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John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

A sign that you’re getting older is the sheer impossibility of organising a get together with your friends. Weekends suddenly become jam packed with familial duties and weeknights are usually spent in a crumpled heap on the sofa, half-consciously scrolling through a screen. My friend John and I had been planning an evening of baking for the last three months (taking the biscuit just a little #bestpunever) and we don’t even have children to blame it on! Luckily we finally got our act together and locked in Monday for our reunion which was to be spent in the kitchen making delicious banana bread.

 

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And man, oh man was it yummy. We managed to turn my little galley kitchen in to a pop-up boulangerie with flour whirling and the smell of cinnamon hanging in the air. I acted as sous chef which involved handing over ingredients when needed and giving things the odd stir (so professional). Watching John in action was such a treat because as a recent financial administrator-turned-baker-extraordinaire, he has such a passion for baking and clearly loves what he does. It’s such a brave move to change careers like he has and he’s now baking for the most popular restaurants in Belfast – a move that paid off!

 

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So many crinkles, maybe it’s time I bought an iron? 
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After tasting the bread I begged John to let me share the recipe. It is so moreish and although I had his help, it is definitely not difficult for a beginner baker. The hardest part is having the patience to wait for it to bake! He has also passed on a few insider tricks which makes it very easy to get right the first time. The smell alone is pure heaven – the combination of cinnamon and ginger filled our house for hours! As we tucked in to our slice, steam still emanating from the loaf, I realised that maybe the best get-togethers are worth the wait. Especially when they involve delicious food.

 

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Yes he can bake and yes he is single 😉

I’ve included the recipe below for you to enjoy but if you have any questions or suggestions of your own please feel free to comment! Happy baking!


John’s Banana Bread Bonanza

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Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 4 x soft bananas (the browner the better before they get to complete mush!)
  • 3 x medium eggs
  • 50ml buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 x 900g loaf tin
  • 1 x stand mixer
  • 1 x mixing bowl
  • Baking sheets

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Using the stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together
  3. Add in soft bananas and beat for 40 seconds on a medium speed
  4. Take off the mixer and sieve in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, bicarbonate soda and salt. Gently fold in ingredients using a spatula.
  5. Add buttermilk and mix in with spatula until fully incorporated
  6. Grease the loaf tin with butter and line with a baking sheet
  7. Pour the mixture in to the tin
  8. Place in preheated oven for 5-10 mins and then turn the heat down to 170C and cook for another 25 minutes
  9. Test the mixture with a skewer and once it comes out clean the bread is done
  10. Enjoy with a big mug of tea!

 

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Cuddle Fairy
A Belfast Breakfast

A Belfast Breakfast

It’s Friday folks; we made it! I am feeling a lot more human today after a few days of feeling very ‘meh’ and being largely confined to my bedroom with nothing but Love Island to keep me company (get off your judgement pony, the show is chewing gum for the brain!). Now I am raring for a weekend full of plans and hopefully a little bit of dancing thrown in for good measure!

 

I have a work BBQ tonight which I am nerdishly excited about (I’m on the Social Committee so extra nerd points for me, thanks) and I am just praying that the rain clouds do the cool thing and feck off for a few hours. The rest of the weekend might involve a wee local festival or an afternoon drive but will definitely include brunch with my little sister who is coming up for a wee visit to the big smoke.

 

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Since moving to Belfast over two years ago it feels like there has been a new café opening every other weekend; the options are endless and there are still plenty of places that I am yet to try. Having visitors is the perfect excuse for exploring new spots and this weekend I’ll be taking Shannon for a feed that will no doubt be a cure for the night before.

 

Venturing out of the house for breakfast is a real treat and not something we do too often but when we do I like to really take my time to enjoy it. There are a few places that I definitely would recommend and so I thought I would include them in a post for those of you in need of a little inspiration for this weekend or for the next time you’re visiting this vibrant wee city of ours. I’m no fibber though so there are a couple here that are still on my hit list but that I’ve heard such good things about them that I’m sure you are bound to love them too. I hope.

 

Wishing you all a lovely weekend filled with whatever makes your heart and face happy 🙂

 

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If you’re lookin’ for a fry…

It wouldn’t be an Irish breakfast post without a mention of the Ulster Fry. When we were growing up my lovely Mum used to cook a full fry for us without fail every Saturday morning with enough carbs to fill a horse. Soda bread, potato bread, pancakes… no wonder I was an absolute puddin’ as a child. If you’re in the mood to have a feast then definitely give this lot a go…

Baker Street

This joint is in East Belfast so might not be too handy for some of you but for the likes of me on that side of town, this place is perfect for a weekend treat. There is a great variety on the menu in case you’re after something different but I would definitely recommend going the traditional route!

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Café Conor

An old reliable found in the Queen’s Quarter of town that always has a great wee buzz about it. It’s a handy place to go before going across the road to the Botanic Gardens or Ulster Museum to walk off the feast.

Town Square

Found beneath the trees of Botanic, this corner spot is a place I keep returning to. The food is always delicious and they have plenty of events on in the evenings in case you find yourself staying on for an all-day session!

 

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If you’re lookin’ for something guilt-free…

Going out for a heavy fry can sometimes feel a bit too much, especially when we’re supposed to be maintaining these summer bodies (ahem). The places above still offer a few healthy options but if you’re after some fresh seasonal ingredients then be sure to try either of these two.

The Skinny Kitchen

I’ve been hearing really great things about this from my healthy friends and I keep meaning to give it a whirl but I never seem to make the trek across the city. It’s on Boucher Road so it’s perfect if you’re planning on doing some shopping after but since it’s on the opposite side of town, I haven’t quite made it yet. Soon though!

 

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The Little Pink Kitchen

If you’re in to something a little bit different then you should check out The Little Pink Kitchen where you can enjoy a healthy home-cooked breakfast in Sarah’s very own kitchen. I’ve been lucky enough to taste Sarah’s food before at an Assembly Gathering I went to last Autumn and I practically licked the plate (her wild garlic dip was the talk of the event). You have to book but for £15 you will be fed very well. The next breakfast is on the 9th July and I think there’s a good chance I will be there!

 

If you’re so hungover all you can stomach is coffee…

As a non-coffee drinker (SHOCK! HORROR!), I tend to go by Andrew’s feedback as to which places do the tastiest coffee. There’s even a Belfast coffee map app now which is proof that the city is a hotspot for coffee-lovers!

Root & Branch

These guys have their own roastery on site so there was no doubt that their hole in the wall would go down a storm. Here you can grab a coffee, tea or small snack before exploring the rest of the Ormeau Road.

 

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When I lived in South Belfast this was my Sunday favourite despite it always being so busy. There is a reason why customers come in their droves because their coffee is the best in the area but my reason was because of their foccacias which are unbelievable. Definitely worth a try before going on a wee dander down the Lagan towpath!

District

The second place in the list from the Ormeau Road but another popular coffee joint. There are plenty of others that are cropping up nearby too so you could do a wee coffee crawl if you’re tempted (although maybe go decaf for one or two stops).

 

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If you want to be really naughty…

Sometimes you want to just skip breakfast and get straight down to the bad stuff. There’s no judgement here. If it’s doughnuts, gelato or waffles stacked with sugar then these three are good places to start.

Guilt Trip

This joint is the new kid in town which is popping up everywhere on my Insta feed. I don’t know why I haven’t tried their doughnuts yet but it is something I’m very ashamed of so I will have to remedy it this weekend!

Indigo Coffee & Gelato

Another new-ish café to the scene but as someone who has recently tasted their salted caramel gelato, I can truly attest that this will be a firm fixture on my summer circuit.

 

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The Pocket

The waffles here should be enough to entice me but the chance to people watch by their window is an added bonus. As an avid tea drinker, I fully appreciate the wee hourglasses they bring out so you can time how long to stew your tea for. It’s the little things!

 

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Have a lovely weekend!

 

Wild Garlic Chicken Pasta

Wild Garlic Chicken Pasta

Not so long ago a friend of mine took me to a secret woodland that lay hidden from the walkers of the nearby park. We followed an indiscriminate path that suddenly opened up in to a cathedral of trees and a carpet of bluebells and wild garlic. The scent was incredible (and my sense of smell is shocking) but it was the colours that moved me the most. It was as if the saturation was turned up wherever I looked as the sun streamed through the birch trees.

 

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We were there to forage for wild garlic before we reached the end of it’s peak season. I’d been wanting to start foraging for food for a while and wild garlic was a good place to start since it’s an easy substitute for other fresh herbs like basil. It’s also incredibly simple to find since you’ll find the stuff in abundance in pretty much every woodland. Luckily Rebecca (an extremely talented photographer/blogger who took all of these amazing woodland photos you see in this post) knew the perfect patch that was off the beaten path and on a slope which meant there was little human or animal footfall which makes it a little nicer to eat!

 

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I was planning on using the leaves in my recipe but you can add the flowers to salads to save any waste. Young leaves are the tastiest so I picked leaves with flowers that were newly opened or hadn’t quite opened yet. There was so much to choose from that I came away with a basketful – plenty to use for my pasta recipe!

 

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You can use the leaves in so many different ways; pesto, dip, soup, you name it. I chose to reinvent a favourite pasta dish that I cook by introducing a few cupful of leaves hoping that it might elevate it a little. It definitely did the trick! There was more of a kick of flavour (I used kale in previous recipes) and the smell when cooking was delicious. Cooking with ingredients that I hand-picked made it a little more special and I can’t wait to head out and collect more before the season finishes in a few weeks.

 

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I would recommend this dish for one of those spring evenings that has a chill in the air. We know this kind of evening well in Ireland; after a full day of sun the temperature suddenly drops and we find ourselves reaching for the winter blankets again. It’s warm, filling and a little bit indulgent but using foraged ingredients makes it a little less shameful!

 

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Happy foraging!!


Wild Garlic Chicken Pasta 

Feeds 2 – 3 people – depending how hungry you are! 

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 x chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups penne pasta
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 cups of chopped wild garlic leaves
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over a medium heat
  2. Add onion and stir for about 3 minutes
  3. Add chicken and stir until cooked all over
  4. Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute
  5. Add uncooked pasta, chicken stock, water, wild garlic and bring to boil
  6. Stir and bring to boil, then reduce to a lower heat, cover and leave to simmer for just over 20 minutes
  7. When all liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and stir in cheese, double cream and lemon juice
  8. Serve with crusty bread

 

 

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My Favourite Food Blogs

My Favourite Food Blogs

It feels safe to say that we have welcomed Spring in Ireland. The blossom is in full bounty leaving scatterings of this swift season across our feet and in our paths. Although the blossom doesn’t hang around for long, it’s arrival marks a change in our days as we can allow ourselves to make way for changes. Changes in what we wear, changes in what we do and changes in how we eat.

 

Winter is the season for stews, soups and casseroles and while we spent the cold months refuelling and keeping our bodies warm, by the time spring comes we are ready for new ideas to shake up the dinner routine. It’s this time of year that I struggle the most with inspiration for our meals. I have grown tired of the same recipes I have been begun to have on rotation and cooking starts to become a task rather than a moment in my day that I look forward to.

 

Naturally I am a fan of blogs (I would be mortified to tell you how many I actually read) and there are some truly beautiful sites out there that I turn to in my moment of need. Not only do these sites provide me with endless ideas, recipes and combinations my tired wee brain could never concoct on it’s own but they are also a form of escape for me. Through reading these beautiful posts I get a snapshot in to a beautiful kitchen and a life that’s so different to mine. It’s not a matter of being envious but being woken up from whatever slumber I have fallen in to.

 

I have decided to share some of my favourite food blogs in case you are a victim of the seasonal slump. I know you will adore each of them but please don’t blame me if you waste hours of your evening pouring yourself over beautiful pictures instead of cooking the amazing recipes you intended!


Farmette

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Source: Farmette

Imen is an American who fell in love with an Irishman first and Ireland a close second. She creates her own interpretation of Irish recipes while providing a snapshot in to her life in the Irish countryside and how she has adjusted to our way of life. Her photos are always beautiful and help remind me why I’m so lucky to live on this wild island along with having such a close hand to fresh ingredients.

Manger

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Source: Manger

Oh this blog leads me in to a dangerous place of envy mixed with sheer adoration. Mimi has the most wonderful way of writing that takes you on a gastronomic journey you just don’t want to end. With beautiful pictures of her life in the French Médoc region with her squad of equally beautiful children (and dogs!) taken by her husband Oddur, it’s enough to make you want to run away and live the life of a culinary vagabond. I blame my best friend Caoimhe for this obsession as she was the one that introduced me to the blog and we gush often of our love for Mimi (we have big dreams of attending workshops held in the family chateau once we win the lotto).

Joy The Baker

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Source: Joy The Baker

Joy is like my best friend that I’ve never met. Her words are so familiar to me it’s like she’s an old pal who I can’t wait to see again when she invites me over for pasta and wine. She is super talented and inspires me to step out of my tiny box a little and to not worry about the mess. I also love her weekly Sunday posts that make me laugh as well as teaching me about things I would never have learned on my own. She is awesome.

Local Milk

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Source: Local Milk

If Joy is the best friend I never had then Beth is the cool girl I would be too terrified to even talk to. She has such style and is a true wordsmith as well as a recipe guru. She travels the world with her husband and baby hosting workshops that I can only dream of attending but make do with following her on Instagram. I might not always make the recipes she suggests but I try and give most them a whirl. Even so, her pictures and words alone have me returning to her magical world (and have me planning my next adventure!).

The Smitten Kitchen

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Source: The Smitten Kitchen

Deb’s site is my go-to when I want a quick recipe that I know will satisfy my rumbling tummy. Her recipes are approachable which is exactly what I need after I’ve slugged all day behind a computer and it’s a plus when every recipe is one I want to try. I would definitely recommend her blog for the days when you want something that’s not intimidating using ingredients that you will definitely have in your cupboards.

 

St. George’s Market Salmon & Veggies

St. George’s Market Salmon & Veggies

I’ve made no secret of my love of St. George’s Market and after the loveliest trip on Saturday, I won’t be climbing down off my soapbox anytime soon. It’s the one place that is sure to pick me up on these ceaseless grey winter weekends when straying too far from the house is out of the question.

 

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I dragged Andrew for a mooch around the stalls after lunch when I knew the crowds would have quietened down and he wouldn’t have to stress about pushing past a load of tourists hovering over loaves of soda bread. As I drooled past the display of cheese and chutneys, I made a bee line for the vegetable stands (I have eaten a lifetime of smoked cheddar over the holidays) where I knew I would be in safer hands.

 

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I love buying my vegetables from the markets when I’m able to. Getting to meet the seller and have a conversation with them is such a rarity these days and I take real pleasure in getting to meet local business people. I picked up sweet potato, a massive bunch of fresh dill, onion, a load of asparagus and when I didn’t have enough change to cover it all, I was shooed away with a flick of a hand. That’s Belfast all over.

 

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After I picked up my veggies I splurged on some salmon and had to restrain myself from buying a kilo of mussels and scallops. Fresh seafood is such a luxury for me and this year I am trying to introduce a little more in to my weekly cooking to try and inspire some new techniques. I can rely on the same dishes to carry me through sometimes (oh hey cottage pie) so a little shake up can only be a good thing.

 

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Last night I unveiled the beauty and roasted the fish in foil slathered with a delicious marinade. It was extremely quick and easy that I’m even thinking of going completely wild and making fish cakes from scratch later in the week. With fresh breadcrumbs! Too much?

 

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I’ve included the ridiculously simple recipe below in case you feel like trying something other than a stew/casserole/pie – unless you’re a much more accomplished chef than me and a recipe like this is laughable! Above all else if it encourages you to take a trip to your local markets or even just to the fishmongers down the road to have a chinwag about anything other than Brexit (fishmongers are quite passionate about EU quotas I feel so keep it light) then this would make me silly happy.

 

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Happy Tuesday y’all!


Roasted Fresh Salmon & Veggies

Feeds 2

Ingredients

  • 600g fresh salmon fillet
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 150ml melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • Cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 10 asparagus stalks

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato in to chunks roughly an inch thick and drizzle with olive oil in a baking tray before sprinkling with cinnamon.
  2. Place in an oven heated to 200 C and leave for 40 minutes, shaking after 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the butter, sugar, lemon juice, dried herbs and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the salmon in foil in a baking tray and pour the mixture over the salmon.
  5. Wrap the salmon up and place the cherry tomatoes beside the salmon in the tray. Drizzle with the tomatoes with oil and season with a little salt. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. About 5 minutes before everything is ready boil the asparagus until just firm.
  7. Stuff your face.

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Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

Down in the Orchard County: An Armagh Apple Tart Recipe

While I was growing up in Armagh, I never fully appreciated the landscape that surrounded our wee town because I was too busy being a moody teenager and showing too much enthusiasm for anything would have been detrimental to my social reputation. Now that I’m older and realise that I will never be cool, I eagerly await the harvest season when the countryside comes to life and the orchards, for which the county is known for, are teeming with fruit.

 

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Armagh is famous for its apples with the Armagh Bramley being the most common variety to be grown throughout the county. The history of apple growing in Armagh dates back around 3000 years with St Patrick himself planting an apple tree at Ceangoba, an ancient settlement found outside the city, so a love of apples is expected amongst those of us born and bred here!

 

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Luckily we have a friend whose family own an apple orchard so we are able to go down at this time of year and pick our own apples to take home. Picking or gathering your own fruit and vegetables is always so rewarding and being able to turn them in to a delicious meal makes it that bit more special. I have been wanting to make my own apple tart for a while so last Saturday we booked in a few hours of pickin’ down at the Glass Orchard just outside of Loughgall.

 

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Andrew and I drove down and met up with Marianne and Fergus, two lovely new friends of ours who were delighted to get a day out of the city and in to the orchard. Marianne is a photographer and all the photos in this post were taken by her. She’s got a great eye for it and has started branching out in to engagement and wedding photography so make sure and follow her Instagram page here if you want to see more!

 

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The weather was amazing considering it was the first day of October –  we had the suns on our backs the whole time and not an umbrella in sight! Even got a go being pushed on a tree swing which I haven’t done since I was a child and was like a giddy 5 year old as I was getting higher in the air.

We gathered a basketful of Bramleys along with some plums and a wee sneaky box of Katy apples that our friend’s Dad smuggled in to my car as I was leaving. Naturally my Mum confiscated the box of Katy’s the divil so I was left with a dozen Bramleys for my tart!

 

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We had a friend over for dinner last night so it was a great opportunity to get baking. I decided to try a smooth tart recipe – pureed apple makes me feel like a happy little baby and tastes amazing! It was also extremely easy especially since I was a complete cheater and bought ready made pastry! Please don’t judge me.

 

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The tart went down well thankfully with everyone although it was a little runny so bowls had to be used! Still so many apples to use though so I think I might have to bake up some more treats this week – let me know if you have any recommendations on how I can use them up!

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Homemade Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 3 Bramley apples, peeled, cores removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 450g/1lb ready-made puff pastry
  • 1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cores removed, thinly sliced
  • 75g/3oz butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

To Serve

  • vanilla ice cream
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Method

Deliciously Ella’s Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Deliciously Ella’s Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Sadly the rain feels like it’s here to stay for a while and the summer is slipping through our fingers. The only solace I can find is that I’ll be escaping the constant drizzle for a week next Tuesday when we fly off to Croatia (yay!) but in the mean time I have found myself reaching for a cosy jumper in the evenings and craving some warm soup in my belly to heat me up.

 

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Andrew and I like to make a big batch of soup in weather like this and freeze it so we have our lunches ready for our working week. It means we save a bit of cash and we don’t have to worry every morning about what we’re going to have but it can get a little repetitive which means it has to be extra delicious! This week I wanted something super tasty with a bit of a kick using fresh seasonal ingredients. I found this recipe on the Deliciously Ella site (her website is fantastic if you fancy something yummy but really healthy) and thought it was the perfect excuse to use some of the ripe tomatoes I had in the fridge.

 

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The recipe is incredibly simple and quick; it only took me about 45 minutes to prepare, cook and blend. The website says it makes 3 servings although I would say it’s 2, I like my portions big! I tripled the ingredients so we had plenty to keep us going through the long wet week.

 

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I hope you all are staying dry and warm  and have something sunny planned for the near future to keep you going. I’m optimistic we might see a little more sunshine – I’m not prepared to welcome the autumn anytime soon!!

 

Have a lovely week x


Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Serves 10

– 24 plum tomatoes

– 9 red peppers

– 2 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves

– 2 handfuls of fresh rosemary

– 15 bay leaves

– 2 tbsp. dried thyme

– a 1/2 to 1 of a cup of water (I like mine thick so I used about a 1/2)

– 8 dessert spoons of apple cider vinegar (use lime if you don’t have this)

– 8 dessert spoons of tomato puree

– olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Slice the red peppers into eighths, removing the centre. Then chop the tomatoes into four or five slices. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan or baking tray in olive oil and place the tomatoes, peppers with the basil leaves, fresh rosemary, dried thyme, bay leaves, salt and a drizzle more olive oil on top. Roast at 200C for 30 minutes.
  2. Once the vegetables have finished roasting put them into a liquidizer with the apple cider vinegar, tomato puree, salt & pepper, be careful not to add the bay leaves or rosemary sticks though. As the soup blends, slowly add in the water until you reach your desired consistency. Once you have reached this pour the soup straight into bowls and serve (or containers for the freezer).
Dining in James Street South Belfast

Dining in James Street South Belfast

Lots of positive things have happened for both Andrew and I over the last few weeks. We have both been offered new jobs with exciting businesses and both start on the same day! Andrew turned 28 on 16 June (although he may not be a huge birthday celebration person, I am and definitely make up for his deficit). And I was discharged from hospital with lung functions better than they have been in a long while! Yay all round!

 

So as some of you may or may not know, I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. In terms of daily life this means nebulisers, tablets and physiotherapy or exercise. It doesn’t affect me in a massive way because it’s all I’ve ever known and it’s never stopped me from doing the things I want to do. However sometimes it does mean a hospital admission when things begin to slip a bit and that part definitely isn’t fun.

 

I don’t like to talk too much about CF because I don’t like it to define me or what others think of me. But sometimes I have no choice in how it can control my life and it’s hospital admissions like the one that remind me of the unpredictability of life and how little moments should not only be cherished but celebrated! A positive outlook has taken me far and I choose to let that define me as a person instead.

 

Which was why I made a crazy impulsive and expensive decision to book a table at James Street South in Belfast to celebrate the good things that have happened for us recently and also to thank Andrew for being incredibly supportive during the hospitalisation. It’s not easy seeing the one you love vulnerable; it can make you feel powerless and for a control freak like Andrew, I know it wasn’t easy.

 

James Street South is a place I have wanted to visit for such a long time. It comes top of so many lists of the best places to eat in Belfast but because it’s a bit on the pricier end, I had always thought I should save it for a special occasion e.g. this one! With absolutely no trepidation I booked the table and knew straight away we were to have the ‘Taste of Ulster’ tasting menu – sure why not?!

 

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Shameless Selfie Before Dinner!

 

I got very dolled up and Andrew wore a crinkled shirt he didn’t iron (because we don’t own an iron – yes we are peasants). I was so flippin’ excited and for good reason because I had the best meal I have ever had in Belfast that night. I was constantly battling between savouring the taste of one course and dying to get to the next one. It was that amazing!

 

The ambience wasn’t excellent I’ll be honest, I’m not hugely in to that clinical vibe but we sat in a corner booth which created a bit of intimacy. This didn’t really bother me at all though because Andrew and I were too busy enjoying our own little gastronomic paradise, listening eagerly to the waiter explaining each ingredient and where it came from. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing the best local produce for each dish and that is evident in the taste; you’d have sworn they had the cow in the kitchen!

 

I would recommend this place to anyone and everyone who loves classical food served in a way that isn’t pretentious but focuses on taste. I can’t wait to go back again and I’ll be finding anything to celebrate as an excuse for another taste of that dessert. Sheer heaven.


‘Taste of Ulster’ Tasting Menu

 

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Chilled Portavogie Crab Lasagne, Lemongrass & Brown Crab Bisque

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King Scallops, Parmesan & Connemara Ham

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Country Antrim Beef, Charred Leeks, Peppercorns & Garlic

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Smoked Chocolate, Lime Sorbet & Toasted Meringue

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies & Other Healthy Snacks for Work

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies & Other Healthy Snacks for Work

I work in an open office with mostly men where there is a lot of banter and even more snacks. When I first started working there I loved the daily trips to Lidl for chocolate croissants and the endless supply of chocolate digestives. After about a year though I started noticing my work dresses were getting a little… snug. I was grazing all day and not on anything particularly nutritious. Except for Jaffa cakes because those are definitely one of your five a day.

 

After a while though I was beginning to feel guilty eating my morning croissant while I was exploding out of my trousers and so I decided I needed to do something. It wasn’t an easy decision to remove myself from the snack club because Gary in particular was a feeder of the highest order but I gradually learned how to say “NO FOR THE LOVE OF JEEPERS CAN YOU PLEASE GET THE FAIRY CAKES AWAY FROM ME!!!”

 

I’ve a a bit of a routine now when it comes to my work snacks and I’ve definitely noticed a change in myself and also how I choose to snack outside of work as well. I am determined to put on a bikini this summer and feel great knowing I put some effort in to get healthy.

 

I’ve included a few examples below of some of the healthy treats I pack in the morning along with a sneaky recipe.

 

  • Almonds – not the salted covered ones ye rascal
  • Sliced cucumber/carrot/celery dipped in hummus or guacamole
  • Dried cranberries – actually mildly addictive
  • Mixed seeds and nuts – when you’re cooking some butternut squash save the seeds and roast those bad boys for the day after
  • Avocado smothered on wholemeal toast – avocados are the bees knees but frig they are expensive
  • Mini fruit salad – ye know berries, chopped banana, grapes – raid that fruit bowl!
  • Protein Balls – it’s easy to eat a bajillion of these – don’t
  • Gluten free popcorn – there’s salty & sweet kind in Tesco’s – get on it!
  • Walkers Sweet Chilli Multigrain crisps – very specific and very amazing

 

AND…

 

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies

 

I made two batches of these in a week because everyone in work scoffed them. I have since been scolded by Andrew to not share the delicious treats and to keep them at home – what a guy! What’s great though is there is no refined sugar in them – seems to be the buzz words to use these days – and the oats mean that you’re getting sufficient energy for a wee afternoon kick.

 

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I found the recipe here at Amy’s Healthy Baking and have included it below too. I’ve seen a few other recipes on the site that I’m definitely going to try out  because no doubt I will tire of eating these every day. Or maybe not.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (100g) instant oats (gluten free if necessary)
  • ¾ cup (90g) whole wheat or gluten-free* flour (visit Amy’s website to see how to measure correctly)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp (28g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120mL) honey
  • 6 tbsp (53g) fresh raspberries, diced
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Method 
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the honey until thoroughly incorporated. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the raspberries. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. (If chilling longer, cover with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the entire surface of the cookie dough.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  3. Drop the cookie dough into 15 rounded scoops on the baking sheet. (If chilled longer than 1.5 hours, flatten slightly.) Bake at 325°F for 13-15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

 

Good luck!

xx

 

Buttermilk Scones with Nanny Moffett

Buttermilk Scones with Nanny Moffett

You would be hard pushed to find a granny in Ireland that can’t make the most delicious stews or a knit a onesie in one sitting. I don’t know if you these skills or bestowed upon you once you reach the age of 60 or that they’re skills that just aren’t that cool anymore but I do know that all grannies have a signature dish which they are famous in the family for. For my granny it’s definitely her chicken soup, known to have cured many colds, flues or just for times when us grandchildren ‘weren’t at ourselves’. For Andrew’s granny it would probably be her buttermilk scones. I tasted them the first time I visited her bungalow in Monaghan and it took all my power not to inhale the whole plate of them in front of me and drink it down with her homemade raspberry jam.

 

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A while ago Andrew and I drove down to Monaghan to see Ruth and I had plotted a way to ask her for her recipe. I am a massive lover of scones especially the smell they create in a kitchen. But mostly the taste of them. You instantly feel like a successful human being when you have a tray of lovely scones cooling on a wire rack. I was a bit hesitant to ask for the recipe because asking someone for a recipe they are renowned for can go one of two ways:

  1. They could be flattered that you would think so highly of them and be delighted to pass the recipe on; or
  2. They could be quietly horrified that you even asked for it and shift uncomfortably in their chair thinking of ways to get rid of you

 

Luckily for me Ruth was the former and was more than willing to share her secret however I had forgotten that Irish grannies also don’t use normal measurements. I got out my pen and paper that I just so happened to have on me and began to note down the ingredients and method which went along the lines of: Make sure to use Neill’s soda bread flour and rub in a knob of butter and a fingerful of sugar then whisk an egg in a mug, not a cup but a mug, and then fill it to the top with buttermilk…

 

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I tried to act unperturbed by these non-specific instructions but I knew I would balls the whole thing up on my own. I thought to myself the only way I would learn would be to watch her and out of some miracle she then asked me if I wanted to make some with her. She must have seen the terror in my eyes; grannies can also smell fear.

 

I was amazed at how she was able to bake so easily despite her being constrained by arthritis in her hands. She has adapted a canny way of moving utensils so she doesn’t have to strain herself too hard and it’s an incredibly admirable thing to witness because baking along with other domestic skills is something that is so obviously engrained in her. If she lost that ability then I suppose it would be a massive loss to her.

 

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Fortunately for me the whole recipe was much easier to follow and she taught me some great techniques to ensure the best scones e.g. make sure to get lots of air in when rubbing the butter in to the flour! It was a special moment because it made me feel part of the family and it was so generous of her to share it with me.

 

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I feel like I’ve almost mastered the recipe although I know they’ll never be quite as good as Nanny Moffett’s. Andrew is fairly happy to play guinea pig in the meantime anyway and the house smells AMAZING.

 


Nanny Moffett’s Buttermilk Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Neil’s Self Raising Soda Bread Flour (nothing else apparently)
  • 1 – 1.5 oz granulated sugar (or 2 fingerfuls)
  • 4-5 oz soft margarine
  • 2 eggs beaten in a mug (specifically a mug)
  • Buttermilk – add to mug of beaten eggs and fill to the top

Method:

  • Preheat oven at 230 celsius
  • Weigh out the flour and the sugar together
  • Rub in the butter bringing the flour up from the bottom and getting plenty of air through the mixture.
  • Once all rubbed in (your wrists might be aching at this stage – I have to take breaks!) make a well in the mixture and slowly pour in the buttermilk an egg
  • Beat together with a fork – not a spoon – until all the flour is absorbed
  • Put the mixture on to a floured surface and sprinkle some flour on top
  • Pat the dough in to an oblong shape and using a cutter take pieces out around the outside first
  • Put the scones on to a greased tray and brush with some beaten egg
  • Place in over for 10 minutes
  • Let them cool for a few minutes when they’re done
  • Try not to eat them all and get found covered in jam and crumbs.