The Factory Smoke House and Grill – gluten-free takeaways!

I just came across this article in today’s NZ Herald – a takeaway shop that is full gluten-free!! Unfortunately, it’s in Rotorua, which may be a little far for me to drive for my Friday night dinner, but HOORAY!! When I am next in Rotorua I will definitely be stopping by!

Salted caramel white chocolate cheesecake

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was lucky enough to eat a salted caramel white chocolate cheesecake with hokey pokey on the top of it. Oh. My. Gosh. I was pretty sure I could recreate the experience by combining a couple of recipes I use often, and I have had some success! The cheesecake is based on Chelsea Winter’s excellent White Chocolate and Berry Cheesecake. I’ve tried to take lots of pictures as I go for a change!!

Ingredients

For the base

  • 350g biscuits*
  • 75g melted butter

For the cheesecake

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 cup cream, whipped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces

For the salted caramel

  • 40ml water
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Method

Base

  • Either process the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble crumbs or put the biscuits in a double plastic bag and bash them with something heavy – I use a rolling pin.
  • Mix in the butter until all is well combined.
  • Press down firmly into a greased and lined springform tin. If I am using a bigger tin, I normally do the base just over the base of the tin, but if I am making a higher cheesecake in a smaller tin, I go up the sides with the base.
  • Put into the fridge to chill while you make the topping.

Cheesecake

  • Using an electric beater, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until it is light and fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the cream.
  • In a third smaller bowl, combine the larger measure of chocolate and the smaller measure of cream. Met either over hot water in a pot or in the microwave. I find that in the microwave, it is best to use half power for about a minute. Take the chocolate out and stir until it is all combined and the chocolate is melted.20160325_113831
  • In small portions, add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese beating thoroughly between each batch. Doing it this way means that the chocolate doesn’t set when it hits the cold cream cheese so combines better.
  • Once all the melted chocolate has been combined, fold the whipped cream and chopped white chocolate through the cream cheese mixture.
  • Pour into the prepared base and smooth the top. Return to the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours.

Salted caramel

  • Combine sugar and water into a medium sized saucepan. Place over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mix begins to bubble.
  • From this point, do not stir the sugar and water mix. If it looks like it needs to be mixed, then swirl the mix in the pot.
  • Allow the mix to simmer away fr about 8-10 minutes (keep an eye on it!). Eventually, it will begin turning a honey colour, then caramel.
  • At the point it is caramel in colour, add the cream to the pan. It will bubble up, and the sugar and water will set somewhat. Keep stirring over heat until the sugar and water have combined with the cream and there are no lumps. Turn off the heat and add the salt. Allow to cool.
  • Just before serving, carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin and place onto a platter. Pour the salted caramel over the top of the cheesecake, serve and eat.

Notes:

  • the biscuits I use for this cheesecake are the Leda gluten-free chocolate chip biscuits. If I am making the berry version, I also add 1/4 cup of cocoa to the base, but for the salted caramel version,  I think it is nicer without the extra chocolate.

Eating out in Sydney – Chat Thai

On my very first trip to Sydney, aged 20 and the first time I’d been out of New Zealand, I got horribly lost in the Centrepoint mall. I was stuck in there for what seemed to be hours, unable to find my way out and totally disoriented. I had to keep shopping and eventually found an exit and escaped, likening it in my mind to the 7th plane of shopping hell. I haven’t been back since and still don’t like shopping. On my most recent trip to Sydney, I returned. Centrepoint is now a Westfield Mall and is as confusing as ever. Luckily, I had a guide.

On Levels 5 and 6 of the mall is what can loosely be described as a food court. That is to say it is a group of individual restaurants – a huge variety of them – and a few faster food places. We had been recommended Chat Thai by a colleague and we weren’t disappointed (although there were so many interesting looking places, it would have been nice to have sampled a different restaurant on another night. Oh well, that’s for another trip!).

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This beer was NOT gluten-free but it was extremely nice and locally made in Sydney

Chat Thai was busy and bustling, but the service was great and the food was fabulous and very reasonably priced and they have a HUGE menu. The flavours were amazing and very different in the three dishes we had selected (roasted duck red curry, water spinach with garlic and grilled chicken with lemongrass, turmeric and chilli). We ate until we were stuffed and then had to go for a walk to recover! Best of all, most of the food was gluten-free.

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Chat Thai can be found on Level 6 of the Westfield Mall in the Sydney CBD, but has other locations throughout Sydney as well.

Cross Eatery – best gluten-free breakfast in Sydney!

Cross EateryOK, so as I can’t claim to have tried every cafe which offers a gluten-free breakfast in Sydney, the title of this post may be somewhat unsubstantiated! However…some of you may have read about my disastrous breakfast experience on morning one of my recent stay in Sydney. On morning two, my colleague suggested we find something on our way to the bus. I strolled along Clarence St and poked my nose into a very large and flash looking café. Cross Eatery is so named after the heritage Red Cross building, the lobby of which they are located in. It’s different from many of the central Sydney cafes in that it has a large floor space and is light and open – giving the impression that it is larger than it is.

The staff were welcoming and when I sat down and asked what they had that was gluten-free, they pointed me towards Nonie’s Roasted Hazelnut muesli with fruit and yoghurt or a coconut rice pudding. I’m not a fan of coconut, so thought I’d try the muesli. As I was talking to them, I discovered that they source as much of their ingredients locally as they can, and aim for fresh and unusual combinations and flavours.

This is what came out.

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Healthy, filling, fresh and incredibly tasty. It was so good that even though Cross Eatery had many other gluten-free options for breakfast and lunch, this was my breakfast for the rest of the week.

Highly recommended – great food, lovely staff and excellent service.

Cross Eatery

155 Clarence St

Sydney, NSW 2000

They don’t seem to have a website, but you can find them on Facebook

Vapiano – great gluten-free Italian Food in the heart of Sydney

VapianoAfter a few years’ hiatus, I was back in Sydney for a work trip last week. I had an inauspicious start on Monday morning when the café we went to for breakfast had NO gluten-free options. They couldn’t even give me just yoghurt and fruit, as all their breakfasts were pre-made with muesli in them. They had no gluten-free bread available, and only very grudgingly agreed to make me avocado and bacon for breakfast.

However, this was redeemed in the evening when my colleague and I went to Vapiano – the Italian restaurant in the ground floor of our hotel building.  This was a very slick operation. At the front desk you are given your own card. There is a pasta station, a salad station, a pizza station and a bar and dessert station. You place your order, swipe your card and then at the end of the evening, you pay your bill. It’s a very simple and efficient way of taking orders and organizing a bill split between multiple people if that’s the way you choose to do it, as you each have your own card.

Vapiano describes itself as ‘fresh casual’ and that is very true of the look and feel of their restaurant. There are tubs of fresh herbs growing all through the restaurant and even at each table and it gives the whole place a welcoming and informal feel. There are a selection of high and low wooden tables, with soft lighting. The air is redolent with garlic.

The menu is fairly simple, and broken down into the four categories or stations mentioned above. I was a little disappointed that there was no gluten-free pizza available – they make the pizza dough themselves on premise. Happily, I was reassured by the many ‘GF’ notations against the pasta sauce options.  Underneath these was a tiny footnote to say that the gluten-free pasta was gnocchi. GNOCCHI!!!! I had to double check to make sure. Happy, happy days – I love gnocchi and rarely have it as I can’t be bothered making it. Just a note that they also make all their pasta on the premises too!

At the pasta station, you tell one of the chefs at the counter what you would like to have. That night, I chose the gnocchi with a fresh basil pesto (made on the premises), roasted pinenuts and extra mushrooms. And here’s the kicker – when I asked for it gluten-free, the chef said “are you coeliac and would you like this cooked in fresh water?” How great is that?

I inhaled my pasta so fast that I forgot to take a photo that night or a couple of nights later when I grabbed another order of gnocchi, this time with sundried tomatoes and chilli. Again, the chef asked if I was coeliac.

Highly recommend Vapiano for a great dining experience (and I’ll talk more about the salted caramel white chocolate cheesecake in another post!).

Vapiano MWL

Vapiano is located on the ground floor of the Grace Hotel, corner of King and York Sts in the Sydney CBD.

The Unbakery – raw, organic, delicious

20160302_130650I’ve seen this place for weeks now as I walked along Customs Street, and finally went in the other day to see what they had on offer. Turns out most of their sweet things are gluten-free – woohoo!!! And look at these little beauties – brownies, slices, cheesecakes and more! They are all uncooked, organic and really very nice, using unusual ingredients for interesting tastes.

They have all sorts of other food as well – muesli from Little Bird, savoury food and lots of pre-packaged product. Well worth a visit if you’re in Downtown Auckland and looking for a snack.

Just a note, I had a piece of the salted caramel tart. It was lovely, but at $10 a piece, very pricey. The Unbakery will definitely be a “treat” visit shop for me!

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Yes, everything in this cabinet is gluten-free!!

The Little Bird Unbakery

14 Customs St E

Auckland CDB

Go Nuts with Mother Earth Gluten-Free muesli bars

20160215_131930I was doing the weekly shop at Pak n Save this week, and hit the muesli bar aisle. I know they’re full of sugar. but they’re also incredibly convenient. If only all six children liked the SAME bars, my life would be easy. But no. As a result, I have to browse the muesli bar section quite intensely. And what should I see, but these little beauties! Three different flavours of Mother Earth baked muesli bars (one of them is pictured).

The bars look and taste great and have become a staple in my “snack food at work” cupboard, my car glove box and my pantry at home. It’s nice to have a convenient, healthy-ish on the go type of food available.

I’ve put a shot of the ingredients list for those like me who have multiple avoidances, but hope these will be useful for someone else! The best part? They are EXACTLY THE SAME PRICE as the normal muesli bars. Stop.The.Press. Well played Mother Earth, well played!

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Obviously I can’t speak for the possible gluten contaminants in the factory, but this is a fantastic start. And I wasn’t paid or bribed in any way to do this review – I had to buy my own bars even!