November 30, 2011

The Food Hospital - Channel Four, Tuesday Nights

Has anyone been watching the food hospital? While I was away on holidays a new programme, 'The Food Hospital', started on Channel Four. I’ve caught up with the last 5 episodes via the website. Some things are obvious, some things I think could be treated differently but most are really interesting and a wonderful motivation to eat a healthy wholefoods diet and to help wake up all of the sleeping dogs and take a new look at seemingly un-treatable disorders and their relation to food - but we food allergy/intolerance sufferers, probably already know that ;)

So far they have treated:
- Insomnia and Night Eating Disorder
- Alopecia
- Gout
- Eczema
- Depression
- Crohns disease
- Migraine headaches
- Obesity
- Fish Odour Syndrome
- Psoriasis
- Gallstones
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Gall Stones
- Selective Eating Disorder

Not everything has been turned around but most have had wonderful outcomes for the people involved. A child suffering from migraines who eliminated additives, preservatives and amines and a teenager with eczema sufferer who went on an elimination diet to uncover food intolerances and/or allergies were the most clear cut and had fantastic outcomes. But I don't think that they are infallible, especially with relation to the twins fighting breast cancer but on whole the programme is definitely worth a watch!

There are also expos on the scientific use of vitamin supplements, sports drinks, superfoods and detox diets being genuine or just marketing ploys. Again, I don’t think that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water particularly in relation to the detox diets, i think that it is easy to berate a low quality detox product and say that your body can deal with everything, which I’m sure is true but not everybody’s body is up to scratch for the task and the body wasn’t originally intended to take in the amount of chemical that it does in the modern day. I would also like them to investigate a high quality detox kit such as Vogels, which is not just magnesium stearate (a laxative).

On whole, while keeping an open but decerning mind, I think that The Food Hospital is a worthwhile watch. It is showing on Channel 4 on Tuesday nights at 8pm but past episodes can be caught online but note that there is a limited time to catch them all, in fact, I believe that today is the last day to catch episode 1 and there are only 8 remaining days for episode 2.

if you want to loose weight and need motivation to do so, watch episode 4 with Tristan where they explain how little it takes to gain 1 pound over 10 days and 2 stone over 1 year by continuing the same eating..and what that fat looks like - yikes!
I’m glad to have that in my mind as we come into the Christmas season!!

November 22, 2011

I’m Back from my Dairy Free Vegetarian Trip to India

Hello everybody! I hope you are all doing well. What seems like a month ago but was only a very short 2.5 weeks have passed me by and now India is but a dream and it’s full blown christmas with sleigh bells ringing in Tesco and Brown Thomas’s Christmas windows unveiled and Grafton Street all lit up... WHERE has the time gone? Seriously, I’m just back from my summer holiday ;)
And how was India you ask? ..Well, it was a crazy place. It was interesting and ugly and beautiful and fun and upsetting and glorious and filthy almost always at the same time!
I had a couple (thankfully minor) food allergy slip ups but all in all things were easier than I had anticipated. I also fell upon two diamonds in the rough which I’ll tell you all about.
I like Indian food as much as the next person but I’m not likely to wave flags and promote the stuff to every passer-by. Too much deep frying even though I LOVE the breads (Gluten Free was not my 1st priority, although it is very possible with a whole range of Wheat Free and Gluten Free flours in general use) My main concern was to not get sick and stay away from milk. I also wanted to stay away from eggs and meat which was a cinch! All I had to do was follow what they refer to as ‘strict vegetarian’ and then eggs where nowhere in sight. The milk, if you remember, was my worry. The infamous ghee and paneer and butter and curd hiding in every corner. But I found that if we ate at ‘cheaper’ places ghee was seldom used, do to its notorious expense (yay!!) and paneer was almost always listed in the title on the menu. Curd and butter were a bit trickier... a lot of imaginative questions were required to work your way around the answers.
If you are thinking of travelling to India my best advice would be to do a lot of research on Indian food, what it is and what it’s made of. Just read a lot of recipes and you will be that much ahead of the game. F’s knowledge saved me on a couple occasions. Most important: ALL the desserts have dairy... every last one of them. Even if you ask, and they say no milk, no butter ask if they have ghee or curd etc. and at the end of the list you will always find a yes.
However, if you are just DYING for a mango lassi or some type of sweet to pass your lips I did happen upon two unexpected diamonds.

Pushkar (Rajasthan):
Honey and Spice (Laxmi Market, off Sadar Bazaar) served Soya based Lassi's! Alleluia!

and in Delhi:
There is a sort of imported health food shop, The Oriental Fruits Mart (23 E Block, Connaught Place, New Delhi, 110001) owned by a very smily elderly man. He was the only person I met who seriously understood what an allergy/intolerance was and even insisted that if I was Dairy Free that I needed to stay away from Gluten too. He was able to direct me to some honey coated almonds and even some nut clusters covered in Dairy Free and Gluten Free chocolate which he produces himself! The mixed nut & raisin was nicer than the walnut but he insisted that I try both before buying :) (note: he also said that the chocolate was sugar free but I have my doubts about that!)

Happy Cow had a few vegan restaurants listed on it’s website but I couldn’t find my way to the German Bakery in Pushkar because EVERYTHING said German Bakery and everything was most certainly NOT Vegan (milk abounded) although the Sunset Café (just follow the signs down to the lake) served my needs well.

I’ll put some travel photos below if you are interested :)

p.s. I’m still fairly jet lagged and haven’t slipped back into my normal schedule yet so excuse me if my posts take a while to get back into the swing of things!

November 17, 2011

Soya Free & Dairy Free Cheese - The Quest Through Grilling

Substituting cheese...

Generally, it is cheaper and less trouble to forget about substituting your food allergen and try to erase the memories of your favourites from your palate. Substitutions are usually expensive and frequently don’t cut it (any cheese lover who is allergic/intolerant to milk will relate to this). I’m not a huge fan of the cheese substitutes available on the market. They are almost always soy based and never melt properly, despite what the package says. But sometimes the desire is too much and even if you don’t love what the substitute offers it will get you over the hump and keep you away from the real thing...

The most popular/available brands available in Dublin are Cheezly, Sheese and Tofutti.

Cheezly Cheddar Style
In my opinion, this, the original Cheezly Cheddar Style block is the best. It is the least vinegary, has the most appropriate texture and melts the best (the photos below don't represent this accurately due to poor light and a shortage of time!). There is still some dryness to the taste but the slices, once melted, blend a bit more and cling on to the bread better than the competition, although they are still prone to falling off in one piece. Tastes good raw with mayonnaise, salt and white pepper in a sandwich.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Wheat Free
- Gluten Free
- GMO Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Free From Artificial Flavours
- Free From Preservatives
- Cholesterol Free

Ingredients: Water, potato starch, non-hydrogenated vegetable fats & oils, soya protein, yeast extract, thickener: carrageenan; salt, flavouring, emulsifying salt: tricalcium phosphate; colour: carotene


Cheezly Soy Free Cheddar Style
An alright attempt. The block is a bit too soft to really resemble cheddar and the vinegar is a bit too heavy but it is the best, if not only, soy free cheese I have found in Ireland.
- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Soy Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Cholesterol Free
- Free from Hydrogenated Fats

Ingredients: Water, non-hydrogenated vegetable fats & oils, pea protein, potato starch, thickeners: carrageenan, locust bean gum, salt, dried yeast, natural flavouring, spirit vinegar, tricalcium phosphate, sodium citrate, sugar, natural colour: annatto


Sheese Strong Cheddar Style
This cheese substitute is OK, despite its horrible name that reminds me of noses and wet sneezes. Sheese is dedicated to veganism and is making its way on the Irish market as a genuine competitor to Cheezly but in my opinion they still stand at second. The cheese doesn’t melt as well as Cheezly (which lacks meltability itself) and tastes a bit ‘dry’ (even more than Cheezly). As almost a rule with Cheese substitutes, Sheese is too heavy on the vinegar but is overall a passable substitute that is better eaten raw than grilled or melted.

- Dairy Free
- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Ingredients: Filtered Water, Vegetable Oil, Soya Concentrate, Salt, Spirit Vinegar, Flavourings, Oat Fibre (gluten-free), Lactic Acid (dairy-free), Thickeners: Carrageenan & Xanthan Gum, Yeast Extract, Colours: Curcumin (U.S.A Turmeric) & Annatto.


Tofutti “Mozzarella Style”
Tofutti’s frozen desserts are good and their cream cheese substitutes are amazingly good and quite realistic but their mozzarella style cheese block completely confuses me. I think that it is the worst cheese substitute on the market. It is drowned in vinegar. Its too soft to cut, therefore acting as a spreadable cheese and when melted it almost turns to liquid, sliding right off the bread if you make grilled cheese. I have a wonderful ability to finish eating almost anything, no matter how bad it tastes, but I couldn’t finish this. Heated, cooled or cold the vinegar and the overall taste was unbearable to my palate. I advise sticking to Tofutti’s top quality cream cheese. Almost every health food shop stock their cream cheeses... but if you don’t want to take my word for it you can get some Tofutti Mozzarella Style Cheese substitute in the Field & Vine, Rathmines for €2.30 (note: I suspect, but cannot guarantee the “Mozzarella Style” cheese block to be Gluten Free).

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Casein Free
- Pareve
- Cholestrol Free
- GMO Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Ingredients: water, palm oil, soy protein, stabiliser (carrageenan, guar and carob gum), maltodextrin, vinegar, corn starch, emulsifying salt (calcium phosphate, potassium phosphate), potato flakes, salt, adipic acid, soy lecithin, natural flavours, natural colours, preservative (potassium sorbate)


Note: Rice Dream Cheese Singles seem wonderful in taste and melting capabilities but that is because they are NOT Dairy Free - they contain casein (milk protein).. you may well ask what is the point!?

Some Cheesy Alternatives if the above fail to impress:
- Cheeseless pizza is good if you get a thicker base and extra sauce
- Use mayonnaise mixed with fresh garlic on ciabatta bread - put it in the oven lathered thick and grill it
- Substitute nutritional yeast for parmesan on pasta
- Hummus is my main sandwich filler where cheese would normally reside
- Get into the kitchen and start inventing! There are nut based cheeses available in other countries or possibly available to purchase in Ireland via the internet but you can try making your own too! I made cashew cheese which turned out to be a nice substitute for a soft cheese spread.

November 14, 2011

Soups: Dairy Free, Gluten Free & More

My quest for good soup is a long one. Getting Dairy Free soup in Ireland has been a problem since I moved here way back in 1998 but if you search hard enough you can find almost anything. The bigger problem is the taste. I thought that I just didn't like soup but I have discovered that what i like is a rich, hearty, thick homemade soup that doesn't taste like it came out of a can.

Suma: Carrot and Coriander Soup

Suma’s carrot & Coriander soup is one of my favourite canned soups. Truth be told I am not, in the greater scheme of things, a fan of canned soups. They always have what I call an overriding ‘tinned-can’ flavour so when I say that I like this one I mean that it is thick and full of flavour and reminds me of homemade soup or a soup from Cornucopia which translates to Yum Yum Yum! -I am also an advocate for Suma’s Split Pea soup but that one contains Wheat and Gluten.

- Dairy free
- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Corn Free
- Soy Free
- Mustard Free
- Nut Free
- No Added Sugar
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic
- Free of Artificial Flavour

Ingredients: Water, Carrots (30%), Onions, Sunflower Oil, Coriander Leaf (0.7%), Garlic, Sea Salt, Black Pepper

Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 122kj/29kcal
Protein 0.3g
Carbohydrate 3.1g
of which sugars 2.7g
Fat 1.7g
of which saturates 0.2g
Fibre 0.9g
Sodium 0.2g

The Really !nteresting Food Co: Hot & Spicy Mexican Bean Soup

(Pictured in the title shot) Very spicy but not as hearty and chunky as the picture on the can would lead you to believe. It’s hard to get a Gluten Free and Dairy Free soup and I appreciate the availability but this one is a bit more typical for a canned soup (meaning that it has that famous ‘canned soup’ flavour) and doesn’t really urge me to write home about it.

- Dairy Free
- Wheat Free
- Gluten Free
- Free from Artificial Colours
- Free from Artificial Flavourings
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- GMO Free

Ingredients: Water, Tomatoes (12.4g), Pinto Beans (8.5%), Onion, Tomato Puree (8.2%), Red Peppers, Coriander, Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Garlic, Chilli Powder, Mint, Pepper

Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 113kJ/27kcal
Protein 1.2g
Carbohydrate 3.4g
Fat 0.9g

November 10, 2011

Is Sake Gluten Free, Dairy Free & Soy Free? Not Necessarily

Last month I was all about Asian cuisine which leads me to one of my favourite drinks: Sake. Sake is by far on my Top 10 alcoholic drinks of choice. There is just something about the straight and earthy taste that makes it hard for me to shoot back. I love to linger on it and hold it in my mouth. I’m probably considered a cheap date because I like the less expensive, heated sakes but sadly for F. I can’t be too cheap because I ‘need’ my sake to be of slightly higher quality to avoid any food allergy mishaps.

Sake is an alcohol made from highly polished rice grains. For this reason people are quick to announce it as Gluten Free but between alcohol consumption and wishful thinking it is important to keep your eye on the game and take nothing for granted. The bad news is that sake can contain:

- Barley
- Wheat bi-products
- Lactic acid
- Soya

Obviously, as happens with most ‘added ingredients’, they are used for the overriding purpose of cheaper production. However, in the case of Barley (Gluten) the ingredient in question is Koji enzymes. The Koji mold is usually grown on miso which is made with barley (and fermented soy). A lot of people still consider this to be Gluten Free due to the double product separation and filtration. So it’s one of those foggy ones that has to weigh on personal opinion (note: I have seen a Sake advertised as 100% Gluten Free in America, if you can get your hands on it).
If you are a Sake lover then this might all come as a kick in the teeth but all is not lost. If you are Gluten Free (and feel safe with the product separation), Wheat Free or Dairy Free listen up... To ensure that you are getting top quality (additive free) sake you need to keep an eye out for a few words which will be labelled on the bottle identifying better quality sakes:

‘Junmai’ - means pure with no additional ingredients added. Nothing added except the traditional ingredients of rice, water, yeast and white koji mold

‘Gingo’ - similar to Junmai but of an even higher, purer quality

‘Daiginjo’ - an even higher grade of sake than both Junmai and Gingo

I hope this helps you let loose and get down to the business of enjoying your drink!

November 7, 2011

Gourmet Grocer: The Field & Vine has it Covered

If you walk further south, beyond Rathmines village along Rathmines Rd Upper, past the park, you will come to a little cluster of what seems to be a Rathmines splinter group. There is a fresh fish shop, an off license, café, deli, butcher, hair salon and at 151 Rathmines Rd Upper, you will find the Field & Vine.

The Field & Vine is a wonderful little gourmet grocers which covers everything you could want from A to Z be it flowers, fruit, veg or coal all the way to gluten free pastas, organic baby food, egg free mayonnaise and dairy free ice cream. I could, and sometimes do, roam the shelves for ages just to see if anything catches my fancy and something almost always does!

The prices are in line with a gourmet grocer/health food shop which makes doing the full weeks groceries here a bit ambitious but the variety is remarkable. The Field & Vine carry Tyrells crisps, at least 3 types of Vegan flapjacks, Gluten Free Dairy Free and Egg Free cookies, nut butters, Dairy Free milks & cheese, fruit and vegetable juices, and even a salad bar which conveniently lists the ingredients of each tub not to mention spices and herbs (fresh and dried) as well as nuts and grains and dried fruit etc, etc, etc ... you get the point. Oh yeah, they sell wine too, as I’m sure you guessed!

It is a bit off the beaten track but when you need that certain something it’s worth the walk (or drive) and might just solve your problem if you have a missing ingredient or special dietary requirement in need of a substitution...

There is something for every dietary need here be it Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Raw or Detoxing. Some of the best stocked sections are listed below if you care to check the variety before you head down.

Flours: Kamut, Spelt, Gram, Doves Gluten Free
Cereals: Dorset, Rude Health, Glebe Farm, Natures Path, Alara, Lizi’s
Sweeteners: Fruit Sugar, Xylobrit, Agave, Maple Syrup, Honey, Manuka Honey, Molasses, Golden Syrup
Breads: Sugar Free, Wheat Free, Yeast Free, Rye, Pumpernickel, Sunflower Seed Bread, Spelt Pizza Base, Rice Cakes and Oat Cakes

Field & Vine
151 Rathmines Rd Upr
Rathmines, Dublin 6
tel: (01) 496 2636
Opening Times: Mon - Sun 11:00-18:00

November 4, 2011

Toasted Banana Sandwich: Best Allergy Free Snack, Ever!

Since I can remember my mom made us toasted banana sandwiches and truly they are mm mmm good.

It is a super simple procedure. It is naturally:

- Free from Added Sugar
- Soya Free
- Vegetarian

and can easily be made:

- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Dairy Free
- Milk Free
- Vegan

makes 2 sandwiches

1 banana
4 slices of bread (if required, gluten free works a treat, even if you generally don’t care for it)
Butter or Allergy-Friendly Margarine to taste

...and thats it.

Toast the bread. The key is to toast until it is lightly browned. Crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside, a.k.a not burnt to a crisp nor so lightly toasted that it looks raw
Generously butter all 4 slices quickly so you get some melting action
Slice the banana (thin to medium in thickness) onto one side of each sandwich
Close, Cut and Enjoy

I know that this is a ridiculously simple recipe ... so simple, that I feel like a phony even calling it a recipe but it is one of my all time favourite comfort foods, and what is life without comfort foods when you have food allergies?

Attributes of an allergy friendly Toasted Banana Sandwich:
Even if you don’t like Gluten Free bread (which I can totally understand why) it’s failings are usually hidden when toasted, making a toasted banana sandwich is the perfect way to use the loaf. The bread used in the picture above is Juvela Gluten Free.
The banana filling makes it so perfectly and gently sweet that this sandwich is ideal for anyone suffering from sweet tooth cravings while trying to resist refined sugar or added sweeteners, natural or artificial.
The banana mixed with the bread and butter substitute makes the sandwich wholesome, sweet but yet satisfying.
It’s cheap, easy and super quick
Banana’s are good for you! but be careful to not eat too many. I once heard that you should only eat one banana (or half??) every second day to give it time to move through your system and fully digest because it takes two days to do so. Fact or Fiction, I don’t know but erring on safety means that you can have 3 banana sandwiches a week - YUM!