Monthly Archives: November 2012

Gluten-Free Tweet Up 2 – at Leon

A couple of weekends’ ago I hopped off to meet up with some gluten-free tweeps for our second Gluten-Free Tweet Up. Our first Tweet Up was back in August, when Gluten Free Mrs D organised the evening and we met at Annie’s Supperclub and had an amazing gluten-free (and dairy-free for me) Italian feast, including my first ever taste of a tiramisu. This time, Gluten Free Cake Lover took up the challenge of organising us all and we met at Leon on Carnaby Street.

Leon has long been a favourite of mine. They’re great at labelling their food and they’ll happily show you ingredients lists of any dish. They have a wonderful selection of food to either eat in or take away, including Breakfasts, Hot Bowls, Wraps, Soups, Salads & Superfood Salads, Sides, Snacks, Cakes & Biscuits, Evening Specials, Kids Food and Desserts. You can get dishes like Meatballs, Chilli Chicken, Poached Salmon and Falafels – all of which are gluten-free, and can be dairy-free if you ask them. You can also get their famous Leon Baked Fries which really are very, very good – fantastically crispy yet made without flour (yippee!) and full of flavour – as well as their renowned Fresh Slaw which is a modern take on the old mayonnaise-drenched version, instead deliciously zesty and herby.

I ordered the Set Menu for 1 which is fantastic value – you get Hummus (and you can have Fries instead of Flatbread), Meatballs/Veggie Curry/Falafels with Rice and Spiced Corn/Fresh Slaw on the side. All this comes to £9.95. I often go to Leon to order a take-away, or to get salads for work lunches. I’m particularly keen on the Salmon Salad which really is delicious – and you can see them poaching the salmon fresh for each order.

Leon is all about healthy food. Their motto is that the food Tastes Good and Does You Good. They set about to change the face of fast food, concentrating on fresh, natural food (often using seasonal ingredients and using ingredients from sources they know and trust). They cook dishes that are low in saturated fat (but full of the good fats from fish, olive oil, avocadoes and the like) and low GI. They make their Chocolate Brownies, for example, with dark chocolate, ground almonds instead of flour and fruit sugar instead of refined sugar. They also label foods if they’re Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian or Vegan and they’re incredibly careful about making sure that they are, indeed, free from. Gluten Free Mrs D told me that they’ve had their gluten-free food tested to make sure they’re less than 20ppm of gluten. They also make sure that there’s no cross contamination and their staff are very knowledgeable and helpful.

We had a great evening there. It’s wonderful to meet up with like-minded people – chat, gossip and share food. What was even better was that some people brought goodies for us to try! Ann Perkins from PERK!ER brought up chocolate brownies, Samantha (The Happy Coeliac) brought Coconut-Lime Layer Cake and Caroline (Sugargrain) brought these Honey Coconut Bites and (sugar-free and vegan) Banana & Choc Chip Loaf pictured above. Huge thanks everyone for the goodies and a great evening!

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Chestnut & Pancetta Soup

This is a wonderfully robust soup – with a great mixture of flavours from the sweet, earthy chestnuts, the salty pancetta and the aromatic rosemary. It makes a lovely lunch-time soup for 4 – or a evening bowl for 2. And if your toddler can tolerate nuts, it’s guaranteed to be a hit with him or her.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to forage or get some fresh chestnuts, all good. Simply cut a cross in the top of them and roast in the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for about 10 minutes. Then just peel and use. Or, of course, you can use the vacuum-packed chestnuts you can buy in packets. With these you just soak the packets in boiling water for a minute or so, before opening.

gluten-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, seed-free, citrus-free

Preparation time 5 minutes     Cooking time 20 minutes     Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g/7oz pancetta
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • ½ leek, sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
  • 400g/14oz cooked chestnuts
  • 1.2l/42fl oz/scant 5 cups stock made with gluten- and dairy-free stock powder
  • sea salt (optional as the pancetta is already salty) and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat until hot. Add the pancetta and fry for 5–6 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to one side.
  2. Put the onion in the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, until just starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring all the time. Add the carrot, celery and leek and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, until the leek starts to turn translucent. Stir in the rosemary and chestnuts and cook for a further 5 minutes until the carrot is starting to soften. Add the cooked pancetta and pour in the stock. Season lightly, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. Using a immersion blender or blender, whiz the mixture to make a slightly textured soup. Serve hot.

100 Best Food Blogs on womanandhome.com

My blog has been voted one of the 100 Best Food Blogs by woman&home.com! Huge thanks, woman&home. I’m honoured to be chosen, alongside culinary greats like Matthew Fort and Fiona Beckett and bloggers like James Ramsden, Leemei Tan and Edd Kimber. They say –

“Meet the blogger: Grace writes home recipes for gluten and dairy-free families.
Why we love it: With everything from fish and chips to plum crumbles, Grace demonstrates that gluten and dairy-free diets can be both easy and delicious.”

Yay!

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free in Brixton

Brixton is on the up. After years of being overlooked by foodies, Brixton Village is turning it into a foodie destination. And what’s really brilliant, is that there’s a great choice of places to eat for gluten-free and dairy-free foodies. Yep life just gets better and better!

Step inside the Village and, as you weave around the crowds, the thing that hits you is just how friendly the whole place is. All the tiny eateries have tables outside, so people sit in the corridors of the arcade (wrapped in blankets when it gets chilly) chatting, drinking and eating – and sometimes dancing to the live music that pops up on Thursday evenings. You really do feel like you’ve stepped into another world – miles away from the humdrum of your routine life. I’ve taken Zoë down there a few times at the weekend and invariably she’s bumped into someone she knows (her network of friends is growing at an impressive pace for a four-year old!) even though we live a 30-minute bus journey away. Pleading eyes then lock into mine and all plans are thrown in the air while she eats ice cream or cupcakes with her friends.

The first place we tried during the summer was the WAGfree Bakery, Deli and Cafe. I ordered the Fish and Chips as I’d heard the batter was impressive. And impressive it really was – light and crunchy and really delicious. Zoë had an egg and bacon muffin and, while the bacon was overcooked, the bap was delicious. It held together well and had a lovely taste.

WAGfree also sell their some of their products to other stores, including a burger bun to Honest Burgers. This weekend Zoë came with me to try their gluten-free burgers. The staff literally couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. There was a 30-minute wait, so they promised to call when a table came free, and they did. When we arrived back, they then went out of their way to get us a table inside as Zoë was cold. The real downfall, though, is that they can’t promise dairy-free for the meat burgers as all the burgers (with cheese toppings in most cases) are cooked on the same small hot plate. For me, even a small amount of cheese can make me sick, so I can’t risk that sort of contamination. The waitress was lovely about it though – she made me aware of the issue and then said that the vegetarian burger would be fine as they are cooked in the chip fryer, not on the hot plate. So I had a Cauliflower and Sweetcorn Fritter (without the Cucumber Yogurt), along with their Chips with Rosemary Salt. It was good and the WAGfree bun was really good. Again, it held together well and had a really nice taste.

Slightly further afield – on Coldharbour Lane – is the wonderful Ms Cupcake. London’s first entirely vegan bakery, its mantra is “Everybody deserves great cake. It is our job to create indulgent and decadent cakes for you regardless of what you can, and cannot eat.” Not surprisingly, as well as making vegan cupcakes, they also do sugar-free ones (on request) and gluten-free. The base cakes are lovely, which is always impressive if they’re made without eggs. I met Ms Cupcake a while ago and she told me that the secret was all in the way that they’re mixed. I’m longing to know more!

But the revelation for me was Brixton Village in the evening. I met up with a friend for drinks and we sat, wrapped up in blankets, loving the atmosphere. As we sipped wine, we watched a mother dance with her young daughter to the live music and other people joining in. This just isn’t what happens in Britain! It felt very relaxed, very lovely and huge fun. Next time Zoë’s awake late, I’ll bring her down for a dance…