Finding your perfect pie

Christmas isn’t complete without a mince pie, or three, which is why we have taste tested a selection of free from options to help you find your perfect pie this festive season. The results are in…


First up, Sainsbury’s – 7/10                                                       IMG-2262

For us, Sainsbury’s took the lead, simply thanks to their variety of mince pies. With both iced and standard mince pies, they cater for the sweet-toothed, and the not so sweet-toothed. The quality of ingredients was high, the filling was juicy and the crust had that oh so perfect crunch. With icing not being the typical topping to a mince pie, we were pleasantly surprised by the perfect balance of sweetness and savoury-ness.

Free from: wheat, gluten and milk. £2.00


Up next, Waitrose – 6/10                                                                             IMG_0224 (1)                                                                  

A succulent centre, a crisp crust and a sweet aftertaste made for a very pleasant tasting when it came to the Waitrose mince pie. From the moment you open the packaging, an underlying smell reminds you that Christmas is just around the corner, and thanks to Waitrose, so is a delicious gluten and milk free pie.

Free from: gluten and milk. £2.50


Moving on to Aldi – 5/10                                                             IMG-2257

Prepare to get messy, because the Aldi mince pies were more than a little crumbly. Team that with a perfectly tangy filling, a somewhat savoury crust and a light sprinkling of icing sugar, and the result is a tasty and authentic mince pie.

Free from: gluten. £1.49


Following on, we have M&S – 6/10                                                     

A firm favourite when it comes to Christmassy nibbles, the M&S mince pies did not disappoint. A festive tasting pastry mixed with the traditional star on the front ticked all of the boxes for us. Our only comment? A lack of filling made the pies feel a little empty.

Free from: gluten. £2.50


Tesco – 6/10IMG-2258

With Tesco being the UK’s biggest supermarket, we were pretty hopeful when it came to theirs. Aesthetically pleasing and with an exceptionally tasty filling, the rich and fruity mincemeat instantly transports you to a festive-filled moment.

Free from: wheat, gluten and milk. £1.75


Next up, Morrisons – 5/10

With its golden shortcrust pastry, rich mincemeat filling and Christmassy odour, this really is Christmas in a mince pie. It has a sweet taste throughout and is generous in size.

Free from: wheat, gluten and milk. £2.00


Last but by no means least, ASDA – 6/10

Packed with plump sultanas and bramley apple with a touch of warming winter spice, these mince pies were a nice treat. The pastry may be a little crumbly, and the topping could perhaps do with an extra sprinkling of sugar, but the overall product is tasty, sweet and adventurous.

Free from: gluten. £1.75

Delicious Dairy Free and Gluten Free Lasagne

For the Bolognese Sauce:

1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
125g mushrooms, sliced
500 g (1lb 2oz) beef mince
500g Passata
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Beef stock cube
100g Fresh Spinach

Cheese Sauce/White Sauce:
2 x Ilumi cheese sauce mix
600mls unsweetened dairy free milk or semi-skimmed milk
(For best results use soya milk)

250g pack of dried Lasagne sheets (Gluten Free)

Optional extras:
Cheese or Dairy free alternative to sprinkle on the top
Why not try swapping the mince for chopped aubergine, peppers and courgette for a meat free alternative.


Gently heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid.
Fry the onion for 5 minutes, until softened, stirring often. Add garlic and sliced mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes

Turn up the heat to medium, add the minced beef and fry until evenly browned.

Add the passata, tomato puree, oregano and beef stock cube. Bring to a boil stirring constantly then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach leaves for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the cheese sauce: Empty the contents of the sachet into a medium sized saucepan. Gradually add 600mls of unsweetened dairy free milk or semi-skimmed milk into the pan and mix until smooth. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened

Pre-heat oven to 180°C / 350°F / 160°C Fan oven / Gas mark 4.

Take a baking dish about 25 x  20cm (10″” x 8″”) in size. Spoon a third of the bolognese sauce over the base, and then spoon a quarter of the cheese sauce over the bolognese. Cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets then repeat this layering of the bolognese, cheese sauce and pasta twice more. Top with the remaining cheese sauce and season with finely ground black pepper. Bake for 35min to 40 minutes, until golden.

Serve with a simple side salad!


6 Healthy Coconut Halloween Treats

Halloween signals the start to a season of fun and good food. With talks of Christmas (eek!) circulating round the office (and at bedtimes) it’s an exciting occasion to start getting creative in the kitchen.

As much as Halloween is often a sugar laden occasion, it’s not great for those who are trying to eat healthily, gluten free and attempting to keep their kids from bouncing around the room all night.

If you’re worrying about the amount of sugar, processed food and generally ‘bad for your health’ snacks that you or your children will be scoffing this Halloween, then why not host your own Halloween party? You can surprise your spooky guests with treats, cakes and snacks made with nutritious ingredients and less sugar.

Our favourite Halloween recipes all contain the one common ingredient: coconut. These recipes have swapped out unhealthy fats and sugars and replaced them with coconut products.

Here’s how you can make some super, healthy Halloween treats, just by switching up your baking ingredients:

Coconut oil is an awesome replacement for butter or cooking oil

* Coconut cream is your new healthy cake frosting

* Coconut flakes are easy to bake in the oven and sprinkled on the top of puddings or in gluten free snacks

Desiccated coconut adds a naturally delicious taste to cakes, bites and trifles

Try out these 6 gluten free, healthy coconut Halloween treats.

Your kids will never be able to tell the difference!

#1 Bounty’s chocolates are a traditional childhood favourite. Their coconutty sweetness, mixed with creamy milk chocolate, is a guilty Friday night indulgence for some. These good for you homemade Halloween mounds are an alternative, nutritious and sugar free snack. Easy to make and ideal for a quick Halloween bite.

#2 Blood orange and creamy coconut are a unique Halloween mix. Prepare these sugar free popsicles the night before your party, and you’re good to go!

#3 These maple and pecan Halloween treats from Deliciously Ella are made with coconut oil for a healthier Halloween snack.

#4 Macaroons are always a party favourite. This recipe used honey instead of sugar and swaps out butter for coconut oil. Ghoulish dairy free goodness!

#5 Banana, chocolate and coconut. Yummy! These coconut cream topped chocolate cakes, are perfect for a healthier Halloween party.

#6 Popcorn is always a winner. Make use of that popcorn machine that’s never been opened with this pumpkin spiced popcorn.

What’s best about using coconuts for your diet friendly Halloween treats is you won’t be left with flour or sugar that you’ll never use. You can easily utilise any leftover coconut products in cereals, on top of yogurts and for everyday cooking!

Emily Rose Dallara is a copywriter and content marketer for the food and health industry. She founded a street food business in her early twenties and is passionate about helping others lead a balanced life through her blog Twitter: @emrosedallara  Instagram: @emrosedallara


Coeliac Awareness Week – Chat with Chloe from ilumi

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week. We had a chat with Chloe, one of our product developers here at ilumi.

Tell us a little about yourself…

Hi, I’m Chloe and I’m 23. I work in new product development of food products. I live with my fiancé Christopher in Northumberland.

What are you allergic to and when were you diagnosed? 

I have never been formally diagnosed after years of testing, but after experimenting with my diet, I found cutting out gluten to be beneficial to my symptoms.

What was eating like before you realised you had a food allergy?

If I ate a gluten-heavy meal out with friends, I found I developed severe heartburn within an hour of eating and then felt incredibly sleepy and bloated. My friends found this quite amusing as it’s usually associated with older generations or pregnancy! I would blame the rich sauce or the white wine, until this started happening more and more in every day eating situations.

What did you have to change; did you find this easy or difficult? 

I originally cut gluten out of my diet completely for around 4 months. This really did help, although it is so hard. It’s the little things that you wouldn’t automatically think have gluten in that you might eat or be accidently given. For example vinegar isn’t gluten free because it contains barley – I was aware of this but my fiancé wasn’t. You find yourself having to talk to anyone who cooks for you about it. Most people are aware of carby things like bread, pasta and cake containing gluten, but not others.

The world is definitely becoming a more gluten free friendly place, so it is getting easier.  There is now a wider range of convenient products available that aren’t overly processed, like ilumi.

What was the positive impact to how you felt after diagnosis?

After cutting out gluten, life went back to how it was before the problems started. I have more energy; I feel I can exercise again without having pain in my abdomen. I am more efficient at work, my mood has improved… Being bloated like a whale, in pain and trying to sit at a desk all day was making me very grouchy!

What are the biggest challenges you face when food shopping?

I used to regularly cook for my best friend who is a coeliac, so most of my household ingredients such as soy sauce and stock cubes are gluten free, so I’m quite used to knowing what to buy when I go shopping. Chris and I usually make everything from scratch and tend to use gluten free substitutes such as pasta that are easily found in the supermarket, and just do a straight swap.

What are the biggest challenges when cooking at home? For example, does everyone in your household eat the same thing?

I think breakfast is one of the biggest challenges – I used to eat cereal or toast but gluten free bread is higher in calories so I don’t eat it. I have found that the gap in calorific content between gluten containing products and gluten free is closing over time though. Sometimes I end up skipping breakfast or just eating a banana if I don’t have time for gluten free oats.  Chris is quite accommodating and will eat what I’m eating to save making two meals, but I do find it challenging when he is eating eat bread and cake…

How is eating out, where are the best places to go?

Chinese is often a no go. Spanish is normally good as I can eat the rice and potato dishes, but have to be cautious of chorizo. Indian is usually fine. Italian can be tricky but more and more places now offer gluten free pasta. I remember a few years back I had to take my own!

Are there any other day to day challenges that you have not already mentioned?

My work involves a lot of tasting. There are certain situations where I do have to have a small mouthful of gluten containing product to be able to review it – I find that in small quantities, gluten doesn’t tend to affect me too much. However, if I have to do a large tasting session, it does and I become sluggish in the afternoon when my stomach is in pain.

What are your go to products/brands that make life easier?

Gluten free oats and bars such as Eat Natural are great for breakfast. I’m also a big fan of Nature’s Store chocolate rice cakes. Tesco also have a good range of own label gluten free products.


Coeliac Awareness Week – Chat with Ann from PERK!ER

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week. We had a chat with Ann, co-founder and director at PERK!ER.

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m Ann, co-founder of PERK!ER with my partner Steve. Our brand name is a mash-up of our surnames Perkins and Turner! We live and work together – it’s a perky partnership!

What are you allergic to and when were you diagnosed?
I’m intolerant to both gluten and dairy; I was diagnosed with the gluten in July 2009 and diagnosed dairy intolerant at the end of 2014.

What was eating like before you realised you had a food allergy?
Looking back I was subconsciously reducing the gluten and dairy in my diet before diagnosis. I ate a lot more salad and vegetables than pasta and bread, for example. I was never really that keen on cheese, cream or milk either, even as a kid. However, I was eating some gluten and dairy pretty much every day. I might have had a splash of milk in my tea, a bit of chocolate, some bread or breakfast cereal, so they were constantly causing me health issues without me even realising. It took me a long time to work out they were the culprits!

What did you have to change; did you find this easy or difficult?
Before when I was eating a little bit of gluten and dairy, I had some health issues and often didn’t feel great, so I actually found it easy to avoid gluten and then dairy. It makes me feel so much better, I feel like myself on a good day every day! Because of this, I would never ever knowingly eat it again.

Finding food that tastes great, is good value and healthy has been challenging for me at times. Eating out is the hardest now – I don’t miss anything at home as I’ve changed my diet to be naturally gluten and dairy free and found new foods and recipes that both Steve and I love.

What was the positive impact to how you felt after diagnosis?
There have been a number of positive impacts for me since diagnosis. Firstly, energy – I feel so much more energized! Before diagnosis I used to get to the end of the week and feel so exhausted. I can now think more clearly, whereas before I had some times when I felt ‘foggy’. I also no longer suffer with severe abdominal pains, like knives going into your guts (yuk!) and headaches – it’s a huge relief.

What are the biggest challenges you face when food shopping?
The hardest time is when I’m on the go. I’m often travelling on business and want to grab a quick, fresh lunch. I find the choice in convenience stores and motorway services really poor, which means I need to carry food around with me most of the time… My bag is always full with plenty of PERK!ER Quinoa bars!

Another challenge is label checking. Every shopping trip I have to read the back of packets to make sure anything new is safe to eat and that the recipes of old favourite’s haven’t changed.

What are the biggest challenges when cooking at home? For example, does everyone in your household eat the same thing?
We pretty much are a dairy and gluten free household now. When we have family and friends over it is always completely gluten and dairy free, but they never notice. In fact, most of the time friends and family ask for the recipes!

How is eating out, where are the best places to go?
For a quick lunch Pod is brilliant. For a longer lunch or dinner my fave’s are Las Iguana’s & Wahaca, and there’s a great Indian and some nice country pubs near us too.

Are there any other day to day challenges that you have not already mentioned?
My family are brilliant – my niece is also gluten free so we all understand about allergen control, but sometimes it’s hard for some friends to cater for me. They want to know for sure they are providing food that’s gluten and dairy free, which can be stressful for them unfortunately. I find it is always worth offering to talk through any concerns they have, bring something to help or cooking a pudding to help take some of the stress away.

What are your go to products/brands that make life easier?
I have quite a few…
• Of course, PERK!ER! Delicious and super-healthy quinoa bars and sprouted bars are firm favourites.
• BFree pitta breads and chia seed wraps are utterly amazing!
• I love almond milk in my tea, so Alpro is a go to brand for me
• Amisa buckwheat crackers are great to take out or have with a salad to add a crunch
• Good Food Company for delicious gluten free and vegan falafels
• Ilumi Spicy Harira Soup
• Explore Asia do a fab range of black bean and edame bean noodles
• Cauldron for tofu, delish grilled with peri-peri spice!
• I love spice so I always have some Nando’s sauces and a cupboard of spices from peri-peri, chipotle, jerk, and herbs to add flavour to veg and protein
• We eat lots of veg and a couple of times a week I’ll roast courgettes, butternut squash, peppers and sweet potatoes with some herbs and spices and have them in the fridge to add to our lunches. Being organized as much as possible definitely helps!

You can find PERK!ER Fruit Berry porridge in our online shop

For more delicious gluten, wheat and dairy free goodies, visit, follow on Twitter @Perkierfoods or Instagram, or like on Facebook!

Allergy Awareness Week – Sarah’s Story

For Allergy Awareness Week, we asked around the ilumi office for members of staff to tell us their allergen story. First up, we spoke to Sarah…

Hi, I’m Sarah. I work in Customer Services here at ilumi. I’m 24 and live with my partner and little girl, Olivia. I was diagnosed with a serious nut allergy aged 6, as well as a mild allergy to milk and strawberries. More recently, I also found out I am mildly allergic to wheat.

Before I was diagnosed, myself and my parents were unaware I had a nut allergy as it was not something I was given to eat. I then had a severe reaction when I did eat them. Blood tests also showed I was mildly allergic to strawberries and milk, I but hadn’t noticed any symptoms. My wheat allergy was only diagnosed after I had my daughter. I became very ill with numerous problems, and this was something that showed up in a test I had.

Because my wheat, milk and strawberry allergies are very mild, I continue to eat them unless I’m under the weather. I find that if I’m ill I am much more susceptible to having a flare up with them. My nut allergy is a different story, as I now have my daughter as well as myself to think about. Olivia also has a nut allergy, so for both our safety, I don’t allow anything in my home that is contaminated with nuts. When I first met my partner 6 years ago, he loved KP Nuts and Snickers, but that soon stopped! He’s got used to it now and realises the importance of making sure Olivia and I are safe. I find shopping quite easy as I have been allergic pretty much my whole life. The only thing I have to watch out for is takeaways. Sometimes Chinese takeaways cook things in nut oil, so I have to check or only use ones I know don’t use nut oils.

When eating out, we usually stick to the same places and don’t have any issues, however there have been times where things have changed on menus and the restaurant haven’t said anything. We often go to Harvester and in the past whenever I visited I always ordered the same burger. One particular time, they had changed meat supplier and not updated the menu. The updated burger had spices in it which caused me to have a severe reaction. Luckily I had my tablets with me. If I hadn’t, an ambulance would have had to have been called. I find restaurants don’t really make it clear when something on their menu has changed, which does make it difficult at times.

Although having a nut allergy can be challenging, my diagnosis and especially my daughter’s diagnosis have made me really aware of how to deal with our nut allergy’s. I am now very knowledgeable on what signs to look out for and how to deal with any situation quickly. In a way this also makes me worry, as when I leave Olivia with other people I have to hope that they pick up on any symptoms as quickly as I can! Being allergic myself makes it easier to see if there is anything wrong with Olivia and I can also pass on what I know to her.

Beef with pak choi, mushrooms and noodles – GF noodle recipe

It’s Noodle Month, so why not try this delicious recipe including tender beef and meaty wild mushrooms.

You will need…

  • 75 g thin rice noodles
  • 115 g quality beef sirloin
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • sea salt
  • ½ red onion , finely sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger , peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 fresh red chilli , deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1 small handful shiitake and oyster mushrooms , brushed clean and torn up
  • 200 ml organic chicken stock
  • 1 pak choi , quartered


  1. Boil the kettle and soak the noodles in the boiling water according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, rub the beef with olive oil, sprinkle with the cumin and a small pinch of salt and rub all over.
  2. Place in a really hot frying pan and sear on all sides. Add the onion, ginger and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms, stock and pak choi.
  3. Drain the noodles and add them to the pan. Stir around, and correct the seasoning. Slice up the beef and serve the noodles and pak choi in a big bowl, with the beef slices on top. Pour over the broth from the pan.