Recipes of the World

Irish Soda Bread

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img_1884-2One thing common about almost all recipes for Irish Soda Bread is the use of buttermilk.  The problem is that you are left with half a quart of buttermilk., which I consider undrinkable.  I can’t stand wasting food, so I started a search for Irish Soda Break without buttermilk.  I am happy to say that I did find one using sour cream by Martha Stewart.   I made a few changes to the recipe.  I hope you like it.

IRISH SODA BREAD  (without using buttermilk)

Dry ingredients:

1.5 cups of all purpose flour

1.5 Tablespoons Old Fashion Oat Meal  (reserve for top and bottom)

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran flakes

1/4 cup total– your choice or combo: wheat germ, golden flax &/or oat bran

2 teaspoons baking power

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

1 cup (8 oz) sour cream

3 Tablespoons honey

1.5 Tablespoons of canola oil.

2 eggs, lightly beaten


-Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a 9×5 inch loaf pan with vegetable spray oil, and sprinkles half of oat meal on the bottom of the pan.

-Mix the dry ingredient together (not including the remaining oat meal) in a large bowl.

-In another bowl mix the wet ingredients.

-Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients so that it is combined well. Do not over mix.

-Spread the mixture into the loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining oat meal on top. If you wish, you can add small pieces of butter on top.

-Bake in middle of 350 oven for 35 minutes. Toothpick inserted should come out clean. Cool in pan before attempting to remove the bread.  Note: Since this is not a yeast bread, don’t expect it to raise very much. 

Serving suggestion: Try buttering a slice and warming in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  For a real Irish flavor, use Kerry Gold butter

Bohemian (Czech) Dumplings

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In my Middle Grade story “Aldar and the Golem of Prague” our elf hero from Iceland travels to the Czech Republic. Although not mentioned in the story, he certainly would have had the opportunity to eat some Bohemian Dumplings (Prague is located in the portion of the Czech Republic known as Bohemia.) If you happen to live in a large urban area, you might be able to find frozen dumplings.  If you can’t find them, you can make your own with this old family recipe.


Bohemian Dumplings

Ingredients for 2 to 4 people:

1.5 cups (200 g) all purpose flour

1 tsp. (3 g) Instant yeast

1 large egg

1/3 cup (78g) luke warm milk (around 100 F)

1/4 tsp. (1.5g)  salt

Preparation and cooking:

1. Mix yeast and milk in small bowl.

2. Mix flour and salt in larger bowl.

3. Make well in flour and add milk/yeast and egg. Mix together.

4. Allow to raise until double in volume (usually 1 hour depending on room temperature)

5. Form into loaf and allow another 1/2 hour to raise again.

6. Bring 8 quarts of water to boil in large pot.

7. Insert dumpling, boil for 20 minutes, turning once half way through.

Serving suggestions:

Slice and serve hot with any dish that gives you lots of gravy.


Toffee Fudge Pecan Cookies

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The recipe involves making the basic sugar cookie as well as homemade toffee and fudge topping.



Sugar Cookie Recipe:


1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter (take out a couple of hours before using)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.  In a large bowl mix the sugar and the butter until well blended (about 3 minutes with an electric mixer). Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt. The dough will be stiff.

Shape about 2 tablespoons of dough into balls, and place about 3 inches apart on non-greased cookie sheet.  Press the balls down with your hand to 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Check after 10 minutes. If you have the cookies on two different levels in the oven, you may need to switch them so they cook evenly.  Check them every 5 minutes after that. The done cookies will be pale, but the edges should be lightly browned. Let them cool a little before you remove them from the baking sheet.  Set aside until fully cooled. (You can make these a day ahead of the toppings if you wish.)

Homemade toffee:


1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt.

In a stainless steel 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over low or medium heat. Just before its all melted, add the brown sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar in all moistened.

After the mixture comes to a boil, cook for 3 minutes while stirring constantly. Add the vanilla extract and the salt. Let cool a little.

Pour the Toffee in to a small cereal-type bowl.  While the Toffee is still warm, dip one half of each cookie in the bowl to coat with the Toffee, and set cookies on a plate. One side of the cookie should not have toffee on it.  This makes it easy to hold without getting fingers full of topping.

Fudge Topping:


3.5 oz. of Sweetened Condensed Milk (1/4 of a 14 oz.can)

2.5 oz. of Semisweet Chocolate Chips (1/4 of a 10 oz. package)

Mix the condensed milk and chips in a small stainless steel pot on low heat. Stir until chips are melted and no lumps remain.

Put the topping in the frig for a short time until workable. You don’t want it to be liquid and you don’t want it to be completely solid. You should be able to scoop it out with a teaspoon. If your topping was in the fridge too long, you will need to soften it.

Take a generous teaspoon of the fudge and place it in the center of each toffee topped cookie and press it down a little  If the fudge is running, put it into the fridge in little longer.

Place a whole pecan on the top of each cookie.

Guinness Beef Stew with Potatoes

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This is a recipe direct from the Guinnessscreen-shot-2016-09-25-at-12-52-04-pm Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. We tasted the real thing on a recent trip to Ireland.

The photo is of how it looks when served at the Storehouse cafe.

Ingredients for 4 people:

200ml (7 oz) of Guinness Extra Stout

400 g (14 oz) of stewing diced beef

1 medium onion -diced

1 large carrot -diced

1 large celery-diced

1 large parsnip- diced

1 Litre (34 oz) of thick beef stock

Sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary

Mashed potatoes.

Stir fry the beef, add the vegetable and cook till tender, then pour the Guinness and reduce the volume by half. Add the beef stock and herbs and simmer very slowly for between an hour and an hour and a half. Serve topped with mash potatoes.

Best to make one day in advance and reheat.

Russian Ground Chicken Patties (Kotlety Pozharskie)

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Russian Ground Chicken Patties (Kotlety Pozharskie)

Many years ago we purchased a series of Time-Life cookbooks featuring recipes from countries world wide. The books have long disappeared, but I remember cooking a ground chicken recipe from Russia.

The tour company we used for a recent trip to St. Petersburg always visits a local family for a home cooked meal. Our hostess cooked ground chicken patties that made me recall the old cookbook recipe. When I got home, I searched the web, experimented, and came up with my own version.

First a word of caution: You will be mixing raw chicken, so make sure you always wash hands and utensils well after handling.

The Ingredients: (yields 6 patties)

1 lb. of ground chicken breast

2 slices of bakery type bread (about 75 gram or 3 oz.) broken up as small as possible (A food processor works nicely for this.)

1 large egg

3 Tb butter (slice into 5 pieces and cut into little squares)

Salt and pepper to taste.

2 sprigs of fresh dill tops chopped (optional)

If you grind your own chicken: 1/4 cup milk.

Dry bread crumbs

The Mixing:

IMG_1658Store bought ground chicken is loaded with water. Pour this off before putting the chicken into a mixing bowl. (If you
have ground your own chicken, it will not be as moist, so you will need to soak the bread in the milk first.)

–Mix all ingredients with a heavy spoon.

  Now here comes the messy part:

–Divide the mixture into 6 balls on wax paper sprinkled with dry bread crumbs.

–Press down the balls to form patties and sprinkle with dry bread crumbs. Turn them over with a spatula and add more crumbs if needed , so that both sides are completely coated.

The Cooking:

In a large frying pan (you might have to do this in two batches) melt 2 TB of butter plus 2 TB of cooking oil.  Over medium heat cook the patties until light brown on both sides. Put heat on low and cover the pan. Turn the patties occasionally until they are golden brown. The patties should be done in 8-10 minutes. Check to make sure no pink remains.

IMG_1661Sauce: The Russian woman we visited did not have a sauce, but melted butter or a cream sauce works nicely.


Japanese Tempura Batter

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This Spring we traveled to Japan. I am not a big fan of sushi, but I do like tempura; thus I ate a lot of it. 

When we returned home, I attempted to make my own tempura. I had a recipe from a Japanese cook book from several years ago. The batter recipe was simple:

1 egg, 1 cup all purpose sifted flour, 1/2 cup water.

It turned out that 1/2 cup water resulted in a batter too thick to coat anything. I added another 1/2 cup of water.

The result was a thick almost uneatable coating……not at all like Japan.

After searching the web for tempura batter recipes and finding many similar to my original recipe (except they added more water). I finally found the major problem: Normal All Purpose Four has too much protein due to the high gluten content. Cake flour is the thing to use.  This is the reason some tempura recipes call for a mixture of flour and cornstarch.  I tried this and was still not satisfied.

IMG_1657SOLUTION: If you are not planning to do tempura cooking on a large scale, make life easy and buy tempura batter mix at the grocery store.  I used the Dynasty brand, but other brands are probably good too.  The directions are simple. I used half of the 8 oz box for two of us and had plenty left over, which they suggest to keep in the freezer.

My result was a light crust just like we got in Japan. I used tilapia and thin cut zucchini. The bok choi was steamed. You can use small cuts of green beans, egg plant, green peppers, etc. 

If you prefer to do things by scratch, I have included a recipe from a 2012 article,”Light as a Feather” by Harris Salat.  It can be found on the web at:

Sorry I punted on this one folks, but sometimes it’s best to take the easy way out.

Easy Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

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One of my favorite Italian treats are stuffed zucchini flowers. Here is our personal recipe:

Easy Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

1.Pick the flowers in the morning when they are open to their fullest. You can use both the male and female flowers.  The males will be attached to a thin stem, the females to a developing zucchini.

2.Carefully wash any insects (usually just small ants) from the flowers and clean out the pistil and stamens all the way to their bottoms. The female pistils will be more elaborate than the male stamens. A tweezers works best for this.

3. Store the flowers in the frig between moistened paper towels. You can use them for dinner that evening or they will keep for one day.

4. Stuff the zucchini with just about anything you want. I prefer a mixture of romano-pecorino cheese with some finally chopped basel mixed in.

5. Fold the leaves together and dip into a mixed egg.

6. Coat the flowers with Panco (breadcrumbs or flour will work too, but I like Panco best).

IMG_0378IMG_03237.  Using a shallow pan, fry in olive oil, turning the flowers to keep the browning even.

When the breading is browned, the flowers are done.

8. Serve immediately.

If you have a problem with lot of tiny ants, gently fill the flower with cold water. Use a tweezers to loosen the ants clinging to the inside part of the flower where you removed the pistil or stamen. The little ants like to cling to the delicate leaves, but you can carefully remove them with the tweezers.