Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Little of What You Fancy!

As regular readers of my blog will know I'm not adverse to a calorie or two! I'm a big believer in "a little of what you fancy does you good". That combined with the age old Liz Price philosophy of "never add it up" (used here in relation to calories but also works well on shopping sprees!) equals a cupboard full of sweet treats. Below is a whistle top tour of my more recent discoveries and I would like to take a mo to point out that I have been steadily sampling over the last few months and have not madly gorged myself in the last week (honestly!!). So, as I wipe the crumbs off my chin, here we go....

I was pleased to see the launch of the Sainsbury's Freefrom Festive range the other week. Not a huge fan of mince pies, Christmas cake /pud so if you're after a review of these you've come to the wrong place! However, I though the gingerbread man (are we still allowed to call them that now?!) was great, quite a fiery ginger! Very warming on these cold nights! No photo...I lost it in the world of cyber space. Nevertheless, I'm sure you are all pretty familiar with how a gingerbread man looks yeah?! I did take this one though

Orange and Cranberry muffin also in the Freefrom range. Wasn't sure about the taste to start with but actually I warmed to it. Certainly felt very Christmassy and as they come in a pack of 2 I'll be happy to continue my research further with the second! Really looking forward to trying out the mini Chocolate logs but that's for another week!

These are quite a nice little find

Don't be fooled by the flavour, it is definitely GF, it is stated clearly on the side. They do several other flavours including Strawberry and Banana but this one definitely appeals to my sweet tooth! I'm sure this is what the dietician meant when we talked about increasing my calcium intake!! ;0)

Perkier are the kings and queens of all things GF and breakfasty. They have recently branched out into Tiffin and Rocky Road! What a dangerous discovery this was!!! 

Wow!!! I challenge anyone not to polish off the lot in one sitting! In no way should these be restricted to people with a gluten free diet.....they will most definitely be enjoyed my gluten eaters too! Although....thinking about it.....I reckon we should keep it our little secret..... It's not often something as fab as this comes our way! I'm not sure we should share?! ;0)

I finally got to sample my first Pudology pudding! In my quest to replace the Terry's Chocolate Orange shaped gap in my life....the choc orange flavour was a natural choice! (Thanks Mum for thinking of me!)   Me being me thought they looked a little on the small side but how wrong could I be?! These are super rich and super sickly! Definitely only for treats and even gave my infamous sweet tooth a run for its money! This is by no means a negative, I thoroughly enjoyed and can't wait to try the other flavours. Thank goodness for Dad who rose to the challenge and happily finished off the second pot.....enjoyed by Coeliacs and Non Coeliacs alike!

I can hardly contain my excitement.....I've saved this till the end and I'm BURSTING to tell you!!! I nearly   Whooped out loud in the aisles of Sainsburys yesterday. Look what I found.....on offer!!!.......

WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!! No mention of a "may contain traces of wheat or gluten"!!! Can it be true?! Something to fill the Terry's shaped gap in my life....... Could it come in the form of Terry's ice cream?? Darn skippy it could!!!! So I'm leaving you on a cliffhanger.....I haven't actually sampled yet! It might nearly be December but I'm wrapping up warm, putting my onesie on and heading off for an ice cream, I'll let you know the verdict next week. Meanwhile, if you could avoid bulk buying I'd really appreciate it......make sure you leave me some...remember they're not Terry's THEY'RE MINE!!!!!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Good, The "Getting Better" and The Ugly!

This week the bank balance (and the waistline!) have taken a battering as I have taken my Coeliac self out to eat a few too many times! It's amazing how service can vary just in the space of a week! I have experienced such a range of GF service in the last few days that I thought I would dedicate this weeks blog to it! So here goes......Let's start with the positive!

The Good

I used to go to La Tasca a quite a lot in my pre Coeliac days and I have been meaning to return for some time, especially since it got the thumbs up from Coeliac UK! Dale and I went for pre theatre tapas in Covent Garden last weekend. Despite eating early it was packed! Always a good sign I reckon! All the menus are the same with the GF options clearly labelled!! No secrets here! Brownie point number one scored already! Also, there are lots of GF options so you aren't stuck with one or two basic dishes. Brownie point number two! It was great to see the Warbrtons Newburn Bakehouse wraps being used with the oil and balsamic.....brownie point number three....ok I think you get the hang of this now!!

My only slight quibble is that I would have been happy to pay a bit more to have more bread as I didn't feel the wrap to olive oil ratio was as satisfying as it could be!

So here is our GF tapas banquet for two...

Manchego cheese, pork belly, lemon chicken, ribs, chorizo and black pudding, goats cheese salad!!! (Chicken wings followed later!!!!). It was every bit at delicious as it looks! I was absolutely stuffed and determind not to have pudding........well, that was until I saw the menu! I was so taken aback by the GF choices on the dessert menu that it would have been rude to say no! As any Coeliac will tell you, dessert choices are usually limited or non existent! Fruit salad, maybe sorbet, brownie if you're really lucky! Well my sweet tooth and my eyes (that are clearly bigger than my belly!!) thought it was their lucky day! I ordered the lemon and lime crumble (surely part of my five a day yeah?!)

Every bit as fab as it looks!! Well done La Tasca, an amazing GF dinner with great choices! GF food options that are clearly labelled and tasted fantastic! 

The "Getting There"

Yesterday, I dragged Dale round Lakeside Shopping Centre. The promise of lunch at Gourmet Burger Kitchen was the carrot he needed in order for him to take part in some Christmas shopping! I had heard a rumor that GBK had launched a new GF menu so I was keen to have a look!

The waiter happily produced the GF menu for me and went on to inform me that the chips were cooked in the same oil as the onion rings so it would depend "how allergic" I was. I appreciated the "heads up" and it does state this on the bottom of the menu too. The new menu looks great, there's a choice of beef burger, chicken and veggie options plus a new GF bun! I opted for the chicken with Camembert and cranberry

Yey! It looks like a normal burger doesn't it?! It tasted great too! The GF bun is pretty good, it did fall apart as I was eating but that's often a hazard of GF bread. I did give up and eat it with a knife and fork at one point much to Dale's disgust (it was nice to have the opportunity to embarrass him for a change!). I did have to double check they weren't GF oats on top as I can't yet tolerate them either. The waiter was happy to go and find out for me and all was well!

So why was GBK awared my "Getting There" status? Firstly, the GF menu states milkshakes can have malt added to them for an addidtional cost......oops malt is not GF!! Very misleading, especially for someone new to the GF diet who may not think to question the menu. Secondly, when Dale went to order my chicken burger he was asked if I would like it in bread crumbs. Dale said no because it was from the GF menu. The waiter argued that it was GF and the breadcrumbs would be fine! It was only when the waiter checked with his manager that he realised breadcrumbs would most certainly not be fine! Again, if you don't  have your wits about you, you could have been persuaded that it would have been ok! 

So GBK, I had a great lunch and loved the menu but maybe a few tweaks and some staff training wouldn't go amiss! (I have contacts GBK about this and they are looking into it).

The Ugly

A friend and I went out mid week, we decided to go to a local Ember Inns Pub called The Stag and Hounds. I've been keen to go back to The Stag since becoming GF as I used to frequent quite often in the past and wondered how they would cater for the GF diet. The answer.....BADLY, very badly!!!

I rang up the day before to ask what they would have to offer. The girl on the phone was very nice and said she would ask the chef for me. She came back on the line a few minutes later saying that as they were in the process of implementing their new menu, they had not yet received their dietary info so they didn't know what I would be able to have!!!!!!!!!!! I clarified this with the question, "Would you say it was best I didn't come then?", to which she replied "Yes, probably, unless you just want salad"!!!!!!!! Great customer service eh?! So, to conclude, the "chefs" at Ember Inns pubs clearly do not know what goes into their food! How hard would it have been to offer to grill me a piece of chicken or fish or whip up an omelette?! These "chefs" obviously only heat up pre packed, ready meals and are not prepared to deviate off the menu. Needless to say I won't be returning to one of these pubs!

Light at the end of the tunnel

Let's not end on a moan! Thankfully, after the disaster at the  Ember Inns my friend and I went to the pub over the road, The Beehive! What a difference a few metres makes!! I phoned in advance and they couldn't have been more helpful! I spoke to someone who was knowledgeable about their menu. He was able to make suggestions and offered to adapt existing things. His food is obviously locally sourced and cooked fresh as I was informed that he would be able to ask the butcher for GF burgers and sausages which he would be happy to cook for me! I settled for the pan fried cod (cooked in a separate pan to anything non GF)

A big THANK YOU to The Beehive in Edmonton for great customer service and lovely food! Needless to say, in the words of Arnie....I'll be back!!

Have a great week everyone! X

Sunday, 10 November 2013

From Arepa to Arrrrriba!!

I have to make a confession..... Me......a born and bred Londoner......a confirmed shopaholic......has never been to Portobello Road Market!! My heart has always been with Camden market. Many a happy teenage weekend did I trudge round Camden with my Doc Martens and tie dye skirts but finally, at the age of 34, I thought it was time to rectify the situation! The reason for this change of heart?....Acklam Village Market! Tucked away in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Portobello Road Market lies a collection of street food stalls going by the name of Acklam Village.

Wearing my GF hat I was on a mission! Nothing was obviously GF but undeterred I set about finding out what I could possibly have. Most stalls had a few items that could accommodate the GF diet and most stallholders knew what was and wasn't GF. However, as I had read so much about the Venuzuelan Arepas I felt I should head straight to Guasacaca.

 Arepas are breads made from cornflour which are cut open and stuffed with a choice of filling. The girl who served me was knowledgeable about what she was selling and explained that everything was GF. Sooooooo..... if everything was GF, it made sense to taste everything!! I had pork with black beans, plantain, cheddar cheese and guasacaca sauce!

Prime example of eyes bigger than belly!! Looked fab but how was I going to eat it?! Answer....messily!!  Big apologies to all who had to watch me tuck into my first Arepa, it really wasn't pretty but do you know what? I would do it all again, it was amazing! As I sat slurping my Arepa with guacamole dripping off the end of my chin and my foot tapping to the band who had just started playing, I was already planning my return trip to Acklam Village Market!

Portobello Road market I could take or leave really. Like I say, my heart lies with Camden! However, I did discover Portobello Wholefoods shop

This is a real little gem! Stuffed full of health food brands, I managed to find things in here I have only previously been able to order online. Nevermind all the trendy vintage tut in the market, it's worth an trip to Portobello just for Acklam and the wholefood shop (am I getting old?!).

Managed to stock up on King Soba buckwheat and sweet potato noodles in the above shop. These are by far the best GF noodles I have found. They taste great and don't go gloopy when you cook them!

You can see them in action here (please excuse husbands rather large foot encroaching on photo!!) served with Blue Dragon spring onion and oyster sauce sachet.

Thursday night was a vist to the local Mexican, Chimichanga's. Another chain that is happy to cater for the GF diet but sadly does not display the GF options on the menu. Why the secret eh?! I just don't get it!? If you cook good quality, safe and tasty GF food why don't you tell people about it!? Surely it would attract more people??? Anywaaaaay.... The lady who served me ( the manager I think), knew her menu well and advised me appropriately. With a little substitution of rice for veg I decided on the Toastadas with pulled pork

ARIBA ARRRRRIBA!!!! Looks fab doesn't it? It tasted fab too!! A real treat to have something like this as I always assume Mexican to be riddled with flour! (The Toastadas are made from corn). The manager was also happy to tell the kitchen staff that I was Coeliac and therefore minimise the cross contamination risk. Overall I was very impressed, any worries I had were soon put aside and I look forward to a return visit soon!

Finally, look what I found lurking among the magazines in Sainsburys...

I haven't made anything from it yet (ok, correction...Dale hasn't made anything from it yet!!) but there are some great looking recipes. I'll wave it under Dale's nose and see what happens...who knows, I might even give one of them ago myself?!! Definitely worth a look,plus I always like to encourage companies who are producing good quality GF publications. Go and have a look before it sells out!

Have a good week everyone! x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sin gluten chica en Mallorca

Please forgive the very basic and poor attempt at my Spanish. It's a long time since I sat GCSE Spanish and unfortunately the syllabus didn't cover the ins and outs of explaining Coeliac disease and the Gluten Free diet! Nevertheless, that did not prevent my half hearted attempts this week as I hit Mallorca for the half term holiday. It's quite surprising how a desperate look in the eye, the frantic waving of hands and a questioning tone of "sin gluten?????!" can get the message across quite adequately. Thankfully, I had downloaded my trusty translated guide from the Coeliac UK website so I was definitely suitably prepared!

Thankfully, the Spanish are fairly well equipped at dealing with the GF diet so I had no need to worry! Unfortunately, where we were staying was quite small and did not have a large supermarket so I couldn't fully check out the GF ranges I had heard so much about. I did get quite excited when I spotted these in the Spa shop

But, I must confess, I didn't buy them as they don't look all that exciting do they?! €3.10 for glorified rich tea!! Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the idea but no thanks!

There were items that were in with regular products that were clearly labelled which gave peace of mind eg

Labeled at the back....sorry!!

In a small box on the side, if you squint and tilt your head you might just see it!

Ok, I assumed Edam was GF but it's always nice to have it spelt out to you! GF....loud and proud!! I love it!

Admittedly, I was a little jealous as Dale tucked into his freshly scooped glutenous ice cream flavours in a mega wafer cone BUT the branded ice creams are really well labelled. Each shop has a menu board of ice creams and each shop I stopped at (ok, yes, I sampled a few!!) had clear GF labelling on the appropriate ice creams. Blogging failure on my part again as I forgot to take a photo.....I was too dazzled by the ice creams! A particular favourite was

and of course there was always the trusty Magnum!

We were originally booked in the Hotel Cala Bona. We purposefully chose this hotel at it specifically stated it catered for Coeliacs! To my disappointment we were moved at the last minute to the Levante just up the road!!

Now, at the risk of turning my blog into a trip advisor review I would just like to say a few words about each hotel with regards to GF eating, just incase anyone is looking to go to Mallorca in the near future!

We did not get to stay at the Hotel Cala Bona ( but we did go there for lunch on our first day before it closed for the season. I managed to make a 100% fool of myself by ordering completely the wrong thing but nevertheless the staff were friendly and helpful (and more than happy to change my order!) Despite the language barriers they were very clued up about Coeliac Disease and did not take any chances. They understood the importance of cross contamination and even said they have as separate kitchen! If you are looking for somewhere Coeliac friendly this could definitely be a winner!

However, the hotel Levante ( does not state anywhere about catering for restricted diets BUT they couldn't have been more helpful. I felt confident they fully understood my requirements and they advised me appropriately. I ate well.....very well (what a shocker eh?!). Bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and fruit selections were for breakfast. The Thomson reps even offered to buy me GF bread if I wanted! There was a huge selection for dinner but I mainly opted for the meats that were grilled on a griddle in front of you to order.

I got far too excited on the second night when they brought out some "Gluten Free" labels for the puddings. This meant I had a choice of healthy fruit selections or cream caramels, mousses etc too. I even noticed the ice cream pots and frozen yogurt was labelled with a cross grain sign.

I haven't been abroad and ever had so much choice. I was very impressed!

I did, of course, take my trusty snack supplies with me, not knowing what the food would be like. For lunches I relied on some rice cakes I'd taken with me with the above Edam cheese and yogurt drinks. I snacked on 9 bars (see previous blog posts), Metcalfe's popcorn (soooo moorish!!)  and some chocolate stashes I'd taken!

My only moan......airline food!!! What a load of rubbish!! I wasn't on the flight long enough for a meal but Thomson offer an extensive snack menu.....extensive if you can eat anything! They have a lovely clear "Gluten Free" label which they use on the menu but it's only used once!! ONCE!!! Tomato soup?!! I ask you!!!! I don't fancy tomato soup when my feet are on terra firma let alone 6 miles in the air!! Thank goodness for for the grab bag of Cadburys Buttons I had left over from my stash! ;0) Come on Thomson, surely a big company like you can do a bit better?!

Soooooo I'm back to being Gluten Free in London. Wish me luck as the new term starts, see you next week! X