This week Tanya Wright, dietician and allergy specialist at Amersham Hospital, and I journeyed to London for the Cookability gluten, egg, nut and dairy free cookery course, run by the inspirational Venetia Cameron-Rose. Venetia normally runs residential cookery courses for young adults and groups in Somerset but by popular demand she put on an evening session for five food challenged ladies in Battersea.
Amongst the group were one seriously allergic to dairy and nuts, a lactose intolerant with a child with multiple allergies, a dairy and egg allergic and two coelics. You might think coming up with a banquet of dishes to experiment and inspire would be a tall order for such a mixed group of people with such varied allergies; it wasn’t for Venetia.
We made a total of seven dishes in the space of an evening and had time to sit down at the end, enjoy the food and get to know one another a bit better. I was completely amazed at how much we achieved together with some pretty good team work and the excellent guidance of our teacher Venetia.
Tofu Semi-Fredo with Chocolate and Hazelnuts
Here we all are weighing out ingredients to make the Tofu Semi-Fredo with chocolate (and hazlenuts for those who could). My nut free version was made first, wrapped in cling film and stowed away in the fridge, then the hazlenuts were added to the nutty version.
I’ve never really cooked very successfully with tofu before but this dish, and others which we’ll come to later, have inspired me to try it. The finished desert was like a rich chocolate mouse type pudding with crunchy oat crumbley bits in it. Very yummy. I was amazed that something so naughty and tasty was really OK for me when we ate it – long ago are the days I had a pudding like this, but it was really delicious.
The quiche with gluten free potato shortcrust pastry
The pastry was very moist, unlike some gluten free pastries can be, which was mainly due to using cold mashed potato which Venetia had made before hand and kept in the fridge. There was a bit of a patchwork going on but the end result was really tasty and didn’t crumble apart once cooked.
The quiche filling included fried bacon and mushrooms and cheezly dairy and soya free grated hard cheese. This was another highlight of the evening which was totally delicous just on its own – it was all I could do not to just cut off chunks and eat it there and then. A trip to the shops is called for to find this new exciting product. Next we added the tofu and milk mixture which holds all the filling together. It really was so melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous words cannot describe it. I know I’ve been quiche deprived for many years but I’m sure this dish would match the taste buds of any quiche lover.
These cookies took only 10-15 minutes in the oven and were just right, a combination of soft and gooey with melting chocolate and a hazy cinnamon after taste. We made them with ground sunflower seeds, ground linseeds, chocolate chips (made from chopped Plamil and Kinnerton nut, dairy, egg and gluten free chocolate), rice flour, sugar and dairy free margerine.
Another really useful tip I learnt for replacing egg in a recipe was to use ground flax or linseed. Mix three tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of ground flaxseed, soaked for half an hour and you’ve got your egg replacement. It worked a treat in these biccies.
They’re actually quite healthy and my god they were tasty. They even passed the husband test when I got home.
Highland oat squares
These were really different, kind of like savoury flapjacks, and would be perfect as a party food, nibbles or canapes. They included chopped onion, carrot, mushrooms, garlic, that tasty cheese again and rolled oats, all mixed together and baked just like a flapjack.
We pre-cooked the onions and mushrooms in a pan in the pure spread before hand, and then just mixed everything else in. This was the easiest of the recipes to do and is probably best served chilled. We couldn’t wait that long and ate them fresh from the oven and they were a bit soft and gooey. Given longer to set they would be just like flapjacks.
Chestnut onion bread and Minced beef cobbler
I didn’t try the bread just in case chestnut flour might have caused me a problem. Some people with peanut and nut allergy can’t eat chestnut either and I’m not sure if I’ve ever tried it before. Not worth risking it whilst away from home in a strange place, but it smelt delicious. I might try this with buckwheat flour instead or cornmeal to replace the chestnut flour.
The Minced beef cobbler was an interesting twist on a dish I often cook. The crunchy little scones that topped it were something I’d never think of doing.
The scones were cheesy (with the amazing cheese again) and would probably be quite nice cooked just on their own too, but resting on top of the minced beef they cooked in the seasoned juices. We missed out the tomato since I can’t have tomato and I think it would have improved for a bit more moisture in the sauce, but it was really tasty and there wasn’t a morsel left in the dish.
I can’t recommend this cookery course highly enough. It was well organised, great fun, and above all showed me things I didn’t know about cooking with allergies. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, cooking the same old things and not experimenting, but Venetia showed me that amazing things are possible with a bit patience and some clever new ingredients.
You can find out more about Cookability cookery courses on their website at: www.cookability.com or contact Annie at the Special Diets Directory who coordinated the course for us and instigated the special allergy free course.
Special thanks to Annie and Venetia. We had a fantastic time and made some new friends too; we’re hoping to all meet up at the Allergy and Gluten Free show in May.