Showing posts with label Orchard Mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orchard Mysteries. Show all posts

Friday, October 20, 2017

Butter Tarts from Canada

This past weekend I attended the Bouchercon mystery writers conference in Toronto, Canada. I was told that this year the conference attracted 1,700-plus writers, readers and fans, and we were all kept very busy with panels and parties and meetings and just plain talking.

View from my hotel window
I had never been to Canada before, and I confess I did no research about Toronto, other than figuring out where it was in the country. I had no idea what the city had to offer (and not a lot of time to explore it). But one thing I hadn’t expected was to find so much great food!

Yes, I had to try poutine (I had a variety with lobster, but I’m not a convert to poutine yet), and I had an amazing dish with octopus (unexpected!), but most important, I found a new dessert: butter tarts. Apparently this is one of Canada’s favorites desserts, but I’d never heard of it. Still, how can you go wrong with a dessert that has butter in its name?

I looked up recipes. Lots of recipes. They’re all different. But it boils down to a small pie crust shell filled with gooey sweet stuff, both made with lots of butter. Apparently there is some controversy over whether the gooey middle should be firm or runny. My version came out runny, but you can dunk the crust into it. If you’re pie-crust challenged (as I am), I give you permission to buy frozen mini-tart shells if you can find them—making the filling is easy.

Canadian Butter Tarts


2-1/2 cups pastry flour
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (cold and cut in cubes)
1/2 cup butter (cold and cut in cubes)
ice water as needed to hold dough together

In a food processor pulse the butter and shortening with the flour, sugar and salt, until pieces are pea-sized.

Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and pulse between, until the dough just holds together. (Do not overmix).

Shape into two rounds, about 1" thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the dough and cut into 4-inch rounds. Fit into 3-inch muffin cups (no greasing necessary), and put the muffin tins back in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling. 

This amount of dough should make enough to fill 12 standard muffin cups. The crust will be about 1/4-inch thick and rise just a bit over the top edge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while you make the filling.


1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants, nuts, or chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. 

Fill the lined cups about 2/3 full.

Ready to bake

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges of the crust begin to brown and the filling has puffed up a bit (it will sink back again as it cools).


Cool on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tins.

Gooey! (And delicious)
Oh, that's right--there's another book of mine coming out in a few weeks (November 7th, to be precise): A Late Frost, the eleventh in the Orchard Mystery series. Maybe Meg and Seth thought winter would be peaceful--nothing that needed doing in Meg's orchard, and most people don't want to start house renovation project in the middle of winter, so Seth's business was quiet. 

But of course that didn't last: town newcomer Monica Whitman is found dead the evening after Granford's new winter festival that she helped to plan, and nobody knew her well enough to guess why. It should be no surprise that Meg ends up involved in trying to figure out what happened--she remembers what it was like to be the new kid in Granford.

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Almost No Apple

(Otherwise known as Haddock in Cider)

All right, enough with the curry and the apples. Except, well, I’m trying to wean myself from all things apple, in case I ever run out, and this is sort of a step in that direction. No, there are no apples in this recipe, but there is hard cider. One step at a time.

Haddock seems to be plentiful this year for some reason, so we’ve been eating a lot of it—fresh and local, never frozen. So I had haddock on hand, and, wonder of wonders, I also had cider (left over from a recent visit from relatives). The rest was easy! this is a quick and simple recipe that combines some interesting flavors.

Oh, and it’s adapted from an Irish cookbook. I’m getting palate in training for my next trip to West Cork, just over a month away.



2 Tblsp flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 haddock (or similar firm white fish) fillets

2 Tblsp minced shallots
Sprigs of fresh thyme

4 slices lemon
1-1/4 cups (hard) cider
1 Tblsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an ovenproof baking dish.

In a shallow bowl (or pie pan), combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dip the fish fillets in the mix and place in the buttered dish.

Sprinkle with the shallots and thyme. 

Place the lemon slices on top, then pour the cider over the fish and dot with butter.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillets), or until the fish is flaky.

Remove the pan from the oven and preheat the broiler. Remove the foil from the pan and place the dish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the fish is lightly browned. 

Serve with rice or noodles.

Just to change things up a little, here's an early sketch of what became the cover for A Late Frost. It's fun to see the process!

A Late Frost will be released on November 7th.

Available now for preorder from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

And if you happen to be at the mystery conference Boucheron in Toronto, grab me and say hello!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chicken Apple Curry

I’m on a roll, now that I’ve discovered how simple it is to make curry powder. But my apples keep coming (I know, I shouldn’t complain), and I just made the lamb curry, so I thought, aha! Chicken Curry. But I needed a recipe that included apples, so I went a-hunting again.

My first discovery was that chicken curry recipes are much more diverse than lamb ones (I suppose a lot of people don’t like lamb, or can’t find it in their local stores). A quick scan of Epicurious produced Thai chicken, Malaysian chicken, Siamese chicken, Javanese chicken, and coconut chicken. Actually there are a couple of good Thai restaurants around where I live, and I do like Thai food, but I was trying to compare apples to . . . you know.

I did like the last curry mix, but it seemed almost timid. (I’m never been convinced that you can taste a quarter-teaspoon of any spice in a dish that serves four or six people—unless it’s cayenne pepper.) So I dialed up the ingredients just a bit, and since I figured that apples are just a bit sweet, I added cloves. Still, you’ll notice the similarities.

Curried Chicken with Apples


Note: This recipe serves four, but as usual I cut the recipe in half for the two of us, and that's what you see in the pictures.) 

1 Tblsp butter

2 Tblsp neutral oil
4 boneless chicken breasts, skinned (I happen to like the skin, but I did bone the chicken)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
curry powder:
1 Tblsp ground coriander
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cloves 
salt and pepper

2 apples, diced (or one large apple: I used one Northern Spy from my tree, and it was a big one. Here’s a description of the variety:

Northern Spy apples are a very late season, large and stout apple with carmine red skin married with streaks of yellow and pale green. Its tender-crisp flesh is creamy yellow and juicy. It imparts a bit of a tartness in its bite, but more of a cider-quality flavor with hints of pear and sweetness. Originated in New York state around 1800.

It holds its shape well in cooking too.

1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups chicken stock


Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and brown on both sides, then set aside.

Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and sautee until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the curry powder.

Add the apples and raisins to the skillet and toss to distribute the spices, then return the chicken to the skillet. Add enough chicken broth to cover.

Cover the skillet and simmer at low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Place the chicken on a platter and keep warm, and simmer the liquid/fruit mixture until the fruit it soft and the liquid thickens. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Serve on white rice, with the sauce spooned over the dish.

Coming November 7th! Available for pre-order!

One reason that I decided to use the Northern Spy variety for this dish is because it is late to ripen and keeps well--so Meg could have brought her own Northern Spys to the WinterFare event in A Late Frost.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Looking for Lamb Curry

The days are getting shorter, and the temperature is slowly falling (at least at night) and I wanted to find a recipe--any recipe!--that didn't involve apples. We had a nice piece of leftover lamb in the fridge, and then I recalled an amazing lamb Korma I used to get for take-out lunches when I worked in Philadelphia, so I thought I'd give curry a try.

As I've said before, as I child I was a very cautious eater. I didn't trust onions or garlic, and I wouldn't even tolerate a sprinkle of black pepper on my food. Forget about sauces! (But I was okay with most vegetables, and I never had a problem with desserts!)

When I got braver as an adult, I started collecting cookbooks and experimenting, but it is no doubt significant that while I have Greek and Asian and Mexican cookbooks, among many others, I never considered getting an Indian cookbook. 

After a few years I discovered a brand of pre-mixed curry powder that I liked (translation: not too spicy!), and I figured that would do, and I use it regularly.

But . . . I read the list of ingredients on the curry container, and realized I had all the individual ingredients in my pantry. (I can't resist buying weird spices, although I haven't figured out a use for galengal yet.) Why not bite the bullet and start from scratch?

Of course, this was a little naive on my part, since no two curry recipes, packaged or home-made, are alike. So I tinkered. I knew what flavors I like, and I ignored a few others, and came up with something that worked (as well as you could expect from an Irish girl!). Note: Indian curries seem to fall into two main categories: spices only, or spices plus something creamy like Greek yoghurt. I decided to start simple. I'll save the coconut milk and cream for another day, while I fine-tune my own spice recipe.

My Very Own Lamb Curry

2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
3 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp minced green chile (you choose how hot!)

1 Tblsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
dash of ground cloves (optional)
2 Tblsp water

2 pounds cubed lamb (about 4 cups)
1 tsp salt

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, fry the sliced onions in the oil until they begin to brown around the edges.  Add the garlic, ginger and green chile and stir for one minute.

Garlic and ginger
Mix the ground spices with the water to form a thin paste, then add to the onion mixture. Stir briefly until the spice mixture is evenly distributed.

Add the lamb and salt and saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the lamb is cooked through (but not too long or it will get tough), about 10-15 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if you wish.

Serve over white rice.

Easy, right? And tasty. I'm thinking you could mix the dry spices together and keep them in a sealed jar until you're in the mood for Indian flavors. And feel free to experiment with whatever spices you have handy!

Coming soon! (November 7th, to be exact.) Yes, there are recipes in this book, but no curry.

You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, September 22, 2017

How We Cook and Apple Ginger Cake

So I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to pry my eyes open and reading the paper, when I stumbled on a foodie article by Janelle Nanosin in the Boston Globe. Mainly it was about millennials and cookware, but she also commented on how millennials look at food and how they prepare it. What caught my eye was her statement, "The species [i.e., millennials] shop at Whole Foods and order meal kits from Blue Apron, scan for recipe ideas, and then document dishes on social media." 

We here at MLK probably have well over a century of cooking experience among us. I shop at Whole Foods when I'm near one, but I've never ordered a meal kit from anywhere, nor had I ever heard of (Okay, we do all talk about food on social media.) I'm more likely to look for ideas on Epicurious, which in comparison to Food52 seems kind of stodgy.

So I took a peek at Food52. Oh my--they promise nearly 3,000 apple recipes. The recipes overall are a bit edgier than those on Epicurious, with a broader range of ingredients and more foreign dishes. They certainly look interesting, but . . .  What? Are we stuck in the past with our mothers' cookbooks (guilty as charged--I've been known to give you recipes here that are a couple of centuries old)? Not that I'm against trying new ingredients and ways to combine them, but there were a few examples of Food52 that kind of pushed my limits. Polenta with sausage and apples? Quinoa salad with hazelnuts, apples and cranberries? Definitely a lot of creativity here, but I'm not sure I want to make them (I might try one if I saw it on a restaurant menu, though).

But my apple crop is at its peak and we're eating as many as we can straight off the tree, so I found a cake recipe that combines apples and ginger (powdered and fresh), both favorites. And of course I changed a few things, starting with the apple varieties. The original recipe called for a hearty dose of dark rum, which I don't happen to have, so I swapped in Irish whiskey.

The result? The cake worked (came out of the pan easily), and has a nice balance of flavors. I loved the buried layer of apples which peek out. It's a little more complicated than some apple cake recipes, but it's a bit more interesting. 

Apple Ginger Cake

3 large firm apples (or four smaller ones)

4 Tblsp turbinado sugar*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for 
     greasing the pan and sauteeing the apples

*A note about turbinado sugar: it’s raw sugar made from pure cane sugar extract. You can substitute demerara sugar, which is easier to find in markets–that's basically the same but with coarser but more uniform crystals.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (if you know yours leaks, wrap the bottom outside with foil).

Core and peel the apples and cut into thin slices. Melt about 2 Tblsp of butter in a saucepan and cook until it begins to brown. Add the apple slices to the pan and stir until all the slices are covered with butter. 

Sprinkle about 2 Tblsp of turbinado sugar over the apples and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tblsp lemon zest (1 medium lemon)
1 Tblsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp molasses
3 Tblsp Irish whiskey
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yoghurt

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Dry ingredients in my vintage sifter

In a stand mixer with the paddle blade, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the two eggs and beat. Then add the lemon zest, ground ginger, molasses, whiskey and vanilla (the mixture may look curdled, but don’t worry).

By hand, stir in the flour mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition. When the batter is smooth, fold in the milk and the yoghurt and combine thoroughly.

Scrape half the batter into the buttered pan. Cover with the apple slices, then spread the rest of the batter over the top. Smooth the top, then sprinkle with the rest of the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a racks, and run a knife around the edge to loosen. The open the springform ring and remove the cake. Let it cool on the rack. 

You can serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Less than two months until the release of A Late Frost! (Yes, the cover image looks just like my apple crop--well, almost.)

Available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.