The Giggling Squid has the last laugh: Thai food at its best

Like many a British person, I shamelessly admit that my first experience of Thai food was out of a jar. Served alongside sloppy rice and with an overpowering pong of lemongrass, which by the way I absolutely despise, I wasn’t really feeling this new cuisine, despite the fact that Thai restaurants were popping up left, right and centre in towns and cities across the UK. Countless Instagram pictures of colourful broths, noodles and seafood convinced me that maybe I hadn’t really made time for authenticity, and so my Thai foodie trail began.

On a trip to Portugal last October, I went to my first, and what I so gullibly claimed to be the best, Thai restaurant in Europe. Language barriers aside, I opted for a green curry, which tickled the taste buds and allowed me to come away with a new appreciation for this far flung corner of the world cuisine.

It was then with great excitement that I booked a table at The Giggling Squid in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon recently. Tripadvisor reviews were good, they did a gluten free menu and a suitably large range of options, plus, I couldn’t fault the drinks menu…always a key priority!

We were sat at a nice cosy table by the window and I was given the gluten free bible, which contained not one, but three pages of options for me. To be quite frank, I am now so unacquainted to having a large option of dishes, that in the end Mr Eeny Meeny Miny Moe had to step in and choose for me.

To kickstart the show, I opted for the Roast Duck & Pomelo Salad, combined with Jicama, fine beans, coriander and lightly fried Pak Maew, which they claim to be a ‘newly discovered ingredient,’ by the chefs or moreover by the world, I’m not sure, but hey ho they’d thrown it in the mix for good measure. The duck, in my opinion was to die for. Despite the fact that I absolutely adore duck, I often find that chefs can over cook it, undercook it, not fry the fat enough, or simply forget to add depth of flavour in. This on the other hand, combined with the sweet ingredients and a spicy chilli kick, was a taste sensation.


For mains, I strayed from the ever so popular Red or Green Thai curries and chose the Massaman curry with Jasmin rice, alongside what I can only describe as being really tender cuts of fresh beef. The dish combined coconut milk and dry spices such as cumin, cinnamon and star anise. After gobbling up a large plateful of spicy duck, the sweet and mild taste of coconut milk came as a welcoming relief to my fiery palate. Any more spice from my starter and I’d have had to down a jug full of water. I was so full from the large quantities that I couldn’t even finish my curry, but two hours later I was regretting my decision to not find extra room in my belly for it.

Overall, the Giggling Squid was a delight from start to finish. In fact, I’ve already told everyone I know about it and am planning a second visit. Question is, what do I order next time? There were so many tempting dishes on the menu that I’m not sure I could choose just one!


‘The Best Paella I’ve ever tasted’ and Gluten Free

I’m a huge fan of Paella and if I see it on a menu then 98% of the time I will order it, especially if I spot the gluten free symbol next to it. I have found it especially difficult however to source out a good Paella in England and even more of a task to try and make a traditional one at home that has the flavours that are so common when I eat it in Spain – I don’t know whether they have a special rice that is different to that sold in the UK, or whether they have a top secret ingredient, but it never quite lives up to the same standard as the best Paella I have ever tasted in a little seaside restaurant on El Sardinero Beach in Santander.

This week though, me and my family celebrated my brother’s birthday at a restaurant in Worcester called The Olive Branch. Specialising in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, I was looking forward to sampling the many choices on offer as I had checked out the menu beforehand and saw many delights that could be whipped up as a gluten free option, including a variety of tempting tapas dishes, pastas, seafood and meat options.

We were given the Christmas menu to choose from and I was more than happy to discover that the traditional Paella, which consisted of a nice mix of prawns, chicken, chorizo, mussels, squid, red pepper and green peas with saffron infused rice was indeed both gluten and dairy free. Thankfully, I had another happy ‘free-fromer’ to share my huge dish with and although the Paella serves two, me and my friend still had nearly half left by the time we had finished.

Now I’m quite a harsh judge of Paella as I’ve tasted so many in Spain, but I have to say I think The Olive Branch has catapulted to the top of my list as being the place that serves ‘the best Paella I’ve ever tasted.’ The variety of fresh seafood and meat was a nice touch, the red pepper was bursting with flavour and the rice was absolutely delicious and not at all bland and stodgy as some can be. The portions were huge and my only regret was that I hadn’t skipped the starter so that I had more room for the main meal.

For starter, I opted for Gambas a la plancha which was king prawns in a chimichurri sauce that had been chargrilled with lemon (winner winner chicken dinner) and then even though I was full to the brim, I ended the night with three scoops of sorbet as nice little refresher.

Overall The Olive Branch far exceeded my expectations. If you love Paella or indeed Mediterranean food as much as I do and find yourself in the Worcester area, you simply have to visit this little gem of a bistro. The setting is lovely, there are three floors to the building and a wine bar at the bottom which I would love to check out on my next visit. I can’t wait to taste test the Tapas menu the next time I’m in town as I’ve spotted some of my favourites  on the menu that can be cooked gluten free – pan fried squid, chorizo, king prawns and of course, my favourite Paella.


Sexy Sandwiches

I don’t know about you, but I find the typical dry ham sandwich with soggy lettuce boring each day at work. In fact, if I had my way each workplace would be kitted out with a mini oven so that each day during my lunch break, I could go into the kitchen and cook up a feast – it would certainly make getting through a long afternoon that much easier. So, when the weekend finally creeps up on me I like to go to town with my sandwiches, and I’m talking about getting out the frying pan, throwing in some peppers and onions and giving it a good old mix up before dolloping on some old fashioned mayo and basil pesto to really get your taste buds tingling. I know that as a nation of sandwich lovers we can often get stuck in our ways when it comes to fillings, but allow me to let you in on my secret ingredients for a killer sandwich and you’ll never want to go back to your old, quick-fix ways again.

Beginning with sandwich filling number one!


The main ingredient here is basil pesto and a nice crusty cob. Too much of it can ruin any dish, but a fine overlay of it on your meat can really get it fired up. Follow the steps below for a truly delicious combination of herbs, salad and sauces.


  • Meat of your choice (I used ham)
  • Dairy free cheese (I used VioLife Pizza Mozzarella)
  • Yellow pepper
  • 2 cherry tomatoes halved
  • Half red onion
  • Basil pesto (Sacla)
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Gluten free bread (I used Newburn Bakehouse Artisan loaf)
  • Lettuce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil


  1. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and thrown in half a red onion and pepper, turning until the pepper is soft and the onion is getting crispy
  2. Spread a generous tea spoon of basil pesto onto the base of your bread
  3. Add the ham and spoon on another generous helping of pesto, before layering on a teaspoon of mayonnaise
  4. Cover the base with cheese and a sprinkling of chives before putting under the grill and allowing to melt
  5. Once the cheese is done, spoon up the onion and pepper and layer on top
  6. Chop up the cherry tomatoes and place on top of the mix
  7. Finish off with a nice handful of fresh lettuce leaves

Now to wrap, grab and get stuck in with filling number two!


Here, the quinoa and buckwheat rice really gives the sandwich a crunchy texture. Mixed in with classic, full fat Hellmans mayonnaise and roasted red peppers, you really can’t go wrong with this one. Make sure to fold the pitta in half so that all the ingredients mingle together and don’t worry about getting your hands messy in the process, it adds to the enjoyment.


  • Quinoa and buckwheat rice (I purchased from Waitrose)
  • Meat of your choice (I used gammon)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red pepper
  • Half red onion
  • Lettuce
  • Gluten free pitta breads
  • Olive oil

1. Cook the rice according to packet instructionHeat up some olive oil and throw in the onion and pepper, cooking until soft

2. Warm the pitta bread up in the microwave for 20 seconds

3. Once the rice is cooked, put it in a bowl and add a tablespoon of mayonnaise before mixing well

4. Add your meat topping and then spoon on the onion and pepper

5. Add a handful of lettuce and then fold the pitta in half before tucking in

A not so traditional Spaghetti Bolognese


There’s one recipe that never fails to be met with lots of ‘mmms’ when it’s placed on the dinner table and that is Spaghetti Bolognaise. It’s easy to make and has all of the ingredients you could wish for; hearty meat, a delicious sauce, a sprinkling of cheese and a messy face when you’ve finishing eating.

Now, if you’ve been to Italy then you will know that as a nation we’ve killed the traditional Bolognese recipe. Not only are we using the wrong pasta – a proper Bolognese is partnered with tagliatelle, but we do inexcusable things like add herbs to our recipe. I will hold my hands up and say, I’m guilty of all of these sins!

However, if like myself you are gluten free and living anywhere but London where there is a huge selection of gluten free goodies, you will know how difficult it is to source tagliatelle. It’s one of those rare delicacies that I stock up on when I come across it, usually in farm shops or strangely enough, service stations. I agree that Bolognese with tagliatelle tastes more delicious, the thickness of the pasta soaks up the mince and juices more, but we will have to go on with what we’ve got and let’s face it, I love basil and oregano so they are thrown in to many of my meals for added flavour.

In my recipe, I’ve missed out on some traditional ingredients such as carrots as unfortunately we ate them all with our Sunday roast. But, with a little love and care, a generous glug of wine and some yummy bacon, I can promise you won’t miss them at all.

Little tip: My family go to special measures to obtain David’s Chilli Oil – it really adds depth and flavour to even the blandest of dishes and is perfect for use in chilli’s, spaghetti and curries.


Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 400g Steak mince
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 rashers bacon
  • Sprinkle dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1-2 tsp chilli oil depending on heat (I used David’s Chilli Oil)
  • A good glug of red wine (I just went for it but around 100ml)
  • 1 tsp cooking salt
  • Generous sprinkle of pepper
  • Gluten free spaghetti or tagliatelle
  • Dairy free cheese (I usually use Violife)


  • Heat up 1 tsp olive oil in a medium sized saucepan. Chop up the bacon into squares and add to the pan, heating for 10 minutes or until golden
  • Chop up the onion and cook until soft
  • Next, throw in the garlic and rosemary and stir in
  • Add the mince steak and breakdown, stir until browned
  • Add the plum tomatoes, crumble in the beef stock cube and sprinkle in the basil and oregano
  • Add the chilli oil and pour in a good glug of wine
  • Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding seasoning as desired
  • Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions
  • Grate a handful of cheese
  • Once the sauce is nice and thick, drain the spaghetti and add the bolognaise on top
  • Sprinkle on the cheese and some basil to finish

Buon Appetito!


Scallop, chorizo and prawn salad with wilted spinach


Scallops are very much a new addition to my diet due to the fact that year’s ago, they were expensive and actually not that easy to get your hands on if you lived slap bang in the middle of the Midlands. In fact, the first time that I taste tested the squishy little delicacies was on a holiday to Wales a few years ago and I can still remember the trouble we had trying to release, prepare and cook the live shellfish.

Thanks to their wide spread popularity, scallops can now be found at most supermarkets up and down the country, washed and sealed for the convenience of lazy people like myself who are put off by the thought of trying to manhandle a shellfish.

I made this easy peasy dish at my recent Mediterranean night and it was well loved by everyone sat around the table. So without further ado, let’s get cooking.



  • Prepared pack of scallops
  • Half ring of chorizo
  • Large handful of spinach
  • Parsley
  • Baby or king prawns
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the chorizo, turning until golden and crisp. Transfer to a plate, making sure to leave plenty of juice in the pan
  2. Next, toss in the scallops and prawns and fry for 3 minutes on each side on a moderate heat
  3. Place a handful of spinach into the pan and leave to wilt
  4. Prepare a plate with lettuce and tomatoes
  5. Add the chorizo back into the pan and mix well with the shellfish
  6. Throw in some parsley and serve on the bed of salad

Paprika chicken with mango, avocado and sweet potato in a red wine vinegar and honey dressing


I’ve never been one to make a boring salad. Some people will rustle together some tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce and call it done, but I like to go to town with a salad and throw in some really simple but delicious ingredients.

I invented this dish after raiding the fridge and wondering what I could put together in under half an hour with leftovers and it’s one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted. The sweetness of the mango and honey, mixed in with the spice of the paprika and the creaminess of the avocado work really well together and it makes for a great weeknight meal when you’re in a rush to get to yoga.

If you fancy adding a few carbs into the mix, slice up a nice, fresh ciabatta and layer on the ingredients for a quick, on the move meal.


  • Chicken breast or leftover meat
  • 1 – 2 tsp of paprika
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 mango
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • Half sweet potato
  • Mixed salad leaves
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. First preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius and layer the bottom of a tray with foil
  2. Make slashes on the top of the chicken and place on the tray, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp of paprika depending on personal spice preferences and season with salt and pepper
  3. Chop the sweet potato into chunks and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil onto the whole tray. Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes
  4. Chop the mango into chunks and the avocado and pepper into slices
  5. Meanwhile, layer a plate with the salad leaves and prepare the dressing by adding a tsp of red wine vinegar, honey and olive oil into a mug and mixing well
  6. After 15 minutes into cooking, add the pepper onto the tray
  7. Eight minutes before full cooking time, add the mango and avocado to the tray and drizzle on the dressing to complete
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, take out the tray and add the ingredients to the salad

Rosemary lamb salad with shredded sweet potato in a mint and honey sauce


This has to be the most delicious salad I have ever invented. The juice of the lamb blended in with the honey and mint is to die for and it’s a perfect, filling salad to throw together in just a few short minutes using left over ingredients.

You have the option here of using the leftover meat from a Sunday roast, but if you’re anything like me and scoff a whole leg of lamb in a single afternoon, a nice tender lamb steak will work just as well. The combination of olives and mint add a touch of Morrocan influence to the dish which works really well alongside the shredded sweet potato.


  • Lamb steak
  • Quarter of sweet potato
  • Two spring onions
  • Pine nuts
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Stuffed olives
  • Honey
  • Mint sauce
  • Mint jelly
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary
  • Salad leaves
  1. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan
  2. Chop up the lamb, place in the frying pan and sprinkle with rosemary
  3. Slice the sweet potato into thin slices and fry in the pan with plenty of olive oil until golden
  4. Chop the spring onions and add to the pan
  5. In a bowl, add a generous helping of honey and mint jelly and half teaspoon of mint sauce
  6. Drizzle the sauce over the lamb in the frying pan and mix well
  7. Prepare the salad by chopping the cherry tomatoes in half and the cucumber into quarters and placing on a bed of lettuce leaves
  8. Dot the olives around the plate and sprinkle on the pine nuts
  9. Transfer the meat onto the salad and serve

Bacon baguette with melted cheese, fig jam and drizzled honey


Friday night is snack night at my house, and I love nothing more than to get back home and begin the weekend with a delicious meal that takes just minutes to whip up, leaving me with more time to re-watch my Game of Thrones box set with a small, okay, large glass or two of wine.

It is tradition to have bacon sarnies in my family, mainly so we have a good appetite left over to enjoy a whole two days of good wining and dining. However, in true ‘whatever you make, I can make better gluten free’ style, I decided to go one step further this week and cook up a bacon baguette with melted cheese and spring onion, drizzled in a sweet fig and honey sauce for good measure. Well, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I have to say it beats a bacon and tommie sauce cob any day!

So, without further delay let’s have a look at how this fantastic concoction was first invented. I promise you won’t be disappointed.



  • Gluten free baguette or ciabatta
  • 3 good strips of crispy bacon
  • Cheese – I used Violife dairy free cheese
  • Spring onion
  • 3-4 figs with the flesh scooped out
  • Honey
  • Coriander
  • Dairy free spread
  • Lettuce
  1. Grill the bacon until crispy
  2. Half the figs and scoop out the flesh. Mash into a fine jam
  3. Chop the onion and butter the baguette
  4. Place the cheese on the baguette and grill for 5 minutes until melted
  5. Put a layer of lettuce on top of the cheese and layer on half of the fig jam
  6. Put the bacon on top, sprinkle on the onion and coriander, then finish off with the rest of the fig jam and drizzle on some honey
  7. Serve and enjoy

Chipolata and cannellini bean casserole


I often find that some of the best recipes I’ve ever discovered are the ones I’ve made up on the spot using leftovers in the fridge and a few condiments from the store cupboard. This recipe is no exception. It was a Friday night, I hadn’t planned what I would have for tea that day and so got to work digging through my freezer to find meat that I could defrost in the microwave relatively quickly.

The fantastic thing about this dish is that it can be made using whatever you have in your kitchen. I have used cannellini beans because I always keep a tin in just in case I want to liven a dish up, but kidney beans or chickpeas would work just as nicely. The incorporation of some leftover soya cream and half eaten dairy free chocolate also produces a casserole with a really creamy consistency which is truly beautiful on the palette when mixed up with the spice of the chilli powder.

I did leave the casserole to stew for a good 20 minutes after I had thrown everything in to ensure that all the flavours could fully express themselves, but I reckon this dish could give some of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals a run for their money. It really is an easy peasy weekday meal that the whole family will enjoy.

Little tip – this casserole would taste great with quinoa or even brown rice, but in true last style, I discovered that the packs I had in my cupboard were quite a few months out of date, so I had to substitute them for basmati rice.


  • Six to eight gluten free chipolatas chopped into 2cm pieces (Marks and Spencer sell GF or Black Farmer chipolatas can be found at major supermarkets)
  • Red onion
  • Red, yellow or orange pepper
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • Cannellini beans
  • 1 and half teaspoon single soya cream
  • 1 and a half chunks of dairy free dark chocolate such as Kinnerton or Celtic
  • Chilli powder to taste (Start with 1 teaspoon and add more depending on personal taste)
  • Splash of Heinz BBQ sauce
  • Rice or quinoa
  • Salt & pepper
  • Teaspoon sugar
  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Coriander
  1. Heat olive oil in the frying pan and caramelise the onion
  2. Boil salted water in a pan and cook the rice according to pack instructions
  3. Add the chopped up chipolatas and cook until golden
  4. Add the pepper and mix together well
  5. Pour in the cannellini beans and tin tomatoes and stir. Add a teaspoon sugar to sweeten the tomatoes
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add the chilli powder, a sprinkle of basil and marjoram
  7. Throw in the cube of chocolate and mix well
  8. Add a splash of BBQ sauce
  9. Pour in the soya cream and mix together well
  10. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and add further chilli powder depending on personal preferences
  11. Allow to stew for around 20 minutes until thickened nicely
  12. Serve alongside the rice and sprinkle coriander on top


Sweet potato tuna jackets with cherry toms and chilli dip


When I get home from a long day at work and have just an hour to spare before needing to head back out to tennis practice, I need something super quick and easy to make for tea, but which will also give me the energy I need to run around a court after missing the majority of the balls heading my way. Tuna sweet potato jackets with a zesty lemon salad and spicy soya dip fit the bill perfectly!

I admit, I stole this recipe off what I think is one of the best websites for easy recipes – BBC Good Food. As you may know, my love for the humble and somewhat underrated sweet potato never falters, and as I suffer with eating the skin on a regular jacket potato (I’ll pay money for any reasons you can give me as to why I have this problem) I often incorporate this vegetable in my weekly meals.

I have to say, as I can’t eat normal dairy yoghurt I was a little unsure about combining the soya alternative in this dish, as I know it has a somewhat different, less zingy taste to Greek or natural yoghurt, but once mixed in with the sweet and savoury tastes on the plate, I can’t say I really noticed any difference and I thought the flavours worked perfectly.

Of course, the original recipe didn’t suggest roasting any peppers, cherry tommies or red onion but I am a massive fan of roasting anything that can be roasted as I really think it brings out extra flavours, and also, as I stuck my jacket in the oven for ten minutes to go slightly crispy, the accompanying veg was ready to come out at the same time.

Great for a quick lunch at work, a speedy home time meal or when you’re belly’s telling you it wants feeding, this is your classic snackathon supper! Oh and yes that meal was for two people, not just me *cough cough*


  •  Sweet potato
  • Can of tuna
  • Red onion
  • Red pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Coriander
  • Soya yoghurt (or regular if not dairy free)
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Stick the sweet potato in the microwave on full power for around 10 minutes
  3. Chop up the red pepper, red onion, chilli and wash your cherry toms
  4. Place the sweet potato and a baking tray full of the veg in the oven for 10-15 minutes
  5. Whack a bit of salad on a plate, throw in some cucumber, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with basil and oregano
  6. Once crisp, cut the sweet potato in half, let the tuna meet the veg and dollop on a generous helping of the yoghurt
  7. Introduce some coriander, drizzle in some lemon or lime juice and Bob’s your uncle