Anyone with even a vague interest in the subject of food has heard of Leiths, the West London institution famous for training some of the worlds best chefs.
I was lucky enough to get two of their weekend courses for Christmas, the first of which was Gluten Free Entertaining with Tom Thexton, founder of the Wild Thexton Bakery.
Gluten-free baking is still something I hadn’t quite yet mastered – my attempts have always been a bit too crumbly, or a bit too dry – never quite like the real deal. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I saw the plan for the day – all mouthwatering, and gloriously gluten free. Wild Thexton supplies some of London’s best hotels with gluten free pastries, so I was feeling pretty optimistic about picking up a gluten free baking tip or two.
We started off the day by preparing the main – a dish of spiced duck served with a side of cauliflower cous cous. I’ve been cooking with ras el hanout more recently, and really enjoying it, and this duck dish was no exception.
The side dish of cauliflower cous cous was so simple to make. I’ve been really missing cous cous, and this is a great alternative – healthier, too. You achieve the same texture by blitzing the head of cauliflower in a food processor, and heating it through with olive oil, chopped celery, vinegar and maple syrup. This was served with chopped parsley, spring onions, almonds and pomegranate seeds, and tasted fresh and filling.
The next course on the agenda was the dessert – a chocolate whiskey pot, which was so simple to make, and really delicious, although incredibly rich.
These were served alongside orange biscotti. The baking portion of the afternoon was the most useful – and I’ll be taking a lot of the tips to my baking at home.
Most of the baking was demonstrated to us, and we came away learning how to make sublime light black pepper, cheddar and goat’s cheese gougeres and mustard seed flatbreads. The key takeaway I got from the day was how crucial the use of psyllium husks and xanthan gum is in gluten free baking – it gives more of a texture, as well as adding colour, as gluten free flour and products can often produce pale and anemic-looking results (not particularly appetising).
I thoroughly enjoyed my gluten free entertaining experience at Leiths, and would definitely recommend it for those who want to improve their baking skills. It was also a great way to get food recommendations and tips from other coeliacs and chat to others over a dinner that know exactly where you’re coming from! Most of the students had either been recently diagnosed, or had received the class as a gift. Tom Thexton was also really forthcoming with recommendations and advice and it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.(5 / 5)