There’s plenty of gluten-free advice out there, says Claire O’Sullivan, but Victoria Owens has a blog with a difference. Her recipes are all about the pleasure of good food.
Victoria Owens had a clear objective when it came to writing about gluten free eating.
She wants coeliacs and those choosing to eat gluten free to be able to enjoy totally yum gluten free food with minimum fuss and without having to spend a weekend morning zipping from overpriced specialty store to overpriced speciality store searching for the latest ‘must have’ gluten free ingredient.
She also wants eating gluten free eating to be less about “restriction and denial of all the nice things in life” and more about becoming imaginative in how you eat and cook.
So far so aspirational and, so #positive.
As a coeliac of 20 years who can’t eat gluten without finding my mouth pin pricked with ulcers and my body so depleted of energy that I have been known to crawl up the stairs, my interest was stirred.
I love food. I like to cook. But I am more a Nigel Slater’s midweek suppers kind of cook than a Larousse Gastronomique kind of legend.
Too often when it comes to gluten free blogs, it can seem like the author has little else to do except shop endlessly for food, spend hours preparing said food and then the rest of the evening photographing it on mismatched crockery using a variety of Instagram filters.
Owens, Dublin based but originally from Carrigaline in Cork, didn’t want ‘A Home Made by Committee’ to be in that category.
Coeliacs are obsessed with bread and so it tends to be a subject we quickly broach when we encounter another. What type do you eat? Do you make your own? Found any magic brands recently?
She tells me one of her favourites is an online purchase, Freya ( I giggle: Freya also make lingerie for the enormous of chest).
“You should try it,” she says. “It’s really good. It has a softness.”
Softness is good, I know. I’m immediately relieved that she doesn’t try and sell me a rice, potato, tapioca flour recipe that will just make me feel like slacker coeliac.
Owens was recently a judge in the Free From awards. We discuss the winning bread an Aldi bread.
I’m a big fan of the Aldi GF range, but not this particular bread. Why did they pick it?
“We had particular criteria to meet and this met them, you could make sandwiches for kids with it, it wasn’t dry and yet it won’t fall apart.”
Victoria is coeliac for 11 years and her mother and sister were gluten intolerant so she was used to trying out various shop bought breads “some of them more like a kitchen squidgee than bread” she quips.
Back then, gluten intolerance meant Tritamyl bread mix, Ryvita and a lot of rice cakes.
“Free from wasn’t great, if you tried to bake a cake, you only had Tritamyl flour to use.
"You’d be trying to stick bits of pastry in the corner of tin as everything just fell apart, now you can make really good gluten free wedding cakes,” she says.
“A lot of western food is naturally gluten free but people have got used over the years to making a lot of short cuts with processed foods and sauces.
"Learn to go back to basics and you will still be able to eat much of your favourite foods. Also look up paleo websites as many paleo recipes are gluten free,” she says.
Owens loves to bake: she bakes when’s she happy, bakes when she’s sad. She’s always on the hunt for recipes that will suit coeliacs.
She uses Dove Farm flour for her gluten free brownies which I’ve got to say totally rock.
Sometimes with gluten free baking, what you can end up with is nothing like the original. At times, I’ve felt like I’m just kind of fooling myself.
That maybe coeliacs should just stick to things that work with gluten free flours and forget about trying to recreate a classic that is dependent on gluten?
“Yes, some recipes won’t work without a gluten flour. But these brownies work. They’re moist and chewy and that can be hard to get with gluten free flours.”
Vicky always loved eating while abroad but her coeliac diagnosis clipped her wings somewhat. Initially.
Maybe this was something to do with that she was diagnosed after a trip to the birthplace of processed food, the US.
“I was so sick afterwards. I had eaten so much of everything that you shouldn’t,” she says.
This led to a fear of travel.
“I just found the thought intimidating, this fear that I wouldn’t be able to eat. But I didn’t want to be that person saying ‘oh I can’t go here, I can’t go there because I’m a coeliac’.”
A turning point was a trip to Morocco where she went with a case packed full of gf crackers and biscuits.
She thought she would come back emaciated and she was wrong.
“They were so knowledgeable about gluten free eating. It really opened up my eyes.”
A wedding in Sweden proved another eye-opener.
“I found takeaway gluten free pizza made in a brick oven, it was amazing,” she said.
This is what makes ‘A Home Made by Committee Different’.
It’s not another health-driven gf blog; it’s more driven by pleasure.
In the words of Owens: “I understand the desire to be healthy but I am more of an all things in moderation kind of person.
"If I want a treat I will eat a treat that satisfies rather than trying to recreate that treat without eggs, dairy, grains or sugar.
"I want a sweet that feels indulgent.”
In a world where even Nigella seems to be pushing quinoa and squash, that’s near revolutionary.
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