Sarah King: Gluten free cooking needn't be boring

By Colleen Thorpe

Sarah King's husband and four children all have varying degrees of gluten and dairy intolerance. To combat boring and bland family meals, Sarah took on creating delicious gluten-free food they would all enjoy. She took her recipes to the local farmer's market where they became a hit. Sarah talks to Colleen Thorpe about the challenges of food intolerances and her new gluten-free cookbook

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is a broad term used for people who have a sensitivity to gluten. This means their bodies have difficulty processing the gluten protein. Both symptoms and tolerance to gluten can vary. Some people can eat a small amount of gluten with no reaction and others cannot even tolerate traces of gluten without getting ill.

How simple is it to convert to gluten-free?

There is no simple conversion as it depends on the various ingredients being used in each recipe, however, a basic rule of thumb is that if a recipe contains one cup or less of flour it should convert similarly replacing that with a gluten-free flour. After that it becomes slightly more tricky - you just have to be prepared to experiment and accept that failures are a part of finding those delicious successes.

What encouraged you to take up gluten-free cooking?

My eldest daughter's blood tests revealed a gluten intolerance and over a matter of months, as we began to remove gluten from our home, we discovered that we all have varying issues with gluten. Having a gluten-free house was not only easier to manage but ensured we ate far less processed food as we chose to focus on whole naturally gluten-free foods rather than replacing everything with a gluten-free version.

You trialled the recipes for this book at the farmer's market... how long did it take to get it right... and what sort of comments did you receive?

These recipes took years to create and correct, and even still can be a bit floppy on a humid day. The fantastic thing about being at markets is the ability to have instant feedback from people in an informal environment. The more we talked to people, the easier it was to get the product range correct and make perfect tasting products. I would spend a vast amount of the morning simply chatting with people.

Gluten-free products are generally more expensive than regular products. Is there a secret to shopping gluten-free?

Yes, don't try to buy products with "gluten free" stickers all over them. Fill your shopping trolley with as many products as possible that don't have an ingredients label - seasonal fruit, vege and unprocessed meats are by nature all gluten-free and cost no more than anyone else pays for them. Use "gluten-free" labelled foods as treats, or to complete a meal, for example, gluten-free soy sauce on an Asian stir-fry. Then if you bulk-buy gluten-free flours and bake your own breads and treats, you are away laughing.

What pantry basics will see us through a gluten-free meal?

Aside from fresh foods, it's helpful to have a range of different rices, cornflour, soy sauce, stock powder, dried herbs and spices, curry powders, ground linseed, coconut milk or cream and a good range of condiments like mustard, aioli, salad dressings, pesto and hummus - but check they are all gluten free.

What are your top three tips for gluten-free cooking?

Think of gluten-filled foods as poison and forget them. Focus now on what you can have, what make you feel well, alive and full of energy.

Try not to be afraid to try new things. Yes, there are lots of foods you can no longer eat but there are far more out there that you can use that are probably not currently in your kitchen.

Don't give up - ever. The same recipe will be perfect-perfect-perfect-fail-perfect. Gluten-free baking can be fickle. You don't know why it didn't work that day, you probably never will.

What is your first memory of food?

Sacks of potatoes on a flying fox. My parents had a potato patch on the other side of a gully behind our house in suburban Hamilton. I must have been about four years old and still recall the smell of freshly dug earth.

What is your favourite dish?

Anything someone else cooks. I love trying new things and for some reason when someone else cooks it, it tastes just that much better.

What is in your fridge at the moment?

A lot of yellow guava jelly - Mum went through a jelly-making phase!

What three New Zealand foods are at the top of your list?

Custard squares, chocolate lamingtons and bacon and egg pie.

Tell us three things about yourself that people might not know or might be surprised to learn.

I was so jealous at 3 of my new baby sister I shut our cat in her nursery hoping it would eat her.

I'm addicted to National Geographic Magazine, when it arrives each month I read it cover to cover in three days flat.

I suffer from Misophonia which bizarrely means I can't stand the sound of people drinking and eating. Yes, it's weird.

The Family Friendly Gluten-free Cookbook, by Sarah King,

with photography by Devin Hart, New Holland Publishers, $39.99.

- Hamilton News

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