The Café at Beth Chatto’s Garden, Essex


Allergy Little wants to get in on the blogging action too!  He has decided to change his nickname; he would like to be known as Allergy Plant (he likes playing on the Plant side in the game “Plants vs Zombies”!).  He has drawn his own logo too, with a bit of help from me.


Once a week, Allergy Wizard goes to a club after school.  Allergy Plant and I have an hour to kick our heels.  We regularly seem to end up at the café at Beth Chatto’s Garden in Elmstead Market.  I think I have homing instinct in on gluten free cake, and Allergy Plant can certainly sniff out some crisps!  The photo above shows some delicious gluten free chocolate and beetroot cake.

Allergy Plant’s review – “I think the café at Beth Chatto’s Garden is brilliant.  I like that there is food I can eat.  The staff are fantastic.  They can get my food ready in one minute!  They are friendly to me.  They always have some gluten free cake, and often some cake that is gluten free and dairy free for my Mum.  It’s super dooper.  That’s all.  I’m finished”

Beth Chatto’s Garden is in Elmstead Market, Essex.

Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad! (Vegan, GF)

I think it is fair to say that cake decorating is not my forté.  This always presents a bit of a problem because lots of cake decorating cheats have wheat, rice flour or coconut oil in their ingredients so the Allergy Brothers can’t eat them.

Allergy Dad is a big fan of the colour black.  He has an entirely monochromatic wardrobe.  I did think about making a cake with activated charcoal as an ingredient.  Unfortunately, I discovered that activated charcoal can decrease the effectiveness of medication by absorbing it.  This would be a bad idea for the whole family!

I was really pleased to find these edible black rose cake decorations online.  They are vegan, gluten free and Allergy Brother friendly.  I would definitely use this seller – Simply Toppers – again.  The roses looked beautiful, and I was amazed that they had packed them so carefully that they arrived in perfect condition.  In fact, Simply Toppers sell lots of other really nice cupcake decorations so I will probably be cheating by using their products again.
I used our regular chocolate cake recipe and Allergy Dad was able to have a cake he deserved, but that the Allergy Brothers could still eat.  Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad!

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Decadent Saffron and Mushroom Soup

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I love soups because they are frugal and healthy, but sometimes it’s nice to be a bit extravagant.  This soup fits the bill.  Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, but it adds a beautiful colour and an earthy, but fresh flavour.  I enhanced the earthiness with some Portobello mushrooms, and then added more richness with some almond cream.

I made the soup in my soup maker. You need to make sure all the vegetables are chopped to approximately the same size

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2-3 large Portobello mushrooms, peeled and chopped

3 small potatoes, peeled if necessary and cubed

1 Knorr vegetable stock pot or stock of your choice

1 carton of Ecomil Organic Almond Cream 200 ml
1 carton of almond milk (I used Ecomil Organic Sugar Free Natural Almond Drink)

1 pinch of saffron

1. Chop all the vegetables to roughly the same size.
2. Put all the ingredients, except the almond milk,  in your soup maker.
3. Add almond milk up to the minimum liquid level
4. Choose the blended soup option.
5. Get on with something else.
6. Come back to your decadent Saffron and Mushroom soup because you are so very worth it!

Oatly Orange and Mango Oat Drink.

Ingredients: Oat base (water, oats 10%), fruit concentrate (fructose, concentrate of orange and mango juice, concentrate of mango puree, citric acid), flavouring, colour (beta carotene).

I had enjoyed the Oatly pear and apple oat drink that I tested so I expected to enjoy this too.  The orange and mango drink was okay, but nothing special.  In fact, it’s been sitting in the fridge for a week waiting for someone to finish it, and now it’s going to be poured down the sink.  I think I have a bit of a problem with citrus and dairy flavours being used together.  I just think this is wrong; the dairy should curdle, even if it doesn’t.  Lemon cheesecake, I am looking at you as the chief suspect.  And I have carried this prejudice over to non-dairy milks.  So it could be my problem.

A carton Oatly Orange and Mango drink on a Japanese red Vitra Corcniche shelf against a background of limesronetiles.

However, even if the Oatly drink didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, then it’s snarky packaging did.  Bearing in mind that this product is probably going to be drunk by people who need to be careful about what they eat and drink (either through allergies, religious beliefs or personal dietary preferences), it just looks means to have the tag line “No milk.  No soy.  No…eh…whatever.”  on the front of the product.  They managed to follow this up by titling the back of the product “The boring (but very important) side.”  Then the ingredients and nutritional information is prefaced with the following “If this side bores you, please read no further.  Flip the carton around and have a wonderful day.  Otherwise, please do enjoy.”  Oh, those caddish advertising executives with their too cool for school attitude!  This must have seemed so edgy and subversive in the meetings.  The reality, as a frazzled Allergy parent, is that it just annoyed me, and for that reason alone I wouldn’t buy it again.

Don’t forget to enter our free from food giveaway, which is not boring or whatever!

Oatly Apple & Pear Drink

Ingredients – Oat base (water, oats 10%), juice concentrate of apple and pear, sugar (1%), natural apple flavouring.  Contains 24% apple juice, 20% pear juice.

A carton of Oatly Apple & Pear drink against a patterned background

I was a bit sceptical about this product.  It just seemed wrong!  The reality was different.  It had a refreshing, lightly fruity flavour, but it filled me up more than a juice drink.  I drank it during the break in an exercise class, and I decided I didn’t need the cereal bar I had with me as well.  It would be fantastic to fuel little people through a busy day (unless they are allergic to oats, like The Allergy Brothers, ho hum).

Home Free “Mini Double Chocolate Chip Cookies”.


A sneaky snack when working from home!

Ingredients – Gluten free whole oat flour, Natural cane sugar, High oleic safflower oil, Chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, non-dairy cocoa butter), Demerara sugar, Non-alkalized cocoa powder, Organic tapioca starch, Apple juice concentrate, Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), Organic vanilla extract, Salt, Baking powder, Xanthan gum, Sunflower or Canola lecithin, Rosemary extract.

This is one of those products that makes me sad.  This is a fantastic product.  When you consider how many allergens are avoided (no dairy, no soya, no wheat, no gluten, no egg, no tree nuts, no peanuts, etc, etc), it’s really amazing that they have made a product that works.  So why does it make me sad?  Because, the Allergy Brothers still can’t eat it!  Sometimes, it just makes me sad when I realise how far we are from “normal” eating.

Anyway, less moaning and more reviewing!  This is a really good product.  As I have already mentioned, many common allergens have been avoided.  In addition, the product is convenient.  It comes in an individual serving, which would be perfect for a packed lunch.  Also, it has a long shelf life so you could stock up.  Finally, the taste.  Well, as always with free from products, the texture is different to what you expect.  In this case, the cookies are more chewy than crumbly.  The taste is also pretty chocolatey, but lacks the richness of a regular cookie.  Basically, if you have never tried a regular cookie then you will be very happy with this product.  If you have tried regular cookies, then you might have to eat a few packets to learn to love these cookies.  It really depends if you have as much dedication as me!

Ohso Good Chocolate.

Ingredients – cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum (microencapsulation: vegetable fatty acids, maltodextrin), natural vanilla flavouring.

Allergy Little recently had a course of some high dose antibiotics. I wanted him to have some probiotics afterwards so his gut was repopulated with “good” bacteria. Unfortunately, most probiotic products contain dairy.

So I was really pleased to find probiotics in dairy-free, Ohso good chocolate. Chocolate that is good for you. Chocolate that comes in packs of seven because you are supposed to have one a day. Chocolate that tastes great. Chocolate that comes in cute little wrapped bars. Be still my beating heart.

I am not really sure if the probiotic aspect has helped, although he seems very healthy now. Allergy Little enjoys the chocolate and it’s just the right size for his lunch box so we have added this to our “foods that we buy regularly” list.

Pudology Millionaire’s Pud

Chocolate topping – coconut milk, dark chocolate (sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural vanilla flavouring), water, sugar, Madagascan vanilla extract.
Caramel sauce – soya milk, sugar, vegetable margarine (palm oil, rapeseed oil, water, salt, emulsifier: mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, annatto, curcumin, natural flavouring), natural caramel flavouring.
Biscuit base – flour blend (rice, potato, tapioca, maize, buckwheat), vegetable margarine (palm oil, rapeseed oil, water, salt, mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, annatto, curcumin, natural flavouring), sugar.

I really wanted to love this pudding. I mean it’s chocolate and caramel pudding; surely, there’s nothing not to like. But, it really depends on how much you like the flavour of coconut. I found it overpowering and unpleasant. Allergy Dad however thought this was delicious.

Vanilla Fudge by Vegan Sweet Treats

Ingredients – sugar, soya cream, sunflower spread, glucose syrup, vanilla bean extract.

I didn’t take a photo of these as they got squashed in the mail (I copied a photo from The Sweet Treats website). These fudge are the squishy type of fudge, not the solid butter tablet, grainy type of fudge. They are very sugary, which is pretty obvious from the ingredients list. Even I never managed to eat more than one at a time. They were useful to keep in the fridge for a late afternoon pick me up.

My main complaint is the ingredients of the sunflower spread are not listed in the ingredients list. Spreads actually vary a surprising amount and only some are suitable for the Allergy Brothers, although the soya cream would make the fudge unsuitable for them anyway. I think it is a way of showing that a company have thought about allergies when they fully disclose their ingredients. As we are only too aware, it’s possible to be allergic to more than just the ingredients that have to be disclosed legally.

Free From Rocky Road by Lazy Day Foods

Ingredients – Margarine (palm oil, rape seed oil, water, salt, emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides), natural vegetable flavouring), chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), gluten-free flour (rice, tapioca, corn), sultanas, golden syrup, sweetened cherries (cherry, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar, strawberry juice concentrate, citric acid, potassium sorbate), sugar, marshmallows (glucose-fructose syrup, sugar, water, dextrose, carrageenan, maize starch, hydrolized soy protein, natural vanilla, natural colour (titanium dioxide, beetred), palm oil, soya lecithin.

Allergy Dad and I had enjoyed all the previous offerings from Lazy Days Foods so we were quite disappointed with these. They managed to be both bland and overly sweet simultaneously. One of them ended up languishing in the cupboard in the tupperware of shame as nobody fancied eating it. This very rarely happens at Allergy Towers so is a sure measure of bad cake.