Delicious, scrumptious, mouthwatering or just plain tasty. Whatever words you use to describe great food and drink, you’ll need lots of them as you taste your way through the Tesco Taste Festival 2016 taking place at Custom House Square from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th September. 

Organised each year by Tesco NI, the admission free annual Festival, which this year has the theme ‘Our Tastiest Yet’ is now firmly established on Northern Ireland’s culinary calendar as the largest free food and drink event of its kind in the province with visitor numbers expected to top 25K this year equating to 1.5m in total since the Festival began.

With over 60 exhibitors, and back-to-back activity throughout the weekend including producers sharing food skills at a special FoodNI cookery theatre, entertainment for all the family with Ark Open Farm’s petting zoo, a climbing wall, guest appearances from mascots Mr Tayto and Mr Morelli, plus live music, there’s simply lots of fun for all the family at this free three-day foodie festival.

Tesco NI Marketing Manager Caoimhe Mannion said the event was the showpiece in the ongoing Tesco Taste NI campaign citing its importance in the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink and cemented the retailer’s credentials as a ‘force for good food’ in Northern Ireland

She said: ‘The Tesco Taste Festival forms part of our 2016 support programme for Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, valued at half a million pounds. But every year, we assist food producers and suppliers in a wide variety of ways via artisan programmes, multi-store sampling, food fairs, listing opportunities, in-store promotion and more.
The Tesco Taste Festival offers a rare chance for producers to interact directly with the public and visitors can sample local produce at its best for free and of course favourites can be found at Tesco throughout the year.’ 
So whether you’re a gourmand who relishes fine dining, a regular foodie who gets excited about tucking into local food and regional specialities, or want to be the first to taste new product launches from Northern Ireland’s finest food companies, you’ll definitely enjoy the gastronomic offerings the Tesco Taste Festival showcases.
The Tesco Taste Festival is currently in its eighth year. The event, which is organised annually by Tesco in partnership with its local suppliers, honours the quality, diversity and wholesomeness of locally and regionally produced fresh food and drink. It seeks to celebrate the provenance of food and drink by highlighting and promoting Northern Ireland’s abundant, quality produce to the world.
The Festival opening times are 2pm to 8pm on Friday 16th September, 10am to 6pm on Saturday 17th September and 10am to 5pm on Sunday 18th September.

For updates as the Festival draw near check facebook.com/tastenorthernireland or use hashtag #TescoTasteFestival

Edible garden for care home

Every now and then I will post a real feel good, kind and touching story. Today I’m sharing the story below, enjoy:

Blooming marvellous garden for North Belfast Care Home

Multi award winning Peninsula Care Services, Northern Ireland’s leading domiciliary care, nursing and recruitment agency has gifted a memory garden in one of their valued clients’ care homes, Clifton Nursing Home in Belfast.  

MD for Peninsula, Jonny Cook, commissioned author of ‘Sow, Grow, Munch’ and edible gardener Jilly Dougan to design a sensory garden filled with a variety of perennial herbs, an edible garden, lush with rosemary, thyme, fennel, parsley, salad leaves, spring onions, strawberries, rhubarb and a mini orchard as a haven of peace for the elderly people living in Clifton Nursing Home.

The garden was officially unveiled yesterday by The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell, who praised Peninsula’s initiative and generous gift to the care home. She says;

“Clifton Nursing Home’s memory garden is a very innovative and worth-while initiative and encourages the residents to spend more time in the fresh air, take pride in watching their garden flourish and even taste the fruits of their labour. The care home’s chef Brian White made a delicious rhubarb crumble that we all sampled today, using fresh garden rhubarb. The pride in the residents’ faces was priceless and there were lots of smiles all round.”

Jonny Cook says;

“This has been a particularly exciting project for Peninsula as we always endeavour to give something back to our clients. The garden will bring joy for years and will hopefully bring a lot of horticultural therapy and enjoyment to the residents. Jilly Dougan did a fantastic job and we’re very proud of the beautiful and productive edible garden.”

Jilly says;

“There is a lot of evidence to support the therapeutic qualities and benefits of gardening with older people, especially those living with dementia. The gentle exercise helps to relieve stress and the sensory garden stimulates a lot of memories as older people may remember growing the herbs and fruit when they were young. The taste is more vibrant and nutritious too and the herbs will also flower and become a source of nectar for pollinators.”

Stuart Johnstone, manager of Clifton Nursing Home, is delighted with the project. He says,

“The transformation of our garden is amazing, thanks to Jonny and his team at Peninsula Care Services. Residents derive real calm and serenity from having access to such a beautiful garden and the aroma and tastes conjures up a lot of good nostalgic memories. Jilly Dougan did an excellent job and has cleverly designed the garden within the existing raised beds, hence the residents have easy access and they love being out in the fresh air. They particularly love picking the rhubarb and feel that they are helping the chef prepare the evening meals. The garden has given the residents a new lease of life, thanks to the memory garden; an excellent gift from Peninsula.”

Interview with Greggs Area Manager

Yesterday I had the pleasure of having a cup of coffee with Mr Michael McAllister, the Area Manager for Greggs in NI. Michael joined in March this year, after spending 23 years working for Asda. He is a local man and understands the NI economy and tastes well. We met at the Boucher Crescent store which opened in March this year. These stand alone shops are independent of the ones in the Applegreen service stations.

Mr John Gregg started in 1941 as Gregss of Gosforth in Gosforth High Street, Newcastle-U-Tyne. That was the 1st shop (round the corner from where I lived at University and I was a regular!!). His son took over and embarked on a massive expansion. There are now approximately 1900 stores across the UK. Here there are 3 so far (Royal Avenue, Boucher Crescent and Dargan) with a big 44 seater opening mid September in Castle Lane and then a big 44 seater in Donegal Square West with Head Quarters upstairs, later in the year. The third generation Mr Gregg is also in the family run firm. 

Michael was telling me that thrice a week they receive deliveries of frozen savouries, pastries and bread and baguette dough from their Clydesmill bakery in Edinburgh. The bread and baguettes are baked fresh every day and made into delicious sandwiches and filled baguettes using pre planned recipes with strict measures of locally sourced ingredients. These are all planned by the Technical Team in the Lake District, who also look at allergens, nutritional values and ingredients. They have developed Healthy Choice sandwiches at less than 400 calories and are launching the same in savouries soon.

As a big National Company Greggs take Corporate Social Responsibility very seriously. They have embarked on several initiatives:

The first is Breakfast Club for Schools. Each store would choose a school (which meets certain criteria) to help and would supply them with bread, fruit etc for their breakfast. In the case of the Boucher Crescent store the school is St Joseph’s Primary and the Head would come pick up thrice a week. Michael would also pay them a visit. He was very proud to announce as a result of this initiative the attendance has gone up by 75%!!!!
The second is at the end of the day’s trading any unused products are packed and given to their nominated charity, which is Home Trust NI. 
After our Fairtrade coffee which was delicious, Michael presented me with my favourite Greggs product, a chicken bake and a cheese and onion bake for my wife and a selection of donuts. The bakes didn’t take last long and were delicious and the donuts went down a treat with a cuppa tea, my favourite was the caramel one. Greggs will do well in NI, they cater for everyone from breakfast, tea breaks, lunch, snacks, parties and evening meals. Their pricing structure is excellent and their staff training and care is brilliant. There is also an app for Greggs and stores have free wifi voted best on the high street. Point of note the savoury display units are lit up and are for display purposes only, they do not keep the savouries hot, as we in NI are used to. The staff do a sterling job of baking little and often. I would like to thank Michael and the team at Boucher for the time and the treats!!

Belfast’s newest dinner/entertaining experience 

My date was my cousin and we had a blast at the newest dinner/entertainment experience in Belfast. Teppanyaki (Japanese for hot plate cooking) is a very social experience. Approximately 10-15 people sit aroundone of three hot plates and the chef cooks in front of you, fresh food and juggles knives, forks, spatulas, tosses eggs, throws bits of omelette into your mouth-I caught mine…..after 2nd attempt, and no I didn’t have egg on my face haha!!!!

We started with some tasty, light miso soup (seaweed, scallions and tofu soup) spiced with chilli, soy and wasabi to taste. Then the main event. Mr Genelito (chef) is not a stranger to Belfast. He was Teppanyaki chef at Harbour View many moons ago before William (China China) brought him back from London.

Mr G started by flambéing the hot plate with brandy-the fire was hot,high and intense. Then he started cooking the egg fried rice-that’s when he tossed the omelette into my mouth-he also showed us his machine gun egg chopping!!!! We chose the chicken and king prawn Teppanyaki which he cooked and lastly he cooked fresh vegetables and bean sprouts. Word of warning the portion sizes are huge!!! Great value for £33, definitely go back for more!!!

PS the dishes in the wooden boats were our dining neighbours and were exquisitely prepared and presented. 3 Levels is one restaurant on three levels. The ground floor is a cafe, 1st floor is a Chinese and top floor is Teppanyaki/Japanese.

My first BBQ 2016

I am so embarrassed and p..sed off as today was my first BBQ for nearly 2 years!!!!! Aaagggghhhh the weather here is cr.p!!!! Nyways I fired up my Wee mini pink BBQ bucket from TESCO with real charcoal and honestly guys I started with charcoal, moved to gas and back to charcoal. The taste of charcoal is far superior, but yes it takes longer to cook and is more weather dependent!!

I marinated two chicken breasts in my tandoori masala. To accompany it I made a veggie risotto using two serving spoons of my veggie delight and 3/4 glass of arborio risotto rice. I cooked this for 40 minutes whilst the chicken was on the BBQ. 

Plated it up and had a fab meal. U want some?

Whilst coals are still hot cook other stuff. I did quorum sausages and garlic!!


Lunch at The Sleepy Hollow

I treated myself to a spot of lunch at The Sleepy Hollow. Chef and proprietor Paul took over in early 2013 and has taken this place to great heights. 
On arrival I was seated and presented with a bottle of ice cold water before choosing cod and chips for my main course. The lunch menu is on a single sheet and has a very varied choice from all local producers. Great value of two courses for £14.50 or three for £16.50-I only managed a main for less than a tenner!!

The restaurant itself is a 55 seater, split into three rooms on two levels, with an ample car park. The bare stone walls and exposed wooden beams give it great character. There is also a lovely farm shop (which I believe is to close,such a pity).

When my food arrived it came on a rectangular wooden board (not a fan of wooden boards). There was a Wee shot of beer, a mini bucket of fresh tartare sauce (could really taste the capers!!) a deliciously fried piece of cod resting on mushy peas and wedge of lemon resting on the peas also, lastly a mini pan of four crispy,very fat, thrice fried organic Marris Piper chips!!! The portion size was amazing and I didn’t need starters or dessert or tea/coffee. There is an extensive wine list and the Christmas Menu is ready. This is definitely a restaurant to find and visit as you will really enjoy!!!!

veggie delight risotto 

Today for lunch I made a risotto using my veggie delight. I heated 30g salted Abernethy butter and added 2 sliced garlic cloves. After 2 minutes I added two fistfuls of risotto rice and stirred and cooked for 4 minutes. I then added 500ml boiling water and simmered for 15 minutes. I then added two serving spoons of the veggie mix and cooked for 6 minutes. The dish was now ready to serve and I added some cheddar cheese. Lunch is served!!!

Vegetable delight

How can you spruce up veg and make kids eat it? I’ve come up with this recipe and uses. The aim here is to try and get different vegetables, cook it up and use them in different dishes. Let me explain how I made it and then uses.


  1. 3 bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  2. 6 celery stalks, finely chopped
  3. 8 mushrooms chopped
  4. 1 bag of spinach leaves
  5. 3 cloves garlic finely diced
  6. 1 inch ginger finely diced
  7. 1 tbls dark soy sauce
  8. 1 tsp sesame oil
  9. 1/2 tbls coconut oil


  1. Heat oil in pan (I used a 4 litre one)
  2. Add peppers and sweat for 3 mins, then celery and sweat for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes
  4. Add the spinach and sesame oil, mix and put lid on and let it sweat down and wilt for 5 minutes.

There will be lots of juices which if you keep cooking will evaporate leaving a lovely sauce. Should look like this:

I made a two egg omelette with one serving spoon of the veg. Other recipes or dishes you could use this would be in wraps with cheese, as a baked potato filling, in rice or noodles as a stir fry or pasta dishes. Any veg can be used I just happened to have these in mine!! It’s simple to make, quick and can be made in bulk in advance and frozen or chilled.