Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anna Sultana's Hot Cross Muffins

One a penny, two a penny... 
hot cross buns...
If you have no daughters, 
give them to your sons.

How many foods have inspired poetry?
Hot cross buns are a traditional Lent favourite.
About six years ago I posted the recipe for Ma’s Hot Cross Buns.
And it’s a great, traditional recipe.

The problem with Hot Cross Buns is that it takes a bit of time to make them.
We’re talking a few hours, what with the kneading, rising, forming and second rising.
Then there’s the baking.
Not the greatest thing to make if you’ve just gotten a phone call telling you that your tradition-bound elderly Auntie will be visiting in an hour.

Every family has a tradition-bound elderly relative, the one who expects you to have a ready supply of desserts in keeping with the season.
The relative who will tell everyone that you have no respect for tradition if you don't.

Not to worry… these muffins are easy to make and taste nice and spicy.
Auntie will love them.


This recipe  can also be baked as a loaf:
Lightly grease a 9 × 5 x 2 inch loaf pan.
Preheat oven to 350º
Prepare the same batter as for the muffins.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
Bake 1 hour. Insert a cake tester to make sure the loaf is done.
Cool on a rack 15 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on the rack.

While the loaf is cooling, combine in a medium bowl for icing:
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
enough water to make a firm frosting
Spoon icing to form a pattern on the loaf, or spread the icing over the loaf and decorate with sprinkles.

Place the muffins or loaf in an airtight container.
Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 months.

If you’ve got more time to spare and you’d like to make a platter of muffins to really shut up... I mean, impress Auntie, these recipes would the job:

                        Easy Hot Cross Muffins

grease (or paper line) 12 medium-sized muffin cups
Place rack in centre of the oven.
preheat oven to 350º

in a large bowl combine
1 3/4 Cups flour
2/3 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon     
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves    
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice            
Add and mix in well
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 Cup candied mixed peel
1/2 Cup currants

2 Tablespoons butter

Place in a medium bowl 
1 egg
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup oil
2 Tablespoons orange juice
the melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend thoroughly.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients.
Stir just until mixed. 
The batter will be lumpy.
Spoon into the prepared cups.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Insert a cake tester to make sure the muffins are done.
Cool on a rack 15 minutes.
Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely on the rack.

While the muffins are cooling, combine in a medium bowl for icing:
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
enough water to make a firm frosting
Spoon icing to form a cross on each muffin.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Corned Beef Hash

What a fun weekend: first we celebrated St. Patrick, then St. Joseph!
And how else to celebrate a holiday or two than with lots of great food!!
Corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick and Żeppoli for St. Joseph are a nice break from Lent type food.
Especially if you’re also raising a glass or two of ale or wine.

But, just like every other holiday, this weekend presents us with the eternal problem: what to do with the leftovers?
What else? Make Corned Beef Hash.

Hash is a recipe dear to any frugal cook’s heart.
Some leftover roasted meat - yes, you can make hash using beef, pork or lamb - and leftover potatoes, and, if you have them, a bit of leftover vegetables.
What’s not to love? 

An English variation of hash is bubble and squeak, made with leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. The vegetables are usually potato and cabbage, but carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts can also be added. They used to add chopped leftover roast, but now a vegetarian version is more popular.

Hash can be served for breakfast, as a nice change from bacon or sausages.
It’s delicious with eggs, and fried potatoes, toast or biscuits.
If you want to keep the Celtic flavour, serve Corned Beef Hash with Irish Soda Bread, or Irish Cakes, or Welsh Cakes.

In the southern United States, hash can be two other dishes:
Leftover barbecue pork mixed with barbecue sauce and served over rice. 
A thick stew made from leftover pork, chicken and beef and served with cornbread.

Do not use leftover corned beef in Maltese Corned Beef Pie.
If you do, well, don’t invite a Maltese person to eat it.
Trust me, it’s not the same as canned.


The name hash comes from the French verb hacher which means ‘to chop’. A hash recipe first appeared in Mrs Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery in 1806.

Bubble and squeak got its name from the bubbling and squeaking sounds that the cabbage makes while it’s being cooked. It is usually served with leftover cold meat, with pickles or brown sauce, and can also be served as part of a full English breakfast.

National Corned Beef Hash Day is September 27.


Canned corned beef can be used in hash if you really have to substitute.
But NEVER use leftover fresh corned beef in Maltese Corned Beef Pie.
You’ve been warned.

Hash is a way to use leftovers, but try to keep the ratio to 2 parts meat to 1 part potatoes, with just a bit of vegetables.
You want your hash to be on the dry side so that it will brown well and have a bit of crunch. An excess of vegetables can make the hash mushy.
If you have a lot of leftover vegetables they might be better in a pot of bubble and squeak, and served on the side.

Back to the crunch… don’t crowd the meat and potatoes in your pan.
It’s like frying doughnuts.
They need space to get browned. Without the space they’ll get stewed.
If you’re serving a crowd, it would be better to cook in batches.

When you flip the hash cake it will break apart. That’s fine.
The bits will get more browned and add to the texture.

                        Corned Beef Hash

Serves 2

Chop leftover corned beef, enough to make 2 Cups

Finely chop
1 small onion
1/4 Cup leftover cabbage (optional)

1 Cup leftover boiled potatoes
1/4 Cup leftover rutabaga (optional)
1/4 Cup leftover carrot (optional)

Place in a large bowl 
the potatoes and corned beef 
Toss together lightly with a fork.

Place in a large skillet
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
Over medium high heat melt the butter or heat the oil.
the onions and optional vegetables
Stirring often, cook until lightly browned.
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
the meat and potatoes
Season with 
salt and pepper

Gently shape the mixture into a flat cake.
Let the mixture brown on one side, about 10 - 15 minutes.
Flip the mixture and let it brown on the other side, about another 10 - 15 minutes.

Cook 2 to 4 large eggs (poach, fry, scramble, boil - your choice)

When the cake is nice and crispy, scoop half and place it in a plate.
Top with half of the eggs.
Repeat for the second serving.
Serve warm.

About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 20 – The Spring Equinox at 6:29 a.m. The last quarter Moon at 11:58 a.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon in the sky. 

March 27 – New Moon at 10:57 p.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

March 30 – Look to the western sky as darkness falls to see the the tiny waxing crescent Moon just eight degrees from Mars. Look low to the horizon and you might be able to spot Mercury with binoculars an hour after sunset. The Moon is at perigee, which means that it is at the closest point to Earth in its cycle.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tourtière Pie with Cheddar Cheese, the Beehive Cluster and the Full Worm Moon by Margaret Ullrich

It's March, but it seems that winter isn’t quite ready to leave us just yet.
We’ve had a couple of days of blustery weather, with heavy snow and high winds.
The Trans-Canada Highway was closed for a while, and everyone had to stay where they were for safety’s sake.
Oh, well… it’s March in Manitoba and we're used to getting a few surprises.

I recently posted the recipe for Manitoba Tourtière Pie.
A friend mentioned that her son loved cheeseburgers.
She wondered if cheese could be added to the filling.
Well, why not?


The dough for the crust can be made two days in advance.

Don’t skip chilling the filling. This prevents the crust from becoming soggy. 

The dough that is leftover from trimming can be used to make decorations for the pie.
Either roll flat and use cookie cutters or roll the dough into a rope to make spiral decorations.

To freeze an unbaked pie: wrap well and freeze for up to one month. 
Defrost in refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake.
For best results, bake pie on bottom oven rack.

In a rush? You can use a package of refrigerated pie crusts. You’ll need two crusts.
But don’t make the pie and freeze for a later meal. 
The crust won’t be as good as it could be.

                        Tourtière Pie


Cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 Cup solid vegetable shortening
Chill 30 minutes.

Also chill 1/2 Cup water.

In a medium mixing bowl blend
2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Using a pastry blender, cut the chilled shortening cubes into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.

Sprinkle over the flour mixture
4 Tablespoons cold water
Using a fork stir and draw the flour from the bottom of the bowl to the top, distributing the moisture evenly into the flour. 
Add more water by the tablespoon until the dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.
Divide the dough into two pieces, making one piece slightly larger than the other. 
Flatten into 1/2 inch thick disks, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. 
Chill for 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.


Finely chop 
1 onion 
2 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic

Peel and grate or chop 
1 pound baking potatoes

In a dutch oven place
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil 
Heat oil over medium-high heat. 
1 1/4 pounds ground pork, beef or veal or a combination
the chopped onion, celery and garlic
Stirring frequently, cook until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. 
1 Cup beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
the grated potatoes
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  
Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes. You want most of the liquid to evaporate.
Remove the filling from the heat.
Chill in the refrigerator until cool, about 30 minutes. 

While the filling is cooling:  
On a lightly floured surface roll out the larger piece of dough.
Fit the dough into a 9 inch pie plate. 
Roll out the remaining pastry and leave on the floured surface.

Stir into the cooled filling
1 to 1 1/2 Cups shredded Cheddar Cheese, as mild or as strong as you like
Mix well.
Spoon the filling into the prepared pie plate. 

Preheat oven to 425°F 

Beat together  
1 egg
2 teaspoons water
Brush some of the egg mixture over the edges of the pastry in the pie plate.
Place the top layer of pastry over the filling. 
Seal the edges, then trim and flute the edges. 
Cut steam vents in the upper crust.
Add the extra dough decorations (see hints).

Brush the remaining egg mixture over the top of the pastry, and decorations. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. 
Leaving the pie in the oven, reduce the heat to 375°F.
Bake for an additional 45 - 50 minutes, until the pastry is golden.

Serve as is or with chili sauce, or ketchup, or chutney.
A cooked vegetable or a salad would also be a nice touch.

Tourtiere Pie, in all its variations - with or without cheese - is a delicious meat pie.
Really. It’s great!

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

March 8 - Look to see the waxing gibbous Moon just 4 degrees from the Beehive Cluster (M44), also called Praesepe, the Manger.

March 10 - Although the waxing gibbous Moon will be bright, see if you can spot the star Regulus a mere 3 degrees from it. Regulus is one of the brightest stars in our sky, and is part of the constellation Leo, the Lion.

March 12 - The Full Worm Moon at 10:54 a.m. Watch this short Farmers’ Almanac video to see how this Moon got its many names.