How compelling is the Wholefoods Gluten Free range? How well does it compare against other great ranges such as that from the Selfridges Food Hall? As of August 2016, here are the highlights from the Wholefoods Piccadilly store. Part of the Gluten Free Shopping series where I recommend gluten free and other free from highlights from food markets.
Give us Bread!
The Piccadilly store provides proof that gluten free bread can rise! For a couple of years now there has been an interest gluten free bread range tucked away at roughly shin height, so that if you dropped your keys or wallet and bent down to pick it up you just might notice it.
This range still exists and features two of my favourite bread ranges. The first from Artisan Bread Organic, who make dense, filling, flavoursome, organic breads using flours like quinoa, buckwheat, linseed and soy. Their appeal is enhanced because of what they do not include such as cheap filler potato and corn starches and xantham gum. If you try and like buy direct from ABO. They charge just over £4 per loaf direct compared to the £7 you pay in Wholefoods with free delivery on orders over £30. Their bread freezes and deforts well. ABO have just started a new bread subscription service. You can also get a sample box with free delivery for £6 which I highly recommend to get a taste of their unique products.
Secondly, there are two extremely dense, very cylindrical loaves from Paul’s Bakery. Wholefoods is the only place I have ever seen these Brown Rice and Chickpea (#1) and Soy and Brown Rice (#2) breads.
However in addition to this range, cleverly placed to attract the attention of hobbits, there is now an adult sized rack completely filled with Islington based Artisan Gluten-Free Bakery breads! If you are seeking a light, fluffy loaf for sandwiches or toast these are an excellent choice, freshly baked and far superior to anything I have ever tried from a supermarket.
Hodmedod’s work with British farmers to source and provide beans, peas and even quinoa! I absolutely adore their roasted, unsalted green peas and fava beans. With no added anything you are free to enjoy these as a high protein, high fibre base for a trail mix or crunchy snack bowl. I love to combine them with pumpkin seeds, nuts, whole garlic cloves and sundried tomatoes with a nutritional yeast, olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing then eat with a spoon. They are a great alternative to salted and pre-spiced and oiled nuts and legume mixes.
Crispbreads are great for scooping up Natural Vitality Houmous on sale in the chilled section, and the range of gluten-free crispbreads on offer is impressive. Included are chickpea flour based crackers from Easy Bean and Seed and Nut based crackers from Raw Health.
Saving the most amazing for last, Wholefoods stock the full range of Giving Tree Crisps. Amazing because until you have tried the no added salt, low oil vacuum fried broccoli and pumpkin crisps you will not believe how fantastically CAR-runchy and tasty they can be. If you already like veggie crisps, put these on your ‘must try’ list.
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off
My pick here is Crayves. Crayves is a small scale London based bakery producing cakes, brownies, muffins and biscuits free from wheat, gluten, dairy and soy. In Wholefoods these are found in the fresh baked goods area but like the bread, artfully positioned in a tray so close to the ground as to be discovered only by hobbits or self-aware Roombas. Their Chocolate and Almond Biscuits combine the delightful crunchiness of Italian biscotti combined with nutty, chocolatey flavour. Try these first. If you do, you might also want one of these time-locked cookie jars to ‘compliment’ any willpower you might draw upon to limit consumption. The muffins are typically moist, not too sweet, and benefitting from being made fresh with recognisable ingredients.
Away from the fresh bake store section within the main aisles you will find a dedicated Gluten Free treats range. New products appear here regularly and there are often promotional sample stands at the end of the aisle.
If you are inclined towards baking yourself there is a great range of ready-mixes, including my favourites such as Chocolate Chia Muffin mix from Ugg Foods (again, bottom shelf, see a pattern?) along with Amisa Chocolate Cake mix, several Organ mixes and a Hale & Hearty Chocolate Brownie mix.
Baking from scratch? The fantastic Bobs’ Red Mill range along with Biona and Tiana mean that whether your gluten free flours of choice are coconut, almond, quinoa, buckwheat, chestnut or . . . other you are likely to find it here. Bob’s Red Mill would be my choice thanks to the high quality, high ethics business model and Bob’s direct participation in our UK based Allergy Show each year. And for safety, it does not get better than this:
“We have a dedicated facility where only gluten-free products are milled and packaged,” Bob says. “Our in-house lab takes samples and tests to verify purity and make sure every ingredient is truly gluten free and meets our standards.”
Complimenting the flour range is a broad selection of baking aids such as gluten free baking powder, flavourings, gums, sweeteners and cake toppings.
I like to consume fermented foods regularly for the potential contribution they may make to maintenance of a healthy gut and digestion. I make my own kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi and love what I make so for me to recommend any commercial product requires that it is exceptional. Rhythm Health produce a range of Coconut Kefirs which are nicer tasting than any that I have managed to make but also now have a marvelous new Coconut, Sauerkraut and Kefir product. The combination puts the kefir and sauerkraut probiotic bacteria together with the prebiotic fibre for a potentially great combination that your gut microbiota might just love you for. It is like a very thick, creamy yogurt with a mild ‘tanginess’.
Another product I am envious of and wish to recreate perfectly at home is Laurie’s Hot & Smokey Kimchi Kraut. Raw and organic, as it should be, and wow, wonderfully spicy, leaving the tastebuds sizzling after just a few delicious mouthfuls. Laurie’s raw sauerkraut and beetkraut are also stocked here. If you buy the Kimchi Kraut, do be aware that it is *exceptionally* strong smelling. In some parts of the East where Kimchi is regularly consumed people have two fridges one of which is the ‘Kimchi’ fridge. An easier solution if you buy this is to reseal the bag and then place that into a zip lock bag. I find this traps the odour effectively.
Also available from the chilled section is Infinity Foods Tempeh, which is a fermented soy bean product, along with natto one of the types of soy associated with various health benefits.
Their are two stars of the show. One is that this is one of few places where both Whole Creations gluten free pizzas are reliably available, Margherita and Mediterranean Vegetable.
Secondly, almost all of the Amy’s Kitchen gluten free products are here including pizza, veggie lasagne, mexican burrito and a black bean enchilada. I have tried all except the pizza and if I am going to eat ready meals, Amy’s Kitchen would be top of the list thanks to their consistently pleasing flavour.
Be aware that there are also Whole Creations and Amy’s Kitchen gluten containing products stocked. Inspect before buying . . .
Goes well with Coconut Milk . . .
The gluten free cereal range is extensive, including all Bakery On Main corn, rice, nut, seed and fruit Granola varieties and their and their ‘Fiber Power‘ cereal with oatmeal and inulin, a prebiotic fibre.
There is also the widest Nature’s Path selection I have seen in one place, but really, there is only one. If you are going to have cereal have Maple Sunrise. At 22 grams of sugar per 100 grams of cereal this is far too high in sugar to be within hollering distinance of a healthy breakfast but it does taste strongly of maple syrup, therefore gorgeous. I have found just a sprinkle of Maple Sunrise on top of other blander (and less sugary) cereal can be just enough to produce maple-y marvelousness.
Goes well with Pesto . . .
Is bean pasta mainstream yet? It seems that way to me. Why have a corn / potato / rice starch based alternative when you can have versatile, high protein, high fibre, low carb Fettuccine and Spaghetti made from Black Beans, Edamame (Soya) and Mung Beans? Wholefoods stock the Explore Asian and Liberto brands.
Do bean pastas match a perfect al dente wheat pasta prepared by a talented chef and eaten whilst gazing at a sunset from a Tuscan villa? Maybe not, I think they are just as nice the rest of the time though. Not available from Wholefoods unfortunately, my favorite brand is Really Healthy Pasta. They have Red Lentil, Mung Bean, Chickpea and Black Bean Fusilli and Penne and regularly exhibit at free-from food events including the Free From Festival and Allergy Show.
What did I miss? What did I hit? Where should I review next in the Gluten Free Shopping series? My candidates are Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and Borough Market at present, but you can influence me elsewhere . . .