Next month, 13-20 March is Coeliac Awareness Week – a week aimed at creating awareness around the symptoms coeliac disease can present as, along with the various medical conditions associated with the disease.
Coeliac disease is a disorder involving the small intestine, caused by an immune response to gluten. The ingestion of gluten by coeliac disease sufferers causes the body to mount an attack against the proteins found in gluten. People with coeliac disease must strictly avoid all sources of gluten.
On the other hand, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a condition where gastrointestinal symptoms are triggered by gluten consumption in the absence of coeliac disease, and people may feel better if they avoid gluten.
If you have been recently diagnosed with coeliac disease, or gluten sensitivity, it can be overwhelming at first and the uncertainty of what to eat can create a lack of confidence in the kitchen.
Nowadays, thankfully, there are plenty of healthy and easily accessible gluten-free options to make delicious meals from. Here are some tips to leave you feeling more confident in the kitchen.
Must-have pantry staples:
- Grains such as wheat, rye, barley and couscous will be off the menu. However, rice is naturally gluten-free and comes in a variety of types such as brown, jasmine and basmati, so plenty of choice!
- For a quick gluten-free grain option, microwave rice is the perfect pantry staple. Try the SunRice range of Quick Cups and Steamed Rice Pouches, which are a fantastic healthy and convenient food.
- If you enjoy eating wheat-based crackers, a delicious alternative is rice cakes, made simply from rice. For an easy lunch or snack, simply top with feta cheese and tomato, hummus and avocado, salmon or nut butter.
- While most packet mixes will be unsuitable, keep individual spices such as paprika, cumin and coriander in the cupboard – perfect for adding flavour to dishes.
- When making stir-fries, there are lots of fantastic options – try a mix of tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), fish sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, garlic and lime.
Handy tips and meal ideas:
- For tasty stuffing, use cooked rice instead of breadcrumbs.
- Use a handful of cooked rice in a frittata mix to make it a more filling meal.
- Toss microwave rice with roasted vegetables and feta cheese for an express lunch or dinner, or try my delicious haloumi, pomegranate and basmati rice salad (recipe below).
- Replace bread with rice cakes, and top with avocado and poached eggs for a balanced breakfast.
- In place of pasta, mix cooked rice with pesto, tomatoes, olives and cooked chicken as a quick weekday meal.
- Combine cooked rice with grated vegetables and eggs, and make into fritters as a quick breakfast, lunch or light dinner – serve with mashed avocado, tomatoes and rocket leaves.
Remember, it’s not only the food itself you need to be mindful of, but also the handing of different foods:
- Use separate cutting boards, knives and cooking utensils when preparing any ingredients that contain gluten.
- Make sure appliances such as toasters are clean before preparing gluten-free foods.
- Avoid contaminating dips and spreads with knives/forks used to pick up gluten-containing foods.
- Read labels: if a food is labelled ‘gluten-free’, it should be a safe choice. Watch out for ‘may contain traces of gluten’ as these kind of products will likely trigger symptoms and cause issues.
Haloumi, Pomegranate & Basmati Rice Salad with Green Tahini Dressing
2 x SunRice Quick Cups Basmati Rice
150g haloumi cheese, cut into strips
Extra virgin olive oil for cooking
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp. chopped coriander
¼ cup sultanas or chopped dates
1-2 tbsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. chopped nuts of choice, e.g. pistachios
Green Tahini Dressing
2 tbsp. tahini paste
1/3 cup chopped coriander or parsley
1 tbsp. lemon juice
½ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth consistency is reached, adding a dash of water if needed. Set aside.
For the salad, cook rice according to packet directions. In a bowl combine rice, pomegranate, coriander, sultanas/dates, lemon and nuts.
In a fry pan, heat olive oil and cook haloumi on both sides until golden. Cut into squares, toss through the rice salad and spoon into 2 bowls.
Drizzle with green tahini dressing. Enjoy!