Tried & Tested: ilumi

Cooking up nut-free, gluten-free and milk-free foods for nearly a decade, ilumi are the experts in allergy-safe cooking, and their extensive range of ready-meals really do taste amazing by anyone’s standards.

How? Because ‘instead of focusing on what we need to leave out to make a dish safe, we focus on what delicious ingredients we can put in.’ It’s a refreshingly positive outlook, and one that means we can all stop focusing on the drawbacks of allergies, and start viewing them as an opportunity to reassess our eating habits and consider food as a means to ‘wellbeing in mind as well as body.’

Since first cutting out wheat a few years ago, not only has my health improved but my relationship with food in general. I no longer binge-eat or suffer from cravings and have since discovered a whole range of foods, recipes and meals I would never have previously tried had I not been forced to branch out. However, for many people with a food allergy, cutting out entire food groups can simply become a case of cutting out or restricting what they already eat. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Thankfully, at ilumi they’re equally as committed to taste as what’s safe, with a broad selection of dishes that range from Cantonese Style Chicken and Thai Red Chicken Curry to Italian Meatballs, Moroccan Vegetable Tagine and Slow-Cooked Lamb Casserole. There really is something for every fussy-eater, and the best bit? They can all be cooked and served in minutes. Two, to be precise.

I try four meals from the range: Lamb Rogan Josh, Lamb Koftas in a Chilli & Lemon Dressing, Kerala Chicken Curry, and Zaatar Chicken. Each pouch retails at £3.75 which, considering the quality of the meat and other ingredients, seems more than reasonable and far cheaper (and healthier) than your standard takeaway.

Taste-wise there’s also no questioning this is a superior product. Having been prepared from scratch in bespoke allergy-safe kitchens, each convenient pouch is cooked sous-vide to retain all the freshness and moisture of the ingredients. This is particularly evident with the meat. Soft, juicy and skillfully flavoured, the free range chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender while the chunks of lamb fall apart with flavour. But it is the lamb koftas that really stole the show. Combining lean ground lamb with quinoa, onion, cinnamon, mint and milled lemon zest, these unbelievably moreish Middle Eastern delights could have me drooling for days.

Each pouch serves one (when served with rice) and while it does seem they’ve tried to scrimp on meat with lashings of sauce, even with my boyfriend’s bottomless appetite we found the portions plenty-sized to sponge up our giant mounds of rice (we cooked our own but one-minute 175g microwavable rice pouches are also available from ilumi for £1.19). Normally I’d demand more heat from my curries but each time the arrangement of spices was so well-balanced it’s clear the team at ilumi are just far better chefs than I’m used to, and don’t rely on the easy option of chilli to pack their sauces with flavour.

Because these are restaurant-quality dishes, with all the convenience of a ready-meal. Even my scepticism about not needing to refrigerate the pouches has been confounded. As when something is as delicious, nutritious and allergy-friendly as this, I only wish eating was always so easy. 

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Twitter @franklygf


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