Month: June 2014



This is a dessert that I made to go with the shepherds pie when we visited my friend’s houseboat a couple of weeks ago.  Sweet and juicy nectarines enhance this traditional sponge cake, drenched with sweet buttery goodness.  Fresh peaches can also be used or a mixture of fresh summer stone fruit.  I whipped up some fresh cream for a dollop on each piece of heavenly goodness.   Here is the recipe.

I’m bringing this dessert to the weekly party hosted by the gracious and creative Angie

Thanks to Elaine and Prudy for co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons honey

3-4 fresh nectarines sliced and pitted

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Stir in the brown sugar and honey until smooth.  Pour the sauce into the prepared cake pan.  Arrange the sliced nectarines in concentric circles over the sauce.  Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with sugar and vanilla until lightened in color and texture, 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well combined after each.  Beating on low speed just until combined after each addition, add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk in 2 parts.  Spoon the batter evenly over the nectarines.

4. Bake the cake until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean – 45-50 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 50 minutes.  Invert when ready to serve.


....with spiced parsnip mash

A tasty weekend on a houseboat!

Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania is where water meets woodlands and meadows meet mountain paths.  When our friends invited us to their houseboat for a weekend, we gladly accepted.  The drive through Amish country, the quaint Americana towns that passed us by with pretty porches, hilly wooded country and clear blue skies sure made the three and a half hour drive from home a very pleasant one.  Here’s the entrance to the houseboat that they very aptly named “All You Need is Love”.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the relaxing weekend was spent with good friends, great food, drinks, boat rides, fishing, and dancing till the boat rocked.

I was in charge of dinner one night, so I decided to make Nigel Slater’s Shepherd’s Pie with Spiced Parsnip Mash.  I tweaked it a bit, like I always do with recipes, and as you can see, it did go down very well.  However, I did want the top a tad crispier and browner, but was not too familiar with the oven on the boat.  For dessert I whipped up an upside down fresh nectarine cake which will be covered in another post.  It was definitely a tasty houseboat weekend, with the hosts cooking breakfast, tasty morsels for snacks, and yummy cold cuts for lunch.   Here is my contribution for Fiesta Friday #21.

Shepherd’s Pie with spiced parsnip mash – serves 4

Ingredients for the topping

2 lbs large parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 onions sliced

2 0z butter

large pinch ground cumin

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds

1 tbsp garam masala

2 oz butter (again)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the filling

2 leeks chopped

1 carrot diced

3/4 cup shelled/frozen peas

3 tbsp dripping or butter

4 Italian brown mushrooms, sliced

1 lb cooked roast lamb, minced or raw ground lamb (or ground beef)

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp tomato puree

9 oz. hot lamb or chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

chopped turkey bacon for flavor/a handful of shredded cheese

Preparation method

1. Simmer the parsnips in salted water until tender – about 15-20 minutes

2. While they are cooking, fry the onions and turkey bacon in the butter over a moderate heat until soft and translucent.

3. Stir in the spices and continue cooking for a further two minutes, until fragrant.

4. Drain the parsnips.  Mash them with a potato masher, stirring in the butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper, then the sliced onions.  Set aside.

5. In a large pan, cook the chopped leeks (or onions) and the diced carrot with the dripping or butter until they are soft and golden.

6. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes, then stir in the ground meat.  The meat must brown a little here and there, so do not stir it too often.  Leave to cook for 5 minutes or so, breaking it up as necessary.

7. Add the flour and the tomato puree.  Continue to cook, stirring regularly for three or four minutes, tomato puree is bitter if not thoroughly cooked.

8. Pour on the hot stock, add a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme and bring to the boil.

9. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer very gently for 25-30 minutes.  Add frozen peas.

10. Preheat the oven to 190C/375/Gas5

11. Season the filling with salt, Worcestershire sauce and a few grinds of black pepper – be generous

12. Scoop the mixture into a large baking dish and spoon dollops of mashed parsnip over the top.  Add a sprinkling of shredded cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Thanks to the Lovely Angie again for hosting  She is the ever-gracious, ever-welcoming, super blogger who puts on these amazing parties!  Thanks too to our co-hosts Elaine@fo0dbod, and Juliana@foodieonboard for taking charge of this week’s party.


Sauteed Flounder with Orange-shallot and wine sauce

We typically strive to incorporate fish in our diets, especially varieties that contain heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.  I often look for wild-caught rather than farm-raised, but that sometimes limits my choices.  My favorite trip about once a month is going to the fish market to choose from an array of seafood that comes from all over the world.  I grew up eating fish whole, in other words with the bones intact.   Seafood is an important source of protein in many diets around the world, especially in coastal areas.


Flounder is the fish required for this recipe – it is one of the more readily available Atlantic fish.  It’s delicate flavor is wonderfully balanced by the sweet and savory combination of orange, shallot and mustard in this recipe.  I did not have flounder in my freezer, so made do with swai.  Swai is a white-flesh fish (typically available in fillet form) with a sweet mild, taste and light flaky texture that can be broiled, grilled, or coated with bread crumbs and fried.  It can be prepared simply, but also takes well to sauces.  I adapted this recipe from Eating Well.


coating the fish with flour seasoned with salt and pepper




The fish has been pan fried, the shallots dijon mustard, white wine and orange juice simmers


Add a knob of butter and some dill


INGREDIENTS – 4 servings

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound flounder, sole or haddock fillets ( I used swai)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard

Dried or freshly chopped dill

2 teaspoons butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish


1. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Thoroughly dredge fish fillets in the mixture.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.  Add the fish and cook until lightly browned and just opaque in the center, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

3. Add shallots to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add orange juice and mustard; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add butter and parsley; stir until the butter has melted.  Add the fish back to the pan to absorb all the yummy sauce.  Transfer fish to individual plates and pour remaining sauce over fish.

I’m taking this to Angie’s virtual party that she hosts every Friday.  It’s a fun time, we share recipes, drinks, gardens, and anything that comes to mind.  Thank you Angie, and thanks to our co-hosts Fae and Suzanne.


From a large plot to a postage stamp!

Quite recently we made a bold move when we decided to downsize from a larger home with an acre of land to a smaller home and lot.   More about the move later.  I’m not too sure when I developed an enthusiasm for gardening, but when I did, there was no stopping me.  I love to dig, get dirt in my fingernails, play with wiggly worms, create compost, transplant, grow seeds, and most of all create an environment that would welcome my fine feathered friends, butterflies, bees, birds and the like.  Unfortunately the garden also welcomed deer, foxes, rabbits, squirrels and other four-legged friends that devoured some of the delicate plants that came up in the spring time.  It was a hassle trying to ward off these unwanted friends especially after all that hard work.  The most exciting moments were watching hummingbirds suck nectar from the flowers. There was never a dull moment with me in the garden, it was therapeutic and healing in more ways than one, I was surrounded by an oasis, a sanctuary.

I loved getting on my tractor and mowing the lawn each week; in the Fall, the tractor also picked up leaves, this was an arduous task as I emptied the 2 large bins on the tractor to a compost heap that I started in the back yard and up a hill.  Adding unwanted scraps from the kitchen, eggshells, coffee grinds etc. all added to the rich, dark and earthy compost that cooked for about a year.  I would later lovingly spread the compost on the flower beds.  Oh what a difference this made!  As I was starting this post and collecting pictures from the old house, I started to feel pretty sentimental about that large plot.  I left a lot of beautiful shrubs, plants, trees and bulbs behind.  How I wish I could have moved some of these plants that I so lovingly tended to.  Of course I don’t miss mowing the lawn, or picking up leaves in the Fall, or the sheer size or cleaning up in the spring time, but how I do miss my beautiful plants – I wonder if they miss me and the care they so devotedly received????  Here’s just a sampling of what I left behind.  Click on the picture, then use the arrows to navigate the gallery.

Fast forward almost 2 years later.  We love it here, the house is easier to maintain and the garden is definitely comparable to a postage stamp, but I have that same penchant for digging in the dirt, listening to the birds chirp, sitting out on the porch and watching the postage stamp evolve around me.  When we were looking to downsize, I definitely wanted a small garden, one that I could work away into my golden years.  We found just the spot and did I mention how much I love it? :-) No grass to mow, the clean up in the spring time takes me just under a week, no chemicals, no lawn.  I’ve been working away to make it look just the way I want it. It has a ways to go, but I do believe I’m getting there.  We’ve found paradise in our postage stamp lot :).