I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.

Gluten and lactose are not my friends.

Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.

I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

June 27, 2013

Cauli-Flour Pizza Crust

This has got to be one of the most bizarre things I have ever cooked, Dear Readers.... but in an entirely wonderful way!

Pizza with a cauliflower? Bah Humbug!
I was so very sceptical of this dish. I've seen versions of it floating about the interweb, but really? I didn't think it would work, I didn't think I'd like it, I really didn't think it would taste good, and I really, truly didn't think it would work... I was so happy to be proven wrong on sooo many levels indeed

The star of the show...TaaDaa!
So simple....

Now each cauliflower weighs differently, so I went with cooked amount instead. This lovely produced two cups of cooked, squeezed crumb. Just to give you an idea of serving size, I made this recipe and photos using one cup only

1 cup cooked Cauliflower crumb
2 tablespoons gluten free Flour (or coconut flour for grain free)
1 Egg
pinch Salt

 Break your cauliflower and stem into smaller florets

Process or grate your cauliflower into 'crumb', it will just take a few seconds

 Place your crumb in a microwave dish and cook for about 8 to 12 minutes, or until it's cooked through
Yes, you can cook it any way you like if you hate microwaves, but this is a good dry way to go and you need to remove as much moisture as possible

   Pop your cooked crumb into a strong porous cloth, or clean tea towel

 Gather it up into a ball and SQUEEZE!

 Remove as much liquid as you possibly can. This is the key to a crispy pizza. I think this is the step that also magically removes any strong taste from the veggie- so squeeze, squeeze away

 See how nice and dry this is now, like damp sawdust
Measure your cooked crumb in cup amounts

 For each cup of cooked crumb use one egg, 2 tab gf flour and pinch of salt

Add in the flour, egg and salt
You could also include a bit of garlic or onion powder and some dried Italian or pizza herbs too

The mix was still very damp, and not like an actual dough, but don't worry it still works out well

Spread out fairly thinly on a baking paper lined pizza tray. The easiest way I found was to use a silicon spatula and smooth the dough out that way
As you can see, this quantity made one about an inch smaller than the tray, but it would have been too thin to go any further

See, nice and thin- about the thickness of a thick wrap

Bake at 180/200* for 20 minutes, or until a light golden brown

The pizza base will easily lift away from the paper, and is fairly flexible
It had sweated a little on top of the paper, so while baking it with toppings, I placed it directly on the perforated pizza tray and let it crisp up a bit more that way

Top your pizza any way you like...
I like anchovies, olives, fresh basil, capsicum, lactose free cheese, gluten free ham and salami, mushrooms- the possibilities are endless!
Then bake your pizza in a hot oven  220*, until nice and bubbling and warmed all the way through

 For a bit of fresh zing, I always have a bit of salad on top- today it was simply rocket and basil drizzled with white balsamic and EVOO

 Look! Just like the 'real' thing!

You know Dear Readers, I was totally prepared to have a complete flop on my hands and to have wasted a whole afternoon.

I really can't say enough how surprised I was though. The pizza tasted awesome! It didn't taste like cauliflower unless you imagined quite hard, it was firm enough to eat properly, it browned up well, it even re-heated perfectly the next day. I just can't find the But... There isn't any.

I gave some of this to the whole family, even BigJ who loathes cauliflower with his entire being. Not one of them picked it. Admittedly, they preferred their wheat base, but they would have eaten my pizza without complaint if that's what they were offered. I don't usually make two different styles of meal, but you must remember I was expecting a disaster so tried to cover my bases :)

This will really be my Go-To recipe from now on, and I think I'll try a few experiments with it as pie bases as well. So very yummy indeed!

So Dear Readers, have you ever made something expecting a flop that turned out as amazing as this, and will you be willing to give this cauliflower pizza a chance?

June 21, 2013

Haute Chocolate for Mid Winter

With Mid Winter creeping up this weekend, and a forecast of minus 5 degrees for Friday night, it's definitely time to indulge in a few of the comforts that make Winter bearable here in Canberra

Wrapping your hands around a steaming, hot, fragrant, rich cup of Hot Chocolate isn't always easy with lactose InTolerance, but I don't understand why I should ever miss out on all the goodies available to the more mainstream menus. Instead of pouting and sulking, I just make one that works for me and that the family loves too. No problem!

Did you know that Lindt 70% and above dark chocolate is dairy free? Yes it is indeed, so is cocoa powder and they are both packed with mega chocolatey flavour without the yucky part that will make me sick. Now I can handle lactose free milk as the base of my hot chocolate, but feel free to use soy milk, nut milk, or whatever you need to create a lovely creamy cup of Yum

The best cup of Hot Chocolate is rich, thick and creamy. Instead of adding in heaps of extra calories with lactose free cream to help thicken it, I included some cornflour for just a little bit of texture- don't worry, it won't be like custard or anything. I've also added spices for complexity and some exotic hints of flavour, and some salt just to really sharpen up the rest of the flavours and stop them blending just that bit too much into a homogeneous chocolate mass

My magic ratio of ingredients for each mug (1 1/2 cups of liquid) of Hot Chocolate: 
1 tab Cocoa, 1 tsp Cornflour, extra big pinch Cardamom, big pinch Cinnamon, tiny pinch Salt

Little bits and pieces are all well and good, but making a whole jar at once is a lot less hassle and allows me to whip up a batch whenever the Winters Chill gets the better of me

So For 10 Big Mugs of Happiness:

10 tbsp Cocoa Powder
10 tsp Corn Flour
1/2 block of Lindt 70% Chocolate
2 1/2 tsp ground Cardamom
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt

Now I haven't added any sweetener to this mix as I really don't have much of a sweet tooth. You can either just sweeten it to taste at the end, or add in several tablespoons of gluten free icing sugar to the mix as it will blend in really well. It's up to you, but I like the slight grown up bitterness from the dark chocolate.

Place all the powders into a bowl for mixing

Finely grate in the chocolate
I used a microplane for lovely little chocolately curls that will dissolve easily

Mix it all together really well so there are no clumps or streaks

Now to Make the Magic Happen!
For each nice big mug allow 1 1/2 cups of milk or substitute. Pop in a saucepan

Then add a tablespoon of the mix per mug of the Chocolate mixture

Whisk the powder in until combined well with the milk

Stir or whisk the mixture until it just comes to the boil, then take it off the heat

Pour into your favourite mug, top with gluten free marshmallows and a final grate of chocolate, then wrap your hands around it and let it warm you up from the inside out!

Package up the rest of the Hot Chocolate mixture and place it in an airtight container or in a pretty little jar and give it away as a Winter Solstice gift. With the shortest day behind us, we have only another 3 months or so of frosts ahead of us, so Chocolate Cheer is definitely called for indeed!

So Dear Readers, how do you like your Hot Chocolate, and how do you like to spend a frosty cold weekend?

June 14, 2013

Gluten Free High Tea at Radisson Blu, Sydney

I'm such a lucky Chef indeed

There is a wonderful community of Bloggers out there that I love to read and connect with over the Internet, and now and then I get to interact with them in the Real World too!

This is what happened when I was contacted recently by Lovely Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella, with the offer to join her for a Gluten Free High Tea at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sydney. The Radisson Blu has just launched it's 100% Gluten Free High Tea, and you don't even need to pre-book with dietary needs, just turn up as it's all available all the time!    http://www.radissonblu.com/plazahotel-sydney

Lorraine organised a great get-together for us along with Charlie, Tania, and Brydie, and as it just happened to be my birthday at the same time, I felt very special indeed :)

It's so fantastic that more and more main stream restaurants are starting to realise the validity of food InTolerances and catering for our needs. I don't think most people realise that it certainly requires a lot of extra work and commitment by the chefs and kitchen team to make this all happen.
I wanted to know a bit more about the reasoning behind the Radisson Blu's decision to create a Gluten Free High Tea menu, so I was very grateful when Executive Chef Oswin Ribeiro was happy to answer some of my questions:

I was just wondering how the decision to create a dedicated gluten free menu come about?
The Gluten free market is growing and quite a few people are either highly intolerant or are by choice on this type of a diet. I realized that there was an increase in demand for the same and it only became more evident during our high teas as we had to prepare stuff to accommodate our guests request at the last moment and this often took a while as we had to be 100% clear to ensure that there was no form of cross contamination. Secondly, I decided to observe reactions of people not just at the hotel but at other places where I would go, check menus and make request for Gluten free Items, I must admit it seemed more like pleas being made by myself to accommodate my requests at many of those places even high end one’s. I then asked myself the question, Why should someone with a condition have to be sounding this way? Why should it be that catering places would be doing a favour trying to accommodate this need. Hence, started the journey of introducing a High tea where someone could just look at the menu and order confidently. This concept carries on from all our offerings at the Hotel our Breakfast buffet in the morning has tags which specifies Gluten free Items and of the 74 items on offer 80% is gluten free, Our In-room dining menu has alternate choices of the same dish prepared in a manner that is gluten free. So on and so forth. The high tea will keep evolving at Radisson.

Are all the items  made in-house, or if not, which ones?
Beside the bread and Wraps every item on the High tea is made in- house, We do production of the Gluten free items before anything else is produced for the reasons mentioned prior.
I was also interested to know if any of the chefs experience a gluten free lifestyle, and how they chose the gluten free options that were on offer.
None of our chefs experience a gluten free lifestyle at the moment, But I guess this due to the fact that we have to deal with varied kinds of food and prep, vitally important is that we have to taste what we cook, on second part of the question, we did trials for about 3 months before we were fully confident of the products, time of delivery, handling, sourcing etc We now have a repertoire to work from now for the future as well.
Did they perhaps trial them on both regular and gluten free eaters? I was certainly interested to hear my friends reactions to my meal, and to see how it compared to theirs as well.
Yes we did on few friends who were willing to try it out and give us their opinion this was during the trial stages. the interesting part is people on regular menus can eat gluten free without any effects, but it is the opposite for a Gluten intolerant person.
(I have to admit Dear Readers, that I find this to be a very odd answer, of course anyone without food allergies/InTolerances can eat the 'Special Menu' offerings, the question is why would they want to if it wasn't as delicious as the Regular menu?) 

High Tea at Radisson Blu is held in Bistro Fax, with the Regular menu costing $40, and the Gluten Free one at $50. It's best to make a reservation, but it's not necessary to pre-book as gluten free.

The two types of High Tea side by side: the Regular one set for 3 on the right, and the Gluten Free set for 2 on the left

The nice thing about the two High Teas is that there is relatively very little difference between the two- the sandwich fillings are the same and the top sweet layer is identical. The scones are substituted with shortbread rounds, but sadly there are no little hot pastries for the gluten free menu

The Gluten Free stand, beautifully customised especially for me!

The array of sandwiches and wraps

Cucumber, cream cheese and dill; Roast beef, caramelized onion and horseradish; Smoked salmon with cream cheese dill and capers.

The fillings are delicious! A great variety and lovely balance of flavours in each mix as well. I just wonder though, if the chefs have ever tried one of the actual gluten free offerings themselves? As a whole I mean. Having a quick taste of something is very different to actually eating an entire sandwich.
Gluten free bread is just not the same as the soft, fluffy regular variety that squishes away and lets the filling shine. This bread is certainly a decent gluten free one, but as we know gf bread is quite dry and not at its best unless toasted, so they are a bit too dry and hard to swallow. My advice would be to make open faced sandwiches and so cut down the bread by half, making it a much nicer experience. I ended up discarding the top layer of each so I could taste the too-good-to-miss middles.
*Update* I recently received this news in a follow up email from Chef Oswin:
I have done a couple of minor adjustments already to the Gluten free high tea. We have begun presenting the sandwiches as lightly toasted open sandwiches which presents better and the bread forms a crisp base. Food is all about improving and at every stage and so the journey carries on.
Great news indeed!
Sadly the wraps were also not-quite-there-yet. The hotel has certainly used quality ingredients, but this brand of GF Wrap snaps instead of wraps and are again very dry and hard to eat. The chicken and avocado filling is so amazing however, that I scooped it out with my teaspoon as I didn't want to miss a bit! The best solution to this problem would be to use a lovely light GF crepe instead of the wrap. There are some very very good GF ones on the markets, and my favourite best crepes ever  from Creative Gourmet, would be perfect for this. They thaw in seconds or can be microwaved, so having them on hand would be easy and much yummier indeed.

Shortbread Rounds with Jam and Whipped Cream

Again, these have a lovely flavour and the true shortbread snap and crumble....but ... They are HUGE and nearly impossible to eat. The first bite is delectable, but then the lovely short dough crumbles all over you, down your blouse (and cleavage) covering you with delicious dust, then the rice flour goes to work sucking all moisture out of your mouth leaving you gulping for tea and spluttering behind your hand as you try and swallow it  down. Elegance is out of the question, and as you are sitting back in an arm chair relaxing, suddenly having to squat hunched over the coffee table in front is rather ungainly to say the least. I did try smearing on some of the jam and cream, but that just meant that I now had sticky crumbs all over me instead...
The answer to this one is so very simple indeed- just make them smaller! One bite is enough. Several small biscuits are much nicer than one humongous one on it's own. I get that these are supposed to be the scone substitute, but they aren't and shouldn't try to be. Treat them as their own little treat and they will be gobbled up gleefully as they really taste very good. Again, I think just good old GF scones on their own would be nice though, especially if they were served warm as in the Regular High Tea version.

Top Tier of Sweets, exactly the same for both types of High Tea

Walnut Slice; Mini Pavlova; Coconut Macaroon; Mini Chocolate and Lemon Curd Cups; Passionfruit Jelly

Just lovely indeed!
Marvelous moist Walnut cake, light Coconut cake, crispy Meringue, tangy Lemon Curd, and a very delicious Passionfruit jelly.
Definitely my favourite treat of the day, the jelly was softly set and a beautiful balance of sweet, sharp and tangy. A great way to cut through the other sweets and wake up your palate a little.

The Radisson Blu and Chef Oswin have obviously put a lot of effort into creating this Gluten Free High Tea, and overall it's been a success. There are a few teething problems that need to be addressed, and some will have already been tweaked by the time you read this, but the underlying tastes and flavours are top-notch indeed.
I have to say that this was a much more successful and enjoyable meal than the one I had at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and I would certainly love to try it again- especially with the new style sandwiches on offer!

So Dear Readers, who would be your ultimate High Tea companions, and what treat would you most like to serve?

Disclosure: Radisson Blu and Bistro Fax kindly supplied two complimentary High Teas to our group.

Read Lorraine's review here for her take on our dining experience, Tania's post here, and for an amazing afternoon treat check out Charlie's post here for the fantastic gluten free/lactose free cake she bought along on the day for us as well. Yummo!
My review on the gluten free High Tea at Raffles, Singapore can be found Here

June 10, 2013

Ful Medames

When I go away, even for just a day, I tend to take a supply of food with me

Not because I'm fussy, not because I'm OCD, but because it's just easier to know that I'm not going to be stuck ill for hours by accidentally eating gluten. Muesli bars are a great stand by, and that's what I had in hand when I spent the night at my Bloggie Bestie Celia's house- just in case.
BUT, if any of you know anything about Celia, and her generosity of spirit, you would have know how silly and ridiculous that kind of thinking really is. Instead of dry, fairly tasteless muesli bars, I was served up a big, steamy bowl of the yummiest bean dish you could imagine, Ful Meadames.


Apparently the national dish of Egypt, Ful or Fuul is delicious, filling and suitable for vegos and vegans as well as us InTolerants. Ful is the Egyptian word for Broad beans (sometimes known as Fava beans), and medames is a word meaning buried, which refers to the original cooking method of burying a sealed pot of water and beans in hot coals and simmering it away for hours and hours until tender. This would be prepared by the public bath attendants who could put it there each evening and have a nice hot breakfast waiting for the next morning.

After having this delicious breakfast at Celia, I was determined to make it here at home as Winter's chill and minus temperatures need a rib-sticking breakfast to keep up your strength up!

When I make a recipe, especially a classic or traditional cuisine, I really like to research it well first. I turn to my multitude of cookbooks, my tech books, and even Mr Google for ideas and inspiration. This time though I actually found very little variation in the basic bean recipe, just in the toppings, and the Internet search gleaned mostly mashed-up-tinned-bean recipes that didn't interest me at all.
I decided in the end to go with Food Safari's great recipe which had a combination of both broad beans and red lentils, but cook it my own way with a couple of little changes to suit my taste and time restraints.

Ful Medames
(start the day before if presoaking the beans)

2 cups dried Broad Beans
1 cup dried Red Lentils
1/3 cup EVOO
6 cloves Garlic
1 tablespoon ground Cumin

Rinse the beans and lentils really well until the water runs fairly clear

Soak the beans and lentils for a few hours, or overnight. Less if you cook it longer in the pressure cooker

Drain them well, then place the soaked beans into the pressure cooker with 6 cups of water, garlic cloves, cumin and 1/3 cup of good olive oil. Cook for an hour in a pressure cooker, then check to see if they are soft.
If you're cooking them on the stove top, you'll need to bring them to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 to 8 hours- checking and stirring occasionally. A simmer mat is really good for this as you don't want the beans to catch

The broad beans should be lovely and tender by now, and the lentils should have disappeared all together into the murk. Don't worry that there seems to be a lot of liquid, trust me it will soak into the beans and you might even need to add more!

Ful can be served as is, roughly mashed with a potato masher and served as a stew-ish bowl, or blended up well with a stick blender into a thick type of dip as I did. Whatever style you prefer though, DON'T take out ANY of the liquid!

As you can see, this dish thickens up remarkably

Ful is often served spread thickly on a pita and packed with salad then rolled as a quick eat-as-you-go breakfast, or in a bowl as a stew with cooked tomatoes, onions and spices and even boiled eggs. The toppings I've decided to include for my feast include Tahini, Hummus, Garlic, Cumin, Sumac and Lemon juice

Spoon a good splodge into a bowl, I like to make a channel to hold in all the extra yummies

Season very generously with salt- remember that no salt has been added yet, and beans are quite bland on their own really. Crush on the garlic now too- I like the warm hum of a bit of raw garlic, but you can leave it off if you have an important breakfast meeting :)

Now add a great big spoon of tahini, a little scoop of hummus, a big sprinkle of cumin and sumac, a drizzle of very nice and grassy EEVO, and serve up with a wedge of lemon for squeezing and some GF flatbread for scooping- Yummo!

This has been a delicious breakfast or lunch for days, and I packed portions in baggies in the freezer for busy mornings as well. All in all it made about 12 very decent portions for a tiny price. Well worth it!
Brown foods are so hard to photograph well, but doesn't this look delicious with all the toppings swimming around bathing the beans with flavour? Yummo!

So my Dearest Readers, what do you enjoy for breakfast on a cold day, and have you tried Egyptian cuisine before?