Pick up a basket and look through the shelves of your local supermarket or health food store to stock up on fantastic ingredients for your storecupboard. You’ll find gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free alternatives to many of your stock ingredients, many of which taste just as good, if not better, than the ingredients they replace. And, although they may need to be ordered from an internet retail site, you’ll also find there are some wonderful specialist ingredients which make cooking and baking a piece of cake!
Usually sold in flakes, agar agar is made from a seaweed in Japan and is an excellent vegetarian alternative to gelatine. Use it to make jellies, moulds, soufflés or mousses. It’s best to buy products made without the use of any chemicals in the processing (those which don’t will say!) from your local health food store or from an internet retail site.
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Gluten-free baking powders are widely available. You can use them as a raising agent for cakes, biscuits, scones, desserts and pastry and tarts.
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Use this as a raising agent when you’re looking for a gentler version to baking powder – for recipes such as soda bread, cookies and savoury biscuits, for example.
You may need to order this from an internet retail store if you can’t find it in your local health food store. But there are various products available, which you can add to the other ingredients, along with water, to replace eggs in certain recipes.
Made from anchovy extract and often sugar and salt, this is a classic base ingredient for most Thai recipes, including curries and stir-fries. It imparts a strong and unique flavour, it’s gluten- and wheat-free and widely available.
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While it’s possible to find gelatine which is made purely from pork or beef products, without any gluten or wheat, you may want to use a vegetarian version instead. These are widely available and gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free. Try gelatine in both savoury and sweet dishes or in soufflés, mousses, jellies or moulds.
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Made from the seeds of the guar bean, guar gum is a useful thickening agent. Although classed as an E number (E412), guar gum is a natural product. Use for sauces and fillings etc and also for dishes such as ice cream.
Mirin is a staple ingredient for Japanese cooking, made from sweet rice which has been matured. Great for making sushi rice, and for stir-fries, teriyaki marinades, as well as dressings and soups.
A favourite in Japanese cooking, miso soup is often a staple part of a meal. You can also use it instead of salt to add flavour to stews, soups and sauces. Usually made from soya beans or rice, it is available in large supermarkets, health food stores and Asian stores.
This might be a little hard to find – you might end up having to go to an Asian food store or a very large supermarket for this. But it’s well worth the trek as shrimp paste is integral to a really delicious thai curry paste. If you make your own curry paste you can be sure it’s free from any preservatives or additives, and it’ll also taste far better.
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It’s easy to find gluten-, wheat-, yeast- and dairy-free stock powder, and usually made without genetically modified ingredients. They’re often called “bouillon” and large supermarkets as well as health food shops generally stock a good selection. While nothing beats home-made stock in taste, it’s great to have a stock powder in your storecupboard, ready for when you need it. Use in soups, risottos, stews and sauces to enhance the dishes. It’s worth using less salt than suggested in a recipe if you’re using stock powder, though, as they are generally fairly salty already.
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This is a wonderful alternative to ordinary soy sauce, as it is gluten-free and wheat-free, and usually has no added preservatives, either. It is usually stronger than soy sauce, with a more distinctive taste, so you’ll probably want to use less than you would with soy sauce. I also find it’s best to use it during the cooking process, rather than pouring it on after everything has cooked, as the flavours in the tamari meld better into the other ingredients. You should be able to find this in any large supermarket, health food store or Asian store.
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You may find this difficult to find (although easily available through internet retail sites), but it’s well worth tracking it down as it is a great alternative to gluten. Like gluten, it is stretchy and it holds ingredients together. So use this for baking cakes, cookies, biscuits, pastry and bread to make them less crumbly and far less likely to fall apart. Although it is sometimes called E415, it is one of the few E numbers which is a natural vegetable product.
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