Same old, same old.

There are going to be a few days rolled into one here, as appears to be turning into a habit on my little site as, barring a day out in Belfast, mot much of note happened before I returned “home” to London on 10th August and which begged the question was I leaving “home” or going “home”. The facts of the matter are that I lived in Northern Ireland for the first 28 years of my life and have now lived in London (when I am not on my seemingly endless travels) in London for 30 now. As always, any comments would be most welcome on the subject of what you define as home?

I was helping to look after my Dad a little although his care programme, between some wonderful carers who attend him at home, and my brother and sister-in-law who live about 500 yards round the corner ensure that there is nothing to worry about on that score. I was just doing some little tasks and trying to help out where I could. In truth, I think he enjoyed the company, and I know for a fact that he was well pleased on one day when my S-i-L had arranged not to cook for him (she is a brilliant cook) and I knocked him up an Ulster Fry, the dish which has featured so much in this series of blogs and which he declared to be very tasty so that was good enough for me.

I had fallen into a bit of a routine which, on the evidence or previous visits home, had the potential to bore me to tears and yet it didn’t. I was quite happy pottering about the house during the day, taking the odd day trip to Portadown or once to Belfast for reasons which shall be explained later, going to the local pub in the evening for a few drinks with friends and jamming occasionally. I was eating regularly (as the images show and which is not necessarily the case at other times) and reading a lot of good books (my Dad has no internet access). Leaving aside my Father’s health for a moment, it appeared to be doing mine a power of good.

I do realise that this is all a bit heavy reading for the occasional visitor to the site who does not know me, and let’s be honest, I have a meagre bunch of followers here who I thank for their support but, as I said in one of my opening pieces here, this is my last shot at blogging. I am not going to risk another commercial site being pulled from under me and so this is, at times, going to be pretty brutally honest. At some point this site, such as it is and may eventually become, will eventually float about the ether and provide my epitaph to some degree. At least hopefully you’ll be able to read it online as a diary of mine would be totally illegible due to my utterly appalling handwriting!

Yes, this started off as a travel orientated site and it remains so although not exclusively. For the first time I have complete editorial control albeit I still cannot free myself of the mindset of travel sites but I am getting there. I have all sorts of odd ideas like daily limericks and who knows what else.

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Proper cheese on toast, Tandragee style.

So back to Northern Ireland on what had turned out, yet again in my case (a very small case as it happens) on what was intended to be a five or six day trip and I was two months down the road. If you have read some of my other exploits and if you read any of the many that are still to come then you will know that this is the way I am and, frankly, it suits me. My idea of travel Hell would be an organised trip as in breakfast at 0730 sharp, on the coach at 0800 sharp, famous museum at 0900 sharp, you get the idea.

I might as well start with one of my usual subjects i.e. the fry-up or ( often not so) healthy alternatives to it. The image above shows a little variant which is probably marginally less unhealthy than the Ulster Fry which has featured so prominently here. Let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese on toast but I love making it with soda bread. The effort pictured above features the said bread, Branston pickle, and a decent Red Leicester cheese I had picked up on offer at the little local supermarket. A quick crack of freshly ground pepper completes the dish. Again, I will digress here so I warn you in advance.

I am all in favour of a bargain in my food shopping and hunt out special offers in the same way I will go to a fresh produce market late in the day as they are virtually giving the stuff away. Also, I will mostly buy “own brands” from supermarkets for many things as they are every bit as good and often produced in the same factories as name brands but there are a few things I will not compromise on. Pickle of that type has to be Branston, English mustard has to be Colman’s and Worcestershire sauce has to be Lea & Perrins. Just about anything else is negotiable but these are not. Certainly there are a thousand other pickles and chutnies available and some of them very good, but this type has to be Branston.

I will certainly buy other styles of mustard (you can read in my European jaunt of 2017 on this site of how I went to Dijon in France purely to buy mustard for a foodie mate) but there is only one English mustard although the multinational Unilever, apart from their failed bit to Eurify to a single base in Rotterdam recently in September 2018 are moving from Norwich, it’s original home to two sites in Burton (Staffordshire, UK) and Germany. No surprise there and I wonder how that will play out when, or if, given the spineless nature of our alleged leaders, we eventually actually escape the mendacious clutches of the Federal States of E.
As for The Worcestershire sauce (which my Canadian friends call “W” sauce as they cannot get their tongues round the pronunciation, which admittedly is odd. I doubt I could cook without it (not that I can really cook anyway) to the extent that when I go to visit my friend in Sri Lanka I take a bottle of it with me as it costs a fortune when imported there for the expats. As a further digression off a digression, if such a thing be possible, why are there two pronunciations of the word pronunciation? Answers on a postcard please, as they say!

How can I write so much about a couple of pieces of cheese on toast? Very easily actually and I have just edited the above paragraph fairly seriously before I took off into a further digression about the origins of these fine British firms. Then again, I do have to keep reminding myself that this is MY site and I can do what I like.
I know opinion is very much divided about my writing style, if it can be called that, but on other commercial sites I have written for before more people seemed to like it than disliked it. In truth, I can only write in one style although I am trying to rein myself in a little bit. Being naturally inquisitive (for which read nosy if you like) I simply have to research everything I mention even tangentially in a blog entry and then include it in whatever I am writing. I reckon I’d have made a Hell of an intelligence officer in some field or another.

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What, no fry again?

Right, back to the narrative. That was brekkie on the 2nd of August, and the 3rd was equally subdued with a toasted sandwich and some tomato soup for the morning meal. What was I thinking?

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That’s better.

Thankfully, normal service appears to have resumed on the 4th as you can see above. A friend of mine who is a real foodie speaks of “food porn” which I used to scoff at a little but I reckon this is full on XXX rated. I am actually salivating now just looking at this image even if I did cook it myself. I swear this is turning into an Ulster Fry site!

I’ve rambled enough here so I’ll break off for another entry where I finally get back to Belfast so stay tuned and spread the word.

Batten down the hatches and get the pan on.

In this entry I shall re-introduce you to a Northern Ireland institution I have mentioned before and introduce you to one I have not yet spoken of in this travelogue although it will be familiar to anyone who has visited the country.

I woke on Wednesday 13th June after another good sleep which is somewhat of a blessing for me given my usual sleep problems. I don’t know if it is the country air or something else but I really am sleeping well here. I was preparing breakfast for my Father and turned on the TV just in time to catch the weather forecast and that came as a bit of a shock.

I do hope you have read the earlier reports from this journey where I described the small heatwave we had enjoyed and where I managed to get sunburnt. Yes, I know, sunburnt in Northern Ireland in June. I swear it is true as I have seen myself in the mirror which is a sight I would not wish to inflict on anyone else by way of photographic evidence here so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Would there be more sun on the way? No chance, and instead we were given a storm warning for that night for a weather system coming in from the Atlantic overnight and which Met Eireann (the Irish meteorological body) had named Hector, presumably for the hero of myth rather than the animated canine character of 1960’s children’s TV.

That was the re-introduction to the Northern Irish institution that is the weather of which it is truly said, “If you don’t like it, wait fifteen minutes” and so now on to the other institution I mentioned at the top of this piece. I shall begin by skipping back to the little tease I left you with at the end of the last entry and which I do hope you have read where I mentioned that I had found something in my little village supermarket that I have never seen on sale in Northern Ireland. Come to that I have never seen it on sale outside Scotland where it is known as slice, Lorne sausage or square sausage and here it was packaged as the latter.

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The hugely tasty and dangerously calorific square sausage.

Square sausage is a cornerstone of Scottish breakfasts, so what is it? It is nothing more than that which the name suggests, it is beef sausage meat which is seasoned and lightly spiced and then cut into slices that are really more rectangular than sausage but I suppose square is easier to say. OK, it also contains such delicious ingredients as Thiomin, Disodium Diphosphate and Sodium Tripolyphosphate which are all perfectly safe. I hope.

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Not only was this the first time I had seen it on sale here, I was amazed to see that it was actually manufactured in Northern Ireland by Hull’s of Ballymena, which is in Northern Ireland. The packaging says “New” and I suspect they are onto a winner. The whole situation got even better as it was on special offer at £1 for four slices which is half price. Needless to say I bought some. OK, I bought a lot as I knew it would not last long in my kitchen. I think the young girl on the checkout thought I had gone mad.

Whilst I had eaten this delicacy as part of many a hearty Scottish breakfast I knew it would fit beautifully into the other institution I mentioned which is the world-famous Ulster Fry. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have sampled this culinary masterpiece, I shall provide a recipe.

1. Pick a selection from the following. Egg, sausage, bacon, square sausage (as of just recently), black pudding, white pudding, soda bread, wheaten bread, potato bread, white loaf bread, mushrooms, baked beans, tomato. In cases of extreme hunger pick one of everything or as the ultimate hangover cure pick one of everything and serve with a pint of Guinness.

2. Fry everything in oil except the beans and mushrooms (heat in pots) and the tomato (half and grill). If you want to be very traditional about it use lard instead of oil.

3. Serve.

Obviously this is the type of meal that give cardiologists “funny little moments” but this is the genuine article. I dread to think what the calorie count is for a decent sized Ulster fry but it is well into four figures. Here is an example. Just the two slices of square sausage you see in some of these images provide me with 34% of my recommended daily fat intake and over half my saturates intake and that is only the raw contents before I start frying it! I have heard this described as a heart attack on a plate which is probably true but it doesn’t half taste great. I know you could grill the various sausage, bacon and even the puddings but that would be classed as heresy where I come from. HP sauce is the condiment of choice although a few people prefer tomato ketchup which also works.

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Ulster fry “lite”.

That then is the calorific joy that is the Ulster Fry and it is quite feasible in the UK with most of the big supermarkets carrying soda and potato bread. Wheaten is a little harder to find but not impossible. White pudding is also quite difficult to source but is really worth the effort especially if you are one of those people who is uneasy at the concept of blood type sausage / pudding.  If I have any readers outside the UK then I think you may struggle a bit so my only advice is to save your pennies, cents, baht, pesos or whatever and come to Northern Ireland for the genuine article.

Apart from several hours spent digesting the gargantuan brunch (which is pretty small by local standards) and reading nothing much happened during the day and so that evening I secured anything that might possibly blow away and retired to bed to await the hurricane.

If you want to know whether or not we still had a roof the next morning then stay tuned and spread the word.