Thursday, 4 October 2007

If You Can't Take The Cheat, Then Get Out Of The Kitchen

It's OK to cheat once in a while. All chefs do it somewhere in their kitchen. It's unavoidable. There are somethings where a corner can be cut and customers usually won't even notice. Muffins and cookies are usually made from frozen batters. Pastries are made in pastry shops and shipped in. Salad dressings are tricky: some restaurants insist on making all dressings in-house while others couldn't be bothered.

It boils down to money. Is it cheaper to have one of the cooks make the dressing from scratch or just order the damn stuff? Like Caesar. Thousand Island. Balsamic. Whatever.

Soups and stocks is another gray area where it may be easier and more cost effective to simply purchase soups either in a can or in the form of powder. Consumme for example is a pain in the ass to make and if made improperly, it can go cloudy. Or you can buy the can and the product may even better than something made in-house.

This is a recipe from my mother-in-law. It is extremely easy because you mostly put together canned items. She makes this soup every Thanksgiving and it is always a hit with the family. Truth is that it is the item that we finish off first. I like it for it's ease and simplicity and it's usually one less thing I have to cook on Thanksgiving.

So this is a first: a recipe that is not my own at all. In fact, I would even make it a little bit differently but that's OK. It is probable that I may get grief for posting a recipe from my mother-in-law first and not from somebody else. So, without any further ado . . .

The Port Carling Thanksgiving Special

350 ml Canned Cream of Corn
700 ml Cream of Mushroom Soup
350ml 2% Milk
1 Spanish Onion, medium dice
2 Stalks of Celery, medium dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, medium dice
100g Mushrooms, sliced
250g Bacon, roughly diced
Pinch of Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a soup pot, on medium heat, saute bacon until most of the fat is rendered. Add onion, celery, pepper, mushroom and chili powder and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk, canned corn and canned mushroom and bring to a scald. Adjust to seasonings and let your spouse try it to confirm. Just this one time.

Makes 1.5 l.

Serves 8.

Variations: Naw. Why bother with this classic? I mean, you could add potatoes for some heartiness, or some canned clams for a nice twist, or perhaps even add Sage Oil for a garnish but . . . then you would be adding work. And for a recipe that designed to save on time and effort, it seems slightly incongruous to make work for yourself.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Roll Out The Roller

Here is a recipe for the food enthusiast: home made pasta. I don't make this too often anymore because I find that it doesn't really have a good pay-off. You don't save much money, it requires work and patience and the final product, though may be good, isn't always better than something you can buy. Let's face it; purchasing dried pasta is cheap and, unless you have difficulty boiling water, cooking pasta is the simplest thing to do in the kitchen. Besides, you can purchase fresh pasta and many major grocers (though it is usually way overpriced).

Pasta is flour, eggs, salt and olive oil. That's it. No magic. No secret. No Strega Nona required to cook the pasta. Just some adventurousness, enthusiasm and curiosity.

I would make fresh pasta if I was interested in experimenting with a filling for ravioli or agnolotti; perhaps I would make it for canelloni or manicotti but other than that, I would have to be in the mood. Fresh tagliatelle is quite good but someone would have to request it for me to make it.

So there it is; my take on fresh pasta. If you've always wanted to use your pasta machine you got as a gift for your wedding, try this very simple recipe and impress your spouse this weekend.

One last paragraph on cooking pasta. When cooking dried pasta, use a tall pot, lots of water and enough salt in the water to give the water a slight (not overpowering) salty taste. With fresh pasta you can add a little oil to the water if you want; when cooking fresh pasta the starch from the pasta bleeds fairly easily. A little oil hinders the water reaching a rapid boil and prevents the starch from boiling over the sides of the pot.

Fresh Pasta

350 g All Purpose Flour
5 Eggs
10 ml Olive Oil
Pinch Of Salt

Make a mound with flour and create a well in the centre of the mound. Add all ingredients in to the well and stir with a fork. Once eggs are beaten, use hands to knead the dough. If flour is sticky, add more flour a little at a time. Knead thoroughly. Exercise your arms for fifteen more minutes then cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Give arms a rest.

Now the tricky part. Rolling out the dough flat enough to cut and use. If you have a pasta roller, then it's easy. Use the machine following manufacturer's directions (sounds like a cop out, but it's not really, believe me) and cut into desired shapes. If you rolling out with a rolling pin, keep flouring your surface and flatten to desired thickness or until frustrated.

Makes 600 g.

Variation: So you've done it! You've made fresh pasta for your loved ones. I hope they appreciated the work you've put in it. Now, you've done it and you want to make it different to show how creative you are. Well, change the colour of the pasta with either spinach or red pepper puree and really impress your guests. I would be surprised if anybody were to actually try making this so I won't be expecting any comments. I would like to be proven wrong.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road? To Catch A Tory

By popular demand, I have been asked to post a recipe that requires little time to prep and can be cooked in a slow cooker (or crock pot or whatever you call it). When I say "popular demand", I mean my sister-in-law who is a mother and likes to cook simple meals that has no dairy and can be enjoyed by her kids.

This is a "Hunter Style" recipe for the people who love their hearty comfort food. There are numerous ways to cook Chicken Chasseur (or Cacciatore) and it frequently involves what's left in the fridge or whatever herbs are grown in the backyard.

There are a few things that are required of course, and the technique is usually the same, but if you prefer shallots over red onion, yellow peppers over red, or cremini mushrooms over button, go ahead and use up whatever you have in the fridge.

You can use chicken legs or breasts, whatever you prefer. Personally, I prefer both so I typically purchase whole chickens and portion it myself and make a stock with the carcass and the trimmings from the vegetables. If you are like my wife and abhor the idea of touching dead, lifeless poultry, purchase just breasts and legs and you will ready to go.

"Hunter-Style" Braised Chicken

1 Whole Chicken, 1 kg, portioned into 8 or 2 Chicken Breats and 2 Chicken Thighs and 2 Drumsticks
1 Large Red Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
100 g Mushrooms, thinly sliced
150 ml Wine, red or white
125 g tomatoes, canned and crushed
200 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 Red Pepper, medium diced
1 Green Zucchini, medium diced
2 Sprigs of Fresh Basil, thinly chiffonade
1 Sprig of Oregano, finely chopped
1 Sprig of Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Season chickens with salt and pepper.

On medium high heat, brown all sides of the chicken portions. Remove from heat. Add a little oil and saute onion, pepper, mushroom for 1 minute. Add zucchini and garlic and cook for one minute. Deglaze with wine and reduce by half. Add crushed tomatoes and stock. Add salt and pepper.

Add chickens to pot and cover. If you are using a crock pot, use same method and cook for 45 minutes on low heat. If you are cooking in a stock pot, place into a preheated oven at 300 degrees and cook for half an hour.

Add fresh herbs and stir well. Adjust to seasonings. If the sauce is too thin, remove chicken and keep hot. Reduce the sauce on high heat until desired thickness.

Serves 4.

Variation: You can go nuts on this one. Serve this with pasta and it Chicken Cacciatore, serve it with rice, add some cream and it's Chicken Hongroise, omit the herbs and use paprika and sour cream and you have Chicken Paprika. Or go nuts and add some bacon, use red wine only and use up the pearl onions you've in your cupboard for the past year and wow your friends and family with Coq au Vin. Pretty easy and impressive stuff.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Monster Mash

Mash potatoes. I mean, it's the ultimate isn't it? They go with virtually every meal, it's pretty tough to screw up, you can make them in advance and everybody at any age loves it. No collection of recipes is complete without mashed potatoes. Make too much and it keeps pretty well until the next day. Or, fry it up and serve with eggs and bacon. Hey. It's famous for a reason.

I imagine most people and restaurants simply peel and boil their potatoes and whip with some milk, butter and season and there you have it. 1-2-3 easy as pie. However, there is an alternative.

When purchasing potatoes, ensure there is no green spots. And each type of potato is good for certain type of cooking. Potatoes are generally classified by the amount of starch it contains. New potatoes have high sugar, low starch. Good for salad and roasting. Not deep frying or mash. Mature potatoes like Yukon Gold or Russets have a high starch content and, hopefully, low sugar. Actually, sugar content often relies on the season and/or temperature. So, unless you have Shaman at your disposal, don't fret about sugar and moisture content.

One quick note: some of you may be familiar with Duchesses Potatoes. This is basically Mashed Potatoes with egg yolks. Egg yolks keeps the potatoes firmer and richer, so if you are making this recipe for Sheppard's Pie, adding an egg yolk will enable you to have better control of the potatoes when spreading over the ground meat.

Mashed Potatoes

8 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, whole
200 ml 35% Whipping Cream
100 ml Butter, melted
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Cook potatoes on a tray until cooked through. Approximately 1 hour, or longer if potatoes are particularly large.

Scald cream and add butter and garlic. Reduce heat and keep warm.

After potatoes are cooked, cut each one into half. Carefully using a spoon, scoop out the innards of the potatoes into a large bowl. Add cream and seasonings. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip potatoes until creamy and without lumps. Do not overwhip.

Serves 6.

Variation: Everyone has their own variation on mash. My personal favourites are adding roasted garlic and goat's cheese in the last minute. I'm not so sure if there is anything that beats it.

Amuse Your Bouche

I haven't put any hors d'oeuvre yet. Not surprising since I don't make them too frequently. They're finicky, time consuming and often annoying. No wonder most banquet facilities order their hors d'oeuvre from outside sources.

However, many times for dinner parties or small events, I will provide some one bite wonders to entertain my guests' palettes. The term "Amuse Bouche" refers to giving the mouth a little fun before the real meal begins.

The one thing to remember is whenever making your hors d'oeurve, be sure you can platter them in advance so that you keep yourself out of "the shit." Also remember to make them one bite and allow your guests to hold onto the hors d'oeurve with their hands. Unless you have a personal vendetta with a few of your guests and you're dying to get some pomegranate juice on somebody new suit . . . . maybe your brother-in-law borrowed some money and never paid you back or something.

Possibilities are endless (however, I find that many recipes usually have either prosciutto or smoked salmon in it) but here is one cheap one that is a little different than the norm.

Cherry Tomatoes on A Pink Peppercorn Pancake

12 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
300 g All Purpose Flour
20 g Sugar
Pinch of Salt
10 g Baking Powder
2 Eggs, beaten
400 ml Milk, buttermilk preferably though not required
50 g Butter, melted
20g Pink Peppercorns, cracked soaked in milk

Preheat oven at 250 degrees. On a baking sheet, lay down parchment. In a bowl, toss tomatoes in a little oil and salt. Lay flat side down and lightly roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

For pancakes, mix together dry ingredients. Mix together wet ingredients and pink peppercorns. Gently mix the wet to the dry. Do not over mix. Spoon small amounts of mix onto a non-stick pan or a griddle. Flip pancake and cook through. Lay flat to cool.

To serve, platter pancakes first, then add cherry tomatoes on top and serve at room temperature.

Makes 30 - 40 hors d'eourve.

Variation: If you feel like it you can add a garnish: something creamy would do the trick. A shaving from brie cheese or some other soft cheese would compliment the spicy pancake and acidic tomato extremely well.

I've Got Your Cure Right Here

As you all know, you don't need heat to actually cook something. Curing and smoking foods is not only not new, it predates heat methods for many cultures. It is very easy to purchase smoked fish but you are usually stuck with stuff that you may or may not want. Besides, curing your own foods is so much more cost effective and it enables you to control the flavours you want to use.

I was catering a bachelorette party and I had very little money to use. I decided to salt cure my salmon and I discovered that I saved close to twenty dollars on my food cost.

Curing your own salmon sounds tricky but it isn't. All you need is your memory. And it really impresses people when you've actually gone and done it.

Tequila Scented Gravlox

1 kg Salmon Fillet, whole and skin on
120 g Rock Salt
120g Sugar
Pinch ofWhite Pepper
1 Sprig of Basil, coarsely chiffonade
50 ml Tequila
2 Bricks

Combine sugar, salt and pepper.

Using a glass or stainless steel pan (big enough to hold salmon fillet, 13 X 8), sprinkle a little of the mixture on the bottom. Lay salmon skin side down. Cover with half of mixture completely. Spread basil evenly on top of salmon and finish with the remainder of salt. Pour the tequila in the corner of the pan slowly to allow for even distribution.

Cover well with plastic wrap. Lay down bricks (please make sure bricks are clean) and cover with wrap once again. Refrigerate for 1 day.

Turn fillet over 24 hours later and cover well. Refrigerate for another day.

On the final day, drain any excess water and carefully remove all the remainder of the basil.

Using your sharpest knife, slice on the bias as thin as possible.

Approximately 30 slices.

Variation: You can now use your Gravlox for anything you want: wraps, canapes, open face sandwiches, in a salad, whatever. It will keep for up to two weeks so long as it well wrapped to prevent drying out.

Chop! Chop!

Apples are great. However, they have a weakness: they are easily overpowered. When combining them with something else, they can get lost very easily. That is why apple sauce goes so well with pork chops: pork chops have very little flavour and the sweetness offsets the fattiness of the chop.

On the flip side, I've made Mulligatawny Soup (which apparently means "pepper-water") with grated apple to compliment the curry flavours. In the soup (which by the way is fantastic, if anyone wishes to know it, ask and I shall post it, if no requests then I won't bother) the flavour of the apples are lost if used too sparingly but the tartness adds a different dimension to the soup that is only noticeable when noted. Again, it is the building of flavours I've referred to in the past that I'm getting at.

This simple, simple, simple recipe is for the person who wants to make everything fresh but isn't complicated. Serve this with sweet potato mash or regular mash. Which, incidentally, was requested by my cousin to post because she swears I make the best mash she's ever had. Well, mash potatoes are as easy as it gets but maybe, just maybe, I know a trick about how to make mash potatoes better than average. Stay tuned.

One quick note on making apple sauce; I like using a food mill to puree the sauce. If you don't have one, you will have to peel the apples, remove seeds and quater them.

Grilled Pork Loin With Apple Sauce

8 Pork Chops, cut from the loin
2 Sprigs of Sage, finely chiffonade
Pinch of Paprika
Salt and Pepper to Taste
6 Apples, quatered
200 g Brown Sugar
Pinch of Cinnamon
100 g Unsalted Butter

Preheat BBQ or indoor grill pan. Marinate chops with sage and paprika in the fridge for ten minutes.

In a mid-sized sauce pan on medium high heat, throw in cinnamon, sugar and apples and cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add water if too dry. Cook thoroughly until apples are mushy. Using a food mill, throw in cooked mixture and puree.

In a small frying pan, melt butter until it starts turning a little brown (this is called a beurre noisette) and fold into the puree. Keep hot until served.

On grill, sear off loins. After 2 minutes, turn one quarter and let sear for another minute. Turn over and repeat. After searing, remove from direct heat and let cook for 6-8 minutes depending on thickness of the chop. The interior should reach be a little pink but not fleshy looking.

Serve with Apple Sauce.

Serves 4.

Variation: You can even try this with peameal bacon, or back or Canadian or whatever you want to call it, using the exact same method. Cooking time would be reduce simply because peameal takes no time to cook since it has already been cured.

I've Always Preferred Squash Over Raquetball

Fall is upon us. At least here in the upper hemisphere. Cooking outdoors gets a little scarce when the temperature starts to drop in the temperate region so we can make the things we miss from last winter.

One of the most requested recipes is probably one of the easiest: Butternut Squash Soup. I find that people either love it or hate it. Some people love it because it is so smooth, creamy, hearty and comforting. I find others hate it because it is often made too sweet or with too many spices. There is a trick I like to use that people usually really love and are surprised that I've added this ingredient.

Truth be told, apples are a no brainer. It's tartness cuts down on the sweetness of the squash and further adds richness to the soup.

There are two ways to prep the soup: peel squash and cut into chunks and then roast (which is my preferred method) or cut squash in half, score flesh and remove seeds and then roast. Either way the final product will be the same. So it's up to you to decide how to roast the squash.

One might ask, why bother roasting the squash? Why not cook in the stock? A perfectly good and easy way to do it; if you like to serve orange water. However, roasting the squash adds colour, flavour from the caramelization of the sugars and the roasting of the spices.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Purée

2 Medium Sized Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1.5 l Stock (Chicken or Vegetable, check for recipe)
4 Tart Apples (Red Delicious, for example), peeled and quatered
1 Large White Onion, finely diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
Pinches of Cinnamon, Allspice and Clove
20 ml Maple Syrup
Salt and Pepper to Taste
10 ml 35% Whipping Cream for Garnish (optional)

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

Peel squash and cut in half. Remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into chunks and place into a large bowl. Drizzle some olive oil and throw on spices and salt. Toss well and place in a baking sheet. Let roast for 10 minutes or until squash is a little brown.

In a large soup pot, saute onion, apple and garlic in some butter. Let cook for 2 minutes. Add stock and roasted squash and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook squash through, 10 minutes. Using a stick or bar blender, puree the soup. If too thick, add stock to desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. When serving, drizzle a little cream for garnish.

Serves 8.

A Humble Chef's Tip: If you whip 35% to stiff peaks, add rum or calvados to enhance the flavour of the apples and add some zing to the soup.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Forget Salsa. Chicks Dig Meringue.

Sometimes at work things can be repetitive. Every once in a while I like to try something new and sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. It is useful that I don't have to pay for my experimenting as well.

In a previous post (the ratatoiulle recipe) I briefly explained what a confit is. Here is an example of a fruit confit where the fruit is usually saturated in acid.

A simple, cheap recipe that takes a minute (hopefully you have a stand mixer to help you along the way) and allows you to practice making a meringue.

There are three types of meringue typically: common, swiss and Italian. This recipe is best with Italian (beating the egg whites while adding a hot simple syrup) because it is more stable in humid temperatures but it takes extra time and practice. The common meringue works perfectly well.

Vanilla Scented Poached Meringue with a Balsamic Strawberry Confit

4 Egg Whites
350 g White Sugar
1 Dozen Ripe Strawberries, cut into 6
50 ml Balsamic Vinegar
50 ml Vanilla Extract

In a small sauce pan, bring about half a liter of water to a boil. Add vanilla and let simmer.

Sprinkle a little sugar at the base of a small bowl. Add egg whites on top and let whip with a hand mixer or stand mix. When egg whites double in volume, start adding remainder of sugar slowly. Approximately 8 - 10 minutes. Egg whites should reach stiff peaks and should be glossy and very sweet.

In a frying pan on med heat, drizzle canola oil and let get hot. Add strawberries and quickly saute. Add sugar and vinegar and whisk until dissolved. Turn off heat and let cool.

Using two spoons, scoop 1 tbs. into vanilla water and let poach for one minute. Turn over meringue and continue poaching for another minute. Remove and drain. Repeat until desired amount is reached.

To serve, spoon strawberry mix onto plate, then place one meringue. Repeat and finish with Mint Oil.

Serves 4.

Mint Oil

1 Bunch of Mint
15 ml Hazelnut Oil (or any form of peanut oil)
Dash of Sugar
Squeeze of Half a Lemon

In a blender, add all ingredients and blend thoroughly.


A Humble Chef's Tip: When making an herb oil, you can blanch the herb in simmering water and chill in a ice bath. Actually, I recommend it if you are using a leafy herb like parsley or coriander. It won't affect the taste of the oil, but will make the oil a little greener. It will also cut the life span of the oil a little because it may turn brown faster.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

What Did The Oyster Say To The Clam When He Asked Her Out? Aww, Shucks.

Oysters are bivalves (a mollusk that have a pair of hinged shells) that has enjoyed a popular history. Those crazy early Italians (the ones from Rome I think) loved these things for their aphrodisiac qualities. Me too. On the other side of the world, early East Coast Canadians depended on them to get by with their awful winters. Good for bed and survival.

If you think a Chocolate Chip Cookie and Milk makes for a great
marriage, well, oysters can have multiple spouses: lemons, limes, freshly grated horseradish, lemongrass, chilies, champagne or white wine (Muscadet particularly) and Worcestershire Sauce. Use it any way you like: in an appetizer, or on it's own, or in a stew, soup or pasta.

Shucking can be tricky. A thick cloth will do. Don't be nervous about it. Just try it. The knife (you have to buy one!) is inserted at the hinge and cranked into one direction. Pop it open and retain as much liquid (some chefs call it Liquor) as possible, severe the vein, top with your favorite garnish and voila! Just looking at these photos and writing about it makes my want to run to the market and grab a whack of them (I like Malpeques with Tobasco).

There are a whack of oyster recipes out there, but if you go through the trouble of buying them and shucking them, go ahead and take the plunge and try it raw.

However, for those who can't swallow it, Oysters Casino is a popular classic.If you are unfamiliar, the fresh oyster is shucked and broiled (cooked with radiant heat from above) garnished with butter, bacon, shallots, parsley and pimiento. Yum.

Or, something much easier is Angels On Horseback: wrap each oyster with a small piece of bacon secured with a toothpick. In a very hot oven, bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until bacon is crispy. That's it. Crowd Pleasing 101.

I often make a salsa to top the oyster with.

Ginger Tomato Relish

1 small piece of Ginger, finely grated
1 Roma Tomato, innards removed, finely diced
Drop of Sesame Oil (A drop! The stuff is strong)
Drop of Soy Sauce(A drop! The stuff is salty)
1/2 a Red Onion, finely diced
Small Bunch of Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 Lime, juiced

6 Oysters, washed

Combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Mix again and adjust seasonings.

Shuck oysters and top with salsa.

Serve on ice immediately.

Variation: If shucking isn't your thing, you can steam the oysters in wine and add the leftover liquid to the salsa. Simply place in a soup pot, bring a splash of wine to a boil, cover and let cook until oysters open up. If they do not open, discard.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

What Kind Of A Guy Are You?

I couldn't help but notice I'm lacking a serious amount of entrees on my blog. Hell, I only have 15 recipes so far but only two true entrees (salmon on a plank and lamb shanks).

One of the most common cuts in the kitchen is the chicken breast. It is not particularly expensive but it isn't necessarily cheap either. And people seem to enjoy it even though it lacks flavour. Dark meat (thighs and legs) actually has more flavour but it isn't as appetizing as the breast. The trick is to make the breast flavourful and do something creative with it.

I always marinate my chicken breasts. It may be as simple as throwing some dried herbs on it s(h)meared with some olive oil, or perhaps you feel exotic and for once you want to use that tandoori sauce that's in the back of your fridge. Whatever it is, it'll make more flavour than just salt and pepper.

Butterflying is a technique where you slice the breast from the bottom (presentation side is the skin side up) to make the chicken look like a butterfly. It is easier shown than told but the best way for me to describe is cut into the chicken on a 15 degree angle to open side then turn the breast around and repeat. Open up the breast and if necessary use a mallet and pound out the chicken tenderly to make the breast flat and ready to be stuffed with your heart's desire.

Try using a Supreme: a chicken breast with skin and with wing bone. For classic presentation, you can "french" the wing bone: remove the meat to expose the bone. As it roasts, the bone darkens and acts as a garnish.

Prosciutto Wrapped Breast of Chicken Stuffed With Trio Of Roasted Peppers

4 Chicken Breasts, butterflied
8 Slices of Prosciutto
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Orange Bell Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste (black, in case you're wondering)

Preheat oven at 375 degrees Celsius.

Coat peppers with a drizzle of oil and season. Over open flame or on your Barbecue, blacken each side of the peppers. Place each pepper into a seal able plastic bag and allow peppers to steam through. After ten minutes, open bag and allow to cool slightly. Remove charred skin and clean off as much as possible. (It is optional to rinse under running cold water however some chefs will argue that some flavour is rinse off.) Cut peppers into 10 cm strips and place one of each colour inside chicken. Carefully wrap up chicken with peppers.

Lay out prosciutto and place breast face down in the middle of the slice. Wrap the breast having the prosciutto meet on the bottom.

Place breasts on a baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Slice in half on a bias to present the trio of peppers.

Serve with risotto of choice and sauted yellow and green zucchini.

Serves 4.

Variation: if you would like to make a sauce, use the pan juices from the roasting process. Simply roughly up some vegetables (onion, carrot and celery) and cook breasts on top of the mirepoix (veg). Pour the jus into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil, drizzle a little maple syrup, season with salt and pepper and coat the breasts.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Honey, What's an Eleven Letter Word For Vegetable Stew?

Some things are a classic for a reason: Creme Brulee, Caesar Salad, Carrot-Ginger Soup (Potage Crecy), Coquille-St.-Jacques to barely scratch the surface. Old recipes continue to enthrall taste buds because they are often so simple, so easy, so practical. For the professional kitchen, some staples continue to be staples because they are either in demand, or cheap to make, or able to utilize leftovers or all the above. Minestrone soup for example utilizes leftover pasta, leftover cooked beans, a few vegetables and some watered down tomato sauce. Make a batch for nothing and all of a sudden you're making dollars from pennies.

I really enjoy making Ratatouille because it is so simple, so cheap and so delicious (not because there's a Pixar Film with the same title). What makes Ratatouille so easy is that it is braised (remember that word?) in it's own juices rather than having a liquid added to it. Some cooks may call this a Confit: something that is cooked in it's own juices. However, strictly speaking, a Confit is something that is cooked with either acid (for vegetables), alcohol and sugar (for fruit, like a Confiture) or fat (for poultry, especially duck).

Not that this is vital information, but knowing the technique is useful and knowing allows you to build on your gastronomic repertoire. My style of cooking is simple: taking classical cuisine and throwing a modern twist to make it fresh. Rustic elegance.


1 Green Zucchini, innards removed, cut in small cubes
1 Yellow Zucchini, innards removed, cut into small cubes
Half an Eggplant, cut into small cubes
1 Large Red Onion, fine dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, small cubes
1 Green Bell Pepper, small cubes
2 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tomatoes, roughly cut
1 Bunch of Basil, chiffonade
1 Bunch of Thyme, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock style pot, on medium heat, sweat onions in some olive oil. Add peppers and garlic; cook until vibrant. Add eggplant and zucchinis and stir until they decrease in size by one third. Add tomatoes and cover, stirring occasionally. Let cook for approximately 15 minutes. Add herbs and seasonings. Keep on low heat, covered until served.

Serves 6.

A Humble Chef's tip: Try soaking the cubed eggplant in a salt water solution for about 10 minutes before cooking. When draining, notice how dark the water is. The salt removes the bitter flavour and prevents the eggplant from going black.

Variation: If you have time, you can use the Ratatouille as a filling in Phyllo or Puff Pastry. Roll out the dough and drain the vegetables. Wrap it up and bake to directions. The leftover liquid can be reduced and thickened with a syrup or a puree of some sort and used as a sauce for the strudel.

5 Minutes To Cook Dinner? No Prob!

Having tried a no carb diet for two weeks, my inspiration has been pretty geared towards salad and cold food with a twist. Since it is summer time, you can have some variety and not have to pay an arm and a leg for the ingredients. Besides, lighter fare is usually easier to make and digest. I love rich foods but in the summer, who wants to have cream sauces or rich desserts all the time? Well, maybe some crazy French people might.

This is a salad that I would never have thought of unless I was on a restrictive diet and forced to do some research. My co-dieter found a recipe that seemed simple enough but with a little variation we turned it into something that worked for us.

When cooking vegetables, keep it simple. Blanch in boiling salted water. That's it. Don't complicate it. Also, it is important to note that when blanching any green vegetable keep the lid off. This prevents acids from condensing and dripping back into the water. Unless you want your vegetables to look like the way your mother cooked them (perhaps you feel a sort of nostalgia towards shitty looking, mushy, over cooked veg), then by all means allow the chlorophyll to bleed and consume yuck. Or, you can simply bring water to a boil, add salt, cook your vegetable no more than 4 minutes and a enjoy crunchy, tasty salad.

My tone of voice may seem slightly sarcastic, however, if you grew up the way I did hating vegetables, then you may understand my annoyance.

Vegetable Salad

2 Broccoli Crowns, cut into florets
1/2 Head of Cauliflower, florets
About a Dozen Waxed Green Beans, washed and trimmed
50 g Pinenuts, toasted
50g Dried Cranberries
150 ml Ranch Dressing (Recipe follows if you are keen)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large soup pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt and taste water; it should be a little salty but not overpowering. Have an ice bath ready to refresh the cooked vegetables. Start blanching with cauliflower, then beans and finish with broccoli. They should not take more than 4 minutes to cook through. After blanching, place vegetables in ice bath and chill through. Drain and pat dry.

Place them into a large bowl and garnish with pinenuts and cranberries. Drizzle dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Ranch Dressing

250ml Mayonnaise
400 ml Sour Cream
300 ml Buttermilk
40 ml Vinegar
20ml Lemon Juice
Pinch of Worcesteshire Sauce
Small Bunch of Chives, finely chopped
20 g Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl, whip all ingredients together until mixed well.

Chill overnight.

Makes about 1 Liter.

Variation: If you feel indulgent you can change the dressing to Chantilly Dressing. Since most vegetables are over 90% water, then feel free and treat yourself. 100ml Whipping Cream whipped and folded into 400 ml of Mayo, Tobasco, Worcesteshire 1 lemon sqeezed. Mmmm.

You Don't Make Trends With Salad

Salad is easy. If you were to enter the cooking industry without any experience, you get thrown into the cold food. Take me for instance, my first day in the industry was working at the CN Tower restaurant making Caesar Salads up the wazoo. It was the summer of SARS and the 360 had a Table D'Hote menu that had a Caesar option. My first day I made over 200 Caesars in four hours. Fun times.

Anyways, the possibilities of salads are limitless. Whatever you like. Whatever you have. Throw it together have a blast. Typically in a salad, a Chef endeavours to throw in different flavours and textures that compliment each other.

Take Salad Nicoise for example: Boiled Potatoes, Green Beans, Black Olives, Hard Boiled Eggs, Tomato Wedges, Anchovy Fillets (others may use Tuna or Sardines) with Leaf Lettuce and a Red Wine Vinaigrette. Each element in the salad has a different texture and flavour and when you put them together you have a classic salad.

I make this salad often because it uses ingredients I tend to have in my cupboard. It has classic elements that when mixed properly, leaves you with a different bite every time you dig in.

I like using Mache for my salads when I can. Also known as corn salad, lamb's lettuce or, strangely enough, lamb's tongue. It has the shape of an ear lobe and has a hazelnut flavour.

A Humble Chef's Green Salad
500g Mache, washed and drained
2 Macintosh Apples, thinly sliced
50 g Walnuts, crushed
8 Cherry Tomatoes, quatered
75 g Goats Cheese, sliced into 6 wedges
1 Starfruit for garnish(optional), thinly sliced

For the Vinaigrette:
50 ml Hazelnut Oil
50 ml Olive Oil
50 ml Apple Cider Vinegar
20 ml Honey
Dollop of Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl, start with Mache. Arrange tomatoes around the outside. Sprinkle walnuts. In the center, place apples in a pile and top with cheese. Stand starfruit in cheese for height.

In a blender, mix honey and mustard and seasonings. Add vinegar and mix. On low speed slowly drizzle oils into blender until emulsified. Adjust to seasonings.

In the last minute before serving, drizzle vinaigrette on salad and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

A Humble Chef's Tip: Cutting Goat's Cheese can be messy and tricky. Try using waxed dental floss to make the cuts cleaner and more uniform.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Chocolate Chaud-Froid

It has been a while hasn't it? I fear I may lose my readership. I will make it up by giving an absolutely flawless dessert that I frequently fall back on in case of emergencies: last minute dinner parties, pot luck events you forgot or a make-up dessert to make your significant other in case you forgot an important date.

It doesn't get much better than Chocolate Mousse with fresh berries. Use good quality chocolate for this one boys and girls, no regrets I guarantee. It is a recipe that I've combined from one a steakhouse and one I've found in a very reliable cookbook.

When whipping, you are trying to aerate whatever it is you are whipping. Try practicing whipping in a figure "8" rather than in circles around the bowl.

Chocolate Mousse with Flaming Berries
2 Egg Yolks
1 Egg White
20 ml Dark Rum
15 g Sugar
125 g Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely choppped
10 g Unsalted Butter
200 ml Whipping Cream
200 g Mixed Berries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries
20 ml Vodka for Flambe

Over simmering water, melt chocolate with butter in a stainless steel bowl. Let cool slightly.

Over simmering water, combine yolks, rum and half the sugar in a stainless steel bowl and whisk vigorously for 8 minutes; eggs should double in volume. Add melted chocolate and continue to whip until completely combined. The chocolate will seize; meaning it will become more difficult to whip.

In a separate bowl, combine egg white and sugar and with a hand or stand mixer, whip until soft or medium peaks.

In yet another bowl, whip cream until peaks once again.

Add one half of whipped egg whites to chocolate and fold to incorporate. Repeat with remainder of egg whites. Finally add cream and fold until incorporated.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and spoon on dish.

In a very hot pan, sear berries for 20 seconds. Add vodka and when vodka gets hot, light liquid with a match. Quickly spoon onto plates and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

I like using mousse as a garnish for a flourless torte with the flaming berries. A sure fire hit.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

How Can You Have Any Pudding If You Can't Eat Your Meat?

I just finished work and played around with something and it seemed to impress most of the boys and girls at work so I'll write it down now before I forget it. Besides, it's been way too long since I last posted (my apologies to you all!). Here is yet another simple base recipe that I added a bit of a twist to and with good results. Bread Pudding is basically Baked French Toast: egg bread cooked with a custard. Pretty simple once you've done it.

I've done numerous variations on the theme: Butternut Squash Bread Pudding, Mushroom Bread Pudding, Lavender Bread Pudding. This one still uses the basic recipe so it is nearly foolproof.

Lemongrass-Ginger Bread Pudding

3 Stalks of Lemongrass, bruised
small piece of ginger, whole and peeled (approx. 15g)

.5 l 2% Milk
.5 l 35% Cream
8 Egg Yolks
2 Whole Eggs
100g Sugar
.25 l Maple Syrup
Splash of Vanilla Extract
1 large loaf of Egg Bread, crust removed, cut into squares

Preheat oven at 350 Celsius.

Liberally butter an 8 x 11 dish. Fill dish with cut bread and allow bread to go a little stale.

In a saucepan, heat milk, cream, vanilla, syrup with lemongrass and ginger and slowly bring to a scald. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

In a bowl, combine sugar and eggs and whip vigorously to the "ribbon stage". Approximately 5 minutes.

Strain custard into a pitcher, slowly add custard to eggs while whisking to incorporate. Pour final custard to baking pan and allows for bread to soak up all the custard. Cover with tinfoil shiny side up.

Place baking sheet into a larger pan in the oven. Pour hot water in larger pan and bake for 45 - 55 min. To check pudding, stick a toothpick inside and it should come out cleanly. Refrigerate for 1 hr to let settle.

Serve with fresh berries and ice cream of choice.

Serves 10.

Variations: Ha! Name it. This can go anywhere.

This recipe should be made in advance so if you are entertaining, make this the day before and have it ready for serving. Almost too easy.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Shall We Dance or Walk the Plank?

Salsas are very handy, easy, healthy and economical. They can be served on fish, as a dip, garnish for a salad, on bread or eaten on its own. There is usually no cooking involved and allows you to parctice knife skills.

I must stress the importance of a sharp knife. Do not try and use a dull knife and make the excuse of being afraid of using a sharp knife because you don't want to cut yourself. Statistically
speaking, most people cut themselves with a dull knife because they are putting extra force and thus causing mishaps to happen.

This is a base recipe and following is one of many variations. Use the following salsa as a garnish for your next BBQ where you serve some grilled fish. This is yummy stuff! If you have never used a cedar plank on your BBQ before, follow the instructions on the package. I usually buy mine at hardware stores or major grocers. However, last time I checked, water has no flavour. So instead of a flavourless liquid, soak your planks in something that has some zing.

Tomato Salsa
4 Ripe Tomatoes, quatered, seeded, cut into small squares
1 Small Red Onion, finely diced (brunoise)
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 Lime, squeezed
1 Bunch of Cilantro, finely chopped and dried
5 Drops of Tobasco
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and let marinate over 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.

Serves 4.

Vodka Flavoured Salmon with a Pineapple Salsa
1 Side Salmon
200 ml Vodka
1 Pineapple, cut in small squares
Half of 1 Red Pepper, brunoise
Half of 1 Red Onion, brunoise
Half of 1 Green Pepper, brunoise
1 Bunch of Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Lime, juiced
Dash of Paprika and Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak planks as per instructions. Remove planks and save vodka.

In a saute pan on high heat, drizzle some oil. Sear the pineapple and constantly stir. Add paprika and chili powder. When pineapple is caramelized, deglaze with vodka and reduce to one third. Remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl, combine pineapple, vodka, onion, pepper, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings. Let marinate in fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat BBQ. Place seasoned salmon on planks and put into BBQ. Cook approximately
for 10 minues. Salmon should be firm on all sides. Remove from planks and serve hot with salsa garnish.

Serves 6.

Serve this with a simple rice. There is plenty of colours and flavours here so there is no need to bombard this dish with any fancy starch.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

"It Tastes Like Mushy Rice!"

Going with the theme of building flavours and recipes, the next stage is exploring different types of food to expirement with. For chefs, most (not all) dishes consists of a starch, veg, protein and sauce. Of course there are many exceptions but generally speaking this is usually the case. While proteins and veg are nearly limitless in possibilities starch often poses a problem: it can get very repetitive. Rice, potatoes, pasta. That's often it. Of course there are many alternatives like cous cous, quinoa, wild rice (which has no starch), yams (in the same family as potatoes) or whatever obsure shit you can find. Nevertheless, potatoes, pasta and rice are usualy the popular picks for chefs to have on their menu. It's being creative with those starches that can be challenging.

Risotto is a good alternative. This italian rice is relatively easy, cheap and most people like it - except my brother who always tells me "It tastes like mushy rice." There are different types of rice but arborio is usually the most common. There are some standards to making risotto and then after that, well there are whole cookbooks dedicated to risotto.

The three things critical to risotto are: the rice must be sauted, cooked slowly with a hot liquid, cheese must be added near the end to thicken the sauce and butter to taste for the glaze. The cooking liquid is often chicken broth but can be anything from veg. stock, cucumber juice, beet juice, duck stock, tomato broth, whatever. Parmaggiano cheese the preferred choice but not the required one: asaigo, grano padano, queso manchego to name a few alternatives.

My recipe spawned by accident (many of them do). I had leftover sage in my garden, leftover pears in my fridge, leftover turkey stock in my freezer. I can spend all day talking about risotto but that's enough chit chat. Here's my recipe.

Risotto with Rum Poached Pears and Prosciutto

150 g Arborio Rice
1 l Turkey or Chicken Stock, hot
1 Small Red Onion, fine brunoise
2 Ripe Pears, cut into 6 segments
6 Slices Prosciutto, jullienne
250 ml Rum
150 g Parmaggiano-Reggianno Cheese, grated
80 ml Butter, melted
5 Sprigs of Sage, chiffonade (save some for garnish)

In a small sauce pan, bring rum to a slight boil. Poach pears until cooked through, about three - four minutes. Remove pears from rum and keep warm.

In a large saute pan, melt 20 ml butter until frothy. Sweat onion until translucent. Add rice and stir constantly. Cook for about two minutes until rice becomes translucent. Deglaze with rum and stir until reduced by half. Add ladle of stock and stir until reduced by half. Repeat until stock has run out (approx. 20 minutes). If risotto is still hard, add boiling water and stir to cook through.

Add prosciutto and heat through. Add sage, cheese and 50ml butter and stir. The rice should be firm and sticky.

In a frying pan, use leftover butter to caramelize the pears and heat through. When serving, place pears on top for garnish with sprig of sage.

Serves 6.

Risotto itself can be simply a base that you can add anything to in the last minute to make your dish unique. Try mine as a variation with your turkey dinner.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

I'm On A Cabbage Roll

Like the Maple Glazed Carrots, here is a recipe that entitles you to add anything you like. It is a variation of a recipe I learned from school that is a good recipe for any novice or prefessional to practice. It is cheap, tasty and easy. And it also allows you to practice your braising abilities.

Apple Glazed Braised Cabbage
1 Small Red Cabbage, fine jullienne
2 Granny Smith Apples, grated
1 Small Red Onion, fine brunoise (dice)
250 ml apple juice or cider
50 ml Maple Syrup
Dab of Butter for saute
1 Sprig Fresh Mint, chiffonade
1 Lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper To Taste

Preheat oven at 350 Celsius. On medium heat in a soup pot, melt butter until frothy. Add onion until translucent. Add apple until slightly brown. Add cabbage and cook for about 2 minutes. The cabbage should deflate as you cook. Deglaze with juice and maple syrup. Bring to boil and cover. Place in oven and cook for 1 hour. Remove from oven and taste, the cabbage should be sweet and tender. Add lemon, mint and seasoning. On stove top, bring to boil and serve.

Serves 8.

Variations are plentiful once again. Whatever you think goes with apples might just work. You can omit mint and add sage and bacon, or remove maple syrup and use rum or you can add leek and raisins.

Like Playing With LEGO

Cooking is building flavours. If you can grasp the concept then sky's the limit. This recipe is so simple, that I'm almost embarrassed to include it. However, I have been asked to add this side veggie dish by someone who enjoyed this dish and also because it is the perfect example of building flavours for a recipe.

This is such a simple recipe, I guarantee you will make this again and again. And I am willing to bet you will add the things you have leftover in your fridge until you have made your own signature side dish.

Maple Glazed Carrots
4 Carrots, Batonnet (or a bag of baby carrots to make life easy)
1 Medium Red Onion, Fine Brunoise (dice)
1 Orange, Squeezed
40 ml White Wine or Vegetable Stock or Water
40 ml Maple Syrup
1 Lemon, Squeezed
Pinch of Ginger Powder
Dab of Butter for Saute
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a saute pan on medium heat, melt butter until frothy. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add ginger powder and carrots and cook for one minute. Deglaze with orange juice, wine and maple syrup. Bring to boil and cover and turn off heat. After five minutes, remove carrots and reduce stock until syrup. Add carrots back to glaze. Just before serving, add lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Variations are too numerous to give. However, add anything from pineapple juice to lime juice to tequila to sesame oil to vanilla extract . . . whatever. Feel free to be adventerous with this simply because it is so simple!

When you are making this dish, try tasting the carrots as you go and notice how much they change in flavours. Ask your inner chef what can make this different and appealling to you. Add the ingredients one at a time if you like (the juice, wine, maple syrup, etc.) and concentrate how much flavours blend together.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Humble Chef's On The Lamb

Yikes. Has it been a week since my last recipe? I'll keep them coming as much as I can. I realize some of these recipes are not for everyone so I'll keep the volume up to expand the variety. Most of what I've given have been fairly simple one-pot syle meals. Here's one that involves a little preperation but great pay off. It is one I'm planning for an upcoming dinner party so this is a good way to refresh myself. Also, if the guests enjoy the dinner, there is access to the recipe for them to make and enjoy.

Braising is simple yet time consuming technique. Braising refers to "cooking in liquid" for an extended amount of time. The idea behind braising is to take a tough, usually inexpensive cut of beef or poultry and slowly cook it to make the meat tender. Cooking is often a trade off; you can purchase expensive cuts of meat(steaks, chicken breasts, rack of lamb, salmon) that cook quickly, easily and make them taste pretty good. On the flip side, braising requires patience and planning but are usually pretty easy on the wallet.

This is not a new recipe. This is a classic, home style french cuisine. Yet can be flipped to something unique to you by adding little things you have at home. You can buy frozen lamb shanks at most major grocers, but fresh can be purchased at local butchers.

Braised Lamb Shanks

6 Lamb Shanks, dredge in flour
1 Carrot, roughly cut in cubes
1 Large White Onion, large dice
4 Stalk of Celery, large dice
2 Bay leaves
2 l stock (beef, chicken, veg, lamb, whatever)
500 ml Red Wine
10 g Seasoned Flour for Dredging
2 Sprigs of Rosemary, Thyme
50 ml maple syrup
15 ml vegetable oil
Salt and Peppet to Taste

Preheat oven at 375 Celsius.

In a large soup pot, on medium-high heat, preheat vegetable oil. Sear all sides of lamb and remove from pot. Reduce heat and throw in mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves) and cook until bottom of pan is golden brown. Add a little oil if needed. Deglaze the pan with red wine. Reduce by half. Add stock and lamb shanks. Stir pot until it comes to boil. Remove from heat. Add fresh herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven.

Cook for approximately 2 hours occasionally removing from oven and stirring.

To check for doneness, half the lamb should be a clean bone. Tear a piece of the lamb and it should tender and juicy. When braised through remove shanks and cover to keep hot. Strain the stock and discard leftover vegetables and herb sprigs. On the stove top, bring to a boil. The stock should coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt, pepper and maple syrup.

Serve shanks with jus, mashed potatoes and freshly steamed green vegetables.

Serves 5.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Real Deal

Mac and Cheese. All right. I'm a father of a three and five year old and this is their favorite recipe of mine. It is fast, cheap, somewhat easy and kids dig it. The base is a Bechamel and then you add grated cheese of your choice (Mornay Sauce is the french classical term). If you are not comfortable making a roux (a thickening technique where you cook equal parts fat and flour) this recipe will remove your fears of this simple technique. It is important to remember that when making a sauce or soup with a roux, you have to incorporate the liquid to the roux at opposite temperatures. If the roux is hot, your liquid should be cold and vice versa.

This is the kids favorite version but it is a base. Mac and cheese can be altered to whatever flavours you have leftover or whatever the kids enjoy.

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

700 g Elbow Macaroni, dried
50 g Butter
50 g Flour
500 ml Milk
400 g Cheddar or other cheese of choice, grated
10 g Dijon Mustard
Pinch of Nutmeg
Sugar, Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 Celsius.

In a tall stock pot, boil salted water. Add pasta and cook to directions. Once cooked, place pasta in 8 x 11 dish. Add drop of olive oil and distribute evenly throughout the pasta.

In a soup pot under medium heat, melt butter. Add nutmeg. When butter is frothy, add flour. With a wooden spoon, cook flour and stir until it clumps up. About 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk while whisking simulteanously. Keep whisking until milk comes to a slight boil. Reduce heat. Add 300 g of the grated cheese slowly while whisking to incorporate. Finish with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Pour sauce on top of pasta and stir evenly. Cover casserole with remaining cheese and bake until cheese is golden on top.

Serves 6.

The topping can be anything really. My kids like seasoned granola (yup, the instant kind with herbs and salt) or simple breadcrumbs with a bit of garlic in it.

I sometimes put in whatever I have in the fridge. Last night I had extra bacon so I cooked the bacon in the butter then added my flour then followed the recipe.

Monday, 26 February 2007

A Personal Favourite

Soup is easy. For a restaurant, it's usually leftovers thrown together with a few added ingredients or can be a puree and nobody will know the difference. I take pride in some of my soups because I once had a job where that is what I did for close to a year. This is a specialty of mine that is always a hit and is extremely easy to make.

I like to make a vegetable stock and use that as a base. If you've never made a vegetable stock, you are in luck. I have provided a base for which you can use for anything and have in stock (no pun intended).

Tequila-Lime Broth

1 Red Onion, finely diced (brunoise)
Pinch of Paprika
Juice of 4 Limes
250 ml Tequila (any kind)
1.5 l Vegetable Stock
15 ml Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Red and Green Pepper, jullienne for garnish

In a soup pot, drizzle olive oil under medium high heat. Saute onion until slightly brown. Add paprika until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze with tequila and let reduce by half. Add stock, lime juice and honey. Bring to a boil then turn off heat. Strain soup. Season with salt and pepper. While serving place jullienne peppers in the bottom of the bowls.

Serves 8.

Variation: You can omit lime juice and use lemongrass stalks.

Vegetable Stock

1 large Onion, roughly cut
1 large Carrot, roughly cut
3 stalks of Celery,, roughly cut
3 Bay Leaves
Any leftover vegetable trimmimgs
10 g whole peppercorns
3 l water

In a large, tall pot throw all veg, bay leaves, peppercorns and water in a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as water boils, remove from heat and let cool slightly for approximately 10 minutes. Strain. Cool rapidly in ice bath.

Vegetable stock is a cheap and easy alternative to chicken stock. Though it lacks as much flavour, it still be used in a pinch for things like rice, risotto, chilis, stews etc. Vegetable stock will go sour in about 5-6 days. It can be frozen but since it requires little effort and cost, it is equally convenient to simply make a new one.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Tried, Tested and True

Before I forget, this was the recipe I put on the other blog. Just in case it gets missed I've put it here so it get lost. Try this one when you are not on a diet.

Nutella Brownies

4 large eggs
800 g Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
100 mL of melted butter
5 mL of vanilla extract
125 mL of flour
5 mL of baking powder
Pinch of salt
200 mL of semi-sweet chocolate chips
300 mL of chopped pecans

Beat eggs. Add butter, vanilla and nutella and mix well.

In a separate bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Blend with chocolate mix. Add chips and nuts and fold.

Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 inch pan (3.5 L) and bake in 180 degrees Celsius (350 F) for 30 – 40 minutes.

Let cool overnight. Preferably in a dish.

I Know It's Still Winter But . . . .

I'll start the blog with a simple classic: Hanggurbers! I imagine everyone has a staple burger they stick to but this one is pretty good. Feel free to add or remove some details but don't leave out the lemon zest and lemon infused mushrooms. That is what this one a pure classic. Have this with some cilantro lemon vodka (see below) and you are good to go.

Stevo's Hamburger Zings

lb. Ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp of instant granola or breadcrumbs
2 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
Half a tsp. Pepper
2 lemons: rind of grated lemons, fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp of salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of sliced Cremini mushrooms (or white jumbo)
4 slices of provolone cheese

Grease grill and preheat barbecue to medium high.

In medium bowl, mix ground beef with eggs, lemon rind, granola, pepper, 1 tbsp of salt and Worcestershire Sauce, just until combined.

Shape into 4 burgers. Grill burgers until thoroughly cooked. 6-7 minutes on each side.

While burgers cook on grill, prepare mushroom topping: Preheat stovetop to medium heat. In skillet, add olive oil and remainder of salt. Cook about one minute until fragrant, do not brown. Add lemon juice and sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until tender. Drain mushrooms and place in small bowl.

Once beef patties are cooked, place buns on grill for 30 seconds or until lightly toasted. Place cooked mushrooms on top of beef patty with a slice of provolone cheese. Add desired toppings.

Makes 4.

Cilantro Vodka Lemonade

1 Bunch of Cilantro
400 ml sugar
4 Large Lemons, Juiced
2 L Ice Water
150ml Room Temparature Water
150 ml Vodka

In a saucepan, combine sugar, 100ml water and cilantro. Bring to a boil and remove from heat to let cool. Strain syrup into a carafe and add ice water, vodka nd lemon juice. Stir and serve.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Now We're Cooking

I have a following. I have been asked by two lovely ladies to have a separate blog strictly for recipes. So this is it. Unfortunately, I've forgotten most of them but I'm not that old and so there is no excuse. Besides what if something tragic were to happen and then all my creatiions would be lost.

Difficulty level will vary and I will try and be as simple in my instructions as possible.

Starting Febraury 22, I will have my first post.