Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie

Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is a deeply flavourful homely recipe with a rich gravy, plenty of vegetables and a crisp buttery potato topping.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

Welcome to the first in a new series featuring classic dinner recipes which have been de-glutened. A lot of traditional British recipes, especially the ones we grew up eating as a family rely at least somewhat on the presence of flour. Whether it’s the gravy on your Sunday roast, the béchamel sauce of your lasagne or even my Auntie Lil’s chicken curry, regular plain flour is always present in some way. Since becoming gluten-free many years ago I have learnt through trial and error the best way to continue making these recipes so there is no difference between the gluten-free versions and the ones from my childhood. First up on the agenda is one of our all-time classic family faves. Shepherd’s Pie.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie

What’s the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie?

Both dishes refer to a red meat dish, often minced meat, cooked in a gravy with onions and often carrots and celery, topped with a mashed potato layer and baked in the oven. The term Cottage Pie was first mentioned in 1791 but Shepherd’s Pie did not really appear until 1854. Initially the two terms were interchangeable for the same dish but in the 20th century the two recipes were separated into their own identities. Cottage Pie became synonymous with versions made with minced beef whereas Shepherd’s Pie would more commonly be made with minced lamb.

Our family adores Shepherd’s Pie, it meets approval from all members including the baby and guarantees a clean plate from our picky pre-schooler. Luke and I love it too, especially served with hot buttered cabbage.

The Vegetables

Shepherd’s Pie is a simple and satisfying meal with lots of veggies in the main base of the pie along with the lamb mince. I love the taste and texture that the extra vegetables give to the base of the dish. The usual onions are present, along with carrots and celery. However, here we also include diced courgette as it goes so beautifully with the lamb.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

How do you make Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie?

Sweet Rice Flour

The traditional version of Shepherd’s Pie is made using plain wheat flour to thicken the rich gravy which encases the meat and vegetables at the base of the pie. Here we are switching it out for sweet rice flour. The sticky properties of this starchy flour absorb the cooking oil and the added stock for a beautifully smooth and silky sauce which is indistinguishable from wheat flour gravy. The only difference is the colour. The sweet rice flour gravy is much lighter than its wheat counterpart. To this end we add coconut aminos which deepens the colour of the gravy naturally whilst also providing the perfect amount of seasoning.

Fresh Stock

One of the other key ingredients in this Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is the use of fresh stock to make the most umami empowered gravy. It makes all the difference, providing tremendous depth of flavour and I would seriously advise against the stock cube if possible. I make homemade chicken stock every other Sunday with the bones of our Roast Chicken so I always have it to hand for my everyday cooking. It is possibly the most invaluable ingredient in my kitchen. If you don’t have any homemade stock then check to see if your butcher supplies it, otherwise do use the best store bought fresh stock you can find.

A bowl of Gluten-Free Shepherds Pie

Secret Ingredient

Finally do you want to know my secret ingredient for Shepherd’s Pie? It’s definitely not something I would add to Cottage Pie, but it lifts the whole meal up a notch, giving it such a special flavour. Would you like to know?

It’s mint sauce! Once you try it you will never make your Shepherd’s Pie without it.

Mint sauce is traditionally served as part of the Great British roast dinner alongside spring lamb. It’s an essential condiment of our larder and is an absolutely perfect addition to our Shepherd’s Pie. The three main ingredients of mint sauce are mint, white wine vinegar and sugar so it’s pretty easy to make your own. However, I usually use shop bought. It’s worth checking the label of your mint sauce though as many contain xanthan gum which is something I try to steer clear of in my kitchen. There are brands without though, so just double check.

The Mashed Potato

A Shepherd’s Pie wouldn’t be the same without delicious buttery mash blanketing the whole affair. I am quite particular about my mashed potato and although I don’t go the whole Joel Robuchon route which is half potato/half butter, this recipe certainly does not skimp on the butter or the seasoning. A good amount of butter is necessary for the perfectly crisp golden top on your Shepherd’s Pie. I also add a splash of stock in the mash to make the potatoes smooth, creamy and rich. You could also use milk.

Pro Tips To Avoid Gluey Mash

  • When adding your butter and liquid to the cooked potatoes it’s imperative to warm them up first and tip your potatoes into the add-ins, not the other way around. We want to avoid gluey or lumpy mash at all costs and this way makes sure we achieve neither.
  • To mash the potatoes you can use a hand masher or a potato ricer, but never use the food processor or the blender as you’ll run the risk again of gluey mash. Potatoes can be decidedly tricky when they want to be.

An empty bowl of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie

If you make this Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

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A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie

Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is a deeply flavourful homely recipe with a rich gravy, plenty of vegetables and a crisp buttery potato topping.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 567kcal

Ingredients

  • 800 g red potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 100 ml fresh stock I use chicken
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and finely diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely diced
  • 1 courgette finely diced
  • 600 g lamb mince
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 200 ml fresh stock I use chicken
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon mint sauce
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • Boil a large saucepan of water and add the potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes break apart when you touch them with the tip of a knife. Drain the potatoes from the water.
  • Add the butter, stock, salt and pepper to the now empty saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Tip the cooked potatoes back into the saucepan and mash well until the potatoes are creamy. Set aside whilst you prepare the lamb mince.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C/180°C fan assisted/gas mark 5.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wide bottomed saucepan then add the onion, carrots, celery and courgette. Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
  • Add the lamb mince, bay and thyme leaves, stirring occasionally until the lamb has browned.
  • Add the sweet rice flour to the pan, mixing in well to absorb the fat. If there is any excess oil then remove it with a spoon.
  • Pour in the stock and stir until a thick gravy has formed.
  • Add the coconut aminos and mint sauce, stirring through. Cook for 5-10 minutes so all the flavours are well combined.
  • Remove the lamb mince from the heat then spoon into an ovenproof baking dish into an even layer.
  • Spoon the mashed potato over the top until it completely covers the lamb mince, then create light furrows in the potato by using the back of a fork.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the potato is golden.

Nutrition

Calories: 567kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 555mg | Potassium: 1005mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4025IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2.9mg

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This post is not sponsored but the images above are affiliate links which means if you decide you want to use these link to make your purchases then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. I will only recommend products I use in my kitchen and love. To learn more about how the data processing works when using these Amazon affiliate links then please visit my privacy policy page.

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Gluten-Free Gravy

Gluten-Free Gravy

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Gluten-Free Gravy

This Gluten-Free Gravy is deliciously smooth, rich and full of flavour. Here are all the tips and tricks to get it just right.

Gluten-Free Gravy

My mother and father both made good gravy. It was an absolutely essential recipe in our household growing up because of the importance of our Sunday Lunch. Thick juicy rich brown gravy flavoured with fresh garden herbs would cook for hours on the hob over the course of the day. It was always the last element to be placed steaming hot onto the dinner table. Two magnificent gravy boats stood proudly at either end to be poured liberally over our roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.

Ours was not a household for thin wispy gravy made delicately from drizzled juices. Our gravy was the crowning glory of the meal and did double duty as it provided the ultimate treat when our meat and veggies were done. My father would return to the kitchen to grab a loaf of thick farmhouse bread and cut huge slices for each of us to place on our dinner plates. We would then soak the bread in any leftover gravy, with perhaps an extra slug of mint sauce, wait until the bread was deliciously soppy before devouring greedily. It was a ritual and it didn’t matter how stuffed you were after lunch, the bread and gravy was a must and the bit we most looked forward to and tried to save room for.

The importance of our Sunday lunch has not wavered into my adulthood and since I became gluten-free it has been of utmost importance to me to achieve a triumphant gravy that would pacify the whole family. I don’t do the bread and gravy thing with my family, which is a huge loss really. However, I can’t help but sneak back into the kitchen on the odd occasion, when all the plates have been cleared, and help myself to just one more Yorkshire pudding dragged through the gravy pan for that last little treat when no one else is watching.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How to make gravy with drippings

If you want to make proper actual traditional gravy then your only choice is to use the pan drippings from your roasted meat. There are two ways of doing this. You can either make a quick gravy at the end of your meal whilst your meat is resting or if you don’t want your gravy to be a last minute rush and you want to get really good flavour then you could plan ahead. We make a Sunday Lunch every week and on the odd occasion that I don’t make a traditional gravy I will save my drippings and keep them in little pots in the freezer, alongside my homemade stock. I have a whole compartment dedicated to fat and stock. So when I need to make a gravy I always have drippings to hand, plus it means I can make my gravy ahead. This is especially useful at Christmas as I can make my gravy a couple of days before. Also making gravy ahead of time really allows the flavours to develop and gives a better sauce.

TIP: To make sure you achieve a good quantity of drippings (enough to help you out with your Yorkshire puddings and gravy) I pour a generous amount of olive oil over my joint or bird before roasting. The more olive oil means the more meat flavoured fat at the end of the roast.

How do I make gravy without meat drippings?

It’s easy. Maybe your meat didn’t produce very much or maybe you are making a veggie gravy. If you don’t have drippings or not enough then sub in some unsalted butter or ghee instead. For vegans, use vegan butter.

What can I use to thicken gluten-free gravy?

When I first became gluten-free and tried making gravy using a generic gluten-free flour I was disappointed, thinking that I would never again be able to enjoy gravy the same way. This gravy was thin and granular and lacked lustre. After a lot of experimentation I found the best flour to use is sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour is absolutely essential to make a beautifully smooth velvety gluten-free roux and produce a sauce with a silky mouthfeel. It absorbs moisture very well so doesn’t clump and so is even easier to use than wheat flour. The flavour is pretty neutral with an ever so slightly sweet vibe which lends itself to the gravy perfectly.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How do you make gravy browner and richer?

In order to achieve a lustrous rich dark brown colour to gravy traditionally you would cook your flour and butter low and slow before adding the liquid so that the roux darkens to give flavour and colour to your gravy. However, sweet rice flour needs handling a little differently and I wouldn’t recommend this direction. Instead you can either use coconut aminos to lend its colour to the proceedings which works excellently, but you need a fair bit so you might need to check your seasonings. Or you can use the onion method as below.

Cook the onion in the drippings or butter for about 20 minutes until they are just starting to brown, but not at all burnt. Then when you add your sweet rice flour followed by the stock they take on this rich brown colour from the onions. It also gives your gravy further depth of flavour. You strain off your gravy at the end so you won’t get bits of onion in your gravy.

How do you make gravy without homemade stock?

So there are occasions when you just don’t have homemade chicken or vegetable stock to hand. At this point you have two options, you can either use fresh stock from the butcher or the supermarket but I find these tend to be a little bland or oversalted so go carefully with them. The other direction is to use whole milk. Yes, this does create a completely different beast but one that is worth experimenting with if you are caught out at short notice. This gravy is obviously creamier and richer but absolutely delicious. If I’m going down this latter route then I might also add a few garlic granules to help with the flavour. If you are dairy-free or vegan then you can also substitute with almond milk which I have done on many an occasion and it works just as well.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How do you add flavour to gravy?

If you are using the drippings from the meat and homemade stock then most of your gravy flavour begins right there. However, to help it along, or if you are subbing ingredients, do add a couple of bay leaves, some fresh thyme or even some rosemary to liven up the flavours. The gravy will also need a little sweetness to balance things out. You could use a glug of white wine or masala which makes for a very sophisticated gravy. However I like to use a bit of fruit jelly. Any good jelly works well here. Redcurrant jelly is easy to find at the supermarket and can usually be found with the condiments (not with the jams and preserves) or cranberry jelly which is lovely at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How do you re-heat gravy?

Gravy thickens the longer it stands so if you are re-heating then it’s best to do on the hob in a saucepan and whisk in a little extra liquid (stock or just water would be fine).

It turns out that making good gluten-free gravy is easy peasy, especially if you have sweet rice flour in your arsenal. Many of the other ingredients can be subbed or played with depending on what you have to hand or the different dietary needs of your guests. The lovely thing about gravy is that it always tastes slightly different every time but always delicious. Go on, sneak back into the kitchen for that extra Yorkshire pud and gravy treat.

Gluten-Free Gravy

Gluten-Free Gravy

This Gluten-Free Gravy is deliciously smooth, rich and full of flavour. Here are all the tips and tricks to get it just right.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: British
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 143kcal

Ingredients

  • 50 g unsalted butter or drippings from roasted meat
  • 1 onion chopped very finely
  • 40 g sweet rice flour
  • 800 ml chicken stock preferably homemade
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly or apple jelly or cranberry jelly

Instructions

  • Melt the butter or dripping, then add the diced onion and heat on medium for about 20 minutes until they are starting to turn brown (but definitely not burnt).
  • Add all the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the fat has absorbed all the flour.
  • Pour in about a quarter of the stock, then switch to using a whisk, stirring all the time to smooth out the lumps. Once the gravy is beginning to thicken then pour the rest of the stock in slowly, whisking all the while.
  • Add the bay leaf, thyme and stir in the redcurrant jelly, bringing the gravy up to a gentle boil. If the gravy is too thick for you, add some more stock or just water to get to your desired consistency.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes then remove from the heat and strain. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 192mg | Potassium: 166mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 240IU | Vitamin C: 2.7mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

These are the best Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings. Majestically tall and crisp with a fluffy breaded interior making them absolutely ideal for mopping up the gravy after your Sunday Roast.

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Nothing beats a roast dinner. Every Sunday without fail when I was a child my Dad would make us a lavish Sunday Roast. He was a wonderful cook. The table would be properly set, the meat resplendent in the centre as a vast array of beautifully prepared vegetables, crisp and fluffy roast potatoes, onion sauce, gravy and Yorkshire puddings would surround this magnificent offering. These Sunday lunches were incredibly important to us as a family and I remember them vividly.

Perhaps in my early twenties my Sunday Lunches were a bit more sporadic and mostly consumed hungover at our local pub. But as soon as Luke and I moved in together to become our own family unit then without fail every week we made a Sunday lunch together. Now we’re a family of four and our Sunday lunches are as important as ever. Luke works too late to eat with the family during the week so it’s one of the few times we can sit together and all eat the same meal as a family. Even when I’m at the market stall and don’t finish until 3 or 4pm we’ll rush home and bung a joint in the oven so we can scrape together a simplified Roast Dinner before the children’s bedtime.

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Of course Yorkshire Puddings are traditionally served with roast beef but you are missing a trick if that is the only time you will eat them. We love our yorkshires and back in the day Dad would happily make them from scratch every week to serve with the beef or chicken or lamb or pork. And I do the same today. Even our festive table would not be complete without Yorkshire Puddings served alongside our turkey.

After I became gluten-free I stopped making Yorkshire Puddings to go with our Sunday lunch, I just didn’t think you could make them the same, in much the same way that I was unconvinced about gluten-free cakes.

Over the years I’ve been experimenting though and the time I was finally able to make a complete gluten-free Sunday Lunch without skimping on any of the trimmings, including gravy, Yorkshires, stuffing and cauliflower cheese without anyone noticing any difference I could rejoice.

Good Yorkshire Puddings should be sky high, crisp on the outside with a beautiful fluffy interior so you can use them to mop up your gravy when the rest of your meal is complete.
It’s taken me a bit longer to perfect my Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings, we were pretty much eating glorified pancakes that stuck resolutely to the baking tin for the best part of the last two years. In the last few weeks though I set myself a challenge to get them perfect. Oh my golly gosh have I succeeded. It is no word of a lie that these Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings are not only the best gluten-free Yorkshire puddings you will ever eat but the best Yorkshires full stop.

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Too often you can have regular wheat Yorkshire puddings and the chef will rely too much on the size and height. Guys, it’s not the size that counts yada yada yada. A crisp Yorkshire that is all tall golden shell without the bready interior is a pointless affair. It’s like serving up a pie with no filling. These Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings are beautifully tall without showing off but the perfectly baked chewy fluffy substance of the puddings is their real crowning glory.

I love gluten-free flours and I don’t care who knows. The key to these Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings is in the gluten-free flour mix. I don’t normally pair sweet rice flour with regular white rice flour as I thought they would squabble but now I see that they are perfectly compatible. Sweet rice flour adds the chew, the sticky bind of the pudding. The white rice flour is beautifully neutral with the sweet rice counteracting its more grainy drying qualities. And the potato flour is necessary to draw the moisture out of the sweet rice flour and adding the crisping element which gives our puddings their wonderful initial crunch.

So that the Yorkshires don’t stick to the muffin tin you must grease it really well, both in the holes and on the surface of the tin. I use spray grease, the same kind I use with my baking. Then you must put ½ teaspoon of good fat in the bottom of each hole. Your best choice will be the dripping of whatever meat you are roasting, but if you are making the puddings to serve along something other than a roast dinner or you are a veggie, then use a fat with a high smoking point instead. I use ghee and it works incredibly well.

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

I don’t bother really resting the batter, I haven’t found it makes enough difference for it to be worthwhile, the Yorkshire Puddings are just as scrummy baked straightaway after making. So as long as you have all the right ingredients then really there is only one final tip you need to adhere to and you will see it in every single Yorkshire recipe around. You must put the greased tin in the oven at a high temperature for at least 10 minutes for the fat to really sizzle. As soon as you pour your batter into the hot fat it needs to start cooking immediately. This will give your puddings their essential rise.

If you are making to serve alongside a roast meat, then I suggest as soon as your meat is ready, turn up the oven to the right temperature and you can cook your Yorkshires in the twenty minute resting period of the meat. It will all work out perfectly.

I urge you to give these Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings a try, they are so easy and delicious. If you do make these Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you make the recipe or use it as a building block for another delicious creation, I’d also love it if you tag me on instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your creations and variations of my recipes.

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings

These are the best Gluten-Free Yorkshire Puddings. Majestically tall and crisp with a fluffy breaded interior making them absolutely ideal for mopping up the gravy after your Sunday Roast.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: British
Servings: 12 puddings
Calories: 133kcal

Ingredients

  • 300 ml whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g sweet rice flour
  • 100 g white rice flour
  • 50 g potato flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or dripping from your roast meat

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 220°C fan assist/200°C/gas mark 7.
  • Completely grease a 12 hole muffin tin with spray oil if you have it. Then drop in either ½ teaspoon ghee into the bottom of each hole or some of the dripping from your roast meat.
  • Place the tin in the oven and heat for 10 minutes.
  • In a jug whisk together the milk and eggs until smooth. Set aside for a moment.
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flours and salt then make a little well in the centre of the flours and pour in the milk and eggs whisking all the time until the batter is smooth.
  • Pour the pudding batter into a jug for easy pouring. Then remove the muffin tin from the oven and straightaway pour the batter almost to the top of each hole.
  • Place the tin back into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  • The Yorkshire puddings should be crisp and have risen gallantly. Serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from Jane Grigson’s Yorkshire pudding which I made for years before becoming gluten-free. Can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually prefer this GF version (sorry Jane!)

Nutrition

Calories: 133kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 130mg | Potassium: 107mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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The 12 hole muffin tin I always use and will thoroughly recommend due to its durability and ease of washing is the MasterClass 12-Hole Non-Stick Cupcake Tray / Baking Pan, 35 x 27 cm

To grease your muffin tin well I recommend using professional cake release spray. It doesn’t matter how little or often you bake, you will be so glad to have this little shortcut around. I use Dubor PR100 Professional Cake Release Spray 600 ml it lasts longer and doesn’t dry out like some of the cheaper brands. Really worth your time and money this one.

I really got into using ghee in my Whole30 and my favourite brand has been  Ghee Easy Organic Ghee, 850 g. It has a high smoking point so doesn’t burn like butter and makes your Yorkshire Puddings taste scrummy.

It’s not easy to buy certified gluten-free sweet rice flour in the UK, for some reason Bob’s Red Mill is astronomically expensive. However I have finally found a brand which is 100% certified gluten-free and it’s fantastic. The brand is yourhealthstore Premium Gluten Free Sweet Rice Flour (glutinous) 1kg

You want to use potato flour and not potato starch in this cake, they are different ingredients and do different things so make sure you are using the right one. I use Wholefood Earth Organic Potato Flour, 1 kg which is a lovely fine flour.

This post is not sponsored but the images above are affiliate links which means if you decide you want to use these link to make your purchases then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. I will only recommend products I use in my kitchen and love. To learn more about how the data processing works when using these Amazon affiliate links then please visit my privacy policy page.

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I’ve tried to steer clear of this subject on my blog since I began it as I didn’t want to have to pigeon hole myself into any particular diet or limit the recipes I wanted to share. However, I’ve realised I’ve been doing myself and you guys a disservice as it seems sometimes that I’ve told half a story. So, throwing two fingers up at my natural inclination to not bore you relentlessly by talking about me me me all the time, I thought sod it, it’s time to over-share.

The subject of gluten is deadly dull, too scientific, too all-encompassing and too been-there-done-that. There are bloggers, food writers, cooks and nutritionists that can talk about it much more eloquently than me. Don’t ask me why gluten is bad, why we were all fine with eating bread 50 years ago and now it’s suddenly poisonous to half the western world or even what gluten actually is, like a well meaning friend asked me the other day. I might have changed the subject rather quickly to talk about Daredevil on Netflix instead.

side shot of Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese in a serving dish on a wooden board

However, today I’m coming clean to tell you about my destructive love affair with gluten and why you’ll find that if you look down my recipe list that perhaps 80% of the recipes on my blog are gluten-free (although steer clear of the biscuits and cakes section if you’re doing that). So as I wang on in these next few paragraphs and you are rolling your eyes at yet more nonsense about how gluten was created by the Devil to contaminate society and destroy us from within, just bear with me. Or just wait for my next post – it will probably involve copious amounts of white flour rendering all my woeful soul bearing here totally irrelevant.

About 10 years ago I felt really unwell. I won’t make more of it than it was but it was affecting my daily life. I felt completely lacklustre with no energy and was constantly sick, I had horrible digestive cramps and unless I ate every few hours I would pretty much collapse. It was odd, I was eating healthy and hearty meals, lots of vegetables, not much sugar. However, come 3pm every day I felt dreadful and I often had to leave work in the middle of the day as I simply couldn’t function. I remember being slumped on the bus on the way home, barely being able to keep my eyes open, feeling awful as I had no idea what was wrong. Naturally I thought I was allergic to work, like any normal twenty-two year old fresh out of university, and was wracked with concern that I was not destined be the dynamic cutting edge TV producer I had dreamed of being but would instead have to dump Luke and marry a millionaire pretty much in order to save my life.

overhead shot of Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese in a serving dish on a wooden board

I was in and out of the doctors, I had blood tests, allergy tests, thyroid tests. Everything was normal. My GP thought I might be clinically depressed and wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants. I threw it in the bin on the way out and got a new doctor.

At the same time though I had started to see a personal trainer and nutritionist who recommended cutting out gluten from my diet. I didn’t really know much about the gluten-free way of life back then. I had done Atkins like everyone else to lose weight but I didn’t really get the gluten thing. No one was really talking about it. Ha, how times have changed.

However, after a bit of trial and error (I was a bit of a slow student in that regard – what you mean I can’t eat flour tortillas) I gradually began to feel better. It didn’t take long for me to realise that come 3pm I was no longer crying or cramming a chocolate bar in my face to pick myself off the floor. My body ache and sickness had disappeared and with that I was able to be more productive at work and I started running and getting really rather healthy.

The End. I lived happily ever after and never did the big bad Gluten cross my path again, he was banished from my kingdom, Luke and I got married (sorry Mr Millionaire) and we had a wonderful baby boy whom we named Cole.

side shot of Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese in a serving dish with a spoon on a wooden board

Except real life dictates that there must be an epilogue. And so here it is. Since Cole was born in June last year gluten has made a major comeback for me. Turns out he wasn’t content sitting in the wings any longer but instead wanted a starring role yet again in my life. It hasn’t been just the odd cake or Yorkshire pudding because it’s the weekend but loaves of bread have passed these lips, a slip of the finger on my keyboard and packets of digestives have fallen helplessly into my Ocado shop.

I know I’m not alone when I confess that I have found these first few months of motherhood hard and as is my wont as a food loving, comfort eating, sugar addicted gal I have turned to food to get myself through it. Cake has been my 3am ally, tucked into the sleeves of my nursing chair and nibbled on throughout the night and toast has been my saviour when I’ve skipped another meal due to relentless crying, holding and feeding.

It is only now, 10 months in that I have calmed down enough to confront how sick I have been making myself. It’s not that anything has got any easier. Yes we have more of a routine but that goes out of the window more often that not. I have been getting more sleep but again just because I had a good seven hours uninterrupted last night doesn’t mean that I won’t be up and down every couple of hours tonight. However, for the most part it’s better.

Although, my health and my body have been left a wreck and I need to address the situation.

So having fessed up and outed myself as another one of those faddy diet people I would now like to talk to you about cauliflower cheese. Are you still with me? In the past I have always made cauliflower cheese with a traditional method of using a roux of butter, white flour and milk then adding the cheese. However because of this it has been a rare treat which only reared its delicious cheesy head at high days and holidays. Lately thought I have been whipping up a gluten-free version using only cornflour and milk instead of the roux. It’s so quick! Absolutely perfect as a smash and grab dinner for Cole and a lazy one for the two of us. The difference between the two versions is negligible and certainly one I can live with if it means I can have cauliflower cheese more frequently. It has even passed the Luke test who can be pretty severe in his judgment of gluten-free alternatives.

overhead shot of Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese in a serving dish with a spoon on a wooden board

The secret to any decent cheese sauce I think is to use a mix of cheeses, here I’ve gone with mature cheddar for flavour and red Leicester for sweetness and colour, and then a dollop of Dijon mustard which really brings out the cheesiness. I’ve also begun adding roasted garlic into the mix which sounds like a bit of a faff but really all you need to do is pop the garlic cloves in the oven and they roast for 10 minutes as the cauliflower is put on to boil. However, I’m on a bit of a roasted garlic kick at the moment and so I’ve been roasting up whole heads at the weekend for use during my mid-week meals. They add a mellow flavour which gives the sauce depth. The final stir of the crème fraiche in at the end adds richness to the sauce and is completely optional but really why would you not?

Just the cornflour and the milk together is a little bland so the sauce does need these little extras to knock it up to the standard of a traditionally made sauce but it’s not any bother at all. There is no salt in this recipe as all my food is made with Cole in mind these days but you would probably like to add some to taste. It does make life easier when you find these gluten-free hacks that are actually just as delicious and the road back to my optimum self a little more straightforward to navigate.

Since posting this recipe in Autumn 2016, all my recipes going forward are gluten-free but I am still working on converting all the older recipes to gluten-free versions.

overhead shot of Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese in a serving dish with a spoon on a wooden board
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5 from 1 vote

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese doesn't have to be an inferior version. This cauliflower cheese is rich, creamy, cheesey and infused with roasted garlic, dijon mustard and plenty of white pepper.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: British
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 326kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons cornflour
  • 100 g red Leicester grated (+25g for grating on top)
  • 50 g mature cheddar grated (+25g for grating on the top)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves roasted and pureed
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraiche
  • 15 g ground almonds

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  • Separate the florets of the cauliflower then place in a large pan of boiling water. Bring up to a gentle simmer, then cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the florets in an ovenproof dish.
  • In a medium sized saucepan whisk the cornflour into the whole milk then once smooth switch on the heat and bring to a low boil.
  • Sprinkle in the cheese and stir in until melted in.
  • Add the mustard, pepper, garlic cloves and crème fraiche and stir in until it becomes a thick smooth sauce.
  • Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower florets then sprinkle on the extra cheese and the ground almonds.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes when the cheese should be bubbling and the almond breadcrumbs turning golden.

Nutrition

Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 631mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 440IU | Vitamin C: 69.8mg | Calcium: 434mg | Iron: 0.9mg

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Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme: Day 9 of Whole30

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme
It’s day 9 and I’m starting to get a bit jaded. There are only so many variations on meat and vegetables you can handle before you start to crave something different. This is where my parsnips came in to save the day yesterday.

Slashing a number of food groups out of your diet isn’t easy as you have to funnel all your creativity into quite a narrow focus. I am now starting to look beyond the simple salads and greenery that I have been relying on for the past 9 days and that has now led me to re-examine parsnips. This is a root vegetable I have always liked but for some reason they don’t appear in my kitchen at any other time save Christmas where they are lumped in with the roasties.

I thought I would introduce the parsnip into my diet this week in its most simple form as it is how I have always cooked them, roasted with duck fat. What the Whole30 lacks in food group variety, it makes up for in the quality of the foods you are allowed and including duck fat as part of a healthy eating plan seems a little excessive but it’s as natural a cooking agent as you will get. It was also sheer happenstance as I had a huge jar of it knocking around my fridge from a duck we had roasted for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago.

I accompanied the parsnips with a simple roast chicken, steamed kale and carrots. It was nice to give a bit of an occasion to the parsnips, letting their sticky sweet earthiness shine through the other humbly prepared veg. It was hardly the most summery of dishes but then as I look outside this is hardly the most summery of Mays.

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme  |  Stroud Green Larder

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme
Serves 2 as a side

4 parsnips
2 tbsp duck fat
A couple of sprigs of thyme

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel the parsnips, then cut into three pieces widthways.  Then cut the pieces in half lengthways.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then add the parsnips. Bring back to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Place the duck fat on a baking dish into the oven to melt and warm it up.
  5. Drain the parsnips then tip into the baking dish with plenty of salt, black pepper and a couple of sprigs of thyme, turn so every parsnip is completely coated with the duck fat.
  6. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning the parsnips over a couple of times, until they are golden.