Irish Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Soda Bread Croutons

March 6, 2014

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I don’t know how the weather is in your neck of the woods, but around here there is really no sign of Spring. That groundhog varmint was right and we have been firmly in the grip of an arctic vortex with temperatures lower than they have any right to go here in the supposed southern state of Virginia. The latest go round of snow and frigid temps really had me craving a big bowl of French Onion soup. But since St. Patrick’s Day is nigh, I decided to Irish it up a bit. Just how do you do that you might ask. Well, how about adding in a splash or two of Irish Whiskey (you know my brand by now right – Jameson’s) and a glug or so of Irish Stout.

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This is where I’m going to get a little tricky on you though. I know a veritable river of Guinness has been flowing out of my kitchen lately. It is the Irish stout that is most widely known and I’m a fan. However, I went to college in Cork, Ireland and in that part of the country, Guinness is not King. Murphy’s Irish Stout- aka The Rebel Stout holds court there. You see Murphy’s Stout is similar to Guinness but a bit less heavy and with fewer bitter notes. It has been brewed in Cork since 1856. Why is it called “The Rebel Stout”? That has to do with its County Cork origins. Historically, Cork has been known as the Rebel County, a name it acquired due to the prominent role it played in the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) as well as the fact that it was an anti-treaty stronghold during the Irish Civil War (1922-23). Murphy’s Irish Stout is widely distributed outside of Ireland and you could likely easily find it at your local grocery, especially this close to St. Patrick’s Day. Next time you see it, grab some and give it a taste. You could even do a stout tasting with Guinness, Murphy’s and a few of your local brews. Sounds like fun huh? But I guess I should get back to this soup. Having spent all that time in Cork, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t give Murphy’s a shout out.

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I used it for this Irish Onion soup and I couldn’t have been more pleased! The malty notes from the Murphy’s Irish Stout gave this soup quite a rich and deep flavour. Yet, it still wasn’t quite Irish-y enough for me. So instead of topping my onion soup with the usual toasted french baguette slice, I baked up some mini Irish soda bread loaves which I split in half and used in lieu of the french standard.

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Topped with grated Kerrygold Cheddar Cheese, you have a crouton worthy of this hearty Irish Onion Soup. guaranteed to warm you on the most polar vortex-y of days.

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Irish Onion Soup

recipe adapted from: The Fox & She

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 medium yellow onions, sliced in rings
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup Irish Whiskey (Jameson!)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • Pinch kosher salt, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 1 cup Stout Beer, Murphys or Guinness
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 12 cups beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Thick slices Irish Soda Bread (recipe to follow)
  • grated Irish Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter, cook onions over medium to medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring every so often.

Add whiskey, flour and pinch of salt. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add Murphy’s (or Guinness) and simmer until reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes.

Add broth, thyme, pepper and remaining salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove thyme sprigs.

Ladle into oven safe bowl and top with 1/2 of mini soda bread loaf and grated irish cheddar. Place under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and toast is browned. Be Careful! Some broiler are nuclear hot and will burn everything to a cinder if you turn your back for a second! (If you can’t do the broiler thing, just toast the soda bread, melt cheese over the top and then add to irish soup.)

Mini Irish Soda Breads

recipe adapted from: King Arthur Flour

yield: 6 mini loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) King Arthur Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour (9 3/4 ounces) *
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups (10 5/8 ounces) buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • flaked sea salt
  • melted salted butter to brush top of loaves

Directions:

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Using a mixer, a pastry fork or blender, or your fingers, cut in the butter until it is evenly distributed and no large chunks remain.

In a separate bowl (or in a measuring cup) whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to combine. The dough will be stiff; if it’s too crumbly to squeeze together, add another tablespoon or two of buttermilk.

Knead the dough a couple of times to make sure it’s holding together. If you are making individual mini loaves, divide into 6 equal sized pieces. ( 5 ounces each).  Shape each it into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross, extending all the way to the edges, atop each loaf.

Bake the bread in a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven, and brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with flaked sea salt.

Enjoy!

* If you don’t have time to order your King Arthur Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour and you aren’t in Ireland with immediate access to Irish Wholemeal Flour, you can substitute in 10 ounces of King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour

**Recipe will also make 1 large loaf of Irish Soda Bread if you would rather not be bothered with the mini loaves :)


Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya

April 12, 2013

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The other day I thought I might like to make a big old pot of that Classic New Orleans dish Jambalaya, so I began searching around for a recipe. When I thought of Louisiana chefs and Cajun and Creole style New Orleans cooking, the first to come to mind was Emeril Lagasse. No I lie. Truth be told, the first was actually the Cajun Cook Justin Wilson. What a hoot he was! But Emeril’s name followed quickly behind and I was able to find this great recipe of his for Chicken & Andouille Jambalaya. I did find quite a few others that included shrimp or some other seafood. But that is a big “no-no” in this house. Indeed you may have noticed I’ve never blogged any seafood recipe, which might seem a bit weird considering I hail from an Island in the Chesapeake Bay. My father is a 6th generation commercial fisherman (“waterman” as they are called on the island) and I grew up eating seafood for dinner at least a couple of times a week. More shellfish, crabs, clams and oysters, than fin fish, but I’ve eaten and watched my mom prepare a whole lot of seafood. So why the scarcity of it on my blog? My husband is allergic to seafood. Yup. All of it. Fish and shellfish. I remember when I told my parents of his “condition” they kind of looked at me blankly and said “Well what does he eat?” Somehow he has managed to get by and before you start feeling too sorry for him, he doesn’t really know what he is missing. Rather than acquiring the allergy later in life, he has had it from the get go. So he doesn’t feel deprived in the least and associates eating seafood with unpleasant things like projectile puking. So…..no seafood is happening around this place!

NONE of these guys or any of his little sea swelling friends!

NONE of these guys or any of his little sea dwelling friends!

As I set out to making this dish, I started wondering what was the difference between a Jambalaya and a Gumbo. After a bit of research I found that although they both come from Louisiana there are several distinguishing characteristics of each one . Gumbo is a thick soup or stew, often made with a roux, and according to many can not be considered gumbo unless okra is one of the ingredients. It is served over or along side of rice. Now Jambalaya, on the other hand, is more of a casserole in which the rice is cooked in the same pot as the other ingredients. If the Jambalaya has tomatoes in it, as this one does, it is Creole Jambalaya. If there are no tomatoes, it is considered Cajun Jambalaya. Now, what about that name? It is certainly fun to say, but where in the world did it come from? Turns out they don’t really know, but there are a few myths and legends surrounding it. One is that it is a combination of the French word for ham “jambon”, “à la” (with) and “ya” which is an African word for rice. So,  jambon à la ya, or ham with rice. Then there is the story that says it comes from a misunderstanding. Apparently, so it goes, there was a traveller who arrived at a New Orleans Inn long after dinner hours, but was hungry. So the Inn keeper shouted to his cook, whose name was Jean, “Jean, throw something together.” Except he said it in the local speak of the time, so it was a bit more like “Jean balayez” , which the late dinner guest interpreted as a request for a dish called Jambalaya. But perhaps it has a Native American origin. The Atakapa Indians have a saying which is their equivalent of the French Bon Appetit.  It means “Be full, not skinny. Eat up!” and is said “Sham, pal ha. Ya!” Hmmm…which is your favourite?

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Well you won’t have long to ponder it, because this delicious seafood free Jambalaya is easy to make, only dirties one pot and doesn’t take very long to cook at all. I only made a few alterations from Emeril’s original recipe. He calls for Green Pepper, which I do not care for. I like red peppers and yellow peppers, but something about those green ones just bugs me. So I used a red pepper instead. Another big difference is that the original recipe calls for leaving the chicken thighs whole in the finished dish. So when you serve, each guest would get their own piece of chicken. I decided I would rather have the chicken off the bone and shredded. I noted in the recipe below at which point you could do this if you would like. Whether you add this step in or omit it altogether, you will be thrilled with the finished dish, full of tender chicken, spicy sausage and vegetables. Real Creole comfort food. We like it really hot around here, so I served mine with lashings of Tabasco sauce and a side of cornbread. Whooeee…. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!

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Chicken & Andouille Jambalaya

recipe slightly adapted from: Emeril Lagasse

yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, about 6, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1½ pounds smoked andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 medium ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, green and white parts reserved separately
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, with juices
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled between your fingers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons Creole Seasoning
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth
  • One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 3 cups long grain white rice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

Season the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the chicken to the Dutch oven and cook until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, working in batches as necessary. Transfer the browned chicken to a platter and set aside.

Add the sausage to the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring until the sausage is browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the same platter with the chicken. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, scallion bottoms, garlic, and tomato paste to the Dutch oven and sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green chiles, thyme, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, and Essence. Return the chicken and sausage to the pan, along with the chicken stock and diced tomatoes and bring to a brisk simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is nearly tender and the broth has absorbed the flavor of the sausage and the seasonings.

Once the chicken is tender, remove it from pot and set aside to cool to the point that you can handle it. Remove meat from the bones and shred it. Add shredded meat back to Dutch oven. (This step can be skipped if you prefer to have whole chicken thighs in the jambalaya.)

Increase the heat to high and add the rice, the chopped scallion tops, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir well and return to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, gently stir in the parsley, cover, and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!


Champ (Brúitín in Irish)

March 14, 2013

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Champ, one of Ireland’s most delicious side dishes, is made with potatoes, scallions, chives, butter and milk. It is traditionally served with a deep well of butter in the center for dipping each spoonful or bite. Now I’m sure a few of you out there are saying, “Hey…isn’t that just mashed potatoes?”

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That is kind of what I thought until I tasted for the first time. Champ has a truly unique taste which comes from the scallions and scallion simmered milk used in the recipe. Plus I like that the Irish aren’t shy about using butter and each spoonful of Champ is served fully immersed in it. Yum!

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This dish is quite simple and inexpensive to make, but you will find it oh so  tasty, filling and comforting. It goes along wonderfully with any beef, lamb or pork dish, although I know I would be quite happy to make a meal of it, all on its own. It was a common Irish folk custom to leave a bowl of Champ for the fairies under Hawthorn trees on All Hallow’s Eve (Samhain – October 31st). I’m sure those lucky fairies are delighted with the gift wherever it is still given.

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Champ (Brúitín in Irish)

recipe adapted from: The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. potatoes – starchy potatoes like russets or Yukon gold, peeled and cut into even chunks
  • 20 scallions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup chives, snipped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Irish salted butter, melted and hot

Directions:

Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cover, bring back to a boil, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain well and put back in the pan. Cover with a clean dish towel for a few minutes to get rid of excess moisture.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the chopped scallions in a saucepan with the milk. Simmer for 5 minutes (do not boil), then drain, reserving the milk and scallions separately.

Mash the potatoes until smooth, stirring in enough of the reserved milk to produce a creamy consistency. Stir in the scallions and chives. Season to taste with sea salt flakes and black pepper.

Transfer the potato mixture to a warm serving dish. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour in the hot, melted butter.

To serve, spoon potatoes from the outside, dipping each spoonful into the well of melted butter before plating.

Enjoy!


White Chocolate & Baileys Coffee Bars

March 5, 2013

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It is day #5 of my St. Patrick’s Day countdown, which means there are only 12 days to go to the big day! I figured it was time to blog about something sweet. How about something sweet, with a wee bit of alcohol (strictly for medicinal purposes mind you) and a little caffeine to keep to moving? I’ve got it all right here for you in these White Chocolate & Baileys Coffee Bars.

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These bars are nothing short of addictive! Chewy and moist with a buttery, coffee flavour, you will find you just can’t leave them alone. And then there is that richly decadent Baileys Irish Cream glaze drizzled liberally over the top. So good you could eat it straight out of the piping bag (not that I know anyone who would do that).

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The original recipe called for sliced almonds to be scattered over the top of the bars before baking. My husband doesn’t care too much for nuts mixed into cookies or brownies, so I left them out. They sure do look pretty on Peanut Butter & Julie’s blog though, so if you like nuts, you might want to consider adding them in. These White Chocolate & Baileys Coffee Bars are just perfect for dessert, or great at your afternoon tea or coffee break as a little pick me up, or come to think of it – just fabulous for breakfast. I mean they are a bit caffeinated, you know to get you going in the morning. What is that you say? There’s alcohol in them? Oh, well everyone knows alcohol bakes out of desserts. Oh yeah, I guess the glaze isn’t baked. Hmmmm…..perhaps that’s why my day started off so lovely!

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White Chocolate & Baileys Coffee Bars

recipe adapted from: Peanut Butter & Julie

Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 sticks butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups golden brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (I omitted these)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • 2-3 teaspoons whole milk or cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F degrees.  Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that there is a 1-inch overhang, and spray the foil with nonstick baking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and continuing to beat for 1 minute more after the last egg is added.  Beat in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low-speed until incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the white chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.  Bake until the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan emerges clean, 24-28 minutes. (It actually took about 35 minutes for my bars to cook, so just watch a make sure the top is set.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Irish Cream Glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the Baileys in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Add enough of the milk/cream to achieve a thick glaze that is still of drizzling consistency.  Transfer the glaze to a small zip-top bag, seal, and snip a small corner off the end.  Use this as a “piping bag” to drizzle the glaze over the bars.

Allow the glaze to dry for at least 30 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

Enjoy!


Roasted Potato Leek Soup

March 4, 2013

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Now what you’ve got here is a big, hearty bowl of comfort! Roasted Potato Leek Soup will really warm you up this winter. And yes…it is still winter. It snowed yesterday and I hear it will be snowing again this Wednesday. And we haven’t had any cool snow at all this winter. You know the scenario where there is just enough snow to make everything look pretty and get work cancelled yet  a small enough amount that it’s completely melted in a couple of days? No, all that has shown up this winter are trifling little wet flakes that don’t amount to anything and are just plain annoying. Having a big old pot of this rustic, delicious soup goes a long way toward soothing those winter frayed nerves. I have eaten many a bowl of it in Ireland and thought it would be great to add to my St. Patrick’s Day countdown.

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But this soup is a little different from many of those which I consumed in various pubs across Ireland. In this creation, the potatoes and leeks are roasted before being added to the soup, which really enhances their flavours. And this lovely soup also has a surprise ingredient in it, Arugula or Rocket as it is often called in Europe. ( I think Rocket sounds better than Arugula, so I’m going to go with that for the rest of this post). When I first came across this recipe, I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about the addition of Rocket, but decided to go ahead and give it a try. I’m so glad I did because that peppery taste of that herb really adds that extra something to this vibrant, fresh tasting Potato & Leek soup. Oh and white wine, cream and parmesan cheese also show up in the list of ingredients, so you know this soup has to be unbelievably tasty!

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As it turns out, this soup not only tastes fantastic, but it is also good for you. Right now I’m sure you’re thinking, “yeah right…a cream based soup is good for me”. But I’m telling you it is. This soup has leeks, which everyone knows we love in this house. Leeks are part of the Alliaceae family along with garlic and onions. But leeks have a much more delicate, sweet flavour to them than their better known cousins. They are actually one of the most nutritious winter vegetables to be had. They are high in fiber, a good source of antioxidants, folate, vitamin C, B6, K, manganese and iron. I can tell your eyes are glazing over a bit now, but hang in there for just a second. Some of the health benefits of all those things I just rattled off are, lowering and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure and risk of Coronary Artery Disease and lowering the risk of low-level inflammatory  states like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Pretty impressive list huh?  But besides leeks, this soup also has a bunch of Rocket mixed in. Now Rocket has been grown as an edible herb since Roman times and was rumoured to be an aphrodisiac! Virgil states that “rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people”. It was likely this belief that lead to the prohibition of its cultivation in monastic gardens in the Middle Ages. Rocket has a rich peppery taste and is often eaten raw in salads, and it is actually a much more nutritious choice than most other salad greens. For instance, when you compare it to iceberg lettuce, you will find that Rocket has 8X more calcium, 5X more vitamin A, C and K and 4X the iron! Wowza! And although most folks do think of it as a salad green, it is actually classified as a cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. These type of vegetables aid in the regulation of your immune system functions, which can protect you against cancers. Not to mention, like Kale, it is a good source of antioxidants. So there you have it! Healthy, Delicious and comforting! A combination not often found. You can serve this soup sprinkled with chives and accompanied with a lovely piece of butter slathered Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread as I did. Or you could garnish it with some nice crispy crumbled bacon or pancetta. The possibilities are endless. I think I’ll just throw another log on the fire now and tuck in a big bowl of that divine Roasted Potato Leek Soup. Surely Spring is just around the corner!

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Roasted Potato Leek Soup

recipe from: Dough-Eyed Girls

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, cleaned (about 4-5 large leeks)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups baby arugula (rocket), lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6-7 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

Directions:

Roast potatoes and leeks in olive oil and pepper at 400° F for 40-45 minutes, or until tender. Add Arugula/Rocket and roast for 5 more minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a bowl, adding the wine and 5 cups of the chicken broth. Be sure to scrape the pan clean of all the crispy bits – these add tons of flavor!

Puree the vegetables and stock until smooth in a food processor or blender. Transfer to large pot. I actually transferred my roasted vegetables directly to a large pot, added the broth and then used an immersion blender to puree.

Add stock until the consistency reaches a thick soup, and add cream and parmesan. Heat, covered until ready to serve.

Enjoy!


Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread

March 3, 2013

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Everyone knows that “Guinness is Good for You”. And I’m sure ya’ll knew that its appearance as a featured ingredient in several of my St. Patrick’s Day recipes was inevitable. So here we go with a great beer bread that is just chock full of quality Irish ingredients, Guinness Irish Stout, Kerrygold Irish Butter, and Kerrygold Dubliner Cheddar cheese. You should be able to find all of these ingredients at a larger grocery store. I certainly know that Guinness is widely available. If you can’t get ahold of any brand of Irish Cheddar or Butter, you can of course substitute in other quality brands. Do whatever you need to do, but definitely make up a loaf of this bread for St. Patrick’s Day.

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It is absolutely delicious and easy! Yes, that’s right, I said easy. This is a “quick bread”. That means there is no yeast involved, so there is no bothering with rise times. Well, that is a bit of a lie. The bit about the yeast not being there. In beer breads, which this is, the beer provides the yeast for you and that is what acts as the leavening agent. And this bread does have a wee bit of baking powder thrown in as well. You’ll have this loaf mixed up and in your oven in no time flat! Your house will smell heavenly with the aroma of that fresh baking bread. And oh…when that mouth-watering Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread is ready…hold on to your hat!

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The moist, tender, savoury center of the bread is surrounded by a buttery, crunchy, chewy crust. The cheddar flavour is quite evident and woven throughout the loaf. So many cheese breads only taste distinctly of the cheese when you are biting into a big chunk of it. Serve it slathered with more butter or with a nice hearty bowl of soup. It will definitely be love at first bite!

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Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread

recipe from: The Kitchn

yield: one 8 1/2 ” loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish stout beer
  • 1 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup Irish butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with butter.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the beer and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Fold in 3/4 cup of the cheese and the chives.

Transfer the batter to prepared pan. Pour the melted butter evenly over top of the dough. Bake about 30 minutes then scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. Return the loaf to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Turn out and serve warm, sliced.

Enjoy!


Potato, Leek & Chicken Pie

March 2, 2013

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Alright folks! Here we go now. Day #2, St. Patrick’s Day countdown. Today we have a traditional dish, Potato, Leek & Chicken Pie, but this has a bit of a modern twist thrown in with the substitution of phyllo pastry for traditional pie crust. Last St. Patrick’s Day I gave you a wonderful recipe for Chicken and Leek Pasties, which are still a favourite around here. This new recipe is quite similar to that one as far as the filling is concerned. There is tender chicken and delicious leeks. I told you leeks would be putting in an appearance in quite a few dishes this year. Speaking of leeks, yesterday, March 1st, was St. David’s Day. St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales and the leek was his personal symbol. Along with the Daffodil, it is one of the national emblems of the country and is worn in his honour on folks lapels on St. David’s Day. But enough of the leek talk for now, back to the Pie recipe at hand. This new fangled Potato, Leek & Chicken Pie recipe differs from the Pasties filling in that it throws in some potatoes and mushrooms for good measure! As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong by adding either one of those ingredients.

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And the phyllo pastry is great in that it provides a wonderfully crispy topping. I know that in the past, I have complained quite a bit about working with phyllo pastry. It is quite fiddley, annoying work, but I freely admit, it is worth all the fuss in the end, because phyllo is so dang delicious. Crunchy, buttery perfection! With that sublime, savoury, creamy filling, you just can’t go wrong!

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So I guess I would say this recipe is easy to make for the most part. I’m sure other folks have much more mad phyllo dough skills than I possess and would find making this pie a breeze! It really is quite tasty and hip to boot. You can’t beat that now!

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Potato, Leek & Chicken Pie

Recipe from: The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 waxy potatoes, like russets, cubed
  • 7 tablespoons lightly salted butter
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, about 6 ounces, cubed
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 8 ounces phyllo pastry, thawed if frozen
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt half of the butter in a skillet and cook the chicken for 5 minutes, or until browned all over.

Add the leeks and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Add the mustard, sage and potatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Line a deep pie dish with half of the sheets of phyllo pastry. Spoon the chicken mixture into the dish and cover with a sheet of pastry. Brush the pastry with a little of the melted butter and lay another sheet on top. Brush this sheet with melted butter.

Cut the remaining phyllo pastry into strips and fold them onto the top of the pie to create a ruffled effect. Brush the strips with the remaining melted butter and cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot.

Enjoy!


White Chocolate Toffee Blondies

February 21, 2013

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So the other night I set out to whip up a quick dessert, but wanted to do something different from my good old, easy quick dessert standby…the brownie. As it turned out, I didn’t stray far when I decided to go with a close cousin of said brownies…the blondie! Blondies get their sweet, caramel taste from brown sugar. Unlike the brownie, there is no chocolate in the batter. But all of you chocolate lovers out there need not despair, blondies are very customizable. Once you’ve mixed up the versatile blondie batter, you can throw in whatever extras you like to jazz things up. So go wild with the chocolate chips if you like! I decided to go with White chocolate and Toffee bits in these bars and was very pleased with my choice. These White Chocolate Toffee Blondies were thick and dense with both a gooey center and also a chewy outer edge. Yum, Yum, triple YUM!

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And they were very easy to make. You only need dirty one bowl. Not to mention, they were somewhat addictive. Folks just couldn’t leave them alone, coming back for seconds and thirds. It’s a good thing I cut them in such small squares…You know that way there’s fewer calories…no matter how many of those little devils you snatch up! At least I’m pretty sure that’s how it works…

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White Chocolate Toffee Blondies

recipe adapted from: the sweet mash

yield: 16 blondies 

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter​
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar​
  • 2 eggs​
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla​
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour​
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder​
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt​
  • 3/4 cup toffee bits
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips​

Directions:

Preheat oven ​to 350° F. Spray an 8 x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray.

Melt butter in microwave. Stir in brown sugar and let cool for 3-5 minutes until it is warm, not hot.​

Stir in the eggs and vanilla. ​

Pour flour, baking powder, and salt over the butter mixture. Stir until just combined. ​

Fold in the toffee bits and white chocolate chips.​

Smooth into baking pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out with crumbs. ​If you feel the blondies are getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil.

Enjoy!


Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

January 31, 2013

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Good ole Sloppy Joes. I’m sure all of the Americans reading this have fond childhood memories of this dish. For those of you unfamiliar with this American kid-friendly classic, it was originally invented by a cook named Joe in a Sioux City Iowa cafe. It is essentially a “loose meat” sandwich which consists of browned ground beef (mince) onions, spices and tomato sauce served on a hamburger bun. I swear, my elementary school cafeteria served them every single week. Unfortunately, I do not have fond memories of Sloppy Joes since some cook in my school thought it would be great to put beans into the mix. Beans?! Bleck! At least that is what 6-year-old me would have said. It totally ruined the whole Sloppy Joe experience for me. There was no picking around the beans. I mean, I ask you, who in the world would want to put beans in a Sloppy Joe! At that point, it became a peanut butter & jelly day without a doubt! The good news is that I think my discovery of these Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes has taken some of the tarnish off of my childhood Sloppy Joe trauma. Rather than the regular ground beef, these Joes use ground pork and have really kicked up the spice factor with the addition of  chipotle chilis, chorizo sausage, green chilis and cilantro into the mix. I served the spicy meat mixture up on my home-made Jalapeño Cheddar Rolls and topped it with a big old dollop of guacamole, crumbled mexican cheese and freshly chopped cilantro. Notice there is not a bean in sight! Comfort food perfection! I have completely revised my opinion of Sloppy Joes at this point. They can be utterly delicious! Revamp your childhood memories and serve up a batch of these bad boys up soon!

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Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

Recipe Adapted from: Smells like Home

Yield: 15-16 servings (depending on the size of hamburger bun you serve)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 chipotle chiles en adobo (or 1/4 tsp chipotle powder)
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz beer, such as a light ale or lager
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chili’s
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • hamburger buns, guacamole, chopped cilantro, mexican cheese, diced red onions to serve

Directions:

Brown ground pork and chorizo sausage in large skillet. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat. Set meat aside.

Saute the onion and garlic in reserved fat until onions are tender. Set aside.

Place tomato sauce, chipotle chilis, spices, and Worcestershire sauce in food processor and pulse until smooth.

Put browned meats, onion and garlic mixture, and tomato sauce mixture in slow cooker. Add beer, chopped green chilis, cilantro and lime juice. Stir to combine. (if you don’t have  slow cooker, just keep in on the stove top)

Cook in slow cooker set on medium high for 25 minutes and then keep warm until ready to serve.

Just prior to serving add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve on hamburger buns (see my recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar rolls), with guacamole, cheese and more cilantro for toppings.

Enjoy!


Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails) & Iceland in December

January 8, 2013

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Happy New Year Everyone! The busy holiday season is finally over and I guess everyone is starting to get back into their old routines. Our holiday season was made particularly hectic due to our decision to go on a spur of the moment trip to Iceland. We had always wanted to visit Iceland and had briefly looked into flights, hotels etc., but it had always been a bit on the pricey side. When we arrived back from our October Ireland trip, I had read an article which claimed that this winter, visitors to Iceland would be much more likely to see the Northern Lights due to the current cycle of increased solar flare activity. That’s when I checked flights on a lark and found that not only were flights cheaper, but all of the hotels seemed to be running off-season special rates. I must admit, a few times I did think “Who the heck goes to Iceland in December?! Are we nuts?!”

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But I’ve got to tell you, it is fantastic!. We LOVED it! Actually, I probably should tell you it’s dreadful, cause we are definitely going back and I don’t want to let too many folks in on the secret. Sure, it is chilly, though not awfully so. It hovers right around freezing but the temperatures are often accompanied and shall we say enhanced by ever-present, kicking winds. There is also not a great deal of daylight. Although you will find 24 hours of daylight if you visit in July, in December it got light around 10:45 a.m. and was dark again around 4 p.m. Such limited daylight definitely forced us to plan out what we wanted to do during  the day and get to doing it before it was dark again. And we did get in quite a few adventures. We went horseback riding at Hestheimar Horse Farm.

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Icelandic Horses were initially introduced to the country by Norwegian Viking settlers and the breed has remained pure for about 1000 years. These sturdy and hardy horses are very friendly and personable. They have an extra gait called a tölt which is essentially a fast walk. Tölting is a pleasure! Very smooth, much more comfortable for the rider than a trot.

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Super Jeep next to a crater created when Eyafjallajökull volcano erupted a couple of years ago.

We went on a Super Jeep tour of Þórsmörk (Thor’s Forest) with South Iceland Adventure Company (Thanks so much to Magnus, our guide) and saw waterfalls, and hiked through gorges, mountain passes and around on a glacier.

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Inside a glacial ice formation.

We chilled out at the Blue Lagoon. Not the one from the 80′s with Brooke Shields, but a surreal geothermal pool and Spa located in a lava field in Grindavík about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. No description from me will do it justice. It really is other worldly. But let me just say… imagine a huge hot tub in the middle of a lava field with a swim up to wine/beer bar located in the center. Are you getting the picture?

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We went Snowmobiling with Mountaineers of Iceland on Langjökull glacier, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Very exciting, but even with the copious layers of thermals I was wearing, it was the absolute coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life! Though what would you expect, we were traipsing about on a huge slab of ice!

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We stayed at Hotel Rangá. This gorgeous, cozy hotel, which is located out in the country (hence no light pollution), about two hours from Reykjavik, caters to folks hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights and will give you a wake up call should you desire if the elusive lights do make an appearance. (seems like they mostly show up around midnight to 2 a.m.) We were actually lucky enough to see the Aurora put on a great show.

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Northern Lights and a meteor from the Geminid meteor shower which was happening on the same night!

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What is the food like you might ask. As you can imagine, the seafood is really outstanding! My husband, who is allergic to seafood, was not left wanting. There were plenty of non-seafood options available for him to choose from. One of his favourite meals of the trip was reindeer meatballs. All that being said, one of the most popular “restaurants” in Reykjavik, really isn’t a restaurant at all. It is a hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu which has been selling hot dogs or pylsur to Icelanders and tourists alike since 1935. Apparently Icelanders LOVE hot dogs and claim that theirs are the best in the world. Indeed, The Guardian designated Bæjarins Beztu as the “best hot dog stand in Europe”. Of course we made a beeline for the place as soon as we arrived in the city (as well as paying it a couple more visits while we were there). We weren’t disappointed! They serve some excellent hot dogs. These dogs have lamb added to the usual pork and beef and are smothered with ketchup, mustard, raw onion, crispy onion and a spicy remoulade. Delicious!

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We are already planning our trip back this year and yup, in December! I’m sure at this point you are wondering if we are ever going to talk about the Kanilsnúðar recipe I’ve dangled so temptingly before you. So I’ll get right to it. Icelanders are really into Christmas. Christmas music plays non-stop. All the houses are completely decked out with lights. Everywhere we went, shops, bars, you name it, had Christmas cookies out for all to enjoy. I think I first tasted a Kanilsnúðar at the Heistheimar riding stables. It reminded me of a Snickerdoodle, but better, much more exotic and with a fun shape. Then I was able to find a bag of these darling little snails, the first of many bags consumed on the trip, in a local market and my obsession began.

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Once I got home, I looked about online and was able to find a couple of recipes. The one I really wanted to make called for the ingredient “Hartshorn” which I had never heard of. Further internet research revealed that Hartshorn is a rather old-fashioned leavener also known as Baker’s Ammonia. It is supposed to make baked goods rise higher than baking powder and make them extra crispy. I read that it was available in most Scandinavian shops. These establishments are a bit thin on the ground in Virginia, so I checked the King Arthur Flour site and sure enough they had it, so I placed my order. (If you would like to make these cookies without the Hartshorn, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the 1/2 teaspoon Hartshorn called for. This is said to yield similar results, but I did not try it.) For those of you who do manage to procure some Hartshorn, don’t freak out when you mix the cookie dough up. It will have quite a whiff of ammonia about it, but it goes away once baking is complete. I was quite happy with my little “cinnamon snails”.

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They are great with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or as an afternoon snack. My husband likes them because they are not overly sweet, a quality which he seems to prefer in a cookie. I’m sure they have secured a permanent place in our Christmas cookie repertoire because they will always be a pleasant reminder of our dreamy first trip to Iceland.

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Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails)

recipe adapted from: Jo’s Icelandic Recipes

yield: approx. 12  cookies

Ingredients:

  • 175 grams flour
  • 100 grams  unsalted butter  plus 1 Tablespoon salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp hartshorn powder (baker’s ammonia) * or 1/2 tsp. baking powder and baking soda
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 1 egg
  • healthy pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon (or extra if you’re really into cinnamon)

Directions:

Mix cinnamon and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Place flour and hartshorn, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse to mix. Cut cold butter into 1″ cubes and scatter over  the flour mixture. Pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse little pebbles. Remove flour/butter mixture from food processor and place in bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and knead mixture until it just comes together to form dough. Pat dough into square shape and wrap with plastic wrap.

Place wrapped dough in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Flatten the dough quite thin and roll out evenly. Try to keep it an approximately square or rectangular shape.

Brush dough with melted butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over top of dough.

Roll the dough up into a roll, then slice into approx. 1 cm thick slices.

Arrange slices on a cookie sheet and bake at about 200°C (392 ° F) until golden brown.

Enjoy!

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