Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gluten-Free Maddie

Well, more than gluten free...there's dairy too. Madison is our youngest. 2 years ago last December out she popped, premature at 32 weeks at 5lbs, 5oz. Could be worse. She got out of hospital for Christmas which was great. She went back in on Boxing Day, which wasn't. Her weight had dropped to 4lbs, 5oz. Eating was not high on her priority list back then. Can't blame her. If it made you ill you'd be the same. But that was then and this is now. No longer does she paint the walls and need a shower after every meal, we are well and truly on top of her needs. She was quickly referred to specialists and dieticians who diagnosed her as coeliac (an allergy to gluten) and severely dairy intolerant. Right then. Sorted! Easy eh? Have a think about what you have eaten today. Remember? Right, now take away 90% of that. What's left? Anything nice? Limited isn't it? I don't want to get all negative but its difficult not to sound that way. Don't get me wrong, Mads is fine with it, i suppose we see her as one of the lucky ones. For the moment at least. When you think about it, she has always had these allergies so has never known any different. It must be terrible to find out after years of a normal diet that you are coeliac. Gluten is in almost EVERYTHING!!! Bread obviously and all other wheat based produce like pasta, biscuits and breakfast cereals but have a quick nosey through your kitchen cupboards; sausages? Ketchup? Soy sauce? Stock cubes? Baked beans? Soup? Cooked ham? Crisps? There is of course exceptions but generally these and many more things you wouldn't think of contain gluten. And this is before we get to dairy!!! More obvious but so many things we take for granted are off the menu, from cheese to yogurt to chocolate to...well...milk! Next you have the risk of cross contamination and policing a hungry toddler. I'll not lie, when Mads was first on her feet it was a nightmare, she didn't understand, she still doesn't. But we do, and her big brother and sister do. That's half the battle. They know not to leave biscuits unattended and have the same meals as Mads but with gluten and dairy added after its on their plate. Now we're sorted. Easy!

And so to the point: Education and cost.

Let's start with education. Allergies of any sort can be a pain in the arse but food allergies especially in my opinion. Meals out and take-aways are a gamble as is a trip to the café  with the ladies what lunch. The way of the world doesn't help. A coeliac take-away? A nut free restaurant? What about a dairy free café? Obviously these aren't going to happen as they limit the proprietor's market and therefore aren't financially viable. Thankfully there aren't enough allergy sufferers out there. In each specific area at least. Ahh, but what about anti-allergy menus? Well I don't doubt they exist but it takes a brave owner who claims to be allergen free. The possibility of cross contamination is high and should the worst happen, the proprietor is liable in the same way he or she would be in a food poisoning case.  This is why we see allergy advise on food packaging saying things like "may contain gluten" on things you wouldn't expect. That product will have been produced in a premises that also handles gluten. This puts the onus on the buyer. What it's really saying is "doesn't contain gluten. But on the off chance that it does, we did warn you. You pays your money, you takes your chance." and that's fair enough, they are at least aware of the issue. The problem seems more with the small producer. I appreciate that a sweeping statement and i apologise to those who are clued up but the amount of family days out we've had that have been brought to a lunchtime standstill by the words "Um...I dunno" when asked if they sell anything gluten and dairy free. The worst being a restaurant in a very prominent Belfast arena who were of the opinion that their burgers were safe. Bollocks! Worse than ignorance is bullshitting your punters!

The big question is what can we do about it? Honestly, I don't know. Educating a family is one thing, but a planet? Perhaps education is a bit strong. Maybe creating awareness would be better for now.

And so to cost. Now this one winds me up. I do not for one minute believe that creating bread from rice is significantly more expensive than creating bread from wheat. I have heard that cost is higher due to price of import of ingredients and the cost of maintaining a contamination free environment, or the old favourite that these products being less than mainstream, the stores don't buy in the vast quantities needed to acquire as discounted rates per unit. I personally don't think I believe any of that. The principal is the same and neither rice nor wheat is overly costly, so why does a loaf of regular bread cost a pound or so yet a gluten free loaf will be easily double that? If the last one were true why isn't a white pan twice as expensive in your local shop as it is in a supermarket? The economics are the same surely? And its the same across the board. Every product without fail will be more expensive than it's "normal" counterpart and for me it raises a question: Do these producers believe they have us over a barrel? I know what my take on it is and I know it sounds contradictory to what i wrote about the dairy free cafe but there is a big difference between local and national. If the café could pull in every dairy intolerant latte lover in the UK it would most likely be a very profitable business.

 What to do about this one is easy. Firstly, apologise to you for having to read what comes across as a rant and i suppose to an extent it is but i am a passionate person who doesn't like being taken for a ride over something which i have no control. Secondly, stop buying it! There is no need. A bit of time, a bit of research and an oven are all you need. Here is a nice little recipe to get you started. Share it with those you know are coeliac, adapt it to suit your taste and feel free to comment on it, ask questions about it and post your own anti-allergy recipes. Let's start a revolution against the bland and the over-priced. Vive la revolution!

Gluten and dairy free chocolate cupcakes (all ingredients available from your supermarket)

240g plain gluten free flour
280g caster sugar
3tsp gluten free baking powder
80g dairy free butter
240ml rice milk
2 eggs
2tbsp cocoa powder (check label, some brands contain dairy.)


Put flour, caster sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and dairy free butter in bowl and mix until it turns to fine breadcrumbs. Add rice milk and eggs, mix until only just combined. (the secret to these is not to over-mix it.)
Pour or spoon into cupcake cases. About half to three quarters full.
Put in a pre-warmed oven at 200 degrees celsius for about 15mins. When you can poke a sharp knife or skewer in the middle and it comes out clean, they are ready.
Place on a cooling rack to
Have a brew and eat one still warm. You deserve it.  Good job.

For icing, i find, a fondant type with some cocoa powder mixed in works well and pipes easily. Follow the directions on the pack here as they vary. Or just a dusting of icing sugar if you are in a rush but I'll leave decorating up to you. We'll play with ideas on that another day.

Of course if you just require gluten free you can replace the ingredients for real butter and cows milk.

Now for my biggest tip. HAVE FUN!

Love and kisses

Suzi xx

1 comment:

  1. Firstly, great blog & loads of useful information :-) As you both know already, my partners niece has gluten / wheat issues & I'll be printing these recipes off for her mon (who is allergic to computers)... The cost of Libbys special diet is just plain stupid so your blog will help 1) lower their costs & 2) help Libs try new things... Keep up the good work.... Finally Sooz.... On the subject of your fantastic buns (I've tried them & they were the best!!) is there a way to include marzipan into the mix so that it keeps its consistency?... Lots of marzipan cakes out there but I'm yet to see a marzibun?.. Boom!! Theres your sales pitch... Take care & see y'all soon x


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