Saturday, 26 February 2011

Card-Carrying Wheat Dodger?

This post is a bit delayed partly due to life getting in the way and partly from me reeling from shock.

I received my results to the York Test I blogged about in January very quickly after posting my blood sample off to their lab. I think it took about a week or so.

Now, if you're a regular reader, you'll know that I find food intolerance frustrating as doctors rarely know how to diagnose them (or perhaps know it is quite expensive to run tests to find out exactly what is wrong). I was diagnosed as wheat intolerant after a process of elimination suggested by my GP which caused my symptoms to almost disappear when I eliminated wheat. Even after this diagnosis was made, there's always this nagging doubt that it's 100% accurate which is exacerbated by people asking things like 'how do you know you're wheat intolerant?' and 'how come it's just come on and it wasn't a problem before?' Having some kind of confirmation that you're not mad or attention seeking is quite a comfort. So I was really keen to get my results
from York Test to get a second opinion.

The results are shown on a form (see picture above) which is in very plain and simple terms. There are two columns that list the 113 foods they test for intolerance with a result next to each. The foods that give a positive result go to the top. The top 3 on my results were Egg White, Egg Yolk and Gluten (Gliadin). There is a separate option for wheat which apparently gave no reaction.

This changes things a bit then.

My diet rarely incorporates gluten, as many wheaty alternatives I buy are gluten and wheat free. So this diagnosis could be right. Eggs have become a close ally since many cereals have been taken off the menu so I probably eat them more than ever before. Can this be right? How the flip am I supposed to cut out Gluten AND eggs? It doesn't just mean I'll have nothing to dip my gluten free soldiers in, eggs are in so many products. They also help wheat free cakes rise and I can't be without cake completely!

So, I chose to ignore the egg thing.

I don't know about you, but since you gave up an ingredient, heck, an entire food group, have you found you are even more sensitive to it? I have. I react much worse than before and to smaller doses too. So if I give up eggs for a while, chances are, they will be very difficult to reintroduce (based on my experience, not what the doctors say).

Lucky for me (sort of) on a scale of 0-4, my reaction is 1 for gluten and eggs. I also have a borderline reaction to yeast apparently, but again, it doesn't feature that highly in my diet anyway. The scale refers to your reaction, not how much you should cut out or whether or not you should cut out the items listed. York Test advise you remove these items from your diet completely if you score between 1-4. I imagine a level four reaction for gluten would mean you are coeliac. If I have gluten/wheat I feel quite ill but I'm not bed bound or off work, I just feel like I had week long bender on the Jagermiesters.

So, now you have your results, what next? Well, York Test provided me with a results guidebook to help me figure out how to remain healthy if I choose to remove the suggested items from my diet. I also received a food diary to test out their theory over 12 weeks, a special membership/proof of intolerance card to carry around and a voucher for a free telephone consultation endorsed by Allergy UK. I haven't used any of them as yet due to very poor time management on my part. I will have a go soon though as I'm rather intrigued, particularly by the consultation. I suppose if my symptoms were worse, I would have definitely used all of these items by now.

So, all in all it's a useful exercise but I am taking the results with a pinch of salt. I am avoiding gluten more so than before and will cut eggs out a bit more if I feel a bit dodgy after eating them. If the reactions were worse, I would definitely take heed.

If you would like to know more about York Test, visit their website


Monday, 7 February 2011

You Cheddar Believe It: One for the Mini Wheat Dodgers

I first stumbled upon Isabel's Brazilian Flavours products at Salvo's in Headingley as they teamed up with Isabel to create a fantastic pizza base mix which is used in their award-winning restaurant. The pizza base mix is one of my favourite gluten free products and even my wheat-scoffing other half loves it. It's different because it's made with Brazilian cassava flour which makes it nice and crispy.

Since discovering the pizza mix and blogging about my find, Isabel got in touch and sent me a few of her other products to try. My favourite was her Kids 'o de Quenjo' Cheesebread mix. It's a really cute product and so nice that it's aimed at kids as I haven't seen many gluten free foods that are.

They're really easy to make so the kids can get involved. You just need cheese, oil, 1 egg and some water. After 25 minutes in the oven, they look like this...

You can buy the mix from Waitrose, Pomegranate in Leeds and online at Isabel's shop. I personally don't have children so I just make bigger ones for me! They go really well with Italian sauces or as a little snack.



Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Joy of Mex

I had a lovely surprise one afternoon when a little parcel arrived from Chapel Allerton favourite Salsa Mexicana.

The mysterious brown paper bag contained what looked like 3 freshly picked sweetcorn in their husks. I had no idea what they were but I was very excited to take them home and try them. Owners Simon and Fiona know me from my job at a local magazine and know I write this blog. Having chatted about wheat dodging and how great REAL Mexican food is for a wheat free diet, I knew that whatever it was, it would be safe to eat and flipping tasty. The mystery parcels made it home and I steamed them for 15 minutes as instructed. I popped them over a pan of boiling rice as I assumed this to be the best accompaniment for them.

The moment of unveiling the mystery parcels was very exciting for me on my otherwise dull Tuesday evening. They looked a bit like the meat puddings my dad used to get from the chippy when I was little. I was still really bemused as to what they were but the smell was amazing.

I later learned that the slightly spicy, cheesy and wonderfully stodgy parcels were in fact vegetarian Wensleydale Cheese Tamales with Poblano chillies.

So did I serve them right (see above)?

Simon explains

Yours look okay but we serve them in the corn husk. You can either eat them in your hand or as you've done unwrap them completely. Mexico proper is fantastic for a gluten free diet. Soft corn tortilla tacos and tamales are my fave. As served at Salsa.
We will be putting on tamales dulces (sweet) later in the year. Pineapple and chocolate versions. Unusual for European tastes but delicious nonetheless.
Salsa Mexicana is one of the few restaurants in Leeds that understand gluten and wheat free diets and have taken the trouble to do their research. Their menu has a GF key to point out which dishes are wheat dodger friendly, but do make your dietary requirements clear.

The most important thing to remember is, Margheritas are DEFINITELY wheat free!

De nada los Wheat Dodgers,


Saturday, 29 January 2011

Leeds Coeliac Food Fayre in Pictures

On 29th Jan I headed over to St Chad's Parish Centre in Headingley for the annual Leeds Coeliac Food Fayre.

There was a huge turnout of locals who were queuing out of the door when I arrived. Most of whom were pensioners. I was quite surprised by this as I expected there to be a wide range of people at the fayre. It felt a bit like I'd crashed a coffee morning! There were a few families and young children though, for which a Children's party was held in one of the smaller rooms which was quite sweet.

Big names in the gluten free world such as Dietary Specials and sister brands Glutafin and Trufree, Green's Gluten Free Beers alongside smaller independents like Foodamentalists (see picture of pies below) had turned out for the bustling event.

The main hall had stalls around the edge that were all very crowded and difficult to get to, but some were well worth hanging around for.

I managed to sample pie crust and bread at the Foodamentalist stall. Both were really good. I finally got to try Warbourton's white and brown loaves which were both lovely and seemed more moist than their main rivals Genius bread. One of the best samples was Green's Premium Golden Ale which was absolute nectar. The stall holder informed me that the lager is stocked in Sainsbury's.

The best stall was good old Dietary Specials' stand which also had goods from their Trufree andGlutafin brands. They gave me a goody bag which included Glutafin penne pasta, Trufree Herb & Onion crackers and Glutafin Multipurpose White Mix.

I also tried some delicious bakewell tart at the Heavenly Bakes stand and ended up buying a whole one to scoff with a brew at home. They also make celebration cakes which is quite handy if you're planning a birthday or wedding involving wheat dodgers.

There were ready meals, an abundance of bread, sausage rolls, pies, pasties, shortbread, cakes and quiches. 90% were yummy with the odd exception of dodgy stuff we've all had the pleasure of at some point.

One of the most striking stalls was The JuSu Pantry who had come over from Chesterfield. Every wheaty treat you could dream of was on their stall. Check them out at

The most interesting bit of knowledge I came away with was from the leaftlet given to me at
theMyer's Famous Kosherie stand. Myer's is a little Kosher deli in Moortown which specialises in Jewish foods. Even though my fiance is half
Jewish, he failed to tell me that Jews are 'not allowed to eat any
products containing wheat' during Passover. As a result, Myer's stock a wide range of wheat free goods, particlarly during the Passover festival. Cool little fact for ya!

Out of curiousity, I had a chat with the treasurer of Coeliac UK in Leeds who was signing people up for £3 memberships. I don't really use their website or services much as the content can be very dry and a little bit depressing. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I have paid my £3 membership and will be posting my experience as a member over the next 12 months.

It was a worthwhile event especially as there was a free gluten free buffet. Sadly it had a big sign above it saying the couldn't guarantee the food was gluten free! I'd have some lunch before you go...

Thanks to everyone who has enlightened me today!


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mmm, Bettys!

As a birthday present I took my sister to Betty's Tearoom in Ilkley. She really wanted to go for afternoon tea, so how could I decline? My sister lives in Manchester so doesn't see me everyday and knows little of my eating habits. She didn't realise that I would have to sit and watch her eating it. I felt awful. I had to keep the rouse going until she ordered. I didn't want her worrying about me, it was her day.

Then she asked the dreaded question "So what are you having?" Crap. No idea! What the hell am I going to eat? I had checked out their website prior to going but as they change their menu seasonally, there wasn't a list of exactly what was available for me. I know it's a lot to ask, but I was hoping for a list just to reassure me.

Back at the tea rooms, my sister has sussed me out. She knows I can't have afternoon tea and starts to feel bad about ordering it. Suddenly, she becomes my ventriloquist and starts asking the waitress what I can have. I just sit there feeling like a total pleb. Hang on, what did you say? Swiss Chocolate Torte? Fresh Fruit Pavlova? Chocolate Mousse? I can have them all? They're all gluten free? YES!

Swiss Chocolate Torte please, Lady Betty! The waitress kindly swapped the usual mini desserts and pastries that sit atop the lovely afternoon tea tower for a big slab of Swiss. My sister ate the sandwiches, scones and cream and I devoured the Swiss Chocolate Torte with fresh whipped cream.

The waitress was very clear that Betty's cannot guarantee all traces of gluten are absent from any of their dishes, which is fine for me. Just be careful if you have a severe allergy.

After the lovely tea in a china cup from a silver tea pot had been supped, we moved into the shop where the kind assistant photocopied their list of gluten free treats available in the shop. Here is the list in full:

Swiss Chocolate Torte (I bought another slice to take home)
Fresh Fruit Pavlova
Chocolate Roulade
Chocolate Mousse
Almond Macaroon
Chocolate Macaroon
Lemon Macaroon
Raspberry Macaroon
Pistachio Macaroon
Fresh Alpine Truffles
Champagne Truffles
Handmade Chocolates
Chocolate Desires
Boxed Fruit Clusters
Boxed Florentines
Chocolate Coffee Beans
Caramel Hearts
Peppermint Creams
Milk, Dark, & White Chocolate Bars
Harlequin Bar
Chocolate Hearts, Mice and Guinea
Chocolate Piglets
Small Milk Chocolate Bear
Mini Bears
Chocolate Westie
Mocha Caramel Log

Betty's have tea rooms in Harrogate, York, Northallterton and Ilkley. You can't usually book so be prepared to queue. Trust me, it's so worth it wheat dodgers!


Monday, 10 January 2011

Blood Simple: Taking the York Test

I've been putting this off as it scared me a little. If it wasn't for you wheat dodgers, it would still be in the box gathering dust.

I've been sent a YorkTest FoodScan kit which is the first stage of testing for 113 specific food intolerances.

There are two reasons why I didn't want to take the test initially.

What if I'm intolerant to other foods? Do I really want to know that? God help me and my long-suffering fiance if I have to give up another ingredient. And God help you if it's chocolate.

The other thing I was scared about is really pathetic. I didn't want to prick my own finger. I've had millions of jabs and blood samples taken, so not particularly phobic of needles. But drawing my own blood?

Well, I finally grew a pair and got on with it.

The box arrived. A neat little parcel with everything you needed inside. I had hoped it was one of those instant gratification kits that gave you results straight away (that sounds a bit wrong, but you know what I mean).

It turned out, you have to send your blood sample off to the lab and wait 10 working days for the results. I was a bit disappointed by this at first, but at least it's going to a proper lab and isn't just a gimmmick. How reliable can an instant test be anyway?

It took all of 5 minutes to do the test. I scrubbed my hands clean, wrote my name on the little tube and got mentally prepared for stabbing my own finger. My fiance gave me a bit of moral support (and took the photos) and counted me in before I 'depressed the lancet' into the side of my finger.

It didn't really hurt that much. It was morbidly quite fun. I needed a bit of help as you need to massage the finger to encourage blood flow whilst syphoning it up a little tube. I wouldn't do it on your own if you have a non-squeamish friend around to help.

And that was it. There's even a little plaster included for your tiny wound.

So what will I find out from doing the test? Well, this is the first step and simply provides you with a positive or negative result as to whether you have a food intolerance or not.

If that's positive, you can take the next step test which tests for 113 different intolerances including milk, yeast, gluten, wheat, egg yolk and millet.

I'll let you know how I get on in two weeks.

Hold tight, wheat dodgers!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Smiths, Coronation Street, Frank Sidebottom and Toastie Loaf

I don't know if it's a northern thing, but I used to live on Warbourton's as a kid. It was certainly a staple of the diet in my home town in Greater Manchester (given that it was baked up the road). Now tearing it's waxy orange and white wrapper it's a distant memory. I get more dewy-eyed over that than my first ever gig at the G-Mex (Blur '95 in case you were wondering).

French toast, cheese toastie, bread and butter pudding, jam sandwiches, egg and soldiers, eggy bread, club sandwich. I'M GOING TO EAT THEM ALL!

Possibly the best news I've ever had is that Warbourton's are launching a gluten and wheat free range in 4 days 3 hours 56 minutes and 23 seconds.

OK, so there's no waxy wrapper and it looks suspiciously like Genius bread,
but I'm putting my faith in the city that I'm so very proud of and patriotic to. Bring back my childhood!

Laters, our kid.