New Gluten Free Menu at Henry Wong

It is notoriously hard to find a Cantonese restaurant that caters for a gluten free diet. The desire for chefs to coat everything in soy sauce and batter is a common occurrence and it is for this reason that I hadn’t eaten a Chinese meal in a restaurant in about nine or ten years, which is crazy considering how much I love this cuisine. You can imagine my delight when I was invited along to sample the new gluten free menu at Henry Wong in Harborne to find that I could eat a large selection of beautiful dishes.

Henry Wong specialises in both traditional and contemporary Chinese dishes and the diverse menu could satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. Thanks to the freshness of the food on offer, a large amount of the normal menu can be made gluten free and it was fantastic to be able to visit a restaurant where the staff were so knowledgeable about allergens and could prepare vibrant dishes without any fuss.

For starters, we were treated to the popular chicken and shitake mushroom yuk sung with pinenuts, as well as asparagus and soft shell crab with garlic and chilli. The dish that particularly stood out for me here was the crab, it was really succulent, coated in a delicious batter and drizzled in a garlic and chilli sauce which is always a winning combination for me. I can sometimes find that chefs overcook asparagus, but here it was cooked to perfection and complimented the crab dish perfectly.

img_2937

Next on the menu was the main course of honey pepper king prawn, sweet and sour chicken, steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onion, pak choy in garlic sauce, sizzling beef fillet in black pepper sauce, accompanied with egg fried rice.

img_2943

When I was younger and still eating normal Chinese food, I always opted for sweet and sour chicken and beef in black bean sauce, so I was chuffed to be able to tuck into these amazing dishes once more – the beef dish in particular was really tender and juicy and much more tasty than how I remember it from takeaways years ago. Another pleasant surprise was the sea bass; other than prawns I wouldn’t usually opt for seafood at a Chinese restaurant but combined with the ginger and spring onion – two of my favourite ingredients for oriental food, I was really impressed by the dish and would definitely order again.

img_2948

img_2942

For dessert, a beautifully presented fruit platter came out bursting with a variety of berries and melon, as well as strawberry cheesecake and fudge cake, topping off what was a fantastic night of amazing food – the cocktails and mocktails on offer were amazing too by the way!

img_2955

img_2959

Overall, I can’t praise the gluten free menu enough at Henry Wong. The staff  have obviously put a lot of effort into learning about Coeliac disease and how to cater for special diets, whilst maintaining the same standards of exceptional cooking that goes into the normal dishes.  The great thing was that they are so keyed up on how to prepare gluten free food that you don’t feel different when eating there, you are made to feel like a regular diner. I can say for certain that I will be visiting again in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to be sat around the table with my chopsticks, tucking into another beautiful selection of gluten free dishes. If you’re ever in the Birmingham area, you must take a trip down to Henry Wong, it’ll be a firm favourite with both gluten free and normal eaters.

img_2951

Scallop, chorizo and prawn salad with wilted spinach

photo(3)

Scallops are very much a new addition to my diet due to the fact that year’s ago, they were expensive and actually not that easy to get your hands on if you lived slap bang in the middle of the Midlands. In fact, the first time that I taste tested the squishy little delicacies was on a holiday to Wales a few years ago and I can still remember the trouble we had trying to release, prepare and cook the live shellfish.

Thanks to their wide spread popularity, scallops can now be found at most supermarkets up and down the country, washed and sealed for the convenience of lazy people like myself who are put off by the thought of trying to manhandle a shellfish.

I made this easy peasy dish at my recent Mediterranean night and it was well loved by everyone sat around the table. So without further ado, let’s get cooking.

other

Ingredients

  • Prepared pack of scallops
  • Half ring of chorizo
  • Large handful of spinach
  • Parsley
  • Baby or king prawns
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the chorizo, turning until golden and crisp. Transfer to a plate, making sure to leave plenty of juice in the pan
  2. Next, toss in the scallops and prawns and fry for 3 minutes on each side on a moderate heat
  3. Place a handful of spinach into the pan and leave to wilt
  4. Prepare a plate with lettuce and tomatoes
  5. Add the chorizo back into the pan and mix well with the shellfish
  6. Throw in some parsley and serve on the bed of salad

How to host a gluten free Mediterranean night

tav

I love the Mediterranean! I love the countries, I love the climate, I love the people and most of all, I love the food. So it’s only natural that every so often in my family, we throw a Mediterranean night filled with sangria, wine, olives and tapas, i.e. my idea of heaven itself.

This year I was the host and sous chef, in fact I was the only chef on the night. I’d settled the famalam in with a river of wine and lager and had put on some cultured music courtesy of the Gypsy Kings and Latino Lounge – okay, not technically Mediterranean but it added to the atmosphere.

So, with a Spanish rendition of Hotel California and Bamboleo ringing out in the background, I got busy in the kitchen creating eleven dishes of absolute scrumptiousness. Here’s what I served up on the night.

Appetisers

Tortilla chips, cucumber and carrot sticks with tzatziki and houmous

Pimento stuffed olives

Tapas dishes

Chickpeas with feta, chilli and fresh mint

Griddled chicken salad in a chilli and garlic butter with quinoa, rocket, red onion and chives

Tray bake of butternut squash with courgettes, sweet potato and peppers

Baked aubergines in a honey and lime dressing

Pan fried Scallops and king prawns with chorizo, finished off with a sprinkle of coriander and parsley

Focaccia bread served alongside a selection of cooked hams, feta and grilled halloumi cheese

Mains

Lamb tagine with toasted pine nuts

Chicken, chilli and bacon pasta in a creamy sauce

Griddled steak with rocket and a balsamic vinegar dressing

Dessert

Tiramisu

Strawberries, apples, grapes and cranberry cheese with honey

IMG_2369pra

IMG_2378IMG_2367

Okay, so here’s where I go all Miranda on you and admit that my tiramisu was purchased from Sainsbury’s. But, the thing to note is that everything else was fresh, home cooked and most importantly, gluten and wheat free.

Tip: If you don’t believe that a whole host of fussy eaters can enjoy a night of eating gluten free food, then think again. Nobody would have guessed that any of these dishes were lacking in what I like to call ‘evil ingredients.’

Some of the dishes that I whipped up, such as the gorgeous lamb tagine courtesy of my favourite free from chef Pippa Kendrick and my very own creamy chicken and chilli pasta, were tried and tested. However, some were sort of created on the spot after raiding my cupboards and seeing what I had in – after all, it’s not the most cost effective ‘come round for dinner guys’ kind of night. The baked aubergines in a honey and lime dressing was inspired by my trip to Barcelona earlier in the year, and it was a recipe which I had noted down at the time as it was extremely simple to make and bloody delicious. The fruit concoction I served up at the end of the meal was also extremely refreshing and light after so many dishes.

Anywho, over the next few weeks I want to share some of these beautiful recipes with you to demonstrate how gluten free cooking doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, my cousin remarked after eating everything that ‘you would never guess that it was all gluten free,’ and thankfully, everyone went back for seconds. Pheww!

Even though somehow I managed to get all of my dishes out at the exact time that I said I wanted everything ready, the important thing to remember if you are hosting a dinner party is that in the Mediterranean, you don’t need to be in a rush. My Rhodian friends like to use the phrase ‘slowly, slowly,’ which basically means ‘your dinner will be ready when we’ve finished cooking it and not before.’

On that note, Yammas, Cin Cin and Salud! May you always be in possession of a smooth red wine.

IMG_2372medIMG_2374

IMG_2375

Salmon fillet with avocado, mangetout, baby corn and cashew nuts

salmon

This beautiful salmon salad was another terrific concoction I worked up in 15 minutes when I was home late from work. Luckily, I’d done a big food shop prior to getting back and had a mixture of ingredients that I’d popped into my trolley with no real idea of what I’d do with it all. Thankfully, every single ingredient in this dish blended together really well and I enjoyed every bite, so much so, I had to share it.

There’s a nice mix of sweetness, crunch and creaminess in this bowl thanks to a generous helping of babycorn, pepper, cashew nuts and avocado. Finished off with a hint of balsamic and runny honey, this is a really satisfying, protein packed dinner that you’ll want to make again and again.

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillet
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 red pepper
  • Mange tout
  • Baby corn
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Lemon juice
  • Handful cashew nuts
  • Dried parsley
  • 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp honey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Slice the skin off the salmon fillet and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Place in the oven on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes depending on how rare you like the fish
  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the mangetout and baby corn for 5-6 minutes until soft
  3. On a plate, mix up the lettuce and spinach
  4. Chop up the pepper into slices and scoop out the avocado and place on top of the bed of salad
  5. In a mug, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey
  6. Once the fish is cooked through, chop into squares and place on the bed of salad
  7. Scatter a handful of cashew nuts on the plate and drizzle over the dressing

2

Sticky maple pork with apples and crispy onion rice

Phone 149

This is one of my favourite meals and an absolute keeper because it only takes 20 minutes to whip up. In true Jamie Oliver style I had a little race around the kitchen, throwing and chopping with both speed and precision in order to get my dinner ready and in front of the TV in time for whatever programme was taking my fancy that night.

Let’s face it, sometimes quick meals that require no effort can be bland and boring, but I always find that with a dollop of maple syrup smothering a chop and roasted apples following closely behind in the procession, a dry piece of meat can be transformed into something succulent and down-right bloody delicious.

So, let’s have a look at what’s in this delicious dish and get cracking.

Ingredients

  • 2 pork chops
  • Red or yellow pepper
  • ½ chopped onion
  • ½ mug full of rice
  • Handful of fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 apple cut into chunks
  • Dairy free butter or sunflower spread

 

  1. Warm the oven and align a baking tray with foil and olive oil
  2. Chop up the sweet potato, season the pork chop with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, boil the rice and cook according to packet instructions
  4. Slice the pepper and cut the apple into chunks. Add to the baking tray 15 minutes before the end of cooking
  5. Melt some butter in a small frying pan and add the chopped onion, cooking until crispy
  6. 5 minutes before the chops are ready to be served, smother the pork chops in maple syrup and place back in the oven
  7. Once the rice is cooked through, throw the onions in and mix well
  8. Serve up the rice and chops alongside the sweet potato, peppers and apples
  9. Sprinkle the chives on top and pour the juice from the tray over the plate

Meat Free Monday’s: Veggie Chilli

IMG_2124

I love chilli and it’s one of the easiest meals to whip up and pop in the oven for a good hour or two whilst settling in to a good book or TV programme during the cold winter nights.

Once or twice a week I have a meat free meal, usually of fish, to ensure I get a good boost of vitamins in my diet to keep me fit and healthy. I’d never tried a veggie chilli before, as to be honest, chilli without meat seemed ludicrous to me, but boy how wrong was I.

The best thing about this recipe is that I managed to get two large lunches out of it and it tasted even better after having a couple of days in the fridge where all of the flavours really had chance to mature. Mine had a real kick to it too which was great for warming me up after a cold drive home from work.

Served alongside quinoa, this was a really satisfying meal that left me full for ages after. It would make a great dip for nachos or on a baked spud for a simple and quick snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 red or green pepper
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 1 courgette chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn
  • Sweet potato cubed
  • 150g quinoa
  • Bunch fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until softened. Throw in the chilli powder and cumin seeds and mix well.
  2. Chop the sweet potato and cook in oven for 30-35 minutes until crispy and golden.
  3. Add the peppers and fry for 5 minutes. Next, add the tomato puree, peas, tin of tomatoes and stock. Leave to cook for 25 minutes on a low heat.
  4. In a saucepan, cook the quinoa in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes until soft.
  5. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the courgette and tin of sweetcorn and simmer.
  6. In the last 5 minutes, add the cooked sweet potato to the saucepan and mix well. Drain the quinoa and dish up alongside the chilli.
  7. Chop up a handful of coriander and sprinkle on top.

An honest account of living with undiagnosed food problems

I’m going to be completely honest, because quite frankly I have far overstretched my wits end here when it comes to eating.

Yet again I am sat at home on a Saturday night ill, and before you wonder if it is self- inflicted due to too much alcohol, I wish it was because then I could control it. No, I am ill yet again due to food.

At the age of 11 and 12, I had two operations. They were relatively minor operations and I should have been back to full health within a matter of weeks, but unfortunately the first one did not quite go to plan and I had to be operated on a second time. I am now nearly 23 and have suffered with my health since, the most ongoing problem being the awful reaction I get to a range of food.

The first time I had a bad reaction was when I was still recovering from my second operation. I had been out for a cream tea at a café where I ate a sandwich and a scone with jam and cream to which I got home and had the most excruciating stomach pains, I lay on my bed crying and barely able to breathe for all the pain – I have experienced this same reaction many times since.

Upon telling the doctor of my reaction to wheat, his advice was to cut wheat out of my diet without so much as doing a simple set of blood tests. I have now obviously discovered since that that is the worst advice a doctor should give as gluten should never be removed from a diet until a person has been tested for coeliac disease. Having been wheat and gluten free for years now, I could never even comprehend putting gluten back into my diet without being extremely ill.

Doctors have been my worst enemy with my ongoing food problems, I have been told there is no such thing as food intolerances and that it is just in the mind, I have also been accused of having eating disorders, with doctors often asking me ‘do you make yourself sick after eating,’ I can tell you I have never done that. I absolutely love food and hate the fact that so much food is off limits to me, quite frankly maybe if I did have bulimia, doctors might help me and I could find a way to cure myself.

Over the years, my reactions to food have got worse and worse. I have developed a massive intolerance to cow’s milk, even the smallest drop gives me awful stomach pains and I find that too much dairy makes me feel sick. A small shot of Guinness which I now can’t touch, once gave me stomach pains, sickness and breathlessness within a couple of minutes. Sugar is also my biggest enemy, even natural sugars from fruit gives me awful pains and bloatedness and I have to limit my fruit intake to just two pieces a day.

Tonight I am unwell even though I gave waiters strict orders in the pub on what I could eat. I had mackerel with green salad and lamb with roasted vegetables, completely dry with no sauces or ‘evil food’ on the plate. I also had a glass of wine, but obviously something didn’t digest very well and I came home and was ill – what was wrong with the food or wine I had I have no idea.

My nights out always seem to get ruined with me going home ill, instead of looking forward to going out to eat or drink, I now dread it because I wonder what I am going to have. It is taking over my life and I just can’t take it anymore, I really need some help and a proper diagnosis by someone who actually listens and takes me seriously. I just need some help finding out how to live with such a restricting diet and the best way to live with whatever it is that I have.

In the last week, I have finally made a bit of a breakthrough after seeing a specialist who specialises in coeliac disease. He is referring me to a dietician and I am to go back in a couple of months for tests to try and find out what is wrong with me. It sounds weird, but the best Christmas present I could get this year would be a diagnosis so that I can begin getting better. To think it has taken me 10 years to convince a doctor to send me to a specialist, which I am now paying for as I was so desperate to get sorted, is beyond a joke. I know there are many people in exactly the same position as myself and it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one going through this. I can only hope that in the future, doctors will be less dismissive of people complaining of food problems and will try and help instead of turning us away.

Hard Rock Café Dublin

This weekend I finally took my first trip to Dublin. After years of trying to get the money together to go for a few days but never succeeding, me and my friend decided to go for just the day. With the flight only taking 40 minutes from Birmingham and the tickets costing less than travelling by train to London, there really was nothing to lose.

The first trip we took was to the Guinness factory, and although I couldn’t drink the Guinness, I did get to pour a pint and visit the roof top bar overlooking the whole of Dublin and so the view was worth the price of the 16 euro ticket alone.

The main worry for anyone suffering from Coeliac disease or allergies however, is always finding somewhere to eat when visiting a new place. I decided that my best bet for finding a ‘free from’ safe place was probably on the city’s famous Temple Bar as this is one of the places most tourists flock to for a pint and pub grub.

Luckily for me I came across a TGI Friday’s which I know do a gluten free menu and Hard Rock Café, both located on Fleet Street. I asked upon arriving if Hard Rock Café did a gluten free menu and they presented me with a few options for main meals, appetisers and side dishes.

Like a lot of establishments, steak is always a safe option for anyone with allergies and the menu had included a choice of two varieties of steak dishes and one fish dish with allergen information. I opted for the New York strip steak, as did my friend and I have to say I was very impressed when it arrived.

The portions were very big, as you’d expect from an American chain restaurant, but the quality of the steak was very good – flavoursome and tender, but most of all cooked perfectly to my preference of medium rare. I was even more happy to be given a big stack of chips as I haven’t been able to eat proper thin cut chips at a restaurant in years due to them always being cooked in flour.

Overall, I had a fantastic meal and would recommend Hard Rock Café to anyone with food allergies as they were accommodating to my needs. Although there is not a great deal in terms of gluten free meals, the size and quality of the food is well worth it if you appreciate a good steak.