But last night I was a guest at the FreeFrom Food Awards and it set me thinking how amazing it is that, three years back, I had no clue about allergy and no part to play in its weird old world whereas now I am privileged to know a wonderful circle of people who share a common cause. Continue reading “FreeFrom Food Awards – top picks”
WHEN I FIRST turned vegetarian about, ooh, 28 years ago (gulp) it was pretty standard fare when eating out to get pizza with holes in it where the salami had been picked off, a plate of peas and potatoes while everyone else chomped on chicken and more baked beans than you could shake a farty stick at.
And in truth it’s only been in fairly recent times – say, the last five to ten years – that I haven’t always been faced with the same bloody meal every time I eat out.
IT IS OFFICIALLY official – wheat is back on the menu.
It’s a massive step forward. Yet right at this minute it also feels like a big step back. Why? Because we have to go right back to the drawing board to discover what is and isn’t safe for Sid to eat.
Could he have outgrown his wheat allergy?
To be fair, Sidney’s allergist has long been of the opinion that he would lose this one sooner or later – I think he cited an 80 per cent probability – and he was surprised when our last oral challenge a year and a half ago saw Sid react to a tablespoon of Weetabix.
If I’m totally honest I’m a bit discombobulated. I’m not sure I quite know what to do next. We’re so well-versed in the art of avoiding wheat that it all feels a bit, well, odd. We’re almost institutionalised into the world of wheat free – I’m an expert at knowing which brands of pasta, bread and biscuits to look for. If I can go shopping for actual proper wheat versions I think I might flounder at the choice.
Of course we’re delighted, don’t get me wrong. It’s opening up a whole new realm of shopping and cooking and eating. I keep thinking of the things that, finally, Sidney can have: cous cous, for instance. Bulgar wheat. Actual proper pizza. Home-made bread (try as I might I’ve never mastered the art of gluten free bread baking). Surely making cakes will be easier, now? Ditto pastry. I think we can probably buy filo. We can all sit down together for a plate of pasta – just what I hankered for all those months ago when we first learned of his allergies.
On the other hand, I now almost feel like a fraud, as if losing the wheat allergy disqualifies us from proper allergic status. I wholeheartedly recommend starting off with as many infant allergies as possible – it means if you shed one or two along the way it feels like you’re barely having to deal with anything at all.
Of course, this is nonsense. We still boast severe, potentially anaphylactic, allergies to egg, nuts and sesame, and chickpeas, lentils and peas remain firmly on the list. Even if wheat is now possible we can’t risk buying fresh bread from our local bakery or eating it when out, because of the risk of cross contamination with eggs, seeds or nuts. And if we should ever pluck up the courage to order pizza or pasta from a restaurant we would have to preface any visit with a battery of questions about cross contamination, cleaning procedures, ingredients and more.
The thing is, wheat was probably one of the easiest of all the allergies to deal with. Not only has Sidney thankfully never been allergic to wheat by touch, only ingestion, but gluten free is such big business these days that it’s been the least of our concerns.
Then there’s the fact that many of the companies that make gluten free foods (Dove’s Farm for flour and biscuits, Nairn’s for porridge, Orgran for pastas, Dietary Specials for breads, Venice Bakery for pizzas) are all mega clued up when it comes to egg, nut and sesame allergy so the products are safe all round. Will ‘normal’ wheat products have such stringent processes in place?
Seriously, allergies can make you quite, quite nuts.
THIS Dove’s farm recipe is as quick and easy as it looks.The biscuits worked a treat on first attempt – a rare find, I find.
I’ve made them as recommended with lemon zest and juice, and again with a little less lemon, ditching the zest and throwing in a handful of chocolate drops. Next time I’m going to try substituting the lemon for orange. Then we’ll go for a coconut version, too, I think. Ooh, the possibilities… Continue reading “Easy peasy shortbreads”
LAST year I penned a super-peeved post about our debut trip to the Allergy & Free From Show. From the ‘welcome’ bag stuffed with sesame bars to the willy-nilly nuts, the lack of allergy friendly cafe fare and the quacks offering dodgy allergy tests occupying pole position at the entrance it was less the allergy show, more the gluten free nut-lovers’ hippy dippy hokum show. OK, I exaggerate a bit: I did find some very fine allergy safe gnocchi and was bowled over to hear the fabulous Dr Adam Fox speak).
To give them credit, after I posted my rant the organisers got in touch and talked through each of my (and my fellow allergy bloggers’) concerns – explaining the reasoning behind some peeves and promising to put other aspects right by this year’s event.
Happily, it seems they have. Continue reading “Allergy Show: the verdict (and five fab finds)”
ANOTHER HAPPY discovery – these extremely edible oat biscuits, which make a great ‘free from’ alternative to digestives. They give TruFree a run for their money and have the added bonus of being soya free. They’re egg, nut and gluten free and contain no dairy (but are manufactured on a line that also handles milk products). I like that there isn’t an endless list of ingredients – just oats, sustainable palm fruit oil, sugar, syrup, tapioca, baking soda and salt.
YOU’LL BE hard pressed to find a shop or deli-bought cheesecake that doesn’t contain egg, let alone wheat or nuts. But it’s actually really simple to knock up an allergy-friendly alternative that tastes just as good… and maybe even better.
I first made this recipe, just before Sid was born, for my husband’s birthday. (I’m not a mental baker, but I was six months pregnant and we weren’t going out on the razzle so I decided a cake would be a substitute – albeit a poor one!). I’ve adapted it here for Sidney using Tru Free digestives, which are egg, nut, wheat and gluten free. Continue reading “The perfect cheesecake (two ways)”
WOO! A RARE find: biscuits that have all of Sidney’s allergy bases covered. While scouring the FreeFrom aisle in Waitrose yesterday I came across these newbies (to me, at least): TruFree Digestive Biscuits.
Amazingly, they’re wheat free, gluten free, egg free, dairy free and nut free (though not soya free). I double checked on the nut and dairy thing with the manufacturers, who happen to be part of the Dietary Specials lot.
The biccies are made in a nut free factory although legally, apparently, they can’t describe themselves as ‘nut free’ because they don’t actually test the product for nuts. Ditto they don’t test for dairy so can’t officially lay claim to the statement ‘dairy free’ but there there are no dairy ingredients used in the digestives and no hidden animal by-products – so they’re effectively vegan as well. Sounds good enough for me.
There’s a whole range of allergy friendly biscuits by TruFree, including bourbons, rich teas and custard creams, but check the packets on all before you buy: some may be made in a nut containing facility. There’s an eminently sensible guide on the TruFree website, which states:
We do not claim TruFree products are nut free. However the warnings on pack will vary according to the facilities at the manufacturing site used for that product:
Made in a factory that uses nut ingredients – nuts will be on site and may be used in the same manufacturing line.
May contain traces of nuts – no nuts are used on site but a risk from an ingredient supplier has been identified.
No warning – no risk has been identified at either the manufacturing site or our ingredient suppliers.
So pleased to have found these biscuits. They don’t taste bad, either – a little grittier than your usual digestive and they wouldn’t fool anyone in a blind challenge with a McVitie’s but they’re palatable enough, good dunked in a cuppa and now I can make my easy party special: fridge cake, allergy free and suitable for Sid! Will get going on a batch when I get the chance/can be faffed and post the recipe here…