10 best gluten free pastas

MUCH OF THE past two years has been spent desperately seeking a passable taste of the proper pasta Sid is missing. I needed to feed the one quarter Italian in him, after all.

So here’s what I’ve found – the best of the bunch (as far as I’ve managed to get in my mission, anyway). They’re all nut free, egg free and sesame free, too:

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Digestives!

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…

TruFree Digestive Biscuits, £1.75 a pack, from Waitrose, ASDA, Holland and Barrett, Goodness Foods, Simply Free or online via Dietary Specials here

A quick thought

A QUICK thought on the Free From Food Awards that occurred to me as I was scribbling up the winners’ list.

Not only is there an absence of properly nut free stuff amongst them but there are very few foods that are safe for those with multiple allergies. Heaps of gluten free (and dairy free) out there, which is obviously laudable, but I’m worried that gluten free is becoming the fall back for anyone who wants to claim a ‘free from’ or ‘allergy friendly’ tag.

The supermarkets are among the worst culprits – they’re showering us with their ‘free from’ ranges but precious few of the products are safe for nut or egg allergy sufferers. Unless all the main allergens are covered it’s a bit of a box-ticking exercise, no?

That’s why Bessant and Drury’s win for their (*deep breath*) egg free, soya free, nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan ice cream caught my eye. (I think they’re probably wheat free, too, but need to check on that.) They’ve created a product that is not just aimed at the food allergy market but that can still declare itself to be allergy safe for many. I’d like to think this is the future for free from foods: not a specialist niche but an attempt to create properly luxury products that exclude the main allergens, but where taste is all.

I think the Free From Food Awards are a wonderful, important thing, but next year I would like to see a few more nut frees, sesame frees, soya frees and egg frees alongside the no gluten and no dairy winners. That’s not just a challenge to the awards, it’s a rallying cry to the industry. Please?

* UPDATE 25/4/12 Would you believe it, I’ve since found out that Bessant and Drury’s ice-cream isn’t ‘nut free’ after all. It’s made in a factory where nuts are present. Unfortunately their website states ‘nut free’ here, which I’m sure is just an oversight and a result of the fact that labelling laws are so confusing. Still, only serves to prove my point, I guess! They remain egg, soya, gluten and dairy free…

Bread!

A momentous day: Sidney’s first ever taste of bread. Granted, it’s fake bread (Dietary Specials’ gluten free brown loaf) and if I’m honest it’s not a little like cardboard. But if it looks like bread, acts like bread and, as far as Sid’s concerned, tastes like bread, then I’m happy to say that’s what it is.

We passed the soya home challenge a week or two ago but it’s taken me this long to get over the niggling doubts: what if we hadn’t done it properly, what if we missed something, what if tofu wasn’t soya after all… Ridiculous, but it’s the first time he’s actually passed a food trial so I was a bit discombobulated by the success.

Now there are quite a few more options open to us: not only the egg-free, wheat-free recipes that demand soya milk (like pizza bases and wraps) but where we’re precluded from buying most of the branded wheat-free breads, because they contain egg, the Dietary Specials range has soya instead.

I am beyond excited. Do you know what this means? It means sandwiches! It means toast! It means cheese on toast! It means something miraculously quick and easy to take out and about for lunch and snacks. It means if we get home late and Sidney’s starving and I haven’t defrosted or steamed one of his homecooked concoctions I can just whip out the bread (“bread”) and slap on the butter, or the cream cheese, or the tomato, or the avocado, and – instant food!

I take my thrills where I can…

“So what the hell can he eat?”

As a newbie, relatively speaking, to the allergy kid scene, I’m always grilling the veterans out there on what pre-packaged foods their children can eat.

While every supermarket these days has a Free From section, it ain’t (as I’ve come to realise about everything food allergy related) that simple. Want a wheat free, gluten free, nut free bread? Sure – but it contains egg. Or soya. Or lupin. Or pea.

Want a nut free, dairy free, egg free chocolate? No problem. Only, mind the soya lecithin.

Wheat free breakfast cereal? Great. Just watch out for those traces of nuts and sesame…

Helpfully, fellow blogger Elaine, whose grandson Bob has multiple food allergies, has posted a list of the stuff she and her daughter know to be safe and free from dairy, egg, wheat, gluten and nuts. You can find the whole list here – but bear in mind ingredients can change without warning, so always check, check, check the labels first.

As time goes on I’ll be posting about the products I find to be good, and the places I come across that are fine for allergic folk… like my current number one hotspot, The Grove in Alexandra Palace, London, which you’ll find here.

I’d love to hear about your top food allergy friendly dining experiences, too – so do, please, post when you come across a gem!