Sunday, March 29, 2015

Appetizers and Artichoke Recipes

In 1966, for my Sweet Sixteen birthday party, Ma careful wrapped Italian cold cuts around dozens of hard Italian bread sticks.
That was the standard party snack for our family.
Unfortunately, it didn't go over too well with my German, Irish and Polish classmates.

Well, that was then.
Now everyone's palates and expectations for appetizers have broadened.
These are a few favourite appetizers.
Along with a few favourite artichoke recipes.

     - Broad Beans and Garlic, Maltese Style

     - Butter Beans with Garlic, Maltese Style

     - Deep fried Ravioli Appetizers, Maltese Style


     - Stuffed Artichokes, Maltese Style

     - Stuffed Artichokes, Maltese Style

     - Stuffed Artichokes, Maltese Style

     - Stuffed Artichokes l Vegetable Stuffing Recipe

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Celebrate St. Patrick! by Margaret Ullrich - Irish Coffee Recipe and Irish Fix Recipe

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Whatever your religious background,
Spring is returning.
And that in itself is a reason to celebrate!

I got a request for an Irish Coffee recipe.
Irish coffee actually has a bit of history. 
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Stanton Delaplane was served one during a stop at Ireland’s Shannon Airport bar in 1952.

Bartender Joe Sheridan, from the port city of Foynes, Ireland, had created the coffee drink during World War II to greet weary Yankee travellers arriving by seaplane in the wee hours of the morning. 
Irish people drank whiskey in tea, but Sheridan knew the Americans preferred coffee.
A smart businessman, Sheridan knew the customer was always right.

When Delaplane returned to San Francisco, he passed the recipe on to barman Jack Koeppler at the Buena Vista Cafe.
The rest of America soon learned of this drink.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups:
alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.

Use high-quality, freshly ground and brewed beans.
Always whip your heavy cream without sugar right before serving.

Sheridan’s recipe went as follows: 
Cream – rich as an Irish brogue
Coffee – strong as a friendly hand
Sugar – sweet as the tongue of a rogue
Irish whiskey – smooth as the wit of the land

Here’s a recipe, with some measurements, for two:

                        Irish Coffee

Place in a small saucepan
12 ounces brewed coffee
4 teaspoons sugar
Stirring occasionally, set over low heat until the mixture is hot but not boiling.

Pour 6 ounces hot coffee into each of two 8-ounce heatproof glasses or mugs.
Add to each serving
1 1⁄2 ounces Irish whiskey
Top with a collar of whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon.
Garnish with mint leaves (optional)
Enjoy it while piping hot.

Italian coffee: Substitute amaretto for the whiskey.
Jamaican coffee: Substitute dark rum for the whiskey.
Mexican coffee: Substitute Kahlúa for the whiskey.

Not a big fan of coffee?
No problem.
Have an Irish Fix or an Irish Cobbler.

Fixes and Cobblers were once wine-based drinks shaken with ice. 
Now they include spirits and mixers served over crushed or cracked ice. 
A Fix is 8 ounces, and a Cobbler is 12 ounces.

A cobbler is also a very nice fruit dessert.
It's not particularly Irish.
But it could make a good dessert for your St. Patrick's dinner.
And you could serve it with some Irish coffee.

                        Irish Fix

Place in a chilled highball glass
1 teaspoon simple sugar syrup
2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Fill with cracked ice and stir well. 
Garnish with
1 thin lime slice
1 thin orange slice 
Float on top
2 teaspoons Irish Mist (a honey liqueur)

About Friday’s new moon in Pisces…
According to the folks at

This intense week culminates with a total solar eclipse and full Moon on March 20, the same day as the Vernal Equinox. 
Something may be reaching its end, but a bold, beautiful, and brilliant new beginning is well within reach! 

Plant those seeds now, and don't be afraid to put down roots this time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Simnel Cake / Mother’s Day Cake / Easter Cake

My grandmother lived with us. 
She had worked as a cook for a British family in Malta. 
Mothering Sunday was one of the British customs we continued to observe while I was growing up in New York.

Mothering Sunday may have originally derived from a 16th-century practice of visiting the 'mother church’, the main church in the region, on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. 

Historically, this was also a time when domestic servants were given time off to travel and visit their families.

I'll to thee a Simnel Bring
'Gainst thou go'st a-Mothering
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou'lt give me.
Robert Herrick

Just so you know… 
The 11 balls represent the 11 Apostles, except for Judas.
That’s why this cake can also be served for Easter.


If your Mom likes a bit of a kick, 2 Tablespoons of sherry or her favourite drink (if it goes well with the fruit) may be brushed on the cake before adding the apricot jam.

If the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil after an hour of baking.

During the baking seasons of Lent and Advent I pick up a dozen small eggs.
They won’t work exactly for the recipes, but they are just enough when I need to beat an egg for glazing, as in the end of this recipe.

If you have time, you can decorate the cake with crystallized or plain flowers.
Some also wrap a ribbon around the side.
Most don't.

At Easter the middle of the top of the cake can be decorated with small wrapped chocolate eggs, tiny chickies and such.  
The kids love that!

                        Simnel Cake

Grease an 8 inch springform pan
Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
Line the bottom and sides with greased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl mix well together
1 1/2 Cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons allspice

In another medium bowl combine
1/4 Cup flour
1 1/3 Cups golden raisins
1 Cup dried currants
2/3 Cup candied cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
1/4 Cup candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest 

Divide into 3 equal portions
1 pound almond paste
Roll out one portion of the almond paste to form an 8 inch circle. 
Set the remaining portions aside for later.

Preheat oven to 300º F

In a large mixer bowl, beat at medium speed
1 Cup margarine, softened
1 Cup light brown sugar
Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add, one at a time
4 large eggs
Beat well after each addition.
Beat in the flour mixture until just blended. 
Stir in the floured fruit.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.
Place the circle of almond paste on the cake batter in the pan. 
Gently cover the almond paste with the remaining cake batter.
Bake for 2 1/2 hours, or until evenly brown and firm to the touch.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Remove the metal side frame, place cake on large cookie sheet.
Place the cake on a wire rack and cool completely. 
Set oven to broil.

While the cake is cooling
Roll out one portion of the almond paste to form an 8 inch circle.  
Divide the remaining portion into 11 pieces and roll each into a ball.

In a small cup beat
1 egg

After the cake has cooled, brush the top with 
2 Tablespoons apricot jam, warmed
Place the second almond paste circle on top of cake. 
Brush the almond paste on top of cake with beaten egg. 
Arrange the 11 balls around the outside edge on the top of cake. 
Brush the balls with the egg.
Place cake under the broiler for 3 minutes, or until almond paste is golden brown.
Slide the cake onto a serving platter.

Decorate if you wish and serve.