Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some sort of poached egg concoction...

Warning: If you're one of those people who eat each component of your meal separately, don't attempt this at home!

This isn't the type of thing to eat bit by bit, you need a little bit of everything to have the perfect bite! You see I think eating a meal is like an orchestra, it's completely the sum of its parts. Sure a trumpet sounds good alone, as well as the violin etc. However, when you listen to all the instruments in unison, what you get is something richer- a one dimensional sound that comes to life. The same can be said for food and with this dish in particular, a little piece of everything = a bite of heaven.

You have the:
1. toasted english muffin that provides crunch
2. poached egg that streams with a rich luxurious yolk
3. chilis in oil for a layer of heat
4. pickled mushrooms to cut through everything with a punchy tang
5. pea shoots which ground every bite with a welcome earthy note
6. shaved parm cheese that adds saltiness

You should really try this at home! It's completely delicious!

1 English Muffin
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon Italian peppers in oil
5 pickled mushrooms, sliced (get the Italian kind)
1/4 of a handful of pea shoots or microgreens
A couple shavings of fresh parm
1 teaspoon vinegar


Bring water and vinegar to a very low simmer, just so it starts to bubble a second or so apart. Crack the egg in a ramekin. With a whisk, start stirring the water to create a whirlpool effect and gently drop egg from ramekin one at a time. Cook for about 2-3 minutes or until whites are a soft firm around the yolks. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel.

Meanwhile toast one half of the english muffin. Place egg on top of english muffin. Top with chilis, mushrooms, pea shoots and cheese.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Afternoon Tea

I was never the little girl who had afternoon tea parties with imaginary friends, teddy bears and snacks. I was far less refined and preferred playing street hockey or tackle football with the boys. So maybe a part of me is making up for my lack of girlie childhood experiences with newfound obsessions. I just love tea parties- they're dainty, pretty and provide me with an excuse to have another meal between lunch and dinner:)

The other thing I like about afternoon tea is that you can pre-pare everything in advance. It really allows you to be a guest at your get together if you take the time beforehand!

There are a couple secrets to having a perfectly whimsical tea spread:
1. Invest in a tiered dessert tray- it naturally divides your scones, sandwiches and fruit
2. Have a selection of teas- herbal and non herbal
3. Buy cute serving plates, tea pots and teacups

I served scones with fresh jam, smoked salmon, chicken and egg salad sandwiches. I will share my treasured chicken salad with you, which is my mothers PERFECT recipe.

Chicken Salad:
2-4 tablespoons full fat hellmans mayo
2 skinless/boneless chicken breasts
1 whole celery rib + 1 celery rib finely diced
1/2 chicken bouillon cube
1 whole onion +1 tablespoon finely diced onion (as fine as you can without making it into a paste!)
1 tablespoon relish
salt and pepper to taste


Place one rib of celery, chicken, chicken bouillon cube and one onion (quartered) in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the breasts are cooked. Remove from pot and let cool. Shred the chicken into stringy pieces (quite time consuming, but worth it!). 

Meanwhile, place your your diced onions in a strainer with a teaspoon of salt and rinse under cold water. Drain. 

Mix two tablespoons of mayo, relish, diced celery, diced onion, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and blend well. Taste. Add more salt or mayo if needed

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Smoked Salmon, Poached Eggs, Super Toasted Crumpet... C'MON!

I'm the type of person who wakes up in the morning to my stomach- it grumbles and roars, demanding some fuel to start the day. I'm also the type of person who falls asleep at night to thoughts of what I'll eat in the morning. "What will it be tomorrow?" I ask sleepily as I rest my head on the pillow.

Today it was my take on eggs benedict. I really enjoy eggs benedict but no more than two or three or four bites, but I stop at four... it's just too rich for me. The rich egg yolks that cascade over the english muffin coupled with the 12 yolk and 1cup of butter sauce is delicious at first but grows overwhelming fast! So I ommitted the delicious but intense hollondaise and replaced the english muffin for an even better English counterpart- the crumpet. If you've not had a crumpet, it's well, amazing! It's spongy but takes well to toasting and has all of these wonderful porous holes that soak in whatever you give it- butter, jam, or in my case-yolks!

You have to try this dish! The hardest part is the poaching, which is not really that hard at all! Totally worth the assembly!

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar
as many pieces of smoked salmon as you please
1 crumpet

Bring water and vinegar to a very low simmer, just so it starts to bubble a second or so apart. Crack the egg in a ramekin. With a whisk, start stirring the water to create a whirlpool effect and gently drop egg from ramekin one at a time. Cook for about 2-3 minutes or until whites are a soft firm around the yolks. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel.

Meanwhile toast your crumpet on a high setting. Remove, place eggs on top and finish with smoked salmon. Enjoy:)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pasta and Bean soup?....

I once had a friend whose grandmother had eight fingers. Now with the unripened maturity of a 9 year old girl, having less than 5 fingers on each hand was a thing of bewilderment and wonder. How did she lose them I thought silently as I watched her strain pasta and mix it into a large pot. Could it have been during the war? Perhaps she lost them cooking, or maybe she never had them to begin with? My mind twisted and turned, seconds felt like hours as she approached closer and closer with a heaping bowl that she lovingly made for her granddaughter's after school snack. The fingerless scenarios made me feel a bit sick and I panicked as I felt my enormous after school appetite slipping... But she put before me a beautiful bowl of pasta, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese. I closed my eyes, inhaled and thought "wow, this Nonna can COOK!"  

It looked so good, it smelled so good- fresh tomatoes, beans and garlic looked so beautiful on the plate. So inviting that the missing fingers were the last thing on my mind. I had one bite, two bites, three bites- it was a crazy haze of spoonfulls. The amazing thing was that I couldn't tell whether I was eating a pasta sauce or soup. It was a soupy pasta sauce! It was divine. Her Nonna smiled, bemused by my zest for "simple, peasant food" and happily gave me a second serving and third!

I thought of my long lost friend's Nonna recently and did the best I could recreating her delicious pasta dish! It was pretty darn good! The mashed beans, fresh tomato sauce and sweet garlic danced around my mouth and brought me back to my childhood days where I was exploring the most delicious Italian cuisine through my friends Nonnas- some of the finest cooks I've ever had the pleasure eating from!

1 can cannellini beans, drained and washed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes 
3 basil leaves thinly sliced
5 large ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 package penne pasta
as much freshly grated parm cheese as you like!

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and cook gently cook until it softens, you don't want too much colour-just a very light golden brown. Add the chili flakes, basil and tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat to med-low for 5 minutes. Remove lid and press down the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to help break them down. Add the cannellini beans and cover. Cook 10 minutes longer. Mash 1/2 of the beans with your spoon so that they become part of the sauce. Add a ladleful of pasta water to the sauce and bring heat to med-high. Let simmer to the consistency you like. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook penne. Drain and toss pasta into the sauce. Top with cheese and a good drizzle of extra virgin.