Barm Brack from "Pomegranate Soup"

Pomegranate Soup is about three young Iranian sisters who emigrate to small-town Ireland, where they open a restaurant. A lot of great Persian food wafts throughout the book, but naturally Irish fare is also mentioned. Barm Brack is a traditional Irish brea,d often served at Halloween or Samhain. It's also great for St. Paddy's Day. More complex than soda bread, it's really yummy toasted or made into bread pudding once it's a few days old.

4 cups flour

1 cup room temperature milk

1 1/4 cups raisins or currants

2 rounded tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cake or package of yeast

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup mixed chopped candied citrus peel

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients. 

Rub in the butter.

Combine the yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon milk.

Add the remaining sugar to the flour mixture and blend.

Add the milk and egg to the yeast miixture then blend with the flour. 

Use a dough hook for about 5 minutes or knead for ten minutes.

When the dough is elastic add the fruit. 

Let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled. 

Place in two greased cake or loaf pans. 

Leave to rise for thirty minutes.

Bake at 400. 

You can combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water as a glaze. 

Spread or dribble over the bread at the end of baking and cook for an additional three minutes. 

For Halloween/Samhain, I add charms which you can use to tell your future, but that is strictly optional. 

Pomegranate Soup from "Pomegranate Soup"

Pomegranate Soup, by the late Marsha Mehran, is about three young Iranian women who emigrate to Ireland where they open a Persian restaurant. The book is chock full of delicious recipes. This adapted recipe is lovely for chill autumn evenings. 

Pomegranate Soup

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup yellow split peas (green are ok too)

6 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 cups fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

I cup fresh scallions, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1 pound ground lamb

3/4-cup rice 

2 cups pomegranate juice

Pomegranate seeds

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon angelica powder, optional

Sauté the onion in a large pot in the olive oil until tender. 

Add peas, rice, water, salt, pepper, and turmeric and bring to a boil.

Simmer covered over lower heat for 30 minutes. 

Add the parsley, cilantro, mint, and scallions reserving some of each for garnish.

Simmer. 

Season the lamb with salt and pepper and roll into meatballs

Sauté until browned.

Toss in the pot. 

Add the pomegranate juice.

Cook for ten minutes.

Garnish with reserved herbs and pomegranate seeds. 

Dot's Battenberg Cake from "EastEnders"

She does so love her Battenbergs. No one else seems to show quite as much excitement about them as Dot does.They should do though, as they are delicious. A spot of trouble to cook compared to all these bought cakes on offer nowadays. The Minute Mart must have at least has a dozen packaged cakes for sale. Dot wouldn't pay a shill...5p for one. In 'er day nobody would 'ave thought to serve a bought cake to a guest.

It's perfect with tea, coffee, or a splash of sherry (purely for medicinal purposes). The Pastor loves it. Little Dottie 'ad never tasted a proper home- baked cake and now it's 'er favourite. Jim loved it so when 'e could still 'old a fork and then of course so did Nick...whenever he was not in gaol.

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/4teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon baking powder

a large pinch salt

2 drops red food colouring or maraschino cherry juice

1 cup apricot preserves

2 packages marzipan paste

1) Cream the butter and the sugar.

2) Add the eggs one at a time and blend after each addition. 

3) Mix in vanilla. 

4) Stir in the flour, salt, and powder. If the batter is terribly stiff add a dribble of milk. 

5) Separate the batter into to equal parts. 

6) To one part add the food colouring and almond extract.  

7) Pour into two loaf pans or 7 inch square cake pans greased and floured. 

8) Bake at 350 for 25 to thirty minutes. Remove from the oven when a toothpick comes out clean.

9) When cool, trim the edges. Cut into four strips.

10) Gently heat the apricot preserves in a saucepan or microwave.  

11) Glue the cakes in a checkerboard pattern using the jam. 

12) Roll the marzipan out with a rolling pin until it is big enough to surround the cakes.

13) Place a cake in the middle of marzipan and wrap around the cake.

14) Crimp the marzipan shut. 

15) Chill then serve.

This scrumptious cake will keep well for at least three days and freezes well. 

Hot Cider Laced with Tuaca

It's Hot Apple Cider Day on September 30th. And I just happen to have a delicious, grown-up Hot Apple Cider recipe to celebrate.

Apple cider, spiced or plain

Tuaca, a delicious Italian liqueur from Tuscany

Whipped cream-if you make your own whipped cream you can sweeten it according to how sweet your apple cider is.

Gently heat the cider.

Add a shot of Tuaca to a heatproof glass or mug.

Pour the warmed cider over and top with whipped cream.

I love a heart-warming mug of this for Halloween and Thanksgiving. It's ideal for winter brunch or a chilly evening nightcap.

For kids simply omit the Tuaca or for smaller kids don't heat it at all, but do top it with some whipped cream.

Ian McEwan's Fish Stew from "Saturday"

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors and I like him even better for making my job easier. This recipe is his, from his novel "Saturday". I won't tell you the plot, but a man has a very, very bad Saturday indeed. Not even this simple and delicious fish stew would comfort him at the end of it, but it will you for a good, an ordinary, or perhaps a chilly Saturday.

Ian McEwan's Fish Stew
Note: Where quantities are not stated, trust your instincts or desires.

Into a stockpot of boiling water (a litre or more), put the bones of three skates (or other boned fish) with heads intact. If you have no obliging local fishmonger, use a pound or more of white fish.

Add a dozen or so mussels to the stock. Simmer for twenty five minutes.

Meanwhile, strip and chop three onions and eight fat cloves of garlic.
Soften over a low heat in a casserole with a lot of olive oil.
When they've melted sufficiently, add:

    a couple of crushed red chillies
    a pinch of saffron
    some bay leaves
    orange-peel gratings
    oregano
    five anchovy fillets
    two cans of peeled tomatoes

When these have blended together in the heat add a quarter bottle of white wine. Then strain off the stock and add to the casserole.

Simmer the mix for twenty minutes.

Rinse and/or scrub the clams and remaining mussels and place in a bowl.
Cut the monkfish tails into chunks and place in a separate bowl.
Wash the tiger prawns and add to the monkfish bowl.
Keep both bowls refrigerated until ready to cook.

Just before dinner, reheat the casserole.

Simmer the clams, monkfish, mussels and prawns in the casserole for ten minutes.

Eat the stew with brown bread, or garlic bread, salad and a hearty red wine.

The End

You can substitute cod or another firm fleshed white fish for the monk fish. You can also make the  tomato-stock mixture a day ahead and reheat to add the fish. Its flavours benefit from the wait. You needn't add every single seasoning. I omitted saffron which I don't like, but I love the orange peel flavour. 

"Labor Day" Peach Pie

I admit I haven't actually seen the movie Labor Day with Kate Winslet nor read the book by Joyce Maynard.  But I know there's a peach pie-making scene. That's reason enough to include this scrumptious recipe, before peaches are only a happy summertime memory. 

8 peaches, ripe but not mushy, cut into chunks

Toss with:

3/4 cup sugar 

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Crust:

2 2/3 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

Sift together.  

Combine with:

1 stick butter, chilled and cut into sugar-sized cubes

1/2 cup chilled lard or shortening, cut into sugar-sized cubes

Add to a food processor and blend until coarse crumbs form. 

Remove to a bowl. 

Add 1/2 cup chilled water and blend until a dough forms.

Knead quickly three or four times.

Roll out into two disks, cover, and chill for half an hour minimum to overnight. 

Roll out bottom and place in a pie plate.

Add the peaches.

Add the top crust and seal.

Pierce top with a fork a few times. 

You can add an egg wash or cut out crust shapes if you want to make a prettier pie. 

Place on a baking sheet, as the juices may bubble over.

Bake for 30 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to 375 and cook for 40 minutes longer. 

You can cover the edge of the pie with tin foil to protect it from overbrowning if desired. 

Serve with vanilla ice cream. Mmmm.