Gluten Free News

What’s new in the gluten free world. Covering new book releases, gluten free awards and other information for those with coeliac disease / gluten intolerance.

Celebrating 10 Years of the Annual Free From Food Awards

Last week saw the presentation of awards in the annual Free From Food Awards. Now celebrating its 10th year, these awards celebrate the very best of the UK’s free from sector with entrants ranging from tiny independents to our high street supermarkets.

I’ve written here before about how thrilled I am to be part of these awards as a judge for a number of years, including this year.

This year my usual gluten free cocktail crew was a little depleted with the absence of a several of its key members due to parental responsibilities and judging at the Irish Free From Food Awards. But even so, I was delighted to catch up with many old (and new!) friends in the free from sector. I hadn’t managed to get further than visiting the cloakroom before I’d bumped into the lovely Grace Cheetham. (On a side note it seems inconceivable that a whole year has passed since I last saw Grace at these awards – time goes so fast these days).

The awards were presented by chef Anthony Worrall Thompson who has been handing out the awards since their inception 10 years ago. In their first year, the awards ceremony was held in Anthony’s Notting Hill restaurant. Ten years later and the venue is the impressive  Royal College of Physicians.

This year the awards were announced and winners presented swiftly. I liked this, but even I (and I have previous form on fast tweeting the winners) had trouble keeping up with tweeting the events live.

The full list of gold, silver and bronze winners for 2017 can be found on the Food Matters Free From Food Awards page.

These are my highlights of the winning products.

Winner of the FAIR trophy for the best Free From Food in 2016 were these BFree sweet potato wraps. I had been a judge in the category in which these were entered and I really agree that these are an innovative product. They’re free from ALL of the top 14 allergens, contain only 95 calories each, are high in fibre and they are delicious.

bFree Sweet Potato wrapsUnfortunately Ocado (where I do my food shopping) do not stock these wraps, although they do have the multigrain wraps. I hope they start stocking them soon. Interestingly, I found them everywhere in Australia on my trip over Christmas and New Year. They really do hold together well and the taste definitely adds to the filling.

Bellfield Bewery – Bohemian Pilsner
This Edinburgh based brewery was a new one to me. Also, I love the packaging of these beers. Great design.

gluten free beer

I was impressed with the flavour of the Bohemian Pilsner. Deeper in flavour than the usual Celia or Daura I normally buy, I’ve just taken delivery of an order for this pilsner and it’s got a thumbs up from the gluten eaters (of legal drinking age!) in my house too. As of posting this blog, it’s currently on special offer via the online store.

West Cornwall Gluten and Dairy Free Cornish Pasty
I have only tried a small slice of this from the Winners’ buffet so of course the only thing for it is to track down a full size one. The piece I tried was more filling than pastry – exactly as I like a Cornish pastry.

gluten free Cornish pasty

I like the efforts this company has put into producing this pasty. Not only are the pasties produced in a dedicated gluten free factory, but the company also performs random sample lab testing to confirm they are gluten free and that they contain less than 20ppm. But that’s not all! Once they’ve left the factory, they’re transported, baked and served in the bag to prevent cross contamination. You can check here for a list of stockists. London’s Waterloo station it is!

Yau’s Thai Style Satay Sauce

Although peanuts are not one of the nuts I’m allergic to, I generally avoid all nuts. Consequently, eating satay sauce isn’t something I’ve done for some time. I thoroughly enjoyed this nut free satay sauce I’ll be tracking down a jar.

The Free From Bakehouse – Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf

This gluten free, wheat free, nut free as well as soya, egg and dairy free loaf also does not contain refined sugar. Despite being free from so many ingredients, it tastes fantastic. It’s Caroline’s best selling loaf at Borough Market and it’s easy to see why, it’s so good!

I was standing with Caroline for the presentation of the awards. We’ve met many times over the years and I know how committed she is to producing great tasting allergy free food. As the bronze and silver winners were being announced Caroline was (far too modestly) saying she wouldn’t be winning against such great competition in the Tea Time category. When her loaf was announced as a winner of the gold award, she genuinely couldn’t believe it.

Caroline Free From Bakehouse

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Free From Food Awards, a special Super Hero Award was awarded to Clare Marriage of Doves Farm Foods for the huge contribution Dove’s flours and foods have made to the Free From industry over the last 10 years.

Finally a few more photos:

Only one packet of these remained on the winners’ buffet when I passed along the line. I was bold enough to open them and – in an instant – hands swooped from nowhere and they were gone. No wonder, they were a real treat!

Gluten free tea cakes

I recalled as I sat on my Tube commute writing this blog post that I’d popped one of these in the side pocket of my handbag and hadn’t eaten it. They’re small chocolate covered biscuits that reminded me a little of a Club or Breakaway biscuit (do they even still make those?!). Perfect for lunch boxes. Or side pockets of handbags.

gluten free biscuit

Each year I’ve attended the awards we’ve taken a group photo, here’s the 2017 vintage!

Gluten free crew

A huge thank you to Michelle, Cressida and the whole team for another fantastic year of the Free From Food Awards. I think everyone who’s been involved as a judge or entrant to the Free From Food Awards would agree that Michelle and her team are all Free From Super Heroes!

 

A Summer Update

It’s been a busy year so far in the D household. Aside from the usual working parent challenges, I studied for and – thankfully – passed a professional qualification earlier this year. It was a huge overhead in terms of study for 6 months+. No sooner had I got through that, I became super busy at work for the last few months on a project. Consequently, not much time for blogging recently.

2016 – where have we been so far?
We didn’t plan for it to be the case but so far 2016 is really shaping up to be the year of travel. So far this year we’ve been to:

– weekend in Stavanger, Norway
– weekend in Bergen, Norway
– weekend in Innsbruck, Austria
– long bank holiday weekend in the Dorset countryside
– day trip to France (the never-used car needed a run and the wine cellar needed restocking)
– weekend on the Isle of Wight
– two weeks in Japan (based in Tokyo)
– weekend in Verona (with day trips to Venice and Lake Garda), Italy
– weekend in Turin, Italy

In a couple of weeks we’re going to the Dordogne, France. I’ll be looking forward to checking out the gluten free food options in France. Last year I found a seismic difference between what’s on offer in Paris for the gluten intolerant traveller and what’s available in the rest of France.

Finally, at the end of the year we’re going to Australia for 3 weeks and I can’t wait for a warm Christmas on the beach! If you have any recommendations for Brisbane, Sydney and Noosa, please do let me know in the comments below.

It almost feels like our travel schedule pre-kids…!

A blog makeover (again…)
Over Christmas I decided to spring clean my blog’s theme. Since I began writing this blog I’d been using a theme on Headway which had been super customisable and I’d been very happy with it. But around the time the twins were born, Headway changed to a new version, without providing an upgrade path which meant I was left either having to totally rebuild the site myself or leaving the blog on an unsupported platform.

Seeking a simple option to resolve, I chose and installed a free WP theme. Big mistake, huge! In one quick theme change I totally destroyed the SEO on this site. I’m still not entirely clear what I did but it all started with un-indexing it and just continued to get worse from there on. Lesson learned; don’t try this unless you know what you’re doing. And to make matters worse, since installing the new WP theme I had not even been happy with the way it looks.

Having been pondering changing the theme (again) I’ve noticed that the blogs I find most pleasing in terms of layout are all made by pipdig. When I discovered as part of the pipdig theme purchase, they also offer an installation service with email support, I was sold. It’s early days but so far I’m really pleased with how it looks and the customisation features under the hood are like the Headway theme that I liked so much. Much to my delight I’ve even got the header image back from the Headway theme! I’ve been really impressed with the customer service too, definitely recommend if you’re considering a blog theme change.

Gluten Free Update
So far this year I’ve discovered a few gluten free gems in London; Manna Dew (not far from me in Battersea), Andina (truly delicious Peruvian with unexpectedly excellent allergy menus) and gluten & nut free afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel being the stand out highlights so far in 2016.

Another recent development has been Ocado finally stocking the Scandinavian gluten free brand, Fria. I’ve been buying their burger buns and seeded high fibre loaves, perfect as they’re kept in the freezer so less wastage.  The overseas trips have been mixed, to say the least. Italy always delivers on the gluten free eating front (I even found gluten free Peroni!) yet Japan was the polar opposite of Italy and was as challenging on both the gluten free as well as the nut free front.

gluten free Peroni beer

Meanwhile in twinland…
The mini Ds have just turned 3. They seem so grown up all of a sudden. While on the longest, darkest days of utter exhaustion I’ve often wondered just when exactly things would get easier, I’ll never forget how lucky I am to have two small people to go exploring (near and far) with.

Gluten Free Birthday Cake

What’s next on the blog
I have a few almost finished posts which have been sitting in my drafts folder for a while. These cover Japan, Bergen, Italy and some kid related posts. I’m aiming to finish them off and post one a week for the next month or so and then take it from there.

2016 Free From Food Awards

I’ve been really honoured to participate for the last 4 or 5 years as a judge in the Free From Food Awards, the UK’s awards celebrating the best of free from products. You can read my write up from last year’s awards here.

Free From Food Awards 2016

Each year I discover new-to-me products. What I like about this are that these new products are not just from the large retailers, but also from the small producers who are passionate about supplying fantastic quality (free from) products to this rapidly expanding food sector. It also gives me the opportunity to catch up with a growing group of friends I’ve met over the years as part of the free from community. This night is always a real highlight of my year and something I look forward to enormously.

For a full list of winners and runner’s up in each category, please click here.

A couple of photos from the awards party buffet featuring the winner’s products (aka the free from buffet of dreams) with my top picks from the winners in 2016.

– Tesco garlic baguette – Hard to tell this was gluten free, the baguette was so crusty. Even harder to think of this without thinking of the Peter Kay sketch. (Gluten and Dairy free) Garlic? Bread? It’s the future.

(Gluten and dairy free) Garlic? Bread? It's the future

– Oast to Host Quongo (quiche on the go) utterly delicious quiche from this small Kent producer.

gluten free pie

– Hotch Potch pies – Loved this pie from another smaller producer based in Dorset. I’m off to Dorset very soon so will try and track one down.

Hotch Potch Gluten Free Pie

– White Rabbit Pizza – the one that keeps getting away. Not only had this pizza run out by the time I got to the winner’s buffet, each time I’m in Planet Organic (stockists of this pizza) there’s always some reason why I can’t buy it. Being the pizza fiend I am, I need to rectify this pronto.

Gluten Free Pizza

– Nutribix – this breakfast cereal which is the gluten free version of Weetabix was the big winner of the night. Nutribix is made from 96% sourghum, an ancient grain. I haven’t tried this but I will be soon. I’m not keen on eating cereal with milk (lucky, really, in the scheme of things!) so will be trying this with natural yoghurt. On the evening so many people raved about just how great this is, I really need to try.

gluten-free-breakfast-cereal

Image thanks to Nutribix website

– Borough 22 Doughnuts – Special mention to Ryan who managed to keep smiling despite his doughnuts being pipped to the top spot in not just one, but two categories. although highly commended is still a fantastic achievement in these awards.

And, finally, a selfie. This has become something of a tradition for this gang of free from bloggers. It’s blurry, yes, but look at those happy faces. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the great gluten free beers in the bar on the night….

gluten free selfie

Are there new to you products in this list? What do you think of the winners? Any surprises?

Out with the old, in with the new…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll notice it’s had a refresh, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time.

I’ve been using a Headway theme which I’d bought when I first started the blog. It has been great and super easy to customise. However, around the time the twins were born Headway did a major update. By the time I emerged from my sleep deprived state to even consider looking at the blog I’d ended up too many versions behind and it needed some serious attention under the hood as there was no automated pathway to upgrade to the current version.

Every time I’ve looked at the blog in recent months I’ve just sighed at the need to update it. Then swiftly closed the laptop down and moved on to something less taxing. But in the end, updating the blog turned out to be a task which took less than the twins’ nap time – the new indicator for me of a straightforward task.

Lesson learned: Keep the blog theme simple and stick to WordPress.

In making the updates, I’ve properly linked my social media accounts to the blog. I discovered last year I’d set up an Instagram account back in 2012 but had forgotten all about it – preferring the interaction on Twitter instead – but I’m now very much enjoying IG. I’m keen to discover interesting new Instagram accounts to follow so please do share with me any you enjoy.

If you don’t already follow me on social media, feel free to connect via the following links:

Twitter ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

Instagram ID: GlutenFreeMrsD

I can also be found occasionally on Facebook, Google+, somewhat fleetingly on Pinterest and my blog is on Bloglovin.

And if you have any feedback on the blog refresh, please do leave a comment below…

2015 Free From Food Awards

Last week saw the presentation to the winners of the 2015 Free From Food Awards.

This hashtag is probably still giving Alex nightmares

This hashtag is probably still giving Alex nightmares

I’ve been delighted to be a judge in these awards for the last few years and equally happy to judge in the inaugural Free From Eating Out Awards last year.

What I really like about the Free From Food Awards is that they celebrate both the large retailers we free from food folk usually rely on for supplies, as well as the small, and often very niche, retailers.

The Awards party itself has a fabulous atmosphere. It’s impossible not to feel the excitement crackling through the room as the 300 or so invitees wait to hear who has won.

For me it’s a bit like a school reunion. The date is in my diary as soon as I’m invited and I can’t wait! I get to catch up with friends I see fairly regularly as well as those I see perhaps only once a year at the Awards ceremony. And there’s always someone new and interesting to meet.

The full list of Free From Food Award Winners, Highly Commended and Commended products can be found here.

However, I’d like to award a couple of special prizes of my own:

Every Little Helps Award – Tesco
Back when I started this blog, Sainsburys were the supermarket who were very engaged with the Free From community. I went to their HQ for a number of new product development sessions and product launches. While their Free From range is still extensive, it feels a little tired and it’s Tesco who are really leading the way currently on developing new products. On the day of the Awards, Tesco announced record losses of £6.4 billion. During the judging, I tried the Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Melting Middle which won the Meat and Fishy Ready Meals category. It was delicious and I was speechless it had come from Tesco. I’m not a Tesco shopper as there isn’t one near me but this made me reconsider occasionally going out of my way to stock the freezer up. Every little helps.

OMG Are These REALLY Gluten Free? Award – FEEL FREE DONUTS

I have never tried these donuts before (it’s a real gap in the gluten free market) but they were available in the buffet after the awards’ presentation. I tried them. And went back. And they were so good I went back several times for more. They were crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. They come from in a pack of 4, wrapped individually which I think is a great idea.

Consistently Great Award – Caroline Aherne, Free From Bakehouse
I first met Caroline at the 2011 Awards presentation party. An incident on the train line to the party venue had left me stranded at Clapham Junction. Caroline (who I had never met before) replied to my stranded tweet and picked me up in her car and drove us out to Kew. That night, and since then, Caroline’s delicious sweet and savoury treats – in various forms – have been picking up the accolades. My favourite are her raspberry and white chocolate brownies, for which I’ve been known to take a cab over to Borough Market to buy some of her delicious treats during my lunch hour.

Most excited nominees – Gluten Free Uprising
I absolutely loved chatting to these Welsh guys who won Highly Commended for their ready ro roll gluten free and dairy free short crust pastry. They couldn’t have been more thrilled and were really excited for their top secret future product plans. If enthusiasm and excitement can build a business, these guys are ones to watch.

But I couldn’t write this post without a mention to all the Free From-ers who I managed to catch up with on the night, and those who I didn’t. It’s always such a pleasure to see you all. We are lucky to have a great, supportive community, and it was a lot of fun to celebrate the producers who make our lives a bit easier by producing such tasty, allergy friendly foods.

A big thank you to Michelle and Cressida for inviting me to participate in the judging of the Awards. Well done to Alex for managing to tweet through the results, no mean feat. Huge congratulations to all the nominees and winners as well as whole Free From Food Awards team for another successful Awards. Roll on 2016!

FFFA 2015 selfie

FFFA 2015 selfie

Read more on this year’s Free From Food Awards by Ruth and Carly.

What did you think of the winners this year? Any surprises?