Our Adventures

  • 29 Apr 2014

    Cooking for someone with allergies? Here's how to substitute ingredients in 'normal' recipes

    Posted: 29 Apr 2014

    In March, I first mentioned my idea for a 'simple substitution sheet' free from the top common allergens (milk, egg, wheat, nuts, soya, sesame, peanut). This quick guide would show how to substitute 'normal' ingredients with ingredients that don't contain these allergens. The sheet was to be aimed primarily at teachers, so that when they are cooking with their classes, they can tweak the recipes to make them safe for children with food allergies.

    Well, after weeks in the making, I'm proud to announce that the substitution sheets are finally ready! Toot toot toot toot toot toot toot tooooooooo! (That was a trumpet fanfare.)

    It has been quite a journey... Nia, Julia and Mel helped keep me sane
    Right from the start I wanted to keep these sheets easy to use for teachers (and new free-from bakers), but also reliable. I've had some baking disasters in the past as I've tried to tweak recipes, and I didn't want my sheets to add to the free-from car crash. 

    So after I'd got the graphics and layout nailed, I turned to some free-from experts for help, because as that old saying goes, 'four allergy baking heads are better than one'...

    Nia (carrotsandmaplesyrup), Julia (alimentarybites), Mel (piginthekitchen) and I pooled our wisdom on free-from baking. I then spent hours contacting manufacturers to make sure all the products we've listed are free from the top seven allergens, including traces. If there were any signs of a ' May contain' on their packaging or in the emails/phone calls I received, then it didn't make the cut. This was because I wanted to offer teachers and parents a list of 'safe' brands to use that are free from traces of all seven allergens. (But - GOLDEN RULE - manufacturers change their processes without warning, so always check the label.)

    We had some great responses from manufacturers who, in the main, were very keen to help and reassure the public about the safety of their products. 

    Keeping the substitutions sheets simple (and useful)
    Our aim with these sheets was to keep it simple for teachers to use. Yes we could have given the ratios for creating a custom blend of gluten free flour, but which teacher would really have the time to do that? So we've kept it basic, the sheets should be seen as an introduction to free-from baking, not a Mary Berry master class!

    And although the sheets were created with teachers in mind, we've had lots of positive feedback already from people in the free-from community. So hopefully these sheets will be useful for a much wider audience, including parents whose children have recently been diagnosed with food allergies, and their family and friends.

    Remember The Golden Rule and have fun with the sheets!
    From reading the results of my questionnaire, I know that many of you aren't truly confident that teachers at school understand the extent of your child's allergies. So these substitution sheets are a way to give teachers reliable advice about switching ingredients in a recipe, so that they can make cookery lessons inclusive for all.

    However, please, please remind teachers about The Golden Rule which is:
    "ALWAYS check every product label because manufacturing processes and ingredients can change frequently, and without warning." 

    Print off the Allergy Adventures® simple substitutions sheet.

    Do you know someone who would find these sheets useful? Please share the link to this article!

    As always I'd love to know what you think about the substitution sheets. Either leave a comment below, or chat to me on Facebook or Twitter. Got any other amazing substitution tips? Let me know!

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