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.

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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!

 

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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

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!

 

 

#TweetSeats lunch at Bullitt Belfast

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch…except there is at Bullitt Hotel in Belfast!

A few weeks ago I saw on Twitter that the hotel was giving away 10 free lunches every Tuesday in June and July- and all you had to do was tweet them!

The idea is that before 11am you tell them how many seats you would like and at what time and use the hashtag #tweetseats.

At 11am they will pick 10 seats to enjoy a free three-course meal.

So for example, a table of 6 and 2 tables of 2 would win one week, or a table of 4 and 3 tables of 2 would win the following week…you get the picture!

So I chanced my arm for myself and 3 work colleagues and I was delighted to win four free lunches!

The lunch, at Taylor & Clay restaurant, is from the 3-7-3 menu with all starters costing £3, mains costing £7 and dessert costing £3.

The starters include whipped goat’s cheese with beetroot and pomegranate, or the salt beef Caesar salad. I went for the Smokey chorizo with fennel cream and pickles.

The choice of mains include “Walled Garden Ribollita” (which is an organic vegetable and bean broth) or a flatbread kebab with spiced beef. I went for the Orzo pasta with hot Italian sauage, confit tomatoes and burnt onion cream.

Finally, from the dessert menu, you can pick apple and blueberry frangipane crumble or yoghurt and sesame cream with pink grapefruit. I went for the frangipane.

We had a lovely meal and couldn’t get over the fact we had won a three course meal each. I thought when their Twitter said a free lunch it would be one course!

The food and service was very enjoyable, with my favourite dish being the apple and blueberry frangipane!

There are only two Tuesdays left in July, so get in quick if you want to try and win! All you have to do is #TweetSeats- simple!


 

 

 

 

The Food Hall Belfast

There’s a new food hangout in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast- the Food Hall located in York Street!

As the name suggests, Mount Charles’ latest offering brings together a number of different cafes under one roof, with a large, open seating area so that diners can pick and choose from the range.

I went along to the opening night, thanks to Ohh Social, a Northern Irish 2-4-1 mobile app, and sampled the goodies from each of the four cafes.

So what’s on offer? Well, there’s Juiced– a healthy smoothie bar- and Made- serving the likes of soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps.

If you fancy something sweet, there’s La Creperie serving a brilliant range of crepes and muffins. I went for the Nutella and Strawberry crepe……oh my! Delicious!

Finally, there’s Ripple, to get your yummy ice-cream fix, especially if the weather has been as good as the last few days!

I love the idea of friends all able to get different food/drink items but still sit together (I’d be the friend that would go straight for the buns rather than the healthy smoothie!)

Check out the video and pics below from the opening night.

And if you want to try some of the items, download the Ohh social app where there are offers such as ‘two for one’ wraps, milkshakes and ice-creams!



 

Make My Mullins at Victoria Square

Last Friday I attended the launch of a pop-up ice cream parlour at Victoria Square!

The parlour, which will be open throughout the month of July, is run by Mullins, an award winning family ice cream manufacturer based in Kilrea.

We were treated to cocktails, canapes and live music before the pièce de résistance- a bespoke ice cream work of art!

So, to start with, as my base, I picked a doughnut, but you can choose from a cone, or a cookie etc.

Then for my first topping I went for honeycomb cream…. followed by midget gems…and finished off with chocolate and hazelnut sauce!! What a combination!

I can report it was as delightful as it sounds!

There are loads of different options including ice cream flavours such as Cookies and Cream, Raspberry Ripple and Blueberry Muffin Crumble, and toppings such as popcorn, Millions sweets and pretzels! Just make it exactly how you want it.

Check out the pics and video from the night and if you want to visit the pop up store, get down to the Ground Floor of Victoria Square before 28th July!