June 1st marks the end of coeliac awareness week in New Zealand. Coeliac disease is a reaction to gluten which effects 1 in 100 people. Gluten is primarily found in wheat flour, but other ingredients can pose a risk.
We have a family member with coeliac disease so I have some experience in cooking for someone with this gluten allergy. Gluten intolerance adds an interesting dimension to menu planning, eating out and travelling.
Fortunately in New Zealand there are plenty of gluten free options in many settings.
Baking gluten free products is something that does pose a problem, it is not that hard if you have all the special flours ready in your pantry… but if you don’t it is a little bit more tricky to whip something up off the cuff for gluten-free friends/family.
There are some stock standards you can resort too, such as one of those orange and almond cakes. But there are tricks and traps and I have learnt that it pays to read the ingredient lists carefully. Even some baking powders and cornflours can contain wheat/gluten. For severe suffers of the disease, eating something that was processed in a plant that also processess wheat/gluten products could make them sick.
I was pleased to find lots of great gluten free recipes in the Seriously Good Gluten Free Baking book by Phil Vickery, recently sent to me by my mother-in-law. The images in this book are all lush and scrumptious, and there are lots of recipes I want to make from it.
Pear and polenta cake
This pear and polenta cake recipe is based on one from this book. As usual, I have adapted it somewhat to fit with what was in season and in the pantry. This cake has an interesting texture, but it is not too crumbly (as many gluten free cakes can be). This would make a great pudding served with cream or creme fraiche. The kids liked it too.
- 175 g butter
- 225 g brown sugar
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 250 g fine polenta
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 3 pears, peeled and chopped
- Heat oven to 180 c and grease and line a large cake tin.
- Zest and juice the lemon.
- Peel and chop the pears, add the lemon juice to the pears so they don’t turn brown.
- In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar.
- Add the beaten eggs, vanilla paste, lemon zest and baking powder into the creamed mixture and beat to combine.
- Fold the polenta into the creamed mixture, and then gently fold in the pears.
- Tip into the greased and lined tin and bake for 30 minutes.