All Posts By

Margaret M. Johnson

Food & Drink

Your Remote All-American Memorial Day Dessert

Memorial Day is going to be very different this year. It’ll be a while before we can picnic in large groups, due to the coronavirus pandemic—Philadelphia and environs continuing to be a red zone.

By all means, remember what the holiday stands for, but also celebrate within your own cozy little household.

To help you along, we have a recipe for a rich pound cake that you absolutely should add to the menu. Grand Marnier and citrus are the perfect aromatics to flavor it and olive oil makes it moist and delicious. It’s a perfect recipe for summer entertaining, especially when you serve it with mascarpone crème and seasonal berries.

Feel free to share this delicious recipe with your friends and family … and Happy Memorial Day.

OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH MASCARPONE CRÈME

SERVES 8

For the mascarpone crème

  • 1 (8 ounces) container mascarpone, chilled
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cake

  • 1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • Fresh berries, for serving

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Food & Drink

Asparagus Time!

Imported asparagus are available all year round, but there is nothing to beat those locally grown in its short spring season: in Ireland, traditionally beginning on April 23 and ending on Midsummer Day.

Although its delicate flavor and seasonality makes it highly desirable in the kitchen, asparagus is much more than just a pretty vegetable; it’s long been recognized as a good source of dietary fiber and is high in antioxidants.

Green asparagus is widely grown and eaten, while white asparagus (regular asparagus just planted under piles of soil that prevent the spears from developing chlorophyll, which gives the vegetable its green color) is also very popular in northern Europe, where “asparagus menus” are a specialty in restaurants in asparagus-growing areas.

Asparagus is delicious steamed, grilled or baked, and as a starter or a side dish, it’s often served with hollandaise, vinaigrette, or olive oil. It’s also a versatile ingredient in soups, omelets, and tarts.

Go grab a bunch now!

CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 3 cups milk, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Croutons, for garnish (optional)

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Food & Drink

Order Up a Classic Wedge

Are you missing a classic wedge salad from your favorite restaurant?

No worries … easy as pie to make at home, especially if you use Ireland’s favorite blue cheese, Cashel Blue from County Tipperary.

ICEBERG WEDGE WITH BLUE CHEESE-CHIVE DRESSING

SERVES 4

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, plus more for topping

For the salad

  •  Small head iceberg lettuce, quartered
  •  1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon
  •  1 cup chopped tomato
  •  1/2 cup chopped red onion (optional)
  •  Fresh chopped chives, for topping

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Food & Drink

Baking With the Best

Social distance. Work from home. Shelter in place. Self-quarantine.

The new normal appears to be upon us, whether we like it or not. As much as I would prefer to be out and about, I do find solace in my kitchen, and this new confinement has given me the time to bake some brown soda bread recipes that I generally make only a few times a year.

For anyone who knows Irish food, brown soda bread literally goes with everything from breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner, so having a loaf or two on hand now can be a welcome addition to your food supply.

This recipe comes from Paula Stakelum, head pastry chef at Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, so expect greatness!

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Food & Drink

Tea Sandwich Update: Move Over Mayo and Mustard

By definition, chutney is relish-like sauce made with fruit, sugar, spices and vinegar. It was often made to give late summer and autumn fruits a long shelf life and was used to add contrasting flavor to meats, especially poultry and game.

It’s also a great—make that fabulous—addition to a sandwich, especially at teatime, when it’s all about impressing your guests.

For your next afternoon tea, you might want to skip mayonnaise and mustard and try two sandwich toppings the Irish love: red onion marmalade (also called red onion jam) and tomato chutney.

These sweet-salty-savory condiments are delicious with smoked salmon, roast beef, and ham and cheese.

You’ll find these and other interesting sandwich combinations in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland. Signed copies are available on www.irishcook.com. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Teatime is the Best Time!

You might say that in Ireland all roads lead to tea. From breakfast and lunch breaks to weddings and wakes, cupan tea is always a welcome guest. Irish tea is far more than just a hot drink to go with a scone and jam: it’s an important custom that serves as a symbol of hospitality, friendship, and pleasure.

Some say the Irish people have a relationship with tea that “transcends the ordinary” — hyperbole, perhaps, but given that the average person in Ireland drinks four to six cups of tea a day, perhaps not!

I discovered this as soon as I enjoyed my first “official” cup at my cousin Kit’s cottage in County Kerry during my first visit there 35 years ago, and soon after at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, where I was introduced to afternoon tea, the elegant three-course affair where tea is the main attraction and delicacies like dainty sandwiches, flaky scones, and luscious pastries act in supporting roles. Continue Reading

News

COMFORTING FOOD FOR FOOTBALL FANS

The Eagles might be out of the race to the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean Philly fans won’t be tuning in on Sunday for a bunch of games that will move two teams closer to the Big Game. With cheese steaks off the menu, you might want to try this delicious, Irish-inspired make-ahead meal that you can pop in the oven just before half time.

Cottage Pie with a Cheddar Crust

SERVES 6

In a land where sheep were traditionally a primary food supply, it’s not surprising that lamb is the foundation for many Irish farmhouse dishes. Cottage Pie, a long-time favorite, was originally created as an economical way to use leftover lamb and was always a favorite with farmers. This meat and vegetable pie, which is topped with a crust of mashed potatoes flavored with Kerrygold’s Cheddar or Dubliner cheese, can easily be doubled for a crowd. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I haven’t posted in a month and my Irish guilt is gnawing at me! So it’s back to business this week as “that time of year” is fast approaching.

I’ve already started plumping my fruit for the several varieties of fruitcake that I make, but not for this one because the fruit is boiled! I’ve had the recipe for many years and love it now as much as ever.

The original recipe called for Bushmills, but you can substitute another brand. You’ll find this and other holiday recipes in my Favorite Flavors of Ireland cookbook, now BUY ONE GET ONE, and in my soon-to-be-released Teatime in Ireland. Visit www.irishcook.com for more details.

 Bushmills Boiled Fruitcake

Makes 1 large or 4 to 5 small loaves

This fruitcake is an interesting one because the dried and candied fruits are cooked with butter, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple before being mixed with the dry ingredient. The technique produces a very moist cake. Continue Reading