Tuesday
Mar242015

Hadskis Sunday Brunch, Belfast

 

The scent of grilling meat greets us on the pavement as we walk towards Hadskis, Niall and Joanne McKenna's bristo in the cathedral quarter of Belfast.

Hadskis a few centuries ago was an iron mongers, owned by a Mister Hadskis.  The name is clever and memorable, as is spending time in the restaurant.  

Stewart Hadskis in 1760 opened an iron foundry where the present day restaurant is, he made boilers for local bleachers and pots and pans.  The tie to the history of Belfast in the name of the restaurant is clever and McKenna has done well here, creating a clean space with a laidback vibe.  That is lovely to spend time in.   

Lots of steel and slate grey, with soft leather banquettes are accented by bright red pepper grinders.  

The room is long and thin, a steel bar counter runs through a third of the room, Head Chef David Scott and his team work quickly, their concentration and passion, for what they are doing etched on their faces.  Upstairs there is a private dining room, which can be booked for parties of 12 to 24 comfortably, it has a private bar and waiter service.

Seating at the bar or at high tables are at the Donegall Street end, or normal height tables on the Commercial Court side, of the restaurant offer a variety of dining sitting positions, opening up the welcome to people wanting a variety of things from their dining experiences.  

A man reading a paper sits at the bar, while a young couple hold hands sitting side by side just by him.  The restaurant buzzs with energy, there are couples and groups of friends enjoying the laidback Sunday vibe, while others are celebrating.  A family with young children are welcomed warmly.  Everyone has a place at Hadskis.

Along with stoves and rings, the chefs have a closed BBQ to grill on in their galley kitchen, allowing meats to be seared at the highest temperatures, meaning the meat starts to carmelise immediately and infuse with a smoky BBQ flavour.  Although we were there for brunch Salt and Sparkle team members have since been back for steak, and were very impressed with the meat's succulence, and tender taste.

Hadskis Brunch menu is refreshing in its simplicity.   Fruit, yogurt, different ways with eggs, and waffles or French Toast, sit alongside juices, herbal teas and coffees.  Produce is mainly locally sources, provenance is not listed on the menu.  Rashers and sausages are juicy and full of flavour, eggs have bright yellow yolks.

 It is compelling to watch Chef Scott his focus is intense and he works silently, defly and smoothly to cook tasty real plates of food, that have been carefully thought out.

 I opt for eggs sunnyside up on grilled rosemary foccacia with juicy rashers of Irish smoked bacon, the dish is plentiful and delicious.  The bread is charred rather than toasted offering another layer of smoke flavour, which compliments the bacon, the spikey rosemary flavour is warming.  There is layer upon layer of flavour in this dish, soft sweet smoky meat that oozes through my fingers, on crisp bread, and smooth rich eggs spill runny yolks across my plate.

 

 Cranberry mixed with orange is refreshing.

 Staff are knowledgable, pleasant and very welcoming, they want you to have a good experience, and enjoy your time in the restaurant, nothing is too much trouble for them.  Niall himself pops in and its great to talk to a man with such passion and enthusiam for what he does.

 Bright ruby grapefruit, drizzled with honey mixes sweet and sour.

Granola is a mix of rich plump dried fruit - cranberries, black and golden raisins, roasted oats and seeds.  It us served with a berry granola, and runny yogurt.  The combination of smooth silky yogurt, chewy fruit and crisp oats is delicious, and very morish. 

 

Running natural yogurt and sweet berry compote have complimenting sweet and sour flavours, soft and chewy at the same time.  Served in rather striking concial bowls, there is a sense that everything at Hadskis's has been well thought through, I especially like the teapots with their little rubber handles.

 Hadskis have a great wine list, and currently hold a Wine Mondays event, diners eat three courses with three specially chosen wines - a rather fun way to spend a Monday evening, and something to look forward to, as you make it through the workday.

The Hadskis cooked breakfast with two eggs, rashers of smoked bacon, large field mushrooms, pieces of black and white pudding and a tomato, although missing its friends soda and potato bread, the sheer quality of the ingredients shine through on the plate.  The sausages and puddings are full of flavour, the rashers rich and the eggs have a full rounded taste.

 Although busy Chef Scott makes time to chat to me about making foccacia giving me some tips about knocking back twice, he sends down a portion of the grilled bread to our table, it is served with a ramkin of Abernethy Butter.  Thick creamy country butter, on fresh bread, you can't beat it with a big stick.

 

 

 Waffles, deliciously crisp on the outside, with soft fluffy centres, were delicious, served with syrup and a freshly cut fruit salad.

 

Its atmosphere and energy from the open kitchen make it a pleasure to spend time in, everyone including children were welcome at brunch.   Food is served with style and knowledge.  Niall McKennas vision for simple, delicious and well cooked accessible food is executed with percision and excellent by Chef Scott and his team and the waiting staff.  

Hadskis is a good restaurant, offering brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as drinks and cocktails, you can smell it before you see it, and the smell will wet your appetite, we hope you will enjoy your dining experience there as much as we did.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Mar232015

q&a with Julie Cameron-Hall and Nigel Cameron

I am full of joy to welcome dear friends Nigel Cameron & Julie Cameron-Hall to the Salt and Sparkle q&a, this is our first double interview where questions are answered stimultaneously by two together.  

Julie and Nigel are musicians and singer songwriters.  Their music is hauntingly beautiful and moving.  It releases healing to all who hear it. They play a suite of intruments each including the harp, fiddle tin whistle, bodran, piano and guitar. Nigel's album Get Real is available from his website, alongside a range of his sublime photographs.  Julie's latest album Warrior Bride availabe from her website features this song 'Surely I am with you' which brings me great comfort.  Julie and Nigel travel across the world releasing their music to global audiences.

I met Julie and Nigel through Joanne Hogg when we all spent a morning sharing conversation and coffee on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.  It was around the time of Chinese New Year, and I invited them to my house to celebrate, we had an incredible evening together.  Julie and Nigel are very special people who's music awaken's the soul of all who hear it.  Nigel and Julie inspire me, their story is one of grace and healing. You can connect with Julie and Nigel on Facebook.


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

Nigel:  I am Nigel Cameron. It's not that long ago that I came to the realisation that it's actually ok to be me.  For many years I struggled to live up to who I thought I should be, and never quite made it.  Now I realise and celebrate the person God has made me to be...and I love my life.

Julie:  I am Julie Cameron-Hall, and my life is really interesting!  There are so many different roles and passions in my life, and two weeks rarely look the same. 

 

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

Nigel:  I grew up in Belfast, but last year moved to England to marry.  I've spent my whole life in Northern Ireland, so it was a big move.

Julie:  I am based in the South East of England, just north of Brighton.  My family are all from the Midlands, and I still have a brummie accent when I phone them.

 

Talk about your work ...

Nigel:  After many years of dull office bound administration, which everyone referred as "what I do", it was always what I did after "work" that I was most passionate about..like making music, leading worship and photographing God's creation.  But it was like I was doing three jobs.  Now in England I have the freedom to do the things I was created for.  I have just finished recording a long dreamed of album of all-age worship songs and the end result has exceeded my expectations in every way.  

 

Julie: I feel very blessed to have the permission in my life right now to concentrate on creative things...I am a musician, violinist & singer, teacher of pre-school music and worshipper, amongst other things!  I've recorded 5 albums to date, and hope there are some more to do before I'm finished.  Recording is one of the most fun things you can do...hearing songs come to life and knowing they could go to the most remote place is a really wonderful thought.


What are your future plans ... 

Nigel:  In the short term, lots of european travel to play in performance and at worship gatherings over the next month or so!  I am going to continue writing music, and I've been encouraged to make the recording of a solo Irish whistle album my next project.  Combined with my wife Julie's fiddle playing, The celtic sound we create has brought real healing to people as we've played, and we now we want to bring that into people's homes and cars as well.

 

Julie:  I seem to have met some really interesting and influential people recently, and opportunities to travel and play have been unfolding all the time..its amazing.  For example, recently a film maker asked if it was possible to use my song "Warrior Bride"..so film music may be a new area for me!  But immediately, the next month will see me in Israel, Germany, Belgium and Northern Ireland..as well as playing at a conference in England about how worship changes atmospheres.  It's a great season for me at the moment. 

 

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

Nigel:  The extraordinary beauty and detail of God's creation never ceases to capture my imagination, and is like a constant source of fuel for my own creativity.  I am never happier that when I am in wide open spaces, surrounded by the wind and the sun and the sky, with a camera in my hand.  I'm always inspired by excellent music, and by artists who are unafraid to do the unexpected.  I also often return to the psalms, because I always find exactly the thing I want to say written there.

 

Julie:  I think my inspiration comes from my relationships with other people...when I feel other people's love, and feel love for them, I see God's beauty, and that inspires me.  I love watching other people relating to each other; the mums and babies in my classes, people around a table, people listening to our music and conversations we have afterwards.  Nigel is a real inspiration to me...he is relentlessly positive and presses through, and he is endlessly encouraging.  I am so blessed to live with someone like that..

 

Describe your space ... 

Nigel:  Very soon after we were married and I moved into Julie's house, she felt it was very important for me to have a space just for me.  So she made a little snug room where I can hide away with my laptop and headphones. The little music room in our home didn't feel fully mine until it was transformed by a lovely acoustic piano. This has made all the difference to me as I have such a connection with it and it gives so much back.  The sense of home I have here in our wee house is something I have never felt before.

 

Julie:  I like white walls, flowers and being organised..I don't like clutter and have organised Nigel's CD collection into labelled boxes!  I love good art and we have some beautiful paintings.  Of course there are musical instruments everywhere.

 

How are you feeling today ... 

Nigel:  Full of the joys of spring!  After I listened to the final mixes of my new album I was literally skipping down the street...the sense of completion and satisfaction is priceless today.  Also reflecting on a challenging weekend, I am celebrating how God turned it around...in the words of James Brown..I feel good!

 

Julie:  I'm a bit sleepy!  Also, feeling faintly nervous about a big trip to Israel later this week.  I know it'll be great though, so I'm excited too.

 

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Nigel:  Brown sauce, (never ketchup) mint sauce with lamb, chips must never be without salt and lots of vinegar,(balsamic where possible) and scones must be fresh from the oven (daily if possible).

Julie:  God knows best, He wants the best and He's always right..so my non negotiable is that His plans always come first, even when people around don't get it (and neither do I sometimes..!)  

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

 Nigel:  I have an overflowing box filled with letters and emails of encouragement, which are always greatly appreciated, and mean so much to me. The most encouraging words I have ever heard though, came to me during the night, at a time when my self-worth was under attack.  I woke up to hear myself saying the following words, three times:  "My child, I love you, and accept you for who you are."  To me, this was very clearly God's voice, even though it was through my lips, but these words changed my life.

 

Julie:  "Your most important job is to be 'The Beloved'."

 

Your work life philosophy is ...

Nigel:  Rest is so important, and I've realised that many things I used to think were ways to relax actually involve me doing work.  Now I'm married to Julie I've discovered how freeing it is to close the laptop and not have to be doing things all the time.

 

Julie:  There is joy in doing small or domestic things, even if they are mundane.  The satisfaction from seeing a cut lawn or a pile of freshly ironed shirts is not to be underestimated!  Things that the world thinks are important, and the way people measure "success" often give weight to things that really really aren't that valuable.  But time given to your baby, singing to him or talking to your mum on the phone will last forever.

 

What is your favourite smell ...

Nigel:  Scones, fresh from the oven, of course.

 

Julie:  The smell of a roasting turkey, because it reminds me of christmas morning in my mum's house.  It was the only day we ever roasted a turkey, so the smell means everyone being happy and being together.

  

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

Nigel:  I love music that pushes boundaries, especially fusing different genres and cultures.  Celtic artists like Davy Spillane or Iona, who create soundscapes that take you on a journey, instrumentalists like Phil Keaggy..and at the moment a lot of classic jazz, like Oscar Peterson.  Just now, my own album is in the CD player, being analysed and celebrated in every detail!

 

Julie:  It's strange to admit it, but I don't actually listen to much music.  There have been times though, when certain albums have been on a loop, even through the night, especially after I was bereaved.  Rob Stroh's brilliant instrumental albums saved my sanity during that time.

 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Nigel: Roast lamb and mint sauce.  No idea what the ingredients are apart from lamb and mint and vinegar…

 

Julie: My best meal is eaten outdoors, in the sunshine, with people I love around me.  I love too many dishes to single out one.  It could be chips on the beach, or a picnic at the zoo, or around a table in the garden.  Three favourite ingredients...chocolate, strawberries and cheese.

 

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

Nigel:  I never thought I'd adapt from conventional film cameras, but the truth is, the invention of the digital camera has transformed my experience of capturing scenes of wonder though a lens.

 

Same can be said of my laptop. Hard to believe that less than 10 years ago I didn't even own a computer.

 

Finally, cheese on toast was completely transformed forever by the discovery of worcester sauce…..

 

Julie:  Hate to say it, but facebook has opened up a world of news and connection I'd not have thought possible.  Being connected and informed changes everything...and all my personal technology..ipads, internet bank, phone and everything has become kind of vital.

 

Its also important to me that I love my current handbag and purse..I see and use them every day!  and last of all a really good moisturising cream helps my face feel better, especially when I haven't had enough sleep. 

 

How do you relax ... 

Nigel:  Walking has a way of helping me put everything in perspective.  Also, good music, sunshine and freshly brewed coffee all at the same time is perfection.

 

Julie:  Escaping into a good book, a good movie, shopping with girlfriends or a lovely hot bath are some of my happy ways to relax.

 

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

 Nigel:  Enjoying a lovely meal with my wife. Also love a good coffee shop.

Julie:  It's hard to imagine how happy Nigel makes me...he really is brilliant..funny and so kind.  Love being silly with him.  Also, I am never happier when all of my kids come home at the same time and I have an overflowing house.

 

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

 Nigel:  It's hard to beat the Antrim coast road on a good day.  I'd like to visit the Grand Canyon…

 

Julie:  Bit of a cliche, but my favourite journey is usually the one when I'm coming home from somewhere.  Even though I travel such a lot at the moment, I'm actually really a home bird.

 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Nigel:  Honesty, being real, and genuine support.  Being on the same wavelength and being able to celebrate where I am without having to explain things.

 

Julie:  Knowing that someone does not compete or judge you and that you are safe to trust them.  That they actually can celebrate the person you are and you can do the same for them.

 

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

Nigel:  Psalm 139.  And "Its dinner time..!"  I'm reading a devotional for animal lovers right now, as I want to write some songs for children about animals!

 

Julie:  "Hi, mum, how are you?"  "Do you want to jam?"  "Have some chocolate."

I'm trying to read and prepare for a study trip to Israel at the moment...

 

Share some words of wisdom ...

Nigel; Less is more, (musically speaking) Celebrate the journey and the destination is a bonus.  When faced with slander and dishonour, respond with grace and see things turn around.

 

Julie:  Love and honour the person in front of you.  Seek influence and you will end up frustrated and bitter.  Seek God's Kingdom of love and you can't avoid influence.

 

Julie and Nigel, thank you for joining us, it was an honour to interview you at Salt and Sparkle.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Tuesday
Mar172015

Writer's Tears Whiskey from Marks & Spencer

The fire crackled softly warming my toes.  I sat in an easy chair, pulled in close watching the flames, a book of poetry resting on my knee and a glass of whiskey in my hand.  A drink I would enjoy over the hours of the evening.  

Whiskey is not a drink to be rushed or knocked back in quick succession, it should be savoured and enjoyed.

The Whiskey I am drinking this St Patrick's Day is Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.

Whiskey should be drunk from good glasses - crystal if possible. I love these antique tumblers that once belonged to my Gran.  

Writer's Tears is a light whiskey, that is firey on the tongue which rounds out to a smooth mellow honeyed flavour, with strong notes of vanilla, bourbon and butterscotch.  It is a beautiful whiskey, which should be drunk patiently.  Allowing the story of the liquid to tell her tale as it is drunk.

Writers Tears Pot Still Blend is a combination of pure pot still and malt whiskeys from Walsh Whiskey Distllery Ireland.  This soft, sweet easy drinking whiskey, with just a little fire, is best drunk with the tiniest drop of water to release the oils, hidden in the amber liquid, and let the flavours created in the barrel come through. There is a hint of oak, and a flavour of candy apples as the finish is long and sweet.

Writers Tears, is an artisan boutique brand stocked by Marks and Spencer that has captured the attention of whiskey enthusiasts worldwide.  It goes perfecly with the words of John O'Donohue's latest book Walking on the Pastures of Wonder.

If you are knew to whiskey and would like to rise a glass tomorrow, here is our 7 point guide on how to taste whiskey.

How to Taste Whiskey - a 7 Point Guide

 

  1. Swirl the whiskey in the glass to release its flavours
  2.  Put your nose into the glass and take a good sniff
  3. Take a sip and swirl in your mouth as if eating the whiskey like a mars bar for 15 seconds before swallowing
  4. Swallow, take a deep breath, let the breath out as the whiskey goes down
  5. How does the whiskey, smell and taste to you, where does it hit your palate
  6. Remember - There are no right and wrong answers, it is about your personal taste
  7. Add a drop of water, swirl in the glass to mix, then repeat steps 1-6 - has the flavour of the whiskey changed, if so how?

Happy St Patrick's Day, I hope you will enjoy your glass of Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.

Sláinte

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Mar162015

q&a with Captain Todd Williams from Private Island Charters

It gives me joy to welcome Captain Todd Williams from Private Island Charters, Palm Harbors Florida, to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Captain Todd is the skipper of a private charter boat, a 23' Pro-line sport that my sister and I had the pleasure or sailing with last year.  

Todd is laidback, knowledgeable, an excellent skipper and someone who is a pleasure to spend time with.  A musician, singer and cook, as well as a skipper, he is a pleasure to talk too.  

Private Island Charters with Captain Todd at the helm specialise in one day trips to the islands and beaches just offshore in the Palm Harbor area, on the Florida Gulf Coast, which are accessible only by boat.  These are magical trips, that take you to islands where your only other company are birds and fish.  Contact Todd organise your own private boat trip when your on the Florida Gulf Coast.  Todd's family also own a beautiful house right on the water which they rent during the season.

What I loved about sailing with Captain Todd, was that he takes you to places that are free from hoards of people, full of wildlife, and only discoverable by someone with local knowledge.  These islands with their lapping lapaiz waters are sublime, a place to while away the hours and rest.  As Todd powers his bought forward dophins jump in the late afternoon sunshine.

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

I’m Captain Todd Williams with Private Island Charters, and Gulfcoast Heaven Vacation Home.  I’m also a musician, husband, and father of a 2 ½ yr old son.  I’m blessed to have a business that I love especially when my friends tell me about their “real” jobs!

 

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

Originally from Melbourne Australia, based in Palm Harbor Florida.

 

Talk about your work ... 

I have the greatest job. I get to guide our guests around to the different beautiful islands, along the Florida Gulf Coast watch dolphins and other wildlife, and spend the day on the water while meeting some really cool people. We also have a beautiful gulf front vacation rental home where our guests often stay. It really is Paradise!

 

What are your future plans ...

To continue to grow our business, to stay healthy, take care of my family, and to enjoy life!

 

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

I get inspiration from a lot of places, but business wise I would say my guests inspire me. Everyone who has gone out with us has said what a great experience they have had and how glad they were that they did it. That inspires me!

 

 Describe your space ... 

What space, I have a 2 ½ year old ! lol

 

How are you feeling today ... 

Optimistic!

 

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Having fun.

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

“You can do it!?”

Your work life philosophy is ...

Work hard when you work but enjoy life and don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel!

 

What is your favourite smell ...

hmmm either good food, or the salt air. I also like the smell of a wetsuit. It’s very nostalgic.

 

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

I like a lot of different music but I do listen to a lot of Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, that kinda stuff. Especially on the boat!

 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

I like to cook so I could go on forever but probably steak, crab cakes, fresh seafood.

Three things or products that have changed your life... The Surfboard, the Windsurfer, and the Electric Guitar!

How do you relax ...

I like to get away from the hustle and bustle. The islands are great for that!

 

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

Being in and on the ocean is my happy place whether it be surfing, boating, windsurfing or on a beautiful white sand beach listening to the ocean!

 

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

I really enjoyed living in Australia but New Zealand, Hawaii and Costa Rica are also great places to be! I would like to check out Tortola and the BVI,  and Italy and Greece!

 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Sense of humor!

 

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

I dont read many books etc, but at the moment have been reading lots of emails regarding boat charters which is always great. My favorite words? - anything my son says...

Share some words of wisdom ...

Have fun life is short!

 

Captain Todd, thank you for joining us on Salt and Sparkle, it was great having you at our place.  Until the next time we get to sail the high seas with you.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Wednesday
Mar112015

Sumac, mustard and orange Roast Chicken

On a Sunday I roast a chicken, sometimes in a tray, other times baked in salt.  But one of my favourite ways is in a pot with oranges and herbs.  

Roast chicken makes the base for many meals - a chicken sandwich for supper, the bones used for stock, slices in a salad, warm with rice and or potatoes.  It's seen as a very clean lean meat, great for increasing our protein intake, without bulking.  But it can be considered a very boring bland meat.

Yet roast chicken that ultimate comfort food does not have to be boring, it can be packed full of flavour, and come up succulent, soft and sweet, even spicy.  Restaurants are themed around chicken and people go mad for it, they make finding the perfect roast chicken into a holy grail religious type quest.

The secret to good chicken is good poultry, and then using herbs and spices to bring flavour to what can be considered a dull meat.  I love these squat fat jars from Marks and Spencer herbs and spices range with clear labels on the lid making them easy to identify from the top as well as the front.

In the base of the pan I half oranges, roughly chop celery and carrots, I toss them with a dash of cider vinegar, on top I place a chicken stuffed full of oranges, smashed garlic and sumac.  You could use lemons for a zesty sharper note, but orange brings a sweetness to the chicken.

Sumac is a wonderful Middle Eastern herb, tangy, lemony and slightly spicy, it brings a real zing to any cooking, it is more balanced and less tart than lemon.  It was typically used in Europe until lemons were introduced by the Romans.  It is delicious sprinkled on top of houmous, in salad dressings , dry rubs, marinades, in salad or sprinkled over food before serving, its red colour is very appealing.

It can be difficult to get but Marks and Spencer added it to their excellent range of herbs making it readily available on the high street without having to order online or find it in specialist shops.

Rub the chicken with just a smear of olive oil, then massage salt and sumac deeply into every part of the bird. Place the chicken in a cast iron pot, that it fits into quite snuggly leave the chicken to marinade in the pot with the lid on for 30 minutes to one hour.

Before cooking sprinkle some mustard seeds over the top of the chicken then roast for 11⁄2 hrs or until cooked through and the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the leg

Then roast over a high heat removing the lid, and keeping the chicken in the over for a further 10 minutes before serving, to allow the skin to crisp. 

a Sumac works brilliantly with chicken because its tangy zing breathes life into the meat.The chicken will look bronzed when it is ready because of the deep read of the Sumac herb.

Serve the roast chicken with houmous sprinkled with sumac and pitta bread, alongside a carrot or cucumber and tomato salad.

Use the bones of the chicken to make bone broth or stock and use this as the basis for another soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium free range, preferably organic chicken
  • 4 sticks of celery roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots roughtly chopped
  • a bag leaf
  • 4 tbsp sumac
  • four small oranges cut in half
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper.

How do you like your roast chicken?

This is the first is a new series of posts about herbs and spices in cooking.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Mar082015

Mother's Day 2015 gift ideas

Don't you just love daffodils? Their bright cheery demeanor lift anyroom.  Everytime I look at a bunch I cannot help but smile, at their vibrancy, at the wonder of their promise of spring breaking through the cold colourness of winter.  Daffodils reflect the energy and zingy zest of spring.

There are lots of flowers on offer for Mother's Day, but any Mum would be over the moon with a huge bunch of daffodils.  This large bunch I created by buying two of Marks and Spencer bunches at £3 each letting them come into bloom, then wrapping them quite tightly with brown paper, to allow them all to bunch together, creating a really vibrant abundant bouquet.  This is a great bouquet to make with children who may wish to spend their pocket money on flowers for their Mummy.

 Sherry and nuts make an original present, this Fernando Di Castilla Don Fernando Oloroso sherry from Marks and Spencer, comes in a feminine thin bottle.  This rather wonderful 10 year old Oloroso from the 1st Criadera of the bodegas finest Oloroso solera, has a deliciously nutty flavour, and warming finishing is perfect served chilled in small tall glasses with some salted nuts before dinner, or as a nighttime snack.

Fruit and Tea Chocolates by Marks and Spencer  are deliciate and tiny balls of delight.  They come in a beautiful lace cutout box that can be used for years to come as a very stylish storage box.  The chocolates comes in five well thought through rounded flavours - African Roobios, Earl Grey, Matcha, Blueberry Caramel and Raspberry Cream.  The white chocolate matcha is my favourite.  Made in Ireland, these chocolates not only are a beautiful and unusal gift for Mother's everywhere they show Marks and Spencer commitment to Ireland's agri-food industry, and allow those who purchase them to do the same.

 

 Who doesn't love honey!  A life giving property that is a great filling for chocolate.  These Belgium made chocolates from Marks and Spencer got a huge thumbs up from the Salt and Sparkle team, they are truly lovely, with a delicious combination of different honeys filling each sweet. These are very special chocolates that stand out from what is on offer on the High Street this year.  There is a Chestnut Honey and Almond in a crisp dark chocolate shell, a Lavender Honey Ganache in a dark chocolate shell, an Oranage Blossom Honey worked into a smooth caramel under a milk chocolate shell and a Wildflower Honey with pieces of Honeycomb, smothered in white chocolate.  Their distinctive yellow box is eyecatching.  These honey chocolates are very memorable.

 Is there anything better than a crisp thin piece of lemon shortbread?  I would argue not.  These lemon shortbread thins from Marks and Spencer come in a distinctive stylish tin that will quickly become useful to house alsorts of kitchen bits and pieces.  A sweet refreshing lemon flavour mixed with a firm crumb makes these biscuits a great afternoon snack with a cup of tea.  

Crumbly buttery fudge with a texture of tablet has long been a favourite in our household, a sweet treat that goes back with generations of our family.  Splattered cookbooks list recipes for this sweet treat.  Firm to the bite these melt in the mouth pieces of fudge have been laced with pieces of Australian ginger for a slight spicy kick.  

The Marks and Spencer Les Ruettes Sancerre is crisp and sharp.  Refreshing to sip as an apertif, it has a soft golden colour with a minerally flavour that is flinty and fine.  Made with 100% Sauvigon Blanc grapes this youthful Sancerre has a rich lemon flavour that works well with fish and chicken.

Marks and Spencer has always been one of my favourite places to stock up on food and wine treats for Mother's Day.  I can be assured of the quality of the product and the thought behind the flavour combinations.

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful Mums who read my thoughts.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Saturday
Mar072015

Vietnamese New Year 2015


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year our family celebrated Vietnamese New Year with a feast at Brian and Sarah's house.  The best way to celebrate is to gather with friends and family around the table.  Our table groaned with food, there was roast duck, with thinly sliced scallions and cucumber, Sarah's extra special pork chops, served with fluffy white rice.

Vietnamese New Year festivities start on the first day of the lunar month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. New Year also known as the Spring festival because it celebrates the start of new life and a season of sowing and ploughing starts on 19 February 2015 , is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.

According to the Chinese Zodiac this year is the year of the Sheep or Goat, people born in the year of Sheep or goat are tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. This is your Chinese Zodiac if you were born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and, now, 2015.

Gong Hei Fat Choi! – Happy Vietnamese New Year, wishing you happiness, joy and wealth.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable