Monday, 3 November 2008

G-f tea at The Ritz!

I went for tea at The Ritz the other day as I am a BIG fan of tea and they do a gluten-free one! You have to say when you book and then they confirm when you arrive... I was seriously impressed with the service (although you should be at the price it is - £37 per person!) and they were very attentive etc and very good re all the gluten-free stuff. You get a lot of food too - I couldn't finish it all (and I am not normally ever full) and the cakes were awesomely good.
The non g-f tea is finger sandwiches, followed by scones and fruitcake, then a selection of small cakes.
The g-f tea is open finger sandwiches (you get a lot of filling on each one), fresh fruit, and then a selection of cakes.
The sandwiches were on what tasted to me like the Dietary Specials white bread - but because all the crusts are cut off etc, and you get really good fillings, and they are open so only one bit of bread, the bread doesn't seem too dry, which I think it is if not toasted. Someone seems to have really thought about it and actually tasted it for themselves...!
The fresh fruit is obviously nice - although not quite the same as a scone! I think that was what made me extra full though - could have missed that out and moved straight onto the cakes...
There were three different cakes - a lovely blackcurrant macaroon filled with lemon cream and what I think was a white chocolate disc in the middle, a seriously rich chocolate dome filled with chocolate mousse, and a very tasty, moist and delicious mini carrot cake with proper cream cheese icing.
You also get a big silver pot of the tea of your choice and there's fresh clotted cream and jam for the scones (the cream was nice with the fruit and the chocolate mousse cake too).
All in all a REALLY good treat if you fancy a splurge - and you won't need much dinner later!
Pictures to follow...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Gluten-free pizza, pasta, gnocchi, garlic bread...

So after a recommendation from Rochelle (thank you, Rochelle!), some friends and I visited Italian restaurant Cotto on Westminster Bridge Road for dinner on Tuesday night. As I'd read in many reviews, the welcome was as warm as you could hope for in a restaurant and I felt transported back to when I lived in Florence. It is a family-run, small Italian restaurant that has good food at its heart - and boy, is it good! The owner (who is originally from Naples but has lived in London for years) has been Coeliac for 20 years so he totally understand allergies and there are more g-f things on the menu than I've found anywhere else so far!
I had a pizza, which, although it was a bought base - so smaller and thicker than homemade, it was just so nice to be able to have a pizza in a restaurant and not worry about it! The toppings were delicious and it was such a treat. The non-g-f pizzas looked amazing too. Two friends had gnocchi which they said was absolutely delicious (and they're fairly picky about their Italian food, believe me!) and the other had crespolini (which weren't gluten-free) which were also winning apparently.
For pudding I had tartufo nero which was again, brilliant - and amazing to have more choice than just plain ice cream or sorbet.
Next time (it will be in the very near future, definitely!), I'm definitely going to give either the gnocchi or pasta a go - and try some of the g-f bread they offer too. It really is a lovely place and everyone there was so lovely. I couldn't recommend it more. Plus, if you're visiting, it's really near things like the London Aquarium etc so a great place to pop in and have some g-f, warming lunch.

Friday, 17 October 2008

In summary... if you're visiting London

London is pretty good to live in if you’re gluten-free – and it’s not bad for visitors either! Restaurants are certainly becoming more clued up about what gluten is and staff are more friendly than they used to be when you mention allergies… Just don’t expect gluten-free bread or anything in restaurants – there are a couple which provide this but it’s CERTAINLY not the norm… I’ve only ever been offered it once!

More coffee shops are now also offering at least one gluten-free item (usually individually wrapped to avoid contamination), and the supermarkets all have good ranges of g-f products, both their own and other popular brands, so you certainly won’t starve! Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose are the best supermarkets to find g-f stuff – but beware! – lots of the smaller branches which are in central London don’t have anything g-f, so don’t rely on being able to pop in and find something! There’s a bigger Sainsbury’s Central near Tottenham Court Road which has a few g-f things in, but you’re better to go to a bigger branch, which might be slightly further out, and stock up if you’re able.

Below are some places that I like eating in and where I have had good experiences with allergy-friendly food – and also a couple that I haven’t tried yet, but that I’ve heard good things about! I’ve divided things up into ‘Snacks and Treats’, ‘Cheap Eats’ and ‘Restaurants’ – these are the more formal places, but they are all still pretty good value… Enjoy!

Snacks and Treats
If you’re out and about and near a Starbucks, it’s worth popping in to see if they have a gluten-free sandwich. They are literally the ONLY place in London I know of that do one (not even health food shops seem to), but I don’t think they realise the untapped market, and not all of their outlets stock them. Usually if they DO have them, they only have one or two, so if you see one – nab it! The bread they use is quite hard but, to be honest, I always enjoy the novelty of being able to get a take-away sandwich so much that I overlook that… the fillings are good – they seem to rotate them so that you get one flavour in all the shops for a month or so, then they switch to something else… I’ve had the egg mayonnaise one and the tuna – both good. The Starbucks in Waterloo station usually has some if you’re going on a train somewhere and fancy a snack! (Approx. £2.50 per sandwich)
Marks and Spencer have great labelling, so it’s easy to see if a product has gluten/wheat in. They don’t offer much in their ‘Food To Go’ section that is suitable for Celiacs, but if you look in the vegetable section, they have what they call ‘side salads’. These are small tubs of cold stuff, like mixed beans in vinaigrette, or spiced quinoa with sweet potato and are all very tasty – and a perfect size for a snack lunch/picnic. They have disposable cutlery near the tills to eat it with. (Approx. £2.50 per salad pot)
Costa Coffee is a chain of coffee shops that do a great gluten-free cookie – it’s almond and jam flavoured and is really good – great consistency. Comes individually wrapped so handy to have in your handbag/pocket for a teatime moment. (£1.50)
For a real treat, AMAZING cake shop Konditor and Cook do an absolutely delicious gluten-free cake by the slice. It’s called Almond St Clement and is a citrus flavoured sponge (made with ground almonds) with a sticky, marmalade-y topping – it’s SO good! It’s about £2.50 a slice, so pricey – but well worth every penny…!
There are lots of ice cream places that do gluten-free flavours (I like Oddono’s – a gelateria that has an outlet in Selfridges Food Hall), but so far I only know of one place that does gluten-free cones. It’s called Scoop and is in Covent Garden. This is the best Italian gelato in London - no contest! It's really cheap as well as you get MASSIVE portions and can have two flavours in a 'small'. (Approx. £1.50-4 an ice cream) If you’re in that area, there is a great muffin place that does gluten-free muffins – Muffinskis. Definitely worth a visit if you’re nearby and peckish! (Approx. £1.50 a muffin)

Cheap Eats
Leon is absolutely my favourite place to grab a hot (or cold – depending on the weather), gluten-free, fresh-tasting inexpensive meal. It’s been labelled as healthy fast food, and, even though it’s fast, I definitely don’t want anyone picturing anything like the dreaded ‘golden arches’…! For hot choices they do things like grilled chicken with a variety of sauces, tagines, Thai curry and stews – all served with brown rice and soy-based coleslaw. The cold options are tasty superfood salads – made with quinoa and a variety of vegetarian/meat-based ingredients. It’s really tasty and the menu is all labelled as to whether it’s g-f or not… as a bonus, they sell GREAT g-f cake bars – brownies (with a hint of orange – delicious) and lemon/ginger crunch – YUM! (Approx. £5 for a bigger dish, £8 to include a drink/cake)
Wagamama is a fantastic chain of Japanese noodle bars – they are really aware of allergies and there are a couple of dishes on the menu that are naturally g-f, and they can also adapt a whole host of others… They can use veg stock instead of pork (which has gluten in) and will use rice noodles instead of egg/soba where they can. They also do some rice-based dishes, and some interesting juices etc. One of the best things is that they have gluten-free soy sauce (Sanchi) so you can add some extra flavour. It’s cheap, quick and very tasty! (Approx. £10-15 a head, including drinks)
If it’s sushi you’re after, Itsu is my preference. If you ask what’s gluten-free they will find out for you (particularly on dishes if you’re eating in, they’re not so good on the take-away boxes), and it’s really fresh, tasty sushi. Yo! Sushi is another big chain but last time I went, they didn’t really have a clue what I could/couldn’t eat, so I prefer Itsu. They also have a couple of sweet treats that are gluten-free, such as a chocolate pot – sometimes sushi just isn’t satisfying enough…! (Approx. £20 a head, depending on how much you eat!)
Hell Pizza is my newest discovery – gluten-free pizza in London!! WOOHOO! Finally! It’s based in SW London (they deliver if you’re in that area), and you can eat in or get take-away (in a box and everything! A novelty for me!). They have some very strange flavour combinations on offer, but they offer good-size, crispy, gluten-free bases and I just went for a Margherita when I visited, which was good. I’d maybe recommend adding some veg though – I like rocket, but they didn’t have any! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area (approx. £7-10 per pizza). Chains Strada and Pizza Express will let you take your own g-f base (if it’s sealed, so from a supermarket or something) and then will add the toppings and cook it in the wood-burning ovens, but you’ll need to take some g-f flour to for them to dust it, and all the supermarket ones over here are very small so it’s not such a good option… You also need to call the branch you’re going to, to make sure the chef is happy to do it.

Da Mario is a great Italian restaurant in Covent Garden that offers gluten-free pasta instead of regular with most of their sauces. It’s very small and very authentically Italian and is a great place for a cosy, cheap, delicious dinner. They use rice pasta and cook it to perfection so it’s not soggy or slimy – there’s no website but if you Google Da Mario gluten-free you should find lots of good reviews! It’s on Endell St, not far from Covent Garden tube station. (Main courses approx. £7-10)
Rasa is one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever been to – it’s all Keralan (South Indian) food and is really good value. There are a few branches around London, but I think the best one is the original, vegetarian one up in Stoke Newington (north London) and the one that specialises in fish on Charlotte St near Tottenham Court Road. The food is all really good and the staff are always really friendly and can find out any answers to wheat/gluten queries. However, I’ve always found that I can have most of the dishes – and, even better, there is a really great rice bread on the menu (a good substitute for Naan!) and they do a fantastic basket of snacks as a starter, which are all made out of gram/rice/lentil flour so are all g-f! (Main courses approx. £7-12, plus rice/bread etc)
La Trouvaille is a lovely French restaurant that I’ve only recently visited. The food was really lovely and they were very sweet about the whole allergy thing – I told them when I booked and when we arrived they asked who it was who had the allergy and then assured me that the chef would be preparing my food separately and that he could adapt all but two of the dishes so that I could enjoy a really wide choice. It’s all set menus (£29.50 for two courses, £35 for three) and is very central as it’s just off Carnaby St. Well worth a trip for a more special occasion.
Alloro is another good place that does a good set menu (£35 for three courses). It’s an Italian restaurant in Mayfair (near Green Park tube station) and they are always very good about allergies. There’s no gluten-free pasta or anything, but lots of other things – great salads and things to start, lovely grilled meat/fish for mains and some good ice cream for dessert! Not much more to say apart from that it’s very, very good and a great place for a smarter, romantic meal!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Fifteen - Jamie Oliver

Went to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant near Old Street for their set menu lunch the other day - 3 courses for £30. Lots of gluten-free choice as the menu is Italian - but not pasta and pizza - so was off to a good start... However, to get the lunch deal you have to choose from 2 or 3 options for each course so are more limited.
I had pork carpaccio with tuna mayonnaise - sounds strange but was tasty, then delicious salmon with mussels, then a fruity/meringue/ice cream pudding - I think some sort of berries and elderflower.
Have posted pics as I think they say more than I can! It was tasty though and definitely worth a visit if you fancy a swanky lunch at a bargain price (which I obviously do...!).

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Hell Pizza is HEAVEN!!

AT LAST!! G-F pizza in London!

I went on a bit of a mission to get to Hell Pizza today - sat in endless traffic in endless roadworks all the way across London, but it was worth it!

They don't just do gluten-free snack size, despite the website implying that - they do big ones too - they're about 12 inches, so perfect!

I was boring and just went for a Margherita, as I wanted to see what the pizza would be like before trying some of their weird and wonderful toppings...

Verdict - pretty damn good! It's no Risotteria (which is in New York), but I don't think anywhere will ever beat that for me, so the fact that this is top behind that for me means I think it's REALLY good and, to be honest, am just so grateful to them for doing g-f pizza at all - FINALLY! WOOHOOOOO! (I'm excited...)

I would DEFINITELY make the effort to cross London again - on a regular basis - to get more. The base was crispy and thin (think it definitely had some corn in) and the tomato sauce and cheese were really good. So, all in all - A TRIUMPH!

THANK YOU HELL PIZZA! You will make SUCH a difference to Coeliacs all over London - please open some more branches!!

Monday, 21 July 2008

AND - gluten-free ice cream cones!

Almost as exciting as the pizza news, there is a gelateria in Covent Garden that does gluten-free cones – YAY!
They are available here: Scoop.
Not sure if they’re the waffle cone ones (which I must say I much prefer) or the cheaper, more synthetic ‘normal’ ones, but I am planning a visit in the very near future so will post the details once I’ve been…
The flavours all sound delicious and it's got great reviews for the quality of the ice cream so double yay…
Much as I love ice cream in a cup, to have the choice is such a rarity that I can’t thank Scoop enough!
Things are looking up for the gluten-free gang…


I was going to come up with some fancypants, pun-heavy heading about heaven existing – but in hell – or something, but I decided it was more important to just get straight to the point…
There is a GLUTEN-FREE PIZZA TAKE-AWAY/DELIVERY/EAT-IN place in London – woohoooooooooooo!
Hell Pizza, down in Fulham (unfortunately they only deliver around that area at the moment) do gluten-free bases!! They only do what they call a ‘snack’ size, and you have to pay £1 extra – but who cares?! This is a great advance for gluten-free goodness!
You can custom create your own pizza, choosing toppings etc, or you can choose one of their weird and wonderful creations.
I haven’t been yet to try it out, but I am hoping to VERY soon (despite living miles away!) so will post when I’ve given it a go…

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

GF sausages

I’ve tried quite a few gluten-free sausages in my time, so I thought it might be useful if I posted about where I’ve got good ones from…

The Ginger Pig is a GREAT butcher which has a good selection of (marked) gluten-free sausages. They do a really interesting range, including things like Jamaican Jerk and Lamb Merguez as well as more traditional ones, like Pork and Apple.

I know their Traditional ones aren’t gluten-free, and there are a few others that aren’t, but the butchers are always really helpful and know exactly what’s in their meat so will always help you out – plus there’s a big blackboard with which ones are GF… they don’t always have all of the different ones in, but there’s usually a good choice.

We’ve been going to the one in Marylebone for ages, but there’s a good one in Borough Market too. There’s also one in Hackney but haven’t been to that one.

Also in Marylebone is The Natural Kitchen. They do good chicken sausages that are gluten-free. I don’t like the texture so much if I eat them as sausages, but they’re really good for chopping up and using in rice/pasta dishes etc if you don’t feel like pork. They do two different ones – chicken, coriander and something and a mustard-y one.

Quite a few of Marks and Spencer’s sausages are gluten-free too – and not just the more expensive ones…! Some of their cheaper ones are too as, hooray, they use rice starch instead of wheat and rusk to bulk out the ones with less meat content…

Not all of them are though, so make sure you read the label carefully… they have a good labelling system though which clearly points out if things contain wheat/gluten etc.

Waitrose also have some gluten-free ones – they are actually called ‘gluten-free’ as part of the name – their others have wheat.

Seeing as how BBQ season is upon us, I hope this is useful!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Quick and easy salad

Despite working practically IN Borough Market, it's a little expensive to be buying lunch there every day (plus it's only fully open on Thursday-Saturday) so I made a salad this morning to bring in for lunch.

It was REALLY simple, took about 5 mins and was pretty darn tasty - so I thought I'd share.

It consisted of:

2 small carrots - peeled and chopped
Some rocket
Some tinned mung beans
Some cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)
A few (raw) fine beans - chopped
Some chopped beetroot (I bought it fresh and cooked it for 3 hours yesterday, but some of the prepackaged stuff isn't in horribly glutenous malt vinegar - I think Sainsbury's organic stuff is OK and M&S also do baby beetroot that aren't in vinegar)
Some M&S Arbroath hot smoked salmon flakes

Literally mixed all the veg and mung beans together, dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and then when it got to lunchtime, added the salmon.


Corn spaghetti

I tried it - it was good.

I recommend it.

Sainsbury's Free From corn spaghetti.

Seriously, if you can have corn, I really think theirs is the most normal-pasta-like pasta available.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Gluten-free lasagne

Just thought I'd share the info that Sainsbury's Free From Corn Lasagne Sheets are really great - I've only ever seen Orgran's mini ones before but the ones from Sainsbury's are full size and work really well - I've been making a good vegetarian one recently and none of my friends said they could tell there was anything different to a normal veg lasagne...

Their corn penne and fusilli is also really good - it has a really good texture and means you can have al dente pasta... the rice ones are good but I find tend to go soggy so quickly.

I haven't tried their corn spaghetti yet but someone told me yesterday that they'd had it and that it was great so I'll let you know when I've tried it...

Their range is also not very expensive compared to a lot of the gluten-free pastas available and is WAY better than Tesco's own-brand Free From pasta which is a mixture of soy flour and other things (that I don't believe need to be there) which turns into mush...

1-0 to Sainsbury's...!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Gluten-free veggie burgers at Borough Market

I live and work near Borough Market and always feel very jealous of my gluten-eating friends when I go as nearly ALL the hot food comes in buns/baguettes/panini/wraps etc that I can't have...
Obviously a lot of the cheese/meat samples etc are gluten-free and very tasty, but it's not the same as being able to enjoy a freshly made hot sandwich or whatever.
However, I have recently become a huge fan of The Veggie Table - which is a stall that serves hot, vegetarian food - and one of their burgers is gluten-free - YAY!
It's a quinoa/mushroom burger and is bound with gram flour (it also has a bit of chili and I think some other spices) and is SERIOUSLY flavoursome and a nice texture - if you like quinoa, anyway, which I do...
They usually serve the burgers in a wrap in a box with some salads, but if you ask not to have the wrap you just get LOADS of the salads (there is always a selection) and your burger on top so you can eat it standing up (they have forks) - which means you can join in the al fresco fun of your wrap-devouring friends...
They have fliers with a website on but I haven't been able to find it, so here's a link to an interview with the people who run it from another site - Interview.


Sunday, 20 April 2008

Muffin recipe

Sorry it's been so long since I posted - I was in a job where I was commuting 4 hours a day which didn't leave much time to go out for food...! I also just got a puppy so for the last few weeks have been hanging out with him so not been out to eat much at all...

However, to make up for it, I thought I'd post this recipe for banana muffins which I adapted from a couple of others - I think they're delicious and a really great texture, but let me know what you think!

Gluten-free Banana Muffins (makes 6)

3oz Rice flour
1oz Ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon Gluten-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Xanthan gum
Pinch of salt
EITHER 2.5oz of caster sugar or 2oz Fructose
30g Butter
1 egg
100ml buttermilk
2 small bananas

First - turn on the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Then melt the butter in a saucepan and leave to cool.
Then put all the dry ingredients into a bowl - so the rice flour/ground almonds/sugar/salt/bicarb. of soda/xanthan gum/g-f baking powder/salt.
Whizz up the two bananas - I use one of those handheld blender things - about £20 and one of the most useful kitchen tools I think...
Beat the egg in a jug or similar, add the buttermilk and the butter to it and mix.
Make a hole in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir a bit then add the liquefied banana and mix properly.
You will end up with quite a sticky batter but shouldn't be dry.
Divide between six muffin cases in a muffin tray and put in oven for about 25 mins.
Stick a knife in after this time (or maybe at around 22/23 mins) and if it comes out clean, they're done. I always worry that they feel soggy so put them back in but they will harden as they cool so don't over do them!
Transfer muffins to a rack to cool.

Honestly - this recipe is so easy and I think they're really good. I'm not a big fan of really sugary things so I prefer to use fructose (natural fruit sugar) - you always need less than with normal sugar... However, if you prefer things really sweet then just experiment with what you like. The banana adds a lot of sweetness anyway...

I've also tried blueberry and vanilla ones - add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and instead of mushed up bananas put in a load of blueberries - however, the mixture may need some extra liquid if you do this - I find the liquefied banana really helps the texture.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, 25 January 2008

If you have a sweet tooth...

... read on! I have recently eaten the BEST gluten-free cake I've ever had, AND the best biscuit. Honestly, they were both so good and you would never know they were gluten-free...

The cake comes from Konditor and Cook and is called Almond St Clement. It's a moist, spongy, orangey cake with a delicious sticky layer of citrusy goodness on top and really is perfection. I got given a whole one for my birthday recently and I almost ate the whole thing (meant for 12) for breakfast. They also do some other gluten-free things - helpfully pointed out on their 'retail list'.

The biscuit is from, surprisingly, Costa Coffee. It's called 'Gluten-Free Raspberry Shortcake' and so far every branch I've been into (bar one) has stocked them. It tastes a bit like a cherry bakewell (which I love so was instantly sold on flavour) but the best thing is the texture - it has jam in the middle and is like a shortcake cookie on the outside so it's really almost like having a soft cookie (the kind I used to eat from the bakery bit in Sainsbury's - where you get 5 in a bag or whatever - pre-gf days...) - AMAZING.

Seriously, give both of them a try - they are truly delicious and unlike so many of the gf products, are exactly like their wheat-filled friends...