Category Archives: Recipes

Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms!

What mom doesn’t like to be pampered on Mother’s Day and what says pampering more than breakfast in bed!  Dress up an ordinary bed tray with a lovely napkin or pretty placemat and prepare a scrumptious breakfast for Mom.

The Menu:  Start with a fresh fruit cup presented in the prettiest, daintiest pedestal dessert dish.  Choose a variety of fruits of different colors, shapes, and textures.

Fresh squeezed orange juice adds an element of sophistication to the breakfast tray.

For the main course, I chose to serve scrambled eggs on crostini with a roasted Parmesan tomato half.  The roasted tomato is so simple to make.  Simply cut a tomato in half.   A sprinkle of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and a shake of Parmesan cheese is all it takes to season the tomatoes. Drizzle each half tomato with a good quality olive oil – I used Liquid Gold’s Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil.  Roast the tomato on a lightly greased baking sheet in a 450F oven for about 10 minutes, just until tomato is heated and the Parmesan starts to turn golden in color.

How yummy does this tomato look!

A few herbs and a topping of grated cheddar cheese take scrambled eggs to a whole new level, particularly when served on a tasty crostini.

Look for lots of color to add to the breakfast tray.  Color makes the tray look so much more vibrant, interesting, and appealing.

I like these petite individual-sized teapots.  They are very versatile and don’t take up much room on a bed tray.

Fresh flowers are a must for any special breakfast in bed tray.  Miniature carnations are very suitable for bed trays.  Everything should be to scale in order for it to fit on the tray.

Lastly, you’ll want to add the finishing touch of a lovely and carefully chosen Mother’s Day Card.

A beautiful card for a beautiful Mom!

It’s all about Mom on Mother’s Day.  It’s not always the big, fancy gifts that touch the heart.  Most often, it is something like the care and attention that goes into planning something special, like breakfast in bed and, most importantly spending time together, that means the most.

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Lobster Cakes

Barbara's Lobster Cakes
Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

The opening of the spring lobster season on Prince Edward Island is always an event.  Fishing boats, laden with lobster traps like those in the photos below, depart wharves around the Island in the very early morning to set their traps, often going several miles out to sea.  This is called “setting day” and it is not uncommon for people in the local fishing communities to head to their local wharves to see the fishing boats off.  Setting day 2013 was yesterday, April 29th.  I didn’t make it to a wharf yesterday or today but I am sharing some photographs I took during fishing season 2012.

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boats Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

Several communities also have church services known as the “Blessing of the Fleet” services on the Sunday before setting day.  These are sometimes held inside nearby local churches but, most frequently, they are held on the wharves of the fishing ports.

Today was the first day of the season that fishers could check their set traps and bring in their catches.  The photos below were taken at North Lake Harbour, PEI on June 1, 2012; however, the same scene would be playing out today at many harbours across PEI.

Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day's Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day’s Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]

Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day's Catch at North Lake Harbour [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day’s Catch at North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, here are the “goods”!

"The Prized Cargo" - Fresh PEI Lobster
“The Prized Cargo” – Fresh PEI Lobster!

Boats at rest after their day’s work fetching the catch.

North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, once they are cooked, look at the fabulous rich color of these freshly caught PEI lobsters!

Cooked Lobsters
Cooked Lobsters

Many Islanders will be dining on fresh lobster for supper this evening.  For many, it is a tradition to have fresh lobster on the first day of the catch.  This is one of the benefits of living on an Island – we have plenty of fresh seafood.  Many (including myself) will argue that lobster from the spring fishery is better than lobster fished later in the summer from waters that have warmed up over the season (even though lobster from the later catch is very good, too).  I don’t know why it is but lobster from the cold Atlantic water always does seem to taste better and I think even has a better texture meat.

I remember the first time I was on a Caribbean cruise many years ago, ordering lobster from the dinner menu.  My taste buds were salivating for what I knew to be lobster taste.  Oh my!  It didn’t taste like lobster at all as I know it.  That’s when I discovered the difference in taste of lobster that comes out of cold water and that out of very warm waters!  I never ordered lobster from a cruise ship menu again.  I wait for the good PEI lobster at home!  The ironic part of this is that I never liked lobster when I was growing up.  In fact, when the family would be chowing down on lobster, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  However, they convinced me to try a bite of it when I was probably about 18 years old and I’ve never looked back and have more than made up for it since!  I love lobster by itself and in just about any other recipe imaginable!

So, tonight, I am dining on Lobster Cakes to celebrate the opening of the 2013 PEI lobster fishery season and am sharing my recipe with you.

Barbara's Lobster Cakes

Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

2 cups warm mashed potatoes (about 2-3 medium-sized potatoes)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp tartar sauce

2 oz. grated cheddar cheese

¼ tsp dried dillweed

½ tsp parsley

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 small scallion (apx. 1 ½ tbsp)

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped

7 – 8 oz. cooked lobster (fresh or frozen), cut into bite-sized chunks

½ – 1 cup bread crumbs

 

Apx. ¾ cup finely ground seasoned bread crumbs for dredging lobster patties

1 – 2 tbsp oil

 

Method:

Place warm mashed potatoes in large bowl.  Add beaten egg and mix well.  Add tartar sauce.

Stir in grated cheddar cheese.

Add dillweed, parsley, and pepper.  Stir in scallions, celery, and red pepper.

Lastly, add the lobster and mix well.  Add just enough of the first amount of bread crumbs so the mixture will hold together and can be formed into patties.

 

Using ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop up mixture and form into round patties.  In shallow bowl, place the seasoned bread crumbs.  Dredge each patty in the bread crumbs until completely covered on all sides.  Place on wax-paper lined baking sheet and chill for 1 hour to allow flavours to blend and for patties to become firm so they won’t break apart when sautéed.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and sauté lobster cakes 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Transfer browned cakes to greased baking sheet.  Bake in oven 6-7 minutes to finish the cooking process and allow cakes to become firm so they will hold together.

Serve lobster cakes, 2 per person, hot with citrus aioli or your favorite tartar sauce and a side of green salad.

Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli
Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli

 

These cakes freeze well, uncooked.  When ready to serve, simply remove cakes from freezer and thaw.  Sauté and bake as described above.

Yield:  Apx. 1 dozen cakes

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Lobster Cakes
Lobster Cakes

 

Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Seven Layer DInner
Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Okay, so my recipe is actually eight layers, but who is counting when the meal is as tasty as this one is!

Seven-layer dinner (sometimes called “Shipwreck”) is really little more than a full dinner in a casserole and baked in the oven.  I grew up (as I am sure many of you have) with this vintage meal served on a regular basis.  The seven main ingredients are:  1) onions, 2) meat, 3) potatoes, 4) celery, 5) carrot, 6) peas, and 7) rice.  Sometimes, it’s a six-layer dinner depending on what veggies I have on hand and sometimes it might be eight or nine layers thick.  I like to add parsnip because it adds a level of sweetness.  Sometimes, I will slice turnip very thinly and add it as well.  Frozen corn also works in addition to the frozen peas or instead of.  In that regard, it is almost a potluck dish!

It has probably been named “Shipwreck” because it can be made with pretty much any vegetables you happen to have on hand as well as different kinds of meats, such as ground beef or sausage and it is also an economical way to stretch the meat content.  In many households, it can be made with what is on hand without having to go shopping and it doesn’t take any kind of exotic or hard-to-find ingredients.  This is an old-fashioned hearty meal.  Have you noticed that many of these old “stand-by” meals are becoming popular again?

On a regular basis, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasonings and spices.  However, this is one dish that I never add anything to it other than salt and pepper and the onion for flavour.

In my home, I grew up with this recipe being made with ground beef (we never used any other kind of meat in it).  The beef I used for this casserole is 100% Island beef and was purchased at KJL Meats, a local butcher shop in Charlottetown, PEI.

This is a great meal to make when you have little time for meal preparation and clean-up because all the veggies, the rice, and the meat cook together in the one casserole so there are no pots and pans to wash (bonus!) other than the dish it bakes in.  And, your kitchen will smell divine when this is baking in the oven!  If there happens to be any leftover, this meal carries over well and, in fact, the flavours seem to become even richer the next day when it is reheated.

Seven-Layer Dinner

Ingredients:

1 medium onion
2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
½ – ¾ pound extra lean ground beef
½ cup celery
1/3 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch thick)
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup frozen peas
scant ½ cup Minute Rice
1 can tomato soup
1 soup can of water

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Grease 2-quart casserole.  Peel and slice onions to make first layer of casserole.

Add the layer of sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add the layer of ground beef.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add celery, parsnips, carrots, and frozen peas.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

page 1 Sprinkle ingredients with rice.  Cover casserole ingredients with can of tomato soup.  Pour one soup can of water over top of ingredients (or, if you wish, you can mix the soup and water together and pour as one over the casserole ingredients).

Cover and bake at 350F for 1 ½ – 2 hours until vegetables are tender.

Serves 4-6

It is hard to plate this meal attractively but its taste more than makes up for its lack of presentation!

Suggested Serving:  Serve with homemade mustard pickles and whole grain artisan bread.

If you have made this recipe and enjoyed it and/or wish to share it with your friends and family, please do so on social media but be sure to share the direct link to this posting from my website.

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Seven-Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Casserole)

Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Casserole) is an easy-to-make all-in-one dinner. Tomato soup, beef, rice, and vegetables make this a tasty dinner.
Course Main Course
Keyword Seven-layer Dinner, Shipwreck Casserole
Servings 6
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
  • ½ – ¾ pound extra lean ground beef
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 1/3 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch thick)
  • 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • scant ½ cup Minute Rice
  • 1 – 284ml can tomato soup
  • 1 – 284ml soup can of water
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  1. Assemble and prepare ingredients. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease deep 2-quart casserole.
  2. Peel and slice onions and place in casserole.
  3. Add the layer of sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the layer of ground beef. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Add celery, parsnips, carrots, and frozen peas. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle ingredients with rice. Mix the tomato soup and water together and pour over casserole ingredients.
  7. Cover and bake for 1½ – 2 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

Recipe Notes

Serves 4-6

Suggested Serving: Serve with homemade mustard pickles and whole grain artisan bread.

 

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Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)
Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)

 

 

April Cookie of the Month: Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies
Lemon Spritz Shortbread Cookies

Spritz cookies are dainty-shaped cookies that are crisp and buttery.  They are made by pushing soft cookie dough through a cookie press which is a cylinder fitted with a decorative disk that has patterned holes through which the dough is “squirted” or pressed into shapes.  Typically, cookie presses come with many different decorative disks – mine has probably 20 or more.

These cookies are popular at Christmas, special occasions, and are very suitable for afternoon teas as they can be made in so many different shapes and colors and can be further embellished with icing, colored sugar, miniature gumdrops, or dragées.

My recipe for Lemon Spritz Cookies is buttery rich and delicate.  I like the flavour burst of lemon juice and zest in these petite cookies.

This recipe does best when the dough is chilled for 24 hours to allow the egg yolk to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients.  Unlike most liquids, such as water or milk, for example, eggs take a lot more time to become incorporated into the dry ingredients.  When the dough comes out of the refrigerator, it will be too hard to push through the cookie press so let the dough sit at room temperature for about an hour or so until it becomes pliable enough that it can be formed into a roll that can be inserted into the cookie press cylinder.  You’ll notice this recipe has no baking powder or soda.  This is because that would cause the cookies to raise which, in turn, would result in them losing their shape and design that makes them spritz cookies.

Lemon Spritz Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup icing sugar

½ cup cornstarch

1 egg yolk

½ tsp lemon juice

½ tsp vanilla

¼ tsp almond flavouring

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 2/3 cup flour

smidgeon salt

pinch cardamom

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Cream butter and icing sugar.

Blend in cornstarch.

Add egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla, almond flavouring, and lemon zest.

page 2 -Egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla

Add the flour, salt, and cardamom to creamed mixture, stirring until well combined.

Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for apx. 1 hour.  Form dough into a roll that will fit inside the cookie press cylinder.  Insert dough roll into the cookie press.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Follow manufacturer’s directions for your cookie press to form the cookies into decorative shapes.  Decorate with colored sugar, if desired.  Bake at 400F for 7-8 minutes.  Watch the cookies closely as their high butter content and small size means they will burn easily and quickly.  Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes then transfer them to wire racks to finish cooling.

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Savory Cottage Pie

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Cottage Pie
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Cottage Pie

I first had a rudimentary version of Cottage Pie (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) many years ago as a small child at Camp Segunakadeck (Seggie) on the south shore of PEI.  I came home from summer camp raving about this yummy dish and trying to describe it to my mother.  As a seven or eight-year old, my descriptions of culinary delights would not have been enough for even a seasoned professional chef to be able to concoct some resemblance of the meal.  The description would have went something like this…there was hamburg and ‘stuff’ on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top and it was made in a large pan.  Many years later when I would recall my camping experience, I was always reminded of this dish which I have since come to realize was likely a very basic and simplistic version of  Cottage Pie. Continue reading Savory Cottage Pie

Honey Garlic Spareribs

Garlic Spareribs served with Turnip Casserole and Baked Potato
Honey Garlic Spareribs served with Turnip Casserole and Baked Potato

Today, I am sharing my favorite recipe for Honey Garlic Spareribs.  This is a recipe that has been used by my family for many years.  Sometimes we serve the ribs with rice and other times with baked potato and a side vegetable.

This evening, I served the ribs with turnip puff casserole and a variation of a traditional baked potato.  I used baker potatoes and sliced them not quite all the way through into thin slices.  I then drizzled Liquid Gold’s Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil over them and added some herbs and garlic powder along with small dobs of butter in between some of the slices.  I placed the potatoes in tin foil loosely gathered up around them and baked them in the oven.

When preparing the ribs for roasting, I suggest lining the roaster with heavy-duty tin foil as this sauce thickens and makes it difficult to clean the roaster.  I forgot to do that this time and washing the roaster was not a fun task.  When making the sauce, heat it only until it reaches the boiling point.  Don’t worry about thickening it on the stove as it will thicken further after it has been poured over the ribs and cooked in the oven.

Honey Garlic Spareribs

Ingredients:

2 lbs. spareribs, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp dry mustard
1½ tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup water
¼ cup apple juice
2½ tbsp honey
2½ tbsp soya sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup onion, finely minced

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the ribs into pieces, slicing in between each rib.

 

Place ribs in greased roaster.

Cover and roast for ½ hour.  Remove from oven and drain fat from roaster.

To make the sauce, combine the remaining ingredients in saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat just until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Pour the hot sauce over the ribs.

 

Cover and roast for 1 hour at 375F.

Serves 2-3 (allowing 2-3 ribs per serving).

 

Honey Garlic Spareribs

These finger-licking good Honey Garlic Spareribs are easy to make and are simply delectable roasted in the sweet honey garlic sauce. Serve with potato or rice and a favorite side dish for a tasty meal.

Course Main Course
Keyword pork, spare ribs, spareribs
Servings 2
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. spareribs, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • tbsp honey
  • tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup onion, finely minced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut the ribs into pieces, slicing in between each rib.
  3. Place ribs in greased roasting pan. Cover and roast for ½ hour. Remove from oven and drain fat from roaster.
  4. To make the sauce, combine the remaining ingredients in saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat just until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour the hot sauce over the ribs.
  5. Cover and roast for 1 hour at 375°F.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 2-3 servings

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Honey Garlic Spareribs
Honey Garlic Spareribs

 

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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. Today, I am using it in this Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for fish.

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 sauce creation includes both rhubarb and citrus fruit.

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).  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 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

Ingredients:

1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
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 or a little less)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp liquid chicken bouillon concentrate mixed in ½ cup hot water
1½ tsp blood orange zest
¼ tsp sage
¼ tsp ginger
1½ – 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, 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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Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for Halibut Steaks

Blood orange juice and rhubarb combine their flavors to make a wonderful sauce for white fish such as halibut.
Course Main Course
Keyword fish, seafood
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, (chopped into ½“ pieces
  • 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 or a little less)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tsp liquid chicken bouillon concentrate mixed in ½ cup hot water
  • tsp blood orange zest
  • ¼ tsp dried sage
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1½ - 2 tsp cornstarch mixed in 1 tbsp cold water to make thickening paste

Instructions

  1. 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. This should yield about 1/3 cup rhubarb juice. Discard rhubarb pulp. Set juice aside.
  2. Meanwhile, grate 1½ 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. This should yield about 1/3 cup of juice after this process.
  3. In clean saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the shallot and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until shallot is translucent. Add the rhubarb and orange juices, 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.
  4. 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.

Recipe Notes

Yield:  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.

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Sauce for White Fish

Boiled Ham Dinner – Old-fashioned Comfort Food!

Boiled Ham DInner
Boiled Ham Dinner

This old-fashioned boiled ham dinner 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. Continue reading Boiled Ham Dinner – Old-fashioned Comfort Food!

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!)

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

These Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies are both tasty and showy. Flavoured with a wee bit of stout. A treat anytime but especially good for a St. Patrick's Day treat!
Course Snack
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Cream butter and shortening.
  3. Add brown and white sugars. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until blended.
  4. In separate bowl, or large measuring cup, mix coffee, stout, milk, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add to mixture. Mix well.
  5. Add melted chocolate and mix to blend.
  6. Combine dry ingredients. Add to mixture and stir just until flour is incorporated.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 24 hours.
  8. 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.

 

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Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Double Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies

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Ham, Cheese, & Tomato Panini

Ham, Cheese, & Tomato Panini
Ham, Cheese, & Tomato Panini

There are so many ways to serve a sandwich other than just throwing two pieces of bread and some filling together.  One of my favorite ways to serve sandwiches is to make them into panini.  I bought a Bella panini grill a couple of years ago and I have certainly gotten use out of it.

Panini is nothing more than bread or rolls, some kind of spread, and a filling which usually involves some variety of deli meat and cheese.  Often, a vegetable such as tomato is added as well.  The sandwich is then heated in a sandwich press or panini grill where it is pressed flat and toasted.

If you are lucky enough to be near a bakery or a supermarket that makes a variety of breads and rolls, you are likely to find ones suitable for use in panini grills. Rolls identified simply as panini rolls or Ciabiata, Focaccia, or baguettes are all suitable for use in these types of sandwiches. Here in Charlottetown, the Atlantic Superstore has a good variety of rolls that they sell individually.  You can, of course, use any plain bread you wish but the sandwich will be more interesting if made with some type of artisan bread or rolls.

Today, I am going to share with you how I make a Ham, Cheese, & Tomato Panini.

First, I have chosen puffy oval-shaped rolls that were simply labelled “Panini  Rolls” at the Superstore and I split them in half, horizontally.

Panini Rolls
Panini Rolls

I sliced tomato rather thinly and sprinkled it with about 1/2 tsp. Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar from the Liquid Gold store here in Charlottetown.  If you have been following my blog, you will recall the feature story I did last summer on this store and their fabulous balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  I then sprinkled the tomatoes with some fresh ground pepper and sea salt and set them aside while I prepared the rest of the sandwich.

Marinating Tomatoes in Cranberry-Pear Balsamic Vinegar
Marinating Tomatoes in Cranberry-Pear Balsamic Vinegar

To make the mayonnaise spread, I combined 1 tbsp maple syrup with 1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, and a pinch each of basil and chives.  I then added 1 green onion, thinly sliced.

Mixing Mayonnaise Spread
Mixing Mayonnaise Spread

Using a good quality extra virgin olive oil (I used Liquid Gold’s Arbosana), I brushed olive oil over all the outside edges of the rolls.  This is one of the occasions where you want to use the very best quality olive oil you can find because the taste really does come through.

Brushing the rolls with olive oil
Brushing the rolls with olive oil

I flipped the rolls over and spread the mayonnaise on each of the interior sides of the rolls.  On one side of the roll, I started building the sandwich, starting first with a good quality Black Forest deli ham that was sliced very thin.

I then added the marinated tomatoes

Adding the marinated tomatoes
Adding the marinated tomatoes

and another slice of ham

and, finally, added the grated cheese.

Adding grated cheese
Adding grated cheese

You can use any of your favorite cheeses in this sandwich – I happened to have some Italiano mixture (mozzarella, asiago, smoked provolone, and parmesan) in the fridge so that’s what I used.

I then put the top part of the roll on the sandwich and transferred it to the heated panini grill.

I pressed and held down the top of the panini grill for about 20 seconds or so.

Panini Grill
Panini Grill

I grilled the sandwich on the medium setting for probably about 4-5 minutes, essentially just long enough for the sandwich to be heated, the cheese melted, and the roll to have a nice crisp crust.  Since each brand of grill will differ slightly, you will want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for grilling panini and do some testing with your particular grill.

I sliced the panini diagonally and served it with carrot and celery sticks.

Ham, Cheese, & Tomato Panini

1 medium-sized tomato

1/2 tsp. Liquid Gold Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh ground pepper and sea salt

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp Dijon mustard

pinch dried basil

pinch dried chives

1 small green onion, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)

2 oz. deli-style Black Forest ham, thinly sliced

1 oz. grated Italian blend cheese

2 panini rolls of choice

1 – 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Slice tomato thinly.  Drizzle with 1/2 tsp. Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar, freshly ground pepper, and sea salt.  Set aside to marinate as you prepare remainder of ingredients.

In small bowl, combine the maple syrup, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, herbs, and green onion.  Mix well.

Split panini roll in half, horizontally.  Brush virgin olive oil on all outside edges of roll. Flip rolls over and spread mayonnaise mixture on both interior sides of roll.  Lay slice of ham on one side of roll.  Add the marinated tomatoes.  Add second layer of ham.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Place top of roll over layers of sandwich.  Transfer to heated panini maker and grill according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 2 panini.

 

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Belgian Waffles with Strawberries

Belgian Waffle with Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Sauce
Belgian Dessert Waffle with Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Sauce

The first time I had Belgian waffles was in Ogunquit, Maine, a long time ago.  We used to vacation there and we found a wonderful little café that opened only for breakfast and their specialty was the Belgian waffle served with huge, fresh Maine blueberries.  Naturally, a Belgian waffle maker had to be purchased so we could make them at home because waffles are, in fact, quite easy to make and just take standard baking ingredients!

Waffles are very versatile.  They can be a breakfast food, eaten at brunch, lunch, for dessert or even as a main course for dinner, depending on the topping.  There is nothing like creamed chicken atop a puffy Belgian waffle for good old-fashioned comfort food!

I love fresh berries, especially strawberries and blueberries, on waffles. Good drizzled with pure maple syrup,  a rich chocolate sauce is also an option and a real treat for waffles.  So, why not take a lowly basic waffle and dress it up for a tasty meal at any time of day.

Waffle Ingredients
Waffle Ingredients

Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 medium-sized eggs, separated
2 tbsp melted butter
Separate the eggs.  Beat the egg whites stiff.  Set aside. 

In separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and all remaining ingredients.

With electric mixer, beat until well-blended.

Gently fold the egg whites into the flour and milk mixture.  Fold just until they are incorporated.  This will yield a light, fluffy waffle.

Heat waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, add sliced fruit, a dollop of whipped cream, and drizzle with your favorite syrup or topping.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Yield: Apx. 3-4 waffles

Belgian Waffles

Perfectly puffy Belgian Waffles with Strawberries are a fabulous treat especially with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword Belgian Waffles, waffles
Servings 4
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 medium-sized eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsp melted butter

Instructions

  1. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites stiff. Set aside.
  2. In separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and all remaining ingredients. With electric mixer, beat until well-blended.
  3. Gently fold the egg whites into the flour and milk mixture. Fold just until they are incorporated. This will yield a light, fluffy waffle.
  4. Heat waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer's directions.
  5. To serve, add sliced fruit, a dollop of whipped cream, and drizzle with your favorite syrup or topping. Dust with confectioner's sugar, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 3-4 waffles

 

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Puffy Belgian Waffles topped with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and a dollop of rich chocolate syrup

Valentine’s Day Breakfast in Bed

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  Be sure to use the occasion to show special appreciation for those you love.  One of the most ultimate ways to pamper a loved one on any day (and not just on Valentine’s) is by preparing and serving him or her breakfast in bed.

Valentine's Day Breakfast in Bed Tray
Valentine’s Day Breakfast in Bed Tray

This is a very simple breakfast menu I have selected for the bed tray:  Freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit cup sprinkled with coconut, heart-shaped Irish Cream French Toast with pure Canadian maple syrup, and a wee pot of tea. (Recipe for the French Toast follows at end of posting)

There is nothing like fresh-squeezed orange juice to start the day!   The little juice jug was a find at a thrift shop.  Bed trays have limited space so I’m always on the look-out for items that will be suitable for this purpose.  I have opted to make the event special by serving the juice in a stemmed glass.

 

I have selected fruit with different colors and textures and dressed the fruit cup with some coconut and orange zest.  The glass pedestal dessert dish is perfect for serving fresh fruit because it allows the colors of the fruit to show through giving color to the tray.

I sprinkled the French toast with confectioner’s sugar and added a dollop or two of whipped cream.   My heart-shaped cookie cutter didn’t have as deep a cut in the center as I would have liked; consequently, the heart-shape isn’t as prominent or doesn’t show up as well in the photographs.   I added the fan-cut strawberry to give both color and flavour.

What dresses up the food is the presentation.  Yes, it’s all about the presentation!  I covered the tray with a couple of my best quality white napkins and folded the third, using a “blingy” napkin ring as napkin jewelry.  Out came the wee Sadler teapot I found in a second-hand shop last summer.  From my teacup collection, I selected one that is predominantly pink since my color theme for this bed tray is pink and red.

Every bed tray should be adorned with a small bouquet of fresh flowers.  I thoroughly enjoy having access to Island greenhouse-grown tulips over the winter.  I drove out to Vanco Farms in Mount Albion to specifically select these pink and red tulips, knowing they would be perfect on this tray!  I think the pink and red make a stunning color combination!

And, of course, adding a lovely card and a gift will make a special someone’s Valentine’s Day just a tad more special!

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Cream French Toast

2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
2 tsp Irish Cream Liqueur (follow link at bottom of posting for my recipe for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur)
1/2 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch cardamom
1/2 tsp freshly grated orange rind

With whisk, beat eggs lightly.  Add remainder of ingredients in order given.  Whisk to combine.  Pour mixture into a flat pan or pie plate.  Dip each bread slice into the mixture, turning to coat both sides.

Melt 1 tsp. butter in skillet.  Transfer dipped bread to hot skillet.  Over medium heat, fry bread till browned.  Flip bread to brown other side.  Transfer to serving plate.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.  Serve warm with maple syrup.


Click on this link for my recipe for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur.

 

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Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookies

These Old-fashioned Sugar Cookies are one of the plainest cookies yet they have endured throughout time and are often counted amongst the favorites in many families.  The cookies are aptly named given the amount of sugar in them in proportion to the amounts of other ingredients.  Despite the amount of sugar in most sugar cookie recipes, they are not really an overly sweet or rich cookie.  Continue reading Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Shortbread Recipe

Shortbread "Petticoat Tails"
Shortbread “Petticoat Tails”

While some will argue that Shortbread is not a cookie per se,  I  chose to include it in my Cookie of the Month series I ran a few years ago and, at the time of original writing, featured it for January given that is the month Robert Burns Day is celebrated.  There are so many recipes and versions (and opinions!) of Shortbread and what follows is mine.  Continue reading Shortbread Recipe

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce served with Potato Croquettes and Roasted Root Vegetables
Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce served with Potato Croquettes and Roasted Root Vegetables

If you have been following my postings, you will recall my January 12, 2013, entry using black garlic in a sauce over sea scallops.  My latest culinary escapade finds it is a suitable flavouring for sauces for meat as well.  Below you will find the recipe I created for a pomegranate, red wine, and black garlic sauce to accompany a marinated pork loin roast.  It serves 2-3.

As I described in my earlier posting on black garlic, don’t expect any traditional garlic flavour from this fermented version which is very sweet and tastes more like a fig or a prune than it does garlic.  I like pomegranate molasses but it can sometimes be hard to find as many of the traditional supermarkets in my area don’t tend to carry it.  However, if you can locate a grocer who sells Middle Eastern food in your area, you are most likely able to find the molasses there.  The marinade itself is very traditional but the sauce I have created for drizzling over the roast pork loin slices is a somewhat sweet sauce with a rich burgundy color which, of course, comes from the combination of the pomegranate molasses, red wine, and black garlic.  It makes a fine pairing, both in taste and visually, with the roast pork.

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

Ingredients:

3/4 lb pork loin roast

Marinade

2 tbsp soya sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp ginger
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and place in dish.  Place roast in marinade and turn once to coat.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours, turning occasionally to baste.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Place roast on rack in small roaster.  Roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325F and continue to roast, covered, until internal temperature of roast registers 150-160F on meat thermometer.  Remove from oven and let stand, covered for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce (recipe below).

Marinade Ingredients
Mixing the soya sauce, oil, white wine vinegar, and garlic for the marinade

 

Marinade Ingredients
Adding brown sugar, ginger, salt, pepper, and shallots to the marinade

 

Marinating the Pork Roast
Marinating the Pork Roast and Preparing it for Roasting

 

Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

1 tsp butter
1 tbsp shallots, finely minced
2 cloves black garlic, sliced or fork-mashed
1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/16 tsp cardamon
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp cornstarch

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add shallots and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add black garlic.  Stir and sauté for apx. 30 seconds.

Add pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, red wine, brown sugar, and cardamon.  Stir over medium heat just until mixture reaches boiling point.  Reduce heat to low.

Mix cornstarch into orange juice.  Add some of the hot mixture to the orange juice and cornstarch mixture to temper it.  Add the mixture to the pot.  Stir over medium-low heat until thickened.

Slice roast into 1/4″ thick slices and plate.  Drizzle warm sauce over pork.

Making the Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Making the Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

 

Making the Sauce for the Pork Roast
Making the Sauce for the Pork Roast

 

Sliced Pork Loin Roast Served with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Sliced Pork Loin Roast Served with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

 

I served the pork loin roast with potato croquettes and roasted root vegetables which were lightly tossed with a maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing.

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

A moist and tender pork roast is marinated, roasted, and served with a delectable sauce made with pomegranate, red wine, and black garlic.

Course Main Course
Keyword pork, pork roast
Servings 3
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb pork loin roast

Marinade

  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp shallot, finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp shallots, finely minced
  • 2 cloves black garlic, sliced or fork-mashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/16 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

Instructions

Marinade:

  1. Mix all marinade ingredients and place in dish large enough to accommodate the meat. Place meat in marinade and turn once to coat. Cover and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours, turning occasionally to baste.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place roast on rack in small roaster. Roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F and continue to roast, covered, until internal temperature of roast registers 150-160F on meat thermometer. Remove from oven and let stand, covered for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce.

Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in saucepan. Add shallots and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add black garlic. Stir and sauté for apx. 30 seconds.
  2. Add pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, red wine, brown sugar, and cardamon. Stir over medium heat just until mixture reaches boiling point. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Mix cornstarch into orange juice. Add some of the hot mixture to the orange juice and cornstarch mixture to temper it. Add the mixture to the saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until thickened.
  4. Slice roast into 1/4" thick slices and plate. Drizzle warm sauce over pork.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Marinated Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Marinated Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

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Black Garlic – Garlic’s New Cavier?

Scallops with Black Garlic
Scallops with Black Garlic

Ever heard of black garlic?  What do you think of when you hear the term?

Black Garlic Bulbs
Fermented Black Garlic Bulbs

Black garlic is not a variety of garlic grown.  Rather, it is regular garlic bulbs that have gone through a fermentation process.  Fermenting garlic to turn it into black garlic is truly food transformation.  I say that because black garlic in no way tastes, looks like, or has the same consistency as the traditional hard white garlic we use to give garlic flavour to dishes.

To find out more about black garlic, I travelled to Kensington, PEI, where I paid a visit to garlic grower, Al Picketts, of Eureka Garlic.

Eureka Garlic, Kensington, PEI

Al has been growing garlic for 12 years.  In 2012, he grew 42,000 plants and this year, with the cloves already in the ground since October, Al has increased his crop to 46,380 plants which will be harvested in July-August, 2013.  He grows eight types of garlic and 78 varieties in those types.  Yes, Al knows a thing or two about garlic!

Garlic Bulbs Drying
Garlic Bulbs Drying

Al’s main business is in selling seed garlic but, in November, 2011, he began the fermentation process to turn garlic into black garlic.  Al has been working with the Bio Food Tech Center in Charlottetown as he perfects his fermentation process and product.  While Al keeps his exact fermentation process a carefully-guarded secret, he did show me a recycled refrigerator that he insulates well, heats with a water heater, and uses as an incubator of sorts for the fermentation process.

Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic
Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic

Inside this incubator are stacks of covered plastic storage boxes containing hundreds of garlic bulbs fermenting.  He tells me it takes about three weeks in controlled temperature for the fermentation to occur.  The top right photo below shows a garlic bulb in the early stages of fermentation and the one in the lower right photo is a completely fermented bulb.  The photo on the left below shows different colored bulbs in the plastic containers; these are bulbs at different stages of the fermentation process as they change and deepen in color.

Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation
Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation

When fermented, the cloves will be a dark chocolate brown color – almost black — and very soft.  This is not the kind of garlic you could put through a garlic press and it does not mince well.  But, oh, it does have its own unique flavour!  The cloves can be carefully sliced or mashed with a fork and added to recipes.

Black Garlic Bulb and Clove
Black Garlic Bulb and Clove

When Al offered me a taste of the black garlic, straight up, I must admit I was trying to prepare my tastebuds for a somewhat pungent, strong garlic flavour.  But, one of the most surprising things about black garlic is the taste.  I would describe it as somewhat sweet, no discernible garlic taste, and being a cross between a prune and a fig in taste, color, and texture.  So, if you are looking to use it as you would regular garlic, don’t expect any garlic flavour in the dish as black garlic has a sweet, fruity taste.  Black garlic, however, brings its own unique subtle flavour to dishes like soups, sauces, and seafood and is often used in Asian cooking.  The black color does not change when cooked so you need to prepare for that color in your dish.  There are not a lot of black foods and some might suggest they would not be appetizing.  However, I find the contrast of the black garlic on white fish, for example, to be quite dynamic and appealing.

Black Garlic Color and Texture
Black Garlic Color and Texture

Black garlic is a relatively new local food item and the jury is still out as to whether it is a food fad or if it may well become a food trend.  Could it be garlic’s new cavier?  Promoters claim it may be the next superfood, citing its health benefits — it reportedly boasts twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic.  That said, I couldn’t find any scientific research studies completed on black garlic that would state conclusively what its specific health benefits are.

So, if it doesn’t taste like garlic why, then, use it?  I would say because it offers another flavouring and complexity to many dishes.  I have used it on pizza and in seafood dishes and I plan to try it next with pork.

Al tells me that black garlic can be stored at room temperature – no refrigeration required – for several months.  He says it can also be stored in the freezer and, when you want to use it, just remove as many cloves as needed and mash them with a fork or slice them with a knife – there is no need to thaw them first.

Al sells his black garlic for $30/pound.  On Prince Edward Island, it is available directly from Al at his farm “Eureka Garlic” on the corner of Routes 2 and 233 in Kensington (902)836-5180.

Black Garlic Packaged for Sale
Black Garlic Packaged for Sale

As you know, when I visit a local producer, I bring home their product and make a recipe featuring the food item.  The recipe below, for scallops, is how I used black garlic with seafood and I found the result really tasty (yes, I’ve made this dish more than once already!).  The black garlic does not mask the scallop flavour and yet it accents the seafood well.  This recipe serves two.

Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops
Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops

Scallops in Black Garlic

14 scallops

3 T butter

Fresh ground pepper

4 cloves black garlic, sliced

¼ cup white wine

½ T balsamic vinegar

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp dried chives

Pinch dillweed

1 tsp parsley

 

Ingrediets
Ingredients

Melt 2 T butter in small skillet.  Over medium-high heat, sear the scallops 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden in color.  Transfer scallops to plate and keep warmed.

Searing Scallops
Searing Scallops
Black Garlic
Black Garlic

Add 1 additional tablespoon of butter to skillet.  Add the black garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds.  Add pepper to taste.  Add white wine, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice.  Stir over medium-low heat 1-2 minutes until sauce reduces.  Add herbs and heat for about 30 seconds.

Adding Black Garlic
Adding Black Garlic

To serve, plate the warm scallops and spoon the black garlic sauce over the seafood.  Serve with potato or rice and a side of vegetables.

Serves 2

Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables
Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables

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Pumpkin Jam

Pumpkin Jam

This year seemed to be a particularly good year for growing pumpkins on the Island.  Everywhere I looked I saw fields, bins, and wagons full of the bright orange pumpkins which are members of the gourd family.

Trailer Loads of Pumpkins at Kool Breeze Farm in Wilmot Valley, near Summerside, PEI

 

Bins of Pumpkins at Kool Breeze Farm

Funny how we can’t wait to display them on our doorsteps and in fall displays but, once the end of November arrives, we don’t want to see pumpkins hanging around as thoughts turn to Christmas decorating.

Pumpkins at Compton’s Vegetable Stand, St. Eleanors, near Summerside, PEI

 

Field of Pumpkins, Marshfield, PEI

So, wondering what to do with those pumpkins instead of throwing them into the compost bin?  Why not make a batch of old-fashioned pumpkin jam.  This isn’t an altogether common jam you are likely to find on many supermarket shelves.  Yet, it is a very tasty, economical, and versatile jam that only takes four ingredients — pumpkin, sugar, crushed pineapple, and jello.  This is a jam that my grandmother used to make every fall for her brother yet I don’t recall it ever being on her own pantry shelves and I’m not sure why.

The jam has a wonderful bright orange-yellow color.  In fact, I think it is more like a marmalade than a jam.  Regardless, it is very tasty on toast, biscuits, as a filling for cookies, and as a dollop on warm vanilla custard.

Pumpkin Jam on Biscuits

 

Pumpkin Jam as a Filling for Thumbprint Cookies

To make the jam, select a pumpkin that is more oblong than round in shape.  I visited my local vegetable stand and they told me these are “jamming” pumpkins.

Pumpkin for Jam

Cut the pumpkin open and remove and discard the seeds and pulp.

Split Pumpkin Ready to be Seeded

Cut the pumpkin flesh into finely diced pieces and place in pot.

Diced Pumpkin

Add the sugar to the diced pumpkin and let the mixture sit overnight.  The sugar will draw the juice out of the pumpkin.

Adding Sugar to the Diced Pumpkin

In the morning, drain and reserve the juice from the pumpkin.

Draining the Juice from the Pumpkin

Boil the juice for 20 minutes over medium heat to form a syrup.

Syrup for Pumpkin Jam

Add the drained pumpkin to the hot syrup.

Adding Pumpkin to Hot Syrup

Over medium heat, cook the pumpkin until it starts to become transparent, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Cooking the Jam

Add the can of crushed pineapple and its juice to the jam.

Adding the Crushed Pineapple to the Pumpkin Jam

Add the jello to the jam.

Adding the Jello to the Pumpkin Jam

Bring jam to a boil over medium heat.

Cooked Pumpkin Jam

 Meanwhile, sterilize the jars.

Fill the sterilized jars.

Bottling Pumpkin Jam

 Place warmed lids on the hot jam bottles to seal and fingertip-tighten the rims to the bottles.

Placing Lids on Jam Jars

Store this jam in the refrigerator for approximately 1 month and enjoy it fresh as a treat when pumpkins are in season.

Pumpkin Jam

 

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Pumpkin Jam

By Barbara99 Published: December 1, 2012

  • Yield: Apx. 6 1/2 cups

A colorful, moderately sweet, versatile jam.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut, peel, remove and discard seeds and pulp of pumpkin. Cut pumpkin into small diced pieces.
  2. Place diced pumpkin in large pot. Add sugar. Soak overnight.
  3. Drain pumpkin in colander, reserving juice.
  4. Return reserved juice to pot and boil for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Add the drained pumpkin to the hot syrup. Cook over medium heat until pumpkin pieces start to become translucent, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add the crushed pineapple and its juice to the mixture. Stir.
  7. Sprinkle the jello over the mixture. Stir and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
  8. Sterilize the jars either by using the sanitizer setting on the dishwasher or by placing the jars in boiling hot water.
  9. Fill sterilized jars, leaving approximately 1/4" head room at jar top. Heat lids and place on jars. Fingertip tighten rims to jars. Store this jam in the refrigerator for apx. 1 month and enjoy it fresh as a treat when pumpkins are in season.

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One Hot Potato – Prince Edward Distillery’s Potato Vodka

Potato Vodka Made by Prince Edward Distillery, Hermanville, PEI

PEI has long been known for growing world-class potatoes – they are, after all, our primary cash crop, injecting more than one billion dollars annually into the Island economy, directly and through spin-offs[i].  We all know potatoes as a vegetable on dinner tables and are familiar with them boiled, mashed, baked, as French fries and potato chips, and as the key ingredient in scalloped potatoes.  But, would you think of potatoes as a main ingredient in a beverage?   Well, there are a couple of industrious and innovative women who have figured out a new use for PEI spuds.  Julie Shore and Arla Johnson own and operate Prince Edward Distillery where potato vodka is their flagship product.

Road Map from Charlottetown to Hermanville, location of Prince Edward Distillery

Drive east from the Island’s capital city of Charlottetown along the northeastern shore of the Island and you will find Hermanville, a small rural district not far from the town of Souris in the eastern end of PEI.  Late this past summer, I travelled to Hermanville to visit Prince Edward Distillery to find out about this potato vodka. In addition to learning how potato vodka is made, I learned the Distillery is diversifying its operation.  They are now producing gin, rye whiskey, rum, and a bourbon-style corn whiskey that sells under the label of IC Shore and that’s in addition to the potato vodka and wild blueberry vodka.  Also new this year (2012) are their decadent rum cakes made locally with the Distillery’s Merchantman 1897 rum.

Products Made at Prince Edward Distillery, Hermanville, PEI

The story of Julie and Arla’s arrival on PEI is similar to several others who have come to the Island and made it their home.  They came to PEI on holiday in 1997, fell in love with the Island, and decided to move here.  Leaving their jobs behind – Julie as a dental hygiene sales representative and Arla as a psychologist – they built an Inn (Johnson Shore Inn) in Hermanville in 1999, down a long, secluded, and narrow, unpaved lane that leads to a spectacular unobstructed view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  However, they soon discovered the tourist, and by extension the innkeeper’s, season is short in rural PEI (usually late May to the end of September). That extra time on her hands got Julie thinking about the business her ancestors had been in, pre-prohibition, in North Carolina – distilling apple brandy and bourbon.  Living in the land of potatoes, Julie had the idea to set up a distillery to produce potato vodka.  Thus, in 2007, Prince Edward Distillery was born with the first batch of potato vodka running from the still’s spigot in 2008. 

Rum, Whiskey, and Rye Produced at Prince Edward Distillery

Julie is the master distiller.  In 2011, the Distillery produced 10,000 bottles of the six different liquors the Distillery produces. Apart from her ancestral history of distilling (she’ll tell you distilling is in her blood!), I asked Julie if she had to have special training to be a distiller.  She tells me she has taken a distilling course at Cornell University and yeast-making courses in Montreal and France.  She and Arla travel the world over visiting distilleries and learning more about the art of fine distilling.  Visit their onsite retail outlet and look at the large map on the wall that points out the impressive world travels Julie and Arla have journeyed. 

Julie says the best variety of potatoes for potato vodka is Russet Burbank.  These spuds are the highest starch potato grown on the Island and the starch content is important for the yeast to work in the fermentation process.  The Distillery buys approximately 50,000 pounds of locally-grown potatoes, on an annual basis, to use as the base for potato vodka. Julie explains that it takes about 18 pounds of potatoes to produce one 750 ml bottle of the potato vodka so, as you can imagine, it takes a lot of spuds to yield any amount of vodka.  While potato vodka is not unheard of, it is more rare since 99% of vodkas on the market are grain-based.  That’s probably because, as Julie says, potato vodka is difficult to distill due to the fact that potatoes are approximately 80% water, have to be cooked, and it takes such a volume of the raw ingredient (potatoes) to produce the final product. 

Prince Edward Distillery’s Potato Vodka
Tour of Prince Edward Distillery

Making potato vodka is very labour intensive.  The potatoes are ground and cooked to break down their starch into fermentable sugars so that fermentation will occur with the addition of yeast (wait till you hear what is done with the leftover mash from the potatoes and who the benefactors are!).  The mixture is fermented for four days in 1000-gallon tanks to form alcohol. 

German-made Holstein Copper Vertical Still at Prince Edward Distillery

Using a 680-litre German-made Holstein copper vertical still that Julie had imported from Germany and capably assembled herself (since it came in parts and didn’t come with an instruction book), this fermentation mixture is distilled three times to remove impurities, achieve a neutrality of the alcohol, and to get the perfect alcohol content for the vodka.  Julie tells me it takes 10-14 days to produce a batch of vodka from start to finish, raw product (potatoes) to bottling.  

The Distillery has enjoyed sweet success and very early in its operation.  Their products rank among the best.  Just a year after producing their first vodka for market, the potato vodka won gold in the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and, in the same year, the wild blueberry vodka won silver in the UK International Spirits Challenge in London, England.  Yes, our locally-produced Island wines and spirits can match any on the market!

Prince Edward Distillery supports local producers, buying and using locally-produced potatoes, grains, and blueberries in their liquor production.  The Distillery employs between 4-6 full time employees and 1 part-time employee on a seasonal basis.  Currently, their products are sold in PEI and Nova Scotia markets.  However, they are exploring markets farther afield. 

Prince Edward Distillery’s Spirit Outlet at Peakes Quay in Charlottetown, PEI

This past summer, the Distillery decided to open a spirits outlet shop at Peakes Quay on the Charlottetown waterfront, a popular tourist attraction of small shops and not far from the seaport where dozens of cruise ships dock each year.  In addition to the Peakes Quay location (open seasonally), the Distillery’s products are available at the onsite retail shop in Hermanville and in PEI and Nova Scotia liquor stores.

So, about that mash I mentioned earlier – the left-over potato product after the liquid has been extracted for the vodka.  Well, behind the distillery may well be what many have dubbed as the most cheerful hogs on the Island!  Yes, that’s right, hogs or, more specifically, Heritage Berkshire pigs which Julie raises on the mash.  She says there are lots of nutrients left in the potato mash so why throw it out when she can raise pigs on it!

Heritage Berkshire Pigs Raised on Mash at Prince Edward Distillery

The Distillery is open daily, May – October, for tours and taste-testing; from October – May, it is open by appointment or by chance.  A tour of the Distillery and taste-testing of two spirits costs $10. (or, if you simply want to taste any spirit, it is $3./taste).  For more information on the Prince Edward Distillery, visit their website, call them at 902-687-2586, or, better still (pun intended!), take the scenic northeastern shoreline route to Hermanville and visit the Distillery at 9985, Route 16.

Prince Edward Distillery, Hermanville, PEI

 

Whimsical T-Shirts at Prince Edward Distillery

True to tradition, when I visit a local producer, I bring home their product and create a recipe with it.  I decided to create a Vodka Tomato Sauce for pasta using Prince Edward Distillery’s potato vodka.  I find the vodka actually goes well with tomatoes and draws out the tomato flavour and makes it pop without adding a competing flavour to the dish.  The key, of course, is not to over-do it – less is often more and the idea is that the vodka enhance and contribute to the taste of the sauce, not overpower it.  My recipe creation follows.

Farfalle Pasta in Tomato Vodka Sauce

 

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[i] Source of Statistics:  Prince Edward Island Potato Board, 23 October 2012

Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce

By Barbara99 Published: November 15, 2012

  • Yield:
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 50 mins
  • Ready In: 60 mins

A rich, flavourful tomato sauce suitable for various types of pasta

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oil and butter in large pot. Add onion, celery, green pepper, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer over low heat 5-7 minutes.
  3. Whisk the corn starch with the cooled chicken stock until smooth.
  4. Stir tomato sauce, vodka, and chicken stock/cornstarch into mixture. Simmer 18-20 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  5. Stir in whipping cream, oregano, basil, chives, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Simmer 7-10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Add drained pasta to tomato sauce and toss to coat.
  7. Spoon pasta into serving dishes. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, a spring of parsley, and halved cherry tomatoes.

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War Cake – A Part of Wartime Culinary History

Remembrance Day Service at the cenotaph in front of Province House, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada [11 November 2012]
Every year on November 11th we pause to remember the sacrifices and achievements of those who valiantly and selflessly served our country in times of war and conflict, and in peacekeeping missions around the world.  We remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice – their lives for their country so future generations could have a better, more secure life.  We think about their achievements and the role they played in forming Canada’s nationhood.  We thank them for the peace, freedom, and human rights we enjoy in Canada today.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough never to have known or experienced war have opportunities to demonstrate our respect and gratitude for, and remembrance of, these acts of bravery and sacrifice.  For example, we wear a poppy on the left breast, close to the heart to signify remembrance of the lives lost.  

Poppy

Thousands of people across the country will attend Remembrance Day ceremonies in their local communities where they will respectfully observe a moment’s silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the time the Armistice was signed to end WWI.  Wreaths will be laid in commemoration.

Remembrance Day Wreath

One of the most well-known poems about war was written in May, 1915, by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in WWI.  While stationed near Ypres, Belgium, where some of the most horrific and bloodiest fighting of WWI occurred, he was motivated to write about the death he saw around him and of the prolific red poppies growing amidst the devastation of war in the Flanders area of western Belgium.  His poem, “In Flanders Fields” has become synonymous with Remembrance Day in Canada and Lt. Col. McCrae is often credited with being the catalyst that led to the poppy being identified as the symbol of remembrance of the blood shed by soldiers who were casualties of battle.

 

“In Flanders Fields”

On this Remembrance Day, I am going to focus my food blog feature story on war cake, a wartime dessert that is still made and served in several Island households today.

War Cake

As a small child I well remember my grandmother making war cake and this was long after WWII had ended.  I loved her war cake!  It is such a simple raisin-spice cake that is characterized by the absence of eggs and milk — ingredients that would have been scarce during wartime.  This cake is sometimes referred to as “boiled raisin cake” because raisins form the main content and the majority of the ingredients are boiled, then cooled, before they are mixed with flour and baking soda and then baked in the oven.  Because of food shortages during war time, many foods were rationed. 

Ration Books, Cards, and Stickers

Born of necessity, homemakers during wartime became resourceful, frugal, adaptable, and creative in order to feed their families.  Cooking tended to be very basic.  Women were known to have saved their ration stickers so they could buy the raisins and sugar that the war cake recipe called for – thus war cake would have been a very prized commodity. 

War cake was made for consumption on the home front but many also made the cakes in tin cans and packed them in socks, mittens, and underwear they were shipping overseas for their loved ones serving in the war.  Imagine the excitement when a soldier would have received this package from home and discovered a mother’s or sister’s war cake inside!  Amazingly, with the slow mail and ship service during WWI and WWII, there is evidence these cakes were received as the soldiers would refer to them in their letters home, letters that would have looked much like the July 7, 1914, letter in the photograph below.

Letter from a soldier written from “Somewhere in France” on July 7, 1914.  In the letter, the soldier encloses two pansies as “souvenirs from France”, one flower each for the young lady he was writing to and her mother.  All these years later, the pressed pansies have still retained their color and are intact.
Old War Cake Recipes

In my research for this story, I examined many recipes for war cake and found similarities amongst them all.  Some were very sketchy in terms of amount of ingredients to be put in the batter and many were almost totally devoid of any directions. While the amounts of the ingredients may vary slightly, all of the recipes I reviewed were essentially the same in ingredient content. All called for big, sticky raisins (you may know these as “Lexia” raisins), a variety of spices of the cook’s choice, either brown or white sugar or a combination of both, shortening or lard, boiling water, flour, and soda.  One thing I noted was the significant amount of sugar that the recipes called for – i.e., two cups per cake.  Sugar was one item that was commonly rationed during wartime and a cake taking two cups of sugar would certainly have been considered a luxurious dessert, I am sure.  Flavour may vary from cake to cake based on spices used in the batter.  The choice of spices varies but typically consisted of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, as a minimum, with ginger frequently appearing in recipes.  I added mace and cardamom to my cake  to give it a bit more flavour (recipe follows at end).

Ingredients for War Cake

I am told these cakes were often made with lard (as opposed to butter) for a couple of reasons.  First, lard has a longer shelf life than butter would have had and, for cakes being sent overseas to the soldiers, it would have been a long journey for the cakes to reach Europe so shelf life of the cakes was an important factor.  Second, butter was often scarce during wartime because there were no big herds of cattle on local farms so butter would have been used sparingly, even for those living on farms and churning their own.  Lard, on the other hand, would have been much more readily available, particularly on farms.  I found a couple of recipes that indicated either butter or shortening could be used in the recipe; however, butter was called for in a much lesser quantity than the shortening, if the latter was used instead.  For example, I found one recipe that called for 2 tablespoons of butter or 1 cup of shortening which demonstrates how judiciously butter would have been used, if at all.

While its ingredients are simple, war cake takes some time to make.  All of the ingredients, except the flour and soda, are boiled on the stove for 5 minutes.   Then it is important to let the boiled raisin mixture cool to room temperature as the mixture will thicken naturally on its own as it cools.   This will normally take 4-5 hours.  If the flour and soda are added into a mixture that is too hot, the result is likely to be a gummy cake.  When the raisin mixture is cooled, the flour and soda are stirred in and the mixture turned into the baking pan.  My grandmother made her war cake in a loaf pan; however, traditionally, war cake seems to have been made in some kind of a round pan – usually a tube pan or, in the case of overseas shipping during war time, in tin cans.  War cake is a very dense cake which makes it sometimes difficult to get the center of the cake baked without drying out the outside edges.  It is also a heavier type cake which makes it somewhat prone to falling in the center.  A tube (or Bundt pan, if you have one) removes the baking uncertainty and helps the cake to bake more evenly.  

War Cake Baked in a Bundt Pan

 

War cakes take, on average, about an hour to bake.  The old recipes I reviewed didn’t even mention baking the cake let alone at what temperature (in fact, one recipe simply said “to thicken” but didn’t elaborate on what thickening agent was to be used!).  These recipes predate our modern electronic ovens!  While some suggest baking the cake at 350F, I thought that might be a bit high so I baked my war cake at 335F for one hour.  Because there are no eggs or milk in the cake for moistness, it is very easy to overbake the cake and end up with a dry product.  Hence, it is important to time the baking carefully and to use a cake tester starting at about the 45-minute point.  If the cake starts to darken on the top or edges too quickly, simply place a piece of tin foil loosely over the top.  Adding a small pan of water to the lower shelf in the oven while baking the cake will also help to keep the cake moist. 

Including a Small Pan of Hot Water on the Bottom Shelf of the Oven Helps to Keep the Cake Moist During Baking

Because of the texture of the cake, it may seem soft on the top and not baked; however, if a cake tester comes out of the cake clean, it’s time to remove it from the oven before it dries out.

War cake is a “stick to the ribs” substantial, hearty kind of cake.  It goes particularly well with a nice cup of tea. 

War Cake and Tea

In keeping with the traditional way war cake was served, I have photographed the cake plain, just as it would have been eaten during wartime. 

Sliced War Cake

War cake was not traditionally iced.  However, it would be lovely served with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla or maple ice cream.  It could also be dressed with a brown sugar sauce or, to make a plain cake really decadent, why not serve all three – ice cream, brown sugar sauce, and whipped cream! 

War Cake on a Tea Table

 

War Cake

Regardless where you are in the world, if you have any wartime memories (either your own or those passed down to you from your ancestors) of war cake made for consumption on the home front or to send to the soldiers fighting the war, I would love to hear about them.   War cake is a part of wartime culinary history.

Here are some photographs of the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the cenotaph in downtown Charlottetown, PEI, this morning.

Remembrance Day in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
Lest We Forget

 

Hon. Robert W.J. Ghiz, Premier of the Province of Prince Edward Island lays a wreath on behalf of the people of the Island at the Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
Small Child Watches as a Veteran lays a Wreath at the Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI ]11 November 2012]

 

Remembrance Day 2012

 

Veterans Laying Wreaths at Remembrance Day Service in Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]
At the Charlottetown Cenotaph – Remembrance Day 2012

 

Flag Flies at Half-Mast on Remembrance Day, Charlottetown, PEI [11 November 2012]

War Cake

An old-fashioned cake made with large sticky raisins and a mixture of spices. Common cake during war time.
Course Cake
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword war cake
Servings 12
My Island Bistro Kitchen My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 pound large, sticky raisins
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp mace
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp soda

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Place the shortening, brown sugar, raisins, salt, spices, and boiling water into a large saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium or slightly lower and boil mixture for five minutes. Remove from heat and set saucepan on cooling rack. Let mixture cool to room temperature (4-5 hours), stirring occasionally.
  3. In bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda together. Set aside.
  4. Grease large tube or Bundt pan.
  5. When raisin mixture has cooled completely, add the flour and baking soda. Stir until dry ingredients have been completely mixed into the raisin mixture.
  6. Spoon mixture into greased pan. Add a small pan of hot water to lower shelf in oven for moisture while cake is baking. Bake cake on middle rack in 335°F preheated oven. If cake starts to brown on the top too quickly, loosely place a piece of tin foil on top of cake. Bake apx. 1 hour but begin to test cake for doneness, using a cake tester, at the 45-minute point as cake can dry out very quickly.
  7. Remove cake from oven and place pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes then remove from pan. Allow cake to cool completely before cutting.

Recipe Notes

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