Friday, 30 August 2013

Deli Divine - The Deli with a Difference!

Have you ever wished you could walk into a shop and be free to eat anything within it? Or, is your dream to be able to open just such a shop yourself? Well, that was Debra's dream. And recently she fulfilled it, when she opened her own shop Deli Divine

Et voila!

Here's what to look out for!

Having been a coeliac for a fair old time (twenty years in fact), Debra's shop is dedicated first and foremost to goodies that are gluten free. However, many of the products that she has in stock are dairy free as well. 

Visiting the shop the other day, I was delighted to discover many products are also soya free. Bonus!! 

Based near the entrance of a small industrial estate in Netley, near Southampton (don't switch off, there's something for everyone here - she also sells online), Debra's shop is packed with breads, pies, cakes, biscuits, packet mixes, desserts, preserves... you get the idea, right??

I first came across Deli Divine, when I visited The Allergy Show a few months back. Well, I say I came across - I didn't get close enough to examine the stand as it was completely surrounded by folks eager to get their hands on the products Debra had on sale.

Some of the produce stocked is by well-known gluten free brands, such as Isabel's, and Moo Free, but there's also newcomers such as B-Free and smaller producers as well. There were even a few of the elusive but very highly-regarded Foodamentalist  products. These I was keen to see, as I have heard so much about them but have been unable to sample, until now, due to geography (The Foodamentalists are based in Cheshire). 

Genuinely great pastry!
I really couldn't walk away from Deli Divine without buying an award-winning Foodamentalist Pork Pie, and I have to say the pastry was amazing - I never knew you could make gluten, dairy and soya free pastry so well! I only wish I could get my hands on the doughnuts they make!!

In fact, I came away with a whole stash of free from goodies (don't tell The Hub - bank balance and all that), that I can't include here, as I haven't managed to taste them all yet, but the Baked to Taste Lemon Drizzle cake has to get a mention, as I had that today. I honestly don't think I've ever tasted one better.

A handbag-sized delicious slice!
I think it'll have to go on my list of things-to-take-to-a-do-when-you're-worried-about-what-you'll-eat. 

I've only recently come across Baked to Taste, but I love them already. They deserve a whole blog post of their own. As well as cake slices, they also make a range of pies and ready-made pastry, many of which are also stocked by Debra (they're also on the menu at Celiacs Fayre). 

My bag was actually fuller than this!!
If you live within range, and wish to visit Deli Divine, it's not as hard to find as I thought it would be - it's a few miles off junction 8 of the M27. The directions I got from Google Maps were pretty clear. However, I would advise avoiding rush hour and any time after 3pm in the afternoon, as Hamble Lane can get rather busy!

Shopping online is perhaps a bit less tricky for most, especially if yo don't live anywhere near the shop! The website is easy enough to navigate, and there's free delivery on orders over £35, but if you visit the shop, you may well find a few extra products in store that aren't available online. And also, you get the added bonus of meeting the delightful Debra - with her extensive product knowledge. Having sampled and experimented with with many of the products herself, she's more than happy to pass on the odd tip or two!

The shop is perhaps a little bit of a way for me to go for regular visits, but many of these products are stored in the freezer - which obviously extends their shelf life. So as long as I can get them home still frozen, I can fill up my freezer and they'll be ready for when I want them, but, there's always the online option. Also, unlike your normal Health Food Store (with the exception of shops such as Whole Foods Market and Food for Thought) Deli Divine has a range that's worth the journey. However, with Deli Divine you also get a Free From shop run by someone who knows, if you know what I mean! 

P.S. If you're considering making a trek to visit the shop, for yourself, there are a number of local attractions, especially for history buffs! Netley is quite close to Southampton (which has a branch of IKEA), but Netley itself boasts a small ruined abbey (great for photos, exploring and picnics) and the Royal Victoria Country Park (once the site of a military hospital). Or go back towards the M27, the other side of which is Manor Farm Country Park, where a BBC series 'The Wartime Farm' was recently filmed. A bit further towards Portsmouth (home of the Naval Dockyards), is Hamble, a really cute waterside backwater. So, you can pick up your provisions from Deli Divine, then go out and explore - go on, you know you want to!

Deli Divine has unfortunately had to close (April 2014). This is really sad, as so much effort and thought went into setting up this business and it was a great way of getting hold of some lovely products that the supermarkets just don't stock. However, Debra has some new plans in the pipeline for something else. I'm waiting to hear more and wishing her all the best!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Warning: Vegans may contain milk!

This is a bit of a messy picture but just about sums up a recent morning I had! 

Yes, the cakes burned in the oven and I resorted to 'shaving' them!

It should have been a lovely start to the day - I planned to bake with 'Baby'. Nothing special, as I had plenty of other stuff I needed to do, so it was just a quick Hale & Hearty (gluten free) chocolate muffin mix. Made with dairy free margarine, they are usually 'fail-safe' mixes, for me.

All was going well, until I suddenly came to the realisation that a nasty smell was emanating from my daughter and it was an unmistakeably pooey one. In the middle of mixing everything together, I hurried 'Baby' along, shoved the muffins into the oven and whisked her upstairs for a nappy change. 

Unfortunately, the delay was my downfall, her nappy had leaked and it soon became apparent that a bath was in order. Hence my cakes burned and had to be shaved - resulting in the mess above.

It didn't take me long to work out what was behind this disastrous nappy. The day before, whilst out in town, I'd noticed a product in the health food shop that I had heard about via Twitter. Marketed as 'Vegan' and 'Dairy Free', I believed it to be milk free and therefore 'safe,' so I neglected to read the ingredients until 'Baby' was someway through.

Aaagghh!!!! I couldn't believe it what I saw! 'May contain milk!

Fortunately, for us, 'Baby' does not have anaphylactic reactions to milk. So I knew that if it did contain milk it was not going to be fatal for her, 'just' uncomfortable. Even more fortunately for us, she does not react as immediately, (or as violently) as she used to, Nonetheless, we don't like seeing her suffer the consequences of ingesting milk accidentally.

Now, I accept it is my own fault - I should always check, BUT I was under the (obviously somewhat mistaken) impression that as Vegans are opposed to the consumption of animal products (including milk), 'Vegan' products were a pretty safe bet for my dairy free 'Baby'. 

Increasingly, I'm becoming aware that this is a bit of a grey area. Some products purporting to be Vegan carry the May contain... catch-all statement and it appears that there are Vegans who seem happy to take their chance with such products. If this is you, I'm not 'having a go,' honest, but I'd like to suggest that you are consuming more milk than you realise. If that's not a problem for you, then fine, but for us...

'Baby' (who has rather a sensitive little tummy) tends (as on this occasion) to react to these products more often than not - the only two that seem to be happy exceptions to this rule, are Betty Crocker ready made icing and Hotel Chocolat 'Vegan' chocolates. Knowing that some people are even more sensitive than 'Baby' to milk traces, I am prepared to accept that others may choose to disagree and still avoid these products too. So you may well wish to reconsider which products you buy.

If you're a manufacturer of goods and resorting to this, May contain... warning,  then I'd like to suggest that you consider testing your products to make sure. You may actually make more sales this way - if people know they can trust what you say, 'on the tin' as it were. 

As for me, I'm going to continue to do my best to avoid any more products that may contain and that means reading the labels more carefully in future - including products that claim to be 'dairy free'!! 

Postscript: Funnily enough, just as I was in the middle of writing this post (they take me ages, these days - 'Baby' does not give me much time to myself), I discovered that another allergy mum was writing a similar post about 'May contain...' warnings relating to nuts. Come on food manufacturers, do us a favour.... please???

Please note: More information on Food Allergy Labelling can be located on the Food Standards Agency website. The following link is particularly important as it outlines the new rules regarding food labelling that are soon to become law in the UK. These rules apply to food bought in shops as well as food sold in restaurants. I really recommend familiarising yourself with the changes, especially if you are 'gluten free' as this labelling will disappear.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Home Sweet (new) Home

Well we're in! The move has taken place! It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. though. 

It's meant to be one of the most stressful things you can do, right? I really can't tell you the number of times during this process that I've wished for the ability to nip out and get a quick take-away - no cooking/washing-up would have made things a lot easier! And we're still not fully settled - curtain poles to put up, boxes STILL to unpack etc. We have so much STUFF! I can't decide what to do with it/where to put it all! BUT! at least the place is functional. We even have the Internet again (phew)! The Hub had some device to tide us over, but certain things were off-limits such as iplayer, as it meant we used up our monthly allowance rather too quickly! (Oops! Someone should have explained it to me first, maybe?)
A little extra from our mortgage company, most of which is useless to me, but our guests may well see the benefit!

I'm beginning to get my bearings of our new surroundings now (well, not completely new - I've lived here before but quite some time ago). We're getting to know which parks, soft play etc. are worth a visit but there's certain things that I'm definitely missing!!

One is my former health food shop. OK, so it was a bit of a drive but it was so excellent. There's two near me now but neither stock any where NEAR the same amount of stuff as 'Food for Thought', in Guildford (there's another in Kingston). They seem willing to try new products/order stuff in, but I've been a bit disappointed, so far - one is permanently out of stock of the products she says that she stocks, the other one tried to order in Mrs Crimble's pancake mix, but it didn't arrive.

Then there's the supermarkets. My former Tesco at Brooklands definitely did a lot better for choice than my current Tesco Extra although I think Sainsbury's is just about the same. Our new Waitrose, is bigger but it doesn't sell our ice cream (Besssant and Drury) or 'Baby's' favourite sausages (The Black Farmer's Daughter's, in fact she won't eat any others, at the mo) and it ran out of the Antoinette Saville gluten free bread that I rely on - the only one that seems to really suit my gut! 

However, it's not all bad. 'Every cloud has a silver lining,' as they say. In fact, this 'cloud' seems to have not just one, but multiple silver linings!

First of all, we can still get Ocado here (BIG phew, as I rely on their Free From foods range SO much!) and secondly I discovered that this Tesco  still stocks the same new gluten and dairy free products that I liked before. I have also discovered that although this Tesco might not stock Mrs Crimble's pancake mix (which has almost become an essential item in my shopping basket, as we make them at least once a week, for breakfast) Amazon do - in packs of ten admittedly, but at least we're stocked up for a while now! And yes, I could make them from scratch (as some lady behind me in the queue at Tescos' 'Customer Service' desk helpfully' suggested - as if I were a bit stupid/lazy) but then 'Baby' wouldn't eat them (very fussy) so that wouldn't exactly do, would it?

Still on the shopping front, I came across 'Deli Divine' at the Allergy and Free From Show (well I didn't actually get a good look the stand, it was packed). It's a bit of a drive, but they are now within a reasonable distance, so I'm planning to visit them, at Netley, soon!

The next bit of silver in the lining is that I have discovered (by word of mouth - Internet searches didn't throw this one up) that our nearest chippy does gluten free fish and chips all day every Thursday - the nearest chippy to do that before was nearly half an hour's drive away. Needless to say, we have already availed ourselves of the opportunity to check out this one! 

Not bad at all! I always add my own veg, though!

I do wish I'd found them a little bit earlier! I did think of asking - after all, don't ask, don't get, but I wasn't feeling that brave and was sooo busy! They do have a large poster inside the shop, as I discovered when I went there, but since I'd never attempted buying fish and chips before I knew for sure, it was wasted on me! 

Can't understand why this wasn't on a sandwich board outside!
When we went there, the gluten free fish and chips were certainly popular - a brisk trade was being done and hardly any of it was for 'normal' fish and chips!

Not only, do I have a local gluten free fish and chippy, I also am not too far away from a gluten free cafe 'Celiacs Fayre' which I have visited before. I haven't made I there recently, but must do so soon, as I'm salivating over the thought of the chicken fajitas, that were being served the other week (she shared them on Face Book)!

More importantly, for me, another bit of silver lining is that I have discovered I can drink the water here! Now that might sound a bit weird to you, but in the last two places that we lived I discovered I couldn't. I had to drink bottled water (including in my tea and coffee) and cook my rice and pasta in it too! No idea why, but if I didn't, my gut became uncomfortable. 

The most important bit of the silver lining, though, is that we are now living in our own house in a particularly beautiful part of the South of England, with which I am already familiar and where some of my old college friends live, and where hopefully (all going to plan) we will live for some time to come - maybe even the for rest of our lives.