Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Product Review: Schär comes to the UK!

If you have never heard of Schär, they are Europe's leading gluten free brand, recognisable by their bright yellow packaging and red logo. You may have seen their products when holidaying around Europe. I discovered Schär products back in 2011 during a trip to Paris and was such a fan that I've made it my duty to stock up whenever I've visited Europe since then. I recently learnt that the Dietary Specials brand (owned by Dr Schär) was rebranding to Schär and expanding their range, so I was delighted to receive a package from them, featuring some of their new products. Read on for my reviews!

Cream Crackers

I've tried many gluten free crackers over the years, and up until now, I wasn't particularly fussed on any. Schär's crackers are amazing, however! Even my cream-cracker-loving, non-coeliac fiancé gave them the thumbs up too, and he scoffs Jacob's crackers all the time. Unlike other crackers I've tried, they come in individual packs, which means that they won't go stale if you don't eat them often, like me. To me, they taste just as I remember cream crackers tasting, but they don't leave any cloying after-taste. They're light and flaky and are perfect with a cheeseboard. I'm looking forward to tucking into these with some festive cheese around Christmas! 

Verdict: 9/10 - best gluten free crackers I've ever tasted!

Wholesome Seeded Loaf

Being honest, this was my least favourite of the products I was sent to try. I'm on a quest to find the perfect gluten free bread, and unfortunately I'm still on that quest. The texture of this bread is lovely and soft, and it smells really nice, but the slices are just too small for a decent sandwich. I've yet to try it buttered when untoasted, so I couldn't say how well the structure holds together. Having said that, it does make really nice toast! I've been eating it for breakfast, topped with marmalade and have been enjoying it, but I'm not sure I'd buy it again because of the size of the slices. I want a sandwich bigger than the palm of my hand, Schär! The packaging also lets this loaf down because unlike most loaves, it doesn't have a twist top/seal and I found it hard not to rip the whole bag open, meaning I had to put the rest of the slices in a ziplock bag to preserve the freshness.

Verdict: 5/10 - Potential there, but needs more work to compete with other leading GF brands.

Sweet Brioche Rolls

I remember trying these in Paris where they're called 'Bon Matin'. They were my go-to breakfast every day, straight out of the packet with a little bit of butter. I brought some home with me where I could warm them slightly to refresh them and wished I'd brought a whole suitcase of them back!

These rolls can be eaten straight from the packaging, with no refreshing, but I do prefer them after they've been slightly warmed in the microwave (or toaster!) for 15 seconds. The butter melts into them and makes them lovely and squishy. I do top mine with jam, but they are very sweet like this! The taste of the actual roll is a delicate, vanilla sweetness, but someone I spoke to the other day said they had them with soup! Whatever your personal taste, I guess!

Verdict: 8/10 - Makes a change to have a nice treat for breakfast now and then!

Mini Os
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Mini Os are a good alternative to Oreos (although a lot less rich). They come in a little packet and the biscuits themselves are small too, so be warned because they are very moreish and you can quickly get through most of a packet without realising! ...apparently, ahem.                                                                                                          Verdict: 8/10 - lovely little biscuits, careful how quickly they disappear though!

Custard Creams

Dietary Specials Custard Creams have been a staple in my cupboard for as long as I can remember, and I'm happy to say the Schär ones are no different (I'm not sure if they've changed the recipe!). I like these because they come in individual packets of two, so they're great for when you're out and about. If I know I'm going for a drink with a friend, I usually take a packet of these with me to enjoy with a coffee.

Verdict: 9/10 - Solid staple in a gluten free cupboard.


I'd seen these advertised when I heard about Schär's new range, and I've been looking forward to what people have described as a 'gluten free Twix.'  Chocolix is like a Twix in that it's a caramel-centred chocolate biscuit, but for me that's where the similarity ends. That's not a bad thing though, they're still really nice! I think they could do with a bit more caramel though, because they're quite hollow inside and it feels like they're lacking a bit as a result.

Verdict: 7/10 - Not a Twix, but still good in their own right.

Sadly, I couldn't try the Breakfast Bakes because I can't tolerate oats, but I'd love to know what they're like if you've tried them? I'm going to get my fiancé to give me his opinion, because he loves Belvita biscuits.

The Schär range is now widely available in supermarkets across the UK, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other new products they'll bring out. So far, so good! I'm off to enjoy some crackers!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Chow Mein

Since I've had coeliac disease, I've spent the past few years trying to master my favourite dishes. I find that Chinese is the most rewarding because I really do miss a good chippy tea! My new favourite is chow mein, and I've even got my noodle-hating fiancé (I know, what's wrong with him?) addicted too!

Egg noodles are one of the hardest things to replicate gluten free and I don't think I've ever seen a decent alternative. Rice noodles are too bland, in my opinion. However, gluten free tagliatele works pretty well, and that's what I've used in the recipe below.

You can use any meat or vegetables to make this really simple dish. I think I might need to open my own chippy soon!

If you're following a FODMAP diet, this is a low FODMAP dish too!

Chow Mein

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts or quick-frying steak
4 spring onions, sliced into thin strips
150g thinly sliced mushrooms
1 thinly sliced green, yellow or red pepper
Garlic oil
4 tbsp tamari/gluten free soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbs rice vinegar
150g cooked gluten free tagliatelle/spaghetti/rice noodles
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: chicken/beef/vegetable stock, extra soy sauce, chilli flakes (if you want a bit of spice!)

Thinly slice meat into strips and marinate in chilli flakes (if using), tamari, oyster sauce and rice vinegar. Place in fridge for at least half an hour (I tend to do this in the morning and leave all day).

Cook pasta/noodles according to instructions.

Heat a couple of teaspoons of garlic oil in a wok and add meat/vegetables. Cook for a few minutes til brown/softened and add the rest of the vegetables, coating in the sauce. Cook until meat and vegetables are tender and add the cooked noodles. Add a little more soy sauce. I like this quite dry, but if you want more sauce you could add some stock while the meat and vegetables are cooking.

If you're a vegetarian, simply omit the meat and instead marinate the vegetables, adding more peppers and mushrooms to compensate. You could add any veg to this dish, but ones you can slice thinly work best.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Frangipane Tart

My little girl, Emily, has been asking me for 'Rahhhspberries' all day today. She's never had them before and they just so happened to be on offer in Aldi, so I bought a punnet for her. She put one in her mouth and immediately spat it out, declaring "I don't like that one, Mummy." I don't really like raspberries on their own either, so I decided to use them to make a cake.

Personally, I love raspberry cheesecake, but my fiancé isn't fussed on them and to be honest, I need to start making things he will eat too, otherwise I'll be struggling to get into my favourite jeans! He loves bakewell tart, so the recipe below is a bit of an adaptation on that. The pastry is probably the best one I've made to date - light, crumbly and sweet and it complements the moist frangipane. The raspberries add a bit of zing, and the dark chocolate perfectly finishes the whole thing off! It's gone down well with all three of us, so I'll definitely be making this again!

As ever, make sure you check labels on everything to ensure it's all gluten free.

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Frangipane Tart

100g unsalted butter diced
100g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
1 medium egg, beaten
200g plain gluten free flour plus extra for rolling
Baking beans/uncooked rice

125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
1tsp almond extract
125g ground almonds
2 eggs
100g fresh raspberries, halved
30g Dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 160 degrees and grease a 9inch/23cm tart tin. (I also line it with foil first for easier removal)

To make the pastry, rub the butter and sugar between your fingers to form crumbs. Stir in the almonds and icing sugar and add the egg a little at a time to form a soft dough. Use a little more flour to roll out to a thickness of about 0.25cm. Line the tin with the pastry, gently pushing it to the corners. Trim excess from around the edge and blind bake using the baking beans/rice for 10 minutes, until the edges start to brown slightly.

For the frangipane, cream the butter, sugar and almond extract together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat the mixture. Gently stir in the almonds. Place the halved raspberries on the pastry base in circles and then spread the frangipane mixture on top. Bake until golden and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool.

Put the dark chocolate in a sandwich bag and melt in some boiled water. Snip the corner of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the cake.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Chicken Katsu Curry

I love Asian food. Since going gluten free, I've managed to perfect a few of my favourite takeaway meals and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I can still eat what I want with a few adaptations.  I used to love going to Wagamama, a restaurant specialising in Japanese cuisine - think ramen and dumplings! They used to have quite a good gluten free menu, but it seems to be very limited now. Chicken Katsu Curry was never an option for a coeliac because it uses panko breadcrumbs and the curry sauce contains wheat flour and soy sauce. I did try it before diagnosis and I loved it. It tastes like 'posh' chip shop curry!

I came across a recipe for it the other day and thought I'd have a go at tweaking it to make it gluten free. Everyone in our house loved it, including my fussy two year old! She did eat about half a pack of 'bum' crackers (prawn crackers, no idea why she calls them that and not sure I want to) but she used them to scoop up the rice and chicken, so I was happy.

Anyway, here is the recipe with some adaptations. Really simple. Feeding two and a half people, itt makes enough to freeze half so you have readymade curry next time, and given that it takes a while to make, this was handy. However, my fiancé didn't realise I wanted to keep it and threw it all away. Good job he's pretty.

Chicken Katsu Curry

For the curry sauce

1 large chopped onion
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons gluten free plain flour
4 teaspoons gluten free curry powder (I used Asda's own)
600ml chicken stock made from Knorr stock cube
2 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons tamari soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon garam masala

For the breaded chicken

2 chicken escalopes, or flattened breasts
1 beaten egg
100g gluten free breadcrumbs - made by blitzing a few slices of bread in a food processor, spreading into a thin layer on a baking tray and cooking in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until golden.

Rice and vegetables to serve.

Preheat oven to 200°c.

Gently fry the onion, ginger and garlic in a little oil in a saucepan until the onion is cooked and soft. Add the carrots and fry on low for 10 minutes. Add the flour and curry powder and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock, honey, soy sauce and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook on low for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the curry through a seive into another pan to remove the onions and carrots and you should be left with a silky, thick yet pourable sauce.

Meanwhile, put the egg and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Dip your chicken into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs, coating on all sides. Spray a baking sheet with a little oil before placing each breast on the tray and spraying more oil over them. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with boiled rice and either vegetables or salad.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Big (Gluten Free) Apple!

For my *cough* 30th *cough* Birthday, my lovely boyfriend (now fiancé after he proposed by a frozen lake in the Winter Wonderland that was Central Park!) whisked me off for a few days in New York.

I visited New York back in 2009, about 6 months pre diagnosis of Coeliac disease, so thankfully I got to experience a 'proper' slice of Pizza, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, burgers and various other delights. As well as the amazing food, I just love the city and had been pining to go back ever since. And after googling 'gluten free in New York' and seeing the wealth of articles, websites and reviews for places to eat and visit, I was very much looking forward to our trip.

I could write and write and write about my visit but I've decided to list just a few of my favourite places below. Click on the titles to visit their websites!

Lili's 57

Lili's 57 is the Midtown sister restaurant of the Upper East Side's Lilli and Loo, famous for its Asian cuisine and sushi. I ate here after reading about it on the internet and seeing they have their own dedicated gluten free menu. Chinese food is probably my favourite cuisine, and I was not disappointed here. The menu has lots of choice - appetizers, soups, main courses, salads, rice and noodles. I wanted to order everything! I went for a starter of steamed oriental pork dumplings followed by General Tso's Crispy Chicken and Mongolian Beef, which my fiancé and I shared between us. If you like Chinese food you should definitely check this place out. It's not too pricey, the portions are great and the staff seem very clued up about gluten free food. I felt reassured that my food was safe.

Gluten free delights at Lili's 57

Bloom's Deli

Located a stone's throw from Grand Central Station, Bloom's Deli is a cosy little diner open for breakfast right through late night snacks. It doesn't seem to be that popular with tourists, which I liked, as I felt like a New Yorker eating our breakfast with commuters stopping in on their way to work. Bloom's was another place I'd read about before flying out and I was excited to try their pancakes, which did not disappoint - so much that we ate breakfast here every day! As shown in the photo below, the pancakes were huge. They were very fluffy and it was nice to be able to pick different accompaniments to go with them. Their breakfast sausages were lovely!

Delicious gluten free pancakes and syrup

The menu is a coeliac's heaven, with many options for breakfast, salads, sandwiches, burgers and desserts. The staff are very aware and have a separate kitchen area for preparing gluten free meals. The portions are huge - we ate here for lunch one day when I wasn't hungry, so I opted for a salad, but as you can see, there was enough to feed both of us!

My 'small' turkey salad

My one regret about Bloom's is that when we ate here on our first night, incredibly tired and weary from our travel, I chose a burger but didn't know whether my bun was gluten free after taking a bite, so I left it. Turns out it was, and was probably one of the nicest burger buns I'd tried! We planned to go back so I could get another one, but we didn't find the time (or the space in my stomach for their enormous 12oz burgers!)

Check out the menu on their website for more information.


If you're worried about cross-contamination whilst eating out, you need to look no further than Risotteria - an entirely gluten free Italian restaurant located downtown on Bleecker Street. This is a small place that doesn't accept bookings, and I hear it can be very busy in the evening! We opted to go for lunch on a Saturday and were seated immediately. Enormous gluten free breadsticks while you peruse the menu are a nice touch!

Biggest bread stick ever, it was like a baguette!
Risotteria serves pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and a large selection of baked goods, all made fresh in the restaurant. You can also purchase baking mixes and frozen goods to take away with you. Both myself and my non-coeliac fiancé ate here, and even he was impressed with his gluten free panini!

I chose a turkey panini, which I couldn't even tell was gluten free. It was so good, and I was so impressed with this place that I bought some of their pizza dough mix to bring home with us. I could have bought everything on offer if I had a spare suitcase!

Turkey ciabatta from Risotteria

Don Antonio

We chose to eat here to celebrate our engagement upon recommendation from the girl in G-Free NYC (see below for more on this shop). We both love pizza and I was dying to try a proper New York pizza. You will not be disappointed if you visit. Forget vacuum-packed, cardboard bases we get in the UK, this is fresh, homemade dough with plenty of toppings to choose from. I chose to opt for a simple margherita so that I could enjoy the base, which I pretty much inhaled! They also have a restaurant in Atlanta - UK next? *crosses fingers*

Pizza makes us happy, especially when it's
gluten free and looks this good!

G-Free NYC

This was literally our first stop after getting engaged, not because a gluten free shop is my idea of romance (although I was in love with it!), but because we were planning to go there after being in Central Park anyway. I just didn't know a proposal would also feature in our plans! Anyway, this shop is brilliant. It's like a little gluten free supermarket, selling everything you could possibly need or want. Cakes, cookies, sweets, pasta, freshly baked bread and pastries, crackers, baking mixes, sauces and a large freezer selection are just some of the goods on offer here, and this is where I filled most of the space left in our suitcases! Admittedly, I didn't look in the freezer because I didn't want to disappoint myself by not being able to purchase anything, however if you're staying in an apartment or somewhere with cooking facilities, there will be plenty here for you.

G-Free NYC

The owners are very helpful and gave great recommendations for places to eat and visit. I was also offered various samples while discussing our trip and perusing the goodies and I even left with a printout of restaurants that we could visit.

Some of the haul I came home with!

These were my favourite places to eat, but there are so many more I didn't get chance to visit and others where I ate the food too fast to photograph it, such as:

S'mac - a mac and cheese restaurant where you can 'build your own' pasta dishes, including gluten free and vegan options.

Mozzarelli's - a deli serving gluten free pizza by the slice, pasta, wraps and sandwiches. You can also purchase a big slice of cake, cookies, baking mixes and more!

Friedman's Lunch - Located inside the iconic Chelsea Market, a great place to get a grab and go sandwich, packed full of delicious fillings.

I can't recommend New York highly enough for a coeliac. They are light years ahead of us in terms of food and there was so much on offer it was impossible to visit even a small percentage of the dining options and shops I'd read about, unless you spend a good month or so there! (which I'd be happy to do, in the interest of research obviously)

Monday, 10 February 2014

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes

Caramel Macchiatos are my favourite drink in Starbucks. So much so that on my last visit, I bought a bottle of the caramel drizzle sauce they use on top so that I can make my own imitation versions at home. However,  I've yet to master the milk frother on my coffee machine, as it turns out more like bath foam rather than the silky, thick stuff you can stand your spoon up in at Starbucks. As such, a little drizzle of caramel sauce just sinks to the bottom. Woe.

Anyway, I digress. Because of my homemade latte failure, I've been squirting on the sauce on just about anything else - pancakes, ice cream, my mouth.. and decided to have a play around with a cake recipe based on my favourite drink. It worked quite well! I think a marshmallow creme might work better to imitate the milky foam, rather than buttercream, maybe I'll try that next time!

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes 

Makes 8 large cakes

125g of margarine
125g caster sugar
125g Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour
2 eggs
2 tsp of coffee mixed with a tbsp of boiling water, left to cool
2 tsp caramel flavoured syrup (I used this)


150g Icing sugar
50g butter
splash of milk

Caramel Sauce to drizzle over cupcakes

Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together in a bowl using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add eggs and 25g of flour and whisk until combined. Add the rest of the flour, the coffee and the caramel syrup and whisk together for a couple more minutes. Evenly spoon mixture into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool and make the buttercream. Spread a thin layer over the top of the cakes, and then drizzle some caramel sauce over each cake.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Peanut Butter Brownies

These brownies really don't need much of an introduction. I have been craving peanut butter all week, and after a failed attempt at making peanut butter hot chocolate earlier in the week (bleurgh), these were exactly what I was looking for! Simple to make and with just a few ingredients, these make a very satisfying, rich brownie, with a lovely, light buttercream frosting full of peanut butter - perfect!

Peanut Butter Brownies

140g salted butter
220g sugar
80g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extra
2 large eggs
70g gluten free self-raising flour

For the frosting:
100g butter
185g smooth peanut butter
125g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees and line and grease a brownie tin with greaseproof paper.

Put butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl and melt in the microwave in short, 15 second bursts til the mixture comes together and is just warm. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and add eggs, flour and vanilla extract. Beat until glossy and pour into lined tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer dipped into the brownie comes out clean. While the tray is cooling, prepare the frosting by mixing the butter, peanut butter and icing sugar with an electric whisk, until light and fluffy. When the brownie is completely cooled, spread the frosting over it and put it in the fridge for half an hour or so. Remove, and slice into 16 equal squares.