Being diagnosed as a coeliac is one of the most difficult things I could imagine happening. It's not just an allergy, it's a serious autoimmune condition, one that can have a serious impact on your life. It can negatively affect your health, your career, your relationships, your leisure activities, and of course your diet.
However, it can be effectively controlled and it needn't ruin your life. And it especially needn't ruin your diet.
Creating gluten-free food is easier than a lot of people make it out to be; I get really angry at websites I've encountered that promote needlessly complicated and expensive recipes. Yes it takes knowledge, consideration, planning, and care.
But all you really need to know is what ingredients you need to avoid and what you can substitute them with. You can take any recipe, any recipe, and change it into a gluten-free one just by swapping ingredients and sometimes a few techniques. For example, take my gluten-free scotch egg recipe; it's a basic, mainstream scotch egg recipes just with two substitutions. And it tastes just as good.
Always remember to check labels! UK food labelling now has a requirement to declare whether the product contains gluten or wheat; this is always displayed clearly on the front or back. But if you're not sure just read through the ingredients list, anything containing wheat, barley, or rye is a no-no.
Over the past decade gluten-free food has come on a long way; I remember when the ranges in supermarkets were limited, eating out was impossible, and the bread was like cotton wool. But now supermarkets have wised up and stocked up, even my local family-run Italian offers gluten-free pasta, and believe me the bread has improved beyond recognition.
Unfortunately a lot of processed foods are still beyond a coeliac's reach; give it a few more years and I can honestly seeing that changing for the positive. Home-cooking will be your focus, and this takes a little more time, effort, and expense but, I promise, not a lot. And if home-cooking isn't your thing, I'm available for catering gigs...*ahem*.
So below I have composed what I hope to be a pretty comprehensive guide over the next few blog posts to simplify gluten-free cooking. It will be updated whenever I discover something new, so keep checking!
Remember: know what to avoid and know what to substitute it with.
For more information on coeliac disease and gluten-free diets visit the Coeliac UK website; they're an excellent organisation and will answer any questions you have.
So let's start with bread, flour, and thickeners...