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

Istanbul – What to eat

Great salad, bread and olives start most meals. Efes the local beer is also very easy to drink.

Food in Istanbul is relatively cheap and fantastic. Because of its location there is plenty of good seafood available. I expected there to be alot of street food, but it seemed limited to roast corn on the cob, or roast chestnuts.

Barbecued Sea Bream

Similar to Greek cuisine, lamb is also popular, and different types of kebab abound. Istanbul is a city where you could still eat really well if you’re vegetarian. Cheese and yoghurt dishes are popular, but your choices might be limited if you’re vegan.

Lamb and pistachio kebabs with cracked wheat salad.

Most restaurants also offer a meze (mixed starter of different dips and salads).

Meze starter with different dips and salads

One of my favour things about the food, was the delicious bread served everywhere. Many places would make traditional flatbread in front you when you ordered. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a carb junkie.

Freshly made flatbreads were amazing.

I love coffee, but found the tar like Turkish coffee too strong for my taste.

Turkish ccoffee is like rocket fuel, but will get you going in the morning.

What I did discover is that I actually don’t hate tea after all. Most meals are finished with a little glass of tea, and is usually pretty sweet, and comes in different flavours.

Turns out apple tea is delicious.

Istanbul has some amazing markets not least the spice Bazaar.

Different herbs and spices sold loose in the spice bazaar

The spice bazaar sells all sorts of food stuffs, including cheese, fish and olives. Its a foodie heaven.

Nuts and seeds for sale.

No matter which district you go to in Istanbul you’ll find amazing bakeries and sweet shops.

Rolls of baklava

The Turkish people it seems have an incredibly sweet tooth.

Sweet stall in the spice bazaar

Baklava, nougat and Turkish delight come in endless varieties.

Sweets are massive thing in Turkey

If you’re nervous about buying sweets, spices etc. loose, every shop seemed to have professionally produced and packaged versions. These also make great gifts. I did have to talk myself out of buying Turkish tea glasses, spice grinders, copper coffee pots.

You’ll never be very far from some amazing bakeries.

Honestly, if you going to the bazaars and you like to cook, only bring a set amount of money with or else you’ll go nuts. I still came home with tea glasses, and more baklava and Turkish delight than my waistline needs.

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