It’s taken me quite a while to write this blog post. I always try to write up a post a few days after reviewing something or attending an event, but this one has taken me considerably longer. Not because I’m being lazy, or because I didn’t like it. But because I really felt like I needed to do it justice. I know a couple of people who can’t eat gluten but I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really know the full scale of gluten-intolerance or coeliac disease. So when I was invited to a Coori cookery class, I hoped that I would learn a lot about this subject.
The class was being held at Food at 52, near Old Street and upon arrival, I was greeted with a mountain of Coori food products, many of which we were available to try and were really tasty. Coori was set up by gluten-intolerant Italian Julia Zardetto, who saw a gap in the market for gluten-free items without sacrificing the flavour. She set out to create well recognised Italian foods but completely ‘free from’. The full Coori range now includes gluten free, lactose free, dairy free, wheat free and egg free products, as well as products for vegetarians and vegans.
In case you’re wondering what food has gluten in, it’s found in wheat, barley and rye, including pasta, cakes, cereals, most types of bread, as well as some sauces and ready meals (and most beers are made from barley).
I met some lovely bloggers at the event who were gluten-intolerant but some of whom had coeliac disease. One of the ladies had gone undiagnosed for many years and after explaining her symptoms to the doctor, the cause of the problem was finally confirmed. This is where I was really surprised; she had been suffering from depression and bleeding cuticles, to name a couple of symptoms. As soon as she was diagnosed with coeliac disease and transformed her diet, all of the symptoms went away.
I naively associated problems relating to gluten with things like bloating and abdominal pain (which I believe many people also misunderstand) but I soon learned that coeliac disease is an illness where the immune system mistakes substances found inside gluten as a threat to the body and therefore attacks them. This damages the surface of the intestines and stops the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. It is therefore also very different to someone who suffers from gluten-intolerance, although this is difficult to live with too.
Apparently 1 in 100 people in the UK suffer from coeliac disease – a much higher number than I realised. And this is potentially the tip of the iceberg, as doctors believe many cases are undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed as other illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Now after all, this is a food blog, and I’m not going to make this into a science lesson (not least because I was terrible at science at school!) but it really did make me think about how some people really do need to watch what they eat for the sake of their health, and made me feel very fortunate that I can eat what I want (within reason!), without having to worry about the repercussions of what it may be doing to my body. The lady I mentioned earlier is now having to repair the damage done to her stomach over years of eating the wrong food and not knowing the harm it was doing.
So moving on to the food itself, we were shown how to make gluten-free ravioli, using a method with gluten-free flour and an egg in the middle, mixing them together in a circular motion. It looked very easy when the professionals did it – not so easy in practice!
There were two different fillings, one meat and one veggie, and we sealed them before popping them into boiling water. I don’t think there were any disasters, no exploding ravioli from overfilling the pasta from any of the cooking stations! Then came the taste test – I was intrigued to see if it would be as good as standard pasta. And I’m pleased to say, it was! It didn’t have quite as much flavour as a usual flour/egg based pasta, but certainly did the job. I also think I made mine a bit too thick (I was scared of it falling apart in the pan!) but lesson learned for next time!
After the pasta, the Coori team brought out a huge pile of gluten-free, dairy-free profiteroles, which had everyone drooling! For me, they weren’t quite as tasty as they looked, simply because they were never going to taste like ‘normal’ profiteroles with dairy-based chocolate on top and cream inside. But it was very close to it, and at the end of the day, I’m not their target customer. I’m sure that anyone who is gluten/dairy intolerant would love to get their hands on some of these.
They also make their own panettone, which was delicious and I could barely tell the difference from a non gluten-free panettone.
And lastly, we were given some gluten-free beer to try, which was very tasty indeed (I could have drunk a few bottles of it!) and I really couldn’t tell the difference. Much needed in the heat of the kitchen, on one of the hottest days of the year so far!
I can’t even express just how excited the other bloggers who can’t eat gluten were at these products, and how tasty they said they were. So if you’re gluten intolerant or have coeliac disease, you must try Coori’s products! You can visit their website here, which tells you more about the business and what you can buy from their shop. They also have weekly and monthly boxes which are sent to you, packed with gluten-free items which are themed each month (this month’s is a Mediterranean theme), and can also be personalised as necessary.
Before I left the class, I was given an absolutely huge bag of Coori goodies to take away and try at home. We’ve been in the middle of moving house and haven’t done very much ‘proper’ cooking in weeks, but last night, after finally moving into our new home, we tried out the pasta with a beef bolognese. The texture was slightly softer and stickier than usual pasta or spaghetti, but it worked well and tasted lovely – I’d definitely use it as a replacement to spaghetti in future, especially if it’s a healthier alternative.
I still have plenty to learn about gluten-free food, but it was certainly eye-opening for me. Are you gluten-intolerant or do you have coeliac disease? Do these products appeal to you? Let me know in the comments below!
I was invited to this cookery class by Coori and Aduro Communications, but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.