Gluten Free at Ashburton Cookery School

Yesterday was my first teaching day at the Ashburton Cookery School - a deliciously well oiled machine of a place! It's an exciting new strand on my bow, because I was teaching trainee chefs and sending them off out into the world to spread the word about wholesome gluten free.

It's so important that chefs understand more about food intolerance, allergies and coeliac disease. Not purely to keep those of us who are blessed with sensitive tums, safe while we eat - but for their own culinary development. It's good to get the message across that gluten free needn't be a compromise, because it can be something in itself. Chefs can be ambassadors for the many different grains available to everyone - not just coeliacs! They are the clever people who can experiment with cakes made with starchy vegetables, pastries that have a unique flavour because of the different flours, nuts and fats used, breads that taste of something other than rice flour and potato starch.

Around the world people are eating gluten free grains as a matter of course - Injeera bread in Ethiopia (teff), Sorghum porridge across Africa, Buckwheat blinis in Russia, Maize tortillas in SouthAmerica. People don't eat these foods because they suffer food intolerance - they simply use what grows around them, and their diet is the better for it. Western diets have relied for too long on wheat flour and we all need to spread out net as wide as we can, to catch all those varied flavours, textures and nutrients.

The chef school at Ashburton was run like the best of kitchens - clean, ordered, light and full of laughter. After a day of teaching I always long for a kitchen porter in my own kitchen, because chefs get to do the fun cooking bit, without all the onerous washing up! The trainee chefs were a delight - bright, polite and able, full of interesting questions that set me thinking and cheffy tips about how to finesse my rustic style.

I wish them well, wherever they end up cooking. I know that if you happen to eat at one of their places, you'll be sure of a warm welcome and a good gluten free meal.

The school also runs a wide range of courses for the public. Visit the Ashburton Cookery School website here.