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I’ve mentioned before that eating out can be challenging for people with celiac disease. But it’s not only restaurants where you might run into problems. Eating at the homes of your friends and family can be tricky, too. It’s hard enough to keep a house gluten-free when someone with celiac disease lives there.

Even when you’ve explained what needs to be avoided, there can be gaps in communication. One friend told me that she’d arranged to go to someone else’s home for dinner and had several phone conversations about her food restrictions, including her gluten-intolerance. My friend is a very thorough and clear communicator. She was assured that her host had educated herself on avoiding gluten and that she had nothing to worry about. During the meal, my friend asked again, just to be sure, and was told that there was definitely no gluten in any of the dishes. When they’d finished, the host turned to my friend and told her that she’d been sure to use only whole wheat flour in the gravy, as she understood that my friend couldn’t have processed white flour. Several days of illness followed.

These sorts of misunderstandings can be compounded when family food traditions are added to the mix. I know that my family’s holiday dinners are very gluten-heavy affairs, from my mother’s delicious gravy to the pies, cookies and cakes for dessert. When my partner comes to these family dinners, adjustments must be made. I’m lucky that my family gets how serious celiac disease can be, since my father’s aunt had it, so the adjustment is painless. That’s not true for many people, though.

Often, the easiest solution for me is to prepare interesting and seasonal dishes that naturally don’t contain gluten. My partner’s not fond of baked goods, anyway, so I get to experiment with other things. This also has the advantage of avoiding complaints from conventional eaters that a modified dish doesn’t taste the way they expect it to taste.

Here’s a recipe for rice pudding that would fit in at any fall or winter celebration. It relies on Middle Eastern flavours, but I added some cranberries and increased the cinnamon for a seasonal flair. You can try other dried or fresh fruits, as well as chopped nuts. Dried apricots and pistachios work well, especially if you concentrate on cardamom as the main spice.

Rice Pudding with Honeyed Rosewater Sauce

Makes eight servings

The rice pudding was inspired by this New York Times article.

The honeyed rosewater sauce was adapted from The Healthy Gourmet Cookbook.

For the Pudding:

3 cups cooked brown rice
4 cups whole milk
¼ to ½ cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
2 to 3 points star anise
1 tsp. rosewater

Combine rice, milk and sugar and bring to boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add rosewater and star anise points. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the milk has been almost completely absorbed. Many people like to add the spices at the end, but I add them in a little into the simmering time, as it seems to infuse the rice with their flavour more. When it’s done, set it aside to cool a little, then spoon into serving dishes and put those into the refrigerator to chill.

Notes:
The ratio of cooked rice to milk is generally 1 cup rice to 1½ cups milk. I use a little less milk than that when I’m making a big batch. Adjust the other ingredients and cooking time accordingly. I used a scant ¼ cup of sugar, as I was also using the honeyed rosewater sauce. Use sugar to taste. Any sweetener and any milk will work in this recipe, so try it with whatever you’d normally use.

For the Sauce:

2 cups water
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons rosewater
1 teaspoon lemon (or orange juice, for a sweeter taste)
1 cinnamon stick
2 or three strands of saffron

Bring the water and honey to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Add the rosewater, lemon, cinnamon stick and saffron. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture has a slightly syrupy texture.

Allow to cool and then chill in the refrigerator.
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To put it together, drizzle a little of the sauce on each serving of pudding and garnish with chopped dried fruits and/or nuts.

I’m adding this recipe to Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef’s recipe round up, which can be found here: Gluten-Free Thanksgiving 2010. They’ve gathered recipes from well-known food bloggers, along with a tonne of recipes from more bloggers in the Comments. So, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, or have misgivings about its colonialist roots, you should check this out. It’s an amazing resource of recipes for gluten-free celebrations. And your gluten-eating friends and family will be too full to notice. If you contribute a recipe, or even a comment, you’ll also be eligible for some great prizes!

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