The Free From Festival London is the UK’s first gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free food festival. It is based at the Festival Hall in Brick Lane. There is a large array of dairy free, gluten free, paleo and vegan foods to try, with odd tea company thrown if for luck. Last year I was very lucky to attend the festival in my official capacity as a food and tea blogger. I had an amazing day out and had the opportunity to try a range of fantastic foods. As soon as I became aware that free From Events were holding another event this year I blocked the date out in my diary and told my mum to do the same. So when the Free From Festival contacted me and asked if I would like to have 2 press tickets to the event again I let out a little Yelp of excitement. Oh and of course I graciously accepted. So here is a snap shot of our day at the food festival.
We had to wait in a queue to get in. I didn’t mind this obviously meant that the festival had proved to be very popular. What it did mean was that we had hunt down our food fast before it had all went. Before doing this we headed straight to the bar to get our goody bags and a cup of tea. We grabbed our tea and went straight towards Les Deux Aimes who specialise in sweet and savoury pancakes. We headed here first as they had sold out of many of their ingredients last year. They had two hot plates one for gluten free and one for dairy free pancakes. My mum had a gluten free pancake last year and loved it. So she was jolly well going to have another one. After a bit of pondering, she opted for the banana and Nutella again. The pancake looked delicious and had a very generous filling of both the Nutella and bananas. My mum soon polished of her pancake and said it was well worth the wait and made the perfect accompaniment to her cup of tea. They can be found at: http://www.lesdeuxaimes.co.uk
I headed of to straight to Giancarlo’s stand, The Vegan Sweet Tooth. I visited his stall last year and fell in love with his cakes. All of course are vegan but not are gluten free. My regret last year was that I didn’t try any of his savoury treats. The stall proved to be very popular gain. I choose my pizza focacciata and opted for a vanilla mini animal muffin for later because they looked very cute. I ate my focacciata outside before exploring the rest of the festival. Oh my goodness I was not disappointed the dough was light and springy in texture. The topping was delicious the herbs complimented the tomato sauce perfectly. It was well worth the wait. Giancarlo can be found at: http://www.giancarloroncato.co.uk
One stand that I also couldn’t wait to visit was Fravocado. They make their ice cream from coconut milk and avocado. It is free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar and suitable for vegans. I sampled all three of their flavours but my favourite had to be the raspberry and basil. The flavours just complemented each other perfectly, as for the texture it was nice and creamy and perfect in consistency. Fravocado can be found at: http://www.fravocado.co.uk
Another stand I came across was Fodify. It is a company that was set up by two dietitians Hannah and Janet to cater for the needs of individuals who follow the Fodmap diet. They sell specialist packages of herbs, spices and jars of sauces that are Fodmap friendly. Let me tell the herbs and spices smelt amazing. Fodify can be found at: http://www.fodify.co.uk
My mum was interested in Rana’s artisan bread. Rana is a coeliac who set up the company last year in a quest to have artisan bread. The company has six different bread mixes which you can simply add water to and bake, you can extras if desired. I sampled all breads at the show, my favourite was the Italian my mums was the sour dough. I would not have been able to tell that they were gluten free in a blind testing environment. I had hoped to buy the Italian but they were sold out so I got the sour dough and instead. Rana’s artisan bread can be found at: http://www.ranasbakery.com
I then popped over to see Matt and his girlfriend at Eat Safe. She is soya intolerant and has found this to be highly restrictive when eating out. So Matt helped devise the Eat Safe app as part of his masters degree. It is in its early stages and will initially cover eating out in London but hopes to extend this in the future. More details can be found at: http://www.eatsafeapp.co.uk
The next stop was Nutkin. This is a vegan cheese company set up by Kate all cheeses are dairy and gluten free. There are currently five cheeses available which use fermented macadamia and cashew nuts as their base. I really enjoyed all of the cheeses that I tried and was unable to choose a favourite. They were creamy, soft light in texture and full of flavour. I have to say it was one of the nicest cheeses that I have tried. Nutkin can be found at: http://www.wearenutkin.com
Finally, no trip to the Free From Food Festival would be complete without some form of chocolate. This year I stumbled across nookie, which is a family run business who make raw chocolate bars. They are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free. I sampled all of their bars but my favourite had to be just their plain chocolate samples. It was light, airy and delicate in flavour, whilst being smooth in texture. Sadly, they do not normally sell this and it was just done for the show nookie http://www.nookiebar.com/
In summary I had another fantastic day at the Free From Food Festival and would recommend it to everyone. So thank you Free From Events for my press tickets I really appreciate it.
I am always on the look out for new crisps to try with lunch as I keep to going back to my Pom-Bears. I fell for the new eat range of snacks by the till in Marks & Spencer. Whilst in the queue I quickly checked a few packets and decided on the spicy chorizo flavour sweet potato snacks.
To be honest they were the first packet that grabbed my attention. I was drawn to the smoky orange colour packaging. I was also intrigued by the fact that they were made from sweet potatoes.
On checking the ingredients no allergens were highlighted and they were also labelled as being suitable for vegans. Great, these were now going to be part of my lunch.
On opening the packet I was greeted by a subtle aroma of nice spices. On doing my sniff test I could smell the cumin. The potato snacked were shaped a bit like a flower and were eveningly coated in the flavouring. They were not at all greasy and the flavouring stayed on the snacks and didn’t transfer onto my finger. On biting into the sweet potato snacks they were nice and crunchy. I could clearly taste the mixed spices mainly the cumin and cayenne extract. They were certainly very pleasing on my palate.
So would I recommend these if you follow a dairy free and or vegan diet, yes definitely. I am glad I fell for the snacks placed by the till at the till on this occasion. I really enjoyed everything about these sweet potato snacks and will be buying more in the future. So thank you Marks & Spencer for producing a nice savoury snack that I can enjoy.
Despite being pleasantly full from lunch at the Toby Carvery I had a little break as I was determined to try the Toby’s vegan chocolate & cherry torte. It is highly unusual to be able to get a safe dessert that is dairy free when eating out, particularly in a large chain of restaurants. If you are lucky you may be offered a fruit salad or sorbet. I double checked with the waitress that it was safe for me to eat minus the cream or ice cream and it certainly was. It came out decorated with a little icing sugar. It certainly looked very rich and indulgent and I was glad that I would be sharing it.
Before diving in I was hit by a rich chocolatey aroma. On cutting into the torte it was very gooey in texture yet crumbled in places at the same time. On biting into the torte I got an immediate chocolate hit. It was certainly very rich and indulgent. This was followed by the sharpness from the cherries that were intermingled in the torte. The combination of flavours was spot on. I got the richness from the chocolate and sharpness from the cherries which gave the torte a nice even balance of flavours. As for the texture of this torte goodness me was it gooey it stuck to the roof of our mouths. We had to have it in small portions as it was hard going in a nice way. The scattering of the cherries did help with this. I have to say I really enjoyed this torte and found it to be a rich indulgent grown up sweet treat. So thank you Toby for having a dessert on your menu that is vegan and suitable for suitable for dairy free me. It makes a really nice sweet treat. In fact I could easily visit just to have this with a nice cup of tea.
I have to confess I can not remember the last time I visited Nando’s. On a recent shopping trip to Bluewater I fancied chicken for lunch. Nando’s was the obvious choice. I explained to the member of staff that I required the allergy menu as I was dairy free. He politely explained that the manager would be over to see me with the allergen menu. The manager was very helpful and explained that I used the regular menu to make my choices and then the allergen menu to check that they were safe to eat. The allergen folder was comprehensive and very user friendly.
I opted for half a chicken coated in the lime and mango sauce with chips and a corn on the cob. On ordering my lunch the lady behind the till informed me that she had to get her supervisor to check what I was ordering. The supervisor was very helpful and explained that once she knew that I was dairy free aka milk free it was policy to check all of the dishes that I had chosen in the allergy folder. After doing this and confirming that the food I had chosen was safe to eat she personally spoke to the chefs in the relevant areas to explain that I had a milk allergy. I was also informed that my food would be cooked separately. This information was also placed on the ticket other for the chefs reference. On top of this the lady behind the till also did the same. I was suitably impressed. I then had an indicator placed on our table to alert the server that I had a food allergy.
My lunch arrived and the server checked who had the food allergy and explained what I had ordered. This was promptly followed by the supervisor who checked the allergen menu on ordering my lunch. Ok, at this point I was more impressed with the knowledge of food allergies and reassuring the customers with regards to this. Now all I had to do was tuck in and enjoy my food. Firstly, the chicken. This was piping hot and covered in a generous topping of the lime and mango sauce. The chicken was nice and tender and slightly moist. There was just the right amount of sauce covering the top. The sauce itself had a little kick to it and I could taste both the mango and lime. A great choice if I might say so myself. The chips well they were like any other big standard chips I have tried. In fact they reminded me of oven chips. They weren’t the best chips I have had and I expected a little bit better. Maybe my hopes were to high, sorry Nando’s. Finally, the corn on the cob. This was piping hot and slightly charred just how I like it. On biting into the sweetcorn it was nice and fresh and crisp and didn’t last long a bit like my chicken.
Now onto my drinks. For those of you that don’t know Nando’s when ordering most drinks you get free refills and help yourself. Now I rarely have fizzy drinks so it’s not something I would personally choose. So I opted for tap water and ice again you help yourself and a mint tea. The tea was bought to me in a nice brown cup with matching saucer. It was a Mighty Leaf mint tea. The aroma of the mint immediately hit me. It was strong and fragrant and I just wanted to take a sip even before allowing time for the tea to infuse. On sipping the tea I could taste the mint, this was both strong and refreshing whilst being soothing on my stomach. It was one of the nicest mint teas that I have drank in a while. I will be googling to see if I can buy some just for me at home.
So will I be going back to Nando’s again, yes I will. Their staff knowledge about food allergies was impeccable as was their service with regards to this. If I had to complain about something it would be my chips not being as nice as I had hoped, but hey there are other sides I can try. So if you suffer from a food allergy or intolerance I would definitely recommend a trip to Nando’s.