Lockdown Muesli Chunks

I concocted my latest lockdown sweet treat- ‘The Lockdown Muesli Chunks’. These are peanut buttery muesli and oat blocks which are full of energy and protein.

My ingredients for these are:

1. 300g tropical muesli

2. 100g of porridge oats

3. 125g unsalted butter

4. 125g smooth peanut butter (unsweetened)

5. 4 tablespoons of golden syrup or honey

This was quite easy to make. I pan roasted the oats until they turned light brown in a pan on medium heat (10 mins). I took these out and added the butter and peanut butter to the pan and allowed to melt, on medium heat, then mixed the syrup (honey can be used here).

I then added the muesli and oats and thoroughly mixed so all the syrupy butter had coated the muesli and oats.

The mixture was then placed onto grease proof foil/paper, rolled and a weight was placed on this before placing in fridge for a few hours to set.

I then cut them into fairly big chunks, about 2 inch cubes. My girls and I really enjoyed!!! Great with a cuppa, as a snack, as part of brekkie or snack after exercise!!

My tweeked 15’s, a classic N Irish traybake

This staying in has got me doing more sweet dish baking and making than I’ve ever done. First it was the Scottish Tiffin, then shortcake and now an enhanced Northern Irish classic, 15’s.

The name 15’s came from the number of ingredients and ultimately the number of the finished product. The original recipe ingredients or ratio used were as follows:

1. 15 digestive biscuits, crushed

2. 15 Marsh mallows, quartered

3. 15 glacé cherries, quartered

4. 200 ml condensed milk (sweet)

5. 100g desiccated coconut

My twist was that I used:

1. 400g or 1 packet digestives (28)

2. 400ml condensed milk

3. 45 mini marshmallows

4. 120g bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate

For both recipes the digestives were crushed (I did this by using a rolling pin and literally breaking them up while still in packet). I crushed the chocolate as well, with rolling pin and in the packet. Then all the ingredients were put into a mixing bowl and mixed together before placing on a sheet of parchment paper (I used foil backed parchment paper) and moulded into a block. This was then placed in the fridge for four hours.

After four hours I removed from fridge, unwrapped the paper and cut up into 30 healthy sized chunks…..ready to eat and oh boy, they were amazing….come on over and share them before my girls and I devour them!!!!

I did cut 30 pieces, but we ate three last night!! In the original recipe the moulded block would have been rolled in the coconut before being chilled. The chocolate pieces really gave a richness to my recipe. Happy baking and stay safe.

My sweet indulgence during lockdown

I decided to make some ‘comfort’ treats for me and my girls. I had been wanting to make this tray bake-a twist on the Scottish Tiffin.

It’s rich and chocolatey and indulgent!! I blitzed a pack of digestives (400g) and added these to 250g of melted butter and 5 tablespoons of golden syrup. This was spread into a buttered dish. Then I melted 3 x 120g bars of Cadbury’s Dime chocolate. This was spread on top of the biscuit base and chilled.

It took great restraint not to eat more than the three pieces I ate whilst cutting it last night……it won’t last for long in my house!!!!

My 7 skills for Online Restaurant Marketing

As a writer I have lots of skills which restaurants can utilise in their marketing. Indeed I have been asked to collaborate with numerous restaurants and outlets to help promote their opening, change of menus, new dishes, events and general marketing.

The skills which I would use would include copywriting (this is a whole separate subject which I may talk about in a later post), taking pictures and/or video for blogs, vlogs and social media, being able to tell the “story” either from proprietors or a consumers perspective.

The key skills would be:

1. Rapport
This is key as if the chemistry and trust is strong between myself and client then the relationship will be fruitful.

2. Expertise. 
By this I mean having knowledge of the restaurant, food and hospitality industry. I keep up to date with this by attending industry shows and events, reading industry magazines, watching online and TV programmes on restaurant related topics, visit and dine in numerous establishments and talk to people in the industry ie keeping my finger on the pulse of the restaurant life.

3. Time
I have the time to spend in my research and then in my writing for the clients. I can take their brief and fashion it in the best way to meet their needs and this is in my own time. Restaurants may not have the confidence or know how to do these things and may not have time to devote to this.

4. Copywriting
This is a huge buzz word in the world of internet marketing and is really where the restaurant buys into. It is simply the writing of bespoke content for the client based on their brief and my knowledge and its execution.

5. Pictures/video
“A picture paints a 1000 words” and always helps to convey the story and now with video this medium is the way forward. It takes a “special eye” to take good quality and relevant pictures/video and again the client may not have this.

6. Reputation and Experience
With over 6 years in the game I have certainly gained experience and this can be a valuable skill to use.

7. Ability to tell the “Story”
This would be how I have performed in the past and could be backed up by testimonials.

These would be my main skillsets and although this is a modest list I feel this distills the main points.

Tour of Belfast City Hall

I paid City Hall a visit yesterday and thought I’d share with you.

City Hall is the home of Belfast City Council. The council has 90 councillors who serve for 4 years. Each year a Lord Mayor is elected from Unionist or Nationalist on alternate years. This year the Lord Mayor is the Nationalist Daniel Barker. They meet at 6pm on the first Monday of each month in the chamber.

Prior to this they would “robe up” in the Robe Room.

Red robe for the councillors, Black and Gold for the Lord Mayor and Purple for the High Sheriff.

On entering City Hall there is a spacious hall with wonderfully crafted and ornate pillars and walls and a grand stair case. The flooring is marble and this forms the lower part of the Rotunda.

The Dome of the City Hall is 53m high and the chandelier has 100 bulbs and weighs 1.5 tonnes. City Hall was constructed between 1896 and 1906 and has a twin in Durban, S Africa.

In days gone by City Hall would have been used for gatherings, parties and functions. There are three rooms where functions are held. The Reception hall, Reception Room and Great Hall.

Reception Hall
Reception Room
Great Hall

Other notable features include the majestic stained glass windows:

Also of note is the painting depicting Chichester reading the Belfast Charter and a Black statue of one of his descendants. The Coat of Arms is also noteworthy.

There are usually exhibitions held throughout the year and also refreshments are available in the coffee shop. Definitely worth visiting and availing of the free tours.

Belfast City Hall

IFEX Belfast postponed due to Covid19

It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we have to inform you that IFEX 2020 will no longer take place between 24 – 26 March as planned. We have spent the last few days planning for a contingency and are pleased that we have managed to secure dates later in the year and the event will instead take place from 17 – 19November 2020 at TEC, Belfast.

This is due to the significant escalation of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases across the United Kingdom as well as the announcement by the World Health Organisation that COVID-19 is now labelled a pandemic.

We understand how this may come as a huge disappointment, however we as organisers believe it is our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff comes first and the right thing to do is postpone the event now, rather than wait for the Government to officially halt mass gatherings and events in the UK.

The effects, actual and projected, of coronavirus are becoming evident across the globe and the climate in which we are operating is changing in real time. Whilst we have been paying close attention to the World Health Organisation and have been following the advice from Public Health Authority in Northern Ireland and Public Health England it leaves us with little option but to make the decision to postpone the event to later in the year when we hope the effects have subsided.

We would like to thank you for your energy and enthusiasm and hope you can appreciate the difficulty of our position and hope that the change in dates will be welcomed by all.  

Due to the time of the postponement, we ask for your understanding that all detailed questions regarding IFEX may take time to be answered and we ask you to bear with us.

Your registration will be automatically transferred across to the new dates and we thank you in advance for your continued support and understanding and we look forward to welcoming you in November.

Day trip around Belfast for P7 kids

Last week 90 intrepid P7 kids (10/11-year-old) were treated to a superb trip to the Thompson Dry Dock, a Belfast City Sightseeing Tour and tour of Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate.

Our guide at the Thompson Dry Dock was the self-proclaimed “Titanorak” Colin. Colin knows the Dry Dock inside out and he was fantastic at explaining the history of the place with the aid of his photograph folder which shows actual copies of pictures taken at the time of the Titanic.

He certainly knew his facts about the place. Did you know that the Pump House pumped out 168 million pints of Sea Water in 100 minutes or that when the Titanic was launched, it took 62 seconds and 22 tonnes of grease? What about the three different hats the workers of H&W wore (Duncher, bowler and Top) or that the Dry Dock door was called a Caisson and was 1000 tonnes in weight, 8 foot thick and took 6 minutes to close!!!

Colin explained how the Titanic structure was built on the Slipway (in the Arroll Gantry), launched on the 30th May 1911, fitted out in the Dry Dock with 29 boilers, 4 chimney stacks (3 worked, 4th was for ventilation) and all its fixtures and fittings. It was then officially launched on 2nd April 1912 from Belfast and then Southampton on the 10th April before hitting the iceberg on the 14th and sinking on the 15th. 2224 people were on board, only 710 survived.

We were taken down the steps to the bottom of the dock, some 50 foot below sea level and walked the length of the 850-foot dock, marveling at the 320 plus, 4-tonne, keel blocks on which the spine of the Titanic rested. It was very eerie to be down there and amazing to think of the water being let in through the 2 culverts and pumped out by the pump house. Amazing feats of engineering.

Continue reading “Day trip around Belfast for P7 kids”

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the relatively new and very useful tool that has the internet advertisers and marketers excited.
What is SEO? The definition for SEO (as per Wikipedia) is, “the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine”.

That’s a bit of a mouth full!! In essence, it means how to get your web page as high up the search list as possible, preferably the first page without paying for it. This can be an extremely valuable tool to have if one wants to advertise a service, venue or product. 

How can one use SEO? SEO can use pictures, text or video to rank pages so there is a myriad of ways to use SEO. The way a search engine ranks a page depends on how many keywords there are, their positions on the page and links to other pages and from other pages. These are found by “Spiders” (computer program) which “crawl” through the net and try and find pages according to their keywords (or images), pictures and/or links. There are, of course, computer algorithms that calculate this and rank the page in terms of relevance.

This is the valuable part of SEO because if one understands how SEO works then one can then tailor web pages to maximise exposure and rank and can then use this for marketing purposes. Of course, there is money to be made here either by writing web pages/sites for eCommerce or just to advertise goods, services or products. 

Here are some ways to improve SEO:
1. have useful, high-quality and relevant content
2. optimise images
3. use header tags
4. have outbound links
5. use different media formats
6. have clear readability and formatting
7. use a contact page
8. have clear site architecture and navigation
9. optimise for mobile usage
10. use social sharing

In summary, SEO is very dynamic and as more people use mobile phones SEO needs to be optimised for its use. Happy SEOing!!!

Tips for starting a blog

A blog is short for ‘web-log’ and is exactly what the name implies ie a descriptive piece of text written on an electronic social media platform rather like a high tech diary/journal entry.

The power of the blog is infinite. It’s a carte blanche to write anything one likes about their goods, products, services at any time and without having to go through gate keepers, like one would need to do if using traditional media.

With that in mind it is very clear that this is an excellent medium to disseminate information.

The biggest hurdle for me was to decide:

  1. That I would start a blog
  2. The name and web address
  3. The content
  4. The frequency

I was always into food and decided in December 2013 that I would start. I brainstormed some names on paper and settled for belfastfoodman and then registered my web site and all my social media accounts. I decided I was going to write about food and in particular local produce and restaurants. I decided I would post at least once a week. I’ve been tweaking ever since!!

The important points to note if one is thinking of blogging is who will write the content, who will post it, who will monitor it and how often and how much time to devote.

I would suggest to personally set it all up, it’s a great learning experience!! Then dedicate a time per week to pick a title, research, write and post.

There are so many different topics to write about. One could blog about food, drink, service, business, people, recipes, specials the list is endless. It’s a great way to advertise what one has to offer and is a great way to connect with potential customers.

The best advice is to decide to start and then take action. There is a lot to learn on the journey…..

How to overcome Writers Block.

It strikes everyone at some time in their writing careers. It can happen often for some whilst some may not suffer for long periods of time. I’m talking about the dreaded “Writers Block” and yes it has even afflicted yours truly!!

In my experience, there are many ways to mitigate this wee problem and I say wee as it really is a small issue but if left untreated will grow, so nip it in the bud! The first thing to do is to admit that it can and does happen and will affect ones writing life.

Secondly to avoid the block pick an exciting topic, one that you are passionate about and have some kind of expertise/experience with. An example would be like the piece I wrote in my blog about Chilli chicken pieces (https://belfastfoodman.com/2020/02/20/carolina-reaper-chicken-chunk). I love chillis and I wrote about the product, how I cooked it and what it tasted like. I could also talk about chilli heat and its measurement and could have gone into depth about the biochemistry and physiology but tailored my article appropriately.

The third way to prevent the Block would be to research the topic in detail. Read books, newspapers, other blogs, talk to people in the field you are researching in person or email or by phone. When all the information is gathered then sift through and summarise and put into a plan. Then start to pad it out.

The next way to reduce the Block is to have a dedicated time slot to write and a writing station. I like to do my writing on a Friday and I would usually do so in my living room whilst watching a movie. Others may like to do so with a glass of wine or in their study etc. Sometimes a change of scenery is required and I would often take myself off to a coffee shop or the library. Even on the job. 

In summary admit that a Block may happen, have a plan and stick to it, research it well and if there is a Block then try a different approach. Happy writing people!!