The long awaited Report on Food and Drinks Show NI 2014

As promised the awaited report on the FADS which occurred from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th October. I was there solo on Friday and with my six year old daughter on Sunday.

On the Friday I started by watching the live demo by Simon Rimmer.The lovely Pamela Ballantine was the Host for the three days and I must say she did a great job. The Chef Kitchen was sponsored by Moy Park and ovens by Miele.

He cooked Mackerel from Silver Fin with roasted beetroot and onion purée. This was baked in the oven for 40 minutes. Mackerel is an oily fish and Simon said that all meat and fish should be cooked at room temperature.

For desert he baked a banana and peanut butter cake with caramel. It looked fantastic and it was a pity that we could not taste it, only Pam did

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From here I went on to see the Visit Lisburn stand (they promoted Lisburn eateries such as Angelos and the Square Bistro), they also handed out fresh olive tapenade, nice jesture from the Square Bistro, it was very tasty. Love Olive was there also there sampling and selling their famous olives and dips. You will remember them from St George’s Market. The company has now split with the retail unit in St George’s and the wholesale end being Love Olive. For anything you wanted to know about potatoes but were afraid to ask there was Wilsons country. They also demonstrated the different types of spuds eg Marris Piper for chips, to baby salad potatoes. Then another little wonder was the Baked in Belfast stand which sells preserves and custom made pottery pieces.

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Eggs eggs glorious eggs, it’s difficult to imagine life without eggs, it is possible but let’s big up the humble egg. Earls Abbey Farm were selling quails, hens and duck eggs. I was given fresh free range duck eggs with which I cooked scrambled eggs. These eggs are bigger than hens eggs and yolks not as yellow, so when cooked looked paler compared to the hens eggs. They taste as good, but I think it’s an egg to use in baking. Cavannaghs eggs was next. They are based in Fermanagh and have 40,000 free range hens which produce 10 million eggs per year. I was given a tray of 15 and I hard boiled a few and they did taste and look better than the caged variety. They recently were awarded a Great Taste Award 2014. They also do duck eggs. For the gadget man/woman chef The Pampered Chef had plenty of gizmos and gadgets.

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Hot dogs are rather special. Alas here in Northern Ireland a hot dog is a cheap processed frankfurter in a standard roll. Enter Street Dogs, headed by Sarah who brought a whole new dimension to the humble hot dog and made it gourmet. Their dawgs are either beef or a mix of beef and pork made in Armagh. I did mention to Sarah at a previous event that they should serve an all pork dawg, and she duly obliged!! I went for the What’s up Dawg, which had fried onion and bacon with cheese and mustard Mayo. The Dawg was big and you can really taste the meat and combo of toppings made this a real treat. I did feed back the rolls were a bit crumbly, so Sarah will rectify this. Ps if you get a chance you can visit her at SFB at Bhouy Square today and tomorrow.

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The Linen Hill also chipped in for a delicious hot dog using a wonderful flavoured local pork sausage with a pulled pork topping. Again a great combo.

Indian Nights Inn was the first of two Indian stalls serving a full range of locally sourced food and condiments cooked with love by Asha Chada (who is ever present at St George’s).

For those with a sweet tooth there was the Chocolate Fountain Service.

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I must point out that I am condensing two days into a single piece and that I did not eat all in one go!!

Another favourite of mine was the Tapitas stall selling Spanish Ham, chorizo and lovely paella using the same ingredients as they use in Spain. I did try some and was delighted. They are also at St George’s.

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As mentioned earlier Silver Fin fish specialists had a great stand, some of their produce were used by the celebrity chefs. All their seafood bar tuna and tiger prawns are fished in Irish waters, so we really are spoilt for choice with our fruit de la mer. I was presented with a mixed seafood platter to try at home. I had this with Pasta on Sunday night.

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The second Indian stall was from Wales. It was the samosa company who specialise in non fried samosas, parathas, Bombay pockets (which are a fluffy bread, divided into two sides and filled with chicken, I tried one and it was moist and delicious) and last but by no means least was their onion bhaji Scotch egg!!! These guys exhibited last year and are breaking into many overseas markets (they were at CIAL in Paris also last week).

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The next two food stalls were Jolly Pies and Pizza Pod. Jolly pies started out in 2013 and are based out of The Morning Star. They serve a good quality pie, not the usual stodge you may find at footy games. They serve at the Giants games and at Ravenhill, so do have pedigree.

The Pizza Pod I thought was a great idea. It started off on the 1st May this year and basically is a mobile wood fired pizza oven. They usually do outdoor events and parties eg birthdays or weddings. The aim here is for people to make there own pizzas. Me and my lil lady had a pepperoni and ham pizza which was delicious. It’s £100 minimum for the pleasure of hiring them.

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There was also a live baking stand courtesy of Phoenix Gas. The cakes on offer looked fabulous. Another great treat was by Shivani at Treat Boutique 2. It was an easy way to bake straight from a jar!! All the dry ingredients were in a well presented keenly priced jar (approx £12), all you have to do is supply the wet ingredients.

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For coffee lovers there was Synge and Byrne and sweet lovers there was Mr Muffin Man who hails from Bistro Cashlawn in Beltorbet Co. Cavan. They do tray bakes and cup cakes and we got to try their chocolate and orange muffin, carrot cake and biscuit cake.
Dinky Donuts made a brief appearance and good to see Shivanis son Rohan getting stuck into the baking.

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Onto some liquid refreshments. On offer there was Long Meadow Cider, a Northern Irish gin called Shortcross, a delightful cream liqueur made with Irish whiskey and cream and white silky Belgian chocolate. Also on display was a stand from Whitewater Brewery.

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There was also wine available from McGuigans (more later) and a home wine tasting stand. From Omagh 10 Degrees had a selection of juices and alcohol like British Vodka and Rum. The cheese and condiments featured in Tamnagh Foods, Four Seasons (who also did pate and lasagne) and Relish by Bella Jo Kitchen.

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Greenmount Farm had a selection of farm reared meat, game and salads. They were also awarded a Great Taste Award 2014.

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Also present was Broughgammon Farm who specialise in all things goat ( I’ve dedicated a separate blog for them, please see archives).

Pokertree had on display Irish Ales and Tempted had some cider. If all was too tiring you could get rejuvenated with fresh oxygen courtesy of Oxy Bubbles.

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A big thanks also to Harnett Oils who let me take a bottle of their finest pressed Rapeseed oil, Broighter Farms from Limavady who gave me a few testers of their Rapeseed oil and flavoured oils (which I have used to perk up sausages) and lastly Pukara Estate which has a range of oils and Balsamic Vinegar from Australia. I was gifted a 250ml bottle of their most popular Balsamic vinegar which I’ve used to dress salads with. Did you know that a true Balsamic Vinegar is Oak Barrel Aged for 5 years, and gives a sweet and dark product.

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There were numerous places to sit and relax but could have been more for kids to do.

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Before we get to the last demos I wanted to thank Bob McCoubrey from Mourne Seafood group. He started in 2005 fishing out of Kilkeel and sources his oysters from Donegal, lobsters and scallops from Annalong, salmon from Glenarm and mussels from Strangford. Bob extended an invitation to a cookery class at Belfast Cookery School, so I’m really looking forward to that.

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Also from the old to the new. Tayto has been for Northern Ireland for many years. They didn’t disappoint and launched a sweet chilli party snack and baked ham flavoured crisp. Both very nice. The new being a stall shared by two. Skinny Malinkys who do a range of natural juices and superfoods and Keen Nut butter made from hazelnuts and also almonds.

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There was also another specialist cheese monger from England. They are Blacks Cheese and are making a debut here. I was given Old Original No 1 (an 18 month mature cheddar) and Caramelised onion and Rioja.

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Lastly a big welcome and thanks to our Welsh colleagues, Northern Woman Magazine and Moy Park chicken who were busy giving out samples of chicken nuggets and BBQ wings.

I saw James Martin on the Friday. He cooked 3 courses. For starters he made pan fried sea bass with fennel and Dublin Bay Prawns or langoustines from Silver Fin, with a bisque. For mains it was a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces and seared in griddle pan, with a drizzle of maple syrup and butter and then oven cooked. This was served on a bed of blitzed cauliflower (consistency of cous cous) dressed with maple syrup, white wine vinegar, curry powder, mint, coriander, flaked almonds and chopped pistachio seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For dessert there was an opulent Monkey Bread.

James also signed books at the Easons stand and a huge thank you to the team at Easons who presented me with a signed copy of James Martins Suppers.

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You will also see the girls from Armagh promoting the famous ciders.

For me I’m saving the best til last. On Sunday we had the pleasure of a cookery masterclass by our Ozzie mate John Torode. His theme was simplicity and he was also technical in his description.

He started by using puff pastry made by James (I believe a first in collaboration with James) and a Camenbert (Brie or Stilton would work too) from Tamnagh Foods and baked for 20 minutes, served with relish from Tamnagh.

He then shared his tips on fried prawns. For this he used a thick wet mix (eggs, butter milk and cream of chicken soup) and a dry mix in a bag (self raising flour, salt, sugar,white pepper, oregano, chilli powder and paprika). The method he used was double dipping ie drop prawns into dry mix, then into wet mix and lastly into dry mix. Then the key was to rest the prawns on a cake tray. Then the prawns were waved into hot oil (to prevent sticking). They rise due to air from reaction between water and oil. The oil stops bubbling when cooked. Chicken or even fish can be used here.

To complement this he made a fresh chilli mayonnaise using a whole deseeded red chilli, an egg, 1 spoon strong mustard, flavoured vinegar and sunflower oil. This was then blended with hand blender. The Mayo is an emulsion and the emulsification was due to acid and protein joining by strands.

His next treat was poached egg on mushroom toast. To start he pan fried bacon lardons in oil remember oil to heat and butter to flavour. Then he added the mushrooms (he used oyster and chanterelles, but you can also use fresh local mushrooms eg from Annaghmore, see archive blog on Annaghmore Mushrooms). A blob of butter was added as was salt and pepper and parsley. For the toast he used a nice freshly baked slice of bread cooked on a griddle pan and then he kissed the bread with garlic.
Note you should not keep mushrooms in water as they absorb it.

For the poached egg he used an egg from Earls Abbey. His method was different to the conventional way. He dropped the egg into a cup of vinegar for 1 minute. This allowed the acid to cook the outside of the egg. The egg and vinegar was then poured into hot water on the stove and cooked using the residual heat for a few minutes.

It looked fantastic pity we couldn’t taste it!!!

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After his demo he was signing bottles of his newly launched Hunter Valley Semillon white wine in conjunction with McGuigan wines. It made its world premiere in Belfast. Again my thanks to McGuigans who made it possible for me to have a signed bottle.

As you can see he was a real crowd puller.

To sum up The Food and Drink Show is still growing and learning,there are still issues but I am confident the team will implement the findings that I and other people have. The Sunday was the best day and I am confident that it will grow from strength to strength.
If I have missed anyone out my humblest apologies.

Once again the BFM shares the food love!!! Ciao down now!!!

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