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.

 

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!



 

Ballycastle Food Tour

Last Saturday I got the chance to explore a place I hadn’t been to for a very long time- Ballycastle.

I was invited to take part in a unique foodie walking tour to sample the delights and flavours of the coastal town in the Causeway Coast and Glens.

Now, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect; as a seaside town, was it going to be fish and chips, followed by a ‘poke’ from the ice-cream van?

The foodie walking tour of Ballycastle was organised to coincide with the start of the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival, delivered by local food guide, Caroline Redmond.

We arrived at 10am at the Marina Visitor Centre where immediately we could tell this was going to impress- Caroline’s obvious enthusiasm and passion for the town, its inhabitants and, of course, its food meant we were in for a treat.


So, off we went and just a short distance down the road, arrived at the Bay Café. And what a better way to start a food tour than with a spot of breakfast- an all-local mini ulster fry. The fry came complete with soda bread, potato bread, black pudding, sausage, tomatoes and egg. As well as the food being very tasty (I can’t wait to go back and get a full fry!), the views from the café over the water were stunning.


We then hit the road and walked up to  Thyme & Co, just in time for tempting elevenses. There, we tried Pear and Almond Scones, Parmesan and Kelp scones, wheaten bread, Strawberry and Prosecco jam (to die for!), Islander Kelp pesto and Pistachio cake. Everything was delicious and I think we were all sorry to go, as we could have stayed and eaten more!



But it wasn’t long before we were eating again. Our third course was in Central Wine Bar were we tried a heart-warming seafood chowder made from locally caught fish from Morton’s. The bar is renowned for its chowder so it didn’t disappoint (nor did the Guinness wheaten bread it was served with!)



Sticking with seafood, we then crossed just over the road to O’Connor’s traditional Irish bar for our daily special- hake. The deliciously flaky hake was served with two locally brewed Glens of Antrim Ale, Rathlin Red and Lizzie’s blonde.



Then it was time for the sweet stuff! We walked up to Castle Street to the independent bakehouse, Ursa Minor where we sampled an unbelievable array of patisserie. The story of the little bakery is so interesting- it got up and running through crowdfunding website, Kickstarter so everyone who helped contribute small amounts of money has their name on the wall! Lovely idea! The owner Ciara came to talk to us about how she only uses fresh, seasonal ingredients, with many of them sourced from foraging and sometimes even the local community (i.e. rhubarb!)

It was a spectacular morning exploring the foodie goodness around Ballycastle; I have to say, I was so impressed! It really wasn’t what I expected.

Caroline was the perfect host and she really has shown me that little ol’ Ballycastle has restaurants, bars, bakeries and cafes to rival the best of the best in Northern Ireland!