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Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

I think there are a few things that come to mind when foreigners think of Ireland (according to Hollywood anyway):

  1. Rain. Lots of rain.
  2. Green fields as far as the eye can see.
  3. Old men drinking Guinness
  4. A random person playing the fiddle in the pub
  5. Castle ruins dotted everywhere

We Irish might roll our eyes at this glamourisation of our wee isle especially when a plastic poncho-covered American tourist insists on defining themselves as Irish or asks where the best pint of Guinness is (I usually direct them to the Harp Bar or The Duke of York). But the fact is that most of the expectations of Ireland are usually about right. It does rain here. A lot. And most aul fellas in a pub probably will be propped up by a pint of the black stuff. And we really are lucky enough to have hundreds of castle ruins scattered across our hills and rugged coastlines.

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But having so much history close to home can be a hindrance here because we can overlook these beautiful castles on our doorstep just because they are familiar. I grew up in Armagh, the ancient capital of Ireland and my childhood home was about a mile or two away from a burial ground that dates back thousands of years. I only just visited this site again for the first time since primary school and felt so ashamed that I’d forgotten about such an important piece of my history.

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I lived abroad for about 6 years and I think coming back to live in Ireland awoke me to just how many fascinating sites there are here that I haven’t even been to. I have been determined to rectify this since and so on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago I set off with a begrudging boyfriend to explore the ruins of Dunluce Castle and Mussenden Temple.

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You might not know the names of these coastal monuments but you will recognise them especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. It’s difficult to find a place along this part of the Irish coastline that hasn’t been filmed for the series yet which is evident by the throngs of tour buses that descend on these shores in the summer hoping to catch a glimpse of a set now famous around the world.

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Our first stop was Dunluce Castle, probably one of the most famous ruins in the North. The castle hangs precariously off the cliffs of Antrim as if carved out of the cliffs themselves but even in its decay it still casts a foreboding figure on the jagged coastline. The castle was first built just over 500 years ago by the McQuillan clan but was seized by the MacDonnell’s from Scotland in the 1550’s who later swore loyalty to Elizabeth I and became the Earls of Antrim. Today its ruins bear a reminder of a time when every piece of land was a prize to be won with consequences more violent than any Game of Thrones episode (GOT fans might recognise the castle as the home of the Greyjoy’s). But who needs TV eh?

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When we arrived at the castle the sun was uncharacteristically beaming down which meant there were even more tourists than usual. To avoid competing for a good shot of the ruins amongst the crowds, I wandered down the road to a nearby field and clambered over the gate. I might have been trespassing (I looked for signs, I swear) but the field was empty of animals and I was able to get uninterrupted views of the castle with the waves crashing against the cliffs beneath.

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After the castle we drove a few miles along the coast to Whitepark Bay to Bothy, a wee timber gem that looks like a homestead plucked from the American Midwest. I had heard a few things about this joint before but I had no idea just how charmed I would be by the food and the people there. There is a real warm welcome upon entering mixed in with a laid-back atmosphere that feels border-line Californian. We were there on a summer’s day so the doors were thrown open to allow the sea breeze to cool the place down while the back was opened up for the sun worshipper’s to eat outside.

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Andrew and I both ordered chicken melts with tobacco onions which we devoured within a few minutes and we spent the next half hour bathing in the afternoon heat not wanting to move at all. We noticed a pizza oven outside too so I would imagine this would be a great spot for a summer’s evening and a few drinks if you didn’t have far to travel. As well as that there’s also a wee stove inside too so it would be super cosy for a winter’s day – they’ve got it all covered here!!

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After being suitably fed and feeling super relaxed we hopped back in the car and headed towards Mussenden Temple which was about a half hour away. The temple forms part of the Downhill Demesne and although it has aged much better than the manor, it is perhaps built at an even more precipitous position than Dunluce – we Irish love our dramatics don’t we?! It was built in 1785 and was to be used as a summer library in memory of the Earl’s cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Imagine cosying up to a book with almost 360 views of the ferocious Atlantic – you wouldn’t leave! These days you can actually hire the temple out as a wedding venue which would be an absolute dream location for anyone – booklover or not.

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On our way to the temple we actually picked up a hitchhiker – Robin from Toulouse – who was hitchhiking his way along the Irish coast with a tent and not much else. We brought him as far as Limavady but took him along to Mussenden which he wasn’t aware even existed. It was so lovely to discover the temple alongside a foreigner because I felt like I was experiencing it as a tourist on holiday. With the sun warming my back and standing on the cliff edge admiring the views out towards Scotland, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. How lucky we are to have all of this on our doorstep.

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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!

 

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.
BBQ Recipes to Welcome the Summer

BBQ Recipes to Welcome the Summer

Irish people don’t tend to take a run of good weather in their stride. There’s not a hint of nonchalance when there’s a chance you might be able to do something after work other than spending five hours deciding what shite to watch on TV. So when there were a few consecutive days of temperatures reaching over 15 degrees, an impromptu BBQ just had to happen.

 

We’re only in our new house over a month so this was our first time hosting a BBQ together. We aren’t exactly equipped to host outdoor gatherings as yet so improvisation was key to pulling the whole show together. Andrew had gotten a coffee table for free from someone he used to work with (he has quite a knack for accumulating free stuff… a talent which sometimes comes in handy, sometimes not so much) so we dragged it out to the middle of the grass in the back garden. I had a genius idea of creating a ‘boho’ theme by throwing lots of pillows around the table and decorating with flowers and candles but really it was because we had nothing else to use!

 

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We only had two people coming over – our friends Caoimhe and Lenny – which took some of the pressure off. However, this still didn’t seem to prevent the stress when I realised they were due in a half hour and I had been too busy curating my Aladdin theme instead of actually preparing the food.

 

Andrew claimed his title of ‘BBQ Guard’ which involved standing over the kettle BBQ, a last minute purchase from Homebase, and doing pretty much nothing for a while other than poking coals with a stick. What is it with men and fires? He was all stressed that the coals weren’t hot enough, running off to the shop to get more coals. Meanwhile I was sweating bullets in the kitchen knowing I had to prepare ALL THE FOOD.

 

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The whole thing reminded me of the annual family BBQ we had as kids when the one week of good weather would arrive. Dad, him being a man and all, was of course ‘BBQ Guard’ but seemed to be more concerned about his supply of cold Buds than the dinner itself. For fear of food poisoning I suppose the sausages usually resembled carcinogenic pencils which we rolled up in a slice of bread with some ketchup. We rarely had hot dogs in buns because someone either forgot them or there was none left in the shop with every other family in town having the exact same idea. A favourite way of cleansing the charcoal grit from our palate was having at least five ice cream wafers after, almost always raspberry ripple flavour. Heaven.

 

Anyway when our guests arrived, Lenny joined Andrew immediately as sous-‘BBQ Guard’. This position has to be handled delicately because the sous ‘BBQ Guard’ should never be overzealous with their advice to prevent the head ‘BBQ Guard’ from becoming flustered and undermined. Lenny was a fantastic sous ‘BBQ Guard’, and provided lots of helpful comments such as ‘Those burgers look grand’ and ‘You’re right, it does take the charcoal a long while to heat up’.

 

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When everything was finally ready and Andrew was certain he wasn’t going to inflict anyone with salmonella poisoning, we sat cross legged and it felt just like Morocco. I was actually a bit impressed with the spread! There were homemade burgers, chicken skewers, corn on the cob (always), sweet potato fries, cous cous and an amazing salad which Caoimhe made (and was much too sophisticated for our basic BBQ).

 

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It was a great success and after our desserts (meringue with cream, ice cream and berries – no ice cream wafers here) we moved the table away and sat around the coals keeping warm until the stars came out. For a brief moment I felt I was abroad on holiday with sangria in my belly and warmth in my face.

 

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The run of good weather looks like it’s come to an end. I’ll be keeping an ear out for predictable comments such as ‘That’s it, that’s the summer over’, ‘Sure it was good while it lasted’ and ‘Ach but it’s nice to have it cooled down a bit, ‘twas getting a bit too warm there’.

 

I’ll keep our wee Homebase bargain close by in case we’re lucky enough to have another heatwave this year. In the meantime it’s back to the Netflix drawing board.


BBQ Recipes

I am by no means a chef so I don’t use accurate measurements when I cook food. I’ve listed the dishes we made and the ingredients used in them in case you fancy some inspiration but measurements are very rough!

  • Homemade burgers – I mixed 500g minced beef, a half cup of breadcrumbs, one egg, half a chilli, a quarter of an onion and a tablespoon of mixed fresh herbs all together and shaped in to patties. Cooked on BBQ for about 10-15 minutes each side
  • Sweet potato fries – sliced an unpeeled sweet potato thinly, drizzled in olive oil and mixed with about a tablespoon over paprika. Baked in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes
  • Chicken skewers – added chicken, halloumi, tomato, courgette and pepper to skwers and cooked on BBQ for 20 minutes
  • Cous cous – bought from a supermarket – I am not ashamed to say!
  • Guacamole – mashed two avocadoes, squeezed the juice of one lime, one clove of crushed garlic, a quarter of a chilli and salt and pepper
  • Caoimhe’s salad – mixed lettuce leaves, avocado, almonds, feta cheese, roasted peppers and lemon juice
  • Corn on the cob – boiled for 15 minutes before adding to hot bars for 30 minutes. Smothered in butter mashed with lime juice and chilli.