Shopping Gluten Free

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.

Fancy a Gluten Free Cinnamon Swirl?

And my third new find of the week…

Have you ever heard of Fria? I hadn’t, but apparently they are the market leader in gluten free bread in Scandinavia.

I met the Fria team on Friday, when they were running a tasting in John Lewis, Oxford Street (London); they then did a tasting in John Lewis in Bluewater (Kent) on Saturday. Perhaps you saw them there? If you did, then please let us know what you thought of the bread in the comments below.

The Fria breads will be available here in the UK until the end of February 2011, but only from those two places, as part of a promotion of Swedish food in collaboration with the Swedish Trade Council. If you’re interested, then make a special trip…

I wish this trial was running across all John Lewis stores, so that more people would have a chance to try it. Not everyone living gluten free lives in London; I just happened to be in London that day, and was invited to attend.

The breads are frozen, but once defrosted need no refreshing. There are 3 breads available in the UK for the moment: a seeded brown, a white, and some mini-baguettes.

I thought the bread was good: no ‘gritty’ taste, and no after-taste either. Personally, I preferred the seeded brown, but I bought one of all three products to carry home for my daughter to try. And Fria gave me a Kladdkaka (a chocolate brownie cake), which is really very good indeed.

But what I’d really be interested in is their other products, especially:

  • Kanelbulle – a cinnamon swirl. If the dough they’ve used for that is similar to the breads, this would be a winner.
  • Lussekatter – a traditional Swedish sweet bun, flavoured with saffron. This is seasonal – maybe it is an Easter product?
  • Pepparkaksdeg – ready-to-bake dough to create your own gingerbread-men. Also seasonal: I’m guessing for Christmas. I’d make a nativity scene out of this!
  • Slät bulle – A sweet soft bun, flavoured with cardamom. This sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Have a look at the Fria products and let me know what you think. More importantly, let Fria know by email what you think. If there’s enough demand, and if they can set up a relationship with a supermarket, then Fria will consider importing products on a longer term basis.

Are you listening, supermarkets?


UPDATED 6 Feb 11: Two more sampling days to come

Wednesday 16th of February at John Lewis foodhall, Bluewater in Kent, from 11am – 7pm
Thursday 17th of February at John Lewis foodhall on Oxford Street, London, from 10am – 7pm

Gluten Free Advance Party: Honeybuns

Week in, week out, for the last 11 years, I’ve been taking my children to our local leisure centre swimming pool for swimming lessons.

All of them can now swim well, and only our coeliac still goes: she’s doing it as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award. (How they do grow up!)

In all that time, there’s been nothing in the leisure centre cafe that my coeliac daughter could eat, except a plate of chips or a jacket potato. Like so many small cafe-snackbars, they offer a range of hot and cold sandwiches, pies, burgers, cakes and pastries; naturally, none of their main range is gluten free.

However, this week we arrived and discovered a breach in the wall of gluten munchies: Honeybuns have arrived!

In my experience, Honeybuns mount an excellent spearhead action, beating a path for other manufacturers to follow.

For those who don’t know, Honeybuns provide pre-wrapped, portion-sized, gluten free cakes and biscuits, usually available near to the till in cafes and lunchtime providers. The benefit of pre-wrapped goods is a two-fold reassurance:

  • the purchaser gets the reassurance that there’s no cross-contamination in an inexperienced servery area (how often have you seen people using the same serving tongs for gluten free and for not gluten free stuff?)
  • and the seller knows that the unsold products will last a little longer than if they’d been cut off a single large cake (because the new-to-gluten-free stockist won’t know how fast the products will shift).

Plus, they taste nice.

My hope, of course, is that having realised there is a market out there, people will look at expanding their gluten free range. I think that the Honeybuns offering – or others like them – are a great way for first-timers to add a gluten free option, no matter how small, to their standard menu. Yay Honeybuns!

Image: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Getting Saucy with The Black Farmer

The Black Farmer sent us some sample jars of their sauces to review – ages ago, and they’ve been sitting on the side in my kitchen for months, so you can see how hectic life has been here!

The Black Farmer is of course famous for their sausages (and just won an award at the British Sausage Week 2010), but these sauces are a re-release. Apparently they used to be available, but have been absent for a while.

Based on our tastings, I think they’re likely to be a successful venture, though I haven’t noticed them on the shelves at my local supermarkets.

We’ve tried all three: ginger and lime; spicy muscovado, and sweet and spicy tomato.

The spicy muscavado was excellent as a coating for salmon: this was my favourite. We tried the tomato one with salmon too: though I thought it was a little chunky to make an ideal coating sauce, my daughter loved it. Definitely her favourite (and it was tasty), as she loves a tomato sauce. I preferred it as a dipping sauce, or as an accompaniment to cheese.

I was less keen on the ginger and lime sauce, as I found the aftertaste a little bitter – perhaps I should try mixing it with creme fraiche, as the Black Farmer recommended. However, just to show that everyone is different, my husband really liked this one.

So I guess you could conclude that there’s something for everyone here.

Another idea for a complementary product for the Black Farmer would be hearty soups (fresh ones, not tinned): I think both meat soups and vegetable soups would work. Or maybe country pickles, to go with the sausages? Or even ready meals such as a farmhouse bean and sausage stew?

Whichever direction they choose to go in, I suspect that they’ll get a good reception from the coeliac community. There’s such a strong brand following now… I know that if I’ve picked up a pack of another supplier’s gluten free sausages and then see that there is Black Farmer available on the shelves, I’ll put the first pack down. I did just that earlier this week, and then realised the significance of what I’d done.

Great marketing.

Feedback from the Free From Aisle

Do you find yourself chatting to complete strangers in the free from section of the supermarket?

(Oh. Just me then.)

People reviewing the options in Free From are often very willing to chat, share their experiences and recipes, and ask for opinions about this and that. Much more so than in the other aisles (and no, I haven’t been trying that supermarket dating thing!)

I met a couple in Sainsbury’s recently who had some interesting suggestions:

  • that the gluten free fruit pies should be in a mixed pack, because people don’t necessarily want to eat four/six apple pies in a row
  • and that they should be ‘innerwrapped’ in two’s, to help keep the ones not eaten fresh for longer. I know that extra packaging isn’t very green, but neither is expensive gluten free food waste!

Often, there is only one coeliac in a family – like in ours – and prepared gluten free goods tend to be too expensive to feed to the whole family. So thought needs to be given to how to package the foods for one person.

I did make these suggestions to Sainsbury’s Free From team when we met recently, and they not only said they appreciated the feedback, but that they’d been discussing this issue. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I think that if they sent a team down with a couple of camping chairs, a thermos of tea, and some gluten free biscuits to sit in the Free From aisle for a day, and talk to all Free From shoppers who wanted to stop to chat, there’d be even more useful feedback to be gleaned. And everyone likes to be heard…