Monday, March 12, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Easy Shepherd’s Pie / Mercury and Venus Pair Up

Goodness, we’re almost halfway through March!
We had a bit of snow last week, but, with the warmer weather, it’s been melting nicely.
Hope March is being kind to you, too.

Well, the last post was about Saint David's Day and had a Welsh Pancakes recipe.
It’s always handy to have another pancake recipe on hand.
Now it’s time to get ready for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shepherd’s Pie is also known as Cottage Pie.
it’s a nice basic recipe that has familiar ingredients.
The kiddies never get spooked by ground beef or mashed potatoes.
And it’s a great way to use up leftover bits in the fridge.
After all, we have to start making room to defrost the Easter turkey.

Looking for a few more Irish dishes to round out your family’s dinner? Try
Anna Sultana’s Shepherd’s Pie (Yes, there are other recipes.)

Don’t forget to top off your meal with a glass of Irish Coffee!

May you always have 
Walls for the winds, 
A roof for the rain, 
Tea beside the fire, 
Laughter to cheer you, 
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire! 


Have a bit less than a pound of ground beef? Kidney beans, or any other beans, can be added to up the protein.
If you’re serving vegetarians, the beans can totally replace the meat.

Like your Shepherd’s Pie filling spicy? Add, to taste, any of the following:
cumin, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion soup powder, chili powder or chili sauce. 
A mixture of thyme and crushed rosemary leaves (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) also adds a nice touch.

Don’t have any gravy on hand? 
Use BBQ sauce or a can of tomato or mushroom soup diluted with 1 can of water.

If you have leftover or canned mixed vegetables or mushrooms or corn or peas (or a combination), you can use that instead of the frozen. Creamed corn adds a bit more moisture, which is handy if you don’t have much gravy.

Have a bit of mozzarella or herb and garlic cream cheese in the fridge? You can use that instead of the plain cream cheese. Or you can leave the cheese out entirely.

You MUST allow the filling to cool down before adding the mashed potatoes. If you don’t the potatoes will sink into the filling. If you are in a rush let the filling cool in the refrigerator while you make the potato topping.

To get really creamy mashed potatoes, use a potato ricer or sieve. Be sure the mashed potatoes are hot when you spread them. Cold mashed potatoes is harder to spread. You want a textured surface on the potato topping, so rough it up a bit. It’s like adding the meringue to a lemon meringue pie - the points become nicely browned bits and make it look more appetizing.

If your mashed potatoes seem a bit dry or not quite enough, you can add sour cream.
Want to get fancy? Top the potatoes with pieces of bacon and fried onions.

You can prepare the pie in a casserole in advance, then refrigerate or freeze.
Cooking for one or two? The pie can be made into individual or for-two pies, using smaller pans. You can freeze the extra servings. Remember to defrost at room temperature before baking as directed in the recipe.

For a crisp golden topping, flash under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.
The kiddies might like a dollop of ketchup on their servings.

                        Easy Shepherd’s Pie

Finely chop 
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 medium onion

Place in a large skillet
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil over medium high heat. 
Add the chopped garlic and onion.
Cook for 1 minute.
1 pound extra lean ground beef
Cook, stirring, until browned.
Stir in
2 cups beef gravy  
4 Cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas)
Pour the filling into a 6 cup casserole. 
Set aside, preferably in the refrigerator.

Peel and cut into 1" cubes
2 pounds potatoes
Cook in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Turn off the stove.
Drain, then return the potatoes to the pot and place it on the burner you had used. 
Shake the pot briefly and allow the potatoes to steam dry for about a minute.
If there is excess liquid in the potatoes it will make the topping watery.

If you have a potato ricer or sieve, use it and return the riced potatoes to the pot before adding
2 Tablespoons butter
Mash until melted.
1/2 - 3/4 Cup milk
salt to taste
a dash of nutmeg (optional)
Mash until smooth.

Preheat oven to 375º F

Spread the potatoes onto the filling, and rough up the surface.
Sprinkle with 
1/2 Cup shredded old cheddar cheese  (optional)
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling on the edges. 
Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. 

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 15 - Look to the western horizon after sunset to see Mercury and Venus paired up. Search for them low above the western horizon about a half hour after sunset. While both should be evident to the naked-eye, binoculars will certainly enhance their visibility against the bright twilight.

March 17 - New Moon at 9:12 a.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

March 18 - About 45 minutes after sunset, look low toward the western horizon to sight an extremely narrow (2-percent) crescent Moon.  About 4-degrees to its upper right shines Venus, and a similar distance to Venus’ upper right will be Mercury, still shining at a respectably bright +0.4.

March 24 - First quarter Moon at 11:35 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full.

March 26 - The Moon is at perigee,at 1:26 p.m., which means that it is at the closest point to Earth in its cycle.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Welsh Pancakes (Crempog) and the Full Worm Moon

Happy Saint David's Day!
Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus is Happy Saint David's Day in Welsh.

March first is a very special day for Paul and me.
No, we’re not Welsh.
We don’t have any Welsh relatives or friends, as far as I know.
It’s just that, a couple of times, a few years ago, we made some big changes in our lives at this time.

In 1975 we moved from our house in Vancouver, British Columbia to an apartment in Winnipeg.
On March 1, 1978 we moved into our first little house on the prairie.
As we'd lived in two apartments in this city, it was our third home in Winnipeg.
So Paul and I stroll down a few memory lanes on March 1.

Oh, about St. David of Wales…
He was an aristocrat from West Wales who lived in the sixth century.
In his honour many wear either a daffodil or a leek, or display the flag of St. David, which is a yellow cross on a black background.
St. David appreciated the impact of doing the little things in life.
One of his sayings: A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark. 
He was a saint, not a Rhodes scholar.

Since Malta was part of the British empire until 1964, there were a lot of British recipes that became quite popular on our islands.
One such recipe is Welsh pancakes, also known as Ffroes, or Welsh crempog.

Crempog is a small thick pancake resembling a Scotch pancake and is similar to the French crèpe and the English crumpet.
Wales has a history of baking on a bakestone, a large round portable flatstone. 
The flagstone was replaced by a metal plate known as a gradell (griddle), which appeared among the list of objects made by 13th century blacksmiths in the Laws of Hywel Dda.
Crempog is one of the oldest recipes in Wales.
They are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday and birthdays.
They also can be served as a nice simple dessert that goes well with a cup of tea.
Well, that’s how the Brits serve tea.
To do it Maltese style, serve the tea in a glass.

If you’d like to do something Welsh try reading this children’s song:
Modryb Elin Enog
Os gwelwch chi'n dda ga i grempog?
Cew chithau de a siwgr brown
A phwdin lond eich ffedog
Modryb Elin Enog
Mae 'ngheg i'n grimp am grempog
Mae Mam rhy dlawd i brynu blawd
A Sian yn rhy ddiog i nol y triog
A 'nhad yn rhy wael i weithio
Os gwelwch chi'n dda ga i grempog

Before you go to Google translate, here's the song in English:
Auntie Elin Enog
Please may I have a pancake?
You can have tea and brown sugar
And your apron full of pudding
Auntie Elin Enog
My mouth is parched for pancakes
My mum is too poor to buy flour
And Sian is too lazy to get the treacle
And my father's too sick to work
Please may I have a pancake?

Maybe I should've left out the translation...


If you don’t have buttermilk you can pour 2 ounces vinegar into a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 15 ounces. Let set a few minutes, stir, and use.

You can also add raisins or currants.

Crempoq can also be smothered with butter, and stacked in a pile. The stack can be sliced like a cake. This was served for Welsh birthdays. The wedges are also eaten as a teatime treat.

Welsh Pancakes also freeze well.

If you’d like to provide a bit of variety, you could also make

                        Welsh Pancakes

Serves 4 to 8

Place in a large bowl
2 Cups flour   

Heat in a medium saucepan
15 ounces buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter
Stir until the butter melts.
Gradually pour the milk and butter mixture into the the flour and beat well.  
Leave the mixture to stand for at least 30 minutes (2 hours is better). 

Combine in a small bowl
1/2 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place in a medium bowl
2 eggs
Beat well.
Stir  in
1 Tablespoon vinegar
the sugar, baking soda, and salt mixture
Pour this mixture into the flour and milk mixture.
Beat well to form a smooth batter. 

Heavily grease a griddle, frying pan or a cast iron bakestone and heat well.
Drop the batter, a tablespoon at a time, onto the heated surface.
Cook over a moderate heat until golden brown on both sides. 
Remove and keep the pancakes warm.
Continue this method until all the batter is used up.

Spread butter on each pancake, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and eat while warm. 
You can also top the pancakes with jam, sliced banana, golden syrup, currants, powdered sugar or a chocolate drizzle.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 1 - As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. For this reason, the March full moon is often known as the Full Worm Moon.

Northern Native American tribes knew this moon as the Full Crow Moon when the cawing of crows signalled the end of winter. They also used Full Crust Moon because the snow cover became crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.

The Dakota Sioux named it Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is a Colonial American variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon. It was considered to be the last full moon of winter.