Gluten Free Panettone (and Pasta) at Elena’s Gluten Free Way

It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas….How do I know? Because at this time every year my blog suddenly gets a major increase in traffic from people searching for gluten free panettone.

This year Elena’s Gluten Free Way are selling gluten free panettone imported from Italy. I bought two to make sure no one (and by that I really mean me) goes without!

While you’re buying your gluten free panettone from Elena, I’d highly recommend taking a look through the other great Italian gluten free products on the website.

In particular, Elena has a great range of Italian gluten free pastas in a wide variety of shapes which are hard to find in the supermarket. My favourite is the Piaceri Mediterranei Linguine. It’s made from corn, rice and chick pea flours. I love it because it holds its shape well and doesn’t stick together as many gluten free pastas tend to. As a bonus it’s currently reduced to half price!

Details:

Gluten free panettone costs £ 9.50 from Elena’s Gluten Free Way. Website: www.elenasgfway.co.uk

Please note this panettone contains deglutinised ingredients.

Free From & Festive: Gluten Free Stuffing

I was really pleased to be invited by Caleigh who writes the fantastic Gluten-free(k) blog to participate in this year’s “Free From and Festive”. Christmas can be a tricky time of year for those with food allergies and intolerances as not everyone fully understands how to cook safely. Unfortunately even those who do, occasionally make mistakes when their mind and energy is being taken up on the madness that the run up to Christmas can be. Not thoroughly checking a label on an element of Christmas dinner could mean you need to miss out. However, I have a small confession to make. You see, I’m not really that keen on Christmas. This time of year always reminds me of sad times and I’ve never been able to muster much enthusiasm for it since I was a teenager. As an adult my best Christmases have been the unconventional ones; drinking too much Russian champanskoye at the National Hotel, Moscow with a big gang of mates watching the snow fall on Red Square; steak and chips at Chez Gerard, Heathrow en route to Australia (cheap flights if you’re willing to fly on Christmas Day); and last year’s amazing steak and red wine fest in Buenos Aires. Oh, and I don’t even like roasts very much!

But there is one part of the Christmas dinner which I do really like, stuffing. Is this odd? Perhaps. I particularly like the taste of the herb, sage. I rarely use this herb to cook with but I love the aroma and taste of it. Just the thought of those the little stuffing balls that explode with more flavour than turkey could ever dream of is something I do look forward to about Christmas lunch.

Unfortunately finding gluten free stuffing can be quite tricky. I’ve selected three possibilities below which either you, or those catering for you, can safely include in your gluten free Christmas lunch.

1. The high street retailer – Marks & Spencer

Mark and Spencer have made great efforts over the last year or so in re-formulating many of their products which did contain gluten to be gluten free. Their packaging has also been improved, with gluten free items being clearly marked on the front of the packet with a crossed grain symbol (seen in the photo below). Top marks to M&S for providing such a huge range of gluten free sausages, stuffing etc. The whole family’s stuffing and sausage needs for your Christmas lunch could be purchased from M&S meaning no concerns about which items are suitable and avoiding cross contamination.

I tried the “Pork & Caramalised Chestnut Stuffing” priced at £1.66 to serve 4-6 people.

I chose this stuffing to try because I would never go to the effort of making this with chestnuts and pork sausage meat. I’m also sure that I could never produce a homemade version of this stuffing for the price of £1.66 either.

I enjoyed eating this meaty stuffing which tasted sweet from the chestnuts. Whilst it did have a hint of sage, I would have liked a stronger sage flavour. However this is probably just my personal preference.

2. The independent local producer – The Foodamentalists

I recently tried some of The Foodamentalists delicious Frangipane Mince Pies and was keen to try more of their products. Sadly I don’t live near to their base for me to pick up from local stockists (detailed on their website) but you can order online for nationwide delivery.

I tried the Cranberry and Herb Stuffing mix which is gluten, wheat and dairy free as well as being vegetarian. This is priced at £2.95 but you get two servings of stuffing from the packet. I made 15 stuffing balls from one serving.

These stuffing balls were very fragrant and I could really taste the sage in them. When they were cooked, the outside of the stuffing ball was a slightly crispy and I thought this was great with the soft texture of the roast chicken I was eating. I particularly liked the cranberries in the stuffing mix because they added a burst of sweetness.

3. The homemade – Vegetarian sage and onion stuffing

I decided that I’d give making my own stuffing balls a go. How hard could it be? Not very, as it turned out. I used the following:

  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 100 g gluten free breadcrumbs (I used 3 Dietary Specials white ciabatta rolls)
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt & pepper to season

Start by gently frying the onion in the butter on a low heat until the onion is translucent.

Prepare your breadcrumbs. I don’t have a food processer (as far as I know my beautiful KitchenAid can’t do them) so I went old school….I grated them on a cheese grater. I was completely surprised by how well this worked.

Once the onions are ready, mix them in a bowl with the breadcrumbs and chopped sage leaves.

Season with salt and pepper. Add in enough egg to bind the mixture together. For me, this didn’t require the entire beaten egg.

Roll up into balls. Bake in the oven at 170C for 30 minutes for a crispy outside, slightly less if you prefer.

The punchy taste of sage, the buttery onions and the crispy outer shell of the stuffing balls made these delicious.

For more Free From and Festive recipes and Christmas ideas, please check out Caleigh’s blog here.

Foodamentalists: Frangipane Mince Pies (gluten free, wheat free, dairy free)

Having recently tried the Genius mince pies, I was very lucky to try some hand made mince pies by a smaller scale food producer. Step forward The Foodamentalists.

The Foodamentalists are a Yorkshire based company producing gluten free and wheat free (and some dairy free) goods. The Foodamentalists’ savoury and sweet products are baked in their completely gluten and wheat free premises. Their product range includes various breads and bread mixes, pastry, quiche and even Southern Fried Chicken coating.

I think these guys have one of the coolest company names around. Have you ever seen The Apprentice where the contestants have to decide on a company name? It’s normally the first episode and it’s always a bit awkward as the contestants size each other up and jostle to put themselves forward whilst at the same time trying to avoid the poisoned chalice of being Project Manager for the first week. I’ve often wondered whether the Foodamentalists came up with their company name after a brainstorming session or it came to them on a light bulb moment. Hopefully it was thought up in a much more fun way than on The Apprentice.

The very nice Stevan Taylor at The Foodamentalists sent me some of their frangipane topped mince pies to try.

These gluten free, wheat free and dairy free mince pies were really quite unusual. The outside of the mince pie was cased in deliciously firm shortcrust pastry.

The vegetarian mincemeat filling tasted very fruity with juicy currants, sultanas and raisins. What made these mince pies unusual, however, was the frangipane (almond paste) on top. It made the mince pies more cake-like than a regular pastry topped mince pie, but I really liked it. Mr D (who does not need to eat gluten free) described them as the best mince pies he’s ever tasted.

These are mince pies, but with bells on.

The frangipane mince pies retail for £3.99 for a box of six. I am also loving the classy Christmas packaging.

The Foodamentalists sell their products (including these delicious frangipane mince pies) through their website as well as through various stockists. They are regulars at the Harrogate and Otley Farmers Markets and they also visit a number of food fairs in the UK. Full details of all outlets and forthcoming markets and fairs can be found on their website.

Genius….Gluten Free Mince Pies

Ho, Ho, Ho(t)…. It’s the hottest October day for over 100 years so what do we do? Try the new Genius gluten free mince pies, of course!

The very nice people at Genius sent me a pack of 4 mince pies to try in advance of their imminent pre-Christmas release.

The mince pies are the latest addition to the recently expanded Genius brand which now covers more than just gluten free bread. The expanded Genius range includes frozen gluten free products such as Cornish slices, steak and ales pies and ready made pastry. Genius have also recently launched their gluten free bread in the US.

So how did the Genius gluten free mince pies taste?

The shortcrust pastry was sweet and so deliciously light in texture. For a shop bought mince pie, I was really impressed with the pastry. The mincemeat filling is made from sultanas, currants, raisins and Bramley apples. I found the filling to be fresh and nicely spiced. I also liked the good mincemeat filling to pastry ratio.

If you don’t want to miss out on mince pies during the festive season, I recommend trying the tasty gluten free version from Genius.

The Genius gluten free mince pies go on sale at Tesco stores nationwide from October 17th. Click here for your nearest Genius store locator and the products which they carry.

Brazil: A Gluten Free Trip Report

Having viewed Iguazu falls from the Argentine side (less crowded and better walkways) we moved on to Brazil. The falls from the Brazilian side were hugely impressive – and if you go to Iguazu you have to do both – but for me the Brazilian side did have a touch of the Disney about it. A couple of photos, although it really is impossible to capture in a photo the true scale of Iguazu, the deafening sound of the water or the seriously high humidity. My advice? Take a towel and some dry clothes to change into after viewing from the Brazilian side!

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Brazil. Land of football, tiny bikinis and….more meat. I mean the animal kind. Oh yes, after Argentina this was another carnivore’s dream.

Luckily I was still in the mood for steak so that meant dining in the ubiquitous Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouses. These were a great option to dine gluten free. They offered salad bars with many different options such as salad ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, corn, olives etc), rice salads, shellfish……You can help yourself to whatever you like. There were also some prepared dishes (seemed to be curries etc) but I didn’t want to take any chances and anyway, the meat was enough for me! The churrascarias we visited offered an all in price for the meat and salad bar.

The meat is served by passadores who come to your table with great skewers of meat which have been cooked on the barbecue and slice off chunks onto your plate. I was told the meat was prepared with a rub of salt. We lost count of the different types of meat but beef, pork, chicken, lamb were offered. Sausages also did the rounds but I avoided them just in case they contained gluten.

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As well as the meat, a variety of chips, cassava and banana (!) accompanied the meal. I didn’t try the latter by the way.

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Now Brazil presented me with something of a conundrum. Every item of food and drink was labelled to state whether it did / did not contain gluten. CONTÉM GLÚTEN or NÃO CONTÉM GLÚTEN was written in nice big, clear writing on absolutely everything in Brazil. Such as on this bottle of mineral water….

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You would think this comprehensive labeling would ensure the population would have some understanding of coeliac disease, right?  Wrong. Almost no one knew what gluten was and why it was labelled on their food and drink! Even with my Coeliac Travel cards, I felt the wait staff didn’t understand at all what I was asking. On most occasions the cards were taken into the chef to see if he knew what it all meant. In one restaurant in Buzios, the waitress spoke perfect English but admitted she had no clue whatsoever what gluten was and when I showed her the note on the water bottle she said she’d never thought about what it meant. It was quite astonishing. Why bother going to such lengths of labeling food and drink if no one knows what it means?

Perhaps I had a series of bad experiences but I would recommend that if you travel to Brazil you take the Coeliac Travel cards and are cautious in what you eat. I wasn’t confident that any menu items would be accurately adjusted to be gluten free as they could be at home. I wasn’t ill while I was away but I stuck to naturally occurring gluten free food items such as grilled meat, fish and salads.

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