Nyina baking mixes launch party at Boden Park Coffee

Who doesn’t love cake? I bet you would be hard pushed to find anyone, seriously. For afternoon tea, coffee, visiting someone’s house, a treat when happy or sad, or simply just because; cake, cake, and yes more cake. It’s an institution! I recently made friends with a beautiful lady who also shares my enthusiasm for cake, Miss Chikumo Fiseko - soon to be known as the face of her exciting new baking venture Nyina.

The talented lady behind Nyina.

The talented lady behind Nyina.

Nyina’s aim to create the next generation of bakers from anywhere in the world, in the most sustainable way possible. Each baking mix can create a two-tier cake or approx. 14 cupcakes with the customers only needing to add eggs and finish off with buttercream. So, whether the bakers are people that want to learn basic baking/decorating skills or they want to enjoy baking with their families but don’t have the time, it will be simple enough for anyone to get real home-made cakes from a simple all in one mix, without compromising on quality or taste.

Nyina had it’s official launch on Saturday 17th August, hosted by the lovely Boden Park Coffee on the Ormeau Road. The cake mixes, lovingly prepared by Chikumo, were available to buy for any new and seasoned bakers to try for themselves. The results of my own efforts will be revealed as you keep reading! An abundance of tantalising cakes and muffins were also on display, showcasing just what can be done with these all in one mixes. Carrot cake, coffee cake, chocolate, white chocolate, raspberry, vanilla and red velvet - can any one person handle this much cake?! I was in cake heaven for want of a better description.

Chikumo and her mum set out the bakes

Chikumo and her mum set out the bakes

Nyina’s launch party was aimed also at helping the business receive donations through a crowd funding campaign ran by Ulster Bank NI Back her Business scheme. A product that makes baking easy, minimises dishes, clean up and mess with delicious results? I’m in! Of course not before sampling plenty of cake along the way…..

Nyina baking mixes - chocolate sponge cake

Nyina chocolate and vanilla cake mixes

Nyina chocolate and vanilla cake mixes

Anyone who bakes or has ever attempted baking knows the pain and angst of all the measuring, all the bowls, all the washing up and the gripping disappointment of a flat sponge that deserves nothing less than to be hurtled 50 feet out the window. Nyina baking mixes remove every inch of this, trust me. I’m not a novice to baking but I’ve had my fair share of disasters, mainly because I’ve been careless at measuring my ingredients according to a recipe. This, my friends, is the answer to your prayers. Eggs and butter. Thats all you need to add to the mixes to make the most soft and moist sponge you will have ever made in your life. Pru Leith may watch herself, with these mixes you’ll be applying for the next Bake Off quicker than you scoffed that cake you just made. To finish all you need is a good slather of buttercream ( I made mine from the BBC Good Food website) or if you want to continue the minimal effort theme, shop bought icing is pretty nifty also. Get creative with your toppings - chocolates, sweets, edible glitter or if you’re like me you’ll want to justify your cake intake by throwing some fruit at it and claiming it as your ‘5 a Day’. So…….what are you waiting for? Ready, set, bake….!!!

Buy Nyina mixes

Nyina chocolate cake mix

Nyina chocolate cake mix

The Edible Flower

I don’t know how I’ve managed this long without experiencing the wonder that is The Edible Flower but I recently had the pleasure and all I can say is WOW! Well that’s not all, or this would be a very short blog post. These guys know food and they know it well.  Their flavour combo’s are a knock out and their passion for food is inspirational. They are sensational hosts to boot!

Jo working her magic on some flatbread dough

Jo working her magic on some flatbread dough

The evening was warm and balmy, the sun was low and golden and the air was filled with the scent of buttery, garlic flatbreads cooking in the wood fired pizza oven.  Amongst the rolling fields and hills of County Down, people gathered for a Midsummer’s Feast to share food, wine and laughter with new friends.  


Erin delights guests with flatbreads and honeysuckle punch on arrival

Erin delights guests with flatbreads and honeysuckle punch on arrival

Honeysuckle punch

Honeysuckle punch

On arrival we sipped honeysuckle punch and enjoyed flatbreads topped with summery yellow courgettes and wild earthy mushrooms all while lingering through the kitchen gardens of Erin and Jo’s beautiful country cottage.  Starters were then served in what was once a cow shed with the trough for the cows still present along the sides of the barn! There were no cows but plenty of feeding going on as we chowed down on our Vietnamese noodle salad and home brewed ale which was a delightful accompaniment.  The flavours were light and fresh but with plenty of depth given in the Nuoc Cham dressing. As a foodie crossed with being a food photographer I was torn between just wanting to devour my meal or shoot it to within an inch of its life. I did both, and enjoyed every minute!

Midsummer Feast menu

Midsummer Feast menu

Vietnamese noodle salad

Vietnamese noodle salad

The rest of the courses followed suit, amazing flavours meticulously paired and with plenty of seconds if you had room.  The pork was raised by Erin and Jo who added that if they were going to continue to enjoy eating meat they felt they should be comfortable with rearing their own animals for slaughter.  My friend nearly fell into her plate crying when she heard this, realising that what we were about to eat had been somewhat of a pet in it’s previous life. It’s a sensitive subject but one that should be considered as a meat eater.  I didn’t dwell on it at that particular moment however and enjoyed the glorious food before me. 

Porchetta with garlic and fennel

Porchetta with garlic and fennel

Aubergine bake

Aubergine bake

The evening drew to a close around the fire pit, swilling chai tea and cramming buttery crumbly shortbread into the last little pockets of space left in my stomach.  The embers sparked and flitted as everyone basked in the heat from the fire and the warmth we felt from having enjoyed such a wonderful evening of beautiful food and great company. Bliss!  

Chai tea around the fire pit

Chai tea around the fire pit

Midsummer Feast  166.jpg

Echlinville Distillery Tour

My most recent food and drink adventure was Echlinville distillery, nestled just off the shores of Strangford lough.  Only forty five minutes from Belfast, you too could be swillin’ a wee dram between your fingers and thumb!  Fortified with the knowledge as to how it got in your glass by taking the Echlinville distillery tour .  You will learn how Dunville’s Whiskey and Jawbox Gin are made and also their Ban Poitín, all available to sample at the bar after the tour.  I cried off from any Poitín tasting but maybe next time!  

Echlinville Distillery-007.jpg

The drive to the distillery itself is beautiful.  You will pass Mount Stewart and go through beautiful quaint Greyabbey then continue along the shoreline and to Kircubbin where you will find the Echlinville estate and still house.  Go to https://echlinville.com/story/ to read all about their story and the history of the estate.


The staff at Echlinville are amazing, super friendly and leave you feeling like you just visited an old friend for a few drinks and a catchup.  The tour was light, funny and informative with just enough detail about the process of making whisky without giving away all their secrets.  For that they’d have to kill you, most likely with the WWII tank they have parked up outside (not kidding).  

Echlinville Distillery-042.jpg


We were shown the old courtyard with which they have big plans for in the future, the still house where all the magic happens and the maturation warehouse where the casks are kept. It’s here the whiskey matures and develops it’s depth and charatcer drawn from the distinctive properties of the barrel it’s stored in.  All the terms you hear like ‘barrel aged’ and ‘single malt’ will start to make sense plus you’ll learn a whole host more!  

Echlinville Distillery-019-2.jpg


After the tour we kicked back and enjoyed our drinks vouchers with which you get to try two drinks from the selection on offer.  I sampled the Dunville’s Three Crowns Whiskey, Jawbox Rhubarb and Ginger gin and Echlinville Irish pot still gin.  You are made to feel so welcome it’s honestly hard to leave but I am a complete lightweight when it comes to booze so three was enough or I would have been staying the night!


Great tour, friendly staff and you leave wanting more.  I’ll return to Echlinville with friends and family on tow as this is a fabulous way to spend the afternoon for both visitors and locals alike.  


Cheers!


Belfast Cookery School - Irish Bread Making

There’s nothing quite like the smell of bread baking, it stirs a multitude of emotions. Nostalgia, familiarity, a sense of home and hunger! I know hunger isn’t exactly an emotion but it leads to an emotional outburst of hangry if I don’t eat within the hour (who am I kidding, within 10 minutes!). No need to get hangry at the Belfast Cookery School baking class, we were well fed (and watered) by the team, lead by chef Ian Hunter.

Belfast Cookery School  part 1-098.jpg

I had no idea of what the class entailed, had no clue about the format or the bread we would be baking or indeed what I had to bring! I need not have feared for all that was required were ourselves, an appetite and an excuse to have a glass of wine in the middle of the afternoon. It was SO much fun. I attended with Mother Duffin - she’s well accustomed to the oven, a rolling pin and the big baking bowl. We were both still a little apprehensive…

What if everyone knows more about baking than us?

Even though my mum is plenty familiar. It’s not like that at all, there were folks there with no baking experience, to a vague knowledge of it to those that bake on the regular and just fancied a wee turn at something different.

Belfast Cookery School  part 1-090-2.jpg

It’s not Bake Off but it’s fun to treat it so! Three challenges - Irish Stout Wheaten Bread, Soda Bread and Scallion Potato Bread. Let’s do this! After arriving we were sat down and offered tea, coffee or something a bit stronger in an assortment of beers, wine, whiskey or gin. We were too polite to begin with and had coffee. One recipe in and we were on the wine. We perused the recipes for the day which were neatly attached to our own individual clipboards - handy as I needed to refer to mine about 256 times throughout the course of the afternoon. Chef Ian demonstrated each recipe to the class prior to us attempting anything ourselves. He showed us the skills and traditional techniques used to authentically bake these wonderful Irish breads that we all know and love. Then it was our turn. We all had a station (per couple) and we baked the breads together. Well, Mother baked the bread. I scurried around taking photos of every drip, stir, bubble, spoon fold, sprinkle - you name it and I had my camera shoved in it. What can I say, I can’t help it! So she baked and I photographed. All the ingredients were perfectly portioned into little cups and bowls ready to be decanted into the mix as we read through each recipe. Half the time spent baking from home is dedicated to this task so to have it already done for us was sheer joy! . All the measuring and weighing and spooning into random dishes then running out of random dishes then spilling sugar all over the floor and the dog licking around your feet like a crazed, starved beast - all taken care of! Apart from the dog, you’ll have to go home for that. Here’s another little nugget of information to sweeten the deal, the washing up is taken care of too! Amazing! Mum enjoyed this immensely as did I, it meant we could really focus on the baking and enjoy the process all the more. Three demo’s later from chef Ian and three recipes tried and tested, we were done. The results were in, my granny would have been proud!

I loved this whole experience as baking is something my Mum and I have shared for a long time and I really felt like we both got so much more out of it than just the lovely soda farls, wheaten and fadge (potato bread) we got to take home at the end of the day. I can’t wait to return, perhaps the pasta class next! Stay tuned….