Now, I love me a good lasagna and I pride myself on making a pretty mean one.

Today though, I had the opportunity to make one for someone with a very specific diet and I had great fun rising to the challenge.

I had to make it completely gluten free and substitute cows’ milk and cheese for goats’ as well as switching several of my usual ingredients.

Here’s what I used!

  • Buckwheat flour
  • Just under two boxes of gluten free dry lasagna sheets

Lasagna ingredients

For the red sauce:

  • 2 bottles of passata (I would normally use tinned tomatoes)
  • Small bunch of fresh basil
  • Dried oregano
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 aubergine
  • Most of a large bag of spinach

I chopped the aubergine and courgettes into small pieces and fried in olive oil until lightly browned. Usually, a little before this point I would add in some finely chopped garlic, but I had to forego it this time. I also normally use mushrooms, but I substituted them for aubergine.

I added the passata and threw in some salt and pepper to taste (sorry, I never use measurements!) as well as finely chopped basil and dried oregano.

While that bubbled away nicely I set to work on the white sauce. I just added the spinach in right at the end so it didn’t overcook.

For the béchamel:

  • Butter (I used regular butter as my friend didn’t mind)
  • Buckwheat flour (I thought I had gluten free flour, so had to improvise)
  • Semi-skimmed goats’ milk
  • Nutmeg
  • Small block of hard goats’ cheese

I wasn’t sure the sauce would thicken as it normally would, as I was unfamiliar with the textures of the flour and cheese I was using. There was a worrying moment when I didn’t think the cheese would melt either, but thankfully it all came together.

If you don’t know how to make a béchamel, it really is quite simple.

Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan (I used two very generous ice-cream scoop sized knobs of butter as I was making a lot of sauce). Once completely melted, slowly sieve the flour into the butter, stirring gently as you go. Keep adding flour until the sauce reaches a thick, sticky consistency. I roll it into a ball, as it makes the next bit a lot easier.

From there, slowly keep adding dashes of milk, while stirring gently. It’s important to add the milk gradually and keep stirring so you don’t get lumps. The key is to keep stirring the sauce over a low heat so it doesn’t go lumpy or stick to the pan.

Once you’ve got a good amount of sauce and it’s at a consistency you’re happy with, gradually start stirring in the grated cheese. I used most of the small block, saving a little bit to put on the top.

Once the cheese is all melted in, you might need to slowly add more milk in. Again, I never use measurements, I just keep throwing things in until it looks and tastes good!

Then I added in salt and pepper to taste, and grated in some fresh nutmeg (you can also use the pre-ground nutmeg). Again, I add this to taste, but have to be supervised as I’m notorious for using far too much nutmeg. I love it so much I think I’ve gone mouth-blind. Is that a thing? Like nose-blind?!

To assemble the lasagna

Line the bottom of a large glass dish with some lasagna sheets. You’ll need to snap some into small pieces to fill in gaps, unless you happen to have the perfect sized dish. Word of warning, gluten free lasagna sheets are harder to snap than regular ones – I got shards of pasta sheets everywhere! The pack did suggest blanching them first which would probably have helped, but I personally never bother with that.

From there you just layer pasta, white sauce, pasta, red sauce, and so on. The last layer should be sauce, not pasta, and then I like to sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.

Lasagna

Pop in the oven at 180° for 45 minutes. This will vary depending on size, but I just wait until the top looks nice and brown, and I always cut through to make sure the pasta sheets are soft enough.

Serve up and enjoy!

My verdict

I’m a huge fan of goats’ cheese so I absolutely LOVED the flavour of the béchamel sauce. I found the buckwheat flour gave it a slightly grainy, mealy texture, but I still really enjoyed it.

Using passata instead of tinned tomatoes made the sauce a lot smoother, which was quite nice. While I missed the mushrooms I enjoyed the aubergine. I don’t know why I haven’t always been putting it in my lasagna! I found it difficult not being able to use garlic, but with fresh basil and the other seasoning, I thought it still had a really nice flavour.

I didn’t love the texture of the gluten free pasta sheets, but that could have been my fault for not blanching them first. I just found them a bit chewy and grainy.

Overall though, I would definitely make this again. I didn’t feel as bloated as I normally do after lasagna, and the flavour of the goats’ cheese was a winner in my book.

Lasagna

Just look at that bubbling, cheesy goodness!

Hi guys,

So as you probably know, I struggle with OCD and have done since I was a child.

You’ve also probably noticed that OCD is the butt of many jokes at the moment.

From OCD candles that ‘smell like OCD’ to ‘Obsessive Christmas Disorder’ cards, if there’s a play on words to be done, it’s probably out there somewhere.

And I’m bloody sick of it. OCD is a debilitating mental illness, and shouldn’t be trivialised in this way. If people understood what OCD really is (and not any of the myths flying around), they probably wouldn’t be so quick to joke.

So, that’s what #OwnYourOCD is all about.

I want as many of you as possible to share your experiences with OCD. That could be blog posts, photos of your cracked and bleeding hands, or details of your compulsions with the hashtag #MyOCDMakesMe.

The goal is to fill people’s timelines with REAL accounts of OCD, start conversations and put an end to misconceptions and stigma.

Who’s with me?

#OwnYourOCD

What Thordis Elva is doing isn’t dangerous, but thinking we have a claim to her pain is.

Yesterday, Cosmopolitan published the remarkable story of Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger. To summarise briefly, the pair were in a relationship 20 years ago. One night, when Thordis was drunk, Tom forced himself on her. She was 16.

Years later, she reached out to him, and the pair embarked on a journey down the long road to forgiveness. Now they give talks about what happened all those years ago, and have co-authored a book, South of Forgiveness.

The article stirred up a lot of outrage on Twitter, and while I can understand where it’s coming from, I think we need look a bit deeper.

I appreciate that the issue here is that Tom has been given a platform. He doesn’t deserve to have a voice – he’s a rapist after all, right?

No. I simply don’t agree. While I don’t sympathise with him or condone what he did, he has a right to share his story. A story that I believe carries an important message. His account details how over the years he faced up to what he did, and shifted the blame of the attack onto himself. He learned that being in a relationship with someone doesn’t entitle you to their body, a lesson I fear many others have yet to learn. If his story stops just one other person from committing the same awful crime he did, then surely his openness is a positive thing.

As Thordis herself puts it,

“I understand those who are inclined to criticize me as someone who enabled a perpetrator to have a voice in this discussion. But I believe that a lot can be learned by listening to those who have been a part of the problem — if they’re willing to become part of the solution — about what ideas and attitudes drove their violent actions, so we can work on uprooting them effectively.”

I couldn’t agree more. I may not feel comfortable reading the words of a rapist, but I truly feel that the positive impact of his candour will far outweigh my uneasiness. It’s clear that Thordis understands the seriousness of what she’s doing, and I think we should trust that they will use their platform responsibly.

Thordis wants to share her story, and for reasons we don’t need to understand, she wants Tom to be a part of that. By suggesting Tom shouldn’t have a voice, are we not saying Thordis shouldn’t either?

Many people have sadly gone through what Thordis did, and quite understandably wouldn’t be able to forgive their attacker. But we can still support what she is doing without invalidating our own feelings. There is no ‘right’ way to recover from sexual assault and while we might not understand how Thordis is able to have the relationship she does with Tom, we have to respect her right to do what she needs to heal.

You have every right to be outraged.

No-one would blame you if you didn’t want to read their book or listen to what they have to say. But for every person that disagrees with what they’re doing is another person that could draw strength from their story of forgiveness. So please don’t be so quick to brand what they’re doing as ‘dangerous’.

Tom has a voice here because Thordis has given it to him. If we silence him, we are effectively silencing her. And that’s dangerous.

You can watch their Ted Talk here.

You are not weak, you are not worthless, and you are in no way deserving of what happened to you.

You are not broken, damaged, or selfish.

You haven’t been tarnished or tainted. You are not dirty.

Please trust me when I say you are none of the things you believe about yourself in your darkest hours.

I need you to read these words and believe them:

You are not alone.

There is no right or wrong way to process what happened to you.

Maybe you feel numb and empty; maybe you feel searing pain, sorrow, or rage. Maybe you don’t know what you feel.

None of these make you half a person, lost, or unworthy of love.

Maybe you remember nothing, maybe you can never forget.

Maybe it rushes back when you least expect it, and like a crashing wave, knocks the wind right out of you.

It won’t always be this way.

You are strong.

You are courageous.

You are worthy of love.

And you will be OK.

If you’re struggling and need help, please reach out.

The Samaritans are free to call on ‎116 123 and can be reached 24/7. ‎

Alternatively, you can speak confidentially to your GP, who may prescribe medication or refer you to a local counselling service.

If you feel able and ready to speak to the police about what happened you can find advice about reporting sexual assault here.

 

 

 

 

The wonderful Lauren from Lauren Evie recently organised #MHMailSwap (more info here!), and I was paired with Alice from Invocati. If you haven’t checked out Alice’s blog you really should. She’s the loveliest, most supportive person and her incredibly thoughtful letter and care package brought tears to my eyes.

You’ll be able to read the letter she sent me on her blog, but for now I will leave you with my words of advice to her. They are mostly tips and tricks for self care, and I hope you will find them useful too.

x

Dear Alice,

I hope you’re doing well. But I want you to know that if you’re struggling at the moment, that’s alright too. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, and it’s definitely nothing to be ashamed of. I must admit, I’ve found it hard to write this letter. After a lot of thought I realised that finding the perfect words of my own was going to be impossible, so I decided to share the words of others instead. These are the words that have picked me up off the ground and kept me going. I only hope they can help you as much as they’ve helped me.

You will get better”

Those four simple words gave me hope at a time when I felt utterly broken. Even though I doubt myself sometimes, those words in the back of my head give me the strength to keep going.

On the other side of your pain is something good”

The other day, when I felt lower than I have done in a long time, I watched Dwayne Johnson talk about his struggle with depression. He said a lot of great things, but it was those words that stayed with me.

You are not selfish”

It’s OK to lean on other people. It’s OK to reach out and admit you’re struggling. There are so many people who care about you and want to help. You’re not a burden, I promise.

You are strong”

You’ve overcome everything life has thrown at you so far. The fact that you’ve made it through each day is a testament to your strength, resilience and determination. You’ve got this.

I understand that it might be hard to believe these words. I sure as hell know I’m struggling to right now. But things will get better, because quite simply, they have to. I wholeheartedly believe that.

For the days when kind words aren’t quite enough, here are a few small, practical things I do to look after myself

Have the ultimate duvet day

Nothing quite beats bringing your duvet to the sofa, curling up and watching loads of Netflix . My go to favourites are Gilmore Girls, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Big Bang Theory.

In your care package you’ll find some treats – sweets (obviously), a magazine (a nice distraction if you get bored of watching TV), and Percy Pigs (an absolute must!). You’ll also find some Chai tea (the ultimate hug in a mug), as well as a few bags of my absolute favourite tea (I wanted to buy you a whole packet but I didn’t get the chance, sorry!).

Oh, and a cup of tea wouldn’t be complete without biscuits – you’ll find some of those in there too!

Keep easy meals in the house

On days when just getting out of bed is a struggle, it’s better to eat a crappy microwave meal than not eat at all. M&S do loads of lovely ones that are a little bit more indulgent than most boring ready meals.

Take a lovely hot shower

If I feel completely flat and lacking in motivation nothing helps kick me into gear more than a nice long shower. There’s also something incredibly soothing about crying and feeling the hot water wash away your tears. Pamper yourself (I’ve included a few of my favourite shower-time treats and an amazing face pack for you to enjoy), sing at the top of your lungs and let yourself get completely lost, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

x

I hope this letter has made you smile, and that you enjoy the treats I’ve sent you. I promise you, things are going to get better.

You’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. And if you’re ever having trouble believing that, you’ve got me and no doubt loads of other people who will be more than happy to remind you.

All my love,

Mel xxx

Letter and pampering treats

Alice’s lovely care package to me.