Rice Crispy Chicken

I had heard about this from a friend and was a bit dubious, but OMG, this tastes so good. I used strips of chicken, but you can use whole chicken breasts or make chicken nuggets. If you have little mouths to feed, these are so easy to make that kids can help. For those who eat a gluten free diet and miss fried chicken,this is a great alternative. Personally I love them with salad and a cold beer.

Serves 4

Ingredients

400 Grams Chicken Breasts

100 Grams Rice Crispies

3 Tbsp Mayonnaise

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika

1 Tsp Salt

Method

  1. Slice the chicken into the desired size. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and grease a baking tray
  2. Put the mayonnaise, smoked paprika, and salt into a bowl and mix
  3. In a separate bowl add the rice crispies, and then crunch the cereal with your hands (this is surprisingly satisfying)
  4. Coat the chicken in the mayonnaise mix, and then coat with the crunched up cereal
  5. Place on the baking tray, and bake for 30 minutes, turning half way through

Pesto and Bacon Bagels

If like me you occasionally over indulge at the weekend this the breakfast for you. It also makes a really tasty brunch or lunch dish.

I feel like a bit of a fraud as this probably isn’t a real recipe. It’s just assembling things, which is what makes it perfect.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Bagels

8 Slices of bacon

4 Tbsp Green pesto

4 Tbsp Cream cheese

Method

  • Fry the bacon until crispy.
  • Toast the bagels
  • Spread one tablespoon of pesto on one half of the bagel, and spread the other half with one tablespoon of cream cheese
  • Top with 2 slices of crispy bacon, join the 2 halves and stuff your face

Butternut Squash and Pea Curry

This is an easy, healthy curry that even the most ardent meat lovers can enjoy.

Don’t be put off, if it seems that there are a lot of ingredients.  I know I prattle on about how good Asian supermarkets are, but you can build up a good stock of cheap spices that will help change how you cook.

Ingredients

500gms Butternut Squash (peeled, deseeded, and diced)

200gms Frozen Peas

150gms Red Lentils

1 Large onion (chopped)

2 Tbsp Coconut or other oil

1 Red chilli pepper

4 Cloves of garlic

1 Tsp Fennel seeds

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger

2 Tsp Garam Masala

2 Cardamom pods

500ml Vegetable stock

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander

Serves 4

Method

  1. Add the fennel seeds and cardamom pods to a dry pan and toast until you can spell the spices.
  2. Add the coconut oil and once heated add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The onions should be cooked gently until they caramelise and turn brown.  Taking the time to do this might seem like a bit of a faff, but it does help improve the depth of flavour
  3. Add the butternut squash (which has been diced in 1.5cm cubes), and continue to cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes
  4. Grate the ginger and add to the pan along with finely chopped chilli, garam masala, red lentils, and vegetable stock, cook for a further 10 minutes
  5. Add finely chopped garlic to the pan, along with frozen peas, and cook 5 more minutes
  6. Check that the butternut squash is tender, and check the seasoning and adjust to your taste. (I usually go easy when adding chilli, as it’s always easier to add more, but if you like a super hot then go nuts)
  7. Serve with basmati rice or naan bread (or both if you’re a total carb junkie like me).  This curry reheats really well, and will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days

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Cheese and Wine -The perfect way to spend a cold wet Saturday

A great Friday night spent at Direct Wine Shipments “walking wine tour” sharing gorgeous wines with friends and probably spending much more than I intended.

Direct Wine Shipments, in Corporation Square in Belfast is an institution. For 65 years it has been bringing great wines from around the world to Northern Ireland. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the owners have their own wine Crua Celta from their vineyard in Spain. Their historic premises have been everything over the years from a grain store to a brothel, and are reportedly haunted.

I enjoy wine, but what I love even more is cheese. The Artisan Cheese Monger from Holywood brought some brilliant samples for pairing with wine. It turns out brie and the right Champagne are a marriage made in heaven.

I arrived home, a little tipsy and with a bag full of cheese. Saturday turned out to suck, a day full of house cleaning, laundry and sh*tty weather. However, the upside was being able to settle down with my purchases from the night before. Brunost cheese from Norway is amazingly delicious. It’s made from boiling the whey after cheese making. It’s like fudgey, caramely cheese, it sounds wrong but it’s fabulous. Go try some!

Bali calling…

I use Google photos, which decided to try and depress me by sending me reminders of being in Bali.

Bali may possibly be the happiest place on earth. If sandy beaches with crystal clear waters and busy nightlife are your thing then resorts like Kuta are for you.

Personally, I prefer to go and chill out and soak up some culture.

The Balinese people are amazing, and I found them to be kind, polite and gentle. The local tradition of every home and business making small offerings each morning to give thanks is a beautiful sight, that we could all learn from. It’s like they invented mindfulness before it was co-opted by some Westerner who now makes a fortune tells us about we need to regularly show gratitude for what we have.

I prefer to travel inland to towns like Ubud. This town has a much more chilled out vibe, and is a good base travel round to visit sites like the 3 volcanoes shown above, or the breathtakingly beautiful temples.

Balinese food is fresh, delicious, and healthy. There are also plenty of Western options available if you prefer something familiar. One day cookery classes offer a great option to learn more about local ingredients, food culture, and offers the chance to meet other people (especially if you’re a solo traveler and feel like some company). You learn how to make an impressive range of dishes that you can enjoy afterwards. The local beer Bintang, is similar to Heineken and hits the spot on a hot afternoon. But a lychee Martini looking out over luscious jungle is hard to beat.

Yoga, wellbeing and spas are very popular across Bali. Prices are good, but remember that the local’s take home pay is significantly lower than in the West, so be a good guest and tip well. You will always receive good service regardless, because the Balinese are unfailingly gracious and polite, so enjoy your pampering, feeling good that you’ve recognised how hard the person pampering you works.

Lila, and the Piece of Cake Bakery, my food hero!

Lila and her family run my favourite Belfast bakery, Piece of Cake, now with a shop in the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast. They are also much loved regulars at St George’s Market in Belfast.

Due to unrest in their native Croatia in the 1980’s, Lila and the family relocated to Belfast. Once here they worked their socks off, getting up at the crack of dawn everyday to build a business and a home.

While she might be 80 years young, Lila’s work ethic and energy would put most people half her age to shame. On top of this, she is also a sweetheart.

This bakery creates amazing artisan breads, pastries and cakes. I have a secret fantasy about being locked in their shop overnight. Just two among my many favourites are their potato rostis, and the coconut meringue cheese cake, OMG they’re fabulous.

Some moronic pr*cks like to spout off about how immigrants don’t contribute to society. I would say they obviously haven’t met women like Lila or her family or see how hard they still work, and the local people they employ.

Breakfast Burritos

A remedy for over indulging the night before, or if you just feel like you need a good breakfast.  They’re also pretty good at any time of day.

This how a breakfast burrito starts life

These freeze really well and I usually freeze a couple for days when I’m on the go, it takes a few minutes to microwave these once they’re defrosted.  This is a vegetarian recipe and is tasty as it is, but meat eaters can add bacon or chorizo if they feel they need to.

All rolled up and ready to devour.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Large potatoes

1 Large onion

2 Bell peppers

1 Chilli pepper

Handful of chopped parsley or coriander (or a mixture of both if you have them)

4 Flour tortillas

8 eggs

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

50 gm Grated Cheese (I use cheddar, but use what you have at hand)

Salt and pepper to taste                 

Method

  1. Wash potatoes and chop into 1cm squares, heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a large frying pan, and potatoes and cook over a medium heat.  Turn every 5 minutes, or whenever they are starting to brown
  2. Chop onion and peppers, and add to the potatoes after the potatoes have started to brown
  3. When the potatoes have browned and the onions and peppers have softened add the herbs and season with salt and pepper
  4. In another pan, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, in a bowl whisk the 8 eggs and add to the pan. Scramble until light and fluffy and season with salt and pepper if needed
  5. Lay out a tortilla, add one quarter of the potato mixture, the scrambled egg, and grated cheese along the middle of the tortilla.  Using the edge closest to you, fold this side over, tucking the two outside edges and the tortilla to make the burrito.
  6. Serve immediately, or allow cool, then wrap and freeze (you can double these quantities if you want to make a larger batch to freeze)