Six Bells, Boreham, Chelmsford

When a pub restaurant is absolutely heaving on a Wednesday evening, and every table is booked, then you know you are somewhere good.  I was here as part of a club meal with AllergyDad.  The organiser had chosen the Six Bells because they like the food there, but it was a good venue for me as the website proudly proclaims “gluten free and coeliac friendly kitchen”.  There is a complete gluten free menu; there are even gluten free beers behind the bar.

For starter, I ate Homemade Chicken & Liver Pate served with Fruit Chutney and gluten free toast.

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For main course, I chose Seabass with a tomato sauce served on stir fry vegetables and sauté potatoes.

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I was pretty full, but it’s not often that I actually have a choice of dessert.  I chose a chocolate brownie with a warm chocolate sauce.  In the interest of a full review, I did my best and polished off the lot!

20180112_120558There was nothing flashy on the menu, but everything was cooked with skill.  The novelty of having a choice on a menu is almost enough to keep me happy!  The only negative was the lack of vegetarian or vegan dishes on the gluten free menu.

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This one gadget changed my gluten free, vegan lunches for the better!

Please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate links to help me pay for the costs of running this blog.  Thank you

If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better then this post is for you!  It’s really hard to eat healthy, gluten free lunches in the winter.  Salad doesn’t seem right on a cold, sleeting day, gluten free bread doesn’t make great sandwiches, and gluten free pasta doesn’t work in pasta salads.  This is why I am so glad that a friend introduced me to a soup maker.  I do not use lots of gadgets in the kitchen, but I love my soup maker.  All you do is put the chopped up ingredients in the soup maker, and press a button.  Then you can go away and carry on with something else while it cooks and blends your soup.  My soup maker (Tefal BL841140 Easy Soup and Smoothie Maker, Stainless Steel, White) even has a keep warm function so I can have my lunch when I am ready for it.

This is my favourite recipe to cook in my soup maker.  You need to make sure all the vegetables are chopped to approximately the same size.

Ingredients

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

400g leeks, trimmed and chopped

300g potatoes, peeled if necessary and cubed

1 Knorr vegetable stock pot

1 carton of Alpro soya single cream

You just put all the ingredients in the soup maker.  I find it works best if you put the stock pot half way up the soup maker so it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom or wrapped around the blender at the top.  My soup maker has a minimum liquid level so I add a bit of water to take it to that level.  Choose the creamed soup option and off you go!

Obviously, if you work from home, like Allergy Dad does, then this works really well, but equally you could set this going in the morning and take your fresh soup in a flask with you.  This soup maker (Morphy Richards 501018 Soup and Smoothie Maker, 1.6 Litre, 1160 Watt, Red) looks like an absolute bargain.

The Olive Branch, Wivenhoe, Essex, UK

A crucial part of the Christmas story is people making long journeys from the Middle East and finding themselves without accommodation.  It seems in keeping with the season to review a Syrian restaurant in the UK.

The Olive Branch (1a Station Road, Wivenhoe, CO7 9DH; 01206 615741; website) is in a fairly unprepossessing building.  Despite this, on a Friday lunch time on a cold, drizzly December day, there was nearly no room at the inn, or tables in the restaurant.  Luckily, the customers were feeling positive, and strangers ended up sharing tables so everyone could fit in.

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I (gluten and dairy intolerant) visited with my friend (severe nut allergy).  When we stated our food needs, there was absolutely no sign from the welcoming staff that this was in any way a problem, and it wasn’t.  The only physically uncomfortable feeling was eating slightly more than we should have because it was so delicious!

We ordered a platter for two, and were given the choice of vegan or vegetarian.  My friend had a hankering for halloumi so we went with the vegetarian option.  We were so eager to get stuck in that I forgot to take a photo so the platter is already looking a bit wrecked in the photo.  Our platter consisted of hummus, falafel, marinated halloumi, tabbouleh, warak inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), marinated olives, baba ghanouj, midammas (seasoned fava beans in a sauce), green salad, and pickles with flat breads or, in my case, toasted gluten free bread).

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To accompany the platter, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and minty lemonade.  The food was excellent.  This is the sort of vegan restaurant to take a confirmed carnivore to.  They will be so excited by all the different flavours, textures and spices that they will completely forget that there is no meat in the meal.  The only things I can think of to improve this meal are that, although it was great to have gluten free bread available, it would have been nice if it was more like the flatbread normally served; this would be perfect.  The only improvement to the restaurant would be moving to a slightly bigger building so more people can enjoy this fabulous food.

 

Costa Mince Tart

On the first day of December, Costa sold to me,

A mince pie that was vegan and gluten free!

INGREDIENTS- Mincemeat (53%) (Sugar, Apple Puree, Raisins (Raisins, Sunflower Oil), Sultanas (Sultanas, Sunflower Oil), Glucose Syrup, Currants (Currants, Sunflower Oil), Candied Mixed Peel (Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Orange Peel, Sugar, Lemon Peel, Acidity Regulator: E330; Preservative: Sulphur Dioxide), Vegetable Suet (Palm Oil, Rice Flour, Sunflower Oil), Mixed Spice, Acidity Regulator: E260; Cinnamon, Treacle, Orange Oil), Pastry (46%) (Tapioca Starch, Rice Flour, Vegetable Margarine (Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Water, Emulsifier:E471), Sugar, Brown Sugar, Ground Almonds, Water, Salt, Stabiliser: E415), Sugar Dusting (1%) (Dextrose, Cornflour, Palm Oil).

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Luckily, Costa make better mince tarts than I write song lyrics.  This was a very satisfying product.  The pastry was crisp.  There was a generous layer of fruit-packed mincemeat.  Usually, gluten free products are a bit puny and small, but this was an 80g beast of a mince tart.  A very good start to the holiday season.

Fork and Wine Restaurant, Brightlingsea

Fork and Wine is a non-chain restaurant situated on the High Street in Brightlingsea (a small coastal town in North Essex, UK).

UPDATE – On 28/11/17, Fork and Wine received a 0 rating from the Food Standards Agency.  The restaurant is currently closed.

I had previously eaten breakfast there and was impressed that they had a gluten-free breakfast menu.  Allergy Dad and I decided to try lunch there.  Our waitress was new to the job so wasn’t quite sure which meals I could order, but went off with a menu to find out.  The chef quickly annotated it with which meals were already gluten free and which he could adapt to be gluten free.  I had a choice of almost the whole menu so that was excellent.  I chose baked cod loin topped with lemon crust, and served with Dutch mussels, triple cooked hand-cut chips and seasonal vegetables.  It was finished with a creamy garlic lemon butter sauce.

forkIt was really delicious and flavourful.  The fish was cooked to perfection.  If I was going to be picky then I would have liked the meal overall to be a little hotter, as the sauce was lukewarm and cooler than the cod.  I was also confused because it was served with both new potatoes and chips, which seemed a bit like spud overkill.  However, it was excellent value for money and a very good meal for a family restaurant.

We really appreciated the “can do” attitude of the waiting and kitchen staff, with regards to allergies.  We had an early lunch so they weren’t too busy; we took advantage of this to ask about the children’s menu.  Again, the chef was consulted and he seemed to think that he could accommodate the Allergy Brothers’ needs.  Obviously, we will give them fair warning when we book, and we won’t attempt this during their busy Christmas season.  However, there is the tantalising possibility that the Allergy Brothers will have their first restaurant meal in 2018!