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Posts from the ‘Vegetarian’ 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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Perfect Italian Buttercream

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Well, the weeks and months seem to be flying by. Suddenly my sleepy little newborn is wide awake and PLAYING WITH TOYS and FOCUSING ON PEOPLE and GIGGLING and generally being adorable. These are all amazing developments, even if they mean less me-time and more baby/toddler-time. The blog suffers, as do my other interests, general health and well being and, sometimes, my sanity. But it’s all good. The Spring has more or less arrived and the sunny weather does great things for the spirit.

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In a little over a MONTH I’ll be flying to Canada with my girls. Ciara really needs a passport. My mom is here in Ireland, which is amazing, and she’ll be flying home with us, as will a friend’s daughter, who will travel around with us in Canada and be a great help with the smallies. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see all my extended family members and friends at home in Cape Breton, and at the end of our “Canada time” we’ll fly out to Victoria, BC to spend time with my brothers and their kids.

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In the meantime, days are spent on playdates and coffee breaks. The Easter bunny came over the weekend, leaving way too much chocolate for a two year old. Luckily Maeve has her mom, dad, grandad and nana to help do away with the spoils. We spent our Easter having lots of family time. This included a feast of epic proportions on Easter Sunday with a huge roasted gammon joint, garlicky dauphinoise potatoes, spring veggies, smoked trout from the fabulous Goatsbridge Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny, lots of wine and THIS. This dark chocolate layer cake with vanilla Italian buttercream and chocolate mini-eggs.

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The whole meal was great, but the cake was extra-delicious. Even though we were massively full, everyone managed to save room for a slice. The cake was moist and rich and the buttercream was light, airy and blissful – which is surprising, considering an entire pound of butter went into it. Yes, this isn’t a diet-friendly recipe (are any of my recipes diet-friendly? I need to take a long hard look at my life) but it is the perfect indulgent holiday dessert.

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You don’t need to make it “Easter” or even “holiday”. Top it with chocolate-dipped strawberries, edible flowers, candied orange slices or nothing at all. I like how it looks with the naked-mask of frosting. It would make a really impressive birthday cake for someone.

I used a few tools to make this cake.

  • 4 small sandwich tins
  • a cake turntable
  • a stand mixer
  • a large pallet knife
  • a sharp serrated knife

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If you don’t have any of these things, don’t panic. This buttercream masks the cake perfectly and is very forgiving if, like me, you have a bit of a wobbly hand. I will say that the pallet knife, at least, is important if you like sharp, defined corners on your cake. The turntable helps because you can keep the knife as steady as possible with one hand while turning the cake with the other. But even if you slap this buttercream on with a spoon, or just schmear it in between the layers and leave the sides alone, it will still look great and taste amazing.

This cake was made with my usual Never Fail Chocolate Cake recipe with dark, good quality cocoa powder and hot coffee instead of boiling water. I made the cake in the four sandwich tins, let them cool, wrapped them in plastic and let them sit overnight. That way they were cool enough and retained all their moisture when the time came to ice them.

So here it is! The recipe for the perfect Italian Buttercream (no icing sugar in sight).

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Perfect Italian Buttercream

Ingredients:

5 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp cream of tartar

1.5 cups/375g white sugar

1/3 cup/90ml water

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

2 cups/454g/1 big block good quality butter (like Tipperary Co-op)

Directions:

  • Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  • While the egg whites are being whisked, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil into a thick syrup (soft ball stage). You don’t want the sugar to caramelize. I don’t keep track of the temperature (who has time for that, really) but it’s at the point where the syrup is quite thick and about to begin to caramelize.
  • Turn the stand mixer down to low and slowly pour the hot syrup into the whisked egg whites. Do this slowly enough that the syrup doesn’t splash too much on the sides of the bowl. Touch the side of the bowl. It will be quite warm from the syrup and the egg whites will have gone down in volume.
  • Continue to whisk on med-high until the mixture cools to nearly room temperature – about 3-5 minutes.
  • Take the pound of butter and cut it into small cubes. Once the egg white mixture has cooled, continue mixing while adding cubes of butter, 2 or 3 at a time. Allow the bits of butter to be combined into the mixture before adding more butter. Slowly add the entire pound of butter while constantly whisking. Once all the butter is added, don’t freak out if the mixture looks curdled. Keep whisking for several more minutes until everything is well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat into the frosting.
  • The finished buttercream should be aerated, totally smooth, slightly thick and off-white in colour. Use it immediately to mask your cake, or pipe onto cupcakes.

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A Gastro-Weekend in Cork

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I can’t believe it, but I’m officially on maternity leave. This pregnancy has completely flown by, and I’m feeling a bit unprepared, so it’s a good thing that I have a few weeks off work before Christmas to try and get my life – not to mention, this blog! – organized.

I spent a weekend in October in Toronto. It was my first time back since Patrick and I moved in 2013. I was so excited to see my friends, my brother, my sweet baby nephew. One of my dearest friends got married in a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad I could be there.

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Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken & Waffles – Patois, Toronto

Another chef-friend had opened a gorgeous little restaurant specializing in Caribbean-Asian cuisine, so of course I ventured over for brunch and ate everything on the menu (I’M PREGNANT, OK?). Patois is a great spot – I still dream about the fried chicken and Hong Kong-style waffles and Kimchi “pieriogi-style” potstickers.

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Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto

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Cookie Butter-Stuffed French Toast – Patois, Toronto

Despite getting to see everyone and eating delicious food, I was really happy to get home to Tipperary. Who knew how impatient I’d gotten with traffic? And cities in general!

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Wandering Kilkenny Castle’s grounds

We also went, once again, to the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food over the October long weekend. It was great, as always. Maeve had a great time, Patrick & I went out to Zuni for a delicious dinner and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds.

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Enjoying the food at Savour Kilkenny!

More recently, Patrick and I took a weekend away to get some Christmas shopping done and some kid-free time to ourselves before #2 arrives in early Janurary. We spent the night in Cork and enjoyed some amazing food.

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My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe – picture taken at Ballymaloe Litfest, May 2015

While we’re spoiled for fresh ingredients here in Tipperary, we are definitely Asian-food-deprived (unless you count the local Chinese & Indian takeaways… which we don’t).

For lunch, despite Storm Desmond wreaking havoc all over the country, we trudged through the wind and rain to get to Iyer’s Cafe on Pope’s Quay. I love Iyer’s! I first tried their dosas and samosas at Ballymaloe Litfest 2015 – they tasted so amazingly authentic; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As soon as we had Cork booked, I knew I’d be taking Patrick there for lunch.

We had a samosa chaat bowl (samosas with fresh chickpea, veggie and popped rice salad in a big bowl), masala dosa (a type of Indian crepe made from a batter of soaked lentils, served filled with spiced potato, chutneys on the side and a bowl of soupy masala sauce to pour over) and fried chili gobi (spiced cauliflower fritters) to share and were not disappointed. Iyer’s specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, all vegetarian or vegan, all authentic.

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Chicken Gyoza – Miyazaki, Cork

And speaking of authentic… later that evening, on the tip of fellow food blogger and my buddy Cork Billy, we went to Miyazaki Takeaway on Evergreen St. for some Japanese food. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland, and some of the best Japanese food I’ve had… well… ever! That’s including what I’ve eaten in Japan (is that blasphemous?).

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My Tempura Prawn Roll – Miyazaki, Cork

This place is tiny with minimal seating (there’s a counter with a few stools if you want to eat in). BUT the kitchen is open-concept and you can watch the very-talented chef at work while you wait for your yaki-udon and katsu-don.

I need to make this clear: Miyazaki’s food is Michelin star quality. My tempura-prawn roll was filled with fresh veggies and microgreens (not just for garnish; where they can be annoyingly superfluous – they added SERIOUS FLAVOUR to the roll).

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Japanese-style Fried Chicken don buri (front), pork yaki-udon (back) – Miyazaki, Cork

We had one of the evening’s specials – Japanese style fried chicken don buri (in a rice bowl with fresh veggies, egg, broth), pork yaki-udon (stir-fried noodles), chicken gyoza (dumplings) and a hand-roll each. It was the best date we’ve had in years – sitting on a few stools at the counter. The only thing missing? Some ice cold Sapporo.

Our Cork weekend, despite the terrible weather, was a total success: we relaxed, ate amazing food and got a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping completed (with minimal arguing!). It’s a very easy 1.5 hour trip from the farm, so we’ll be back for more food really soon.

*Look, I don’t normally do gushing reviews like this as an entire blog post, but the places mentioned above do wonderful work. I will say that I wasn’t asked to write any of these reviews; I was just really impressed and wanted to share my opinion. I hope you get to check them out, too, and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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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Romesco Sauce

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Life in Cape Breton is so busy compared to my past year in Ireland! I’m feeling a bit like a single mom, even though I have lots of (appreciated) help from my parents and extended family. I miss how Pat used to let me sleep in on Saturdays while he got up with Maeve.

I miss Ireland, a bit, too. I didn’t think I would. Not that I don’t love living there, I just never thought it would live up to Cape Breton. It seems to, though, in a completely different way. The summers are better (and more fun; relaxing) here. My parents and aunties are here and I am perpetually missing them while in Ireland. But the winters in Ireland are better; the spring arrives sooner. I have big family of in-laws who I love dearly. I can travel across several different countries by air in Europe in the same amount of time as it would take to fly from one end of Canada to the other. Ireland has its perks; and it seems like home to me now.

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Cape Breton will always be home, too. I hope my kids feel at home here. But this is probably the last time I come for months on end without my husband. It’s not as fun without him anyway.

BUT he arrives in five days! And even though we’ll both be working it will feel like a proper summer holiday. I am thrilled to be hanging out with some of the lovely folks from Tourism Cape Breton as I rediscover my island home and do lots of research for future articles. I am loving taking care of the baking at the Baddeck Lobster Suppers a few mornings a week, and of course I’m so excited to be able to spend the next few weekends at the beach with my whole family. That’s right, my brothers will be here with their families. We will host a party of epic proportions. With lots of delicious Nova Scotian beer.

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Though I haven’t had much time to cook or bake outside of work, I did whip up this delicious romesco sauce the other day. Romesco sauce isn’t just a condiment, it is a lesson in classic Spanish technique and flavour. It’s practical, using up stale bread and blending bits of fresh, roasted veggies with almonds and sherry vinegar, but it’s also multi-purpose. The flavour profile will brighten up nearly any fish or meat (including my dad’s famous egg-battered haddock) and also works well tossed with pastas or cooked veggies.

A dollop added at the beginning of a paella (although most likely considered blasphemous in Spain) will add an extra bit of zest to the classic dish. And now that most of my meals end up being eaten by an almost-one-year-old, I can attest to the fact that it is absolutely delicious in grilled cheese sandwiches. Maeve agrees.

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Romesco Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded & cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 entire head of garlic with the top cut off (use a serrated knife)
  • 4 medium sized vine tomatoes, cored
  • 1/2 cup blanched, whole almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 heels of stale bread, ripped into chunks
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp paprika
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 Celsius, no fan). Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • Prepare all of your vegetables – core the tomatoes, seed and slice the peppers and cut the head off the garlic (you can save the little bits of garlic in the head for the minced garlic needed later).
  • Throw the garlic, peppers and tomatoes on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the veggies for about 1.5 hours. They will be really, really well roasted when done.
  • Toast the almonds on the stove top (I just put them in a dry cast iron pan and tossed them occasionally until they were evenly toasted). Set aside.
  • In a blender or food processor, add the olive oil, almonds, bread, minced garlic, vinegar, and paprika. Pulse a few times to start breaking things down.
  • Add the roasted garlic, tomatoes and peppers. Pulse until smooth. The consistency should still have texture to it, though, like a pesto.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature with all kinds of meat, white fish, grilled veggies or even just some nice, crusty bread, warmed olives and manchego cheese.

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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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Never-Fail Chocolate Cake

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The month of May was an absolute whirlwind. It was one of those months that, when it’s over, you look back and say to yourself, “what even happened last month?” and then you remember: you had visitors. And communions. And long weekends. And a very busy, increasingly mobile/vocal baby.

Now that we’re well into June I realize I don’t have that much time before Maeve and I head to Canada for the summer – in fact, we’ll be leaving Ireland next Thursday.

Oh, and I failed to mention we’re in the process of moving house. Yeah. And it’s silage time. So combine the last few weeks being so busy with packing, moving, silage cooking (which is a fairly large task) and running back and forth from Tipperary to Waterford and you can understand why I’m feeling a bit frazzled.

That said, I’ve been enjoying myself immensely. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being idle. Maternity leave ended last month, and although I’m not gainfully employed (yet), I’m definitely in work-mode. I can’t wait to get back in a kitchen. Or back to writing full-time. Whatever may be in store, I’m ready for it.

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The last weekend in that crazy month of May was our niece’s 11th birthday. You may remember the cake I made for her last year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have time to put the same amount of effort in this year’s cake. The weekend before her birthday I made a massive, pink ombre princess cake to celebrate her sister’s first communion and when I asked her what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she simply said “chocolate”. Like last year.

Well… I didn’t really have any time. When Friday came around I did something I never do – I bought a cake mix. And canned frosting.

It wasn’t even Betty Crocker cake mix; it was Tesco brand. I figured all mixes are the same and come out the same – consistently moist and tasty. I was so very wrong.

This cake mix was an abomination. First, I couldn’t believe the tiny amount of batter it made. Second, it was like cardboard when it came out of the oven. I felt bad, but I had to throw it in the garbage. It was awful.

Saturday morning came around and I knew my niece would be visiting soon – and expecting a chocolate cake. I searched my cupboards to make sure I had ingredients and then I did what I should have done from the start – I made this amazingly quick never-fail chocolate cake.

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This is a recipe from home in Cape Breton. It’s actually my sister-in-law’s grandma’s recipe. It has very few ingredients (most will always be in your cupboard, except maybe the cocoa), is low maintenance and bakes to perfection.

When I made this cake, my reasons for never buying cake mix were reaffirmed. It took exactly the same amount of time to make and it was so yummy. My niece loved it, even though it was definitely not on the same scale as last year’s cake.

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Never-Fail Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup Dutch-pressed cocoa

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup boiling water

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan). Butter and flour any cake pan (bundt, round, rectangular, sheet – go crazy). I just line a regular ol’ springform pan with parchment – I don’t bother greasing.
  • Place the ingredients into a mixing bowl in the order stated in the ingredients list (just one of top of the other; trust me).
  • Using the whisk attachment for your stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk all ingredients for four minutes. This is why it’s important to use cake flour in this recipe – the gluten will not develop as strongly as it would in all purpose flour and you’ll still have a lovely moist cake.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the cake pan you’re using (sheet cake will take much less time; keep that in mind). When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s ready.
  • Cool completely before icing, covering in ganache or dusting with cocoa or powdered sugar. Keep covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to four days.

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