Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Herb Crusted Hake

Fish is something most of us don’t eat enough of, mainly because we think it’s complicated.

I was lucky enough to attend a fish masterclass at Belfast Cookery School a couple of years ago (I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a little intimidated by fish) and this is one of my favourite dishes I learned how to make and I love it.

This is super easy and quick enough for a mid week family dinner, but is tasty enough to impress guests if you’re cooking for friends.

I used hake, but any firm white fish will do. One of my kitchen hacks I bore people with is to make and keep a big bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer, as breadcrumbs can be used in so many dishes.

If you want to switch up the flavours you can try different herbs, or try adding a little lemon zest or finely chopped chillies if you enjoy a little bit of heat. This is also a great dish to get kids cooking.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250 Grams Hake (I used steaks, but fillets work too)

50 Grams Breadcrumbs (thaw them first if you are using frozen ones)

25 Grams Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 Tbsp Herbs (I used parsley and coriander, but use the herbs you like)

2-3 Tbsp Oil (a neutral oil like rapeseed is good)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), take your fish out of the fridge (like meat, fish is best when it is not introduced to heat while its still “fridge cold”), try to let it come up to room temperature. Run your finger along the fish and remove any bones you find (if you’re using a fish monger, you can ask them to do this)
  2. In a bowl, add your breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan, gradually add the oil and combine until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated but not greasy (different types of bread will absorb different amounts of oil). Taste a small amount and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
  3. Place your fish on baking parchment in a baking try and pat the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are brown and toasted. If you’re cooking a particularly thick piece of fish you make need to give it a little longer but be careful not to over cook

Crostini with Whipped Feta and Roasted Grapes

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.

The cheese, oil, yoghurt and spring onions before whipping

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.

Straight from the oven, perfect once the grapes start to look s little shriveled

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.

Feta, once it has been whipped

The roast grapes are something you might not have tried before, but their sweetness works really well with the saltiness of the feta.

Ingredients

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

1-2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Clove of garlic

For the grapes

250 Grams Red grapes

1Tbsp Oil

1 Clove of garlic (finely chopped)

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Dried thyme, or 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Black pepper

For the Feta

200 Grams Feta cheese

2 Tbsp Yoghurt

1 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Scallions/spring onions (Optional), finely sliced

Black pepper

Method

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. In a large bowl, crumble the feta, and add the other ingredients and whip with an electric whisk for 5 minutes or until creamy.
  4. When the bread is cool, spread with a layer of whipped feta, and top with the roasted grapes

Galgorm Resort and Spa

Galgorm Spa Village

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.

Spa area

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.

These look like little hobbit houses, but are saunas dotted along the banks of the river.
Just take a rest from all that relaxing

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.

Crab Claws in Garlic Butter

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.

Ingredients

250 Grams Crab Claws

50 Grams Butter

3 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Parsley (finely chopped, optional)

Method

  1. In a large pan heat the butter, when it starts to melt, add the garlic and the crab claws
  2. 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!

Rowallane Gardens

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.

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

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).

Ingredients

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)

Method

  1. In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
  3. 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)
  4. 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
  5. If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)

Hummingbird Cake

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.

Ingredients

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

2 Eggs

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)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin and line with baking paper
  2. Add the banana, chopped pineapple and sugar to a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well
  3. Whisk the oil, eggs and pineapple juice together before adding to the banana mixture. Stir until properly combined
  4. 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
  5. To make the icing, whisk the butter and cream cheese together (I use an electric whisk). Gradually add the icing sugar and orange zest.
  6. Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecans

Roast Vegetable Couscous

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.

Halloumi with roast vegetable couscous

Ingredients

200 Grams Couscous

Vegetable stock

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

Method

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. Once you have removed the vegetables from the oven, take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the soft centre and stir into the couscous
  5. Stir the vegetables into the couscous and serve

Red Pepper and Chorizo Gnocchi

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.

Bursting with flavour

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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
  2. Add the rest of the oil to the pan to heat, add then and the gnocchi, and brown gently all over.
  3. 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
  4. 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

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

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.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

4 Pork chops

500 Grams Sauerkraut (drained)

350 Grams Can of pineapple rings

Method

  1. Place pork chops in an oven proof baking dish
  2. Cover with the drained sauerkraut, and top with the pineapple rings
  3. 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

Lemon Tiramisu

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.

Delicious slice of tangy tiramisu

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)

Ingredients

500 Grams Marscapone cheese

250 Grams Sponge fingers (lady fingers)

2 Eggs

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

Method

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Top this layer with half of the marscapone mix
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours, or ideally overnight

Rendang Beef Curry

It may not be beautiful, but it tastes unbelievable

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.

Base ingredients

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.

Galangal is a member of the ginger family but I think it has more of a citrus like flavour. Substitute this with more ginger if you can’t find it

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.

All your base ingredients, whizzed up and smelling amazing.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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)
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.

Mock Crab

It may not be pretty, but OMG it’s tasty.

I have no idea why this is called mock crab, as it isn’t remotely fishy. But, what it is, is a really quick and tasty filling for sandwiches, toasties, and maybe controversially baked potatoes.

My Mum made this mix of corned (chipped) beef, tomatoes and onion for slightly fancier lunches. I love her, but she wasn’t especially adventurous, this was one of the things she knew we all loved.

Someone told me that this was devised during World War II, because people had to rely on tinned food as there could be shortages of fresh food. However it came about, it’s really delicious.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

1/2 Small onion (finely chopped)

2 Small tomatoes

2 Tbsps Mayonnaise (you can increase this if you want a creamier texture)

Method

  1. Remove the corned beef from the tin and either chop finely or mash with a fork
  2. Finely chop the onion, and chop the tomatoes into 1 cm chunks (you can makes the mix a bit chunkier if you prefer)
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mix well, before filling sandwiches or baked potatoes

Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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
  2. Spread your washed salad leaves across a platter, top with the beetroot
  3. Scoop teaspoon sized dollops of the cheese across the platter and sprinkle with walnuts if you are using them
  4. Mix the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the salad and serve immediately

No Churn Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

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”.

Spread the marshmallows evenly on a tray before placing under the grill

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.

Remember to keep an eye on these so they don’t burn

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.

Ingredients

200 Grams Mini marshmallows

250 ml Condensed milk

125 ml Double cream

Method

  1. Line an oven proof tray with tin foil and rub this with a thin film of oil
  2. Turn on your grill to high, spread the marshmallows evenly across the tray
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. Freeze for 8 hours (and do your best not to eat it all yourself)

Croquetas de Jamon Serrano (Spanish Ham Croquettes)

Crunchy coating and molten melting centre.

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.

Makes 10-12

Ingredients

30 Grams Butter

2 Tbsps Olive Oil

1 Small onion (finely chopped)

70 Grams Serrano ham (finely chopped)

500ml Milk

60 Grams Plain flour

2 eggs

Extra flour for coating

Breadcrumbs for coating

Salt and pepper

Bite into the crunchy croquetas to the creamy tender ham flecked centre

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the onion over a gentle heat (so it doesn’t colour) until until translucent
  2. When the onion is cooked add the butter
  3. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour. Add the milk and stir continuously to make sure there are no lumps
  4. The sauce will start to thicken, keep stirring and simmer until the sauce no longer tastes “floury”
  5. 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
  6. Separate out the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in different bowls
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. While the oil is heating, roll the little sausage you made first in flour, then egg, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs
  10. 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)
  11. Drain on kitchen paper and eat while hot.

Sausage Rainbow Tray Bake

Loaded with packs of colour and flavour.

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.

Throw it all in a dish and let the oven do the work

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Add the oil to an oven proof dish, and then add the butternut squash and time to the dish and bake for 20 minutes
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Celeriac and Apple Remoulade

Clean, fresh and crunchy

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.

It may not be pretty but it tastes great.

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.

Great with barbecued meat or fish.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Remove the course outer skin of the celariac, and grate along with apple before adding to a bowl
  2. Cover the celeriac and apple with the lemon juice.
  3. Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise until thoroughly combined, refrigerate if not eating immediately

Sunnyside Supper Club – Is it ever coming back?

One of the previous supper clubs

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.

Everyone enjoying dinner at a communal table.

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.

Welcome drinks mmmm.

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.

Tropical Rice Pudding

Scrumptious served with ripe mango or pineapple

I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid, my Mum wasn’t a great cook (I love you Mo, but we both know the truth). Dessert in my house was usually shop bought, and when I was really young one of favourites was tinned creamed rice with a big spoonful of jam.

Fast forward God knows how many years, and I taught myself how to cook. I was also lucky enough to go out into the world and try some amazing flavours. So I decided to try and experiment with some of my favourites. Coconut, ginger and lemon grass gives a new twist on this traditional dessert.

I like this chilled and served with mango or pineapple, but it’s also really good warm, and you can enjoy it with whatever fruit you prefer.

I used milk in this recipe, but you can substitute some of this with cream if want to make a really indulgent dessert. If you want to make a vegan version, swap cow’s milk for almond milk. I’ve tried both versions and they’re both delicious.

Coconut and spices bring a new twist to an old classic

Ingredients

400 ml Can Coconut milk

250 Grams Pudding rice

40 Grams Sugar

500 ml Milk

1 Large stalk of lemon grass (kept whole but bruised)

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger

Method

  1. Cut your piece of ginger in half length ways, then smack your lemon grass with the back of a knife (or pot if you want get some frustration out). Bruising the lemongrass helps release the flavour. The ginger and lemon grass are kept big to make it easier to fish out when the rice pudding is cooked
  2. Put all the ingredients in a pot with a lid and heat until just before the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat stirring regularly. Each type of rice is different, so cook until the rice is soft. (mine took about 30 minutes). Different rices will absorb different amounts of liquid so if you think the mix is looking too dry add a little milk/water
  3. When the rice is cooked you can scoop out the ginger and lemon grass. The rice pudding can be served hot or cold. I like it served with fruit

Paneer Masala

Serve with rice or flat breads

This might look like a lot of ingredients, but getting yourself a good spice cupboard opens up a world of food possibilities. Find a good Asian supermarket and you can do this much more cheaply than buying them from a big supermarkets.

My love for cheese that you can fry has been well documented on this blog. Add it to a fragrant and well spiced masala sauce and it’s a little slice of vegetarian heaven.

Ingredients

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Cinnamon

2 Cardamon pods

2 Cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Fennel seeds

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (grated)

4 Cloves

1 Tsp Tumeric

1 Tsp Chilli Powder

1 Tsp Ground coriander

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander

Knob of butter

250 Grams Paneer ( cut into 2cm cubes)

2 Tbsp oil

Taking time to set out your spices saves time while you’re cooking, and you can tidy as you go.

Method

  1. In a large frying pan add the butter and fry the onion, then add the cinnamon, cardamon pods, cloves and fennel seeds
  2. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the ginger and garlic, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Add the turmeric, tomato puree and chilli and fry for another minute, and 250ml hot water
  4. Bring the sauce to just before the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes
  5. In a non stick frying pan, heat the oil and fry the paneer until browned on all sides
  6. Add the paneer to the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes, allowing it to absorb the flavour.
  7. Top with chopped coriander. Serve with rice or flat breads. This keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days

Corned Beef, Potato and Onion Pie

Simple and delicious dinner.

I first had this as a teenager when a school friend’s Mum made this one night when I was at their house. It was a taste revelation to me. Up until then I had only had corned beef (chipped beef in the US) in sandwiches.

I had the idea to make this when looking in a cupboard I found the strange shaped tin with the stupid little key and strange opening mechanism. Honestly, after all these years, why does corned beef have to be stored in these weird shaped tins. And don’t even start me about the stupid key thing you need to open it, that you cut yourself on every single time. I mean it, if anyone knows why this still happens please tell me.

Cheap and simple ingredients make a really delicious filling

Anyway, rant over. You can make this with ready made pasty if you want this to be super quick. I have included details for anyone who prefers to make their own pastry. It’s a good way to use up left over potatoes, and makes an easy inexpensive meal.

Use a loose bottom pie tin to make it easier to remove the pie.

Ingredients

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (cut into cubes)

Cold water

For the filling

300 Grams Potatoes (cooked)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. My hand are always really warm, so I’m not best suited to make pastry, this is part of the reason I add the flour and butter to a food processor and pulse until I get a mix that looks like bread crumbs (you can also use the traditional rubbing in method, but generally I’m too lazy for this).
  2. When your mix looks like breadcrumbs, start by adding a little cold water at a time until the mix comes together to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. If you’re stuck for time or just can’t be bothered, it’s totally fine to use shop bought pastry
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat. Grease a 9 inch loose base cake/pie tin and set to one side, ready for your pastry
  4. Remove your pastry from the fridge and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so it isn’t too stiff to roll out. While you wait on this, chop your onion finely, and cube your cooked potatoes (which should be cold), after you have wrestled your corned beef out of the tin and tried really hard not to scream f*ck at it, you should cube this as well
  5. Mix the potatoes, corned beef, and onion together and season with salt and pepper
  6. Put the pastry on a floured surface and cut approx 1/3 off and set to one side (this will be the lid for your pie)
  7. Roll the remaining pastry out as thinly as possible, and make sure it’s big enough to fit your pie tin. Line the tin with the pastry, making sure that you have pushed into the edges
  8. Put your corned beef mix into the lined pie dish, and then roll out the remaining pastry to form a lid. brush the edges of the pastry lining the tin with beaten egg and then place the lid on top. I press down the edged with a fork to make sure it’s sealed
  9. Brush the pie with some more beaten egg (it will help it look pretty when it’s cooked) and add a couple holes to allow steam to escape. Place the completed pie on top of the baking sheet that has been heating in the oven (this help ensure the base if cooked).
  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden brown

Five Spice Pork Belly

Crispy and deeply delicious.

I love pork belly. If I go to a restaurant (remember those). I’m really predictable, if pork belly is on the menu that’s what I’m ordering.

If you haven’t tried it before, it’s pretty rich and can be fatty, but it’s also really tasty. I enjoy it, cooked long and slow, and then crisped up in the pan.

Pork belly lends itself particularly to Asian flavours. I like to marinade the pork, usually over night but at least for an hour.

This is really versatile, and freezes well. It’s great served with salad (if you’re following a keto or low carb diet), or sliced in sandwiches with coleslaw. Its also really good sliced and served with noodles. You can crisp it up on a barbecue instead of the pan for a delicious smokey flavour.

Marinade the pork for at least 1 hour

Ingredients

500 Grams Pork belly strips

2 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

2 Tsp Chinese five spice powder

1 Tsp White wine vinegar (or what ever vinegar you have, just not something really strong like malt vinegar)

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Cut the pork belly into 2-3cm thick strips
  2. Add the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and five spice powder, to an oven proof dish and mix.
  3. Coat the pork strips with the marinade. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight (or for an hour at least)
  4. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, put the covered dish in to cook for 90 minutes,
  5. Remove from the oven. Heat a frying, and add the pork to pan.
  6. Crisp for a few minutes on each side, and then sprinkle with sesame seeds

BLT Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Every bite is totally yum

This is the perfect salad for people who think they don’t like salads.

What makes it so good is the ranch dressing. I’m warning everyone in advance, this isn’t a salad for the diet conscious. Ranch dressing is rich and creamy and makes just about anything taste fantastic. It’s doubles as a dip, and is also fantastic in sandwiches with tortilla chips, chicken wings, or if you’re one of those people who like to dip their pizza, (FYI the Italians are horrified by this and have threatened to take pizza back if the rest of the world doesn’t behave itself. I won’t tell them if you don’t).

The salad hits all the bases, soft chicken, crispy salty bacon, sweet cherry tomatoes, and a rich creamy dressing. You can always use the shop bought ranch dressing if you don’t have time or the ingredients, but do yourself a favour and give it a try. This is great for anyone following low carb or gluten free diet.

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the salad

2 Cooked chicken breasts or chicken thighs (shredded or cut into cubes)

4 Rashers of streaky bacon (cooked until crispy and cut or crumbled into 2cm strips)

2-3 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

Handful of cherry tomatoes (halved)

2 Handfuls of salad leaves

For the dressing

2 Tbsp Mayonaise (I use shop bought)

2 Tbsp Sour Cream

1/2 Tsp dried dill

1 Tsp Chopped parsley (or 1/2 tsp dried parsley)

1/2 Garlic powder

1 Tbsp Lemon juice/ or 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Milk to loosen the dressing to the consistency you like (for people following a keto diet they can use cream)

  1. In a jar with a lid, add all the dressing ingredients except the milk/cream. Check the flavour and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
  2. When you are happy with the seasoning add a little milk/cream to loosen the mixture and shake the jar. Check the consistency, and add more milk/cream if you want a runnier dressing
  3. Combine all your salad ingredients and drizzle with the dressing before serving
  4. The dressing will keep quite happily in a sealed jar in your fridge for 4-5 days

Crab and Avocado salad

Soft sweet crab meat, fresh crunchy vegetables, and delicious tahini dressing

I never thought I would say it, but after weeks stuck at home. I was finally fed up with carbs.

The antidote was a quick and easy salad. I used tinned crab meat because it was what I had, but fresh or frozen would also work.

Like most salads, use what you have or what you like, I added nectarine because it’s what I had, but mango but would be great too. Lemon and tahini are great in dressings. I usually add garlic to this dressing mix, but left it out this time so that it wouldn’t overwhelm the delicate crab flavour. Fresh herbs like parsley or corriander would be great in this salad too.

Mix colours and textures

Ingredients

Serves 2

1 Carrot (grated)

50 Grams Endame beans (frozen)

6 Radishes (sliced)

1/2 Avocado (cubed)

1 Nectarine (cubed)

145 Gran Tin of crab meat

2 Handfuls of rocket or other salad leaves.

For the dressing

1Tbsp Tahini

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp Rapeseed oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the tahini, oil, and lemon juice to a bowl. Mix well and season with sat and pepper, loosen with a little water if it’s too thick
  2. Combine all the salad ingredients in large bowl, add the dressing and serve with crusty bread

Soda Bread with Dulse

Most people from Northern Ireland will remember grandparents trying to force dulse on them as a child. If you were lucky enough to escape this and don’t know what dulse is, it’s deep purple seaweed gathered around the coast of Northern Ireland (and other places too). As a child I found it too salty, and the long strands too chewy (I wasn’t a fan).

The reason most grandparents tried to make kids eat it is because it’s amazingly good for you. It’s jam packed full of iodine, calcium, potassium, and all sorts of vitamins and anti oxidants.

I know apart from the health benefits, I’m not really selling dulse as something you can cook with. However, like the big food nerd that I am, I went on a coastal foraging day last year which was amazing, and ended with a fantastic meal cooked by Celia Sponcer (brilliant local chef). She used different seaweeds as seasoning for breads like focaccia and they were delicious, so she inspired me to try this. Dulse provides a saltiness to dishes, but also a deeper flavour that reminds you of the ozone smell you get when you’re at the coast.

Dulse before it has been finely chopped

In Northern Ireland dulse is sold in most greengrocers, but if you aren’t able to get hold of it you can buy it online from a lot of health food retailers or online (because it’s so good for you).

This recipe calls for buttermilk, which i never have, so if you don’t have it use ordinary milk and the juice of half a lemon (the acidity from the buttermilk/lemon juice is needed to cause the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise).

If you can’t find dulse, or aren’t brave enough to try it, this still makes really delicious and healthy bread. If you’re not using dulse replace it with 1 teaspoon of salt. It’s great served with soups, but my favourite way to enjoy this is sliced with cheese.

Enjoy with butter, or cheese and chutney

Ingredients

375 Grams Wholemeal flour

75 Grams Plain flour

1 Level Tsp Bicarbonate Soda

2 Tbsp Dulse (finely chopped)

325-350 ml Buttermilk (or use ordinary milk with the juice of half a lemon added to it)

Method

  1. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, dulse and baking powder to bowl
  2. Stir in the butter milk/milk and lemon juice mixture until it’s s soft dough
  3. Handle as little as possible, but make the dough into a ball
  4. Turn onto a sheet of baking parchment
  5. With a sharp knife, cut a cross (about one third of the depth of the dough) across the centre of the bread
  6. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 45 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when you tap it

Halloumi Fajitas

It’s not totally authentic, but it is totally delicious.

Like everyone else I’m trying to go out as little as possible at the moment. I took a craving for fajitas and didn’t have the chicken I would normally use, or tortillas.

What I did find in the fridge was halloumi, which worked brilliantly. The saltiness of the cheese is yummy with the sweet peppers and onions, with little kick of chilli heat. I didn’t have tortillas, but I substituted these with Carribbean flat breads, I made using a recipe provided by the fantastic Debbie at D Rum Pot. Fusion cooking by accident rather than design.

The fajitas take 5 minutes to prepare, before popping in the oven. You have a delicious meal in less than 30 minutes.

Mmm Melting cheesy goodness

Ingredients

200 Grams Halloumi (cut into 1,1/2 cm strips)

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Red pepper (sliced)

1 Yellow pepper (sliced)

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1/2 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Smoked paprika (I used the hot version, but if you are using sweet paprika then use a 1/2 teaspoon, and add a 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder

Method

  1. Add the spices and oil in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined
  2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and halloumi, to the oil and spices and mix until coated
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the halloumi is golden brown)

Nasi Goreng (sort of)

Not just for breakfast, delicious any time of day.

I’ll start by apologising in advance to the Balinese people (undoubtedly the loveliest nation in existence). When I visited Bali previously I loved the national dish of Nasi Goreng. This is a dish of fried rice, vegetables and sometimes chicken or fish, topped with a fried egg. I’ve made the vegetarian version. I know what I’ve made isn’t 100% authentic but was the best I could do with the ingredients I had. So apologies again to the Balinese nation, but it still tasted really good.

I had dreamt of visiting Bali this year, but since Covid 19 s*it all over that plan, this is my way of recalling happier times.

This is often eaten as a breakfast dish, but can be eaten at any time of the day. The real version would have galangal. I didn’t have this, but used ginger I had in the freezer which worked well.

What makes this really tasty is the Kecap Manis, this is a thick sweet type of soy sauce used widely used in Indonesian cooking.

I’ve shown what I used for one serving, but you can increase the quantities if you’re making this for more people.

dav

Recipe

1 Cup of cold cooked white rice

1/2 Onion (finely sliced)

1 Carrot (grated)

Handful of finely sliced cabbage

1 Clove of garlic (finely sliced)

2 cm Piece of ginger (grated)

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Kecap manis

1 Egg

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, and add the vegetables, cook until softened slightly
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and rice, and continue to fry until thoroughly heated
  3. Stir in the kecap manis, and plate up, and top with a fried egg

Vegetarian Moussaka

Vegetarian Moussaka

I’ve loved moussaka ever since I first tasted it. But it can be very rich, so this version even though it’s still packed with protein is a little lighter.

This is based around a Jamie Oliver recipe and it’s proper comfort food. I added some roast red peppers, as I think it brings a little bit more freshness to it. There’s still enough cheese to make it still taste decadent.

The only draw back is that this is a time consuming recipe. I usually wait to make this at the weekend when I have more time, but it’s worth the time and effort, and tastes so much better than some gloopy supermarket version. This is also a great dish if you have a group of people to cook for.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

4 Aubergines

4 Roasted red peppers (I used a jar of red peppers to save time)

500 Grams Potatoes

2 Tins Chopped tomatoes

2 Tins Chick peas

1 Sprig Rosemary

1 Small bunch of sage

100 Grams Green lentils, boiled until soft (or 1 can of lentils)

2 Onions, sliced

400 Grams Feta cheese

50 Grams Butter

50 Grams Plain flour

500ml Milk

25 Grams Parmesan (or other strong, hard cheese)

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees, peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm slices. Rub the potatoes with a little olive oil, place on baking trays and bake until tender and golden brown
  2. Peel strips into the aubergines, and then cut into 2 cm rounds before sprinkling with salt and leaving to drain a colander for an hour
  3. Wipe off any excess moisture and the salt, and sprinkle the aubergines with a little olive oil and place on baking trays and bake in the oven until tender, just as you did with the potatoes
  4. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to a large frying pan and add the onions and herbs to pan. Cook gently until the onions have softened (I keep the herbs on the stem so that they are easier to fish out of the sauce later.
  5. Add the cooked/tinned lentils and chick peas to the pan along with the tinned tomatoes. Simmer over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened, check the season and add salt and pepper if necessary
  6. When the vegetables have finished roasting and the sauce is ready, it’s time to start assembling the dish
  7. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large oven proof dish, then top this with a layer of the cooked potatoes and crumble over some of the feta cheese. Top this with another layer of sauce and then add a layer of roasted peppers sprinkle with some of the feta cheese. Top again with the sauce and add the cooked aubergines and any left over feta
  8. To top this you will need to make a white sauce, in a medium sized saucepan, melt your butter over a medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Continue to stir as you add the milk (if you find that you are getting lumps there is no shame in breaking out a whisk to beat the living daylights of the sauce to get rid of rid of them).
  9. The sauce will start thicken as it heats, so continue stirring and reduce the heat and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until the sauce no longer tastes “floury”. Add the grated hard cheese and mix well
  10. Top the layers of vegetables and with the white sauce and bake at 200 degrees for 30-40 minutes of until all bubbly, brown and delicious

21st March Supper Club, the Italian menu is the winner!

I couldn’t decide between menus for the next supper club, so I put it to a vote on Facebook. For a week or two the French menu had a strong lead, but got pipped at the post by the Italian menu. So thanks to everyone who voted.

February’s supper club sold out weeks in advance so remember to book early.

The menu for the 21st March will be

Starter – Gnocchi with Hazelnut Pesto

Main – Chicken Marsala, (Vegetarian Option-Aubergine Parmesan), Italian Salad, Homemade Italian Bread

Dessert – Tiramisu

The ethos behind the Supper Club is simple. Everyone eats the same menu at a communal table, with the chance to meet new people, chat and enjoy a bit of craic.

We greet everyone with a welcome drink in front of an open fire and you’ll enjoy 3 courses for only £25 (with a little treat or two). We’re also BYO.

21st March Supper Club

3 course Italian Menu

£25.00

October Supper Club

N.B. We have a 24 hour cancellation policy.

Belfast Cookery School – Fish Masterclass

Herb crusted cod with Dublin Bay prawns.

I’ve always steered away from cooking fish. The honest reason is that I was never really sure how to. Growing up, my dear sainted mother was an awful cook (sorry Mo, but you are). She would cook fish until it had no flavour and was like a piece of cardboard.

I’m lucky enough to live on an island with amazing sea food, which it turns out we mostly export. I’m convinced the reason for this is that most of us don’t know how easy it is to cook, so we avoid it.

Workbenches at the cookery school.

As a birthday present, I was given a voucher for Belfast Cookery School. They have a fantastic range of classes, but I decided to up my fish skills.

The class cost £60 for 3-4 hours, and is in central Belfast with about 10-12 people in each class. Staff are friendly and welcoming and the class includes a welcome drink and tea/coffee throughout the class.

Demonstration of how to fillet flat fish.

Once settled in, Ian our chef expertly demonstrated how to fillet and skin both flat fish (brill), and round fish (salmon). He also gave members of the class a chance to try this as well.

Salt and chilli squid, with aoli and chilli jam

I love squid/calimari in restaurants, but they always looked a bit like aliens in the fish market, (I’ll admit I was intimidated). We were shown how to prepare squid, and make one of my all time favourite seafood dishes, salt and chilli squid. Which once you know how to deal with squid, is surprisingly straight forward.

Brill cooked with capers and beurre noisette.

We all got to sample some of the demonstrated dishes, the brill cooked in a beurre noisette (browned butter), and salmon with caponatta (slow roasted red pepper, onion, tomato and garlic).

Salmon with caponatta.

After trying all these we were shown the the dishes we would be cooking by ourselves. First was mussels cooked with fennel, cream and white wine. Again, super delicious and pretty straight forward once you know what to do.

Mussels with cream and fennel

The second dish was cod topped with herbed breadcrumbs, served on top of a shellfish ragu (fancy name for a stew), topped with a Dublin Bay prawn. It turns out they aren’t prawns at all, but micro lobster, 90% of which are shipped abroad.

Cod cooked with herb crumb, served with a shellfish ragu.

The whole class was excellent, and I have now faced my fear of fish. I may even break out my newly gained fish skills at a future supper club. Everything we ate and cooked was beyond delicious and I left unable to eat another bite and in serious danger of slipping into a food coma. I’ll definately go back to the school, but they are currently so popular they’re booked up months in advance. It’s definitely worth the wait, so check them out.

1st February Sunnyside Supper Club – the perfect antidote to January

Cosy ddinner at the Sunnyside Supper Club.

Sorry this event is now sold out – We still have places available at our 21st March Supper Club

Christmas is over, January is the longest month ever, and it seems like a long time until anything good is going to happen again. The Supper Club costs £25 per person, for 3 delicious courses, as well as a welcome drink and some extra treats, (drinks are BYO). Details of how to book are shown below, and all payments are protected by PayPal.

February Supper Club

Welcome drink, and 3 courses meal (plus a couple of treats)

£25.00

Why not come along to the Sunnyside Supper Club, and try something new

This month’s theme will be Greek food. Our ethos of the supper club is simple, good food, great craic and the chance to meet new people. Mainly because we were sick of the sight of all the people we already knew.

Previous supper club guests have been a mix of couples, solo diners, and friends who wanted to try something different. We get an eclectic mix of people from the very young at heart 60s, through to foodies in their 20s

October’s Supper Club.

Everyone eats at a communal table, and shares the menu shown below. We’ll meet you in front of a roaring fire with a welcome drink, and we’re BYO. Details of how to book via PayPal are shown below.

February Supper Club

Book now to secure your place at February's Supper Club

£25.00

1st February 2020, Supper Club Menu

Starter – Greek meze (small sharing plates of dips, salads and flat breads).

Main Course – Beef stifado, (vegetarian option moussaka), herbed rice, and roast vegetables

Dessert – Flourless orange and almond cake, poached oranges, Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

Let us know in advance if you are gluten intolerant, or vegan and we can be sure to have something delicious for you.

N.B. We have a 24 hour cancellation policy.

Snickerdoodles – the taste and smell of Christmas

Christmas eve is a strange day, and kids especially are over excited and bored. A bit of Christmas baking keeps them occupied. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit, and your house will smell fabulous.

Snickerdoodles, the crack cocaine of cookies.

Many years ago I lived in Germany, where I was introduced to the crack cocaine of all Christmas baking, the snickerdoodle.

These are soft, chewy, buttery little cookies that are rolled in sugar and cinnamon before going to the oven. While in the oven the sugar and cinnamon melts and crisp up around the already delicious cookie.

I sincerely apologise in advance for any weight gained as a result of these cookies. I know there is a lot of butter and sugar, but it is Christmas after all ( these are delicious at any time of year though, and work really well as a base for a scoop of vanilla ice cream too)

Little balls of cookie dough are rolled in cinnamon and sugar before baking.

Please do try them though, they smell absolutely heavenly, and you can always off load the extras (as if), on friends and family. These live very happily in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Ingredients

For the cookies

370 Grams Plain flour

2 Tsp Baking powder

230 Grams Butter

1/2 Tsp Salt

300 Grams Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

For the coating

50 Grams Caster sugar

1 Tbsp Ground cinnamon

Method

  • Add the flour, salt and baking powder to a bowl
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter, and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and sluff
  • Add the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla, then add the flour mix gradually.
  • When all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined, chill in the fridge for an hour to allow the dough to firm up
  • After an hour take mix out of the fridge, and mix the sugar and cinnamon for the coating together in a small bowl
  • Make small balls of cookie dough about the size of a walnut. Roll in the sugar mix
Ball of cookie dough about to be rolled sugar and cinnamon.
  • Place the balls if cookie dough on baking parchment on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in an oven preheated to 200 degrees. Make sure to give them plenty of room to spread od else they stick together
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes

Super Simple Shortbread

Sweet, buttery and delicious.

I love shortbread, but I had horrendous flashbacks of trying make it in Home Economics class in school. It was a nightmare to roll out, stuck to the counter top, and was impossible to cut out and transfer to the tin neatly.

All this changed, when I discovered this recipe from the amazing women who run the The Edible Flower, in Ballyinahinch. This recipe is incredibly easy, doesn’t need to be rolled out, and is easy to cut into neat fingers for serving. These also make lovely little gifts if you fancy them up in a nice bag, or tin.

Who doesn’t love someone who turns up with a sweet treat.

Ingredients

315 Grams Butter

350 Grams Self raising flour

120 Grams Caster sugar (plus a little extra to dust the finished shortbread with)

120 Grams Corn flour

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 1/2 Tsps Cinnamon (optional)

If you’re a complete neat freak you can use a ruler to make sure all your shortbread is cut to the same size. As you can see, mine aren’t quite perfect.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees
  2. Melt the butter in a pam over a low heat, or in a microwave in short bursts
  3. Weigh out all your other ingredients in a bowl and add the melted butter
  4. Mix until it is a soft dough, making sure there are no floury bits
  5. Press the dough into a 20cm x 30cm Swiss roll tin. You can smooth the top with a palette knife if you want it completely smooth, but don’t worry if you don’t
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes. Once cooked, cut into fingers, while still warm. Sprinkle lightly with a little caster sugar
  7. Makes 28 large or 56 small fingers of shortbread. This shortbread freezes really well, and also makes really nice gifts for people

21 March 2020 – Sunnyside Supper Club, Vote for the menu

Our February supper club featuring Greek cuisine has sold out.

Now we’re wondering what you would like to see at the 21st March supper club.

Supper club is an intimate dining experience with around 8 guests, sharing a communal table.

We can’t decide if we should go for a French or Italian theme for our menu, so we’re asking you to help us decide.

French Menu

Starter – French onion soup, with French bread and Gruyere crouton

Main – Coq au vin (Veg option, Mediterranean vegetable gallete), potatoes dauphinois, green beans

Dessert –Tarte au chocolat

Italian Menu

Starter –Gnocchi with hazelnut pesto

Main – Chicken Marsala, (Veg option aubergine parmesan),  Italian bread, mixed salad

Dessert – Tiramisu

You can vote for your favourite menu by leaving a comment or taking part in our Facebook poll. If there are other food themes you’d like us to maybe try out on future supper clubs let us know.

Supper clubs are a great way to enjoy good food, meet some new people and have a bit of craic. Cost is £25 per person for 3 courses and some little extras, including a welcome drink, drinks are BYO.

Supper Club

Try something new in the new year!

£25.00

Previous Supper Club Night

Each night consists of a 3 course meal (plus a couple of little treats),  all served at a communal table, with the chance to meet and chat to new and interesting people. All guests are met with a welcome drink, and then it’s BYO,  and costs £25 per person

21 March Supper Club

£25.00

N.B. 24 Hour cancellation policy

Istanbul – What to see

Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Christian Church by the Emporer Constantine, it was later rededicated as a mosque.
Grand Bazaar – this place has everything, the only problem will be carrying it all home.
Grand Bazaar – a historic setting selling everything from traditional rugs to electronics

A little bit of history

Istanbul wasn’t super high on my list of places to visit. But, I was lucky enough to meet and have dinner a few months ago, with the super lovely Angie Ibarra, an experienced travel blogger, https://travelmoments.net During a great night with maybe too much wine I asked her, up to that point where was the favourite place she had visited.  Her immediate answer was Istanbul.  Since then, loads of people have told me the same thing, you have to go.

I’m a total history nerd, (I’m not even sorry) and Istanbul has oodles of it.  Dating back nearly 3000 years, the city has been seat to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.   Istanbul is unique in that it is split between two continents (half the city sits in Asia, the other in Europe, and the two halves are separated by the river Bosphorus).  Being in such a sweet spot, Istanbul has been a meeting point of countless cultures.  The city has trading links with Egypt and China going back two millennia and is still a major trading hub.    Sites such as the Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and Blue Mosque are within walking distance of each other.  The first two could easily take a day each, if you wanted to take your time.

A city split across two continents

This prime location has also meant it has changed hands various times.  The Roman emperor Constantine when he converted to Christianity set up the city as his “new Rome”, and you can still see examples of Roman architecture and engineering throughout the city.  Istanbul then became centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and seat of the new Byzantine empire.

Galata Tower, take the funicular railroad to visit the bohemian Galata district.

The 15th century saw the rise of the Ottoman empire.  Ahead of it’s time in relation to architecture, medicine and the arts, Istanbul continued to be a thriving multicultural metropolis.

The Blue Mosque, decorated with thousands of beautiful hand painted tiles.

Modern times

I was really impressed by the modern Istanbul, but given political tensions in the area there was a heavy security presence in popular areas.   When out shopping in one of the modern shopping areas near Taksim Square (think Oxford Street in London), I was a bit alarmed when I saw police unloading riot shields (being from Belfast, this usually doesn’t bode well).   However I was pleasantly surprised, when the demonstration that started was a large, pretty energetic and good natured Feminist rally.   Turkey is a secular state, but the country is still mainly Muslim and quite traditional.

Lots of bars serve hookah pipes, you can share between friends with flavoured tabacco.

Depending on how much time you have, try to visit different neighbourhoods like Galata, or take the ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy. Each has a different personality and great places to shop and eat.

The Sultanahmet District has great seafood restaurants

Istanbul  is still a cultural melting pot and draws in people from outside. I met people from Azerbaijan, Morocco and Armenia who for various reasons  have decided to live there.   By my second day I kept seeing guys with hairbands and surgical dressings taped to the back of their heads.  Totally perplexed as to the reason, the penny finally dropped.  Apparently Istanbul is the place to go for guys wanting hair transplants at a fraction of the price they’d pay in Europe.

Waiters are usually good fun and are keen to get you stay, this one set off fireworks for my birthday!

The city has a good cheap public transport network, and it’s worth investing in the IstanbulKart (a multi use card that can be topped up in various location).  You’ll see astonishing places, and meet great people.    In the interests of good travel karma if you have credit left, and aren’t planning on returning very soon, be nice and pass it on to a local or fellow traveller, same goes for your museum card.  Give Istanbul a try, you’ll love it.

1st February 2020 – Supper Club

Sorry this event is now sold out. We still have places available at our 21st March Supper Club, and we’d love to see you

Ever wondered what to buy some of the people in your life. Is it better to have experiences in life rather than clutter. Why not buy someone a cracking night out.

Well December will be busy and stressful, January will be crap due to the whole shi**y weather and being broke thing. Wouldn’t it be nice to start February with a slap up meal and the chance to share dinner with a few new people who might be a bit of craic?

February’s supper club will be on the 1st of the month. We’re going Greek!

It may be baltic outside, but the food inside will hopefully transport you to sunnier climes. Greek food has great fresh flavours, and is tasty while still being fairly heathly.

We’ll have the fire lit and a drink to welcome you when you arrive. (We’re BYO)

Everyone eats the same 3 course meal (plus a couple of treats) at a communal table. So you have the chance to meet your fellow diners, and have a bit of craic. We also welcome for vegetarian/vegans, just let us know in advance so we can be sure we have something delicious for you. This menu is also mainly gluten free (and we can adapt things if you have problems with gluten, just let us know before hand).

October’s Supper Club

Menu

Starter

Greek meze – Small sharing plates, think Greek tapas

Main Course

Beef stifado (vegetarian option, moussaka)

Spanakorizo (herbed rice)

Roast vegetables

Dessert

Flourless orange and almond cake, poached oranges, Greek yoghurt

Flourless almond and orange cake

February Supper Club

Sunnyside Supper Club, 1st February 2020

£25.00

N.B. We have a 24 hour cancellation policy.

Hong Kong

Throwback from last year’s visit. This time of year makes me wish I was back there.

When a friend heard I was going to Hong Kong, she said “you’ll love it, it’s like New York on crack”. She wasn’t wrong. We arrived after a 12 hour flight in sweltering heat and humidity, to be told that our hotel room wouldn’t be ready for another 7 hours! Exhausted and unable to cope with the heat we trawled around Kowloon for a couple of hours before we decided go back and embarrass the hotel clerk into giving us a room by hanging about a tiny lobby sweating profusely and looking like a pair of extras from night of the living dead. Hey Presto, we got a room within 10 minutes, (sometimes looking like a sweaty mess just pays off).

Night Market in Hong Kong

After a much needed power nap and shower we left to explore Hong Kong properly. If you’ve ever watched Blade Runner this is what night time Hong Kong will remind you of. Lots of neon and hustle and bustle.

Luxury shopping is a big thing and its seems there is Patek Phillipe or Rolex shop on every street. Hong Kong is what’s referred to as an Alpha+ city, due to it’s financial influence and has more ultra high net worth individuals living there than any city in the world. Unfortunately I’m not among these ranks, but the city has something for every budget. The Temple Street night market and ladies market are good choices, but be prepared to haggle.

I was obsessed with puffer fish as a kid, but how are you meant to get this home?

Hong Kong has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and outstrips even Manhattan. The average family apartment is smaller than a domestic garage. For this reason a lot of residents choose to eat out in the mind boggling array of cheap restaurants and street food outlets. I’m pretty adventurous in my eating but there were a few thing I said no to. Tripe (the spongy lining of a cow’s stomach) is a big thing that I had to pass on. However among the best food I ate was at a dicey looking whole in the wall near my hotel. After a long day sight seeing I just wanted something quick and sitting on little stools that look they came from a kindergarten I got huge bowl of soup with wantons for about £2. The woman who brought it gestured at me to try the condiments with it (chilli sauce and another sauce that smelt awful but worked when it was in the soup), my napkin was a roll of toilet paper! it was fabulous.

View from the Peak

Hong Kong, Part 2- Nan Lain Gardens and Chi Lin Nunnery

Another throw back from last year.

Hong Kong is diverse and densely populated, to get everyone one where they need to go, the city has one of the best public transport systems I’ve ever seen. As soon as you arrive, invest in an Octopus Card. These can be used to pay for everything from ferries, some taxis, trains, buses, and paying for purchases in convenience stores at metro stations, and you can top them up at any metro station. I know it sounds like I’m geeking out, but the public transport was amazing, cheap, fast and clean.

Exciting as the city is fantastic, but sometimes the heat and the crowds can be exhausting. When you need to recharge you batteries seek out a little oasis of calm like the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery.

The gardens are in the Diamond Hill district and covers 3.5 hectares, in a city with so many people this place provided some much needed chill out space away from the frenetic energy of the rest of central Hong Kong. The gardens are landscaped in line specif rules and methods, and no tree, rock, or plant is there by accident.

View of the tea room in Nan Lian Gardens

The Chi Lin Nunnery located within the gardens, is a series of elegant wooden structures made up of temples, and prayer halls lining courtyards with expertly pruned bonsai gardens and calming pools. Despite being slap bang in one of the world’s hubs of cut throat capitalism, it has a really gentle vibe, and is beyond beautiful.

If you can spare the time I’d recommend spending a day vising the garden and nunnery. If you do there are a couple of different options if want to eat or drink. The tea house is beautiful but is expensive even by Hong Kong standards. The staff are lovely and will take time to explain the different teas, and show you how to brew it correctly. We spent much more than expected here, but in fairness it was our mistake for not reading the tea menu correctly (be careful). A much better option is to go for the set lunch at the garden’s restaurant. Like with the Po Lin monastery, it’s a set vegan lunch made up of several dishes. One of which was monkey head fungus, I know what your thinking (doesn’t sound too appetizing), but it turned out to be delicious. The best food I had in Hong Kong was at these temple restaurants. Go visit these places and try the food, or just enjoy a little bit of chill before going back out into the world.

The water mill

Spinach Falafel

Sometimes if you’ve been overindulging your body tells you to eat something healthier. When that happens, this what you should be eating. Packed full of flavour and protein these little falafel are great as the protein element of a main meal or in wraps for a tasty and filling packed lunch. These falafel are baked rather than fried, which helps make them even healthier.

I made these with cannelini beans, (I thought I had chickpeas in the cupboard, but you could probably use any type of tinned beans). These are also gluten free and suitable for vegans.

Ingredients

400 Gram Can of cannelini beans or chickpeas

2 Tablespoons Porridge oats

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 Tablespoon Tahini

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Teaspoon Salt

Handful of Coriander or parsley (toughly chopped)

Tablespoon Sesame Seeds (optional)

Oil for spraying

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add all ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to a food processor and blend until you have a smooth mix
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment, the falafel mix should be quite soft, so I used a tablespoon to scoop the mix on the baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and bake for 15 minutes before turning them and bake for another 15 minutes

Blackberry Ganache Tart, with Meringue Shards

If you have read this blog for a while you’ll know I enjoy a good forage.  Collecting blackberries always takes me back to being a kid.  Wild blackberries also have a much more intense flavour than the farmed variety.  So with a glut of Autumn berries I had to come up with something delicious. If you can’t get hold of blackberries, frozen blueberries also work really well.

I don’t do fancy desserts that often, but for things like birthdays it’s nice to push the boat out.

I have included some meringue shards for decoration but this is totally optional.  I only made this because I had egg whites left from making the pastry and I didn’t want to waste them.  Full disclosure, they were meant to be little meringue kisses but I was beaten again by baking nemesis, meringue!  When I tried to pipe it everything just spread, so I decided to make free hand swirls and ended up a kind of meringue bark.  It still tasted fine.

When your meringue decides not to behave, just go abstract.

Ganache sounds complicated, but its really only chocolate and cream.  I made a rich sweet biscuit pastry for the base, but you can use shop bought short crust pastry or even a ready made pie case if you’re short on time.

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

80 Grams Icing sugar

100 Grams Butter (chilled, and cut into cubes)

4 Egg yolks

For the ganache

300 Grams White chocolate

300 ml Double cream

150 Grams Blackberries

For the meringue (optional)

4 Egg whites

200 Grams Caster sugar

1/2 Tsp Food colouring (optional)

Method

  1. Put the flour and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cubed butter and blitz until it looks fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks one a time and pulse until the pastry starts coming together
  2. Turn the pastry out until a floured surface. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9in loose base tart tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius).
  4. Because the pastry is so rich I think it’s easier to roll the pastry out between two sheets of grease proof paper. Roll out the pastry out until it’s approx half a centimetre think. Remove the top layer of paper and flip onto your tart tin. Make sure to press the pastry into the edges of your tin, pierce the base of the tin all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 mins
  5. Put a sheet of grease proof paper across the pastry base and top with baking beans (I just keep a jar of old rice that I reuse). Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the grease proof paper and baking beans, return to the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes (Be careful, because of the sugar in the pastry it browns very quickly). Remove from the oven when brown and allow to cool.
  6. For the meringue, whisk the egg whites until double their size, gradually add the caster sugar, and spread on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. With a cocktail stick swirl the food colouring through the meringue
  7. Bake for an hour at 120 degrees (Celsius), although to cool and then break into shards
  8. For the ganache, break the chocolate into chunks in a large bowl.
  9. Add the cream and blackberries to a pot and heat until just before boiling. Pour the cream and blackberries through a sieve onto the chocolate, press the berries with the back of a spoon until only the seeds are left (then discard). Whisk the chocolate and cream together until it melts. Allow to cool a little before pouring into the cooled pastry shell. Refrigerate until the ganache has firmed up.
  10. Before serving, top with chards of the meringue. You can also use other toppings like fresh blackberries, or white chocolate curls

Krakow – Jewish Quarter Food Tour

Just one of the little courtyards serving fantastic street food.

I have been seriously jonesing to travel again.  Having been fully vaccinated and gone through enough paperwork to keep a small government department busy, I was eventually able to set off.

I had heard great things about Krakow from anyone who had visited before, but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

With this in mind my travelling companions and I booked a food and history tour of the Kazimierz or Jewish quarter.  We placed ourselves in the very capable hands of George.  A trained chef originally from Turkey, he gave us a great tour discussing the history of the district and it’s up and coming food culture.

Hebrew street art

Before the second world war about 25% of those living in the district were Jewish having originally been encouraged to settle on the city by King Kazimierz centuries earlier.  The Jewish population was forced into a ghetto when Germany invaded and unfortunately we’re all aware of what followed.  Auschwitz concentration camp is within travelling distance of Krakow.  While I think it’s important that what happened at the camp shouldn’t be forgotten, honestly I’ve had a really tough year and just didn’t feel up to visiting.

Poland’s oldest synagogue

The Jewish population of the district is now less than 1% but the district still maintains it’s Jewish identity and the oldest synagogue in Poland is still located there.  In the main square there are lovely restaurants serving kosher food and drinks and offering traditional Jewish folk music at weekends.

After the war many of the buildings stood empty, so students and artists eventually moved in due to the low rents.  The area now has a bohemian feel and is becoming gentrified.

With such a young population the area is full of great places to eat and drink.  Our first stop was at a popular perogi shop.  If you haven’t had these before, they are little dumplings. The most common filling is potato, cottage type cheese and fried onion (my personal favourite).

Perogis with spinach and cheese.
Blueberry perogis with sour cream.

We also tried other versions including suarkraut and mushroom (traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve), spinach and cheese, and a sweet version made with blueberries and topped with sour cream.  Perogis are really common with most restaurants offering several different kinds.

The district has some great street art as well food.

Small courtyards with little food trucks are popping up across the area, serving everything from traditional Polish pork dishes to Asian ramen bowls.  It was at one of these courtyards we had excellent traditional pulled pork rolls with pickles and fantastic bread.

The new square has a central hub of red brick buildings selling a range of different street foods.  It was here we tried the Polish version of a French bread pizza topped with spicy ketchup and lots of chopped chives.  Apparently these were made my Mothers who couldn’t get theirs kids to come in from playing outside, to make sure the didn’t starve.

Polish pizza

If you have sweet tooth, we also enjoyed excellent apple fritters at Kuchina Doroty.  Rich with vanilla these probably had 1 million calories, but were worth every single one.

Krakow has great bars everywhere, these range from very dark but not unwelcoming local dive bars through to sophisticated cocktail bars. The most common beverages seem to be beer and vodka. Lots of bars are introducing small batch artisanal beers often brewed in people’s sheds (they are well worth trying). I’ve always had an aversion to vodka, (I think it tastes like hairspray). However, George our tour guide got us to try a shot of bison grass vodka which is popular in Poland, and it’s much more a agreeable than the normal stuff. If vodka is your thing there are several different tasting experiences available in the area.

Bison grass vodka, tastes fresh and almost sweet. It reminded me of the smell of hay.

To sum it up the area is well worth a visit, great food, lots of history and movie buffs can spot the different streets where Schindler’s List was filmed.

Wonton Soup

I’m seriously missing being able to travel. With this in mind I decided to recreate one of my favourite dishes. I first ate this in Hong Kong. I first ate this in a hole in the wall cafe. It was a revelation and probably the best thing I ate the whole time was there.

Food in Hong Kong is amazing but this just hit the spot. If chicken soup is the ultimate Jewish comfort food, this is probably Hong Kong’s version.

You can find wonton wrappers in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets, or larger supermarkets. This may seem like a lot of wontons, but I also freeze half so I can pull them out of the freezer without any fuss.

These are also great to make with kids, (a little bit of child labour never does any harm). But I also like to stick the music on and switch off, making these can be quite therapeutic. For the soup I usually use shop bought good quality chicken stock. So if you have some wontons in the freezer and some ready made chicken stock this can be a really quick meal.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

500 Grams Pork Mince

4-5cm Piece of ginger (finely grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1tsp Cornflour

1tsp Sesame oil

1tsp Soy sauce

1 Red chilli (finely chopped)

1 Pack of wonton wrappers

For the broth

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Litre Chicken stock

1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar (I didn’t have this and used cider vinegar and it was fine)

2 Scallions/spring onions (ends removed and cut in half)

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (cut into 3-4 pieces)

1 Red chilli (cut on half, and seeds removed)

2 Cloves of garlic (cut in half)

Garnish with finely chopped scallions and coriander

Stock infused with garlic, chilli, ginger and scallions

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the filling of the wonton filling in a bowl, and get your hands in and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Open your pack of wonton wrappers and like filo pastry, you’ll need to cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out. Keep a small bowl of water beside you, as you’ll need to wet the edges of the wonton so they stick
  3. Take a square and put a small teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet the edges of two sides of the wonton and fold over to make a triangle. Make sure to press the edges together well (or else water will get in when you cook them). Dab the two long edges of triangle with water and fold the edge together and press (it should look like a tortellini). Place on a tray and continue doing this until you have either run out of filling or wrappers
  4. Add 7-8 wontons at a time to a pot simmering water, and cook for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top. Drain and set aside, I usually freeze half the batch. If you’re going to freeze these, let them cool first and spread them out on a tray lined with cling film that you have rubbed lightly with oil to prevent them sticking. When they are frozen, split into batches and transfer into freezer bags
  5. For the broth, add all the ingredients to a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ginger, garlic, and scallions from the both and discard
  6. Add the wontons to the broth and sprinkle with finely sliced scallion and coriander

Cheese, Corn and Jalapeno Fritters

I’m not always super organised when it comes to planning meals (how many of us actually are).

There are dishes I love that need mashed potatoes, and I don’t always remember to make some the day before, or don’t want the fuss of making it.

The lovely people at Mash Direct were kind enough to send me some of their products to try. I was reminded that I hadn’t made these little flavour bombs in ages. Having ready made mashed potatoes was really handy.

I served these fritters with a fresh tomato salad and they were delicious. I can also highly recommend them for breakfast along with eggs.

Serves 4

Ingredients

400 Grams Mashed potatoes (I used a pack of Mashed Direct mash, it also works really well with their champ)

150 Grams Sweet Corn (frozen or canned is fine)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Jalapeno pepper (finely chopped, with the seeds removed, if you like these super spicy you can add more)

100 Grams Mature cheddar cheese (grated)

1 Egg

1 Tbsp Plain flour

3 Tbsp Oil

Method

  1. Fry the onion with 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes allowing the onion to brown and caramelise, add the jalapeno pepper and cook for 5 mins
  2. Add the potatoes, corn, onion, peppers, egg, flour and cheese into a large bowl and mix well
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a large frying. Add a tablespoon of the fritter mix to the pan at a time, and press flat with a spatula. Don’t try to cook more than 2 or 3 at a time
  4. Cook for 5 minutes or until brown before turning (you need to let a brown crust form first or else they’ll be difficult to turn). Drain on kitchen towels before serving

Jollof Rice and Chicken

There are countless versions of Jollof Rice and Chicken across Africa and the Caribbean. The are many reasons why it’s so popular, it’s quick and easy to make, it’s a one pot dish that can feed a family cheaply, and most importantly it’s really delicious.

I mean, tender chicken and really well flavoured rice with vegetables, where could you go wrong. This is also a great dish for using up odd bits of vegetables you have in the fridge

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones (I use the ones with the bone in, as I think it keeps the chicken tender)

1 Tbsp Oil

2 Red peppers (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1 Onion (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1Tbsp Tomato puree

400 Gram Tin of chopped tomatoes

1 Red chilli pepper (finely chopped) or 1 tsp chilli powder

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

3 x Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated, I always keep ginger in the freezer. It stops it going to waste and it’s easier to grate)

250 ml Vegetable/chicken stock (I used a stock cube to make it)

325 Gram Long grain rice, dry weight (I use basmati, but other types are fine)

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large flat bottom pan. When hot, add the chicken thighs and seal on both sides
  2. Add the vegetables and tomato puree to the pan and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more water if the rice dries out before it’s cooked
  4. Check the chicken is cooked through and the rice is soft
  5. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve

Miso Sesame Chicken

The cracking recipe comes from the national treasure that is Nigella Lawson.

I have tweaked it a little, leaving out the fish sauce (only because I didn’t have any). I’ve used chicken thighs, she used a spatchcocked chicken (whole chicken with the backbone removed and pressed flat), but again this was because this what I had.

The chicken is best if you can let it marinade overnight. So if you can be organised, you’ll have an amazingly tasty weeknight dinner. This is also delicious enough to impress friends if you’re cooking for them. If you’re feeding vegetarians/vegans this marinade is also fantastic spread on slices of aubergine before roasting them.

Serves 4

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones

1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tsp Sesame oil (use one day in the marinade and reserve one for later)

4 Tsp White Miso paste

1 Tbsp Grated ginger

1 Clove of minced garlic

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (reserve for during roasting)

  1. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir until well combined
  2. Put the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Rub the marinade onto the chicken to make sure it’s well coated and then refrigerate over night
  3. The next day if you have time, take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you intend to cook it and allow the meat to come to room temperature
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, empty the chicken thighs into an oven proof dish (skin side up) and empty any remaining marinade from the freezer bag over the chicken
  5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs)
  6. Remove the tin foil and baste the chicken with any juices in the dish, drizzle over a teaspoon of sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and then sprinkle with sesame seeds before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes (check they are cooked by sticking in a fork and making sure the juices run clear)
  7. Remove and serve with your favourite side Asian slaw or spicy cucumber salad or just plain potato salad goes brilliantly with this

Herby Potato Salad

Potato salad is lovely summer dish, but not everyone is a fan of mayonnaise.

This version is a little bit lighter and can be enjoyed by vegans too.

Waxy potatoes are probably best, but either is fine. This is such a great side dish, it goes with virtually everything.

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes (cut into 4-5cm chunks, I like to leave the skins on but peel them if you prefer)

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Red onion (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine/cider vinegar

1 Tsp Mustard (I like to use grain mustard but Dijon mustard is fine too)

4 Tbsp Chopped herbs (I used coriander and parsley because it was what I had, but dill or mint or a mixture will also work)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the potatoes and salt to a pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, and drain the cooking water (Hold back 2 Tbsp of the cooking water)
  2. In a large bowl add the onion and sprinkle with the vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help stop that harsh raw onion flavour). Add the oil, mustard, herbs, and cooking water you held back from the potatoes and stir
  3. Add the potatoes while they are still slightly warm to the bowl and mix well to ensure they are coated with the dressing, this will allow them to help soak up the flavour