Thursday, August 9, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Irish Tea Cake, the Solar Eclipse and The Perseid Meteor Shower

Folklorama is in full swing here in Winnipeg!
it’s a wonderful way to travel the world - you can visit forty countries in two weeks, yet still sleep in your own nice comfy bed.
For a senior it can’t get much better than that!

Visiting some of the pavilions reminds me of meals I enjoyed when I was a child in College Point.
We had neighbours from around the world - especially folks from Ireland, Germany and Poland.
We would eat leftovers for lunch at school, and bored with the familiar, often traded our lunches.
It was a fantastic way to enjoy really good home recipes which had been prepared by very experienced cooks.
Just like going to a Folklorama pavilion!

One of the recipes Ma got from a neighbour was Irish Tea Cake.
It’s an easy recipe - just perfect for when it’s too hot to go to too much trouble with something complicated.
The cake is similar to a pound cake, and can be served with fresh fruit as is or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
Or you can serve it just as it is.


This recipes can also be baked using two loaf pans.

Want a bit more flavour? Use lemon or almond extract instead of vanilla, or a mixture of 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons lemon or almond extract.
Or use a mixture of 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon or almond extract.
You know what your family likes and what is in your cupboard.

If the batter is too stiff, you can add up to two tablespoons of additional milk.

If you’re using loaf pans, let them bake 1 hour.
After they’re baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for an hour, then remove the loaves from the pans.

Ma used a generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
The cake is also good without the dusting, or with a lemon frosting:
Place in a medium mixer bowl
2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Beat at medium speed until light.
Beat in
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Turn down the speed to low and add, 1/2 Cup at a time
1 1/2 Cups confectioners’ sugar
Spread over the cooled cake.

                                                Irish Tea Cake

Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans

Combine together in a large bowl
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F

In a large mixer bowl place
1 Cup butter, softened
2 Cups sugar
Beat together until light and fluffy. 
Beat in, one at a time 
4 eggs
Stir in
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Making 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, add the dry ingredients alternately with
1 Cup milk
Divide the mixture between the 2 prepared pans and spread evenly.
Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool 45 minutes, then remove cakes from the pans and turning them out onto serving plates.

Before serving dust each cake with
1/4 to 1/2 Cup confectioners’ sugar
Slice and serve as is, or with fresh fruit.

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

August 11—The Dog Days of Summer come to an end. Beginning on (or about) August 11th, Sirius comes above the east-southeast horizon just far enough ahead of the Sun to be visible against the bright morning twilight. In the days that follow, Sirius rises a little earlier and gets a little higher in the sky with each passing morning. Although we have come to say that the Dog Days end with the first appearance of Sirius, actually seeing it strongly depends on your location and clarity of the sky.
New Moon at 5:58 a.m. This New Moon (also a “supermoon”) brings in a partial solar eclipse in the daytime in the Arctic, far-northeastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and most of Asia for about 3.5 hours. Read more about this eclipse here!

August 11-13—The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks. August is often regarded as “meteor month” with the appearance of one of the best displays of shooting stars of the year. These showers are named for the constellation Perseus (hence “the Perseids”) where they appear to emanate from, but are bits and pieces of the Comet Swift-Tuttle which visited the inner part of the Solar System in 1992. These meteors, no bigger than grains of sand, enter the Earth’s atmosphere about 80 miles above its surface. This year’s display is expected to be one of the best because the Moon will be gone from the night sky. Read more about this year’s shower.

August 13—Look to the western horizon after sunset to see the thin crescent Moon with Venus. But better catch them before the dip below the horizon at nightfall!

August 14—You have a chance to spot Venus with the Moon! Look to the east, one hour before sunrise.

August 14-16 — After sunset both Venus and Jupiter can be seen alongside the waxing crescent Moon. Because it’s moving east, throughout these nights the Moon will move closer to Jupiter as its path takes it away from Venus.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Rum Granita, Full Buck Moon and the longest Lunar Eclipse of the Century

A couple of years ago, during another heat wave, I posted the recipe for Ma’s lemon granita.
It was something we grew up with, as Ma often had it in the freezer during the summer.
She always served it to us when the thermometer rose.

Our parents, I noticed, had something similar, but a bit darker in colour.
They were having rum granita, which has a bit of a kick.

Granita uses a simple syrup as a base for a cold dessert.
it’s not as fruity as a sorbet.
But you can serve it plain or with as much fresh fruit as you want.

Granitas don’t require any special equipment at all.
All you need is water, coffee, a bit of sugar, and your favourite alcoholic beverage.
Don't wan't alcohol? No problem. The lemon granita is a crowd pleaser. 


If you decide to use a spiced rum you should know that they can have a spicy chocolate flavour.
Vodka also gives a kick, without the colour or chocolate taste, if you want something lighter to serve with summertime fruits.

As with the lemon granita, the measurements are a starting point.
If you want it sweeter or stronger, no problem.
Adjust the amounts of coffee and / or sugar.
It’s like making a cup of instant coffee.
You don’t exactly measure the coffee crystals or the sugar. You just suit yourself.

If, after you've first placed the container in the freezer, the slush has become as hard as a rock, don’t panic.
You can leave it at room temperature and eventually it will be soft enough to scrape.

If, when you are ready to serve it, it has frozen too hard, let the granita sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Then work the mixture with the fork.

                        Rum Granita

Serves 8-10 servings

In a small pot combine 
1/3 Cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Cup cold water
Stir over medium heat to make a simple syrup. 
Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from heat.
Set the simple syrup aside.

Place in a large container 
1 Cup ground coffee
5 Cups cold water
Stir until completely blended. 
Allow to sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.

Strain the cold brew through a fine sieve and discard the grounds. 
Stir in
the reserved simple syrup 
1/2 Cup rum, or other alcoholic beverage

Transfer to a 9 x 13 inch metal pan and cover with plastic wrap. 
Place in the freezer for 45 minutes. 

Remove and scrape the mixture with a metal fork or spoon, then return it to the freezer.
Repeat this step every 30 to 45 minutes for about 4 hours.
You want the mixture to resemble shards of ice.

It can be served as is, or with berries or sliced fruit.

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

The Moon’s closest companion in the sky is our ringed-planet Saturn - so close they fit within the same binocular field. Look to the South to spot these two only 2 degrees from each other.

July 26 - Mars comes into opposition in our sky for the first time since May 2016. At opposition, Earth as the third planet from the Sun passes between the Sun and a superior planet which in tonight’s sky is Mars. This results in Mars shining at its brightest in the skies.

July 27 - Full Moon! Longest lunar eclipse of the 21st Century! At 4:20 p.m. EDT there will be a Full Buck Moon.
This also presents the longest lunar eclipse from 2001-2100, lasting a whole 1 hour and 43 minutes. There is a catch however - if you live in North America you won’t be seeing any of this historic event as its primarily visible in the Eastern Hemisphere. Read more about it here. 
The planet Mars will reach “opposition,” the moment when the Sun, Earth, and Mars form a straight line. When a planet reaches opposition, it lies exactly opposite the Sun in the sky: It rises at sunset, reaches its highest point in the sky at midnight, and sets at sunrise.

July 30 - Catch the daytime Moon this week! No matter where you are on Earth, look to the West after sunrise to see it in a clear blue sky during the day. The Moon is now in a waning gibbous phase causing it to rise after nightfall and setting westward after the Sun rises.

July 31 - Mars will come within 35,784,000 miles of Earth at 3:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, which is within about 1.1 million miles of the closest it can possibly come.

Just so you know… starting on July 26 there’ll be a Mercury retrograde in Leo. It will last until August 18, when Mercury goes direct.