Shopping Gluten Free

Experimenting with Almond Milk

almond milkDo you have a preferred non-dairy milk?

Luckily, we don’t need to be lactose-free in our house, though there was a little friend some years ago who was dairy-free, so I got used to using Pure to cook with, to having Swedish Glace dairy-free icecream in the freezer, and even soya milk occasionally. Though I’m not a fan of soya milk…

I was offered the chance to try some almond milks – Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond – and since I love almonds (there’s always an open packet here, for snacking on) I thought I’d say yes. They kindly sent me two: one ‘original’ and one ‘unsweetened’.

Because I was hesitant about the ‘sweetened’ version (sweet milk?), I decided to try making yoghurt with it. I have a yoghurt maker, because we do get through a lot of yoghurt, and there are lots of recipes for almond milk yoghurt on the web… How hard can it be? I thought. Instead of using live yoghurt as a starter, which I’d usually use for ‘normal’ yoghurt, I bought some freeze-dried yoghurt starter, and I added a little extra sugar, so the culture would have something to eat.

Oh dear.

It went well for the first few hours, but overnight the yoghurt split and curdled, turning a rather unpleasant grey colour. I wasn’t expecting it to be exactly the same – because almond milk just isn’t the same colour as dairy milk – but this was a disaster.

Checking up on the Almond Breeze site, it does say ‘don’t make yoghurt’—and now I know why.

However, the unsweetened almond milk experiment worked very well.

It has a pleasant and extremely mild taste, and worked well in hot chocolate (the hot chocolate drinker in the house said it was ‘awesome’ – hmmm) and was surprisingly OK in tea: I thought it might taste a bit odd, but it really didn’t.

We enjoyed it on cereals in the morning, and even in porridge (use gluten free oats, obviously – and only if you can tolerate them).

And today I made a medieval apple almond soup, from A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook*… very nice. This is essentially apple puree, let down with almond milk and honey, with cinnamon sugar, saffron and salt. Very much a ‘honey’ taste, and again, very mild in flavour – and very autumnal, somehow. (How appropriate, if ‘winter is coming’…)

A bonus is that Almond Breeze is not only lower in calories and carbs than cows milk, but also has just as much calcium, so if this is something that matters to you – and it should be – then you could switch without losing the calcium benefits.

Will we switch? Well, we don’t need to be dairy-free, so probably not all the way—besides, I really like yoghurt—but next time I have a dairy-free visitor, I’ll look for almond milk.

Yes! You Can

Which gluten free bread are you eating at the moment?

Maybe you make homemade regularly; maybe you get bread on prescription… but if you buy gluten free bread from a UK supermarket, do try the new Roberts Bakery bread, branded ‘Yes! You Can’.

They do white and brown sliced loaves, and they are really very good indeed.

After my earlier posting, when I found the Yes! You Can loaves unexpectedly in my local supermarket, I was contacted within 3 hours by the General Manager at Frank Roberts & Sons (GF Division). Impressive response times!

He sent us some loaves to try, both white and brown: I think we’ve given them an exhaustive tryout, using the bread at a variety of meals, fresh, toasted, and in recipes such as fish cakes, including in packed lunch sandwiches for daughter’s Duke of Edinburgh expedition – yes, they survived without crumbling!

Apart from the taste, which we like a lot, and the texture, which is soft and pliable without falling apart, the bread has been carefully made to be low in fat. We know this is an on-going issue with gluten free products, and I think this is commendable. The loaves are also wheat free and dairy free – and are made without egg and nuts, though eggs are handled on-site, and nuts are handled by suppliers of ingredients.

Notably, the bread was enjoyed by coeliac and non-coeliac alike: yes, we run a mixed household here.

Do try the bread. You can find the loaves in Tesco and the Co-op across the country: our Tesco had more in yesterday.

They’re made at the Davies Bakery near Chester, which is a dedicated gluten free bakery, and which was bought specifically so that the Roberts Bakery could enter the gluten free market.

There are plans for other products… I’m looking forward to finding out what those might be!

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!

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?

The Black Farmer: Trial by Teenager

You already know we like the Black Farmer products; I’ve talked about them before. They’ve developed some new products, and sent some for us to review.

I assembled my expert team of five teenage meat-eaters (actually, it was a study evening at our house) and tried out the new products on them.

I didn’t describe or name the products at all—I knew that the mention of apple would put at least one of them off—I just asked for comments:

  • Black Farmer Beef Burgers

    “no gross strangly bits or wet stuff”

    You can tell this was a group of teenage testers, can’t you? Normally I buy supermarket brand 100% beef burgers, and hadn’t realised they were a bit gristly, because I don’t eat meat myself. I’m obviously going to have to switch, as these cooked nicely without producing any water or fatty bits…

  • Black Farmer’s Daughter Pork Meatballs; Black Farmer’s Daughter Beef Meatballs

    “it’s all good”

    The beef were slightly preferred (3:2), as the pork ones were apparently a little ‘sausagey’ for some, and the beef ones were slightly chewier and spicier (though not at all hot). One teenager commented on the “gritty bits”… which turned out to be herb stalks! Honestly, teenagers…

  • Black Farmer Pork and Apple Burgers

    “they were great, can we get them again?”

    What can I add to that? I love positive feedback on a meal, almost as much as I like help with the washing-up afterwards.

So will I source these myself, given the responses?

I think it will be worth the effort, and it will be extra trouble, because they are only currently available at Ocado. However, they are on promotion at the moment (til 19 April) and 15% off is worth having, wouldn’t you say?

I wish they were more widely available. Sainsburys, I’m looking at you…

Have you tried these yet? Let us know what you think of them.