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?!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Baking a gluten free victoria sponge

As a keen baker I believe the victoria sponge is core to cake skills.  Baking a victoria sponge with a new flour is a good way of discovering how the flour behaves - like a baking benchmark.  Once mastered and understood, this allows you to branch out into the more ambitious bakes.

The Dove Farm flour is good and is ready mixed.  The recipe on the back of the self raising flour was pretty much for a classic sponge, though they use milk as the liquid. The only difference I made was that instead of the recommended tablespoons of milk, I used warm water.  I have always used a splash of warm water in my sponge cakes – my mother did it, so I do too.  I wash around the empty egg bowl and throw it in at the end. It produces a lighter cake with a more open texture than with using milk.

So, I made a two egg sponge.  It took 25 minutes to cook as it was very liquid, which is probably about 5 minutes longer than usual.  The result was an extremely tasty and good cake that I would be happy to serve up for tea.  It was not as light as my usual wheat cakes, so I  might be inclined to follow the Mary Berry approach and beat the eggs in the mixture before adding the flour.  The recipe DID recommend this, but I have never done it in my life – I gently tip egg and flour simultaneously which usually works beautifully.  But in recognition that this might need a little more lift, I shall try it next time. I might also try a dash of milk which might make the cake slightly more cohesive – it is definitely more crumbly than the wheat laden classic.

I added vanilla in very small quantities to the cake as I was not sure of the flavour of the flour, but might try without another time as I think the flavour comes from the lovely butter.

So here is my first cake and I was happy with it.  A slight tweak next time and life moves on with cake in it!

It is a simple 2 egg sponge:

2 eggs
4 oz sugar
4 oz butter (the best unsalted possible - I use Sainsbury's So Organic or Yeo Valley)
4 oz SR flour (I used Doves Farm SR flour and I recommend it)
approx. 2 tbspn warm water

Beat the sugar and butter until it is really fluffy and goes pale in colour (I have a Kenwood Chef, but you can do this by hand - warm the bowl, keep going til your arm is sore!)
Beat the eggs and then gently add a little egg and a little flour alternately, mixing gently
wash round the egg bowl with the warm water and add to the mixture.
Spoon into a buttered and floured cake tin and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the top is springy.  A usual sponge of this size would take about 20-22 minutes, but it seems to take a little longer with the gluten free flour, possibly because of the extra moisture.

Leave in tin to cool and then fill with delicious strawberry jam and shake sugar over the top

Like this:

I gave this cake to my non-coeliac family without telling them it was GF and they did not notice - that is a good sign!

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Starts

Welcome to the new authorship of Gluten-Free in Edinburgh.  It was because I had found the blog and read its content and been impressed by it that I have taken on the authorship rather than create a new site from scratch.  So with thanks to Rob for his efforts, I will now begin a new phase in this blog’s life. I hope to make him proud of the child I am now adopting…

As a newly diagnosed Coeliac I am very much learning as I go and beginning to get to grips with what many of you already find straightforward.  As a keen baker I am beginning almost at the bottom of the class and learning again, as so many rules for gluten free baking are different.  While I do not eat a lot of cake and bread generally, I do have a family and I do like to have these things in my life and appreciate the comfort of a good bake.  My main aim is to learn the creation of good pastry and my medium term ambition is to produce a superb gluten free mille feuille.  But I have started humbly, with a victoria sponge, so watch this space for how it went!

Like Rob did, I live and work in Edinburgh.  I use quite a few city centre coffee shops for meetings (though not always eating cake!), and I work professionally with quite a few tourism businesses, so hope to bring some interest in these to the blog, plus I enjoy eating out with my family.  I will also include my growing GF baking knowledge and my love of mountain walking (while eating GF sandwiches and being symptom free, which will be the big revelation - can't wait!) and the great outdoors generally.

My first step into the GF retail experience has been to try the Pret beneath my office, which for the last few years has been the equivalent of my office canteen.  I regularly buy the salads and soups as I have avoided sandwiches for about 20 years – after discovering they were the cause of the 3 pm slump.  So I know the shop well, but being a GF purchasing virgin, I am seeing it in a new light.  Pret has always been seemingly impressive in its provision of nutritional information and for the wide variety and quality of its food.  However, looking at it through my new GF-tinted glasses, I am more than slightly uneasy about the lack of information.  The website has a PDF printout of what is ok for a wide range of allergies and diets, but the lists are not up to date and many items which change daily, such as many of the soups in particular, are not referenced.  Within the shop the signage is poor, with even the Gluten Free Harissa Chicken Wrap only obviously GF because the clue is in the name.  According to the website PDF the Chef’s Chicken Salad (which is a favourite of mine) is GF, but within the shop there is no indication.  So I begin to think that Pret assumes we will all google its food before a purchase, which is not very practical or helpful.    

In time I will know what is ok and what isn’t, but not everyone visits Pret as regularly as I do and has the chance to study its food. For most people it should represent a quick and easy purchase.  Look at the terrific London chain, Leon, if you want to see how it should be done.

My teenage son is dreading the strident consumer I am about to become, but I think he will have to just put up with it if this is what lunchtime buying is going to be like …..

More soon and thanks for reading!

The Oystercatcher