Friday, 31 January 2014

New Antrim DLs


Mrs Joan Christie OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, has been pleased to appoint:

  • Mrs Julia Shirley, DL, Drains Bay, Larne,
  • Randal, Viscount Dunluce, DL, Glenarm Castle,

to the Deputy Lieutenants of the County, their Commissions bearing the date the 21st day of December 2013.

Lord Lieutenant of the County .

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Howard Street Restaurant

...or, Porcine Cheek!

I wondered what all the fuss and high praise was about regarding a new Belfast restaurant called Howard Street. It's located at 56 Howard Street, opposite Church House.

It has been receiving largely excellent reviews on Tripadvisor.

Hence, I decided to lunch there today.

First, I spent an hour or so at the wonderful Linenhall Library, where I updated my records on the Montgomerys of Grey Abbey and the Hart-Synnots of Ballymoyer.

I lunched early, which was prudent enough, because Howard Street was quiet at twelve-fifteen.

It's a spacious kind of warehouse, canteen sized place.

Like the ambiance, the staff are casually dressed in denims and tee-shirts, with aprons.

I was immediately shown to a banquette seat adjacent to the bar.

The main courses on the lunch menu range from £10 to £15. Puddings are all £6.

A pal of mine - who also follows the blog - recommended beef cheek once, and since the porcine version was on the menu at Howard Street, I asked the waitress a few questions and ordered.

Frankly, I'd never eaten pig cheek before, so I was full of anticipation.

When the meal arrived, it looked delicious on the plate.

The menu describes it thus:
Slow Cooked Glazed Pig Cheek, Black Pudding and Nut Crumble, Spiced Pumpkin Ravioli, Apple and Cider Puree. 
The meat was indeed beautifully lean, tender and succulent. The vegetables complemented it very well indeed.

I often find onion rings irresistible, so I had a side portion of them. They were served in a circular metal type of tubular bowl and there were six of them - £3.

By this stage of the proceedings, the restaurant was almost full. There were business suits, tourists and a veritable cross-section of the populace. Anybody could feel comfortable here.

THE PUDDING MENU had about five or six choices. I decided on the Lemon Tart with honey and mousse with tiny meringues and a rich drizzling of fruit puree sauce of some sort.

Needless to say, the old gnashers got stuck in instanter and it went like snow falling off an Ulster ditch.

Finally, I settled the bill, which came to £22.95.

3rd Earl of Donegall

Click to enlarge
This plaque is attached to the wall of 1, Donegall Place, Belfast, at what is now Zara store.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

New Armagh DL


The Earl of Caledon, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, has been pleased to appoint:-

Mr Raymond Donnelly, Caledon, County Tyrone,

To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his Commission bearing date the 14th day of January, 2014.

Quarter Slice

Mince & Onion Pie

The Initial Prototype Proprietary Belmont Minced Steak & Onion Pie.

Blast! There was insufficient pastry to cover the top; hence the piecemeal shape thereon.

There was not even a scrap of pastry for the Belmont cypher (!).

The proof, however, will be in the eating.

Monday, 27 January 2014

QM in Fermanagh

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother arrives at Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, in 1988, and is greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, the Earl of Erne.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Colonel Dick

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard "Dick" Strawbridge MBE, a former Army engineer-turned-environmentalist, has come a very long way since his time in the Army in 2001.

I know there are Strawbridges in County Londonderry; however Dick Strawbridge was born in Bangor, County Down.

The former army engineer knows a thing or two about incredible feats of construction, reports BBC Northern Ireland.

When he was asked about where Belfast Harbour ranks in terms of ingenuity, there was no hesitation:- 
"People talk about the efforts that went into building for the 2012 Olympics or the Channel Tunnel? Pah! They're just not on the same scale as Belfast Harbour. It really is amazing."
The feat of engineering is made clear in the documentary Belfast City: Mud, Sweat and 400 Years, made for BBC television.

Colonel Strawbridge has had a fascination with the harbour for over four decades:
"I can remember travelling up from Bangor to Belfast when I was a child. I was fascinated by the sheer size of the place and all the activity. It's been in my consciousness ever since."
Mud, Sweat and 400 Years allowed him to dive into the murky depths of time to explore why the harbour came to exist and how its success drove Belfast on to become one of the UK's most important cities.

Created after Belfast was granted a Royal Charter in 1613, the port was originally a tiny operation on the banks of the River Farset, which ran along what is now High Street.

It was dwarfed by the larger, more important harbour at Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

However, the ambitious, emerging merchant classes decided a larger port was needed, setting in motion events that brought about the huge commercial facility that endures today.

Belfast was completely ill-suited to a large harbour, Strawbridge said:
"The most amazing thing to understand is Belfast was not the right place for a port this size. It makes no sense. It's an amazing engineering achievement. Remember, too, workers dug up land everyday but the tide would fill it with water again. These guys were fighting one of the most powerful natural phenomena in the world. Imagine Belfast is still a sandy estuary today. And someone said: 'We'll build a huge port.' There would be an incredible gnashing of teeth. "People wouldn't believe it could be done and it would cost billions. But back then they said: 'Let's go and do it because we need the resources.' I just love that attitude."
The programme also allowed Strawbridge to throw himself into modern day harbour life, from clambering into the tunnels underneath Belfast's High Street to climbing the dizzying heights of Harland & Wolff's huge cranes.

However, he said his favourite moment was meeting retired dockers in Belfast's historic Sailortown area.

Strawbridge says the story of Belfast Port is a great example of remarkable determination,
"It's an encouraging, positive story. I hope the programme communicates the sheer work that went into this port. I started off in a position of some knowledge about the port and with a real interest. However, now I have added respect that has come from understanding fully what this harbour required from people. It doesn't half make you think. Along with respect, comes pride. There's a lot here for Northern Ireland to be proud of."
Belfast City: Mud, Sweat and 400 Years will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 27 January at 22.35 GMT.

Old Lady & Air Bag

This is hilarious:-

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Meat Cuts

Top Rib / Housekeeper’s Cut

Top Rib / Housekeeper’s Cut: This is a more economical cut than a rib of beef and its heavy marbling and extra fat content make it the perfect choice for slow roasting. With the bone left in, the beef takes on a sweeter, more intense flavour. Roast it slowly with a little liquid and this will help the joint tenderise and give excellent flavour.

Whilst at the meat counter in Tesco's supermarket yesterday morning I enquired about a cut of beef once known as "rib steak".

They hadn't heard of it. I'm sure a traditional butcher would know what I meant.

It transpires that this rib steak alludes to Top Rib or "leg of mutton cut", a lean but rather coarse cut, requiring slow, moist cooking.

My tiny traditional cooking book suggests this cut for stew or casserole.

THE BIG SUPERMARKETS also sell lamb rump steaks.

I bought a pound of these - about three steaks - which cost me £7.91.

Thus, the Belmont Stew is not so frugal! Is lamb rump too "prime" a cut for stew?

Readers, what cut of lamb would you consider suitable for stew? It must have plenty of lean meat.

The vegetables are very cheap, though good meat pushes the price up considerably.

I believe that lamb rump steaks are from the the fillet (buttock) end of the leg.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Classic MG

It has been an interesting morning. An old acquaintance called me and I paid him a visit fifteen minutes ago.

This gentleman has been a scholar, school-master, local politician, historian and clergyman in his time.

He has stopped driving and, to my surprise, today he gave me virtually first refusal on his classic 1967 MGB GT motor car.

It is British Racing Green and has chrome features. I was apprised that it has been "round the clock" twice; though it has been well maintained and my chum is the only owner since new.

I asked him how much he wanted for it.

He chuckled and asked me to look it up on the Internet.

How much is it worth? Should I consider purchasing it? Would it be a burden? Would it stay in my garage?

Road Tax is unnecessary because the old jalopy is over thirty years old.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Fine Result

I don't know whether you remember the incident several weeks ago - at Upper Arthur Street - whereby a parking ticket was unceremoniously slapped on to my windscreen?

For the benefit of readers who are not "up to speed", I motored into town on a Saturday morning and was lucky enough to find a parking space.

I fed the parking-meter with two pounds, noticed the time on the ticket - 13:28 - and stuck the label on the windscreen of the jalopy.

When I returned about an hour and a quarter later, I immediately spotted a fixed penalty notice. The fine had been issued at 12:06.

Alas, the ticket I had stuck to the inside of the windscreen did not adhere sufficiently to the damp screen. It had fallen - like a leaf - to the floor.

There might also have been some woollen fibres from my overcoat on the sticky part.

Having accosted a parking manager, I was assured that my sticker with the time would be adequate proof.

I phoned them on Monday morning. Either the penalty notice would be annulled and cancelled forthwith, or I might be required to scan the evidence and send it to them.

YESTERDAY I received the following email from the NI Roads Service in connection with my appeal regarding a parking ticket I received several weeks ago in Upper Arthur Street, Belfast:-

I am pleased to inform you that I have accepted your explanation in response to the Penalty Charge Notice detailed above.

However, it is important to note that even if a Pay & Display ticket has been purchased, the penalty charge is normally payable if it is not properly displayed.

Whilst the charge is being waived on this occasion, a similar approach will not be taken in the event of a repeat occurence.

The Penalty Charge Notice issued in connection with the contravention has now been cancelled.

Killynether Day

I have spent the day with National Trust staff and volunteers at Killynether Wood, near Newtownards, County Down.

Today we were undertaking maintenance work at a coppice plantation, which necessitated lighting a bonfire and burning surplus branches.

It was also an opportunity to get up to date with the others.

I had my usual cheese & onion sandwiches for lunch.

There were about eight of us. We began at 9am and finished at 4pm this afternoon.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Bangers & Mash

The trusty gnashers were sufficiently exercised this evening for Dangerfield's delightful venison sausages.

To this, I add onion mash, asparagus, onion marmalade, and abundant butter.

Roe Park

I've endeavoured to compose an article about Roe Park House, near Limavady, County Londonderry.

Roe Park House has had half a dozen owners in its long history, including Speaker Conolly, The McCauslands of Drenagh, the Macnaghten Baronets, and the Alexanders.

I expect to publish it next week.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Irish Stew

Yesterday I was rummaging through a drawer in the Belmont kitchen when I came across an old cookery-book.

This booklet is tiny, pocket-size, in fact.

It contains a traditional recipe for Irish Stew, which I'll share with readers.

There is a veritable multitude of variations for Irish stew, depending on what was handed down by ancestors; however, the simmering of the lamb or mutton arouses my curiosity. Would this produce exceptionally tender meat?

I have yet to attempt this recipe myself.

If you are inclined to try this recipe, please do send comments.

  • 1 lb lean mutton pieces
  • 1 lb onions
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • salt  & pepper
  • pinch of thyme


  1. Place mutton with thyme in pot and add cold water to cover.
  2. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for one hour.
  3. Add vegetables, all peeled and roughly chopped.
  4. Season.
  5. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender.
  6. Adjust seasoning.

New Royal Birth

Mrs Mike Tindall, MBE [Zara Phillips], was today safely delivered of an infant girl at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

Mr Mike Tindall was present at the birth.

The weight of the baby was 7lbs 12oz.

The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Princess Royal, Captain Mark Phillips and Mike’s parents, Mr Phillip and Mrs Linda Tindall, have been informed and are delighted with the news.

The baby’s name will be confirmed in due course.

This baby is the first child for Zara and Mike, the third grandchild for The Princess Royal, and the fourth great-grandchild for The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, and is 16th in line to the Throne.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Salmon Risotto

Fodder this evening at Belmont GHQ has been salmon risotto, a hotch-potch of rice, vegetable stock, salmon, a dash of mustard and tomato puree, honey, seasoning, parsley, sultanas, and chopped onion; not forgetting lashings of butter.

Porridge Resumption

Suppliers of Quaker Food Products
HM The Queen - Master of the Household
Granted in 1958


This morning I motored over to the nearest massive supermarket, grabbed a basket and, holding the post-it note with a shopping-list, made a bee-line for the salad aisle.

During my childhood we used to breakfast on porridge occasionally, though I stopped eating it ages ago.

However, having been offered it whilst staying with friends at Christmas, my appetite for the stuff has been rekindled.

Hence, today I procured a carton of the original Quaker Oats and Tate & Lyle's squeezy golden syrup.
Despite the instructions provided for cooking the porridge, I prefer mine quite thick in texture; so in future I'll add less milk.

I was in good company. None other than Barney Eastwood, the celebrated bookmaker and boxing promoter, was also doing the rounds, wearing a heavy tweed overcoat.

MY FELLOW-SWIMMER and old pal Schomberg (!) has recommended a local greengrocer and delicatessen, The Four Seasons, to me. I'm told that their home-made lasagne and coleslaw is delicious.

Dangerfield, the old school pal and sparring partner, called unexpectedly last night for ten minutes. He told me about his woes regarding a part for his classic Land-Rover.

Dangerfield is a terrific shot. I told him I was minded to have a few of his venison bangers tonight, though I've decided to postpone that gastronomic feast and have a salmon risotto instead.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Wine Trick

Mystery House

A reader has sent me these pictures of a house somewhere in Northern Ireland.

It was used for a period by United States forces during the 2nd World War.

Can anybody recognize it?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Belmont Burger

The 100% British beef Hawaiian burger, made with pure Ulster beef, for the Earl of Belmont, by his master chef of the gastronomic taste-buds, Anatole, today.

It was devoured with gusto by his lordship, a devotee of fine beef patties.

Blackford Dolphin

I wish I had worn my British Warm overcoat this morning, when I went for a walk at Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

It was damp, dreary, cold and windy.

A large drilling rig called Blackford Dolphin is being repaired or refitted by Harland & Wolff.

This rig weighs about 3,000 tons and the crew quarters can accommodate 102 persons.

Downhill Pictures

DOWNHILL HOUSE, near Castlerock, County Londonderry, taken at the latter part of the 19th century.

The mansion house was built for the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Frederick Augustus [Hervey], 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, commonly known as The Earl-Bishop, in the 1770s.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Downhill Centaur

A merry centaur welcomed visitors to Downhill Palace in County Londonderry.

I wonder where this statue now stands.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Onion Marmalade

I know. It's hard to believe that almost four and a half pounds of red onions, four garlic cloves, one bottle of red wine, a half bottle of red wine vinegar, the equivalent of four large glasses of port, and thyme, were all reduced to four jars of the celebrated Belmont Proprietary Caramelized Red Onion Marmalade.

If I might be so bold as to suggest that this concoction would complement venison and meat sausages most satisfactorily.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Railway Journeys: V

The Right Honourable Michael Portillo begins another new series of his Great British Railway Journeys this evening, on BBC Two, from 6.30-7pm.

I'll record the entire series and view it at my leisure.

Series Five commences with a trip from Manchester to Birkenhead.

David Butcher writes:
Wearing one of his uniquely wince-making shirt/jacket pairings, Michael Portillo settles into a standard-class seat for another trip. There’s none of the sun-kissed romance of his continental railway journeys here: this week, he’ll follow a looping circuit from Manchester to Chesterfield via Birkenhead, but his (or his producer’s) ability to find diverting detours is undimmed.

Today our guide visits a beautifully murky Victorian library where, in a gothic alcove, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels dreamt up a philosophy not close to Portillo’s heart. He also visits Old Trafford stadium where a Manchester United guide tells him, in a segment not recorded recently, “We just seem to go from strength to strength.”
1/20. New series:-

Armed with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook, Michael Portillo embarks on another journey around the country to discover how the railways have affected people and communities, and the legacy they have left behind.

He begins in Manchester, where he finds out how the world's first industrialised city produced a revolutionary political movement, and learns about the railway workers who founded one of the most successful football clubs of all time.

Along the way, the presenter does the washing in Port Sunlight - a model village on the Wirable - and hears stories about the aptly named George Francis Train's time in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Father Brown Returns

A brand new series - the second - of Father Brown begins tomorrow, Monday, the 6th January, almost exactly one year since the first series.

The first series was excellent and I shan't miss the new series, which runs on BBC One at two-fifteen, Monday to Friday.

I've set my system to record the entire series; so I'll be able to view it at my leisure.

Venison Sausages

The trusty gnashers were well prepared for a good feast of Dangerfield's sika venison bangers tonight. The nose-bag was firmly attached in preparation for this splendid repast.

I am unconvinced that frying sausages is better than grilling, so I fried them gently in oil first; then finished them off under the grill.

I had them with onion mash, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, parsley, butter, and onion marmalade.

Believe me, the result was delicious. Any fat in them was eradicated by the grilling; and what remained was lean, tender and tasty meat.

Well done, Dangerfield!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Parking Fine

I motored into town this morning and was lucky enough to find a parking space in Upper Arthur Street.

I fed the parking-meter with two pounds, noticed the time thereon - 13:28 - and stuck the label on the windscreen of the jalopy.

I encountered a charming assistant in Crabtree & Evelyn's shop near Cornmarket, and engaged in a delightful natter; so well, in fact, that I wondered whether she'd ever do me the honour of accompanying me for a snifter in a restaurant or bar.

I bought a dark red v-neck sweater in House of Fraser. Thence I sought out a favourite meat pasty at Marks & Spencer.

At Sawer's delicatessen, I purchased a jar of onion marmalade, for Dangerfield's venison bangers.

Whilst walking up Upper Arthur Street, I immediately spotted a fixed penalty notice. The fine was issued at 12:06.

Alas, the ticket I stuck to the inside of the windscreen did not adhere sufficiently to the damp screen. It had fallen - like a leaf - to the floor.

Having accosted a parking warden, I was assured that my sticker with the time would be adequate proof.

I'll phone them on Monday morning. Either the penalty notice will be annulled and cancelled forthwith, or I might be required to scan the evidence and send it to them.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Whyte & Mackay

Amongst other sundry items, a bottle of Whyte & Mackay scotch whisky was procured at the supermarket for Belmont GHQ this morning.

My old school pal and sparring partner, Dangerfield, holds this blend in high esteem. We're speaking of blended scotch here, not single malts.

I am certainly no connoisseur of scotch whisky, though I enjoyed this stuff, neat or "on the rocks".

A GOOD fillet of smoked haddock was also purchased.

The celebrated Belmont kedgeree, reminiscent of the glorious Raj, will be prepared for fodder this evening.

The ingredients include pilau rice, smoked haddock, an egg, onion, currants, curry paste, butter, and parsley.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Wee Dram

I welcomed in 2014 with an old school chum last night, who shall henceforth be known as Dangerfield (!).

We enjoyed a wee dram, whilst reminiscing about the glorious school-days of yore.

Dangerfield is a keen country sportsman and very kindly gave me some of his venison sausages, made with sika deer.

I cannot recall what part of the Province these deer inhabit.

Sika deer first arrived in Northern Ireland in 1870, when a stag and five hinds were sent from Powerscourt, in County Wicklow, to Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh.

Twenty years later sika deer were sent from Colebrooke to Baronscourt, County Tyrone.

In the 1920s, all the sika deer escaped from the deer park at Baronscourt and became established in the estate's forests and woodlands.

Sika venison is said to be a very lean and succulent meat, having the lowest calories and cholesterol levels compared to any other red meat products.