Coeliac Travel Cards…..Or The Importance of Being Prepared

The most important thing that I have learnt during the course of my year of living completely gluten free is to always be prepared.

I’m one of those people who loves researching things and it’s something I spend a considerable amount of my time doing. This used to just be for fantastic holidays, hip hotels, the best flight deals, exciting weekend breaks, great restaurants, scenic walks. It still is but now it’s also all of those things…..with a gluten free edge.

On our trip to Milan I knew there were gluten free pizzerias. OK, we didn’t get into the one I had researched, but I loved the restaurant we ate our first anniversary dinner in. I know British Airways serves a gluten free meal, but I discovered that the gluten free meal on our flight to Lisbon on TAP was actually pretty good.

Probably my biggest discovery of the year has to be the Coeliac Travel cards. The cards are available to download in 51 languages from Amharic to Vietnamese. You can download them for free although the author suggest a donation of $5 via PaylPal or instead a link on your blog / website. When I download them, they print several cards to a page of A4 so then I cut them into individual cards to put into my purse. Oh, and if that’s not enough, you can also download the Coeliac Travel cards app to your iPhone or iTouch. Brilliant.

I cannot recommend the Coeliac Travel cards more highly. In Paris they literally saved me from a fate worse than….being glutened. But everywhere I’ve used them, they’ve been clear for the waiting staff to understand what food items I can / can’t eat and this has made eating out when I don’t speak the local language about as stress free as it’s ever going to be. As the author of the cards says on the website, the great thing about the Coeliac Travel cards is that the waiter can take your printed card into the kitchen and show and explain to the chef. This should help to minimise the risk of being glutened as much as is possible without actually cooking yourself.

Being prepared means that you can enjoy your well earned holidays as much as anyone else. Wherever I go from now on, the Coeliac Travel cards are the first thing I pack for the trip.

Bon voyage!

Sainsbury’s freefrom Iced Rich Fruit Cake Slices

If you read my previous post about the lovely freefrom dinner I was recently invited to at Sainsbury’s London HQ, you’ll know that I came away with a goody bag containing a number of Sainsbury’s Christmas gluten free products to try.

I’ll be honest at the start of this review and say I would not normally buy Iced Rich Fruit slices, or indeed any kind of Christmas cake or pudding. First of all, the regular fruit cake used to make me feel unwell and very bloated. Obviously I now know why this was. But also, I don’t like marzipan. I’ve been to many a wedding reception where I’ve peeled the marzipan and icing from the cake, discarded the cake and carefully peeled apart the icing from the marzipan leaving just the sugar hit of icing for me to eat. Sorry to any brides reading this!

So you can understand why I approached the Sainsbury’s freefrom Iced Rich Fruit Cake Slices with some trepidation…..

It turns out my fears were unfounded. I found the Sainsbury’s freefrom Iced Rich Fruit Cake slices to be rich, spicy and incredibly moist, something I hadn’t been expecting from a product with a shelf life of several months.

I liked that the gluten free slices were packed with lots of dried fruits as you can see in the following photo. I particularly enjoyed the mixed peel. I even liked the marzipan and thought the icing wasn’t too sugar-iffic.

I found the slices to be quite filling and could only manage one. We popped them into an airtight box and they stayed fresh for several days.

Would I buy these again? Yes. They tasted so good that I don’t think anyone could guess they were gluten free. It would be easy to slip these to your non-gluten free friends and family without them knowing they were anything other than very tasty Christmas treats.  

A Sainsbury’s freefrom Christmas Dinner

I was very lucky to be invited recently to Sainsbury’s HQ for a freefrom Christmas Dinner. Since Christmas is now next month it was high time to share the night with you.

We arrived to be greeted by the lovely Sainsbury’s team with drinks, gluten free canapes and…..a fully decorated Christmas tree. In October! Well if you’ve got a theme, go for it right? After introducing ourselves to the group which included each of us telling a secret fact about ourselves (one of our number could speak Swahili, very impressive!) it was off to the Sainsbury’s test kitchens in pairs to prepare some of the dishes for later. I had the pleasure of cooking with Penny who writes Penelope’s Pantry. We made a tiramisu which was really easy to make using allergy friendly ingredients from Sainsbury’s.

It was then back to taste the fantastic allergy friendly Christmas meal. Apart from a rather mighty looking turkey I really enjoyed the almond nut roast, fantastic roasted veggies, including my favourite parsnips. However, the particular highlights for me were the vegetarian stuffing mixes which I absolutely loved (will have to contact the team to ask for the recipe) and a pilav served with harissa. Everything was completely delicious.

After the Christmas dinner feast we were treated to a huge selection of allergy friendly desserts, including the tiramisu Penny and I had made. My favourites were the plum crumble and chocolate profiteroles. Yum!

Also at our FreeFrom dinner was Kirsty Henshaw who you might have seen on Dragon’s Den securing funding from Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne for her Worthenshaws Freedom allergy friendly desserts. She has an interesting story and real drive for her business – well worth checking out her story on the website. I tried some of the chocolate dessert and it was delish.

It was very interesting to meet the Sainsbury’s freefrom team. They’re a dedicated product development team and their goal is to be the leading provider of allergy friendly food in the UK. The whole Sainsbury’s team worked hard to put on a great event and I was impressed at the team’s motivation to produce a wide range of freefrom products. So what else did I learn? Well, Sainsbury’s are going to be launching an app for your iPhone soon which you’ll be able to use to check allergy information via the product’s bar code. Definitely something to watch out for.

The evening was also a fantastic opportunity to meet other gluten free / allergy bloggers. I was really pleased to meet Kate from Postcards From a Gluten Free Life (whose other half rather randomly has the same job as Mr D and she gave me some great recommendations for gluten free dining in London), Robin who writes Source it, cook it, eat it (who told me his first blog post some years ago was about how to chop an onion) and the fabulous Pippa The Intolerant Gourmet (who had that week just got an agent and a book deal, HOW exciting!). The room was full of really interesting people and it was a big shame I didn’t get to chat to everyone.

It was a really fun evening so a big thank you to Sainsbury for inviting me.

Just like real Christmas, after an amazing and very filling meal I rolled home to the sofa clutching presents from Sainsbury’s. A goody bag, yay!

Coming up next: Review of Sainsbury’s freefrom Iced Rich Fruit Slices from the goody bag.