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Eating Gluten Free in Spain

Earlier this year I went for a long weekend in Madrid and had the challenge of eating out gluten free for every meal while I was there. This is something that I’ve never done since before my diagnosis of coeliac disease – I normally go for the safetly of self catering with perhaps one or two meals out. I’ll be writing specifically about gluten free food in Madrid in another post, but I thought it was also worth writing a general post about eating gluten free in Spain. In particular what sort of foods are typically gluten free in restaurants, how to ask for gluten free food in Spanish and what sort of gluten free food is available in supermarkets.

First, in my opinion it seems like there is a very good awareness of Coeliac disease and gluten free food in Spain. However, it is definitely worth learning a few words in Spanish, both to help you decipher food labels in shops and also to make sure that the people serving you in restaurants understand you. Here are a few basic gluten free words in Spanish to help you out:

1) Sin Gluten = Gluten Free: this is an easy one to remember and is very useful. You’ll see this on food packaging (I was amazed at how many packets of crisps were “sin gluten” in Spain compared to here!). It’s also a good phrase to know when you are served your food. You can point to it and just confirm that it is gluten free by saying “sin gluten?” as a question. You can also do the same if you are out at a market or somewhere with stalls that sells food. Just point and ask.

naturally gluten free food at a Spanish market!

2) ¿Tienes algo sin gluten? = Do you have something gluten free? This is a good one to use before you go into a restaurant. I used it every time I went into a restuarant in Madrid and was understood each time (even with my poor attempt at a Spanish accent!). I found that usually the waiter or waitress could tell me immediately what was gluten free, or they went off into the kitchen to ask the chef. If you want to be extra sure they understand you then back it up with the phrase below.

3) Soy Celíaca = I am Coeliac: Usually I used this phrase just to be doubly sure that they understood why I wanted gluten free food. Most of the time it looked like people understood me!

4) Trigo = Wheat  – a good one to learn so that you can understand food labels.

5) Cebada = Barley

6) Centeno = Rye

7) Avena = Oats

Hopefully if you are armed with all of the above, this will help you to survive gluten free in Spain, both in restaurants and in the supermarket.

If you’ve been to Spain before you probably already know that tapas are very popular. There are a few tapas that are commonly gluten free, but you definitely want to make sure that this is the case in each restaurant or bar that you go into because it is always possible that recipes are slightly different or there is a risk of cross contamination. Here are a few tapas that are usually gluten free:

  • Olives (Aceitunas)
  • Spanish Omelette (Tortilla)
  • Spicy Potatos (patata bravas) – be careful here as there is always a chance that they have been fried with other food so there is a risk of cross contamination.
  • Manchego cheese
  • Serrano ham, Chorizo (double check).
  • Salad (e.g. ensalada mixta) – quite often contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives and tuna. Usually this is just served with olive oil, but it’s always best to check first.

Usually a combination of the above makes a really nice meal.

Gluten Free in Spain

If you are self catering you’ll find that many of the larger supermarkets have a fantastic range of gluten free products. I went into the Cortes Inglis, which is a big department store with a food section (usually in the basement) and I was really impressed with the range of gluten free food available. Probably about three times as many products as there are in my big local Tesco store. Products included baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat, magdeleines (little fairy cakes), lots of different types of bread & rolls, cereals, pasta and more. So if you’re on a self catering holiday you will probably find that you don’t need to bring any gluten free stuff in your suitcase unless you are going somewhere very remote without a decent size of supermarket nearby.

I hope you found this post helpful and if you’ve been to Spain before while on a gluten free diet please post any tips you have below. Thanks!

 

 

Gluten Free Food at Yeni Meze Bar in Edinburgh

Last month my friend Michelle & I had a fabulous dinner at a restaurant called Yeni, in Hanover Street, Edinburgh. I was extra excited to find that the menu was clearly labeled with “GF” against each dish that was gluten free AND over half the menu is suitable for a gluten free diet. Yay Hay!

Yeni serves a mixture of middle eastern and mediterranean meze dishes which are kind of similar to Spanish Tapas, with a twist. The menu includes items such as Humus (GF pitta bread available!), Kizartma (mediterranean veg with garlic yoghurt), oven baked aubergine, Falafal, garlic mushrooms, prawns sauteed in olive oil & garlic, patates with a spicy tomato sauce, Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), Kebabs, salads and more.

The interior of the restaurant was very bright and modern looking and had a nice ambience, although very quiet for a Thursday night (perhaps due to it being a pretty cold, dark February night?). The staff were also very helpful and friendly and they had a good understanding of the gluten free diet.

The majority of the dishes are around the £4 mark and the menu advises choosing 3-4 dishes per person. We decided to go for 6 in total – spicy potatoes, baked Aubergine, Kofta, Caprese Skewers, Kizarrtma and Prawns in garlic and oil.

Gluten Free food at Yeni Meze in Edinburgh

The baked Aubergine dish was tender and very flavoursome, the koftas were amazing and I loved the garlicy yoghurt and roasted veg. The dishes are all very similar in size to a starter and if you feel that you don’t have enough you can always order a couple of additional dishes.

Overall we had a fantastic meal and I’d definitely return again in the near future. Not only is this a good place for coeliacs, it is also perfect for vegans and vegetarians – you will be spoilt for choice.

The only thing that could be improved is the dessert menu. The only gluten free choice is fruit salad & turkish delight and unfortunately even the ice cream contains wheat! However, I felt completely satisfied after sharing 6 filling dishes, so wasn’t too upset by the prospect of no dessert.

You can read more reviews of Yeni on Tripadvisor.

Gluten Free Soy, Ginger and Honey Duck with Pak Choi and Jasmine Rice

This dish is one of my favourite oriental dishes and always tastes amazing. My husband Stuart has been cooking this for a couple of years now and we got the original idea in a magazine from a recipe that used duck legs and savoy cabbage. He’s adapted the recipe to use duck breasts instead and we serve it with fluffy rice and pak choi rather than savoy cabbage and mash.

HoneyGingerSoyDuckGlutenFree

It takes around half an hour to cook and is both gluten free and dairy free.

Ingredients for Gluten Free Soy, Ginger and Honey Duck (serves 2)

  •  2 duck breasts
  • 3cm (1 inch) root ginger, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli, sliced (deseed if you don’t like it a little spicy!)
  • 2 tbsp of gluten free soy sauce (we use Tamari)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 fresh plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp five spice powder (double check the ingredients to ensure it is gluten free)
  • 2 pak choi
  • 1 tbsp seseme oil
  • 150g (dry weight) Thai Rice

HoneyGingerDuckIngredients

Method

1) Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade

2) Put a lasagne style oven proof dish in the oven to heat

3) Sauté the chilli, ginger and garlic in seasme oil quickly for 1-2 minutes then put in the oven dish with the chopped tomatoes, soy sauce and honey

4) Cook for 5 minutes in oven

5) Seal the duck in a hot pan, skin down for 6-8 minutes. Turn duck to quickly colour.

6) Take the duck breasts and fat and add to oven dish.

7) Cook for 10 minutes in the oven.

8) Take the prepared pak choi and add to oven dish. Cover the pak choi with sauce to ensure that it cooks and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

9) Once the 10 minutes is complete, remove the duck from the dish and slice each duck breast.

10) Serve the pak choi on plate of rice and put slice duck breast on top, finishing with the sauce.

Gluten Free Thai Restaurants (Where are you?)

Thai Food - Gluten Free?
I’ve had a love for Thai food  every since I visited Thailand for the first time back in 1999. I cook Thai food at home a lot, I’ve got numerous Thai cookbooks and I’ve even been on a Thai cookery course.

When I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease I immediately thought about Thai food as being one of the best types of cuisine available for people on a gluten free diet. Pretty much everything Thai should be gluten free apart from wheat based noodles, soy sauce based stir fries & deep fried starters. This leaves lots of tasty options such as Pad Thai, Coconut curries, rice paper spring rolls, Thai fishcakes, satay dishes and rice dishes.

If I am cooking gluten free Thai food myself, things are pretty simple as I can either make curries or use gluten free soy sauce in the stir fries.

I had the impression that going out for a Thai meal would also be pretty straightforward – surely there would be a great choice of curries and rice dishes or Pad Thai style noodles available. Unfortunately I have not had a good experience going out for a Thai meal yet. Actually that’s an understatement – I’ve not actually managed to have Thai meal out at all in Edinburgh.

Last night I tried to have a Thai meal in Edinburgh. I had high hopes – the Dusit Thai restaurant in Thistle street in Edinburgh had their menu marked up with “W” against any dish that contained wheat.

Unfortunately it was not as straightforward as that. When I arrived and asked about gluten free food I was told that I could not have any Thai curries as the meat was all marinated in Soy Sauce! What? I’ve never once seen Soy Sauce used in a Thai curry recipe – only fish sauce. He then said that I could have any stir fry dish but they would replace the soy sauce with salt. He told me that the waiter would look after me and let me know which dishes I could and couldn’t have.

To cut a long story short the waiter told me things that were inconsistent to what the other waiter had told me. He then mentioned that the menu was wrong and the things marked with “W” were out of date. At that point I decided that as much as I was craving Thai food I just wasn’t prepared to take the risk of ordering it in a restaurant with an out of date menu and staff who had inconsistent stories about what was and wasn’t gluten free! Not to mention that fact that they probably would probably use a wok that had traces of soy sauce on it from previous dishes – Argh! I really hope nobody goes into that restaurant and makes the assumption that the menu is up to date – this is a really risky thing for anyone with a wheat allergy or coeliac disease and orders off the menu without checking first.

My other experience of a Thai restuarant in Edinburgh was the Chang Thai restaurant. I walked in and asked if they had choices for a gluten free diet and the waitress thought I was asking if they had any food for free! After much explanation and repetition she finally understood me, looked quite horrified and said “Oh, no, we can’t cope with any allergies here, sorry.”

I had a similar experience in Miami when I visited a Thai restaurant. It took a while to get the “gluten free” through to them and for them to understand what I meant, then they told me that they had no idea what was in their curry paste as it was delivered to them. They also looked a bit scared of the idea of serving food to anyone who had any type of allergy or intolerance.

If you are reading this and you’ve had a successful gluten free experience at a Thai restaurant in Edinburgh, or anywhere else, please leave a comment for me and let me know where!

I’m not going to give up because I love Thai food and there are lots of other Thai restaurants in Edinburgh, but overall I am pretty disappointed in how hard it is to get gluten free Thai food in a restaurant considering so many of the Thai dishes are naturally gluten free.

Nakd Bars – Gluten Free, Healthy & Tasty too!

Gluten Free Nakd Bars
This week the folks at Natural Balance foods sent me a big box full of all the different flavours of Nakd bars. Natural Balance do a whole range of healthy gluten free foods and you can find them in the supermarkets and on their website.

I’d seen these bars in the shops in the gluten free section many a time over the last couple of years but never actually tried one because the main ingredient is dates. I’ve never been a fan of dates, so I’d just assumed that I wouldn’t like the Nakd bars.

How wrong was I!! I bit into the Gingerbread flavoured Nakd bar and it was actually rather delicious. The main ingredients of the bars are dates, nuts and natural flavourings. They are all suitable for vegans, completely gluten free, dairy free, raw and natural.

Each bar has around 150 calories and counts as one of your 5 a day of fruit/veg, so you can have a guilt free, healthy snack that tastes good, yet feels slightly decandent.

Here are all the flavours & ingredients:

  • Cashew Cookie – cashews & dates
  • Gingerbread – dates, almonds, pecans, ginger, cloves & cinnamon
  • Rhubarb and Custard – dates, cashews, raisins & a hint of natural flavours.
  • Berry Delight – dates, cashews, raisins, raspberries & natural berry flavouring.
  • Cocoa Orange – dates, cashews, raisin, cocoa & natural orange flavouring.
  • Caffe Mocha – dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa & a hint of natural flavours
  • Cocoa Delight – dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa & natural chocolate flavouring.
  • Cocoa Mint – dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa & natural mint & chocolate flavouring.
  • Pecan Pie – dates, pecans and almonds.

The bars are satisfyingly sweet with a chewy texture and if you are craving something sweet with your afternoon cuppa, these will do the trick.

Pecan Pie Nakd bar

So far, I’ve tried the Gingerbread, Rhubarb and Custard, Cocoa Orange and the Pecan Pie bars. My favourite so far is the Gingerbread and surprisingly the least favourite is the Cocoa Orange as I found this one a little bit too sweet.

Overall I highly recommend these if you’re looking for a healthy, but tasty gluten free snack!