So, the FreeFrom Food Awards judging is over for another year.
Two weeks, nearly 450 products, 65 judges and thousands of judging sheets. And although it is seriously full on (6am to 9pm when-you-fall-into-bed ‘full on’) it is hugely enjoyable both for all of us and, it seems, for the judges who positively queue up to take part!
And, thanks to Cressida’s truly amazing organisational skills, the judging runs totally seamlessly. (Here she is, surrounded by boxes and products, checking yet another labelling query for a judge.)
Given that the whole operation happens in just one north London house, albeit a big one, and all that food comes out of one domestic kitchen (even if we do now have four fridge freezers scattered round the house!) it is a serious tribute to Cressida and the two C/Katherines that this year, not only did we have very few hiccups – we actually did not have any at all!!
(I am hoping that the C/Katherines are checking a recipe here but have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely to be Twitter or Instagram….)
I am actually not going to work my way through the second week’s categories as the shortlist will be out in three days so you will be able see all the results. And, to be honest, our blogging judges have already said it all! Checkout Sue’s diary, Rachel at 7 Years to Diagnosis, Nicky at Can I Eat there?, Ruth, twice, on What Allergy?, Emma at the Free From Farmhouse and Christine Bailey on the children’s category. And if you want to see who was judging this year, check in to the judges’ page on the FFFA site.
What I am going to talk about are the more serious issues of labelling which came up again and again – but in a separate blog.
For now, while enjoying the morning lie in, I am really sorry that it is all over. Not just the very stimulating discussions that are provoked by almost every category, the chance the catch up with old friends and meet new ‘freefrom experts’ and the exciting new products that now grace virtually every session – but the hour off that we allow ourselves each evening when the judges have gone. Cressida, Sue (diarist and beer expert who helps us through whole two weeks) and any judges who are overnighting with us. On the rug in front of the fire with the remains of whatever delicious ‘freefrom’ snacks have been entered into ‘Down the Pub’ or ‘Food to Go’, some gluten-free beer and a bottle of organic red… And then stretched out on the floor of my office doing group Yoga Nidra – participation obligatory for any overnighting judges! A bit like a school trip really – but in a good way!!
However, the highlight for us this year was Sue’s creation of the talisman ‘freefrom food ‘F’ for the chocolate on top of the coffee…… Slightly drunken here, but have you ever tried to keep one hand with the ‘F’ steady while you shake the chocolate with the other?….
I understand from Alex, who was, as ever, manfully manning our Twitter feed (#FFFA16 for anyone who wants to follow), that almost as exciting as the entries for the judges was the fact that we also gave them lunch – rather unnecessarily, to be honest, given the number of samples that they have to eat… This included my ‘signature’ hummus!!
To be honest, I was not aware that I had a signature hummus – I just tend to chuck a load of chick peas, some olive oil, lemon juice garlic, salt and pepper into a magi mix and let it get on with it – but I was delighted that it was such a hit. The recipe, Alex tells me, is here although I am embarrassed to note that I use tinned chick peas in that recipe. It is actually much better with dried chick peas but that does require overnight soaking and then boiling for many (and I mean many) hours. And please don’t ask what quantities if you use dried as I have no idea – I just chuck ’em in and then use however much is needed of the other ingredients to make it taste nice!
However, I note that in this recipe for anchovy hummus I do use dried chickpeas – while in this one for butterbean hummus I am back to tinned but combined with coconut milk! Well, well… Anyhow, if you end up by making too much, you can always use it up on this rather jolly recipe for peppers filled with hummus!
Sponsors of the categories judged this week:
Breakfast – Asda; Confectionery – Free From Market; Fishy & Meaty ready Meals – Mrs Crimbles; Tea Time! – Integrated Food Projects Ltd; Breads – Udi’s; Snack Bars – Holland & Barrett; Food to go – Tesco; Foods for peanut and tree nut allergies – Wellaby’s; Start ups and small producers – Tesco.