Archive for March 6th, 2009

St. Patty’s Day Recipes

March 6, 2009
Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage

St. Patrick is best known for chasing the snakes out of Ireland.  That’s a bit out of context as most of our folk lore.  St. Patrick was actually the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Ireland in 438 A.D. and responsible for purging Ireland of pagan rituals which were symbolized with serpents.  There are not now, nor have there ever been snakes in Ireland, not of the reptilian sort anyway.  

A traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage Boiled Dinner is a ritual in itself for any Irishman, lephrecon, or sympathetic and enthusiastic friend of Irish ways.  Be sure to bake a round of Irish Soda Bread for this festive occasion and don’t forget the horseradish.

Irish Corned Beef & Cabbage 

5 lbs of corned beef brisket

2 onions

5-6 carrots

5-6 potatoes

1 Tbsp pickling spice

1 cabbage cut into wedges

Rinse brisket in cold water.  Place in Dutch oven or large sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove meat, place in fresh water with onions, carrots, potatoes and pickling spice.   Bring to boil, then simmer until tender, about 2 hours.  Remove meat and vegetables.  Bring water back to boil, drop cabbage in for 5-7 minutes.  Remove cabbage and drain before serving. Serve with creamy horseradish and mustard.

White Irish Soda Bread                                    Irish Soda Bread

6 cups unbleached white or wheat flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp sugar or honey

1 tsp salt

2-1/2 cups buttermilk *


Sift all dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Make a well in middle of flour mixture and pour buttermilk into well.  With a wooden spoon, mix just until all ingredients are moistened.   Turn out onto lightly floured board and kneed 10 times into a ball.  Place in ungreased pan, dust top with a little flour, score a cross on the top with a sharp knife blade or razor.  Bake in oven 375° F. for 40 minutes.  Serve warm.

* substitute 1-1/2 cups yogurt and 1 cup water for buttermilk.



The Perfect Chocolate Cake

March 6, 2009

The Perfect Chocolate Cake

In 1994, I moved to the South Pacific and opened a small café.  At that time there was not a box cake to be had in the Kingdom of Tonga and the local bakeries made a poor substitute;  pale in color, tough in texture, bland in chocolate flavor.  In short order, I hunted through my collection of cookbooks and recipes boxes and found several chocolate cakes worth baking.  By and far the best cake was this one…tender, moist, rich in chocolate flavor with the deep, dark color of cocoa.  The cake was an instant hit and for 12 years it was my signature dessert. 

The original recipe of this cake appeared in a 1986 McCall’s Cooking School magazine.   I’ve added almond extract and omitted the sugary icing to make this the “Perfect Chocolate Cake” in my book.  Add this recipe to your dessert repertoire and your family and friends will rave.


The Perfect Chocolate Cake 



 1 cup cocoa powder

2 cups boiling water

2-3/4 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

2-1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter

4 eggs

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups whipped cream with 3 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar and 1 tsp vanilla to fill and cover cake layers.

1 Tbsp. cocoa powder to dust top of cream (or use chocolate curls)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and dust two or three 9-inch cake pans.  In a small bowl whisk cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth and refrigerate to cool.  Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium sized bowl.  Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and extracts until light and fluffy.   Reduce the speed to low and add flour mix alternately with cocoa mix.   Do not over beat.  Pour batter into prepared pans and bake about 30 minutes for 3 layers or about 40 minutes for 2 layers, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 5 minutes then remove cakes to a rack and cool completely.  Fill and cover layers, swirling the whipped cream on top and sides.  Place cocoa powder in a tea strainer and tapping the strainer against your palm, dust the top of the cream.  Chill cake until ready to serve.  Hold at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.  This cake also freezes well.  Wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap before freezing.  Ganache may be used in place of whipped cream.