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.

IMG_7449

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.

IMG_7452

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.

IMG_7453

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.

IMG_7444

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.

IMG_7443 (1)

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.

IMG_7441 (1)

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.

IMG_7448

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

 

 

Coori Free From

As my favourite gluten free brand Coori gets ready to open its new shop in Richmond, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you more about their story and how they came to be the household name that they are today. Many of you will know Coori from their 2013 pop-up in Selfridges Food Hall, which was the pioneer for gluten free space in the famous London department store and is now occupied by London bakery Beyond Bread. Coori closed its concession after several months, leaving customers eagerly anticipating its next move after almost ten years on the gluten free market in various shapes and forms. Others may remember Coori from the large scale Allergy and Free From Show which comes to London’s Olympia every year, where the team would prepare fresh stonebaked pizzas for the masses.

FullSizeRender (1)

I first came across Coori (which means heart in Sicilian dialect) when I moved to Tooting in south west London, several years ago. One day walking through my new local market I did a double take when I saw a small hand-written “100% gluten free” sign and realised that fresh pasta was being cooked and arancini being rolled, ready for the fryer. It was then that I met founder Julia, a gluten free scene veteran and cook, who was testing Tooting out as a pop-up space.

FullSizeRender (2)

Born and raised in Italy, Julia had always been exposed to good, simple cooking. However, when her sister was diagnosed with coeliac disease and Julia discovered she was gluten intolerant, her interest in food took a different turn and she leapt on what she saw as an opportunity to fill a huge gap in the market. “I wanted to take things back to the basics and start over with gluten free food,” Julia told me in an interview, as we sat enjoying a classic, and naturally gluten free Italian dessert: affogato. “Not only would creating good simple food for coeliacs make people happy, but it would help change perceptions of gluten free products, which for a long time were lacking in flavour and yet packed with additives and excessive amounts of sugar,” Julia said. This mindsight, as well as help and support from Coeliac UK, led Julia to open up a restaurant in 2008 – Bruschetta – in Kingston. The restaurant specialised in Italian classics like pasta and pizza, which back then were still a huge novelty.

IMG_5968

Julia commened that when she launched, she did not initially advertise the restaurant as gluten free, to test out her food on doubting customers. “I invited restaurant critics, journalists and bloggers to try my food without saying it was gluten free. After they ate it, I revealed that what they had just feasted on contained to no wheat, barley or rye and they couldn’t believe it,” she said. Julia continued to work on products and food that not only appealed to those unable to eat gluten, but to a wider audience who simply craved good food made from high quality ingredients. Julia soon became well-known in the gluten free community and after several years, switched her focus to manufacturing, which aided the launch of the company’s online business.

FullSizeRender (3)

Coori online began to ship pasta, flour mixes, sweet treats and more across the UK, quickly becoming a booming venture not only in London but in the north of the UK, where a staggeringly high percentage of coeliacs live. Julia still remains dedicated to working with a range of manufacturers, both in the UK and in her home country, to keep the company both localised and true to her own heritage. What makes Coori individual however, is that all recipes are created by Julia herself and then recreated by the manufacturer, as a means of keeping the business, which is headed up by Julia and her two close friends and business partners, “very much a family affair.”

IMG_4405

As business boomed, Coori was able to grow its customer base and venture into new fields, including the catering industry and department store scene. The pop-up at Selfridges was revolutionary. It drew in both gluten free customers desperate to try tantalising fresh pasta with a range of sauces or pizza slices fresh out of the oven, but also people without any particular dietary requirements. “The queues were always made up of a mixture of people, most of whom I quickly recognised as returning, happy customers,” Julia told me, adding that working in a customer facing environment is her real passion. “Seeing people come in on a daily basis and almost cry at the array of safe food they could choose from was really the highlight for me,” Julia said.

IMG_4408

However, after several happy months it was time for Coori to move on and focus on securing its own space again, now that it had so much backing and a fantastic reputation to boot. The new store, which will occupy an old local dairy dating back to 1980, will have a very similar offering to the Selfridges stall. Customers will be able to take their pick from an array of hot and cold snacks, meals and packaged food both prepared by Coori itself and by collaborating brands, including Italy’s Nutri-Free. Please join me in supporting this wonderful company, as it embarks on an exciting and utterly delicious new chapter.

Coori’s Richmond Cafe will open its doors to the public on June 2, 2018.

84 Hill Rise
Richmond
TW10 6UB

Photo Credits: Ilmi Perez-Stubbs

 

Lasagne d’Almagro

A piece of my heart will forever be in Buenos Aires – a vibrant, hectic and culturally rich city where I spent almost three years during my twenties. Beyond traditional dishes like Argentine steak and empanadas, much of the country’s cuisine was brought and developed by Italian immigrants who arrived there en masse from the 1850s onwards. A favourite dish of mine was always lasagne, prepared in its own Argentine way and featuring the smoky taste of aji molido (smoked red pepper powder) and black olives which add a natural saltiness and depth to the dish.

After becoming gluten free, I quickly released that coming across a lasagne that was safe for me to eat – in my Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Almagro and beyond – was a rare luxury, not only due to the pasta but also the stock used in the sauce. So, in honour of Coeliac Awareness Week, I have recreated this dish to make it safe for coeliacs to enjoy with friends and family. Thanks to Knorr, who create the best tasting and fuss-free stock I have ever had, this dish is bursting with flavour and completely gluten free. Knorr has been a household name ever since I remember, and I am pleased to shout about its efforts for the gluten free community. Be sure to enjoy this dish with some homemade garlic bread and a glass of strong bodied Malbec for the true Argentine experience.

Lasagne d’Almagro
(Serves 6)

Ingredients

For the Lasagne Filling:
1 x White Onion (Finely Chopped)
4 x Garlic Cloves
2 x Celery Sticks (Finely Chopped)
1 x Large Carrot (Finely Chopped)
800g Chopped Tomatoes in Juice
500g Lean Minced Beef
400g Gluten Free Sausage Meat or Sausages (Casing Removed)
160g Drained Black Olives
1 x Tablespoon Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock
2 x Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 x Cup Red Wine
½ x Cup Boiling Water
2 x Bay Leaves
½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
½ x Tablespoon Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce
1 x Teaspoon Aji Molido
250g Gluten Free Lasagne Sheets
300g Fresh Mozzarella (Diced)
100g Parmesan (Grated)

For the Béchamel Sauce:
1 x Tablespoon Butter
1 x White Onion
3 x Cups Milk
3 x Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour
1 x Cup White Wine
½ x Knorr Vegetable Stock Cube
½ x Teaspoon Nutmeg
Pepper

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a shallow pan over moderate heat. Add the beef and sausage meat to the pan and cook until brown (around 8 minutes), stirring occasionally and at the same time breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.
  2. Meanwhile, take a separate, good sized cooking pot and warm the rest of the oil over moderate heat before adding the chopped onion, celery, carrot and whole peeled garlic cloves. Stir until all vegetables are soft, taking care to not burn the onion.
  3. Turn attention back to the meat once cooked through and drain fat. Then add beef to the vegetables, stirring through to make sure all vegetables are evenly dispersed throughout the mixture.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives, wine and boiling water to the pot. Stir well.
  5. Now add the Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock, along with the gluten free Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, dried basil and aji molido before stirring again and leaving to simmer for 30 minutes with a splatter guard covering the top of the pot. This will help the mixture cook down and also protect your surfaces!
  6. While your lasagne mixture is cooking, start preparing the béchamel by sautéing the finely chopped onion in butter over moderate heat in a medium saucepan.
  7. When onion is soft, add milk and let the milk almost come to boil (but not quite!) before removing from heat and whisking in the flour. Whisk vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, nutmeg and crumbled Knorr vegetable stock cube and using a hand blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
  8. Return béchamel to heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. The sauce will still be fairly thin and pale in colour. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add 1 teaspoon of flour and whisk again. However, the consistency should not put you off – it blends beautifully with the lasagne filling during the baking process.
  9. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and start arming your lasagne.
  10. Take a medium sized lasagne dish and create layers: after removing bay leaves, ladle in one spoon of the meat mixture and smooth out to cover bottom of dish, then lay down lasagne sheets (I tend to use three sheets per layer).
  11. On top of the lasagne sheets, drizzle one ladle of béchamel sauce and smooth out to just about cover the sheets before adding an even sprinkling of fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves on top. Repeat, leaving enough béchamel to cover the entire top layer which will then be dusted in grated parmesan cheese.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until evenly golden brown.
  13. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving and garnish with more fresh basil and mixed leaves.