New GF offerings from Pizza Express

Thanks to his handy little Tastecard, my boyfriend and I decided to treat ourselves to a meal at Pizza Express on Monday night. As you all know back in 2012 Pizza Express launched their gluten free base, along with some other dishes and desserts, and Coeliacs everywhere rejoiced! Having worked with Coeliac UK, they’d carefully considered the cross contamination risks alongside how to provide a quality menu for Coeliacs and personal I think they did really well! Did you know, that to prevent contamination from all that flour flying around the kitchen, they made their standard flour gluten free?

I’m always excited for pizza but was even more excited on Monday when I saw that Pizza Express have a new menu, and the gluten free options have expanded! Naturally, I had to try one for each course….

Starter

Previously there has been a Mozzarella salad or Risotto to start, neither of which I really go for. Let’s face it, salad is boring and risotto is too filling before such a carb heavy main. Now however,  those options are accompanied by the new Melanzanine, ‘A mini al forno dish of layered aubergine, passata, mozzarella, garlic, basil and Gran Moravia cheese’.

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This comes served in a cute little baking pot, although the size does make it a little difficult to cut through the insanely thick, stringy cheese layer. Also, they weren’t lying when they say it contains garlic….In fact it overpowered all of the other ingredients! This is a really nice light starter overall.

Main

In the last few years I’ve become far more adventurous with my pizza toppings, but I have a particular love of Pepperoni and Goat’s cheese so 90% of the time I stick to pizzas based around these. Not this time. Instead, my boyfriend managed to convince me to try something new…..The Carbonara pizza! Seeing as I love Carbonara pasta this wasn’t a bad shout, but I had my concerns that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Plus I’ve never really understood egg on a pizza.

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I was pleasantly surprised that zeta lay,  this worked really well! It tastes exactly like a Carbonara,  topped with a creamy sauce, herbs, streaky pan cotta,  loads of cheese and of course, the egg in the middle.  Whilst I’m still on convinced that egg works on pizza, I added the taste of this option and highly recommend it!

The base as always,  was lovely and crispy whilst retaining the doughy texture. Definitely the best base on offer in mainstream restaurants!

My only complaint is that when they launched the gluten free base,  they were all served with specially colour coded pizza cutters,  but in the last few months these have disappeared. It really bugs me because despite the base being lovely, sometimes it can be a bugger to cut, and a standard knife and fork don’t cut it! I’d love to know the reasoning behind this.

Be warned, this option is filling (well, after that starter anyway)!

Dessert

I have a love hate relationship with Pizza Express and their desserts.  It’s great the have the options but they always make me feel…sad. Sorbet and Gelato are lovely,  but if I’m paying to eat out frankly I’d like something a bit more exciting. The gluten free brownie they offer is also nice, but it’s tiny, only comes with a drink (until they serve soya milk, this is out of the window for me) and, well, it’s a brownie.

These options are still there, but now the brownie comes with or without the drink ( and considering it’s about £5, a lot bloody bigger I hope too), and the Gelato has had a makeover. Now you can enjoy a delicious Banoffee or Tiramisu flavoured scoop instead. 

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I chose the Tiramisu flavour, partly on the recommendation from our waitress and party because I’m not keen on Banoffee. Dear God, this is delicious. Seriously, seriously tasty! With the first spoonful I got a heavy dose of the rim flavouring (not a bad thing) and on second the coffee really came through. My view of boring Gelato has been changed and although I was desperately full by now, I finished every last bit.

So worth the food baby!

Overall, I’m really impressed that Pizza Express have ramped up their menu even more and have included much tastier treats for their gluten free customers. They’re really leading the way for mainstream restaurants tapping into the market and making me on happy Coeliac in the process.

To view the full gluten free menu, visit their website: http://www.pizzaexpress.com/our-food/our-restaurant-menu/glutenfree/

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Festive GF Wrap from Starbucks

Earlier this week on Twitter,  Steph mentioned that along with those ridiculously awesome red cups, this winter Starbucks have launched a Festive wrap that’s also Gluten Free. One mention of the word ‘Turkey’ and I was determined hunt one down!

I didn’t have to look very far as fortunately there’s a little Starbucks outside my office in North West London. Venturing out for lunch I was delighted to spot one! Also in red packaging, this ‘Limited Edition’ wrap is described as a ‘Gluten Free Turkey and Bacon Wrap’. Look closely at the ingredients listed on the front, and you find it contains:

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Turkey breast, smoked bacon, spinach, cranberry sauce, black pepper mayo and pork, sage and onion stuffing. Sounds like Christmas dinner all wrapped up, right?

IT IS.

I asked for my wrap to be heated (no one likes cold Christmas dinner after all) but took it back to my office. I queried the staff around their cross contamination procedure with the grill, and was happy to hear that they place two new sheets of baking paper underneath and on top of the wrap to prevent it touching the grill. I watched them do this to be on the side, but no issues!

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Back at my desk, I tucked in. WOW. To me, this tastes exactly like Christmas dinner, all the flavour combinations work brilliantly together and they’re not overpowering. The wrap, a multi-seeded wrap from Newburn Bakehouse,  held together well and I had no issues with it falling apart or losing the filling.

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My one issue was when the cranberry sauce made a bid for freedom on my nice yellow jumper….. 😦

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I’d suggest using a napkin!

The eat-in price is £3.29 which is pretty much the same cost as they’re ‘normal’ offerings, so I don’t feel like it’s a gluten free rip off in any way. I’m happy with their cross contamination controls and frankly, I’m just really happy to have another delicious lunch option for when I’m on the go!

Well done Starbucks, thank you for not forgetting your Coeliac customers during the festive period!

Quinoa Risotto

I love making up a quick risotto on rubbish Autumn evenings and adding any veg I can get my hands on. It’s warming and comforting and takes very little brain power to make- perfect after a long commute in the remains of Hurricane Gonzalez! My only issue last night was the lack of rice in my kitchen cupboard, so instead I grabbed my tub of quinoa and thought ‘what the hell’?

I had quinoa risotto last year after seeing a recipe in a foodie magazine, but last night I couldn’t find the magazine nor remember the recipe. So instead I decided, in my signature dinner fashion, to grab what I could find in the cupboards and fridge and throw it in all a pan in the hope of coming up with something remotely risotto-like. Luckily for me, it worked.

I found that using quinoa left me feeling less bloated and ‘heavy’, despite eating the same sized portion I would with normal risotto. It was quick, easy and gloriously tasty, and now I just cannot wait to experiment with different flavours and vegetable combinations.

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Quinoa Risotto

1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup quinoa

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 pepper, chopped

Vegetable stock cube (I use Knorr cubes as these are gluten free)

Handful of pine nuts

Mixed herbs & spices- I used dried mixed herbs, black pepper, crushed chillies and crushed garlic

Rocket to serve

Parmesan to serve

 

1. Add the chopped tomatoes to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the quinoa and water and stir well.

2. Crumble the stock cube into the mixture and stir well. Add your chosen spices and herbs and stir well again. Add the chopped vegetables and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced.

3. Just before you’re ready to serve, stir in the pine nuts and some cheese (if you wish).

4. Serve with rocket and your preferred cheese.

It’s that simple….Enjoy!

Honest Burgers- New GF Special

I love Honest Burgers, the fantastic London collective of burger joints serving delicious gluten free burgers ( see my previous review here). Their simple menu, simple restaurants,  fantastic service and excellent food make them a firm favourite amongst all Londoner’s,  but they have a special place in the hearts of Coeliacs. The fact they are listening to their customers and have executed a gluten free menu so well are rewarded with their firm following of gluten free fans, from London and afar. I’m no different, excited by having a burger in *an actual bun* with delicious rosemary salted fries and onion rings- yes, you read that right. Gluten free ONION RINGS!
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So when I received an email whilst sunning myself in Ibiza, asking me to attend the launch of their new special burger, it gave me something to look forward to on my return to dreary England. I jumped at the chance and added my name to the guest list.

As with many London gluten free launches, it turned into a little Tweet Up! I was joined by the lovely Florence,  Kim, Kelly, Carly, Sian, David and Alison.  It’s always lovely to see them and impromptu meet ups are even better!
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As soon as I was seated I was kindly offered a beer- this being the gluten free Estrella Daura. Now I have to admit that my taste for beer has diminished since diagnosis, to the point that even if a GF beer is available, I’ll probably choose cider. That being said,  I did enjoy my bottle of Daura and recommend it to any Coeliacs who miss beer! Daura are collaborating with Honest Burgers to ensure Coeliacs can enjoy two of their favourite things together…. beer and a burger!
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We were then presented with a bowl of onion rings and chicken wings to try  I’m in love with their onion rings (previously these were made from red onion, which I actually preferred. The ‘normal’ versions are damn good too though!), it’s so nice to be able to have them and they’re perfectly crispy….to be honest I didn’t want to share! I don’t eat meat on the bone so I wasn’t overly impressed with the wings ( I did try one but barely touched it before I got to the bone…ewww) but I can say they are tender and spicy!

A little while later we were given some information on the special burger and the ingredients and placed our order,  excited to try the combination of flavours. As part of their collaboration with Estrella Daura, a Spanish brand, Honest have created a burger full of Spanish ingredients; beef, crispy lomo ham, GF romesco sauce, tetilla cheese & grilled red peppers. Romesco sauce, as Honest Burgers creator extraordinaire Tom explained, is normally made using breadcrumbs and therefore is unsuitable for Coeliacs, however they’ve spent time crafting a gluten free recipe so that we can all enjoy it too!
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The burger itself was cooked as perfectly as always. Mine was a little more pink than I had asked for but I fully enjoyed it still. One suggestion made by Kim that I completely agree with is that the lettuce shouldn’t be on the bottom because it causes the burger to slip out of the bun. A few of us also struggled to notice the lomo ham, but after having a chat with Tom we agreed it was most likely down to the positioning that perhaps caused it’s lovely taste to be lost. The romesco sauce is gorgeous but definitely makes for messy eating! I think I had most of it dripping down my wrist, so be prepared! All part of the experience though….

The buns they use are by Antoinette Savill, a product that was previously sold in Waitrose stores. I think the buns are great as they don’t crumble to pieces in your hand as you’re eating! The chips, as always taste fantastic, the mix of the salt and rosemary working really well together.

This special burger will be available until 17th October at King’s Cross. If you’re in the vicinity, I highly recommend you pop in and sample one for yourself….don’t forget the beer!

A big thank you to Tom and the team for a fantastic evening and for the offer to sample the burgers.

Homemade Fajitas

I love fajitas. LOVE them. I’d eat them every week if I could,  and if my family liked to have them as much as me. Lately I’ve been craving them ridiculous amounts, it seems that every time I choose to have chicken for dinner fajitas is the first dish that pops into my head. To satisfy my cravings, I’ve had to come up with an alternative to the Ole Del Paso kits I’m used to using.

Most importantly- the wraps. For a long time after my diagnosis I had fajitas with gluten free pitta bread. This was not the best solution, with the pockets hard to open and fill, and the ‘bread’ so thick that I was quickly full. Since these days we’ve seen the launch of two gluten free wraps on the market, the first from Newburn Bakehouse ( a thick rectangle wrap, available in both white and seeded and recently also dairy free) and the second from Bfree (traditional, thin and round fibre wrap, also dairy free). Now I’m fond of the Newburn wraps but for a dish like fajitas the Bfree wraps are the best, as they’re thinner and therefore don’t fill you up too much.

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Onto the filling. I love using the spice mixes readily available in the shops complete with salsa, but as I’m currently trying to lean down a little for holiday (not to mention  the cost) I’m avoiding them. My new favourite cupboard staple is a Schwartz PerfectShake Herb & Spice blend for chicken. Mixed with some tomato puree and coconut oil,  it makes the perfect sauce for chicken and therefore for my fajitas.

 

 

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These are ready within 20 minutes,  so they’re perfect for a quick weekday dinner.  If I’m feeling like I need a lighter dish, I swap the wraps for some large lettuce leaves- low carb and healthy! I use whatever veg I have in my fridge and with the sauce I don’t feel the need for any extra salsa, maybe just a little cheese. If you’re dairy free you can just remove the cheese and you’re good to go…simples!

 

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Ingredients
For 1 person/ 2 meals

1 large chicken breast
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/4 green pepper
1/4 red onion
One large chunk of courgette, thinly sliced
Large handful of cherry tomatoes
Schwartz Herb & Spice blend
2-4 tbsp tomato puree
2 Bfree wraps
1tbsp coconut oil
Extras: Cheese, spinach, salsa, guacamole- if desired.

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan. Add the chicken.
  2. Once cooked, add a good shake of the spice blend (enough to cover all the chicken) and stir until fully covered. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the tomato puree and stir through again.
  3. Add the vegetables and cook until softened.
  4. Repeat the process with the spices and tomato puree.
  5. Serve into two Bfree wraps and enjoy!

Veggie Good Houmous Starbucks Wrap

Following the launch of Costa Coffee’s new gluten free wrap, Starbucks were hot on their heels with their own version,  the Veggie Good Houmous wrap. Both are made using seeded wraps by Newburn Bakehouse, so really it’s only the fillings that are in competition. You can read the press release for the Starbucks Wrap here and the Costa press release here.

This new wrap has been a little more elusive for me but having popped to the shops early yesterday I was able to grab one before other gluten free people snaffled them up!

I did have a little mix up with the server,  who totted off with my wrap to heat it up when I’d said not to, but luckily I stopped her before she put it on the grill. The cross contamination alarm bells were ringing in my head and I’ve now contacted their customer services to fund out about the controls they have in place (I’ll update this post with their response).

As the packaging had been thrown away I was given the wrap in a paper bag and worried it would fall apart as I continued shopping,  but I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the bag and the wrap was fully intact.

 

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Now on to the taste. I LOVE houmous and was excited that it’s used in wrap, but unfortunately the lemony flavour they’ve gone with just doesn’t work- it’s like a mild backing to the taste of the vegetables. The chunks of courgettes are odd in the wrap,  almost too big but it’s the shredded carrot that takes center stage here. In fact, it was all I could taste!! The filling is a nice concept but the flavours feel mismatched and certainly don’t come through as they should.

The wrap is however nicely filled, much more so than my wrap from Costa. It was also nicely tucked up at the bottom so the filling didn’t fall out- considering how much was in there.

 

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Overall, the filling and flavour of this wrap left me underwhelmed and I think the flavours definitely need a re-think. It’s great to have another option readily available on the high street but on this occasion the wrap from Costa wins for me.

The wrap is available in 750 stores across the UK and costs £3.99.