My dad’s birthday is June 18 and Father’s Day usually falls close by, if not on his actual birthday. He loves cakes and sweets and misses Irish cakes. This year, for his birthday/Father’s Day I decided to make him a Victoria Sandwich — an old fashioned cake that I don’t think I’ve made since I was 13 or 14. It’s a very light sponge with a filling of fresh cream and jam (my school recipe calls for a chocolate buttercream filling which I remember being good.) It used to be the classic afternoon tea cake. Since I made it as a young teen, you know it’s not a complicated recipe.
Although I wrote down the ingredients, I did not write down the steps involved in actually making the cake and for some mind-boggling reason we were instructed to use margarine — this was in Ireland, a country awash in possibly the best butter in the world. I definitely wanted a recipe that used butter and needed to confirm that I remembered how to make the cake. And, since June is strawberry season, I also wanted to include fresh berries with the jam.
I found this recipe for Victoria Sponge using butter and fresh strawberries on Irish chef Kevin Dundon’s website. He included it in his “Back to Basics” cooking series that airs on PBS. As I’ve noted before, organic cream makes a big difference in the flavor of cream cakes. It’s even a different color than standard whipping cream — more yellow. Yes, it is more expensive, but how often do you eat cream cakes? They are meant to be a treat. This is how it turned out. As my neighbor commented “not shabby” for a cake I haven’t made since I was a young teenager. I won’t wait that long to make it again, maybe with raspberries next month. Happy birthday dad!
This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.
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This is the perfect warming bowl after you get home cold and hungry from the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The genius thing is it only takes about 20 minutes to make and is filling enough for dinner.
I recently saw Irish chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Wexford on TV making the fish chowder they serve in the hotel. It looked so easy and delicious that I couldn’t wait to make my own version. In Chicago, we don’t have the same selection of fish that they have in Ireland, so I improvised using the wild fish my local supermarket had available. I even threw in half a can of wild Alaskan salmon that I was leftover from lunch. What makes this chowder Irish is the smoked salmon, but other than that, feel free to use any other fish and seafood available to you. I have converted everything into American measurements.
Nil geal an gaire ach san ait a mbionn an biadh — laughter is brightest were the food is best. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 small leek, cleaned and chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 2 medium red potatoes peeled and cubed
- 2 oz. smoked salmon, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups fish or seafood stock (I used Swanson's seafood stock in a box)
- 1/4 lb. sockeye salmon, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed.
- 1/4 pound cod, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
- 1/4 pound haddock, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
- 6 Key West shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tbsp. chopped, fresh tarragon
- 1/2 cup cream
- salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Add leek, onion, carrot, potato and smoked salmon. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables soften
- Pour in the wine and allow the liquid to reduce by half.
- Add the fish or seafood stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the fresh fish and shellfish.
- Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the tarragon, cream, salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve in bowls with fresh bread and butter