Today’s update brings another post in my weekend baking series, which is more casual in style and offers a recap of any gluten-free ventures attempted over my weekend! On the agenda today are Cheltenham’s new vegetarian café, Kindness & Co., making gluten-free sweet treats for Mother’s Day and a coeliac’s perspective on the new vegan cookbook Beautifully Real Food, which is generating some buzz online currently.

A gluten-free day out in Cheltenham

In the spirit of fairness, Greg and I divided the Mother’s Day weekend down the middle and we spent Saturday with my mother in Cheltenham, and the Sunday with his in Exeter.

After a successful morning shopping and a quick coffee in Caffé Nero (they do the gluten-free basics: a pre-packaged brownie, soup, even a rather luxurious hot chocolate – but NB you shouldn’t have chocolate sprinkles on your cappuccino), I was very excited to go and try the new vegetarian Kindness & Co. café on Clarence Street for lunch. I’d been following them on Instagram, and they advertise a lot of ‘gluten-free’ options on their website, including salads, a main of the week and a variety of cakes. They also source Hobbs House gluten-free bread (a staple of our cupboard at home!) to serve with their soups and lunch options.

We got there to find a very pretty array of salads and cakes (one of which was marked as being GF) and this week’s main – a black bean chilli. However, upon enquiries, I was told that nothing in the café was suitable for me, due to the small kitchen space and the risk of cross-contamination. They get props for being clued up enough to recognize the risk and to be able to tell me definitively that it wasn’t suitable for me to eat there (much better than a woolly, unsubstantiated, ‘Oh yes, I’m sure you’ll be fine’), but it was very disappointing nonetheless, especially as their website especially states that they do ‘gluten-free’ options (not ‘no gluten-containing’). D’: I wrote to them afterwards to confirm that this was the case and got a very kind (true to their ethos) response back from the owner stating that it was. Just another lesson in the benefits of enquiring in advance!

Kindness & Co, Cheltenham

So, the verdict – if you have coeliac disease, then Kindness & Co. can’t currently cater for you. However, if you are merely intolerant to gluten or avoiding it as part of a lifestyle choice, then you should definitely go and check it out. The whole atmosphere was lovely and serene and calm – lots of holistic white décor, etc. – and the food looked very inviting and wholesome at the same time.

Luckily for us, good old Boston Tea Party was just across the road (an absolute favourite of mine) and we had a delicious lunch there. They also use Hobbs House bread and they can do a surprising amount gluten free, if you just ask. My favourite is the smashed avocado with hummus and poached eggs on toast. Sooooo good!

Mother’s Day baking: Raw ginger slice from Beautifully Real Food

My mother is a magazine writer (Katie Jarvis, Cotswold Life’s Chief Writer ™ and beloved local celebrity – it’s not unusual for us to be out and about, only for someone to clock her and gasp out, ‘Not the Katie Jarvis…?’) and recently did a piece in collaboration with the delightful Nailsworth café Asparagasm. I always somehow contrive to be available for ‘work experience’ when there’s a food-related feature going on. We were introduced to an amazingly tasty range of vegan delights: cashew soured cream, hemp seed pesto, tomato & olive oil sauce, butternut squash stacks, oat & nut bread, kale crisps, and a deliciously tangy lemon posset. There were also nut milk smoothies, flavoured with chocolate, vanilla or even turmeric. It was ace. As a relatively newly made vegetarian, I was inspired.

Since then, I’ve been prompted to try a lot of new foods, and have followed a bunch of vegan/plant-based foodies on Instagram, where all the buzz lately has been about blogger Sam Murphy’s new plant-based cookbook, Beautifully Real Food.

I am very much one of the sheeple (so is Greg, and we are terrible together for that sort of thing), so of course I rushed out and got it myself, too. The book isn’t gluten free specifically, but many of the recipes are naturally grain free anyway and, of those that aren’t, most look like they can be easily made coeliac friendly, especially the desserts. Just make sure you use gluten-free oats, etc.!

Looking through the recipes for mains in more detail, however, a couple of question marks arise: a lot of the book’s style of food seems to be about reinventing American-esque fast food kinds of dishes in vegan, plant-based form. A lot of meat substitutes are favoured, not all of which are easily accessible, such as TVP or tempeh. My other (potential) issue with the book is its reasonably liberal use of sugar (although this is always in the form of coconut sugar or maple syrup, etc.). It’s hard to find a recipe (whether that be lentil bolognese or a burger) that doesn’t include at least a couple of tsps of sugar in its sauce. I know that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but one of the big criticisms I have of supermarket gluten-free offerings (and gluten-free food on prescription, too, for that matter) is that they’re often more sugary, so as to compensate for any deficiencies in taste. One reason to make as much as you can at home is to avoid that kind of thing. So I’m going to try a few of the recipes without the sugar and see how I get on!

The book’s desserts, however, are another matter entirely, in that my ethos is that a pudding is a pudding, regardless of whether it’s raw or baked, or made with refined/unrefined sugar. If I’m going to enjoy a pudding, I accept that it’s probably going to have a fair whack of sugar in it, in one way or another! You just have to be sensible with the quantities that you eat of them.

The ingredients are often reasonably simple compared with those of other, similar recipe books (I did so want to love Raw Cake by The Hardihood, but the need to invest in baobab powder just for one recipe entirely crushed me).

Anyway! Back to my Saturday. We’d taken Mum for lunch out but, nevertheless, it’s Mother’s Day – you have to bake or make something in honour of years gone by when school has, with good intention, got you to make vague papier0mache animals or sew underwhelming daffodil designs in cross-stitch. (I once made her coconut ice in class at school. Mum can’t stand coconut. She professed rapturous delight upon its presentation and had to maintain that lie for many years subsequently.)

Luckily, she does adore ginger, and Beautifully Real Food had just the thing:

Raw & vegan ginger slice

I won’t leave the recipe here, as I’m not sure of the legalities of that, but you can find it online at the following link, if you’d like to try it (and I would recommend that you do!). Just make sure that you use gluten-free oats (and check all other ingredients to make sure that they don’t have any cross-contamination issues – you’d be surprised!).

For the base, you blitz gluten-free oats, coconut flakes, pitted dates, dried ginger and a little bit of coconut oil, melted. The recipe calls for Medjool dates, but you can use regular pitted dates (soak them for at least a couple of hours beforehand so that they’re nice and soft, though). I also used desiccated coconut instead of coconut flakes and it came out fine! (Tip: check your coconut to make sure it’s gluten free! A lot of desiccated coconut packets will have cross-contamination warnings.)

You then press this into your traybake tin and freeze it for half an hour or so. Meanwhile, blitz maple syrup, more dried ginger, some vanilla, pre-soaked cashew nuts and melted coconut oil. The recipe called for a tsp of vanilla powder, but I substituted 2 tsp vanilla essence.

Pour this onto your chilled oat mixture and then freeze for at least four hours or so! Unfortunately the light had faded away by the time we came to eat it, so this photograph is rather dark, but honestly – it looked and tasted absolutely scrumptious. A nice oaty base with a hint of coconut, and a topping that I’d characterise as like a gingerbread-flavoured caramel.

vegan ginger slice

In the original recipe, it’s recommended that you keep this cake completely frozen and allow it to defrost for ten minutes before serving. However, we found that the base was still teeth-achingly cold after ten minutes – and personally it was preferable to just keep it in the fridge. The topping is a little gooier that way (more like the caramel in a millionaire’s shortbread), but that’s no bad thing, as it provides a nice contrast in texture to the oat base.

Verdict? I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy this raw dessert was to make in comparison with a traditional traybake – and it tasted just as indulgent as any regular cake you might buy! I’ll be keen to try some more desserts from this book, and I’ll dip my toes into some of the mains as well. ☺️

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