Sunday, August 28, 2011

Taste-testing at the Gluten-Free Expo at Homebush

When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease 16 years ago the quality and choice of gluten-free (GF) food was much less than it is today.

In those early days of adapting to the diet, I remember giving my niece Mary a taste of a sweet GF biscuit. "That's disgusting," she exclaimed.  Compared to gluten-containing biscuits it probably wasn't much good but back then I was just grateful to have something sweet to eat. Breakfast cereals weren't much better and most commercial breads were very crumbly and went stale almost immediately.

Today, it's quite a different story. As I said to my brother and nieces as we travelled home from the GF Expo at Sydney's Homebush last Saturday: "The best thing about the Expo is being able to try all the different types of food and find out which one is the best."

Today, it's not just a case of accepting what's on offer; I am looking for quality GF food.

There were 92 exhibitors at last weekend's Expo, which is an initiative of Coeliac NSW/ACT.  You could try four different types of GF beer made by O'Brien Brewing. There were curry and Asian food products from Ayam including red, green, Malaysian and Thai massaman curry paste and fish, teriyaki and oyster sauce.

There were a wide range of of snacks, chips and crackers including this brown rice variety from Deligrains.

Rowie's Cakes in Marrickvillle showed off its rocky road, cakes and biscuits.  Rowie Dillon, who supplies gourmet products to Qantas and Singapore Airlines, also gave a cooking demonstration and introduced her new cookbook, Indulge which includes savoury as well as sweet recipes.

Callum Hann from Masterchef fame and Rick Grant also gave demonstrations on preparing nutritious and delicious GF meals. Other sessions included advice on being a 'social coeliac', 'label-reading made easy' and what's new in coeliac disease from Dr Jason Tye-Din.

There were numerous bread-making companies and a number selling sweet and savoury pies including ones from Bellyhoo. The St Peters based group offers a range of sweet and savoury fillings including sour cherry, apple, beef burgundy and beef and vegetable.

I am a fan of Country Life bread but it was good to see a few other players in the GF-bread market at the Expo. The Queensland-based Gluten Free Bakery make puff pastry and sweet pastry mixes as well as a range of quiches, pizzas and breads. I particularly liked their French baguette product line.

We all ended up with blue tongues after hoeing into the Blueberry Clouds from Clouds Lollies. After tasting a few pizza bases we thought the ones from  Old Time Bakery in Sydney's Yagoona were the best.

And of course it was great to see the team from the Coeliac Society, who were on deck answering queries and welcoming people to the organisation's 7th Gluten Free Expo. 

Coeliac Queensland will follow with the 2011 Gluten Free Food Expo on Sunday 30 October 2011 at the Commerce Building RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane from 9.00am to 4.00pm

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thumbs up for coeliac-friendly cafes in my Sydney suburb

A couple of months ago I wrote a story for The Australian Coeliac magazine's 'Thumbs up for your home town' competition.   The competition invited Coeliac Australia members to write about coeliac-friendly restaurants, cafes, caterers and stores in their home town.

My story, which follows below, was published in the June 2011 edition of The Australian Coeliac.  For my efforts I won a hamper of GF food from Simply Wize.

Petersham's sweet gluten-free treats
I am taking you on a tour of Petersham’s sweet gluten-free (GF) treats. Just six kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, my suburb is a place of planes, trains, terrace houses and ‘Little Portugal’.  
First stop on our tour is Perfect Crema or ‘Michael’s’ as all the regulars call it after its friendly owner. Just off Parramatta Road on Railway Street, Michael and chef Tom have recently added some GF cakes to their menu.

Now, my morning latte is often accompanied by a blueberry, raspberry or passionfruit melting moment or moist pecan maple or coconut and raspberry friand.
The delicious creations are made by self-confessed baking tragic Jenny Pitarch, who enjoys adapting recipes for her coeliac mother.
Next stop on the tour is the Palace Pantry run by Erich and Takako Fasolin. The 131-year-old corner store at 49 Palace Street offers a selection of GF cakes and slices made by pastry chef Takako. Takako developed her skill working at Rowie’s Cakes in nearby Marrickville and for Adriano Zumbo of MasterChef fame at his Balmain patisserie. 
Using her own flour mix of rice, tapioca and potato flour with GF baking powder, Takako’s philosophy is to create simple cakes made with quality ingredients.
Her four GF options – mixed berry friand, orange and almond cake, caramel round and chocolate brownie – are mouth-watering treats after a dip at the nearby Fanny Durack Pool named in honour of the 1910 Olympic gold medallist and one-time local resident. The pool is in historic Petersham Park where 18-year-old Don Bradman scored 110 in his first, grade cricket appearance in 1926.

Takako also sells her cakes at five inner-west cafes – Kelby’s and Free Pour in Marrickville, Hoochie Mamma in Newtown, and Mollycoddle and Paper Cup in Stanmore.
Crossing the bridge over Petersham Station, our tour moves into the area known as ‘Little Portugal’ – home to many Portuguese restaurants, cafes, butchers and delicatessens.  In the heart of the strip at 35c New Canterbury Road is Sweet Belem, run by husband and wife team, Lina Correia and John De Almedia.

Here you can taste traditional Portuguese cakes like orange roulade made with polenta. Other GF options are raspberry and lemon roulade, flourless orange and chocolate cakes, coconut and mango blackberry fool, orange jaffa and chocolate truffle and crème caramel.
“A lot of people come in and are surprised at the variety we have,” says Lina, whose ‘cake boutique’ is named after Lisbon’s Belem district, the area where she and John were married nearly 20 years ago.
The final stop on our tour is Big Brekky at 316 Stanmore Road, just around the corner from the art deco Petersham Town Hall featured in Baz Lurhmann’s 1992 film Strictly Ballroom.
As you sip on your coffee you can enjoy a GF chocolate brownie and gaze at the artwork on the walls, on loan from the nearby Wood Paper Silk’ gallery at 348 Stanmore Road.
As the Portuguese say, bom apetite!