The Black Farmer: Filling a Gluten Free Hole

Do your children like sausages?

Black Farmer Gluten Free SausagesMy younger two definitely do, so I took the opportunity to cook them some Black Farmer’s Daughter’s Chipolatas at the weekend, when we ended up with a group of 4 sausage-lovers who’d been ice-skating.

They ate the sausages with a chilli that my eldest made at school. My team will eat sausages with anything, but their favourite is sausages and mash, with gravy. The chilli went down OK, but not nearly as well as the sausages did!

The Black Farmer very kindly sent us the sausages to review; we seem to live in a wilderness when it come to their chipolatas – they’re not stocked by any supermarket within 40 minutes drive nor available for delivery by any supermarket prepared to deliver to us. Yes, we’re in a small village, but not that remote… We can (and do, regularly) get hold of the standard Black Farmer Premium Pork sausages, but I was particularly pleased to be able to try the chipolatas, because they’re more of a children’s sausage, being slimmer and less demanding.

black-farmers-daughterYears ago, finding gluten free sausages was remarkably difficult. Marks and Spencer stocked them (sometimes), and a farm shop some miles away also stocked some, though they were strongly, and unusually, flavoured – very adult. Getting hold of GF sausages for my children was hard, and always required a special trip. And every single birthday party my daughter went to seemed to involve taking sausages…

In case you’re very new to living gluten free, or live in a country where using rusk in a sausage is an extraordinary notion: the sausages typically available in the UK are not gluten free. They almost always contain wheat-based rusk. Always, always, check any meat product you buy that has been processed in any way – burgers are another danger zone, so be wary!

Back to the Black Farmer’s Daughter chipolatas, though… It’s tricky, asking a bunch of children for comments, particularly when they’re hungry – there was absolute silence while the sausages were devoured. Silence is good, as it means the food is being enjoyed!

The comments from the children mostly were non-verbal – a thumbs-up – with the occasional ‘brilliant!’ and ‘better than the usual ones’.

The one remaining sausage was eaten by an adult, who said that they thought the sausages were a good quality, staple sausage, with a good taste, but that they were designed for children rather than to an adult taste. Well – yes. That was the point of trying them, really.

One thing that my son misses, and which I haven’t done for ages, is toad in the hole, and these sausages would work well for that. I’ll try and remember to cook him some soon. After all, we’ve some British cooking traditions to uphold!

What I really love about The Black Farmer, his daughter and the sausages is the business strategy and marketing. How savvy is that, to identify that there is a gluten-free gap in the sausage market, and work to fill it so well? And the marketing is just fab: “gluten free sausages? Those will be the Black Farmer ones, then…”

Plus, they’ve some new products coming out soon, including the Daughter’s mini sausages and sausage marbles.

Now those really are going to be wonderful for children’s birthday parties.

Images taken from Black Farmer’s website.

Gluten Free Cake Decorations

If you’re lucky enough to live in the States, you might be interested in these… Ticings.

Gluten free cake decorations, ideal for those of us who aren’t expert cake decorators. They’re offering a range of different decorations, such as sprinkle mixes and circus party images for children, Twilight decorations for teenage girls (both Team Jacob and Team Edward), and for celebrations such as Valentine’s Day or baby showers – even some gorgeous and very modern abstracts and flowers.

It looks as though they’re available in three different sizes: two cup cake sizes and a full-size cake. They’re made from corn starch and food colouring, so are both gluten free and kosher. All you need to do is to bake the cake, ice it with butter cream, cream cheese or royal icing (though it is also possible to stick them to ready-made iced cakes) – and then peel and stick.

You can even have your company logo printed onto the Ticings, though it isn’t cheap. How fab is that?

What a brilliant idea. If only they shipped to the UK!

Gluten free breakfast: cereal and choice

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mix Your Own Cereals have become a very popular trend. I first became aware of this via Springwise (a fascinating site, which posts new ideas on a variety of businesses – here’s the link for food and beverages), but I’ve seen a few other sites in passing too. And I didn’t think much more about it.

custom choice cereals

But then I was contacted by Custom Choice Cereal, who provide only gluten free cereals to mix and match. They kindly offered to let my daughter mix up a cereal so she could try it. (We’re all for full disclosure, following the new US rules).

She enjoyed choosing her ingredients. First you choose the base mix, and then add in fruit, nuts and seeds. She chose corn flakes, raisins, apricots and walnuts. One of the nice features about the site is that you can see how adding an ingredient changes the nutritional makeup of your mix; perhaps a little disconcerting, when you realise the fat/sugar content of your favourite additions.

Then the really difficult choice: what to call it. This is a rather clever idea, giving, I suppose, a sense of ownership. It would be fab if your mix became publicly listed (without your name, perhaps, for privacy) and then you could see how many other people had selected your mix… I suggest that they could think about awarding a small prize for the people who invent the most popular mix – that way, people would get a sense of pride if ‘their’ mix did well, and they might even do some marketing by recommendation, too!

Then the package arrived; that in itself is exciting, because we love parcels, but the fact that the label bore the name she’d given the mix was special.

The mix? We waited until the next morning to try it… It got two thumbs up, and she had a second bowlful. A rare event!

I was concerned that it would be too sweet, because the cornflakes are fruit-juice sweetened (and I have tried some horribly sweet cereals in the past), but I was wrong: the cornflakes are excellent.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that breakfast is a meal we struggle with. It’s hard to find something interesting to eat on a regular basis. One of the good things about this mix-your-own system, it seems to me, is that it gives you the element of choice. My non-GF children regularly try different cereals for breakfast, because it is easy for them to find variety. It’s less easy for those living gluten free. So with mix-your-own, if you got bored of an apricot/walnut combo, you could try a cinnamon granola with dried banana flakes. For a change. Or throw in some cranberries or pistachios… Apparently there are 164 million gluten-free combinations available at Custom Choice, so it’s not surprising that it took her a while to choose. Choice, after all, not being something that she gets to do that much.

I asked Hajo at Custom Choice Cereal what it was about gluten free cereals that appealed to him as a business idea; he has tried living gluten free to see just how difficult it was, and has celiac friends. It turns out he’s a big fan of cereals, and he recognised that gluten free consumers had limited choice. (He’s so right!)

I wish him all the best in this new venture. One day, perhaps they’ll set up an outpost on this side of the Atlantic, and we’ll get to play this game again…

Gluten Free Fresh Bread: Go ASDA!

Competition for the best gluten free fresh bread is hotting up!Dietary Specials Fresh Bread

Just when you’ve got used to seeing fresh gluten free bread on the shelves at Tesco, there’s a competitor coming along… This is all good news for people who have to live gluten free. It improves choice, provides healthy competition and publicises the issue. Hurrah!

Dietary Specials are announcing their new gluten- and wheat-free fresh breads, available in ASDA. Each is 400g, and is either a soft white loaf, suitable for sandwiches, or a multi-seeded bread using linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I love a seeded loaf myself, though I know my daughter would probably prefer a plain white. I don’t know of another seeded fresh gluten free bread, do you?

Being fresh bread, this doesn’t need toasting or refreshing – another bonus. And I’m really pleased that these fresh breads are becoming available in supermarkets, which makes it much easier for people to cater for my daughter.

And apparently, these loaves will be available at £1.50 until the end of October (so act fast!). I’m looking forward to testing this bread, though we haven’t an ASDA near us, so I’ll have to look out for one over half-term – do let us know what you think of the bread if you find it first…

Taste Test: TigerTiger Snax

We were intrigued to see the new TigerTiger Snax in Sainsbury’s this week, so we picked one up to try: Jasmine Rice with a Thai Green Curry sauce.

tigertiger snaxIt’s a good idea: one of the things we struggle with is finding a variety of quick and easy gluten free snack meals. And it’s pretty much like I remember pot noodles to be – pour the sauce over the carbohydrate and heat – so, as she said, it takes about as long as it does to make nachos.

But I think we made a bad choice, and not only because it brought back pot noodle memories (pot noodles: something else my coeliac daughter has never experienced). We found the sauce to be thin, both literally and in taste terms – it was clearly spiced in a Thai green curry style, but had little depth to the taste underneath the warmth. Neither my daughter nor I wanted to finish the pot.

It’s a bit of a disappointment, not only because we do like to find new gluten free products that she can enjoy, but because the TigerTiger site is very good. They have a huge range of products (many not gluten free, but still look delicious) and an ingredients glossary. There are a whole stash of recipes on there, which can be filtered so that you only see the gluten free recipes (or, only the gluten free, vegetarian, Indian recipes, for example). That is a wonderful thing. It would be nice to be able to filter the products too, so you needn’t see all the other products, and it’s a shame that the online shop no longer exists.

So: we won’t be buying that Snax pot again – we’re not going to like everything – but I will look out for TigerTiger products. If you try the Snax products, do let me know what you think…