Restaurant Review: ZPIZZA – Gluten-free, vegan options

zpizzaBanner

I have not had a ‘real’ pizza in so long. It has been SO long that when I took a bit out of this pizza, I actually had tears in my eyes. Serving in US, Vietnam, South Korea and UAE, this pizza joint has stolen my heart (and my stomach). Thin gluten-free crust that tastes delicious, fresh tomato sauce, topped with delicious zucchini and olives – ah, pizza pizza pizza! Guys, you have definitely got to give this gluten-free pizza a try! The crust was so delicious. I wouldn’t even mind eating it plain! It was that good! They even give you the option of having vegan cheese, which I have yet to try. They were out of it the last two times I visited. Here are the pizzas I tried:

  • California Veggie Pizza: My favourite out of the three. Topped with zucchini, tomatoes, and olives.
  • Tuscan Mushroom Pizza: Had it without mushrooms since I’m not so fond of them. The caramelized onions and garlic sauce was fantastic! Tasted so good! A little too garlic-y and onion-y for me but still pretty damn good.
  • Napoli Pizza: I’m guessing it would’ve tasted much much better with the cheese but since they were out of vegan cheese, it was basically garlic sauce, and tomatoes so I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Located in Dubai Marina. Gluten-free crusts available in Regular size only. Ingredients and prices listed on the website here.

Advertisements

Where to buy Gluten Free/Lactose Free in Dubai

Buying allergy friendly food is so much easier than it was a few years ago. Here’s where you can find gluten free and lactose free products in Dubai:

  • SPINNEYS: You will find a range of dairy free milks here. They stock soy milk, rice milk and almond milk. They also have a jam that is labelled gluten free, by a company called Duerr’s. They stock quinoa, gluten free rice cakes, gluten free flours, and other gluten free snacks like cookies, macaroons and tomato-cheese sticks by Mrs Crimble’s. They also have some gluten free pastas and rice noodles as well as rice paper wrappers. I use those for samosas! I’ve also seen some small crisp sized packets containing flavoured gluten free rice cakes. These were in the section for food for infants. They even stock products by Waitrose. The most amazing think I saw was gluten free vegetable stock by Kallo! I can’t have these due to other allergies, but if you can, then hooray!
  • CHOITHRAM: The Choithram that I’ve been to in Dubai Silicon Oasis has an aisle for health conscious people. They have rice cakes, quinoa, and dairy free milk.
  • CARREFOUR: I always buy my gluten free spaghetti from here. They stock this brand called Peacock’s and have a variety of gluten free spaghetti noodles which are white rice noodles, brown rice noodles and vermicelli noodles. This is the cheapest (7-8 AED) brand of gluten free spaghetti I have found in Dubai. Most cost over 20 AED and contain corn which is something I cannot have. Carrefour also stocks lactose free milk by Al Marai. Look for it in the UHT section. They also sell soy milk but I have never seen any almond milk there.
  • LULU HYPERMARKET: I have heard about Lulu’s stocking lots of gluten free food but I don’t usually go there so I don’t know what they have. I recently found out that they stock almond milk by a brand that I’ve heard about repeatedly, especially from consumers in the US: Almond Breeze. I don’t drink this because apparently there is some amount of soy in it, but everyone gives it great reviews!
  • HYPERPANDA: They have a tiny little section dedicated to gluten free food, which makes me so pleased. There, I have seen rice crackers, Peacock’s gluten free spaghetti, and quinoa.
  • HOLLAND & BARRETT: This is a small, nifty little store just outside Hyperpanda in Dubai Festival City. They’ve got quinoa and lots of gluten free grains and flours.

You can always also go to ORGANIC FOODS AND CAFE in Dubai Mall but I don’t usually go to Dubai Mall. (Can you blame me? It’s always so crowded and takes ages to get from one end of the mall to the other!) There is also a Waitrose store there. In both stores, you will find a range of allergy friendly products. I haven’t listed any here because I’ve never been there.

For quick reference, use the lists below when you go shopping. The first list is sorted by product type, and the second is by store.

SHOPPING LIST

  • Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes in Spinneys and Choithram
  • Dairy free milk in Spinneys, Choithram, Lulu Hypermarket and Carrefour
  • Lactose free milk in Carrefour
  • Gluten free spaghetti (Peacock’s) in Carrefour and Hyperpanda
  • Gluten free flours in Spinneys and Holland & Barrett
  • Gluten free jam (Duerr’s) in Spinneys
  • Quinoa in Spinneys, Choithram, Holland & Barrett and Hyperpanda
  • Gluten free snacks and treats in Spinneys
  • Rice paper in Spinneys
  • Rice noodles in Spinneys
  • Gluten free vegetable stock in Spinneys

SHOPPING LIST

  • SPINNEYS: Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes, dairy free milk, gluten free flours, gluten free jam, quinoa, gluten free snacks, rice paper, rice noodles, gluten free vegetable stock
  • CHOITHRAM: Gluten free/lactose free rice cakes, dairy free milk, quinoa
  • CARREFOUR: Dairy free milk, lactose free milk, gluten free spaghetti
  • LULU HYPERMARKET: Dairy free milk
  • HYPERPANDA: Quinoa, gluten free spaghetti
  • HOLLAND & BARRETT: Gluten free flours, quinoa

Protein Packed Pizzas – GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

I finally ate a gluten free pizza that actually tasted like pizza! OMG!!!!!!!!

Inspired by this recipe for quinoa pizza crusts and by this recipe for cheesy cauliflower cream, I set out this morning to experiment. I just bought a new non-stick baking tray and it was, I don’t know, useless. I greased it just to be safe but the batter kept getting stuck to the pan and we had to scrape it off. Eventually, I ended up cooking it on the stove in a frying pan with a lid on top. Long ago, when I was making pancakes for the first time in my non-stick pan, I had greased it lightly and the pancake batter got stuck to it. The second time, I skipped greasing the pan and my pancakes turned out beautifully. Maybe I should try just placing the batter on the baking tray without greasing it first? Will experiment next time!

The pizza crust was a bit on the soft side but it was quite pleasant. It’s rather floppy so you would have to eat it with a knife and fork. I’m not complaining about that though. I usually avoid eating with my bare hands anyway! While it was cooking, I was just amazed at how “pizza-like” it smelled! This is so fantastic. It’s like junk food that’s not really junk! It’s clean and it’s fresh and it’s healthy! Extra protein too!

Protein Packed Pizzas - GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

Protein Packed Pizzas – GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

 

The following recipe makes 2 small sized pizzas.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • A quarter of a cauliflower for preparing something I like to call Caulicheese
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 flax egg. See directions below
  • Your herbs: Oregano, basil, parsley, etc. according to preference
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Pizza sauce. See directions below
  • Olives
  • Onions/green onions
  • Capsicum
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • Rice flour (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Make the Caulicheese: Cut up the cauliflower into smaller florets and place in a pot. Add water, salt and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then simmer for around 15-20 minutes until cauliflower is soft and tender. When the cauliflower is done, drain the water and put it in a blender, or in a bowl if using a hand mixer. The cauliflower should turn into a creamy puree. Add a pinch of salt to this. If you can still smell that cauliflowery smell, add some more lemon juice. Add 1 tbsp coriander powder for flavour. Add any other flavours you like – onion powder, garlic powder, etc.
  • Make the pizza sauce: To make your own pizza/pasta sauce, heat up some oil in a saucepan and add onions, herbs, coriander leaves, and coriander powder and saute until fragrant. Then add a little tomato paste and cook for a minute or so until the flavours have all combined.
  • Make the flax egg: While the cauliflower is being cooked, prepare flax egg by mixing 3 tbsp of water with 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds. Set aside for 15 minutes at least to gel.
  • Make the batter: To the quinoa, add a pinch of salt and your herbs – I used only oregano. Blend using a hand mixer or blender until the quinoa forms a doughy like texture. It’s rather sticky. I added 1-2 tbsp of rice flour. If you skip the rice flour, the crust will be very difficult to flip. You will need two pans then and will have to slide it off one pan and into the other. Adding rice flour holds it together.
    Once your batter is ready, add the flax egg and mix in using the blender or a spoon.
  • Scoop an amount of the batter and with wet/oily fingers, flatten the batter in a non-stick frying pan.
  • On medium heat and with a lid on, let the pizza crust cook for about 7-8 minutes. Check for doneness. If you feel like you want it crispier, cook it for a little longer. When it’s done, flip it over using a spatula and add your toppings.
  • First top your pizza crust with tomato sauce. Then add the caulicheese on top. Sprinkle any herbs or flavours you might want. Top with tomatoes, onions/green onions, capsicum, olives, etc.
  • Put the lid on again and cook for another 8 minutes. Check for doneness. Again, cook for a little longer if you want it to be crispier.
  • Sink your teeth in and enjoy! 😀

Gluten Free, Vegan, Low FODMAP Potato Quinoa Patties

I am crazy about potato patties. I absolutely LOVE burgers and I miss them so much since going gluten free. I used to make potato patties in a burger bun with lettuce, tomatoes, some onion slivers, cheese and ketchup. They used to be amazing! Now I can just have the potato patties. I’ve thought of making a ‘greenwich’ out of them by enveloping the patty with large lettuce leaves. Never got around to trying it.

I realized that since going low FODMAP, my protein intake has been on the low side. I work out a few times a week as well. I am also vegetarian. All of this meant that I needed to up my protein levels. BUT HOW?

The answer is quinoa.   This is a fantastic way to increase protein intake. You won’t even taste the difference!

Potato Quinoa Patties

Potato Quinoa Patties with Indian ‘Khichdi’ style rice

Click on image: 12 packs for $38.05 on Amazon

Click on image: 12 packs for $38.05 on Amazon

INGREDIENTS

  • Boiled potatoes
  • Cooked quinoa
  • A handful of coriander leaves
  • Coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil (or any other oil you prefer)
  • Additional flavours or herbs you might like

DIRECTIONS

  • Simply mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl using your hands. Make sure the potatoes get completely mashed while you’re mixing everything up.
  • Roll them into little balls
  • Pour some oil into a frying pan and let it heat up
  • Place the balls into the frying pan. This is a tip I learned from my grandmother. Without the chickpea flour or bread crumbs holding the potato patties together, they tend to break apart. Once the bottoms of these balls start browning, flatten them with a spatula and let it cook some more. When the bottom has browned and is as crispy as you like, flip the patty and cook the other side. (P.S. Patties made without chickpea flour or bread crumbs take longer to cook.)
  • When done cooking, place the patties on kitchen paper towels to absorb some of the excess oil

WHAT YOU CAN ‘CRUMB’ WITH You can use a few things to coat the patties with to hold it together. I used to use almond flour. Gets really nice and crispy but ever since hearing that it’s not ideal to heat up almonds or almond flour, I’ve stopped using it.

  • Bread crumbs (GF or regular)
  • Chickpea flour
  • Almond flour
  • Sorghum flour
  • A batter made out of ‘moong daal’ or yellow split lentils

I want to try sort of crumbing the patty with cooked quinoa instead of mixing it up. I wonder if that will create some sort of a crust. Has anyone ever tried this? Let me know if you have!

UPDATE: I’ve tried making the patties with some leftover quinoa pilaf. There was a fair amount left over and while mashing up the potato and quinoa together, some quinoa ended up on the outer sides. Formed a nice, crispy crust that minimized breaking!

WHAT TO SERVE WITH

  • You can have them plain
  • With tomato sauce, ketchup, pesto sauce, cheese, mayonnaise, etc.
  • With rice – I sometimes like to have it with plain Indian khichdi, or with ordinary rice that has been drizzled with lemon
  • With bread
  • In a lettuce wrap
  • Drizzle with a little lemon juice

Review: Gluten free, vegetarian pasta at Carluccio’s, MCC

I ate a meal outside today after what seems like years! Going gluten free meant no eating out at all! But today was a pleasant little treat. For a birthday dinner, my friends decided to go to Carluccio’s at Mirdiff City Center. I had never bothered suggesting Carluccio’s before despite knowing about their gluten free menu because I read on their website that the gluten free pasta was made of rice and corn. I’m sensitive to corn as well. Darn it – one good gluten free restaurant in Dubai and I STILL can’t eat there, I thought.

As the waiter was handing out menus, I asked for the gluten free menu which was promptly whipped up. I was quite tempted with a couple dishes I thought would be safe for me. Mashed potatoes, but without dairy, was one option. A bowl of olives was another. Before you say that that’s weird, let me just tell you that in my defense, I love olives. I was thinking that if they couldn’t provide a pasta that was safe for me to eat, I’d just eat dairy free mashed potatoes with olives! Sounds yummy to me!

Waiting for the pasta of my gluten free dreams

Waiting for the pasta of my gluten free dreams

Everyone at my table ordered their food and I waited because I had a hundred questions to ask the waitress, Jen. Jen confirmed with the chef and assured me that they could use a gluten free pasta made of just rice. NO WAY! I was doing all I could to contain my excitement. I asked her about the tomato and basil sauce. I think I asked her about 15 times whether the dish would be prepared with any butter or cheese or dairy. She patiently answered my questions. I asked her about the oil. She said they would use olive oil. I told her I was sensitive to gluten, corn and dairy, and that I am also a vegetarian. By the way, I absolutely hate going to restaurants because I have to list all the 253462781 things I’m sensitive to. I usually have a small card-sized printout with me that lists all the food items that I cannot have but at the restaurant, I realized I didn’t have a card on me. Anyway, she assured me that the meal would be safe for me: no corn, no gluten and no dairy. I even apologized to Jen because I was repeatedly asking her the same questions again and again! But she was very helpful and very patient.

IT'S HERE!

IT’S HERE!

Jen kindly informed me that my meal would take a few more minutes since it takes longer to prepare. It came a LOT sooner than I expected! Oh mon dieu, it looked delicious! It had been SO long since I ate pasta with real pasta sauce, since I last ate in a restaurant, since I last ate with my friends! My friends were thrilled that I was finally eating a meal with them! They would often feel bad every time we went out for dinner because I wouldn’t get to eat anything. Usually, I just sit with an empty plate in front of me while everyone else eats. Then I go home and cry.

My beautiful tomato and basil pasta

My beautiful tomato and basil pasta

I took a bite. Was there some kind of mistake? For a good 5 minutes, I kept thinking what if they mixed up my order and gave me wheat pasta instead. I couldn’t tell the difference! It tasted so much like normal pasta! My friend even tried some and said it tasted better than the meal he had ordered! I had to call Jen back because I saw tiny black flakes on my pasta and I wondered if it was black pepper. (I’m sensitive to black pepper.) Jen assured me that there was no black pepper – she is the one who garnishes pasta with black pepper and/or parmesan and she had skipped my dish for that. Relief! I dug in. I dug myself into a pasta-filled abyss.

The chefs at Carluccio's, Mirdiff City Center

The chefs at Carluccio’s, Mirdiff City Center

The portion was very generous! I was so full! After the meal, I thought I’d meet the chef and thank him. Our server, Raju, took me to the kitchen counter where he introduced me to Chef Joel (2nd from the left). I told him the meal was great! I told him that I had finally eaten out after ages, and that I avoid most restaurants because they mix other ingredients that I’m sensitive to and the ingredients aren’t disclosed. Joel seemed pleased to hear that I had had a wonderful experience.

Before leaving, I thanked our server Raju, and hostess Jen. I told Jen she had been extremely helpful. It was great, really. I wanted to ask whether the pasta contained anything other than rice (if at all), and whether the chef was also handling other wheat items and if was there a separate cooking station for gluten free meals in order to avoid cross contamination, but I felt like I had asked them enough questions for the day! Perhaps next time!

And now, the part that you’ve all been waiting for: Did I have any reactions?

As of right now, about 3 hours after the meal, I am feeling fine. In fact, I’m feeling really good because I just drank some 7up, something I have been avoiding for months. I was feeling slightly bloated after the meal, but that’s probably due to the FODMAP content of the tomato sauce. No fault of the dish or the restaurant – simply the way my body handles fructose. Although however, it was such a mild symptom. I barely even feel any discomfort. I’m going to lay low on FODMAP foods for a couple days. My symptoms usually become highly apparent the following day, so the next 24 hours will answer whether I have any further reactions to the food. I doubt it, but I’ll keep you posted anyway!

UPDATE: 24 hours have passed. I am still alive. My stomach was slightly bloated and a little uncomfortable today after dinner. It has also been making odd noises, like those that a machine that needs to be greased makes. That might be due to the fact that there was about 7+ hours in between my meals. I was starving and that’s what might have led to the discomfort. Other than that, I feel perfectly fine. I was half afraid I’d  wake up feeling anxious and with brain fog. But I woke up thinking clearly and felt good all day. No back aches, no bloat, no brain fog, no stomach cramps. Carluccio’s, I approve!

All in all, I highly recommend Carluccio’s. The staff is friendly and receptive, and the ambiance is great. It kind of feels like you’re dining al fresco, because it’s so spacious and relaxed in there! I usually hate crowded, cramped places but I felt very comfortable here. The food is excellent too. My friends loved their meals. The only complaint I heard from my friends about their meals was about the steak which was a bit too hard; and that one of the pasta dishes turned out to be very spicy. Even so, majority of the dishes turned out great and this was actually the first time my friends were somewhat dissatisfied with meals from Carluccio’s. They’ve been to the restaurant several times and have loved the food. The restaurant even has some items customers can purchase, like their pastas and sauces. It’s all stacked up on shelves on the walls. Nifty! Visit the restaurant and try it out if you like. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be going there again to indulge in gluten free delights!

To summarize:

THE GOOD

  • Quick service
  • Staff was friendly and helpful
  • Staff had good knowledge about gluten intolerance and food sensitives
  • Good ambiance
  • Good food
  • GLUTEN FREE FOOD!

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • 2 out of around 7 or 8 meals were dissatisfactory (the steak was too hard and one pasta dish was too spicy)
  • They should advertise their gluten free menu more. I remember a couple months ago, when I had heard in passing that they had gluten free food. I didn’t want to go in to ask so I just looked at their menu from outside. I didn’t see any sign of gluten free foods so I never bothered stepping in. The only reason I knew they had a GF menu was by googling GF restaurants in Dubai.

WILL I BE GOING THERE AGAIN? 

  • Yes!

Gluten free, vegan, low FODMAP pasta

This is one of those recipes you turn to on your “off days.” You know, when you’ve just been glutened or something, and you’re trying to heal and want your digestive system to rest for a couple days so you eat plain and simple foods. Since I found out (the hard way) that too much tomato sauce/paste isn’t good on a low FODMAP diet, I’ve been looking high and low for a pasta recipe that would still have some flavour. For a long time, I was just eating pasta noodles topped with olives and lettuce because I was so afraid I would end up getting sick from eating a more complex meal. Yeah, that was awful. There was barely any taste and I was too afraid to even add any seasoning. Mind, this isn’t one of those extravagant, restaurant style pastas. It’s a simple home cooked meal with simple flavours. A bit bland for some perhaps, but a welcome change from eating only rice and potatoes on “off days.” I browsed recipe after recipe and finally ended up with the recipe below. I just wing it for the quantities. You can add how much ever you like!

GF, vegan, low FODMAP pasta with lettuce

GF, vegan, low FODMAP pasta with lettuce

INGREDIENTS

  • Pasta (I use Peacock’s Gluten Free Brown Rice Spaghetti)
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Green onions sliced into small pieces (ONLY the green part if you’re on a low FODMAP diet)
  • A handful of coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • Dried oregano according to preference
  • Olives
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • Any other herbs or toppings you like!

DIRECTIONS

  • Cook pasta according to directions on the packet
  • In a saucepan, pour some olive oil and let it heat up a bit
  • Add the coriander powder, coriander leaves, green onions and oregano. Saute until fragrant. You can also choose to add things like parsley, basil, celery, carrots, onions, etc.
  • Add tomatoes and stir it around a bit. Do this for a few minutes. I usually cook mine until it is a bit mushy but not like pulp or puree.
  • Add the pasta to the saucepan, mix it all up and cook for a few minutes so everything is nice and heated
  • Top with olives, broccoli, anything you like! I usually add black and green olives on top, and serve with a side of fresh lettuce

Quinoa

Quin-wha?

Quinoa

Quinoa

Glorious, wonderful quinoa! I had never heard of it. I never would have either, if gluten hadn’t decided to forsake me. I’m so glad I now know what quinoa is. And it is amazing.

Quinoa is a seed that behaves like a grain. It was the food of the Incan warriors, known for replenishing strength and building stamina. 1 cup of cooked quinoa has about 8g of protein, 3g of fat, and 5g of fibre. Wonderfood? I think so!

Also, since it swells up when it’s cooked, 1/4 cup of uncooked quinoa is equal to about a 1 whole cup when cooked!

I was at first terrified of having quinoa. Because I have lots of food sensitivities, I was worried it would make me ill. Quite a few people reported feeling sick after quinoa. I finally mustered up the courage to try it out. I felt fine. Hooray!

Then I tried eating soaked and uncooked quinoa by baking/frying it into tortillas and pancakes. I also kind of overdosed on it and had about 1-1.5 cups of soaked quinoa in less than 24 hours. Tummy no happy!

(To make things easier for reference, cooked quinoa is quinoa that has been rinsed, soaked and cooked. Soaked quinoa is uncooked yet, just soaked.)

So my advice to those of you who want to try quinoa is:

  • RINSE IT! There is no way I would ever eat it without rinsing and soaking it first. Quinoa is coated in saponins that appear soapy when rinsed. It can cause stomach aches. Most packaged quinoa comes pre-rinsed but you should always rinse it again to be on the safe side. Rinse it well for a couple of minutes in a mesh sieve and scrub with your fingers, moving the seeds around.
  • Soak it. I’m a little paranoid that I’ll get sick so I always like to take extra precautions. Some websites suggest soaking it for a few hours, but I soak it overnight in a bowl full of water and 1 tbsp lemon juice in it.
  • Then drain the water and rinse it thoroughly again till the water runs clear.
  • There are many ways to cook quinoa. I usually just cook it like rice. Put it in a pot of water, bring it to boil, cover the pot, and simmer until the water dries up. There are other ways of preparing quinoa but I haven’t tried them.
  • I would suggest not overdosing on it like I did. In my defense, I couldn’t help it – it’s so good! Like I mentioned above, a cup of quinoa contains about 5g of fiber. Also, I don’t know if this is crazy, but when I was cooking with only soaked quinoa (I added water and blended it to make a batter to cook with), the batter kind of reminded me of tahini which is made with sesame seeds. Too much of that upsets my tummy as well. I couldn’t help but wonder if too much soaked quinoa leads to an upset tummy. I remember I made tortillas out of them. After the second tortilla, I started feeling stomach cramps. I made quinoa pancakes the next morning and felt the cramps again. I felt ill for a few days after that, similar to how I react when I have too much tahini. Has that happened to any of you? Cooked quinoa suits just fine though. Maybe I just had too much. So yeah, I’d suggest start off with small servings and see how much your body can handle.

Mmm, delicious quinoa. Can’t wait to prepare it again in all it’s gluten free glory! It is also so versatile. You can have it like porridge, in pancakes, with potatoes, add it to your burger patties, BAKE CAKES with it, in smoothies, as a substitute for rice or pasta, as a dosa, as a tortilla… Sacre bleu, Quinoa, I think I love you.

P.S. Saw this AMAZING offer on Amazon for quinoa! Great if you’re like me and prefer to shop in bulk, especially quinoa which tends to be expensive. 12 packs for $38.05. That’s only $3.17 per pack! WOW! Click on the image below to purchase.

Click on image: 12 packs for $38.05 on Amazon