Living Gluten Free

Ginger is the New Chocolate: Judging at the Free From Food Awards

judging-cake

What do you think about gluten free cake—and how do you think you’d feel about eating 32 different cakes or biscuits in an afternoon?

I was excited to head to London last week to be on the judging panel for the Free From Food Awards again—the tea-time session: cakes and biscuits.

In one sense it was an easier session to judge this year than last, because there were fewer entries (last year we ate through 55 cakes…) and no chocolate brownies. I like a chocolate brownie (though I like my mother’s version best), but there were an awful lot of chocolate entries last year…

This year the key flavour was ginger, to the astonishment of an American judge – apparently ginger cake and ginger biscuits aren’t such a big thing in the US.

You wouldn’t think that gluten free cake had trends and fashions, but it really does, and clearly ginger is A Thing at the moment. And thank goodness there are trends: I’m delighted to see a trend towards gluten free celebration cakes and sharing cakes available in supermarkets. Sharing food, particularly at celebrations, matters; and not just to children.

Overall, of course, the trend is for gluten free cake to get better – which makes it harder to distinguish the front-runners at a judging event. There are always a few of the old-fashioned offerings that just don’t make the grade in terms of taste and texture; but there are an increasing number of innovative brands – often the smaller manufacturers – that are really trying to offer us something new and better.

And that makes judging hard, and means that the judging panel gets increasingly picky. There’s certainly a lot of debate and discussion about everything from the taste and texture to the ingredients and the labelling. We taste blind (so we don’t know who has made any of it, and we’re not swayed by any branding) but we are given a list of ingredients, and told what claims to be allergy-free are made by each product. And these are taken very seriously, and discussed in detail.

What is better, a cake that makes every effort to be allergy-free (meaning it can be eaten by lots of different people) or one that a particular group (say, coeliacs) has been asking manufacturers to make for years and which is technically difficult to make?

And there was lots of discussion about the difficulties of mass-producing cake, and of making it available across the country. One of the judges in the session I went to works in free from for a large supermarket, and spoke about how difficult it is to get shelf space for free from foods, or to get manufacturers to switch to making foods free from (even when it would only take a tiny change). That was fascinating; we may complain about the range of foods available to us in supermarkets, but someone, behind the scenes, has been working very hard to get those onto the shelves. And there was a great deal of discussion about whether those shelves should be dedicated free from shelves, or whether free from food should be available alongside ‘normal’ food.

It’s always entertaining to be on the judging panel, and we all had our own favourites. At the end there’s a big reveal, so the judges can find out who makes which cake, and make notes on which to buy (or recommend that you should try).

No clues here about which were the winning products (it’s a secret!), but my personal favourites included:

  • Creole Fruitcake from Auchtermuchty Cake Company. This was delicious. I always make our Christmas cake but if I was going to buy one, I’d buy this.
  • Fiery Gingers from Mummy Bakes – these were very gingery, with a real kick. Yum!
  • Mince Pies from Piece of Cake – I love mince pies, and these were very beautiful, and delicious. I thought the pastry was fab.
  • Doughnuts from Borough22 – doughnuts! These were non-greasy, and vegan. Amazing. I’m going to find out if they’ll ship outside London…

The shortlist will be out soon – and the Awards ceremony will be in a couple of months. It’s exciting for the judges and for the entrants. After all, I only ate cake this year; there are lots of other categories to find out about!

Gluten Free Groups Worldwide

world map

I had a question from India recently, about how to get started with a gluten free diet, so I searched for a coeliac society in India. Then Coeliac Daughter asked me to find out how easy it would be for her to eat gluten free in Malaysia and Singapore.

I thought it might be helpful to start collating a list of national coeliac (celiac) societies, gluten free groups, or other helpful sites, for people living in, or visiting, those countries. Some of these are Facebook pages set up by individuals or groups where there isn’t yet a national society (that I can find, anyway).

No doubt this list will grow as I find more over time, but here’s a start.

AOECS is the Association of European Coeliac Societies
Coeliac Youth of Europe

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
A
Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Andorra: Celíacs d’Andorra
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina: Asistencia al Celiaco de la Argentina – ACELA
Asociación Celíaca Argentina
Armenia
Australia: Coeliac Australia
Austria: Österreichische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Zöliakie
Azerbaijan
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B
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium: Société Belge de Coeliaquie
Belgium: Vlaamse Coeliakie Vereniging
Belize
Benin
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil: Asociación de Celiacos de Brasil – ACELBRA
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso
Burundi
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C
Cabo Verde
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada: Canadian Celiac Association
Central African Republic
Chad
Chile: Fundacion Convivir
China
Colombia: La Fundación colombiana de celiacos
Comoros
Congo, Republic of the
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Costa Rica: Asociación Pro Personas Celiacas de Costa Rica
Cote d’Ivoire
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic: Czech Coeliac Society
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D
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
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E
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
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F
Fiji
Finland
France: Association Française Des Intolérants Au Gluten
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G
Gabon
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guatemala
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
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H
Haiti
Honduras
Hungary
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I
Iceland
India: Celiac India
Indonesia
Iran: Iranian Coeliac Disease
Iraq
Ireland
Israel: Celiac Association of Israel
Italy
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J
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
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K
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
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L
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg: L’Association Luxembourgeoise des Intolérants au Gluten (A.L.I.G.)
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M
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mexico: Asistencia al Celíaco de México – ACELMEX
Micronesia
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
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N
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands: Nederlands Coeliakie Vereniging
New Zealand: Coeliac New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
North Korea
Norway: Norsk Cøliakiforening (NCF)
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O
Oman
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P
Pakistan: Pakistani Celiac Society
Palau
Palestine
Panama: Fundación de Celiacos de Panama (FUCEP)
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay: Fundación Paraguaya de Celiacos – FUPACEL
Peru: Asociación de Celiacos del Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
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Q
Qatar
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R
Romania
Russia
Rwanda
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S
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Samoa
San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Celiac Patients Support Group
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia: Slovensko Drustvo za Celiakijo
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
South Korea
South Sudan
Spain: Federación de Asociaciones de Celiacos de España (FACE)
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Suriname
Swaziland
Sweden: Svenska Celiaki Forbundets
Switzerland: Association Suisse Romande
de la Cœliakie (ARC)
Syria
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T
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Thailand
Timor-Leste
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia: Association Tunisienne de la Maladie Coeliaque
Turkey: Cölyakla Yasam Dernegi
Turkmenistan
Tuvalu
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U
Uganda
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates: Gluten Free – U.A.E
UK Coeliac UK
USA Celiac Disease Foundation
USA: Celiac Sprue Assocation
Uruguay: Asociación Celíaca del Uruguay – ACELU
Uzbekistan
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V
Vanuatu
Vatican City (Holy See)
Venezuela: Fundación Celiacos Venezuela
Vietnam
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Y
Yemen
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Z
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Runny nose: do you need to be gluten free?

nose

I had an interesting email from a reader the other day, telling me about her route to diagnosis.

She thought – and I agree – that it might help someone else get to a diagnosis, so here it is:

“I have just been diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerance after spending years of being told I had IBS.

I had a strange way of finding out.

For 18 months I have had a very drippy nose, sounds silly I know, but it got to such an extent I had a tissue to my nose constantly. I looked like Rudolph, and I’m sure some people thought I must have an illegal habit. (Joke.)

I got so cross with the constant runs, I looked it up on the internet. It’s called postnasal drip, (doctors call it ‘old man’s drip’), and is associated with lactose intolerance, which in turn is associated with gluten intolerance, hence my celiac diagnosis, because I told my doctor.

Since being gluten and lactose free, my nose is almost back to normal, and my guts are sooooo grateful for the gluten free diet.

Just thought the runny nose thing might help somebody to ascertain their condition.”

So there you have it: got a permanently runny nose? Have your gut checked out…

Is there lecitem in your toffee apple?

toffee-applesHave you ever heard of lecitem?

I hadn’t, until coeliac daughter told me about it recently.

She’d bought a toffee apple (her first ever) as a reward for herself after an interview, but discovered it was not gluten free, since it contained lecitem.

Not gluten free? Surely it’s just an apple, with sugar, syrup, water, and maybe a tiny bit of (gluten free!) vinegar?

Lecitem, it turns out, is a type of bread improver, and contains malt and wheat gluten. When used for bread, it makes it more ‘machineable’ – silkier and smoother – especially if you’re using a high speed or spiral mixer. Perhaps, when added to the toffee, it makes it run through the machines better?

In any case, it was a surprise to me, and a disappointment to her. The things they decide to put gluten in!

So I made her toffee apples. I’m such a mean mother: I’d never done that before.

I used this recipe, based on the one from BBC Good Food:

Six crunchy eating apples
200g sugar
½ tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsps golden syrup

  • Blanch the apples by covering them in boiling water briefly to remove the waxy coating. Dry them, twist off the stalks, and push a wooden skewer or lolly stick into the stalk end of the apple. This will be your handle.
  • Put the sugar and 50ml of water into a pan, and heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vinegar and syrup.
  • Prepare a sheet of baking parchment for cooling the apples on.
  • Boil until the mix reaches the ‘hard crack’ stage (or 140C). Testing with a sugar thermometer is easy, but if you don’t have one, drop a small amount of the toffee mix into a bowl of cold water. It should go hard immediately, and be easy to break when you take it out of the water. If you can still mould it into different shapes, go on boiling the toffee.
  • Then dip and rotate each apple in the hot toffee until it is covered, let the excess drip off, and then put it on the baking parchment to harden.

Make sure the toffee is cool before you eat it!

There’s no secret: Quorn, now gluten free

quorn-minceWhat do you think about free-from products that try to mimic the ‘normal’ product?

I don’t eat meat. As a vegetarian student back in the 1980s I tried TVP: textured vegetable protein. The idea was that it mimicked meat, so you could use it to replace mince in recipes such as shepherd’s pie, or chili.

However, it had to be soaked and then boiled to be rehydrated – and it stank worse than a butchers shop does to a vegetarian.

I believe it’s now much improved, but that experience means that I tend to avoid vegetarian food that tries to replicate meat. After all, if you don’t eat meat, you don’t eat it, right?

So I was intrigued though slightly doubtful when I received some vouchers to try the new gluten free Quorn products.

Quorn is a mycoprotein-based protein, so is suitable for vegetarians – indeed, it’s received a seal of approval from the Vegetarian Society. But we’ve been avoiding it, because for the most part it’s not been gluten free–until now.

There is now a suite of Quorn products that are gluten free, and clearly marked as such on the packaging–I looked at the Quorn range for the first time in years when I went to the supermarket recently. In fact, there are 27 different Quorn products certified as gluten free by Coeliac UK.

So we tried it. Well, Coeliac Daughter did: I couldn’t get past the TVP experience. And she reports that though the ham-style Quorn was OK (didn’t smell quite right, apparently), the mince-style Quorn was indistinguishable from mince, and worked well in her recipes. As a meat-eater who doesn’t have any TVP baggage to deal with, she found it to be very acceptable.

And apparently, more meat-eaters than vegetarians buy Quorn, especially since they are promoting it as #healthyprotein, rather than as vegetarian. Interesting…

Do go and look at their website. The link to their gluten free section is hidden down in the footer, so I’d recommend that they add it to the main navigation for easy access, especially since they’re promoting their gluten free range at the moment. They’ve got a small collection of gluten free Quorn recipes too.

I might suggest that Coeliac Daughter try the bacon-style Quorn next…