Thursday, 8 February 2018

Free From Food Awards 2018

Every year for the last 4 years I have had the honour of being invited to judge for the Free From Food Awards. This year has been just as exciting as previous years.

The panel of judges consist of industry professionals from many backgrounds including nutritionists, dietitians, food journalists, food producers, chefs, cooks, bloggers, people with (or who have children with) allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease.

This mixture make for an interesting, varied and sometimes hotly debated panel who are viewing and tasting products from a multitude of different perspectives.

The products entered are assessed for their appearance, taste, texture, aroma, nutritional profile, usefulness and what they are free from. There is extra attention paid to products which are new to the market, innovative or difficult to replicate at home.

Here are my thoughts on the categories I had the pleasure of judging.

Milk Alternatives, both animal and plant -

Drinks -
There were a strong contingent of lactose free and goats milk products on offer. Although not suitable for my diet it is great to see the market catering for many different needs.
Gallo UK offered two tasty milk alternatives, a 3 grains rice, buckwheat and quinoa, and a Venere wholemeal black rice drink
Coco Mojo presented a banana coconut milk with added pea protein which was tasty and a great dairy free alternative to the multitude of protein shakes on the market.
Coldpress offered an almond, banana and raw cacao shake.
The Progressive Food Company have created longlife individual portion packs of soya milk, although quite small they present businesses with a great option for providing soya milk for customers.
There was a great flax milk, high in omega 3 from Ooomega

Yoghurt -
There were two fantastic almond based yoghurts which were free of soya, dairy, lactose and refined sugar from Nush.
A wonderful full, creamy almond yoghurt with blueberry and live vegan cultures.
Also a banoffee flavoured almond yogurt with live vegan cultures. As it was free from refined sugar this would be a great way of giving live cultures to children with dairy allergy.

Cheese -
The freefrom cheese market has come a very long way in recent years.
This year I was very impressed by an artisan smoked cashew cheese from the Tyne Chease company.
Tesco entered a tasty supermarket own brand dairy free cheddar cheese with jalapeΓ±o and chilli.
Bute Island have vastly improved the taste and texture of their dairy free cheese which is also soya free and can be bought ready grated.
And then there was the contentious spread that made me eat my words! I was absolutely convinced it was a brand I knew and trusted. I was amazed to find out that it was a new formulation of Vitalite, a brand I would usually avoid.  I look forward to finding out if it is as useful in cooking as the brand I usually use, Pure sunflower.

Breakfast cereals and baked goods -
The granola offering was strong again this year with The Cooperative Freefrom Berry Granola sporting lovely fruity pieces.
The Tesco own brand white bagels and the BFree oaty loaf were perfect glutenfree staples for breakfast or lunch.
There were porridge oat snack bars from Pulsin, breakfast biscuits from Nairns and even a glutenfree brioche from the Wildcraft Bakery (sadly not dairyfree)

Confectionery chocolates and sweets -

This year all 16 chocolates suitable for me being dairy, lactose and gluten free. However there were no sweets entered this time.
A great range was offered from bars, blocks, a tobelerone alternative, easter eggs, caramels, fudge and chocolate coated pili nuts.

Booja Booja hazelnut truffles shone out from the crowd for me. I tried to find fault with them but couldn't muster more than a request for more!
The Honeycomb milk alternative bar from Cocoa Libre continued their high standards and looked very pretty.
Pacari entered bars of high cocoa content, 70% and 100% chocolate, enticing me to think of new recipes to use them in.
The Asda Luxury easter egg contains cocoa nibs and comes complete with truffles, a great product from a supermarket.
I was very excited by a potential Tobelerone replacement made by Bonieri which was refined sugar free and very tasty. Sadly the packaging had too many may contain ingredients for me to want to purchase it.
I was very impressed by the Raw Salted Caramel Fudge from artisan company Living Food of St Ives. It smells divine,  a sweet vanilla aroma with the texture of fudge from the combination of ground  almond and coconut oil.
Equally impressive were some Raw Chocolate Covered Caramels from Dakin Delights.
Lastly I was intrigued by Raw and Wild activated raw chocolate and coconut pili nuts which are rich in calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
To top of the heated discussions of the day I was torn by the selection box offerings from Asda and Tesco. They looked the part but I'm not sure they tasted good enough for my taste buds.
These are my favourites but there are heaps more categories and products to hear about. Find all the entries at Freefrom Food Awards and listen to other judges through the links provided.

The Shortlist is here;

Award winners will be announced on 17th April 2018 and you can follow via #FFFA18 on social media

Monday, 14 August 2017

Norahs Brownies

Online competitions are an excellent way to create interest in a new or emerging brand. I was lucky enough to win a supply of Norahs Brownies after entering an Instagram competition where I was tagged by my long term online friends Nicola (baking and sharing freefrom eats) and Sugarpuffish (natural and organic beauty, eczema and allergy blog).

The photos of Norahs Brownies are mouth watering. The product itself does not disappoint. Don't be deterred by the deluge of glutenfree brownies on the market. These homemade delicacies are rich, gooey, pretty and made with love and care. These qualities set them part from the rest of the bunch. They are the qualities that differentiate a product you can have from a product that you can have and really enjoy.

Thank you Norahs Brownies x

Freefrom dairy, gluten and refined sugar. Vegan options also available.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Beginners Guide To Histamine Intolerance by Dr Janice Joneja

One itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable Sunday morning, between sniffs and coughs, I began reading a book to review that has given me renewed hope for more answers to my symptoms.

I have been intrigued and excited to read a copy of The Beginners Guide To Histamine Intolerance by Dr Janice Joneja. Published by Berrydale Books and edited by Hannah Lawrence.

This book begins by acknowledging that the medical world still has much it would like to learn about histamine intolerance. Also many medical practitioners are not very accepting of histamine intolerance as a condition. There is a strong medical disclaimer that sensibly advises anyone reading the book to seek help from their gp or consultant in addition to using the book. From my personal experience I know that can be a very frustrating process with sometimes very few answers. Many of the symptoms listed in the book tally with my experiences over the years. Some of these symptoms may be caused by other illness and require testing to rule out other causes. If like me, you have already been tested by various specialists and you are still seeking answers then this book may help you too.

The information in the book uses a simple bucket analogy to explain why histamine intolerance is such a tricky condition to get to grips with. The build up of histamine in the body can be caused by multiple triggers and it is the total histamine content that causes the bucket to tip and the symptoms to worsen. It is reassuring to know that there is no evidence of histamine intolerance causing any major medical trauma. I look forward to seeing more research on the long term effect of histamine intolerance and any associated illness. Included was a common sense approach to IBS showing that this area too requires more medical understanding. With this book I am confident that the medical profession are still improving the knowledge of this subject and others that have been previously misunderstood or ignored. 

The book is easy to read and navigate while still covering complex medical terminology. It is fully informative on the subject of histamine intolerance and its similarity to other conditions with the same symptoms. The constructive advice helps you to diagnose, understand and live with histamine intolerance. There are essential sections on which triggers to avoid and which foods are safe to eat. The advice on a trial exclusion diet is the same as the NHS advice I have previously received. In addition the use of the enzyme diamine oxidase and an antihistamine are strongly recommended. The emphasis is strongly weighted towards a monitored exclusion diet, with enzyme and antihistamine medication and a carefully balanced diet to maintain healthy eating and replace lost nutrients.

Many of my questions were answered as I read through the text. The case study section made it much more relevant to a real life situation. It shows that all conditions are complex to diagnose and advise when combined with extra factors such as other health conditions and presenting symptoms which may or may not be associated with histamine intolerance. I would like to see some suggestions as to qualified medical professionals who are knowledgeable in this area. It is very difficult to know who to trust when you have been searching for answers for many years. Suggestions of NHS and private practitioners would give people the chance to make the right appointments at an earlier stage in the diagnosis process. 

The book is available through Amazon in the UK and US

About Dr Janice Joneja:
Dr. Janice Joneja is a researcher, educator, author, and clinical counsellor with over 30 years of experience in biochemical and immunological reactions involved in food allergy and intolerances. Dr. Joneja holds a Ph.D. in medical microbiology and immunology and was a registered dietitian (RD) for 27 years. She is the author of eight books and dietetic practice manuals on food allergy, a textbook on Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and several distance education courses.

Her work has been published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals, as well as in popular magazines. She is a respected lecturer at universities, colleges and hospitals internationally, and regularly appears on television and radio call-in shows as an expert in her field.

About Berrydales Books:
Berrydales Books is the new publishing arm of Foods Matter, which was the first site dedicated to freefrom food and living. It offers information and support to food allergic and intolerant consumers, and the health professionals caring for them. It covers everything in the world of freefrom, from new research, to articles, advice, product reviews and recipes. Nearly 100,000 users visit each month.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Freefrom Food Awards 2017

How fabulously quickly it comes around to January. The annual Freefrom Food Awards judging and our trip to London is the perfect antidote to winter blues.

This is my 4th year judging the breakfast and confectionery categories at the FFFA HQ. It is a wonderful privilege and the perfect opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, specialist professionals, food writers and inside personnel from the freefrom community. I am always humbled to be asked to join the judging team and take my role very seriously.

As a consumer I spend my life reading labels, assessing nutrition, price and suitability. As a foodie I am always looking for new and interesting products that will nourish my body or treat my tastebuds. Lastly, as a mum I am constantly on the look out for ways to keep my son included in everyday food decisions whether at home, with family, friends or at school*.

The Freefrom Food Awards is a great way to learn more about existing or new products in the freefrom market. The products entered are competing against the best competitors in their market. They are also able to gain a commended or highly commended award. The recognition of the FFFA is an instantly recognisable badge of approval from freefrom judges.

You can find out more about the awards from their page,

FFFA2017 - Breakfast

The breakfast category this year was right on trend. There were granolas aplenty, porridge, overnight oats and bircher muesli. To add to the range there were also power juices, nut butters and spreads, a new almond milk and some interesting breads and cakes. Any of the entries would have made a satisfying breakfast no matter what your preference in the morning.


My personal favourites were broad ranging. For the perfect indulgent freefrom breakfast I would start with a Pumpkin Power Cold Pressure Juice from Coldpress. This sunshine coloured juice will have you beaming with its sweet and tasty combination of flavours.

This could easily be rivalled in colour by a bowl of The Raw Fix Beetroot Power Porridge. Who would have thought that beetroot worked so well at breakfast. The purple punch gives way to a milder flavour and pleasing porridge texture.

If you long for bread at breakfast then you must seek out Fria Gluten Free Oat Squares. These are a whole new level on from gluten free loaves. The texture is deep and substantial but the crumb structure is light and even. The flavour is great with no hint of raising agent or funny aftertaste.

To cover your Oat Square you could slather it in Pure Olive spread. A tasty freefrom version of popular olive spread but without any traces of dairy or buttermilk. The spread could also be enjoyed in baking and savoury cooking. Fantastic to have the choice of a olive spread in the freefrom range.

If spread is not enough then there is a new nut butter in town! My tastebuds were tickled by the strength of flavour in Manilife Deep Roasted Peanut Butter. It was questioned by the judging panel why this product should receive attention as it is naturally freefrom dairy or gluten. However, if a product can state it is free from certain allergens then I am pleased to know about it. In this case the flavour of this product made it stand out to me. I could make peanut butter at home. I could roast the peanuts first and add the right amount of salt but sometimes you just want someone to do it for you, and do it well!

To finish my mammoth breakfast (I may actually be a Hobbit!) I would have to savour an Adonis Blondie. The Adonis Blondie is a sweet treat that would satisfy any morning cravings for indulgence. If others around me were devouring unsafe treats then I would be more than happy with this Blondie. A cake of moist texture and fabulous taste which is also low sugar and low carbohydrate. The Blondie is also very pretty decorated with macadamia nuts and chia seeds and comes individually wrapped. I would love to see these in mainstream cafes and coffee shops, please Adonis.

I can't function very well without at least one morning coffee. The Plenish Almond Milk could help me justify my caffeine addiction. It is made with 7% almond. This is a small but significant statement. The milk does actually taste of almond. It also has the benefit of being unsweetened but still tastes wonderful. I can see many uses for this almond milk not least of all as it is longlife but does not taste like longlife and could be enjoyed on its own.

FFFA2017 - Confectionery

The confectionery category is made up of all types of sweet treats. There were jellies, marshmallows, chocolates and many various bars and shapes. Creating a confectionery product that is freefrom allergens allows consumers to lead a more normal life**.

The judging table displayed both seasonal and everyday products. The seasonal items are getting better every year. This year I was very impressed with D&D Chocolates individually wrapped mint chocolate holly leaves. These pretty shapes were not only great quality but would also be an easy way to have chocolate tree decorations at Christmas. I would be delighted to take them to a dinner party as an after dinner mint or enjoy by myself. D&D Chocolate is guaranteed nut free which is fantastic and is a rare statement made on chocolate products.

I will be having a happy Easter too as Asda have commissioned an Extra Special Luxury Easter Egg. This dairy free egg comes with chocolate truffles instead of the usual coins. The chocolate is darker than most supermarket freefrom chocolate but not too strong either. I can see myself sneaking off to by this egg for myself just in case I don't receive one. The Easter range is not online as yet but watch this space!

I must highlight my favourites from the great range of sweets on offer for judging. Hot chocolate can now be completed with Freedom Confectionery Mini Marshmallows. You would not believe that these pretty little mallows are vegan, soy free and nut free. They look cute and taste perfect. I would happily use these in my hot chocolate, in baking rocky road or on top of cupcakes. In fact I may create a new bake just to use them.

Equally impressive were the Biona Mini Fruit Bears. A sweet that looks and tastes better than non freefrom competitors. There is always a space in my affection for mini fruit bears. These bears are colourful and fruity with a lovely flavour and no aftertaste. I'm sure my 5 year old and his friends will enjoy these without realising that they are vegan, dairy free, gluten free, nut free and have no artificial colours or flavours. I loved them!

On the table that day you could not get prettier than the Superfood truffles from the Functional Food Company. Don't be fooled by the utilitarian name of this company. Their snacks are packed full of gut friendly superfood ingredients and look cuter than a button. I am really pleased to read more on the origins of this company and find out how it came about. Even without any background info I found these snacks intriguing and innovative. They pack a punch in flavour and there is a flavour for everyone. The texture is unlike any other treat, it is not chocolate but it is not a sweet. It is best described as a sweet version of a canape. Full of impressive colours, shapes and flavours these snacks would make a great talking point at a party or equally a colourful way to supplement your diet.

A treat that I have never seen before was a Goupie Date and Walnut Triangle. Who could resist the appeal of a bar (shaped like a triangle) with a goey centre, that includes dates and walnuts and is coated in chocolate? It did not fail to impress. I would love to be given a box of these triangles and would certainly buy them as a treat for myself. It is a joy to find new products that I have never seen before and since reading the website I would love to try their other flavours.

Last and certainly not least are the truffles. There were two clear favourites for me in the chocolate category. It is a pleasure to judge and comment on more than one fantastic truffle. Different in shape, flavour and ingredients and equally appealing were;

Booja Booja Almond Salted Caramel truffles. Small squares of cocoa powder coated truffles with a crisp outer shell and a soft centre. The salted caramel is a mixture of the two classic flavours combined which slowly develop as you devour them. These divine truffles have the perfect blend of luxury and palatability. Booja Booja is top of my must have freefrom chocolate list.

If you prefer a truffle which is more dense and also includes superfood ingredients then the Sweet Virtues Baobab and Vanilla are perfect. The truffles are coated in cacao powder, have a crisp outer shell and a flavour packed centre. The layers of flavour reveal themselves as the centre softens in your mouth. My favourite flavour entered in this years award was the Baobab and Vanilla. This smoother more delicate flavour was also complimented by the hints of almond, lucuma and maca. A thoroughly enjoyable truffle and a worthy competitor.

Extra Info About Me

*Due to multiple diagnosis of IBS and lactose intolerance, a recognition that I display symptoms of coeliac disease (but have negative blood tests), hay fever, migraine and skin sensitivity I avoid lactose, dairy and gluten. My son, who is now 5 years old, has been lactose intolerant since birth and dairy free since he was almost 2 years old. Sadly, despite our symptoms we are both medically undiagnosed and subsequently fall into no mans land. We are fortunate we do not have anaphylactic allergic reactions. We do have definite, disruptive and painful symptoms from small amounts of our trigger allergens.

**As an adult I indulge in sweet treats and feel envious if I can not join in with others around me. Why should people with allergies not indulge when they want to? Everyone else can. More importantly for me as a mum I want my son to be able to feel included in every day life. This means seeking alternatives to the mass of cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets that he sees advertised, comes across at school and is bombarded with at parties. I can and do educate him to eat wisely and healthy but I also help him to live a similar life to his friends.

Watch the website for the shortlisted products out 8th February 2017

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Mulu Raw Chocolate

It has been a while since I have found the time to blog. It is fitting that the reason I sit back behind the keys is due to sensational chocolate from one of my favourite brands.

Mulu has long been a favourite of mine. Their raw chocolate is full of flavour with no hidden nasty ingredients. It is a satisfying and soulful experience and a treat I enjoy as often as I can. So when I learned that Mulu were expanding their range I was keen to check it out. In addition to the original silk, dark and dark with cocoa nibs bars the following new flavours and truffles have been delighting me.

Mulu Dark Ecuadorian Truffles
A box of 6 generously sized, beautifully presented truffles.
The tantalising ingredients are clean and wonderfully beneficial to your health. There is no guilt required in enjoying these treats. Raw cacao, coconut oil, Madagascan vanilla and agave nectar are skillfully combined to produce soft, rich truffles which give a delightful succession of flavours and textures.  The outside shell of the truffles are dusted with cacao powder and the inside is soft and deep in flavour. There is no bitterness and you can taste the quality of the cacao.
These truffles are sumptuous and a must as a gift or a treat for yourself.

This sweet smelling, mild and nutty flavour is easy going and tasty. There are small delicious pieces of hazelnut found throughout the smooth and silky chocolate bar.

An unusual and subtle taste at first gives way to a true and authentic banana flavour. None of the sickly fakeness of other banana flavoured products as this chocolate bar has a lovely balance between creamy chocolate and grown up fruity flavour.

The fragrance of this bar is unmistakably chai. The cinnamon tones mix well with Mulu chocolate producing a full flavoured hit. If you aren't a lover of chai then this may not be for you, however, it is a very tasty and accomplished bar.

Coconut Milk
A soft, creamy, smooth and sweet chocolate experience. A great bar for introducing the uninitiated to raw chocolate or for enjoying the sweeter side of raw chocolate.

As anticipated this bar gives a slight snap denoting the harder texture. There is a stronger kick to the flavour and the lovely distinctive Mulu raw chocolate aroma. The bar does give you a slight bitterness but there is much to love about its strength and characterful flavour.

Mulu chocolates contain no gluten, dairy, egg or soya. All ingredients are certified organic and vegan. Mulu has a nut free factory. You can find out more about their allergy policy, their ethos and buy Mulu on their website: 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The reason why the Free From Food Awards are so great!

After the glitter of Christmas is over I have another exciting event to look forward to.....

It has been my privilege this year to be a judge for the Free From Food Awards for the third year in a row. I am very proud to be a judge in such a prestigious event.

What are the Free From Food Awards?

A fantastic organisation which seeks out food and drink relevant to the freefrom industry, awards them on their merits and encourages them to improve on any shortfalls.
The products that are entered into the awards come from producers of all sizes and backgrounds. From the towering supermarkets to the tiny entrepreneurs, from strong ethical backgrounds to having fun with food, every entry is interesting.

Each entry applies on paper, sends in product samples and is checked for relevance to the freefrom market place. The products then undergo scrutiny from a panel of judges in a tasting session (judging info here). The products are judged on their appearance, smell, taste, texture and usefulness within the market. Also considered are the ingredients list, price, availability, labelling and suitability for a number of freefrom customers. Each judge gives each product a score out of ten and leaves comments on their findings.

The start of the confectionery judging

Who is involved?

The Free From Food Awards are directed by the very capable and extremely well qualified Michelle Berriedale Johnson. Assisted by the efficient and knowledgeable Cressida Langdon, Catherine and Katherine, Sue Cane and Alex Gazzola and a great panel of judges the process is a precision event.
The judges are experts from the food industry and medical profession, fellow bloggers, allergy/intolerance/auto immune condition sufferers and (benchmark) non sufferers who often have great skills from elsewhere in the food industry.

Even more confectionery samples to taste

Why is it great?

The awards inject motivation for innovation and demand excellence from a rapidly changing freefrom marketplace.
There are 16 categories in total with extra awards for retailer of the year, innovation award, startups and small producers and the overall winner.
Only the best products with genuine relevance to the freefrom market are championed by the judging process.
The shortlisted products, runners up and winners are published for all to see, giving everyone the chance to find excellent products they can eat.
All the judges are volunteers and a donation from the product entry costs is given to charity each year. Find out more here.

The confectionery category was hotly contested

What I loved this year

I have a sweet tooth and a passion for chocolate which was not going to cease when I had to give up lactose, dairy and gluten. On my quest to find suitable products I have not been disappointed. It was a natural choice for me to offer to judge the breakfast and confectionery categories.
My favourite products this year include:

Sprouted Porridge Oats by Rude Health
Spiced Pecan Tonic Granola by Rollagranola
Nutribix by Life Health Foods
Coconut Blueberry Yoghurt by The Coconut Collaborative

Solkiki Tahitian Nougat White Chocolate Bar
Eat Allergy Safe Dark Chocolate Truffles
Eskal Gluten Free Wafer Rolls
Cocoa Libre Three Mini Slab Bars
D&D Dairyfree Chocolate Drops
Booja Booja Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles

You can find details of all the product I judged and many more on the Free From Food Awards website.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


This fabulously easy recipe can be used for festive cookie cutters, gingerbread houses or any occasion.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this fun freefrom treat.

Merry Christmas

Emma x

P.s. did you know an upside down gingerbread man makes a great reindeer ;)

125g dairyfree spread  (I use Pure Sunflower)
75g dark sugar
25g caster sugar
3 tbsps honey or golden syrup
325g self raising flour ( I use Doves Farm)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp powdered ginger or mixed spice if ypu prefer the flavour

Melt the spread, sugars and honey/syrup in a small pan, without boiling, until melted
Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
Add the melted mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine
Gather together with floured hands and roll out on a floured surface
Cut out and transfer to a baking tray quickly
The dough won't reroll many times so plan your cutting carefully
Bake at 170C for 8-10 minutes
The longer it bakes the more crunchy it becomes when cool
Decorate with white icing and sprinkles if desired