It’s National Coeliac Awareness Week and I’m here to prove that gluten-dodging doesn’t need to be boring. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, with women two to three times more likely to suffer*.
This ever-growing demand for GF foods has led to a revolution in supermarket aisles. No longer confined to half a shelf in a dark, poky corner, I found Genius bread lumped in with the wheat at my local Co-op. Free-from foods are spilling into the mainstream. They’re easier to find and the quality is getting better all the time. This is all excellent news, of course, but it doesn’t always come cheap. A 600g gluten free loaf comes in at just under £3, while you can get an 800g wheat loaf for under a quid. Although diagnosed coeliacs are entitled to GF food on prescription, it’s only free if you already qualify for free prescriptions. With a suspected 500,000 undiagnosed coeliacs in the UK alone, perhaps it’s time to curb our reliance on gluten as a staple.
'Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease. In coeliac disease, eating gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged. Other parts of the body may be affected.' - www.coeliac.org.uk
I live with a gluten dodger and, as a result, I’ve had to change my baking habits. It’s second nature to most to reach for the plain flour when making pancakes, but lately, I’d rather have a savoury socca any day of the week. They’re incredibly quick and simple to make. For two pancakes, sift 100g of gram flour (chickpea flour), and stir in cold water until the batter is the consistency of single cream, season, fry in a hot oiled pan and tuck in. This cheap southern French street food is also delicious with the addition of almost any herb or spice. Another more recent addition to my new gluten light lifestyle is chestnut flour.
I am currently in the midst of a true and meaningful love affair with this nutty purveyor of all things delicious. Available in specialist shops and online from Shipton Mill, it makes a delicious alternative to wheat flour in gnocchi, and creates stunningly light, moist and moreish cakes. A gluten-free lifestyle might sound like a drag, but thinking outside the Weetos box makes for many exciting new discoveries. My recipe for chestnut and vanilla cake is delicious served with poached pears and will make you wonder, 'why aren’t more of us voluntarily leaving the wheat in the cupboard?'
* All information on coeliac disease taken from the NHS website and Coeliac UK.