My birthday treat

My wife and girls took me out for my belated birthday lunch at Olivers on the Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast. A great place, wonderful service and super prices.

 I had ribs to start and wife had goats cheese melt. Kids had fish and chips and chicken goujons and chips. The portion sizes were brilliant and so very tasty. For mains I had king prawn red curry and my wife had the special of monk fish with chips. Again perfection!! For dessert we all shared sticky toffee pudding and creme brûlée. Washed down with water and all for £40-excellent vfm!!

Healthy Freshii

My wife and I were invited to the official launch of Freshii in Belfast. The restaurant is housed in the old Sony Centre in Donegall Square West and it’s a fantastically designed space. The mantra for the Canadian started, global health casual restaurant, that is  Freshii is: Eat.Energize and it’s perfect. 

The Irish franchise CEO is Dave O’Donoghue who said “Freshii’s core mission is to help people live healthier and better lives by making nutritious food convenient and affordable and the reaction in Ireland has been phenomenal so far. We are really excited about growing the Freshii brand in Northern Ireland – we are investing and creating over 100 jobs while satisfying consumer demand for healthy food.”

We tried the chicken Cobb and chicken market wraps, mini Khao San burrito,mighty detox and carrot zinger juice, peanut energy bar and took a chicken Mediterranean bowl home to share with our kids, who by the way loved it as did we. I must say we thought that this restaurant idea is a very healthy alternative to fried fast food, loaded with salt, bad fats and empty calories and nutrition devoid fayre currently on offer!!

Freshii offers a delicious and diverse menu including breakfast, tossed salads, hot bowls, burritos, healthy wraps, soups, fresh pressed juices, smoothies and frozen yogurt, that energise people on the go, served in an eco-friendly environment. 

Freshii meal choices are based on fibre-rich, slow-burning carbs, essential fats and lean proteins. With over 70+ ingredients and homemade salad dressings made fresh daily, Freshii makes clean eating approachable and flavourful. Freshii also caters for every dietary and taste bud preference including paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and wheat free. 

For the global founder Matthew Corrin (from Toronto), a family man and very successful entrepreneur, Freshii is his third baby!! He had a vision, developed it, grew it and Freshii now has a global presence. Keep up to date via:

Twitter/Instagram @freshii

Royal Caribbean Luncheon

I was extremely honoured to attend a lunch hosted by Royal Caribbean yesterday. The venue was Cliff Townhouse on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. After arriving by Enterprise train from Belfast to Connolly station and then ferried by cab, I arrived in time to carry on my chat with Mr Derek McKnight. 

Derek, who hails from Cork, was gracious enough to share his thoughts with me during a Phone interview with him last November. He was a pleasure to talk to on the phone and it was a huge honour to actually get to meet him in the flesh and continue our conversation. 

He is currently on leave from his position as Food & Beverage Director onboard Oasis of the Seas. Derek McKnight is fully responsible for the entire Food & Beverage operation onboard, with a team of 1,100 crew members, which is more than half of the entire crew. He is passionate about driving implementations onboard for new initiatives and directives from shore side. He also looks after all VIP guests, groups and charters with elaborate requirements in line with the Royal Way Philosophy.

 Derek began his career with Royal Caribbean in 2008 as Executive Chef onboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, each with a combined capacity 8,500 passengers and crew. In this role he was in charge of all aspects of running the food operation, which included a management team of 350 culinary staff, 24 food outlets ranging from 3 fine dining restaurants, 8 themed specialty restaurants and a 3,000 capacity 3 tier dining room, and on average served 80,000 meals a day.
Derek undertook his culinary education in Rockwell Hotel and Catering College before joining Cunard in 1989. He worked as an executive sous chef in Grand Cayman from 1996 for seven years. He returned to Ireland to open and run his own bar and restaurant in his hometown of Schull in West Cork in 2003, before joining Royal Caribbean in 2008.
Our lunch was expertly prepared, presented and served by the wonderful staff. For starters I chose the salmon. This was a wonderful plate of organic salmon (red) and smoked salmon with beetroot, horseradish creme fraiche, lemon and salad leaves with fresh bread and butter. This was definitely the best starter as it was served in a clear dome over the starter filled with smoke which really added to the flavour!!

My main course was a very generous fish pie which was packed with prawns and cod, to name but two types of seafood present. It was served in a light creamy sauce with hints of samphyre and topped with fluffy potato. It was amazing!! Unfortunately I had to leave before my creme brûlée to catch my train. I would like to sincerely thank Louise and Aoife from Aiken PR for kind invite and travel, Royal Caribbean for hosting and Derek for his time and his snippets of info about his life before the high seas and on the high seas as chef extraordinaire!!!!

Mexican brekkie wrap

I thought I would try and recreate a breakfast wrap I had in Mexico City. I used wholemeal seeded wraps for extra health and I made plain scrambled eggs and tomato ketchup for my two daughters (picture up top). For me I had the scrambled eggs with mushroom, onion and cheese and fresh red chillies 🌶. A fiery way to start the day!!

N Irish lamb two ways!!

Carrying on with the Easter theme and using Northern Irish Lamb  from Tesco NI I decided to cook up a bit of an Indian feast.

I used two packs of chopped lean lamb leg steaks (450g each) from Tesco. The first I marinaded in yoghurt and chilli/garlic pickle and second in my Tandoori masala. I also made daal turka using East End Yellow Split Lentils in my Ikea Pressure cooker cooked in 30 minutes.

Meanwhile I cooked the lamb tikka in my Halogen oven which, was also very quick, taking 10 minutes each side and having the characteristic charred ends.

I served up the lamb tikka for starter and the achari ghost with chapati, pilau, daal turka,potato and green beans, chapati and salad. A rather sumptuous and tasty twist on an Easter classic I think…..

Himalayan Rock Salt

The award winning Mountain Salts have a myriad of uses and health benefits. They are naturally occurring salts which contain a whole host of minerals and nutrients for the health and well being of man and beast. They are mined, produced, packed and shipped from the Nepalese Himalayas to Northern Ireland. They can be purchased from Joanne’s stand at Castlecourt in Belfast.

They can be used in cooking as natural salt, to cook on and to chop on. Being salt they are naturally anti bacterial. Animals in their natural habitats would lick the salt when they require a salt boost and would know when to stop. Hence they can be used on farms for livestock. The salt can also be built into salt walls to dry age meat.

The salts can be made into lamps and the filament bulbs heat the salt and release negative ions which have a whole range of health properties as outlined above. They basically work by countering positive ions in the atmosphere.

The salts are also excellent in the bath and are very good for the skin. I would thoroughly recommend them for cooking, health (externally and internally), lamps and pets. 

Happy Easter Meal from Tesco

Happy Easter to one and all!!! To help us celebrate Easter the very kind people at @Tesco_NIreland and @SERIOUSPR delivered some wonderful local produce yesterday!!

Three bags packed with enough produce for a couple of 4 course meals for 4 people!!

As you can see there was two tubs of Vegetable broth, 2 packs of lamb leg steaks (I will cook these Indian masala style), 1 lamb shoulder (I will slow roast this in Tandoori masala)- lamb being Northern Irish. Vegetables consisting of spuds, carrot & broccoli, cabbage (I will make slaw), tobacco onions, fresh rosemary and garlic.

For dessert there was two crumbles (Rhubarb and apple) and fresh custard. For the last course a selection of cheese, biscuits, preserves and grapes. There was also a nice bottle of Oxford Landing Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (which I gave away as we don’t partake in the juice of the vine!!!).

As can be seen enough food to last us over the holiday period!! Happy Easter from all of us to all of you and thanks to Tesco NI and Serious PR!!

Butter chicken tikka, butter beans and brown pilau

I treated my girls to a naughty but nice, east meets west meal of butter chicken tikka, butter bean masala and brown rice pilau. 

Let’s start with the brown rice which is whole grain rice, with the inedible outer hull removed. White rice is the same grain with the hull, bran layer and cereal germ removed and hence brown rice is healthier. To cook it requires 50% more water. I added some chick peas and daal to the mix and cooked with the requisite amount of water. The rice came out perfectly, separate and ‘dry’.

The butter chicken tikka was the piece de resistance!! I marinated two chopped chicken breasts in my tandoori masala paste overnight. I cooked this in my Halogen over (200oC 8 mins each side). This gave a perfectly cooked, slightly charred chicken mimicking a real charcoal tandoor. The masala sauce, which I had prepared earlier (recipe on request), was heated with ghee, onions and mushrooms. Once the chicken was ready I just added the chicken and juices to the sauce and simmered. 

Butter beans hail from South America and I used a tin of beans in water. I cooked these in pre prepared ‘tarka onions’ and ghee (again recipe on request-pls email me 

I served the butter chicken and beans on top of the rice and hey presto dinner was served. The girls and I loved it!!!