Passover desserts


Passover is approaching, and I have good news for anyone scratching their heads trying to think of a suitable dessert. Every single dessert on this website is seder-friendly! This is one of the advantages of gluten and dairy free baking.

(And there I was thinking I was appreciated as a passover guest because I was good company…)

Here are my top picks from the Brain Food archive:

Chocolate Macaroons

Coconut Macarons *

Cranberry Amaretti

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake **

Banana Cake **

Raspberry sorbet


* substitute coconut flour or any nut flour for the rice flour if necessary

** standard baking powder is not kosher for passover, but it is possible to purchase baking powder with kosher for passover certification



Raspberry sorbet


What a difference a few weeks makes.

After one of the coldest, wettest springs on record, London is now having what the papers call a “heatwave” – or what I prefer to think of as some rather nice weather. It has been wonderful to switch into summer eating mode, with light al fresco meals of salads and simple grilled meat and fish.

On a hot summer night I can’t imagine a better way to round off a meal than with a refreshing homemade fruit sorbet. Sweet, tangy raspberry sorbet is my absolute favorite.

Although there are various methods of making sorbet without an ice cream maker, if you are planning on making sorbet regularly it is well worth picking up a basic ice cream maker. In my opinion, sorbet really is one of those foods that are worth the effort to make at home. Homemade sorbet bursts with flavor in a way that store-bought sorbet rarely does. Unless you live in Italy, perhaps…

I’ve had several different ice cream makers over the years and my favorite is this Philips model.

Here’s to summer!

Raspberry sorbet

250 caster sugar

250 ml boiling water

600g fresh raspberries

1 lemon

Makes approximately one liter of sorbet, enough for 4-6 people.

Start by making a sugar syrup: put the caster sugar in a bowl, add the boiling water and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Put to one side to cool.

Put the berries in a food processor or blender, reserving a few berries for garnish if you like. Add the sugar syrup and blend well.

Place a fine sieve over a bowl and pour the raspberry pulp into the sieve. Strain well, rubbing the pulp through the sieve with a spoon until only the seeds remain in the sieve. Discard the seeds.

Juice and strain the lemon and add to the raspberry puree. Mix well, then chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Switch on your ice cream machine and pour in the fruit mixture. Churn until the sorbet is firm enough to serve, about 25 minutes.

Serve immediately topped with a few berries or freeze in a plastic container.


Banana cake


To polish off our month of birthday celebrations, by popular request I baked a banana cake. This is the close cousin of the banana bread I posted about a few months ago, but somehow a loaf cake does not seem as festive as a round one. Actually I think frosting would make it even more festive, but strangely enough none of my children like frosting!

It’s been a dessert-heavy few weeks here on the blog so I’m looking forward to moving on to some lighter fare as summer approaches. That said, this cake makes a lovely summer dessert served with some fresh mixed berries or a scoop of sorbet.

Gluten and dairy free banana cake (adapted from a Tom Kitchin article in The Scotsman)

4 medium bananas, peeled – about 300g

200g caster sugar

6 large eggs

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

Makes 8 proper servings

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

On a plate or cutting board, mash up the bananas into chunks using a fork. Scrape into a bowl and blend in the sugar until smooth. I use my handheld mixer to do this; the texture should be less chunky than for banana bread.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Pour into to the banana mixture, and mix well.

Fold the ground almonds and baking powder into the batter, then pour the batter into a 23cm springform cake pan, lined and greased (I use ghee but you could also use a bit of oil).

Bake for one hour. Cool on a rack, then remove from the tin. Serve on its own or with some fresh raspberries. This cake tastes just as good the day after you bake it.


Coconut macaroons


Did I mention that we have a lot of April birthdays around here?

Continuing our theme of birthday celebrations, my son asked me to bring a treat in to school on his birthday to share with his friends and teachers. The catch? My son is gluten and dairy-intolerant, and the school is nut-free.

Fortunately, I had this coconut macaroon recipe up my sleeve. This is another family favorite and I think it might now be a school favorite too. The recipe scales up or down very easily to I simply adjust quantities depending on the occasion. Over the years I’ve made notes of the ratio of ingredients for different quantities, so I’m sharing that here as a table.

Coconut macaroons (adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe)

Yield: 20 macaroons Yield: 25 macaroons Yield: 30 macaroons Yield: 60 macaroons
3 large egg whites 4 large egg whites 5 large egg whites 10 large egg whites
210g caster sugar 285g caster sugar 350g caster sugar 700g caster sugar
165g dessicated coconut 225g dessicated coconut 280g dessicated coconut 560g dessicated coconut
30g rice flour 40g rice flour 50g rice flour 100g rice flour
1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon honey 2 tablespoons honey 4 tablespoons honey
pinch of salt pinch of salt pinch of salt large pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the egg whites, caster sugar, dessicated coconut (make sure this is unsweetened), rice flour, honey and salt in a large skillet or pan and place on the hob over low heat. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring constantly, until the mixture has a porridge-like texture and begins to brown on the bottom. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract and allow to cool.

The batter should at least be cooled to room temperature but for best results refrigerate for several hours or overnight (the batter will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, and according to David Lebovitz can also be frozen for up to two months).

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Using your hands, form the batter into balls, around the size of golf balls. Place on a non-stick baking tray (or two) in evenly spaced rows and press the sides with your fingers to make a slight pyramid shape. (This is a fun task for small helpers!)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the macaroons have lightly browned.

In an airtight container, the macaroons will keep for up to one week.


Chocolate olive oil cake


April is a month of birthdays at my house. And thus a month of baking as well – so there will be plenty of gluten and dairy free celebration recipes to share with you over the coming weeks.

We kicked off the festivities with a chocolate olive oil cake that is one of my family’s firm favorites. It is a very rich, moist cake that is a breeze to make (especially with a small helper) and appeals to adults and children alike. I made the cake with my daughter and we used a peppery Spanish olive oil that gave the cake a bit of a kick – but you can stick with a mild olive oil for a more classic taste.

Chocolate olive oil cake (from a Nigella Lawson recipe)

50g unsweetened cocoa powder

100ml boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g ground almonds

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

a pinch of salt

3 large eggs

200g caster sugar

150ml olive oil

Serves 8 (generous slices) to 16 (dainty slices)

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Measure the cocoa powder into a bowl, then slowly add the boiling water and whisk well until the mixture forms a thick chocolate paste. Add the vanilla extract then set aside to cool.

In another bowl, combine the ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the sugar and olive oil using a handheld or standing electric mixer until the mixture is pale and creamy, about two minutes, then gradually add the chocolate paste and mix well.

Fold in the dry ingredients, then pour the batter into a 23cm springform cake pan, lined and greased (I use ghee but you could also use a bit of oil). Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the sides are firmly set but the top is still slightly springy to the touch. Cool on a rack, then remove from the tin. Insert suitable number of candles.


Cranberry amaretti


Last week was a busy one at Brain Food. The highlight was definitely the talk I was invited to give on Wednesday night to a group of children’s therapists, including speech therapists, educational psychologists, clinical psychologists and specialist teachers. I gave a short presentation of my nutrition practice, before talking in greater detail about the links between food and behavior. I also explained how and why how some children with special needs may benefit from special diets, and shared a few case studies. I particularly enjoyed the Q&A session after my talk, which led to a lively discussion of a variety of issues close to my heart, such as the importance of nutritious school lunches and how to get children to eat the healthy food that is on offer.


It was also a very cold, wet week even by London standards. At home everyone was feeling a bit run down and tired. So I took the time to bake one of my family’s favorites, cranberry amaretti. These amaretti are comfortingly rich and nutty, but also have a fresh note coming through from the lemon zest – dare I say a little reminder that spring can’t be THAT far away?


These cranberry amaretti are adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe for sour cherry amaretti. I always keep an eye out for Italian biscuits and cakes as I look through my cookbooks, as they often call for ground almonds instead of flour and are frequently gluten and dairy free. I had the idea to swap cranberries for the sour cherries a few years ago when I was looking for Thanksgiving-friendly recipes that were gluten and dairy free – but my family loved these so much that I now make them year round.


Cranberry amaretti (adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)

180g ground almonds

120g caster sugar

60g dried cranberries

grated zest of 1 lemon (I use a microplane grater for this)

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

pinch of salt

2 large egg whites

approximately 3 tablespoons runny honey

approximately 50g icing sugar

Makes 18-20 amaretti

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, caster sugar, cranberries, lemon zest, almond extract and salt.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites using a hand-held electric mixer or a standing mixer while gradually adding the honey, until they form soft peaks. (I squeeze the honey directly into the eggs whites from the container.)

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites.

For best results, chill the batter for 3 hours in the refrigerator. This will help the amaretti to keep their shape. But feel free to skip this step – the amaretti may flatten out slightly while cooking but will still be delicious!

Put most of the icing sugar in a shallow bowl or soup plate. Using your hands, form the batter into balls, around the size of golf balls. Roll each ball in the icing sugar, place on the lined baking tray and press the sides with your fingers to make a slight pyramid shape.

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and dust with the remaining icing sugar. The amaretti will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.


Chocolate rice krispie treats

rice krispie treats

My children and I do not see entirely eye to eye on what makes a fun cooking project. On a rainy “let’s make something” day, I might suggest we attempt pavlova, or California rolls, or something slightly ambitious that I bookmarked in my Charcuterie book. The kids, on the other hand, love to make rice krispie treats.

It’s pointless to argue. The recipe is simple enough that very little adult supervision is required. Also, it is not only gluten and dairy free, but also nut free.

But the main point is really that kids love to make rice krispie treats because kids love to eat rice krispie treats.

Chocolate rice krispie treats

(adapted from Ellen’s South Hampstead Dinners, available from South Hampstead Junior School)

250g golden syrup

25g unsweetened cocoa powder

300g gluten-free puffed rice cereal (we buy Kallo brand)

Makes enough to feed a houseful of kids.

Heat the golden syrup over a low flame in a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.

Remove from the hob and stir in the rice cereal.

Transfer to a lightly-oiled, high-rimmed baking tray, spreading evenly. Refrigerate for one hour or until firmly set.

Cut into squares to serve.