You may have recently learnt that you no longer can eat gluten for health reasons. After the shock of saying farewell to all your favourite gluten meals, snacks and treats, the next overwhelming feeling is confusion. Where do I start? What can I safely eat? What ingredients should I buy?
It does seem quite daunting at first, but once you have learnt the basic steps to convert your shopping, cooking and kitchen into a gluten-free haven, your health and cooking skills will improve through your determination to make it a sustainable lifestyle.
Allocating your gluten-free section in the kitchen
Gluten-Free Baking Section
Clearly label “gluten-free” on all the storage containers holding gluten-free flours, raising agents and binders. Group all the baking ingredients together on a dedicated shelf, basket, tub or cupboard so that they are easily accessible when baking.
Store all your gluten-free dried goods like pasta shapes, lasagne sheets, rice noodles, rice paper, corn tortillas etc in a dedicated drawer or cupboard. Label the outside of the drawer or cupboard “gluten-free” so that no one mistakenly starts cooking gluten meals with your precious gluten-free supply.
Freezer & Fridge
The final area to allocate “gluten-free” is your freezer. Dedicate a drawer or an entire shelf for gluten-free ingredients and meals.
Selecting equipment and utensils
Cross-contamination is a concern when sharing a kitchen with other household members that are gluten eaters. This can happen when sharing certain cooking equipment and utensils, especially those that cannot be sterilised in the dishwasher such as utensils with a wooden finish. Depending on how intolerant or highly allergic you are to gluten, I would suggest purchasing the following exclusively for gluten-free cooking:
- Sandwich maker, Panini, Breville
- Pasta maker (if you are an avid pasta maker!)
- Any other equipment that the spare parts can’t be put in the dishwasher
- Rolling pin
- Wooden chopping board
- Several wooden spoons
- Any utensils that you can’t put in the dishwasher
Allocating Counter Space
If space permits, allocate a section exclusively to prepare gluten-free bakes and meals. Keep your gluten-free equipment and utensils in this section or in a dedicated drawer or cupboard so no cross-contamination occurs.
Now the fun starts in deciding which gluten-free products are to be homemade or store-bought. I realise this depends on what products are available in your country of residence, which is why I would like to help you throughout my blog with plenty of homemade gluten-free recipes.
To help you get started with stocking up your gluten-free pantry, click on the image below to take you to a printable
There are many different types of gluten-free flour on the market such as amaranth, sorghum, glutinous rice flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour etc. My blog A guide to gluten-free flours, starches and blends explains each flour’s purpose and benefits in gluten-free cooking and baking.
Although most of my recipes use homemade gluten-free blends, there are benefits to using certain flours like chestnut flour which makes an amazing savoury tart crust as in my Gluten-free Brie & onion tart, or chickpea flour in Chickpea Dukkah crackers.
Store-bought gluten-free products are a great backup for those time-constraint moments, but they have a tendency to be loaded with sugar and are heavy on the pocket compared to homemade alternatives, which is why I endorse making most of my gluten-free ingredients. Albeit, time-consuming, it’s worth it in the long run. Once you get started with making your own flour blend, then progress to making your homemade bread, followed by your own breadcrumbs and so on. By this stage, you can start generating an impressive line-up of homemade, useful and healthier gluten-free products that can be either stored in a sealed container, refrigerated or frozen for months. You’ll never look back plus the flavour and results are far superior to store-bought.
An important component of a successful bread, pastry or cake/cookie dough is the addition of baking powder and xanthan powder or psyllium husk powder. The baking powder acts as a raising agent and the last two are binders that keep baking mixtures together and add a bouncy (glutinous) feel. Depending on where you live, these two ingredients can be sourced in most health stores, specialist supermarkets or as a last resort, at Amazon. My blog A Guide to gluten-free flours, starches and blends explains in more detail their importance in baking.
It has taken me a number of years to understand the chemistry of that “missing gluten” component, but the good news is, it is possible to mimic the taste and texture of many gluten meals and baked items.
On a final thought, with a bit of practice and patience, you can achieve success in making any of your favourite “gluten” recipes into a gluten-free alternative. If anything, there is so much to choose from and the textures and flavours are so intriguing, you’ll enjoy discovering this gluten-free world!