As you may be aware we spent most of last week down in Docklands at the Food Matters Live event – and quite an event it was! Well, I say that but in fact, that is just hearsay as we were so busy that, for the second year running, I did not manage to get to one of the conferences sessions or to any seminar apart from the one I was chairing. (Well, actually, that is not quite true as I did sneak into the back of one of the sessions in the conference pod, but the chair was so comfortable, the pod was so warm and I was, by that time, so knackered, that I am afraid I dozed off…..)
However, all is not lost as all of the seminar sessions are now up on the FML site ready to be downloaded and watched by anyone who couldn’t catch them at the time. As yet I can’t see any of the conference sessions ready for download but they certainly were being filmed so maybe they will come next week. Given that they had over 400 experts speaking either at the seminars or in the Evidence Base and Drink Well theatre, the Catering for Health theatre and the Alternative Edibles theatre – there should be some pretty good stuff in there for everyone!
And what were we doing that meant that we could not get to hear any of the speakers? Well, Cressida and Hannah were spinning round the show meeting the amazing numbers of new and exciting freefrom food companies who were exhibiting. Cressida will be doing a roundup for the next newsletter but they included everything from camels’ milk to cereal bars filled with cricket protein!! Sue was there giving us all general support – and making constant coffee runs. Alex was there on the Tuesday doing our live tweet for the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards presentation and loads of our judges for both awards dropped by to say hello.
And what was I doing? Well, on Tuesday morning before the FFEating Out Awards presentation I was chairing and speaking at a seminar but on Monday evening Cressida and I had both taken part in an informal introduction to freefrom food for an innovation group from Cambridge. This had consisted of an historical introduction from me followed by a ‘freefrom’ dinner in Leith’s massive kitchens in the bowels of Excel! And I must admit that they had really pulled out the stops!
This was just one of the many mouthwatering salads that they had on offer along with, among many other goodies, ‘alternative’ pizzas and pastas. As far as I remember the left hand one was a polenta pizza, the middle one a standard gluten-free pizza and on the right was spiralised vegetable pasta!
Meanwhile, their bakers had been busy trying their hands at gluten free breads and had come up with some very creditable loaves with some delicious ‘freefrom’ dips. The chefs had also gone ‘north African’ with some spicy couscous (gluten-free of course) and more colourful and totally delicious salads.
However, the piece de resistance was Chef Jonathan and his liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream! Goodness knows how this works but if you blast liquid nitrogen into any ice cream mix it will freeze it all but instantly – but not into solid block. Instead into spoonable but frozen deliciousness! They had been experimenting with nut milks and rice milks which made good textured but slightly flavourless ices. However we agreed that had you steeped some roasted almonds in the almond milk before you started this would truly have been nectar of the gods…
The chefs were all delightful and very happy to talk about what they had been at. I think that the joy of preparing dinner for a mere 40 people instead of the 4,000 they usually have to cater for had put them all in a bit of a holiday mood! However, the most riveting revelation came in the short talk that director Kevin Watson gave us during dinner. He told us that all of the ‘fork meals’ that Leiths serve at Excel (and that amounts to many hundreds of thousands a year) are now not only pork free and alcohol free (because so many visitors to Excel come from the middle east) but are also gluten free and nut free! Why? Because not only was it good for their many guests who needed or wanted g-f or nut free food, but it made their lives so much easier. The best possible reason for adopting a freefrom approach in food service!
You might have thought that that was enough excitement for one week, but oh no….
On the Wednesday morning we had the launch of our ‘try to take the confusion out of may contain labelling’ project. If you want to know more about this I blogged about it a few weeks ago and we do now have a website called ‘Allergen safe’ although that is unlikely to be the final name of the scheme. FML have kindly just sent me the video of the launch presentation which will go up there next week. We did get a very positive reception to the launch but there is a very long way to go before it gets from being a project to being a scheme. But I will keep you posted.
And finally……… On Thursday afternoon we had our ‘cook off’ – demonstrations by three of our awards winning chefs, compered by yours truly! First one up (and the only one so far to have hit the airwaves) was Chef Mark Kennett from overall FreeFrom Eating out awards winning restaurant, Oscar and Bentleys in Canterbury. You can see him on the recipes’ site (where you will also find the recipes) cooking his mouthwatering Ghurka curry with lemon rice and very tasty gluten-free naan breads.
Next to come? Our very own Catherine Rose whose baking company, Sweetcheeks, is a past winner of a FreeFrom Food Award – Pan Fried Za’atar Seabass with Persian Jewelled Buckwheat followed by Donuts with Chocolate Dippy Sauce…… And then the amazing Magdalena Chavez of vegan restaurant, El Piano who came all the way down from York to create totally egg (and gluten and dairy) free Spanish omelettes, buckwheat pancakes and mayonnaise. Recipes and videos on their way very soon….
Are you surprised that we did not have any time to go to any of the other seminars?!