Gluten free in Glasgow – Firebird

My boyfriend says I should re-name my blog to‘gluten free pizza diaries’, because it seems that every time I’m writing about food I’ve had in Glasgow, it’s pizza. What can I say? I love pizza.

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Last weekend we went out for supper at Firebird restaurant on Argyle Street before going to see World War Z in the cinema. I knew they did gluten free pasta and pizza and had wanted to go there for ages, and seeing as I am leaving Glasgow and moving to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks’ time, I thought it was about time I actually went to eat there before it was too late! What can I say? WHY hadn’t I been there before!?

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We had booked in advance as it was a Friday, and good job we did – it was pretty busy and there were people waiting for a table sitting in the little outside seating bit (for once it has been reasonable weather in Scotland so I guess people were also making the most of that.) I ordered a gluten free – or as it’s called on the menu ‘W.O.W – without wheat – margherita pizza. It was fantastic. One of the best, if not THE best gluten free pizza I’ve had. The base was really thin, but not horribly crispily cardboardy and burnt like they can be. It was the most Italian gluten free pizza I’d say I’ve had as it was thinner and less doughy than others. It was as if all the other gluten free pizzas I’d had were good because they were a substitute to something I could no longer eat, but I feel Firebird really have made an effort to make their pizzas awesome, and not just ‘it’s good for being gluten free’.

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It wasn’t expensive either – £9.00 for my pizza. I would highly recommend anyone who wants gluten free pizza (and probably ‘regular’ pizza also as my boyfriend said his was great too) to go to Firebird. Next time I go I’ll have to try a pasta dish just for the sake of going somewhere and NOT ordering pizza! Oh, and the movie was pretty good too. 

Here is a link to their website.

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Gluten free in the Higlands of Scotland – Archiestown Hotel

Recently, my family from America came over to Scotland for a visit. They are very into their whisky, so for a lot of their trip they were staying in Speyside which is famous for their whisky, and it is also where I am from. We went for a couple of really nice meals with them – one at The Mash Tun in Aberlour, and one at the Archiestown Hotel which is in a village called Archiestown – they are both about an hours drive away from Inverness and about 45 minutes from Aviemore. 

The meal we had at the Archiestown Hotel was at lunch time – the meal I ended up having would have definitely done me for supper, but I managed to finish it anyway! I panicked a bit when I saw the menu, as there were only about five starter options and four main meals – most of which were bread or pasta based. I asked the proprietor about a dish on the menu which – if I’m honest – was the only one of the main meals I thought I would enjoy anyway – it was venison and beef meatballs with mashed potato, red onion gravy, served with parsnip chips. She said that the chef would be able to adapt it to make it gluten free as the gravy would normally be unsuitable but it wouldn’t be a problem to do this. I was so relieved, as there had been one or two things I could have had on the starter menu, but these were either salmon or mushroom centered and I hate both, so I would have hated to look so fussy and have to say there was nothing I could either have or wanted!

When my meal came, it looked really nice, however there was no sign of these parsnip chips that had been mentioned on the menu – that’s actually the bit I was most excited about – and I thought they may have left them off my plate if they weren’t gluten free, however my uncle who had ordered the same dish didn’t get any either. I guess they had just ran out and not thought to tell us when we ordered which was a shame. However, everything that was on my plate was lovely. Usually I find venison a bit strong, but the meatballs were great and the gravy tasted fantastic. The vegetables it came with were basic (only broccoli) but for lunch time, I couldn’t have eaten any more anyway!

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If any gluten-free’s are up this way, and wanting somewhere very nice for a meal, I would recommend this place, as although there wasn’t much initially on the menu for non-gluten eaters, it appeared that they were totally accommodating and that the chef could whip something up with short notice. 

Here’s a link to their website.

Gluten free – Pizza Express

I feel like I haven’t written anything on here for years. I’ve been really busy getting everything finished up in the last few weeks of my second and final year at college, along with having got myself a position interning with a company in Glasgow, as well as going to Cyprus for a weeks holiday.

So I’ll catch up on what I’ve been doing in terms of gluten free-ing. 

As everyone will know by now, Pizza Express launched a gluten free range at the end of April. I don’t remember ever having been to Pizza Express before I became allergic to wheat, but I know all my friends say that the pizza is great there – so I was pleased to be able to finally see what it was all about! We went to the nearest restaurant to us which is on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow – it’s a nice restaurant inside and out.

My friend won a “taste card” a while ago which in Pizza Express entitles the holder to buy one get one free on each course, so my boyfriend and I borrowed the card (I am not sure sharing the card amongst your friends is entirely allowed but what the heck) and decided to go for a pizza. I would buy myself a taste card, but at nearly £80 a year, I don’t think I’d be able to afford to actually go for the meals after buying one!

For my main course I had the Pollo ad Astra pizza which is chicken, peppadew sweet peppers, cajun spices, garlic oil and red onions. It was pretty different to other gluten free pizzas I’ve had from restaurants or take-away’s – it was less doughy and more of an authentic Italian thin base. I can’t say I was blown away by the pizza, but in all fairness it was definitely the best gluten free pizza I’ve had (I’m not really classing it in the same category as Domino’s because that’s more of a pizza-pie type base). 

Pizza Express Gluten Free Pizza

As it was a buy one get one free deal, we felt as though it would be silly not to order pudding so I ordered the gluten free chocolate brownie from the Dolcetti menu – mini puddings that come with a hot drink. The brownie itself was nice, however it didn’t come served with a strawberry as it was shown on the menu. 

When we went to pay, the bill came and the main courses were marked as buy one get one free, however both of the deserts were being charged for. When I asked the waitress about this she told me that the Dolcetti desserts aren’t included in the taste card two for one offer so I pointed out that the chocolate brownie was the only gluten free desert on the menu. The waitress told me the sorbet was also gluten free (which I had suspected would be – apart from the fact it was served with a wafer) but as it hadn’t appeared on the menu as being gluten free she agreed that we wouldn’t have to pay for the second dessert.

All in all, our bill came to just over £20 for two drinks, two pizzas and two desserts which I can’t complain about! I don’t think I would choose to go to Pizza Express again without a taste card or a similar offer as I think it could become quite expensive, but I did enjoy my pizza!

Gluten free quiche!

I know you can buy gluten free ready-made pastry now in supermarkets but I prefer to make my own. As far as I know it’s only frozen gluten free pastry they sell in the shops which is a bit of a pain because you’d have to plan beforehand as you’d need to thaw the pastry, and also, I’ve found the shop bought ones I’ve tried to be really dry and crumbly, and really hard to roll out of the thick blocks they come in. Obviously with any quiche you can totally change the fillings to suit anything you want to put in – I always have cheese and onion in mine, with the addition of different things like bacon, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, spinach or peppers.

Gluten free quiche

For the pastry:

Ingredients:

7oz gluten free plain flour

4oz butter

1 egg yolk

Water

Pinch of salt

Method:

First, turn the oven on to 160° and grease a loose-bottomed cake tin around 9 inches across and a minimum of about 2 ½ inches deep. Weigh and sieve the flour into a large bowl add the salt, then weigh the butter and add to the bowl in small 1cm cubed chunks. Rub in the flour and butter until it reaches a breadcrumb-like consistency, then mix in the egg yolk – save the egg white as this can be used in the quiche filling. Then, gradually and very carefully add water until the pastry can be formed into a ball of dough. To make rolling the pastry out easier, I lay a sheet of clingfilm on the table, put the ball of pastry dough onto the clingfilm, then lay another sheet on top – this makes the process easier. Roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 3mm and when it is evenly rolled, peel the top sheet of cling off. Place the cake tin upside-down on the pastry, slide your hand under the clingfilm sheet, and flip so that the pastry is now lying on top of the dish. Gently push the pastry in and peel off the clingfilm – there will be breaks in the pastry but patch these up with the spare pastry. Once the tin is lined with the pastry, put it in the oven for 5 minutes.

For the filling:

Ingredients:

4 eggs (plus the white leftover from the pastry)

¼ pint of milk

¼ pint of cream

1 large onion

6 rashers of bacon

150-200g cheddar cheese

A handful of spinach

12 baby tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Gluten free quiche

When the pastry is put in the oven for 5 minutes, cut the onion and fry on a very low heat until they soften and at the same time, grill the bacon. In a jug, whisk the eggs, add in the milk and cream and add the salt and pepper until the mixture is creamy. Grate the cheese and pour it into the jug with the eggs mixture. When the pastry has had 5 minutes in the oven, take it out, and when the onions are soft and going se-through, take them off the heat and pour them in the bottom of the tin. Cut up the grilled bacon into small bits then add to the quiche, along with the tomatoes, chopped into ¼ s. Add the spinach, then finally pour over the eggs and cheese mixture and place back in the oven. It will take around 35 minutes and when it comes out, it should be golden brown on top but still slightly wobbly. Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummm. 

Gluten free quiche

Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake

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It was my Grandma’s 88th birthday yesterday so obviously, it was cake making time! I couldn’t decide between an amazing flourless rich chocolate cake I make, a cream and fruit cake, or lemon drizzle. In the end I decided I better go with which one I thought she’d appreciate most (although if I’d been making it for myself it would 100% have been the chocolate one) so I went with a gluten free lemon drizzle cake. The strong citrus taste gives it loads of flavour and the ‘drizzle’ part of it keeps it moist. Because the drizzle and icing are made from pure lemon juice, it tastes amazingly fresh and zingy unlike some synthetic overly-sweet lemon cakes you can buy in shops.

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For my Grandma’s birthday day out, we took her to the amazing cake shop in outside of Kingussie I mentioned before, The Potting Shed, so after we’d had cake there, my lemon cake seemed a bit redundant! But it was enjoyed anyway (I hope!)

The recipe I use for the main cake mixture is one I took from a basic fruit cake recipe I used to use when I worked in a coffee shop. It works really well for fruit cakes and more dense cakes you’d bake in a loaf tin and is less runny than a regular sponge cake mixture. I’ve changed it around a bit to suit being gluten free but I find it gives a great result as with the lemon drizzle cake, the lemon adds extra moisture, and if you were to use it as a fruit cake mixture the fruits in it provide the moisture.

Ingredients:

(For the cake mixture) –

1 un-waxed lemon

7oz self-raising gluten free flour

4oz margarine

4oz caster sugar

2 large eggs

(For the top)

1 un-waxed lemon

Roughly 1oz caster sugar

Roughly 3oz icing sugar

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Method:

Firstly, turn the oven on to 160°C, and line a loaf tin about 8X3 inches and 4 inches deep. Cream together the sugar and margarine with an electric whisk and then add in the flour. Add the rind of both of the lemons (the one for the top just needs the juice) to the mixture, then juice the lemon. Beat the eggs separately and add the lemon juice – add this to the main mixture and whisk until there are no lumps. Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin and bake for around 40 minutes. When the cake comes out it should be firm.

To make the ‘drizzle’ part of the cake, cut the remaining lemon in half and juice one half. Pour the juice into a small bowl and add some caster sugar. 1oz is a guide – probably about a tablespoon will do because you don’t want this mixture too thick. With a skewer or another long pointy utensil, stab holes in the top of the cake – probably about 8 – 10 evenly along it, however if the cake looks like it starts to crumble when the holes are poked in it, don’t add too many close together. Pour the lemon sugar mixture over the top of the cake, being careful to fill the small holes that have been made. The more holes that are made, the more moist the cake will be, but don’t push it because when you go to cut it into slices, it’ll just fall apart.

For the icing, juice the other half of the lemon and use the same bowl as the first lemon sugar mix. Gradually add the icing sugar until you have a white paste – if it doesn’t look like there will be enough lemon juice to make enough icing to spread on the whole cake, add a tiny bit of water although it is a shame to do this because it dilutes the taste. Remove the cake from the baking paper and place it on the plate it will be served on. Then generously smear the icing over the top – it will fall down the sides but I think this adds to it.

Enjoy!

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Adventures

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Apart from eating a lot, I have been visiting some of my favourite places – today we went to Strathconon – a huge valley which is amazing to look at. The place is full of mountains and streams.  A river runs down it which comes into lochs at points. Every time we’ve been there we’ve seen loads of deer (red deer and roe deer) – hundreds of them, and we’ve seen Golden Eagles twice. Today I saw a little lizard too. The journey up to Strathconon takes you through little towns and we decided to take a picnic instead of going out for lunch. I decided to make food before I left as opposed to relying on there being something I could buy from a shop, and I’m glad I did – we stopped in a town called Beauly and went to a lovely deli with loads of home-made cakes and freshly made sandwiches and paninis and the like, but sadly the only gluten free things they had were Mrs Crimbles biscuits in packets – 1. They were macaroons and I’m allergic to coconut and 2. Even if I wasn’t allergic to coconut I wouldn’t want only a biscuit for lunch.

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I had bought the new Warburtons Newburn Bakehouse gluten-free baguettes, and decided to try them for the first time. If anyone’s bought them, they’ll probably be shocked at how light (in weight) they are – I was really surprised especially as sometimes you’ll pick up a loaf of gluten-free bread and it feels heavy like a brick – these baguettes felt really hollow! I made myself a cheese and lettuce baguette to take with me and I was really pleasantly surprised, especially as if I’m eating gluten-free bread I’ll usually have it toasted because I think it just improves the texture loads. It tasted good although it was pretty dry – it was on its way out of date because I’d bought the pack at reduced price from Tesco because they cost something like £2.30 originally which I feel is a bit of a joke. I also bought the new Warburtons Newburn Bakehouse wraps which I haven’t tried yet but I hope they’re good too as a packet of three costs around £3.00 too! 

Highlands of Scotland!

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I’ve been staying at home for the last week whilst on my Easter holiday from college. It’s really nice to come back from Glasgow back up to the Highlands to see my family and of course there are a few nice places to look at up here! When I was younger I used to hate living here in such a small place, but having the choice to live in a city or back up here makes me appreciate it more and actually enjoy the quiet and scenery.

I’m from a little town called Grantown-On-Spey but usually I just tell people I meet in Glasgow or other places further south, that I’m from Aviemore as it is recognised more because of the Cairngorms skiing resort and it’s pretty frustrating trying to explain to people where a place is if they have no idea that this area even exists! I thought that while I was here I’d have a chance to get all my college work done but in reality all I’ve done is gone on mini adventures with my mum and sister and eaten my body weight in food (which isn’t great because I’m supposed to be on a diet for going on holiday in two months)!

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I only became diagnosed as being allergic to wheat when I was 17 and I had moved to Glasgow by then to start college so I actually never got to know where in the Highlands was good for gluten-free food, I just have to look around a bit and have a back-up when I go out to eat now. I do have two places I think are super good though – one is ‘The Potting Shed’ which have two café’s – one in Kingussie and one at Inshriach. This place makes THE most amazing cakes. I mean, actually totally amazing. They even got voted in the top 10 places for tea and cake in Britain by Cosmopolitan Magazine – https://www.facebook.com/questions/508831655840714/. I went there last week and I was half way through eating my cake when I realised I should have taken a picture of it looking all nice. But it was too good to mess around taking photos of it – I had to eat it. Their gluten-free cakes are made with a light almond sponge which works really well and gives a lovely texture and I don’t feel they taste of almonds – I am allergic to all nuts apart from almonds for some odd reason so I’m lucky that I can eat these cakes! They are definitely some of the best cakes I have tried, all made with fresh cream and fruit (probably not good for the diet, oops) and it is great that there are options for anyone eating gluten-free.

The other place that I love and that I know have a lot of gluten-free options is ‘The Mountain Café’ in Aviemore. Any time I’ve been there in the summer we’ve had to queue for a while to get a table (which is annoying but a good sign) and I reckon it’s just because they do lovely fresh tasting food which seems to be incredibly popular. On their menu they say they can do loads of things as a gluten free option – breakfasts, sandwiches and rolls – and have a whole section on their website describing how dedicated they are to keeping their allergy-suitable foods separate and uncontaminated. They always have a huge selection of cakes and I’d say every time I’ve been there, there’s been at least two gluten-free options to choose from.