Five PEI Foodies Talk About Their Christmas Food Traditions

Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Herb-Basted Roast Turkey

Food plays a vital role in Christmas celebrations here in Prince Edward Island. I recently chatted with five Islanders who, in one way or another, have strong food connections. Read on to find out what foods these foodies most associate with Christmas and what foods, if they didn’t have them, it just would not be Christmas for them.

Wade MacLauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island

Food factors heavily into Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Christmas festivities.  The premier, a great cook himself, launches into seafood pie production in mid-December.  He produces some 20 seafood pies filled with mussels, lobster, bar clams, scallops, and some fin fish like salmon, trout, or haddock.  Premier MacLauchlan uses grated potatoes that have been cooked in seafood stock to make a heavy starchy paste which eliminates the need for flour as a thickener for the pie filling.  The ingredients are combined and placed inside a double-crusted pastry and baked.  When asked what he does with all the pies, he tells me he gives them away as gifts. And, for those who aren’t seafood lovers, he makes tourtière and says he usually makes between 6 and 10 of those each December.

Food also plays a part in a Solstice Sunrise Party that the premier has been hosting at his home for almost two decades.  Held annually on the day of the winter solstice, the premier says he simply couldn’t stop it now even if he wanted to because the regulars would just show up anyway! Rising early to make 3-4 dozen muffins and to brew a couple of urns of coffee, the premier opens his doors at 7:30am and people start arriving to watch the sunrise together. It’s not uncommon for 75-80 people to attend. With a commanding view to the east and to the south out over Stanhope Bay, it’s a time for family, friends, and neighbours to visit and re-connect. Everyone brings food to contribute to the potluck event which is set up buffet style.

Christmas Day is spent with immediate family and, on Boxing Day, the larger extended MacLauchlan family gather at the premier’s home for a potluck brunch.

The premier has kindly shared his recipe for his Seafood Pie which is printed here with Wade MacLauchlan’s permission.  The premier says, although the recipe yield is for 20 pies, the recipe is easily scalable.

Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie Recipe

 

Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island

Communal family cooking has always played a significant part in Peter Bevan-Baker’s life starting when he was a lad growing up in Fortrose, just north of Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland. The family would all prepare the Christmas dinner together, chopping vegetables and singing Christmas carols.

Member of the Legislature and Leader of the Green Party of PEI, Peter’s first and foremost memory of a food enjoyed at Christmas time is his late father’s vol-au-vent made with leftover turkey from Christmas dinner and served with Sauce Robert, a brown mustard sauce. Sometimes, the vol-au-vents would be served as nibbles but other times as the main for a meal when they would be served with “tatties and neeps”, the Scottish names for potatoes and turnips, respectively.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

When asked what Christmas dinner dessert consisted of, Peter says it was always Christmas Pudding which he did not like at all!  However, he says the arrival of the pudding at the dinner table was quite an elaborate ceremony. Everyone stood up and literally lifted the table off the floor to meet the pudding – it was a true salute to the Christmas pudding! Of course, some alcohol would be heated, poured over the pudding, and the pudding set aflame. Peter claims watching the pudding burn was the best part since he had no liking for the pudding! His father made a brandy butter to serve with the pudding. Peter says another great memory he has of Christmas as a young boy in the Scottish Highlands was visiting a rich family who lived in the area and who served Coca Cola at Christmas which was very special since it was not something he had at home.

Peter’s father was a great cook and modeled to his children that it was okay for men to be in the kitchen cooking. Today, Peter and his wife have four adult children (two of whom are chefs) and cooking remains very much a family event. Vol-au-vents will make an appearance over the holidays in keeping with his long-standing family tradition. While the family usually has a turkey dinner for Christmas, Peter says it will usually be with a contemporary twist of some sort that may include some dishes from other cultures.

Bill Martin, Mayor of Summerside and Owner of the Water Street Bakery

Mayor of the City of Summerside, Bill Martin has very fond memories of waking up on Christmas morning to the scent of meat pies baking.  His mother, a Scottish war bride, had an absolute Christmas morning tradition and that involved homemade meat pies.  The family enjoyed the meat pies, complete with homemade mustard pickles, after opening presents on Christmas morning.  Mayor Martin continues that tradition today. He and his family enjoy Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, homefries, and toast along with the meat pie and mustard pickles.  To this tradition, they have also added the Acadian dish, Rapure, a grated potato casserole.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

Mayor Martin and his wife have run the Water Street Bakery for the past 29 years. They make meat pies year-round now and, in December alone, they will make more than 2000 meat pies which are made with pork, chicken, turkey, potato, onion, and spices, all covered in a biscuit dough crust.  These pies are in such demand during the Christmas period that the bakery has rented additional freezer space. In fact, on the first Saturday in December, they made 200 meat pies and sold 100 of them the same day. As a bakery owner, the other two most popular items that Martin says never go out of style are the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and the cherry balls, both of which are available at the bakery only at Christmas which makes them more special treats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Irwin MacKinnon, Executive Chef, Papa Joe’s Restaurant and PEI Chef of the Year 2017

Long-time executive chef at Charlottetown’s Papa Joe’s Restaurant and recently-named PEI Chef of the Year 2017, Chef Irwin MacKinnon says it would not be Christmas in his household without the “Jimmy Jams”.  These delightful cookies have been made by ancestors on his mother’s side for years. Today, his mom is the principle baker of these Christmas treats that his children look forward to each Christmas.  As MacKinnon describes them, Jimmy-Jams are two round shortbread cookies, about 1½“ – 2” in diameter, sandwiched together with plain white icing.  Each sandwiched cookie is iced again on top and then decorated with rainbow-colored sprinkles.

Everyone has his or her own version of the stuffing for the turkey and Chef MacKinnon discovered how important that tradition is when he and his wife married 25 years ago.  On his side of the family, they make what he calls “Grammie’s Stuffing” which is bread-based and the ingredients are bound together by mashed potato and lots of butter and seasoned with onion, summer savory, and salt and pepper.  A bit of brown sugar is added just to give a sweet tone.  On his wife’s side of the family, they make the stuffing (dressing) completely opposite and Chef Irwin classes it as a potato stuffing made with mashed potatoes, onion cooked in butter, and seasoned with summer savory.  This is baked in the oven and there is no bread in this version.  If you are an Islander, you’ll get and appreciate the significance of family recipes for the turkey stuffing/dressing!

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

So, whose stuffing recipe will be on the Christmas table in the MacKinnon household this year? You guessed it – Irwin will be making his grammie’s stuffing recipe to go along with the fresh turkey from Larkin Brothers in New Glasgow. To this, he’ll include a wide variety of veggies that include potatoes, turnip, carrots, squash, and brussel sprouts.

For dessert, Chef Irwin’s mother-in-law’s plum pudding will grace the table complemented by Irwin’s rich brown sugar sauce made from a rue of butter and flour with caramelized brown sugar added.  Chef Irwin says a slice of pudding topped with ice cream and a good drizzle of a glossy brown sugar sauce is the ultimate Christmas dinner dessert.

Since he cooks everyday for a living, I asked Chef Irwin if he lets someone else cook the Christmas dinner but he says it’s him that spearheads the dinner at home and one of his greatest joys is to cook for his own family.  Other members of the family pitch in and bring contributions to the dinner as the family melds their different traditions from their blended families.

Glenda Burt, Chef, and former owner of The Home Place Restaurant in Kensington, PEI

For Chef Glenda Burt, the highlight of the Christmas dinner is the plum pudding and warm sauce.  She says that, even though you might be “stuffed to the gills” from the main meal, there is always room for plum pudding!  Glenda makes a rich toffee sauce to serve with her plum pudding, a sauce made with brown sugar, whipping cream, butter, and vanilla.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

Glenda grew up in the family that originally owned Mary’s Bakery in Kensington so baking and candy making are certainly second nature to her. She has very fond memories of the chocolate, brown sugar, and divinity fudges that her mother made at Christmas and how they would appear in a plastic Christmas motif tri-sectioned dish on Christmas Eve. Homemade raisin bread toasted on Christmas morning is an annual tradition in the Burt household. Glenda doesn’t prepare a big Christmas Day breakfast because she says the whole day is spent eating; However, the raisin bread must be present to start the day off.

Other foods that will make their appearance over the holidays will be gingersnaps, dark fruitcake, meat pies (that Glenda says are pure comfort food), and in deference to our Maritime culture, some kind of seafood which could be lobster in the shell or seafood chowder.

Chef Glenda is hosting her family Christmas on Boxing Day this year and she will be doing the cooking of the traditional Christmas dinner that will include roast turkey, stuffing, and veggies. Glenda will be serving her famous turnip casserole as well. This yummy dish is made with mashed turnip, a white sauce with Parmesan cheese, and topped with buttered bread crumbs.  Of course, all the traditional fixins’ like homemade rolls, pickles, and beets will be on the table to complement the turkey dinner.

 

My thanks to Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Leader of the PEI Green Party Peter Bevan-Baker, Mayor Bill Martin, Chef Irwin MacKinnon, and Chef Glenda Burt for sharing their Christmas food traditions with me.

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Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

If you are like me, you are always on the hunt for tasty little appetizers or hors d’oeuvres to serve at functions.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are my latest creation and are packed full of flavor. Red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper are sautéed in butter and seasoned with nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme. The seasoned and sautéed vegetables are combined with cooked quinoa added for texture and visual appeal along with Parmesan cheese for additional flavor. The ingredients are bound together with chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup to add a touch of sweetness.

Spooned on to olive-oiled baguette slices, each crostini is topped with grated cheddar cheese.  For mine, I used a locally produced cheese –  Appletree Smoked Cheddar Cheese produced in PEI by COWS Creamery.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d'oeuvres
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d’oeuvres

These hors d’oeuvres are easily made into a gluten-free version. Simply use a gluten-free baguette and ensure that all other ingredients are gluten-free.  One important factor to keep in mind with hors d’oeuvres is to ensure that they can easily be eaten with grace by guests – that means no huge chunks of ingredients that can pull apart when chewed into. Hors d’oeuvres should be able to be eaten with the use of only one hand.  While the mushrooms could be sliced, instead of chopped, for this hors d’oeuvre, they would need to be very small.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

 Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

 Ingredients:

1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
1/8 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp dried summer savory
1/8 tsp dried thyme

4 tsp chicken stock
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp pure maple syrup
¼ cup cooked quinoa
4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese

Fresh herbs for garnish

1 French baguette
Olive Oil for brushing on baguette slices

Method:

Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup.  Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.

Slice baguette into 16 slices between ¼” and  ½” thick.  Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil.  Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices.  Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.  Place crostini on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted.  Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.

Yield:  16 appetizers

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Print

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are packed full of flavor.  Featuring mushrooms, quinoa, cheese, and select seasonings, these tasty bites are sure to be a favorite hors d'oeuvre at your next gathering.

Course Appetizer
Servings 16
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried summer savory
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  • 1 French baguette
  • Olive oil for brushing on baguette slices

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

  2. In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup. Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.
  3. Slice baguette into 16 slices about 1/2" thick. Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil. Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices. Sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese. Place slices on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
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Cookbook Giveaway (Just in time for Christmas!)!!!!!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

The winner of the cookbook is Terry Gall of Kamloops, BC.

————————————————————————————-

Thanks to the publishers at Penguin Random House Canada, I have an extra copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day to give away in conjunction with the review I just published on this cookbook. You can read my review of the book here: Cookbook Review of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day

Please read the following which explains how to participate in this Cookbook Giveaway, then head over to My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page to enter!

Cookbook Giveaway Rules

These Official Rules govern the Cookbook giveaway. By participating or attempting to participate in the giveaway event, you will be deemed to have received, understood, and agreed to these Official Rules.

This cookbook giveaway event is exclusively for fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and who are Canadian residents (excluding Quebec residents).  So, if you have not already become a fan of this Facebook page, and if you wish to participate in the cookbook giveaway event, head on over to https://www.facebook.com/MyIslandBistroKitchen/ and click the “Like” button on the Facebook page, located just below the cover photograph, and then proceed with the following eligibility steps for the cookbook giveaway:

  1. Click “Like” on the specific Facebook posting that details the cookbook giveaway.
  2. Leave a comment on the posting indicating what your favorite simple food is to make for yourself or your family.
  3. Share the Facebook post about the Cookbook Giveaway (make sure your privacy setting is set to public so I can see that you shared it).

Only individuals who have correctly completed the eligibility criteria above will be eligible for the cookbook draw.

  • No purchase is necessary to participate.
  • This giveaway is open only to Canadian residents (excluding residents of Quebec) having a Canadian mailing address and who are fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • There is one (1) prize only to be won – one (1) copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day cookbook with an approximate Canadian retail value of $32.00. The book for this giveaway has been provided by the cookbook’s publisher, Penguin Random House Canada. The prize is non-transferable and non-exchangeable. It cannot be exchanged for money value.  The prize offering is valid only during the specified allotted time as described in these Official Rules.
  • Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  • The submission entry period opens at 7:00pm (AST) on November 30, 2017, and closes at 7:00pm (AST) on December 3, 2017. Draw of winner will be made by 9:00pm (AST) on December 4, 2017.
  • All eligible entries received during the submission period will be gathered at the end of the submission period. One entrant will be randomly selected as a potential winner and notified through Facebook. In the event any potential winner does not respond to such notification within 48 hours of having been sent notification, declines the prize for any reason, or does not meet the requirements set forth in these Official Rules, the potential winner will be disqualified and an alternate potential winner may be randomly selected from among remaining eligible entries, or the prize may be cancelled.
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  • Once the definitive winner has been determined to have successfully met all the eligibility criteria afore-mentioned, and claimed the prize, his or her name will be announced on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and on this blog posting and, in order to receive the prize, the winner must agree to this publication announcement as a condition of winning.
  • Cookbook prize may not be awarded if an insufficient number of eligible entries is received. The determination of insufficient number of eligible entries will be at the sole discretion of My Island Bistro Kitchen.
  • In order to receive the cookbook, the winner must agree to provide My Island Bistro Kitchen with their Canadian mailing address to which the cookbook will be mailed. This information will be provided to Penguin Random House Canada by My Island Bistro Kitchen for the purposes of mailing the cookbook to the declared winner and the winner must agree to the sharing of their mailing address with Penguin Random House Canada for this purpose. The prize will not be replaced if lost, destroyed, mutilated, or stolen.
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To enter this giveaway event, pop on over to My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and see the post pinned at the top of the page and follow the instructions on the post.

Good luck!

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Cookbook Review of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day

Title:  The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day 
Author:  Aimée Wimbush-Bourque
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Price: $32.00 (CDN$)
Pages: >300
Available:  Bookstores across Canada and online

Penguin Random House Canada has offered me the opportunity to conduct a review of Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s latest cookbook, The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day .  Wimbush-Bourque is a Canadian food blogger and former chef who makes her home with her family in Montreal.  Devoted to healthy family-focused food, this is Wimbush-Bourque’s second published cookbook.

The book features a wide collection of 100 varied recipes categorized into seven chapters:  Nourishing Breakfasts, Wholesome Lunches and Snacks, Homegrown Vegetarian, Fresh-Air Gatherings, Everyday Suppers, Simple Bites, Staples, and Preserves Pantry. The book has a general table of contents at the front and then each chapter has a more detailed table of contents listing each recipe to be found in the chapter.  In addition, an index at the back of the book makes it easy to quickly find a particular recipe.  Each chapter is introduced by a 2-page narrative written by the author which lends a personal touch to the book and allows the reader to get to know a bit about the recipe’s creator.

The book is filled with lots of common sense tips to make food preparation easy.  For example, there are tips and hints on how to host a soup swap with friends, fridge organization, how to cook pulses and, of interest to families and office workers, information on lunch box renewal.  Appealing to a wide audience of home cooks, the book contains a mix of recipes that range from old favorites like strawberry rhubarb pie, harvest corn chowder, and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to more modern dishes like lentil cottage pie with rutabaga mash, tofu vegetable stir-fry with cashews, Tahini maple tea cookies, Tequila-lime BBQ chicken, and tangy quinoa carrot chicken salad.

The recipes are well laid out with instructions using the ingredients in the order in which they are listed.  I found the instructions complete and easy to follow. Each step is clearly delineated and numbered. For the most part, the ingredients would be ones likely to be available in most supermarkets.  Each recipe is introduced by 1-2 paragraphs about the dish and several of the recipes contain useful tips at the end.

Full page color photos accompany each recipe on the page opposite the recipe.  This is important as it gives a benchmark of what the finished dish should look like.  The photos are clean and simple and are not overdone with unnecessary props and styling. This keeps the focus on the food.

Test-driving recipes
The real test of a cookbook comes when you make some recipes out of the book.  I selected three:  Maple-Roasted Pears in Granola (p. 29), Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal (p. 48), and Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek (p. 214).

Maple-Roasted Pears in Granola
These pears are super tasty. I used Bosc pears and my own granola. Brushed with butter and maple syrup, roasted, then topped with granola mixed with maple syrup and roasted for a few minutes more, these are yummy treats served with a dollop of yogurt.  While these are in the Nourishing Breakfast chapter in the book, I’d gladly eat them any day for dessert!

Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
This is an excellent replacement for the individual packets of quick oatmeal. I made a batch of this mix and now have it in a jar in my desk at work.  Simply add hot water to the mix, stir, and let sit for a few minutes before consuming. I found it took longer than the five minutes that the recipe’s instructions indicated in order for the water to be sufficiently absorbed by the oats. I should point out that I used gluten-free oats for this recipe and perhaps they may take longer than the regular quick cooking rolled oats to absorb the water called for in the recipe. In any event, I didn’t find it a big deal – I just simply let the oats sit a while longer before consuming.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal Recipe
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal Recipe

Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
I found this recipe easy to make and an interesting combination of three principle ingredients – butternut squash, apple, and leek.  This is a very tasty side dish that would go perfectly with poultry, pork, or beef and I would definitely make the recipe again.

Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek Recipee
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek Recipee

 

Concluding Thoughts
This is a beautifully planned and laid out book and it is one that I simply enjoy reading.  The focus is on modern healthy foods for modern, busy families. The book itself is printed on high quality paper giving it a distinctively professional and polished look and feel.  In my opinion, this is a lovely collector’s book for anyone with a cookbook collection and is a book that the cook would return to time and again as a kitchen resource tool.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day  from Penguin Random House Canada for the purposes of conducting a review of the cookbook. I received no compensation for this review and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

The foregoing recipes and photographs were excerpted from The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Copyright © 2017 by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Photos copyright © Tim and Angela Chin. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

 

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Sultana Cake Recipe

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

Sultana Cake, believed to be of British/Scottish origins, is so named because sultana raisins are the main ingredient.  Often served at tea time, this unfrosted cake is a cross between a war cake, a Dundee cake, and a fruitcake. More sweet than a war cake and definitely less rich than a traditional fruitcake, this is a hearty, stick-to-the-ribs, kind of cake. Unlike a fruitcake, liquor is not common in a Sultana Cake.

Traditionally, I believe, Sultana Cake only had the raisins and maybe some nuts in it. My recipe, however, is slightly more luxurious with the addition of currants along with some glazed cherries and mixed fruit though the raisins are still the main ingredient.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

This is a much easier and quicker cake to make than is a fruitcake.  There is no need to soak the fruit in liquor for a day or two before making the cake.  Essentially, the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit are dredged with 1/2 cup of the flour just before they are added to the batter to prevent them from dropping to the bottom of the cake during baking. I like to add some grated orange and lemon rind for extra flavour.

The butter should be softened at room temperature (not microwaved) for about 45 minutes or so before creaming.  Microwaving the butter changes its consistency and it is more liquified.  Butter that is softened naturally at room temperature is much creamier and fluffs better when beaten with the sugar. Yes, that lovely fluffy texture of the butter and sugar is what results in a soft even crumb in cakes.

The eggs and milk should be at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so before mixing in to the batter.  The eggs need to be at roughly the same room temperature as the butter. If the eggs are cold and hit the soft warm butter, guess what? The eggs harden the butter again and this will un-do all the lovely creaming that has been done and will affect the cake’s texture, creating a dense hard crumb.  The same holds true for the milk which also needs to be at room temperature to allow it to blend smoothly into the butter-sugar-egg mixture.  Ever see cold milk poured into the cake batter that immediately looks lumpy or curdled?  This can result in uneven baked products.

Sultana Cakes are traditionally made in round baking pans.  My recipe calls for a 10″ round tube (funnel) pan that is 4″ deep. It has a 16-cup capacity so there is adequate room for the cake to expand as it bakes. Tube pans are great for dense cakes as they provide more uniform baking.  With dense cakes, like Sultana Cake, it is sometimes difficult to get the outer edges of the cake and the center evenly baked at the same time. Removing the “center” of the cake eliminates this problem. Some pans have a removable bottom and these are very useful when it comes to removing the cake from the pan.  I line the bottom of the pan with a layer of parchment and then spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Placing a small pan of water on the bottom shelf, or floor, of the oven while the cake bakes helps to keep the cake moist. If the cake starts to brown too much, loosely tent it with tin foil.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

Unlike a fruitcake that needs to age three to four weeks before serving so flavours are deepened, a Sultana Cake does not need to age. That said, I usually do wrap and leave my Sultana Cake for 48-72 hours before cutting.

This is a delightful anytime cake although I often make it around Christmas.  It’s a perfect alternative for anyone who finds fruitcake just a little too rich for their palate. It’s especially nice with a lovely cup of tea.

This cake freezes very well.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Sultana Cake

Ingredients:

1 lb sultana raisins
¼ lb currants
8 oz red and green glazed cherries
8 oz. mixed glazed fruit

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1¾ cups brown sugar packed
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon flavoring
1½ tsp grated orange rind
1½ tsp grated lemon rind

3½ cups all-purpose flour (reserve ½ cup for dredging the fruit)
1¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt

1 cup milk, room temperature

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 4” deep 10” round tube (funnel) pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit.  Dredge with ½ cup of the flour called for in the recipe.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat at medium-high speed for one additional minute. Add the vanilla and lemon flavoring and mix well. Add the grated orange and lemon rind. Mix well.

Sift remaining 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat at medium-high speed for 1 additional minute. Add the floured fruit mixture and stir just until ingredients are combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, using knife to smooth top.  Place small pan of hot water on lower shelf, or floor, of oven to provide moisture to the cake as it bakes.  Bake cake in center of middle rack for approximately 2½ hours or until cake tester inserted in or near centre of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper.  Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.

Yield:  One 10” round cake

Sultana Cake
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Sultana Cake

Less sweet than a fruitcake, this Sultana Cake, enhanced with glazed fruit, is moist and flavorful.


Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sultana raisins
  • ¼ lb currants
  • 8 oz red and green glazed cherries
  • 8 oz. mixed glazed fruit
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • cups brown sugar packed
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp lemon flavoring
  • tsp grated orange rind
  • tsp grated lemon rind
  • cups all-purpose flour reserve ½ cup for dredging the fruit
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 4” deep 10” round tube (funnel) pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, mix the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit. Dredge with ½ cup of the flour called for in the recipe. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at medium-high speed for one additional minute. Add the vanilla and lemon flavoring and mix well. Add the grated orange and lemon rind. Mix well.
  4. Sift remaining 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat at medium-high speed for 1 additional minute. Add the floured fruit mixture and stir just until ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan, using knife to smooth top. Place small pan of hot water on lower shelf, or floor, of oven to provide moisture to the cake as it bakes. Bake cake in center of middle rack for approximately 2½ hours or until cake tester inserted in or near centre of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper. Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.

 

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake, so named because sultana raisins are a key ingredient, is a lovely moist cake that is a cross between a warcake and a fruitcake.
Sultana Cake
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Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Old-fashioned Jam Squares
Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Jam Squares are an old-fashioned favourite that I grew up with.  They are easy to make and only take common ingredients.  While any kind of jam may be used, they are most showy when red jam, such as raspberry, is chosen. They are a treat at any time and look especially good on sweet trays for special events.

Jam Squares
Jam Squares

[Printable Recipe follows at end of posting]

Old-Fashioned Jam Squares

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavoring
½ cup white sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp cardamom
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
½ cup raspberry jam

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Assemble ingredients.

Prepare 8”x8” pan by lining with parchment paper.

With electric mixer, beat butter well in medium-sized bowl.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond flavouring.

Sift  sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together.  Stir in grated lemon rind.  Add to butter-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.

Shape dough into a small oblong shape.  Cut off about one-third of the dough and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, press remaining  dough into prepared pan.  Place pan in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove both the reserved dough and the pan from the freezer.  Evenly spread the ½ cup raspberry preserves over dough in pan.

Using a grater, grate the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake for 35 minutes or until topping on square is lightly golden in color.

Let square cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into 16 squares.

Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Yield: 16 squares

These easy-to-make showy squares take only common ingredients. While any kind of jam may be used, they are most showy when red jam is chosen.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond flavoring
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ? tsp cardamom
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup raspberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Assemble ingredients.
  3. Prepare 8”x8” pan by lining with parchment paper.
  4. With electric mixer, beat butter well in medium-sized bowl. Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond flavouring.
  5. Sift sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together. Stir in grated lemon rind. Add to butter-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.
  6. Shape dough into a small oblong shape. Cut off about one-third of the dough and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, press remaining dough into prepared pan. Place pan in freezer for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove both the reserved dough and the pan from the freezer. Evenly spread the ½ cup raspberry preserves over dough in pan. Using a grater, grate the reserved dough evenly over the jam.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes or until topping on square is lightly golden in color.
  10. Let square cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into squares.
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Jam Squares
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An Autumn Savoury Tea

As I write this post, it’s autumn – the days are shorter and cooler and leaves are off the trees, all signs that winter on PEI is not far off. This time of the year always makes me think of warm and cozy afternoon teas leisurely enjoyed in front of the fireplace.

Teatime
A Fireside Tea

My late day event today is what I’m calling a “savoury tea” – which most closely resembles a “high tea”. I’m drawing the menu from previous postings to my food blog so those interested in the food items can access my recipes by clicking on the hotlinks throughout this posting.

Some people refer to the traditional afternoon tea of dainty (and always crustless) sandwiches, scones, and an array of sweets as “high tea” (which it isn’t). I’m not sure why this happens – perhaps it is because the food is often served on a tall (hence “high”) three-tier server (pictured below), or curate stand, along with fancy cups and saucers on the table or it may be because the mere mention of afternoon tea evokes the notion that it is a “high” society event. In any event there is a distinction between a “high tea” and an “afternoon tea” (the latter sometimes referred to as a “low tea”).

Three-tier Server
Three-tier Server

Originally, afternoon teas consisted of light refreshments served on low tables like coffee tables, for example. The idea of an afternoon tea was to have some refreshments, mid-afternoon, to counter the sluggishness often experienced in the afternoon and to stave off the hunger until dinner was served later in the evening. Partakers would often be seated in comfy armchairs as opposed to formal dining chairs and would use the low tables upon which to set their cup and saucer and refreshments. In fact, some high-end hotels in London serve afternoon tea in the surroundings of their lobbies and, indeed, comfortable armchairs and sofas are still used along with low coffee tables. Today, however, the traditional afternoon tea is most often served at regular height tables. What characterizes a traditional afternoon tea are finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and, of course, tea.

High tea, on the other hand, is more like a light supper featuring hot menu items which are most frequently served at a regular height table. Foods denoting a high tea might include egg dishes like quiches, and/or dishes that include meat and fish. Bread or biscuits would most commonly be served but less likely sandwiches if hot savoury dishes are part of the menu. And, of course, there would indeed be tea! High teas, then, tend to be comprised of more substantial fare and are typically served later in the afternoon or early evening as in the case of mine today. For those who watch the British soap opera, Coronation Street, you’ll often hear the characters invite others “round for tea” – it’s “high tea” or supper they are referring to in this context. (Yes, I’m a “Corrie” fan!)

My savoury tea is, therefore, most similar to a “high tea”.

A Savoury Tea
A Savoury Tea

The Table

I was fortunate enough to find an antique Gibbard tea trolley, in relatively decent condition, a few years ago and it is, indeed, handy. I love to use it for displays in my dining room and, because it has a double drop leaf, it often serves as my tea table when it is just tea for two. It’s the perfect size to hold all the tea elements and is easily wheeled to whatever location in the house I choose for the tea. (I am still on the hunt for a Roxton maple tea trolley in excellent condition to match my dining room set so, if anyone on PEI has one they are interested in parting with, or knows someone who does, please get in touch!)

Tea Trolley
Tea Trolley

The Linens

The tablecloth square on my tea table is one I bought in Burano on my last trip to Italy. Yes, when I’m looking for mementos of trips, my interests usually veer toward tabletop items and foods local to the area!

The Tea Table is Set
The Tea Table is Set

Napkin folds for tea tables tend to lean toward basic, classic designs, much like the simple triangular fold I’ve chosen here. Most often, the folds tend to be flat designs as opposed to stand-up folds.

Simple Teatime Napkin Fold
Simple Teatime Napkin Fold

The Flowers

I like to include fresh flowers on my tea tables. They don’t have to be anything more elaborate than a simple bouquet of mini carnations. The arrangement, however, does need to be proportionately sized. Floral arrangements for tea tables are typically quite small, especially if it is a tea table set for two. Using a single color and variety of flower keeps the look simple and uncluttered.

Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table
Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table

Dishes and Glassware

Sometimes, it’s nice to use a formal tea set or pieces from formal china for tea settings. Matching pieces do lend an air of formality and cohesiveness to the setting. However, it’s totally acceptable to have a mix of dishes on the tea table so long as they coordinate in style and color.

Always use small tea-sized plates, or supper plates, for tea events. Small portions of food characteristic of tea fare just look better on small plates as the food does not appear so minuscule and “lost” as it would on a large dinner plate, for example. These pink design plates were a thrift shop find.

Tea Plate
Tea Plate

From my collection, I have simply chosen two different teacups and saucers that I particularly like. They both have pink designs to compliment the plates.

Teacup and Saucer
Teacup and Saucer

Both cups have wonderful designs inside and outside.

China Teacup and Saucer
China Teacup and Saucer

The teapot, a Sadler, also has a pink theme. The pink shades coordinate with the salmon pink shade highlighted in the tablecloth.

Sadler Teapot
Sadler Teapot

I found these little pedestal glasses with cranberry trim at a second-hand shop and knew they would be perfectly sized for tea tables. They lend an air of elegance and color to the table.

Cranberry Glass
Cranberry Glass

I adore my three-tier servers! They give an air of elegance and sophistication to any tea table. Plus, they are super useful and an efficient way to serve the food. All the food items can be brought to the table at once on one unit, taking up less space as tea tables tend to be small and compact. Sandwiches/savoury items go on the bottom tier, scones/biscuits on the middle tier, followed by the tempting sweet treats on the top tier.

The Menu

So, here is what is on my five-course tea menu.

~ Starter ~

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

~ Savoury ~

Harvest Quiche

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Mini Lobster Cakes

~ Biscuits ~

Biscuits served with lemon curd and preserves

~ Sweet Offerings ~

Dark and Light Fruitcake

Frypan Cookie Balls

Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread

Gluten Free Melting Moments

~ Dessert ~

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlets

~ Tea ~

Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend

The traditional order in which to consume tea foods are sandwiches/savouries first, followed by the scones/biscuits, and ending with the sweets. So, let’s take a closer look at the menu items.

Starter Course

For the starter course, I’m serving my homemade cream of roasted tomato soup with tiny squares of grilled cheese.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

In keeping with the small portion size conducive to tea serving size, I’m serving the soup in small soup cups and threading the grilled cheese squares on to a skewer.

Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

Savoury Course

For the savoury course, I have selected three hot items – mini harvest quiches, baked stuffed fingerlings, and mini lobster cakes. By clicking on the foregoing hotlinks, you can access my recipes. I will often plan ahead for afternoon tea events when I am doing my batch cooking for the freezer. In this case, I made some mini quiches and lobster cakes earlier and had them frozen. This allows me to add some variety to my afternoon tea events that I probably might not otherwise have if I had to mix up special small batches especially for a tea event.

Mini Harvest Quiche
Mini Harvest Quiche

The fingerlings are stuffed with sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, and seasonings and are tasty little bites.

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings
Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Living on PEI, lobster fishing is one of our main fisheries so, naturally, I am going to include it in some fashion on my menu. The small lobster cakes are served with a small dob of sour cream.

Mini Lobster Cake
Mini Lobster Cake

Keep the size portions small – they can be the same size as appetizers/hors d’oeuvres or very slightly larger. For example, I use the small individual tart shells for the mini quiches because I like the look of a complete, uncut quiche for each serving. If using pieces cut from a larger quiche, I recommend making the quiche in a small quiche/pie plate 6” – 8” in diameter, no larger.

Biscuits Course

Because this is a savoury tea, I am swapping out the traditional scones associated with afternoon tea and am replacing them with biscuits. I currently have two biscuit recipes on my food blog –  classic tea biscuits and whole wheat biscuits.  Either works well with this type of tea.

Homemade Biscuits
Homemade Biscuits

Biscuits are less sweet and rich than scones and I think they go better with my savoury tea. That doesn’t mean, however, that lemon curd and preserves can’t be enjoyed with biscuits!  It’s a great way to transition the palate from the savoury course to the sweets!

Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade
Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade

I have made a batch of my lemon curd to enjoy with the biscuits. Sometimes, I will use small dishes for the preserves but, if I have the small jars, I will often use them because I like the look of the tiny jars clustered together on a server plate!

Sweets Course

Fruitcake is often (but not always) found on afternoon tea tables. I am including both my light fruitcake  and dark fruitcake, cut into small pieces. Fruitcakes are rich and are best served in small pieces (and they go particularly well with a fine cup of tea). Two kinds of cookies – Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread and Gluten Free Melting Moments are also included along with Frypan Cookie Balls.

Tea Time Sweets
Sweets on the Tea Table

Desserts Course

This is an optional course because, really, the sweets themselves are generally sufficient.  However, a nice touch is to add one special signature dessert.  With my fresh batch of lemon curd, a luscious lemon curd tartlet was an obvious choice.  I added some bright red raspberries for contrast along with a sprig of greenery.

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet
Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet

Tea Selection

My tea selection is one of my personal all-time favorites – Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend.  This tea from Ceylon is crisp and refreshing yet full bodied so it goes very well with a savoury tea.

Fortnum and Mason's "Afternoon Tea" Blend
Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” Blend

I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to go out for afternoon tea but, unfortunately, where I live, there are no restaurants or hotels that offer this option. I think that’s why, when I’m in London, I allot time for 1-2 afternoon teas which are always a highlight of my visits. I often agonize over which ones to choose because there are so many wonderful options. I have written postings on three I particularly enjoyed and you can access those by clicking on the following links:  Afternoon Tea in London and “Scents of Summer” Afternoon Tea in London.

Tea time can be elaborate or simplified and, with some planning, can be made in to an event for entertaining family and friends at home. You’ll find inspiration for afternoon teas of all sorts here on my blog. Simply go to the “Afternoon Teas” menu or type “Afternoon Tea” in the search box on the home page.

An Autumn Savoury Tea
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(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!