Food for thought

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Like many people of my generation, I never really learned to cook from scratch. I found cooking boring and I was always keen to take as many shortcuts as I could to get tasty food on the plate and into my belly as quickly as possible. Need flavouring? No worries, just pour on some sauce. Want gravy? Easy, just add water to this powdered mix.

Life is a breeze when you can eat anything you like. You can whip up dinner in 15 minutes or less, or take your time and cook from scratch using inspiration from one of the many cooking shows gracing our airwaves.

Ah, cooking shows … so much yummy inspiration, and none of it suitable for a multi-allergy/intolerance girl like me…sulk.

Cooking when you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, tomato and capsicum free, and on a low fodmaps diet is not easy. And for someone like me who prefers to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, it’s not fun either.

When I was first diagnosed, I took the easiest route possible, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I lived on some really gross food, like tinned salmon on gluten-free toast (yes, every day) and gluten-free sausages.

Eventually my desire to be healthier and an urgent need to eat something with flavour pushed me into learning to cook. And over time my ability in the kitchen has improved somewhat, although there have been many, many cooking disasters along the way.

If you’re new to the food allergy lifestyle, here are some tips and tricks to get you started:

Take a cooking class
There are several options available locally and online to learn to cook with food allergies.

  • Gluten Free Made Easy are based in Auckland but travel to accommodate group bookings. They offer gluten-free bread and baking options, and cater for other allergies as well.
  • Fraser Ace – Fraser High School’s continuing education programme often has allergy-free cooking class options that run throughout the year.
  • You Tube – a virtual mine of information, you can search for just about any allergy-friendly cooking technique and learn for no cost.

Find recipes
The internet is awash with free allergy-friendly recipes. Pinterest in particular is a great source of recipes. Heed caution though, many free online recipes won’t be as yummy as you were expecting, so give it a go, but also cross your fingers.

You could also invest in some allergy-friendly cookbooks. There are loads of books available, so scout around for one that matches your particular needs – the Hamilton library is a good place to start.

Cooking like your grandmother
When you’re starting out, try and keep things simple. The foods that our grandparents ate for dinner are often naturally allergy-friendly e.g. roast meat and veges. If you get the basics right, you can then move on to more complicated meals.

Experimentation
You’re going to make mistakes. And boy will they be big ones. One of the challenges of making allergy-friendly food is that often the ingredients don’t react in the same way as their allergy-filled counterparts. For example, you usually can’t just switch out regular flour with gluten-free flour and expect the same texture or taste.

Common baking substitutes
Have you got allergies and are not sure what to use instead of your old faithfuls? Here are a few common substitutes for allergic folk.

Gluten-free flours
There are several brands of gluten-free flour mixes readily available at the supermarket. However if you’d like to make your own (which is often cheaper and more nutritious in the long-run), here are some flour options which can be mixed to create a blend that suits your tastes/allergy requirements:

  • Buckwheat flour
  • Sorghum flour
  • Rice flour
  • Almond meal
  • Cornflour
  • Chickpea flour
  • Potato flour
  • Amaranth flour

Dairy substitutes

  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk
  • Soy milk
  • Goat’s milk (may not be suitable for all people who are dairy-free)
  • Rice milk

Eggs
Depending on what you’re cooking, there are a range of options you could use to replace eggs. Eggs are used in recipes as binders or leavening agents (making food light and fluffy) – so select a replacement that matches with the needs of the recipe (Google is a big help for selecting the right egg replacement). There is even a pre-packaged egg replacement you can buy at the supermarket.

  • Apple puree
  • Bananas
  • Buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil
  • Yoghurt
  • Pumpkin
  • Tofu

For more information, follow Christina on www.gluteygirlinthetron.com

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