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Guy Warner: Tolerant talk

PUBLISHED: 10:19 06 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:19 06 June 2017

Asparagasm's jammy dodgers

Asparagasm's jammy dodgers

Asparagasm

Why going gluten-free does not have to mean an end to dining out

Eating out these days is an obstacle course of requests, demands and aversions. Intolerant to wheat, sensitive to dairy, allergic to peanuts, must avoid shellfish, given up sugar, carbs make me cry...it’s enough to turn one to drink, even if it is the no-alcohol, no added sugar variety!

Statistics show that sales of Free From foods have risen at an unprecedented rate over the last five years: up 26.7% from last year to £585.6 million, with forecasts suggesting that by 2020 sales could reach £673 million. Within this sector, it is the gluten-free market which has snapped up the lion’s share, accounting for 60% of the category.

While the supermarkets have embraced the nation’s craze for gluten-free foods (and are making a tidy profit out of the trend), when it comes to eating out, especially on a local level, the options are limited. Fortunately, I don’t have any food allergies, but when I am out with my free-from friends, even I start to feel a bit intolerant of what’s available – token substitutions of chewy gluten-free pasta or soggy free-from bread in this heated climate are just not acceptable any more.

That said, there are a handful of local producers who are leading the way with creativity and flair. Take Asparagasm, the trailblazing free-from café and deli in Nailsworth. This vegan and vegetarian diner, full of ‘gluten-free dining extravaganzas’, sets an example of how exciting the world of free-from foods can be. The menu includes superfood salads, soups and stews that will knock your socks off, with the ‘fabulous cake slate’ to finish – a selection of the prettiest, most perfectly formed raw and sugar-free desserts, as well as a nut cultured cheese board.

For lunch, The Veggie Deli has a great range of gluten-free options, including black bean burgers, chickpea frittatas, mature cheddar bakes, and Gloucester crumbles, a delicious mélange of Double Gloucester cheese, buckwheat, carrots, sweetcorn, eggs and herbs. Particularly good for picnics or packed lunches, the food is made in small batches using local ingredients. Find them at farmers’ markets in Stroud, Cheltenham, Abingdon and Chipping Norton. Or you could join the queues to get your hands on a falafel salad box from Za Za Maroc, available at Stroud Farmers’ Market every week – a generous portion of zingy salads and slaws topped with freshly cooked Moroccan falafels and topped with homemade sauces including houmous, harissa and coriander pistou.

If you’re looking for sweet treats, Jack Bakes is your first stop. Created by cake-maker Sarah Jackaman after developing recipes for her gluten-intolerant brother, Jack Bakes offers a range of gluten-, dairy- and egg-free goodies at Stroud Farmers’ Market, including cookies, chocolate and carrot cakes, Bakewell tarts and biscotti. For the most delicious gluten-free brownies, seek out Sarah Jaskowska of Fair and Square Brownies who has spent years perfecting her gluten-free brownie recipe in her Cotswold kitchen, using local ingredients. She brings a staggering selection of flavours to local farmers’ markets around the Cotswolds – I can’t get enough of their salted caramel and pistachio and cardamom brownies.

For these local producers gluten-free is the rule rather than the exception. They make amazing food for everybody – the fact it is also gluten-free is a bonus. Until we have more producers like them, where gluten-free isn’t just an apologetic afterthought, eating out will remain the obstacle course that it currently is.

Gluten free go-tos:

Asparagasm: creative, inspirational recipes and workshops have made free-from food the star of the show at this aspiration diner and deli in Nailsworth.

The Veggie Deli: imaginative handmade veggie and vegan foods created to make eating out as good as eating in for anyone on a restrictive diet.

Fair and Square Brownies: following several requests from customers, all Fair and Square brownies are gluten-free.

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