Thursday, 19 April 2012

Udon Stirfry

This used to be one of my staples, but I haven't made it for a while. I try to find a good balance between sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Usually I leave it vegetarian and over the years have decreased the ratio of noodles to vegetables. Though I cook it in a wok, I don't use normal wok technique of super-heating the pan and cooking everything really fast.

First, I lightly caramelized the onions, adding the carrots in once they were translucent. Then, added the garlic, ginger, orange juice (sweet) and broccoli stems. Once the liquid has reduced by two thirds, add the broccoli florets, chopped red pepper, chili pepper (spicy), mustard, soy sauce (salty), and oyster sauce (salty).

Mix well and sprinkle the udon noodles on top, cover for a few minutes. The steam will cook the noodles and make them pleasantly chewy. Mix the noodles in with the sauce and add spinach, cilantro, and a dash of lemon juice (sour). When the spinach has wilted, add the bean sprouts for some crispy goodness. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Steak & Potatoes

I'm not a huge fan of beef. In fact, I don't buy it except in veal form for use at home. Occasionally, I'll have a burger, but otherwise I'm more of a chicken and pork meat eater. A friend of mine found this unacceptable. He decided to bring over some steaks the size of my head to convince me the shady underbelly of the meat world could make a nice home in my kitchen.

I wasn't allowed to cook the steak, only to watch and eat. Preheat a large skillet on the stove top and the oven to 350F. Massage the meat in butter. This didn't really do anything, as far as I could tell, other than allow my friend to get right up in that giant slab of red meat's business. Most of the butter ended up in the pan after the steaks were added to it dry. They were lightly salted and peppered first. They are cooked on high until medium rare, then put in the oven for 15 minutes. Take them out, let them rest. They ended up medium well done.

Banned from steak, I made mashed potatoes. 6 yellow fleshed potatoes boiled in salted water until soft. Mash them up with some butter, milk, a dried chili, 1C of old cheddar and the drippings from the steak pan. Delicious!

Oh my. That is a giant steak. I did not eat the whole thing. I did go back for more potatoes though, they were obscenely delicious. Meat is good, but I don't think I enjoyed this any more than I would have a well cooked piece of chicken or one of my mushroom burgers. The potatoes benefited greatly from the beef flavour in a way that I didn't expect. Cheesy, spicy potatoes are already really good, but the beef juice kicked it up to a level I otherwise wouldn't have reached. So, you can keep your red meat, as long as I get the gravy and some of those tasty taters.


Now that I have a small food processor, or one at all, hummus is a lot faster to make. Put all ingredients, I put garlic first to make sure it gets chopped up well, in the open end of the machine and press one of the nice shiny buttons. Keep holding it ... a little longer ... and ... done! You now have hummus.

I made a light lunch of it with a tomato salad. 3 tomatoes wedged, a garlic clove minced, some feta cheese crumbled, some cilantro sprinkled, with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Fresh, simple, tasty.

I ate them on some pita bread cut into wedges. Spoon on a little hummus, a tomato wedge and an extra cilantro leaf to make a very happy mouth.

Coffee braised lemon chicken with pesto & anchovy fusilli and coffee carrots

Experiment time. Reheat coffee, use leftovers or do as I did and make some in a roasting pan with about 2-3C boiling water and 4 heaping teaspoons of coffee grounds. Leave that to sit for a while and stuff lemon slices under the skin of the chicken. I had to work my fingers under it first to create a pocket. Season both sides of the stuffed chicken legs and arrange in the roasting pan.

Add 2 carrots chopped roughly and several sprigs of rosemary around the chicken. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then at 350 for another 30 minutes. Take them out of the liquid to rest for at least 5 minutes before eating.

To start the sauce caramelize half a large onion in olive oil in a skillet. When it is nice and brown, add chopped garlic, pesto, anchovies, and a ladle of pasta water to make it all sauce like.

Add corn sliced and scraped from the cob. Add cooked pasta and mix well.

Serve with chicken and coffee flavoured carrots. 

Round off the meal with a nice cranberry skor oatmeal cookie and a glass of home made amber ale.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Poached egg with spinach & pesto on a biscuit

Last week, Ladypants brought back a box of biscuits from trip to Georgia. Real, southern biscuits, a treat I'd not previously enjoyed. After enjoying a few buttery mouthfuls, they went right into the freezer to keep them as fresh as possible. And then it was the weekend and time for brunch. A culinary blasphemous idea struck me. A biscuit version of eggs florentine.

I decided against making hollandaise sauce when I read the recipe and nearly gagged at how much butter was in it. The biscuits are buttery enough, so adding more would be redundant to the point of overkill. Instead, I replaced it with a basil pesto.

I have never poached eggs successfully before, not being much of an egg eater anyways, so I decided to cheat. I wrapped the eggs in cling film and soft boiled them for 4 minutes. Let them cool a bit, and when you unwrap them, they look pretty much like poached eggs. Perhaps, more bulbous. Pile them on a pesto and spinach coated biscuit, top with salt, pepper and a dollop of pesto and you should have something like this:

Delicious! A bit messy to eat, especially if you end up with one of the biscuit tops. I'd make these for brunch again in a heartbeat. They would be pretty quick to whip up for a crowd too.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Shepherd's Pie

I've had a lot of shepherd's pie. From beef to chicken to traditional lamb to moose. Most of it was tasty, some of it was exceptionally awesome (moose), but this recipe might just top them all. At very least it would tie with the moose version, a traditional family recipe of a friend. This came as a surprise because I've never made it myself before.

Start by roughly chopping and boiling 3 large yellow fleshed potatoes and a medium sweet potato in cold salted water. Then start browning your onions and minced veal from the butcher in a cast iron pan. Add carrots, a hot pepper and salt & pepper. When all the fat has cooked off, add flour and stir into the meat. Then add, a cup of chicken stock to de-glaze the pan. Scrape off all those tasty crispy bits from the bottom. Pour the mixture into a 9" x 13" pan and flatten out over the bottom.

Now, drain and half mash the tender potatoes. Add the butter, light cream cheese, and rest of the chicken stock. Mash well. The stock will make the potatoes a bit creamier without sacrificing flavour or adding more fat (actual cream).  Plop this mass of starch on top of the meat mixture and smooth it out over top. There should still be a lip on the pan above the mash. Bake this at 350F for 30 minutes and broil until brown spots appear, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, devour, and come back for seconds. If you only try one recipe from this blog, make it this one. Seriously. And maybe the pesto.

*Leftovers come out less like a pile, more like a delicious brick.*

*Update the second*
The above shepherd's pie was so good, I couldn't help but make myself another immediately. This version was more traditional with yukon gold potatoes, and more vegetables. I followed the same method to prepare the potatoes and meat as above for the most part. The main differences are in the ingredients.

The corn I cut from the cob and sprinkled on top of the meat layer to cook in the oven. This kept the kernels more crisp than they otherwise would have been.

Adding a jalapeno pepper was a fantastic idea. It gave a little zing to the meat that brings the dish to another level without becoming very spicy at all. The fresh pepper accomplished this much better than the dried chili I used in the last batch.

The potato layer ended up being stiffer. I used more of them and mashed them a little less because I like lumpy mashed potatoes. To get the same soft and creamy consistency as achieved earlier, I could have mashed them longer and added more chicken stock. An extra half cup would have gone a long way.

This dish is pretty hard to mess up. No matter what, you are going to get your meat and potatoes. With summer approaching, I feel the need to start to eat lighter fare. I'm going to attempt a healthy version with mashed cauliflower and turkey meat, maybe even tofu.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Sammiches are beautiful, sammiches are fine!

Sammiches are the best. This one is on sour dough rye with cream cheese, cilantro, grilled chicken, avocado and arugula. Nothing fancy, just everything piled on top of each other and eaten with ferocity. My beard became a catcher of the rye, and of everything between it.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Delicious homemade noodles and quick sauce

Homemade noodles are soooooo much better than any sort of dried varieties. They are pretty easy to make, but do take a bit of time. This noodle method is my moms, who until recently didn't have a pasta machine. It makes thick, rustic, and delicious noodles. Rustic is a fancy way to say uneven.

Wisk 2 eggs, add 1/2C water. Add 1C flour and mix until smooth, add more flour until the dough comes together. Add more flour and knead with your hands until the dough becomes stiff. I used about 2 1/2C all purpose flour. Let rest for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, roll out the dough as thin as you can/dare on a floured surface. Let it rest another ten minutes. Lift the dough, lightly flour surface again, flour top of dough, and roll out again. Cut into 1/2cm x 2in strips with a pizza cutter (specific mom instructions here). If you have never heard of centimeters, just cut them 1/4in wide or however wide you want (see rustic note above). They can now be cooked in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes. They can be eaten with simple olive oil and black pepper.

I prefer another pasta sauce. This one was improvised so that I didn't have to go grocery shopping. I started by sauteing 3 sliced shallots and a garlic clove in olive oil. I added a chopped portabella mushroom and a splash of white wine to get them started. Once they had absorbed most of the liquid, I added a splash of tamari sauce, more white wine, half a zucchini, some homemade habanero hot sauce, and a handful of spinach. When everything is cooked, add the cooked pasta with a little bit of pasta water. Coat the pasta in the sauce and serve with parmesan and black pepper.

*Update* After writing this post, I made myself really hungry and had to have these again. Without most of the ingredients in the above sauce, I improvised again. This time I sauteed 4 quartered shallots in olive oil, added the other half of zucchini and 4 anchovies. I added a splash of white wine to help it along, and some pasta water when that dried up. To finish it off, I added 2 Tbsp cilantro basil pesto. After tossing the cooked pasta in the sauce, serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Red Lentil Dahl

Dahl is the simplest Indian dish to cook, and one that is usually better when you make it at home in my experience. Best of all, it won't give you the squirts! It is a red lentil based canvas you can add any sort of thing you want to. I chose mainly cruciferous vegetables, but use whatever you like.

Start by making the rice. I used brown rice that takes about 45 minutes to cook. 1 Cup rice to 2 Cups liquid, chicken stock is really nice, will make perfect rice every time. Add the rice when the liquid is at a full boil, then cover and turn heat to minimum for 45 minutes. Perfect rice every time.

Start the dahl by sauteing onions in oil. Add chopped carrots, broccoli stems, curry powder, lentils, hot peppers, liquid (I used chicken stock again), and bay leaf in that order. Bring to a simmer until lentils are almost cooked. Add cauliflower florets, red pepper, lime, broccoli florets, and  zucchini. Stir well to break up lentils into a smooth sauce.

It is a bit ugly, but it tastes good and is quite healthy for you. Ideally, you want to remove the bay leaves before serving them, but I kinda like finding them in there.

I would cut up the cauliflower and broccoli into smaller florets next time. They were a bit ungainly and one toppled off my fork to get caught in my beard. The seasoned rice is much better than it would have been plain. Leftovers were just as good, but not as pretty to look at.