News, recipes, information and helpful tips for living gluten free

News, recipes, information and helpful tips for living gluten free

Gluten Free Diet

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in certain grains including:

  • Wheat varieties (spelt, kamut, faro, durum, bulgur, couscous, einkorn, semolina, triticale)
  • Barley (barley flakes, pearl barley, malt)
  • Rye
  • Oats – Coeliac Australia includes oats in the list of grains to be avoided (Australia’s peak Coeliac organisation recommends oats should be excluded from a gluten free diet until medical research is more conclusive.)

Gluten Free Food

The good news is that many foods are naturally gluten free, such as those in the list below:

  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Fresh fish and meats
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Milk and dairy products such as cream and cheeses (always check the label to ensure gluten free)
  • Fats and oils
  • Many other gluten free grains and flours, such as amaranth, buckwheat, chestnut flour, chickpea flour (besan), sorghum, corn (maize) flour, polenta, potato flour, potato starch, rice bran, rice flour, tapioca etc.

In Australia, products containing any ingredients derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats must be declared in the list of ingredients on the packaging. Check the list of ingredients and if any allergens are present they will be in bold type.

Products labelled ‘gluten free’ are safe, this includes gluten free cooking flours, breads, biscuits, cakes, pastry goods and mixes, sauces etc.

Finding hidden Gluten

Gluten is present in cakes, breads, biscuits and cereals that are derived from wheat, barley, oats or rye. But Gluten can also be found in many products that may not be obvious at first glance. It is very important to read the ingredient list carefully.

Gluten is sometimes present in shop bought stocks, sauces, gravies, mustard, curry powder, curry paste, chutney, pickles, dressings, soy sauce, salad cream and mayonnaise. Snack foods such as dips, nuts, popcorn, chips and some potato products.

Marinated meats, smallgoods, pates, and meat substitutes. Cooking ingredients such as baking powder, non-pure cornflour, bicarbonate of soda (cooking soda), and cake decoration products. Some chocolates, ice-cream, mousses, confectionery and some soft drinks, drinking chocolate and malted milk drinks.

Of course there are many food products in the above categories that are gluten free and safe to consume. More and more manufacturers are becoming allergy aware and are responding to the needs of these consumers.

Avoiding contamination

There is an abundance of gluten free food available, but it is important to ensure that it is not contaminated with gluten through processing or cooking. The gluten free dish must be kept separate from gluten containing foods to avoid contamination.

  • Before cooking, ensure all knives, chopping boards and other cooking and serving utensils, grills etc to be used are clean.
  • Make sure butter, spreads and condiments to be used in GF cooking have no existing crumb contamination.
  • If serving dips, accompany with gluten free biscuits or bread for all guests to avoid crumb contamination from regular breads and biscuits, or serve dips on a separate plate for the GF guest.
  • Use separate water in a clean pot/strainer for cooking gluten free pasta.
  • Do not dust meats or fish with regular flour prior to cooking.
  • Do not dust cake tins with gluten containing flour (including wheaten cornflour).
  • Use separate oil for deep frying. This will ensure gluten free fried food is not contaminated by regular bread crumbs.

Gluten Free Grains and Flours

This is a list of gluten free flours and grains that I use most frequently in gluten free baking. Some are available at supermarkets, others in speciality health stores or Asian grocers.

Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. It has a strong nutty flavour and can be used in recipes in the form of flakes, grains and also as a flour in baking. It is higher in protein than some gluten free flours and makes good pancakes, blinis, breads and pasta.

Chickpea flour (also known as besan, garbanzo, gram, channa)
Flour made from finely ground chickpeas. High in fibre and rich in protein, it has a strong flavour and is best used as an addition to gluten free flour mixes, rather than a direct substitute for plain flour. Used in breads, pizza bases and baking in combination with other gluten free flours.

Cornflour is made from maize (corn) but always check the label to ensure it has no added flour made from wheat. Great for thickening sauces and an important addition to gluten free flour mixes for baking.

Also called cornmeal, is ground corn. It varies in texture from fine to coarse. It is used in baking, prepared as an accompaniment with meals in either a soft form, or left to set then fried or grilled. Fine varieties are included in recipes for biscuits, cakes and muffins.

Potato flour
Made from potato starch, it is used to thicken sauces and also helps retain moisture and gives a fine, light texture to baked goods. It can be substituted for tapioca flour and arrowroot.

Pronounced ‘keen-wah’, quinoa is a versatile grain that can be cooked like rice and used in salads, soups and side dishes. High in protein, fibre and other nutrients, quinoa is a great carb substitute. It is also available as flour but the strong flavour is not to everyones taste.

Rice flour
A staple of gluten free flour mixes. It is available as a fine flour (from Asian grocers and health food stores) and is used for baking and thickening sauces and also in a coarse form, traditionally used in shortbread. Brown rice flour is also available and has a higher fibre content.

Sorghum flour
High in protein and fibre, white sorghum flour can be interchanged with buckwheat to be used in breads and baking.

Tapioca flour
A useful addition to gluten free flour mixes. Similar in texture and flavour to cornstarch.

Nut flours  (chestnut, almond, hazelnut etc.)
Provided no nut allergies are present, nut flours and ground nuts are high in fibre, healthy fats and protein and make a great addition to baking, especially cakes and biscuits.

Other useful ingredients

Xanthan gum
Is used to replace gluten by providing elasticity to gluten free breads and other baked goods. Generally one teaspoon is used per cup of gluten free flours. It is available from health food shops and some specialty supermarkets.

A white starch that helps bind ingredients together, useful to add body and texture to baked goods, or as a clear thickener for soups, casseroles and sauces.

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