Monday, March 30, 2015

Blood Orange and Cardamom Sorbet - IHCC Farewell, Diana Henry!

Beautiful and vibrant - words that describe this gorgeous Blood Orange and Cardamom Sorbet and so many other dishes I've prepared from Diana Henry, I Heart Cooking Clubs' featured chef for the past six months.
As I have with previous chefs, I decided to say farewell with a dessert, this one a refreshing frozen treat made with freshly squeezed blood orange juice and cardamom-laced simple syrup from the book A Change of Appetite. I lucked into a batch of very dark red oranges that produced a pretty fuchsia colour and gave the dessert a lovely, slightly bittersweet flavour. It was fantastic and will definitely be made again.
I've really enjoyed exploring the dishes of this new-to-me cook, cooking primarily from two of her books, A Change of Appetite mentioned above, and Plenty, filled with economical and family-friendly, but no less delicious fare. I'm now enjoying reading her latest, A Bird in the Hand, with its focus on my family's favourite protein: chicken!

Next week heralds the arrival of IHCC's newest featured chef, the illustrious Jacques Pepin. I see lots of French food in my future! Until then, visit IHCC to see the wonderful recipe round-ups and farewells of the other members.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - March 2015

Last June, I decided to treat myself to a new cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg. A quick look and several flagged recipes later, I checked online to see what others had cooked from it and stumbled across the Cottage Cooking Club, a group dedicated to cooking its way through the book. I joined immediately. It had started the month before, which meant I had missed out on May recipes so for this month's make-up post, I made three, and a few others that caught my eye and tempted my taste buds when others made them. 

Arugula (Mixed Greens), Fennel and Puy Lentil Salad (page 82), a selection from May 2014.
Lentils are usually an easy sell around here without doing much to them apart from cooking them with a few aromatics. So when they're dressed with an olive oil-lemon-mustard dressing (I doubled the lemon juice) and tossed with fresh fennel and peppery greens, I thought this salad would be a hit. Unfortunately, I was missing one of the star ingredients; when I went grocery shopping, there was no arugula to be had! Such is the vagary of our winter produce supply. I substituted with a mix of baby spinach, kale and chard, which was really tasty and held up to the dressing. The dish was good, but I think it would have been better with the peppery bite of the intended greens. 

Stir-Fried Sesame Cauliflower (page 376), a selection from May 2014.
I really enjoy stir-fries; they're an easy way to get good food on the table quickly. This one featured cauliflower. Beige in colour, but with onion, garlic, ginger and hot chiles included, it was by no means beige in flavour. I really liked the method of adding water to the pan with the cauliflower; it allowed it to steam as well as fry so it was perfectly tender-crisp, and it absorbed all of the flavours of the aromatics that had gone in before. I served this as suggested with some steamed brown rice for a vegetarian meal. I will definitely make this again.

Carrot Hummus (page 296), a selection from May 2014.
Made with roasted carrots, toasted cumin and coriander, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice, this hummus was slightly sweet and nicely spiced, and a tasty alternative to a more traditional recipe. I found that the flavours improved the next day with the sweetness taking a backseat to all of the savoury ingredients. Though "Puppy", my faithful companion of 13 years quite liked it also, the rest of the family didn't appreciate it much - too sweet for them. Since I don't relish eating almost an entire batch by myself again, it probably won't be repeated.

Baby Carrot and Fava Bean Risotto (page 269), a selection from June 2014. 
I've wanted to make this dish since seeing the variations made in June but in early March, fresh baby carrots and fava beans aren't available. And, my risotto-loving usually lacto-ovo-vegetarian daughter decided to try a vegan diet for a while. Needless to say, some changes were in order. Of course I omitted the butter and cheese from the recipe, and used frozen fava beans (blanched with skins removed) and large carrots cut into small batons. I followed the cooking instructions: the timing worked perfectly for the vegetables and though I usually add the broth a ladle at a time to risotto, adding larger amounts as instructed worked well. It tasted very good but without the cheese was missing something...some grated lemon zest and a squeeze of juice provided the lift it needed. Delicious! It was like a little bit of summer on a plate, quite welcome on a cold winter day.

Pasta with Raw Tomatoes (page 254), a selection from July 2014
I actually made this back in August, a month after it had been chosen but while tomatoes were at their peak. Hugh mentions substituting olives for capers; I used both! I also used dischi shaped pasta that were like miniature bowls, perfect for holding all of the lovely tomato juices and the odd caper or olive slice. This was really light, flavourful, and so easy to put together. I did peel the tomatoes since the skins were a little tough, but didn't worry too much about removing the seeds. I ended up making this a few times during the month and found it had the best flavour when the tomato "sauce" was assembled in the morning and allowed to macerate all day. It was delicious served hot as the main or at room temperature as a side for grilled meat and fish.

Celeriac with Apple, Raisins (Cranberries), and Parsley (page 107) a selection from February 2015
I've said it before, but I think the "Raw Assemblies" chapter is my favourite in the book; it's introduced me to a delicious world beyond dressed leafy greens. So it's no surprise that I loved this dish: crispy and chewy, sweet, tart and nutty, it was a marvelous mix of raw ingredients enhanced with a mustard vinaigrette. I replaced the raisins with cranberries, a fruit that family prefers, but otherwise followed the recipe. This was a wonderfully refreshing salad, and an excellent complement to the heavier, richer foods we've been eating to help get us through this very long and very cold winter.

I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's posts this month since we weren't limited to ten recipes, but allowed to choose from the one-hundred that have already been featured! Visit here to see what everyone made.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pork Fried Rice with Broccoli and Carrots

Stir-fried rice is an easy and delicious way to use up leftover cooked rice. I like to make it a complete meal in a bowl so this version includes pork and vegetables. Broccoli and carrots are my family's favourites but they can easily be substituted with whatever you prefer, just allow about one serving of vegetables per person.

                       Pork Fried Rice with Carrots and Broccoli
                                       makes 4 servings

prep time: 20-30 minutes
cooking time: 15-20 minutes

400-500g pork tenderloin
2 tsp sodium-reduced soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
2 cups (150g) broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
2 medium (200g) carrots, peeled and sliced (6mm thick) or 1 cup frozen
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cups (530g) cooked rice
2 tsp sodium-reduced soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 spring onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts, raw or roasted, preferably unsalted

medium sized pot if using fresh vegetables
seasoned or non-stick wok or a large non-stick fry pan
paper towel-lined plate
small, clean bowl
non-metal spatula

It's important to prepare all of your ingredients before you begin to cook since things happen very quickly once you start.
1. First up is the meat. I like to use pork tenderloin since it's very lean but also very tender and frequently on sale, so quite economical. 
But it has a nasty bit of connective tissue called silverskin that needs to be removed since it doesn't soften, even after cooking. A sharp knife with a fairly long, thin blade - a boning knife is perfect - makes this an easy job. 
silverskin silverskin1
Just find the section of silverskin on the tenderloin and slide your knife under a strip about 1 cm wide. Trying not to cut into the meat, slide the knife towards the end of the tenderloin. Hold the piece of silverskin taut and cut in the opposite direction towards the other end. 
silverskin2 silverskin3
Repeat. There's just a small patch of it so it will come off in a few strips. 
Trimmed tenderloin
halved pork slice
Cut the tenderloin in half lengthwise, then cut each piece crosswise into 6mm slices.
Sprinkle the meat with the 2 tsp soy sauce and cornstarch. Toss until the pieces are coated, and set aside.

2. Next up are the vegetables. 
If using fresh, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Add the broccoli, again cooking for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Drain and run them under cold water to stop the cooking. The vegetables won't be fully cooked, just blanched. You'll finish cooking them later. Blot them with some paper towels to absorb excess water.

If using frozen vegetables, put them in a colander or sieve and run cold water over them for a minute or two to defrost. Blot them with some paper towels to absorb excess water.

3. Once you've prepared the other ingredients, you're ready to start cooking. Have ready the plate lined with paper towels for the egg omelette, and the clean bowl for the cooked meat. 

Heat the wok/fry pan over high heat. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch each of salt and pepper. When the wok/fry pan is hot, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Pour in the eggs and swirl the pan so that they cover the bottom. Let them bubble and sizzle for about 2-3 minutes or until they are dry-looking and fully cooked on the top. Remove the egg omelette to the prepared plate with a spatula. 
4. Add 1 tbsp oil to the wok/fry pan. Add about a third of the meat slices. Keep them moving with a spatula making sure to separate the pieces. Remove them from the pan to the clean bowl after 2-3 minutes or once they're browned on all sides. The centres will still be pink but they'll finish cooking later. Repeat until all of the meat is browned.
5. Add 1 tbsp oil to the wok/fry pan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil, breaking up any clumps. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until hot. Add the soy sauce and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the vegetables and the meat and all of its juices. Stir to combine. Take a moment to cut the egg omelette into ribbons (see photo above) or smaller pieces if you prefer and stir them into the rice mixture. Cook for a minute or two until everything is heated through and the meat is fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
Sprinkle with sliced spring onions and peanuts and serve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars - Tuesdays with Dorie

Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars from Dorie Greenspan's latest book Baking Chez Moi was this week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick. Comprising a tender shortbread-like cookie base, a layer of chocolate and a topping of Caramelized Rice Krispies, this treat was easy and fun to make.
I used a bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao) that I hoped would balance the sweetness of the other components and it did. The cookie-chocolate combination was quite good but not particularly special. The highly addictive Rice Krispies "brittle" that formed the topping was a different story, adding texture, flavour and lots of interest to the little bar cookie. 
I've halved a few of the recipes we've made so far but this one, I should have doubled! These were best enjoyed at room temperature with a glass of cold milk.

Visit here to see what the others thought of this sweet.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Peruvian Chicken Soup - IHCC Potluck

This week is potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and though we can cook with any of the past featured chefs, I decided to make a Diana Henry recipe featuring chicken, Peruvian Chicken Soup from her book A Change of Appetite.

With a broth flavoured with lots of garlic and ginger in addition to leeks, carrots, onions, and chicken of course, I knew this soup would be special.
And it was. I cut the chicken into pieces so I could rescue the chicken breasts during the first hour (I don't like what happens to the white meat after 3 hours of cooking!) but otherwise followed the directions including those to reduce the strained broth to concentrate the flavours.
I refrigerated the broth overnight and continued the soup the next day, skimming the fat, and cooking the potatoes. With the cooked chicken added back in along with the finishing touches of fresh red chiles, coriander, spring onions, cooked eggs, avocado, and lime juice, it was ready to serve.
Delicious! The broth was richly flavoured but brightened by the ginger and all of the fresh ingredients. Filling, but not too heavy, it was the perfect soup to transition into spring.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beet, Goat's Cheese and Caper Pizza - IHCC Suitable for the Screen

Pizza and a movie is a long-standing tradition for me so the decision to make one for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme "Suitable for the Screen" was an easy one. One of the beauties of home made is that they're easy to customize. With beets on this one, Diana Henry's Beet, Goat Cheese, and Caper Pizza, I knew it would be all mine!
I used a different dough recipe, one I was experimenting with by converting it to whole wheat, and since I was making only one pizza, halved the topping recipe, though even that produced far more than I needed for my 30cm round of dough.
I loved it! Roasted beets and goat's cheese are a natural pairing and with the additional sweetness of slowly cooked onions, the salty capers were a welcome foil. This really exceeded my expectations and will definitely be made again. 

If you'd like to try it, the recipe is in Diana's book Plenty but can also be found here.

Visit IHCC to see the other movie time treats members have cooked up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lemon Madeleines - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week, Tuesdays with Dorie group members baked Lemon Madeleines from the book Baking Chez Moi.

Since being gifted with a madeleine pan and the cute little book We Love Madeleines a few years ago, I've made quite a few of these shell-shaped sponge cakes in various flavours - including savoury - using different techniques. But none of them compared to these little beauties in both flavour and texture.
The batter was typical of a sponge cake with eggs and sugar first beaten until thick before dry ingredients and finally melted butter were folded in. After an overnight rest in the fridge, it was time to bake the madeleines. My pan is an unconventional size, making 16, so my yield never agrees with any recipe; this one was no exception, producing 21 instead of 12. I followed the instructions to chill the batter-filled pan before baking the first batch but skipped that step for the remaining cakes; there was no perceptible difference in the hump produced, which is what that step was to affect, but with the warmer pan, baking time was reduced by a minute. I made a half batch of the lemony icing, enough to glaze most of the madeleines, and added a light dusting of powdered sugar to the remaining few. 

I loved them! They were tender and delicate with crisp golden edges, and their flavour was just as lovely, redolent with lemon, with the glazed ones - my favourites - capturing both the depth of flavour and tartness of the fruit. These were a perfect afternoon treat and will definitely be made again.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mushroom and Leek Galette - IHCC Mystery Box Madness

Ricotta layered with sautéed garlicky mushrooms flavoured with lemon zest and thyme, topped with sliced leeks and baked on a (store-bought) crisp pastry base...nothing could be easier to put together, and, it used four of this month's I Heart Cooking Clubs' Mystery Box ingredients. 
This tasty little tart recipe comes from Donna Hay's Fast, Fresh, Simple, a book so filled with winning recipes for when you're short on time it should be renamed Fast, Fresh, Delicious!

Visit IHCC to see how others used the challenge ingredients of mushrooms, leeks, thyme, ricotta, bacon, cucumber, cumin, apricots, pistachios, orange flower water.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Black & White Cookie Ripple Coffee Cake

This is the ultimate cookies 'n' cream cake that makes your kitchen smell as though you're baking Oreo cookies....which you actually are!
The cake is a moist vanilla buttermilk cake with a fudgy ripple of chopped Oreos running through it and a crunchy chopped cookie "streusel" topping, finished with a drizzle of vanilla icing.

Apart from the Oreo cookies, the ingredients are very basic and the cake takes no more effort to make than the average coffee cake but the results are spectacular and a real crowd pleaser! 

The recipe comes from the book A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman, a much underrated baking book that is quickly becoming one of my favourites. I don't publish recipes that aren't my own but if you would like to give this a try, it can be found easily with a quick search of the recipe name.

I'm sharing this post with this month's Cook-your-Books hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chile-Ginger Stir-Fried Squid - IHCC Heaven Scent

Lemon grass, mint, sautéed Thai bird chile, garlic, ginger....all highly fragrant and "Heaven Scent" and all were included in this dish from Diana Henry's book A Change of Appetite. There was also a dose of fish sauce added in, but how heavenly that scent is, is debatable!
This recipe was like most stir-fries, with most of the time spent preparing the ingredients. I reduced that considerably with a huge cheat, using frozen squid rings. With squid cleaning removed from the equation, this was very quick and easy to make.
I served it as recommended with steamed brown rice and stir-fried kai lan/Chinese broccoli (I still envy Joyce who can pick this fresh from her own garden!). The fragrance and flavours of this dish were fantastic, a wonderful combination of aromatics and sweet, salty, spicy heat with the freshness of lemongrass, mint and lime. Unfortunately, chopping and bashing the lemongrass as per the instructions wasn't enough to break it down so much of it was inedible, detracting somewhat from our enjoyment of the meal. Maybe the food processor next time....

Visit I Heart Cooking Clubs to read all of the other heavenly scented entries.