11 Mar Inviting a celiac for dinner: “no panic” moves
Asking yourself questions and organizing a “politically correct” dinner
Times have changed. Until not long ago, inviting someone to dinner meant calling them, setting a date and time and you were ready. Now, there are new “usual” questions: is anyone intolerant or allergic? Is anyone celiac, vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian????
Very often, the answer is yes and you start to panic.
The risk of an “epic fail” is lurking: for a host the worst thing is to let a guest go hungry.
My ten-year celiac experience has made an expert in gluten-free dinner invitations.Among the many that have come over, the following is the saddest, but also the most illustrative.
A long-time invitation. The splendid host had created an entirely, gluten-free menu: spontaneous herb flan, seafood risotto and a delicious chocolate cake.
Asking yourself questions and transforming dinner is child’s play
Very elegantly, she takes me aside and says: “Don’t worry, I cleaned the oven, the trays and every contact surface. You can relax”.
Naturally the first feeling is that of gratitude, but also I feel bad thinking of the effort it takes to make a gluten-free dinner. But a celiac knows that they can’t lower their guard. They know they have to be careful and, at the same time, not seem distrustful. Otherwise, one is taken for one of those table companions that are so distrustful, they become rude. The right question has to be asked at the right time, follow the clues, a bit like playing Cluedo culinary.
SUSPECT N. 1: BREADCRUMBS
The flan is served and I notice a delicious, golden crust on the bottom.
“How wonderful! What did you use on the baking tray?” I ask.
“Oh yes, a light layer of butter and some breadcrumbs and the deed is done.”
At the word breadcrumbs, she chokes and I look down. Ok, no starter.
SUSPECT N. 2: STOCK CUBE
It’s time for the risotto. Apparently, the perfect dish for a celiac. Tasty and creamy. After only 2 olives with my aperitif, I look at it with hunger. But, I become doubtful: there can’t be added seasoning – think stock cube?
“It looks and smells delicious. Do you use vegetable or fish stock to make it?”
“I found a wonderful stock cube: never mind making fish stock…”
We check the ingredients of this magic cube and even the first course is gone.
SUSPECT N. 3: ICING SUGAR
The host is grief-stricken. But she is sure that I’ll be happy with desert. She used gluten-free chocolate and the recipe included potato starch. The cake mould was covered with parchment paper…
I stopped her just in time, before she sprinkling of the icing sugar could compromise even the last course.
Made in a plant that uses gluten, dried fruit… the label says.
“For me a “total black” slice, it’s my favourite colour”
And then you tell her not to worry because it’s the company that counts, that it’s not a problem because you’re used to it, the desert was delicious…
It may be all true, for me it usually is. The worst is always for the person in the kitchen and sees that all their efforts were for nothing because of the small things.
What to do?
Here are 5, VERY practical suggestions for a gluten-free dinner
- Choose a very simple menu that includes quick cooking and few ingredients. This makes everything easier to control.
- Use food that is naturally gluten-free: it gains in flavour, health and the host’s peace of mind.
- Read the labels of ALL the product you use when preparing meals, not only the main products. We’ve seen that stock cubes, thickeners, canned food and cake mix can lead to ugly surprises.
- Always use parchment paper in trays and moulds. Even if washed well, residue can always stick to the sides.
- Do not use plastic or wooden bowls, cutting boards or utensils. These materials can never be washed perfectly and risk being a source of contamination.
Let’s try and create an “innocent” menu
The possible combinations for somebody who has to prepare a gluten-free dinner are many: celiac + lactose-intolerant / celiac + vegetarian / celiac + vegan (the hardest!)…
Is it for this reason that, nowadays, home-made dinners are always rarer? I belong to those that think “home-made veggies and dip is better” than a pre-cooked pizza in a noisy restaurant. Any food, if made and offered with love, goes beyond its intrinsic value and becomes a party.
Here are some fast, easy and safe dishes.
Veggies and all the dips your imagination can think of: vegan mayonnaise, mustard sauce, aromatic tomato souce.
A perfect dipping dipping trend.
Black Venus/Basmati/wholegrain rice with seafood, shellfish and vegetables. You can choose one type of mix them up, be careful with cooking times. You can serve the rice hot or cold as a one-course meal on a hot summer night. An easy idea isjar cooking.
As a substitute for rice, you can choose rice pulse pasta noodles, but be careful with cooking times: better “al dente” because gluten-free pasta doesn’t handleovercooking well.
Fish backed in salt crust. It’s the ideal cooking method because it respects the ingredient, doesn’t need sauces or dips and it follows a mathematical law: 200°C / 20 minutes for every Kg of fish.
Roast beef and meat or fish roasts: even in this case, a few simple ingredients, the convenience of being able to prepare them ahead of time and combine them with your favourite vegetables.
Desserts you eat with a spoon: panna cotta, Bavarian cream and crème caramel are fantastic desserts that started gluten-free. Do not use the powdered versions: they are easy to prepare and 100% safe.