Monday, February 28, 2011

Braised Lamb and Peppercorn Ragu

Ok. I almost cried when I ate this it was so good.  I saw a beef cheek and peppercorn ragu on a menu and thought "Oh wow, what a wonderfully unique pairing". I had already ordered but couldn't help getting excited about what I thought would be a lovely combination of rich beef cheek meat, flavourful tomato sauce and the welcome spicy bite of a whole peppercorn.

I didn't have beef cheek but I had lamb shoulder and thought it would do the trick. I took my inspirations with me to the kitchen and made a thing of true beauty!

It turned out AMAZING!

1 lb boneless lamb shoulder
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 cups fresh tomato sauce
2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Rigattoni or tagliatelli pasta
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, cover the peppercorns with water and boil for 5 minutes. Let it rest till it's in room temperature.

 Rub the lamb with salt and pepper and let it sit for about 20 minutes before you sear it. Searing cold meat makes it tougher. Heat a large saucepan and sear the lamb so that it browns on all sides. Add the garlic and cook until it's soft. If there's not enough room in the pot remove the lamb and return when the garlic has cooked and add chili flakes.  Pour in fresh tomato sauce, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered on low for 2.5 hours. After 1 hour add strained peppercorns. Carefully remove the lamb from the sauce and pull meat apart with two forks. Return to the saucepan and toss with pasta.

Fresh Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
10 large tomatoes
salt to taste
5 sprigs fresh basil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Score the skin of the tomato and place in boiling water until the skin is soft enough to peel off (about 40 seconds). Peel off all the skin and transfer to a blender. Pulse the tomatoes to the consistency you like (I prefer a little texture so I don't pulse it until it's smooth). Transfer pulsed tomatoes to a saucepan and add a good pinch of salt...maybe more. Bring to a simmer and add fresh basil. 

If you're using this as a fresh tomato sauce saute some garlic with good extra virgin olive oil and then add the sauce, bring to a boil and serve with pasta.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pecan Pie

Easy as Pie...yeah right! Whoever coined that term must have been using ready made crust!

I'm a trained cook, not a baker. However, we did have one module in culinary school dedicated to this very temperamental craft. Anyone who knows me well will describe me as impatient. I don't like waiting for things and I don't like being precise and that's why I love cooking! I can fix practically anything with my trusted arsenal of salt, sugar and butter!

That said, I want to be better and feel that baking new things isn't just a way to strengthen my baking skills but an exercise in life. 

I really love this pecan pie. It's super flaky and has the perfect amount of sweet! 

if you're a first time pastry dough maker, my only advice to you is to keep calm and don't attempt this if you've had a rough day. Dough is very fickle and temperamental and really annoying to make in the beginning so try to be as patient as possible!

Pie crust Ingredients: 
1 1/4 cup AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice water

In a food processor pulse flour and salt so that it's incorporated. Add butter and pulse several times until it resembles coarse crumbs. Remove from food processor and transfer to a large bowl and stir in water a tablespoon at a time until it forms a ball. Transfer to a clean work surface and flatten a little so it resembles a fat disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate and flute the edges.

Filling Ingredients:
3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1.5 cup pecans
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
egg wash (1 egg whisked with a teaspoon of water)

In a bowl lightly whisk eggs until smooth, add  sugar, syrup and cream and mix until just incorporated. Add 1/2 cup pecans into mixture and pour into prepared dish. Top the mixture with the remaining pecans and arrange as carefully or carelessly as you wish! Brush egg wash over crust and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until the filling settles. Serve a la mode!

crumb like consistency

forming into dough after adding ice water
dough rolled, pressed and fluted

ready for the oven!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aroscaldo... Filipino Rice Porridge

I remember walking home from school during the cold Canadian winters. By 4 pm the sky seemed dim and heavy and I wanted nothing more than to peel off my snow-soaked socks and enjoy a bowl of my grandmother's aroscaldo. I'd have a spring in my numbed step as the scents of the garlic ginger rice porridge would escape from the house and greet my from the veranda.

Aroscaldo is similar to Chinese Congee but more flavourful... at least in my opinion. It's so easy to make, has lots of rich and contrasting flavours and immediately transports me to my childhood.  You have the smooth and somewhat starchy porridge that's cooked with garlic, ginger and fish sauce. Then you top it with all sorts of lovely bits like fresh ginger, crispy fried garlic, thinly sliced green onions and a good squeeze of lemon juice. So so delicious.

2 pieces chicken breast or thighs (with bones and skin)
2 tablespoon garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle
1.5 inch cube of ginger julienned plus extra for condiments
3 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup Jasmin white rice
1 green onion
1/2 lemon sliced into wedges

Cut chicken into large bite sized pieces and reserve.  Make sure you have bones as this will flavour your broth.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a pot and add ginger. Cook until the ginger browns (about 3 minutes). Add 1 tablespoon  garlic and cook it until it has browned.. be careful not to burn the garlic. Unlike classic European style cooking we want the garlic to be very well cooked and dark brown but not burnt.. it's a fine line.

Add the chicken and cook until it's opaque. Add the fish sauce and cover. Keep on a low simmer for 5 minutes. Add enough hot water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Add the rice and stir occasionally. This will thicken overtime. Cook for 30 minutes or until the rice has absorbed enough water that it has the porridge consistency. If it absorbs too much water and seems a touch thick, add more hot water a little at a time until it's just right!

In a saute pan fry 1 tablespoon garlic in 2 teaspoons oil until browned and reserve. Top the porridge with fried garlic, green onions, ginger and a good squirt of lemon juice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easy Tandoori Chicken

Tandoor is a cylinder style clay oven commonly used throughout India, Pakistan and the Middle East. The term tandoori means "prepared in a tandoor". The oven can reach up to 900 F or 480C. It's very impressive, produces the best naan bread ever and is something I'm obviously without in my modest NYC apartment.

 A lot of people use a barbecue as the next best thing and I would if I had a balcony or yard, but am certain that my baking method is just as good and comes out just as unbelievably crisp. In a way I'm happy I don't have such things as my circumstances resulted in a great alternative method. I placed the chicken on a baking rack which sits on a baking dish and waited impatiently as all the drippings dripped- leaving me with the most crispy and tender chicken plus renderings for dipping pita bread or future frying. Fantastic!

1 broiler chicken cut into eight pieces
1 tablespoon fresh garlic that's been grated to a paste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger that's been grated to a paste
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
pita bread

Whisk all the ingredients together apart from the chicken.  Salt and pepper the chicken according to your liking then rub the marinade all over. Leave for at least 2 hours or overnight (ideally). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking rack on top of a baking tray. Put the chicken on the rack and cook on the oven for 45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reaches 165.  Place the chicken in a serving dish. Toast pita in the oven and brush with the chicken drippings for some extra goodness! 

Monday, February 21, 2011


My brother's been here for the weekend and we invited my uncle over for brunch. Since our days were packed with sightseeing and lots of eating out, I didn't have the time to make a meal without shortcuts. I decided to make lasagna, garlic bread and string beans. This sounds more time consuming than it actually was. I worked in advance- blanching my beans and making my sauce on Friday so I was good to go Sunday morning.

I hesitated in the pasta aisle as I grabbed the box of no boil lasagna noodles. If you've had good lasagna with fresh sheets of pasta or good boxed pasta that you need to pre-boil or a discriminating palette of any sort- you must never ever ever make no boil lasagna. Thank God my sauce and filling are extra delicious. They worked to conceal the fact that the pasta was gummy and nothing even close to comparable to the real thing.

I'm still submitting the recipe because the sauce and filling make for an excellent lasagna when you take the time to do it right. I told my mom this story and she laughed, repeating a mantra she often said throughout my childhood "you see Sara, you should never take shortcuts". She's so right.

Having said that, everyone loved it. It really was delicious but you have to use the proper pasta for the best results!

I am writing this recipe with my usual fresh pasta method!

1 package frozen spinach
5 cups tomato sauce
1 cup sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmagianno regianno cheese
3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup onion finely diced
2 eggs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
fresh pasta sheets or pre-boil lasagna noodles

Prepare tomato sauce and set aside (see meatball recipe for tomato sauce)
Thaw spinach and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. You can do this in a cheese cloth to help you.

In a saute pan, heat extra virgin olive oil and butter and add onions.  Cook on med-low heat until soft and golden (about 8-10 minutes). In a large bowl, beat the eggs until smooth, add the ricotta, parm cheese and onions. Mix well.

Boil the pasta according to directions. Prep all your ingredients for efficient assembly. Place a large ladle of pasta sauce on the lasagna dish, add the pasta sheets, layer with the ricotta mixture, cheese and a ladle of sauce. Repeat until you're at your last layer. For this layer just add sauce and reserve a 1/2 cup of freshly grated parm cheese and several pieces of mozzarella. Cook the lasagna for 40 minutes at 375. Remove from the oven, top the lasagna with cheeses (it does not need to cover it completely as the cheese will melt and expand in surface area. Pop in the oven with the broiler on high until it's perfectly bubbly and has some charred bits.

I can't help peeking when the broiler's on!



Sunday, February 20, 2011

New York, New York

My brother has come to visit and I'm so excited for our day of fun.

He is absolutely obsessed with Pinkberry- a frozen yogurt franchise that we don't have in Toronto. Every time he visits, we walk over maybe two or three times a day! They have several unique flavours to chose from and seasonal flavours introduced throughout the year- such as pumpkin  on thanksgiving and watermelon in the summer. You can select from loads of different toppings like mochi, an array of fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, caramel and praline...

We took our Pinkberrys and hopped in a cab. Destination: East Village.

We stumbled upon Sara Jenkin's Porchetta. I had the mozzarella sandwich. It was insane. Fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and capers bathing in the most delicious and fruity basil extra virgin olive oil. It was simple, rustic and such a delight to bite into.

My brother had the Porchetta sandwich. He's right beside me and will write about the experience first hand.

Tristan: First and foremost, I am not a lover of pork, which is interesting seeing that I come from a Filipino household. But let me just say, the Porchetta sandwich is one of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever had. It was such a simple dish, roasted pork on bread, but the taste was out of this world.
The meat was so succulent and packed with flavours, there were hints of pepper and undertones of garlic.But the best part of the sandwich were the crispy bits of fat. They were like little square parcels of juicy, crunchy goodness. They would crunch and then burst into a river of heavenly fat. Fat usually has a negative connotation in our society, but this fat is the new skinny. Whether or not you love pork, you cannot pass on the opportunity to have this sandwich. It will change your life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bacalao, Bacalhau, BaccalĂ ...Salted Cod

Wikipedia tells me that the production of salt cod dates back at least 500 years when Europe's great explorers came across Newfoundland. Cod was plentiful and salting it was a great method of preservation as it allowed the fish to be prepared and consumed several years after.

I'm happy their circumstances forced such ingenuity because I just love salted cod. It takes many names as it's a prominent dish found in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines to name a few. My favourite way to prepare it is with tomatoes. A lot of people also add potatoes to their salted cod as it really holds up to the texture well and is a great flavour vehicle. I usually do this but decided to add some cannellini beans as I thought it would add interesting texture and a distinct sweetness.

I served it on some beautiful Italian bread that I thickly sliced and charred on the stove top. For the big finale I drizzled it generously with the best olive oil I bought in Spain. It was ridiculous!

1/2 pound salted cod
5 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup cannellini beans
2 onions
5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon butter
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you can't take heat)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Some good bread

You need to soak the cod for 2 days in advance. Rinse the fish with cold water and place in a container with water. Change the water three times a day. When you're ready to use the fish give it one final rinse and pat dry. Reserve.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat butter and oil in a saute pan. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes. You can tear them apart with your hands. It's nice to have large pieces. Add the tomato juice and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, beans and sugar. Reduce to a simmer. Gently fold the cod into the sauce and place in the oven for 35 minutes.

Serve on crusty Italian bread that's nicely toasted and drizzle with you best extra virgin olive oil!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Asian Steamed Snapper with Soy Sauce Broth

One of the best ways I like to eat fish is steamed. All the natural sweetness of the fish comes through and is heightened when cooked with the bones. The bones lend such a deeply rich flavour that you just can't get with a fillet. 

Adding to the joy of steaming fish is that it's so easy. You bring a large pot of water to a boil, place your fish in a bamboo steamer that's sitting on top of the pot, close the lid and presto- it's perfectly cooked within 15 minutes (depending on size of course).

I stuffed the snapper with ginger, coriander and garlic and topped it with the most delicious soy sauce broth. The broth is subtle but makes all the difference to the dish. Serve it with some steamed jasmine rice and you can't go wrong!

1 whole snapper
1 finger of finger
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons coriander
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 lime, quartered
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 red chili, julienned
salt and pepper to taste

Have your fish monger clean and scale the fish. Don't chop off the head as it will help flavour your fish. Peel the garlic and slice two into thin chips and finely chop the other. Peel the ginger and julienne several strips, Grate a teaspoon of the ginger into a paste. Finely chop 1 tablespoon of coriander and roughly chop 1 tablespoon. 
Cut deep slits on a bias into both sides of the fish- depending on the size you may need to cut more than two.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and insert the garlic chips and julienned ginger into the slits. Don't insert more than one piece of ginger into each slit as too much will be overpowering. For the big cavity in the middle, insert the coriander, 2 lime segments and any extra bits of ginger or garlic you may have. 

Place tinfoil on the base of a steamer and fish on top of the foil. Bring water to a boil and rest steamer on the pot. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until done. Use caution when opening the lid as the steam can really burn you. 

In the meantime heat a small saucepan and add sesame oil, garlic, ginger and some chili strips. Cook quickly until the garlic softens lightly. Add the soy sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the coriander and a squirt of lime. Turn off the heat and pour as much as you like onto the fish when serving. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apple Crumble

I have a sweet tooth and love any dessert containing apples.  There's something so magically comforting about apple pie, crumble or simple roasted apples a la mode. The combination of tender apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla is heavenly.

I was going to make apple pie but didn't have enough time to chill my dough so I opted for the easier but equally delicious alternative- the crumble:) This takes  just a couple minutes of active time that you won't regret. Your home will be infused with the most comforting aroma while you wait for the main event:)

6 apples (2 granny smith, and four of any other variety such as winesap, braebum etc) cored, peeled and medium dived
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon and one stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into pieces
1 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400. In a saucepan place the apples, vanilla,  1 teaspoon cinnamon plus the stick and half the sugar and cook on medium low heat for around 8-10 minutes.  Coat with lemon juice and set aside.

Combine remaining sugar, flour, pecans, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and butter with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Place the apples in a baking dish and cover with crumble topping. To avoid overspill, put the dish on a baking tray when you place it in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.  Remove, let cool and serve with your favourite ice cream or gelato:)... I like vanilla the best!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roasted Garlic Mustard Mash

I've never had a mash with more flavour.. You have the sweet roasted garlic the velvety potatoes with the tangy bit of mustard. Super duper delish.

4 russet potatoes
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 head of garlic roasted
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cream or milk

Cut the a half inch from the top of the garlic. Place the garlic in tin foil and drizzle extra virgin olive oil and fold so it's completely covered. Bake at 350 for an hour. Remove the garlic and let cool. You can squeeze each segment out of the skin. Reserve.
Cut potatoes into fourths and boil in salted water (I like keeping the skins on for texture) until cooked. In a saucepan, warm the creme fraiche, cream and butter until melted and smooth.  Put the potatoes through a ricer (I like to put the potatoes through a ricer but you can mash them) add the cream mixture and garlic segments as well as the mustard's. Mix and serve.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Stuffing is the best kind of savory bread pudding in the world!

Of all the stuffing's I've been fortunate enough to try in my lifetime, there's nothing that beats my mom's recipe. And this is not one of those opinions that's biased by how much I love her- it really is that amazing.  Get ready to be known for having the greatest stuffing of all time as I promise people will say they've never had it better!

I don't like any fruit or meat in my stuffing. I like it just the way my mom makes it and I've never fiddled with the proportions. There's nothing else to say except that you must try it!!!!!

1.5 cups diced onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup julienned mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
9 pieces sandwich bread (I never buy sandwich bread and refuse to eat a sandwich if made with it BUT nothing beats it when it comes to stuffing)
1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter and oil in a saute pan and add the onions. Cook on medium low heat until soft and translucent (about 8 min). Add mushrooms and let them sweat (another 8 minutes). Add salt and pepper and incorporate. Turn off heat and set aside until it cools to room temp. Mix bread, parsley, celery and add cooled onion mixture. Mix everything together with your hands. If it's too lose add some milk. Prepare chicken for baking (see chicken recipe) and stuff with the mixture until it comes out of the cavity. Tie the chicken and bake according to weight. Remove from the cavity when the bird has cooked and rested fully. Serve with chicken and gravy.

Valentine's Day Spread

Happy Valentine's day everybody!

Despite what you may think, I'm not one for Valentine's Day. It's really unfair for everyone.. It seems to divide us into two camps- the loved and the loved not. If you're in a relationship there's all this pressure to prove how much you adore the person you're with. If you're not, you just feel a bit sorry for yourself and particularly annoyed with your giddy colleague who parades around the office with her life-size floral arrangement..

However, I had a little change of heart... I woke up feeling especially blessed and wanted to surprise my husband with his favourite spread. I usually make this on Thanksgiving or when we have friends over but decided to make roast chicken, stuffing, roasted garlic mustard mash, gravy and apple crumble just for him- on this day where we give thanks for our sweethearts... (recipes to follow)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chicken Souvlaki, Roasted Potatoes and Tzatziki

Ok.. this was just so insanely delicious. I absolutely LOVE souvlaki. I love the charred crispy layer that gives way to the most tender and succulent meat. It's full of tangy flavour and goes so well with potatoes, veggies and tzatziki. This skewered treat is one of my favourite things to eat. It's really healthy, extra tasty and I like anything that allows me to eat spoonfuls of tzatziki!

There's no need to buy tzatziki at the store when a few simple ingredients let you make it at home. I prefer it this way as I have control over the salt and garlic! It's not complicated at all and is totally worth the extra effort.

I made these potatoes for the first time today and was weak in the knees when I had my first bite. They're so soft and fork tender. They taste of rosemary, thyme and sweet roasted garlic... oh my gosh...I may have to take a break from this and eat the leftovers- I'm literally salivating. This would go so well with fish or any other cut of meat. It's ridiculous.

Souvlaki Recipe:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon oregano (fresh or dried)
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 onion cut into large slices
1 bell pepper cut into large pieces
1/2 eggplant cut into cubes
Skewers (if wooden, soak for a couple of hours before using)
salt and pepper to taste


Mix all the ingredients apart from the onion, bell pepper and eggplant in a large resealable bag and marinade at least 2 hours (overnight is best). Remove chicken from marinade and skewer with bell pepper and onion.  I do the eggplant on separate skewers with the remaining vegetables as its shape prohibits the chicken from charring as nicely as I'd like. Brush all the skewers with the marinade and place on a heated grill. Let the chicken develop grill marks (don't touch it for the first 3 minutes) then turn it so each side is charred and cooked. Cooking time varies depending on whether you grill it on the stove top or BBQ etc. Serve with tzatziki and potatoes.

Tzatziki Ingredients:
2 cups FULL FAT Greek yogurt. I love the Fage brand.
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon grated cucumber

Combine the yogurt and cucumber either on a cheesecloth or coffee filter that's placed on a strainer above a bowl so it can drain.  let this sit in the fridge for at least one hour. Add the remaining ingredients and presto! You're good to go:)

Roasted Potatoes Ingredients:
7 Russet potatoes cut into wedges (you can peel them but I don't)
5 cloves garlic smashed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1.5 teaspoons tomato paste
2 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon oregano (dried or fresh)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1/4 a bouillon cube (optional)

In a roasting pan assemble the potatoes in a single layer. Mix the stock, tomato paste, oil, rosemary, garlic, thyme, oregano and bouillon cube together and place over the potatoes. Cover tightly with tinfoil and place in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours or until soft and fork tender. If you want more colour you can broil them before serving. Enjoy!

Indian String Beans and Daal

My very carnivorous husband almost always requests meat for dinner. Yet every so often he will turn to one of his childhood comfort foods and request Daal (lentils). I love it when he's in the mood as it's an opportunity to keep the night strictly vegetarian since I always pair it with a veggie dish that's booming with flavour. I try to eat vegetarian at least one day a week so it's nice when he's up for it too!

This dish is packed with flavour, very healthy and won't have you thinking of meat!

String Beans Ingredients:
2 cups string beans cut in half
1/2 a small onion diced
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon garlic, grated to a paste
1/2 tablespoon ginger, grated to a paste
2 dried chilli's
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup water

Heat oil and add mustard seeds. They will start to pop so don't be startled. When this happens add the onions. Cook on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add chili, garlic and ginger and cook for a minute more. Add the green beans, coriander, turmeric and cumin and mix everything together. Add tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil and allow the sauce to thicken. Taste the beans- you don't want them too soft, they should still have a crunch to them. Add salt to taste.

Daal Ingredients:
3/4 cup dried yellow split peas
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 onion diced
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups water
1 tomato, quartered
1 tablespoon garlic, grated to a paste
1 tablespoon ginger, grated to a paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt at least a teaspoon
1 lemon juiced
coriander leaves for garnish
thinly sliced ginger for garnish
thinly sliced green chili for garnish

Rinse split peas and soak for 30 minutes in 2.5 cups of water. Heat oil in saucepan and cook onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook for one minute. Add the tomato and allow it to soften and melt. Add the split peas and red lentils-  mixing all the ingredients together. Add the water and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until it softens- about 40 minutes or so. Continue adding more water if it thickens too much. You can press a spoon against the peas to help break it down. You don't want them to be whole, they should soften and collapse into the sauce. Add the spices and salt. Cook for 5 minutes more. Finish with lemon juice. Garnish with coriander, ginger and chilli's.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Asian Mango Salad

This is such a pretty salad that pairs beautifully with Asian main courses. I served this with Asian steamed fish topped with a soy sauce, garlic, ginger and cilantro broth. There were no leftovers whatsoever!  It's crisp, vibrant, sweet, salty and sour.  There's so much crunch in each bite..what a treat!

1 Mango, peeled and julienned
10 french string beans cut lengthwise
1/4 a red chili, julienned (can omit if you don't like heat)
1.5 tablespoons salted cashews
1 bell pepper julienned
1/2 small red onion, julienned
1/2 cucumber seeded and julienned
1 handful fresh cilantro roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 lime juiced
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste

Mix the fish sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, brown sugar and salt together. Gently toss into the salad and serve. Top with fresh cilantro.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Veal Stock

When it comes to stock there is nothing better than homemade.  You control the sodium and flavours which is great as packaged stocks have a lot of other ingredients to help preserve shelf life. Once you go homemade you'll never go back.

4 pounds veal bones
1/2 head of garlic sliced through the middle
2 carrots chopped into large pieces
1 onion chopped into large pieces
2 celery stalks chopped into large pieces
5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leafs
1 teaspoon peppercorn
a handful of parsley (including the stems)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 420. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Add all your ingredients EXCEPT for thyme, bay leafs and peppercorn. Drizzle with oil. Bake until it the bones have a rich brown colouring- about 1- 1.5 hours.  Transfer all of this into a large pot and fill with just enough water to cover the bones. Bring to a boil then simmer on med-low heat for 3 hours until the stock has reduced and is a beautiful golden colour.

Remove the bones and strain the liquid into a large container. When it comes to a cooler temperature, refrigerate until the fat comes to the top and the stock congeals. Skim the fat before using.

* Tip: you can make this in large quantities and freeze in smaller portions.

Braised Lamb Shanks

This  dish is melt in your mouth delicious. It's perfectly rich, juicy and tender. There are a lot of steps involved but it's totally worth it. Even though it takes time, it's not difficult.

I warn you, please don't attempt to make this if you want to take shortcuts. This is a no shortcut dish.  Your efforts won't shine if you buy stock. The beauty of it is the time and love and patience that goes into it so please please please DO NOT even think about buying packaged veal stock. If it's not homemade it's no good!

I served this at my dinner party this Friday and everyone loved it. The best part was when we rolled up our sleeves and started fishing for the rich incredible marrow that literally melts upon touching the warmth of your mouth. Ridiculous.

Ingredients for step one:
8 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
5 cloves of garlic smashed
4 sprigs of rosemary
5 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Season your lamb with salt and pepper. In a large resealable bag combine all the ingredients and let marinade for 12-24 hours.

Ingredients for step two:
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
2 cups diced onions
bouquet garni (a bouquet of parsley including stalks, thyme and bay leafs that's tied together so it's easier to fish out of the dish)
2 cups red wine
8 cups homemade veal stock

Remove lamb from marinade and pat dry.

 Dust with flour and brown.  Heat large dutch oven and add oil and butter. Cook the lamb so that it browns. Remove once nice and golden. Don't panic if bits stick to the pot, that will all be deglazed and add flavour. When you've finished browning all the shanks (do this in batches) transfer them to a baking dish.

Add your onions, carrots, bouquet garni and celery. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Add wine, making sure to scrape all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Transfer this to the baking dish, cover with foil and bake in a 350 oven for 3-4 hours until the lamb is insanely tender. 

Transfer the liquid back to the dutch oven and cook on a simmer until it's reduced to a beautiful thick sauce

Gremolata Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest

Add all your ingredients together with a pinch of salt and sprinkle on top of lamb shanks when hot.