When it comes to food Balmoral just keeps getting better and better

Paula McIntyre pictured at one of the cookery demonstrations at this year's Balmoral Show
Paula McIntyre pictured at one of the cookery demonstrations at this year's Balmoral Show

This year’s Balmoral Show, which took place last week, was bigger and better than ever from the food point of view.

I was based in the Food NI area where over a hundred exhibitors showcased their products. From artisan cheeses to cider makers, mushroom farmers to potato growers, chocolatiers and bakers, there was something for everyone.

Last year I spent at least two hours getting into the show everyday and the same leaving, so this year the decision was made to stay in a camper van on site. Apart from being a bit cramped, it had most of the comforts of home and I’ve always said you need no more than a two ring burner to cook a meal. There was even an oven! And no shortage of food available for the ingredients for the evening dinner and we all ate well during the stay!

The chefs on the signature demonstration area were very kind about donating herbs, vegetables and even a lovely piece of venison loin for one of the evenings.

When you’re cooking away from home, whether it’s in a motor home, caravan or holiday home, it’s a good idea to bring a few basic essentials. Oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and stock cubes will get you started on most one pot dishes. Onions and garlic will keep at an ambient temperature and are a brilliant flavour base for many dishes. Add a pack of risotto rice, some couscous and a tin of tomatoes and you could rustle up two meals from that lot alone.

When you rent holiday accommodation, you’ll be provided with a limited amount of cooking equipment but it’s useful to bring a large frying pan. I don’t spend a massive amount of money on pans and tend to change them often. In the past I’ve invested a lot of money on pans and then discovered the non stick surface comes off at the same time, no matter what the price you pay. A large frying pan can be used to cook steaks, chicken, and a myriad of one pot dishes.

Another word of warning. When I cook steak I like to get the pan very hot to seal off the meat. Hot pans in a confined space with a smoke alarm is not a great idea! Disposable barbecues are great (weather permitting) to cook meat or fish and thereby restricting strong odours.

This week’s recipes are ideal for cooking in confined spaces. A classic pepper steak is quick to rustle up, but decadent enough to let you know you’re on holidays too. When you cook steak, take it out of the fridge for 20 minutes beforehand to let it get up to temperature before you put it in a hot pan. Season with salt only, just before cooking. When you add crushed pepper to a steak and then sear it at a high temperature, you immediately burn the pepper and leave yourself with a bitter, scorched taste. Season the steak with pepper afterwards while it rests, for a few minutes.

Mushrooms, bacon and spinach make a great accompaniment to steak and you get an abundance of flavour from one pan of vegetables.

For pudding simplicity must also rule. There’s no point in being ambitious and thinking baking cakes or pies is going to be practical.

Baked apples are one of life’s simple pleasures. Armagh Bramleys baked with sugar, butter, spices, raisins and nuts until soft. You’ll have just the right amount of sweet, tart balance to be complimented by a good dollop of ice-cream.

At Balmoral Show I ate my fair share of Glastry Farm’s apple ice-cream and it would work brilliantly with these apples.

So whether you’re on the move or at home enjoy the recipes!