Stormy weather? Not really.

IMG_6754
Another day, another fry-up.

 

I left you at the end of the last entry awaiting the arrival of storm Hector coming in from the Atlantic and for which an amber weather alert had been issued but it had proved to be a bit of a non-event here in Tandragee. The roof was still intact! I did hear later that the nearby Mullahead Road had been closed due to a fallen tree but that was about it. The West of the country had been subjected to a bit of a battering but it had obviously blown itself out by the time it got this far East.

Thursday 14th was a day of not doing too much and I only managed one image the entire day which regular readers will not be surprised to discover was of my breakfast, yet another offering of the Ulster Fry which I waxed so lyrical about in a previous entry here. I am not entirely sure if I want to cook the perfect Ulster Fry or take the perfect image of one so the reader will probably get fed up of looking at them but you must admit it does look tasty.

In other news this day it was the opening of the 2018 football (soccer) World Cup. Although I was only ever a very average player, with rugby being my preferred sport, I do like watching it especially the World Cup with all its inevitable drama but I am finding it difficulty to get enthused about this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Northern Ireland are not there having been eliminated in the qualifying playoffs against Switzerland by a penalty which should never have been given. Yes, “we wuz robbed”.

Secondly, this competition was given to Russia when the utterly disgraced Sepp Blatter was in charge of world football. The man is so bent he could walk through a corkscrew and he has thankfully and rightly been banned from any sort of dealings with the game for many years. Blatter and Vladimir Putin, what a double act and certainly not one you would want to buy a used car from! I do not intend to re-rehease the arguments here but there are many issues regarding Russia that leave many people, myself included, somewhat uneasy about it hosting this massive global event.

Blatter also oversaw the granting of the next competition in 2022 to the totally unsuitable country of Qatar where temperatures will reach over 40 degrees centigrade during some matches with frequent hydration breaks interrupting the flow of the game. That is only one of the many issues surrounding their hosting of the event and surely Herr Blatter’s decision would have nothing to do with the fact that the oil rich state is one of the wealthiest in the world. I would love to have a look at the numbered Swiss bank account he undoubtedly has. Sue me if I am wrong, Sepp.

To continue the football theme, I am writing this on the 17th June and it has just been announced that the 2026 World Cup will be jointly hosted by Mexico, USA and Canada which begs a question. In major football competitions the host nation(s) qualify automatically which will mean three places taken by the successful bidders. Surely that must be unfair on other nations. Isn’t it ironic that whilst President Trump is busy dismantling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between these three nations, their football associations are banding together to host what is arguably the largest sporting event in the world. It has to be either the World Cup or the Olympics.

I did not watch it but I read later that the opening ceremony was mercifully brief as these events have been getting well over the top in recent years. Brief it may have been but there was still time for Robbie Williams, former backing singer for Gary Barlow in a boy band called Take That, still managed to disgrace himself by giving “the finger” to a camera which duly relayed it to literally billions of people worldwide including who knows how many children. Nice one Robbie, great role model behaviour from a man (I use the term loosely) who is 44 and obviously going on 17. It is indeed truly said that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

Footballing tradition also demands that the hosts play the first game of the tournament and which will prove yet another headache for the triple North American bid. Who plays the opener? I know there have been dual bids before but surely a triple bid is a step too far. What next, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales launch a quadruple bid? Logistically it would make a lot more sense than, say, the distance between Edmonton in Canada and Oaxaca in Mexico. How many thousand miles is that?

For the record, Russia ran out comfortable 5 – 0 winners against Saudi Arabia in a match I only saw a little of. They occupy a fairly lowly position in the FIFA world rankings and not much was expected of them but that is a good start especially from the goal difference point of view.

I realise that many people will have no interest in “the beautiful game” and I shall not be reporting overmuch on it although it is fairly much a part of my daily routine now. For those that are interested and for those who may read this long after the trophy has been lifted again there is saturation coverage across all the various media currently available.

That was the 14th so I shall pass onto Friday the 15th where I shall post this. I don’t see the point of religiously sticking to posting each entry religiously on the day it refers to if it is only a few paragraphs long. Incidentally, I shall issue another plea here for feedback on any aspect of the site, specifically the backdating of entries to the correct date. I am always open to constructive criticism and if anyone has any suggestions. especially if you have your own blog, please do get in touch.

IMG_6755
A lovely alternative to a fry-up.

Nothing much to report on the day so I’ll start with one of the two images for this date and what’s all this then? No Ulster Fry after all the raving I have been doing about that gift of the homeland to the culinary world? Today I just fancied a change and it was somewhat prompted by a slightly unusual event which had happened a couple of days before. I spend a bit of time in Canada and have totally fallen in love with the idea of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast. Not only is it very toothsome but it takes about five minutes to prepare and leaves washing up of one pan, one plate and a knife and fork which makes it ideal single man fare. Any students who may be reading take note.

So, pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, easily done with the first two ingredients readily sourced from one of the two village supermarkets but maple syrup was a product too far for them. I had seen some clear honey in the cupboard and knew that it would make a reasonable substitute as I have used it, golden syrup and even kithul treacle (a Sri Lankan delicacy).

I should explain that my Father no longer cooks for himself meaning the larder is not exactly stuffed to the gills and so my discovery of a tin of genuine Canadian maple syrup I took to be some sort of sign from the Universe that I should “go forth and feast upon the flesh of swine with the victuals of Shrove Tuesday”. Oh, and lashings of my fortuitous find obviously but I cannot think of a quasi-Bibilical description for maple syrup! No prizes for presentation certainly but it was extremely tasty.

A quick word on the World Cup where I watched all three games, the first two of which were pretty average and the third which will certainly take some beating as game of the tournament even at this early stage. It was the Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal which was full of great football and went right to the wire with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an 85th minute peach of a free kick which may prove to be goal of the tournament. Again, it is early days but it will take some beating.

That was the sports headlines and in other news I composed more of this journal read a bit and went to bed (thrilling, eh?).

The next entry features an interesting sporting event 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.

IMG_6748
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.

IMG_6749

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.

IMG_6829
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.