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Butterscotch Blondies

I saw this recipe on Celia’s Instagram account and was instantly curious. I have an old blondie recipe that is completely different so I was intrigued by Celia’s recipe that creamed the butter instead of melting it, I wondered what kind of textural differences are there? To my absolute delight, I loved Celia’s recipe, it makes more of a fudgy cookie bar than a crispy, chewy blondie as my ancient recipe does but I loved the addition of the chocolate chips. Even though there is an entire cup of brown sugar, it is not as sickly sweet as my recipe is which really surprised me. Although this recipe takes a bit of planning (bringing the butter to room temperature), it is worth it. It makes a nice treat on a chilly winter’s day.

Butterscotch Blondies

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 23 cm x 23 cm (9 inch x 9 inch) pan

Ingredients:

  • 300 g AP) flour
  • 5 g baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 215 g brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 125 mL milk (I used hazelnut almond milk, because I had it)
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 360 g mixed chocolate chips (I use Belgium dark and milk)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F.  Prepare a 23 cm x 23 cm (9 inch x 9 inch) pan by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy then beat in the egg, milk and vanilla.
  4. Mix in the flour and then fold in the chocolate chips. This makes a rather stiff batter.
  5. Turn into the prepared pan and spread evenly to the corners and sides with a stiff spatula.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  7. When completely cooled, cut into desired bars or squares with a clean, sharp knife.

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup

Let me begin by saying that this is not an authentic Thai pumpkin soup but it is a sophisticated blend of Thai flavours that make a super creamy and flavourful dish. I used a small white pumpkin which makes this beautiful lightly pumpkin flavoured, pale celery coloured soup. I garnished it with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds but lightly toasted coconut shavings would be gorgeous as well.

We recently had friends over for brunch and I had expected that it would be cold out and that soup would be a well-received course. We lucked out and had an exceptional November day so we sat outside for hors d’oeuvres and then retreated inside for the main course and back outside for dessert. Even though it wasn’t cold at all, particularly on our heated patio, the soup was very well received. This recipe is a keeper.

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 430 g pumpkin, roasted and cubed
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 5 mL galangal, finely grated
  • 5 cm lemongrass, sliced lengthwise and pounded to release flavours
  • 1 L chicken stock
  • 30 g coconut milk powder
  • 50 g creamed coconut
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the roasted pumpkin, garlic purée, kaffir lime leaf, galangal and lemongrass and sauté on medium-low until you can smell the gorgeous aromas. Add the chicken stock and bring to a rolling, gentle boil for about 45 minutes; you are trying to infuse the stock with the Thai aromatics. Taste and continue to boil if necessary to infuse more flavours.
  2. Once the chicken stock has been infused, remove from the heat and blitz the stock with a stick blender until all of the flavourings are puréed. Allow to cool on the counter for 1-2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Strain the soup through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp until you get most of the liquid out, discard the pulp. 
  4. Return the highly aromatic stock to a pot and reheat gently. Add the coconut milk powder and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Continue to heat without bringing it to a boil. Add the creamed coconut and blend well.
  5. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds as garnish.

Notes:

  • You may substitute a can of coconut milk including the cream instead of the coconut milk powder and creamed coconut, I forgot to buy it and resorted to things I had in my pantry.
  • Blitzing the aromatics with the stock is unconventional but it really does impart a sophisticated blend of Thai flavours that is a little more forward than just simmering the flavourings in the stock. 
  • To make this totally vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
  • As you know, Thai food is a carefully weighted combination of salty, sweet, sour and bitter and this recipe incorporates all of those flavours and imparts a significant amount of umami. Personally, I find coconut milk sweet enough so my recipe does not include sugar but it would be entirely up to you; if you use sugar, I would use cane sugar.

We are trying to get back into “normal” life. Restaurants and event venues (except strip clubs and dance clubs) have been permitted to return to 100% capacity since October 16. We have ventured to restaurants, dining in but we are still rather uncomfortable in going to an event. Masks are supposed to be worn, but who is policing that? It will be quite some time before I even want to attend a large event.

Century Park Tavern is an upscale tavern that we tried for Brunch a few weeks ago. It is situated in a gorgeous century-old foundry in Davenport Village, not too far from Bloor West Village. The beautifully restored building is the perfect venue for a gastropub.

The brunch service is relatively new for Century Park Tavern and they were still waiting on their coffee machines when we dined there, but they definitely have the food part down! We ate one course and it was delicious enough to want to go back and sample a few more items.

JT had the Porchetta Hash, house porchetta, crispy potatoes, tomato, cilantro, green onion, poached egg, smoked chili hollandaise.

I had the Smoked Salmon Benny, toasted English muffin, herb hollandaise, pickled onions, fried capers, fresh greens. Both dishes were outstanding. The porchetta was perfectly crisp and quite moreish. The smoked salmon was lovely and to be honest, I would have been happy with one. We didn’t eat dinner that night.

French Baguette

  • 500 g AP flour
  • 4 tbsp Fleishmans’s Bread Booster
  • 10 g salt
  • 360 g warm water
  • 3 g yeast
  • 25 g honey
  • 2 tbsp each flour and rice flour

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, salt and bread booster.
  2. Dissolve the yeast and the honey in the water.
  3. Make a well in the flour and add all of the water mixture at once, stirring to combine into the flour.
  4. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
  5. Over the next 1.5 hours, stretch and fold the dough 3 times, placing the seem down each time.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-15 hours or until double in size. The next morning, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  7. Divide the dough into three equal portions. Roll each into a rectangle and roll up into a baguette shape, stretching to the desired length and placing the seam side down. Sprinkle a clean dish cloth with the flour and rice flour mixture and nestle the baguettes into three separate rows for 30 to 60 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500° F and add a pan filled with water and a rolled clean dish towel (helps distribute steam evenly). Add a baking stone. Once it reaches 500° F, reduce heat to 475° F.
  9. Cut slits into the baguettes and carefully lay them onto the baking stone and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. (Be very careful as the steam may be very hot).
  10. Cool completely and enjoy.

Jalapeño Jack Scones

 

Jalopeño Jack Scones

Makes 9 5 cm (2 inch) scones

Ingredients:

  • 280 g AP flour
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 6 g salt
  • 56 g cold butter, in cubes
  • 1 L egg
  • 120 mL buttermilk
  • 100 g grated sharp cheese (I used jalapeño Monterey Jack)
  • 5 mL milk
  • 10 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. In the large bowl of your food processor, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter and pulse to combine. 
  3. Whisk to combine the egg and buttermilk and slowly add it to the dry ingredients while running the processor. Change the blade to the plastic blade and add the cheese. Pulse to combine.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the scone dough to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Cut into even squares. Lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced out about 2 cm. Brush the tops with the milk and sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on the top of each scone. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

 

Ingredients:

  • Butter to coat pan
  • 4 large eggs
  • 375 mL milk
  • 2 g sea salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 180 g sourdough bread cut into largish cubes
  • 1/2 apple, like gala, cored and sliced thinly
  • 100 g ham, cut into ribbons
  • 70+ g Gouda or Gruyère, divided

Directions:

  1. Brush the melted butter along the bottom and sides of a 9” x 9” decorative baking dish.
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and nutmeg.
  3. Lay the bread evenly in the prepared baking dish, place the ham and apples evenly throughout, then sprinkle 70g of the cheese over it tucking it into the spaces.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, ham, apples and cheese evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next day, remove the prepared bread pudding from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, about an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes or until set. All the bread pudding to sit for 10-15 minutes to fully set.
  7. Serve with yogurt and Dijon maple syrup.

Ingredients

This loaf came out of a craving for one of those hot chicken sandwiches smothered with brown gravy that you used to get at those Mom and Pop highway diners in the eighties and nineties. They used horrible white bread that disintegrated into gluey pulp under the gravy, but I wanted something sturdier and with flavour, this loaf hit the spot. It’ll make awesome grilled cheese too!

The butter and egg add structure to the bread so that it doesn’t fall apart with the gravy.

White Bread

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one load about 20 cm (8 inches) long

Ingredients:

  • 150 mL warm milk
  • 6 g yeast
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 g unsalted butter
  • 390 g AP Flour
  • 7 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar in the large bowl of your stand mixer and allow the yeast to proof for about 5-8 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Using the beater attachment, beat in the egg. Add half of the flour and butter and beat until incorporated. Change to kneading hook and add the remaining flour and salt and knead for 8-10 minutes or until smooth. Cover and allow to rise in a warm area for 1.5 hours or until doubled in size.
  3. Butter the sides and bottom of a 20 cm loaf pan. Set aside.
  4. Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface, punch down and roll out to a 20 cm x 30 cm rectangle. Brush off the excess flour from both sides of the dough. If the dough is not sticky, spray with a little water on both sides. Roll up the dough from the 30 cm side, pinching the ends closed. Lay it flat into the prepared pan and allow to rise again, covered in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Brush loaf top with a little milk. Bake loaf for 40-45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 200° F. Cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy.

An old fashioned hot chicken sandwich smothered with gravy. And that damn winter light is sneaking in.

We had some friends over for a patio dinner in early September and I made a Barbequed Chicken on the Big Green Egg with Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Purée and a wonderful Fennel salad. Everyone had seconds and maybe even thirds but I still had a handful of the Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Purée leftover. I decided to make Gnocchi out of it. Any purée would work, I’ve made lentil gnocchi and sweet potato gnocchi as well as the traditional potato gnocchi before so I thought, why not? 

The grooves and divots are intentional so that the sauce sticks to them better!

Roasted Garlic, Cauliflower Gnocchi in a Simple Avocado Cream Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 218 g roasted garlic, cauliflower purée (for the purée recipe, please click here)
  • 250-270 g “00” flour (depending on how wet your cauliflower purée is)
  • 15 g Parmigiana, finely grated

Directions:

  1. Combine all three ingredients and mix well. Knead into a smooth, not sticky dough.
  2. Allow to rest for 20 minutes. Roll into 1-1.5 cm ropes and cut into 2 cm lengths. Run up the tines of a fork for the traditional grooves or use a gnocchi paddle like this.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt. Boil gnocchi until they pop up to the surface and remove with a slotted spoon. 

Notes:

  • I like to freeze the gnocchi on a parchment-lined sheet and transfer them into a ziplock baggy for future use. They cook from frozen almost as quickly as the fresh ones, so timing is not an issue.
  • I bought a Danish Dough Whisk for my husband last Christmas because he often bakes his no-knead bread and I thought it would make mixing the dough easier for him…what I didn’t think was that I would end up using it more than he does, it makes stirring thick batters and doughs a snap! I used it for the gnocchi and it was so easy.

 

Herbed Bread Knots

I have been following fellow blogger, Lorraine Eliott over at Not-Quite-Nigella on Instagram and in August she posted a photo of the most beautiful bread knots I have ever seen. I knew the moment I saw them, I’d have to give them a go. They are not only beautiful, but they are also very tasty and quite easy to make so I’m sharing the recipe here so that I will remember to make them again.

I made 12 knots but to be honest, they were a little too big so next time, I’ll make 14!

Herbed Bread Knots

Makes about 12 -14 bread knots. For the original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 6 g instant dried yeast
  • 250 mL warm water (around 110° F)
  • 400 g flour
  • 6 g granulated garlic
  • 3 g Salt
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 25 g roasted garlic purée
  • 100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Variety of herbs to make up about 20 g, chopped or julienned
  • Eggwash to glaze

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, set aside. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, garlic and salt and mix well.
  2. Add the yeasty water to the bowl with the flour mixture and knead for 2-3 minutes until it is roughly incorporated. Allow the dough to sit for 20 minutes. Then start the kneader up again and knead until a beautiful shiny dough is achieved (around 10 minutes). Grease the bowl and the dough with the EVOO and allow to proof in a draft-free location for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  3. Meanwhile, cream the butter, the roasted garlic, the Parmesan cheese and the herbs until well mixed.
  4. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out to 35 cm x 50 cm. Spread the butter mixture all on the dough, right to the edge. Fold it length-wise into thirds (like you would making croissants) and lightly roll out to a slightly larger rectangle (careful not to put too much weight in rolling, otherwise the butter mixture will ooze out).
  5. Cut the dough into 12-14 equal widths and make an additional length-wise slit down each width without going right to the edge. Lift by each end and roll into a beautiful knot, carefully twisting each roll so that the cut sides are exposed and you can see the herbs. Tuck each end into the knot and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make all of the knots and allow the knots to rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean cloth.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the knots for 18-25 minutes or until the centre registers about 200° F. Serve immediately, but they also freeze beautifully. Reheat in a 350° F oven for a few minutes until they are warmed through.

They are a cross between bread and a laminated dough, the layers are scrumptious!

Notes:

  • Any herbs would work, I used basil, parsley and thyme.
  • I may not chop the herbs as finely next time.
  • I can’t wait to try sundried tomatoes and basil with mozzarella cheese or a sweet treat of cinnamon butter and sugar.

I had a few plums leftover from the plum cake recipe and I decided to make a tasty hors d’oeuvres for cocktails the following evening. They come together quickly and are very tasty. The amount of honey needed will depend on how tart the plums are. The sweet, honey-infused goats cheese with the tart plums and salty Serrano Ham are a perfect taste sensation.

Soft, sweet goats cheese pairs very well with the tart plums and salty Serrano Jamon.

Plums with Honey infused Goats Cheese wrapped in Serrano Jamon

Makes 6 pieces (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 3 plums (should be bite-sized)
  • 15-20 mL Manuka Honey
  • 50 g goats cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 slices Serrano Jamon

Directions:

  1. Cut plums in half, remove stone.
  2. Combine the honey with the goats cheese and mix well.
  3. Mound the cut sides with the honey and goats cheese combo and wrap with half a slice of Serrano Jamon, spear with a skewer.
  4. Serve at room temperature.

Plum Cake

I was laying in bed one morning, waiting for the alarm to come on, looking through all the events of the day on my iPhone when my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, blog on hiatus) text me this plum cake recipe. She had made it with peaches and was quite impressed and thought I might like it too. I really appreciate recommendations like this because as it happened, I was on the lookout for a dessert for friends coming for a patio dinner that Saturday, perfect timing! It turns out, the recipe is excellent with plums. They totally caramelized and sweetened up, it was a hug transformation as the raw plums were quite tart. I converted the recipe to metric measures but you can find the original imperical measures here.

The recipe has 200 grams of sugar which seems like a lot, but our plums were quite tart so they really helped balance the large amount of sugar. 

Truth be told, I forgot to take a photo until it was too late. Guests took half home.

Plum Cake

Makes 1 23 cm cake (9 inch)

Ingredients:

  • 145 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 125 mL whole milk, at room temperature
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 60 g almond flour
  • 3 g lemon zest
  • 170 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 g salt
  • 8-10 plums, cut in half

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 30 g granulated sugar
  • 3 g cinnamon
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cut into 0.5 cm cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan by buttering all the sides and bottom, add a circle of parchment to the bottom.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond flour and lemon zest in the large bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth. 
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the smooth batter and process only until combined. 
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly in the pan. Add the plums, cut-side up, pressing down slightly, in a circular pattern until the pan is filled with the plums.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix well.
  6. At 45 minutes, sprinkle the sugar mixture over the cake, making sure to get some onto each plum. Dot with the butter. Return to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes our clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  7. To remove from the pan, loosen the sides with a sharp knife and spring the cake from the pan. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I added the lemon zest. Also the original recipe used some whole wheat flour which I didn’t have. 
  • The plums release a lot of liquid so my baking took a lot longer than expected, keep testing with the toothpick for doneness. The timing above is what the recipe called for, I baked my cake for an additional 40 minutes after I added the topping.

 

I had purchased a small package of sugar snap peas from one of our green grocers in early August for a dish but I really only needed about a dozen of them so I had to find something to make with the leftovers before they expired. I decided to blanch them for a minute or so and dress them with toasted sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce with a splash of rice vinegar to serve with my prized pork Bulgogi recipe, it was lovely.

Quick Sugar Snap Pea Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2, as a side salad

Ingredients:

  • A handful of sugar snap peas, blanched
  • 15 mL toasted sesame oil
  • a splash of soy sauce
  • a splash of rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
  • toasted black and white sesame seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the dressing and pour over the blanched sugar snap peas and coat well.
  2. Plate and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
  3. Serve chilled.

Notes:

  • Sesame oil can be overwhelming, 15mL was enough for this amount of sugar snap peas, if in doubt, start with a small amount and taste.
  • I blanched the sugar snap peas for about 1 minute in boiling, salted water.

 

 

 

Our lockdown has been over for a couple of months now and we are in Step 3 which means businesses aren’t limited to a percentage of the allowable persons inside but must limit capacity to the number of people that can still maintain physical distancing of 2 metres. So, other than masks still having to be worn inside (other than if you’re eating and drinking or your own home) things are pretty much back to normal. We have been out for lunches and dinners but are still dining on patios…I’m not ready to go inside just yet. The latest variant of Covid is wreaking havoc on the unvaccinated or just single vaxed but we all in all, are doing well in Ontario where we have 63.62% double-vaxed of the total population (keeping in mind that we are still not vaccinating the under twelve-year-olds). Our borders are also now open to the US without the need of quarantine upon arrival but travellers must prove that they have been double vaccinated and show a negative COVID test within 72 hours of entering. There have already been several Americans arriving with forged vaccination papers and they have each been fined about $20,000 Canadian (about $2 US). It is really disturbing that people are forging vaccination papers, they are really jeopardizing the long-term success of eradicating this hideous virus. So, we are keeping to our ‘bubble’ and still continue to entertain outside. I feel for our Australian friends as they are just beginning the journey but hopefully, they will be better behaved than Ontarians were, keeping us in lockdown for the longest time in the world (over 360 days in total!)! Enough of my rant.

I made this delicious dish for an Indian night with Andy and Mark back in August. I’ve never made Beef Bhuna before and I won’t lie, this recipe is a lot of work, but you can divide the work over a day or two to make it more manageable. For example, make the Base Curry Sauce a day or two in advance and then make the Bhuna curry later. I found the recipe on The Curry Guy’s blog, Great Curry Recipes. I won’t repeat the recipe because I made it verbatim and it really was outstanding. The small-batch Base Curry Sauce made about 3 cups, two of which I used for the Beef Bhuna and one went into the freezer for a later date.

I highly recommend this dish, it will satisfy your craving for Indian food. The best naan recipe can be found here.

 

Zucchini Rösti

I’m always on the lookout for low-carb options, not that I don’t love my carbs, they are just not as kind to me as alternatives, so I like to balance our intake with some low-carb options. I created this recipe when I had purchased too many zucchini’s and I thought it would make a nice alternative to the potato rösti that we are used to, I was wrong, it was significantly better than I expected. There is only cheese in this, no other binder! Other recipes use egg but it made a frittata-like pancake instead of rösti, which should be crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. This recipe is definitely a keeper! 

Zucchini Rösti

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 dinner portions or 4 appetizer portions

Ingredients:

  • 250 g zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 50 g Parmigiana, finely grated
  • 50 g Gruyère, coarsely grated
  • 2 g salt, divided
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place the grated zucchini into a bowl and toss with 2 grams of salt, allow to sit for about 30 minutes.
  2. Strain the zucchini and salt mixture and squeeze out as much water as you can. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary, keeping in mind that some cheeses are saltier than others.
  3. Toss the strained zucchini with the cheeses and add pepper to taste.
  4. Heat a seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick frying pan to medium heat, then lower to medium-low.
  5. Add about half or a quarter of the zucchini mix to the pan and press down into a pancake about 1 cm tall. Cook until the edges are golden, gently loosen the cheese all around and beneath the patty, it may have stuck a little on the pan and flip repeat for the other side. 
  6. Serve hot as a base for fish, steak, chicken or even a poached egg.

Cheesy delicious goodness in every bite.

Notes:

  • Other cheese that would work: low moisture Mozzarella, Appenzeller, Cheddar etc. I would avoid feta, cream cheese, brie, etc.
  • There is no need for oil or butter, the cheese will render and the oils will help fry the Rösti.
  • If you don’t have time to wait for the salt to squeeze out all of the moisture from the zucchini, you may use it as is, just note that the inside will be much softer than if you had removed most of the moisture.
  • If you don’t have a seasoned cast iron pan or a non-stick pan, add a piece of parchment to the pan before adding the zucchini mixture, this will allow the cheese to caramelize and release from the pan easily.
  • I served Serrano ham wrapped cod with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Cantaloupe Salsa

Back in mid-July, after a full-day of working on our deck project, we needed some appetizers for cocktails one evening. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time making them because I was pooped. I saw local cantaloupe and I immediately thought of the simple, yet tasty cantaloupe wrapped in Proscuitto (we used Serrano ham from Spain). It totally hit the spot. When I was selecting the melon, I wasn’t able to smell it as I usually do because we are still mandated to wear masks so I just picked one and I was lucky, it was wonderful. We had about 1/8th of it, so I had to figure out what to do with the remainder (other than eating it for dessert). I came up with this fresh, tasty recipe to go with some fish I had broiled, it was delicious.

Cantaloupe Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 250 mL salsa

Ingredients:

  • 150 g cantaloupe, finely diced
  • 50 g cucumber, finely diced
  • 1/2 small avocado, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced
  • Fresh Basil and Mint, in a chiffonade
  • 15-30 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, tasting and seasoning as required.
  2. Serve chilled with fish or barbeque.

 

Curried Chicken Salad

Many years ago, when I was working as a design manager in a professional services firm, one of the freelancers I regularly hired invited me to a potluck house party.  It was mostly women and someone hired a fortune teller (apparently, this was the purpose of the party); everyone took turns going upstairs to have their fortune read. Everyone but me. I have never been a fan, to be honest, it’s a bit freaky to me so I stay clear. Fortunately for me, someone brought this salad and I was just as happy, sitting downstairs munching on this delicious dish. I asked for the recipe and it was quickly jotted down on a scrap piece of paper. It’s been many years since I’ve made it and I have lost the recipe so I really had to stretch my memory to come up with the dressing but I think I’ve got it and it’s a keeper. It’s important to toast the curry powder either dry or in a little oil to bring out the full flavour and subdue the bitterness that it could have. The salad is best made hours or a day before you plan on eating.

I stuffed a delicious freshly baked croissant with the tasty salad. Definitely a keeper.

Curried Chicken Salad in a Croissant

Makes enough for 2 for lunch

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL curry powder, heat level is your choice
  • 15 mL oil (optional)
  • 3 g salt
  • 125 mL yogurt
  • 75 mL mayonnaise
  • 30 mL lime juice
  • pinch of sugar
  • 150 g rotisserie chicken, cubed
  • 40 g raisins
  • 50 g celery, cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 30 g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the curry powder and salt and cook until fragrant, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice and stir well. Once the curry has cooled, add it to the yogurt mixture and mix well. Taste and add sugar as desired.
  3. Combine the chicken, celery, raisins, red peppers and scallions and mix into the prepared dressing. Stir well to coat. Set in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavours to meld.
  4. When ready to serve, cut the croissant lengthwise in the center and open up like a clam. Stir half of the pecans into the salad, reserving the other half for garnish. Spoon the salad into the croissant and sprinkle each croissant with a quarter of the remaining toasted pecans.

Notes:

  • I had made some crispy shallots for another dish and saved the oil from frying the shallots, the oil was quite fragrant, so I used the shallot oil to toast the curry powder.
  • You don’t need to add sugar, just taste the dressing to be sure. You can make the dressing a day in advance which will help the flavours come together.
  • You can also serve this on a bed of greens instead of a croissant, but I had some at home, so why not.

 

 

We were having the Boyz over for a trip down memory lane in May, we had just come out of a 100+ day, hard lockdown and were finally permitted to have less than five people in our backyards so we jumped on it! The Boyz are Andy and Mark, they own a lovely Irish Pub in Leslieville called The Roy. I met Andy many years ago when we both worked at a design firm and have been friends ever since. Andy and Mark love to travel and they love to travel to Spain. Way back in 2020, before the world fell apart, we happened to be in Spain at the same time so we met up in Malaga. We soon realized that our friendship had gotten a lot deeper because of our shared love of Spain. Sadly the last year and a bit has not been kind to restauranteurs and the Boyz are definitely feeling the pinch so when we were allowed people over, I thought I’d create a night of tapas for a trip down memory lane with food. And who doesn’t love an entire night of eating?

Many of the recipes I served have appeared on the blog, but this one is new and so delicious, I had to post it. This is a compilation of several recipes online and my tapas books so I don’t have a reference. When you say croquetas, I immediately think of creamy potatoes but this one is not made with potatoes (although it would have been delicious too), it’s made with a thick béchamel, and you know how I adore béchamel! As you can see from the menu, it was served later in the evening and people were getting pretty full, but not one was left on the plate! Not one.

The menu for the night:

  1. Crispy Calamari with Romesco Sauce 
  2. Bacon Wrapped Dates
  3. Sautéed chorizo with Bread 
  4. Spanish Potato Omelette 
  5. Tuna Avocado salad in Endive Spoons 
  6. Manchego and Serrano Croquettes (recipe below)
  7. Catalan Tomato Bread with Anchovies
  8. Seared Scallop on Creamed Corn 

Dessert:

  • Selection of Spanish cheeses, crackers, grapes, nuts

Croquetas de Jamon Serrano y Manchego

Makes 16 croquettes, about 26 g each

Ingredients:

  • 80 g serrano ham, finely chopped
  • 50 g shallot, finely chopped
  • 50 g manchego cheese, coarsely grated
  • 30 g butter
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 60 g all-purpose flour
  • 200 mL milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 45 g panko
  • 20 g manchego cheese, finely grated
  • 500 mL peanut oil

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan, add the shallots and cook until translucent.
  2. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the milk and stir until thickened. Stir in the Serrano ham and 50 g of the coarsely grated cheese.
  3. Spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
  4. Once cool, shape into little ovals about 26 g each. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Whip the egg with a fork in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine the panko and the finely grated Manchego cheese.
  6. Dip each oval into the egg and coat thoroughly, then plunge each one into the panko mixture and coat well, storing each one on a clean parchment-lined pan.
  7. Heat the oil to at least 350 F and fry each croquette until golden. Serve immediately or hold on a baking sheet and reheat in a 350 F oven until warmed through.
  8. Serve with Romesco Sauce.

We totally got sucked into another ATK (America’s Test Kitchen) recipe that we saw as we were trailing off to sleep one night in April: Pastitsio. What got me this time was the way they reinvented cooking the noodles, these reinventions usually turn me off (why mess with a good thing?) but this one totally got me. Get this, you par-cook the noodles in béchamel! Yep, you read that right. Par-cook in Béchamel. I had to try it. Plus I just loved the way the noodles were lined up. Of course, they didn’t use the right noodles for authentic pastitsio, but I just loved the way they lined up. So I gave it a try. It is rich, filling and ever-so-moreish. Particularly if you love Béchamel like I do. I won’t be making this every week, but once in a while, it will be a nice change to the repertoire.

Also known as Greek Lasagna.

Pastitsio

For the original recipe, please click here.

This recipe serves 4-6 people (it freezes well).

Ingredients for the meat sauce:

(this dish may be made up to 5 days before needed and refrigerated):

  • ¾ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 ounces 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 30 mL pureed roasted garlic
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 65 mL red wine
  • 65 mL tomato paste

Directions for the meat sauce:

  1. Sweat the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and the meat and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
  2. Combine the salt, baking soda, 1/2 cup water, wine and tomato paste and mix well. Add this mixture to the meat, stir well and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from hear and allow to cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile make the béchamel.

Ingredients for the béchamel and pasta:

  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 45 g unbleached flour
  • 30 g roasted garlic purée
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 L whole milk, heated
  • 250 g ziti or penne
  • 250 g kasseri cheese, divided

Directions for the béchamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium/low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the garlic and nutmeg until combined. Whisk in the milk and cook until thickened.
  3. Add the pasta and return to a simmer, stirring constantly. Once simmering, remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, covered for 15 minutes (pasta should not be cooked through).
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  5. Assemble the pasta in straight rows on the bottom of a buttered casserole, reserving the béchamel. Top with half of the cheese and then the meat sauce, cover with remaining béchamel and the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour until cheese has melted and has browned. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

Notes:

  • If you’re making this in advance, assemble cooled ingredients and refrigerate, covered for a maximum of two days. Allow to come to room temperature before baking.
  • This can be frozen in cooled assembled format or after it’s been baked.
  • Like most casseroles, this gets better the next day.

 

Croque Madame Crêpe

I’ll never forget the Croque Monsieur sandwich that JT ordered at the Café du Parc at the Intercontinental Willard Hotel in Washington, DC in 2013. It was incredible, but soooo filling. I adore the components of this sandwich but I find that the whole thing is just too much so I like to lighten it a bit by replacing the bread with a crêpe. It still has a generous layer of béchamel, with a slice of ham, gruyère cheese and a slather of mustard, the only difference is the crêpe! This recipe was for a brunch we had so I added the egg and it changed it to a Croque Madame!

Croque Madame Crêpe

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 Crêpes
  • 125 mL béchamel sauce
  • 50 g gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 2 slices ham
  • 15 mL Dijon mustard
  • 2 eggs, fried

Directions:

  1. Spread half of the béchamel in the centre of each crêpe and top with the grated cheese. Put into a preheated oven to slightly melt the cheese.
  2. Heat the ham in a frying pan on both sides. Spread half the Dijon mustard on each slice and put it on top of the melted cheese, keep it warm.
  3. Add the fried eggs in the centre and fold each side in, leaving the yolk exposed.
  4. Serve with some lightly dressed greens.

 

Notes:

  • Traditionally, the egg is baked in the crêpe but I didn’t like how crispy the crêpe became so I changed the directions.

Warm Salmon Dip

This post was inadvertantly published on the same day as another, so we apologise if you’ve already seen/been here. Also, this post was written during our first foray out of lockdown.

We have continued to entertain one couple at a time outdoors, keeping well below the allowed maximum of five (outdoors only). Our space allows for four people socially distanced, any more, we’re less than two metres (six feet) apart and we are not comfortable with that.

I try to make meals that are hearty and warm. This is one such dip I made as an hors d’œuveres for friends who came for lunch (the main was JT’s Bœuff Bourguignon). That day in February was 6° C (43° F) outside but our heater warmed our little area to 15° C (59° F) which made it very comfortable with light coats on (in fact, my friend came seriously over dressed and had to peel layers off to be comfortable).

It’s quite romantic eating outside in the winter, and even my naysayer hubby is loving it. In fact, most of the negativeness has come from the men, the women are all over being outside but once the guys experience our little cozy nook, they are sold. Just like this dip, one taste and you’re sold. I make a similar dip using canned crabmeat but I must tell you that this salmon dip is so much more flavourful.

Warm Salmon Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 375 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp dill (dried is fine)
  • 2 tsp horseradish (the original recipe called for horseradish cream, but I never had horseradish cream on hand)
  • 20 g red onion or shallot, finely minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 25 g celery, finely minced
  • 150 g canned salmon, without skin or bones. It’s about 1/2 cup, or one can give or take.

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well (a light-duty hand mixer is perfect for this).
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. If you are making this for the future, line three 125 mL or half-cup ramekins with plastic wrap.
  4. Divide the mixed dip into the three ramekins pressing into the ramekin so it will retain the shape. Try not to have too many folds so that the plastic comes off easily. Carefully twist the plastic wrap to seal. Place the ramekins in the freezer. Once the dip has frozen to the ramekin shape, remove the frozen dip and label it and return the shaped dip to the freezer until needed. Put your ramekins away.
  5. About 30-40 minutes before serving, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Remove plastic wrap from the frozen dip and pop the shaped-frozen dip into the original ramekin you used to freeze it. Place on a cookie sheet (it may boil over depending on how full your ramekin was) and bake for 30-40 minutes or until dip is bubbling in the centre.
  6. Remove the baked dip, garnish with a smoked salmon rose and serve with papadams, crostini, crackers or even sliced cucumbers.

A warm, boldly flavoured salmon dip that is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

I love to cook Asian flavours, particularly in the warmer weather, it just feels right. One such warm and balmy evening I came up with this interesting twist on an old favourite: Thai Green Curry “Risotto“! It’s definitely not traditional so I’ve omitted the cheese because I didn’t like the flavour combination but I have an alt in the notes if you still want cheese in it. It’s creamy, even though I used Jasmine rice and I kept it monochromatic adding only green veggies. It was a definitely a winner!

Thai Green Curry “Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 dinner-sized servings or 4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shallot (about 25 g)
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 60 mL Green Curry Paste
  • 160 g jasmine rice, rinsed well
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 300 mL chicken stock
  • 100 mL coconut milk
  • 50 g green beans (cut into 1 cm pieces)
  • 150 g bay scallops
  • 50 g frozen peas
  • 2.5 mL lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a small Dutch oven, heat the oil and add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Add the rice and toast for a minute or so. Add the green curry paste and cook until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock about one-third at a time, stirring occasionally, cooking the rice until all’onda. Add the scallops and cook until they are 125-130F or you can panfry them like I did.
  4. Turn down the element and stir in the coconut milk, add the vegetables and heat through.
  5. Add the lime juice to taste. Remove the kaffir lime leaves to serve.

Deliciously creamy “risotto” with the flavours of Thailand.

Notes:

  • I add the lime juice to brighten the flavours without salt.
  • This is neither an authentic Thai nor Italian recipe. I just thought the green curry and jasmine rice lent itself to the traditional dish. This green curry does not have cheese in it but if you want it creamier, try a little cream cheese stirred into the curry right at the end.
  • Use any protein you wish, chicken or shrimp would be great too.

Bay scallops add the perfect amount of sweetness to this flavourful dish.

Note:

  • Rice portion was updated July 17 to reflect two servings.

We’ve fallen in love with Vietnamese food. Banh Mi in particular. This Vietnamese/French delicacy is packed with flavour that a typical sandwich simply cannot compete with.

The sandwich begins with a fantastic bun that feels light (as in weight) and doesn’t have a rough, mouth tearing crust, but a fine, thin one. The crumb needs to be a little chewy with a hint of sweetness. It bounces back slowly if imprinted with a finger. It needs to contain some wet and heavy fillings so it needs good structure. The bun will make or break this delicious sandwich.

The fillings are equally as important. Our favourite sandwich is lightly smeared with butter on both sides (this waterproofs the spongy bread). Then there’s a good smear of paté, layered with a protein (usually in the form of a cold cut), topped with a sweet and sour carrot/daikon pickle, a decent squirt of mayonnaise, finished with thinly sliced cucumber and a good handful of cilantro. It is a work of art. But don’t admire it too long as it’s best consumed shortly after assembly. Sure, you can get grocery-store banh mi that was assembled earlier that day and wrapped in plastic wrap, but there is no comparison.

We had some roast beef leftover from a Sunday dinner that I sliced thinly for our first foray into this special sandwich. I made my own pickled carrot. The rest is carefully selected, good quality, store-bought ingredients.

Always use sterylized jars with new lid inserts.

Check out your local Vietnamese restaurants for this delicacy, if it’s your first time. But be sure to read the reviews because a bad banh mi will ruin your experience.

Pickled Carrot

Makes about 500 mL pickled carrot

Ingredients:

  • 450 g carrot, peeled, cut into strips 1 mm square and 5 cm long (I had about a half a parsnip so it went right in!)
  • 50 g sugar
  • 30 g sea salt
  • 1 L water
  • 200 mL white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar, salt, water, vinegar, and heat gently to melt the sugar and salt. Pour over the carrot and fill a sterilized mason jar with the carrot and warm liquid.
  2. Allow to cool then refrigerate. May be consumed right away for about a month or so.

We were having a friend over (outside) during lockdown (you’re permitted to responsibly socialize with one single (meaning they are single) friend, outside) and I needed a relatively quick dessert. This recipe came across my Insta feed and I was immediately taken with it. You use two whole oranges, skin, pith and all! Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? You boil the oranges for 10 minutes three times, each time discarding the water to rinse away the bitterness. There is a lot of sugar but I didn’t reduce it like I normally do because I was concerned about the bitterness and it was fine. In fact, it was more than just fine, it was great! Not too sweet, I’d definitely make it again, in fact, I’ve made it three times! And because it is made with almond flour, you put the whole thing together in a food processor! It is super moist, orangy and delicious. And you needn’t make a syrup, like other orange cakes, because it is plenty moist from the two boiled oranges.

Gluten-Free Whole Orange Cake

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) round cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium oranges, fresh whole with the rind on about 300 g each
  • 6 g baking powder
  • 6 large eggs, room temp
  • 250 g white sugar
  • 250 g almond flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F Convection. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan by lining the bottom with parchment and spraying the insides with non-stick spray.
  2. If you are not using organic oranges, scrub the exterior with hot water and a little soap and rinse well.
  3. Boil the whole oranges 3 times for 10 minutes, each time, changing out the water.
  4. Chop the oranges up into eighths and blitz until smooth with the Nutribullet (I was able to get the two oranges into my large Nutribullet container).
  5. Transfer to a large food processor and add the remaining ingredients, processing until fully incorporated and smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place on a cookie sheet into the preheated oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.
  7. Allow it to cool in the pan, then carefully remove and plate.

Notes:

  • I blitzed the boiled oranges in my Nutribullet and transferred them to my large food processor to complete the cake. The Nutribullet makes a very smooth paste.
  • I used a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan, lined with parchment.
  • My oven baked it a bit quickly so check at 50 and 55 minutes for doneness with the wooden toothpick test. It won’t dry out like an ordinary cake so a little overbaking won’t kill it.
  • The cake stands on its own, no need for any garnish or cream but the author suggests serving it with a little Greek yogurt, I didn’t feel it needed it at all.
  • To make it extra special, you can pour a Belgian dark chocolate ganache over it. 100 mL Table Cream, 100 g Belgian dark chocolate chips, 45 mL white corn syrup. Heat cream to almost boiling, pour over chocolate chips, let stand a few minutes, stir until melted and stir in the corn syrup. Cool to thicken, pour over cake.

 

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.

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