I hope 2015 has got off to a good start for you all. As I mentioned in my last blog post I believe 2015 will be a big year for ‘allergy cooking’. In the three short years since I launched Feeding My Intolerant Child, I have noticed a massive increase in the amount of ready made food available to us but now we have more resources than ever to help us make more of our own.
As I suspected and hoped, many top chefs and TV cooks have now embraced the ‘lifestyle’ aspect of dairy free and gluten free ‘eating’ and have started to ‘clean up’ their recipes and publish articles and whole books dedicated to gluten free and dairy free cooking. Many of the food magazines now label their recipes with a variety of icons, e.g. dairy free, gluten free, vegan, low fat, low sugar so that you can scan through and at a glance find the ones most suited to you.
So this blog post is dedicated to sharing my favourite, recently discovered resources. It’s a mixture of food and health blogs, books and magazines. I’m not saying all are suitable to everyone but it is nice to know that there is such a wealth of information and help is out there at last. Some look a bit complicated and ‘right on’ and may put many off. I’m a ‘simple’ cook and am doing this for my children, so am always attracted by the quick and easy recipes. However, I do try and ‘eat clean’ as much as I can, for my own health, so am happy to try out the more intricate recipes on myself because I’m also greedy and a great consumer of food and food magazines.
My favourite magazines, currently, are Waitrose Kitchen
and Healthy Food Guide.
Both are very good at labelling their recipes with easy to spot icons. They are not written just for allergy folks so don’t expect whole pages dedicated to eating ‘free from’ the top ’14 allergens’, however, they do offer a good selection that most home cooks should be able to adapt and enjoy.
The Healthy Food Guide is a particular favourite as it is ‘handbag’ sized and feels a lot more about the health aspect and a lot less about selling food. It is also helpful to anyone keeping an eye on their weight and those looking for ‘natural’ and healthy alternatives to the supermarket ready made ‘free from’ foods which we all know are over priced and often loaded in fat and sugar. Most of the contributors are health and nutrition professionals and their advice is sound and credible. The photography is great and the recipes are well set out and easy to follow – and there are plenty of them. So this magazine feels good value, even at £2.95.
Waitrose Kitchen is free if you are a store card holder. It is only £1.20 if you have to pay, so considerably cheaper than most other foodie mags – which is one of the main reasons I have recommended it. As you would expect from Waitrose, it has an aspirational feel and with my cynical head on I cannot help but wonder if their support of ‘free from’ recipes was driven by the lifestyle choices of their customers, as much as those with the real need.
According to a, not particularly friendly, article in the Telegraph last month the ‘free from’ food market sales topped £0.5billion for the first time last year. So it is little one wonder that Waitrose supports this in store and in it’s magazine. But they should still be applauded because we do need this information.
It feels harsh that people criticise those with a genuine need and dismiss us as ‘lifestylers’ and fools who happily pay three times the price for our substandard and frankly grim tasting shop bought ‘bread’. In my opinion those with the genuine need for ‘free from’ foods look for healthy alternatives and are on a constant quest to find quality products, that also represent good value for money. As ‘we’ all know they are rarer than hens teeth and so many of us choose to set about a different quest – to make it ourselves.
And that is where these lovely blogs can help.
Some are just gluten free in focus. Some have a mix of dairy free recipes and some have recipes that are free from pretty much most allergens. So if you have a rummage, I’m sure you will find plenty to suit you. Another interesting ‘trend’ that is gaining popularity and headline space is the Paleo Diet. In summary it is a dairy free, grain free diet inspired by our ‘hunter gatherer’ diet from Paleolithic times. Many have adopted this eating plan for weight loss and health reasons, but because by nature it’s also gluten free and dairy free, this is a rich seam of information for us ‘allergy’ people to plunder. Worth a google search at the very least – there are tons of blogs on it!
As great as blogs are, I still love books. My two most recent discoveries are River Cottage, Light & Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and The Food Allergy Mamas Easy, Fast Family Meals.
I’m a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and was not at all surprised to learn that he had acknowledged the need for more ‘clean’ recipes and information for those following gluten free, dairy free lifestyles – for whatever reasons. Having seen his series on eating vegetarian, even if you are a committed carnivore, I could see that he was probably one of the most likely food writers to give this a go too. I was lucky enough to receive his new book for Christmas and I highly recommend it. The very first recipe in the breakfast section is for pepper grapefruit which beautifully illustrates the thrust of this book – food does not have to be full of junk cereals and dairy products, least of all ‘breakfast’.
Here’s the link to his site and a few videos. http://www.rivercottage.net/light-easy/
I’m sure the TV series is in production right now and will grace our screens before the end of 2015. Here’s hoping…
In the book’s narrative, Hugh seems to agree with a point I have raised many times – at some point in the last 20 years or so we have got a bit lazy with our thinking around meal times and accidentally over-consumed huge amounts of wheat at each of our three meals a day. His mission in this book is to remind us that the healthiest meals, that are easy to prepare, and most importantly easy to digest, can be ‘naturally’ free from wheat and dairy – no ‘fake’ substitutes required. My plan for the next few weeks is to have a go at some of these recipes and blog on my progress, so watch this space.
I was in my local library when I discovered Kelly Rudnicki. She is the self styled ‘Food Allergy Mama’ – an American food writer who has published several recipe books catering for a dairy, egg and nut free family. The book I found is her ‘Easy Fast Family Meals’. It is written in ‘American’, so us British cooks need to ‘translate’ the quantities but that’s easy enough to look up so shouldn’t put you off as the recipes are really fun and different.
Her reason to write is similar to my own – a Mum short on time and ideas, desperately needing to entice her ‘small people’ to conquer their food fears and eat healthy, home cooked, allergy friendly meals. I’m planning to have a go at some of these too. There are some lovely comfort foods in there, plenty of cookies and cakes but also some more wholesome slow cooked ‘main’ dishes which always go down well in this house. The Food Allergy Mama has her own blog and you can buy the book direct.
Finally, I come to a pet project of my own. ‘Free From Cookery’ courses. I believe there will be more of these appearing throughout 2015 – some online, some on TV and some taking place ‘for real’ at cookery schools. Since starting Feeding My Intolerant Child I have met several chefs and become aware of the large number of cookery courses foodies like me sign up for each year. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some courses dedicated to teaching us the ‘tricks’?
I would love to know how to master perfect gluten free, dairy free yorkshire puddings and who wouldn’t like to know how to bake the perfect loaf? It is something I am seriously investigating with my colleague Steve Walpole.
Steve is the clever chap in charge of developing the wonderful gluten free fresh pasta at Dell Ugo
It is our plan to develop and launch a few courses this year, taking the fear and anxiety out of ‘free from cookery’. Would you be interested? If so, what would you like to learn? How would you like the course delivered – video, podcast, in ‘real life’? I really want to hear from you as I believe there is a great need and it could be a fun project – so please, contact me any time with your suggestions/special requests, I’m no expert – but he is, and he has promised to show me how to show you. Happy New Year.