Queen of Vegetarian Cookery

One of the best things about not eating gluten any more is that I have become more aware of ensuring my diet is healthy and balanced. For me the key to a healthy diet is lots of veggies, fruit, beans and pulses with a small amount fish and meat. I was vegetarian for most of my 20s and luckily I love pulses and veggies.

For a great deal of my vegetarian life I lived in Russia, a country not exactly famed for its vegetarian cuisine. More often than not, the only non meat / non fish option was tomato and cucumber salad. And I hate cucumber! While I was a student in Russia I loved taking time to plan and cook fantastic veggie meals to make up for lack of choice in restaurants.

Friends would come to visit me in Russia bringing their bags full of lentils and spices for me as i couldn’t easily find them in Russia. If I was lucky, they might bring a block of coconut milk too!

Every day I would reach for the ultimate vegetarian bible, Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian to search out a tasty meal for the evening. Yum, I can still taste the lentil dhal I’d regularly make from her recipe!

So imagine my glee this morning when I opened the Metro to read a review for Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian handbook, newly updated and just published this month in hardback.

Obviously I had to invest. Can’t wait to try the lentil dhal…hope it’s as good as I remember!

Gluten Free Mrs D

Gluten Free Flying: EVA Air

When I was a child, travel to my holiday destinations mainly involved long drives to far flung corners of the idyllic French countryside or later cruising the Med / North Africa on an ocean liner.

I had taken a few flights, even as a baby, but my first real foray into international plane travel came in 1990 when I travelled to St Petersburg and Moscow on a school trip. This trip led to a lifelong passion for travel and obsession with Russia.

Back in 1990, smoking was still permitted on flights and the inflight meal could at best be described as ‘hot’. This narrative only applied to the temperature of the food, never it’s quality.

The husband and I are just back from a much needed R&R break in hot and sunny Thailand. We chose to fly there on EVA because we’d heard good things about their service, particularly in comparison with Thai Air.

The EVA service was really efficient and friendly. The night before the flight we had a problem selecting our seats when we’d checked in online. I managed to speak to an EVA employee at almost 10pm to get the issue resolved. Impressive.

When we arrived at the airport, the check in assistant asked to confirm I had requested a gluten free meal. Encouraging. When we sat down in our seats onboard, a flight assistant came over pre takeoff to double check I had ordered a GF meal and find out what drink I’d like with it. Very encouraging.

So what did it look and taste like? The photos and description below relate to the return flight from Bangkok to London. Here’s how it arrived:

When I had my EVA air GF meal placed in front of me, I was immediately transported back to 1990. I’d like to thank EVA at least for bringing back a strong memory of a trip 20 years ago.

So, what was included:

Tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad with nice vinaigrette

Hot Main:
Roast chicken (large piece) served with a tomato sauce, courgettes, carrots, 2 oriental vegetables (one white, one purple) which I didn’t recognise but were quite tasty

Dessert 1
Fruit salad with pineapple, papaya and large white citrus fruit

Dessert 2
Fruit salad with apple, papaya and grapes

2 slices white gluten free bread
‘Normal’ bread roll – assume this was flight attendant error

Here’s a photo with the foil peeled back from the hot main meal.

How did it taste? Well, a bit bland. The tomato sauce would have benefitted from some herbs and seasoning. I’m not a fan of gluten free white bread (too much like sweet cake) but I appreciate the effort made to cater for people who can’t eat gluten.

I genuinely wanted to like the meal, everyone at EVA had been so nice and organised about ensuring I received it. I suppose that in itself wasn’t so different to 1990 when travel was exciting, even if the inflight meal was very bland, and the point of travel was about the destination, not what you ate on the way there.

Gluten Free Mrs D

Art and the Arcadian Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

One of the upsides with not being able to eat gluten is that as long as I’m careful, watching my portion sizes and don’t go nuts eating nuts, it’s quite tricky to put on a significant amount of weight. Generally the most calorific food choices come with gluten firmly included; pizza, bread, pasta, biscuits, cake etc.

Of course all of these food choices can be made or obtained in a gluten free form but choice is the key here. It’s very easy to tuck into a pizza or pack of biscuits without any real thought for either calorie or fat values. They’re readily available and easy options for busy people. As someone who does need to watch their weight, I now find I really have to ‘choose’ these food types in their gluten free form. I actively think “do I want it?” and “do I need it?”. More often than not, the answer is “no”.

I do, however, have a weakness. Chocolate brownies.

We were recently at the British Museum in London doing some background study on the Parthenon Marbles for my Art History course. It was a sunny but cold day so my husband and I had decided to walk there via Hyde Park to look at some triumphal arches on the way. By the time we came out of the Museum, having viewed the Marbles, I was ready for some sugary fortification before walking back to Waterloo. We crossed the street and went into Starbucks where a lonesome gluten free chocolate brownie sat waiting in the glass display cabinet, seemingly just for me. How did it taste? Good, chocolatey, not too sugary and just what I needed. Whatever one’s opinion on Starbucks, I really appreciate they have bothered to cater for coeliacs.

But is this the best gluten free chocolate brownie in London? In my opinion, no. That prize goes to POD.

The size of the brownie is just right for a slice of naughty chocolatey indulgence. The consistency is impressive, not at all flaky.

So how does it taste? Soft, squidgy and gooey almost like treacle. It’s uber-chocolatey complete with a scattering of small chocolate chips. I also like it because it has a pleasantly long after taste of chocolate nirvana which lingers in the mouth after each bite.

As Poussin probably would’ve painted if he’d tasted one, Et in Arcadia POD chocolate brownie.

Gluten Free Mrs D

Limey Snack Attack

I think in life you’re either a sweetie or a salty. I watch people in the office devour packs of Haribo as if their lives depended upon it, but I feel no envy. The meerest rustle of a crisp packet, however, my ears prick up and I scan the room furtively trying to locate the source of such food pleasure.

So it was something of a blow for me to discover that my all time favourite guilty pleasure and treat for yet another night spent working late in the office – Walkers Prawn Cocktail crisps- contain Mr Nasty, gluten.

I was in my local Waitrose last night and really in the mood for a small treat. Normally I take the sensible low calorie path of crispbreads but right then I wanted to be naughty. Hmmm…not exactly wild, but you get the picture. Yep, I was having a snack attack.

As I looked longingly at the crisp shelves, my eyes were drawn to Doritos, Hint of Lime. Just for fun I turned the pack over expecting Mr Nasty to be lurking in there somewhere. Would you believe it? The back of the packet stated “suitable for coeliacs”. Hallelujah! First time I’ve seen that noted on a crisp packet.

There is a God, and she comes with a hint of lime…