Cooking to stay warm….

soda bread baked I want to be happy about the snow, but really, the ice/snow/wind/freezing rain bonanza that we got this weekend was a bit much. Today, at least, I am sitting in a warm and sunny spot in my house with my two furry companions at my feet, but when I look out the window, I can see the wind shaking the frozen-stiff trees and the rhododendron leaves clenched tight. I can hear the wind blowing and cars going down the street and cracking through the ice and rock hard snow- uggh. Some of my family members think this is just fine, but I’m getting a wee bit tired of it.

Luckily, I’ve found another way to escape the New England winter and cook, cook, cook. I am headed off  to Ballymaloe Cooking School in Cork County, Ireland for the next two and a half months. I think it may be dark and wet and cold there, but there will be lots to do. I will be helping out on their 100 acre farm, greenhouses, bake shop and assisting in their cooking school. I will be living in a little cottage which would have sweet little roses all over it if it wasn’t January!  Check out Ballymaloe Cooking School. Maybe you’d like to come to a cooking class and visit Ireland?

In preparation, I thought I would try a few recipes from The Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook.  Irish Soda Bread seems like  a good place to start…. please, of course I know how to make that (awk). I tried to look this up in the index- hmmmm. Lesson #1, it’s not called “Irish Soda bread” in Ireland. The Irish soda bread that I love (there are many variations) is called “Spotted Dog”.

Here is what Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cooking School says about Spotted Dog…

      Spotted Dog

Spotted Dog is also called railway cake in some parts of the country; “a currant for each station”. This bread is one of the great homely foods of our family. It has always been a favorite with my children. Freshly made on a Sunday morning for our picnics on the cliffs of Ballyandreen. Or relished with delight when eaten with lashings of butter, jam and steaming mugs of hot chocolate after a winter walk on Shanagarry strand. It is also a staple in our ‘pre-weighted repertoire’; made on our family boating trips on the Shannon and given as a parting gift to the many boats we met on the way.

Robin’s note: Lashings of butter? that sounds great!


450g (1 lb) plain white flour preferable unbleached

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)

1 level teaspoon salt

1 dessertspoon sugar

75-110g (3-4 0z) sultanas

1 egg

350ml (122 fl oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/gas 7

In a large mixing bowl sieve the flour and the bicarbonate of soda and add the salt, sugar and fruit. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in your hands and letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore, hopefully more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of your flour. Break the egg in the bottom of your measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 400ml (14fl oz) line – the egg is part of your liquid measurement. Whisk briefly to blend and pour most of the milk and egg into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing the the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.

soda bread well

The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads is not to over-mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and as gently as possible thus keeping it light and airy. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. With floured fingers roll lightly for a few seconds – just enough to tidy up. Pat the dough into a round, pressing to about 5cm (2 in) in height.

Place the dough on to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Prick with a knife at the four angles as, according to Irish Folklore, this is to let the fairies out.

soda bread Fairy- free Spotted Dog dough

Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 220 C/400 F/ gas 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted dog is also really good eaten with cheese.

I hope that Ireland has in store for me as much warmth and character as this recipe holds.

Bon Appetit!



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Kirkland Tap and Trotter

Tap and Trotter exteriorIt’s been a while since Lauren and I have found the time to have dinner together. Life sometimes gets in the way of important stuff! I am  reminded of how much I love spending time with her. I am also reminded that our whole fabulous food journey began with simply making time to  share a meal together once a week. Sometimes there is nothing better.

Anyway, we have always wanted to go to Craigie on Main (Tony Maws’ famous and much acclaimed restaurant in Cambridge). The thing is, for a casual dinner,  it’s a little pricey. I’m sure it’s worth every penny, but it’s just not part of our program. So, we were very excited when we heard that Tony Maws had opened a new restaurant,  Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville! Kirkland Tap and Trotter is a fun, upscale pub and we loved it!  The atmosphere pays homage to the comfortable neighborhood bar and music scene that previously occupied the space but with a little more funk and a rustic sophistication.

tap and trotter 1

I found this article written by Tony Maws for Food Republic entitled 5-tips for opening a restaurant-5-reasons-you-should-not. In this article, it becomes clear that Tony Maws is a perfectionist and  that the words “perfection” and “restaurant opening” are not generally found in the same sentence. Read this if you are interested, it made me laugh.

We tried a few things…I wish we could have tried more. There is a bit of everything on the menu, from a delicious grilled grass-fed hamburger, provolone and horseradish cream  to braised local skate wing, littleneck clams, smoked tomatoes and beans. The general theme is “simple, hearty and approachable food” but there are definitely some sophisticated dishes on the menu.

We had the pan-fried sardines…

fried fish

the vegetarian winter stew……


Vegetarian stew

and the octopus with hummus and toasts.


Tap and trotter octopusEverything was as we expected….delicious! If you find yourself in the Inman Square area of Cambridge (it’s right on the Cambridge/Somerville line), we think you’ll like this one.  I would definitely go back to and as Tony Maws writes in his article, it’s bound to get better and better with time.

Bon Appetit!

Robin and Lauren



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Goals for November….

Goals for November…..

1. Ride in the Ovarian Cancer Research ride on November 17th in memory of my dear friend Elizabeth Canny. I’m hoping that raisng money for Ovarian Cancer reserach will translate to earlier detection and more effective treatments.

robin and me 006

2. Keep cooking!

3. Read more!

4. Go to Boston more often!

5. Get together with friends more often!

6. Lose five pounds and figure out how in the world I’m going to ride a bike for two hours.

7. Make some art!

Okay that seems like enough for now. If you would like to help me with goals #1, #5 and #6, I will be at the spinning class at Club Excel on Sunday morning at 8:3o (really 9:30 because of daylight savings). It’s going to be so ugly.

If you would like to help me fundraise for the Ovarian Cancer ride, you can follow this link.

Many, many thanks to those who have already donated and please know that your donation is being matched by a long time supporter of Ovarian Cancer Research! All donations will be matched and any donation over $1000, will be tripled!

Hope to see you on Sunday!


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Hotel Vermont

Hotel Vermont hotel Vermont2Lobby, Hotel Vermont

Just back from a quick trip up to Burlington, Vermont to grab Charlie for the weekend. I thought I’d split up the drive and spend the night up there on Thursday. I stayed at Hotel Vermont which  opened in May. Located on Cherry Street near Lake Champlain it’s a quick walk to all the shops on Market Street. I won’t lie to you, when it comes to hotels, new is good. I love new! Hotel Vermont prides itself on its  eco-friendly, sleek-modern meets rustic-Vermont vibe. Sounds good, right?

I arrived at 9:30pm (thank you Boston traffic) and was starving!  Hotel Vermont has two dining options, both have full menus available until 10:00 pm and a bar menu available until midnight! Juniper is their more casual, less expensive option and it was great. I had a beautiful and delicious salad.

salad hvAutumn greens, toasted nuts, dried plums, Boucher blue cheese, and cranberry vinaigrette .

Next, the smoked trout cake with shaved fennel, cilantro, lime and corn puree – fantastic!

trout cake   trout cake 2The best news is that Hen of the Wood from Waterbury, Vermont has chosen Hotel Vermont as their second location. Hen of the Wood is known has one of New England’s best farm to table restaurants. Head Chef, Eric Warnstedt  is a three-time James Beard Award finalist and was one of Food and Wine’s Best 10 New Chefs in 2008. It’s a little hard to get a reservation, but you may be able to walk in and sit at the bar. I can’t wait to go back and try it!

Maybe Charlie will need a ride home for Thanksgiving??

Bon Appetit,



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End of the summer season at The Market Restaurant….

 view from the marketAw  Jeez**, I can’t believe that it’s the end of another wonderful summer season at The Market Restaurant in Annisquam. It has been a really great summer of cooking and chopping and peeling. Next Sunday night, the 13th is the last night, so there is still time (but not much) if you haven’t made it up there yet.I wish I had more photos of the beautiful plates of delicious food that I watched come out of the kitchen, but there isn’t often time for standing around with a camera.  Here are a few good ones….

striped eggplantEggplants on their way to being roasted.

roasted peppersRoasted Red Peppers

market pastaCannelloni


The Market2Beautiful Tender Lettuces

IMG_0748Naked Tortellini

IMG_1425Spring Lasagna

IMG_1426Soft Shell Crab with Citrus

IMG_1660Boudin Blanc


tpmato tart marketTomato, Black Olive and Anchovy Tart

I have learned a ton from the very talented chefs at The Market and feel so fortunate that they have let me tag along for another season. Thank you Nico and Amelia!!! The good news for all of us is that Short and Main, Nico and Amelia’s second restaurant in Gloucester, is open year round! They have wonderful pizza and salads and a fantastic bar. Check it out if you haven’t already!

Bon Appetit!


**a phrase we use a lot on the rare occasion that something does not go as expected.

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Eventide Oyster Bar, Portland Maine

Caught in a rainstorm in Portland Maine on Friday with nothing but a LL Bean rain jacket which is not quite waterproof, an iPhone and two very good friends. What else was there to do than to go to a great lunch and take some photos? We were going to take a bike ride on  Peaks Island and we knew that the forecast was not good, but we thought we might be able to beat the odds. Some people just never give up. So instead, we went to The Portland Art Museum which is a really terrific small museum and shares membership privileges with Peabody Essex Museum. Whatever you do, don’t let the lady in the gift shop know that you are not a member..holy smoke. Anyway…we were on our way to Duckfat which is a restaurant that several people who really know their way around food have recommended, but the wait for lunch was well over an hour. We walked down the street a ways and ran into Eventide Oysters. Fantastic!


OystersEverything on the menu is small plates; but the oysters take center stage. They are on display in a cool stone trough built into the bar. Eventide has eighteen different New England Oysters listed on their menu. It’s an oyster lover’s dream come true.

hot teaHibiscus tea. Yes, I know its August, but this is Maine!

fried HakeBattered Gulf of Maine Hake and Tartar Sauce – light and delicious!

Lobster rollLobster Roll with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

I loved the $12.00 lobster roll! There’s a choice of Mayo, Hollandaise or Brown Butter Vinaigrette. It’s small, and straight forward – pretty much straight up lobster roll.

Crabmeat 2Fresh Picked Peekytoe Crabmeat Salad with Avocado dressing

 This little crabmeat salad was really light and refreshing. Everything that we had at Eventide was beautifully presented and a real celebration of delicious Maine seafood. Next time, I will have a really hard time deciding whether to go back or try Duckfat!

Bon Appetit!


PS: Ive been posting a lot of recipes on my other blog North Shore Farm Fresh. Hope you will take a look!

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Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream

Honey Ice Cream

Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream

from flour by Joanne Chang

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces

8 egg yolks

3/4 cup honey

2 TBS sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

I wanted to use local products as much as possible for this recipe, so I substituted light cream for heavy cream because that is what’s available at Appleton Farms. This ice cream is fantastic whether you make it with heavy or light cream.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Break the cinnamon stick into several pieces and throw them into the pan. Scald the milk mixture over medium high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the liquid is not boiling). Remove from the heat and let the cinnamon steep in the milk mixture for about an hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, and then slowly whisk in the honey, sugar, and ground cinnamon until combined. Return the milk to medium high and scald it again. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all the hot milk mixture has been incorporated, return the contents of the of the bowl to the saucepan, and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. The mixture will seem watery at first, then it will start to steam, and then it will start to develop a little body and get thicker. Remove from the heat and immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into an airtight container. Whisk in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or until cold. (You can use the freezer or an ice bath to hasten this along.)

Churn in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.

When the ice cream has finished churning (about 1/2 hour in my machine), freeze it for about 2 hours to harden and to ripen the flavor and texture.

I drizzled a little honey on it and decorated with a few edible flowers from Apple Street Farm.



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The Market Restaurant is opening soon!

Chef Amelia and? The Market2 The Market 3


The market bar

Dear Friends,

The Market Restaurant is opening again for its fourth season on Thursday, May 30. I’ll be there, in the kitchen  (until around 6:00pm) on Saturday, June 1, Monday, June 3 and Tuesday, June 4 and hopefully every Monday, Tuesday  and Saturday after that unless I get fired. Here’s my plan to avoid being fired….If you are there on the earlier side,  stick your head in the kitchen and say hi and if you are there on the later side, ask if I am in the kitchen and when they say no, act really disappointed.

Good plan.

See you soon,


PS here’s the link to make a reservation!

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rain, rain go away

I walked out the back door today after a long debate with myself over whether or not to go to the Apple Street Farm seedling sale. I had decided to go, but the rain was picking up. On my way to the car, I noticed that something was happening in our lilac trees. Its a ritual that I have seen over and over,  Spring after Spring. I call it “flying lessons”. The first clue is that there is a small bird that hops along in your path and the second clue is that his Mother is in the nearby lilac tree having a complete break down. It’s always been a reminder to me of just how stressful parenthood can be and today it was also a reminder that no matter what the weather, time moves on so you may as well get out there and learn to fly.

I am starting a new blog called North Shore Farm Fresh. It is going to feature the North Shore’s fresh produce as we go through the late spring, summer, and fall with accompanying recipes. I am hoping to get contributions from farmers, and chefs from the area. My first couple of posts can be found at I’d love to get your feedback!

Portabella mushroom 2

This is Marilyn Donati’s Portabella Mushroom “Pizza” (really a fabulous salad). Check out and tell what you think!

Eat Fresh!


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