All Posts By

Margaret M. Johnson

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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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