Bacon baguette with melted cheese, fig jam and drizzled honey

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Friday night is snack night at my house, and I love nothing more than to get back home and begin the weekend with a delicious meal that takes just minutes to whip up, leaving me with more time to re-watch my Game of Thrones box set with a small, okay, large glass or two of wine.

It is tradition to have bacon sarnies in my family, mainly so we have a good appetite left over to enjoy a whole two days of good wining and dining. However, in true ‘whatever you make, I can make better gluten free’ style, I decided to go one step further this week and cook up a bacon baguette with melted cheese and spring onion, drizzled in a sweet fig and honey sauce for good measure. Well, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I have to say it beats a bacon and tommie sauce cob any day!

So, without further delay let’s have a look at how this fantastic concoction was first invented. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Ingredients

  • Gluten free baguette or ciabatta
  • 3 good strips of crispy bacon
  • Cheese – I used Violife dairy free cheese
  • Spring onion
  • 3-4 figs with the flesh scooped out
  • Honey
  • Coriander
  • Dairy free spread
  • Lettuce
  1. Grill the bacon until crispy
  2. Half the figs and scoop out the flesh. Mash into a fine jam
  3. Chop the onion and butter the baguette
  4. Place the cheese on the baguette and grill for 5 minutes until melted
  5. Put a layer of lettuce on top of the cheese and layer on half of the fig jam
  6. Put the bacon on top, sprinkle on the onion and coriander, then finish off with the rest of the fig jam and drizzle on some honey
  7. Serve and enjoy

Creamy harissa Tunisian chicken bake

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I only discovered harissa paste a few years ago, but boy am I glad I did, as it is must be one of the best things to keep in your store cupboard for when you need to throw in a bit of flavour to a bland piece of meat or fish.
Harissa paste is actually very simple to make yourself at home, but for convenience and ease, keeping a jar in for a week night when you need a quick fix is great. I love to add a few dollops of harissa to homemade meatballs to introduce a bit of a kick, but it also really helps to moisten the beef mince and create a nice juice that isn’t too greasy.
The great thing about this tray bake is that you can incorporate any ingredients you see fit. If there’s vegetables stuck in your fridge waiting to go out of date, throw them into the mix and with a pinch of pepper and herbs, a good few minutes in the oven will make them taste yumcious. Although I’ve used rice in this recipe, the dish tastes equally great with quinoa or gluten free cous cous.
Ingredients
• 3 tbsp harissa paste
• Quarter pot of dairy free yoghurt, such as Alpro soya
• 2 pieces chicken slashed
• Half sweet potato
• 1 red onion
• Basmati rice
• Coriander
• Salt & pepper

1) Mix 2tbsp of the harissa with the soya yoghurt. Slash the chicken breasts and marinate with the harissa.
2) Chop the sweet potato into wedges and slice the red onions into curves. Throw in another tbsp of harissa and mix well with olive oil.
3) Season well with salt and pepper and place on the tray.
4) Roast in the oven for 35 minutes until golden and soft.
5) Cook the basmati rice and sprinkle with coriander.

Gluten free girl in Rome

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As any ‘free-fromer’ can imagine, after the initial excitement of booking my flight to Rome in the summer finally wore off, my next initial thought was ‘what the hell am I going to eat’ in a country famous for its wheat and dairy infested pizza, pasta and risotto dishes.

Like many others, there has to be a certain level of planning when booking a holiday and accommodation, and I’m sure I’m not alone in being generally thrilled when I discover that an apartment, such as the one I stayed at in Rome, contains a cooker and utensils, as at least I know that I can cook for myself should I not find anywhere suitable to eat.

Prior to my trip, my Mom had a google of gluten free places to eat in Rome near Vatican City where we were staying and came across a substantial number of suitable restaurants, alongside a printable card which explained to waiters in Italian about my dietary needs. Luckily for me, this card didn’t make an appearance once at the dinner table.

Upon arrival in Rome and once we had settled in, our tummies were grumbling and we all went off in search of a supermarket so that we could cook ourselves something up at the apartment. Although we could find no ‘supermarket’ bigger than what we would class as a corner shop, we stumbled across what looked like a little delicatessen selling booze, olive oil, a range of pasta and essentials such as pesto and sauces.

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Me and my cousin who also suffers from many food intolerances, were amazed when we found gluten free spaghetti, Burts crisps, which of course are handmade in Devon and Angelic gluten free ginger nut biscuits, which actually I struggle to find back home in Blighty even though they are British made. Strangely enough, the normal eaters in our group came out with not much to eat that they fancied and this is the first time ever I’ve found something to eat before they have.

On our second night, we all decided to head out to find the gluten free restaurant, La Soffita, situated in Piazza Del Risorgimento, which was about a five minute walk from us and just outside the walls of Vatican City.

The online menu we had found back home looked amazing as it specifically mentioned gluten free cooking on the homepage, but of course, I was still apprehensive about how much they knew and the language barriers. I needn’t have worried – upon telling them I couldn’t have gluten, I was presented with a list of the five Greens gluten free beers they sold, an extensive choice that I have not had made available to me in England – so far so good I thought.

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Then came the menu, which stated that the majority of dishes could be made gluten free for an additional two euros. I have to admit, the one thing I craved the most whilst in Rome was sampling a proper Roman pizza and here my wish came true. Explaining to my waiter that I couldn’t have cheese as I was dairy free, I asked whether they could do me up a pizza with just the tomato base and meat on top. Not quite the same of course but I was just delighted pizza was on offer to me. My cousin also, who can’t have tomatoes, had a list of choices on the menu of pizzas that could be made without the tomato base, and she too was thrilled to be able to eat pizza. What can I say, with a topping of spicy salami, herbs and cherry toms, my pizza was delicious, the base especially just melting in your mouth with its fine texture.

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Then came the pudding trolley, filled with beautifully presented Italian desserts. Being dairy free also, the puds were still out for me, but I did settle on some melon and my waiter obviously found it funny to put four massive pieces on my plate just in case I wasn’t full enough already. My cousin opted for the gluten free tiramisu which looked absolutely amazing and tasted it too as she told me whilst polishing it off – she couldn’t resist taking a bite before I could get in with my camera.

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Believing I’d just entered heaven and had been cured of having any food intolerances, the waiter then brought out some gluten and dairy free biscuits for us to sample, consisting of biscotti, pistachio and a nutty type biscuit. All I have to say is they were delicious and I came out of the restaurant beaming like a Cheshire cat at being able to eat normally again.

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The one thing I found so amazing about La Soffita, was that all around the restaurant, there were signs up saying that if your meal didn’t arrive with a flag in it, then by no means taste it as it’s not gluten free. Such a simple but great idea filled me with confidence that I was definitely getting the right meal, as there have been many times in England where I have had to check if it’s gluten free, send it back because it isn’t, or just been filled with dread at having to trust the clueless waiters. As I looked around the restaurant I noticed many people with these little flags on their meals out with friends and decided that this was the ‘place to go’ for coeliac’s.

Next day, after hours of sightseeing and with very sore feet, we found a typically Roman restaurant just a short walk from the Trevvi Fountain, which by the way was unfortunately under construction when we went there. Of course, being so close to such as famous tourist attraction, the prices rocketed a little, but both me and my Mom ordered the sea bass which came with a selection of vegetables. The waiters filleted it for me and it tasted lovely, so yet again I managed to eat out without too much trouble and with no confusion with the waiters.

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Our trip to Piazza de Navona was again a successful one. Walking round I saw signs up at restaurants stating that they did gluten free pasta and although the prices were high again due to their location, the place was wonderful and great for people watching. We all decided to stop for ice cream and upon settling at a little café, the waiter said that he could sort me out with some lemon sorbet drizzled with Prosecco. I have to admit, although I like sorbet it’s often my ‘I want pudding but I can’t eat anything’ choice, but let’s face it, I’d never tasted ‘proper’ sorbet before made in Italy. Presented in a long glass and mixed to a smooth, light consistency, I think that’s when I realised that the sorbet sold in England is NOT sorbet, but quite frankly, crushed fruity ice.

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Our last day in Rome and I was loathed to leave. After walking up to the top of St Peter’s Basilica and just stopping for a salad on the way back to the square, I was on the hunt for a snack. Unexpectedly I came across a small Spar and thought I was never going to find anything in there. Pleasantly surprised, I stumbled across a good selection of gluten free pasta and spaghetti, crisps, and plenty of the DS gluten free sweet range, including biscotti obviously made especially for the Italian market. Yet again the gluten free choice in Rome astounded me, now where in England would you walk into a tiny shop and find a great selection of gluten free foods?

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Evening came and of course, where were we going to spend our last night but back at La Soffita. On our last visit we’d seen some Roman women tucking into a platter of fried gluten free food as a starter which looked mouth-wateringly delicious, so we had no choice but to taste for ourselves, both ‘normal’ and ‘gluten free’ eaters, just how good this restaurant was at cooking. We were presented with fig and Parma ham flat bread, cheesy mozzarella balls, arancini balls, breaded courgettes, potato croquettes, sweet peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, and a range of beans. It was now confirmed, I had died and gone to heaven.

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For mains again, both me and my cousin opted for the pizza, hers tomato-less and mine cheese-less, and I finished off every single crumb as I knew I would never eat this well again once back home in England.

Now to finish off an amazing trip, we knew that somewhere in Rome there were ice cream parlours which sold soya and milk free ice creams and although we had all hunted around, we just couldn’t seem to find the one recommended on Google. My cousin, who speaks Italian, went round a few and happened to come across one called Lemongrass which was actually just a street away from where we were staying. They offered a few varieties of dairy free ice cream and gluten free cones, which unfortunately due to the fact that it was past half eleven at night, they had just ran out off. Stuffed to the brim from my delicious meal, I managed to polish off a pure cocoa and banana ice cream which tasted absolutely divine. Yet again, I couldn’t believe that I had just eaten something that would be so difficult to find back home.

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Taking into consideration the fact that I was dreading what I was going to eat in Rome, I still can’t believe that I managed to taste gluten free pasta, pizza and even dairy free ice cream on my travels round the city. The one thing that really impressed me and I think British restaurants catering for gluten free should introduce, is the flags on meals. They were such a simple idea but filled me with confidence to know that it hadn’t been mixed up with a normal meal that could make me very ill.

The fact that I could go into a little corner shop and find gluten free products for a snack was a bonus and something which I have never experienced in England as only supermarkets and health shops seem to cater for it. The Italians, whose national diet is obviously packed with wheat ingredients, have a huge call for gluten free and honestly, since coming back to England, I realise that we are actually quite far behind in catering for people with dietary restrictions – a fact that was confirmed to me on my first meal out since coming home when I was presented with a meal drowning in soy sauce.

It was very rare even when stopping off for a quick bite to eat that I came across a café that couldn’t cater for me in some way. One little café in a side street not far from the Colloseum had a selection of vegetables, potatoes fried in olive oil and gluten free biscuits that I could eat even though it was primarily a sandwich shop, and I believe it is things like this that England is missing out on.

Quite frankly when I planned to do a blog on gluten free eating in Rome, I thought I would be writing about how difficult it is to eat in the land of pizza and pasta, but upon my return, I now think I will struggle with the lack of care and consideration put into gluten free catering in England. I think we still have a long way to go before coeliac’s and anyone with food intolerances can eat out safely and enjoy their experience without having that nagging feeling that they may be ill afterwards.

Gluten free fajita kits from BFree

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Having been gluten free for a number of years now, the one thing I really, really missed was fajitas. They are without a doubt one of the best Friday night indulgencies – quick, easy and bloody delicious!

Of course, even just a few years ago the chances of coming across gluten free wraps was nought percent, they just weren’t available anywhere in the UK or at least to my knowledge, and sadly fajitas and enchiladas were a thing of the past for me. Obviously, having to watch my housemates at uni and my family scoffing these delicious Mexican treats was pretty soul destroying.

However, with the creation of Warbutons gluten free wraps and the Santa Maria UK (formerly Discovery Mexican) stir in sauces, fajitas have become a part of my weekend feasts again – which I have to say is about the best ‘welcome back to my life’ free-from find of 2014 so far.

The best thing about Santa Maria though is the fajita kits they manufacture. They are perfect for a family or friends wanting a quick, cheap and delicious meal mid-week as they incorporate the wraps, spice mixes and sauces without needing to buy it all separately. I was really happy when I discovered that one of my favourite free-from brands, BFree, had just launched a gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, nut, egg free version of these kits.

I found the fajita kits in my local Tesco and actually, I wouldn’t normally be too concerned to comment about the packaging, but the box just looked really appealing with the picture of two yummy chicken fajitas on the front and what also looks like a satisfied chilli complete with a face and arms telling me that it was of a ‘mild’ heat.

I have to say that one of the selling points of BFree products is their calorie count. As I’m sure many people know, gluten free foods usually contain double the amount of calories, fat and sugar than that of their ‘normal’ equivalents, and so it can be hard to follow a strict calorie controlled gluten free diet if you don’t want to give up the occasional slice of bread or cake. But the BFree kit, consisting of the wrap, seasoning and salsa, contains just 127 calories, which I don’t think is at all bad.

With six wraps contained, the kit could easily feed a few people for either a quick lunch or dinner, and of course the main problem with having such a big appetite as mine was trying desperately hard to fold the wraps once all the meat, salad and toppings were dolloped on top.

I have already prepared two meals out of the kit, one containing chicken, peppers and salad, and the other incorporating beef mince, kidney beans, peppers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, grated cheese and a dollop of soya yoghurt on top (which is obviously the one I had to fight with in order to contain all of the ingredients in the wraps)

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The fajitas tasted absolutely delicious – really fresh, seasoned to perfection and most of all, they were the ultimate comfort food for my Friday night treat. I’m really pleased that BFree launched these kits, as I think the free-from market is really missing a trick with easy to make, take-away style sort of food.

I really hope that the company continues to make them, as from now on I’d quite like to make sure I have a kit in the cupboard for times when I need an easy meal or snack. I know the fajitas must have tasted good to ‘normal’ eaters, as my brother was hanging around in the kitchen waiting to taste some of the mix, and his reaction was “mmmm that’s gwwoourd” with a mouth full of food. Overall, BFree gets 10/10 yet for yet another great free-from invention. Thanks guys!

Sweet potato tuna jackets with cherry toms and chilli dip

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When I get home from a long day at work and have just an hour to spare before needing to head back out to tennis practice, I need something super quick and easy to make for tea, but which will also give me the energy I need to run around a court after missing the majority of the balls heading my way. Tuna sweet potato jackets with a zesty lemon salad and spicy soya dip fit the bill perfectly!

I admit, I stole this recipe off what I think is one of the best websites for easy recipes – BBC Good Food. As you may know, my love for the humble and somewhat underrated sweet potato never falters, and as I suffer with eating the skin on a regular jacket potato (I’ll pay money for any reasons you can give me as to why I have this problem) I often incorporate this vegetable in my weekly meals.

I have to say, as I can’t eat normal dairy yoghurt I was a little unsure about combining the soya alternative in this dish, as I know it has a somewhat different, less zingy taste to Greek or natural yoghurt, but once mixed in with the sweet and savoury tastes on the plate, I can’t say I really noticed any difference and I thought the flavours worked perfectly.

Of course, the original recipe didn’t suggest roasting any peppers, cherry tommies or red onion but I am a massive fan of roasting anything that can be roasted as I really think it brings out extra flavours, and also, as I stuck my jacket in the oven for ten minutes to go slightly crispy, the accompanying veg was ready to come out at the same time.

Great for a quick lunch at work, a speedy home time meal or when you’re belly’s telling you it wants feeding, this is your classic snackathon supper! Oh and yes that meal was for two people, not just me *cough cough*

Ingredients

  •  Sweet potato
  • Can of tuna
  • Red onion
  • Red pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Coriander
  • Soya yoghurt (or regular if not dairy free)
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Stick the sweet potato in the microwave on full power for around 10 minutes
  3. Chop up the red pepper, red onion, chilli and wash your cherry toms
  4. Place the sweet potato and a baking tray full of the veg in the oven for 10-15 minutes
  5. Whack a bit of salad on a plate, throw in some cucumber, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with basil and oregano
  6. Once crisp, cut the sweet potato in half, let the tuna meet the veg and dollop on a generous helping of the yoghurt
  7. Introduce some coriander, drizzle in some lemon or lime juice and Bob’s your uncle

Greek inspired lamb breast in a red wine sauce with rosemary and garlic potatoes

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Without question, the Greeks know how to cook a good lamb dish. For my cousins wedding on the island of Rhodes in 2013, my good friend Nikos’ mamma cooked us up what must have been the best part of a whole lamb to celebrate the occasion. It had been slow cooked (even by Greek estimations it was slooow) for three whole days before being carefully transported to Flyers beach bar for all the guests to devour. Wow, the meat simply slid off the bone and without a doubt, I think I would rate it as the best food I have ever tasted in my whole entire life – and for a food lover such as myself that is quite a statement.

The thing that was so amazing about mamma’s dish, is that there were so few ingredients incorporated. Of course, I cannot tell you the recipe as I know full well that they don’t go outside of the family and I would have to be killed if I ever got hold of it. However, I do know that slow cooking makes even the cheapest cuts of meat taste divine, and that I would put my bets on the fact that mamma may have sneaked a little dribble of the old red wine in the casserole dish – which it has to mentioned was also cooked in the stone oven in the oldest house in the whole of Lindos.

This dish was made in my, shall we say, fairly newer electric oven, and slow cooked for nearly three and a half hours on a very low heat to soak up all of the juices and flavours of the Mediterranean. I served the meat alongside roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes, drizzled in the delicious Greek olive oil that I only ever get out for special dishes, as well as minted rice as I found this to be a very popular side dish in many tavernas.

Best part of all is, the olive oil and oregano had travelled all the way from Siana in the Rhodian mountains where Nikos’ Uncle George lives. George of course speaks not a word of English, but can remember my name as being Sophia and is generally in hysterics at everything going on as we try to communicate. If you ever visit Siana, George will no doubt be sat outside the little café playing backgammon and sipping on the lethal souma – whatever you do don’t tackle the mountainous roads back home after being persuaded to down a few with the Greeks. Yammas!

Ingredients

  • Lamb breast
  • 1 red pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 gluten free chicken stock cube
  • 300 ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • New potatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Fresh mint chopped
  • Rice (optional) sprinkled with mint and drizzled with olive oil from potato tray.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat some sunflower oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb joint. Transfer to a casserole dish.
  3. Chop the red pepper and onion into chunks and transfer to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the dried oregano, garlic granules and the crumbled stock cube.
  4. Pour over the red wine, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper before pouring over the lamb breast
  5. Cut the lemons in half and add them to the lamb and cook in the oven for around 3 and half hours until tender.
  6. Cut the new potatoes in half and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes.
  7. Drain the water and add the grated garlic clove, sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle with olive oil before giving them a good shake.
  8. Transfer the potatoes to the oven to cook for around half an hour until golden and crispy.
  9. If making rice, add some chopped, fresh mint at the end and drizzle the olive oil from the potato tray over the top to produce a succulent and refreshing side dish.

Chicken and bacon pasta in a creamy chilli sauce

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This is one of the quickest, easiest and most delicious dishes I have ever made. I have to admit it was actually my Mom who first whacked these ingredients together after searching through the fridge for some inspiration on what to cook that night for tea, and boy am I glad she told me about it.

This really is one of those dishes where you can pull out whatever is left over in the fridge, throw it into a frying pan and have a tasty dinner just 15 minutes later. It’s a great weeknight meal due to the fact it takes virtually no preparation and it can be adjusted to accommodate individual taste buds or dietary requirements. It’s even been served in my household when we’ve had guests come round unexpectedly with hungry tummies and they’ve all really loved it.

Mushrooms could be incorporated into the dish and if not making a dairy free version, then a sprinkling of parmesan wouldn’t go amiss. Serve alongside a crust of homemade garlic bread if you’re really hungry and you’ve got a delicious din dins for a busy school night.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of chicken breasts/thighs
  • Half fresh red chilli/ chilli powder to taste
  • 2 red, yellow or orange peppers
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • Half tub of single soya cream (or normal if not dairy free)
  • Red onion chopped into small pieces
  • Basil
  • Gluten free pasta shells or macaroni
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook until starting to go crispy
  2. Add the chopped onion and allow to fry for 5 minutes until softened
  3. Add the chicken and cook until golden
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to pack instructions
  5. Add the chilli and pepper
  6. Add the soya cream and stir into the meat mixture
  7. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Drain the pasta and blend in with the sauce alongside a scattering of fresh or dried basil

Gluten free at The Beeches, Bournville

As any ‘free-fromers’ know, going out for a three course gluten free meal is usually impossible. Although restaurant’s are gradually becoming better at providing for people with allergies and intolerances, there is rarely a time when we are presented with a menu with an array of delicious choices on offer, including the all-important puds!

A friend of mine had informed me that The Beeches in Bournville had recently started doing a gluten free menu and of course, being just up the road from me, I stopped by to sample what was on offer.

I have to admit, when it comes to eating out I’m never quite sure what to expect when knowing that gluten free is on offer. There have been many times when I have been told that a restaurant can cater for my needs, only to be presented with the standard 40 page allergy listing, stapled together printout.

I was pleasantly surprised however, when I was given an identical menu to my friend upon arrival, the only difference being, that my menu clearly stated what was gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian. I’m sure anyone on special diets can vouch for how great it is to be given an extensive choice of dishes to choose from rather than just steak and spud, or the all-time favourite ‘croutonless’ salad.

For one of the first times since becoming gluten free, I was spoiled for choice. Although being dairy free the starters and puds were still off limits, I have to admire the effort that has gone into creating such a long list of gluten free meals, all of which sounded absolutely delicious.

I was pondering whether to have the Cajun red snapper or trio of beef, but in the end I decided on the crispy grilled confit duck leg with pak choi, beetroot, baby onion and red berry glaze and I have to say, I was not disappointed in my choice.

The portion size was very generous and the dish was presented beautifully, with the onions dotted around the duck and the potato served in a circular shape to add to the appeal. The sauce served alongside the duck was delicious and not too heavy for my liking. In fact, I admit to using the sauce to dunk my chunky chips into that I had greedily ordered as a side dish.

The menu stated that dishes such as the chicken liver and chorizo pate with chilli jam, as well as soup of the day could be served with gluten free bread which is a real treat. All of the side dishes were gluten free and puddings included crème brulee and strawberry cream trifle, which of course I would have happily tucked into if I wasn’t also excluding dairy.

With a choice of grilled dishes, pub classics, salads and pastas on offer, I really don’t think anyone visiting The Beeches would be stuck for things to eat as there really is something to tickle everyone’s taste buds.  I would love to go back and taste test many of the other dishes on offer and I would recommend to anyone visiting the Bournville area, as not only it is just a short walk away from Cadbury’s World, but the staff clearly know how to cater for special diets.

Sail on down to The Ship Inn

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My all-time favourite thing in life to get my gnashers into is a good Sunday roast. Every single Sunday when I was growing up, we had a roast dinner without fail, and even though it is a little embarrassing to admit, my Mom would ensure we found a British pub when we holidayed in Greece just so we didn’t miss out on our tasty din dins on the Sabbath day.

Like every other English person on this earth, nothing will ever compare to my Mom’s home cooked roast dinner. In fact, if Marco Pierre White came round and cooked me an à la carte version of beef, roasties and yorkie puds, well I may have to tell him where to go, Momma’s cooking wins every time.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found many places out there that offer gluten free and dairy free Sunday roasts, which I find astonishing as they can be so easily adjusted. All it requires is to make sure the gravy isn’t made using a stock cube and the roast potatoes don’t get rolled around aimlessly in wheat flour. And let’s face it, they don’t need to be anywhere near those evil ingredients in the first place.

When I was holidaying in Norfolk, if you can call camping during thunderstorms a holiday, me and my family stumbled across a beach side pub called The Ship Inn in Mundesley on our final day. Of course, being a pub in the middle of a tiny village on a bank holiday, I was bracing myself for another bland steak and chips, or gammon and chips, as I honestly didn’t think they would cater for my roast dinner craving needs – Little did I know.

The waitress came back from the kitchens telling me a small list of things which were gluten and dairy free, and to my delight the chef was more than happy, or should I say obliged to cook me up a special dinner, complete with gluten free Yorkshire puddings. Not only that, but I was allowed the choice of a starter as well with gluten free bread, to which I ordered tomato and basil soup which tasted delicious and really fresh.

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Of course, with the offer of yorkie puds it would have been rude not to order the beef, which came as a huge portion with potatoes, parsnips and vegetables, which I have to say I completely demolished alongside a nice cold cider.

This little seaside pub was an absolute gem and a lovely place to spend a nice sunny bank holiday down by the beach. I can’t recommend the food enough, they didn’t rip you off and were very accommodating of my dietary needs.

Steak and Co. gets a no

Eating out can be a nightmare for anyone with food allergies or intolerances. The amount of trust you have to put in someone cooking up a meal in what is most likely a gluten infested kitchen is something I don’t ever think will get easier. There have been times over the years when I have paid more than anyone at my table to have a main meal, as sandwiches or wheat laden gravy dishes were off the cards. I have had a waiter arrive at my table holding a plate full of pasta smothered in cheese, despite me telling them I could in no way eat this sort of meal. And then there have been times in cafes when my soya milk was actually cow’s milk, leaving me feeling ill for ages after. I guess eating out is in a way like playing Russian roulette.

On a recent trip to London, I stopped off at a steak house called Steak & Co. Granted, I get sick of eating steak all the time when out and about as it’s the only thing that seems to be available with non-gluten containing ingredients, but I was in a hurry to find somewhere to eat and the restaurant actually looked quite appealing.

Upon taking a seat I was greeted by a waiter who I asked about a gluten free menu, to which I was told they didn’t have one which is very common in food establishments. However, when I asked for an allergy listing for the dishes on offer, they looked at me like I’d just asked to see a monkey riding a motorbike. The waiter then told me ‘I’m sure you probably know what you can and can’t eat’ in a polite but very unhelpful way.

Obviously I opted for the safe option and chose the fillet steak, with no sauce, no butter and no chips as these all contained wheat and dairy. Me and my friend assumed that being a steak house, chips would be included as a side dish, but no they cost no less than £2.50, and my jacket potato cost £3.50. I commented to my friend on how if I was the chef I would be embarrassed to send out a steak on its own with not even chips to accompany it. The best bit was, nearly £22 for a steak and you had to cook it yourself on the grill plates which were presented, a nice little touch for some but I don’t think it really satisfies the whole ‘let’s go out to eat dear to save cooking tonight.’

I admit, upon looking at their menu there were some really appealing dishes on offer which I would have loved to have tasted, and for normal eaters I’m sure this place would be a foodie’s heaven if looking for a typical grill house. Unfortunately, due to the staff’s lack of knowledge on food allergies and very limited options available for special diets, I can’t say I’d recommend Steak & Co to many people.