Showing posts with label County Cork Mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label County Cork Mysteries. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pear and Ginger Crumble

What, no cake? Well, it's still a dessert. One must be careful of withdrawal symptoms.



I found this recipe in a recent newspaper, and immediately I started tweaking. Hmm, pears and ginger—that sounds promising. Kinda early in the year for juicy fresh pears, but whatever—there are plenty of pears in the market. I like ginger. I have plenty.

The original recipe called for chopped nuts. I'm not wild about nuts, and I didn't like the combination of nuts suggested with the pear and other flavors. Axe the nuts. I swapped in candied ginger, which I do like. Adds an interesting texture to the crumble on top.

The suggested oven setting of 375 degrees seemed a little high—the top gets brown long before the pears get soft. I cut it down to 350 degrees and baked it longer.


Pear-Ginger Crumble

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-square baking pan (or any pan which would hold the same amount—a ten-inch round pan would do).

Crumb Topping



1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
5 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped into 1/4-inch bits

In a bowl, whisk the flour, granulated and brown sugars, salt, and nutmeg to blend them. Add the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the diced ginger and toss to combine.



Pear Filling

6 pears (enough to make about 
five cups of filling), peeled, quartered,
cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp honey
1 Tblsp grated fresh ginger

In a bowl, combine the pears, orange and lemon juices, honey, and ginger and toss. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the crumbs.




Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and the pears are tender. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.



Sure and it's not Saint Paddy's day yet, but here at MLK we'll be havin' a guest on the day next week, and my book's comin' out on Tuesday next, so I'd better be offerin' the giveaway to yiz now. Tell me what's your favorite Irish dish in a comment (with your email, más é do thoil é--that'd be "please") and I'll be drawing the name of the lucky winner out of a hat!


"Move over, Agatha Christie: a pub owner in County Cork fancies herself a young Miss Marple... A fine read in the classic style."
Kirkus Reviews

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan's small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn't sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan's Pub. But now she's stranded in a bar full of patrons—and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder.

Maura's been in Ireland less than a year and hasn't heard about the decades-old unsolved crime that took place nearby, let alone the infamous suspect, Diane Caldwell. But the locals have, and they're not happy to be trapped with her. Diane, meanwhile, seeks to set the record straight, asserting her innocence after all this time. And since no one is going anywhere in the storm, Maura encourages Diane to share her side of the story, which she'd never had a chance to do in court.

Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan's reviews the facts and theories about the case—and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

www.sheilaconnolly.com


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 17, 2017

Celery Root Remoulade

Do you watched the show Chopped on the Food Network? That’s the one where four contestants are handed mystery baskets of food items and told to make something yummy in twenty minutes. The results are judged by a panel of food critics and restauranteurs. In case you’re wondering where the hook is, the ingredients can by as weird and wonderful as marshmallows, pickles, frogs legs and peanut butter—and all of them must be used in the same dish. It’s cruel fun to watch the contestant cooks panic, but I must say I get a lot of ideas there.

I hold my own Chopped challenge at home. It’s been snowing around here a lot lately (oh, look, there it goes again), and I really don’t want to go to the local store because I don’t happen to have a lemon or six eggs. So I challenge myself: what can I make using only ingredients in my fridge, freezer or pantry?

What do I have now? Frozen mussels and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. A pair of quinces. A celery root. Some parsnips. A number of spices I can’t even identify, and at least a dozen kinds of salt. All the staples, of course—sugar, flour, butter, eggs, milk. Six kinds of rice, and as many kinds of pasta. Surely there’s a dish waiting to be made somewhere in there?

This is a celery root. Ugly, isn't it?
But somebody tried really hard to make
it sound appealing

Celery root seems to be the prime candidate—you know, that gnarly thing that stays underground while that cluster of nice green stalks rises above it. However, I wanted to skip the obvious choices like puree of celery root, or celery root soup, or celery root gratin, some of which involve combining the celery root with potatoes or even apples. Trolling through Epicurious, I came upon an old recipe from Gourmet magazine that involved celery root and sea scallops. Sorry no scallops, I don’t have any scallops on hand. But I do have a nice filet of fresh (never-frozen) American-caught haddock, which is a sturdy white fish. Bingo. Swap in the haddock for the scallops, and the celeriac goes into a pungent remoulade sauce—for which I actually have all the ingredients!

Haddock with Celery Root Remoulade

Remoulade Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow pepper
1 Tblsp capers, drained and chopped
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
1 Tblsp chopped shallot
1 Tblsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1-1/2 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1-lb celery root (aka celeriac)

Fish filets
Olive oil for sautéeing


Instructions:

Chop whatever needs chopping;



Mix together the sauce ingredients and season with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be made ahead and kept chilled.)

Sorry, it's still ugly

Peel the celery root (they’re lumpy critters!) and cut into matchsticks (okay, get real—I am not going to slice this thing into 1/8-inch sticks—I’ll settle for maybe 1/4-inch thickness). Add to the sauce and toss (taste for seasoning again and add salt and pepper if needed).



Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the fish filet(s) until they’re cooked through. (I’ll admit, haddock seems to flake apart when you’re cooking it, so it doesn’t look very tidy.)



Serve on a plate with a mound of the remoulade alongside, and some kind of starch—I used pearl or Israeli couscous. Oops, everything on the plate seems to be white. Blame it on the snow.





As you can guess from the cover and the title, Cruel Winter takes place during a snowstorm. Don't worry--snow doesn't hang around in Ireland for very long. In this case, it's just long enough to solve an old murder. Maybe.

Coming March 14. You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And after March 14 I hope you can find it everywhere!

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!).






Friday, February 3, 2017

Atholl Brose

It seems that Scottish poet Robert Burns’ birthday was last week. You know, the one who wrote one of my favorite quotations:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!


This is a date that is important to the people of Scotland, and some celebrate it each year with a Burns’ Night supper.

Atholl Brose

As it happens, I have a college friend who has lived in Scotland much of her life since college. We drifted apart for a while (decades!), then reconnected at a gathering a few years ago, and now we’re FB friends. We compare notes on the size of appliances in the UK and Ireland versus the U.S., and how to heat very old buildings and the like.

Haggis
On Burns’ birthday, she mentioned that she was making haggis. You may relax, dear readers, for I do not plan to make anything that involves finding a sheep’s stomach and stuffing it with the sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. But she also mentioned making “athole brose” as a part of the celebration. Of course I had to ask, what the heck is that?

It’s a very Scottish alcoholic beverage that includes only four ingredients: oats, water, honey, and whisky. Easy to make. Think of it as Scotch eggnog.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve read that the “Atholl” part refers to whoever first popularized the drink, and “brose” is kind of a porridge involving oats. Anyway, I persuaded my friend to give me her recipe, and it’s very flexible.


Atholl Brose





First, in the morning or even night before, you soak a good 2 cups of oatmeal (rather than rolled oats, but they will work too) in about 4 cups of cold water; stir every now and then. You find the oats eventually exude a thick extract.



When you are ready to start making the brose, strain the liquid into a glass/measuring jug. 



Take about a pint of this oat water, add about a pint of thick cream, and about a cup of runny honey. Stir, and add more honey to taste if you wish. 



Then add about half a cup of whisky; that's just for the mild base. When you’re serving it, you can add more whisky to taste! 



I ended up with two quarters of atholl brose. Of course, I used Irish oats and Irish whiskey, and County Cork has plenty of cattle producing a lot of cream. I will say that the honey you choose, wherever it comes from, has a significant effect on the flavor of the drink, so pick a honey whose flavor you like, or pick one with a pleasant neutral flavor.

I’m not sure what the shelf-life for this stuff is (or maybe nobody expects it to last long!). I’d keep it in the refrigerator, to be safe, and you may need to shake it up a bit before you pour.

I’ll leave you with the Scottish toast to your health, slàinte, which looks a whole lot like the Irish version, sláinte. But what’s an accent between friends?


And may I add that this week saw St. Bridget's Day in Ireland? She doesn't get the attention that St. Patrick does, but she was a busy woman anyway: she was the patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, boatmen, cattle farmers, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children's fathers, Clan Douglas, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, Ireland, Leinster, mariners, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, poultry raisers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, travelers, and watermen. Good person to have on your side! 

Tradition has it that the ewes in Ireland are about to produce spring lambs--would that I were there! But in Cruel Winter you can join Maura Donovan at Sullivan's Pub, where she and several other people--staff, friends and strangers--are snowed in for a long night--and they solve an old murder.


Cruel Winter, coming March 14th (before St. Patrick's Day!), and available for pre-order at Amazon (where it's on sale for 1/3 off at the moment, but I don't know for how long) and Barnes and Noble (for the same discounted price).

www.sheilaconnolly.com