10 Gluten Free Life Hacks

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This week is Coeliac Awareness Week! Coeliac UK have launched the Gluten Freevolution fronted by their chirpy mascot Cyril the Duck. Their campaign messages aims to promote knowledge of coeliac disease amongst caterers, retailers and independent food businesses.

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In celebration of all things coeliac related I have put together this list of gluten free life hacks. This was inspired by this news article that I read last week, suggesting that actress Emily Rossum’s genius ‘gluten free’ hack for eating cake at events is to eat the icing off the top and leave the cake. This is utterly useless for coeliacs, who can be glutened by even a very tiny amount of gluten. It’s promoting the idea that eating gluten free is a fad which can be sidestepped to suit the occasion, which is ridiculous.

Never one to focus on the negatives, here are my alternative gluten free hacks, which most importantly are aimed at coeliacs, particularly those who have been newly diagnosed.

1. Join Twitter

There is a whole gluten free community out there ready to lend their support and advice whenever you need it. Search #coeliac and follow all your fellow gluten free-ers. They really are a lifeline.

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2. Check out Coeliac UK’s list of accredited restaurants

These are places that fall in with strict guidelines on cross contamination and food preparation. They include all sorts of delicious places including Pizza Express, Carluccio’s and Côte Brasserie, where they even put little gluten free flags in your food!

3. Use toaster bags

In order to avoid cross contamination from gluteny toasters then the best thing to invest in is a packet of toaster bags, so that you can make your toast creations safely in the knowledge that they will remain gluten free. It’s also very important to use separate chopping boards and utensils to avoid cross contamination.

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4. Get baking

Make gluten free cakes using standard recipes. All you need is xanthan gum (I use 1/4 tsp per 200g flour in my cake recipes) and extra liquid- milk works well. See here to find out how!

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5. Discover new products

Swap your old gluten filled favourites for gluten free equivalents. Gone are the days of crumbly dry bricks of ‘bread’. With the gluten free industry booming, there are countless brands out there making gluten free products which are genuinely tasty! You can find alternative gluten free, wraps, cakes, bread rolls, croissants, pastries and beer. Here are just some of my favourites!

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6. Take a trip to M&S

Over the past few years M&S have rolled out a very extensive range of gluten free products featuring everything from Macaroni Cheese to Meatball Wraps and Dinky Sausage Rolls, all gluten free but incredibly tasty. They have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to providing tasty allergen friendly alternatives and are even sponsoring the Gluten Freevolution. Thumbs up from the whole coeliac community! I particularly love their seasonal Christmas products- this year’s snack packet of gluten free Pigs in Blankets was nothing short of genius!

7. Use Coeliac UK’s Gluten Free Directory

It lists thousands of gluten free products from all the major retailers and companies. You can also download the app version Gluten Free On The Move, which will send you instant updates whenever a product is recalled.

Gluten Free On The Move App

8. Don’t be afraid to travel

Going abroad with a food intolerance may seem daunting but there are lots of gluten free brands and restaurants in other countries just waiting to be discovered. Google gluten free along with your destination name and you are guaranteed to come across blog posts from fellow coeliacs, full of handy tips. Last year I went to Alicante and was able to eat tapas, paella and icecream and even drink gluten free beer!

Gluten Free Burger and Beer in Alicante!

9. Become a pro-snacker

However heard you try, there will be instances when you’re out and about and you just can’t find anything that’s gluten free. For this reason it makes sense to always carry snacks with you, whether it’s gluten free popcorn, oatcakes, cereal bars or fresh fruit.

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10. Be careful with oats

Although oats are naturally gluten free, if you’re a coeliac, you should buy them from a dedicated gluten free brand as normal varieties are contaminated with other grains. A very small number of coeliacs are sensitive even to gluten free oats. Coeliac UK have lots of advice on this. If you decide to include oats in your diet then granola may well become your new favourite breakfast!

Rhubarb Crumble Overnight Oats

And there you have it! 10 ways to make coeliac life that just a little bit easier! Join the Gluten Freevolution here and help to spread the word!

 

Rhubarb Crumble Overnight Oats

 

Rhubarb Crumble Overnight OatsDo you remember when you were younger that you would happily eat the same food every day? I think I took the same lunch to school everyday for years! Well at the moment I seem to have got into the habit of eating yogurt and granola for breakfast EVERY day!

So I thought I’d mix it up a bit this week and try coming up with a new breakfast recipe. I’ve never tried making overnight oats before but I’ve always admired them on Instagram, often piled up into huge jars and topped with dizzying amounts of fruit! This is a slightly more pared down version using a mixture of gluten free oats and Nutri-Brex– a super yummy and healthy gluten free version of Wheetabix made with sorghum which has a lovely slightly nutty flavour. The finished result paired with a morning cup of coffee is very tasty indeed and tastes a lot like having pudding for breakfast!

(please note not all coeliacs can tolerate oats- see here for more info)

Recipe

rhubarb compote

1 Nutri-Brex, crumbled up

1/4 cup gluten free oats

1/2 cup milk

gluten free granola to serve

  1. Fill the base of a small bowl or ramekin with a generous amount of rhubarb compote.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the Nutri-Brex, gluten free oats and milk.
  3. Pour on top of the rhubarb, completely covering it and leave in the fridge overnight.
  4. The next morning, make a deliciously strong cup of coffee in your favourite mug then dig into your breakfast! It’s extra tasty served with yogurt and a handful of crunchy gluten free granola.

If you’re mega hungry, just scale up the ingredients!

See here for more of my breakfast recipes

 

Pink Beetroot Soup

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This year I thought I would join the Valentine’s Day bandwagon by making something suitable pink themed. But instead of wrestling with tubes of pink icing gel or battling with piping bags, I’ve conjured up something savoury instead. Although it looks very innocent, this soup has a really spicy kick which balances out the relentlessly earthy taste of the beetroot really quite well. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous then add in a cheeky spoonful of horseradish sauce which is a perfect partner to beetroot.

The heart shaped bread is definitely optional but look how cute it is!

Recipe 

  1. Thinly slice 1 large onion and saute in a frying pan over a low heat until pale and translucent.
  2. Chop up half a swede, one eating apple and two sticks of celery then add to the pan and sizzle for 5 minutes along with a pinch of ginger and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.
  3. Pour in 1 litre of vegetable stock and add a handful of arborio risotto rice and a packet of beetroot then put the lid on and simmer on a low heat until all of the vegetables are soft. (The rice helps to give it a creamy texture)
  4. Whizz up the cooked vegetables with a handheld soup blender then serve to your one true love with extra chilli flakes and toast!

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And if you’re in a romantic mood then you can discover more of my Valentine’s themed recipes here!

 

Review: Isabella’s Gluten Free Patisserie Düsseldorf

mobile-december-119At the end of November last year I flew out to Düsseldorf to see the Christmas markets. Having lived and worked in the Düsseldorf region for a year as part of my university degree I was really excited to return to all of my favourite year abroad haunts! And even more excited when I discovered that a brand new gluten free patisserie had opened on the Königsallee. The original Isabella’s Gluten Free Patisserie is based on Arnulfstraße, a short tram ride out of the city centre. The shop that I visited on Königsallee is a new mini outpost which has only been open since the summer. They sell a wide range of cakes, pastries, mousses and savoury snacks including sandwiches and quiches and absolutely everything is gluten free.

Finding the shop is a bit of challenge, because it’s not directly on the main street. Instead, you have to go into the Kö Galerie, which is a mini shopping arcade. As you come to the escalators going down to Rewe, a popular German supermarket, then turn right and you’ll find it tucked away on the right hand side.

Cakes

Completely spoilt for choice, I took ages to pick out a cake because they all looked so beautiful and tempting! This blackcurrant mousse cake had a hidden chocolate centre, giving it a perfect balance of flavours.
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Pastries

This gluten free chocolate eclair tasted utterly delicious! And it was beautifully presented too- a far cry from the classic green packaging of free from food in the UK.
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Lunch

It’s not all about the cakes! They had some delicious sandwich and lunch time options too. I tried this spinach and pine nut quiche. The pastry was just right- not at all dry.The patisserie also sells fresh gluten free bread and bread rolls, so you can make you own lunch.
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Seasonal

On November 11th Germany celebrates St Martin’s Day. According to legend, St Martin was a knight who was riding along the road when he saw beggar who was freezing cold. He used his sword to cut his cloak and gave half to the beggar, thus saving him from freezing to death. During the evening of 11th children traditionally take part in a St Martin’s day procession, carrying colourful lanterns. As part of the celebrations bakeries produce a traditional man-shaped bread roll called a Weckmann, complete with a clay pipe and raisin eyes. It’s a sweet dough, much like a brioche and I was very excited to discover this tasty gluten free version!

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At Christmas time, Germans love to make Weinachtsplätzchen, otherwise known as Christmas cookies. I bought these gluten free ‘Nussecken’ which directly translates as ‘Nutty Corners’, presumably because of their triangular shape! They were delicious with a cup of coffee- I will definitely be trying to recreate them at home.

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So there you have it, my round up of all the very best gluten free bakes from Isabella’s! Dusseldorf in general is great for gluten free food, if you know where to look. My Gluten Free Guide has written a fantastic post about their experiences of the city so I will hand you over to them for further inspiration!

Gluten Free Christmas Berry Florentine

Floertine header.jpgLast week the lovely people over at Delicious Alchemy sent me some of their BRAND NEW gluten free Wonderfully Berry Granola to try. It seems like good timing because the addition of freeze dried cranberries gives it a particularly festive flavour!

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I shared it round with my gluten-eating family at breakfast and they all really enjoyed the sweet flavour and crunchy clusters. The freeze dried blueberries and cranberries may look teeny tiny, but you can still taste them in amongst the oats. I think I might have to hide the bag so that it doesn’t all get snaffled at once!

Using the Wonderfully Berry Granola, I decided to put together a recipe based on a Christmas Classic- florentine. This is a tray bake approach which allows the florentine to be cut up into teeny tiny bite sized pieces which are perfect with a cup of tea or maybe even some mulled wine!

Recipe

  1. Melt 100g good quality gluten free dark chocolate then pour into a greased and lined 9 inch square baking tin- resist the temptation to eat it all! Leave to set slightly.
  2. Cream together 60g butter with 130g soft brown sugar until soft then add 1 egg.
  3. Mix together 100g desiccated coconut, 140g sultanas and raisins, 70g glace cherries and 50g gluten free Wonderfully Berry Granola then stir into the butter mixture.
  4. Spoon on top of the chocolate then bake at 150°C for 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave to cool then cut into squares and sprinkle with Christmas cake decorations! Demolish whilst listening to your favourite festive tune.

View my collection of FESTIVE recipes hereholly

 

Bake Off Challenge Week 9: Lemon Cheesecake Fondant Fancies- gluten free

lemon-cheesecake-fondant-fancies-headerWeek 9 was Semi Final week and the bakers had just three challenges between them and the final. Things were getting pretty tense!

In a twist

The Signature Challenge was to make 24 palmiers, a French savoury snack made of puff pastry. Some of the bakers went a bit crazy with over filling their pastry whilst Andrew bravely added breadcrumbs to an already dry mix. I’m not sure I’ll be baking these at home any time soon although I may give it go with some shop bought gluten free puff pastry. Don’t tell Mary!

Savarin (otherwise known as boozy yeast cake)

The Technical Challenge was to bake a savarin, which is a yeasted cake baked in a Bundt style tin, much like a rum baba. Are you with me?! It’s flavoured with booze and citrus and then decorated with fresh fruit and a fancy chocolate label. Everyone did fairly well but I thought it was bizarre how much they focussed on Selasi’s orange slices which apparently still had the ‘membrane’ on. You can tell that the standard is high when Mary and Paul start to get this picky.

Image from BBC Food

Fancy a Fondant?

The showstopper challenge was to bake fondant fancies. It looked like a baking hot day in the tent but none of the bakers crumbled, not even Selasi when he decided to remake his cakes all over again after being told by Mary that he should sieve the flour. Jane controversially decided to not buttercream the sides of her hearts so they came out looking  a bit lumpy (I’m sure they tasted amazing!) and it was Andrew who stealthily stole the show with his precise cubes of cake perfectly coated in fondant.

My Bake Off Challenge

For my Bake Off Challenge this week I have decided to make Lemon Cheesecake Fondant Fancies made of four component parts.

  1. Gluten free vanilla sponge- made using Doves Farm flour and a touch of xanthan gum for added stability
  2. Vanilla cheesecake buttercream, made with butter, icing sugar and Philadelphia
  3. Lemon curd- I put a spoonful of this into a hollow cut out of each cake
  4. Lemon fondant icing made with added lemon juice for flavour and to make sure that it coated the cakes well

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Ta dah! Finally I topped them with yellow and white cake decorations and an extra swirl of lemon curd. I have to admit my v talented and neat sister was staying this weekend and so most of the presentation can be credited to her!

Next week it’s THE FINAL!!

Bake Off Challenge Week 8: Gluten Free Peacock Cake

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peacock tail 1.jpgWeek 8 was the Great British Bake Off’s very first Tudor Week, complete with marzipan, pies and Henry VIII jokes.

Hearty Pies

For their Signature Challenge the remaining five bakers had to make hot water crust pies. Selasi went for a hearty mixture of game whilst Benjamina chose a variety of super spicy Mexican flavours. Meanwhile Andrew stole the show with his cog shaped pies, placed on a specially made base so that they all interlocked. Well he is an engineering student!

In a jumble

The Technical Challenge was to make a batch of perfectly baked jumbles. They sound like small fluorescent coloured sweets but they’re actually heavily spiced biscuits, tied up in complicated knots. Candice came out top, producing characteristically neat and even looking biscuits whilst most of the other bakers struggled with the intricate pattern and vague instructions.

Image from BBC Food

Sugar Coated Show Stopper

The Showstopper Challenge was to make a marzipan centerpiece, featuring marzpian, or marchpane, it’s Tudor cousin. Candace produced one of my favourite bakes yet- a marzipan peacock complete with a four different cake layers, beautiful feathers and a hidden surprise middle, all in gorgeous shades of bright blue, turquoise and green.

My Bake Off Challenge

For my Bake Off Challenge this week, I decided to go all out and attempt Candice’s peacock.

I baked a gluten free vanilla cake in a bowl for the dome shape of the body. Then I made a bowl of marzipan, halving this recipe from BBC Good Food and colouring it blue. I used half of the marzipan to cover the cake, first brushing the cake with apricot jam, then covering it with a disc of marzipan rolled out thinly.

I used then the other half of the marzipan for the tail, stamping out shapes with an acorn cookie cutter and then layering them up on a base of marzipan, before baking it sightly in the oven until it had dried out.

Finally, I made the head and neck out of melted chocolate and gluten free rice crispies, which was one of the hardest parts! The crispies just did not want to stick together so i ended up rolling up a tube in baking paper, sellotaping it up and leaving it to set in the fridge! I suspect Candice may have used melted marshmallows!

Finally, I assembled the peacock and covered the tail in an edging of blue glace icing and green and blue gluten free cake decorations. Et voilà!

Next week is the Semi Final and the trailer makes it looked like a jam packed episode. I can’t wait!