Marie Louise McConville: Living the tasty `Good Life' is appealing - if it wasn't for the dirt and worms

Abbie helps Nanny and Grandad pick some rhubarb from their vegetable patch for Saturday night dinner
Marie Louise McConville

I've never really ever been one for getting my hands dirty.

Don't get me wrong, I've always been a hard worker but mention any type of gardening or landscaping to me and my eyes just glaze over.

I really find the whole grass cutting, hedge trimming, pot planting and general planting and growing issue just boring - really, really boring and to be honest, I even switch off when Darren talks about cutting the grass.

Even the very suggestion of a visit to a garden centre makes me nauseous.

I don't mind admitting that I've never once cut grass or planted a pot or window box or `tended the land' as they call it.

However, I don't know if it's an age thing, a maturity thing or a parenting thing but these last few months, I've been having a rethink and I admit, I may have been wrong to throw so much shade on the issue.

Personally, I blame Darren's parents, Michael and Angela, for me suddenly seeing the light.

When they built their new house in Strangford in 2010, after landscaping the garden - entirely themselves - they decided to make space for a vegetable patch on the lower patio.

I'll admit, at first, I wasn't overly invested in the new project however I soon tasted the potential.

You see, every Saturday night - unless we're out clubbing and living the high life (yeah, right) - we go to Darren's parents' house for dinner with the kids.

We are very lucky and very spoilt because we get handed the most delicious steak dinner with all the trimmings and then in the summer months, the menu changes to lasagne.

However, while the lasagne is very yummy itself, it is not my favourite part of the meal. Nope, it is the beautiful and colourful salad - courtesy of the vegetable patch - which I look forward to and enjoy eating.

Yes, Co Down's own Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal produce quite an impressive spread from their little allotment including tomatoes, onions, potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, leeks, parsley and celery and at Christmas, there's even Brussels sprouts.

And this lot doesn't even include the produce from the apple, plum and pear trees - delicious.

However, while this is all very impressive, it is the superb scallions which I look forward too. I always love to hear they are "going in" because I know they are closer to "coming out" and making their way on to my plate.

I don't know whether it's because I know they are home grown or what, but they are simply delicious and I have yet to taste such beautiful scallions anywhere else.

And now that Abbie and James are on the go - they just love the outdoors - they enjoy getting involved and will often lend a hand pulling Saturday night's dinner out of the ground.

I've got to tell you, it's a very impressive set up.

It must be a very rewarding feeling knowing you have planted and grown such gorgeous food, which is also appreciated by others and on top of all that, I would imagine it saves money in the long run.

The whole thing has got me thinking.

I love the idea of being self-sufficient, even partially, but then there's all the soil and worms and digging and bad weather - it's really not for me because let's face it, there's no getting away from all the soil and worms and digging and bad weather.

Maybe I should just stick to the eating of the Saturday night dinner and not the growing?

After all, how many brides can say they inherited a lifetime supply of tasty scallions just for getting married?

While it may not be for everyone, I'll take it - and the lettuce and the onions and the strawberries.

Bring it on Richard and Felicity, I'm happy to enjoy the fruits - and vegetables - of your `Good Life' labour, just don't start bringing home pigs and chickens, I would have to draw the line at that.



It's summer – so do you fancy a night out to see Jim `The King' Brown?

Forty years ago this month, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley died and to mark the milestone, Jim Brown - who is known as the world's best Elvis impersonator - is performing a special show at The Waterfront Hall on August 19.

The concert, themed `The Two Sides of Elvis', will incorporate favourite Gospel tracks, as well as Elvis's rock 'n' roll favourites.

Born in Belfast, Jim Brown has been touring the world for more than 20 years with his tribute to Elvis and he has built up a huge fan base.

Having released two albums, the performer has also recorded three songs for the Hollywood blockbuster movie, Lonely Street.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis, I have three pairs of tickets to give away to see Jim Brown at The Waterfront Hall Belfast on August 19.

And, if you're not lucky enough to win tickets, you can buy them from The Waterfront box office by calling 02890 33 44 55 or online at

If you fancy winning a pair of tickets, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is Tuesday, August 8, 2017

(Q) In what year did Elvis Presley die?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


What's Hot?

Gig - The very talented Shane Filan is returning to Belfast later this year for a gig. Hooray. The former Westlife star will play the Waterfront on October 22 as part of his Love Always Tour. Tickets on sale now.

Get Fit - Calling all fitness fanatics. Lidl has an incredible range of Crivit PRO CrossTrain fitness wear and equipment available in stores from August 7 and is also launching a new Healthy Co food range from August 10. Come on, now you have no excuse.

Return - I have to say I'm very happy to see actor Steve McFadden back in EastEnders as hard man Phil Mitchell. He looks great and I'm looking forward to seeing him back to his own self.

So Not!

Boo - Former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger has reportedly been so badly booed by the audience during filming for the new series of The X-Factor that the judge walked off stage. Oh dear.

Threat - Singer Will Young has revealed he was threatened at knife point for being gay.

No Movement - Actress Joanna Froggatt has revealed that so far "nothing has happened" with regards to a Downton Abbey movie. The 36-year-old said "we're all sort of leaving it up to the Gods". Come on guys. Get it sorted.



The winners of the competition are Cathy Donnelly, from Belfast, Amanda Doyle, from Portadown, and Lily Devlin, from Portaferry


Easy Peasy Recipe

This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Fruity Sponge Cake

You will need:

50g plain flour

3 tbsp cornflour

1 tsp baking powder

4 eggs, separated

175g caster sugar

295g can mandarin segments, drained

200g tub fromage frais

icing sugar

To Make:

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Gas Mark 4.

Grease two identical sandwich tins.

Sieve the flours and baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bow, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then whisk in the sugar.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and then add to the egg whites mixtures and whisk again.

Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients and then spoon into the sandwich tins and ensure they are level at the tops.

Bake for 18-20 mins until risen.

Remove and allow to cool.

In a bowl, mix the mandarins and fromage frais together and sandwich between the two cooled sponges. Put sponges together to create full cake and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?

Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?

If so, then we want to hear from you.

You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:

Easy Peasy Recipes,

Marie Louise McConville,

Irish News

113-117 Donegall Street,




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