On Dairy: why choose goats milk?


I was recently sent some samples of a range of goats milk cheeses by Delamere Dairy, so I thought I should find out more about why people choose to use goats milk rather than cows milk.

It turns out that there are lots of reasons that people swap to goats milk products rather than cows milk products.

One of the members of my family used goats milk instead of cows milk for years because of asthma (yes we are the classic atopic family, with—between us—asthma, eczema, psoriasis, hayfever, and coeliac disease) but making the swap is also recommended for some people with eczema, catarrh, or with some digestive disorders.

For some people who are intolerant to cows milk, it appears that it is one of the proteins in cows milk – A1 casein – that is causing the problem, rather than lactose. Although there are some breeds of cow that don’t produce A1 casein—and A2 milk can be bought as a specialist product in most supermarkets here in the UK these days—most cows used in standard mass dairy production are A1 producers. (Note: both A1 milk and A2 milk contain lactose, so A2 milk is not an option if you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy).

Goats milk contains only A2 casein, which means that for some people, goats milk is much less inflammatory than cows milk – so if you’re trying to avoid the A1 casein, goats milk products are a good choice.

And although goats milk contains lactose, it seems some people with lactose intolerance can handle goats milk. It is thought that this may be because goats milk is more digestible – it has less casein, smaller fat globules, and very slightly less lactose, than cows milk.

And if that’s not enough, it turns out that goats milk is very high in potassium and calcium, as well as tryptophan – so it works very well to help people with sleeping problems…

And some of us just enjoy the taste.

So what about those samples?

I’ve always been a goats cheese fan so was expecting to enjoy these cheeses. But I didn’t know they offered so many varieties, so my first thought on opening the package was surprise. I particularly enjoyed the goats cheese and honey log (handily ready-sliced into portions, though I will confess to have eaten rather more than a portion…) and the Greek cheese (like a feta).

Unfortunately, though goats milk, goats milk butter and some goats cheese are generally available in supermarkets, it looks as though these two varieties are only available from Booths, Ocado and Wholefoods at the moment. Shame that there isn’t national coverage in supermarkets… but Ocado is particularly good for free from shopping, so perhaps I’ll just place an order sometime soon.

Find out more:
Lara Briden on A1 milk
Steve Carpers guide to dairy products
FoodsMatter on A2 milk

Surprisingly Successful Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns


Coeliac Daughter is home from university for the holidays, and fancied baking at the weekend. So, it being nearly Easter, she decided to have a go at making gluten free hot cross buns.

We’ve tried making hot cross buns before, and never been very successful, but this recipe worked surprisingly well. The original is available on the UDI site, but we made some amendments based on what we had available…

Ingredients for gluten free hot cross buns

  • 3 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix – we used Dove’s plain white flour, available from supermarkets here in the UK.
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: ginger and nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of dried fruit or other goodies – we used 1/2 cup sultanas and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to create two different kinds of buns, but I think that dried cranberries would be nice too
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Egg wash (Mix 1 egg with 1 tablespoon milk)


  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons water.


Mix all the dry ingredients (except for the dried fruit or chocolate chips).

Mix all the wet ingredients and then add them to the mixed dry ingredients.

Split the dough into two bowls and fold the sultanas into one half, and chocolate chips into the other half. (Of course, if you just want to make one batch in a single bowl, that’s fine).

After mixing dough thoroughly, cover the bowl(s) and refrigerate for a couple of hours. (The UDI instructions say overnight but we couldn’t wait).

When you are ready to start again, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast in 1 tablespoon of water, and stir half into each bowl – or, or course, all of it into the one bowl, if you’ve not split yours into two.

Grease or line two 8″x8″ cake tins and place 9 balls of the dough into each one. We only have one 8*8 cake tin, so used that for half the dough and put the other half into an 8″ round cake tin – and it worked perfectly well.

Smooth out the tops of the buns and brush with the egg wash.

With a sharp knife, slice a shallow cross in the top of each bun. Let them prove (stand in a warm room or cool oven, covered with a clean teatowel) for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven while they are proving.

Now bake the buns at 180C for about 30 minutes in the centre of the preheated oven and bake, turning during baking if needed, until the buns are golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow the buns to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the buns are cooling, mix together the icing sugar and water with a fork until the icing is smooth.

Once the buns have cooled, ice a cross on each bun. Traditionally, this isn’t done with icing, but with a flour and water paste – but the icing does add a dash of sweetness to the buns which I rather like.

Don’t forget the gluten free Simnel cake either – we’re going to make one later this week…

On Dairy: Secondary Lactose Intolerance

damaged villi lactose intolerance

Newly diagnosed with coeliac disease, cut out gluten completely, but still having trouble digesting dairy products? You could be suffering from secondary lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance can have a genetic cause:

  • congenital: the ability to digest lactose could have been absent from birth
  • developmental: the ability to digest lactose could have diminished over time

Or lactose intolerance could be caused by a disease that damages the lining of the small intestine—such as coeliac disease. This is called secondary lactose intolerance.

When people who have coeliac disease eat gluten, it damages the villi – the lining of the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine is covered in tiny hair-like ‘bumps’ or fronds, called villi, and each of these has smaller fronds, called microvilli (or the brush border). These produce enzymes which help absorb nutrients.

Eating gluten causes an immune reaction which shortens, or even flattens, the villi, resulting in a decrease in the digestive enzymes – and these enzymes include lactase, which helps digest the lactose found in milk. If you don’t have enough lactase, you can’t digest lactose, resulting in those all too familiar symptoms of nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pain and bloating.

Once you’ve stopped eating gluten, and the gut starts to heal, the villi – and microvilli – will regenerate. For most people with secondary lactose intolerance, this will mean that they can digest milk products again. It often takes six months to a year, and can take two years.

(Be aware that lactose intolerance is not the same as a milk allergy. )

Secondary lactose intolerance: treatment

Assuming that it is lactose intolerance, what should you do while you’re waiting for your villi to regenerate?

Lactose is found in milk from cows, sheep and goats (as well as from humans), so cutting out these milks is an obvious response. But people vary: some may be able to have a small amount of milk, while others find even a small amount triggers symptoms.

And don’t just cut out lactose completely without consulting your GP or dietitian for advice, because you may miss out on other essential nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A, B12 and D.

In addition, there does seem to be evidence that you can eat some cheese (but not milk) even if you are lactose intolerant. Studies show that many people can tolerate a small amount (10-12g) of lactose daily – and the amount of lactose in milk / yoghurt and cheese varies:

  • 6 ounces of low fat plain yoghurt contains 13g lactose
  • 6 ounces of low fat Greek yoghurt contains 4g lactose
  • ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese contains 3g lactose
  • 1 ounce of cheddar cheese or other hard cheese contains under 1g lactose.

Try (a small amount to start with of) hard cheese such as cheddar or gruyere. The reason for choosing hard cheese is that in the cheese-making process, starter cultures of bacteria are added to milk that turns lactose into lactic acid. Starter cultures are usually used to make aged cheeses, not fresh ones.

Dieticians also suggest eating yoghurt, hard cheese or a small amount of milk as part of a meal, rather than on its own, because that will help.

But be aware that milk products appear in all sorts of other foods, so you might get up to the limit that you personally can tolerate without even realising it. So always check the label! (Just like looking for gluten, really).

In the EU, manufactured foods will clearly list if milk or an ingredient derived from milk is contained in the product. But if you are not in the EU, you will need to look out for:

  • Milk powder / skimmed milk powder
  • Milk drinks / malted milk drinks
  • Cheese / cheese powder
  • Butter
  • Margarine or other low fat spread (unless it says it is dairy free)
  • Yoghurt / fromage frais
  • Cream / sour cream
  • Casein / caseinates / sodium caseinates / hydrolysed casein
  • Milk solids
  • Non-fat milk
  • Whey / Whey syrup sweetener
  • Milk sugar solids
  • and, obviously, lactose.

Find out more:
Treatment of lactose intolerance: NHS UK
Dairy intolerance: Allergy UK
Dairy allergy/intolerance: FoodsMatter
List of lactose percentages: SteveCarper.com
Lactose intolerance: NYDailyNews
Cheese and lactose intolerance: CheeseSnob

Free From Food Awards Shortlist 2016

And the shortlist is out!

As you may know, I helped to judge the Teatime category (you can find my personal favourites here), but there’s lots more to discover in the list. If you haven’t tried the White Rabbit pizza yet, then you must. We’ve tried this at a food fair, and it is amazing. Pink Peppercorn Sourdough from Twice as Nice Bakery sounds good – and I’m delighted to see that Tesco is offering a gluten free children’s birthday cake.

Here is the full list of all items shortlisted for the various Free From Food Awards…

The Innovation Award – Sponsored by Food Matters Live

1 Better Than Pasta Arrabbiata Sauce
2 Bfree Stone Baked Pitta Breads
3 Gozo Deli Basil Pesto Casheese
4 Mighty Bee Organic Vegan Coconut Jerky – Teriyaki Flavour
5 Kirsty’s Malaysian Butternut Squash Curry With Brown Basmati Rice
6 Mash Direct Caulifower Cheese Gratin
7 Origin Earth Gluten Free Crackers
8 Perfect World Caramel Pecan Ice Cream
9 Perfect World Taste of Carrot Cake Ice Cream
10 Protein Pow All Purpose Pea Protein Cooking Mix
11 Sacla’ Free From Creamy Whole Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce
12 Sweet Rebellion Dairy Free Chocolate Frozen Dessert
13 The Pastry Room Gluten Free Pie Pastry
14 The Pastry Room Gluten Free Scone Mix
15 Udi’s In Store Bakery Tiger Bloomer

Start Ups and Small Producers – Sponsored by Tesco

1 Borough 22 Cinnamon Sugared Doughnuts
2 CocoNuts Raw Chocolate Nice Cream
3 Decadently Pure Sniickerz Bites
4 Nutural World Hazelnut & Carob Spread
5 Origin Earth Gluten Free Crackers with Caraway
6 Rana’s Artisan Bread Nearly Rye – GF Artisan Bread Mix
7 Simply 7 Lentil Crisps Sea Salt Flavoured
8 Smart Eats & Treats Seeded Loaf
9 The Teff Test Kitchen Seed & Sage Flaxseed, Chia, & Sunflower Seed Crackers
10 The Teff Test Kitchen Banana & Flaxseed Power Slice
11 The White Rabbit Pizza Co Capricciosa Pizza

Breakfast foods – Sponsored by Asda

1 Bfree Multiseed Bagel
2 Bonsoy Soya Milk
3 Delicious Alchemy Purely Oaty Fruity Muesli
4 Fria Chia Seed Roll
5 Goodness Grains Gluten Free Apple & Cinnamon Danish Pastry
6 Good Hemp Original (Milk Alternative)
7 Nutribix
8 Nutural World Hazelnut & Carob Spread
9 Rollagranola Caveman Dream Granola
10 Rollagranola Healthy Hazelnut Granola
11 Rollagranola Spiced Pecan Tonic Granola
12 Rude Health Almond Drink – Dairy Alternative Drink
13 Rude Health Ultimate Almond – Dairy Alternative Drink
14 Rude Health Sprouted Porridge Oats
15 Tesco Free From Fruity Strawberry Soya Fromage Frais Alternative
16 Tesco Free From 6 Instant Porridge Sachets
17 The Coconut Collaborative Coconut Milk Blueberry Yoghurt

Breads – Sponsored by Udi’s

1 Bfree Brown Seeded Loaf
2 Bfree Soft White Rolls
3 Bfree Brown Seeded Rolls
4 Bfree Multigrain Wraps
5 Bfree Quinoa and Chia Seed Wrap with Teff and Flax Seeds
6 Bfree Brown Seeded Sandwich Loaf
7 Dr Schar Wholesome Seeded Loaf
8 Dr Schar Panini Rolls
9 Incredible Bakery Company Mini Red Quinoa Loaf
10 Smart Eats and Treats Seeded Loaf
11 Tesco Free From Brown Seeded Rolls
12 Tesco Free From Tiger Rolls
13 Tesco Free From Garlic Baguette
14 Twice As Nice Bakery Pink Peppercorn Sourdough

Store cupboard – Sponsored by Genius Gluten Free

1 Bute Island Foods Creamy Scheese Spring Onion & Cracked Black Pepper
2 Coconom Coconut Aminos
3 Conserve Della Nonna Green Pesto
4 Delicious Alchemy Gluten & Dairy Free Vanilla Sponge Mix
5 Doves Farm Gluten Free Organic Brown Rice Flour
6 Gordon Rhodes Slow Comfortable Stew Gourmet Mix
7 Granovita Organic Pumpkin Oil
8 Granovita Organic Hemp Oil
9 Hale & Hearty 4 Grain Pancake Mix
10 Hale & Hearty Organic Multi-Seed Bread Mix
11 Make It Gluten Free Simple Mills Pizza Dough Mix
12 Make It Gluten Free Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin & Cake Mix
13 Miso Tasty Classic Shiro Miso Soup
14 Nutural World Almond & Coconut Spread
15 Origin Earth Gluten Free Crackers with Caraway
16 Providence Deli Dairy Free Basil Pesto
17 Quinola Mothergrain Quinoa Flour
18 Quinola Mothergrain Express Pearl & Black
19 Rana’s Artisan Bread Nearly Rye – GF Artisan Bread Mix
20 Rude Health Sprouted Buckwheat Flour
21 Sacla’ FreeFrom Basil Pesto & Tomato Stir-In
22 Sinclair Condiments Hot Banana Ketchup
23 Sinclair Condiments Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup
24 Stoffells No Added Sugars Tomato Ketchup
25 Sukrin Chia & Hemp Mix
26 Sweet Freedom Choc Shot Orange Spice
27 Sweet Freedom Choc Shot
28 Sweetpea Pantry Grainy Brainy Pancakes
29 Taste of Goodness Sauces Barbecue Sauce
30 Tesco Free From Salad Cream
31 Tesco Free From 8 Light & Crispy Yorkshire Puddings
32 The Foraging Fox HOT Beetroot Ketchup
33 Tilda Brown Basmati Rice & Quinoa
34 Tilda Coconut Basmati Rice
35 Waitrose Love Life Quick Cook Corn, Bulgar & Red Quinoa

Pasta and Pizza – Sponsored by Gluten Free Cuppa Tea

1 Dr Schar Pizza Margherita Lactose Free
2 Explore Asian Organic Soybean Spaghetti
3 Farabella Gluten Free Fresh (stabilised) Pasta Strozzapreti
4 Hale & Hearty Organic Corn & Rice Rigatoni
5 Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta Fusilli
6 Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta Spaghetti
7 Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta Lasagne
8 The White Rabbit Pizza Co – Capricciosa Pizza

Raw Foods – Sponsored by Genon Laboratories

1 CHOC Chick Organic Raw Cacao Powder
2 Coconut Merchant Coconut Oil
3 Decadently Pure Sniickerz Bites
4 Good Hemp Good Oil (Culinary Oil)
5 inSpiral Tomato & Basil Kale-os
6 Iswari Buddha’s Awakening Maca & Vanilla
7 Rollagranola Hot Raspberry

Superfoods – Sponsored by Tiana Fair Trade Organics

1 CHOC Chick Organic Raw Cacao Powder
2 Good Hemp Pure Protein Supplement
3 Gourmet Spirulina Raw Spirulina Nibs
4 Granovita Organic Beetroot Juice
5 Linwoods Milled Flax, Chia Seed, Apple & Cinnamon
6 Marvellous Superfood Radiant Health Breakfast Topper
7 Mrs B’s Homemade Kombucha
8 Squeeze Wheatgrass Wheatgrass with Beetroot Juice

‘Food to go’ – Sponsored by Tesco

1 Chika’s Plantain Crisps Chilli
2 Chika’s Plantain Crisps Salted
3 Chika’s Gluten Free ChickPea Crisps Lightly Spiced
4 Coco Indulgence Lime & Ginger
5 Coco Indulgence Mango & Banana
6 Coco Indulgence Passionfruit & Pineapple
7 Doisy & Dam Coconut & Lucuma Dark Chocolate 40g Bar
8 Doves Farm GF Chocolate Chip Cookies, Organic & Fairtrade
9 Doves Farm GF Organic Chocolate Chip Flapjack
10 Goodness Me Foods Chocolate Brownie
11 Hotch Potch Chorizo & Sundried Tomato Whoppa (GF Scotch Egg)
12 ilumi Singapore Style Rice Noodle Snack Pot
13 inSpiral Coconut Pecks: Raspberry
14 Oast to Host Leek & Onion Quongo (Quiche on the Go)
15 Ramona’s Kitchen Original Houmous
16 Simply 7 Hummus Crisps Roasted Red Pepper Flavoured
17 Simply 7 Lentil Crisps Sea Salt Flavoured
18 Sin GF Fruit Cake
19 Sin GF Chocolate Orange Brownie
20 Voakes Free From Sausage Roll
21 Waitrose Chargrilled Chicken, Tomato, Mayonnaise, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto & Rocket in a Gluten Free Wrap

Down the Pub and the Bar – Sponsored by FDIN

Gluten-free beers:
1 CELIA Dark Czech Lager
2 Daas Ambre
3 Daura Damm Pilsner/Lager
4 Daura Marzen
5 Fentimans Gluten Free Alcoholic Ginger Beer
6 Hepworth Brewery Iron Horse Premium Pale Ale
7 Monty’s Brewery Masquerade
8 St Peter’s Brewery G-Free
9 Stringer’s Beer Outlook Amber

Savoury snacks:

1 Dr Schar Cream Crackers
2 Kent & Fraser Cherry, Pecan & Poppy Seed Toast
3 Mrs B’s Homemade Sunflower & Linseed Savoury Biscuits
4 Mrs Crimble’s Cheese Straws
5 Origin Earth Gluten Free Crackers with Sesame
6 Organico Realfoods Luke’s Organic Kale, Multigrain & Seed Chips
7 Ten Acre’s Pastrami In The Rye Hand Cooked Crisps
8 Tesco Free From Onion Rings
9 Tesco Free From Potato Skins
10 The Teff Test Kitchen Seed & Sage – Flaxseed, Chia, & Sunflower Seed Crackers
11 Udi’s Peri Peri BBQ Flavour Tortilla Chips

Meaty and Fishy Ready Meals – Sponsored by Mrs Crimbles

1 Better Than Rice Chicken Massaman Curry
2 Debbie & Andrew’s Perfect Pork Sausages
3 Hotch Potch Bacon, Leek & Cheesy Pie
4 ilumi Slow Cooked Beef Casserole
5 JCS BigFish Brand Salmon Fillets Marinated in Garden Mint
6 Kirsty’s Slow Cooked Beef with Celeriac Mash
7 Oh So Lean Low Fat Mexican Turkey Burgers
8 Oh So Lean Low Fat Maple Steak Burgers
9 Rule of Crumb Breaded Cod Fish Fillets
10 Tesco Free From Breaded Scampi
11 The Black Farmer Premium Pork Chipolatas
12 The Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages
13 The Little Gluten Free Pasty PieChicken, Leek & Sweetcorn Pie
14 Yorkshire Provender Roast Chicken Soup with Traditional Vegetables

Veggie Ready Meals Sponsored by Goodness Direct

1 Bannisters’ Farm Fully Loaded Jacket with Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese
2 Eat Water Slim Pasta Mediterranea
3 Georgia’s Choice Mexican Bean Bake
4 GLORIOUS! Soups Mumbai Lentil & Chickpea
5 Kirsty’s Malaysian Butternut Squash Curry with Brown Basmati Rice
6 Mr Crumb Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix
7 Tideford Organics Sweet Potato and Quinoa Soup
8 Twins Gluten Free Asparagus and Stilton Quiche
9 Voakes Free From Sweet Roasted Root Vegetable Pie
10 Yorkshire Provender Pea & Spinach Soup with Fresh Mint

Foods suitable for nut and peanut allergics Sponsored by Wellaby’s

1 BFree Soft White Rolls
2 BFree Multiseed Bagels
3 BFree Stone Baked Pitta Breads
4 Coconom Coconut Aminos
5 CocoNuts Raw Chocolate Nice Cream
6 Conserve Della Nonna Green Pesto
7 D&D Chocolates Dairy Free Chocolate Drops
8 Organico Realfoods Luke’s Organic Kale, Multigrain & Seed Chips
9 Quinola Mothergrain Express Pearl and Black
10 Rana’s Artisan Bread Nearly Rye – gluten free artisan bread mix
11 Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta Spaghetti
12 Smart Eats & Treats Seeded Loaf
13 Sweet Rebellion Dairy Free Chocolate Frozen Dessert
14 Truly Chocolates Lego Chocolates

Foods designed for children Sponsored by Delamere Dairy

1 Casa de Bolitas Cheddar Bolitas
2 Cocoa Libre Dairy Free Dark Mint Solid Chocolate Penguins
3 Eskal Gluten Free Children’s Pasta Sauce
4 Georgia’s Choice Chicken Grills
5 Georgia’s Choice Chicken Bites
6 Hale & Hearty Honey Bee Cereal
7 Kirsty’s Kids’ Kitchen Sausage Casserole with Root Vegetables
8 Moo Free Bunnycomb Easter Egg
9 Nothing But Freeze Dried Strawberry & Banana Snack
10 Perfect World Caramel Pecan Ice Cream
11 Perfect World Taste of Carrot Cake Ice Cream
12 Quinola Mothergrain Kids Thai
13 Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta Fantasia
14 Rule of Crumb Chicken Goujons
15 Rule of Crumb Cod Fish Fingers
16 Tesco Free From 9 Garlic Doughballs
17 Tesco Free From Southern Fried Mini Chicken Fillets
18 Tesco Free From Carl the Caterpillar
19 The Culinary Cauldron JUICE Orange, Carrot & Lemon Ice Lolly
20 Tilda Kids Sunshine Vegetable Rice
21 Udi’s Cheese Puffs
22 Udi’s Milk Chocolate Caramel Clusters
23 Udi’s Milk Chocolate Raisin Clusters

Tea Time! – Sponsored by Integrated Food Projects Ltd

1 Auchtermuchty Cake Company Creole Fruit Cake
2 Borough 22 Cinnamon Sugared Doughnuts
3 Mummy Bakes Fiery Gingers
4 Mummy Bakes Awesome Almond Biscotti
5 Mummy Bakes Ginger Zingers Biscotti
6 Nairn’s Gluten Free Biscuit Breaks – Oats & Stem Ginger
7 Peace of Cake London Viennese Shortbread
8 Peace of Cake London Mince Pies
9 Pulsetta Lemon Oat Thins
10 Tesco finest* Free From Carrot Cake
11 Tesco Free From Choc Chip Cookies
12 The Local Bakehouse Lemon Zest Cake
13 The Teff Test Kitchen – Banana & Flaxseed Power Slice
14 Twice As Nice Bakery Hello Sunshine
15 Twice As Nice Bakery Chocolate Stout Cake

Desserts and Puddings Sponsored by Romer Labs UK

1 Antonio Russo Vanillato
2 CocoNuts Raw Chocolate Nice Cream
3 CocoNuts Sumptuous Strawberry Nice Cream
4 Go Get Birmingham Morello Cherry Streusel
5 Hale & Hearty Traditional Christmas Pudding
6 Jollyum Double Chocolate Dairy Free Ice Cream
7 Tesco Free From Strawberry & Vanilla Cones
8 Tesco Free From Cream Filled Profiteroles
9 The Coconut Collaborative Little Choc Pots Chocolate Ganache

Confectionery and Chocolate – Sponsored by Free From Market

1 Booja Booja Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles
2 Cocoa Libre 3 Mini Slab Bars
3 D&D Chocolates Dairy-Free Chocolate Drops
4 Eat Allergy Safe 8 Handcrafted Vegan Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Truffles
5 Eskal Gluten Free Wafer Rolls
6 Moo Free Caramelised Hazelnut Nibs Bar
7 Solkiki Tahitian Nougat / White Chocolate
8 Solkiki Balinese Coconut / White Chocolate
9 Winning Ways Dairy Free Chocovered Raisins

Bars – cereal, fruit, superfood, grain-free etc Sponsored by Holland & Barrett

1 Dr Schar Chocolix
2 Get Fruity Moist Mixed Berry
3 Get Fruity Scrumptious Strawberry
4 Kind Snacks Caramel Almond & Sea Salt
5 Kind Snacks Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt
6 Liberty Cakes Peanut Punch
7 Mrs Crimble’s Gluten Free and Good For Me Sultana and Apricot Cereal Bar
8 Roo’Bar Chia Coconut Raw Bar
9 Wild Thing Organic Paleo Raw Bar – Coconut & Chia

Ginger is the New Chocolate: Judging at the Free From Food Awards


What do you think about gluten free cake—and how do you think you’d feel about eating 32 different cakes or biscuits in an afternoon?

I was excited to head to London last week to be on the judging panel for the Free From Food Awards again—the tea-time session: cakes and biscuits.

In one sense it was an easier session to judge this year than last, because there were fewer entries (last year we ate through 55 cakes…) and no chocolate brownies. I like a chocolate brownie (though I like my mother’s version best), but there were an awful lot of chocolate entries last year…

This year the key flavour was ginger, to the astonishment of an American judge – apparently ginger cake and ginger biscuits aren’t such a big thing in the US.

You wouldn’t think that gluten free cake had trends and fashions, but it really does, and clearly ginger is A Thing at the moment. And thank goodness there are trends: I’m delighted to see a trend towards gluten free celebration cakes and sharing cakes available in supermarkets. Sharing food, particularly at celebrations, matters; and not just to children.

Overall, of course, the trend is for gluten free cake to get better – which makes it harder to distinguish the front-runners at a judging event. There are always a few of the old-fashioned offerings that just don’t make the grade in terms of taste and texture; but there are an increasing number of innovative brands – often the smaller manufacturers – that are really trying to offer us something new and better.

And that makes judging hard, and means that the judging panel gets increasingly picky. There’s certainly a lot of debate and discussion about everything from the taste and texture to the ingredients and the labelling. We taste blind (so we don’t know who has made any of it, and we’re not swayed by any branding) but we are given a list of ingredients, and told what claims to be allergy-free are made by each product. And these are taken very seriously, and discussed in detail.

What is better, a cake that makes every effort to be allergy-free (meaning it can be eaten by lots of different people) or one that a particular group (say, coeliacs) has been asking manufacturers to make for years and which is technically difficult to make?

And there was lots of discussion about the difficulties of mass-producing cake, and of making it available across the country. One of the judges in the session I went to works in free from for a large supermarket, and spoke about how difficult it is to get shelf space for free from foods, or to get manufacturers to switch to making foods free from (even when it would only take a tiny change). That was fascinating; we may complain about the range of foods available to us in supermarkets, but someone, behind the scenes, has been working very hard to get those onto the shelves. And there was a great deal of discussion about whether those shelves should be dedicated free from shelves, or whether free from food should be available alongside ‘normal’ food.

It’s always entertaining to be on the judging panel, and we all had our own favourites. At the end there’s a big reveal, so the judges can find out who makes which cake, and make notes on which to buy (or recommend that you should try).

No clues here about which were the winning products (it’s a secret!), but my personal favourites included:

  • Creole Fruitcake from Auchtermuchty Cake Company. This was delicious. I always make our Christmas cake but if I was going to buy one, I’d buy this.
  • Fiery Gingers from Mummy Bakes – these were very gingery, with a real kick. Yum!
  • Mince Pies from Piece of Cake – I love mince pies, and these were very beautiful, and delicious. I thought the pastry was fab.
  • Doughnuts from Borough22 – doughnuts! These were non-greasy, and vegan. Amazing. I’m going to find out if they’ll ship outside London…

The shortlist will be out soon – and the Awards ceremony will be in a couple of months. It’s exciting for the judges and for the entrants. After all, I only ate cake this year; there are lots of other categories to find out about!