Guest Chef Focus
This month we talk to homegrown chef, Andrew McSparran, better known to many as @bigdaddyslims on Instagram where he has a fantastic range of delicious, tasty and straight-talking recipes!
Q1: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
It’s a big birthday for me this year as I’m turning 30 this April. I have been married to my amazing wife Emma, who has somehow managed to put up with my awful sense of humour for over 5 years now! I am also a dad to Seth (two in April) and Sadie (nine months).
We lived in Belfast for a year but have just made the move back home towards Ballymoney again. I work in Derry City and Emma’s parents live here so Ballymoney was a great option for our family, especially as the local train station makes for an easy commute, and my parents live in Ballykelly, so they are only down the road from us.
Q2. Where did your passion for cooking begin? I have always been interested in food; cooking it but more so eating it; it doesn’t have to be fancy. A bag of quavers or a Daim bar and I’m happy!
I began cooking about 3 or 4 years ago when I found myself in a job that I wasn’t particularly enjoying.
I’d come home from work and my head would be in another place; reliving the day, stressing about tomorrow, and I didn’t particularly want to burden Emma with it all. There was one night I came home from work and the dinner hadn’t been started, so I said that I would cook, and locked myself away in the kitchen.
I found the process allowed a massive shift in my mind that evening. I finished the dish and realised I hadn’t thought about work at all. Cooking quickly became an escape for me so that I could shift my mindset and put myself in a good place and enjoy those hours at home with Emma and the kids.
I began to branch out, cooking for other people too and I enjoyed seeing them pull that weird face they do when they take the first bite of something and it’s really tasty!
I began to do everything from cakes, breads, fancy breakfasts, you name it. I’d cook it for you.
I eventually became a bit more daring and when I went to a restaurant I’d select something from the menu, take a picture and attempt the dish myself the next day. I also got into a habit of making the most random dishes for friends when they came around…having never attempted the dish before - very ‘Come Dine With Me’.
Which was mostly a success!
Q3. Is there anything that you really enjoy cooking/specialise in? How did you get into this/realise?
My favourite food is Mexican, I’m a massive lover of spicy food and coriander. What’s not to like?!
I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it, but I’m trying. It also has a nostalgic presence to it. I used to live with two Mexican’s (shout out to Dave and Dan) when I lived in Orange County. Their parents used to make the most amazing taco’s I have ever tried, I still, to this day, have never had anything close. When I tuck into a good salsa or guacamole though, it takes me right back to some really great memories, with some really great friends.
Q4. Have you found any challenges in perfecting your own recipes?
My biggest challenge with perfecting my recipe is time. I’m away to work first thing, and then I don’t get home until 6.45pm. My usual routine is to come in and start the process for dinner, help put the kids to bed, finish the dinner, and then Emma and I will have our meal about 8pm. Then dishes, followed by prep for tomorrows breakfast and/or lunch. It’s also a challenge when the dinner has been so good that I end up eating the portion that I have set aside for lunch the next day!
Q5. My tip for the perfect...Fried egg:
Let’s not underestimate the well-loved fried egg! Whilst I understand that a tip for a fried egg might sound silly (I know everyone is capable of frying an egg) this just adds that little bit extra to it.
In a pan, add a little bit of Broighter Gold oil, followed by a half teaspoon of chutney, my personal preference is tomato chutney. I know! It sounds crazy. But trust me on it. Let it heat up, and then crack your egg over it. Add a pinch of salt on the yolk, and then let it cook low and slow. Too hot and you’ll burn your chutney and make your yolk hard. No time for hard yolks.
To serve it get a fresh slice of toasted bread (I recommend a bit of sourdough - or just a slice of normal bread) - butter it with PROPER butter, then add half an avocado, a small amount of rocket leaves, your egg, a bit of sriracha and some chilli flakes.
Q6. What are your views on buying local produce?
I am a huge advocate for local. I try to use it in my cooking as much as I can. I know Spar and Lidl have a great section in their stores showing some products from local artisan companies. I’d prefer to go to the local greengrocer for fruit than the supermarkets. I will always try to go to a local butcher to get my beef. I have some really good friends who have started their own businesses, and I know how hard it can be.
Q7. Can you share another recipe with our readers?
It has got to be my...CHILLI SQUID INK PASTA
This is sure to get the best out of a bottle of the Broighter Gold. Use any variation of their oil, I used the chilli oil, just because it’s my favourite.
- 500g Squid Ink Pasta (although any pasta will do)
- 1 Lemon
- 2 Tablespoons of Broighter Gold Chilli Oil
- Parmesan Cheese
- Basil Leaves
- Salt & Crushed Black Pepper
- Boil your pasta in salted water. While that’s bubbling away, zest your lemon, and combine that with juice from half of the lemon, and your oil in a large bowl.
- When the pasta is done, drain it, and then decant into your dressing, coating all the pasta.
- Place the pasta onto a plate, add your parmesan cheese, basil leaves, crushed peppercorns and sea salt flakes.
It’s that simple, and it truly tastes incredible.