Thursday
Oct252012

Speaking-Day 25- 31 Days of Food

Ingredients speak to me

I listen ...

Then create

What do you do?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Wednesday
Oct242012

Making Naan Bread - Day 23 - 31 Days of Food 

'This is great, I love it.' He said hands full of dough, and flour puffing around us like smoke.

We were making naan bread. No bowl just flour, yeast, sugar, and salt mixed together on a work surface, with a well made in the middle & milk and oil added.

We had to work quickly to make sure the liquid didn't flow onto the floor and instead when worked into the flour became a pliable dough.

Completely absorbed in kneading the dough Mr T sprinkled more flour on his hands and the work surface to stop sticking. Pushing with the heel of his hand he prodded and pushed the dough, working it into an elastic ball.

'This is the best fun'

As I heard these words I thought your right, it really is fun to make bread, but its even more fun to be allowed to do it as a child.

Seemly random ingredients when weighed and measured, and worked with in a certain way, create a new form. If you've never cooked before as many 21st Century children haven't then being allowed to make something and make what seems to be a mess, as part of the process is magical. To see ingredients come together and take a new form we can eat is astounding if you've never done it before.

In fact it still astounds me. The sense of creation. The thrill of knowing I made that with my own hands.

Making bread is connecting, therapeutic and brings a peace to the mind because regardless of what else may happen in our lives, or how crazy our day, the simple welding of the most basic ingredients together will every time make dough which can be baked into bread.

Showing & in turn teaching a child to make bread is perhaps one of life's greatest simple blessings both to the adult and the child. The sense of passing on a skill and the thrill of learning a new skill is compelling to the giver and receiver.

After all why cook if we don't give it away.

We used this fantastic receipt for Naan Bread.

Ingredients
SR Flour 250g
Plus more for dusting
Quick yeast 1tsp
Caster Sugar 2 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Milk 140- 150 ml
Olive oil 2-4 tbsp

Method
Weigh and mix dry ingredients well
Place on a clean lightly floured work surface
Make a well in the centre
Add the oil to the milk whisk well
Pour 1/2 into the flour & work Quickly to bring it into a dough adding the rest of the liquid as you go
Knead lightly but well for 10 minutes
Place in an oiled bowl &
Cover with a dampt tea cloth for up to an hour
Knock back the dough on a Clean work surface & roll into 8 very thin disc like shapes
Cook directly on the floor of the top oven of the Aga with the door open for up to 3 minutes per side
If you don't have an Aga heat your oven to its highest temperature, then per hear a pizza stone or baking tray
Cook the naans one disc at a time, when the dough rises into largish bubes turn it over using a palate knife
Serve immediately with curry or as a dipping bread, or cover with garlic butter & place all in a large platter in the middle of the table.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Oct222012

Carving a pumpkin with Mr T - Day 22 - 31 Days of Food

 

 

Jack O'Lanterns originate in a Irish mythology where stingy Jack makes a deal with the devil & ends up in neither heaven nor hell, just joining the other wandering souls. The Irish being a superstitious people began to place carved turnips or potatoes with frightening faces at their doors to stop spirits from entering their house.

When the Irish began to immigrate to America in the 19th Century because of the famine they like other immigrants brought their customs with them. However pumpkins being a native squash to the USA where easier to
Get and carve than turnips and were used in their place.

When I grew up Dad would always hollow out turnips for us to create Jack of Lanterns, it was hard hard work, but a lot of fun. Pumpkins first began to appear in our shops only a decade or so ago as they are much easier to work with than turnip.

And wonderfully for me there is a lot more that can be done with their flesh.

Today Mr T, my brother and me carved a pumpkin. It was a great activity to do together full of thoughts, planning, sketching out ideas for the face and then of course the carving and lighting of the candle.

Not to mention using the pumpkin flesh to make muffins. I am trying out a spice blend or cinnamon, freshly grated ginger and finely chopped fresh rosemary.

Recipes to follow after a little more tweaking.

But expect cinnamon scented cream cheese frosting & savory pumpkin soup.

When carving pumpkins always ensure an adult is present when sharp knifes are being used by children.

Send me a photograph of your pumpkin!


That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Oct212012

Taking Tea @ Titanic Belfast - Day 21 - 31 Days of Food


Da

Afternoon tea is the most elegant of dining options. It is a ritual that cannot be bettered - the combination of good tea, properly made in a teapot, and served in china cups, crust less sandwiches, a selection of patisserie and the conversation that taking tea sparks – is one of the most civilized ways to spend an afternoon.

It was the Duchess of Bedford in England, who started a craze for afternoon tea - that would see the people right across the British Empire stop for tea in the middle of the afternoon - during a visit to Belvoir Castle asked for the servants to bring her Darjeeling tea with cakes and sandwiches in the 19th Century.

Today afternoon tea has become terribly trendy.  With every type of eatery and hotel jumping on the bandwagon and serving stuff far removed from afternoon tea.

Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction, sitting on the quayside of the Belfast docks, is one of the few places, in Northern Ireland to pay afternoon tea the respect it deserves.

Tea at Titanic Belfast is taken in the ballroom at the foot of the replica Titanic Ballroom staircase, made infamous by the movie Titanic.  The room dressed with palms and vases of flowers, feels personal although vast in scale.  A harpist playing an Irish Harp, fills the room with a sweet and peaceful sounding music, creating a warm ambiance, that is pleasant to sit in.  Waiters dressed in starched navy mandarin collared ship like uniforms are welcoming, ever attendant, and friendly, but not overbearing.  The tables are pleasantly spaced, allowing personal conversation without fear of eavesdropping.

We begin our afternoon Tea with a glass of 2002, Heidseck Monopole Champagne - the Official champagne of R.M.S. Titanic, a dry firmly bubbly fizz, that is very easy to drink, and cuts nicely through the richness of the cakes and finger sandwiches.  Our choice of Green, Peppermint, and Titanic Luxury House tea are brought to our table, and poured from a great height, to release the perfumes of the tea as it hits the cup.  The menus range of loose leaf teas are specially blended for Titanic Belfast, by Northern Irish company, Punjana Tea and other teas on the menu include Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast and a Red Berry Cocktail.  

My Uncle, a French Chef de Patisserie, always told me an afternoon tea could rise or fall on the quality of the cakes alone.  Titanic Belfast’s selections have the highest Patisserie standards with a balanced sugary sweetness, matched by fresh cream, and fruit. Tiny cakes such as Victoria Sponges, Chocolate Gateau, Apricot tarts, Chocolate Éclairs, and my favourite – perfectly made pretty pastel raspberry macaroons, sat on top of the cake stands, which used pretty blue and white or pink and white printed china plates, while finger sandwiches and scones with organic damson jam, and a rich clotted cream, sat on the next two levels. 

The cakes have a soft and very fresh crumb, while the éclairs have a gloriously shiney chocolate coating, hiding a crisp pastry and rich cream.  The scones are moist, soft to the bite and filled with raisins.  But those little macaroons are simply divine; a tiny crisp shell gives way to a soft spongy filling, with just a hint of raspberry jam.

The bread for the sandwiches is both brown and white, and is crust less and soft.  The fillings perfectly sized, so they don’t ooze all over when bitten into are rich and fresh.   We have a selection of vegetarian sandwiches, of which the egg mayonnaise is particularly good, and a range of meat, cheese and salmon sandwiches, of which the smoked salmon locally caught and smoked in Belfast at the top of the Skanhill Road, by Walter Ewing stands out for its delicious flavour.  

Tea at Titanic Belfast can be taken in parties of two, or more, (with larger parties being accommodated as necessary), seated around starched linened tables, with sparkling cutlery and glassware.   It is a thoroughly relaxing experience, completely devoid of the pretence or stuffiness that sometimes accompanies this ritual.

This juxtaposition of the formality of the ritual of afternoon tea, and the beautiful surroundings of the Titanic Belfast Staircase and ballroom sit comfortably together, creating a tranquil ambiance in the room.  Some guests are dressed in jeans and shirts, while others have on their Sunday best, and yet, looking around, no one is out of place, and everyone is enjoying the experience, and the opportunity to have their photograph taken on the grand replica staircase, just like Kate and Leo, in the film Titanic.

The staircase itself was handmade by craftsmen in Northern Ireland, and is as close a replica as possible to the original one on the ship.   As we took tea, it was lovely to watch everyone from couples, to Grandparents, children and families have their photographs taken on the stairs, faces filled with delight. 

Taking Afternoon Tea at Titanic Belfast is an elegant and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  One I would highly recommend to everyone, especially those who are bringing visitors to Northern Ireland, it is an experience that I have not seen bettered.  The sense of history created by the grand staircase, and the Titanic Belfast building itself, as well as peoples deep interest in RMS Titanic bring a unique, soothingly charged atmosphere to Afternoon Tea at Titanic Belfast, that make it very special.  It is one I hope you will take the opportunity as soon as you can, to experience for yourself.

That’s it for now …

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Saturday
Oct202012

Favourite Sweeties - Day 19 - 31 Days of Food 

My favourite sweeties are M&M pretzels. Do you know we call candy sweeties in Ireland?

Pretzel M&M's aren't even available in Ireland! But I love them they are an example of when salty chocolate really works.

What are your favourite sweeties?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Friday
Oct192012

Nutritious Food on the run - Day 19 - 31 Days of Food

Busy morning, fiddledly afternoon and a packed out evening, left me with little time to cook today but the knowledge I needed nourishment in what I ate. At times like this I always turn to soup I can made in under five minutes.

Yes it uses shop bought stock & a tin of sweetcorn but sometimes that's all I have to hand.

This soup is soothing, nutritious &
Filling in a good way.

Soup on the run

Ingredients
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 inches ginger grated
1/2 head of broccoli divided into small florets
1 packet fresh chicken stock
1 small tin of sweet corn
Handful of kale chopped
1/2 bunch scallions finely chopped
Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp five spice powder
Juice of one lime
A few dashes of soy sauce to taste
Chilli flakes to taste
1 round of noodles

Method
Fry scallions in smoking sesame oil, add garlic, ginger, kale and broccoli
Stir together for about one minute
Add the drained sweet corn stir together add the five spice powder
Add the chicken stock, once it simmers add the noodles
When noodles are cooked serve immediately with the lime juice squeezed over and soy sauce to your own taste

What's your favourite food to eat on the run?


That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Thursday
Oct182012

Vietnamese Carrot Salad - Day 18 - 31 Days of Food

 

My brother's girlfriend is Vietnamese, and she has introduced me to a hot and spicy, refined and elegant cuisine, that has layers of flavour, texture and real freshness.  Inspired by a conversation we had last week I made this Carrot Salad, with mint, and a pickle that combined seasame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a touch of honey.  As I was cooking for those who can't eat heat, I didn't add any chilli, but I think it really enhances the dish.  The salad takes moments to put together, but it is in the leaving of it overnight, which brings real depth to the flavours.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 7 - peeled, and grated organic carrots
  • 1 - large bunch of mint finely chopped
  • 1 packet of beansprouts
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 1 finely sliced red chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds

 

Pickle

 

  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 4tbsp seasame oil
  • 3tbsp white rice vinegar

 

Method

 

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the pickle together in a jam jar, shake well until the mixture is combined
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together in a large bowl
  3. Pour the pickle over the carrots, toss and then leave either overnight or for as long as you can before serving

 

This salad is a great to accompany BBQ'd meats or grilled chicken.

Let me know what you think?

 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable