Tried and tested: Bad Brownie Vegan Salted Caramel Brownie

I’m not one to be deterred by bad experiences and so when faced with the temptation of trying something new after my accidental nut consumption last week I decided to jump back on the proverbial horse.

Whilst browsing the stores of One New Change shopping centre, Cheapside, last Friday I happened upon a stall from Bad Brownie in the food market. I usually walk straight past these stalls, but a sign caught my eye: Vegan Salted Caramel Brownies. My interest was well and truly piqued.

The brownies were dark and cocoa-y and glittered with gold. Very decadent.

After my near death experience the day before (ok, so I’m a little over dramatic, but it could have been bad), I stopped to talk to the guy manning the stall. I asked about the ingredients in the Vegan brownie and if it contained nuts. He was extremely knowledgeable about the product, telling me that there were no nuts in the recipe but it was baked in an environment where peanut butter is used. He then went on to tell me that it’s gluten free, and uses coconut oil. He said it’s taken a while to perfect the recipe but it’s worth it, and the company are looking to expand the Vegan/gluten free range.

His knowledge of the product filled me with confidence and I purchased one for £4. I was also given a card which they stamp every time you buy a brownie and when you fill up the card you get a free brownie.

Before I left he told me that the brownie is good just as it comes, but is even better slightly warm and suggested giving it 20 seconds in the microwave.

I thought I’d take his advice, so on the way home I bought some vanilla Swedish Glace dairy free ice cream to go with my warm brownie.

20 seconds on full power didn’t do much, so I gave it another 20, which was perfect, then dolloped on a spoonful of ice cream (I tried to make it look fancy for the picture like in Masterchef, but my spooning skills left a lot to be desired).

Now, the closest I’ve ever got to a brownie in my 36 years is dressing up in a bobble hat and brown dress and promising to do my best, so this was a whole new experience for me. The top of the brownie cracked nicely when I stuck the spoon in and the centre was fudgy and rich. Mr Allergy had a taste and said the texture was good, and compared well with traditional recipe brownies. Needless to say I quickly devoured the whole thing!

I could definitely get used to eating something so deliciously naughty, but as I don’t fancy adding type 2 diabetes to my list of ailments I’d better reserve it for special occasions only.

For people wanting to feed a crowd, you can order boxes of these bad boys, and they will deliver to your office: Vegan Brownie Box Given that one single brownie is £4 the box is really good value for money.I was really pleased with this find and I would definitely recommend this product, for both the quality of the product and the staff working for Bad Brownie. Well done!!

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Warning: Contains Nuts

I had a very narrow escape yesterday. Following a training seminar near Fleet Street (where an Allergy Girl friendly lunch of ham salad with balsamic vinegar was provided), I decided to detour back to Waterloo via Le Pain Quotidien near the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. Le Pain do a very nice Cocoa and Pear cake, and I thought I’d treat myself to a slice to indulge in during my commute home. On entering Le Pain, the conversation went like this:

Me: Do you have any of your vegan cocoa and pear cake?

Server: No, the only vegan cakes we have are the salted caramel and passion fruit cakes.

Me: Do they have nuts in them? I’m allergic to nuts.

Server: I don’t think so, let me just check.

She gets a typed piece of paper out of the folder, looks at it.

Server: There’s no nuts.

Me: Can I check?

I look at the typed list of ingredients in the salted caramel cake, and 2nd or 3rd on the list is cashews (not in bold type).

Me: There are cashews in it.

Server: Oh sorry, yes I didn’t see that. What about this one? (Pointing at the passion fruit and beetroot one)

At this point we both read through the list of ingredients, which seemed to be mostly coconut based. I purchased a slice of this for a whopping £5.95, and carefully carried it to the station for fear that a hurrying commuter might knock it out of my hand.

It got there in one piece.

On the train I opened the little box. The cake looked pretty and inviting and I was looking forward to trying something new.

I stuck my fork on the pointy end, and as soon as it reached my mouth my spidey senses were telling me that something was not right. I’m lucky that when I eat something I shouldn’t I get strange taste in my mouth, usually accompanied by a tingling feeling. My alarm bells were now ringing.

I quickly went onto Le Pain’s website to find their allergen information, but there wasn’t any. I then did an internet search for “Le Pain Quotidien Allergen Menu.” This came up with allergy menus from January and March 2017. I searched the menu and there were no passion fruit and beetroot cakes listed.

I then did a more general search for “Le Pain Quotidien passion fruit cake recipe.” This took me back to their website, and the menu, but no ingredients. The only passion fruit and beetroot cake I could see was a Passion fruit and Beetroot raw nut cake. Uh oh! The clue’s in the name. Interestingly the menu doesn’t say that this item contains nuts and there is no allergen information present at all. I thought by law they had to inform people if there are allergens present?

Anyway, just to be on the safe side I called them (from the Quiet Zone, I must add. I wouldn’t usually do this and I’m the first to tut and roll my eyes but at this point I was getting concerned that I might have a full blown allergic reaction on a train that was an hour away from home).

The lady I spoke to was very nice. She started reading the recipe; passion fruit, coconut cream, cashews…. Hang on!! Cashews?

You haven’t eaten any have you? Yes!

She offered a refund next time I’m in. I was less bothered about the refund than why both the server and I had missed the crucial piece of information that the recipe contains nuts. I’ll probably never know the answer, and can only assume it was missed off the recipe when it was typed up, or somehow we both missed it as it wasn’t in bold type. Had I known the name of the cake before purchasing it, I wouldn’t even have considered purchasing it, but unfortunately I didn’t see a menu and the full name of the item was never mentioned in the conversation I had with the server.

In a mild panic, I promptly swallowed three antihistamines and guzzled an entire bottle of water (the idea is to flush the allergen out). I then located the train guard and told him I was having an allergic reaction and where my epipen was kept just in case.

It turns it that apart from being extremely dozy from the antihistamines I was ok. It’s great that my body warns me that something isn’t right, and I’m able to catch it early. Had I eaten the whole thing it could have been a very different story. Le Pain Quotidien really need to sort out their allergen information. It needs to be clear and readily available, and I will be writing to them to this effect.

I think the moral of the story is check the ingredients. Then check again. Or just don’t buy the cake in the first place. It’s better for the wallet and the waistline!

Update

I saw the manager this morning. She was very apologetic and gave me a refund. She will raise the issues of training and allergen information with their food standards people.

She also pointed out that it’s called a “Nut Cake” for a reason!! Lesson learnt, I will always look at the menu in the future!

Tried and tested: Itsu Coconut Crush

As someone that is ridiculously allergic to fish, egg and nuts, Itsu wouldn’t be my first choice for lunch. It seems that nearly everything they sell has salmon, egg or peanuts in it (apart from the Teriyaki chicken rice, which is delicious, must must be avoided when on a low carb diet).  This is a shame, as there is an Itsu right by my office, and the food always looks so fresh and tasty.

I happened to find myself mooching around my local branch one lunchtime, as I often like to see if there are any new Allergy Girl friendly options. A few items caught my eye, especially the Coconut Collaborative Little Chocolate Pots which I do like to indulge in from time to time.

Now, I don’t usually venture near to the counter unless I’ve committed to purchasing something.  There are always these interesting looking items to tempt the purchaser to add to their order, but I never feel like I have the time to browse these items and check the ingredients, as there’s usually a queue of hangry (hungry/angry) people behind me. 

I was in luck and there was no queue, so I had a rummage through the treats on offer, and stumbled across this little green box.  My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “dairy free” and “Vegan.”  My expectations were low as I assumed this would mean there were nuts in the recipe – a lot of Vegan recipes use nut butters or almond flour.  I picked up the little box and scanned the ingredients on the back.  No nuts!! Yay!!!


As per usual I waited until my train ride home to test this little morsel. I like the packaging, it perfectly shows off the chocolate inside and (for someone who isn’t often allowed to eat nice things) feels like a gift boxed treat. 

The packaging is easy to open, but getting the chocolate out wasn’t the easiest feat. If I had a napkin or plate it would be fine, but trying to avoid dropping it on the scummy plastic tray table on the commuter train was tricky, as the chocolate was slightly melted, and the filling wasn’t that firm. It was a warm day, and it wasn’t kept in the fridge (although Itsu don’t display them in the fridge, so one would assume they don’t need refrigeration).  If I purchased this again I’d definitely keep it in the fridge instead of my handbag. 

The chocolate is nice, just a thin layer that isn’t too bitter or too sweet. The coconut matcha filling is soft and slightly creamy, which is nice as desiccated coconut can often be too dry and crumbly.  I’m not sure if the matcha gives mucha to the flavour, but it’s supposed to be good for me, so I won’t complain.  

At around £2 a portion (depending on whether you buy in store or have it delivered) this is possibly slightly overpriced.  Compared to the Protein Haus Vegan Bounty bar I tried a few weeks ago it is better value for money (but does contain more sugar, so if you’re avoiding sugar I’d go for the Protein Haus one). 

In terms of a convenient, healthy(ish) snack, this is a winner. Will I buy it again?  Definitely!! 

Tried and tested: Hemsley + Hemsley bean and bacon hash

I recently treated Mr Allergy and I to some new cooking books by Hemsley + Hemsley. 


The recipes always look so nice, and they’re good for you, so that ticks several boxes.  As with all recipe books I buy there are probably only about 30% of the recipes that I’m not allergic to, and others I can tweak. This particular brunch recipe didn’t need tweaking, so I thought I’d give it a go.


The best thing about this recipe is that there are no fussy or difficult to find ingredients. I either already had them at home or picked them up at Tesco.  It doesn’t take a huge amount of prep and is pretty quick to cook.

The ingredients suggest an onion or a leek, but I decided to use both to give it extra bulk and add one more of my 5 a day! Had a bit of an accident whilst chopping the onion but I can’t blame the Hemsley sisters for my own stupidity.  I can safely say I won’t be doing that again!


I used a small tin of chopped tomatoes, but next time I make this I probably won’t use them.  They tasted good, but they made the hash slightly soggy. I would prefer it a bit more bubble and squeak-like.

I was quite happy with the overall result though, and Mr Allergy was grateful for a filling, healthy meal after just having completed a middle distance triathlon. I’d say it’s a winner!

Tried and tested: Ombar Centres Coconut and Vanilla

Growing up, my earliest memory of dairy free chocolate was a carob Easter egg that my mum bought at Holland and Barrett. It was nice, but very plain compared with the fabulous Cadbury’s and Nestle eggs I saw in the shops.  At Christmas, Allergy Boy and I would hunt through the tin of Roses trying to find the Bournevilles, which we didn’t really like (they were too bitter), but ate anyway because we didn’t want to be left out.

When we got a little bit older we found that we could eat After Eights and Fry’s Peppermint Cream, so it was lucky we liked mint! 

Dairy free chocolate has come on leaps and bounds since the 1980s.  Dark chocolate has never been more popular, and with the recent craze for clean eating and raw foods, cacao and coconut milk are adding another dimension to my chocolate experience (not to mention inches to my waistline)!

Grabbing a dairy free salad-to-go from Vital Ingredient in Trump St, City of London, I couldn’t resist trying one of these Ombars.  Dairy free, no refined sugar, raw chocolate, coconut and vanilla, no nuts – perfect for Allergy Girl!


So I’m sat on my commute home trying to forget about the inconvenience of the Waterloo upgrade by testing this little chocolate bar, and it’s a dream! 

It’s been in my bag, so it’s a bit squidgy to touch and probably could have done with spending some time in the fridge, but that doesn’t deter me. I break off a chunk and find a gooey, creamy centre. On first appearance the centre doesn’t seem overly generous but it’s so rich and creamy that it’s plenty.


The chocolate itself is creamy, the coconut flavour not overpowering as it can sometimes be.  The hint of vanilla comes through, but if I didn’t know it was there I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you it was vanilla.  That aside, I can’t complain other than to say damn you Ombar, I could be easily tempted to go back for more! 

P.s. While writing this I discovered that Ombar autocorrects to zombie on my iPhone! 

Tropical Island cupcakes 

Aloha!! I made these fun little cupcakes a couple of years ago for a summer fundraiser at my church.  They use my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe.  They would be great for a Hawaiian themed party or a fun thing to make with kids during the summer holidays. 

To give the cakes that tropical flavour I used a bit of lime juice into the mix and used coconut milk instead of soya milk.

Decorating was the really fun part. I used Betty Crocker’s vanilla icing and added a little bit of blue food colouring. I swirled the blue colour into the icing, making sure not to completely mix it so there were still white bits that looked like little waves.

I used crushed ginger biscuits to make the sand and added little jelly bears and cocktail umbrellas, and my little tropical island was complete!


To make a sunbathing bear I used Fizzy strawberry belts, cut them just larger than the bear, then laid the bear on top. 

Since making these I’ve discovered that edible sand can also be made using a combination of granulated light brown sugar and crushed rich tea biscuits, which is great if you don’t like ginger biscuits.

As always, let me know how you get on with making these, I’d love to hear from you. 

Tried and tested: Protein Haus Vegan Protein Bounty

First things first, I’m not Vegan. It’s just a good starting point if I’m looking for food without dairy or eggs. I do have to be careful and read the labels as a lot of Vegan things have nuts in them. Luckily for me, this bad boy didn’t (but shame about the Vegan Protein ‘Snickers’ bar, which was laden with pesky peanuts)! 

I’ll move to the price. Three of my hard earned British pounds. I could buy three items from the McDonald’s Poundsaver Menu. Or borrow three supermarket trolleys.  £3 seems a lot for a lump of coconut and chocolate. 

Sat on the train, I open the little plastic bag to free my afternoon snack from its packaging. I’m not ready for the slidy, melty chocolate that ensues and quickly place my Bounty on the plastic packaging, narrowly missing the train’s tray table (thank god, imagine what nastiness is lurking there).  I now have chocolate all over the outside of the plastic packaging.

I lick my fingers, take a hold of my Bounty and take my first bite.  The texture is good, if a little crumbly, and I find myself trying not to shower my lap in desiccated coconut. Back to the plastic packing. Fingers licked again. I take in the taste, which is creamy, coconutty, chocolatey yumminess! I’ve tried making low sugar Vegan Bounty bars at home and mine were not a patch on this. 

After my second bite I find more chocolate on my hands. The heat of the train and warmth of my fingers every time I pick it up is making things worse. I manage to find a (used) tissue in my jacket pocket. Not great, but it’ll do.

There’s about half of it left now, and half the chocolate has melted from the bottom onto the plastic packaging. There’s only one thing for it. I shove the rest of it in my mouth. 

Despite all the melting on the outside and crumbling of the inside it really is delicious.  However, I’d have to take out a second mortgage if this was any more than a rare treat, so I might just go back to making my own!