Spanish McDonalds now serving gluten-free burgers

July 18, 2012

Yesterday, we were so excited to discover a McDonalds in Valencia in Spain with this message on the door.

“You can now ask for your hamburger with gluten-free bread”

OK, I know, I know. What were we doing eating in a McDonalds in Spain when there is so much great gluten-free stuff on offer there? Well, we had spent the day wandering through the streets of Valencia in the sunshine and then realised we needed to grab a quick bite, collect our bags and race to the airport. Maccas was the most speedy option.

I ordered some  gluten-free Big Macs for my boyfriend in my best broken Spanish. The girl behind the counter was very patient with my questions. I think she was trying to explain to me that you don’t get the piece of bread in the middle but it took me a long time to figure that out.

The result was not beautiful by any means but it was a good, quick bite before we raced for the plane.

Spain is such a good place for coeliacs. It’s so easy. Even easier than ordering in English. Does anyone know why Spain is so great for gluten-free food? Is it labelling laws? Higher incidence of coaliac disease? Just being plain awesome? Let me know!



Can you trust a waiter with your gluten-free order?

May 6, 2012

Anne Wollenberg’s Observer article  on food allergies makes me think not.

According to two studies in the UK and the US, over a fifth of restaurant workers surveyed thought someone with an allergy could eat a small amount of that foodstuff, and over a fifth thought it was fine to just pick it off a finished meal. As Anne says “they can’t” and “it’s not.”

I love to eat out but for my boyfriend and his family it is too often a frustrating and a sickening experience (literally) with upset tummies and low energy for the next few days after a carefully ordered meal was laced with hidden gluten.

So, here’s to the food heroes I can strongly recommend who provide an allergy menu and have knowledgable and helpful staff who make what is often a frustrating and embarrassing ordering experience into no big deal.

  • Wahaca – ask them anything. They’ll circle all of the gluten-free menu options on the menu quickly and confidently. Shame it’s not just printed on the menu though. Have a margarita for me.
  • Carluccio’s – tasty gluten-free corn pasta on a special gluten-free menu. Allow extra waiting time so they can boil a fresh pot of water for your meal. No cross-contamination in this kitchen. Antonio Carluccio is such a legend.
  • Leon – heaven sent. Clearly labelled gluten-free and vegetarian items. Tasty hot boxes with brown rice, coleslaw and a choice of a hot main. Pecan pie to finish too! Positively scrummy.
  • Nando’s – peri peri chicken, chips, rice and salad. Avoid the peri peri salt.
  • Wagamama – special allergy menu for all kinds of concerns. We were going to take some gluten-free soy sauce in case the meal was bland after all the fun stuff was taken out but it was very tasty. We had a bottle of prosecco to celebrate*.
  • McDonalds – really? Well yes. Their fries aren’t covered in flour or crazy glutenous spices like Burger King. Also, after a few quizzical looks from the teenage cashier they’ll whip up a Big Mac without the bun and serve it in a breakfast container with a knife and fork. Hash browns and breakfasts without the muffins are also safe. My other half likes to eat a Big Mac with fries like a chip butty. Hey, I didn’t say it was glamorous but sometimes you just gotta eat.

Do you have any other tried and true recommendations? Be a pal and let us know in the comments section. Cheers!

*Wagamama is a new addition. A few weeks ago we went through the usual Food Dork work up to get ready to give the waiter the run down. It’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, you know they’re going to ignore your concerns and decide that you’re just some bozo on a health kick. Our waitress was so cool about the whole thing that we felt a little embarrassed for building it up to be a big deal. It was amazing. It felt normal!


Gluten-free Mexican ingredients & a pork pibil recipe

May 6, 2012

A lot of people are obsessed with Wahaca’s pork pibil tacos and want to find out if they’re gluten-free. I know because it’s the most searched item on Food Dorks. And who can blame them? Pork pibil tacos are mouthwatering parcels of tender deliciousness and I order them every time I go to Wahaca, without fail. (And, yes, the Wahaca recipe is gluten-free!)

So I know people will understand my launching on a crusade to find an easy way to make (or better yet, buy) gluten-free corn tortillas to make pork pibil at home so I can eat tacos all the time.

I have a Thomasina Miers’ cookbook, Mexican Food Made Simple, but she has cleverly omitted her most popular taco recipe so I’ve had to do a lot more searching. (Tommi does include recipes for refried beans, tortillas, pickled pink onions and other Mexican essentials so the book is still highly recommended!)

The best looking recipe I’ve found on the interwebs is this one from Food.People.Want. (Cheers buddy!)

So, after a lot of homework, I had recipes but I still needed ingredients and these are not easy to come by in the UK. My search for ingredients led me to Mex Grocer… which led me to spending about 40 pounds on dried chillies, Mexican spices, tortillas, black beans, banana leaves, mesa harina, and marinades. These magic ingredients, when combined with humble rice, pork, onions and garlic make the most amazing food to be sampled on the planet. The Mex Grocer delivery was speedy and the products were great, especially the gluten-free soft tortillas. Believe it or not but the hardest thing to source to make a Mexican feast was fresh bay leaves; Tesco and Sainsbury’s do not stock them so I had to drive across town to Waitrose to get some.

After all the effort of gathering the ingredients I let myself down by not cooking the pork in a “dutch oven” or what i imagine is a cast iron pot like a Le Creuset. I don’t own one and didn’t feel like forking out on one. So the pork was not tender and melt-in-the-mouth as you get at Wahaca but it tasted just as delicious. The stars of the dish really seemed to be the toppings; pink pickled onions, the refried black beans and fresh sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro).

Nevertheless, the goodies I picked up at mexgrocer.co.uk are a very welcome addition to my kitchen. Although it took a bit of effort, my batch of Thomasina Miers’ chipotles en adobo is smokey, tangy and delicious. Her refried black beans also took a lot of time and blending but the result was so tasty we ate til we were far too full to do anything for the rest of the afternoon. Siesta time!


Alright, I have to confess that I wrote the above MONTHS ago (Hi! I’m back. *waves*). Since then I have tried again and this time I nailed the recipe. My hot tips are:

  • you don’t need banana leaves.
  • you DO need a cast iron pot so the meat slow-cooks in the oven and all of the juices are sealed in. Since the failed attempt I got this beautiful teal Cook’s Collection pot from Sainsbury’s. The colour is a nice happy bright teal and it reminds me of Tommi’s book and the bright colours of Mexican decorations so it’s perfect to prep a Mexican feast.
  • You don’t need dried black beans and hours of soaking as per Tommi’s recipe. Just use tinned black beans. I got some in a tetra pack from Sainsbury’s. I threw a batch of black beans together in about 20 minutes while I boiled some rice and they tasted amazing.
  • DON’T add salt to boiling beans until they are nearly ready. Salt makes them go hard.
  • You do need epazote for black beans though, or at least anise seeds or star anise as a substitute.
  • Dried bay leaves are fine. You don’t need fresh.
  • Don’t skip the pink pickled onions. They pull the whole dish together. I prefer Tommi’s recipe for these – although again, I cut the time down to about 15 minutes.
  • The Mex Grocer tortillas are fantastic. Last weekend I tried to make my own with the masa harina I bought and it was an almighty failure. Does anyone know how to stop tortillas from going hard in the frying pan? I’ve always struggled with pancakes and tortillas!
  • Tommi Miers has a new book coming out in 2012 so keep an eye out to see if it has all the recipes you need before you buy the first book

Let me know if this has been helpful in the comments section. Thanks!


Is Worthenshaws Freedom gluten-free?

January 12, 2011

A few months ago I wrote about the exciting launch of Worthenshaws Freedom free-from desserts and claimed that they were suitable for coeliacs. I thought this because their website and labelling state that Freedom is free from gluten and suitable for food allergy sufferers.

However, there is some interesting chatter about Freedom on Coeliac UK’s Facebook page this week that has made me rethink that and want to double-check the facts.

A member has posted a question asking whether Worthenshaws is safe for coeliacs to consume seeing as it is produced in a factory that also handles gluten.

Freedom’s packaging states the following: “recipe free from nuts, soya, dairy, gluten, wheat, egg, added sugar (contains only fruit sugars, artificial colours and flavours.” So, that’s the recipe. But the labelling goes on to say, “ALLERGEN INFORMATION: Produced in a factory that handles nuts, soya, milk, wheat, gluten and egg” so there is the potential for contamination with allergens.

Coeliac UK has responded to the query saying they don’t list Worthenshaws because they haven’t been provided with suitable information but  add that the Worthenshaws website provides information about the risk of contamination.

The Worthenshaws statement, available here, explains that all of the ingredients used in the dessert are gluten-free. However, nuts, gluten, eggs, milk and soya are all handled on the manufacturing site.  Because of this they adopt strict procedures for segregation and handling of all allergens and for cleaning of equipment prior to production to ensure that the risk of cross-contamination is remote.

“Testing has shown that there are no traces of these allergens, to within the current sensitivity of testing at our UKAS accredited laboratory; therefore we believe that these products are safe for the allergen sensitive consumer. The addition of the statement ‘produced in a factory that handles nuts, soya, milk, wheat, gluten and egg’ is intended as information to the consumer so as not to mislead, rather than a warning.”

I’m not entirely sure that means that there are less than 20 parts-per-million of gluten in the dessert but it sounds like that’s what they mean. There are rumours in the Coeliac UK posts that some coeliacs have felt unwell after eating the dessert so if you suffer from coeliacs it would be worth keeping this in mind if you choose to eat the dessert.

I have sent an enquiry to Worthenshaws customer care to see what they say about their gluten-free labelling and will post their response.

Related posts: Dragons Den dairy-free desserts now available


NEW Genius sandwich at Starbucks

January 9, 2011

It’s a new year so out with the old and in with the new flavours.

From the 6th of January Starbucks will replace their current gluten-free Tuna sandwich with a new Roast Chicken and Pesto sandwich. The new sandwich still features Genius brown bread and will be made with slices of roast chicken, slow roasted tomatoes, baby spinach and pesto mayonnaise.

Genius has been stocking their gluten-free sandwiches in Starbucks cafes for around 8 months now. In that time we have noticed that some smaller Starbucks cafes stopped stocking Genius sandwiches due to poor demand which has been disappointing when we’ve been after a quick and tasty snack. Hopefully the new sandwiches will prove popular and Starbucks will continue their partnership with Genius because other sandwich chains and the supermarkets have been slow to cater for the gluten-free sandwich market.

Related posts: Genius Sandwiches at Starbucks and M&S now stocking gluten-free sandwiches


M&S now stocking gluten-free sandwiches

January 9, 2011

Marks & Spencer have announced that they are expanding their Made without Wheat range to include fresh sandwiches in over 100 selected Food on the Move stores.

The sandwiches are made with multigrain gluten-free bread and include a choice of British Ham with Crunchy Salad or Free Range Egg Salad flavours.

The fresh sandwich range complements the existing range of bread rolls, loaves, cakes and slices that can be found in the bakery section.

For your nearest store that stocks the new range click here to visit the M&S website.



Gluten-Free Treats: Soft Amaretti Biscuits

January 5, 2011

Happy New Year from Food Dorks!

We were lucky to receive a few gluten-free treats for Christmas including soft Amaretti Virginia biscuits in a beautiful spaghetti tin. Amaretti are Italian almond biscuits with a soft and chewy texture. They are sometimes flavoured with apricot kernels and honey. The biscuits are individually wrapped in colourful wax paper so they look like giant sweets. Amaretti are a new discovery for me and I was very surprised that there are gluten-free biscuits out there that I don’t know about!

I had spent a lot of pre-Christmas weeks daydreaming about Italian Christmas treats (especially panettone) but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to share any with the family since most are made with wheat flour. I had completely overlooked the fact that amaretti are safe for coeliacs.

I found them to have a subtle aniseed aftertaste but thought they were quite nice on their own. I’ve heard that Italians like to dip them in red wine or have them with espresso. Over the new year I heard Genarro Contaldo talking about crunching amaretti biscuits over chocolate desserts and thought that sounded like a great idea. I also remembered one of Nigella’s old trifle recipes included crumbled amaretti and thought I must be on to something so suggested to English Boy that he should crumble a little amaretti over his Worthingshaw’s vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The result was absolutely delicious (although I’m sure it wouldn’t exactly be approved by an Italian). We’ll be stocking the cupboard with amaretti from now on. If you don’t like your biscuits to be too sweet I recommend amaretti for a gluten-free treat.

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