Zizzi’s – a good choice for the intolerant family 1

Zac at Zizzi !

As Zizzi’s seems to be one of the few chain restaurants that uses gluten free pasta, I decided it was time to pay them a visit. I had read in the press that they were also trialling a gluten free pizza for ‘Coeliac week’, so was doubly interested as Zac does love ‘pizza’ and it is a very long time since he was able to select anything from a restaurant or pub menu.

We tried the Winchester restaurant, as we were visiting the area for a wedding that weekend. I was prepared for the fact that the pizza might not be available, as that was just on trial in a few restaurants but was still excited at the prospect of Zac being able to eat something other than a packed lunch. We still took one anyway, as our intolerant child is also an impatient child and wants to eat the minute he sits down. He is also so used to taking his own food that he never expects to be presented with anything other than something from his lunch box.

Once his initial feeding frenzy passed he settled down happily and enjoyed colouring in his menu and crown – all kindly provided by our excellent waiter. I explained that I needed more than just a children’s menu and he showed me the ‘allergy’ list. It was extremely comprehensive and easy to follow. Every single dish on the menu was listed, with a breakdown of all the ingredients and the key allergens were all coded with symbols. The calorie content was also labelled and I am not sure what was more alarming – the fact that some dishes were almost a whole day’s worth of an adults recommended daily allowance or the fact that almost nothing was the holy grail of dairy free as well as gluten free.

We decided Zac might like to try the gluten free Doves Farm fusilli. I wanted him to have the tomato sauce but even that was marked with a ‘dairy’ symbol. I asked if it was an integral part of the sauce or just something added at the end that could be left out altogether. Thankfully, it was the latter. Our lovely waiter went to the trouble to double check. They just left off the cheese and Zac was a happy chap. He was also able to have a dessert. A strawberry sorbet, which was delicious.

So although, the choice was limited, at least there was a choice and I remain hopeful that it can only get better.



High hopes for the Food Festival Reply

As a food lover and keen cook, I have always enjoyed eating my way around farmers markets and food festivals. It is a great way to discover new ingredients and broaden my cooking repertoire, and a lovely way to spend a lazy weekend.

This weekend I am going the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival. My parents live in Christchurch and we have been to the festival a couple of times before. It is a real foodie dream, so I can’t wait. Let’s just hope the sun shines and the rain stays away. It takes over the whole town centre and is a farmers market gone mad, with a lot of local producers selling their wares, and giving free tastes! There are local chefs and tv chefs giving demos and talks, on the high street and even in the restaurants. They also have some kids cookery workshops this year. Obviously Zac can’t go to those. Bread and pasta making workshops are lost on him!

However, I live in hope that one day we will be able to buy something from a street market that Zac can enjoy on the spot! So, I had a quick look at the exhibitors list on the website. http://www.christchurchfoodfest.co.uk/

I cannot see any that are positioning themselves as for the ‘free from’ market. Lots of cupcake ladies and artisan breadmakers so I am not overly hopeful that they will be selling anything suitable for Zac. However, there are plenty of organic and health food people, so I am clinging to the hope I might find a new product or manufacturer who is catering to our needs. If I do, I will get their details and post my findings. Fingers crossed.

Travelling beyond the Free From aisle 1

Last night I watched my new favourite food programme on tv – Two Greedy Italians. It features Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo eating their way around Italy. One of my personal ambitions. Maybe one day… Anyway, this week they were exploring Alpine Northern Italy. They cannot grow wheat in that area, due to geology and climate, so use buckwheat to make their pasta.

It is not seen as an alternative for those who cannot eat wheat but is just the standard ingredient. In another visit they witnessed some men making flour from chestnuts. Apparently it gave a delicious flavour and worked perfectly well in a gnocchi recipe. I am aware that Carluccio is using buckwheat pasta in his restaurant chains, so now I understand. Not only is he doing it to cater for intolerant market but it is an Italian (lesser known) product anyway!

Then I started to think about other countries that produce non-wheat flour. There are many parts of the world where wheat cannot be grown yet they produce flour for cooking. Isn’t gram flour made from ground chick peas, in Indian cookery?

So perhaps the intolerants among us should not just look to the ‘allergy’ aisles in the supermarkets but also look on the shelves of the world food aisles, e.g. Japanese rice noodles, any noodles or pasta made from buckwheat, gram flour. We should remember we are not just limited to the specially created ‘free from’ foods, but could find some real solutions to our problems just by having a look among the more exotic ingredients. There are many products that are naturally without wheat flour and dairy. They should be relatively easy to find and unlikely to be any more expensive than the ‘free from’ foods. I am quite certain they will be more versatile and delicious too.



Another day, another party… Reply

Sophia has a birthday party to go to today. It is a bowling party and looks lots of fun. Tom and I have decided to take Zac and take a lane beside them and have some fun of our own. I also thought it might be nice to see if we can find somewhere ‘safe’ for lunch. Birthday parties are always disastrous for Zac, but leisure complexes usually have a selection of eating places, so you never know – we might be lucky.

Had a quick look on the website and the only places at this complex are Nando’s, a Wetherspoons pub and Subway. As Subway is just sandwiches, we can forget about that but the other two look promising.

You would think you would be safe with Nando’s. If only Zac actually ate chicken! His food intolerances have made him very wary of many ‘safe’ foods and he just won’t eat meat. Perhaps he has a mild intolerance to it and it makes him feel ill – perhaps I have just missed that one! I should probably get it checked out.

Anyway, I had a quick peep at the Nando’s menu, just in case we could entice him (I am constantly trying to expand his eating repertoire) and they had a special note saying that their ‘Portuguese  bread rolls’ now contain milk. What? Why? If they didn’t have it before, who on earth decided that they need it now! I am sure this is why Zac became intolerant to wheat and gluten. So many ‘breads’  have milk added that he cannot eat them because of his milk allergy. Over time, he just lost his tolerance to wheat as we just had to avoid it more and more to be safe.

So it seems Nando’s is well and truly off our list, as rather than having a special allergy list or information page there is just a scary warning sign and it says ‘Speak to our manager on duty if you have any food allergies’. I guess there is a lot of wheat flour dusted over stuff to make it nice and crispy. Shame really as you would expect a place that sells fresh cooked chicken to be safe!

So next I checked out the Wetherspoons menu and was pleasantly surprised. They have a clever little menu creation tool on their site. You just tick your allergy or intolerance and it comes up with the ‘safe’ selections. http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/food/dietary-requirements

None were children’s portions or from the children’s menu – except the fruit smoothie drink, but it is all a step in the right direction and I am sure they could create something for an intolerant child and you would hope they would charge appropriately. Will let you know how we get on!


Ice cream is NOT off the menu Reply

One of the hardest things to explain to Zac last year, was that he could no longer have ice cream. Like most children he loved it and squealed with excitement whenever the local ice cream van drove in to our street. I spent a lot of time trying to track down some alternatives, and while I don’t think we will find it in restaurants or on ice cream vans for a while yet, you can find it in the supermarkets.

The first one we found was called Freedom frozen dessert. It comes in a variety of flavours, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The children liked the chocolate the best. It is very nice and was developed by a very entrepreneurial mum who has a son with a range of food intolerances. She pitched her product on Dragon’s Den successfully, and has gone on to great things and is constantly expanding her range of foods. www.kirstys.co.uk

These foods are mostly just available in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s at the moment and she has launched an alternative milk product, currently available in Asda.

The other ice cream product we discovered is Swedish Glace. http://www.swedishglace.com/ These frozen desserts also come in a variety of flavours – vanilla, raspberry, Neapolitan, chocolate and blueberry.  According to their website they are all available in Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Co-op. I have only ever seen them in these stores sporadically and I have never seen the full range, just vanilla, Neapolitan and raspberry so far. Apparently they are also launching an ice cream ‘lolly’ and ‘cone’ this year. So I will be looking out for those.  Our favourites are the vanilla and the Neapolitan. Well my favourite is the vanilla and the children prefer the Neapolitan. Both are really delicious and it is easy to forget that they are not ‘real’ ice cream.

The thing that I have found hardest to track down is a suitable cone, so I can make Zac an ice cream that looks like the ones Sophia sometimes gets from the ice cream van. The only ones I have ever found are ‘Barkat’ http://www.auravita.com/product/Barkat-Ice-Cream-Cones.GLFR10644.html

I have only ever found them in Sainsbury’s and that was last summer. I cannot remember the last time I saw them on the shelves. They were of course, dreadfully expensive, and often over half in the pack were broken, but they were delicious and in the style of a ‘waffle cone’. If they reappear this summer I will certainly buy them. They are available online through www.auravita.com and www.goodnessdirect.co.uk

The other ice cream alternative is coconut milk sorbet. The first time we came across this was on holiday in Spain last year, just at an ordinary ice cream vendor. It was absolutely delicious. I have never found it on sale anywhere yet, but have found a recipe that looks simple. Best made with a full fat coconut milk.



Come dine with me… Reply

Eating in restaurants is a challenge for anyone with food intolerances, as so few places acknowledge them. Whenever anyone suggests ‘taking the kids out for lunch’, I always feel sorry for Zac. He doesn’t seem to mind anymore, but I look at him with his little Buzz Lightyear lunchbox full of ‘free from’ foods and I wonder if he will ever be able to enjoy a ‘proper’ meal in a restaurant.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, we recently discovered that Wagamama’s and TGI Fridays are both very accommodating to those with allergies.



Neither of these chains are doing anything ground breaking like using gluten free pasta or anything, just clearly labelling their menus and making suitable food to order, which is highly commendable.

I have since discovered some even better news. Two restaurant chains have taken the step of buying in some corn pasta and incorporating this and some other safe ingredients  into their ‘allergy offering’.

Zizzi’s seem to be really leading the way and their menu is the most exciting I have seen in a very long time. It has a large variety of dishes which could be suitable for Zac and all the ingredients are clearly labelled, so making a choice should be easy for anyone with allergies and intolerances.




Carluccio’s have also ventured into this area and are catering for those with special dietary requirements. Their menu is informative and looks very interesting.


Looks like we might be going out for Sunday lunch tomorrow!!!!