News

Allergy Alert: Asda Free From 5 Caramel and Chocolate Wafers

We’re sad to hear about this one: these are our current favourites.

There’s an alert out on both these: the Caramel ones and the Chocolate ones.

For the Caramel ones: Best before dates of 24 December, 14 Jan 2013 and 21 Jan 2013 may contain gluten at levels higher than permitted.

For the Chocolate ones: Best before dates of 3 December and 21 January may contain gluten at levels higher than permitted.

If you have any of these, don’t eat them, but take them back to the shop. For more information, visit Food Standards Agency.

Allergy Alert: Morrisons Celery Fruit and Peanut Salad

Oh dear, this is unfortunate: Morrisons Celery Fruit and Peanut Salad (250g) with a use by date of 27 October may contain pesto pasta.

I imagine there was a bit of a mixup with salads in the factory – as far as I know, Morrisons don’t produce a gluten free pasta salad (hint: would be a good idea, though!)

If you’ve bought one of these recently, check the use by date, and take it back if the date is 27 October.

See the Food Standards Agency for more details of this allergy alert.

Tasting Gluten Free Bread

Have you ever wondered how foods get from idea to plate?

I have, so I’m always interested in finding out how companies go about product development.

Recently, I was invited to join a Dr Schär tasting panel, at an agricultural college in rural Cheshire. (Dr Schär is the company behind several brands. In the UK, these are: DS-gluten free, Glutafin and TRUfree).

The idea was to help them in their product development process. Dr Schär are interested in looking at two things:

  • international differences. Dr Schär sell products in several different countries, including Italy, Germany, US and UK, and people in each of those countries have different preferences for the taste of their bread.
  • validating their internal tasting panels. Naturally, Dr Schär have internal tasting teams, but it is important to check every so often that the internal team understand, and agree with, what the customer wants. It’s easy to see how the internal teams might get ‘acclimatised’ to the taste of their own products…

So they’d invited coeliacs to bring along a ‘mainstream’ friend or family member, so that Dr Schär could see how the various products went down in comparison to mainstream bread.

Dr Schaer are running multiple panels, in a variety of different places, and at different times, but at the one I went to it was noticeable that:

  • I was among the youngest (and I’m over 50)
  • 14 out of the 15 coeliacs on the panel were female

We may or may not have been a representative group; it was an afternoon session, so younger or middle-aged people would have been at school, as my daughter was, or at work.

We were split into 2 groups, one coeliac and one mainstream, with 15 people in each. We tasted 6 different white gluten free breads, and 7 different brown or seeded gluten free breads. The ‘mainstream’ group had a variety of standard bread to taste as well as the gluten free breads.

It was a double-blind test, so I can’t tell you which brands we were tasting, but being able to compare the breads directly was interesting. Because of expense, naturally, it is unlikely that coeliacs would get such an opportunity very often. It would be extremely interesting to know which brands I preferred!

The breads did vary enormously in all aspects, from smell to texture, and one of the questions asked was quite revealing.

For each of the top-ranked and bottom-ranked breads, what was the main reason for its position on the list: appearance, smell, taste, or texture?

Before doing the test, I’d have thought that for me the taste would be the most important. But it turns out that – for me – texture (or mouth-feel) is the most significant element in rating the bread. No doubt, for other participants, other factors, such as smell, might have been more significant.

I wish I’d been able to take my daughter, as I could have found out what she thought too, and perhaps identified a brand of bread she’d prefer to our current favourites.

What do you look for in a gluten free bread?

Winter Flu, Pneumonia and Coeliac Disease

Winter is coming…

We visited the medical practice yesterday for some travel inoculations. That was fun, as you can imagine: me, plus three large teenagers, in a small nurse’s office, each receiving a variety of jabs in both arms…

Anyway, as we were wrapping up (and retrieving one feeling-faint daughter from the floor) the nurse said something in passing about coeliac daughter.

Has she had her pneumonia jab?

Um… no? What pneumonia jab? We decided long ago that we wouldn’t take up the winter flu vaccination, as coeliac daughter is very healthy; she just needs a special diet.

The nurse dug around in her paperwork, and found our daughter on a list of people to be called in. Apparently, these days, infants all receive a pneumococcal vaccination as part of the routine series of inoculations. Because of their ages—born long before 2006—my children did not receive the pneumococcal vaccine: too old.

And now, it turns out, it is recommended that coeliacs (especially those whose spleens are not working well – fortunately, this doesn’t apply to us) should receive this jab, no matter what their age. And, we should be reconsidering our views on the winter flu jab.

The pneumococcal vaccine will protect her against pneumonia for 10 years, apparently; the winter flu jab against influenza, but only for one season.

Have you had this vaccine? What do you think? Find out more at Coeliac UK.

Experimenting with Almond Milk

almond milkDo you have a preferred non-dairy milk?

Luckily, we don’t need to be lactose-free in our house, though there was a little friend some years ago who was dairy-free, so I got used to using Pure to cook with, to having Swedish Glace dairy-free icecream in the freezer, and even soya milk occasionally. Though I’m not a fan of soya milk…

I was offered the chance to try some almond milks – Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond – and since I love almonds (there’s always an open packet here, for snacking on) I thought I’d say yes. They kindly sent me two: one ‘original’ and one ‘unsweetened’.

Because I was hesitant about the ‘sweetened’ version (sweet milk?), I decided to try making yoghurt with it. I have a yoghurt maker, because we do get through a lot of yoghurt, and there are lots of recipes for almond milk yoghurt on the web… How hard can it be? I thought. Instead of using live yoghurt as a starter, which I’d usually use for ‘normal’ yoghurt, I bought some freeze-dried yoghurt starter, and I added a little extra sugar, so the culture would have something to eat.

Oh dear.

It went well for the first few hours, but overnight the yoghurt split and curdled, turning a rather unpleasant grey colour. I wasn’t expecting it to be exactly the same – because almond milk just isn’t the same colour as dairy milk – but this was a disaster.

Checking up on the Almond Breeze site, it does say ‘don’t make yoghurt’—and now I know why.

However, the unsweetened almond milk experiment worked very well.

It has a pleasant and extremely mild taste, and worked well in hot chocolate (the hot chocolate drinker in the house said it was ‘awesome’ – hmmm) and was surprisingly OK in tea: I thought it might taste a bit odd, but it really didn’t.

We enjoyed it on cereals in the morning, and even in porridge (use gluten free oats, obviously – and only if you can tolerate them).

And today I made a medieval apple almond soup, from A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook*… very nice. This is essentially apple puree, let down with almond milk and honey, with cinnamon sugar, saffron and salt. Very much a ‘honey’ taste, and again, very mild in flavour – and very autumnal, somehow. (How appropriate, if ‘winter is coming’…)

A bonus is that Almond Breeze is not only lower in calories and carbs than cows milk, but also has just as much calcium, so if this is something that matters to you – and it should be – then you could switch without losing the calcium benefits.

Will we switch? Well, we don’t need to be dairy-free, so probably not all the way—besides, I really like yoghurt—but next time I have a dairy-free visitor, I’ll look for almond milk.