Heavenly Free From Foods

Isn’t social media amazing? A few months ago a fellow local coeliac mentioned on Instagram that there was a market stall in our local indoor market which specialised in free from foods. I’ll be honest; I don’t think I’d been into the market since I was a young child and my Nana took me to a greasy spoon cafe there! I’d almost forgotten the market was even there. So during my next trip to Hanley I popped in, and Heavenly Free From Foods is now my first stop of any visit and sometimes has justified a visit specifically to go there! So, what makes this place so amazing?

Heavenly Free From Foods

Heavenly Free From Foods

The variety

When I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2009, many stores didn’t have specific free from foods as it was still an unusual thing to be looking for. My local supermarket at the time had a shelf with some gluten free bread and crackers. Fast forward almost eight years and most supermarkets have half an aisle dedicated to a variety of different free from products and even local convenience stores often have a bay of free from items. Heavenly Free From Foods takes it to a whole new level again though; a store full of free from items! The range is incredibly varied; from flours and baking goods, to pastas and ready meals, frozen foods, cupboard staples and snacks. Product ranges cover a variety of different dietary needs too, including a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan items. So many great brands are sold here; including some you can usually only buy online (Free From Fairy flour is stocked here for example!). We’ve been introduced to loads of new great foods thanks to Heavenly Free From Foods, and are trying more almost every time we go!

As a ‘free from’ store, obviously not everything stocked is gluten free, though most products are clearly labelled and the owner is incredibly knowledgeable about the products he stocks so you can just ask if you’re not sure.

The prices

Any coeliac knows a usual ‘free from’ shop is more expensive than a regular shop and it’s understandable that there is a premium due to the sourcing of ingredients and production processes. The prices at Heavenly Free From Foods reflect this of course, though the prices are comparable to supermarkets despite the fact many of the items are specialist. I know I’d far rather my money go to a local independent store than a supermarket. There are frequently offers on things too; especially items that are close to their best before date (which to be honest I usually don’t pay too much attention too for cupboard items!).

The owner

Saving the best until last! As soon as I stepped into Heavenly Free From Foods I was made to feel so welcome by the owner, Paul. He’s incredibly helpful, and he really knows his stuff when it comes to free from products (we do differ on our views of some products but I accept we all have different tastes!). He’s also just an all round great guy who loves chatting to people who visit the shop, and taking on board their suggestions for new products. I’m pleased to now call him a friend – which considering I only went to the market about 3 months ago is really saying something! Over the summer holidays his daughted is giving him a helping hand too – he was much happier about having a photo taken when she promised to be in it too! 🙂

Where is it?

Hopefully now I’ve introduced you to this great store you want to pay a visit yourself. Heavenly Free From Foods is currently in Hanley Indoor Market but will soon be moving to Merrial St in Newcastle-under-Lyme (which fortunately for me but unfortunately for my bank balance is in walking distance from our home and just a few minutes away from my gym!). If you’re in the area and looking for some interesting free from products, I highly recommend paying a visit. For more information check out the Heavenly Free From Foods Facebook page.

Whilst you’re in the area, do check out some of the other local places we love – my husband Chris recently made a list of some of the local free from offerings we enjoy – see Newcastle-under-Lyme Free From Survival Guide.

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Living with a lifelong disease 

I’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease for almost 7 years now. That’s over 20% of my life (to save the Maths, I’m 32 and was diagnosed when I was 25). Most days I don’t even think about it; it’s just part of who I am. I’m used to having to check everything I eat is gluten free and unlikely to have been contaminated. I’ve always been strict with my gluten free diet; I don’t want to knowingly do myself harm, and the fear of infertility (and various other conditions) is a huge risk I’m not willing to take. I appreciate for some coeliacs they don’t worry as much about the risks and don’t follow the diet as strictly. For me though, although I don’t like having coeliac disease most of the time it doesn’t have a huge impact on my life and as frustrating as it can sometimes be to have to talk about it when eating with someone new, it’s really not a huge hardship. Sure, I have moments where it gets me down (I’d love to try a Krispy Kreme doughnut!) and it can make occasions tricky (Christmas is a particularly challenging time of year), but it’s pretty much under control now. 

Or so I thought. 

You see the thing with a lifelong disease is that you have it for life (yes, I know that’s stating the obvious!). As with most other things in life though, it doesn’t necessarily stay the same. Just when you think you’ve got used to everything (the cool kids might say this is ‘the new normal’), things can suddenly shift. In my case this was caused by me going to donate blood a few weeks ago. I’ve been regularly donating for a few years now, though my iron levels are often borderline and once I wasn’t able to donate as they were slightly too low. This time round however they were shockingly low. To the extent that I’m not going to be able to donate blood for at least 12 months and when I went to the GP following the donor centre’s recommendation the doctor saw me immediately and I had additional tests in both the doctor’s surgery and at the local hospital that same day. It was all a bit of a blur, but the care I received was truly excellent – it really made me appreciate how amazing the NHS is and how we can sometimes take it for granted. 

So what’s going on? Well, I have low iron, and low vitamin D, but my B12 levels are in the normal range and my IgA test (for checking my coeliac disease is under control) came back normal. I’ve been put onto high dose Vitamin D tablets for 8 weeks, and I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow to discuss if I need to do anything else. I’ve researched multivitamins and am taking some daily ones which are gluten free (I’d stopped taking my previous ones as I could t be sure they were gluten free). There are a few potential conditions which need to be ruled out, but it’s looking like perhaps it’s just a case of me not getting all the nutrients I need from my diet. Which sounds simple to change, though of course with the limitations of coeliac disease it has an additional level of complexity (I can’t have cereals for example which are a common source of iron and vitamins). The consultant at the hospital has passed on some information to my doctor I believe so I should hopefully know more after my appointment tomorrow.

I’m glad it’s been noticed, and is being taken seriously in case it’s something more major. However the reminder that I have a lifelong disease that could cause all sorts of future complications has really sucked. It makes me feel like damaged goods; someone who is weak and fragile and needs looking after (which as a fairly independent person has really not been a welcome thing to deal with!). I know I’ve been very lucky so far – my diagnosis was fairly straightforward and much quicker than many other coeliacs, and as of yet I don’t have any other autoimmune diseases. I’m fully aware I’m at an increased risk of many conditions though, even if I do everything I can to keep my coeliac disease under control.

If I learn anything new about my situation that may be helpful to others, I’ll write another blog post but for now I just wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been going through. Partly I’m writing this for therapeutic purposes to help me process things, but also in case anyone else with a lifelong disease is going through similar frustrations and can take solace from the fact they’re not alone. 

Free From at Morrisons: a review of my visit to Morrisons HQ

I was recently invited to attend an event for free from bloggers at Morrisons HQ in Bradford. It’s the first event I’ve been able to attend and despite the nerves, I was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect (all I knew was that it was a free from event at Morrisons HQ!) but had been assured that we’d be given lunch and would be asked for some feedback on free from foods. I can’t describe how strange it is as a coeliac to be able to go out somewhere knowing that you’re going to be able to eat safely and don’t need to carry lots of snacks and have plans of various places you can grab food from in an emergency! After a slight issue with taxis, myself and some other bloggers made it to Hilmore House, the home of Morrisons HQ.

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We were welcomed by Stefanie Downey, the free from buyer for Morrisons. She explained her role and how important it is for her to get customer feedback on current and potential future free from products in Morrisons. We were introduced to some new products which will be launching in a few weeks I believe (more when they’re launched – I really hope they make it to my local store!), and shown how Morrisons decide which free from products to stock and how they should appear in store.

The Morrisons staff were all keen to hear from us so after some interesting discussion, we were taken to the development kitchen for Christmas dinner. Yes, Christmas dinner. In August. The head chef pointed out that by this time of year he’s actually pretty much finished Christmas as all the products have been developed, tested, refined, and are now ready to be produced and packaged and put in stores. For our Christmas dinner we had prawn cocktail (with the sauce being made using free from tomato sauce and free from mayo), traditional roast dinner with turkey and lamb with a peppercorn crust (with gluten free stuffing and Yorkshire puddings), and Christmas pudding with soya cream. We were also given a sample menu which had other options including salted caramel profiteroles (much more to my taste than Christmas pudding so will definitely be looking out for these!). Morrisons have other free from Christmas products planned too, including Christmas spiced cookies which were delicious.

After lunch we had some samples of other foods, including those from free from suppliers such as Genius, Schär, Heck, Gosh, Perk!er, and Alpro (more to come on some of these brands!). I also got to do a 90 second plank to enter a competition! Genius shared some of the difficulties they experience baking gluten free, and had some of the flours and thickeners they use and got us to try them out to see how they respond to being mixed with water. They showed us some really interesting photos of what happens if you use just one of the gluten free flours in place of regular flour, which was fascinating to see! It certainly explains why sometimes you get very dense gluten free bread and sometimes you get one with massive holes in! Genius use a mix of flours to try to make the most of each of the properties, but also explained that this does mean the mixes can sometimes be inconsistent depending on the time of year and the crop. It certainly opened my eyes to another reason why gluten free food can be so much more expensive – not only are the ingredients more expensive and potentially more difficult to source, but there is also more wastage due to inconsistencies. I always really enjoy chatting to free from suppliers about their products, and the people behind the brand.

Genius gluten free bread workshop

Genius gluten free bread workshop

All in all it was a really excellent day. I enjoyed meeting other coeliacs and free from bloggers, learned a lot about how free from products make it to supermarket shelves, ate some yummy food, and was even given some samples to take home. Huge thanks to Morrisons and the other suppliers for being part of a really enjoyable day 🙂


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Coeliac disease – a blessing and a curse

On 31st December 2009, my life changed. That was the date I received my letter with the results of my endoscopy which confirmed my diagnosis of coeliac disease. I’d had a few months to come to terms with it as a possibility, following a positive blood test in the summer, but I don’t think it really sunk in until I received that letter. The letter confirmed I have a lifelong autoimmune disease. My immediate though wasn’t one of disappointment; it was one of relief.

This is the blessing.

I’d been suffering for a few years (in my case it was uncomfortable bloating, painful cramping, diarrhoea, constipation, and occasional nausea) and now I knew why (I previously blogged about my full diagnosis story if you’re interested in reading more). Not only did I know why, but I knew what I could do about it. By following  a strict gluten free diet, my symptoms should stop. Since my endoscopy I’d been following a gluten free diet and had seen improvements, so I was hopeful that his would continue now I knew it definitely was coeliac disease. But of course, following a strict gluten free diet isn’t easy.

This is the curse.

I can’t eat any gluten, and have to be careful about my food preparation as well as ingredients. I can no longer grab anything I want to eat. I can no longer try new foods unless I know what is in them and how they have been prepared. I can no longer buy anything I want from a supermarket without checking the label. I can no longer spontaneously go somewhere to eat. I can no longer expect that when I’m out and about there will be something I can eat. I can no longer go to family and friend’s houses and eat the same as everyone else. I can no longer blend into the background at social occasions (well, not unless I want to go hungry!) – this is something I battle with a lot and have previously blogged about. Very rarely can I eat with new people without having to have a conversation about the food I’m eating and about coeliac disease.

I am very lucky though. I was diagnosed at a fairly young age (25) so I’m hopeful I haven’t done too much long-term damage to my body. My local supermarkets stock many great foods I can eat, both naturally gluten free and special gluten free versions of other items. I live near a town that has many restaurants and takeaways who cater for those needing to follow a gluten free diet (it even has a dedicated gluten free bakery!). I’ve discovered loads of new foods I love that I probably wouldn’t have tried if I hadn’t been diagnosed with coeliac disease. I pay attention to my body and what I eat. My gluten free diet is under control and I very rarely experience symptoms.

Coeliac disease is something I will always have to live with, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, at times it really gets me down. After all, it’s a lifelong autoimmune disease that impacts on every day of my life. But most of the time it’s not a problem, and I feel so much better health wise than I did before diagnosis. I’ve not only eliminated those short term symptoms, but I’ve reduced my risk of long-term complications such as anaemia, osteoporosis, infertility, and various cancers.

Today is my 32nd birthday and I’ll be celebrating with fabulous family and friends and lots of yummy gluten free foods – in fact I already have done! I’ll be having my cake and eating it (thanks to Delicious Alchemy and their fabulous Vanilla Sponge mix!)

My birthday cake

My birthday cake

My birthday cake

My birthday cake

Today is also part of Coeliac Awareness Week (so kind of Coeliac UK to make it my birthday week!). If you are experiencing any unexplained symptoms that could be attributed to coeliac disease, please visit Coeliac UK’s ‘Is It Coeliac Disease?‘ website, and if appropriate, speak to your GP.

I urge you to seek a diagnosis. Having coeliac disease isn’t the best thing ever, but the benefits of a diagnosis far outweigh the disadvantages. The coeliac community is great, and I’d be happy to help answer any questions you have.

Is there anything you’d like to know about what it’s like to have coeliac disease? Please feel free to ask me in the comments. 


If you’d like to receive updates from Gluten Free Joeyanne please follow the blog by email or RSS (links on the right hand side) or you can like Gluten Free Joeyanne on Facebook for links to blog posts as well as more regular updates, or Gluten Free Joeyanne on Instagram for photos of gluten free products and meals.

Gluten Free Christmas – Christmas Dinner

As a traditional Christmas dinner usually consists of meat and vegetables (both naturally gluten free) there’s not much that needs to be adapted to make a Christmas dinner gluten free, but there are a few things to note. Below are some hints and tips for different elements of the Christmas dinner. 

Starters

My in-laws (where I’m having my Christmas dinner this year) don’t tend to have starters, but my family tend to. We always had tomato soup (Heinz is gluten free so no problem there), pâté (some are gluten free but some aren’t so you’d need to check the label), or prawn cocktail (easy to make gluten free, just check the sauce). Of course for gluten free you’d  have to have gluten free bread/toast rather than regular toast but otherwise starters should be fairly straight forward. If you’re serving toast for a gluten free guest, don’t use a toaster that is usually used for regular bread (cross contamination risk). I recommend either grilling the toast on a piece of tin foil, or using toaster bags in a toaster. It’s best to use a new butter for the gluten free guest too so there aren’t crumbs in the butter. 

Main course

Meat

Meat is naturally gluten free, but for Christmas you can buy prepared meat. If you’re planning to do this, make sure any coatings, stuffings or sauces don’t contain gluten. Many of the stuffed meats for Christmas in supermarkets have clear labelling (particularly Marks & Spencer and Tesco) so they may say gluten free or have the crossed grain symbol, but otherwise check the ingredients and ‘may contain’ section to make sure there is no mention of gluten (wheat, barley, oats or rye). 

Pigs in blankets

Another popular item on a Christmas dinner is pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon). Many sausages contain wheat as a filer so aren’t gluten free. However recently more gluten free sausages are available (own brand as well as branded), and in fact many of the ready made pigs in blankets are gluten free. I got these from Tesco earlier this week:

Tesco Finest Pork Cocktail Sausages in Smoked Bacon

Tesco Finest Pork Cocktail Sausages in Smoked Bacon


Yorkshire puddings

Regardless of the meat, my family always have Yorkshire puddings on a roast dinner – they’re one of the best bits! You can buy ready made gluten free Yorkshire puddings in most UK supermarkets (usually Dietary Specials/Schar though Tesco now do their own which I picked up the other day), and they’re really easy – just 4 minutes in the oven and they’re done. They’re also pretty good – my non-coeliac partner will happily have these on his roast dinner. If you have a bit more time though I highly recommend Isabel’s Gluten Free Yorkshire Pudding mix – it’s easy to make and gives you fabulous yorkshires! 

Stuffing

Most stuffing contains gluten as a filler, though as with sausages this is becoming less common. Many of the ready made Chrstmas stuffings are gluten free in M&S and Tesco (and possibly elsewhere, I’ve only checked these two).  You can also buy gluten free stuffing mixes; we really like Mrs Crimbles Sage & Onion stuffing mix. This year though, when I discovered I’d be having a Christmas dinner I treated myself to something a bit different. I’ve never tried chestnut stuffing before but my partner’s family always have it so I’m taking along this to try:

 

Tesco Finest Roast Chestnut and Onion Pork Stuffing

Tesco Finest Roast Chestnut and Onion Pork Stuffing

 

Pre-prepared vegetables

Although vegetables in their natural state are gluten free, many of the supermarkets sell pre-prepared vegetables with sauces or coating for Christmas. Sadly, some of these contain gluten so may sure you check if you’re buying vegetables this way (e.g. some roast potatoes have gluten in the coating, some parsnips have gluten in the glaze). The easiest way to avoid this is to buy fresh vegetables, though of course convenience is key when it comes to wanting to spend time with family at Christmas so if you’re buying pre-prepared just make sure you check labels – many are gluten free. 

Sauces and gravies

Unless you’re a crazy person (like my Mum!) you probably like to have some sauce or gravy on your roast dinner. Sadly many sauces and gravies have gluten in as a thickener. You can however buy gluten free gravy mixes, and some are already gluten free. Bisto Best is gluten free; this is a tricky one – despite the fact it says ‘produced on a line that handles wheat’, Coeliac UK have been in close contact with Bisto and the Bisto Best (in glass jars) is suitable – the regular one isn’t. I’ve had Bisto Best and seem fine with it, but to be totally safe you may wish to get one that is definitely gluten free. To make life easier when I visit family for my Christmas dinner, I picked up a ready made chicken gravy (we’ll be having chicken rather than turkey): 

Tesco Finest Roast Chicken Gravy

Tesco Finest Roast Chicken Gravy

If you’re having cheese sauce or cauliflower cheese (one of my favourites!) I can recommend Asda’s free from cheese sauce mix which is really easy to make and tastes great. 

Desserts and snacks

There’s plenty of gluten free mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas pudding in free from sections. I’m not a fan of any of these however so I’ll be sticking to good old chocolate dessert I think. Whilst I was in Tesco a couple of days ago they had taste tests of the free from profiteroles and they’re pretty good so I got some and I think I’ll be taking these with me:

 

Tesco Free From Cream Filled Profiteroles

Tesco Free From Cream Filled Profiteroles

 
 Another option is this fabulous chocolate fudge pudding from M&S which is loved by anyone I’ve served it to, you don’t need to be gluten free to enjoy these! It goes really well with nice vanilla ice cream (Carte D’Or is gluten free). 

Marks & Spencer Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding

Marks & Spencer Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding

I’ve also enjoyed free from chocolate brownies (Tesco’s Finest are great) and one of those warmed up and served with Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew ice cream (or Phish Food) is delicious! Not allBen &Jerry’s ice creams are suitable but 
Gluten free guests can also dig into chocolates including Roses, Cadburys Heroes, and many of the Thornton boxes (just check the labels). Mars aren’t so good for gluten free and Lindt aren’t suitable, nor sadly are Chocolate Oranges. Matchmakers are gluten free though, plus After Eights and Elizabeth Shaw chocolate mints. 

I’ll be honest, the bit I’m most looking forward to is Christmas evening when my in-laws traditionally have salmon and cucumber rolls. In the early days of my relationship I accepted one out of politeness, not expecting to enjoy it, and I loved it! It’s been a highlight of my festive season ever since. I take my own gluten free rolls and this year I’m giving Udi’s finger rolls a try. 

I hope this is useful for those of you preparing a Christmas dinner for gluten free guests, or for yourself if you’re newly diagnosed. It can seem overwhelming if you haven’t catered for gluten free before, but Christmas dinner is a fairly easily adaptable meal. I hope you have a positive experience this Christmas 🙂

If you’d like to receive updates from Gluten Free Joeyanne please follow the blog by email or RSS (links on the right hand side) or you can like Gluten Free Joeyanne on Facebook for links to blog posts as well as more regular updates. 

Gluten Free Christmas – tips and advice

With an increasing number of people being diagnosed with coeliac disease or choosing to follow a gluten free diet for other reasons, many people may find themselves cooking or entertaining over Christmas for someone who has to follow a gluten free diet. There are some things which can catch you out, so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing some tips based on our experiences over the last few years. I’ll also be posting another post specifically about the Christmas dinner. 

Check the labels

By law any products in UK supermarkets have to show allergens on their labels, so if anything mentions any of the BROW products (Barley, Rye, Oats, and Wheat) it’s not suitable for a gluten free diet. It’s a little more complex than that (you can buy gluten free oats for example) but it’s safest to stick to avoiding anything that has those four allergens mentioned. Some products don’t have the allergens present but are produced on the same factory line as products that do so they may include statements about that. If you see something like ‘May contain traces of wheat’ or ‘Produced on a line with products that contain wheat’, it’s best not to risk it. 

Speak to your guest(s) in advance

If your gluten free guest is anything like me, I’m sure they’d appreciate knowing your plans in advance, and may well be able to help you they may be able to offer advice on suitable options (e.g. Suggesting Roses or Cadbury Heroes rather than Celebrations or Quality Street), or may be able to bring some things themselves. If they have coeliac disease, they may well be a member of Coeliac UK who produce a directory of suitable products. With my family they sometimes contact me in advance to check certain products are suitable, especially when it comes to sauces, seasonings and condiments. I usually bring things with me when I visit family and friends anyway, but it can be useful for them to know what you like in advance (e.g. I don’t like mince pies or Christmas pudding so although it is possible to buy gluten free versions of these, I really won’t be missing out without them as I’ve never liked them and I’d far rather have Mrs Crimbles Bakewell slices!). 

Check out the free from section (though not exclusively)

Most UK supermarkets have a good selection of free from items now, many of which are gluten free (though bear in mind not everything in the free from section is gluten free as some are free from other allergens but not gluten). You can usually get gluten free bread, crackers, pasta and various snacks and nibbles from the free from section. However, there are also some excellent brands who offer gluten free products throughout the store. Knorr products are mostly gluten free for example, as are Seabrooks and Pom Bear crisps. Many Cadbury items are gluten free (from the Christmas range the Snow Bites and Snowmen both are, as are Roses and Heroes). 

Follow the cooking instructions 

If you’re cooking something you haven’t tried before, make sure you follow the instructions. Sometimes (especially with gluten free baking) there might be unusual instructions, but make sure you follow them! It sounds like an obvious thing, but sometimes if you’re substituting something you normally use with a gluten free item you might think you can use it in exactly the same way but it isn’t always the case. It will usually only be a small difference, but it’s likely to be important. 

Consider making everything gluten free

Because of the issues around cross contamination, you do have to be careful when cooking both gluten free items and ones with gluten in. If you have both, you’ll need to make sure you use different utensils, different baking trays etc. You may find it easier to have everything gluten free (there’s hardly anything you’d miss out on, you just might need to make some minor substitutions). When we host guests, we usually have everything gluten free to make it easier. 

Think about serving options

It’s important to think about cross contamination with serving as well as cooking. If you’re having ‘help yourself’ type meals or buffets, and have some gluten free items and some gluten containing items, make sure to keep them separate and with separate serving utensils. You may wish to invite any guests with allergies or dietary requirements to go first too to reduce the risk. This also reduces the risk of all the suitable food being gone by the time they get to the table (I’ve seen this happen a lot with vegetarians!). 

I hope these hints and tips are helpful if you’re hosting an occasion over Christmas. If you have any other tips, please feel free to add them to the comments. Merry Christmas! 

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Coeliac UK Birmingham Gluten Free Food Fair

Yesterday we went to the Gluten Free Food Fair hosted by the Coeliac UK Birmingham Local Voluntary Support Group (who are also on Twitter as @CoeliacUK_Bham). I attended last year and discovered some great products so wanted to go along again and see if there were any other new products to try. I wasn’t disappointed!

Entrance was just £1 each and we were given a printed guide to the exhibitors which included a map as well as a list of the exhibitors with their contact details. There were over 25 exhibitors in three halls, plus a fish and chip van outside! Sadly Afia’s Samosas which I was looking forward to having had one last year weren’t there this time as the owner was ill, but I did enjoy our fish, chips and curry sauce for lunch provided by Food Genie:

Gluten free fish, chips and curry sauce

Gluten free fish, chips and curry sauce

We spent a lovely couple of hours browsing the stalls at the fair, chatting to exhibitors, sampling products, learning about new products, and of course buying lots of goodies!

Goodies from the Birmingham Gluten Free Food Fair

Goodies from the Birmingham Gluten Free Food Fair

It was all a little overwhelming to be honest (so much to see and try, and buy!) but I really enjoyed myself. Last year I went on my own and this year I brought my partner along and enjoyed experiencing it together. He doesn’t have coeliac disease but often eats gluten free and knows almost as much about being coeliac as I do, having been with me through my journey since diagnosis. When I got too excited by all the choice at the stalls he managed to calm me down! I particularly enjoyed meeting some of the people behind the brands I love, and chatting to them about how they get involved in the gluten free brands. Many are coeliacs themselves so completely understand the challenges, and are passionate about making good tasting, safe to eat food for coeliacs.

There was also a special guest in the form of Great British Bake Off’s Howard Middleton who opened the fair, but we missed him as he couldn’t stay for long. I was also pleased to see dieticians there to offer advice; I didn’t personally speak to them, but I thought this was a great idea, especially for newly diagnosed. As some coeliacs are also diabetic there were also representatives there from Diabetes UK (though I did find it quite amusing that they were right next to lots of sugary cakes!). In addition, the Birmingham Coeliac UK group had a tombola, and there was a stand with information about the Youth Group section of the region too. There were many volunteers from the group helping out on the day – the car parking was managed especially well, and we were always able to find people to help us when we needed it (when we couldn’t find the samosas for example!).

I’d highly recommend going to a Gluten Free Food Fair if you have one near you; I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the Events Calendar in Coeliac UK’s Crossed Grain magazine to see if there are any other local ones to attend. Whilst we were there we met someone from the North, East and West Cumbria Voluntary Support Group who are also organising a similar event. If you’re in North England I’d definitely recommend checking it out:

12th Annual Cumbrian Food Fayre

Saturday 10th October 10.30am – 2.30pm

Penrith Leisure Centre (CA11 8JH)

A quick tip if you are attending one of these events – make sure to get there early if you can as some products sell very fast! By the time we’d made our way around the stalls we’d sadly missed out on a few products, including the whole range of Heck Sausages!

Heck Sausages - Sold Out

Heck Sausages – Sold Out

I’ll be working my way through all the new products I bought over the next few weeks, so I’m sure you’ll see many of these feature on the blog soon. Some have already been tested and will definitely be reviewed! 🙂

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