Gluten free heaven on a plate
Picture: Iain Gillespie

It takes a scallywag to turn adversity into advantage with gluten-free options for naughty foods. We're talking about lamingtons, rum balls and decadent cheesecake brownies slathered in hot fudge sauce.

"They're heaven on a plate and totally amazing," said former Perth girl Jasmine Gardiner, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2007 and started blogging two years later to share her recipes because everyone kept telling her gluten- free foods were "disgusting".

"Certainly, I found a lot of packaged stuff was just too sweet and the texture not up to scratch, so I went back to baking my own cakes."

That fateful Christmas was her last fling. How could she turn down the fruit mince pies her mother had brought over to Melbourne for her?

And cream-filled doughnuts, licorice and beer? It was a steep learning curve, but she and partner David spent the next two months ridding their lives of gluten to make gluten free the norm in their house.

These days, the only gluten in their kitchen is limited to one jar of muesli, the occasional loaf of bread, beer and chocolate, which can be a problem because of cross-contamination during manufacturing. Double dipping is banned when it comes to spreading peanut butter and jam on bread and they each have a toaster so there's no arguing over crumbs.

"I was 22 at the time, but looking back my symptoms were probably evident years earlier," Ms Gardiner said.

"I look at photos of me when I was 18 and I was so pale - and I know my diet wasn't particularly healthy then because I had left home to travel and explore. When the biopsy came back, I was told that I'd probably had the disease for five to seven years judging by the amount of damage in my intestine.

"I'd never suspected anything until my GP picked up something was wrong from a blood test. He was pretty sure I was coeliac based on my low iron - I used to fall asleep at my desk and would end up bed-bound for about a week every three to six months - and that was the trigger for further testing.

"Everybody's symptoms are different, though, and my diagnosis was a relief because I finally found out what was wrong with me."

Mischievous by nature and "scallywag" by name thanks to her beloved grandfather who chose the moniker because he saw the glint in her eye long before she set foot in the kitchen, Ms Gardiner has produced three volumes of gluten-free recipes, the latest printed and bound in a vintage-style magazine - The Gluten Free Scallywag - with her own photos.

The selection includes quinoa pancakes, roast chicken with cornbread stuffing, Christmas pudding, sponge cake and chocolate mint thins. There's also a sprinkling of vegetarian dishes, plus a few lactose and egg-free options, as well.

Seven years on, she's a picture of health and has never felt better as she juggles a nine-to-five job in an architectural firm with her blog.

"My previous recipe collections were online compilations with contributions from other people, but David and I got married last year and went on honeymoon, which put me a bit behind, so I decided to do everything myself and print it, which I will do again for the next edition. Most of the recipes are brand new. It took four months to put together and I did it all at night and on weekends."

Her staple baking flour is a potato, rice and tapioca premix, but she loves using almond meal and different nuts in her cakes for texture. "Gluten-free pastry tends to be that little bit drier, so you sometimes need to add another egg or flaxseed to get a better result," she said.

"But I must admit I've cut down a lot of the sugar since moving to Melbourne because of the amount of baking I do. Just seeing the look on people's faces when they bite into one of my sweet treats and go 'OMG it's so delicious' - then you tell them its gluten free and they go 'what?' is worth all the time spent getting it right."

A lot of the credit goes to her mother, Marrijane, who had a baking business in Perth for 10 years, but the rest has involved trial and error to get it right. She owes her photographic skills to father Stan Davies, who's led African safaris with his camera lens.

A reprint of the magazine is in the pipeline because it's selling like, er, hotcakes, with copies making their way to the UK, Hawaii and Berlin.


The Gluten Free Scallywag Magazine is $22.95 and can be ordered at glutenfreescallywag.com or you can download an ebook version for $9.95.

The West Australian

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