Burrito Bowl Chicken

I love the flavours in a burrito bowl, and knocked this up one evening when I was craving some Tex Mex. You can adjust the chilli depending on how much heat you like.

This is full of great colours and flavours, and loads of protein. For vegetarians, this is also a super tasty meal without the chicken.

I topped this with some grated cheese, but it would also be fantastic topped with some avocado or sour cream (or all three if you’re straying into pure filth territory).

This is also a one pot dish, so less washing up is a win win.

Ingredients

Chicken thighs (8 small or 4 large)

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Red pepper (sliced)

400 Gram Tin of black beans

100 Gram Sweetcorn (I used frozen)

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Salt

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

500ml Passata

300 Grams Rice (I like basmati)

Handful of chopped coriander (optional)

Method

  1. Heat a large flat bottomed pan (you will need one with a lid or that you can cover)
  2. Add the chicken thighs (skin side down first), cook until brown, turn and seal the other side
  3. Add the onion and peppers and cook for another 5-10 minutes
  4. Add the spices, garlic, corn and rice to the pan and stir well
  5. Add the passata and a little water, cover with a lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes
  6. Stir the mixture adding more water if it needs it (the rice should absorb all the liquid, so if the rice still isn’t cooked keep adding water (a little at a time, until its absorbed and the rice is cooked)
  7. Stir in the coriander if you’re using it (I know some people detest it, so please yourself). Serve in bowls with your favourite topping or just as it is

Chicken Curry Pie, with Crushed Potato Topping

Rich flavoursome curry topped with crunchy buttery potatoes

The days are growing colder and darker, and it’s the time to break out some comfort food. It maybe wholesome, but it doesn’t need to be bland!

Curries are super versatile and go well with most types of carbs, but I decided to try potatoes, with toasted onion seeds.

I let this curry reduce down to quite a thick consistency

I usually make this at the weekend, but you can make a double batch of the curry and freeze it if you want rustle this up for a quick mid week dinner. It’s also a great way to use left over boiled potatoes.

Fry the onion mix for 10 minutes over a medium heat

Ingredients

For the curry

500 Grams Chicken (I used breast meat because it’s what I had, but thighs also work), cut into bite sized pieces)

3 Onions,

2 Chillies

5-6cm Piece of ginger

4 Cloves of garlic

100 Grams Mushrooms (cut into thick slices)

150 Grams Green beans (I used frozen and they were fine)

1 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Tumeric

1 Tsp Ground coriander

500ml Passata

250ml Chicken stock (it’s fine to use a stock cube)

1 Tbsp Oil

For the topping

1Kg Potatoes (a floury variety is best), cut into cubes

50 Grams Butter

2 Tsps Onion (Nigella) seeds

Method

  1. Heat a large dry frying pan, and toast the onion seeds. When you start to hear them crackle and pop remove from the pan and set to one side
  2. Add the peeled and roughly chopped onion, garlic and ginger to a food processor as well as the chillies. Blitz the ingredients until broken down to a pulp
  3. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large pan. Add the onion mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients for the curry to pan and simmer for 25-30 mins, or little longer if needed. This should be quite a thick curry
  5. While your curry is cooking boil your potatoes until soft (I like to leave the skin on, but peel them if you prefer)
  6. Once cooked, drain your potatoes, roughly crush with a fork or potato masher. You aren’t making mashed potatoes, you just need to break them up
  7. Add the butter and toasted onion seeds and mix well
  8. Top the curry with the potatoes and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 30 mins or until the topping is golden brown and crunchy

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.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Little nuggets of yummyness

On a wet crappy Sunday afternoon I was craving something sweet and couldn’t be bothered going out. I had a rummage through the cupboards and came up with these. I have saved this recipe under “pure filth”. They may sound pretty healthy, but in reality there is a substantial amount of sugar and butter in these cookies (and is probably part of the reason they taste so good).

Mix ready to be scooped into cookies

This is based a round an American recipe, so these will be soft cookies, rather than a crunchier biscuit. If you like a crunchier biscuit just bake these for longer, (be careful they don’t dry out too much). When I made these I didn’t have enough raisins, so I made up the difference with dried cranberries and they were great. So be brave and don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of dried fruit.

Makes 24

Ingredients

150 Grams Butter

150 Grams Sugar (preferably brown, but use what you have)

125 Grams Plain flour

1 Tsp Baking soda

1 Tsp Cinnamon

150 Grams Raisins

125 Grams Desiccated Coconut

2 Eggs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and line to two baking sheets with baking parchment
  2. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together (I use an electric whisk), add the eggs and mix well
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined
  4. I use a tablespoon to scoop out enough mixture for each cookie (you can make these bigger or small if you prefer, just remember to adjust your cooking time) and place spoonfuls of the mix evenly on your baking sheets (leave enough room in case they spread a little)
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, and then allow to cool completely on a wire wrack before storing in an airtight box

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

Coriander and Lime Chicken

I love this with some rice, avocado and salad.

Like most people who eat meat, chicken is a staple for me. Lets admit it, it can get a bit boring after a while. I was looking for something different and remembered that I had something similar to this in Mexican restaurant years before.

I like to use chicken thighs because I think they have more flavour and are cheaper than chicken breast, but use these if you prefer (just reduce the cooking time so they don’t dry out).

Brown in a pan before baking

The ingredients for the marinade are pretty straightforward and packs lots of fresh clean flavours. I only marinade the chicken for 30-60 minutes, which is good that you don’t have to plan to far in advance. If you don’t like coriander, I would still recommend giving this a chance, as cooking does change the flavour. I finish these in the oven, but they would also be great on a barbecue. I serve these with some rice, and avocado, but it’s also great served along with salad if you’re going low carb.

Super fresh and tangy marinade.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Large or 8 small chicken thighs

Juice and zest of 2 limes

2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Chilli flakes

2 Tbsp Olive oil

Handful of coriander (roughly chopped)

Method

  1. Combine oil, chilli flakes, garlic, zest and juice of a lime, and coriander in a bowl
  2. Add chicken and marinade for 30-60 minutes
  3. Heat a large pan (ideally one that is oven proof), on the stove top, and add the chicken. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees
  4. Brown the chicken quickly on both sides, add any remaining marinade, and place the pan in the oven. If you don’t have an oven proof pan, transfer the chicken to oven proof dish, and make sure to scrape in all the yummy juices and chicken bits in pan
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, and check that chicken juices run clear, (if not cook for another 5-10 minutes before checking again

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.

Lime and Lemon Grass Gin Fizz

I’m currently in mourning as I had hoped to visit Bali this Summer, but COVID 19 crapped all over that plan. Bali is my favourite place on earth, but mercilessly hot and humid at times. Being a pasty, super pale Irish girl, I often need to sit in the shade and enjoy a frosty beverage (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

Usually this is an ice cold Bintang (local beer), or coconut water straight from the coconut with a straw.

This is where I should have been. Do you see why I needed a cocktail.

I made this with the Balinese flavours I love in mind. To get these flavours you make a simple syrup. This is the cornerstone of loads of different cocktails, just take equal parts sugar and water and cook together with any other flavours you like.

The simple syrup will live quite happily in a sealed jar in your fridge for a month. It probably won’t last that long. I keep finding myself going all Mad Men and enjoying a pre dinner cocktail (even when dinner is just beans on toast).

Simple ingredients will transport your taste buds.

Ingredients

(for the simple syrup)

100 Grams Sugar

100 ml Water

1 Stalk Lemon grass

1 Lime (sliced)

2-3 Kaffir lime leaves (optional, but definitely takes the flavour to another level)

(for the rest of the cocktail)

Gin

Soda water

Method

  1. Bruise the lemon grass, add to a pot along with the sugar, water, lime leaves and sliced lime
  2. Bring the mix to just before the boil and reduce the heat. Simmer over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and allow the syrup to cool
  3. You can make this cocktail as strong or as weak as you like. I usually add equal parts chilled gin and simple syrup and then top up with as much soda water as you like.
  4. Treat yourself and serve it in a fancy glass with a cute garnish (go on, you’re worth it)

Smoked Mackerel Pate

This is a total crowd pleaser. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love this (apart from those people who totally hate fish).

When people hear pate, they tend to think it’s going to be complicated. This recipe has only 5 ingredients, and takes 5 minutes to make. It makes a brilliant starter with crusty bread, or I enjoy it on a toasted bagel for lunch. It also makes a good topping for baked potatoes.

The pate has lots of flavour, but if you want to mix it up a bit you can swap out the parsley and lemon juice for coriander and lime, with some finely chopped chillies.

Ingredients

200 Grams Smoked mackerel

100 Grams Cream cheese

Juice of half a lemon

Small handful of chopped parsley

Ground black pepper

Method

  1. Remove and discard the skin from the fish
  2. Break up the mackerel in a bowl, and flake with a fork
  3. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice, and parsley and mix until the pate is smooth. Taste and add black pepper to taste (you can also add more lemon and parsley if you prefer)

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 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

Blondies with Chocolate Chips

I think we can all agree that no one is counting calories at the minute. I’m trying to fill my time and decided to try blondies (the chewy caramely cousin of the brownie).

This is based on a Simply Recipes version, they used white chocolate chips. I didn’t have these, so I improvised my chopping up orange flavoured chocolate (if the manufacturer would like to send me some samples that would be great, just saying)

You can also use chopped nuts or even cubes of apple. These freeze well, but realistically won’t last long enough.

FYI, your kitchen will smell amazing.

Recipe

115 Grams Butter

220 Grams Dark brown sugar

1 Tsp Vanilla extract (option)

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

125 Grams Plain flour

60 Grams Chocolate (chopped)

1 Egg

Fold in the chopped Chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and grease and line a 21cm x 21cm brownie tin with baking parchment
  2. Melt the butter and add to the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk, when the mixture has cooled a little whisk in the egg
  3. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mixture thoroughly. Fold in the chocolate, before transferring to a lined baking tin
  4. Bake for 25 minutes, and allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes

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.

Chicken Hot Pot

I make no claims that this recipe is anywhere close to being an authentic hot pot. But it was topped with finely sliced potatoes, so in my mind at least this is a hot pot.

If any one follows this blog regularly, you’ll know I hate food waste. So before I go food shopping. I always have a whiz around the fridge and cupboards to see what I can make rather than letting food spoil. That’s how this recipe came together. This doesn’t stop it being properly delicious comfort food on a frosty day. Chicken and vegetables in a creamy mustard sauce topped with a crispy potato crust, yum! Before you freak out, yes I know there is alot of cream/sour cream, but I was trying to use up left over cream. If you want be a little healthier you could halve the amount of cream and replace it with chicken stock. Just remember to reduce the sauce for a little longer so that it’s not watery.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Tbsp cooking oil

4 Large or 6 Small Chicken Thighs (cooked)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

2 Celery Stalks (finely sliced)

150 Grams Sweetcorn

300ml Double Cream

250ml Sour Cream

1 Tsp Grain Mustard

300 Grams Potatoes (finely sliced)

1Tbsp Melted Butter

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan, and fry onion and celery until soft
  2. Add the chicken and sweetcorn and heat through
  3. Add the cream, sour cream, and mustard to the pan, cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens a little
  4. Check the seasoning and transfer to an oven proof dish
  5. Evenly lay the finely sliced potatoes on top of the chicken mixture
  6. Brush the potatoes with melted butter and sprinkle salt and pepper
  7. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are crispy and golden brown.

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

Chocolate Salami

Unctuous chocolate, orange, and ginger deliciousness

I know what you’re thinking, it sounds weird, but the only the reason this is called a salami is because it looks a bit like until it’s sliced.

Chocolate salami before it’s sliced.

These are traditional in Italy and Portugal around Christmas , and are usually filled with delicious festive ingredients like fruit, nuts, cookies, and booze. I had looked at different recipes, but ended up just adding the ingredients that I like.

This is seriously rich, so a thin slice with a cup of coffee is heaven. Its also great with ice cream if you want a lighter dessert at Christmas. This will live in the fridge for up to week, but probably won’t last that long.

Ingredients

250 Grams Dark Chocolate

250 Grams Ginger nuts

100 Grams Butter

150 Grams Caster sugar

100 Grams Dates

100 Grams Nuts (I used a mixture of what I had in the cupboard)

2 Eggs

2 Tbsps Cointreau orange liqueur (optional)

Zest of 1 orange

2 Tbsps Icing Sugar (for coating the salami)

Method

  • Break the chocolate into a bowl, and melt in the microwave, or over a pot of simmering water
  • In a separate bowl with an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until its light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter and sugar mix. Don’t worry if this looks curdled, it will soon look OK
  • Mix in the melted chocolate to the butter mixture.
  • Crush the ginger snaps in a plastic bag, until they are in small bits, but not dust. Chop the nuts and dates roughly, and grate the zest of the orange
  • Combine all the ingredients, and mix well, ensuring everything is well coated with the chocolate mixture
  • Keep the mixture in its bowl and refrigerate for around 30 minutes until it firm’s up
Chocolate mix
  • Take the mixture out of the fridge, lay a double sheet of clung film on a counter
  • Empty the mixture onto the cling film and with your hands, mould into a sausage shape
  • Cover with the cling film and role on the counter until its smooth
Roll on the counter until cylinder is smooth
  • Chill in the fridge over night (or for at least 6 hours)
  • On a chopping board or plate sprinkle half the icing sugar. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the chocolate and pat until coated.
Pat with Icing Sugar until the log looks like a salami
  • I wrap mine in baking parchment and keep in the fridge, cutting myself some every time I pass the fridge

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.

Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Yummy and dangerously addictive.

Anyone one who follows this blog will probably have guessed that I usually don’t do dainty.

But trapped in the house on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I decided to rustle up something different . Macarons are cute little almond meringue cookies, and can have a variety of fillings including butter cream or jam. I have used chocolate ganache, which sounds fancy but is basically just cream and chocolate.

If you’ve seen macarons for sale they can come in a variety of rainbow colours, and can be eye wateringly expensive. This is a bit of a rip off considering that while they might be a bit fiddly they’re not especially difficult to make. They also make great gifts.

Always handy for gifts.

Ingredients

For the mcarons

210 Grams Icing sugar

95 Grams Ground almonds

3 Egg whites (at room temperature)

50 Grams Caster sugar

1/2 Tsp Vanilla paste

Food colouring (this is optional, but it does help them look nice. I would recommend using gel or powdered food colouring)

For the ganache

100 Grams Dark chocolate

150 Grams Double cream

Method

  1. Add the icing sugar and ground almonds to a food processor and whizz for a couple of minutes
  2. Sieve the sugar and almonds into a bowl, and discard any bits of almond that don’t go through the sieve
  3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until they form soft peaks Gradually add the caster sugar, vanilla and food colouring until you have stiff peaks (you’ve probably saw on cooking shows when the cook holds the bowl over their head and nothing moves)
  4. Start to fold in the sugar and almond mix with a spatula or large metal spoon in small batches
  5. When fully combined, transfer the batter into a piping bag
  6. On a sheet of baking paper, mark out circles about 3cm each. Put a dot of the batter on the four corners of a baking sheet and lay the baking paper on top (this will help it stay in place)
  7. Pipe a blob of the batter on the pre drawn circles until you have used up all the mix. I ended up using 2 baking trays
  8. Once you have piped all the mcarons, lift the trays a couple of inches and tap it down on the counter to get out any air bubbles. If you have any little tails of batter sticking up after piping, wet you finger and flatten them (it will stop them burning)
  9. Allow the macarons to sit out for 30 minutes, this helps them set and forms a skin
  10. Bake in an oven preheated to 150 degrees for 17 minutes, cool before filling
  11. To make the ganache, break the chocolate into small bits and put in a microwave bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (blast for 30 seconds at a time, be sure not to burn)
  12. When the chocolate is melted, add the cream and stir until properly combined, allow to cool
  13. When the ganache is cool, take a palette knife and spread the filling on the underside of a macaron the sandwich with another. Continue until all the macaron halves have been sandwiched together

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.

Triple Chocolate Verrine

Rich and deliciously unctuous

This is a little teaser of the dessert for this week’s Supper Club. I like to test recipes before hand and this is a chocoholics dream.

I’m a total fan girl of Eric Lanlard (Cake Boy), his recipes are amazing. I wanted to try this for a while and eventually had a free day to try it. It’s not especially difficult, but it does take a while as you have to wait for the different layers to set.

I made mine in little jam jars. This is a really rich dessert, so you can make smaller versions in shot glasses if you don’t have an especially sweet tooth.

Top with some grated chocolate for a final flourish

Makes 4-6 jam jars, more if you’re using smaller glasses

Ingredients

Dark chocolate layer

75 Grams Dark chocolate

1 Tsp Caster sugar

2 Eggs (separated)

Milk chocolate layer

75 Grams Milk chocolate

1/2 Tsp Caster sugar

2 Eggs (separated)

White chocolate layer

2 Egg yolks

2 Tbsp Caster sugar

150 Gram White chocolate

250ml Double cream

Method

  1. Melt the dark chocolate and sugar in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat
  2. Separate the eggs, and whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until they reach the stiff peak stage
  3. Quickly stir the egg yolks into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture
  4. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until fully combined. Pour into glasses making sure there is an equal amount in each glass. Put into the fridge to set for 2 hours
  5. For the milk chocolate layer, break into small pieces and melt along the sugar in a heat proof bowl over a simmering water. Remove from the heat once melted.
  6. Separate the eggs, whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage.
  7. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate and mix well
  8. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Top up the glasses that already have the dark chocolate and put back in the fridge to set
  9. For the white chocolate layer, add the sugar and egg yolks to a heat proof bowl and heat over a pan of barely simmering water, whisk for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until the mix looks light and creamy
  10. In a separate heat proof bowl, break up the chocolate and melt over a pan of simmering water.
  11. In another bowl (yes I should have mentioned that you’ll have a lot of washing up, but it totally worth it), whip the cream with an electric whisk until it forms soft peaks
  12. Add the melted chocolate to the egg and sugar mix and combine well
  13. Fold the mix into the whipped cream, and then add to the glasses. Chill for another 3-4 hours

I would recommend not serving this pregnant women, or very young children.

Bia Rebel – Belfast

Bimimbap

I’ll admit I was late to the party when it came to Bia Rebel. A small ramen bar, 5 minutes from me on Belfast’s Ormeau Road. I was afraid it might be one of those places that opens to alot of hype but can’t sustain it. But this place is a little gem, and has had glowing reviews for food critics like Jay Rayner.

The place is tiny, but has become a local sensation. They’re best known large steaming bowls of noodles and vegetables, with different options for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

I didn’t have time to sit in, but seating is limited, so I ordered my food to go. Noodles bowls are the things people travel miles for, but I was food bullied by a friend who raved about their Bimimbap. She wasn’t wrong! This is a Korean dish of slow cooked pork rice and vegetables. It was amazing, the pork was well flavoured sweet and tender. The vegetables and herbs were fresh and delicious and offset the gentle heat of the dish. Honestly, it took take away Asian food to a whole other level.

Unfortunately for my waistband, I think I’m going to become a regular.

Pear and Ginger Upside Down Cake

Sticky delicious caramel, soft juicy pear, and a light sponge with a gentle hum of ginger.

It’s that time of year, frosty mornings, long dark nights and cravings for comfort food.

This cake is perfect with custard as a dessert, or just enjoy a slice along with a cup of tea or coffee.

Use pears that are not too soft and mushy, so they will stay in tact during baking.

Yummy as a tea time treat.

Ingredients

For the caramel

1 Orange (juice, keep the zest for the sponge)

60 Grams Butter

330 Grams Brown sugar

For the cake

4 Pears

1 Tsp Ground ginger

3 Eggs

375 Grams Plain flour

2 1/2 Tsp Baking powder

220 Grams Sugar

250 ml Vegetable oil

125 ml Milk

Method

  1. Add the sugar, butter, and orange juice to a pan. Bring to boil, ans simmer for 2-3 minutes until caramel begins to thicken. Allow to cool slightly
  2. Add the sugar, oil, orange zest, eggs to a bowl and with an electric whisk until throughly combined
  3. Then add the flour, baking powder, and groung ginger gradually. Half way through adding the other ingredients add the milk.
  4. Whisk until the batter is thoroughly combined
  5. Peel and core the pears, cut into thick slices or quarters . Arrange in the bottom of a well greased 9 inch spring form cake tin
  6. Cover the pears with the caramel, then add the cake batter on top.
  7. Bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 180 degree and bake for a further 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes cleanly out of cake.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin

Green Eggs and Ham Fritatta

Super tasty way to use up leftovers

I hate food waste. So when I see stuff has been hanging about the fridge for a couple days I try to find a way to use it up.

I had some lardons left from another dish I had made. I also had some feta cheese and vegetables. I decided to make a fritatta, which is great to slice up and use from breakfast or brunch, and makes a great lunch box filler.

Fritatta packed full of green veggies, salty bacon and feta cheese.

Ingredients

8 Eggs

100 Grams Feta cheese

100 Grams Lardons (cut up streaky bacon would also work)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

100 Grams Kale (cooked)

100 Grams Frozen peas (thawed)

1 Tbsp Chopped parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat a large pan, and add the lardons
  2. Fry until crispy, and then remove from the pan
  3. Add the onion to the pan, cook over a low heat until soft
  4. The kale, parsley and peas, and crumble the Feta cheese into the oan
  5. In a separate bowl, crack 8 eggs and beat, before adding to the frying pan.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and mix all the ingredients well
  7. Transfer to a 8 inch x 12 inch baking tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes in an oven pre heated to 200 degrees. Cook until just firm and allow to set in the tin

November Supper Club – 16 November, Menu and How to Book

October’s Supper Club

Well the October Supper Club was a brilliant night (even if I say so myself). We had a lovely range of people from their 20s to their very young at heart 60s. The food was good, the craic was better, and there were a few people feeling a little delicate the next morning.

I’m not a fan of platitudes like strangers are friends you just haven’t met yet. But really, don’t you get fed up meeting the same people! However since it’s Northern Ireland (the largest small village in Europe) we still had two guests who had never met before, but were able to work out that their family members worked together!

Try something different, meet a couple of new people and have a slap up meal.

Amuse bouche at the last supper club.

If you haven’t been to a supper club before, the concept is simple. Everyone eats the same 3 course menu, (plus a couple of treats), at a communal table. We’ll greet you with a welcome drink and a roaring fire, and you’re welcome to bring you’re own beer or wine. (We’re more than happy to look after vegetarians/vegans, or people with food allergies, but please let us know on advance. This way we can make sure we have something delicious for you)

Menu – November Supper Club

Starter

Feta, pecan, and pomegranate salad

Main Course

Porchetta (crispy roast loin of pork, with apple and fennel stuffing ), roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables.

Dessert

Triple chocolate verrine, and shortbread

November Supper Club

Cost per person is £25

£25.00

Come along, kick back, eat some good food and meet some new people.

Ts & Cs Sorry but refunds can’t be made for cancellations made within 24 hours of the event.

Barm Brack

Plump juicy fruit loaf with a hint of orange and spice. Yummy with butter, and is also amazing toasted.

Halloween is a big thing in Ireland. Before all the commercialised plastic jack o laterns, fake cobwebs and Americanised trick or treating, Holloween was an ancient Celtic festival. According to legend Halloween was the night your ancestors souls returned to earth. Mischief and mishaps could occur, and there is also sorts of folklore that changes depending on where you go in the country.

Barm back (bairin breac in Irish, and apologies to all Irish speakers if I’ve misspelled this) was traditionally eaten at this time. This roughly translates as speckled loaf. The loaf is speckled with raisins and sultanas plump from being soaked in tea. There are stories that people would include different items and if you got it in your slice of the bread that would be your fortune for the year. These included things like if you got a ring you would get married, a dried pea meant you would stay single, and piece of cloth foretold poverty. There are various recipes, some use yeast, this one doesn’t and is much more straightforward. I used ordinary tea in this recipe, but you can also use teas like Earl Grey, or fruit teas. Some people include treacle, but I don’t like it so I left it out. The grated orange zest isn’t traditional but it’s what I like.

Ingredients

275 Grams Raisins

100 Grams Sultana

50 Grams Mixed peel (some supermarkets sell mixed fruit, so you can just total up to 425 Grams and use this instead)

300ml Black tea

200 Grams Brown sugar

225 Grams Self raising flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 egg

Grated zest of 1 orange

Line your baking tin with parchment paper, or else grease the tin well

Method

  1. The night before you make the barm brack, make 300ml of black tea. I just added a tea bag to hot water for a couple of minutes, don’t let it stew for too long or it will get bitter. You don’t need to leave this overnight, but try to leave it at least 3-4 hours
  2. In a bowl, add the sugar, flour, spices and orange zest and combine. Add an egg and then add the tea and soaked fruit and mix well.
  3. Transfer to a round 8 inch baking tin and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 90 mins. Because there is quite a lot sugar in this loaf, it goes quite dark. This is how it’s meant to be, but about half way through I cover the top with some tin foil to stop it taking on too much colour before it’s fully cooked.

Date and Walnut Wheaten Bread

Tell me whats not to like about bread still warm from the oven, and smeared with butter.

One of my favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland is Newcastle Co. Down. There are lots of things to love, breathtaking scenery, amusement arcades, seaweed baths, a lovely promenade, and the world class Tollymore forest Park. I visited recently and tried to find a little bakery that used to sell the most amazing date and walnut wheaten bread. Sadly the shop is gone but the visit inspired me to come up with a version of it which isn’t half bad.

The perfect mix of sweet and savoury.

This bread is great just sliced and slavered in butter/jam. It’s also savoury enough to taste great when topped with cheese, or along side soup. You can also devide the bread mix into eight to make little wheaten rolls.

Ingredients

275 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

175 Grams Dates (chopped)

75 Grams Walnuts (chopped)

50 Grams Butter (melted)

1 Egg

1 Tsp Baking soda

1/4 Tsp Salt

250ml Buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so you can improvise as I did. I used normal milk and added 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and left it to sit for 10 minutes)

Simple round loaf with a cross cut across the centre

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Add the flours, walnuts, dates, salt and baking soda to a bowl and combine
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the egg, and melted butter. Add the milk a little at a time until you have quiet a moist dough.I like to use my hands to mix the ingredients, but you can also use a wooden spoon.
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape into a circle, around 14-16cm in diameter
  5. Put the loaf onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a cross across the loaf, about a third of the depth of the loaf
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, check the loaf is ready by tapping the bottom to makes it sounds hollow

Braised Beef with Cheese Scone Dumplings

I made this as the main course for the October Supper Club, and had clean plates all round. This is proper Winter is coming, comfort food. Beef, cooked long and slow in dark velvety beer to make a rich unctuous gravy.

Serve up with some buttered greens, I made dauphinoise potatoes but mashed potatoes works well too.

If this wasn’t delicious enough, light tasty cheese scones bake on top, giving a crunchy top. Plenty of winter vegetables add to the rich savouryness of it all. This also freezes really well.

The lovely folks at NORN IRON Brew Co. gave me some of their amazing beers, and I used their Temple Imperial Porter, but if this isn’t available other dark stouts will do.

Serves 6

Ingredients

500ml Porter, stout or other dark beer

100 Grams Smoked Bacon

750 Grams Chuck beef

2 Carrots

1 Leek

2 Stalks of celery

1 Tbsp Tomato Puree

250ml Beef stock

4 Stalks of Thyme (or 1 Tsp of dried thyme)

Salt and pepper

For the scones

200 Grams Self-raising flour

50 Grams Butter

100 Grams Mature Cheddar Cheese (grated)

50-75ml Milk

1/2 Tsp Garlic powder

Method

  1. Cut the bacon into small strips and fry in a large dry pan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set to one side
  2. Cut the beef into 2-3 cm chunks and brown in the same pan used to fry the bacon, remove from the pan
  3. Cut the vegetables into chunks and add to the pan, cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato puree and cook for a further 5 minutes
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, add the the stock and beer to the pan and stir to make sure all the tasty crispy bits get stirred into the sauce
  5. Cover with a lid and simmer for 90 minutes
  6. Remove the lid and check the seasoning, allow to simmer for another 30 minutes without the lid to allow the sauce to thicken, then allow to cook
  7. For the scones, cut the butter into small cubes, and rub into the flour
  8. Add the garlic powder, and grated cheese and stir until we’ll distributed
  9. Add the milk a little at a time, until the mix comes together and is moist but not too sticky
  10. Turn onto a floured surface, and cut into 6 equal sized pieces (don’t handle too much or the scones will be tough)
  11. Place the scones on top of the beef mixture. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30 minutes until crispy and golden

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

Black Magic Cake

I made this as it was Halloween. Yes, this Halloween will be a bit more subdued, but hey any excuse for chocolate cake.

This is by all accounts a really old recipe that was originally developed by Hershey Chocolate, to highlight their cocoa powder.

I used supermarket own brand and it worked fine. Please don’t be tempted use powdered drinking chocolate, it will not taste good.

You’ll see there is coffee in this cake, don’t worry about this. I don’t like coffee flavoured desserts either. I promise you won’t taste the coffee, but it does bring out the flavour of the chocolate.

Yes this is very rich, but its not something that you’re going to eat everyday. You won’t be disappointed, this is definitely going in the pure filth file.

Deep, dark, and delicious

Ingredients

For the cake

230 Grams Plain flour

70 Grams Cocoa powder

400 Grams Sugar

2 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda

2 Tsp Baking powder

1 Tsp Salt

2 Eggs

250ml Buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, a 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to ordinary milk and allow to sit for a few minutes)

250ml Strong black coffee (or 1 Tbsp of instant coffee dissolved in 250ml of hot water)

125ml Vegetable oil (Best to use a flavourless oil like sunflower oil)

1Tsp Vanilla extract

For the icing

200 Grams Dark chocolate

175ml Double cream

50 Grams Butter

Method

  1. This is a super easy cake to make. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line 2 x 8 inch cake tins
  2. For the cake part, combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  3. Add the wet ingredients and mix for 90 seconds with an electric whisk
  4. Pour the mix evenly between the two prepared baking tins and bake for 35 minutes
  5. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling wrack and allow to cool completely before adding the icing
  6. For the ganache icing, break up the chocolate and add to a heat proof bowl.
  7. Heat the cream in a saucepan until just before boiling and pour on top of the chocolate, and whisk.
  8. Melt the butter and whisk into the cream and chocolate and you will soon have thick and glossy icing. Allow to cool to room temperature
  9. Place one of your cake layers on a plate or cake stand. Spread about one third of the icing on top of the cake and spread evenly with a palate knife
  10. Top with the second cake layer and pour one third of the icing on top, spreading evenly with a palate knife again. Spread the remaining icing around the sides, and add any other decoration you might want

Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

I love soda bread, it’s super adaptable and works well with sweet or savoury ingredients.

Just out of the oven, and delicious with butter

Like everyone else, I was glued to the Great British Bake Off when the contestants were making various types of soda bread. I hadn’t made soda bread since I made my version with dulse (dried seaweed), and I thought I’d try a sweet version.

Usually I would use dried fruit in a soda bread, but I didn’t have any. I had a look at what I did have, and this was how I came up with blueberry and walnut soda bread.

As before, if you don’t have buttermilk you can add lemon juice to ordinary milk and let it sit for a few minutes to achieve the same result. I also tossed the blueberries in the flour before mixing them in. Apparently this stops them sinking to the bottom.

This loaf will live quite happily in an airtight box for 2-3 days. If you still have any left, can I suggest toasting it, it’s amazing. I also toasted some and topped it with cheese and this was so delicious the I forgot to take photos.

Freshly toasted and slathered in butter, mmmmm

Ingredients

200 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

25 Grams Butter

100 Grams Porridge oats

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda

100 Grams Fresh blueberries

50 Grams Walnuts

1 Tsp Salt

75 Grams Sugar

450ml Buttermilk

Method

  1. Rub butter into the porridge oats (you can use a food processor to do this, but really only takes a minute)
  2. Add your dry ingredients to the porridge oats (remember to dust the blueberries in the flour before adding them)
  3. Add the buttermilk to the bowl and mix lightly with a palette knife
  4. Turn your mix onto a floured surface and gently form it into a ball. Try not to handle it too much, it should be a fairly soft dough
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Cut a cross onto your loaf. You should cut down about one third of the depth of the dough
  6. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 45-50 minutes (or until it sounds hollow when you tap it).

Spiced Plum Cake

Soft sweet plum topping with gentle spices.

Whenever possible I like to eat seasonally, it’s usually cheaper, and usually better for you, and better for the planet. Autumn has some great fruit and vegetables. One of my favourites are plums. Usually inexpensive and really versatile. I love this plum cake, no only because its relatively straight forward to make, but the cinnamon and cardamon add a whole other level of flavour. The addition of sour cream adds a tenderness to the sponge. This will also live quite happily in a cake tin for 3-4 days. I love it with whipped cream, but it’s also perfect comfort food served with custard.

Ingredients

300 Grams Plain flour

1, 1/2 Tsps Baking powder

1 Tsp Ground cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Ground cardamon

1 Tsp Salt

3 Eggs

100 Grams Butter

200 Grams Sugar

60 Grams Sour Cream

4-5 Plums

Ready for the oven

Methods

  1. Mix the flour, salt, spices and baking powder together
  2. In a separate bowl cream the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk (hold back 2 tablespoons of sugar to top the plums with)
  3. Add the eggs and sour cream to the butter and sugar and whisk until light and fluffy
  4. Gradually whisk in the flour mixture until you have thick cake batter
  5. Grease a 9 inch spring firm cake tin, and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees
  6. Transfer your cake batter to the cake tin and spread evenly.
  7. Cut the plums in half, remove the stone and cut each half into quarters
  8. Starting in the centre of the cake, arrange the slices of plum in a circle (or any type of pattern you like) and sprinkle with remaining sugar
  9. Bake for 35 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean when stuck in the cake

Foraging at Navan Fort and walking through history.

Even though I was raised in the city, one of the things my Dad loved to do was to take us on nature walks. During these he would point out trees and plants and let us pick wild blackberries and hazelnuts.

Elderberries, packed with vitamins and antioxidants

Foraging isn’t practical for everyone but when you get the chance I would recommend it. It helps ground you to where you live, and best of all it’s free. It’s also a fantastic activity to do with kids (just make sure to watch what they’re eating).

Celtic round house

Recently Navan Fort and Visitor Centre in Co. Armagh, ran an event which provided a guided foraging walk and demonstration of the food and cooking methods our Celtic ancestors would have ate. I’m a big history nerd, so this was right up my street.

Iron Age fire pit

The staff in full Celtic regalia complete with spears really brought history alive, showing not only what the Celts ate, but how they cooked and lived, complete with a genuine Iron Age round house.

Inside an Iron Age round house

The staff were brilliant at getting younger visitors involved and having banter with the participants. They’re also extremely engaging, knowledgeable , and were really interesting.

Tripod cooking
Celtic bread oven

We were then treated to the foraging element led by Fergal. It was great to be back in nature and learn the history and use of local plants.

Robert’s plant or herb Robert

I have to admit in being remiss at not taking more photos of the edible berries like haws, rosehips, and sloes (yes the things they make sloe gin with). One of the more interesting plants was Robert’s plant/herb Robert. Apparently this will be one of the most important cancer fighting drugs in the next decade. If you want to put it in a basin of warm water and soak your feet it also has great antioxidant properties.

I honestly couldn’t recommend the place highly enough. We were also treated to nettle soup (packed with iron and surprisingly tasty), pork and apple stew (we were in the orchard county after all), and a dessert of toasted oats and nuts, local honey, and berries and cream. The charming and entertaining Ita not only cooked all this but demonstrated how our ancestors would have made bread. The foraging events are coming to an end due to the time of year, but the place has different events all year round and is still well worth a visit at any time.

Rainbow Salad with Walnuts

Like a lot of people I’m prone to getting stuck in food ruts. You buy the same thing every week, and you cook the same thing all the time, it’s easy but it is boring.

I started getting vegetable box deliveries and sometime I choose an option that’s a bit of a luck dip so that I’m forced to make something different, and you’re forced to work with new ingredients. (This week’s box came with a packet of sauerkraut!, but that’s a whole other recipe).

I had been over indulging in the “pure filth” recipes lately and wanted to feel I was eating something good for me for a change. So with a box full of lovely colourful ingredients I made this fresh crunchy salad with a dressing made with creamy tahini, tangy ginger and a little bit of chilli heat. I like to sprinkle it with nuts, for extra protein.

This is a great vegan dish ( I eat big bowls of this on its own), but is also a great side dish. I used the vegetables I had in a vegetable box, but the beautiful thing about this is that you can adapt the vegetables depending on availability and what’s in season.

Do yourself some good and enjoy a delicious crunchy multi-coloured big bowl of fibre and vitamins.

Ingredients

2 Carrots (grated)

1/2 Red pepper (finely sliced)

1 Large gold beetroot (grated)

2-3 Radishes (finely sliced)

4-5 Stalks of Rainbow chard (finely sliced)

1 Small Celeriac (grated)

For the dressing

1 Red chilli (finely sliced)

2 inch piece of ginger (grated)

3 Tbsp Tahini

Juice of one lemon

Method

  1. I was lazy and used a food processor to grate many of the ingredients. If you don’t have one a box grater does the same job, it will just take a little longer
  2. If you’re using celeriac make sure to cover this with the lemon juice as soon as you grate it to prevent it from discolouring
  3. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl (once you have grated or sliced your vegetables).
  4. In a separate bowl add the dressing ingredients and mix well. You want to add a little water to loosen the dressing, depending on how thick your tahini is.
  5. Add the dressing to the salad and mix thoroughly
  6. Top with walnuts, or toasted cashews or pine nuts also work well.