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Sally Wise is a bestselling cookbook author who runs her own catering business.
The bestselling author of four cookbooks that celebrate the lost arts and simple joys of pickling, preserving and slow cooking, Sally Wise is one of Tasmania’s living foodie treasures. She’s also a teacher, cooking demonstrator and radio presenter. Her mission? To spread the joy of preserving by creating exciting flavours out of even the most prosaic ingredients.
For information about Sally Wise, visit her website www.sallywise.com.au
Q&A with Sally
Why are you passionate about gluten-free cooking?
Because my daughter suffers from Coeliac disease. When she was first diagnosed, the foods and ingredients that were available were limited and less than appetising. Therefore we decided to put together recipes of our own so that gluten free food could be enjoyable, equally as delicious as their gluten soaked counterparts, if not better.
I really enjoyed putting the recipes together as it became increasingly easy to put together recipes that were absolutely delicious as well as being gluten free.
The improvement to Stephanie’s health when she went onto a gluten free diet was astounding.
Your daughter suffers from coeliac disease, how involved was she in the creation of your book?
Stephanie and I speak often regarding the dietary implications of coeliac disease. Stephanie is a wonderful cook and we often would discuss a new recipe we might have invented or new gluten free ingredients that have become readily available on the market.
How has gluten-free cooking changed in the last ten years?
There are an ever increasing number of gluten free ingredients becoming available. Ten years ago for instance, to make gluten free bakery products involved tracking down of specialty and expensive ingredients, a combination quite likely of potato flour, white rice flour, soy flour, arrowroot and xanthum gum – all of this just to make a gluten free plain flour.
Nowadays almost every supermarket, small and large, will at least have gluten free plain flour and self raising flour. There are now gluten free pastas, and many common condiments even (such as soy sauce) have brands that are clearly marked as gluten free.
What’s your best cooking tip for people with gluten intolerance?
Enjoy cooking gluten free – it is really easy once you get started. Use plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to experiment with bakery products – try converting regular cake and biscuit recipes with gluten free ingredients. I often add an extra egg as it gives needed strength to the mixture which contributes to a better result.
Gluten-free cooking tends to have an undeserved reputation for tasting like cardboard – what are people doing wrong?
I spoke at length with many people with coeliac disease and some suggested that it was xanthum gum that caused this cardboard-like flavour. Whether or not this is the case, in “From my Kitchen to Yours”, none of the recipes contain xanthum gum.
Sometimes bakery style products can be crumbly. This is why, where appropriate, I add an egg, or extra egg as a binding and strengthening agent.
I think that the use of gluten free flours contributes greatly to a good and tasty end result. While I really like almond meal, I don’t over-use it as this can make cakes a bit gritty in texture.
Think about flavour – aim for fresh and bright flavours through the incorporation of fresh seasonal produce wherever possible.
What is the one gluten-free product you think people with gluten intolerance should keep in their fridge or pantry?
Gluten free plain and self raising flour.
How important is it to read product labels when choosing your ingredients for gluten-free recipes?
If you are gluten intolerant, it is very important to read labels so that you avoid the ill effects of consuming gluten. When reading labels keep the following in mind:
All ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains must always be declared on the label. Australian and New Zealand food labelling laws regarding this are the strictest in the world.
A number of products are clearly labelled as gluten free, which means that it must contain no detectable gluten according to the Australian Food Standard. Similarly if it has the Coeliac Society’s trademarked endorsement logo it is gluten free.
If a product is not marked as gluten free, it is important o check the ingredient listing on the packaging. If an ingredient is derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats it must be declared on the label.
If a label states “may contain gluten” or “Manufactured on the same line as gluten containing products”, or similar, these foods are unsuitable for people who are gluten intolerant.
Which of your recipes would you cook for someone who is unenlightened to the joys of gluten-free food?
My personal favourite is Lemon Meringue Pie and Mini Sticky Date Puddings with Butterscotch Sauce and Cinnamon Cream. Along the savoury line, Tandoori-crusted Chicken with mango-lime salsa and Little Satay Chicken Pies. The Fig and Raisin Loaf is really good also.
Do you enjoy surprising people with the fact your meals are gluten-free after they’ve finished every morsel on the plate?
Yes, this is immensely pleasing because gluten-free foods have a bit of a stigma attached to them for being tasteless, with the texture of cardboard and the grittiness of sand.
Gluten-free recipes are some of the most popular recipes on the LifeStyle FOOD website, why do you think that is?
Many people are becoming interested in the gluten free diet for a range of reasons. Perhaps some-one in their family has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, or a friend. Then follows the challenge of how to cook for them to still provide a healthy diet. People also want to make gluten free food that is truly delicious, with a minimum of effort – and that others who are not necessarily gluten intolerant will enjoy eating as well.