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Food for thought... the lifelong friends reunited for TV cookery show

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Close bond: Laura Greer

Close bond: Laura Greer

Presenter: Catherine Fulvio

Presenter: Catherine Fulvio

Close bond: Laura Greer

Two old friends separated by thousands of miles are set to feature in a television programme that brings the best of home cooking to ex-pats abroad.

Lilian Parkes, who lives in Belfast, and friend Laura Greer, in South Africa, will talk about, and eat, their favourite foods on the first episode of the new series of Tastes Like Home with Catherine Fulvio, which airs on RTE on Monday evening.

The friends met 38 years ago at Ashleigh House Grammar, now Hunter House.

On the show, Lilian teaches Catherine to make lamb shanks with bacon and red wine, and colcannon potato, with the host then travelling to Johannesburg to meet Laura.

Apart from the lamb dish, there are a few other food items that Laura misses from home - and some that she smuggles in her luggage when returning to South Africa after a visit.

"Tayto chips and a good pork sausage," she said. "I also take Oxo cubes back with me, as well as beef flavour Hula Hoops.

"And of course Sarson's vinegar and potato bread, when I can fit it into my luggage! Salmon is also something I try to take, but I normally forget to pack it and leave it in mum's fridge."

Laura described how the pair first met at school, but then met up again when she went on an adventure in South Africa, where Lilian had family.

"I was only supposed to go for a year, but I have been here for just over 27 years now," said Laura.

"At the start of my journey in SA, Lilian came to visit me and then she came out to live in SA with her daughter Angela for a few years. She went back in the late 90s, leaving me."

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Close bond: Lillian Parks

Close bond: Lillian Parks

Close bond: Lillian Parks

Laura explained that her sister, Paula, was supposed to be her home partner on the show, but had to back out at a late hour.

"As Lilian knew me well and had spent time with me in SA , I suggested she would be an ideal alternative," said Laura.

"The lamb shanks was a recipe that we both made here in SA when Lilian lived here. And of course, there are always potatoes on my table with every meal."

Laura said she "loved every minute" of the Tastes Like Home team visit.

"They were just incredible and we had such fun," she said. "They came in July, which is our winter in SA and freezing, but they thought it was a heatwave compared to Irish summers.

"I cried when they left as Deon (my partner) and I had just returned from a three week holiday in Northern Ireland and I wanted to go back with them.

"Although South Africa has been good to me and it is a beautiful country, Northern Ireland will always be my home.

"Hopefully some day, I will return on a permanent basis... watch this space. As they say, there's no place like home."

Belfast Telegraph