Monday
Dec222014

Sherry from Marks and Spencer - a perfect present - served three ways

 This Rare Cream Sherry from Marks and Spencers is the perfect present for an uncle or aunt, Grandparent, or elderly next door neighbour.  Aged in oak barrels it has a luscious beautifully balanced rich sweet flavour with deep spice notes and plump juicy fruits.  The taste is reminiscent of Christmas cake

In fact the sherry can be perfectly paired with a slice of fruity Marks and Spencer Christmas cake.

Its mahogany colour and gently spiced aromas, give way to flavours of plump sundried raisins, and buttersctoch caramel, its finish is pecan and walnut tasting.  As the sherry is so sweet is is delicious served chilled with a little bowl of Marks and Spencer with salted almonds.  It makes the perfect apertif before dinner or a late evening snack.  When I was little it was sherry and salted almonds that were left for Santa.

Although salt and sweet make a wonderful combination, so do sweet and sweet. Sweet rich sherry and bittersweet chocolate nuts.

These chocolate covered nuts from Marks and Spencer - white chocolate covered almonds, dark chocolate covered cranberries, and salted caramel chocolate brazil nuts - go wonderfully with this sherry served room temperature, the flavours complimenting each other.

Sherry and Nuts from Marks and Spencer - there you have it the perfect last minute Christmas present.  And it is so good, you'll even want to pop a bottle in your own Christmas shopping.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Dec222014

q&a with author Wiletta Fleming

It is a JOY to welcome the author Wiletta Fleming to Salt and Sparkle q&a.  A lady I also call one of my dearest friends.  Willetta and my family met when she sang and played jazz violin at my brother Brian and sister in law Sarah's wedding.  A lady with a beautiful smile, and a personality of pure gold, spending time with this beautiful women makes me very happy.  I hope you will be inspired by her and enjoy reading her work.

Willetta is a lady blessed with the most incredible voice; the sound of her singing, the shape of her written words, the beauty of her violin playing, are exquisite.  You can buy Willetta's book Finding Black Gold on the Emerald Isle and read a powerful story of finding and celebrating identity, read her guests posts on Salt and Sparkle  and connect with Willetta on Facebook.

Who are you, what’s it like being you ...

I am Willetta, Lettapie, Brown Sugar, Mommy. It is nice being me especially if you enjoy laughter, loud laughter. The joy of my life are my two daughters. 

Where are you from, where are you based ...

I was born in Detroit, Michigan home of Motown & the Motor City. I moved to Northern Ireland more than ten years ago. How time has sped by. I live in a little city outside of Belfast.

Talk about your work ...                                                                       

I recently finished and published my first book ‘Finding Black Gold on the Emerald Isle’. I wrote my story in a unique way and enjoyed the process. Writing is a passion of mine and I believe this is just the beginning of my writing journey. I am also a musician, violinist and vocalist working with my brother who is a talented jazz pianist and singer.

What are your future plans ...                                                     

I am a dreamer so I have many plans. I am currently working on my second book which I am letting slow cook in process as it always delivers the best flavours. I am passionate about people’s “story” so I am collaborating with an exquisite artist friend on sharing the idea of stories creatively. 

How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ... 

I am very inspired by the people close to me such as my friend Khadija who is an African Artist, my brother Phil who I get to create music with, I have a genius of words friend named Bradley, as he writes and sings hope is birthed. I also enjoy going to poetry nights in Belfast. I love the buzz around this country for the arts. People move me. I could sit in a cafe and people watch and be magically inspired. 


Describe your space ...                                                    

Think photographs, candles, books.

How are you feeling today ...                                                             

I am feeling hopeful and excited for the future. I am a super proud Momma too. My kids make me smile. 

A non-negotiable in your life is ... 

Interaction with my friend Jesus. My girls.

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

Words are my treasure so I have a lot that I hold very dear to my heart. A strong woman I have gotten to know in the past year read my book. She said, “ Through the courage of one woman sharing her story you have changed us all. You brought us so much. “ 

Your work life philosophy is ...                                                     

If you can do what you love that do it. Do not rest on your laurels keep going while you still have breath in your lungs. 

What is your favourite smell ...                                         

Warm Vanilla Sugar from Bath and Body Works.

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...           

I recently just found “The Intermission Project” a great young talented group also a song on repeat while I paint is “Daylight” by Aaron Nazrul. My brother introduced me to “Snarky Puppy” which inspires me to no end. 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...       

Anything Mexican, its hard to beat a well made taco. Cheese, Hot sauce and Beans. 

Three things or products that have changed your life...  

MacBook Pro for writing, its like an automatic car it makes everything easier. The Tangle Teezer brush, between me and my daughters we should take stock in them. My church, raising my kids in the house of God is essential to our lives.


How do you relax ...                                                                      

I enjoy a quiet evening in with a cup of chamomile tea or glass of wine and a really good book. I also find painting a wonderful way to chill. 

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...                   

A room full of people, perhaps poets or musicians engaging and sharing what we love. I also love sharing food with people at a big table with many conversations going on at once all hectic but peaceful. 

What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...                                                    

When I was 19 years old I travelled by myself to visit a missionary friend in Kunming China. I would love to do that again and spend time in the rural countryside with the mountain people. Also Italy is a necessity. 

What do you most value in your friends ...                      

Loyalty. Honesty. Time. 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...                                                                  

The words of Jesus and Maya Angelou are my favourite. I am currently reading again “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. I sporadically enjoy going back and reading my own work and writings. It does not come from a prideful place it carefully arrives in a place of wonderment because I am bewildered sometimes at what deep mysterious place where they birthed in? It is unknown to me

Share some words of wisdom ...                                    

Make time to do what makes your heart beat faster. If that is sitting with coffee daydreaming about what your step is into the next adventure, writing hand written letters or going for a ten mile hike, do it. It will keep you alive.

 

Beautiful Willetta, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed in the Salt and Sparkle q&a it was a joy to have you at our place today.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Saturday
Dec202014

Fig, Stilton and Spinach Salad

Salads seem to get overlooked at Christmas which is a shame.  Not only is it important to get in our greens in the mix of rich party food, drinkies, canapes and of course Christmas dinner, but salads can taste delicious. Gone are the days of an Alisa Craig tomato, a piece of limp lettuce and maybe a scallion or two.

This winter Fig, Stilton and Spinach Salad, made with Marks and Spencer Stilton.

Tuxford & Tebbutt in Leicestershire – one of just five licensed creameries in the world producing this PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese - are the producers selected by Marks and Spencer to make all their Stiltons.

This salad uses three main ingredients - stilton, spinach and figs, and is dressed with runny honey and a few drops of apple cider vinegar.  It works really well with leftover turkey or ham.

Marks and Spencer Stilton has an initial feel in the mouth is lovely, creamy, with plenty of salt and a balanced aftertaste.  Marks and Spencer's Stilton is balanced and moist with a pleasant tang, that doesn't overpower the palate.

It's a cheese that needs just a few other good ingredients to make a delicious salad that is perfect served alone, with some crusty bread, as a side alongside leftover turkey, or with some slices of roast beef.

Marks and Spencer, Black Olive Crackers, which have a good crunch and melt in the mouth texture, (and a strong black olive flavour, they make excellent instant croutons, or are great crumbled over soup) also work well as a brilliant accompaniment.  

Serve the salad with a glass of ice cold Marks and Spencer Royal Palace Colheita Port, which has fig and almond flavours, and nutty spice aromas which enhance the flavours in the salad, and sit beautifully with the creaminess of the Stilton Cheese.

Fig, Stilton and Spinach Salad

Ingredients

(serves two as a main or four as a side)

 

  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 5 figs cut into eighths
  • 200g of Marks and Spencer Stilton
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1tsp apple cider vinegar
  • black pepper

 

optional extra - slices of grilled pears, handful of salted almonds or honeyed cashews.

Method

  1. Arrange a three or four handfuls of baby spinach on a plate or bowl
  2. Set on the pieces of fig which have been cut into eighths (quartered then each piece slice in half again)
  3. Crumble the Stilton cheese over the top
  4. Mix the honey, black pepper and cider vinegar together then lightly drizzle over the top of the salad
  5. Serve immediately

I don't feel this salad needs salt, as the cheese is salty enough.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Dec182014

The best book for Christmas cooking - Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen

Darina Allen is one of the most interesting and inspiring chefs I've ever worked with.  

Darina is Ireland’s best-known food ambassador and is the award-winning author of A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery SchoolHealthy Gluten-free EatingEasy EntertainingBallymaloe Cookery Course and Forgotten Skills of Cooking.  She has won many awards, including one for outstanding contribution to the Irish culinary sector by Euro-Toques in 2007 and the prestigious André Simon Award for Forgotten Skills of Cooking.

Darina founded the first farmers’ markets in Ireland and is a tireless campaigner for local produce. She is a natural teacher, whose enthusiasm and energy for good food is contagious. d

Efficacious, passionate and ever so knowledgable, she is a force to be reckoned with and one of the most fascinating people I've ever met.

Her cookery books are bibles. I cannot recommend any of the highly enough. Not only are Darina's recipes meticulously researched they all work perfectly.

'What would Darina do?' is a regularly asked question in my kitchen when I'm thinking about a recipe.

When I need to know something or other to do with a recipe I always pick a Darina book off the shelf, and she's never let me down.

I've had the original 1989 edition of Simply Delicious Christmas since way back when, it's pages well used and annotated. It's recipes cooked and results enjoyed. This is the book I left with carefully written notes the year I had to work on Christmas Eve and wasn't able to cook dinner.

The new Gill and Macmillan 25th anniversary edition of Simply Delicious Christmas is not only a beautiful book, with a smart minimalistic grey and red cover, featuring a snowflake makde out of forks and spoons.  This is a stylish book with over 100 new recipes.

It is an essential Christmas purchase for any cook whether wannabe, or experienced. It's smart, feels luxurious and is filled with fantastic recipes for everything from traditional roast turkey and stuffing, roast hams, mulled wines, and Turkey crown with Harissa.

Alongside several recipes for Christmas cakes, plum puddings and plum pudding ice cream. A stunning Yule log. The recipes mix old favourites and carefully thought out alternatives. This is the book to give to whoever is cooking your Christmas dinner.

Turkey Crown with Harissa, Pomegranate and Cumcumber Raita and Mororccan Tomato Jam, sounds a good as it tastes, Sichuan Poached Turkey breasts are served with a cool cucumber salad.  Christmas Ham glazed with Mango relish, Champagne and Ruby Grapefruit fizz, which makes either a refreshing end to dinner or a really special cool breakfast.  There are so many elegant recipes to get excited about.

There are lots of recipes for homemade Christmas presents such as a range of chutneys -  bananna and date: Pear and Cranberry and Blood Plum and Apple; as well as Fudges, nougat, and biscuits.

The Frosted Tangerines, are refreshing, crisp light and beautiful served after a heavy meal.  

Darina shares the history of some of the recipes alongside great stories, and her passion for organic, fresh local produce.

The Gill and Macmillan 25th anniversary edition of Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen is a book that makes you want to tie on your apron and start cooking.

It's recipes can be enjoyed at anytime of year and it is the one book you must have in your kitchen at Christmas.

Not to mention the fact A Simply Delicious Christmas makes a beautiful present.

Merry Christmas.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Thursday
Dec182014

Quotation of the day 17 December 2014 

“As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings, may your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills. When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance, may your imagination continue to evoke horizons.”
— John O‘Donohue

Tuesday
Dec162014

quotation of the day 16 December 2014

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.

-Alice Walker

 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Dec152014

q&a – photographer, writer and artist James A. Truett

 

It is with great pleasure I welcome photographer, writer and artist James A. Truett to the Salt and Sparkle q&a. James and I met via Twitter when his moving photographs come up on my timeline.  We got chatting and connected.  

James is a visionary who's work is very powerful.  I especially love the way he captues the beauty of Ireland.  Each time I view his images I feel so honoured to be born in Ireland.  His work makes me draw breath and stop for a moment when I see it.  I just know you will love it too.

He grew up in Alaska, and starting working as a photographer and journalist at 14, within five years his work had been published in every major newspaper in the world. James has lived all over the world and currently resides in County Clare, Ireland, where he is inspired by the landscape and sky.

James has written a two volume beautiful book of photographs and essays, "Mystical Moods of Ireland: Enchanted Celtic Skies," which is available from Amazon or his website, these books show the ever-changing moods of the skies of Ireland, his images are also available to buy, and they will make memorable presents. You can connect with him like I did via Twitter or Facebook.

 

Who are you, what’s it like being you …

I'm an artist at heart, highly empathic. I've lived a very unusual life, blessed with being able to travel a lot and live in different places and in different cultures. 

 

Where are you from, where are you based …

I was born and raised in a small village in Interior Alaska. I've since lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Mexico and now County Clare, Ireland.

Talk about your work …

I'm a writer and photographer... I love to share words and images of the beauty all around us – especially the beauty in nature. I guess that comes from growing up in the one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the world. I just published a two-volume set of photographic essays entitled “Mystical Moods of Ireland: Enchanted Celtic Skies” which capture the incredibly dramatic moods of the Irish skies. 


What are your future plans ...

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the world and sharing my experiences and visions through my work.  


How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...

Inspiration – like beauty – is all around us all the time, but I'm often inspired by combinations of words and images, the works of great thinkers and amazing artists. Visionaries in all walks of life inspire me.

 


Describe your space ...

I'm very sensitive to my surroundings, so my living space and work environment are particularly important. My home is on a hillside overlooking the Shannon River Valley, so I have a front-row seat for some of the greatest sunrises I've ever witnessed. When I'm not travelling or out photographing, I do most of my work beside the  fireplace in my office, which looks out onto the Irish countryside. Best of all, it's just up the road from my great grandparents' farm, so  not only do I get to live in spectacular natural surroundings... I'm in the land of my ancestors.


How are you feeling today ... 

I'm hopeful... hopeful about everything, but especially hopeful people will wake up and really see and experience the beauty around them, instead of being caught up in the negative spins of daily news reports.


A non-negotiable in your life is …

Kindness, compassion and gratitude. There always is time and energy to be kind, and there ALWAYS is something to appreciate, even in dark times.



Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. We need problems because we need their gifts.” From Illusions by Richard Bach – my favourite book of all time. Wise words.


Your work life philosophy is …

Always do something you enjoy, especially things that touch other people in a deeply positive and soulful way.

 

What is your favourite smell ...

I love the aroma of a turf fire, and when it's too warm for the fireplace, I like to burn incense, especially Frankincense.


Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...

I love classical music – especially Baroque. I spent my early youth as a classically trained violinist before I became a journalist and photographer. My favourite mix: Bach, Vivaldi... with a dose of classic rock...


Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Since moving to Ireland six years ago, I've taken a liking to Bacon and Cabbage, but my favourite “comfort” meal is a little bit of chicken with carrots and broccoli on a bed of rice. Simple.



Three things or products that have changed your life...

Like most people in my profession, digital cameras, computers and the Internet have revolutionized the media... It's so exciting to be able to live and work anywhere there's a connection. Before I moved to Ireland, I was traveling in Central America exploring ancient Mayan ruins, staying in the jungles of El Salvador and Honduras... with an Internet connection! It was amazing.


How do you relax ...

I love to escape with a good Sci-fi movie.


What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...

I love to share adventures with my son, Alberto, who was born and lives in Mexico. He's becoming quite the world traveller, and I love seeing his reactions to new places. Being able to keep in close contact, either via video chat or text, means a lot.


What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...

I'm fascinated with everything related to ancient cultures, so my 'bucket' list includes: Machu Picchu in Peru, the pyramids in Egypt, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, the Ajanta Caves in India... plus I want to take my son to Tibet. That's always been his dream.


What do you most value in your friends ...

Sincerity, caring, open to adventure... “out of the box” thinkers.

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...

I'm a fan of Wayne Dyer's books. They are very grounding, and always manage to tweak my attitude in the right direction. My favourite words? “Live, Love, Laugh.”


Share some words of wisdom ...

When you're feeling down or confused, go take a walk in nature... a walk in a forest or a garden is the best medicine.

James it was an honour to talk with you, thank you for joining us.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable