Helen Tzouganatos, shares her best-ever cooking tip, coeliac food hack and favourite recipes from the show.
By
Camellia Ling Aebischer

15 Oct 2019 - 11:42 AM  UPDATED 15 Oct 2019 - 11:42 AM

You were diagnosed as coeliac at 32 – how has this impacted your relationship with food?

I’ve always been a passionate foodie and home cook so when I was advised to cut out gluten 12 years ago by my doctor I was devastated. There was not much available on the market when it came to gluten free and what was available tasted horrible. I would drive 12km for a loaf of bread from the health food store that was heavy as a brick - so I started baking my own bread at home because everything on the market was inedible and had to be salvaged by the toaster.

I would drive 12km for a loaf of bread from the health food store that was heavy as a brick - so I started baking my own bread at home

Fast forward a decade and it’s a completely different story, the gluten free market has exploded as more people are discovering they cannot tolerate gluten or just choosing to eliminate it as part of a healthier eating plan.

My food is just beautiful food made from scratch. You would have no idea my rich lasagna, bouncy bread or moist cakes are gluten free.

Like this one:
Gluten-free blackberry yoghurt cake

Different gluten-free flours can deliver varying results. It's best to check the packet or brand website for suggestions on ratios when replacing wheat flour with gluten-free alternatives.

What are some of your favourite recipes from the new show, Loving Gluten Free?

I’m a carb lover so I’m going to have to say spaghetti with pork and veal meatballs, blueberry buckwheat pancakes and the triple chocolate cookies. We’ve also got some great lean and clean recipes too like my smoked trout and Asian slaw, and kale and pea socca with yoghurt tahini dressing. The show has a mix of nourishing mid-week dinners and indulgent treats and lots of options for people who are paleo, vegan or dairy free.

For me it’s all about balance, I generally follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating. I eat fairly clean during the week and I’m more indulgent on the weekends. That’s when the baking pans and cooking chocolate comes out!

Helen Tzouganatos and guest Daniel Wilson cooking on Loving Gluten Free.

What’s your best coeliac food hack?

My best coeliac food hack is finely grated potato with the moisture squeezed out. The potato can be used as a breadcrumb replacement in meatballs, making them incredibly fluffy, probably fluffier than a regular recipe with breadcrumbs.

My best coeliac food hack is finely grated potato with the moisture squeezed out.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without in the kitchen?

Quinoa. It is just so versatile in a gluten free kitchen. I use quinoa flakes for crumbing chicken and fish and they are also great in porridge because they cook in a fraction of the time of regular quinoa, perfect for busy mornings. I have a beautiful 3-minute quinoa and chia porridge recipe which I’m making on the show, its really healthy and delicious.

I also love regular quinoa seeds in salads and tagines. Quinoa is much more nutritious than cous cous (which contains gluten) so use it in your tagines or as a replacement for rice and pasta if you are looking for a nutrient-dense alternative.

Could you tell us your favourite food of all time?

I’m Greek so I can’t go past a hearty baked lamb pastitsio on a cold winter day. I made this on the show and I scored major brownie points with the crew that day - it quickly vanished. It was never really a tough day in the office during filming.

If you had to choose between chocolate and cheese, which would you pick and why?

I love both but I would have to say chocolate, it is my number one vice. I’m a serious chocoholic. In my past corporate life I worked at Nestle and I loved eating warm Kit Kat’s off the production line, this was before I discovered I was a coeliac of course. I rarely drink but I certainly make up for it in cocoa fat and beans!

If you had to eat the cuisine of one country for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That’s like asking me to pick my favourite kid, not entirely fair. I’m obsessed with Greek, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican and Lebanese but if I had to pick one I would have to say Greek because it is so fresh and varied. There are beautiful clean vegetarian dishes featuring lentils like fakes and mouthwatering meat dishes like slow-cooked lamb shoulder with lemon potatoes. Greek food caters well to everyone from hardcore carnivores to vegans.

Extra-virgin olive oil is the foundation of Greek cooking and I just love it’s taste and health benefits. I’ve never been one to cook with lots of butter and cream, it is just not the Greek way. When I’m rushed I make a simple Greek salad for lunch with a drizzle of beautiful extra-virgin olive oil sent from my relatives in Greece and I’m more than satisfied.

What’s the best cooking tip you’ve ever received?

Season generously and at the correct stage. If you add salt too late in the cooking process you will never maximise flavour in your dishes so don’t forget to season that pasta water early, it’s your only chance to get it right!

 

Catch Helen Tzouganatos whipping up lush gluten-free meals in the brand new first series of Loving Gluten Free at 8:30pm Thursdays from 17 October to 19 December on SBS Food (channel 33), and later on SBS On Demand.

Go gluten free
Baked quinoa-crumbed chicken with Japanese mayonnaise

Whether you're celiac or not, this baked chicken recipe with Japanese mayo makes a delightful dish to share with friends, or as a main meal with a side of veg.

Middle Eastern quinoa salad

Turn grainy salads into a playful meal by serving them inside lettuce cups.

Prosciutto and rocket cauliflower pizza

A cauliflower crust takes the stress out of making pizza at home for those eating gluten free. This recipe makes one large pizza.

Italian meatballs and spaghetti

Grated potato subs in for breadcrumbs in this meatball recipe and ensures they retain a nice tender texture.

Bangin’ banana and walnut bread

Not only is this banana bread recipe gluten free, but it's vegan too.

Asian lamb patties on chargrilled cassava

Cassava is usually boiled or fried, but a light grill turns them into the perfect gluten-free base for these seasoned lamb patties. The recipe makes around 20 little canape bites.

Gluten-free carrot and zucchini slab cake

This cake is lovely and light and tender - and a good one for kids who are tricky about vegetables!