Sometimes great food memories don’t happen in your own kitchen, they happen a block away at your best friend’s house. One of my best friends is Kathy. In our grade school years after class sometimes we’d go to each other’s house to goof around when we were supposed to be doing our homework…perhaps you can relate.
Now Kathy and I shared a great love of music and when we grew up there was no shortage of new bands with great hits. Kathy would always buy the albums before anyone and she would have the lyrics memorized before the rest of us even knew the titles of the songs. So in our “tweens” we would race to her house after school to listen to the latest release, especially when it was from the Beatles.
Another reason to race to Kathy’s house was if her grandmother was there. Not that her grandmother was a fan of pop music, but because her Grandma K was one of the best cooks/bakers EVER! My fondest memory is of her donuts. She would have them ready to go right before we scrambled in the door…then plop, plop, in they went and instantly came bobbing up in the bubbling pot like life preservers in a choppy sea. Then deftly she’d whisk them out, douse them with sugar, and we’d enjoy the world’s best after-school snack…fresh, warm, homemade donuts and a tall glass of cold milk. We’d sit at her kitchen table and wallow in the yeasty, doughy, sugary goodness. Then in our lovely sugar coma we’d listen to hmm…maybe Paul McCartney singing Yesterday.
And that brings us to this post…I know, it took long enough. I was reading in a magazine recently that Paul’s oldest daughter, Mary has just come out with a cookbook called Food. In the article she tells how the family converted to vegetarianism and that her mother, Linda Eastman, always made sure that they had simple, tasty meals that were long on flavor and short on fuss. Mary seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps, not only because she’s a great cook, but because she is also a much admired professional photographer. So reading that article made me think of her dad, which made me think of listening to the Beatles music at Kathy’s house, which of course made me think of donuts…have I lost you yet?
It’s obvious that Mary has many great food memories and recipes to share and I can’t wait to take a peek at her cookbook. Her lemon cake recipe in the magazine reminded me of a loaf my mother used to make many years ago, so I pulled out my mother’s recipe and decided that this is what I’m going to be serving at Sunday’s supper for my family and friends. It seems like the perfect ending to a Spring meal.
Lemon Loaf Cake with Lemon Glaze
Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 - 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
A light lemon loaf perfect alone or with fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.
1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter (1 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest (approximately zest from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (approximate juice from 1 lemon)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup half and half or milk
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a standard loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream the room temperature butter and sugar together.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla till frothy. Whisk in lemon juice and lemon zest.
Slowly beat the egg mixture into the butter mixture.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
Then gradually fold the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture alternating with the half and half or milk till combined.
Bake for 40 - 45 minutes till golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
While loaf is baking prepare glaze.
In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Add optional lemon zest if you'd prefer more lemon flavor.
Place loaf on cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes then remove loaf from pan and spoon on glaze.
My mother went back to work when I was four which sadly put an end to our leisurely afternoons together cooking in our little, sunlit kitchen. Now at day’s end, she’d get off the Crosstown bus, walk to our front door, open it and sigh…it was so good to be home. She’d kick of her high heels (she was 5’2″ and never seen in public without heels) and put on her soft, fuzzy, pink slippers. Off she’d scoot down the hall to the kitchen to make dinner where she was usually attacked by our kitty who must have thought that she was a big, pink bunny. She hated that, especially when kitty would sink his little teeth into her ankle…ouch!
Weekdays didn’t bring much to the table in terms of homemade treats. Mostly things from the freezer thawed in the morning, left on the counter all day (oh my, how did we survive?) Or, something in tin cans from the pantry. But on the weekends it was different. She really didn’t make anything radical or new. She made her tried and true recipes from scratch and that was just fine by dad and me.
We lived for the “real” dinners and desserts. This recipe is one of them…it isn’t one of the prettiest desserts that you’ll ever serve, it’s rather homely on the outside, but has a lot of character on the inside. It’s moist, rich and perfect with a strong cup of tea tempered with sugar and a bit of cream (which is just how we had it in Ireland). I hope that it’ll be one of your favorites after you serve it to your family and friends for this St. Paddy’s Day Sunday supper.
Hubs says “you’d be a fool not to make this.” You know…I think he’s right!
Old Fashioned Irish Oatmeal Cake Recipe
Yield: 12 -15 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Lots of flavor packed into this moist treat.
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal (my mother always used Quaker)
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
14 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flaked coconut (my mother always used Baker)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan.
In a small, bowl, combine the oatmeal with the boiling water and let it sit for 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and white sugar.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together till well blended.
Add the egg mixture to the oatmeal mixture and stir till combined.
Add the egg/oatmeal mixture to the flour mixture and stir till combined.
Pour into baking pan and bake about 30 - 35 minutes till golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
While cake is baking make the icing.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the walnuts, coconut and vanilla. If you need to thin icing a bit, add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time. I like the icing to be think and rich and did not add the cream.
Immediately after you remove the cake from the oven, adjust your oven to "broil". Spread the icing on the hot cake and pop it under the broiler till it's a bit brown and the coconut is toasted.
If possible, serve warm.
In our house when I was young there was only one indoor plant. It stood on a pedestal that towered above me (not hard to do since I was about 3 ft. tall at the time). Resting on the top was a sweet little plant with Kelly green leaves and bright blossoms. Much later, I discovered that this plant was an Oxalis or false shamrock. It had a place of honor near the window in a corner of our kitchen. Next to the pedestal was a chair upon which I spent many afternoons keeping my mother company and watching while she cooked and baked.
Since the shamrock is the symbol for Ireland, it’s no wonder that this was the plant that my mother loved, though I had no idea of it’s meaning at the time. It was just a pretty plant that sat near a sunny window. Now, when I see these cheerful green leaves and pert flowers, I don’t think of it so much as a emblem of my heritage or St. Patrick’s Day…it’s a symbol of my childhood…of a simple time, a special time sitting with my mother, watching her chop, knead and stir. This recipe is one that she prepared often.
There are so many variations for this classic bread but this one is very easy to make. Other recipes have you making something more like a scone or pastry where you cut butter into flour. This one eliminates all that fuss. Now, if you don’t like raisins, out they go…and if you don’t care for caraway seeds, you can eliminate them as well, but I think that the bread would be missing a bit of character. If you DO want to include the raisins, here’s my mother’s secret…soak them in water for about 5 hours. Yep, those little wrinkled crones will plump right up into beauties and make for a mighty moist bite.
As many of you know, I’m intimidated about making bread, but not this bread. There’s no yeast, no rising, no kneading. Takes just a few minutes and into the oven and onto your table…perfect for that St. Patrick’s Day Sunday supper for family and friends. Don’t forget to have on hand some fresh Irish butter to slather on the slices or warm wedges.
Easy Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Yield: 1 large loaf
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45-50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour,15 minutes
The easiest recipe ever for this Irish treat.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granualted sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (make sure that you shake the buttermilk well before using)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons whole milk
If you like plump raisins, place them in a small bowl with 1 cup filtered water for about 5 hours then proceed with the recipe. If you prefer firm, chewy raisins, proceed without letting them sit in water.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease and then flour a cookie sheet. Lightly flour a board for shaping the loaf.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together making sure that you blend them completely. Make a well inside the mixture.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and butter together until frothy. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds. Pour this mixture into the well that you made in the large bowl holding the dry ingredients. Stir until mixture is combined. If the mixture is a bit dry, add more buttermilk.
Flour your hands, then place the dough on the floured board and shape into a loaf. It will have a very craggy texture. Place on baking sheet. Let the loaf rest for 15 minutes. Then using a sharp knife, carve a cross into the top.
Using a pastry brush, brush the milk on the surface of the bread.
Place in oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown. Check to see if it's done by inserting a toothpick, making sure that it comes out clean.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve warm with butter.
Last year I wrote this post, Irish History on My Table, about meeting with author and archivist, Kevin Grace. At that time, I gave him some treasured family pictures and told him some of our much-loved stories. Kevin wanted his new book, Irish Cincinnati, to be about the common man as well as the wealthy and well known. I didn’t know if my photos and stories would make the final cut, but they DID! It really touched my heart to be in this book. Thank you Kevin Grace! Lots of Irish eyes are looking down from heaven and smiling big time, knowing that their story was as important as that of the Gamble, Sinton and Keating families.
I thought that since St. Paddy’s Day is just around the corner, this would be the perfect time to introduce this book to you. It’s an easy read, filled with the history of many Irish immigrants and their tales of challenge, perserverance and success. Cincinnati is known for it’s German heritage, but at one time 21 percent of the folks living there were of Irish descent.
John and Madeleine McCudden
My mother (left) in O’Bryonville
My mother loved to tell stories from her younger days and I’m so glad that she did! She always managed to make these years sound a bit romantic…roaming the valley by the stream in her backyard to find the first watercress, scampering onto the Island Queen for a boat ride up the Ohio River to Coney Island in summer for Irish Day where she won the Irish jig contest and trudging up Cinnamon Street in the snow to Holy Angels School in winter holding a baked potato fresh from the oven to keep her hands warm and have her breakfast at the same time. She didn’t have an easy life, but the part that she wanted to share with me always had a ray of sunshine and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Some of my fondest memories are sitting with her at the kitchen table, watching as she peeled her beloved potatoes. I would sit close beside her listening to her stories and watching her cook…which is exactly how I learned. I enjoyed cooking so much that I would sometimes take it upon myself to start cooking without her! As I got older she loved that, but when I was younger…not so much.
Mary Louise Carter – My Mother
Since it’s March and the big day (St. Paddy’s Day, of course) is right around the corner, I’ll be taking a walk down memory lane in my next few posts and telling you about some of our Irish family favorites to share with your family and friends for Sunday Supper.
I can’t remember when Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day were in the same week, can you? So, this Sunday we will be celebrating both events with our family and friends.
I want to serve something romantic and decadent that isn’t chocolate. Hmm…I have had the most delicious oysters in New Orleans and they are also considered a romantic food…so oysters it is. Now, some of you may have never tried oysters…I know they ARE a bit intimidating. Also, they come in their own little suit of armor…how the heck do you get them out of there? My solution is to go to a reputable source for fresh seafood and ask them to shuck them for you. I don’t have the proper knife or technical skill that you need to get these little guys open but they do.
I found these beautiful Osprey Point oysters flown in from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. Within minutes, the cheerful fishmonger behind the counter had them nestled in a little tray for me, all ready to go. So now with the hard part behind me, I can easily have these ready in no time.
I do have to warn you that there is one part of this recipe that you can’t ignore. Do NOT leave the oven when you are broiling these AND make sure that your oven rack is in the middle of your oven. Also, be sure to nestle them in enough kosher salt so that they will not tip over. You really need to keep your eye on these constantly because they are done in no time…about 90 seconds! Since they have so much butter on top they may quickly flame up. As soon as the butter melts and they start to brown a bit, get them out immediately.
Now if you are looking at this recipe and thinking that it’s really just an excuse to dip toasted French bread into butter, you might just be right. But underneath it all is a little sweet jewel from the sea.
Savory and Decadent Broiled Oyster Recipe
An easy, fast appetizer that's perfect for a celebration.
- 1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
- 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 2 small cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 very small shallot (about 1/2 inch), finely minced
- 2 cups coarse kosher salt (approximate, use more is using larger sheet)
- 1 dozen fresh oysters
- 2 tablespoons parsley, snipped for garnish
- Make sure that your oven rack is in the middle of your oven.
- Preheat oven on broil.
- Slice and toast the French baguette.
- In a small bowl using a fork, combine the butter, garlic and shallot.
- On a cookie sheet, spread the kosher salt evenly so the oysters will rest and not tip over. Add more salt if using a larger sheet.
- Place the oysters in the salt as shown.
- Evenly distribute the butter mixture on top of the oysters.
- Place in oven and stand and watch them till the butter melts and the tops of the oysters are slightly brown. If any of the butter starts to flare, remove them immediately. Please remember that they only cook for about 90 seconds!
- Garnish with parsley.
- Serve immediately.
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