Friday, 13 April 2012

Free From Awards 2012

Free From Awards 2012It was an honour to be invited as one of the judges for this year's Free From Awards www.freefromawards.co.uk, organised by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson from Food Matters www.foodsmatter.com. Michelle is to be congratulated for putting 'free from' on the map. I am gluten free and wheat intolerant, while my husband Ray is dairy free so we are eternally grateful to Michelle and Food Matters for all the work they do in raising awareness for the 'free from' sector. On Tuesday 17 April all will be revealed and we'll find out the winners of the Free From Awards.As a journalist who writes about foodservice and catering, it was enlightening to see how free from foods have evolved in this sector. In the judging, we sampled a wide range of foods and it was rewarding to see that several manufacturers had introduced children's products - Red House Foods - Gluten Free Chicken Bites and Sauces of Choice - Sauces for Kids Tikka Sauce. These would work well in school catering where children may find it challenging to find free from alternatives. My husband can't eat mozzarella, even if it's made from buffalo's milk, so wonderful to taste Tofutti Grated Mozzarella Soya Cheese Alternative. He will be pleased.The highlight for me was tasting 20 or so different gluten and dairy free cakes. This is because normally I have to watch non gluten free people eat cakes in a tea or coffee shop because there are no gluten free varieties available. Imagine my joy at seeing an entire table of cakes, most of which I could eat (there were only a couple that were dairy free only). This category has developed beyond all recognition. Usually either a cake is gluten free or dairy free. To find both is very difficult that's why I end up making cakes. One of my favourite (gluten and dairy free) at the judging session was The Cake Crusader's Gluten, Wheat and Dairy Free Carrot Cake. If you're not careful, gluten free cakes can end up tasting like sawdust, usually sickly sweet and quite frankly inedible. Not so this one - it was moist, chewy and delicious and even had icing I could eat. The Cake Crusader's Rich Fruit Cake was also unbelievably moist and flavoursome. I'd also like to mention the superb vegan cupcakes from Ms Cupcake and Maple and Pecan Cupcakes from Sweetcheeks - I came across them at last year's Allergy and Free From Show and ended up buying a box of cupcakes for tea!Michelle and Cressida from Food Matters make the judging process effortless and fun and I do enjoy the debates that ensue among the judges about various products.I'm so used to attending functions where I can't eat anything (as canap├ęs etc are not gluten free) it is a real treat to be among the judges of foods I can actually eat!Over 300 products were entered in the 17 categories of the Awards. When you look back 10 years or so, you'd be hard pressed to find that many - so it is good news indeed that manufacturers are embracing the free from market.I'm looking forward to Tuesday 17 April when we'll find out the winners of this year's Awards.www.freefromawards.co.uk

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