SINCE she and her son were diagnosed with coeliac disease almost a decade ago, Naomi Devlin has dedicated her time to making wholesome and flavoursome gluten-free cooking more accessible.

From bespoke teaching days held in her family kitchen in Dorset, to her booked-out cookery classes at River Cottage - the base of operations seen in chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's TV series - she's a woman on a dietary mission, and the latest string to her bow is her much-anticipated debut book, River Cottage Gluten Free.

"I've always wanted to write a cookbook," says the 42-year-old. "I started blogging almost nine years ago after I found out that I [needed to be] gluten-free, so writing has been a cathartic process."

Devlin doesn't have formal chef schooling - but that hasn't held her back, and the knowledge she's gleaned as a nutritionist, along with her honest approach to food and vitality, and first-hand experience of living gluten-free, make up for any gaps.

"Maybe I'd have got there quicker if I'd had some training, but in other ways, because I didn't approach things in the traditional way, I was really open-minded," she reasons.

"I'd often make things backwards," she adds, recalling her early experiments with recipes. "It was a case of me looking at the ingredients and thinking, 'How would this be good?', rather than, 'How can I recreate this dish?'"

It's a formula that seems to have worked: River Cottage Gluten Free is an authentic collection of 120 recipes - from breads to soups and cakes - for anybody looking to cut out gluten without compromising on taste, plus tips on alternative flours, methods of fermentation and delicious baking ideas.

A key aim for Devlin was to produce a cookbook that empowered people to feel confident in cooking gluten-free - a philosophy that applies to her courses too.

"When people come on my courses, I want them to have a sense that they could go away and do it too. If they don't do it the same as me, that's fine; they can experiment. It shouldn't be precious."

As for anybody with coeliac disease, being entirely gluten-free is a non-negotiable part of life for Devlin. However, she acknowledges that increasingly, avoiding gluten can be a lifestyle choice for some people.

"At the beginning, we had a lot of diagnosed coeliacs coming onto the courses to ask, 'What can I eat?' Now there are a lot of people interested in expanding what they eat, or cooking for other people who've had a diagnosis. The demographic has changed, and the way that I teach them has changed.

"I'm just trying to give people confidence."

Having attended one of her informative River Cottage courses, I can vouch for that. Her calm, poised yet fun manner draws a varied crowd, and while the reasons for signing up are interchangeable, Devlin has one vision: to provide a hands-on, demonstrative day, driven by her passion for tasty, not fancy, cuisine.

She applauds anybody seeking to improve their health or wellbeing through diet changes, and isn't a fan of the 'fad' tag often associated with going gluten-free.

"I think it needs to be taken seriously. If someone believes they have an issue, it's real for them. For whatever reason - if it's an emotional thing that they need to have certain foods or whatever, that's OK," she says.

"There may be people jumping on the bandwagon with no concept of what they're supposed to be doing, but if people are trying to discover what makes them sick, you've got to give that some respect."

Fancy trying out some gluten-free creations of your own? Here are three tasty recipes from Devlin's new book to try at home...


(Makes 1 flatbread)

Butter for greasing (optional)

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for sprinkling on the baking sheet (optional)

4 large eggs, separated

20g ground linseed

100g potato starch

150g ground almonds, coconut flour or ground cashews

250g full fat Greek yoghurt

2tsp gluten-free baking powder

1tsp sea salt

Nigella, poppy, cumin, fennel or sesame seeds for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6. At the same time, put a roasting tray on the bottom shelf and boil a kettle of water. Generously butter a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with sesame or poppy seeds, or line with a sheet of baking parchment.

Put the egg yolks, linseed, potato starch, ground nuts or coconut flour, yoghurt and baking powder into a large bowl and beat with a balloon whisk or electric whisk until the mixture is smooth, pale and creamy.

In a large, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt, using a balloon whisk, electric whisk or stand mixer, until stiff peaks form.

Stir a spoonful of the beaten egg white into the almond mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest using a spatula, without knocking out too much air.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet and gently spread into an oval or teardrop shape, about 2cm thick. Sprinkle with your chosen seeds.

Put the baking sheet into the oven and pour boiling water into the roasting tin to half fill it. Bake the flatbread for about 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness, until risen, golden and springy to the touch. This flatbread is best eaten within a few hours of baking.


(Serves 4)

400g sustainable fish fillets, such as cod, hake, pollock, haddock or whiting

150g gluten-free white flour, or rice flour or cornflour

1tsp (heaped) sea salt

2 eggs

175g gluten-free breadcrumbs (You can make your own using shop-bought gluten-free bread. Or, for fancier crumbs, there are recipes for brioche, sourdough and baguettes in the book which can be crumbed, or you can use gluten-free oats)

Lard, dripping or groundnut oil for shallow frying

Black pepper

Check your fish for any pin bones, removing any you find with kitchen tweezers. Slice the fish into roughly 12 fingers and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Get three deep plates or wide bowls ready for coating the fish fingers. Put the flour into the first bowl and season with the salt and a good grinding of pepper. In the second bowl, beat the eggs well with a fork. Put the breadcrumbs into the third bowl.

Take one piece of fish and press it into the flour. Turn and repeat to coat both sides, then tap off any excess. Pop it into the egg and turn it over quickly with a fork or your fingers, to coat completely. Drop the fish into the crumbs and use a spoon to cover it with crumbs. Using your other hand, turn the fish over to make sure it is fully coated, then set aside on a clean plate. Repeat with the rest of the fish.

Heat a 1cm depth of fat in a deep, heavy-based frying pan. When it is hot, fry the fish fingers, in batches if necessary, for a few minutes each side until the crumb coating is golden. Unless your fish pieces are very thick, this should be enough to cook them right through. If in doubt, break one open and check that the fish inside is hot and opaque.

Drain the fish fingers on kitchen paper and serve straight away, with a leafy salad, or peas or green beans.


(Serves 8-10)

230g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

180g light muscovado sugar

4tsp rosewater

2tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs, beaten

160g potato starch

3tsp gluten-free baking powder

160g ground almonds

For the filling and topping:

225ml double cream

1 quantity rose buttercream (see below), or extra whipped cream

50g pistachio nuts, finely chopped

Fresh or crystallised rose petals (optional)

To make the buttercream:

150g icing sugar

100g salted butter, softened

1tsp vanilla extract

4-6tsp milk or almond milk

Put the icing sugar, butter and vanilla into a bowl and mash together with a wooden spoon until all the icing sugar is damp and the butter is broken down a bit. Swap to an electric hand whisk if you have one, otherwise continue to beat with the wooden spoon until the mixture is starting to lighten. Add the milk, one teaspoon at a time, beating well between each addition. You may not need all the milk, so check after four teaspoons to see if you like the texture. (Buttercream made with dairy milk needs to be eaten within 48 hours; if made with dairy free milk, it keeps a little longer.)

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Line the base of two 20cm cake tins with discs of baking parchment and butter the sides.

Cream the butter, sugar, rosewater and vanilla extract together in a bowl with an electric hand whisk or balloon whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition. If it looks like the mixture is starting to curdle, add a couple of tablespoonfuls of the potato starch and beat again - it should come right.

Sift the potato starch, baking powder and ground almonds together over the mixture and fold in gently but thoroughly.

Scrape into the prepared tins and gently level the surface. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave in the tins for 10-15 minutes, then run a thin bladed knife around the inside of the tins. Turn out the cakes and place, right side up, on a wire rack. Leave to cool.

When the cakes are completely cold, whip the cream until thick, but not grainy. Put one of the cakes onto a plate and spread the cream almost to the edge. Place the other cake gently on top and twist it back and forth a little, just until the cream is peeking out between the layers.

Pipe or spread the rose buttercream over the top of the cake, or top with more whipped cream. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and scatter over a few fresh or crystallised rose petals if you have them.

:: River Cottage Gluten Free by Naomi Devlin is published by Bloomsbury, priced £20. Available now