Easter Afternoon Tea

By now, you have probably concluded that I like afternoon teas!  So, today, I share photos from my Easter Tea.

Let’s begin with a stylized salad served in a hollowed-out cucumber cup.

And, of course, the most logical tea sandwiches for Easter would be made with egg salad and garnished with carrot sticks.

The little Easter eggs scattered on the table are actually little wooden eggs I hand-painted some years ago when I was doing a lot of decorative painting.

I love the bright, cheerful colors of Easter but what would Easter be without something chocolate!

The bright yellow tulips are from the Vanco Tulip Farm in Mt. Albion, PEI.

Love these little chocolate nests filled with tiny miniature Easter eggs!  The fudge brownies were pretty awesome, too!

Seasonal cookie shapes of pink bunnies and lambs also found their way on to the Easter tea table along with melting moments sandwiched together with bright-colored buttercream icing.

I am always looking for creative uses for my teacup collection.  Here, I have used them to serve brightly-colored Easter cupcakes.

Dainty little Scotch cookies decorated for the Easter season.

Decorating seasonal cookies is one of my passions – can you tell?

 Fun and whimsical!  Certain conversation pieces, for sure!

I realized, too late, that I had forgotten to take a close-up of my Easter teapot on the tea table.  Fortunately, I had another photograph of it so here is photo of my “Little Lamb Teapot”.

And, when it’s all put together, this is what it looked like.

I hope you have enjoyed these photos of my Easter Tea.  Thank you for visiting my blog today.  I hope you are enjoying this Easter season.

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                                                                                                                                                 Barbara

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for Halibut Steaks

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce over Halibut Steak served with Herb-Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Root Vegetables
Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce over Halibut Steak served with Herb-Roasted Miniature Potatoes and Steamed Root Vegetables

Every Spring, I freeze bags and bags of rhubarb for recipes to be made through the remainder of the year.  I am always looking for new ways to serve this versatile vegetable.  Living on an island on the East Coast of Canada, fish is readily available.  Sometimes, I like to eat the fish plain, just pan-seared or oven-baked but, other times, I like it dressed up a bit.  Rhubarb and citrus make a nice combination and citrus sauces go well with seafood so my creation includes both rhubarb and citrus fruit.

It will be another couple of months before we have fresh rhubarb from our garden so I thought it was time to use up some of the remaining frozen rhubarb (or maybe I just needed to have a Spring food because our Winter is getting very tiresome with 2 major snow storms within 3 days this past week).  So, today, I am going to share with you a sauce that I created especially for white fish.  You can use any kind of white fish with this sauce – my choice was the halibut steak because it had enough thickness to it that it would hold together to plate well for presentation and not break into pieces.

I will tell you, though, that this sauce has a number of steps so it is probably not suitable for weeknights for most of us as it is does take some time to make.  It dresses up fish so would certainly be suitable for a special weekend dinner or for company.  I love the rich red-colored sauce as a contrast to the white fish.  I hope you enjoy.

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for Halibut Steaks

(created by Barbara of My Island Bistro Kitchen)

1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen

2 tbsp sugar

¼ cup water

 

Juice of 2 blood oranges (about 2/3 cup juice)

 

1 tbsp butter

1 shallot, finely minced (about ¼ cup)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tbsp. Liquid Gold Pomegranate Quince balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. Pomegranate molasses

2 tsp. liquid chicken bouillon concentrate mixed in ½ cup hot water

1 1/2 tsp. blood orange zest

¼ tsp. sage

¼ tsp. ginger

1 ½ – 2 tsp. cornstarch mixed in 1 tbsp. cold water to make thickening paste

Method:

In saucepan, place the rhubarb, sugar, and ¼ cup water.  Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until rhubarb has softened.  Push the rhubarb through a sieve to release the juice.  You should have about 1/3 cup of rhubarb juice.  Discard rhubarb pulp.  Set juice aside.

Making the Rhubarb Juice

Meanwhile, grate 1 1/2 tsp zest from one blood orange.  Squeeze juice from 2 medium-sized blood oranges and strain through sieve to remove any pith and stones.  In small saucepan, over medium-low heat, reduce the orange juice to about half.  You should have about 1/3 cup of juice after this process.

Preparing the Blood Orange Juice

In clean saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the shallot and minced garlic for 3-4 minutes until shallot is translucent.

Sauté Shallots and Garlic

Add the rhubarb and orange juices, Pomegranate Quince balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, orange zest, sage, and ginger.  Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.

Remove from heat and strain through fine sieve into clean saucepan to remove any pieces of garlic and onion.  This will make a clean, smooth sauce.  Return mixture to low heat.

Mix cornstarch with water to make a paste.  Add about 1 tbsp of the hot liquid from the sauce to temper the paste so it will not go lumpy when added to the hot mixture.  Add to saucepan mixture and stir or whisk until thickened to consistency desired.

Makes enough sauce for 3-4 servings.

To serve:

Pan-sear or oven-bake halibut steaks till fish flakes easily.  Plate the fish and pour 1-2 tbsp sauce over each steak.  Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts, if desired, and blood orange slices.

I served the fish with a medley of yellow, red, and blue herb-roasted miniature potatoes, steamed carrots and turnip, and paired this meal with Beringer’s Chardonnay (CA).

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St. Patrick’s Day Afternoon Tea

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Today, I am sharing photos from my St. Patrick’s Day Afternoon Tea.

St. Patrick's Day Afternoon Tea Setting
St. Patrick’s Day Afternoon Tea Setting

I love this little square tablecloth and matching napkins.  I bought them some years ago at the Blarney Castle on a visit to Ireland.  It has been a tradition since to display this cloth on St. Patrick’s Day and it always evokes great memories of my visit to the Emerald Isle.

Of course, it’s also a time for me to bring out my small collection of Irish-themed dishes.

The tea offering from the teapot was English Afternoon Tea.

My choice of tea table flowers centered around the colors in the Irish flag – the green mums and Bells of Ireland, the orange roses, and the white tulips which, of course, came from our local PEI tulip growers – Vanco Tulip Farm in Mt. Albion, PEI.

I love these Canadian “loonie” chocolate coins!

On the tea tray menu – Currant scones with homemade raspberry jam, chocolate cupcakes (flavored with a bit of Irish stout, filled with whiskey-flavored chocolate ganache, and frosted with Bailey’s Irish Cream-flavoured icing), and chocolate drop cookies.  The cookies are my March 2013 Cookie of the Month.

These scones are delicately rich!

And, my seedless raspberry jam only makes them that much more delectable!

And, of course, there would have to be a green beverage on the table.

The scones may have been good but the cupcakes were the “icing on the cake”, so to speak!

I like the white and milk chocolate swirled chips in these chocolate drop cookies.

 

The green color always makes for a bright, colorful, and cheery table!

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my version of an afternoon tea to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.   I’ll leave you with this Irish blessing:

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

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Boiled Ham Dinner – Old-fashioned Comfort Food!

Boiled Ham DInner
Boiled Ham Dinner

This is a meal that is so familiar to me that it never occurred to me that some don’t even know what a “boiled dinner” is.  So, today, I am going to demystify and explain the “boiled dinner” as I know it.

There are any number of meats that can be used to constitute a boiled dinner.  I grew up with a boiled dinner made with either a cut of  beef or a smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham) (bone-in).  My mother taught school and this was often a Saturday meal with enough cooked for leftovers for a weeknight meal early the next week as well as meat for sandwiches for school lunches.  Saturday would be a busy day with housework, laundry, and shopping so this was a simple, easy, and tasty meal to prepare.  The meat is put in a big pot on the stove and cooked slowly in lots of water for probably a couple of hours and then root vegetables are added and cooked in the broth – no thickening.  These veggies would typically include parsnips, turnip, carrots, and potatoes.  As those of you who follow my blog will observe, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasoning.  A boiled dinner, however, is the exception; I use absolutely no seasonings whatsoever, not even onion.  I let the natural flavour of the meat do all the seasoning. With all the vegetables cooked in the same pot in a flavorful broth, this makes a nutritious and wholesome meal.  And, there is nothing like the tantalizing scent of a boiled ham dinner simmering on the stove!

Earlier today, I had a discussion with some friends and acquaintances about their versions of a boiled dinner.  I learned that, depending on the region of the country you may come from, different meats are used as well as different vegetables.  For example, someone from the south shore of Nova Scotia makes her boiled dinner with corned beef to which she adds turnips, cabbage, and potatoes.  Another, in addition to the usual root veggies, adds onion and cabbage in her boiled ham dinner and finishes the cooking process by placing the mixture in the oven for about a half hour.  Yet another tells me her version of a boiled dinner is either pork and fiddleheads or pork and sauerkraut.  Essentially, then, we can conclude that a boiled dinner is a cut of meat of some sort, cooked in water to make a broth, to which a variety of vegetables (as many or as few as you like) can be added in the later stages of cooking.  It’s dinner in one pot!

I am not so fond of a boiled beef dinner.  My favorite is the boiled ham dinner, as we refer to it.  The important thing about the meat is that it should have a bone in it to add to the flavour and it should be cooked slowly.  The slow cooking process makes the meat very tender.  Some may fully cook the ham and then remove it and cook the vegetables separately in the broth afterwards.  I cook the meat and veggies altogether because that’s what my mother and hers before her did.  The leftover ham can be served cold with salads or scalloped potatoes and it also makes really tasty sandwiches.

So, here is my method for making an old-fashioned traditional boiled ham dinner:

The ingredients are simple:  a smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham) and root vegetables of choice.

Ingredients for a Boiled Ham Dinner
Ingredients for a Boiled Ham Dinner

Place the ham in a large stock pot and add water to cover the meat.

Boil the ham slowly and gently for 2 – 2 1/2 hours (depending on its size) then add the vegetables, starting with those that take longest to cook – e.g., parsnips.  Continue to simmer the meal for about 20-30 minutes then add chunks of cut-up turnip.  Cook for about another half-hour.

Add the carrots and continue the cooking process for another 20 minutes or so.

Finally add the potatoes – if they large, halve them.  Cook just until the potatoes are fork tender – about 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the potatoes as they will break up and become mushy.

Remove the ham from the pot and transfer to a large plate or platter.  Remove the netting (if any) on the ham.  Slice.

Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables and plate meal with slices of ham.  If desired, spoon some of the broth over the vegetables.  Homemade mustard pickles are a nice accompaniment to this meal.

DSC_0545

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March 2013 Cookie of the Month: Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

Chocolate Drop Cookies Made with Stout
Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies Made with Stout

Well, for my Cookie of the Month for March, I tried to find out if there is a cookie recipe that traces its origins to Ireland or, alternatively, a cookie that is particularly popular on the Emerald Isle.  However, I had no luck in tracking down any (maybe it was lack of Irish luck!).  If any of you know of a traditional Irish cookie, please do share the information.

I decided to create a special recipe and give it a distinctly Irish flavour using stout in honour of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th.  As you know, whenever possible, I like to feature Island products in my cooking and baking.  PEI does have one brewing company that produces stout – The Island Brewing Company produces Gahan Sydney Street Stout.  However, it is apparently a limited edition and is not available in local liquor stores year-round — at least I couldn’t track down any.  So, instead, I opted to use Montreal-brewed St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout because it boasts hints of espresso and chocolate.  I knew I was going to be making a chocolate cookie with a hint of coffee flavour so a stout with both chocolate and coffee flavour could only enhance the cookie’s taste.  Like any ingredient, moderation is the trick.  My goal was to flavour the cookie with the stout and bring out the chocolate flavour – I wasn’t aiming for a beer-tasting cookie.  Therefore, I used only 1 1/2 tablespoons of stout as part of the liquid ingredients.

For the chocolate, I chose to use semi-sweet squares of chocolate because I find their flavour a bit more intense than powdered cocoa.  Using some brewed coffee gives these cookies a distinct mocha flavour.  For interest, color, and texture, I used swirled milk and white chocolate chips.

This dough does well when it is chilled and allowed to “rest” for 24 hours after mixing and before baking the cookies.  The purpose of letting the dough “rest” is to allow the liquid ingredients, including the egg, to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients.  The “resting” period makes for a drier and firmer cookie dough and this controls its spread while baking so you don’t end up with a really flat cookie.

The chilled dough, though, will be really hard making it next to impossible to use a cookie scoop (I know as I have already gone through two of them!) to form the cookies into shapes for baking.  Cookie scoops are great to make uniform-sized and shaped cookies; however, dropping the cookies by teaspoons on to the baking sheet also works well.

I like the drop cookies to be soft and somewhat chewy and, of course, the key to that texture is to slightly underbake the cookies – bake these no more than 10-12 minutes at 350F and let them cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg

2 tbsp. cold brewed coffee

1 1/2 tbsp stout

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate, melted

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Cream butter and shortening.

Add brown and white sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat until blended.

 In separate bowl, or large measuring cup, mix coffee, stout, milk, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Add to mixture.  Mix well.

Add melted chocolate and mix to blend.

Combine dry ingredients.  Add to mixture and stir just until flour is incorporated.

 

Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 24 hours.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies.  Bake at 350F oven for 10-12 minutes.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 

 

 

 

 

These make a fine treat for St. Patrick’s Day (but are just as good any time of the year!)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

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