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Welcome to the first of a new series of interviews with Gluten Free Champions… people who I believe make living gluten free much more interesting, easier and tastier! Each of them is kindly sharing  their personal experiences, insights, tips and recommendations from their free from world.

Kicking off the series I am thrilled to introduce the lovely Pippa Kendrick; food blogger, allergy recipe creator and author of The Intolerant Gourmet – Delicious Allergy-Friendly Recipes Everyone Can Enjoy

  • Pippa, please tell us a little about your dietary restrictions?

I have multiple food intolerances, some more severe than others.  I have an incredibly strong reaction to all dairy (to the point of hospitalization) and cannot tolerate wheat, soy, eggs and yeast.  I’ve had issues with dairy since I was tiny, it was misdiagnosed a number of times and led to me having to have a major abdominal operation which unfortunately went wrong. I was left with a damaged digestive system that could no longer tolerate or process the above foods.  It was a steep learning curve to recover both from the surgery and find a whole new way of eating.  I chose to embrace it and started to develop my own recipes from there, now ten years on, I’ve got a beautiful book full of them!

  • Who are your food heroes?

Tessa Kiros makes beautiful food and books and can translate flavour onto a page beautifully. In terms of food sensitivities, Barbara Cousins is a long-standing institution. I like the balance of kindness and understanding in her writing and although the recipes are a little plain, she’s brilliant for taking you through the baby steps of learning to live with multiple food intolerances.

  • What is the best and / or worst thing about being gluten free?

The worst is the frustration of being away and not being able to guarantee that there will be anything at all for you to eat!  The best thing is that it wakes you up to how your body is actually feeling, it’s very easy for us to ignore the messages our bodies send us, but being so conscious about what you put into it gives you a greater connection with yourself.  Plus, you feel infinitely better!

  • What’s your best advice for anyone diagnosed with Coeliac Disease / intolerance?

I’d say start small, take a breath and look at all the foods you can eat.  It’s really important at this stage just to get yourself well, so be patient and feed yourself clean, wholesome food until you feel better.  Then you can start experimenting with all the gluten-free treats out there.

  • Complete the sentence: I can’t get through the day without my gluten free…

rice milk. Cups of tea and rice milk is fundamental to my perfect cup.  Otherwise, Doves Farm gluten-free flour mix – it’s truly brilliant for baking.

  • What did you have for breakfast this morning?

homemade granola, made with gluten-free oats, dates, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut and maple syrup and a generous pouring of rice milk.

  • Would you mind sharing your top tip for gluten free cooking ?

In my book, The Intolerant Gourmet, I give you my recipe for gluten-free Shortcrust Pastry.  My top tip is that unlike ‘normal’ pastry, gluten-free pastry likes to be warm.  This means you can handle it as much as you like, you don’t need to faff about chilling it and you don’t need to blind-bake it either!

  • Where do you start with developing recipes free from so many ingredients?

Quite simply, I cook the kind of food that I want to eat.  I think it’s important to find a balance in free-from cooking, between recreating, much-loved favourite dishes and the developing new, personally inspired dishes.  The one rule I give myself is that nothing should be restrictive, I like my dishes to be packed full of colour, flavour and texture, embracing all the things you can eat rather than focusing on the few that you can’t.

  • Which was the trickiest recipe to perfect?

A creamy ‘cheese’ sauce, that I could use in things like lasagne or cauliflower cheese.  I wanted to keep to the tradition of making a roux first and then adding liquid, and then had the idea to use toasted and ground pine nuts as part of the roux – they add a wonderfully savoury flavour, similar to that of parmesan or other hard cheeses.  Those combined with rice milk and vegetable stock seemed to create a really velvety, luxurious sauce that worked with everything I wanted it to.

  • Where are your favourite places to eat out?

I have to admit to finding it difficult when eating out. That being said, if I’m in London I’ll always visit Wholefoods for a bit of lunch, Mildred’s in Soho is a brilliant, delicious and delightful place for lunch or supper and very good with food sensitivities.  I think Saf in Shoreditch is a really interesting concept restaurant and can open your eyes to exciting vegan food.

In my home county of Norfolk, The King’s Head in Bawburgh is a real foodie pub, wood burning stoves, real ale and amazing food.  They really cater for gluten-free and dairy-free eaters and there is an ever changing, seasonally-led menu.  I would also recommend The Gunton Arms, it’s recently had a lot of well-deserved press attention for it’s interior, location (it’s set in a deer park) and delicious food, especially venison.

  • Any other gluten free recommendations you would like to share with us?

I’ve recently discovered Artisan Bread Organic Company, they do incredible Quinoa, Buckwheat or Rice Loaves which are gluten, dairy and yeast free.  They’re not cheap but they taste incredible and I’m all for the company ethos too.

  • What does the future hold for the intolerant Gourmet?

In 2012 I’d like to carry on creating recipes, producing my blog content, writing for magazines and learning more about food photography. Plus, there is another book in the pipeline.  It’s really important to me that people with food intolerances and allergies don’t feel restricted or isolated, and still get to eat delicious food with their friends and family without having to worry.

Many thanks to Pippa for taking the time to provide such in depth answers! A review of her new book to follow shortly too.