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A wee bit of comfort food for St. Patrick's Day

Recipe: Connemara apple cake has true Irish roots

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This easy apple cake harkens back to Irish country cooking.  Fresh out of the oven,
it resembles a large scone. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this Irish country recipe offers comfort and a lot of apple flavor.

Connemara apple cake comes from “The Irish Heritage Cookbook” by Mercedes McLoughlin and Marian McSpiritt (Tribeca Books), a 1984 collection of Old Country family recipes collected by the authors and friends in Ireland. This is an adaptation of that heritage recipe.

The result turns out more like a giant (and moist) buttermilk scone than a cake, with lots of big juicy chunks of apple. Unlike most apple cake recipes, there’s no added spice – no cinnamon or nutmeg. So the apple flavor really comes through.

It’s a pleasant Irish twist on a breakfast or coffee cake; of course, it would be fine for tea, too.

Speaking of apples, the last of my fall harvest went into this almost-spring recipe. They had kept crisp after months in the refrigerator. They may not have been the prettiest or the biggest apples, but they worked fine in this cake and still tasted great.

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The last of the fall harvest apples still work fine
in the cake.

Here’s another Irish "recipe" adapted from the same heritage cookbook and handed down for generations:

An Irish recipe for happiness

4 cups love

2 cups loyalty

3 cups friendship

Other ingredients to taste

Take love and loyalty and mix thoroughly with faith. Blend with tenderness, kindness and understanding. Add hope, sprinkle abundantly with laughter. Bake mixture with sunshine.

Serve generous helpings daily to your family, friends and all you meet.

(With maybe some Connemarra apple cake on the side.)

Connemara apple cake

Adapted from “The Irish Heritage Cookbook” by Mercedes McLoughlin and Marian McSpiritt
Makes 6 servings

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Two cups of chopped apples keep the cake
nice and moist.

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

2 cups peeled and chopped apples (about 2 or 3 apples)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease and flour an 8-inch cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Cut the butter into chunks. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly.

Beat the egg into the buttermilk, then gradually add that mixture into the flour mixture until blended. Fold in chopped apples.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. Let cool a few minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm or cold.
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Flipped over, it looks more like a cake and less
like a scone. 

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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