A gluten free Christmas: Day 23

You’ve just been told that you’ve an unexpected visitor; and they have to have a gluten free diet. And the shops are all closed for Christmas What do you do?

balloonsFirst of all, don’t panic. Probably, they’ll come equipped with the basics: at least some bread. And if not, it’s still manageable – and they’ll probably be so glad that you’re able to feed them, that they’ll be grateful for anything you can provide.

Second: look in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. Assuming it is a main meal that you need to create, I’d start by looking at what carbohydrates you have that are gluten free. Do you have any potatoes, rice, polenta or quinoa? If you do, then, that will be the basis of your meal.

Then, protein. Do you have any: eggs, cheese, plain meat or fish (not breaded or battered), or dried/tinned pulses? That will then be the next element.

And vegetables – could you make a salad? Cook some side vegetables?

Often something really simple and straightforward is the best option. How about roasted vegetables served with rice and a salad? Or a souffle with chips or roasted potatoes? A risotto, a chili or a stew? Read all the labels of everything you put in. Check with your visitor before starting if possible – but don’t embarrass them by discussing the ins and outs in great detail, or by making a big fuss about it. Ask their advice; they’ll know. And if they say that they can’t eat something, please don’t put any pressure on them. “A little bit” will make a difference; “just a taste” will do them harm.

If they’ve come to share your Christmas dinner, and you’re serving a traditional turkey meal, they could eat the turkey and vegetables, probably including the roast potatoes, but not any sausages or stuffing, and not any of your planned Christmas pudding and mince pies either. Have you got any suitable icecream in the freezer, which you could offer with a butterscotch or fruit sauce – or with preserved stem ginger, chopped and served in its syrup? Could you simply cook up some dried fruits in orange juice and sugar in the roasting oven?

Just keep it simple and check everything. Your visitor will know that you’ve put in the effort to keep them safe and healthy over Christmas – and they’ll apppreciate it.

A gluten free Christmas: Day 22

silver-baublesWhat do vegetarians eat at Christmas? Or, and more specifically, what do gluten free vegetarians eat at Christmas?

They definitely don’t eat the turkey, sausages, bacon or meat-based stuffing…

There are lots of options available. In the past we’ve made a chestnut and mushroom pie, a white-nut and Sage Derby loaf, goats cheese and red onion tarts and an apple and mushroom en croute. All both vegetarian and gluten free by using gluten free shortcrust pastry or gluten free breadcrumbs, depending on the recipe.

But this year, I’m tempted by this one: Moroccan spiced pie, from the BBC Good Food site. It looks beautiful, and is crammed full of herbs, spices, nuts, berries, ginger and honey. Fab-u-lous. Do go and look.

The only issue will be swapping out their normal filo pastry for gluten free pastry. Ready made gluten free puff pastry is available at Gluten Free Foods Direct (Brumby’s). It’s probably too late to buy some now, so we’ll have to make it. I’ll probably use Gluten Free Gobsmacked’s recipe for croissants (yes, I did reference it a couple of days ago, but it is a good one!).

And I expect that will be just delicious. Feeling hungry already…

Update 2013: Gluten Free Foods Direct have changed their web address (I’ve updated the link above) and I’m not sure that they sell gluten free puff pastry any more. If I find a new source in the UK, I’ll let you know. (If you’re in Australia, it looks like you might be in luck – or even in continental Europe, where Dr Schar sell frozen rolls of puff pastry, though not here in the UK.)

I did find this recipe for a gluten free version of rough puff pastry – I haven’t tried it, but it looks pretty good. There are lots of others around, such as this one from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (looks delicious!)

A gluten free Christmas: Day 21

Children off school for the Christmas holidays now?

nativity sceneMine are. And I’m going to set them to work making a gluten free gingerbread nativity scene. We’ve done this for a couple of years now, and the results (while not always perfect) have a naive charm all their own and make the house smell absolutely wonderful.

It’s an excellent activity that takes up much of an afternoon, what with the mixing, the rolling, the cutting out, the decorating and the sticking together… the washing up can often take a while too!

Last time I posted about this, I couldn’t find any nativity scene cutters available any more in the UK, but I’ve noticed at least two sources recently. One is via Cakes Cookies and Crafts, where the set costs £10.99 + postage; the other is via Lakeland (though I have a feeling they may be out of stock, as I can’t see them this morning).

And if today is too late to buy online, or even to nip down to Lakeland to see what they have in stock, you could try drawing the shapes onto paper, and creating templates to cut the gingerbread to shape – just remember to keep it simple, with no narrow arms/legs or necks, because those are the bits that break…

Or, you could create salt dough Christmas shapes to decorate your house or tree. There’s a recipe available here for microwaveable salt dough figures (for quick drying), or for air-drying salt dough figures here, but remember that if there’s any risk that your child will eat the dough (or lick their fingers) then you should make it gluten free – even if salt dough is inedible because of the salt!

Note that the image is taken from the Lakeland site; our gingerbread nativity scenes don’t look nearly as polished as this one…

A gluten free Christmas: Day 20

What are you going to have for a celebratory Christmas breakfast?

When we get together for a big family Christmas (expecting 25 this year), we often have a glass of Buck’s Fizz (fizzy wine and orange juice) and croissants – with extra cereals/toast available for those who are hungry!

celebrationOn Boxing Day, we’ll be having a bigger brunch, which will probably include:

  • scrambled eggs
  • smoked salmon
  • kedgeree
  • sausages
  • bacon
  • baked beans
  • mushrooms
  • tomatoes
  • scotch pancakes
  • waffles and maple syrup

This way, the vegetarians, the pescatarians and the full English breakfast fans can all find something they can eat. No vegans in our family – yet.

Those living gluten free will also be able to eat this, because we’ll make sure that the gluten traps – the croissants, the sausages, the baked beans, the scotch pancakes and the waffles – will all be gluten free. Many things on the list are naturally gluten free (salmon, eggs, vegetables, maple syrup). For those that are not, here are our alternative plans:

A gluten free Christmas: Day 19

I talked about ‘the trimmings’ that go with turkey a couple of days ago; but what about the ‘trimmings’ that go with mince pies or Christmas pudding?

custardThese could be:

  • brandy butter
  • custard
  • cream

Cream, whether single, double, whipped, sour (!) or pouring is naturally gluten free, so unless you’re adding something very odd indeed, this should be fine.

Brandy butter should just be butter, sugar and brandy, though if you’re buying ready-made, do check the ingredients because as we know, manufacturers do tend to add flour to the oddest things. Brandy, incidentally, is gluten free (unless something is added post distillation). I always make ours, and I do it by eye (and taste), not by measure, so here are a couple of proper recipes for you. Interestingly, both use brown sugar where I use icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar) so I might try it with brown sugar this year:

Custard may be more risky. Traditionally, this is made using cornflour (see Mary Berry’s recipe for custard), and it is surprisingly easy to do, though I confess that when I make custard I omit the cream… If you’re buying custard, do check just in case. If you’re in the UK, then you can rely on Ambrosia and Bird’s.

Another option is to use a good thick yoghurt, probably Greek. And Greek yoghurt is available at 0% fat, if you’re trying to monitor such things over Christmas…