Archive for the ‘recipe’Category

Little Italy simmers with many new tastes

Different food approaches in Little Italy in Toronto
There are certainly fancier coffee shops than Café Diplomatico (594 College St., 416-534-4637,, but few that so consistently screen European soccer matches on the TVs. Since 1968, it’s been one of the principal landmarks of Toronto’s Little Italy. Ironically, that’s just about the time that the neighborhood was beginning to lose its accent.

We met Kevin Dupree, owner of the Culinary Adventure Co. (647-955-8357,, in front of “The Dip” for a walk around the neighborhood along College Street between Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street. Dupree’s company offers a full menu of neighborhood sampling tours and a number of other gastronomic activities—including a summertime canoe trip to the Toronto islands with a master chef who prepares a picnic.

But this particular evening, we concentrated on Little Italy. He explained that Italian immigration to Toronto began around 1880 and slowed to a trickle after 1930. The residential part of the neighborhood remained Italian into the 1960s, and it’s still full of Italian bars, coffee shops, and restaurants.

P.G. Clucks in Little Italy in Toronto That preponderance of eating and drinking establishments made this stretch of College Street a nightlife destination, and other cuisines have moved in to create a dynamic multicultural mix. We ducked into a streetfront stall—P.G. Clucks—selling “Nashville-style” fried chicken sandwiches. (They’re fiery hot with spices.) And we spent a while at Hapa Izakaya (602 College St., 647-748-4272,, a Toronto offshoot of the Vancouver-based chain of hip Japanese bar-restaurants. Dark and loud, our area was bathed in the blue glow of UV lamps—which made the white menus glow in the dark. The sake sampler was eye-opening, and the whole mackerel warmed up with blowtorch blast (see top image) was delicate and delicious.

entrance to Sotto Voce in Little Italy in Toronto But we really felt the soul of Little Italy in the spot across the street from the Dip. Sotto Voce Wine and Pasta Bar (595 College St., 416-536-4564, has been around for about 20 years, and it’s still serving the recipes of the Sicilian grandmother of one of the owners. The wine list is strongest on southern Italian wines, and the pasta plates feature red sauce without shame. We enjoyed some superb Sicilian meatballs made with pine nuts and currants and a bowl of gnocchi with wild boar ragu. The “fanciest” dish of the night was Gamberoni a la Puttanesca—spaghetti with tiger shrimp in a tomato sauce redolent of anchovies, garlic, black olives, and capers. It’s actually a modern Neapolitan dish that’s taken hold on both sides of the Atlantic.

The recipe below is not from Sotto Voce. It’s our own adaptation of many different approaches to puttanesca, but it has the same kind of umami punch as the one we enjoyed in Toronto.


Serves 4 Shrimp puttanesca at Sotto Voce in Toronto's Little Italy

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch of salt
can of anchovies (2 ounces)
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and minced
6 ounce can of tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
26-ounce can or box of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup capers (drained)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
12 ounces spaghetti
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces tiger shrimp tails with shells

In large pot, heat olive oil. Add chopped onions and pinch of salt. Cook at medium heat until onion begins to soften (about 5 minutes). Add anchovies and garlic, mashing up the anchovies with a spatula. Continue cooking about 3 minutes until garlic has softened. Add tomato paste, wine, and pepper flakes and stir well to mix. Add tomatoes, capers, and olives. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently with occasional stirring for about a half hour. It will become thick and saucy.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook spaghetti. When pasta goes into the water, add the lemon zest and juice to the slowly bubbling sauce. Add the shrimp and raise heat until the pot just barely bubbles.

When spaghetti is al dente (7-8 minutes), drain it, reserving some cooking liquid. Add drained spaghetti to shrimp puttanesca sauce and mix well. Add reserved cooking liquid as needed to thin.

Serve hot in bowls.


10 2016

Vegetable Butcher puts an edge on the harvest

Cara Mangini demonstrates techniques from her new book, The Vegetable Butcher
The vegetables that announce each season “give us little moments to celebrate,” says Cara Mangini, the author of The Vegetable Butcher, published earlier this year by Workman Publishing.

The Vegetable Butcher cover Mangini is proprietor of the “produce-inspired” restaurant Little Eater and its companion Little Eater Produce and Provisions in Columbus, Ohio. They are located in the historic North Market (59 Spruce St.; restaurant 614-670-4375, grocery 614-947-7483; Mangini describes herself as on a mission to honor and support the work of farmers by “putting vegetables at the center of the plate.”

She certainly made a good case during a recent meal at Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts (44 Brattle St.; 617-868-2255;, where she collaborated with Harvest executive chef Tyler Kinnett. The meal featured recipes from her book and demonstrations of the thoughtful preparation—and cutting—that goes into making something more complex than steamed vegetables and tossed salad.

Smashed beets from The Vegetable Butcher We had already been enjoying some of the last of the tomatoes and corn of the summer growing season. Mangini and Kinnett gave those summer staples a fresh flavor with a course of heirloom tomato panzanella with walnut-basil pesto and stracciatella. A course of corn fritters topped with mixed bean ragout followed. Even as we were lamenting the end of summer, Mangini and Kinnett anticipated the earthy fall flavors to come with a beautiful plate of smashed and seared beets with chimichurri, goat cheese crema, and arugula (above).

Each dish was a revelation of how delicious and satisfying vegetables can be with just a little extra thought and care. The Vegetable Butcher is organized alphabetically by vegetable, making it a quick reference when you get home from the market or farm stand. Mangini was kind enough to share her recipe for Turkish Carrot Yogurt Dip. It was served as a starter at the Harvest dinner and everyone at our table loved it.


Turkish Yogurt Carrot Dip from The Vegetable Butcher Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing
3 medium to large carrots (10 to 12 ounces total), peeled, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
1/3 cup pine nuts (or 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra as needed
2 cups low-fat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated on a Microplane, pressed, or crushed into a paste


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a pinch of the carrots to the oil to test it: The oil is ready if the carrots sizzle. Add the remaining carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, about 6 minutes.

Add the pine nuts and salt. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are completely soft and browning and the pine nuts are golden, another 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is incorporated and fragrant, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let cool briefly to warm.

Place the yogurt in a medium-size bowl. Stir in the warm carrot mixture, and season with salt to taste.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl, and drizzle the top with olive oil. The dip will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

Serve with triangles of pita bread or with pita chips seasoned with sea salt.


09 2016

Finish Line Festival ratchets up the outdoor barbecue

Lexus Gran Fondo finish line cookout
The Lexus Gran Fondo riders found a fine feast awaiting them. Lexus ambassadors and retired racers Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie led the 100-mile riders coming to the finish line in Chatham. All the riders arrived hungry, and the Finish Line Festival cookout trumped even the best backyard barbecue.

Dean Fearing at Lexus Gran Fondo finish line cookout Lexus augmented the chefs of Chatham Bars Inn by inviting the brewery at Blackberry Farm and Lexus Master Chef Dean Fearing ( The dean of Dallas dining lent a little longhorn swagger to the party. With his sons on hand to help serve, Fearing loaded up plates with lobster tacos and smoky brisket tacos with a tangy, piquant sauce. On the side were his classic cowboy beans and cole slaw. “I thought, here we are in New England with all this great seafood,” Fearing said. “So what if we make a lobster taco?” Fearing topped the lobster soft tortilla with a tomatillo-based salsa verde and a crumble of feta cheese. Participants loved it.

Andrew Chadwick grills chicken at Lexus Gran Fondo finish line cookout Chatham Bars Inn chefs Anthony Cole and Andrew Chadwick volleyed Fearing’s Southwestern dishes with some serious heat of their own. Not only did they serve ribs with a tear-inducing kimchee broccoli, they also set out roasted Mexican street corn. The spiciest dish from Chadwick (shown here grilling it) was the Bloody Mary barbecued chicken.

Diners debated which Blackberry Farm saison ale was best with the hot and smoky food. Both ales were brewed with lightly roasted barley malt, but one was made with Czech Saaz hops. The milder of the two beers showed a slightly resinous herbal note and a delicate bitterness. The other ale was made with Eureka! hops. Those experimental hops made it very assertive. Strong pine and mint notes came on first, followed by a tang of grapefruit rind bitterness. The Saaz version paired well with Fearing’s lobster taco. The Eureka! ale showed best with Chadwick’s Bloody Mary chicken.

We didn’t get a recipe from Chadwick, but we’ve worked out own version. There is no vodka in the marinade because the alcohol precooks the flesh and makes it tough. Like many tomato-based marinades, this is almost a brine, thanks to the salt in most tomato juice. V8 juice will also work.


12 ounces tomato juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed, ground up
small onion, chopped
1 lemon, juice and grated zest
12 pieces chicken, skin on

Combine ingredients through lemon juice and zest in a food processor. Process until smooth.

Place chicken pieces in one or more sealable plastic bags. Add marinade. Close bag(s) and marinate in refrigerator for at least four hours—preferably overnight.

Build fire on one side of grill. When coals are ready, place chicken, skin side up, on other side of grill and cover, leaving vent holes fully open. Let cook 10 minutes. Turn chicken over and grill, covered, for about 5 minutes. Finish over hot coals to crisp up skin.


07 2016

Kitchen garden at Chatham Bars Inn is really a farm

Chatham Bars Inn Farm picnic tables
Chatham Bars Inn stays Cape Cod’s gastronomic top dog because it grows its own food in Brewster on the north side of the Cape. The entire operation covers eight acres. Crops grow on four acres, with about a third of the crops in massive hothouses.

lettuce grows at Chatham Bars Inn Farm “It’s tricky to grow on Cape Cod,” says farm manager Josh Schiff. “The weather is unpredictable and the soil is poor.” As a result, the farm grows some of its most temperature-sensitive crops inside greenhouses, including a forest of tomatoes that fruit from May into December. “We start everything from seed,” Schiff explains.“We grow tomatoes and lettuce in compost with hydroponic irrigation.” More sprawling crops, such as cucumber, summer and winter squashes, and pumpkins spread across plowed fields. The farm supplies the kitchens of the inn. By getting a headstart on the usual Cape Cod growing season, the farm produces at its peak from late June through mid-October, the inn’s busiest months. The farm’s 75-member CSA program spreads the bounty around the community, and the farm runs summer gardening workshops for area residents.

salad niçoise at Chatham Bars Inn Farm picnic On a perfect late May afternoon, picnic tables set up beneath a canopy of oak trees made a regal setting for an outdoor meal served family style for Lexus Gran Fondo participants. Plate after plate showcased Cape Cod provender and the Inn’s culinary chops. A deconstructed salad niçoise featured locally caught yellowfin tuna with purple potatoes, white anchovies, haricots verts, and greenhouse tomatoes. Slices of roasted farm pork pâté sat amid pickled cauliflower and green tomatoes. A jar of the inn’s own beach plum preserves completed the board.

In fact, Chatham Bars Inn meals benefit from the myriad of pickles, relishes, and preserves made on the premises. Here’s the inn’s recipe for sweet-hot pickles for hot-water processing.


Yields seven 24 oz. mason jars


24pickles16 1/4 cups water
3 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 lb. honey
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
farm fresh herbs to taste (tarragon, thyme, dill, etc.)
3 1/2 lb. pickling cucumbers
3 1/2 lb. green tomatoes


Clean and sterilize all jars and lids before beginning.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients through black pepper, bring to boil. Reduce heat to bring pot to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

As spices steep and bloom, wash and slice cucumbers and tomatoes. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, and cut green tomatoes into eight wedges each. Pack the clean and sterilized jars with the vegetables and herbs of your choice.

Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables to fill the jars and cover with the lid to close, but not tightly.

Place jars on canning rack in a canning kettle with enough hot water to reach base of the rings. Hot-process jars by bringing to a boil and holding at simmer at least 15 minutes. Remove from hot water bath, tighten the lids, and cool jars on racks. You’ll know the pickles are properly sealed when the center of each lid snaps down.

Because the jars have been hot-processed they can be left out at room temperature for up to 6 months. Once opened, they should be refrigerated.


07 2016

Lexus Gran Fondo speeds onto Cape Cod

Chatham Bars Inn chefs at Lexus Gran Fondo
“Think of it as a party on wheels,” said Chatham Bars Inn general manager John Speers. He was speaking over cocktails on the inn’s wrap-around front porch. “Our kind of gran fondo always incorporates food and wine.”

Cyclists finish 100-mile ride at Lexus Gran Fondo The Lexus Gran Fondo launched in high style on Memorial Day weekend. The cycling and gastronomic events all centered on the historic inn at the elbow of Cape Cod. The luxury car brand has long supported other cycling events. But Lexus pulled out all the stops for this first Gran Fondo under the company name.

A team of Lexus-affiliated professional riders led the 100-mile ride on Saturday from the XV Beacon ( hotel in Boston to the Chatham Bars Inn ( Less ambitious riders could opt for 50-mile and 28-mile loops entirely on Cape Cod. Even the shorter rides worked up everyone’s appetite.

 Lexus Culinary Master Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of Blackberry Farm , serves her soup at Lexus Gran Fondo Those who elected to spend Friday night in Chatham rather than Boston enjoyed an outdoor buffet. Lexus Culinary Master Cassidee Dabney, executive chef of Blackberry Farm ( in Walland, Tennessee, did a star turn with a turbocharged soup. She served a bowl of smoked chicken broth with a soft boiled egg, grits, and chicken skin cracklings and chopped peanuts on top.

Lobster roll at picnic spread for Lexus Gran Fondo But Cape Cod bounty drove most of the gastronomic events. Executive chef Anthony Cole of the Chatham Bars Inn laid out a seafood extravaganza. In addition to a raw bar of local oysters and littleneck clams, his staff served chopped razor clams in a citrus mignonette. A dab of caviar topped the de rigeur lobster rolls served on heavenly brioche rolls. The inn also served roasted beets with Bluebird, an organic blue cheese made on the nearby island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Cole’s kitchen also prepared a rock crab risotto with baby fava beans and walnuts. It was a gutsy choice, since risotto for the masses can be hit or miss. While we didn’t get the recipe for a 60-serving version, we’ve come up with this smaller recipe for home consumption. We missed the window for fresh baby fava beans, so we’ve substituted baby limas.


Serves 4 as a appetizer course

3/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
Crab risotto with walnut pistou and baby lima beans 1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Process parsley and walnuts in small food processor until finely chopped. Add salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Purée. Add olive oil and purée until smooth. Reserve for later step in risotto.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups seafood stock
3/4 cup crab meat
3/4 cup baby lima beans, steamed until just tender
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for table)

In 2-3 quart pressure cooker, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir until well-coated with oil. Raise heat to high and add white wine. Stir to keep from burning until wine is absorbed. Add 1 1/4 cups of stock, stirring well. When pot begins to simmer, tighten lid and cook on medium pressure for exactly 8 minutes, turning down heat to keep pressure steady.

Remove from heat and run pot under cold water to decompress. Remove lid and place pot back on low heat. Stir in crab, precooked lima beans, and a little remaining stock. Cook for 1 minute and test rice for doneness. (It should be al dente in the middle but rather creamy.) Add more stock as needed. When rice is desired texture, stir in pistou and continue to heat. Add grated cheese and stir to incorporate. Serve in bowls and pass more grated cheese.


07 2016

Chefs can win 10 weeks of free black truffles

shaving black truffles on pasta
Australian black truffle season has begun. Chefs who want to get a little inventive also have the chance to win an entire season’s supply next summer—a pound of premium black truffles per week during the roughly 10-week season.

I was dubious about the Aussie product until I went there, saw how they were grown, and spent a few weeks experimenting with them. We tend to think of truffles as a fall and winter product. They are. It’s just that fall and winter in Australia are flipped from fall and winter in the northern hemisphere. Thanks to speedy air shipment, it’s feasible to serve freshly shaved black truffles with sweet corn, tomatoes, and all those other great summer crops. Available June through August, they’re not just for steak or mushroom risotto anymore.

To read the article on black truffles that I wrote for the Robb Report, visit this link. If you’d like to see the recipes that Pat and I developed for black truffle tamales, corn ravioli, ultimate and decadent grilled cheese sandwiches, and more, please hit this link.

The black truffle sweet corn tamales were among the most inspired ways to make a truffle go a long way, but sometimes it’s just nice to shave one over buttered pasta (above).

Contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders

The Truffle and Wine Company is encouraging culinary creativity with Australian black truffles. They are running a contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders (black truffle Manhattan anyone?) to create new dishes. Contestants should make a truffle creation and photograph it with an Australian winter truffle in the picture. Post the image to social media with the hashtag #makeitrain. Before posting, you need to follow the Truffle and Wine Company at one or more of its social media accounts. They are,, and

All chefs, restaurants and bartenders are eligible to enter the social media competition. Chefs with the five highest scores based on social media hits will be visited by the company to try out the dish. The winner gets the ultimate prize of a season of free truffles. For more details, see the website of the Truffle and Wine Company at


06 2016

Grill 23 bar menu demonstrates steakhouse evolution

Grill 23 launch party for summer 2016 bar menu
Grill 23 in Boston’s historic Salada Tea building launched 30 years ago to make sure that the business guys in Back Bay had a proper steakhouse where they could seal new ventures over a big, juicy slabs of beef. It’s still under the same ownership, but left the old steak-and-martini steakhouse formula behind years ago. With its succession of smart and inventive chefs, Grill 23 keeps refining what a steakhouse should be. These days the kitchen operates under corporate culinary director Eric Brennan, and just last week he launched an ambitious new bar menu with a party (above).

Grill 23 Six Shooters Since Grill 23 has only had a discreet bar area since 2014, the restaurant isn’t locked into tradition. The new menu is a smart cross between steakhouse classics and contemporary bites. It’s been years since we’ve seen deviled ham on chive biscuits on anyone’s menu north of the Mason-Dixon line—or dared to order a crab and artichoke dip with slices of grilled baguette. At the same time, Brennan has introduced a thoroughly decadent foie gras slider on a cinnamon-sugar-dusted apple cider doughnut with a dab of jalapeno jelly. (It’s great with a classic Manhattan, by the way.) The bar also serves a tasty Grill 23 Six Shooter—six shot glasses, each containing a Cotuit oyster marinating in a spicy blend of beer and lime juice with a spice and salt rim.

The charcuterie and cheese choices are almost a requirement of a contemporary bar, and the flatiron steak and steak tips are definitive steakhouse bar plates. But Brennan exercises some imagination with the burgers, serving the beef burger with truffle cheddar, black garlic, and “oven cured” (read: partially dried and extra sweet) tomato. The lamb burger comes with a small round of fried eggplant, some chevre, and a saffron tomato jam. Brennan was kind enough to share the recipe. Grill 23 is at 161 Berkeley St., Boston; 617-542-2255;

Grill 23 lamb burgers at launch party for 2016 summer bar menu


Makes four 8 oz. burgers


For the burger
2 lbs ground lamb
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

For the jam
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tsp saffron, bloomed in 1/4 cup sherry
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil


To make the burgers, slowly roast the garlic cloves in the olive oil on the stovetop until soft and light golden.

Puree the garlic mixture with mustard and rosemary and thoroughly combine with ground lamb.

Make a small patty and taste for salt and pepper; adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the jam, stew the all ingredients over low heat. Once the tomatoes have completely broken down and liquid has become fully incorporated, set aside and allow to cool.

Divide the lamb mixture into four equal patties and grill.

Assemble the burgers by topping the patties with a slice of fried, breaded eggplant, fresh goat cheese, arugula, and a spoonful of the saffron tomato jam on a griddled brioche bun.


06 2016

Eating like George Martin on Montserrat

George Martin porch on Montserrat
I don’t know what Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Sting, or Eric Clapton liked to eat when they came to relax and record on Montserrat. But George Martin was particularly fond of a good pork tenderloin with creamy mushroom sauce.

In the late 1970s, Martin was seduced by the unspoiled beauty and tranquil pace of life on the tiny Caribbean island. He opened AIR Studio in 1979, and for about a decade a steady stream of the top names in the music business came here to record with the producer extraordinaire. Almost 80 albums were created on Montserrat before AIR closed in 1989 after the destruction of Hurricane Hugo.

But Olveston House, Martin’s breezy and unpretentious island retreat, remains. Martin and his family would enjoy the property for several months a year. Although Martin died back in early March, the walls covered with silver, gold, and platinum records and framed photos by Linda McCartney seem to conjure his presence at every turn. When the Martins are not in residence, Olveston House operates as a six-bedroom guest house and restaurant. The menu features homey British style dishes such as the pork tenderloin alongside somewhat spicier island fare including garlic shrimp, another Martin favorite.

George Martin pork tenderlin When I asked Margaret Wilson, who was overseeing the dining room, for the recipe for the pork tenderloin she told me that Martin’s grandson, also named George, likes it so much that he had the cook show him how to make it so that he could prepare it at home.

“It’s really very simple,” she said—and she’s right. Here is the recipe exactly as she gave it to me:

“Slice the pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch to 1 inch slices, press them into a mixture of flour, paprika, salt, and black pepper. We always make a pot of garlic, herbs, and butter which we use to fry everything in. So we sear the meat on both sides in the garlic butter and add some sliced mushrooms. When the mushrooms look cooked, add a good slosh of white wine. When the flames die down add some heavy cream and simmer till the sauce thickens. This does not take long, be careful not to overcook the pork.
Serve immediately.”

And be sure to listen to the Beatles while you cook and enjoy the dish.


05 2016

Montserrat rum cake is a deep, dark mystery

Montserrat rum cake
I felt pretty certain that most of the folks on Montserrat would have given me the shirt off their backs if I had needed it. But even during the high-spirited days of the week-long St. Patrick’s Day festivities, that generosity only extended so far. No baker, it seems, is willing to part with her recipe for rum cake, the Montserrat version of the dark West Indian cake that is so different from the paler, less robust spirit-soaked fruitcakes that Europeans and Americans make.

I had my first taste of the dense, almost fudge-like treat in my hometown of Cambridge, Mass., supplied by Bernadine Greenaway, one of the many Montserratians who live at least part of the year in Boston. Bernadine makes cakes for family and community celebrations and was kind enough to bake a cake for me and my husband, David, before my first trip to Montserrat. A far cry from an English fruitcake, it was dark, sweet, fruity and filled with aromatic spices I could only guess at. One thing I knew for sure—her cake had been soaked in her family’s version of bush rum, which is a homemade rum almost as dark as molasses and redolent of such sweet Caribbean spices as allspice and clove. When I asked Bernadine for the recipe, she just smiled.

That was the typical response on Montserrat as well, where rum cakes were for sale as part of the St. Patrick’s celebration. Finally, someone gave me a hint that the cake is very similar to a cake made at Christmas and I was able to adapt a recipe to approximate—but not equal—Bernadine’s version.


Bush rum is hard to lay your hands on without a connection. A good, dark Angostura rum will do for the recipe. For dark treacle, substitute blackstrap molasses.


12 ounces plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice (nutmeg, allspice, cloves)
4 ounces candied peel
2 pounds dried fruit—preferably one pound currants, 8 ounces sultanas, and 8 ounces raisins
4 ounces blanched almonds, chopped finely
grated rind of one lemon
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bush rum
8 ounces margarine or butter
8 ounces Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle (blackstrap molasses may be substituted)
1 cup bush rum for finishing


Line a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan with double thickness of greased paper around the sides of the interior and greased waxed paper or parchment at the bottom. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of tin, standing well above the top of it.

Set oven at 325°F.

Sieve together flour, cinnamon, salt, and mixed spice. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix peel, fruit, chopped almonds, and lemon rind. Whisk in eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup bush rum.

In a third bowl, cream margarine or butter, then beat in sugar and black treacle.

Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to the creamed butter and sugar. Do not over beat when mixing.

Place mixture into prepared cake pan (see above). Put in middle of 325°F oven. Bake 1 1/2 hours, then turn down to 300°F and continue baking another 1 3/4 to 2 hours until firm.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. When cool, prick top all over with fork and pour on 1 cup bush rum. When cake has drained, wrap in plastic wrap or rum-soaked linen towel.



05 2016

Goat water hits the spot on Montserrat

Goat water eaters on Montserrat
Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day parade—a whirl of colorful costumes and steel drums—doesn’t kick off until 3 in the afternoon. That leaves plenty of time for checking out the entertainment and crafts booths at the Heritage Village in Salem—and for eating. The aroma of jerk chicken cooking on outdoor grills fills the fairgrounds, but the most popular dish is “Goat Water.” Montserrat’s national dish, it’s a spicy Caribbean take on Irish stew.

Virginia Allen with goat water on  Montserrat I gravitated to the stall of Virginia Allen, who managed to tend her big pot of goat water without spilling a drop on her beautiful traditional outfit made with a signature Madras fabric of green, orange, and white. In addition to serving goat water at festivals, Virginia makes the dish every Friday and offers it for sale across the street from the bread shop in Brades. “Just look for the goat water sign,” she told me.

Goat water may sound like a thin broth, but it’s a hearty, meaty stew. When I settled in at a communal table to try my small bowl, a local woman advised me to use my bread to soak up every bit of the rich broth redolent of spicy cloves. Goat water is often made in a big metal pot and cooked over a wood fire to add a slight touch of smoke. While it seems to be a festival—rather than everyday—dish, most cooks have at least a rudimentary family recipe. “Wash the goat meat and cut it in bits,” Virginia had told me. “Then put in the seasoning—sea salt, onion, garlic, clove, big sweet seasoning peppers, and flour.” Pressed further, she also admitted that she adds a touch of Accent to intensify the flavors. Some cooks also add a bit of rum or Scotch.

Like all good traditional stews, there are as many recipes as there are cooks. The version below is typical.


Makes 12 servings bowl of goat water on Montserrat


2 quarters goat
4 onions, cut up
scallions and thyme
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 hot green pepper, whole
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon whole cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon mace or a whole nutmeg, grated
3/4 cup cooking oil
3 ounces fresh marjoram
2 cups flour
Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell Gravy Browning
optional Scotch or rum to taste


Cut the meat in 2-inch cubes, being sure to leave the bones in. Wash in salt water and place in a large stewpot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam, and continue simmering, covered, adding remaining ingredients through marjoram. Add boiling water as needed to keep ingredients covered.

When the meat is nearly tender—about 2 hours—combine 2 cups flour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Stir enough of this mixture into stew to give desired thickness, and add some browning (Kitchen Bouquet or Cross & Blackwell) for deeper color. Half-cover the pot and continue simmering until meat is done. Add Scotch or rum as desired. Serve very hot with bones in cups or bowls.


05 2016