Cooking Without Gluten and Dairy
This article is written by Louise Marchionne who is both an excellent chef, an allergy therapist and a single mum who is dairy and gluten-intolerant herself so she has an in-depth understanding of the issues involved in making tasty meals while living on a 'restricted' diet.
When I was told that my son and I were intolerant to gluten-containing grains, all dairy products derived from cow’s milk AND sugar – I panicked and thought the world that I knew had just ended. It had, but I am very pleased to say that I rose to the challenge!
Shopping and cooking became a whole new and much more rewarding task. Rewarding because I have learned so much more about food and cooking and have gained new respect for the processes involved in food production, such as how it is sourced, grown, prepared and then shared. But without doubt, the physical and mental benefits of living on a gluten- and dairy-free diet are the greatest rewards of all.
My first piece of advice to anyone learning to cook without gluten and/or dairy products is to invest in one or two decent gluten and dairy-free recipe books. Read them like you would any book and hopefully they will inspire you and perhaps even ignite an enthusiasm for a new approach to cooking!
It will take you a little longer than usual to begin with, but then go shopping, learn to read the labels on everything and stock up on some useful basics such as:
Gluten-free unprocessed whole grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat, polenta, and two or three types of rice such as basmati, wild and risotto, for example (please see below for more tips on cooking alternative grains.)
Gluten-free flours such as rice flour, gram flour (chickpea), maize (finer than polenta), potato, millet, buckwheat, cornflour and arrowroot, to help thicken sauces. Xanthan gum is also an excellent ingredient to help replace the gelatinous quality of gluten in baking.
You can buy gluten-free bread until you are feeling brave enough to try gluten-free baking for yourself. I have recently discovered a gluten-free bread that is so good it can sometimes be found alongside the regular breads in the supermarket – so ask a shop assistant and look around.
Humans do not require milk for nutrition after weaning if eating a healthy and balanced diet, so try to keep dairy to a minimum and only use goat or sheep’s dairy where you need to (these milks contain smaller molecules which are more digestible). Use live yoghurts instead of cream or ice cream and flavour them yourself with fruits and natural sugar syrups or fructose which all have a more gentle effect on our system than processed cane sugar.
Discover the dairy-free joys of almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk and you could even try quinoa milk! Desserts made from almond milk are delicious in my opinion. In custard for example, I use a combination of almond and rice milk and flavour with a couple of drops of vanilla extract. Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for dairy products in puddings and good for you as well!
When substituting dairy try to avoid modern processed soya products eg: ‘milk’, ‘yoghurt’ and ‘ice cream’. They are produced differently to the traditional soya products and are harder to digest.
Always aim to include a variety of beans, pulses, nuts and seeds in your daily diet. They are a great source of many nutrients and will help to replace those that you may be concerned about lacking by going dairy and gluten-free.
Once you have stocked up on a few of the basics, and have tried some recipes and made a few mistakes it really doesn’t take that long for your knowledge, skills and confidence to soon grow. Children are – and should be – your best and worst critics when trying out new recipes, so always listen to them and get them to help prepare the food. The other most important attribute that begins to grow is your enthusiasm; to shop wisely, to prepare lovingly and to eat appreciatively.
One of my more apparent frustrations about the culinary world of gluten and dairy-free diets is the label they have been given. They are, in fact, NOT at all restrictive. A healthy diet should be about expanding a culinary repertoire, discovering and remembering all the foods that are now available to us to eat in this very global world in which we live. The secret to any healthy diet lies in moderation. How many times in any one day do you knowingly eat gluten in wheat products? Do you start your day with cereal or toast? A sandwich for lunch? Perhaps pasta for supper? That is in addition to the many times a day you have unknowingly eaten the wheat and gluten hidden in processed foods such as stock cubes, soya sauce, soups, sausages, burgers and sauces!
Aim to reprioritise how you eat, let seasonal vegetables become your largest ingredient as opposed to starches; vary your sources of protein – perhaps spend a little more on protein and eat a little less? This will automatically become easier when you find yourself sitting down to eat where the food group that takes up the most space on your plate is bright, different coloured vegetables. By eating seasonally, we also eat in moderation.
Some tips for cooking gluten-free grains
1 cup of buckwheat
2 cups of water/liquid
As with all grains, rinse buckwheat in a sieve under some cold running water first. Then turn out into a warm pan that is sat on a low heat. Buckwheat is actually a seed, not a grain. It therefore works well to toast it slightly first. The heat will first dry the buckwheat before it begins to toast. You can add a little olive oil, but be careful not to let it burn. Then add the liquid and continue to cook on a low heat, with a lid on the pan. When the buckwheat has absorbed all the water, (about 10 - 15 minutes) rinse it again in the sieve, then put it back in the pan, drizzle a little olive oil over it, season, and do with it what you will.
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of water/liquid
Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under cold running water first. Then put in pan with the liquid bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer gently until the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 – 15 minutes). Drizzle some olive oil, season and ‘fluff up’ with a fork.
Millet needs a little more liquid to cook than the other two.
1 cup of millet
2 -3 cups of water/liquid
Rinse the millet in a sieve under running cold water. Place in pan with liquid (try 2 and a half cups to begin with, you can always add a little more if you need to..). Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and cook slowly on a low heat with a lid on the pan. This takes slightly longer to cook than the other two, so keep an eye on it, but it still only takes 15 – 20 minutes! Add a little more liquid if it looks a little dry and not quite cooked. When cooked, add a little oil and ‘fluff up’ with a fork.
All of the above gluten-free grains can be cooked in advance and stored in a tub in the fridge and will keep well for 2 or 3 days. Adding the oil whilst the grains are still warm, encourages them to stay separated.
This is one of the more processed gluten-free grains, but when cooked well, can be both delicious and versatile. As with the others, it is great in both savoury and sweet dishes. Polenta used in cakes gives a great rustic, earthy quality, a cake with some substance! I would suggest that you bake the cake a day before you need it, this gives the polenta more time to absorb the moisture. You can also cook polenta in a pot to use as a base for flans or pizzas or as it is, or to grill and serve. For sweet dishes you can cook it with apple juice and water with a little butter. For savoury dishes you can cook it in chicken stock, vegetable stock or well seasoned water, with a little oil or butter. You can even put in some parmesan, or some fresh chopped herbs towards the end of cooking, for savoury dishes.
2 cups of polenta
5 cups of water
Bring the liquid you are going to use to the boil. Slowly add the polenta, whisking all the time, to avoid it getting lumpy. Add the oil or butter after the polenta, stirring very frequently. When the polenta comes away from the side of the pan easily, it is cooked. This is a better way of knowing when it is cooked rather than trying to time polenta. Traditional polenta takes about 30 minutes to cook. The ‘instant’ polenta takes about 5 or 10 minutes. Turn it out into a lightly oiled tray ready for whatever you are going to eat it with.
Millet or quinoa with smoked fish
1 cup of millet or quinoa
2 cups of water for millet, 2 cups for quinoa
1 tablespoon of chopped chives or chopped spring onions (or more if you prefer)
1 cup of roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 fillet of smoked mackerel or equivalent of another smoked fish
Lemon juice (approximately half a lemon) perhaps a splash of apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper
Cook millet/quinoa in the water and leave to cool. Chop chives or onion, roughly chop parsley and remove skin from fish and roughly flake it, using either a knife or a fork. Combine all ingredients, add lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning to your liking. Eat immediately or can be chilled overnight.
I think this is a great lunch box idea, cheap and SO nutritious! Gluten-free grains such a millet or quinoa are excellent sources of vegetable protein – with quinoa in particular combining all the essential amino acids that we need. These ancient grains are good carbohydrate substitutes for wheat-based products and because they are ancient our bodies find them easier to absorb. They are also considered to be excellent prebiotics, which means they encourage a healthy climate in our gut for the friendly bacteria to grow.
Parsley too is an excellent source of minerals, and is an excellent antioxidant which makes it good for our stomach, liver and immune system. Chives and spring onions are the more gentle members of the onion family, which makes them easier to digest whilst retaining their antifungal and antioxidant properties. Lemon juice contains vitamin C which is crucial to help eliminate toxins from the body and is also good to help maintain the correct acidity in the stomach to aid digestion. Olive oil, contains Omega 9, is easily absorbed and tastes great!
Sea salt contains minerals besides sodium and therefore helps the stomach maintain its correct acidity. Black pepper also helps to keep energy moving.
I believe wholeheartedly that our bodies require as much support as possible in the quest for health in our present environment, and believe that a few adjustments to our cupboards and expanding our culinary knowledge can have far reaching benefits for both ourselves and our children. In this article I have attempted to outline a few basic ideas about cooking without gluten and dairy. For recipes, further information and and tips or to arrange a consultation please visit my website at: www.foodfitforyou.co.uk
Louise's passion for food comes from her Italian heritage, her experiences as a chef in an organic restaurant, her interactions with clients as an Allergy Therapist and from her current study of the subject of nutrition. She uses kinesiology and sound nutritional principles to devise personalised healthy eating plans for her clients. Her goals are to enlighten, inspire and support her clients to make the changes needed to achieve a better sense of well-being.
Louise Marchionne MRAT Dip AT (Dist) PGCE BA Hons (Chef and Allergy Therapist)
www.foodfitforyou.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0777 964 2563
More gluten- and dairy-free recipes can be found at www.newdiets.com.