Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gluten Free: Store-Cupboard Savers

Hurrah! The FreeFrom Food Awards 2013 shortlist is out! If you don't know about these awards yet, prepare to get a bit giddy. The judges (including me) eat their way through mounds of gluten free food, then argue about discuss their favourites until they have a shortlist of really exciting free from products in categories ranging from bread mixes to Christmas food, all available in the UK. I might have been around the block a few times with this gluten free food malarkey, but still rely on the Awards' recommendations for products when I go shopping.

I'm really pleased with this year's shortlist and there are definitely more than a few fantastic finds on it. But what about the everyday products that I depend on, ones that weren't entered into the contest? The thing is, although I can still eat all fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products and get my carb-fix from rice and potatoes, it's all a bit dull if I have nothing to perk them up with. Fuelled mostly by greediness (and a good amount of stubbornness), I have spent the past six years sourcing substitutes for all those things I once thought were lost.

Thanks to good GF breads like Fria, Warburtons and Genius sliced loaves, cheese on toast is back on the menu. All you need is worcester sauce to really make it delicious (my old housemate put Tabasco sauce on his, too, which was actually jolly nice). Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce contains barley gluten, as do all the supermarket versions, so for a long time I used a specially produced sauce, made by Life Free From, until that was discontinued. All was not lost, though, and dozens of Northern Coeliacs appeared on Twitter to console me and told me to get some Henderson's Relish. Its recipe is naturally gluten free and it tastes brilliant, maybe even better that traditional worcester sauce…
Unlike Nigella, I don't keep gallons of stock in my freezer for rainy days. When I need 'express' stock, I use a stock cube or powder, like most people. A lot of stocks contain wheat so it's always wise to read the label. Kallo stock cubes are gluten free, as are Essential Cuisine stock mixes and both taste great. Me and Delia use Marigold bouillon powder quite a lot, the one in the green container is gluten and yeast free, but it's quite salty, so use it sparingly. If I can't be bothered to make my own stocks all the time, then you'll be unsurprised to learn that I like to use gravy granules on occasion. You can  get specifically GF gravy powders, but I've yet to find one I like. Instead, I use Bisto Best gravy granules, the ones in jars are made to a gluten free recipe. One of my flatmates at university was a Coeliac and she swore by the stuff, too! (The packages do state that it's produced on a line that handles wheat flour, so some people are wary about using it, but Coeliac UK were satisfied with the extensive testing that the manufacturers did and still consider it to be GF.)



When I do want to make gravy or sauces from scratch, I need something to thicken them. I used to use a lot of cornflour and it does the trick perfectly, but it makes the sauce cloudy, so I prefer to use arrowroot powder now, which leaves a cleaner looking sauce. If you want to make a roux for a white sauce, I'd recommend Dove's Farm rice flour, which gives a lovely smooth finish, whereas other gf flours can be a bit grainy.
Soya sauce is something I've covered before (if you don't do soya, try my suggestion for a good alternative for soya sauce in cooking), tamari, a Japanese variation of soya sauce is easily available. When recipes start specifying the use of light or dark soya sauce it gets tricky. I've found that Kikkoman gluten free tamari (the one you find in the freefrom aisle at Sainsbury's or at Sous Chef) makes the best alternative to light soya sauce, while Clearspring and Sanchi (found in Tesco, Waitrose and health food shops) can double as the dark stuff.



We've been asked about mustard quite a lot, some mustard use wheat flour in the recipes and others contain malt vinegar. Technically, malt vinegar is gluten free, but I know a lot of GF-ers who steer clear, just in case. English mustard is the biggest culprit and is definitely not suitable, but Colman's mustard powder is just mustard flour, so you can use that to make your own. Waitrose and Tracklements English mustards are gluten free, if you'd rather buy it already made up. In general, French mustard is gluten free because it's made to a different recipe, but do check the label to be sure.



I was lucky enough to judge the beer heat of the FreeFrom Food Awards last year and, although the judging comments on my last few beers were utterly incomprehensible, I was excited by the range of gluten free beer available. I absolutely love Daas Blond, and Estrella Damm Daura is (on sale in La Tasca) pretty great, too. When it comes to cooking with the stuff, Green's Dark Ale is a lovely addition to beef stew.

These lists are by no means definitive and I'd love to hear your suggestions for good gluten free substitutes, so please do share!

3 comments:

  1. One word of warning - the Bistro Best Vegetable gravy granules contain soy sauce. Discovered that when I couldn't be bothered to make meat gravy for me and veg gravy for t'boyfriend and just made the veg gravy. Boo.

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    Replies
    1. That's strange, isn't it? The allergy warnings don't say contains wheat gluten, so you'd expect it to be gluten free, but soy sauce is not...

      I'll ask the folk at Bisto and see what they have to say.

      Delete
  2. This is a handy list! Basically this means that all things that I'd throw in your dinner as I was cooking would probably poison you.

    ReplyDelete

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