Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lemon Cake with Passion Fruit Syrup

I should just stay away from that one display in my local market. You know, the one where they put all the exotic and unusual fruits and vegetables. You readers of MLK have already been introduced to several of them, but the pesky store just keeps adding more. This time it was passion fruit.

I can’t remember ever eating passion fruit. I certainly haven’t cooked with it. I have no idea what it tastes like—tart? sweet? tangy? I don’t know how to tell if it’s ripe or not. I don’t know what it should look like—smooth and shiny or wrinkled?

So why on earth am I using it here? Curiosity, pure and simple. Isn’t that what motivates both mystery writers and readers? The “what if . . .” Maybe passion fruit will rock my world. I won’t know until I try.

I don’t think you’re supposed to eat it on its own, so I needed something to pour it over somehow. I wanted something lemony-flavored. Couldn’t find any recipes online that sounded right, so I defaulted to one of my long-time friendly cookbooks, Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells, and found a lemon cake recipe there that made its debut appearance here in MLK in 2015.

But of course I changed it up. I didn’t want two whole loaf cakes, I wanted small individual cakes, and I happen to have a lot of vintage small cake molds, which were about the right size, so I cut the recipe in half. And I cut back on the grated lemon rind a bit—I know, it gives a punchier flavor, but I wanted the passion fruit to stand out, not the lemon.

So here we go, plunging into the unknown world of passion (fruit)!

Passion Fruit Syrup

Okay, how do I get the passion fruit into my cake? I looked online, No two recipes seems to agree. What is the pulp? The gooey stuff with all those hard black seeds floating around in it? The much harder white stuff around the edges? Got me. So I took the simplest recipe and used whatever I could get out of the interior of my fruits. (Word of warning: the skin is really tough! I needed a serrated knife.)

Whole passion fruit

Sliced in half
Gunk scraped out (note black seeds)

Simmering syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup passion fruit pulp

Combine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture thickens. Strain! Chill in the refrigerator. (Note: another recipe I found said to puree in a blender with the seeds. I passed on that.)

Lemon Cake

Ingredients (full recipe--I used half):

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
5 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or substitute heavy cream)
7 Tblsp (3-1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
Grated zest of 4 lemons


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter your baking molds.

Combine the flour and baking powder.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and mix until well blended.

With the mixer at low speed, slowly add (in the following order): the crème fraîche, the flour mixture, the melted butter, the lemon juice, the vanilla, and the lemon zest. Beat until very smooth.

Scoop into your molds. (Mine held about one-quarter cup each, and I used an ice cream scoop. Do not overfill, because the batter does puff up in baking.) My pan holds eight, and a half-recipe of the above fit nicely. You could just as easily use a muffin tin. 

Place them in the center of the oven and bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean--about 20-25 minutes. (Keep an eye on them so they don’t get too brown.)

Remove the pans from the oven and cool in the pans on a rack.

The Big Finish

Place a small cake on a plate (slice a bit off the top, which will be the bottom, if it won’t sit flat).

Ladle some of the passion fruit syrup around the cake, kind of like a dunking pool (Heck, you can pour it all over the thing, once you decide you like the flavor.)

What did I think? The passion fruit definitely has a flavor of its own, and doesn’t taste like any other fruit I’ve tried. It’s a little tart, and definitely perfumey. I may experiment some more. (My husband expected it to taste like papaya, but once he’d tasted the syrup he said it didn’t.)

Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5), coming March 14 (but who's counting?).

There are no papayas growing in Ireland, as far as I know. And it's winter and snowing in the town of Leap, where a band of people get snowbound for a night in Sullivan's Pub. And solve an old murder, in the best Irish tradition: talking.

Kirkus Reviews said some really nice things about the book this week:

Move over, Agatha Christie: a pub owner in County Cork fancies herself a young Miss Marple. . . Connolly's (A Turn for the Bad, 2016, etc.) heroine clearly has a gift for solving mysteries, and the interesting characters she presents warts and all make for a fine read in the classic style. 

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Irish Pork Chops

by Sheila Connolly 

Now that the New England Crime Bake is over for another year (sigh), I’ve shifted to planning mode for my imminent trip to Ireland (more research, of course!). So you may be seeing a lot of Irish recipes from me (depending on Internet accessibility), or maybe wannabe Irish recipes. I cannot say often enough how much Irish food has improved since I first visited! (But I’d go over there anyway.)

Thanksgiving is looming, and somehow that holiday always demands a lot of cooking, for a lot of people (did I mention I’m leaving the country rather than face that?). So having a few quick and simple recipes on hand, for before and after, is a good idea. This is one of those.

And I get to put in a plug for my favorite Irish distillery, West Cork Distillers, in Union Hall/Skibbereen (Union Hall is what is says on the label, but I’ve visited where they make it in Skibbereen, a few miles away). It’s one of the newest in the country, with some pretty stiff competition, but they’re making really good stuff—yes, I’ve tested it—and the guys who run the place are even going to be in my next County Cork book (and not for their whiskey!).

For those of you who don’t know it well, Irish whiskey tastes a bit sweeter than Scotch (which is why I like it). But it won’t overpower a savory dish. Think of this as Irish sweet-and-sour pork.

Pork Chops with Lemon-Honey-Irish Whiskey Sauce

This recipe was originally intended to serve six, but I cut it in half. I did give the full measurements for the sauce, in case you want to spoon it over your side dishes.

3 boneless pork cutlets or bone-in pork chops (I like the bone-in ones for flavor, but the boneless ones make this dish quick and easy to prepare).

Salt and pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp minced shallot
1 tsp flour


1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup Irish whiskey
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tblsp honey
1 Tblsp lemon juice

1 Tblsp butter

Dry the meat with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the pork and cook until they are browned on the bottom (timing will depend on whether you’re using boneless chops, which cook quickly, and how thick they are—they should be slightly springy when you touch them, not stiff). Turn and brown the second side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.

Swirl the butter in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the shallot and a bit more salt and cook until the shallot softens (about one minute). Add the flour and cook, stirring, for another minute (to cook the flour).

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the whiskey. Return to the heat, raise it to medium and simmer, stirring to incorporate the tasty stuff in the pan. This is where you burn off the alcohol in the whiskey, in case you’re worried. After about a minute, add the chicken broth and whisk. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup (it should thicken slightly). 

Add the honey and lemon juice and heat through over medium-low heat. Add one more tablespoon of butter, then taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if you think you need it.

When you serve your dish, spoon the sauce of the meat and serve immediately. (Noodles, rice or potatoes would pair nicely.)

A Turn for the Bad, the fourth book in the County Cork Mystery series, will be released in February 2016.

And there's whiskey! I visited the distillery last year and met the owners, and since then I've watched their bottles appearing on store shelves all over my area. Of course I had to put them in this book!

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cobia with Caper Sauce

by Sheila Connolly

Oops, they did it again: the fish department in my local grocery store slipped in a new fish. Cobia—what the heck is that?

Of course, I am a good guinea pig, so I had to try it. I also promised the person behind the fish counter I would report back to her, since she hasn’t tried it yet.

Disclosure:  this is a farm-raised fish, imported from Panama, and previously frozen. I dutifully looked it up on Wikipedia, which informed me that it is a species of perciform marine fish of the genus Rachycentron and the family Rachycentridae, and has also been known as black salmon, ling, crabeater and prodigal son (huh?). It can be as long as six feet. I will spare you the rest of the details, save that the Wikipedia article says “it is a very curious fish, showing little fear of boats.” It is popular in aquaculture, and it appeared on Iron Chef in 2008 in “Battle Cobia.” I must have missed that episode.

Bottom line: it is a firm-fleshed fish, with a mild flavor, and adaptable to most cooking methods. But when I went hunting, I found few recipes, so I combined a couple. Use it in any recipe that calls for a sturdy white fish. It will stand up to grilling.

Cobia with Caper Sauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/4 lb cobia fillets, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained

In shallow dish (or use a plastic bag—less mess!), stir flour, salt and pepper (note: I decided to spice it up a wee bit and added a half-teaspoon each of cumin and dry mustard). Coat the fish pieces in the flour mixture (reserve the remaining flour mixture). 

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the coated fish in oil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until fish flakes easily with fork, then remove from heat (another note: if your pieces are skin-on, make sure they are cooked through or the skin will be hard to remove, but don’t use a high heat. Patience!). Remove fish from the skillet to a serving platter and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Heat the skillet (leaving the drippings in the pan) over medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the reserved flour mixture, then cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. 

Stir in the wine and cook about 30 seconds more, or until thickened and slightly reduced. Stir in the chicken broth and lemon juice, then cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Stir in capers.
When you serve, spoon the sauce over the fish.

My verdict? Cobia doesn’t have a distinctive flavor of its own, but would go well with a variety of sauces, or with none at all. It’s study and holds up well in cooking. We’ll probably be seeing more of it in stores. Will I make it again? Probably. One warning: try to get pieces that are all the same size, or else they will cook unevenly.

And you thought planning a wedding was hard? Try solving a 25-year-old crime at the same time! And keeping an eye out for wandering alpacas. Life is never dull in Granford, Massachusetts.

A Gala Event, coming October 6th. You can pre-order now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


MJ and Victoria here-- with an treat from the past for 
Retro Mother's Day Week


MJ's Mum and Victoria's Gram was not only a great cook but a very glamorous one. We're still searching for the lost photo of her in the tiny kitchen in her black sheath dress with the pearls. MJ's friends used to come by just to gawk. Alas our photos are still playing hide and seek after the big move. Some day! In the meantime, we think Mum/Gram was really rocking this feathered hat.

We both remember her fondly for fun, parties and great food. Our house was full of books and laughter. And she was famous for her hats.  Here's a bit of a crumbled newspaper article from a Mother's Day event at our church. You have to love small communities: everything makes the paper. You will see who has the best hat, although MJ loved her little cloche, it wasn't in the running!

 Part of the enjoyment of this retro week was scoping out old photos and looking back.  As you can see, Victoria was close to Gram.

Sharing secrets at Christmas back in the day!

On vacation - no hats

This little recipe for lemon pudding cake is one that the Maffini kids loved when they were growing up. And even those two well-known fusspots, MJ and her brother, JD,  liked it a generation earlier. Poor mum. Life couldn't have been easy with those two.


So,  MJ's mum made this dessert fairly often back in the dim mists of time. It didn't even seem to have a name, except for lemon pudding cake. But it's a recipe that comes up in conversation quite often  A year or so ago a cousin was reminiscing about the lemon pudding cake that her mom used to make. She could never manage to find the recipe.

MJ knew she had it, but couldn’t track it down either.  Was this going to be one of those delicious secrets that are lost forever? There are lots of recipes that a kind of like this, but she  wanted this one.  Once again, Victoria to the rescue! It turned up in her little book of Treasured Recipes under Favorite Lemon Pudding.

By the way, one of the reasons we love lemon pudding so much, is that it uses the egg separator MJ got in 1971 at a Tupperware party. How retro is that?

Since fate was kind to us, we'll share it with you.  

It makes a soft and foamy pudding with luscious lemon sauce.  If there is any sauce leftover, it is delicious on vanilla ice cream or yogurt. 

Another good thing about this recipe is that we each always have eggs, lemon, milk and sugar in our houses.  No special planning needed.

So, TA DA!  from our kitchen to yours, we give you:

Everyone’s Favorite Retro Lemon Dessert 

It's all about the eggs and the lemon.

Preheat oven to 350. 

Makes 6 servings (four in our house)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
7/8 cup sugar
1 -2  tablespoons lemon zest

¼ cup lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
3 egg yolks (room temperature)

3 egg whites (room temperature)
1 ½ cup milk 

Beat butter and sugar until well combined. Add lemon, zest, lemon juice, egg yolks, salt and flour. Beat until light and fluffy.  Gradually add milk and blend well. 

Beat egg whites until stiff.
 Fold into lemon mixture.  

Pour into GREASED 6-cup baking dish or casserole. 

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until nicely brown. 

Serve at room temperature and enjoy!


Speaking of mothers and daughters, that shadowy figure Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between artist and photographer, Victoria Maffini, and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, author of three mystery series. Their book collector series blends contemporary mystery, humor and classics from the Golden Age of Detection.  Of course, there are also dogs and cats. The Christie Curse, The Sayers Swindle and The Wolfe Widow  will be followed by The Marsh Madness in September. But you can PREORDER IT NOW!

We  hang out on Mystery Lovers Kitchen on the second and fourth Saturdays every month, although sometimes we get tricky. 

We’d love it if you would friend them on  FACEBOOK

You can visit our website and sign up for the NEWSLETTER  (news, recipes, contests, and, of course, Walter).

Find out what else is new HERE on the website!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

by Sheila Connolly

Elizabeth Floyd -- her
engagement photo
This week we’re honoring our mothers, and the food they made that we remember fondly.

My mother did not really care for desserts or anything sweet (she spent most of her adult life battling what she considered a weight problem, probably because she had been a slightly pudgy child). But she did not deprive her family of desserts, thank goodness.

What I remember most happily is the pies she made, all of which can be found in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, AKA Fannie Farmer. She used the 1947 edition, which makes sense because she and my father married in 1948. I still have it (and use it!), its pages market with annotations from three generations of cooks.

The quartet of favorites consisted of lemon meringue pie, chocolate cream pie, chocolate chiffon pie, and lemon chiffon pie. I’ve made more than my share of lemon meringue pies, but I don’t think I’ve ever found an example of lemon chiffon pie in the real world, so that’s what my mother is sending to you, by way of me.

My mother's pie pan
My mother's double boiler

By the way, it was only when I began to assemble what I needed to make this recipe that I realized I still had (and use) my mother’s Pyrex pie pan and double boiler, so this is kind of a double tribute. I hope I’ve made her proud.

Lemon Chiffon Pie

May I remind you that I am
pie crust challenged? At
least it's homemade.
Single pie crust (of your choice), baked

2 tsp gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
4 egg whites* (about 1/3 cup)

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water.

Beat the egg yolks, add 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and lemon juice and rind.

Cook the mixture over simmering water in a double boiler, stirring until thick.

Add the gelatin mixture and stir until it dissolves. Cool.

Beat the egg whites and the remaining sugar (1/2 cup) until stiff.

When the mixture is beginning to set, fold in the egg whites.

Pour into a baked pie shell and chill. (You can mixed in 1/2 to 1 cup of whipped cream, or top it with the whipped cream instead.)

Raw egg whites
*Some people are concerned about salmonella contamination in raw eggs (cooking kills salmonella). If you are not completely confident in the source of your eggs, you can use pasteurized egg whites, available in the refrigerator section of your market. The pasteurized ones are harder to beat to a foam, so if you’re using them, add a bit of cream of tartar or lemon juice, and be patient.

Pasteurized egg whites

I tried both (see pictures). I measured the equivalent of 4 egg whites of the pasteurized form, and whipped them with the same electric mixer. They appear to have reached the same volume, in the same amount of time. In cooking, though, I used only the unpasteurized egg whites, so I can’t tell you how the pasteurized ones would cook.

Both kinds of egg whites, beaten (the pasteurized ones are on the right).

Rather than promoting any of my books today (none of which my mother ever had a chance to read), I want to thank her for instilling in me a love of reading--she was seldom without a book or magazine in her hand.