Camden Gluten Free Festival

Camden Market in Camden, North London, is a street food hub. Technically six markets (according to Wikipedia) the main street food market is in Camden Lock, up by the canal. You have to push your way through hordes of tourists and tat stalls to get there on weekends, especially Sundays, but it’s worth it! There are plenty of gluten free options available in the regular market, as evidenced by these reviews by The Coeliac Plate and Kim McGowan in the Londonist.

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For the last few years the lovely people at Camden Lock Market have been running a gluten free food festival over a weekend every few months. The most recent one was last weekend (14-15 May), and there will hopefully be another one either in September or at Christmas. Or if we’re really lucky, both! They rebranded this time so the festival is now called Against the Grain, with the hashtag #beigerage to emphasise colourful food. The May one is usually tied to Coeliac Awareness Week and this year included talks by the Coeliac UK Youth Group. This review will focus on the stalls I’ve visited in my last few visits to the festival, especially last weekend. If you want a review of another coeliac’s visit last year, check out Gluten Free in London. Word of warning for the festival: go hungry.

Risotto

So much risotto that I got an extra fork for my boyfriend!

For my main dish I went for risotto from Risotto2Go. They do gluten free risotto at a number of festivals, mostly music ones, and this was their first time at Camden. I was very excited to hear that they will be at Citadel Festival (Victoria Park in July) because I’m going and was very worried about finding gluten free food! I stupidly (or smartly, take your pick) didn’t check on the size of the risotto before ordering and went with a large because I was hungry. Which ended up being SO LARGE. I had the chicken and pea risotto. They also had mushroom risotto but I can’t eat mushrooms, and they were advertising arancini (fried risotto balls) but had sold out before I got there. So definitely want to try the arancini at Citadel!

 

I also had to stop by the stall of Artisan Gluten Free Bakery for some of my beloved fresh bread. They were selling bread and brownies faster than they could bring them in from Islington so I was very happy to get a loaf. And possibly a peanut butter brownie too… They’ve been at all of the Camden gluten free festivals and it’s always great to see more people enjoying their bread.

I was actually very restrained this year (mostly because we’d hosted a Eurovision party the night before and had no room in the house for more food), but I resisted buying anything other thanΒ Thornley’s spice blend. I make most of my own sauces at home but thought they would be great for a night when I was rushing. They were giving out tasters of the chili so I couldn’t resist.

Thornley's sauce mixes

There were obviously lots of other stalls that I didn’t visit. Though it could be hard to find them, the market was very crowded on Sunday lunchtime. Would be nice if they could move the gluten free area somewhere that was easier to get around/see all the stalls, it was in a narrow passage. Other stalls that I saw at this festival included: Feed Me Primal (great paleo food, they’re also at markets around London. A full review will follow); Lab Pizza; Cupcakes and Shhht; Louisiana Chilli Shack; Maize Blaze; and From the Earth.

On my last visit, in September, I visited a few of the stalls that I just mentioned. I’m trying to branch out at every festival, got to catch them all!

My main meal in September was from Louisiana Chilli Shack, when I had their white chicken chilli on nachos. The entire stall is gluten free and they do a range of chillis, including a vegan one, with nachos and rice for sides. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes so the white chilli was amazing, really flavourful without being overly spicy. They’re going to be in Old Street Station from May 23 – June 19 and I’m definitely planning to stop by.

 

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My boyfriend went for grilled meat and potatoes from Maize Blaze. I personally would have gone for their gluten free empanadas, but if I drag him all around London for gluten free food I can’t really complain about his meal choices. Still need to try them though!

I also caved and bought myself a cupcake from Cupcakes and Shhht. They do gluten free and vegan baked goods, available in Camden all week and at their cafe in Elephant and Castle. Couldn’t resist the perfect raspberry on top.

Perfect cupcake

While there aren’t quite as many free samples as the Allergy & Free From Show I would definitely recommend the Camden gluten free festival to any coeliacs or other gluten free-ers in the London area. And I really hope they continue to do it on a regular basis!

 

Eat’n’Mess – Gluten Free Cafe

Followers of my Instagram will have realised that I am a big fan of planning long walks on weekends that JUST HAPPEN to include visits to gluten free hot spots. I’ve dragged my friends, my family and my boyfriend around a large number of places just so I can try a new or favourite place. A coeliac has to do what a coeliac has to do for gluten free food!

Last weekend, with the sun finally shining, we headed off to Sevenoaks. 30 minutes south of London in Kent, Sevenoaks is a pretty commuter town. For walking purposes it has two National Trust houses (Knole and Ightham Mote) within 5 miles. For gluten free purposes, it has Eat’n’Mess, a gluten-free cafe in the town centre. Eat’n’Mess opened in Sevenoaks in 2015, though their baked goods are also available at Broadway Market (Hackney) on Saturdays. I’ve been lucky enough to try some of their things in Hackney so was looking forward to visiting the cafe.

Gluten free baked goods

So many gluten free baked goods!

The cafe itself is very cute, and was doing a roaring take-away trade at 10.30 on Saturday morning. It is mostly baked goods, although gluten free bread loaves are now available. They also do non-gluten free, but dairy free, bread. Everything is labelled and the non-gluten free stuff is far away from the gluten free (which is all the baked goods), but just advanced warning! Breakfast is available to eat in the cafe, including eggs, bacon, beans on toast, etc. but we’d already eaten. Looked like a nice place for brunch though.

Gluten free bread

My favourite Eat’n’Mess treat is their cookie pie. Two peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched around icing, with salted caramel sauce in the middle. YUM. The caramel makes the cookies slightly softer as you get to the middle. It is a very large amount of sugar, but if you’re out for a 10 mile walk that’s okay, right?! It is also so tasty that it would be worth it even without the 10 mile walk.

Gluten free cookie pie

In addition to their cookie pie, I also tried the gingerbread man, lemon and white chocolate cookie, and s’mores chocolate pie. (Not all in one day, I must add. Even I have a sugar limit). The cookies were both tasty, even though my poor gingerbread man fell apart in my bag before I got to him! The s’more pie wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping. My piece was an edge piece so only half covered with marshmallow, so the chocolate was a bit overwhelming. Would definitely go for the cookie pie every time.

Sevenoaks is a very quick trip out of London and made for a lovely day out. Would definitely recommend a pilgrimmage to Eat’n’Mess over the summer if you fancy some gluten free treats. Or just brave the hipsters of Hackney on a Saturday and you can get your gluten free fix without leaving London! Eat’n’Mess also do beautiful gluten free cupcakes and celebration cakes if you’re looking for something a bit special. You can see a three-tier cake in the window of the cafe in first photo on this post, and their website has photos of plenty more.

 

Chickpea, Corn and Avocado Salad – Gluten Free Recipe Inspiration

A few months ago I moved into a flat with my boyfriend, with the exciting bonus of a fully gluten-free kitchen that I can experiment in to my heart’s content. Which means I’ve been doing a lot less eating out and a lot more cooking than when I was sharing flats. So I’m going to be sharing a few of my gluten free food ideas. Nothing fancy, very much in a ‘what coeliacs eat’ way, but I always like inspiration!

First up is one of my favourite lunch salads.

Colourful corn salad

The salad in its purest form. Love the colours so much.

This is one of the most versatile things I make and can stand up to all sorts of changing the ingredients based on what’s in the fridge/cupboard. I have been known to eat it for weeks on end. Plus it’s also vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, egg free, and all sorts of other healthy hashtags. But most importantly it’s tasty and naturally gluten free. It’s also one day late for Cinco de Mayo, but this is definitely more a take on ingredients associated with Mexico, rather than any kind of traditional Mexican food.

The main ingredients are chickpeas, sweet corn, red peppers and spring onions. I use canned chickpeas and frozen or tinned sweet corn because they’re easiest, but I’m sure it would be tasty with dried chickpeas and fresh corn. I usually make two portions, and divide the can of chickpeas, a tin of corn and a pepper between two tupperware. A quarter or a half of an avocado per lunch is also almost always involved, unless I can’t find one but am craving the salad.

Salad with black beans and cheddar

Experimental salad with black beans and grated cheddar.

Everything else is very experimental depending on what’s around. I have made this with black beans, with grilled halloumi, with grated cheddar, and with sausage. It would probably be good with all of those things at once even, though would provide more than 2 meals! For dressing I usually just season well and add a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon, but the oil isn’t necessary if you have a ripe avocado because it will mash into a dressing.

Salad with avocado

The salad with the avocado mashed in as dressing. Really works in place of the oil!

Salad in layers

I love the layers the salad makes in my tupperware. Probably a good one for a Mason jar, but I’m not quite that hipster. Also notice the halloumi on top.

Hopefully this will provide some lunch-time inspiration to coeliacs and to everyone. I would love to hear any gluten free lunch ideas that you have too!

Salisbury – Gluten Free Travel

I’m back! And once again determined to actually publish the large number of half-finished blog posts in my queue… But starting fresh now with my gluten free trip to Salisbury (in south-west England) that I took over the Bank Holiday weekend. I did my usually thorough internet searching before we left and didn’t find huge amounts of information, so hopefully this will be helpful to other coeliacs visiting Salisbury.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, with a hint of the windiness of the weekend in the clouds.

My first recommendation is to stay in an Airbnb. Then you know that a fridge and kitchen is available, so you can always have snacks on hand and a place to eat breakfast safely. We stayed in a beautiful one-bedroom house that I would desperately love to live in permanently.

Marks & Spencer gluten free sandwich

Staying in an Airbnb means you can have a leftover M&S BLT sandwich for breakfast!

 

On our first day we took the Stonehenge Tour bus to Stonehenge, which is about 30 minutes from the rail station. We were planning on doing some walking but the weather was very changeable and we spent a while sitting in the cafe waiting for the rain to stop! The English Heritage website says that the cafe does gluten-free sandwiches, soups, salads, cakes, etc. Unfortunately that is overstating the case quite a bit. The cafe worker looked panicked when I asked about gluten free options, and there were no sandwiches available. She said the soup was okay but there was no gluten free bread, and pointed out two of the salads (ploughman and smoked salmon). However there were no ingredients listed on any of the packaged salads. I went for the ploughman but didn’t have the dressing, just in case. In reality the plougman consisted of two large slices of cheese with a lot of leaves. Not great! Especially since I’d been expecting many more options.

Stonehenge gluten free salad

You can see how the ploughman salad was literally just cheese and leaves!

Foods of Athenry gluten free snack box

Luckily the Foods of Athenry snack box saved me.

Luckily, I am also an experienced coeliac and had planned on the cafe not having the options they had listed on the website. So I’d also brought along this Foods of Athenry snack pack that I’d purchased at the Galway Food Festival in March.It included hummus, gluten-free crackers, a fruit and nut mix, and a brownie. Not cheap but everything was tasty and it was great to have on hand. They are also available on Aer Lingus flights as the gluten free option, which is great.

In Salisbury itself we tried three restaurants. The first was The Cosy Club, a small chain that has outposts in many of the provincial cities including Salisbury, Bath, Derby, Exeter and Leicester. They have a specific gluten free menu, with the style of food being modern British-esque (they have a tapas menu but also pork belly and fish and chips). We went for dinner one night and I had the tapas tortilla to start and the pork belly for main. The tortilla came with a gluten free roll in place of the normal bread, which is always a plus.

Gluten free tapas Cosy Club

Spanish tortilla with gluten free bread

Gluten free dinner Cosy Club

Pork belly with mash, peas, shallots and lots of greens.

We also went to The Cosy Club for brunch on Sunday, as it seems like Salisbury hasn’t quite caught onto the brunch phenomenon yet! I had a bacon and fried egg sandwich, again on the same gluten free bread (possibly Genius?). The food was good, if not out-of-this-world, both times and they had tasty cocktails when we were there for dinner. Always good to see another restaurant having a separate menu and I would definitely go again.

Gluten free bacon roll

Bacon and egg roll on gluten free bread

The other non-nationwide chain restaurant in Salisbury that I tried was Greengages Cafe. It is an old-fashioned-style cafe (ie no fancy decorations or random kitchen utensils in frames on the walls) that has a huge range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. They do breakfast and lunch, but unfortunately they were closed on Sunday so I only got to go once. I had a bacon, brie and cranberry sandwich, which definitely seemed to be their most popular option from the number of people around me who ordered it! Would really have liked to try more of their food and would highly recommend it to any coeliacs going to Salisbury.

Gluten free sandwich

Brie, bacon and cranberry gluten free sandwich

Gluten free sandwich

So much tasty filling…

The third restaurant that we tried in Salisbury was Prezzo. Prezzos are curiously hard to find in London, and since my last visit (about 3 years ago) they have been accredited by Coeliac UK and now do gluten free pasta as well as pizza. It was freezing and pouring on the night we went for dinner, so luckily they do very large portions! They now have a separate gluten free menu, so be sure to ask for it when you arrive. The chain restaurants can often fail on providing gluten free starters so I was very excited to try the gf garlic bread with caramelised onions and cheese. It was tasty, though maybe heavier on the caramelised onions flavour than garlic.

Gluten free garlic bread

Definitely looks like ‘normal’ restaurant garlic bread!

For my main I wanted to try some of their gluten free baked pasta, which is not something you often see on menus. Unfortunately there may be a reason for this, as after I’d ordered the manager came over and said they’d had complaints from gluten free eaters that the pasta was too dry after it had gone in the over, so they recommended serving it non-baked! There was also some concern over whether the cheese they normally use on top was gluten free, so the manager said she’d made sure the cheese was safe. It was good to have people keep checking, though also a bit concerning that they weren’t sure about the cheese. But the only after-effect was feeling ill from eating too much food over the weekend and I can only blame myself for that.

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Not quite as baked as I might have hoped for from ‘baked pasta’

The last place I would recommend for gluten free treats in Salisbury is Cupcake Heaven. They have a small but lovely selection of gluten free cupcakes, which are kept in a separate part of the counter area away from the gluten-full treats. I may have tried a number of their gluten free flavours, all of which were tasty. Especially if, like me, you’re a big fan of icing.

Overall it was easy to eat as a coeliac in Salisbury. If we’d been there longer, all of the nationwide-chains that do gluten free options (Cote, Zizzi, etc) were available. I didn’t find any other independents that did gluten free food, but please leave a comment if you know of any other options in Salisbury!