Allergy and Free From Show 2016

allergy and free from show 2016
I’ve got mixed feelings about the Allergy & Free From Show this year.

We went down to the London show on Friday, when it was busy, but not hectic—we usually go at a weekend, when it is difficult to move around—and we thought it was great.

Coeliac Daughter looks forward to it every year, and enjoys finding new products and tasting a wide variety of different foods (though I couldn’t persuade her to try the cricket brownies). She particularly likes knowing that she could eat anything she wanted to try.

At least, that’s what we thought.

This year we particularly enjoyed:

  • gluten free pancakes (made on the spot by Goodens & Co)
  • the Gosh! Sweetcorn and quinoa bites (We’ve bought their mushroom and lentil burgers from Tesco, but not found the bites)
  • the B-Free pitta breads (which we can’t seem to find in the shops at all)
  • Carl the Caterpillar (one of Tesco’s gluten free birthday cakes) – Coeliac Daughter, now aged 20, thinks there should be a girl caterpillar too
  • and the Healthy Baker gave Coeliac Daughter a sample packet of oats, which she made into porridge the next day… I’m not sure she’s ever enjoyed porridge before, so that was a success.

It was also fun that Schar were cooking their pizzas to order—and yes, we shared a veggie gluten free pizza.

So a big thank you to the organisers of the Allergy Show, who work all year to make these events work.

But why am I feeling conflicted?

I think there are two things.

Co-location of shows

It wasn’t instantly clear which stalls had gluten free products, and which didn’t.

The organisers had done their best, with different coloured carpets, and hanging signage. But we were too focused on the stalls to look up, and it wasn’t clear to us from the outset that different carpets meant different shows, so we ended up in the veggie/vegan area (the Just V show) unknowingly.

There we spotted gluten free pancakes, and decided to come back later to try them. But by the time we were ready to eat pancakes, we’d realised that the carpets meant different things, and we struggled to find the gluten free pancake stall again. (Obviously we did eventually decide to look in the ‘wrong carpet’ area… and yes, they were in the vegan section).

I don’t think we were being particularly slow to pick up on this, as we saw others straying off their path too—vegans being surprised to find meat products, for instance.

This confusion could, potentially, lead to someone trying a product that wasn’t gluten free because they were under the impression that everything would be OK to eat. It was no longer true that Coeliac Daughter could try anything in the room.

The market is maturing

I know we’ve been to a lot of these Shows, so you’d expect us to be familiar with a lot of the companies in the marketplace, but it did seem to me that there were fewer new and exciting products for us to find out about.

And there was clearly a huge difference between the large, made-to-measure, expensive stands set up by the Big Guys (Schar, Genius, Tesco…) and the smaller stands. Of course there was: the Big Guys have a lot more money.

According to the Allergy Show sponsorship website, for instance, Doves Farm spent £25,000 to sponsor the cooking zone, and Tesco spent £15,000 to sponsor Speakers Corner.

I don’t know what Schar paid for the headline partnership, and for the show bag sponsorship, but we can calculate from the Allergy Show rate card that they spent around £33,600 for their stall space of 14m*8m (where they cooked pizza).

And that’s fine. The Allergy Show has to make money somehow, to pay for the space in Olympia. After all, we (and I’ll bet 99% of visitors to the show) downloaded free tickets, so they didn’t make any money from us.

And it is undeniably a fantastic—even unbeatable—opportunity to get your brand in front of your core target audience.

But I feel some concern that some of the smaller, newer companies may have been missing.

Yes, there was the Artisan Marketplace, with 15 stalls (minimum size 2m*1m, costing £700—very reasonable, really, for the potential marketing success available, assuming 30,000 visitors over the whole weekend), and that was great. And the Allergy Show can of course only host companies that apply to have a stall.

But something was missing. In every other year we’ve had one of those “oh wow, look, gluten free X!”, where X has been something that we’ve not been able to get gluten free before.

Not this year. Perhaps there just aren’t very many new and exciting products this year, or maybe we’ve had peak innovation already, and all that’ll happen now is consolidation.

I wonder if there is a way to get the innovative feel back, perhaps by creating an Innovation section for new products/ideas, whether from start-ups or from big companies—maybe a big company could be persuaded to sponsor the stalls within that section (they might even find a new and valuable idea in there).

What do you think? Did you go to the the London Allergy Show this year?

Gluten Free Lemon and Ricotta Protein Cake

lemon and ricotta protein cakeI accidentally-on-purpose made an amazingly delicious gluten free protein cake this weekend.

On purpose because we had a birthday in the house; accidentally because I’d experimented with altering a recipe—and didn’t realise that my oven thermostat was broken.

It was a lemon zest and ricotta flourless cake, based on this recipe from Cakelets and Doilies.

Belle’s recipe looked great—I’m not claiming to have improved it, just used different ingredients and an accidentally cooler oven.

We’re currently on a big protein kick here, so I replaced some of the ground almonds with cricket flour from Gathr, and added in some whey protein. If you want to try this cake, these are not essential ingredients! You can just use 240g of ground almonds (no cricket flour or whey protein).

Ingredients for the lemon and ricotta protein cake

120g unsalted butter
275g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean
zest of 4 lemons
4 eggs
230g of ground almonds and 10g of cricket flour OR 240g of ground almonds
1 scoop (30g) of vanilla whey protein powder – this is entirely optional
300g of ricotta
icing sugar to dust it with, and maybe some almond flakes as well

You’re going to need a 20cm cake tin and two big mixing bowls.


  1. Heat the oven to 160C (fan-assisted) 180C (conventional oven). Who knows what temperature mine was? I’m guessing 140C (conventional), so ignore that!
  2. Line a 20cm round cake tin. I like to use baking paper cake tin liners (e.g. from Lakeland) but you can do it any way you like.
  3. Cut the vanilla pod lengthways, and scoop out the seeds.
  4. Zest the lemons, saving the rest of the lemon for another time.
  5. Separate the eggs: put the yolks into a small container, and the whites into a big mixing bowl.
  6. Put the butter, 165g of the caster sugar, the vanilla seeds and the lemon zest in another big mixing bowl, and beat using an electric beater until the mixture is pale and creamy.
  7. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  8. Add the ground almonds and the cricket flour/whey protein if you’re using those. Beat it all together well. It will be a very stiff dough. Fold the ricotta gently into the almond mixture.
  9. Scrape the beaters into the mixture and wash them well—you’re going to need them to whisk the egg whites.
  10. Whisk the egg whites using the clean beaters until you’ve got soft peaks. Gently add the remaining caster sugar to the egg whites a bit at a time, whisking after each addition until you’ve got stiff peaks.
  11. Now fold (gently, gently) about a third of the egg whites and sugar mix into the cake mixture. The aim is to keep as much air in the egg white mix as possible, so add the egg white mix in portions, and fold it in very gently.
  12. Once all the ingredients (except for the icing sugar) have been combined, pour it into the cake tin, and smooth the top. Belle suggests adding almond flakes on top for decoration; I didn’t have any, and it was fine.
  13. Bake the cake in the middle of your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until it is cooked, and firm to the touch. (My cake took 90 minutes, which just shows you how cool my oven was!)
  14. Then cool the cake in the cake tin, and once it is completely cold, you can dust it with icing sugar to serve it. I use an old tea-strainer, put the icing sugar in that, hold it over the cake and tap it gently with a spoon – the icing sugar will sift down onto the cake.


Don’t be confused by the image: on the plate with the cake is a different protein cake – a cacao protein ball, made with flax seeds and brought by a friend. I did mention that the birthday boy is eating a lot of protein…

And my oven is seriously broken—it cooked way too cool on the cake-making day, and over 35C too hot on the next day, despite showing the same temperature on the dial. Now that is a nuisance.

Gluten free diets, staying healthy and the media

gluten free diet

You may have seen a lot of articles on the internet over the last few days, saying that the gluten free diet could be bad for ‘healthy children’.

I’m assuming they mean children without a diagnosis of coeliac disease—thank you, my child is perfectly healthy as long as she doesn’t eat gluten—and you may be wondering whether that means the gluten free diet could be causing your coeliac child a problem.

This is following comments by Dr Reilly, from Columbia University Medical Center, who was discussing some misunderstandings about the gluten free diet, and was explaining that there is no evidence that a gluten free diet is beneficial for children without coeliac disease (or a wheat allergy). She has a Commentary scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, and various media outlets have picked up on the press release about this.

The first thing to note is that many of the media articles – particularly the headlines – are missing the point, and articles with headlines such as ‘Gluten-free diets may be risky for kids’ or ‘Could a gluten-free diet in kids do more harm than good?’ are not helpful.

Coeliac children absolutely must follow the gluten free diet. This is not, in itself, an unhealthy diet. You do not need gluten for a healthy diet. In fact, many people end up with a healthier diet than they had before… if they eat properly.

The point that Dr Reilly was making was that some (most?) of the manufactured gluten free foods (cake, bread etc) contain more fat or sugar than ‘normal’ versions. Therefore, if someone relies overmuch on these processed products, then they would be eating more fat/sugar than the ‘norm’, and that there might be a risk of some nutritional deficiencies because gluten free bread, say, tends to be unfortified. Some ‘normal’ products, of course, such as some cereals and breads, are fortified with vitamins/minerals, which can be found in other, non-gluten, foods too.

This is true.

In addition, there are undoubtedly quality of life issues with having to follow a gluten free diet, as many studies have shown. Obviously, there is reduced choice of food items, but in addition, spontaneity is difficult, and potentially a problem with food-issues could develop if anxiety levels over food limitations are high.

And then there’s the cost of eating gluten free…

So I don’t disagree with Dr Reilly, and the media articles reporting her commentary are not her responsibility. But I do think that the scare headlines are irresponsible and unhelpful to parents of children with coeliac disease. I can see that ‘Doctor says children should have a healthy diet’ doesn’t make for a high click rate!

If your child has a diagnosis of coeliac disease, or a wheat allergy, or other medical condition that requires a gluten free diet, please don’t be alarmed by the media headlines, and don’t, whatever you do, go back to a gluten-full diet. A gluten free diet can be healthy or unhealthy—but so can one that is stuffed full of gluten.

What to do?

1. Stick with the gluten free diet: no compromises.

2. Make it as good a diet as you can: a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients needed to maintain health and to feel good.

3. Don’t stress over it: as long as your child is safe (not eating gluten), then eating should be a pleasure, not a problem. Your child does not need gluten for a healthy life.

Gluten free Niche in London

Niche - gluten free restaurant in London

I visited Niche (London’s first Coeliac UK accredited 100% gluten free restaurant) for the second time last week — and again, I was too greedy to think about taking pictures for you…

I’ve been twice so far, and will definitely visit again; ideally, so I can try their evening menu. So far I’ve tried a few items from their daytime menu:

  • eggs florentine (part of their brunch menu) which were perfectly cooked
  • beer-battered onion rings – these were crispy and delicious
  • parmesan and cheddar doughnuts – these were fab, with a crispy coating, and good chutney to ‘cut’ and contrast with, the cheese
  • apple and blackberry crumble with cinnamon icecream – good pastry

It is very filling; after eating the doughnuts, I didn’t have room for a main course, and had to move straight on to the crumble! Note that I don’t eat meat, so I haven’t tried any of their meaty dishes.

The food I have tried is fab and the service is good too; both times I’ve met helpful and attentive waiting staff, who are happy to talk about the menu and reassure visitors. And the art on the walls is worth looking at too – it’s a showcase for London-based mobile photographers.

It’s only about 10 minutes from Euston station (take the tube to Angel, and then it’s a short walk), so it is surprisingly easy to get to for those of us who aren’t based in, or familiar with, London.

I am definitely going to have to take Coeliac Daughter there, or maybe buy a gift voucher so she can visit with a friend. She would love that she could eat anything she chooses from the menu.

If you’re looking for a gluten free restaurant in London, and you haven’t been to Niche yet—perhaps because, like me, you don’t live in London—I can wholeheartedly recommend it for a gluten free meal (there are also some vegan options if you need to be dairy free as well). Let me know what you think!

FPIES and Allergy Awareness Week

smiling baby

Yesterday, at the Free From Food Awards ceremony, I learned that FPIES UK were their charity of the year and would receive 10% of all Awards entrants fees.

Now I’d never heard of FPIES (say it f-pies), so went to learn something about it…

It turns out that Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) is the most severe type of delayed food allergy, and typically affects babies and young children, who projectile vomit 30 minutes to 6 hours after eating whatever the problem food is. They may become lethargic or sleepy. They may develop low blood pressure. And about 20% become extremely unwell, experience symptoms of shock, and have to be hospitalised.

Now Coeliac Daughter used to projectile vomit after eating, at least until we got a diagnosis of coeliac disease (aged 1) and changed her diet: usually over me, and on one occasion, memorably and extensively into my cleavage while in the doctor’s office. At least he got some idea of the problem!

But nobody ever discussed FPIES with me, though she was tested for giardia and cystic fibrosis, among other things. I’m not saying that she had FPIES—she didn’t; but you’d think it would have come up as an option…

Since it is Food Allergy Day in the UK Allergy Awareness Week, I thought I’d help spread the word by telling you about it.

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • FPIES is something that can be outgrown, typically by the age of five (coeliac disease, of course, is not something you can outgrow), though not everyone does.
  • FPIES vomiting is dramatic, with babies vomiting forcefully many times. Afterwards, the child may be lethargic, and in more severe cases, may seem non-responsive. Some children go pale grey or blue, or suffer from diarrhoea and abdominal pain. If it is a chronic condition, the child may lose weight and fail to thrive. (Pain? Diarrhoea? Lethargy? Failure to thrive? The more I think about it, the more I think I should have known that FPIES existed…)
  • Foods that can cause an FPIES reaction are many and various: typical ones are cow’s milk, soya, rice, oats, barley, bananas, peas, beans and sweet potato and chicken. FPIES children won’t react to all of these, and will probably only react to 1 or 2.
  • FPIES is thought to affect as many as 1 in 300 children.
  • Most doctors in the UK haven’t heard of it.

Want to know more? Find out more at the FPIES UK website or the US one