Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Camden Gluten Free Festival & New Eats!

Last weekend we headed down to London for a festive few days away. We always stay in Camden as its one of my favourite places to visit. We'd planned well as the Camden Market Gluten Free Festival was taking place over the Saturday and Sunday. Win!

We set off at 6.30am and arrived shortly after 9.30am. We had a wonder into the market while all the stalls were still setting up and sat down for a fresh mint tea at the morrocan looking place outside the stables market. 
First stop of the day for a mid morning snack was Cookies & Scream. I visit everytime I'm in Camden as they sell all Vegan & Gluten Free Bakes. I had a Bowser (Chocolate Brownie with Cookie in the middle) and my husband had a Peanut Butter & Jelly cookie. Both were yummy! 
By mid day the Gluten Free Festival stalls had set up in the Middle Yard and were serving an array of delights. Most of the stalls were also dairy & egg free too so I had plenty of choice. I decided to have a Chicken Empanada from a stall called Maize Blaze which is Columbian Street food. A golden crispy Empanada filled with seasoned chicken and served with herby potatoes, plantain, pickled red cabbage, salsa & salad. It was really really scrummy. I was so full after that I didn't have space to eat off any of the other stands. 

Mid afternoon it was snack time again. My husband had got a fancy ice cream from one of the shops so back I went to Cookies & Scream for my treat. I ordered a Tub of Scream with cookie dough balls & salted caramel sauce. OMG amazing!  

We spent early evening strolling around the Southbank Christmas Market which was lovely. After an early morning and lots of walking we decided to get food to take back to our hotel room. A few doors from our hotel was Byron Burger so we ordered a take away. I ordered the Skinny Burger which is a bunless burger with a side salad & an extra patty. Yes it would be nice to have it in a gf df ef bun but I really enjoyed it and was still very tasty.

Sunday we set off to explore a few areas we'd never been to. First stop was Boxpark. We were pretty early so not much was open but Milk Tea & Pearl was so we could get our bubble tea fix. I like a bubble tea. I had Lychee Black Tea with Lychee Bubbles. 

We then made our way over to Brick Lane as I'd noticed a cool looking Chocolate Shop on there called Dark Sugars. They sell all handmade chocolates and have a "Vegan Tree" with a dairy free selection. They are clearly marked Vegan too. I picked a nice little selection of truffles, chocolate coated medjool dates & cherries. They aren't cheap but they are well worth it for a luxurious treat. 

A bit further down Brick Lane we came across a market tucked down a side street called the Backyard Market. I spotted a sign for Gluten Free Vegan cake so I was straight in there. There it was a lovely cake stall called Cakes By Verna. I had one of each of the gf vegan options. a pretty Cranberry Orange cupcake, a chocolate brownie and an almond whoopie pie. I ate them over a few days and they were all yummy. The cupcake was my fave. 

Further down Brick Lane was another indoor market called Sunday Upmarket. I'm drawn to food markets so in we went to explore. After a few minutes I spotted another cake stall with signs for Gluten Free Vegan cake. Win again. This one was called Ninas Bakes and is run by a friendly lady who chatted about the gf and df ef options. I chose a piece of Carrott Cake and a slice of Chocolate Banana Loaf. I must say the banana loaf was the best I've ever brought. Yum! The Carrott cake was moist and delicious too. 

We headed back to the usual tourist areas and stopped for late lunch at Whole Foods Piccadilly. I picked my lunch from the hot buffet. Turkey in gravy, duck fat roast potatoes and maple glazed parsnips. All marked clearly with allergens. It was really tasty. I also picked up one of the cupcakes I purchased when I was last in London as I enjoyed it that much last time. 

I picked up a few snacks for the drive home from Wasabi. All their items are marked on the shelf labels with allergens making it easy to pick safe options. I love their shrimp nigri and edamame.

All in all I had a brilliant weekend and it's always made better when it's easy to find safe food to eat. I don't think I've ever seen so many signs offering various special diet options. That makes me happy :) 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Quiet Sundays give me a chance to play in the kitchen. I'd got a few ingredients in my cupboards that I'd been wanting to use so I decided to create a dessert which combined some of my favourite things, Hazelnut Chocolate & Cookies. 

If you'd like to have a go here's what you will need:

1 349g Carton Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
150g Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (I used Natures Path)
2 Heaped teaspoons Cocoa Powder
6 "Oreo" style cookies (I used Love More O'Choco)
2-3 Teaspoons Maple Syrup

Drain the tofu and blend in a bowl until smooth. Add the chocolate spread and cocoa and blend again. When all the ingredients are mixed and smooth put to one side.

Blitz the cookies into fine crumbs and add the maple syrup bit by bit until the crumbs start to cling together. They shouldn't be wet.

Press the crumb mixture into a loose base tart tin. I used four small individual tins. It should be approx 3-4mm thick. Then spoon on the chocolate mixture until filled. I used left over crumbs to sprinkle on top. 

Place in the freezer until set. Remove 10mins before eating so it is easier to remove from the tin.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Cherry Bakewell Bites

An easy peasy recipe for a sweet natural treat :)

100g Soft Dates
70g   Cashew Nuts
20g   Deseeded Raisins
15g   Dried Cherries
1/4    Teaspoon Almond Essence     

Place all ingredients into a blender (I use a mini blender) and blitz until crumb like. All fruit and nuts should be mixed together. 

Take small amounts in your hand and press together. Then roll into walnut sized balls.

This recipe makes 12-13 nice bite sized balls.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Padstow & The Seafood Restaurant (Rick Stein)

Part of my birthday present from my husband was a few nights away in Padstow staying at Rick Steins hotel The Seafood Restaurant and having a meal in his restaurant. So a few weekends ago we set off on a hour 5 hour trip down to Cornwall. I'd never been to Cornwall so was very excited to be visiting as well as eating and staying at Rick a Steins hotel & restaurant. 

We arrived around 5pm on the Friday night so checked in (hotel is gorgeous as it's been designed by Jill Stein who is an interior designer) and headed straight out to explore before it got dark. 

We'd already agreed to have fish & chips for our tea so off we went to Steins Fish & Chips which is a stones throw away from the hotel. I checked with the cashier that the gluten free batter was also dairy and egg free and to my delight it was. I ordered cod & chips. The chips were yummy but the fish was extra good, lovely crisp golden batter and big flakes of moist white fish. Yum!

Breakfast was included in our stay both mornings. I checked with the waiter for my safe options and he was very helpful. I helped myself to the fruit buffet and added some delicious Serrano ham. All the options were fantastic and made from high quality ingredients. Both mornings I chose Grilled Fish of the Day. First time I'd ever had fish for breakfast (except for smoked salmon) but I loved it. It was seasoned well, lightly grilled and drizzled with herbs and oil. Delicious. I was also offered gluten free toast but I declined as I was happy with what I'd had. It was all washed down with fresh mint leaf tea. 

The 2nd day we had a stroll around the town. I was on the hunt for Cornish Pastys. If you are only gluten free you are in luck as I spotted two pasty shops next door to each other that had signs for Gluten Free Pastys in their windows. I did enquire about them being dairy & egg free but unfortunately they weren't. I also noticed both had a small selection of packaged gluten free cakes on their counters.

For lunch we decided to go back to Steins Fish & Chips as I really wanted scallops. I asked if they could do them in the gf batter but due to the gluten free fryer only being small they didn't use it for anything but fish to avoid contamination for shellfish allergies. Not a problem at all though, I was more than happy to have them grilled and also a portion of grilled king prawns. Both were very tasty.

That evening we were booked into The Seafood Resaurant downstairs in the hotel. I'd been looking at the menu online for weeks trying to decide what to have as it all sounded so good. On the night for my starter I chose the Grilled Hand Dived Scallops and Iberico ham with Pimenton and Pardina lentils. Again the waiter was very helpful in checking that my choices were safe. It was very very tasty and I loved it. My husband had the Hot Shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic & lemon. I did have a taste of one of the crab claws and it was very tasty.

For my main course I decided to try a curry. I thought if their was anywhere to have a fish curry it would have to be there. I ordered the Madras Fish Curry of Stone Bass, Tomato and Tamarind. The sauce was really flavoursome without being too hot and under the sauce was a stack of gorgeous white stone bass fillets. It was served with rice and a lentil dish on the side. Good choice!

Dessert for me was an easy choice. As soon as I was offered Lychee and Rose sorbet I was happy to accept. It was great sorbet. 

Overall the meal was fantastic and I loved every bit of it. I'm pleased I got the chance to eat at a Rick Stein restaurant as I love watching him on tv. His food is amazing. 

The following morning before we set off home we popped over to Steins Deli for some snacks. I picked a selection of olives and the most amazing salt beef. It was melt in the mouth good. I noticed they sold gluten free scotch eggs and gluten free dried pasta too. 

I also found a few items to take home. Some cured bacon, smoked Cornish sea salt and some chorizo which was clearly marked on the back as gluten free and dairy free.

I had an amazing weekend and I would highly recommend staying or just eating at any of the Stein restaurants as they take great care in food allergies and the staff are very knowledgeable. Padstow is a very pretty place to visit too. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Free From Birthday Weekend

I celebrated my birthday last weekend and it pretty much revolved around a lot of Free From food.

It's an unwritten rule at my work that you take in cakes for your birthday so I made some Chocolate Orange cupcakes. Even though majority of my colleagues aren't free from I still bake free from cakes for them. They went down well as usual and didn't last very long. 

After watching Jamie Oliver's Comfort food last week I decided that I really wanted to make myself the Chocolate Celebration Cake. I like a challenge. This one was pretty simple to adapt to dairy, egg and gluten free. I used the Chocolate cake recipe from Pippa Kendrick's Free From Food for Family and Friends and split it between 3 tins. For the rice crispy layers I used Jamie's recipe with Doves Farm Choc Crispies, Pure spread, Rice Cream and Dairy Free Chocolate. The last layer should have been nougat but I changed this to my standard vanilla buttercream with a dash of Tribe Celtic Liquor. I layered it all up and topped it with some Choc orange drops. It was huge! 

For my birthday meal I decided to book the Griffins Head at Papplewick. I'd been recommended it by the coeliac's at work and also twitter friends and non free from friends. They have a huge choice of Gluten Free meals and are very acomodating to other allergies too. The waitress checked with the chef straight away if my choices could be made DF & EF as well as GF and to my delight they could. I had Scallops with Pea purée for my starter and a huge Fish & Chips for my main. Both were delicious, great portion size and good value for money. I will definetly be visiting again as all the food I saw looked fab.

I had some great free from goodies for my birthday too. Both my sister and one of my close friends made me lovely hampers filled with free from treats. I also got my favourite chocolates and some DF fudge from a work friend. It's really nice when people take time to look for things that are suitable and understand your needs. 

As part of my weekend I decided I wanted to go to Nottingham on the Sunday to visit the Gluten Free Food Fair which was organised by Sam of Gluten Free Food Nottingham. It took place at Bunkers Hill (where she does her pop up restaurant on a Friday night) and had a nice selection of local suppliers. Sam is doing great things for the Gluten Free (and other free fromers) of Nottingham. I got a nice little selection of goodies. A big slice of chocolate cake and carrot cake from Sams stall (both really nice), a lovely chocolate mint cupcake from the Cupcake Wizard, a jar of Thai Chilli & Purple Grape Jelly from Chilli Fundamentals and a jar of Apple Lavendar Jelly from the Post Office Garden. It was a great little fair to visit with very friendly stall holders. 

While in Nottingham we decided to visit the Asian supermarket just round the corner from Bunkers Hill in Hockley. I like stocking up on rice noodles from these markets as I find them better value than buying from a usual supermarket. A big bag of rice noodles is around £1.50 so you can't go wrong. I also buy the rice wrappers to make spring rolls which are great. I like finding random items too. On this occasion I found a "milky" rose tea made with non dairy creamer and some mango desserts. We also got bubble teas. I love lychee green tea with black tapioca. Yum! There are two Asian supermarkets within minutes of each other and they are both filled to the brim with delights. Great fun to browse too.

I had a fab birthday weekend (with a trip to Center Parcs Spa thrown in the mix too) and ate far to much indulgent food. Free From birthdays can still be lots of fun!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Cruising with P&O on Ventura

As always before any holiday or trip I do my research. I emailed P&O's special diets department to check the process and have them note my intolerances on my booking. Due to the type of booking we'd made they couldn't make any prior meal arrangements as I wasn't finding out my dining option until I was on the boat. I was told to speak to the restaurant manager once my dining had been confirmed. 

We had a 6am flight to Venice to meet the ship so by the time we boarded we were all pretty hungry. I grabbed a plate of fruit before jumping in the water taxi to discover Venice. Once back to the ship later in the afternoon a card had been left in our cabin with our dining details. We had the 8.30pm sitting in the Baytree Restaurant. I went along to reception and asked them to let the relevant people know about my intolerances. It was not a problem and the chef/head waiter was emailed. With it being short notice I was advised they would do their best on the first night but future nights would not be a problem.

So, let the eating begin....

I'm not a big breakfast eater at home but I am partial to some bacon & tomatoes. We decided to use the buffet restaurant each day for our breakfast so I could pick my own safe options. There was every breakfast item you could imagine. I mainly stuck to melon (which I love) and bacon & tomatoes. I took a pack of seeded wraps with me so I could make a bacon sandwich for a few mornings. Washed down with juice and a peppermint tea I was happy.

We were back on the ship everyday for a late lunch so again we opted for the buffet restaurant. There was a big selection of hot & cold foods so something to suit everyone. As you can see from my photos I was very happy to have salad, jacket potato, rice and cold cuts of meat and fish. The restaurant did get pretty busy so I didn't want to interrupt staff with questions (although I'm sure they would have happily answered them) but I was more than happy picking out obvious safe food and I really enjoyed each lunch. 

Afternoon tea
Every day around 4pm an afternoon tea selection was put out. I only went to look one day just out of interest. It was mainly small filled rolls and a lovely selection of cakes and tarts. I wanted to see what  special diet options they offered so to make things simple I asked for just a Gluten Free option. The server went off to the back and then presented me with a slice of GF chocolate cake. It looked great but was obviously not DF or EF. But for research purposes if your just GF there was options.

Evening Meals
On the first night we were introduced to our waiters who would serve us each night. I mentioned straight away about my intolerances and he had them noted down from the email which was sent. He said they'd do their best for the first night. I made it easy by choosing a melon starter, steak and fruit salad. During the meal the head waiter came over and told me each night he would give me the following days menu to make my choices, that way the chef could make them suitable for me. Each night I chose a 3 course meal (could have been 4 if I wanted a soup course too). 

On the 2nd night I was presented with my own GF, DF, EF fresh baked bread. I really liked this as I didn't feel left out when everyone else was picking their bread. It was really yummy and spongey too (I've since emailed P&O for the recipe and it turns out it was Orgran Easy Bake bread mix).

So for starters I stuck to what I partly knew could be easily adapted and what I really enjoyed. I had Melon, Smoked Salmon, Palma Ham and Prawn Cocktail. 

Main courses were varied, some nights I received meat/fish with vegetables but other nights I got a meal more similar to what was on the menu. They were all really tasty and well cooked. My favourites were the blade of beef, seabass and the duck with blackcurrent jus.

There was me thinking I'd have fruit salad coming out of my ears but I was pleasantly surprised. I had two delicious sorbets of Passion fruit and Melon. The head waiter said he could arrange me some jelly and ice cream which I jumped at the chance of. Turned out the ice cream they serve is Swedish Glacé which is my all time favourite so I was very happy. 

As we were on the cruise for my dad's birthday we booked a meal in Atul Kochhar's East Restaurant as a surprise. The night before I popped into the restaurant to mention my intolerances and straight away the head waiter offered me the menu to choose from. I picked Duck with a lychee salad for my starter and made an easy choice of Scallops with Lobster on vegetables in black bean sauce for my main. This was served with a bowl of rice and my own bowl of rice noodles. He asked the chef what he could adapt for dessert and I was pleased to hear that he could do the deep fried banana with ice cream. Heaven. The whole meal was delicious. It was my favourite meal of the holiday. 

Overall I was very impressed with how P&O dealt with special diets. I'm sure if I'd have asked at other meal times I'd have found even more options. I was more than happy with all my choices and never went hungry or found it a struggle to find suitable food. The staff were very helpful and obviously understood. I'd highly recommend cruising with P&O on the Ventura. 

Not only was the food great but it was a fantastic ship and we visited some amazing places. 

I hope lots of other allergy & intolerance sufferers can enjoy cruising too :)