Picture this – 11 gluten-intolerant people standing in the dining room of a house in Pukekohe smelling bread baking and knowing that they ARE going to be able to eat it. How did we get here? All thanks to Neville and Judy Green at Gluten Free Made Easy.
Neville has been a chef for a good number of years, but got into gluten-free baking in the late 1990s when he and Judy owned a café in East Tamaki. The story goes that they had a regular customer who came in every day for a coffee, but would never buy any food. When Neville asked her why, she told him there was nothing she could eat. This was a red rag to a bull, and by the time the café was sold, they were selling more gluten-free products than normal ones. A few years ago, Neville and Judy helped a young mother with two coeliac children, and one of the dietitians at Auckland Hospital told them they should be teaching their secrets. And so GFME was born.
I rocked up to their home in Pukekohe, which is where they run some of their courses from. They also do them all over the North Island in people’s homes, halls and wherever a kitchen can be provided. On the board on the wall was the list of things we would be shown how to make – white bread rolls, French bread, crackers, pasta, seed bread, muffins, scones and focaccia. I couldn’t believe that we could get through all those items before 2.30pm, but we did!
We were greeted with a table spread out with snacks, all of which were gluten-free, and in deference to my egg yolk intolerance, were also egg yolk-free. Two of the attendees were also dairy intolerant, and so the items which contained dairy had been identified as well.
Neville and Judy spent some time explaining their backgrounds and philosophy, and talking about the positive benefits of being gluten-free. Because they do so much gluten-free cooking, their house is now gluten-free, and Judy in particular has noticed a number of health benefits. Neville is the best kind of evangelist – one who is passionate about his cause, but is doing it for all the right reasons. His key messages are nutrition, affordability and accessibility.
I have very successfully converted lots of recipes to gluten-free versions, and have a number of cookbooks which have done the same. Many of the online resources offer very good conversions for recipes. Where Neville and Judy differ is that they have developed all their recipes with a real emphasis on the nutritional content of the flours they use. It all begins with the flour blends, and the very handy takeaway recipe book that you are provided with gives a variety of these, and their uses. Neville waxes lyrical about the evils of modified starch which appears in great quantities in most commercial gluten-free products, and spent six years developing a bread recipe which shares the qualities of those made with modified starch but without the bad effects.
Affordability is the next cornerstone of their philosophy. If you’re feeding a family of four all gluten-free foods, you have to be able to afford it. For this reason, their recipes tend to use flour blends which can be made up much more cost-effectively than the store-bought ones, and they tend not to use more expensive components like almond meal.
Accessibility is the third key component, and to this end, they provide a list of outlets around the country who supply quality products. Buying gluten-free is a lot easier than it was even five years ago, but it always helps to know where to look.
Both Neville and Judy are excellent raconteurs and have any number of stories to tell. They do a lot of work with autistic children, as diets which are gluten- and dairy-free and without additives often seem to have a beneficial effect on these children. Teaching the children themselves how to cook is an experience which Neville and Judy seem to delight in.
Some key tips are to measure flours by the WEIGHT and not the cup, so a set of digital scales is recommended. They also use a kitchen mixer extensively for their recipes. This would be almost my only criticism – many of their recipes are written to utilise a bench-top mixer, which not everyone has access to. Neville can tell you how to do the recipe by hand, but it has made me want a mixer even more than I already did!
My other suggestion would be to bind the recipes in a stronger covering. It’s spiral bound at the moment, and that’s great because it’s low-cost and can be added to easily. But mine is already nearly falling apart!
Another interesting tip for me is that you can eliminate the egg yolk in a recipe and just use the egg white, so I see lots of lemon curd and lemon tarts for my family in the future. Also, you can use 50g of chickpea flour to replace one egg, and that the No Egg egg replacer can be used (with no water) as a stabiliser in many recipes.
Eleven people rolled out of Judy and Neville’s house that afternoon, stuffed full of French bread which tasted like French bread, focaccia which tasted like focaccia, and sandwich bread which tasted just as good as normal bread. We were all buzzing, on a total carb high, clutching our takeaway containers full of leftovers and all very reluctant to leave because we had been made to feel so very welcome and had learnt so much.
I would recommend this as an essential course for anyone who has to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Run, don’t walk, to the GFME website and book yourselves on to a one-day course. At $95 for the day, it is an excellent investment, and gives you all you need to successfully bake gluten-free.
In addition, Neville and Judy are developing their website to have online cooking tutorials, complete with step-by-step photos, available on a subscription basis. They’ll add new recipes and information each month. This will be a great enhancement to the information which is already there, and a very useful one for people who can’t make it to their courses, or who want to add new recipes to their repertoire.
Now I just need to save up for a proper kitchen mixer. I have my eyes on the new Kenwood KMM770 which comes with a blender and mincer and looks like a great deal.
For those wanting more information on coeliac disease, check out the NZ Coeliac Society website www.coeliac.org.nz.
This blog is the opinion and experiences of its author and should not be taken as medical or dietetic advice. Healthy Food Guide has not verified the content and cannot endorse any advice given. Healthy Food Guide recommends seeking professional health advice for specific complaints or symptoms.