06 May 2022

5 Halal restaurants in Manchester to visit this summer

Friday, May 06, 2022 0 Comments

This post has been written in collaboration with SquareMeal, which helps you find and book a table at your favourite restaurants.

With another Ramadan behind us, it's good to be back to a more normal eating routine. Don't get me wrong, of course, the spiritual benefits of Ramadan are huge, but it's physically taxing. For some reason this year felt tougher than usual, even though the fasting times weren't that bad (particularly in the beginning), and the kids were off school for their Easter break for the majority of it as they got a whopping 19 days off.

Anyway, we're now looking forward to family meals at regular times, meeting up for BBQs, and of course, eating out! Ramadan tends to be a really busy period for visiting halal places because everyone who wants to eat out does it at the same, specific time in the evening, but now we can plan the outings during the day again, so it should be easier to plan something.

After having kids off school for so long, we're also looking forward to having some adult-only outings! My husband and I are already planning some child-free lunches for when we're both free and the kids are at school, so I complied a list of 5 halal places in Manchester that I think would be worth visiting.

1. Tampopo

With four locations across Manchester (Albert Square, Corn Exchange, and two in the Trafford Centre), Tampopo serves the flavours of East Asia. You can choose from a selection of exciting street food, or signature dishes from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. While they're not fully halal, their website offers a separate halal menu where the dishes are either vegetarian or cooked with certified halal chicken. However, some of the dishes are cooked in the oven that is also used for pork, and some contain mirin (Japanese rice wine) - these are clearly marked for you to make an informed decision. There are still plenty of dishes on the menu that are fully halal though, like my favourite Pad Thai.

2. Zouk Tea Bar & Grill

As they describe themselves, "Zouk is a true melting pot of the very best in modern and traditional cookery". Founded by two brothers who wanted to share their love of authentic recipes with a modern twist, this contemporary restaurant truly has something for everyone. It combines the best of Lahore's fun street food with all the traditional dishes of Indian sub-continent. Whether it's a karahi, biryani, or even lobster Thermidor that you're after, this is the place to go. They even do the Sunday Roast! All the meat is halal, but bear in mind that alcohol is served.

3. Jasmine

Based in the suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Jasmine is a casual Lebanese restaurant. With reasonably priced food and relaxed atmosphere, it seems to be a firm favourite among the locals. They offer a selection on small sharing plates, as well as larger mains. You'll find anything that you'd expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant: from hummus and baba ghanoush, to koftas, moussaka or lamb chops. They also have fresh bread on the menu, which is honestly always my favourite part of eating in a Middle Eastern place! They are also one of the restaurants that accept SquareMeal gift vouchers, so if you try them and like it enough to share the love with family or friends, Jasmine is one of the places that will let you buy a meal for them.

4. Dishoom

Paying homage to old Irani cafes of Bombay, Dishoom is another Indian restaurant that needs visiting. The all-day menu includes all the favourites, like their charred lamb chops, intensely flavoured daal or the family recipe of chicken tikka. You can also pop in for an afternoon cup of chai, and they serve their signature tipples to those who do drink alcohol. They even have a special dish just for Manchester, their exclusive Nalli nihari biryani - tender lamb shank layered with rice, under a pastry blanket. Sounds like a biryani lover's dream!

5. Evelyn's Cafe Bar

This one has been on my list for a long time, just never really got round to it! Evelyn's Cafe Bar in the Northern Quarter seems to be THE halal brunch place in Manchester, serving a variety of options: from bircher muesli, to shakshuka, and even steak and egg. It definitely sounds like a perfect place to have a lazy start to the day. Or, if you're an earlier breakfast person, they offer lunch dishes like fish & chips or a cheeseburger, and then the dinner menu from 5pm. 

So, these are my top five restaurants that I've had my eye on for a while, and hoping to finally try this summer! They all seem quite popular and have loads of good reviews, but as always I would love to hear anyone's opinion about them, or recommendations for other halal places around Manchester that you think are a must!

25 January 2022

Islamophobia in Britain - a middle class prejudice?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 0 Comments

Disclaimer: The following text does not necessarily reflect my own opinion. It is published for informative purposes only, as received via the University of Birmingham. Relevant sources are linked in the text.

A recent survey, led by the University of Birmingham, in conjunction with YouGov, shows that people from the middle and upper class (social group ABC1) are more likely to have prejudices about Islam and Muslims than those from working class backgrounds (social group C2DE). 

The survey was presented in a report titled 'The Dinner Table Prejudice: Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain', a research study conducted by Dr Stephen H. Jones and Amy Unsworth, published by the University of Birmingham - full report available HERE

There were six main findings in the survey:

  1. Of people identified as the ABC1 social group, 23.2% have prejudiced views about Islam, compared to 18.4% of those from the C2DE group. However, asked about views about Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities, it emerged that generally it's older people, men, working class people, and Conservative and Leave voters, who are consistently more likely to be prejudiced.
  2. Muslims are the UK's second 'least liked' group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers. Over a quarter of the British public (25.9%) feel negative about Muslims, with 9.9% saying 'very negative'. That's significantly more than 8.5% for Jewish people and 6.4% for black people.
  3. More than one in four people, and almost half of Conservative and Leave voters, believe in so-called Sharia 'no-go areas'. 26.5% of the British public think that there are places in Britain where non-Muslims are not able to enter, as they are ruled by Sharia law. This belief was expressed by 43.4% of Conservative and Leave voters. In addition, over a third of British people, agree that 'Islam threatens the British way of life'.
  4. Support for prohibiting all Muslim migration to the UK is 4-6% higher than for other religious and ethnic groups - 18.1% of people said they support a ban on all Muslim migration, with 9.5% declaring a  'strong support'.
  5. The British public is almost three times more likely to have a prejudiced view of Islam than other religions. 21.1% of the British public believe (wrongly), that the followers of Islam are taught to read the Quran 'totally literally', compared to 7.5% for Judaism and the Hebrew Bible.
  6. British people are more confident making assumptions about Islam than other non-Christian religions, but these assumptions are much more likely to be incorrect. The respondents of the survey acknowledged that they have a certain level of ignorance about non-Christian religions, with 62.7% stating they are 'not sure' how Sikh scriptures are taught, and 50.8% admitting the same about Judaism. However, in the case of Islam, people seem more confident that they have a good knowledge of it, with only 40.7% being unsure. That's despite the above point, that 21.1% of people wrongly assume that the Quran is to be taken 'totally literally'.

Dr Stephen Jones from the University of Birmingham, lead author of the survey, says:

“Prejudice towards Islam and Muslims stands out in the UK, not only because it is much more widespread than most forms of racism, but also because prejudice toward Islam is more common among those who are wealthier and well-educated.”

He recommends that there should be more acknowledgment from the Government and public figures of how Islamophobia stands out compared to other forms of prejudice. Furthermore, the civil society organisations and bodies concerned with discrimination and prejudice should acknowledge the systemic misinformation about Islam being common in British society. Educators should provide guidelines clarifying when acceptable criticism can become harmful, and religious literacy should be made part of any large-scale equality and diversity campaigns. Dr Jones says, however, that he doesn't call for any law regulating the criticism of religion, rather calls for recognition of the fact that "the British public has been systematically miseducated about Islamic tradition" and steps should be taken to remedy this.

02 January 2022

02/01, World Introvert Day - what makes an introvert

Sunday, January 02, 2022 0 Comments

 Happy World Introvert Day!

A hand holding a cup. Text on the cup says busy introverting. 

It might seem weird that someone blogging and active on social media, hence exposing at least parts of their life on life, can be described as an introvert - you'd probably assume that an introvert is simply that antisocial person, who stays in their own bubble and doesn't share anything with anyone.

While partially true, the term "introvert" along with its opposite of "extrovert" has been devised by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s, and refers more to the way we use our energy. While extroverts get their energy from social contacts, introverts would recharge through time alone with their minds.

If you're not really familiar with either term and might only just be looking to define yourself, here are some general behaviour patterns common for introverts:
  • Needing quiet space to concentrate
  • Taking time making decisions
  • Often escaping into their imagination, daydreaming
  • Feeling tired and overwhelmed by large social gatherings
  • Not having a large social circle, but staying very close to those you do befriend
  • Feeling comfortable being alone for longer periods 
  • Preference to write rather than talk
  • Preference to work alone rather than with a group

That feeling of dread when you have to make or take the phone call - sounds familiar? I'm terrible for it! I'm fine talking to my husband, parents, and maybe a couple of friends. And I can do school office and GP appointments. Otherwise please text me or send an email, thanks. If I can sort something out online rather than on the phone, trust me to do it! And if not, I have to psych myself up before making that phone call and will postpone it as long as possible. Took me a week to make a hospital appointment for a dental referral last time, although that had the fear of dentist added to it to be fair.

Introverts tend to be a part of a wider spectrum, and often can have some extroverted traits. Like I hate meeting new people and will not go out seeking friendship myself, but once I'm familiar with someone I sometimes feel like a bit of an extrovert comes out, I open up and might talk a lot. And I like busy places, will take a big loud city over the quiet countryside any time!

In 2011, a study found there are four basic types of introverts: social, thinking, anxious, and inhibited. There are also varieties according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which outlines characteristics of 16 personality types -  you can find various online tests based on their theory, that can help you find out more about your own type. According to the one I did and found crazily accurate, I'm an INFT-P personality, the "Turbulent Mediator" - quiet, often lost in imagination, looking for a fulfilling career that I'd genuinely love, sometimes lonely and isolated as struggling to reach out to people. Read HERE and you'll get a pretty good insight into me I'd say.

One misconception that most people have is that all introverts are shy. In most cases they just prefer peace and quiet, small groups over crowds, and simply enjoy the alone time to recharge. There are, however, the "anxious introverts" mentioned above, who feel awkward and shy around people - I suppose that would be me then. I'm fine with basic interactions, like shops, cafes, etc, and with people I'm already familiar with, but try to introduce me to a new crowd and I'll be freaking out. Invite me to a party, I'll just hang out with people I already know. 

Also, although it might sound strange, it can get lonely. While as a Mediator type I value the friendships I do have, and like for them to be long-lasting and meaningful with a handful of people rather than having a large social circle to hang out with, I also tend to withdraw and often find it hard to reach out to people, especially after a longer break in contact. 

To conclude - introversion is a really broad subject. There are different types of introverted personalities, with varying needs and traits. It doesn't always equal shyness, although it can, and while we like being alone we still can be upset by the loneliness. 

That's just briefly touching on the main idea - for more visit, for example, https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-an-introvert, where you can also find links to some studies about different types of introverts, or learn more about the difference between introversion, shyness and social anxiety. To find your own personality type, check out https://www.16personalities.com/ for super accurate (at least for me) analysis.

01 January 2022


Saturday, January 01, 2022 0 Comments

Hello, and welcome or welcome back! 

It's been a funny couple of years... I have actually taken a step back from here for the whole of 2021. In 2020 I did try to get this blog back on track, did a few things that were in line with what I originally wanted it to be, but it sort of flopped. Not gonna lie, that was massively discouraging and made me think whether there was any point in me trying to run it anymore. I wasn't really feeling it in the past year, I accepted the fact that my life just isn't particularly exciting and maybe there's just not enough in it to blog about.

But you know what? I thought I'd give it another go. I've done a little bit of work on the website's look, went through the old content deleting irrelevant posts, put a few back into drafts for some little updates, and have a notebook filled with new ideas - it's now just a matter of me actually converting them into digital content!

In the meantime, especially if you happen to be new here, do check out my refreshed "About Me" page as your starting point, and I'd love it if you would check out my social media (all buttons on the right) and maybe follow me there :)

18 November 2020

Halal-friendly jellies - Asda

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 0 Comments

Welcome to another installment of my halal jelly guide! It's ASDA's turn today, after already looking at Tesco and Sainsbury's. If you haven't seen one of these before, we'll be looking at which of the supermarkets' own jellies are halal diet-friendly.

I think ASDA was actually the shop that first gave me the idea for these posts, as it's the one we currently use the most alongside Lidl and probably buy their own brand sweets most often. Now you might think it would've made sense for me to post about those first, but I actually did Tesco and Sainsbury's first for that very reason, that I don't go there often - I happened to have a rare chance to visit those, so I decided to just get that done.

Anyway, ASDA's halal-friendly jellies and such. We do buy them quite a bit because Aminah is crazy for jellies (especially the fizzy rainbow belts, sour as anything but she would happily go through the whole pack if I let her!), they come in nice little packs and are normally 5 for £1.Let's see what we can choose from:

1. Jelly beans - As I mentioned in the previous posts, a popular one in our house, so I'm glad to find them with the green V sign. I did, however, notice shellac on the list of ingredients, and I said earlier that I had doubts whether it's halal or not. After a quick check, I discovered that the Vegetarian Society actually considers shellac to be vegetarian (although not all sweets containing shellac are marked vegetarian) - more details HERE.

2. Midget gems - Here's a bit of a different one from our usual choice. These fruity gummies are a bit of a classic here, along with wine gums. On that note, ASDA's wine gums are halal-friendly too (despite the name, they do not contain alcohol), but they wouldn't have any takers here so I chose not to buy any.

Back to the standard offering - sadly yet again the strawberry pencils (cables) don't make the list, as they contain pork gelatine.

3. Strawberry and Rainbow laces

4. Rainbow belts

5. Strawberry and cola wands

That's all I have found in ASDA that could get on my halal-friendly list. If you think you have anything to add or correct, do let me know! Hope you're enjoying my mini-series here, I welcome any suggestions on what to explore next :)

04 November 2020

Halal-friendly jellies - Tesco

Wednesday, November 04, 2020 0 Comments

Welcome back to my little Halal Food Guide! As I mentioned in the previous post of the series, I'm trying to take the blog back to its basics and explore more about halal-friendly food choices. I'm currently focusing on sweets and jellies, and last time I looked at Sainsbury's offering. Next up: Tesco.


The nearest Tesco to us is an Extra store, so I was hoping for a good selection. Well, can't say I was that impressed - same standard choice as everywhere, and boo-hoo the strawberry pencils have gelatine in them! Let's have a look at what we CAN have then - again, I've only picked from the jellies and other soft sweets that need a gelling agent.

1. Mini Jelly Beans - Really glad to see those with a V symbol, they are always popular with the kids. I mentioned last time about the shellac that's used in some brands of jelly beans, and that I try to avoid it as doubtful, so these are just a safe option to pick up.


2. Strawberry/cola/bubblegum lances - Pretty standard offering, so far they seem to be veggie in all the shops I've gotten them from. The bubblegum flavour was something new for us though, it was great to see a different one to the usual choice of strawberry and cola.

3. Milk bottles - These were a bit of a surprise. While getting the stuff for these posts I go through every single kind of sweets on the shelf looking at ingredients, even if I might've seen the same sweet in another shop and I know it would usually contain gelatine. We really liked these, they taste like sweet cream and have a good texture - sometimes veggie jellies aren't as nice as those with animal gelatine, because of different gelling agents used the textures can be a bit off, but these were pretty good.


4. Fizzy Multicoloured Belts - Another pretty standard one across all the shops.


5. Strawberry Laces - Or "jelly spaghetti" as my kids call them. Another one that's usually veggie across the shops.


This was all that I found in Tesco (from their own brand) that was halal-friendly - kind of expected more, as their own brand sweets selection was quite big, but that's always something and we did get couple of new things 👍

02 October 2020

Halal-friendly jellies - Sainsbury's

Friday, October 02, 2020 0 Comments
When I first started this blog, the idea was to share my own journey of learning about halal food and life as a new Muslim. And maybe throw some parenting bits to the mix, as I was about to have my first baby. I wanted to help others in my position, share what I've learned - mainly about the halal food, as I was exploring it wasn't just about giving up pork and alcohol - I've realised for example how many products have gelatine in them, and what other ingredients aren't halal.

That turned me into a serial label checker - whenever I'm buying something new that I haven't tried before, I always read the label first. In the UK it's a bit easier, as I normally just need to look for the "suitable for vegetarians/vegans" bit, or the green "V" sign on the packet. I find, however, that some products might miss that little note even though the ingredients indicate that they are suitable for vegetarians, so if something doesn't obviously contain animal-derived ingredients (as in if it's not clearly a meat product), I always double-check.

Now, the trickiest thing to buy over the years, especially since having kids, have been sweets - jellies in particular. Yes, there are some halal ones available - always a bit of choice in local halal shops and even most supermarkets will have some in the World Foods aisle. It's mostly imported Haribo though, and I find them slightly overpriced - and contrary to some people's belief, stuff doesn't have to have a "halal" logo slapped on to be halal - if it doesn't contain haram ingredients, you're good to go.

So I decided to resume the "Halal Food Guide" thing I was doing some time ago, and this time I'll be focusing on jellies. I've had this idea that I'd go through supermarkets' own sweets and check out the choices - I normally just go for tried and tested, or check as I go, but thought it would be good to actually know how much stuff is available there that we can safely buy.

First up - Sainsbury's own sweets range. I picked up everything that was vegetarian/vegan friendly - I only chose the gummies and soft sweets that you could potentially expect to find gelatine in, rather than boiled sweets that won't normally have any unsuitable ingredients. 

1. Fizzy straws and belts - these can be found in probably all major supermarkets, and so far I think I've always found them to be vegetarian. Similarly, strawberry and cola laces (for some reason I don't have photos of those here).

2. Fizzy Rainbow Pencils - pencils one of my favourites, with the soft centre and the jelly coating. I usually buy strawberry pencils in other places, but to my surprise the Sainsbury's ones have beef gelatine in them. They are pretty much the same thing, except the rainbow ones are thicker and well, rainbow - I'd expect both varieties to be vegetarian really.


3. Mini Jelly Beans - this is a popular choice with the kids. Many varieties use shellac as coating, which is derived from insects - I have found conflicting opinions on whether shellac is halal or not (if anyone has a reliable source to confirm either way, feel free to share!), so always best to just stick to the veggie ones.


4. Fizzy Fangs - it was great to find these, just a little more variety than the usual choice of the fizzy straws and rainbow belts (typing this has just made me realise that we didn't pick any up!)


5. Fruit Jellies - these were a hit with us grown-ups! Shaped like fruit segments, they're delightfully soft and fruity. We've found similar ones in Poundland a while ago and regretted not buying more - they also remind me of jellies I used to eat back home, shaped like orange or lemon slices 


6. Flying saucers - not jellies, but as I picked them up I thought I might as well include them here. They are sherbet-filled wafers, not just vegetarian but vegan too.


If I missed anything else, feel free to let me know! This is the selection I managed to pick up on my recent visit to Sainsbury's, in case of any doubts conduct your own checks x

24 September 2020

Fun at home with Fiesta Crafts masks*

Thursday, September 24, 2020 0 Comments

 *We were sent the Unicorn Head mask craft kit for the purpose of this review

With Adam back at school, Aminah and I now have lots of time for just the two of us. With the weather being... well, typical British weather, and with nowhere to go with restrictions still in place here, it means a lot of time at home. 

She's at that age when she absolutely loves pretend play and dressing up - as much as she enjoys roaring like a dinosaur, being a pirate or a superhero, most of the time it's all about makeup, wearing pretty dresses and being a princess, unicorns and rainbows. Seriously, what's the deal with unicorns though? Were they as popular when we were little?

Quite understandably then, she went absolutely mad for the Unicorn Head mask craft kit, which we have received from Fiesta Crafts.

The Fiesta Crafts mask kits contain all the elements to make your own 3D mask - there are 8 cool designs to choose from, which are great for pretend play and as part of fancy dress costumes.


They come as flat-packed craft kits, suitable for children aged 5+ - Aminah is just under 3 so her job was just to wear it and be a unicorn, but Adam could do it with a bit of help. This one consists of just 4 parts to put together, and easy to follow instruction card. You also don't need anything extra, like glue or tape, as all the elements are joined by putting small tabs into slots, which are all numbered too.

Once complete, the mask was an instant hit - it's a little too big for Aminah, but that doesn't stop her. To my surprise, Adam quite liked it too, and happily tried it on. However, I could see he's a little disappointed we didn't get the dinosaur one instead, so I *might* have ordered one for him ;) 

We don't celebrate Halloween, but these masks would make a great part of a costume - for any fancy dress party actually. They are made of a quite sturdy card, and actually big enough for adults too (I can fit my big head in, but not really great with glasses!) - I can see the mask lasting quite a while, even with my wild two!