Category Archives: Life Without Gluten

Rice Worms!

rice noodles

Chinese New Year was upon us, so I decided to do something with noodles. The only gluten-free noodles that I could find in the pantry were some sort of rice vermicelli, which I was later told was pretty ghastly anyway. Whilst I had made reasonably successful gluten-free pastas before with maize (corn) and amaranth (not in the same batch), rice was a new venture for me.

2 cups (200ml cups, that is) of rice flour, a teaspoon of guar gum and two eggs yielded a not-too-sticky dough that was ideal for the pasta extruder. Whilst my extruder lacks a die for any form of noodles or spaghetti, it does have one for very small maccharoni (probably maccharonininini or something) which I used to produce my ‘rice worms’.

There was little problem with the extruded and cut pasta sticking to itself or the plate so I was able to dry it on a tea towel without having to be careful to keep the pieces separate.

As this pasta is a little more physically delicate than the wheat variety, I added it to my chicken chow mein after the vigorous stir-frying had been done and actually let it cook by steaming, with the lid on the wok.

The result was very nice indeed – both of us enjoying it immensely.

It does take a fair bit of effort to make pasta like this – at least it does when I do it – but the yield of the batch was a large one so there was enough left over for Jane’s lunch the next day, which justifies the time spent. Larger batches would probably be even more economical on time, allowing me to prepare enough for a few meals, most going in the freezer.

Perfecting Gluten-Free Fish and Chips

This is not the first time I have written about gluten free fish and chips.  Since my original experiment I have managed to get both thebatter and the chips just the way we like them.

Chips

To be perfectly honest, I had never given much thought about how to make chips; I just assumed that you needed decent potatoes (you do) and you fried them, end of story.  Not so – there is an art to making chips, but it’s not a hard one to learn.  I picked up an invaluable tip watching the BBC food show, The Hairy Bikers Ride Again.

Firstly, find out what type of good chipping potato your greengrocer or supermarket (or garden!) has available.  I don’t grow my own potatoes due to the fact that our soil goes between a slurry when (and if) it rains and concrete in the summer – not conducive to harvesting things that need digging up.  Of late, I have been using a variety called ‘Red Rascal’.

If the potatoes are not washed, wash them thorougly.  If the skin is manky, peel them, otherwise don’t waste the best bit of the potato!   Slice the potato into chip-thick slices.  Are the surfaces of the slices really wet?  If so, get as much water out as you can with paper kitchen towel, unless you want the fat to boil over.   Then cut the slices into chips.

Pop the chips into the deep fat fryer for about 10 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.  Remove, allow to drain, then set aside and allow to go cold.  That’s the Hairy Biker tip.

Turn the fryer up to 180 degrees Celsius, then fry the cold, nearly-cooked chips “until ready” – about five minutes, but may vary.

Fish

As I mentioned in my previous article, Tommy Ruffs (Arripis georgianus) make for great fish and chips.

My rice batter now consists of a cup of rice flour, about half a teaspoon of guar gum and a cup of water.  If too thin, add more flour.  If too thick (you want it to cling to the fish, but not the whole bowl-full), add more water.  The temperature of the water does not seem to matter too much, we’re not making tempura here.  You can add salt to the batter or not – it doesn’t appear to affect the way the batter sticks or cooks.  One variant is to replace part of the water with white wine.

Make up the batter, dip the fish in, fry at 180 degrees Celsius in threes or fours (based on something the size of a Tommy Ruff fillet) for a couple of minutes, remove and reserve.  Once all fish have been battered and have had their initial fry, get them all in the basket together – provided that your fryer is big enough –  to finish them off.  The reason for batching is to ensure that all pieces get roughly the same cooking time.

Serving

If you are lucky enough to have the time and energy, serve your fish and chips the civilised way with some freshly made mayonnaise.  (If you can get Hellmann’s, it’s probably the best you’ll get out of a jar, although I can only speak for the British variety.)  Otherwise, salt and a little balsamic vinegar.

Gluten Free Feeds

It is now 5 months since the launch of Gluten Free Feeds, an aggregation service for feeds from gluten free bloggers the world over.

There are currently 6 feeds being aggregated on GFF (see sources), including Life Without Gluten, from this very site.  Whilst this may not sound a lot, there are some prolific writers amongst that number so there is always plenty of fresh content.

If you are a gluten free blogger and would like your feed added, please get in touch through the GFF site.

When I am less busy, I plan to replace the Drupal software currently running GFF with an updated version of my own Aggie the Aggregator software.  Whilst I think that Drupal is a great content management system, I find the aggregator rather weak and inflexible; the gluten free Aggie should present a tidier, fully searchable site.

Smiffy’s Madeira Fruit Cake

I have further developed my gluten and dairy free fruitcake recipe, this time including Madeira – actually a verdelho liquer from Sevenhill Cellars, our friendly local Jesuit winery. This is about my fifth fruitcake variant, as I go through a process of what we software developers call “debugging”.

The following are approximations as this is deliberately a “not rocket science” recipe.

  • 1 cup green pea flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (or 2 of this if no green pea available)
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • very heaped teaspoon guar gum
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 400g+ dried fruit
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups vegetable oil
  • 0.5 cups Madeira
  • 50ml dark rum
  • large pinch ground ginger
  • large pinch ground cinnamon/cassia
  • large pinch ground cardamom

Sieve all dry ingredients apart from fruit into bowl, stir together with a DRY whisk.

Make well in centre, add eggs and liquid ingredients, stir well until thoroughly mixed.

Add fruit, stir until well distributed. Beat if you have the energy. Thorough mixing is important for this recipe, aeration not particularly so.

Divide into greased baking moulds. I use a couple of silicone bun (muffin) moulds for the bulk of the mixture, the rest going into a silicone loaf tin.

Prove for 1 hour with oven just on (warm to the hand, not hot).

Oven to 150°C, bake for 35 minutes or so for buns, another 15 or so minutes for small loaves, longer for large loaves.

Parade Thai Restaurant, Norwood

A Long-Time Favourite

My wife and I have been eating at the Parade Thai for several years now, just about since I first came to Australia. We discovered it whilst visiting the Adelaide suburb of Norwood around lunchtime. There were two Thai restaurants to choose from; from the outside, one was all glass, stainless and glitzy, the other small and very slightly shabby. In my gastronomic travels, I had generally found the latter type of establishment to be a common hallmark of good food, and the Parade Thai, which I chose of the two, proved to be no exception.

We have always enjoyed the food on offer, found the service very friendly and generally quick. It is no coincidence that we try to schedule any appointments in Adelaide for Wednesday or Thursday, when this fine establishment is open for lunch. (Also open Friday, but not a good day to get out of the city.)

Gluten Free?

In the months since my wife was diagnosed with coeliac disease, eating out options have become extremely limited. Not so with our old favourite. After eating the same dish known to be gluten-free on several visits, my wife enquired as to what else might be available – expecting not a lot. We were, however, shown a list of no less than 21 dishes which could all be prepared as gluten-free. Sadly, this does not include her favourite chicken satay, but we were nevertheless impressed by the choices available.

Added to this is the fact that the staff are actually knowledgeable about gluten-free (and they have the list, of course). This is a considerable improvement on all the establishments where we get an “er, I’ll have to ask the chef” – generally followed by a ten-minute wait.

The one thing that I would like to see is for the menus to be marked up somehow to indicate “can be made gluten-free”, which would make choosing easier. (And quicker – important to me when I am already getting hypoglycaemic.)

Conclusion

I have rated the Parade Thai as “highly recommended”, and would now just add “for coeliacs too”.

Parade Thai Restaurant

Contact/Location

128 The Parade,Norwood 5067 South Australia.
Phone: (08) 8364 4243

Hours

To the best of my knowledge, but should be confirmed with the Parade Thai directly: Lunch: 1200-1400 Wednesday through Friday; Dinner 1730-2200.

Other Reviews

Review from Adelaide Now, July 2006.

Gluten Free Fruitcake, Simplified

Cooking Should Not Be Rocket Science

Whilst it has been interesting to go through the motions of developing gluten-free recipes, making precise measurements of ingredients, this is slow and tedious for a “production” environment. If everyday cooking gets this complicated, it will end up not getting done.

Everyone has advised me that precision is, however, required for gluten-free recipes for them to be successful. As one who normally cooks by gut feeling, I decided to see whether this really was the case and decided to “guess” a fruitcake.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup green pea flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Heaped teaspoon guar gum
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • Handful brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 500g mixed dried fruit
  • Large pinches of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom (all ground)
  • Packet dried yeast.

The ingredients above were not measured with any precision. They were mixed, with the exception of the fruit, with a hand whisk to form a very stiff batter, after which I combined the fruit with a wooden spoon.

Dividing the mixture into my usual (greased) silicone bun and loaf tins, I gave the mixture a full hour to rise, as size increase was very much slower than that of the “precision” batter. A rise did occur during baking.

Results

I was half expecting to get a result which was rather solid, but the result was lighter than anticipated and had a texture of “real” (wheat-based) fruitcake.

It now remains to be seen if I am able to replicate my results, still using rough measurements fine-tuning by the look and feel of the batter, as I would in “normal” cooking.

The Perils of Gluten-Free Baking

Gluten-free cooking is not all fun and games; I know this from my own experience and have also had it confirmed by a professional chef. It is, in fact, a challenge or a pain if one is feeling in a less-than-positive mood.

Apart from baked fare and pastas, I have never been a huge wheat user. Sauces can thicken quite happily with maize starch (cornflour), rice or tapioca flour, buckwheat flour makes a better coating batter than wheat ever could, and I have had good results with pastas made from maize and amaranth. Breads and pastries have been, and remain, the greatest challenge.

Whilst I have had some reasonable results with gluten-free bread, an attempt today to reproduce my best yet batch was a total disaster. The photograph shown here has a whisk standing in the loaf, just to show how total was the collapse. I have been fighting collapses and holes all along. The bread machine that I am using has an unfortunate habit of doing a quick stir at the end of the last rise. This would be fine if we were dealing with a dough but, as we are actually dealing with a fragile batter (think soufflé), that little twirl is enough to collapse the area immediately above the paddle creating – at best – a small void or – as found today – a total collapse of the loaf.

Only this morning, I was wishing that the bread machine could be hooked up to a laptop and be re-programmed with a gluten-free cycle. (If it weren’t for my poor state of health, I have an old machine in my office that I would very much like to modify, installing my own control hardware/software.)

photo of handmade gluten free loaf

Software/bread cycles apart, today’s disaster shows just how critical tiny factors are in achieving success with gluten-free bread. I do not know what caused today’s collapse – I am weighing to within a couple of grammes, so the quantities should be about as close as they should be. Variables such as water temperature, a new batch of yeast and accuracy of temperature control in the machine could all play a part.

I am beginning to tire somewhat of never really knowing what to expect batch to batch. Bread machines are great for wheat-based breads, but less than optimal for those lacking gluten. As we are now coming into winter and it is cool enough to operate the oven, I am inclined to keep using the bread machine to do all the hard work of mixing, but to start proving and baking in the oven, where there is nothing (barring earth tremors) to disturb the risen batter at that critical time.

Update

The second image on this page is of a gluten-free loaf mixed in the bread machine, then poured into a bread tin and baked in the oven. This loaf rose well and even looks more like bread than the normal gluten-free offerings. Unfortunately, my mobile phone has no exposure control on its camera, so this picture is the best I could produce, aided by some Picassa retouching.

Fruitcake!

Preamble

Due to a delay in shipping, some gluten-free goodies that my wife had ordered failed to arrive yesterday (Friday), leaving here without for the weekend. As my gluten-free breads have been improving with every batch, I thought I would have a crack at making a gluten and dairy free fruitcake. Herewith are the details of the experiment.

Ingredients

  • 150g maize courflour
  • 75g green pea flour
  • 75g chickpea (besan, gram, urid) flour
  • 75g rice flour
  • 75g tapioca flour
  • 200g brown sugar (I used a mix, mostly dark brown)
  • 160g vegetable oil (I used peanut, others may need to change if intolerant)
  • 460g water
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ packet dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon (about 2g) guar gum
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon or cassia
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 3 – 4 cups mixed dried fruit

Method

  1. Pass the flours, gum and sugar through a sieve into a bowl, introduce yeast, then mix well with a (dry!) hand whisk.
  2. Add oil, water and eggs to the pan of a bread machine.
  3. Add flour mix to bread machine pan, salt and spices going in on top.
  4. Operate bread machine on dough cycle, adding fruit at the appropriate point (our machine beeps).
  5. When mixing has stopped, transfer resultant batter to a baking tin, ensuring that the fruit is spread evenly across the bottom.
  6. Prove in a warm place for about 45 minutes. I used the oven, only just switched on.
  7. Turn oven on with cake inside, bake for 1 hour or so, when it reaches temperature. Using our fan oven, I did this at 150 degrees Celsius.

Results and Observations

The cake rose well and came out sufficiently moist, and with a good texture. All the fruit, however, was at the bottom. I believe that a thicker batter (less water) may be able to remedy this.

I baked the cake in a spring-form tin, lined with greaseproof paper. This prevented any problems getting the thing out of the tin at the end. My experience has shown that gluten-free bakes can be rather fragile when still hot, so an easy release can be important. I peeled the paper off the side as soon as the cake was out of the oven and the tin; however, I did not attempt to remove the paper from the base for about 20 minutes after that. The paper was removed by covering the cake with a plate, inverting, removing the cooling rack and paper, replacing the cooling rack, then righting it again and removing the plate.

My wife liked the cake, but my sensitive pallet could still detect the chickpea flavour, which put me right off it. (I can also taste the soy in commercial gluten-free products that contain it and don’t like them either.)

Waffles Are Go!

After the waffle disasters of yesterday, I sought help on the Recipezaar Community Forums to see what exactly had gone wrong. I was duly advised that my batter was too thin (despite the recipe I had based it on saying that it should be), and that it needed more oil. After another arduous session cleaning the machine, I applied the advice given and was greeted with success.

The Waffle Recipe

  • 1 cup “Lola’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free flour
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon guar gum
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder.
  • Salt

The ingredients are beaten together, then the resultant batter refrigerated for 2 hours. Batter is then ladled (about half a cup) onto the heated and oiled waffle iron. Batter is spread carefully to cover the surface of the die, without overflowing the outer edges (this causes the lid to be hard to open). The lid of the waffle iron is then lowered carefully – do not push it down, otherwise the batter can come out of the sides, stick and make it difficult to open. (Guess how I know.) Cooking time with this old Sunbeam waffle iron is just under 5 minutes.

I have repeated this using rice flour, rather than the blend, with similar success (slighly more water is needed).

Sincere thanks to “Chef TotalFark” at Recipezaar for the valuable advice that got this working, and saved any more horrendous cleaning jobs.

The Gluten Free Bread Flour Test

Preamble

Since finding that she was gluten-intolerant, my wife had been buying a commercial, gluten-free bread. (I tried it and found it sweet and quite revolting.) Having to undergo a further trial without dairy products, we discovered that all the gluten-free breads available through local shops did, in fact, contain dairy products, showing a need for a more reliable source of gluten-free bread.

The easy answer – and best, in my opinion – would be for that bread to come out of our own kitchen. I began, therefore, to make experimental batches, the results of which I will set down here.

A Little Sunbeam

Due to our rather extremes of summer heat, running an oven on a regular basis to make bread is simply out of the question. I already make my own bread (by the French definition: yeast, flour, salt, water), using a geriatric but reliable Panasonic bread maker.

To avoid any cross-contamination, we acquired a Sunbeam Bakehouse Compact. This is a very basic machine, and an example of value engineering: whilst our Panasonic has an LCD status display, this has only a set of red LEDs to indicate the selected cycle. How long it has to run at any point, is anybody’s guess, unless the start time was noted.

Small and basic though it is, it can certainly turn out an adequate loaf, when fed the right ingredients. In this larger version of the picture at the top of this page, the two machines are shown together, the Sunbeam on the left.

Flour: The Contenders

Three flour blends were put to the test:

  • Healtheries wheat and gluten free Simple Bread Mix
  • A bread mix from Kylie’s Bakery in Adelaide
  • A hand blended mix from a recipe from Lola Workman’s Wheat Free World

Healtheries Simple Bread Mix

This mix comes with recipes – so many, in fact, that some are printed on the inside of the box. With the flour mix are provided two packets of yeast (two used for hand-made, one for machine).

Following the directions on the packet, everything went well until the start of the bake cycle – the dough collapsed completely in the middle. What came out of the machine was somewhat like an anaemic brick (only slightly heavier).

Not being one to let such things lie, I contacted the manufacturers in New Zealand, explaining what I had done and what had happened. (Unfortunately I managed to erase the photo I took, by mistake, otherwise I would have sent that and also posted it here.) After a few days, I received a reply from someone who would appear to be one of the company’s product development cooks. She was very helpful, made suggestions and requested further information. After a second exchange of e-mails, I was advised that other customers had also had problems with Sunbeam machines. Oh, well. Had I been inclined to persue this, I am sure that I could have got a successful bake, by tweaking the recipe.

Conclusion: although I did not get a successful loaf (the dogs liked it, though), I was pleased with the level of customer service received, and will be doing a pastry experiment with another of Healtheries’ products.

Kylie’s Flour

This mix, which is used by Kylie for the bread that she bakes and sells, comes with a hand-bake only recipe stuck to the bag.

After comparing a few recipes and having a think about it, and in the absence of a bread maker recipe being provided, I made this up the way that I thought it should be done, and ran the machine on the French cycle (longer bake), as I found the actual bread from Kylie distressingly pale.

Overflow! As many of the recipes I had seen incorporated egg, I put one in my mixture. The pan overflowed, giving me a fun cleaning job inside the machine. As the dough (actually batter) was still risen, I popped it straight into a bread tin and into the oven – luckily it was not a hot day.

The result of this bread with expansionist ideas would be most accurately described as cake. The egg had pushed it beyond a bread and closer to a brioche. Still, not a bad result apart from the time it took me to clean out the machine.

A second attempt from the same bag of flour – without eggs – came out fine. Not a wonderful taste, but something that actually looked like a loaf of bread (not cake, not a brick).

But here is the snag – the mixture contains soy, which my wife is only supposed to have in small quantities.

Conclusion: makes an acceptable loaf, but contains an unacceptable ingredient.

Lola’s Flour Recipe

I can tell you exactly what went into this, as I blended it all myself, based on Lola’s fine/bread flour recipe:

  • 135g chickpea (besan, gram) flour
  • 135g potato flour
  • 70g fine rice flour
  • 70g arrowroot (tapioca flour)
  • Salt
  • 330g water
  • 25g vegetable oil (I used peanut)
  • half a packet of yeast

This was baked on the French cycle and came out reasonably, but a little crumbly.

I repeated the above, but this time added 8g of guar gum; this may have been a little excessive, as I had to use a half litre of water to get the batter consistency correct.

The result of the second try seemed to be about right – a little bit more height and not crumbly.

Taste Test

My wife, being the consumer of all this, concluded that she liked Lola’s/my recipe the best, but that it could do with being sweeter. 50g of caster sugar will be added to the next batch.

I still was not taken with result of the Lola/Smiffy bread, due to the fact that my rather sensitive pallet could taste nothing but chickpeas, which I like, but not as bread. My wife could not pick up this taste, so there is no issue.

The most important lesson that I gained from these trials came from Lola’s book: gluten free bread is not made from a dough, it is made from a batter. It was this information that enabled me to guess the recipes to within a smidgin of being right.

To any aspiring gluten-free bakers out there, visit Lola’s site, buy her books, especially if you do not feel confident with working without recipes.

Here endeth the quest for a gluten and dairy-free loaf. It has been an interesting cooking experience for me, but as I am lucky enough to be able to do so, I will stick to wheat.