Classic Rosemary Potato

Hi all with Easter still in mind I would like to share this wee side dish, the classic Rosemary Potato. I cleaned 5 spuds,left skins on and then diced. Then I parboiled these cubes in boiling water for 10 minutes. 

Whilst this was happening I added  3 cloves of fineley diced garlic, one medium white diced onion to a tablespoon of oil and butter, until they coloured. Meanwhile I stripped fresh rosemary off their twigs and diced. I then added to the onions.

When the spuds were done I drained and added to the onion/Rosemary mix and gently mixed. Seasoned with fresh Himalayan salt and black pepper and ready to eat……njoy!!!!


Turkey and Venison burgers

Mince turkey and minced venison, what to do with them?! I thought right lets do spiced up burgers. I used 800 g turkey and 400g venison, salt, paprika, Garam masala, spring onion, garlic, ginger,  an egg and flour to bind and dust.

I put all into a bowl and got my hands dirty, mixed it for 10 mins and refrigerated. When chilled I dusted a tray with flour and moulded 20 burgers. I shallow fried for 2-3 minutes per side to colour and then put into a preheated (180C) for 20 minutes. 

Had to try one so I did and so did my two girls-they and I loved it!!!! Will let them cool and then freeze…..burgers anyone?


Great lunch

Took the chicken/veg soup and veg broth, heated and we (me and my two girls 4/7 yrs old) devoured half of it with hot buttered toast. I then blitzed other half and it tasted even better!!!!!


Happy Easter Hamper

Happy Easter folks!! I received a lovely gift from TESCO- an Easter Hamper. It contained fresh chicken soup, fresh vegetable broth, wheaten, bottle red wine, 1.2 kg lamb leg with bone (£14), rosemary, mint jelly, garlic, spuds, carrots, parsnips, cabbage and trifle!!

I’m not a huge fan of roast lamb so I decided to remove all the meat from the bone (800g) and diced this and marinaded overnight in my tandoori masala. The bones I’m going to use to make an on the bone lamb masala. 

I cooked the lamb tikka in a preheated oven (200C) for 30 minutes. Whilst this was cooking I heated 2 tablespoons of oil, added 2 diced red onions and browned. Meanwhile I made my wet masala using garlic,ginger,onion, dry spices(turmeric, Garam masala, salt, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves). This I added to the onions and browned. I then puréed fresh spinach and coriander and added to pot, then a small carton of tomato pasata and simmered. Once the lamb was cooked I added meat and sauce to pan and voila Lamb Tikka Saag.

As you can see in the pictures a great hamper, the lamb was succulent and juicy, very little fat and the 4 colours of the sauces gradually darkened to give that rich dark brown colour. Guess what……it tastes fabulous!!!


NI Year of Food & Drink, Celebrating Heritage and Tradition

  1. I attended a cookery demonstration by Head Chef of James St. South, David  Gillmore, at the James St. South Cookery School today. This was to celebrate NI Year of Food and Drink Heritage and Tradition month.

The wonderful MC Michelle introduced Will Abernethy of Abernethy Butter. Will gave us a demo and history of the butter production. It’s all made by hand using local cream from Dreynes farm and salt (there is a smoked and dulce butter) and churned, before salt added,then shaped and packed into 125g rolls. It takes approximately 350ml cream to make 125g of butter to which roughly 1.5g salt added.

The butter is sold to the likes of The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal), The Berkeley (Marcus Wareing) and The Salty Dog here in Bangor. Also it is sold in Fortnum & Mason. Will and Allison really have a great young Northern Irish brand.

Lindsay Skinner from Punjana Tea then gave us a run down of how Robert Thompson started The Thompson Teas in 1896. It is now run by third generation Thompsons (Ross and David). The Punjana brand was born in 1956 (tea bags first started in 1955) and the rest is history.

The teas used are from Kenya and Assam in India and drank all round the UK. In 2014 their teas won 20 Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards. Lindsay was telling us how they are bringing in new flavours and they looked and smelled amazing.

Next up was Jason from Carnebrooke Meats, who started company with Ben in 2011. Jason has a background in farming and butchery and has worked in Australia and Argentina. Their USP is excellent customer care and a unique Antrim Salt wall which allows them to salt cure their beef. All their meat (beef,lamb,pork, chicken,duck and deer) is Irish and they supply the Michelin Starred restaurants Ox and Deanes group in Belfast.

Head Chef David then made stout wheaten served warm with smoked or salted Abernethy butter and seafood Fricasse. It was real quick and easy to make and delicious (I had the smoked butter). The wheaten was light and fluffy- something to do with the Whitewater stout!!!

Our last presentation was from Bernard Sloan of Whitewater Brewery in Kilkeel. Bernard is a 3rd generation potato farmer who started off as an engineer, then cheese maker in Somerset before turning his hand at brewing in Manchester and Nigeria, before coming home to start micro brewing. Now Whitewater supplies 10 brews to small, medium and large customers and have to move to a larger premises in Castlewellan later this year.

These few enterprises young and old, small and big are great Ambassadors for NI food and drink. Their awards and accolades won is a testament to their passion and vision and I have no doubt they will fly the flag high do Northern Ireland. As a parting gift we received a goodie bag containing sirloin steak, Abernethy fudge, a bottle of Maggies Leap beer and Punjana tea.

Press trip to Donegal

Press Trip to Donegal

Last Thursday we were whisked off to the Northern most place in Ireland for lunch, a trek along part of the Wild Atlantic Way, dinner, overnight stay and finally breakfast, before returning home on Friday. We, being a lovely bunch of press folk from the written and spoken word. The destination was McGrorys Hotel in Culdaff and Malin Head. The trip was organised by McGrorys and Michelle McTernan Management.

McGrorys Hotel started life in 1924 by Mr McGrory, as a guest house and a shop. It is now being run by the third and fourth generation descendents. On arrival we checked in and deposited our bags in our wonderful, spacious rooms. There was a lovely surprise of chocolate strawberries, macaroons and fresh cookies to welcome us, they were delicious!!

We were hungry and in time for a superb lunch of seafood chowder, homemade wheaten and homemade butter followed by bites of breaded chicken, battered cod goujon and fish cakes served with salad and homemade chips. The venue was the Front Bar and we had a roaring open wood fire to warm us up!! The wheaten was rich and tender and butter was light and creamy and complimented the chowder superbly. My chicken goujons were delicious and breadcrumbs crispy and the batter on the succulent fish was also light and crispy. The fish cake was delicious and perfectly prepared. The presentation was lovely and suited the bar scene. The chips were served in a chip basket- a nice touch, all in line with casual dining. John (third generation) met us and shared more about the history of the hotel and area and this was also when we met our guide Bren Whelan who also gave us a rundown of the local area.

After our hearty lunch we were ready for our exploration of Malin Head and in particular the beech, flora and fauna and a trek along the coast from Malin Head to Banbas Crown. Our guide was the very well qualified Bren Whelan. Bren is a true man of the great outdoors. He is a rock climber, mountaineer, scuba diver, skier, trekker and a real font for local knowledge and history. He showed us some absolutely breathtaking scenery. The sheer ruggedness and uniqueness of the area is a big reason why Star Wars VIII will be filmed here. Our walk was about 2 miles in length along some tricky terrain with stunning views and scenery. For those who love the great outdoors Malin Head has lots to offer be it trekking, climbing, diving or kayaking. Bren told us how Eire got its name- the story goes thus: a local king had two daughters Eire and Banba and that they had a race to see who gets to the top of the island first. Eire won so her father named the island after her, her sister had the honour of having the northern most point named after her-Banbas Crown.

Also on the shore line was a big white sign which read EIRE 80, which formed part of a network of 83 points along the coast of Ireland to show World War II fighters that they were flying over Ireland. Also at Banbas Crown was a mini early warning lookout tower which was built in the early 1800’s. These formed a network of towers which circumscribed Ireland and acted as an early warning system to warn if Napoleon was coming. From here many people left this area to escape the famine. Banbas Crown is the start or finish of the Wild Atlantic Way. This is a 2400 km long road trip which goes around the coast and finishes in Cork. It is a superb drive rivalling the likes of the Pacific highway (USA) or Garden Route (South Africa).

John warmed us up with the most divine creamy hot chocolate and cookies after our trek. On our return we stopped off at a very quaint thatched house which has a thatched conservatory and is owned by a Lisburn man!!!!! We popped into The Curiosity Shop which has all sorts of nick nacks. I bought a wee fridge magnet to add to my collection. When we arrived back at the hotel we freshened up before some cocktails and beer tasting before dinner.

The cocktail was a fruity rum and poteen concoction and the beers were from local brewers being Bog Hopper (Dirty Chic and Hairy Bullocks) and Kinnegar (Rustbucket, Otway, Scraggy Bay and Limeburner).

Our dinner was a true local gourmet affair in The Front Room. There were Lough Foyle Oysters (natural and Mornay-cheddar and Parmesan) with Guinness shots which went down well. The starters were a choice of Panko Goats cheese balls on beetroot with orange and rocket, which I had and it tasted great but I thought the slate did not do it justice, I would have liked it better if it were served on a white plate, or Malin Head Crab Claw (all fish is locally sourced from Greencastle)

The main course was a choice of Greencastle Masala Monkfish, Inishowen Lamb or Butternut squash and Cashel Risotto all served with root vegetables and champ. I had the monkfish which was delicately spiced, succulent and worked very well with the tomato, ginger and hint of chilli. The root vegetables were al dente and champ was buttery and fluffy. Very well presented and perfect portion size.
For dessert I had the white chocolate crumble, there was also chocolate brownie. Tea and coffee followed. The sweet dish was a perfect size and sweetness to finish off a delightful meal. There was red and white wine to accompany the meal.
After dinner we retired to The Back Room for drinks and were entertained by a local band, who played some great Irish music and sang cover songs as well, it really was great “craic”.
The breakfast the next morning was bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, mushroom, fried eggs and beans. Again all local produce and tasted well. There was a range of cereals, breads and juice available also, as well as toast, tea and coffee. A great hearty way to start the day.

McGrorys is an amazing home run intimate hotel. It has 17 very comfortable and spacious rooms and can accommodate upto 40 people. It has a real homely feeling and all the staff and management, treated not just us but other guests like we were part of the family. Its a great venue for live music, indeed Brian Kennedy is playing on the 25th March, tickets available on It is also superb for bar food and drinks as well as gourmet fine dining. It is the gate way to North Donegal and Malin Head. I would definitely return with my family or friends for some more great hospitality.


IKEA Lagom part 2

Living Lagom the second instalment 

We are well and truly into the Living Lagom project and already are seeing and feeling the benefits.

Our gas and electricity usage for the months of January and February are about 260 and 300 units respectively per month. This is a reduction on the corresponding months last year.


This has mainly been achieved by several changes. These are the curtains in the hall at the front door and in the living room, which cuts out the drafts and heat loss. The roller blinds in the kitchen, dining room and conservatory, which tidy the rooms up, keeps heat in the kitchen and conservatory and allows segregation of the conservatory and insulation of the conservatory. It also allows a blackout screen which enables us to watch the TV without the reflection of light on the screen. The rug in the living room and throws on the sofas make the living room feel warmer and we spend time in here as a family playing games and chilling out, whilst having the wood fire burning away. Also the LED bulbs in the main lights and lamps have made a difference in the ambient lighting.


In the kitchen the pressure cooking has been used many times, my latest culinary delight was a truly authentic pork vindaloo, please check out my web site for the recipe and pictures etc. My daughter and wife enjoy the hot piping soups in the thermos flasks and my daughter loves weighing things in the food scales!! The glass storage containers have really kept all our fresh salad and vegetables fresh for longer so there is less food waste. Our white storage and recycling bins have really made a difference and I’ve rejigged where I’ve placed them- I’ve put two in the garage (viz pictures).


The next wee project which we started, now the weather is getting better, was planting the seeds and using the portable greenhouses. My daughter and I rehydrated the soil (by adding 600ml of water to the three soil pellets which we broke up and then stirred when water was absorbed)and planted the seed disks of Basil, Parsley and Peppermint in the cups provided, covered with cling film and put into the clear green houses and placed on the window sill. The metal and Perspex green house I put up outside (viz pictures) and I will put plants in them when its a bit warmer. My daughter was very excited and keen on helping out here and was fascinated at how the soil changed from dry state to wet state!!! This is a great idea for her to get involved and actually see what is happening.


Hopefully come June time I can show you all the fruits of our labours. In conclusion I can truly say that the whole family is getting involved in the project and are really enjoying it. It would be of great interest to see how energy consumption compares in 2017….maybe we can do a mini Lagom project to see?


Day 1 of IFEX

The new home of IFEX, the Titanic Exhibition Centre, is a very worthy venue. To have everything under one massive hall on one level was a real pleasure. I spent several hours there today looking, talking, watching and tasting all things food and drink. 

There were several anchor stands like Henderson, Lynas and Stephens as well as a range of medium and small stands. There were also several stages for demos and at the rear kitchens for budding chefs to compete in. There were plenty of tasting areas from cooked meats, ready made meals, breads, condiments, snacks, cheeses and drinks to name but a few. 

The exhibition is for anyone with an interest in food or drink, from students, takeaways, the press right up to 5 star hotels and restaurants and everything in between. 

I was fortunate to get to try lots of different foods-some cooked, baked to foods local and from afar. I’m looking forwards to trying out some sauces (see below), sausages (see below) and the peri peri chip salt. Now to burn it off!!!!


Aubergine and pepper

This is a twist on a classic Punjabi dish, Bengan Bhartha.
What I did was flamed a whole aubergine and Ramiro pepper with my mini flamer until the skin was charred, this imparts a smokey flavour. Whilst I was doing so, I cooked minced ginger and garlic (2 teaspoons of) in 1 tablespoon of ghee. I added 3 diced onions to this along with 1 teaspoon turmeric and 1 of salt and 2 of Garam masala. I then added the chopped and diced aubergine and a can of tinned tomatoes and cooked on low heat for 40 minutes. I tasted and adjusted seasoning and added some whole red fresh chillies. 
Smells, looks and tastes great, want some?!?!

Origin of Vindaloo 

The original Vindaloo
As promised the story of Vindaloo…..
When the Portugese explorers arrived in Goa, India about 500 years ago, they brought with them the humble pig. The extreme heat of Goa spoiled the meat very quickly. So in order to preserve the meat (pig-vind) they added salt, Chillies and vinegar. When they cooked the meat they did so with aromatics and potatoes (aloo) and that is the origin of the Vindaloo. Of course it can be made with chicken, lamb or fish as well as vegetables.
My vindaloo I prepared as follows:
I diced a kilo of assured origin Northern Irish  pork loin (from Lynas Foodservice) on Monday night and marinaded this in a mixture of fresh red Chillies (10), 1 tablespoon chilli powder and paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, 3 teaspoons black peppercorns, 6 cloves garlic, 1 inch ginger, 2 diced onions and 300ml of vinegar. The mixture was puréed before coating the meat. The marinaded meat was refrigerated until today when I cooked it.
In a pressure cooker I added a tablespoon of coconut oil and fried 2 diced potatoes. I removed these and put the meat into the pot and cooked for 10 minutes, then added a can of plum tomatoes, the potatoes and a pint of water. I brought this to the boil, put the lid on and cooked for 20 minutes.
The resulting vindaloo was pretty hot, meat was so succulent and it smelled and tasted amazing.