WHEN chef Gearóid Lynch stopped eating gluten after being diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2013, the improvement to his health was rapid — and radical.
It was as if he had been walking through life on his hands and suddenly he was walking on his feet, he says.
All through his childhood, he was in and out of hospital with stomach cramps and other symptoms of coeliac disease — bloating, extreme fatigue, diarrhoea.
“It wasn’t unheard of for me to fall asleep in class.
"Nobody had any idea what the cramps were — they used to say, ‘appendix, appendix, appendix’,” he tells Feelgood at the launch of his new book, My Gluten-free Kitchen: Meals You Miss Made Easy, published by Gill Books.
What is extraordinary is that he battled on for so long — “it was hard to push yourself on during the day” — before finally acting on his wife Tara’s prompting to seek medical help to get his “system sorted”.
The initial diagnosis was a shock.
Suddenly, he was no longer able to eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and certain types of oats.
Like other coeliac disease sufferers — there are more than 40,000 in Ireland — it took a little time to adjust.
“The quick snack was gone,” he recalls.
“As a chef I would grab a quick sandwich, but I couldn’t have that any more. I had to get organised and start with breakfast.”
Like many others, he felt a bit deprived.
He missed toast and bread and pizza, he says, adding that he met a woman at last year’s Taste of Cavan who told him that she had never had stuffing since her coeliac diagnosis, and missed it.
Others, he says, worry that mass-market gluten-free products are additive-laden and overpriced.
That gave him the idea of compiling a cookbook with recipes for all those foods that coeliacs miss.
The result is My Gluten-free Kitchen, a sumptuous and beautifully produced cookbook that covers every meal, along with afternoon tea, a dizzying range of stocks and sauces, suggestions for children and a mouthwatering range of desserts.
“The sticky-toffee pudding tastes even better than the gluten version,” he says.
“And it’s foolproof.”
All the recipes have been tried and tested at the Olde Post Inn, the historic post house in Cloverhill, Co Cavan, which he and his wife Tara bought and restored in 2002.
They live there with their four children, Orán (seven), Lorcan (six), Emma (four) and Eoin (two).
Now, the three-acre site is also home to a TV studio built by the chef so that he can produce recipe videos for his YouTube channel.
One of the most common preconceptions about gluten-free food is that it is a poor imitation of the real thing, Ear to the Ground presenter Ella McSweeney said as she launched the book at Residence on St Stephen’s Green earlier this month.
But, she said, Gearóid Lynch wasn’t willing to compromise on flavour in any way.
And we can attest to the truth of that statement judging by the delicious gluten-free canapés that are being scoffed as politely as possible as they are passed around.
Ella said she had given the book to a coeliac friend who really missed the social aspect of eating after his diagnosis.
He had tried it and said the recipes would help him not to feel different any more.
That is exactly what Gearóid Lynch hopes his cookbook will do.
He says some people are afraid to invite coeliac friends to dinner because they don’t know what to cook for them.
He hopes his easy-to-follow recipes will change that. (Incidentally, they also work perfectly with gluten.)
To anybody out there who thinks they may be suffering from coeliac disease, he advises them to get help as soon as possible, or to simply try cutting gluten from their diet for a month to see if that eases symptoms.
If they do have a diagnosis, the first thing to do is to get organised.
“When you’re hungry, food doesn’t just happen so make sure to have quick snacks to hand. Put rice crackers in the press, for example. It’s not rocket science.”
But, he adds, the most important thing to remember is this: “Don’t give up”.
* My Gluten-free Kitchen by Gearóid Lynch is published in hardback by Gill Books, €24.99
FEELING adventurous? The A to Z of Eating by food writer Felicity Cloake is a book for people who are beyond cookbooks.
It works through a range of ingredients, you guessed it from A to Z (‘A’ is for almond and ‘Z’ is for zest), offering a blending history and food science on each.
The recipes match up those As to Zs in ways you might never imagine: Cheese and marmite doughnuts; roquefort and honey cheesecake; Maryland-style octopus sandwich.
Cloake says it was an eye-opener to shake herself out of those well-worn gastronomic grooves.
The A-Z of Eating is published by Fig Tree, Penguin. €32.
Easy dose it
A stellar line-up of speakers has just been announced for the second Food on the Edge symposium, which returns to Galway on October 24 and 25.
Last year, 40 international chefs spoke about food and how we eat to an audience of foodies, restaurateurs and some of the biggest names in the industry.
This year, speakers include Daniel Burns of Luksus, New York; Shaun Hill, who owns Michelin-star restaurant The Walnut Tree, Wales; and Tim Hollingsworth, pictured, the force behind the three-star Michelin restaurant Otium in LA.
Early-bird tickets of €350 (normal price €400) from www.foodontheedge.ie
THE days when you had to use bribery and coercion to get the little ones to take their medicine may well be over.
At least, if they need to take the new children’s Alflorex probiotics.
A new addition to the PrecisionBiotic range comes with a pre-loaded straw, which means a child will have to take just three sips to get the correct dose.
A four-week supply of 30 pre-filled straws costs €32.95.
Those with a crystal ball and a gloomy vision of the future are predicting that we need to find alternative food sources — and what better option than protein-rich creepy crawlies.
Well, that’s what Shami Radia and Neil Whippey believe, and they have just launched Eat Grub, the Ultimate Insect Cookbook, building on their online service delivering boxes of edible insects to home cooks in Britain.
While it might seem spectacularly odd (and disgusting) to us, about 2bn people around the world often snack on insects.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved