Review of 2015

The Allergy Brothers blog has only been running in this format since August, but we are very pleased to have had nearly 3000 views by nearly 700 visitors.  It’s also always fun to log on and see where our visitors have come from.  This year, we have had visitors from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Sweden, Romania, Switzerland, France, Japan, Slovenia, Italy, India, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Turkey and South Africa.  It really does seem like food brings us all closer together.  I like to think of you all sitting around a very large, virtual kitchen table while we all taste some new foods together.

Our most popular posts of 2015 were:

A review of The Den Café in Colchester

A review of Caffe Sala in Colchester

A review of the Food Maestro app

A review of Aldi Lubecker Chocolate Hearts

A review of Osem Instant Chocolate pudding with Aldi rum truffles.

Happy New Year!

 

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve, and the Allergy Brothers have got it all set up: a carrot for the reindeer, and a glass of soya milk and allergen-free cupcake for Santa!

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We saw the Reindeer cupcakes on  Red Velvet Snow’s blog.  We had some gluten free pretzels by Barkat in the cupboard so we decided to make these on Christmas Eve.  We used the same cake batter as we used for this recipe, but we left out the cocoa powder.

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Now, all we have to do is wait for Santa.  I hope you all have the Christmas that you need: peaceful, busy, sociable, quiet, big parties, or family time.  Happy Christmas from the Allergy Brothers and their family.

Gluten free Mince Pie Grudge Match

On the red plate, weighing in at 220g, it’s Hale & Hearty’s Luxury Mince Pies.  The ingredients list is: Sugar, Sultanas, Bramley apple, Currants, Glucose syrup, Candied mixed peel (orange peel, lemon peel, sugar, glucose syrup), Vegetable suet, Modified maize starch, Water, Mixed spice, Acetic acid, Raisins, Colour (caramel), Orange oil, Maize starch, Vegetable oil, Rice flour, Free range egg, Potato starch, Xanthan gum, Natural flavouring.  May contain traces of nut.  Recipe and ingredients milk free.  Factory may have traces of milk.

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On the blue plate, weighing in at a mighty 280g, it’s Lovemore Luxury Mince Pies.  The ingredients list is: Sugar, Sultanas, Bramley apple, Acetic acid, Currants, Glycerine, Vegetable suet, Maize starch, Orange zest, Sulphur dioxide, Mixed spice (Coriander, Cassia, Cinnamon, Ginger, Carraway, Cloves, Nutmeg), Sunflower oil, Raisins, Lemon zest, Orange oil, Palm oil, Rice flour, Potato starch, Water, Dextrose, Maize flour, Egg, Sugar beet fibre, Disodium diphosphate, Potassium carbonate, Xanthan gum, Potassium sorbate.  May contain traces of nuts and peanuts.  Suitable for Coeliacs, Dairy Allergy Sufferers and Vegetarians.

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First impressions count, and the first round was all about the look of the pies.  Hale & Hearty Mince Pies (H&H) did not start well.  There seemed to be hardly any filling, and they seemed a bit crumbly and bashed about.  “They don’t look like the picture on the packet,” grumbled Allergy Dad.  The Lovemore Mince Pies however seemed perfect, which weirdly just made them look artificial and wrong.  They were a bit pale looking too.  Lovemore won this round on points.

The second round was judged on flavour and mouth feel.  The Lovemore Mince Pies looked good, but they were both bland and too sweet.  The pastry was soft and they were coated in sugar.  The H&H Mince Pies, despite being rough round the edges, packed more of a flavour punch.  The texture was better too.  This was H&H’s knockout blow against Lovemore.

As a final test, we offered the H&H mince pies to a family member without telling her that they were gluten and dairy free.  She remarked afterwards “I would have never known.”  That’s pretty much the gold standard of Free From food, if people, who don’t normally eat Free From, don’t notice.  So Hale & Hearty Luxury Mince Pies were the undisputed champ of this grudge match.  Have you tried any other brands of Free From mince pies?  Let us know what you thought in the comments.

Sainsbury’s Free From Panettone Style Loaf Cake

Ingredients

Raisins, Rapeseed oil, Caster sugar, Rice flour, Potato starch, Water, Maize flour, Mixed peel (Orange peel, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Lemon peel, Sucrose, Citric acid, Sulphur dioxide), Tapioca starch, Glycerine, Maize starch, Dried egg, Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Dried egg white, Disodium Diphosphate, Potassium Hydrogen Carbonate, Flavourings, Rice starch, Orange zest, Xanthan gum, Carboxymethylcellulose, Potassium sorbate.

Not suitable for customers with an allergy to nuts due to manufacturing methods.

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I don’t buy a lot of supermarket Free From products because they are nearly always unsuitable for the Allergy Brothers, but this just had to be tried.  I can take or leave mince pies, stuffing, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and almost all the rest of the gluten-riddled seasonal treats, but I was really mourning the absence of Panetonne this Christmas.  This is a pretty good substitute.  It has the richness of Panettone, despite not being made with butter.  However, it definitely doesn’t have a Panettone style texture.  Regular Panettone has a light, fluffy texture because it is made from risen dough.  The Free From version has a much denser texture that is closer to sponge cake.  Like a lot of Free From foods, it’s nicer if you don’t compare it.  Is this a good approximation to panettone?  Ish.  Is it a nice, rich, Christmassy cake?  Yes.

Choc Chick Raw Chocolate Making Kit

This kit contained 100g of organic cacao butter, 100g of organic cacao powder, 100ml of Sweet Freedom (a sweetener derived 100% from fruit), baking cases, and an instruction manual.  It cost us £12.99 from our local health food shop.

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After the chocolate coin debacle, I was a little wary of chocolate making.  This kit, however, was very easy to use.  We needed a bain marie, a spatula, and  a metal balloon whisk.  We added vanilla bean extract, sea salt, and Sainsbury’s sugar stars as flavourings.

Our first job was to melt the cacao butter in the bain marie.  Allergy Little was really interested to see the constituent parts of chocolate, and he was surprised by the cacao butter “that looks like butter, but smells like stinky chocolate.”  After that, we simply whisked in the cacao powder, Sweet Freedom, salt, and vanilla extract.  The chocolate was very runny at this point and it was very difficult to pour it into the paper baking cases without spillages.  This is the only part of the process that I would change; I would use sturdier silicon moulds next time.  Allergy Little decorated the chocolates with the sugar stars, and they went in the freezer for 20 minutes.  They were ready by lunch time, and Allergy Little declared them “delicious”.

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I think the chocolates were best eaten fresh as by the next day the texture had changed slightly as the ingredients had separated slightly.  The kit actually contained more cacao powder and Sweet Freedom than we needed so we used the extra ingredients to make a cake.

In summary, a good little kit.  Adults can make the chocolates they really want.  Kids can play Willy Wonka and learn about the ingredients in a popular food.

 

 

Choceur Dark Chocolate Reindeer

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, Sugar, Cocoa butter, Emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), Vanilla Extract.

May contain nuts, milk, sources of gluten and soya.

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A very nice stocking filler from Aldi.  Obviously, it’s not been taste tested yet…

Semper Crostini & Purely Haricot bean, caramelised onion and rocket hummus

Purely Haricot Bean, Caramelised Onion and Rocket Hummus Ingredients

Cooked haricot beans (Haricot beans, water, salt), Caramelised onions (Onion, sugar, rapeseed oil), Lemon juice, Rapeseed oil, Sesame paste, Fresh rocket, Salt, Garlic, Pepper.

If hummus was a person then it would probably find me overbearing because I just love hummus.  A lot.  Too much.  So I was pleased to find this opportunity to step outside my chickpea rut without going too far from my comfort zone.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really hit the spot.  Not because of the haricot beans (they were fine), but because the hummus was so sweet.  The onions weren’t caramelised; they were toffee coated.  Not good.

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Semper Crostini Ingredients

Maize starch, Water, Yeast, Dextrose, Olive oil, Maize flour, Psyllium seed shell, Capers, Olives, Salt, Sugar, Emulsifier (Guar gum, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose), Rosemary, Oregano.

I have waxed lyrical before about how much I love Semper brand products.  The range of ingredients are just a really good fit with the Allergy Brothers’ safe foods.  Even so, I nearly didn’t bother checking this product out when I saw it on the Holland At Home website.  Little crunchy slices of bread, no way the boys can eat that!  I was wrong, but I still have to check the ingredients list every now and then because I am not sure that I believe my eyes.

These crunchy crackers are very versatile.  You can make tiny, pixie sandwiches out of them.  You can use them for dipping.  You could add them to soup.  Etc, etc.  They also taste good with a punchy herb and olive oil flavour.  They would be great as a base for bruschetta canapés.

In summary, ditch the dip, keep the crostini!

Christmas Marshmallow Crispies

Ingredients

45g dairy free spread (we used Pure sunflower spread)

300g marshmallows (ideally mini marshmallows, but we used Flumps)

200g cereal (we used Kellogg’s Puffed Corn Cereal and Nature’s Path Choco Munch because that’s what we had in the cupboard!)

Christmas shaped marshmallows or similar to decorate (we used Snowman marshmallows from Lidl)

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Method

  1. Melt the spread in a saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Add the marshmallows and heat them until they are completely melted into the spread.  Stir continuously.20151211_211604
  3. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the cereal.
  4. Press the mixture into a pan (we used a lasagne pan) lined with baking parchment.  It will be very sticky.  If you are going to add any sprinkles or extra marshmallows, then stick them on now.20151211_131508
  5. Leave the marshmallow crispy squares to cool in the pan.  Then cut into squares.

The Patisserie, Colchester Zoo, UK

We recently had a slightly soggy day out at Colchester Zoo.  We had a picnic with us, but we really wanted to eat inside and warm up with hot drinks.  The staff at The Patisserie were really helpful from the beginning.  They quickly agreed to the Allergy Brothers eating their packed lunches here while we purchased food, despite the stern sign over the entrance.

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The waitress also excelled herself by bringing us a folder of all the allergen information.  This folder was unusually good as it gave the full ingredients of every dish, and full ingredients of every ingredient.  For example, it would list goats’ cheese as an ingredient in a salad, and then list the ingredients of the goats’ cheese.  This meant that we were actually able to find gluten free food for me, and a salad for the Allergy Bros.

I chose a goats’ cheese and ham salad with gluten free bread.  Unfortunately, they had run out of gluten free bread.  However, the waitress suggested some crisps as a substitution, and she had already checked the ingredients for me.  The bad news was that the Allergy Brothers ate my crisps.

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The children’s menu included a ham, grape and apple salad. The allergen folder showed that the ham was suitable for the boys as it wasn’t breaded or injected with milk protein or anything weird.  The photo is a bit blurry because I couldn’t get the Allergy Brothers to leave the food alone long enough to take a photo!  I suppose that’s a good sign. It’s such a simple combination of food, but it really makes a difference for them to be able to order food.

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So we all had something to eat while we sat on a heated veranda watching the bird show.  Job done.