Tesco Taste Northern Ireland- Thompson’s Tea

As I write this I have just finished my first week back at work after maternity leave. I was off for seven months after having a beautiful baby girl Niamh on New Years Day.

As any new mums know, having a cup of tea, never mind a hot cup of tea (!), can be a real luxury. Quick, she’s sleeping- put the kettle on! So, when Tesco NI asked if I would like to try some Thompson’s Tea, of course I had to say yes.

Thompson’s Tea is a Northern Irish tea blender whose range includes Punjana Original Blend, Titanic Blend and Irish Breakfast Blend. I received the Thompson’s Signature tea and Green Tea with Lemon.

Stocked up with the tea bags, I decided to host an afternoon tea party on my last day of maternity leave to say thanks for all the help I had received over the past few months. It was also my birthday so another perfect excuse for cake!

I’ve written on my blog numerous times about my love of afternoon tea so I wanted to give my own a go, including baking for the occasion.

To start, for the savoury layer, I made wheaten bread to be served with honey roast ham, mature cheddar and tomatoes. While the wheaten bread was in the oven, I whipped up some vanilla scones, which I served with butter and jam.

To finish Tesco kindly supplied me with some lovely sweet treats from local producers, Howells Florence Cake and Genesis Crafty buns.

IMG_5627

IMG_5643

But of course, the best bit of any afternoon tea is…the tea!

I opted for the Signature blend which was a strong, full bodied cup of tea, without being too bitter. Thompson’s Tea have stated it is “tea like it used to taste”, because they have recreated the family’s original blend from way back in 1896. It’s a rich, flavoursome cup of tea and actually reminds me of loose leaf tea. Lovely!

The verdict? Well the afternoon tea went down a treat! Even my baking got some rave reviews!

Now, quick she’s sleeping, I’m off to enjoy another warm cuppa!

 

DSC00074

Post originally appeared on Tesco NI website: https://www.tasteni.com/eat-me-drink-me/belfast-travels-takes-a-tea-break-from-motherhood

Day out at Victoria Square- TGI Friday’s

Once we had explored the pop-up museum at Victoria Square,  we headed to TGI Friday’s for our lunch.

TGI Friday’s is an American diner, well known for its exclusive Jack Daniels range and, of course its cocktails, but as I had my 7 month old daughter with me, we couldn’t indulge in those!

The menu is all about big portions, big flavour – think burgers, wings, fajitas, ribs, steak!

We went straight for mains and it was the Mexican menu which caught my eye. I was torn between the Grilled Sirloin Mexi Bowl and the Blackened Chicken fajita (Cajun-spiced),  but it was the Mexi Bowl which won it for me.

The Mexi Bowl is grilled sirloin, crisp bacon, roasted corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes and pico de gallo on a bed of rice pilaf.  It is garnished with Feta cheese, Sriracha aioli, green onions, coriander and lime wedge.

I’m so glad I went for this. I love coriander (I know it divides opinion!) and it, alongside the lime, really enhanced all the gorgeous Mexican flavours for me. A winner!

My mum wanted to try a dish from the Jack Daniel’s menu I had been telling her about so she went for the Jack Daniels salmon. This is chargrilled salmon fillet served with seasonal vegetables and cheddar mashed potatoes.  Mum said she was impressed by the interesting sweet and smoky glaze.

The other two in our party decided they couldn’t resist a big burger! Go on, it’s Friday!

They both choose the ‘BBQ Burger’ which was a char-grilled burger covered with Colby cheese and Cajun-battered onion rings, and drizzled with Fridays barbecue sauce. Again they both enjoyed their meal with nothing left on the plate.

Just two of us went for dessert (of course one of them was me). I went for the Brownie Obsession while mum went for the Caramel Apple Pie.

The Brownie Obsession is a warm brownie covered in chocolate fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and chopped nuts. Seriously delicious!

The Caramel Apple Pie is a deep dish apple pie topped with warm caramel and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I tried some of her dessert and it was really good too!

Overall, I was very impressed by my lunch. I maybe had it in my head that it would be another typical American diner but I really loved both my Mexi Bowl and Brownie. A lovely way to end our day out to Victoria Square!

Disclaimer: this meal was complimentary from TGI Friday’s and Victoria Square but all views are my own

Day out at Victoria Square- Pop up museum

I’m back to work now after maternity leave but am doing a phased return so I’m off on Fridays for a few weeks.

I’ve missed getting out and about every day so I make sure I always have something planned for my days off.

Last Friday that was a trip to Victoria Square in Belfast, not just for a spot of shopping but because the complex has teamed up with National Museums Northern Ireland to host a museum!

Throughout the month of August different historical activities will be popping up around the centre including a transport zone, craft zone and games zone.

So, what’s there to do?

Old craft and skills: Different workshops every day such as lace making, wool weaving and story telling.

Discover Old Belfast: What was Belfast like before Victoria Square was there?

Belfast Street Games: What did kids do for fun in days gone by? Experience hopscotch and “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?”

Experience Transport: Celebrating the life of NI inventor Harry Ferguson, famous for the development of tractors and the Ferguson monoplane

Docks in the Dome: Explore the history of ship building in Northern Ireland whilst looking at the H&W cranes

Check out the pictures below to see what it was like!

A nice day exploring our heritage and culture, and Niamh loved getting on the old transport!

Old craft and skills- Harvest Knot making and mystery objects

Discover Old Belfast

Belfast Street Games

Experience Transport

Docks in the Dome

Oh…and some dragons!


 

 

Belfast Masterchef- who was crowned winner?

If you were asked to make your signature dish, what would it be?

That was the challenge laid down to budding chefs at the recent Belfast Masterchef competition.

Part of the Feile an Phobail festival,  this competition was open to amateur cooks across Belfast who wanted to show off their culinary skills and, of course, be crowned champion!

I was invited along to the final earlier this month at Balmoral Hotel where the five finalists had to cook in front of a live audience, and then wait anxiously as renowned judges and the hungry crowd tried out their dishes.

So who were the finalists and what did they create?

First up was West Belfast councillor Matt Garrett who made Chicken Korma with home-made naan bread. There was a lot of banter on the night as he had, apparently, used shop-bought naan in the semi-final (shock!) but I am pleased to report that the bread was definitely made live on the night. It resulted in a very strong start with delicious flavours!

Next up was Paddy Tierney, a sports journalist from Armagh, who created Beef Stifado, a traditional Greek casserole. Paddy said he was inspired by a dish he had eaten numerous times on holidays. He had received some flack for the length of time it took him to make the dish in the semi-final but thankfully it was ready on the night and we tucked into lovely, tender beef.


Third to the table was local MP Paul Maskey, a party colleague of Matt Garrett so there was fierce competition between the two! Paul went for a Balsamic Glazed Caprese chicken which was set on a bed of sweet potato. This sweetness worked very well with the balsamic vinegar- nice one Paul!


Next up was Nisha Tandon, CEO of arts organisation ArtsEkta. Nisha delighted us with a Chicken Handi which she said she learnt how to cook from her auntie. This popular chicken curry is made in a handi cooking pan. This dish was delicious, full of the aroma of Indian spices!


Last up was Belfast woman Emma Sloan who works in the Controlled Schools’ Support Council. Of course we had to end with something sweet and Emma went for Tuile baskets dipped in dark chocolate, filled with diplomats cream and raspberries. This was finished with bitter chocolate savings and fresh mint! Wow! This dish not only looked professional, but the taste was amazing!


So, now it was time to pick my favourite! I honestly couldn’t decide between Number 1 (Matt Garrett) and Number 5 (Emma Sloan). So, in the end I bought two ballot tickets which meant two votes and I went for one each! The easy way out.

Soon the votes were counted and the winners announced:

The judges’ winner was….. Emma Sloan!

The audience winner was…… Matt Garrett!

My two favourites! Always knew I had good taste.

What a great night and well done to the winners. Check out my video for all the action from the night.

 

Revolución de Cuba launches in Belfast

Last week saw the opening of a new bar and restaurant in Belfast, Revolución de Cuba, a Latin-inspired cantina based at the former Café Vaudeville.

I went along last Wednesday and thought I would sample a few tapas and maybe listen to some Reggaeton tunes…but what I didn’t expect was to have a burrito masterclass, plates of gorgeous Latin American cuisine, rum tasting, cocktail making, even salsa dancing! Wow, what a party!

Located on the site of the original Belfast Savings Bank, this colourful and vibrant Havana-esque party hotspot is set across two floors. So what are the highlights?

CUBAN COCKTAILS

  • Latin favourites such as caipirinhas, piña coladas and cuba libres
  • For budding bartenders, learn from the best cantineros in town by booking a group Cuban cocktail masterclass, ideal for parties or team-building.

LA CANTINA

  • For lunch there’s flavour-packed salads, wraps, tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, or go for a lighter zesty burrito bowl
  • When the sun goes down, choose from a huge selection of tantalising tapas such as gambas pil pil, patatas bravas, pork belly skewers, salmon ceviche and iberico ham croquettas.

FIESTA FRIDAYS

  • Happy hour kicks off at 5pm – 7pm. Enjoy 2-4-1 cocktails, before heading to the dancefloor where a carnival atmosphere is guaranteed with live Latin music and DJs.

PARTY PACKAGES

  • There’s an array of party packages including salsa dance lessons, tapas tastings and giant paellas!
  • Enjoy fruit rum concoctions served in teapots and punch bowls, or opt for spirits by the bottle complete with a choice of complimentary mixers.

Check out my video and pictures to see it for yourself!

 

 

HMS Caroline

Last week I got the chance to tour HMS Caroline, a World War 1 Light Battle Cruiser, based in Belfast.

HMS Caroline, which has undergone extensive restoration, is the sole surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Working in the Titanic Quarter, I was curious about the ship I pass every single day.

What was life like on a warship? How did the 300 crew live? Where did they sleep and where did they eat?

The tourist attraction lets you see all this, passing through the Captain’s quarters, to the engine room, to the sick bay, to the decks.

The ship has real character, full of history with an engaging story. I’m not particularly interested in naval or military history, but it appealed to me as someone who simply wanted to see what life was like on a ship for the hundreds of young people who went off to War.

Check out the video and pictures for more!

Day trip to Glasgow

A few months ago I noticed that Stena Line does a day trip to Glasgow for the grand total of…£10!

Yes, £10! That includes the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan and a coach to Glasgow city centre – and back again.

I couldn’t believe the price so booked three of us to go to Glasgow for the day for shopping.

My sister is a teacher so is off school for the summer while I’m on maternity leave, so we were able to go midweek (prices are from £10 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and from £15 on Saturdays.)

The boat leaves Belfast at 7.30am, getting into Cairnryan at 10am. You then board the bus which takes you to Glasgow, arriving at 12.00.

We then had 4 and a half hours to spend in Glasgow, hitting all the shops around Sauchiehall Street and Buchannan Galleries. (Including what must have been near an hour alone in Primark!)

We then went to a pub where we enjoyed a 2-course lunch as well as a few drinks. (It was my day off from mummy duties so why not!)

The time flew in and it wasn’t long before we were making our way back to the bus station to get on the coach at 4.30pm.

The ferry home was at 7.30pm and it was on the return journey that I explored the Stena a little further, including checking out the free cinema and even going to the on-board spa.

My birthday is next week and my brother and sister had very kindly given me some birthday money early so I could spend it in Glasgow. I had some left over so I treated myself to a relaxing back massage, costing £25. It didn’t even feel like I was on a boat!

We arrived back in Belfast about 10pm. The day was completely seamless and the 4.5 hour journey never felt too long or boring. As well as the cinema and spa on board, there are play areas for kids, free WiFi, restaurants and a bar.

I really enjoyed the whole day and still can’t believe it cost £10! Prices do go up depending on the demand so the earlier you book, the better the fare.

Check out my video to see how we got on!