So one of the family can’t eat gluten. What the hell is gluten? What am I going to cook them for Christmas? Can they have a Christmas dinner? What do I buy? Can they eat meat?
First of all there’s no need to panic. If one of your guests is coeliac or can’t eat gluten for health reasons, you’ve come to the right place.
Christmas can be a total minefield if you’re a gluten free guest. Arriving to beautiful buffets of perfectly puffed pastry miniatures, stacked cocktail sausages, and our worst nightmare – the bread basket – you can pretty much expect to go hungry. But just a small few changes and options to what you serve can allow your banquet to be enjoyed by all.
First of all gluten is what helps bind food together. Think wheat flour, barley and malt. These are all ingredients that help give your food that extra stretch and squishiness. Unfortunately that means bread, puff pastry, biscuits, cake, some sauces (that contain flour) to name a few are all off the menu. You may think – what’s actually left!? But you’ll be surprised. A few alterations to they way you cook and prepare Christmas feasts will easily make your offerings gluten free.
Supermarkets are brilliant nowadays. Speak to someone who’s been coeliac for years and they’ll tell you how little was available just a few short years ago. One supermarket that’s always stocked an impressive free from range is Tesco, and they’ve delivered again this year with an excellent Christmas range, so you don’t need to worry about cooking everything from scratch.
This year saw Tesco voted ‘retailer of the year’ at the Free-From Food Awards and you can see why. Gluten free biscuits, mince pies, Christmas cakes, savoury biscuits and frozen profiteroles are just a few of their great products perfect for Christmas.
In a survey ran by Tesco, nearly half (49%) of Brits we asked said they had never cooked for someone with a special dietary requirement, two-thirds of Brits (65.65%) said that if they had a gluten intolerant Christmas dinner guest, they wouldn’t know what they couldn’t eat and half of those with a gluten intolerance (47.56%) said that they felt embarrassed about it when being hosted at Christmas.
So without further ado, here are my top tips for how to cater for a gluten free guest this Christmas. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.
- Stock up on snacks
Whether you’re putting together a buffet or the guests have arrived before the turkey’s fully cooked, it’s always best to have snack at the ready to tide over any hunger pains. Tesco do a great range of gluten free biscuits, brownies and shortbreads. Remember to keep these on a separate plate to normal biscuits to avoid cross contamination, or just serve all gluten free biscuits to avoid any mix up. They taste just as good!
(L-R Free From Triple Chocolate Cookies, Free From Dark Chocolate Ginger Cookies, Free From All Butter Chocolate Millionaire, Free From Belgian Chocolate Brownies. All available from Tesco.)
2. Invest in some savoury options
Perhaps serve some smoked salmon and cream cheese on gluten free bread or crackers for your buffet? Gluten free bread sticks are great for munching and dipping into hummus, or throw some gluten free dough balls into the oven and serve with some homemade garlic butter? Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Your guests won’t taste the difference. Find these in the Tesco freezer aisle.
3. You can never have too many mince pies
My mother will disagree, but it’s true. I’ll have my first mince pie in November and are more than happy to keep eating them come January. Although traditional mince pies are a no go, as they’re made from pastry which contains gluten in the flour, you can pick up deep filled gluten free mince pies in packs of four – simple! Or those who aren’t a fan of the humble mince pie, gluten free cherry bakewells. Equally as addictive.
4. Make your spuds from scratch
There is no reason why roast potatoes should contain gluten. They’re just potatoes. Unfortunately, in order to make them extra crispy, frozen roasties often contain wheat flour. A Christmas dinner is nothing without roast potatoes, so the best way around this is making them from scratch. Maris Piper are the perfect potatoes for getting that fluffy center and crisp edge. Just peel, parboil and roast in an oven dish with olive oil, salt and rosemary for roasties to die for.
5. Meat is perfectly fine
Gluten free does not by any means mean vegetarian, which opens up lots of option for the meat on offer at Christmas dinner. However, some meats may be wrapped in pastry or stuffed with stuffing which will contain gluten. Be sure to just stick to standard meats rather than four bird roasts for example.
6. Keep stuffing and gravy separate
Sadly stuffing and gravies will contain gluten. Gluten free options are available, so grab someone in the supermarket to show you if you’re unsure. If all else fails, Knor stock cubes are gluten free and make a great gravy. Just add a spoonful of turkey fat and you’re good to go.
7. Double check those pigs in blankets
Unfortunately, sausages are often stuffed with wheat to help pack them out, so double check the back of the packet. Good quality pigs in blankets should be naturally gluten free.
8. Christmas pudding is go!
Usually Christmas pudding isn’t an option due to it’s high wheat flour content, however now you can buy mini gluten free Christmas puddings, perfect for if only one person in your party fancies it.
9. Bring on the booze
Most alcohol is perfectly fine. Thankfully wine is always a go to, but now with gluten free beer available at Tesco too, if your gf guest fancies a pint, the option is there! In terms of spirits, most are fine, but some vodkas do contain wheat. Celiac.co.uk have provided a list of spirits they have the OK here.
10. Profiteroles, you beauty.
Last but not least, the humble profiterole. Up until I discovered Tesco had these stocked in their freezer section, it had been years since I’d devoured a portion. There’s something so moreish about these. At a great price, just defrost however many you need for just one hour before serving. I guarantee you’ll make your gluten free guest very happy with this one!
To help answer any other questions you may have about what you can and can’t serve this Christmas to your gluten free guests, Tesco are hosting a #GlutenFreeHelps Q&A over on Twitter on Monday 14th February. Just tweet them @Tesco along with the hashtag #GlutenFreeHelps and they’ll be sure to get back to you.
Alternatively, feel free to ask me if there’s anything in particular you’re unsure of. I’m so pleased with the effort Tesco are going to with their gluten free products, even dedicating their Christmas advert to raise awareness. It’s amazing how a few changes to the way you cook can make such a big difference.
After all that, if you’re still not feeling festive, here’s a photo of my bunnies pulling their best festive faces under my Christmas tree.
*A huge thanks to Tesco for my gorgeous gluten free hamper. As always all thoughts are my own.