Local Food and Allergies

barley ready to harvest

What challenges do you face in eating more local food? Fife Diet member Ingrid Glendinning shares her experiences of not only going local, but gluten and dairy free too. 

When I became a member of Fife Diet, I understood the concept of eating more local food (common sense really) and feel passionate about this for many reasons. I was aware of the limitations however as there are numerous allergies in my family, which at times can prove really challenging when it comes to choice of local foods. For me personally it was something that never was a problem in the country where I grew up, Romania. Allergies and food intolerances were extremely rare there and I hope it is still the same. I do wonder why this is the case! Maybe because the typical Romanian village diet is much simpler and healthier and there is much less medical intervention during childhood too with more breastfeeding instead, which combined probably make for less allergies and a healthier general population. And – very important – there is not a supermarket around every corner as there is here. People in villages all still produce their own food. During my time in Romania, all the food in our village was local, the concept of imported food didn’t exist, and so – for me – allergies and food intolerances were from that point of view a real novelty and presented a challenge.

We have allergies and intolerances to gluten, dairy, eggs, certain nuts and fish in our family, which can make cooking certain dishes a bit more difficult if you are trying to stick to ingredients that are as local as possible. For example when I want to make a cake, I have to use gluten free flour which is always imported, and can’t use eggs, but I can at least use butter, as we seem to all tolerate it very well compared to cow’s milk. For anyone who has ever tried to make bread or cakes with gluten free flour and without eggs, you would quickly have realized that it is very difficult as the binding from gluten and eggs is not there and you end up with a very crumbly cake, which is basically not very nice at all. So for this reason, I now only do baking which requires no eggs, such as biscuits or crumbles. You can make some very good crumbles with local fruit in season using only gluten free oats and butter. Gluten free oats are the one ingredient I found useful as a gluten free diet can have rice in it in many shapes and sizes, I am sure if you are gluten intolerant you know what I am talking about!gf_realporridgeuk_0-280x228

You can buy them online and it turns out Nairn’s Gluten Free Oats are grown by a Coeliac family in the Scottish Borders, on land that had no wheat on it and is harvested with a combine harvester that had not been used for wheat to eliminate any contamination. I was quite relieved when I found this out, as at least our porridge oats are a bit closer to home. It also made me aware that ordinary oats are not suitable for gluten intolerant people or Coeliac sufferers unless grown and harvested in this way.  Oats are mega healthy and good for you and they are a nice change from other gluten free grains. The only drawback is the price, as gluten free oats cost more than ordinary oats but if you only consume them in moderation in combination with other gluten free products, it is manageable.

Another use for them is oat milk instead of shop bought rice milk for dairy allergy sufferers. I am still to try and make this myself with Nairn Oats, but from a Fife Diet recipe I know that this works and is much better than tetra packed rice milk.

The challenge for me in the kitchen is also the fact that we don’t eat a lot of meat which we can easily source locally; we eat meat only at weekends. We do source all our meat from the farmer’s market and I get our fruit and veg from Culross Palace and grow a lot myself. So for this reason I have to make sure our nutritional needs are met by mainly pulses, gluten free grains and vegetables. We eat a lot of pulses, most days during the week combined with potatoes, rice, polenta, and buckwheat. Except for the potatoes, none of these are locally sourced but at least they carry a lower carbon footprint than meat in their production, which makes up for them being imported.

This system works for us and we feel we are still having a diet that uses many local ingredients and by only eating meat at the weekend, we are keeping our carbon footprint low. It would be so easy to just eat local meat every day with potatoes and veg, but not only would this be unhealthy and expensive, it would not be very good for the planet.

I guess my own philosophy is “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and you just need to adapt and learn a few new cooking skills if there are allergies in your family. Keeping food simple helps and using a lot of pulses and grains, especially organic ones, not only is very nourishing and healthy, but also good for our planet.

I hope I have provided some inspiration for those Fife Diet members who think it is more difficult to eat local when you suffer food intolerances and allergies. To help you on your way, here is a quick and simple recipe – one of many – which everyone in my family likes. It is dairy, gluten and egg free plus vegan.

Baked Potatoes with lentils and vegetablesBaked potato with lentils 3-1

Serves 4

Olive oil (as much as you think you like for frying/baking)
4 large baking potatoes
One onion and as many cloves as garlic as you can tolerate for taste
400g of seasonal vegetables (right now it is things like sprouting broccoli, turnip, kale, parsnips, chard, carrots, spinach)
200 g red/orange split lentils
1-2 tsp veg stock powder (“Marigold” veg stock is very good for this)
Enough water to cover the lentils

1. Clean the potatoes, but leave the skin on. Cook them for about 5 minutes in some salted, boiling water, then leave them to dry for a few minutes. Drizzle some olive oil and rub a pinch of salt on them, then bake in the oven at 175 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour, until baked through.

2. Rinse the lentils in some cold water; gently fry the onion, then add the lentils and bring them to the boil covered with water. Add the stock powder and turn the heat down to simmer. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Sautee or steam the vegetables and toss them with some olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

4. Cut a cross in the middle of the potatoes once baked, to open them up for the filling.

5. Pour some of the lentils over them, and add the vegetables on the side.

Enjoy!

You can vary this dish by adding chopped chillies and other spices/herbs to your liking and even things like grated cheese and butter, if you can tolerate them.

Of course you could make a raw, seasonal salad with some or all of the veg, depending on what is available, instead of the cooked veg; just make sure to drizzle some olive oil over the baked potatoes to moisten them enough.

Want to write a blog for us? We’re always looking for people to share their experiences and let us know how they make the Fife Diet work for them. Email mags@fifediet.co.uk to get involved