Essential Gluten Free is the latest book from Coeliac UK Ambassador Phil Vickery, and I am pleased to say that it covers many of the essentials of gluten free living, that were missing in his previous books. When faced with coeliac disease or diagnosis with a gluten intolerance, you immediately seek how to replace the gluten laden foods you can no longer consume, and this help in that mission.
Collaborating with Bea Harling an established recipe developer and writer, they have based a majority of the recipes (as in Phil’s last books) on their own flour blends, each with a specific application. As I continue to review the vast number of GF cookery books on the market, this is the way forward for most cooks as there is no one fit all flour blend that does the same as its wheat-y counterpart. As I discovered in the Honeybuns review, this approach generates a far superior bake. However, having to make a blend first, then flicking back to the recipe makes in my opinion quite cumbersome cooking. I am happy to have a long list of flours for each recipe.
But this is a minor detail – this book is a vast improvement on the previous ones for a number of reasons. Many more everyday bakes are featured including milkbread rolls made in muffin tins, little seeded loaves, pancakes, choux pastry, Yorkshire puddings, pasta, cookies and no less than five shortcrust pastry recipes. For me these are the essentials of gluten free cooking. Recipes for naturally gluten free soups, salads and main meals like panfried fish or braised beef I can pass by, looking to my favourite cooks like Nigel Slater.
Also, on closer inspection there are some unique recipes here; idli – moreish little steamed South Indian rice cakes that you dunk in chutneys (which I frequently enjoyed for breakfast when living in India); Latin empanada dough for smoked chicken and chorizo empanadas; ricotta doughnuts; Asian congee and different recipes for shortcake versus shortbread.
Having tried a number of recipes now (I am thorough in my examination of these books…) many of the cakes are quick and simple to knock up. The sweet potato traybake was great veggie cake for the kids, whilst the tea loaf has a lovely light crumb and reminds me of my mums version. The chocolate chip cookies I have made twice already, as I made a large batch of the sorghum blend to stock up on snacks for the kids. They freeze well after baking too and I also swapped the chocolate for dried fruit and cinnamon once, which really worked. The soft milk bread rolls we are easy to whip up and bake for packed lunches, again freezing well.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the recipes that I have so far tried, and a couple have been absorbed into my weekly repertoire. I think if you are newly diagnosed, this is a great introduction to gluten free cooking as it demonstrates the huge variety you can now have living gluten free. And even for long-term free from-ers like myself, there are some nuggets of inspiration… I can’t wait for a trip down memory lane and try those idlis.