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Posts Tagged ‘tasty’

A friend brought us his homemade raspberry jam a few weeks ago and because we don’t eat a lot of jam, I thought I’d make it into these gorgeous squares. The recipe originated from my friend Liz but I just swapped out the caramel for the jam and it worked out beautifully. I made this batch for some friends visiting from Arizona.

Raspberry Crumble Squares

Makes one 22 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 2.5 mL almond extract
  • 280 g flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 150 mL seedless raspberry jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 359° F. Prepare a 23″ x 33″ cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining with parchment.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.
  3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
  4. Portion about 2/3 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan and press evenly to all sides. Bake for 20 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining pastry.
  5. After you have baked the base pastry, pour the raspberry jam onto the base and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover it entirely.
  6. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.
  7. Allow to cool completely and cut into squares or bars.

They look like jewels.

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For my birthday, JT gave me an Instant Pot® Duo Crisp with the Air Fryer lid. This was the second thing I made with it. The first thing was the roasted tomatoes (which are EXCELLENT, see notes for directions)! This is a guest-worthy meal, and don’t fret that it’s all in one pot, it’s super easy and much less to clean up.

Tuscan Chicken in the Instant Pot

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 30 g butter
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 60 g onions, sliced thinly
  • 100 g mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • 200 g chicken breast, skinless, boneless
  • 30 g roasted garlic purée
  • 250 mL chicken stock
  • 1 g oregano
  • 1 g Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 120 g penne pasta, uncooked
  • 65 g spinach
  • 50 g roasted grape tomatoes (see notes)
  • 50 mL cream (I used 18%)
  • 50 g parmesan, grated (divided)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and heat the olive oil on the Sauté setting, cook the onions until translucent, add the mushrooms, and wilt.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pot to brown each side.
  2. Combine the chicken stock and roasted garlic purée with the oregano and pepper flakes and mix well. Pour into the Instant Pot and deglaze to remove any bits that have adhered to the stainless steel. Add the pasta and stir so that it is immersed in the cooking liquid.
  3. Put the lid on securely and make sure the vent is set to “Sealing”. Choose the “Pressure Cook” setting and set the cook-time for 5 minutes at high pressure (this means 6-7 minutes to come to temperature and pressure and 5 minutes cooking time). When the program is complete, release the pressure carefully. Make sure the internal chicken temperature is at 170° F and the pasta is al dente (there should be some liquid in the pot for the sauce).
  4. Remove the chicken breast and allow to rest covered. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” and add the spinach and roasted tomatoes, stirring to wilt the spinach. Add the cream and heat through. Stir in about 3/4 of the parmesan and reserve the rest for presentation. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Slice the breast and stir it back into the sauce to heat.
  6. Serve immediately with remaining parmesan for garnish.

    The pasta is perfectly cooked.

Notes:

  • You may substitute sun-dried tomatoes for roasted ones.
  • Roasted tomatoes: Slice 75 g of grape tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Squeeze the seeds and juice out (be careful because it can really pop hurling tomato guts everywhere). Toss the halves with 15 mL extra virgin olive oil. Lay the tomatoes in two layers on the bottom rack and top racks of the air fryer basket of your Instant Pot Duo. Cover with the air fryer lid and set the program to dehydrate. This program sets the temperature at 160° F for four hours. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, timing could be less; I found three hours, turning the tomatoes once at around one and a half hours was enough.
  • This recipe is pictured with 500 mL chicken stock, I felt it was too soupy so I reduced the stock to 250 mL, tested it but forgot to take a photo!

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Although Tart Tatin recipes have been featured on this blog a few times (here, here and here), I figured, why not again with different fruit? This time we’re baking Pear Tart Tatin! Dreamy caramel, soft pears and crispy pastry, what more can you want? I borrowed this recipe from Martha Stewart with some minor adjustments. I usually worry that the fruit lets out too much liquid and it won’t be super caramel-y but I needn’t have worried on this one, the pears cook on the stove and finish in the oven. It’s a bit of standing around but you can make it in advance and just serve it at room temperature. 

This tart was perfectly caramelized. What a wonderful dessert.

Pear Tart Tatin

Makes 1 tart about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter

Ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour, for rolling
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 450 g package), thawed in the refrigerator
  • 100 g sugar
  • 8 mL cider vinegar
  • 30 mL water
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 firm, ripe pears, each peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
  • Pinch of cardamon

Directions:

  1. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll out the puff pastry to a 30 cm square and cut into a circle. Refrigerate until required.
  2. In a 30 cm cast iron skillet, combine the sugar, vinegar and water and heat on medium-low heat until golden (about 15 minutes). Stir in the butter and the salt. Add the pears in a decorative pattern and cook in the caramel uncovered for 30-40 minutes (until pears are firm but soft). Sprinkle the cardamon over the pears.
  3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. When the pears are ready, add the prepared puff pastry, pushing down the edges to form a “fence”.
  4. Bake covered, for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.
  5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a decorative plate.

Cooking the pears for an extended period of time made the caramelization absolutely perfect.

Notes:

  • My pears were rather firm so I extended the stove-top-time about 15-20 minutes from Martha’s time. This also allowed the liquid to evaporate so that the sauce is pure, dreamy caramel.
  • I prefer to use all-butter puff pastry.

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This roasted red pepper dip popped into my life via America’s Test Kitchen, a show we routinely watch to fall asleep to. I was incredibly intrigued when they mentioned that this is a Syrian version of our Spanish favourite, Romesco Sauce. This tasty dip uses Aleppo pepper flakes and sumac which I don’t use regularly in my cooking but had some at home. Like Romesco, it uses a nut to thicken the dip but Instead of almond flour, the recipe calls for toasted walnuts. Boy, what a difference, the walnuts lend a delicious earthy flavour. This dip is definitely going to be in our repertoire.

Muhammara

Makes about 250 mL (1 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers, roasted and peeled
  • 60 mL EVOO, divided (additional may be required)
  • 113 g shelled, toasted walnuts
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • 30 g tomato paste
  • 15 mL pomegranate molasses I used (see notes)
  • 5 g Aleppo pepper flaked
  • 5 g sumac
  • 2-3 g salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the walnuts with a little of the olive oil until golden and you can smell them. Allow to cool.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your small food processor (I used a magic bullet because I wanted it smooth) and process until smooth. You may wish to add olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.
  3. Garnish with a few chopped, toasted walnuts.

Notes:

  • The recipe I used had quite a bit of breadcrumb which I have deleted from the recipe because I found it made the dip too thick and thickened it as the dip aged. I prefer a slightly runnier dip.
  • I substituted the balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate molasses because I didn’t have any and it was fine, to be honest, it’s just a building flavour and doesn’t depend on it entirely.
  • We used the dip as a topping for lamb burgers we had and it was OUTSTANDING!

 

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Just before we left for Spain, I bought the cutest little loaf pan with the sharpest corners but I didn’t have enough time to try it so it was tucked away until our return at the end of May. I was paging through the Early Summer Edition of the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine when I spotted this cornbread recipe. And the ingredients were easy to half plus I had just enough of the ingredients (like only one egg)!

I have visions of baking nutty crackers in this adorable pan.

Bacon and onions, are a delicious combination.

Bacon and Scallion Cornbread

Makes about 1 small loaf pan, 75 cm x 180 cm (3 inches x 7 inches)

Ingredients:

  • 105 g yellow cornmeal
  • 86 g All-purpose flour
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 10 mL baking powder
  • 2 mL baking soda
  • 5 mL fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 188 mL kefir, well shaken
  • 57 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 15 g green onions, finely chopped
  • 30 g bacon, well cooked and coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and sea salt and whisk well.
  3. In another bowl, combine the egg, kefir, melted butter, green onions, and bacon, and whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix just to combine, it will be lumpy.
  5. Tap the pan to remove air bubbles and smooth out the top.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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One of our most memorable meals in Spain was at the beautiful One Star Michelin restaurant in Retama Restaurant within La Caminera Hotel. We should have stayed at the hotel, but we had already booked something in Valdepeñas, a short drive away. We chose The Traditional menu, without wine pairings (I react poorly to some heavier reds and whites aged in oak casks).

As part of a course, we were served a wonderful little bite of Atascaburras, a typical dish of the La Mancha Region. The story goes that two shepherds and their donkeys were isolated after a big snowfall, with only salt cod, potatoes, garlic, and olive oil at hand, and in their desperation, they created this dish to feed themselves and their donkeys over several days until they were rescued. This dish is often eaten during a snowfall and it is said that the water to boil the potatoes and cod in should be freshly fallen snow. Obviously, there was no snow in sight but the story and delicious flavour of these little cod fritters were definitely calling to me. They called them fritters in the restaurant but they were not deep-fried, I suspect the chef used a Takoyaki pan to sear the small balls. We were served one each. Traditionally, this dish is usually served on a platter with bread or crackers. Since I don’t have a Takoyaki pan, I chose to serve it as a dip. In modern times, a boiled egg is used to garnish the dip but it was not traditional. I chose to use a hard-boiled egg yolk, grated on top of the dish as a garnish.

The atascaburras was served as a round ‘fritter’

Atascaburras

Makes about 500 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 300 g potato (I used Yukon Gold)
  • 300 g salt cod, soaked and rinsed several times over 48 hours
  • 130 mL olive oil
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg yolk, hard-boiled
  • Red pepper oil

Directions:

  1. Cook the cleaned but unpeeled potato in water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the prepared salt cod and cook an additional 10 minutes. Reserve the water.
  2. Add both the cod, potato and garlic to a blender (I used a magic bullet because it really emulsifies beautifully). Add the olive oil and emulsify, adding a little of the reserved water to make a smooth, creamy dip. Taste and salt if necessary.
  3. Place in an oven for 15-20 minutes on 250° F to just warm up. Serve in a low-sided dish with grated egg yolk as garnish and sprinkled with a little red pepper oil.

No, that is not cheese, it’s grated hard-boiled egg yolk.

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As our time in Spain was dwindling in late May, I began to think more about using up pantry items. Here is another recipe that was created to use up pantry ingredients I purchased for our time in Spain. I wanted to use up the flour, sugar and a lime that I had sitting around. Unfortunately, I had only a little butter that I needed for the remainder of the week so I improvised and used reduced table cream. I figured if you could make cookies using olive oil, then you should be able to make cookies using cream, but I only had table cream which is generally about 18% fat so I reduced it about half in volume which I was hoping would give me about 36% fat or at least more than 18%. The cookies turned out delicate, not crumbly and slightly chewy. JT thought some coconut would be lovely in them so perhaps I’ll try that next time. I would have liked a little more lime flavour so I upped the zest in the recipe below because I only had one lime, two I think, would be perfect.

A deliscious, chewy cookie.

Lime Sugar Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 24 cookies about 5 cm in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 270 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2.5 g kosher salt
  • 251 g granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 78 g reduced table cream (see notes)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
  • 15 mL lime juice 
  • Zest of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar, table cream, eggs, vanilla, lime juice and zest and mix well.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and just fold in so that there is no visible flour. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Drop about 15 mL cookies (about a tablespoon) onto a parchment-lined sheet bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Notes:

  • For the table cream in this recipe, pour 250 mL table cream into a heavy bottom saucepan and reduce on high heat until about half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally so it doesn’t over boil. Cool completely.

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Sometimes it’s just the simplest things that are the best. While we were in Spain, we had a lot of tapas, they serve tapas every time you order a glass of vino. Sometimes it is as simple as delicious olives, or sometimes it’s a little ham sandwich. While we were in Granada, we slipped into this adorable little bar and ordered a couple of glasses of vino with some tapas. Before we even had our first sip, they brought out a good quantity of homemade potato chips and these little round sandwiches (about 7-10 cm in diameter). If we hadn’t already ordered a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, we would have been done! And they would not have been offended. This is Spain, where a glass of good quality wine is €3.50 (less than $5) AND it comes with food! And there is no expectation of tipping, most restaurants add a small service fee per person so you needn’t worry about it.

We were sitting at home one evening when we decided to have a glass of vino and JT asks what we were having for hors d’œuvres! I had to scramble a bit because I hadn’t pre-made anything for the freezer but I did have some incredible peppers (did I mention how wonderful vegetables taste in Spain?) so I sliced them thinly and sautéed them and presented them with some toasted Spanish pine nuts. They were fantastic! So simple. If you’re serving a crowd, you might want to add a splash of red wine and some sliced chorizo, served with crusty bread of course. This is definitely going into my repertoire because I always have peppers at home.

I haven’t stipulated quantities because it’s what you have on hand. I used about a half of pepper each of the red and yellow and about 1/4 of an onion.

These are some of the sweetest peppers we’ve ever tasted.

Sautéed Peppers with Pine Nuts

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

 Ingredients:

  • Red peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
  • Yellow peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
  • Onion, thinly sliced
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Pine Nuts, toasted
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Ingredients:

  1. Sauté the onions and peppers in a splash of olive oil. Add the chorizo and red wine, if using
  2. Sprinkle with pine nuts, salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.

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You may have noticed from my other socials that we have escaped Toronto and finally headed to Spain. Our first trip in February was cancelled by you know what. We are here for 51 days. The sun and relative warmth have been life-altering. I wake up just to see the sunrise on the Mediterranean (it’s not that bad, 7:30-ish during our stay).

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Our kitchen in the flat (my cousin’s flat) is challenging from a size point. I have fitted it with most of my favourite tools so I can do most things but finding a place to do them can be a challenge. Most people who rent do take away or go out to one of the many restaurants in this little village. The Spaniards like to eat late (9pm would be considered an early dinner) but I find it difficult to eat that late, so we end up going out for lunch and having a light dinner around 7pm. Although the first few attempts to lunch were failures as many places don’t open until at least 1:30 (we don’t eat breakfast) and they close between 2-5pm for Siesta. Don’t get me started on Siesta, it is a beloved ritual in the smaller centres. This little recipe was developed to take us through cocktails one evening. 

Retro Olive Balls

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 pastry-wrapped olives

Ingredients:

  • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 60 g cheese, we used manchego
  • 60 g flour
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • water to bind
  • 8 olives

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine everything but the olives in the small bowl of a food processor and process until combined. If the dough still doesn’t come together, add a few drops of water and pulse until it comes together.
  3. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Roll each portion into a small circle and wrap around each olive, rolling in your hand until it is smooth. Repeat until all of the olives are wrapped.
  4. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden, serve warm.

A delicious buttery pastry enveloping a Manzanilla Olive.

Notes:

  • I used unpitted Spanish Manzanilla Olives because it is what I had at home, black olives or even pimento-stuffed olives would be lovely with this recipe. Make sure you mention to your guests that the olives are with pitts.
  • Double or triple this recipe for more tasty little balls.

 

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Truth be told, I re-invented some leftover devilled eggs into this deluxe egg salad. The creamy egg yolks made perfectly rich and luscious creamy egg salad. I upped the ante by adding a small, ripe avocado. Winner, winner, egg salad!

I think I’ll make egg salad this way all the time.

Deluxe Egg Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough for 2 large croissant sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 4 left over devilled egg halves (see notes on how I jazzed these up), roughly chopped
  • 2 additional hard-boiled egg, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL mayonnaise
  • 5-10 mL lemon juice
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ~10 cm of cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 small, ripe avocado, finely diced
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the devilled egg filling with the additional hard-boiled egg yolk with the mayo and lemon juice, whisk well.
  2. Stir the scallions, cucumber and avocado together, mixing well. Spoon the egg yolk sauce over the eggs and fold in, completely mixing with the eggs.
  3. Serve in a croissant with additional finely chopped scallions as garnish.

Delicious stuffed into a croissant.

Notes:

  • When I made the devilled eggs, I whipped the yolks with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and room temperature goats cheese and a little finely chopped scallions. Salt and pepper to taste.

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I saw this Nigella Lawson recipe on my friend Mimi’s socials and in reading Nigella Lawson’s description of it made me want to try it. I was able to source the Aleppo pepper flakes at my favourite spice store in Kensington Market, Carlos’ House of Spice. I called it Turk-ish because I altered the recipe somewhat but you can click on the original here.

Creamy and tangy against the rich Aleppo butter sauce.

The Aleppo pepper flakes are not burning hot, there is mild heat but even I can take it so it’s pretty mild. It has a lovely fruity taste that comes through in the nutty brown butter. The tangy yogurt is beautifully mellowed by the brown butter sauce. It’s a lovely dish that is totally guest-worthy.

Turk-ish Eggs

Please click here for the original recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL Plain Greek yogurt
  • 10 g roasted garlic purée
  • 2-4 g Sea salt flakes or kosher salt
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 15 mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-5 g Aleppo pepper/Turkish red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 10 mL lemon juice, divided
  • 1/2 avocado, mashed with a fork
  • Toasted bread

Directions:

  1. Whisk the yogurt and roasted garlic in a bowl over a bain-marie and gently warm the yogurt, set aside.
  2. Warm two bistro bowls.
  3. Melt the butter and gently cook until the milk solids turn golden brown, remove from the heat and stir in the olive oil, Aleppo pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  4. Gently bring a low-sided pan, filled with water to a light boil and turn it down so there are no visible bubbles. Meanwhile, crack each egg into a fine-mesh sieve and allow the loose whites to drain away, slide into a ramekin. Add 5 mL lemon juice into each ramekin with the drained egg. Gently lower each egg into the simmering water and cook until desired consistency (we love runny yolks 3-5 minutes).
  5. To serve, divide the yogurt into the two bowls evenly spoon the mashed avocado into the centre. Place a poached egg on top and drizzle with the Aleppo butter sauce. Serve with lots of toast.

Notes:

  • The addition of avocado is not authentic in this recipe, I had a half that needed using. It was a beautiful creamy texture against the yogurt.
  • If you think two slices of toast will do, make two more, you’ll need it to soak up the yogurt-butter-egg sauce!

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I haven’t made Tiramisu in ages and when I saw my friend Lauraine’s Beeramisu pop up on her socials I was sold! Plus I needed a dessert to bring with us to a dinner party at a friend’s place. Our friends are not big coffee lovers but they love beer so I knew this would be perfect immediately! I didn’t have a chocolate porter but I did have some Vanilla Porter that I knew would work. None of us like a super-rich or sweet dessert so I cut some sugar and eggs down a bit and I still got two desserts out of this recipe. Thank you, Lorraine, for the recipe and inspiration.

Vanilla Porter Beer-amisu

For the original recipe, please click here.

This recipe makes one loaf pan about 9 cm wide x 20 cm long x 6 cm tall AND an 18 cm diametre round pan.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 75 g sugar
  • 360 g mascarpone, placed at room temperature for an hour
  • 400 mL whipping cream
  • 5 mL vanilla 
  • 150 mL vanilla porter or stout beer, chilled
  • 28 sponge fingers (around 230g/8.1ozs)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  • Combine the egg yolks with the sugar in a double boiler and whisk until the sugar has melted and the eggs have thickened about 10 minutes. Allow to completely cool.
  • Meanwhile, whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form, not stiff peaks
  • When the egg mixture has cooled, whisk the mascarpone into the egg mixture until smooth and creamy. Fold in the whipped cream.
  • Prepare your pans by lining them with plastic wrap. Dip each sponge finger into the porter quickly (you don’t want it soaked). 
  • Place a smooth layer of the mascarpone on the bottom of each pan then begin lining the bottom with the dipped sponge fingers until the bottom layer has been filled. Add another layer of the mascarpone and repeat with the sponge fingers. I got two layers in each vessel. Pull up the plastic wrap and fold it over so the Beer-amisu doesn’t dry out in the fridge. Allow to rest in the fridge for 2 days.
  • When ready to serve, open the plastic wrap and tip the container onto a serving dish so that the top is the bottom and the bottom is the top. Sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serve in slices.

This is the unromantic shot in the pans. I’m going to freeze the round one for future use.

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My brother loaned us his cottage for the last week of January. Yes, it is a lot colder up there but it is extremely beautiful with the pristine, sparkling snow and the occasional visit from wildlife. I needed to clean out the fridge before we left and created this tasty and satisfying soup. Pair it with a scone or grilled cheese and you have the perfect winter-time lunch. The measurements are not important here because I was just using up some less-than-perfect produce, it’s just an inspiration for future soups.

JT bought me the KitchenAid Vegetable Sheet Cutter to help me cut down our carbs so I had a lot of zucchini cores leftover which played right into this delicately flavoured soup. I was going to add cream but then I had a very ripe avocado that would meld perfectly into this winter meal.

Celery, Zucchini, and Avocado Cream Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.45 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • ~ 1/2 a bunch of celery, roughly chopped
  • ~ 1 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • ~ 1 small Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 5-10 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 L chicken stock
  • 1 small Avocado, peeled and pitted
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the EVOO, add the celery, zucchini, onion, and parsley, and cook until softened. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are very soft. Add the avocado.
  2. Blitz with your immersion blender or allow to cool and purée with a Nutri Bullet or VitaMix for a smooth and creamy soup. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the celery ‘hairs’.
  3. Serve hot.

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I usually make my scones and biscuits with my handy food processor but I have to say that these freehand scones will change my method for all my future scones. For what I save in time, I sacrifice in cleaning time and most importantly, texture of the scones. These scones are light, airy, filled with gooey cheese and scallions. They are great with soup or a stew. Serve them warm with fresh butter.

This post was created on a blistery, cold day in latter January. We just had received about 50 cm (20 inches) of snow in a period of 24 hours. We must have a VIP living on our street because the damn snowplow came down our street four times, depositing a heavy mess of snow at the end of the driveway. Honestly, the last two times were ridiculous, there was hardly any new snow on the road! This was one of the sunniest days we’ve had so far, the sun reflected in the new white snow and  I just had to take advantage with the photos.

Freehand Kefir, Scallion, and Cheese Scones

Original recipe from Jean Paré’s Company’s Coming Muffins and More cookbook

Makes 8 large wedges

Ingredients:

  • 240 g All-Purpose Flour
  • 16 g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 150 g cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 57 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 100 mL kefir (and extra kefir for brushing tops)
  • Parmesan, finely grated for sprinkling on top

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, with the butter and manually cut like you would pastry dough. When it is slightly smaller than pea-sized bits, add the shallots and cheese and mix.
  3. Combine the kefir and the egg and whisk until frothy. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, just enough to pull it together. Roll out to a round shape and cut 8 wedges to make. Brush tops with kefir and sprinkle the parmesan on top.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with butter.

Tender and delicate scone with lots of cheese and scallions.

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We usually have small quantities of a lot of different produce leftover as we approach shopping day, you know, a little of this, a little of that. That is where this bowl came from — it was an inspiration to use up the small portions of veggies before they were past their prime. The recipe is just whatever you have on hand, so I have not posted actual quantities, but there is no denying that this bowl is a keeper! It’s filled with flavour, texture, crunch against the creaminess of the avocado dressing. 

Lots of flavours and textures make up this tasty bowl.

Green Goodness Bowl

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Greens, shredded
  • a handful of Chickpeas, cooked
  • about half a Mango, small dice
  • 1/2 Avocado, small dice 
  • Cheese, small cubes
  • a handful of Pearl barley, cooked
  • a handful of vinegar coleslaw
  • a couple of good pinches of Sunflower Seeds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Place the greens at the base of the bowl and add each ingredient on top, into its own quadrant, leaving the sunflower seeds to garnish after you have dressed your bowl.
  2. Dress with the avocado dressing (recipe below) and garnish with the sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.

A delicious combination that is satisfying.

Green Goodness Dressing

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough dressing for 2 bowls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Avocado
  • ~ 15 mL mayonnaise
  • ~ 15 mL greek yoghurt
  • ~ 15 mL lemon juice
  • pinch of tarragon
  • water, to thin

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients with the exception of the water to a tall, thin jar made for your immersion blender and blend until smooth adding water, little by little to make it loose enough to pour.

Notes:

  • It is more flavourful to have sweet, salty and savoury things. 
  • I like to toast the barley for a nuttier flavour when cooked.
  • Alternatives to mango: craisins, raisins, grapes.
  • Alternatives to chickpeas: lobster meat, crab meat, tuna, chopped ham, edamame.
  • Alternatives to barley: rice, bulgar, Isreal couscous, couscous.
  • Additions: peas, corn, diced peppers.
  • Alternatives to sunflower seeds: pepitas, roasted walnuts, roasted peanuts.

 

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Way back in January, we were getting some seriously cold temperatures. I had a ham bone leftover from Christmas Eve that I wanted to use and what better use is a rib-sticking split pea soup? I was able to get 6-8 portions out of the soup, about 250 mL or a cup each, it’s pretty thick. The soup is fairly filling so if you want to make it last a little longer, add a bit more stock to thin it down.

Fall Split Pea Soup with Ham

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • 175 g finely chopped onion
  • 100 g celery, diced
  • 100 g carrots, diced
  • 65 g pancetta, cut into small slices
  • 20 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 cumin
  • 1”5 g smoked paprika
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 430 g split peas
  • 175 g cooked ham, diced
  1. In a pressure cooker cook the pancetta until crispy then add the onions and until translucent.
  2. Add the split peas and sautée for a minute.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin and sautée for about 30 more seconds (or until you can smell the aroma), add the ham, water and stock. Now add the paprika and cinnamon stick.
  4. Seal the cover and cook under pressure for 45 minutes or until the split peas have softened (I use a fairly low setting). You should check the water level twice during the process to make sure it hasn’t boiled down to nothing, stir. If the liquid is too reduced, add more.
  5. Serve with a dollop of low fat Greek yogurt and home made bread.

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It’s been wickedly cold here, and by wickedly cold, I’m talking -21° C or -5.8° F! I have only been able to think about soup. I love brothy soups but JT is not as much of a fan, he prefers creamed soups so I like to mix it up. I had purchased too much broccoli for Christmas day dinner so I had a small crown leftover along with a not-so-perfect-looking romaine, so this recipe was a result of these two leftovers.

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes just over a litre of soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 1 fist-sized head of broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 L chicken stock
  • 5 cm x 5 cm Parmigiana rind, cut into smaller pieces
  • 30 g of cheddar, shredded
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a hot pan, cook the onion in the olive oil until translucent, add the broccoli and romaine lettuce and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the Parmigiana rind and simmer for about an hour or until everything has softened.
  2. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If using a traditional blender, allow to cool a bit so the steam doesn’t blow off the lid.
  3. Serve with some shredded cheddar sprinkled on top.

Notes:

  • The romaine didn’t end up adding much flavour but it did help with thickening.
  • Use vegetable stock if making vegetarian.
  • The Parmigiana also helps to thicken the soup.
  • I used both orange and white cheddar because that is what I had.

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For New Year’s Eve, I made several tapas to feed us through the evening and this sauce was one that accompanied some lamb Spiedini that JT barbequed on the Big Green Egg. But it would be equally as delicious with shrimp. It’s not overly minty, which I prefer, it’s just minty enough.

Herbaceous Mint Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

Makes about 125 mL sauce

  • 10 g fresh parsley
  • 20 g fresh cilantro
  • 5 g mint
  • 10 g roasted garlic purée
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 45 mL white Balsamic
  • 65 mL EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor and process until the herbs have been chopped up but not puréed. 

Notes:

  • Do not refrigerate if serving the same day. If you wish to make the sauce in advance, refrigerate it covered but remove it from the fridge about 4 hours prior to serving so that the olive oil can come to room temperature otherwise, it congeals and it’s not pretty nor with the herbs have their best flavour.

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We had dear friends over for Christmas Day dinner last month. I had made a bunch of regular gyozas and wanted some for my Gluten-Free besty. After much research, I found several recipes and came up with my own. This recipe has the elasticity that steamed gyozas have but it also packs an incredible crunch when fried to a golden brown on one side. JT couldn’t tell that they were gluten-free! I’m thinking they may even make incredible ravioli!

Gluten-Free Gyoza Wrappers

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Make 15 gyoza wrappers

Ingredients:

  • 50 g gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 33 g tapioca flour
  • 4 g xanthan gum
  • 0.1  g salt
  • 40 g boiling water
  • 10 g vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well.
  2. Combine the boiling water and vegetable oil and pour into the dry ingredients, mix well until it comes together. Set out to a lightly GF floured board and knead for a few minutes. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into four portions and roll out to about 2 mm thick using the KitchenAid pasta dough attachment, roll the dough and fold it onto itself several times on #1. Then roll the dough out from #1-#4. Use like any gyoza dough being careful to cover it tightly with plastic wrap when not in use.
  4. Steam the GF gyozas for about 3-4 minutes, they should bounce back if you gently poke them.

Notes:

  • Keep the dough tightly covered with plastic wrap when not in use, it dries out very quickly.
  • Rub a little water on one side of the seam before closing so that they don’t come apart when steaming.
  • The gyoza will puff up when you steam them.
  • The uncooked gyoza feeze well. Freeze on a parchment-lined sheet and for about 30 minutes, drop into a ziplock bag. I wouldn’t leave them for more than 30 minutes on a sheet uncovered because they dry out.
  • Most recipes did not have the addition of tapioca flour or vegetable oil; I added the tapioca flour to improve the elasticity that gluten-free flour lacks and the vegetable oil was needed to help the dough from drying out.
  • You will need to roll out the dough by hand to get it through #1, but you’d have to do that with regular pasta dough too.

The gyoza is chewy and crunchy like a real gyoza should be!

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We were having a friend over for dinner and I needed a quick and easy dessert and it can’t get any quicker or easier than this old recipe. I love it because it is per person so you can scale it up or down very easily. I’ve made as many as twelve and as few as one!

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

Makes 1 80 mL portion (per person recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 60 mL milk or cream per person
  • 80 g sugar per person
  • 3 mL vanilla bean paste per person
  • Pinch of Tonka Bean, finely grated
  • 1 egg yolk per person
  • 5-10 g per person of sugar to brûlée

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275° F.
  2. Combine everything but the 5-10 g of sugar for the brûlée and whisk until smooth. Pour equal amounts into 100 mL bowls and set the bowls into a bain marie in a larger baking pan.
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until it is set in the centre. Allow to cool completely. 
  4. When ready to serve, sprinkle the sugar onto the top and spread by tapping and twirling the bowl evenly. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar and allow to cool. Serve when sugar has hardened.

 

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Back in the 80’s, when I was first dating JT, his parents would occasionally invite me to dinner at their home. JT’s Mom didn’t love cooking but she really made an effort. She focussed on areas she could master, like soups, salads, and pies (she made awesome pies). She let the experts deal with the proteins for the most part and one of her favourite proteins was, Chicken Cordon Bleu. She had her local butcher make up these delicious little parcels and she just popped them into the oven and baked them. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about these bundles until about a year ago when I was really trying to make our meals more of an event, since we weren’t doing much else (thanks Covid). They didn’t disappoint!

I created a very easy way to parcel the chicken breasts with the ham and cheese so they would stay together. I didn’t bother putting the little chicken crown over my version but it was still beautiful and delicious.

The trick is to even out the chicken thickness by pounding with a flat pounder, I like to put the chicken into a zip lock bag so that it doesn’t splatter when I’m pounding it. You don’t want it too thin but you do want it even. You can pound it thinner and roll the ham and cheese but I’ve always found that the cheese eventually melts out so I make a pocket the length of the breast without cutting through and stuff the ham and cheese into the pocket. I use a metal skewer to hold the opening shut which will be removed just before slicing.

Flash-back to the 80’s Chicken Cordon Bleu!

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 (ingredients may be doubled or tripled easily)

Ingredients:

  • 1 @ 200 g (or 2 @ 100 g) chicken breast, deboned and skinned
  • 100 g Gruyère, grated
  • 1-2 slices of Serano ham
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 80 g AP Unbleached Flour
  • 15 g granulated garlic
  • 15 g dehydrated onion
  • 100 g panko
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Place the panko, granulated garlic, onion, and salt into a spice grinder and pulse until it is relatively fine. Toast the panko mixture gently in an oven-proof, dry frying pan until golden. Set aside to cool. Save the pan to cook the chicken in.
  2. Add the flour to a flat pan (I use small baking sheets about 20cm x 30 cm).
  3. Prepare your breading station by combining the egg and mayo and whisking until smooth. Pour into a second flat pan.
  4. Pour the cooled panko mixture into a third flat pan.
  5. Prepare the chicken breast by placing it into a zip lock bag and pounding it until it is relatively even thickness. Remove it from the bag and slice a thin slice through the breast to create a pocket (I try to keep the opening as small as possible to avoid losing the filling during the baking process).
  6. Place the Serano ham into the pocket and spread out as evenly as you can. Fill the pocket with the cheese. Taking a thin metal skewer, “sew” the opening up so that it remains closed during the baking process.
  7. Place the chicken bundle into the first pan, and coat evenly with the flour.
  8. Transfer the bundle to the egg station and roll to coat evenly.
  9. Finally, roll the bundle in the flavoured panko and make sure that it is well coated. Return the bundle to the zip lock bag and fill it with the remaining panko mixture. From the outside of the bag, press the panko into the chicken bundle. Roll tightly and refrigerate until required.
  10. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Heat the oven-proof frying pan (previously used for the panko) with a little oil and fry 3 of the 4 sides of the chicken bundle until golden. When all three sides are golden, place the unfried part of the chicken bundle down onto the pan and place the pan in the oven and bake the chicken until the internal temperature is 165° F at its thickest part.
  11. When the chicken has reached the temperature, place the cooked chicken on a cutting board and cover for 10 minutes. Slice it in even slices and serve with your favourite veggies.

 

I served the chicken with cauliflower mash.

Notes:

  • I add the mayo into the egg because it really helps to crisp the breading, because it is baked and not fried.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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