Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Irish

March 14, 2011

I figure if I got four those words in the title, I’d get loads of hits. Chocolate, caramel and shortbread make up the three layers in Magills, a recipe I acquired while living in Ireland. They go by many names – last year, we saw them called Wellingtons in one place, millionaire bars in another and in one prosaic coffee bar they were plain old caramel squares. I call them Magills, because I got the recipe from Susan Stokes who got the recipe from a fellow named Magill. I believe I have the best story, with apologies to Lord Wellington.

(I have translated the measurements from weights to volume. You can’t find Kerry Cream here, but it’s really just sweetened condensed milk. Look for Lyle’s Golden Syrup in the international or baking aisle of your grocery store.)

 

MAGILLS

Shortbread:

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup flour

¼ cup powdered sugar

 

Caramel:

4 Tbl. butter

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup

¾ tin of Kerry Cream

 

about ½ cup chocolate chips, melted

 

Crumble shortbread ingredients together; press into 8-inch-square pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the edges are just barely turning brown. Place pan on rack to cool.

Bring caramel ingredients to a boil and stir constantly until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage. While caramel mixture is still hot, pour over the shortbread. Let cool.

Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thin layer over caramel. When set, slice into bars or squares with a hot knife.

 

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My Irish brown bread

March 6, 2011

I was once asked – by an American, of course – why there was no soda in Irish soda bread. What? That’s like asking why there are no chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies. She apparently had a “traditional” soda-bread recipe from her family that contained no soda. I’d say that’s not soda bread.

In Ireland, brown soda bread is called brown bread, no need to specify. I’ve made it for years from a recipe I found in an Irish magazine when I lived in Dublin. When we are in Ireland, we eat as much as possible – you’ll know why once you try it. Brown bread is on the breakfast table at hotels and B&Bs and it’s offered with soup at lunch; at dinner time, you have to ask if they have any left. Brown bread is fast, healthy and extremely tasty. It’s March – make some today.

Marty’s Irish Brown Bread

(This recipe uses weight measurements; it’s the only way I’ve ever made it.)

8 ounces whole wheat flour

8 ounces white flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. soda (yes, soda!)

1 Tbl. butter

11 ounces buttermilk (this is a half-pint of buttermilk, but it’s half of an Imperial pint)

1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix dry ingredients, then rub in the butter. Mix in buttermilk and egg. This can all be done by hand or with a mixer (don’t over mix). Press into a greased loaf pan or round casserole dish. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes. You can turn out the loaf and tap on the bottom to check for doneness; if it sounds hollow, it’s done. Turn out, and wrap the bread in a damp tea towel and  place on a rack until the bread is completely cool. Cooling it in a damp tea towel will keep the crust from getting too hard. Enjoy!

What to eat at the airport

February 1, 2011

Also on the train or in the car. Fresh through security at the airport, we head for coffee, but there’s nothing appealing about the lineup of dry muffins in the case – or, for that matter, the container of cutup fruit (how do they get apples so dry?). (Of course, at the Florence airport, you can get hot brioche, but the trip home is another matter.) I bake this cake to take along – it’s somewhere between cake and shortbread really, not too moist, so it resists being squished in your bag.

What – six egg yolks? Yes, and just think: You can make an egg-white omelet for dinner the night before you leave on your trip. Enjoy!

MARTY’S ALMOND TRAVEL CAKE

1/3 (heaping) cup almonds, toasted and ground

1 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbl. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cut butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

6 large egg yolks, beaten to blend

2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Butter and dust with flour one 8-inch-round cake pan. Mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and ground nuts; set aside. Beat together butter and sugar; gradually add egg yolks. Mix in peel and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Transfer to pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the cake is firm to touch. Cool in pan, then cut and remove slices. Wrap individually for a quick snack or breakfast.

Packing for comfort

January 3, 2011

We must think of ways to make ourselves as comfortable as possible on flights these days, because the airlines won’t do it for us. And when I say airlines, I don’t mean the attendants. Attendants on our flights last year, including Delta/KLM to Amsterdam, Air France from Paris, and Southwest to or from anywhere (I love Southwest), were all competent, friendly and professional; it isn’t there fault that American didn’t offer even a pretzel on our flight to Chicago – not one, tiny pretzel.

So, on the flights for our garden tours this year (Northeast gardens, May 14-22; northern France and Paris, June 19-30), we must do what we can for ourselves. When I fly, I try to keep food, drink, and entertainment self-contained, because I don’t want to end up climbing on someone’s head just to get to my bag out of the overhead compartment (and I hope you won’t do that to me).

Because my entertainment options are limited and, probably to most, archaic, I’ll just say that I’ve got my (older generation) iPod loaded with an audio book, and an actual paperback book that will fit in my purse. (I confess to asking Leighton to take anything heavier in his carryon).

A bottle of water is essential (bought as soon as I get through security). Yes, they will offer water on the plane, but it’s a small thing to carry … just in case.

Overseas flights still offer food, which I believe is more to keep us occupied than anything else, but even on long flights I take along a chocolate bar or two for us, plus a bag of toasted almonds/dried cranberries. I wish I could pop a few protein bars in my purse, but I am allergic to all nuts except almonds, and I am also allergic to peanuts; so far I haven’t seen a protein bar that wasn’t full of peanut butter or walnuts. Feel free to recommend a brand that suits my needs.

Dear airlines: look out. When Southwest begins flying overseas (I’ve heard this is a possibility), I will be first in line – OK, maybe not the very first, but I will pay for Early Bird check-in and be in the A line for sure) even if I have to pack my own fried chicken and potato salad for nine-hour flight.

 

Black is the new black – black Tuscan kale

July 20, 2010

at Hunting Brook

Edibles and ornamentals – the new hot celebrity couple. The top honors for the most popular edible to plant in an ornamental bed must go to the Tuscan black kale, seen everywhere but to greatest advantage at Hunting Brook in County Wicklow, Ireland, where Jimi Blake paired it with this fabulous Bupleurum longifolium subsp. aureum. The combination of the dark, chunky, textured leaves with the airy sprays of flowers made a good show.

More on Hunting Brook to follow.

February 17, 2009

Jay Rayner wrote a piece for The Guardian on the new meal rations for the British military forces. I found the article after hearing him interviewed on PRI’s The World, where he said the food wasn’t bad at all.  It reminded me of what food we encounter when we’re traveling — even if that traveling is to not-so-foreign countries.

Food is memorable because it’s good or bad, or because of the environment in which you ate it.  My dear friend Kathy and I had a lovely picnic lunch on a walk out of Sligo one time.  This was a million years ago, and I’m not sure today if any hotel or guest house would put together such a simple meal:  a flask of tea, cheese sandwiches, some fruit (I think) and a few biscuits.  It was perfect for a walk.

            There was a memorable London meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at a restaurant with a group of college friends when we were on a theatre visit from New Mexico State University (again, ages ago).  It was memorable, because charming John Zwernemann was able to get us extra portions of custard on our trifle.

In Ireland, food taught me how to properly pronounce “Donegal.”  I was staying in a B&B in Galway, I think, and there were a few Brothers staying there, too.  They taught me this fine rhyme:

Where do you come from?
            Donegal

How are your spuds?

            Big and small

How do you eat them?

            Jacket and all

And do they bother you?

            Not at all