Going gluten free doesn’t mean you have to miss out on favourite treats

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week. Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition.
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When sufferers eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) their body attacks its own tissues. When left untreated it can cause gut damage and serious health complications like osteoporosis. The only treatment is a strict gluten free diet. If you suspect you may have the condition, go to coeliac.org.uk and there’s an online self assessment test to ascertain whether you may have it.

One of the danger areas when following a gluten free diet is eating out. Firstly there are hidden glutens in ready made sauces. Malt vinegar can sometimes have malt extract added, which may trigger an attack. Often flour is added to thicken and eke out soups and sauces. Allergen legislation dictates that the retail and catering sector are required to provide information and follow labeling laws. Cooking at home can often be the safest option – that way you have complete control of what’s in the food.

Ask any newly diagnosed coeliac what they miss most and pizza is often up there as an answer. You can buy really effective gluten free flour. English company Dove’s Farms have a large range of high quality products and Italian company Caputo do great strong bread flour that you can buy on line or from certain delis. The pizza recipe here calls for a range of flours – rice, chickpea and potato flour. You can source these in health food shops or Asian shops. Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide and common food additive. Its an effective thickening agent, emulsifier and prevents ingredients from separating. In gluten free baking it will help bring all the flours together and replicate the texture of gluten. Alternatively substitute gluten free bread flour for the three flours used here.

There are many bakeries in Northern Ireland now that do amazing gluten free bakes – so good it’s hard to tell the difference. If you fancy baking yourself some treats though I’ve added a couple of cake recipes here. Gluten free brownies use wheat free flour in the mix and some frozen raspberries are added for a bit of squishiness. The other recipe is for a gluten free orange cake where the oranges are boiled until soft and then blended as a base. Almonds take the place of flour and egg whites help the whole thing to rise.

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