Missing the Muffins

Back in November, I was invited up to Newcastle by Warburtons to visit their gluten free bakery. We were also given the opportunity to taste their newest products: muffins.

These were still secret at that time, so I couldn’t tell you about them, but we were delighted by them at the tasting; they have now been launched onto what should be a grateful gluten-free market.

I couldn’t go to the launch event at the end of January, but they kindly sent me a sample of the blueberry and cranberry muffins as a reminder. They’re just as good now as they were then. I especially love the lemon and poppy seed ones, but they are quite grown-up and lemony, so your gluten free child might prefer the blueberry ones. There’s also a fruit loaf, which is good hot and buttery, but I’m a big fan of the muffins.

These are little loaf-shaped cakes. I usually think that muffins are too large and dry, but these are fab: moist, with a good quantity of ‘bits’ to cake. Not too large, and delicious.

I know there are plenty of gluten free cake offerings on the market, but these are special, and I’d love them to ‘take’, and be a success. They could be offered to non-GF eaters, and they wouldn’t know… However, I haven’t spotted them anywhere in the wild yet, and I have looked.

Round here, there are a range of supermarkets: Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Co-Op and Aldi. Yet I haven’t seen these fab new products anywhere. I’ve looked on the Warburtons stockist locator, and despite there being plenty of places apparently stocking the bread products—including the community shop 3 miles away— there’s no listing of muffins near me.

I think I must live in a Warburtons Muffin desert, despite being a northerner! I’m going to have to make a nuisance of myself at the supermarket Customer Services again…

Have you seen them? When you do, buy a pack—they come in packs of two—and let me know what you think.

Allergy Alert: Virani Gram Flour

Another one! Is this the gluten free oats scenario all over again?

Tests have found levels of gluten above the limits for foods labelled gluten free in Virani Gram Flour. This is the 2kg pack size, with a best before date of July 2013 (batch code BBE July 2013 010).

Perhaps Natco and Virani have the same supplier for gram flour?

Whatever the cause, the levels of gluten mean that this product can no longer be labelled gluten free. Do bear in mind that the labelling laws have recently changed, and that the ingredient of gram flour is naturally gluten free.

Compare and Contrast: Gluten Free Food

Being part of the judging panel for a couple of categories in the Free From Food Awards 2012 has been a delight…

Michelle (Foodsmatter) has brought together a wide range of expertise and interests: allergy bloggers, chefs, nutritionists, product development experts, food writers and foodies, journalists, and more. And it was fascinating to see the different perspectives on each product. Some people were concerned about the nutritional value; others about the taste; some about whether the product managed to serve multiple allergy-groups; others about whether it was innovative and moving the free from sector forward.

We tasted blind, which resulted in some surprises when the manufacturers were revealed. And tasting a wide range of different products in the same category at the same time isn’t something that you do regularly – unless, I suppose you work in product development, or get to participate in this kind of judging activity. Gluten free food is just too expensive to buy lots of different varieties at the same time! So that too was a surprising exercise (for me, at least).

And valuable: I came across some products which were new to me, which I shall definitely be buying for my daughter to try in the future. I can’t tell you which – or even which category – as we’ve been sworn to secrecy at least until the shortlist comes out in about ten days time. Check the Free From Food Awards site after 17th February to see who has been shortlisted – and I will let you know who are the eventual winners after the awards ceremony in April.

However, if you are part of a coeliac group – or even if you just know a few other gluten-free people – it might be worth running a tasting event yourselves, on a smaller scale. How about picking a category, and asking everyone to bring a different brand? Then prepare the products, and have a tasting session!

We did this with gluten free pizza once, when I ran a support group for coeliac children – about a decade ago now – and it was fun, though it did turn into a bit of a pizza festival for the children. You could do the same exercise with whatever you fancy, to get the chance to directly compare different products, maybe discover some new favourites – and have a chat about living gluten free at the same time.

Let me know what you discover – and do remember to look out for the Free From Food Awards shortlist this month and the winners in the spring. You might also want to check out Michelle’s FreeFromFoodsMatter site where you will find details of hundreds of gluten-free foods.

Allergy Alert: Natco Foods Gram Flour

Ordinarily, of course, gram flour is gluten free. However, occasionally testing reveals that it has become contaminated with gluten in some way.

This seems to have happened in the case of Natco Gluten Free Gram Flour, in which in one batch, levels of gluten have been found that are above the limits for foods labelled gluten-free.

This is the 2kg pack, best before October 2012 (batch code: 110420 BN0509). No other Natco products are known to be affected.

If you’ve bought this product, don’t use it, and contact the company to find out how to return it.

More information on the Food Standards Agency site – and you can visit the Natco site. The 2kg pack is not available via that site today, but you should be able to find some contact details.

Don’t let this put you off gram flour, which is naturally gluten free, being made from ground chana dal (a kind of yellow split pea).

Gluten free brownies: vegan, raw, and delicious

Do you know much about raw food?

I confess I didn’t; I suppose, if anything, I’d assumed it was lots of salad… very healthy, very crunchy, but perhaps not very exciting.

However, I’ve just received a pack of crisps and brownies from Gourmet Raw, and they are delicious – and definitely gourmet! How wrong can you be?

The brownies come in various flavours – I loved the mint one best, closely followed by hazelnut, while my husband and son preferred the orange flavour. These are a little like eating chocolate truffles: rich, squodgy and very, very more-ish. Whichever the favourite, though, they’re all gone!

Some of them are carob brownies – not chocolate. I’ve always liked the taste of carob, but it can be a surprise if you’re expecting the taste of chocolate, so bear that in mind. Others are cacao (which goes into chocolate and cocoa). The range of flavours are: cacao cashew, cacao cocobanana, cacao mint, carob hazelnut, carob orange. Yum!

We were sent 3 flavours of crisps, too: spicy Thai, red pepper and beetroot. Given that these are raw foods (nothing cooked over 40.5C), you’ll be asking how these can possibly be crisps… and of course they’re not slices of potato cooked in high-temperature fat!

The red pepper ones, for example, are sprouted buckwheat, flaxseed, fresh red pepper, smoked paprika and lime compressed somehow into slim squares just right for dipping into your favourite dip (the red pepper ones + hummous get my vote).

I was less keen on the beetroot ones, but then I’ve never been a big fan of beetroot. However, since I’m a grown-up now, I did try them – and helped to finish the pack, too! I might even nerve up and try beetroot as a vegetable…

Gourmet Raw are based in Shepton Mallet, but you can buy their products from a range of stockists in the south of England – or from their online shop. And they’ve kindly provided a voucher code for you: if you quote GR004 when you buy from their online shop, you’ll get 10% off. I earn a small commission if you use this code too, so it’s good for both of us, and you get to try some excellent gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free treats.

Plus, they’re vegan. We had a gluten-free vegan friend visit us at the weekend, and I really wished I’d saved some for her – but we hadn’t been able to resist! Next time I’ll have to order some in specially for her…