Affecting every 1 in 100 people in the UK, coeliac disease is a common autoimmune condition which can develop and be diagnosed at any age. Not confusing coeliac disease with a food allergy or intolerance, coeliacs must follow a lifelong strict gluten-free diet to avoid long-term digestion problems and increased chances of developing anaemia, osteoporosis and malnutrition.
Having worked with the coeliac community for over 20 years, there are few people that know and understand coeliac disease quite as well as the team at Juvela – a prescription-based food service specialising in high quality wheat- and gluten-free foods and recipes. From basics such as bread rolls and breakfast cereals, to biscuits, bakes, and pizza bases, Juvela’s range of essential products are all approved by the Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances (an independent body who advises the Department of Health on what products can be prescribed to patients) and can automatically be sent from your GP surgery to a nominated pharmacy of your choice.
It certainly makes eating wheat- and gluten- free a whole lot more simple, but what does prescription-food actually taste like?
I was delighted to receive a selection of wheat and gluten-free goods from Juvela to try: fusilli pasta, linguine, pizza bases, two loaves of sliced fresh bread (white and fibre), and three different all-purpose flour mixes.
Delivered within hours of being baked, the loaves of bread were decent in size and arrived still smelling like proper fresh bread. They tasted pretty damn good too, having been developed to be as comparable to traditional bread as possible. The golden brown crusts were matched with a pleasingly light and spongy crumb, and didn’t fall apart as is so often the case with gluten-free loaves. Personally I preferred the Fibre Fresh Sliced Loaf with its nutty specklings of crushed linseed to the Fresh White Sliced Loaf, which verged more on the scale of your overly-processed supermarket own-brand than a quality, freshly-baked bread.
Even more impressive is Juvela’s recently re-launched Fibre Linguine. Made from a combination of Maize Starch, Potato Flour, Rice Starch and Soya Flour, the linguine is much darker in colour than your typical pasta with the perfect amount of nutty bite. This worked particularly well when paired with a thicker or meat-based sauce, to the point that I’d actually opt for this linguine over any wheat-based version, even if I had the choice.
One of my favourite go-to gluten-free lunches is using my recipe for easiest-ever, no-knead bread. They say the All Purpose Flour Mixes from Juvela can replace both plain and self raising flour so I thought this simple recipe would be a good test of the flour mixes, and make a welcome change from my normal choice of Doves Farm White Self-Raising Flour. The mix only contains a small amount of raising agent so I took their suggestion to add more, adding an extra ½ teaspoon of baking powder. This obviously wasn’t enough as the loaf was pretty flat and needed to be toasted before we could eat it. However the crust coloured beautifully and gave a soft crunch to the delicious (if dense) centre. Definitely a recipe with potential and if I were to actually follow the suggested recipe on the packet, I’ve no doubt I could go from mine to theirs in no time:
Last but not least: Juvela’s pizza bases. Otherwise known as the achilles’ heel of the gluten-free world. Rather amazingly, these pizzas were not only super easy to make but tasted delicious and could actually be sliced into proper squidgy pizza slices with a lightly crunchy golden crust (even Pizza Express is yet to provide a gluten-free base which doesn’t best resemble cardboard). We topped ours with tomato puree, cheese, olives, capers and tuna and, with no visible cooking instructions either on the packet or online, guessed a cooking time of approx. ten minutes in a preheated oven.
They were perfect. And at under 500 calories deceivingly filling – our decision to add potato wedges on the side definitely a case of eyes being bigger than our stomachs. Would I buy these again? Without a doubt. The only problem with this – and Juvela as a whole – is that this is food that’s too good to be reserved solely for coeliacs. And while it’s darn right admirable that Juvela have made gluten-free food that’s as concerned about taste as being safe, I can’t help but wish they only made it a little more accessible for the rest of us.*
To find out more about coeliac disease and Juvela’s prescription-based food service, please visit Juvela’s website here.
*On publishing this article, Juvela have informed me that their products at present are actually available to order in via pharmacies without a prescription too! This can be a way for those who either want to top up their prescription, and also for those who may not have a prescription at all. However, they do advise anybody who goes down the pharmacy ordering route to shop around and discuss before committing to any purchases, as the price mark-up that the pharmacies can add can vary wildly, and this is something they unfortunately don’t have any control over.