Coconut Chai Cake

IMG_2094When we were very young, our parents would take us exploring in our cabin cruiser, “The Hurricane” up through Howe Sound, and further up along the Sunshine Coast towards Texada Island. While I never remember staying overnight on the boat, we did do some very long day trips. We’d sit in a line along the bench at the stern of the boat, with lifejackets rubbing our chins, while the sun and wind toasted us. Dad would sit on a high seat, steering, sometimes allowing one of us to help him. There was a small cabin, with counters, a table & bench seating. It most likely converted into a bed if needed. Mom would have packed our very reliable picnic basket with egg sandwiches, some sort of cake, and cookies, and lemonade. At some point, tins of Shasta sodas usurped the bottles of lemonade.

We’d spend all day doing long runs out in the sea, or poking from inlet to inlet, getting off the boat to explore. Needing to swim into shore, or be lifted by Dad.

On a recent road trip up to Bowser, and lots of tucking into the beach all along the way, north of Parksville, we stood on the beach and looked all the way from just south of Baynes Sound towards Vancouver. With the calm waters, and the hint of summer in the air, I was transplanted back to that bench at the stern of the boat, feeling the sense of adventure we always felt when leaving the dock, and very much felt the presence of our parents. Those wonderful boat trips, although early in our lives, imprinted the need to be near the ocean in all of us.

This is a delightful snacking cake that would be perfect for a day on a boat, or a picnic. Originally from BBC Good Food, I have tweaked it a bit, a delicious idea to put the wonderful flavours of Chai into a cake. Enjoy! Continue reading

Hot Cross Buns with Currants & Orange

IMG_9470 (1)Good Fridays, for many years, were spent making dozens of hot cross buns to share with our family and friends over the Easter weekend. Ready to be delivered to homes to be enjoyed. Every year I’d tweak the recipe a bit for each batch, always starting with a basic sweet dough made with milk & butter. Sometimes too much spice sometimes not quite enough, and working towards the right combination. Always the purist, I would stick with currants as the only fruit, with the exception of some orange zest.

When I took out the recipe for this year’s I was reminded of the many years of development, by the fact that I have attached all my ideas into a stapled wad of pages. The top page is the “final” version, and the one that I’m sharing with you. These are very simple to make, and have good staying power, so if they’re made on Good Friday, they’ll last well through the Easter weekend. Continue reading

Coffee ~ Gingerbread Squares

IMG_8960I’m working on a menu for an upcoming three-day catering job, and my mind is full of all sorts of different baking for this group. Besides their three meals a day, we keep a fresh fruit, baking & beverage counter stocked for them all weekend. Muffins, cookies, coffee cakes, and then always something yummy mid-afternoon, to be sure they don’t feel faint before dinner. This is one of the afternoon treats they’ll be getting, great with a cup of coffee, or a glass of milk. Lots of flavour with the molasses, spice, and coffee, with a familiarity that always pleases. Top the squares with Brown Butter Icing for a lovely nutty finish. Continue reading

Steamed Cranberry-Ginger Pudding

IMG_5618In our childhood home, Christmas dinner used to always end with a suet pudding with hard sauce.  Lovingly made a month or so ahead of time to be part of the day’s celebrations.  Unfortunately, most of us children didn’t like the pudding.  It was too heavy following an exhausting day and a big dinner.  Even when we were told the stories of how our Grandmother used to make this very same pudding using her mother’s recipe (I know we have it somewhere, and when found, I’ll share it with you), we still weren’t enamored enough to enjoy it.

When our children were young, I started making a very simple gingerbread type pudding with cranberries and orange.  We would serve it with caramel sauce, and with a Grand Marnier hard sauce for the adults.  It made a great breakfast for Boxing Day, and became a bit of a tradition, until I lost my recipe.  I’ve been meaning to work it out over the past decade or so, but never seemed to get around to it.

This weekend, I finally did get around to it, and came up with individual puddings, which look so nice when plated.  Drizzle the plate with a bit of caramel sauce; place the pudding on top, with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Fancy, but not too fancy, just what’s needed after a feast.  Or just serve the puddings, and let folks pass the sauce & whip cream, and let them do it themselves.

Alternatively, you can douse the hot puddings with heated brandy and serve them flambé, or maybe just one to lead in with. IMG_5651 Continue reading

Butternut Squash Spoon Bread

IMG_5541Spoon bread seems to be in every magazine right now, and I figured it was about time I found out just what it is!  Trolling online and through cookbooks, I found out just a couple of essentials.  Firstly, it is made with cornmeal, secondly it has eggs in it, and thirdly, no self respecting American southerner would ever whip the egg whites, folding them into the batter.

I finally found an old James Beard recipe from 1965 in one of my books.  I had seen pumpkin & sweet potato versions, so thought I could use up some leftover butternut squash.  When cooking it, the fragrance of the spices reminded me of bread pudding, and likewise, when eating it, the texture was very similar.   Savory with just a hint of sweetness, it’s definitely meant to be served as a side dish, much like a stuffing or dressing would be.  It’s easy to imagine it sopping up gravy.  This would be a welcome addition to the holiday feast for everybody, including anyone who is gluten intolerant.

Alongside the original Beard recipe, it was written that slices of it are to be enjoyed the following day for breakfast, after being fried in butter, and drizzled with honey or maple syrup. I didn’t fry it, but I did take a slice, warmed it up in the microwave for a bit, and then did enjoy it with maple syrup.  Amazingly good! Continue reading