Intro

What's WIDE CIRCLE COOKING about?
I blog information, news and recipes about gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, alcohol-free and vegan cooking. Right now I've been working on an exciting project where I avoid refined sugar and create recipes using a range of healthier alternatives.

Happy cooking!

ps. ask all guests if they have an allergy (because the recipes use some unusual combinations and they may not expect to find citrus and soya in the chocolate cake, for example).
pps.if you are cooking for someone with an allergy, please read my allergy page first.

Gluten-free Danish apple cake (and make it egg-free and dairy-free too!)



It’s tempting to think that gluten-free flours will behave similarly to wheat flour because they look the same.  But it’s just not true. In many ways their properties quite different and therefore we can’t really expect recipes developed for wheat flour to give good results with gluten-free flour. Manufacturers would like us to think that we can – but this is why they end up loading their products with additives of one sort and other (gums, like xanthan gum, are an example).

If you’d prefer to avoid additives when you can, then I totally sympathise. But is it possible? Well, yes. I spent hours and hours developing new methods for my book, Gloriously Gluten Free, which included making non-gritty, non-crumbly cakes that contained no additives whatsoever. All that was needed was a new method. Most gluten-free flour blends contain rice flour as a major component, but it tends to give a gritty feel when baked and can be very crumbly. But cooked rice is not gritty and it gets really claggy! Using this flash of inspiration, I just pre-cooked some of my cake batter. Ta-da! The results I wanted…

This cake is based on the cover star of Gloriously Gluten Free, a delicious strawberry sponge. Here I’ve adapted it to a more autumnal theme, using mixed spice and apples. If you want it dairy free or egg free, just see my adaptations at the end. I think it’s great served with some Coyo Vanilla dairy-free yogurt, or crème fraiche.


Serves 8

150g unsalted butter
150g light brown soft sugar
125ml water
200g gluten-free plain white flour blend (choose one with no additives, eg Doves Farm)
70g ground almonds
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp mixed spice
pinch of fine salt
4 eggs
300g peeled cooked apples, thinly sliced
1 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tsp Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Sunflower oil for oiling the tin


Melt the butter with the sugar and water in a saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the flour blend and then whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken – keep whisking to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about small lumps.
Once you have a thick paste, remove the pan from the heat. Keep whisking for a further 20 seconds or so. Now set the mixture to one side.
Preheat the oven to 150C. Lightly oil a deep 20cm/8” cake tin with some sunflower oil.
In a large bowl, measure out the ground almonds, baking powder, mixed spice and salt. Pour the mixture in the pan into the bowl and add the eggs. Whisk everything for a minute (use an electric whisk if you have one).
Spoon out half the mixture into the cake tin and gently smooth it out to make an even layer across the tin using a spatula. Arrange half the apple slices across the top. Spread the remaining cake mixture on top, smoothing it gently with the spatula as before. Arrange the rest of the apple slices across the top, then scatter the flaked almonds, Demerara sugar and cinnamon to finish.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes until it has risen and the apple slices have started to brown. An inserted skewer should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin before serving.

MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Use dairy-free margarine in place of the butter
MAKE IT EGG FREE: Stir 4tsp Orgran No Egg egg replacer into 125ml water. Use in place of the eggs.

Why gluten-free flour is good for pastry!



Wheat flour is actually really bad at making shortcrust pastry. I know you might be surprised to hear this, but wheat flour is very good for stretchy textures or super thin ones (think bread or filo pastry) thanks to the natural elasticity of gluten, but not for light, melt-in-the mouth ones. To make really good shortcrust wheat pastry you have to be careful to keep it cool, or it will become chewy and shrink like crazy in the oven. That's why there are all those instructions about iced water and marble surfaces etc.

Ok, so this is where gluten-free pastry has a head start. You won't get the shrinkage problem or the chewiness. There can be a problem with the pastry falling apart, crumbliness and dryness. After a lot of experimentation, I realised you need more water than you'd expect (rice flour, the base of most GF flour blends) absorbs moisture slower than wheat flour) and just the merest hint of xanthan gum (or your pastry will become too hard or have a 'squeaky' texture).

The pastry in my book, Gloriously Gluten Free, took ages to get right but I swear you'd no-one can tell the difference (apart from the fact it holds its shape so beautifully!). Here it is rolled - no cracks! And here it is made into a jam tart.

To get the best results, my flour blend is a must because that is what the recipe was based on. But if you don't have time, Doves Farm plain flour blend works well. Don't use a flour blend containing xanthan gum or other additives - I find it's too difficult to get the texture you need.

The Great Sponge Bake-Off



With so many gluten-free flour blends on the market, it can be really tricky to know which performs best. I have done a lot of gluten-free cookery and I think the things to bear in mind are a) whether you want your finished result to taste like the regular wheat-based version, b) whether you are happy eating lots of additives and c) how important the fibre content is.
Pure brown rice flour has a fibre content of about 2% and has a rather distinct flavour that can be noticeable in delicately-flavoured cakes. Some gluten-free flour blends are lower in fibre because they contain pure starches, like tapioca, potato or corn. They may also contain additives, sugar and milk powder. On the plus side, they tend to taste more neutral and are a better choice for a Victoria sponge, as I have discovered while trying to create my own. 
However, with gluten-free foods moving more and more towards convenience, there are now lots of mixes dedicated to cake-baking, as well as others that offer high fibre. The question is, which would perform best as a basic sponge? I chose six popular products and made a classic Victoria sponge with each. If a recipe for sponge was given on the pack, I used it because I figured the manufacturer knew how to get the best from its product (Juvela, Isabel’s and Mrs Crimble’s). If not, I used Delia Smith’s classic Victoria sponge recipe and replaced the wheat flour for gluten-free.
My testing crowd (all able to eat wheat, and therefore well placed to compare with a standard Victoria sponge) were told to judge by tastiness, appearance and lack of crumbliness. I know how difficult it is to make a tasty sponge – in my book, Gloriously Gluten Free, I ended up using a pre-cooking method to prevent crumbliness without the need for gums and used some ground almonds give it that can’t-resist-another-slice moreishness.

The six contestants were:

Ingredients: Maize starch, rice flour, potato flour, modified potato starch, sugar, stabilisers (guar gum, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, sodium alginate), raising agents (glucano delta lactone, sodium bicarbonate), thickening agent (pectin), iron powder, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, B6, folic acid
Sugar content: 4%
Fibre content: 2%
Bonus: Added b-vitamins, iron, folic acid and calcium

2. Glutafin Gluten-free Multipurpose Fibre Mix
Ingredients. Maize starch, potato starch, sorghum flour, dextrose, thickeners (powdered cellulose, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose), maize flour, vegetable fibre, pea protein, sugar beet fibre, teff flour, calcium citrate, rice bran, folic acid
Sugar content: 6.2%
Fibre content: 12%
Bonus: added calcium and folic acid

3. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
Ingredients: Sweet white rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, potato starch, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum
Sugar content: 0%
Fibre content: 4%

4. Orgran Gluten-free Self Raising Flour
Ingredients: Maize statch, tapioca flour, rice flour, raising agents (glucano delta lactone, sodium bicarbonate), vegetable gum (guar gum)
Sugar content: 0.1%
Fibre content: 1.5%

5. Mrs Crimble’s Home Bake Muffin & Sponge Mix (needs just butter, water and egg to make sponge)
Sugar, maize flour, rice flour, potato starch, emulsifiers (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids and polyglycerol esters of fatty acids), raising agents (disodium dihydrogen phosphate and sodium bicarbonate), salt, stabiliser (xanthan gum), flavouring
Sugar content of sponge, baked as per instructions: 19.8%
Fibre content of sponge, baked as per instructions: 0.5%

6. Isabel’s Dairy-free Sponge Cake Mix
Ingredients: Brown rice flour, potato flour, cassava starch, disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate, vanilla flavouring, salt
Sugar content: 3.4%
Fibre content: 0.8%


My cakes were baked, filled with jam and served to my testers. There was quite a variation in appearance (eg see four of the cakes, above), with most looking as you’d expect although Mrs Crimble’s gave a very yellow cake and Glutafin was more brown in colour. Texture-wise, five were light, moist and springy and Isabel’s in particular was very bouncy. Unfortunately Glutafin’s Fibre mix did not perform well and turned to crumbs at the slightest touch, no doubt because it did not contain any added gums so scored very badly for this reason (interestingly, neither did Isabel’s, but it is a very starchy mix and the recipe used more eggs than a standard sponge, so this may be why that cake worked well).
The flavour varied from cake to cake. While most were good, or just OK, in some cases we felt it would actually be difficult to eat a whole slice. The mouthfeel and textures also varied somewhat.
There were two stand-out performers: In second place was Juvela’s Gluten-free Harvest White Mix, which had a delicate flavour, and a bouncy and well-risen texture, placed in first or second place by five reviewers.
The obvious winner was Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour – five out of six reviewers placed it first. It was golden, looked the part, had a good level of fibre and produced a tasty all-round sponge that resulted in one reviewer saying she “wouldn’t complain if it was served to me in a cake shop”. Well done Bob!

NEXT TIME: I compare this lot while making muffins!

Perfect poached eggs

Aah, poached eggs.. seem so tricky don't they? Well, the great news is to get a poached egg perfect is one of the easiest ways to cook an egg, and you don't need to shell [he he, sorry, couldn't resist] out any money on newfangled contraptions either.

You will need:
1 egg, v fresh (you can tell the freshness of an egg by putting it in a large glass of water. It should sink to the bottom and lie on its side)
1 muffin or slice of bread


Boil a pan of water. Take it off the heat. Crack the egg in. Immediately put your muffin/bread in the toaster. When the toaster pops, the egg will be done to perfection too! Use a slotted spoon to extract it from the water. See - I told you it was easy!

PS. Another lifehack: if you need to do more than one egg, just use a big pan of water. The eggs will all float to the top when they are done. Magic, eh?

New super sensitive test for gluten improves accuracy of coeliac diagnosis


Exciting news from the USA, where Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, has launched an enhanced blood test for detecting gluten sensitivity which may in the future help to do away with the need for intestinal biopsies.
The Cyrex Array 3 Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity and Autoimmunity test panel is the only wheat/gluten panel that assesses three antigen triggers of disorders (gluten proteins, opioid peptides and tissue binding isolates), and was developed to differentiate between the coeliac manifestation and the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.
“Array 3 alone cannot be used to diagnose coeliac disease,” explains Jama Lambert, Director of Education at Cyrex Laboratories. “Rather, it is a clinical tool the doctor can use—along with other pertinent clinical information—to reach a diagnosis. Assuming the patient maintains a regular diet that includes wheat/gluten, Array 3 will detect gluten/wheat reactivity and autoimmunity because it accurately identifies gluten reactivity and measures antibody production against 8 wheat proteins and peptides, three essential enzymes (transglutaminase-2, transglutaminase-3 and transglutaminase-6), and the gliadin transglutaminase complex.”
The test will hopefully help to increase the accuracy of diagnoses. “Based on articles published in scientific journals, an astounding 50 percent of patients diagnosed with coeliac disease receive a false negative test result when measuring only Deamidated Alpha Gliadin-33-mer antibody,” says Dr Aristo Vojdani, pioneer of ELISA food reactivity testing and chief scientific advisor for Cyrex Laboratories. “This is problematic because these gluten-reactive patients, who do not respond to alpha-gliadin-33-mer, instead may react to one or more of the other gluten proteins that are not being measured by other testing panels. This problem is exactly why Array 3 was developed.”
Array 3 is recommended for patients who have non-responsive GI symptoms, present with multiple-symptom complaints (including joint pain, fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, hormone imbalances and chronic inflammation), and suffer from depression or neurodegenerative symptoms like peripheral neuropathy, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.
“The Array 3 test panel is the most accurate test available for gluten reactivity,” says Jama Lambert. “To diagnose coeliac disease, one must prove total villous atrophy—which can only be done by biopsy.  Array 3 provides a practitioner with enough information that can be used in conjunction with other pertinent clinical information, that differentiation between potential coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is possible.  If the results look like possible coeliac disease, the practitioner can refer the patient for biopsy to obtain an official coeliac disease diagnosis.”
It is possible that Array 3 might do away with the intestinal biopsy needed to confirm coeliac disease, but this is still someway off. Jama Lambert continues: “Researchers out of Israel have argued that antibodies to the Gliadin-Transglutaminase Complex, available on Array 3, is such a strong biomarker of intestinal damage that biopsies are no longer necessary. These researchers have not made headway in changing the official workup for the diagnosis of Coeliac disease but it is possible that in the future Array 3 will be allowed to replace biopsies.”
Cyrex says it is in the process of expansion internationally, with Australia high on the priority list. The test is already available in to UK and Ireland residents, but the request must come via a healthcare professional. “Regenerus Labs is Cyrex's Logistics and Marketing Partner set up in the UK and Ireland to fulfill orders from HCPs and will work with them to get the Array 3 test performed. Healthcare professionals should contact Regenerus Labs for all UK and Ireland inquiries.”

Allergy & Freefrom Show London roundup 2015


The Allergy & Free From Show in London is a good mirror of the way in which the market for 'free from' products has grown in recent years. Four years ago the show occupied one of London Olympia’s smallest exhibition spaces – now it’s in the Grand Hall. With around 35,000 people visiting over its three-day span, it needs to be.
As always, it was the best place to discover some of the developments in gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, coeliac, allergy and vegan products.  

I was particularly excited by the ZeroGluten Baker, an electric breadmaker especially designed to create gluten-free bread and cakes and featuring two paddles for extra mixing. It also comes with a host of accessories. See www.zeroglutenbaker.co.uk.

Follow Your Heart is a company now importing that US best seller loved by Gwyneth Paltrow, Vegenaise. It tastes just like egg-based mayo, but is totally vegan! I confess I was surprised by how good it is; look out for it on a shelf near you soon. Follow the developments on Twitter, @FollowYourHeart.

Rebel Kitchen were at the show again showing their delicious range of flavoured coconut milks… if you’ve not tried it yet you’re really missing out! Available in Waitrose, Tesco and Ocado among others, www.rebel-kitchen.com.

Kent & Fraser were biscuit kings at the show, with an impressive range of gluten-free, egg-free biscuits, from lemon butter shortbread to fig & hazelnut cookies (without oats). Go to www.kentandfraser.com to find out more.

If you’re after ready-made cakes in a gorgeous spectrum of toppings and ingredients, then Wholesome Bakes has picture-perfect cupcakes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and just crying out for a party to go to. See www.wholesomebakes.co.uk. Also offering gluten-free readymade cakes (and pies, breads and more) is Nuttylicious. Vegan and lactose intolerants are also catered for, see www.nuttylicious.me.uk.

Bute Island Foods were at the show with their 100% dairy-free and vegan Scottish-made ‘Sheese’ – and with a mind-boggling collection of varieties, from ‘smoked cheddar’ to ‘mozzarella’, there should be something for everyone. Find them at www.buteisland.com.

Various dining Apps have been launched and many were at the show. The ones I discovered were FoodMaestro (www.foodmaestro.me) and Can I Eat There (www.canIeatthere.co.uk). Don’t miss The Gluten Free Centre either – this site has a shopping director, brand directory, recipe site, coupons and offers restaurant/hotel/cookery class/chip shop/café listings and a community hub dedicated to gluten-free living. Find it at theGlutenFreeCentre.co.uk.

And finally, for anyone doing a spot of online shopping, Free From Market has all your favourite brands in one place across the whole spectrum of allergy, food and lifestyle needs. There’s also recipes, nutrition advice and a community spot, with no minimum order. Go to www.freefrommarket.co.uk. Also worth exploring are www.doesnotcontain.net and www.healthyfoods-online.com.

Wimbledon Mess


Following my meringue theme (see previous post), here's a great idea for a summery dessert or day in front of the tennis, inspired in a moment of slightly alcohol-fuelled brilliance: basically it's an Eton Mess with Pimms!
Even better, it can be made to suit just about anyone, simply follow my dairy-free/egg-free/vegan or low fat variations. I've deliberately been a bit vague about the ingredient quantities because this is a dessert that benefits from a rather laid-back approach - just fling some bits in a bowl and stir.

Gluten free
(Per person)
One ready-made meringue nest
Handful of fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
3 tbsp Greek yogurt (or whipped cream if you're feeling particularly indulgent)
1 tsp Pimms
1 tsp shredded fresh mint

Crush the meringue into chunks and stir with the strawberries and yogurt. Place in a serving bowl and pour the Pimms over the top, followed by a sprinkling of shredded mint. Serve immediately.

VARIATIONS

Dairy free
(Per person)
One ready-made meringue nest
Handful of fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
3 tbsp soya yogurt
1 tsp Pimms
1 tsp shredded fresh mint

Follow instructions as per gluten-free recipe.

Egg free
(Per person)
30g Orgran No Egg
1/4tsp pectin
80ml water
40g icing sugar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Handful of fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
3 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp Pimms
1 tsp shredded fresh mint

Make the meringue by following instuctions on packet, or this method: Mix the No Egg and pectin in a bowl. Whisk together with the water for 5 minutes using a high speed electric mixer. Add the two sugars one tbsp at a time and then whisk for a further 5 minutes. The foam will increase in volume. Spoon nest shapes onto a baking sheet lined with silicone-impregnated baking paper and bake at 130C for 2 hours. At this point, switch the oven off but do not open the door. Leave until the oven has cooled. Excess meringues can be stored in an airtight container for another day.
Crush the meringue nest into chunks and stir with the strawberries and yogurt. Place in a serving bowl and pour the Pimms over the top, followed by a sprinkling of shredded mint. Serve immediately.

Vegan
(Per person)
30g Orgran No Egg
1/4tsp pectin
80ml water
40g icing sugar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Handful of fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
3 tbsp soya yogurt
1 tsp Pimms
1 tsp shredded fresh mint

Make the meringue by following instuctions on packet, or this method: Mix the No Egg and pectin in a bowl. Whisk together with the water for 5 minutes using a high speed electric mixer. Add the two sugars one tbsp at a time and then whisk for a further 5 minutes. The foam will increase in volume. Spoon nest shapes onto a baking sheet lined with silicone-impregnated baking paper and bake at 130C for 2 hours. At this point, switch the oven off but do not open the door. Leave until the oven has cooled. Excess meringues can be stored in an airtight container for another day.
Crush the meringue nest into chunks and stir with the strawberries and yogurt. Place in a serving bowl and pour the Pimms over the top, followed by a sprinkling of shredded mint. Serve immediately.

Low fat
(Per person)
One ready-made meringue nest
Handful of fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
3 tbsp fat-free yogurt
1 tsp Pimms
1 tsp shredded fresh mint

Follow instructions as per gluten-free recipe.

Super chewy strawberry meringue


This possibly the world's best meringue.. the kind with that marshmallowy and chewy centre and crumbly outside. The real secret ingredient, however, is the elderflower vinegar, which lends a extra special dimension to the flavour (recipe below - if you'd like to make some, you might just find a few elderflowers still around or just use cider vinegar instead). This is suitable for both gluten-free and/or dairy-free diets.

Serves 6-8

For the meringue
6 egg whites
200g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp elderflower vinegar

For the topping
300ml coconut yogurt (or whipped cream if you can have dairy)
400g fresh strawberries, leaves removed

Preheat the oven to 140C. Line a baking sheet with silicone-impregnated baking parchment.
Whisk the egg whites until very stiff - you'll know you're at the right point if the whites don't slide around if you tip the bowl to the side. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar and light brown sugar to form a dense meringue.
In a cup, stir together the cornflour and vinegar until smooth. Now transfer the meringue mixture to a the baking sheet, using a spatula to smooth and shape it into a large circle. Bake for 1.5 hours until browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then carefully peel off the baking paper and transfer to a large serving plate.
Just before serving, spread the yogurt over the meringue and top with the strawberries.

Elderflower vinegar
300ml white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
About 20 elderflower heads

Place the elderflower heads in a jar and pour vinegar over the top. Seal the jar, then leave for 10 days. After that time our the vinegar through a funnel lined with filter paper or piece of kitchen paper towel into a bottle. The vinegar will keep for up to a year in a cupboard.

Why you should go to the Allergy & Free From Show



July 3-5, 2015 in London's Olympia is where it will all be at... and by all I mean the best place to find new products in the allergy/coeliac sector. This show has gone from strength to strength over the years - this year it is not only sponsored by Udi's, but also partnered by Allergy UK, Coeliac UK, National Eczema Society, and Anaphalaxis Campaign  - if that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
Get free tickets here

Top 10 tips for making the most of the show

1. Try the samples!
Lots of companies offer tasting samples of their wares - this is the way to explore all the amazing new products. Especially useful if you have a prescription for coeliac disease and find it hard to choose between the products listed from your pharmacy.

2. Chat to the people
The allergy/freefrom sector is full of small companies, many with personal stories behind their businesses. They're a friendly bunch, so it's always worth saying hello.

3. Bring a rucksack
You will be overwhelmed by the choice of delicious foods - and will want to take loads of it home with you! Come prepared.

4. Take lots of cash
It can be hard to use plastic cards at the event, so take plenty of cash to be on the safe side.

5. Shop the offers
As well as lower prices on many products, you will probably also find lots of discount vouchers that can be used at a later date - make the most of it!

6. Be adventurous
The show is the place to investigate new ingredients. You'll probably have never heard of some of them, but the stand holders are always happy to explain. Last year, lucuma powder was my new discovery!

7. Get inspired
Sainsbury's is sponsoring the kitchen where it will showcase top chefs in live cookery demonstrations. Don't go home without picking up some recipe cards!

8. Find out more
Schär, a well-respected gluten-free food manufacturer, is sponsoring talks from experts in allergy, eczema, coeliac disease and asthma. Rest your feet and learn more about the latest research and the issues affecting you. The programme is here.

9. Let the kids go hunting
The show's Allergy Adventures team have a special place for kids to learn and enjoy - and new this year is a fun fact find hunt around the show.

10. Relax
Phew! After all of that, I can recommend a nice sit down in the show's Free From Cafe, where a delicious gourmet menu (or just sandwiches) suitable for a whole range of diets, will be available to enjoy. Cheers!

A Biteappy way to eat


What I love about apps is how you can take a really simple idea and then create an incredibly useful resource that loads of people will want - Biteappy is a terrific example of this. Available for free download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play, it allows people with food allergies/intolerances and other dietary requirements (to search for restaurants that will suit them.

There's a directory of restaurants and among the search possibilities are: gluten free, vegans, nut free, dairy free, MSG free, preservative free and other lesser known ingredient-free requirements, such as celery and mustard, as well as specialty foods including Kosher and Halal.

All you have to do is choose the specific dietary and cuisine criteria, and then the geographical location and the app will identify all the suitable restaurants in the area. Even more cleverly, the app also offers a translation card section with over 25 languages, so when abroad you can communicate dietary preferences to restaurant staff. 

Of course, these things are only as good as the restaurants listed on them, but if you come across a gem, you can add it in (it'll then be approved by Biteappy) - over time this will help to make the app totally indispensible.

Biteappy was created by Caroline Oldham, a coeliac with an additional lactose allergy  who found it a constant battle to locate suitable restaurants for her dietary needs, even more so when travelling or abroad. She says:
“I have always found it a challenge to eat out especially when abroad and being able to feel confident about it being taken seriously. Whilst a lot of apps allow for a gluten-free search or a vegan search there is nothing that collectively brings all allergies together so Biteappy helps with the many people with multiple allergies.
“My aim for the app is to help others like me who have struggled over the years to start to have the confidence to eat out again.”

Twitter: @biteappy
Instagram: @officialbiteappy

Biteappy is available to download for free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

BOOK REVIEW: Cooking allergy-free by Jenna Short




I love the premise of this book – simple inspired meals for everyone – since it is very much in the same spirit that I launched this blog.  It is packed with recipes free from the most common food allergies: wheat, milk, nuts, eggs, shellfish, fish, soy and corn. There are also many suitable for vegans or vegetarians. The photography is good and there are loads of terrific ideas.

The author, Jenna Short, owner of Shortbreadnyc.com (a events company focusing on free-from food), has some truly mouth-watering ideas, like the Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Almonds, through to Apple Spiced Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. Obviously, not all the recipes are suitable for everyone, but a handy guide to what’s what is included at the back, while each recipe is decorated with an assortment of icons and some have variations as well.

The first recipe I was drawn to was the Nutella-Peanut Butter Blondies used to illustrate the introduction. The picture is awesome, a vast traybake of what looks like chocolate cake swirled with Nutella and peanut butter. I was mystified when I saw the recipe, which is essentially just sweetened mashed banana, egg and peanut butter, with some Nutella on top. The fact that the vegan variant suggested replacing the egg and Nutella with… more peanut butter (!) mystified me further still. However, it worked beautifully and (once I thought properly about it) I could see that the peanut butter was essentially just nut flour plus oil, so it was no surprise that by adding honey and egg (and/or banana) you could make it into a cake. Genius – and I’ll definitely be making it again, particularly because it suits so many people.

I had less success with the Tahini Tartlets with Spinach and Mushrooms. Flavour-wise these were good, but try as I might I couldn’t make the pastry stretch to four 6-inch tart tins (though it worked OK across four 4-5-inch tart tins). Also, although a gluten-free variant suggested replacing the all-purpose (wheat flour) with a gluten-free blend, when I made it the lack of xanthan gum meant the pastry was super-crumbly. Jenna says she avoids xanthan gum because of a strange aftertaste, but I have yet to make a good gluten-free pastry without gum of some kind so I'd recommend adding a bit here if your GF flour doesn't include it. 

There's a very comprehensive Kitchen Essentials section at the front, which goes through all the things you need to consider when cooking allergy-free, including setting up a storage system and an overview of ingredients. Jenna's culinary experience really shines through, especially in regard to chef skills. 

Overall I would recommend this book, but I’d do so suggesting that you look at the recipes very carefully before you start to cook because some of the labelling can be unclear  (those Tahini Tartlets with Spinach and Mushrooms were labelled as gluten-free when the first ingredient was wheat flour, with the GF bit as a variation). But given the relative lack of books of this kind, I’m pleased to see it come to market and I think everyone would find something of value.

Cooking allergy-free by Jenna Short is published by The Taunton Press, priced £19.99 (ISBN 9781627103961). Available from www.thegmcgroup.com or by calling 01273 488005. It was published on January 15, 2015.

Celebrate Burn's night with gluten-free haggis


Traditionally served on Burns’ Night (January 25), haggis is not, as my brothers told me, a small animal with the legs on one side shorter than those on the other so it could only run in circles. Instead it is a Scottish delicacy made with oatmeal and a trio of sheep’s offal (hearts, lungs and liver) encased in a sheep’s stomach. This simplified version is inspired by a recipe in Leith’s Cookery Bible by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave. Allspice and black pepper give the distinctive spice notes. Serve with eg. mashed turnips and potatoes (or as the Scots say, neeps and tatties).

Serves 6

40g quinoa
250ml water
1 onion
300g lambs’ livers
2 tsp olive oil
400g lamb or mutton mince
2 ½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp fine salt

Rinse the quinoa to remove the bitter outer coating, then drain in a sieve. Place in a pan with the water. Place a lid on and simmer for 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
While the quinoa cooks, peel and slice the onion. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and livers. Fry gently for about 10 minutes until the onion has softened and the livers are cooked. Mince the livers and onion in a food processor – you’ll only need to do this for about 5 seconds at the most – you want small pieces of liver about the size of currants, rather than a mass of crumbs.
Tip out into a large bowl and add the mince, spices, salt and cooked quinoa. Stir together with a metal spoon until well combined. Press into a 1.5litre (3pt) pudding basin and use the back of a spoon to smooth the top. Now fold a pleat into a piece of foil and use it to cover the top of the pudding basin. Secure with cook’s string or an elastic band.
Place a heatproof saucer upside down at the bottom of a large stockpot. Place the pudding basin on the upturned saucer. Pour water in until it comes about one-third up the side of the pudding basin. Place a lid on the pan. Bring the water to the boil, then turn the heat down and allow the water to simmer for two hours until cooked through. Serve the haggis hot.