Going for Silver: Gluten Free Expedition

So our coeliac daughter has set off on the first of her Silver Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. She has to do two, each involving 3 days walking and 2 nights camping: one practice, and one for real.

I’ve been watching—with some trepidation—the flash floods, massive thunderstorms and golf-ball-sized hailstorms that much of the country has been dealing with recently. You just have to love England in the summer. I dropped her off this morning in the Peak District and drove off leaving her standing in the rain…

She did the Bronze (two days) last year, and perhaps she’ll do Gold in the future (four days/three sleeps). But whichever the level, the girls have to carry everything they’ll need, including tent, sleeping bag, trangia, fuel and food for the whole of the hike, and navigate for themselves between points.

So what has she packed to eat? Always a key question for coeliacs, and I thought you might be interested to know what she’s chosen:

  • Warburton’s white bread rolls (found in Tesco)
  • Roberts Bakeries Yes! You Can brown sliced bread for sandwiches, with a variety of potential fillings (tuna/cheese/hummous) – Tesco
  • a variety pack of miniature cheeses, each individually wrapped
  • cucumber and satsumas
  • Sakata crackers – because they pack down nicely, which crisps don’t (and Pringles are a no-no these days) – Sainsburys
  • Look What We Found sachets of chili con carne, which will only need heating through – Sainsburys
  • Part-cooked express rice sachets (because they’ll only take 3 minutes to cook)
  • Tesco Belgian Chocolate Wafers
  • plus jelly babies and chocolate

Not ideal nutritionally, but it should keep her going for three days.

Another Northern Baker Enters Gluten Free Market

Just in from a quick dash to Tesco again (I seem to have been to one supermarket or another every day this week) where I found:

  • Genius pains au chocolat (more on these when we’ve tasted them)
  • Roberts ‘Yes! You Can’ brown bread

It’s interesting that yet another mainstream baker has joined the gluten free providers. Roberts Bakery is a northern brand (Cheshire, Staffordshire, the Midlands and North Wales) and is probably Frank Roberts & Sons primary bread brand. One of their newer acquisitions (2010) was P&A Davies, from Chester, now known as Davies Bakery, and which specialises in gluten free products.

Curiously, the new gluten free bread is branded as Roberts Bakery bread, not Davies Bakery.

I haven’t managed to find much online about this new bread—not much more than a trademark submission from the Intellectual Property Office in early 2012. The Products/Gluten Free page of the Roberts website is blank, and I haven’t found any press releases. I wonder if the bread on the shelf in my local Tesco is part of a trial?

And… don’t you think it’s interesting that this is the second major northern baker to offer gluten free bread? I wonder what Allied Bakeries and Premier Foods are working on?

Two and a Half Cheers for Tesco Free From

Have you spotted the gluten free ready meals from Tesco yet?

We came across them almost by accident; I don’t usually go down that aisle in the store, because I don’t usually buy ready meals (too expensive to feed five of us on ready meals), and even if I did, I wouldn’t expect anything to be gluten free.

But I found these when I placed an order online:

  • Free From three cheese fusilli pasta bake
  • Free From chicken and bacon pasta bake
  • Free From beef lasagne
  • Free From beef and dumplings
  • and Free From spaghetti bolognaise.

Did I miss something? Or did these just sneak in without much publicity? I even chatted to the Tesco Free From brand people at the recent Free From Foods Awards event, and they were all about the Free From dairy-free products, and didn’t even mention these…

No matter: we’ve tasted the first two on this list, and the beef lasagne is in the freezer (it was on special offer, yay!). And… she liked them!

I probably won’t buy them very often, because of the cost, and because I prefer to cook a meal we can all eat. However, it is great to know that they are there, and they’ll be a good fallback for the occasional evening. Or, of course, if one of her friends wants to invite her round to eat, and needs something easy to feed her.

So, two and a half cheers. Not three, because it seems to me that Tesco is struggling with communications. Not only was I not aware of these… why not, Tesco? You know that I buy Free From goods; you have my email address; you print out coupons for me when I go to the store. Where’s the message? A mailshot to all of those of us who buy free from products would be easy enough, surely.

But also: when I visited our local store this week, there was a mysterious Tesco sign up on the Free From shelves saying ‘Visit our Bakery for more Free From products’.

There’s nothing like the hint of new products to get me excited, so I trotted over to Bakery to ask them about it. Naturally enough, they said ‘no, we don’t do Free From in Bakery’. And customer services didn’t know anything about it; and nor did the deputy manager. ‘Come back next time’ they said ‘we’ll find out’.

So I went back (sign still there) and asked again. Still, nobody knew anything about it. ‘It must have been meant for a bigger store’, they said. But SOMEONE put the sign there; someone is planning Free From products in the Bakery aisle. Why don’t the brand people tell the stores?

Anyone know anything about these mystery products? And… if you’ve tried the Tesco Free From ready meals, let us know what you think!

Gluten Free and Out in the Cold

Did you see the findings from the survey that Warburton’s Free From carried out?

11% of Brits wouldn’t invite someone—even family and friends—to a meal if they had special dietary needs, such as needing a gluten free diet. This even includes Christmas dinner and wedding breakfasts, events that are usually inclusive and welcoming!

This is mostly for ‘good’ reasons: fear about making their guests ill, or not knowing what to cook. But it really doesn’t have to be hard, as a lot of food is naturally gluten free.

Reassuringly, most of those surveyed thought they could cater for these friends if they had the right advice: 87%.

If you’re worried about inviting someone with special dietary needs to eat with you, then ask them for help and advice! There is advice online, but asking the person you’d like to cater for what would would be OK for them not only makes it easier for you, but is also reassuring for them.

It is unnerving to go to eat somewhere else, because of the risk involved. You could help your visitor out by telling them what you plan to offer, asking where the risks lie and discussing alternatives.

They may be worried about cross-contamination in your kitchen. It means gluten unintentionally getting into their food – it doesn’t mean they think your kitchen is dirty! It’s easily done: transferring crumbs, for example, on a knife, or maybe serving two dishes, one gluten free and one not, with the same spoon. Your guest won’t want to be rude, but slip-ups like this may mean they can’t eat what you’re offering.

Please do invite people! Even if they prefer to bring their own food (which they might), please offer the invitation… no-one wants to be excluded from events simply because of the food.

Taste Test: Helen’s Brilliant Mixes

Ever got to nearly-lunch-time and realised that you didn’t have any gluten free bread?

That certainly happens to us!

We were recently sent some of Helens Brilliant Mixes to try the scones, brown bread, and white bread. These have been around for a while; I think we picked up a pack of bread mix in Sainsbury’s some time ago. They’re obviously having a marketing push at the moment to try to bring them to the attention of the consumers. That’s us!

The mixes were just as good as I had remembered. We whizzed the scones up in no time, when some surprise guests arrived, and they went down very well with everyone. I know that ‘normal’ scones are really speedy too, but it was good to have something quick, easy and gluten free to offer.

And both breads turned out well too. The white bread takes a little longer, but it is versatile, as it could apparently be used as a pizza base or foccaccia. We’ll have to try doing that next time.

I don’t normally buy mixes, because I was taught to bake from scratch as a child—though before we knew anything about coeliac disease. But I can see that having a ready prepared mix would be very helpful, particularly if you’ve recently been diagnosed, since baking gluten free is different to ‘normal’ baking. And I would be tempted to buy these again, as they seem reliable, and my daughter liked the results.

Though it must be said that no ready mix is going to be as cheap to use as mixing your own from the basic ingredients—you’re paying for the convenience. But that might be a trade-off that works for you, especially since we’re all so busy these days.

Have you tried these? Do you prefer a different mix? Or do you bake from scratch?