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

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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

IMG_0750

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

A little taste of Mexico; slow cooked beef burritos

Now and again I get a burrito craving and the thought of devouring my way through an oversized sandwich, bursting at the seams with spicy meat, vegetables and rice is very inviting.

Such a fancy took hold of me a few weeks back. Sadly there are no burrito bars in the Ormeau area -take note Boojum – and I didn’t want to drive somewhere to get my fix so options were limited. Continue reading

Simple salsa…the non-dancing variety

IMG_0309Ingredients

  • 6 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli (with seeds if you like it hot)
  • ½ green pepper
  • ½ lime (juiced)
  • 1 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • Sea salt

Method

  • Cut the tomatoes in half, spread out on a plate and cover with a good sprinkle of sea salt. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to draw out any excess water.
  • Dice the red chilli and green pepper, finely chop the coriander leaves and mix the tomato puree and olive oil together to form a paste.
  • Wash the tomatoes to remove any excess salt and take out the inner cores.
  • Chop the tomatoes (as big or small as you like) roughly add to a bowl and mix together with all of the other ingredients.
  • Squeeze over the lime juice and let the salsa chill for at least one-hour before serving.

 

 

An evening with Ambrosia…and not the rice pudding variety.

It had been a while since I met two old school friends for a catch up and after much discussion about cooking indoors or getting a takeaway, we decided to treat ourselves to a spot of dinner.

We wanted somewhere that wouldn’t break the bank – this was a before pay-week Thursday night – and my friend suggested Ambrosia an Italian restaurant on the Ormeau Road. I had eaten there previously and enjoyed the food and at only a six-minute walk from my house the location was an added bonus. Continue reading