Gluten and Dairy Free Baking Course: Braxted Park


I’ve had a couple of emails about a new gluten free, dairy free, baking course running at the end of April 2014, and given how many people contact me to ask about gluten free baking – and how daunting it can seem to start with – I thought you might be interested.

It’s at Braxted Park in Essex – not very convenient for me (though they do have accommodation) but it might be handy for you, and it does look like a lovely location.

The one-day course starts with tea/coffee, and ends with wine and food. Sounds like just the thing!

And during the day, you’ll learn how to create:

  • Gluten-free (and dairy-free) scones: plain,sultana or date & walnut
  • Gluten-free (and dairy-free) lemon meringue tartlets
  • Gluten-free (and dairy-free) victoria sandwich
  • Gluten-free (and dairy-free) bread served with a delicious gluten-free (and dairy-free) courgette with watercress and pecorino pesto soup.

I love scones… I’ve never had a date and walnut scone, though, and that sounds interesting.

Dr Vivien D’Arcy is the teacher for this course, and she is a gluten-free food specialist—specialising in patisserie and bread making—with a successful gluten-free bakery in Essex. She works as a part-time chef at the weekend and spends the rest of her time making gluten-free and dairy-free wedding, anniversary and birthday cakes, and supplying tearooms, cafes, restaurants and hotels. Apparently she was also finalist in the National Cupcake competition – now that sounds like something I’d like to judge!

There’s lots more information on the Braxted Park website, but the important information is that it costs £135 per person and is on the 30 April.

AND if you book by phone, and give the magic code – GFCookery – I’m told they’ll give you a 10% discount to celebrate the launch of this new course.

I regularly get emails asking where to find birthday cakes that are both gluten and dairy free – here’s a chance to master making your own. If you go, do let me know how you get on (and don’t forget to use the magic discount code!)

P.S: Braxted Park also offer gift vouchers…

Gluten Free Summer Camp Scholarship

summer-campI sometimes get enquiries about gluten free summer camps, so I’m delighted to be able to pass this on…

Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery is awarding 10 American children a scholarship to go to an American gluten-free summer camp in Georgia or Minnesota. New this year, they will also award 10 children in Canada the chance to attend a gluten-free summer camp.

It’s a Facebook competition: between Feb 18 and March 18, 2014, parents with eligible children ages 8-17, can enter the contest by ‘liking’ Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery on Facebook and helping their child submit a 100-word statement on what makes him or her special. (Children under 13 aren’t supposed to have Facebook accounts, which is why its for parents to enter).

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Summer camps aren’t big here in the UK in the same way, but I do know what it is like to send a gluten free child out on their own, and I believe it’s great independence training. We don’t know the Rudi’s brand at all, but this is a great initiative.

Excited about Gluten Free Bagels


Do you, like me, check the free from section in every supermarket you visit, to see if there’s anything new and exciting whether or not you need to buy anything that day?

If so, then you’ll probably have come across Udi’s, a US manufacturer new to the UK, with products which arrived unheralded at our big local Tesco a few months ago.


Coeliac daughter was beyond excited about gluten free bagels, to the bemusement of her (non-coeliac) friends, who didn’t really get the novelty. But I’m sure you’ll understand…

And then more products started appearing: corn chips and bread. But there’s yet more: someone’s been holding out on us. Udi’s sent me some samples of their gluten free products; apparently they also do bagel chips, granola, muffins and ‘pop-tart-like’ toaster pastries. Plus cinnamon and raisin bagels!

While we’re not a pop-tart family, we do love a bagel. And those cinnamon and raisin bagels disappeared in a snap. I didn’t get a taste, but I had a very happy daughter! I’ll definitely be hunting out some more of those for her – though I think it may have to be a day trip to Asda where they also stock Udi’s savoury bagels.

The muffins are worth looking out for too. Brilliantly, there are two different flavours in one pack (chocolate chip, and toffee) so that the coeliac in the family gets a bit of variety. Our coeliac says they are ‘creamy and soft, melt in the mouth and good with milk’.

I’ve just seen that Udi’s will be at the Wirral Gluten Free Food and Accommodation Fair, at Ellesmere Civic Hall on 1 March. That’s only an hour or so away from us – I think we’ll make a trip.

What do you think of the Udi’s products – have you tried them yet?

Christmas is coming…

christmas-is-comingFeeling Christmassy yet?

I am—at last—it’s the end of term, and I caught myself singing carols in the car. It’s coming soon!

Sainsbury’s kindly sent us some Christmas goodies to taste-test, and I thought I’d share our findings:

  • mince pies

    Coeliac daughter tried the Sainsbury’s gluten free mince pies, and some gluten free mince pies from Udi’s; I tried both these but also—because I am not gluten free—Mr Kipling’s and Tesco Finest.

    And guess what: I preferred the gluten free versions.

    Daughter preferred the Udi’s gluten free mince pies, while I preferred the Sainsbury’s version:

    • I like my mince pies deep-filled; she prefers more pastry
    • I found the Sainsbury’s pastry to be ‘just right': the Udi’s pastry was too soft for my taste, and the gluten-full pastry too hard. But she likes pastry to be softer.

    It just shows there’s a mince pie for everybody!

  • dairy free chocolate

    I am quite a chocolate fan (dark chocolate, salted chocolate, chocolate with butterscotch, ginger, honeycomb…). I’ve even been known to raid the fridge for milk chocolate when needs must.

    We were pleasantly surprised by the dairy-free chocolate. None of us need to be dairy-free, so we approached it with some caution, having had some deeply unpleasant dairy-free versions in the past. But we didn’t need to worry; Sainsbury’s dairy-free chocolate is—while obviously not true chocolate—a very reasonable facsimile of a milk chocolate. And they’re offering not only dairy-free chocolate bars for Christmas, but traditional chocolate coins – and a chocolate advent calendar.

    No comparison-tasting here: we know what chocolate tastes like!

  • and the gingerbread man

    I’ve missed the gluten free gingerbread man; and he’s back! There used to be gluten free gingerbread men sold with free from chocolate buttons, and with icing pens, and they were great party material… all my children have outgrown cake-decoration as a party activity, but I do recommend it. Just take these gingerbread men, add icing and sweeties to decorate, and wait for the mess.

    These gingerbread men are quite crunchy—like gingernuts—so tiny children might just eat the decorations – but I liked them. And it would be nice to see a gingerbread woman too; there’s more space on a skirt for decorations!

Roll on Christmas – are you ready yet?

Living Gluten Free: Courtesy and Waste

Do you ever eat something to be polite? Or to avoid waste?

I had an interesting conversation recently when Sainsbury’s sent us a box of their new Christmas range to try out and report on (thank you, Sainsbury’s!).

The box was wrapped in festive paper—the other children had assumed it was a present and discreetly ignored it—and coeliac daughter was thrilled to open it and see what Sainsbury’s are offering this year. She fell on the pack of 5 mini chocolate logs with delight: “oh, I like these!”: we had bought a pack a week or so ago, as soon as we spotted them on the shelves.

I asked her to articulate what she liked. I asked her again the next day after the second one, and again after the third mini-log…

Clearly struggling with trying to describe them, eventually she said:

“they make me want to eat more”

When I pushed her a bit, she explained that most of her packets of biscuits, cakes etc were an effort for her to finish, and that she often felt that she had to finish the packet before they went off – even if she wasn’t that keen on them.

“It’s hard, sometimes, being the only one”… (there are five of us, and only one coeliac identified – so far).

We have agreed in the past that if people make the effort to find her something gluten free to eat—maybe biscuits—she will be polite, accept one, and do her best to eat it. After all, they’ve made extra effort to be hospitable and to cater for her.

And we do dislike waste.

But maybe I haven’t made it clear that she doesn’t have to eat everything!

It is a lot easier to find good gluten free products now, and it is much less common that people offer her one of the old-style gluten-free-cardboard biscuits, so it’s less of an issue. But still, it is rare to find something that she actively wants to eat again… and Sainsbury’s have clearly nailed it with these gluten free mini chocolate logs this year.

But what do you think? Would you eat something to be polite? Do you feel you have to finish the pack of something you don’t actually want to eat, to avoid wasting it? Or have you found gluten free products that you actively look forward to eating?

(I’ll tell you more about the Sainsbury’s Christmas range another day…and I’ve already bought more of the mini chocolate logs)