Guest Blog: Life as a Gluten-Free Student

Thanks to the power of Twitter, the lovely Saara Aziz came across and was so impressed, has written us a special Guest Blog post! Having been student herself, she understands the challenges of cooking at eating when you’re at uni – but even more so when she discovered she had to follow a gluten-free diet. There will probably some of you out there who are probably in the same situation – let her experiences and words inspire you!

‘When you tell someone you’re wheat/gluten intolerant or you have coeliac disease, you’re usually met with a blank stare. That is, until you tell them about the stuff you can’t eat such as pizza, pasta, McDonalds and beer, then that person literally embraces you in a huge sympathetic hug.

Life for those with either wheat/gluten intolerances or coeliac disease can be quite challenging, but living life as a student whilst suffering from these can be very, very difficult. Not only are you having to balance an active social life alongside your studies, you’re also trying to live independently, be more money conscious and learn to eat/cook the right foods.

Gluten battles!

For those who don’t know, wheat/gluten intolerance and coeliac disease (an auto immune disease, where gluten,found in wheat, barley and rye, damages the lining of the small intestine) completely changes a persons life. One crumb from wheat/gluten-laden delights can make a person seriously ill. Once diagnosed, you suddenly find yourself in this unfamiliar territory in supermarkets, looking at gluten and wheat-free foods with confusion, and buy small-sized loafs from unusual sounding companies which are three times more expensive than your basic loaf.

You discover not only that you can’t eat the obvious any more such as pasta, pizza, toast, ‘Subway sandwiches’, ‘Krispy Kremes’ to name a few, you also find that you can’t even eat the not so obvious like brown sauce for your bacon buttys and Cadburys Wispa bars for example. Understandably, suffering from the pain of eating certain foods and being confused of what to eat or how to cook the new foods can really put a person off cooking. – a life saver!

That is why I believe that is an important site for students, who like myself, find themselves too frightened to cook either due to their intolerances and coeliac disease or just the lack of confidence. Not only does it provide students with easy and delicious recipes, it also provides shopping tips within your area in an exciting way. Plus, due to their ‘fun approach’ it makes learning to cook seem fun instead of feeling like a chore. What’s more, some of the recipes listed can be easily adapted to suit those with dietary needs once you’ve gained the confidence to add your own touch to recipes.

I wish there was something like and my own site, when I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease in my first year of university. I wasn’t confident at cooking, my abilities in the kitchen stretched from pouring water into a Pot Noodle to toasting some bread. Thanks to the horrible stomach pains and symptoms I suffered due to my coeliac disease, I became very frightened of food. I didn’t like the taste of gluten-free food and I felt extremely isolated. Due to these feelings, I became depressed and felt there wasn’t any support for people who were newly diagnosed. There weren’t many sites dedicated to purely student cooking and none whatsoever dedicated to gluten-free student cooking.

My own site for gluten-free students

Which is why I started my own site: The Gluten Free Student Cookbook, which aims to find the easiest and cheapest way to make gluten-free, student friendly grub. I’m no Gordon Ramsay by any means but I like to show students that if I can make these recipes then anyone can. Before venturing into the world of gluten-free cooking, my ‘cooking’ abilities we’re pouring the right amount of boiled water into a Pot Noodle (which I sometimes failed at!).

A gluten-free treat: Easy Peasy Buttery Biscuits!

So, to show my love for, here’s an exclusive recipe from myself for you all to try. The reason I picked biscuits is because they’re really cheap to make, simple and versatile so when you start gaining some confidence you can start adding you own twist to these, such as seeds, fruit, nuts or even chocolate. What’s more, these biscuits store very well so you’ll have these for a few days once stored in an airtight container. On top of that, you can snack on these whilst studying, dunk them in your coffee whilst you watch Hollyoaks or pack them in your lunch boxes.

• 50g butter (soft)
• 75g caster sugar
• 1 medium eggs
• 1 tsp of vanilla extract
• 250g gluten-free plain flour
• 1 tsp Xanthum Gum [this will be optional if your gluten free flour already has it in it's mix]
• 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1. Pre-heat oven to 180c.
2. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and butter until soft and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix together.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (plain flour, Xanthum Gum, baking powder) and mix together until it forms a dough (you might need to use your hands).
4. Lightly flour a clean surface and gently kneed the dough. Carefully roll the dough out till it’s about 1cm thick. Now it’s time to cut out the shapes, you can either use a biscuit cutter. You can use anything for this, I even used the rim of egg cup to make small bite-size biscuits.
5. Pop your biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet or greaseproof paper and pop in the oven for 10/15 mins. Once cooked, carefully take the biscuits out of the oven and let them cool then enjoy!’

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