On 30 May 2016 the third Free From Festival was enjoyed by many, combining street-food, food samples, goodies to buy and eat later, nutritionist talks and food prep demos.
Alas as in 2015 the weather was more wintry than summery. This was a real shame since the Truman Brewery location has promising outdoor space lounging, chatting and enjoying food and gluten-free beers.
There was still a lot to like. This includes the really great news that there are plans for the Festival to appear again in December of 2016, just in time for stocking up on Xmas goodies for that free-from eater you know (which may be you, sure!). To ensure you find out about that hoped-for December Festival, sign up, follow on Facebook or Twitter or follow Free From Festival on the same.
Free From Festival May 2016 Highlights
Nutkin launched their range of fermented nut cheeses just one day before the Festival. Yes, fermented nut cheeses! I believe this will be a completely new product for the UK market and they are a really compelling and attractive alternative to both dairy cheese but also, critically, the existing range of dairy free cheese alternatives.
There are lots of dairy free cheese-a-likes on the market. What makes these fermented nut cheeses so different? Several things –
- A lovely and distinctive ‘tangy’ flavour from the fermentation, something you simply *must* try to understand!
- The potential for contribution to a healthy gut thanks to gut friendly bacteria in the cheese
- An easier to digest product thanks to the nuts being partially pre-digested by the fermentation process
- Free-from the additives and preservatives usually found in other dairy-free cheeses
Some existing non-dairy cheeses are delicious and terrific for those needing or wanting to avoid dairy. Common ingredients within them include vegetable oil, soya, modified potato and maize starches, xantham, guar and locust ean gums, carrageenan and various preservatives. I am not going to say that these are bad things, nor that the cheeses made with them are bad. I do hugely welcome a tasty alternative with completely different ingredients!
I tried and bought and loved the Garlic and Chives, Rosemary and Date and Plain varieties. Best eaten on top of or scooped up with plain crackers or bread or cucumber, celery or carrot sticks so that you can relish the characteristic tangy flavour from the “cheese”.
Since I make fermented nut cheeses at home using my own also home-made kefir I have quite a lot to compare the Nutkin cheeses to. The Nutkin cheeses are lovely and novel and innovative and I hope that they find a very appreciative customer base. Go Nutkin!
Really Healthy Pasta
There are now several brands offering gluten-free pastas made from legumes and whilst they are not entirely “mainstream” in the sense of being in Tesco and M&S they are easily and widely available. I find all these products to be very acceptable alternatives to any other type of pasta in terms of taste and texture and far preferable in terms of nutrition. Instead of consuming nutritionally bankrupt starches, meaning grains stripped of most of their nutritional qualities, you can enjoy pasta which offers high protein, high fibre, low glycaemic index and load.
Really Healthy Pasta definitely have the most extensive and diverse range of legume pastas in the UK and as a big added plus are regular exhibitors and therefore supporters of free-from events. Look out for them, almost definitely offering a discount deal, at the Allergy & Free From Show at Olympia, London from 08-10 July.
Alevra Gluten Free Flour Co
In my opinion there is no better gluten-free flour mix than that from Gluten Free Baking. The care put into sourcing the flours is complimented wonderfully by the extensive testing and proving of the mix for practical home-baking applications via their workshops and the recipes designed and shared by Deborah, master baker and nutritionist.
I must mention Eat Safe for they had the most wonderfully colourful mini gluten-free cupcakes, free and free-from!. They were enthusiastically engaging festival-goers about an App in development intended to make Eating Out easier and better for gluten-free folks. Good luck to them!
If there is ever a Great British *Unbake* Off show I think there is also a clear leading contender. Every time I see the Paradise Unbakery stall at Free-From events I marvel at how pretty everything looks. Unfortunately for the longevity of the looks the creations are also very tasty! I had my delightful lunch of raw pizza and chia seed pudding from this stall.
La Polenteria (now Leggero!)
Leggero are a real darling for gluten-free Italian food loving Londoners. However you definitely do not need to be a gluten-free diner to enjoy Leggero. They serve great flavorsome food which just happens to also be entirely gluten-free, the pinnacle of free-from goodness.
It is really lovely to see restaurants showing up to events like this to grow their appeal to the free-from community.
Gluten & Dairy
Although most stalls were entirely gluten and dairy free there was at least one stall selling products with gluten (Vegan Sweet Tooth) and at least one with dairy (The White Rabbit Pizza Co). I perceived some cross-contamination risk at the Sweet Tooth stall. Tray-bakes containing gluten were located immediately next to gluten-free tray-bakes. They looked similar and the majority of the stall was gluten-free. So although labels clearly indicated gluten I could imagine someone assuming they were also gluten-free by mistake. The tray-bakes were also crumbly and there appeared to be the risk of cross-contamination from their handling.
However here is the good bit. I reported this to the Festival organizer and after the show wrote also to the exhibitor. Both welcomed and thanked me for the feedback. Both also indicated they understood and agreed that there had been risk and that would be effectively mitigated in future. I feel very positive about this. Yes it is even better if things are perfect, always, but they often are not. Response to feedback varies on a spectrum from highly appreciative with a commitment to action through to dismissive, bland or no-response. Both the organizer and the exhibitor appeared on the high end of this spectrum, demonstrating motivation to offer safe, great free-from food.