Friends together around the table that's the Spirit of Summer


Summer is coming to a close leaves are colouring, some are falling, there is crispness to the air and the air smells smokier, Fall will be here all too soon. Yet we are in August and still the sky is grey and a lid of cloud covers the earth.  Summer has been summer in nothing but name.  Days of endless grey.

Well ... how has your summer been?  Did we manage to get through our to do lists, some things yes, some things like crow pose are are a practice that will take me longer than a couple of months.  And, yet each time I move into the pose, I feel myself a little closer than I was yesterday.  I notice the tiny sometimes called incidental transitions and movements.  This for me is what summer has been about watching and being aware and a part of the tiny changes.  Noticing they are happening, life is happening, days move by and we 'do life' we 'practice' at some things, let books and stories absorb us.  I loved this Rob Bell, this Dorothea Benton Frank, this Mary Alice Monroe, this Pete Greig, this Sunstein and Thaler, this Maeve Binchy, among others.  It's also been a time of waiting and recovery after a car accident.

What we need to get to the end through to September and the new year, at least in the Hebraic calendar is friends around the table eating great summery flavours, accompanied by delicious coolers and listening to some love Bossa Nova.

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer range have excellent ingredients to create a feast inspired by the Southern States of the USA and South America.  Their product developers have been scoured the Americas in search of authentic flavours and they found them, packaged them and have them instore ready for you to eat. We’ve explored Peruvian markets, got our hands dirty at the fire pit restaurants of Texas and delved into Cajun cuisine in New Orleans

Summer is coming to a close leaves are colouring, some are falling, there is crispness to the air and the air smells smokier, Fall will be here all too soon. Yet we are in August and still the sky is grey and a lid of cloud covers the earth.  Summer has been summer in nothing but name.  Days of endless grey.  Yet thanks to Marks and Spencer we can eat authentic flavours from the Americas.

So why not right now, before you read the rest of this post - get on the phone and invite your friends over for lunch or supper tomorrow or dinner later in the week to celebrate all that summer has been, because summer has been lots of things to lots of people and there most definitely are stories to share.  Then pop into M&S to stock up on some of these beauties, because where is the best place to share those stories - around your table, in your home.

 I began a love affair recently.  

With Flamingos.  

As well as napkins, drawings, and a beautiful piece of art created for me by my sister of a flamingo - I even have flamingo fairy lights and blow up flamingo glass holders to hold, you guessed it flamingo glasses.  

Whatever kitcsh you like - get it out and dress your table.  Hang out in the party section of the store and pick up parrot cocktail sticks, drink floats and lots of candles or fairy lights, as well as some paper plates and plastic glasses.  Make this party you are throwing as easy as possible, it is summer after all.  Save the fancy linen, silver spoons and crystal for the Autumn when we need some sparkle in our lives.

 Start by creating an antipasti platter using Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer ingredients, you can read about how I did this here.


Then add bowls of Marks and Spencer salads which are the bar that all restaurants need to meet for me to say I ate a good salad in an eating place.

For nut lovers the Quinoa, avocado and brazil nut salad with a mango and amarillo chilli dressing is a must.  It is fresh and fiesty.



 The Spirit of Summer Mexican Rice, Quinoa and Avacado salad has a chilli lime dressing that is so morish - you'll definitely eat more than this than you think.

 Caprese Salad - more commonly known in these parts as basil, mozzerella and tomato is a firm favourite, but please please make sure you get good ingredients.  Bursting with flavour red juicy tomatoes, silky smooth buffalo mozzerella and torn not chopped basil for maximum flavour.

 The Rice, Aduki Bean, Mango and Coconut salad is a firm favourite with its sweet, sour flavour and fluffy rice.

 These Melting Marks and Spencer Mozzarella sticks in a crisp crumb are morish - always have twice as much as you think you need.  Serve them with circles of lime rind and a sour cream dip spiked with garlic.

 Chips and dips are everyone's favourite and a great food to serve at nearly anytime - Salt and Sparkle are loving these dips from the Spirit of Summer Range at Marks and Spencer.

Sweetcorn Chilli

My all time favourite like a thicker and more flavoursome sweet chilli sauce - Spicy Malagueta Chill Dip, it is hot and fiery and popular in Brazil.

Cooling Mint Yogurt Dip - Middle East inspired this is fresh and cooling

Sweet Chilli Dip - a tomato based chilli dip

Sour Cream and Chive dip

Tomato Salsa

Dipping bread or other finger food ingredients is a brilliant way to eat and share food, because its enjoyable to dip and eat.  To add extra flavour to each mouthful.

 Do you love Mac and Cheese?  Well then you are going to adore - mac and cheese bites is a crisp crumb, add some spicy Malagueta Chill Dip to bring a sour spice to the sweet cheese bites.

 These sweetcorn empanadas with a sweetcorn and black bean filling are crisp in the first bite reliving a smooth sweet almost silky centre with a slight chew.

 Who doesn't love potato skins, these Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Potato skins are filled with mature cheddar cheese, smoked bacon and scallions.

 I first had Queso Pimento Chilli Cheese dip in Florida and I couldn't get enough of it.  Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Queso  Dip is the best on the high street, it is smoky, creamy and spicy - definitely have more than one as it will disappear in a flash.

 Who can resist a wedge salad - bacon bits, crisp of course, iceberg or romaine, ranch dressing, croutons, cubes of cucmber and tomatoes - no one I know.

 And now for something sweet ... Marks and Spencer have created the best deserts on the high street.  I know I say this alot but it is true.  I was at a restaurant earlier this week and the pudding went back to the kitchen with two bites from it, when the table was cleared because it was so bad.

Marks and Spencer - now they have got it right - restauranteurs take note and get the puddings right at your restaurant.

 Coconut and Chocolate slice - is rich, glossy and deccadant, and can easily be sliced into cubes and served in bitesized pieces.  

 Wibble Wobble Wibble Wobble jelly on a plate - this Spirit of Summer Jelly is stunning.  I loved it.  Again restaurants take note you aren't competing with the store down the street  you are competing with Marks and Spencer - as we can get puddings this good at home we expect to be able to get them in your restaurant.

The Marks and Spencer Pineapple, Guava and Cranadilla flavoured jelly with pineapple, raspberries, pomegranate and a passion fruit dresssing is bursting with sweet flavours.  It is bright and bold, smooth, slippery and delightfully cooling.  Serve it with chocolate or without because it is perfect on its own.


Mix your own drinks or pop a bottle of this Caipirinha.

Go on invite your friends over and celebrate your stories and your Spirit of Summer.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Sláinte - it's a Friday Summer Cooler 2016

Slainte it's Friday - how has your week been, has it been long?  Are you ready for the weekend?

Well this Friday cocktail has got your back and all bases covered.  It's a winner alright.

 It's time to put some booze in the blender.

 In this case Marks and Spencer Coconut and Lime Rum, then mix it up with these refreshing Spirit of Summer coolers. And ice, of course ice.  Who could forget ice.

This Caribbean flavoured rum is fresh and light, mixed with these coolers it creates a zingy frozen drink - really like an adult slush puppy. My favourite is the Marks and Spencer summer sour.

Make the mix by adding 3 cups of Marks and Spencer Coconut and Lime Rum to three cups of ice in a blender, then add your choosen Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer cooler, or mix all three together for extra zing, adding more rum as you feel the need.  And on a Friday when the sun goes down - there's always a need. Right!


Then add lime twists and umbrellas.  Always add umbrellas they are kitsch and fun.  And Fridays - well they are all about fun.

Happy Friday!

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Take care of you - cook 

Garlic hit the sizzling bacon in the pan and immediately released its scent. Pungent and sticky in the warmth of the kitchen. The day had been humid, still with the grey lid of sky hanging over the earth. Oh sun where is your ball of fire hiding.

It had been a long. Long day and I was making supper. Hungry from exertion in the studio.

As I'd drive home only moments ago I'd considered ordering in or I'm ashamed to admit it - pinging and zinging. And yet as I passed the shops my thoughts were I need to care for myself

And the most basic of human care and necessity is eating. Caring for our souls bodies and spirits by feeding ourselves.

This most basic of needs we so often abuse. Ruled by an overarching feeling of tiredness we want quick easy right now.

Yet quick easy right now convenience foods are also abusive.

Abusive in the moment and to our bodies on a cellular level for a long time after.

Quick and easy - what could be more quick and easy than boiling an egg, or for that matter making any kind eggs. They are real fast food.

My dinner tonight took less than eight minutes. That's nine minutes from getting the ingredients ready to sitting eating. I made spaghetti with chilli and garlic.

While the pasta was boiling I sautéed some lardons in olive oil, adding the rind of two lemons, and a squeeze of their juice, two chopped cloves of garlic a handful of cherry tomatoes and spinach. Draining the pasta I kept a splash of the salty water, then tossed my other ingredients through, a little choose parsley and some grated Parmesan. And of course lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Quick, fast, delicious and nutritious. Most of all pleasurable.

The fragrance of the ingredients as they cooked and their taste.

This was a meal I felt good cooking and eating. Honestly when you come in the evening bone tired you always have nine minutes to take care of you.

Cook real food.
Eat what you cook.
Be healthy. Take pleasure in how you feed your body soul and spirit. Always remember food feeds so much more than your body. It is not simply fuel.

Eat for pleasure. Take care of you.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle
= Life Remarkable


q&a with photographer Richard Wade

It is a joy to welcome the photographer Richard Wade to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Rich is a talented photographer who sees more than what is in front of him, his vision allows him to capture the image that tells the story.  His work is fresh and vibrant.  With clients including The Financial Times, Magnum Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, BBC, RTE, Surface Magazine, his pictures are gaining great traction.  You can check out his work on his website Rich Wade, connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or email him to book him for an assignment, he's based in New York City.

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

I’m Richard Wade and I’m a photographer. I ‘ve found what I want to do in life so that’s pretty cool. You can check out my work on my website

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

I am from Belfast but have just relocated to Brooklyn. I am studying an MFA in photography at Parsons New School in Manhattan

Talk about your work ...

My work has quite a lot of variation, but at its heart it’s a study of people and their rituals. I like making pictures in places that I wouldn’t otherwise go. I make personal work for shows and also work editorially for different publications. 

What are your future plans ... 

My future plans involve a lot of picture taking, travelling and the continued development of my art practice and business. I hope to continue exhibiting my work on a larger scale, especially in New York. I also plan on opening a studio at some point.

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

I am inspired by people who are ambitious and make their own path in life. A lot of the subjects in my pictures are people who I have been drawn to. I liked all the boxers I met during my project. They get punched in the face and keep going. 

Describe your space ... 

I send lots of emails so anywhere with WIFI and hot drinks. I also like to be out my house a lot, it stops me getting lazy. 

How are you feeling today ... 

Today I am tired. I was out late last night photographing.  

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Exercise. Without it I can’t function. 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

“You’re a f---ing idiot.” Having something to prove has encouraged and motivated me more than anything else. 

 Your work life philosophy is ...

Be obsessed and love it. Have high expectations and a work ethic to back it up. 

What is your favourite smell ...  


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

I really enjoy Hans Zimmer and movie soundtracks. Right now I am listening to M83 Reunion.  

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 

Always pizza! Eggs, sourdough bread and bacon work well to. 

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

My MacBook Pro, Fender Strat and camera.  

How do you relax ... 

I like to binge watch YouTube and sit in coffee shops. I also love to work out!

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place 

I love to set goals and achieve them. I love when something I have worked on for a long time comes off. It’s still hard to process that I made it to America after working towards it for so long.  

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

I love travelling to the States. I would love to visit Tokyo!

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Support. It’s great to have people who believe in you!

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

 “Problems are inevitable, misery is optional.” Right now I am reading the Big Short by Michael Lewis. 

Share some words of wisdom ...

Don’t set any limitations. Go after what you want. If you fail it’s a good sign, keep going. Although cliché I would tell people that anything is possible if you work hard. Push outside your comfort zone. Also Exercise! 



Thank you for stopping by Rich it was great to have you at our place.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Let's talk about olives and maybe a glass of wine ...

Is there a more perfect cocktail food than an olive?  Plump and juicy. With shiny smooth skin, their bittersweet taste opens the palate.

They make a delicious salty snack in the cocktail hour, that time before dinner, when a sit down, some good conversation, preferably watching the sunset and a glass with the clink of ice cubes is a daily glimpse at heaven.  These Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer plump juicy garlic olives, and pimento and jalapeno stuffed olives are oozing with juice and glimmering with sophiscation.

So come on now, why not tonight put your feet up with this wine or this cocktail and with a bowl of olives.

Olives comes in many varieties and their quality and flavour differ considerably, they are primarily green and black yet they come in many shades in between. The colour differentiation comes from the stage of ripening when they were picked.  Green Olives are harvested in the late Autumn when they are still young, black olives in December by which time they are fully mature.  They are preserved by pickling, marinading or sometimes salting often with other ingredients such as garlic or lemon rind.  It is important to buy good olives with a superior flavour, as eating a bad olive is akin to eating cardboard soaked in salt.

These Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Greek Kalamata olives are fruity and firm, plump with a sharp smooth taste.  The Spanish Manzanilla olives are some of the world's most abundant olives, they originate from Seville in Spain and have a briny nutty flavour, they tend to be softer than the Kalamata olives. It is the Manzanilla olive that is most often found stuck with a toothpick in martini glasses around the world.

Generally speaking green olives are firmer and plumper than black ones.  Black olives have been given longer to ripen and have a higher oil content which means their flavour is often milder and softer - always look for glossy skins and most definitely avoid those ink black ones tinned in brine - as these are usually green olives that have been dyed and they have an inferior flavour to the real thing.  

If you haven't eaten olives before don't be put off by their initial sharp taste.  Keep trying them.  One day you will wonder when there was a time you hadn't eaten them.  Olives are sophiscated.  

It was a warm night towards the end of my first year at university, we had gathered after a debate in a new Italian restaurant in a basement of a large house on Playfair Terrace.  Drink flowed in a abundnance and I was searching for something to eat.  Student society budgets being what they were there food was always seen as less important than booze.  Unless you came to my house were both were treated with equal respect.    Drinking without food always makes me feel at a loss.  Food and drink together make me feel happy.  

My search around the room lead me to bowl of olives.  I distinctly remember thinking 'emmm I don't like olives but I need to eat something.'  Spearing a green olive which sat in a bowl glistening with oil and pieces of lemon peel and some garlic, with  with a cocktail I raised it warily to my mouth.  The sharp taste on my tongue was  sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent all at once.  It was complex and addictive.  I reached for another and another. I had fallen head over heels for an olive.  My love affair had begun - with yet another food, but shssssssh don't tell tomatoes.

I still 'tell myself off' for not asking the owner of the restaurant for his recipe.

A glass of chilled white wine some olives or a little bowl of antipasti is a civilised enjoyable and simply sophiscated way to whet your appetite before dinner, or enjoy a glass of wine in the evening with a nibble that isn't bread and cheese.  Antipasti is another firm favourite of mine whether for friends or family. 

The Le Charme Sauvignon Blanc from Marks and Spencer vintage 2015 from the Loire valley is crisp and full of bright citrus flavours, it is lighter and doesn't have that bitter after taste associated with some new world sauvignons blancs.   


That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Antipasti Platters - stress free food for friends

To throw a great party you just need a platter of antipasti and plenty of wine and your friends.

Amazing party eating really is that simple - one large platter, lots of great ingredients scattered over it and plenty of wine.  

The Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer range, carries a well thought out selection of good quality ingredients that sit easily together.  Their flavours complimenting each other. That's the spirit of antipasti, thinking of ingredients that go well together and arranging them prettily on a plate.

On my platter I arranged my favourite Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer ingredients -  plump juicy garlic, pimento and jalapeno stuffed olives, stuffed plump and piquaunt red cherry peppers with goat's cheese, manchego and mild mazanilla pitted olives in a sherry vinegar with paprika dressing and flame seared Puglin Italian artichokes marinaded in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, herbs and paprika.

With slices of cured meats - warm and paprika scented Spanish chorizo, pepper crusted German salami, Salami Italian Milano and Parm Ham - I added bright baby plum tomatoes, slices of feta covered in a Greek herb mix I bought at a market in Crete.

Antipasti is a treat for everyone, it is a very social way to eat full of vivid colours and flavours.  All you need to do is invite friends over, open some wine and arrange a selection of ingredients on platter and serve with slices of good bread.  

This is the kind of eating that celebrates the pleasure of the table.  Of people sitting together breaking bread, drinking wine and sharing in the joy of each others company.

Although the put together is relatively quite and easy, the eating should be slow and sensual.


Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer range has a brilliant selection of antipasti ingredients, all you need is a large platter to arrange it on, invite a group of friends over, crack open a bottle of wine and you are entertaining in what I feel is the most stress free way possible.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable




My favourite Brazilian cocktail, perfect for Olympic sipping

The best drinks are a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and simplicity just like this Caipirinha pronounced ‘cay-per-REEN-yah’ which uses the Brazilian Cachaça pronoucned kah-SHAH-sa spirit, limes and sugar.  

This organic Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça from Marks and Spencer, when muddled, stirred and poured over ice creates a cocktail refreshing and perfect for the lengthening evenings.

Brazilian’s don’t like cachaça being called rum – even though it is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane, and a cousin of white rum.  The difference between the two spirits is the way the ingredient is handled.  White rum is traditionally made from processed cane molasses and cachaça is made from fresh-pressed, unprocessed sugarcane juice, giving it the clean grassy smoky flavour and a herby nose.

The Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail and it is made with the sugar cane liqueur Cachaça.  The drink is made by muddling the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor Cachaça, then pouring over ice.  It is one your going to want to drink as you cheer your country or team on during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.  What do you want to watch?  I am excited for the swimming and the horseriding, the althetics and sailing - but our TV will be on pretty much for the whole show.

This Cachaça from Marks and Spencer has a sharp smoky flavour, that is almost textured on the tongue.  Muddled with sugar and lime it becomes and sublime and smooth.  A very enjoyable and easy to sip cocktail.

Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça stands out as a really well-made cachaça with a typical fresh, crisp delivery and light grassy notes.  

Recipe (makes one cocktail)


  • 50ml cachaça
  • Juice of two freshly squeezed limes
  • 3 teapsoons of granulated sugar (or three dashes of sugar syrup)


Muddle the sugar and lime, add the cachaça, then ice and stir well, serve in a squat old-fashioned glass. 

This fresh, herby just slightly smoky cocktail is a taste of the summer to come, and a celebation of the  longer evenings.

It can also be served in large jugs with plenty of ice for people to help themselves, perfect for sipping while you watch the Olympics.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Please note - this post previously appeared early in 2015