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Rowie Dillon the Queen of Gluten-Free

Unable to find dairy and gluten-free treats that didn’t taste like rubber, Rowie Dillon began baking her own. Her treats can now be found in Woolworths and David Jones stores nationally. Rowie shares her story with Australian Gluten-Free Life.

I used to be a TV Producer and a Creative Department Traffic Manager in the advertising industry. In the year 2000 I had an accident. I received third degree burns to one hand and second degree burns to the other. I had three months off work and during that time I wrote a story about the kitchen that bakes wheat, yeast, dairy and gluten-free.

I’ve always loved to cook and bake – and my dinner parties render my friends speechless at times – so for me progressing into food was natural – more of a calling I guess. I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than creating Rowie’s Cakes. Quite frankly I am a woman on a mission! I want to alter the perception of boring and bland tasting gluten free food. That’s what I do!

In the mid 1990’s I was diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid. After having my thyroid partially removed I was diagnosed through my naturopath with an intolerance to gluten and dairy. Through the period of recovering from my burns I focused on healing foods to ensure my hands healed without scaring.

One of my favourite things was to eat a beautiful slice of fresh bread with prawns on it! Gone are those days and so too are the days of feeling like I need a sleep after lunch – the 3pm wearies. It is amazing once you listen to what your body can and cannot have how much of a difference it makes to your general wellbeing, contentment and also state of mind. It is not normal for your body to feel exhausted and sore from digesting food. Listening to your digestion and your metabolism and knowing what you can and cannot absorb or digest feels like unlocking a door to a cage and setting yourself free of tummy turmoil. It’s a massive relief.

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote an article when we started work with the wonderful team at Qantas and the then editor of the Good Food section dubbed me ‘the queen of gluten free indulgence’ and that tag and precious, pioneering title remains with me today! It’s also because I really do truly believe that it is possible for naughty tasting treats to be good for you and you can eat awesome wicked tasting food without all the nasties, regardless of whether or not you’re gluten intolerant. There is absolutely no reason when you’re told you have coeliac disease or that your gluten intolerant to feel like you’ve been condemned to a life of culinary boredom.

I love experimenting with the different flours and seeds available these days. Creating flavour through understanding what flours and what textures of flours work with certain methods and really baking to put elasticity back into your pastry, bread and cakes without getting that rubbery texture and bland taste. I always say to people; experiment; fall in love with your ingredients and get in touch with your inner professor and play! Flours such as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, tapioca and potato flour are amazing to work with!

Quinoa and amaranth are my favourites because of their layering and their ‘family’. This flour is created from a hulled ground seed and it is related to the spinach and beetroot family that’s why their web like features make them fantastic for baking with. Plus their cousins! Quinoa is grown at the top of the mountain and can receive and release water easily and amaranth is grown at the bottom of the mountain so it really soaks up moisture and holds on to it well – perfect for creating a great banana bread or pasta!

In my vocabulary and in my world there is no such thing as culinary boredom and blandness. Everyone in the family should eat healthy fresh food and everyone can enjoy bread, pasta and pastry – it’s just a matter of the recipes and the execution! So, grab a copy of my cookbook Indulge (Harper Collins) and start experimenting.