Two meals using Donegal Catch

I got a few goodies to try from the recent Tesco Taste Fest. I got Donegal Catch frozen hake, cauliflower rice and gluten free fish fingers. All from Green Isle Foods.

For my first meal (for four) I made a sort of paella/biryani!! I fried off diced onions, peppers, ginger and garlic and then added the cauliflower rice, brown rice, spices, tinned tomatoes, water and three hake fillets. Brought to boil then simmered for 30 minutes. Added cooked king prawns, coriander, masala and salt to taste. Served with chopped red onions and cumin raita.

Meal two was a straightforward fish finger sandwich with homemade chilli tartare sauce for me and ketchup for my two girls lunch!!! All in brown bread. I cooked the fingers in my halogen and have to admit they looked a bit pale after cooking, however tasted crunch and cooked to perfection!! The chilli tartare was fab!!

All available at Tesco.

Deluxe hot dogs

A great hot dog needs a fantastic roll- I used a brioche. This was a good quality brioche which didn’t break up like a lot of them!! It also needs a meaty, straight and full of flavour sausage- I used Barry Johns Bacon, Mushroom and black pudding sausage, which has 75% meat!!

I cooked the sausages in my halogen oven and they cooked perfectly in it and no mess or lingering smells in the kitchen!!

I served in the brioche with extra mature cheddar and red sauce and brown sauce…..I’m a brown sauce man!!

Belfast‚Äôs very own Chilli ūüĆ∂ producer

At the recent Irish Vegan Festival held in The Europa H√ītel I stumbled across this amazing stand called Blackfire Artisan Chilli Sauces.

Initially I was very pleased as I’m a huge chilli fan but also sceptical as I’ve had chilli sauces before and have been disappointed by their taste and heat levels. When I tried the Blackfire sauces, in ascending order of heat, I was literally blown away. At last I’ve got to taste locally grown and manufactured chilli sauce with genuine taste and heat!!

I got chatting to the owner, Tim McCarthy and he told me that he grew 22 different chilli varieties at his home and made six sauces.

We arranged to meet up at his home so he could show me his labour of love. Yesterday was that day!!

Tim brought me into his very spacious and colourful living/cooking space which was also his finishing room for his maturing chilli plants. It was also well decked out with Halloween decorations courtesy of his two children!! Also he had all kinds of Vegetarian cook books.

We sat around his kitchen table and chatted about his love of chillis. Tim has been vegetarian since 1983 (as are his family) and his love of spicy food came from his mum. He experimented with chilli and spice growing up and during his school and University life (Tim is an accomplished street artist). Whilst working for BBC Tim had numerous long and exotic holidays which took him to West Africa, Vietnam, Mexico and Nepal (honeymoon) where chilli played a major role in cooking. This was really his stimulus to grow chillis and create sauces at home in Belfast.

Pride of place in the middle of the table was a bowl of fiery red Carolina Reaper chillis-the second hottest chilli in the world. Tim was telling me that this time of year is best for harvesting and the colours of the chillis are at their best.

The process starts with germination from seeds and then growth in heated polytunnel in garden.

The plants are then brought into the kitchen space to mature.

Above are (clockwise) Carolina Reapers, Jalape√Īos, mushroom and habaneros.

After harvesting Tim then preps the chillis and ingredients (natural and local including pears and dulce) for manufacture of his 6 sauces.

Sauces in descending heat from left to right. They are all made and bottled and labelled and despatched from his home (which has hygiene rating of 5 stars).

Tim presented me two bottles,his hottest sauce, The Belfastard and Hot House which I am raring to use!! Tim was saying that these sauces can be used as dips, relishes, in cooking and anywhere where heat is required!!

Tim is based in South Belfast, is Artisan so can be found in local markets and several artisan stores. His website is

A big thank you to Tim for his time, really looking forward to the sauce and watch out for new additions in the near future!!!

Love Your Home Show

I visited here this morning and was impressed. The Love Your Home show 2018 is running today, tomorrow (13th October) and Sunday (14th) at The Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

The space is filled with all things “homely” from new builds, extensions, renovations, refurbs to home automation, food and gadgets!! There are also demonstrations on throughout the day and it’s all free!!

I bumped into very good friends of mine who have stands here. Firstly was the Old Irish Creamery stand which specialises in premium Irish Cheddar and flavoured cheddar. I got to taste a few and have a few to share with my girls (flavours being extra mature white, pepper cheese, cheddar with strawberries and oak smoked!!).

Secondly was my pal Barry Johns award winning County Cavan meaty (75% pork) Pork sausages. Barry was serving up samples of about 10 different varieties (which I got to taste). He has changed his branding to a newer, bolder and stronger design which is much better. Barry also told me that he is in the 2019 Guinness Book of Records for producing most numbers of sausages in one minute… amazing feat!!!

I’ve got four different packs (above) to try out!! Both the stands have excellent offers so get down and try them out before you buy!!

The show promises to be really busy. If you are planning to refurb, Renew, refresh or want some Christmas gift ideas…..then this is the place to go…..

Irish Vegan Festival

My wife and I were at the Irish Vegan Festival on Sunday past at The Europa H√ītel.

What is Vegan? It is any body who does not use or consume any animal products. That’s a pretty tall order!! At the festival there were films, talks, stalls and information pertaining to all things Vegan.

We had a stand called Chai Bar NI selling Indian Masala Chai made with freshly milled spices and Oat Milk. We also provided fresh, authentic Henna or Mehndi by Binder.

There were several excellent stalls worth mentioning that I got to see. The first was an amazing cake stall. This was called Kandy Kanes Cakes.

On offer were amazing cakes and bakes all made without milk, eggs, cream and butter. We had some and they were as good as, if not better than ones with the aforementioned!!

These stalls were downstairs on the ground floor. There was also another stall which was selling belts, wallets, shoes and bags using cork instead of leather!!

In the Grand Ballroom there were more food stalls.

A couple of stands which took my fancy were Blackfire Artisan Foods who specialise I’m locally produced chilli ūüĆ∂ (More to come in later blogs)

and also Plant Based Living. This is a super enterprise run by brother and sister (the very talented Nuala McKeever, who incidentally is on tour….check the flyer!!)

John runs the company and makes all sorts of lovely dips and foods, all without any animal products. I got to try them and they were fantastic. I will be writing more about John in later blogs!!

The show will return next year!!

Succulent pork fillet

At the recent Tesco Taste Fest I was lucky to grab a lovely looking piece of pork fillet from the Cookstown brand.

I was a bit puzzled by the cooking instructions as it says to remove all packaging and place fillet in oven dish. Due to peppercorn sauce I decided to transfer the joint and meat into foil and then into an oven dish. It cooked superbly at the required temperature (I turned joint round 180o once). The joint came out delicious, succulent and melt in mouth. I served with garlic mash and Chinese stir fried vegetables and the meal was enjoyed by myself, wife and two girls.

Bites of India

This must truly be a pan Indian restaurant. By this I mean it serves Indian cuisine from North India to South India.

Bites of India is situated on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast.

I popped in for a chicken Dosa. Now a lot of folk may not know what a Dosa is. It is simply a large rice and lentil pancake, rolled over and stuffed with spicy potatoes (masala dosa) or like I had, a chicken Dosa (koli Dosa). This is served with a tangy sambhar, spicy green coconut chutney and a red chutney. Whilst I waited I was served a complimentary fresh, crispy popadom and a bottle of water.

When the dish arrived it was spectacular, it was big…..I quickly tore into it and was literally transferred back to Tamil Nadu in South India….it was so real and tasty. Definitely worth paying a visit to.

Local Restaurant wins Award

Local restaurant Bangla (115 Main St, Bangor BT20 4AF) has won an award at the inaugural Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards for the Best Restaurant and Takeaway in Northern Ireland. 

After public nominations, and a rigorous regional cook-off process, the Grand Finale event took place last night at the InterContinental London РThe O2 where the winning restaurants were announced.

Please find attached Press Release with further information (as well as below).

Inaugural Asian Restaurant & Takeaway Awards (ARTA) honours UK’s finest Curry Houses

The inaugural¬†Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards (ARTA),¬†the most prestigious celebration of South Asian cuisine in the UK,¬†paid homage to the UK‚Äôs finest curry housesat the¬†InterContinental London ‚Äď The O2¬†on the evening of¬†30th¬†September 2018.

ARTA 2018 welcomed a guest list of the nation’s most respected curry restaurateurs alongside MPs, dignitaries and celebrities as they collectively honoured the achievements of the industry. In attendance were Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir John Vincent Cable, television personality Lizzie Cundy, reality star Ben Jardine, Britain’s Next Top Model contestant Victoria Clay, cricketer Monty Panesar, TOWIE star Pascal Craymer among others,

The ceremony was hosted by television chef Ainsley Harriott and BBC news presenter Samantha Simmonds.

Interspersing the awards presentation was a curated world-class entertainment, including a performance by the evergreen Queen of Bollywood music, Alka Yagnik.The award Charity Partner, Chance to Shine, was represented on the night by ambassador and former England cricketer, Devon Malcom.

Winners at the Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards 2018 were:

·       Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Siraj Ali

·       National Champions of Champions: Curry Palace

·       National Chef of the Year: Bhaijaan’s Bombay Kitchen

·       National Newcomer of the Year: Tamasha

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in Thai: Bangkok Lounge

·       Thai Chef of the Year: Royal Thai Cuisine

·       Best of Brick Lane: Masala Restaurant

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in Scotland: The Radhuni

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in Northern Ireland: Bangla

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in Wales: The Grand Sultan

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in South East: The New Curry Centre

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in East Anglia: Cam Spice

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in South Central: Spice Lounge

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in South West: Spice Club

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in Kent: Taj Barming

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in North London: BayleafRestaurant

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in East London: Grand Trunk Road

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in North East: The Vine Indian Cuisine

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in North West: Hot Chilli Restaurant

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in East Midlands: The Spice Lounge

·       Best Restaurant & Takeaway in West Midlands: Royal Bengal

A message from¬†Prime Minister, Theresa May¬†conveyed,¬†‚ÄúThese prestigious awards are an excellent opportunity to celebrate the craft of the most talented chefs and highly skilled service staff responsible for producing exceptional British Asian Cuisine.¬†Asian cuisine has certainly become an immensely important and popular part of British life. Its success is owed, in no small part, to the talented restaurateurs and chefs who are being nominated for and receiving awards this year, and it is crucial that we recognise, promote and celebrate this.‚ÄĚ

ARTA founder, Mohammed Munim,¬†said at the event,¬†‚ÄúI began this journey to combine my passion for cuisine, culture, and community. I saw the incredible talent spread across the UK within the Asian restaurant and takeaway industry.‚ÄĚ


‚ÄúIt‚Äôs important to remember what has been done, but also to respect the next generation. From the very beginning I wanted this to be a moment that was about promoting the immense importance and popularity of the South Asian catering industry. And I wanted it to be a way to connect to the whole community.‚ÄĚ


‚ÄúWe kept this mission in the forefront of our mind when we created the nomination and judging process, always making sure to be as transparent as possible. These awards are truly based on the highest of merits and we wanted to ensure that when your future customers see that you have won an award, they‚Äôll know that you‚Äôve achieved one of the highest honours in the industry.‚ÄĚ

The Asian catering industry is valued at approximately £5 billion. Even so, over the years the industry has witnessed a steep downturn. This decline is largely attributed to the shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality sector, from a lack of talented chefs all the way through to front of house staff. This is due to the UK’s stringent immigration policy relating to skilled workers from outside the EU, coupled with a palpable sense of disinterest among younger people or job seekers with regard to the hospitality sector. The ARTA initiative has involved addressing this insufficiency. Through reaching out to current and prospective students at the regional cook-offs, ARTA has established a program of youth engagement that will help revitalise the food industry by targeting a demographic that is crucial to the future prosperity of the sector. As ARTA has been working with colleges nationwide, it has introduced the industry and prospective workers to one another, inspiring a symbiotic relationship.


Speaking at Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards, Leader of the Liberal Democrats,¬†Sir Vince Cable¬†said,¬†‚ÄúThe purpose of this evening is to celebrate the achievements of a very important industry. This is a four billion pound industry, which employs over a hundred thousand people, and makes a massive contribution to the British economy and to British society. But it‚Äôs also about saving the industry, not just celebrating it. I know that in recent years we‚Äôve been losing two restaurants a week – the pressures on the high street, the pressures on the industry are very great, and you‚Äôre going to need maximum political support in order to pull through a crisis in the industry.‚ÄĚ

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