Showing posts with label #Cruel Winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Cruel Winter. Show all posts

Friday, March 31, 2017

Apple Caramel Cake

Trolling for new recipes (always!) I came upon a lovely one in an Irish cookbook I’ve had for a while. One thing that appealed to me was that you start with a nice thick layer of caramel on the bottom, rather than a crust, and you pour batter over it and top with sliced fruit before baking.

The original recipe called for pears, but I had apples on hand so I used those. Butter, sugar, apples and cinnamon—yum! What could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. What I ended up with was a runny heap of brown goo. Tasted great—as a topping for ice cream, maybe. But it was not a cake! It was a mess.


The Disaster Version

But I am both stubborn and curious. Where had I gone wrong? Several places, as it turned out.

-- I failed to caramelize the butter and sugar sufficiently, so there was no real base and everything leaked all over the oven (always put a pan under whatever you bake!).

-- The recipe just said four pears  but said nothing about their size. I think Irish pears must be smaller than apples, so when the recipe called for grating one apple and adding it to the batter, I put in a lot of very juicy apple. One more strike against the poor cake, lying in a sad puddle.

But I persevered! Self, I said, make sure you get the caramel right, cut back on the amount of apple (and use a kind more appropriate for cooking—not all apples are), and bake it as long as you need to (the original instructions were a little vague about that too). When it comes time to unmold it, pray to the kitchen gods.

It worked!



APPLE CARAMEL CAKE
Adapted from The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson (2003)


Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 apples, peeled and cored

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil


Instructions:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap a 10-inch round springform pan with two layers of foil, to prevent leaking. (Only time I’ve seen this recommendation, but it’s a good one)

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar caramelize. Pour the caramel into the springform pan and set aside. (It makes a layer about 1/2-inch thick. Yes, you may lick the pan--after it cools!)




Coarsely grate one of the apples (I left the skin on—you’d never know it). Slice the remaining apples.


Grated apple
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil together. Stir in the shredded apple, Then stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. 




Pour the mixture over the caramel base and arrange the sliced apples on top (in circles or rows).




Bake for 1 hour or longer (mine baked for about an hour and a half), until the base bubbles and the apples are soft and lightly browned. (Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to make sure the batter is cooked inside.)

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then (carefully!) remove the sides of the pan.


Eureka!

Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5), available everywhere!


BTW, I've mentioned before that this book is loosely based on a real crime that took place in 1996. That crime lives on: the primary suspect (never arrested) is now suing the Irish police for framing him and concealing information--it was in the Irish news just this week. The Irish take crime seriously!

www.sheilaconnolly.com




Friday, March 24, 2017

Lamb Fillet with Cabbage and Mushrooms

I know, it’s a week past St. Patrick’s Day, But it’s an Irish recipe! And I liked it!

I like lamb. My parents liked lamb. I grew up eating lamb chops about once a week, although we weren't much into leg of lamb or even lamb stew (which I now make regularly). I know there are people who don't like the taste of lamb, and it's hard to find in stores.

When I came across this very Irish recipe, it sounded good to me. Problem was, I have no idea what a lamb fillet is. However, my market has recently started carrying what they call a butterflied leg of lamb (no bone), which is about the right weight and size. It’s from Australia, don’t ask me why. But it’s a lovely piece to work with, nice and tender, and easy to cook.


Roast Fillet of Lamb with Cabbage and Mushrooms (suggested by Clare Connery in Irish Cooking, 1996)

Ingredients:

1 lamb fillet, about one pound, 

trimmed of most of its fat
vegetable oil for frying
1 small green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
4 oz butter
4 oz unsmoked bacon, diced (I used salt pork)
6 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (while wild mushrooms would be nice, there are quite a few interesting domestic varieties available in markets now—pick a flavorful variety, not the white kind)
2 oz red wine
2 Tblsp port or sherry
salt and pepper

Instructions:


Season the lamb fillet with salt and pepper.




Heat a small amount of oil in a roasting pan and sautee the meat (briefly) on all sides to sear it.

Finish cooking the lamb in an oven preheated to 425 degrees (hot!). Keep an eye on it. According to the original recipe, it should take 10-12 minutes to achieve medium-rare. That seemed kind of long to me, but it proved to be accurate for rare meat (which I like).

Remove the meat from the oven and keep warm.




Shredded (thank you, Cuisinart!)

Cooked

Boil the shredded cabbage until it is tender (if you've removed the coarse bits and shredded it finely, this shouldn't take long). Drain it and toss in half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.






In another pan, melt the remaining butter and fry the diced bacon until lightly browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until they release their juices. Keep warm. (I hope you have a big kitchen, because by now you have three pans you're supposed to be keeping warm.)


Deglazing the pan
Retrieve the roasting pan with the lamb. Set the lamb on a plate (and keep it warm!) and pour off the excess fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the wine and port. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add this to the other pan with the mushrooms and bacon. Taste the mixture for seasoning.

When you're ready to serve, warm your plates and divide the cabbage between them, making a pile in the center of each plate. You may cut the fillet of lamb into single chunks, or slice thinly and array over the cabbage pile (which is what I did). Scatter the mushrooms and bacon over the meat and cabbage, and pour the wine sauce over it all.





Eat quickly, while it's still warm! I added boiled potatoes to the plate as well.



With potatoes

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I had my doubts about using bacon and lamb in the same dish, but everything worked well together. There are a lot of mushrooms, not just a scattering, and that worked too. I think this is a keeper, as long as I can find the lamb.




Only a week old! Cruel Winter, the fifth book of the County Cork Mysteries.

The snow has melted in Cork, I'm told, but there was a major snowstorm in County Carlow this past week, south of Dublin. My grandmother was born in a very small townland in Carlow.

Find Cruel Winter at Amazon (my apologies that the pub date of the ebook seems to keep migrating around there, but the print version is on sale!) and Barnes & Noble (likewise on sale there). 

And take a look at my updated website www.sheilaconnolly.com, which now includes a blog where I will ramble on about my Irish cottage when the spirit moves me.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sweetlips

Betcha that title caught your eye, eh?

Blame it on the fish department at our supermarket: they slipped in a fish I’d never heard of. Yup, Sweetlips. 



Sweetlips, aka Plechtorhinchus, is a genus of grunts (oh, this just keeps getting better), which tends to live on coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific (Indonesia). They like to hang out with each other, or with other fish. One cool fact: their coloring and patterning change throughout their lives (google the images—there are some wonderful ones). Sounds like a pretty, friendly fish—with big fleshy lips.

[Note: most of the online articles cite their suitability for aquariums before considering them as food. Now I feel guilty about cooking it.]

But what was in the store was not a cute patterned fish with big lips, it was a mound of filets. Our favorite fish person did something smart: she sauteed a bunch with a marinade and handed out free bite-size samples. It tasted good! It’s a nice mild-flavored, slightly flaky fish, and holds together well when you cook it.



What the heck, we’re having sweetlips for dinner!


Sweetlip Filets with Asian Sauce

(this recipe should serve 4—as usual I cut it in half)

Ingredients:


2 lbs sweetlip filets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
3 Tblsp teriyaki sauce
2 Tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp brown sugar

Oil for frying

If you’re craving a bit of spice, you can thinly slice a red chile and add that at the end, or sliced scallions for color. I didn’t have a fresh chile on hand, so I added a dash of some kind of red pepper sauce (that name was the only English on the label!).

What the heck, it
might taste good!


Instructions:

Heat the oil in a sautee pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened.



Add the teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, ginger and sugar and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a little.



Add the fish filets to the pan (turn them in the pan to cover with the sauce), reduce the heat to low, and steam/simmer until the fish is cooked (the filets are thin, so it shouldn’t take long).



Garnish with the sliced chili and scallions if you’re using them. Serve with steamed rice and a green vegetable.






Eleven days and counting until the release of Cruel Winter, the fifth County Cork Mystery! (Will winter be over by then?)

What do you do when you're snowed in at a pub in Ireland? You talk, you drink, you make some music--and you solve an old murder.

Available for pre-order at Amazon ad Barnes and Noble. And still on sale!

www.sheilaconnolly.com

(And coming soon--a major update for my website!)




Friday, February 24, 2017

Almond Cheesecake Pound Cake

All right, I’ve been throwing a lot of weird vegetables at you lately (but I have to grab them when I see them at the store), so let’s go back to more familiar territory: cake (we here at MLK seem to be doing a lot of baking lately!). In this case, this is a recipe based on one I saw recently in our local paper, for a pound cake with a twist—it has cream cheese in it.



While the original recipe called for lemon flavoring, I decided to change it up a bit by substituting almond extract (Krista and I have to have a pound cake duel!).


Almond Cheesecake Pound Cake
(really needs a better name, doesn’t it?)

Ingredients:

3-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter,
at room temperature

1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room
temperature

2-3/4 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract


Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (Note: you really need a pan that holds about ten cups. While there’s not a lot of baking powder/soda in this recipe, it does rise a bit, and if you try to squeeze into a smaller pan, it may overflow. Or don’t fill your pan to the top.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

This is a vintage sifter I bought
at a flea market. Big enough for
just about any recipe!
In a stand mixer set on medium-high, cream the softened butter for 2 minutes. Add the softened cream cheese and beat for 2 minutes more.

Lots of butter!
Add the sugar in 3 additions, beating for after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl. When all the sugar is added, beat for 1 minute more.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing enough to blend (do not overbeat). Add the vanilla and almond extracts blend.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions.

All in
Scrape down the bowl and spoon the mixture into the baking pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

BTW, I weighed the batter--
it's more like five pounds!
Bake for 65-70 minutes in the middle of the oven (this is important: because it is a dense cake, the outside may begin to brown before the interior is cooked. If you’re concerned, cover the top loosely with a piece of foil and/or reduce the heat to 325 degrees). The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean and the cake shrinks a bit away from the sides of the pan.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn out on a wire rack and cool completely. (If you want to dress it up, you could add an almond glaze using butter, confectioner’s sugar and almond extract.)



This cake slices neatly and keeps well (good thing, too, because it’s big!)


Still counting the days until the release of Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5). 

Here's what the NY Journal of Books had to say about it:

"A crafty and marvelous twist to the classic whodunit... A totally captivating page-turner of a book, perfect for winter nights with a storm beating against the windows."


Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and still on sale at both).

www.sheilaconnolly.com





Friday, February 10, 2017

Rice

Catchy title, right?

Yup, that boring white stuff. Add water, cook, eat. Heck, if you buy instant rice, or rice in a bag, I’m not even sure you cook it these days. Maybe trendy home cooks have gotten into the more exotic varieties. I confess, I currently have jasmine, Arborio, Basmati, red, black, and brown rice in my pantry. Yes, I’ve cooked with them all.

But recently I saw a recipe in the New York Times Sunday magazine that surprised me. It seems there is something else you can do with rice. Who knew?

The author presented this in the context of a bigger recipe involving chicken, but it occurred to me that the rice part could stand alone quite nicely as a side dish for any number of other things. So I figured, why not try it? Warning: this is kind of labor-intensive for a side dish (mainly because you spend a lot of time stirring and waiting), especially if you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table. Maybe you can use it to jazz up some leftovers, if you have the time.

But hey, there's a blizzard today, so I might as well stir!

View from my window

A Different Rice



Ingredients:

2 cups jasmine rice (sorry, not just any old rice)
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock

Instructions:

Before
Add the plain rice (not rinsed—it has to be dry for this to work) to a dry sautee pan over medium-high heat and “dry-roast” it, stirring slowly and steadily until the rice turns golden and released a fragrant odor. This will take about 15 minutes (watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn!).

. . . and after
Remove the rice from the heat and let it cool (which will take a while—it’s hot!).

When it has cooled, place it in a food processor and pulse it until the rice is broken up into smaller bits (do not reduce it to powder!). It comes out looking kind of like Irish steel-cut oatmeal (but if you don’t know what that looks like, that won’t help).

Before

. . . and after
In a deep heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and the butter until the butter is melted. Add the chopped onion and cook slowly until it is translucent. Season it with salt and pepper.



Add the toasted ground rice to the pot and stir until the rice and onion are well mixed. Add enough chicken stock to cover the mixture and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is cooked through. (Sounds like risotto, right?) You may need to add more chicken stock along the way, if the mixture becomes too dry before the rice is cooked, but don’t overdo it—you want the rice to be sticky, not soupy. I found this took about twenty minutes.





And then let your imagination take over! It would be good alongside baked or braised chicken. Or toss in some left-over chicken or turkey pieces and heat through. Experiment! Different stocks, maybe? Add a chopped herb at the end?



Despite the work and time involved in making it, I enjoyed the end product. The rice still retained a slightly crunchy texture, and it had a nice nutty flavor. And this recipe makes plenty for left-overs, even though it started with only two cups of rice!


It's fitting to be talking about Cruel Winter while there's a blizzard raging outside...because there's a blizzard in Cruel Winter.

There's something kind of intimate about being trapped with both friends and strangers in a snowstorm--people may say unexpected things. And one of them might be a killer.

Coming March 14th. Available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and still on sale for 1/3 off at both!).