Gluten Free Stress Free Dinner Party

Gluten Free Stress Free Dinner Party
By Aalto University Library and Archive Commons [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Before we dive into the Gluten Free Stress Free Dinner Party, let’s look at what gluten is and why you might need a gluten free (GF) dinner party.

Gluten is a cereal protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, as well as some hybrid grains. There are three groups of people who have problems with gluten:

People with coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, in which prolamin fraction (a component of gluten) causes the immune system to attack the small intestine’s lining. The damage this causes is not repairable and will worsen with further gluten consumption, which is why sufferers eliminate it from their diets. Diagnosis requires a blood test and biopsy.

People who are gluten intolerant have an immune response to the gluten itself, the same as those who are allergic to pollen, peanuts or bee stings do. Once the gluten has passed, the unpleasant digestive symptoms do too.

People who can tolerate prolamin fraction but not other gluten compounds. This group is still the subject of ongoing medical and scientific debate but is more likely to be at the gluten intolerant end of the spectrum.

As we’re making this dinner at home for friends, we’ll be keeping it simple.

Food

Our Gluten Free Stress Free Dinner Party excludes sources of gluten like bread, pasta or pastries except for those made with grains that don’t contain gluten (like rice or corn). Many of my GF friends refuse to eat them because the texture and flavour of these can be repellent. And as many processed goods contain flours, we’re going to focus on dishes made from scratch with meat, fresh fruit and vegetables.

It would be kind of you to check this menu with your GF friends, because it is possible that they have other food-related issues, or maybe just don’t like some of the ingredients.

Drinks

Beer is off the menu, but this leaves us with cider, wine, spirits and liqueurs.

Ambiance

My GF friends also tell me that sometimes they feel like freaks because they have to ask so many questions about the food when they eat out so we have two options here:

  1. “Normal” meal with plain table and everyday crockery and cutlery.
  2. “Special Event” with a white tablecloth, napkins, silver cutlery, fine white china dishes and crystal glasses. Or simulacrums.

Dress Code

Everyday, or dress up.

Dinner Planning

As ever, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.

6:30 Apéritif: Dry Champagne and Cucumber-Dill Smoked Salmon Bites

Mix 4 oz (115 g) cream cheese with 1 finely sliced green (spring) onion, 1 tablespoon chopped capers, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ tablespoon chopped dill, salt and pepper until smooth. Smear onto a thin round of English (Continental) cucumber and top with smoked salmon.

7.00 Entrée: Grilled Peach Salad with Goat Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc (or more champagne)

First, make the dressing; whisk 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, ¼ teaspoon honey, ½ tablespoon finely chopped shallots, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard with salt and pepper to taste.

Put around a handful of loosely packed salad leaves on each plate and top with chopped mint, toasted almond slivers, and ½ oz (15 g) of crumbled goats cheese. You need half a peach per person; cut into segments and grill for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Put on top of the salad and drizzle with dressing.

8.00 Main: Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Chicken with Sweet Tomatoes and Beans and Sauvignon Blanc

Preheat your oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Drain 3 x 14 oz (400 g) tins of cannellini beans and pour into a deep baking dish. Strip the leaves from a bunch of basil and sprinkle half on top of the beans with the chopped stems. Chop 1¾ oz (50 g) anchovies, deseed and slice 2 red chillies and add to the pan with 2½ oz (75 g) of kalamata olives (JO recommends you pit them by squashing them with the heel of your hand. It’s kind of fun). Separate a bulb of garlic, and add half the cloves to the pan before giving it a quick mix. Season 12 bone-in chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and dried oregano and arrange in a single layer on top of the beans. Top with the remaining garlic cloves and 10½ oz (300g) of cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 90 minutes. JO recommends a side of rocket and watercress salad with a lemon dressing, but as you have an entree salad, I think you could skip this and go with the beans alone.

8.30 Dessert: Eton Mess with Moscato

There are a lot of recipes for gluten free cakes and so on, but I’m inclined to stay on the fresh theme and have fruit. One of the quick and easy desserts I love is “Eton Mess” which consists of crumbled meringues, Chantilly cream and fruit. Fresh berries are good for this, as is cooked rhubarb but pretty much any fruit will do. And while I say crumbled meringues, you could stack the components to make mini pavlovas instead.

Meringues: Preheat your oven to 200 °F ( 95 °C), put the rack in the middle, and line a baking sheet with parchment. With an electric mixer, beat 4 large egg whites, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt until you get soft peaks. Then beat in 2/3 cup sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Spoon onto the baking parchment in six more or less even heaps and smooth them out. Bake for 2 – 3 hours until they are touch dry. Turn the oven off and let them cool completely (my mother left hers in the oven overnight).

Chantilly Cream: mix some vanilla paste with fresh full fat cream and icing sugar to taste, and whip until soft peaks form.

Or you could do fruit and chopped nuts with yoghurt.

9.00 Digestif: chocolate, liqueur of choice and cheese (tea and coffee).

Now, in theory, all chocolate (and bacon) is gluten free. However, modern factory production methods share equipment across product lines and add fillers to reduce costs so you should avoid mass produced chocolate and

The usual cheese arrangement is young (e.g. brie), old (e.g. cheddar) and blue cheese served with crisp fruit like apple or pear, fruit paste, nuts, and crackers. You could make crackers with gluten free flour, but it will be much easier to buy them. Or exclude them altogether and just have fruit. 

Schedule

If you are making the meringues, you will need to do this the night before. Aside from that, the cream cheese, and the main, most of this can be done at the last minute before you serve. You could mix the cream cheese mid-afternoon, and start washing and preparing the rest of the ingredients around 5.30.

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