A sundae on Saturday

I’ve. Just. Had. The. Best. Ice cream. EVER!

I’m staying in Cardiff at the moment, singing with a visiting choir at Llandaff Cathedral. In between services we have a bit of time to ourselves to see the sights and hit the shops. This weekend Mr Allergy joined me, so I Googled top things to do in Cardiff.

We started out with a walk to Cardiff Bay, which was blustery and a bit drizzly. We had hoped to look around Cardiff Castle, but it was really busy with groups of tourists. So instead of touring the castle I took us into Castle Arcade, which is opposite the castle.

The arcade is filled with quirky eateries and shops such as Magic and Mayhem, a shop dedicated to all things Harry Potter. Opposite Magic and Mayhem is something called Science Cream. This is an ice cream parlour, but not as you know it. The ice creams are all made using liquid nitrogen and are made to order.

The flavours are quirky and fun, and change from day to day. Best of all, they have a vegan ice cream which is made using coconut milk.

Today’s vegan ice cream was Parma Violet flavour, served with edible viola flowers, honeycomb and a purple berry sauce. After only a short wait, the ice cream sundae arrived and it looked amazing. I ordered a small, and it was huge! It was so pretty with the violas, I almost didn’t want to eat it.

Sometimes things that look good let you down on flavour but boy, that was not the case with this ice cream. It tasted just like the Parma Violet sweets I had as a child. The ice cream was silky and smooth, which is different to many coconut milk ice creams that tend to be a bit grainy. The berry sauce was slightly tart, which perfectly complemented the sweetness of the ice cream. The honeycomb pieces were an added stroke of genius, and added a lovely crunchy texture to the sundae.

Mr Allergy had the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Swirl sundae, which looked equally amazing, but was not very Allergy Girl-friendly!

Science Cream is a fantastic gem and I would highly recommend a visit for allergy sufferers and normals alike, as it produces top quality products with a touch of panache and theatre that you won’t find elsewhere. Next time I’m in Cardiff I look forward to trying a different flavour, or maybe I’ll try a Masterclass. In the meantime it has inspired me to get the ice cream maker out at home and have a crack at making my own. I wonder what a weird and wonderful flavours I’ll come up with?

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Tried and tested: Livia’s Kitchen Raw Cookie Dough Nugglets

Shopping in my local Tesco I found this new treat from Livia’s Kitchen in the Free From section. Not one to pass new things by, I thought I’d give it a try. I really like the Salted Caramel Raw Millionaire Bites, so I had high hopes for these cookie dough Nugglets.

The serving is a good size for a not-too-naughty perk me up on the commute home, but there is quite a lot of sugar in the recipe (although from good sources including dates, maple syrup and coconut sugar). At £1.50 for 35g it’s quite expensive, but most Free From foods generally are.

The recipe is dairy, egg, nut and gluten free, however it is produced in a factory that handles nuts and eggs.

The packet was a little tricky to enter, as once I’d ripped at the indicated area, I was l left with only a small gap to get into.

Not wanting to let that deter me, I wiggled a finger in and expanded the opening. Having freed the Nugglets from their trapping it was time to taste. They’re a good bite-sized, chocolate-coated morsel, probably about Malteser size. The chocolate coating wasn’t entirely even and didn’t look quite as perfect as on the packaging, but it looked ok. I took a bite.

The filling is very sweet from the dates, with a hint of saltiness from the Himalayan Pink Salt. Although tasty, unfortunately the filling is rather dry and not as squishy as I was expecting from cookie dough – instead it was quite crumbly. On the packaging the chocolate is described as ‘velvety.’ I’ve had more velvety chocolate (Ombar, for example), but it wasn’t bad chocolate.

My verdict is that they’re ok. They’re not terrible, but neither are they my favourite. Will I buy them again? Probably not, especially if given the choice between these and the Millionaire’s Bites. I have a Chocolate Brownie flavour to try next, so watch this space for my next review!

Winter warmers: new ways with granola

If you like my Chocolate and seed granola but are finding the current weather conditions a bit chilly in the mornings, try one of my alternative ways to serve it.

Hearty warming porridge topped with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola

I make a dairy free porridge using jumbo porridge oats with hemp milk. Once my porridge is cooked I top it with a sprinkling of my granola, which adds a nice bit of crunch, some fresh berries and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey. It keeps me going for ages and is really hearty.

Warm berry compote with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola and coconut yogurt

This is super easy and great for a cold morning when you need extra time to go out and scrape the ice off the windscreen!

I buy a bag of frozen mixed berries from Sainsbury’s. I’m the morning I grab a handful of frozen berries and zap them in the microwave on full power for 60-90 seconds. Then I add a generous portion of granola and top with a dollop of Alpro coconut yogurt. Perfect!

How do you like to serve your granola in the morning? I’d love to hear your favourite ways!

Tried and tested: The Coconut Collaborative Double Chocolate Paradise Pot

Mr Allergy and I normally have left overs for lunch, but today we realised we had no left overs and had to resort to buying lunch. On my way into work from the tube I popped into Boots to grab a meal deal. I didn’t fancy a bag of crisps or my usual carrots and hummus, but spotted a little purple package from The Coconut Collaborative.

I’m a massive fan of The Coconut Collaborative, and I love their Chocolate Snowconut frozen yogurt, coconut and mango yogurt and Little Chocolate Pots. I assumed this was just a larger sized Chocolate Pot. But when I peeled back the silver foil and popped my spoon in (the spoon which I was given at my cousin’s Mary Poppins “spoonful of sugar” party), I was delighted to find a light, fluffy, bubbly texture.

Now, the story goes that when I was a baby I was in hospital with pneumonia. The hospital fed me a chocolate mousse, which I was immediately allergic to, and that’s how my allergies were discovered. Since that day several decades ago I’ve not eaten a chocolate mousse and I have no idea what the texture is like, but in my mind I imagine the texture is like this paradise pot. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before (that I remember, anyway) and I like that! It sort of almost pops on my tongue and then melts into gooey, creamy chocolatiness!!

The normals out there will probably wonder what on earth I’m talking about, but someone with food allergies has all these questions. What do peanuts taste like? Is eating squid like eating rubber? Does cheese taste like feet? Do eggs taste like farts? It’s hard to imagine something you’ve never had.

If any of my readers get the chance to try one of these paradise pots, perhaps you can tell me if it’s like mousse? For now I’m going to happily believe that it is, and I can tick one more thing off my list of new experiences!

P.s I’d also welcome your thoughts on eggs and cheese!!

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!!

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!!