GLUTEN FREE CAN BE GOURMET by TRACEY TRINDER

Tracey Trinder shares her search for gluten free recipes with us.  She has looked far and wide for dishes that are both tasty and healthy.  From her photographs of the dishes you can see Tracey had great success. 

GOING GLUTEN FREE

I’m fairly cynicalBread 4 about modern “fad” diets so when a friend suggested I try going gluten free (her daughter is a coeliac), to see if it would address my life long struggle with stomach-aches, I actually rolled my eyes. After all, wasn’t the whole world jumping on the gluten free bandwagon at the mercy of clever marketing and dubious health “professionals”.

However, after a few weeks off gluten and a complete cessation of stomach troubles I was both shocked and thrilled. Okay, I thought, so I give up bread. No big deal. How wrong I was. Sure it’s easy enough to resist the loaf of school lunch bread but after walking past a few of the beautiful bread shops in our local village and having to turn down cake at my friend Pip’s house (the best baker in town), the awful truth sunk in. Bread and wheat were a special part of my diet and yes, I was going to miss them!loaf

But I pressed on because I felt so much better. There was just no turning back. And with the tsunami of gluten free products on the market I thought: this can’t be so hard. And then I tried some of them! And this is what I discovered …

Tapioca is about as tasty as shaved cardboard. I haven’t tried shaved cardboard but I’d put money on it. In fact after a few weeks on tapioca based products I’d opt for a taste of cardboard if indeed it had just that … taste. Tapioca doesn’t. And it’s the basis of lots of the supermarket gluten free options. Not only is it supremely bland but often to counteract that lack of taste products are overloaded with sugar or salt … Hardly a healthy option.

Tapioca
Tapioca

Secondly I discovered that, with a history of bowel cancer in our family, eating tasteless, gluten free alternatives wasn’t the only issue. So many of them are based on white rice and tapioca they are practically fibre free. And as I’d always eaten lots of wholemeal bread, pasta and oats this was a huge change to my diet. I had to find ways to address it. Fast!

I also discovered after some Internet research and a visit to the doctor that I’d gone about things completely the wrong way. You see I had no idea now whether I was gluten intolerant or a coeliac. And that distinction is vitally important. Gluten intolerance being annoying and debilitating in only some respects, while coeliac disease is potentially life threatening. You can find information on the differences here http://www.coeliac.org.au/gluten-sensitivity/ and I urge you to read it if you suspect you or someone in your family has a gluten problem.

Wheat ears isolated on a whiteSo to cut a long story short, I had to go back on gluten (and suffer the old consequences again for six weeks) so I could get a blood test and find out if I developed gluten antibodies. And then I had a genetic test to further determine the likelihood that I was coeliac. After all this I was determined to be almost certainly gluten intolerant rather than coeliac. (Though the blood testing options aren’t one hundred per cent definitive and to be absolutely certain you need a small bowel biopsy.) http://www.coeliac.org.au/diagnosis/

So back off gluten, stomach-aches gone, I now faced a wheat free future with trepidation – having sampled the gluten free products that were initially so disappointing. And maybe if you’ve stuck with me this far you are in the same boat. So let me put your mind at ease. With lots of research, much more home baking and less dependence on shop bought alternatives, I increased my intake of fruit, vegetables and nuts, found alternative sweet treats and I now feel like I’m eating well and enjoying food again.Brerad 5

My diet is probably healthier than ever before too because I have learnt to say no to gluten loaded white flour based cake and biscuits in favour of healthier and yes, yummy, gluten free treats.

And now that grabbing a sandwich isn’t my go to easy option I’ve expanded my lunch repertoire and can whip up alternatives like these corn fritters in a heart beat.

And my lovely friend Pip, who loves a cooking challenge, has served up some of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted – completely gluten free and a huge hit with everyone – not just me!Pip

Bread of course, isn’t easy to replace, and in all honesty I still sometimes crave a “real” warm, bread roll from the oven. But as more and more people find they have issues with gluten, companies are scrambling to make the best gluten free bread they can. Even in the year or so I’ve been on this diet they have improved.

But to be honest it is a bit like comparing soy milk and cows milk. There are good and bad examples but they are definitely not the real thing. If you think of them as a different product it is easier. When you make bread at home there are lots of options for fibre and taste.

BreadThis was one of my early triumphs! Thus the photograph!

I’ve learnt a lot about the different types of gluten free flours and some of them are really delicious. You learn which are best for cakes and sweet breads, like sorghum and buckwheat (it isn’t really wheat!) and those that suit savoury like amaranth and besan (based on chick peas and full of fibre.) To see a really comprehensive chart on the nutritional values of wheat flour alternatives go to www.wholegraincouncil.org

So if you are contemplating a wheat free diet, or you are already somewhere along that path, I hope these insights and the following links are helpful … so that, unlike me, you never ever need to contemplate nibbling cardboard!Bread 3

https://www.thehealthychef.com (Teresa Cutter, The Healthy Chef, is a healthy food guru and does lots of great recipes. I subscribe to her blog and keep an eye on what is new. She has a whole gluten free section and always gives gluten free options where possible.)

For a sweet treat or two try these … http://thecakemistress.com/blog/freerecipes/cakes/orange-almond/

or

http://thecakemistress.com/blog/freerecipes/cakes/lemon-polenta-cake/

The Cake Mistress has lots of delicious recipes, NOT all gluten free!, but these two … Orange Almond Cake and Lemon Polenta Cake are to die for!Bread 2

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/search?search_api_views_fulltext=gluten free&f%5B0%5D=field_dietary%3A25006

(There are over 700 gluten free recipes on the SBS food link)

http://wheat-free-meat-free.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/gluten-free-chickpea-sandwich-bread.html

I love this Besan Bread. It is nothing like wheat bread but it’s hearty and not tasteless and airy like some I’ve tried. I like it best toasted. She has lots of other recipes you can try too.

Tracey’s Flat Bread (yes I’ve even made up some recipes of my own!!)

My kids are obsessed with bacon and egg wraps so I invented this flat bread so I can join in sometimes (though since I came up with this there is a brand of wrap called B Free which is a healthy, easy option too.) http://www.bfreefoods.com

2 tablespoons each of besan, brown rice, buck wheat and potato flour

1egg

Quarter teaspoon baking powder

Water to a thin consistency

Fry in a hot pan in oil/butter.

And another bread recipe I’m yet to try that sounds promising http://glutenfreegirl.com/2007/01/i-am-stubborn-i-dont-give-up/

These links really are just the tip of the iceberg. You only have to google gluten free and you will be amazed at what you can find. But remember! You must be discerning because gluten free products vary widely in taste and nutrition.