Wow – what a day yesterday was! The 2nd Your Gluten Freedom Expo, held at The Forum, Norwich, saw large crowds enjoy a wonderful six hours or so of gluten-free delights, many of which were dairy-free and vegan too.
Organised by, and the brainchild of, Sara Matthews of Sara’s Homemade Kitchen, the Your Gluten Freedom Expo had it all – sunshine, great food, brilliant demos, perfect tastings, education, humour and, above all, awareness.
“I chose 8 May for this Expo as 9-15 May is Coeliac Awareness week,” Sara told me. “I felt that having the Your Gluten Freedom Expo at the start of this important week for all suffering from Coeliac Disease and gluten intolerance would help focus awareness on being ‘free from’ even further.”
The day was focused around a timetable of events that included educational talks in The Curve Auditorium, a range of cooking demos, and a talk – and tasting – of gluten-free beers.
The talks began with Your Gluten Freedom team member, Andrea Carroll Langan of health embrace giving a talk about Eating for energy for both you and your children. This was especially focused on reducing the amount of sugar in a gluten-free diet, something that we all need to be aware of. The talk also included the launch of a new Muffin Mix, created by Andrea and Sara.
The muffin is lovely and light, and contains the natural sweetener Xylitol. As part of the Your Gluten Freedom Taste Team, I have my own batch to create and try on my friends and family! These muffins really are a great idea and they are perfect for breakfast on the run, as well as getting children involved in making and baking in the kitchen.
The second talk was given by Juliette Bryant of Juliette’s Kitchen. She looked at 10 steps to thrive on a gluten-free, plant based, refined sugar-free diet, and I hope that we will be able to bring you a more detailed report from this in a future blog.
Meanwhile, things were busy on the main stage. First up was Luke Jeal from Align Chiropractic, who focused on Chiropractic – Feel Better, Move Better, Be Better. This really was a fascinating talk and it looked at how emotional and chemical changes can impact on our physical health. Luke was around all day for questions and there was a steady stream of customers by their stall.
The cooking demos kicked off with Rebecca Rayner from Glebe Farm making a strawberry granola surprise, using their own products, and she also told us about their gluten-free oats. These are pretty much used by most supermarkets around the UK so if you are enjoying a gluten-free flapjack when you read this, you can be pretty sure that the oats are from Glebe Farm’s Huntingdon base!
Taking over for the compere duties for the next two demos was Charlie Hodson – Executive Chef at The Great Hospital in Bishopgate, Norwich; Patron for The Feed and LEAP, both social enterprises with the emphasis on addressing homelessness and assisting their members with the skill through hospitality training back into the workplace; Patron of Porkstock UK; Norfolk Ambassador for Marie Curie; and Norfolk Food & Drink Festival Champion. Very much a Norfolk boy, Charlie definitely gives something back to the community and perhaps more of us could do with taking a leaf out of his book.
First up on to the stage was Steve Thorpe from Debut Restaurant and Assistant Principle at Norwich City College. Like Charlie, Steve is part of the Your Gluten Freedom team and he shares his knowledge and time willingly and easily. At this Expo, Steve made an enriched dough, something that can be used to make brioche, doughnuts, croissants and the like, and he made some Devonshire splits and rum babas for us all to enjoy – although he did get a ribbing from Charlie for forgetting the jam for the splits! If you want to know more about the recipe Steve shared with us, pick up the latest Your Gluten Freedom Magazine as both the croissant dough and enriched dough are featured.
Next up was Andy Baker from The Feed CIC, a trading arm of leading social enterprise LEAP. The Feed aims to produce great tasting food while inspiring and motivating people to live a more fulfilling life, and there were many people present from both The Feed and LEAP during the day. I must, at this point, say thank you to those from The Feed, who kindly gave our new Your Gluten Freedom magazine out to people around Norwich, and who even walked into the main city to encourage people to come and enjoy the Expo – it really was appreciated!
In spite of Charlie’s best efforts to put Andy off – those there will not forget the bungalow moment – Andy cooked up some great dishes for us all to taste and enjoy. Andy shared top tips with us – such as lightly charring cauliflower to add a different flavour but without adding any ingredients to the actual food – and the results were delicious!
Andy served up two plates for us – gluten-free, vegan socca cakes with veggies and smashed avocado, and a delicious pork dish, which I have been promised the recipe for!
The activity on the main stage finished with a talk from Cheryl Cade from Thirst Consultants. Cheryl is Your Gluten Freedom’s own gluten-free beer Sommelier and she have a talk on how far the industry has come in producing great gluten-free beer. Her talk included a tasting of some local beers, including St Peter’s Brewery light and dark ales – I am definitely a fan of the dark ale and will be making a purchase very soon!
Running alongside this was Quaker’s Corner, run by Your Gluten Freedom team member Nicky Kennedy, wellbeing consultant, clean eater, vegan, taste team member. Nicky invited children to come and meet Cecilia, the Your Gluten Freedom Break Charity duck, and her three ducklings, Sunflower, Pumpkin and Poppy. There was a moral to the story, and a great time was had by all.
Around all of this were the many tradestands, located both in and outside the Forum. There are too many to mention here but I must mention Pickle’O Coffee and thank Jenny for remembering the coconut milk for a very welcome post-lunch mocha; Gais’s Kitchen, and thanks to Phil for introducing me to their delicious vegan cashew cream cheese; Big Skies Food Company, who sold their Seasoning Mix, essential for making the perfect gluten-free sausage roll (review to follow!) – they also welcomed me as The Delicate Diner, the first to do so, so thanks guys!; Syms Pantry, who caused a bit of a stir among the Your Gluten Freedom team at the end of the day as we discovered their bacon mayonnaise; Musks Sausages, whose hot tasters went down a storm with all who tried them, and several items might have found their way into my freezer!; and Yare Valley Oils, who were at the Expo for the first time. Glenn from Yare Valley kindly provided us with rapseed oil to use in all their demos – thank you again.
Amazingly, by 5.3opm, it was as if the Expo had never happened. Everything was clear inside and out, and all that was left for us to do was make our way to Marzano’s in The Forum for a welcome glass – okay, bottle – of Merlot. Time to reflect on what had been a brilliant day – the sun may have sent some people to the beach instead of our way but many trade holders reported a great day. Indeed, Kind Foods brought six times the amount of fresh produce to last year’s October Expo and they nearly sold out. It just goes to show that the demand for good quality, free-from foods is high.
The next Expo is on Sunday 2 October – book the date now – and if you would like to be involved, please contact us. The Your Gluten Freedom story is, in many ways, one that is only just beginning but with future events planned including a brewery trip and a beer’n’bangers evening, Sara and the team have only just begun.
Keep checking The Delicate Diner and Your Gluten Freedom for the latest news – I am now off to Bungay to get some veggies and fish for tonight’s dinner, and there may be a glass of wine enjoyed in the garden too. Cheers! Samantha xx