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Baked Pork Samosas

Way back in April we had an outdoor Indian evening with a single neighbour and for hors d’œuvres I served Pork Samosas. They were delicious and so moreish. They are not the traditional deep-fried samosa, but they are baked phyllo pastry versions. I can tell you that they didn’t last long.

Photo of baked pork samosas

A delicously flavourful, crispy triangle.

Baked Pork Samosas

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 16 two-bite samosas

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL vegetable oil
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 200 g ground pork
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 10 g cumin
  • 5 g grated ginger
  • 10 g roasted puréed garlic 
  • 200 g mix vegetables
  • 50 g frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 g cilantro leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 pack phyllo pastry
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sweat the shallot until translucent.
  2. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, mix in the ginger and garlic and stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the garam masala, curry powder and cumin over the cooked pork and stir until fragrant. Remove from heat and mix in the vegetables and cilantro. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Cut each phyllo sheet into 5 cm widths and brush with melted butter.
  5. Starting at one end, dollop a tablespoon of the pork mixture and begin folding in a triangle pattern like illustrated below.
  6. Brush the tops with more melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and heated through. Serve with peach chutney.

I posted this recipe about 9 years ago so I felt it was time for an update and repost. Lemony desserts are a favourite here so whenever I have an extra lemon or two rolling around the kitchen, a lemony dessert makes an appearance.

Even though these squares are two layers, they come together quickly. The shortbread crust is tender and the coconutty custard topping is lemony and chewy. One could say they’re a match made in heaven!

Chewy Lemon Squares with Coconut

From Company’s Coming Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch)

Ingredients, base:

  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 114 g butter, cold

Directions, base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Crumble flour, sugar and butter until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal blades)
  3. Press into ungreased 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch) pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Ingredients, topping:

  • 2 eggs
  • 60 mL lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 20 g all purpose flour
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 75 g flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 g salt
  • 5 mL lemon essence

Directions, topping:

  1. Beat eggs slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Spread over par-baked shortbread base. Bake at 350° F for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Cool and cut into squares, or bars.

The carmelized coconut on the top makes it moreishly chewy where the end pieces with more edges are coveted!

Warm Spanakopita Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL garlic-infused EVOO
  • 30 g shallots, small dice
  • 160 g zucchini, grated
  • 70 g spinach, finely chopped
  • 0.5 g dill weed
  • 50 g cream cheese
  • 70 g Greek feta, crumbled, divided
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan and sweat the shallots until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until softened. Add the spinach and wilt completely. Season with the dill and stir well.
  2. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the vegetables.
  3. Add about three-quarters of the feta and stir well into the warm dip. Reserve one-quarter of the feta for garnish.
  4. Reheat the dip and serve with pita bread.

Spring came early to Toronto, with warm, sunny days as early as the first week of April! Buds burst on trees and shrubs and we waited with bated breath for the blooms in hopes that we wouldn’t get a spring frost. A good spring always has rain and we’re OK with that as long as we get some sunny days interspersed to keep our mood elevated and this spring was perfect. The rainy days were a touch cooler (still above freezing) but cool enough to crave soup. JT has been a real trouper this winter, eating without complaint, my favourite brothy soups but his true love are creamed soups so I thought I’d create this creamy, tasty soup on a rainy mid-April day. I served this with Cheesy Onion Scones!

Cream of Celery Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 400 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 g sweet onion
  • 300 g celery hearts, tender leaves included, roughly chopped
  • 50 g cauliflower florets (as a thickener)
  • 400 mL vegetable stock
  • 7.5 mL lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 30 mL table cream

Directions:

  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a soup pan and sweat out the onions until translucent, add the celery and cook on medium/low for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower florets and vegetable stock and simmer until all of the vegetables are soft.
  3. Purée until smooth and taste for acidity and salt, add as required. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. Just prior to serving, add 30 millilitres of table cream, stir well.

Celery in North America doesn’t have a strong anise flavour, it’s very mild.

I am constantly on the lookout for new hors d’oeuvres/finger food that I can insert into my cocktail repertoire. I came across this tasty recipe in early April when I was looking around for something to make with polenta. I loved the crackers because I’ve already made Polenta Fries, Polenta Crisps, and Polenta Choux Pastry. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe includes a beautiful tapenade but I didn’t have parsley and I wasn’t going to go out for just one ingredient as we had just stepped into our THIRD State of Emergency Lockdown, so I improvised with baby arugula, and I must say, it’s darn tasty, I may even substitute the parsley with arugula going forward.

Don’t let the dark edges fool you, they are the best part!!!

Polenta Bites with Mediterranean Tapenade

Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes about 35 little crackers and enough tapenade for about 6 or 8 crackers.

Ingredients for the Polenta Bites:

  • 350 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 15  EVOO
  • 2.5 g sea salt
  • 75 g fine cornmeal
  • 40 g finely grated parmesan
  • 5 g chopped chives

Directions for the Polenta Bites:

  1. Prepare a large sheet of parchment paper by spraying it with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat the chicken stock with the roasted garlic purée, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt until a slow boil.
  3. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and stir vigorously until all has been incorporated into the water and it is beginning to thicken, add the grated parmesan and chives and cook, stirring constantly until very thick.
  4. Pour the hot mixture onto one half of the prepared parchment and fold the other half over it. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 2mm thick. Even out the edges (cooks treat) and cut into 3 cm squares. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425° F (I used convection) and bake the polenta bites for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and flip the crackers over so that the top is the bottom and the bottom is the top and try to separate the crackers and move them around on the parchment so they bake evenly. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Green olives, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and peppery arugula make a very tasty tapenade.

Ingredients for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  • 5 Green olives (with pimento)
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4 quarters Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 small handfuls of baby arugula
  • 1 green onion about 15 cm long, roughly chopped
  • 30 mL EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  1. Add everything into a small food processor and process until you have achieved the desired consistency.
  2. Serve as a dip or portioned onto each cracker like a canape.

 

Thai Green Curry

I used to reserve Thai Green Curry for the times we go out for lunch, but nowadays there is no going out so we’ve had to improvise and make these tasty dishes at home. I’ve tried many a-green curry pastes and some were so hot, I just couldn’t tollerate them. I’ve tried making my own too, but have not found a recipe that reminds me of the restaurant style that I long for. That is until I combined two lovely green curry pastes! This is not a traditional Thai Green curry recipe, but it’s one that works for me and JT is always requesting it.

Thai Green Curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 15-30 mL green curry paste (see notes)
  • 200 g protein of your choice (I used chicken)
  • 15 g corn starch
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) chicken stock
  • 5 mL fresh lime juice
  • 5-15 g brown sugar
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 200 mL coconut milk
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 200g frozen green beans, French style
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
  • Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into thin-ish, bite-sized pieces. Coat with the corn starch.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a small Dutch oven and cook off the green curry paste until fragrant and has become somewhat dry. Add the chicken and cook until it is golden.
  3. Add the chicken stock, lime juice, fish stock and brown sugar and stir until it heats through and the sugar has begun to melt.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stir until smooth and creamy. Do not boil because the coconut milk can separate and it won’t look as good. Add the kaffir lime leaves and simmer until the chicken has cooked entirely through.
  5. Add the frozen green beans (see notes) and stir until heated through. Remove the kaffir lime leaves.
  6. Serve over an inverted bowl of rice, garnish with Thai basil or kaffir lime leaves.

It’s super creamy with a hint of heat. The chicken is velvety soft and delicious in this dish.

Notes:

  • I usually find green curry paste too hot at full strength so I’ve had difficulty finding one I can tolerate. We have an incredible Asian grocer near us with an unusally large compliment of sauces and pastes and I’ve found this one isn’t too hot but I add a little of this one which is super hot. The combination makes a wonderful restaurant-style green curry sauce.
  • I didn’t have green beans so I just added some peas.
  • Thai green curry is traditionally made with Chicken but you can use any protein.
  • The traditional vegetables are eggplant and sugar snap peas but you can use whatever you have on hand. Bamboo shoots would add a lovely crunch to this dish. I prefer to keep my vegetables on the green side because I love it in monochrome.
  • I usually start with a 5 grams of sugar and work my way up to 15 grams, if necessary. Some green curry pastes are already sweet so you’ll need to taste as you go along.

Cheese Crisps

These are super quick and easy to make. They don’t keep well, particularly if your house is a bit humid so plan to bake them just before you want to eat them or if they get a bit soggy, just pop them into the oven to dry them out a bit.

Deliciously crunchy and cheesy crisps.

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 12-15 crisps

Ingredients:

  • 400 g old cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone matt.
  2. Spread the cheese out on the matt as thinly as possible so that the grated pieces are interlaced.
  3. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until the cheese has entirely rendered and is starting to become golden but not burned.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pull the parchment onto a cutting board. With a pizza cutter, cut into wedges. Allow to cool completely. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I use a rimmed baking sheet because the oils from the cheese may slide onto the oven and burn.
  • Parchment may burn so a silicon matt is preferred.

 

We’ve been eating a lot of soup lately, Vietnamese Pho, Italian Wedding Soup, Thai Lemon Grass Soup and Japanese Ramen. The Ramen has been a favourite because of the soft boiled egg and the delicious noodles. I haven’t been able to find authentic fresh ramen noodles so I’ve been using those horrible little Ramen soup packets (don’t worry, I toss everything but the noodles) that we can usually get for 4 for $1.00 (you know those awful little packets we used to eat when we were poor students?). But I had an urge to make my own ramen noodles. I reviewed several recipes and discovered that they are not that difficult but they are time-consuming (isn’t anything good time-consuming?) I wasn’t able to source the sodium carbonate without having to buy about 250 g (that would last me years!) so I followed the directions to make my own and it worked out perfectly. 

The noodles take a bit of effort to make but they are well worth it. They are significantly better than the packaged noodles and they are a little heartier. I made two servings of the noodles which turned out to be 4 servings so I dried half of them for next time.

This is about half of the amount that the recipe made.

I used this ramen recipe with sliced grilled chicken breast and this ramen egg recipe

Homemade Ramen Noodles

Makes 2-4 servings

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 3 g sodium carbonate (baked baking soda) 
  • 80 g water
  • 2 g kosher salt
  • 2 g vital wheat gluten
  • 198 g “00” bread flour

Directions:

  1. Combine the baked baking soda and water and stir until the baked baking soda has entirely dissolved. Add the salt and stir to dissolve.
  2. Combine the vital wheat gluten in the large container of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process once or twice to combine the wheat gluten and flour.
  3. On a medium/low speed, pour one-third of the water into the bowl and process. Allow to rest for 30 seconds, add the second third and allow to rest for 30 seconds and finally finish with the last third of water combo and process for about a minu or until it is quite crumbly, allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. When rested, pour the dough onto a piece of parchment and press the dough together into a ball. Divide the ball into two and form two disks (the dough is very dry at this point). Roll each disk out so that it is about 0.5 cm so it will fit through the largest setting of your pasta maker. Wrap the disk you are not working on with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out further.
  5. Put the dough through the thickest setting, then the second thickest, then the third and fourth thickest. Fold the dough in half and start again on the thickest setting to the fourth thickest setting. Repeat the process two more times. Fold the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Repeat with the second disk.
  6. Once they have rested, (I cut the sheets in half so that they are not too long) lightly coat each side of the sheets with flour and run the sheets through the spaghetti attachment and fold them into loose nests. Put them into a ziplock bag overnight in the refrigerator (this helps improve the taste and texture).
  7. Cook for about 2 minutes or until al dente in boiling UNSALTED boiling water (the exact time will depend on how thick your noodles are). Drain and rinse. Use immediately.

A delicious bowl of noodley soup.

Notes:

Why these specific ingredients are important:

  • Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour which give the noodles a chewy texture.
  • Adding vital wheat gluten gives the noodles an even chewier texture.
  • Sodium carbonate (baked baking soda) gives the noodles elasticity, springiness and glossiness as well as flavour.
  • The Ramen soup recipe I follow is this one.
Baked Baking Soda
  • I baked about 115 g of baked baking soda so I don’t have enough for ten years! By using the 2/3 weight as per the instructions, it will take 2-5 hours. Once you have dehydrated the baking soda, it becomes extremely caustic, so don’t let it come into contact with your skin. Store in an airtight container.

 

I have been making this fabulous butter chicken recipe since I first found it in 2009. I love it because it is the closest to our favourite Bombay Palace’s Murgh Makhani. It is a rich, tangy tomato-based sauce that is completely moreish. I made it in mid-March when our weather suddenly turned into spring with temperatures of 14° C to 20° C (57° F to 68° F) and we had friends over two days after we were released for our latest 100-day lockdown. If it weren’t for our cosy heated patio, I would have surely gone mad.

You can easily make this vegetarian by substituting firm tofu for the chicken but I wouldn’t skip the spice rub and marinade, grilling also adds a level of flavour but not absolutely necessary.

Butter Chicken-Murgh Makhani

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1.6 L stewed tomatoes
  • 43 g roasted garlic
  • 7 g ginger, grated on a Microplane
  • 3.5 g Meat Masala (see recipe below)
  • 3.5 g Garam Masala (see recipe below)
  • 35 mL lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • Salt to taste
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 100 mL cream
  • Cilantro to garnish

Directions for the gravy:

  • In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until golden. Add the stewed tomatoes and simmer until it has reduced to two-thirds of the original volume.
  • Add the roasted garlic, ginger, both masalas, lemon juice and stir well to combine. Add a pinch of baking soda and stir until it has stopped bubbling. Blend this gravy with an emersion blender and run it through a fine sieve (I prefer a smooth, creamy gravy). Add salt to taste. You can hold the gravy overnight in the refrigerator.
  • If you are serving immediately, add the butter and stir so that it melts into the gravy. Add the cream and stir well. Hold the gravy on very low heat (be careful, it bubbles quite furiously) and add the chicken just before serving.

This recipe is restaurant quality without the salt and extra calories!

Tandoori Marinades

  • 1 kg chicken, skinned, deboned, trimmed (I used chicken thighs)

Ingredients for the spice rub:

  • 6 g red chili powder (I used mild)
  • 3 g turmeric
  • pinch of baking soda
  • salt to taste
  • 30 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub and rub well into the chicken (I would use gloves). Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 100 g Greek yogurt
  • 6 g red chili powder (I used mild)
  • 7 g ginger, grated on a Microplane
  • 30 g roasted garlic
  • 5 g coriander
  • 5 g cumin
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 15 mL lemon juice
  • 30 mL olive oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and spread evenly onto the chicken pieces. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.
  2. When ready to grill, heat the grill to 350° F.
  3. Brush off a lot of the marinade.
  4. Grill the chicken, basting with the marinade once or twice at the beginning until cooked through, about 165° F.

I always double the batch so that I can freeze leftovers for a quick and delicious meal.

Garam Masala

(recipes for the masalas are from HeartSmart flavours of India by Krishna Jamal, 1998)

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground mace

Directions for the Garam Masala:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into a heavy bottom pan and toast until fragrant.

Meat Masala

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 black cardamom pods
  • 1/4 star anise
  • 3 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp red chili

Directions:

  1. In a small pan, toast the coriander, cumin, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves and toast until fragrant. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Add toasted spices to a spice grinder with the remainder of the spices and grind until it is a fine powder. Store in an air-tight container in a cool dark place.

This winter we ate a lot. I mean, we ate a lot of soup. Who am I kidding, we did eat a lot, but we also ate a lot of soup. I became quite proficient at some of our ethnic favourites, this Thai Lemongrass Shrimp soup being one of them. I reverted back to an old favourite recipe from an Australian cookbook a friend gave me years ago, Bay Books Cookery Collection, Thai Cooking Class, written by Somi Anuntra Miller and Patricia Lake. It is a well-illustrated cookbook with some great background, techniques and lists of ingredients for successful Thai cooking. In fact, it is my GoTo Thai cookbook. I have tweaked the recipe to resemble that of a favourite Thai restaurant.

Shrimp Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yam Goong)

Makes about 500 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL chicken stock
  • 8 pieces fresh galangal
  • 8-12 Fresh Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 pieces of 2 cm lemongrass, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 60 mL lime juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL chilli paste
  • 5-10 g of cane sugar
  • 8 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (skins reserved)
  • 10 fresh cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 80 g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 Campari tomatoes, cut into 6ths
  • Chiffonade of Cilantro leaves, Thai basil and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken stock, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass along with the shrimp skin to a slow boil and then simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Strain out the stock so that it is clear and without any bits.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, chilli paste and cane sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has completely dissolved. Taste for balance and add a bit of lime juice or sugar to balance if required.
  3. Boil water for the noodles, completely cover noodles in the hot water and allow to soak until al dente. Rinse in cold water to stop from cooking further.
  4. Bring the soup to a slow boil and add the mushrooms and shrimp and cook until the internal temperature of the shrimp is 120° F.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the bowls (it’s winter and they cool down incredibly quickly). Reheat the noodles by running them under super hot water.
  6. Assemble the soup: add half of the heated noodles to each bowl, top with 4 shrimp in each bowl and spoon the hot liquid over the noodles and shrimp, dividing the mushrooms equally between the two. Add a cut tomato into each bowl and garnish with the chiffonade of cilantro and Thai basil and green onions.

Loaded Double Belgian Chocolate Cookies

Makes about 40 cookies using a 4.5 cm ice cream scoop

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 360 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (chocolate chips work too)
  • 150 g milk chocolate chips
  • 50 g Skore bits
  • 100 g of dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried cherries

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, add the vanilla.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the butter mixture to form a batter.
  3. Fold in the inclusions (reserving a small amount to add after the cookies come out of the oven for presentation, if desired).
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350° F oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden at the bottom.
  5. Add the remaining inclusions, if desired and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Notes:

  • I used a 4.5 cm releasing ice cream scoop, if you use the slightly smaller one, you will likely get about 60 cookies.
  • To help with portion control, I generally freeze the raw batter in scoops on a cookie sheet and bake as needed, 1 to 2 at a time (it drives JT crazy but he is grateful for the portion control).

Pulled Pork Revisited

This recipe made its first appearance on the blog in 2012. I thought it was time for an update.

This is a surprising recipe that uses pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder which is the traditional cut for pulled pork. The tenderloin is significantly less fatty than the shoulder so it makes a healthier dish. I’ve reduced the sugar considerably in the Barbeque sauce which is traditionally made with ketchup (about 90% sugar) and includes 110 g of brown sugar; I’ve used passata with a dash of balsamic and only 45 g of sugar. It’s still sweet but not sickly sweet. The baking soda helps reduce the acidity in the passata which in turn makes the tomato sauce taste sweeter. It was well balanced. JT couldn’t stop eating it. I’ve served this dish at parties and die-hard pulled pork aficionados couldn’t tell it was tenderloin!

This is the pork pulled after I removed it from the sauce. It moistens up considerably after it is re-entered into the sauce.

Ingredients for the Barbeque Sauce:

  • 250 mL San Marzano passata
  • 60 mL balsamic vinegar
  • 45 g erythritol or sugar
  • 125 g finely chopped onion
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Worcestershire sauce
  • 15 mL prepared mustard
  • 15 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 8 g espresso coffee powder
  • 2.5 mL baking soda

Pulled Pork Ingredients:

  • 600 g pork loin or tenderloin with silver skin and excess fat removed and cut into manageable chunks.
  • 1-2 tbsp canola oil (or an oil with a high flash point)
  • About 350 mL BBQ sauce from above
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Sear the pork on all sides in a heavy cast iron pan. Add the pork to the slow cooker set on high.
  2. In the same cast iron pan with a splash of oil, caramelize the onions. Add the remaining BBQ sauce ingredients with the exception of the baking soda and cook until the sugar has melted and everything is hot. Add the water and mix well, then add the baking soda and stir until the fizzing has subsided.
  3. Add the sauce and water to the slow cooker and set the timer for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 hours or until pork can be pulled apart with a fork.
  4. Remove the pork from the sauce and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull the pork apart with a fork.
  5. Serve on slider buns, topped with your favourite coleslaw.

We had the pulled pork on homemade tangzhong brioche buns that were slightly toasted and topped with a lovely vinegary coleslaw. It was pretty good even though the lighting sucked.

Buns that are used as a vehicle for other food are a very important part of the equation. You don’t want a bun that is too heavy or dense otherwise it takes over the other food, you don’t want it too light and fluffy because then it falls apart and doesn’t accomplish its primary role of transporting the other food. These buns (originally seen here) are the perfect vehicle for burgers and pulled pork we had recently. They are sturdy enough for the juicy burger with oodles of toppings and saucy pulled pork and yet they don’t overwhelm the dish with bread-y-ness. The Tangzhong roux is supposed to help preserve the rolls for longer than those without, however, they never last that long in my house, so I cannot confirm this theory.

Tanzghong Brioche Slider Buns

For the recipe inspiration, please click here.

Makes 18 slider buns (for 65 g burgers)

Ingredients:

  • 60 mL warm water
  • 8 g dry yeast
  • 25 g sugar
  • 500 g unbleached, all-purpose flour, divided
  • 125 g milk (yes grams)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 40 g Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water allow to proof for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Combine 50 g of the flour with the water and cook over low heat until a smooth paste is formed. Allow to cool for a bit. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the remaining 450 g flour, yeast mixture and salt. Pour in the flour paste/egg liquid and knead until the dough comes together. Add the softened butter a little at a time and knead on medium for 30 minutes or until the dough is no longer as sticky and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Grease a bowl and add the dough, cover and set in a warm, dark place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Shape into 18 buns (about 55 g each) and set on a baking sheet covered with a clean cloth for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  7. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 185° F to 190° F.
  8. Allow to cool before serving.

Notes:

  • The original recipe called for instant yeast or bread machine yeast but I only had the regular kind so if you choose to substitute with instant yeast, you need not dissolve it in the 60 mL water, just add it to the flour along with the sugar.
  • These buns have excellent structure and would hold up for burgers, pulled pork or anything saucy.

A good friend received a Pullman loaf pan for Christmas, it had been on her list for many years. I had no idea what it was so I researched it and found that it was a loaf pan that makes a perfectly square slice of bread! Click here for a little history on the loaf. And of course, I fell down the rabbit hole on what this specific loaf can be utilized in and discovered that Croque-Monsieur can be one such recipe! I looked at a number of videos creating this delectable treat but landed on Binging with Babish’s Brooklyn Nine Nine recipe. Babish had made the leap and used a beautiful brioche for one of his renditions so I thought I’d pull two recipes together and made a Pullman Brioche loaf. Of course, I don’t have a Pullman loaf pan, but it’s easy to adapt your existing loaf pan (as Babish does in his video, however, I used a flat sheet sprayed with non-stick spray inverted onto the top of the loaf pan with a weight (small, cast iron frying pan) placed on the top). My loaf didn’t turn out quite square but I saved myself close to $50 in buying a pan for sandwich bread. The brioche recipe I chose wasn’t particularly good so I won’t list it here but the overall inspiration is exceptional. This is definitely not a calorie-reduced sandwich but if you feel like splurging, it’s totally worth it.

Here is the Brooklyn Nine Nine Croque Monsieur moment (the croque monsieur moment goes only to 49 seconds so you needn’t watch the entire clip).

A deliciously cheesy, hammy mess of a sandwich.

Croque-Monsieur taken up a notch!

Makes 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 4 thickly sliced brioche bread
  • 120 mL béchamel sauce
  • 10 mL Dijon mustard
  • 2 slices of good quality, thinly sliced ham (I used an Italian ham)
  • Grated cheese (traditionally Gruyère)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Toast the brioche slices on one side. Butter the on untoasted side of each slice.
  2. Add about 30 mL of béchamel to each toasted side of the bread. Add some cheese to both sides of the béchamel and press down.
  3. Spread about 5 mL mustard on each piece of ham. Fold each piece of ham to fit onto the bread and place on top. Add the second piece of bread on top of the ham, cheese side down. Place into a pre-heated cast iron pan.
  4. Press down on the sandwiches to compress slightly. Cover and cook each side until golden and cheese has melted.
  5. Cut each sandwich into two and serve with a dill pickle.

As I previously mentioned, we had a lovely virtual Christmas Eve with my cousin and her family but I still wanted to see them during the holidays, socially distanced, of course. So we had my cousin and her hubby over for an afternoon lunch on the 27th (we just didn’t have enough room for 4 guests); we selected the warmest time of the day without wind or rain. It was a bit of a challenge keeping the outdoor area clear of snow and wet because it had snowed about 10 cm (4 inches) on Christmas Eve, fortunately we had covered the seating area in a tarp; we still had to shovel a lot of snow off the deck and shovel ice and snow off the awning. Everyone who comes over is well aware of the outdoor situation and most people are excited to experience it. The day was warm so the snow was melting around and above us but not enough to break up the party.

The snow fell Christmas Eve and then even more snow fell on Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

We all had heated throws on our laps but JT said he didn’t want one, so I got him a heated vest for Christmas.

I welcomed the family with a cup of hot Miso Broth that was well received. We started with a wonderful Warm Artichoke and Spinach Dip and then served JT’s famous Bœuff Bourguignon with a Creamy Polenta, Homemade Sourdough Bread with the grand finale of the Sticky Dulce de Leche Cakes.

Although the food was served family-style, I always provide separate serving utensils to each couple to help keep us safe. That hot plate, a gift from our wedding sure has come in handy during these outdoor meals.

In addition to having the food sit on a hotplate, we heated the cast iron pots in advance (the lids were not heated so they are easy to lift) and we had a heating disk under the bread to keep it warm on such a chilly day.

Sticky Dulce de Leches Cakes

Makes 4 servings about 80 mL each.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature

Cakes and Assembly

  • 80 g all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 90 g unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins, room temperature
  • 35 g sugar, plus more for ramekins
  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
  • Additional Dulce de Leche to drizzle

Directions:

Filling

  1. The night before you make the cake, combine the Dulce de Leche and butter divide into 6 equal parts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 12 hours (the dulce de leche will prevent it from freezing solid).

Cakes and Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Prepare four 250 mL ramekins by coating with a thin, even layer of butter on bottom and sides. Dust with sugar and discard excess.
  3. In the small bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat 35 g of sugar and 90 g of butter together until light and fluffy (approx. 4 minutes).
  4. Add dulce de leche and beat until entirely incorporated (about 1 minute). Beat in eggs one at a time (note that this might look like it’s separated) then reduce the speed and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the four prepared ramekins, about 80 mL each. Create a small divot in the centre of each top and add the semi-frozen Dulce de Leche sauce (it will sink to the bottom during baking).
  6. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden or until a wooden tester comes out clean (try to avoid the centre as the dulce de leche might be hot).
  7. Invert the cakes onto individual plates and decorate with a little extra dulce de leche sauce.

The sauce placed into the divot before baking actually melts into the cake so I added a bit extra, just because.

Notes:

  • This is an extremely sweet and rich little cakes, the smaller the better.
  • The original recipe was called molten Dulce de Leche cakes but because the Dulce de Leche melts into the cake, I found it to resemble a sticky toffee cake more than molten so I modified the name.
  • Of course, you can make your own Dulce de Leche sauce, but I needed a quick solution so I bought some. Homemade will taste much better.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

Several years ago, I replicated some French Onion Soup Pillows from a long-gone, favourite restaurant. They somehow managed to get the delicious French onion soup into a dumpling that exploded when you bit into it. It was unexpected and wonderful. I was thinking about making them again when I discovered some cooked beef gyoza filling in the freezer and I was inspired to make a Japanese version of our beloved French Onion Soup Pillows, and Self-Saucing Gyoza were born. They’re a little more fiddly than normal gyoza because you have to make the sauce and allow it to set overnight, but it’s totally worth it. Now I wish we could have friends over so I could serve them these delightfully explosive bites, damn you Covid.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough Sauce for about 25 gyoza

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 gelatine leaf (agar agar will not work)
  • 100 mL miso broth
  • 20 mL soy sauce
  • 5 mL Hoisin Sauce
  • 30 ml mirin
  • A batch of homemade gyoza, like these

Directions:

  1. Soak the gelatin leaf in cold water until soft. Wring out the water and add it to a small saucepan.
  2. In the same saucepan, combine the broth, soy sauce, hoisin Sauce and Mirin and whisk over low heat until the gelatine has melted. Cool and pour into a small rectangular plastic container (container should allow sauce to be a minimum of 70 mm deep). Refrigerate overnight until set. Cut into 25 cubes.
  3. Make up the gyoza as per recipe and add one gelatine cube per gyoza. Freeze gyoza on parchment paper individually, add to a ziplock bag for future use. Cook gyoza as per recipe.

The gelatin melts into a delicious sauce within the gyoza.

Notes:

  • You may wish to make your gyoza wraps a bit thicker than normal so the sauce doesn’t leak out while cooking.

After the holidays in mid-January, I was lamenting about my absolute favourite brunch dish, Oretta’s Uova Burrata e Tartufo, and how I missed going out and eating that exquisite dish. But we were in a second huge lockdown since last spring so eating out wasn’t going to be possible anytime soon, I just longingly gazed at my old photos of that delicious dish. Believe it or not, the very next day, my Facebook or Instagram feed has a special take-home meal kit advertised, you guessed it, my favourite dish at Oretta! What a coincidence (I think not)! Although most of the time these types of things really annoy me, I was overjoyed to see that particular meal kit. We placed an order for Sunday morning pickup.

 

Although the kit was beautiful, it lacked the detailed touches that Chotto Matte had, particularly the clearly labelled items and a recipe card indicating how to cook this wonderful dish. The ingredients were plentiful, particularly the truffle and the orange juice. The Bombolone was over-the-top and could have done without it.

JT knows how to cook the BEST scrambled eggs in the world. We actually got two focaccia but we decided to split one and freeze the second one.

The Nutella and pistachio Bombolone were absolutely over-the-top!

This is the dish as it was served in the restaurant in 2019, a lifetime ago!

Disclaimer: We purchased this meal kit for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Sourdough Baguette

We have been trying to eat fewer carbs, but sometimes you just need a little carb therapy. These crusty baguettes sure did the trick. We paired them with some wonderful cheese we picked up from our favourite cheesemonger in the city.

I was searching for vital gluten for another recipe and came across a new product, “Fleischmann’s Bread Booster”, it boasts that it enhances the original yeast in the recipe, so I thought I’d try it. You add about 3 grams per 150 grams of flour.

Sourdough Baguettes

Makes 2 baguettes

Ingredients:

  • 350 g unbleached “00” flour, plus more for the starter
  • 215 g filtered, room temperature water, plus more for the starter
  • 80 g active sourdough starter
  • 9 g booster*
  • 8 g finely ground sea salt

Directions:

  1. The day before baking, allow your starter to come to room temperature and feed it with 50 g “00” flour and 50 g filtered room temperature water. Set aside for 3-5 hours.
  2. For the bread, combine the remaining flour, booster, room temperature water and starter and mix well until it comes together (about 3 minutes in my stand mixer). Cover and allow to hydrate 1.5 hours.
  3. Knead in the finely ground salt for a couple of minutes. Cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Remove dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Divide it into two by weight and shape into baguettes. Rest on lightly floured parchment for 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500° F. Add a large baking pan with sides to the hot oven. Set your baguette tray over the steamy water.
  6. Slash baguettes and bake immediately for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 450° F and continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Cool before cutting.

Crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, perfectly heavenly.

We had Friends over outside for dinner in early December and they brought this dip as contribution toward dinner, it was wonderful so I asked for the recipe; unfortunately I don’t know where it’s from.

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Makes about 200 mL

Ingredients:

  • 250 g of cream cheese softened
  • 30 mL mayo
  • 15 g each Parmesan and old cheddar shredded, mixed
  • 15 mL Roasted Garlic
  • 65 g artichoke hearts chopped
  • 60 g blanched spinach drained and chopped

Mix all above and place in lightly greased pan and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake at preheated 350° F for about half an hour.

Caramelized Onion and Lentil Soup

Serves 2 (about 400 mL)

Ingredients:

  • 150 g sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g dry red lentils
  • 500 mL beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gruyère crisp for garnish.
  • 2 g salt
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Caramelize the onions with olive oil with a little salt.
  2. Cook the lentils with the bay leaf in the stock until soft. Remove the bay leaf, discard.
  3. Combine the caramelized onions with the cooked lentils and purée until smooth, adding a little stock until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Serve in French onion soup bows garnished with the cheese crisp.

Notes:

  • You can eat the crisp like a cracker, or you can crumble it into the soup for texture and flavour.

A creamy, hearty soup that will help keep you warm on these chilly winter days.

Chotto Matte Dinner Kit

For New Year’s Eve, we did something really special, we purchased a high-end restaurant dinner kit from Chotto Matte, Toronto. The difference between a dinner kit and takeout is that you cook the kit at home instead of bringing home pre-cooked food; the kit provides all of the ingredients and instruction! We loved this idea for two reasons, we love Chotto Matte (had dinner there two years ago in London, England) and two, what a great way to spread out dinner on New Year’s Eve! We usually have friends over but of course, this year we were not able to because of Covid so we made our own exciting evening. I set up a photo area and mounted my phone on a tripod; I had pre-selected the plates each dish would be served in.

We began the evening with some tasty Sautéd Shisito Peppers. Now if you’ve never had Shisito peppers you’re in for a treat, just a little word of warning that although 90% of the peppers are sweet, there is the odd one that is super hot.

Each course was cooked and served in about 30-40 minute intervals to help spread the evening out. The choclo corn was an interesting dish; it is almost five time larger than North American corn but is creamy on the inside. Choclo corn is also referred to as Peruvian Corn or Giant Corn, they are super large kernels with a similar texture to that of Lupini beans with the exception that you can eat the skin. We cooked the kernels for 3 minutes in a small amount of water and then added the rocoto butter and cilantro provided. To say this was a spicy hot dish is an understatement. But it was tasty. Next time I don’t think I’ll put all of the rocoto butter in so it’s not nearly as spicy hot.

The first main we had was the Pollo Picante. The chicken was perfectly done, with a beautiful texture served on green causa which seems to be some type of potato. It had a strange texture and I wasn’t keen on the flavour (very starchy) but the chicken was lovely.

We had the black cod next, which was my favourite dish. Unfortunately the presentation wasn’t the greatest because the instructions had us remove the bones (there were no bones) after cooking and the fish just fell apart. It was lovely.

The final course was the Asado de Tira, a slow-cooked barbeque beef which was reheated in its plastic pouch in simmering water. The beef was very tender and presented more like a pulled beef (unfortunately, I completely forgot to photograph it). The purple potato was very interesting in that it presented as dark purple, unfortunately, it didn’t contrast much to the beef so you can’t see it even in the professional photos.

I loved everything about this meal kit, it was beautifully boxed and labelled and I loved all the little sauces in the super cute containers. The meal was a complete success. I wish more restaurants would prepare these kits for takeaway as I find high-end food doesn’t travel well as takeout, plus I really like the cooking part.

Disclaimer: We purchased this meal kit for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

 

Over the holidays, I received some lovely sourdough starter and I made sourdough bread (as though we needed it!). I’m always a little distraught discarding some of it so I adapted an old recipe I brought back from Hungary to utilize the discard and a little of the fed starter, it worked out very well. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for future baking.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

Makes 1 30 cm x 42 cm sheet, cut to whatever size you desire.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g discard sourdough starter plus 30 g fed starter
  • 125 g Greek Yogurt
  • 100 g shredded cheese (sharp cheddar works well, freshly grated Parmesan is best)
  • 5 g Salt
  • 20g shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the scraper attachment, blend flour, butter, starters, 100 g cheese and salt until incorporated, then switch to a dough hook and add the Greek yogurt and knead until smooth ball forms.
  2. Allow to rest in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F
  4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out dough to about 1/2 cm thickness.
  5. Cut into 7-10 cm x 2 cm sticks.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Slide cheese sticks on the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted.
  8. Re-cut sticks, if necessary, while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are very tasty served warm.

Notes:

  • Use a flavourful, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyere or Jarlsberg) is best for this treat.
  • I use a pizza cutter with a kitchen ruler to cut the sticks, it makes it very easy. If you cut the sticks after you sprinkle with cheese, your cutter will take up most of the cheese!
  • In the original recipe, there is an egg wash on the top, I omitted this time because I figured the cheese would stick regardless, but it does add a lovely sheen which I will not omit next time.
  • These cheese sticks freeze well. To reheat, spread in a single layer, cheese side up on a baking sheet and bake at a low 200° F for 10-15 minutes or until defrosted and slightly warm.

Winter means soup weather to me and I’m always trying to change it up from the regular repertoire. This soup was developed to use some excess cilantro before it bit the dust. Cilantro haters, please move along, nothing to see here!

The bright green colour is joyful, don’t you think?

Broccoli, Avocado and Cilantro Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 300 g broccoli
  • 70 g sweet onion
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • 15 g cilantro
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste (or to taste)
  • 250 mL coconut milk (not the cream)
  • 250-375 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • Splash of fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop broccoli and onion into medium-small pieces and coat generously with olive oil. Roast at 375° F until tender.
  2. Combine the roasted broccoli, onions, avocado, cilantro, green curry past, coconut milk, about half of chicken stock and roasted garlic puree and blend until very smooth, adding more chicken stock at achieve the desired viscosity for the soup. Push the soup through a fine sieve into a medium-sized pot and re-heat on medium-low.
  3. Season to taste. Serve hot garnished with small roasted broccoli florets and cilantro.

Happy New Year! We, at Kitcheninspirations hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and New Year. It’s been challenging to say the least, but we’ve made the best of it.

On Christmas Eve, we usually go to my brother’s for some Christmas Cheer and then we spend the evening with my Cousin and her family. This year, my brother escaped to the Cayman Islands because they have better control over the virus there (or maybe their citizens are better behaved) and we did virtual Christmas Eve, opening presents with my cousin’s family. It was absolutely lovely. I often find myself lost in the video and forget that we aren’t in the same room. Although, I do miss hugging them.

This is our virtual Christmas Eve 2020.

This year has pretty much sucked but in a stroke of luck, we awoke to a winter wonderland on Christmas Morning.

Needless to say, Christmas dinner was just JT and I but we still managed to make a decent spread and enjoy the evening. In recent years, I have taken to brining the turkey and it makes it incredibly moist and flavoursome, but the best part is that it seems to remove that gamey flavour that leftover turkey has. I know many of you love leftover turkey but sadly it’s never been JT nor my favourite; brining is a game changer! My dear friend Lorraine posted her recipe of Turkey Porchetta and Christmas dinner was immediately decided. I went a step further and brined the breast and then I stuffed it. This post is really just to remind me how good it was.

Stuffed Turkey Breast Porchetta Roll

Please click here for the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg turkey breast, skin and bones removed
  • cold water to cover
  • 72 g salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Stuffing
  • 6-8 slices of Proscuitto

Directions:

  1. Combine the water, salt and sugar in a blender and blend until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the Herbes de Provence and pour over the breast to cover. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 hours.
  2. Remove breast from brine and dry with paper towel. Set the breast on a cooling rack with a baking sheet below and refrigerate while you make your favourite stuffing. Cool the stuffing completely before adding to the breast.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Butterfly the breast to an even layer, pounding to even out the thickness of the meat. Lay the stuffing in the centre and roll up, using a metal skewer to secure.
  5. Lay the Proscuitto overlapping the roll and secure with kitchen string (I used three rows). Remove the metal skewer.
  6. Bake the turkey roll covered for 1.5-2 hours (depending on how thick it is) or until the internal temperature of the meat is 165° F. I removed the lid at about 20 minutes left to allow the Proscuitto to crisp. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice in 2 cm thick slices and serve with homemade gravy.
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