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.

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.