Gluten-free does not have to mean taste free, says kinesiologist foodie, Jane Collison. She introduces us to some free-from Dorset food heroes and we have some great recipes that prove that living without gluten doesn’t mean giving up delicious food…
Think of gluten free and most of us think of pale, tasteless bread that people with a medical condition are forced to eat instead of the delicious ‘real’ version. But in fact all meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses, vegetables and fruit naturally contain no gluten so us coeliacs can eat a varied, healthy and very tasty diet. It’s only when it comes to grains that we’re limited in choice to rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat … well actually, maybe not that limited after all! Maybe it’s because wheat forms the basis of, or is added to, so much of our everyday diet that people think gluten free means less choice and less taste. The increasing number of people choosing not to eat gluten because it makes them feel better has meant that the gluten free food market has grown exponentially in the last decade. I’m personally very glad of this food ‘fashion’ as it means my choices are a lot less limited and eating out is much easier.
GLUTEN FREE DORSET
More and more butchers, bakers and chefs are focusing on amazing gluten free products and recipes – and luckily for those of us living in Dorset, the region is teeming with them. Here’s our pick…
Chef/co-owner of Manbo’s Restaurant in Weymouth, Mandy Rezaei, says it’s easy to make most main course dishes gluten free – especially if chefs make their own sauces, pesto and stocks, as she does. For example, her Napoli sauce is made from tomatoes with onion, garlic and parsley and forms the basis of many of her pasta dishes with added chicken or prawns. She always has gluten free pasta in stock and can cater for most intolerances as she cooks from scratch every day. Most of her guests won’t know that one of her signature dishes is naturally gluten free. She dusts monkfish in chickpea flour from Helen’s Wholefoods shop (just down the street) to give a tasty, crispy shell when baked, before serving it with a coriander and chorizo, chilli and tomato sauce. Mandy says you can’t taste the difference and it certainly tastes good otherwise it wouldn’t leave her kitchen. www.honeybuns.co.uk
Honeybuns cakes are tasty, and they’ve won plenty of awards to prove it. Emma Goss-Custard started the business as a bicycle sandwich round in Oxford in 1998. As an aside, she offered slices of delicious home-made cakes made from luxurious ingredients such as ground almonds, chocolate and polenta. Her customers loved the cakes and some noticed they were naturally free from gluten. Demand grew and within two years Emma had ditched wheat flour from her recipes. Emma’s specialised gluten free bakery in Holwell, North Dorset was born, even though the ‘free from’ market was not originally on her agenda at all and she hadn’t even heard of coeliac disease. For Honeybuns it’s all about taste, flavour and texture distribution. Interestingly, Emma says: “We keep our gluten free branding subtle because our cakes are created to be inclusive, naughty but nice, blow the calories, unashamedly indulgent treats – which are delicious and appeal to everyone.” and they now produce around 30,000 products per week for nationwide
You may not have noticed the subtle crossed out grain symbol on your sausage packet but, in the last year or two, a lot of supermarket sausages have been made gluten free. Brace of Butchers, an award-winning butchery at Poundbury, don’t need to advertise the fact that all their sausages, burgers and faggots are gluten free either because their reputation has spread. Butchers Ben and Rob are really proud to produce a flavoursome, juicy sausage which is suitable for all their customers because they say it’s amazing how many people have intolerances. When they first opened, they offered both gluten and gluten free ranges but demand quickly showed that they should switch to gluten free, especially to avoid the risk of confusion. Tom Amery, founder of Brace of Butchers, explains a little about the science behind their sausage making. He said it took them a long time to perfect their own gluten free blend and that getting the moisture content, salt, pepperiness and flavour was crucial but what they learned was that breaking down the collagen in the meat was the most important bit to get right. Their first attempts were a bit dry and the butchers thought it was down to the rice-based gluten free rusk. But, after speaking to other butchers from outside the area and several weeks of experimenting, they got the mixing and pounding process right. Tom said: “We didn’t realise how much alchemy was involved in sausage making!” Tom confirms that gluten free is regrettably still seen as a premium product and comes at a price – the rusk is significantly more expensive to buy in. However, Brace of Butchers products are not about cost. The pork used in their sausages is always outdoor reared from a hardy breed so that antibiotic use is reduced and a cleaner, more natural product can be made.