Warm Kale, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with a Lemon, Tahini and Chive Dressing

To celebrate Coeliac UK Awareness Week this year, I’ve teamed up with Knorr UK to create the ultimate gluten free meal using one of my favourite grains – quinoa. I fell in love with this grain when I lived in South America and was delighted when I realised I wouldn’t have to give it up when I stopped eating gluten. It is delicious when cooked in vegetable stock – for this recipe I used Knorr Organic Vegetable Stock Pot, which gives it great depth and flavour. Try out this veggie recipe for yourselves for a perfect mid-week meal or a summery lunch.

Warm Kale, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with a Lemon, Tahini and Chive Dressing
(Serves 2)

Ingredients

40g x Sweet Potato
2 x Garlic Cloves
1 x Tablespoon Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Pepper
80g x Quinoa
1 x Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot
200g x Kale

For the Dressing:
2 x Tablespoons Tahini
4 x Lemons (juiced)
1 x Garlic Clove (minced)
1 x Teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius.
2. Prepare your sweet potato for roasting by cutting into small cubes and then
arranging on a baking tray with the two garlic cloves. Drizzle the olive oil over the
pan and add cracked black pepper.
3. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa by washing thoroughly before adding to a pan
with 400ml water. Add the Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot and bring to the boil. Cover
the pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water has cooked off and the quinoa
is soft.
5. Separately, wash and then steam the kale for six to eight minutes. Drain.
6. Start preparing your dressing by adding the minced garlic clove, tahini, lemon juice
and soy sauce to a bowl. Stir until all mixed together into a dressing consistency.
Add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste.
7. Combine the cooked quinoa, kale and sweet potato together before serving and
adding the dressing. Serve with a lemon wedge and extra chives.

Free From Christmas Range by Co-op

It’s the most wonderful [foodie] time of year! Food has always been the central part of Christmas for me and my family and some of my fondest memories from my childhood involve the delicious tastes and smells of the festive season. Since going gluten free however, it has not always been easy to source Christmas treats.

Co-op – a supermarket I have known and shopped in for years – is really ahead of the curve this year, and has introduced a delicious range of sweet treats which, unlike most free from items available in the shops these days, are totally affordable. More importantly, they’re 100% coeliac safe and honestly do not taste gluten free. So, I suggest you have a read below about the products in the range (which I’ve listed in order of personal preference!) and give them a whirl with your family and friends. Gluten free or not, your crew will definitely appreciate these! These products are all available in Co-op stores across the UK now!

1. Cranberry and Orange Tiffin Stackers

I am a massive fan of Tiffin bars in general – there’s something amazing about combining crushed biscuits with chocolate and dried fruit… These Christmas-tasting Cranberry and Orange Tiffin Stackers have a wonderful tang to them, whilst staying true to the origins of a Tiffin. They’re also gorgeous, and covered in edible glitter. What’s not to love?

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2. Iced Fruit Cake Stackers

Another traditionally festive item that Co-op has nailed. I am particularly a fan of these as they come in bite-sized form. As fruit cake is traditionally rich, the size means you can indulge without going overboard (or, eat more of them – whichever works!). Beautifully presented and wonderful on a platter.

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3. Ruby Reindeer Cupcakes

I don’t need many excuses to tuck into a cupcake, especially not if they’re as cute as these! Delicious moist vanilla sponge topped with fluffy marshmallow and a chocolate reindeer. It’s not always easy to find a gluten free cupcake that is springy and flavourful so I am over the moon with these! Perfect with a cuppa!

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4. Free From Mince Pies

Most of you who know me well will know I have never been a massive fan of mince pies. I have grown to realise however that this meant I just had not had a good one! Co-op’s Free From Mince Pies have won me over and are WONDERFUL warmed up in the oven with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. The pastry is so flaky you will not believe it is gluten free and the filling is tangy, sweet and perfectly spiced for Christmas.

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5. Irresistible Spiced Salted Caramel Cookies

Another winner, these decadent cookies are not only jam-packed full of caramel goodness, but are also partially covered in Belgian chocolate, making them very decadent indeed! They are also incredibly moreish, so be warned that the pack will not last long! I would recommend enjoying these with a post-meal coffee!

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6. Hand Finished Yule Logs

Co-op has also delighted us with their free from take on a classic – the all mighty Yule Log. Conveniently again, these beautiful yule logs come in small slices, the size of which makes them even easier to polish off! The chocolate sponge base is moist and light, completed by the rich fudgy chocolate topping, decorated beautifully with more glitter. A real crowd pleaser!

This post has been sponsored by Co-op.

Tooting: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

Those of y’all who follow my Instagram account will know by now that I LOVE my neighbourhood. I grew up in South East London and three years ago switched things up by moving South West to Tooting. In the past three years alone, this area has seen an immense amount of change, especially when it comes to food! Home to the famous Tooting Market and Broadway Market, this area has something for everyone, and is especially great when it comes to gluten free. Enjoy reading through my guide and seeing for yourself just how awesome this southern corner of the capital is!

Boom Bap Burger

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I’ve tried a lot of burgers in my time, and since going gluten free seven years ago, I’ve tried even more. However, top of my list for anyone visiting Tooting has got to be Boom Bap Burger, which offers delicious gluten free patties, packed full of flavour, and perfectly sguidgy gluten free burger buns to boot. The french fries are fried in their own separate fryer and are the perfect vehicle for mounds of cheese if you’re in the mood for epic cheesy fries to accompany your burger. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Unit 2, Tooting Market
20 Totterdown Street
London SW17 8TA

Mamma Mia Pasta

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If you’re a gnocchi fan like me, you won’t be disappointed that gnocchi is your only gluten free option at this family-run pasta restaurant inside Tooting Broadway Market – you’ll be ELATED. Gluten free gnocchi is still incredibly hard to come across on the London restaurant scene and here at Mamma Mia Pasta, the chef will top it with any sauce you desire, whilst taking extra care to avoid cross contamination. I highly recommend you opt for the slow cooked tomato and basil sauce with burrata – absolute winner! State your allergy or dietary requirement and you’ll be wonderfully taken care of. Closed on Sundays and Mondays. 

Where?
Tooting Broadway Market
The Cave
29 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RJ

Herbies

Tooting is now home to Herbies – the market’s first vegan takeaway restaurant, which is both reasonably priced and perfect when you’re in the mood for something on the healthier side. Currently gluten free on the menu are the turmeric cauliflower with a zesty tahnini and lemon dressing, the garbanzo salad with a chive dressing (without the pearl barley) and the signature squash and green bean satay, served with cauliflower rice. A little birdie also told me that the Herbies kitchen is working on a gluten free batter for its indulgent fried items so watch this space! Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Unit 13, Tooting Market
20 Totterdown Street
London SW17 8TA

Plot

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Another sleek addition to Tooting Market, Plot specialises in small plates with a Michelin-star-style twist. The menu changes frequently, in line with what is in season, but there are always naturally gluten free options on offer here. Perfect for date night or for an occasion warranting more than a burger! Plot has seats all the way down its chic bar where you can eat and watch the action in the kitchen, whilst sipping on a glass of wine from the hand picked list. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
70-72 Broadway Market
29 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RL

The Gorringe Park

This isn’t just my favourite pub in Tooting because it’s local but because a large portion of the menu is gluten free! And the items safe for us to eat are not just steak, or grilled fish and mash – they include things like croquettes, breaded camembert, calamari and much much more! The Gorringe Park has a separate fryer for all of its gluten free items, meaning the chips are safe to eat – something which sadly seems to be a rarity in pubs these days. If you’re in the mood for culture with your meal, pop on down to the pub cinema in the basement, which shows several movies daily and is free – just buy yourself a drink or a snack and enjoy!

Where?
29 London Road
London SW17 9JR

Brickwood Coffee and Bread

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This Australian-themed brunch spot has a plethora of gluten free options available for breakfast or brunch each day. Brickwood offers gluten free bread to its diners which can be easily swapped into your meal to make signature dishes like the Avo toast with chorizo or feta or eggs any way safe to eat. Brickwood even has hash nuggets to accompany your brunch – just be warned you may not want to share they’re so good! Be sure to state your dietary requirements upon arrival and you’ll be in good hands!

Where?
Tooting Market
21-23 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0SN

Barra 10

Argentina has come to Tooting! The team behind this traditional style parilla restaurant (or Argentine steak house) are from Buenos Aires itself and offer an array of traditional dishes, many of which are naturally gluten free. Venture here for perfectly cooked steak, wine from the famous Mendoza region, oh and a provoleta – barbecued provolone cheese – for a quintessentially Porteño experience! Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
16 Broadway Market
Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RL

Milk Teeth

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I definitely can’t complain when it comes to Tooting’s brunch offerings. Milk Teeth – sister restaurant of Balham’s Milk – is always spot on when you’re in the mood for eggs, perfect flat whites and retro hip hop, all at the same time. Gluten free diners can choose between several dishes but are likely to be drawn to signature numbers like sweetcorn fritters with kasundi and the Young Betty – Milk Teeth’s answer to Eggs Benedict, served atop homemade cornbread and drizzled with Espresso Hollandaise. Those in the mood for sweet treats can also order a slice of the pistachio and polenta cake with buttercream frosting – it’s truly delightful AND gluten free!

Where?
110 Mitcham Road
London SW17 9NG

Green Monkey

Tucked away behind Tooting Bec station, Green Monkey is a hidden gem for gluten free. Serving up delicious coffee, Green Monkey has a selection of sweet gluten free treats on offer including one of the best brownies I’ve ever had, topped with a salted caramel swirl. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, Green Monkey whips up an epic Avo Toast on gluten free bread or a salt beef and chicken sandwich.

Where?
2d Tooting Bec Road
London SW17 7TS

Mud

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Another spot for the breakfast fans out there, Mud serves up all sorts of egg-based dishes seven days a week. Gluten free eaters can replace regular bread with gluten free bread on most breakfast dishes or can tuck into the buckwheat pancakes which are served wtih caremalised pear puree, pecans, lemon balm and maple creme fraiche. I tend to go big here and order the Eggs Benny with pork belly, and usually finish with at least three coffees just to bring me out of the food coma. Be sure to flag your requirements upon arrival so the team at Mud can take care of you!

Where?
141 Mitcham Road
London SW17 9PE

The Little Taperia

If you’re in the mood for Tapas, The Little Taperia has got you covered. This charming, neighbourhood restaurant has a traditional menu, featuring naturally gluten free favourites such as Tortilla Española, Garlic Prawns, Grilled Octopus and more, not to mention the amazing Jamon Serrano and cheese selection on offer. It’s worth mentioning that the team at The Little Taperia could not be more accomodating when it comes to dietary requirements, so while you can’t tuck into the fried items or the bread, they will do everything they can to make sure you don’t miss them!

Where?
143 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RU

Nuvola – A Little Bakery

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I’m usually in the market for something sweet after all of the savoury treats that Tooting has to offer, and so tend to head on over to Nuvola – A Little Bakery. This organic bakery is not a gluten free dedicated facility but always has at least two delicious gluten free baked goods on offer. Run by former pastry chef Nuvola Tivoli, this bakery prides itself on handmade cakes made only with the best ingredients, which will make you even prouder to support such a great local business! Closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Where?
Unit 25, Tooting Market
Totterdown Street
London SW17 0SN

Rosa’s Thai Cafe

As well as a plethora of independent shops and restaurants, Tooting has a number of reliable chains which offer solid gluten free options. Rosa’s Thai Cafe is one of those, offering a detailed gluten free menu upon request. Take your pick from a number of fragrant curries, stir fries, Asian salads and more and you’re sure to be well looked after.

Where?
70 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RN

Honest Burgers

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A restaurant these days which needs little introduction, Honest Burgers has long had a home in Tooting. A great and fuss-free option for gluten free diners who want to tuck into a familiar and great-tasting burger, Honest Burgers offers all patties on a gluten free bun as well as coeliac-safe rosemary fries and onion rings. Wash it all down with a gluten free Daura Damm beer and you’ve got a winning combination!

Where?
72 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0RN

The Athenian

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You won’t even miss the pitta bread when you tuck into some naturally gluten free Greek street food at The Athenian. On offer for gluten free folk, the Naked Souvlaki box comes jam packed with fresh Greek salad, herbs, grilled meat and is made even better by a portion of grilled halloumi on the side. Staff members will change their gloves for you if you state your allergies and are intent on giving you a stress free ordering experience. The Athenian is part of a chain with locations now all around London and I couldn’t be happier to have it in Tooting!

Where?
Unit 3, Tooting Market
21-23 Totterdown Street
London SW17 0SN

Cardamom Club

Last but not least: Cardamom Club has been my favourite Indian food delivery restaurant since I moved to Tooting. This independent Tooting Bec takeaway has good allergy awareness and always delivers delicious meals that are piping hot. While I’ve tried a number of dishes from here, my number one has got to be Butter Chicken – a perfect combination of spice and creaminess. The Paneer Tikka is also fantastic, and makes for a great starter and is perfect for sharing!

Where?
18 Trinity Road
London SW17 7RE

Naked Souvlaki Box by The Athenian

Where From? The Athenian
Available at the London and Bristol Locations

Having to skip on the warm and fluffy pitta bread when tucking into Greek food is definitely a sad state of affairs. However, when you find Greek food that is so good there’s no real need for the bread, you’re winning, and that’s exactly what I found at The Athenian! This modern chain brings traditional Greek flavours to the street food scene and is very allergen aware. The Athenian states clearly on its menu that the “Naked Souvlaki” is naturally gluten free, which is a box of fresh Greek Salad with herbs and grilled meat skewers – perfect with an accompanying portion of halloumi cheese. The team will also change their gloves for you when prepping your meal if you request gluten free, to avoid cross contamination, and will withhold the fries, which are not gluten free as they are fried together with other gluten-containing items. Go check this place out – you have four London locations to choose from, including inside my local hotspot Tooting Market. The Athenian also has a Bristol location, so what are you waiting for?

Barcelona: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

My memories from Barcelona when I was little are filled with bread, croquettes and other gluten-filled Spanish delicacies. When I took my first trip to the Catalan capital as a member of the gluten free crowd therefore, I was worried. Turns out, there was no need to worry in the slightest. Barcelona has quickly become one of my favourite global spots for not only gluten free Spanish food, but gluten free pizzas, cakes and more. Everywhere you need to visit when in Barcelona is detailed in this trusty guide that is sure to leave you craving another trip purely for the food!

Gula Sana

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A new addition to the gluten free scene in Barcelona, this 100% gluten free eatery has more of a cafe vibe, as you have to walk past the long counter filled with sweet and savoury treats to get to the seating area. In the summer, seats are available outside and a perfect location to enjoy Gula Sana’s vast ice cream selection in a gluten free cone of course! Enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch or an early dinner here and don’t forget to try the Red Velvet cake!

Where?
Carrer de la Diputació, 361
08009 Barcelona

Amiette

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If you want the best gluten free croissant of your life, go straight to Amiette – one of Barcelona’s 100% gluten free bakeries which has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to free from pastry and bread. You have a choice of plain croissants or those filled with ham and cheese or sweet fillings like chocolate and custard. I recommend going first thing in the morning when they are fresh out the oven. This bakery is purely a take-out destination, so why not grab some treats and take them to a local park? Or eat them in the street, outside the shop as I did because I couldn’t wait! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
Carrer de Calàbria, 65
08015 Barcelona

Patisseria Jansana Gluten Free

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A gluten free staple in Barcelona, this beautiful bakery in the Eixample neighborhood has been spoiling customers for years with their stunning sweets and savoury treats. The selection is neverending, and you will never come out with just one item – it truly is impossible. Grab a sandwich to go on fresh bread of your choice, with a number of fillings, which are made on the spot or eat in, with a coffee, and enjoy some of the more delicate savoury open faced sandwiches. The croissants here are also top notch, as are the donuts, cookies, macarons and eclairs.

Where?
Carrer de Balmes, 106
08008 Barcelona

Pasticelia

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Perfect spot for breakfast or brunch, Pasticelia is another 100% gluten free haven located in the Esquerra de L’Eixample neighorhood. Like Jansana, Pasticelia will prepare you a sandwich of your choice on fresh bread to take away or eat in. The chocolate croissants here and palmeras are not to be missed, and should preferably be enjoyed on one of the bakery’s comfy chairs with a cafe con leche. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de Paris, 165
08036 Barcelona

Celiadictos

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This 100% gluten free gem has been open for several years now, serving locals with unbeatable freshly baked gluten free bread and cakes. Customers can pick their loaves off of a trolley which showcases all varieties of bread that Celiadictos bake each day and is constantly topped up. The cakes here were some of the prettiest I’ve seen – including the merengue pie and apple tartlette. Be sure to grab an Ensaimada – a traditional Mallorcan pastry that resembles a sausage roll – they are absolutely incredible! Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de la Pobla de Lillet, 5
08028 Barcelona

Cal Marius 449

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Gluten free tapas are still a rarity in Barcelona so gluten free people will rejoice in knowing they can safely eat croquetas, empanadillas and more at the famous Cal Marius bar. The menu, which also prominently features pastrami on gluten free bagels or baguette, is 100% gluten free. Regular gluten bread can be ordered upon request if you are dining with a non gluten free diner. Be sure to check out Cal Marius’ impressive gluten free beer menu whilst you’re there to accompany your meal! Closed on Tuesdays.

Where?
Carrer de Mallorca, 449
08013 Barcelona

Copasetic

The perfect spot for brunch, Copasetic is a long-time favourite of mine, located in the Eixample neighbourhood. Take your pick from a numer of gluten free options on the menu from hamburgers to eggs florentine. I can never say no to a savoury crepe here however, which I usually order stuffed with ham and cheese, followed by a homemade gluten free cake – the selection of which changes daily. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de la Diputació, 55
08015 Barcelona

Conesa Entrepans

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Sometimes what you need in a city like Barcelona is a quick place to grab a bite. Conesa Entrepans is a regular sandwich shop which offers most of its sandwiches on gluten free baguette, which are toasted on their own separate grills to avoid cross contamination. A decent option for when you’re rushing around sightseeing – their ham and cheese baguettes are incredibly moreish! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
Carrer de la Llibreteria, 1
08002 Barcelona

Viena

This Spanish fast food restaurant has more than 10 branches around the city and a coeliac-safe menu upon request. The menu features a number of grilled sandwich options which are all prepared separately and can be accompanied by gluten free friendly french fries. Sometimes all you need is gluten free junk food! For your closest restaurant, check out the company website.

M2 Gluten Free

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This 100% gluten free restaurant is a great shout for brunch when you’re in Barcelona. M2 Gluten Free makes good use of local, fresh produce to create several delicious open faced sandwiches and egg dishes. There’s no worry about cross contamination here which makes eating a breeze, and there are even vegan options. If I were you, I’d opt for the open faced turkey sandwich with tomato and avocado on delicious gluten free toast.

Where?
Avinguda Diagonal, 505
08029 Barcelona

Il Piccolo Focone

If you want real Italian food whilst you’re in Barcelona, look no further than Il Piccolo Focone. This restaurant has a gluten free menu which includes the most incredible pizzas, pastas and desserts – all of which are prepared safely. I always start with the fried artichokes before tucking into a pizza. Finishing with the gluten free tiramisu is also advisable! Closed on Sundays.

Messie Sin Gluten

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This 100% gluten free pizzeria is a great lunch or light dinner option. The bases here are thin and crispy and come with a variety of toppings, which can be accompanied by one of the delicious salads on offer. I have never seen a larger gluten free beer selection, which includes a number of international beers as well as Spanish.

Where?
Carrer de Siracusa, 15
08012 Barcelona

McDonald’s

Yes, Barcelona is another city where you can enjoy gluten free McDonald’s! All McDonald’s in the city have carefully marked gluten free menus, which include almost all beef burgers and fries with the option of a gluten free bun. If you’d rather enjoy the city’s other gluten free options during your stay in Barcelona, you can enjoy a gluten free McDonald’s in the airport on your way out.

Restaurant En Ville

Another 100% gluten free tapas restaurant, but this time with a French twist. En Ville is a gorgeous space located near Las Ramblas and is ideal for dinner. All tapas are gluten free on a menu that proudly displays a gluten free bread option on its first page. While En Ville offers a number of delicious main dishes, I was not able to get past the tapas and even ordered a second round of the croquetas de jamon which were absolutely melt in the mouth. Save room for dessert – En Ville serves up a gluten free giant cream puff which comes with hot chocolate sauce to pour over. Closed on Sunday.

Out of China

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How long has it been since you ate dim sum? Well at Out of China your gluten free dreams can come true as free from options are available for most of the dim sum selection. It’s therefore hard not to go crazy with the dumpling selection but if possible save room for some soup or a main dish. You’ll also feel safe at Out of China – as soon as you say you are gluten free or coeliac, your very own gluten free soy sauce pot will be delivered to your table.

Where?
Carrer d’Aribau, 112
08036 Barcelona

Envalira

Everyone needs to eat paella when in Spain. Whilst far from Valencia – the home of paella – no frills eatery Envalira serves up the best Spanish rice in Barcelona, with a clearly marked allergen menu presented to all diners. Take your pick from a number of fresh and grilled starters, and be sure to follow those with traditional paella and arroz negro – black rice coloured with squid’s ink – an absolute delicacy. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Plaça del Sol, 13
08012 Barcelona

Gocce di Latte

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Your one stop shop for gelato whilst in Barcelona should be Gocce di Latte – an ice cream shop which has a 100% gluten and dairy free branch on the same street as its regular store. It’s a cross-contaminatin free zone and stays open late so is perfect for those late night sweet cravings. Cash-only.

Where?
Carrer d’Espaseria, 14
08003 Barcelona

Shopping

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Barcelona has a multitude of supermarkets which have a huge offering of gluten free products from cookies, breads and snacks to chilled pastas and frozen pizzas and tapas. The top chains for gluten free are Mercadona, Carrefour and Alcampo. Check out the company websites for your closest branches.

Kaliyoga

Since becoming gluten free, travelling has become a tall task. Exploring the world, anyone with allergies, intolerances or autoimmune diseases will know, always involves a lot of research, preparation and a significant amount of stress upon arrival to ensure that eateries will cater well and not result in illness. It is incredibly unusual therefore, that I get the chance to travel to a 100% gluten free destination. Being invited with my good friend Alice (@glutenfreealice) to experience not only the yoga on offer at Kaliyoga but the totally free from cuisine too was a huge privilege.

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Kaliyoga was founded by Rosie and Jonathon Miles back in 2002, who ventured to Spain in search of a location for a brand new yoga retreat. It was there, in the Alpujarra region in Andalucia, that they set up the first branch and 11 years later went on to establish a sister retreat in Puglia, Italy. The retreats offer a 6 day yoga experience, with cycling or walking activities too and work according to three basic principles: truth, wisdom and love. Guests are served three beautiful vegan meals a day, put together by a hard working team with guest seasonal chefs who all share one thing in common – a passion for delicious, plant-based food.

I had never followed a vegan diet before and what I was met with on day one totally exceeded my expectations. Upon arrival, we were met by the smell and sight of freshly baked gluten free bread, summer minestrone soup and beautiful, vibrant salads with mounds of crunchy seeds and herbs. “People fail to realize that there are a hundred times more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains than there are animal products,” guest chef Francesca, who has a vegan catering business in her hometown of Colorado, told me in an interview. “When you realize this, you start to see cooking vegan as a limitless possibility of flavors, textures and combinations, and cooking with the natural foods the earth grows and the sun nourishes is a truly beautiful thing,” Francesca added.

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Obviously elated that everything on the menu was gluten free, I could not wait to see what other delicious concoctions Francesca had in store for us. “A fully gluten free kitchen is very important to Kaliyoga,” Francesca told me. Founders Rosie and Jonathon began to see the demand for coeliac friendly cuisine several years ago and decided to make the switch to ensure that it was a totally inclusive space. “Before coming to work for Kaliyoga, I wasn’t a fully GF chef, but working here and eating the food I’ve been making made me realize that gluten free can sometimes mean much more natural and wholesome foods that are very high in fiber and minerals,” Francesca said, listing buckwheat flour for pasta or almond or sorghum flour for use in pizza crusts as her top discoveries in the kitchen.

Francesca admitted that gluten free cooking is sometimes challenging, especially when it comes to baking. “It’s definitely a science and it takes a bit of manoeuvring but once you get to know your best flours (mine are: quinoa flour, buckwheat, brown rice, almond flour, organic corn flour, chickpea flour) then the rest is just practice,” she said.

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The food choices were always a welcome surprise, and the menus kept a secret until the moment of the meal. As someone who cooks a lot for friends and family, I was positively overwhelmed to be free from decision making in this regard for a week and presented instead with colourful, filling meals each day, which at dinnertime involved three delicious courses. I don’t think I will ever forget the taste, texture and smell of the homemade pumpkin gnocchi I was served one night, which came tossed in a spicy red pepper sauce with local asparagus on the side, or the smooth fennel and pear soup which came topped with local olive oil and crunchy seeds.

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Desserts always exceeded expectations – a course which was undoubtedly won by the raw cheesecake with berry coulis and fresh strawberries. On two days, the non vegan crowd were surprised with a selection of local cheeses and eggs to accompany brunch, which were all delectable and allowed us to sample more of the local Puglian produce.

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After just 24 hours at Kaliyoga and three yoga classes lead by the incredible Tashi Dawa, I already felt a release. My body was less tense, my mind less heavy and my stomach free of complaints. I totally embraced the opportunity to be caffeine and alcohol free for the week, which allowed me to focus on my yoga practice and nourishment – two things which I had rarely given time to back home in London.

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It is also easy to be relaxed at Kaliyoga. When you’re not taking part in a yoga class, or cycling in the countryside, the environment onsite encourages tranquility and breaks from social media or technology. When I first heard this I will admit I was nervous, as my lifestyle means I am usually glued to my phone. There was however something incredibly refreshing about removing myself from the outside world, and totally focusing on rejuvenating my mind and being kind to my body, which included spending time with the retreat dogs, Tommy and Akira and their friend – Nabuco the donkey.

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Rejuvenation also came thanks to the food I was eating. Gluten free food can often be full of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients but at Kaliyoga I was able to consume food that was only doing my body good, which is a feeling so great, I honestly can not put it down into words. Thank you, Kaliyoga for such a wonderful and refreshing experience – I am already planning my return and cannot wait for more yoga, peace and gnocchi!

For more information and to book your stay at Kaliyoga, please visit the company website