Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Miso Salmon with Sesame Salt - IHCC Easy Entertaining!

Donna Hay is all about "Easy Entertaining" with recipes suitable for casual or formal get togethers and everything in between so it wasn't difficult to find a recipe for this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs.
I really enjoy the flavours of Japanese cuisine but have little experience cooking the food myself so I was drawn to this recipe for Miso Salmon with Sesame Salt, (from the book Seasons, but also available here) served with stir fried garlicky sugar snap peas and one of the suggested sides, rice. Prep time was minimal and involved only blanching the peas and marinating the salmon briefly in miso and rice wine vinegar, and the dish took only minutes to cook.
Sesame Salt
It was delicious! The miso and vinegar were subtle but the salmon was moist and flavourful. And though cutting the fillets into fingers may seem fiddly, it made it much easier to cook the salmon evenly on a high heat. The sugar snap peas were a nice sweet contrast but I would double the amount for 4 people. Crucial to the flavour of the dish was a blend of toasted sesame seeds crushed with sea salt. It didn't look like much but it packed a punch.
I served the salmon with Japanese Mushroom Rice, which I attempted to shape into nori-wrapped onigiri/rice balls (from the book Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu), and the suggested pickled ginger.

Fantastic! Very fast and light and a welcome reprieve from the rich food of the holiday season. Perfect for a dinner with friends.

Visit here to see what other IHCC members cooked for company.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Patyczki (Polish Breaded Meat Kebabs)

If you were to ask anyone in Poland, they'd tell you that patyczki are wooden sticks onto which meat might be threaded, but in the Polish community here, it's the name of a popular dish of breaded meat on a stick that makes an appearance at celebrations.
Originally considered a peasant food, they're often made with inexpensive cuts of pork like pork butt/shoulder, but I prefer to use a leaner cut and trim it of all visible fat - or at least any I can get to while I'm cubing it; marinating and slow roasting the meat ensures that it's tender.

makes 20-24 kebabs

initial prep time: 20 minutes
marinating time: 8-24 hours
breading & browning time: 30-45 minutes
baking time: 1 1/2 hours

2kg/4-4.5 lbs boneless pork rib roast, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm/1" cubes
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 large yellow onion (200-225g), halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
60ml/1/4 cup milk

20-24 - 15cm/6" wooden/bamboo skewers

110g/1 cup unflavoured dry breadcrumbs
65g/1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

vegetable oil for frying

cubed pork
cubed pork
garlic onions
garlic and onions (for a double batch)
In a large bowl, combine the cubed meat, salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk and pour the mixture over the meat. Mix well, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8-24 hours. This step is important for both flavouring and tenderizing the meat; because there are eggs and milk in the marinade, for food safety reasons, I don't marinate the meat for longer than 24 hours.
pork kebabs
skewered pork
breaded kebab
breaded patyczki
browned kebab
fried until golden brown
Thread 3 pieces of meat onto each skewer, removing the pieces of onion and garlic clinging to them. Combine the breading ingredients in a dish large enough to hold a skewer of meat comfortably. Roll each kebab in the dry mixture and press lightly to make sure the coating adheres. 

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 1cm/1/4" vegetable oil over medium heat. Add some patyczki (don't overcrowd the pan) and cook them on all sides until golden brown and crisp, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Transfer them to a rack covered with paper towels to drain. Repeat until they're all browned, adding more oil to the pan if necessary. At this point, they can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a day before roasting.
To bake, preheat the oven to 150C/300F.

To keep the coating crisp and to make sure the meat cooks evenly, the patyczki need to be baked standing upright. A 2.5L casserole dish with high sides works perfectly for a single batch. The trick to keeping them in position is to put some loosely crumpled foil in the bottom of the dish and insert the skewers pointy side down. Bake on a rack placed in the lower third of the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is barely pink and the internal temperature is 58C/135F (the meat will continue to cook outside of the oven). Check periodically after 45 minutes of baking and cover the patyczki loosely with foil if they seem to be getting too brown.
Serve and enjoy! They go very well with kapusta, a favourite Polish side dish of roasted cabbage.

It's worth it to make a big batch and freeze the extra. Wrap them well -  I use plastic wrap then 2 layers of foil; they'll keep for 6 months in the freezer. I usually make a double batch before Christmas and freeze half until Easter. And yes, I only make them once a year ; )!

To reheat, put the defrosted patyczki in a pan or on a cookie sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 160C/325F for about 30 minutes or until they're heated through, turning them once after 15 minutes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kapusta (Polish Roasted Cabbage)

Not to be mistaken for Bigos or Hunter's Stew, Poland's national dish, kapusta is a simple roasted cabbage side that's typically served at Polish celebrations. And since we're heading into the season of get togethers and festive meals, it was time to make a batch.

The dish combines ready-made sauerkraut with fresh cabbage and is flavoured with onions only in my vegan version, but bits of fatty pork fried crisp (or bacon as a substitute) or diced kielbasa (Polish sausage) are common additions. The sourness of the sauerkraut is tempered by the sweetness of the fresh cabbage but once they're baked together, they're indistinguishable from each other. The kapusta tastes better the day after it's made and freezes very well so I usually make it well in advance of when I need it. It's one of those dishes where every family has their own recipe - this one is mine.

serves a crowd! (16-20)

prep time: 30 minutes
baking time: 60-90 minutes

2 large yellow onions (approx 400-450g), halved and thinly sliced
60ml olive oil 
1 medium head green cabbage (approx 2kg)
1L jar sauerkraut (in white wine is my preference)
black pepper
reserved brine from sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 170C/325F.
cooked onions
shredded fresh cabbage
In a large skillet, slowly cook the onions in the olive oil over medium-low heat for 17-20 minutes or until they are very soft, translucent but not yet caramelized.
In the meantime, remove the core and shred the head of cabbage by hand or in a food processor using the coarse shredding disc.
drained sauerkraut
Drain the sauerkraut, reserving the brining liquid. Rinse with cold water and press the excess liquid out of the sauerkraut.
ready for the oven
Combine the fresh cabbage, sauerkraut and cooked onions and their oil in a large roasting pan with a tight fitting lid. Stir in 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Bake, covered, in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes. Stir. The fresh cabbage will start to take on the colour of the sauerkraut and it will shrink in volume. Continue to bake, covered, for an additional 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
After 1 hour of baking, the colour and texture of all of the ingredients will be approximately the same. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, and if it's not sour enough, a few spoons of the reserved brine. Return to the oven to bake an additional 10 minutes or so if you've added some of the brine or if the kapusta is not quite cooked; it should be moist but not wet and the fresh cabbage should be the same tender-crisp texture as the sauerkraut. Repeat if necessary.

Serve immediately or cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze for later use. To reheat, place the (defrosted) kapusta in a non-stick skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until it's heated through and any excess liquid has cooked away.
Served with Patyczki (Polish breaded meat kebabs) as part of a celebratory meal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Golden Root Vegetable Couscous and Turkish Delight Syllabub - IHCC Potluck

This week, for I Heart Cooking Club's potluck theme, where we're able to cook with previously featured chefs, I cooked from How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, Nigella Lawson's first and much lauded cookbook that's much more than a mere compilation of recipes.
Golden Root-Vegetable Couscous is a Moroccan inspired vegetarian dish chock full of seasonal root vegetables, squash and chickpeas and flavoured with onions, garlic and fragrant spices. The dish took a while to prep as there was much chopping of vegetables required but cooked quite quickly. I found the combination of carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi and butternut squash a little sweet so doubled the canned tomatoes for balance. I cooked the vegetables in a tagine, which requires less liquid than a regular pot, so only 1/2 the vegetable stock was needed.
Using the tagine meant that I had to set up a separate pot with some boiling water to steam the couscous (in a cheesecloth lined colander works well for me). I quite often resort to the quicker method of pouring boiling liquid over the couscous but this method of soaking the couscous first, then steaming it results in such an incredibly light and fluffy end product, it's worth doing - sometimes. With some toasted pine nuts mixed in, it was the perfect vehicle for the fragrant tagine.
This dish, with its heady scent of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and saffron and a spoon of harissa for a little heat was hearty and wholesome and utterly delicious. 
The recipe for vegetable couscous appears in the "Weekend Lunch" section of the book, which meant that a dessert was mandatory ;)! So to finish, I made Turkish Delight Syllabub, an Old English dessert of whipped cream thickened (and stabilized) with lemon juice or alcohol - or both as in this recipe - that's been given a Middle Eastern twist with the addition of rosewater and orange flower water and a crunchy pistachio topping. It was light and airy, had lovely floral notes, and served over some fresh orange segments made a nice end to the meal. The recipe can be found on Nigella's website here.

Visit here to see what else is cooking this week at IHCC.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cranberry Tart or What To Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce

I find that I'm always left with some of my Orange-Apple Cranberry Sauce once the Thanksgiving turkey is long gone. With years of practice, I've become quite good at recycling food leftovers, but what is one to do with a rather large amount of condiment languishing in the refrigerator? Make dessert, of course!

With a sweet shortbread crust that encases the tart ruby filling, this dessert is good enough to warrant making a batch of cranberry sauce if you don't have leftover.
Cranberry Tart
Serves 8-10
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

prep time: 30 minutes
baking time: 35-40

325g/2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
184g/3/4 cup + 1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g/1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

300ml-420ml/1 1/4 - 1 3/4 cups Orange-Apple Cranberry Sauce (or thick cranberry sauce of your choice)

Topping (optional):
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp sparkling sugar

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Lightly grease a 24cm x 2.5cm/9 1/2" x 1" tart pan or 23cm/9" round pan with removable bottom.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using high speed on a hand mixer or medium on the stand mixer. 

Beat in the egg and egg yolk on low speed just until blended in. Beat in the vanilla. 

Add the flour mixture all at once to the bowl and either mix on low speed or stir in with a spoon, just until incorporated.

Scatter just over half of the dough (~450g) into the prepared pan and refrigerate the rest. Press the dough onto the bottom and about 2.5cm/1" up the sides of the pan, making sure there are no gaps and the dough is of fairly even thickness. 

Spread the cranberry sauce onto the base of the tart. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly on the top. If desired, brush the milk onto the surface of the dough with a pastry brush and sprinkle evenly with sparkling sugar. This last step isn't necessary, but it does add a pretty sparkle and wonderful crunch to the tart.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 30 minutes before removing the sides of the pan; let cool completely before transferring to a serving plate. Best served at room temperature.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chocolate Crème Brûlée Tarts - IHCC Are You Calling Me A Tart?

This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is pies and tarts as we continue to cook with featured chef Donna Hay. I was in the mood for something sweet, specifically chocolate, and thought that a cool, creamy chocolate custard nestled in a buttery crust would satisfy that craving perfectly!
The recipe for Chocolate Crème Brûlée Tarts is for an easy, no-bake custard and calls for store-bought shortcrust pastry sheets for the tart shells; no messy water baths or pastry making required. Except that I couldn't find pre-made pastry sheets in the grocery store* (only frozen pre-formed shells) so I did make my own.
I used the Sweet Pastry recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook that I discovered in the summer when I made Strawberry Tartlets; the dough behaved beautifully in hot, humid weather so I figured the recipe was foolproof! The pastry turned out well again (made sans lemon zest this time). I painted the interior of the baked, cooled tart shells with a little (40g) melted chocolate so they wouldn't get soggy.
I changed the custard making method slightly in a few places adding the chocolate to the boiled milk off the heat, stirring until it melted, before adding the mixture to the eggs. Also, I added the vanilla and coffee liqueur after the custard had cooked and strained the mixture before filling the tart shells.
The custard took over 6 hours to set but even then was quite loose; for a firmer set, perhaps an additional tablespoon of cornstarch would help or an additional egg yolk to compensate for the smaller size of North American "large" eggs (50g vs 59g).  
Apart from eating them, the next step was the best part.....torching the sugar topping! 
These were fantastic! The custard was satisfyingly rich and creamy with great chocolate flavour and the crunchy burnt sugar was a wonderful complement since the filling wasn't too sweet. Very delicious, it really didn't need to be tarted up ;)!

* I found the pastry sheets! I wouldn't have used them anyway because they were made with some lard....I have to watch my ingredients so vegetarians in the family can enjoy my baking too.

Check out the other Donna Hay pies and tarts here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whipped Cream Cake

This cake represents the type of baking I most enjoy:
Whipped Cream Cake
Made with whipping cream in place of butter, the batter comes together in just minutes using basic pantry ingredients. You don't have to plan much in advance since only the eggs need to be brought to room temperature....easy enough to do by covering them, still in their shell, with hot water while you collect the other ingredients. It can be made with either cake or all purpose flour - I prefer the latter for a less fragile cake - and it bakes in a much shorter time than most cakes of its size.  
It has great vanilla flavour and a tender, moist crumb. It's also very versatile: it can be served on its own for a simple sweet treat or dressed up with fruit or whipped cream for a fancier dessert.
The recipe for Whipped Cream Cake is from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Beranbaum but can also be found on the author's blog here

I'm sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books, hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Orange-Apple Cranberry Sauce

I discovered years ago just how easy it was to make cranberry sauce when I picked up a package of fresh cranberries and followed the recipe on the back. Using a little less sugar and adding some extra fruits and spices, I arrived at this version, still as easy to make as the classic recipe but much more delicious!

Orange-Apple Cranberry Sauce
makes 600ml/2 1/2 cups
time: 30 minutes


180ml/3/4 cup water
108g/1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
50g/1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 medium orange 
1 medium apple (your favourite cooking apple) 
340g/12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg


In a medium pot, add the water and sugars and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

In the meantime, zest the orange and remove the segments, first cutting off all of the remaining peel and white pith, then cutting between the membranes. ( has detailed photos). Squeeze the juice from the membranes and set aside along with the orange zest and segments.

Peel and core the apple and cut into a small dice, approximately the same size as the cranberries.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the orange zest, orange segments, orange juice, diced apples, cranberries and spices to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly until most of the berries have popped, and the sauce has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. It will thicken further as it cools.

The sauce keeps well for 1 week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator but should be served at room temperature.
The perfect pairing: Orange-Apple Cranberry Sauce with Thanksgiving turkey. 
 Or use it to make this Cranberry Tart.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Parmesan, Lemon and Thyme Parsnip Strips - IHCC In Season

Parsnip is one of those vegetables I use frequently in cooking during the fall and winter months but always in combination with others and somewhat relegated to the background. I've never allowed it to be the star. That's about to change. 
Donna Hay's recipe for baked parsnip strips flavoured with Parmesan, and lemon thyme (which I replaced with regular thyme and lemon zest) puts the vegetable front and centre in a most delicious way. The vegetable ribbons are tossed with melted butter and the other ingredients before being baked (in a single layer with no overlap yields the best results).
The crispy strips are an excellent pre-dinner - or any time of day - snack but I wouldn't hesitate to roast parsnip coins or spears with these same ingredients to serve as a side dish.
The recipe for Parmesan and Lemon Thyme Parsnip Strips can be found here.

Additional notes:
- Canadian parsnips are clearly much smaller than Australian with 4 weighing in at only 400g so I halved the other ingredients but still needed 2 cookie sheets to hold all the strips!

This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is foods that are "In Season" wherever we live. In the chilly north, root and cruciferous vegetables abound right now; visit here to see what seasonal goodies others cooked up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cinnamon-Swirl Pumpkin Rolls - Avid Baker's Challenge

Well, King Arthur Flour has done it again and introduced me to yet another fantastic recipe. I'm not sure why I'm surprised since every recipe I've tried since joining the ABC group, which has been baking from the KAF website since January, has been a winner.
This recipe was a delicious take on a cinnamon bun. The enriched yeast dough, which included some whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat bread flour), spices, and puréed pumpkin of course, came together quite easily in the stand mixer. It was soft and a little sticky and though I was tempted to add more flour to it, I didn't because the blog post for this recipe says to expect that. It lost that stickiness after it fermented and was quite easy to roll out and shape.

I deviated a little from the recipe here, omitting the optional ingredients from the filling and used just cinnamon-sugar, and less of it (100g/1/2 cup sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon). Also, based on the quantity of dough the recipe made, I decided to make 12 buns instead of only 9. To this end, I rolled the rectangle of dough into a cylinder starting with the long edge, and used dental floss to slice the rolls. Sweet yeast bread and my oven don't get along at 190C/375F so I baked them for 21 minutes at 175C/350F. The aroma was heavenly!
The buns themselves weren't too sweet and with the pumpkin and whole wheat flour, tasted almost wholesome......until I slathered them with Cream Cheese Frosting* of course ;). I was quite surprised by how light and airy the texture was despite some of the ingredients that could have produced a heavy, dense bread.
Isn't it pretty....that lovely golden colour speckled with spices? 

You'll find the recipe for the Cinnamon-Swirl Pumpkin Rolls here.

*My family and I prefer cream cheese frosting to the fondant-type glaze in the KAF recipe. Here's the the recipe I use:

 Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from 
yield: enough to frost 12 buns (with some leftover for those who prefer extra)

85g/3oz cream cheese (regular or reduced fat), at room temperature
56g/1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
172g/1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Spread on warm buns.

This can be made in advance and refrigerated but bring it to room temperature and give it a good stir before using.
If you'd like to see how the other ABC bakers fared with this recipe, visit here.