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Eating Out | Biscuit, The Gluten Free Cafe: A Safe Haven for Coeliacs and IBS Sufferers

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You may remember that back in September I wrote a review of Biscuit in Branksome. We were very excited to have the opportunity to come back again.

The first time we visited the cafe had only been open for three weeks, and owner Stephanie was still working on the menu. We were impressed the first time with the atmosphere, and this certainly hasn’t changed. Biscuit feels relaxed, is beautifully clean and everything is well presented. The plates and cutlery are spotless, the tables and chairs don’t have a single crumb on them and everything behind the counter is reassuringly clean and tidy. It is clear that Stephanie has worked very hard to present a neat and bright space.

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Something else that hasn’t changed is the delicious drinks. Biscuit provides a complimentary petit beurre with every drink which we think is such a lovely touch, especially in such a reasonably priced cafe.

So what has changed since our last visit? Last time I begrudgingly gave Biscuit only 4 1/2 stars out of 5 due to a slight lack in range. As you can understand, being so newly opened we expected there to be a few creases that needed ironing out and this seemed to be the only one! I’m delighted to say that Stephanie listens to every single customer that comes in and has not only increased her range of savoury foods and cakes on offer but has also made everything more inclusive for those with additional dietary requirements. Those of you who suffer from IBS like myself will be delighted to hear that Biscuit strives to offer hot and cold options sans alliums (no onions or garlic) as much as possible and that Stephanie is working hard to develop lactose free options.

Due to this, I was able to enjoy a goats cheese and tomato quiche and try some of my partner’s mushroom soup. Just having these options was such a rarity – in ANY other gluten free establishment these dishes would be laden with onion and garlic.

I know what you’re thinking – “I can eat onion and garlic, I don’t want to eat bland food” – well, you couldn’t be more wrong. The soup was one of the best we’ve ever had (and we’ve tried lots of soups since this blog’s inception!!). Thick, warm, creamy and with a delicately earthy taste – I would happily eat this again and take tubs of it home to put in the freezer.

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The quiche did not disappoint either. It’s been several years since I had quiche (even though other gluten free establishments offer vegetarian quiche they have always have alliums in) and so I was pleased to be able to try it. The pastry was flakey and did not crumble, and the filling was deliciously creamy without an overpowering egg taste. The savoury goat’s cheese taste went beautifully with the sweet tomatoes and I certainly did not notice the lack of garlic or onion.

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The star of the show by far was this incredible cake that Stephanie made especially for Valentine’s Day (but dare I say should be a regular feature!): a Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Cake. This cake was two layered with light and fluffy chocolate mousse in between and on top and raspberries mixed throughout. It didn’t take long for me to demolish a slice (and to go back for seconds shhhh).

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I can’t stress enough how this wonderful cafe not only provides beautiful food but is also extremely reasonably priced. Gluten free food is often extortionate, and lots of gluten free cafes charge upwards of £3.50 for a slice of cake! Biscuit’s cakes come in way below this at just £2.80. For cash strapped students like us this makes all the difference.

I hope you will also get the chance to go to this amazing place as I now award them an updated review score of

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for delicious and IBS-friendly food, a proprietor who values the opinions and suggestions of her customers and an all round wonderful place to eat.

Check out Biscuit’s Facebook page here: Biscuit, the gfc

Read their menu here.

 

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Eating Out | Beyond Bread at Selfridges’ Food Hall, London

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On Monday I had to go to London for a doctoral research day at the British Library and I used the opportunity to visit Selfridges’ Food Hall!

Beyond Bread is a 100% gluten free cafe with locations in Fitzrovia and Islington as well as their stand in the Food Hall. We were impressed to find a large selection of food available and my friend and I sampled several items both sweet and savoury so that we could tell you about their range.

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I opted for a goats cheese and roasted vegetable pizza. This appealed to me not only because fresh pizza is a rarity for Coeliacs but also because it contained no onion or garlic! The lady even got the ingredients list out for me to read so I knew it wouldn’t set off my IBS. I was offered it warm and was pleased I agreed as the cheese was lovely and melted.

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The base was brioche which I have mixed feeling about. Firstly, round of applause to Beyond Bread for being able to make gluten free brioche (and it really did taste like brioche!) but brioche as a base for savoury pizza? Perhaps this is a matter of personal taste but I was a little unsure about the choice. Regardless, the overall taste, with toppings and base combined, was very pleasing, and the saltiness of the goat’s cheese helped to balance the brioche.

My friend had a toastie, but as it contained fish (and this is vegetarian as well as a Coeliac blog!) we didn’t take a photo. My friend’s mother is Coeliac and as such he’s no stranger to gluten free food, but eats gluten usually. He found the bread to be a good substitute for ‘normal’ bread, although he did remark that the colour was a little different. For those of us used to the atrocity that is supermarket gluten free bread, we have definitely seen worse! He marked no major differences between the toastie and any gluten containing ones – unlike the cardboard reminiscent mass produced loaves, Beyond Bread’s offering seemed as close to normal bread as you can get. They also had sub-style sandwiches, all of which contained meat so I couldn’t try one, but that is certainly another plus point – they offer a variety of foods in such a way that you forget your dietary requirements.

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I couldn’t resist having a slice of triple decker chocolate cake as well, and I certainly didn’t regret it. I don’t say this lightly – it was one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten, gluten free or otherwise (I think only beaten by M and S’ gluten free chocolate fudge cake which will make you explode with happiness). The cream and the sponge cakes were so moist and light but the ganache on the outside was the star of the show – the flavour was exquisite and I scraped up every last bite from the inside of the container it was in. Worth every penny of the £3.50 per slice.

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My friend was tempted by the carrot cake but decided to go for the red velvet cake, remembering a red velvet cookie he had once eating and hoping for a similar taste. He was also pleased with his choice and enjoyed smooth texture and the creamy vanilla filling. He found it a little sweeter than he had expected, but as the food hall items come packaged in takeaway boxes he was able to take it home with him and finish it later. He thought it would have been a perfect cake for sharing (and I may have stolen a bite or two…)

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We sat quite comfortably in the Food Hall and chatted for a few hours, by which time I was thinking about all the other yummies we had seen at the stand and so we went back. Because it was nearly closing time their danishes were half price and I couldn’t resist also getting a cookie. At £1.75 for quite a large cookie, Beyond Bread has managed to stay quite fairly priced in a competitive and expensive London market. I took my two goodies away with me to have at home the next day.

I chose to have the chocolate and custard danish for brunch the next day and the lady on the counter had advised me to warm it up to get the chocolate gooey. Quite frankly, it was heavenly. I was surprised and impressed in equal measure by just how much it tasted like its gluten-containing counterpart and enjoyed every last bite. Just how they manage to recreate that croissant flakey pastry texture with gluten free ingredients is beyond me, and I was overjoyed to have had the chance to buy one.

I similarly impressed by the chocolate chip cookie, which comes in second only to the incredible gluten free cookie that I had at Biscuit Cafe in Branksome in September 2017. This cookie had both milk and white chunks and was melt in the mouth. They also had a peanut butter flavour on offer the day that we were there.

I would highly recommend popping into Beyond Breads stand in the Food Hall if you get the chance – this post honestly hasn’t done justice to the array on offer.

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See the previous Monday’s recipe here.

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Eating Out | A Gluten Free Guide to Prague

By Lucy.

 

This year I turned 30, so to celebrate, my boyfriend and I decided to plan a trip away to Prague.

Before doing any research I had imagined eating out in The Czech Republic as a coeliac vegetarian to be a bit of a struggle, and I was braced for little to no choice. Luckily for me, and anyone else planning on visiting, there was plenty to choose from and I didn’t go hungry once. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better whilst abroad.

After some googling and scouring Trip Advisor I had a small list of places I wanted to try, but was surprised by how many other great restaurants we discovered while we were there. I should imagine there are plenty more gems to be found, but here are my favourites.

 

White and Crispy

 

White and Crispy is an entirely gluten free pizzeria and bakery located outside of the main tourist areas in Prague. It’s about a 20 minute walk from Charles bridge, but close to plenty of tram stops and you won’t regret making the effort to visit. We ate here twice during our short stay because everything was absolutely delicious – it’s worth the trip to Prague for the pizza alone! The base was thin and crisp, and the toppings fresh and tasty – if you’ve ever been disappointed with the tiny size of GF pizzas at home, this is the restaurant for you.

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Between us, we tried the Margherita, the Vegetariana and the Quattro Formaggi, the latter of which was a white pizza without tomato sauce. All three were amazing, and the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever eaten. The owners are Italian and very friendly, everything’s homemade with fresh ingredients. I also tried the tiramisu and a little creamy cake which were both fantastic.

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The atmosphere was casual, it’s a tiny little shop with very limited seating, but the pizzas can all be taken away if there isn’t room inside. They also sell bread and pasta, I bought some spaghetti but haven’t had chance to try it out yet.

It was a total bargain given the quality. If you’re ever in Prague, this is one restaurant you must not miss.

 

Alriso Risotteria Italiana

 

Alriso is another entirely gluten free Italian restaurant, but a lot closer to the centre of Prague this time. I was so excited to try this place, and it didn’t disappoint at all – we ended up here twice as it was so good!

Inside it’s a small intimate restaurant, with excellent and attentive staff. It was busy both evenings and had a cosy and romantic atmosphere.

There were fewer vegetarian options, but still enough choice that it was difficult to decide what to try. I opted for tomato and mozzarella gnocchi one evening, and spinach and gorgonzola risotto the next, which were delicious and I would recommend them both. My boyfriend, who isn’t gluten free, raved about both of his meals, which I do have to admit, did look very good.

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Once we’d ordered we were brought a paper bag with some gluten free bread inside, and some olive oil to dip it in, which was a wonderful surprise. It had a dense and cakey texture and tasted great. These little touches are what made the experience so special, as I usually have to miss out on this sort of thing at home because of a lack of choice or risk of cross contamination.

For dessert, between us, we tried the chocolate fondant, tiramisu and panna cotta, but the tiramisu stole the show – it was perfectly and creamy and had a wonderful coffee flavour.

For three courses each, and a bottle of Prosecco, Alriso worked out at around £30 a head, which, considering how much we enjoyed the great food and service, was a total bargain. It was the most expensive restaurant we ate at during our stay, but was absolutely worth it.

 

Lavande

 

Lavande was one of a few restaurants we discovered during our stay, when looking for somewhere to eat during the day. They have an a la carte menu for the evenings, and a specials menu for lunch, which changes daily. The menu and specials were clearly marked, with vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and dairy free options available.

The staff were very friendly and the service was great, the restaurant was modern, bright and airy, and had a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

I had the halloumi burger on a gluten free bun, which was a real treat, served with salad. It was great, and my boyfriend enjoyed his beef special very much too.

If we ever return to Prague I would love to visit Lavande for an evening meal. It was busy during the day however, so it might be worth booking a table if you have your heart set on a particular evening.

 

Vegan’s

 

We discovered Vegan’s by accident while on the way to Prague Castle. We were both worn out from a long day of walking and sightseeing and wanted somewhere to stop for a drink.

Located at the top of three flights of stairs, Vegan’s is a light and airy restaurant covering two floors. It also has an open terrace, which looks out over the rooftops of Prague, which was lovely, but a little chilly for the time of year we were there.

I hadn’t planned on eating, but once I saw the menu I knew I couldn’t leave without trying something.  The gluten free options were clearly marked and there was so much choice it was hard to pick! I was tempted by the guacamole and crackers, and the marinated peppers filled with aubergine, but in the end I went for the tofu burger, which was served on top of a potato gratin with pickled cabbage and rocket. This was my first experience in a vegan restaurant, and I was blown away by how delicious everything was, and I was so pleased I gave it a try.

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I also tried the homemade raspberry lemonade, which was filled with fresh crushed raspberries, which was a lovely accompaniment to the meal and very refreshing. This is another restaurant I’d love to re-visit if given the chance, and I think it would be a great setting for a romantic meal.

 

Svejk Restaurant U Karla

 

Svejk Restaurant U Karla specialises in traditional Czech cuisine, which I wanted to try as most of the other eateries we visited during our stay were European. They have a separate gluten free menu, which you have to ask for, and serve gluten free beer – which is a necessity if you’re visiting Prague!

The dining area is a large and open, with dark wood and traditional Czech décor.

The menu doesn’t have a huge amount of choice if you’re vegetarian, but I opted for the fried cheese, served with chips and tartar sauce, which was great. I’m a sucker for anything gluten free fried in breadcrumbs or batter because it’s not something I can be bothered to cook at home so it’s a real treat. The chips especially were delicious. I also tried a side of Czech dumplings as I was curious to see what they were like. They were soft, comforting and very filling – I practically had to be rolled home!

My carnivorous boyfriend had the chicken schnitzel, which he really enjoyed. We both loved the sauerkraut, which came with our meals, I’m not usually a fan of cabbage, but it was delicious and I’m pleased I got to try something new.

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Neither of us had any room left for a dessert, which was a shame as they had quite a few gluten free options, including pancakes and an apple strudel!

The service was attentive, but a little brusque, I wouldn’t let that put you off though, as the food was great and we had a really enjoyable evening in this part of town.

 

Overall I was really pleased with the amount and variety of gluten free food in Prague, I found a lot of the cafes and coffee shops had cakes available, which was a lovely surprise, and almost all of the servers spoke very good English. I didn’t feel limited by my diet once.

I’d love to visit again one day, Prague is an exciting and vibrant city with so much to do, and so much wonderful food to eat!

 

About Lucy

Lucy is a contributing author at The Gluten Free Veggie. She is a 30 year old vegetarian Coeliac with a passion for great recipes! Check out all of her posts here. When she’s not cooking up delicious treats, Lucy is creating greetings cards for her business. Check out her Facebook page here.

 

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See the previous Monday’s recipe here.

Social Media:

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Youtube: The Gluten Free Veggie

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E-mail your questions or suggestions to: glutenfreeveggieblog@gmail.com

 

Eating Out | Review of Biscuit, The Gluten Free Cafe (Poole, Dorset)

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

Biscuit is a brand new 100% gluten free cafe in Branksome, near Poole, Dorset, which was opened three weeks ago by French native Stephanie. This cafe fills a niche in the market by being both completely gluten free and influenced by French cuisine.

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The owner, Stephanie, is an IBD sufferer herself and as such understands the needs of many Free From customers, including of course Coeliacs but also those with IBS, those who need dairy free food and those who need low sugar food.

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I must highlight one thing in this review – Biscuit is a very new business, finding its feet within the local community and adapting the menu to appeal to everyone.

My first impression of the cafe on walking in was very pleasant; whilst small, the decor is tasteful and relaxing, all of the tables and the counter were clean and unlike a lot of cafes, Biscuit smells lovely! Whilst this might seem a strange thing to notice about a cafe, its a factor that has affected my dining experience in other establishments and made my heightened my opinion of Biscuit.

All of these details added to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere that pervades this cafe. Stephanie and her staff were chatty with us and the other customers we saw come in and answer our many questions about ingredients (IBS forces me to do so!). I also impressed that the staff member who took our order told us assured us about their gluten free food unprompted and knew how to answer questions about dietary requirements or allergies.

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We enjoyed sampling the menu, though we could not try everything due to our dietary requirements. Biscuit offers hot food as well as quiche, wraps, sandwiches and a selection of cakes.

We both tried a vegetarian adaptation of Biscuit’s Croque Madame and agreed it was lovely. The egg was cooked beautifully with a soft yolk which complimented the creamy Emmental cheese. It was accompanied by a nice side salad and dressing. It felt lovely to be able to sit down at a cafe and order hot food with no fear of cross contamination.

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My boyfriend tried the scrambled eggs on toast on another occasion and found it similarly tasty, but the real stars of the show were the cakes.

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The chocolate cake was incredibly moist and delicate although not as sweet as we were expecting. The chocolate and walnut brownie was similarly moist but with a far richer and sweeter chocolatey taste.

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Our favourite sweet option by far were the chocolate chip cookies. They were light and chewy, melted in your mouth and were perfectly flavoured – some of the best gluten free cookies we’ve ever had.

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You would not be able to tell that any of these sweet options were gluten free – in fact, Biscuit attracts a lot of non-Coeliacs due to its location opposite a retail park.

Whilst we enjoyed all of the food we tried, we both felt that the biggest thing this cafe lacks is range. It would be nice to see the French theme expanded with crepes (Jason added they should offer Nutella crepes, his favourite food!), croissants, mille-feuille or macarons as well as some additional savoury dishes. I must stress again how new this cafe is and so you must not let this put you off visiting – I know that Biscuit is open to suggestions and is experimenting with new menu additions even now.

The drinks menu was fairly standard and we enjoyed both coffee and hot chocolate, but each hot drink comes with a little homemade gluten free biscuit – inspired by petit beurre. This was a lovely touch, especially given the very reasonable prices.

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This was a big feature for us – as students, it can be really difficult to get good gluten free food for a low price unless you make it yourself. Biscuit’s prices were a lot more reasonable than the other 100% gluten free cafes we have visited in the past, especially the ones in London. We thought that £2.50 (compared to £4-5 in other cafes we’ve been to) for a slice of cake was very affordable.

This cafe has a lot of potential. An independent, allergy aware, specialist eatery like this on the south coast will draw a lot of holiday makers to it as well as locals and the French twist will keep Coeliac customers coming back for more.

 

4 and a half

4  & 1/2 out of 5 stars for a 100% gluten free cafe with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. With an increase in range on the hot menu and more French foods, this cafe could easily be a 5 star eatery. Make sure to visit if you are in the area!

Check out Biscuit’s Facebook page here: Biscuit, the gfc

Read their menu here.

 

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See the previous Monday’s recipe here.

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Coeliac Awareness Week | Interview with Mark Kennett – The Gluten Free Chef

 

Mark Kennett is the head chef at 100% gluten free restaurant Oscar and Bentley’s in Canterbury, Kent. As well as creating delicious food for the public in Oscar and Bentley’s kitchen, Mark runs a Facebook page and groupThe Gluten Free Chef Gastronomic Rebel. Mark has worked hard to write up his tried and tested gluten free recipes and put them on these pages so that all of the Coeliac community has access to them. His generous supply of scrumptious gluten free recipes has been an inspiration for many newly diagnosed Coeliacs, encouraging them to cook and bake for themselves.

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week in the UK and Coeliac UK have given this year the theme “The Gluten Freevolution” to campaign for better awareness of eating out. This seemed like the perfect time to interview a man who is helping Coeliacs to eat out and in their own kitchens.

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What made you want to work in a 100% gluten free restaurant?
I actually got head hunted for the job it found me! I started to question my own abilities as a chef; so how do you actually make bread & cakes with out gluten?! Is it actually possible?! A thirst for knowledge & perseverance with the attitude of “if I don’t know how to make it I will find a way & make it happen! ”

As a trained chef, do you find gluten free cooking more challenging than “normal” cooking?
Not really most food is naturally gluten free so it’s not a problem, but it was challenging in the beginning. I had to do so much research on various gluten free flours, grains & starches – I remember after accepting the job role, months before I even designed Oscar & Bentleys kitchen I was given £60 to play with some gluten free flours & experiment at home, I spent a whole day & night trying to work out how to make gluten free Yorkshire puddings look & taste like “normal”. These days there are so many very good pre-mixed gluten free flour blends in supermarkets that quite often I don’t even have to change/tweak any of my recipes apart swapping normal flour for a pre-blended gluten free flour.

What is your favourite gluten free recipe to make?

At the moment it’s Chocolate, Almond & Chia seed cake with salted Caramel Ganache. It is currently O&B ‘a best selling cake this year!

Why do you think some non-Coeliac chefs struggle to understand the need for allergy/Coeliac safe food? (e.g Prue Leith’s anti-free from rant – replied to here

A lot of chefs simply just don’t know the full extent of how damaging it can be for someone who needs to eat a gluten free diet. There are some that think it hinders their creativity in the kitchen and I’m afraid there are a few who are just plain ignorant.

I don’t think cooking free from food hinders too much, of course it is a lot more difficult to create something totally free from and you will never get the same results, but some things do taste better for e.g. Gluten free beer batter does actually taste better &  stays crisper for longer!

Cooking free from actually opens up all sorts of possibilities & problems, the number of restaurants now offering at least gluten-free if not a wider range of allergen-free meals has been growing rapidly over the year. Of course, the ‘draconian’ regulations that were imposed by the 2014 food information regulations (https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/food-allergen-labelling-technical-guidance.pdf ) were not remotely draconian. All they actually required food service outlets to do was to know what was in their food, to know what the 14 major allergens were, and to be able to tell their customers whether any of those 14 allergens were in the foods that they were proposing to serve them. There was, and is, no requirement to actually offer any allergen-free food at all.
I do believe good free from food prepared safely should be mandatory I hear all too often people getting turned away a certain restaurants that can’t cater to there needs or  become ill due to poor training.
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Which three of your gluten free recipes do you think anyone could make?

Bread, Fruit Scones, Raspberry Frangipane. [join his group to follow the links!]

The Gluten free bread recipe is tried & tested hundreds of times , not just by me & my kitchen brigade but by several of the free from community who actually gave me a few tips on improving my gluten free bread recipe – it’s more of a thick batter than a traditional bread dough so requires no kneading!

The raspberry frangipane is pretty straight forward once the pastry has been made & rested its contains basic ingredients most homes stock in the cupboard & fridge. As a lot of free from cooking can & does ask for a lot of strange flours that are some times hard to find apart from on the internet that you will only use once or twice before the use by date!

The scone recipe, is and has become the most asked for recipe on how to produce a good gluten free scone. My recipe is very unorthodox way of making scones as the traditional method of ‘the virgin roll’ doesn’t apply to my gluten free recipe it is more like a very thick cake batter, but it produces the lightest, airiest scones. Most people who don’t follow or need a gluten free diet try them can’t believe there gluten free at all! Again I get loads of praise from the free from community how easy & lovely they are to make.

Are there any “normal” foods that you’ve yet to create a gluten free recipe for that you’re itching to make?

Pecan Danish pastry!!!! That’s would make very happy.

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Do you think the gluten free fad diet has aided or hindered Coeliac awareness overall?

I think it’s aided it there used to be so many people that never heard of it the media gave it a bad name but more & more people are opening up to the fact it’s not a fad & have a better understanding of it.
Are there any changes you would like to see in chain restaurants? For example, should they offer wider free from range or focus on cross contamination?

Gluten Cross contamination is a big problem a lot of kitchens and bakeries that offer any sort of gluten free goods ( unless there dedicated 100% gluten free ) as they just don’t have the space to have a dedicated area for gluten-free food preparation but education is a step forward in the right direction.

I think low gluten menus are just plain stupid, misinforming & confusing for newly diagnosed Coeliacs. Education is key and the Food Standard Agency need to do more to work with local EHO (environmental health officers) as opposed to relying on charities like Coeliac UK & Allergy UK. Although charities do accreditation it’s hard for small businesses to fund them on a yearly basis.

What is your favourite gluten free flour to work with?

I’m a big fan of chickpea flour, it makes a great substitute for eggs in a egg Free Spanish omelette, I use it to make Pudla an Indian flatbread with ginger, turmeric & coriander paired with My Aubergine chutney & Bengali curry. As for a Brand? Doves farm gluten free self raising flour.

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What hopes do you have for Coeliac Awareness in eateries in the future?

Education in the work place, I feel there needs to be more done to educate & help stop cross contamination of gluten with gluten free food

How does it feel to be a celebrity amongst the Coeliac community?

Me a Celebrity? Wow that’s big boots to fill! I feel honoured it’s nice to feel appreciated as working in kitchens is a thankless task.

 

A big thank you to Mark for agreeing to be a part of this! Don’t forget to check out his Facebook page and Oscar and Bentley’s website!

Eating Out | La Polenteria is changing to LEGGERO!

La Polenteria opened in December 2013 as a 100% gluten free restaurant in Soho, London. For more information on the business as it was, see my review here. It’s been a popular spot for Coeliacs in the South, offering a polenta based gluten free menu in a completely cross contamination free kitchen.

Now, the owners have decided to take the business in a new direction! In a press release they said, “The founders and family at La Polenteria are deLIGHTed to announce that a new exciting era is about to start! From 6th March, La Polenteria, Italian Gluten-Free kitchen, is transforming into LEGGERO. LEGGERO is a new brand identity that reflects the evolution of the company along with its vision for the future and the values that shaped our concept: healthy, homemade, delicious Italian recipes with a cosmopolitan twist 100% gluten-free.”

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It seems that the change has come about as a result of the restaurant’s constant self-review and dialogue with their customers; they said, “we have been constantly focusing on our customers’ needs, collecting feedback, experimenting new recipes, improving our concept whilst offering a unique experience.”

Whilst customer feedback has prompted them to change a few aspects of their business, LEGGERO will be keeping the aspect of La Polenteria that drew everyone to it. They said, “as the gluten-free community is already aware, we are proud to be the only Italian entirely gluten-free restaurant in the UK accredited by Coeliac UK, providing an authentic Italian menu suitable for vegans, vegetarians, foodies and those with dietary allergies.”

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So what is actually changing? The name, the concept and most excitingly, the menu! You can view it here. There are lots of new dishes with some old favourites returning. Also, LEGGERO will be serving brunch on the weekends from 11am to 2pm.

Find them on social media:

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See last Monday’s recipe here.

Social Media:

Youtube: The Gluten Free Veggie – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-b7T1VFTZqYq15aPvdlNwA

Twitter: @theGFveggie

Tumblr: glutenfreeveggie.tumblr.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theGFveggie

E-mail your questions or suggestions to: glutenfreeveggieblog@gmail.com

Eating Out | List of the UK’s 100% Gluten Free Eateries

Please note: it is possible for me to update this list. If you know any of any 100% gluten free eateries that aren’t on the list please contact me with the details. I am aware of the existence of The Coeliac Plate who do a fantastic job documenting 100% gluten free eateries. I hope you can see that I have not tried to copy them – all the research done for this blog post was off my own back.

I’ve been working on compiling a list of the UK’s 100% gluten free eateries for over a year now, with help from the good folks on the Facebook group “Coeliacs in the UK”. It’s taken lots of research to get it to this point but I’m aware that this is far from comprehensive! I aim to keep updating this list as much as I can! Please note that this list only includes eateries with a permanent location (so companies that only appear at market stalls are not on here, for example.) Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause, but it was for brevity as much as for the clarity of information provided.

These are the places we can eat safely with no fear of cross contamination. For someone with Coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance, this is a BIG deal. Being able to feel normal, feel safe and feel catered for are rarities for Coeliacs eating out, but not in these fantastic and dedicated places.

So here they are, categorised geographically by country and then alphabetically by county. See the map below for where these places are in relation to each other. Apologies if my geography is a bit off – I’ve listed links to all of their websites so you can find their addresses anyway! Anywhere that I have reviewed has been linked to – I hope to review the majority of them eventually!

England

Berkshire

purple Nibsy’s Cafe (Reading) – See my review here.

Greater Manchester

pink Tea 42 MCR (Manchester)

Hampshire

light blue The Compass Inn (Winsor)

leafy-green Offbeet Food (Wickham)

Kent

dark blue Oscar and Bentley’s (Canterbury) – See my review here.

London

light green Beyond Bread (Fitzrovia) – See my review here.

orange Artisan Gluten Free Bakery (Islington) – See my review here.

red La Polenteria (Soho) – See my review here.

yellow Niche Food and Drink (Islington) – See my review here.

 

 

Norfolk

turq Cafe Jungle (Old Cotessey, nr. Norwich)

dark-green The Gluten Free Shop & Cafe (Norwich)

Somerset

light-purple Cafe Nouveau (Frome)

yellowy-brown Chirpy Cottage (Martock)

Yorkshire

brown 2 Oxford Place (Leeds)

dark-orange El Piano (York)

 

Scotland

Lothian

dark-purple Grams (Edinburgh)

really-dark-blue Moon and Hare (Edinburgh)

light-yellow Tupiniquim (Edinburgh)

dark-pink Sugar Daddy’s Bakery (Edinburgh)

 

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Eating Out | Review | La Polenteria, London

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

La Polenteria is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Soho, London. My boyfriend and I visited for dinner after a day out in London visiting the British Library and Oxford Street.

La Polenteria is the first 100% gluten free Italian restaurant in the UK and they use polenta as the basis for most of their dishes (if not all).

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this one so I’ll just say this – we were VERY impressed with this place. For a start, I tweeted them asking if they could cater to my dietary requirements (as you may know I’m GF, vegetarian and can’t eat alliums due to IBS, which makes life a little tricky at times). They responded almost straight away:

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I was tentatively optimistic with this response, and pleased at how quickly and pleasantly they had replied.

When we arrived I informed the waiter of my various dietary requirements and the manager came over to talk me through the menu. He went through every dish and told me which ones were suitable and where possible which ones he could change to make suitable for me. I was delighted with the choice on offer – with the three limiting dietary requirements that I have, I’m quite used to having only one choice even in a specialist gluten free restaurant!

I opted for a polenta, fried egg, scamorza cheese (a type of smoked cheese) and asparagus dish for a starter and sage and parmesan gnocchi for a main course.

My boyfriend chose a spicy poached egg and fried polenta dish for a starter and the pasta with cheese for a main course (he kindly chose a main that was also suitable for me so that I could try some!)

We were both blown away by our starters.

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I’ve had polenta before, but this was completely different. It had a beautiful creamy texture (the best way I can describe it as somewhere between mashed potato and risotto rice, but it’s too unique to directly compare to either of these) and the taste perfectly complemented the other elements of the dish. I’ve never had truffle oil OR asparagus before so this really was a new taste sensation for me – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

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My boyfriend was similarly impressed with his starter. His poached egg was served with a garlic and tomato sauce with courgettes and polenta croutons. The poached egg was delicate, not overdone, the croutons and sauce were deliciously flavoured and he even ate all of the courgettes (he HATES courgettes normally, despite me trying to encourage him to eat them 😉 ).

 

Both were beautifully presented, and although presentation has very little bearing on my opinion of a restaurant, it showed the extra care and love that they put into their food. Considering the quality of the starters they weren’t as expensive as you might think – £6.95 for mine, and £6.50 for my boyfriend’s. Considering the last time I was at high street Italian chain Pizza Express they charged me £5.50 for their starter of a ball of mozzarella with some pesto and tomatoes, La Polenteria’s prices are not as high as you might expect for a specialist independent London restaurant that caters for most dietary requirements. We were certainly impressed with this; being students we were a little worried that this one meal out might break the bank a bit, but it worked out at about £23 each (including VAT) for a three course meal (bear in mind we only had tap water).

After such delicious starters we were excited to see what the mains would be like.

La Polenteria make their own gluten free pasta, so as I expected, the pasta was not dry and chewy like gluten free pasta often can be. We ordered it with a creamy cheese sauce made of Gorgonzola. It was simply done, but the taste was incredible – perfect comfort food.

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As much as we both loved the dish, we agreed that a vegetarian version of their bolognese would have been perfect with this pasta – even just a simple tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella (of course I’m biased as I can’t eat onions or garlic! 😉 ). This is personal taste ONLY, and I will definitely be asking for this dish again when we return (oh yes, we WILL be returning!!).

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The gnocchi dish was a unique experience. I had gluten gnocchi as a child (before diagnosis) and was always sceptical about it – it was very heavy and tasteless. This polenta gnocchi was the complete opposite. Although filling, it didn’t have the horrible heavy texture that I remembered from “normal” gnocchi. The flavours were also perfect – truffle, cheese and sage. Again, the prices of these dishes were very reasonable when you consider the location and speciality of the restaurant – £12.00 for the pasta and £11.00 for the gnocchi. It may be slightly pricier than a typical meal out for us, but comparing again to Pizza Express, we normally pay a minimum of £10.00 each for a gluten free pizza (depending on the toppings).

I think, for me at least, dessert was the highlight of this meal, partly because it was the first time I’ve had cheesecake since being diagnosed! Oh how I’ve missed it! The waiter asked me if I’d like it with strawberry or chocolate and when I paused he added “or both?” to which I replied yes, definitely both!

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It was light, not sickly sweet, and the chocolate and strawberry worked perfectly together. I’ll be dreaming about this cheesecake until we’re able to make another trip to London!

I also think it’s worth commenting on the service. Lots of eateries have quite cold staff, who just see serving as a job (understandable as I know it’s not easy job, having worked in similar environments) but La Polenteria’s staff were happily an exception to this rule. As I said earlier the manager ran through the menu with us, but we were also served by a waiter and a waitress who supplied our drinks. Nothing was too much trouble, they were all very friendly and approachable and we were very happy with our service.

As for the feel of the restaurant itself, like most London eateries it was small, which is pretty much unavoidable for an independent place. Having said that we certainly weren’t cramped or being forced to overhear everyone else’s dinner conversation. As it was a Saturday night it was very busy, and every table was filled, yet still we had space to breath. The decor was subtle and the room felt very comfortable. Unlike Beyond Bread (review here) they were toilets, which we both found to be clean and even featured these brilliant little signs that gave us a chuckle:

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After such a glowing review I feel I should attempt to give some negatives, but I truly am struggling to think of any! So I thought it best to perhaps end on some suggestions instead. In terms of the range of food offered, we were very happy that I (with as many food issues as I have) was able to actually have a choice, but I also think that it would nice to see some other types of dishes on the menu. For example, I would be excited to see what a pizza with a polenta base would be like – delicious I imagine!

As for the pudding menu, there were only four choices – we both felt that a few more choices would have been a nice way to round off such a perfect meal – perhaps an ice cream or sorbet choice as a palette cleanser (although as I said I was ecstatic with my cheesecake).

You may have already guessed what star rating I will be giving La Polenteria.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for safe dining for Coeliacs, accommodating staff and great customer service, unique and delicious food and a reasonably priced menu. I will be recommending it to anyone who will listen!

Website: http://www.lapolenteria.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaPolenteriaLondon/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/La_Polenteria

 

 

Eating Out | Review | Beyond Bread, London

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

Beyond Bread is a 100% gluten free cafe in Fitzrovia, London and is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I first hear about it a year or so ago.

My boyfriend and I took a day trip to London to visit the British Library and do some sight seeing so we popped into Beyond Bread for lunch and La Polenteria for dinner (review here).

Facility-wise Beyond Bread is somewhat lacking – they are unfortunately quite small with limited indoor seating and a few seats outside (something which you can expect with high rent prices in London) meaning we had to stand and wait for a someone to leave before being able to sit down with our drinks. However, the main issue is that they have no customer toilets. This wasn’t an issue for us (despite travelling for around 45 mins to get there, we were able to wait until we went to the British Library to use their loos) but this could potentially be a big issue for someone with small children, an elderly person or someone with special needs. Although this is not the fault of Beyond Bread themselves, I felt this is something I needed to include so that people are aware of this before visiting.

The first thing to comment on about Beyond Bread is the range of food on offer. As well as being a cafe they are a bakery and so you can buy fresh bread (several types). There were “sub” sandwiches, toasties, quiches, soup and cakes on offer which gave us a comfortable range of choices, even for someone with as many dietary requirements as I have. Having said that, the toastie I had (Bad Hunter – mozzerella, pesto and roasted veg) was the only vegetarian sandwich on offer that day, so I would have liked to have seen a few more vegetarian/vegan options.

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“Bad Hunter” toastie – mozzerella, roasted peppers, roasted aubergine and homemade pesto.

The taste of the toastie pleasantly surprised me – aubergine is one of those very flavourless vegetables that people often hate, but the combination of veg and pesto made this toastie flavourful. Despite being toasted, it didn’t come to me as warm as I had expected, although the cafe was very busy that day so this may have been why.

I can’t make my mind up about the bread; unlike the usual supermarket brands of gluten free bread, there was no chance of this bread falling to pieces, meaning I could easily pick up my toastie. However, the texture was more like that of an English muffin and the bread itself had little flavour. For the price paid (£5.10!!), I was hoping for some bread with a little more wow-factor, though I was pleased to be able to eat it like a “normal” toastie.

My boyfriend opted for mushroom soup, which (although pricey at £4.75) impressed both of us. As my IBS makes me very sensitive to alliums (and this soup contained onions) I could only try a small amount. We both enjoyed the flavour and my boyfriend particularly loved the bread that came as a side. It was nice to see hot options available.

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I decided to try a chocolate and raspberry cake for afters, which certainly didn’t disappoint. I may be slightly biased on this (as chocolate and raspberry is my absolute favourite food combination) but it was delicious. The cake itself was thankfully very moist – gluten free cakes have a bad rap for being dry or crumbly, but this was neither. The cake was topped with a beautiful chocolate ganache and fresh berries. I would suspect this cake was made using mostly dark chocolate as the taste was light, rather than the cloying sickly chocolate taste that most supermarket or high street coffee chain chocolate cakes will have.

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My boyfriend had what turned about to be quite a disappointing chocolate muffin. Unlike my beautiful cake it was dry and rather tasteless, something which we were both very disappointed to have to agree on.

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I wouldn’t let this put you off having cake there – they offered a wide ranges of sweet options including a New York cheesecake which I want to try when we return to London!

To conclude, like all of the other 100% gluten free eateries I’ve reviewed, Beyond Bread shares that feeling of complete safety – no chance of being glutened! For that alone, they deserve brownie points! Although I can make a slight allowance for it being in London, the food was very expensive – fine for a treat, but for two students out for lunch it felt rather overpriced. I was pleased with the range on offer and the place has a nice atmosphere despite being small. This is somewhere I would definitely recommend if you live or work in London and can afford it.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars for safe gluten free eating, a good range of options but a few disappointing aspects and no toilets.

Website: http://www.beyondbread.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlutenFreeBeyondBreadBakery

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beyond_bread

 

 

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