Mastering the art of baking; remember to use your loaf

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People have been baking bread since the Middle Ages and what began as a process born out of necessity, has become fashionable again with more and more of us baking at home.

The rise in popularity of home baking is often credited to TV programmes like Bake Off or Nailed It!, but consumers have also become more health conscious and want to know exactly what they are eating. Continue reading

Let’s go dining way out west…

From infrastructure to public services, there is a feeling that those who live west of the Bann – the river effectively dividing Northern Ireland – are disadvantaged when it comes to investment and opportunity.

I grew up way out west, in the countryside between Cookstown and Omagh, but in the early 2000s moved to Belfast for university and ended up staying there as living and working in the city suits my lifestyle.

That doesn’t mean I have forgotten my culchie – an Irish word for rural folk – roots and will not hear an ill word spoken about my home county Tyrone, especially from east coast natives who imagine civilisation itself ends, a la the hills have eyes, about 20 miles outside Belfast. Continue reading

A cracking Spring Break in Poland

City breaks are my favourite type of holiday and this year I hoped to visit the USA on an epic city hopping tour taking in New York, Seattle and San Francisco.

Hopes and reality however, are two very different things and with a house to buy and eye-wateringly expensive flights getting in the way – the American Dream was on hold.

While the US trip got away from us this time, husband and I agreed to a more affordable Spring Break and with an abundance of great European cities practically on our doorstep, the holiday search moved closer to home. Continue reading

Greens Pizza; a lively new restaurant for Belfast’s bustling Ormeau Road

In recent years a number of new cafes and restaurants have set up shop on the Ormeau Road and Greens Pizza is the latest to open its doors in this popular area of South Belfast.

I have been living in the Ormeau area for several years now – before house prices started to rocket and the café culture took hold – and with close proximity to the city centre, a beautiful park and plenty of amenities I can see why it has been described as the new Ballyhackamore. Continue reading

Food things come in threes; my Belfast restaurant picks

Dining out is one of my favourite pastimes and way back in January I made a somewhat expensive resolution to try lots of new restaurants and broaden my culinary horizons.

I have a tendency to revisit places a good feed is guaranteed, but with an abundance of new restaurants peppering the little streets of Belfast it was time to ditch the tried and tested list. Continue reading

Ratatouille with couscous; a bit of a vegetable stew

Ratatouille is a rich, vegetable stew that originates from the Provence region of France.

This hearty dish tastes wonderful on a cold winter evening and is really easy to make.

Traditionally ratatouille is eaten with crusty bread or rice; I served my version with couscous as its fluffy texture is perfect for soaking up the thick sauce.

Most recipes also add chopped aubergine – I am not a fan and therefore omitted it from mine – but if it tickles your fancy, add some at the beginning with the rest of the veg.

Ingredients

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Ratatouille with couscous

Recipe serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 red peppers
  • 500 grams passatta
  • 10 -12 basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried herbs de Provence
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp each of black pepper and sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 50 grams couscous per person

Method

  • Finely slice the onion, chop the courgette and peppers into chunks. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • In a large casserole dish fry off the vegetables and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Roughly chop the basil leaves and set aside until later. Finely slice the stalks and add to the vegetable mixture.
  • When the vegetables are golden and softened, stir in the passata, balsamic vinegar and sugar.
  • Cover the pan and transfer to the oven to cook for 30 to 35 minutes until the sauce reduces.
  • Make the couscous according to the packet instructions – I always use chicken stock for added flavour.
  • Add the chopped basil leaves and serve.

 

 

 

Clean eating; my New Year experiment

At the start of a new year, we all feel obliged to clean up our acts. From dry January to fad diets and rigorous exercise regimes, a post-Christmas health and wellbeing reformation is a high priority.

I too felt the urge to purge, and determined to find my own sacrificial January lamb decided vegetarianism might help to moderately improve myself.  Radically changing your eating habits can be difficult, so I challenged myself to one week with no meat. Continue reading

Rocky Road Bites

Winter has well and truly arrived and as I write this post, huddled under a blanket for warmth I am dreaming of a warm cup of tea and a sweet treat.

With Christmas around the corner, our favourite chefs adorn our TV screens sharing festive recipes for mince pies, chocolate logs and Christmas cakes. While they all taste really good, let’s be honest they can be a tad time consuming to make. Continue reading

Mini Apple Pies

There have been many failed attempts in my kitchen at making shortcrust pastry; it is either too soggy, too stiff or just tastes downright bland.

So to get into the Halloween spirit, I decided there was no better time to dust up my rolling pin and finally overcome my pasty short comings by successfully baking some mini apple pies. Continue reading

Holohans at the Barge – a dining experience to float your boat

To celebrate our first wedding anniversary earlier this month, the husband and I decided to splash out and treat ourselves to dinner in Holohans at the Barge.

I often receive bad press from mostly everyone I know for being cold and unromantic, so when I read Holohans had been declared one of the UK’s most romantic restaurants, it seemed the perfect dining spot to reverse this perception … and I also heard the food was pretty good too. Continue reading