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Gluten-free dining in Australia

April 4, 2010

Five years ago when I left Australia’s sunny shores for life in the UK I had never heard of gluten and certainly never saw gluten-free items on chalkboards in Aussie cafes. These days there is an abundance of clearly labelled gluten-free options at the majority of eateries. I wish English Boy was here. We could eat out all the time!

I’ve enjoyed fresh and zingy Vietnamese rice paper rolls in Byron Bay, found GF toast and home-made baked beans in Brisbane,  and have seen more things than I could possibly eat in one sitting like GF muffins and friands, GF sourdough toast, GF sushi and salads, and I’ve been drinking soy lattes to my heart’s content. As I’ve posted before, Byron Bay Cookie Company cookies are everywhere I go. I have been longing to drop by their Bakehouse Outlet Store to stock up on cookies but when I travelled past it was late on a Sunday afternoon as I was too late. Alas.

Aussie gluten awareness

Aussie food magazines label their recipes GF as well. It seems that Australia is leagues ahead of the UK in terms of GF awareness. I believe this is because Aussies love fresh and healthy foods and as food intolerance is a health issue Aussies have embraced it. However, it’s also being attacked in the media here, as it is in the UK, for being another dieting fad. I think this is sad because like all fads, the emphasis on intolerance will pass, and I fear that once again it will be dorky and taboo to ask for gluten-free menu items and people who have a genuine need for GF food will be ridiculed.

Cynically, I also think that restauranteurs are jumping on this bandwagon because it is a money-making opportunity, but then again, giving the punters what they want is just good business and I’m all for it.

Gluten-free cooking is only as hard as you make it

For now it’s brilliant, and being around such delicious food options has inspired me to get busy in the kitchen. My whole family is home for Easter and I’ve already picked up fresh king prawns from the local co-op to make my own rice paper rolls with hot and fragrant dipping sauce. I’ve thrown together Donna Hay’s fish cakes for dinner. Rick Stein’s recipe for oven-dried tomatoes is the best technique I’ve ever found and we’ve enjoyed delicious tarts and salads using the sticky, sweet and slightly charred toms. Recipes to follow!

This has highlighted an important point for me. No one eating those meals had any idea that they were gluten-free. When preparing dinner parties for a group including someone with an intolerance it is simple and easy to prepare a dairy and gluten-free meal that is delicious and filling without anyone at the table knowing that you are catering for a special diet.

Australia has a wealth of fresh produce and ingredients to produce simple and tasty meals without much fuss. If you’re looking for a holiday destination where you can safely enjoy a GF diet Australia is the place. A long way, but it’s the holiday of a lifetime.

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