Pineapple Smokies

Are smokies just a Belfast thing?

A Belfast childhood can best be described as character building. One of the plus points was that every now and again you would get to have a smokey!

A smokey was normally served in a tall glass and consisted of pineapple lemonade, vanilla ice cream and a chocolate flake.

I’ve never been able to track down who started serving these in Belfast, although there was a well known Italian ice cream shop in Castle Street where I got mine. Give this a go, it’s really scrumptious. If anyone does know the origin of smokies please let me know.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Large scoops of vanilla ice cream

1 Litre Pineapple lemonade

4 chocolate flakes

Method

Get 4 tall glasses, and a scoop of ice cream to each glass and top up with the pineapple lemonade and stick the chocolate flake into the ice cream when floats to the top.

Mmmm super delicious!

Coastal Food Foraging

I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where you are never far from the sea. Despite this as a nation we don’t eat enough sea food. We definitely don’t take advantage of the absolute heaps of sea vegetables and edible coastal plants we have access to

On a mild but rainy day, the immensely knowledgeable David (former National Trust Ranger, with a passion for coastal flora and fauna), was kind enough to share a small portion of his encyclopedic knowledge with me and a small bunch of other food nerds.

To make things even better David’s partner Celia, an extremely talented and well known chef in her own right, treated us to a fabulous meal centered around foraged food.

Who knew that trendy foods like sea purslane can be collected for free!, and scurvy grass was used as far back as the Romans to give sailors a massive hit of vitamin C on long voyages, (it also tastes like wasabi).

Other top discoveries were pepper dulse, which tastes somewhere between an oyster and black truffle, OMG it tastes so good.

All sorts of terrestrial plants such as sea spinach, sea radish, wild peas and orach all make amazing salad vegetables, and sea vegetables like channel wrack, and sea spaghetti are super tasty when lightly steamed and are bursting full of iodine, and other trace elements that are really good for you.

Who would have thought of baking fish in sea weed. Celia treated us to hake wrapped in sugar kelp and it was properly delicious. She also made us a feast of breads seasoned with seaweeds, dulse butter, wild garlic pesto, and great salads.

Get out and get foraging, make sure you check what you are picking, and don’t be a d’ck and over pick plants that are scarce. Other than that, go forage!

Red pepper and cannellini bean dip

I love dips, along with crudités, oat cakes, tortilla chips etc. (usually with something alcoholic).

Red pepper and cannellini bean dip

Most shop bought dips are pretty awful, and this dips is quick, and, easy to make and tastes so much nicer than the gloop most supermarkets try to pass off as dip.  If you’re having friends round, it’s also something you can give the poor vegan who has to miss out on the cheese based scrumptiousness that usually goes so well with drinks.

Ingredients

400gm Can of cannellini beans

Juice of half a lemon

2 Roasted red peppers (I use the ones in jar, but you can roast your own peppers if you prefer)

1 Clove garlic

1 tbsp Olive oil

Salt

Method

  1. Drain the beans, and retain some of the water the beans came with.
  2. In a blender or food mixer, add the beans, peppers, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic and blitz until the mixture is smooth
  3. If the mixture is too dry, add a little of the water the beans came in.
  4. Taste the mixture and season with salt if necessary

Flourless Moroccan Orange Cake

When I went to Morocco I fell in love with the taste of the orange flower water they include in sweet dishes.  You can pick it up cheaply in most Asian supermarkets.

You can make this cake without it and it will still be delicious but add a teaspoon of orange flower water and it takes it to a whole other level.  You can also put this in your bath and it will smell fabulous.

But a final word of caution, if you are going to use it, only use a teaspoonful.  Like rose water, a little bit makes things taste amazing, too much and the dish you slaved over tastes like a tart’s hand bag.

Flourless Moroccan Orange 🎂

This is a brilliant cake if you’re entertaining, as it’s flourless you’re covered if you have a guest who’s gluten intolerant.  Fancy things up, and poach some orange segments in a little sugar and water (you could even add some orange liqueur if you want to push the boat out).  Both the cake and the poached oranges can be made a day in advance so all you have to do is serve it up with some crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt for a simple but effective dessert.  You can also devour it on its own with a big mug of coffee.

            Serves 8

            Ingredients

            2 Large oranges

            5 Large eggs

            250 grams Caster sugar

            250 grams Ground Almonds

            1 Tsp Orange flower water (optional)

            1 Tsp Baking powder

            Icing sugar (optional)

            Method

  1. Put the 2 oranges into a pan with enough water to just cover them, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 hours, I cover with a lid and check every now and again
  2. After 2 hours, remove from the water allow to cool, chop into quarters (removing any obvious pips, and blend to a pulp using a hand blender or food processor
  3. Pre heat the oven to 200c, and line a 20 cm cake tin with baking parchment
  4. In a bowl combine the eggs and sugar, whisk until the they have turned pale yellow and fluffy
  5. Stir in the baking powder, orange flower water and orange pulp before gradually folding in the ground almonds
  6. Transfer the mix into you lined tin and bake for 50-55 minute, or until a skewer comes out cleanly with no cake mixture on it. This cake does go quite dark, but if you’re worried it’s not cooked and it’s getting too dark, then cover with some aluminium foil.
  7. Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar

Sweet potato, green lentil, and feta salad

Sweet Potato, green lentil, and feta cheese salad

The salty creamy feta, the earthiness of the lentils is balanced by the sweet potatoes and is damned delicious.

This makes a good vegetarian lunch served with some greens and because of all the protein is pretty satisfying.  It also goes really well alongside barbequed chicken.  But as always, put it with what suits you.

Ingredients

200 Grams Feta Cheese (see food hack)

200 Grams Cooked Green Lentils (I used dried lentils because that was what I had in the cupboard, but you can also use pouches or cans of lentils if you don’t have time).

4 Sweet Potatoes

3 Tbsps. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and add Tbsp. of oil to a baking sheet.
  2. Dice the sweet potatoes into 2 cm squares and add to the baking sheet, bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
  3. Dice the feta cheese into 2 cm squares.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil and vinegar to the lentils and combine with the sweet potatoes and feta cheese.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

(Food hack; use supermarket own Greek salad cheese, it costs less than ”feta” and is exactly the same thing).

Frozen Banana Pops

These were inspired by the great minds at Thug Kitchen,  these food writers like myself, try to stay healthy and are prone to saying f*ck quite a lot.  You can also use vegan dark chocolate if that’s your thing.

Gorgeous on a hot day, or my own guilty pleasure is to have them while sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee.  But f*ck it, eat them how you like.

Makes 6

Ingredients

6 Lollipop sticks

100 grams Dark chocolate (you can use vegan chocolate if that’s your thing)

3 Bananas

1 Tsp. Coconut Oil

50 grams chopped almonds (peanuts, or hazelnuts also work really well)

Method

  1. Line a baking sheet or plate with grease proof paper.
  2. Toast the nuts in a dry pan, and set to one side. (It’s worth taking the time to do this, as it really improves the flavour).
  3. Chop the chocolate and put in a bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, and allow it to melt.  You can also try melting this in the microwave, by give it blasts of 30 seconds at a time.  Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the teaspoon of coconut oil.
  4. While the chocolate is melting, peel the bananas and cut width ways. Stick the lollipop stick up the middle of the banana from the flat end.
  5. When the chocolate is melted dip the banana in it, using a spoon to cover any bits that aren’t covered.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate covered bananas with the nuts, place on the grease proof paper and put in the freezer for 2 hours.
  7. When frozen if you aren’t going to eat these immediately, but them in freezer bag.

Sonoma Chicken Wraps

I have an amazing sister in law from New York.  Before she married my brother she let me stay in her apartment across the street from a brilliant Whole Foods supermarket (I honestly could have lived there).

New York has fabulous food, but my favourite thing to do when I arrived back after a tiring day of sightseeing was go to Whole Foods for a Sonoma chicken wrap.  These also make a great lunchbox staple.  The filling can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a couple of days.   Serve the wrap along with some soup for a quick and tasty supper.

This is my version, and combines soft and crunchy, sweet and savoury.  You can change the proportions of the ingredients based on your own preferences.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Flour tortillas

250 grams Cooked chicken

2 Stalks of celery

50 grams Pecan nuts

100 grams Black grapes

2 Tbsps. Crème Fraiche

2 Tbsps. Mayonnaise

Crispy lettuce

Serves 4

Method

  1. Toast pecans in a dry pan, until they smell nutty.  The nuts can burn really quickly so keep an eye on them.  This may seem like a faff, but it’s worth doing as it really improves the flavour
  2. Dice or shred the chicken
  3. Chop the celery into small dice and halve the grapes
  4. Combine all the ingredients, and season with salt and pepper to taste
  5. Lay out the tortillas and fill the centre with lettuce and the chicken filling, roll up and devour

Sunshine in a Bowl

Don’t freak out if you see ingredients here. My advice is, find an Asian supermarket close to you.  They sell spices and some exotic fruit and veg at a fraction of the price of large super market chains. You’ll never look back.

This soup is a great way to clear out your fridge.  I rarely use the same vegetables twice.  Basically use what you have, it’s also fine to use frozen vegetables like green beans or spinach.

I call this soup sunshine in a bowl, not just because of the cheery yellow colour but it’s so tasty and wholesome it’ll make you feel good.  I’m not vegan but I really enjoy this, especially with some toasted cashews, and deep fried shallots (who has time to make these, I buy them ready made in the Asian supermarket, they’re also really good sprinkled over salad, you can also use the tubs of fried onions sold at a certain large Swedish furniture store)

Serves 4 -6

Ingredients

100 grams Green beans

1 Red pepper

1 Courgette

250 grams Bok Choi, or other green leafy vegetable (I’ve used broccoli before and it works well too)

400ml Can of coconut milk

4 Kaffir lime leaves

1 Stalk of lemon grass

3 Cloves garlic

1 Tsp. Turmeric

1 inch Piece of ginger (I keep ginger in the freezer, this stops it going off and makes it easier to grate)

1 Red chilli pepper

1 Handful of chopped coriander

Juice of 1 lime or ½  a lemon

2 Cups of vegetable stock

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp Vegetable/coconut oil

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pot, and chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces, bruise the stalk of lemon grass (I usually do this by bashing it with the base of a pot), and add to the vegetables along with the turmeric and kaffir lime leaves
  2. Gently fry the vegetables until they start to soften
  3. Grate the ginger, chop the garlic and chilli finely before adding the vegetables
  4. Add the can of coconut milk and vegetable stock (I use a vegetable stock cube, because who has time to make the real deal)
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes, and add half the lime juice and taste.  This is the time to adjust seasoning, so check if you want some more lime juice or salt.
  6. Stir in the shopped coriander and serve

Rocky Road Bars

These are super quick and easy to make and can be adapted to suit what you have in the cupboards.  I’ve used these in the past as a good way to use up Christmas or Easter chocolate.  I’ve used bog standard supermarket own brand chocolate in this recipe, but use what you have.

If you are trying to amuse little hands, kids enjoy helping make these.  This is an ever changing recipe, and in the past I’ve used everything from jelly beans, and honey comb to mini crème eggs.  Your job is to find your favourite combination, or use this recipe to clear out all temptation you have lurking after the holidays.

Rocky Road Bars

Ingredients

600 grams Chocolate (I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate)

50 grams Butter

2 Tbsps. Golden syrup

10 Rich Tea or digestive biscuits

10 Marshmallows (I cut these in half, but you can leave them whole if you prefer)

20 Malteasers

Method

  1. Break up the chocolate into small squares and put in a bowl with the butter and golden syrup
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water (you can melt the chocolate in the microwave, but I prefer to do it this way)
  3. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts.
  4. In a separate bowl, break up the biscuits, and add the malteasers, and marshmallows
  5. When the chocolate has melted, pour two thirds over the biscuit mix. Stir the biscuit and chocolate mix well. Line a 15cm x 15cm tin with parchment paper, and press the mixture into the tin.
  6. Cover the mixture with the remaining third of the chocolate to create a layer of chocolate on top.  Allow to cool for 1 hour, and this cut into bars (makes 16)

Quail’s eggs with rock salt and roasted cumin

These beautiful speckled little eggs may sound posh, but they can be bought pretty cheaply (I get mine from an Asian supermarket).

This is a really simple canapé if you want to impress dinner guests, or go down pretty well with a few cold beers. They can also be made well in advance so that you’re not running around like a crazy person. (Just remember to leave an extra dish out for your guests to throw their discarded egg shells in).

Method

  1. Put a medium sized pan of water on to boil
  2. Put a small frying pan on to heat
  3. When the water is boiling, add the quail’s eggs and boil for 4 minutes. 
  4. After the 4 minutes, take the eggs out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking
  5. In the frying pan add the cumin seeds and toast until you can smell the cumin, remove from the heat and mix with the salt
  6. Serve with eggs in a dish, with the cumin and salt alongside to dip the eggs in