River Cottage Canteen – Gluten Free Cookery Demo Review

image001If you’re a regular reader of my blog or you follow me on Twitter, you will probably be aware that a couple of weeks ago I attended the first Gluten Free Cookery Demo run by River Cottage’s Bristol Canteen, and now it’s time to let you all know about it!

The first thing that you need to be aware of if you are attending any event at the Bristol Canteen or if you just want to visit for a meal, you need to allow extra time for parking, particularly on a weekday! Fortunately I’d allowed an hour for travelling and parking, which was lucky as I managed to get to the venue at bang on the start time of 10.30. In future, I think I’ll stick to paying for parking in the nearby Sainsburys car park, rather than circling the area in the hope of finding a space!

Upon my arrival I was greeted by the friendly face of Annie who does the marketing for Bristol Canteen (I actually know Annie from growing up in Penzance together and hadn’t seen her for years before seeing her at this event!).

Annie presented me with a copy of the lunch menu for the event and then showed me where the refreshments were. The lunch options looked great and I opted for the Eversfield organic ham with curried bubble and squeak and a fried egg followed by the iced chocolate mousse sundae for dessert! Our lunch options were taken before the start of the course to ensure that they were ready for us when the course was complete.

Out of the nine people in attendance on the course, three of us were coeliacs, and others were either there in support, because they had an intolerance to gluten or for work purposes, so there was quite a mix of attendees.

The course was run by Head Chef Mark and he began the course by discussing why people follow gluten free diets and whether this was through choice or necessity. Mark read quite a lot of the information from cue cards as he didn’t seem familiar with the specific gluten free / coeliac information himself, so for me, this type of information would have been better coming from a professional such as a nutritionist who would have been able to answer queries, as opposed to someone who did not have experience of the conditions.

Mark really did come into this own though when he offered advice on specific methods of cooking, such as when he suggested that I use gram flour for making batter. This is where I think there could have been differentiation between the role of someone giving the gluten free explanation and then Mark doing the actual demonstration.

Before baking commenced Mark also advised that River Cottage are always happy to cater for dietary requirements, but as with most venues they would just appreciate some advanced notice. This is great to hear and I haven’t been for a meal at the Bristol Canteen yet (other than the lunch provided with the course), so I’d definitely be keen to try out some of their other meals. 🙂

Once everyone’s questions had been answered, Mark began the cookery demonstrations and showed us how to make a chocolate brownie, orange polenta cake and buckwheat drop scones. He showed us the process for making all 3 products through to the baking stage and then once this was complete for each product Annie was asked to bring us some samples (bar the drop scones which were instead given to us during the lunch break).

brownies orange polenta

The chocolate brownie was absolutely gorgeous and had a lovely texture and consistency, mainly due to the nuts running through it. It was also very moist with a good flavour and a hard top, just what I like to see from a brownie!

As for the orange polenta cake, well this was amazing! You could taste the orange all the way through the product which made it taste great. There’s even an extra orange syrup you can make for the top if you’re feeling very orangey!

Although the mixture for this cake was shown to be quite dense, it produced a very moist cake which had a brilliant crispy edge! In addition, despite the use of polenta in this cake, the final product did not taste grainy at all and was definitely my favourite product of the day. 🙂

Once the demonstrations we went down to the restaurant area to have our lunch and a drink of our choice. I opted to have a bottle of Apple Tingler from Orchard Pig and wow, that tasted lovely – an apple juice with a twist!

Whilst waiting for our main courses, Annie provided us all with copies of the recipes for each of the products we had been shown. I know that I will certainly be trying them out for myself, particularly the orange polenta cake!


Lunch arrived shortly afterwards and my main course was divine. I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the curried bubble and squeak (and a few people did ask to have a plain version), but I was quite impressed with myself as I really enjoyed it.

Obviously my taste for all things spicy is improving finally!DSC03122

Between the main course and dessert the buckwheat scones were brought over to us to try and they were very moreish. Unfortunately as we were still waiting for our desserts to arrive we were reluctant to keep eating the scones, which was a shame. I know the original intention was to have them as part of the demonstration and if this had been the case I think more would have been eaten!

DSC03123With just enough room left, my dessert arrived and it looked lovely. I tend to have ice cream for dessert whenever I can as it always seems a nice end to a meal for me and this was no exception.

The whole dessert was very chocolately (not a bad thing!) and the ice cream and brownie complimented each other perfectly. There was even an element of peanut butter in there!

I think having lunch in the restaurant was a lovely way to end the cookery demonstration and it was a great opportunity to meet the other people on the course, discuss why they were on the course and generally just have a natter! 🙂

The demonstration itself lasted for approximately an hour, but it was nice that you could stay in the restaurant having lunch and a chat for as long as you liked.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these courses I strongly suggest that you do as the £30 cost is great value, especially when you think that a gorgeous lunch is also included.

The courses are available at both the Bristol and Plymouth Canteens and you can find out more about them on the River Cottage website by selecting the relevant canteen.

If you’re feeling more adventurous you could also try out the full day gluten free course at River Cottage’s HQ. More information about this can be found here.

To find out more about the River Cottage Canteen Bristol, you can visit their website www.rivercottage.net/canteens/Bristol and you can also follow them on Twitter @bristolcanteen

If you’ve attended one of these courses, I’d love to hear from you! What did you think? Was it value for money? Would you recommend it?


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