Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Curried Mushroom Salad

This is a nice little side salad that goes with meals plain and fancy; some broiled fish, chicken, or chops, or alongside other curried dishes. This mixture of cooked and raw mushrooms gives it a little subtlety. 

4 servings
50 minutes  - 20 minutes prep time

Curried Mushroom Salad

Cook Some of the Mushrooms:
125 grams (1/4 pound; about 8) button mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
a pinch of savory or thyme

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat the butter in a small skillet with the savory or thyme. Add the mushrooms and sauté gently until soft and slightly browned. Remove them from the pan and let them cool.

Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
a pinch of salt

Mix these thoroughly and set them aside.

Finish the Salad:
125 grams (1/4 pound; about 8) button mushrooms
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
1 or 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Mix them with the chives and parsley, and the cooked mushrooms. Mix in the salad dressing and stir gently. Let the salad rest for about half an hour in a cool spot before serving, to allow the flavours to meld.

Last year at this time I made Bean & Pesto Soup.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Celeri Remoulade

There are a number of national variations on the theme of grated celeriac in a more-or-less creamy dressing to be found in northern Europe. I have already essayed the German and Danish takes; here is the French version. Not too surprisingly, it features mayonnaise and an emphatic quantity of mustard. I prefer a somewhat grainy mustard for this, but all I had was a smooth Dijon, and it was fine. Use a little more or less according to how strong your mustard is, and how much you like it.

The apple is not a traditional addition, but it is becoming more popular, and I think for good reason, as it adds a bit of depth to the flavour.

6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Celeri Remoulade

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
a good grind of fresh black pepper

Whisk the above ingredients together in bowl which will hold the salad.

Make the Salad:
3 cups peeled, grated celeriac
1 large tart green or red apple

Peel and grate the celeriac. Wash the apple, but don't peel it. Cut it in quarters and remove the cores. Dice three of the quarters fairly finely, and mix them, with the celeriac, into the dressing. Slice the remaining apple quarter and use it to garnish the salad.

This can be made up to half an hour in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to serve.

Last year at this time I made Sauerkraut & Apple Stamppot

Friday, 22 February 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala, More or Less

This was one of the first recipes I ever posted, although I called it Red Spicy Chicken then, and as such I don't think it has ever gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves. It's one of my favourite chicken dishes. and it's quick enough to make as a weeknight supper, but good enough to serve to company - a great combination.

I made about a recipe and a half recently for some guests, and it wouldn't all fit in my pan at once, so I cooked the chicken, put it in a casserole dish, cooked the sauce then poured it over the chicken, and reheated the whole lot in the oven for half an hour at 350°F before serving it, which made it particularly suitable for company. No last minute fussing whatever. 

It's interesting (to me at least) to see how my recipe posting style has evolved since I first began blogging. Originally I made the ginger-garlic paste separately, and froze it in advance, which has real advantages for making this quick and easy.

2 to 3 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Make the Ginger-Garlic Paste
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
3" x 1" x 1" peeled fresh ginger

Peel the garlic. Peel and slice the ginger, and mince them finely together, until they are basically a rough paste. Set aside.

Make the Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
2.75 ounces tomato paste (1/2 small tin) OR 1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon hot red chile powder (or to taste)
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
½ teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

Mix the yogurt and tomato paste and sauce until smoothly blended. Mix in the spices. 

Finish the Chicken:
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
4-6 skinless, boneless (300 g to 450g) chicken thighs

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken well on both sides. Add the ginger-garlic purée, and mix in well. Cook for a minute or so more, then add the yogurt sauce mixture and reduce the heat.

Continue simmering the chicken, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken. It will seem curdled at first, but it will re-solidify as it cooks.

Serve over steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Cocoa Cream Puffs

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Carrots with Cardamom & Pistachios

We don't eat a lot of plain cooked carrots... not that these are plain... but somehow cooked carrots aren't our fave thing ever. We really liked these, though. And I'm very pleased when I come up with something that tastes this good but is really simple to do. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Carrots with Cardamom and Pistachios

450 grams (1 pound) carrots
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 or 6 pods of green cardamom
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shelled pistachios

Peel and trim the carrots, and cut them into chunks. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and boil them until tender; about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, crush the black peppercorns and cardmom together lightly, then pick out the green papery husks from the cardamom and discard them. Grind the pepper and cardamom thoroughly.

When the carrots are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot. Mash them with the pepper and cardamom, the butter, honey, and salt. If you prefer a smoother texture, they can be puréed in a food processor instead. Serve them with the crushed pistachios sprinkled over top.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Wild Rice & Root Vegetable Salad

We really enjoyed this salad; it was fresh and crunchy, with subtle earthy flavours sparked by the cranberries and nuts. I don't think it's really a main-course salad, but it would be a great accompaniment to just about any kind of meat; roast chicken, duck breast, pork chops, salmon, trout, steak... 

We used pistachios - for some reason I am on a pistachio kick - but any kind of nut would do well, with almonds or hazelnuts being my second choice. Wild rice is expensive, so this is something of a special occasion salad, although it does stretch pretty well. Go ahead and treat yourself!

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time PLUS 45 minutes to cook the rice,
not including cooling time
Wild Rice and Root Vegetable Salad

Cook the Wild Rice:
2/3 cup wild rice
2 2/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put the above ingredients into your rice cooker, and cook. You can also cook them in a pot on the stove: bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance. (Keep the rice in the fridge, covered.) At any rate, it must be done enough in advance to allow the rice to cool completely, at least 3 hours.

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, and shake to mix, or whisk them together in a small bowl.

Make the Salad:
1 cup finely grated carrot  (1 medium)
1 cup finely grated celeriac
1 cup finely grated rutabaga
2 cups finely shredded Savoy cabbage
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup lightly toasted nuts - pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans

Peel and grate the carrot, celeriac and rutabaga. Wash, trim and shred the cabbage.

Toss the vegetables with the wild rice, and mix in the dried cranberries and the nuts. Toss with the dressing.

Last year at this time I made Milky Vegetable Chowder.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Lamb Stifado

Lamb Stifado is a traditional Greek lamb stew, loaded with onions, tomatoes, and spices. Since there is no reason not to use canned tomato products for this, it can be made all through the winter. Serve it with crusty bread, rice or mashed potatoes, along with a salad or green vegetable. It is extremely easy to make, and it is best made in advance then reheated, like most stews.

Traditionally this is made with tiny whole onions, but I prefer it with the onions chopped up so that they cook down into more of an even sauce.

The only thing that might be considered remotely difficult about making this is fishing out all the pieces of spice later on. Do your best, but warn anyone eating it to keep an eye out for them. I suppose it would make more sense to keep them enclosed in a spiceball or teaball while the stew cooks, but I always seem to forget. They could also be tied in a piece of muslin if you don't have one big enough.

4 servings
2 hours 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Lamb Stifado

900 grams (2 pounds; about 6) medium onions
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
500 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing lamb
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
2 to 3 bay leaves
a 1" to 2" piece of cinnamon stick
6 to 8 allspice berries
3 or 4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Peel and chop the onions, fairly coarsely. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet, and cook half the onions until softened and reduced in volume, and somewhat browned. Remove them to the stew pot. Repeat with the remaining onions, this time adding the garlic a minute or two before removing the onions to the stew pot.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet, and add the lamb, cut in bite-sized pieces, being sure they are dry and well spaced out. Cook until brown, turning them to brown them all over. Add them to the stew pot.

Add the remining ingredients to the stew pot, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 to 2  hours, stirring occasionally. Like most stews, this keeps and reheats well; indeed it is better reheated.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Baked Beans & Wieners

While baked beans with wieners is a classic winter comfort-food dish, it's usually made with canned beans. Never mind that, it's much better made with dry beans from scratch. It's still pretty simple to put together; it just needs some advance planning.

I used some Snowcap beans I grew in the garden summer before last, and which needed using up. It's the first time I've eaten them; that was the year we had bean mosaic virus, and the Snowcap beans did not stand up well to it at all so the harvest was quite small. However, I'm going to have another try at growing them after this. They were absolutely beautiful beans when dry, and still looked quite nice once cooked, in two tones of brown. More to the point they were a good big bean with a good meaty texture and mild flavour.

However, any light coloured dry bean will work fine for this; navy (pea) beans, pinto beans, or kidney beans for example.

4 to 6 servings
3 days... but only about 30 minutes prep time

Baked Beans and Wieners

Cook the Beans:
2 cups (1 pound) dried navy or other beans
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring to a full rolling boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let them soak for several hours to overnight.

Change the water, and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 1 hour, until tender. Stir frequently. Alternatively, continue to bring to a boil, then cover and soak for several hours. Two or 3 times more will leave them almost cooked, and they can then be simmered briefly to finish.

This should be started up to 2 days in advance of finishing the dish.

Finish the Beans:
1 large onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
450 grams (1 pound) wieners
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Sucanat OR dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Peel and chop the onion. Slice the wieners into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and cook the Wieners until browned in spots. Add the onions to the pan and let them soften and brown somewhat as well.

Meanwhile, mix the mustard, Sucanat, vinegar, tomato sauce, and salt in a 2 1/2 quart baking pan. Mix the drained beans into the sauce, adding about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the wieners and onions when they are ready.

Bake at 350°F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir once in the middle of the baking.

Last year at this time I made Lima Bean Soup.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Edamame, Carrot, Endive & Quinoa Salad

Quinoa has been in the news lately because of the effects its surge in popularity over the last few years is having on the Bolivian and Peruvian economies; in particular the inability of poor Bolivians and Peruvians to afford what was previously an inexpensive staple for them. It's popularity is no wonder; it's quick and easy to cook and tastes delicious, with a nutty, almost sesame-like quality.

I don't think we should stop eating quinoa. Economies need exports, or everyone stays poor forever. Transitions are never easy. Out of season asparagus from Peru is another story though. Not only does it cause the same land-use issues, it is an enormous waster of scarce water resources. (Some differing viewpoints about this here, here and here.)  This is all coming up, I guess, since the U.N has declared 2013 "the year of quinoa".

Could we grow quinoa here? The answer seems to be a definite maybe. It's not a tropical plant, but one that prefers cooler weather. That seems promising, but unfortunately it is also very intolerant of humidity, which means southern Ontario is not an ideal place to grow it. However, it might do better in northern Ontario, and Prairie Garden Seeds has been supplying seed for it for at least a few years now. I suspect it would do better on the Prairies, which are much more like the original homeland of quinoa. Still, there are also apparently difficulties with day-length sensitivity; not uncommon with plants that originate near the equator. Likely northern South America will be supplying it for a while yet.

I happened  to have some radicchio in the fridge so I used it, but it isn't local. Endive is very similiar in flavour if not quite so pretty, and is Ontario grown. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time; add an hour to allow for cooling

Edamame, Carrot, Endive and Quinoa Salad

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

Whisk or shake these ingredients together in a small bowl or jam jar.

Cook the Quinoa & Edamame:
1 cup light quinoa
1 2/3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen edamame

Put the quinoa, water and salt in a rice cooker or small pot, and cook. If using a pot, bring it to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until done. Stir occasionally. When it is at least half done (about 10 minutes) it can be turned off and left, covered, to finish cooking for another 15 minutes or so. Let cool.

Cook the edamame  for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Rinse in cold water to cool and drain well.

Finish the Salad:
1 large carrot (1 1/2 cups grated)
1 large head Belgian endive OR radicchio

Peel and grate the carrot. Core and finely chop the Belgian endive or radicchio. Toss them with the cooked, cooled edamame and quinoa. Toss the salad with the dressing.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Three Seed Cake

I remember when I first read The Hobbit.  I was about 14 and had just been stuck in bed for a week with the chicken-pox, and someone had bought me The Lord of the Rings to keep me occupied.

It did.

Then I went back and read The Hobbit, which I had previously dismissed as too childish to be interesting, based on the first page, which I couldn't get past. This time I persevered, and loved The Hobbit as much, if not more, than The Lord of the Rings.  My favourite parts of both books were the parts that other people often seem to find tedious; the descriptions of the landscapes, the houses, the food. Well, of course the food.

As a person who takes their food very seriously I read with as much horror as amusement of Bilbo's loss of his seed-cakes to insouciant, encroaching dwarfs. I didn't know quite what a seedcake ought to be, but it sounded mysterious and alluring, right up there with dragon-hoarded gold.

A little research showed that the seeds in traditional British seedcake would have been caraway, which disconcerted me quite a bit. I like a good caraway rye bread, and cheese seems like a reasonable repository for them, but cake? I couldn't see it. Later, I decided maybe... and put some into what I thought a proper, hobbity seed cake should be. This one. It's deceptively simple, but it's rich and subtle. Just the thing for elevenses, with a good cup of steaming hot tea.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Three Seed Cake

2 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
1/3 cup poppyseeds
2 tbsps anise seed
1 tsp caraway seed

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
the zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour an 8" round spring-form pan.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix in the poppyseeds, anise seeds and caraway seeds.

Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the grated lemon zest. Mix in the flour until well and evenly combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out as evenly as you can, and getting it to the edges of the pan.

Bake for 70 to 75 minutes, until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Last year at this time I made Citrus & GInger Beet Slaw

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Fried Halloumi Cheese on Polenta Cakes with Tomato Sauce

I've been obsessing about polenta cakes since I discovered that I love the polenta "fries" at a local restaurant. Seven dollars seems a lot to pay for some cornmeal and (tasty, tasty) grease though. I don't think mine are quite as good (the lack of a deep-fryer shows) but they aren't half bad, and they certainly aren't half price either (they are much less, in case you couldn't tell). Use the money saved to top them with fried halloumi cheese and tomato sauce, and then they are a complete meal, at least with the addition of something green on the plate. They also make an excellent little appetizer for a more formal dinner. 

4 to 12 servings
40 minutes prep time - plus at least 1 hour cooling time

Fried Halloumi Cheese on Polenta Cakes with Tomato Sauce

Cook the Polenta:
1 1/4 cups coarse cornmeal (polenta)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
2 1/2 cups water
about 1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Put the cornmeal, salt, oregano, and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until very thick, stirring constantly; this will take about 5 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let the polenta cool enough to handle, while you use the vegetable oil to grease 12 muffin cups. Divide the polenta evenly between the muffin cups, and use the back of a wet spoon to press it  down and create a smooth top to each polenta cake. I find I have to dip my spoon in water for every second cake. Let these cool and set completely; at least one hour, but up to overnight. They should fall right out of the muffin cups when wanted, or at least be easily removed with a dull knife or shallow spoon.

Assemble the Final Dish:
2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil (about)

250 grams (1/2 pound) halloumi cheese

Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer, and keep it warm on the back of the stove until you are ready for it.  Slice the halloumi cheese into 12 even slices.

You will need two large skillets. Use a little oil to just brush one; put the remainder of the oil in the second pan, which should then have the surface well covered in a layer of oil. Heat only the oilier of the pans to start with, over medium-high heat (pancake or egg cooking temperature). When it is hot enough to make them sizzle, gently place all the polenta cakes in the pan, at least as many as will fit and allow you to manouvre them. You may need to fry them in 2 batches, keeping the finished ones warm in a 200°F oven until they are all done.

Cook the polenta cakes until a light golden brown on each side; about 15 to 20 minutes cooking time in total. When they are half done, heat the other pan to about the same temperature, and cook the slices of halloumi on each side until a nice dark golden brown on each side.

When everything is ready, remove the polenta cakes to the plates that people will be eating from (as opposed to a serving plate for people to help themselves, as they would lose a lot of the sauce that way.) Drizzle sauce over the cakes, and top each one with a slice of the hot browned halloumi. Drizzle a little more tomato sauce over the top, and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Curried Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato Topping.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Ginger-Lime Parsnips

Well, this was ridiculously simple for how tasty it turned out.  There isn't much else to say about it... except, enjoy!

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

450 grams (1 pound) parsnips
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
the juice of 1 large lime
2 tablespoons finely minced preserved or candied ginger
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper

Peel the parsnips and cut them into slices. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and boil them  until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well, keeping them in the pot.

Add in the lime zest and juice, the ginger, the butter, and season with just a shake each of salt and pepper, and mash thoroughly. Return to the stove, stirring frequently, until all the moisture is absorbed.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


The summer before last, I had my 50th birthday, and in honour of this occasion my father gave us some money in order to go on a trip. We have finally managed to get ourselves un-occupied and organized, and so we are off to Turkey for 5 weeks, leaving today. I'm very excited, as you may imagine!

I have left a bunch of blog posts to go up while I'm gone - winter cooking tends to be winter cooking, so I could do them in advance - but I won't be arround to answer comments or pick up the spam until the middle of March. By then it will be time (a little late, even) to start our early starting vegetables, but I hope I will have a few things to say about food in Turkey. Yes, of course I'm going there mainly to eat, although I imagine we will take a few strolls around archaeological sites in a probably vain effort to work some of it off. "See" you all in what I dearly hope will be the spring, or very close to it.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Empire Cookies

If butter tarts are the most traditional Ontario pie, then Empire cookies must be the most traditional Ontario cookie. I'm a little embarrassed that it has taken me this long to make them (and I still haven't made butter tarts!)

These can be found in just about every small town bakery, or at least they used to be there. I'm not sure many small towns have bakeries any more, alas. To be completely traditional these should be cut in rounds and topped with half a glace cherry, and the jam must be raspberry. I admit I am something of an iconoclast, since I did not cut all of them in rounds and I used blackberry jam. So sue me. They were still a real treat.

I was amused to discover that Empire cookies began as Linzertorte, a classic Austrian dessert. The original Linzertorte contained nuts, and was made as a single torte or pie with a lattice top, although it was often made as a sort of bar cookie as well. During the first World War, the name was changed. (Not by the Austrians. By the British and their hangers-on.) The recipe was also simplified, although it's not clear to me exactly when those changes happened. However, it is clear that the epicentre of British Linzertorte consumption was northern England and Scotland, and the recipe picked up a number of characteristics typical of the local shortbread as it made its way through the old British empire. Hence the high proportion of butter, and the rice flour.

16 large double cookies
2 hours prep time

Make the Cookies:
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla OR almond extract
1 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring the butter to room temperature, then cream it in a mixing bowl and work in the sugar. When soft and well amalgamated, beat in the egg and the vanilla or almond extract.

Sift together the flour, rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix this into the butter mixture. It will be fairly stiff, in fact you need not aim for a dough so much as make sure that all the flour is moistened and forms large crumbs. Turn this out onto a floured board or piece of parchment paper to roll out.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Press the dough into a single mass, and flatten it enough to roll out. Roll it out as thinly as you can; about 1/8" thick. Cut with the cookie cutters of your choice, although a simple round is traditional. Re-roll any scraps of dough until all the cookies are formed, but try not to over-work it. Place the rounds or other shapes onto cookie trays lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until just showing very faint signs of colour around the edges.

Finish the Cookies:
3/4 cup raspberry jam
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla OR almond extract
4 teaspoons hot (tap) water

Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, smear raspberry jam evenly over the back of one, and press the back of a second one against the first to form a sandwich.

Once all the cookies are joined, mix the icing sugar, flavouring and hot water in a small bowl. Ice the cookies evenly with the icing. I find it easiest to dab it on, then smear it with a warm, wet knife. Wrap the finished cookies loosely in parchment, and store in a cookie tin. They will keep well - they should not in fact be eaten until they have rested at least a day - and can be frozen if desired. However, be sure to store them with parchment paper between each layer or they will stick together.

Last year at this time I made Flan de Coco.