gluten free

Felafel…

My son was born in May…since his food journey so far has exclusively involved breast-milk, I’ll save his inclusion in this blog for another time! (Excuse for not posting in a year: check!)

I made felafel yesterday. Given that there are two excellent felafel shops within 5 minutes of my office, this is a regular meal for me, but I haven’t made it myself for a long time, if ever. 

Some recipes include bread crumbs, others are deep fried. These do neither & are super easy if you have a food processor. 

Ingredients:

3 Small Sweet Potatoes 

1 tin of chickpeas, drained & rinsed

1 large clove of garlic, crushed

1 heaped tsp cumin

1 heaped tsp dried coriander

1/2 tsp dried ginger

Small handful fresh coriander,  chopped

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180¤C.
  2. Prick the potatoes & microwave on high for 9 minutes. Leave to cool & then peel & roughly chop. 
  3. Add all ingredients to food processor & pulse until combined, but not smooth. 
  4. Use a teaspoon to shape mixture into felafel shape. Place on a baking tray. 
  5. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes – turning once half way through. 

    We served ours with quinoa & a red cabbage salad (dry toast a large handful of cashew nuts & a heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds, until nuts start to colour. Shred 1/2 small red cabbage & mix together with juice of half a lemon.)

    Yummy!

    A trip to Manchester – small things…

    I started a new job in October. It means I am much busier – less time for writing – and that I am travelling regularly for work.

    Sorry if this post reads a little like an advert – I had a bit of an #overexcitedcoeliac moment…

    I wanted to mention this trip because of the incredible service I got at Motel One in Manchester – travelling away always makes me a little nervous, especially since my reaction to gluten has become so much more sensitive and I really can’t afford to be besieged by brain-fog (or worse) while working away in an unfamiliar place.

    Apparently I can remove this particular anxiety when travelling to Manchester! When I went down for breakfast after my night’s stay (the rooms are basic, but inexpensive, spotlessly clean and well designed) there was a note next to my name where I checked in for breakfast. After a couple of minutes, while I perused the continental breakfast, (meats and cheese, yoghurt, organic milk) they brought me a basket with two different types of bread (more than I could eat), as well as two bowls of gluten free cereal to choose from.

    It was a small thing really, but made such an incredible difference to my day. There wasn’t even a hint of a rolled eye and the staff were really keen to help. So, there was only a communal toaster (you know the ones where there’s a moving platform and you have to keep your fingers crossed the toast doesn’t burn on its journey through?) so I had bread instead of toast, but I really didn’t mind.

    The staff were friendly and attentive, the location was incredibly convenient right by Piccadilly station and I’ll definitely be back!

    Grabbing a Quick Lunch

    I was diverted from a full BreadBitch melt-down today by a toasted sandwich.

    Those who are gluten free out of necessity and who are not super organised will probably recognise the scenario to some extent:

    I have an hour for lunch. I had to run some errands, make a couple of phone calls. I ended up bumping into a friend in town which slowed things down and then I needed to grab something quick to eat on the way back to the office. BIG MISTAKE.

    I have a couple of safe places that I visit, which are within a few minutes of work – it’s a bit of a running joke that I’m addicted to felafel, but it’s tasty, it’s quick and it doesn’t leave me swollen like a balloon and aching for 3 days. But – I live in Brighton – known for being health conscious, a little alternative. It is, according to a friend, the easiest place to be gluten free in the country.

    But I wasn’t near the ‘alternative’ bit of town – I was slap bang in the centre and in a rush. Sainsbury’s didn’t haven even their usual sad selection of 2 varieties of gluten free sandwich. All the lunch options in Boots had either pastry, bread or pasta (yes, even the salads). EAT, seemed like a slightly more expensive safe bet, but all they had were side salads, which were not going to fill me up.

    When I mention ‘BreadBitch melt down’ what I really mean is that I wanted to cry in the middle of the shop. I wanted to sit on the floor and kick things and shout at the manager for not making it easier for me to just ‘grab a quick lunch’. It actually meant that I held back the tears, ground my teeth slightly and considered the fact that salted popcorn might be the easiest ‘savoury’ option available to me. It made me appreciate the word-smush ‘hangry.’

    On my march/sulky walk back to the office, I decided to pop my head into a coffee shop that I’d never been into before (oh yes, I’d also called in at Starbucks, who were all out of their gluten-free wraps) – NY Coffee Club, famous for being owned by Peter Andre. I did not have high hopes, but was wrong. I could have kissed the server when she said ‘oh yes – we ALWAYS have gluten free toasties at least. If you don’t like what’s on offer, I can make you up something else.’

    She even wrapped the sandwich in paper to prevent the risk of cross contamination in the toaster and thoroughly washed the knife before cutting the sandwich in half.

    So, I didn’t have a tantrum in public, or cry, or go hungry. And although I will probably stick to making my own lunch or having felafel for the 800th time, at least there is another safe option in town.

    Udi’s Gluten Free – Review

    I was delighted to be contacted by Udi’s a few weeks back, offering to send me some of their products to try and review.  I’d already treated myself to some of their bagels a few months earlier and been very impressed, so was keen to have a try of some of their other products.

    The bootie was delivered to work and the first thing to be tried was the “Chocolate Flavour Sandwich Cookies” which were shared out between my colleges (none of whom are gluten free themselves) – these look & I’m assured taste, very much like Oreos. Perhaps a hint at the American origins of Udi’s products.  If I’ve ever eaten an Oreo, I don’t remember it, but these were delicious. My colleague Paul even suggested they’re better than the originals that they’re clearly in honour of, as they’re slightly less sweet.

     

    GF Oreos

    I will certainly be trying these again – not least as I saw an amazing chocolate cake recipe recently which used Oreos as the base. I’m also told that twisting the top off of one of these biscuits and adding peanut butter is a treat not to miss…I’ll report back on this!!

    Next up to be tried was the Chocolate Chip and Toffee Flavoured Muffins – I was a bit disappointed to start with that my muffin didn’t have any toffee in it and then realised that the pack of two has one chocolate chip muffin and one with toffee – they were both delicious, very moist and not at all crumbly (which is what tends to happen when I’ve made my own muffins recently!) – my non-bf boyfriend was also really impressed with these, when I gave in and let him have a try.

    I took the Chocolate Chip Bagels to a friend’s house when I stayed over, as I’m never sure how easy it will be to have a gluten free breakfast when staying away. I’d previously had the Cinnamon and Raisin bagels and these were just as good – very chocolatey and again, no different from the bagels I had before going gluten free (assuming my memory stretches back that far!). We had them toasted with cream-cheese – really indulgent!

    The Ancient Grain Crisps did not go down so well. They tasted rather over processed to me. But from a secure fan of Ready Salted crisps, perhaps this is not that surprising. I don’t really understand why you would really want to make a special kind of gluten free crisps when most (is that pushing it?) crisps are gluten free anyway. Not something I would buy, but if you love highly flavoured crisps, these might be for you.

    The Chocolate Banana Cereal Bars were a surprise, as I don’t like bananas, but these were a great pre-gym snack first thing in the morning (when most people would probably just have…well…a banana!) Really chewy and not too sweet – the kind of thing it’s good to have in your bag for an emergency if you find yourself stuck at a railway station. They do taste of banana, but the chocolate took the edge off for me & I’ll probably get these again.

    The Breakfast Bars are another homage – this time to Kellogs Nutrigrain bars – (although I guess this may not be as intentional as the ‘oreos’ mentioned above). I took these along camping and they ended up getting passed around when we couldn’t be bothered to make a proper breakfast. They’re great if you’re looking for a replacement for an old favourite – but I didn’t find them particularly full of flavour.

    Overall I was pretty happy with my Udi’s haul – a bundle of sweet treats. I would imagine that their arrival in the UK from the USA will be a blessed relief to a lot of people who have been diagnosed with Celiac or other gluten intolerance who do not want to give up their previous eating habits. With a lot of gluten free alternatives to popular foods.

    For me, these will only ever be occasional treats. It made me realise how ‘clean’ I eat these days – I was bamboozled by the list of ingredients for some of these products, although they are no worse than a lot of other food you’ll buy on the supermarket shelves. My favourite items (perhaps predictably given the above statement) were the ‘Simple’ Granolas, with an ingredients list of just three items. I was expecting them to be rather sweet like the other products, but they weren’t at all and were perfect mixed in with yogurt & fruit in the morning – a really great way to get some extra fibre – something I find hard at times.

    I recommend you look Udi’s up when you’re craving a sweet treat – it’s great to be able to chow down on some goodies without any fear of a glutening – it’s always the naughty treats that catch me out. They are good quality and will appeal to non-gluten free eaters too!

     

    Summer Salads

    Preparing food to take to work is so much easier in the summer time. I could probably prepare a different salad combination every day, although I tend to make a batch to eat two or three days in a row.

    This week I got my hands on some lovely beetroot at the local market and was very pleased with the resulting salad. Really simple, really fresh and really tasty. This was made particularly easy by the grating function on my food processor…I really love my food processor!

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    1 x Beetroot: topped, tailed & grated

    3 or 4 large carrots (I alway buy organic when I can, as they taste so much better) – topped, tailed & grated

    About 2 cm of root ginger – peeled & grated

    2 sticks of celery – cut in 3 lengthways and finely sliced

    Black olives to taste

    About 1/4 Pack of Feta Cheese

    Lightly mix all of these ingredients together (if you mix it too much the whole lot will end up pink!)

    Then add:

    Juice of 1 lime

    1 tbsp of sesame seeds

    *******

    This gave me two large portions. I ate it for lunch two days in a row, accompanied with some rice-cakes. Would also work really well as a side dish (like a healthier coleslaw perhaps).

    Another variation of this is to omit the beetroot, use a couple more carrots and add a tin of cooked (drained & rinsed) chickpeas.

    Easy!

    Roast Dinner – a simple pleasure

    My Mum makes the most incredible Roast Dinners. I think it is probably why it took me so long to really try and do it myself. I think I was afraid of serving up soggy roast potatoes and over cooked carrots while I tried to get my timings right.

    In the past couple of years, I’ve overcome my fear and now am very happy to serve up a roast dinner – if only for me and my boyfriend so far!

    Chicken goes in first (thank goodness the timing is always on the packet – Thank you Sainsbury’s!) – usually 85-90 minutes. I tend to rub a small amount of olive oil on the skin and add some salt and pepper.

    Potatoes next – I’ve started using new-potatoes…you don’t get the same crunchy coating, but you don’t need to par-boil them & they take just under an hour. Heat a couple of table spoons of olive oil ready to coat them (just stick the pan in the oven) and put them in when there’s about 50minutes left on the timer for the chicken.

    Prepare the veg (today carrots, leek and kale) once the chicken and potatoes are in the oven, I put them in the steamer and leave them to one side. Baste the chicken roughly every half an hour and shake the potatoes at the same time.

    Once the chicken is done – leave it out to rest while the potatoes finish cooking. Put on the veg to steam for about 5 minutes.

    Done! If the potatoes are done more quickly – I stick them under the grill to stay warm.

    Since the standard Bisto gravy granules have been out since going gluten free, I usually have just mixed half a teaspoon of bullion in with the juices from the chicken and some of the water from the vegetables. In reality, this hasn’t been great, but it sort of looked right and I was never a massive fan of gravy anyway.

    We tried the Illumi Chicken Gravy, but it tasted too much like chicken soup to me – was better when it was watered down a bit, but not to my taste (unlike most of the other Illumi world food – I really recommend you take a look at their meals!)

    Today, I brought the Kallo Organic Chicken Gravy Granules – it was a pound for a sachet, and the instructions said to use the whole lot with half a pint of water. I used half the packet, mixed with the vegetable water and some of the fat from the chicken and it was great. Would be better if they were available in a tub, as a pound a packet is a bit steep, but it was nice to have some proper gravy!

    Warm Lentil Salad

    I keep finding lots of recipes for amazing gluten free cakes and deserts, but I’m also challenging myself to eat less sugar, so I’m going to aim to post as many savoury recipes as I do sweet.

    While travelling home from London on the train this afternoon, I spotted a shout out from @FeastAndGlory looking for recipes using green lentils. One of my most often cooked recipes is inspired by an Alkaline Cookbook that my Mum gave me. It’s easy, quick, fresh and delicious.

    Although my version is scribbled down on a scrap of paper and never really followed properly, the original is available online via the Energise for Life website. This version is slightly different and just based on what I have in the fridge today – the important thing is to have a whole heap of fresh, crunch veg… use whatever you’ve got!


     

    image-2

    150g green lentils

    1 level teaspoon of vegetable bouillon dissolved in 400ml of hot water.

    Juice of 1/2 Lemon

    1 tablespoon of coconut or other cooking oil

    1 Pepper (I used 1/2 red & 1/2 orange)

    2 small courgettes

    Small head of broccoli

    2 Cloves of Garlic

    1 Green Chilli (mild)

    A handful of cherry tomatoes (a couple of regular tomatoes would work just as well!)

    3cm (ish) of fresh root ginger (peeled and chopped small)

    A large handful of baby leaf spinach per person (or other green leafy salad)

    (Serves two hungry people as a main meal – would also work as a side with grilled chicken or some tofu steaks)


    image

    Boil the lentils in the bouillon/stock for 30 minutes or until tender. Add more liquid if it starts getting dry.

    Add the lemon juice, stir and set to one side.

    Finely cut or crush the garlic. Chop the vegetables (other than the spinach) into small pieces.

    Gently heat the oil.

    Add the vegetables in order of their firmness – I went for: Garlic, Peppers, Courgettes, broccoli, chilli. Let soften slightly (you still want them a bit crunchy) 2 or 3 minutes and then add the tomatoes and ginger.

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    Let this heat through (1 or 2 minutes).

    Serve over a bed of Spinach.

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    That’s it! I sprinkled some seeds over mine too – delicious!

    I’ll eat what’s left over, cold for my lunch tomorrow too….

     

     

    Portuguese Rice Muffins

    My boss mentioned these little cakes to me a few weeks ago. She’d had them on holiday in Portugal and had found them in the little cafe around the corner from the office. However, after a recent accidental poisoning from a cake labeled ‘gluten free’ I wasn’t tempted to run out and buy one – however delicious she said they were! I made a note and then completely forgot about them.

    This week, while checking through my notebook, I found the note I’d made and immediately looked them up. After sifting through a couple of different versions, one of which included wheat flour, I found this lovely website Delicious Wordflux.

    Teresa writes about her own search for the right recipe and accompanies the recipe with some really very beautiful pictures, which I can’t even hope to replicate. Not least because the batch I made were eaten before I got a chance to take a picture!

    You can take a look at the original recipe and Teresa’s page here: http://www.deliciouswordflux.com/2011/05/portuguese-rice-muffins-bolo-de-arroz/ 

    I haven’t really changed the recipe, just altered the measurements to grams and millilitres. I’ve found that a lot of the gluten free recipes I’ve found online are American and measured in cups and spoons. The best conversion tool I’ve found is actually through an ovens website: http://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/conversion.html & it works really well. Google helps out with anything else.


     

    Ingredients:

    85g of Butter (this should be room temperature, especially if you don’t have a food processor)

    200g Sugar

    250ml of whole milk

    2 eggs

    1 egg yolk

    350g Rice flour (brown, white or a mix)

    2 teaspoons of baking powder (check it’s gluten free!)

    1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

    Pinch of salt (I used salted butter, so left this out)

    Zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed)

    Juice of 1/2 lemon (the lemon I had was small, so I actually used the whole thing.

    Granulated sugar to sprinkle on top.


     

    Pre-heat oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4)

    Prepare paper or silicone muffin/cup-cake cups.

    In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the butter until creamy. (I forgot to get the butter out of the fridge in advance, so was very pleased to have my trusty food processor on hand for this!)

    In a separate bowl or jug, mix the milk, eggs & egg yolk and lemon juice. Add to the butter mixture.

    In another bowl, whisk the rice flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt (if using) and add slowly to the existing mixture, stirring/blending until well combined.

    Half fill each of the muffin cups. Sprinkle a little of the granulated sugar on the top of each one.

    Bake for 20/25 minutes.


     

    Work in progress

    Work in progress

    The original recipe mentions that you should leave the cakes to stand for 20 minutes before baking. I cooked mine in two batches and I can’t honestly say there was a difference between the ones I cooked straight way and the ones I left to stand.

    The only other difference from Teresa’s recipe is that I suggest you add the lemon zest to the flour instead of the wet mix, as I found when I made it all the zest clumped together.

    The cakes were absolutely delicious and filled the whole house with a wonderful lemony cake-y smell. I will definitely be making another batch soon!

    Slow-cooker Chilli

    Most recipes I’ve ever found for Chilli con (o sin) Carne have been Gluten Free & in fact most Mexican food seems to be Gluten Free too – especially if made with traditional with Corn Tortillas (flour or wheat tortillas clearly aren’t & shop bought ‘corn’ tortillas tend to have wheat flour in, so beware).

    Anyway – this is a quick recipe that I have almost literally thrown together from what I have left in the fridge. What with the bank-holiday weekend and having a very laid-back (lazy) few days, I haven’t been shopping, or this recipe would also include onion and a red pepper at the very least!


     

    Ingredients:

    1 packet of lean minced beef (could easily be substituted for 150g red split lentils if going for a vege version, but you’ll need to add more liquid)

    3 Cloves of Garlic (crushed or chopped finely)

    1 Green Chilli (chopped small)

    1/2 Red Chilli (chopped small)

    3 heaped teaspoons of Cumin

    1 teaspoon of dried oregano

    1 heaped teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper (or other Chilli Powder – use more or less to taste)

    1 level teaspoon of bouillon

    1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup

    1 tin chopped tomatoes

    1 tin chick peas (drained)

    1 tin of kidney beans (drained & rinsed)


     

    Brown the mince over a medium heat until there is no pink showing. (The crock from my slow cooker goes on the hob, which minimises washing up!)

    Take off the heat, add the garlic, chilli, cumin and oregano – stir well.

    Add the chopped tomatoes & kidney beans.

    Add the bouillon & ketchup to the bottom of the empty tomato tin – half fill with hot water, stir and add to the mix.

    Stir again and put in the slow cooker.

    I’m short on time today, so I’ve put the cooker on high for an hour to get it started and then will turn to low for another 5 hours.

    About an hour before it’s ready, I will add the kidney beans and give it another quick stir.

    That’s it! Easy, inexpensive and tasty!

    Serve with rice, or a jacket potato or a big pile of tortilla chips! photo 2-2photo 1-2(Will add to the recipes tab once I work out how to do it!)

     

    Gluten Symptoms & Getting Tested

    Something that amazes me about Coeliac disease is the number and variety of symptoms.

    I was first tested because I was anaemic and I had a vitamin D deficiency. As I mentioned in my first post – I didn’t go through with the full test, as eating a high wheat diet made me so ill so quickly. It could be that I have a Gluten Intolerance as opposed to full blown Coeliac disease, but at this point in my life (and on the advice of my doctor) I’m not prepared to go through the pain to find out one way or the other. I did have a blood test, which showed a negative result. When I looked closely at my diet (other than the enforced 6 day binge) I hadn’t been eating much gluten at all for months (because it made me feel bloated and ‘brain-foggy’) so the doctor wasn’t surprised by the negative result, and I’ve since learned that a false negative result isn’t uncommon.

    If you are suffering from a variety of these symptoms (see picture below), go and talk to your doctor about it – if you’re eating gluten, don’t stop until after you’ve been tested, as your sensitivity gets more pronounced when you stop eating it, so you won’t want to go back!

    Personally, the benefits I feel of going gluten free FAR outweigh any inconvenience. I went from being permanently ill with cold after cold, various allergies, issues with my joints, gynaecological issues, to being overwhelmingly fit and well in the year since I quit gluten. It hasn’t made me super-woman, but it has put a spring in my step!

    Gluten Dude surveyed 130 of his readers and this picture shows the most commonly reported symptoms. Of course, a lot of these things can come from other things too, but I know there are a few things here that ring true to me after having been ‘glutened’.

    Courtesy of @glutendude

    Courtesy of @glutendude