roast tomato and thyme macaroni ‘cheese’ recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

I received an email from a reader the other day after my last post, it read:
"As much as it sound delicious, Dairy free it is not, since it has eggs."

I wont lie. I was dumbstruck and sat there starring at the computer screen scratching my head. Really? Dairy-free it is not, since it has eggs.

I thought about it all day long and commented back and forth on facebook, where a good number of you have also come up against similar misconceptions. It seems that many people get confussed by all the allergy-free terms out there and some assume that if you choose to avoid dairy, you also don't eat eggs. I think this is possibly because people mistakingly think that if you don't eat dairy, you must be vegan. And while yes, there are loads of people who are vegan, avoiding all meat, dairy and eggs, there are also people like us who are gluten-free vegetarians that eat very limited amounts of dairy but love eggs... confused? I don't blame you. 

To help clarify a few things I thought I'd share my explanations for all the different terms used to describe a person by what they eat, or don't eat. I'm not really one that usually gets into the whole 'title' thing and totally believe that what we eat is such a personal thing that doesn't require a label, but it might help to make things a bit clearer for those struggling to get their head around it all.

dairy-free~ someone who is 'dairy-free' avoids all products that are produced from the milk of cows (and sometime sheep and goats too). This generally means no butter, ghee, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, cream, cheese and any products made using these items. It is interesting to note that true 'dairy' allergies generally only effect people with Asian backgrounds.

lactose-free~ for some people it is the sugar found in milk, called lactose that causes the problems. It is thought that lactose intolerance may occur because of some peoples inability to produce enough of the digestive enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose in the small intestines. Many dairy products are actually low in lactose and can still be enjoyed in small, infrequent amounts. Generally speaking, dairy products that are tolerated in small amounts are; natural yoghurt, home made milk kefir, ghee, hard cheeses and sometimes butter. Some people also find that eating goat and sheep products is not a problem. It's best to experiment with this yourself and figure out what your body does and does not cope with. We were once completely dairy-free, but after a few years can now tolerate ghee, yoghurt and feta cheese daily and butter in small amounts, occasionally. 

casein-free~ for some people it is the milk protein (casein) that they are allergic to. For these people a strict dairy-free diet is required, but they also need to keep a look out for other foods that can contain hidden casein in the form of 'milk solids', 'whey' or 'protein'.

gluten-free~ gluten is the protein found in wheat, barely, and rye. People who have coeliac disease or suffer from gluten intolerance need to avoid all products containing these grains. Some people also avoid oats due to cross-contamination issues and other grains to avoid are kamut and spelt (ancient wheat varieties).

wheat-free~ some people react to wheat but not gluten, so can include barley, rye and oats in their diet and sometimes kamut and spelt (ancient wheat varieties) in small amounts.

egg-free~ people who suffer from egg allergies can be allergic to the protein found in the egg whites and/or the egg yolks. They must avoid all foods containing whole eggs, egg whites or egg yolks depending on their allergies. Some people choose to avoid eggs because of personal beliefs also, see 'vegan/vegetarian' below.

nut-free~ some people react to 'tree nuts', either one in particular or all; so must avoid one or all of the following: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, coconut, pine nuts, pistachio and walnuts.
Other people are allergic to peanuts, this is usually a very serious allergy and if any trace of peanuts come into contact with this person it can result in anaphylaxis, an emergency situation which requires immediate treatment. 

Note: other common food allergies and intolerances include; soy, fructose, sesame seed, fish and seafood

A few other terms that may also have you confused... 

sugar-free~ some people choose to avoid cane sugar for health reasons. They may avoid cane sugar altogether or just cane sugar in its processed form. They may or may not still eat molasses, honey, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, muscovado sugar, rapadura sugar, demerara sugar, raw (turbinando) sugar, palm sugar, maple syrup, fruit syrups (apple and pear), stevia, dates and other dried fruits.

vegetarian~ is a person who eats a plant based diet with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs. Some vegetarians also avoid eating foods containing rennet and gelatine. 'Vegetarians' can be further defined by the following...
~ovo vegetarin~ includes eggs but not dairy products
~lacto vegetarian~ includes dairy products but not eggs
~lacto-ovo vegetarian~ includes both eggs and dairy products
~vegan~ avoids all animal products including eggs, dairy products and honey. 
~pescetarian~ includes fish but no meat
~semi-vegetarian~ includes fish and chicken

raw foodist is someone that eats a raw food diet most generally consisting of raw fruits, vegetables and nuts that are heated to a temperature of no more than 40C/104F- 47C/118F, but some also include raw dairy products, seafood and meat. Some people eat 100% raw, while many others simply eat a predominately raw food diet.

Phew! Now seriously, that list above is only there as a guide and like I mentioned already, each person makes their own rules and doesn't need to feel like they are constricted by a label. As far as my own personal story goes, I am firstly just me. I feed my body what I feel it needs and my family too. I was brought up predominantly vegetarian, but very occasionally ate fish too. After having kids (with food intolerances and becoming aware of my own) I relied on fish as a source of protein a whole lot more than ever before, simply because nearly all vegetarian sources of protein were off limits as a breast feeding mother with sensitive children. We were strictly gluten and dairy-free for around two years, but now eat wheat products when out on occasion with no major side-effects. At home we eat gluten-free, but include oats. We eat and love yoghurt, ghee and feta. And I bake with butter. We eat eggs, often. I haven't eaten fish in over a year, but don't mind the odd bit of fish sauce in food, especially if it's been prepared by my Vietnamese mother-in-law. My kids eat organic chicken with their meat-eating dad and my son Kye when asked what his favourite food is, will always reply with 'chicken on the bone'. 

Now here, have a wonderful recipe for gluten-free, vegan macaroni cheese. 
P.s You don't have to be vegan to enjoy it... 
But just out of curiosity, feel free to leave a note in the comments below telling me your story. How many, if any, of these categories describe you? As you can see from above, our families all over the show so please know that there's no prejudice here or 'right' answer! Xx ~emm

Also one last thing before I forget... the Saveur 2012 Best Food Blog Award nominations are open, if you love this blog as much as I hope you do, wanna pop over and nominate My Darling Lemon Thyme? Nominations close 29th March. Thanks so much!

roast tomato and thyme macaroni 'cheese'
If you are coeliac you might want to research gluten-free nutritional yeast. The one I buy says it may contain traces of gluten. Same goes for Dijon mustard. I use San Remo macaroni pasta and homemade almond milk. But I'm thinking Australia's Own Organic Almond milk that I sometimes buy from Woolworths would be fine too.
serves 4

  • 250g punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons fine brown rice flour
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (homemade is perfect!)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (check it's gluten-free)
  • 250g packet gluten-free macaroni pasta
  • 2-3 tablespoons almond milk, extra
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • extra thyme leaves, optional

Preheat oven to 200 C/ 395F. Place tomatoes into a oven-proof dish that's large enough to hold the finished macaroni and cheese. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over tomatoes, scatter with thyme leaves and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until the skins burst. Remove from the oven and set aside until required.

Meanwhile put a large pot of salted water on to boil while you prepare the 'cheese' sauce. Combine the nutritional yeast, brown rice flour, garlic, sea salt and almond milk in a medium pan and whisk until smooth. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring often for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once the water is boiling cook the pasta until just al dente, cooked but still firm to the bite. You want to make sure you don't over cook the pasta at this stage as it still has to have a second cooking in the oven. Drain the pasta, then stir through 'cheese' sauce, adding an extra 2-3 tablespoons of almond milk to thin the sauce down, you want it to be on the runny side now, as the pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce when cooking in the oven. Add spring onion and gently fold through the roasted tomatoes. Taste and season with sea salt and black pepper if needed. Transfer the mixture back into the dish the tomatoes were roasting in, pop in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is lovely and golden.

My 'cheese' sauce recipe was adapted from one in 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen & Joni Marie Newman.

Recipe linked to: Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-free

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  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 3:33 am

    WOW this looks amazing!! Beautiful Photos!

    I love how you explained all of the terms 🙂 it is confusing!

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Yeah I agree, especially when you get people like us who don't strictly 'follow' any of these labels 😉

  • Reply
    Anahera Moon
    March 13, 2012 at 4:14 am

    This was such an interesting read Em! I can see why people get it all mixed up at times and you have given excellent descriptions here. Will be using this as a reference for friends who are struggling with the different 'genres' of eating! Thanks hun 🙂 xo

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

      You're welcome Mel Xx

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Phew! Thanks for explaining that! My boyfriend is lactose intolerant, but can tolerate sheep and goats products, and eats everything else. I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Going out to eat and explaining what we can and can't eat can be pretty difficult! And I think people find it hard to invite us over for dinner- they basically have to cook vegan I guess, which is pretty intimidating to some people (but easy for us, thanks to much practice).

    As a side note for those who are lactose free: recently there have been brands of 'lactose free' milks and yoghurt appearing on the market (in NZ). There are cows milk, with the lactase enzyme added to help you digest them. My boyfriend drinks/eats both the milk and yoghurt without any troubles- they are a lifesaver for as he hates all other alternative milks (soy, rice etc)! You can get 'zero lacto' brand from the supermarket (we buy it from Pak n Save). Retro organics do the lactose free yoghurt we buy (also at Pak n Save) and also organic milk, which you can get for Commonsense Organics in Wellington. Hope this helps for those struggling to find good alternatives for lactose free lifestyles!

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Awesome info Penelope! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
      Good to see lactose-free dairy products now available back home in NZ. There's a great range over here too. I used to buy loads of lactose-free pouring cream when we visited Perth and bring it home (to NZ) with me. And we used to eat the lactose-free yoghurt but now seem to tolerate regular yoghurt just fine. It's funny too, cause I'm the opposite to your boyfriend, I've never liked milk even when I tolerated it, so I just use alternatives… but I do LOVE cream. I'm weird I know 😉

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for a great read as usual – I've learned so much reading your blog. My main driver is to be sugar free to get rid of a yeast infection but have also been recommended to stop wheat & a lot of dairy too. Plus you've got such deliciously healthy recipes that they're great for everyone (have just voted for you – good luck!).

    One interesting thing I've heard is that cream is lactose free – I've met a couple of people that have that with their espresso for that reason….mmmm, now that's delicious (and healthy too!)

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Nicky,
      Thanks for sharing your story! Good luck with clearing that yeast infection.
      I'm not 100% sure regular cream is lactose-free, but I do know that the higher the fat content of the dairy product, the less lactose it contains and it definitely has a lot less lactose than milk does. Most people with lactose intolerance can handle eating small infrequent amounts, it's just when we overdose that the issues arise. I've still eaten cream (and LOVE it) on the odd occasion, but it totally depends on the individual.

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      p.s thanks so much for your vote! xx

  • Reply
    The InTolerant Chef
    March 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Including eggs as dairy is an antiquated practice, more to do with fasting rituals than classification as a food in general. I just count eggs as protein, and delicious!

    I eat gluten and lactose free, but from necessity not from choice. Not all dairy sets me off, but not all lactose free products sit well with me either. I just know what I like, and what likes me back. I do the best I can with what I've got, and as deliciously as possible. I'm glad you do the same 🙂

    • Reply
      March 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Isn't it funny how different we all can be. Parmesan cheese for instant has virtually no lactose whatsoever, but I can't even eat a minute amount without paying for it!

      'I just know what I like, and what likes me back'.

      I couldn't have put it more perfectly xx

    • Reply
      April 28, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      The Intolerant Chef is right. "Dairy Free" was a term used in publications to mean dairy and eggs (at least in the US). Even though I was just a kid in the 80s, I remember this term and its use continued even into the early 2000s. You can't fault people for knowing an older term that they read in books and magazines! Growing up in California, that term was very common and I was just as surprised that you didn't know it as you seem to be that people were using it but I would just guess you are young (and looking at that DELICIOUS recipe, also not from the US based on measurements). With specialized diets becoming medically necessary and culturally recognizable, there may be less fluidity with terminology going forward but who knows? We'll have to be flexible as language changes with culture…and is different per culture, too. Thanks for sharing these recipes and beautiful pics. My name is Holly & I'm posting anonymous for ease, thanks!

    • Reply
      April 29, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Hi Holly, that's a really interesting comment you made. I'm from NZ and was born in 1980, so I've actually never come across the term 'dairy-free' used to mean both dairy and eggs before. Interesting to know that it was used in the States until not that long ago! No wonder so many people are still a little confused xx

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

    this looks absolutely delicious!

  • Reply
    Pat @ Elegantly, Gluten-Free
    March 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    A beautiful dish!

    Thanks for your excellent description of food "labels" — it's a pretty confusing subject. Since having to start eating gluten-free, I've learned about a lot of other ways that people like to or have to eat. We are certainly all unique!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    This is a great post with good clarification of allergies and differences in Vegetarianism. Thanks for sharing, and the macaroni sounds wonderful! 🙂

  • Reply
    Angry Asian
    March 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    i think someone did mention in passing that some of the baked stuff i was making was not really dairy free since eggs were in it and i said that eggs were grouped in the dairy category but when *i* say dairy free, it means that there are no products from a cow's milk used in the baked good.

    i think i am technically lactose intolerant and not allergic to dairy, as i've been able to consume lactaid pills & then some milk products, in small controlled qualities. for the most part, i avoid dairy products anyway.

    i've never used nutritional yeast before, i wouldn't even know where to find it.

    • Reply
      March 14, 2012 at 1:20 am

      I'd search for nutritional yeast at your local health food store. Some times is comes in large flakes, other times it's like a powder. I grew up on the stuff, it has a strong savoury flavour and is great sprinkled over soups or even over rice. It's high in B vitamins and you can read more on it here

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I have voted and hope you win as you are one of my places to get recipes for the way we eat. My husband is diabetes and we are treating this with diet. I have an allergy to ginger and intolerance to daily, wheat/gluten and nightshade vegetables. The doctor said no additives of any kind. So this means we cook from scratch with lots of vegetables and fruit. We do eat lots of chicken and some fish and a beef roast once in a while. I can have oats so this helps a lot with meals. These things don't bring pain and that is good for us. Our sons are okay with our meal choices and have us over and we eat with no problems. Sharon

    • Reply
      March 14, 2012 at 1:22 am

      Thanks so much for sharing your story and for your vote! A ginger allergy, that's one I've not come across before. I think the best thing about food allergies is that does force us to eat a completely natural diet, no pre-packaged products and more cooking from scratch… which is such an awesome thing!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    What an intersting read and great recipe! I have coeliacs, am little lactose-free (I can eat natural yoghurt and hard cheese and sometimes butter in small amounts)and I have a nut allergy – peanuts and tree nuts and sesame seeds = fat tongue and a rash. It makes it hard when eating out and when friends want to cook for me, it oftens ends up with me taking my own food and my friends just cooking for my partner. On the plus side I've had to get really good really fast at cooking from scratch and baking!

    • Reply
      March 14, 2012 at 1:25 am

      Yep I have to say we don't eat out very often, but I agree it's awesome that we are forced to cook from scratch, our bodies will be thankful in the long run 🙂

  • Reply
    March 14, 2012 at 3:30 am

    I think the issue comes from grocery stores putting eggs in the "dairy" section. Since there isn't a separate large sign that says EGGS like the one that says DAIRY people assume eggs are dairy. At least this was the argument someone once made to me when I told them my baked item was dairy-free but had eggs. Bottom line, people just don't think.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

    How anyone can think an egg is dairy I don't know But maybe living in a land or 'dairy' it is obvious to us. Bad education I suppose or maybe too much si-fi movies. @Alli@peasepudding

  • Reply
    Treble Tart
    March 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I'm so glad you posted this! Not only have I been craving some mac and cheese lately (this looks delicious!!), but I've also ran into a few people recently who thought eggs were considered "dairy." The list you included is super helpful, especially, I would think, for people who don't fall into any of the categories — I think it probably helps understand why we choose to eat the way we do (or HAVE to eat that way, due to allergies). And although I don't like to rely on labels either, I would fall under the category of an "ovo vegetarian." I eat eggs on occasion, but no meat or dairy. I just do what my body tells me to do. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Hello miss emm,I don't know when food got so confusing for everybody but it really has,for alot of us it seems.i am not sure if i've ever put a label on myself,sometimes i think all these terms are maybe so people can label you!!"i know what i like and what likes me back" perfectly sums up my life,nicely said intolerant chef!!!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2012 at 11:18 am

      I totally agree! If it was up to me I would never even call myself vegetarian or gluten-free. But you're right, it's so others can make sense of what we eat or don't eat.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    What a delightful dish. The meal looks so yummy and this would be a great way for me to include more nutritional yeast in my diet.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    This is an extremely interesting post. Food gets confusing because of our sensitivity to foreign foods mostly, I'm thinking about fruits such as kiwi which aren't really tolerated by many people in mainland Europe. I've chosen to eat like a semi-vegetarian because I have poor swallowing reflexes and meat is too compact… But I'm better off without it. I do indulge in the occasional foie gras though. It isn't easy, especially in a country such as France where that kind of food choices are not understood. Luckily, I live in a big city (Bordeaux) and I can still find some decent veggie alternatives.
    Thanks for the post anyway, this is very valuable information!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Hey! interestingly enough- many people from non-european decent (including asians) are lactose intolerant, nativ americans are as a whole the most prone to issues with dairy, as well as those descending from asia and africa I believe

    I am a dairy free vegetarian (ovo-veg) and its so confusing for people who just assume I dont eat eggs!
    Im glad you explained the ovo-lacto thing cause that always confused me

  • Reply
    March 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    That looks delicious! That is the second recipe I've eyed today using rice flour. I better get or make me some of that. I like to call our diet "plant-based" because we are not strictly vegetarian, but we eat very little meat or dairy. We do eat eggs most days though.

  • Reply
    May 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Tasty looking recipe 🙂 I'm dairy and gluten intolerant with a food chemical sensitivity to preservatives and salicylates. If I'm good most of the time, I can be a little naughty other times without too much ill effect. I'm also trying to be vegan, but I'm flexible with it as I have no will power and cheese is so delicious. Also getting baked gluten free goods that are dairy free, but not egg free is easy, so I have some things containing the occasional egg.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 4:39 am

    I just found your wonderful blog. I really enjoyed reading this article and I can't wait to make this dish.
    I have a lot of allergies: nuts, lactose, chocolate, cats (haha I don't eat them), and anything that mother nature decides to bloom.
    Nuts are very dangerous for me, but strangely I can eat peanuts and almonds.
    I also only just recently became allergic to lactose, something to which my mom and dad (both lactose intollerant) saw coming. By the way, super interesting fact about people with Asian decent being prone to dairy allergies – I am half Asian myself.
    Chocolate used to have me down for the count, but now I can handle it in small doses, yay!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2012 at 11:15 am

      Yay! That's how I felt when we could eat feta cheese again!
      My kids are half Vietnamese, and I was told by a doctor when they were little about true dairy allergies usually (but not always) occurring in people with Asian background. Makes sense when you think about how little dairy is found in Asian cuisine, if ever.

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