My gluten free holiday experience in Thailand

We decided to treat ourselves to a winter sun holiday, As always I was slightly nervous about eating away from the safety of my own kitchen, due to having Coeliac disease and being extremely intolerant to even the tiniest amount of gluten . Additionally I am intolerant to yeast ( vinegar, wine, soy etc ) and onions. The thought of some winter sun was enough to persuade me.

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Mr S booked to stay at W Retreat hotel in Koh Samui I left it up to him to chose a hotel and location in Thailand. I looked forward to it all being a surprise, I wasn’t so much surprised as shocked when we arrived at 10pm at the hotel. Dark, flashing lights and loud music greeted us after a 6hr flight. I thought we had arrived at a night club. where had Mr S booked!

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Sometimes its not good to make judgments immediately, especially after a long flight. The hotel looked very different in the day light, modern, trendy and very cool. Not what I was expecting from a Thailand hotel, but the longer we were there the more we both loved it.

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Our room was on the very highest level of the hotel complex, up a steep hill with 180 degree view of the coastline. Just amazing!

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A quick phone call and a friendly member of staff driving a golf buggy would appear to take you to and from your room to the beach, bar etc or you could brave the hills and many stair cases on foot. Not a hotel for someone with mobility issues of any kind, as there are not lifts to ever floor of the hotel.

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The bar area is situated on the top floor of the main hotel building, a DJ plays every evening here and the area takes on a club feel.

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The next level down is the main restaurant The kitchen table. This is where we went for breakfast everyday, you can chose between a buffet breakfast with as you can imagine everything you could possibly want for breakfast from a very british bacon and eggs to Asian food. We chose to eat a la cart which works out cheaper if you are only eating omelettes bacon etc and fruit or yoghurt, with tea or coffee. I had some delicious breakfasts at W, very thankful I can eat eggs.

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Lunch and evening meals are also available at this restaurant which has a open balcony ,if you chose to eat alfresco. A good choice of European and Thai food is on offer. I was able to enjoy steak, fish, prawns etc with delicious vegetables with mash or rice. There were many things I couldn’t have, chips, deep fried food etc But I was very happy to have the selection of gluten free food. I would loved to have seen just one gluten free pudding!

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The hotel has a food and drink Insider Sea Torres who is responsible for making sure your dining experience at the hotel is everything you hoped for. She made it her job to make sure she understood all of my intolerances and worked with the chefs and restaurant staff to make sure they understood my requirements. This made me feel very relaxed at meal times, something that rarely happens even in UK restaurants. Sea suggested we might like to do a cookery course with the chef.

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This turned out to be a great learning experience for both Chef Pepsi and ourselves. We made a ‘ free from’ thai green curry, chilli beef salad, coconut and chicken soup and sweet and sour prawns.

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During our stay at the hotel, Chef Pepsi invented a ‘free from’ Pad Thai and Thai veggie curry it was very nice to eat Thai food without worrying about becoming unwell.

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The hotel complex also had an infinity pool with sunbeds and bar.

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On a lower floor was the spa and gym. We enjoyed a couple of Thai massages and I also had a facial and manicure. Not cheap but, but similar to prices at home. Cheaper Thai massages were available on the beach at Chaweng just a short taxi ride away.

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The beach area was very quiet, and was made up of coarse sand containing crushed shells and coral in the sand. Chaweng beach a short drive away in the hotel shuttle bus has very fine sand but very busy.

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Towards the end of our stay we used the bar on the beach for lunch, unfortunately no gluten free food is available from the grill, but food can be ordered from the kitchen table which takes about 1/2 hr. I was able to enjoy some amazing salads.

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The food from at the restaurants was always very good, I can definitely recommend it as a place to eat safely with food intolerances. I suggest emailing ahead as we did.

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The signature restaurant at W Koh Samui is Namu a Japanese restaurant, located near the beach. We had 3 meals here and I was able to sample japanese food for the first time. The Sashima was very good. The Chef was very helpful and with the help of Sea , they suggested dishes I might like to try.

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The staff at W Retreat hotel were very friendly, many of the staff greeted us by name. I think I has become rather infamous! due to the food intolerances. But genuinely the Insiders and other members of staff really made our holiday in Koh Samui.

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A view of Chaweng beach

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High tide at Chaweng beach

The weather during our stay was mixed, the first few days were cloudy and windy but warm, gradually this improved and the final 6 days were sunny and warm with a more gentle breeze.

I took a business /intolerance card with me explaining all my food intolerances which seemed to be a great help to the restaurant staff. They stuck one up in both restaurants for my entire stay. English was spoken well by most of the Hotel staff so I had no need of a Food intolerance translation sheet on this holiday.

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W Retreat Koh Samui is part of Starwood Hotel group

Happy holidays!

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‘free from’ Thai cookery course at W Retreat Koh Samui

Staying in Thailand we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to learn to make some Thai dishes. W Retreat Hotels Koh Samui offers a two hour cooking experience with the Chef at The Kitchen table. Having multiple food intolerances, gluten, yeast and onion made me assume that a cookery course would be impossible for me. But with the guidance of the Food and Drink Insider, Sea Torres and Chef Pepsi a selection of dishes were suggested that sounded amazing. A chicken and coconut milk soup, chilli beef salad, sweet and sour prawns and a thai green beef curry. I couldn’t wait!

We arrived at 1pm ready to begin our course, we received a warm welcome from Sea and we were introduced to Chef Pepsi. Aprons, hats and blue gloves were provided, we looked ready for action.

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Firstly Chef Pepsi demonstrated the Thai green beef curry. A dish which I used to make before I knew I was intolerant to yeast and onions.

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To have the chance to learn from Chef to make an equally delicious tasting curry was really exciting. He had put thought into how he could create the dish so that we could both enjoy it.

Firstly he used a pestle and mortar to crush fresh lemongrass, green chilli,garlic clove, galangal ( a little like ginger but more peppery ) fresh coriander, cumin seeds, black pepper and shrimp paste ( It is fermented but didn’t seem to cause me any problems ) mashed anchovy fillets, I think would work as an alternative.

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He heated a deep frying pan and added 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. I would suggest using melted coconut oil as it is a much healthier alternative. He added the green curry paste stir briefly to release the fragrance,  beef strips were stir fried briefly before adding the coconut milk which was then simmered and bite sized cubes of egg plant and green pepper were added. He also added salt and palm sugar simmered the curry for about 8 minutes. Chef tasted the curry to check if it needed extra salt or sugar. We tasted the curry too, it was delicious. I couldn’t wait to make my own!

He served the thai curry in a bowl and garnished with fresh basil and slices of red chilli.

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Then it was our turn, we chose to have individual pans Mr S loves a competition . We were both very proud of our finished Thai green beef curry.

Chef Pepsi also demonstrated the soup, salad and sweet and sour prawns. We thoroughly enjoyed having a go at each of the dishes. Mr S’s sweet and sour prawns was a triumph. Unfortunately a yeast free version of this dish is tricky so my version left a little to be desired. I could not add the ketchup or sweet chilli sauce sadly which left me with tomato puree and lime juice. This dish still needs some work!

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Mine is the bowl on the right sadly.

The beef salad was nice and simple to make, as was the chicken, mushroom and coconut milk soup. I just had to leave out the mushrooms.

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The salad was delicious but very spicy so we were thankful for the soup.

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After making the dishes we sat down to eat our lovely Thai meal. A very interesting and fun couple of hours. We both look forward to recreating the dishes back in the UK.

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A big thank you to Pepsi for taking on the challenge of ‘free from’ Thai cooking. I think we all learnt something new that afternoon! If you are visiting W Retreat Hotels in Koh Samui and have food intolerances you can feel confident that Chef Pepsi and Sea will work with you to make your holiday dining experience a stress free one.

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Maybe you will challenge Chef Pepsi to come up with some more ‘free from’ dishes?

Taking part in the cookery lesson is a good way to get to know the Chefs you learn new dishes and they in turn learn more about your food intolerances, which will help during the rest of your stay. For example. today for lunch Pepsi kindly made me a gluten free, onion free, yeast free Pad Thai a new experience for him! an amazing treat for me.

Definitely worth emailing the hotel before you arrived to inform them of your dietary needs.

Follow them on twitter @wkohsamu

eating ‘free from’ at Namu Japanese restaurant

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On Sunday we decided to eat at Namu the Signature Japanese restaurant at our W Retreat Hotel in Koh Samui, I am normally worried about eating somewhere new but at this hotel the Food and Beverage Insider Sea Torres has been incredibly helpful and has ‘gone the extra mile’ to make sure that I have a trouble free holiday. She has spoken to both restaurants on my behalf explaining my multiple food intolerances gluten, yeast and onions and working with the chefs to find things that i could eat and enjoy. We booked our meal for 8pm to give us time to first sit up at the bar and listen to the DJ, even though the evening was cooler than usual for this time of year we could have stayed there all night.

We took a short buggy ride down to the restaurant near the beach. A very modern structure, minimalist concrete floors with simple wooden tables and chairs.  We had opted on Sea’s advice to sit at the chef’s table, along the counter of the open kitchen.

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Chef and Sea talked with me about choices for a starter and main course. I chose Sashimi using very fresh raw tuna, yellow tail and salmon on a bed of shredded turnip with a squeeze of lime and a little fresh wasabi.

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I had never eaten Sashimi before, I loved it, simple and delicious! I do miss soy sauce etc but was amazed how tasty the food was with just lime juice and wasabi.

My main course was Sea Bream grilled with bok choi and steamed plain rice. I sometimes feel that although I cannot have many sauces and dressings on food, It makes me really appreciate the taste of the fish, meat etc as it is not taken over by other strong flavours.

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It was very interesting to watch the chef prepare many different meals while we were at Namu. Fabulous plates and bowls were used to add to the drama of the dishes. I must try that tip at home!

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Mr S chose the soft shell crab sushi rolls followed by the most popular and signature dish of lobster claw and udon noodles which are made with wheat flour. Pictured above. He thought his meal was very good. The lobster was very well cooked and he very much enjoyed the sushi rolls.

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Chef working in the open kitchen

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a view from outside Namu

My visit to Namu was very enjoyable. My Japanese meal was outstanding, something very different for me.  It was well cooked and presented. The staff were helpful and friendly and we hope to return again before the end of our holiday in Thailand.

A big thank you to the Chef, and Sea for making the evening such a pleasurable one.

Gluten free dining in Dubai

We flew to Dubai on Emirates an airline I can highly recommend. Flying economy for 6 hours was very comfortable. I  pre ordered a gluten free inflight meal. Because I have additional  food intolerances it makes eating on planes quite tricky. Yeast (wine, vinegar soy sauce etc ) and onions are not things you can avoid with inflight meals, sadly. The likelihood was that there would be very little I could eat.

With this in mind we grabbed breakfast at Rhubarb at terminal 3 Heathrow. A huge plate of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs was just the ticket.

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The 6 hr flight went very fast, helped by a great selection of up to date movies. The gluten free meal offered was simply cooked salmon with a few tiny squares of potato, I was very grateful for this.

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We stayed at the Mina A’Salam part of the Jumeirah resort in Dubai, a grand boutique hotel. The hotel is built in the traditional arabian style with waterways, souk and spa. During our stay we tried a selection of the restaurants in our hotel and the neighbouring hotels only a boat ride, walk or buggy ride away.

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On our first night we had dinner at La Parrilla at Jumeirah beach hotel just a short buggy ride away, along the edge of the beach front. Infront of the hotel is the famous Burj al Arab the sail shaped all suite hotel. A stunning looking structure set on an island just off the beach.

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La Parrilla is an Argentinian restaurant located on the 25th floor of the hotel.

After a cheeky Gin and Tonic we checked out the menu. Steak was an obvious choice, to have it with fries would be amazing but it was unlikely that I would be able to have it in the restaurant due to cross contamination. I passed my new business/intolerance card to the waitress and almost straight away the chef appeared asking how he could help. The argentinian chef went through the entire menu with me and gave me lots of alternatives for dinner. He offered to make me my own chips, fried separately. How could I refuse!

While we waited for our food we enjoyed spanish dancing and live music . For a starter I decided on two small tapas dishes manchego cheese with honey and stuffed peppers with avocado and cheese, both stunning.

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cheese and honey

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Stuffed peppers

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The fillet steak was the best I have ever tasted and it was very nice to have chips as a treat. I ordered a side of spinach and pine nuts which was delicious too. I felt very confident that the chef understood my needs, making the whole experience very enjoyable for Mr S and myself. So often we both end up stressed even before the food arrives. I can highly recommend La Parrilla

Sadly the only option for pudding if you are gluten intolerant or Coeliac is fruit,  I watched Mr S tuck into a delicious looking pudding. It would be good to see a gluten free option added to the menu or possibly a cheese board with celery and fig.

Our first morning in Dubai we were greeted by the bluest sky and turquoise sea from our balcony

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Time to check out the breakfast buffet, fingers crossed!

I wasn’t disappointed, separate stations for each type of food. Bread products right away from fresh fruit etc. Chef on hand to prepare eggs, no flour near by. A huge relief.

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2 egg omelette and smoked salmon with fresh fruit to start.

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You can choose to eat inside or outside looking out towards the sea. Just watch out for the crows that like to fly down when you leave your table unattended.

The safest choice for breakfast is definitely eggs with a choice of salmon , cheese or vegetables.

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Gluten free bread is available on request.

Dinner on the second evening was at Al Hambra in the Al Qasr hotel. What the restaurant lacked in atmosphere it made up for with its friendly helpful staff. Straight away the chef came out to see us and went through the menu ticking suitable choices. I was pleased to know that I could have paella.

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We started with tapas style garlic prawns and Serrano ham, followed by the paella it was a delicious meal and I would certainly return to this restaurant.

A good choice for lunch is Shimmers, a beach front restaurant with plenty of shade leading straight on to the sand. Once again after explaining to the waiter I had food intolerances the chef came straight out and we talked through what I could have.

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I chose Salmon with potato wedges cooked separately for me with a green salad.

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A pretty perfect setting for lunch!

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For our last evening in Dubai, a place which has totally surprised me and exceeded my expectations. We booked to eat dinner at Pierchic an extra special restaurant on a pier serving mainly seafood, dress code is smart elegant.

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A view looking down the pier.

Fortunately it was a still, warm evening  perfect for sitting outside. We took a short walk to the pier where we were seated looking out at Burj al Arab lit up along with many other buildings on the shore line. A full moon adding to the already beautiful view.

We had emailed the restaurant in advance and the chef came out straight away to talk through my intolerances. It turned out chef Rosalind Parsk came from Epsom very close to us in Surrey. She told us she had worked for Gordon Ramsey and Gary Rhodes Grosvenor house Dubai. Chef Rosalind went through the menu with us and I decided to order scallops to start followed by Atlantic cod with mash and green beans.

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There was one small mistake with my main course some pickled caper berries fortunately I spotted them so it wasn’t an issue. I did let the chef know at the end, as she came out to check if we had enjoyed everything.

I chose a cheese board for pudding as there was no option for a sweet dessert except fruit once again.

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Once again someone had added pickle to my cheese board, not to much of an issue but this does show how important it is to have good communication in the kitchens.

I would definitely eat at Pierchic again,  a lovely location for a special meal.

This sadly was only a short break on our way to Thailand, I could happily have stayed longer in Dubai. We visited the Burj al Khalifa, well worth a visit. The Dubai mall and the gold souk.

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Spice souk

Spice souk

Top tip – if you stay half or full board at Mina a’ Salam, you may be given meal vouchers. It is worth checking which restaurants you can use your vouchers for. Some like Pierchic do not accept vouchers for Dinner. Other restaurants accept vouchers for both lunch and dinner. Email ahead to mention food intolerances too. They do take note and are much more prepared when you arrive. If there are restaurants you are keen to try it is worth booking in advance.

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Worth asking for a room facing west over the canals as a new hotel is being built on the other side facing Burj al Arab

Whatever your food intolerance the hotels in the Jumeirah complex should be able to accommodate you. It appeared to me that they had a policy to send the chef out to make sure they can understand and cater for your needs.

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I’m sure we will return to Dubai and this hotel  sometime in the future. Whilst not a cheap option, the fact that we could eat out so easily in a range of restaurants with no worries was worth a great deal.

I would love to hear your experiences of eating out gluten free in Dubai.

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Eating gluten free at Côte Restaurant

To celebrate my recent Birthday we decided to go to the Theatre in London to see The Bodyguard and I also wanted to take the family out for a pre theatre meal. For most people this is an easy task. For me, a little more difficult. Having multiple intolerances makes eating out very difficult, gluten, yeast and onions a tricky combination.

Côte Restaurant was recommended to me as being Coeliac friendly.  I sent Côte an email asking for a little more information. Charlotte from Côte was very helpful, she sent me a list of gluten free dishes.

here it is!

Starters-

Seasonal homemade Soup

Prawn Gratine ( ask for no croutons )

Roquefort salad ( ask for no croutons )

Smoked salmon ( ask for no dressing or sourdough bread )

Crab mayonnaise ( ask for no bread )

Moules Marinieres

Main course options-

Risotto vert

Chicken and walnut salad ( ask for no croutons )

Nicoise salad

Fish parmentier ( suprisingly! )

Roast duck breast

Pork belly

1/2 Chicken ( garlic, provencale and mushroom sauce all ok )

Steaks are all ok ( roquefort butter, bearaise and peppercorn sauce all ok )

Roast seabass

Goats cheese salad ( ask for no crostini )

Rump of lamb

Moules Frites

Desserts-

Creme caramel

Creme brulee

Chocolate pot ( from set menu )

iced berries

ice cream

We arrived at Côte near Covent garden Tavistock street at 5.45pm and were shown to our table at the furthest corner of the restaurant. Booth type seating, quite cosy for 6 of us. We were welcomed by our waiter who then went to fetch us some water. Sadly this did take a long while to turn up, maybe if we had been ordering wine etc it would have arrived more quickly. We ordered our food, I chose 1/2 Chicken with garlic butter and Frites, I was beyond excited about the frites, I cannot remember the last time I had proper french thin fries. Charlotte was able to reassure me that the frites are cooked in a separate fryer, brilliant news. No idea why more restaurants don’t do this.

The family chose Duck, Cassoulet, Moules, Steak and Chicken. The water arrived in unusual earthenware pots which was novel.

The food arrived quickly and everything looked amazing, My 1/2 chicken was absolutely delicious especially with the garlic butter and the Frites definitely lived up to my expectations, glad I ordered an extra side of Frites for the table ( for me really ) Everyone enjoyed their meal choices and we will be booking a return meal at Côte Restaurant very soon. Fortunately there are nearer Côte restaurants to us in Surrey.

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It was the first meal in a while that I felt totally confident that it really would be gluten free, which makes such a difference to the evening for myself and the family.

The one thing I could see that could be improved upon would be the addition of a GF sign next to each meal choice that is gluten free. I imagine this would be very easy to do.

I would never have chosen this restaurant If It hadn’t been recommended as I saw no sign of gluten free choices. Not everyone has time to email these restaurants in advance, I took along 5 customers to Côte because I knew I could eat there, worth other Restaurants remembering!

I can definitely recommend Côte Restaurants to fellow Coeliacs and those who are gluten intolerant .

Maybe by the time You visit the gluten free options will be clearly marked on the menu.

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The Bodyguard musical at the Adelphi Theatre was very good. Many of the best known Whitney Houston songs sung by Beverley Knight. If you are a fan of Whitney or the film The Bodyguard its worth a visit. The Côte restaurant is nice and close for a pre theatre meal too.

October 2014 – Côte now has a gluten free menu in all restaurants

Grain free mini pancakes

Inspired by grain free mini pancakes made by a friend over Christmas I thought I would have a go myself.

These are perfect as they are gluten free and grain free and taste very light yet similar to the blinis I remember from gluten eating days.

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Grain free mini pancakes

recipe-

2 tbsp coconut baking flour ( I used fair trade Tiana organic ) you need very little of this flour.

1tsp gluten free Baking powder

3 large free range organic eggs

50ml of milk

Coconut oil ( I used Lucy bee coconut oil )

Method-

put coconut flour and baking powder in a bowl

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Add the 3 beaten eggs, use whisk to mix together

Add up to 50ml of milk if necessary

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leave for a few minutes

then heat a frying pan with good tsp of coconut oil

drop a spoonful of mixture at a time into the pan

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It will cook very quickly, turn over when brown on one side and brown the other side.

they will puff up slightly,

continue with all the batter adding more coconut oil when needed.

cool and serve with full fat cream cheese and smoked salmon or a topping of your choice.

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Delicious for a treat with extra thick double cream and blueberries. No need for sugar

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These are the amazing grain free pancakes made by my friend Liz at Christmas. She added edible glitter to give them an extra sparkle.

Enjoy!

sugar free, gluten free Granola

Happy 2014! hope this will be a healthy and happy New Year for you all.

Thought I would have a go at a no sugar Granola recipe for a healthy breakfast choice for the New Year, hopefully you will like it too.

Recipe-

100g Almonds

100g Brazils

100g Pecans

100g Hazelnuts ( you could use any selection of nuts )

150g desiccated coconut

150g gluten free oats

handful of chia seeds

handful of pumpkin seeds

handful of sunflower seeds

2 tsp of ground cinnamon

200ml of melted coconut oil

Use food processor for nuts, don’t make them to fine better left coarse.

mix nuts, seeds, oats and desiccated coconut together

add cinnamon, mix well.

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Melt coconut oil, use a glass jug to put the coconut oil in and stand in saucepan of boiling water.

pour melted oil into nuts etc stir well.

grease two baking trays with coconut oil

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bake in hot oven 180c for 9 mins stir then back in the oven for a further 9 mins until becoming a lovely golden brown.

cool and store in airtight container

serve with fresh berries and plain full fat greek yoghurt, best to avoid dried fruits as they are higher in sugar.

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sometimes I use double cream and use as a healthy pudding.

check out my oat free Granola here

check out my refined sugar free Granola here

I use Lucy Bee coconut oil from Natures health box

Enjoy!