A secret weapon for gluten free/vegan eating on the road!

The Allergy Family recently made the journey from our home in the South East of England to visit family in Yorkshire.  We travelled along the M1/A1, which is the main route up the middle of England.  Usually, it is hard for us to eat in motorway service stations.  We were very pleased to discover a new chain of restaurants, El Mexicana, which has  several branches around the UK, including several service stations.  It is possible to eat gluten free, vegan, and even gluten free and vegan there easily.

You start by choosing your base; both the salad and corn tortillas are gluten free.  You then add your filling, with a choice of chicken, pulled pork, beef, and two vegetarian options.  You add the extras that you want rice, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, etc.  Finally, it is topped with a salsa of your choice.


20180307_135309The front tortilla in the photograph above is vegan and gluten free.  The base is a corn tortilla.  The filling is vegetable chilli with rice, pinto beans, onions, peppers and lettuce.  It is topped with tomatillo salsa.  It tasted amazing.  Fresh and flavourful.  I really can’t understand why there was a queue for McDonald’s when I could walk straight up to the counter here and get something much healthier that tasted so much better.

Unfortunately, their gluten control was a little variable.  We visited two branches: Peterborough and Cambridge.  The staff member at the Cambridge branch took great care.  She put on fresh gloves to make our order and wrapped the tortillas in foil so that when they went in the griddle they didn’t touch the same metal surfaces as the wheat products.  The staff member at Peterborough was clearly new to the job and wasn’t quite sure what she was doing generally.  She didn’t know to put the tortillas in foil before heating them, for example.  At both branches, the corn tortillas were stored in a separate sealed box away from the wheat products.

Thanks, El Mexicana, for making it a little easier for us to visit our family!

Old El Paso Mexicana Street Market White Corn Tortillas

Ingredients – Water, white corn masa (43%), stabilisers:glycerol, xanthan gum; salt, emulsifier:mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids.

I found these, unexpectedly, in the world food aisle at the supermarket.  I nearly didn’t check the ingredients list because there was bound to be something Allergy Brothers-unfriendly in there.  So glad that I did.  No wheat, no egg, no rice.  Amazing.  I just about restrained myself from doing a happy dance right there.

We had previously tried some corn tortillas from The Cool Chile Company.  They were delicious, but needed cooking and had to be eaten straight away.  This new product from Old El Paso seemed more convenient.

Firstly, we tried them hot, which needed only 30 seconds in the microwave (you can also pan toast them or heat them in the oven).  We ate them filled with pan-fried turkey strips, sliced cucumber and avocado, and Zest vegan pesto.  Obviously not traditional Mexican food, but safe for the Allergy Brothers to eat.  I appreciated how quick this meal was to make, and that the Allergy Brothers’ plates were empty because they enjoyed the tortillas so much.

We were curious to see whether you could use them cold as wraps.  The tortillas are pre-cooked with instructions on how to heat them.  Allergy Little volunteered to be our test subject and ate a cucumber and vegan cheese wrap.  It was so good that he had a second.  This meant, that for the first time ever,  the Allergy Brothers could have something that looked like a regular sandwich in their packed lunch for school.  They were very pleased.

The Cool Chile Company

1436967680_290_335We find that Mexican food can be really good for gluten free eating. We buy fresh corn tortillas from the Cool Chile Company. The tortillas arrive in big vacuum packed bags that go straight in the freezer. We then peel off the individual tortillas as we want them. After a few minutes in a hot pan, we have fresh and warm tortillas. As far as I know the Cool Chile Company is the only place in the UK to buy fresh tortillas. www.coolchile.co.uk