Food is one of the great pleasures in life, so it must be absolutely torturous when your favourite things, or even simply your basic diet turns out to be the stuff of digestive nightmares, which is exactly what happened to Tony Harker. A keen university rower, he fell victim to a water born disease after his boat capsized and overnight found himself violently intolerant to a whole host of ingredients. In a bid to create palatable alternatives, his partner Charlotte Pike started a cooking experiment, developing a particular penchant for cakes and thus creating Go Free Foods!
What made you want to set up Go Free Foods?
Everything happened so quickly with Tony – we had to be so careful with ingredients which we had previously taken for granted – at 19 you don’t think anything of having your cereal in the morning. There were reliable foods in the supermarkets that you could buy but they were very expensive and just didn’t taste good! I started experimenting with different ingredients – there was a lot of trial and error – and eventually it became a viable career!
What alternatives do you use to basic ingredients?
Flour is a tricky one – potato or rice flour is fine for most people but you have to blend it to get it right and it can all get quite scientific! There’s a lot you can do to avoid it altogether though: I use cocoa powder and ground almonds to make our brownies instead. A lot of companies making similar products will use margarine instead of butter, but I don’t like that so we use carrots which add the moisture and 70% cocoa chocolate to provide the fat. I thought about lots of alternatives – there were hundreds of variations – you can use apples, pears or bananas as well!
That’s pretty odd! What were people’s initial reactions?
Many people didn’t realise the difference! We had a really positive reaction from the start and our brownies recently won a Free From Foods award which was a huge surprise! Generally people are curious – carrot has been used before in cake so it’s not completely alien.
What’s your advice to anyone struggling with allergies and intolerances?
It can be really daunting, but really check what you are eating – look at the labels on any pre-made foods because you might not realise what you are eating, particularly in sauces and cereals – it’s shocking what you find – curry sauces for example often have milk powder and wheat flour in them. Also, try to play around in the kitchen and really experiment with different ingredients!
Giving us something that everyone can enjoy over the Easter weekend, a huge thank you Go Free Foods for sharing their Chocolate Pear Cake recipe!
– 85g butter
– 85g dark chocolate
– 85g caster sugar
– One tbsp brandy
– Three eggs, separated
– 85g ground almonds or hazelnuts
– Four very ripe pears, peeled, halved and cored
– Grease and line a 25cm spring form tin.
– Preheat the oven to 180 / Gas mark 4
– Melt the chocolate and butter together.
– Stir the brandy and leave to cool.
– Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick.
– Fold the melted chocolate and hazelnuts into the egg and sugar mixture.
– In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peak.
– Fold one tablespoon of egg whites into the chocolate mixture, followed by the rest of the mixture in two additions.
– Gently pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
– Lay the pear halves into the mixture in the tin.
– Bake for around 40 minutes.
– You can dust with icing sugar and serve with crème fraîche.
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