bloom 3 When I woke up last Friday morning, I nearly forgot where I was. The sun was blazing, the sky was an endless stretch of clear blue and Dubliners, who typically sport an ensemble of a raincoat and boots, were wearing T-shirts and shorts. For a second I thought I was back in Los Angeles!

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The summery sun couldn’t have come at a better time as it was the kick-off for Bloom in the Park 2011, an annual festival of flowers, plants and food sponsored by Bord Bia. Mountaineering Man and I made our way up to Phoenix Park for a look-see and we got an eyeful: tents full of colourful, gorgeous floral arrangements, gardens packed with an array of beautiful produce and a food village fit for, well, a foodie!

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bloom 6 Thought it was quite crowded we managed to get a few tastes in the Bord Bia Food Village. There was fresh-baked bread from Soul Bakery (including the Obama Bread, “fit for a President!”), doughnuts from Dolly’s Donuts and sausage rolls and salads from Lolly and Cooks. My favourite treat of the day was the champagne and elderflower sorbet from Murphy’s Ice Cream stand, served to us by Kieran Murphy himself, which really hit the spot on such a hot day.

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It was wonderful to see attendees basking in the warmth of the sun; many brought picnic blankets and folding chairs and got their fill of Vitamin D on the acres of garden space in the park. We really couldn’t have asked for a better day to showcase some of Ireland’s best produce and food producers – Bloom 2011 was a fantastic outdoor weekend festival and I look forward to next year’s event!

Chana Masala “Bombay” Style

I’m always looking for Indian sauces as I adore spicy food and Indian is one of my favourites. I picked up a bottle of Bombay No. 7 sauce at the Bloom foodstall for Green Saffron Spices and it was the perfect *secret* ingredient addition to my chana masala. The sauce really kicks up the flavour and thickens the texture. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish that even a meat addict would love – it’s very hearty!

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2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

3 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1.5 tablespoons garam masala

1.5 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 395 gram can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 395 gram can of chopped tomatoes

400 ml boiling water

1/2 bottle of Bombay No 7 sauce from Green Saffron

Handful of fresh spinach

More salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot heat up the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the cumin seeds and let cook for one minute. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garam masala, ground cumin, chili powder and sea salt and stir. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.

Add in the chickpeas, tomatoes and boiling water and let simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the Bombay No 7 sauce and spinach. Cook for a few minutes and add salt/pepper to season. Serve over couscous or rice or on its own! Top with a dollop of natural yogurt to cool things down.