Did you know that January is celebrated as “National Hot Tea Month”? I didn’t!
As a member of a tea-loving Facebook group, I discover all sorts of information that only passionate tea-lovers know and share. And as the author of Teatime in Ireland, I do know that tea plays an important role in Ireland and that sharing a cup with friends is a legitimate social event, making tea-drinking a great way to connect.
In the introduction to my cookbook, I suggest that that in Ireland all roads lead to tea; “From breakfast and lunch breaks to weddings and wakes, a cupan tae 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, perhaps not!” Here’s a delicious recipe to enjoy with your tea, one of more than 70 available in my cookbook. To order a signed copy, visit irishcook.com.
For obvious reasons, Christmas 2020 will be scaled back a bit, so for many the “big Christmas cake” won’t happen this year.
Not to worry: for those like me who still love holiday baking, these mini fruitcakes will fill the bill. Same great flavor, same great taste, just sized down to fit the “new normal.”
You’ll find other Christmas recipes in my cookbook “Teatime in Ireland.” To order signed copies, visit irishcook.com.
MINI BUNDT FRUITCAKES
Makes about 35
This “mini” fruitcake is baked in a 12-well mini Bundt pan. You can use a cupcake pan if you don’t have one of these specialty pans.
Cranberries take center stage now in both sweet and savory dishes.
One of my favorites is this quick bread, sweet enough for dessert but not-too-sweet for breakfast or afternoon tea. The versatile little berry is widely available in markets now, so buy a few bags to use now and a few to freeze for later.
You’ll find recipes for similar fruit breads in my latest cookbook Teatime in Ireland. Order signed copies at irishcook.com.
Fresh figs are thought to have been used as early as 2000 B.C.
One of the first fruits to be dried and stored, figs appear regularly in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and they’re revered in many world religions as a symbol of peace, fertility and prosperity.
Most figs grown in the U.S. come from California and are available from mid-May to November. One of the most popular variety is the Brown Turkey, pear-shaped with purple to brown skin.
Similar to the Black Mission but lighter in color, it’s distinguished by the green shades around its neck. It has a light pink interior with robust flavor and is perfect for this delicious dish.
Serve it for dessert topped with whipped cream or for breakfast with honey yogurt and crunchy granola.
Little neck clams. Irish stew. Guinness braised brisket and cabbage. Roasted half chicken. Pan pizza. Vegan meatloaf. Homemade brownies with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Save your whetted appetite for a new restaurant, opening in the cozy Fireside Room at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center (the Irish Center). It’s called The Commodore, and it’s opening for a soft launch October 29 and November 1.
All of those delicious dishes and more are on the menu. And, of course, you are cordially invited.
This is a “soft” opening, meant to refine the concept, with plans to open on a regular basis afterward.
If it’s October, it’s time to add apples to the menu. This recipe for an apple tea loaf is reminiscent of a traditional Irish apple cake.
The brandy adds a little kick and the nuts a bit of crunch.
I like to bake it in a stoneware tea loaf pan (12 x 4 x 2 1/2-inches) that creates smaller slices than a traditional full-sized loaf.
The tea loaf pan (I bought mine at kingarthurflour.com) holds the same amount as a 9 x 5-inch pan, so you can also use it to bake other quick breads or yeast breads.
Baking times will vary if you bake it in the smaller pan.
You’ll find other recipes like this in my cookbook Teatime in Ireland; signed copies available at irishcook.com
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.
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
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