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

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.

New Dates for Sunnyside Supper Club

Good food and great craic.

Well folks, I know everyone is super busy in December, and then generally broke in January. With this in mind I’ve scheduled two new dates for the new year. This should allow everyone time to put this in the diary, sort baby sitters etc.

The first supper club of 2020 will be on Saturday, 01 February. The theme will be Greek food. Because it’s delicious, and at that time of year we probably need something that reminds us of sunshine.

The second date will be 21 March, I haven’t decided on a menu/theme but I’m open to suggestions.

As always, we provide a welcome drink on arrival, and a few extra treats, and the night is BYO.

I’ll be posting the menus and how to book shortly, so stay in touch. Supper club tickets also make a great Christmas present for the foodies in your life, or anyone who might just like to try something new.

Menu and how to book for 01 February Supper Club

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.

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.

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

Supper Club – Menu, and how to book

Come and join us for great food, a good night’s craic, and every likelyhood of a slight hangover in the morning.

At the Supper Club you’ll eat at a communal table, and everyone enjoys the same 3 course set menu (we’re happy to cater for vegetarians). The cost is £25 per person, but you can bring your own wine or beer (should save you a fortune compared to restaurants). We’ll have the fire lit and will welcome you with a drink, and a few extra treats on the night.

Seaneen’s Sunnyside Supper Club

Supper Club, 19 October 2019

£25.00

Menu for the night will be as follows

Starter – Pear, Cashel Blue Cheese (we’ll have other cheese available if blue cheese isn’t your thing), and Walnut Salad.

Main Course – Braised Beef cooked in Belfast Stout with Cheddar Cheese Scone Dumplings (vegetarian option available) , Potatoes Dauphinoise, Buttered Greens.

Dessert – Apple and Blackberry Galette, and Custard.

Tea/coffee

The Supper Club will take place in Sunnyside Street, close to the Ormeau Road. We’ll kick things off about 7.30 for 8pm. You’ll be provided with the address when we have your booking.

Ts & Cs

No refund on cancellations made within 48 hours before the event.

Allergies, we cannot guarantee food will be free from nuts, or prepared in a nut free environment.

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

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!

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.