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Maple Blueberry Grunt

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There are few ways in which I consider myself stereo-typically Canadian. For example, I’m not obsessed with hockey (unless it’s the winter Olympics; then I’m annoyingly into it). I don’t pronounce “house” or “about” as “hoose” and “aboot”, which are two of the first words many ask me to pronounce when they find out where I’m from. I hate the winter. And although I’m a patriotic Cape Bretoner, I wouldn’t be the type to sing Canada’s praises all the time (especially considering the current government).

Some areas where I’m proud of my country? Well, I think we have produced some of the world’s best musicians (think less Celine Dion and more Neil Young) and comedians (John Candy’s my personal fave). Our beer is actually really good – and I’m not talking about Moosehead or Molson Canadian, I’m talking Blanche de Chambly and Alexander Keith’s and the amazing micro-brews you’ll find across the country (like this one in Cape Breton).

Also, I’m mad about Canadian food. We have some of the most innovative chefs in the world. Take a look at the multiculturalism that makes up our population – take all that ethnicity and throw it in a pot: that’s Canadian cuisine. Our chefs and restaurants don’t necessarily get the global attention they deserve, but I kinda like it that way. We don’t have Michelin stars in Canada and we’re not on the World’s 50 Best list (yet!), but I also find Canadian chefs aren’t bothered by trying to be the best. They always do their best, though, and it shows. I was certainly taught by some great chefs.

That almost turned into a sermon, and I’m nowhere near where I wanted to get to with this post.

Ahem.

I love maple syrup!

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In Canada, most people think the province of Quebec does maple syrup best. I almost completely agree. I really, truly love Cape Breton maple syrup, though. And don’t try telling me it’s all the same – it isn’t.

Like a fine wine, maple syrup is different every year depending on lots of external factors: temperature, whether it’s been a mild winter, whether the spring came early, and so on. You can get light, medium or dark syrup depending on how hardcore your love of the sweet stuff is. Maple syrup is serious business.

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My parents were kind enough to bring some Cape Breton maple syrup for me when they came to visit. Yesterday I was down to half a cup and wondering what to do with it when my mind wandered to the blueberries I had in my freezer. Then I remembered that an entire summer had gone by without blueberry grunt (only my most favourite summer dessert). Blueberries and maple syrup are bff’s, so I decided to stew the two ingredients together for the grunt.

What is a grunt? It’s a traditional Nova Scotian dessert that’s almost identical to a cobbler. The big difference is the biscuits (in this case we’ll call them dumplings) are steamed instead of baked. Instead of a sweet, crumbly topping you have a soft, pillowy one. It’s divine. I like to serve my blueberry grunt with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream.

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Maple Blueberry Grunt

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup good quality maple syrup

rind of half a lemon

2 Tbsp brown sugar

Splash of good quality vanilla

For the dumplings:

2 cups AP flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

About one cup of buttermilk

Directions:

  • In a saucepan or dutch oven, add the blueberries, syrup, brown sugar, lemon rind and vanilla. Place the pot over medium heat and cook the berries until soft (mix often with a wooden spoon to avoid burnt sugar! I’ve made that mistake…).
  • In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients for the dumplings. Rub the cold butter into the mixture until coarse crumbs are achieved.
  • Gradually add the buttermilk while mixing until you have a sticky, soft dough. Add more buttermilk if the dough appears dry – this should be slightly drier than a muffin batter and stickier than scone dough.
  • Drop dough on top of the berries by the spoonful. Cover the pot with a tightly fitted lid, turn the heat down so the berries/syrup don’t burn and leave for 15 minutes. In this time, the dumplings will steam.
  • The dumplings will be fully cooked when they bounce back when lightly touched. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream. Serve warm.

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The Party’s Over

Well, after two months, one trip around the country, a very large christening party and countless dinners with friends and family, my mom and dad have started their journey back home to Canada, leaving me and Maeve in a very quiet house.

Maeve doesn’t seem to mind, she’s enjoying a sound sleep (although she will miss her Canadian peeps, I know) but to me the house seems extremely quiet. I’ll get over it in a few days, but I really hate saying goodbye to my family – especially my parents.

Still, life goes on. We had such a wonderful visit with them, and with my brother, who was here for a week in early September. What was especially nice was that Patrick also took two weeks off work so he could spend some quality time with them and Maeve. We had a great time in Tipperary, Galway, Kerry and Cork before returning to Waterford. Here are a few highlights from our vacation:

530547_10200681984272018_903133444_nMaeve’s Christening: This was my first Irish christening. At home we christen the baby then go to someone’s house for cake. Here, we rented out the party room at Fitzpatrick’s Pub in Clonmore, Tipperary and after the christening enjoyed soup, sandwiches, tea, finger foods and a delicious cake I had ordered from a bakery in Kilkenny.

After lunch we all crowded into the adjoining pub (baby included) and socialized til well into the evening. I made an early departure with the baby, but many of the guests continued to party til the wee hours of morning (my brother included – I think he had a good time!). It was such a great day. I loved catching up with all the friends and family members we haven’t seen in awhile.

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Cava Bodega, Galway: My timing sucks. I planned to make reservations at Aniar in Galway, but since we were only spending Sunday night in the city my dreams were dashed. Many restaurants choose Sunday and Monday to close up shop, and Aniar is no exception to the rule. I was slightly heartbroken since I’ve been planning to eat there for ages and don’t get to Galway very often. On the bright side, Cava, another restaurant by Chef JP McMahon (a human being I greatly respect) had reopened only days before we were due to arrive.

Unlike Aniar, which is still on my to-do list, Cava is open seven days a week. I was slightly concerned about bringing my “meat & potatoes” dad to a tapas restaurant, but I had no reason to be. Salt cod cakes? Scallops with black pudding and lardo? We tore through the menu and my dad devoured everything, even the manchego & figs, claiming it was one of the best meals he’s ever had. Dessert is recommended – we had velvety toasted hazelnut ice cream, crema catalana (redolent with orange and spice) and a rich chocolate mousse.

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The Connemara: This ruggedly gorgeous region of the country is found North of Galway City and runs through the county and along the coast. I didn’t want to go this far North, originally, since we were due in Limerick that same evening, but I have to admit – the scenery was so worth it. And, as Patrick loves to remind me, I’m never impressed by scenery coming from Cape Breton. The Connemara is really something. My parents were blown away (almost literally; it was a blustery day). My dad is now itching to return with his fishing rod. We’ll be back for sure.

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The Listowel Races: This was something my parents had been looking forward to. Pat’s Aunt Bridget graciously took us all into her home (which was already full of visitors) and we went racing the following day. Again, traveling with a six-week old, I wasn’t keen on going. But we brought the baby, who slept the entire time, and spent the day gambling. Annnnd I’m a bad mother.

When I don’t have an infant I will be returning to Listowel for race week. We weren’t being high rollers or anything, and the race tracks in Ireland are far classier than the ones in Canada. It would be fun to sit in the stands with a beer and cheer on your horse of choice. Of course, I didn’t win a thing all day and I really just wanted to get the baby back to the house, but under different circumstances I would have had a blast.

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Blarney Castle: This might sound odd. I mean, Blarney Castle in Co. Cork is possibly the most tourist-ey place in Ireland and not a place I would choose to visit (not to cause offense, but there are lots of places in Ireland I want to see!). That said, my dad wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone. So we planned to drive back to Waterford from Kerry via Cork. I’m so glad we did.

The day was one of those perfect autumn days where it’s warm and sunny and the leaves are beginning to change – it was beautiful. The village of Blarney is very picturesque, as well. I’m sure it’s well taken care of as it sees so many visitors every day. The castle itself is impressive. It’s massive and built into a cliff face. I assumed the inside would be all “safety first” and visitor friendly, but actually – I don’t know how some elderly folk make it to the top. Oh, and if you’re handicapped I’m not sure you can get up there at all.

The stone is at the very top of the castle and the only way I could see to get to the top was by taking the worn-down, winding stone staircase. Taking those stairs is actually more like rock climbing (there’s a rope!). I actually had a claustrophobia-induced panic attack halfway up.

The stone itself is precariously set over the side of the castle. There’s a guy who fondles your waist while you hang over the side of the castle (with no safety equipment) as you kiss it. I can’t believe I did it. And what’s more, it was FUN. I understand why so many people visit.

After, we had the most awesome fish and chips I’ve had in all of Ireland. This was at The Blarney Castle Hotel, in the pub. Follow that with a half pint of Guinness and you have the perfect day.

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It was a great vacation but we were also really happy to get back to our house. Maeve is getting back into a routine, my parents are gone and Pat’s back to work, so I’m hoping this means I will be able to make time to cook and blog more regularly. Til next time…

Cinnabon Cake

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Can I start by saying I can’t believe my baby is a month old already?

She is becoming a little person with a little personality. She’s much brighter and sleeps less during the day. She is (thankfully) sleeping longer stretches at night and her baby smiles are less about gas and more about actually wanting to smile at someone. I’m kind of obsessed.

My father and eldest brother arrived in Ireland last weekend to attend Maeve’s christening (which is this Saturday in Tipperary) so we have a full house and have been taking big day trips with the baby. This week we’ve mostly stayed in the vicinity of Waterford, but next week we’ll be heading to Galway, Limerick, Listowel and Cork. I’m so excited for the FOOD. And the sights. But mostly the food. Maeve has been a good little traveler so far (taking after her parents) so hopefully the trend continues.

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With a houseful of family members I have been doing a lot of cooking but not a lot of baking. My brother’s birthday and my father’s birthday are both coming up, though, and with Maeve’s big one-month birthday yesterday my dear mom took it upon herself to bake one of her favourite cakes – Cinnabon Cake.

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I don’t think Cinnabon exists in Ireland – please correct me if I’m wrong – but when I lived in Toronto there was a shop at my neighbourhood subway station. The smell of cinnamon, yeasty dough and cream cheese glaze permeated the surrounding area, making it a pleasurable walk from the subway platform to where I would catch my bus home. Cinnabons are delicious. They’re like cinnamon rolls on crack. This cake, although it isn’t made from a yeast-based batter, tastes like a Cinnabon. And if you let it sit overnight before diving in, it’s even better than a Cinnabon – but that’s just my humble opinion.

My mom adapted this recipe from http://www.justapinch.com.

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Cinnabon Cake

Ingredients:

For the batter:

3 cups AP flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

4 Tbsp melted butter

For the filling:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp AP flour

1 Tbsp cinnamon

2/3 cup chopped pecans

For the glaze:

2 cups icing sugar

5 Tbsp heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Grease a rectangular cake pan or glass casserole dish with butter.
  • In your stand mixer (with the paddle attachment) mix the sugar, eggs and vanilla until light, fluffy and pale in colour. Sift in dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder) and mix briefly, then add the buttermilk. While mixing, drizzle in the melted butter.
  • Pour the batter into the baking pan. In a bowl, mix the softened butter, 2 Tbsp of flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Drop this mixture by the tablespoonful into the cake batter. Take a knife and swirl it through the batter so the cinnamon mixture is streaked throughout.
  • Bake the cake for about 30 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out slightly sticky, with a little batter clinging to it.
  • Make the glaze: mix the icing sugar, cream and vanilla until completely combined. Pour the glaze over the cake while it’s still hot (if the cake has sunk slightly in the center, congratulations! That’s what’s supposed to happen.).
  • Serve warm or cover and let sit overnight before serving.

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Dried Cherry, Almond & Orange Biscotti

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I’ve tried to sit down and write this post on three different occasions now, but that’s what happens when there’s a newborn baby in your life. Maeve has been amazing so far – she feeds well, sleeps well and has had relatively few meltdowns (far less than I’ve had in the last month, anyway). It’s so hard to believe she’ll be four weeks old this coming Sunday; I feel a million years older since giving birth.

Having my mom here has been a godsend, and that’s putting it lightly. I don’t know what I’ll do when she leaves at the end of September and I suddenly have to do my own laundry again – I’m trying not to think about it too much! We have a jam-packed September planned, which makes me exhausted just thinking about it but also very excited. My father is flying into Ireland on Friday and my oldest brother will be arriving the next day.

The baby’s christening is set for September 14th, which, in retrospect, I should have planned for the weekend before since we’ll be missing both the Waterford Harvest Festival and the Grow It Yourself Gathering, both planned for the same weekend. I was so looking forward to both events, but will just have to wait til next year to partake – it’s not every day your first-born gets christened, after all, and there will be a huge family gathering afterwards in Patrick’s hometown in Tipperary.

Aside from the christening, we’ll be taking my family around Ireland – to Kilkenny, Kerry, Cork, Wexford and Galway – to sight-see and have a mini-vacation. My parents are looking forward to the Listowel Races, which Pat’s Auntie Bridget has been telling them about since last year, and I am looking forward to eating my way around Galway et. al.

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I am slowly getting back into the swing of things since giving birth. It’s been tough adjusting to the demanding schedule of a newborn as well as giving myself time to heal. Yesterday was amazing, though. Maeve had a great nap in the afternoon, giving me time to make a stew for dinner and some crunchy biscotti to have with our tea.

I love biscotti. My favourite flavour combination is one my former chef used to make: pistachio, milk chocolate and dried cranberry. Those three things just complement each other so very well.

Yesterday I saw I had sliced almonds and dried cherries sitting in the cupboard. I was going to make cookies but then thought better of it. It takes just as much time to make biscotti, the end result is often better and, frankly, it’s less work than a drop cookie recipe. And right now, at this point in my life, I am all about less work.

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Dried Cherry, Almond & Orange Biscotti

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

3/4 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries, or raisins)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

zest of one orange

1/3 cup melted butter

1 egg white, slightly beaten

granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • In a bowl, mix your dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon) and add the almonds and cherries. Mix well and set aside.
  • In another bowl (or using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment) beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, almond extract and butter. Remove the whisk attachment and attach the paddle.
  • Add in the dried ingredients all at once. Mix until it all comes together, then turn dough out onto a well floured surface (if the dough is too sticky knead a bit more flour into it to make it workable).
  • Divide the dough in two equal portions. Shape each portion into a 12 inch-long rectangular log (*note: at this point you can wrap them in plastic and freeze them indefinitely). Place them on the baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with the egg white. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.
  • Bake the logs for about 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and they’ve baked through. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes, then, using a chef’s knife, slice the logs on the diagonal making biscotti fingers that are approximately 1 inch thick.
  • Place the sliced biscotti, standing up, back on the cookie sheet and return them to the oven. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until they’re crunchy and light. Great for dunking in tea or coffee!

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