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Gluten free cooking sauces from Table B’hote

Published 18 March, 2010

I love it when people send me gluten free foods to test - I mean, what a perk :-)

Malt vinegar in a 'gluten free' cooking sauce?

It was a bit of a disappointment when I received these Table B'hote cooking sauces (I know, odd name, but it's apparently targetted at the boating market). I noticed that one of the sauces contained malt vinegar, which as we all know, isn't gluten free.

I got back to the owner of the company who told me that the products hadn't been tested for gluten and that she was relying on the word of her supplier. You can imagine I wasn't best pleased. I mean, it's not as bad as sending me Anthrax in the post but then again...

After being poisoned a couple of times in the last few months by chefs who think 'a little bit of gluten' is the same as 'gluten free', my tolerance for people who don't take coeliac disease seriously has evaporated.

Happily, Linda Berry of Table D'Hote was not one such eejit, and promptly sent her sauces off to be tested. They all tested as containing less than 3ppm gluten. Since the allowed limit for 'gluten free' labelling is now 20ppm, the sauces are truly gluten free.

(Wee aside: If I were you though Linda, I'd substitute a wine vinegar for malt vinegar if you want to sell to coeliacs. Many will have a similar reaction to me when they see that in your ingredients list.)

So, onto the sauces themselves...

Gluten free cooking sauce 1: Classic Bolognaise
Table B'Hote gluten free bolognese sauce
Ingredients: Chopped Tomatoes, Tomato puree, Onion, Modified starch, Basil, Salt, Sugar, Oregano, Ground Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic, Wine Vinegar

On opening the jar, you're immediately struck by the aroma of oregano and the 'proper' thick, chunky sauce. From the jar, it's extremely flavoursome. I can't tell how much of that is from added salt as there's no nutritional information on the label, but first impressions are good. What I have just noticed is that the Table B'hote website says the sauces have no added sugar - nice!

But hold on, there's sugar in the ingredient listing above - ahhh... it's the Google listing (see below) that says 'no added sugar' but when you look on the website, it's actually only the chilli sauces that are no added sugar. Some clarification needed there perhaps.

In true no effort style, I just fried up some mince I had in the fridge - turkey mince actually - and poured the sauce on. Then I simmered it for 45 minutes (the longer the lower the better I always think) and then it stood for half a day - again, sauces always do better with a rest).

How did it taste?

We're possibly not the best family to be testing ready-made cooking sauces as we never buy them, so can only compare them to homemade. And so you can tell immediately it comes from a jar (probably the salt and sugar levels), but then that's probably not surprising. We reckoned that compared to the Lloyd Grossman sauces we used to use in the dim distant past this was tastier and less salty.

Compared to home cooking: 6/10
Compared to other jars: 8/10 (probably)

Gluten free cooking sauce 2: Freshly Made Chilli SauceTable B'Hote gluten free chilli sauce
Ingredients: Diced tomato, onions, diced peppers, tomato puree, mushrooms, vegetable oil, water, kidney beans, ground cumin, paprika, salt, sugar, wine vinegar, worcester sauce, diced chillis, garlic, black pepper.

Well now I am confused. There's sugar in this listing too! And it definitely says these are no-added-sugar sauces... oh I don't know.

How did it taste?

The chilli sauce is acceptable. There is a nice belt of cumin in it, and the medium chilli is nicely spicy. But again, for me anyway, it's too sweet.

Compared to home cooking: 5/10
Compared to other jars: 6/10

Gluten free cooking sauce 3: Classic Sweet n Sour
Table B'Hote gluten free sweet and sour sauce
Ingredients: Sugar, Tomato, Water, Diced Peppers, Onions, Malt Vinegar, Red Pepper Puree, Pineapple, Bamboo Shoots, Water Chestnuts, Maize Starch, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Spices

The first thing I noticed here is that the first thing on the ingredient list is sugar. Which is a bit worrying. It's not that I'm a sugar-phobe, but a sauce with sugar as the main ingredient just wouldn't make it into my shopping basket.

The next thing is that on pouring the sauce out of the jar, it's extremely thick and gloopy, which I can only put down to the maize starch. We'll see how the texture goes after cooking.

So the gluten free Sweet and Sour sauce is now bubbling away on the stove with 1/2 lb of diced pork in it. The recipe calls for 10 minutes of simmering, but I'm going to give it an hour on a very low heat to give my cheap casserole pork time to tenderize a bit.

How did it taste?

Oh, now this isn't good I'm afraid. We just had sweet pork, not sweet and sour pork. There is so much sugar in the sauce that if when you eat some, you initially taste the peppers and tomato but it's soon swamped by sugar, and the aftertaste is all sugar. It actually made my teeth sore (sugar does that too them - weird, I know).

Ewww... Again, you have to take this against the background that we only usually eat homecooked food, but we do make our own sweet and sour pork fairly regularly, and it does have sugar in it. Just not that much.

Compared to home cooking: 2/10
Compared to other jars: 3/10

So in summary, the bolognese was good, but the rest not so. These aren't a patch on the 'Look What we Found' gluten free ready meals we reviewed recently. Sorry Linda.

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