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

Possibly the filthiest brownies ever made.

Fudgy brownie, topped with chewy marshmallow and then a layer of crunchy rice crispies coated in peanut butter and chocolate.

Anyone who follows this blog has probably worked out that I try to make reasonably healthy recipes. However, I think there is always room for some filth in your life. A good basic brownie is hard to beat, and there are endless variations you can make. I like food with different textures, so when I saw a version of this from Yammies Noshery, I had to try to make them. Apart from the fact these taste like a little square of heaven, they’re also gluten free. So you can treat your intolerant loved ones to something other than a coconut macaroon. These are great for Halloween parties or judge because you feel like a bit of filth.

Ingredients

For the brownies

260 Grams White sugar

180 Mil Vegetable oil

4 Eggs

1 Tsp Vanilla bean paste

200 Grams Cocoa powder

1/4 Tsp Salt

60 Grams Chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

For the topping

180 Gram Bag of mini marshmallows

250 Grams Chocolate

160 Grams Peanut butter

75 Grams Butter

400 Grams Rice crispies

These little nuggets of deliciousness melt and toast up to add another layer of flavour

Method

  1. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  2. For the brownies, add the oil and sugar together and mix until we’ll combined. Whisk in the eggs, and vanilla, then add the cocoa powder and salt and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips, and pour into your lined baking tin. Bake of 17 minutes (if you prefer a more cakey brownie leave them in the oven for another couple of minutes)
  4. Take the brownies out of the oven and sprinkle the top with mini marshmallows, and return to the oven for another 8 minutes
  5. The marshmallows should have melted and be looking slightly toasted around the edged
  6. Allow to cool before adding the next topping (I didn’t wait and it was a nightmare to spread)
  7. For the crunch topping, put the chocolate, butter, and peanut butter in a large microwave proof dish.
  8. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir, taking care that the mix doesn’t burn
  9. When melted, add the rice crispies and mix until they are fully coated
  10. Spread the mix over the cooled marshmallow topped brownies and allow to set before slicing into small squares (these are seriously rich, and can always have another one if you can manage it)
Allow the marshmallows to cool be trying to spread the crunch topping

Potato, Sausage, and Apple Skillet

I love a quick dinner after a long day when standing cooking holds little appeal. If you can be organised enough to cook extra potatoes for dinner the day or two before this makes this even quicker.

My sort of comfort food

Nothing says comfort food to me like spuds. Crispy fried potatoes, meaty pork sausages and hot sweet apples makes a really dreamy combination. On a chilly Autumn evening this makes a perfect dinner, it’s also really good with fried egg on top.

Serves 4

Ingredients

500 Grams Cooked potatoes cut into chunks (I like to leave the skins on)

8 Pork sausages (cut into chunks)

2 Red onions (thinly sliced)

2 Dessert apples (cut into chunks)

2 Tbsps Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet or heavy frying pan
  2. Add the cut up sausages and onions, and stir occasionally until browned
  3. Remove from the pan and set to one side. Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the potatoes, cooking until brown
  4. Add the sausages, onions, and apple to the pan, cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and if you’re feeling really fancy you could sprinkle over some chopped herbs like parsley, or sage

Plum Crumble

Autumn is my favourite time of year, not just because of the colours and dark nights. What I really love are the fantastic fruit and vegetables that come into their own.

Sweet and juicy Victoria plums

I love warming, stick to your ribs comfort food at this time of year. I’ve had some really bland apple crumbles, so for a while I experimented with different versions and this is my favourite. I’ve used cinnamon, but cardamom also works really well.

Crunchy crumble and jammy fruity base.

I also added chopped dates, which adds a lovely toffee back note. The crumble has oats and nuts to add flavour and texture. It comes out of the oven with a crunchy topping and gooey jammy fruit base. I like mine with custard, but it also works well with ice cream.

Ingredients

600 Grams Plums (stones removed)

75 Grams Dates (finely chopped)

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

100 Grams Brown Sugar

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Porridge oats

50 Grams Almonds (chopped)

100 Grams Butter (cut into cubes)

Method

  1. Cut the plums in half and remove the stones
  2. Put the plums in an oven proof dish, and mix with the cinnamon and chopped dates
  3. For the crumble, you can add the flour, and butter to a food processor and mix. I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the food processor out and then cleaning it. Instead I added the ingredients to a bowl and rubbed the flour and butter together
  4. When the flour, and butter are combined, add the sugar, oats and nuts and mix well
  5. Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. Put the dish in an oven preheated to 180 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and delicious

Garlic Bread Vegetable Bake

I did the thing I normally do when I go to a farmer’s market. I bought way too much random stuff because I thought it looked good. I got it home and then had to think what I was going to do with it.

Note to self, stop buying too much stuff at the market.

This is a scrummy mix of colours and textures. Delicious Autumn vegetables in a creamy sauce, with a little bit of heat from smoked paprika, topped with crunchy, cheesy garlic bread.

Who doesn’t like garlic bread (weirdos, that’s who). You can use any combination of vegetables you like, pumpkin, butternut squash, or green beans also work well.

Crunchy Cheesy Perfection

I tried this recipe on one of my oldest friends. I was nervous because she owns a steak restaurant and is a confirmed carnivore and got two enthusiastic thumbs up (still sorry I forgot to send you home with a doggy bag Mags, but here is the recipe as promised). Go get your comfort food on.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp Olive oil

250 Grams Brussels sprouts

150 Grams Cavelo Nero (or Kale)

1 Pepper

1 Onion

175 Grams Mushrooms

2 Courgettes

400 Grams Cream cheese

250ml Vegetable stock

1/2 Tsp Smoked paprika

Handful of parsley

25 Grams Butter

2 Cloves of garlic

50 Grams Cheddar Cheese

1 Baguette

Method

  1. Cut the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and halve. Remove the stalks from the cavelo nero and slice. Cook the sprouts and cavelo nero in the vegetable stock for 5 minutes, until just tender
  2. Slice the courgettes, onions, mushrooms and pepper, and fry in the olive oil in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes until soft
  3. Add the sprouts, cavelo nero and vegetable stock to the frying pan. Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the vegetables, and add finely chopped parsley and cream cheese
  4. Mix until thoroughly combined
  5. Crush or mince the garlic and combine with butter
  6. Slice the baguette into 2cm slices, and spread with the garlic butter
  7. Put the vegetable mix into an oven proof dish and top with the slices of buttered baguette
  8. Top with grated cheese and bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees, for 30 minutes until golden brown

Parsley and Almond Pesto

I was having one of those nights when I came home and there was nothing in the fridge that immediately lept out at me for dinner.

I cobbled this together from what I had at hand, and it was amazing. Gorgeous with pasta, its also fabulous drizzled over roast potatoes, or use it as a spread to tasty up sandwiches. This pesto is really versatile, I stirred some through plain boiled rice and the freshness of the parsley and slight hum of garlic totally transformed it. This takes 5 minutes to make and will live in a jar in your fridge for 3-4 days (if it lasts that long)

Bright green and full of flavour.

Ingredients

100 Grams Almonds

25 Grams Parsley (stalks and all)

100 ml Olive oil

25 Grams Parmesan (you can use vegan parmesan if you have dairy free diet)

1 Clove of Garlic (roughly chopped)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a dry frying pan toast the almonds until they are lightly browned and smell nutty
  2. Add the almonds to a food processor and blitz until the almonds look like course sand
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until we’ll combined, check if it needs salt and pepper. Some people like it super smooth, but I prefer it a bit chunkier. Serve with pasta or roast vegetables, save any left over pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge

Sunnyside Supper Club?

A friend recently suggested that I start a supper club in Belfast.

I’ve been to a couple over the years and honestly a great time at each. It was cheaper than eating in a restaurant. I met really interesting people from different walks of life and got to eat some great food.

Let me know if you think it’s a good idea. Have you been to other supper clubs, and what you thought of them. What worked, what didn’t? What you liked and what I should avoid. Maybe you run your own supper club, and if so I’d welcome any insights you might have.

I’m hoping you’ll be my focus group. So let me know what you think, and what you might like to see if I take the plunge.

Thanks

Seaneen

Homemade Granola

Shop bought granola can be expensive and sometimes a bit blah. This version is a feast of different tastes and textures. It’s also quick and easy to make, and tastes better than anything you can buy.

I like to team it up with some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit for a quick and wholesome breakfast that will definitely keep you full until lunch. It also tastes really good sprinkled over ice cream for some crunch. This will keep well in airtight container for 10-14 days.

Rich aand crunchy, straight from the oven.

Ingredients

250 Grams Porridge oats

100 Grams Dessicated coconut

25 Grams Sunflower seeds

25 Grams Pumpkin seeds

50 Grams Pitted dates

50 Grams almonds

100 Grams Peanut butter

3 Tbsp Maple syrup

100 Ml Vegetable oil

Team your granola up with some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit for a quick and satisfying breakfast

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl
  2. Get your hands in and makes sure the peanut butter is rubbed thoroughly in the mixture
  3. Transfer to a baking tray, and put in an oven preheated to 180 degrees
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, half way through take the mix out and stir the mixture to make sure it cooks evenly

Caramelised Onion Sausage Rolls

Savoury and satisfying

I love a sausage roll, add some sweet dark caramelised onions and these are hard to resist.

I use shop bought pastry because its quick. The only thing that takes any effort (and it’s not much) is browning the onions.

Caramelised Onion, the best smell in the world

Makes 6 large sausages, 18 cocktail sausage rolls.

Ingredients

1 Sheet of ready rolled short crust pastry

6 Tennis ball sized onions

1 Tsp Balsamic vinegar

1Tbs Olive oil

6 Sausages (I used pork and leek, but use what you prefer)

1 Egg (to brush the pastry with)

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  • In a frying pan, add the olive oil and heat
  • Peel and slice the onions before adding to the pan (it looks like a lot of onions, but this cooks down quite a lot)
Don’t worry if it seems like a mountain of onions, it cooks down
  • Stir onions occasionally and cook over a medium heat for around 30 minutes over a medium heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
  • Devide the pastry into 6, and place a sausage (I leave the skin on the sausage, some people prefer to remove it), and 1/6 of the onion mixture onto the square of pastry
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg
  • Fold the pastry over until the edges meet and crimp with a fork
Sprinkle with sesame seeds for some extra texture.
  • When you have made all 6 sausage rolls, brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds
  • Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake 20 minutes in an oven heated to 200 degrees until golden brown

Sweet Potato and Feta Fritters

Sweet potato and feta fritters topped with a fried egg makes a really satisfying meal.

I’ve played around with a couple of different versions, including one with courgettes that turned into a gloopy mess. This is the best version I’ve tried, and tastes really good with eggs for breakfast/brunch, or with a salad for a light lunch.

The sweetness of the carrot and sweet potato tastes really good with the savoury hit of the spring onion and creamy tang from the cheese. When cooking these they take on on quite a lot of colour but don’t worry, this is how they are meant to be.

Ingredients

1 Large Sweet potato

1 Large Carrot

2 Scallions/spring onions

2 Tbsps Plain flour

2 Eggs

109 Grams Feta cheese

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

Method

  1. Grate the sweet potato and carrot, set aside in a bowl
  2. Chop spring onions, and add to the bowl.
  3. Crumble the Feta and add to the bowl along with the flour, eggs, and seasoning before mixing well.
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan, and when hot add the mix in large spoonfuls to makes individual fritters
  5. Press the fritters down with a spatula and cook for 5 minutes on each side
  6. These go quite dark, but don’t panic they’re meant to
  7. If you prefer not to make individual fritters, you can add the whole mix to a pan and cook like a hash

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine

Moroccan food is amazing, and healthy to boot. I had a proper tagine pot (authentic clay pot with a cone shaped lid), for all of 3 weeks before breaking it. The good thing is that you can make in any pot or dish with a well fitting lid. I cooked my tagine on the stove top, but can bake it in the oven if you prefer.

Tagines are slow cooked stews, and can be made with a variety of meat, and vegetables. Authentic tagines often use dried fruit such as prunes or apricots to add sweetness to balance out the heat of the harissa. I didn’t have any dried fruit, but this is still delicious. This is pretty hot, if you can’t handle alot of spice use less harissa or do what it did and add a dollop of yoghurt to cool things down.

Serves 4

8 Small Chicken thighs

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Large carrot

1 Large onion

1 Large courgette

1 Red pepper

1 Tsp Ground cumin

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1-2 Tbsps Preserved lemons (I made these myself, but you can also buy them from most supermarkets

1 Tbsp Harissa Paste (Again I made this myself, but you can buy this in supermarkets)

500ml Chicken stock (I used a stock cube)

400gm Can of chickpeas

1Tsp Salt

Method

  1. In a large pan with a lid, add the olive oil, and when hot add the chicken thighs and seal
  2. Cut the vegetables into chunks (I like this quite rustic)
  3. Add the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Chop the preserved lemons finely and add to the pan along with the other ingredients and stir
  5. Put the lid on to the pot and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 45 minutes
  6. Serve with cous cous and a dollop of yoghurt

Damned Delicious White Mushroom Pizza

Mushroom Pizza

I was inspired by another food blogger, Damned Delicious in this recipe, I prefer to use rosemary as a seasoning because I think it works well with mushrooms, but use what herbs you like the taste of.

I liked this recipe because it used a premade pizza base. This was a relief, I have a bit a chequered past trying to make pizza bases from scratch. Using a premade base also makes this recipe probably as quick as calling a pizza, and significantly cheaper (most take away pizzas have a 900% mark up).

Cheese, garlic and mushrooms are one the best flavour combinations ever and the only problem with this pizza is that fights over the last piece can get mean.

Makes 1, 12 inch Pizza

Ingredients

1 x 12 inch Pizza base

125 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

200 grams Mozzarella

50 Grams Ricotta

1/2 Tsp Rosemary (Rosemary can overwhelm everything else if you use too much, if you’re going to use other herbs you can use a bit more)

1 Tbsp Butter

Salt

Method

Add toppings before baking
  1. Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Melt butter in a pan, and add the mushrooms rosemary and garlic and cook for 5 minutes (don’t stir too often)
  3. Put the pizza base on a baking tray and top with slices of mozzarella, the mushrooms and garlic, and dollops of ricotta. Give the pizza a light sprinkling of salt
  4. Bake for 15-20 minute, until golden brown and damned delicious

Chocolate and Coconut Macaroon Tart

Rich, chewy and chocolatey

Does rich unctuous chocolate ganache, sitting on a crispy chewy macaroon base sound good, yep it sounded good to me too.

This recipe is super simple, and has only 5 ingredients. It’s also gluten free, so it’s perfect if you’re cooking for friends. Delicious served along ice cream as a dessert, but I enjoy it with a cup of strong coffee.

Serves 8

Ingredients

300 Grams Dessicated coconut

1/2 Tsp salt

350 ml Condensed milk

300 Grams Dark chocolate

250 ml Double cream

I couldn’t wait to let it cool before trying some, because it smelled so good

Method

  • Combine the condensed milk, salt and coconut in a bowl and mix well
  • Grease a 24cm round springform cake tin
  • Empty the coconut mixture into the tin. With the back of a spoon, press the coconut into the of the tin and up about 4cm at the sides of the tin
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown
Allow the base to cool before removing the springform
  • While the base is cooling, heat cream until just before boiling
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl and pour the hot cream on top. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate has totally melted
  • When the base is cool top with the chocolate mixture and set aside to cool completely (I couldn’t wait, but you might have more self control)

Burrito Pie

This is one of those brilliant comfort food dishes that you can make ahead and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days. This also freezes brilliantly.

The original version of this dish was really meat heavy, so I tweaked it to add more vegetables to make it a bit healthier. Even with less meat it’s still really satisfying.

Burrito Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients

250 Grams Minced beef

100 Grams Mushrooms

1 Onion

1 Red pepper

400 Gram Can refried beans (these are really expensive, so usually I blitz a can of kidney beans along with a few àtablespoons of vegetable stock in a blender, which costs about a third of the price

2 x 400 Gram Cans of chopped tomatoes

100 Ml Vegetable stock

150 Grams Sweetcorn

125 Grams Black olives

1Tsp Ground Cumin

1Tsp Chilli flakes

1Tsp Salt

3 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1Tbsp Tomato Puree

Handful of chopped coriander

150 Grams Grated cheese (I used cheddar because this is what I had, but you can use which ever cheese you prefer)

6 Flour tortillas

Method

  1. Fry the minced beef, and when brown add the chopped onions, peppers, tomato puree and mushrooms, cook until tender.
  2. Add the beans, sweetcorn, olives, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, chilli flakes, garlic and cumin
  3. Simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until this mixture has thickened
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and line an 8 inch spring form cake tin with parchment paper
  5. When the burrito mixture has thickened add the chopped coriander and check the seasoning
  6. Put enough burrito mix to cover a thin layer in the base of the tin. Add a tortilla and top with another layer of the burrito mix and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  7. Continue until you have used up all the mix and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, and allow to sit in the tin for another 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream and salad

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

Eating low carb is becoming increasingly popular. While I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like, I tried this recipe for a friend who shuns my beloved carbs. I have to say this is really tasty and satisfying (it’s even nicer with a naan bread on the side).

If you haven’t tried paneer before, you can find it in most supermarkets. It’s a semi firm Indian cheese that takes on a nutty flavour when fried (fried cheese, what’s not to love).

Serves 2 as a main or 4 people as a side dish

Ingredients

500 Gram bag of frozen spinach

200 Grams Paneer

25 Grams Butter/Ghee

3 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

1 Green chilli pepper (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Dried tumeric

1 Tbsp Garam Masala (curry powder)

Method

  1. Defrost the spinach, and squeeze out as much excess water as you can
  2. In a large frying pan,over a medium heat, melt the butter
  3. Add the paneer to the pan and fry until it turns golden brown, stirring occasionally to make sure its brown on all sides
  4. Remove the paneer from the pan and add the ginger, garlic and chilli for a few minutes
  5. Add the Tumeric, garam masala and spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes
  6. Add the paneer to pan, stir well and cook for 2 more minutes before serving

Home Made Harissa Paste

Harisss Paste

I love harissa, it’s fantastically versatile and can be made for a fraction of the price of the pre made brands. Visit your local Asian supermarket to buy your spices, and this will be even cheaper.

Harissa is great smeared on chicken or lamb before cooking. It’s also delicious mixed with yoghurt and drizzled over roast vegetables, or mixed with mayonnaise to add some zing to toasted sandwiches or burgers. This traditional Moroccan paste makes any tagine come alive.

This recipe will make a large jar of harissa paste that will live quite happily in your fridge for several weeks, or you can share with a friend. It also makes a nice gift for anyone who’s a foodie. This is quite firey, so use with care at first.

Spice Mix

Ingredients

120 Grams Chilli flakes

1 Tsp Carraway seeds

1 Tsp Coriander Seeds

1 Tbsp Cumin Seeds

1 Tsp Salt

4 Cloves of garlic

3 Tbsp Olive oil

Method

  1. Cover the chilli flakes with boiling water, and soak for 30 minutes before draining through a sieve.
  2. In a dry frying pan toast the cumin, coriander, and carraway seeds until you smell the spices. You can grind these with a pestle and motar. I don’t have one, so I used the end of a rolling pin which worked well
  3. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and whizz until the paste start to look smooth
  4. Transfer to a clean jar and keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks

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

Vegetable Samosas

Light crispy pastry, with a soft well flavoured filling, I like these served with mango chutney.

I was doing another scan around my kitchen cupboards for something to make, and decided on samosas.

Potato and pea filling

I love a samosa, those delicious little Indian flavour bombs are usually deep fried, but these are baked to make them a little healthier. This recipe is vegan, but you can use spiced lamb as a filling. I’ve used potatoes and peas, but you swap out the peas for green beans or spinach.

Roll your divided dough into a circle and cut in half

The first couple of samosas will probably look a bit wonky until you get into the way of making them. Don’t panic these will still taste great, and if you don’t want to serve them then they will be the cook’s perk!

Wet the edges and press together to form a cone

Makes 16

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain Flour

2 Tbsp Oil or ghee

1 Tsp Onion (Nigella) seeds (optional)

Seal the edges to make a cone that you can filk

For the filling

3 Large potatoes (peeled and cut into small cubes)

1 Large onion (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

2 Chillies, (finely chopped, you can add more or less depending on how much heat you like)

4 Tbsp Oil

100 Grams Peas (I use frozen, and let them thaw)

2 Tbsp Coriander (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Salt

Yummy hot or cold

Method

  1. Add the oil, onion seeds, and flour to a bowl and gradually add luke warm water until you have a dough. Knead for 5 minutes, and then wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan, and add the shopped onion. Fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes, and then add the garlic, ginger, and chillies
  3. Lower the heat and add the cubed potatoes, and a little water and simmer until potatoes are soft (you might need to add a little water as it cooks, but it should be a runny mix)
  4. Add the peas, salt and coriander and check the seasoning before allowing to cool
  5. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment
  6. Once the pastry has rested, divide it into 8 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the ball into a thin circle. Cut the circle in half.
  7. Pick up the half moon shape and wet the edges with a little water. Make a cone by pressing the edges together and fill the cone with potato mixture. Press the remaining edges together to seal the samosa, ending up with a triangle shape
  8. Continue rolling out the pastry and filling the samosas until you are finished, placing the samosas on the baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crispy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies

So good and so simple

I know, I’m becoming obsessed with blondies during the lock down, but they are so easy and so versatile.

The perfect tea time treat

I wanted something delicious and had run out of chocolate. After a quick scan though my cupboards and my favourite recipes, I settled on this recipe based on one from Cafe Sucre Farine. I like these with a cup of coffee, but they’re also great with a big glass of ice cold milk, or for dessert served with ice cream.

Simple blonde mix, just waiting on its topping.

I actually used lingonberry jam (usually served with meatballs at a large Swedish furniture store), because it was all I had, and it worked fine. You can use whatever flavour of jam/jelly you want or have at home. This is a pretty simple recipe so is probably ideal if you have little hands to keep busy, kids love dolloping on and swirling the pb & j.

Dollop spoonfuls of peanut butter and jam/jelly across the top of the blonde mix

For the blondies

120 Grams Butter

60 Grams Peanut butter

125 Grams Light brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1/4 Tsp Salt

200 Grams Plain flour

For the topping

80 Grams Peanut butter

80 Grams Jelly/Jam

Swirl the PB & J with the back of a spoon to give a marbled effect.

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven 180 degrees, and line a 8in x 8in baking tin with baking parchment
  2. Melt 60 Grams peanut butter and butter together in the microwave. I usually give it 30 seconds blasts so as not to burn it, and obviously use a microwave safe bowl
  3. When the peanut butter and butter have melted allow to cool a little add the sugar, salt and baking powder, stir in a beaten egg and then the flour.
  4. Mix until thoroughly combined, and transfer the mix to your lined baking tin
  5. For the topping in two separate bowls add the jam and peanut butter, and microwave each for 30 seconds to soften. Dollop spoonfuls of each across the top of the blonde mix. Then smear with the back of a spoon to give a marbled affect.
  6. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes
Straight from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.