Monday, 28 November 2011

Eating Out is an Option: The Grill on Newgate Street - Chester

For the past year, and many times in the years before, I would dread going out for a meal. This thought not only makes me sad but, angers me greatly.

On a good day, or for other people a normal day, going out for a meal is my favourite thing to do. I love, love,  love going to a good restaurant. I love all kinds of cuisine. I enjoy getting dressed for dinner, I enjoy a wine assisted lunch, a pre-theatre dinner, a late night supper; a meal for me can be my whole night out. But there is only so much running out of restaurants you can do before all of the pleasure is sapped from the experience.

At the beginning of a Fodmap diet eating out seems an impossibility due to the list of foods we cant eat, particularly wheat/gluten, onions and garlic, which are heavily peppered on all restaurant menus. But, its down to making new choices, retraining your brain to learn new favourites, and speaking up in restaurants to ask about ingredients and what the chef can do.

On Saturday night I had a delicious, indulgent meal with my sister, that was illness and stomach disaster free. (And I ate all my dinner, whilst staying in my seat, and not leaving the restaurant until it was time to go home - it was a marvel)

Our meal was at The Grill on Newgate Street - Chester, part of the Blackhouse restaurant and bar group. I have actually had a few good meals in this group of restaurants, but this was my first time at The Grill on Newgate Street and my first time choosing my meal as a Fodmap Intolerant.

The welcome at The Grill was lovely and we had a quick drink at the bar to work up an appetite (a divine mixed vodka and tonic, seen as you asked).

My sister started with the Oysters which were presented beautifully, it all felt very special and, according to my sister, they tasted sublime.

I had the calamari which was cooked brilliantly and was served with a lovely fresh lemon mayonnaise.

Next was the bit I had been looking forward to for days, the steak. The Blackhouse Grills really know how to serve their steak; they let the quality of the meat do the talking.

We both went for the 310g rump steak, which the menu stated was the 'the leanest cut with a big, bold flavour, at its best medium rare 
and not recommended beyond medium', as medium rare is how we both like our steak cooked this seemed like the obvious choice. On arrival at the table the steak appeared, to the untrained eye, to be overcooked, but how wrong could we be. The outside of the steak was dark and smoky from a hot griddle, but on the first touch of the knife underneath the dark exterior was a soft, meltingly pink middle. Just perfect.
The home cut chips were the ideal accompaniment, think skin on chips with a rustic taste that  compliments the smoky steak. We also ordered a portion of French Beans, sweet and with a crunch; and it was the perfect low Fodmap meal.

It was one of the best meals I have had in a long time, both down to the restaurant, food and service, but also I felt good, I felt well and was able to make informed choices that ensured my evening stayed that way.

I felt so good it would have been rude not to finish the evening with......

A delicious, sweet amaretto on ice (Oh, ok then I had two but shhhhh don't tell anyone).

So if you are looking for a low Fodmap friendly restaurant, look no further. There are many more options than just the steak too. A Sunday option is a roast for two, which I may have to pop along to one of The Grills to indulge. Eating out does not need to be a chore, it can be a wonderful and pleasurable experience.

Well, The Grill on Newgate Street made it one for me.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Day in the Eating Life.

Following a low Fodmap diet, I often get asked, 'well, what do you eat?'. It is too easy to concentrate on the things we can't eat, that us Fodmap intolerants can find ourselves stuck in a boring food rut. This does not need to be the case.

Yes, we are often met with friends and family stating 'oh, I don't know if I could live without bread' 'you can't eat onions? Oh I love a curry!'. But, whats more important is to focus on the things we can eat, the foods we can enjoy. We have been punished enough through years of illness and, not knowing how to make ourselves well, lets not punish ourselves dreaming and salivating over the things we cannot eat.

Instead let focus on good produce. We can eat all kinds of red meat (steak, beef, lamb), we can eat chicken and pork, and we can eat fish in all its wonderful shapes and sizes. Unless you follow a vegetarian diet, this give you a wonderful basis for every meal of every day. We can eat potatoes and rice; both of which I was very happy about when I realised. Potato forms some of my favourite comfort food, roast, mash, baked and of course chips. Rice is a wonderful food vehicle for flavour from an accompaniment to a meat dish, to a star in its own right. Add in to this the likes of Quinoa, and carbs begin to look really interesting again.
Vegetables are still a long list of colours, textures and flavours: carrots, peppers, pumpkin, butternut squash, Pak  Choi, tomatoes, I could go on and on.
Save garlic and onion, the spice world is our new best friend. Try them all, mix them together, don't be scared of those you have never had and find new uses for the ones you love.
And don't forget eggs, the ultimate fast food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, eggs never fail to deliver.

My daily menu generally looks like this:


Porridge - good old fashioned Scotts Porridge Oats made with water and Salt then served with Lactofree milk.
Oatibix with lactofree milk


Baked potato with tuna or egg
Rice Cakes or Wheat + Rye free Crispbreads with cheddar cheese, tuna or cold meat.
Homemade soups
And of course leftovers from the nights before dinner (generally my favourite)


I can't actually only think of a few to write here, as they change all the time but, a few of my go to meals are

Gluten Free Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce
Variations of stir frys with rice noodles
Risottos (made with homemade stocks)
Omelettes (in particular potato omelettes)


Cashew Nuts
Alpro Soya yoghurts (all flavours are delicous and take the edge of the I need something sweet moments)
Salt and vinegar Snack a Jacks


Chamomile Tea
Peppermint Tea
The odd glass of lemonade
And of course the odd glass of wine.

This is my everyday, Monday-Friday, bog standard working day eats. My weekends normally involve some sort of cooking, trying new recipes and new ingredients. But often the working week does not allow for such time extravagance, so it is important to have tasty staples that are fast and that you will always have the ingredients to hand. One thing a low Fodmaps eater cannot rely on is Fast food and processed foods - thank goodness - take this as a blessing.

The most important thing is to find the food you enjoy, a list foods that keep you well but also leave you satisfied. Once you have this, you can then move onto experimenting and finding foods that give you a whole lot more. Or dare I say it start serving low Fodmap foods to family and friends, without them realising the foods missing, but simply enjoying a lovely meal.

Its what I plan to do.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Onions make me cry.

Last Monday I started my first reintroduction week.

When first following a low Fodmap diet, you stay strictly low Fodmap for 6-8 weeks. Once this is completed, and hopefully you are feeling much more like a human being again, you then start to reintroduce groups of the foods or single items that you have been avoiding.

You reintroduce over 3 days with the same food, a little on the first day, if no symptoms, a little more on the second day and, then, if no symptoms again, a little more on to the third.

Hopefully, after a while, you will have a list of foods that you can eat and still stay well. Ideally, a list slightly longer and more varied than a strict low Fodmap diet. Each individual may be different and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. As I have said before the beginnings of a Fodmap diet should always be done with the help of a dietitian.

So, last Monday I started my reintroduction. I reintroduced onions.

Before becoming low Fodmap I loved Onions. I would have proudly wore a t-shirt stating 'I Heart Onions'. Did I realise the depth of my love for onions when I could eat them freely? No. Did I take the lowly onion - used in pretty much every tasty dish you would ever eat - for granted? Yes.

If this is you, and you do not have to eat low Fodmap, then I beg you stop taking them for granted, go home smell them, fry them, soften them, cook with them everyday, just bloody well enjoy them.

My love for onions was my reason for choosing this to be my first reintroduced food. My top missed foods have been onions and garlic. The plan was this:

Monday - add 1tbsp of cooked onion to my dinner.
Tuesday - add 2tbsp of cooked onion to my dinner.
Wednesday - add 3 tbsp of cooked to my dinner.

Monday night I happily chopped away at my onion, carefully dividing into tablespoons to be used over the coming nights. That night I was adding 1 tbsp fried onions to my home-made cheeseburger with home-made chips, perfect Monday night comfort food. My dinner was delicious and the following hours to bedtime absolutely fine, it was all looking good.

Tuesday morning was not great, but quite often in the morning my stomach can give me a hard time. So I did not take this as an immediate bad sign, and was still remaining positive about onions. As the day went on certain symptoms started to creep back in and by home-time from work I was feeling uncomfortable.

Undeterred, I wanted to at least try my second day as the symptoms were no where near as fierce as I was used to pre-Fodmap. So, Tuesday nights dinner went ahead as planned, home-made tomato sauce with 2tbsp onion and gluten free pasta. My dinner was yet again delicious, but. the following hours were not as fine.  I looked 5 months pregnant my stomach had inflated so much, and the pain was slowly but surely creeping. After an unpleasant nights sleep, believe it or not, I still wasn't sure if I was experiencing symptoms (I didn't want to believe it was the onions). Previous to the Fodmap diet my symptoms had been severe and became known as attacks; what I was experiencing was not what I had known, but, certainly felt like small steps towards severe symptoms.

It was time to speak to my dietitian.

I relayed my symptoms and my dietitian confirmed what I feared - onions make me cry. It appears that I could eat onions in small amounts and only suffer mild symptoms; any more and slowly but surely my body will build up towards an attack.

So there it is no more french onion soup, onion tarts or crisp, sweet onion rings for me. I am a foodie, and I love nothing more than trying a new restaurant, a new dish or even, well made classics made by the best chefs. I do not want to say goodbye to all of these, if it means I must be super strict low Fodmap all week to have that one special meal on a special occasion then this is what I must do. As long as onions are only a small amount of the meal and I try my best to ensure the best part of the meal is low Fodmap, this part of my life should still be enjoyed.

Onions may make me cry, but, I will not lose flavour in my food. I now have a challenge, to ensure my food is never lacking from having to omit onions. I will be trialing, editing recipes and working my way through my knowledge to come up with Fodmap recipes for Stews, Risottos, Soups and much more, that are just as tasty without onions. As, soon as I have them, they will appear here.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Saturday Night Spaghetti

Before I had to adjust my diet to eating only Low Fodmaps, one of my favourite Saturday night recipes was Nigella Lawson's Lone Linguine. As the good lady herself describes it this should be 'ate alone and thrillingly'. Me, I like it with a glass of something cold, preferably white and something wonderful on the telly-box [read a good movie, normally romcom or, ok,  I admit it last night my Saturday Night Spaghetti was served with a side helping Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor].

It is an extremely indulgent dish that has one serious star performer - White Truffle Oil:

White Truffle Oil is an expensive ingredient but you only need a few drops to take advantage of its deep flavour and heady aroma.

Starting on the low Fodmap diet I thought I might have seen my last Lone Linguine, which has been a massive treat, very indulgent and all for me, me, me.

But I couldn't say goodbye to it, so here is my low Fodmap version Saturday Night Spaghetti, and even if I do say so myself it is just as delicious, indulgent and it is still all for me, me, me.

Ingredients (for one, obviously):

Gluten Free Spaghetti
1 egg
3tbsp Lactofree cream
3tbsp grated Parmesan
few drops of white truffle oil, or to taste
Ground white pepper
1tbsp butter

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water and add the gluten free spaghetti. Normally 4-5oz per person is enough, but nobody will judge if you add a little more. Boil the pasta for as long as stated on the back of the packet.*
Remove a few tablespoons of the spaghetti's water and reserve. Drain the spaghetti.
In a bowl whisk the egg, cream, Parmesan, the truffle oil and a good pinch of the white pepper.
Put the drained spaghetti back in the pan it was cooked in, and add the butter and 1tbsp of the reserved spaghetti water. Stir until butter melted and spaghetti covered.
Stir in the egg mixture and keep mixing until the pasta is lightly coated and smooth.
Season and serve. Enjoy.

Creamy, indulgent pasta dishes need not be a thing of the past when you follow a low Fodmap diet.

*A little tip: always cook any gluten fee pasta for the exact time it states on the back of the packet. Any shorter it will not be al dente it will just be not cooked. Far too long and it will become too sloppy to cook with or enjoy.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The admin of it.

I have spent most of today, not thinking about some lovely post that I can put on here that is funny and revealing but trying to get the blog out there. Nobody warned me about the admin. Between ensuring that my blog is on twitter, various blog search sites and thinking about a Facebook page I am creative materialed out.

It seems this blogging can be hard work, I am looking forward to the point it is habitual and I can start getting everyday stories and Fodmap recipes on here. That my friends is the point my impatient self is racing forward to.

The other side of me that likes to do things right, and actually enjoys the odd bit of admin, is attempting to do this thing right. If anybody has any tips for me, please stand up and be heard?!
In a dream admin world I would be dressed like Joan from Mad Men, have a typewriter and be very good at filing, and this would all be a breeze. But I will settle for Joans' wardrobe and be happy with my laptop if I can just get through this admin stuff.

If you are reading this today, then thank you for bearing with me. And check back very very soon for some real good food stuff.

This time for Bloglovin

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Setting up a blog and getting it out there is tricky. This is a code for bloglovin.

For Technorati

For a technorati listing I must publish this code ZNYNUEQ8W5T5.

Sorry guys just breaking through the red tape, please feel free to not read this post.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Science Bit or The Fodmap Bit.....

The Fodmap diet has revolutionised my life, well so far. I have been following a low Fodmap diet for 6 and a half weeks and I am just entering the reintroducing stage. But right now this may not mean anything to you.

Food is made up of lots of things that we all would recognise proteins, fats and carbohydrates, which, includes sugars. Some of this food does not get absorbed by our small intestines, it passes along our gut to the bacteria laden large intestine, where it has a little fermentation party leaving us with wind, bloating, distension, pain constipation; and, where there is also production of water, diarrhoea.

Fodmaps are carbohydrates that our small intestines cannot absorb, fermenting in the large intestine and leaving the individual with a bombardment of symptoms.

IBS (and  all bowel and gut problems to a certain extent) is a gut hypersensitivity. Some Fodmaps can be poorly absorbed by lots of people but may not cause symptoms in everybody. For us individuals that are affected, our body is sensitive to the gases, water and food residues that can occur in the large intestine.

At this point I would like to add, I am not a doctor or medical expert in anyway this is a diet I have been given by a dietitian that is working for me. And I want to get the information of how it has helped me, what I eat and how I do it out there. If you are reading this and it sounds like you and it could help you please contact your GP for a dietitian referral asap.

The Fodmap diet was developed in 2001 by Dr Sue Shepherd, an Australian Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, who herself was diagnosed with coeliac disease - please click the link to read more about this remarkable lady.

So, I hear you ask, what the hell are Fodmaps?

Fodmap is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides,
Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols.  All of these are carbohydrates.

Fermentable as they ferment in our intestines.
Oligo-saccharides are fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.
Di-saccharides are lactose.
Mono-saccharides are fructose
Polyols are Sugar Alcohols.

Fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides are poorly absorbed in all people, we simply do not have the ability to break them down. Restriction of these helps most people with IBS symptoms.

Fructans can also be known as fructo-oligosaccharides and are chains of sugar fructose. In the real world this means  wheat products, some vegetables i.e. onion and garlic and when they are added to processed foods and FOS, oligofructose or inulin.

Galacto-oligosaccharides are chains of sugar glucose. In the real world this means beans and pulses.

Polyols are sugar alcohols i.e. sorbitol and xylitol. These occur naturally in some fruits and some vegetables.

They are also added as sweeteners to many low sugar products such as sugar free chewing gum and mints.

These are the main groups that when starting the Fodmap diet all sufferers must stay clear of for at least 6 weeks before entering the reintroduction stage.

There are two further groups, Fructose and Lactose.

Fructose can be found in large amounts in different foods especially in some fruit and honey. It is also added to many food products as a sweetener or flavour enhancer. So its time to start checking food labels in supermarkets I am afraid.

Lactose is something we will all have heard of. It is found in animal milk and milk products.

These last two groups are not malabsorbed in everybody with symptoms and certainly breath tests normally tell you if you have a problem here.

So that is the science bit, if you have never heard of it but think it may help your symptoms. I beg you please get to your GP, ask for a referral to a dietitian and insist on help for the Fodmap Diet. Doing so you will be given all the tools you need to start making yourself better, like what food you can eat, what you can't, starter recipes to get you cooking good low Fodmap meals, snacks and brands that are good for you.

This Diet cannot be entered into off your own back, you must use a dietitian. Trust me you will have too many questions to try and attempt it on your own. You must also ensure that your diet is still balanced and healthy, we are trying to make ourselves better here.

Also have a look at Low Fodmap Diet Factsheet . This give some more information on what types of foods needs to be avoided and what categories food falls into.

I had to get this science bit out of the way as I felt that nothing I ever said or did on here without it would have made sense. I hope it has informed and not bored. But mostly I hope it will allow some people to jump up and down until they get the information they want to try the Fodmap diet for themselves.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

What it is.

So what it is, is this. 6 and a half weeks ago, I met my dietitian/nutritionist. I explained all the symptoms I was having; we discussed lactose intolerance, as the breath test I had showed that I may have a small intolerance, but this was not explaining the severity of my symptoms.
My dietitian handed me two pamphlets and began to discuss a new diet that had been introduced for sufferers of IBS, but also had made improvements in the everyday lives of all Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers. Most IBS sufferers notice results quickly and dramatic improvements in their health and well being.
The pamphlets were for a diet called The Low Fodmap Diet.

Before I go into the science bit and the diet itself, I have to point out that so far my health has dramatically improved, I feel at least 80% better most days. For me the diet has been a revelation. Not because I have a definitive answer or a definitive diagnosis but because finally I feel, for once, in control.

For the, probably, 2 months running up to seeing the dietitian, I was becoming fed up with the constant not knowing what was wrong. The constant tests coming out positive 'we are happy to say your test has come out clear' 'yay! good news. So why cant i get off the toilet?!'. Was the constant catch 22 I was travelling in. So I was eating pretty much anything I wanted, food good for me, food bad for me, food that previously I wouldn't have even bothered with. If nothing was going to make me feel better why should I care, was generally my sorry for myself philosophy.

After Day 1 on The Low Fodmap Diet, I began, pretty much immediately, to feel better. And after day 4 The bloating was going down and my energy was up. My 4pm 'I will actually kill you for sugar' followed by 5pm 'I will just close my eyes for a minute' slumps disappeared. I possibly had the worst 6 weeks socially to attempt The Low Fodmap diet, with birthday parties, Halloween and Bonfire parties all arranged. And yes I couldn't eat everything that everybody was eating. But I did not feel bloated and uncomfortable, I wasn't in pain and having to pretend -no I would rather be sitting here on my own than enjoying myself on the dance floor- and, crucially, I didn't spend the best part of my night in a toilet cubicle too embarrassed to come out and eventually having to leave, taking my friends with me. (This last bit is because I have fabulous friends who would never see me go home alone, nor would I them.)

What I am trying to say is it has worked so far for me. I have lost the fear and enjoying life.

The Science Bit will follow very soon.......

Monday, 14 November 2011

Where it all began.......

I have been having bad stomach symptoms for years, well 13 years actually. And when I say stomach problems I really should say bowel problems.

My symptoms range from occasional constipation, constant uncomfortableness, uncontrollable wind, sleepy-itis and cramps/pain from below my ribs to my pelvis that would leave me crippled. My worst symptom and the hardest to deal with on a daily basis was diarrhoea. Every body knows how the song goes "you know you're having trouble, when your butt begins to bubble, diarrhea, diarrhea when your stomach's really hurting, and your butt it starts a squirting, diarrhea, diarrhea " and this is some of the nicer lyrics.
But this at times over the years was my everyday life, never knowing when it was going to happen, where or when it would stop.

I have had every test and exploratory op under the sun, moon and stars. Blood test, breath tests, colonscopies, endoscopies, colonscopies and endoscopies on the same day. A Laparoscopy, for which I now bear a lovely little scar at my belly button, my proud, there wasn't anything physically wrong, war wound. I even swallowed a little camera in a pill that photographed my insides for a day; I am convinced my colon may have been the prettiest the doctors had ever seen.

I am lucky there was nothing physically wrong with my bowel, colon or stomach. I did not have any of the debilitating inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis to name just two).
Whilst this was wonderful news, it did not explain my lock, stock and barrell of symptoms that I was suffering under.

I was willing to accept, as it was put to me, I had a very severe case of irritable bowel syndrome, but I was not willing to accept the symptoms continuing to control my life.

Eventually, and most recently I was sent to a dietitian/nutritionist to identify if food was causing my problems. In the past I have kept 3 month food diaries but there was no clear pattern that ever evolved to point me in the direction of food making me ill.

This is merely a brief history to bring you to where I am now. This blog is not about me being ill it is about me getting better. I am only at the beginning but I wanted to start journaling (i checked this is a word) my journey back to health and Good Food.