Review of Free From Festival London

The Free From Festival London is the UK’s first gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free food festival. It is a successful food festival which incorporates free from food and live music and makes for an enjoyable day out. The latest Free From Festival was based at Old Spitalfields Market London. It had a large array of dairy free, gluten free, paleo and vegan foods to try, with the odd tea company thrown in for luck. I have been very lucky to attend the previous festivals in my official capacity as a food and tea blogger. So when I was asked if I would like to have press tickets I of course graciously accepted. It was an amazing day out and I had the opportunity to try a range of fantastic foods and tea. So here is a snap shot of my day at the food festival.

What immediately struck me as I arrived was the size of the festival and how it had grown. I had to wait in a queue to get in. In fact the festival had proved to be that successful that it was old out and people were being turned away. I showed my press pass got my goody bag and tried to plan my day. At this stage I to confess to still being a state of surprise as too much it had expanded. So I took it all in did a bit of people watching and listened to the fab entertainment that was on offer. Here’s a snapshot of what I saw during the day.

My first stop was Eat Safe app to see Matt and his girlfriend. 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 beta testing stages and will hopefully be available for all to try later this year. I’m sure that this app will prove to be very successful. Here’s a link to their website http://www.eatsafeapp.co.uk/ Continue reading

The Free From Food Festival 2016

image
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.
image
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
image
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
image
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
image
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
image
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
image
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
image
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
image
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/
image
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.

Review of nom salted maple popcorn

Now I have to confess to being a bit of a popcorn addict. Popcorn that is dairy free is fairly easy to find and makes for a nice sweet treat for me to enjoy. The only problem is that it is often gluten free as well which means I have to share it with my mum. I am always looking out for new brands and flavours of popcorn to try. I recently reviewed a nom bar which I really enjoyed so when I discovered that they made popcorn I just had to give it a try. I personally like sweet and savoury popcorn and choose their equivalent which was salted maple flavour.
image
I loved the packaging of this popcorn from the bright vibrant pink colour through to the cascading popcorn to the side at the font of the packet. The popcorn is clearly labelled as being gluten and dairy free and suitable for vegans. It is also labelled as being organic, having no refined sugars and being high in fibre. There are no allergens highlighted in the ingredients list but there is a warning that the popcorn is made in an environment where nuts are occasionally handled.
image
On opening the bag I was greeted by a subtle aroma of both sweetness from the maple syrup and saltines from the Himalayan salt. I did my usual close sniff up test and this didn’t change. On closer inspection inside the bag the popcorn seemed to contain two types of popcorn, the savoury which was a pale cream colour and the sweet which was a darker caramel colour. The caramel coloured popcorn seemed to be a piece of popcorn fully encased in the maple syrup with many of the these popcorn pieces being smaller in size. I grabbed a couple of pieces of popcorn at random from the bag. On biting into the popcorn I immediately got the saltness this was nice as it was just right balance of this flavouring. I had several pieces of the salty before I stumbled across a sweet one. I was a tad disappointed by this if I am honest as I had hoped for an even distribution of both flavours of popcorn. Gosh the sweet part of this popcorn was very sweet in fact too sweet but that said they complimented the savoury part nicely. I think it because there were less sweet pieces the saltines made the popcorn coated in maple syrup stand out more. The flavours worked really well together only if you ensured that you were trying both flavours together. I found that if I had the maple syrup popcorn by itself it was far to sweet for me. As for the texture of this popcorn it was like I was eating two different popcorns the salty pieces light an airy, whist the sweet pieces were slightly hard and crunchy. Both textures complimented each other well.
image
So would I recommend this flavour of Nom popcorn, probably not. It’s a tough one if I am honest. It is great to have another sweet and savoury flavour of popcorn available that is safe for me to eat. I like the fact it is organic and refined sugar free making it a healthier snack to enjoy. What I was disappointed with was that the sweeter pieces of the popcorn mainly seemed to be smaller in size and encased in too much maple syrup this made them very sweet if eaten alone. There was also less of these in the packet I personally think that if there more pieces which were not so heavily coated in the maple syrup it might lead to a more balanced eating experience. If I had this popcorn again instead of just diving into the bag I would try to ensure that I have a more even mix of both flavours. To me this takes the fun out of eating the popcorn. So if you follow a dairy free, gluten free, refined sugar free, or a vegan diet than I wouldn’t recommend that you give this popcorn a try. Sorry nom but this was popcorn on this particular occasion just wasn’t for me.

Review of nom original organic oat bar

Well my mission to find new mid morning snacks continues. Those of you that follow my blog and Twitter account know that I love cereal bars so when I saw that Nom did an organic bar that was dairy free and vegan I just had to give it a try. The fact that it had cacao nibs in it was just a bonus.
image
Onto the packaging of course I fell for it straight away its pink. I liked the nom logo with the bitten o. It is marketed as 100% organic and free from refined sugar. Oh and it mentions the word superfoods, erm…
image
Onto the ingredients list oats is highlighted as an allergen with a may contain warning for soy. It is clearly labelled as being dairy free and suitable for vegans. What did intrigue me was the 5 reasons to eat coconut oil. I will let you ponder on these comments. I can feel some googling occurring in the near future with regards to this.
image
On opening the packet I was surprised by what was inside. It was a cross between a flapjack and a health bar such as Nakd, Rude Health and Meridan snack bars that I’ve recently tried. I could see a few specs of cacao not as many as I had hoped for. On sniffing the bar it smelt very much like flapjack with a hint of coconut noted. On biting into the bar I was very surprised I expected its texture to be similar to that of flapjack but it wasn’t. It was slightly hard to bit into but then the oats crumble and slightly disintegrated in my mouth. Don’t get me I enjoyed the combination of these textures. Oh and when I had the additional hardness from the cacao creeping as well. Onto the flavour the coconut element definitely came through with a subtle hint of the oats noted. I couldn’t really taste the cacao perhaps because it was a little sparse. I did try especially on crunching on the cacao but nothing really. It certainly filled me up and kept me going until my dinner later in the evening.
image
So would I recommend this snack bar, yes I would. I liked the combination of textures and the coconut flavour. I would just have liked more cacao incorporated into it. I found the references to superfoods, and the 5 reasons to eat coconut oil a tad off-putting. I just want a healthy safe snack that I can enjoy I don’t want all of the extra wording. That said if you are dairy free like me or follow a vegan diet , why not give this bar a try. So thanks to nom for producing a snack bar I can add to my mid morning snack list.

Review of Rude Health The Beetroot Snack Bar

Now I have to confess to being a creature of habit. Most mornings around 10:30 I crack open my mid morning snack to have with a nice cup of tea. Most days I find myself grabbing my favourite Nature Valley cereal bars. Every now and again I try to have something different this often means having a Nakd bar instead. So when I was lucky enough to receive a free sample of Rude Health’s The Beetroot bar I couldn’t wait to try it. I love beetroot and could have a new addition to my mid morning snack routine.
image
On opening the packet there was a faint subtle aroma noted. It didn’t really smell of beetroot but more like the aroma you get from a date bar aka Nakd other brands are available of course. The ingredients list highlights cashews as an allergen. It is refined sugar free and is clearly labelled as being both dairy and gluten free.
image
On biting into the bar I hate to say it but it was similar in texture to that of a Nakd bar but was softer and more gooey in texture. I loved the pink colour inside. It tasted sweet in a nice subtle way. I could definitely taste the dates and this was nicely intermingled by flavour of beetroot. The bar filled me up nicely for the rest of the morning.
image
So would I recommend this beetroot bar to anyone who follows a dairy free and or gluten free diet yes definitely. I loved the colour, taste and gooey texture of this bar. It will definitely be entering into my mid morning snack routine. So thank you Rude Health for producing a nice snack bar that I can enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received a free sample of this product all the opinions in this post are honest and not influenced by this.

The Free From Show London – My First Official Blog Review

I had a sudden change of plans for the bank holiday Monday. I received a message via twitter from Free From Events that as a blogger I had now got tickets to the Free From Festival in London. I was a tad excited to say the least, it was the first event that I had attended as an official blogger. So I made a quick call to my mum to ask if she could join me and of course the answer was yes and we made our arrangements to meet up the following morning. I have to confess to getting little sleep that night in the anticipation of the next morning. I packed my bag with my usual dairy free essentials just in case, its always better to be prepared. With my rain coat, umbrella and boots on I was ready to get on the train. I looked up some details about the festival during my journey to plan our day out. There appeared to be lot’s of stalls with food that were either dairy and lactose free for me or gluten free for my mum. The festival was held in a hall not to far from Aldegate East tube station, so it was a quick walk in the rain and we were there. I handed the ticket information to the men on the door, this was essential as the festival had sold out.
image
On entering the hall we were greeted by a packed hall full of wet people and brilliant live music. I wasn’t sure where to start and what to do, so my mum and I had a general wander around deciding on a plan of action for the day. We were greeted with was a variety of stalls selling both sweet and savoury treats, with a tea and beauty company along the way. What did hit me was the wonderful aromas coming from the variety of food vendors. It all looked very healthy and tempting and I was spoilt for choice and for once there was more dairy and lactose free options than gluten free. Now, that never happens. So here’s a snapshot of our day.
image
Our first stall that we visited was Emily Fruit Crisps, they were named after the director’s girlfriend. He was highly passionate about his brand and explained that they were made as a way of encouraging individual’s to eat fruit. They are basically a bag of dried fruit with only oil added. They are suitable for a dairy free, gluten free and a vegan diet, whilst being kosher and halal certified. We tried both the banana and apple chips. They tasted just like the fruit and had a nice soft texture with a subtle crunch noted. My mum and I both enjoyed the samples that we tried and would definitely buy these in the future. They make a great alternative snack to crisps and are a great way to get children to try fruit. They can be found at:
http://www.emilyfruitcrisps.co.uk/
image
Another stop, influenced by me as I had a sweet tooth on the day was to Buttercream Dreams. It is a small company that was set up by Lauren out of her passion to have enjoyable sweet treats as part of her vegan lifestyle. She worked as a mental health nurse but gave this up to set up her new business. Lauren can be found at: Buttercream Dreams on Facebook. At the festival it was a real family affair with her mum helping out. The stall had a variety of both pretty delicate and larger cakes to purchase. All of which were vegan, and can be gluten free, soya free and sugar free. I opted for the salted caramel cake, Lauren kindly gave me a large complimentary slice to try. As I had tried various samples of food, I was pretty full so wrapped it up to take home. All I can say is that it was well worth the wait. The cake was perfect, the sponge was soft, light and moist with a neutral taste. This worked well with the rich indulgent topping of a caramel cream which was interlaced with chunks of salted caramel. It was one of the nicest cakes I have had in a long time, so thank you.
image
My mum stopped by Les Deux Amies who specialise in French sweet and savoury pancakes. They had two hot plates one for gluten free and one for dairy free pancakes. My mum opted for a classic of Nutella and banana. It was massive, and she struggled to finish it. My mum loved the fact that she could have a gluten free pancake. She found the batter light and airy. She loved it’s simplicity and the variety of options to have in their pancakes. The stall was that popular that many of their ingredients had sold out. I received a sample of their caramel sauce to try at home as part of my bloggers free goodie bag. Sadly, it wasn’t dairy free. So mum took it home to share with my nephew who loves his pancakes. Les Deux Amies can be found at:
http://lesdeuxamies.co.uk/
image
Due to my sweet tooth I stopped by Sticks and Cones they are a new business set up by Mark and his girlfriend. They follow a paleo diet and on a recent trip to Eastbourne were unable to find an ice cream to enjoy. So they started researching at home and experimenting with ice cream. The ice cream is based upon on the paleo lifestyle is dairy free, gluten free and suitable for vegans. It is made from coconut milk. Both my mum and I tried the caramel flavour. Now ice cream is never an issue for my mum being gluten free, but I often struggle with my dairy free diet. The ice cream was slightly rich and indulgent, it was lovely and creamy in both flavour and texture. I could definitely taste the ingredients and the combination of texture was spot on. I have to say it was one of the nicest ice creams that I have tried. So well done Sticks and Cones. Sorry, there’s no link available yet for this one.
image
Next we discovered a vegan stall called Vegan Sweet Tooth London. It was run by Giancarlo which sold both sweet and savoury treats. He explained that as a chef he used to work in a vegan restaurant which closed. As a result he then set up his own business and has a stall at a variety of events. What struck me was the sheer variety of goods on offer. Having a sweet tooth I was spoilt for choice. In the end I opted for the gluten free chamomile zucchini and the peach and hibiscus cakes. You had a choice of a small or large portion, trust me the small was very substantial. I took them in a bag to take home, the zucchini could last up to 5 days. I really enjoyed both of these cakes. The zucchini had a moist sponge which interlaced with pieces of zucchini. There was a nice subtle but not overpowering flavour of chamomile. I have to say my favourite part of this cake was the cashew icing cream on the top. It was light, delicate and creamy and combined all the flavours of the cake perfectly. As for the peach and hibiscus, well the sponge was soft and moist and gooey in texture. This was topped by pieces of peach coated in a syrup. I could definitely taste the key ingredients in this cake. I personally found it a little heavy going so had in two sittings. If I saw this stall again would I buy cakes, yes definitely. What I must not forget to do is buy some savoury ones as well. Here’s the link:
http://www.giancarloroncato.co.uk/
imageimage
Our final stop of the day was to Raw Halo. This is a handmade organic artisan raw chocolate company. It was set up by Meg in May this year. Meg gave up refined sugar as a lifestyle choice but didn’t want to miss out on her life’s little luxuries including chocolate. The dark chocolate is free from refined sugar, gluten, wheat, egg and lactose. Meg explained that all of the chocolate bars are dairy free except the caramel due to its flavouring. With the exception of this bar all are accredited by the vegan society. We tried a sample of the plain chocolate. On biting into the chocolate I noted two textures, it was initially slightly dry this was followed by a nice creamier texture. Oh my goodness it was certainly rich in flavour and very indulgent definitely a chocolate for the grown ups. You could certainly taste the cacao element and would only need a little to get your chocolate fix. I would definitely buy some of Meg’s chocolate to try the other flavours as a treat to myself. Raw Halo can be found at: http://rawhalo.com/
image
I recently wrote a blog post about the rapid expansion of the free from market and asked for opinions and personal experiences on this. I questioned whether people’s lifestyle choices is impacting on this market. All of those that responded to this post either had a food allergy or an intolerance or a medical condition and therefore do not purchase the products for lifestyle reasons. What I learned from this festival was that many of the individuals had set up their business because a lifestyle choice. They were all highly passionate about their personal experiences and why they had set up their business. For me personally this was a new experience because many of the brands I have tried have been developed as a result of a food allergy / intolerance or a medical condition. For me these individual lifestyles choices have benefited me and will no doubt may others. I was able to try a variety of treats that several years ago I would never have dreamed off. So for me personally, it made me rethink the lifestyle aspect of the free from market. I have tried some amazing foods from the festival, and if more safe foods are available to eat surely this can only be a positive thing.