Winners of the Free From Eating Out Awards 2015


I spent most of last week at the Food Matters Live conference – and one of the highlights for me was the announcement of the winners of the Free From Eating Out Awards 2015 (which are sponsored by Sodexo).

There were lots of different categories for this—everything from cafes to conference catering—and so many excellent options…

Finally I can reveal that I was involved in the judging for these awards this year—such fun…and interesting, too.

And I was delighted that two of the shortlisted places I was invited to judge (incognito) were selected as winners in their categories—and well-deserved winners they were, too!

These two places were a cafe and a B&B (so two very different categories): Labyrinth Cafe in Stockton-on-Tees, and Stonecroft Guest House in Edale.

  • Labyrinth is a light and bright, warm and welcoming cafe/secondhand bookshop, with squashy sofas and comfortable chairs, book-lined walls, and a few small tables for people to eat at. Their menu is 100% GF, and they offer meat/fish/vegetarian/vegan dishes, any of which can be made wheat free, dairy free, lactose free…

    It is the first not-for-profit organisation to apply for Coeliac UK accreditation, which they hope to achieve within the next few months.
  • Stonecroft is a comfortable, warm and welcoming B&B with a quiet, calm and peaceful atmosphere, in a very beautiful area of the country which attracts many walkers and tourists. It is very popular, so if you’re interested in staying, be sure to book early! The ethos of the place is allergy-first, and much of the food is locally sourced, though the owner travels some distance from her rural location to find ingredients that her visitors can tolerate.

    Stonecroft already has Coeliac UK accreditation.

The overall winner was Oscar & Bentleys, in Canterbury. Quite a trek from here for me, but we will try to get there… I heard one of the founders speak at the conference, and watched one of their chefs prepare a dish at a ‘cook-off’, and it sounds great.

Do look at the full list, and go and eat at as many of them as you can. I’m planning to!

Is there lecitem in your toffee apple?

toffee-applesHave you ever heard of lecitem?

I hadn’t, until coeliac daughter told me about it recently.

She’d bought a toffee apple (her first ever) as a reward for herself after an interview, but discovered it was not gluten free, since it contained lecitem.

Not gluten free? Surely it’s just an apple, with sugar, syrup, water, and maybe a tiny bit of (gluten free!) vinegar?

Lecitem, it turns out, is a type of bread improver, and contains malt and wheat gluten. When used for bread, it makes it more ‘machineable’ – silkier and smoother – especially if you’re using a high speed or spiral mixer. Perhaps, when added to the toffee, it makes it run through the machines better?

In any case, it was a surprise to me, and a disappointment to her. The things they decide to put gluten in!

So I made her toffee apples. I’m such a mean mother: I’d never done that before.

I used this recipe, based on the one from BBC Good Food:

Six crunchy eating apples
200g sugar
½ tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsps golden syrup

  • Blanch the apples by covering them in boiling water briefly to remove the waxy coating. Dry them, twist off the stalks, and push a wooden skewer or lolly stick into the stalk end of the apple. This will be your handle.
  • Put the sugar and 50ml of water into a pan, and heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vinegar and syrup.
  • Prepare a sheet of baking parchment for cooling the apples on.
  • Boil until the mix reaches the ‘hard crack’ stage (or 140C). Testing with a sugar thermometer is easy, but if you don’t have one, drop a small amount of the toffee mix into a bowl of cold water. It should go hard immediately, and be easy to break when you take it out of the water. If you can still mould it into different shapes, go on boiling the toffee.
  • Then dip and rotate each apple in the hot toffee until it is covered, let the excess drip off, and then put it on the baking parchment to harden.

Make sure the toffee is cool before you eat it!

There’s no secret: Quorn, now gluten free

quorn-minceWhat do you think about free-from products that try to mimic the ‘normal’ product?

I don’t eat meat. As a vegetarian student back in the 1980s I tried TVP: textured vegetable protein. The idea was that it mimicked meat, so you could use it to replace mince in recipes such as shepherd’s pie, or chili.

However, it had to be soaked and then boiled to be rehydrated – and it stank worse than a butchers shop does to a vegetarian.

I believe it’s now much improved, but that experience means that I tend to avoid vegetarian food that tries to replicate meat. After all, if you don’t eat meat, you don’t eat it, right?

So I was intrigued though slightly doubtful when I received some vouchers to try the new gluten free Quorn products.

Quorn is a mycoprotein-based protein, so is suitable for vegetarians – indeed, it’s received a seal of approval from the Vegetarian Society. But we’ve been avoiding it, because for the most part it’s not been gluten free–until now.

There is now a suite of Quorn products that are gluten free, and clearly marked as such on the packaging–I looked at the Quorn range for the first time in years when I went to the supermarket recently. In fact, there are 27 different Quorn products certified as gluten free by Coeliac UK.

So we tried it. Well, Coeliac Daughter did: I couldn’t get past the TVP experience. And she reports that though the ham-style Quorn was OK (didn’t smell quite right, apparently), the mince-style Quorn was indistinguishable from mince, and worked well in her recipes. As a meat-eater who doesn’t have any TVP baggage to deal with, she found it to be very acceptable.

And apparently, more meat-eaters than vegetarians buy Quorn, especially since they are promoting it as #healthyprotein, rather than as vegetarian. Interesting…

Do go and look at their website. The link to their gluten free section is hidden down in the footer, so I’d recommend that they add it to the main navigation for easy access, especially since they’re promoting their gluten free range at the moment. They’ve got a small collection of gluten free Quorn recipes too.

I might suggest that Coeliac Daughter try the bacon-style Quorn next…

Erythema Nodosum – Will Going Gluten Free Help?


Soon after my diagnosis of thyrotoxicosis, I had a bout of erythema nodosum (EN). I hope never to have another.

If you’ve had EN, you’ll know exactly what it means: hot red lumps. Very, very painful hot red lumps.

Typically, these appear on the lower legs – on the shins – and the typical patient is young (aged 18-34) and more likely to be female than male. But of course there are many cases where the patient is atypical: for example, though I am female, I haven’t been 34 for a while, and my nodules were not (initially) on my shins!

It turns out to be a kind of panniculitis: an inflammation of the fatty layer in the skin. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?

There may or may not be something that triggers it: in about half of cases, no triggers are found. But it can be triggered by an infection such as a streptococcal infection, by an underlying systemic condition such as sarcoidosis or TB, or even by some cancers. People with IBS or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis can also get it. And occasionally it is triggered by pregnancy – or by antibiotics or the combined oral contraceptive pill. My medic niece tells me that they were taught it is related to the treatment for thyrotoxicosis…

It may be a one-time occurrence, or it may be recurrent. It may disappear on its own, or it may need medication. Typical recommendations for managing it include:

  • bed rest / elevating the feet
  • cool compresses
  • support stockings
  • anti-inflammatory medicines
  • corticosteroids

Anecdotally, people say that going gluten free has helped them deal with it. There’s not much official evidence for this… I found a couple of papers online which discuss a few cases where someone with erythema nodosum has been found to have coeliac disease, and for whom, on switching to a gluten free diet, the EN has subsided.

Will it help you? I don’t know (I’m not a doctor) – but I’d have thought it worth a try.

Isn’t it astonishing how many things a gluten free diet can apparently help with?

Useful resources:
Dermatology Online Journal
World Journal of Gastroenterology
Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America

Missing Twix? Try Schar’s Chocolix

Are any of you going to the Allergy and Free From Show in November? It’s in the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on 7/8th November – don’t forget you can get free tickets.

breakfast-bakesThe November show is being sponsored by Schar, as part of their big UK launch this autumn. I was delighted to find out about their expansion into the UK because their products can reliably be found in supermarkets when we go on holiday. It’s been frustrating that we can find products abroad that we can’t find here!

Schar, of course, has the DS gluten free range here in the UK, but these will be rebranded, and the completely new products look interesting. And in fact, I did spot some of the new products and the new branding in Sainsbury’s yesterday.

Coeliac daughter has enjoyed the Bonta d’Italia Salami pizza in the past, when we can find it, and I gather that Asda will be selling twin-packs of their (now lactose-free) Margherita pizza in the frozen aisles – I hope those roll out into other stores soon, as we don’t have an Asda near us.

I’m not sure that the new vegetarian dish Caserecce Con Pesto will be something we’ll buy: after all, pasta with pesto is practically a staple here so we don’t need it as a ready-meal. Cooking a pan of pasta and adding pesto is just about as easy as a ready-meal. But the other one, Cannelloni with Spinach, may well be a handy standby as this isn’t something I’d typically make myself.

Schar sent us some samples of new products to try:


  • Chocolix: my first thought when biting into these was ‘Twix!’. Coeliac Daughter, of course, doesn’t know what a Twix tastes like, but I can tell you that this is a pretty good version of a Twix. There’s a bit less caramel, and a bit more biscuit, but it definitely tastes Twix-y. We’ll be able to get these at Sainsbury’s, though they’re also available at Asda.
  • Breakfast Bakes, made with gluten free oats – and though we’re not a breakfast bar household, I was impressed with these, and would happily add these to our regular shop. In fact, I’ve just eaten one, and am very tempted to eat a second… though I have already had one breakfast this morning. Sadly, these too are apparently only available at Asda.
  • And ‘Mini O’s’ – lookalike Oreo cookies. Coeliac Daughter asked me to mention these specifically, as she really liked these, and finished the packet very quickly. You’ll be able to get these at Tesco or Morrisons.

According to the website, though, there are still products available in other countries that we can’t get. Please, Schar, bring Millefoglie (frozen puff pastry) and Tiramisu to the UK soon! Both have been given 5 star reviews online by those people lucky enough to be able to try them.