Gluten free food - simply spicy!
With a little know-how, preparing and cooking Indian food is simple and straightforward. There's a huge variety of spices to choose from, many of which are actively good for you. Don't forget that there's a difference between spice and heat - spices add depth of flavour, while chilli adds heat.
Getting to grips with gluten
It's true to say that we are all are increasingly conscious of the existence of allergies and food intolerances. One of the most common is sensitivity to gluten, which can range in severity from mild intolerance through to full-blown coeliac disease. Gluten is a composite protein made up of gliadin and glutenin and is most commonly found in wheat, although it is also present in rye and barley. Many other foods, including bran, semolina, cous cous, bulgur, durum wheat, spelt, malt products, soya sauce and chapatti flour also contain gluten, as do many processed foods. New labelling laws coming into force this December will alert consumers to the presence of gluten in a food product.
Bring on the super subs!
Good cooks know that combining different flours and spices to achieve the right texture and flavour is critical to culinary success. Happily, for those who are gluten intolerant, there are many grain and flour alternatives from which to choose. In Indian cuisine, millet, rice, corn, almond, coconut, chickpea and sorghum (Jowar/ Juwar flour) are popular substitutes. Jowar / Juwar flour contains essential nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorous as well as B-vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin. It is also an excellent alternative for diabetics, as it has a low GI.
One of the great benefits of Indian cuisine is that the fresh ingredients and spices used to create its delicious dishes, don't contain gluten. If a recipe calls for a batter, gram flour (chickpea flour) can be used. Popular staples such as chapatti, naan bread, puri and paratha can all be made with Jowar / Juwar flour. This is a great way to have a bread product to accompany a curry.
In the Gujarat state of India, a chapatti made from Jowar/ Juwar flour is called a 'rotlo'. It is simple to make, as it uses just flour, hot water and a tawa (frying pan). It is served immediately. The following recipe makes two smaller rotlo or one large one.
38g Jowar/ Juwar flour
60-65ml boiling water
Extra flour for dusting
1. Combine the flour and hot water together and working quickly, mix together. Once combined, transfer onto a plate and using the palm of your hand push the warm dough outwards and then inwards for two minutes.
2. Gather the mixture together and form a smooth ball between the palms of your hands.
3. Divide it into two, roll each section between the palm of your hands, then cover with flour and set aside.
4. Sandwich one of the dough balls between two plastic sheets (a zip seal bag with the edges cut away is ideal).
5. Using a rolling pin, gently roll back and forth on top of the dough ball, making quarter turns as it flattens into a circle of around 10cm diameter, with a thickness of a 10 pence piece (avoid rolling it too thin as this makes it too difficult to peel off the plastic).
6. Meanwhile, heat the tawa until hot, then reduce the temperature.
7. Peel the roti off the plastic and place onto the tawa.
8. Once it starts to lift and bubble, turn it and cook the other side. Watch for small brown spots and cracks which should start to appear.
9. Finally, increase the heat again and cook the roti until it begins to rise. Press the edges to encourage this. Turn it over and cook the other side again (if using a gas cooker, turn on a second hob and place the roti onto the gas flame and turn using metal tongs; black spots should appear).
10. Repeat stages 5-9 for the second roti.
Spread with ghee, butter or leave plain and serve with curry.
Try adding a little cumin powder to the dough to spice up the bread.
Spices can add flavour, colour, and fragrance to any dish and making a bread can be easy and fun - be brave and try it yourself!