my recipe for wheat- and gluten-free pancakes. We like them with a touch of hickory syrup we get from our local farmer’s market.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Buttermilk Pancakes

½ c buckwheat flour
½ c amaranth flour
¼ c almond meal
¼ c coconut flour
1 T sugar
½ t salt
2 t baking powder
1 ½ t baking soda
1 ½ c buttermilk
2 eggs
2 T unsalted butter, melted

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Separately combine buttermilk, eggs, butter. Slowly, add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir. The resultant batter should not be completely smooth; allow for some lumps.

What is your favourite gluten-free recipe? What food do you refuse to give up, and need a wheat- or gluten-free recipe for? I’m still on a quest for a good, crusty loaf of wheat-free bread!

White Chili

Last time we did the shopping, the market had ground turkey on offer… $1 a pound, buy ten, get one free… so, we stocked up, and I started looking for recipes to utilise it. I enjoy cooking with dried beans, and when I came across a recipe for ‘white chili’, using ground turkey and white beans, I figured I’d give it a shot.

The recipe:
White chili

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 chopped onion
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1lb. ground turkey, browned and drained
1 lb. cannellini, navy or great northern beans
4 c. chicken stock
1 c. corn
1 4oz. tin chopped green chile peppers, drained
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
chopped fresh coriander, for garnish

Soak beans overnight, or use the “quick soak” method: Add dried beans to a large saucepan, add water to cover by 2 inches, and bring to boil. Cook 5 minutes, then cover, remove from heat and let sit for 1 hour. Drain when ready to use.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery; cook until the onion is translucent. Add turkey, beans, stock, corn and chilies. Season with cumin and hot pepper sauce. Cover and cook for 60-90 minutes with the lid on, but tilted, until the beans are tender.

Serve with shredded cheese and chopped coriander.

We didn’t have plain cumin and I’d not thought to get any, so I used standard chili powder instead. I didn’t use a lot of tobasco, just a dash or two, really.

Periodically through the cooking, I tasted it, and it was bugging me… the broth was seriously lacking in depth. It was too late to add fresh garlic, so I resorted to garlic powder, of which I added a fair whack, along with a bay leaf. It still seemed a bit uninspired to me, so I added a little salt, maybe two good pinches, then about a teaspoon of Chachere’s, which still didn’t do it. Plenty of heat up front, but nothing to support it underneath… The Reverend suggested I let it continue cooking and see what it did, so I went away from the pot, muttering. Just before serving I added 4 oz. pepper jack cheese, cubed, and stirred that in until it was melted and blended through, rather than using the cheese as a garnish. We skipped the fresh coriander, and opted for multigrain tortilla chips.

The pepper jack added the depth I felt the broth was missing quite nicely, though next time, I think I may roast a head of garlic in advance and add a fair bit of that in.

All in all, a very tasty and unconventional chili, which has everyone is going back for a second helping.

Pasta y Fagiole

So, the Reverend and I are trying to cut back on our food spending a bit, which has inspired me this week for our dinners. Tonight is pasta e fagioli, or as it is often Americanised, Pasta Fazul…

The recipe:

Pasta e fagioli


1 pound dried borlotti beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces proscuitto ends, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 10-ounce can plum tomatoes, with their juice, chopped
6 to 8 cups chicken or beef stock
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 pound penne rigate

Grated Parmesan cheese


Soak the beans in water to cover overnight (6-10 hours), or use the quick soak method: Add dried beans to a large saucepan, add water to cover by 2 inches, and bring to boil. Cook 5 minutes, then cover, remove from heat and let sit for 1 hour. Drain.

Heat the olive oil and cook the proscuitto ends for five minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot and cook for 10 minutes, or until softened.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, the beans and the stock. Bring to boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and continue cooking until the beans are soft (about 20 more minutes).

In a food processor, puree half the beans with some of their cooking liquid and return puree to the saucepan. Check density of the soup and add stock if it is too thick.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, cook the penne in boiling salted water until it is barely al dente. Drain it and add it to the soup. Correct the seasoning as needed.

Garnish with parmesan cheese.

What I did differently:

I opted to use navy beans, instead of borlotti or cannellini beans, as our local market didn’t have the latter two. I like working with dried beans, but you can use tinned beans if you like – just skip the soaking, drain and rinse them well. You want a good 2-3 cups of beans, which I reckon as being about two 14oz. tins.

As we were trying to save a bit of money, I opted to go with a thick-cut American-style (streaky) bacon. The main thing the bacon is going to do is add a bit of depth to the broth and a fair whack of salt. Realistically, any engineering-grade bacon will do, so feel free to use proscuitto, pancetta, thick-cut American style bacon like I did, or whatever else suits your fancy. Using streaky bacon, I didn’t use any olive oil, as the bacon leavings were plenty to cook the veg up in.

I added about a teaspoon of dried thyme and two small bay leaves when I added the stock, which was chicken, not beef.

Because I was using navy beans, the cooking time was cut down a bit. Basically, after the first 25 minutes of simmering, I started the water for pasta, when the pasta was done, I drained it and added it to the beans and broth, and pretty much called it done. If you’re using tinned beans, the cooking time will be even less. Just taste the beans periodically to test their softness if using a larger bean.

Rather than penne, I opted for gemelli, pretty much just because I like the shape. Any small shaped pasta will do, so have fun with it. You might be tempted to add more pasta, when you’re looking at the big vat o broth and the wee pot of pasta, but seriously, don’t. Half a pound (~225g) of pasta is plenty.

I used 6 cups of stock, and a 28oz. (794g) tin of tomatoes, because that’s what size tin we had in the pantry. You can add more stock if you want it to be more soupy. Fair warning: people will often treat this like soup, so guage this for your tastes in that regard.

I also skipped the puree step, because, really, I couldn’t be arsed.

At the Reverrend’s behest, I added about a half teaspoon of salt (three very healthy pinches) to the stock, but we didn’t add any pepper.

The results: The navy beans held up better than I was expecting them too, and feature nicely in a flavourful and hearty dish that I hesitate to call a soup or a stew, to be honest. Next time, I may increase the stock, to make it closer to a proper soup, since everyone in the house was scooping up extra broth, trying to make it be a soup in their bowl. We thought the beans seemed a little ‘dry’, so next time, I may try cooking them a little longer. Everyone’s having seconds, and there’s still enough for at least lunch tomorrow, so I’d say it went over at least decently well. Next time, I think pairing it with a nice crusty bread would be good.