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Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

Recently, we spent the weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake with dear friends. It’s not the first time we been to NOTL, but it’s the first time we spent a summer weekend there. It’s usually ridiculously expensive because it is tourist season but we found some lovely rooms above an Irish pub that’s one street away from the beaten path. The rooms are reasonably priced, a good size AND they give you two $25 gift cards for the bar! What a deal! The humidity had broken and the temperatures were manageable, it really was a lovely weekend. We ate a picnic lunch and then rented bikes for an hour or so along the bike path along side the Niagara parkway. If you’re ever down this way, I urge you to take a moment and enjoy the ride! Although I would strongly recommend you buy your picnic lunch elsewhere as the grocery store in town is ridiculously expensive!

I wish I had taken some of this silky, creamy orange gelato as it would have made a refreshing treat after the sunny ride!

Silky, Creamy Orange Gelato

For the original recipe, please click here.

This recipe makes about 500 mL gelato.

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL fresh orange juice (from about 3 good-sized oranges)
  • 45 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 500 mL milk
  • 30 g skim milk powder
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into your frozen ice cream maker pot and turn on. Run as per manufacturer’s instructions (mine took about 35 minutes).

We are having a heat wave right now, so it’s a bit of a challenge keeping the gelato frozen. Yep, it’s that hot!

I also made lemon gelato which turned out exceptionally well, but, I forgot to take a photo because we took it to friends for dessert! I would have to say that the lemon was my personal favourite.

Dreamy, Creamy Lemon Gelato

This recipe makes about 500 mL gelato

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh Lemon Juice (from about 5 good-sized lemons)
  • zest of 1 lemon, very fine
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 250 mL skim milk
  • 250 mL heavy cream
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into your frozen ice cream maker pot and turn on. Mine took about 35 minutes to a very creamy consistency, it will not freeze rock hard.

Notes:

  • The lemon gelato was a lot creamier than the orange version because of the 35% cream, and although I prefer less rich things, I think this is worth the splurge.
  • The lemon gelato did not freeze solid, whereas the orange did so I had to leave it out for a few minutes to serve.
  • I did add orange zest into the orange gelato but found it made it a touch bitter, so I adjusted the recipe. If you like bitter, try 5 g or less.

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You caught me: I made hot cross buns at Easter while we were visiting our friends in Arizona but sadly their pantry did not contain icing sugar, so I was forced to skip the “cross” on the buns. They were exceptionally tasty (even without the icing cross), flavoured with warming spices and some rum-soaked currents.

Hot Cross-less Buns

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

This recipe makes 12 large, soft, pillowy buns.

Ingredients:

  • 125 mL rum
  • 100 g dried currants
  • 375 mL milk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the topping)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 53 g light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 550-600 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 85 g butter, room temperature
  • 15 mL milk

Directions:

  1. Soak the currents in the rum for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the milk, eggs, yeast, brown sugar and whisk to combine. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking powder, whisk to combine.
  3. Add the softened butter to the flour mixture and mix until the butter is well combined (you may also do this with your fingers). Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and beat until a soft dough has formed (if it is too soft, add a bit more flour to it and beat). Meanwhile, strain the currents and add them to the dough and beat well. This is a very soft and sticky dough.
  4. Place in a well-greased bowl and allow to proof for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Prepare a large, high sided baking pan by buttering the base and all sides.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size, make about 112 g balls out of them. Place in the prepared pan and allow to rest with a clean cloth covering it for 1 hour.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  8. Combine the left-over egg white with 15 mL milk and beat well. Brush the tops of the rolls with the mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 190° F. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Fresh out of the oven, these pillowy-soft buns are fragrant and delicious.

Notes:

  • The original recipe called for 50% more currents but I felt it was a little too much so I reduced it.
  • My dough was quite soft and sticky with the originally called-for flour, so I added a bit more flour.
  • The original recipe wanted the leftover rum to be incorporated into the dough, but my dough was already too soft and sticky so I skipped it.
  • This tip from King Arthur flour sounds quite interesting and I will try it next time I make this tasty recipe:
    “Want to make these buns a day or so ahead of time? Try the tangzhong technique, a Japanese method for increasing the softness and shelf life of yeast rolls. Begin by measuring out the flour and milk you’ll be using in the recipe. Now take 3 tablespoons of the measured flour and 1/2 cup of the measured milk; put them in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens and forms a thick slurry; this will take about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer the cooked mixture to a bowl, let it cool to lukewarm, then combine it with the remaining flour, milk, and other dough ingredients. Proceed with the recipe as directed. Well-wrapped and stored at room temperature, your finished hot cross buns should stay soft and fresh for several days.”

Would you care to try one?

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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.

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Many years ago, I made a hummus soup that was so luxurious and flavourful that it felt decadent, but it wasn’t! It was all the bright flavours of typical hummus with fewer calories and fat. You already know that I love using lentils for quick and flavourful soups and sauces so this recipe will come as no surprise. It can be made as thick or as thin as you choose. I used roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic to tone down the garlic hit but also provide a beautiful nutty background flavour. I also added freshly grated turmeric, which is not in traditional hummus but added a lovely earthy tone.

Lentil Hummus Soup

Makes about 1 L, but it depends on how thick you make the soup.

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

To print recipe, please click here..

Ingredients:

  • 120 g red lentils
  • 375 mL vegetable stock, or to taste
  • 50 g tahini (or natural peanut butter)
  • 20 g roasted garlic
  • 10 g turmeric, freshly grated
  • 4 g toasted cumin
  • 15 mL lemon juice
  • 50 mL olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 10 g feta, per serving, for crumbling

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock until very soft. Add the tahini, garlic, turmeric, cumin and lemon juice and stir well until the tahini has melted into the soup.
  2. Transfer to a glass stick blender container and blend until very smooth, adding more stock if you see necessary. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you are blending. Season to taste.
  3. Serve hot garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

A deliciously velvety hummus-style soup.

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Black Forest Cake is JT’s favourite cake. It’s been his favourite since he was a little kid. In fact, it was our wedding cake! We didn’t have that traditional fruit cake, it was Black Forest Cake all the way. In late February, we were invited to dinner at friends’ and I offered to bring dessert so JT asked me to bake a Black Forest Cake. I chose this recipe because of the unusual cake recipe, to be honest, it turned out a bit dry because I did not soak the layers in the cherry kirschwasser syrup as indicated;  I didn’t want to use the full strength Kirschwasser as there was a teenager but I would definitely do it if I were to bake this cake again, I might even omit the kirschwasser so it’s not as boozy. Or maybe I’ll double it!

Black Forest Cake

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 70 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 200 g sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 150 g flour
  • 105 g cornstarch
  • 45 g cocoa powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 250 mL jarred, canned or frozen (see notes) sour cherries, drained, reserving 12 cup cherry juice from jar, plus 16 cherries, to garnish
  • 125 mL Kirschwasser

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (I used the convection setting).
  2. Prepare two spring-form pans about 20 cm (8 inches) diameter by buttering and flouring the bottom and sides. Cust a piece of parchment to fit the bottom and butter and flour it too.
  3. Combine sugar and eggs in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed for about 8 minutes or until tripled in volume.
  4. Combine the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt and whisk. Sift into the egg and sugar mixture and fold until combined. Pour in the cooled melted butter and stir until just combined.
  5. Pour about half of the batter into each pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely.

Kirschwasser syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL  jarred, canned or frozen sour cherries, drained, reserving 125 mL cherry juice and 12 cherries for garnish
  • 30-75 mL kirschwasser (I was making this kid-friendly so I barely used any)
  • 100 g sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine cherries with the kirschwasser and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. If using frozen cherries, just marinate the cherries in the kirschwasser until defrosted and reserve the liquid as indicated in the ingredients.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the reserved cherry juice with the sugar and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves.
  3. Drain macerated cherries and add the liquid to the cherry syrup. Set aside. If using frozen cherries, skip this step.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 10 g unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 250 mL milk, divided
  • 65 g 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 45 g sugar
  • 500 mL 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 5 mL 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 50-60 g dark chocolate, melted and piped onto paper, see notes below.

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over 90 mL milk in a bowl; let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and sugar in a medium saucepan and add remaining milk, heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly to thicken the mixture.
  2. Using a stick blender, blend this thick mixture with the softened gelatin and blend until very smooth (if you choose to skip this step, your whipped cream will be lumpy. You can also press it through a fine seive if you don’t want to blend). Set aside to cool a bit.
  3. Beat the whipping cream with the vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until soft peaks form.
  4. Add about 13 of the whipped cream to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Add gelatin mixture to the remaining whipping cream in the stand mixer bowl and whip until smooth.

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Crumb-coat the cake with the whipped cream mixture. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and drizzle onto parchment like this. Refrigerate the drizzled chocolate on a flat surface until set (you don’t want it super stiff).
  2. Add a thicker coating of the whipped cream to the cake and smooth out. Leave enough whipped cream to decorate with cherry florets.
  3. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate and then add florets, press one cherry into each floret.
  4. Lift the hardened drizzled chocolate from the base parchment and carefully wrap all-the-way around the cake; remove the outside parchment slowly. Refrigerate until required.

Notes:

  • The whipped cream is a bit like French Pastry cream but not as rich. It is far thicker and richer than stabilized whipped cream. I loved the whipped cream.
  • This is not a sweet cake by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flavourful and our friends loved that it wasn’t sweet.
  • For the chocolate drizzles, measure the diameter of the iced cake and not the pan, I measured the exterior of the pan and came out too short because I didn’t account for the extra thickness of the frosting. It was easy to fix but why fix if you can do it right the first time.
  • Do not skip soaking the cake layers in the syrup, otherwise, the cake is very dry.
  • If I were to do this cake again, I would make fewer drizzles on the chocolate wrap so that the creamy texture of the cake below it comes through.

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We’ve been away. In Arizona. Where it was high twenty, low thirty degrees (Celsius). I’m sorry you were still in winter, while I was enjoying endless sun and dry warmth in Arizona. Well, not really sorry. I may have even rubbed it in with some weather network posts. It was truly wonderful. It was liberating not to have that 10-minute dressing routine even before you step outside. My feet rejoiced! No socks! My feet weren’t freezing to death even though they were covered in wool and leather. I could totally get used to it. But now we’re back in reality and cooking warming and hearty dishes like we did for Super Bowl.

We hosted another Super Bowl party in February and you guessed it, the theme was the cuisine of the teams playing! I’ve always wanted to make an authentic clam chowder with oyster crackers so I took advantage of this serendipitous opportunity. The clams were sweet and the chowder was creamy and delicious. The party was a grand success and New England lost, now that’s karma, don’t you think?

New England Clam Chowder

Makes 1.75 L of chowder.

For the original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 135 g finely chopped French shallots
  • 160 g chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 10 g garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 32 g all-purpose flour
  • 282 g Vongole baby clams, drained, juices reserved
  • 300 mL evaporated milk (not condense)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in the reserved clam juice topped up with water to cover. Turn down to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat, drain potatoes, reserve the liquid and set both aside.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed large pot, sauté shallots and celery with the bay leaf until soft. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the flour and stir on low heat for two minutes, without allowing the flour to brown. Whisk in the reserved potato clam liquid with a pinch of smoked paprika. Cook until thickened.
  3. Add the baby clams and the evaporated milk and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes. This chowder is much better the second day so if you are making this chowder in advance, refrigerate until cold, then re-heat on low when required.

A rich clam chowder with delicious clam bits in every bite.

A flavourful cracker that does not disintegrate in the chowder.

Lemon Pepper Oyster Crackers

Makes 150 g of crackers. For the original recipe, please click here.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 145 g 00 flour
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 g freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 g sugar
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 1 g freshly grated lemon zest
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 70 mL cold water, or enough to make a smooth dough

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in the small bowl of your food processor. Pulse until well combined.
  2. Drop the butter into the flour mix and pulse until it has been incorporated and is mealy. Slowly add the water while processing, add only enough to make a dough that holds together.
  3. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and form into a solid round. Allow to rest 15 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Roll dough to about 2 mm thick and cut with very small cookie cutters (or cut with a knife into diamond shapes). Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the door and allow to cool and crisp up for an additional 30 minutes. Serve with New England Clam Chowder.

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Soup has been on our menu quite often this winter. Personally, I adore soup, so much so, we’ve coined the expression “I love soup so much, it could be my middle name”! My favourite are brothie soups like chicken noodle, Phõ, lemongrass, and miso to name a few, but JT prefers creamy soups so I throw him a bone every so often and blitz the soup with my immersion blender. This one turned out exceptionally well so, I decided to repost. Plus the light is getting much better and I couldn’t resist.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 25 g variety of dried wild mushrooms
  • 35 g red lentils, dried
  • 140 g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 90 g sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 60 g celery, roughly chopped (about 1 rib)
  • 25 g butter
  • 40 g roasted garlic (about 5 large cloves)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ~300 mL vegetable stock
  • 2-4 tbsp finishing olive oil

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried, wild mushrooms in about 500 mL water for a minimum of 30 minutes. Strain through a gold coffee filter and reserve liquid. Rinse the mushrooms.
  2. Caramelize the onions in the butter. Add the celery, roasted garlic and rehydrated mushrooms and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and lentils and simmer loosely covered for an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, toss the sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms in some olive oil and roast in a hot oven (375° F) until caramelized (roughly 20-25 minutes), turning once.
  4. Remove soup from heat and purée with an immersion blender until smooth, adding vegetable stock to desired consistency (I added about 300 mL). Press through a fine sieve for a velvety, smooth texture. Add salt and pepper to taste and purée once more. Garnish with the caramelized mushrooms and drizzle with the finishing olive oil. Serve piping hot with Cheddar Orange Scones.

Notes:

  • No matter how well your blender purées creamed soups, push it through a fine sieve for a creamy and velvety texture. Then blitz it again just before serving. This is a tip from the 1-star Michelin chef we had a cooking lesson with in Lyon.
  • Thick creamy soups that are not made with cream, like this one, deserve a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Serve with a scone to make a hearty lunch.

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