June 23, 2011

‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne – Much More than Just Recipes

How to Cook for Food Allergies goes far beyond the expected. Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne is a professionally trained chef, a culinary teacher and owner of a catering business. She is also the mother of two food allergic children and a third who can eat anything which means that she is an expert in cross-contamination and substitution… Not to mention being the creator of the infamous ‘Genius Fresh Gluten Free Bread’.

I have had the book out on loan from the library for months and months, with renewal after renewal. This is not because it’s massive or because I’ve been pouring over it every evening and just can’t give it up… it’s because I haven’t had a proper chance to look at it yet. I mean, I’ve flipped through it from time to time but have never tried making anything out of it and in general have always gotten just a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information and all of the substitution alternatives. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to cast the book aside because at first glance it doesn’t wow your socks off or because the recipes seem a bit ordinary and the substitution alternatives aren’t clearly dedicated to your own specific food allergies and diet.

I am the queen of first impressions. I love pretty things and I like perfection in every way. However, I am also VERY open to re-evaluating my first impressions and am willing to dig deeper into the not-so-instantaneously-pretty to find its worth. When I finally gave ‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ the time it deserved I found that it contains a fountain of information! It has a lot of staple recipes (which is oh-so-important for anyone with food allergies) and it also makes substitutions for these recipes accessible to a range of food allergy combinations:

- Dairy free / milk free
- Egg free
- Wheat free
- Gluten free
- Nut free
- Soya free

The way the recipes work is:
1st the ingredient list is supplied for the ‘normal’ recipe
2nd there are tags in the left margin with possible substitutions underneath for i.e. gluten, dairy, egg, etc so you can choose how allergy friendly you wish to make the dish.
3rd there are often variations after the recipe for slightly similar dishes but with different flavours or different shapes such as Focaccia Bread or Pizza Bases based on the Gluten Free White Bread or Rhubarb Crumble instead of the Apple & Blackberry Crumble.

At first, the system seemed confusing but once I adjusted to it I found it to be one of the best systems ever! Some allergy friendly cookbooks and recipes can be frustrating if you are, for example, dairy free and egg free but not gluten free and you’re trying to make a Victoria Sponge Cake (pg. 172!) because you don’t need to lose out on the gluten aspect but you still need an allergy-friendly recipe to help you! Likewise, many free-from recipes weigh heavily on another common allergen to pump up the taste. For instance, I regularly find that many gluten free recipes have loads of dairy products which can make substitution very difficult to navigate for a dairy free and gluten free diet. SO, like I said, best system ever! If only every allergy-friendly cookbook was written like this! –or just every recipe book ever... one can dream, no?

But the recipes are really only half of the book! The other half is an indispensible guide to

- Living with food allergies
- Cooking for food allergies
- Travelling with food allergies
- Staying Healthy on a restricted food-allergy diet

And when I say essential, I mean essential. I think you’ll agree that ALL the bases are covered with chapters like:

1. Avoiding Problem Foods in Day-to-Day Life
2. Eating Out and Travelling
3. Eating A Balanced Diet on a Restricted Diet
4. Substituting for Eggs
5. Substituting for Wheat and Other Gluten-Rich Grains
6. Substituting for Dairy Products
7. Substituting for Nuts and
8. Substituting for Soya

Not to mention the recipe chapters on 'Stock, Soups & Sauces', 'Frying', 'Grilling' 'Roasting & Oven-Baking', 'Poaching & Stewing', 'Potatoes', 'Grains, Rice & Pasta', 'Home Baking', 'Puddings & Sweet Sauces', 'Baby Foods' and 'Children's Party Foods'.
Each chapter goes into wonderfully helpful detail on topics like how to deal with Visiting Friends and Family, Choosing from a Menu, Travelling on Planes, What your Food Allergens are Used For in Different Recipes, and Substitution Ideas for each use. There are loads of information boxes throughout the recipe section and there is also a wonderfully in-depth chapter on balancing your diet and maintaining nutrition, vitamins and minerals if you cut out dairy, egg, wholegrain wheat, white wheat flour, soya and/or nuts. It tells you what you might be missing, what the missing vitamin, etc, does for you (why you need it) and where else you can get it.

I genuinely believe that ‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ does what it says on the tin: it helps you to ‘Understand Ingredients, Adapt Recipes with Confidence and Cook for an Exciting Allergy-Free Diet’.
Whether you like the recipes inside or not, it is an essential guide for your food substitution journey. It will help you adapt all of your favourite family recipes from years gone by and it is an amazing aid to creating and developing your own original recipes.

I’m being so positive about this book I almost feel like I’ve been paid to promote it, but I promise you I haven’t. All of my reviews are my own personal opinions and if that ever changes I will let you know loud and clear!

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