On Tuesday night I was very lucky to attend the annual Free From Awards party where this year’s winners were finally announced. The Free From Food Awards are now in their fifth very successful year. The Awards shortlist included a very impressive 300 products in 17 different categories which are all free from gluten, wheat, dairy (cow’s milk) and in addition some entries are also free from other major allergens including nuts and eggs. I was delighted to have been invited to join the judging panel this year and you can read my post on being a judge for the awards here. The prizes were presented by chef Anthony Worrall Thompson who has supported the Free From Food Awards from the start.
The invitation only awards ceremony was held in the Museum of London in the Docklands. This year we only had the DLR to contend with, unlike last year when a fatality on the over ground train line to the awards party location in Kew meant I was stuck at Clapham Junction until Caroline Aherne of Sugargrain (who’d I’d never met before!) very kindly came to my rescue!
Gluten free beer! I tried the Cornish Stinger’s Nettle Beer. (Verdict? Would be great with ice and mint on a summer’s evening)
The Awards ceremony/party gave me the opportunity to meet with many people I’ve chatted to via Twitter and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with old friends and new. When I started writing this blog, I really had no idea of the friendly gluten free community I would become part of and I think it’s amazing.
A winning trio! Mairead Maher of Lavida Foods, Caroline Aherne of Sugargrain and Stevan Taylor of the Foodamentalists.
In particular I was looking forward to finally meeting, Stevan Taylor who owns Yorkshire based Foodamentalists. I was so pleased for him that his gluten, wheat and dairy free frangipane mince pies won the dairy/gluten free Christmas foods category. Sadly I won’t be able to eat these amazing mince this year due to my almond allergy. However Stevan very generously developed some gluten, wheat, dairy and nut free chocolate brownies which he gave to me on the night. In addition to winning the Christmas foods category, Stevan also won a Highly Commended and two Commended awards for his fantastic products.
I was really pleased that Fria won the gluten free bread and bread mixes category with their very tasty Grova sliced loaf and also won a Highly Commended for their Grov minibaguettes. This Swedish bread company produces fantastic gluten free and dairy free bread with interesting flavours and a lower fat / higher fibre content to many of the gluten free breads on the market. They also sell some mighty sweet treats such as the Kanelbulle I’d tried in Stockholm and the seriously delicious Kladdkaka which proved such a hit at last year’s allergy show and which won a Commended this year in the gluten free cakes FFF Awards category. I hope that by winning awards in both the Bread and Cake categories, the profile of Fria’s products will be raised and attract the interest of UK major supermarkets in stocking Fria’s fantastic quality products thus making them more widely available.
The evening gave the attendees a fantastic opportunity to network and chat with both large and small scale producers, such as the lovely Russ and Yvette who are the husband and wife team behind Incognito Cakes. Incognito Cakes won a Highly Commended for their Choc Fudge Cake in the very competitive cakes and cake mixes category. The evening provided a great example that if you have the desire and passion to do something you love (whatever the size of your operation) then you can be successful.
Russ and Yvette, Incognito Cakes
One of the interesting products that I tried as part of the judging panel were gluten free spring rolls from Butterfly Snacks. Gluten free Chinese food is extremely difficult to find due to the abundance of soya and other gluten containing sauces in most dishes and this is one world cuisine which is almost exclusively necessary to cook from scratch at home. Unfortunately this product didn’t win an award this year but I’m glad Butterfly Snacks are producing spring rolls which certainly fill a gap in the gluten free market.
A full list of the winners of the Free From Food Awards 2012 is here. Please do take a few minutes to read through the full list. I found lots of interesting sounding products which I’d like to try and had not been aware of before, as well as many of my favourites.
A few picks from the winners from me:
· Gluten-free pasta and pizza bases/mixes: Winner - Farabella Acini di Pepe/Pasta Grains A new product for me which I’m keen to try as a substitute for couscous as the summer salad months approach.
· Gluten-free savoury biscuits and snacks Winner – Darling Spuds Tomato, Green Olive and Oregano crisps and Highly Commended Sour Cream with a hint of Mexican Chilli Coeliacs rejoice! Finally, a truly gluten free crisp. The packets even carry the crossed grain symbol. I’ve bought these from Ocado and the flavours are fantastic. The owners of Darling Spuds couldn’t attend the Awards ceremony as they were hosting two children from Chernobyl, which makes me love this company even more.
· Free From Ingredients Joint Winner – Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour I really like the mix of beans in this flour mix and use it for baking cakes, including the recent Orange & Polenta cake. It’s more expensive than other gluten free flours but it gives an interesting texture and great flavour to cakes.
· Pies, Flans, pizzas, one pot meals Highly Commended – Dietary Specials Bonta d’Italia Marherita Pizza This pizza was genuinely fantastic. I liked the fact you could add your own toppings to this thin crispy pizza if you wanted to. I hope DS get this stocked more widely than at Asda, where I’m not a customer.
· Raw Food Winner – InSpiral’s Raw Dehydrated Kale Chips Cheesie Purple Corn Lots of rave reviews amongst those who’ve tried these kale chips mean they are a must try. I’m interested to find out how cheesie they taste when they are vegan don’t contain any cheese.
The winners line up with Anthony Worral Thompson and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson
A huge congratulations to all of the winners in this year’s awards. Many thanks to Cresssida and Michelle for inviting me to join the judging panel and for all their hard work in making the awards the success it is.