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The Gluten Free Veggie

Gluten Free and Vegetarian Recipes, Reviews and Information

Month

August 2015

UPDATE | Product Review | New Recipe Genius Bread

After I posted this piece about Genius’ new recipe loaf a few days ago, I’ve had lots of comments on social media.

Today I was asked to call Genius to speak to them about it.

Understandably the product is very new and so they are still testing out whether people like the new recipe. They stressed that the new recipe was not directly aiming to address the quality issue of the bread having holes. They have been working on this new recipe for a long time and are hoping that the new added vitamins etc will improve the bread for Coeliacs. As I said in my original post, this is one of the added features that I was very happy to hear about – I often worry as a vegetarian Coeliac about my intake of vitamins and minerals, and so it’s nice to hear that my diet will be supplemented by my bread.

They also told me that the quality issue with the bread falling apart is something they are working on. They’re aware of how frustrating the issue is and they are trying their best to do something about it in the future.

As I stressed in the original post, I would still recommend Genius bread. It is still the best tasting gluten free bread available in supermarkets.

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Review | Niche Food and Drink, Islington, London

Please read the entire review for my star rating and conclusion at the end.

13.8.15 (55)

Niche is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Islington, London. You can imagine how excited I was to find out that they are 100% gluten free and have vegetarian options.

The restaurant itself is nicely laid out with beautiful photography on the walls. It had a minimalist feel with plants on the table which made it seem bigger than it is (it is a relatively small place).

Something unusual for me to praise about a restaurant is the toilet facilities. Often in chain restaurants they are disgusting, small and I try to avoid them! As we had been out in Islington all day and had endured an hour or so on the train and tubes I decided to brave the restroom. It was not only incredibly spacious, but also clean with hand soap and lotion provided! Unfortunately there is only one toilet, so if you are a large party this may become an issue, but as this is a small restaurant, it is to be expected!

The menu has plenty of choice and is fairly priced. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the menu, but if you visit their website you can view it there!

13.8.15 (51)

There were lots of choices for starters, including a few vegetarian options. I was incredibly excited to try the “Parmesan and Cheddar Doughnuts”. They came with a red pepper and tomato dip. Both were utterly delicious and I could have quite happily eaten another ten of them! I’ve never had savoury doughnuts before, let alone gluten free ones, and these were fluffy, flavourful and went perfectly with the dip. They were not overly cheesy, but you could taste the parmesan. The dip was reminiscent of salsa; fruity and tomatoey with a slight garlic and spice kick.

Parmesan and Cheddar Doughnuts
Parmesan and Cheddar Doughnuts

My boyfriend is not vegetarian and so ordered the “Niche Fried Chicken”. This turned out to be exactly what the title said – KFC style gluten free chicken strips, only much tastier! He really enjoyed the chicken especially with the dips that it came with.

Niche Fried Chicken
Niche Fried Chicken

We really enjoyed our starters and so we were looking forward to our mains. I ordered the “Niche Quiche” which is always vegetarian and comes with a salad and chips. The recipe that day was tomato and spinach. The quiche is made with cream as well as egg. The filling was okay, though not particularly “wowing”. After the flavour packed starter I had expected a bit more from the quiche. I didn’t really enjoy the pastry – I found it a little dense. The best pastry is flaky and light, but this was hard and thick.

Niche Quiche and Side Salad
Niche Quiche and Side Salad
Chips
Chips

The best part of my main, surprisingly was the side salad! The dressing was exquisite and the

lettuce was fresh and tasty. This is coming from someone who does not really enjoy salad! I

think next time I go I will order the goats cheese salad for a main – something a bit lighter.

The chips were also a little disappointing. They had left the skins on, which gave them a rougher texture. This may just be personal preference, but I much prefer my chips in the classic style – with no skins!

My boyfriend went for the “Beef and Chorizo Pie”. He really enjoyed the flavours but also found the pastry to be too dense. He did however comment that the mash was creamy, and went perfectly with the gravy provided. In hindsight, the weather was sweltering that day and so pie and mash was probably not a perfect choice!

Beef and Chorizo Pie
Beef and Chorizo Pie

Due to the dense pastry and delicious starters, we were stuffed by the time it came to dessert. Luckily the waiter gave us some time to let our food go down and we decided to order dessert.

I had the “Peanut Butter Blondie”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with blondies, they are normally the white chocolate equivalent of a brownie. Niche’s version had a white chocolate ganache and peanut butter topping. The texture was delicious and the first few bites were lovely – it was nice to have a dessert that was something other than the usual brownie that we get in most chain restaurants. It was just too sweet to have a lot of unfortunately. Again, this may just be my personal taste, but I found it too sickly to finish.

Peanut Butter Blondie
Peanut Butter Blondie

My boyfriend ordered a “St. Clement’s Cheesecake” – inspired by the rhyme “Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s”. He loves lemon flavoured desserts, especially cheesecake and really enjoyed this version. I am not a fan of lemon but tried it anyway. I was very impressed! The flavour was weighted more towards orange, with a nice hint of lemon and the cheesecake was light in texture. When we go back I may order the cheesecake for myself.

St Clement's Cheesecake
St Clement’s Cheesecake

Overall, I would recommend Niche to anyone with a gluten intolerance or Coeliac disease. It is a novel experience to be able to have a three course meal out without worrying about cross contamination and being able to order whatever I fancied from the menu.

There are several things that need fine tuning on their menu. For example, the texture of the pastry and the sickly sweet taste of the blondie. There were several other options on the menu that I would like to try and I’ll be sure to go back and try them!

★★★★☆

4 out of 5 stars for safe Coeliac dining, gorgeous starters, and plenty of options for vegetarians.

Even though it around an hour’s train and tube travel from my home, I will be returning when I can!

Like them on Facebook here!

And follow their Twitter here!

Make sure to book your table in advance as they are often busy and only a small restaurant.

Product Review | Genius Brown Bread (New Recipe)

Please read the entire review to see my star rating and overall conclusion.

I was excited when I saw that Genius have a new and improved recipe for their gluten free brown bread. Genius is my favourite gluten free bread as it has by far the best taste and lasts longer than all of the others I’ve tried.

Genius (3)

As you may know, Genius has one downfall – holes!! Something about the ingredients in their bread means that we often end up with holes in our loaves, or slices that have just crust! I opened the bag apprehensively and pulled out a slice.

The new texture seems a more close knit, with a lighter colour and sturdy crusts. How exciting – no holes! Is it really possible that Genius could have made a loaf of bread that doesn’t resemble a block of Emmental? My excitement was short lived as the next slices I pulled out looked like this:

Genius (5)

It seems whatever they have improved about the recipe has not prevented it from falling apart as it always has done.

I would like to say, however, that the taste is not bad. I’ve always liked Genius’ slightly oaty taste.

It was also nice to see that it is now low in saturated fat (many gluten free products have higher fat than their gluten counterparts) added omega 3 and vitamins and minerals.

The bread made a very decent mozzerella toastie, although the crust was a little crunchier than it normally is.

Genius (7)

As always, I would recommend Genius’ bread, though it would be nice if I could buy a loaf of bread that doesn’t fall apart.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars for decent tasting gluten free bread, that has far too many holes still!

* EDIT *

After speaking to Genius I have written this update! Please take a look.

National Burger Day!

It’s National Burger Day today and I thought I’d share with you some of the vegetarian gluten free burgers I’ve had since diagnosis.

Ed’s Easy Diner – Chickpea and Quinoa Burger

Chickpea and Quinoa burger
Chickpea and Quinoa burger

Ed’s have a good reputation for Coeliac safe food. Just because they are a burger

place doesn’t mean they don’t provide for us veggies either! I had a wonderful vegetarian cheese burger with chips followed by a Nutella milkshake.
The only thing I will say is that I don’t think I could have this burger now that I’ve been diagnosed with IBS-D. Both chickpeas and quinoa might be a little too much for my stomach to handle now, so it would be nice to have another vegetarian option on their menu.

Nutella Milkshake
Nutella Milkshake

The burger roll was the best gluten free roll I’ve ever had and worked perfectly for an American style burger. You could hold it all with one hand and nothing fell apart – wonderful!
The Nutella milkshake is something everyone must try. Creamy, light and delicious.

“Good Life” Nut and Parsnip burger

This is my “go to” burger at home. It only takes twenty in the oven, is vegan and certified gluten free (they use rigorous testing to make sure it is safe!).
If you are not a vegetarian/vegan I will warn you – do not expect a “meaty” style burger. It is what is says on the packet – a nut burger – and it’s delicious! It’s sweet and nutty, yet it also has a herby kick and a slight hint of garlic. It hold well together in bread, or can accompany chips/rice/salad without a bun quite nicely! I enjoy topping it with halloumi and having it without a roll!

Good Life Nut Burger
Good Life Nut Burger

Vivo Lounge – Butternut Squash and Nutmeg Falafel

Vivo Lounge falafel burger
Vivo Lounge falafel burger

Vivo Lounge is in Dorchester but there are branches every where. See this post for more info on my experience in the Dorchester Lounger. This is incredibly worth it if you have a “Lounger” near you. This burger is a taste sensation, and nothing like some of the boring veggie burgers I’ve had in the past. The nutmeg makes the burger taste much more interesting than a butternet squash burger normally would. I ordered it with houmous (falafel and houmous are always perfect together) and as it came with halloumi already, it was the perfect veggie burger trio! Although, as it is made of falafel, it was very filling, and I struggled to eat it all as well as the delicious chips that came with it.
I had no negative after effects (I was very nervous eating there as I had not heard of it before!) I was pleased to have such tasty food and no reaction! Really worth a try if you have one near you, whether you are vegetarian or not.

A Guide to Eating Gluten Free in Dorchester, Dorset!

Recently, my boyfriend and I holidayed in Dorchester, Dorset, England. It was a three hour train journey from our hometown, but I was hopeful that we would have a relaxing holiday. Of course, for a gluten free vegetarian, food was a big worry for me.

I went for Beggar’s Knap B and B, which is beautiful with great facilities. We opted for no breakfast in light of my dietary restrictions, which worked out well for us price-wise also.

Gluten free Fiorentina pizza in Pizza Express
Gluten free Fiorentina pizza in Pizza Express

We knew that there were several eateries in Brewery Square. To have our best chance of not being glutened for the rest of the holiday, for our first night we decided to stick with somewhere we’d eaten at back home – Pizza Express. They have a fantastic national reputation for being great for Coeliacs due to their Coeliac UK Accreditation. Dorchester’s branch did not disappoint.

We had friendly service, wonderful food and no ill-effects.

We decided to have dinner at Pizza Express Tuesday and Wednesday night too! They have a few starters, all of their pizzas are available on a gluten free base, and a few puddings. The other good thing about Pizza Express is that they often have money off deals. I have an NUS card as I’m student, but they also give out money off vouchers when you eat there (normally 20 or 30% off!).

On the Tuesday we decided to try somewhere recommended to me on the Dorchester Coeliac

Vivo Lounge falafel burger
Vivo Lounge falafel burger

Group on Facebook – Vivo Lounge. The chain of “Loungers” have a decent gluten free menu which includes salads, burgers, falafel, chips, breakfasts and more.

We went for a falafel burger with chips and houmous which was amazing! It only cost about £8 and more than filled us up! Great service, friendly and knowledgable man who served us and scrummy food!

On the Wednesday we went to Weymouth. I had heard of The Old Harbour Fish and Chip Shop on Facebook as providing gluten free fish and chips and so we decided to head there and check it out. Again, we were not disappointed! The man who served us really knew his stuff, had a separate gluten free fryer and gluten free vinegar! It was nice to enjoy chip shop chips again.

Having gluten free chips at The Old Harbour Fish and Chip Shop in Weymouth
Having gluten free chips at The Old Harbour Fish and Chip Shop in Weymouth

On the last evening we decided to try Carluccio’s in Brewery Square. They have a great gluten free reputation and a long menu. We both went for the pasta and had good service.

Mushroom pasta at Carluccio's
Mushroom pasta at Carluccio’s

I was disappointed with my food at Carluccio’s. Although I was not glutened, it was expensive for what you got. My starter was simply Genius bread toasted with some onions, tomatoes and rocket on top and cost me £5 or more. My main was pasta with a mushroom broth. The pasta was quite dry (even for GF pasta!) and the sauce was little more than warm water. I didn’t really think it was worth the £8 or so. Our pudding was nice – a simple meringue dish with raspberries and a passion fruit cream.

If you’re planning on going to Dorset or Dorchester I would highly recommend both Pizza Express and Vivo Lounge in Brewery Square, as both catered well for my dietary needs. If you are going to Weymouth, The Old Harbour Fish and Chip Shop is fantastic and really worth the visit! For a couple of pounds you get a very sizeable portion of chip shop chips! As for Carluccio’s, I’m not sure if my experience was specific to the Dorchester one or whether their GF menu is just not very interesting. I wouldn’t recommend it, although I was able to eat there with no ill effects.

Advice | New to the gluten free diet

Recently I replied to someone on Tumblr who is newly diagnosed and was seeking advice or tips for a Coeliac lifestyle. I replied as best I can and it inspired me to compile my thoughts into a blog post so that everyone can see it!

I know how difficult it is when you’re first diagnosed. I didn’t understand what gluten was before I became ill, let alone how to live gluten free and battle the stigma that goes with it.

So here is my advice for when you are first starting out with a gluten free lifestyle.

  1. See a doctor. This one is very important. Do not self diagnose at the first instance of being ill. Only a medical professional can help you get to the bottom of it. They will most likely want you to keep a food diary, have blood tests and eventually cut out gluten if this is found to be a trigger. Be aware that if they send you for a biopsy for Coeliac Disease, you need to have been eating gluten for six weeks before the biopsy. For more info on this see Coeliac UK here.
  2.  You need to avoid cross contamination. If you have a gluten filled kitchen you will need a new toaster ONLY for GF bread, I also got a new chopping board, new oven gloves etc. Even if you are not visibly ill from cross contamination, it can still do damage to your gut.
  3.  Don’t expect to feel 100% better straight away. It can take weeks and months to get there. It’s often said that it can take up to a year for the gut to heal completely, and so you may not feel back to normal for a while. If your symptoms get worse, however, even whilst eating GF, go and see your doctor straight away. It is not uncommon to have more than one food intolerance and so if your symptoms persist, you may need to go onto an elimination diet again.
  4.  Keep your meals simple, and only use gf alternatives (e.g pizza, chicken nuggets etc) as part of your diet. Try to base your meals on things that are naturally GF like potatoes, meat (if you’re not a veggie like me), vegetables, rice etc.
  5. Join Facebook support groups such as Coeliacs in the UK, Coeliacs Eat Out Too. They are really helpful.
  6.  Join Coeliac UK. They have an app for scanning barcodes, a book full of brands that are GF and lots of other helpful support.
  7.  Don’t listen to anyone who says you’re “being awkward”, “making it up” or “a tiny bit of gluten won’t hurt you”. You will encounter quite a few people who think they know what’s best for you, and they do not. Only you and your doctor can decide this. Just try to keep calm and explain it to them the best you can. Their ignorance comes from a lack of understanding, and so the more facts you can arm yourself with, the easier it will be to help people understand.
  8. Talk to your family and close friends about it. In most cases they will want to help you in any way they can. Help them to understand by taking your parents/other half/siblings with you to doctor’s appointments. Cook gluten free food for them to show them it’s no different from normal food. Don’t be scared to ask for their support – 99% of the time they will give you all the support they can.
  9. Follow gluten free bloggers. Many have been GF for a long time, and so can give recipes, tips and product reviews.
  10. Enjoy your food! Gluten free food can and should taste good! Experiment with new recipes and adapt your own. If you’re not enjoying your food, find some new recipes and try again.

Recipe (GF, V) | Rice with halloumi, homemade basil pesto, roasted cashews and runner beans.

This is a quick and easy dinner, perfect for a hot summer’s night!

Ingredients

For the rice:

White rice (approx. 70 grams)
5 large runner beans
5 slices of halloumi
2 handfuls of raw cashews

For the pesto:

3 handfuls of basil leaves, washed.
Approx. 1/4 pint of olive oil
A handful of pine nuts
A pinch of salt and pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6. Boil the water for the rice. Boil the water for the runner beans. You can do these both in the same pan but I prefer to do them separately. Whilst these are coming to the boil make the pesto.
  2. Add the basil, pine nuts and seasoning to a food processor or blender. Add a small amount of the oil and then begin to blend. Whilst this is blending slowly add the oil, checking it until the consistency is perfect.
  3. Once the water has boiled add the rice and cook for around 18 minutes (this is how long my rice takes, yours may vary). Add the runner beans to the water and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until tender.
  4. Prepare a baking tray with foil. Slice the halloumi. Make sure the slices are roughly the same thickness – if any are too thin they will burn. I used 5 slices for this recipe but cooked the entire packet and kept the other pieces in the fridge to have the next day. Cook on gas mark 6 for around 4 minutes, then flip and put back in for a further few minutes until the edges start to go golden.

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5. Whilst the halloumi is cooking, heat some olive oil in a small frying pan. Once it is warm add the cashews and cook for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove from the heat immediately or they will burn.
6. Drain the rice and runner beans once they are cooked and mix together with the pesto and cashews.
7. Once the halloumi is cooked, slice into bite sized chunks and mix into the rice. Serve and enjoy!

Prescription Doughnut, Anyone?

Some of you may know that this morning The Daily Mail wrote an article which claims that the NHS is giving out gluten free doughnuts, cake and biscotti on prescription to Coeliacs.

Some of you may also know that this is not even close to reality.

According to The Daily Mail “The NHS is handing out tens of thousands of prescriptions every year for custard creams, doughnuts and pizzas.” The article goes on to state that “The Health Service spent almost £116 million last year on gluten-free products and other foods – twice as much as a decade ago.”

Since this article was printed this morning there has been outrage from the gluten free community, culminating in a fantastic rebuttal from Coeliac UK. They redressed the The Daily Mail‘s less than factual statements simply outlining the facts: “In 2014, £26.8m was spent on prescribed gluten-free products – not £116m quoted in the headline. This equates to an annual cost of £180 per diagnosed patient making it one of the cheapest treatments for a long term condition in the NHS.  The national guidance on gluten-free prescribing sets out clearly that only gluten-free staples should be prescribed by GPs, such as breads and flours.”

Those of us on a gluten free diet know the truth; only those who are diagnosed Coeliac are entitled to food on prescription and this very much depends on the area you live in. The few lucky Coeliacs are provided with bread and flour (with possible additions of plain pizza bases and pasta) whereas many cannot claim anything on prescription due to NHS cut backs in their area.

The Daily Mail‘s “gross distortion of the reality” (Coeliac UK) has unfortunately already inflicted its damage on the gluten free community. Despite their lack of evidence, and exaggeration of the facts, many people outside of the gluten free community will believe what is written and start to form a prejudice.

The question may now be raised – should gluten free food be available on the NHS (even bread and flour) when the budget is so stretched? Many of us who are not diagnosed Coeliacs do not get anything (including myself, a university student). Should this be the case even for Coeliacs?

My answer is yes, it should be available to Coeliacs. What The Daily Mail failed to point out is that Coeliac disease can have very serious health implications. Coeliac UK’s rebuttal addresses this saying, “Undiagnosed or untreated coeliac disease can lead to osteoporosis, infertility and in rare cases, small bowel cancer and without support, people with coeliac disease are at greater risk of these complications.” In light of this, I think flour and bread should be available to those who need it for medical reasons, especially those of us who are on very low budgets and cannot afford the supermarket’s high prices.

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