Gluten (and Nut) Free Paris: Chambelland Bakery

I very rarely write on this blog about my nut allergy (I’m allergic to almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts). Although the consequences of me eating nuts are more immediately severe than eating gluten, I generally find it easier to avoid nuts than gluten. I think it’s lucky I’m not particularly fussed about eating cake, despite what you will see in the blog posts about Paris!

The trouble is that of all the nuts a Coeliac could be allergic to, almonds are probably the worst. The ubiquitous gluten free brownie usually contains them. Many cake companies use ground almonds to enhance the texture of gluten free cakes, biscuits and pastries. So on the odd occasion I do fancy a sweet treat AND I manage to find a gluten free option, my excitement is almost always quashed with the response that the gluten free cake contains almonds.

Knowing this, and that I’d have limited time in Paris to visit patisseries, I emailed a couple of the gluten free bakeries in Paris to check whether they also had nut free options.

Chambelland

Chambelland kindly provided the following list of options which are both gluten and nut free. Unfortunately anything with a pastry type case/base was not an option for me as they contained nuts but there were plenty of fantastic alternatives:

– Le browkie (a cross between a cookie and a brownie)

– Les chouquettes (choux pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar)

– Les cakes au citron et au chocolat (lemon and chocolate cakes)

– Le rocher à la noix de coco (a sort of coconut macaroon)

– Le coco chambel (bar made with sesame, chocolate chips and honey)

– Le moelleux au chocolat (basically a cold version of a melting middle chocolate pudding)

After a long day in the office it was touch and go if I’d get there. I’m so glad I did. The bakery is very elegant. Even though I arrived towards their closing time, there was a long line of Parisiennes picking up their gluten free sweet and savoury treats.

Chambelland is a 100% gluten free bakery. They use rice and buckwheat flour in their products which are naturally gluten free.

The breads here are outstanding (NB one bread on sale contained hazelnuts). I’d like to come back and pick up some slabs of their bread to take for le picnique with some fabulously stinky Epoisses and oozy, gooey Camembert in one of Paris’ parks.

Of the sweet treats I bought, this moelleux au chocolat was outstanding.

Chocolate heaven

Location: 14 Rue Ternaux, 75011 Paris

Website: www.chambelland.com

Would I go back? Bien sur! I’m dreaming about a cheese feast in Paris with a slab of the Chambelland bread.

For more posts on Paris, please click here.

NB Whilst Chambelland is 100% gluten free, they do have nuts on the premises and in some of their products. If you have a serious nut allergy, please do your own due dilligence before visiting. 

Gluten Free Meals on British Airways / American Airlines

Following on from my post on flying with multiple dietary restrictions, here’s what I ate on a recent flight to New York (on a British Airways flight) and what I was provided on the flight back (on an American Airlines code share flight with BA). I’ve indicated whether these gluten free (GFML) meals would also be suitable for dairy, vegetarian and nut free diets:

Outward day flight with British Airways
Meal #1 – Hot lunch: Green bean salad, chicken paella, fruit salad and round brick of gluten free bread

Dairy free: Yes
Vegetarian: Only the green bean salad and fruit salad
Nut free: Yes, but the chicken paella actually had a “may contain nuts” warning. I appear to be OK with “may contain” nuts warnings but I was glad to see this allergy labelling on the meal.

Meal #2 – Sandwich: Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich with grapes and raisins

Dairy free: Only grapes and raisins
Vegetarian: Only grapes and raisins
Nut free: Yes
Notes: This sandwich had quite a generous filling and it was just like a homemade packed lunch sandwich in the way it was somehat haphazardly assembled. Perhaps this is a good thing, it certainly wasn’t your average supermarket bought sarnie. Also, thought this was a bit grape heavy! Personally I prefer my grapes in a glass of vino…

Return day flight with American Airlines (code share with BA)
Meal #1 – Breakfast: Omelette containing mushrooms and unidentified cheese with the consistency of milk (not nice) served with cubes of potatoes, carrots and tomatoes with yoghurt, fruit salad and lemon shortbread

Dairy free: Only fruit salad and shortbread were dairy free
Vegetarian: Potentially, but unidentified cheese/milk may not have been
Nut free: Yes
Notes – Shortbread contained following warning.

Meal #2 – Evening Meal: Grilled chicken with rice (contained fresh coriander), grilled courgette and pickled onion, slice of lime. Dessert of fresh melon slices.

Dairy free: Yes
Vegetarian: No, only melon
Nut free: Yes
Notes – This was a bit dry but it was actually pleasantly fresh tasting. Mr D was served a lot of processed, brown coloured food for his meal, including a muffin which contained what we think was cheese. We concluded if you can’t decide what type of cheese it is (even a vague idea), it should always be avoided! On this occasion, it was far better to have the gluten free meal.

In conclusion based on these flights, those with Coeliac/gluten intolerance and a nut allergy are much better catered for than Coeliacs with a dairy intolerance and/or vegetarian. If you are travelling with more than one intolerance / allergy then I highly recommend you take food with you on the flight (subject to customs rules) and choose your airline very carefully.

Flying With Multiple Dietary Restrictions

If you think flying with a gluten intolerance is difficult, try flying with a gluten intolerance and another dietary restriction – in my case, nuts!

I’m not sure exactly how many times I’ve started writing a post about flying with food intolerances/allergies, but I do know that it’s a lot. It started at the very beginning of the year when I flew back from a New Year break in Sweden and was served a pack of clearly labelled wheat crackers along with my gluten free meal.

Wheat crackers in gluten free meal

In the months which followed my life got a little more complicated when I was diagnosed with allergies to almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts. Prior to this, my worry had always been would the airline load my pre-ordered gluten free meal? Now my concern is will the airline load a gluten free meal and will it be nut free? On a flight back from Rome in September I was served cashew nuts in with my main meal (both this and the Stockholm flight were in business class on BA where a meal is served on short haul flights). I’m not allergic to cashew nuts but I experienced a mild allergic reaction on the flight – not great at 36,000 feet – and so after this I’ve become more concerned about in flight catering.

In advance of our recent flight to New York I contacted BA to find out what could be done to arrange a gluten free and nut free meal. In short, the answer was nothing; they won’t assist and this is the case whichever class you’re flying in. If you have a special meal request, you can only have one of them as your in-flight meal. This means if you are a Coeliac who cannot tolerate dairy (as many are), you are not catered for. If you’re a Coeliac who’s either vegetarian or nut allergic (or indeed all three!), you’re also not catered for.

The BA website states:

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide tailored meals on request — this includes any requirements not explicitly covered by our special meals, as well as combinations of special requirements.

We advise all passengers with dietary requirements that we cannot meet to provide their own food, bearing in mind that all food transported through security or immigration will be subject to local rules.”

In the course of this research I learnt that British Airways do not offer a nut free meal. While other food allergens (seafood, gluten) religious (Halal, Kosher) and “lifestyle” (vegetarian, vegan) special meals are offered by BA, nut free meals are not. I’m shocked that airlines are willing to fly with the risk of customers having an anaphylactic reaction to either nuts being served on their airplanes as snacks or in their meals. The BA website states the following policy on nuts:

“Peanuts
Our in-flight meals do not contain peanuts or peanut products. However, we cannot guarantee meals and snacks are completely peanut free as they may be produced at a facility that handles peanuts. We are therefore unable to offer a peanut-free special meal. Peanuts may be used in snacks in our British Airways airport lounges.

Tree Nuts
Tree nuts, such as walnuts and cashews, may be offered as part of our in-flight menu.

While we restrict the use of some products in our catering and supply a range of special meals, other passengers may bring their own snacks and food containing those products on board. Our crew are unable to make announcements or alert other passengers to individual medical conditions.”

I understand the airlines can’t stop people bringing nuts onto planes and the practicality of policing a no nut policy with the multitude of languages spoken on any given flight would be impossible to manage with 100% success but I do not understand why BA serve meals containing some nuts or providing nuts as snacks with drinks. I’m regularly offered a pack of almonds with a drink on BA.

When I contacted BA to discuss nut free meals they advised that they offer special meals in accordance with the common set of special meals agreed with the airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). There is a peanut free meal in the IATA list of special meals but peanuts are not the only nuts people are allergic to! I’ve contacted IATA to find out why a nut free meal is not in their list of special meals. I’ll update this post when I hear back from them.

Taking enough food on-board for a short haul flight in Europe is possible and even on a 6 – 7 hour flight to New York wouldn’t have been a big deal. However for our next trip to see Mr D’s family in Australia, in flight catering options will be a bigger deciding factor for me on who to fly with, more than cost of the flight since transporting 24+ hours worth of food would be difficult. In some countries (including Australia and New Zealand) there are strict rules about the import of food items, even for personal consumption. If you are travelling to Australia/New Zealand, the good thing is that gluten free provisions are readily available for you to stock up on for the return flight therefore you do not need to take enough food for the return flight in your luggage from the UK. However, this is not the case for all destinations and for this reason, it’s important to fly on long haul flights with carriers who can offer meals to suit your dietary needs. This is the subject of a future blog post but my initial research indicates that some airlines can be more accommodating for multiple dietary restrictions than BA.

Check back tomorrow to see what I ate on our flights to New York and if it would be suitable for Coeliacs who also need to exclude nuts and /or dairy as well as gluten free vegetarians.

When Life Gets Complicated…Bake Cake

When I was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago with an allergy to almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts I was not – to put it politely – very happy. Life has suddenly become a lot more complicated.

I’ve suffered a couple of allergic reactions to almonds (one far more severe than the other) and went to see an allergy specialist to be properly diagnosed. The more serious allergic reaction had happened after I’d eaten fresh almonds on one of the tiny Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily last year. Within a short time of eating them my whole body was covered in big itchy hives, I had a thick scarlet welt around my neck and shortness of breath with dizzyness. Although I was in a village, it was quite remote with limited / no emergency medical care. However, I think the situation would have been far more terrifying had I been half way up a mountain eating a nut bar or trekking somewhere remote when I suffered the allergic reaction.

I’m still coming to terms with how allergies to these nuts will impact my life (particularly when travelling and eating out) so I shall save a longer blog post on this until I’ve fully articulated my thoughts.

When Caleigh asked whether I’d be interested in taking part in a Spring recipe challenge, I was really keen to participate. This isn’t a recipe blog, mainly because I usually cook straight from recipe books. I’m starting to think that perhaps this will have to change, though, given the prevalence of ground almonds in gluten free baking recipes. The Spring recipe challenge is using oranges as the theme since they are in season at the moment. The challenge is to create a dish which uses oranges, is free from gluten and dairy as well as being free from almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts.

Thanks to the great gluten free community on Twitter, I learnt that polenta can be used in recipes as a substitution for ground almonds. Who knew? Not me! One of my favourite cakes is this Clementine Cake by Nigella. I’ve adapted the original recipe to remove the ground almonds. The cake is amazingly easy to make. Boiling the clementines for 2 hours will make your house smell absolutely heavenly, even before you pop the cake in the oven.


(A Not Very Complicated) Orange Polenta Cake (gluten free, dairy free, almond free)

Ingredients

– 4 to 5 seedless clementines (weighing approximately 375 g)

– 6 eggs

– 225 g caster sugar

– 175 g gluten free polenta

– 75 g gluten free plain flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour, I love the mix of beans in the flour but Dove’s would work too)

– 1 heaped teaspoon of gluten free baking powder

Method

1. Put the clementines in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 2 hours. Drain and allow to cool. (If you’ve used clementines with seeds in you will need to cut them in half when cool enough to handle and remove seeds at this stage). Take the whole fruit (including skin, pith fruit etc) and blitz it in a food processor/blender to make it smoother. Before I had a blender I mashed it up a bit with a potato masher (!!) and it worked just fine.

2. Preheat oven to 190 C. Grease and line a springform tin. Either a 21 or 23cm tin will work. I used a 23 cm tin.

3. If you’ve blitzed the clementines in a food processor/blender then add all the other ingredients and mix. If you’re not using a food processor, beat the eggs by hand and add the sugar, polenta, gluten free flour and baking powder and mix well, adding in the pulped clementines last.

3. Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for one hour. Check the cake after 40 minutes. I cover in foil at this point to prevent the top of the cake from burning.

4. The cake is done when a skewer inserted to the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

The cake tastes delicious as it is but I add a syrup:

Ingredients

125 ml fresh orange juice

125 g golden caster sugar

Zest of 2 clementines

Method

1. Put the sugar and orange into a small saucepan

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the syrup thickens and then sugar is fully dissolved

3. Allow the syrup to cool

4. Poke holes on the top of the cold cake and poor over the cooled syrup

5. Sprinkle the zest of the clementines over the cake


This full on orange fest of a cake will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight tin. It tastes even better the day after you make it, meaning it’s the perfect bake ahead cake.

A huge thank you to Caleigh for organising this Spring recipe challenge. You will find a round up of everyone’s recipes on Caleigh’s blog this afternoon. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else has created, all of which will be safe for me to eat!