I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce with Country Ribs

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce and Country Ribs

I have several Southern community cookbooks that have recipes for watermelon barbecue sauce. I love the idea, and I have made every one of those recipes, but the results were never what I had hoped for. No watermelon flavor, or sickly sweet, or just bland. But the idea appeals to me so much that I have continued to tinker with the concept for years, and I finally hit on it. With a pile of fresh in season tomatoes on the counter as I chopped up yet another melon, I decided to try fresh tomatoes instead of bottled ketchup and that has made all the difference. I little hint of tomato paste adds the depth needed in a sauce, but the acidity of a fresh tomato balances everything nicely. Rich Southern cane syrup is perfect with sweet watermelon, adding a complexity to such simple ingredients. I realized the other recipes I tried just had to many ingredients – spices and herbs and all manner of things. So I whittled the ingredient list down to use as much fresh summer produce at possible, good Worcestershire sauce creates layers of flavor without masking the watermelon sweetness. I’m really crazy about the end result.

So when I perfected the recipe, I set my mind to figuring how to use it. I settled on pork country ribs, which are not ribs at all, but boneless cuts of pork shoulder that stand up well to slow cooking and the hearty sauce. But I can attest, this sauce works in any way you would normally use a barbecue sauce. Brushed on grilled chicken breasts, slathered on pork tenderloin, as a sauce for wings or stirred through pulled pork.

Watermelon Barbecue Sauce and Country Ribs
Serves 6
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For the Watermelon Barbecue Sauce
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 Vidalia onions, diced
  3. 4 cups chopped watermelon, from about 3 1/2 pound melon, seeds removed
  4. 1 tomato, about 12 ounces, diced
  5. 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  6. 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  7. 4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  8. 3 Tablespoons cane syrup or honey
  9. salt and pepper to taste
For the Ribs
  1. 4 pounds boneless country style pork ribs
  2. half an onion, sliced
  3. salt and pepper
For the Watermelon Barbecue Sauce
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepot and cook the onion until glassy and soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Add the watermelon chunks and the tomato and cook until soft and beginning to release some liquid, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a few minutes, then transfer to a blender (you may need to do this in batches). Remove the vent from the top of the blender and hold the lid down with a tea towel. Puree until smooth, then pour the sauce back into the pan through a sieve, scraping as much liquid through as possible. Stir in the vinegar, cane syrup and Worcestershire sauce and cook until thickened and reduced almost in half, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. The sauce can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point up to three days.
For the ribs
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish that fits the ribs comfortably with foil. Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper, then lay the sliced onions on top. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Carefully drain off any accumulated fat from the pan, then pour over all but one cup of the barbecue sauce. Turn the ribs to coat in the sauce with tongs and return the pan to the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then turn the ribs again and cover the pan tightly with foil and return to the oven. Roast for a further 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the remaining sauce in a small pan. Serve the ribs with the extra sauce to spoon over.
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Fresh Fig Mousse

Fresh Fig MousseI adore figs, and during their short growing season here, I really try to make the most of them. I make jars and jars of Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam. It is one of my signature preserves now, one people always ask me for. My Fresh Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze is a summer favorite as well – it’s a wonderful way to incorporate figs into baking. And of course, I eat the figs on their own, maybe with a little country ham wrapped around them, sometimes then thrown on the grill.

I saw a recipe for a simple fig mousse in an old community cookbook and honestly couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of the idea before. I tweeked and modernized the recipe a little, so it is now a very simple and refreshing summer dessert with a real touch of elegance and panache, with the added bonus that it needs to made ahead so it is ready and waiting. Figs in their natural state are so pretty, that a simple slice of pink flesh with delicate purple tinge makes an absolutely beautiful garnish on the soft pink, marbled mousse. This mouse can be served frozen, or just chilled until firm – I like equally either way. I prefer to use darker purple figs for the rich color, but if brown are all you have access to, they are delicious as well.

Fresh Fig Mousse
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup halved fresh figs (about 8) plus more for garnish
  2. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Place the fig pieces, lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar in a blender and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe as needed.
  2. Whip the cream in an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the puree into the cream a little at a time, making sure the cream and puree are combined. Spoon the mousse into eight small or six larger glass bowls or ramekins and smooth the tops.
  3. You can freeze the mousse, each covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days and serve frozen or slightly softened, or you can cover the dishes with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 4 hours or up to one day ahead.
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Blueberry Sour Cream Torte

Blueberry Sour Cream Torte

The high heat of summer doesn’t seem to me like the time for complicated baking and cooking, or entertaining. But the abundance of beautiful, in-season fruits and berries means I definitely want to create some delicious dishes. This one fits the bill, making the most of juicy blueberries in a rustic, creamy torte. It has all the hallmarks of a great summer dessert – it looks much more complicated than it is, must be made ahead and is cool and refreshing on a hot day. Serve this as the finale to a cookout or keep it in the fridge for a sweet snack.

I like this dessert because it has the creaminess of a cheesecake with the cookie-like base of a bar, but somehow seems easier to pull together than either. The blueberries seep a lovely purple color into the creamy topping which makes for a very pretty dish when served. I can’t resist adding a little dash of nutmeg to blueberry sweets because it marries so beautifully, adding a little hint of spice and intrigue.

Blueberry Sour Cream Torte
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  2. 1 cup sugar, divided
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  6. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. 2 cups fresh blueberries
  8. 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
  9. 2 egg yolks
  10. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly grease an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed in a stand mixer to loosen it up, then gradually add ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until well blended. Beat the flour and baking powder in at low speed in small additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Make sure all the flour is incorporated – you can use a spatula to blend it in if needed. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it into an even layer over the bottom. Spread the blueberries in an even layer over the base.
  3. Stir the sour cream, remaining ½ cup sugar, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and nutmeg together until smooth and spread the mix over the blueberries in the pan, creating an even layer. It’s okay if some berries are peaking through.
  4. Bake the torte for 1 hour until the edges are golden. The very center may still be slightly jiggly, but overall the top should be firm and set. Cool the torte on a wire rack to keep the base from getting soggy, then place it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  5. Run a thin knife around the edges of the torte, then release the ring, slice and serve.
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Peach Julep Jam

Peach Julep JamThe joy of summer peaches! There is nothing like a fresh, local, juicy peach. I eat them up during their season.I bake with them and But they are just so good, I try to preserve them as well for a fresh taste of summer any time of year, spiced, pickled and jammed. My obsession with the peach and bourbon pairing is well documented, from Peach Butterbourbon Sauce to Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Bourbon Sauce, so it had to make it into my jam repertoire as well.

I didn’t make a batch of this jam last peach season, and I regretted it all winter, so it was the first peach preserve I made this season. It’s a rich, deeply flavorful jam packed with fresh peach flavor and garden mint with a hit of bourbon for depth and kick. I have already made my way through a jar, even thought he peach season is going strong, I just can’t resist. I love this spread on English muffins, but it is also delicious with tangy goat cheese on a cheese plate or on a bruschetta. This even works well as a glaze for a pork roast or tenderloin.

For a step-by-step guide to canning, click here. This makes 5 – 6 half pint jars. I always like to have an extra jar or two sterilized and ready justin case.

Peach Julep Jam
Yields 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds peaches, to make six cups when peeled, pitted and chopped
  2. 1/3 cup lemon juice
  3. 3 cups brown sugar
  4. 2 cups granulate white sugar
  5. 5 Tablespoons bourbon
  6. 1 large bunch mint
Instructions
  1. Put peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender. I like to leave a few chunks of juicy peach.
  2. Bundle the mint together and tie with kitchen string so none of the leaves are free. Add both sugars, bourbon and mint to the peaches and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until thick and set, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the bundle of mint.
  3. While your jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going and place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
  5. When the jam has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  7. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
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Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf Sauce

Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf SauceBay leaves rarely play a starring role in a recipe. I tend to think that if you leave the bay leaf out of a recipe, you may not notice, but the elusive flavor adds a definite boost to soups and stews, and it’s an essential ingredient in a classic French herb seasoning bouquet garni. When I found this recipe in an old community cookbook, I was intrigued, because I have come to enjoy bay leaves as the primary flavor in roasting potatoes and vegetables. I could imagine that flavor in a sweet sauce and immediately thought of earthy blackberries as the perfect foil. Making the ice cream with buttermilk creates a tangy, creamy base for juicy blackberries and marries beautifully with the sauce. It’s also a pretty dish, the lovely purple ice cream with a drizzle of the golden amber sauce, garnished with an extra berry or two.

The sauce could be served over pound cake with a scattering of berries as an alternative, and I think it would also be delicious with peach ice cream. I really can’t wait to explore more uses for this unique sauce as the summer progresses.

Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf Sauce
Serves 6
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For the Ice Cream
  1. 12 ounces blackberries
  2. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup half and half
  4. 5 egg yolks
  5. 1 cup cold buttermilk
For the Sauce
  1. ¾ cup light brown sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 6 fresh bay leaves
Instructions
  1. For the Ice Cream
  2. Puree the blackberries in a blender. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until the sugar is no longer grainy and the mixture is pale. Heat the half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat, just until it is warm and small bubbles appear on the surface. Dribble the warm half and half into the yolks while beating constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened. It should coat the back of a metal spoon. Pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps. Stir in the cold buttermilk, then pour the blackberry puree through the rinsed strainer, pressing the pulp through. Stir to blend. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and chill the mixture for several hours until completely cold.
  3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to process the ice cream in an ice cream freezer.
  4. Serve with the bay leaf sauce.
For the Sauce
  1. Whisk the brown sugar and flour together in a medium sauce pan to blend. Add the lemon juice and water and stir to combined. Drop in the bay leaves and cook over medium high heat until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Leave the sauce to cool, then pour it through a strainer to remove the bay leaves and any lumps. Store, covered, in the fridge for up to two days. It can be served at room temperature or warmed slightly in the microwave or a sauce pan.
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Honey Raspberry Cake

Honey Raspberry CakeRaspberry season is short, and it’s a little hard to find locally grown berries around here. A farmer at the market once told me they were just too labor intensive for him to make much of a profit. When I find them grown here, I jump at the chance. I love to eat them over yogurt with a drizzle of honey, but with a real abundance I like to bake. So I translated that idea into a lovely cake that can be served for breakfast, or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sweetened whipped cream

What I particularly love about his cake is that it truly tastes of honey. And there is quite a bit of honey in it to make that happen. I often find baking with honey produces sweetness, but the flavor of the honey just sort of melds into the whole. Not so this cake – it has a very honey forward, with the lovely burst of raspberries throughout. The honey glaze puts the honey front and center again, so use a good, local harvested honey, one with a nice floral undertone if you can find it.

Honey Raspberry Cake
Serves 12
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For the Cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2 cups honey
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  4. zest from one lemon
  5. 6 large eggs
  6. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  7. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  11. 2 cups fresh raspberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 Tablespoons honey
  2. 2 Tablespoons milk
  3. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 10 –inch tube pan or a 12 – cup bundt pan with cooking spray (I like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium low until the mixture is smooth and pale in color, almost white, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled- don’t worry, it will smooth out.
  3. Beat in the flours, baking soda and salt, one cup at a time, alternating with the yogurt, until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined. Gently fold in 1 ½ cups of the raspberries using a spatula. Place several of the remaining berries in the bottom of the prepared pan, the spoon the batter over them. Spread the batter out evenly to fill the pan, then press the remaining raspberries into the top of the batter.
  4. Bale for 45 – 50 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan set on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.
For the Glaze
  1. Beat the milk and honey together in a medium bowl, then add the confectioners’ sugar until you have a spoonable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, creating an even layer on the top with which attractively drips down the sides.
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Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

In the kitchen, excess is often the mother of invention and this recipe is a perfect example of that principle. I went overboard buying fresh strawberries, and decided to bake them into something delicious before the overflow went bad. I hadn’t made muffins in awhile, so that seemed like a good idea. As I gathered my ingredients, I found some rosemary left from another cooking project and though why not? After I baked up the muffins, I still had a few berries and a stalk of rosemary left, so I whipped up this delicious butter to go with the muffins.

These muffins are not too sweet and have a subtle whiff of rosemary. A sprinkle of rosemary sugar on the top gives a nice sugary-crackle. This butter is delicious on anything (think popovers or waffles), so you may find yourself making it for other uses.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter
Yields 12
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For the Muffins
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary needles
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  5. ¾ cup buttermilk
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 ½ teas;oon baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. ¼ teaspoon salt
  10. 1 cup diced strawberries
For the Butter
  1. ½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons of rosemary sugar (leftover from the muffins)
  3. ¼ cup diced strawberries
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar and rosemary in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and pulse until the rosemary is finely ground and blended with the sugar.
  3. Cark the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the melted and cooled butter and the buttermilk until well combined. Stir in ½ cup of the rosemary sugar, then stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until combined and there are no dry ingredients visible. Fold in the diced strawberries.
  4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (I like to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop). Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon of the rosemary sugar over the top of each muffin, then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the Butter
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Ad the sugar and strawberries and blend until smooth. The butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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Fresh Strawberry and Cream Pudding

Fresh Strawberry and Cream PuddingA few years ago, I created a Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding to serve to some guests, solely because it was peach season and I had recently acquired some pretty glass vessels that just needed to be used. Now that strawberry season is in full swing, I found myself with some extra berries after a jam making session. I trolled the internet and my own recipe archives for something to do with those berries, but I realized that I wanted something really comforting and creamy and simple – just to set of the beautiful freshness of the berries.

And that’s what this recipe is – miles away from any neon pink concoction from a box and packed full of flavor. This recipe is easy enough to whip up for a weeknight, but can also be an elegant (and slightly cheeky) dessert for a dinner party. Serve it in mason jars or crystal champagne coupes. You can top it with a dollop of shipped cream, whole berries or those elegantly fanned out berry garnishes. When you puree the berries, you could add a splash or liqueur (elderflower is particularly good) or the seeds from a vanilla bean. No matter how you go, homemade strawberry pudding will up your pudding game completely.

Fresh Strawberry and Cream Pudding
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 envelope plain, unflavored gelatin
  2. 1 quart strawberries, hulled
  3. ½ cup sugar
  4. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Stir the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of water together in a small bowl and set aside to become soft.
  2. Puree the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor. You should end up with 2 cups puree. Pour ½ cup of the strawberry puree into a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Stir in the gelatin and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rest of the strawberry puree. Refrigerate until the puree is cooled, but not set, about 1 hour.
  3. Whip the heavy cream with an electric or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cold strawberry puree, making sure all the puree is distributed through the cream.
  4. Gently spoon the pudding into small cups or ramekins and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours until softly set.
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Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted Strawberries

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted StrawberriesIt is hard not to want to eat something called a Dutch Baby. It’s such a sweet and inviting name. The puffy oven pancakes have experienced something of a renaissance in the last few years, with lots of recipes showing up on the internet for sweet and savory versions with all sorts of flavorings and toppings. I, however, sometimes find a plain Dutch baby a little too plain, so I’ve amped it up with chocolate here, and paired it with chocolate’s natural spring partner, strawberries.

There are a lot of things I love about this recipe. The baby is rich and chocolate-y without being cloyingly sweet. Roasting the strawberries heightens their sweetness, and vanilla adds such an aromatic note. Roasting is particularly helpful if your berries are not super-sweet to begin with, or just a little past their prime. Each component of this recipe is delicious on its own, or paired with other things. Most of all, this could not be easier to make. The berries can be roasted a day ahead, and making the baby in the blender literally takes minutes. If you like things a little sweeter, you can serve this with vanilla ice cream, or a cloud of sweetened whipped cream. Most recipes I have read say serve the Dutch baby immediately out of the oven, but I can tell you I’ve had it at room temperature and it was fine.

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted Strawberries
Serves 6
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For the Strawberries
  1. 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  2. 2 Tablespoons sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean
For the Dutch Baby
  1. 2 Tablespoons butter
  2. ¾ cup whole milk
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  5. ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. ¼ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the Strawberries
  1. Cut the berries in half and spread them in a single layer in an 8 by 8 inch baking dish. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Drop the seeds into the sugar and toss it all around to blend. I like to toss the bowl a few times, then use my good clean fingers to get the vanilla distributed through the sugar. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries, then cut the vanilla bean into three pieces and tuck them into the berries. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the berries are soft and lots of juice has run out. Don’t overcook or the berries will break down and become mushy.
  2. You can serve the berries immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate them for up to a day.
For the Dutch Baby
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Melt the butter in in a deep oven-safe skillet, about 9 to 10-inches, over medium heat. Do not let it brown.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the order listed in a blender and blend until combined and foamy, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the hot skillet, then transfer it to the oven and bake until the Dutch baby until puffed and set, about 20 minutes.
  3. Spoon the strawberries over the Dutch baby immediately and serve.
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Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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