AT BOTH the Kitchin and its sister restaurant Castle Terrace, we’re welcoming an increasing number of guests with specific dietary requirements, from vegetarian to dairy-free and gluten-free.
Eating should be about enjoyment, pleasure and sharing. Sociable dining is no fun if you can’t share it with the people you’re with. But nowadays, different diets, allergies and intolerances don’t necessarily have to mean missing out. There are some simple ways to ensure that eating out in different restaurants or even at a friend’s house is as enjoyable as possible.
The key is forward planning. I would advise anyone eating out to inform the restaurant or chef as far in advance as possible if you have any allergies or intolerances. The same goes for guests at dinner parties. If you let the hosts know in advance, and communicate what you can and can’t eat beforehand, preparations can be made. Try to think about what you can have or what you do like, as it’s always easier to start from there and chances are you will enjoy what you’re eating a lot more. At the restaurant, for example, we can create menus tailored to individuals so they don’t have to miss out on enjoying a wonderful, memorable meal.
This year's Coeliac Awareness Week takes place from 14 to 20 May and, according to research, eating out is still consistently ranked as one of the issues most important to those who suffer from the condition. It is thought that one in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. This means the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, usually triggered by gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
For coeliacs, it means going without bread, pasta, baking, pizza and many other staples of the average diet. It’s not easy to think about alternatives, but there are some great recipes you can try that are really delicious, whether you’re gluten-intolerant or not. Nobody wants to do without chocolate cake, for example, but you can make gluten-free versions that can be surprisingly tasty.
If you do know that someone you’re cooking for is gluten-intolerant, try to think about a menu well in advance. Attempting to substitute or eliminate ingredients doesn’t always work, so think about foods that naturally don’t include gluten rather than compromising. Naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes and lentils are all safe. There are also some great Scottish brands out there making gluten-free products – like Nairn’s oatcakes and Genius bread, among many others.
Polenta is another good gluten-free ingredient. It’s a rich, golden Italian cornmeal made from dried, ground maize – or corn. It is also the name given to the savoury cornmeal porridge – a staple dish of northern Italy that can be created by mixing cornmeal with water and simmering and stirring until it thickens. Polenta can be ground coarse or fine and it can be used in sweet and savoury recipes, served as a side dish with meat and fish, or used in casseroles or stews. It can also make a good base for cakes and fruit loaves.
Polenta can be served hot or left to cool and set after cooking, then cut into slices and fried or grilled. If you want something really simple as a starter, try fried or grilled polenta slices topped with melted cheese. Hot polenta can sometimes lack a bit of flavour, so I would recommend you try it with butter, cheese, fried mushrooms or seasonal summer girolles.
Different cuisines can also be a great source of inspiration. For example, Thai food, based on sensational spices and flavours, can often be a good choice, with salads, rice noodles and soups forming the base of many dishes.
Coeliac UK (www.coeliac.org.uk) provides a great checklist online if you’re unsure about what you or your guests can or can’t have.
Eating authentic food, made from the best, natural, fresh, seasonal ingredients is still, in my eyes, the happiest way to eat with friends. Preparing ahead is key so you can still enjoy food despite having to make some changes to what you or your friends and family eat.
GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE
Makes two 8in tins
250g soft brown sugar
250g ground almond
50g cocoa powder
75g chocolate chips
Pre-heat the oven to 165°C/ gas mark 3.
Cream the butter, sugar and almonds together, then add the cocoa powder.
In a separate bowl, crack the five eggs and whisk. Then slowly mix the egg into the creamed ingredients. Once the eggs are well incorporated, mix in the chocolate chips.
Place the mixture into two baking tins and then put in the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Each oven is different but a good way to tell if the cakes are ready is to push a needle into their centres – if it comes out clean, they’re ready.
Leave the cakes to rest then remove from the tins and serve as you wish.
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 knobs butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
50g grated parmesan
4 rashers crispy bacon
grated nutmeg (to taste)
Bring the milk and chicken stock to the boil, then turn to a simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, add a knob of butter and sweat the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes.
Add the thyme and then the polenta and whisk in well. At this point, the mixture will go very thick. Once it thickens, ladle in the liquid – you don’t need to use it all, just enough to create a nice consistency.
Season with salt and pepper. Leave to cook on a low heat for about 35 to 45 minutes, adding more liquid as required.
When ready to serve, add 50g grated parmesan and another knob of butter if you wish, and serve with crispy bacon and nutmeg.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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