3 Ingredient Vegan Brownies (Gluten Free)

Vegans and those with gluten intolerances often draw the short straw when it comes to desserts. These lovely little Brownies are really chocolatety and don’t make you feel like you’re missing a thing.

A friend told me about these after she saw the recipe online, so apologies if I’m not giving credit to whoever came up with recipe, but she couldn’t remember the site.

With only 3 ingredients these are great to knock up from stuff you have in the cupboards. Because I hate food waste, I always freeze over ripe bananas if I’m not going to eat them. Freeze them whole with their skin on, and they’re perfect for using in recipes like this or banana bread

Ingredients

3 Ripe bananas (mashed)

120 Grams Peanut butter

50 Grams Cocoa powder

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  • In a large bowl, mash the banana, then add the cocoa powder and peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined
  • Line a 6 in x 6 in tin with baking parchment.
  • Transfer the Brownie mix to the lined tin and spread evenly.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, and allow to cool in the tin

Bullet Train to Osaka

After two busy days in Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka.  If you ever get the chance to do it, please do.

It cost just under £90 per person to travel 319 miles (514 km) and took around 2.5 hours, with an average speed of 200 miles an hour. You can reserve seats with luggage storage in advance.  On a good day you can see Mount Fuji, but we were out of luck.  There is a drinks and snack service on board but most people opt to buy an ekiben (traditional bento box lunch) at the station before boarding.  These were delicious and beautifully presented and cost on average £5.

Ekiben

Osaka has a population of 2.6 million, but according to locals they feel they are more laid back and friendly than Tokyo and everyone we met was lovely, including the world’s sweetest and most excitable bar maid that we almost adopted.

One of reasons I wanted to go to Osaka was to see Osaka Castle, which is really impressive.  Easy to reach by metro, the castle has largely been rebuilt, so inside is more like an exhibition space rather than being able to see original parts of castle and how people lived.

There is a lift for anyone with mobility issues which will take you to the 5th floor but there are 3 floors above this that can only accessed by steps.  The castle is set in gorgeous park land, and with Autumn arriving it was beautiful, but spring is when it’s really popular at the cherry blossom festival.  The castle dates back 450 years and if you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love the descriptions of various feuds and downfalls of Shoguns, it also has a great displays of samurai armour.

We stayed close to the Dotonbori area, named after the river that flows through it.  This is a busy and cosmopolitan area with high end designer shops on one side of the river and local shops, bars and restaurants on the other.  Street food is really big in Osaka and squid balls are the local favourite.

By the river you’ll find the oblong Ferris wheel, which is built around a 24-hour discount shop locally known as Donki (formal name is Don Quijote). This may have been the busiest shop I’ve ever visited and if you plan to go early because an average Friday evening felt like the January sales. But there is literally everything a human being could ever need in this shop.

Another local speciality is okonomiyaki, this is a very thin pancake stuffed primarily with fried noodles and shredded cabbage and leeks/onion.  Other toppings can include pork, fried egg, bonito flakes, nori seaweed. pickled ginger or kimchi, this is then drizzled with a rich savoury sauce and mayonnaise.  I realise my description is not selling it, but it was one of the nicest things I ate in Japan (and I pretty much loved everything).

Dotonbori never stops. In early evening families are out with their kids enjoying the waterfront and street food. Later in the evening “Salary Men” (office workers) get stupifyingly drunk in the hostess bars, and the local petrol heads hang out and compare cars. People are friendly and the area feels very safe and a lot more pleasant than most UK and European city centres late at night.

I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but I stalled at some of the local offerings which included “fish abductor muscle” and “beef nerve”, but maybe next time.

South Western Pin Wheels

I usually find sandwiches a bit meh!, but I love these. I make these as pinwheel sandwiches, which is basically a tortilla rolled up and cut into slices. They are nice for parties, or just because you want to fancy up your lunchbox.

The filling is packed full of flavours from America’s South West, black beans, corn, coriander (cilantro) etc. This makes it full of colour, crunch, fibre and flavour.

I used full fat sour cream and cream cheese, but you can use lower fat versions. This sandwich filling also makes an amazing topping for baked potatoes, or stirred into left over pasta to make a salad.

Roll up

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

400 Gram Can Sweet Corn (drained)

400 Gram Can Black Beans (drained and rinsed)

1 Large red pepper (chopped into 1cm cubes)

2-3 Scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Coriander (Finely chopped)

150 Grams Cheddar Cheese (grated)

2 Tsp Smoked Paprika

1 Tsp Chilli Powder

1 Tsp Salt

200 Grams Sour Cream

200 Grams Cream Cheese

4-5 Tortillas

Method

  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir until well combined
  • Spread 2 large spoonfuls of the filling on a tortilla, and roll the outside edge inwards tightly
  • Cut into 3-4cm sclices and serve

Flake Meal Cookies

These are a traditional biscuits in Northern Ireland. Sometimes dipped in chocolate but equally delicious left plain.

I like these because they’re quick to make and are made from ingredients that you can usually find in the cupboard.

They can be a bit crumbly when you are trying to roll and cut them out, but they squish back into shape.

This recipe is from http://www.traybakesandmore.com

Ingredients

110 Grams Butter

55 Grams Sugar

30 Grams Plain flour

150 Grams Porridge oats

30 Grams Dessicated Coconut

1/4 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda

Chocolate for dipping (optional)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (Celsius)
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • Combine all the other ingredients before adding to the butter and sugar, work together with your hands until the ingredients come together in a ball
  • I find it easier to roll out the mix between 2 sheets of baking paper but you can also roll it out on a floured surface
  • Roll out to about 0.5cm thick and cut out and place on a baking sheet, leave a little space between them as they will spread
  • Bake for 15 minutes before cooling on a wire wrack

Porridge Bread

My friend Mags has been raving about this recipe for ages. We both have a serious bread addiction and this recipe is from a slimming club site. So when she shared the recipe I had to make it. If you’ve ever had Irish wheaten bread this is similar in taste.

Ready to bake

It takes two minutes to knock together, can be enjoyed by those who have issues with gluten and is pretty cheap to make. If you want something to keep kids busy this also something to do with them on a rainy afternoon and the will be super pleased with themselves.

It’s not the lightest fluffiest bread, but it is packed full of fibre and perfect served with cheese and chutney or buttered along side soup. I topped mine with some pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch, but you can also sprinkle with porridge oats.

Ingredients

500ml Yoghurt

180 Grams Porridge oats

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)

1 Egg

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius). Grease a load tin, you can also line it with baking parchment if want to (but I just greased the tin really well and it was fine)
  • Mix the yoghurt, salt and baking soda together, before stirring in the porridge oats
  • In a separate bowl, crack the egg and whisk with a fork until light and fluffy. Stir into the porridge mix and stir until we’ll combined
  • Transfer the mix into the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test with a tooth pick, when it comes out clean it’s ready.
  • Cool in the tin for 30 minutes

Cook’s Perks

One of the good things about being the cook is that you get access to the best bits.

I was making a savoury pie, using shop bought puff pastry, and had some left over. I hate food waste, so rather than throw it out, I dusted it with some brown sugar and cinnamon to make a version of bite sized Danishes. I also sprinkled with sesame seeds just to be fancy, but they’re without these.

With only 3 ingredients these are delicious little perks of being the cook.

Ingredients

Ready made puff pastry

Brown sugar

Cinnamon

Method

I had a 5-6 centimetre wide piece of puff pastry. Dust with brown sugar and cinnamon and roll up in a coil.

Cut into 1-2cm slices, place on a baking sheet (sprinkle with sesame seeds if you want to), and bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees (Celsius) until gold brown.

Orzo with Chorizo and Spinach

Quick tasty one pot meals are the holy grail for busy cooks. If you haven’t used orzo before, it’s a type of pasta that looks like fat grains of rice, if you don’t have this you can use any other types of pasta you have in the cupboard.

This a really tasty and cheap meal that’s great for a quick midweek dinner or I often makes it and use it for work lunches.

I’ve used fresh spinach because I had some that needed to be used up, but frozen spinach works just as well. You can also bulk this out with other frozen vegetables like sweetcorn.

Serves 4

Ingredients

200 Grams Orzo pasta (dry weight)

100 Grams Chorizo (cut into half centimetres slices)

200 Grams Spinach

1 Vegetable stock cube (crumbled)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

1 Red pepper (cut into fine strips)

2 Cloves of garlic (finely sliced)

1 Chilli pepper (finely sliced) or else a teaspoon of chilli powder)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 x 400ml Tin of chopped tomatoes

Method

  • 1. Add the chorizo to a large flat bottom pan and fry on both sides until starts to release its oil
  • 2. Lift the chorizo out of the pan and set to one side. Add the onion and pepper to the pan to cook in oil from the chorizo for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent
  • 3. Add all the ingredients except the spinach to the pan. Top up with enough water cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid before reducing the heat to a simmer
  • 4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, add more water if you think t needs it. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for a future 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Homemade Rosemary Focaccia

Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. Making your own focaccia also costs about a third of the price of buying one from a fancy bakery or deli.

Like most people I don’t bake my own bread everyday. At the weekend when you have a little more time its nice to shake off the stresses of the week and kneading bread is a great way to work off any residual tension. Although this bread only needs 5 minutes kneading and you’re rewarded with amazingly tasty bread that can be sliced in half for sandwiches or is a delicious side dish served along side soups, stews, or pasta.

I’ve used a traditional salt and rosemary topping, but caramelised onion or olives are also brilliant alternatives. This also freezes really well.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

500 Grams Strong white flour

7 Grams Dried yeast

1 Tsp Salt

300-400 Mil Luke warm water

4-5 Tbsp Olive oil

2-3 Sprigs Rosemary

Method

  • 1. Mix your yeast with 300ml of luke warm water and set to one side while you measure out the flour and add it to a large bowl
  • 2. Add a teaspoon of salt to one side of the (this will stop it coming into direct contact with the yeast and killing it). Make a well in the centre of the flour, add two tablespoons of olive oil and the water and yeast mix.
  • 3. Mix well, you may need to add more water, your dough should be quite soft and sticky, but not super wet
  • 4. Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes (or until the urge to punch someone has passed, if I haven’t mentioned it before I sometimes “rage bake”)
  • 5. Clean the bowl you were using, (I always give the bowl a quick wipe with a little oil to stop your dough sticking). Put your dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel and prove for one hour
  • 6. Grease an 8 x 12 inch tin with some olive oil and transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. Stretch the dough out to fill the tin. Cover with a tea towel again and prove for 45 minutes
  • 7. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree (Celsius). Remove the tea towel from your baking tin, and with your finger tips press little dimples into the dough
  • 8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil across the top of the dough. Pluck leaves of rosemary and poke them into the dough (it will just sit on top and then fall off if you don’t). Sprinkle a teaspoon is salt across the top of the dough (sea salt is best if you have it, but just use a little less ordinary salt if you don’t)
  • 9. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes

Chicken Crackling Butter

This may be the most totally filthy thing (in a good way) that I have ever made.

My sister saw this on a food programme and asked me to make it. She couldn’t remember which programme or I would give credit where its due.

I cook with chicken thighs alot, and when I’m feeling healthy I’ll remove and discard the skin. I’ve now started making chicken crackling (super crispy chicken skin crisps).

This butter makes a delicious topping on top of steak, or even melted onto pasta. Under no circumstances should you be left alone with it and a loaf of French bread, unless you want your loved ones to find you covered with crumbs, glistening with butter and filled with shame. Feck it, it’s totally worth it.

You can make larger batches and freeze the butter (if you don’t trust yourself)

Flatten out the chicken skin before placing another baking tray on top.

Ingredients

75 Grams Butter (room temperature, and cut into cubes)

Skin from 3-4 chicken thighs

Salt

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Place the chicken thighs on a chopping board, and run the back of a large kitchen knife a long the skin to flatten it out.
  3. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt and then place another baking tray on top to keep the skin flat
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken skin is a deep golden brown. Set to one side and all to cool completely
  5. When cold, whizz the chicken skin in a food processor until it looks like sand, you can leave it a little coarser if you prefer
  6. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until everything is well combined. Check the seasoning and more salt if you think it needs it
  7. Transfer to a sheet of cling film and shape into a sausage shape and wrap before freezing or refrigerating

Sunnyside Supper Club – 10 September 2022

And the winner is….

Votes have been counted and the Italian menu has pipped the French menu to the post once again.

If you haven’t been to the Sunnyside Supper Club before, it’s a bit like the Little Paris Kitchen (only in Belfast, and I don’t look anything like the fabulous Rachel Khoo).

Everyone shares a communal table and eats the same menu. The aim is to enjoy some great food and enjoy a meal with new people. Guests are usually a mix of friends on mates dates, people who are new to Belfast and want to meet locals and couples who want to do something a bit different.

We only ever have a max 8-9 guests so book early to avoid disappointment.

We’ll great you with a welcome drink, and then it’s BYO (no corkage)

Italian Menu

Starter – Gnocchi with Hazelnut Pesto

Main – Chicken Marsala, chicken thighs cooked in a creamy mushroom and Marsala sauce, (vegetarian option-Aubergine Parmesan), Italian Salad, Homemade Italian Bread

Dessert – Tiramisu

10th September – Sunnyside Supper Club

Sunnyside Supper Club – 10th September 2022

£35.00

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

Sunnyside Supper Club – New Date, 10th September 2022

Apologies, but I have to change the date of the next Sunnyside Supper Club to 10th September.

My little Kitchen Elf and general dogs body (her term, not mine), has been surprised with a romantic weekend away on the original date planned, meaning we have to push things back by a week. Never let it be said that I got in the way of true romance!

In the mean time don’t forget to vote for your favourite menu.

French Menu

Starter – French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crouton

Main – Beef Bourguignon (vegetarian option – mushroom bourguignon), Dauphinoise Potatoes, Buttered Greens

Dessert – Tarte au Chocolat

Italian Menu

Starter – Gnocchi with Hazelnut Pesto

Main – Chicken Marsala, chicken thighs cooked in a creamy mushroom and Marsala sauce, (vegetarian option-Aubergine Parmesan), Italian Salad, Homemade Italian Bread

Dessert – Tiramisu

To book please complete the form below, or feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

10th September – Sunnyside Supper Club

Sunnyside Supper Club – 10th September 2022

£35.00

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

Sunnyside Supper Club is Back – 10th September 2022

Well the pandemic wasn’t a big pile of craic was it?

Now that things have hopefully calmed down a bit, the supper club is back.

If you haven’t been to one before, we have a max of 8-9 diners and past guests have been a mix of couples, friends catching up on “mate dates” and solo diners who love food but who’s friends just aren’t into eating out. It’s all very laid back and a chance to have dinner people from different walks of life while enjoying some great food (After lock down aren’t you fed up looking at the same people) .

Previous Supper Club

You’ll be greeted with a welcome drink (people are welcome to bring their own beer or wine, with no corkage), and then everyone eats the same 3 courses (we’re happy to cater for vegans/vegetarians, just let us know in advance).

The theme of the supper club scheduled just as lock down hit was decided by a vote. So, I’m putting it to the vote again (in case our taste buds have changed over lockdown). I’m sticking with French Vs Italian.

So check out the menus and vote for your favourite, and we’ll maybe see you at the next supper club.

French Menu

Starter – French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crouton

Main – Beef Bourguignon (vegetarian option – mushroom bourguignon), Dauphinoise Potatoes, Buttered Greens

Dessert – Tart au Chocolat

Italian Menu

Starter – Gnocchi with Hazelnut Pesto

Main – Chicken Marsala, chicken thighs cooked in a creamy mushroom and Marsala sauce, (vegetarian option-Aubergine Parmesan), Italian Salad, Homemade Italian Bread

Dessert – Tiramisu

10th September – Sunnyside Supper Club

Sunnyside Supper Club – 10th September 2022

£35.00

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

Mauritius – Port Louis Market, Sugar Museum, Cap Malheureux, and Botanical Gardens

Cap Malheureux

“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven: heaven being copied after Mauritius”, Mark Twain

As much as I loved relaxing at a resort, old habits die hard and I wanted to explore a bit more of the island.

Port Louis

You can rent a car relatively cheaply, and as Mauritius is a former British colony they drive on the left hand side of the road, and road signs are in English (speed signs are in kilometers). However, rather than having all the stress of getting lost and driving unfamiliar roads we hired a local driver for a day. Rajesh was super helpful and knowledgeable and brought us to the North of the island. Not slowing down at intersections and tail gating seem to be common practice, so I was glad we had a local to help out.

Fresh herbs

Our first stop was the capital, Port Louis. This was a bit of a culture shock after the laid back vibe of a resort. Full of hustle and bustle the city is loud and frenetic with epic traffic jams during rush hour. Once there you’ll find busy markets selling everything imaginable, with traders barking out their bargains in French/Creole.

Soup vegetables

You can shop for souvenirs (haggling is expected) or head to the exotic food markets to stock up on spices. I would recommend asking for prices before buying spices (I think ended up paying some unofficial tourist tax due to not checking first).

Whole spices and spice mixes
Pink peppercorns
Star anise

Mauritius was an important stopping off point in the spice route and local food is fragrant and highly spiced.

Young coconuts

If you are frazzled after Port Louis and want to get in touch with your inner history nerd, then visit the Sugar Museum (L’Aventure de Sucre). A short drive from the city, the museum is fascinating. It was a former sugar refinery and shows how sugar cane growth and production totally shaped the history of the island. Less then 300 years ago there were just 200 people living on the island, the population is now over 1.2 million. Sugar cane production, completely changed the eco system of the island, with new species of plants and animals being introduced. Mauritius is probably best remembered as being the home of the now extinct dodo.

Like most museums you’ll exit through the gift shop, but this is worth doing for the rum tasting that’s included in the entrance fee.

Rum tasting
Interior of the sugar museum

Private companies like the East India Company and then colonial powers from the Portuguese, French and British exploited the island and its inhabitants to make obscene amounts of money. Slaves were transported from Bengal and Africa, as well as indentured servants from India and traders from China all led to the multicultural nation Mauritius is today. The museum is honest about the legacy of the slave trade and the immense wealth created by sugar plantations. While the country is seen now as a tropical paradise, it has a much darker history.

Local restaurants let you select your own sea food for lunch
Barbecued red snapper

As you drive along you’ll see vibrantly coloured, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, Mosques and Christian churches scattered through out the countryside. By all accounts Mauritians live in relative harmony and differences are respected and celebrated.

Giant tortoises

The botanical gardens are really impressive. Because of its climate and fertile soil probably anything could grow here. You can explore on your own or pay for a guide. Unless you’re seriously into horticulture I’d recommend just pottering about on your own. You can also see brightly coloured wildfowl, giant tortoises and deer.

Massive water lilies

Before heading back to our resort, our driver, Rajesh brought us to Cap Malheureux (Unhappy Cape), so called because of ships who ran aground in the past. The views were breathing taking and the area is most commonly known for the little red roof church that sits on the bay.

The red roofed church
Cap Malheureux

Just as the evening was drawing in we headed back to Bel Ombre across the mountain route. The Pitons are a range of jagged volcanic mountains that wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park (the light was dropping so sorry no photos).

Outrigger Resort, Bel Ombre, Mauritius

Due to an unusual piece of luck I was fortunate enough to stay in the Outrigger Resort in Bel Ombre, in the south western coast of Mauritius.

I’m usually a city break type of person, but if all resorts could be as heavenly as this place then I’m a convert.

The resort has large airy bedrooms, with luxurious bathrooms and dressing area (we had the largest bathtub I’ve ever seen). A well stocked mini bar and complementary snacks and fancy coffee machine make sure you want for nothing while in your room.

Accommodation either has views of the lush tropical gardens with banyan, and frangipani trees, as well as coconut and date palms throughout, or ocean views of the pristine lagoon with a coral reef about 100 yards from the beautiful sandy beach dotted with black volcanic rock. You can wander along the beach and watch the sea change from bright turquoise to dark lapiz blues as the sun moves throughout the day. (Top tip: aqua shoes are a good choice as the beach has lots of coral and can be uncomfortable to walk on in parts). The resort also has two large pools as well as a reflection pool for those who love an Instagram post. Although there isn’t a single view in the place that isn’t fabulous.

Beach walk at the Outrigger

I went in early July which is the Mauritian winter, but it was still in the mid 20s (Celsius) everyday and was very pleasant. If you prefer it really hot then from August onwards is the time to go.

Other visitors were made up of a fairly cosmopolitan mix of European, Indian and Middle Eastern and this is reflected in the food offered.

Reflection pool and the Mercado

There are several eating areas. The Mercado serves breakfast and dinner and served international buffet style food. Breakfast in the morning ranges from curries, a large selection of topical fruits and juices, omelette stations, cereals, cooked items and french breads and patisserie. For dinner there is a theme of a different country’s cuisine each evening (Mauritian night was my favourite, but all the food was excellent). There are always plenty of options for children, vegans and halal diners.

Sea urchins for the more adventurous eaters at Mauritian night at the Mercado.

If you prefer a la carte dining the Edge Water restaurant is right on the beach, and Le Bleu is a beach front bar serving freshly made pizzas and panninis and is a good call for lunch. There are also plenty of sun loungers and comfortable seating areas along the beach and pools.

Enjoying a mocktail at Le Bleu
The Plantation Club

We had one afternoon with rain, and the ever helpful staff (thank you Sephora) arranged for me to be taught some Mauritian dishes with the very lovely Chef Matthieu. He is a great teacher, and showed me how to make apple chutney, yam fritters, Mauritian chicken curry and roti (flat bread). His enthusiasm and passion for his local cuisine really shone through, and to paraphrase Julia Childs, “people who love food are always the best people”

Chef Matthieu

The Plantation Club provides a fine dining option offering old world luxury. You can opt to visit for afternoon tea or to dine a la carte. However, my suggestion would be to try one of their tasting menu evenings. We opted for lobster night, and having met Chef Matthieu the day before we knew we would be in for a treat. He is passionate about fusion cooking, and because Mauritius is such a melting pot who’s population is a mix of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, African and French heritage, the range of flavours in Mauritian food is something else.

Everything on the menu was delicious but my two stand out dishes were the makki roll and lobster with arbarica sauce (coffee sauce with lobster might sound really strange but it was so well balanced, it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted).

Lobster wonton with mango and tamarind dipping sauce.
Water melon and tomato gazpacho with lobster crostini.
Citrus, avocado and lobster salad.
Lobster makki rolls
Lobster 3 ways, served with creamy arbarica sauce, lobster with dashi, and lobster with papaya.
Lobster risotto
White chocolate and ginger mousse with mango.
Cardomon creme brulee
Mango and local rum granita

You could spend your entire day just chilling and listening to the roar of the sea against the coral reef and the rustling of the palms (I can highly recommend spending at least one afternoon doing this to find your happy place). If you prefer to be a bit more active there are gorgeous beach walks and the resort offers free activities like snorkeling, tours of the lagoon in a glass bottom boat (we had a sea turtle come and swim along side us), and on set days there are activities such as aquafit, volleyball, and yoga.

View of the coral reef from the glass bottom boat.

The concierges at the resort are an excellent source of information if you’d like to get out and about and see more of the island. They can help arrange visits to see capital Port Louis if you like to shop and see the local markets, historic areas on the island or activities like swimming with dolphins or sea turtles, visiting the impressive botanical gardens or sailing out to neighbouring islands on a catamaran.

If you want something to do in the evenings the resort has live music every night which was always really good. My favourite was the Mauritian night which had local artists play traditional Sega music and display local dances, which are based on the African music played by slaves in the sugar cane plantations and made the colonial owners the equivalent of modern billionaires.

Sega dancers

Staff at the resort are multi lingual (French is the most widely spoken language on the island), and were incredibly warm and helpful. Mauritius is developing quickly, but tourism is still the largest employer on the island, and it was hit badly due to Covid and also the global rise in the cost of living. You will always receive excellent service from the well trained staff at the resort, but the average monthly salary in Mauritius is around £600 per month. So if you do get a chance to visit this little slice of paradise, try to tip as well as you can afford to (and like most places cash is always preferable).

Migas

If you always end up with left over bread this is a really tasty way to use it up.

This dish apparently started with poor shepherds in Spain and Portugal. I like recipes that allow you to use up what’s available and this is perfect for using up scraps of streaky bacon, ham or other smokey meats or cold cuts

This dish does use a lot of oil, which is why I’ve included it amongst the poor filth recipes. It’s quick, easy to make and tastes great. I like for breakfast/brunch with fried eggs. It also makes a fantastic hangover cure.

Ingredients

500 Grams Stale bread (broken into chunks of various size, but not as small as breadcrumbs)

1 Onion (cut into fine slices)

2-3 Cloves of garlic

50 Grams Chorizo (peeled and sliced)

1 Red pepper (cut into 1cm strips)

50 Grams Streaky bacon or other left over meat or cold cuts (cut into 2cm slices)

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

2-3 Tbsp Olive oil

Method

Serves 4

  • Heat a large high sided pan and add the chorizo, and streaky bacon until it starts to crisp up. Remove from the pan and set to one side
  • Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and paprika to the pan and cook in the juices released from the chorizo and bacon until the onion becomes translucent
  • Add some oil to the pan and then add the stale bread chunks. Fry until the bread starts to brown, stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn
  • Add the meat back to the pan and stir well
  • Serve with fried eggs.

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

Carrot, Coconut and Sweet Potato Soup

It’s cold and horrible outside, and the perfect time to make hearty soups.  This soup will live in your fridge for 4-5 days, and also freezes well.

You can use either coconut cream that comes in a block, or coconut in a milk in a team to add richness and creaminess.  This also makes it suitable for vegans as well.

Ingredients

250 Grams Sweet potato (peeled and cut into 3-4cm cubes)

2 Carrots (peeled and sliced)

1 Onion (peeled and sliced)

1 Can of coconut milk or 50 Grams coconut cream

1 Tbsp Oil

2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tsp Tumeric (optional)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated) or 1 Tsp of dried ginger

1 Vegetable stock cube

1 litre Water

Salt to taste

Method

  • Add the oil to a large pot over a medium heat, before adding the sliced onion and cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion starts to brown
  • Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil, before reducing to a gentle simmer for 20-25 until the vegetables are cooked
  • Use a hand blender, or blitz in a blender until smooth and creamy. Serve with crusty bread

“Chinese” Sausage Rolls

I don’t pretend that this is an authentic Chinese recipe, but the flavours used always reminds me of Chinese food.

I use ready roll puff pastry which makes these quick and easy to make.  They also freeze really well.

I sometimes dip these into sweet chilli sauce which is sublime but they are also pretty fabulous on their own.

Makes between 8 and 10

Ingredients

1 Large sheet ready rolled puff pastry

500 Grams Lean pork mince

50 Grams Breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp Ginger (grated)

2-3 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

2-3 Scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

1/2 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tsp Salt

1 Egg yolk

Sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  • Add the pork, garlic, ginger, breadcrumbs, scallions, spices, and sesame oil to a large bowl and mix with your hands until well combined
  • Unroll the puff pastry, and evenly spread the pork mix in an even line down the centre of the pastry
  • Brush the long edges of the pastry with egg yolk.  Bring the long edges of the pastry together and together by crimping with your fingers or a fork.
  • Brush the long log created with egg yolk (and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them).  Divide the long roll into 8 or 10 pieces and transfer to a baking sheet
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden brown

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

I have to give props for the recipe to Deborah Robertson @lickedspoon, who I think got it turn from Martha Stewart (I love recipe family trees).

These cookies are a bit of a faff but they are well worth it. You need to chill the dough for at least 4 hours. I made the dough in the morning, then got on with my day while it chilled. You can do this, and by the time you bake them your house will smell devine and you’ll be worshipped as the domestic God/Goddess that you are.

You can make the dough a day or two in advance if you’re busy and it also freezes well. (freeze the dough before you roll it in sugar). These are pretty indulgent, but it is Christmas.

The original recipe says to add Kalhua or Tia Maria. I was making these for kids so I left it out, but definitely looking forward to making the adult version next time.

Makes 30

Ingredients

120 Grams Good quality dark chocolate

180 Grams Plain flour

50 Grams Cocoa powder

100 Grams Butter (room temperature)

2 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

2 Eggs

200 Grams Brown sugar

2 Tsp Vanilla extract

80 Mil Milk

2-3 Tbsp Castor sugar

2-3 Tbsp Icing sugar

Method

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave, giving it 30 second blasts, and stirring regularly (be care not to burn it). Allow to cool slightly
  • Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk until light and fluffy
  • Mix all your dry ingredients together
  • Gradually add the vanilla and eggs to the butter and sugar and whisk at medium spead. Then gradually add all the ingredients and mix until it comes together as a dough, don’t over mix
  • Put a good sized sheet of cling film on your counter, empty half the dough onto it before forming it into disk. Wrap with the rest of the cling film and refrigerate it for 3-4 hours. Repeat with the second half of the dough
  • When the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper
  • Place the castor sugar and icing sugar into two separate bowls (your hands will get sticky later on, so it’s also a good idea to have a bowl of cold water too).
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it, and break of lumps about the size of a walnut and roll into a ball. Roll the ball in the bowl of castor sugar, making sure its well coated. Then roll it in the bowl of icing sugar and place on the baking try
  • Make sure to leave space between the balls of dough as they will spread.
  • Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool before trying to move as they will very soft until they cool

Kyoto

Kyoto was the historic capital of Japan, and is pacted full of history but is also incredibly modern.  This is where Super Mario was developed!

There are lots of fab places to see a short train ride from the city but the city itself has plenty to keep you occupied, largely because it escaped bombing during WW2

.

Kyoto is the home of the Geisha culture.  The Gion District with its super discreet and exclusive wooden tea houses are still their stomping ground.  There were about 250 Geisha entertaining patrons before Covid.  No one is quite sure how many of the Geisha and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) will return.

You might be lucky to spot one if you are around the Gion, (I wasn’t) They are literally works of art, with their kimonos alone costing up to £10,000.   I’d definitely recommend watching Memoirs of a Geisha  to get an idea of the place.  It’s really common to see young couples in traditional dress (you can rent kimonos) while site seeing and being given tours in rickshaws.

The city is awash with breathtaking palaces (the imperial palace is located here) and temples. We visited Nijo-Jo Castle, which is a UNESCO heritage site. It was built 400 years ago by the first Tokugawa Shogun, who’s family ruled for 14 generations and was also a samurai garrison. The castle complex is made up of graceful gardens and richly decorated audience halls with fabulous gold murals (unfortunately photography is not allowed inside). The buildings have what are referred to as “nightingale floors”. The floors are laid in such a way so that the chirp when walked upon, as an early warning system so they could hear intruders.

Food is also fantastic in Kyoto, and a speciality of the region is kaiseki. This is a multi course meal and these can be up to 11 courses, many are less than this but all are beautifully presented and change with seasons.

Saki glasses are always served in these wooden boxes

We treated ourselves to one of the more modest versions that included the usual miso soup and rice, as well as sashimi, marinated whitebait, tofu, and a beef hotpot. We decided to go native and the restaurant we visited served the food on low tables and we sat on cushions on tatami mats (not be recommended if you’re full of aches and pains from 2 weeks non stop site seeing) .

Nishi food market and the surrounding shopping district is also worth visiting, but go early because it gets extremely busy with locals and tourists. It’s a great place to pick up food souvenirs or try new things like squid lollipops.

Squid lollipops
Fruit sandwiches

Tokyo – 48 Hours

Japan has always been on my bucket list, but after a 13 hour flight from Paris and standing in a Customs line for 2 hours, I was less than impressed to find out Air France had lost my suitcase. 

Being on average 6 inches taller, and a foot wider than most Japanese women, finding clothes for 2 weeks in Japan was a challenge. But when these things happen you can choose to let it ruin your holiday or just get on with it and that’s what I did. (Air France are still a pack of d*cks though).

Tokyo is amazing, a city of just under 14 million people, with every square inch of space used. It really is open 24 hours a day.  I was so impressed that the place is spotless you will not find litter anywhere.  You won’t see rubbish bins on the street either, the Japanese will carry their rubbisish until they dispose of it.  You’ll also be impressed at how courteous and polite they are to each other.

English is not widely spoken, if I can make any recommendations its to learn a few key words or phrases i.e. please, thank you, hello etc.  Then make sure you arrange a bolt on with your mobile phone company (or you can buy a Japanese sim card).  Google maps and Google translate will make your life much easier.  WiFi availablity can be bit patchy otherwise.

Japan has only recently opened up to travellers again after Covid and you are required to wear a mask when inside shops, on public transport etc., most people still wear them on the street. Given how densly populated Japan’s cities are, this makes sense to curb the spread of the disease. As always when travelling, be a good guest and respect even the unofficial rules of the country you’re in.

When you’re out sightseeing the metro system is excellent. A two day pass cost just under £8 and the longest you’ll wait on a train is 5 minutes. Signs in the station and announcements on the trains are both in Japanese and English. Station staff are very kind and helpful and this is the time to use your Google translate if you get turned about. Tickets can be bought at machines or at tickets offices (the offices only take cash). I would avoid rush hour if possible as the trains are really packed (personal space isn’t really a thing on the Metro), you’ll also be expected to remain quiet out of respect for other travellers.

We stayed in the Shinjuku area which is very central for most things. Just up the street the local temple was having a festival and the streets were lined with stalls selling cheap fantastic street food. We were also only a few streets away fron the Golden Gai district. This is a little warren of streets made up of tiny izakayas (bars) that are often only a counter than sits 6-8 people. There is usually a small cover charge per person and staff and locals were friendly.

A few stops from Shinjuku you can find the Senso – Ji temple complex. The approach to the temple has a busy shopping area if you want to shop for souvenirs or street food. You can have your fortune told at the temple by shaking a box containing sticks, the one that pops out will have a corresponding fortune)

Foodies should visit Tsukiji fish market, which has brilliant seafood spots, and for a tasty sushi lunch with a beer we paid about £10 per head (and we had a lot of sushi). You’ll find fruit in Japan is surprisingly expensive, with specialist types being given as gifts as a show of status.

Food is unfailingly fantastic in Japan, and even convenience stores (Konbini) sell low cost tasty food. Unless you’re wanting want to go fine dining you can get a filling main meal for £5-6 per per person in most restaurants

If you want to see where the cool kids hang out, you should visit the Harajuku District. Full of quirky shops, and places to eat, drink and shop. If you’re interested in visiting a ferret cafe, or have always wanted to buy a Cosplay Bo Peep outfit this is the area for you.

This was my first visit to Japan and some differences that immediately leapt out at me were, cyclists ride on the pavement, not the road and it’s important to be aware of them. Japanese toilets are unbelievable, with heated seats and water jets. You can choose to play birdsong if you want to cover the sound of doing your business, some will even blow dry your nether regions (an unexpected, but not unpleasant sensation).

Smoking is still permitted in many bars, but it’s illegal to smoke in the street. The place feels incredibly safe, and I would have no hesitation to travel alone in Japan (taking the usual sensible precautions).

P. S. Air France suck!

Eve’s Pudding

With colder weather and darker evenings coming in all I want is comfort food.

This was one of my favourite desserts from school and is basically an apple sponge. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s delicious and even better with custard, or ice cream.

I’ve used eating apples, but you could use cooking apples if this what you have (just remember to add some extra sugar if the apples are very tart).

You can also use different fruit, like plums, pears, or rhubarb.

Ingredients

120 Grams Butter (plus extra for greasing the baking dish)

120 Grams Sugar

120 Grams Self Raising Flour

2 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

6 Dessert Apples

Icing Sugar (optional)

Method

  • Peel and core the apples, and cut into 3-4cm cubes. Put in a pot with a splash of water and cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the apples start to soften. You can cook the apples for longer if you prefer, but I like them to still have a bit of texture. Allow to cool slightly
  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until it becomes light.
  • Add the vanilla and one egg to the butter and sugar and continue mixing. Add a couple of spoonfuls of flour and the next egg and gradually add the rest of the flour while mix (this should stop the cake mix looking like it has curdled. If this happens don’t panic, just add a spoonful of flour and keep mixing
  • Transfer the apples to an oven proof dish (about 1-1.5 litre dish should be fine). Drain off any excess liquid and top with the cake mix before spreading it evenly across the top of the apples
  • Bake for 40 minutes, stick a skewer or toothpick in the middle of the pudding. If the skewer comes out clean the your pudding is ready, if not cook for a further 5 minutes and try again
  • Allow to cool slightly, and dust with icing sugar if you’re feeling fancy
  • Serves with custard or cream, or ice cream