Gluten-free coconut and cherry squares

by Victoria Glass
Gluten-free coconut and cherry squares

Gluten-free coconut and cherry squares

When we think of picnic food, for those unaffected by gluten intolerance, the mind immediately focuses on portable wheat products: sandwiches, quiche and cake, or perhaps a nice crunchy baguette with a generous smear of blue cheese (the moulds in some blue cheeses are grown on breads or cultures that contain gluten).

Failing that, salads are always safe aren’t they? Not necessarily for gluten dodgers. Aside from the obvious hurdles involved in pasta and couscous salads, some vinegars contain gluten, as do most soy sauces and, to ramp up the complications further, certain mustards contain wheat-based thickening agents. Suddenly salad dressings are starting to prove trickier than expected.

And this is all before we even consider the possibilities of cross-contamination when shared serving utensils get dipped and dunked into several different dishes, causing havoc for wheat avoiders. It sounds easier to just stay at home, but where’s the fun in that?

It’s simple to create a totally gluten free picnic that everyone can enjoy without fear of cross-contamination, and I promise it will be a lot tastier than a squashed cheese and pickle sandwich and a packet of twiglets.

You can make your own gluten free pies and sandwiches very simply, but if you don’t feel confident, a potato salad made with homemade mayonnaise (spiked with a little Dijon mustard if you fancy it) will have your carbs all wrapped up. Add a scattering of fresh chives and pretty borage flowers and your spuds will look picture on your picnic rug, as well as helping you to take full advantage of the end of the Jersey Royal season. If potatoes don’t float your boat, check out for red quinoa or black rice - both make the basis for delicious salads.

Starchy salads sorted, a lovely alternative to sandwiches is Vietnamese summer rolls (just be sure to use a gluten free hoisin sauce or make your own using gluten free soy sauce). In terms of leaves, you can be as adventurous as you like with your salad ingredients, just be sure to leave the croutons out and make or buy a dressing that doesn’t contain gluten. Most balsamic, wine or cider vinegars are fine, or you can simply juice a lemon or lime to create the required acidity.

As far as I’m concerned, a pork pie is a thing of beauty, but my interest wanes if there’s a big, roasted hunk of meat on offer instead. I often roast a chicken to take cold to a picnic, or, if I’m feeling particularly extravagant, a rare rib of beef with lashings of horseradish, walnut and watercress salad can’t fail to hit the spot.

And now for something sweet … You can’t have a picnic without a bowl of fresh, juicy strawberries to nibble on, but, for my money, ending the afternoon with a sugary treat is a must. You can find plenty of gluten free bakes on the website already, but my gluten free coconut and cherry squares tick all the portable boxes and are so delicious that you’ll have your friends wondering why they ever bothered with wheat in the first place.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 10x8inch cake tin
Cream together the butter and 50g of the sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the egg yolks before sifting over the rice flour and baking powder. Whisk together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs
Add the vanilla pod seeds and milk and continue to whisk until everything comes together and you are left with a fairly stiff batter. Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the tin with a rubber spatula. Next, spread over the jam evenly over the top, right up to the edges
In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whisk the egg whites and salt together until stiff. Continuing whisking while gradually adding the remaining 100g of caster sugar. You should be left with a glossy meringue
Fold in 50g of desiccated coconut and spread evenly over the jam layer. Sprinkle over the remaining coconut and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin on top of a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before cutting into even squares
Leave to cool completely before removing the squares from the tin with a step/cranked palette knife
Leave to cool completely before removing from tin