Published on 12th February 2019


We chat to bestselling cookery author Grace Cheetham about her passion for free-from food. Her latest book, The Ultimate Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Collection, is out next month. Grace also runs the website and blog


How did your journey into dairy- and gluten- free cooking begin?

“I was diagnosed with allergies and intolerances when I was a teenager. At first it was really hard because there were very few alternative ingredients available, and hardly any recipes or information. My diet was really restricted, and I missed eating the meals and treats I was used to. As more ingredients started appearing in the shops, though, over the years – firstly just in the health food shops, then in the supermarkets later – I started experimenting in the kitchen. I worked out how to use the ingredients to make food taste delicious again, and I also developed my own tricks and techniques for working with them.”

Where do you get your inspiration for new recipes?

“Usually ideas just pop into my head, and it’s lovely when I have the ingredients already in my kitchen, and I can freestyle from there. Sometimes, though, invention is borne out of necessity – from what’s in my fridge or store cupboard, or from what’s been delivered in my weekly organic boxes.”

What would you say to new members of the free-from community who are struggling to get things right in the kitchen?

“Firstly I think it’s a really good idea to stock your store cupboard thoroughly. Go to your local health food store, shops and supermarkets, and go to speciality shops such as Asian grocers, and online retailers. Buy a wide range of gluten-free flours, grains, pastas, rices and noodles, and dairy-free ingredients such as milks, margarine, yoghurt and cheeses. Stock up, too, on sauces such as tamari soy sauce, gluten-free baking powder and xanthan gum. And also buy lots of different nuts (if you can eat them), to make your own dairy-free staples.

“Secondly, plan, plan and plan some more. If you can set aside some time at the weekend or the beginning of the week to batch cook, you’ll find life much easier. Always cook double or more when making a soup, casserole, bolognese or anything else that you can freeze. And always cook extra such as when you’re cooking quinoa or rice, so you can use it for the base of a salad for the following day.

“Finally, do try new recipes. Try different cuisines, different ingredients and different techniques. If you follow the instructions carefully you should end up with some delicious and inspiring new meals to add to your repertoire!”

What are your top kitchen hacks for gluten- and/or dairy-free living?

“I’ve developed a few techniques of my own over the years, and I find them really useful. When rolling out pastry, you can try either of the following. Roll out on to a clean wooden board, so you can turn the pastry over easily. Or roll between two sheets of baking paper. That way you have complete control over your pastry, whether you want to line a baking tray or cover a pie. And you can roll the pastry out really thinly.”

Which cupboard staples could you not live without?

“I think it’s a really good idea to stock your cupboard with different flour mixes, so you’ll be ready to bake anything quickly and easily. In my book I have different mixes for different types of pastry, for bread, cakes and for biscuits. I make up large batches of these and keep them in storage containers.

“My most loved ingredient is dairy-free chocolate! Whether it’s a simple chocolate brownie, a gooey, crunchy millionaire’s shortbread or show-stopping profiteroles with chocolate sauce, chocolate brings me joy and happiness!”

What are the main challenges and pitfalls to a free-from lifestyle and how do you overcome them?

“It’s really important to make sure you’re safe when you’re eating out. Eat at places where you can see they care about avoiding cross-contamination from any other ingredients, and that they follow strict protocol over their processes. And only eat pre-made foods that have clear ingredient labelling.”

What inspires you when you’re writing recipes or books?

“I love making food that people love to eat and [that] makes memories. One of my favourite memories from writing books is when I had five families round one day to taste some cakes, puddings and biscuits. It was a Sunday afternoon on a hot summer’s day. The kids were running around the garden, scattering crumbs everywhere. And the adults drank wine and chatted. All the while everyone was enjoying eating the recipes I’d made.”

What’s the best thing about being a food writer?

“I love food. I love dreaming up new recipes and trying them out on my family and friends, and hearing from people who have enjoyed my books and my recipes. And writing recipe books has been a really wonderful part of my life, I’ve enjoyed every moment. From it I’ve also done really exciting things, including cookery demonstrations and classes, and filming for Waitrose TV.”

Read more articles and recipes