All Posts By

Margaret M. Johnson

Food & Drink

Fabulous Figs … From Teatime to Cheeseboards

Fresh or dried, figs are it!

While not native to Ireland, they’re no longer considered “exotic” and are widely available to use in dishes ranging from teatime sandwiches to appetizers and desserts.

Christmas bakers have probably already started to stockpile dried ones for holidays sweets, but in between try some fresh ones in these yummy recipes.

Some varieties to look for are the dark purple Black Mission, most heavily cultivated today; the green-but-ripe Kadato; the Brown Turkey, similar to Mission but lighter in color; and Calimyrna, often found as dried figs.

You’ll find similar recipes in my cookbook Teatime in Ireland (Buy One, Get One Free) with signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.

FIG AND GOAT CHEESE TOASTS

MAKES 24 TOASTS

Fruit and cheese are a stunning combination in these little toasts made with raisin bread. Serve them at teatime or on a cheeseboard with drinks. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Just Peachy! A Tart to Celebrate Summer’s End

As August comes to a close, the fruits of summer show no signs of slowing down—lots of peaches, blackberries, plums, and nectarines available for snacking and baking.

This tart recipe starts with a shortbread-like crust and is then filled with peaches and blackberries (you can substitute blueberries if you like).

The crumble top adds a third delicious dimension.

You’ll find other sweets recipes in my cookbook Teatime in Ireland (Buy One, Get One Free) with signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.

PEACH-BLACKBERRY TART WITH CRUMBLE TOPPING

SERVES 8

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch sea salt

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Food & Drink

Try This “Foolproof” Summer Dessert

A fruit “fool”—the word supposedly derives from the French fouler, meaning “to crush”—calls for combining puréed fruit with beaten eggs and sugar, whipped cream, sour cream, or yogurt for a virtually “foolproof” dessert.

This recipe, which pays homage to the fraughan (also known as bilberry and wild blueberry), combines the berries with layers of whipped cream and crushed biscuits.

You’ll find similar recipes in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland with suggestions to serve the fool in small 2 to 3-ounce glasses for the “sweets course.”

To order signed copies (Buy One Get One Free during the SUMMER SPECIAL), visit irishcook.com. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Sweet, Delicious Summer Pudding

What could be sweeter (and easier) than a big bowl or fresh berries for a summer dessert? A trifle, perhaps? A cobbler? A summer pudding?

A bit more effort, I agree, but the rewards are greater too.

You’ll find other sweet summer recipes in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland. Order a signed copy at www.irishcook.com and get one FREE with my “Christmas in July” special offer.

SUMMER PUDDING

SERVES 6

Some attribute this deliciously simple dessert to the English, but it’s equally popular in Ireland. As its name indicates, summer fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are the main ingredients. But don’t be fooled by the word “pudding” in its name, since the dessert is actually made with white bread or brioche!

After the fruit and bread have mingled overnight, the result is a colorful and unusual dessert that almost looks too pretty to eat.

I’ve been a fan since 1999 when the recipe first appeared in my Irish Heritage Cookbook. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Summer Cake: It’s Very Berry

Long before gluten-free was a food phenomenon, a friend gave me this recipe for an unusual, flourless—thus gluten-free—cornmeal cake that became my go-to summer dessert.

The original recipe suggested a fruity wine syrup topping, but I also love it as an upside-down cake with the fruit on the bottom.

Serve it for dessert or at teatime with whipped cream, a dollop of tangy crème fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You’ll find more teatime recipes in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland.

To order a signed copy—buy one get one free with a CHRISTMAS IN JULY special offer—visit irishcook.com. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Celebrate the Season with a Berry Salad

It’s strawberry season in Ireland, especially in County Wicklow, where the luscious berries are grown in great number at places like Green’s Berry Farm in Gorey.

Delicious in shortcakes, jams, and quick beads, of course, but for a change of pace toss them in a salad with cheese and nuts and top it with honey-mustard vinaigrette, creamy poppy seed or blue cheese dressing.

Buy your favorite salad greens loose or in convenient 10-ounce bags; add baby spinach and arugula, if you like.

STRAWBERRY-BLUEBERRY SALAD WITH HONEY-MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

SERVES 4

For the salad

  • Mixed lettuce, spinach, arugula
  • 1 cup whole strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced (optional)
  • Crumbled blue cheese (optional)

For the vinaigrette

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Make salad. Combine mixed greens, strawberries, blueberries, pine nuts, onion (if using), and blue cheese (if using) in a large bowl.
  2. Make vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil until blended; whisk in vinegar.
  3. Pour dressing over salad; toss gently. Arrange on salad places, sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

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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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