Nothing says I love you like a Fried Egg Sandwich

Breakfast in bed, there is nothing more romantic!  Whether your 85 or eight, everyone enjoys having breakfast made and served to them in bed.  And, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, a fried egg sandwich, between pieces of bread, that say 'I love you' is a fun and exciting way to start the day.

Using this little stamp from Asda, slices of white or brown bread can be transformed into love notes.  

Children love to get involved in Valentines Day, and there's something so special about making breakfast for Mum and Dad, together or either or, and bringing it up to them in bed.  These stamps are a sure hit with little one's but they are just as big as hit with us who are a little older.

Growing up for us Valentines was always a family affair - it wasn't just for mum and dad, couples or boyfriend or girlfriend, but for us all to express love for each, other.  There's never a better time to tell someone you live them than right now. If your thinking about how much you love someone, tell them, don't wait until tomorrow.

I remember getting up in the darkness creeping down old wooden stairs, a torch beam my light, careful not to stand on the creaks, years of practice having shown me where they were.  Into the kitchen I would go, soothing the dogs with a biscuit or two. Opening and closing drawers, setting the breakfast tray, boiling the kettle to make inky black tea, warming plates as I cracked eggs into a pan, simultaneously making toast, and placing it into the rack, then toasting tomatoes in oil.  Lights on, I'd then call upstairs, walking as loudly as possible, to wake the sleepyheads, and carrying a heavy tray on which was balanced with some jeopardy breakfast for my parents to have in bed.

These silicon heart moulds are available from Asda.  I recommend cracking your egg onto a plate, makes it easier to pour into the hot smoking oil.  You can either serve the eggs sunnyside up, or you can flip the whole thing, egg and mould over to cook them both sides.

These little tools from Asda, mean making breakfast for your loved one's on Valentine's morning lots of fun.

After all, 'Nothing Says I love You, like a Fried Egg Sandwich'.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Breakfast with White's Porridge and Paula McIntyre


We joined our favourite Northern Irish chef Paula McIntyre lastweek for breakfast, she was cooking with one of our tastiest superfoods - oats, grown and milled here in Northern Ireland by White's Oats

White's has been been locally manufacturing quality porridge oats near the River Cusher in Tandragee, County Armagh since 1841.  Originally the mill, which was powered by the river to turn its grinding stones, produced oats only for farmers for fed and bedding.  However, as thousands began to starve to death during the Irish Famine founder TH White, worked with local farmers to create an oat flake suitable for humans to eat.  What he came up with became known as White's Wafer Oats, and it was quickly recognised as a valuable, viable food source for hungry people in County Armagh.

Today White's still work with local oat growers, such as Tim McClelland, who was the runner up in the 2013 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Nature of Farming Award.

In the early 20th Century White's established a mill in Belfast's Clarendon Docks, where it produced feed for animals, as well as developing products such as  jelly crystals, custards, blancmange powders to coffee and flour.

White's quickly became a household name in Northern Ireland, and in County Dublin, where they also had a mill.  They created and marketed a porridge product promoting a fast cooking time in the decades of the 1920s and 30s.  This was an early predecessor of today's White's Speedicook Oats a product that was first launched during World War Two, when there was a high demand for food self-sufficiency.  

Paula explained there was much more to oats than just porridge, showing us how to make an Oat Wheaten Cob, Oat Pancakes, Oatted Granola and Raspberry Blueberry Oat Energy bars.  

 Paula was joined by comedienne Nuala McKeever as she took us through a range of recipes.  Together they made a warm creamy porridge, the secret of which was a constant stirring.

Paula told us, "Porridge remains one of the easiest and most delicious ways to start the day with lots of diffierent toppings like ... adding a drizzling of honey, or a dusting of cinnamon or a handful of blueberries. '

Paula made a traditional Northern Irish Wheaten bread to which she added oats and a tipple of treacle, bringing a sweet depth to the wholemeal flour, with the oats adding a good chewy texture.

Oat and Treacle farls can be made in less than 30 minutes, they need a slow mixing, a light kneading and then can be cooked either on an open griddle or on a baking tray.  

These farls need little more than a skimming of butter, if they are served warm from cooking but are equally good toasted with jam or honey.

Paula made pancakes with added oats.  With a hearty, satisfying texture, the oats in the batter bulk it up, and don't add any unneccessary sugar or fats.  Serving with an Apple Cinnamon compote these make a tasty start to anyday.

Oats are a superfood.  They are high in fibre, and beta glucan, and have been shown to lower cholesterol.  

Porridge is one of the best things you can eat at breakfast time because it is a complex carbohydrate which releases energy slowly into the bloodstream, allowing our bodies to feel fuller for longer.

White's have a range of several oat based products from Jumbo Porridge Oats, to Oatbran, Speedicook Oats, Oat Bran and my one of my favourite products Toatl'y Oaty.

Toatl'y Oaty is made from wholegrain jumbo oats and uses only natural flavourings - it can be made in the mircowave, or you can do as I do, and simply add boiling water and stir a lot.  I never travel without this product, as its essential to me to always be able to have a good breakfast to help me sustain my busy busy days.

Make sure you eat breakfast, it really is the most essential meal of the day!

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle  = Life Remarkable


Thoughts for your week 

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Vietnamese Whole Fish welcome in the year of the Horse

Happy New Year - Gung Hei Fat Choi - which translates to may you have good fortune. Today is the second day of Chinese New Year, and this special holiday is celebrated throughout China, Vietnam and parts of Korea.

Never having been able to eat fish without convulsing, and at times coming within moments of death, I don't really know what I'm missing when it comes to fish. But, I know I am missing something. However because of my love of food, I have spent countless hours reading about fish, consolidating recipes, and watching one of my favourite cookery tv chefs Rick Stein talk about fish.

Fish is central to Vietnamese cuisine, with fish sauce added to nearly everything, There are a lot of dishes I miss out on. Such as. This beautiful Fried fish dish, created by my sister in law Sarah. For this Chinese New Year I wanted to share with you a recipe with ingredients that offers symbolic wholeness and abundance to you, so I am delighted to share with you Sarah's recipe.

This is a simple way to prepare and cook whole fish, yet it is a way of cooking that is not commonly used in the Western world. In Vietnamese culture being able to cook whole fish is a benchmark for cooks and chefs, and those whoa err unable to do it are seen as bad cooks. Perfectly steamed fish will have flesh that is never dry, but is just cooked on the bone.

The liquid in which the fish is cooked is not served with it, as it has too strong a flavour and overpowers the fish, so after cooking the fish is doused in a soy and scallion mixture, coriander and ginger can also be added at this time.

Fish is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year and it is said to encourage an abundance of good luck.

Wholeness is important during Chinese New Year so fish is served whole, with the head on. This is symbolic of the new year being a whole year, without missing its head or tail.

Sarah's recipe of Whole Fried fish with soy sauce
Served with steamed fluffy boiled rice.

One whole white fish Fish - (cleaned, gutted and scaled but head and tail left on) fish such as sea bass, Bronzino or Flounder are all suitable
Bunch of Spring onions
Sunflower Oil for frying

Soy sauce mixture
3 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of shaoxing wine
1/4 cup of cold water
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tbsp of sugar
Spring onions finely sliced (coriander and ginger if you want to use it)

Fried green vegetables like asparagus, green beans, broccoli or pakchoi

Clean the fish thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the soy sauce mixture and set it aside.

Heat up your wok with oil to fry the fish. Fry the fish for a few minutes each side until golden brown and crispy. Once cooked pat dry soaking up the oil then place on a serving plate, pour the soy sauce mixture and garnished with spring onion.

Heat the wok with oil, throw in asparagus, broccoli and green beans cooked with garlic, pesto and left over sauce from the fish dish and cook for a few minutes.


We all at Salt and Sparkle wish you a happy and whole new year, and one of great abundance

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarakble


to find a way through ...

Today I join a community of writers, who meet from all over the planet, once a week at Lisa Jo's place to write for five minutes, on a prompt - today is the word hero - then share those words with the world. Maybe you'll join us today and share your words with the world.

I'm sharing with you some of my fiction writing today. After yeas of writing about life for the media I'm writing my first novel. It's an exciting an d exhilarating process. I hope you'll enjoy my words today.


'No matter how big you get, I'm always going to love you more every day' were the words he'd tell her on a regular basis.

Even though the incident 27 years ago had ripped their world apart, he hadn't let his anger at what had been taken from them, turn to hate. Instead he'd gone after love, with every ounce of his being, and he'd taken her with him, because he knew The answer to the age old question of dealing with pain - only love will set you free. Only love.

So love had become their priority.

Sitting on the swing seat in the old house, as fireflies lit the sky he'd told her about love. About a chance meeting which changed the world forever. She remembered the smell of woodsmoke, and the softness of his sweater as she nestled against him on the dark evenings.

'Never underestimate the power of the chance meeting', he had told her. 'Don't ever be in too much of a hurry not to stop and listen to people's stories. Thats where the magic is in their stories.'

She listened for magic again and again. At the shelter where they'd started going to serve when she was only about nine, she'd watch him listen to their stories, and soon she started to listen as well.

The men who spoke, often had a faraway look in their eyes, as if they'd travelled to a distant shore and never really come back.

They were heroes, decorated vets, with medals that seemed worthless to them. Pieces of metal that seemed to glorify the sacrifice. They'd gone to a place where they lost something, and never really came back. It was easier somehow to stay in darkness of no hope. The stench of blood and desert winds. Than to face the journey of healing, because healing as she knew could be painful and it was a choice to to free.

Some of these men found their way back, some walked a daily journey looking for something that would bring them back. Someway to ease the trauma they carried. For others it was too painful. They spoke of being called heroes, and of not deserving the title. They remembered those left behind who never walked this journey.

They talked of those they'd left behind. The faces of those men haunted their dreams, bringing them back, holding them into a dance with death. Night was their nemesis. They yearned for dawn to come. To breakthrough.

For many the only constant was the sound of the tracks, metal on metal, as they crossed the country, riding the railroad cars, on a never ending journey, to find a way through.


That's it for now ...

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Dinner at Pizza Jazz

Thin, crispy crusts that are just ever so chewy, lightly smeared with tomato, and then topped with well anything really, but hot bubbly cheese, a smattering of parmesan, just a hint of garlic, and the crunch of some black pepper.  Well I'm hungry already and its not anywhere near dinner time, but if someone put pizza in front of me, I would be very pleased to eat it.

Is there really a better food than pizza?  

Seriously though, in terms of satisfaction and taste good pizza, cannot, simply cannot be bettered.

Pizza Jazz Belfast's newest place for pizza on Great Victoria street, opens early and closes very late and does takeaway until 4am on weekends, and 2am on weeknights.  We visited on a Wednesday evening, and the twirling of pizzas didn't seem to stop all night.

All the pizzas have thin bases but you can order them in either 12 or 24" sizes.  When cooked these bases become crisp and chewy.

There are 20 different pizzas to chose from, or you can live for the moment, and create your own masterpiece making a selection from a large array of toppings.

The restaurant is at the back of the building, and to get to it you walk past the counter where the pizza is made.  The space is clean, with white wallks covered with large Black and White prints of different rockers, guitars and fiddles, there's a nice exposed brickwork feature, with a mirrored window, which adds depth to the room.  There's a blueish glow from the lights which contrasts with the stark white, creating a cool warmth.

A large screen covers a side wall, and diners can chose from a large selection of music concerts on DVD,  to listen to you while eating.  When we arrived the Rolling Stones were playing, then we had some Garth Brooks, followed by Adele, and Amy Winehouse.  The fact these concerts are on DVD rather than simply played by DVD, adds a really funky energy to the room.

Several guitars sit around the room, for diners to pick up and play, as they wish.  Pizza Jazz is a great place for a 'session' of music, singing and laughter.  Professional musicians play jazz, rock and folk at the weekends.

Choosing to eat family style we shared dough balls, bruschetta, and cheesy garlic bread as starters, along with a bowl of juicy olives.  

The dough balls which were dipped in a good garlicky butter were made from tightly rolled pizza base, and had a crispy exterior with a chewy interior.  These can be ordered straight up or with salami or mozzerella inside. They are very morish and one portion just isn't enough.

The Bruschetta was the best I have tasted in Ireland,  fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, slivers of red onion, and roasted red peppers were served over a thicker oval of chewy pizza bread.  The flavours were fresh, robust and easy to eat, they had been expertly seasoned, in a way that brought each of the ingredients together as a team. I could imagine eating a pizza with this very topping.  There was a squiggly Balsamic glaze which would work better on the side.

Friends from Tawian and Norway joined us for dinner.

Tanya our server was friendly and professional, she really knew the menu and was able to advise us on things to try.  Having never eaten Stromboli before I took her advice and ordered, Picante Stromboli, that was filled with Chilli sauce, mozzarella, salami & red onion, and came with a peppery rocket and tomato salad.  

Stromboli is a rolled pizza, were the ingredients are turned with the base, to form a baguette type shape.  The outside had been brushed with garlic oil before baking, and was a good compliment to the warm, oozing ingredients inside.


Yvonne orderd a Capricciosa, which came topped with juciy black olives, Tomato, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, anchovies, & artichokes.  This was a combination of flavours that worked particulary well.  

The Pollo Piccante pizza, had tomato, mozzarella and chilli chicken, scattered with crunchy yellow peppers and red onions.  The mix of textures, made for a flavoursome and balanced bite.

The Compagnola was topped with tomato, crisped pancetta, mozzarella, mushrooms, garlic oil and parsley.  The light smokiness of the pancetta sat well with the earthy mushrooms, and the fresh parsley.

When you've eaten pizza, there is a longing for something at the end, not frothy, but bittersweet and cold. Pizza Jazz offer four choices for pudding, something lemony, another chocolatey, ice cream, and Tiramusu  or there's cheese and biscuits.

We opted for Chocolate tart and IceCream with four spoons.  The ice cream was so smooth, and the chocolate bitter without being tart.  Chocolate and IceCream, the perfect end to a good meal.

Pizza Jazz is a restaurant with no pretensions.  It serves pizza, pleasant wines, and simple desserts and it does it very, very well.  

I'm looking forward to my next visit with some girlfriends, when we will tackle the 24 inch pizza, and maybe even get up and sing.  Watch this space.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Lunch at the Potted Hen, Belfast

At the top of the spiral staircase is the Potted Hen's private dining room, a clean space, with windows looking out over St Anne's square.  

A steel topped bar runs down the side of the room, and the eating area is separated from it by different types of decorative hens behind chicken wire.  The effect is clever, and gives the room a full bar service, without the omipresence of a bar invading the dining space.  Dark wooden furniture and floors, green velvet banquettes, contrasted with lots of windows in white frames, bring a pleasant openness to the room.

There were about 30 of us seated a tables arranged in smalls groups, this brought a liveliness so often lost in typical large group dining arrangements, with their long tables of endless chairs.

We sat with two men who hold their Friday Lunch Club, at the Potted Hen, and some wonderful girls from Visit Belfast.  None of us had met before, but the genuis of the food served to us as we tried the new lunch menu at the Potted Hen, was that everything was served family style, in sharable portions.  Our table was filled with lively conversation, plenty of laughter, at how many people we knew in common, and delight at the food.

Eating family style, is without doubt the best and most social way to eat.  It naturally draws conversation and eases down the barriers of more formal dining, it works really well at lunch time.  

Head Chef James Neilly has worked with the owners of the Potted Hen Dermot & Catherine Regan have come up with a menu based around sharing, small plates and superfood salads.

We start with a selection of dishes based around potting - which makes me smile, ordering potted dishes, at the Potted Hen - the results of which can then be spread over bread. 

Potted brown shrimp with spiced mascarpone, lemon and homemade wheaten bread - potted shrimp is a nostalgic classic, that needs a deliciate hand, to much of any spice, and the flavour is overpowered, these one's have a good splice of lemon, which is refreshing.  The brown shrimp is also a nice nod to the needs for restaurants to use sustainable fish.  The wheaten bread is a deep brown colour with a rich taste.

Potted pork rillette with apple ketchup, watercress and sour dough toast - the pork is well spiced, and the apple ketchup cuts through the natural fattiness of the pork, with peppery watercress bringing a lightness to the dish.

Potted salmon with toasted sour dough and cucumber raita - like the other potted recipes, potted Salmon can trace its food history back for centuries, the coolness of the cucumber sits nicely with the silky rich salmon.

These can be ordered all at once as a main or as a starter to share. 

A curried lentil dhal, salmon fillet, wholemeal & cumin flatbread stood out as the most memorable dish, the flavours had been well thought out and offered a good balance of flavours, and textures.


 We also tasted: Saffron marinated fillet of cod with homemade tagliatelle nero, gremolata and pickled vegetables - the dark inky pasta sits well with the yellow fish, and the pickled vegetables added a nice sweet sharpness, Haddock fritters with curried slaw and saffron mayonnaise, Ox tail linguini with tomato ragu, crispy pancetta and spinach, and Goats cheese fritters with beetroot compote, candied pecans and balsamic gel.

The goats cheese had the presentation of a fine dining option, which sat in contrast to the other dishes.  The flavours were good and there was a lovely mix of textures - crunchy caramelised nuts, soft white balsamic gel, milky creamy cheese, with earthy beetroot whiche was painted on, and served in cubes.  

Bowls of Superfood salads were served in earthware pottery bowls which made the already bright and colourful ingredients, look even more desirable.  

We eat: Bulgur wheat, apple, celery, radish, scallion, spinach, gems and citrus miso dressing, then a Quinoa salad with tomato, artichoke, olives and olive oil, red chard, rocket, cucumber and a lemon & thyme dressing and a Beetroot & shaved fennel salad with red chard, baby gem, chicory, radish, orange, dill and toasted pine nuts and a beetroot juice, rapeseed oil & lemon dressing.

Each of the salads mix texture, colour and flavour, they feel  as good to eat as they are pleasant to look at.   It is good to see salads like these on menus in Belfast, it is a really pleasant change, to salads that are rocket, pesto or tomato based.  The salads can be eaten alone, or topped with different types of protein - beef, quail, or fish.

The menu isn't all salad or small plates, there is also a mean burger, made from Hannon Shorthorn beef, topped with a really delicious, very spicey relish, it was so and quite addictive.  

Berry sorbet with pieces of chocolate, made a light and refreshing dessert.  The Banoffee was the best I have ever tasted, with firm pieces of bananna and crunchy crumbs, it had a freshness that this pudding normally is without.

There's an inventive cocktail list, and a sturdy wine list, as well as lots of sparkling water.

The new lunch menu at the Potted Hen, is tasty.  It moves with the times, offering little plates which each have different taste leanings.  Then the more traditional fish and chips, burgers or roast chicken, nods to three common types of protein, but paired with flavours which have been well considered, its a menu which does something very difficult, offers something for everyone!

Do get in touch and let us know what you eat when you visit, as always we look forward to hearing from you.

That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable