Food & Drink

‘I wish I had followed my love of cooking earlier in life’ - Carolyn Stewart

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Sauce-maker, radio presenter and business woman, Carolyn Stewart

U105 presenter and business woman Carolyn Stewart
Inspired by the taste of the Caribbean, Carolyn Stewart makes pickle and sauces and Jamaican beef, chicken or vegetable patties
1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

My morning routine consists of breakfast, checking the news, showering and then I’m out the door – it’s a 6am start for me. I prepare my Lunchtime Bistro show on U105 which is a daily lunchtime music show with regular guests discussing pets, gardening and nutrition. Once I have my show prepared, I am on the road to enjoy my other passion - I have a small company called Totally Hot NI, producing pickle and sauces and Jamaican beef, chicken or vegetable patties. The inspiration is Caribbean, but the ingredients are all locally sourced. I have a production unit in Townsend Enterprise Park where we prepare and cook our products, so I’m in the kitchen for several hours each morning. There is a lot of prep for the cooking which takes place in the evenings.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Two eggs and one slice of toast.

Lunch? A colourful salad of tuna/prawn or chicken, as recommended by Jane McClenaghan at Vital Nutrition, the resident nutritionist on my show (and an Irish News columnist).

Evening meal? Dinner is usually pasta or noodles and sometimes chicken or beef with veg.

3. Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Jane has been teaching the country how to look after nutrition for many years on my show, so I take my lead from her. Each day, I take 1,000mg vitamin C, magnesium, turmeric and B12 and D3, along with high strength omega 3.

4. Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I am not a great believer in dieting, so I just try to get the balance right.

5. Weekend treat?

I am not a fan of takeaway food, so usually I create my own takeaway, such as chicken satay or beef curry. When the weather is great, I love to fire up the barbecue and try different recipes. I am looking forward to picking up some new ideas from the foodies of Northern Ireland when the Hafner’s Mastercook competition kicks off at Belfast Cookery School in June.

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

Gardening is my joy; it most certainly helps me exercise and relax - and I believe it does keep me mentally fit.

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Keep active by doing something you enjoy, otherwise it becomes a chore and eventually you get tired of doing it. Life’s too short to be doing things you don’t enjoy.

8. Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I was a fan of athletics and have fond memories of the sprint, the long jump and the high jump.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I enjoy a glass of wine and on weekends I like to try out different cocktails. My fave is watermelon martini made with Belvedere and fresh watermelon.

10. Stairs or lift?

I grew up on the 10th floor of a high-rise building in north Belfast and for many years, as a child, I remember taking the steps three or sometimes five at a time, so I’m no stranger to stairs. However, these days I am always in a hurry, so the lift gets me there quicker.

'I wish I had followed my love of cooking earlier in life' says Carolyn
'I wish I had followed my love of cooking earlier in life' says Carolyn
11. What book are you currently reading?

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly Stone - an incredible read about one of the true geniuses of the last century. It is a story about flawed humanity and flawless artistry.

12. Best Netflix/streaming TV?

There are so many, but Breaking Bad was one of my favourites. The direction was excellent and the characters were just fascinating to watch.

13. Any new skills or hobbies?

I love trying new recipes and my latest trial is beetroot and chocolate bread. It sounds bizarre, but it’s a delicious combination and possibly my next product.

14. How do you relax?

I relax by reading a good book or watching a good show. Also, spending time in my greenhouse, growing as much as I can squeeze into it, is always a great way to relax.

15. What would you tell your younger self?

Everything is possible... go for it and don’t worry about failure - it only helps you get to the next level.

16. What are your goals for the rest of 2024?

I am working on making a space for my food collection to sell direct to the public. I am also looking forward to introducing my Jamaican Patties to Belfast’s most fun activity centre, Prison Island Belfast, so all the teams enjoying the vast choice of games can have a tasty snack after the challenges.

17. What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I go to bed when I’m tired and I do like to get at least seven hours – anything less than that and I am not happy.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

I guess I wish I had followed my love of cooking a little earlier in life, but that would mean I would have missed so many wonderful things that I’ve experienced, so I can’t really call it a regret.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Of course, everything changes all of the time; it would be boring if everything stayed the same. I try to live in the moment so that I can enjoy every second.

20. Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I feel that sometimes we plan too far ahead, instead of just living for today. The Covid lockdown, I feel, gave us all time to recalibrate and realise that we should be a little kinder to ourselves and take more time to do what we enjoy.

Carolyn Stewart is a judge in the Hafner’s Mastercook competition, along with Ian Hunter, owner of Belfast Cookery School, and comedian Ciaran Bartlett. The final will take place at Belfast Cookery School on June 25 when the winner will receive a £500 prize. Deadline for entries is midnight, May 31,