Cooking is a favourite hobby of mine. It is an activity my wife and I enjoy sharing. See also my food and drinks links page. This category archive contains descriptions of some of the more interesting meals we've cooked.
Almost a month has gone by since my last post, so I’d better fill in some of the gaps. Here’s a quick run-down, some of which I’ll expand of later:
That’s all for now.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a full food entry, so here’s a good one. Although we didn’t have much time to do something special for Valentine’s Day, we decided to make something rather nice for dessert: crème brulée.
My sister gave us a culinary blowtorch for Christmas, and so we decided that this would be the first thing we did with it. Click on the extended entry for the full account of this recipe.
Another gift was used for this recipe as well—a vanilla bean my parents brought back for us from Mexico:
First we slit and scraped the vanilla bean, and then added it to a saucepan of cream, bringing it just to the boil. Meanwhile, we whisked together sugar and egg yolks, to which we slowly added the cream mixture, and strained. Next, the custard mixture is poured into ramekins, which are placed in a shallow baking dish with a small kitchen towel underneath, and then boiling water is poured around them. Finally, we put the ramekins of custard in the oven until set, allowed them to cool, and then stored them overnight in the fridge.
The actual torching happened the next day, just before serving. First of all, we had to work out how to fuel up the torch (with butane), and how to use it. Here’s a picture of me with the lit torch just before setting the flame to the ramekins:
If you look closely, you can just make out the blue flame, which unfortunately doesn’t photograph well in the fully lit kitchen. In any case, the way the torching process works is, granulated sugar is sprinkled on top of the custards, and then the flame is applied in small circles melting the sugar.
This process is continued until the sugar is caramelized, producing a nice brown colour.
And there you have it. The crème brulées were quite successful, and very yummy. With the first two we did, we perhaps put a bit too much sugar on top, but we perfected the process with the second two. And now we’ve got a new skill to add to our culinary repertoire, not to mention a new kitchen gadget (woo hoo!)—I do love kitchen gadgets. We’ll have to try the torch out on other types of recipes next.
Because we don’t do anything in half measures, we recently cooked a whole pork shoulder:
This is, of course, far more pork than the two of us could eat, even if we were more porcine than the pig it came from. After the first dinner, which also featured a pan gravy and baked potatoes, we carved up the left overs, used some to make a hash (with eggs, potatoes, onions, peas, and some of the gravy) for lunch, and froze the rest (including the bone) for use in future soups. I think a pea soup would be very nice. And of course all quite economical.
Time for another compendium cooking post, this time involving various, newly acquired cooking implements and cookbooks!
Earlier in the summer we bought a new cookbook, another in the Essential Cookbook series called The Essential Barbecue Cookbook. Since a number of the recipes in the book call for cooking on a barbeque griddle or a cast iron skillet on the grill, we bought ourselves another cast iron pan to use exclusively on the barbeque. For our first recipe from this new cookbook, we decided to adapt one of the recipes involving the skillet, Scallops with Sesame Bok Choy. What we wanted to do was make the sesame bok choy and serve it with something else. Having dutifully seasoned our newly purchased pan, we then realised that it would be unwise to use it in its maiden usage for this recipe since it involved a certain amount of liquid that included some lime juice; one isn’t supposed to use cast iron cookware with liquids, especially acidic liquids, until it is very well seasoned. So instead we made the sesame bok choy on the stovetop. Essentially what happens is sesame seeds and garlic are briefly fried in sesame oil. Then the baby bok choy are placed in the pan, and a marinade from the scallops in the original recipe, containing soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, kecap manis, lime juice and rind, and grated fresh ginger, is poured over. Here’s a picture of the bok choy cooking:
To go with the bok choy, we re-created the short rib dish we made previously with my father-in-law, marinated in dark soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice wine, and ginger. Here’s the finished dinner served on top of some rice:
So unfortunately we didn’t manage to use our newly acquired cast iron pan on this particular occasion.
In the past, we’ve found that making cornbread is a really good way to break in a cast iron pan and develop the non-stick surface, so we decided to make some cornbread on the barbecue. After heating up the pan on the grill with some oil in it, we poured the batter in. Here’s a picture of the cornbread nearing completion, with some vegetable packages cooking on the side:
After taking the cornbread off the grill, we decided that it wasn’t quite done, so we briefly finished it off under the broiler while the rest of the dinner was cooking on the barbeque. To go with the cornbread, along with the vegetable packets, we barbequed some pork ribs. I’m not ashamed to admit that when we make barbequed ribs, we first boil the ribs, with a sliced onion and a sliced lemon, before finishing up on the grill with the sauce — though I’m sure barbeque afficionadoes would be horrified that we don’t actually slow cook them. It’s just so much easier! I’m also not ashamed to admit that we use a bottled sauce, President’s Choice Memories of Dad’s Grill, flavoured with maple syrup. It’s just so damn good! Here’s the finished dinner, with some boiled corn on the side:
So finally we managed to use our dedicated barbeque cast iron pan. It’s starting to come along now; hopefully soon we won’t have to worry about what we cook with it.
The final dinner of this compendium post uses another recently acquired cooking gadget, the slow cooker. It also involves another new cookbook borrowed from my mother: Judith Finlayson’s The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes. The particular recipe we made was a traditional Mexican dish, Snapper Vera Cruz:
First, onions, garlic, oregano, ground cinnamon and cloves, and finely chopped jalapeño pepper are briefly sautéed in oil on the stovetop. Then a can of diced tomatoes and some clam juice is added to the pan and brought to the boil. Once boiling, this mixture is then poured into the slow cooker:
In the last twenty minutes of the cooking, thinly sliced snapper fillets are added, along with some lemon juice. Finally, capers and sliced olives are added. It was a very good dish, and we can’t wait to make some more slow cooker recipes!
We’ve been quite busy canning lately (as you can read here, here, and here). I have three new preserves to write about — Raspberry Natural Summer Fruit Jam, Kincades Lime Mint Jelly, and Rhubarb Chutney — the first two of which are again taken from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving and the last of which is modified from a number of recipes we found online.
The first recipe, Raspberry Natural Summer Fruit Jam, begins with making an apple sauce by boiling some chopped apples, including the cores, with a small quantity of water. A lemon is peeled and juiced, and the remaining pulp is then chopped and added to the apples. Once the apples are cooked, the sauce is sieved and then returned to the pan along with some raspberries and the lemon peel:
This is brought to the boil and the sugar is added gradually. Then the lemon juice is added. Next the jam is removed from the heat, the peel is discarded, and the rather messy jar filling takes place. Here’s the finished product:
We filled six 250 mL jars and five 125 mL jars, which is about 2.5 cups more than the recipe was supposed to produce, just like our last recipe.
Next we made the Kincade’s Lime Mint Jelly, largely because — as is often the case with those who have herb gardens — we have so much damn mint! This recipe uses liquid pectin to cause the jelly to set. First the limes are peeled and juiced and the mint is finely chopped. The zest and the mint is boiled in water and allowed to steep:
The mint infusion is then strained through a cheese cloth and returned to the pan. At this point the sugar, crème de menthe, and lime juice is added, and the mixture is further boiled. Then the mixture is removed from the heat and the liquid pectin is added. After the jars were filled, this is what we were left with:
This time we got seven 250 mL jars and four 125 mL jars, about a cup less than we were supposed to.
And finally, we made our first chutney of the year, Rhubarb Chutney:
This chutney was made with rhubarb, onions, raisins, apple, brown sugar, and cider vinegar, and seasoned with salt, allspice, coriander seeds, minced ginger, garlic, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and lovage (another herb we have far too much of). This produced five 236 mL jars and one 125 mL jar. There are a whole bunch of other chutneys we want to do, along with lots of other preserving, so stay tuned…
Last weekend, my wife and I went up to her parents’ cottage, our only real vacation this summer. You can read my wife’s account of our weekend here, and see some photos not included in my post. Here’s a picture of the cottage from the back, which my wife didn’t use:
Among the cottage activities were a cut-throat game of Scrabble won handily by my father-in-law Ian — I came in a distant second — much music, much eating, and some swimming and lounging on the beach reading. Here’s a view from the beach:
I brought up with me my baritone ukulele and my guitalele, knowing there would be guitars already there. Here’s a picture of me noodling on the baritone:
Dinner on Saturday night was a spit-roasted suckling pig, already described by my wife. Here’s a picture of Pete enjoying his birthday pig:
On Sunday we had barbequed rabbit, which you can see on the table in this picture, the remains of which became a wonderful rabbit stew for Monday’s lunch. Also worthy of mention is a frittata that Aven’s grandmother, Aven, and I made for lunch on Sunday. Made from a variety of ingredients we happened to have on hand (1, 2, 3), the frittata was first fried on the stovetop before being baked and then broiled. That and a cold beer made for a nice lunch.
It was a much needed relaxing weekend, and hopefully these photos give some sense of the experience. I’ll finish off with a photo of Saturday night’s bonfire which, I think, ideally captures the cottage mood:
And now the answer to the question I posed the other day: it’s a setup for drying herbs, specifically in this case (as Madhava indicated, though I suspect solely from the file name of the image) mint.
It’s a box fan with herbs from our garden (as I said specifically in this case mint, both leaves and flowers) sandwiched between air filters weighed down with some cans. The idea is the extra air circulation allows the herbs to dry much faster. We first did it with two layers, but I think our air filters are don’t permit enough airflow to allow more than one layer of herbs, as the process was somewhat slower than expected. We’re tried it again with only one layer and achieved bone-dryness in about a day.
What is this strange contraption and what is it used for? Send your guesses in and stay tuned for the exciting answer…
For our second preserve of the year (see my account of our first here and my wife’s account of our canning activities here), we decided to make use of the rhubarb from our garden and made gingered citrus-rhubarb jam, another long-boil jam with no added pectin. This recipe sounded so interesting and so yummy, we just couldn’t resist.
Again, the process was rather simple. In a large pot we put chopped rhubarb, orange peel and juice, lime peel and juice, sugar and grated fresh ginger, and then boiled it. Once the jam was boiled down to the right consistency, we went through the usual canning process. Since this time used both the larger 250 mL jars and the smaller 125 mL jars (five of each), we also had to use the make-shift insert for our canning kettle. We’ve found the the small jars don’t work too well with the usual rack in the kettle — they tend to fall through to the bottom — so we got a wire fruit basket for this purpose, which you can see in this picture:
It is also interesting to note that we seemed to produce 2.5 cups more jam than the recipe said. Not quite sure why.
[Note: My apologies to A.E. Houseman whose lovely poem I sorely mistreated in the title of this entry.]
And now for the conclusion of my account of my father-in-law’s Toronto visit and our “typically” Toronto activities. Again, those not interested in these types of blog entries can stop reading this rather long entry now, though this entry also has a decidedly literary focus…
On the Monday of his visit, Ian entertained himself with some tree-seeing at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and other family visiting while my wife and I caught up on some work, but on the Tuesday — Ian’s last day in town — we had a number of activities. Since it was Ian’s birthday, we took him out for a sushi lunch — certainly a typically Toronto activity — to New Generation Sushi, our favourite sushi restaurant. It seems, at least amongst our friends, that people break down into different camps depending on which Bloor Street sushi restaurant they prefer. One group prefers Sushi on Bloor, while my wife and I prefer New Generation. (There are also a number of other sushi restaurants on the Annex stretch of Bloor; anyone else want to name a favourite?)
After lunch, Aven and I got to work on the provisions for our evening activity, to wit we made a picnic dinner to bring with us to the Dream in High Park production of As You Like It. The main dish was Coronation Chicken from Great British Cooking by Jane Garmey. The dish, a cold, curried chicken invented in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, is purported to have been enjoyed by the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting in a stolen moment during the rather long ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Since the recipe calls for cooked chicken, we poached some chicken breasts which we then cut up into small pieces. The sauce was made by sautéing onion and curry powder in some olive oil, and then adding chicken stock, tomato paste, lemon juice, and mango chutney and simmering. We then puréed the mixture in the blender, and completed the sauce by adding mayonnaise and cream. The side dish we made was a mango salad that also contained raisins, cashew nuts, mint, coriander powder, asaphoetida powder, and powdered chilli, and the chicken was served on basmati rice:
Here’s a picture of Ian and Aven enjoying our picnic dinner in the Dream in High Park amphitheatre before the show:
It was only later that we realised we perhaps more appropriately could have made something from Eating Shakespeare by Betty & Sonia Zyvatkauskas, a cookbook containing various renaissance dishes. Nevertheless, the dinner we did make was excellent and always one of my favourites.
Our time was only slightly dampened by a brief rain shower, which is quite fortunate given the severe thunderstorm warning. And most fortunately the rain had mostly passed by the time the show started.
The play itself was very good. (You can read my wife’s brief account here.) The acting was quite good, particularly the female lead Allana Harkin in the role of Rosalind. Also worthy of special mention is the fun music in a 50’s style — the play was reset in a 1950’s setting which also made for good costuming options — composed by Marek Norman. I thought perhaps more could have been done with the homosexual undertones of the play. There is, of course, always an interesting irony in Shakespearean plays which feature cross-dressing in the plot since all the female characters were played by cross-dressed boys in Shakespeare’s time. In current productions, which feature female actors, it seems a good opportunity to explore these sexual undercurrents in a different way. Then again, perhaps such heavy handed directing would be out of place in a play written for light entertainment (though there are definitely not-so-hidden depths, for instance the character Jaques). In any case, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production and quite appropriately staged in High Park due to the thematically important setting of the Forest of Arden. Here’s a picture of the beautifully lit stage:
Is it really geeky of me to be quite interested to know more about Shakespeare’s sources, which apparently draw heavily on Robin Hood material?
For once we’ve started our canning and preserving at the right time when all the materials are easily available. Our first recipe, from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving, was raspberry red currant jam because of the large amount of raspberries in our garden (we had to buy the red currants).
First of all the raspberries were crushed and the currants were picked over and washed. We then cooked the currants in some water until softened. Here you can see the cooking currants next to the canning kettle to get a sense of size of the kettle:
More on the kettle in a moment.
The red currant pulp was then returned to the pan, along with the crushed raspberries and sugar. This mixture was then cooked until reduced to the right consistency. Now the jam was then ready for canning.
Once the jam was in the jars with the lids on, they had to be processed in the canning kettle. For those who don’t know, a canning kettle is essentially a large pot with a rack inside to keep the jars from touching the bottom. Here’s a picture of the jars in the kettle:
The rack also allows one to more easily remove the jars from the kettle, though we also just got a set of tongs which is specially designed to hold jars, a useful thing when canning.
When the jars are boiled, most of the air is forced out of the tops of the jars. When the jars cool after they are removed from the kettle, a vacuum seal is formed and the snap lids pop inwards. Here’s a picure of the finished jars:
This was a fairly simple recipe, just two types of berries and sugar, but it shows the canning process fairly clearly. We’re also doing some more complex recipes, which I’ll describe in turn.
This is a continuation of my account of our typically Toronto activities with my father-in-law, comprising Sunday’s activities. Read on if interested in such things…
It seems that we only manage to get out to Dim Sum when someone comes to visit, so we certainly weren’t going to pass up this opportunity. On Sunday, my wife and I went with my father-in-law to our favourite Dim Sum restaurant, the Kowloon, 5 Baldwin Street. This is the type of Dim Sum restaurants in which you order dishes from a card rather than picking them off a cart as they go by. The cart system is fun, but when you order you can be sure to get everything you want. After stuffing ourselves happily — I’m addicted to pork shumai — we wandered into Kensington Market.
During the summer is Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market, which means that the market is closed to cars. It’s quite nice to be able to wander about more easily. Also part of this programme are special themes; this particular Sunday was Kensington Cook Off, but since we were so stuffed from Dim Sum, we didn’t eat anything. Our main activity was to search for some light, cotton, long-sleeved shirts for my father-in-law in the many boutiques, and we found the perfect thing in one particular shop that specialises in Indian clothing. There were also a number of steet performers in the market, and we saw one quite amusing performer who escaped from a straightjacket and juggled a torch, a machete, and an axe while balancing on a a raised board. We also saw the Kensington Community Band, I think they called themselves, led by, I believe, Richard Underhill of the Shuffle Demons and consisting of people from the community of varying abilities and backgrounds:
They were quite fun to listen to. After wandering around a bit more and picking up some vegetables for that night’s dinner, we walked back home looking at the gardens and trees along the way.
That night we decided to have a barbeque. We marinated short ribs in dark soya sauce, chili garlic sauce, sherry, and ginger, and made up vegetable packets of various peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and onion with wasabi lime mustard (and other flavourings) in aluminum foil packets to go on the grill. We had a lovely time eating outside in the backyard where we sat until it was quite dark sipping after dinner drinks by candle light. Here are some photos (click on the image to enlarge):
A lovely end to a lovely day! Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Ian’s visit to Toronto…
As my wife already mentioned in her blog (along with some pictures), while my father-in-law was visiting here we did some typical Toronto activities, including a visit last Saturday to the Distillery Historic District on Mill Street. I thought I’d include a description of our activities here to give a sense of what Toronto has to offer. (Those not interested need not continue reading this lengthy entry.)
While at the Distillery District, we enjoyed some comestibles from the Brick Street Bakery, including my choice of a roast beef sandwich, my wife’s of a chicken and tarragon pie, and my father-in-law’s of a stout and steak pie:
Wonderfully fresh bread as the contented look on my face indicates.
Of course we visited the Mill St. Brewery:
If you ever have a chance, try their beers (unfortunately I don’t know how widely they are distributed). In particular, I like the Coffee Porter and the Tankhouse Ale.
We happened to have gone to the Distillery District during the Party Gras festival, part of the Beaches Jazz Festival, so we saw many great jazz bands including this fabulous trad jazz band, The Downtown Jazz Band:
The bass player had this neat electric bass on which he even played a bowed bass solo. Notice the tiny trumpet in this picture. We listened to a number of bands ranging from small ensembles to big bands. Another intriguing band we saw I can only describe as Jamaican funk jazz, and we sat for a while and sipped some beer while listening to Zydeco Storm. All in all, quite a good quantity and variety of music.
After a quick respite at home, we headed out to another typical Toronto destination, the Danforth, where we had dinner at our favourite Greek restaurant, Avli. After the fabulous dips with pita, as usual I had lamb chops, Aven had the rabbit pie, and Ian had the roast lamb special, and we enjoyed two different half bottles of retsina.
After dinner, we to see my friend David’s band (appropriately named The David Hein Band) perform at the Black Swan. Excellent as usual. Here are a couple of photos (1, 2). And that was just Saturday. Stay tuned for an account of Sunday’s exciting activities.
This posting is a follow-up to my previous summer cooking compendium. Again, I won’t include a full, blow-by blow account of the process, just a brief description and some pictures. Click on the extended entry to keep reading…
First of all, we made several more recipes from the 2004 Milk Calendar of the dairy farmers of Canada. There was the tangy chicken and vegetable stew:
This was a curry made with chicken thighs, onions, garlic, various spices (curry powder, salt, peper, cinnamon), lemon rind, lemon juice, flour (for thickening), milk, chicken stock, sweet potatoes, apples, and parsley.
We also made a red pepper and mushroom baked omelette, consisting of potato, eggs, milk, flour, tarragon, salt, pepper, mushrooms, red pepper, and Cheddar cheese. (Sorry, no picture.)
The most recent milk calendar recipe we did is called Fabulous Fillet of Salmon:
Fillets of salmon are placed in a baking dish and covered with asparagus and red peppers (as seen here). Then a mixture of flour, cream cheese, milk, lemon rind, dill, salt, and pepper is poured over the salmon and vegetables, and it is baked in the oven, and then served sprinkled with lemon juice. Unsurprisingly, Tigger showed some interest in this meal.
One other barbequed meal worth mentioning involved barbequed pork brined in a molasses brine. Among the accompanying side dishes was a fabulous potato salad, but what’s really worth mentioning here is the beautiful strawberry and rhubarb pies my wife made from the rhubarb from our garden (more soon on what else we’re doing with our home-grown rhubarb):
Last Thursday was our fourth wedding anniversary. Our wedding anniversaries usually revolve around food and culture. In the past we’ve often cooked fancy dinners and gone to museums. This year we decided to take it easy a bit.
We slept in and then went to brunch at By the Way Cafe, where we had eggs charlottine (poached eggs, smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, hollandaise) and mimosas (champagne and orange juice). It’s been a while since we’ve been there, so it was nice to go back again.
Then we decided to do some pleasant errands. First we bought a photo album with which to finally organise our honeymoon photos. Then we went to the LCBO at Summerhill to browse and shop. I bought a couple of bottles of single malt Scotch (a subject of another post) and my wife bought a bottle of Scottish gin. We also got some vodka and some wine from the Corbière region in southern France where we had our honeymoon. We then returned home for a brief rest before going out to dinner.
Since our anniversary was during the Summerlicious festival, in which participating Toronto restaurants offer prix fixé menus, we decided to go out to dinner at a nice French restaurant, Le Sélect Bistro (see the full menu here). I had the vichyssoise (a cold leek and potato creamed potage) to start and my wife had the pissaladière provençale (a traditional Provençale onion tart with a Goat cheese crumble). For the entrée, I had the lamb couscous with Merguez (grilled lamb chops on a bed of couscous with spicy Algerian Merguez sausage, and braised vegetables) and my wife had the free-range old fashioned duck confit with a cranberry relish, scalloped potatoes and French beans. Finally, for desert, I had the gateau chocolat with Grand Marnier sauce and my wife had the parfait praliné with almond brittle. The dinner was fantastic and we would certainly recommend the restaurant to anyone, particularly for its fantastic wine list.
After dinner we returned to our house to enjoy a glass of hydromel, which we had brought back from our honeymoon, and exchange our gifts. Traditionally, the fourth wedding anniversary is the fruit or flowers anniversary, and in more modern practice it is the appliances anniversary. We usually amuse ourselves by trying to work within these boundaries. Earlier in the day I, of course, bought my wife some flowers, but the fruit took a bit more creativity — I gave my wife some mango Body Shop products. The main part of the gift, the appliance, was a fancy slow cooker. My wife gave me a jar of blood orange jam (I love blood oranges), a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of flowers (I’ve become addicted to puzzling), and pasta extruder attachments for our Kitchenaid stand mixer. I’m really looking forward to extruding fresh pasta!
It was a lovely anniversary and very relaxing and enjoyable for us both. Now next year’s fifth anniversary is woodenware/silverware, so I’ll have to start thinking…
There seems little point in trying to give a complete and detailed account of all the dinners we prepared over the last one month plus, but a short summary is called for. For the most part, we’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather by grilling most of our dinners. For the most part, these have been rather simple meals: grilled chicken pieces with some type of barbeque sauce, grilled sausage, grilled steaks, etc. But a few of our recent meals are worthy of special mention. I’ll put half of them in this entry and the rest in a second part in a few days.
We made up a batch of hamburger patties, which we froze for later convenience. The patties were made up of ground beef, lamb, and pork, with bread crumbs, egg, diced mushroom, garlic, onion, Worcester sauce, lovage, salt, and pepper. Here you can see the burgers grilling, with slices of provolone added (and buns toasting on the right), and the finished burgers:
The mushrooms were added on a brilliant tip from Mike, who produces some of the best burgers I have ever tasted, to add juiciness. Next batch I’ll add even more mushrooms.
We also made several iterations of grilled salmon on fresh baby greens with citrus vinaigrette (citrus olive oil, lemon juice, sometimes a splash of orange juice, garlic, salt, and pepper). On the left with atlantic salmon on a bed of mache, and on the right with pacific sockeye salmon on a bed of mache, frisée, and a radicchio-like lettuce (click on the image to enlarge):
This has become my new favourite way of serving grilled fish. We’ve also done this (though with a slightly different vinaigrette) with shrimp and scallops.
Fresh spring vegetables are apparently the traditional accompaniment to morels, as is cream sauce since morels are good at holding the sauce. The combination of asparagus and morels was ideal as far as I’m concerned.
Those are some of the more interesting meals we’ve prepared over the last little while. Stay tuned for part II of this entry, along with new and interesting meals. But as I said above, most of the grilling we do is quite simple. When you’ve got good, fresh ingredients, you don’t need to do much.
Last Saturday, along with a number of my friends I attended the Santé Bloor-Yorkville wine festival. We tried a lot of really good wines, including wines from Stoney Ridge, Miguel Torres, and Robert Mondavi Winery. One of the best we had was a 9-year-old Shiraz (anyone who was there remember the winery?). I also tried a sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon — the first sparking red I think I’ve ever had — but I found it a bit too sweet. Usually the wine festival is the same weekend as the Kalamazoo conference, so I’ve never managed to go before, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to go this time.
After trying all these fabulous wine (and while our defences were down), we went to Pusateri’s, a gourmet food store, and bought various cheeses — I bought Grand Champion Blue Benedictin sheep’s milk cheese and Chenal du Moine soft ripened cheese from Québec — and other such things, including a poached pear torte. After finally tearing ourselves away from Pusateri’s, we went to Whole Foods to buy dinner making supplies.
We then headed over to Mike Shaver’s place for dinner. Mike treated us to a duck and mango salad, fancy burgers, and the aforementioned poached pear torte, along with more wine of course. (You can read Mike Beltzner’s reaction here for further proof of the excellence of this meal.) A fine way to cap a fun day.
When we made the lamb folláin for Easter, as usual for us we made more than we could possibly eat that night. Some of the leftovers became lunch of the following days, but a large amount of it was frozen and just recently became a lamb curry, Rogan Josh:
We had rice, raita, and poppadums on the side.
First we cut the lamb up into chunks. Then we briefly cooked chopped onion in ghee until soft, and added yoghurt to the pan. Next in the pan were the spices (chilli powder, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, turmeric), garlic, and ginger. Then we added salt and diced tomatoes and simmered briefly. Then we added the lamb and left it to simmer longer:
At the very end of the cooking process, we added garam masala — we made this spice mixture ourselves at one point, but I couldn’t say exactly what’s in it at the moment — and garnished with toasted slivered almonds.
The rice — basmati of course — was made in our rice cooker, with chicken broth, ghee, peas, turmeric, cloves, cardamom pods, and a cinnamon stick. The raita consisted of yoghurt, cucumber, toasted spices (cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, ground cumin), salt, fresh ginger, and was garnished with paprika.
Two cocktails accompanied the making of this lamb curry, chosen on the basis of name value only: East India Cocktail (1 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1 1/2 oz dry sherry, 1 dash orange bitters) and Bombay Cocktail (1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth, 1 oz brandy, 1/4 tsp anisette [in this case Pernod], 1/2 tsp triple sec).
We did another experimental dish on Friday night, loosely inspired by the idea I had of doing California rolls in the form of a salad:
First of all the salad greens were a mixture of baby greens mix and mâche1, delicate enough for this type of salad. The seafood was a mix of various types of surimi (including crab, lobster, and scallops), the key ingredient in California rolls. The other element of our salad was avocado, also a key component to California rolls.
The salad dressing was also inspired by sushi. We mixed together soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, and rice wine vinegar, along with wasabi powder and wasabi lime mustard to give the dressing a bit of a kick.
We tossed the surimi and avocado in some of the dressing and then spooned it over a bed of the greens. Then we poured more of the dressing over top. Finally we sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds over the salad.
It was very good. Other things we could have added, in keeping with the California roll theme, are some cucumber, nori, or some pickled ginger as a garnish.
And as a pre-dinner cocktail, we made ourselves vodka gimlets (2 parts vodka, 1 part Rose’s Lime Cordial). Normally I prefer gimlets made with gin, but (horrors!) we’re out of gin at the moment.
I thought for once I’d write about a recipe which wasn’t entirely successful; it wasn’t a complete failure — it still tasted all right — but it didn’t come out the way I thought it would. The dish was baked pork chops with lemon and herbs:
The recipe was from the 2004 Milk Calendar, a publication by the dairy farmers of Canada — don’t worry, it’s better than it sounds — this year by Christine Cushing. (Is this only found in Ontario, or is it distributed in other parts of Canada?)
First of all, we dipped the pork chops in milk, and thin in a mixture of bread crumbs, dried basil, and dried rosemary. Then the pork chops were put in the oven to bake.
Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a saucepan we sautéed garlic and onions, along with more basil and rosemary, in butter. Then we poured into the pan milk with cornstarch and lemon zest whisked into it, which we continued to whisk until thickened. Finally we added some lemon juice and salt to the sauce.
When the pork chops were almost done, we poured the sauce over them and baked for a few minutes more. This is where I think the recipe went wrong. There was too much sauce, and the chops lost their nice crispy outer texture.
In any case, we served the pork chops with broccoli and potatoes with the sauce poured over everything. As you can see in the picture at the start of this entry, our pork chops didn’t really come out looking like the picture in the calendar in the background. Oh well.
Every three or four months, we make a large pot of spaghetti sauce:
We then freeze this in two-person portions — one batch usually produces ten to twelve such portions — and have it once every week or two as a good quick dinner.
The recipe is one of my own devising. It started out as a kind of bolognese sauce, but as you’ll soon see, my recipe is not exactly traditional in every detail. The first thing in the pot was the tomatoes: several cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste.
While the tomatoes were coming up to a simmer, I browned the meat in olive oil in a large pan. First up was the ground beef, which was browned in two batches along with a spoon of minced garlic in each batch. Next I browned the ground pork — this was the first time I used pork as well as beef in this recipe — with more garlic. As each batch of meat was done, it was added to the pot with the tomatoes.
While I was browning the meat, my wife used our KitchenAid food processor to grate, dice, or slice the vegetables. First she grated some carrots which went straight into the pot — the sweetness of the carrots balances the bitterness of the tomatoes. The other vegetables she put through the food processor were then fried by me with again more garlic and olive oil before being added to the pot: diced onions, sliced celery, and sliced mushrooms.
The next stage in the process was the flavourings. I added even more minced garlic straight into the pot, some sugar (again to balance the tomatoes), freshly ground black pepper, and half a bottle of red wine. We didn’t add any salt since we were going to freeze it — we salt at the table instead. We also added a variety of herbs and spices: bay leaves, oregano, basil, lovage, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, and some chili powder to give it some kick.
Once the flavourings were added we left it to simmer for many hours (and several more hours to cool before we could freeze it). Oh, and we enjoyed campari and orange juice while we were making this work-horse of a recipe. We are now provisioned for the summer as far as spaghetti sauce goes.
On Friday night my wife and I went over to Mike Shaver and Tyla’s house to watch the hockey game. Since they had been kind enough to provide a wonderfully bbq’d dinner for everyone two nights before, Mike Beltzner, my wife, and I decided to bring dinner this time.
My wife and I brought the barbequeables. We got some boneless chicken thighs and some pork tenderloin and put them in a very simple but effective marinade which we came up with: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, and pepper. They were expertly grilled by Shaver and came out really well. I’m definitely geared up for bbq season now.
Beltzner made a wonderful Greek salad, and for desert we had grilled pineapple with ice cream and rum sauce. It was the the perfect meal to celebrate another Leafs victory.
This time we served it on a bed of rice.
The first change we made to the recipe was to add leeks, as well as broccoli, to the shellfish. We also adjusted the cooking times a bit. We started out stirfrying the leeks until soft, then we added the broccoli to the wok. Since we used smaller scallops this time (and a more even ballance between the scallops and the shrimp), we were able to add both shellfish to the wok at the same time and have them cooked at the same time:
Due to the smaller size of the scallops we didn’t overcook the shrimp this time. The final modification we made was to add a splash of vermouth to the wok right at the end. It was definitely a good addition. I think we still need to adjust the ratio of the roasted garlic and chilli olive oils. Also, the leeks may have been a bit too delicate for the recipe, so we might try a different member of the onion family next time.
Last weekend my parents visited for Easter. On Sunday, we had Easter dinner along with my sister and her husband:
Along with the lamb, we also made the jus as we did the last time we did Lamb Folláin, and also glazed the carrots in the marmalade as we did before. In addition, we roasted potatoes (with our favourite roasted garlic oil), and steamed some spinach (which we also tossed with roasted garlic oil).
The other side dish, deserving of special note, was asparagus. Since the key flavouring of the lamb was orange, we decided to make orange the unifying theme of our dinner. We steamed the asparagus, and made up an orange hollandaise to pour over it. We had made a lime hollandaise which we had found a recipe for before, so I figured there was no reason one couldn’t make an orange hollandaise. We simply added orange juice as well as lemon juice, along with some orange zest, to the egg, before blending while pouring in just-boiling butter. It came out very well indeed. We kept the hollandaise warm by submersing the jug in a bowl of warm water.
In the picture above, next to the hollandaise is the salad dressing we made. The salad itself consisted of romaine, boston lettuce, radicchio, frisée lettuce, and mesclun. We tied the salad into the theme by serving it with an orange vinagrette: orange juice, lemon juice, citrus olive oil, extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany, orange zest, Trapani sea salt from Tuscany, and freshly ground white pepper. The salad was also quite successful.
We set the table with our china, silverware, and crystal. Here’s a picture of the plated Easter dinner:
Dinner was accompanied by two different wines, Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot and Chateaux Puyfromage.
One final element to the orange-themed dinner: dessert. My wife made a chocolate cake flavoured with Grand Marnier, orange juice, orange flower water, and orange zest. You can read more about the cake and see pictures of it here. The cake was also a resounding success. Along with it we tippled Kittling Ridge Icewine & Brandy.
Indeed the the whole evening was very enjoyable, both for the wonderful and loving company and, if I may say so myself, for the delectable meal.
Another fairly simple recipe to blog about, meatloaf:
We had peas and mashed potatoes, with our favourite roasted garlic olive oil (as well as butter, salt, and pepper), on the side.
The meatloaf recipe itself is quite straightforward. In a large bowl we mixed ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, diced onions, diced shallots, crushed garlic, and seasoned with thyme, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. We then moulded this into a free-form loaf on a baking sheet (rather than in a loaf tin) and brushed the loaf with more ketchup. We then baked it until done. Simple, straightforward, and very satisfying.
A while back my wife and I made chili con carne, with corn bread and salad:
Not a very fancy meal, but a very satisfying one amid the end-of-term craziness.
The next stage in this very simple recipe was to add all the rest of the ingredients: diced tomatoes, pre-soaked and boiled romano and red kidney beans, canned corn, and green pepper. The seasonings included salt, pepper, and cinnamon. We also added some beer (Grolsch lager, to be specific) and left it to simmer.
We also made corn bread according to my wife’s recipe — though I’m told that the recipe from The Purity Cookbook is the best. After mixing the ingredients, we put the batter into a pre-heated cast iron pan and baked until done. There’s nothing quite like good cast iron cookware. Perhaps sometime I’ll blog about my various cookware preferences.
This seafood recipe is a new creation of ours; we had brought scallops and shrimp home from the grocery store on a whim and just made it up from ingredients we happened to have on hand. This recipe is a work in progress, and there’s still some tinkering to be done, but as we continue to experiment with it I’ll post more entries on our progress to track the creation and development of this new recipe.
It’s a fairly simple recipe actually. The seafood was first cleaned and dried. We decided to stirfry the seafood, but in a moment of fusion inspiration we decided to stirfry it in a combination of roasted garlic olive oil and chili olive oil. First we heated the wok over high heat until it was very hot. Then we added the oils and swirled to coat the wok. Then we added the shrimp, scallops, and broccoli to the wok:
Once the seafood was nearly cooked, we seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and Trapani sea salt from Sicily. The broccoli was an excellent choice because it holds the flavours quite well. Some of the modifications we’re planning for the next iteration of this recipe to add a splash of vermouth and to include a more even balance between the shrimps and scallops and an adjustment to the cooking time for the different ingredients, since we found that the shrimp cooked much quicker than the scallops.
My pre-dinner cocktail on Friday was a vodka martini, which, as with gin martinis, I prefer with a 3:1 ratio of vodka to vermouth and garnished with three olives:
My favourite vodka, by the way, is Ursus, made from an Icelandic recipe in Holland. Anyone else want to chime in with their favourite vodkas? Madhava, perhaps?
Having already sung the praises of the venerable cookbook The Joy of Cooking, I thought it meet that I also write an entry on a more recent book with a similar scope, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Like The Joy of Cooking, Bittman’s book is an attempt to provide a comprehensive resource of standard recipes and basic cooking techniques. I am constantly consulting both works. On Wednesday night, we prepared sautéed pork chops with dried apricots, a variation of Bittman’s Sautéed Pork Chops, Eight Ways:
We browned the pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper, on both sides. Then we added garlic and dry Fino sherry — this was our own slight modification of the recipe which calls for dry white wine — and cooked until the liquid was all but evaporated. Next in the pan was chicken stock, and the pork chops were simmered until cooked. We then removed the pork chops from the pan and kept them warm in the oven.
The next stage is to make the sauce. We added dried apricots, which had been soaked in boiling water, along with the soaking liquid to the pan and boiled the sauce until it was thickened and the apricots were soft:
When plating up, we poured the sauce over the pork chops and had boiled new potatoes and salad, consisting of romain lettuce and radiccio, on the side. The apricots are a fabulous complement to the pork chops. Like the sautéed chicken breast recipe, this sautéed pork chop dish has become part of our standard repertoire; it is quick and easy, as well as very satisfying. Mark Bittman certainly does good work!
The Joy of Cooking doesn’t always get the credit it deserves as a cookbook. In addition to being an invaluable reference book, The Joy of Cooking is also a good collection of basic (and some not-so-basic) recipes. On Sunday night we prepared sautéed boneless chicken breasts with tomatoes, capers, and basil:
Next we sautéed minced shallots until softened, and then added vermouth to de-glaze the pan. Once the vermouth was mostly evaporated, we added tomatoes to the pan, along with garlic, capers, and basil. This sauce was then boiled until thickened.
As a side dish, we steamed some rapini and tossed it with some extra virgin olive oil (from Tuscany), garlic, and parmesan. This was then served with the chicken breasts and rice covered with the tomato, caper, and basil sauce.
And as usual on a weekend, the dinner preparations were accompanied by a pre-dinner cocktail. Since we were cooking with vermouth I had a gin martini, which I prefer to make with a 3 to 1 ratio of gin to vermouth, garnished with 3 olives:
It seems to have been a week since my last food entry, so I guess this is long overdue. It is hard to resist the appeal of food porn. And speaking of food porn, Saturday night’s repast was a traditional Chinese recipe called Ants Climbing Trees, along with bok choy in oyster sauce:
The recipes are taken from two of the books from the Essential Cookbook series published by Whitecap, The Essential Wok Cookbook and The Essential Asian Cookbook. This series, which I highly recommend, is the ultimate in food pornography, with many beautiful photos, along with fabulous recipes (visible in the background of the above photo).
First of all the Ants Climbing Trees. As The Essential Wok Cookbook says, “this Chinese dish gets its name from the pork (ants) climbing the noodles (trees).” Normally we would just buy ground pork for this recipe, but as the grocery store was out of it when we went, we had to grind the pork ourselves using our Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and meat grinding attachment. This pork was then combined with soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil and allowed to marinate.
Meanwhile, the cellophane noodles (made with mung beans) were soaked in boiling water and drained.
Then, the aromatics, consisting of green onion, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, and black bean sauce — the recipe called for chilli bean sauce, but we had to improvise —, were stirfried briefly. Then the ground pork mixture was added to the wok. After this was stirfried for a couple of minutes, the rest of the sauce, consisting of chicken stock, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, was added.
Finally, we added the noodles to the wok and simmered until the sauce was reduced. Once it was done done, we garnished it with some more green onion.
As a side dish, we made steamed bok choy with oyster sauce. First we briefly sautéed garlic in peanut oil. Then the other sauce ingredients, oyster sauce, sugar, water, and sesame oil, were added to the saucepan and brought to the boil. The completed sauce was then poured over the steamed bok choy.
Oh, and of course my food entry would not be complete without the before-dinner cockails:
Chinese Cockails: 1 1/2 oz rum, 1/2 oz grenadine, 3 dashes triple sec, 1 dash Angostura bitters, garnished with a Maraschino cherry.
Another update on what I’ve been reading lately: I just finished reading Colin Peter Field’s The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris.
As many who know me know (and as is evident from my postings on food & drink), I am a bit of a cocktail aficionado. This is due largely to the fact than my wife and I, along with our former housemate Madhava, have hosted an annual fancy-dress cocktail party (already alluded to here). Since there’s no official Cocktail Party web site yet, you can get a pretty good idea of what these parties are like by looking at the pictures in the appropriate sections of my photo album and Madhava’s photo album.
As a result of this interest, my sister and her husband gave me and my wife the book The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris for Christmas. This book, written by the head bartender of the Bar Hemingway of the Ritz Paris, is not just a list of cocktail recipes; it is in fact more of a history of cocktails at the Ritz Paris.
The book starts off with a brief history of the bar and then moves into a more philosophical discussion of cocktails: the psychology of mixing drinks and the practical techniques involved. Field certainly has his own well-established views on the subject. Then Field gives not only the recipes of cocktails invented at Ritz Paris but also the stories behind their creation. It’s really quite an entertaining read. The focus in mainly on the cocktails invented by Field himself, but also listed are some of the classic cocktails invented at the Ritz Paris, including the Mimosa. I haven’t tried any new cocktails from the book yet, but they look quite good. And the book itself is quite fun and beautifully illustrated.
If you’re interested in more classic cocktails, I would recommend Vintage Cocktails: Authentic Recipes and Illustrations from 1920-1960 by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel. The classic recipes in this book are accompanied by the history of drinks and illustrations and poster art. Also a good read.
Next up on my list of readings is another book given to me as a gift, Kevin Jackson’s Invisible Forms, which was given to me and my wife ages ago by my sister-in-law. My wife read it right away, but I’m only now getting around to reading it. One of the nice things about being finished my dissertation is that I’m finally able to catch up on my pleasure reading!
Last night’s dinner was one of our more recent favourites, Singapore Noodles:
It’s a fairly simple recipe (from The Essential Wok Cookbook), actually, though it is a bit time consuming. First of all, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced, is put in a marinade of garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, and soy sauce for half an hour. Meanwhile, dried rice vermicelli are soaked in boiling hot water and then drained.
Next the flavourings and other ingredients are added. First some curry powder is stirfried with the chicken and vegetables until fragrant. Then more oyster sauce and soy sauce are added, along with sesame oil and and bean sprouts. Finally, the contents of the wok are combined with the noodles and some more spring onions for garnish:
On the side, we had (admittedly store-bought) egg rolls and chicken balls with plum sauce and cherry sauce, as you can see in the picture at the beginning of this entry.
While making this stirfry, I drank a Jade cocktail (1 1/2 oz rum1, 1/2 oz green crème de menthe, 1/2 oz triple sec, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 tsp sugar, slice of lime). Why didn’t I have the obvious Singapore Sling? We were out of Cherry Brandy, an amazing occurrence given our Cocktail Party extravaganzas (any publicly available official web site for this Madhava?). Of course, with dinner we drank Oolong green tea.
1 I used white rum this time, but it’s usually made with dark rum, or sometimes golden rum.
On Thursday night, we had one of our signature dishes, salmon with fruit salsa:
This is a recipe that we developed from the inspiration of an existing recipe. We had come across a recipe for a fruit salsa that seemed interesting, but we were unable to find most of the ingredients called for. We’ve modified the recipe over the years until perfecting it in the form it’s in now.
The salsa itself consists of mangos, avocados, papayas, red onion, lime juice, jalapeño, freshly ground mixed pepper, and salt. The combination of mango and avocado may seem odd at first, but trust me, it works amazingly well and complements salmon perfectly. You simply must try this recipe. The papaya can be omitted if you don’t have access to it.
As for the salmon, fillets or steaks will do. In the winter we broil it, in the summer it’s great grilled on the bbq. We like to brush the salmon with citrus olive oil before cooking, which is particularly when grilling to prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. You can use ordinary olive oil, but the citrus oil brings extra flavour to the party.
Oh, and what did we drink while preparing this culinary wonder? Margaritas of course!
Here’s one more recipe from Margaret M. Johnson’s The Irish Heritage Cookbook, Gaelic Steak, which we ate for our St Patrick’s Day dinner.
It’s a fairly simple recipe actually. We started off sautéeing mushrooms and onions in some butter, which were then removed from the skillet and set aside.
Next, the steaks were fried in some more butter. Meanwhile, we got the side dishes going: carrots boiled and tossed in some butter, green beans, and potatoes. We had all four burners going for a while (a situation which the stove is not always happy with).
Then we flambéed the steaks in Jameson Irish Whiskey:
As you can see, the initial fireball was quite excessive, but we managed to maintain our nerve and continue until the flame subsided. The last couple of times we did this recipe the flames weren’t so high. Once the flames had gone out, the steaks were removed from the pan.
The final task was to finish the sauce. Cream was added to the pan, along with some salt and pepper, and was allowed to reduce slightly as we deglazed the bottom of the pan. Then the mushrooms and onions were returned to the pan, and the sauce was cooked until thickened.
Finally we plated it all up. Again, note the tri-coloured arrangement of the carrots, potatoes, and green beans in the form of the Irish flag. It was a very delicious meal, and very flashy and festive to prepare, what with the flambéing. A perfect way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
Last night we had our pre-St Patrick’s day feast of Lamb Folláin:
Picking up where I left off, we took the marinated lamb out of the fridge an hour before putting it into the oven so that it could come up to room temperature. After removing it from the marinade and patting it dry, we placed it in another container and into the pre-heated oven. With the oven set to 325F we figured it would take about 2 hours to cook, but we used our handy digital thermometer to make sure that we cooked it to an internal temperature of 145F (medium rare).
At various points in the roasting process, we basted the lamb with some reserved marinade from the night before. I passed the time by first drinking a Rory O’More (3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey, 1 dash Orange Bitters), and then I modified a Softy (normally made with 2 oz Orange Juice, 1 1/2 oz Scotch, 2 tsp Drambuie, garnished with a cherry) into a more Irish-themed drink by substituting Jameson for the Scotch and Irish Mist for the Drambuie. As you can tell, both cocktails tie into the dinner as both are made with Jameson and either orange bitters or orange juice.
When the lamb was getting close to completion, we put together the sides: peas, potatoes, and baby carrots. On a whim, after boiling the baby carrots, we decided to sauté them briefly in butter and the Robertson’s marmalade that we had used in the marinade the night before. I can certainly recommend this way of doing carrots to anyone.
Finally, when our digital thermometer beeped at us, we took the lamb out of the oven and left it to rest for a few minutes tented under aluminum foil. We then turned our attention to another innovation, deciding to take the pan juices and leftover reserved marinade and make a jus. Then we carved the lamb and found it to be a perfect medium rare:
Finally we plated it all up with the jus poured over the lamb and the peas, potatoes, and carrots arranged on the plates to form the Irish flag (as you can see in the photo at the top of this entry). It was a fantastic dinner and certainly worthy of the occasion. Once again, I would certainly recommend Margaret M. Johnson’s The Irish Heritage Cookbook to anyone who enjoys this kind of cooking. Ther recipes are fairly easy but always good.
Last night we started the process for this evening’s dinner, Lamb Folláin, which we’re making in honour of the impending St Patrick’s Day celebration on Wednesday. The recipe is from Margaret M. Johnson’s excellent The Irish Heritage Cookbook, which I mentioned in a previous blog entry. Last night we made up the marinade, which consists of orange marmalade, Jameson Irish Whiskey, grated orange zest, minced garlic, olive oil, orange juice, fresh chives, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Since we didn’t have access to the special Folláin orange-whiskey marmalade, we used Robertson’s orange marmalade (admittedly made in England by appointment to H.M. the Queen!) and added some Jameson whiskey and a drop of lemon juice.
The combined ingredients were cooked over low heat until the marmalade melted and the sauce was smooth. Once the marinade had cooled a bit, we placed a boneless lamb leg in a container and poured the mixture over top to marinate in the refrigerator over night:
Tomorrow I’ll pick up the thread again and write about the completion of this meal. Stay tuned…
We start off cooking the mirepoix, which in this case contains carrots, celery, and leeks instead of onions (since we liked it so much the last time we did it that way) in olive oil. Once the mirepoix has softened a bit, we add our homemade cicken stock and bring to the boil. Meanwhile we add the seasonings, which we keep fairly simple for this recipe: salt, freshly ground black pepper, a bay leaf, lovage, and some parsley. Next in the pot is some boneless cicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces. Once the soup has come back to the boil, we leave it to simmer until the chicken is cooked.
After a brief pause for a manhattan, it’s time for the noodles. The noodles we like to use for this soup are very small soup noodles labelled as Filini 86 on the bag. Then the soup is left to simmer for about three minutes until the noodles are cooked:
Finally, once the soup is served in bowls, we add a garnish of some more fresh parsley. Like the bean soup, this chicken noodle soup is not complex or sophisticated, but it is a very satisfying comfort food. What really makes this soup (indeed any soup) a success is using a good homemade stock. Perhaps I’ll write about making stock the next time we do it.
In a continuation of the theme of yesterday’s entry, today’s topic is last night’s dinner, bean soup:
This is a recipe of our own devising. We start off rendering a few slices of bacon, then adding some olive oil, diced carrots, celery, and onion. Once the mirepoix1 has been cooking for a while and the onion is translucent, we add our home-made beef broth and the already soaked and boiled beans (red kidney, navy, and romano beans). Next, we add the flavourings, this time a bay leaf, lovage, sage, salt, and pepper.
Then, we add the the vegetables, staggered depending on their individual cooking times: green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli, as well as the parsley. (We sometimes also include corn, but we forgot to buy a can this week and were disappointed to find that we didn’t have one on hand in our pantry as a matter of course. Clearly we’re barbarians!)
When the vegetables are close to being cooked, we add the orzo pasta2. Here is a picture of the soup bubbling away on the stove. Finally, after serving, we garnish with some more parsley. Healthy and very satisfying.
1The French term for the traditional flavour base consisting of carrots, celery, and onions.
2Small rice-shaped pasta.
For dinner last night we made Beer-Braised Roast Pork:
The recipe (slightly modified procedurally) is from The Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson. I highly recommend this cookbook. As for the recipe itself, it consists of a boneless pork loin roast (browned), onions (sautéed), salt, pepper, parsely, and, of course, Guinness for braising. The Guinness, along with the slow braising process, makes for very tender pork. It’s a fairly simple recipe, but it’s very good. On the side, we had potatoes (of course), broccoli, and cauliflower.
And what to drink with such a meal? Well, Jameson’s Irish Whiskey before dinner, Guinness with dinner, and Irish Mist liqueur afterwards.
Tonight we’re making a bean soup, which I’ll write about tomorrow.
Well, I don’t have time for a full posting today, but I thought I’d just take a moment to wish everyone a happy St. David’s Day. I suppose it’s odd that I titled this posting in Old English (‘The Welsh and leeks’), but I’m afraid I don’t know any Old Welsh (would someone care to enlighten me?); it’s especially odd since the word ‘Welsh’ comes from the Old English word Wealh, which originally meant ‘foreigner, slave’. The poor Welsh were made slaves and foreigners in their own country by the Anglo-Saxons!
In celebration of St. David’s day, we put leeks in our chicken noodle soup last night (made from our home made stock). Etymology for the day: the word ‘leek’ comes from the Old English word leac, which is actually a general word for ‘onion’ and is the second element in the compound garleac ‘garlic’, literally ‘spear-leak’ because of its shape.
Last night my wife Aven and I made pizzas for dinner:
While this was not as involved a culinary endeavour as my wife and I are often known for, the pizzas were quite good and afford me the opportunity to include eye candy on my blog (an odd metaphor to use to refer to pictures of food). We started off mixing and kneading the dough with our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and we added fresh rosemary to the pizza dough. After leaving the dough to rise, and shaping it into two rather rustic-looking oblong shapes, we added the toppings. My wife brushed her crust with roasted garlic olive oil, while I opted for a blend of the roasted garlic olive oil and herbed chili olive oil. As for the toppings themselves, I went with a more traditional (though fulsome) selection of pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, red onion, green olives, garlic, bacon, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, and three types of cheese: mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesean. My wife, on the other hand, went with the somewhat sparser, though more unusual ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black kalamata olives, red onions, and basil. Here’s what they looked like before going in the oven:
Pretty easy to make, but very enjoyable. And we were able to enjoy them while watching Leafs win one. Go Leafs, go!