I am currently on a phased return back to work to see if it is something I am able to sustain with my condition. Though my role has changed and become part-time, I have got a lot to adjust to so I’m handing over to my Mum Clare for a few weeks (this should explain the lack of recipe posts lols)…
So while Em is adapting to her new routine, I’ve muscled in to introduce myself. I’m Clare, Em’s mum, AKA Head Chef and Chief Food Shopper. I consider myself suitably qualified as I left school with a qualification in Cookery (a GCE in Domestic Science back in my day) followed by a diploma in Home Economics. I am not boasting here, just setting the scene that I have some knowledge and definitely more than enough passion for food. I love cooking and baking and trying new recipes.
When we discovered Em’s intolerances to wheat, eggs, milk, soya, mushrooms and goji berries, I had to put my brain into gear. I wanted to prepare healthy, tasty and varied meals for her to enjoy. A few months down the line and I think we’re getting somewhere; it is not perfect by any means, but I do love a challenge!
Society has moved on somewhat in recent years with improved labelling of food and better choice of alternative ingredients as more and more people develop allergies and intolerance to food or merely want to enjoy a plant based diet. Buying the basic supplies like fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish is a doddle and can easily be done at the local discount supermarket. However, anything more complex and I head for one of the more ‘upmarket’ stores, purely for the choice. I’ve perfected (almost) the art of the ‘Emily’ shop. I go separately for her ‘special’ ingredients armed with a list, my glasses and about an hour to spare.
By trial and error, we have realised every label of any product that has more than one ingredient needs to be scrutinised. Who would have thought that some dairy free cheese contained soya? Gluten free bread contains eggs? Flavoured crisps contain milk powder and stock cubes contain wheat? Out of what seemed like a hundred varieties of canned soup I managed to find four flavours that were Emily friendly. But, like I said, certainly on the cooked meal front, we’re getting there. It involves planning and imagination but we can share meals as a family with an occasional tweak.
The only exception is a Yorkshire pud, and Emily does (did) love a few of those with her Sunday dinner. I’ve had a go at these but they were more dumpling than pudding. Should have had my suspicions raised when the recipe instructed you to poke a hole in the pudding when cooked! She also misses bread, cakes and biscuits and who wouldn’t? The gluten, egg, milk and soya free pitta breads and wraps can’t be toasted and enjoyed with butter (dairy free spread) and jam the same as a fluffy white loaf. Add to that the fact that they, like the specialty biscuits she has discovered, are expensive and I have myself a mission.
Calling on my skills in science (because baking is a science) and economics, I am on a quest to find recipes for these favourites that will produce an acceptable alternative that is cheaper than shop bought. I have become best friends with Google, discovered ingredients I never knew existed and have, so far, had varying amounts of success. Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s not been great so far!
I’ve tried a yeasted dough that was not particularly great. I won’t name and shame any recipes as a) it could be me (or my oven) or b) I didn’t use the particular brand of flour recommended in the recipe. I have discovered that not only does gluten free flour bear no resemblance to standard wheat flour but the brands also vary. It does not behave like normal flour, is a different texture and absorbs liquid more readily. It was very crumbly in texture and not particularly easy to slice. A definite thumbs down from Emily. Not willing to waste food, I (very easily) transformed it into breadcrumbs and froze them to use in stuffing, meatballs, and to coat chicken and fish.
I tried another non yeasted bread using chickpea flour, rice flour and tapioca flour. This seems a little more palatable… what I would describe as ‘rustic’. It cuts easily and has even been toasted with jam, the ultimate test. It has a savoury flavour so we’re thinking it may go well with one of the four tins of soup! Yesterday I had a go at a pitta/ flatbread recipe. Mm tasted ok but not like any flatbread I’ve ever seen. It’s promising so I’m going to have another try and as a lot of the recipes suggest, it takes a while to master the correct consistency to give the best result.
I have tried pastry using a traditional shortcrust recipe and that gave a reasonable result. It was easy to roll out but needed handling carefully as it was crumbly (gluten in normal flour acts like a glue), but when cooked that’s the texture we want. I transformed it into sausage rolls using wheat and soy free sausages – a thumbs up from Em!
There’s been a lot of mishaps, but let’s end on a a few highs! First, a milk, egg, soy and wheat free chocolate cake. Simple to make, I substituted the xanthan gum (after consulting my new best friend Google) with flax seeds which were conveniently in the cupboard. It’s a success! Particularly enjoyed warm with a scoop of precious Emily-friendly ice cream. Last, but by no means least, vegan, wheat and soy free pancakes with Em’s choice of topping (chocolate and strawberries of course). Yum.
So, that’s me for now. I promise when I’ve dusted off the many varieties of flour that I’m experimenting with, the successful recipes will be shared along with other delightful meals and snack recipes.
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