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Posts from the ‘Fruit’ Category

Upside-Down Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

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I’m back home. In Ireland, I mean. It’s funny, I call Cape Breton “home” and Ireland “home”, but when I talk about Cape Breton being home it’s meant to be past tense. As in, it used to be home and will always and forever more be referred to as home. But, as wonderful as Cape Breton was, and Vancouver, and Victoria, it is so, so good to be back in Tipperary.

In my own house.

With my little family.

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Babies at pasture here in Tipperary

And it’s summer. My garden is growing. There are baby animals everywhere (and thanks to my cat, baby animal corpses everywhere, but we won’t go there right now) and, even though it’s often grey and rainy, it’s sometimes warm and sunny. Already much better than last summer, which was mostly cold, windy and rainy.

I’ve been home a little less than a month and I’m already super busy. Making plans, going to playdates, taking little day trips here and there, visiting, baking. The bit I’m most excited about is the plan-making, but I’m not ready to say anything more about it at the moment – just stay tuned!

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Home in Cape Breton

Also, once again, this little blog has been long-listed for two Littlewood’s Ireland Blog Awards, which is really, really lovely! I’m also up for a Huawei Snapy Instagram Award! If you feel so inclined, you can check out my entry (and possibly give it a vote) here.

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So yes; I’m super busy. But don’t worry, I always have my two darling children to keep my ego in check. Whether it’s by peeing on the floor (daily) or simply staying up all night long, my kids continually remind me who’s truly in charge of my life (or I guess you could say: what’s truly important in life). I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

When I came home, my garden was so overgrown with weeds it looked more like a jungle. It took four solid evenings of weed-pulling and seed planting, but my hard work is paying off. Napa Cabbage (for autumn kimchi making!), sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin, courgette – you name it, it’s been planted and is currently sprouting. I was late getting a few things planted, but the growing season is longer here than it is in Canada so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good harvest.

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Two things that were ready when I got home were our strawberries and rhubarb. I’ve never grown strawberries before, but this year Maeve asked if she could plant them. Our old farmhouse is surrounded by very old, black cauldrons (I think they were used for laundry or something back in the day) so we found the biggest one and planted the strawberries there. We left tiny seedlings and came home to a huge, vine-laden bunch of plants just dripping with beautiful berries.

This is a great summer cake to make with whatever fresh fruit or berries you have on hand. I made it with our gorgeous strawberries (of course) and fresh rhubarb, but it would be great with blueberries (with some maple syrup and lemon), peaches, plums or cherries. The cake base is a super-moist hot milk cake recipe that I use all the time – it never, ever fails me.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

1 cup/250g granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup/250g AP/plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup/125ml scalded milk

3 Tbsp butter (melted into the hot milk)

For the topping:

1 punnet strawberries – hulled and cut in half

3-4 stalks rhubarb, chopped

1/2 cup/125g brown sugar

1/4 cup/60g butter

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350∘F (190∘C, no fan). Grease a round springform pan and place the pan on a lined cookie sheet (in case it leaks) set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar for the topping. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.Pour the mixture into the bottom of the pan and arrange the strawberries and rhubarb over the top. Set the pan aside again and make the cake batter.
  • To make the cake: whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar until pale yellow in colour and nearly doubled in volume (this is known as the ribbon stage – the mixture should drip off the whisk in ribbons).
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the mixture and stir until just combined. Add the hot milk all at once and, again, stir until just combined and there aren’t any lumps in the batter.
  • Gently pour the cake batter over the strawberries and rhubarb in the springform pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes (if you have an extra-hot oven start checking your cake at 25 minutes). A skewer inserted in the centre of the cake should come out clean.
  • When the cake is ready, allow to set in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and gently remove from the pan. Flip the cake onto a plate and gently lift the bottom of the springform pan. Voila! You should have a perfect upside-down cake.

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Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

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I’m sitting at the desk in my bedroom at the moment. The sun is shining through the window, I have a cup of (hot!) coffee sitting next to the laptop and my baby is napping in the kitchen. Maeve is watching TV and doing puzzles with my mom. In a week we’ll be taking the girls to Canada for two months so stay tuned for some Canadian posts soon!

I love my babies so much – I really do – but it feels *so* good to sit at a desk and quietly type up a blog post. I miss it.

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I’m usually running around during the day. Ciara sleeps in the car – her daytime naps are short, short, short – and in her sling most days. She only sleeps in her moses basket at night, but when she finally goes down she sleeps for 8-9 hours straight. No complaints there! It just doesn’t leave a lot of time during the day for blogging. Did I mention it feels *so* good to be sitting at a desk?

Since I only get to sit down and blog every once in a while, it’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve been planning this post for, literally, weeks. I made and (quickly) photographed these delicious tartlets 2 or 3 weeks ago and am only now getting around to typing up the recipe! But it’s a really good recipe. I think it’s worth the wait.

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I was recently reading a recipe that combined panna cotta with earl grey tea and thought it was a great idea. What was even cooler was the panna cotta was set in a tartlet shell. At first I thought it was just a nice way to present the dessert, but holy moly, I never knew sweet pâte sablée and panna cotta could bring out the best in each other. The crumbly sweet pastry combined with the just set, barely sweetened cream is a match made in heaven.

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I didn’t flavour the panna cotta with tea, though. In the next county over (Offaly) there is a fabulous little food company called Wild Irish Foragers. They make shrub syrups, sweet syrups, pots and preserves – all from plants and flowers foraged here in the Midlands of Ireland. I love their products, mostly because they make things I don’t have the time or skillset to make myself.

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I flavoured the panna cotta with their Wild Dandelion Preserve, which is otherwise known as Poor Man’s Honey. It’s sweet like honey with just a hint of wild, floral, herbal flavour. I also used a raw cream to make the panna cotta. This one came from Crawford’s Farm in Cloughjordan (home to Tipperary’s only eco-village and where my favourite sourdough is made).

Yes, I could have used our own raw cream to make the panna cotta. I am aware I live on a dairy farm. BUT the cream only settles (floats to the top) in our milk storage unit at certain times of the day. It’s mixed all other times and thereby IMPOSSIBLE to skim. Crawford’s is amazing stuff. It tastes buttery. It’s thick. It makes perfect panna cotta.

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Finally, I topped the tartlet with a blueberry compote. Because I’m from Nova Scotia and I love blueberries. Here’s the recipe! The next time you hear from me I’ll be eating lots of seafood on the East Coast of Canada!

Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

Ingredients 

For the Pâte Sablée:

120g/scant 1/2 cup softened butter

75g/1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

1 egg yolk

300g/ 1 1/4 cup plain flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

For the Panna Cotta:

500ml/2 cups Crawford’s Farm Raw Cream, or heavy cream

2 heaping Tbsp Wild Irish Foragers Dandelion Preserve

1/2 packet powdered gelatin (about 1 tsp)

Pinch of fine sea salt

For the Blueberry Compote:

250g/1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

60g/1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Zest of one lemon

1 heaping Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 125 ml/1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Make the pâte sablée: in a bowl or stand mixer, mix the egg yolk, butter and icing sugar until well combined. Add the flour and salt. Mix until it comes together, like a cookie dough. If it’s dry and crumbly, add 1-2 Tbsp of milk. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thickness and fit into four small tartlet pans. Don’t worry about tears. Just use extra dough to patch any holes. Do not poke holes in the bottom as you do with some tart shells; the panna cotta will leak through later!
  • Line the tartlet pans with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake until the top are golden brown and the bottoms are cooked through (the bottoms will still look pale), about 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry if the bottom of the tartlets seem too soft; they will firm up as they cool.
  • When the tart shells are cool, carefully remove them from the pans and place them on a tray.
  • Make the panna cotta: in a small saucepan, combine the cream, salt and Dandelion preserve. Slowly heat the cream mixture until it’s hot, steamy and the dandelion preserve has dissolved. You do not want to bring it to a boil, but just before it starts to boil.
  • Remove the cream mixture from the heat and sprinkle the gelation over top. Gently whisk the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved completely (this might take a minute or two).
  • Pour the mixture into the tart shells (don’t try to move the tart shells off or around the tray at this point) and put the tray into the fridge to set.
  • Make the compote: in a saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. If you’re using fresh blueberries, add a splash of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then add the cornstarch/water mixture. Stir until thickened, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • When the panna cotta has set in the tart shells (about 30 minutes), top it with the cooled blueberry compote. Garnish with mint or lemonbalm. Serve immediately or keep them in the fridge to be served the same day.

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Vanilla Mascarpone Cheesecake with Blood Orange Gelée

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So, a little over a month ago I had my second baby. We called her Ciara (pronounced Kee-ra, for all you North Americans – not See-ara!). She is a cute little bundle of snuggly goodness. I like her a lot; even at 4 am.

Maeve likes her too, thankfully. Every now and then she looks up at me and says, “Mommy, I really like Ciara.”

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It’s almost like she needs to convince herself sometimes, but I’ll take it.

Now that we’re in a sorta-rhythm with nap times, play groups and toddler music classes (in conjunction with mommy’s frequent, lingering coffee breaks at The Green Sheep in Thurles), I was recently able to do some baking. I had a pile of mascarpone cheese in my fridge, but I didn’t want to make the same ol’ tiramisu. I thought I might try a cheesecake.

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Can you believe I’ve never made a cheesecake? Me neither. I don’t think I even made one in culinary school. This is mostly because I’m not a huge lover of cheesecake – I find the traditional New York-style baked cheesecake really rich and far too heavy. The no-bake versions are a bit lighter but still too much for me.

Mascarpone cheesecake, though. Oh man. I had no idea what I was missing.

Mascarpone, as a cheese, is lighter, naturally a bit on the sweet side and endlessly creamy when compared to your basic cream cheese. It makes the cake sweet and light. You don’t have to add a pile to sugar to the mix. Topped with a citrus-ey gelée you get the perfect amount of acid to cut through the sweet.

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What’s a gelée? A fancy French word for jelly, though traditionally a gelée isn’t as stiff. You can slice through it easily. It bursts into juice on your tongue. It’s the essence of whichever flavour you’re gelling, in a more manageable form. And it looks very pretty over the top of a baked cheesecake.

I made a vanilla bean & blood orange gelée this time since blood orange is in season and so good right now, but you can make a gelée from almost any kind of fruit. Use the same recipe and simply substitute different fruit juices.

This recipe has been tried and approved by numerous people: Maeve, who ate the gelée and pretended to like the cheesecake bit; my husband, who called it the “best cake ever” and requested another for his birthday later this month; my father-in-law, who didn’t say anything about the cake but also didn’t bother to slice off a piece, instead attacking the entire thing with a fork; and my friend Lucy, who owns the café I like to frequent.

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Vanilla Mascarpone Cheesecake with Blood Orange Gelée

Ingredients:

400g/1.5 cups amaretti biscuits, crushed

60g/1/4 cup butter, melted

500g/2 cups cream cheese, softened

500g/2 cups mascarpone cheese

250g/1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp good quality vanilla

4 large eggs

For the gelée:

250ml/1 cup/about four large oranges blood orange juice

60g/1/4 cup granulated sugar

Seeds/pod of one vanilla bean

1/2 package of powdered gelatin

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine the crushed amaretti biscuits and melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until slightly browned.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven heat to 160 °C/325°F.
  • Mix the softened cheeses, sugar and 2 tsp of vanilla until well combined and creamy. Continue mixing and add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each.
  • Tightly wrap the outside of the springform pan with 2-3 layers of tin foil, making sure the foil is 2-3 inches higher than the rim of the pan. Pour the cheese mixture over the top of the amaretti biscuit base and place the springform pan in a larger roasting tray.
  • Place the tray in the preheated oven and fill halfway with boiling water. Bake the cheesecake for about an hour. It will be slightly brown on top and the middle of the cake with be slightly jiggly.
  • When the cake is finished, cool it on a wire rack for 1-2 hours. Do not remove it from the pan.
  • Place the cooled cake in the fridge for at least eight hours.
  • Make the gelée: place the vanilla, blood orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the top of the hot mixture and whisk until completely dissolved.
  • Allow the juice mixture to cool slightly before gently pouring over the top of the cheesecake. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and return it to the fridge for the gelée to set.
  • When the gelée has set, use a paring knife dipped in hot water to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Gently remove the outer part of the springform pan.
  • This cake will NOT last long, but just in case: it’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Five Minute Mango-Coconut Semifreddo

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Up until a few days ago, we’d been enjoying some amazingly warm and sunny spring weather here in Ireland.

Warm breezes, new blooms in the garden and sunny skies greeted us day after day in a stretch of uninterrupted beautiful weather. Everyone in Ireland knows to take advantage of good weather while you can – my dairy farmer father-in-law got his fields fertilized and between he, my husband and even a little help from me, we got lots of necessary jobs done around the farmyard.

We’re still waiting for two babies to make their appearance, but mostly the calving season has come to an end. We can all calm down a bit until silage season (gulp) starts in June.

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A few weekends ago Pat, Maeve and I strapped ourselves into the car and took off for Lough Derg; a large lake which borders counties Tipperary, Clare and Galway. It’s pretty big. Actually, it’s the second largest in the republic – and boy, is it beautiful.

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Coming from Cape Breton, Lough Derg really reminded me of the Bras D’or Lakes – especially on this particular, sunny day, as it was dotted with sailboats and sea-doos. We drove to the picturesque village of Killaloe (pronounced kill-a-loo) in County Clare and took a walk with Maeve along the shoreline. We then drove to the village of Garrykennedy (yup, a village named after some dude, I’m guessing) for lunch at Larkin’s Pub.

Fish and Chips at Larkins

Fish and Chips at Larkins

Larkin’s is a great spot for lunch on a sunny day. They’ve won multiple awards for their pub-grub; the patio is ENCLOSED which means when your kid is finished eating (way before you are) she can run around on the grass and you don’t have to worry about her escaping; they have great, local craft beer on tap and, last but not least: they are also home to an artisanal ice cream company, meaning you can grab dessert to-go and take a walk around the beautiful village.

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The ice cream company is fairly new, but are already doing really well. They’re called Boyle & Co. and they make their ice cream from Tipperary cows, just down the road, near the town of Roscrea. If you’ve tasted Tipperary butter (which is rich, creamy and so much better than any butter I’ve ever had) then you’ll have an idea of how amazing this ice cream tastes.

I ordered a few cones for us, as well as some ice cream in tubs to take home. I thought I’d make a semifreddo.

Lots of semifreddo recipes involve making the ice cream base from scratch, which is GREAT if you have time.

But I don’t. Have time, that is. I have no time.

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And anyway, why make your own base when you have such an amazing product at your fingertips? This recipe is a bit Caker Cooking (love this guy’s blog; click on the link!) – meaning it’s mostly assembly, with very little skill required.

It would be a fun recipe to make with your kids but, at the same time, the results are fancy enough for a summer dinner party dessert. I made this semifreddo with coconut ice cream and mango sorbet, but you can use any flavour combination that tickles your fancy.

And yes, it really takes five minutes to make. Longer to freeze, but definitely five minute to make.

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Five Minute Coconut-Mango Semifreddo

Ingredients: 

500g Boyle & Co. mango sorbet

500g Boyle & Co. coconut ice cream

125ml spiced rum OR mango/orange juice

12 store-bought (or home-made, if you’re feeling wild) ladyfingers

1 orange, peeled and sliced whole (garnish)

1 mango, peeled and cubed (garnish)

Directions:

  • Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of overhang (you’ll want to cover the semifreddo entirely in plastic when it’s assembled).
  • Allow the ice cream and sorbet to soften at room temperature. When soft, spread the mango sorbet on the bottom of the lined loaf pan. Top it with six ladyfingers that have been lightly dipped in rum or juice.
  • Then spread the softened coconut ice cream over the ladyfingers. Again, dip the remaining six ladyfingers in run or juice, then press them lightly into the coconut ice cream layer.
  • Cover the semifreddo tightly with the overhanging plastic wrap and then put the whole thing into the freezer. Freeze for at least four hours or overnight.
  • When ready, gently remove the semifreddo from the loaf pan and unwrap. Garnish the top with the sliced orange, cubed mango or any other fruit you like (a few mint leaves wouldn’t go amiss here, either).
  • When ready to serve, slice with a sharp knife that has been dipped in very hot water, then quickly dried. The hot knife will slice through frozen things more cleanly.
  • Serves 6-8, depending on how thick you slice.

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Blackberry Cream Scones

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I love the autumn.

Not that it’s been very autumn-ey here in Tipperary. When I got off the plane in Dublin a month ago I was prepared with a warm sweater and my rain jacket handy, but as it turned out I didn’t need them… and I haven’t needed them all month.

This is strange to me.

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See, the very first time I came to Ireland was in September. I left Korea with Pat and we were going to settle in Toronto for a few years, but we wanted to come here to visit with his family for awhile. So while my two cats flew straight to Toronto to be picked up and cared for by two saintly friends, Pat and I flew to Ireland for a month.

When we left Korea, it was normal Korea-weather for September. Hot. Still hot. Muggy. So muggy. I had been getting Japanese straightening perms my entire time in Asia but still, my hair was no match for a long Korean summer.

Imagine my genuine shock when we landed in Dublin late on that September evening, coming from the hot, sunny weather in Korea and descending into the bone-chillingly cold Irish autumn.

I got used to it quickly, and in fairness, it wasn’t bone-chillingly cold our entire time in Ireland (there was a particularly beautiful warm, sunny day spent on the lakes of Killarney). When we arrived in Toronto later that October I wasn’t so shocked by the cold weather.

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With the unseasonable warmth this year came a shitload (an actual technical kitchen term, folks) of blackberries. I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but Pat and I are fixing up the family farmhouse in Tipperary, meaning we’re not in Waterford anymore (sniffle). We live down a long dirt road lined with hedges. I was delighted to discover the hedges were basically all blackberry bushes, sloe bushes, rosehips and elderberries. Jackpot.

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Taking Maeve for a daily walk down the lane to see the “moo’s”, I would fill the two cupholders on the buggy with big, juicy berries. When I’d acquired enough, I just had to make a batch of cream scones. Two reasons for this:

  1. I live on a dairy farm now. I can just skim a bit of cream from the batch whenever I want. ENDLESS CREAM, PEOPLE.
  2. I had an amazing meal in Cape Breton at The Bite House which ended with a gorgeously plated cream scone crumble. I couldn’t get Bryan’s scone out of my mind.

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Blackberries are my favourite berry after wild blueberries. I just love the flavour of them, especially picked wild and at their peak. It’s funny, each year I expect them to taste like raspberries (don’t ask me why) and am then pleasantly shocked when I remember how a blackberry is supposed to taste. They go so well with these sweet, crumbly scones and go particularly well with cream. You could skip this recipe altogether and just have a bowl of ’em with cream.

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Blackberry Cream Scones

Ingredients:

Scones:

4 cups cream flour

2/3 cup golden demerera sugar

2 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2/3 cup cold, cubed butter

2 cups rinsed, fresh blackberries

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 cup fresh cream

1 egg

Glaze:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3-4 Tbsp cream

Splash of vanilla essence

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius, no fan) and line one or two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Rub in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add the blackberries to the mixture. In a separate bowl, mix the cream, egg and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet all at once.
  • Mix until everything is just incorporated. On a well-floured surface, knead/continue to mix the dough until you have a bit of elasticity (the dough may be on the wet side).
  • Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to a thickness of at least an inch. Cut and place each scone on the parchment lined baking sheets.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  • Mix the three ingredients together for the glaze. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze each scone while they’re still warm.

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Nectarine Amaretto Crumble Cake

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I actually made this cake several weeks ago, while I was still in Ireland. It was silage time and my kitchen had gone from “fully stocked” to “running on empty” in a matter of days. When you consider how long the silage took to complete (about three days) and how many farmers it took to complete the job (about 6-8), I’m not sure why I thought I’d have enough food to feed the guys for tea, lunch and supper every day. Next year I’ll be better prepared.

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This cake was one of the final, desperate attempts to make my larder stretch a bit further. The cake part is cheap and uncomplicated to prepare – it’s stuff you have in your cupboard and fridge all the time – the nectarines were in season at the time (in Ireland) and I had just gotten a bowlful from Peter’s in Templemore. And I had bags and bags of ground almond in my cupboard that I, with my baby brain, kept purchasing at the grocery store thinking I was all out.

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Nectarines and amaretto (or just almonds) go together like blueberries and maple syrup (that is, perfectly). The flavours just complement each other. If you have a bit of amaretto to splash in the cake batter, awesome. If not, good ol’ vanilla will suffice. It’s a great coffee cake and makes a fab summer dessert with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

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Nectarine Amaretto Crumble Cake 

Ingredients

For the cake:

2 eggs, room temperature if possible

1 cup granulated sugar

A splash of amaretto, or 2 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup cake flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup milk

3 Tbsp butter

3-4 ripe peaches, peeled and roughly chopped

For the crumble:

1/4 cup cold butter

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a spring form pan with parchment or butter and flour generously. Set aside.
  • In your stand mixer or using a hand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and amaretto or vanilla until you reach the ribbon stage (very pale yellow in colour; doubled in volume). Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix until just barely combined.
  • Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the milk boils. Immediately take it off the heat, add it into the batter and mix on high for 20 seconds until everything is nicely combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the side and fold the batter a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
  • Fold the chopped peaches into the batter and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • In a separate bowl, use your hands to combine and crumble the butter, ground almonds and sugar. When the mixture is coarse and crumbly, sprinkle over the top of the cake.
  • Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (it may take longer so keep an eye on it!).
  • Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. It will keep for 3-4 days if covered.

* For extra crunch, add some chopped or slivered almonds into the crumble – I didn’t have any this time but will add them the next time for sure. 

* Make this cake gluten-free by substituting the hot milk sponge with an almond sponge (recipe here).
 
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A Very Nutty Nougat

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Well folks, I can’t believe it, but it’s been a year since we moved into this little house in Waterford. A whole year. So much has happened, and yet it’s gone by in a flash. Our cat sadly died, our beautiful girl was born, we got a new puppy (who I threaten to get rid of on a daily basis – she won’t stop stealing food from the kitchen counter!), members of my family came to visit and went home again. I remember this summer seeming so far away back in September when I had to say good bye to my parents and brother.

But I shouldn’t have been so dramatic. The past six months have flown by. In a few weeks we’ll be welcoming one of my best friends to Ireland for a long-planned visit. In mid-June, the baby and I will be boarding a plane (Westjet now fly from Dublin to St. John’s!) and taking the four hour trip home to Canada. Yup, just four hours. It took my parents longer to fly to my brother on the other side of Canada. It’s a small world, really.

In between, there are first communions, a few fantastic food festivals, and lots to see and experience around the country. In Canada, we’ll be welcoming a new baby boy into the family. Good things are on the way.

A Beautiful Cape Breton Summer

A Beautiful Cape Breton Summer

This summer, I’ll be freelancing, blogging and cooking in Cape Breton for a good 2.5 months. I can’t wait to swim in the river, to pick wild blueberries, to taste the wines of the Annapolis Valley and visit the beautiful beaches we boast in Nova Scotia. I’m going to eat donairs, garlic fingers and poutine til I’m fit to burst. I’m going to really enjoy lobster season. But mostly, I can’t wait to see my family and introduce them to my baby, who have, mostly, only seen Maeve via Skype or Facebook.

I was in a celebratory mood yesterday. In one year we’ve come a very long way. This blog is almost a year old, too! I’ll be commemorating that in a different post. Yesterday, I wanted to make something indulgent.

French nougat is one of my favourite confections. It’s chewy, sweet and versatile. You can mix in whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts or sweets you want. My favourite way to have nougat, though, is with lots of toasted nuts to add a bit of earthiness and cut through the sweetness. Adding a handful of dried cranberries will add a bit of tartness which blends well with those toasty nuts. You can flavour it with citrus rinds, vanilla or spices. I chose cinnamon this time.

Any combination of nuts will do – yesterday I had some almonds, walnuts and cashews, so that’s what went into my nougat. Pistachios and hazelnuts are also good options (and the green pistachios look really pretty against the white). Kids might like their nougat with some caramel or chocolate chips added in, but for me that’s a bit of a sugar overload. At least the fruit and nuts give the illusion of it being a healthy snack!

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Nutty, Fruity Nougat

Ingredients:

1 egg white, room temperature

pinch of sea salt

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 1/3 cups white sugar

1/2 cup honey

2 Tbsp tap water

1/2 cup each walnuts, cashews, almonds & dried cranberries

Vegetable oil

Directions:

  • Toast and roughly chop the nuts. Set aside.
  • Grease and line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Then, cut two pieces of parchment and lightly grease those as well. Make sure there’s plenty of overhang when you line the cookie sheet with plastic wrap.
  • Add the sugar, water, cinnamon and honey into a saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then turn on high. Boil this mixture for 3-5 minutes. You can use a candy thermometer here but its really not necessary (if you do, it should register around 120 degrees Celsius when finished). You want the sugar and honey to reach the soft-ball stage of cooking – that means, if you drop a bit into a glass of cold water it turns into a firm, but soft ball.
  • While the sugar mixture is boiling, beat the egg white and sea salt until soft peaks form. Once the sugar mixture has reached the right consistency, gradually and slowly pour the mixture into the egg white while beating on med-high.
  • As the sugar mixture is absorbed into the egg white, you should notice the meringue becoming stiffer and glossier. This is what you want. When all of the sugar syrup has been poured into the meringue, continue to beat for 8-10 minutes until you’ve got a firm, but still pliable and mix-able meringue.
  • Now, you can add the nuts and dried fruit to the mix while it’s still pliable. Use your hands (the mixture might still be pretty warm, so be careful!) like I do or a strong wooden spoon. If using your hands, grease them with a bit of vegetable oil before working the nougat.
  • Once the fillings are mixed in, move the nougat to the lined cookie sheet. With one greased parchment sheet on the bottom, press the nougat into the corners and flatten it out with your hands. Put the other greased parchment sheet on top to smooth and even it out over the cookie sheet.
  • Allow to set for at least two hours before removing it from the cookie sheet. When you move it, use the overhang from the plastic wrap to lift it up.
  • Use a knife dipped in boiled water to portion the nougat. If you think it’s too sticky, you can coat the nougat in icing sugar. That will make it easier to handle. It will store in an airtight container for a week.

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