What I love about food is that it can transport you to different places or recall memories of places you visited and meals you enjoyed.
I visited Marrakesh six years ago and the place was an assault on the senses. The heat was like nothing I’d ever experienced, and the onslaught from traders left me a little stunned. What I did love was the food, which was too delicious and varied to cover in one post.
What I still crave was the delicious freshly made bread that was served everywhere. Perfect with tagines if you can’t face couscous, or great with houmous and olives, or soup for lunch.
I found a recipe from Cooking the Globe which is pretty much spot on for recreating what I remember. The ingredients and methods are straight forward. It does require a decent amount of kneading , but I don’t mind this as it allows me to burn off some stress and do some rage baking.
250 ml Warm Water (about skin temperature or luke warm, not too hot or it will kill the yeast)
500 Grams Plain flour (you can also use strong bread flour if this is what you have)
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Sugar
2 & 1/4 Tsp or 7 Gram Sachet of dried yeast
In a small bowl add the warm water, sugar and yeast and stir. Leave in a warm room for 10 minutes, it should start to foam (if it hasn’t done this your yeast is dead)
In a large bowl combine the flour and salt, then gradually add the yeast mixture and work together until you get a soft dough (you may need to use a little more or less water)
Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until smooth (this is time to let your rage baking take hold) or if you’re well adnusted and have a stand mixer ou can use the dough hook. Divide into two equal size balls, cover with a slighlty damp tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Transfer the bread to the baking sheet, flatten slightly to about 2-3 cm thick, and and cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm room for an hour to rise
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Uncover the bread and knick each loaf 4-5 times with a knife if you want to be totally authentic you can sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina. I didn’t have this and it was still fine
Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap them
With the weather improving it’s time to eat a little lighter, and make use of all the delicious veggies that are now coming in season. If you want something healthy full of crunch and protein, then this is the perfect salad.
Ideal for lunch or as a side dish, this salad has lots of colour and fresh flavours (don’t skimp on the herbs). If you don’t already do it, window boxes full of herbs will transform how you cook and eat. The dressing has some Asian flavours for a little extra zing, but if it’s not your thing you can leave out the miso and ginger.
75 Grams Green lentils (dry weight, or use 1 Can of ready cooked lentils)
150 Grams Bulgar wheat, dry weight (you can also use cous cous, barley or whatever grain you prefer)
2-3 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)
1 Courgette /zucchini (grated)
75 Grams Cucumber (seeds removed, and chopped into 1 cm chunks)
1 Apple (chopped into 1 cm chunks and cover with some od the lemon juice for the dressing to stop it going brown)
1 Carrot (grated)
1 Handful Parsley or mint (chopped)
1 Handful Coriander (chopped)
I Tbsp Pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper
1 Lemon (juiced)
2-3 Tbsp Oil
1 Tbsp Grated ginger
1 Tsp Miso paste
Cook the lentils and Bulgar wheat according to the instructions on he packaging, set aside and allow to cool. If you are using pre cooked lentil just drain them
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad ingredients
Mix well and add salt pepper if you think it needs it.
This pie is very satisfying but still quite light and a good way to get your daily dose of veggies.
I use frozen spinach, because it’s cheaper and a kilo of fresh spinach will take up half your kitchen, make sure to squeeze out as much water as possible so the pie won’t be soggy. Fresh herbs add flavour, and while dill is traditionally used, I used parsley and mint which are also used in some parts of Greece.
Filo pastry can be bought in most larger super markets. Make sure to cover the pastry with a slightly damp tea towel to stop it drying out when you are making the pie.
The pie can be eaten hot or cold and can live in your fridge for 2-3 days. It’s great as a lunch dish served with some salad or as a side dish.
1kg Frozen spinach (defrosted, and all excess liquid squeezed out)
Handful of finely chopped parsley and mint
250 Grams Filo pastry
200 Grams Feta style cheese (crumbled)
1 Leek or bunch of scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)
1 Tbsp Oil
25 Grams Butter (melted)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
In a large pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and fry the leek until soft. Set to one side and allow to cool
Add the drained spinach to a large bowl and loosen up with a fork. Stir in the eggs, feta, herbs leeks and seasoning. Stir until combined
Grease a 6 x 9 in baking tin and line with sheets of filo pastry, brush each sheet lightly with butter before topping with another sheet (lay 5-6 sheets of filo pastry as a base)
When the tray is lined, spread the spinach mixture evenly across the base. Fold in any overlapping pastry and top the pie with the leftover sheets of pastry (brush each sheet lightly with butter before topping with the next.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until brown and crispy
A good sausage roll is one of my many weaknesses and when I was making some some for a work party I realized I work with quite a few vegetarians and would need to have something for them.
Only psychopaths make their own puff pastry, so when you are buying your pastry check that its vegetarian/vegan friendly (most are), unless you want to use the “all butter” versions but this would obviously not be suitable for vegans.
Pastry glazes for vegan dishes obviously can’t use the traditional egg or milk glazes but plant milk or coconut oil can work well, I used some onion seeds as well to add some interest.
While these are mushrooms flavoured, I also included some lentils to add some meatiness to the texture as well as some protein and some miso paste to give it that umami flavour that some vegan dishes lack.
1 x 375 Gram Sheet ready rolled puff pastry
300 Grams Button mushrooms (finely chopped)
25 Grams Dried Porcini mushrooms
100 Grams Breadcrumbs
1 Tsp Miso paste
200 Grams Tinned lentils (or cooked green lentils)
1 Leek (finely chopped)
1 Tablespoon Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Plank milk/Coconut oil to brush the pastry with
2 Tsp Onion or sesame seeds to decorate (optional)
Put the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl with 100 Mil boiling water and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes
In a large frying pan over a medium heat, and the oil and when hot add the mushrooms and leek. Cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally (don’t move the mushrooms about too much or they will become watery)
When cooked add the lentils, miso, and porcini mushrooms (including the water they were soaking), cook for a further 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, and then add the breadcrumbs and stir well. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius) and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to prevent sticking and cut the pastry sheet in half lengthways.
Spoon the cooled mushroom mix down the centre of each strip of pastry leaving enough space for when you roll the edges together. Wet the long edges of the pastry and gently bring the edges together to slightly overlap each other then press together
Turn the side where pastry meet to the bottom and brush with your glaze before sprinkling with seeds, if you are using them.
With a sharp knife cut the pastry sausage into 3-4 cm slices before transferring onto the lined baking sheet.
I love eating things other people make and one of my workmates made these and I was instantly addicted. So a big shout out to Christina for being kind enough to give me the recipe.
Christina’s recipe uses dark chocolate (either chips or chopped up chocolate), but because it coming up to Easter I decided to use smashed up mini eggs which are my total downfall. These cookies are also a great way to use up any random chocolate you have lying about after Easter.
You can make the dough a day or two before and keep it in the fridge so that all you have to do is cut it and bake when you need them (if you’re having friends over this means less last minute scurrying around and you appear like a serene domestic goddess with an oven full of delicious cookies)
350 Grams Plain Flour
1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1 Tsp Salt
225 Grams Butter (room temperature and cut into chunks to make it easier to cream with the sugar)
175 Grams Soft brown sugar
50 Grams Caster sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
350 Grams Smashed up mini eggs (or use chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate)
In a bowl combine all you dry ingredients (don’t add the chocolate yet)
In a separate bowl combine the butter. both types of sugar, add vanilla extract and mix until creamy, I used a stand mixer for this which makes it a lot easier but an electric whisk will also do the job
Beat the eggs into the butter mixture, and then gradually add the flour. Then stir in our chocolate pieces (I folded them in using a large spoon so that they didn’t get too broken up an electric whisk.
Split the dough into 2 halves, and roll each half into a sausage shape roughly 5cm in diameter and wrap each sausage in cling film before chilling in the fridge for at least half an hour
Preheat you oven to 190 degrees (Celsius), you’ll probably need a couple of baking sheets, and these should be lined with baking parchment
Cut the chilled cookie dough into 2cm think slices and transfer to you baking sheet leaving room for them spread as they cook. Bake for 10-12 minutes
This dish was would have traditionally been made with duck (which I think would be too rich), and is now usually made with chicken. I have also made a vegan version with aubergines and I have to say I think it was my favourite.
This is quite a rich dish and the use of pomegranate molasses (available from most big supermarkets or Asian grocers) gives the stew a tangy sweet and sour flavour.
I call this a weekend recipe, meaning its something that requires low and slow cooking and you aren’t going to try and do for a quick weeknight dinner.
8 Chicken thighs (bone in, but skin removed), or 2 large aubergines (cut into bite sized chunks)
1 Tbsp. Tomato Puree
250 Grams Walnut pieces
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black pepper
125 Mil Pomegranate molasses
1 Tsp Sugar (or more to taste)
Pomegranate seeds to decorate (optional)
Add the walnuts to a food processor and whiz until they become fine crumbs and start to stick together in a paste
Move the walnuts to a large pot with a lid, and add 1 litre of cold water to the walnuts. Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes, and then reduce the heat and cover with a lid simmer for 2 hours.
Stir in the pomegranate molasses, tomato purée, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper until well combined. Return the mixture to a simmer
Add the chicken thighs or aubergine chunks to the pot and cover with the lid again and simmer for a further hour. Remove the lid and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds if using just before serving rice or flat breads
Yasmin Khan’s (The Saffron Tales), recipe marries zesty lemon, the warmth of cardamom and gentle fragrance of rose water in a cake rich with ground almonds. You’ll need 2-3 lemons in total, and a word of warning about rose water, don’t be tempted to add more than stated in the recipe.
While there are a couple of steps to this cake its worth the effort, I decorated this with chopped pistachios and dried rose petals (you find these and rose water in most bigger Asian grocers (or you could use fresh petals if you’re lucky enough to have them in your garden). I don’t have an especially delicate touch when decorating cakes and my piping skills are questionable, so this is a good way to make your cake look beautiful with very little effort.
Legend has it that women in Persia would bake this cake to try and win the heart of men who caught their eye. So if you’re currently trying to get someone’s attention, it might be worth a try (and let me know if it works).
For the Cake
200 Grams Butter
150 Grams Caster sugar
1 level tsp of Ground cardamom
100 Grams Plain flour
275 Grams Ground almonds
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp Baking powder
1 Tbsp Rose Water
For the Drizzle
2 Tbsp Caster Sugar
1/2 Tsp rose water
Juice of 1 lemon
For the icing
150 Grams Icing Sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Top with chopped pistachios and dried rose petals (optional, but it will make your cake look really pretty)
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (Celsius). Line a 9 inch cake tin with baking parchment (ideally one with a removable base)
In a large mixing bowl, cream your butter and sugar together thoroughly and then beat in the eggs one at a time, (using a stand mixer if you have one is a quick way to save yourself a lot of work)
Gradually add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer to your lined cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, (test the centre of the cake with a tooth pick, it should come out clean, but if it doesn’t then bake for another 5-10 minutes and test again). Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, before transferring to a wire wrack to cool
In a small saucepan heat the ingredients for the drizzle, until the sugar has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool
When the cake has cooled poke random holes in the cake with a toothpick, sprinkle over the cooled drizzle as evenly as possible, I allowed the cake to sit for about an hour to allow the cake to absorb the drizzle and it’s yummy flavours)
To make the icing just add lemon juice to the icing sugar and mix well to ensure there are no lumps before spreading it evenly across the cake
Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and rose petals
This cake will live for 3-4 days in an airtight tin, but will probably not survive that long
It’s Mother’s day and though she isn’t with us any more, I made my Mum’s signature dish, Pavlova. She wasn’t a fantastic cook, but she made a mean Pavlova. I didn’t ever get her recipe. So if you have a loved one who makes something you adore, remember to spend the time with them and get them to teach you how to make it. Food is one of the best ways to keep a little bit of that person with you.
Meringue has always been my culinary nemisis. I’ve struggled to make a decent one for years and I think I’ve cracked it thanks to the sainted Mary Berry (this is her recipe) .
I’ve used the traditional strawberries, but you can use any fruit you prefer.
This is a real crowd plesser, and is also a delicious gluten free dessert. Don’t panic if the meringue cracks, the topping will hide this, and the marshmallowy centre is a nice contrast to the crunchy exterior.
You can make the meringue the day before (keep in an airtight box) and decorate just before serving.
For the meringue
6 Egg whites
350 Grams Sugar
1 Tsp cornflour
1 Tbsp Vinegar
250 ml Whipping or double cream
Berries or other fruit to decorate
Pre heat your oven to 150 degrees (Celsius)
Add your egg whites to the bowl of your mixer and at a high speed until it reaches firm peaks
Continue mix and add the sugar a spoonful at a time, then add the cornflour and vinegar (which should be mixed together before adding to the meringue mix
Draw a circle on a sheet of parchment paper and put a small dab of meringue on the corners of a baking sheet before laying the parchment on top (this helps keep it in place)
Spoon your meringue on the circle you drew on the parchment (I like to keep meringue a quite tall, but you can go for a slightly flatter wider one if you prefer)
Place in the oven, and lower the heat to 140 degrees, bake for 1 hour, then the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Leave the meringue in the oven until it is entirely cold
Just before you are due serve, top with whipped cream and strawberries
London is one of my favourite cities in the world. It has everything, history, architecture, fashion, and entertainment.
I visited recently with a friend who has a love of all things dramatic. With this in mind we visited Sarasto in Drury Lane. The restaurant was decorated by a set designer and its super theatrical from the moment you walk in the door, with kitsch swathes of gold and velvet and booths designed like opera boxes. They also have opera singers and musicians at weekends and being in the theatre District they refer to themselves as “the show after the show”.
I have loved the musical Cabaret since I first watched it, so we treated ourselves to tickets for current run. I don’t have photos, as all photos and vidography is banned in the theatre. If you are lucky enough to attend the show you’ll understand why. From the moment you walk through the door you’re transported to louche decadent 1930s Berlin. The show is performed in the round and you can actually sit at the side of the stage like it’s a nightclub (these were the expensive seats, we were up in the nosebleeds). Regardless of where you sit, it will blow your socks off. I think it’s the best live production I’ve ever seen. If you find yourself in London, give yourself a treat and go see Cabaret.
The other great thing thing about London is just soaking up the atmosphere. You can stumble across a girl group filming a music video or wander into China Town for lunch.
While London isn’t the cheapest city you’ll ever visit there is plenty of free stuff to do. We spent a very pleasant morning in the National Gallery. You can see everything from beautiful delicate paintings by impressionists like Monet and Manet, through to the dark violence of Caravagio. A week in the place wouldn’t be long enough to see the amazing range of works on display.
London never gets old, and like the saying “if you’re tired of London you’re tired of life”
Low cost airlines sometimes have flights to destinations you maybe hadn’t considered before. Always up to try something new, I arrived in Riga, the capital city of Latvia and stayed in a very affordable AirB&B in the city centre. English is widely spoken and it only cost 12 euro to get from the airport using a Bolt (car ride service)
Split between and old and new city, we stayed the beautiful and compact old town.
Riga was settled 800 years ago and has been ruled by the Germans, Poles, Scandinavians and Russians during this time. I would recommend booking on to one of the walking tours, which will help get your bearings and a chance to learn more about the city and it’s inhabitants.
The city became rich as a Balkan trading hub and buildings like the Black Head House was built by the wealthy merchant guilds (so called because their patron saint was the dark skinned Egyptian Saint Maurice).
Local food, like a lot Eastern European countries is big on dark dense breads, potatoes and pork (vegetarian offerings are available but you might need to look around). The local pototo pancakes, served with creamy mushroom sauce was the perfect meal after being out in the cold sightseeing. (word of advice, the old town is mainly paved with sometimes uneven cobblestones, so be sure to wear flat thick soled shoes). The local drink you’ll find everywhere is called black balsam and was originally brewed as a medicine. It tastes like a cross between cough syrup and Jeager Meister and is 45% proof, and drank either in shots or cocktails and will blow your socks off.
For foodies Riga has a really excellent food market, selling local smoked fish, caviar, cheese, vegetables, sweets, pastries, bread and honey. It’s housed in old zeplin hangars close the river and you can also find places inside to have lunch
As you head to the edges of the old town you’ll some amazing Art Nouveau buildings (if you’re an architecture nerd, Riga is the place for you).
I knew very little about Riga and during conversations with some locals and visiting Lithuanians it was interesting to learn about their concerns over the current war in Ukraine. I had no idea of how badly both countries had been treated during the Stalin era. 45,000 Latvians, mainly the intelligencia and professionals were sent to Siberian gulags after the second war and the survivors were only allowed to return after Stalin’s death. Those who were able to return were kept under surveillance and forced to live 100km from main cities, meaning they could not practice their professions or gain an education.
Stalin also moved 600,000 Russians into Latvia, completely changing the demographic of the country. Currently Riga is made up of 60% people of Russian descent and 40% Latvian (in the rest of the country it’s 60% Latvian and 40% Russian). In Riga both communities live separately, living in different areas, attending separate schools etc. I got the sense that there is under lying tension between the communities.
Both the Latvians and Lithuanians spoke about how they are sending support to Ukraine and how they’re stock piling food, fuel etc, or have escape plans in place if Ukraine is completely over run by Russian forces. It was sobering to consider the knock on effect the Ukrainian conflict was having on its neighbours, and is one of the reasons why it’s important to travel and learn a bit more about the world and what’s happening in it. . Despite this I would encourage anyone to visit the city, it’s a beautiful place with great people.
It’s Valentine’s today, and if you want to make something a little lighter and healthier for your special person this salad is perfect. It’s also quick and easy. I prefer to use pink grapefruit as its less sharp than regular ones.
I have shown the quantities for 2 people. It makes a great lunch dish served with wheaten bread, or reduce the quantities for a refreshing starter.
2-3 Handfuls of rocket or mixed salad leaves
1 Pink Grapefruit (cut into segments), and juice set to one side)
1 Avocado (sliced or cubed)
250 Grams Frozen prawns (thawed)
2 Spring onions/scallions (finely sliced)
1 Tbsp Olive or rapeseed oil
Add the salad leaves to a large bowl and drizzle with oil and the remaining grapefruit juice and mix well
Divide the salad leaves between 2 plates
Scatter the rest of the ingredients across the ingredients and enjoy.
When deciding to plan a Middle Eastern theme for 11 March’s supper club, no one could have predicted the awful events that have occurred in Turkey and Syria.
With this in mind, all proceeds from the next Sunnyside Supper Club will be donated to the earthquake appeal.
So please come along, enjoy some great craic, good food and the chance to contribute to a worthy cause.
Sunnyside Supper Club – 10 March 2023
Join us for a night of Middle Eastern food, good craic and the chance to try something a little bit different.
Welcome cocktail on arrival, and you’re welcome to bring your own beer or wine.
N.B. 24 Hour cancellation policy
Vegans and those with gluten intolerances often draw the short straw when it comes to desserts. These lovely little Brownies are really chocolatety and don’t make you feel like you’re missing a thing.
A friend told me about these after she saw the recipe online, so apologies if I’m not giving credit to whoever came up with recipe, but she couldn’t remember the site.
With only 3 ingredients these are great to knock up from stuff you have in the cupboards. Because I hate food waste, I always freeze over ripe bananas if I’m not going to eat them. Freeze them whole with their skin on, and they’re perfect for using in recipes like this or banana bread
3 Ripe bananas (mashed)
120 Grams Peanut butter
50 Grams Cocoa powder
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
In a large bowl, mash the banana, then add the cocoa powder and peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined
Line a 6 in x 6 in tin with baking parchment.
Transfer the Brownie mix to the lined tin and spread evenly.
After two busy days in Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka. If you ever get the chance to do it, please do.
It cost just under £90 per person to travel 319 miles (514 km) and took around 2.5 hours, with an average speed of 200 miles an hour. You can reserve seats with luggage storage in advance. On a good day you can see Mount Fuji, but we were out of luck. There is a drinks and snack service on board but most people opt to buy an ekiben (traditional bento box lunch) at the station before boarding. These were delicious and beautifully presented and cost on average £5.
Osaka has a population of 2.6 million, but according to locals they feel they are more laid back and friendly than Tokyo and everyone we met was lovely, including the world’s sweetest and most excitable bar maid that we almost adopted.
One of reasons I wanted to go to Osaka was to see Osaka Castle, which is really impressive. Easy to reach by metro, the castle has largely been rebuilt, so inside is more like an exhibition space rather than being able to see original parts of castle and how people lived.
There is a lift for anyone with mobility issues which will take you to the 5th floor but there are 3 floors above this that can only accessed by steps. The castle is set in gorgeous park land, and with Autumn arriving it was beautiful, but spring is when it’s really popular at the cherry blossom festival. The castle dates back 450 years and if you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love the descriptions of various feuds and downfalls of Shoguns, it also has a great displays of samurai armour.
We stayed close to the Dotonbori area, named after the river that flows through it. This is a busy and cosmopolitan area with high end designer shops on one side of the river and local shops, bars and restaurants on the other. Street food is really big in Osaka and squid balls are the local favourite.
By the river you’ll find the oblong Ferris wheel, which is built around a 24-hour discount shop locally known as Donki (formal name is Don Quijote). This may have been the busiest shop I’ve ever visited and if you plan to go early because an average Friday evening felt like the January sales. But there is literally everything a human being could ever need in this shop.
Another local speciality is okonomiyaki, this is a very thin pancake stuffed primarily with fried noodles and shredded cabbage and leeks/onion. Other toppings can include pork, fried egg, bonito flakes, nori seaweed. pickled ginger or kimchi, this is then drizzled with a rich savoury sauce and mayonnaise. I realise my description is not selling it, but it was one of the nicest things I ate in Japan (and I pretty much loved everything).
Dotonbori never stops. In early evening families are out with their kids enjoying the waterfront and street food. Later in the evening “Salary Men” (office workers) get stupifyingly drunk in the hostess bars, and the local petrol heads hang out and compare cars. People are friendly and the area feels very safe and a lot more pleasant than most UK and European city centres late at night.
I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but I stalled at some of the local offerings which included “fish abductor muscle” and “beef nerve”, but maybe next time.
I usually find sandwiches a bit meh!, but I love these. I make these as pinwheel sandwiches, which is basically a tortilla rolled up and cut into slices. They are nice for parties, or just because you want to fancy up your lunchbox.
The filling is packed full of flavours from America’s South West, black beans, corn, coriander (cilantro) etc. This makes it full of colour, crunch, fibre and flavour.
I used full fat sour cream and cream cheese, but you can use lower fat versions. This sandwich filling also makes an amazing topping for baked potatoes, or stirred into left over pasta to make a salad.
400 Gram Can Sweet Corn (drained)
400 Gram Can Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
1 Large red pepper (chopped into 1cm cubes)
2-3 Scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)
2 Tbsp Coriander (Finely chopped)
150 Grams Cheddar Cheese (grated)
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Chilli Powder
1 Tsp Salt
200 Grams Sour Cream
200 Grams Cream Cheese
Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir until well combined
Spread 2 large spoonfuls of the filling on a tortilla, and roll the outside edge inwards tightly
My friend Mags has been raving about this recipe for ages. We both have a serious bread addiction and this recipe is from a slimming club site. So when she shared the recipe I had to make it. If you’ve ever had Irish wheaten bread this is similar in taste.
It takes two minutes to knock together, can be enjoyed by those who have issues with gluten and is pretty cheap to make. If you want something to keep kids busy this also something to do with them on a rainy afternoon and the will be super pleased with themselves.
It’s not the lightest fluffiest bread, but it is packed full of fibre and perfect served with cheese and chutney or buttered along side soup. I topped mine with some pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch, but you can also sprinkle with porridge oats.
180 Grams Porridge oats
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius). Grease a load tin, you can also line it with baking parchment if want to (but I just greased the tin really well and it was fine)
Mix the yoghurt, salt and baking soda together, before stirring in the porridge oats
In a separate bowl, crack the egg and whisk with a fork until light and fluffy. Stir into the porridge mix and stir until we’ll combined
Transfer the mix into the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test with a tooth pick, when it comes out clean it’s ready.
One of the good things about being the cook is that you get access to the best bits.
I was making a savoury pie, using shop bought puff pastry, and had some left over. I hate food waste, so rather than throw it out, I dusted it with some brown sugar and cinnamon to make a version of bite sized Danishes. I also sprinkled with sesame seeds just to be fancy, but they’re without these.
With only 3 ingredients these are delicious little perks of being the cook.
Ready made puff pastry
I had a 5-6 centimetre wide piece of puff pastry. Dust with brown sugar and cinnamon and roll up in a coil.
Cut into 1-2cm slices, place on a baking sheet (sprinkle with sesame seeds if you want to), and bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees (Celsius) until gold brown.
Quick tasty one pot meals are the holy grail for busy cooks. If you haven’t used orzo before, it’s a type of pasta that looks like fat grains of rice, if you don’t have this you can use any other types of pasta you have in the cupboard.
This a really tasty and cheap meal that’s great for a quick midweek dinner or I often makes it and use it for work lunches.
I’ve used fresh spinach because I had some that needed to be used up, but frozen spinach works just as well. You can also bulk this out with other frozen vegetables like sweetcorn.
200 Grams Orzo pasta (dry weight)
100 Grams Chorizo (cut into half centimetres slices)
200 Grams Spinach
1 Vegetable stock cube (crumbled)
1 Onion (finely sliced)
1 Red pepper (cut into fine strips)
2 Cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
1 Chilli pepper (finely sliced) or else a teaspoon of chilli powder)
1 Tbsp Tomato puree
1 x 400ml Tin of chopped tomatoes
1. Add the chorizo to a large flat bottom pan and fry on both sides until starts to release its oil
2. Lift the chorizo out of the pan and set to one side. Add the onion and pepper to the pan to cook in oil from the chorizo for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent
3. Add all the ingredients except the spinach to the pan. Top up with enough water cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid before reducing the heat to a simmer
4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, add more water if you think t needs it. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for a future 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. Making your own focaccia also costs about a third of the price of buying one from a fancy bakery or deli.
Like most people I don’t bake my own bread everyday. At the weekend when you have a little more time its nice to shake off the stresses of the week and kneading bread is a great way to work off any residual tension. Although this bread only needs 5 minutes kneading and you’re rewarded with amazingly tasty bread that can be sliced in half for sandwiches or is a delicious side dish served along side soups, stews, or pasta.
I’ve used a traditional salt and rosemary topping, but caramelised onion or olives are also brilliant alternatives. This also freezes really well.
500 Grams Strong white flour
7 Grams Dried yeast
1 Tsp Salt
300-400 Mil Luke warm water
4-5 Tbsp Olive oil
2-3 Sprigs Rosemary
1. Mix your yeast with 300ml of luke warm water and set to one side while you measure out the flour and add it to a large bowl
2. Add a teaspoon of salt to one side of the (this will stop it coming into direct contact with the yeast and killing it). Make a well in the centre of the flour, add two tablespoons of olive oil and the water and yeast mix.
3. Mix well, you may need to add more water, your dough should be quite soft and sticky, but not super wet
4. Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes (or until the urge to punch someone has passed, if I haven’t mentioned it before I sometimes “rage bake”)
5. Clean the bowl you were using, (I always give the bowl a quick wipe with a little oil to stop your dough sticking). Put your dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel and prove for one hour
6. Grease an 8 x 12 inch tin with some olive oil and transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. Stretch the dough out to fill the tin. Cover with a tea towel again and prove for 45 minutes
7. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree (Celsius). Remove the tea towel from your baking tin, and with your finger tips press little dimples into the dough
8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil across the top of the dough. Pluck leaves of rosemary and poke them into the dough (it will just sit on top and then fall off if you don’t). Sprinkle a teaspoon is salt across the top of the dough (sea salt is best if you have it, but just use a little less ordinary salt if you don’t)
9. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes
This may be the most totally filthy thing (in a good way) that I have ever made.
My sister saw this on a food programme and asked me to make it. She couldn’t remember which programme or I would give credit where its due.
I cook with chicken thighs alot, and when I’m feeling healthy I’ll remove and discard the skin. I’ve now started making chicken crackling (super crispy chicken skin crisps).
This butter makes a delicious topping on top of steak, or even melted onto pasta. Under no circumstances should you be left alone with it and a loaf of French bread, unless you want your loved ones to find you covered with crumbs, glistening with butter and filled with shame. Feck it, it’s totally worth it.
You can make larger batches and freeze the butter (if you don’t trust yourself)
75 Grams Butter (room temperature, and cut into cubes)
Skin from 3-4 chicken thighs
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
Place the chicken thighs on a chopping board, and run the back of a large kitchen knife a long the skin to flatten it out.
Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt and then place another baking tray on top to keep the skin flat
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken skin is a deep golden brown. Set to one side and all to cool completely
When cold, whizz the chicken skin in a food processor until it looks like sand, you can leave it a little coarser if you prefer
Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until everything is well combined. Check the seasoning and more salt if you think it needs it
Transfer to a sheet of cling film and shape into a sausage shape and wrap before freezing or refrigerating
Votes have been counted and the Italian menu has pipped the French menu to the post once again.
If you haven’t been to the Sunnyside Supper Club before, it’s a bit like the Little Paris Kitchen (only in Belfast, and I don’t look anything like the fabulous Rachel Khoo).
Everyone shares a communal table and eats the same menu. The aim is to enjoy some great food and enjoy a meal with new people. Guests are usually a mix of friends on mates dates, people who are new to Belfast and want to meet locals and couples who want to do something a bit different.
We only ever have a max 8-9 guests so book early to avoid disappointment.
We’ll great you with a welcome drink, and then it’s BYO (no corkage)
Starter – Gnocchi with Hazelnut Pesto
Main – Chicken Marsala, chicken thighs cooked in a creamy mushroom and Marsala sauce, (vegetarian option-Aubergine Parmesan), Italian Salad, Homemade Italian Bread
Apologies, but I have to change the date of the next Sunnyside Supper Club to 10th September.
My little Kitchen Elf and general dogs body (her term, not mine), has been surprised with a romantic weekend away on the original date planned, meaning we have to push things back by a week. Never let it be said that I got in the way of true romance!
In the mean time don’t forget to vote for your favourite menu.
Well the pandemic wasn’t a big pile of craic was it?
Now that things have hopefully calmed down a bit, the supper club is back.
If you haven’t been to one before, we have a max of 8-9 diners and past guests have been a mix of couples, friends catching up on “mate dates” and solo diners who love food but who’s friends just aren’t into eating out. It’s all very laid back and a chance to have dinner people from different walks of life while enjoying some great food (After lock down aren’t you fed up looking at the same people) .
You’ll be greeted with a welcome drink (people are welcome to bring their own beer or wine, with no corkage), and then everyone eats the same 3 courses (we’re happy to cater for vegans/vegetarians, just let us know in advance).
The theme of the supper club scheduled just as lock down hit was decided by a vote. So, I’m putting it to the vote again (in case our taste buds have changed over lockdown). I’m sticking with French Vs Italian.
So check out the menus and vote for your favourite, and we’ll maybe see you at the next supper club.
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven: heaven being copied after Mauritius”, Mark Twain
As much as I loved relaxing at a resort, old habits die hard and I wanted to explore a bit more of the island.
You can rent a car relatively cheaply, and as Mauritius is a former British colony they drive on the left hand side of the road, and road signs are in English (speed signs are in kilometers). However, rather than having all the stress of getting lost and driving unfamiliar roads we hired a local driver for a day. Rajesh was super helpful and knowledgeable and brought us to the North of the island. Not slowing down at intersections and tail gating seem to be common practice, so I was glad we had a local to help out.
Our first stop was the capital, Port Louis. This was a bit of a culture shock after the laid back vibe of a resort. Full of hustle and bustle the city is loud and frenetic with epic traffic jams during rush hour. Once there you’ll find busy markets selling everything imaginable, with traders barking out their bargains in French/Creole.
You can shop for souvenirs (haggling is expected) or head to the exotic food markets to stock up on spices. I would recommend asking for prices before buying spices (I think ended up paying some unofficial tourist tax due to not checking first).
Mauritius was an important stopping off point in the spice route and local food is fragrant and highly spiced.
If you are frazzled after Port Louis and want to get in touch with your inner history nerd, then visit the Sugar Museum (L’Aventure de Sucre). A short drive from the city, the museum is fascinating. It was a former sugar refinery and shows how sugar cane growth and production totally shaped the history of the island. Less then 300 years ago there were just 200 people living on the island, the population is now over 1.2 million. Sugar cane production, completely changed the eco system of the island, with new species of plants and animals being introduced. Mauritius is probably best remembered as being the home of the now extinct dodo.
Like most museums you’ll exit through the gift shop, but this is worth doing for the rum tasting that’s included in the entrance fee.
Private companies like the East India Company and then colonial powers from the Portuguese, French and British exploited the island and its inhabitants to make obscene amounts of money. Slaves were transported from Bengal and Africa, as well as indentured servants from India and traders from China all led to the multicultural nation Mauritius is today. The museum is honest about the legacy of the slave trade and the immense wealth created by sugar plantations. While the country is seen now as a tropical paradise, it has a much darker history.
As you drive along you’ll see vibrantly coloured, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, Mosques and Christian churches scattered through out the countryside. By all accounts Mauritians live in relative harmony and differences are respected and celebrated.
The botanical gardens are really impressive. Because of its climate and fertile soil probably anything could grow here. You can explore on your own or pay for a guide. Unless you’re seriously into horticulture I’d recommend just pottering about on your own. You can also see brightly coloured wildfowl, giant tortoises and deer.
Before heading back to our resort, our driver, Rajesh brought us to Cap Malheureux (Unhappy Cape), so called because of ships who ran aground in the past. The views were breathing taking and the area is most commonly known for the little red roof church that sits on the bay.
Just as the evening was drawing in we headed back to Bel Ombre across the mountain route. The Pitons are a range of jagged volcanic mountains that wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park (the light was dropping so sorry no photos).
Due to an unusual piece of luck I was fortunate enough to stay in the Outrigger Resort in Bel Ombre, in the south western coast of Mauritius.
I’m usually a city break type of person, but if all resorts could be as heavenly as this place then I’m a convert.
The resort has large airy bedrooms, with luxurious bathrooms and dressing area (we had the largest bathtub I’ve ever seen). A well stocked mini bar and complementary snacks and fancy coffee machine make sure you want for nothing while in your room.
Accommodation either has views of the lush tropical gardens with banyan, and frangipani trees, as well as coconut and date palms throughout, or ocean views of the pristine lagoon with a coral reef about 100 yards from the beautiful sandy beach dotted with black volcanic rock. You can wander along the beach and watch the sea change from bright turquoise to dark lapiz blues as the sun moves throughout the day. (Top tip: aqua shoes are a good choice as the beach has lots of coral and can be uncomfortable to walk on in parts). The resort also has two large pools as well as a reflection pool for those who love an Instagram post. Although there isn’t a single view in the place that isn’t fabulous.
I went in early July which is the Mauritian winter, but it was still in the mid 20s (Celsius) everyday and was very pleasant. If you prefer it really hot then from August onwards is the time to go.
Other visitors were made up of a fairly cosmopolitan mix of European, Indian and Middle Eastern and this is reflected in the food offered.
There are several eating areas. The Mercado serves breakfast and dinner and served international buffet style food. Breakfast in the morning ranges from curries, a large selection of topical fruits and juices, omelette stations, cereals, cooked items and french breads and patisserie. For dinner there is a theme of a different country’s cuisine each evening (Mauritian night was my favourite, but all the food was excellent). There are always plenty of options for children, vegans and halal diners.
If you prefer a la carte dining the Edge Water restaurant is right on the beach, and Le Bleu is a beach front bar serving freshly made pizzas and panninis and is a good call for lunch. There are also plenty of sun loungers and comfortable seating areas along the beach and pools.
We had one afternoon with rain, and the ever helpful staff (thank you Sephora) arranged for me to be taught some Mauritian dishes with the very lovely Chef Matthieu. He is a great teacher, and showed me how to make apple chutney, yam fritters, Mauritian chicken curry and roti (flat bread). His enthusiasm and passion for his local cuisine really shone through, and to paraphrase Julia Childs, “people who love food are always the best people”
The Plantation Club provides a fine dining option offering old world luxury. You can opt to visit for afternoon tea or to dine a la carte. However, my suggestion would be to try one of their tasting menu evenings. We opted for lobster night, and having met Chef Matthieu the day before we knew we would be in for a treat. He is passionate about fusion cooking, and because Mauritius is such a melting pot who’s population is a mix of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, African and French heritage, the range of flavours in Mauritian food is something else.
Everything on the menu was delicious but my two stand out dishes were the makki roll and lobster with arbarica sauce (coffee sauce with lobster might sound really strange but it was so well balanced, it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted).
You could spend your entire day just chilling and listening to the roar of the sea against the coral reef and the rustling of the palms (I can highly recommend spending at least one afternoon doing this to find your happy place). If you prefer to be a bit more active there are gorgeous beach walks and the resort offers free activities like snorkeling, tours of the lagoon in a glass bottom boat (we had a sea turtle come and swim along side us), and on set days there are activities such as aquafit, volleyball, and yoga.
The concierges at the resort are an excellent source of information if you’d like to get out and about and see more of the island. They can help arrange visits to see capital Port Louis if you like to shop and see the local markets, historic areas on the island or activities like swimming with dolphins or sea turtles, visiting the impressive botanical gardens or sailing out to neighbouring islands on a catamaran.
If you want something to do in the evenings the resort has live music every night which was always really good. My favourite was the Mauritian night which had local artists play traditional Sega music and display local dances, which are based on the African music played by slaves in the sugar cane plantations and made the colonial owners the equivalent of modern billionaires.
Staff at the resort are multi lingual (French is the most widely spoken language on the island), and were incredibly warm and helpful. Mauritius is developing quickly, but tourism is still the largest employer on the island, and it was hit badly due to Covid and also the global rise in the cost of living. You will always receive excellent service from the well trained staff at the resort, but the average monthly salary in Mauritius is around £600 per month. So if you do get a chance to visit this little slice of paradise, try to tip as well as you can afford to (and like most places cash is always preferable).
If you always end up with left over bread this is a really tasty way to use it up.
This dish apparently started with poor shepherds in Spain and Portugal. I like recipes that allow you to use up what’s available and this is perfect for using up scraps of streaky bacon, ham or other smokey meats or cold cuts
This dish does use a lot of oil, which is why I’ve included it amongst the poor filth recipes. It’s quick, easy to make and tastes great. I like for breakfast/brunch with fried eggs. It also makes a fantastic hangover cure.
500 Grams Stale bread (broken into chunks of various size, but not as small as breadcrumbs)
1 Onion (cut into fine slices)
2-3 Cloves of garlic
50 Grams Chorizo (peeled and sliced)
1 Red pepper (cut into 1cm strips)
50 Grams Streaky bacon or other left over meat or cold cuts (cut into 2cm slices)
1 Tsp Smoked paprika
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
Heat a large high sided pan and add the chorizo, and streaky bacon until it starts to crisp up. Remove from the pan and set to one side
Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and paprika to the pan and cook in the juices released from the chorizo and bacon until the onion becomes translucent
Add some oil to the pan and then add the stale bread chunks. Fry until the bread starts to brown, stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn
I love dishes made with ingredients I usually have in my kitchen. No part of this recipe is difficult, just break it into 3 steps, bread, feta and grapes.
This is a pretty fancy starter but all the elements can be made well in advance and assembled at the last minute. If you want to make delicious canapes this also works brilliantly on wafer thin slivers of sour dough bread or those tiny little croustad cups you can buy in some delicatessens It’s also great for a lunch dish.
I love whipped feta, and it can be used in salads, wraps, sandwiches or as a dip. It’s also really good with roasted vegetables or sun dried tomatoes.
The roast grapes are something you might not have tried before, but their sweetness works really well with the saltiness of the feta.
For the bread
1 Ciabatta loaf (you can use other breads like sour dough or French baguette if you prefer), cut into 1-2cm thick slices
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Remove the grapes from the stem and add to an oven proof dish along with the other ingredients. Swirl the grapes around to make sure they are coated with the oil, thyme and garlic. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skins start to blister, remove from the oven and allow to cool
Place the sliced bread on a baking tray and drizzle with oil on each side. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, remove and rub each slice with a clove of garlic
In a large bowl, crumble the feta, and add the other ingredients and whip with an electric whisk for 5 minutes or until creamy.
When the bread is cool, spread with a layer of whipped feta, and top with the roasted grapes
Life in lockdown meant most of us had pretty sucky birthdays this year. I had a big birthday in the middle of lockdown, which was c*ap. However, I’m lucky enough to have a great friend (Bronagh), who treated me to a fantastic night at Galgorm Spa and the 5 course tasting menu in their restaurant.
Galgorm is about 30 minutes from Belfast (although we took the scenic route because we got lost). Set amongst 163 acres of mature parkland with the river Maine flowing through the resort, the main hotel reception is a large characterful old house with beautiful open turf fires. The hotel has more modern additions for accommodation, self catering lodges and annexes that cater to weddings and conferences.
I have really been missed travel since Covid hit and visiting here really made me feel like I had proper holiday. The spa facilities are international standard offering a range of treatments and I had one of the best massages I have ever had. The resort has what it calls a spa village which was amazing.
When we arrived we dropped our bags which were taken to our room and all we had to do was change into our swimsuits, and then relax in the robes and flip flops that were provided. Everyone wears these at the spa (it was a but like being in a cult), but with facilities this good I’d be happy to join.
There are a range of indoor and outdoor pools, hydro jets, saunas, steam rooms and a salt cave. It was perfect to sit in the beautiful gardens enjoying a mojito and watch the waterfalls that run beside the hotel.
That evening, totally chilled out we had the fabulous tasting menu in the hotel’s River Room restaurant. The restaurant prides itself in sourcing local artisanal ingredients and grows a lot of what they use in the hotel’s own gardens.
The resort is really luxurious, and the staff who are obviously trained to within an inch of their life are warm and engaging and go out of their way to make your stay feel special. The resort is a destination in itself, but is also close to the gorgeous North Antrim coast if you want to explore . All I can say is thank you Bronagh for an amazing gift.
Some ingredients are so good that you need to do very little with them. Crab claws are one of these ingredients.
Butter and garlic can make most things taste better but match them up with sweet meaty crab claws and within 5 minutes you have one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat. It might seem like a lot of garlic and butter and you can scale it back if you prefer, but this isn’t an everyday dish, so I think it’s worth the splurge.
If you don’t cook fish at home because you think it can be a bit like hard work, this is really quick and easy. Crab claws usually come ready cooked so there is no preparation, All you’re really doing is heating them.
250 Grams Crab Claws
50 Grams Butter
3 Cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp Parsley (finely chopped, optional)
In a large pan heat the butter, when it starts to melt, add the garlic and the crab claws
Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the crab claws are heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with a salad or crusty bread, yum!
The National Trust has some amazing properties around Northern Ireland. Rowallane is just outside Saintfield village (about 20 mins outside Belfast).
Rowallane consists of a beautiful old house (I forgot to take photos), stable block, walled garden, toilets and café, established gardens and woodlands.
Spring is an amazing time to visit, as everything is in full bloom, including the amazing blue Himalayan poppies. The gardens and woodlands are pretty fabulous at anytime, and with the easing of Covid restrictions a full calendar of events will hopefully be back on soon.
The gardens are popular with dog walkers and families, and are generally accessible for anyone with mobility issues. Kids will love the woodlands with plenty of trees to climb and a meadow to run crazy in.
I love a good curry, and this is a really tasty and satisfying curry that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat lovers alike.
Coconut milk adds a lovely creaminess to this and I serve with rice or flat bread, to make it even better sweet potatoes and spinach are full of flavour and vitamins. I top this with some toasted cashew nuts for some extra crunch and protein, but it will still be delicious without them.
It’s also quick enough to be a great midweek meal and is packed full of lovely spices without being hot (unless you love chillies, in which case add as many as you like).
500 Grams Orange sweet potatoes (cut into 3-4 cm chucks, I leave the skins but peel if you prefer)
250 Grams Spinach (you can use frozen spinach if this is what you have)
2 Onions (roughly chopped)
1 Red chilli (cut in half, and seeds removed, add more if you like a hot curry)
3 Cloves of garlic (peeled)
Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
1 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Ground Tumeric
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Salt
Juice of 1 lime, or half a lemon
400 ml Tin of coconut milk
400 ml water
2 Tbsp Fresh coriander (chopped, optional)
2-3 Tbsp Cashew nuts (toasted, optional)
In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
Add the spices to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water. Cook for another 10 minutes (or until the chunks of sweet potato are soft)
Add the lime juice, and spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. When the spinach has wilted check the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and sprinkle with copped coriander, cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes if you prefer a thicker curry
If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)
I’ve loved this cake ever since I tasted it in the States years ago. Not only does it have a cool name but your house will smell unbelievable.
This is also a good way to use up over ripe bananas if you can’t face banana bread (this is much nicer). Cinnamon can be swapped for ground ginger if you’re not a fan.
For the cake
130 Gram Tin of pineapple in natural juice (chop the pineapple finely, and keep the juice)
2 Ripe bananas (mashed)
280 Grams Caster sugar
210 Grams Self raising flour
2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
60 ml Pineapple juice (from the tin of pineapple)
170 ml Oil
For the frosting
60 Grams Butter
120 Grams Cream Cheese
180 Grams Icing sugar
75 Grams Pecan nuts (Chopped)
Grated zest of one lemon (optional)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin and line with baking paper
Add the banana, chopped pineapple and sugar to a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well
Whisk the oil, eggs and pineapple juice together before adding to the banana mixture. Stir until properly combined
Transfer the cake mix to the baking tin and bake for 1 hour or until you can insert a skewer in the centre and it comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before topping with icing
To make the icing, whisk the butter and cream cheese together (I use an electric whisk). Gradually add the icing sugar and orange zest.
Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecans
Autumn sometimes sees a glut of great vegetables as growing season comes to end.
I love to roast these vegetables up to bring out their sweetness. Then it’s time to decide if I’m making a soup with them or a side dish like this.
If like me you like roast big batches of vegetables this can be even quicker to make as you’ll have these made already. This is really versatile, you can swap out different vegetables as they come in season.
If you’re vegan, you can enjoy this along with roasted chickpeas. I like it with griddled halloumi, or roast chicken and Greek yoghurt. It can be served hot or cold, and it’s ideal for lunch boxes.
200 Grams Couscous
1 Large courgette (Sliced)
100 Grams Cherry tomatoes
1 Red pepper (Sliced)
2 Tbsps Olive oil
3-4 Cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Dried mint, or 2 Tsps fresh mint (chopped)
50 Grams Pomegranate seeds
Salt and pepper
Add the oil, sliced courgette and pepper to an oven proof dish, mix to make sure they are coated and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. Include the garlic gloves (left whole with their skins on)
After 20 mins remove from the oven. Stir and add the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle over the vinegar. Bake for another 15 mins (or until the edges of the peppers starts catch)
In a heat proof bowl add the couscous cumin and mint. I recommend checking the instructions on the packet about how much liquid to add. (Then add the corresponding amount of vegetable stock)
Once you have removed the vegetables from the oven, take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the soft centre and stir into the couscous
The Summer has pretty much been a wash out, (when I made this I was watching torrential rain battering my window). So comfort food was the order of the day. Chorizo makes anything taste good, add some gnocchi and cream and you have a little bowl of heaven.
500 Grams Gnocchi (I use shop bought)
75 Grams Chorizo (finely sliced)
1 Onion (thinly sliced)
1 Large red pepper (cut into 2cm cubes)
50 Grams Sun dried tomatoes (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp Olive oil (I sometimes like to use the oil that the sun dried tomatoes comes in, as it has loads of flavour)
1 Tbsp Tomato puree
125 ml Double cream
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 table spoon of oil in a large pan, and fry the chorizo, red pepper and onion until soft, remove from the pan and set to one side
Add the rest of the oil to the pan to heat, add then and the gnocchi, and brown gently all over.
Stir in the tomato puree and cook for another 1-2 minutes, add the sun dried tomatoes and the chorizo and peppers and onion you removed from the pan earlier
Add the cream and stir well ensuring everything is well coated, check if you think it needs salt or pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to reduce the cream if necessary
I know this recipe might divide opinion and I’ll admit sauerkraut isn’t something I normally buy. I ended up with a monster sized pack of it from my vegetable box delivery as a substitution.
I asked round family and friends if there was anyone who was a sauerkraut lover, and couldn’t find a taker. One of them come back to me to explain that I should try to do something with it, as sauerkraut along with other fermented foods like kimchi are amazingly good for your gut health and we should all be eating more of these.
The only recipe I could think of was one I tasted about a million years when I lived in Germany. Kathy, the love lady I worked for made this dish for me once. It might sound a bit strange, and I know sauerkraut and pineapple aren’t two ingredients you would naturally think of together, but give it a chance. When they’re teamed up with pork chops, it works kind of like sweet and sour pork. The sauerkraut also helps make the pork really tender. This makes a great uncomplicated mid week dinner.
4 Pork chops
500 Grams Sauerkraut (drained)
350 Grams Can of pineapple rings
Place pork chops in an oven proof baking dish
Cover with the drained sauerkraut, and top with the pineapple rings
Cover with foil and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes
Before tiramisu purists start, I know this is not strictly speaking a tiramisu. I’m a card carrying coffee fiend, but I’m not a fan of coffee flavour in sweet things.
What I do love is lemon flavoured desserts. This recipe gives you the creamy unctuous texture of a tiramisu, with the refreshing tang of lemon that stops this being sickly sweet.
The coffee flavour is replaced with lemon and ginger tea, and a shot limoncello gives an extra zing of flavour. This is a good recipe if you’re entertaining, you can make it the day before and it’s easy to plate up.
(N. B. This recipe contains raw eggs and is probably best not served to potentially vulnerable groups like pregnant women, the elderly and very young children)
500 Grams Marscapone cheese
250 Grams Sponge fingers (lady fingers)
125 Grams Caster sugar
1 Lemon and ginger teabag (you can use other fruit teas if you prefer, but I think this works well)
1 Lemon (juice and zest)
1 Shot of limoncello liquor (optional)
250ml Boiling water
200 Grams Lemon curd
Soak the teabag in the boiling water for 5-10 minutes before removing the teabag. Allow the tea to cool and add the limoncello to the tea
Separate the eggs. Add the caster sugar, lemon juice and zest to the egg yolks and whisk with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the marscapone and whisk again until the ingredients are combined
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they reach firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture with a metal spoon, making sure its thoroughly combined
Briefly dip half the sponge fingers in the lemon tea mixture and line a layer in a 9 x 12 inch dish. When you have a layer of dipped sponge fingers, spread this layer with one third of the lemon curd
Top this layer with half of the marscapone mix
Dip the remaining sponge fingers in the lemon tea mixture and lay on top. Spread this layer again with one third of the lemon curd
Top with the remaining marscapone mix, dot the top with the remaining lemon curd and then drag a knife through it to create a marbled effect
Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours, or ideally overnight
I love Indonesian food and how brilliantly spiced, fresh and fragrant everything is. Rendang can be found across Indonesia, Malaysia and as far as Singapore. According to a CNN poll it was voted one of the most delicious foods of all time, and you’ll probably agree once you try it.
If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know about my love of Asian supermarkets. You can create a really good store cupboard at a fraction of the price you’d pay at a standard supermarket. So when you look at the list of ingredients and think when am I ever going to use things like tamarind paste, be brave and it will open up a whole realm of possibilities.
A good store cupboard means you can experiment with new flavours and will be able to whip new and interesting dishes without any drama.
Anyway, lecture over. This takes about 10 minutes effort at the start, and after that you leave it to cook long and slow for a couple of hours while you get on with something else (ideal weekend cooking). Because of the long slow cooking, this dish can transform cheap cuts of beef into something delicious. I had this made with duck when I was in Bali and it was delicious, but I definitely think beef works better. This is quite a dry curry so don’t worry if most of the liquid evaporates. If you think it’s getting to dry for you, just add a little water.
500 Grams Chuck Steak (chopped into bite sized chunks)
400 ml Coconut milk
1 Tbsp Tamarind paste
1 Tsp Salt
5-6 Kaffir lime leaves
2 Tbsps Vegetable or coconut oil
1 Tsp Brown sugar (palm sugar is used traditionally, but I didn’t have this)
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Cinnamon
For the curry paste base
3 Onions (peeled and quartered)
3 Chillies (roughly chopped, and seeds removed if you prefer less heat)
6 Cloves of garlic (peeled)
2 Stalks of lemon grass (outer woody stalk removed and roughly chopped)
Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and rough chopped)
Thumb sized piece of galangal (peeled and roughly chopped). If you can’t find this you can substitute this with extra ginger
Load the ingredients for the curry paste base into a food processor and blitz until you have a reasonably smooth paste (it will smell great but your eyes might water due to the onions and chillies)
In a large pan with a lid heat the oil and add your paste. Cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally
Add the meat to the paste (you don’t need to brown it), and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined
Reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for two and a half hours, stirring occasionally. About 2 hours in, you may want to uncover the pan to help the liquid evaporate to help thicken and intensify the sauce
This is traditionally served with rice but it’s also great with flat breads. Like most curries I think this actually tastes better the next day.
I have vegetarian friends who scream at the thought of this, because it’s often the only vegetarian option available in restaurants.
I do sympathise, but done well there is a reason why some things are classics I understand that goats cheese is like kryptonite for some people, so I went with a really creamy soft cheese (that wasn’t too “goaty”), but this also works well cheeses like Gorgonzola.
Do you think you’re not keen on beetroot, I was an adult before I actually discovered that I liked it. I was put off by being made to try disgusting pickled beetroot as a child, and having horrible purple vinegar run into the other food on my plate. I’m probably over sharing my personal childhood trauma, but I know a lot of people have been put off for the same reason. When roasted, beetroot is sweet and earthy and goes really well with the soft cheese. I was lucky enough to get little beetroots in my farm box ranging in colour from gold, pink to deep purple, the range of colour is nice but they all taste the same, so give them a go.
150 Grams Soft goats cheese
200 Grams Roasted beetroot
200 Grams Salad leaves (I used rainbow chard, but use what you like)
25 Grams Walnut (Optional, I actually for forgot to add these, but they add some extra crunch to your salad)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp White wine vinegar
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, wrap your beetroot in tin foil and place on a baking try. Bake until you can stick with a knife into the beetroot and an its soft. Set to one side and allow to cool, remove the skin with a knife, and cut into bite size pieces
Spread your washed salad leaves across a platter, top with the beetroot
Scoop teaspoon sized dollops of the cheese across the platter and sprinkle with walnuts if you are using them
Mix the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the salad and serve immediately
This is inspired by a recipe I saw from Katie’s Cucina, and I knew I had to try. I’ve tweaked the proportions of her recipe but it’s pretty straight forward. The hardest thing about it will be not going back and forth to the freezer to “check it’s OK”.
It has only 3 ingredients, and doesn’t need all the faff most ice creams recipes involve, like needing stir it constantly or having to have an ice cream maker.
This tastes spectacular as it is, but teams really with anything chocolate related. Really the taste of toasted marshmallows is something else. This is definately a pure filth recipe. But there is always room for a little filth in your life.
200 Grams Mini marshmallows
250 ml Condensed milk
125 ml Double cream
Line an oven proof tray with tin foil and rub this with a thin film of oil
Turn on your grill to high, spread the marshmallows evenly across the tray
Put the tray under the grill and watch closely. You’re looking for toasted but not burnt, and this can happen in a matter of seconds if you don’t watch out
In a bowl with the cream and condensed milk together with an electric whisk until it thickens. You can use a stand mixer if you have one
Add the toasted marshmallows gradually (they’ll want clog up the whisk otherwise) and whisk at a medium speed until thoroughly mixed. You’ll see little flecks of brown from the toasted parts of the marshmallow but this where the flavour is.
Freeze for 8 hours (and do your best not to eat it all yourself)
I first had these a couple of years ago in Madrid. The Spanish have an incredibly civilised social life. When going out for the evening you can order plates of tapas to snack on while enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine. Most bars will give you a little snack or tapas if you order a drink, and each bar has their own specialty.
So with a little bar hopping you can taste some great food if you don’t fancy a big sit down dinner. The tapas also helps you slow down to enjoy your drink and is also meant to help line your stomach to help prevent you getting drunk (I honestly didn’t see a single drunk person on my nights out, so maybe they’re on to something)
These croquetas are made with ham, but this can also be substituted with a cheese like manchego, that has a good flavour. While these are a little bit fiddly, you’ll be rewarded with highly addictive tapas that you’ll love.
30 Grams Butter
2 Tbsps Olive Oil
1 Small onion (finely chopped)
70 Grams Serrano ham (finely chopped)
60 Grams Plain flour
Extra flour for coating
Breadcrumbs for coating
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the onion over a gentle heat (so it doesn’t colour) until until translucent
When the onion is cooked add the butter
When the butter is melted, stir in the flour. Add the milk and stir continuously to make sure there are no lumps
The sauce will start to thicken, keep stirring and simmer until the sauce no longer tastes “floury”
Stir in the ham, and remove from the heat. Check the seasoning, I like to add a little black pepper, but because the ham is salty you shouldn’t need to add any. Place a layer of cling film on top of the sauce (it will stop a skin forming), and allow to cool
Separate out the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in different bowls
I usually take a good table spoon of the the cooled sauced mixture (which should now be firm), and roll in to a small oblong shape (wetting your hands is a good way to stock them getting sticky)
Once you have rolled all the cooled sauce mixture into little sausages, heat vegetable oil (I usually wait the oi is hot enough for a cube of bread to fry quickly, i know this is low tech but I don’t own a deep fat fryer)
While the oil is heating, roll the little sausage you made first in flour, then egg, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs
Once coated with breadcrumbs add the croquetta to the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes ensuring the brown on all sides (don’t add too many to the oil all at once)
OK, the name of this dish is maybe a bit flouncy, but this is a really tasty and colourful dish, so I decided to go a bit whimsical.
One of the few upsides of the whole pandemic is that hopefully people’s behaviour is changing. More and more people are trying to support small local businesses, to help sustain them and avoid the lines in supermarkets.
I’ve starting going back to my local butcher, and found that they offer great value meat parcels. Part of the meat parcel I bought contained sausages, and I had to think about what I could do with them that was a bit more exciting than a sausage sandwich.
While I love food I don’t think you have spend hours slaving away to eat well. This recipe needs about 5-10 minute prep time at the start, and then the oven does most of the work while you get on with your life.
500 Grams Sausages (whatever flavour you like)
500 Grams Butternut Squash (cut into 2 cm cubes)
2 Red peppers (cut into 2 cm chunks)
1 Large or 2 small courgettes (cut into 1 cm think slices)
2 Large red onions (each cut into 8)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tsp Dried Thyme
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees
Add the oil to an oven proof dish, and then add the butternut squash and time to the dish and bake for 20 minutes
After 20 minutes remove the dish form the oven and add the other vegetables. Mix the vegetables to makes sure they are coated with the oil
Lay the sausages on top of the vegetables and bake for 20 minutes, give the vegetables and sausage another mix and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the sausage are browned. I like this served with crusty bread, but it also tastes good with mashed potatoes or rice.
If you’re wondering what remoulade is, the best way to describe it is a fresher, less gloopy, fancier version of coleslaw.
I’m trying to support local businesses and keep my food miles down (so I don’t feel guilty about my travel miles). So I ordered a vegetable box from a local farm. The vegetables were great, but in the middle of the box was celeriac. I had eaten it before but had never cooked with it.
I decided to make remoulade, because it’s a fantastic Summer dish. This is perfect with barbecued meats, but also goes really well with fish. For vegetarians it’s a great addition to salad bowls to add some tang and texture, I also like to use it sandwiches as alternative to coleslaw. This is quick and easy to make, and will in the fridge for 3-4 days.
200 Grams Celeriac (roughly grated)
1 Large apple (roughly grated with skin left on)
Juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp Grain mustard
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
Remove the course outer skin of the celariac, and grate along with apple before adding to a bowl
Cover the celeriac and apple with the lemon juice.
Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise until thoroughly combined, refrigerate if not eating immediately
Hi Folks, I think this week has seen everyone reach peak cabin fever and I’ve had loads of people in the last couple of weeks asking if I have plans to run any more supper clubs.
The answer is absolutely yes! I was really disappointing at having to cancel supper clubs I had scheduled during the lock down, but thankfully everyone working together has meant COVID 19 is in retreat.
If you’ve ever been to the supper club, you’ll know it’s cosy. Part of the ethos behind supper clubs is that everyone sits at a communal table, and this way you get to eat and chat with people you normally wouldn’t do this with. Usually supper clubs welcome mixes of couples, solo diners, and friends who enjoy good food and the chance to meet new people.
With this in mind, I have to wait until Public Health Agency guidance around social distancing says that its safe to run events like this. The last thing any of us wants to do is risk the health of others.
So, please be patient. Hopefully it won’t be long before we can enjoy getting out “out” again, speak to people we don’t know, and enjoying meals we haven’t had to shop, cook, and clean up after.
As soon as restrictions are lifted I’ll advertise details of the next date. If you have been to one of the pre lock down supper clubs I hope to see you again soon. If you haven’t been to one yet I promise some cracking nights ahead.
Sometimes I make things simply because the name tickles me, (blue moo pie, hummingbird cake etc).
I heard of this cake when reading about the legendary foodie and promoter of French cuisine, Julia Childs, and decided I had to make it.
This is a single layer cake, and is quite light, unlike some super rich dense chocolate cakes. It’s perfect if you don’t want something too heavy at the end of a meal, but is also delicious with a coffee if you feel the need for a little afternoon pick me up.
This recipe has some rum in it, but if you don’t do alcohol or just don’t like rum you can replace it with 2 tablespoons of strong coffee.
For the meringue
Pinch of Salt
3 Eggs (separate the yolks and whites)
1 Tbsp Sugar
For the cake
115 Grams Butter (Softened)
150 Grams Sugar
115 Grams Dark chocolate (melted)
2 Tbsp Rum, or strong black coffee
25 Grams Ground Almonds
1/4 Tsp Almond extract (optional)
60 Grams Plain Flour
For the decoration
2-3 Tbsp Flaked almonds
60 Grams Dark chocolate (melted)
60 Grams Butter (melted)
Preheat your oven to 180 degree (Celsius), and prepare a 9 inch cake tin, but rubbing it with butter and then dusting the inside with a little flour (this will stop your cake sticking to the tin)
Add 3 egg whites and a pinch of salt to a bowl, and either in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk, whisk until they start to froth before adding a tablespoon of sugar. Whisk until the egg whites are firm, and you can turn the bowl upside down and the meringue stays in the bowl (be careful doing this so you don’t end up with meringue all over your floor). Set to one side
For the cake melt the 115 Grams of chocolate in the microwave, (I use blasts of 30 seconds at a time to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn), and allow to cool slightly
In another bowl, slow whisk the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy, gradually add the egg yolks. Add the slightly cooled chocolate, and then the ground almonds, and flour until well mixed
Add 1/3 of the meringue mix to the chocolate mix, and mix in with a spatula, with help loosen the chocolate mix. Add the next 1/3 of the meringue mix and gently fold this into the chocolate mix with a spatula (this will help keep the air in the cake mix to keep it light. Fold in the remaining meringue mix ensuring it is thoroughly folded through before transferring to your prepared cake tin
Make for 16 minutes (there should still be a little wobble in the centre) . Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool
When the cake is cool, toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes, keep moving them around so they toast evenly and be careful as they can burn easily.
Melt the chocolate and butter for the topping in a bowl in the microwave (try blasts of 30 seconds and stir in between blasts to make sure it melts evenly), mix well when finally melted
Pour the chocolate and butter mix over the cake and spread evenly to make sure it runs down the sides evenly (I put a plate under wire wrack to catch any icing that runs of the cake and save mess)
Sprinkle the edges and sides of the cake with the toasted almonds (store in an airtight box if not eating immediately)
I had been trying to arrange a meet up with a friend for ages and she invited me to a forest bathing event in Montalto estate about 30-40 minutes outside Belfast.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was assured there would be no naked running through woodlands beating each other with birch twigs (I have to say I was a little disappointed by this, but went anyway).
Forest bathing is based on the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku. This a mindfulness practice, were you immerse yourself in nature. Exercises can include lying down the forest and allowing all your senses to take in what is going on around you. Other exercises can help you connect with others, while some are completed in silence to help you be present in the moment and contemplate your surroundings. We were led in this by the brilliant Gillian Calhoun, firstname.lastname@example.org, who made the entire experience accessible for everyone including people in our group who admitted they had previously found it difficult to switch off and rest. I finished the morning feeling a tremendous sense of peace, and one the my favourite things I took away from it is that rest is a verb, sometimes our minds and our bodies need to be allowed to rest and rest is an activity in itself.
I had driven past the Montalto estate many times before and but never visited. The original demesne dates back to the 1600s. Patrick McCartan one of the earliest owners had his lands confiscated due his involvement in the 1641 rebellion by the United Irishmen against the crown forces. The site was eventually passed down to the Earl of Moira in 1765 who built the grand mansion house and who’s grandson developed the impressive gardens.
Today the estate is privately owned by the Wilson family and the mansion house as well as other buildings can be rented out as wedding and events venues. Entrance to the grounds (not the house) is £7.50 for adults, but annual membership is £37.50. The estate also has a café, serving delicious lunches, pastries or even afternoon tea if you feel like really treating yourself.
The estate has beautiful paths and walks with a small lake, mature trees and some really interesting and exotic planting and was the perfect location for our forest bathing as we could take in different elements the estate had to offer. They also run events like kids bush craft, floristry and gardening events and yoga.
Go get out into some nature, and then just chill out and let it all wash over you. We’re all in too much of a hurry these days to appreciate the little miracles we are surrounded by. Your physical health will improve, and your mental health will benefit, so get your lazy arse of the sofa and go commune with nature.