Autumnal Baking // Gluten Free – Oat Free- Guilt Free Apple Crumble

cool bananas, cool bananas blog, gluten free, gluten free crumble, gluten free desertWell HAI there, how y’all doing? It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here & I’m feeling all out of practice. I’ve dipped into a little bit of a funk recently, so I decided to dust the cobwebs off by making a deeelish gluten free delight.

I’ve never really been much of a sweet toothed chick, I’d choose some kind of savoury snack over desert any day. But there’s something about the autumnal transition, with the outside temperature dropping, leaving the air with a certain crispness to it, & when the days start to get darker & shorter, that finds me longing for a warming & gooey treat, like a delicious apple crumble.

Despite the huge advances in readily available gluten free products over the last 10 years, I still find where cakes or deserts are concerned, a lot is still left to be desired. Unless that is, you particularly enjoy eating something that’s dry as the Saharan desert & about as tasty as cardboard? (I kid you not!) View Post

The Trouble with travelling & Coeliac disease

My trouble with traveling & being a ‘coeliac’. Enter Grumpy face (apologies in advance):

Grrrrrr. Travelling in London with Coeliac disease makes me pull this face. How unattractive!!

Grrrrrr. Travelling in London with Coeliac disease makes me pull this face. How unattractive!!

Off on a adventure? Regardless of the duration that your journey takes, I’m prepared to bet my bottom dollar that your bag will no doubt weigh a ton. You’ll want to be well prepared with food so that you’re never caught out. & Here lies another grumble of mine: this form of weight lifting contributes to my back shouting ‘owchieeee’ & pain that I could just do with out, thanks. Now in this instance, my example rant is just of a London trip, across the capital for a day of boring & laborious appointments. Traveling abroad? Well, that’s a topic worthy of its own post entirely.

oh, 'ello, 'ello London. We meet again

oh, ‘ello, ‘ello London. We meet again

I’m writing this from the waiting room of a major London hospital. & I happen think the worst place I’ve found for grabbing a ‘quick’ on the go lunch or snack free of gluten monsters are: Hospitals. The very place that’s supposed help contribute towards being ‘healthy’ (overlooking the germs & seasonal rounds of diarrhea & vomiting, but you get my drift) is the very place I fear the most for finding gluten free grub. The on site canteen may have a few options, but quite honestly looks like the dogs dinner, a monstrous pile of ‘slop‘ that I’d rather run in the opposite direction from than actually consume. You’ll find most London based hospitals now have the obligatory high street-franchised ‘coffee’ shop, oh & surprise surprise; they have absolutely no gluten free foods. Zilch. Bloody brilliant, isn’t it? Maybe I talk in a foreign tongue, for when in either of these establishments I ask the staff: what (if any) produce is gluten free? My question is often met by a blank expression & the really helpful response ‘what is gluten?’. (Um, that’ll be ‘nothing’ then?)

I don’t expect bob & his uncle (who is bob anyway?) to have a textbook understanding of coeliac disease & a encyclopedia full of gluten free products. I do think, those who are selling food should be educated/ wise with the knowledge to some level of their produce. After all, I’m not asking them to run off the whole list of ingredients. & To the point, they’re still a ‘sales(wo)man’ to some capacity, & you’re hardly ‘selling’ it to me with your blank reaction.

If you’re traveling to a static destination then I think these woes are put to rest somewhat. & If you have the luxury of time to research & find a gluten free ‘hero’ cafe & plan a diversion, this is all well & good. But on-the-go no time for diverting fills me with a little dread. What about you?

I did see on twitter just this last week that Warburton’s dedicated Gluten free range: Newburn bakehouse are now stocking a ‘wrap’ option in limited Starbucks’ outlets. & Whilst I applaud this, I emphasise the limited. On the subject of Newburn bakehouse, have you tried their wraps? In old fashioned ‘blue peter’ style….here is one I made earlier.

Mmm, gluten free wrap

Mmm, gluten free wrap- Brie & Rocket

I’ve also heard from fellow coeliac sufferers, that Café Nero is supposed to stock some gluten free sarnies, but it appears we are still waiting for this to materialize. Part of the issue in theses ‘high street’ outlets stocking good ole gluten free grab & go food, could in part be down to the lack of clarity on their products & packaging (& I refer you back to my previous point earlier about staff knowledge). Lets be honest, we generally have to exhaust the ingredients list to rule out any gluten nastiness, & when time is of the essence this just isn’t practical. If you’re anything like me & have doubts you just don’t take the risk.

In the same way that the UK high street & town scene has adopted the ‘café culture’ where you can easily take your pick from at least 3 coffee shops all within a stones throw of each other, I’m hopeful* for a future of ‘gluten-free-in-abundance-culture’. A future that sees all these said ‘cawfeee’ shops have on offer: several clearly marked, reasonable priced, gluten free ‘take out’ options. *Wishful might be more fitting!

At least on my homebound journey I can report that my bag, which at the start of the day nearly touched the floor, is now considerably lighter (after ingesting my yum yums) & I can relax knowing I’m heading back to my gluten free comfort zone.

Buh Bye London, you stayed dry today-bonus!

Buh Bye London, you stayed dry today-bonus!

 

 

Leon: Gluten Free Restaurant Hero

The bright lights of leon

The bright lights of leon

I just want to feel ‘normal’. What is normal? I’m not too sure. But when I go out to eat at a restaurant it can be a nightmare trying to unravel if a dish has gluten in it. Although my friends & family are more than supportive, I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit of a drag for them also. Asking the waiter/ess about a dish, going back and forth to the ‘kitchen’ to ask the chef. Choosing something else & the same scenario being repeated until you can actually find a dish that is suitable. It doesn’t help when you have waiting staff that has a ‘I-would-rather-be-elsewhere’ attitude to boot, who don’t understand the implications of your dietary requirement & that sending them on countless visits to the kitchen isn’t your way of making them work for that tip. Nay, I have a medical condition.

Anywho (little rant out of the way!) you can imagine then, when you find a place which has a very clear menu with tons of dishes marked as ‘gluten free’ you can feel rather elated at your discovery! To top it off, these are tantalizingly tasty meals & pretty healthy. You feel like you’ve hit the jackpot! No more worrying & fussing over a menu, easy ordering & a lovely filled belly at the end. I’m a true believer in spreading the word about these gems, & my ‘Gluten Free restaurant Hero’ is without a shadow of a doubt Leon. LEON people!! It’s awesome.

The company itself seems pretty darn cool…. I love folks who are, as I call them ‘a purple cow’ Different and unique: not trying to reinvent the wheel, just reshaping it to create improvements .

Well done Leon, you rock!!

Leon. mmm. Wrap (not GF!) but a hearty salad that is!

Leon. mmm. Wrap (not GF!) but a hearty salad that is!

My chargrilled chicken salad. With rice.

My chargrilled chicken salad. With rice.

Lovely Leon Meatballs

Lovely Leon Meatballs

Chorizo sausage, salad & rice. Awesome combination!

Chorizo sausage, salad & rice. Amazing combination!

I will add, that it does appear restaurants in general are slowly taking note. I’ve seen more are now displaying a ‘gluten free’ section on the menu’s (even if it is only a handful of dishes). As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, so it’s a good place to start. My other argument is, if a restaurant can offer the same dish but as gluten free, by substituting a couple of components: why am I being charged extra? (happily, you won’t find this the case at Leon) That’s pretty unfair if you ask me. What gets my goat the most though, is those whom cop out totally by saying ‘all of our dishes may contain nuts or gluten’. This is just lazy. Lazy I say!

Note to all food establishments: Take heed of Leon, they’re onto something mighty fine.

Leon, You are my gluten free, go to, restaurant heroes: & I salute you!

Mmmm, anyone for Leon tonight?!

 

We're going on an adventure

Chinese New Year….London 2014 Year of the Horse

 

 

Sweet dreams are made of these
I love The Chinese New year celebrations. Having spent my childhood growing up in South East Asia, the memories that are evoked by this colourful celebration are a pure joy to me. The loud steel drums, the noise of fire crackers, dancing dragons and spinning Lions all produce a grin on my face comparable to that of a cheshire cat! Oh, & if anyone is generous enough to present a red envelope that’s a wonderful treat! I remember that if we were lucky enough to be travelling through Singapore around the same time as the festivities, it was an absolute delight.  That being said, the London CNY celebrations are apparently the biggest outside of Asia.

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Since my little bear was born, I’ve yearned to attend the London parade & share with him this cultural delight. It’s taken us 2 years to get there! In the past we’d been plagued with bad weather. & quite frankly we’ve had to prepare ourselves for a London excursion with our mini explorer.  He’s like a Duracell bunny. Non stop. Like he has ants in his pants. & trying to time the trip around his much needed nap (which if he misses out on trust me, you ought to run for the hills before all hell breaks loose!), it just all seemed too much hassle. Not this year! We took the plunge & boy I’m glad we did. With London basking in some overdue winter sunshine, it was beautiful (all be it very fresh!).

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here.

I can safely say that my boy bear is now wholeheartedly obsessed with Trains & I think I may have found his kryptonite. He actually sat still for the entire journey! In total awe. Amazing. As for the parade? Well, he had far more important things to investigate. Charging up & down St. Martin’s Place & checking out the church. He was however very happy to see a super sized rubber duck in the parade!

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade?

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade? Far left in this pic are ma’boys- Daddy bear in a yellow jacket & boy bear up on his sholders for a good view!

Chinese New Year is one of China’s oldest festivals chock-full of ancient traditions & interesting history. & one that I find fascinating to expand my knowledge of. For a couple of minutes on Sunday I felt as though if I shut my eyes, I had returned to the balmy climes of South East Asia. Don’t get me wrong the London parade can’t compare to the celebrations over in Asia, but until the day when I can return there & celebrate in style, it was a reasonable substitute & I would happily visit again.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Oh & yes. I attempted some gluten free Chinese food. Tasted good-looked awful! I tried sesame prawn toast. I used genius bread, & made a paste out of:

  • prawns
  • kikkoman tamari soy sauce (GF)
  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • & a small piece of ginger

I mixed this all in a blender & then spread the paste onto the bread, covered the pasted area in sesame seeds & then fried in a pan with some olive oil. I think next time I will oven cook them, for 20 mins or so to make them more crispy. Please forgive the picture it’s a terrible quality & not very pretty prawn toast!

Gluten free sesame prawn toast

Gluten free sesame prawn toast. Yummy!

With these, we had Cook GF Thai red chicken Curry & Szechuan Chicken, & some jasmine rice. A satisfying Gluten free Chinese Meal.

May the Horse bring you good fortune for 2014!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Christmas Dinner….recreated for January

If you had asked me ten years ago about all the gluten free products available, I’d have said ‘avoid them like the plague!’. They were rotten, bland tasting pieces of what can only be described as cardboard. For those of us, who for medical reasons have to follow a gluten free diet it was one thing. But you most certainly, unequivocally, would not have endorsed these products to friends on a ‘normal’ diet (i use the term ‘normal’ very loosely!). By golly, how thing have changed! So much so, that I introduced some dear friends of ours into my world of a Gluten free Christmas dinner this weekend…..

Despite the Yorkshire puss looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

Despite the Yorkshire puds looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

I can hear your thoughts….’ Christmas Dinner? It’s January?!’. That’s right, Christmas Dinner- recreated in January. So let me explain the reasoning behind this & you’ll see I’m not totally bonkers. (1) Being the busy mummy that I am, when I made Christmas dinner back in December,  I totally forgot to take pictures and share all my secrets with you (2) My lovely gal pal ‘K’ had a reasonably unpleasant Festive period. So we thought ‘Hey, lets recreate Christmas one day in January?!’ Furthermore, ‘Christmas Dinner’ sounds heaps more glamorous than ‘Sunday dinner’.

So Christmas music playing, novelty place mats set, mini christmas tree out & crackers ready to pull? Lets jump in! Here is a list of the yummy gluten free products that I used & also have the seal of approval from non Coeliac’s alike!

  • HECK Sausages.
  • MrsCrimbles  sage & onion stuffing mix
  • Kallo Gravy granules.
  • Isabel’s Yorkshire pudding mix- 160ml milk & 2 eggs to add.
  • COOK  Goose Fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots.
  • Pancetta or Streaky bacon (for pigs in blankets)
  • Smoked Ham joint
  • Vegetables
Bloomin' HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage!

Bloomin’ HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage! 

Part of my ‘mummy mission’ is to find time saving ideas & be that as it may, for ‘pigs in blankets’ there really isn’t any alternative other than to get those hands dirty! So i got stuck in the night before. I Simply cut the sausages in half & wrapped them in pancetta/ streaky bacon. HECK do a fantastic range of GF sausages & you can use any of them for this. (Whilst on the subject of HECK, they’ve recently introduced a range of Chicken sausages: we’ve put these to the test & they are delicious). Once you’ve wrapped the little piglets in their blankeys-cover them over & return them to the fridge. When it comes to cooking these I did them at gas mark 5/6 for approx 90 mins, so they can be nice ‘n’ crispy. HECK are very reasonably priced, I get mine from that big ‘T’ supermarket for £2.98 per pack. I’ve tasted plenty of GF sausages & HECK are my winners.

Cook- goose fat pots, heritage carrots & parmesan parsnips

 

I mentioned my need for finding convenient products…. god bless COOK! This company have recently had a huge expansion & I’m sure it won’t be long until you see a shop near you (i feel like my secret is out there now!). I’ve been using this company since a shop popped up near me in Petts Wood-around 10 years ago. They carry an awesome gluten free range, their products are ‘homemade’ & frozen so no worrying about sell by dates! If you’re anything like me, you’ll buy food that sits in your fridge & by the time you get to use it, a funny coloured fur has grown around the outside (eewww!)! They also sell some other great dishes straight from frozen to the oven-offering such convenience that we all desire now & then. Back to the roast….. SO i used COOK goose fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots. I cooked these for longer than the suggested time, approx 40 mins/ gas mark 5 so that they had a lovely crisp to them. COOK aren’t cheap, but as long as you’re not eating 3 of their meals per day, 7 days a week I don’t think the bank manager will be on your case!

'Northern boys love gravy' (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting 'soccer am'!)

‘Northern boys love gravy’ (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting ‘soccer am’!)

For the Gravy I used KALLO- easy peasy & yummy. I followed instructions exactly (KALLO also do GF stock cubes, that are very good). The Yorkshire Puddings were ISABEL’S, I mixed these in a blender & oh me, oh my did the rise in the oven. Sadly, they deflated into what looked like pancakes once they were removed despite all my efforts of trickery! (I have had more success with these staying fluffy in the past-it must have just been one of those days!) But they tasted great all the same. For the stuffing i used MRS CRIMBLES & I followed the mixing instructions ,rolled them into balls & cooked them for 40 mins/ gas mark 5 which was 20 mins more than they suggest.

Yorkshire Puds

 

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I chose to cook a smoked ham joint, because we aren’t massive turkey lovers. This had been cooking merrily all morning & so into the oven all the other ingredients went. I just had to take a pic of my yorkshire puds-look at the size of these bad boys….

Rise baby rise!

Pls Excuse the very bad quality of picture & my reflection!!

I cooked some greens & made the gravy whilst this was all finishing up. & as the saying goes…bob’s your uncle….

dinner served

Dinner is served! Even the my little Bear tucked in with us (that would be his drink you can see by the crackers!)

A very well received Gluten Free christmas meal. In January. But what christmas hoos-a-nanny would be complete without the (a) cheesy cracker jokes.. My favourite: What christmas carol does every parent like best? A: Silent Night 

& (b) Present time?! To be fair, it was K’s Birthday the following day-but any excuse for a present is a worthy cause if you ask me!

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Ooooh look at our pretty friendship bracelets! I’m officially in love with Daisy London & their chakra bracelets (But that’s another post in itself there!).

In my opinion, Gluten free products have evolved to a new level where not only can I enjoy the occasional indulgence, but I’m also confident enough to introduce them to my friends & family safe in the knowledge that a great meal will be had by all.