Our Story

In 2014 my then 6 year old son was diagnosed with coeliac disease.  As a mother of three young boys (two of whom are not coeliacs), I assumed that eating in restaurants would become incredibly difficult and that my supermarket shop would become dramatically less interesting.  Nothing could have been further from the truth although it took me a few months to work that out.

Although it is thought that one in 100 people in the UK is a coeliac, one in five people buy products that are gluten free.  Many new cookery writers extoll the virtues of a gluten free lifestyle.   Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley and, for many people, removing gluten from their diet has stopped them feeling bloated, nauseous, tired or lessened the symptoms of irritable bowel system.  Many celebrities advocate a gluten free diet, including Miley Cyrus, Victoria Beckham, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Alba, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow – a strong advocate of a gluten free lifestyle saying “every single nutritionist, doctor and health-conscious person I have ever come across … seems to concur that [gluten] is tough on the system and many of us are at best intolerant of it and at worst allergic to it.”

Many leading sports people such as the current world number one tennis player, Novak Djokavic, also follow a gluten free lifestyle.  He credits his gluten free diet with changing his health and his tennis – “My life has changed because I now eat the right foods for my body. I feel fresher, more alert and more energetic than I have in my life. You certainly don’t have to be a tennis pro to make the changes I did to improve your body, your health and outlook on life.”  Justin Rose, the US 2013 US Open Masters golf champion, has also attributed following a gluten free diet with turning around his golf performance of late – “I have given up gluten, like Djokovic. It worked for him – he is a little whippet,” Rose said. “I reckon I have lost eight to 10 pounds and I feel so much better for it. My joints feel amazing, no soreness, no early morning creaks. It has been amazing. I’m still training and still lifting in the gym and have kept my strength up. It’s just the unwanted stuff that’s disappeared.

So clearly, it is not only diagnosed coeliacs who are buying and eating gluten free food and, in the UK, gluten free consumers are actually exceedingly lucky.  Our supermarkets stock many healthy and delicious gluten free products, both their own brands and many items from the hundreds of independent producers who keep thinking of more interesting foods to offer us.  In addition, whilst there are some specialist gluten free restaurants and cafes, there are also an increasing number of mainstream chains of restaurants that have introduced gluten free alternatives to their menu.

A few years ago, restricting yourself or being restricted to a gluten free diet was very limiting.  This is still the case in some other countries but is absolutely not so in the UK.  Our aim in creating this website is to collate all the information in one place about where to shop, eat and drink easily as a gluten free individual.  There are new products coming onto the market every day and restaurants and cafes opening regularly so please feel free to let us know about any gluten free discoveries you have made at info@glutenfreeliving.org

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Not much of a Bake Off at my house!

gf-cookbooksI have always said that I am good at cooking a delicious savoury main course but a terrible baker. At every dinner party, my friends and family have gingerly toyed at whatever home-baked goods I have offered up. Imagine how much worse my cake-making is now that gluten has been removed from the mix (quite literally!). So what is a girl to do?

I have a huge assortment of great gluten free cookery books – “The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook” by Elana Amsterdam and “Seriously Good Gluten Free Baking” by Phil Vickery to name the two with the most pertinent titles on my kitchen shelves. In the early days of my family’s gluten free living, I eagerly purchased every must-have ingredient that Elana and Phil told me I needed in order to have a perfect gluten free kitchen. My Amazon account was on fire with the orders of almond flour, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, hemp seeds and Spectrum all vegetable shortening (shipped over from the US because that is what Elana had told me I needed in truck loads). For Phil’s ‘essential ingredients’, I had to pre-mix all sorts of flours and there were Tupperware containers all over the kitchen labelled “Flour A” or “Flour B”, which looked uninspiring but actually represented hours of sourcing and then measuring out the correct amounts of each gluten free flour. Then I became overwhelmed by my terrifying tower of specialised ingredients and went into shutdown mode, particularly after a few botched culinary attempts (my fault and not that of either Elana or Phil).

Thank goodness, I have a number of tricks up my sleeve…. Luckily some very talented people have started companies that actually make cakes, such as the wonderful Pourtoi bakery who make a huge variety of gluten free, dairy free cakes that taste fantastic.

If I need freshly made cakes, I need look no further than Sweet Things Bakery, in Notting Hill or Primrose Hill, or Pearl and Groove, off Portobello Road. Both fantastic bakeries only need a little bit of notice (a few days) to conjure up something mouth-wateringly scrumptious that, if you are as naughty as me, you might pass off as your own (until someone asks you for the recipe or recognises that you can’t have improved that much in such a short time).

 

For those occasions when I feel like making some sort of advances in home economics, I have been known to “cheat” and buy one of the fantastic mixes from Glebe Farm. They are foolproof, always taste good and have the added benefit of making me feel slightly virtuous as I present the assorted dinner guests with a clearly home-baked (but not homemade) cake.

Two and a half years down the line, I feel that the time has come to take the Teff flour by the horns and start baking again – watch out all my future dinner guests! In order to boost my ‘inner Delia’, I think that I will seek out a gluten free baking course and luckily there are a few to choose from…Adriana Rabinovich runs courses for a number of cookery schools and is fantastic, patient and helps you make the most delicious creations. You can learn to bake gluten-free in many different locations – in the Lake District with Lucycooks at The Cookery School or with the River Cottage in their Devon HQ. However, I think that I might start in the privacy of my own home with one of the “at home” courses that you can do online with The Gluten Free Flour Co. All I have to do is buy their recipe book online accompanied by pictures explaining what everything should look like. They also run courses in London, Harrogate and the Wirral if you live near any of those locations. I refuse to let myself book anything else until these recipes have been tried and tested on my family at least but then, if The Gluten Free Flour Co can help me make tasty vanilla cupcakes and gluten free scones like they promise, then maybe I will branch out into other courses. There is one at Divertimenti in Central London that promises to teach me how to make gluten free Yule logs and mince pies in time for Christmas and, although I have never thought of Beckenham as the centre of all things gluten free, Elvira’s secret pantry which is located there may be the answer to my prayers. Trust me, if the results are worth bragging about, I will let you know……!

A great day at the allergy and free from show

Sometimes you have a day which makes you feel so energised and positive that all the banal worries of everyday life fade into insignificance. Today was one of those days as today I went to the allergy and free from show at Olympia. From the minute I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount and variety of companies and individuals competing in this burgeoning market   There were products that were gluten free, dairy free, nut free, vegan, low in sugar, high in fibre….. The gluten free bread that was being displayed there was delicious and light and its manufacturers were all vying to demonstrate that theirs is the healthiest, the lowest in salt and sugar, dairy free and, often, vegan. The pasta producers are using increasingly healthy ingredients and the samples that they handed out weren’t sludgy or tasteless but delicious and tasted just like gluten-filled pasta – in fact, sometimes even better! There were companies providing ready mixes of products to bake and entrepreneurial individuals who, having been diagnosed with an intolerance or allergy, worked in their kitchen to develop the perfect biscuit/chocolate bar/quiche/pizza base/sausage/pasta/flour/bread/sauce. Most of the stands that I visited didn’t just cater to one intolerance or allergy but many.

It was truly an inspiring day, meeting people who really want to make the world an easier and healthier place to live in with allergies. It also showed me that we are a resourceful, inventive group of people who confront life’s challenges and turn them to our advantage. If you have time this weekend, get yourself down to Olympia – it is definitely worth the visit.

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Some of the delicious goodies on offer at the show