One of the great things about the Lunch! show is that lunch lasts all day there.
There is always a sandwich, always a drink, always a bite of something sweet to be had. As you wander around, sampling, chatting, you can enjoy multiple mini-lunches with multiple lunching companions. Your tastebuds may endure a bit of an up-and-down flavour roller-coastering, but you meet some great foodie people and learn a lot.
Another great thing about it is that you can usually find some interesting free from products … Here are my picks from the 2019 edition, focusing on savoury options.
The big free from news being announced at the Show was cheesemaker Applewood‘s long-anticipated launch of Applewood Vegan, which was supported by Heather Mills, and the rollout for which began this week — with a launch exclusive to Asda supermarket stores / online until January 2020, and an RRP of £2.30 for 200g.
The product is free of all 14 declarable food allergens — it’s made in a separate factory to the dairy cheese products, so no risk of cross-contamination — and it’s fortified with calcium and B12. It’s highly savoury, quite smoky, so very little is needed to impart good flavour.
Overall, convincingly cheesy and a useful addition to the increasing and tasty band of cheese-alternatives on the market, which I imagine is suitable to most people with food allergies, as it is based on coconut, maize and potato.
I’d not come across Pollen + Grace before — or perhaps I had, as this 100% natural, plant-based and gluten-free meal company has had a rebrand, I was told — but I’m glad I stopped at their stand because their products seem original and healthy and feature bold ingredients and flavours sometimes lacking in the free from market.
The Breakfast Pots are characterised by ‘superfood’ ingredients (açai, chia, turmeric), while their Hot Pots include Turmeric and Butternut Daal, and Aubergine and Kale Ratatouille.
I think it’s their Lunch Boxes which are the highlights … Mexican Chipotle and Bean, Kelp Noodle and Miso …. It was Asian Red Pepper and Miso which I tried, which included a delicious brown rice cake, mung means, green beans and cashew and miso dressing. My only grumble is that I’d have needed to eat another to be satisfied on an ordinary lunch day, but I am just greedy …
They’re available in Co-op, Whole Foods, and also can be ordered from Ocado. I liked that you could return the packaging to the brand to recycle it on your behalf if your local council can’t.
And I also came across Brown Bag Crisps which, curiously, is a brand which also offers a similar service to P+G — in that you can save up your used crisp bags, and send them back freepost to the company in batches. There was a more environmental and sustainable feel to The Lunch Show generally, as a matter of fact, perhaps tied in with the vegan movement and trend, and I was pleased to see brands at least giving more consideration to these issues.
But anyway, from a free from perspective, Brown Bag Crisps are gluten-free across the board — I’ve since added them to my list of Gluten Free Crisps — with some flavours also DF / vegan / vegetarian suitable.
Another rebrand, or partial rebrand, came in the shape of Seedful, which readers may be familiar with as Pure Grain Bread — yeast and wheat-free loaves made with gluten-free oats and an abundance of seeds. The wise rationale behind this being to distinguish the company’s non-GF products, which will continue to be produced under the Heart of Nature Pure Grain branding, from the oat-based GF products under Seedful.
As Pure Grain Bread, their Organic GF Loaf with Olive took Gold in the 2019 Free From Food Awards (Breads category), but there appear to be some new additional flavours I’d not come across before, including innovative options such as loaves with black cumin, with wild garlic, and with prunes.
If you’ve not tasted these terrific breads, they’re chewy, very tasty, but worth noting that they are quite high-calorie — albeit rich in good omega oils, fibre and micronutrients. Really one of the healthiest breads you can get as a coeliac and if you can tolerate GF oats.
Seedful are furthermore launching a Vegan Lunch Box, featuring a couple of slices of their standard GF loaf with guacamole, and Planet Organic are using their breads to produce take-away GF sandwiches at their stores in plastic-free packaging. Good stuff, all round.
Good Root Bakery’s Empotato is a 100% potato-crust empanada filled with three tasty mixes — chilli, sweet potato & black beans, garam masala, chickpea & mango, and white cabbage & edamame. The products are handmade, and vegan.
The crust is made with just potato, water and coconut oil. These were delicious, but alas not yet widely available in the UK. The company behind them is Dutch, and in the UK sales are only made to food service providers and catering, so they can’t be ordered direct by the consumer. But keep your eyes peeled for them — or more to the point, at stockists / resellers — because this is just the kind of fast, savoury and healthy food we need much more of in the UK, and which ticks multiple free from boxes.
Further, the brand took a Silver in the Lunch! Innovation Challenge Awards.
Milkadamia may be known to dairy free folk already — they are macadamia-based milk alternative drinks, which come in several varieties.
As I outlined in a recent post, there is, however, a bit of a shortage of fortified milk replacements for people — children especially — with multiple food allergies, a problem exacerbated since a popular hemp-based brand decided to de-fortify their product due to a policy to make it more ‘natural’.
Should you avoid this if you have nut allergies? Perhaps not necessarily. I spoke to the Aussie guys behind the brand, and they confirmed that there is no risk of cross-contamination with the seven other declarable tree nuts (ie hazelnut, pistachio, Brazil, pecan etc) during harvesting in Australia, and that there are excellent protocols in the US factory where the UK-destined drinks are made, including testing of finished products. They were very confident that if you do have peanut or tree nut allergies — but you are medically confirmed to be able to tolerate macadamia (which happens to not be closely related to the other nuts or so-called nuts in the ‘tree nut’ grouping) — then you should be OK with this product. Note they do contain sunflower and pea, though.
Availability from the UK appears small at present, though understand it is to launch imminently at WholeFoods UK.
Another fortified dairy free and nut-based milk — this time from pistachio, was being showcased by Borna Foods, who told us that there is a risk of cross contamination from nuts and peanuts, so this should be avoided by all with any kind of nut-based allergy.
The drinks are as delicious as you might expect, not as green as you might fear, and fortified with calcium and B12. £1.99 for 500ml.
Nooj is a new start-up company, based in Yorkshire, producing two handmade dairy free products — Creamy Cashew Paste and Creamy Almond Paste — from which you can make your own milk alternative drinks and creams.
They are a straightforward blend of nuts, with water and salt, and come in squeezable pouches.
I don’t have prices yet, but as they were launching at the Lunch Show, I presume they’ll soon be made available. Other than the obvious tree nuts, there’s a ‘handled in a facility’ warning for peanuts, sesame and gluten, but seem suitable for milk-free diets and vegans.
They look great for cooking too. Nooj’s Instagram page seems to be showcasing lots of interesting ideas!
To learn more about Lunch!, click the website here, which includes other exhibitors at the event this year, and early information about the show next year.