Tag Archives: pasta

Black is the new white

When you consider M’s restricted diet, particularly the fact that rice is currently his only safe source of carbohydrate, you might find it hard to believe that there can possibly be any new products out there for us to discover. With all our exciting finds for breakfast and snack times from the Allergy show, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that was it, but I can’t wait to share these 2 new gems with you, not least because they have expanded M’s meal options even further, something for which I’m eternally grateful.

IMG_0680[1]The first is a fantastic new product that is sadly not yet available in the British market, although the company is working hard to make sure it soon will be: Gusto Nero Black Jasmine Rice pasta. This was an accidental find, but one that I’m really glad we stumbled across so late in our day at Olympia. It caught my eye as we were heading towards another stall, but I stopped to take a look as M has recently found a real love for the many varieties of rice pasta from Rizopia and I wondered if this might be another welcome addition to his meal-time options. I opted for the macaroni as I had bags of lasagne, spaghetti, penne and Fantasia lurking in the cupboard at home and variety is, after all, the spice of life. M was intrigued by the idea of a black pasta and was keen to try it almost as soon as we got back home.IMG_0684[1] I prepared a simple dish, combining the cooked pasta with some diced chicken and thin slices of cucumber, all lightly drizzled with a little rapeseed oil and topped with a sprinkling of rosemary. M savoured the very first bite and quickly devoured the rest of the bowl. The box we bought at the show has already disappeared and I’m keeping a close eye on this company waiting for the date it finally becomes readily available in the UK as I’ve no doubt we’ll become a loyal customer.

M’s marks: 9.5/10

IMG_0702[1]Our end-of-day wanderings also uncovered the second great new addition to M’s meal-times, Gallo’s riso nero or black rice. M and I were told all about the nutty flavour of this rice by their knowledgable rep and he was keen to give it a go. The success of their stand at the Allergy Show meant that they had only a very limited supply of it left by the time we reached them late Saturday afternoon, but the news that rice was M’s sole carbohydrate saw their rep very kindly giving us a microwave pouch of the Venere riso nero to take away and try.  M couldn’t wait to have a taste and was very excited once the meal was made just over a week later. The slightly different taste and texture of this rice made a welcome change to my standard offerings and M made short work of the plate I’d prepared. IMG_0705[1]I served it mixed with some small chunks of pear and drizzled with a little melted coconut oil to accompany the herby chicken pieces and slices of apples on his plate. The pack provided a good-sized serving for dinner and there was enough left-over to make a stir-fried chicken dish for both children the following evening. G seemed to enjoy the flavour of the black rice as much as M did and it will definitely be a part of our meal-times going forward.

M’s marks: 8/10

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A Tale of Two Restaurants

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…we had everything before us…”

    – Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities”

Recently we spent a busy weekend in the town of Portishead, just outside of Bristol and naturally found ourselves needing to eat out in a couple of the restaurants dotted around the Marina there. The two restaurants we chose were a stone’s throw away from each other and yet our experiences of their allergy-friendly services were worlds apart.

The first was Bottelinos, an independent small Italian chain in the South West, who were confident that they could cater for M’s food needs and had gluten-free options clearly marked on their menus. The first hiccup came when G asked for the “Pasta Maximus”, a bolognese sauce with a meatball, and was disappointed to be told that she couldn’t have it as the sauce wasn’t gluten-free. LOGOWe had already had to discount a large proportion of the other pasta dishes because they weren’t dairy-free, so my disgruntled girl moodily requested steak and chips instead – and that’s when the fun and games really began.

Our waitress nipped back to the serving counter and spoke to the chef, before coming back to tell us that the chips weren’t gluten-free either and G’s choices were rapidly disappearing. Feeling somewhat concerned about what we could order for our increasingly hungry pair, I asked for the allergens listing so that I could see exactly what was on offer for G and started flicking through the pages with my fingers tightly crossed that I would find something she would enjoy. The first problem quickly became evident when every pasta dish on the menu was marked as containing gluten, which I assumed was because of the pasta itself rather than the base ingredients in the sauces and there was no easy way to distinguish which sauces actually contained gluten and which were really gluten-free. This type of wholescale approach to allergens may seem sensible, but makes it extremely difficult for an allergy-sufferer to work out what they can or can’t choose without extensive help and detailed knowledge from waiting, kitchen and managerial staff.

Then came the next whammy. As I ran my experienced eye over the rest of the allergen menu, I spotted that the chips were marked as being gluten-free, despite the advice we’d already been given to the contrary. It was far too late for us to up-sticks and search out somewhere else to eat dinner, so I asked to speak to the manager, a request that was met without delay. My first question was about the Maximus sauce, the only one that G was prepared to even consider for her supper, and we were told that whilst the bolognese sauce was gluten-free, the meatball wasn’t and so, having dismissed pasta as an option, we quickly moved on to the matter of the chips. The explanation given here left me stunned and unlikely to rush back for another meal with the children in tow. The manager explained that they had a dedicated gluten-free fryer, so the chips usually would be safe; however (and this is the important bit), on a Friday night they use that fryer to cook everything because of how busy they get and the need to keep up with orders. IMG_0605[1]Not only was I extremely disappointed that they didn’t consider being able to cook gluten-free foods a priority on a busy evening, but I have serious concerns as to whether they are really able to thoroughly clean the fryer and change the oil before Saturday’s service begins; or indeed if they even do.

Eventually we were able to compromise with the manager and the chef cooked G’s chips in a separate pan to ensure the cross-contamination risk was reduced, something we were able to watch from our table. M was given a plate of grilled chicken and sliced cucumber, though he did find a small piece of lettuce when he was half-way through, which again suggested that their approach IMG_0604[1]to allergy-friendly catering wasn’t good enough. In fact, both children did suffer some delayed symptoms in the 24 hours following our meal, which supported our concerns that the cross-contamination risks hadn’t been as well-managed as we’ve experienced elsewhere.

 

In stark contrast, the second restaurant and our location for Sunday lunch with old friends, impressed us from the very start. Mike had popped in to Aqua beforehand to ensure that a repeat of Friday’s disaster was avoided and their response couldn’t have been more different. Not only was he given a copy of their allergy menu to show G, but both the chef and the manager came to talk to him about everything we needed.thumb.php The chef painstakingly went through every item on the menu, explaining which could be made both gluten- and dairy-free for G and made some suggestions of other tweaks that could be made to suit her tastes. As for M, the only cucumber to be found in the restaurant is behind the bar, so the chef made a note to ensure that one would be available for M’s Sunday lunch and again reassured Mike that they could make a tasty dish to meet his complex diet. It was already sounding like a much more promising meal and we couldn’t wait to actually try it out on the day itself.

When we arrived on the Sunday, our booking had been well-annotated to indicate M’s dietary needs and the waitress was aware of what he could eat and how the food was going to be prepared. G chose steak and chips again with the added extra of some goats cheese to replace their standard sauces and M was served a beautifully presented dish of grilled chicken on an apple, pear and cucumber salad. IMG_0610[1]What made the meal even better for M was the lemon sorbet he was able to enjoy for pudding. I had seen it on the dessert menu and asked the waitress if I could see the tub itself to check the list of ingredients. She brought the container to the table and we were thrilled to see that it was indeed safe. The options for G were not so good given she doesn’t like sorbet, but she was able to enjoy a plate of apple, walnuts and sheep’s cheese, which kept her, and me, happy.

IMG_0609[1]Our Sunday lunch was a truly fantastic affair and so different to the problematic experience we endured on the Friday night. It shows what turns a good restaurant into a great restaurant and somewhere that people will visit time and time again. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Aqua to anyone looking for allergy-friendly restaurants and have passed their details on to the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards as somewhere worth knowing about and deserving of recognition. Bottelinos, it would appear, could learn a lot from their nearest neighbour in Portishead and the weekend really was a tale of two restaurants.

Lasagne – an unusual last supper!

I’ve been fascinated looking back over the last 4 awareness weeks and seeing how our approach to “Eating like M” has developed over time. When we first started in 2013, we chose to eat the foods that M could eat at the time, even if they were things he wouldn’t have touched with the proverbial barge pole such as mushrooms, tomatoes or courgettes and followed the lead of other EGID families by eating exactly the same as him on the Friday, including the much-dreaded Neocate Active. Year 2 followed a similar approach, though Mike matched M mouthful for mouthful on the Friday to truly understand what it felt like to be on his diet and again drank the obligatory pint of Neocate for full effect. By 2015, M’s diet had changed dramatically and when we hit NEAW15, he had only 3 safe foods he could eat. Despite initially rejecting the idea of eating like M, IMG_0496[1] Mike and I decided we would once again support him through what was proving to be an extremely challenging time and agreed to spend the week with just 3 foods making up our 3 meals with a litre of E028 to wash it all down for Mike.

2016 has taken us another step forward in our “Eating like M” adventures and this year saw G choosing to stand in solidarity with her brother and join in our week with just 5 safe foods. I am so proud that she decided to take part in this challenge with us and stoically managed the week without complaint. Once again, our week led to opportunities to share our family’s EGID story with others, including Mike’s discussions with fellow attendees at a fully catered RICS training course in London. He had expected the standard buffet lunch to be provided and had armed himself with rice-cakes and apples to get him through his day, so the hot meal that was prepared on request to meet these strict dietary requirements was a more than pleasant surprise.

One of the highlights of the week for me was our final meal on the Saturday night. I had been looking for the perfect opportunity to try out what was, to me, a completely new product and our last M-inspired dinner gave me that chance. I first heard about this product back in February at the #FFFA16, when fellow judge, Stanley Montwedi, founder of online shopping website FreeFromMarket recommended it to me and couldn’t stop raving about how amazing it was. IMG_0469[1]With NEAW16 in mind, I had ordered a couple of boxes from him and knew exactly what masterpiece I’d be whipping up next.

As a family we have always enjoyed eating pasta, but M’s food restrictions have made enjoying a variety of different pasta dishes almost impossible. Thanks to this new-to-me range of products, that is no longer the case. Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Lasagne was actually the winner of the 2015 Free From Food Awards Pasta & Pizza category and I must say that it was definitely a worthy winner. I used it to make a M-friendly chicken lasagne, layering strips of chicken with the pasta sheets and lashings of white sauce flavoured with basil and oregano. I didn’t pre-soak the sheets as per the cooking instructions, but given the limited sauce that could be added to my lasagne, we all found them quite chewy, so I think I will try soaking them beforehand the next time I cook it. And believe me, there will be a next time because the whole family was impressed with this dish. M enjoyed it so much that he asked for it for lunch and dinner 3 days in a row and was most disappointed to discover that it did eventually run out! The Rizopia rice pasta range includes lots of different shapes of pasta which are all safe for M and will add some much-needed variety to his meal-times.

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