Gluten Free – the recipe writing challenge
When it was suggested to me by my brother that I should write a Gluten Free recipe book, I must admit I did look a bit askance. (And honestly, it was not because he is a Collingwood supporter.) Whilst I love a challenge, this one initially seemed not to be ‘my thing’.
And then I thought, well why not? Really..it did fit with my food philosophy if I thought outside the square. The enjoyment of a challenge kicked in. How could I write a recipe book for people with Gluten intolerance or other food related issues, but keep the recipes simple, easy to make and not too expensive. And that’s where hours and hours of research started.
Sifting though the mire of information became fascinating and very informative. Loads of nutrition experts have opinions – good, bad and ugly. There were reports, studies, and the usual websites pushing their particular product. And all backed up by those reports and studies. However, to balance that, there are many really sensible, easy to read information websites, with recipes to use. And, seriously, no self-respecting recipe app or website wouldn’t have a Gluten free section! Key to a lot of the recipes available, though, were ingredients that were different (maybe hard to source) and perhaps a bit daunting to someone who doesn’t like to cook or has low confidence. And expensive!
Back to where I fit in with writing this book.
It became clear that my philosophy needed to be applied to this book and I needed to stay very focussed. So simply it needed to have:
- a simple list of ingredients
- an easy to read, step by step instruction process
- realistic photographs
- notes and tips on how to change/substitute ingredients to suit your tastes
- fresh and gluten free
- suitable for all skill levels
In talking to people about writing this book, quite a few commented that they just took a much loved recipe and did a straight swap for the Gluten free ingredients. I suspect that’s where it started to get expensive. For people who want to decrease or eliminate Gluten out of their diet, cooking can suddenly become much more complex and supermarket shopping a lot more expensive. Wander down the ‘health food’ aisle next time you are shopping and just look at the prices that are being charged for those low gluten or gluten free products. Sometimes you pay more than 4 times the price of something containing gluten.
So my focus on recipe designing and trialling became about how to keep my book buyers shopping out of that expensive aisle. And yes, there are some things that can’t be avoided. Some recipes just completely fail without some form of flour or sauce. But that is where getting some understanding of the simplicity of what you need becomes essential.
Many of my recipes just avoid the whole issue completely by using fresh, unprocessed ingredients and loads of herbs and spices. My idea of keeping the cooking process simple is key to encouraging even the most reluctant cook to give it a go. And of course, one of the other motivating factors in my recipe writing is that I hate washing up. Even at my skill level, I avoid trialling other people’s recipes if it calls for many mixing bowls and then more than one saucepan or oven dish. However much you enjoy the food, there’s nothing worse than going back into the kitchen to face a mountain of mess. And when you have to cook at least 60 recipes to create success for others, sometimes 2 or 3 times, that makes for a mammoth pile of washing up if you’re not careful!
I have to say, that designing and cooking these recipes has made me rethink some of the attitude to the food we eat! Because of budgetary constraints (writers traditionally suffer from lack of cash flow), our family have eaten all the dishes I’ve made. And, the ‘gluten free, I’m not going to enjoy this’ thinking has really been challenged!
So.. I’m nearly at the end of the designing, making and appraising stage. Now to have long discussions with my graphic designer about how the book should look, keeping with the branding we’ve established, but making it feel like a recipe book that won’t just get plonked on the coffee table or hidden amongst other stuff on a random bookshelf! Thank goodness for a graphic designer with a great sense of style, colour and humour.
The cover is designed and, in keeping with my philosophy of having personal connections within the book, the spoon, bowl and little jug are elements from my personal life. Throughout the book, there will be other personal connections. Contributions for styling elements from my lovely nieces and bits and pieces that mean something to people close to me.
My graphic designer, friend and super fit exercise junky is to be found at http://janhenrydesign.com/