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…78..an 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…..

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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

 Join the conversation:

#ARTA2018

The anatomy of a real Ham

The modern word “ham” is derived from the Old English ham or hom meaning the hollow or bend of the knee. From the 15th century it began to be referred to as the cut of pork derived from the hind leg of a pig. For years we have been consuming this cut of meat and most popularly and in recent times as part of the sandwich.

I began my quest to find out more…..The Chinese call the pork belly cut as having “5 levels of heaven”. Our fresh Northern Irish ham arguably has four, these being the outer layer of creamy fat, then the three muscles being topside, shank and silverside. These layers were pointed out by the master butcher from The Brady Family at the recent Tesco Taste Festival.

I was also explained that each proper ham is made from one leg which has been cured for three days, slow cooked for 12 hours, rested and then packed and dispatched. This gives the unique moist, succulent, fully flavoured ham. I was presented with pre packaged ham pieces and my favourite, 5 thick slices of ham wrapped in parchment paper.

These slices made me the best ham sandwiches I’ve ever had.

Hearty meal

As the nights are getting longer and it’s getting colder I decided to make a meal befitting the season.

I oven cooked a scrumptious chicken bake from Cloughbane and a stuffing loaf from TS Foods. The bake and loaf I got from Tesco NI Taste Fest, these can be bought from Tesco NI stores.

The loaf took longer to cook in the oven compared with the bake and when both were cooked they looked appetising. I served them with oven baked mushrooms and a side salad.

The bake and loaf fed 4 (my wife and two kids and I) of us and all four of us thoroughly enjoyed the firm, meaty and well seasoned loaf which complimented the creamy bake, which had generous amounts of chicken and carrots and a delightful crumbly crust.

Definitely worth a trip to Tesco to pick these products up!!