A coffee break with...

Lucy Parr, author, The Friendly Baker

What is your background in the food world?
I studied at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school just after university, but at that time I didn’t pursue food as a career, instead continuing my academic studies. Food and cookery have remained my passion, though, especially baking and pastry where I am constantly seeking to learn more and gain new skills.

Last year I studied for and gained a certificate in Le Cordon Bleu’s groundbreaking plant-based patisserie course. This has given me a greater understanding of the science behind substituting ingredients and creating new recipes.

Please tell us about the idea behind your new bakery book…
The Friendly Baker has evolved from my food blog, which I’ve been writing for over 10 years. Both my daughters have food allergies and I became acutely aware that they were missing out, not just on certain foods they can't eat, but also on the events and occasions they could take part in. I decided to use the skills I’ve learnt to create recipes so they wouldn’t have to miss out and, as these became more successful, I started to share them online.

The concept behind the book is that they’re just really great tasting, easy recipes that happen to be allergy-friendly and naturally plant-based. A lot of free-from food isn’t necessarily very nice to eat – or gives that impression – and I want to show people that they can make delicious bakes that are inclusive that everyone can enjoy together. This is not food that is only for those with allergies, it is just good food. I’ve arranged the book around the seasons so that for every event or special occasion throughout the year, you’ll find a suitable 'friendly' bake.

How important is it for diets like this to be catered for?
It’s estimated that over 2m people in the UK have been diagnosed with a food allergy, and these numbers are growing year on year. It affects large numbers, and also their family and friends who cater for them, and should be a consideration to any food business. It’s also hugely important to cater for people with specific dietary needs and to ensure they are included and have a great quality of life.

My youngest daughter, who has multiple allergies constantly gets remarks if we eat out. The range from 'what on earth do you eat?' to literally 'you’re not welcome here' and 'we’ll do our best not to kill you'! These may be said in jest, but the impact on a child is huge. I hope my book shows that it isn’t hard to cater for various allergies, you just need some knowledge and understanding – and a great cookbook! 

Do your daughters have a favourite recipe from the book?
The birthday cake is a real favourite, as not only is it a really great, deeply chocolatey cake, but it has also meant that they can both enjoy a cake for celebration, just like everyone else does. Also, the iced buns and cinnamon rolls, because they’re something that is in every bakery window, the 'forbidden fruit’ that they cannot have. But who needs shop-bought bakes if you can make even nicer ones at home?

What is the biggest factor currently affecting the industry?
You might imagine that the rise in plant-based foods has been a good thing if you suffer from dairy or egg allergies, but actually plant-based and vegan products are frequently unsuitable to those with serious ones. Vegan labelling doesn’t mean it does not contain traces of milk or eggs, but this can be highly dangerous if you are allergic. This trend has definitely reduced the range of things that can be ‘safe’ products that can be bought.

Also, a product considered as 'free-from' is most often just gluten-free and not actually safe if you have other food allergies. From the allergy community point of view, the use of peas and legumes is also becoming a big issue, as a lot of allergy families need to avoid pea protein and it is being used more and more in food production.

What have you got coming next?
At the moment I’m still very involved with getting The Friendly Baker book to as many people as possible, but I have some other plans brewing! have hundreds of recipes that didn’t make it into the first book, so there is definitely room for more friendly cookbooks on the shelves.

I’ve enjoyed giving some food demos recently, so I hope to do more of them. I’d also love to work with local schools to promote inclusive food and show how easy it can be to make dishes that pupils and families can share with their friends.

The Friendly Baker will be available to purchase from mezepublishing.co.uk, as well as bookshops including Waterstones and Amazon

You may also be interested in…