Totally biased product review by me — The Spice Tailor

The Spice Tailor

That artfully composed photo above shows the ACTUAL curry we made using The Spice Tailor

This blog was set up in part for Brits in Toronto to find the best curries in the city. That includes restaurants and the kind you can cook yourself at home. But which are NEVER as good as the restaurants. (Ping us if you know different, we’re all ears …)

Spotted The Spice Tailor on the shop shelf and was enticed by the nice package design. Always a sucker for a photo of the person that created the recipe, so did some Googling and found out this product is the result of Anjum Anand’s hard work. She’s a TV chef from the UK, so already bonus points as we all know the best curries come from the UK.

As we’re quite lazy too, we’re very keen on products that take the hard work out of throwing a Ruby Murray together after a hard day at work. The Spice Tailor we tried (Tikka Masala) had three separate pouches included: whole spice pouch, a base sauce and a stir-in sauce. All you have to provide is the meat/seafood and veggies. We also added some more hot sauce because this particular version was quite mild to our palate.

After toasting the spices for about 30 seconds we added chicken (already cooked to save time), added the base sauce and simmered for a few minutes. We stirred in the main sauce and cooked for a further 10 minutes or so. It was really quick and easy.

The final result? A nice, tasty curry that hits the spot but may need some extra hot sauce added to it depending on your taste. We’re keen to try more in this product range and give it a Brits in Toronto 3/5 stars.

Update March 17, 2020

We’re goan in!

On the advice of Anjum Anand herself (on Facebook but we can’t remember the link so here’s proof she is an actual person) we tried the Fiery Goan Curry tonight which was definitely a notch up in the spice level and, again, flavour was on point.

So we’re happy to upgrade The Spice Tailor to a Brits in Toronto 4/5 stars.

The Toronto British Expat Meetup Group Pub Quiz is happening February 22

Toronto Brits

Future British BFFs

Amanda got in touch and asked us to give a shout out to the first The Toronto British Expat Meetup Group Pub Quiz night of the year — no — the DECADE! It’s a biggie.

Details …

The quiz is a mixture of general knowledge and specific categories, covering all things British, Canadian and the world … and as always, there will be a theme.

DATE: Saturday, February 22

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

VENUE: Duke of Somerset, 655 Bay St., Toronto (nearest subway station is Dundas or College)

Please go to www.meetup.com and find the TORONTO BRIT MEETUP GROUP (with Amanda as the organizer)and sign up for free if you haven’t already. All the details are there.

Have fun all!

Toodle-pip, European Union

Brexit underline

Time to go it alone

Today, the UK is finally leaving the European Union, one of the most historic events in its history.

You’re either cheering or crying. No middle ground on this one.

Not going to get into the politics here, the pros and cons, the predictions. It’s happening and now we must all hope for the best and see if it was the right decision.

Will be keeping an eye on stats regarding more Brits coming to Toronto in the next few years. Or more Brits going home.

Who knows?

BBC TV News wants to chat to Brits abroad about Brexit

BBC News

The Beeb wants to chat to Brits abroad

We got an e-mail from someone at the Beeb who wants to chat to Brits abroad about Brexit. Here’s the request so please contact Victoria if interested.

Hi everyone, I’m Victoria Cook, a journalist at the BBC News in the UK.

I am looking for some British expats living abroad to take part in a short BBC TV News feature about Brexit. I’m keen to hear from people whose lives and/or businesses may be affected either positively or negatively after January 31.

It wouldn’t involve much commitment — just a short video message from your phone!

My contact details:

Tel: (from Canada) 011-44-7711348905
E-mail: victoria.cook@bbc.co.uk

Happy to explain more about it if you’re interested.

Kind regards,
Victoria Cook (in London)

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and fun 2020!

Happy New Year 2020

Wishing everyone a happy new year for 2020

I’ve been admittedly a bit absent from the blog for a while, for no particular reason. Just life, really. But thought it a good time to check back in as the last few days of the decade trickle by.

It’s that weird period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve where time melds together … a bit like Jeff Goldblum and the fly but without the huge bulbous eyes and acid vomit.

Seemed a bit narrow to wish just Brits in Toronto a great new year, so also hoping that Brits in London, Tottenham, Battersea, Cambridge, Leeds and a ton more also have a brilliant 2020!

Brits in Toronto has been going for over six years now (first post) and I’m thankful for all the support and suggestions along the way. Seems like only yesterday it was voted “Best New Website 2013” by my mum.

A huge highlight this year was the first Brits in Toronto/Toronto FC event we organized on a warm summer evening that brought out the crowds to watch some football and mingle. I personally met some people there for the first time that I’ve got to know via the blog, so hoping we can plan another one in 2020.

Also hoping to get some Brits together at a pub in Toronto around the end of January for a (formerly postponed) laugh or cry — depending on your political leanings — over Brexit and a pint or two. Seems like it’s finally happening now so let’s just get on with it. CBC News will probably come too and film some reactions.

One of my favourite parts of the blog is Successful Brits in Toronto. Constantly proud and inspired to see how people have left family and friends behind in the UK and made a good life in this city. Definitely want to feature more of those in 2020 so please send them my way.

I sense more Brits will be looking to move to Toronto next year and start the all-important job search. It’s definitely not easy. But there’s a place on the blog for those who are interested to send some info about themselves, what they are looking for and a link back to an e-mail or LinkedIn profile to give them a little head start.

Always interested in hearing about new places opening … food … drink … events that may be of interest to Brits so please send those along too for a totally biased product review by me. Sometimes there’s free stuff to be won, which is a bonus.

So, expect more posting frequency next year and the chance to connect, whether online or ideally, in person. It’s fun.

And that’s a wrap for the decade. Wishing everyone a fantastic new year and see you in 2020!

The 15th Annual @European Union Film Festival featuring British film, Only You

Only You

A tantalizing scene from Only You

The 15th Annual @European Union Film Festival – Toronto runs from November 7-21 and will be showing 28 films from 28 countries, all at the Royal Cinema.

This year, Brits in Toronto are thrilled to be co-presenting the Canadian premiere of the British film Only You playing on November 11 at 8:30 p.m.

As always, admission to the festival is FREE but you can reserve your seats in advance to avoid the line-up here.

Check back to this post/Twitter account a week before screening for your chance to … WIN TWO FREE TICKETS! = All you have to do is retweet this.

Here’s the trailer to wet your whistle:

Brexit: Are we over the line yet?

Brexit door

When one door closes another one stays closed too

Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on pinning the tail on the PM, Brexit, pensioners in Canada who receive the UK State Pension, and the upcoming Canadian election. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.

I received an e-mail from British Bloke yesterday and he invited me to write an article on Brexit — he said that I could write something for him this week, or wait until after the weekend.

Did I want to write something now (and look foolish next week) or play it safe and write after the vote. I told him that I was very busy this week, and would next week be OK?

The e-mail from him came at a timely moment as my octogenarian friend James (you may remember that I first introduced you to James in the Ouch! How Brexit is hurting UK pensioners in Canada and in the later article James and I go to London) and I were playing pin the tail on the next PM. Even with a blindfold on, he managed to pin it on Elizabeth May three times out of five — he always has had a penchant for strong women.

I had to explain to him that Elizabeth May was not standing in every constituency, and since he lives in Ontario he will have to choose somebody closer to home …

In a nutshell, where are we with Brexit?

So far, this single issue has blown through two Prime Ministers: David Cameron and Theresa May (who submitted essentially the same “Withdrawal Agreement” to the UK Parliament four times in succession, only to have four resounding defeats, leading to her resignation) and now threatens the short tenure of Boris Johnson.

This last one seems very strange since he easily won the hearts and minds of the Conservative heartlands in becoming PM, and he has been very consistent in saying that the UK is leaving the EU on October 31, come hell or high water, with or without a deal.

But there has still been strong resistance in his own Party, never mind Opposition parties that could see and smell blood in the water already.

In order to avoid a head-on collision, Boris prorogued Parliament which was deemed illegal, then the Benn Act was passed which forbade Parliament from taking the “no deal” route, and, instead Boris would have to agree with the EU a new withdrawal date).

Boris then expelled 23 members of his own Party for voting against him (including a good friend of the “frozen” pensioners, Sir Oliver Letwin (no name dropping, but one of the cleverest men James and I have ever met)), and he has kept plugging away, even issuing a document this week entitled “No-Deal Readiness Report” and agreed a “new” deal with the EU.

This was put before the UK Parliament today (Parliament has only sat three times since 1939 on a Saturday.

What has all the fuss been about, you may ask?

Finding a solution in Ireland that suits Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and the EU — an impossible task you may think. Everyone was agreed that there should not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (this would be like annulling the “Good Friday Agreement” and nobody wants to go there).

Boris has now agreed with the EU that the whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union. This will allow the UK to negotiate future trade deals with any country in the world. There will be different tax rates for goods that are transported to Northern Ireland, depending on where they are for use in Northern Ireland or whether they will be transported to the Republic of Ireland, and vice versa; goods that arrive in the Republic of Ireland will be taxed differently depending on whether they stay there or whether they are transported to Northern Ireland or the UK. More details of the “deal” can be found here.

Since my main interest in all of this is the impact any Brexit deal has on UK pensioners living in the EU. Essentially, if a Brexit deal is struck with the EU before the end of this month, then the UK pensioners living in the EU (of which, according to data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) there were 498,000 as at February 2019) will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension (a bumper 4% next April) for the transition period which ends on December 31, 2020.

The transition period will then be used to negotiate reciprocal social security arrangements between the UK and each of the EU countries such that the UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive free healthcare and UK State Pension annual increases.

If the UK has not finalised a deal with the EU by October 31, then things get really interesting. Boris is adamant that the UK will leave by the end of this month, even if that means there is a “no deal,” and the Benn Act of Parliament prevents this from happening. The Benn Act is interesting because the Judiciary usually keeps its nose out of political decision making, but not so on this occasion.

So, if the UK does crash out of the EU on October 31, UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension until 2023 — presumably because it will take much longer to negotiate bilateral social security agreements with each of the EU countries, since they will be really pissed off with the UK.

Also, with a “no deal” it is not clear whether the UK will still have to pay the divorce bill — which, according to the pillar of the British press, The Sun, is an amount “between £35 and £39 billion.”

It has taken a long time to get here, but how does this affect UK pensioners who have come her to Canada to retire?

According to Department for Work & Pensions numbers, there were close to 134,000 UK pensioners living here, and there will be no “bumper 4%” increase for them next April (there are over 26,000 of them who are receiving less than £20 per week (say, CAD 32), and another 50,000 who are receiving between £20 and £40 per week). A UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level at which it is first received, with no annual increase, ever.

So, by way of example, if you had retired from the UK and came here to Canada in 2001, aged 65, on a full UK State Pension, you would have received £72.50 (C$159) per week. You would still be getting £72.50 a week (C$119), but in real terms getting C$40 less per week due to the drop in the £ to CAD exchange rate. Since emigrating here, your peers back in the UK will have received £26,538 (C$47,026) more. If you are a retired UK ex-pat, this chart may help you see how much less you have received.

If you are already affected, or think that you will be affected by the UK “frozen pension” policy, and would like to help us in our fight, please check out the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) and they may be able to help you.

Once new bilateral social security agreements have been negotiated between the UK and EU countries, then the “frozen” pensioner action groups like CABP will challenge the UK Government on a “why them, and not us?” basis.

Finally (at last, you say), if you were one of the 3.4 million Advanced Poll voters, then congratulations. If you didn’t vote in the Advanced Poll, and you are eligible to vote, I implore you to get out and vote on October 21.

This could be a close federal election, and every vote counts. I have no idea who James will be voting for … he is playing his cards very close to his chest … but, to his chagrin, it won’t be Elizabeth May!

Where do you stand on the “frozen pensions” issue? Nigel can be reached through:

E-mail: theretiree@telus.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011398010359
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/FrozenBritishPensions/