Snack on the Run…Eat Natural

It’s fair to say that not eating gluten means that the treats available are drastically reduced. Most regular shops simply don’t stock gluten free alternatives. I can’t pop to the newsagents or small Tesco near my office and pick up just anything. But this is probably not such a bad thing as I’m trying to watch my weight at the moment!

However there are times when I do need to have something small to keep me going. Long walks are just such an occaision. A 15 mile walk isn’t achievable without an energy boost halfway. As I can’t rely on finding something suitable to eat along the way, I need to pack a snack in advance.

So what’s my weapon of choice?
Eat Natural bars. The Eat Natural website lists all their bars as gluten free and some are 100% organic too. My favourite is the Cranberry and Macademia with Dark Chocolate.

This little bar of yummy gorgeousness is about as naughty as it gets without stepping into the realms of gluten free alternatives. In a few weeks when I climb Snowdon, I can guarantee one of these bars will be coming up the mountain with me! Naughty, but oh so nice.

Gluten Free Mrs D

Sushi Lunch…Itsu

I’m a big fan of all things Japanese, starting with sushi. I love eating fish and would happily give up meat, but never fish. My sushi journey began more than 10 years ago with a sushi selection pack from M&S and has progressed via Japan, to Russia where Muscovites are crazy for sushi, to Nobu where my husband took me for a birthday treat this year.

I was lucky enough to go to Japan on holiday a couple of years ago and spent the whole trip in search of the perfect sushi. For the record, the prize went to a tiny place seating 6 at the Tsukiji Fish Market where the chef dazzled us with his knife skills as we sat at the counter patiently anticipating the next amazing item he created for us. Eating the freshest ever sushi with jetlag at 5 am in the Tokyo fish market is one of the best experiences of my life.

My sushi taste buds had already developed since the early first foray with M&S sushi but when I travelled to Japan I got to taste how it really should be. Sorry M&S but you’re not it!

I frequently have sushi for lunch and have tried many different places. One of my favourites is Itsu. The sushi restaurant and take away chain achieved notoriety a couple of years ago for being the scene of the alleged Litvinenko poisoning. It managed to shrug this off (partly assisted by the James Bond themed window coverings it erected inside the Piccadilly store while the Police conducted their investgations) and Itsu now has numerous outlets throughout the City and West End.

I’ve tried most of their sushi selections over the last few years but have settled on the ‘Health and Happiness’:

Lid off…

I can’t have the soya sauce served with this selection so I keep a bottle of Tamari sauce to have with it instead.

So how does it taste? Well, the rice has a good consistency, sticky but neither gooey wet nor dry. The fish is flavorsome and fresh. I particularly like the small carrot and seaweed salad which comes with the H&H selection, it’s a good compliment. Is there anything I don’t like? Yes, a smal complaint. The little black sesame seeds three of the rolls come with. They drop off in the small dish for the Tamari/wasabi mix and get on everything else!

I rate the sushi on offer from Itsu highly and if you’re looking for a quick and easy gluten free lunch in central London, (so long as you avoid the soya sauce) I recommend you give Itsu a try.

Gluten Free Mrs D

GF Mrs D…Walks the Thames Path

The Thames Towpath is a 184 mile pathway stretching along the banks of the river Thames from the source in deepest Gloucestershire to its outlet into the sea at the Thames estuary. Mr D and I have been walking sections of it for longer than I care to remember. Initially we started as practice for a holiday in Chile and Argentina, where we went trekking through the Patagonian wilderness. Later we used the long walks along the Thames as training for the ‘3 Peaks’ challenge I undertook as part of a charity initiative organised by work where my team of 9 raised over £10,000 for Cancer Research. This challenge involved climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales ( Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) all within 24 hours.

Although the flat terrain of the Thames towpath didn’t help me with the hillwalking required for 3 Peaks, the 15-20 mile weekly hikes certainly helped me develop stamina. 3 Peaks was one of the toughest physical challenges I’ve ever undertaken and, despite being a very keen hiker up to that point, I’ve had no motivation to put my walking boots on in the 2 years since.

So after months of a cold and completely miserable winter, the recent change in temperature and flower explosion finally motivated me to drag those boots out of the cupboard. And boy am I glad I did!

We set off early on Saturday morning from SW London. Destination: Oxford. Along the nearly 2 hour journey up there I watched the names of places we’d walked through (Kew, Windsor, Sonning, Marlow) flash up on road signs and realised just how far we’d come.

We parked the car at Oxford’s railway station and caught the train to Culham for the start of our walk. It was a truly glorious day, and despite my earlier protests, I was glad I’d got out of bed at 6am to make it.

The walk took us through lush green meadows. The only real town on the route was Abingdon:

Most of the route is flat meadows:

There were quite a few boats out along the way, all out enjoying the gorgeous weather. We stopped to watch this barge going through the lock, the lock keeper is visible on the towpath:

For the entire 15 mile journey I had been looking forward to those ‘dreaming spires if Oxford’ looming up over the trees as we got closer and closer to the city centre. Sadly that didn’t happen! When we arrived back at Oxford train station to meet the car, we did see one sight which is unmistakeably ‘Oxford’…Racks of bikes as far as the eye can see!

Gluten Free Mrs D

Gluten Free Mrs D goes to…Croyde, North Devon

We spent the long Easter weekend in the beautiful Devon surfing village of Croyde. We’ve been to Croyde many times before to ‘hang 10’ (or just hang out) and on this trip we were joined by my husband’s cousin and his wife. We hadn’t seen them since our wedding last August and the weekend was a huge ‘thank you’ to Mark for being such a superstar DJ for us. He truly rocked the Tuscan hills that weekend!

We rented the fabulously quaint Victoria Cottage.

The cottage (Grade II listed) had 2 bedrooms and 2 lovely bathrooms. It was kitted out to a very high standard and really exceeded my expectations for holiday cottage rental. Outside was a gorgeous courtyard garden which came complete with all the essentials – a line for drying wetsuits and the all important BBQ!

The cottage was located in the centre of Croyde village but along a small lane so no passing traffic. At the end of the lane was a lovely thatched cottage (Victoria Cottage is just on the left of this photo):

Renting a cottage (rather than staying in a hotel or B&B) really worked on this trip, and not just because of our surf gear! Having our own kitchen meant I could really be in control of my food, especially breakfast. I find in the UK this is the hardest meal to find options from. The breakfast options offered by most hotels usually extend to cereals, toast and a full English fry up, which obviously doesn’t leave many gluten free options to choose from. At least abroad I can have an omelette or some yummy fruit and yoghurt.

In the evenings we identified 4 options in the village. 2 of the 3 village pubs were out since their menu did not extend beyond pizza / baguettes / (wheat) nachos.

Instead we chose to eat at the Blue Groove where they played some very cool tunes and I enjoyed a great meal but one too manu Wokka Saki cocktails since I’m struggling to remember what I ate. Oops!

The following night we ate at The Manor where I enjoyed some grilled Cornish sardines (lush) and a lovely lamb shank. Like at the Blue Groove, the waitress at The Manor was exceptionally helpful in making sure I avoided gluten. I always find it encouraging when the wait staff say they’ll “check with the chef”, and not “check with the kitchen”. Several of the meal’s components were removed and exchanged and I’m very grateful for their attentive service.

Next time I’m in Croyde, I will be going back to both The Manor and the Blue Groove.

Gluten Free Mrs D