NI parkruns: Comber

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In my continuing journey around all of Norn Irn’s parkruns, I’m trying to tick off the closest ones first.  Comber seems like it’s far away, but really, it’s only 12 miles from Lisburn, a pleasant 20 minute journey.


I’ll be honest – it’s not the most attractive of courses. The little bridge over the river is quite pretty, which is just as well as you cross it 8 times during the 4 figure-of-eight laps.  It has the big advantage of being very flat, though being quite open the force of the wind can be strong.



Mini’s Addidog vest was much admired, and I was very glad of my thin gloves.  And a big thank you to the marshall at the finish line who spotted that I’d dropped one of my gloves and returned it to me.



I’d gone off fast with the big boys.  This was really in an effort to stop me being hemmed in at the back.  I kept the first lady in my sights for most of the run, but as usual I faded badly during the final km, and several people overtook me on the sprint to the finish (despite Minnie’s best attempts to trip them up…..)

10974731_630521480409623_2052883722705677799_o I was fairly content with 26:02, given the wind factor and the amount of wine I’d consumed on Friday night!  And it did put me top of the leaderboard in my age category. 4th lady – and 2nd and 3rd were only 10 seconds ahead of me.



I visited on its 37th event, so it’s still just getting going.  Indeed, the woman doing the scanning hadn’t come across a keyring plastic barcode before.  Average attendance is 60, which gives it a friendly feel.  There was plenty of clapping and cheering for the slower runners.  Scanning and tea-drinking takes place inside Comber Rec, which is a bit dark, but has seats and tables, and there was a great buzz about it.  The after-run goodies included jammy scones and home-made coffee cake, which was very impressive.


Strangely Appropriate Song:

I’d been having a row with my computer which refused to talk to my phone, so the playlist I had wasn’t what I’d wanted.  But I did love hearing Utah Saints “Something Good”


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Simply Crispy


“Are you for real?”

“Has the world gone mad?”

“Whatever will they think of next!”

These were just a few of the comments that greeted the opening of the world’s first crisp sandwich shop in Belfast.


The idea itself had started as a spoof on the Ulster Fry website, but a pop-up cafe on Bedford Street decided that this was daft enough to work, and set about making it a reality.  It helps to remember that a valid reason for doing anything in Norn Irn is “for the crack”.


When I arrived on Friday lunchtime, the queue was out the door. Granted, not as bad as it was on Monday’s opening day, and the wait was not unreasonable, about 10 minutes. To pass the time we looked at the photos decorating the walls. There was one of a teacher from Grange Hill, under Cliff Richard. There was one from Roy Walker saying “Your food’s good, but it’s nat right!”. And there were 3 clocks showing the time in Belfast, Derry, and Londonderry.


First, choose your bread: a Belfast bap is the most popular choice, but it is a mahoosive sized roll with a crusty top. The dials on my internal carb-counter were already spinning out of control, so I applied the “less is more” mantra and rejected the extra thick softee white bread in favour of a Knutty Crust. From the available 20 or so varieties, I opted for by far the most popular crisps, local heroes Tayto Cheese’n’onion. These are a crisp of legendary significance, the banners greeting you as you arrive at Belfast’s George Best City Airport are decorated in its signature colours, with safety advice dispensed from Mr Tayto himself. Ex-pats weep at the memory of those yellow bags.


I added a slice of ham, just as a nod to the need for some protein. The meal deal additions of chips (fries) and soup brought it to £4, with an extra 50p for the ham. A slice of cheese can be added instead.


A bag of crisps is tipped onto the buttered bread.  The squishing action is all important when producing the resultant sandwich, I imagine the staff have to go through a rigorous training procedure in order to get the amount of force just right.



Places at tables were at a premium, but we did manage to elbow the photographers and journos out of the way to secure some space and settle down to enjoy the experience. That first bite, soft bread gently caressing crunchy crisps, the overpowering flavours of the latter matched by the blandness of the former – it really is a winning combination. I could say something about “mouthfeel” but you’d only accuse me of being all poncey.


The chips were not really necessary,and the soup wasn’t that exciting. So next time (and there WILL be a next time) I’ll just have the sandwich.

I also enjoyed  the Led Zeppelin playing in the background, which helped with the nostalgic feel, and memories of school packed lunches….
Has the world gone mad? Quite possibly. But maybe what the world needs is a bit more madness like this. It’s impossible to have lunch here without a smile on your face.


5:2 recipes – Red Veg

It’s January, and I’m back on the fast train.  I also have some leftover Christmas veg to use up, so I decided to make a rich red thick soup.  There was about 1/3 of a red cabbage, some aging carrots, and half a bag of wilting spinach.  I used a red onion to keep the colour theme, and for a bit of added protein and texture added a handful of earthy brown lentils.

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1 large red onion (170g)

2 stalks celery (100g)

1/3 red cabbage (220g)

2 carrots (100g)

100g spinach

500g passata or a tin of tomatoes

50g lentils

1 tablespoon oil


black pepper

smoked paprika

Lea and Perrins

Start by sautéing the chopped veg in 1 tablespoon oil and a splash of water.  I use rice bran oil as it has a fairly neutral flavour, but any would do. Put the onion and garlic in first, then the cabbage, the carrots and celery.  Stir well after each ingredient is added so that everything gets nicely covered in the oil.

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Add a good grind of black pepper, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika to intensify the warm winter flavours.

Add liquid – 1 pint stock.  I used lamb as I happened to have it, and thought the richness would work, but again, substitute for a stock cube of your choice.  Add 1 500g pack of passata, or a tin of tomatoes.  Stir everything well and let it simmer.  At this stage it should be rich glossy texture.  You could leave it at that, but I felt the need for some additional protein.

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I’d been looking for a reason to use these reddish brown lentils that I’d bought a while back, but they are high in calories.  So I carefully measured out 50g.  Over 4 portions this shouldn’t add too much to the calorie total, but if you left the lentils out the calorie amount will be lower.

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Add a dash of Lea and Perrins.

Let simmer for 30 minutes while you have a  cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake, since we’re clearing the festive leftovers.

Check that the veg and lentils are soft, and stir in the spinach.  Let it wilt for a few minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of some green parsley, snipped chives or coriander.

Makes 4 portions at 190 calories each (150 without the lentils).  Non fasters can have a slice of crusty bread to dunk in the rich juices! 2015-01-07 11.27.08