Eating out with Food Allergies in the UK
The closing date for the inaugural Free From Eating Out Awards www.freefromeatingoutawards.co.uk is on Sunday 31 August, although the schools, colleges and universities category is open until 30 September.
These Awards have been launched to raise awareness of the huge opportunities offered by 'freefrom' food within the foodservice sector, especially once the new allergen regulations affecting foodservice come into force in December 2014. For all of us who suffer from a food allergy or intolerance, these Awards are doing a fantastic job in raising awareness among restaurants and venues about catering for people with allergies.
One restaurant chain which recognised the need for catering for people with food allergies some years ago is Leon www.leonrestaurants.co.uk as its menus carry symbols such as WF (Wheat Free), GF (Gluten Free), DF (Dairy Free). Such a simple idea. So when Ray and I visited their branch at 56 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6AN we had no problem in choosing our meal. Ray opted for Thai Green Chicken Curry (WF, GF, DF) and I had Chicken Lemon and Olive Tagine (WF/GF).
Great new that Leon is introducing a new range of milk free shakes made with unsweetened almond milk, which are dairy, gluten and wheat free. Apparently Leon has developed a vanilla and date base that naturally sweetens the drinks. There will be three flavours - Original Vanilla, Banana and Cinnamon and Flaked Chocolate. Can't wait to try one!
I'm a frequent visitor to Pret A Manager www.pret.com because of its delicious spread of salads. Imagine my surprise to discover a gluten free tortilla wrap Mexican Guatamole. Made with avocado, chipotle ketchup, coriander, red peppers, spinach, cucumber and fresh mint, it's dairy free and vegetarian too. I savoured every mouthful as I haven't eaten a wrap for 15 years. Wonderful. Do hope they introduce more gluten and dairy free foods.
Great news to hear that Naomi Stoker is going to open Reading's first gluten free cafe Nibsy's Coffee Shop, 26 Cross Street, Reading www.getreading.co.uk/news/local-news/gluten-free-cafe-set-open-reading-7629825 on 2 September. Wish her every success and I'm looking to visiting soon.
Rosie Norman and Ant Saunt will be running the gluten free Camberwell Kitchen Supper Club on 18 October www.thecamberwellkitchen.com - this sounds like fun!
Have you tried goats' ice cream yet? I sampled some at the RHS Secret Garden Sunday event www.rhus.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-londong-shows/secret-sundays Light, creamy, lactose free and refreshing, available in several flavours from Greedy Goat www.greedygoat.co.uk such as Maple and Praline, Salted Caramel and Apple Pie. The next Secret Garden Sunday is on Sunday 7 September. Greedy Goat can be found at Borough Market www.boroughmarket.co.uk
When attending functions, I normally have to refuse canapes and nibbles because invariably they have gluten or wheat in them or the member of staff doesn't know so I can't rake a risk. I attended the CIPR www.cipr.co.uk Greater London Group's Summer Party last night at Skyloft Altitude 28th Floor Millbank Tower with panoramic views of London and was delighted to be served with goats' cheese on sticks (looked like tomatoes!) with chopped pistachios and slivers of roast beef on rosti potatoes topped with mayonnaise.
This brings us to the problem of entertaining friends who don't suffer from food allergies at all. For example, I used to serve a choice of a wheat free and dairy free cheesecake and an ordinary one and would announce "This dish is wheat and dairy free". Yes you've guessed it, they didn't want the wheat and dairy free cheesecake. Now I just serve the one dessert without saying anything. No complaints yet. The biggest surprise is Alpro www.alpro.com/uk custard made with soya milk - guests willingly pour it over dessert, amazed to learn much later that it is made with soya milk.
Here's a round up of new free from products on the market:
Soupologie's vegetable soup which is vegan, gluten and lactose-free. Choose from Beetroot & Pomegranate Detox Boost and Spinach & Kale with Garlic Super Soup www.soupologie.com
Mrs Crimbles' www.mrscrimbles.com new Belgian Chocolate Coconut - coconut macaroons coated in Belgian chocolate. Do hope they will be avalable on Virgin Trains www.virgintrains.co.uk as some of their other products are.
Phil Vickery has added new varieties to his range of gluten and dairy free mixes including Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, Natural Vanilla Cupcake Mix and Very Chocolaty Cupcake Mix. There's also a range of gluten and dairy free fondant icing mixes in chocolate, raspberry, lemon and strawberry. Available from www.squires-shop.com