Saturday
Nov032012

Thankful for you - A month of a thanksgiving 

Today I am thankful for YOU, MY READERS, the people who show up at Salt & Sparkle Day-in-Day-Out you inspire me, you encourage me, you make me smile - YOU ARE PRECIOUS TO ME

I am thankful today for a God who has given me promises like this one and who is currently healing me - body, mind and spirit.


Today I am also thankful for CHRISSIE GRACE an artist who created the beautiful work above, follow her on Facebook or see more of her work here

What are you thankful for today?

 

Join me in the comments, on Twitter or FB to share your thanks with the world.

 

That's if for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Friday
Nov022012

Give Thanks - A month of Thanksgiving

Mist over Galway Bay

Today I am thankful for - 

 

  1. The health of my friends little babies as they grow in their Mummies tummies
  2. The chance to walk and kick about in crunching Autumn leaves
  3. Peppermint Tea

 

What are you thankful for?

Why don't you join me here in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter and share what you are thankful for today?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Nov012012

November a Month of THANKSGIVING

When I was at University in St Andrews this was my favourite time of day to take a walk on the beach.  Everything about St Andrews, in November was grey - the buildings, the people, the sky, and the sea.  Except for a few magical moments in the afternoon, when a light so cold and bright, it felt haunted lit the beach and the town, with a soft red glow.

It was at St Andrews that my American friends introduced me to something wonderful about November, the concept of Thanksgiving - A day to be thankful – for what has passed and what is to come.   The American national holiday that everyone celebrates and gets tremendously excited about.

On the fourth Thursday of the month, tiny student kitchens where filled with the smells of roasting Turkey, and bubbling sweet potato pie.  Students crowded round makeshift tables laden with Thanksgiving Feasts and spoke of things they were thankful for from the past year.

I still love my adopted holiday of Thanksgiving, and choose to celebrate it each year, by seeing November not as a month of No’s but as a month of Thanks. Each day I chose something to be thankful for – a person, place, thing or a concept – and I post it as my status on Facebook, or Twitter.

Even in our darkest moments, in what seems to be the darkest month, there are things to be thankful for.  Instead of seeing this month, as an endurance test to get to December, and the bright lights of Christmas can I encourage you to find one thing each day this month to be thankful for. Trust me it will bring a smile to your face, and some warmth to your heart.

adapted from a script for BBC Radio Ulster by Nicky Cahill October 2011

For November, I will be posting three things I am thankful for each day on my blog, and I hope you will join me in the comments.

Today I am thankful for my family.

Today I am thankful my sister arrived home safely from university 

Today I am thankful for times spent shared around the table

What are you thankful for - join me in the comments, on twitter or facebook to share your thoughts.

That's it for now...

 

Nics

salt and sparkle = life remarkable

 

 

Wednesday
Oct312012

Baking with Nadrianne Photo essay - Day 31 - 31 Days of Food


On my last day of 31 Days of Food 2012, I thought I would share some of the my months favourite photographs, taken of my pal Nadrianne, at the James Street South Cookery School, Kiddies Cupcake Day.

I hope you've enjoyed this series, and I look forward to hanging with y'all in November, when we are doing 30 Days of Thanksgiving - as well as a fantastic giveaway from Knitwits.

Happy Hallowe'en Folks.

That's all for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Oct302012

Bert's Jazz Bar - Day 30 - 31 Days of Food

 

Sometimes an evening out exceeds all expectations.  

The banker and I went to Bert's Jazz Bar, in the Merchant Hotel, Belfast for an evening that can be described as my favourite night out in Belfast this decade. 

Music - jazz, good food, great service, and a fantastic atmosphere set the scene for a very relaxing evening.

Tinkling piano, soaring sax and clarinet solos and sensual singing and movement are all just part of the deal from Friday night regulars the Fiona Trotter Jazz Band. Performing a mixture of jazz standards from Ella, Duke and Louis, they mix up their set with a little funk and some numbers from the Buena Vista Social Club.  At times we find ourselves without conversation lost in the music.

As soon as we sit down a rustic bread box is set down for us, as are glasses of water - the service continues in a faultess manner for the rest of the evening.  We are looked after by Luke, Lucy and Richard, all of whom are attentive and friendly without being overbearing.  

The slices of bread are sourdough with a chewy crust and soft crumb, served with butter and vegetarian tapenade.  The tapenade is especially delicious because of its chunky texture and rich olive taste.

The wine list is easy to navigate with a wide range of choices, the banker goes for a French Sauvigon, which doesn't have that acidic tang, so many bottles of this grape offer at the moment.  I make my selection from the Driver's Choice and my cocktail meddles fresh pineapple juice, slices of fresh ginger, and lime, poured over ice with seltzer water.  I love how fresh and sharp the flavours are, and instantly vow to make this at home, it would be a perfect pick me up at any time of day.

Bert's is Belfast's only jazz bar.  You can dine in plush leather or velvet red chairs or banquets, in front of the stage or sit in the bar area slightly back.  The bar glitters with an array of bottles and drinks are made with flair - that is fun to watch - and seved with long elegant grizzini.  The room has a New York vibe, reminiscient of the 1930s and the diners and drinkers are mixed - tourists, couples, parties of girls, mixed groups.  There is no pretense, instead there are people who want to hear sensational music, and eat delicious food.  The space is dark and moody - sensual even in the mix of wood, velvet, leather and painted frieze - creating an intimate and rather romantic atmosphere.  We sit in a booth table with studded red leather, and a little gas candlelight with shade.  A lot of thought has gone into creating this room so that it is 'just so' and everything melds together bringing a deep ambiance that is only enhanced by the skill of the jazz musicians.  

Bert's offers options to dine from a French Bristo style menus - set, A la Carte, Vegetarian - with lots of sharing options including platters of chateaubriand, shellfish and baked cheeses.  

We settle for their set menu starting with a twist on a Waldorf Salad, where blue cheese has been balled and breaded and lightly fried, served with apple balls, candied walnuts and salad leaves that include rocket, baby gem and chard.  The banker and I both order the same dish, and we like the mix of textures and sweet sour flavours, that come from the cheese and apple.

For my main course I have gratin.  Made with layers of butternut squash, spinach, walnuts and guyere cheese, with just a hint of cream served with a sharp rocket based salad, bring a hot sweet, and cool bitter combination, that I have never seen beaten.  The banker has Chicken Chasseur which is tangy and succulent. 

The pudding choices are simple, showing off the best ingredients cooked well.  We share the chocolate pot that is served with lavender ice cream - this one was soft and slightly honeyed, and did not have the flavour of Yardleys soap - and hot chocolate sauce.  The combination of sweet cold ice cream, and bitter dark hot chocolate cake that had been well cooked so it had a slightly chewy consistency was remarkable.

Bert's is somewhere I highly recommend you book a table.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct302012

JERUSALEM by Ottolenghi & Tamimi - Day 29 - 31 Days of Food

Sometimes a book arrives where I have no option to stop, start reading, and not get up until the book is finished.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini was one of those books.  

It absorbed me,

 

The clock had struck midnight when I returned home. I didn't sleep until dawn so avidly did my eyes dance across the pages,and when I did sleep my dreams were vivid with rose water, tahini, fresh vegetables, the history of that ancient city, and the food that joins its peoples.

I first found out about Ottolenghi with my friends Hendrik and Rebecca, when we took a stroll through NottingHill one sharp September afternoon.  Looking for somewhere to eat, and not coming to any agreement amongst ourselves - Nottinghill not being their part of London, and me an Irish blowin.  I decided to do what the Irish do best, and ask someone.  As the others looked at antique maps and prints, I struck up a conversation with the owner, and after a bit of small talk about the weather and such like I cut straight to the chase - 

'We are hungry, where do you recommend we eat - somewhere good please?'

Without missing a beat he said,

'Ottolenghi, fresh, delicious and full of flavour.'

It took us a while to find it, but when we got there, I did not know where to look, to smell, to taste, to think about first. I was completely overwhelmed in the most wonderful of ways - food stimulation.

Everywhere I looked there was something I wanted to eat.  

Bread. Biscuits.  

Nuts.  Fruit.

Chocolate, gloriously glossy and dark.

Platters with salads piled high upon them.

Brownies. Cake. Meringues swirled with red and green.

There were jars of seeds, jams, honey, granola, oils and herbs, stacks of books, and beautiful things wrapped in cellophane with ribbons.

I was in heaven.  As we waited in line, I picked up the first Ottolenghi cookbook, and my already passionate love affair with Middle Eastern food blossomed in a new way.

I quickly discovered that Yotam Ottolenghi was Israeli and Sami Tamimi was Palestinian.  As someone who hopes and prays for the peace of Jerusalem reguarly, I was overjoyed to hear and learn about their story.  They were both born in the same year in the same place - Jerusalem, although Sami grew up in the East of the city and Yotam on the west.  In London, three decades later they met.  They discovered they spoke the same language not only physically but in the kitchen, and they had a shared history in their homeland.

There is so much that has been said about Jerusalem as a city, so much that can be said, but much of this is territorial, claiming the city for one or another.  Asserting rights and entrenching divisions.

Ottolenghi & Tamini's book Jerusalem does the opposite.  Instead it says - lets celebrate our food, something that brings us together on a daily basis, whether it is recognised or not, because the food of Jerusalem is something we share, abet with slightly different methods, or techniques. The principles, the ingredients, the flavours of food, the sense of food and cookery are shared and are worth rejoicing, and sharing with others.

Jerusalem is Tamini & Ottolenghi's cookery language, and their book filled with page upon page of delicious delights, avidly reflects this.  Their united love for their city, flows out of the books pages, and relates its food, to the cultures of the city, with snippets of history thrown in.

Jerusalem is not just a book full of recipes to taste & savour but great writing, filled with intersting snippets and personal back story.  The photography is reportage, often more akin to what we might see from a photojournalist in a newspaper, sitting comfortably beside images of food, that immediately send me running to the kitchen to cook.  

In this whole book I don't think there was one dish that made me think, oh no, I'm not cooking that.  Instead I wanted to try everything, and I ran out of postits just highlighting the dishes I wanted to return to.  There are recipes here for vegans, carnivorves, fish lovers and vegetarians.  No one loses out in this selection of recipes.

The first dish I made from the book was the Roasted Buternut squash and red onion with tahini & za'atar has already become a dinner party staple, served with roasted salt chicken.

Butternut squash was roasted skin on with red onions - I added whole cloves of garlic - then served with a pungent seasame garlicky tahini, chopped parsley and pine nuts.  The combination of the sweetness of the butternut, and the caramelised onions, with the bite from the earthy za'atar all doused ina dry tahini works perfectly.  I added spinach for colour, and the result is not only great tasting, but lovely to look at.

I have always made a spiced rich pudding, after reading Yotam and Sami's book, I made some additions to my recipe.

I finished this book wishing it had several more hundred pages.

That's it for now...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Oct282012

To Ready Meal or not? - Day 28 - 31 Days of Food

Ready Meals get a bad rap.  

Sometimes deserved, sometimes not.  

It all depends on what is in them, where they are sourced from, and if you trust the source.  

Eating them everyday or relying on them for every meal, is not a good idea if you want to be strong and healthy, or connected with your food.  

Connectedness with food comes from cooking.

But then, there are days like today - 

When I am just to bushwhacked to do anything in the kitchen, in fact, not eating is as good a choice a eating, for me when I feel like this.  As I just don't have the energy to stand up, let alone chop, cook etc.

But I also know when I feel this drained, eating, something good and nourishing is exactly what I need.

As it is food that will feed my body, and and restore my cells.  Denying my body because I haven't the energy to cook is unhealthy.

So at times like this, I look to ready meals.  A purtian part of my psyche barates my choice, stirs guilt, and shame in my food choice, in my inability to cook.  

I shake it away because I know that my choice today, will enable my choice tomorrow to cook.

But what to choose and where to chose a ready meal from?

My answer lies in one of my favourite shops - Marks and Spencer Food Department, because here I know I can chose a dish, that is not only healthy, but that will taste good, and provide me with the nourishment I need. With Marks and Spencer, I feel confident I can rely on how their food is sourced, the research and development that goes into the dishes, and the fact that their food is not filled with needless chemicals.

Tonight I chose a dish from their new Asian Range. The Peanut Chicken, which was served with mangetout, carrot, pak choi, rice noodles, chilli, lime, ginger, garlic and other crunchy veg.  

It was good.  Very good.

The chicken was moist, and it held the layered flavours of the aromatic herbs and spices.  They in turn brought a zingy freshness that tingled on the palate, with some heat that wasn't overpowering but showed a balance of chilli and ginger. The peanuts brought a dry creaminess but didn't overwhelm the other flavours.  

This layering of flavour is difficult to achieve and I feel Marks and Spencer have done it well.  There was a lightness to this dish, that made my tummy happy.  A combination of flavours, that weren't too salty, filled with preservatives, or MSG, the bandit of many a Chinese takeaway - but instead were light, and easy to eat.

To me this dish, that needed little more than three minutes in my wok, was a far better option, than telephoning a takeaway, and it comes in at around 600 calories, compared to a takeaways  average of 2000 calories per person.  This is a dish I know I will buy again, and again, when I have days like today.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable