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Posts tagged ‘Walnut’

Maple Walnut Scones

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People often ask me if I miss living in Canada. I’ve been living in Ireland now for almost five years. I have three great kids, a house we’re fixing up, a big garden (and more gardens planned), a small business and lots of friends and family milling around.

So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m usually too busy to be feeling homesick for Canada. That said, I recently got my kids their Canadian citizenship and, this year being Canada’s 150th birthday (if you’re First Nations, though, I should add that Canada is thousands of years older), I started feeling a bit nostalgic with all the celebrations and activities posted all over my social media streams.

Canada Day is July 1st, so it’s already happened. I didn’t do anything on the day to celebrate. Sometimes I host barbecues, bake a cake and have my friends over for Canada Day, but this year – having just had a baby – I wasn’t really feeling it. Too much, too soon.

But I can’t say Canada hasn’t been on my mind lately. So while I don’t miss living in Canada, there are a few things about Canada (or just Cape Breton, really) I miss in general:

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  1. Lobster season: May to July in Cape Breton. Lobsters everywhere you look. Lobster boil dinners at every small community hall. Lobsters being sold right from the boat. I love lobster, and I really miss eating it when it’s at its best. That also goes for mussels, scallops, haddock, salmon, chowder… and the list goes on. I know Ireland is surrounded by ocean, but there isn’t great seafood in landlocked Tipperary!
  2. The beach: Cape Breton has so many gorgeous beaches. By July the water is warm enough to swim, the sand is golden and fine-textured and the beaches are relatively isolated. I love Irish beaches, but find the water is usually a bit too cold and most beaches a bit too crowded.
  3. The restaurants: I love lobster and seafood. I love the places that prepare these foods as well. The Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay (where I once had some decadent lobster poutine with a cold beer; one of my most favourite meals), The Dancing Goat in Margaree, The Herring Choker in Nyanza, Charlene’s Bayside in Whycocomagh, The Bite House in Big Baddeck – all of these places make amazing Cape Breton food and deserve all of the accolades. I miss these places.
  4. My friends and family: Obvs. I love and miss my *very large* extended family. Aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew, brothers – I miss them all.
  5. The weather: in summer, it’s warm enough to swim in the river and in the ocean almost every day. On the East Coast, though, it’s not as hot as it would be elsewhere in Canada. We have the ocean to keep the temperature moderate (like, 35°C and under). A great deal warmer and sunnier than an Irish summer, but still comfortable (I don’t miss black flies and mosquitos, though).10631983_387625851388458_1137852623_n
  6. Wild Blueberries and good Maple Syrup: I miss these things very much. The fruit in Ireland is lovely, but the blueberries here don’t compare to the blueberries in Cape Breton.
  7. Canadian beer and wine: in Nova Scotia there is a wine appellation called Tidal Bay. It’s located close to where I went to university. The wine is gorgeous. Once, a sparkling wine called (Benjamin Bridge) Nova 7 beat out actual, expensive champagne at a tasting I attented in Toronto. It’s that good. The beer in Ireland is great, so I don’t miss Canadian beer that much; just certain kinds.
  8. Homestyle baking: I know I do a lot of Cape Breton-style baking here in Ireland, but I miss other people’s baking. Namely from the cafes I mentioned previously, my aunties and older people from around my community.

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Speaking of homestyle baking, I especially love East Coast scones. Large, triangular, sweet with a crunchy sugar or glazed topping, scones in Cape Breton are indulgent – often made for sharing – and perfect with a cup of strong tea.

I whipped up these maple walnut scones with another nostalgic food in mind – ice cream! I love the ice cream at home. It’s not soft serve like a 99 here in Ireland, it’s hard and comes in a million and a half flavours; one of my favourites being maple walnut.

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No need for butter and jam on these scones. The glaze is thick enough to ensure the right amount of sweetness in each bite, and the walnuts are toasted in the oven and then soaked in maple syrup. Perhaps most importantly, the flavour is nostalgic enough to get me through to my next visit home.

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Maple Walnut Scones

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups/375g Plain Flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g light brown sugar

1/2 cup/125g cold butter, cubed

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup/250ml cold buttermilk

For the glaze:

2 cups/500g Icing Sugar

1 tsp vanilla or maple extract

3 Tbsp good quality maple syrup

Splash of heavy cream

Toasted walnuts, soaked in maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Line one or two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and cold, cubed butter.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut/rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the centre of the butter/dry ingredient mixture.
  • In a large measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or just using your hands (your best pastry tool!) mix the wet into the dry until just combined (mixture should be on the wet side – if it’s dry and crumbly add more buttermilk!).
  • On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and knead lightly for one minute. Form into a ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using more flour for dusting and a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thick rectangle (you want to get 8-10 scones out of this dough at most). At least 1.5 inches thick.
  • Cut the rectangle into 8-10 smaller rectangles or triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar over each scone.
  • Bake the scones for 20-ish minutes. Let cool slightly on a rack.
  • Make the glaze: in a mixing bowl, combine the icing sugar, maple syrup, maple extract (or vanilla) and about a tablespoon of heavy cream. You want the glaze to be thick, but still be able to drizzle it over the scones. If the glaze is too thick for your liking, loosen it up with a bit more cream.
  • Dunk the tops of each scone in the glaze, or spoon the glaze over each scone allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Top with toasted maple walnuts. Allow glaze to set slightly before eating (if you can wait that long).
  • The scones will keep no longer than two days, so make sure you eat them right away!

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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

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I got the recipe for these sweet bites from a familiar source: the Middle River Hospital Auxiliary’s Cookbook, published in the year 2000, to raise funds and also commemorate my tiny Cape Breton community.

When I say tiny, I mean minuscule. I come from a minuscule place. The valley where I grew up stretches out over a wide expanse of land, but is so sparsely populated you wouldn’t even know you were driving through a community. That is, save for the “Welcome to Middle River” sign that greets travelers as they zoom down the side of the mountain.

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Yes, the name of my community is Middle River. Because of the river running through the middle of it. Not the most creative of names, but I don’t think my ancestors were too concerned with place names as they got to know the local Aboriginal tribe, felled trees, dug massive stones out of the earth to make fields, built log homes and scary makeshift bridges and tried not to get scurvy during the long, cold winter.

They were just a touch busy.

Back then, women would have to wait for weeks on end for peddlers to come visit and sell them the things they could not make. Sugar, tea, pots & pans – the peddlers would trek on horse or by foot and the families they visited would feed them and put them up for the night. They brought not only house and farm-wares, but news and stories, too. In such a remote place, their visits were always eagerly anticipated.

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It’s not so difficult to get sugar now, although you still can’t get any in Middle River (we don’t have a grocery store). You need to hop in your car and drive for 20 minutes to the town of Baddeck. Still, no biggie. Most people have to go there for work and school, anyway.

So getting back to this Millennium Cookbook and these tasty little squares. In the book, this recipe is called “Yum-Yum Squares”. I find it a little bit vague, however true the statement. So we’ll break it down into it’s delicious components and call them, for the sake of clarity, Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares.

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I should also confess at this point, just in case someone from home, with the same cookbook, is reading this. I messed with the recipe. Like – a lot. There was initially no coffee in these squares. It was just walnut and meringue. But hear me out:

There’s a popular type of cake in Ireland called a coffee cake. I know what you’re thinking – “We have coffee cake in Canada, too, dummy.” Well, no we don’t; not like they have here.

In Ireland, coffee cake is literally flavoured with coffee. It also consists of two layers of moist, dense, buttery cake and chopped walnuts. The majority of the coffee flavouring is in the buttercream, which is delicious. This flavour combination makes me really happy, which is why I added the coffee to these squares.

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Aside from adding coffee to the mix, I also upgraded the amount of walnuts in the recipe by about a bazillion. There are now chopped, toasted walnuts in each layer, as well as a generous sprinkling on top. Lots of crunch and nutty flavour result.

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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

Ingredients:

1st layer:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

2nd layer:

2 egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tbsp instant coffee granules

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

3rd layer:

1/3 cup crushed walnuts (don’t toast these – they’ll toast in the oven while baking)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan) and line a small cookie/baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
  • Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix. Add the flour, salt & baking powder. Mix until just combined. Fold in the toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the dough onto the lined cookie sheet and gently press down with your fingers until the dough is evenly spread out along the bottom.
  • This time using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar until soft peaks are reached. Add the vanilla & coffee granules. Gradually add the superfine sugar while continuing to whisk. When stiff, glossy peaks are formed, your meringue is ready. Gently fold in toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the meringue mixture evenly over the cookie dough base. Top with the remaining, untoasted crushed walnuts.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Check after 30, if you have a hot oven the walnuts on top may brown too quickly. If this happens, just place a sheet of tin foil over the top until the base is fully baked.
  • Allow to cool completely before portioning into squares or bars.

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Stilton, Pear & Walnut Galette

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It’s February 6th, and my month of paleo is officially over. How did I do?

I don’t know how much weight I lost because we don’t have a scale in our house, but my jacket zips up now when it didn’t before (well, not since I had Maeve). My pre-pregnancy jeans that I bought ages ago at Old Navy are feeling a bit LOOSE – last month, by comparison, I was barely able to squeeze into them. I don’t look in the mirror and notice a significant change, but I think by next month I might.

Yup, we’re going to make this an official lifestyle change. No bread, no grains or legumes, no refined flours or sugars will be allowed in our house. I still cheat a little – we’ve made tweaks to the paleo diet that work for us. Saturdays are fair game for whatever we want to eat, for example, and we’ll have a bottle of wine or a few beers on a Saturday as well. I still eat oats for breakfast. And I still bake regularly.

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That’s my downfall, you see, because I don’t want to bake things that are paleo friendly. This is not a paleo blog. And I like to bring goodies when I meet up with my mommy friends that are indulgent and fun (although I do throw in a healthy muffin or two to the mix). That is when the majority of my cheating happens.

I don’t mind, though. I think those small cheats are a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of sugar, fat, grain and gluten I’ve given up and I have been feeling amazingly good lately. Like, healthy and full of energy. Pushing the buggy no longer tires me out. I’ve been walking home from downtown instead of taking the bus. I bought a new pair of sneakers (my first pair in over six years) and have forgotten how good it feels to walk in a comfortable pair of footwear.

So, we’re stickin’ with this lifestyle change even though I sometimes just want a sandwich for lunch.

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Or this tart…

I mean, galette (getting fancy here).

What is a galette? Well, I’ve already said it. It’s basically a fancy tart. There are some differences in galettes depending on where you’re from (French galettes and French Canadian galettes are different, the former being more of a cake or buckwheat crepe and the latter, more of an open-faced, rustic tart) but I tend to stick with the basic shortcrust version. It’s a great tart to make with leftover fruit that’s about to go off if you have a bit of extra pastry hanging around.

I made this galette with pear (deliciously sweet and juicy pears are available right now), Stilton (which was on sale last week and looked too good to pass up) and walnuts – a classic combination. Combined with the flaky, slightly salty shortcrust pastry, it made cheating on my diet totally worth it.

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Stilton, Pear & Walnut Galette

Ingredients:

1 recipe shortcrust pastry (you can find my recipe here)

3 ripe pears (any type will do)

250 grams whole or roughly chopped walnuts

125 grams Stilton, or any good quality blue cheese

1 egg, lightly mixed

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • Line a baking tray with parchment
  • Roll out shortcrust pastry to about 1/8 of an inch thickness and roll into a rough circular shape (if you want neat lines, use a pizza cutter to make a proper circle by cutting the rough edges)
  • Transfer the pastry circle to the lined baking tray
  • Peel and slice the pear, then spread the pieces out over the pastry (leaving about 1 1/2 inches at the edges, for folding)
  • Crumble the blue cheese over the pear slices, then top with the walnuts
  • Take the pastry edges and fold up and over the filling, making a raised edge. The majority of the filling will remain uncovered
  • Mix one egg in a bowl and lightly brush the egg over the crust
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is browned and bubbly
  • Serve warm with a side salad (also makes a great dessert)

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Rocket & Walnut Pesto

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The glorious weather remains! While I can’t help but feel sorry for my Canadian brethren who continue to experience a less-than-ideal summer, I’m also kind of glad to have escaped the country in time for Ireland’s best summer in… how long has it been? I feel like I’ve been hearing about awful summers, full of rain and cold temperatures, since Patrick and I first met over five years ago. The Irish deserve this weather, and I’m glad I get to experience it, too.

When picturing my first summer in Ireland I may not have envisioned endless beach weather, but I did anticipate at least a day or two of sunshine a week. With that in mind, one of our first big purchases upon moving into our little house in Waterford was a BBQ and patio set (complete with umbrella; a good move on my part). I don’t feel homesick in Ireland – I’m surrounded by family and a culture very similar to the one I grew up with, so I’m very comfortable here – but there are a few things every Canadian needs in their life during the summer, regardless of the weather. Those things are a BBQ and an outdoor space fit for relaxing on nice evenings. Now that we have those things, I’m content.

Needless to say, with this weather we’ve been grilling all week. I’m loathe to turn on the oven, so the most I do for dinner indoors is a quick pasta or sauté to accompany our grilled proteins.

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For Canada Day you might recall I made a pasta salad with a pesto made from the rocket in my garden. Well, I had so much rocket I was able to make enough pesto to last the whole summer (in covered ice cube trays in the freezer – the perfect portion every time!).

Last night we grilled chicken that had been marinating in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. To accompany the chicken, I sautéed some diced onion, garlic and seeded, diced tomato (not canned), wilted some spinach into the mixture and tossed it all with cooked spaghetti before adding a splash of chicken stock, a knob of butter and a few tablespoons of pesto.

Topped with freshly grated grana padano it was the perfect accompaniment to the chicken and we dined al fresco for the third time this week, enjoying the amazing summer evening.

This pesto is a cinch to make in a food processor, but you can also make it in a blender or plain ol’ mortar and pestle. The food processor gives the best consistency – if you like a completely smooth pesto, go with the blender and if you like it really chunky make it by hand.

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Rocket & Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

3 bunches fresh rocket (about 2 bags from the grocery store)

1 wedge grana padano, finely grated (about 300 grams)

juice of two lemons

3 heaping tablespoons grainy mustard (or plain dijon)

200 g chopped walnuts

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • Assemble all of your ingredients so you have them right in front of you.
  • The best technique when making any kind of pesto is to blend the garlic, mustard, nuts, cheese and lemon juice into a chunky paste before adding anything green – that way you won’t over-blend the green stuff, which could cause it to discolour.
  • In the food processor or blender or mortar/pestle, blend the garlic, mustard, lemon juice, cheese and walnuts until they’re well combined and the nuts have broken down into a grainy paste.
  • Add the rocket (you may need to do this in batches if all the rocket won’t fit in the processor at one time, if that’s the case, cut the other ingredients in half and make two smaller batches of pesto to then mix together by hand). Make sure there’s an opening in the top of your blender or food processor, then start blending the rocket into the nut/cheese mixture. As you’re blending in the rocket, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. You’ll probably end up adding about 1/2 a cup to a cup of olive oil before it reaches the right consistency (thick and slightly chunky, able to hold it’s own shape).
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Use for pastas, salads, marinades or mix with mayo for sandwich spreads. Store in ice cube trays covered with plastic wrap and use as you need it.
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