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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Best Free-From Food in England

With the huge increase in sales of free-from foods in England, a market that trebled in five years, ready to crack the £2000s barrier next year. That's brought better tasting foods into the market, although the foods are increasingly touting their own social properties rather than trying to be analogues of what they are not.

Norman Miller and Allegra McEvedy wrote a comprehensive article for the British Guardian newspaper.

Peter Langsam, a food buyer for the store, says the main ­differences between decent free-from and mainstream products are "texture and ­consistency rather than taste". Nibbling a wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free macaroon, I see his point – it's more-ish but drier and crumblier than usual.

More importantly:
Langsam argues that taste comparisons between free-from and all-in food miss the point. While some free-from products are ­indistinguishable from their all-in counterparts, others are made from something so ­different that the issue becomes almost irrelevant. ­No one splashing something like Oatly - an oat-based dairy- and soya-free alternative to milk - on their cereal is going to mistake it for milk given its grey colour and watery ­consistency. Either you like it or you don't.

So here are decriptions of the top products, many of which have like it or not quality.
Anila's Curry Sauces
At first this punchy sauce seems full-on tasty, but the flavours feel a bit separate, with a slightly dirty aftertaste. Praise-worthy, though, having no alliums, added sugar, dairy, gluten, stabilisers or emulsifiers.

Debbie & Andrew's Sausages
These posh sausages are wall-to-wall meat. Well seasoned too (with a touch of white balsamic – la di dah), and for me the only slight drawback to no wheat was that there was nothing to soak up any fat, so a tad greasy.

Genius Loaf
This bread is light, almost brioche-like in texture, and cuts easily. Eaten plain it has a slightly old ­aftertaste but it toasts exceptionally well. The best gluten-free bread I've had.

Oatly milk alternative
My first thought was "liquid porridge", but it's surprisingly good drunk cold. It's as thin as skimmed milk, and I didn't like it in my tea, but maybe if I took it weaker . . .

Dietary Specials' spaghetti
Wheat-free "pasta" is problematic. This doesn't feel or taste like pasta, but it would make a reasonable backdrop to a hearty bolognaise sauce.

The Healthy Cake Company's carrot cake
Gluten- and dairy-free! Could be more carroty, but has lovely thick pecan icing. Tastes home-made, but takes crumbly to a whole new level.

Plamil orange chocolate with cranberries
I liked the look of this with its chewy cranberries and engraved leaves. It's smooth and rich and doesn't taste free from anything. for ­vegan chocolate lovers, this is a golden bar.

Barkat organic chocolate rice crunchies
Not a bad cover of the original at all, only these don't seem as sweet. The pops themselves go a tad chewy and slimy if they've been sitting in the milk for a few minutes, and weirdly, they don't turn the milk chocolatey.

Mrs Crimble's cheese bites
You don't miss the wheat at all. 48% cheese makes them properly cheesy, and they're light and airy and vaguely reminiscent of a cheesy choux bun! I'd put these in my lunch box.

Swedish glacé ice-cream
I was braced for the worst but, for a lactose, cholesterol and gluten-free ice-cream, this was good. Nice scoopable, "creamy" texture, with a light, icy crunch. It tastes like Mr Whippy meets cardboard (which actually isn't unpleasant), with an agreeable nuttyiness. I'm impressed.

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