Teal pumpkins

teal pumpkin

Do you know about the teal pumpkin movement?

It was launched as a USA-wide project in 2014 by FoodAllergy.org, following a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET). The idea is that if you are happy to welcome trick or treaters at Halloween (not everyone is!), and would like to make the experience better for children with allergies, you provide some non-food treats (or some safe allergy-free treats) and display a teal pumpkin so that visiting children and their parents know that you can offer something safe.

Trick or treating is becoming increasingly popular over here in the UK, following the tradition set by the USA, where Halloween is a big festival. I’m not a fan of trick or treating myself—and it hasn’t happened around here for years—but thought I’d share this idea with you.

Of course, it doesn’t take away the responsibility of the parents to choose safe foods for their child, and to teach the child to make safe choices. But it might just make the experience nicer for everyone. And it might mean that some children would be able to join in. Although part of the fun of the night is dressing up, and being out after dark with your friends, part of it is the treats—and if you know that you may not be able to join in with the feasting, that can take some of the fun out of the evening.

Although we’ve hardly ever done trick or treating (and only to known houses when we did) I do remember when Coeliac Daughter would come home from parties with sweet treats, and then pick out the few that she could eat and give the rest to her siblings. I also used to keep a stock of safe treats on a high shelf, and then swapped them for the unsafe ones in her bag. She quickly learned which were safe to eat, and which were not. The trickiest treats were those from abroad, where the ingredients list (if there’d been one) had obviously been on the outer packaging, and wasn’t available to check…

What do you think? Do you let your coeliac (or lactose-intolerant, or nut-allergy) child go trick or treating? And if so, do you think the idea of a teal pumpkin is a good one?

Free From Eating Out Awards Shortlist

eating out - FFEOA

I’m delighted to have been asked to serve as judge for the Free From Food Eating Out Awards (FFEOA) again this year. Last year was great, though it’s hard to believe that it was a year ago already…

We’ve completed the first stage of the judging process, and the results of the second stage have been announced (see below). More details are available on the FreeFrom Food Eating Out Awards website.

This is the third year of the awards, and the shortlist shows how very much easier it is getting for people with allergies to find a safe, reliable – and enjoyable – place to eat out. How many of these places have you tried? If there’s one near you that you haven’t visited yet—or even if it’s your local and you go often—go and eat there soon. And often. We need to support places that work so hard to offer safe food options for people with allergies.

The winners will be announced at the Food Matters Live conference, in November.

Cafés, coffee shops and tearooms – sponsored by Can I Eat There?

Café chains

Fish and Chip shops

Independent Fish & Chip shops

Fish & Chip shop chains

Pub restaurants –sponsored by Genon Laboratories

Independent Pub Restaurants

Pub chains

Restaurants – sponsored by Riso Gallo

Independent Restaurants

Restaurant chains

Corporate Hospitality & Venues

B&Bs and guest houses – sponsored by Thomas Ridley Foodservice

Schools, colleges and universities – sponsored by Thomas Ridley Foodservice

Food manufactured for food service

Savoury

Sweet

  • Borough 22: Raspberry Pistachio Glazed Doughnuts
  • Brakes: Gluten-free Carrot Cake
  • Brakes: Gluten-free Sticky Toffee Puddings
  • Honeybuns: Squillionaire
  • Nairn’s: GF Breakfast Biscuit Breaks (Apricot)
  • Nestlé: GoFree Corn Flakes (single serve pouch)
  • Pidy: Gluten Free Sweet Tartelette Cases 8.5cm
  • Taywell: Chocolate Dairy Free Frozen Dessert

Fancy a (gluten free) pizza tonight?

gluten free pizza

It’s always interesting when a big ‘normal’ brand moves into the gluten free market… will it work? Will their product be as good gluten free? Will they be able to sustain interest in their gluten free offering, or will it fold quietly?

I went to the launch of the Dr Oetker Ristorante gluten free pizza range this week, in London. They were running a direct like-for-like comparison of their current (normal) pizza and their new (gluten free) pizzas, with a range of side dishes and cake (all gluten free).

Apparently Dr Oetker are the UK’s favorite thin and crispy frozen pizza brand; I asked why they were launching their product now (when there are already gluten free pizzas on the market), and was told that it had taken a while to get both the base and the topping right.

As we know, the free from market is increasingly interesting to food manufacturers, because it is big and continues to grow. Like so many others, Dr Oetker has developed their gluten free product to be of interest not just for coeliacs, but also for the large number of people who choose to be gluten free as a lifestyle choice.

The gluten free versions of their pizzas are being launched across Europe now—though apparently the UK is the first to produce them. They are made on a dedicated gluten free line in a mixed factory.

The packs are clearly marked as gluten free, so it will be easy to spot them in the freezer section of your supermarket (in Iceland from September, and Tesco from October).

And what did I think of the pizza? Longtime readers will know that it is our eldest daughter who is the coeliac in our house, not me, so I was able to taste and compare both the normal and the gluten free versions—at least, the vegetarian ones. And I found the gluten free version to be very convincing—very like the normal version—and the topping stayed put nicely (it didn’t slide off, which can be a problem sometimes).

dr oetker gluten free pizzaI would like to see a wider range. Mozzarella & pesto or salami are the gluten free options at the moment. I’d like to see something more adventurous: perhaps a good vegetariana one, or goats cheese and caramelised onion. Apparently Dr Oetker will develop more flavours if enough people express interest, and obviously I could always add toppings to the mozzarella one if I wanted.

In the meantime, though, I think this is a pizza that a coeliac could share with a non-coeliac friend, and both would be happy.

Gluten Free and Raw Apple Pie

raw-apple-pie

We’re really not a raw food household. We eat some food raw, of course: salad vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. But I do typically use heat to cook with.

For some reason, though, I was intrigued to see the new recipe book by Juliette Bryant called Divine Desserts; it’s full of gluten free and vegan (so also dairy free) superfood desserts. And most of them are raw. I was sent a copy to review, so I thought I’d try one of the recipes as an experiment.

I made the Raw Apple Pie, and served it to a group of hungry young adults and teenagers. And it was astonishingly successful!

There were a few dubious faces before they’d tried it—”what do you mean, raw? Raw apple pie?”—and I know that some of the guests only accepted a piece to be polite.

And it has to be said that it wasn’t the most beautiful and delicate dessert I’ve ever made. (How is it that my results never look as lovely as the professionals? The picture at the top is of Juliette’s version…)

But they genuinely loved it—they wolfed it down—and came back the next day for more. As did I! It tastes of Christmas, somehow… and although my attempt wasn’t beautiful, it was appealing to look at and tasted wonderful.

We’re going to try the Raw Berry Cheesecake next, but I’ll definitely be making the Apple Pie again, and I have permission to share the recipe with you. If you try it, do let me know what you think!

Raw Apple Pie

Base
100g ground almonds
100g ground seed mix
100g dates
1 tblsp maple syrup
½ inch ginger root

Middle Apple Layer

4 apples, chopped
1 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp of cinnamon
2 tsp of mixed spice
100g raisins
100g dates

Topping Cream Layer
100g soaked and drained cashew nuts
½ cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the base place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend into a biscuit-like dough. Test that its wet enough by making some intoa ball and seeing if it stays. If not add a little more water. Pour into a silicone tin and firmly press it down so it is nice and compact. Plcace in the freezer to set for 20 mins.

For the apple layer, add all the ingredients intot he food processor and pulse it. Don’t over blend, you don’t want it too mushy. Pour on top of the base and place in the freezer to set for 20 mins.

To make the cream layer drain the pre-soaked cashew nuts and rinse. In the food processor place the last ingredients and whizz into a smooth cramy layer. You will ned to scrape down the sides a few times to get it all smooth. Then spread it evenly on top of the apple layer and leave to se tin the freezer for 30 mins.

Serve chilled from the freezer. And enjoy!

***

Juliette is doing a book tour at the moment, and if you’re quick you’ll be able to catch her this Saturday (30th) at Rawfest in Berkshire, where she’ll be talking about the latest research into the relationship between super nutrition and health. And if you can’t get to Sunninghill, you can find out more (and buy the book) via her website.

Allergy and Free From Show 2016

allergy and free from show 2016
I’ve got mixed feelings about the Allergy & Free From Show this year.

We went down to the London show on Friday, when it was busy, but not hectic—we usually go at a weekend, when it is difficult to move around—and we thought it was great.

Coeliac Daughter looks forward to it every year, and enjoys finding new products and tasting a wide variety of different foods (though I couldn’t persuade her to try the cricket brownies). She particularly likes knowing that she could eat anything she wanted to try.

At least, that’s what we thought.

This year we particularly enjoyed:

  • gluten free pancakes (made on the spot by Goodens & Co)
  • the Gosh! Sweetcorn and quinoa bites (We’ve bought their mushroom and lentil burgers from Tesco, but not found the bites)
  • the B-Free pitta breads (which we can’t seem to find in the shops at all)
  • Carl the Caterpillar (one of Tesco’s gluten free birthday cakes) – Coeliac Daughter, now aged 20, thinks there should be a girl caterpillar too
  • and the Healthy Baker gave Coeliac Daughter a sample packet of oats, which she made into porridge the next day… I’m not sure she’s ever enjoyed porridge before, so that was a success.

It was also fun that Schar were cooking their pizzas to order—and yes, we shared a veggie gluten free pizza.

So a big thank you to the organisers of the Allergy Show, who work all year to make these events work.

But why am I feeling conflicted?

I think there are two things.

Co-location of shows

It wasn’t instantly clear which stalls had gluten free products, and which didn’t.

The organisers had done their best, with different coloured carpets, and hanging signage. But we were too focused on the stalls to look up, and it wasn’t clear to us from the outset that different carpets meant different shows, so we ended up in the veggie/vegan area (the Just V show) unknowingly.

There we spotted gluten free pancakes, and decided to come back later to try them. But by the time we were ready to eat pancakes, we’d realised that the carpets meant different things, and we struggled to find the gluten free pancake stall again. (Obviously we did eventually decide to look in the ‘wrong carpet’ area… and yes, they were in the vegan section).

I don’t think we were being particularly slow to pick up on this, as we saw others straying off their path too—vegans being surprised to find meat products, for instance.

This confusion could, potentially, lead to someone trying a product that wasn’t gluten free because they were under the impression that everything would be OK to eat. It was no longer true that Coeliac Daughter could try anything in the room.

The market is maturing

I know we’ve been to a lot of these Shows, so you’d expect us to be familiar with a lot of the companies in the marketplace, but it did seem to me that there were fewer new and exciting products for us to find out about.

And there was clearly a huge difference between the large, made-to-measure, expensive stands set up by the Big Guys (Schar, Genius, Tesco…) and the smaller stands. Of course there was: the Big Guys have a lot more money.

According to the Allergy Show sponsorship website, for instance, Doves Farm spent £25,000 to sponsor the cooking zone, and Tesco spent £15,000 to sponsor Speakers Corner.

I don’t know what Schar paid for the headline partnership, and for the show bag sponsorship, but we can calculate from the Allergy Show rate card that they spent around £33,600 for their stall space of 14m*8m (where they cooked pizza).

And that’s fine. The Allergy Show has to make money somehow, to pay for the space in Olympia. After all, we (and I’ll bet 99% of visitors to the show) downloaded free tickets, so they didn’t make any money from us.

And it is undeniably a fantastic—even unbeatable—opportunity to get your brand in front of your core target audience.

But I feel some concern that some of the smaller, newer companies may have been missing.

Yes, there was the Artisan Marketplace, with 15 stalls (minimum size 2m*1m, costing £700—very reasonable, really, for the potential marketing success available, assuming 30,000 visitors over the whole weekend), and that was great. And the Allergy Show can of course only host companies that apply to have a stall.

But something was missing. In every other year we’ve had one of those “oh wow, look, gluten free X!”, where X has been something that we’ve not been able to get gluten free before.

Not this year. Perhaps there just aren’t very many new and exciting products this year, or maybe we’ve had peak innovation already, and all that’ll happen now is consolidation.

I wonder if there is a way to get the innovative feel back, perhaps by creating an Innovation section for new products/ideas, whether from start-ups or from big companies—maybe a big company could be persuaded to sponsor the stalls within that section (they might even find a new and valuable idea in there).

What do you think? Did you go to the the London Allergy Show this year?