Tuesday
Sep012015

Happy 25th Birthday Colin the Caterpillar

September has arrived and with it my birthday, and that of Colin the Caterpillar.  

Colin will be 25 years old but my age I will keep under wraps.

Colin the Caterpillar is a chocolate swiss roll type cake made by Marks and Spencer, which is a favourite of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Jessica Ennis!

Marks and Spencer Coline the Caterpillar is soft chocolate sponge cake is rolled with butter icing, into a swiss roll, then covered with melted milk chocolate and decorated with chocolate popping candy and coloured crisp chocolate shells.

 His face is made from solid white chocolate, and milk chocolate eyes.

Launched in 1990 M&S has sold more than seven million Colin the Caterpillar cakes in the past 25 years.

Each year M&S uses 8.4 tonnes of sweeties to decorate Colin with his signature markings

It takes 38 people to make Colin from start to finish.

Even though September is my birthday month don't wait for a birthday to have a Colin the Caterpillar Cake, this kind of cake can be served at the end of dinner, for afternoon tea, or just because ...

Just because ... is my favourite type of reason.

As well as Colin the Caterpillar Cake, Marks and Spencer have created a range of Colin the Caterpillar jellies, including a brilliant range of vegetarian friendly sweets.

Colin the Caterpillar jellies aren't just for children, I love to serve them in martini glasses with the girls to nibble on over an evening of chat or while watching a movie.

There are six flavours to chose from

Fruit Gums

Fruit Sours

Cola Gums

Fizzy Rainbows - my favourites

Cherry Gums

Colin the Butterfly

What is your favourite?

Serving these Collin the Caterpillar jellies make an ordinary moment a special occasion, and we all need more special moments in our everyday ordinary.

 Happy Birthday Colin!

 On this my birthday month watch out for a range of cake recipes coming over this next month.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Aug312015

Recipe: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with plum compote by Andy Rea 

Last week we featured Chef Andy Rea on the Salt and Sparkle q&a, today we share a recipe Andy wrote especially for Salt & Sparkle.


Buttermilk Panna Cotta with plum compote

Note Both Panna Cotta and Plum compote are best made the day before

 Serves 6 

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla pod, split in half
  • 200ml cream
  • 225ml buttermilk 
  • ½ tin condensed milk 
  • 2 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water

Method

1. In a saucepan, add cream, scrape vanilla seeds from pod, add both seeds and pod to cream, bring to the boil and remove.

2. Remove gelatine from the cold water, gently squeeze it and add it to the hot cream and vanilla.

3. Strain into a clean bowl, add condensed milk and buttermilk, mix well and pour into moulds.

4. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. 

Plum compote

Ingredients

  • 200g ripe plums, stones and quartered
  • 1 tbsp. plum brandy or port
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar

Method

  1. Toss plums and sugar together.
  2. Place non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add butter.
  3. When butter just starts to turn brown, carefully add plums and sugar, reduce heat and cook out for 5-10 minutes
  4. Add brandy/port and cook until plums soften.

Serve the panna cotta and plums together at room temperature with shortbread or a cookie.

 

Monday
Aug312015

q&a with artist Kieron Black

It is a pleasure to welcome artist Kieron Black to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Kieron is an immensely talented artist who's work has been shown across the world.  Kieron's work is lumious full of effervescent light.  One of his drawings has accompanied me across the world.  His cartoons accompany pieces in New York financial magazines each week and his watercolours are available to commission.  I have had the pleasure of knowing Kieron for a long time because he is my very cool older cousin.  You can connect with Kieron and commission a piece of his art work on Facebook and by email.

Who are you, what’s it like being you ...
Kieron Black. 45 years on this planet. Very human.

Where are you from, where are you based ...
The afore-mentioned planet. Killough, Co Down, in a timeworn cottage by the sea.


Talk about your work ...
Talk about yours.

What are your future plans ... 
Live my life, be a good father, husband. Not die til it's time.

How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...
The beautiful, the grotesque. Everyone who tries... by those who it comes easy to but mostly by those who it comes hard to.


  
Describe your space ... 
Messy. Full of boards and the means of making marks.

How are you feeling today ... 
Just dandy.

A non-negotiable in your life is ...
Coffee.

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 
You can do this.

Your work life philosophy is ...
There is always someone who is better at what you do than you are. Don't sweat it.

What is your favourite smell ...  
Wax.

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

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 
A good caeser.

Three things or products that have changed your life... 
Boards. My wife, my daughter.


How do you relax ... 
Ride.

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

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

What do you most value in your friends ...  
Time.


What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ... 
My weeping friends forebear to mourn, nor for my absence cry. You must, like me, to dust return. You must, like me, die.

Share some words of wisdom ...
I just did.

------

Thank you Kieron, it was great to interview you on the Salt & Sparkle q&a.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Aug242015

q&a with Chef Andy Rea from the Mourne Seafood Bar

It is a great pleasure to welcome one of my favourite chefs Andy Rea from the Mourne Seafood Bar.  Andy's talent and ability to create beautiful dishes from great ingredients is astonishing.  He is a visionary who sees the best in people and wants to give them a chance to succeed.  This year he is involved in the PopUp Restaurant at the Hillsborough Oyster Fesitval, a definite date for your diaries.  You can take a cookery class with Andy at the Belfast Cookery School or follow him on Twitter.

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

I feel lucky, I’m lucky to have happy staff and happy customers. And I’m lucky to have a great family life. I have two girls, a 13 and a 14 year old and my girlfriend is about to have our first baby so we’re all excited and that’s going to happen in about 4 weeks. That part of my life is really good. I have a nice balance between work and family. 

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

I’m originally from inner-city Belfast. I’m originally from Tates Avenue in Belfast and I’m a born and bred boy in that way. I now live near Stormont in Belfast so lots of green areas around me and I’m happy enough about that. 

Talk about your work ...

My work at the minute is that I’m a chef first and foremost, I’m a cook and I still love cooking, it is the key. It’s one of my favourite things in the world. It doesn’t matter what stress I have, I can always go back and hopefully make something beautiful with local ingredients.

My job is sort of changed where I’m not trying to instill the best in people. So if someone works front-of-house and they’re gifted, I try to help them find the best that they can possibly be.

That mentoring side of things is something I’m into whether they need commercial advice or whether they want to better cooks. First of all you should reward them for being good and then help them be the best they could possibly be. 

What are your future plans ... 

Daisy-chaining on the last answer, a lot of my plans is now to recognize talent, nurture it and put them under our umbrella and then help those people start-up their own business.

What makes people special is the people, you know if you go into any sort of hospitality, it’s the person that meets you at the door it’s the person cooking your food or doing dishes or cleaning up. Every part of that unit is the people and I’m trying to basically find those people and nurture them. 

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

I’m inspired by the people coming through our organization. You get people coming in from all different walks of life and different age groups. I get people now who used to be graphic designers and decide I don’t want to be a graphic designer anymore I want to be a chef and I’m giving them a platform to give that a go.

I also love working with kids who were just like myself, inner-city Belfast, maybe a bit rough around the edges but if you get someone like that and you recognise a bit of passion and talent, that’s the thing that inspires me more than anything.

Along with all our suppliers as well, I mean 10 years ago you had our local farmers just growing carrots, parsnips and potatoes, now they’re growing micro-cress, organic veg, heritage carrots, heirloom tomatoes, it’s totally evolving and the energy about that is totally evolving as well. We have beautiful beef here and lamb but how it’s hung and treated after that is what makes it totally unique to the whole world. That’s inspiring. 

How are you feeling today ... 

Good, I’m about to go and have lunch with my daughters. I’ll probably take them round to Home restaurant because I do like the deli and the healthy eating.

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

I have a massive family connection, both my parents are passed away but my brother and my two sisters and their circle.

Like I must have Christmas Eve and have that party then where I cook something outrageous and we all have great craic. I must have at least a couple of family get-togethers over the summer. 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

Two phrases that I always fall back on. One is “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, taking strictly out of the Matrix but there’s difference between knowing what’s actually happening and actually doing it.

The other one would be “never judge a man on success but on how well he handles failure” so when things are going really well it’s easy to be a nice person but when your back’s against the wall and things aren’t really going to plan, that’s a really true judge of character.

What is your favourite smell ...  

Baked bread. 

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

The Tallest Man On Earth he’s Swedish and he’s sort of got an unusual folky sort of voice.

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 

Best meal would be one of my mum’s Christmas dinners because I just know the whole energy and thought process that went into it. She used to make the most unbelievable gravy and even though she’s passed now, I still don’t know how to make it and I’m a chef. Three favourite ingredients would automatically be fish, asparagus and spuds.

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

Sonos Music System which is access to music anywhere wirelessly in your house and linked to Spotify or whatever. You can have access to about 20 million songs any different playlist, any different room in the house. Work-wise, a microplane grater. 

How do you relax ... 

I find it hard to relax because my mind is always working overtime. I relax by swimming so I try to swim 5 times a week and that’s the only time that you can’t answer the phone, no-one can talk to you and you just have that moment where you’re in the pool and swimming. 

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

In my backgarden, we’ve built a brick clay oven for making pizzas so that’s my new happy place. 

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

My favorite place that I’ve been that I would go back to is Stockholm and the islands but going out on a boat and touring the old fashion islands is beautiful.  

 Beautiful people, clean, great food, great vibe.

I want to go to New Zealand and Patagonia, Argentina because I’ve been watching loads of documentaries of people cooking out there in the wild and I like that whole concept of smoking your own fish, cooking things in open flame, setting fire to something and then burying it and digging it up later and opening it and everyone sitting around a fire eating it. 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Patience and also a sense of humour. 

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

I read cookbooks all the time. I use a lot of Pinterest to access information as well. The last book I read would be any of the Leon Cookbooks, I like how easy they are to use and how the recipes are broken down.

Share some words of wisdom ...

If you find something you really like doing, try to get good at it and hopefully you’re lucky enough that you’ll make some money out of it. I’ve never been driven by money but I think that if you’re successful money comes with it but it’s more important to do what you totally believe in.

 

---------

Andy it was a pleasure to interview you, thank you for hanging out with us at the Salt and Sparkle q&a.

The Mourne Seafood Bar is a brilliant seafood restaurant and oyster bar with restaurants in Belfast, Dundrum, and in Dublin.  Andy Rea is one of the four chefs taking part in the Gourmet Pop-up Restaurant which is debuting at this year’s Hillsborough International Oyster Festival.

Hillsborough International Oyster Festival’s first Gourmet Pop-Up Restaurant which will take place on Thursday 3rd September from 7pm.

 

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable 

Sunday
Aug232015

Cheat's iced lemon Martini - summer sipping series 

I felt very sophisticated the first day I ordered a Martini.  It was in a bar in St Andrews, and I was having an evening drink with my friend Eliot, a Martini connoisseur.  I'd only started to eat olives, so seeing them in a drink felt very grown up.  I think it was the shape of the martini glasses, as they caught my eye which left me with an feeling of intrigue.  I didn't really put much thought into the headblowing power of raw undiluted vodka or gin and vermouth, with a twist of lemon or an olive which nearly knocked me off my seat when I took a drink.

Of course I didn't know you sipped a martini, not knocked it back in a big mouthful.  Since then I have always loved the idea of a Martini, especially the shape of the glasses but never really been tempted by the power of the alcohol. 

Martini glasses add a touch of glamour to any table and I really don't see why they need to be used only for a pure martini.  That is why I created this cheat's iced lemon martini.

It is made with ice, but not shaken or stirred.  It is simply a delicious citrus vodka from Marks and Spencer poured over ice with Marks and Spencer real Sicilian Lemonade.  

 Marks and Spencer citrus vodka has a clean sharp taste, with a zesty finish.  It would make the perfect traditional martini, but it is also delicious mixed with cloudy lemonade, more typical of a tall drink, but feeling rather fabulous drunk out of the traditional martini glass.

 This lemonade is ripe with sweet sour citrus flavours, with a crisp acidity that balances out the sugar.

 

 

Cheat's iced lemon Martini

Ingredients

per one martini

 

  • 35ml measure of Marks and Spencer Citrus Vodka or a generous splash
  • lots of ice chips
  • Cloudy Sicilian lemonade
  • Lemon to make lemon twists

Method

  1. Fill each Martini glass to the brim with ice chips
  2. Add the Citrus vodka and top up Sicilian lemonade
  3. Make lemon twists and place on top of each glass

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Saturday
Aug222015

Rum, pineapple and lime cooler - summer sipping series

Tall refreshing drinks are a crucial part of summer - well anytime of year really.  Sometimes a drink should be as simple as superb great ingredients over ice.

Great ingredients such as this Plantation 3 Stars Rum from Marks and Spencer.   

With a bright inviting nose, this rum is fruity, sharp and lingers on the palate.  The blend of three island styles Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, creates a pleasing sipping experience.  

My Bajan friends told me the mark of a good rum is that it can be sipped alone over ice, or made into a cocktail.  The Plantation 3 Stars Rum from Marks and Spencer has a nose of dried coconut and honey, followed by a soft spice.  They recommended drinking it with pineapple juice.  

On the palate the rum offers a lingering flavour of fresh cane sugar and honey, with vanilla overtones, it has a zinging floral finish.  This sweetness is balanced by the tartness of the pineapple and a splice of lime.

This cooler is lovely served with brunch or in the early evening.

Rum, pineapple and lime cooler

Ingredients

makes one pitcher of cooler - serves 4

 

 

Method

  1. Fill each glass with ice and add a lime wedge
  2. Place all ingredients for the cocktail into a large pitcher and stir
  3. Serve immediately

 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Aug172015

q&a with illustrator, designer and stylist Sara O'Neill 

It is wonderful to welcome Sara O'Neill - artist, illustrator, designer and stylist - to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  I first came across Sara's work during Belfast Fashion Week several years ago, her ability to put things together is ravishing, she has a unique vision and creative eye, combined with an ability to bring colour and lines together that is remarkable.  Her Instagram account is filled with the most beautiful photographs filled with effervescent light.  You can follow her on facebook , Instragram and Twitter, She has also designed a range of ethereal silk scarfs called Éadach which are available at BTS Concept Store, Una Rodden Couture, Gráinne Maher Fashion or from Sara herself. 

 

 


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

I am Sara O’Neill, stylist and scribbler. Fiancée to Al, a big wave surfer. Daughter to Eddie and Bernie, sibling to Beckie and Rory. Friend to a handful of crazy people. All very intelligent, interesting, passionate people who make me laugh a lot. Owner/ maid/ belly scratcher to golden retriever, Blyton. 

I like being me, it’s a cool life but can be a bit hectic, my mind never switches off and I have so many ideas, things I want to create and become obsessed with. But that’s the way I’ve been since I was a kid, I’m used to it by now.

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

I’m from Portrush and after fifteen years in Belfast, returned to the coast last year. Belfast was great, first of all for uni then building my career and client base. But I think when you’re brought up by the sea you’ll always be drawn back. I love it.


Talk about your work ...  

I do a few things, I keep busy. I’ve worked as a freelance stylist for nearly a decade now, specializing in commercial and fashion work, working alongside some brilliant teams. 

Five years ago I got back into drawing, I avoided it for a few years after uni. I’ve since had a few exhibitions and am represented by a London/NYC commercial illustration agency. My illustrations tend to be quite feminine and stylized but it depends on the client brief of course- book and album covers, company branding. I also write a lot, mainly for ad agencies and magazines. 

Last year I combined the skills I have developed from years working in fashion and illustration and launched a range of limited edition printed silks- wearable art.

Éadach has been brilliantly received and I’m always thrilled at the strength of feeling for the pieces- customers get quite emotional.

After completing my BaHons in Fashion and Textile Design eleven years ago I swore I’d never go into design but that just shows you should never say never!

If you told me back then my prints would be featured in Grazia or the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine, I would never have believed you- in fact, I’m pretty sure I skipped the print workshops at uni! 

What are your future plans ... 

Professionally, to stay focused, building the different aspects of my business. Work does take up a lot of time, but also allows me a degree of freedom and flexibility. Personally, I’m getting married in the very near future, so that’s exciting.


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

I find inspiration everywhere, different things inspire me at different times- music, literature, art, history, people.  At the moment I’m very inspired by my surroundings here on the north coast. The coastline here, combined with the Irish myth and legends my granny told me as a child, is the inspiration behind Éadach.

Describe your space ... 

When I’m writing, designing or drawing I work from home, often hopping from room to room depending on natural light, or in the garden.

Our house is decorated in calming pale colours, neutrals and blues, light and airy rooms with lots of natural textures and bits and bobs collected and inherited over the years, often with a beachy/nautical theme.

My kitsch side always surfaces though, so there is the odd flamingo, pineapple, neon sign and a smattering of animal skulls around the house. When I’m styling I could be on location anywhere or in a studio.


How are you feeling today ... 

Focused. I’m currently working through all the ideas that have been floating around for months, getting them out of my head and onto paper, silk, my Mac before the AW15 madness begins.


A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Space. Work can be all-consuming sometimes, so space to clear my head is essential. That’s usually in the form of a walk around the cliffs or on the beach by myself or with Al and Blyton. And sleep. I love sleeping.

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn


Your work life philosophy is ...

Dream like a bohemian, work like a boss. 

What is your favourite smell ...  

I have many! I love natural outdoor smells- honeysuckle on a summer evening, tomato plants in a greenhouse, the beach after a storm, a forest after the rain.

At home, I love St Eval’s Bay and Rosemary candle from BTS Concept Store and I always have loads of flowers everywhere.

My new scent obsession comes from Fir Beard and Body- they have the most beautiful, evocatively scented beard oils. I’ve nabbed ‘Driftwood’ and use a tiny bit on the ends of my hair. ‘Campfire’ is the most gorgeously heady, smoky smell that conjures up images of glowing embers on a beach.

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

I have the musical taste of a dad, crossed with a moody 80s/90s teenager.

I listen to a lot of music when I draw, I find it helps my pencil work flow.

I love Fleetwood Mac, the Doors, the Stones, anything from the late 60’s/ early 70s really. Then I love Nick Cave, L7, loads of indie and new wave stuff, punk, ska, dodgy rock and metal. Also old jazz and blues.

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 

I love Italian and Mexican food. I’ve been veggie since I was 11 so anything with lots of spices, herbs and gorgeous fresh ingredients is always a winner.

Favourite ingredients include avocado, watermelon and halloumi.  

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

Books, 3b pencils, eyeliner


How do you relax ... 

Bumming about and exploring the coastline with Al and Blyton, going camping if we have a couple of free days. Hanging out with friends and family, going for coffee and a walk. Dancing around like a deranged ballerina and singing badly.

Making things look pretty. Gardening. Reading. Yoga- Jennifer Greenlees takes a great class in the beautiful Arcadia building in Portrush, amazing to hear the waves crashing just outside.


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

Sunshine. Or a really good storm. Beautiful sunsets. All beside the sea (are you sensing a theme here?) clambering around the cliffs or on the beach, taking photos. A good book in my bag and a coffee in my hand.

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

One of the drawbacks of being self-employed is that you forget to take holidays sometimes, so I have not travelled as much as I would like to. I will remedy that. I love wandering around cities with beautiful architecture, history and culture: Florence, NY, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam have been favourites. I like people watching, eating, finding cool markets and boutiques and just soaking up the atmosphere. 

What do you most value in your friends ...

Loyalty, intelligence, humour. Good conversation and bad dancing.

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

‘Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same’, from Wuthering Heights.

I love classic literature, and novels set in the past with a gothic air. Anything by Yeats. I’ve just finished ‘Rebecca’s Tale’, a spin-off of the Du Maurier classic. It was beautiful.  

Share some words of wisdom ...

Dreams don’t work unless you do.

.............

Sara, it was a real pleasure to interview you for the Salt and Sparkle q&a.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable