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Annie’s Supper Club is a completely gluten free secret dining event held monthly at Annie’s home in SE London. Expertly creating five course meals to themes or cuisines, Annie’s is the place to come for relaxed free from dining….
I would like to thank Annie for not only providing the most in-depth interview on this site to date, but also for providing a truly safe place for coeliacs to eat out. It is a really fun and unique experience for coeliacs and normal eaters alike! And for those working in central London, you can now experience the heaven that is fresh gluten free baguettes delivered to your desk with their new lunch round.
Thank you Annie. You are truly a Gluten Free Champion!
NGF: So tell us a little about yourself and whether you are coeliac?
I’ve been married for 19 years and have four boys. I don’t have an official diagnosis of coeliac disease – it is down as “probable / non coeliac gluten intolerance” with my GP. This is simply because I refuse to take a gluten challenge to have a positive blood test result. I get too ill to function.
NGF: What motivated you to set up Annie’s Supper Club?
In 2005 my second son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and I learnt that a gluten free diet could help children on the autistic spectrum. I started baking gluten free then a year later my third son was diagnosed ASD. Then all our family meals had to be gluten free for convenience. Then, tragically another year later my Dad became very ill and was diagnosed as having Coeliacs Disease. He’d had it for years without knowing, developed T-Cell Lymphoma as a result and died a few weeks after. Read the full story here. The next year our fourth child was born and diagnosed with multiple intolerances and later on, coeliac disease. Myself, and my four children all carry the genetic markers for coeliacs.
So my motivation for the supper club was twofold – to provide somewhere completely safe for coeliacs to eat out in the unique experience of the supper club. Secondly, it was simply to feed coeliacs. Every time therefore I place food in front of a coeliac, especially if it is something “forbidden”, I’m feeding my Dad.
NGF: Did you have catering or cooking experience before opening?
Other than cooking for the family, I’d been part of several catering teams for charities and organisations. My husband has experience running a cafe, a hotel kitchen, and as a waiter.
NGF: Who comes to Annie’s?
We expected the majority of guests to be on a gluten free diet, but nearly 70% of customers are NOT gluten free!
NGF: How much preparation goes into each supper club?
My favourite bit is researching the menu, as each dinner is themed. I typically spend 7-10 days researching what to cook. Each dish is then cooked and tested thoroughly. Then one day is spent cleaning the kitchen, one day is spent on advanced prep on things like ice cream. The day before I’ll be in the kitchen all day and on the day we work early till the last guest leaves – which can be midnight!
NGF: Which gluten free cooks and writers inspire your cooking?
Shauna Ahern, Mel and Karina. Mel’s site in particular was a lifeline of recipes for two years breastfeeding as I was unable to eat gluten, dairy, egg or soya. More recently I have moved away from “gluten free cooking” and simply cook, having learnt how to tweak a recipe. These days inspiration comes from the Roca brothers and those working in patisserie.
NGF: Given your extensive cooking experience do you have any top gluten free tips?
1) If you are baking, use ratio recipes. These are the most successful to convert to being gluten free simply by subbing gluten free flour. 2) I prefer to use Dove’s plain flour instead of their self raising as that allows me to add my own amount of gum and raising agent, as I tend to use less gum. 3) If you are using a ready mixed flour, ALWAYS whisk it first. Different flours have different weights and protein levels and you need to make sure they are well mixed to get even consistent results. I have a few tips and comments on gf flours here.
NGF: What does the future hold for Annie’s?
Good question! Annie’s Larder is our new food business and London lunch round which has opened supplying cafes and delis with our cakes, pubs and restaurants with our pizza bases. Our most exciting upcoming event is exhibiting at the Taste of Christmas. The Supper club continues to grow with our dates being regularly booked up many months in advance and least one private booking a month!