The Clean Plate – Rayleigh Review

Eating Out

I've recently decided to create a 'Free from' directory for myself when needing to find a suitable place to eat out.

I'm slowly building a list of places, which of course means I have lots of new places to try out!

One of these was incredibly local to myself, and I wish I had found it sooner.

'The clean plate' is a completely gluten free cafe.
Not only are they completely gluten free, but they also cater strongly for vegans.
This of course means not only do I not have to study the menu for gluten free items. But I know there's options that will also be dairy free (no dairy from cows for me)

The cafe is not far from Rayleigh station and is easy to find. There is no parking at the cafe, but lots of side streets to park in. So parking was not an issue.

Clean plate is not a huge place, and I've been told it can fill up quite quickly. However we were lucky and picked a relatively quiet time to go.
With a choice of tables, either inside or out.

First decision needed, was of course a drink….. I opted for a vegan milkshake.

The vegan option (aka dairy free) only came in chocolate. However I was given a choice of milks, and rather than going for the standard 'soya'.
I chose my home favourite of cashew milk.

Then of course came the difficult decision of finding something to eat.
When you're used to being given a couple of items to choose from, an entire menu is a bit overwhelming.

There is the standard page and then a page for vegan alternatives of the same.

It was a difficult toss up between pizza or pancakes.
But as pancakes is not an option I've found anywhere else, I opted for that.

I was able to choose the vegan pancakes so that they'd be dairy free, but with the standard menu sides toppings…. 'bacon and maple syrup'

The food was creatively presented, and delicious. The vegan pancakes had a slight hint of banana to them (which I'm assuming is because they're made with them as a dairy alternative) but were tasty and went well with the bacon and syrup.

I also had garlic bread, however ate this before I could take a picture of it (it was delicious though)

Not only did I have so much choice for a mains, but I then found they did raw vegan cakes.
Which of course I had to try.

Looking at the menu they also offer sandwiches etc to take away. Which would be perfect if you needed to grab a lunch en-route somewhere.

Having an entirely gluten free cafe, so close to me is probably not good news for my bank account or waistline. However I can't begin to express how great it feels to not have to worry about explaining my coeliacs.
With the dairy being my only worry, and the cafe catering so well for vegans I can eat most of what's on offer.

I will be going back…..regularly!

Gluten Free in Toulouse

Holidays

Berlin has truly spoilt me as a coeliac, and so I find it is all too easy to want to stick with Germany as a holiday destination. France was not an option I had really considered, when I think of France my mind conjures images of baguettes, croissants, cheese’s etc.
On top of this, my German speaking skills just about get me through whilst there. My French however, is nothing to shout about. The tiny amount I remember from school, is not particularly helpful (I don’t think anybody wants to know what my favourite school subject used to be)
 
Trying to find a cheap last minute holiday, left limited choices. Toulouse seemed like the best option, which left me with the difficult task of finding places I could eat and buy food from.
Landing quite late on a Thursday, meant food shopping was not an option.
 
The next day we had an Escape Room booked (would definitely recommend) after this it was a case of wandering around to try and find a place I could get some food items from. Randomly stumbling across a ‘Biocoop’ on the Boulevard Lazare Carnot. This is effectively an Organic food shop, it was similar inside to Holland & Barrett here in the U.K.
 
Next was the dreaded hunt reading ingredients in French and hoping I could spot any ‘bad’ ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of shelves all containing food items that were ‘Sans Gluten’, a lot of these products also had English ingredients on the back. The ones that didn’t were fairly
straight forwards to read.


 
There was a very large selection of cakes, biscuits, cereals, pastas, breads etc. In fact there was more in this shop than there is in most smaller Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s etc here.

I refrained from buying too much at this point as I had read about a shop that was meant to be brilliant for gluten free. ‘Parapharmacie Lafayette’ was mentioned on a few gluten free blogs, naturally we headed here next.
 
Walking into the shop we were stopped by a security guard who ushered us to what appeared to be a ‘cloak room’ for bags, we were made to give over our bags, and in exchange get a number tag (yes, like a night club) this was extremely odd and left us feeling a bit perplexed at why we had to deposit our bags into this cloak room, and yet some people were strolling round the shop with large handbags.
We quickly found the gluten free section, which again contained lots of pastas, cakes, breads etc.  I believe there was a better selection at the Biocoop than here, and at least there we didn’t have security guards making us feel uncomfortable (or have to hand our bags over.)
I did purchase a box of cereal from here however, which consisted of flakes and large pieces of dried fruit. Unfortunately I’ve now run out of this, which I am gutted as it was delicious.
 

Coming across a shopping centre on our walk back, we found another small supermarket (unsure what the name was it just had a picture on the front of the building) this had a limited amount of gluten free items. There was lots of bits scattered, around the shop with their gluten filled counterparts.
What I did notice, was unfortunately Cashew milk does not appear to be a thing, and it was a struggle to find dairy free butter.


 
Eating out, was the next mission!
 
Yard – La Burger Factory, was the first place I found with several reviews commenting on the gluten free buns etc. Being a huge burger lover, naturally this was my first choice.
The place was easy to find, being fairly near to the Cathedral and other food places. Take note, that it closes during the afternoon before re-opening at 19:00.
We ended up eating here three times, and had no issues getting an outside table immediately. There is limited seating outside, but a lots of seats inside (as also appears there is a downstairs level).
 
The menu, was all in french however with a little help from a translator on our phones we got what we needed. I went for a Staten Island burger with a gluten free bun. This one contained goats cheese rather than cow, and it was much easier going for one that included it (rather than trying to ask them to swap bits)
Service was extremely quick, and the burgers were quickly brought out not long after ordering. Burgers were served medium as standard, and were delicious. Three times, we visited here and the burgers were fantastic on every visit as were the chips.


 
There was a gluten free dessert mentioned on the menu, however I believe this may have been chocolate mousse. So not suitable for  those who are dairy intolerant.
 
Pastel et Sarrasin
 
The other place we ate out for lunch at, was Pastel et Sarrasin which was a creperie. We chose this one, as Sarrasin means buckwheat, and this place specialised in buckwheat galettes. The waitress assured me that their galettes are gluten free and made from buckwheat.
I went for a galette filled with goats cheese, sun dried tomato and pesto with a herb sorbet.
 
It was absolutely amazing.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how many items I found available to buy in shops. Eating out was a lot more difficult and I feel we were quite limited, but my lack of French speaking skills didn’t help this.
 
Unfortunately I did end up getting ‘glutened’ on this trip, by a bottle of wine we bought. So in future I will be avoiding the wines, however I would definitely recommend going for a place with a kitchen as there is lots available and I no longer fear the idea of going to France as a Coeliac!
 

 
Toulouse was architecturally interesting, and we loved walking around seeing the places. The fact that there was lots of places that sold gluten free items (even if only a couple of basics) was a huge plus.
In fact I found more convenience stores that sold a few cakes, breads etc here than back home.

Review: Fria gluten free mini baguette

Free From Products

I’m in love with Fria products, found on Ocado. I have found their range of frozen items perfect for me.

Their rolls, mini baguettes and cakes are brilliant. I know I can always grab one out of the freezer, and not have to worry how long they’ve been in the bread bin for. Or check if they’ve gone stale or mouldy.
 

The Fria products all come in the same sort of packaging. Unfortunately they don’t do larger bags. These rolls come in a bag of four.

They’re pre-baked unlike other brands, so I can just take them out the freezer and either leave to defrost. Or I quickly defrost in the microwave.

The best thing about the Fria rolls is that they actually remind me of the smell of fresh rolls. They have a crunchy crust and soft inside and are as close to normal bread as I’ve managed to get.


Unlike with other products, they are sturdy and thick. They do not fall apart when trying to cut in half. These baguettes are full of seeds as well, for an extra bit of crunchiness in the roll.


Although not particularly large, they are the perfect size for sausages. 

These, and Fria’s rolls are one of my staples on Ocado orders. I sincerely hope that other supermarkets will start to get them in.

Review: Indian Butter Chicken

Free From Products

Finding a sauce that makes for a quick, easy meal when a coeliac and/or dairy intolerant can sometimes be difficult.

When I came across these pouches in the co-op store, I grabbed a number of these. 

Perfect for chucking in the pan with some chicken, Vitalite and then putting with rice.

What I did find was, that despite the pouch saying it serves four. One pouch did not leave a great deal of sauce after cooking for a while. Having the two pouches allowed for the chicken to be left simmering for a while in the sauce. 


An easy meal to cook up, and serve. 

The sauce is delicious, a buttery sauce full of rich flavour with a slight hint of a smokey taste that goes really well with the chicken.

Perfect for keeping a couple in the cupboard for a quick, easy meal.

I’ve found these in both co-operative and Tesco stores.

Review: Tesco Brown Bread

Free From Products

Bread is one of those things that most coeliacs have got used to eating, whilst it crumbles to pieces. 

A number of gluten free options are dry, or weak and fall to pieces. There are certain brands whose bread is so full of holes that you can’t even toast them properly.

Unfortunately most of us do settle for this second rate bread, merely because it’s a relief to get an option of it!

When seeing a new type of loaf, I will of course try it!


Tesco brought out this sliced brown bread, with a crispy looking crust, that actually looks fairly solid.

One of the more noticeable things about this bread from the outset, is it’s a lot more solid and intact than other brands. 

The crust is much crunchier, and when toasted gives an actual decent crunch. 


I’ve tried quite a number of free from loaves, and this is definitely by far one of the best! 

Review: Co-op Chocolate Brownies

Free From Products

A lot of gluten free brownies on offer in shops are not dairy free.

The Co-operative have quite a range of products that are dairy free as well as being gluten free. Their chocolate brownies are no different.


These brownies are little squares, so no need to cut them up to eat. However I tend to avoid looking at the fat, saturate and sugars bar on the front of the box as despite their small size they’re very high in those.


Whilst not quite the same as gooey, home made brownies. These brownies are rich with a strong chocolate flavour. There are also a number of chocolate chips on them.

They are very tasty.

Unfortunately I’ve only found these brownies at one co-op store. I hope that the co-operative start increasing their free from sections in smaller stores.

If you do find these, then definitely try them! 

Review: Tesco Free From Blackcurrant Cheese Cakes

Free From Products


Cheesecake, probably one of my most missed desserts as a coeliac and dairy intolerance. 

There were a number of frozen cheesecakes that were gluten and dairy free, that I fell in love with. However can no longer find any of these. Tesco have recently introduced their own branded frozen version, however this is unfortunately not free from dairy.

Due to this, it has been a while since I’ve had a cheesecake fix. Therefor I was of course extremely excited when I came across these chilled cheesecakes in the refrigerated free from section.


I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive once I’d got them home. I’m not entirely sure how a cheesecake can be made with oil and coconut milk. 

Packaging wise, there is two in a pack. The cheesecakes themselves come in two little plastic pots with film lids. 

There isn’t a great deal of dessert in each pot, and so these aren’t particularly great value for money.


The ‘cheesecake’ is a layer of a syrup’y tasting jam, which wasn’t particularly great tasting. The next layer was the strange tasting ‘cheesecake’ part. 

This pretty much tasted like coconut oil, but was still better tasting than the jam like syrup layer.

At the bottom of it all was the biscuit base. Nothing particularly amazing here, just a thin layer of crumbs.

Overall, I was rather disappointed. Yes it’s a vegan cheesecake that suitable for coeliacs and those who can’t eat dairy or eggs. However, it’s not cheap and it’s not a cheesecake.

I’m sorry Tesco but these were a disappointment. I will not be trying them again!