Esther N McCarthy is rolling in the aisles with Niall Breslin as he does his best to help her create healthy school lunches, introduce fish to the family menu and even shares his homemade granola bar recipe.
Q: How do you get your husband to buy you flowers on an ordinary Thursday?
A: Go grocery shopping with Bressie for an hour.
So I headed down to Collin’s SuperValu in Carrigaline yesterday to get a personalised trip around the aisles with the Blizzards frontman.
Niall Breslin is an ambassador for the store and is helping them get the message out about their new campaign, all about, ‘ Super and Valu’.
As part of the promotion shoppers were invited to book a personal shopping experience with Bressie on Facebook. Thousand replied and the lucky two were Emma Calnan and Deirdre McCarthy. But first, he was helping me fill my trolley.
My main problem when I’m doing the weekly shop, aside from trying to keep the three boys from killing each other next to breakables, is getting bits for the school lunches.
I won’t lie, I wasn’t expecting Bressie to be a fountain of knowledge when it came to feeding pernickety primary schoolers, but I was wrong.
When I told him I packed them mandarins this morning, he shook his head. I’ve disappointed him, deeply. “It was easy peel!” I say.
“Try watermelon. Or chopped up apples, Pink Ladies are the best if they’re in season and give the kids peanut butter to dip them in. Delicious. Just make sure it’s good peanut butter, not one loaded with sugar.”
“Yes, Mr Breslin,” I say, sufficiently chastised, putting five apples for €2 into the trolley.
What about granola bars, he suggests. Ha, I have him now, I’ve done my homework here.
“Sure, they’re full of sugar.”
“No, no, homemade granola bars,” he says. That disappointed look is there again. I start to protest about not having much time but when he tells me how easy there are to make, I concede that it sounds like a viable, healthy idea for the lunches.
“Little bit of maple syrup, a bit of coconut oil, seeds, nuts, cinnamon, chia seeds, whatever you want, maybe some almonds, roll them in your oats, throw in a baking tray, into the oven and cut them into bars. They’re great.” When he’s training for an event, he adds dates, he tells me. The big maddie.
Moving on, I tell him another hassle at meal time. We’re trying to eat fish at least once a week and it’s proving a little difficult to get the 8 and 5-year-olds to try anything other than salmon. The two-year-old would eat your hand off if you left it on the table too long, so he’s no bother.
“I told people I was allergic to fish for 30 years, I despised fish, how they look, how they smelled, everything,” he says. “I wouldn’t touch it. So I challenged myself to include fish in my diet somehow. Kevin Dundon told me he’d get me eating fish, I’ll move in with you for 5 days, he said, that’ll never happen, I said, but it did!”
Maybe Niall could move in with us for a week and teach me how to love fish, I ponder, silently, as we make our way over to the fishmonger.
“Kevin told me how to cook it and what to put it with. It’s all about the flavours. If you eat fish one day a week, after about 6 or 7 weeks, you’ll do it naturally. Not prawns though. I still can’t go near prawns. Kevin made me shell them, ugh, the eyes, yuk,” says the still slightly traumatised tough guy.
And the best fish to entice the young fellas? “The easiest fish to start with is.. chicken.” (See he’s funny too.) He recommends sea bass and the friendly fishmonger puts it into a bag for me with a ginger marinade, on Bressie’s advice. They’re two fillets for a fiver, you pop the bag in the oven, 12 minutes later, it’s ready, leave it sit for 40 seconds, watch out for the steam when you open it up and you’re good to go.
We move on to the meat section, where he picks out turkey, mince, and meatballs and gives me really solid tips on how to cook them. I have been known to go for the jar of sauce, but Bressie tells me how easy it is to make my own - chopped tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, bit of salt and pepper. “Do it,” he commands. As we move towards the spice rack, I can’t help but notice the gathering trail of shoppers, all female, that have started to follow us. Bressie stops to chat and pose for selfies and I stopped counting how many “It’s for my niece!” comments he’s getting.
Back to the spices, he advises me to get cumin, cayenne pepper, tumeric and crushed chillis.
“These will last for months and you can use them again and again in different dishes.” They were 75 cents -€1 so I’m definitely saving money, as well as having the smug satisfaction of a homemade sauce.
Portion sizes are another area to watch out for, he tells me, towering over me, lean and mean, it’s hard to argue. The kids don’t need huge plates, don’t pile on the rice, he advises, and he prefers Basmalti rice as a slow
release engery option.
Breslin really knows his stuff. It’s obvious he’s passionate about food and has tried and tested everything he’s talking about, learning from doing. He has a lot of easy recipes on the Supervalu site and if I can do them, anyone can.
Bressie grew up in a busy house, the second youngest of five kids. “You finished your plate, cos if you didn’t there was someone ready to grab it off you,” he says. “I grew up on chicken nuggets, pizzas, tinned ravioli, I was addicted to sugar.”
It’s a constant learning journey and he’s not a fanatic, he says treats are fine as we pass the goodie aisle and my arse instintively turns
towards the chocolate.
“A small bit is fine as long as you’re eating healthy stuff too.”
When I get home, there’s an unsolicited bunch of lilies waiting for me from the husband. No harm to keep him on his toes.
So ladies, need to get some attention from your significant other? Simply find yourself a 6 foot 6 former rugby player turned rock star turned ironman turned TV star turned record studio owner to push your trolley around of a morning.
If I can manage an afternoon interviewing Daniel Craig, I’m looking at a weekend away, minimum.
Bressie’s recipe ... Sweet potato, chickpea, and spinach jalfrezi curry
Bressie’s recipe provides three of your seven-a-day, is low in fat, low in saturated fat, and low in salt.
I tend to eat a lot of protein for post-workout recovery, but I try not to rely on meat-based protein only. Because curries are so full of flavour, I go for vegetarian options to give
myself a break from meat.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan set over a low to medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for six to eight minutes, until softened. Stir in the spices and some salt and pepper and fry for a minute or two.
Add the chopped tomatoes, sweet potatoes and stock.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the sauce has slightly reduced.
Add the chickpeas and spinach and allow the spinach to wilt.
Ladle the curry into bowls. Scatter over the flaked almonds and serve with a lime wedge on the side.
This curry tastes delicious for a few days and keeps well, so it’s an ideal meal for making ahead or having for lunch the next day. It even tastes great cold!
* SuperValu has launched its Super and Valu campaign to demonstrate the value across the store, along with the benefits of experts in bakery, butchers in every store, fish, the largest health food range and supporting local and Irish food producers and communities. Look out for the green and yellow signs in store that indicate where savings can be made for always on offers, weekly promotions and own brand products. SuperValu will be educating shoppers on how they can make the most of their Real Rewards points with a special activation and information point in-store demonstrating what spending €100 on their weekly shop can gain them across eShops, Getaway Breaks, Aer Lingus, eir or Electric Ireland. For recipes go to SuperValu Ireland on Facebook and supervalu.ie.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved