Gluten Free: Scottish Holy Grail

Every person who is Gluten Free – whether due to coeliac disease, intolerance, allergy or another reason – will tell you they have something they miss from their pre-Free From life. It might be a ‘Chippy Tea’ on a Friday night, or a Pasty from the Bakers, it could be anything. And it will be different for everyone. A true Scot through and through there was only one thing missing for me. The one thing that would not only remind me of my life before going Gluten Free but also remind me of home; square sausage. The Holy Grail for Scottish Gluten Free folks everywhere!

Square Sausage, for those not familiar with cuisine north of the border, is exactly as it sounds. One notable difference, which might seem odd to some, is that square or ‘Lorne’ sausage is typically made of beef rather than pork. It was probably going to be a tall order to find a true Lorne sausage (beef) that was Gluten Free and, you know, in England. I’d honestly given up all hope of ever having square sausage again, and then…

On a regular weekly shop round Morrisons, it was spotted. Slightly hidden but definitely what I thought it was that caught my eye. Square sausage…wait…IT’S GLUTEN FREE! OK, OK, it’s pork and not beef but I can get past that. OHMYGODOHMYGOD it’s Gluten Free square sausage. That’s it. Peak life has been reached. GET IN MA BELLY!

The first thing I thought when I seen the Union Jack flag on the Squig packaging was ‘Why has it taken an English brand to develop a Gluten Free square sausage?’ Come on Scotland, bring us Free-From folks a true beef Lorne sausage.

Having said that, and moved past any disappointment at this not being a Scottish-made product, for those of us Scots living in England it’s nice to see something of familiarity in the supermarket. It might not be completely authentic but let me tell you it bloomin’ well hits the spot! I wish I could express what it was like to have a square sausage and (GF) brown sauce roll after all these years. A culinary treat! The slight crisp on the outside with the hit of pepper and the tang of brown sauce…fan-bloody-tastic! A throwback to Sunday mornings in my Grandparents house. The power that food has over your memory never ceases to amaze me.

After a bit of research I discovered that Squig have a great ethos, one thing in particular was really very positive to read as a consumer:

“All our ingredients can be traced right back to the British farms they came from.  We allow no growth hormones or antibiotic residues in our meat – all our livestock have suitable space, the right food and water and are looked after only by passionate and qualified farmers.” (Squig website, 2018)

There are currently two options available by Squig, Pork and Cumberland, and in stock in Morrisons in England only (for obvious reasons!). I’m looking forward to how this brand develops, will we see more Gluten Free options from them? Will they develop a true beef Lorne sausage? Will it push Scottish brands to realise that just because people have had to cut gluten out of their diet doesn’t mean they don’t want the same foods they’ve always had? Let’s wait and see shall we.

So if you’re a bit worse for wear (see: hungover) then a square sausage bap or sandwich, with brown sauce and a bottle of Irn-Bru will sort you right out. Now to find a Gluten Free Tattie Scone recipe and life will be complete!

T&H x

Note: this is not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post. 

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Charity Begins on the Bookshelf

OK, there’s nothing better than buying a new book. Or two. Or three. The feeling of an unbroken spine waiting with promise and anticipation. The feeling, even a little bit, of being smug and proud of yourself for spending £8.99 on something that will enrich your brain rather than on something throwaway and frivolous that you don’t need.

Do you really need books? I hear you ask. Yes. Without a doubt, yes,

From an early age I was around books, both new and second-hand. I had one Grandmother who would buy me a book from wherever she was going, either on holiday or just a day out shopping. Some of my favourites when I was little were those she would bring back from holiday and in other languages. I couldn’t read them but the accompanying pictures made the story easy to follow. My other Grandmother also arranged Jumble Sales (rummage sale) to raise money for her church and, yep, you guessed it, I always found myself with a selection of new books afterwards. That feeling of complete and utter joy of getting a new book never left me.

What is just as joyful as buying a brand new book? Buying a book but donating to a good cause in the process. Second-hand books are exactly that, they have had a life with someone else first. But they are new to you. Some may be old and dog-eared while others may have been donated without being read at all. Frankly, as long as all the pages are there I’m not bothered which one it is! You can keep your book addiction thriving while helping a charity continue their great work. It’s a win-win situation.

Charities such as Oxfam and  British Heart Foundation are usually the two I visit the most and have a large selection. Many small and local charities also have second hand stores that are worth looking into. Local animal shelters, women’s refuge centres and local hospices all need help and donations too.

Books are one of the commodities, other than clothes of course, that are always in abundant supply in charity shops and second-hand stores. And there really is something for everyone.  Of course you can go back to the same shop over and over again, there will always be something new to discover, but you can also travel around and find even more gems. I find myself picking up random books that I would never pay full price for because they aren’t my usual genre. But with second-hand books that risk is made redundant because even if you don’t like the book, it’s £1.50 that’s gone to a good cause.

Some people would stay away from second-hand books that are a little worse for wear, and I understand that, but I happen to love them. Books with notes in the margin are even better! I have a few that I’ve picked up that have, I would imagine, been used for English class. A selection of T.S. Eliot poems with observations and reviews all the way through is now one of my most treasured books on my bookcase. The book was also given as a gift to the original owner as documented on the inside front cover, but who are they? What year were they studying English? Did they pass their exam? Do they now love poetry or hate it because of this book? A whole life from this one book that cost £1.75.

Some of my absolute favourites I’ve found by buying second-hand; travel guides, Georgian or Victorian classics and cookbooks. What journey have they had before they’ve ended up beside my bed of an evening? Were they texts studied for school or night class? Were they taken on travels to far away corners of the world and helped their owners converse in a different country? Were they the reason for a happy all-family-round-the-table evening meal? It’s such a lovey concept to me, being a segment of time in a books lifespan.

The next time you find yourself in need of something new to read, consider taking a look in your local charity shop, you might find your new favourite novel, save some money and help a good cause all in one fell swoop. Your conscience, bank balance and charities in need will thank you for it.

T & H x

Note: Not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post.  

My Life with Matilda

September is a time to celebrate a great man, a great author, and the creator of book lovers everywhere! I am of course talking about Roald Dahl. 13th September is Roald Dahl Day and a day to remember all of the joy and happiness his books have brought to young readers across the world.

2018 also marks the 30th Anniversary of one of the best, in my opinion, Roald Dahl books being published: Matilda. One of the first of Dahl’s books I remember reading was Matilda and even at aged 30 I still feel a connection to this book-loving little girl. The joy of escapism and the ability to get lost into a book is still there all these years later.

“She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.” 

Most people will be able to tell you what their favourite Roald Dahl book is, and it will be different for everyone, for a huge variety of reasons. My parent’s generation welcomed the likes of James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, whereas I was a kid of the 80’s so Matilda, The BFG and The Minpins were my favourites. The Minpins was the last book written before Roald Dahl’s death and is a truly lovely book, and is still one of my favourite illustrated books ever.

Whatever reason someone has for liking a particular Dahl book, there will always be a lesson in each one to learn and take through life. I’d like to think I wasn’t alone by not realising this at the time of reading but as an adult the lessons are there, loud and clear, and show just how much of an important educator these books are. Maybe even more so now in a world of technology, trolls and cyber bullying.

The BFG taught us that you shouldn’t judge people by how they look, or don’t judge a book by it’s cover, if you will(!) James made friends with those different from him, the bugs, and ended up on a fantastically exciting adventure with his new companions whom he trusted and learned from. Then there is Matilda, a girl I can’t help but smile about when I see her book cover. Matilda taught us that reading is important and that books provide education and escapism. She taught us that it’s OK to be different and enjoy things that other people do not, even within your own family it is OK to not all be alike. Matilda also taught us, young girls in particular, that independence is very important in life. You can remove yourself from situations that cause you distress or upset, and bad times will pass.

Roald Dahl, and in particular Matilda, taught us that books have an infinite ability to help us, protect us and enrich us. Granted, many books do the same thing but Dahl’s gift is that he provides that lesson to children. And it stays with them throughout life. The Grandfather of storytelling has given children and adults the ability to be more tolerable and understanding of others, both with similarities and differences. If that’s not proof that books, reading, literature and the written word can have a positive impact on society I don’t know what is!

Roald Dahl Day wasn’t a ‘thing’ when I was at school, but it’s a huge opportunity to introduce a new generation to the works of Roald Dahl. The Roald Dahl website has some great resources for celebrating, and is also host to a huge number of lesson plans for any teachers looking to introduce their class to Matilda, and other stories too.

So tell us, what’s your favourite Roald Dahl book?

T & H x

Note: Not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post. 

Book Review: The Cows

The most refreshingly honest book I’ve read in a long time. This is the first of Dawn O’Porter’s novels that I’ve actually read, and I did so thanks to her hilarious and stealth book promotion on Instagram. Once you read The Cows you will truly appreciate the irony of this!

The three stories of very different women (Tara, Cam and Stella) who are all seemingly separate but intertwine in ways that become both hilarious and outrageous as the story progresses. I don’t remember a time whereby actual laughing out loud became the norm response when reading. The Cows is brilliantly written and a frightfully honest look at modern women in 2018. Dawn O’Porter has created three individual characters with different traits but are yet all still recognisable figures.

Tara is trying to be herself, juggle a career and be a single Mum, all while taking on the challenges of misogynistic attitudes in the workplace and the complete shit-show that can be societal judgement, the worst of which from other women. Tara rides the vitriolic wave of trolls and learns the hard way that, in this day and age, every embarrassing thing you do will likely end up on the internet. Her character comes through all this  while throwing out every rule book on what a ‘Mum‘ needs to be in the eyes of this judgemental society. You should be this, you should be that. No, you should be whatever you want to be and whatever your child needs you to be. Everything else is just background noise.

I feel like someone died. Like I died. Like I have to arrange my own funeral. Grief and logic are battling in my brain. The girl in me wants to sit and cry. The other parts – the mother, the producer – know I have shit to sort out.”

Cam is a character facing comments and judgements from every Tom, Dick and Harry about her own reproductive system and she deals with it in the way she knows best; by taking control of the narrative of her own story. But why should she have to? Why are these questions still asked of women in 21st Century life?  Your body, your life, your choice. The way that The Cows deals with some key feminist themes was a breath of fresh air, more of this please Ms O’Porter!

I don’t want kids. And no, I’m not sad or selfish, or self-obsessed or mean. I’m a kind, funny, thirty-six-year-old who was loved by both of my parents and who gets plenty of sex.

Then we have Stella; a woman representative of a time in all our lives. A woman on the edge. A woman who is desperately unhappy and fixating on the one thing that she thinks can complete her life. There are times in The Cows where I wondered where Stella would end up, and felt some form of suspense for her and the characters around her.

Each of these characters is someone you will recognise, someone you will empathise with and be understanding of. By all accounts they are everyday women facing the same issues faced by us all. Granted, maybe the instances in The Cows are a bit more extreme and public but the general idea is that they are relatable. That’s why The Cows was such a brilliant read for me, it felt familiar and relevant and perfectly timed.

Dawn O’Porters comical interpretation of the scenarios faced by these three women is fantastic, and makes for a really enjoyable read. This was a book I raced through, a page turner if you will, and kept the reader guessing where the hell the story was going next. Nine times out of ten it wasn’t where you thought it was going!

Will you follow the herd and read The Cows?

T&H x

Note: not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post

Gluten Free: Lamb Meatballs & Chickpea Stew

Who doesn’t love a super quick mid-week meal, packed full of flavour and goodness? Serving this with salad sounded a bit odd at first but, trust me, it works and makes for a really filling supper…any day of the week.

This recipe is a Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meals recipe, and I think most people that attempt these recipes would admit that, actually, they don’t take 15 minutes. However they certainly are prepped and on the table in under half an hour. Not too shabby after a manic day at work.

We tend to have a well stocked spice rack at all times in our house, as well as a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and veggies so in that respect this wasn’t a meal that cost a fortune either. Most of what we needed was either already in the fridge or cupboard. Gluten Free wraps aren’t exactly the most economical item, but needs must. If you can’t find any Gluten Free wraps then some Free From Pitta Bread would work. This would also be really nice served with some rice or quinoa. Mix it up, being Gluten Free kinda forces you to mix it up, amiright?

This really is a very easy recipe, and simple too. No faffing around the kitchen with 10 pans, 6 chopping boards and every single knife you own! Definitely a naturally Gluten Free (wraps not included in the statement) meal that will be making another appearance at the dinner table.

(Serves 4) Ingredients:

  • 400g lamb mince
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • pinch of saffron
  • half a fresh red chilli (seeds in or out, your choice!)
  • 2 spring onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • half a bunch of fresh coriander
  • 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 350g passata 
  • half a cucumber
  • 2 little gem lettuces
  • handful of radishes
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 lemon
  • half a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • Tortilla or Gluten Free Wraps
  • 2 tablespoons of Natural Yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of Harissa paste 

Method:

  1. Mix the mince in a bowl with salt, pepper and garam masala then divide the mixture into 16 even sized balls, wet hands will make this easier.
  2. Place the meatballs in a frying pan as you go and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil (not the extra virgin one) Keep tossing them until dark brown.
  3. Soak the pinch of saffron in a cup of boiling water and leave to soak. Watch the beautiful colour come to life! 
  4. Trim the spring onions and slice finely along with the chilli and coriander stalks, keep the leaves for the time being. Put the onion, chilli and coriander stalks into a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add in crushed garlic. Cook for about a minute and add the saffron/boiling water mixture, drained and rinsed chickpeas and the passata. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer.
  5. While the chickpea stew is cooking mix the harissa paste into the yoghurt. 
  6. Chop and mix the little gem lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and cucumber and add the extra virgin olive oi and lemon juice. Season to taste and place on a large board or platter. 
  7. Pour the chickpea stew into the pan with the meatballs and serve in a dish in the middle of the board or platter.  Serve it all with orange wedges* and a scattering of coriander leaves.

*Don’t skip the orange wedges, it’s a revelation! 

T&H x

NB: Not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post. 

Gluten Free: Moose Coffee, Manchester

Anyone for brunch? If you’re in Manchester and find yourself in the vicinity of Piccadilly Gardens and York Street then you’re going to want to try the humongous breakfast at  Moose Coffee. With plenty of adaptability for gluten free diets you’ll be so full on this American/Canadian style breakfast you’ll need a nap afterwards!

Moose are well known in Manchester for their Pancakes – sadly not gluten free but they look incredible – and their potato hash. The hash is cooked with garlic, onion and dijon mustard and OH MY GOOD GOD it is everything you would want on your weekend breakfast plate. Topped with two fried eggs like you can see in the potato this is well deserving of the ‘Breakfast of Champions‘ title. I opted for the Veggie Mighty Moose with an additional side of bacon and garlic spinach. Other wonderfully named items like Seuss Moose and The ‘Covfefe’ bring a sly grin to everyone perusing the menu.

Moose do have an easily accessible allergen menu on their website which was really helpful to view in advance. What I wasn’t expecting was the gluten free toast that came along with the meal – a very welcome surprise indeed!

You may have to wait a while for a table at Moose, they don’t take reservations and are a very popular breakfast joint in the city centre, but if you have the luxury of time to wait, can pop round the shops while you wait for a table to become available, then it’ll be well worth it.

This place knows breakfast like no other and has an impressive number of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu as well as a great number of gluten free choices. If you want a breakfast that feels like it will set you up for the day and/or cure a hangover from the night before then add this place to your list of places to eat when next in Manchester City Centre.

T&H x

NB: This is not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post. 

Book Review: Everything I Know About Love

Have you ever finished a book and felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity? Almost like some chapters were like reading flashbacks from your own life? That, dear readers, is how I felt with Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love.

Above all else this book is a beautifully honest insight into female friendships. Chronicled in a way I don’t feel like I’ve seen in a book before. Some of Dolly’s stories will be familiar to yourself while others will remind you of one of your social circle. I guarantee it. You are going to laugh, reminisce, cringe and cry, and not necessarily in that order.

I was bored and sad and lonely, restlessly wishing the hours of my childhood away. And then, like a gallant knight in shining armour, came AOL dial-up internet on my family’s large desktop computer. And then came MSN Instant Messenger.

If you’re of a particular age group then the memory of the pure unadulterated joy of MSN Messenger will bring you right back to 1999. The logging off and on again to prompt someone to notice you were there. The technological equivalent of drawing attention to yourself. Snippets of memory lane such as this are present all throughout EIKAL and it makes for such an enjoyable read. The perfect book to read the week before turning thirty that’s for sure!

Dolly tackles some hilarious antics with wit and brutal honesty, but also covers some serious issues that many twenty-somethings face. Certainly within my group of friends anyway – which is why I’ve recommended this book to pretty much everyone I know! The way in which physical and mental health are written about is a breath of fresh air. Nothing is glossed over and scenarios are written as a young twenty-something would deal with them.

This overwhelming anxiety had been in the post for a while…there I was thinking my sense of self was solid. I am Generation Sense of Self, this is what we do. We have been filling in ‘About Me’ sections since 2006.

One particular chapter was, from start to finish, relatable: My Therapist Says. The way in which Dolly talks about her struggle with anxiety and her journey to seeking out a therapist is something familiar to both myself and my peers.  I know how much work and effort it can take to both accept any issues with mental health such as anxiety and depression, and to see this journey written in black and white, but still with the humour necessary to make it through,  was such a comfort.

The celebration of female friendships, both lifelong and brand new, throughout EIKAL is beautiful and a testament to just how stronger women are when they prop each other up. True unfiltered friendship. Through love and loss, we have friendships, strong ones, that can withstand everything. Jobs, partners, travels, houses all come and go, but friendship outlasts all of them.

Everything I Know About Love is a coming of age story, a trip down memory lane for twenty and thirty-somethings. The closing insights from Dolly about what she knows about love at the age of twenty-eight are wonderful, a pure joy. Some particular favourites:

  1. “Men love naked women. All other bells and whistles are an expensive waste of time. 
  2. The perfect man is kind, funny and generous. He bends down to say hello to dogs and puts up shelves. 
  3. Let your friends abandon you for a relationship once. The good ones will always come back.”

If you haven’t read Everything I Know About Love yet then get a copy now, and once you’re done give it to all of your girlfriends!

T&H

NB: Not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post. 

Gluten Free Food Planning

I’m a little late to the game on this one. Food Planning, Meal Prep, whatever you want to call it – it works!

In January, as we all do, I took a look at my finances and in particular my food bills from the last quarter of the year (September-December). It was an eye opener of cold sweat inducing proportions! For a household of two, one of which works late and isn’t around for dinner 3 nights a week, our grocery bill was insanely high. It’s not as if we have particularly expensive taste and have steak or lobster every evening either, nor are we a ready meal household or buy much in the way of alcohol. So where the hell was the money going?! Gluten Free food is more expensive, you just have to walk along any Free From aisle to get an idea of how much those with dietary requirements are expected to pay for a loaf of bread or a bag of pasta. But it wasn’t the Free From aisle that was to blame for the overspend, not entirely anyways.

The answer, as it turned out, was simple. LACK OF PREPARATION. Lack of awareness certainly. Picking things up for a few meals at a time and going to the supermarket about 4-5 times a week. Honestly, nobody loves the supermarket that much.

I’m convinced that this monotony is what led me to get so bored with food in the last half of last year and make me want to eat out all the time. That’s not a financially sustainable solution either. So…January. New year, new mindset, and I made a commitment to change my shopping habits. I’m so pleased to report that change they most certainly did!

Switching to a more planned approach to buying, cooking and eating food has saved around £100 per month! Hello mini break! Not only has it saved money which was motivator number one, but it has also reduced waste significantly. There might be the odd banana that can’t be saved but other than that everything is eaten.

There’s challenges of course, like running the risk of having the same meals every week or picking up the same gluten free products over and over again. But with a little thought (and obligatory scroll through Pinterest) there are plenty of opportunities to mix it up.

Working from home most days and being gluten free does mean that I need to plan for lunches as well as evening meals, as nipping out to a sandwich shop isn’t an option. Lunches are pretty easy though and thankfully my local supermarkets have large Free From sections to provide enough choice every week. Soups, veggie sausages, baked beans and scrambled eggs are all firm lunch favourites.

I’d urge anyone currently doing multiple trips to a supermarket each week to give this ago. It might not work for you and that’s fine but at worst you could save a little money and at best have a much better eating habit because of it. Not only has it stopped a feeling of food monotony it has also encouraged me to think about how to use up leftovers. A few rogue baby potatoes left? Boil, chop and mix with yoghurt and some herbs for a quick potato salad. A few apples left looking a bit bruised? Peel, heat with a bit of water until mushy and top it on a bowl of porridge with some brown sugar.

Top Tips for Food Planning

1. Factor in snacks

Be it fruit, popcorn, or carrot sticks for dipping in hummus, make sure they are factored into your shopping plan. Otherwise your eye will wander in the shop. Nowhere is this more important than with gluten free snacks. Try to get non Free From aisle products where you can to save money.

2. Multi-meal items

Having Bangers & Mash on a Monday night? Build your Tuesday meal around the rest of the potatoes and vegetables that won’t be used on Monday.

3. List in shop order

Granted this can only be done if you use the same supermarket and know the layout, but it helps to cut browsing and keep focussed to only the items on your list. I am such a shopping Magpie and this keeps my focus on what I need only!

4. Strike it Cheap

If you have a budget supermarket nearby (Aldi or Lidl) use it! Fruit and vegetables are half the price or less than the big four. Things like yoghurts, juice, sauces, pulses are much better value for money.

5. Step away from the brands

You are buying a name. Not always a better quality product. Try own brand and see how you get on. If you don’t like it switch back, but you never know it could save you some extra pounds.

It might sound like some people’s idea of hell but I love being prepared and planning. Saving money was the driving force behind this and it still is but it’s also now about trying new things and expanding my knowledge of ingredients and nutrition on a weekly basis. The cost of food is rising and we can’t escape that unfortunately, smart shopping is the answer.

T&H x

Gluten Free: The Best Burger ever!

Lemme tell you about a little burger joint in Dublin…

A birthday trip to Dublin was planned out, what we’ll do, what we’ll see and, more importantly, where we’ll eat Gluten Free. I’d seen some mention of Bunsen Burger on social media and practically salivated at the sight of these burgers in their beautifully safe gluten free buns. OK, fine, not practically salivating but actual salivating. Oh hell we’re all friends here, I was drooling like Homer Simpson!

After doing quite a bit of walking round the city because I am nothing if not uber tourist – we were starving, starving, starving. What followed was not to disappoint. In fact, Bunsen Burger on Wexford Street served up the best burger both myself and my gluten-eating-husband (official title) had ever had. Outstanding! I have to apologise here for not having an actual picture of the burger, suffice to say I was so hungry and so impressed I inhaled the whole thing in about 5 minutes flat. Along with some amazing fries. And all gluten-free folks know how awesome it is to be allowed fries when they’ve had a frier all to themselves!

It’s always nice to eat somewhere that is safe and the knowledge of staff is 10/10, and the lovely staff at Bunsen certainly know their stuff! The only things not suitable for a gluten free diet at Bunsen are the regular buns and the vinegar. Everything else is fair game. It’s a limited menu, but it does what is says it does – it serves burgers and fries. Very, very good burgers and fries. With a choice of toppings and a choice of fries you will be yet another happy GF Bunsen customer, trust me.

Dublin overall was incredibly easy to eat gluten free with the majority of places offering something on their menu and the staff being well informed. There is a slightly higher rate of coeliac disease in Ireland so maybe that’s why there is such amazing knowledge of the gluten free diet. Whatever the reason I felt safe ordering from menus of various eateries whilst in Dublin. And the people are so lovely and friendly that I didn’t feel like an inconvenience by asking restaurant staff questions.

You can take a look at the Bunsen Burger menu for yourself here and if you ever find yourself in Dublin, or Cork or Belfast where there are also branches, please do give it a try if you’re partial to a burger. It’ll make your tummy, wallet and soul very happy!

T & H x

NB: This is not a paid, sponsored or affiliate post.