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When in France…

schär ciabattaAs always, we spent some time in France this summer (Beaune and the Jura, since you ask), and spent some time in supermarkets.

We usually do find some gluten free treasure, and this year we found Schär speculoos biscuits and wraps.

Speculoos biscuits are cinnamon spiced Belgian biscuits, and were very, very good—those of you who can eat gluten may be aware that Ben & Jerry’s make a speculoos biscuit icecream.

And the wrap was outstandingly successful at wrapping… soft and flexible, just as a wrap should be.

But can we find them here in the UK? No.

I called Schär to ask where I could buy them, and they confirmed that they are not available here in the UK. It doesn’t sound as though they have plans to introduce them either.

I don’t know about you, but I feel we have enough gluten free versions of everyday biscuits and chocolate muffins, popular as those are. I’d like to see more exciting and unusual products on the shelf, and Schär have plenty of those. The supermarkets here have really upped their game in the last few months, and I’d like to see more Schär products on our shelves. Bring on speculoos biscuits, puff pastry, high quality wraps and croissants!

There are many other Schär products available in other countries that we can’t get yet: how about fusilli with arrabiata sauce, ricotta and chard ravioli, or ladyfingers (for making tiramisu with)?

Schär are definitely working on bringing more things into the UK; we were sent a range of goodies to try recently, including a wide variety of breads and some frozen foods.

Their frozen range is increasingly interesting. We’ve always enjoyed the Bonta d’Italia pizzas and the white rolls (the ones that look petalled), but they’ve added chicken kievs, cannelloni and caserecce. My expert taster recommends the cannelloni and caserecce ready meals… apparently they don’t look appealing at first, but when you cook them they look much nicer and are fantastic for a quick meal.

Of the breads, our favourites were the paninis and the baguettes. The paninis were good, and were perfect for packed lunches; they are surprisingly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The baguettes, too, were very well received – and the salti crackers were very, very addictive. It is more than possible that I ate the whole packet of those… (oops).

The range of foods available now amazes me when I think back to when we first started out on the gluten free journey 20 years ago. What must it have been like 20 years before that?

Teal pumpkins

teal pumpkin

Do you know about the teal pumpkin movement?

It was launched as a USA-wide project in 2014 by FoodAllergy.org, following a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET). The idea is that if you are happy to welcome trick or treaters at Halloween (not everyone is!), and would like to make the experience better for children with allergies, you provide some non-food treats (or some safe allergy-free treats) and display a teal pumpkin so that visiting children and their parents know that you can offer something safe.

Trick or treating is becoming increasingly popular over here in the UK, following the tradition set by the USA, where Halloween is a big festival. I’m not a fan of trick or treating myself—and it hasn’t happened around here for years—but thought I’d share this idea with you.

Of course, it doesn’t take away the responsibility of the parents to choose safe foods for their child, and to teach the child to make safe choices. But it might just make the experience nicer for everyone. And it might mean that some children would be able to join in. Although part of the fun of the night is dressing up, and being out after dark with your friends, part of it is the treats—and if you know that you may not be able to join in with the feasting, that can take some of the fun out of the evening.

Although we’ve hardly ever done trick or treating (and only to known houses when we did) I do remember when Coeliac Daughter would come home from parties with sweet treats, and then pick out the few that she could eat and give the rest to her siblings. I also used to keep a stock of safe treats on a high shelf, and then swapped them for the unsafe ones in her bag. She quickly learned which were safe to eat, and which were not. The trickiest treats were those from abroad, where the ingredients list (if there’d been one) had obviously been on the outer packaging, and wasn’t available to check…

What do you think? Do you let your coeliac (or lactose-intolerant, or nut-allergy) child go trick or treating? And if so, do you think the idea of a teal pumpkin is a good one?

Free From Eating Out Awards Shortlist

eating out - FFEOA

I’m delighted to have been asked to serve as judge for the Free From Food Eating Out Awards (FFEOA) again this year. Last year was great, though it’s hard to believe that it was a year ago already…

We’ve completed the first stage of the judging process, and the results of the second stage have been announced (see below). More details are available on the FreeFrom Food Eating Out Awards website.

This is the third year of the awards, and the shortlist shows how very much easier it is getting for people with allergies to find a safe, reliable – and enjoyable – place to eat out. How many of these places have you tried? If there’s one near you that you haven’t visited yet—or even if it’s your local and you go often—go and eat there soon. And often. We need to support places that work so hard to offer safe food options for people with allergies.

The winners will be announced at the Food Matters Live conference, in November.

Cafés, coffee shops and tearooms – sponsored by Can I Eat There?

Café chains

Fish and Chip shops

Independent Fish & Chip shops

Fish & Chip shop chains

Pub restaurants –sponsored by Genon Laboratories

Independent Pub Restaurants

Pub chains

Restaurants – sponsored by Riso Gallo

Independent Restaurants

Restaurant chains

Corporate Hospitality & Venues

B&Bs and guest houses – sponsored by Thomas Ridley Foodservice

Schools, colleges and universities – sponsored by Thomas Ridley Foodservice

Food manufactured for food service

Savoury

Sweet

  • Borough 22: Raspberry Pistachio Glazed Doughnuts
  • Brakes: Gluten-free Carrot Cake
  • Brakes: Gluten-free Sticky Toffee Puddings
  • Honeybuns: Squillionaire
  • Nairn’s: GF Breakfast Biscuit Breaks (Apricot)
  • Nestlé: GoFree Corn Flakes (single serve pouch)
  • Pidy: Gluten Free Sweet Tartelette Cases 8.5cm
  • Taywell: Chocolate Dairy Free Frozen Dessert

Fancy a (gluten free) pizza tonight?

gluten free pizza

It’s always interesting when a big ‘normal’ brand moves into the gluten free market… will it work? Will their product be as good gluten free? Will they be able to sustain interest in their gluten free offering, or will it fold quietly?

I went to the launch of the Dr Oetker Ristorante gluten free pizza range this week, in London. They were running a direct like-for-like comparison of their current (normal) pizza and their new (gluten free) pizzas, with a range of side dishes and cake (all gluten free).

Apparently Dr Oetker are the UK’s favorite thin and crispy frozen pizza brand; I asked why they were launching their product now (when there are already gluten free pizzas on the market), and was told that it had taken a while to get both the base and the topping right.

As we know, the free from market is increasingly interesting to food manufacturers, because it is big and continues to grow. Like so many others, Dr Oetker has developed their gluten free product to be of interest not just for coeliacs, but also for the large number of people who choose to be gluten free as a lifestyle choice.

The gluten free versions of their pizzas are being launched across Europe now—though apparently the UK is the first to produce them. They are made on a dedicated gluten free line in a mixed factory.

The packs are clearly marked as gluten free, so it will be easy to spot them in the freezer section of your supermarket (in Iceland from September, and Tesco from October).

And what did I think of the pizza? Longtime readers will know that it is our eldest daughter who is the coeliac in our house, not me, so I was able to taste and compare both the normal and the gluten free versions—at least, the vegetarian ones. And I found the gluten free version to be very convincing—very like the normal version—and the topping stayed put nicely (it didn’t slide off, which can be a problem sometimes).

dr oetker gluten free pizzaI would like to see a wider range. Mozzarella & pesto or salami are the gluten free options at the moment. I’d like to see something more adventurous: perhaps a good vegetariana one, or goats cheese and caramelised onion. Apparently Dr Oetker will develop more flavours if enough people express interest, and obviously I could always add toppings to the mozzarella one if I wanted.

In the meantime, though, I think this is a pizza that a coeliac could share with a non-coeliac friend, and both would be happy.

Gluten Free and Raw Apple Pie

raw-apple-pie

We’re really not a raw food household. We eat some food raw, of course: salad vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. But I do typically use heat to cook with.

For some reason, though, I was intrigued to see the new recipe book by Juliette Bryant called Divine Desserts; it’s full of gluten free and vegan (so also dairy free) superfood desserts. And most of them are raw. I was sent a copy to review, so I thought I’d try one of the recipes as an experiment.

I made the Raw Apple Pie, and served it to a group of hungry young adults and teenagers. And it was astonishingly successful!

There were a few dubious faces before they’d tried it—”what do you mean, raw? Raw apple pie?”—and I know that some of the guests only accepted a piece to be polite.

And it has to be said that it wasn’t the most beautiful and delicate dessert I’ve ever made. (How is it that my results never look as lovely as the professionals? The picture at the top is of Juliette’s version…)

But they genuinely loved it—they wolfed it down—and came back the next day for more. As did I! It tastes of Christmas, somehow… and although my attempt wasn’t beautiful, it was appealing to look at and tasted wonderful.

We’re going to try the Raw Berry Cheesecake next, but I’ll definitely be making the Apple Pie again, and I have permission to share the recipe with you. If you try it, do let me know what you think!

Raw Apple Pie

Base
100g ground almonds
100g ground seed mix
100g dates
1 tblsp maple syrup
½ inch ginger root

Middle Apple Layer

4 apples, chopped
1 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp of cinnamon
2 tsp of mixed spice
100g raisins
100g dates

Topping Cream Layer
100g soaked and drained cashew nuts
½ cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the base place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend into a biscuit-like dough. Test that its wet enough by making some intoa ball and seeing if it stays. If not add a little more water. Pour into a silicone tin and firmly press it down so it is nice and compact. Plcace in the freezer to set for 20 mins.

For the apple layer, add all the ingredients intot he food processor and pulse it. Don’t over blend, you don’t want it too mushy. Pour on top of the base and place in the freezer to set for 20 mins.

To make the cream layer drain the pre-soaked cashew nuts and rinse. In the food processor place the last ingredients and whizz into a smooth cramy layer. You will ned to scrape down the sides a few times to get it all smooth. Then spread it evenly on top of the apple layer and leave to se tin the freezer for 30 mins.

Serve chilled from the freezer. And enjoy!

***

Juliette is doing a book tour at the moment, and if you’re quick you’ll be able to catch her this Saturday (30th) at Rawfest in Berkshire, where she’ll be talking about the latest research into the relationship between super nutrition and health. And if you can’t get to Sunninghill, you can find out more (and buy the book) via her website.