smak restuarant feature blog

How going gluten free changed my life

Tuesday, May 2nd 2017

The truth is, I was not aware of special dietary requirements and food allergies until I opened smak. Sure, at college we were taught about various dietary specifications, but I didn’t realise how important it was until I began interacting with customers on a daily basis.


{ Disclaimer: I am currently following a gluten-free diet that has completely changed the way I think about preparing food. }


Gluten is a large protein molecule that is found in wheat and other grains. It consists of two different proteins called Glutenin and Gliadin, and is responsible for the shaping, binding, and texturing baked goods. After months of experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is possible to make my favourite comfort foods gluten-free.


For example, I’ve been able to create a delicious gluten-free bread that we now offer on the smak breakfast menu. My recipe is simple! I use three different types of gluten free flours: coconut, rice, and potato [to be precise] and some seeds [for nutritional purposes and roughage of course].


However, one of the biggest challenges I face when making my gluten-free bread is ending up with a loaf that is too crumbly.


Solution: I rely on psyllium husks to keep everything in place. Although psyllium husks are quite expensive, a little can go a long way, so it's definitely worth adding to your shopping cart.


Other examples of gluten-free meals include a beautiful crustless quiche which is served with a big green salad and our famous smak tacos, made with a corn-based hard shell taco that has a chipotle chicken or vegan tofu filling. They’re both becoming more and more popular as we see smak customers choosing a gluten-free lifestyle as well.


We also serve a gluten-free pasta with any of our homemade sauces and for those with a sweet tooth, I try to keep a gluten-free cake available in the pastry fridge at all times. If not, you can try our gluten free peanut butter cookies or a date and coconut ball!


Here are some of my top tips to maintain a gluten-free diet:


1. Gluten-free doesn't mean carb-free! Potatoes, rice, and corn are all great filling substitutes. [Flours made from these starches are also a great alternative to normal wheat flours.]


2. Ground almonds [or any other nuts for that matter] are excellent to use in baking. I have shared my favourite four-ingredient recipe for a gluten-free/flourless almond sponge cake below.


3. Wine is gluten free ;) and believe it or not, studies show that distilled alcoholic beverages made from gluten grains, i.e.: whiskey, are also gluten-free because the distillation process removes the harmful gluten proteins! Keep an eye out for types of vodkas that are made from non-wheat products, such as corn or grapes.

 

Here's our recipe for our delicious, and gluten-free almond sponge cake:

 

Flourless almond sponge recipe

Ingredients:

4 eggs

200g sugar

50g soft butter or 50ml vegetable oil

200g finely ground almonds


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Line and grease a 20cm cake tin.


2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy - they should increase in volume by 8 times. Remember that there is no other raising agent in this cake so incorporating the air at this stage is very important.


3. Add the soft butter [or oil] in two parts while still whisking at a moderate speed. Be sure not to over-whisk the mixture as you will lose air once the fat is incorporated.


4. Fold in the grounded almonds, very gently, again trying your best to keep in as much air as possible.


5. Transfer the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. Allow cooling completely before removing from the tin. You will notice that hard crust forms over the top of the cake [almost like a macaron]. Don’t panic, this is completely normal. In fact, it the best part of the cake! If you have the willpower required to avoid eating the crust then please feel free to serve it with your cake. If you’re like me, you’ll probably end up eating the “pre-treat” crust.


HINT: if you want to make the cake taste more like almonds, add a few drops of almond essence. Alternatively, make an orange syrup by heating up a combination of fresh orange juice and sugar, and then pour it over the baked cake, while the liquid is still warm. It will soak into the cake and make it particularly delectable.


Dig in,

Katia Scherf

Co-founder and chef at smak delicatessen and restaurant

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