Greek inspired chickpea and chicken salad

As February is drawing to an end and spring is in the horizon Mr Allergy and I thought we’d switch to lighter lunches this week.

Lunch is one of my more difficult meals, and many of the options are just really boring. We often have leftovers from the night before, but for one reason or another this week doesn’t work out that way.

I love browsing Pinterest and recently I’ve seen a number of Greek inspired chickpea salads, and this piqued my interest. Chickpeas are a great source of protein and dietary fibre, and they add extra oomf to a lettucy salad.

I couldn’t find one recipe that suited my taste, so decided to use a mish-mash of ideas to create my own.

I began by marinading some chicken breasts, using the juice of one lemon, 2 cloves of garlic, a glug of extra virgin olive oil and approx one teaspoon dried oregano, plus salt and pepper to season. I blended it all together in a pestle and mortar and marinaded the chicken for about an hour before roasting it in a medium oven for about 35 mins, until it was nice and juicy.

While the chicken was roasting I whizzed up some more of the marinade, this time to make a dressing. I chopped a red and yellow pepper, red onion and flat leaf parsley, drained and rinsed 2 tins of cooked chickpeas and put it all together in a bowl. I was very proud of my Instagram worthy display of colour, but decided next time I’ll add green pepper or cucumber to add extra rainbow!

I then cooked some quinoa. I don’t often have much luck with quinoa, it usually comes out sticky and wet and not very pleasant. I always follow the instructions on the packet, but it just never works. So I googled “what is the best way to cook quinoa?” I found this: Perfect quinoa and it works!!! I now had perfect fluffy quinoa!

I added the quinoa and dressing to the bowl and gave it a good old stir. The aroma of garlic and lemon juice was wafting up nicely, and I really wanted to try some, but I held off, deciding to wait for the surprise at lunchtime. The mixture by now looked like this:

My chicken was now ready, so I sliced it into bit sized chunks and allowed it to cool before adding it to my lunch box, along with some dairy free Feta alternative from Sainsbury’s. My lunch was now virtually ready to go. All I would need in the morning before going to work was a handful of salad leaves! I think there will be enough mixture and chicken to do us both two or three lunches each, and it’s great having it prepped and ready in the fridge.

The finished dish was the perfect post gym class lunch today, and Mr Allergy sent me a text saying his was awesome, so I guess I’ll be making this again!

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Starter as you mean to go on?

The humble starter. I think Great British Chefs description is good, “A well-chosen starter recipe can set the tone for an entire meal.” So why is the starter often such a disappointment?

I had my Christmas lunch today at work. There was a set menu which was supposed to cater for all tastes and diets, but of course, me being me, it didn’t cater for my weird variety of allergies.

I should get it out there and say that the main was good:

Turkey ✅

Roast potatoes ✅

Sprouts ✅

Carrots ✅

Pigs in blankets ✅

Gravy ✅

The waitress wasn’t sure if I could eat the stuffing, so I went without.

The dessert was the usual fruit salad, but after a big lunch I didn’t mind.

It was the starter that really got my goat, and to be honest the normal people’s one didn’t look great either.

The normals got a big cold tomato filled with guacamole and cream cheese with a little salad garnish and a bread roll.

I got a big cold tomato (I don’t like tomatoes) stuffed with cubes of melon and cold chopped asparagus with a salad garnish and no bread roll. You’ll see from my picture that this was just sad looking, and it tastes no better. It was just weird. I mean, who looks at my allergy list (dairy, egg, nuts, fish, avocado(maybe)) and thinks, “I know just the perfect combination of food. Cold tomato, asparagus and melon!” Why do we not see this classic combination used in Masterchef?! There was a funny little drizzle of something on the plate which I must concede was quite nice. I ate everything (except the tomato), but that was only because I’d paid for it, not because I liked it.

I got into a discussion with my neighbour at the table next to me, as we couldn’t fathom why this odd starter had been chosen in the first place. On a cold wintery day we were expecting something with a little substance. A nice chunky vegetable or lentil soup for instance.

This got me thinking about starters in general and why starters for special diets are always so terrible. Yes, I’m fairly limited in what I can eat, but I would have been happy with melon and cured ham. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it tastes so good.

Generally restaurants (in particular the chain restaurants) have an ok selection of one or two things I can eat. Chicken wings are always a winner, but I’m also partial to bread and olive oil, olives, hummus or a nice meaty terrine. Event caterers really struggle and I normally end up with a plate of melon or some other fruit or something random thing like today’s designer dish. There are so many good recipes out there and these are professional caterers so why is it so difficult?

I love reading food magazines and pinning recipes on Pinterest, and my favourite starter recipe is Good Food’s Ham hock and mustard terrine which is delicious served with a dollop of Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney and some lovely fresh bread. In fact, this is what Mr Allergy and I are making for Christmas this year. On second thoughts I could be tempted to test out the tomato/melon/asparagus combo on my unsuspecting family and see what they make of it….

Dietary Requirements (or a lunch debacle)

Conferences and seminars are in abundance at the moment it seems. You don’t get many for the first eight months of the year, and then all of a sudden they all come along from September to December.  

I love a good conference, seminar or training session.  I like learning. Apparently when I was a child and Mum asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I didn’t want to grow up, I wanted to keep learning. I also like visiting new places, meeting new people and catching up with familiar faces. However I also dread these events for the reason that is lunch. 

When booking my place I dutifully add my long list of allergies in the small space dedicated to “Dietary Requirements.”  I then follow up with an email saying something along the lines of “Can I just double check you’ve got my requirements….if the caterers need to check anything I’m happy to have a chat….and by the way I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I do eat meat. And I’m not allergic to gluten…..” You get the picture. 

Lunchtime comes and I’m never sure if I can eat the main dishes laid out for “normal people” or if I’ve got my own special plate somewhere. I’m immediately looking like a weirdo with people thinking I’m pushing into the food queue, when in reality I’m just checking.  I’ve learned not to just get in the queue and hope for the best, as by the time I get to the front and realise I can’t eat anything, lunch break has almost ended and my tummy is still empty!

Some caterers get it right. I attended a session at the Hilton Bankside last year and there were loads of dishes to choose from, each with an allergen label next to it. This was great because I could blend in with the other delegates and not cause a scene. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum I attended an event recently where the caterers are usually very good. I always get my own plate of food which is very nice-often some kind of salad with grilled chicken or beef.  Unfortunately they got it very wrong this time. The plate was labelled with my name and the list of allergens exactly as I had stated in the booking and email follow up: dairy, egg, nuts, fish and avocado. They had provided a choice of sandwiches filled with chicken and guess what? Mayonnaise.  Now, the last time I checked, mayonnaise was made with egg. Which I’m allergic to. As it says on the label stuck on the mayonnaise sandwiches!!!!

What ensued next was total embarrassment for me and the person I was talking to, who worked for the host company.  They apologised a lot and I told them not to worry a lot. It was all very British! 

What I dislike the most about this sort of scenario (which wasn’t the first and most definitely won’t be the last) is that discussion all becomes about me and my stupid allergies and not about the topics of the event, which in my opinion is the very reason for being there. 

Next week I’m off to another seminar, so I wonder what culinary joys will await me?

If any of my readers have any tips or suggestions on how to deal with these sorts of issues I would welcome your comments!

Adventures of Allergy Girl en España: Part 1

I recently spent a few days in the resort of Pineda de Mar, which is located several miles outside of Barcelona.  Pineda is a small resort, and we used it as a base camp for IRONMAN Barcelona, which Mr Allergy was competing in.

On route from Barcelona to Pineda we stopped for lunch at a small beach cafe in Mataro. There were a number of eating establishments along the main drag, but most were fish restaurants, which I had to avoid unless I wanted to end up resembling a puffer fish! 

The menu had a good selection of hot and cold bocadillos (sandwiches), and was printed in Spanish and English. I have a little bit of Spanish, so can usually get by, but what I found really useful was that this menu showed the allergen symbols for each item.  Many restaurants in the UK don’t have this, so I was astounded to see it in a small Catalonian beach cafe. Brilliant!!! 

I enjoyed a lomo (pork loin) boccy, which was served in warm crusty bread, spread with tomatoey garlicy olive oily stuff that went really well with the pork.  

To top it all there was a fabulous view and warm sunshine ☀️
I just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant! 

The Wine Cellar Bar & Bistro, Chelmsford 

I had a fantastic lunch today at The Wine Cellar in Chelmsford town centre.  

Hidden off the main road, down a little alley near the church, you wouldn’t immediately know it’s there. A slightly tricky climb down the narrow staircase brings you into a gorgeous quaint, cozy cellar.
I ordered a pulled pork panini from the extensive pick and mix sandwich menu, which is brilliant for people with allergies.  The panini was delicious and filled with BBQ sauce, caramelised onions and soft, meaty pulled pork. Mmm. 

I also ordered a portion of onion rings “for the table.” The chef made some special onion rings with lemonade batter as I’m allergic to the usual batter he uses (which has egg in the recipe). 

The waitress was attentive and completely understood my allergies.  If I’m ever back in Chelmsford I would definitely eat here again.  Highly recommended!! 

Tried and tested: Hemsley + Hemsley bean and bacon hash

I recently treated Mr Allergy and I to some new cooking books by Hemsley + Hemsley. 


The recipes always look so nice, and they’re good for you, so that ticks several boxes.  As with all recipe books I buy there are probably only about 30% of the recipes that I’m not allergic to, and others I can tweak. This particular brunch recipe didn’t need tweaking, so I thought I’d give it a go.


The best thing about this recipe is that there are no fussy or difficult to find ingredients. I either already had them at home or picked them up at Tesco.  It doesn’t take a huge amount of prep and is pretty quick to cook.

The ingredients suggest an onion or a leek, but I decided to use both to give it extra bulk and add one more of my 5 a day! Had a bit of an accident whilst chopping the onion but I can’t blame the Hemsley sisters for my own stupidity.  I can safely say I won’t be doing that again!


I used a small tin of chopped tomatoes, but next time I make this I probably won’t use them.  They tasted good, but they made the hash slightly soggy. I would prefer it a bit more bubble and squeak-like.

I was quite happy with the overall result though, and Mr Allergy was grateful for a filling, healthy meal after just having completed a middle distance triathlon. I’d say it’s a winner!

The Golden Lion, Winchester: A roaring success

I went out for lunch yesterday with my family.  My sister in law and I chose a pub just outside of Winchester with a really nice looking menu. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that the whole world and his dog would be out for lunch on the first Sunday of the school holidays and our choice of pub was fully booked.  My sister in law phoned around and managed to find a space at The Golden Lion in Winchester. 

At a glance the menu looked quite limited. The usual lunch menu wasn’t available on a Sunday, as the pub explained, they focus on roast dinners and don’t open up the whole kitchen.  I didn’t fancy a roast, so I thought I’d see what was on the Vegan menu.  My readers will know that I’m not Vegan, but being allergic to dairy, egg and fish, Vegan food can sometimes suit me, although I have to be aware of nuts. The menu is colour coded with little smiley faces, each colour corresponding to a different allergen, which is a novel idea, but no good if you have allergies and are colour blind like my brother! Some of the colours looked fairly similar on the paper, so I personally would have preferred symbols, words or letters. However, on the plus side this pub takes allergies very seriously.

I passed the Vegan menu around the table and two of us ended up ordering the olives and ciabatta with olive oil and balsamic dip as a starter. This was meant to be a dish for one, but there were so many olives that even with Mr Allergy’s help we couldn’t finish them all! There were three slices of fresh ciabatta, which was about right for one, but it could have done with a little bit more of the olive oil and balsamic dip. 

For my main course I decided to skip the meat (which is unusual for me, I like meat), and ordered the falafel burger in a pretzel bun. I’m not sure what made this a pretzel bun, it tasted just like any other bread but at least it wasn’t brioche. Everywhere I go now burgers seem to be served in brioche, but I noticed even on The Golden Lion’s standard menu they don’t use brioche, which gets the thumbs up from me (they also have a ‘skinny’ option with no bun, and a gluten free one).  

The falafel was absolutely delicious, it was bursting with fragrant herbs and the mango chutney worked really well with it (I wasn’t sure it would when I read the menu). 

The burger was definitely the star of the show flavour wise, but not wanting to be outdone, the chips were served  in a mini fryer and the side salad in a tiny colander.  This was quirky. The chips were easy to eat from the little metal basket, but there were far too many of them. The salad was pretty tricky to eat as I couldn’t cut the food in the little colander. In hindsight I probably should have tipped the salad onto the plate, but then what would have been the point of the colander? 

I was disappointed that the portions were so large, as there were three dessert options on the menu and I was looking forward to trying the millionaire’s shortbread, but I just couldn’t eat any more food!

This is clearly a pub that not only understands the law regarding allergens in food, but tries to make the choices offered as interesting as possible. I would recommend this pub, and suggest if you’re feeling adventurous like me, try the Vegan menu.  You might be surprised at how good it is!