Friday, September 30, 2011

The Compass Bar in Leith

The Compass Bar (44 Queen Charlotte Street, Leith EH6 7EX) has been a favourite since I found it over a year ago. It's more of a restaurant than a bar, and has a variety of nuveau-Scottish dishes and friendly service. I've never been disappointed. They don't have a separate gluten-free menu, but many of their dishes are gluten-free, or can be made gluten-free. This itself is not unusual. But I was pleasantly surprised last week when the server came out with some gluten-free bread. That was a nice touch.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Loopy Lornas Shut Down

Apparently Loopy Lornas as shut down their cafe on the corner of Maxwell Street. (Their Churchill Theatre venue is still open, however.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Guest reviews

The following guest post of reviews comes from Richard Gottfried:

Kings Manor Hotel – Best Western, Brunstane

We booked into the Kings Manor Hotel as they could offer Gluten Free food in their restaurant. We checked in quite late and while we were doing so the manager mentioned that the restaurant also had Gluten Free rolls that we could request with our meal. A nice touch. An even nicer touch was found when we got to our room, as a box of Gluten Free Chocolate Biscuits were waiting for me, along with a letter explaining that the restaurant could offer Gluten Free items, what they were, and also the items available at breakfast. It was very pleasing indeed to see the effort the Kings Manor went to make our stay there comfortable. We had two very good meals in Lauders Restaurant at the Kings Manor Hotel. The menu has a ‘c’ next to any dishes which are ‘Coeliac Friendly’. As I am always as careful as can be when taking the risk of dining out I asked a few questions, stated clearly I was a Coeliac and checked the items listed. All in all our stay at the Kings Manor Hotel was very pleasant. It’s only 7 minutes by train to Waverly Station in Edinburgh City Centre, plus it’s just a twenty minute or so walk to ‘Edinburgh’s seaside’ of Portobello & Joppa and a little further on to Musselburgh. The hotel also has a very good Leisure facility with a Pool, Sauna, Steam Room and Gym.

La Fontana Ristorante Italiano

While having a wander around Edinburgh we had a look at the menu of La Fontana Italian restaurant on Howard Street. The menu offered Gluten Free options.  

The Quay Bar & Restaurant - Musselburgh

While walking along the coast we popped into the Quay Bar and Restaurant in Musselburgh and noticed that they offered Gluten Free options (although the menu said ”Glutin”!?). The food was predominantly Indian, but there seemed to be some good options for Coeliacs dining there.

Café Andaluz

The Gluten Free options were extensive, the food was very tasty and there was very good service too.

We chose seven different Tapas dishes and all of them were excellent. I could have quite happily stayed there for longer and tried every Gluten Free item on the menu (there is plenty of choice).

For dessert I had the Crème brûlée which was the biggest I had ever soon, it’s a seriously big version!

The Mohitos were very good too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vaccine for Celiac disease?

Not Edinburgh-related, but interesting nonetheless: Celiac Disease Vaccine Shows Promising Results in Phase I Trial. A BBC article from last year on an earlier phase of the research can be found here.

(Thanks to the Gluten-free Goddess Blog for pointing this out, by the way.)

I'm looking for contributors

Headline says it all. I keep meaning to find the time to write down recipes (or link to others), add reviews, tips, etc. Or I pester friends for the same.

So in the meantime, if you have a place or product to review, a recipe to contribute, or other tips, do e-mail me at robrwo {at} gmail {dot} com.

Warburton's Gluten-Free Bread

I've recently noticed that Warburton's now has gluten-free breads and rolls, at least at a local Waitrose. I've not yet tried it, though. If you have, please submit a comment.

It seems to be about 50p more for a loaf than Genius bread. Also note that Genius breads are (still?) based in Edinburgh.

Back in March I wrote a piece looking at whether it is worth making your own bread.

Some More Gluten-Free-Friendly Eateries

A couple of my favourite restaurants in town are The Apartment Bistro (7-13 Barclay Place, Tollcross, EH10 4HW, allegedly with a web site) and it's sister-restaurant, The Outsider (15/16 George IV Bridge, Old Town, EH1 1EE). They often have several gluten-free options available on the menu. (I've been told that they do not put flour in their sauces.) The food is excellent at both places, and I often find myself trying to imitate some of their recipes.

Another place, just outside of town, is the restaurant at Dobbies Garden Centre in Lasswade (EH18 1AZ). The restaurant has several cafeteria counters with coffee/beer/wine, breakfast, sandwiches, hot meals, and deserts. They claim to offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches for an extra 50p, though when I was there, they were out of out of gluten-free bread, so I can't comment on the quality. They also had Honeybuns gluten-free cookies and cakes, though.

(It occurs to be that you can find Honeybuns cookies at the Cameo Picturehouse Bar, by the way.)

The Kwok Brasserie (44 Ratcliffe Terrace, Causewayside, EH9 1ST) has excellent Chinese food (including some lovely dishes not available in other places), good prices, and has many items on the menu that are or can be adapted to gluten-free. (UPDATE 9/9/11 - their lunch buffet is not gluten-free, but you can still order dishes from their main menu, and they are as always friendly and accomodating.)

A friend who visited Edinburgh recently stayed at the Kildonan Lodge Hotel, and says that one of the hotel's managers eats gluten-free, and so the chef is willing to prepare gluten-free meals. I have not yet had the chance to try it, though.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gluten-free Travelling

The Travel Gluten-Free web site has, of course, recommendations of gluten-free places to eat when travelling. It also includes some recommendations for Edinburgh (with some reviews from this blog, thanks!).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Gluten-Free-Friendly Restaurants in Edinburgh

It's tourist-season again, so it's a good time to post a list of a few more eateries.

In Morningside, I've recently tried the Waiting Room (7 Belhaven Terrace, Edinburgh EH10 5HZ). It's an American-style sports bar/restaurant (think TGI Fridays without the flair, or Applebees), but they have a large menu with many gluten-free options. (UPDATE 21/3/12 - They have since redesigned their menu, with nothing explicitly labelled as gluten-free.)

In the New Town, there's The Dogs on Hanover Street. It features "nouveau Scottish" cuisine, and they have an alternate gluten-free menu (as well as dairy-free and vegetarian menus) if you ask.

In Leith, there's La Favorita (325-331 Leith Walk, EH6 8SA), an Italian restaurant with modern cuisine. They serve gluten-free pizzas and pastas. They also deliver. Their sister restaurant Vittoria (113 Brunswick Street, Leith Walk, EH7 5HR) also has some gluten-free options.

Giuliano's (18-19 Union Place, Leith Street, EH1 3QN) has gluten-free pizzas, and is often open late.

Actually, many of the Italian restaurants in Edinburgh have gluten-free pastas or pizzas. I don't have a complete list.

Hateful Tortillas

Today I tried some gluten/dairy-free tortilla wraps from the Love More brand:

They can be considered thick flat breads or thin pancakes, but not tortillas.

That made them too brittle---even when heated. (If they required an alternative form of heating, such as steaming, it didn't say on the package.)

Which made them useless for wrapping anything. Even just bending them slightly caused them to break.

They tasted like rice pancakes, not tortillas. (The first ingredients are "water, tapioca starch, rice flour, wholegrain maize flour".) There's nothing wrong with the taste of rice, but rice flour is dense. And these things were very dense. One of these will fill you up.

I don't recommend using these for tortillas or wraps. Maybe as a base for mini-pizzas or quesadillas.

I also don't understand what marketing genius came up with the brand name, "free from foods". I like food, and don't want to be "free" from it.

On a positive note, in April I posted a review of good tortillas, and where they can be found in Edinburgh.

Appreciation: Aer Lingus

Almost every time that I've flown across the Atlantic, the airline has forgotten my request for gluten-free meals. (The one exception is a flight that had my gluten-free request for the outbound flight, but not the return flight.)

When I contact the airline's customer service department, I'm usually told that I should have called them a day before, despite having selected gluten-free when booking the tickets on the airline's web site. (That is, when they are polite: I was told by a rep of one airline that there were under "no obligation" to provide food on an intercontinental flight.)

This is made worse when airlines are too cheap to cater meals beyond two choices, with just enough for the passengers, and no more.

I'm used to this, and usually bring a bag of trail mix.

Back in April, I flew Aer Lingus between Dublin and Boston. Despite booking the flight on their website, and noting a gluten-free diet, this information was lost by the time I had the flight. HOWEVER, the cabin crew handled this by looking for something that I could eat: the flight wasn't under-catered, and had enough variety that the crew were able to put a meal together, even replacing a desert with a piece of fruit. They also encouraged me to contact customer service.

I did contact customer service, who not only said they would follow up, but they actually did follow up with a letter (shown right).

So, thanks to the cabin crew for caring about non-first class passengers, and thanks to the customer relations folk for listening and responding.

For comments, what are your experiences with airlines and dietary requests?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Serious Eats - Gluten-free Tuesdays

I'm a fan of the Serious Eats web site.  It's New York based, but they have a lot of recipes and articles on experimental cooking. They also have a Gluten-free Tuesday's column.

Where to find soft corn tortillas in Edinburgh

If you like making your own tacos/burritos/quesadillas/etc, it's hard to find soft corn (maize) tortillas. The soft "corn" tortillas in most supermarkets have wheat. (The supermarkets usually have hard corn taco shells, though.)

I recently found that Lupe Pinto's has soft corn tortillas, from the Cool Chile Company in London. They come frozen in packs of a dozen, and contain (according to the list of ingredients) "stoneground maize (trace of lime), water, CMC, guar gum". (CMC is Carboxymethylcellulose, used as a firming agent and preservative, as well as a gluten substitute.)

The tortillas are good. Importantly, they are not brittle, so don't need to be steamed before using. They heat up well in a frying pan or Foreman grill.

Lupe Pinto's also has hard shell corn tortillas, and a lot of other Mexican and North American foods and spices.

According to Cool Chili's web site, the tortillas are gluten-free.

UPDATE (20 July 2011): Real Foods tell me that they have three brands of gluten-free torilla chips. (I'm unsure if they just mean chips vs soft tortillas, and I've not yet checked it myself.)

It's a good bet that you'll find gluten-free tortillas in a other natural/whole-food stores in town.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is it Worth Baking Your Own Bread?

For a long time, the choice of gluten-free breads wasn't very good. The breads you could find were either very dear (well over £5 per loaf) or they had a shelf life more appropriate for storage in a nuclear bunker (and not something you'd want to actually eat).

So the better choice was to purchase some gluten-free flours (such as from Dove's Farm) and make it yourself. (Having a bread machine helps, of course.)

Then came Genius Bread, made in Edinburgh apparently. So now you can go to one of the major supermarkets and purchase a relatively fresh loaf of bread that wasn't as expensive. There's even brown gluten -free bread!  The brand seems to be a hit, as the shelves are quickly emptied of it.

(I've also noticed another brand in the supermarkets called Honest Bread. However, the loaves that I tried were brittle and crumbled whenever I cut them.)

But a 600g loaf of Genius Bread costs just under £3.00 (400g loaves are about 50p less) at the major supermarkets. Honest Bread seems to be about the same price. So is it cheaper to make your own bread?

Let's look at the ingredients required for making gluten free bread and do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. The ingredients below are from the bread machine instructions for Dove's Farm gluten-free brown bread flour to make a "medium" loaf, and the cost estimates are my own guesstimates based on prices from the web sites of the major supermarkets:
  • 450g (16oz) flour. From experience with the bread machine that I own, the recipe needs a little more flour, so I'll assume 500g. The Dove's Farm bread flours average to about £2/kg, or about £1.00. (On their website the costs are slightly dearer, and from the major chains, slightly less.)
  • 1tsp salt, assume 1p.
  • 2 tbsp sugar, about 5p.
  • 2 eggs, about 40p.
  • 6 tbsp oil. The price of cooking oil varies, depending whether you are using bog-standard vegetable oil (£1.50/litre) or a fine olive oil (over £5.50/litre). We'll assume something on the lower-end of in-between, about 20p for 110ml of oil.
  • 1 tsp vinegar, about 2p.
  • 410ml (14 fl oz) milk, at 89p/2 pints that's about 32p.
  • 2 tsp yeast, about 15p.
That totals to about £2.15 per loaf of bread. (For making the bread by hand, they recommend using slightly less flour and 1/2 tsp of salt, so it's only marginally cheaper.) Add the electricity/gas costs for cooking and cleaning, and it's still probably under £3.00.

You could cut the price of ingredients by using a cheaper eggs, oil and milk and make the loaf for under £2.00. You might also consider using water and powdered-milk (which the recipes included with some bread makers recommend).

Cheaper gluten-free flour is harder to come by. Xanthan gum (the thickener used in the bread flour in lieu of gluten) is expensive, at £2.50/100g from the major supermarkets (much more from some smaller specialty shops). 2 tsp (10g) of xanthan gum is about 20p, so you'd need to find a gluten-free flour for under £1.60/kg.

I suspect you can get cheaper gluten-free flours in bulk from some of the Asian and Middle-Eastern markets. (Note that while the flour may be made from a grain that doesn't contain gluten, it might have been processed using equipment that also processed wheat, so unless it explicitly states that it is gluten free, it may not be.)

(I sometimes use a few ounces of the pulp leftover from making carrot juice, which is significantly cheaper than gluten-free flours.)

If you prefer to use nicer ingredients, say free-range/organic eggs, good olive oil, organic milk, fair/trade demerera sugar, you're still only adding 50p to the cost of the bread, so it's still cheaper.

Of course, you know what ingredients are in the bread you make. And you can add other things to the bread like seeds, herbs, raisins, cheese, etc.

I don't consider time a factor. It takes about 10-15 minutes to set up the bread in a machine, and only a couple of minutes to clean the machine's pan and paddle by hand. However...

Home made bread doesn't last long at home, as we usually eat it within two or three days. The store bought brands, as good as they (sometimes) are, are still unexciting, so they'll last several days.

UPDATE (24 Mar 2011): a friend reminded me that I was excited when Genius bread first became available, so I should fess up to that. The fact that it's available from the shop is a good thing, even if it lacks the excitement of something that I've made myself.

UPDATE (28 July 2011): I've noticed that the prices of Genius and other GF breads is often on sale for £2.00 at various supermarkets. This makes it worthwhile. And apparently you can get some gluten-free products (including breads) available from the NHS by prescription now!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gluten-Free-Friendly Places in Morningside

Morningside Road has a few "gluten-free-friendly" places worth visiting.

Cafe Blush (219 Morningside Road EH10 4QT) is a new favourite. The shop serves omelettes, soups, sandwiches and pastries with gluten-free options for all of them. (The pastries apparently come from a place in Marchmont called Madame Bouvy's Tartes.) The shop is light, comfortable (though it can get crowded), and has free wifi. And the food is good, of course.

For Chinese take way, there's the wonderful New Xi'an (101 Comiston Road EH10 6AG). The food is excellent for a carry out, and they explicitly highlight what items on the menu are or can be made gluten-free.

The Zulu Lounge (366 Morningside Road EH10 4QN) is South African cafe, though a bit smaller---"cosy" is the word they use on their site. They'll make sandwiches using gluten-free bread and have gluten-free muffins. They also make red bush tea variants of espresso/americano/latte. Their biltong and avocado salad is also excellent.

I should also mention Loopy Lorna's Tea House (372 Morningside Road EH10 5HS and at the Churchill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road EH10 4DR). I've not yet tried it (the dominant colour pink scares me), but their web site claims to have gluten-free options.

I hope to have longer reviews of these places in the future.

UPDATE 9/9/11 - I have since tried the food at Loopy Lorna's. There are a variety of sandwiches, and they are excellent. Alas, their 372 Morningside Road (at Maxwell Street) location has recently shut down.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gluten-Free Ales

One of the harder parts of switching to a gluten-free diet for me was giving up beer. Not because of I had a great need for it, but because this is a country with so many great ales. (Ok, I'm using the word "beer" in a non-technical sense.) It breaks my heart to go into a pub with a large selection of real ales and order a cider. Most such pubs make up for their ale selection with a single, horrid excuse for cider that makes Irn Bru seem like a single malt in comparison.

It's tempting to continue with "So I've been happy to learn of..." but really no, I've not found any pubs that have gluten-free real ales on draught.  (There's a few that have a real cider on draught, though. But they are few indeed...)

But I've been happy to learn of and try  Against the Grain from Wold Top brewery, and the St Peters Brewery's G-Free Beer. Both are good, and I'll probably get them from an off-license or restaurant that has them—though to be honest, I'd rather have an ale from the cask. (If I'm going to get a bottled beverage, I may as well get wine.)

The label on Against the Grain notes that it's made from barley, and "Gluten content certified at less than 20ppm", so it may not be suitable for some people.

We've found these beers at Earthy Foods in Ratcliffe Terrace, Edinburgh. (I've also heard that Cornelius Beers and Wines on Easter Road sells gluten-free beers, by the way.)

I'd appreciate hearing about other off-licenses, restaurants or pubs in the Edinburgh-area that sell gluten-free ales.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brazilian Crepes at Lauriston Place

Finding a quick gluten free lunch can be hard. Most places have some form of sandwich. If you're lucky, you can get a salad that isn't very filling, or a stuffed potato that will put you to sleep for the rest of the afternoon.

If you're near Lauriston Place (where the path to the Meadows meets Forest Drive), there's the Tupiniquim Brazilian Kiosk (pictured to the right).

The kiosk serves savory and sweet Brazilian-style crepes (which are a crispier than French-style crepes), made from their own blend of gluten-free flours from a mix of Doves Farm flours with rice and maize flour.

You can get the crepes to take away, but there are tables to sit outside next to the kiosk (if the weather's good, or you're feeling brave), where you can get a salad with your crepes. They also have coffee. Student discounts are available.

The people who work at Tupiniquium are friendly, and it's enjoyable to watch them prepare the crepes fresh to order. (Probably because I'm a bit of a foodie...) I'm partial to savory foods in general, and am a fan of their "Release the chicken" crepe which has a spicy chicken with cheese, sweetcorn and palm hearts.

You can find Tupiniquim where Forest Road and Teviot Place meet Lauriston Place, across the street from the RBS.

("Tupiniquim" is a Brazilian-Portugese word for Brazilian, according to Wikipedia, by the way.)

UPDATE (28 Feb 2011): after being closed for a fortnight, the kiosks at Lauriston Place are now open again!

UPDATE (24 Mar 2011): a web site is coming soon,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gluten-free Haggis

What better way to start off a blog about gluten-free eating in Edinburgh, then a post about gluten-free haggis for Burns Nicht?

Haggis is made from oats, which are normally gluten-free, except when their not, which is usually, as oats are often grown near wheat, rye or barley, and processed with the same machinery.

You could make it yourself using gluten-free oats, or something else, but that requires some serious commitment.

Fortunately, there's Findlay's in Portobello, who have a nice selection of gluten-free sausages and puddings (there's a "Gluten Free Products" link on their web site), including haggis.  A picture of one (before cooking) is in the photo to the right. It's made using gluten-free oats, rather than an alternative grain, so it tastes like haggis.

For Burns Nicht we had the "traditional" haggis, neeps and tatties, and we were very happy with the result. It tasted great. A proud photo is below, as it's the first time that I've served it layered.

A recipe for haggis, neeps and tatties can be found here. Normally, I prefer my haggis a bit on the crispy side, so I put it under the grill for a few minutes after boiling. And I like to mix a bit of carrot with the neeps.