Friday, May 31, 2013

Cheddar-Pork Burgers with Sweet Potato Buns

The arrival of warmer weather (I'm choosing to ignore last night's temperature of 4C), heralds the start of grilling season here. Burgers are a favourite in my family, and these juicy pork burgers make a regular appearance. Made with lean ground pork seasoned with sage and garlic, they're delicious as is; including cheddar cheese adds an entirely new flavour dimension and extra moistness.

The recipe calls for aged cheddar and much as I would like to use one without added colour, there has to be an easy way to distinguish the cheese-y burgers from the plain that I make for my cheese-hating son.....neon orange cheese it is.

I don't always make the buns, but when I have time, these sweet potato buns are the perfect choice. The recipe takes some time to make, though most of it is just waiting time, so it's easier to make the dough over 2 days. The buns are slightly sweet but don't taste much like sweet potatoes. But the tuber is responsible for the pretty golden colour and for the bread's soft, airy texture. The tight crumb ensures that the bread doesn't get soggy while it holds a juicy burger and its toppings.

The recipe for the burger can be found here.

The recipe for the buns (Sweet Potato Loaf) is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible, but a scaled down version can be found here. (I follow the baking instructions in the book which call for a temperature of 375F/190C).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A'ja (bread fritters) - IHCC Pattycake, Pattycake....

Sometimes the contents of my refrigerator dictates what I make next. With an abundance of assorted fresh herbs (and not much else), this recipe for a'ja was calling my name. That it happened to fit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme of Pattycake, Pattycake with featured chef Yotam Ottolenghi was a bonus.
The recipe comes from the book Jerusalem. I was intrigued by it, curious to know what role the bread played, and have had it bookmarked since buying the book. The recipe calls for crustless sliced white bread which I didn't have, but I did have 2 leftover sausage buns. (How does one end up with extra sausage buns when one has only purchased enough for the number of sausages cooked and no one admits to eating bun-less sausages?) After soaking it and squeezing out the excess liquid, the bread is crumbled and mixed with the other ingredients, which include a fair number of eggs, feta, spices and a lot of herbs. 
The batter was very liquid even though I used only large eggs (the recipe calls for extra large). So liquid, in fact, that I couldn't shape the fritters into anything like what the recipe suggested....the mixture spread in the pan without any of my help and looked more like a pancake. Using 60ml per patty, my yield was almost a dozen. 

 Their texture and eggy flavour were reminiscent of a frittata and like a frittata, were quite delicious hot or at room temperature. The bread added a little texture and body - they would have been more like little herb omelettes without it. They made a very nice, light meal served with a salad.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Broccoli Slaw

Many of my family's favourite recipes come from cookbooks and cooking magazines. I usually make them as written the first time but start tweaking to meet personal tastes if they're worth making again.

This recipe from A Taste of Canada: A Culinary Journey by Rose Murray is an example. We love the fresh taste of it and I love that there's no cooking involved! There's a little bit of prep work to be done that includes peeling the broccoli and slicing celery and sweet red peppers, but it's not particularly time consuming and the salad, with its simple vinaigrette dressing and toasted sunflower seed topping, can be prepared hours before serving. We're not fans of raw onions so those are omitted, and the sweet paprika doesn't add much flavour but does manage to leave an odd pink cast on the vegetables, so that's not included either. What it needs is a little bit of heat...a jalapeño or other hot chile pepper does the trick.
It's great for packed lunches as it stays crisp and fresh tasting for a day or 2....perhaps even longer but it's usually gone by that time!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Black-Eyed Beans with Mushrooms - IHCC Potluck

I'm a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi so when I discovered that I Heart Cooking Clubs was featuring this chef for 6 months, I decided to join in. I'm a little late to the party as they started back in April, but there's still plenty of cooking to be done.
Black-Eyed Beans with Mushrooms
The theme for this week is potluck....we have the choice of cooking any Ottolenghi recipe or one from a former featured chef. I decided to cook from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. Both chef and book are new to me as is the cuisine. 
This dish ended up being a great introduction to Indian food: the ingredients were familiar but the flavour was slightly exotic (for us). The black eyed beans - or peas as they're known here - and the spiced mushroom-tomato mixture were initially cooked separately, then combined and cooked some more so the dish did take some time to prepare.

mushroom-tomato mixture
I reduced the amount of oil and salt, which worked out very well. The flavours of the aromatics and spices were beautifully melded once it was done, and the beans retained their sweetness. If I were to make another change to the recipe, it would be to add more cayenne pepper for extra heat.

Based on the photo in the book, I expected the dish to be a little drier; I didn't mind that it was stew-like since it meant there was more of the delicious sauce to mop up with the Cumin-Flecked Skillet Breads I made. 

Cumin-Flecked Skillet Bread
Indian bread was one of the suggested accompaniments so I looked to Mangoes & Curry Leaves (Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid) for a recipe.
Much as I love these authors and their books, I could have used a little more guidance than they provided in making these breads. Was the dough made with atta flour supposed to be that soft?? Were the breads supposed to be chewy?? They were fun and easy to make and very tasty so I don't suppose it mattered in the end!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whole Wheat Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins (and my first post!)

For my first post, I'm featuring a relatively healthy banana muffin recipe that I've tweaked over the years that has become a family favourite. In fact, I think family deliberately allow bananas to become over-ripe, always leaving just 3 from the bunch to go spotty, just so I'll make them. 
dry ingredients with centre well

wet ingredients
It uses the typical method of mixing wet with dry ingredients. What's key here is to avoid over-mixing the batter ....lumps are good.
lumpy batter

You want to almost fill the pan with the mixture...the batter's quite thick so it won't overflow.

The recipe makes 12 good-sized muffins that are moist and have great banana flavour. The chocolate chips can be replaced with chopped nuts or omitted altogether...the muffin will still be delicious.

                       Whole Wheat Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
                       Makes 12 muffins


                   1 1/2 cups/195g whole wheat all purpose flour
                   1 tsp baking powder
                   1/2 tsp baking soda
                   1/2 tsp table salt
                   1 cup/255g mashed ripe bananas (2 large or 3 medium)
                   1/2 cup/109g packed light brown sugar
                   2 large eggs
                   1/3 cup/80ml canola oil
                   1/2 cup/84g semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

2. Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl and stir to combine.

3. In a small bowl, mash bananas well. Whisk in the brown sugar, eggs and oil until all ingredients are well blended.

4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir using a large wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips to the batter while there are still pockets of dry mixture and stir a few more times. The batter should be thick and lumpy but dry ingredients should no longer be visible.

5. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tin until 3/4 full - a generous ice cream scoopful is about the right amount. Bake 18-20 minutes on the middle rack of the oven until tops are golden and the centre springs back when pressed lightly with a finger.

6. Cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing.
Best eaten freshly made but these do stay moist for a few days if stored in a tightly sealed container. They can also be frozen if they're wrapped well.