Holiday time to France

As the leaves begin to fall from the trees, so the end of the school holidays draw to a close and we prepare for the autumn/winter term and the slow road into Christmas and the New Year! Where does the time go???

France. A holiday destination of our youth but as a current family, not one we have been to on our own. So with some trepidation we embarked on what we described as a little experiment. How would it go? Could we get by speaking next to no French? And how would we get by with Noah? How good were the French at catering for those with gluten free diets? Sans gluten?

Sadly we had heard before we went, that, on the whole, France is possibly not the best destination for those with Coeliac Disease. Great! What a start!

We decided to take our time down to the La Loire valley. Take a little road trip and explore some of the French countryside and not rush around. It was all to easy to come off Le Shuttle, drive south, unpack, have holiday and drive straight back.

So we took a fairly longish way down, stopping first in Dover (at a rather nameless Premier Inn, with. Beefeater attached, that did provide an allergy menu) before catching Le Shuttle the next day, driving down  via Rouen (we had to laugh at Mrs Sat Nav’s pronunciations) and into our booked first night in France, in a small gites in a little village; Boscherville.

Having emailed ahead, we ensured that our hosts were very much aware that we had someone who needed a ‘sans gluten’ breakfast. What we would get, we would have to wait and see.  Needless to say, it would appear that our hosts went out of their way to provide something for Noah to eat. Sadly, Noah was having a no-eating breakfast, but our confidence grew with sans gluten provisions. Other than that, we had a little picnic for tea from a nearby supermarket and the gites was pretty, simple and charming. Coffee in traditional bowls for breakfast 🙂

We then needed to make our way to our base camp; a Eurocamp, near la Loire. Being self catering we had of course needed to find a supermarket and stock up on supply’s. And why is it, that when you need to find something, you can’t find it? After a somewhat 30km round trip we found one hell of a supermarche! Super U. And the amount of ‘sans gluten’ product was outstanding. It was a little hit and miss after this, but on the whole, self catering in France for those needing to eat gluten free, is relatively easy. At least it is in la Loire.

We did of course bring some stuff over with us, but we could easily not have bothered. Even the camp site shop had a very limited stock of the basics – pasta…. We shall say very little about eating out, as that wasn’t our greatest success, but we didn’t expect it to be, so we pretty much ate of our own doing.  At least we knew what Noah was eating and not gambling on cross contamination in food outlet kitchens.

Then before heading back after a fantastic week of doing not very much but hanging by the pool (I didn’t bring enough books!), visiting a couple of traditional and amazing Chateaux we headed back north. But again we headed back to Calais via very circuitous route to Dieppe and a lovely B&B! Hotel de la Plage. Quite basic, but we just needed a bed for the night, a walk on the beach and a simple breakfast in the morning. And we are pleased to say that, again, there was a ‘sans gluten’ provision (Noah again having a no eating breakfast – good job we had some gluten free cereal left in the room!).

Our final stop, Cite Europe and the Carrefour supermarket just outside, literally, Le Shuttle terminal. And wow! What a fantastic array of gluten free products! No picture would have done it justice. Simply fantastic. Why these products are not available in the UK I have no idea, but if you get the chance, go and stock up. Noah felt like it was Christmas and we came back with loads of things for him to try.

So on the whole a rather successful trip all round, both in terms of travelling, driving and gluten free provision. Next year? A road trip to Italy?

What to look for – own shop brand ‘sans gluten’ can be hit and miss in some supermarkets, but the larger the store the larger the selection (not unlike in the UK I suppose) Carrefour do their own brand, but on our trip we found plenty of Schar products, Regain and Super U had their own products.

Look our for – d’orge = barley. dont ble = wheat. Glucose de ble = wheat glucose. Peut contenir = can contain. Fibre de ble = wheat fibre. Farine de ble = wheat flour. Google translate was VERY helpful 😉

Gluten Free Halloween Cake

I think I secretly love this time of year. The ghosts and ghouls, the dark and devilish. Not sure about all the blood and gore! But it is rather fun. Certainly had a bit of fun with this cake – a wonderful centre piece for the Halloween table – and its gluten free!

Halloween has been gathering some momentum over here in the UK for the last 10 years. Not sure I had heard about it when I was little, Noah now loves this time of year (I think it’s the sweets when he goes Trick or Treating)

A chocolate cake with a buttercream filling with a gluten free chocolate krispies as the brain, decorated with Schar Cookies and chocolate buttons.

Based around a 7″ cake tin recipe, the first thing will be to make the ‘brain’. Which you could also make using white chocolate coloured red for extra goriness.

Prepare the night before to allow for the krispies to set;

  • A bowl that fits the base of your 7″ cake tin
  • 110g gluten free rice krispies
  • 180g melted chocolate

The curve of the bowl will form the curve of the head of the cake and fits nicely onto the finished cake prior to icing. Mix the krispies with the melted chocolate, pour into the bowl and press down with the base of the cake tin, then leave to set.

 

Pre heat the oven to Gas 4, 180c or 160c fan and line 2×7″ cake tins with greaseproof paper.

  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 100g melted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g cocoa (I use Food Thoughts)
  • 180g gluten free self raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Beat all the ingredients together, I used the paddle beater with my table top mixer, for about 5 minutes.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 cake tins and bake for about 30 – 35 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven to cool, then take out of the tins.

Buttercream and topping;

  • 200g soft butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • red food colouring
  • splash of milk
  • flavouring – optional
  • 1 packet of Schar cookies
  • 1 packet of chocolate buttons
  • 1 packet of ready to roll fondant icing

Beat the butter until its light and fluffy, then mix in the icing sugar before beating further until the buttercream is spreadable.  At this point add the colouring and any optional flavour and beat this in.

Carefully slice each cake in 2 and build using the buttercream – a couple of tablespoons of buttercream should be enough for each layer. Pop the set krispies on top and cover the whole cake with the buttercream. Smooth the buttercream ready to cover. Leave a little over as you can use this to stick the cookies to the cake.

Roll out the fondant icing, you’ll need to roll it fairly thin in order to cover the cake and leave enough extra to give the covering the ‘ghost’ like base.

Cut the cookies so that there is the cream like filling on one side and a plain biscuit on the other.

Use the buttercream to stick a chocolate button on the cookie, then to stick the cookie onto the cake.