I’m allergic to chilli and paprika

I tell people I’m allergic to chilli and they just don’t get it. They think I don’t like spicy food. Actually I love spicy food and used to love the taste of chilli in curries. Fortunately, I don’t have a life threatening true allergy to chilli, it’s an intolerance. I do, however, get terrible double-over tummy cramps if I eat anything with chilli or paprika in it.

Many companies have started to add chilli to their food to add flavour (especially ones that are trying to reduce fat, salt and sugar levels). Even though the food labelling laws are fairly good in Australia, it can be listed under a generic label of “spices”, which incidentally can also include MSG. It is possible to contact the company and find out precisely what the ingredients of a particular product are and I have found the majority of companies I have contacted very helpful.

Although I have had people lie to me about what is in their food. I can’t believe how ignorant people are about allergies and intolerances.

Here are some of the foods that I’ve learnt to be careful with:

  • Beetroot, tinned – containing spices. Edgell sliced beetroot in a tin is safe.
  • Greek restaurants – often sprinkle paprika over their meat, including kebabs.
  • Grill’d burgers – contain spices. They did not reply to my email to say if it was chilli or not.
  • Herbamare Spicy – contains chilli. The Original version is safe.
  • KFC – original and hot’n’spicy chicken, bbq sauces. Chips are safe.
  • McDonalds – most of their burgers contain spices.
  • The Meating Place – 100% beef sausages actually contain paprika. Their 100% pork sausages contain nutmeg.
  • Mustard – often contains spices.
  • Nandos – cross-contamination
  • Olives and pickles- often contain spices. Be wary of spoon swapping in delis and at the markets. Sandhurt Sicilian green olives are safe.
  • Red food colouring – often listed as natural as it’s paprika.
  • Red Rooster – the stuffing and the seasoning on the chicken contains spices. Ask for no salt on the chips and add your own.
  • Salami
  • Seasonings – Masterfood’s All Purpose Seasoning, Chicken Salt, Italian Herbs, Pizza Topper, etc

Allergy substitutions

Experiment with the following substitutions for allergies and intolerances. Use the measurements as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to try again if your first attempt didn’t work out. If you choose soy or corn please try to find an organic (GM free) source.

Wheat flour1 cup 1 cup and 2 Tbsp light spelt flour, or
1 cup and 3 Tbsp whole spelt flour
And reduce liquid by 25%
2/3 spelt and 1/3 barley flour
¾ spelt and ¼ oats (can be crumbly)
Wheat flour
(for gluten free)
1 cup potato starch, 1 cup rice flour, ½ tsp xantham gum
2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 cups rice flour, 1 cup soy flour, 1 cup potato flour or maize cornflour or tapioca flour
Self raising flour Add 2 tsp baking powder for each cup of flour
Sugar1 cup 2/3 cup agave – if too sweet decrease to ½ cup next time
+ reduce any liquid ingredients by about 25% OR
If no liquid, increase dry ingredients by 25%
2/3 – ¾ cup maple syrup
+ reduce any liquid ingredients by 25-30% OR
If no liquid, increase dry ingredients by 25-30%
and 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup date puree plus ½ cup Sucanat, and
Reduce liquid by 2 Tbsp
1 cup Sucanat, or Rapadura, or brown sugar, or maple sugar, or Turbinado
¾ cup agave nectar – reduce liquid and decrease temperature by 5°C
1 ¼ cup backstrap molasses – reduce liquid in recipe by ¼ to 1/3 cup
and decrease temperature by 5°C
and add 1 tsp baking soda for each cup used (to balance acidity)
½ to ¾ cup honey – reduce liquid ¼ cup
and decrease temperature by 5°C
and add 1/4 tsp baking soda for each cup used (to balance acidity)
¾ cup barley malt or rice syrup
and reduce liquid by ¼ cup
1 ½ cup maple syrup –
decrease liquid ¼ cup OR increase flour ¼ cup
1 cup milk 1 cup soy milk, or almond milk, or rice milk
½ cup coconut milk plus ½ cup soy milk, or almond milk, or rice milk
1 egg(Follow instructions for egg replacer using warm water) 1 Tbsp of ground flax seeds with 3 Tbsp water – allow to sit for 2 minutes
(up to 2 eggs)
Boil ½ cup of the flax seeds in 3 cups water until gluey. Strain.
One “egg” is equal to about 1/4 cup of the gel.
1 tsp finely ground chia seeds and 3 Tbsp. Allow to sit for 2-5 mins.
(up to 2 eggs)
¼ cup packed silken tofu, puree in food processor or blender (binder)
¼ cup of any puree (e.g. apple) or 1 small banana, mashed (binder)
¼ cup of avocado puree
2 Tbsp arrowroot flour
2 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp soy flour and 1 Tbsp water (setting agent) OR
1 Tbsp rice flour and 1 Tbsp canola oil (setting agent) OR
1 Tbsp corn flour and 3 Tbsp water
2 tsp baking powder and 2 Tbsp carbonated water (leaving)
1 tsp baking powder, 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp vinegar (added at the end) (leaving)
1 egg white(will whip like an egg white) 1 tsp psyllium, or ¼ tsp xanthan gum
and ¼ cup water (allow to stand) – will whip like egg white
Cocoa Carob powder
Gelatine Agar agar
Tomato Puree one beetroot and one carrot.
Wine Grape juice

References: Ricki Heller, Suzanna Paxton, Robyn Russell, Sue Sheppard, Heidi Swanson, Meghan Telpner, Wholefoods, and various other sources.

Pumpkin and apple soup

Before the drought, my aunt and uncle used to have a lush native rainforest in their backyard. Unfortunately with the water restrictions it has since been cut back and only the hardy plants remain. Over the autumn, they  found two different pumpkin vines growing from their compost heap. They harvested over  30 pumpkins and my aunt made soup, bread, and curry. We gratefully received one golden nugget and one jap.

I try to keep my soup recipe simple and let the pumpkin shine. Having said that, some pumpkins taste much better than others, so try a different kind if you think you don’t like them. If it’s a special occasion and you have the time, you could roast the pumpkin and apples first (and then follow the rest of the recipe cutting down on the simmering time). The apple and nutmeg give this comforting pumpkin soup a flavour lift.

It’s also worth using a decent stock as there are so few ingredients in this recipe. If you boil the kettle, you can top up with more hot water as you go and the soup won’t lose heat.

1 red onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
½ pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 cups of vegetable stock + hot water
½ tsp of nutmeg

  1. Brown the red onion in some oil in a pot.
  2. Boil the kettle for your stock. Make up stock and add to the pot.
  3. Add the pumpkin, apples and nutmeg. Add more hot water to cover all the ingredients.
  4. Gently simmer until the pumpkin and apples are soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and blitz well with a hand blender or food processor. Add more stock until you have the consistency you want.
  6. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Serves 4.