Abe’s Gluten-free Bagels – Part 2: Return of the Bagel

Abes bagels

A while ago, Abe’s were kind enough to send me some of their new gluten-free bagels to try out. I talked about them here.

Last year, they contacted me to ask if I’d like to try out their new Six Seed Bagel – gluten-free of course! It took me a while to decide if I wanted to try some new product…about .1 milliseconds…and in due course my bagels arrived.

I like to look at the ingredients and nutritional breakdown nowadays, so here’s that information for you!

Abes bagels ingredients

As with the plain bagels, these come in a three-pack. The gluten-free bagels are smaller than the regular bagels, but still make for a good breakfast. Here’s what they look like with nothing on them – these are just toasted:

Abes bagels plain

Nice and seedy, with the chewy bagel texture just right and the seeds add a little extra flavour. They went very nicely with hummus and plain butter, but would work brilliantly with your favourite bagel topping. I really liked the high fibre content and the fact that they are made in NZ and have no GM ingredients. But really, it’s the taste that’s the best thing!

Abes bagels hummus

What would I change about these? If I was being picky, I would ask Abe’s to cut these in half in the same way they do with their regular bagels. I always forget to do it before I put them in the freezer and then have to defrost them before I can cut them and put them in the toaster. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I really struggle to cut bagels in half easily!

Also, I would have them in more supermarkets, but I guess that’s not really up to Abe’s. I don’t see the regular bagels around often (so always buy a couple of packets when I come across them and chuck them in the freezer) and have yet to come across the Six Seed bagel anywhere.

Note to self: I have no bagels in the freezer, so must remember to pick some up. And this time, cut them in half before I freeze them!

Check out the Abe’s Bagels website for more information.

Note: I wasn’t paid in any way to write this, apart from being sent some bagels to try. In fact, I have taken a shamefully long time to write this review!

 

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SkyCity Convention Centre leads the way in conference food

Another week, another conference, another lot of crappy food – or maybe not!

I rocked up to the CIO Summit this morning to help out on our booth to find more tea being served. Sandwiches were on offer. Yep, nice looking club sandwiches with fresh white or wheatmeal bread. My colleague chowed down while I looked unhappily on. On the plus side, there were nice labels sitting by each tray of sarnies which said exactly what they were, then following in red lettering were the words Vegetarian, contains gluten.

So OK, no gluten-free options, but at least the sarnies were clearly labelled. I was going to head back to the office late morning, but my boss said “You should stay for lunch. There was lots of gluten-free food. I notice these things now.” So I stayed. And blow me down, when I went to see what was on the lunch menu, there was the red lettering again. This time clearly identifying dairy free, gluten-free, vegetarian and also identifying items which were not free of the ingredients, so that there could be no mistake.

Wow. I had Thai chicken and basmati rice, steak with mash and crispy thin strips of leek, salmon and shallots, Mediterranean roast vege salad and so on. There were only a couple of things I couldn’t have on the main table. Neither of the dessert options was gluten-free, but there were apples available.

My only niggles were the lack of a gluten-free option for morning tea, and the lack of sweet things at lunchtime. That said, the labelling and the variety of food provided MORE than made up for it. Well done SkyCity Convention Centre – you get a great big thumbs’ up from the gluten-free portion of your audience for today!

People who are booking conferences and are worried about catering for dietary restrictions, get yourselves over to SkyCity!

In which I experience the drawbacks of being a lazy pixie…

As I sat in the bar cursing my chardonnay (it was a wet, wild winter evening and I could have neither  beer nor a red wine) and watching my husband order dinner for us, I idly thought that I should have got off my arse and done it for us. Two days later, when my face was blotchy and red, I KNEW that I should have been less lazy.

I had seen a lovely looking plate of nachos and decided that I wanted those for dinner. There were lots of gluten free options (like salmon on mash) on the menu at the Cardrona (Speights Ale House), but we were propping up at bar tables on high stools and no-one else was eating, so the nachos seemed like a good option. However, I really should have gone up and asked those all important questions like “Are these made with plain corn chips?”. The problem is that I was feeling lazy. I was feeling low maintenance. I already had to drink white wine on a cold horrible night. I didn’t want to be demanding and high maintenance. I didn’t want to make a fuss in front of people I didn’t know well. And most of all, I couldn’t be bothered getting up to order dinner for myself.

When the nachos came, they looked great, but it was completely obvious they weren’t plain corn chips and in most cases, the coated ones have wheat flour in them. I ate mostly topping, but I did eat quite a few corn chips as well. And may I say that the nachos themselves were very nice indeed. I’d like to bitch and moan and say that the pub should have labelled their menu better, and they probably should have, but this was completely my own doing.

Lesson for today? It’s better to be high maintenance than have a bad reaction to something I KNEW I shouldn’t have eaten!

Another conference, another hotel, another lot of gluten-filled food.

Yep, you guessed it. I’m back on the trade show merry-go-round and was at another hotel on Thursday. Here’s how it went: breakfast finger food – pastries and muffins. Morning and afternoon tea – to be fair, I missed this. Lunch – roast lamb, roasted baby potatoes, carrot and swede gratin, green salad, lots of bread, various condiments, cheese and crackers.

So plenty that I could eat for lunch. But was ANY of it labelled as vegetarian or gluten-free? Not a one. Was this a low quality hotel? Well, you be the judge. It was the Hilton, out on Princes Wharf.  Apparently the quality of the hotel has no reflection on whether they will bother to label their food.

Come on people, get with the programme! At the very least, note details on your labels. At best, provide some better gluten-free options!!

Three more shows to go over the next two months, so we’ll see how we do. One is run by our company and I know what food we’ve had the last couple of years, so I’d better have a word with th e organisers as there will be nothing I can eat otherwise. I’ll keep you posted.

Chocolate Almond cake

This recipe was given to me by a colleague whose wife liked it and was originally name “100 year old Swedish Chocolate Almond Cake”. We were a bit dubious about eating 100-year old cake 🙂 My test subjects (the four children aged between 10 and 14, and eight visiting adults) differed wildly on what they thought! The children didn’t like it very much and felt the almond flavour was quite strong against the chocolate and it wasn’t very sweet. These were all positives as far as the adults were concerned and they envisaged it served with icec cream as a warm dessert. It’s almost souffle-like in its lightness, but has quite an intense flavour. Very quick and easy to make – you could whip it up for surprise guests and impress them terrifically! Not so good for those of us who are intolerant to whole eggs though.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 125g butter
  • 120g dark chocolate (or the whole king-size bar less 2 squares – the cook eats those)
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 120g castor sugar (about half a cup)
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

Melt butter and chocolate together, then cool slightly. I do this in a microwave on half power for 1 minute, then stir, then half power again for another minute. You could also melt them together in a bowl over hot water.

Beat eggs and sugar together until mixed and fluffy. You shouldn’t be able to see any of the sugar texture, and the eggs should have turned a slightly creamy colour. A whisk works best.

Mix the cocoa and ground almonds and add half of them to the egg mix. Mix lightly, then pour in all of the butter and chocolate. Mix gently but well, then add the remainder of the dry ingredients.

Bake in a lined sponge roll tin at 180 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the baking dish, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve.


Pop quiz: what standard (ie non GF) recipe book could a gluten free person buy in a bookshop which would offer them mostly GF recipes?

Well it wouldn’t be Italian! Despite the wonderful use of polenta, the slow simmered sauces and the fabulous flavours, the pasta might be a small problem. GF pasta is do-able and buy-able, but I haven’t found any that is very nice. Traditional English cuisine? OK for the roasts and potatoes but what about the yorkshire pud and pies? Chinese? Yes certainly, and it’s easy to replace other noodles with rice ones.  Soy sauce is always a problem though. No, the answer here is Indian.

This pop quiz came to my mind this morning as I was looking through an Indian recipe book in preparation for lunch guests. 95% of the recipes are gluten free, and there are even some bread recipes which use chickpea, lentil or pea flour instead of wheat flour. Of course there is the naan bread, paratha, roti, etc but the proportion is much lower than in any other recipe book I own. The visitors are our Italian friends for whom I made a polenta inspired lunch a few months back and they assure me they like Indian food as well.

Our menu today was:

  • Cauliflower and cumin fritters
  • Kashmir mushroom curry (this is a very fragrant and peppery curry)
  • Channa marsala – chickpeas, beautifully flavoured
  • Chicken tikka – hadn’t tried this before but will certainly be doing it again!
  • Poppadums – yay for lentil flour! These were bought, but even so!

We were at the lunch table for nearly 2 hours and it was lovely to sit and savour. So yay for Indian recipes!

Gluten free bread

My first experience of gluten free bread was a relative disaster. My sister-in-law is coeliac and was coming to stay, so I thought that I would make her some bread and some muffins. I bought gluten free baking mix and already had cornmeal, so I made muffins and they were fine 🙂 Emboldened by this, I used the breadmaker and made some bread.

Mistake #1 – I used the breadmaker!

Mistake #2 – I only used cornmeal to replace the flour. The resulting texture was kind of shiny and slippery on the teeth. Tasted fine, but was only edible when it was JUST cooked.

Hmmm. Back to the drawing board. Left the bread making alone for quite some time. Then a friend gave me some information from an Alison Holst cookbook about making gluten free bread. The first piece of advice? Don’t use a standard breadmaker unless it has a gluten free cycle! The second piece of advice? Use a variety of flours. The third piece of advice? Use a binding gum like guar gum or xanthan gum.

So I tried again. This time, I adapted a late bake focaccia recipe, so I mixed the dough in the breadmaker, and then left it to rise and cooked it in the oven. Difficulties? It lost its shape, got very flat and even then, didn’t look it had cooked and on the inside, didn’t appear cooked! So I haven’t tried bread again, but I have used the bread flour mix from the Alison Holst cookbook as my standard baking flour mix time and again. Here it is:

Gluten Free Flour Mix

  • 2 cups chickpea flour
  • 2 cups tapioca starch
  • 4 cups maize cornflour
  • 4 cups rice flour
  • 9 tsp xanthan or guar gum

Measure chickpea flour and tapioca starch into a large bowl or canister. Thoroughly stir the mixture using a large whisk.  If using a canister, put the lid on and give it a good shake to blend.

Add cornflour, and repeat the mixing process, then add the rice flour and repeat again.

Store in an airtight container until required.

Just a note, when I’m using this for baking, I tend to add 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda as rising agents.