Monday, March 31, 2014

Product Review: Áine Hand Made Chocolate


Earlier this year, in February, I received an absolutely welcome hamper of Áine Hand Made Chocolate http://www.chocolates.ie/ for review. Truth be told, I have been a big fan of her chocolate for a very long time. Reasons: it's Irish, it's gluten free, it's a quality chocolate, the range is phenomenal, it's award winning and most importantly, it tastes good. I mean that pretty much sums up my review, however, if you're not convinced - read on...




In the hamper I received:

A bar of Zesty Lime Dark Chocolate http://www.chocolates.ie/?ECProduct=247
2 x samples of Chocolate Ballotins http://www.chocolates.ie/?ECProduct=261

Generous, or what!! I was so busy enjoying the chocolate, I nearly forgot to grab a picture before I ate it all (ahem, I mean shared it amongst my family...) Those two boxes of chocolate ballotins shown in the photo above are in fact, empty - due to a small case of immediately being devoured!

You can read the story behind Áine Hand Made Chocolates here: http://www.chocolates.ie/?content=about-aine-hand-made-chocolate 

I'm so glad I received the Zesty Lime bar in the hamper - this is my favourite of the bars. It's the right amount of cocoa content without it being too bitter and the lime infused in delicious crunchy bits are spread evenly through the bar. So, so good. I also like to grate this chocolate bar over key lime pie that I bake, as a finishing touch. It really adds a bit of deliciousness to the dessert.

The hot chocolate swirl, does exactly what it says on the tin - swirl it in hot milk and voila!, tasty hot chocolate for your drinking pleasure. 

The chocolate bars and the individual hand made chocolates were all enjoyable. The milk chocolate doesn't have a waxy texture and it melts pleasantly in the mouth. To quote from the website, 'Áine Hand Made Chocolate - the luxurious taste of heavenly hand made Irish chocolate from award winning Master Chocolatier, Ann Rudden. This is chocolate as it should be - mouth watering, melt-in-the-mouth magic.' That pretty much sums it up for me. 

So ends, my admittedly very gushing, review. Go and taste for yourself.

Find Áine Hand Made Chocolate on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AineHandmadeChocolate
Find Áine Hand Made Chocolate on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Ainechocolate






Monday, March 24, 2014

The Gluten Free Beer Blog

This beer blog has been too many months (okay, actually years!), in the making. I know I've been mentioning this on and off in some of my previous posts, so it's about time I pinned this down. 




There are many reasons for the delay in this. When testing up to 20 beers, the aim of the game is to not let yourself or fellow testers on the beer panel get drunk. Drunk = not real opinions or accurate descriptions of the alcohol being tasted and tested. Also, drunk = hangover and to be honest, I'm not interested in hangovers. Getting the 10 of us together at the same time to test these beers, has its own challenges, everyone is busy living their lives so it was a genuine effort on everyone's behalf to meet and test the beers around busy schedules. Also, because of the delay in publishing this post, there has been a change in the branding on some of the bottles. So their old labels are now recorded in my photos for posterity. There has been a small advantage that has come about with my delay. More gluten free beers have come on the Irish market in the past couple of years and I have been able to have a decent list of beers for testing. So here we go...!

We marked the beers out of 10. 10 being the best and 1 being hardly worth it. I am the only one on a strict gluten free diet who did the testing. Everyone else is on a 'normal' diet and they are very particular about the type of beers they drink. They like a decent beer. I consider them 'beer snobs', but in a good way. They know a quality beer versus a cheap beer and that's why I chose them for my testers.

Please note that all opinions and comments are genuine and made in the spirit of being honest about what was being tasted. There was no sponsorship, support from brewing companies or any outside financial influence attached to this post.

If you want to know more about each beer tested, I recommend that you visit the respective websites and read more about their products.


 

TESTER FINDINGS:

NameAppearanceAromaPalate/Flavour & General CommentsOverall - What We Say (out of 10)What It Says On The Bottle
Crabbies Original Alcoholic Ginger BeerGolden, Amber. Very fizzy.Spicy, lightSweet, Fizzy, Ginger, Lingering spice/heat aftertaste. Refreshing, Moreish. Easy to drink.10 out of 10 If you like the taste of ginger. A resounding favourite.‘The steeped ginger is combined with quality ingredients and matured for 8 weeks to release a deliciously distinctive flavour.’
Crabbies Spiced Orange Alcoholic Ginger BeerGolden, Amber. Very fizzy.Citrus, Orange, Spicy, Light, SweetnessSweet, Orange cordial flavour. Not refreshing. Orange oil aftertaste. Easy to drink.6 out of 10. Disappointing. It was neither orangey nor gingery enough.‘The steeped ginger is matured for 8 weeks. It’s then combined with real Orange Extract giving a deliciously distinctive flavour.’
Crabbies Raspberry Alcoholic Ginger BeerDeep pink. Very fizzy.Fruity - like jam, ginger and raspberry obvious as well, sweet.Very sweet upfront like children’s fizzy cordial. Spicy ginger finish which lingers after sweetness. Soapy.3 out of 10. Wasn’t to any of panel’s taste. Too sweet. Might appeal to a juvenile palate. Not suited to a mature palate. Like an alcopop.‘We steep our real ginger beer for up to 8 weeks then blend with natural flavouring made from real Scottish Raspberries to create a deliciously unique and refreshing taste.’
Crabbies Strawberry & Lime Alcoholic Ginger BeerPale pink. Very fizzy.Sweet, candied strawberry.Sweet. Fresh strawberry flavour. Ginger finish. Couldn’t really pick up any lime. Soapy.3.5 out of 10. Maybe good for a warm summer evening. If you’re looking for a strawberry drink, go for the Rekorderklig Strawberry Cider instead.‘We steep our real ginger beer for up to 8 weeks then blend with natural Strawberry & Lime flavours to create a deliciously unique and refreshing taste.’
Hollows & Fentimans All Natural, Alcoholic Ginger BeerCloudy, Pale. Light fizz.Sweet, Fruity, like a perry.Sweet up front. Ctirus. A finer effervescence. Ginger finish. Refreshing.7 out of 10. Satisfying.‘Made using a time-honoured recipe from just five ingredients: Ginger Root, Water, Sugar, Pear Juice & Yeast.
Mongozo Premium PilsnerGolden ale, Lightly carbonated.Sweet, Light, Fruity, Beery, a hint of maltSweet, Dry Finish, Fruity, Refreshing, Typical beery aftertaste. Moreish. Flavour really sings once it warms up a bit.8 out of 10. A good beer. A fine all-rounder.There is little description of the beer on the bottle. It is noted that they have a fair trade and organic certification & there is a cross-grain symbol marked on the front.
Celia  Gluten Free LagerGolden ale, Good carbonation.Vanilla, Light, MaltyFizzy, Bitter up front, Hoppy, Dry, Refreshing, Sweet aftertaste, Easy to drink.7 out of 10. Wouldn’t know it was gluten free. A really decent lager. Enjoyable.Little is written on the bottle. Their website says: CELIA complements fine food thanks to its unique use of 100% Saaz hops famous for their spicy, clean bitterness combined with a beautiful golden colour & pleasant malty aroma.
Estrella Damm DauraGolden ale, Good carbonation. Sweet/caramel, FruityWatery, Cloying, Trying to be bitter – just getting a sour taste. Chemical aftertaste.1 out of 10. No one could finish the bottle. Tasted like a cheap pub beer. Everyone complained of a synthetic, cloying taste. It felt like it was trying to taste ‘not gluten free’, Unanimous low marks across the panel.Little description of the beer written on the bottle. There is a cross-grain symbol marked on the front.
Mikkeller 
I Wish Gluten Free IPA
Amber. Slightly cloudy. Standard carbonation.Fruity. Very sweet.Crisp, very bitter. Refreshing. Full on hops. Aftertaste sits well. No chemical vibe.8 out of 10.
A real multi-sensory beer. Decent IPA. Very distinctive. Recommendation: Breathe in the aroma while drinking.
Little is written on the bottle. Their website says: We’re proud to present the worlds first gluten free beer! A super hopped up American Pale Ale, designed, not just for the gluten sensitive, but for all beer fans alike.
I Wish is a fresh, tasty and risk-free experience.
In your face, gluten!
Daas BlondGolden ale, Fine carbonation.Sweet, Light, Floral hops.Refreshing, Special, Sweet, Well rounded, Pleasant aftertaste, Pure tasting. No chemical aftertaste, Easy to drink, Moreish. 10 out of 10. Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom….‘Daas Blond is the authentic strong Belgian golden beer. The honey spiced aromas and perfectly balanced bitter flavours are followed by a full rounded classic dry hop finish.’
Daas AmbreCloudy, Amber ale, Heavy carbonation. Heavy, caramel, malty, burnt hopsSweet, chocolatey, Hoppy finish, Roasted flavour, Coffee, Dark flavours, No chemical aftertaste, Satisfying.10 out of 10. More of the nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom….‘Daas Ambre is a traditional rich and complex Belgian Amber ale. The deep fragrant aromas with smooth caramel and discreetly mellow malt flavour finish with dry and delicately spiced hops.’
Against The GrainPale ale. Good carbonation, Not too fizzy.Fruity, Light, Sweet.Watery, Bitter up front, Fruity aftertaste, Refreshing4 out of 10. Tastes like a real beer. Just seems to lack the moreish quality. Not bad, not great.Text refers to the World Top Brewery location and the filtered water used in their range of beers.
Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales GFABronze/amber ale. Not much effervescence. Good carbonation.Hoppy, Sharp.Bitter, Cloying aftertaste. Heavy. Chemical aftertaste.2.5 out of 10. More complex than GFL . Would avoid drinking.‘Bronze, Amber, Fruity, Sharp, Tastes zesty, sharp & clean.’
Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales GFLYellow/golden ale. Not much effervescence. Good carbonation.Light, Sweet, Fruity, Pear drops.Light, Sweet, Fruity up front, Sticks at the back of the throat.2 out of 10. Starts like a good beer, but finishes like a cheap beer.‘Yellow, Straw, Fruity, Hoppy, Tastes fresh, clean, citrus, light.’
Green’s Premium PilsnerPale golden. Standard carbonation. Hoppy, light, fruitiness, malt.Instantly refreshing. Hops up front. Smooth finish. Moreish, drinkable, no chemical aftertaste. No cloying.8 out of 10. A great beer. Wouldn’t know it’s gluten free. Similar to Budvar.‘Is light bodied and smooth, with a light hop aroma and traces of citrus offering a crisp finish.’
Green’s Discovery (Naturally Gluten Free Beer)Dark ale. Light carbonation. Sweet, very malty, fruity, rich.Light ale, sweet finish. Vanilla flavour. Warming.7 out of 10. It’s 6%. Quite a strong beer. Tastes similar to Speckled Hen. Thumbs up. Enjoyable.Little description written of the beer on the bottle. There is a cross-grain symbol marked on the front.
Green’s Supreme Golden AleDeep golden. Steady carbonation.Sweet, beery, caramel notes.Malty up front, but a nice dry hoppy finish. Bitter balances well with the sweet. Refreshing, moreish.9 out of 10. It’s just an uncomplicated, great beer.‘Has a slightly hoppy flavour with a dry caramel background, and a light fruit and spice finish.’
Green’s  Blond AlePale yellow. Cloudy. Light effervescence.Smells similar to a fruity Weiss beer. Malty. Sweet.Sweet. Very much like an Erdinger. Malty, warm finish.8 out of 10. If you like Weiss beer, this one is for you. Good quality, not lacking in depth.‘Is a blond coloured, bottle refermented ale. The characteristic taste and aroma is a result of the specially selected de-glutenised barley malt and hop varieties and is brewed to an age old recipe.’
Green’s Amber (Brown) AleDeep Amber colour. Cloudy. Light effervescence.Fruity, caramel. Lightly sweet. Roasted malt. Hint of sweetness.Fruity upfront. Bitter finish.7 out of 10. Lacking a bit of body. A good flavour. Enjoyable.‘Is a brown coloured, bottle refermented ale. The characteristic taste and aroma is a result of the specially selected de-glutenised barley malt and hop varieties and is brewed to an age old recipe.’
Green’s Dark AleDark brown. Cloudy.Roast barley. Chocolate. Rich. Coffee tones. Hint of sweetness.Rich roasted tones. Not heavy – surprisingly light. Depth of flavour. A really good combination of burnt caramel, chocolate, barley, malty tones. Sweet with a light bitter finish.9 out of 10. Completely different to anything else tested. As close to a stout as can be. If you miss stout – this is the one for you.‘Is a dark coloured, bottle refermented ale. The characteristic taste and aroma is a result of the specially selected de-glutenised barley malt and hop varieties and is brewed to an age old recipe.’


Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer Range www.crabbiesgingerbeer.co.uk 
Hollows & Fentimans All Natural Alcoholic Ginger Beer http://www.drinkhollows.com 
Mongozo Premium Pilsner Gluten Free Beer http://www.mongozo.com 
Celia Organic Lager http://www.celialager.co.uk  
Estrella Damm Daura Gluten Free Beer http://www.estrelladamm.com/en/daura_gluten_free_beer 
Mikkeller http://mikkeller.dk
Daas Gluten Free Beers http://www.daasbeer.com/eng 
Against The Grain Gluten Free Beer http://www.woldtopbrewery.co.uk/beers/against-the-grain 
Nick Stafford's Hambleton Gluten Free Ales http://www.hambletonales.co.uk/?page_id=64 
Green's Gluten Free Beers http://glutenfreebeers.co.uk




Winners & Losers

The top scoring beers in our test were Daas Blond, Daas Ambre & Crabbies Ginger Beer. What was interesting in the findings was that most of the gluten free beers were of a high standard. That surprised all the 'normal' beer drinkers in the group (which was everyone, but me!). It is unfortunate that the beers you are most likely to find are the ones that had the lower scores, which might explain gluten free beer's unfavourable reputation. I hope this changes in the future and we start seeing a bigger and better range available. Make your voice heard. Talk to your local off licence/gluten free beer supplier and let them know that there is a great range of very drinkable options out there.

I used to drink Glutaner, but it is no longer imported into Ireland. A representative of the previous importer for Glutaner told me that there was a limited market and it was too expensive to continue selling in Ireland. This is such a shame as it was a really decent gluten free beer. If you happen to see it on the shelves - let me know!

Green's, as a gluten free specialist brewery, have done the best job covering all the main types of beer. Chances are that if you have a specific taste preference, you're going to find it in the Green's range. Go Green's! They get a gold star from me.

Unfortunately, Estrella is the beer you will more likely come across because there is clearly an attempt to flood the gluten free beer market via their distribution channels here in Ireland. It is unfortunate that other breweries and importers do not do the same in order to offer a better variety of GF beers to the Irish consumer. In the UK, there is a far bigger variety of gluten free beers, that you just can't get here. That said, things are a lot better than when I started researching for this blog (I never thought I'd be testing 20 beers!). Off licences are really missing a trick by not putting proper investment in advertising or increasing their gluten free range of beers instead of tucking them away in a small corner on a shelf. This is a growing market. They would more than likely get a better demand from consumers if they just made the effort. Advertising works.

As for gluten free beer in pubs - that still needs a lot of help! Some do serve, but more often than not - there are just no options. 

As I come across new gluten free beers, I will update this list accordingly with the aid of my testers. So I hope this resource will continue to grow.


Where to buy? 

You can find gluten free beers dotted around the country's off licences & grocery shops.
(Stock can vary)

O'Briens Off Licences http://www.obrienswine.ie
Carry Out Off Licences http://www.carryout.ie

Independent Off Licences are worth checking out, such as:

Egan's Off Licence http://www.facebook.com/egansofflicence
Martin's Off Licence http://www.martinsofflicence.ie
McHugh's Off Licence http://www.mchughs.ie

Supermarkets:

Tesco
Dunnes
SuperValu
Sainsbury's (N. Ireland)
Asda (N. Ireland) 

Please tell me where you buy your gluten free beer and I'll add it to the list!


Where to buy online?

Martin's Off Licence

http://www.martinsofflicence.ie/gluten-free

McHugh's Off Licence
http://www.mchughs.ie/gluten-free-beer

Eco Direct The Gluten Free Shop
http://www.ecodirect.ie/catalog 

Gluten Free Shop
http://www.gluten-freeshop.co.uk 

Molloys Liquor Stores
http://www.molloys.ie/Shop/?Page=Browse&Find=gluten-free

O'Briens Off Licence
http://www.obrienswine.ie/catalogsearch/result/?q=gluten+free
 

Mikkeller
http://shop.mikkeller.dk/shop/beer/mikkeller-i-wish-ipa

 

Other worthy gluten free beer blogs to read:

http://gfbeerexpert.wordpress.com/about

http://www.glutenfreecailin.com/index.php/2014/01/gluten-free-beer-in-ireland/ 

http://www.coeliacsmatter.com/digestive_conditions_coeliac/cd_management/cd_manage_articles/gluten_free_beer.html

http://dublinwithfoodallergies.blogspot.ie/2012/03/drinking-gluten-free-beer-in-irish-pub.html

Know of any other useful gluten free beer blogs, online gluten free beer shops, great gluten free beer off-licences that should be listed here to help fellow Irish gluten free beer lovers out? Please comment and share your knowledge! Spread the gluten free beer love and don't forget to drink responsibly!  






Monday, January 27, 2014

Product Review: Keogh's Dubliner Cheese & Onion Hand Cooked Crisps


Just over a week ago, I received an email from a Keogh's Farm PR representative, inviting me to try their new gluten free Dubliner Cheese & Onion crisps

It was a pleasant surprise to get an offer to do a product review so early in the year. They are the first Irish, gluten free, cheese & onion crisps, made and grown in Ireland by Keogh's Farm.

They generously sent me two large bags and three small bags of the Dubliner Cheese & Onion crisps. More than enough for sharing. The packaging is clearly marked with an heart shaped gluten free label on the front. There are a decent amount of crisps in the bag too. There's nothing worse than opening a packet of crisps and finding a weedy number of crisps inside.

The taste is good. Pretty much what you would expect from a cheese & onion crisp. Good bite, nice crunch, moreish. There's an 'earthy' taste/quality to them. The cheese & onion taste can linger a little longer than is welcome on the palate, but that's cheese & onion for you! A decent tasting gluten free crisp.

I love that this is an Irish product and that they use potatoes that can be traced back to the field it came from, via their 'Spud Nav' feature on their website. http://www.keoghs.ie/keoghs-hand-cooked-crisps/crisp-traceability-spud-nav.html

It is really great that Keogh's recognise the need for quality gluten free products in the Irish market. However, my one problem with them is the use of rapeseed oil in the ingredients list. Rapeseed oil = not an healthy oil. For such a high standard crisp, it is really let down by the use of this oil. Just to note, I was informed that the quantities of Rapeseed oil used in the flavouring is <1% as an ingredient and that the crisps themselves are cooked in high oleic sunflower oil. Nonetheless, It all adds up. For such a small percentage of use, it really should be swapped out for an healthy oil.

These crisps are available in Superquinn, Dunnes, Tesco, Supervalu and independent shops, nationwide. The large sharing bags go for Eur 2.49 and the small snack bags go for 0.99cents.

Find Keogh's Farm on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/keoghsfarm
Find Keogh's Farm on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Keoghsfarm


Image (c) Keogh's Farm




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another Year...


I haven't quite emerged from my winter hibernation yet. It doesn't seem like we're already half way through January, but despite my best efforts to deny reality, we are clearly well on our way into 2014. So I started this year being grumpy. Not voluntarily, I just am. The last few months of 2013 were a mixture of extreme sadness (there was a bereavement in my family) and trying to balance that with being happy and festive. Add to that a massive dose of mysterious glutening = extraordinarily unwell. Suffering dizziness, headaches, nausea, mouth ulcers - a general malaise. I know, I'm whining. However, if I can't use my blog to whine about my health every now and then, what's the point? Well, anyway - so I am here and still blogging and very slowly healing from what is one of the worst glutening cases I have ever been inflicted with.

I planned to start the year off with my beer blog. Remember that? I swear on all that is good and great it truly does exist. I have one more night of meeting with my beer panel of 10 and then, voila!, it'll be finished. The genuine delay was my becoming very ill over the past few months and my personal circumstances, that prevented the final run of tastings. So to whet your appetite, head on over to the awesome Gluten Free Cailin and check out her recent beer blog. Lots of useful info: http://www.glutenfreecailin.com/index.php/2014/01/gluten-free-beer-in-ireland/

The wonderful Sinéad Vaughan who is the creator of Antoinette's Bakery http://www.antoinettesbakery.com/ sent me an invitation to the Grand Opening of her shop (6 Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 8), for Saturday 18th January. More information about the event can be found on the website. The bakery caters exclusively to the gluten and wheat free market. Anywhere that offers gluten free cinnamon doughnuts and peanut butter brownies already gets a thumbs up from me. I'm looking forward to heading along and grabbing a gluten free treat. If you can, head on into Dublin and join in the tasty fun. A brilliant, Irish, gluten free, start-up business that needs and deserves our support.

Check Antoinette's Bakery out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AntoinettesBakery and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AntoinettesBake

There is so much more going on in the gluten free world, but the truth is, I can barely keep up with myself these days. So I do extend my humble apologies for being out of the loop and the lack of gluten free info coming from my corner of the internet. I think once I start feeling a little less sorry for myself and a little healthier things will be a little less whiny and a little more informative here.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year and that everyone is settling well into 2014. The GFP x






Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Happy Gluten Free Christmas Giveaway


I usually don't like to let a Christmas go by on my blog without having some sort of giveaway or put up one of my Christmas baking recipes I haven't published yet. So this year I am (kind of!) combining the best of both worlds...

Sam who runs the amazing gluten free/coeliac blog The Happy Coeliac http://thehappycoeliac.com (please, if you haven't read her blog or follow her, you've been missing out - get following!) has generously donated a copy of her 'Gluten Free Baking at Christmas' cookbook to give to one lucky person! (She's running an amazing giveaway on her blog too, check it out for more details and T&Cs. You can win an Ilumi gluten free hamper worth £50!!)



You can also find The Happy Coeliac on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheHappyCoeliac 

This Christmas baking book is invaluable to me at this time of year. Ever since having to be on a strict gluten free diet, my biggest challenge being gluten free was Christmas baking. I went out of my way to try and convert my much-loved recipes into their gluten free equivalents. I had success with quite a few, but after trial and error of many recipes, I just started falling on my reliables and stopped varying what I baked at Christmas time. Enter The Happy Coeliac's Christmas recipe book - I purchased a copy for myself last year and it was easily one of my greatest gluten free recipe books I've bought. Seriously. 




I was able to bake a new variety of Christmas goodies without worry. The recipes are pretty much fail-safe. It was a pleasure to make Spiced Christmas Biscuits, Lebkuchen and other sweet treats.

So, do you want to win a copy? Here's what to do:

Leave a comment on the blog here (with your email details).
or
Comment on my facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/TheGlutenFreePhotographer
or
Tweet me your interest here: http://twitter.com/GF_Photographer

Extra points for liking The Happy Coeliac's facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/TheHappyCoeliac

The Detail - 
This giveaway is open to all residents in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Competition closes on Sunday 15th December 2013 and the winner will be announced on Monday 16th December 2013.



Good luck and Happy Christmas Baking! 



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Product Review: Foods Of Athenry Gluten Free Cereals


The wonderful Lawless family who are the people behind The Foods Of Athenry http://www.foodsofathenry.ie/ sent me an email inviting me to try out their new gluten free range of cereals http://www.foodsofathenry.ie/?treeid=46. Well, being a fan of The Foods Of Athenry gluten free products for a long time, how could I say no? 




They sent me three types:

Nutty Crunch Granola
Strawberry & Vanilla Granola
Sunshine Porridge

As you can see from the picture, the boxes are marked with the cross grain symbol and have clearly written 'gluten and wheat free' on the front. I love the new packaging.

The boxes are smallish in size, but the contents are filling. You don't need to eat a lot to feel full. My personal favourite is the Sunshine Porridge. Absolutely delicious. Easy to cook and I felt that it really set me up for the day. It has raisins, apricots and sunflower seeds. A great porridge.

The granolas are great tasting and they don't lose their crunch when served with milk. However, it would be unfair of me not to mention that there is rapeseed oil in both of the granolas I tested and though I do not agree with the use of this oil, its effects are more or less nullified when consumed with whole milk.

I know in my previous post I've encouraged everyone to be aware of what you buy from the free from aisle, but I can honestly say that The Foods Of Athenry are meticulous about their food and what goes into it. They never include artificial additives to their bakes. I've met both Paul & Siobhan Lawless personally and I know that they are genuinely passionate about what they do. You can read about their 'clean label' philosophy and more of their story here http://www.foodsofathenry.ie/default.aspx?treeid=36 

It's worth mentioning that the Nutty Crunch Granola won Gold in the Irish Food Awards - a granola that is gluten, wheat and refined sugar free. Brilliant that a gluten free product can win the top of a 'regular' category. The Strawberry and Vanilla Granola won the bronze.  

Find The Foods Of Athenry on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheFoodsofAthenry
Find The Foods Of Athenry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/foodsofathenry






Monday, November 11, 2013

The Devil Is In The Detail

WARNING: This is a wordy installment! I know I don't blog often, but when I do, I sometimes try to make it worthwhile. So be prepared for a lot of text and links to other articles online.

Recently all my social network feeds and general online chatter is full of praise for gluten free food suppliers. It's a long way from the moaning and complaining of the lack of gluten free food availability that used to be the norm. Now that gluten free food is considered a trend, courtesy of random celebrities, the food industry has jumped fully on board with this and you can almost get anything in gluten free form. Bagels, check. Bread, check, Pasta, check. Pizza, check. Pastry, check. An endless variety of baked goods, check. All good, right? I mean variety galore, it's all gluten free, there's a green light to indulge in all those foods the gluten free community has been 'missing out' on, right?

There has been this niggling in the back of my brain since the food industry has embraced gluten free and what it really means for me. Now my hands are up, I'm super guilty of being over-the-top enthusiastic for new gluten free products that hit the supermarket shelves. I've even been given the opportunity to review and blog about some of them. Go me. My enthusiasm stems from the not-so-long ago past when gluten free foods were far from edible, available and a serious lack of variety. I think I'm a bit scarred at having been inflicted with terrible gluten free food. However, being gluten free is not just about having to eat everything that's labelled gluten free. Just to reiterate, just because it says gluten free on the label, doesn't mean you should go ahead and eat it. Though the natural instinct is to immediately think, 'Ooooh, check this *insert new gluten free product here* out! Gluten free too. I MUST buy it and try it.'

Step away from the gluten free aisle for a moment. Just to be clear before I carry on, there are some genuinely great gluten free companies out there producing some genuinely great gluten free food. I think with the current market being flooded, it's a little harder to sort the good, from the bad and the really ugly.

When I first started my necessary gluten free diet, there was such a quick improvement to my health that I felt like a miracle had occurred. Brain fog, mouth ulcers, depression, anger, illness, anaemia, nausea and so much more, all these symptoms fled. It was like coming out of the storm. As a result, my hunt for gluten free food began in earnest. I mean apart from the fact that a large majority of foods are naturally gluten free, I thought that I needed to supplement the gluten foods with their gluten free equivalent.

I've been living on a gluten free diet for almost 8 years now. It's only been in the past few years I've been starting to feel not as healthy as I used to feel. I couldn't place it. I've been very careful about the food I've been eating and apart from the odd accidental glutening, I've been good.

So why was I feeling so unhealthy? I went through my diet and I think the answer lies in all the processed gluten free food that I have been consuming. 

I recently came across this interesting read from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/healthscience/2013/11/04/DIET-S-DOWNSIDE/stories/201311040018 It pretty much sums up a lot of what I want to say. In summary, majority of gluten free processed food = junk food, causing inflammation and illness.

There definitely seems to be a lawlessness in some, not all, of the gluten free food industry. I think it really is a case of caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

Here's an example of unwanted ingredients: there is a prevalence of rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil in gluten free foods. This is a real bugbear of mine. This oil is insidious. I have a very good friend who works in the world of organic chemistry and rapeseed oil (cold pressed, processed, GM, not GM, in all its forms), is considered a toxic organic and causes inflammation, amongst other complications. Toxic. The rapeseed/canola industry spin it as an 'healthy' oil. There is a lot of talk about canola's qualities - its unsaturated structure (Omega 3, 6, 12), its excellent digestibility and fatty acid makeup. It turns the consumer against naturally saturated oils and fats. http://www.drgangemi.com/2011/07/canola-oil/

Marks Daily Apple has a great read clearing up a lot of misinformation about saturated fat: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz2jhdge49x

There really is nothing wrong with saturated fat, if it is the right type of fat. Have a read of Dr. Briffa's fantastic article debunking the myth concerning saturated fats. Click here to view http://tinyurl.com/ndbjrrc

UPDATE 24/03/14: Great article in The Guardian outlining everything I want to say about food these days! http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/23/everything-you-know-about-unhealthy-foods-is-wrong

Our bodies recognise and understand saturated fats. They know how to break them down and digest them properly. Toxic substances in canola oil cannot be broken down by our bodies once they have formed. Interestingly, to counteract any effect when ingesting rapeseed/canola oil, you should consume a natural saturated fat as it will bond with the molecules and prevent them from being absorbed by the body and doing any further harm.

There are pages and pages of links online that explain why rapeseed/canola is something to be avoided. Nonetheless, there is such a massive industry behind the canola/rapeseed machine that it is almost impossible to be heard against them. 

Here are a couple of more links to Mark's Daily Apple that are worth exploring regarding healthy oils & fats:



I fully encourage you to really start reading up and researching further about the food you're eating. It's so important.

It amazes me that this oil is found in a large majority of gluten free foods found on the shelves. A lot of my favourite brands actively use this insipid ingredient in the production of their foods and I'm disappointed, because they don't need to. It also means that I can't indulge in their food, as it just makes me feel unwell. A simple change in the oils they use and their products will be even healthier for those who are on a gluten free diet and not cause further inflammation and harm. Before I really started to understand food and its effects, I never thought to look beyond the 'Gluten Free' labelling. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has had this dawning realisation about some aspects of the gluten free food industry.

So the next time you see gluten free doughnuts, gluten free bagels, gluten free cereals, gluten free anything, have a good hard look at what exactly is going into these gluten free products. Too much sugar, unhealthy oils, unnecessary preservatives, over-processed, possible GM ingredients...? It is worth making an informed choice when shopping. Seeing as the gluten free community are so careful about making sure they don't get sick with hidden gluten, we all should be making an effort to make sure that we don't continue to poison ourselves with other hidden harmful ingredients that cause nothing but inflammation and lead to further unwellness. I think this stands for all foods to be honest.

I also want to say that I'm not intent on demonising the gluten free food industry. There really is some fabulous gluten free food producers out there and long may they continue. I just think in some instances, before buying it's worth reading the small print.


UPDATE: GlutenDude put up a post about what he thinks of processed gluten free foods and how they affected him, back in October of last year http://glutendude.com/celiac-rant/stop-eating-gluten-free-foods/ Worth reading. Clearly, I'm late to the party!



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Product Review: Delicious & Brennans Gluten Free Bread


Delicious The Gluten Free Bakery http://www.delicious.ie recently tweeted news about their new gluten free bread. I nearly died of excitement when I saw that they had teamed up with Brennans to create their new product. Brennans Bread was my pan of choice back in my gluten days. So when Delicious tweeted me saying that they'd be happy to send me a sample of their new bread, I absolutely accepted their offer. 




However, a few days later when I answered a knock on the door and was handed a large box to sign for, I was wondering who was sending me this package and what was in it. Well, didn't the fine people at Delicious not only send me a sample of their new bread, but 3 of their cakes, a flapjack and a macaroon.

(On a personal note: I am genuinely floored by their generosity. The gluten free companies that have approached me for reviewing their products are beyond generous. It's a real pleasure to support such great businesses and products. This has been a bumper year for the blog in terms of food reviews!)

So back to the bread.

It's brightly packaged and clearly marked Gluten Free and noticeably lists allergies on the back label. The most noticeable thing about this bread, is the size. It really is pan sized. Not like the usual smaller sizes of gluten free bread that are commercially available on the market. It is like a 'normal' sized piece of bread. I just couldn't get over that. In a good way. There is a tip on the back of the packaging that recommends that you should keep it in the fridge for a longer shelf life. It freezes well too.

The taste is good. When eaten untoasted it does actually taste like bread. The texture initially is a bit springy, but not too off-putting. It tears differently from 'normal' bread, so is the nature of gluten free. It toasts really well and I made a tasty croque monsieur with it. It holds well when frying it in the pan or toasting it with cheese on top, in the oven. Again, the wonderful thing about this bread is the size. It feels so 'normal'. I would be happy to buy this bread again. It definitely satisfies.

As far as I'm aware it is only available in the Cork area at the moment. I do hope this hits the shelves nationwide soon. If its price point is set affordably against other gluten free breads already out there, I think it will sell really well. It's worth buying.

Delicious is an award winning gluten free bakery that is based in Cork. I personally think Cork is the gluten free capital of Ireland. Delicious adds beautifully to that reputation. They really listen to their customers and are always happy to hear feedback on their range. You can read more of their story at this link here: http://www.delicious.ie/about-delicious 

I'm not forgetting about all the amazing cakes and extras that came with the bread. I just want to focus on their bread as it really is the new kid on the block. However, it must be said there is a reason that Delicious Gluten Free Bakery is called Delicious. I've been a fan of their cakes and goodies since I discovered them. Their cakes never disappoint and I genuinely love to eat their food.

Find Delicious on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Deliciousglutenfree
Find Delicious on Twitter http://twitter.com/DeliciousCork




Product Review: PureBred Gluten Free Bakery


PureBred Gluten Free Bakery http://www.purebred.ie got in touch with me awhile ago and asked if I wanted to review some of their gluten free range. I had high hopes for a great taste factor.




The generous folks sent me on the following:

Luxury Lemon Muffins
Luxury Chocolate Muffins
Double Chocolate Cake Bars
Mixed Berry Cake Bars

How spoilt was I?

Okay, so on with my review...

Starting with the packaging - there is clear gluten free labelling and they use the cross grain symbol on the front and back of the packaging, which is trusted by the gluten free community. Also, clear labelling of other allergens too, i.e. the mixed berry cake bars are clearly marked dairy free and the back of the packaging has a list of what allergens are in the bake.

The lemon muffins had this gorgeous lemon filling in the middle. The texture of something similiar to a lemon curd. The muffin itself wasn't dry or crumbly, but properly 'cakey'. I can say the same for the chocolate muffins. They had an equally great texture and a nice chocolate filling too. Between the two, my favourite was the lemon muffin.

The cake bars were surprisingly 'cakey' too. Not crumbly, decent texture and not too filling. The flavours are strong and not overly sweet. 

(On a personal note: They do use Canola oil, also known as Rapeseed oil. I don't like this oil. It's an unhealthy oil and the benefits of this oil used in food are minimal. I would like to see them switch out to an healthier oil. As someone who has to live on a gluten free diet, I've ended up reading and researching all about what foods are good and what foods cause inflammation. There is a lot of force in the canola oil industry that want to argue this point, but having researched and talked to people in the food industry, canola oil is something I am rightly to be wary of.  Some further random reading: http://www.drgangemi.com/2011/07/canola-oil and http://www.naturalnews.com/026630_oil_canola.html) 

PureBred are a family bakery from Co. Donegal. They primarily produce gluten free bread and gluten free bread rolls. You can read a little bit more about their story at this link here http://www.purebred.ie/our-story.

PureBred bakery are right up there in the gluten free world in terms of taste. They really know how to create a product that doesn't feel like it's trying too hard to taste 'not gluten free'. It is just a shame that they use such an unhealthy oil in their bakes.

Find PureBred on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PureBredGlutenFreeBakery
Find PureBred on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PureBredBakery