Sunday, December 28, 2014

Keeping your toast gluten free

Bread and pasta are the two wheat laden staples that for many new coeliacs represent a challenge. There are good gluten free pastas available (review to come!), whereas bread somehow is never quite the same.  However, there are some good brands out there which, with careful use, can be pretty much as good as your previous daily bread.  The Newburn Bakehouse brand by Warburtons includes some good brown seeded rolls, which I happily substitute for a "normal" brand.  And the Genius brand, developed by a very enterprising mother of a coeliac boy (based in Edinburgh!), is superb.

I have been buying the Genius three seed and brown breads.  I am not a big bread eater anyway, so I keep them in the freezer and take out a slice when needed, defrost microwave for 20 seconds and then put in the toaster.

Sharing a toaster with wheat eaters is a potential for contamination.  My second wheat ingesting mistake was putting some Genius in the toaster without protecting it.  I then felt ropey for the rest of the day - so contamination is a real threat!

Many nutritionists and websites recommend using Toastabags (available from Lakeland!) which are designed for cheese toasties.  However, I found the bags too big to fit in the toaster and they developed heat pockets which burnt both the toast and my fingers.  I have therefore developed an ingenious alternative: take the Toastabag and cut off the top bit with the handles.  The cut off the bottom and slit open one side, leaving you with a long, folded piece of material, which slots into the toaster easily.  The bread then sits within this protective wrap, but because it is not entirely closed you do not get the nasty heat pockets.  Each Toastabag packet contains two bags so you can cut them both up and then you have two, for when you want to toast a muffin or roll, or just want two bits of toast.

Here is the newly created "ToastaWrap" in use:

As with all gluten free eating, you are advised to wipe away loose wheat crumbs before using a shared toaster.  If you are flush and have plenty of space, you could buy your own toaster, but I believe with care and your own ToastaWrap you will have no problems.   It also helps to educate the rest of your family in being careful and wiping down worksurfaces after making wheat toast!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

G&V Hotel, Royal Mile

The G&V hotel on the corner of the Royal Mile and George IV Bridge in Edinburgh is a fashionista's dream.  Having rebranded from the Missoni earlier this year, the Hotel will be having a major facelift in early 2015, but the high standards of service and food will remain.  This is five star excellence at its best.

As it is Christmas, let's start with the booze: we had lunch in the restaurant after a glass of the delightful on-tap Prosecco in the modern bar.  With lunch we had a lovely glass of Soave and the ultimate in care and service.

As a coeliac, there is a massive difference between dining in an ok restaurant (Namaste Katmandu on Forrest Road did not merit a review due to a second rate experience) and dining five star.  Our waitress was immediately attentive and highlighted issues to me before I had even noticed them.  When I picked my main course, she said she would check what was in it and ensure it was ok, rather than make me choose an alternative.

The loveliest thing was the delicious brown seedy roll of gluten free bread brought for me, plus my own bowl of olive oil for dipping.  This was followed by a selection of starters which we shared (again I was told what to avoid).  The goats cheese and beetroot salad was the best I have ever eaten – light and fluffy with the goats cheese made into a soft soufflé.

As a  main course I had a piece of seriously tender lamb, with fennel and olives, all sitting in a little pool of really tasty sauce and with some potato wedges on the side.  Two of my fellow diners enjoyed a pasta dish and the restaurant assured me I could too as they make fresh pasta daily, including a gluten free option.  However, I can never resist lamb, so did not try it.  Though I am sure it is excellent, as is everything at the G&V.

We had no room for puddings, instead enjoying a pot of peppermint tea with a (non GF) piece of Christmassy gingerbread on the side (which I conveniently passed in a teaspoon to my friend).

Highly recommended if you can afford it – I know not everyone has the luxury of dining like this, though it does work well for a coeliac!  If you can’t, find someone who will take you for a special occasion. 


Information: 5
Serving Staff: 5
Choices: 4 (but only because there were too many mushrooms on the menu!)
Quality: 5

Overall Experience: 5

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mince Pies!

Using the pastry recipe I posted earlier in December, I have just created some lovely mince pies.  I used Infinity Foods organic and gluten free mincemeat, adding a little extra brandy for effect.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gluten Free Sparkly Shortbread Stars

Just because you are coeliac does not mean you can't enjoy Christmas baking.  With a bit of effort or a handy Marks & Spencer there is no reason to miss out.  These sparkly stars are delicious and every bit as good (if not a bit more crumbly and soft!) than the originals.  They would make a nice Christmas present for a gluten intolerant friend ...

I cooked shortbread often before the diagnosis and want to use the same recipe.  The good thing about the Doves Farm flours is that where you have a favourite recipe, with a test run or two, you can substitute.  This is better than having to rely on a gluten free cookbook which can be much more limited.  I have always been a believer in annotations in a cookery book, so scribble down the side as you learn.

100g icing sugar
150g cornflour
150g gluten free plain flour
200g softened unsalted butter
one quarter tsp xanthum gum
sugar and hologram sparkles to dust (you can buy these in cookshops or online)
Lightly greased baking trays

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or mixer, pulse to remove the lumps.  Add the very soft butter and pulse/mix well until it all joins together into one mass.

Remove from bowl and knead briefly on a floured surface.  Press or roll out onto the surface and cut out stars, placing onto the baking trays.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 17 minutes until just turning from pale to very lightly brown (Remember the colour shortbread is in the shops!)

While still hot shake sugar and hologram sparkle over the shortbread.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Urban Angel

Urban Angel
121 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DJ
0131 225 6215

This fantastic, cafe/restaurant at the corner of Hanover Street and Queen Street is notoriously brilliant.  It is a favourite coffee/lunch stop for me and I have always been impressed by the quality of food and standard of service.

We booked Urban Angel for a private dinner for 25 people.  The restaurant stays open late for bookings such as these and does a great job in setting up the back room and in providing good service.  The menu was a Christmas one, but no slices of turkey here!  Choices included smoked salmon, pear and blue cheese salad, a delicious venison casserole and a whole squash with kale, olices, pistachios and rice.

I am finding the eating out experience to be good for coeliacs where a restaurant embraces the idea.  Others I have found slightly slapdash and have already, at only 3 weeks into gluten free eating, had one mishap where a curry restaurant waiter waved in the general direction of the table and said "it's all fine", but it wasn't.  However, Urban Angel could not be more different.  We had pre-selected our menu and on arrival, they immediately checked with me what I would be eating and I noticed subtle differences in my meal to others where they were being cautious.

I highly recommend Urban Angel for lunch or dinner - you will not regret it!

Information: 4
Serving Staff: 5
Choices: 4
Quality: 5
Overall Experience: 5

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making Gluten Free Pastry

A large number of people buy ready-made pastry and shy away from making their own.  However, the bought stuff, apart from all butter puff pastry, is never as good as homemade.  In the gluten free world it is a good idea to learn to make your own so you know you are eating the best quality pastry.

When making normal pastry, you have to be very light handed and keep the utensils cool so that the gluten in the flour does not make the pastry tough.  So, in theory, we GF pastry makers should have an easier time …. 

There is plenty of advice out there about making gluten free pastry, so it is a good idea to read up about it before you set off.  Though if you are used to making pastry and are just switching technique, it will be easier as you will know what it is meant to look and feel like as you go.  I found the pastry to be more pliable than wheat pastry and to be very light and soft.  I believe using xanthum gum is necessary to hold it all together – without it I think it would be too crumbly and a bit dangerous.

When trying something new like this, I recommend you do a trial run and make something simple first.  Then, once you know how it behaves, you can make something more ambitious.  For me, this was a first trial run.  The recipe is from Phil Vickery, who has published a few gluten free cookbooks, so I have written it out below + submitted my photographs.

225g GF plain flour (I used Dove’s Farm)
pinch of GF baking powder
half a tsp xanthum gum
2 pinches salt
110g good quality unsalted butter
1 medium egg, beaten
cold water

Put flour, salt and butter in a bowl and rub until it resembles breadcrumbs

Add the egg and a little water then gather it all together into a soft ball.  Add more water if it is not collecting well, but too much and it will be sticky, so go slowly

Roll and gently massage the pastry, then roll out on a floured surface in the usual way.  (Some cooks recommend you roll between pieces of greaseproof paper, but I found this pastry behaved really well on my granite worksurface and that was not necessary).

I made simple jam tarts and some cheesy crackers, which were delicious with a bit of butter on them.  More ambitious recipes to follow …. (along with a fabulous GF cheesecake!)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sharing a post with you

This isn't my post, it is from Yelp, but I am sharing it as it is another really useful list of gluten free providers amongst Edinburgh's restaurants and coffee shops.

Plenty to try out here!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Best Gluten Free Pizzas in Edinburgh

Just because you are diagnosed with any intolerance or allergy does not mean you have to resort to eating rubbish.  It also does not mean you need only buy food from the Free From shelves or eat ready made meals.  Similarly it also does not mean you have to eat in whole food restaurants and live on mushrooms.  Life goes on and a good life always includes pizza.  Whether it is a Sunday night family meal out or a quick hit pizza delivery, there are plenty of options in Edinburgh to eat pizza and eat it well. 

We have a long history of Scots Italians and they are some of the most dynamic and creative people, particularly when it comes to food!  So do not eat rubbish, eat wonderful Italian pizzas!

Here is a scoop up of some of the best gluten free pizza in Edinburgh:

La Favorita
350 Morningside Road – 0131 447 4000
325-331 Leith Walk – 0131 555 5564

La Favorita is part of the Vittoria family: a range of restaurants around the city including family-focused classics and the highly recommended Divino Enoteca (wait for a review).  La Favorita is the pizzeria element and there is one restaurant on Leith Walk and a delivery option in Morningside.  In my view these are the best delivered gluten free pizzas in town.  They also do GF pasta and some desserts.

28-30 Grassmarket
0131 225 6464

Mamma’s is a bit of an Edinburgh institution: well packed tables, well priced and speedy service.  Italians seem to do gluten free well and Mamma’s is no exception.  This is a nice restaurant with Italian style take-it-or-leave-it service, but usually with a smile.  A good spot for a relaxed meal when in town.

Pizza Express
restaurants all over town, see website for details

Pizza Express needs little or no introduction: a good, well thought out chain offering quality food, friendly and efficient service and an ever-changing vibrant menu.  Look on the website and you will see that Pizza Express has a full (and extensive!) GF menu.  The pizza is good and is as good as the non GF one.  This is a family favourite for us and I remain delighted by the options on offer.  No complaints!  (look out for a review soon)

Victor and Carina Contini Restorante
103 George Street – 0131 225 1550

Formerly known as Centotre, this Edinburgh lovely is a superb restaurant offering the best in Italian cooking and style.  Rebranded to fit within the expanding Contini empire, it is no less impressive and continues to charm with the choices and quality of food offered.  GF options are really clearly marked and the pizza is, naturally, extremely good.  I choose Contini again and again, whether for a meeting over coffee, a Christmas dinner or a business lunch.

Contini also runs the lovely Scottish Café within the National Galleries and the new Cannonball Café on Castlehill – each of these also has gluten free options, though not necessarily pizza!  They are all worth visiting.

18-19 Union Place – 0131 556 6590
23 Union Place – 0131 556 7771
1 Commercial Street, Leith – 0131 554 5272

Family friendly, bustling and with a charming 70s kind of vibe, Giuliano’s is another Edinburgh institution offering classic Italian cooking.  When my children were small, this place was perfect: I am not sure if they still do this, but they used to let little people go into the kitchen and create their own pizza – a real hit with a 5 year old.  A Sunday lunch at Giuliano’s was always on the cards when family came to stay or when someone had a birthday.  Loud and crass music, waiters in waistcoats and gluten free options.  A good place if you have a child coeliac!

A few other options: Gusto, George Street; Zizzi’s, Ocean Terminal and around town. Plus, I am told that both Pizza Hut and Dominos offer gluten free options, but who would want to eat those when these delights are on offer?!