Having to prepare a gluten free meal for a celiac can at first be a little over whelming for a dinner host that has not had any experience in doing so before. That is no reason to feel it is impossible or for even that matter hard.
My first thought would be to keep it as simple as possible on your first try and once you have mastered gluten free then you can get a bit fancier. There are many great gluten free cookbooks that you can use to help prepare your menu.
Secondly, if possible, make the whole meal gluten free for everyone. That way you do not have to try and make different meals and you will not have to worry about cross contamination. To be perfectly honest gluten free is a very healthy and tasty option and your dinner guests will be none the wiser.
Sometimes a host will have the best intentions and with just one ingredient containing gluten, the whole meal can be ruined. As an example – if you use a teaspoon of soya sauce, a teaspoon of wheaten cornflour instead of 100% pure corn flour or even mayonnaise containing wheat – all simple ingredients that if added will not be suitable for a celiac. It is very important to look at all the ingredients used in every dish. For more detailed information see Reading and understanding Labels.
So lets look at some different menu ideas, keeping our number one rule of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).
Salads – All natural salad items are gluten free. Make up a large tossed green salad which could be served as an entree or with a main course. Salad items could include lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, capsicum (peppers), avocado.
Greek Salad - lettuce, cucumber, spanish onions, olives and feta. Dressing should be served on the side. You can then check any ingredients with your celiac friend and if necessary they can choose to leave the dressing out.
Coleslaw - shredded cabbage (purple and/or white), carrot, capsicum, shallots. Ensure that the mayonnaise you use is gluten free.
Barbeque (BBQ) /Roast meats - BBQs are an easy way to start cooking gluten free. All non-processed meats like chicken, beef, lamb, pork or fresh seafood is gluten free. Barbequing steaks, lamb, pork chops or roasting pieces of meat in a webber is ideal. At first, leave off marinades as these may contain gluten. Using a good quality olive oil with fresh herbs is safe until you get more confident in understanding ingredients. Do not be tempted to dust the meat with flour unless it is gluten free. Even a small amount will be enough to contaminate the food and make a celiac ill. Try putting the chicken into an oven bag with a tablespoon of gluten free flour and bake it. This seals in all the juices and cooks it really tender.
Or, using a traditional roasting pan, slightly spray the bottom of the pan and the whole chicken with oil, and then sprinkle paprika on the chicken skin. I find the paprika gives the chicken skin a nice crunch and you can also use the paprika on baked pumpkin and potato.
Vegetables - All vegetables in their natural state are gluten free. Roasting vegetables with a splash of olive oil is not only healthy but gluten free. Some vegetables you could choose are potatoes, sweet potatoes or kumara, onions, pumpkin, carrots.
Frozen vegetables, like peas and beans can also be used for convenience. Caution should be used with frozen potatoes, chips, fries and wedges; most, but not all have been rolled in flour to add a crunchy texture to them. Be wary of brands advertising “crunchie” or “beer batter fries” as this is a clear indicator that they have been coated in flour.
So, lets look at a few examples of menus to start preparing for your dinner party using only those ingredients that are naturally gluten free:
- Steak or chicken fillets grilled on a hot (clean) BBQ plate served with a fresh tossed salad
- sliced potatoes and onion rings cooked on the BBQ
- coleslaw with gluten free mayonnaise
- Roast chicken, pork or beef
- roast pumpkin, potato
- steamed carrots, peas, broccoli
- Fresh fruit platter; or
- Vanilla ice cream with fresh berries.
- Chocolate covered strawberries.
Breakfast or light meal options :
- Cheese omelette and grilled tomato
- Finely chopped spinach mixed with ricotta cheese, (salt and pepper to taste) stuffed into mushroom caps
- Toasted gluten free bread (can be cut into bit size pieces and used as a base for serving tasty hors d'oeuvres :- smoked salmon with avocado, smoked salmon with creamed cheese and capers, cooked prawns and creamed cheese, camembert cheese and sliced dates.
- Honey glazed chicken skewers with pineapple, green pepper, yellow pepper, red onion. Baked in the oven. Place that on top of jasmine rice sweetened with coconut milk
When preparing your meal, great care needs to be taken that you do not contaminate the food you are preparing
by “cross contamination”. If you have used an ingredient containing gluten, ensure the work area, including benches, chopping boards and utensils are thoroughly washed prior to preparing the gluten free ingredients. A hidden area not thought of are ingredients that you may only use a small amount at a time. An example is mayonnaise, jams or margarine as it is possible for small particles of bread crumbs to remain in the container. That is because the spread is placed on the bread and the knife is then placed back into the jar for a second time. For more tips read cross contamination. Don't despair, you will soon get the hang of it.
When your first dinner party goes off without a hitch, you will soon be reaching for the gluten free receipt books. These books will be an invaluable resource. They will describe what ingredients can be used that are gluten free and what ingredients you will need to use the gluten free variety. It is possible to make many favourites by substituting gluten free ingredients.
Some examples are:
- Beef Lasagne – using gluten free pasta sheets and a gluten free pasta sauce
- Stir-fry's - using gluten free soya or oyster sauce
- Home made pizza - using gluten free bread, pizza bases or wraps. (Ensure all toppings are gluten free)
- Pancakes – using gluten free flour