Monday 16 September 2019

Gluten free & easy

With Coeliac Awareness Week fast approaching, Finn Ní Fhaoláin shares some of her favourite snacks

Banana and pecan bread by Finn Ni Fhaolain
Banana and pecan bread by Finn Ni Fhaolain
Maple Pecan Protein Cookies
Summer Prawn Vietnamese Rolls with Mango Dipping Sauce

This Monday, May 14, sees the start of Coeliac Awareness Week 2018. Coeliac disease affects an estimated 47,500 people in Ireland. The auto-immune disease prevents sufferers from digesting the protein gluten.

This year, national charity The Coeliac Society of Ireland aims to raise awareness of the impact of the disease on families. If a first-degree relative of yours is coeliac, then there's a one in 10 chance you also have the disease. If undiagnosed, it can lead to serious health problems, and so the Society urges everyone who thinks they may be coeliac to go to their GP for testing.

For those who have already been diagnosed, it means carefully following a diet void of wheat, barley and rye. However, that doesn't mean that you have to lose out on taste and variation, according to cook, food blogger and avid surfer Finn Ní Fhaoláin.

Here Finn, who is herself coeliac, shares three of her favourite gluten-free recipes. "They're perfect for busy folk who want handy, gluten-free snacks for work, school or college or a quick, but delicious lunch," she says. "Remember to check that all packaged products are gluten free. Sometimes a naturally gluten-free product can become contaminated during production."

I was recently on a trip to Australia and everywhere I went, especially in Byron Bay, all I could see was banana bread! Since so much of it wasn't gluten free I wanted to put my own spin on it that was not only gluten free, but also vegan (also covering dairy- and egg-free folks as well). This is a great snack on the go or a sweet little breakfast, spread with some almond butter and washed down with an iced coffee.


Banana and Pecan Bread

Makes 1 regular loaf tin, about 12 slices

Gluten-free, dairy-free & vegan


2 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp water

1½ cups gluten free self-raising flour, Doves Organic is my favourite

1 cup ground almonds

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

2 large or 3 smaller ripe bananas

¾ cup sunflower or coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1½ cups maple syrup or coconut blossom sugar

Desiccated coconut or an extra banana to decorate if you wish


1. Set the oven to 180˚C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. In a cup, add the chia seeds and water, stir and set aside - this will turn into a jelly-like consistency that will be our "egg". Magic!

2. In a mixing bowl, add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and stir.

3. In another mixing bowl, add the bananas, oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup - if you like a chunkier consistency to your banana bread, mash the banana on a plate first using a fork before adding. If you're a little lazy like me, add it all together and blend with an immersion blender (the stick one you use for soup!). Add the chia seed mix and stir.

4. Add the dry bowl to the wet mix and stir in, then add your pecans or walnuts. I've suggested 1 cup here but if you like a crunchier texture, feel free to add more or even some dried fruit too if you like extra sweetness.

5. Pour the mix into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Some ovens may vary, this time is for a fan assisted oven, add a little more time for an oven without.

6. If its for an occasion, or you just wanted your food to look extra lovely, take the tin out after 15 minutes and sprinkle with desiccated coconut or very thin slices of banana and pop back in the oven for the remaining time.

7. This banana bread keeps well in an airtight container. It also freezes very well and can be pre-sliced and grabbed each day to pop in a lunchbox on the way out the door!


Summer Prawn Vietnamese Rolls with Mango Dipping Sauce

Summer Prawn Vietnamese Rolls with Mango Dipping Sauce

I became absolutely obsessed with Vietnamese Rolls when a new restaurant opened up down the road in Sligo. Since it isn't possible for me to go there every week I had to learn to make Vietnamese rolls for myself! They can be a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of rolling them you'll be flying. They're a perfect, healthy lunch for summer. Pick up the rice paper sheets from your local Asian market or any good specialty food shop.

Serves 2 as a lunch or 3 as a starter

Gluten-free, dairy-free


6-8 rice paper sheets

For the fillings: 1 pack sustainably sourced prawns (usually 250g), tails removed

½ avocado thinly sliced

½ mango thinly sliced

Two thirds cup shredded white cabbage or sauerkraut (use this instead for a great gut-loving boost and zingy taste)

Sesame seeds to sprinkle

½ cup crushed salted peanuts

Handful of fresh mint leaves or coriander

For the sauce:

1 tbsp tamari soy sauce

1 tbsp gluten-free mango chutney


On a chopping board have all your fillings set aside and ready to go, this happens quick! Have a second chopping board for the rolling.

Have a big bowl - big enough to submerge the sheets - half filled with boiling water.

To make a roll

1. Dip the rice paper sheet in boiling water - I use a wide perforated ladle and a wooden spoon to hold on to it - it will only take about 10-20 seconds for the sheet to turn soft and kind of gelatinous.

2. Drain the sheet over the mixing bowl.

3. With your hands (it shouldn't be too hot to touch now) spread the sheet across your free chopping board.

4. Place a bit of each filling - e.g. 3 prawns, a little of each fruit and veg and a sprinkle of peanuts and sesame and a few mint leaves - in the centre of the sheet, leaving at least 1cm free at the sides to tuck in.

5. After you've placed your toppings, pull one side over the fillings and tuck in the sides.

6. Continue to tuck and roll until your roll is like a little sealed parcel.

7. Voila! Repeat until all your fillings and sheets are used up.

8. Mix the tamari and mango chutney together to your taste and use as a dipping sauce.

The rolls are best eaten fresh after you make them. Feel free to experiment with your favourite fillings - crab meat would also be lovely - and different sauce to dip with.


Maple Pecan Protein Cookies

Maple Pecan Protein Cookies

I came up with this recipe a few months back, determined to phase out the bold Christmas treats and get a bit more protein in. They are of course a treat, but with less than a teaspoon of sugar per cookie, they're a perfect pick-me-up instead of that muffin when it comes to our 11am coffee break.

Makes 12 cookies or 20 mini cookies

Gluten-free, dairy-free option


1½ cups gluten-free oats

½ cup corn flour

¼ cup gluten-free brown rice protein

¼ cup ground almonds

½ tsp gluten-free baking powder

7 tbsp butter or coconut oil

1 free range egg

3 Qtr cup chopped pecans

12 whole pecans for the top of the cookies (optional)

½ cup maple syrup


1. Set the oven to 180˚C, for fan assisted ovens about 170˚C, even a little lower. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Add the oats, corn flour, rice protein, ground almonds and baking powder to a large mixing bowl and stir.

3. Melt your butter (or coconut oil) in the microwave - I do 20 seconds at a time so it's just melted but not cooking.

4. In a small bowl whisk up the egg.

5. Add the butter (or oil), maple syrup and half the egg mix to the dry mix and stir to make cookie dough.

6. Stir the chopped pecans into the cookie dough. Shape the cooking using your hands or a spoon and pop them on the tray. If you like, press a whole pecan into the top of each cookie.

7. Brush the remaining egg mix onto each cookie - this gives them a lovely colour and also stops the pecans from burning.

8. These little guys stay good for quite a few days in an airtight container, but trust me, they won't be there that long!

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life