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Several weeks ago I promised to blog Chef Fran Broadbery’s Plum Island Grille Apple Tarte Tatin recipe. Unfortunately I’ve been struggling to get the recipe to work, which is why you haven’t seen it posted yet. Fran warned me it can be difficult (if not impossible) to take a recipe from a professional kitchen and convert it into a recipe suitable for a domestic kitchen, so I knew there was a chance the recipe wouldn’t work. Never fear, however, after many attempts I finally have a recipe that will work in any home kitchen…even if you’re not a domestic god or goddess!!

So, without further adieu, I am happy to present to you this wonderful Plum Island Grille inspired Apple Tarte Tatin. We are smack in the middle of apple season, so I hope you enjoy this wonderfully delicious, super easy, recipe. Cheers!

Step one: put apples in water with lemons.

Step one: put apples in water with lemons.

Step two: melt butter and add sugar.

Step two: melt butter and add sugar.

Step three: caramelise the butter and sugar.

Step three: caramelise the butter and sugar.

Step four: add the apples rounded side down and bake for 20 minutes.

Step four: add the apples rounded side down and bake for 20 minutes.

Step five: cover with puff pastry and bake.

Step five: cover with puff pastry and bake.

Step six: remove from oven.

Step six: remove from oven.

Step seven: carefully invert the Tarte Tatin onto a plate.

Step seven: carefully invert the Tarte Tatin onto a plate.

Step eight: top with vanilla ice cream and serve.

Step eight: top with vanilla ice cream and serve.

Apple Tarte Tatin 

Serves 6-8 

Ingredients

1 sheet of puff pastry (you can make your own, but why bother!)

110g/4oz unsalted butter

225g/8oz sugar

4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into halves or quarters (Granny Smith are perfect, but really any apple is fine)

1 lemon, cut in half

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/400°F.

2. Place apples (peeled, cored and cut) into a medium size bowl. Cover with water and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the water. Put the lemon halves into the water as well.

3. In a skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Stir in the sugar. The mixture will be grainy at first, but be patient…and don’t turn up the heat. The sugar will melt and become caramel.

4. Drain the water off the apples and dry with kitchen roll (paper towel). Remove the caramel from the heat and add the apples rounded side down.

5. Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the apple.

6. Remove skillet from oven and cover with a sheet of puff pastry slightly larger than the size of the skillet. Tuck the edges of the pie crust into the hot skillet. Be careful not to burn yourself.

7. Return the skillet to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

8. Remove the Tarte Tatin from the one and set on a rack to cool.

9. Run a knife around the edge of the pie crust to separate it from the skillet. Shake the skillet a few times to loosen the apples and caramel. Place a pie plate over the skillet. Carefully grip the plate and the skillet and flip over so the pie plate is on the bottom and the skillet is on the top.

10. Gently lift the skillet from the plate. Rearrange any apples that have shifted during the inverting and scrape any stubborn caramel off the skillet and onto the Tarte Tatin. If some of the caramel is stuck to the skillet, place back in the oven until it’s spoonable or drizzel-able and spoon or drizzle over the Tarte Tatin on the plate.

11. Serve while still warm, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Notes:

* Cold Tarte Tatin makes for a delicious breakfast dish.

** Pears, quince, and fruits of a similar hardness can be cooked like apples to make Tarte Tartin.

*** I used my grandma’s old skillet in this recipe, but you can use an oven proof sauté pan.

Related Articles:

1. Rhubarb Tarte Tatin at Tartelette

2. Sausage Tarte Tatin made by Donal Skehan

3. Darina Allen’s Tarte Tatin recipe as published in The Irish Examiner

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{Note: Today’s post reads better if you click on the link below, get past the ad, and let the video run while you read the rest of the post.}

You know the song Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys?

Well, not to brag or anything but…I’m pretty sure she’s singing about me!

Yep, that’s right. I said it!…“She’s just a girl and she’s on firrre”.

I am listening to the video above right now while typing {the song has been in my head since last night}…“Hotter than a fantasy…”

Yes! She’s DEFINITELY singing about me!

“She’s living in a world, and it’s on firrre, filled with catastrophe”After feeling so lackluster leading up to Christmas day, I have finally shaken off my cloak of dullness and found that, underneath, I’m wearing a pencil skirt, mini top, and four-inch-high-smokin’-hot heels! Ha! Who knew?!…“She’s got both feet on the ground and she’s burning it down…”

“O-o-o-oh, o-o-o-oh”… Despite the weather, the bills, the messy house, the late-to-arrive Christmas cards that are still sitting on the dining room table unsigned and unsent,…“She’s got her head in the clouds”…I am finding time {and energy} for watching tv with the family, cuddling with the kids before they go to bed, whipping up something new in the kitchen, meeting with friends, relaxing, and writing…lots of writing. …” And, she’s not backing down…”

“This girl is on firrre. This girl is on firrre. She’s walking on firrre. This girl is on firrre..”

Ideas for In an Irish Home are popping into my head nonstop, like fireworks on New Year’s Eve night. For those of you following this blog, I hope you don’t mind all the posts in your email inbox.

“Looks like a girl but she’s a flame.” Sometimes the ideas come in the middle of the night. “So bright she can burn your eyes, better look the other way.” So, I get up from my comfy bed and write a post in those few quiet hours when nothing else is going on…“She’s on top of the world…” The house is silent. I relish the time to myself.

Lately, I’ve even taken to hitting the “publish” button before going back to bed. And you know, the funny thing is I don’t feel exhausted the next morning for having had less sleep. “Got our head in the clouds and we’re not coming down.” I feel good…almost great for having done so. Maybe it comes from loving what I’m doing?

I don’t know where this abundant energy is coming from. “This girl is on firrre.” I am just completely and utterly thankful for it.

And so, before giving you today’s recipe for Guinness Gingerbread, which to all you male-readers is a most delicious treat for the lady in your life on Little Christmas day {also known in Ireland as the Women’s Christmas, Little Women’s Christmas, and Nollaig na mBan and, also, the Epiphany), I’m wondering…what song is currently playing in your head?

DSC_0043Guinness Gingerbread

Makes 16 Generous Slices

Ingredients

10 tablespoons/5oz butter, softened

1 cup/250ml golden syrup {half dark and half light corn syrup)

1 cup packed/5oz brown sugar

1 cup/250ml Guinness

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups/10oz plain flour {self raising/all purpose)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups/10oz/300ml sour cream

2 eggs

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325°F/170°C. Line a 9×13×2-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Butter or spray both a nonstick baking spray.

2. Put the butter, syrup, brown sugar, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter is completely melted.

3. While the butter is melting, mix in a large bowl the flour, baking soda and salt.

4. When the butter has completely melted and the ingredients in the saucepan are well mixed, pour it into the large bowl with flour, baking soda and salt. Whisky well to get rid of any lumps.

5. Whisk together the sour cream and eggs. Mix into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again until smooth.

6. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once fully cool, lift from pan and cut into slices. May be served with cream and icing sugar {powdered sugar} for an extra special dessert.

Notes:

Guinness Gingerbread recipe is adapted from Nigell’a Lawson’s recipe for same.

More about Nollaig na mBan at A Silver Voice from Ireland

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DSC_0663Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! These biscuits (cookies) are to-die-for good!!

The first time I made them, they didn’t turn out so well. Silly me, I didn’t chop the crystallised ginger near enough and they were lumpy. The second time I made them, however, I did everything right and even my pickiest eater liked them.

They are a doddle to make. {Which is all the more important in this busy holiday season.} It probably took 10 minutes to mix up the ingredients.

The only hitch is you have to let them rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours before popping them into the oven. Actually, since I’m thinking/writing out loud, these are the ideal biscuits to make while you are wrapping presents…you mix the ingredients, refrigerate, wrap, bake, wrap, enjoy – what could be simpler? Right?!

While you’re busy baking and wrapping, turn up the volume on your computer/iPad and have a listen to this podcast on Irish Christmas food. Eoin (sounds like O-wen) Purcell of HistoryJournal.ie interviews Regina Sexton, food and culinary historian at University College Cork, about the origins of the foods we eat at Christmastime. If you’re not familiar with HistoryJournal.ie {which I was not}, it is an “exclusively online Irish history journal, covering a wide range of topics across Irish history and the wider Irish worldwide community”. 

And, for a bit of cheer to those living abroad, here’s a few of the best 2013 Christmas food advertisements playing on telly.

From Lidl –

From Cadbury –

From Baileys –

Lastly, for a bit of a laugh {you can’t take him too seriously}, here’s a clip of Colin Farrell’s interview with American television late-night-host Jimmy Kimmel about his traditional Irish Christmas.

Avoca Handweaver’s Crystallised Ginger Shortbread

Makes about 16 biscuits

Ingredients

1 cup/130g plain flour

1/2 cup/60g icing sugar

1/2 cup/60g cornflour

9 tablespoon/130g unsalted butter

130g crystallised ginger, finely chopped

30g caster sugar (for top of shortbread)

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Place the flour, icing sugar, cornflour, and butter in a food processor and blitz until starting to come together, then add the crystalized ginger and continue to process until the mixture combines fully. {I also added a few drops of ice water at this point}

3. Remove and roll into a ball.

4. Roll out the dough to 0.5cm thick. Cut into rounds with a small scone or cookie cutter.

5. Place on a lined baking sheet and allow to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours, then bake for about 40-45 minutes.

6. Remove, and while still warm, sprinkle with a little caster sugar. The shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

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Gathering round the evening campfire.

Gathering round the evening campfire.

It has been several weeks since I last blogged but you’ll understand when I explain that our traveling four-some has been deep in foreign-language country.

Technically we were in north-west Minnesota, at a camp run by Concordia Language Villages, but the immersion of the camp was so deep that we might as well have been abroad. From food to spoken word, we were in another world.

Language learning through crafts.

Language learning through crafts.

So how was it? It was wonderful. Interestingly, each of us had a different experience. The two girls seemed to thrive because they did what all kids do…they just got out there and spent time with their peers. With no real effort, their language proficiency grew with each passing day.  And God bless my dad, after three years of taking a foreign language at his local university, he had no problems whatsoever with the cultural shift. He found the adult group talks about politics, religion, and social issues a very pleasant and invigorating way to test his skills. Getting sick mid-way through the camp didn’t even set him back much. As for me…I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride of exhaustion and breakthroughs the entire time. For a few days, I was fine and then, suddenly, I was unable to think or speak. Our camp administrator said this was a perfectly normal adult reaction to full language immersion. In other words, “Don’t give up, Love.”  Sure enough, about every three days, I hit a wall and then, after a good night sleep, was able to translate words in my head and speak them with relative ease.

Camp counselors hamming it up.

Camp counselors hamming it up.

If you’re not familiar with Concordia Language Villages, here’s the scoop: Concordia is the premiere language and cultural immersion program in the United States. For 50 years they have helped learners develop a deeper appreciation and skill base for going out into the non-English-speaking cultures of the world. Concordia offers courses in 15 different languages and uses skits, songs, meals, games, activities, class sessions and general conversation as their teaching methods. From the minute you check into a camp, you feel as though you have left the United States and entered into the country whose language you wish to learn. There are programs for youths, adults, and families, and classes are available year round.

Remarkably, few people have heard of Concordia. Case in point, while we were staying in Detroit Lakes we mentioned to people that we were on our way to a foreign immersion camp nearby. No one we spoke with knew there was a clutch of foreign language schools just a few hours away! Such a pity.

Meringues (14)If you’re interested in a foreign language immersion experience that isn’t in the Gaeltacht (the Irish-speaking region of Ireland), perhaps Concordia Language Villages is the place for you. We certainly enjoyed it.

And, speaking of things this Irish family enjoys…today I am passing along this easy-to-make recipe for mini-meringues. They keep well for weeks in an airtight container or ziplock bag and are a great snack in the kid’s lunch boxes or for when you want a little something sweet with a cuppa. They even make an adorable pudding (dessert) when served sandwich-style with a dollop of cream, caramel or jam between two of them. Mmmmhhh….wish we’d brought some along for this road trip. Enjoy!

Mini-Meringues

Makes 24

Ingredients

2 egg whites, room temperature

½ cup/4oz/100g caster sugar (granulated sugar)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 225°F/110°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper (parchment paper).

2. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. (You know you’ve whipped it enough when the mixture holds a stiff  a peak that looks like shaving foam.)

3. Using two teaspoons, spoon 24 little blobs on the greaseproof paper. Bake for 40 minutes or until crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for another 5 minutes, if you like your meringues crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, or 20 minutes, if you like them crispy inside and out.

4. When completely cool, put in an airtight container. Meringues will keep for weeks.

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Last month I promised to post a Brown Soda Bread recipe for friends living in America.  Being a woman of my word, here it is at last.  This recipe, adapted from one of Darina Allen’s, works perfectly at sea level and at high altitudes (I know because I’ve baked it at both many times).  Enjoy!

Brown Soda Bread (for America)

(Makes One Loaf)

2 cups all purpose flour                                                 

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon baking soda

1 ½-2 cups buttermilk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly flour a large baking sheet.

2. Sift the two flours, the salt and the baking soda in a large bowl.

3. Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk.

4. Using a wooden spoon or your fingertips, mix the liquid into the flour. The dough should be soft but not too sticky. If needed, add the rest of the buttermilk a little at a time or a little extra flour to get the right consistency.

5. Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and press into a circular shape about 2″ high. Using a butter knife, mark a deep cross in the top of the dough.

6. Bake for one hour in the centre of the oven. When done, remove the baking sheet and bread from the oven and tap the bottom of the loaf.  If it sounds hollow when tapped it is done.  If not, put it straight back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes. There’s no need to put it back onto the baking sheet for this, just place it right on the rack in the oven.

7. When baked completely, cool on a wire rack.

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Bread baking has long been part of Ireland’s culinary heritage.  The earliest breads were little more than thin oatcakes baked over the fire on an iron plate or placed directly on embers. In the mid-1800’s bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) was introduced and the birth of soda bread, as it is known in Ireland today, was born.

My first introduction to Brown Soda Bread was at the kitchen table of my mother-in-law.  Every week she made a loaf from scratch.  She worked quickly and efficiently, as only a woman who raised twelve children can do, and when the bread came out of the oven the smell was just delicious!

Both nourishing and comforting, Irish Soda Bread is perfect in the morning for breakfast, as part of a sandwich at lunchtime or served with a hearty homemade soup or a green salad fresh from the garden in the evening.

Brown Soda Bread

Makes One Loaf

225g self raising flour

225g extra coarse wholemeal

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

about 450ml buttermilk

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C. Put a little vegetable oil into a bread tin and put the tin into the oven to warm.  When the oil is warm, use a pastry brush to get it all over the inside of the tin.  Set aside.

2.  Sieve the two flours, the soda and salt in a large bowl.

3.  Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk.

4.  Using a wooden spoon or your hand, stir the liquid into the flour.  The dough should be soft but not sticky.  If needed, add more buttermilk to get the right consistency.

5.  Put the mixture into the bread tin and bake for one hour in the center of the oven.  Ease the loaf from the tin and tap the bottom.  If it sounds hollow when tapped it is cooked.  If not, put it back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes.  There’s no need to put the loaf into the bread tin for this, just place it right on the rack in the oven.

6.  When baked completely, cool on a wire rack.

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