The Allergy Show London 2016

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (thanks, life) so I thought I’d make my ‘comeback’ with a round up of my trip to this year’s Allergy Show in London, which was my 5th!

Here are some my favourite brands this year:

BFree

 

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These guys have taken the gluten free market by storm in recent years, with their bread, bagels, pittas and wraps. Now avaialble across the country in Tesco & Waitrose stores, they launched their brand new Sweet Potato wraps at the show this weekend. Not only this, they’ve also made their whole range vegan!

Nutri-Brex

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This range of Weetabix-like cereal launched last year as Nutribix and Coeliac’s everywhere rejoiced as they could once again enjoy their favourite wholewheat breakfast. They’ve recently rebranded to Nutri-Bre to coincide with the launch of their second product in the range, which they sampled at the Allergy Show. The Coconut & Cripsy Rice Nutri-Brex is seriously good, with the rice giving it another level of texture. Not only are they sampling & selling their products, but they even gave a box of the original type away in the show goody bag!

Perk!er

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I met Ann & Steve at my first Allergy Show, when they were just a small start-up selling their rocky road & tiffin. They’ve come a long way since then and are a household favourites for many Coeliacs. Sadly some products haven’t made it along the way (RIP Tiffin) but their current range is still so good. I live on their porridge pots throughout winter (great for early starts watching my boyfriend play hockey) so of course stocked up on those, but I also tried their new Quinoa bars, which I have to say are fab! A few of the Sprouted Oaty Cranberry & Cashew Bars made it home with me… keep up the good work guys!

Dean’s Shortbread

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This was a new discovery for me this year, but a welcome one! A household name across Scotland, Dean’s are a family company who have branched out with their gluten free range of shortbread (Butter, Choc Chip and Choc chip & Stem Ginger). I was so impressed with the Choc Chip variety that I bought three packets! Although Walker’s is a firm favourite for me, these definitely give them a run for their money. You can order directly from their online store.

MOMA

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Many of you may have seen MOMA’s range of breakfast cereals, especially if you’re from London where they’re prevalent in so many stations. They’ve now made their whole range of porridge gluten free- hurrah! Their flavours are what make them interesting, with their range boasting cranberry & raisin, super seeds and coconut & chia, alongside the golden syrup and plain/plain (no added sugar) classics. So far I haven’t been able to hunt them down in stores so this was a welcome find at the show.

Venice Bakery

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Venice Bakery are Allergy Show regulars and each year and each year I stock up on pizza bases. You have a choice of either plain or seasoned, and a range consisting of large bases, mini bases, flatbreads and tortilla wraps. Their products are all vegan, gluten free and nut free too! You can see my full review here.

Wellaby’s

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I first found Wellaby’s products at the 2014 Allergy Show, where they were sampling their range of pitta chips and dips. I picked a few up to pack into my suitcase for my upcoming holiday to Ibiza- glad I did as they were perfect for a poolside snack! This year they’re back with their new range, Simple Bakes, which are savoury baked snacks, both gluten free and vegan. I tried the spicy chilli flavour, which taste EXACTLY how I remember Walkers Sesnsations Thai Sweet Chili crisps to taste. Definitely check these out if you ever get the chance!

Rule of Crumb

Many of you probably first heard of these guys through their Dragon’s Den pitch. Sadly they weren’t successful, but their appearance on the show definitely helped spread the word throughout the gluten free community. Their range of products include frozen chicken goujons, frozen fish fingers, part-baked breads and cereals, and they also target the catering business as a safe product to stock in restaurants & hotels. I tried their Salted Caramel Profiteroles and Oh My GOD were they good! Had I had a chance to eat them this weekend I’d have snapped up a few packs!

There were many other brands that I can mention, including Free From Fairy, Smooze, Gratify Gluten Free, London Falafel, Isabel’s and Gosh, so if you can take your time to really check out everyone then it’s worth it! I wish I’d had more time this year, as I keep seeing people’s Tweets and thinking ‘Damn I wish I’d picked that up’. But I’m happy with my haul, as is my tiny kitchen, and I’m looking forward to 2017!

What were your favourite finds at the Allergy Show this year?

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Walkers Scottish Shortbread

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Last year Walker’s announced they were going to be launching two gluten free versions of their shortbread, and promptly made Coeliac’s across the UK incredibly happy! A long-time family favourite for many, their all-butter shortbreads seemed to be a distant memory for gluten free folk, so this was welcome news.

I have to admit though, it’s taken until now for me to try them myself! At first you could only order online through their website (and stock didn’t last long), before I spotted them early summer in Whole Foods London. I resisted the temptation to buy them then, but on my first day back in the UK post-holiday, I found them by chance in Waitrose. No hesitation this time, I picked up a pack of both the chocolate chip and plain shortbread.

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These are amazing. Simply no other way to describe them, they taste exactly as I remember all-butter shortbread to taste! They taste rich and creamy, and surprisingly there’s hardly any crumble to them, which makes them fantastic for dipping in your tea! Looking at the ingredients, it’s clear to see why these taste so much like the real thing- there’s no fussy ingredients in here, instead just simple free from alternatives (list of ingredients can be found below). As they say themselves on their website:

‘The range contains no artificial flavourings or colourings, contains no genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)contains no hydrogenated fatsis suitable for vegetarians and is certified OUD Kosher.’

What’s more, these products are certified by Coeliac UK so there’s no question whether their production methods are safe or not. Great piece of mind for Coeliacs!

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The range is new to Waitrose, with an introductory price of £1.87 per pack (until 29/09/15), after which the price will be £2.50. Honestly, I think they’re worth this price!

The full range, including shortbread rounds, lemon & ginger and chocolate chip, can be found on Walker’s website: http://www.walkersshortbread.com/uk/about/gluten-free/ where you can also purchase them (same cost as Waitrose unless you bulk buy). You can also see their new gluten free snack packs, which I really hope will be picked up by retailers across the UK. These would be fantastic to find out & about, and even better if they could be offered by airlines as part of gluten free meals! We can only hope (and maybe hint a lot over on Twitter…..).

Thank you Walker’s, for making such a delicious product available for Coeliacs once more. I can only hope this range expands and is made widely available.

I’d love to know what you think of these products, and if you’ve found them available from any other retailers, please let me know!

Ingredients and Nutritional information:

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Easy Peasy Shepherd’s Pie

Now that we’re in the throes of January blues I need more than just my weekly roast to see me through! I’m currently working my way through a list of childhood homemade favourites to cook for my boyfriend (I’m a typical girlfriend who loves to spoil him with food!) and a couple of weeks ago it was the turn of Shepherd’s Pie.

There’s lots of different variations to this recipe and although it’s traditionally made with lamb mince, I grew up with it being made with beef mince, which is what I used here. It’s probably similar to many that you’ve seen before, but it’s one my Nan has passed on to me so clearly it’s a popular variation! I’ve also used this as a chance to try the new Knorr stock pots, which boast that they add a rich and intense flavour to any dish. As most of these are gluten free, and their stock cubes are the only ones I use for the same reason, I was excited to see how they worked in this dish!

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Ingredients

1 tbsp oil, for the pan (I avidly use Lucy Bee Coconut Oil for all cooking!)

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

3tbsp tomato purée

1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes

500g beef mince

290ml beef stock (I used Knorr Beef Stock Pots)

1tsp dried Rosemary and Thyme

Season with salt & pepper as desired

850g potatoes, peeled and chopped

100g butter

75ml milk

25g grated cheese

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and carrots and cook until they soften and brown.

2. Add the mince and cook until brown.

3. Add the tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, rosemary & thyme and stir in well. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring in well before adding the rest.

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4. Cover and simmer for around 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened. Add seasoning as desired.

5. Whilst the meat is simmering, make up the mashed potato topping. Boil the potatoes in a pan until they are soft and breaking up. Drain, return to the pan and mash until smooth.

6. Add the milk and butter a little at a time and mash/mix thoroughly into the mixture. To get a smooth mix, I first mash them into the potato and then give it a good stir, repeating until all the milk and butter has been added.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC. Once cooked, turn the meat mixture out into a large dish and spread evenly. Top with the mashed potato, smoothing the mixture evenly and into all of the corners.

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8. Using a fork, drag it in long lines across the potato to create the classic pattern. I like to sprinkle the grated cheese on the top for extra flavour, it’s delicious melted on to the mash!

9. Cook for around 30 minutes, until the potato is golden.

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Knorr Pots

 

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The little pots are just like jelly! To use, you turn them into a jug and make up with 500ml of boiling water, just like you would with a stock cube. Stir continuosly until the jelly dissolves and you have your stock. Personally, I don’t think they’re any more amazing than the stock cubes, but some people might find them easier to use or have a better flavour, particularly if you are only really using stock in your recipe for the liquid (unlike this, where I also had chopped tomatoes). They’re available in the shops now, at around £2.50 for 8 pots.

 

New GF offerings from Pizza Express

Thanks to his handy little Tastecard, my boyfriend and I decided to treat ourselves to a meal at Pizza Express on Monday night. As you all know back in 2012 Pizza Express launched their gluten free base, along with some other dishes and desserts, and Coeliacs everywhere rejoiced! Having worked with Coeliac UK, they’d carefully considered the cross contamination risks alongside how to provide a quality menu for Coeliacs and personal I think they did really well! Did you know, that to prevent contamination from all that flour flying around the kitchen, they made their standard flour gluten free?

I’m always excited for pizza but was even more excited on Monday when I saw that Pizza Express have a new menu, and the gluten free options have expanded! Naturally, I had to try one for each course….

Starter

Previously there has been a Mozzarella salad or Risotto to start, neither of which I really go for. Let’s face it, salad is boring and risotto is too filling before such a carb heavy main. Now however,  those options are accompanied by the new Melanzanine, ‘A mini al forno dish of layered aubergine, passata, mozzarella, garlic, basil and Gran Moravia cheese’.

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This comes served in a cute little baking pot, although the size does make it a little difficult to cut through the insanely thick, stringy cheese layer. Also, they weren’t lying when they say it contains garlic….In fact it overpowered all of the other ingredients! This is a really nice light starter overall.

Main

In the last few years I’ve become far more adventurous with my pizza toppings, but I have a particular love of Pepperoni and Goat’s cheese so 90% of the time I stick to pizzas based around these. Not this time. Instead, my boyfriend managed to convince me to try something new…..The Carbonara pizza! Seeing as I love Carbonara pasta this wasn’t a bad shout, but I had my concerns that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Plus I’ve never really understood egg on a pizza.

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I was pleasantly surprised that zeta lay,  this worked really well! It tastes exactly like a Carbonara,  topped with a creamy sauce, herbs, streaky pan cotta,  loads of cheese and of course, the egg in the middle.  Whilst I’m still on convinced that egg works on pizza, I added the taste of this option and highly recommend it!

The base as always,  was lovely and crispy whilst retaining the doughy texture. Definitely the best base on offer in mainstream restaurants!

My only complaint is that when they launched the gluten free base,  they were all served with specially colour coded pizza cutters,  but in the last few months these have disappeared. It really bugs me because despite the base being lovely, sometimes it can be a bugger to cut, and a standard knife and fork don’t cut it! I’d love to know the reasoning behind this.

Be warned, this option is filling (well, after that starter anyway)!

Dessert

I have a love hate relationship with Pizza Express and their desserts.  It’s great the have the options but they always make me feel…sad. Sorbet and Gelato are lovely,  but if I’m paying to eat out frankly I’d like something a bit more exciting. The gluten free brownie they offer is also nice, but it’s tiny, only comes with a drink (until they serve soya milk, this is out of the window for me) and, well, it’s a brownie.

These options are still there, but now the brownie comes with or without the drink ( and considering it’s about £5, a lot bloody bigger I hope too), and the Gelato has had a makeover. Now you can enjoy a delicious Banoffee or Tiramisu flavoured scoop instead. 

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I chose the Tiramisu flavour, partly on the recommendation from our waitress and party because I’m not keen on Banoffee. Dear God, this is delicious. Seriously, seriously tasty! With the first spoonful I got a heavy dose of the rim flavouring (not a bad thing) and on second the coffee really came through. My view of boring Gelato has been changed and although I was desperately full by now, I finished every last bit.

So worth the food baby!

Overall, I’m really impressed that Pizza Express have ramped up their menu even more and have included much tastier treats for their gluten free customers. They’re really leading the way for mainstream restaurants tapping into the market and making me on happy Coeliac in the process.

To view the full gluten free menu, visit their website: http://www.pizzaexpress.com/our-food/our-restaurant-menu/glutenfree/

Simply delicious Apple Crumble

Like most people, Apple Crumble is a childhood favourite of mine. I’ve tried many different variations over the years and in particular since my Coeliac diagnosis, but I keep coming back to this recipe. It’s the one passed on to me by my Nan after we made my first apple crumble together when I was little. It’s simple, doesn’t need any complicated substitutions to make it gluten free and tastes delicious!! I think it tastes best served with Ambrosia Devonshire Custard 😉

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Ingredients

3-4 Bramley Cooking Apples
125g granulated sugar
115g salted butter
225g gluten free plain flour ( I use Dove’s Farm )
2 tbsp water
Custard to serve

1. Peel and slice the apples. Place them in a pan of cold water as you go along to prevent them from browning until you have sliced all of the apples.

2. Drain the water. Add 50g of the sugar to the pan.

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3. Heat on a medium heat, stirring, until the apples turn to mush. Remove from the heat and tip into your ovenproof dish.
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4. In a bowl add the flour, butter and the rest of the sugar. With your finger tips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs ( this will only take a couple of minutes but if you prefer, you can whizz it up in a mixer ).

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5. Pour the crumble mixture over the top of the apples, spreading evenly.

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6. Bake in the oven at 200 ° C for 10-15 minutes or until the apples start to bubble and the crumble has hardened.

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7. If you wish you can place the crumble under the grill for a few minutes to brown the topping, but watch it doesn’t burn.

8. Serve with delicious hot custard.

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This really is a great simple recipe that’s perfect for those cold winter evenings, and even better served after a yummy Sunday roast! If you give this recipe a try I’d love to know how you get on!

Festive GF Wrap from Starbucks

Earlier this week on Twitter,  Steph mentioned that along with those ridiculously awesome red cups, this winter Starbucks have launched a Festive wrap that’s also Gluten Free. One mention of the word ‘Turkey’ and I was determined hunt one down!

I didn’t have to look very far as fortunately there’s a little Starbucks outside my office in North West London. Venturing out for lunch I was delighted to spot one! Also in red packaging, this ‘Limited Edition’ wrap is described as a ‘Gluten Free Turkey and Bacon Wrap’. Look closely at the ingredients listed on the front, and you find it contains:

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Turkey breast, smoked bacon, spinach, cranberry sauce, black pepper mayo and pork, sage and onion stuffing. Sounds like Christmas dinner all wrapped up, right?

IT IS.

I asked for my wrap to be heated (no one likes cold Christmas dinner after all) but took it back to my office. I queried the staff around their cross contamination procedure with the grill, and was happy to hear that they place two new sheets of baking paper underneath and on top of the wrap to prevent it touching the grill. I watched them do this to be on the side, but no issues!

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Back at my desk, I tucked in. WOW. To me, this tastes exactly like Christmas dinner, all the flavour combinations work brilliantly together and they’re not overpowering. The wrap, a multi-seeded wrap from Newburn Bakehouse,  held together well and I had no issues with it falling apart or losing the filling.

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My one issue was when the cranberry sauce made a bid for freedom on my nice yellow jumper….. 😦

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I’d suggest using a napkin!

The eat-in price is £3.29 which is pretty much the same cost as they’re ‘normal’ offerings, so I don’t feel like it’s a gluten free rip off in any way. I’m happy with their cross contamination controls and frankly, I’m just really happy to have another delicious lunch option for when I’m on the go!

Well done Starbucks, thank you for not forgetting your Coeliac customers during the festive period!

GF Doughnuts!!! From Feel Free

In August I was contacted to see if I’d like to be one of the first people to try a new gluten free product by free from company,  Feel Free. I was delighted to be asked and of course said yes, only for my excitement to be multiplied by a thousand when they said this product would be gluten free doughnuts!

God, I cannot tell you how much I miss doughnuts. They were a real treat for me, whether it be for a team meeting at work, standing in the queue at Thorpe Park (you all know the ones I mean) or grabbing a sneaky Krispy Kreme whilst shopping. Now whenever we visit Tesco my boyfriend always has a couple as his treat, whilst I sulk well away from that delicious smell wishing I could have just one bite…

So you can see why I’m so excited to try these!

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Feel Free isn’t a new brand in the Free From market but has become better known over the last year or so. Starred in 2004 by a diagnosed Coeliac, they wanted to create gluten free products of a high standard that are suitable for everyone to eat, not just those following a gluten free lifestyle.

These doughnuts were first sampled at the Allergy and Free From Show in London back in July, and following the positive feedback from visitors Feel Free decided to go ahead and launch them as soon as possible. Made from potato and rice starch, these sugared ring doughnuts are free from gluten and wheat but do contain egg and milk. They are sold in packs of four and come frozen and can be kept up to six months, meaning they’re handy for when you fancy something sweet or have a guest visiting.

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Inside the box these are individually wrapped, making them easy to take out one at a time. They should be defrosted for up to an hour before eating and then it’s recommended to heat then in the microwave for thirty seconds to enjoy them warm. I let mine defrost but we don’t have a microwave, so I popped them in the oven on a low temperature for 5 minutes until they were nice and warm.

*Note* It’s a good idea to flip these over once they’re out of the oven/microwave or transfer them to a different plate. The heat from the plate I’d warmed them on cause the bottom to go a little wet and the sugar to stick to the plate!

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WOW. Just wow. It’s pretty hard to think of a better way to describe these, particularly as this is all I kept saying! I couldn’t believe the smell as I was heating them up- I could have easily been at the seaside or Thorpe Park as they smell exactly the same. That delicious warm, sugary, doughy smell that sets your mouth watering.

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But then we get on to the taste. As I took my first bite I was concerned that these would be dry, particularly as the outside is more crisp than I remember of a doughnut,  but I need not have worried. The dough inside is SO soft, it completely melts in your mouth, with a slight crunch from the sugar coating that is deliciously sweet. I couldn’t wait to take another bite!

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I tried to savour them as best I could, letting the doughy taste mix with the sugar on my tongue as I would as a kid, but it wasn’t long before the first doughnut had gone!

Thank god I’d had the sense to get two out if the freezer!

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Look, this one even has its own little doughnut face!

For my second doughnut I decided to revisit my childhood and paired them with some chocolate dessert sauce. I remember how I’d always get my doughnuts with a chocolate dipping sauce and wanted to recreate that. The combination of the two was fantastic and a nice trip down memory lane, but I have to say I preferred these on their own in the end.

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These Feel Free doughnuts are a real first for the free from market and I’m grateful to have been able to try them. The taste is exactly as a doughnut should be, and aside from the unconventional storage method (I don’t think I’ve ever seen frozen doughnuts before) you really couldn’t tell that these are gluten free,  especially not in the taste.

I’d love to see the range expanded, perhaps with an option with a jam centre. It would also be great to have a larger packet available or mini versions if you’re having a party ( I think these would be great for kids!). Otherwise, these are near perfection and I urge you all to get your hands on some…..you really won’t regret it!

You can purchase these doughnuts via Feel Free’s online store. They cost £3.99 for a pack of 4 and delivery costs up to £8.65 (for a frozen courier) but is free for orders over £40.