Saturday, 7 May 2011

Annie Goes to the Allergy & Gluten Free Show

Today DH and I went up to the Allergy & Gluten Free show at Olympia.  It was our first visit to this exhibition.

Overall it was impressive just how many exhibitors there were - but I would love to have seen a show dedicated to gluten free.

A few of the big boys, like Sainsburys, had "demonstration" stations but all in all the event felt like just an exhibition whereas I think the gluten free community in the UK is ready for something a little more sophisticated, more of a food show.

Imagine the Good Food Show equivalent for gluten free!  Producers, suppliers, cooking experts, bakers, nutritionists...  imagine live cooking shows going over the basics of how to bake with gluten free flours... imagine ideas on quick, nutritious, gluten free breakfasts, lunches, snacks... how to entertain..

I'm sure we could do this!

Anyway, back to the show as it is.  Many stands had free samples on offer which was great.  Some of the offerings however felt to me a little more like the "bad old days" of gluten free food and didn't really do justice to the fabulous food that I know is out there.

To anyone who doesn't know me, this is going to sound arrogant, but I knew that I could do a lot better. (To those who know me, the idea that I actually say that my food is better than someone else's, is almost unheard of!).

I am such a firm believer that gluten free flours ROCK and that they can do things that "normal" flours can't.  For a start, they have a TASTE whereas wheat flour is tasteless!  They are so light and fine that they make the most heavenly sponges, beautiful short pastry, and lovely crunchy biscuits.  I tasted cakes and biscuits however that just did not deliver on that.  I won't name the ones I didn't like - other people were buying products after having tastes so maybe it is just my personal taste.

On a more positive note, there were some outstanding products on sale.

The bread produced by Fria definitely lives up to their strap line - you won't be able to tell the difference!  The bread looked, smelt, felt and tasted like the best fresh bread you could buy and absolutely nothing like gluten free bread.  I am so very glad that they are selling now in the UK and I look forward to their bread being more readily available - even on prescription!  The thought of ordering a 6 pack of their fresh loaves .... *sigh*  that would be amazing.

I was also totally blown away by the fabulous savoury baked goods on offer from the Baked to Taste range from G Free.  The sausage rolls were available to taste and again, they stood up as a product on their own - regardless of being gluten free!  I hate the "puff" pastry used by shops for sausage rolls and much prefer the more shortcrust style pastry that Baked to Taste uses.  They use the same style pastry for their pasties and, having just sat and devoured their steak pasty that I brought home, I can honestly say it is one of the nicest pasties I've had for many, many years - gluten or otherwise.  Lovely pastry, tasty beef, nice and peppery... I wish I had a freezer full of them.

Another surprise was the Estrella Damm Daura beer. I'd seen it on sale in Sainsburys before but was put off by the apparent price.  Having spoken with the rep it really seems that this is largely down to some appalling labelling as in reality per bottle it isn't much more expensive than any quality ale.  As someone who loves real ale, and would happily pay out for an "expensive" bottle of ale, I can't complain at the price comparison!  It tasted good and I'd love to have a tasting session of it to compare to GFA and St Peter's which are my current favourites.

The gosh-I-could-weep moment of the day came from stumbling over the Bob's Red Mill/Lavida/Bakery on Main stand.  There should have been an hallelujah chorus and a ray of sunlight highlighting the moment - sorghum flour!!! In the UK!!!  Right in front of me!!!

Any gluten free baker will have heard of sorghum and read jealously of our American friends raving over its use in baking, and know that certified gluten free sorghum just wasn't available here.  Bob's Red Mill however have recently come to the UK via Lavida Food.  According to the people on the stand, the product is currently shipped with the US FDA panel on it but that the next shipment was due in with the EU label which would mean it could be sold via other outlets including Amazon.

They were quite taken aback at my fervour and seemed doubtful until I showed them my twitter account and the comments there that my frantic tweet had generated!

Please note, if you go to the website to try to order, I was told it would be available as from Monday - so you need to be patient.  I, of course, took full advantage of their stall and their show offer and came home with four bags ;-)

I'm looking forward to baking some great breads this week.

I must also mention the ginger cookies that we tried from Kent & Fraser.  Again, like all of the things I've mentioned, they stood out as a great product that would have been at home at any food event.  Great crunch, texture, fabulous ginger taste... I could easily eat a box in one sitting!

I'd love to hear from you if you went to the show and to know your hits and misses.


  1. Hello! I have seen very large packs of sorghum flour in local Tesco (old Kent Road) but I really love Bob's Red Mill - wish we could get more of their products in the UK. I always try to stock up when in US, but they are so heavy to bring back!!

  2. What brand was the sorghum? I have written to most of the Asian suppliers in the UK and none of them could confirm that the flour was "safe" from cross contamination. Check out the website I mention above as they have a number of the Bob's Red Mill products available!

  3. Yes I was at the Allergy Show as a visitor only.

    Such events are frighteningly difficult to organise...but must stress that there are some wonderul Gluten free food fairs...where it is ALL gluten various locations through out the UK.
    The biggest is at was 14th May this watch out for publicity for will be around that date.

    Wellfoods does venture out of Barnsley...I have a passport to get out of Yorkshire...and visit various events. Next is the Coeliac UK AGM at Derby...2 nd July....and after that...its Falkirk (3 Sept) Biggleswade, (17 Sept), Hereford (29 Oct), Penrith (5 Nov) and Wilts (12 November). I leave a photo of myself on the sideboard at home so the kitty knows who I am....

    If there is an event near you...(and my list isnt ALL of the events)...make a point of will have a lot of other Coeliacs...and find foods that are gluten free..that you didnt know existed.

    If any problems....ring me on 01226 381712.

    As always
    Janet Woodward,
    Wellfoods of Barnsley