Pineapple Salsa

It’s barbeque season and although I do love meat, the side dishes can take your barbeque to a whole other level.

I first had this years ago in a restaurant with barbecued pork and I fell in love. It’s one of those Summery side dishes that goes with pretty much every thing. I use it in wraps, in salad and rice bowls and could eat a bowl of it on its own.

I use fresh pineapple in this recipe, but if you can’t find it, canned pineapple will also work. This takes 5 minutes to make, but I like to leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the acid in the pineapple to help soften the raw onion flavour which works well. You can leave the out or increase the chilli depending on your taste.

Ingredients

500 Grams Pineapple (cut into 2cm chunks)

1/2 Red pepper (cut into 2 cm chunks)

1 Red chilli pepper (seeds removed and finely sliced)

1/4 Red onion, or 2-3 scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Coriander (mint also works well)

Juice of 1/2 Lime

Method

  1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients and stir well. Chill for 30 mins before serving.
  2. This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days

Slow Cooked Ragu

Rich and unctuous with pasta.

I’m not vegetarian, but I do think if you’re going to kill animal you should make use of all of it, (I still have trouble with some offal, but I try). I have used shin for this recipe. Usually I would use beef shin, but I was lucky enough to be given some venison shin by friends who hunt (just in case you think the shin the photo looks different from what you’re using). Beef shin is relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts of meat, and benefits from long slow cooking when it literally just falls of the bone.

The meat should be easy to shred with a fork

If you haven’t had it before, it reminds me of oxtail. Its unctuous and tasty and makes great stews and casseroles. This version is fantastic with pasta, but is equally great with mashed potatoes or as a pie filling.

Browned before cooking within the sauce

I’ve used red wine in this sauce because I had some left, but if you don’t have any or prefer not to use alcohol you can swap this for beef or vegetable stock.

Thick and packed full of flavour.

This is what I used to call a “weekend recipe” or slow food meaning its not a quick recipe, but it is fairly simple (since many of us are working from home at the minute, you can make recipes like this, cooking away while you work). I used an oven to cook this, but if you have a slow cooker this recipe is perfect.

Ingredients

1Kg Beef Shin

2 Large carrots (Cut into 1cm chunks)

2 Stalks of celery (Cut into 1cm chunks)

1 Large onion (Cut into 1cm chunks)

2 Bay leaves (Optional)

1/2 Bottle of red wine or 750 ml beef or vegetable stock

2 Tbsp Tomato puree

400ml Can of Passata or chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Large knob of butter

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil and put in a large oven proof pan (with a lid), and brown the shin on all sides, before setting to one side
  2. In the same pan, add the chopped vegetables cook until soft, add the tomato puree and bay leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the wine
  3. Allow the wine to cook until the alcohol has burned off (basically so it doesn’t sting your nose when you breath it in is the best way I can describe it). Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (celsius)
  4. Add the passata, and place the meat back in the pan. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 .5 hours
  5. After 2.5 hours remove the dish from the over and lift the shin meat out. On a separate plate you should be able to shred the meat from the bone with a fork
  6. Add the shredded meat back into the sauce and stir well. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste
  7. Serve with pasta, or mashed potatoes

Rowallane Gardens

The National Trust has some amazing properties around Northern Ireland. Rowallane is just outside Saintfield village (about 20 mins outside Belfast).

Rowallane consists of a beautiful old house (I forgot to take photos), stable block, walled garden, toilets and café, established gardens and woodlands.

Spring is an amazing time to visit, as everything is in full bloom, including the amazing blue Himalayan poppies. The gardens and woodlands are pretty fabulous at anytime, and with the easing of Covid restrictions a full calendar of events will hopefully be back on soon.

The gardens are popular with dog walkers and families, and are generally accessible for anyone with mobility issues. Kids will love the woodlands with plenty of trees to climb and a meadow to run crazy in.

The Elvis Sandwich!

Friends of mine told me about this, they had visited Graceland and ate this in a local café, who swore that these were one of the King’s favourite dishes. I don’t know how much truth there is in this, but I like to imagine Elvis eating these in a white jumpsuit.

A fried Banana and peanut butter sandwich is a pretty scrummy combination, but on occasion I’ve also tried swapping out the peanut butter for chocolate spread which is also delicious.

This isn’t the healthiest sandwich, but is a nice treat occasionally if you fancy something quick and tasty.

Ingredients

2 Slices of white bread

1 Banana (Mashed)

1-2 Tbsp Peanut butter

1/2 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Melted butter (If you’re vegan you can substitute this with coconut oil)

Method

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. Spread the mashed banana on one slice of bread, and spread peanut butter on the other before sandwiching together
  3. Place the sandwich in the pan, and gently push down with a spatula, Cook for 2-3 minutes until sandwich has browned, before gently turning the sandwich to brown on the other side
  4. Enjoy immediately. Thank you very much!

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

I love a good curry, and this is a really tasty and satisfying curry that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat lovers alike.

Coconut milk adds a lovely creaminess to this and I serve with rice or flat bread, to make it even better sweet potatoes and spinach are full of flavour and vitamins. I top this with some toasted cashew nuts for some extra crunch and protein, but it will still be delicious without them.

It’s also quick enough to be a great midweek meal and is packed full of lovely spices without being hot (unless you love chillies, in which case add as many as you like).

Ingredients

500 Grams Orange sweet potatoes (cut into 3-4 cm chucks, I leave the skins but peel if you prefer)

250 Grams Spinach (you can use frozen spinach if this is what you have)

2 Onions (roughly chopped)

1 Red chilli (cut in half, and seeds removed, add more if you like a hot curry)

3 Cloves of garlic (peeled)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Tumeric

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Salt

Juice of 1 lime, or half a lemon

400 ml Tin of coconut milk

400 ml water

2 Tbsp Fresh coriander (chopped, optional)

2-3 Tbsp Cashew nuts (toasted, optional)

Method

  1. In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
  3. Add the spices to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water. Cook for another 10 minutes (or until the chunks of sweet potato are soft)
  4. Add the lime juice, and spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. When the spinach has wilted check the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and sprinkle with copped coriander, cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes if you prefer a thicker curry
  5. If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)

ANZAC Biscuits

I love learning about new recipes from other people and hearing about their food traditions. One of my bosses Amanda, is Australian, and she mentioned these as being a real institution back in OZ. The recipe she shared was from BBC Good Food, and these are scrummy.

The name comes from Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and legend has it people originally made these to send with care packages to soldiers during the first world war because the ingredients didn’t spoil easily. Other people claim they were never sent in care packages, but were sold at bake sales etc. to raise funds for returning veterans. They’re now baked to commemorate ANZAC day on 25 April each year.

How long you cook these for will depend on the type of biscuit you want (chewy or crisp). I’ve also seen recipes that include ground ginger, and I think this would make a cracking addition. One of my work mates tried drizzling chocolate over hers, which would also be scrummy (thanks for the suggestion Tina). Which ever version you try they will taste pretty amazing and are easy to make from ingredients you might already have. They will live quite happily in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

Ingredients

100 Grams Plain Flour

100 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

85 Grams Porridge Oats

85 Grams Desiccated Coconut

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  2. Add the flour, sugar, oats and coconut to a bowl and mix well before making a well in the centre
  3. In a separate bowl, add the butter and golden syrup and melt in a microwave (I usually do 30 seconds at a time)
  4. In a cup add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, before stirring into the melted butter
  5. Stir the melted butter into the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated
  6. Scoop dessertspoonful’s of the mix onto the baking sheet, leaving gaps of 2-3 cm between each biscuit, as they will spread
  7. Cook in your preheated oven for 10 mins for a chewy biscuit, or 15 mins or longer if you want a more crispy biscuit