If there’s one thing I simply cannot do, it’s go on a diet*.
You just have to wave a slice of cheese or some buttered toast in my direction and I fall right off the diet wagon.
I struggle with huge meals though; so little and often is the way. Otherwise known as snacking! And, as my A-Level Home Economics teacher used to say, ‘Everything in moderation’.
So I figure cake is fine if I’ve had my five-a-day. Crisps are OK with avocado and toast for lunch. Cheese on my baked potato is alright because I’m also having tuna.
…oh, who am I kidding, cheese is pretty much a staple food at every meal**.
And I’ve finally realised that this isn’t just me. It’s all part of the culture in which I grew up. Let me explain:
From the moment you arrive in Belfast by plane, you’ll find yourself accosted by pictures of scrumptious looking food. I mean, look. These are photos of the floor and walls of the indoor walkway you have to use to exit the International Airport:
And at Belfast City Airport, whilst it’s a bit more muted, the welcome is still food based.
Here we eat scones a LOT (I don’t like English scones, but find it hard to know where to start when faced with a selection like this in Lisburn!).
What would you choose? Cherry, cinnamon, blueberry & white chocolate, cheese & bacon (yep!), raisin, cherry & white chocolate, raspberry & white chocolate…or plain with lashings of butter!? Cheese & pesto scone? Smoked salmon & hollandaise scone?
We LOVE our dairy products in this country.
I was delighted to find Abernethy Butter in a deli not long after we moved here. I’d been hankering after the Black Garlic butter ever since I saw it on Twitter. Reader, it did not disappoint. So far I’ve added it to most types of potato, some forms of toast, a few biscuits for cheese, and perfected a risotto with it. Imagine my joy when I discovered that I have a family connection on my mum’s side to the genius behind this product***.
Let me talk to you about the bread. There’s wheaten. Dense-ish, moist, great flavour. Perfect with butter & honey, or grilled with cheese on top.
Veda. A malty, brown loaf – a bit like the fruit malt loaf you can get in England, but not sweet and sticky. Although here, we like to make things sweet and sticky where possible. In my childhood, Mars Bar & apple sandwiches in Veda bread were regularly served at kids’ parties. Try it. AMAZING.
Then there’s soda farls and potato bread.
These can be eaten grilled with cheese (obvs), but the real reason for them is that they mop up the sauce & runny egg & melted butter products left on the plate at the end of a fry.
Which brings me nicely on to spuds. Yes, they are eaten on a daily basis.
And, just to be sure you don’t miss out on your daily potato quota when ordering takeaway, you can order your main course with half and half at the local (outstanding) Chinese. That’s half rice/half chips. Though, as you can see, I eat mine slightly differently to Simon…
Savoury aside, I guess most people know about the traybake tradition here. There’s caramel squares everywhere, which is good, as I love those. Raspberry ruffle bars, fifteens, mint squares…and much more.
But have you heard about Top Hats? These are the best N. Irish party food!
Tiny bun cases with melted chocolate spooned into the bottom, a marshmallow squished into it, a dollop of chocolate and a smartie on top. A mouthful of goodness.
And finally. Tunnocks Tea Cakes. Yeah, yeah, you say. We have those in England. Yes, you do. But you eat them out of those wee boxes of 6 or 8 or whatever it is, that hardly last a day. Here, we buy them like this. And it’s ok, because they help you keep fit****.
There’s one thing though, that we’ve brought with us. Our homemade Bure Park Sloe Gin. A little taste of Bicestershire in our Northern Irish lifestyle!
*or ride a bike.
**yes, doubters, there’s a Danish breakfast cheese called Havarti. The happiest discovery of my early 20s. And now M&S stock it. HURRAH.
***it’s Northern Ireland, though, so that is not altogether surprising.
****more airport advertising!!