Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Wagamama's, Nationwide

After a fairly mixed gluten free dining experience at Jamie's Italian, the following day we were having a much better time at Wagamama's at Heathrow Terminal 5. Obviously buoyed by the excitement of going to Thailand that day (more on that to come!), I tried to remain level-headed enough to write an impartial review.

I've eaten at Wagamama's quite a few times since being gluten free, but lately I think they've made some big improvements, so I thought it was time to put pen to paper. Until recently options were fairly limited, although always tasty. My 'usual' was Chicken Itame, a warming and spicy coconut broth, packed with Asian vegetables, chicken and rice noodles. It's one of the few dishes that was naturally gluten free. In recent times though, the gluten free options seem to have expanded and they seem better equipped to modify dishes.
Lollipop Prawns
The setting at T5 is pretty impressive with huge floor to ceiling glass overlooking the aircraft. We were given a comprehensive allergen menu to look through and the website also has similar dietary filters. We were told that because we had specific dietary requirements the manager would take our order. I guess this is a fairly simple way to ensure consistency in the level of service for those dining with allergens. I did initially go for the chilli salt squid for my starter but was told that that despite the dish not having any gluten containing ingredients it was fried in the same oil as other products rendering it unsuitable for coeliacs. I was impressed with their knowledge and he quickly pointed out some alternatives. Instead I had lollipop prawns which were awesome. Grilled beautifully leaving them sweet and succulent and bathed in flavours of lemongrass, lime and chilli and whetting my appetite for what was to come in Thailand. For my main course they've recently added a new curry. Surendra's chicken curry come's in a rich, thick and spicy green curry sauce with crispy sweet potato straws and perfectly cooked rice. It's a delicious dish and gluten free too.
Surendra's Chicken Curry
I've not had too many dishes adapted but I know they can substitute rice noodles in dishes such as the chilli chicken men. I think if they committed to using gluten free soy sauce throughout the restaurant (it is available for gluten free diners) and had separate fryers for certain dishes they would exponentially increase the number of gluten free dishes. Until then, we'll just have to make do with the delicious ones they have on offer at the moment.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A return to Jamie's Italian - gluten free hit or miss?

As I've posted before I'm a big fan of Jamie's and I'm particularly enjoying his new Superfood book. You know you're always going to get straightforward recipes packed with flavour and for me I carry that expectation to his restaurants. I originally reviewed Jamie's Italian back in 2011 and thought it got off to a great start. However, a blip in 2013 caused by a diner taking the chain to court left a sour taste in many coeliacs mouths when the chain pulled their gluten free pasta options. Without the pasta option, I remember one visit where I was left eating a sorry looking burger without a bun at an astronomical cost.

Fast forward to autumn 2015 and I was invited back to the Jamie's Italian in Norwich with reassurances that gluten free pasta was back and that the chain had focussed on creating even more gluten free options. The menu on the website was promising, it now had a specific allergen filter and there were certainly more options than I'd noticed previously. Unfortunately, the hard work that's gone into creating the online menu just doesn't seem to translate into their restaurant experience. My server enthusiastically talked about the gluten free pasta options and that they could possibly modify other dishes but that was it. I'm left guessing as to which ones could and couldn't be modified, using my own knowledge of ingredients to try and guess and trying to look on the website to see what I'd found previously. When it came to ordering there even seemed to be a mismatch between the website and what our server thought. I chose the spinach and ricotta croquettes because I thought this was an unusual dish to be gluten free. It's specifically stated as gluten free on the website but my server thought otherwise. Even if it was, she thought it might be fried in the same fryer as other gluten containing produce so either way it was a no go. Not a great start. When it comes to allergens, diners are looking for a seamless experience, anything else leaves you with a constant nervousness which detracts from the excitement of eating out.

Pork scratchings will chilli, fennel and apple sauce
Thankfully when we did agree on some starters they hit the usual flavour highs expected. We ordered the meat plank to share and the quality of the cured meats was the real stand-out. Antipasti is common place on menus up and down the country these days but it's rare that you find places using quality ingredients. Again, disappointingly the Manchego was brought on a cracker which I couldn't eat. When prompted the server offered to bring us some without the cracker but it really shouldn't have needed us to ask. Problems continued when we were informed the slaw on the plank contained gluten in the dressing so I was to avoid this too. We also shared pork scratchings which were some of the best I've ever eaten. Powdered with chilli and fennel and served with an apple sauce they were deliciously moreish.
Cured meat plank
With pasta back on the menu I was determined to give it a try. I went for a fresh crab dish served with capers, chilli, fennel and anchovies. I was pleased to see it come out with a brown pasta (so often the gluten free pasta is the same from chain to chain) but it was sadly overcooked. It was a real shame as the combination of flavours in the sauce and with the crab was spot on. The pasta however, just fell apart on my fork. It hit the flavour expectations of a Jamie inspired dish but the execution was sadly lacking. My wife had the Chicken Cacciatore which again received plaudits for flavour. Beautifully grilled and succulent piece of chicken with a rich sauce full of the heady flavours of Italy. Bizarrely though, the decision to serve it on the garlic bread rather than next to it meant that the bread was a soggy mess by the time you got to it.

Crab with gluten free pasta
Chicken Cacciatore
So an overall mixed experience. The flavours and quality of ingredients give you a lot to get excited about but sadly there's still work to be done for those dining with allergens. With so many competitors getting it right (Cote Brasserie for  mid-market diners, Pizza Express for Italian) it baffles me that with the resources behind Jamie's Italian, it's still not quite hitting the mark.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pickled Plates Supper Club, London

More than ever, eating out is becoming a social experience. My instagram is awash with people's culinary snaps. Chefs and critics may bemoan bloggers, vloggers and the like for reaching for the camera with every dish they're served, but it's all part of a new social era. Social has become virtual, but it's also gone back to basics too. Supper clubs have sprung up across the UK. What can be more social than someone inviting you into their home to try their food? One of my very talented friends Polly, a trained chef, and Hana, with a background in events, have created a superb social dining experience with their Pickled Plates Supper Club. Earlier this year we got a group of friends together and went along to their home in Walthamstow to give it a try.
Pickled Plates Supper Club Menu
We arrived excitedly and were greeted with a cocktail of whisky, blood orange, ginger and bitters. If all greetings were with a cocktail that was this good the world would be a better (and drunker) place! I can imagine that if you didn't know your dining compatriots then starting off with a boozy cocktail is a great way to get the conversation flowing. Handwritten menus, tea lights and succulents dotted artistically around the table - this is an instagrammers paradise - created a wonderfully cosy atmosphere too.
Whisky, Ginger, Blood Orange and Bitters
Polly and Hana are big fans of Lee Wescot from the Typing Room and James Lowe at Lyles. Both chefs are about celebrating British food with a modern twist and this is certainly echoed in the Pickled Plates menu. A canapé of haggis, neeps and tatties, were crispy, coated, deep fried balls of good Scottish stuff. It's worth adding at this point that they were great at catering for my gluten allergy too. They had sourced gluten free haggis and cooked mine separately and they were delicious. A rabbit rillette was well seasoned, pickled beetroot and radishes cutting beautifully through the richness of the rillette, beetroot crisps giving added texture and a cassis dressing bringing all the components together. The salt baked celeriac was a real triumph, with a wonderful depth of flavour, and provided a superb companion for a perfectly cooked chunk of whiting. The crispy chicken skin provided a sumptuous, salty seasoning for a creamy clam and prawn butter sauce.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
Wild Rabbit Rillette
Pan Fried Whiting with Salt Baked Celeriac
When I read toasted marshmallow on the menu for dessert it conjured up images of bonfire night. I'll be disappointed with the Guy Fawkes version in future, because this toasted marshmallow was something else! A big, creamy, silky square, blow-torched to give just the right amount of caramel notes and then served with the acidic hit of blood orange and perfect (gluten free) shortbreads, it was a brilliant dish. The bring your own bottle policy - plus cocktails and a sloe gin accompanying the cheese course - meant that things were probably starting to get a little hazy! But I've got just enough recollection of the deliciously nutty comté, served with plum and juniper jam, a candied walnut and again gluten free oat cakes for the coeliac.
Toasted Marshmallow with Blood Orange and Shortbread

Sloe Gin, Comté, Plum and Juniper Jam, Candied Walnuts and Oatcakes
It was a great night, with great friends and great food. So if you want a fantastic social dining experience check out Pickled Plates, you'll also get the bonus of having some brilliant food to instagram!
Our Pickled Plates Team For the Night

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Loch Fyne, Norwich (branches nationwide)

Loch Fyne Oysters
I hadn't been to Loch Fyne for a few years, the last time I went the menu was fairly restrictive for those following a gluten free diet. So when I was invited to review their 'non-gluten' menu I was keen to see what changes they had made.

My wife and I visited their Norwich branch on a busy Friday night. We were shown to our table and our server, Pedro, couldn't hide his excitement at being able to explain their new gluten free credentials. In fact, Pedro was great all night, excitedly explaining dishes to all his tables and even at one point bringing out a lobster to one table to show them what they would get and how to eat it. The staff have always seemed impressively knowledgeable and there is clearly a passion for produce and provenance when it comes to fish and seafood. We were given the 'non-gluten menu' which has good selection and we were also brought the allergen bible which detailed the allergy ingredients in each dish. Pedro also explained that a number of the dishes could be modified as they make nearly everything from scratch.
Razor clams with chorizo and basil
We started with some oysters which were served with a red wine and shallot dressing, a coriander and chilli dressing, a wedge of lemon and a bottle of tabasco. I love oysters and these, fresh from Loch Fyne's own farm on the west coast of Scotland, did what good oysters do, take you straight to the sea. For starter I had razor clams with basil and chorizo which was full of flavour and reminiscent of a Spanish tapas dish. My wife had the Loch Fyne Smokehouse Ashet and I have to say I had a little bit of food envy. It had an element of theatre with the centre piece of Bradan Rost smoked under a cloche. It also came with two different types of smoked salmon, crispy capers and a horseradish cream. Each piece of salmon was beautifully smoked with a range of tastes and textures. The crusty gluten free bread roll we shared was some of the best gluten free bread I've eaten in a restaurant too. A crunchy exterior and soft middle - perfect for mopping up the leftover chorizo and basil butter from my starter.
Loch Fyne Smokehouse Ashet
For main I chose the seafood grill, a celebration of Scottish fish. The stars of the show were the hand dived scallops, served with the roe and cooked to perfection. They were meaty and packed with flavour. Plump mussels were well cooked with the chilli and coriander butter seeping into the shells. Salmon and bream were also succulent pieces of fish, only let down by an absence of crispy skin caused by the butter. A large whole king prawn looked like it should have been the protagonist but couldn't compete with the quality of those scallops! It was all served with spinach and sautéed potatoes and was certainly a filling plate of food. My wife opted for the fish bar, a great concept where you chose a fish, how you want it cooked, a sauce and two sides. She had positive reviews for her grilled cod with tomato salsa, sautéed potatoes and samphire.

Seafood Grill
Grilled cod, tomato salsa, samphire and sautéed potatoes
Coconut rice pudding with mango
As a coeliac I'm used to a limited choice when it comes to gluten free desserts so it was great to have a few to chose from. I chose the coconut rice pudding with mango compote. Luckily our server  explained that it came with some biscuits that weren't gluten free which they would leave off, so when the kitchen accidentally put the biscuits on the plate I knew to steer clear. Mistakes happen and our server was very apologetic and there was no harm done. The dessert itself was a winner, a crunchy brulee top with delicious coconut flavoured rice and mango to cut perfectly through the richness. My wife, who can't resist the allure of the words salted and caramel in the same description, was always going to pick the salted caramel ice cream which she said was one of the best she had had.

I was extremely impressed with Loch Fyne's new gluten free menu, plenty of choice, delicious dishes and some great cooking.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Herman Ze German, London


After a great theatre trip to the Globe in London we needed a late night place to eat. Step up Herman Ze German! I love the current restaurant trend of sticking to one thing and doing it well. Honest and Bird have it sorted for burgers and chicken. Now Herman Ze German has it sorted for German sausage! They have a comprehensive allergen menu on their website which clearly indicates their gluten free options. I went for the Chilli Wurst with pommes (chips) and sauerkraut. The sausage tasted great, with just the right amount of chilli, crispy and salty pommes to mop up the american mustard and ketchup and sauerkraut giving a tasty pickled flavour to cut through everything. There are a few outlets dotted around London. It's no frills dining and we were in late so we were joined by a few drunken revellers but for good, gluten free food at inexpensive prices it's a great place to go.
Herman Ze German - Gluten Free Chilli Wurst, Pommes & Sauerkraut

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Orford Plaice, Norwich

Fish and chips, a British staple. Well not for everyone, but gradually coeliacs are getting back in on the action too! I blogged recently about No.1 Cromer and then along comes Orford Plaice, a gluten free chippy even closer to home and perhaps dangerously close to my office! Inside it's pretty no frills but then that's not what anyone is here for. I glance around and people are tucking into generous portions of battered goodness. I double check that the gluten free option is cooked in a separate fryer and the server gives me the reassurance I was looking for. There's another chippy in Norwich that is serving gluten free but unfortunately not cooked separately, potentially putting coeliacs at risk. I was pleased to see the care and attention that Orford Plaice gave to my order. Cooked separately, separate warming drawer, separate chips and finally separate utensils. They even had gluten free labelled vinegar, they clearly knew what they were doing. As for the fish and chips? They were great, crisp, crunchy batter, succulent soft cod and good chip shop chips. It get's the thumbs up from me!
Gluten free fish and chips at Orford Plaice in Norwich

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The New Inn at Tholthorpe, near York

The chain restaurants are really starting to crack catering for the gluten free community. Most have the investment behind them to size the market share, test menus and put in place training and systems to avoid any potential mishaps. However, there are many independent places up and down the country that seem to be behind the curve. Not everywhere I might add and certainly London has the sheer volume of people and places to cater for a multitude of requirements. Outside of the capital the coeliac experience can be a bit hit and miss. One place that certainly hits the spot though is the New Inn at Tholthorpe near York.

I was born and bred in York and often head back for a long weekend to visit friends and family. We decided to head to the New Inn after coming across it on the Tesco clubcard site as it takes their vouchers. There was a review that mentioned it catered for gluten allergies so it certainly sounded promising.

After a long drive from Norfolk I was ready for refuelling. The menu had a host of options for coeliacs and was clearly labelled. When I told our server I was gluten free he also told me which of the specials I could have and then to my excitement added that they could make the fish and chips gluten free too! He reassured me that they were cooked separately, I was sold! They were delicious too, a light and crispy batter, 'proper' chips (not like door stops but nothing skinny about them either), mushy peas and a creamy tartar sauce. I just about had room for a dessert and couldn't resist the sound of a lemon panna cotta with a cherry coulis. It was a great find, good pub food at a reasonable price with a range of gluten free options.

It was so good we headed back on a recent trip to Scotland. We judged it was about half way and thought it would be the perfect place to stop for some lunch. The lunch menu had a good range of options too, smaller plates, sandwiches and some larger dishes. We over ordered but it was definitely worth it. A rich and creamy baked Camembert which was served with an apple and grape chutney was suitably moreish. Perhaps not as moreish as the little deep fried pieces of pork belly served with a sweet chilli sauce! Soft tender meat with a crispy crackling  around the outside, these were really something special. Sandwiches served on a really good gluten free bread were great too.

I'm hopeful that this level of catering for coelics will become the norm and more pubs will catch up with the New Inn. Until they do, I'll be heading there whenever I get the opportunity!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Where to eat out in Copenhagen, Denmark - Gluten Free

Back in May, my wife and I travelled to Copenhagen looking for a weekend of relaxation, sight seeing and, of course, delicious food to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. After arriving in torrential rain we checked in to our hotel and dried off. From then on there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the city was bathed in Spring sunshine. Our hotel was in a great location, right by Copenhagen's food market where we would spend a lot of our time! The people of Copenhagen were great and I didn't have any trouble eating fantastic gluten free food. As always, I took coeliac translation cards, but didn't need them. I think Copenhagen was possibly the most clued up place I have been so far! So here's a whistle stop tour of some of the great gluten free places to eat out in Copenhagen:

Hotel Kong Arthur
Ok, not somewhere we actually ate out but I had to give a quick shout out to the hotel. The service was fantastic, they even upgraded us to a suite as it was our anniversary, but there were two especially good features.... 1. The proximity to Copenhagen's food market (more on that soon!) and 2. 'Cosy Hour', a brilliant idea - between 5pm and 6pm on an evening the bar gave out a free glass of wine. It was the perfect timing, following a day of walking round the sights, to recharge the batteries ready for an evening out.

We spent a lot of time here! Copenhagen's food market with loads of stalls selling fresh produce to tapas bars, sushi bars and, our favourite, the outdoor cava bar! Here's some of the awesome places we found in Torvehallerne...
There's a couple of these in Copenhagen as the trend for 'clean eating' hits the Danes too. Whether you're a fan of fad diets or not, for those avoiding gluten, Paleo is perfect. It's always worth checking when you go but everything was gluten free when we went. We shared a couple of dishes which made for a very tasty lunch. We were so ravenous following our flight that I didn't get chance to take pictures so you'll have to trust me on this one. Spiralised vegetables with a rich tasty bolognese and pulled pork in an omelette style wrap.
Possibly the best gluten free breakfast anywhere, ever! I'm a big porridge fan but I'm an even bigger porridge fan when it's gluten free and served with almonds, chopped apple and caramel sauce. They make it fresh while you wait and there's loads of toppings to choose from. The gluten free porridge blend was deliciously creamy and a hearty filling breakfast which set you up for the day!
Coffee Collective
Again, not really a gluten free recommendation, just a great cup of coffee recommendation. Seriously good coffee and the perfect accompaniment to your gluten free porridge!
Sushi Lovers
Sushi is certainly popular in Copenhagen and it's really good quality too. Staff were knowledgeable when I asked what they could make gluten free and there were plenty of options. They ended up doing us a sharing platter and provided gluten free tamari sauce.
And the rest of Copenhagen...
Spuntino is described as a modern Italian kitchen but is like no Italian food I have ever eaten! There are clearly nods to Italy with a beef carpaccio, creamy polenta and fava bean pesto on the menu but these collide with Danish influences to deliver a really creative menu. With tables packed into a small room split with glass panels and a large olive tree growing through the middle of the restaurant, it's an unusual but ambient setting. Once again there were no problems catering for coeliacs and those with a gluten free diet. I ordered what I wanted from the tasting menu and there were just a couple of minor modifications which didn't detract from any of the dishes. A highlight was the lumpfish roe with marscapone and lardo, a lightness that is often evident in Danish cuisine and delicious combination of texture and flavour. Although I'm not normally a fan of polenta this may be because it's never been served with pea shoots, popcorn, mushroom boullion and ricotta! A combination that sounds like you just staggered drunkenly into Waitrose and came out with a random selection of ingredients but one made your tastebuds do a little dance with every mouthful!

I've not even finished the blog and even thinking about this restaurant is making me want to go back to Copenhagen. As Noma was fully booked (my credit card was certainly more pleased than my wife!), we decided to splash out and go to the Michelin starred Relae, now one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. With restaurants like this you can clearly see why the food scene in Copenhagen should be taken seriously. Ingredients I've never tasted, processes that I couldn't dream of and a knack of creating wonderfully fresh dishes that awaken a palette I didn't even know I had! I can't do it justice but a dish of trout, cucumber and pine which sounds simple was stunning and a dessert of warm egg yolk, yoghurt sorbet, lemon curd and caramelised butter milk the most delicious piece of artwork I've ever eaten. How you can have a warm egg yolk inside a cold yoghurt sorbet and how you can make it all taste sensational is beyond my culinary know-how! There were some really nice added touches too, from the gluten free crisp breads they provided me, to the hidden drawer in the table containing your cutlery and menu! Relae is a real experience and one I would certainly recommend.

From a Michelin starred lunch to a hot dog in the street; it's great to have so many gluten free options. This organic hot dog stand outside the round tower is a must for a quick bite to eat. The hot dogs were naturally gluten free and although you can't have the bun, who would want one when you can get it with delicious mash, pickled beets and a tangy mustard.

Sticks n Sushi
I didn't realise there are now branches of Sticks n Sushi in London but this was great for a late night meal. We sat at the bar and watched them working the extremely hot grill and rolling the sushi by hand. It's exactly what it says, grilled sticks of various meats and fish in delicious Japanese inspired marinades and a wide variety of sushi. Once again we ordered a selection and they swapped in and out a couple of sticks I couldn't have and brought gluten free tamari sauce.

Les Trois Cochons
For our last meal of the holiday we went to the French inspired Les Trois Cochons which is part of the same group of restaurants as Spuntino. I've no idea what you do if you're on your own as everything was served for a minimum of two and to the table but it's an excellent spot for a romantic meal for two or a big family meal. The food is big, hearty and delicious. If you had a French grandma I imagine this is what she would serve. A trio of starters including smoked mackerel, braised baby gem lettuce and a delicious beef tartare all hit the spot. The main was where it really delivered, a huge portion of perfectly cooked steak served with creamy mash, green beans and a delicious red wine sauce. We just about managed the trio of desserts, let's face it, who can resist a crème brulée!
 We had a fantastic weekend in Copenhagen and I'd thoroughly recommend it!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Beef and green peppers with black bean sauce and egg fried rice - Gluten Free

Beef with green peppers and black bean sauce & egg friend rice
One of my favourite take away dishes before my gluten free days was beef and green peppers in black bean sauce. Unfortunately, due to the soy sauce, you can rarely find a gluten free version. I love recreating Chinese dishes at home. You can recreate the flavour of your favourite Chinese takeaway classics but making it from scratch gives it a real freshness. I was amazed at how authentic this tasted. The people at Tilda sent me some wholegrain and wild rice which you can stir fry straight from the packet. If you want to make the rice yourself, just cook basmati rice for around 8 mins, drain and spread out on a plate and leave to cool. As everything is fairly quick cook, you're better preparing everything ready to go. I'll give you the steps for the rice and then the beef to make it clear, but as we're only looking at a few minutes cooking time you need to do both at once.

Ingredients (serves 2):
For the egg fried rice:

  • 150g cooked rice
  • An egg, whisked
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
For the beef and green peppers in black bean sauce:
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed,
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 pak choi, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 green pepper, roughly sliced into squares
  • 350g beef, thinly sliced into strips
  • 1.5 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed (local Asian grocery shop will stock)
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp corn flour mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

To make the egg fried rice put a wok on a high heat and add the sesame oil. Add the cooked rice and break up with a wooden spoon, Keep it moving round the pan. After a couple of minutes, add the spring onions and fry for a couple more minutes. Push the rice and spring onions to the edge of the wok and add the egg to the middle of the pan, leave for around 30 seconds to cook, then break up with a wooden spoon and mix together. Finally add the soy sauce and fry for another couple of minutes, or until a some of the rice has started to crisp up.

To make the beef in black bean sauce, put a frying pan on a high heat and add the oil. Now add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and fry for a minute. Add the green pepper and beef strips, fry for another minute to sear the beef. Now add the black beans and pak choi and keep everything moving in the pan for another minute. Now add around 100ml of the vegetable stock, followed by the corn flour mix. Check the consistency of the sauce, if it's too thick and some more of the vegetable stock. Cook for another minute to bring everything together and then serve alongside the rice.

You don't need to be overly precise with the times, the key is to have the wok and frying pan on a really high heat and keep things moving so they don't catch. Hope you enjoy, we certainly did!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

No.1 Cromer, Norfolk

After reading the Fabulously Free From blog on Eric's  in Norfolk I had a craving for fish and chips. Although becoming more common, gluten free fish and chips have been hard to come by. Some places are grasping on to the increasing popularity of gluten free diets, but don't provide dedicated fryers, which doesn't help a coeliac like me. Eric's was a little far for us to drive this time, but we vowed to make a trip soon. Instead, we headed out to Cromer, about a 40 minute drive from Norwich. 40 minutes might seem a long way to drive for fish and chips but trust me, these were well worth the effort!

No.1 Cromer is a relatively new venture by the extremely talented chef Galton Blackiston owner of the Michelin starred Morston Hall in Norfolk. There's a traditional take away, an eat in restaurant and a more modern take on British cuisine available in the upstairs restaurant. We were here for one thing and one thing only though, gluten free fish and chips! We phoned in advance as many places only do gluten free options on certain nights but were informed that No.1 Cromer did them all the time. We took a seat in the window looking out to sea and the Cromer pier. We both ordered gluten free cod and chips with a side of mushy peas. I think the peas had a sort of mint sauce running through it which wasn't gluten free so they provided ours without this. The waitress was well informed and took great care. The fish and chips were certainly well worth the trip! A crisp, crunchy gluten free batter coated a beautifully cooked, succulent piece of cod. The chips were proper chip shop chips. There's a time for the triple cooked ones and there's a time for skinny ones, but when you're having fish and chips, they need to be proper chip shop chips! It came with a creamy tartar sauce, in my view the perfect accompaniment, and a tasty tin of mushy peas. The portions are big too, we were saving room for ice cream but were too full by the end!

Gluten free Cod & Chips at No.1 Cromer

Friday, 15 May 2015

Sausage, leek and fennel pasta

Waste not want not! I realised that I used half a packet of sausages in the last recipe I posted, so I thought it would be remiss of me not to give you another recipe to use the rest of the pack! This is another quick and simple pasta recipe which is great for a mid-week meal. Sausages and fennel seeds go great together, the fennel seeds offering little pops of flavour, added chilli flakes provide a gentle heat.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 3 sausages (or the rest of your pack of Debbie & Andrews gluten free ones!)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 6 spring onions, finely chopped (keep the white parts separate from the green)
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 75ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 150g pasta (I used Juvela gluten free fusilli)
  • Handful of grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
Put a frying pan on a medium heat. Put a slit in the sausages and squeeze out the sausage meat into the pan. As it fries, break it up with a wooden spoon, moving it around so it browns evenly. This should take around 4 or 5 mins. Add the fennel seeds and chilli flakes, followed by the clove of garlic and whites of the spring onions. Now add the chopped leek (you may need a little oil depending on how much fat was in the sausages). Keep stirring to partly cook the leeks and onions for another 3 or 4 mins. Now add the white wine and reduce the heat to a simmer whilst you get the pasta on. Drop the pasta into salted boiling water and cook for 8 - 10 mins or according to the packet. Whilst your leeks and pasta cook, you can make the sauce. Simply spoon the sour cream into a small bowl and whisk in the egg. When your pasta is cooked, drain and add leek mixture and bring it all together. You can now add the green parts of your spring onions so they give a little texture. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the sour cream mix. Keep stirring to distribute evenly and then season with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle over the Parmesan.

Sorry - we ate this one too quickly for a photo! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Vodka, chilli, sausage arrabiata with spaghetti

I don't often blog recipes, usually because we're working through a growing mountain of recipe books and magazines, so usually, I can't take credit. I can't wholly take credit for this one either though. It's inspired by Jamie Oliver's vodka arrabiata in his America cookbook. I've made a few tweaks though and I think this version tastes even better! Plus an instagram follower asked me to blog it, so here we go:

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 3 sausages (I used Debbie and Andrews gluten free ones)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped (de-seed if you don't like it hot!)
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 30ml vodka
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • Small bunch of parsley, stalks finely chopped and leaves picked
  • 150g spaghetti (I used Juvela gluten free spaghetti)
Put a frying pan on a medium heat. Put a slit in the sausages and squeeze out the sausage meat into the pan. As it fries, break it up with a wooden spoon, moving it around so it browns evenly. This should take around 4 or 5 mins. Next, add the red onion, chilli and red pepper (add a little oil if needed) and soften for a further 3 mins. Now add the anchovy fillets, break these up with the spoon, then add your tomato purée. Now it's time to add the vodka, cherry tomatoes and parsley stalks. Reduce the heat to simmer whilst you cook your pasta. Drop your pasta into a large pan of boiling water and boil for 8 - 10 mins or according to the packet. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta to the tomato sauce just to give it the right consistency. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add the pasta to the tomato and sausage sauce and mix well. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle over the parsley.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Tredwell's, London

I've been spurred into writing this blog today. As you can see from the timings of my posts, I'm not always the most frequent blogger. But today I felt the need to write this one in particular. Today, a number of top chefs decided to publicly criticise the new allergen regulations which require restaurants to make information available on 14 allergens. Their criticism of the EU regulations were made public in a letter to the Telegraph (where better to slate alleged EU bureaucracy than British right-wing media). Interestingly, when you search 'allergen' in the Telegraph search bar, the first item that pops up is an advert for home allergen testing kits! The article in question quotes Thomasina Miers, whom I'm a big fan of, as saying: "It is a total fiasco and in my view is the responsibility of the allergee to ask." Unfortunately, I think she sadly misses the point. We do ask. Since I was diagnosed coeliac nearly 5 years ago I've asked every time I've eaten out. It's a pain, but I'm used to it. What the new rules mean is at last restaurants should have the answers. 

One restaurant which certainly had the answers was Marcus Wareing's new restaurant Tredwell's. It's menu I'm holding up as the exemplar on how to make allergen info clear and simple to understand. When it's backed up with food which is excellent too, it's a dream come true for 'burdensome' allergy sufferers. If restaurants can get it right like Tredwell's does, they are more likely to get my custom and that of other allergen suffers. They are widening their market, it hardly screams fiasco to me.

Down the apples and pears cocktail
Tredwell's is a more casual addition to Wareing's restaurants and boasts a more relaxed and informal atmosphere. The place was bustling when we arrived on a Saturday night. We took seats at the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. The cocktail was seriously good, my 'Down the apples and pears' had Belvedere vodka, with apple, pear and elderflower, finished with a hint of thyme which perfectly balanced the sweetness. Our server knew the menu well and recommended that we share a couple of the starters. There was plenty of choice for those with a gluten allergy and there seemed to be a concious effort to avoid the use of unnecessary allergens. My wife and I shared sticky chicken wings and a chicken satay dish. Both sound simple, but were brilliantly executed. A moreish BBQ glaze on the chicken wings made them some of the best I've ever tasted. The satay was silky smooth with almost a mousse-like texture, and served with tender poached chicken and a chilled cucumber relish.

The starters were always going to be warm up acts when the headline act comes under the banner 'Braised beef short rib'. A huge hunk of meat, that was braised so the meat melted away from the bone, served with perfectly balanced gravy. Sweet potato fries were crisp and came with a knock out BBQ mayo. The 'on trend' addition of kale to the slaw worked really well too. 
Braised Beef Short Rib
Sweet Potato Fries, BBQ Mayo and Kale Slaw
We somehow found room for desserts and I couldn't resist the allure of salted caramel soft serve, which really was just a Marcus Wareing McFlurry! It was everything a dessert should be. Unfortunately, the 'virtuous' chocolate brownie was everything a dessert shouldn't be. Desserts weren't meant to be virtuous and sadly this meant that the brownie was the one let down of an otherwise impeccable meal.
Salted Caramel Soft Serve with Honeycomb
I think the food, drink, service, and consideration for all their diners means Tredwell's is on to a winning formula. The requirement is simple, for restaurants to know the food they are serving. More restaurants embracing this philosophy can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Honest Burgers, London

I don't know why it's taken me so long to blog about Honest. The moment just seemed to pass because it's so well known in the gluten free community. But not blogging about it just seems to do Honest a grave injustice because quite frankly they do the best burgers I've ever had! Since I first heard about Honest on twitter a couple of years ago we must have been more than half a dozen times and I don't even live in London. If I did, I think it could be seriously detrimental to my health!

Honest Burgers started out in 2011 on a small stall in Brixton market. The focus was on using quality ingredients to create a small but perfectly formed menu. A couple of combinations of beef burgers, a chicken burger and a veggie option - simple. And it's proof that concentrating on doing a few things very well is the way forward - the burgers are mouthwateringly good. The burger served medium, unless you request otherwise, is unlike any burger I've ever had. The quality of the meat simply shines through. They don't over complicate things either. The 'Honest' burger comes with cheese, smoked bacon, relish pickle and lettuce - all the components of the perfect burger. They have branched into a 'special' but they only do one at a time, meaning that the focus on consistent quality never falters. Moreover, Honest banished the dark days when coeliacs and gluten free followers had to contemplate having a burger without a bun. The bun is good too. Far too often gluten free buns can disintegrate into nothing, this one stands up to the task, soaking up all the delicious juices. The chips have taken a back seat in this review so far, but again, they are simply the best chips I've had on the side of any burger, anywhere. Simply fried and then seasoned with a rosemary salt, they are the perfect accompaniment. 
Honest burger, with chips
Honest's attention to it's gluten free followers goes above and beyond. A couple of years ago they had a burger served with deep fried (breaded) Camembert, which suddenly meant the chips were off the menu for coeliacs due to cross contamination. But they listened to the feedback and this year they developed the same burger but with gluten free bread crumbs. They have also created the best onion rings I've ever had, gluten free beer battered onion rings are really something special. Giant hoops of onion with a golden crunchy batter - they're really spoiling us now. 
Gluten free onion rings
I can't wait to try this month's special at the weekend - an Indian inspired burger with tandoori rub, a (gluten free) vegetable pakora, halloumi and cucumber raita. Oh and don't forget you can wash this all down with a gluten free Estrella Daura Damm Lager - perfection.

They have a number of restaurants dotted around London now, check out their website for more details.