Fry day

As part of NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, I attended breakfast at The Europa Hotel this morning. The breakfast took part in the Penthouse Suite on the 12th Floor of The Europa and we were the guests of Dr Howard Hastings.
The format of the morning was coffee with the suppliers then a demo by chef Paula McIntyre, before tucking into our fry and then networking. I spoke to Ken and Jason from Carnbrooke Meats who supplied the sausages, Hannans Butchers who supplied the bacon, Hugh from Gracehill Fine Foods (black and white pudding), Stephen from Malachy Mushrooms, Bob the tomato man, Dr Hastings and Joris Minne to name but a few.
Paula demonstrated how to make Indian Soda bread (made with polenta), slim soda bread, potato bread with bacon fat and apple potato bread. She cooked all this on a well seasoned 150 year old cast iron griddle, which was heated on high for 10 minutes and then heat reduced for cooking. The resultant breads tasted fantastic and I must stress in an Ulster Fry should NEVER be deep fried!!!
The main brekkie was preceded by apple juice from the McCann Family, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt with strawberry compote and topped with granola a la Crawford’s Foods, White’s porridge (with a splash of Bushmills or honey). There was tea (Punjana from the Thompson Family), Bewleys coffee and milk from the McDowell Farmview Dairy, to help wash it down with.
For the piece de resistance we had fried egg (Clements Eggs), special sausage of pork,Armagh Bramley apple and black pudding, bacon, mushroom, tomato and soda and potato bread . The egg was perfect-bright yellow yolk, sausage was meaty, succulent and tasty, bacon was pure bacon-no white residue, white and black pudding was best I’ve tasted-not oily,chewy but melt in the mouth texture. The tomato was sweet and mushroom was not overly wet. The potato and soda bread was amazing. I had the brown toast (Irwins) which was tasty and not too dry. Margaret Cooper from Donaghadee supplied the preserves which worked very well with the toast and coffee. The Hastings Hotels Group do actually produce a handy wee booklet which explains where the breakfast is sourced.
I really could not fault the breakfast. The portion size was perfect, it was all perfectly cooked and used all local products. So I would dearly say that if you have not tasted one of these superb brekkies, please make sure you do so in the near future.


Solo Tapas

My wife and I are at Solo Restaurant and Cocktail bar for the launch. On arrival there was fresh sangria, followed by tapas of seafood paella and chill chicken with garlic bread. This was followed by a selection of desserts. Then the night was taken over by the talented band and Salsa dancers followed by DJ. A great night……and it’s still going on. Make a bee line down to the new Solo!!

Chicken and Prawns 

I cooked some chicken tikka and prawn pickle today using the finest fresh chicken and cooked frozen prawns from Lynas foods. 
For the prawn pickle, I fried off ginger, garlic, spring onions, fresh red Chillies, salt, pepper and achaar masala (achaar is pickle and I made the masala out of a number of different spices-trade secret!!!). I then added the frozen cooked prawns (400 g) and simmered. The pickle was then chilled and ready to eat!!
For the chicken tikka I marinaded two diced chicken breasts using tandoori masala last night. I only added masala to the chicken ie a dry rub. I refrigerated over night. The chicken was cooked for 20 minutes in a pre heated oven at 200C.
Note the red colour of the marinated chicken and the orange colour of the cooked chicken. This is a good indication that there is no artificial food colouring.

Now it’s a case of enjoying!!

Stir fried salmon, prawn and vegetable noodles

Made a lovely, low fat, high protein and tasty seafood, vegetable stir fry last night. I thoroughly thawed two salmon steaks and about 250g of frozen Cooke prawns courtesy of Lynas Outlet Store. I then heated a teaspoon of Rapeseed oil in my wok and I added 3 chopped cloves of garlic and some chopped ginger. I then added the salmon and cooked for a minute, before adding the prawns and a sliced lemon. This was cooked for a further minute then removed from the wok. 
I then stir fried my chopped vegetables being 1 red pepper, spring onions, asparagus, broccoli and celery for 2 minutes and added pepper and soy sauce to taste. Whilst this was cooking I softened two coils of rice noodles in boiling water. Once softened I added them to the vegetables and cooked off any residual water before adding my seafood, stirred and served. This filled four hungry bellies very well!!



Brekky at the Errigle

My 7 and 3 year old girls and I had a lovely Sunday brekky here courtesy of @ErrigleInn and Chris from Love Pr . I had a large Errigle fry (2 sausages, 2 bacon, fried egg, 1/2 tomato, mushrooms, potato bread, soda bread and black pudding), the girls shared stack of 3 pancakes and syrup and a kids brekky of sausage, bacon, toast and scrambled egg. Washed down with coffee and milk.
Super place, service was great and very reasonable prices. This certainly ties in with the Breakfast theme for #enjoyni16.

So get down to the Errigle for a great brekky, after all it has been family run and going strong for 80 years!!


Lynas Food Oulet Belfast

EJ Cousins showed my two daughters and I around this hidden jewel earlier today. EJ made it down from Portstewart today and she battled through the snow and ice to meet us at 11.30, for which we were very greatful!!!
She explained that this Lynas Outlet store is fully functional, catering for the catering trade in all shapes and forms and is open to the public. It opened in March 2015 and is the third in the Province after Coleraine and Londonderry. They have ambitious plans for expansion and are always keen to try new products and do cookery demos. Chef Russell is the resident chef in Belfast. 
I was pleasantly surprised at the range, prices and pricing structure. It’s good to see final price displayed inclusive of VAT!!

There is a reasonable selection of goods with an emphasis on local produce. 
I was able to come away with a selection of produce which I shall certainly use and blog about!!
For starters I got a tray of 20 fresh chicken breasts (£16), 10 frozen salmon fillets (£22), bag of frozen cooked prawns (£24, premium brand), 1 kg of local Pork loin, soy sauce, ketchup, Tabasco sauce and fish and chip shop condiment. A big thank you to EJ and Lynas, we shall certainly be busy for the next wee while cooking and blogging!! I’ve downsized everything and frozen it all. My wife will be especially happy as she is embarking upon the Forever Living cleanse 9 programme and will be living on chicken, salmon and prawns!!


IKEA brekky 

To help celebrate NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 theme of Breakfast in January, I recently had a small cooked breakfast in Ikea Belfast. This consisted of potato bread, soda bread, tomato, sausage, bacon, omelette and beans. It was very keenly priced at £2.25, but if one is a member of the IKEA Family it costed £1.50 and one gets a free coffee also!!!!
The picture advertised differed somewhat from what was received, but it did taste reasonable. All in all a great bargain, but will need to try a few more cooked brekkies to compare!! 



Hillmount Garden Centre’s plants have been blooming in gardens across Northern Ireland for 75 years and, last Saturday (2 January), the garden centre celebrated its best trading day since opening its doors in 1940. Then, at the Garden Trade News and Garden Radio Awards, Hillmount Garden Centre beat off competition from garden centres across the UK to win two national awards.

Hillmount won the Gold award for ‘The Greatest Christmas Sizzle Team of 2015’ recognising their efforts in selling barbecues in winter to customers who wanted to use a BBQ for cooking their Christmas turkey. And, the family owned garden centre also won Northern Ireland ‘Greatest Festive Catering Team’ celebrating excellence in teamwork in The Gardener’s Rest.
Alan Mercer, managing director, Hillmount Garden Centre, said: “Last year was a very special year at Hillmount as we celebrated 75 years in the business. Starting 2016 with these two awards for our BBQ department and café is testament to the efforts we put into the business in the run up to Christmas. 
“And when we saw customers queuing outside before we opened last Saturday we knew we were in for a busy day on our first day back after Christmas. It’s just starting to sink in that we achieved our best trading day in 75 years on the first Saturday of January 2016! Starting off the year this way is very exciting and gives us a great boost as we plan for the rest of the year.
Trevor Pfeiffer, managing director of The Garden Communications and Media Company, publishers of Garden Trade News, said: “Our Greatest Awards are all about celebrating excellence in garden centre teamwork.”
Hillmount Garden Centre has two stores – one on Upper Braniel Road, Belfast, and one on Belfast Road, Bangor. For news of spring events and the latest offers at Hillmount –,,

NI 2016 Year of Food and Drink Banquet

I was very fortunate to be invited to this amazing Banquet at The Ulster Hall last night.To be in the company of Northern Ireland’s top brass in the Food, Drink and Hospitality Sector was very humbling. The majestic venue was lit up outside by fire and inside dressed elegantly by Event-ful. On arrival there was a choice of local alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, whilst being serenaded by a guitarist.
There was a drinks and canape reception pre dinner upstairs and I had a chance to try some delectable delightful treats. There was Portavogie Prawn Tortellini (By Coppi), Leggygowan Goats cheese mouse on gingerbread and black pudding and chicken terrine. This was washed down with apple juice (cider was available). Just outside in the foyer there 
were samples of NI produce like chocolates, oils, breads and preserves.
Once seated inside the main Hall for dinner, we were really in for a treat. Firstly there were speeches from the First Minister Mrs Arlene Foster, who was really encouraging our superb Agri-food industry. This was seconded by the Deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness. Laura Briggs of Good Food Shows announced The Good Food Show will be taking part in The Waterfront in October, which really is a huge accolade for the NI food and hospitality industry.

The five course banquet menu and service was left in the very capable and large hands of Simon from The Yellow Door Deli (Portadown). For starters he presented Lough Neagh Eel and bacon cubes with Armagh Bramley puree and mustard frills – this really was a great starter, eel was succulent and bacon cubes crispy and complimented well by the apple. The piece de resistance was the Roast Baronscourt Vennison and Shoulder fritter accompanied by celeriac, Comber smoked potato fondant and a blackcurrant jus.The vession was so tender and literally melted in my mouth. Well presented and just the right amount. Strong bold flavours and worked well together.

The sweet dish did not disappoint. It was caramelised pear and Bushmills Tart with chocolate and candied hazelnut crumb and buttermilk sorbet. There was a real nice NI cheese board with Ditty Biscuits and preserve.The banquet was concluded with Tea, coffee and chocolates by La Coquine. The menu was a very bold one and it all married well together. Roll on 2016!!!! #enjoyni16

The A list of the sector were present eg Paul Rankin, Michael Deane, Dr Howard Hastings, Pete Snodden to name but a few. I was lucky to be sat beside Andrew (The GM of The Lough Erne Resort) and Zoe (Tedfords).The Enterprise Minister Mr Jonathan Bell was also present and the BBC presenter Mr Nigel Barden gave the closing speech.
I am excited and very confident that NI will make this The Year to remember for Food, Drink and Hospitality. Lets all embrace the year and show the world what we can offer!!


Lamb masala in pressure cooker

Ok so this is my first attempt at cooking Indian Lamb masala in a pressure cooker. It took 1 hour in total from start to finish, I was amazed, usually it takes 3 hours!!!!
I got 650g of lamb chops diced with bones from butchers. Then marinated for 1 hour in 2 tablespoons yoghurt and 1 tablespoon of tandoori masala. 
I fried 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, cumin, masala, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder all in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (Rapeseed) in the IKEA 6 litre pressure cooker before adding 3 chopped onions. I fried this for 7 minutes. 
Then I added the meat and cooked for a further 10 minutes. Then I added 1 can tinned tomatoes and water to just cover the meat. I then placed the lid on and brought to high temp (valve rises to 2nd white mark- indicating pressure is perfect). I then simmered for 15 minutes and when reached I switched heat off. 
The lamb masala was the best, most succulent and flavoured lamb I’ve ever had. I’m so excited am sharing with u!!!