Mike Brook, the father and blogger behind family and food allergy blog Daddy Freckle, discovered that his eldest daughter had a dairy and egg allergy when she was just six months old. His blog was born out of a desire to share what he has learnt and support others who also have a child with allergies. Here are his tips on how to do handle the big Christmas meal...
Christmas with allergies and intolerances
The festive period is officially upon us and it won’t be long until we’re gorging on all the delights that Christmas Day brings. Those with specific dietary requirements may have, in the past, been unable to indulge in a traditional Christmas dinner.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case now. With a little planning, confidence and care, no one need miss out on proper Christmas grub.
That’s why I have teamed up with Asda to promote the Christmas inclusivity campaign to help raise awareness of the importance of taking people’s dietary requirements into account at Christmas time. I also want to encourage people to search the shelves for dietary-friendly foods, find alternatives and make their own allergy-friendly food.
Our first Christmas
We do Christmas dinner at our house – and because we do all the cooking, we know exactly what goes into everything we serve. We made the decision that we would all live a dairy- and egg-free life, so that we would never have to worry about cross-contamination.
The first Christmas after finding out that our eldest had allergies was a frustrating time. Everything we had previously indulged in contained milk and/or eggs. Not for love nor money could we find a mince pie or Christmas pudding that we could enjoy! In fact, most of the party foods we used to enjoy were off-limits.
When it came to Christmas day, we had a prawn cocktail without a Marie Rose sauce, which was a major disappointment! We then had to sit back and watch the rest of the family drown their Christmas pudding in cream, while sipping eggnog.
We realised that we would have to do a little bit more preparation for future Christmases, and also get in the kitchen to whip up some recipes ourselves.
Vegan homemade not particularly healthy but bloody lush chocolate brownie recipe. It’s taken nearly 5 years of trial and error but we’ve finally made a brownie that is vegan and tastes like a brownie. Share in the joy that these brownies brought to our household this weekend by following the recipe below BUT please beware Flo has had a few of these today and it took over two hours to get her to sleep tonight and that’s after she barely slept last night. Anyways what you will need is: 30g ground chia seed mixed with 120ml water. Set aside for later. Then melt vegan butter into you have 150ml of liquid gold. Combine 150g of granulated sugar and 150g brown sugar with the butter. Once combined and the chia water mix plus a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Next up, introduce 150g of plain flour to 150g cocoa powder. Take this and combine with the sugary buttery chia mix. Roughly chop and then add 85g of dark chocolate. Mix it all up and put into a cake tin lined with baking paper. Pop in the oven at 180c for 35mins. Then pop out and leave to cool for 15mins before taking the brownie out the tin and leaving to stand until cooled. Then tuck in, proper shovel it down you and go back for more because you deserve it you champion. #vegan #veganbaking #vegancooking #allergyfriendly #allergyawareness #dairyfree #eggfree #veganbrownies #veganfriendly
Top tips for an allergy friendly Christmas
When it comes to getting the food just right for the big day I thought it would be helpful to share my top tips to help you have a magical Christmas feast.
Tip Number 1: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
This classic motto really rings true here. As our first Christmas demonstrates, not thinking in advance can leave you snookered. The most important thing I would start off preparing is the Christmas menu. Have a think about what you plan on cooking, as that will help you identify what you will need and what is available. And if the food items you want contain allergens, preparing early gives you the chance to shop around or find recipes to make your own.
Tip Number 2: Look around for alternatives
In years gone by if you had certain allergies or intolerances then many foods enjoyed at Christmas were just unattainable. I remember us trying to make a Marie Rose sauce for the first time – we lacked a lot of the necessary ingredients from the off as the usual suspects are dairy and egg. We tried to find alternatives, but to no avail.
However, over the last few years an incredible number of alternatives have come onto the market. You can now replicate a Marie Rose sauce using alternatives like vegan mayonnaise, so those prawns will have the dressing they deserve.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can get your hands-on loads of alternatives, so nothing should be out of your reach this Christmas.
Tip Number 3: Check the free from aisles
Those ‘free from’ aisles in supermarkets were pretty bare five years ago – not so today. Remember to check the freezers for an impressive selection of ‘free from‘ goodies, too. We even stumbled across some Christmas puddings this year, which saves us the job of making them!
The sigh of being inconvenienced. I've heard it a few times as I've advised people of our dietary requirements or sort to clarify if the sausage contains milk. At times it has left me feeling awkward and frustrated. Should I advise them that I'm not checking the allergy information just to be awkward I'm checking to preserve the health and wellbeing of my child? Unless people are educated around food intolerances and allergies how are they meant to know what they are and how serious they can be. It's why I go involved in the @asda inclusivity campaign to help raise awareness of different dietary requirements, what food intolerances and allergies are, how they present and how serious they can be. The hope being that people feel more comfortable and confident managing allergies but also more understanding and compassionate when they are asked for allergy information or find themselves in a queue behind someone querying the allergy friendliness of the food. Hopefully through education we can eradicate the sighs of inconvenience. Check out Asda’s new Inclusivity Guide which launched today (link in bio). #allergyawareness #allergyadvice #allergy #allergies #foodallergies #inclusivity #inclusionnotexclusion #(ad)
Tip Number 4: Have a go yourself
People often get daunted at the idea of preparing allergy and intolerance friendly food. However, it needn’t be that difficult. The internet is a wonderful resource to find recipes for most meals. There are also loads of great Instagrammers and bloggers sharing allergy-friendly food inspiration, so get following them. From a quick Google search we’ve found recipes for dairy- and egg-free mince pies, Christmas puddings and numerous other fancies.
I would, however, recommend having a little trial run of any foods you are doing yourself (especially a showstopper like a Christmas pudding) just to be on the safe side. It makes sense to practice – plus, you get to eat more pudding!
Tip Number 5: Wipe down and separate
We do Christmas dinner at our house. Because we do all the cooking, we know exactly what goes into everything we serve. We made the decision that we would all live a dairy- and egg-free life, so that we would never have to worry about cross-contamination.
However, if you are cooking for people with dietary requirements and there is a potential for cross-contamination, be sure to take precautions. Prepare your surfaces. Make sure they are all wiped down. When preparing and cooking the food, make sure you keep ingredients separate. I would recommend cooking the allergy-friendly foods first, especially if you are using the same pans to make multiple meals.
If you are serving food buffet-style, let those with dietary requirements go first. Most of all, just take your time when preparing meals, and make sure to label if you are doing different batches of food that look similar.
Those are my top tips. Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy that special dinner!