My Dad was diagnosed with food allergies about 5 years ago. No wheat. No eggs. No dairy. No peas.
At the time I remember thinking how difficult it was going to be to find things for him to eat. I felt a little like we were facing the impossible.
But the thing is these days, apart from desserts, I hardly even have to think when Dad is coming over for lunch or dinner. It’s no big deal.
I know it can seem overwhelming when you or your family are faced with a new allergy. And given how it seems these days that pretty much everyone has allergies of some sort in their family, I wanted to share my top three tips for coping with allergies.
And of course, my favourite gluten-free muffin recipe.
3 unbeatable tips for coping with food allergies
1. focus on what you can eat
It’s amazing how a little change in perspective can open up endless possibilities and turn an overwhelming situation into a fun challenge. For my Dad, he already ate lots of meat and veg, so we focused on expanding these types of meals, rather than fiddling around with gluten-free pastas and the like.
And it was fun exploring new vegetables and cuts of meat. Much more empowering than feeling limited and deprived of so many foods.
2. learn some simple substitutes
When I first started running classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School, I wanted to make the lessons as allergy-friendly as possible. So I decided to include a list of options for substitutions to suit different allergies with each recipe. And the thing is that there’s pretty much always a substitute that will work. It’s surprising how most things work out.
So I’ve included a list below of my favourite substitutes to get you started.
3. be proactive
While most people will go out of their way to be as accommodating as possible for people with allergies, the more notice you can give, the easier it is for everyone. So make sure you remind your friends if they’re cooking for you, or call the restaurant in advance.
My gorgeous friend B is super allergic to pretty much all nuts (except peanuts) and chickpeas. We’re talking anaphylactic. But eating out with her is never a problem because she has little cards printed listing her allergies, and just gives it to the waiter and asks them to check with the kitchen that what we’ve ordered is OK. To easy.
my favourite allergen substitutes
grated parmesan cheese – grated brazil nuts
ricotta cheese – replace with crumbled tofu
cream – unsweeetend coconut cream
milk – soy milk / rice milk / coconut milk / unsweetened almond milk
cream / milk – if it’s liquid you’re looking for vegetable stock or chicken stock can work.
mayonnaise – make a tahini sauce instead with equal parts tahini, lemon juice and water.
mayonnaise – replace with a horseradish sauce or
in baking cakes – half a ripe mashed banana can work in place of eggs. This won’t work if you need to whisk egg whites.
boiled eggs – replace with another protein source such as cooked chicken or tofu.
wheat / gluten
bread – instead of wraps or bread for sandwiches, use iceberg lettuce leaves to ‘wrap’ your filling
flour – for baking cakes and things almond meal tends to work well.
breadcrumbs – use coarsely ground almonds or other nuts for coating in breadcrumbs
long pasta – make ‘noodles’ by shaving carrots or zucchini with a vegetable peeler.
long pasta – spaghetti squash
short pasta – chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces and
short pasta – use drained canned beans instead of pasta
quick nut switch – if someone is allergic to one type of nuts, but not others, you can usually just use a different nut.
crunch – when nuts are being added for crunch, try substituting another crunchy element – like toasted breadcrumbs, or finely chopped red onion or diced celery
protein and flavour – replace with pan-fried chickpeas or other canned beans.
gluten-free chocolate muffin
I’ve found that if you tell someone that something is gluten-free, they tend to lower their expectations as to how good it’s going to taste. Sometimes this is a good thing because they’ll be expecting something average and be easily blown away by your amazing moist & lovely muffins. It’s OK your secret is safe with me.
Your muffins will only be as good as they quality of the chocolate you use so try and find a good brand with 70% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate muffins would also be lovely.
200g (7oz) butter
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
200g (7oz) sugar
200g (7oz) almond meal
1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line 6 holes of a 1/2cup muffin tray with squares of baking paper.
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate smashed into chunks. Stand for a few minutes.
3. Stir until the chocolate is melted, popping back on the heat for a few seconds if your chocolate isn’t melting easily.
4. Add sugar and eggs and stir. Then add almond meal.
5. Spoon the mixture into your prepared muffin holes.
6. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the muffins are cracked on the top and feel firm, but the middle is still squidgy like a good brownie. Cool in the tin.