Nairn’s Gluten Free Biscuit Breaks

oatssyrupoatbackgroundwebsiteANOTHER 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.

£1.90 from Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado and some independent health food stores

 

Sweet potato rolls

Wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free

IMG_5333 I CAN’T lay claim to this recipe – it was a happy discovery via a fellow allergy Mum  and comes from Pippa Kendrick, author of the amazing ‘free from’ blog that is The Intolerant Gourmet.

Unlike so many gluten free baking recipes, these came out perfectly the very first time I made them – and were wolfed down fresh for lunch with tzatziki and cucumber sticks by a ravenous toddler. Then the remainder were polished off by me.

Continue reading “Sweet potato rolls”

The perfect cheesecake (two ways)

IMG_4390YOU’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)”

‘Life with my allergic toddler’

SO TODAY I have a small piece in The Times’ Weekend supplement,Life With My Allergic Toddler’about the pain in the arseness of trying to shop, cook and cater for a food allergy tot when everything you try to buy ‘may contain’ this that and the other. (Here’s the link. It’s a shorter piece than originally intended but I’ll post the full and unabridged soon…)

Meanwhile, this morning I headed out to the supermarket to buy ingredients for a Sid-friendly cheesecake (recipe also to come). And instantly proved my point.

Sainsbury’s Organic double cream? “Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers”. Silver Spoon icing sugar? “May contain traces of egg.” Sainsbury’s ‘Free From’ digestive biscuits? “May contain nuts”. Three separate shops later and I think we finally have what we need. Minus the cheery disposition I may or may not have had when we started…

Juicy lamb sausages

Egg free, wheat free, gluten free, nut free, (optional: dairy free)

ALL THOUGHTS of raising a veggie child flew straight out of the window when Sid turned out to be allergic to virtually all of my staples (eggs, wheat, pulses, nuts, hummus), the little bugger.

In all honesty, I’d never seriously considered bringing him up a vegetarian as my husband’s a meat eater and I have to confess to very fond memories of all my childhood meaty meals. After all, I’m half Roman on my Dad’s side and Jewish with an Irish-English bent on my Mum’s so how could I not have happy recollections of everything from salami to salt beef, steak ‘n’ kidney pie, roast pork with all the crackling (non-practising Jewish, all right?), even, I’m afraid, a bit of the old vitello tonnato. My veggie ways are all about the animal thing, not the taste thing.

So while I’m squeamish about handling raw meat and leave most of the handiwork on that front to my husband, I’m very happy to introduce Sidney to as many tasty foods as we safely can.

These lamb sausages were pilfered and adapted from a baby-led weaning cookbook and they have a few bonuses: they’re stuffed with veg, they freeze well and can be steamed back to juicy life (I’m told) in no time; plus they make great portable finger food as well as a hearty complement to a traditional meat and two veg dinner.

The original recipe, if I remember rightly, includes peas but, since they’re out for us, I use courgette, leek and, depending what’s in the fridge, a little cheddar or parmesan for added oomph. They’re just as good dairy free, though.

Ingredients

250g minced lamb

1 medium leek, finely chopped

2 courgettes, finely chopped

Ground black pepper to taste

Fresh herbs to taste (optional)

Handful grated parmesan (check the ingredients label to ensure there is no egg – the similar Grana Padano cheeses tend to include it) or cheddar

Olive oil to grease pan

Baking tray

Mixing bowl

Method

Steam or sauté the courgettes and leeks in a little olive oil until soft (you could add some finely chopped garlic and onion, too). Plop the lamb mince in a bowl and mix well with the cooked veg. Season with black pepper, add chopped fresh herbs if you fancy – mint’s a good one – and stir again.

Let the veg cool down before taking small handfuls of the mixture and forming little sausages. You could turn them into meatballs, or flat patties, but a sausage is particularly good for younger babies to grip. If the mix is sticky, you could dust your hands first with some wheat free, gluten free flour, but I’ve never found this to be necessary.

Place the sausages on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Ideally, if you have the time, stick them in the fridge for an hour or so before baking – this lets them firm up nicely.

Bake in a 200˚C oven for around 25 minutes to half an hour. You’ll know they’re cooked when they’re browned on the outside and no longer pink when you cut through one.

Perfect served fresh and hot, or cold the next day. I always freeze a batch for future use. Let them cool before layering them between sheets of baking paper in a foil carton and freezing. Defrost overnight in the fridge, then steam in a colander over a pan for 30 to 45 minutes until piping hot. Yum (apparently).

HumZingers Fruit Stix

HEAVENS, I’M on an allergy friendly roll. What a novelty: two discoveries in as many days. This time it’s a dried fruit snack called HumZingers, which again I came across in Waitrose.

I would have ignored the things if a friend hadn’t mentioned them to me: for one, the name and cheapo Fraggle on the box seem to shout ‘sugar’, ‘additives’, ‘crap’. For another, they’re not stocked in the Free From aisle. But Sidney’s friend Benjamin swears by them (insofar as a 17-month-old can swear by anything) and it turns out they’re sugar free and made simply with dried fruit and fruit extracts. The problem is, the box claims ‘gluten free’ but there’s no mention of nuts etcetera. So I emailed the manufacturers, Humdinger, to find out. The answer:

I can confirm that HumZingers do not contain either nuts or sesame, and that they are packed on a site that does not handle these products. We do handle nuts and sesame but these are produced at separate site. The modified starch is rice flour so does not contain wheat.

As we do with the sulphites that are contained in the product, we would declare any of the 14 food allergens that are dictated by EU legislation  if they were contained in the product or if there was a possibility of cross contamination with any of the list.

Result! How long have I been looking for a healthy, kid-friendly snack that doesn’t contain nuts and the like? I’ve already pointed out how toddler brands like Ella’s Kitchen and Plum snap from being allergy-friendly when the food’s for under-ones to suddenly containing the warning “may contain traces” as soon as their products are suitable for older tots. These are big brands so I still don’t get why they can’t improve their allergy-friendly provision.

Still, slowly (very, very slowly) we’re adding a few more things to the list of stuff that Sidney can eat. Of course the bulk of his meals is homemade, and snacks are usually rice cakes, fresh fruit or yoghurt, but give me a break: sometimes it’s nice to know there’s a pre-packed something out there as well.

From £1.99 for pack of 10, from selected Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbuy’s, Holland and Barrett and online at Tesco here and Natural Matter here

Essex ice cream makers scoop ‘free from’ prize

A PERSONAL TRAINER who set up his own allergy-friendly ice cream company has landed a top gong at the Free From Food Awards.

Fitness expert and nutritionist Steve Bessant established Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream with pal Ian Drury in Essex just last year.

The only Brit-based ice cream to be made from coconut milk, it is dairy free, egg free, gluten free, soya free and totally vegan.

Continue reading “Essex ice cream makers scoop ‘free from’ prize”

Allergy-Friendly Eatery: Don Fernando, Richmond

This one comes courtesy of the lovely Gemma Morris of Sky News fame… She’s allergic to tree nuts and recently stumbled across Richmond tapas joint Don Fernando, where the staff told her they never cook with nuts nor nut oils.

As she says: “It was great to have such peace of mind when eating my dinner.”

While I haven’t yet made it across the river to sample the fare, I gave them a quick call to see if they do indeed operate a nut-free zone. The answer? “Nope, we never use nuts or nut oils in our kitchen.”

Fair enough, they buy in some desserts and these may contain nuts or ‘traces’, while some breads are produced outside the premises in an environment where nuts may be present.

But every item on the menu, they tell me, is clearly marked with potential allergens – specifically nuts, dairy and gluten.

Why, when so many other places fail to do the same? “It’s just something we get asked quite a lot,” I’m told. “Certainly with nuts it’s potentially dangerous so we decided to label our menus more clearly. And if there’s the slightest possibility of any traces then we say so.”

Co-owner Edoardo Izquierdo adds: “We still believe the customer is always – well nearly always! – right and listen to all suggestions. Hence we try to welcome and accommodate all customers including those with allergies.”

This is a neighbourhood eatery, owned and run by the Izquierdo family since 1990. It occupies an unassuming position on the corner of The Quadrant, slap bang by Richmond tube and mainline stations.  Take a browse of reviews online and you’ll find the same comments: “friendly”, “authentic” and “lively”.

Add to that a big cheer for being allergy-aware and there’s a lesson for every restaurant in town.

Don Fernando, 27 The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1DN, 020 8948 6447, info@donfernando.co.uk, www.donfernando.co.uk

Allergy-Friendly Eatery: Lyttelton Cafe, National Theatre, Southbank

English: London
National Theatre (image: Wikipedia)

Not exactly a resounding clap on the back but a reserved ‘yay’ for this little cafe and espresso bar on the ground floor of the National Theatre.

Ask and you shall receive a full ingredients list for all the baked goods on offer. Chocolate ginger tiffin, for instance, is egg free, I found this weekend. But if you have nut issues it’s still a way off being safe – all cakes ‘may have traces of nuts’, the friendly lass behind the counter confirmed, ruefully.

One day, maybe, these places will get the whole cross-contamination thing sorted. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Lyttelton Cafe & Espresso Bar, Ground Floor, National Theatre, Southbank, London SE1 9PX, nationaltheatre.org.uk