When Kate Hardie's son William was diagnosed with Coeliac disease at the age of 20 months, Kate immediately had to learn how to manage his condition following a strict gluten-free diet.
Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease. Gluten triggers a reaction that damages the small intestine and can lead to further complications like anaemia, osteoporosis and even cancer if left undetected and unmanaged.
At first, Kate, a graphic designer from Leeds, was daunted by the task of feeding her young son. Discovering there was a lack of gluten-free recipe books available to cater for young families, she experimented and adapted family cooking for William, his older sister Evie and younger brother Ben, and she decided to share what she had learnt by writing her own family recipe book.
Can I Eat it? contains 63 tried and tested recipes which are my twist on everyday accessible meals and snacks. It's designed to allow families to eat inspiring food together, regardless of having a child with Coeliac disease.
There's information about the condition, plus my top 20 cupboard essentials to get you started, healthy breakfast recipes, snack time treats, school lunch box ideas, favourite family meals, desserts and party food.
How would you describe it?
Can I Eat It? aims to bridge the gap between that segregated allergy section of the market and the mainstream best-selling recipe books. So I'm aiming to be a bit more Annabel Karmel and have a modern feel. They're not ground-breaking recipes, they're just educating people, showing they can lead a normal life with small changes. I've included a photograph with every recipe and tried to make it as visually stimulating as possible.
What drove you to write the book?
I don't want William to stand out as feeling different. I've tried to make the book appealing to a wider audience because the idea behind it is to integrate it into normal life. Many Coeliac books out there are instantly recognisable as allergy books – they're something you feel obliged to have rather than a luxurious indulgent enjoyable book to look at, read and work with.
From my personal experience I think the recipes can seem stuffy and not appealing for a child. They've got to look visually appealing and fun. William is getting to an age where he knows and he's comparing. I want to make sure he doesn't feel like he's missing out. That's why I aim to bridge the gap with the book and make it so it would sit on a bookshelf next to a mainstream popular children's recipe book.
The book's title stems from the question William has posed at least once a day since he was diagnosed with Coeliac disease: 'Can I Eat It?'
Who is the book for?
When your child is diagnosed Coeliac, it's a massive lifestyle change and you have got no choice - you've got to go for it and it isn't really just the child. As a family you have got to all make the change.
The recipes are created to appeal to everyone, not just those with Coeliac disease. William's brother and sister, who do not have Coeliac disease, eat the same gluten-free food as he does, so they're a great little taste testing committee!
Most of the gluten-free recipe books that are out there are aimed more at adults.
There's limited resources out there to really cover birthday parties and lunch boxes and that kind of thing – this is definitely aimed at appealing to children.
How have you found the experience of writing the book?
This book has encompassed the main things I'm interested in. I love cooking and always have done. And it's incorporated my design skills, and it's in William's interest so I've been in my element doing it - it's been a labour of love.
Most people write a book and someone else edits it, another person does the photography, another makes the recipes. With this, I've done everything. I've learnt to make an e-book, I've done all the photography, all the cooking, all the writing and even the website design and the animated promotional video. I had the background of being a graphic designer and an eye for design detail, but I suppose I'm also a control freak, and I've had 100% control!
I couldn't work a camera before and I've taught myself food photography. There are lots of tricks and techniques you can use – like spraying things to make it look like they are steaming. I've learnt them all along the way.
I took 90 shots of my first image, by the end of the process I only needed to take two before I got what I wanted, because it had clicked with me how to stage the photo to get it right.
How are you promoting the book?
I'm getting my message out through Twitter, Facebook, my website, and I've made a promotional video for YouTube which is getting a lot of hits. William's dietitian is also interested in using the book. I've got a Free From company reviewing it at the moment and various newspaper and radio stations are interested in talking about it. It's a case of getting the message out there and hopefully this will be a valuable tool for other families.
Can I Eat It? Is available as an e-book from Amazon.
For more information on Coeliac disease, visit the Coeliac society at Coeliac.org.uk.
Try Kate's gluten-free recipes: