Foods Matter Free-From Food Awards 2012 Presentation Speech

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson – chair of judges for the FreeFrom Food Awards.

 

Welcome! And how brilliant to see so many of you here - if the awards go on growing like this I can see that very soon we will be booking the Albert Hall!

And I am sorry to drag you from your busy networking – as I know that is what you are really here for!  But we do have some business to get through…  But, first of all, some thank you’s….

First of all to Antony – for turning out for us yet again and making the positively polar trip from Reading to Docklands. I know we made life very easy last year by having the party just round the corner from his Kew restaurant – but I think that coming this far east was really pushing our luck…. Promise we will try harder next year – and we really do appreciate you being here!

Next to our sponsors – all of whom, I think, are here tonight! I will not mention you all now as we will later – but you are all up here beside us! As you all know, we could not run the awards without your generous support, both moral and financial - and we are really thrilled that so many of you have continued your association with us over the years.

Next our amazing judges – many of whom are also here tonight – who gave up a great deal of their time to taste your products – and who were so knowledgable, so engaged – and so argumentative!! Brilliant for the entrants if jolly hard work for the chair!!! But thank you!

Then our in house team. First and foremost thank you to Cressida who, because this year we are launching FreeFrom Skincare Awards and I was up to my ears in those, has run this year's awards not only virtually single handed, but with her usual superb charm and efficiency! But also to Katherine, without whom the judging sessions would have come to a grinding halt, and to Sue Cane who first organised the beer category for us three years ago but who has now become involved in every aspect of the awards and whose aid and assistance has been invaluable to us all. And a big thank you to our good friend, judge and general supporter Jane Milton of Not Just Food who has taken on the onerous task of running our live Twitter feed of the winners!!

Thank you also to the Museum of London team for allowing us to use their lovely Rum Store – and to Seasoned Events for looking after us so efficiently, tastily and ‘freefrom’ly!

And of course, a huge thank you, as always, to our gluten free beer suppliers! We hope that you have all tasted your way through all their wares – well, actually – maybe not all their wares…. But at least a good sampling. Do make a note of your favourites as links to their sites will be in the email that will be in your inbox tomorrow morning with all the details of the winners.

Now, you don’t need me to tell you how successful the awards have been over the last five years – you just need to look around you! But, although we know that they have ridden on the back of the stratospheric growth in the whole freefrom sector, we do also believe that they have helped to push freefrom food a few more vital notches up the public agenda – witness the excellent Radio 4 Food Programme last month, entirely devoted to freefrom food, which was centred round the products that had been shortlisted for the FreeFrom Food Awards –  and the bonus of our nationwide appearance on Breakfast TV the following morning!

But what is so great is that today’s freefrom food really justifies the hype that it has received.  The vast majority of the entries to this year’s awards would have passed quite happily as non-freefrom products - while the judges will attest to the high quality of all the entries – not only in terms of taste but in terms of presentation, packaging and nutritional profile.

What is even more exciting is that so many manufacturers have been pushing at the boundaries. This year saw,among others,  three entirely new approaches to the knotty problems of  dairy-free cheese, coconut yogurts and ice creams, flour mixes including pulses and sorghum flour, sauces aimed just at children, a totally freefrom raised pork pie, Japanese kuzu thickeners, easy to cook freefrom pasta and sauce in a pouch, coconut biscotti, no less than four gluten, dairy and egg-free cheesecakes, dehydrated raw kale chips and even a nettle beer!!

Moreover, freefrom is going very encouragingly international. This year we had entries not only from the England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (both north and south) but from Sweden (several), Switzerland, Italy, France and even from the US.

But, of course, there is always more to do.

Antony talked last year, and I am always banging on, about freefrom in the food service industry. We did have more entries this year – and some very good – but there is a long, long way to go. To encourage catering manufacturers we are splitting the category next year into savoury and sweet products and do hope to be able to work more closely in this area with some of the bigger players in food service.

It was very interesting this year to see how the emphasis has shifted from freefrom staples – gluten-free breads, pastas, dairy-free milks to added value and convenience products. Whereas in previous years we have struggled to get a dozen entries to the Ready Meals category this year it was the largest entry with nearly 50 products - and we know that there are more in the pipeline both from the major multiples and from individual brands. As a result, next year we will be splitting this category too into three subcategories: meat meal centres, pizzas, pies and pasties (pace David Cameron…) and one pot meals to include ‘world foods’ so many of which  are already, in ingredient terms, free from.

And in contrast to what many might see as a highly processed food group, this year’s new Raw Food category was a great success with some really exciting products running from those dehydrated raw kale chips to a beetroot juice shot. Raw foods will certainly be back next year along with the return of our special award for products manufactured in a nut free facility, and a totally new Children's Food category. We have been thinking of this for some time but feel that there are now enough freefrom foods specially manufactured with children in mind to justify a separate category.

Entry to next year’s awards will open, as usual, in mid September and will run to mid December. I am afraid that, as the operation gets bigger, so it gets more expensive to run so there will be a small increase in the entry fee to £95 per product and £60 for any manufacturer with less than three employees - but we hope that you feel that it is still good value compared to many other awards, especially since it includes a free ticket to the best freefrom networking party in town – and, of course, it enables us to go on promoting the sector for everyone’s benefit.

Our aim remains to make freefrom food a genuine alternative for the whole family so that if one member either needs or chooses to eat freefrom, then there is no reason for the whole family not to do so.

But for that to happen, freefrom food must taste as good, look as good and be as healthy as non free from food. It cannot cost too much more than non freefrom food and, above all, it must be available –  in convenience stores, on line, in the main aisles of supermarkets, in coffee shops, in pubs, in petrol stations! Then we will truly be able to say that we live in a freefrom world!

OK – off my soapbox – we have business to do and I know that you are all dying to know who won what!! So, since you have all heard quite enough of me – I am going to hand over to Cressida to start the proceedings, as all good proceedings should start, with a good breakfast!

 

Breakfast cereals – sponsored by Fria GlutenFree

There was a very healthy entry of breakfast cereals this year – and a good deal of discussion amongst judges over nutritional content (with children in mind) and the virtues of fortification.
It was the fact that it was fortified that persuaded the judges to commend the ‘attractive, wholesome and healthy looking’ Juvela Fibre Flakes. They were also impressed with, and commended, the Groovy Food Company’s Choco Crisps, liking both their crunchiness and their use of agave syrup, and with the Bob’s Red Mill Traditional Oats. 'A premium quality oat with no nasty dust, they are creamy and nutty when cooked'.

The judges decided against awarding any Highly commended certficates in this category but they were all but unanimous in choosing a winner. ‘It looks lovely and has great healthy oat taste with occasional nut.’ Judges loved the fact that it was only sweetened with apple juice and felt that it really could fill a gap in the market for pure oat based cereals without added sugar.

It was the Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Oaty Granola

 

To go with your breakfast cereals, you need milk or yogurt and to go with breakfast toast you need butter or spread so, next up:
Plant milks, spreads and cheeses – sponsored by Pure Dairy Free.

This was a very ‘well entered’ category – and one which was very popular with our judges.  We had four Commended products:

Two of Bessant and Drury’s excellent coconut based ice creams – free from everything apart from coconut milk, apple juice and little xanthan gum and the appropriate flavourings – their Lemon and Chocolate Ices; Higher Nature’s organic virgin coconut butter – ‘Smooth, creamy, clear and good’ were the judges comments; and the Vegusto dairy free cheese sauce which is dairy, gluten, soya and egg free and comes in a convenient pouch ready to heat and pour!

Highly Commended were Kara’s Coconut alternative to milk with added calcium (the judges really liked its mild taste and versatility) and the Vegusto Melty Dairy-free cheese. From the same company as the cheese sauce, this version is also dairy, gluten, soya and egg free and is designed to be grilled or melted – and it got our dairy-free judges pretty excited!

But it was the Vegusto Mild Aromatic Dairy free cheese, which was to share the top spot. Designed to be eaten on crackers or in a sandwich and as freefrom as its stablemates, our by-now-rather-over-excited dairy-intolerant judges were unanimous in declaring that it was the absolute best dairy-free cheese that they had ever tasted.

Bur Vegusto did not have it all their own way… Sheila Dillon on the Food Programme was not the only one to rhapsodise over Planet Coconut’s new CoYo coconut natural yogurt – ‘thick, creamy, yummy and so brilliant that it both soya free and includes probiotics!’

So the joint winners of the Plant milk, spread and cheese category are the CoYo Natural coconut yogurt and the Vegusto Mild Aromatic Dairy free cheese.

 

 

Now on to ‘real’ milk -  Dairy-free, that is cow’s milk-free milk, butter and yogurt, sponsored by Swedish Glace.

Unusually, the judges only chose one product at each level here, starting with a Commended certificate to a really ‘delicious creamy goat butter with just the perfect salt levels’ – it was the Delamere Dairy goat butter.

And it was those Delamere Dairy goats that were up for a highly commended certificate too, but this time for their ‘smooth and creamy, not too goaty, all round great’ natural yogurt.

But I am afraid that the goats lost out to the sheep for the winning slot. This went to a ‘lovely mild, thick sheep’s yogurt with a really unusual flavour combination’ – the Woodlands Dairy Gooseberry and Elderflower Natural Sheep’s Yogurt.

 

As I don’t think that Woodlands Dairy were able to be here tonight, we shall move seamless on to Gluten-free Bread and Bread mixes sponsored, very appropriately, by Genius Gluten Free.

This category was, this year, entirely taken over by the Swedes with no less than five Swedish entries, and they entirely dominate the prizes too. The judges decided not to awards any Commended certificates but they did award two Highly Commendeds. The first of these goes to the Fria Grov Mini Baguette Dark Seeded Roll.  The judges thought this both looked and smelled like a ‘normal’ part-baked roll – an excellent size and shape for a lunch box with a soft, pleasant crust’. They thought it performed particularly well when heated.
The second certificate goes to the Finax Oat Bread Mix -  ‘a real artisan loaf’ said the judges ‘with a lovely real bread texture, a nice crisp crust and a great flavour.’

However they saved the winning certificate for one of those every day, very useful sliced loaves. ‘A lovely nutty texture and malty flavour – love the caraway seeds. A good alternative to granary and would make excellent sandwich bread.’ It was the Fria Grova Dark Seeded Sliced Loaf.

 

Next up was Gluten-free pasta and pizzas bases sponsored by Tesco.

Gluten free pasta is one of those categories where you now expect the entries to be excellent, as indeed was the case. But five stood out. Commended was the Molino di Ferro La Veneziane Penne – ‘an excellent pasta – hard to tell from non gluten free – nicely soft when cooked.’

Highly commended was the Coop’s FreeFrom Fusilli – again, an excellent pasta which would easily pass for non-gluten free. Judges particularly liked its ‘buttery’ taste.
Highly commended also was Bob’s Red Mill wholegrain pizza crust mix.  A cross between a flatbread and a pizza base, the judges liked its quite chewy, bready texture.

However, the pasta which really took the judges fancy was one that many people would probably not recognise as a pasta at all. ‘Delicious in a salad, excellent as a couscous or bulgar alternative, lovely in soup with nice separate grains, a good bite and a great flavour…’  It was the Farabella Acini di Pepe or pasta grains imported by Sheona Vianello at Drossa.

 

 

As Michelle said, we had a really good entry for the Food Service category, sponsored by Livwell -  and the judges felt able to hand out seven awards in all.

Commended were Doves Farm’s Organic brown rice penne – ‘an excellent catering product – holds it shape well and has a good texture’. Also commended was the Toffutti grated mozzarella soya cheese alternative. As a melted ‘cheese’ for a pizza or lasagne the judges thought that it was surprisingly good and would be an extremely useful product in food service.

Highly commended was another Doves Farm product – their Gluten-free white flour blend without buckwheat. ‘A very versatile flour – which makes an excellent sponge. An extremely useful product in a catering context.’

Also highly commended - the Foodamentalists Golden Batter Mix. The judges thought that it was a big bonus that this very light batter was not only gluten but egg free although they felt that it might be better suited to tempura than to the standard British ‘battered’ products.

And finally, in the highly commended group, the Costa Coffee gluten-free fruit cake. The judges were delighted to see such a good, moist and fruit-filled gluten and wheat free cake in a high street coffee shop.

However, they saved the winning accolades for two savoury products. One is a sauce designed specifically for kids, both dairy and gluten free, with a healthy ingredients list and a perfect child-friendly flavour; the other, light, crisp and tasty chicken nuggets which, if anything, are better than the ‘normal’ versions.

The joint winners of the Food Service category are Sauces of Choice, Sauces for Kids Tikka Sauce and Red House Foods Gluten-free Chicken Bites.

 

Free From Ingredients, sponsored by Juvela, proved to be a very interesting category with a hugely diverse range of entrants - not an easy one for the judges to assess. However, as ever, they did a sterling job. This is what they decided:

Commended. The Clearspring Kuzu gluten-free starch thickener. This is an entirely natural Japanese product and, as they said, it really does the job! As a thickener, it would be hard to improve on it.

Highly commended. The Mesquite Company Pure Mesquite Pod Flour. They really like the cocoa-cum-coconut flavour of this ultra nutritious flour and thought it would be a great addition to any baked dish.

Winners. Again they went for two winners – one a very unusual gluten-free flour mix using chickpeas, fava beans, potato, tapioca and sorghum flour – ‘a lovely flour combination – really versatile and protein and fibre rich’. The other a wonderfully simple and fresh sauce – ‘attractive and subtle flavours, gently permeated by the coconut milk’. The winners were Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free All Purpose Baking Flour and Anila Sauces’ Goan Green Sauce.

 

Next came Raw Foods and Superfoods, sponsored by Asda. This was our newest category and was not only very well supported but included some really exciting new products.

The judges commended two products – the James White Drinks ‘Beet it’ Organic Stamina Shot - a very cute little bottle of beetroot juice with a little apple juice ‘to smooth over the earthiness of the beetroot’. Our nutritionist judges were particularly keen on this one. And the Beond Organic Acai Berry Bar made from raw dates and raw almonds with raspberry and acai berry powder, made using only renewable energy from Ecotricity…. Once again, our nutritionist judges loved this bar which they thought would go down really well with children.

The Highly Commended slot they gave to that Mesquite Pod flour which really does taste like a ‘warm, mellow blend of chocolate, coconut, mocha and cinnamon’. They thought could be used with great success on a very wide range of dishes.

However, they saved the winning spot for those really delicious and totally more-ish dehydrated kale chips. Such a wonderfully attractive product – so cheese-ily tasty, yet without any cheese, so healthy… Our nutritionists positively went into overdrive!! The winner of the Raw Food and Superfood category is the inSpiral Rawn Dehydrated Cheesey Corn Kale Chips.

 

OK – now on to that very overcrowded Savoury Pies, flans, sausage and ready meals category, sponsored by Delamere Dairy.

We had so many entries for this category that we finally decided to split it in two – although we will ask Antony to award their certificate together:

Meat based meal centres – sausages, burgers, meatballs etc – and pies, flans, pizzas and one pot meals. The meat based dishes did not give us too much a problem but the arguments raged long and hard over the savoury pies and pizzas section…..

So, to deal first with the meat based meal centres...

Commended were the Coop’s ‘truly irresistible pork sausages’. ‘A good sausage in terms of aroma and texture with a nice sage flavouring.’

Highly commended
  were the Black Farmer’s Pork Meatballs – ‘a tender and well flavoured, peppery meat ball -  very nice eat’.

But the winner was ‘a classic lamb and mint combo – succulent but not over powering mint – an excellent lamb product’- it was the Coop’s Truly Irresistible Minted Lamb Burgers.

The problem with the savoury pies, pizzas and ready meals section was that there was such a diversity of products entered – many of which, such as the vegetarian and vegan one pot meals, are by definition freefrom so therefore hard to judge against a pie or pizza which is not, naturally freefrom. Which is why we have decided next year to separate them off and give them a category of their own.

Anyhow, after much calling to order, the judges finally awarded the accolades as follows...

Commended were two one pot meals: stewed’s Chickpea, sweet potato and feta one pot meal (‘looked like sunshine,’ was one judge’s comment) and Easy Bean’s Mexican Chilli Fairtrade Red Bean with Sweet Pepper One pot Meal. ‘Really nice – hard to distinguish from a home-made chilli – just the right amount of heat.’

Also commended was the Foodamentalist’s Pork, black pudding and caramelised red onion pie. The judges were really impressed with the freefrom raised hot crust pastry on this pie which look totally authentic but found that the filling was rather too finely chopped and did not quite live up the crust – otherwise it could have been a winner.

Highly commended were two pastas and a pizza.

The Food Resource Fusilli al Funghi was an ambient pouch of fusilli with dried mushrooms and sauce that only needed to be reconstituted with water. ‘A really great convenience food with good mushrooms and nice textured pasta’.

It was the DS-gluten free Bonta d’Italia Margherita Pizza that also caught the judges’ fancy – especially its crust. As one coeliac judge commented –‘there are no thin GF pizzas on the market at all so this on is rather a breakthrough – the crust even tasted wood fired!’

The second pasta to be highly commended was the Amy’s Kitchen classic gluten-free Vegetable Lasagne. ‘Great to have a good freefrom vegetable lasagne,’ the judges commented, ’with excellent ingredients which have not been cooked to death!’

However, after much discussion and retasting, it was a pie that got the winning spot. An individual pie with a succulent chicken filling that was not only gluten and wheat free but dairy free and, if they leave off the shiny egg wash, could also be egg free. ‘Lovely golden pie with great crisp pastry’, said the judges. 'You would certainly never know it was gluten and dairy free!’ The winner was The GlutenFree Kitchen’s Ovencrust Chicken and Bacon Pie.

 

Now onto a rather less controversial category – Savoury biscuits and snacks, sponsored by Genon Laboratories.

The judges decided not to award any commended certificates here but moved straight on to two Highly Commendeds.

One went to the very attractive and unusual-looking Conscious Food Millet Crackers with Rosemary. The judges really loved the taste, and the nutritional profile of these crackers but felt that they had been overpowered by too much rosemary.

The second certificate went to Darling Spuds Sour Cream with a hint of Mexican Chilli crisps – ‘Kettle style – but gluten free. A lovely mild sour cream/chilli combination.’

Two products also share the winners’ podium in this category – another crisp and a crostini. Our coeliac judges were particularly excited by the crisps as they say it is almost impossible to find a quality crisp that they can safely eat and they especially loved the combination of flavours in this one.

They awarded the second winning place to the crostini bites, not because, as they said, they were particularly clever or original but because they were a really good-looking, crunchy tasty version of a hugely useful convenience product.

The winners of the savoury crackers category are the Darling Spuds Tomato, Olive and Oregano Crisps and the Juvela Crostini Bites.

Now we know that Judy and Dave Willis of Darling Spuds are not here because, each year for the last several years, they have hosted two children from Chernobyl for a two week holiday in the UK and we are right in the middle of the children’s visit. Quite rightly they felt that they should stay with the children rather than gallivanting off to an awards party in London. However, I think that Ian Hills who works with them, is here so maybe he would like to come and collect their winning certificate on their behalf along with Juvela.

 

 

Next on to all those wonderful freefrom cakes, scones, tarts muffins and cup cakes – two categories that are always very well supported!

First up – Scones, tarts, bakewells, muffins, flapjacks and all those sweet goodies which do not actually class as cakes – this category was sponsored by Tesco.

There were a lot of excellent entries for this category – which may explain why the judges awarded so many accolades. Starting with:

Three commended products:
First, The Heavenly Cakes Gluten and wheat free Millionnaires Shorbreads – Said the judges:’An amazing, large, milky, sweet and very indulgent gluten-free version of an-over-the-top Millionaires’ Shortbread’!

Then two rather lighter offerings:
Molino d Ferro’s La Veneziane Coconut Biscotti – ‘a lovely, simple product – light and sweet’ and Tesco’s Freefrom Ginger Cookies – ‘a really ‘grown up’ biscuit - not too sweet and you would never know it was freefrom.’

Highly Commended were two more biscuits – Asda’s gluten-free All Butter Lemon Sicilian Shortbread – ‘a really delicious lemon biscuit – light crisp and buttery’ and  the Coop’s FreeFrom Triple Chocolate Cookies. The judges like the biscuits’ crispness and crumble and loved its dipped chocolate base.

The judges also chose two winners in this category - both of which won serious brownie points for managing to be both delicious and free of dairy, wheat, gluten and soya. One was a flapjack but not just any old flapjack. This one contained apricots, tahini and apple and carob sweetener yet tasted like a ‘proper’ flapjack  but, as one judge said, ‘with a good long finish so that each flavour gets it own time and space on the palette’.

The other was a sort of soft macaroon with only four totally natural ingredients – ‘just a fab freefrom product for morning coffee’.

The winners were the Sugar Grain Almond, Apricot and Tahini Flapjack and the Sweetcheeks Almondies.

 

Then onto Cakes proper – this category sponsored by Mrs Crimbles.

The judges commended three products in this category too -  cupcakes, a brownie and a drizzle cake:

Cakes Divine’s Dairy and Gluten-free Carrot cupcakes
– ‘a great combo of flavours’, said the judges who really liked the texture of the cupcakes and the addition of cinnamon.

Fria’s Kladdkaka
– or mega gooey chocolate brownie cake. ‘Good, soft brownie cake’, they said, ‘seriously chocolatey and bang on for texture and taste.’

And Steph’s FreeFrom Cakes Lemon Drizzle Cake. ‘the lemon flavour is just right – a really nice freefrom cake.’

Highly commended were two big cakes – Incognito Cakes Chocolate Fudge Cake – ‘a classic, dark chocolate cake – and so nice to see that it is gluten, wheat and dairy free’ and The Cake Crusader’s Rich Fruit Cake – ‘an almost West Indian moist rich, rich fruit cake – packed with fruit and beautifully balanced spices.’

And in this category as well we have joint winners - and joint winners who, again, managed to create really delicious cakes without using any wheat, gluten or dairy.

This was particularly impressive in one of the products which was a carrot cake which not only tasted deliciously home made but had a really excellent authentic dairy-free icing – not easy to create. The other winner was a cupcake – how could we not have a cupcake up there on the podium?... ‘Delicately flavoured, pretty, light and moist.’

The winners are The Cake Crusaders’ Gluten, Wheat and Dairy free Carrot Cake and Sweetcheeks’ Maple and Pecan cupcakes.

 

 

Next we have puddings and desserts – dominated this year by cheesecakes – and sponsored by Hale & Hearty.

However, the commended product was not a cheesecake but a rice pudding – Tideford Organics Gluten-free Butterscotch Rice Pudding – ‘really rich and creamy – a classic rice pud.’

Highly Commended was the Mamma Cucina Mango and Passionfruit cheesecake – soya based but free of dairy, gluten, wheat and eggs – an impressive list. The judges liked the jelly like fruity consistency of the topping on its gluten-free base.

And the winner was another frozen soya based cheesecake – also gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free – but this time lemon flavoured. ‘An amazingly good dessert’, said the judges, ’especially considering its freefrom credentials – with a really lovely tangy lemon flavour.’ It was the Food Heaven Sicilian Lemon Cheesecake.

 

Only four to go now until we get to the Marble Mo Moment!

First we need to do that particularly sought after category – Chocolates and sweet snacks – sponsored this year by Tesco.

We had three commended products here – Conscious Chocolates raw chocolate Essential Orange bar. The judges were impressed by the smooth, if slightly truffley texture of this bar and it lovely clean orange flavour.

Eskal Foods Chocolate coated gluten free pretzels. ‘What a fun product’, said the judges, ‘and you’d never know that the pretzel was gluten free.’

And Tickety Boo Cakes’ Roo’s Crunch – a sort of coconut brownie bar, free of wheat, gluten, dairy, soya, egg and nuts! The judges loved the flavour and texture although they could not quite find the crunch!

Highly commended was Kinnerton’s Dairy, egg, gluten and nut-free bar – ‘an excellent plain chocolate bar with a surprisingly strong chocolate flavour for only 55% cocoa solids. Very versatile and excellent that it is nut free.’

But the winner this year was a seriously boozy and ultra rich – yet dairy, wheat and gluten free – chocolate truffle. ‘A gourmet luxury chocolate truffle’, said the judges. ‘The bitter cocoa powder dusting makes the insides all the more rich and delicious – and very rummy’…..
The winner is the BoojaBooja Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles.

Unfortunately BoojaBooja are not able to be here tonight so, while you all dream of rum sozzled truffles, I shall move backwards – or maybe forwards – to our

 

Christmas  category – sponsored by Produced in Italy.

Four commended products here. Conscious Chocolates again for their Cherry Christmas bar. The judges liked the contrasting texture and flavour of the cherries which certainly made it feel Christmasy.

OK Foods gluten and dairy free mince pies with their lovely crisp, almost biscuity pastry,  Friendly food and Drinks sweet and fruity Christms chutney which the judges felt would work well with the turkey, and Pyman Patés really excellent, deliciously smooth, rich gluten-free chicken liver paté. Now if only they could make that paté dairy free as well….

Highly commended were Morrison’s gluten and dairy-free Christmas pudding – a nice, slightly rough texture and great citrusy flavour, Christine’s gluten-free Rum and ale pudding – ‘a yummy, luxurious mouthful’ – and Livwell’s Gluten, wheat and Dairy-free Christmas Cake. ‘A excellent classic Christmas cake –plenty of fruit and the right balance between fruit, cake and icing.’

However, it was a mince pie that came out on top of the pile – and a rather unusual mince pie at that. ‘Golden and deep filled, good crisp and tasty pastry and what a lovely idea to have a frangipane layer.’ The winner is the Foodamentalists Frangipane Mince Pies.

 

 

Well, how exciting – I get to do the beer!! As you will have seen, and no doubt tasted! - we had a good spread of entries for the Gluten Free Beer category, sponsored this year by Asda. I wonder whether you will all agree with our judges decisions which were, after a good deal of discussion – not to mention tasting…. - dominated by two companies.

The Commended slot they gave to two of Green’s beers – their Premium Golden Ale (‘A good amber colour with a  fine head and toffee caramel flavours’) and their Bottle Refermented Blonde Ale (‘Slight haze, golden colour; hop and malt carbonation gives a happy taste and refreshing acidic fizz…).

Green’s also got one of the Highly Commended spots for their Bottle Refermented Dark Ale – ‘ a very interesting molasses, dark treacle flavour but with a pleasing bitter edge. Good mouthfeel and a good dark colour head.’

The other Highly Commended certificate goes to the Daas Blond Beer  - ‘Clean and refreshing with a good body and a nice creamy head. Complex flavour but with a nice dryness – and very strong!’

So that just leaves the  winner - which this year went to ‘an excellent, well balanced beer – with a deep amber colour, a yellow head, fruity aroma and fruity flavour - good and rounded with a dry finish.’ It is the Dass Ambre Beer.

 

 

OK – last but one – the Innovation Award. The purpose of this award is to celebrate companies which successfully push the boundaries of freefrom in terms of concept, ingredients and/or manufacture.

The judges awarded two Commended certificates – the first to The Foodamentalists for their brown bread mix. This mix specifically sets out to deliver an ultra healthy product with flax seeds and linseed to boost both Omega 3 and fibre content. How nice it would be if all bread manufacturers were to take such good care of their customers’ health! The mix also made up into ‘a nice deep coloured loaf with and excellent fresh texture.’

The second one went to Provamel Botanicals Apple and Green Tea Alternative to Yogurt. Apart from the fact that this was a prettily packed, really nice product with a subtle flavour and a good texture, the judges were delighted to see a freefrom product move out of ‘special diets’ into the luxury end of the market.

Four Highly Commended certificates were awarded – three to dairy-free products and one to the FoodsWild Cornish Stingers Nettle Beer! The judges loved the concept of the beer – and actually loved its taste too –‘wonderfully dry, like a very pleasant cider – although they were not sure how much it really had to do with beer!

Another certificate went to the Tofutti Ricotta soya cheese alternative. This was an extraordinary concept and although it did not taste great uncooked, it worked surprisingly well cooked, would be hugely useful and, the judges felt, deserved full marks for innovation.

The remaining two went to coconut products. The Bessant and Drury chocolate coconut ice which judges felt was an extremely convincing alternative to a dairy chocolate ice cream and a very innovative use of coconut – and that delicious CoYo Natural Coconut Yogurt which was joint winner of the Plant milk category. ‘A quite amazing product for those on dairy-fee diets.’

And it was a coconut product which took the winning slot too – in fact another of those coconut ice creams.

‘A lovely dairy-free ice creamy substitute – would never have known it was dairy-free – very innovative to use coconut although you would never know, as the coconut flavour is held in check by the lemon. Good clean ingredients list, nice zingy fresh taste.’ It is the Bessant and Drury Lemon Ice.

 

So here we are at the Marble Mo Moment!

He says that he had a lovely time with Doves Farm and is looking forward to finding out where he will be next. You see, he cannot turn his non existent head to read the inscription on the back….. Although we did slightly wonder what had been going on down in Hungerford as, when he first came home, the very nice note from Doves Farm that accompanied him talked about loving having had ‘her’ for the year…..  However, having had him back in the office for a month, we think he is definitely still male!!

In any case – who is he going to live with next year? Well, as you know, the winner of the FAIR Trophy, so kindly donated to us by the Foundation for Allergy Information and Research in our first very modest year, is chosen from the winners of the seventeen categories. It proved to be a very tight run race between six of the winners - all encouragingly different from each other the judges argued long into the afternoon….

Should we go ultra healthy and 21st century and choose those delicious inSpiral dehydrated kale chips, winners of the Raw Food category, that, as one judge said, put a whole new complexion on raw food? Our nutritionist judges would have loved us to choose that one….

Should we stay totally pure and move out across the world to chose Anila’s wonderful Goan Green Sauce, joint winner of the Ingredients category? Could we resist those fantastic fresh and utterly freefrom ingredients and that wonderful deep green flavour?

Or should we go west instead and choose Anila’s co-winner of the Ingredients category, Bob’s Red Mill flour from Oregon in the US of A? Judges were blown away by how successful the mixture of pulses, tapioca and sorghum flour were and could not get enough of the sponge cake they had been made into.

Or should we be really dashing and choose the Daas Ambre Beer - that is enabling gluten-free beer to hold its head up in the pub? You have to admit that it was an appealing idea…

Alternatively, should we go for a really nice pie to eat with the Ambre Beer in the pub? The judges loved the Gluten Free Kitchen’s chicken and bacon pie, winner of the Pies and Ready Meal category – loved the fact that it was gluten, dairy and wheat free and could be egg free and that it still tasted so good.

But in the end they went for one of the most innovatory products entered in the awards although, as it happens, it was not entered in the Innovation Award. For years dairy-free and vegan manufacturers have struggled to make a cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese and despite their best endeavours, have never really succeeded. So one can understand why not one – but all five of our dairy free judges in the Plant category were whopping with delight when they tried this. ‘Ohmigod!! This is the best thing I have tasted in years!!’ rang round the room…

Using a combination of almonds and cashew nuts with sunflower, coconut and rapeseed oils,  potato starch and rice flour  the manufacturers have created a ‘cheese’ which is gluten, wheat, dairy, soya and egg free. It would never pass for a Vintage Cheddar - but it is pleasant and tasty - and you could serve to virtually anyone in a sandwich or on an oatcake and they would not even notice that it was dairy free.

The winner of the FAIR trophy for the Best FreeFrom Food In 2012 is the Vegusto Mild Aromatic Dairy Free cheese!

 

If you have any queries or would like to talk to us about the project - please email

Michelle or call on 020 7722 2866