It will come as no surprise that this week I have no exciting tales of walks up a Munro or cycling adventures. I could write about cabin fever, lack of concentration and a dog that still doesn’t trust me, but there would be no fun in reading that would there.
One of my favourite ever things to eat in life has got to be a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I remember when growing up I would always have one of these delights in my Christmas stocking, along with a satsuma. I loved (and still love) the way the wrapper cuddled the chocolate and you could almost imagine there to be real orange segments underneath the foil. In the advert with Dawn French, she said to “tap it and unwrap it”. I love to put mine in the fridge so that the segments really do fall apart when you tap the orange on the table. When the chocolate’s cold from the fridge, you also end up with a chocolate orange core! Who needs satsumas when you can have these! I am with Ms French here when she says, “It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine”. It’s a rare day that I will readily share my chocolate orange!
Anyway, moving on from dreaming of the chocolate orange, the next best thing has to be a chocolate orange cake. It does of course, need to be moist, contain chocolate and must, absolutely must, taste of freshly squeezed oranges. Chocolate must then of course either coat or be drizzled thickly over the cake to finish it off to perfection.
I’d like to take you back to May 2016 when I decided to have a month living as a coeliac to see how well the tearoom was catering for those with coeliac disease and also to experience how it felt trying to hunt down safe gluten free food when eating out. In my Facebook posts I wrote daily notes from my diary to let people know how I was doing and what I’d experienced each day. I have to say there were many grim days trying to eat out away from home and our tearoom. Sunday 30th May 2016 had to be one of the worst experiences and it did indeed involve a chocolate orange cake. I thought I would share my experience with you again as this is what ultimately let me to create our very own Chocolate Orange Cake.
Debra's Gluten Free Month – Monday May 30th 2016
Thirty days into the month and I’ve just had the worst experience of the whole month - or perhaps I’ve just had the perfect experience of how it feels to be coeliac trying to eat out.
Today being Monday was our playing out day with no baking. I decided that a trip out on the bikes was well deserved so planned a ride just short of 40 miles. We were going to cycle from Kirkintilloch, along the old railway path to Strathblane, up to Killearn, across to Fintry then over Crow Road down into Lennoxtown and then back to Kirkintilloch.
Being a sunny day, the legs were shaved (mine, not Mr M’s!) and the lycra dug out. By the way, you may mock lycra but it really is the best material when cycling. The shorts have lots of padding and don’t ride up your leg when peddling and leggings don’t get caught in the chain. It's also very good when racing as lycra is far less wind resistant than a big thick tweed coat. It also shows off our fabulous figures!!
Our picnics were made - mine gluten free and Mr M’s not. Can I just point out here that I found out at lunch time I had one tiny gluten free sandwich and Mr M had two massive rolls!
Anyway, we cycled along the old railway line out to Strathblane - a nice easy start to the day but a little flat so I was glad to get out onto the road and do some real cycling. We made our way up to Killearn and decided, as it was a hot, sunny day, to treat ourselves to morning coffee and cakes. I’ll not name the place we went into!
When we first got there I went in (whilst I waited for Jim to cycle up the hill to catch up with me) and asked the waitress if she had any gluten free cakes. "We have a flourless chocolate cake", was the reply. "Is it gluten free?" I asked. "It's made with almonds so yes it must be gluten free" was the reply.
Smiling to myself, I went back out to tell Jim it was ok to go in as I could indeed get a gluten free cake. Bikes locked up outside, we made our entrance with the whole cafe watching these two sweaty, lycra-clad folk sliding and clipping across the shiny wooden floor in cycling shoes with cleats (metal bits for fastening your shoes to the pedals).
We slinked our way to the table and the waitress brought us a menu. "You can only sit there until 1.00 pm as it's booked from then", she informed us. "You'll only be wanting a cake and drink though won't you". Obviously we were not the most welcome customers in their establishment!
"I'll have the gluten free chocolate cake and a cup of tea please," I said, with Jim just opting for the tea - there being no biscuits to choose from and the scones were uncovered.
So the tea came and very welcome it was too. The lovely looking chocolate cake was put down in front of me. Drooling, I again asked if it was totally gluten free. "Yes, it's made with almonds", was the reply.
As I was just about to dig in I noticed the piece of Terry's Chocolate Orange on the top. I couldn't remember if this was one of the chocolates I could eat in my role as a coeliac. Mr M took great delight in telling me that if I was doing this experiment I had to be absolutely thorough with it. So I asked the waitress "Is this chocolate gluten free?" She went away to check.
By this time the people at the other tables were obviously having a good giggle at us. I saw the waitress asking somebody who looked to be the boss (she didn’t have an apron on and was leaning against the counter so she must have been the boss!).
The waitress came back and told me that they thought it was gluten free. I asked her if she could double check for me (more giggles from the table next to us). I watched her ask this person again who looked over at us, rolled her eyes, sighed and marched off into the kitchen.
The waitress finally came back to and said that the chocolate may in fact contain gluten. I said that in that case I couldn’t eat the cake so the waitress took the cake back to the counter. The Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cake taken away from me!
A discussion was obviously took place between the waitress and her very informed manager and the waitress came marching back to us. Wait for it....."Can't you just take the chocolate off the cake and then you could eat it".
So, we sat outside as Mr M ate his banana and I ate my nut bar.
What poor service, poor staff training and even more poor knowledge from the person running the place (they claim to do their own baking so should know what is in each item). It was very clear to me that they had no understanding of what gluten is or the consequences for people with an intolerance eating it.
I am starting to understand how people must feel every time they go out to eat somewhere. It is one thing to say that people must voice their complaints at the time in an establishment if something is not right, but once you already feel the laughing stock of the place the only thing you want to do is to leave.
I can honestly say that the first time anybody is made to feel like this in Mother Murphy's Tearoom will be the day I close my business!
So with this experience fresh in my mind, I set about making my own chocolate orange cake. It took a few attempts to get it just as I wanted it – light, moist, chocolatey and tasting like freshly squeezed oranges.
It was round about this time that we had some new customers, Laura and her Mum, who came looking for gluten free delights. On one of the first visits, we did indeed have Chocolate Orange cake on the menu and Laura fell in love with it. She declared that it was her Chocolate Orange Cake, so it became Laura’s Chocolate Orange Cake. We even made Laura a full cake for her birthday one year (as well as a Battenberg another year). Happy customers indeed I think. So a terrible experience for me gave me the opportunity to ensure this did not happen in our tearoom.
So come along and taste for yourself our Chocolate Orange Cake.
And the song for this blog has to be Bicycle Race by Queen.