Category Archives: Spirits

Olive Oil Cake

1 C orange juice
1 tsp fine salt
3 large eggs, room temp
1 ¼ C whole milk
2 C sugar
¼ C Dark Rum
1 ½ C extra virgin Olive Oil
1 T lemon zest
2 tsp Anise seed
2 tsp finely chopped fresh Rosemary leaves
2 C all purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
6 T orange marmalade
3 T Dark Rum
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, oil 2 (9 inch) round cake pans

In a nonreactive saucepan, reduce orange juice over medium heat to ¼ cup. Add salt and let cool.

Lightly beat eggs until frothy.

Add milk, sugar, rum, olive oil, reduced orange juice, lemon zest, anise seed and 1 tsp rosemary. Mix for 1 minute until well blended.
Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder until well blended and smooth.

Pour half the mixture into each oiled (I oiled and put down parchment paper) cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour.

Place on rack to cool. Turn cake out onto plate, remove paper.

Mix the 3 tbsp Rum with the Marmalade.

While the cake is still warm, smooth half the marmalade mixture onto the top of each cake. Sprinkle remaining 1 tsp rosemary evenly over both cakes. Garnish with Rosemary sprig.

I served this with Rum flavoured, whipped cream. Make your whipped cream as usual and add 2tbsp dark rum.

Printed from the “Food Network” website


Ottawa thoughts: January 2008

Spent the last few days mostly flying. To Ottawa for a meeting and all those sorts of things that go with it. Anyways, just a few rambling thoughts while enroute.

1. Security checks. What will they do when they find out you can make explosive clothing? Issue everyone hospital gowns for the flight? And those restrictions on toiletries….I think a smart airline would hand out packages of shampoo and toothpaste to everyone as they disembarked.

2. Flying in general. Each time there seemed to be a significant delay in getting off the plane. European low cost airlines had two used exits, like a bus. Great idea. Can you imagine if every time you took a cab you had to wait for three minutes to get out?

3. Airline entertainment. On Air Canada they have little screens on the back of most seats and you can pick from many movies, tv shows etc. And boy was I happy about the headphones on the trip back when a man slumped over his own not inconsiderable stomach (not obese enough to qualify for the extra free seat that has just been legally declared..and that is worth a rant elsewhere) slept and loudly snored for the whole flight. So anyway because things are so wonky with the system I watched In the Valley of Elah which seemed good but started stop go stopping and then ground to a total halt halfway through. Then watched Invasion with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in German (which I can partially speak) with Japanese subtitles. The English would take me to French, and the French to German and the German to the Italian, and the Italian would just shut down the movie. I think it was good, and maybe it seemed even classier because it was now a foreign film though the soundtrack slightly preceeded the action so that when Nicole was maybe or maybe not shooting someone, she would still seem to be deciding as you heard a shot. It was still tense but in a different kind of way. Also I mean classy in as classy as you can get when the means of transmission is one person vomiting in the mouth of another. A remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; has there ever been a really bad version of this?

Also saw a little of Jody Foster in The Brave One which ended because we were landing. (I did go through five selections in a row with all reporting “not available at this time”). Though in English this also had Japanese subtitles…looking around it just seemed to be me getting this special service…had I pressed some hidden control?)

4. Valet service, no less. So end up going to this function at the 18 club, which my Ottawa friend (who I’ve known from my schooldays) tells me is tres chi chi (though he would eat nails before ever uttering such a phrase). And yes, valet service in front. I have always had a hard time accepting that certain professions consist of doing things that not only can anyone do for themselves but things that aren’t all that unpleasant either. Its modernish inside and what they called Big Apples (Bacardi big apple rum, green apple Sour Puss, Asian Pear Liqueur & butterscotch schnapps) were in every hand. Then comes the endless parade of small portioned foods. Not exactly tapas; I’ve had those, and they can be of a size but things like a cheesecake drizzled with one thing and infused with another and served on a spoon. The biggest items were various small sate. They even had a very small hamburger held together by a toothpick and sporting a very small comical but precisely accurate bun. After sampling and sampling and a few too many Big Apples considering my friend was picking me up for drinks, he did.

5. The walk down tavern. We parked and walked down a seedy throughfare to what looked like a fourplex kind of entrance to a basement suite. I don’t remember seeing any sort of sign, and on entering, found a warm, happy and bustly neighborhood feeling pub with four different stouts on tap. Had a couple of oatmeal stouts and that kind of great conversation you can only have with someone you’ve know your whole life, and both of you long past the point where there is any need to hide anything at all. (I am going to find out what the place was called and post it…its worth a visit if you make to the capital.)

6. Cormac Redux. My takeaway reading was No Country for Old Men, a Cormac McCarthy book I had thought before not quite up to his usual standard but this time through I am finding line after line that seems really good. Haven’t been able to see the film yet and thought I’d do this in the meanwhile. Marquez’ Strange Pilgrims is waiting at home on the bedside table as well as my next reread Cees Nooteboom’s All Soul’s Day which I remember as the consummate modern European novel.

7. Irish weather. And lastly, and I cannot convey quite how much pleasure it gave me to turn on the BBC on the television only to hear the Australian weather report being delivered in a strong Irish dialect by a beautiful woman.

Shrimp-Orange Mojito Appetizer


* 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
* 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
* 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 to 2 T freshly grated orange zest
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 12 jumbo shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined
* 2 T olive oil
* 2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 2 T spiced rum and or dark rum
* 1/2 C fresh orange juice
* 1 T torn fresh mint
* 1 T chopped fresh cilantro


Combine first 3 ingredients in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Toast 2 to 3 minutes or until aromatic. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Grind to a rough, coarse ground in a spice grinder. Combine fresh ground spices with orange zest, thyme, and salt. Rub spice mixture over shrimp.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium, and cook shrimp 2 to 3 more minutes on each side, or until pink and cooked through.

Remove shrimp.

Add rum and orange juice. Cook 1 minute, and stir in mint and cilantro. Reduce somewhat and then pour thickened mixture over

Adapted from

ps. this was phenomenal!

Eating in Prague: May 2007:1

That morning we ended on the train to Prague. An amazing amount of graffiti with a surprise appearance of a figure very much resembling my beloved Saladfingers.


Saw a man sitting on a chair in the middle of a field, another with a spade contemplating a large mound of dirt, many run down decrepit dwellings. Crossing into the Czech Republic was like the old east/west difference; abruptly the buildings were less formulaic and better maintained.

A couple of women, possibly teachers, got on with a group of young girls and the two adults sat in our compartment. In a very low voice, the one woman started talking to the other in Czech and she spoke at a steady unbroken pace for about 15 minutes without any variation in intonation or sense of sentence breaks like a teletype machine clattering away. The other just listened and then at one point, she started talking but the other did not stop and they both chattered at the same time for a couple of minutes until the second woman stopped and the first continued on for a while like a bus after disgorging a passenger. (I was to hear this contemporaneous speech one more time on the trip later in Barcelona when two Spanish women redefined conversation into something where no one listens and everyone speaks; non confrontationally I might add).

We made our way by cab to the place to pick up our keys for the apartment we were renting, promptly got on the right bus but going in the wrong direction (a pattern that would become all too common in that city) but eventually found our place in Mala Strana.

We went through a large old wooden door beside a busy loud restaurant/bar, through a locked iron gate and up four floors to a large spacious and dead quiet apartment with a kitchen. A little Scandinavian in feel with the only down note being the lack of hot water in the shower. Bathroom and kitchen sinks had hot water aplenty but the shower was never better than cool.

We dropped out stuff and headed down to explore the nearby streets and after a bit of that chanced on a restaurant and had our first but not our last Czech goulash. Fabulous. Realized that this was something I would have to learn how to make (and did). The only thing was, and as good as the goulash consistently was, the dumplings were as uniformly bad. But even if they little more than round packets of mucilage and flour (or so it seemed; they looked like hockey pucks crossed with soggy English muffins) we ate every one just to mop up the glorious rich brown gravy.


The picture is fairly representative though the meat and gravy were more of a rich brown and had finely cut strips of fresh white onion and red pepper to complement the meat.

Finished off the meal and tried some absinthe which caused me to think that perhaps Jager was not the foulest drink on the planet (and this from a man who likes the taste of Buckley’s). No relation to Pernod which we had expected. Later I found out that the Czech version, most often called “absinth”, did not have the famous licorice flavouring. This was just bad stuff. I was also later to buy a very expensive little bottle to smuggle back. Described in in a quiet but exuberant broken English by the guy who showed it to me as “you drink this, they will not let you back in your hotel”. How could I resist? So the demon drink was bought and just made it through the various checkpoints (it being illegal everywhere except India) and found it on homecoming to be a disappointment….70% alcohol and bitter and vile. Mixed with sugar and then a little Pernod and still ended up pouring it out. Still have half of it left and might take another run at it someday.

However the little shot glasses we got them in were very nice. C offered to buy them from the waiter and he just gave them to her. We left him a good tip.

First impression of Prague was beautiful women and beautiful architecture. T had suggested that I buy a pair of sunglasses to hide the reaction to the eye candy and thus avoid being unduly pummeled by C. T, who had lived in Prague for a couple of years, always railed on about the failings of Edmonton and it was only now that I saw that she had a point. Walking through these streets made E-town look sad indeed.

Eating in Warsaw (and more) May 2007: 2

A note about one odd moment in the day’s events (conference that is). A British woman, Baroness someone was describing efforts to improve the situation in prisons. She explained at one point, in a very royal sounding voice, that hers was not a hereditary title but simply one given to members of parliament. Nonetheless, it seemed bizarre to hear recounts of condom distributions and nonconsensual sex in prisons in that particular dialect. Not unlike the queen doing the voiceover for a foreign porn film.

We had decided the night before to move to the Bristol and worked out late that night online. That morning after breakfast we moved our bags into storage and while we went back to the conference C hung out in the room a little and then tootled off to the other hotel just before lunch. We had already electrical issues with my shaver practically flying out of my hand: we had a converter but it did nothing to help with the more powerful current. C on the other hand became curly haired for the rest of the trip since her straightener blew out entirely.

I was able to get over to the hotel around seven or so and C and I wandered the few blocks to the square to look for a place to eat. We were looking at the menu at one place and were cajoled in by a very young waiter. He got us down a long hall and then downstairs into a series of crowded rooms. We said “no smoking” and he said ‘yes” and made for what we thought must be that but he was shooed out by a woman who ended up being our waitress. They were full there so we were seated in the room next to it right next to a table of four Russians chain smoking the foulest cigarettes on Earth. We realized that when you ask for no smoking in a Polish restaurant that translates into “oh no, you do not have to smoke at your table unless you want to”. But the meal was good…she warned me off the game and towards the goulash and roast potatoes.

At the end of the meal I found out they did not take mc so I had to find a bankomart. I asked the waiter and he beckoned for me to follow him. He set off at a good clip out the door and across the square pausing to light a cigarette and then to hail others outside of other establishments. It was a very warm night and it made me feel like I was following Eric Idle at the end of Meaning of Life. He took me to a machine about two blocks away and then told me he had to get back to the restaurant. I got my money and took my time strolling back, perfectly content to be walking beside the old buildings over the rough cobblestones down the narrow street to the square in this perfect night in a city so far from home.

We paid and decided to have coffee and or dessert somewhere else. C told me that when I was gone the smoky Russians had tried to sweet talk her but with no common languages it was a bit of a chore.

Heading back in the general direction of the hotel we chanced on a hopping little student vodka bar. We got two cool shots of vodka and a couple of espressos. Never been a big fan but this was very good… came out of some bottle with a red stripe and started with an S I think. (We are going to find it again one of these days; we were hoping they would be selling it on the flight back but no such luck). We wanted to have more but we were already on a few glasses of wine but at least for a bit there we felt a little Polish. And maybe it was partly the alcohol but it felt very warm and good to be there; felt like part of the crowd rather than tourists. Next posting there will be pictures for sure….walking the morning rain in old Warsaw….cold, beautiful and old.

Eating in Warsaw (and more) May 2007: 1

Breakfast was a not atypical hotel assortment of eggs (a little oranger than ours), buns and bread (much much better than what passes here), cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, coldcuts and a large rack of wieners. Orange juice in very small glasses and coffee in half size cups to fill from a Nescafe machine with settings for espresso or regular. This was very much a portent of life for the next week as regards coffee; bad and always machined Nescafe (with a couple of exceptions only) and bread worth writing home about.

Here in Canada, I fear to buy bread even in bakeries at times for the poor quality about but there I had not one slice or bun that didn’t rank high. Didn’t like the butter but it did not matter at all. And cookies or pastries….a very dangerous place for the weight conscious. And in general, the vegetables and fruit tasted better than here; even the potatoes tasted home made. Food in Poland was good (even the hotel convention food) with only the coffee substandard.

We ended up sitting at a table with K, an Australian whose wife was at the conference but he was trying to keep himself amused. He knew a bit of the history and had already done one day in town and offered to be personal tour guide for C. They spent the rest of the day in the Old Town visiting the palace, some of the gardens, various military sites and also the Warsaw Ghetto. C said that she saw a Rembrandt which struck her as somewhat postmodern in that the figure’s hand extends over the picture frame within the painting.


She was also quite moved by seeing the holes in the bases of the palace walls which had once held German explosives and only by chance had not been detonated during the retreat. So much of Warsaw had been bombed and in fact one of the interesting displays at the Old Square was photographs of the destroyed buildings and the reconstruction which took place using Canaletto paintings of the same. (We were to see many more Canalettos later in the Prado.) I could not find the painting displayed but this other one of his will give you an idea of the sort of detail he was capable of (and when 85% or so of your city is destroyed and you would rather recreate the old glory than start fresh, this just the sort of thing you need).


When C and I reunited later in the day she remarked as well on how many beautiful 17 years old girls were in evidence as well as strapping young security guards. But before that I spent part of the day warming seats and listening to others jaw and another part having others listen to me flap my gums. My colleague and I presented in the same session and ended up after in the Gromada bar with our other presenter (from Nigeria) and some amusing individuals from a couple of tobacco companies. Three beer each later and we ended up (with C) in a very fine restaurant (U Fukier) off the old town square. That’s the square below (not our picture) we have some to come during the wet days that followed. But this is kind of what it looked like that night.


After fine dining (Russian crab in crepes, tomato and onion salad, fine red wine, dessert and a good latte) we spilled out into a hot night onto the cobblestoned square which had people under canopies drinking beer (almost all Poles as opposed to the tourist haunts for most of the rest of the trip). As we walked across the square I recalled a German concept I had recently read about called “Platzangst” which is the fear that can overcome you as you are attempting to traverse a square that you will never actually reach the end of it.

We tottered into the bar at the Bristol (an art deco bar dating from around 1905 where Marlene Dietrich reputedly used to hang). Most of us had beer and C at my suggestion tried the bison grass vodka we had read about. Interesting but not repeatable. (I could not find a picture of the bar itself and did not take one regrettably but see one of the hotel below; we did not know it at the time but we would end up spending a couple of nights there). (C almost ended up taking a side trip with one of the others to Krakow and the camps (Dachau and Birkenau) but the price was a little out of range. Krakow would have been great since it had most of the old architecture still intact.)


Mocha Sambuca Shooters

Loved the presentation of this dessert. Had to try it and it turned out beautifully.
See below for two day method of preparation if you do not want to do this all at once.

Cocoa Sambuca Mini-Cakes

1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 C black sambuca

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Line each miniature muffin cup with mini size (15/8″) foil bake cups.

Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking powder onto large piece of parchment paper and set aside.
Place sugar, egg, and egg yolk in an electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle.
Beat on high for 2 minutes until mixture is thickened and light in color.
Operate mixer on low and add butter slowly in a steady stream. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Continue to operate on low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides with a spatula.
Continue on low while adding the black sambuca in a slow steady stream, mix until incorporated about 30 seconds. Now beat on medium for 30 seconds.
Remove bowl from mixer and use rubber spatula to finish mixing.

Position 1 tablespoon of the cake batter in each bake cup.
Place muffin tins in top and centre of oven, rotating halfway through baking time.
Bake 10-13 minutes until toothpick comes clean from the centre of muffin.
Remove from oven and cool at room temperature in the tins for 10 minutes.
Remove the muffins from the tins at set aside at room temperature.

Mocha Sambuca Ganache

4 oz semi sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 C heavy cream
3 T whole expresso beans
1/2 oz unsalted butter
1 T black sambuca
2 tsp granulated sugar
24 chocolate covered espresso beans
Makes 24 shooters

Place the semi sweet chocolate in a medium bowl.
Heat the heavy cream, espresso beans, butter, black sambuca and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot stir to dissolve the sugar and butter. Bring to a boil.
Pour the boiling cream mixture through a strainer held over the chopped chocolate; stir with a whisk until smooth.
Transfer the ganache to a baking sheet with sides and spread evenly. Refrigerate 45-60 minutes until firm to the touch.
Remove the firm ganache from refrigerator and transfer to the bowl of the electric mixer, fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium for 30 seconds until slightly lighter in color. Remove from mixer and finish mixing with rubber spatula.
Transfer ganache to pastry bag fitted with a medium straight tip.
Pipe approximately 1 heaping teaspoon of ganache onto each cake.
Place a whole chocolate coated espresso bean onto the ganache of each mini cake and serve immediately.


The shooters may be prepared over 2 days.

Day 1: Bake the individual cocoa sambuca mini cakes. Once they are cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Day 2: Remove the mini cakes from the refrigerator. Make the Mocha Sambuca Ganache. Pipe the ganache onto the mini cakes. Garnish with chocolate covered espresso bean.
Assemble Shooters: A long stemmed shooter glass works best. Pour white Sambuca in bottom bottom third of shooter glass. Using a spoon, angled in the glass, slide the black sambuca onto the white sambuca in the second third of the glass (layered look).

Place the finished Cocoa Sambuca Mini Cake on the top and serve. (Mini Cake should be suspended on the top of the glass over the Sambucas)

Taken from Celebrate With Chocolate by Marcel Desauliniers.