Deck the (wheat & gluten free) halls

Added on 20 Dec, 2005 . There are .

Ahhhhh Christmas. Holly, the tree, tinsel, decorations, roast turkey, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, mince pies and mistletoe. Hang on, rewind that a bit, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies, hmmmmmmm now here I see a problem.

Christmas is meant to be the time of goodwill to all men (and women), a time of giving, receiving, sharing and general merriment. A time of binge eating and drinking and so much wheat in evidence you'd think you were living in a grain silo.

Having just been to a party where the hostess simply assumed I'd bring my own food, I thought it time to look at just where all that wheat is going to be lurking this holiday season.

I've already mentioned the Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies, but that's the easy stuff to identify. What about the rest?

Stuffing - nearly all stuffing that you buy ready made will have wheat in it. Those cute little stuffing rolls with bacon around them contain wheat, stuffing balls contain wheat, packet stuffing mix and frozen stuffing contain wheat. And of course don't forget the ready stuffed turkey, the stuffing contains wheat, with the exception of the stuffed Marks & Spencer turkey breast that they say is gluten free (however check the ingredients closely, they've made so many mistakes about gluten free status of foods over the years on their Christmas lists I wouldn't trust their word on it).

Turkey - unstuffed, ready basted, prepared turkey or turkey breast joint, again check because the basting often contains wheat in the stock used. You're safest bet is to go for a plain, unstuffed, unbasted turkey or turkey breast joint to avoid any chance of the wrong thing being hidden in it.

Gravy – most gravies contain wheat, in fact on a survey in my local supermarket there was not one of the 20 gravy mixes I looked at that didn't contain wheat. The only safe gravy is to purchase one of the allergy specific mixes, or make your own gravy.

Cranberry sauce – I haven't yet seen a cranberry sauce containing wheat, but read the ingredients carefully, or better still buy one that specifically says gluten free on the label.

Bread sauce – need I say more?

Roast potatoes – a lot of supermarkets have bags of ready to cook roast potatoes in their freezer department. Read the ingredients carefully and you'll find that 90% of them have wheat in the coating on the potatoes to make them more crispy. Why not make your own roast potatoes.

So that's the main course of the festive meal dealt with, what about dessert?

Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies – we've already got those covered as wheaty nightmares.

Trifle – 99% of the time it's going to have sponge in the jelly base. And it might have alcohol in it too, some of which contain wheat, sherry is usually okay, as is rum or brandy. Mind you, retro desserts are very in vogue at the moment, so why not make your own, try our black forest trifle.

Brandy butter or sauce (ready made) – check the ingredients carefully they often have wheat lurking in the ingredients list.

Cheeses – if you like the blue cheeses then beware. Traditional blue cheeses are made using a bacteria to create the blue vein and hideous taste (okay so I'm a bit biased here as I hate the stuff). Manufacturers not using traditional methods, or cheapskates trying to produce blue cheese cheaper and quicker, use mouldy bread. Can you see the problem here?

Crackers – forget it, unless they are specifically in a packet stating wheat & gluten free and you've seen it for proof, otherwise don't touch them. And if your hostess/host/relative puts them on the same plate as the other wheat containing crackers, again you'd be better off giving them a miss because of cross-contamination issues.

So we've got the main festive meal out of the way let's move onto afternoon tea, you know, the meal that we really don't want to eat because we're still overstuffed, but your mother/mother-in-law insists that you gorge yourself on anyway.

Turkey sandwiches – obvious really (and who wants to eat more turkey anyway, cold).

Crisps – a lot of crisps contain wheat in their flavourings or coatings. So check out the bag they came from before you start tucking in. And of course make sure that stray wheat containing offenders haven't been tipped into the same bowl.

Nuts – some dry roasted or other flavours of nuts have wheat in their coatings. Not all, but better safe than sorry, check before you start to shovel them in.

Sausage rolls – well this one's obvious isn't it, pastry and sausages both contain wheat. You could try to make your own, our sausage dogs are pretty good, even if we do say so ourselves. There are wheat & gluten free sausages pretty widely available on the market so no excuses not to have a go at making your own sausage rolls.

Vol-au-vents – does anyone really still serve these? Oh yes, dreadful though they are you'll still see them on many festive tea tables. And have you seen how much crumb they shower everywhere when someone bites into them. A wheat contamination disaster waiting to happen, (especially if Uncle Cyril has taken his teeth out and is trying to gum them to death).

Ferrero Rocher – are there no depths that people won't sink to? Of course they contain wheat, so you can maintain some diginity and leave them to the others.

Yule log & panettone – wheat containing of course.

Sweets & chocolates – it's so very tempting to dive your hand into that big tin of Quality Street, but rethink that action because you'll be out of luck if you want wheat free. Liqueur chocolates again can be a problem, as some liqueurs contain wheat/gluten.

But the good news is that if you restrain yourself from all the wheat containing products on show then you're going to be one very smug, healthy and understuffed human watching all the wheat eaters loosening their belts, quaffing digestion remedies and groaning in discomfort.

And before you leave your computer thinking that you'll have a miserable Christmas, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You won't because everything can be either bought or made wheat & gluten free if you really want to eat it. Except vol-au-vents and Ferrero Rocher... thankfully.

Have a very merry wheat free Christmas!