Eating out when you can’t eat your country’s staple crop is a real pain. Most dishes are accompanied by pasta or bread or swathed in pastry or breadcrumbs and soups, stews and sauces are usually thickened with flour. Eating on the run is even worse: most snacks – sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, sandwiches, cakes, panini, chocolate bars, fast food of the burger and fried chicken variety from chains whose names I dare not speak – are out of bounds. You can’t even pick up a packet of Gary Lineker’s favourite crisps anymore. Like a vicious moray eel, gluten also lurks in menus, waiting to pounce, where you least expect to find it. Something that seems innocuous and that you would never in a million years suspect contained gluten, has had flour bunged into it to make it go further and/or last longer.

You have to educate yourself and do it fast or you make painful mistakes. I got caught out early on in my glutenfreebie life with a mushroom omelette and chips in a greasy spoon. I blithely munched my way through it, enjoying every mouthful, secure in the knowledge that mushrooms, eggs and potatoes don’t contain gluten… It enjoyed me half-an-hour later when the banging headache, constricted throat and nausea kicked in. Little had I known that, not only were those cheap chips made from potato reconstituted with wheat but that they were probably also fried in the same oil as the battered fish and onion rings the rather sticky menu in the café was also advertising. My mantra is now “Assume Nothing!” and I always ensure that everything I order has none in it because I ask, which is a good job or I would have been caught out with the poached salmon salad in a pub in Cheltenham (the vinaigrette salad dressing?!) and the poached salmon and steamed potatoes in a restaurant in Cardiff (the hollandaise?!).

I’m not complaining (much). I understand that profitability in the food industry means ensuring the happiness (or full tummies) of the greatest number at the cheapest price and adulterating naturally gluten-free food with wheat is a way of doing it. And I don’t expect, as a member of a minority, to be universally catered for. Although there is an increasing number of restaurants who are willing to cater for those with dietary restrictions, I do think that the others who don’t are missing a trick. Restaurants, take note! We might only make up a small percentage of people who go out to dine but when we do, we don’t usually do it alone (we may not eat gluten but, funnily enough, we DON’T have two heads!). We therefore not only take our own custom to a restaurant that can cater for us but we also take the rest of our party, potentially increasing that percentage three-, four-, five-fold… Just a thought…

Anyway, if I want a burger now, I have to make them at home. On the upside, at least I know that what’s in them is healthy and nutritious. This is non-junk comfort food at its best.

And I don’t have to eat them out of a polystyrene carton either.

Gluten-free harissa lamb, feta and olive burgers with garlic lemon mayonnaise

Makes 4 burgers

1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
400g minced lamb
1 tbsp harissa
100g feta, cut into 5mm cubes
50g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
40g gluten-free breadcrumbs
olive oil for shallow frying
150g quality gluten-free mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced or ¼ tsp garlic granules
zest of half a lemon and juice of a whole lemon
salt and pepper
4 gluten-free hamburger buns or rolls (I used Sainsbury’s seeded rolls, pictured)
chopped lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Fry the onion gently in the olive oil for several minutes until softened, golden and translucent. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes until the edges are slightly tinged with brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, cooled onions, harissa, feta, olives, eggs and breadcrumbs. Form into four equally sized burgers and chill until ready to cook.

To make the mayonnaise, simply combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the burgers and fry for about 7-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through, turning just once.  Serve in a toasted gluten-free hamburger bun garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and the garlic lemon mayonnaise.

NB These can be frozen but their texture is much better when cooked from fresh.

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