Walking into doors
We are all, obviously, very careful with what we eat to make sure we don’t accidentally ingest the dreaded gluten. Ingredients are checked, recipes pored over and altered as necessary, waiters and restaurants quizzed over the food and methods they use. But despite our best efforts, from time to time we get glutened. Sometimes we know where it came from. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we want to scream out loud at the ridiculousness of it. Of course I should have stuck to stuff I knew, to a simple green tea, but I figured from the description on the menu “Popcorn tea: green tea with a unique, toasty, nutty flavour” that it would just be green tea leaves which had indeed been toasted. It never crossed my mind that they used toast in its literal sense. But the tea tasted odd. Toasty yes, but also slightly wrong. So I pulled the teabag out. Ripped it open on the table, even though it was too hot for my hands. And yes, there was the evidence. Someone, somewhere, in all their wisdom, had put little pieces of bread in a teabag. I mean for fuck’s sake, you do not expect bread in a fucking teabag.
Just like you don’t expect your head to hurt when you ingest gluten. But it does. Yes I feel sick. Like iron hands have clamped around my stomach and are using it as a punchbag. The thought of food makes me feel bilious. My intestines feel they’re being stretched over a mangle, with the occasional stabbing pain of a particularly vicious washer woman. But possibly worse than that my head is a big, fuzzy mess. I’m wandering around in a half-dream state (hence the walking into walls) with my eyes barely open, unable to finish a sentence, or keep a train of thought, leaving the fridge open, tasks half done and half forgotten about and craving to get back to bed. At times like this food is really not high on the agenda but I feel I should eat something, if only to give me enough energy to mend my broken immune system. It has to be something soothing though. My mouth feels like I’ve been chewing on cacti all night and my throat is raw. A nice thin but rich soup, with a little bit of carbohydrate for some energy was perfect, though I was hardly jumping for joy at the prospect of food.
Chicken and kale soup with black pepper dumplings
Dumpling recipe adapted generously from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods
1 chicken breast, chopped into small chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 litre good quality chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 large handful kale
1/2 cup (70g) gf flour blend
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
20 or so grounds of black pepper
1 egg, beaten
3-4 tablespoons water
1. In a large saucepan heat a small drizzle of oil. When hot, add the chopped chicken and cook over a medium-high heat until golden brown on the outside. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is golden.
2. Add the chicken stock and reduce heat to leave soup at a simmer. Add the parsley and some salt and pepper to taste.
3. To make the dumplings whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and black pepper in a medium bowl. Beat the egg and pour this into the centre of the dry ingredients. Quickly stir the mixture until the ingredients come together. If the mixture feels tight or too dry add a tablespoon or two of water; I used three in all. The mixture should be just cohesive enough for you to roll into balls in your hands, but sticky enough that this is a bit tricky. Once the dough has reached this consistency, roll it into 5 or 6 small dumplings.
4. Bring the soup back up to a steady boil and carefully lower the dumplings into the soup. Put the lid on the soup (at a slight angle so steam can escape) and leave the dumplings undisturbed to cook for 8 or 9 minutes. When done they should have swelled up to about twice their original size and leave a skewer inserted into their centre clean (though in practice it’s pretty hard to do this while they’re bobbing about in soup). For dumplings that started out 2 inches in diameter, 10 minutes at a steady boil should be more than enough time for them to cook.
5. Just before serving the soup add the kale and stir a few times, just until the kale is wilted. To serve, spoon the dumplings into bowls and pour the soup on top.