The Best Brunch in Belfast

Did I ever tell you I lived in Belfast for two years? And I visited it every-other-month for another four years? Yes we’re pretty well acquainted. No, it’s not because I have an unhealthy obsession with Tayto crisps. The ol’ husb is Northern Irish and he only moved to England a year ago.

Anyway, the connection still runs deep, and the Land of Potatoes is still home to many family and friends, so we visit often. Although there is still a lot of Northern and (especially) Southern Ireland that I am yet to (and want to) explore, most of our long weekends in that direction are crammed with social gatherings and catch ups, of course. However, beyond the people, there are a few other things we both miss. Namely our favourite food spots (duh). For a big lunch, Boojum’s burritos. For a special dinner, Made in Belfast. For a fancy pizza, Little Wing. For a coffee and cake, Cinnamon cafe. And for a perfect brunch… French Village.

The latter is the one we always make time for. Brunch Club© the best way to start the day. By the way, the Club© bit just means doing it with friends. It works for all scenarios – Lunch Club©, Coffee Club©, Pudding Club©, Picnic Club©. This all arose from when I lived in student digs with 6 other girls. We were rarely in the house or having mealtimes at the same times, so whenever we did it came with an excited “BREAKFAST CLUB©!!” announcement. So there you go you heard it here first.

So anyway this post was meant to be about French Village. It’s a cafe, by the way, not an actual village. And it’s not just another ‘ooh pretty Parisian decor let’s all be pink and lovely’ cafe. French is after the name of the original owner. The decor is actually successfully cool, quirky, and robust. Think thick wooden tables, mixed pattern tiles, and exposed hanging light bulbs.

I should talk about the food. It’s great. You can have varieties on English breakfast (made culturally appropriate with potato bread). This is delicious. You can have scrambled eggs on wheaten bread. This is delicious. You can have a stack of pancakes. This is delicious. You can have cream cheese and bacon on a bagel. THIS. IS. DELICIOUS. (do I sound like Neil Buchanan yet?)

Let’s not forget the drinks. A choice of smoothies. Served in jam jars OBVIOUSLY (although this slightly grates on me, because, guys, this is not edgy and unusual anymore).

Of course, brunch is not all they cater for. They also do a lovely variety of cakes and savoury food. But srsly guys it’s all about Brunch.


 

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The Ultimate Marmalade Making Guide

Good news for Paddington Bear! This time of year isn’t the season for much (beyond diets, dreary days and being overdrawn), but there is one thing it IS the time for: Marmalade. Seville oranges are ripe for the buying, and all you need is a couple of hours to concoct a year’s worth of the amber jam. Packaged right, this stuff with last for years – how about making some for next year’s Christmas hampers?!

What you need:

  • 2kg Seville oranges (unwaxed)
  • 2 lemons (unwaxed)
  • 2kg sugar (jam sugar or regular is fine) – more if you prefer your marmalade on the sweet side
  • Jam jars
  • Waxed jam liner discs

 

Method

After a quick wash, slice all the oranges and lemons in half, and plonk them in a big saucepan (ideally a pressure cooker), giving them a quick squeeze on the way in.

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Pop the lid on and leave to simmer for a couple of hours. When you come back, they should be nice and soft and squidgey. When this is ready, preheat the oven to 150°C for later.

Take each fruit half out one by one, and scrape out the innards, pips and all, using a fork and spoon.

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Put the skins to one side, and push the rest through a sieve (or one of these special contraptions shown, a food mill), back into the saucepan/pressure cooker. Pop this back on the hob on a low heat.

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Stick the sugar in it’s packaging in the preheated oven, alongside the jam jars in order to sterilise them. If the jars have rubber components (for the rim of the top), heat these in water in a saucepan to sterilise.

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Chop up the skins (a multi-bladed pair of scissors as shown will minimise faff). Snip to your preferred size. Set to one side.

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Once the saucepan is bubbling, add all the sugar and mix in.

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Keep stirring until it has set – a good test is when the mixture will hang off the spoon(/spatula) instead of dripping straight off.

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Add the rinds to the saucepan. Don’t do this earlier, or they’ll end up hard and crunchy. Mix well.

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Once the jam jars are quite hot, take them out (with oven gloves!) and ladel/pour the mixture straight in. Lay a liner on top, then seal well.

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Add a label with a date and ‘HOME MADE BY XXX’ in large letters. You did all the work so you need to get the glory!

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And all done in one afternoon – try it this weekend and teach yourself a skill for life! Thanks to Papa Oysterville, the Marmalade Master, for this project.

The One-Bar Five-Star Chocolate Cookie

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The trick to these cookies is the use of a bar of chocolate as opposed to chocolate chips. The latter are not only too small, but are also usually sub-standard chocolate (ain’t nobody got time for that). Using a bar requires a little more elbow grease, but results in big chunks of gooey chocolate goodness, and opens the door to a whole world of flavour options as curated by Cadbury’s, Green & Blacks, etc.

These take a mere 10 minutes to cook, but also need at least 30 minutes cooling time, making them ideal for several situations such as:

a) Procrastination  – use the cooling time to do that inevitable task, and reward yourself with warm cookies afterwards. You can’t ‘over-chill’, so there’s no excuse to stop early.

b) Entertaining – if you’re not sure when people are arriving, or when people will be in the mood for home-baked goods (spoiler: always), you can get the mixture ready and prepare to become an insta-housewife in just 10 minutes.

c) All other situations.

Enough pre-amble.

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 215g light brown sugar
  • 120g granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g chocolate

Instructions

  1. Melt butter, add to the brown and white sugar and vanilla
  2. Add eggs, beat well
  3. Add remaining dry ingredients (except chocolate), mix
  4. Mash up your bar of chocolate by your preferred aggressive method, then fold into mixture
  5. Chill for at least 30 mins
  6. Pre-heat oven to 190C/Gas mark 5, grease a baking tray (or use greaseproof paper)
  7. Blob the dough onto the tray, refrain from large blobs (you cannot underestimate cookie spreadage)
  8. Bake for 10-12 mins, until the edges are golden brown
  9. Leave to cool and harden (or, consume when warm and gooey…)
  10. Repeat!

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A little side note… my ambitious Christmas blog plans have been thwarted somewhat by an unexpected redundancy and a need to prioritise jobhunting. Sorry for the minimal content currently.

Cinnamon Apple Pancakes

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Picture this – you walk home in the slight dusk, wrapped in a cosy scarf, admiring the amber hues on the trees as you crunch through leaves. You open the door to your house and are welcomed by a warm glow, and then – then – someone offers you a Freshly Made Cinnamon Apple Pancake. COULD THERE BE ANYTHING MORE WONDERFULLY AUTUMNAL. No. So read on.

These are a perfect quick dessert – just the right size to polish off after a big dinner, or indulge in as a lovely evening snack. They’re fun to make, seasonal and not that unhealthy (if you’re self-disclipined with the cream…)

To make 4-6 pancakes

For the batter

  • 100g flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 pint milk

For the filling

  • 4 medium cooking apples
  • Small handfull sultanas
  • Small handfull pecans
  • 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
  • Cinnamon to taste (1-2tsp)

Also: cream, butter (don’t be guilty – you’re supporting dairy farmers, right. Basically your good deed for the day)

Start by sifting the flour and salt together. Mix in the egg. Pour in the milk bit by bit, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. That’s your batter!

Now peel, core and slice (quite finely) the apple. Boil the kettle. Place the apple in a saucepan with enough water to cover the bottom by about 0.5cm (we don’t need to be exact here) and the sugar. Heat it up and be patient as the apple softens down and thickens up. Add the cinnamon, pecans (broken up) and sultanas, and cook a little longer to incorporate these fully. That’s that!

Both the batter and the sauce can be made in advance, and stored in the fridge for a few days. Just stir the batter before using as it will settle, and remember to warm up the apple!

On a low-moderate heat, melt some butter in a saucepan, and pour out your batter for a pancake. Not too thick! And don’t wimp out – be brave and give it a flip. Once done, lay on a warmed plate, and add the filling and some cream before wrapping up.

Best served right away, while smugly basking in the warm knowledge than you have WON at Autumn. Well done, friend.

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