Perhaps we should’ve stopped at the Neolithic Revolution…a simple move from hunting and gathering to settlement and agriculture should have been enough food advancement for our kind; just keep a few head of cattle, store some grain away for the winter and grow some crops in orderly rows. Nowadays however, it seems you need a working knowledge of chemistry and some basic research skills to really know what you are eating.
Take my recent urge for baked beans, there’s nothing like a good hearty serving of baked beans on toast to get you through to lunch. Of course as we know, I am a label reader, I need to know what is in my food – I can’t eat gluten. There lurking on the label of two different brands of Baked Beans was the annoyingly ambiguous ingredient listed as ‘thickener (1422)’. Urgh… back on the shelf it went, I couldn’t take the risk of the thickener being wheat or barely based.
So after some confusing research, the question to ask is not ‘Can I eat 1422?’ but ‘Should I eat 1422?’. In brief, with a very limited knowledge of chemistry and some quick internet research: 1422 is one of the numbers that appears on the International Numbering System for Food Additives (INS). Wikipedia offers a detailed list and it makes for some interesting reading. My favourites being #173 – aluminium and #220 – sulfur dioxide, yummy! Actually numbers 200-220 are worth a look – all words that look like they’re made up from the left over tiles in scrabble game. Australia and New Zealand uses the INS as does Europe with ‘E’ being placed before each number. As for what happens in the US, I’m just not sure. There are additives that are approved in Europe but aren’t approved in Australia/NZ and vise-versa. Many additives previously on the market are now banned, some are not recommended in large quantities and many are banned in foods but not pharmaceuticals. In fact there are plenty of websites out there dedicated to explaining these additives in more detail.
So what was 1422 you ask? Hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate – obviously!
It turns out I can eat it, items that are derived from wheat or barley must be clearly labelled e.g. thickener (from wheat). Am I going to eat it?…No.
With great weather and big clear skies, that summertime feeling has really hit.
It is the time of year (for us in the Southern Hemisphere at least) for BBQs, friends and lazy weekends. Our good friends and their 3 lovely, lively, considerate boys came over for lunch yesterday. It was a perfect opportunity to introduce our new member of the family, Henry, to the world.
I love entertaining but finding an easy meal that suits adults, kids and a gluten-free diner, prompts some thinking. Do -it-Yourself burgers seemed like the best plan. Burger patties usually call for breadcrumbs, but I think I offer a good gluten-free alternative.
Gluten Free Burger Patties
600g mince beef
1/2 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon garlic – crushed
salt and pepper to taste
The eggs help bind the meat and the rice flour gives the it some bulk and texture without changing the flavour. The amount above made about 10 good sized patties. We cooked them on the BBQ and then added a slice of cheese on top just before we served it – for that nice cheesy meltiness. We had pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, beetroot, pineapple, mustard, mayonnaise, tomato, BBQ and sweet chilli sauce on the table for Do-it-Yourself ease, add in a side of home made wedges – delicious. I used two slices of gluten-free white bread loaf instead of a bun. It tasted amazing, but I really need to hunt down some GF buns for the authentic touch.
After a post-lunch nap (Henry), a few games of Jenga (kids) and afternoon drinks on the deck (adults), we gave Henry some cuddles, love and a yard full of boys to keep him happy. A perfect day!
Hommus always seemed like such a pain to make; there was the hassle of soaking the chic peas and then the obstacle of tahini – something I never kept in the cupboard and always forgot to buy. This recipe uses tinned chic peas and sesame oil and it’s so good, try it…go on.
1 440g tin chic peas (drained and rinsed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 lemon – juiced
1 clove garlic crushed
Put all ingredients into a blender until smooth. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.
I haven’t updated this blog for a while. We’ve been busy moving into our house (and waiting for an internet connection). Moving is one of the most hectic and stressful challenges in life – but now we are settled, it’s so good to be in our very own house. One of the great things about settling in somewhere new is the entertaining that follows, I find it really inspires me to try new recipes and be creative in the kitchen. Take for example my Pumpkin & Feta Salad with Pesto Dressing…a happy experimentation.
Pumpkin & Feta Salad
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 half butternut pumpkin, cut into cubes and roasted
200g Danish feta cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
2 teaspoons basil pesto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Initially I wasn’t so impressed with MightyMite – a gluten-free yeast extract found in my local supermarket. I had just finished a jar of Vege Spread and thought the MightyMite tasted a bit salty and overpowering. However, I’ve since stuck with MightyMite and it is now my new favourite. It is more like the original Vegemite in texture and colour and it has that salty, slightly bitter taste that us Vegemite lovers enjoy. The great news is that it is about a dollar cheaper than the Vege Spread and it comes in a larger jar too, so it is much better value for money.
What is the most exciting for gluten-free Vegemite lovers is that there is now a larger choice for us out there. Many companies are acknowledging the need for a gluten-free variety as well as taking advantage of the backlash that surrounded the original Aussie favourite being sold to an overseas company and are now producing locally made varieties. Go forth and experiment – even if you don’t need a gluten-free option, there are some excellent yeast spreads on the market.
Ready made tortillas packaged in plastic found on the supermarket shelves don’t actually taste like food. They have so many additives and preservatives that they’d last the Armageddon, plus they are generally a corn flour and wheat flour blend. Our friends from Arizona invited us over for a Mexican feast one evening and proceeded to introduce us Australians to home-made tortillas. They are not only super tasty and authentic but naturally gluten-free. The trick is to find the masa corn flour to make them. I went searching and luckily found this 2kg bag in a continental food store in the city.
It cost me $7.95 for the bag, but considering one cup of the flour makes six small tortillas, it is actually cheaper than buying the ready made ones. You mix the flour with about the same amount of water and add in a pinch of salt, roll into small balls and press with a specially made tortilla press. We’ve since broken our tortilla press and now use two chopping boards to press them out. Then dry fry the tortillas in a fry-pan and flip like pancakes. It’s best to stack them as you remove the tortillas from the fry pan to keep them warm and soft.
I’ve stumbled onto a favourite here. Somersby Apple Cider is quickly becoming my drink of choice during this hot weather. It’s light, crisp and tastes just like fizzy apple juice – with an alcoholic kick of course. I like it because it is refreshing and easy to drink but doesn’t have that awful bitter after-taste.
Oh Joe, about that Apple Cider you left here the other night…. we, umm, owe you a few.