Wagamama – a truly great experience when eating out with allergies

I’m going to continue my ‘eating out with allergies’ series as it’s an area where I’m always looking for help and recommendations, so maybe my comments and reviews may help others too. Click on the ‘Eating Out’ tab for previous recommendations 🙂

I don’t know about you but eating out causes us some serious anxiety. Often we’ll think, oh wouldn’t it be nice to not have to cook for once and eat out instead. Then I spend ages trawling through the options online with the following thoughts running through my brain; ‘is there anything safe on offer, how seriously will they take our requirements, is it going to end badly, is it worth going out if it’s for something so simple and plain it would be easier to make it at home?’

More often than not we stick to one of our usual favoured chain restaurants which can seem more reliable in catering for allergies, or we just stay at home. Whilst it can be successful, the stress of trying a new location can simply be too much, tipping the meal from enjoyable to tense and uncomfortable. Little S often goes very quiet in restaurants, it’s like she isn’t at ease and is carrying a load of worries. Do any of you find this to?

Often the easiest and most relaxed way to guarantee a good safe meal is by staying at home, but that’s not so much fun….

When people first mentioned Wagamama as a good allergy friendly destination we inwardly scoffed – how could a Japanese style restaurant which actively sells a lot of food with sesame, peanuts and other nuts be suitable for us? So we dug our heels in and didn’t try it for ages. Then one opened near us and we took the plunge with Big S (just milk allergic so Japanese food is a fairly safe option) whilst Little S was on her first school residential (which had it’s own stresses, but that’s another story!)

Wow, were we impressed! The whole service is incredibly slick, and caters for allergies in a caring but professional manner. The manager is the only one who will take allergy orders, ensuring responsibility is taken by the person in charge and they always refer to the allergen menu which is a great reassurance. Big S can have a lot of items on the menu and now she’s a teen it’s fab to have a cool, safe and really popular restaurant she can head to with friends.

Little S’s options are fewer (free-from milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame) but still she can have an actual dish from the menu which is always fresh and tasty and doesn’t require us to bring bits from home, or for copious alterations to make it suitable. For reference Little S has the grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce and it’s been successful every time she’s had it (and that’s loads of times).

Children’s grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce

The only problem we’ve come across was the disappointment when the breadcrumbed chicken Katsu started to be cooked in the same oil as a dish containing cottage cheese, making it unsuitable if you have a dairy allergy. This was pointed out by a manager and then suddenly it all made sense why Big S had been sick a couple of times after eating the regular Katsu; there was a new dairy cross-contamination. This had been Big S’s favourite dish so she was mightily disappointed to forego her choice, but she’s got used to the grilled version now.

Grilled Chicken Katsu with sticky rice

Wagamama has grabbed with relish the rising popularity of vegan food and created an entire veggie and vegan menu, giving plant-based spins on their traditional favourites. This is a big bonus for me as a vegetarian as I’m more used to very little choice when eating out.

Vegetarian Yasai Katsu

So all in all, Wagamama is now a family favourite, relied upon for a safe and tasty restaurant experience. So much so we even visited a branch in Holland when we were struggling for safe options! If you haven’t, I’d recommend you to give it a go, it’s so nice not to have to cook every day!

Children’s Menu

Rich Chocolate Truffle Pots

Rich, decadent and very chocolatey truffle pots – think those little Gu pudding pots you can buy, but tastier, friendly and with only three ingredients! These totally fit the bill of emergency easy but utterly delicious pudding option! They set nicely after an hour or two in the fridge, but are still rather delicious if eaten whilst still oozy.

This recipe was inspired by one by Celia Brooks Brown in “Entertaining Vegetarians”

Rich Chocolate Truffle Pots

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

serves 4

125g dairy-free chocolate, such as Nomo

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

2/3rds cup dairy-free cream, I used Oatly

  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat (or in a microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 45 seconds).
  2. Stir until smooth and unctuous.
  3. Pour into small glasses/shot glasses/small ramekins. Top on the work surface to get rid of any little bubbles.
  4. Chill until ready to eat.

 

 

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

Victoria sponge cake is surely the most appropriate traditional summertime cake. It’s the very essence of tea time, taken under the shade of an apple tree on a warm Summer afternoon, maybe along with some scones and cup of tea in fine china cups!

I’ve found it quite a journey to develop the perfect Victoria sponge recipe, for some reason it has been so much harder than a chocolate cake. Sometimes the texture is a bit too rubbery/bouncy or the flavour not quite right. However finally thanks to some gratefully received input from a reader and his mother in law, the a pretty fine egg and dairy-free Victoria sponge is here. It’s always such a delight to me when I feel I have developed a great ‘friendly’ alternative to a classic staple. I feel like I’m finally hitting my ‘brief’ from the outset of this journey, which is about enabling everyone to enjoy the same things. This cake would make an awesome birthday cake if chocolate isn’t your cup of [English] tea.

This sponge has a wonderful crumb, perfect for a layer cake and the addition of custard powder adds an additional welcome vanilla hit. Custard powder – that’s the tip I was given and wouldn’t have thought of myself.

This would’ve been perfect as a traditional jam filled sponge cake, but since my children aren’t very keen on jam I turned this into a salted caramel sponge cake with a Lotus spread drizzle and salted caramel buttercream. A version I highly recommend 🙂

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins.

Filling, enough to fill one cake:

  • Make the buttercream by whisking together 1tbsp Trex, 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, 1 cup sifted icing sugar [use Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel icing sugar if possible] and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk.
  • (if you can’t find flavoured icing sugar use normal but add 1 tsp caramel essence instead)
  • Make the caramel drizzle by combining 2 tbsp Lotus caramelised biscoff spread with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • spread the buttercream over one of the sponges, top with the Lotus drizzle. Place the top layer on the cake and dust with a generous layer of icing sugar

The perfect summer drink: Refreshing Strawberryade

Oh my goodness, it’s a proper heatwave! So a refreshing, cooling summery drink is the order of the day. This is a variation of homemade zingy lemonade with the addition of strawberries. I reckon this’ll be the perfect non-alcoholic drink for any summer garden party, picnic, barbecue or just cooling off in this heat.

Strawberryade (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes one jug full

  • 200g strawberries
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 lime
  • 90g sugar
  • 800ml just boiled water
– Juice the lemons and lime. Pour into a large jug and add the sugar.

– Pour over the just boiled water and stir to dissolve the sugar.

– Blend or mash the strawberries.

– Add to the lemon mix once it has cooled sightly.

– Chill completely before drinking.

– Wait for the sun to come out, pour a glass and enjoy!

Pizza Swirls and Savoury Swirls

These little swirls are the answer to your snack dreams! Easy, moreish and worthy of any occasion. I serve them instead of crisps, with an aperitif or as a tasty addition to packed lunches. These bites are one of my ‘go to’ recipes when the girls are hungry and only a savoury option will do. To be honest, it’s not much of a recipe, nothing complicated here, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that’s needed rather than the instructions.

Puff pastry has a miriade of uses, and these little bitesized snacks are a great example of a super quick puff based recipe. This recipe if for either pizza flavoured bites (cheese, tomato and oregano), or the ultimate umami taste of cheese and marmite. I know Marmite totally divides people, so go for your favoured choice, or maybe even a combination of the two.

Most puff pastry is dairy-free if it isn’t the ‘all butter’ version (but do check) and is certainly a great freezer staple. I don’t often use dairy-free cheese as i find most of it pretty unpalatable, but it really does work in this recipe as it’s paired with such strong flavours any unpleasant flavour is overpowered and you are left with a pleasing savoury umami taste.

 

Pizza and Savoury Swirls

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 10-15

1/2 pack of puff-pastry

1 tbsp tomato puree or 1 tbsp marmite

about 3 tbsp grated dairy-free cheese (enough to lightly sprinkle over)

1/2 tsp oregano if making pizza swirls (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade, Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry to an even rectangle (or be really lazy and use pre-rolled!)
  3. For pizza swirls: Spread the tomato puree evenly all over the puff. For savoury swirls do the same with the marmite. Sprinkle over the cheese and oregano if using.
  4. Roll up into a Swiss roll shape. Cut 1cm slices and place onto the baking sheet, with room to spread.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.

Confetti Traybake

Easy, tasty and pretty what more could you want from a cake recipe? I needed to make a quick after-school snack and thought something pretty was what was needed with the May sunshine shining through the windows, and surely no-one can resist a colourful sprinkle strewn traybake when they return home from a long and busy day at school.

I think the combination of vanilla sponge, baked with sprinkles stirred in for a colourful ‘funfetti’ effect, vanilla buttercream and a topping of more sprinkles is as pretty as a picture. The added bonus is that this recipe can be whipped up in about 40 minutes, which includes cooking and cooling time, you can’t get much quicker than that for a wow-worthy cake.

Confetti Traybake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

200g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sprinkles

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a square baking tray with parchment
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon, vanilla and oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combined. Stir through the sprinkles.
  6. Pour the mix into the lined tin, level off and bake for 20-22 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

for the buttercream:

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine
1 tbsp vegetable fat
around 2 cups icing sugar
a splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the fats
  2. Whisk in the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding a splash of dairy-free milk. You may not need all the sugar, just keep checking the taste and texture
  3. Spread the buttercream over the cooled traybake and scatter liberally with sprinkles