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Main Course/Entree Recipes

18 January 2008

Moroccan Shrimp Salad

Salad2

Over the past month we have had a house guest stay with us: Nic's sister Liz. And although a month is a long time to have another body in our small, one bedroom apartment, we are all still, happily, the best of friends.

Now cooking for three is hardly more challenging than cooking for two. However, Liz has developed some dietry sensitivities from a spending a year traveling throughout South America. Cooking for someone on a strict diet can certainly test your creativity.

Continue reading "Moroccan Shrimp Salad" »

06 December 2007

Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche

Quiche1_s

Kale; not only is this winter green high in Vitamins C, A, B6, K, Magnesium and various antioxidants, it is also delicious. In fact, the health benefits of Kale sound pretty incredible. It is touted as reducing the risk of various cancers, reducing the risk of skin and eye diseases, and generally keeping the immune system healthy. Popeye would certainly approve.

So after reading about all these benefits, I raced out and bought me some and made a Kale and Smoked Bacon Quiche. Its dark green, curly leaves have a lovely texture somewhere in between English Spinach and Seaweed. Kale can be eaten in a variety of ways: steamed, raw, in soups or as in this case, sauteed and then baked.

I cheated with the pastry. I didn't make it. Instead I bought it from the A La Mode pie shop at Granville Island Public Market. Their pastry is of course excellent, being a pie shop, and it saves me the hassle of making my own when I want a quick and no-fuss dinner.

I just spent an hour trying to come up with a clever name for this story. I came up with things like 'Hail, Kale!', which I dismissed for its Nazi connotations. Or 'If Popeye was alive today, he'd choose Kale', which is clearly way too long and unwieldy, and lastly 'Kale: health and vitamins' Holy Grail', which, seeing as we are talking about a leafy vegetable, may be overstating things a little.

So after tortuous deliberation, I settled on 'Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche'. Pretty clever don't you think?

I have submitted this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Simone of the blog Briciole.

aaWeekendHerbBlogging

         

Continue reading "Kale & Smoked Bacon Quiche " »

23 November 2007

The Sunday Roast

Sunday_roast

My mum grew up on a small farm in rural Queensland, Australia in the 1950s. She had a horse, several cows and a flock of chickens. Each Sunday the family would get together and have a Sunday roast. It was an all-day affair that began at the crack of dawn.

Her dad would kill a chicken at first light, soak it and then it would be mum's job to pluck it when she woke up; a task that still haunts her to this day.

Her mum would milk the cows and with the fresh cream, she'd make butter for the table. The potatoes, carrots, peas and herbs would be picked fresh from the garden. Another one of mum's jobs would be to shell the peas, which she'd do till her little fingers were sore. She needed enough for four people, after all.

By the time the meal was served it would be would be two o'clock. Then came afternoon tea at four with a sponge cake, fresh out of the oven. And then it would be time for supper. A weekly ordeal!

While it sounds idyllic with all that fresh produce, what a hell of a lot of work! All but the beheading was done by the women, while her father and brother would retire to the couch to read. Pah!

What a long way we've come: I whipped up this roast in an hour and a half with only 20 minutes of prep time - and, to show how far women have come, I made Nic do all the chopping while I read the latest issue of Gourmet.

And so it was that an hour an a half later we tucked into a delicious roast chicken with a lemon herbed butter. The butter consisted of fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley and grated lemon zest.

When I roast a chicken, in order to get really crispy skin, I bake it on top of a wire rack that I fit over the baking pan. This way, all the juices run into the pan instead of having the chicken sitting in them while its cooking. The result: deliciously crispy skin!

This week I will be submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted by Truffle at What's On My Plate.

aaWeekendHerbBlogging

Continue reading "The Sunday Roast" »

13 November 2007

Thai in Ten: Hoi Lai Pad Prik

Thaibasilclams1

Hoi Pad Prik translates to Fried Clams with Roasted Chili Paste. I use the Mae Pranom brand of paste which I picked up in Thailand recently. It contains vegetable oil, dried shrimp, dried chili, onion, garlic, tamarind, sugar and salt. The paste can sometimes be labeled in English as 'Chili paste in soy bean oil'.

Roasted_chili_paste

If you can't find it, don't fear! Up until I got hold of the Mae Pranom brand, I used a Chinese dried chili oil paste, which worked just as well and is easier to find.

It is really important though to cook the clams over a hot flame so I always use our portable gas cooker for this dish.

This recipe is so simple to make and literally takes only a couple of minutes to cook. Even on these colder days, it's fun to slurp up the clams, beer in hand, sauce on chin and pretend we're at the beach in Thailand.

Continue reading "Thai in Ten: Hoi Lai Pad Prik" »

07 November 2007

Thai Red Duck Curry

Duck_curry_5

I recently made this Thai Red Duck Curry to warm us up on a chilly Sunday evening. I always think duck meat is best complimented with something sweet like plums, honey or, as in this case, lychees and pineapple. These fruits really add layers of flavour to the curry. Canned lychees are ok for this recipe but it is important to use fresh pineapple to take full advantage of its tropical tartness. Canned pineapple doesn't work because its sweetness isn't balanced by any acidity.

It is also really important to try and use Thai Basil in this recipe as it has a stronger flavour than other sweet basils and a faint licorice essence.   

I kind of cheated with the duck. I didn't cook it myself. Why bother when Chinatown is five minutes away with hundreds of freshly barbecued ducks for sale!

This week I will submit this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted this week by The Expatriate Chef from The Expatriate's Kitchen

aaWeekendHerbBlogging   

Continue reading "Thai Red Duck Curry" »

26 October 2007

Comfort Food Part II: Lamb Biryani

Lambbiryani

Biryani is a rice-based dish eaten in the Middle East and South Asia that consists of meat, vegetables, spices and yogurt.

I first tried it in a Persian restaurant called Byblos in Montreal when I was on holiday a few weeks back. When I got back to Vancouver I found myself craving it and decided to try and make it. I used lean, ground lamb instead of beef which added an extra richness to the dish. I sauteed the lamb with a heady mix of cumin, paprika, a cinnamon stick and ground chili to reduce its 'lambiness'.

The Biryani I had at Byblos was much drier than my version but I preferred the extra moisture of my tomato-based sauce. To top the dish off I added fresh lemon juice, parsley and lots of fresh mint; mint being one of my favourite herbs. This addition balanced the rich flavour of lamb perfectly.

I will be adding this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Pille of the blog Nami Nami.

To finish off the meal and cleanse our palates, I used the rest of the mint leaves to make a delicious mint tea by bruising the leaves and then putting them in a cup and adding hot water and a little wild honey.

aaWeekendHerbBlogging

Continue reading "Comfort Food Part II: Lamb Biryani" »

21 October 2007

Winter comfort food: Mushroom Lasagna

Wild_mushroom_lasagne1

With the onset of winter, it's time to dust off those hearty favourites...winter comfort food recipes.

On the menu is Mixed Mushroom Lasagna using a medley of high-grade Shiitakes, Chantarelles, Field and Oyster mushrooms served with a delicate Bechamel sauce. The addition of the fragrant shiitakes adds a different layer to the flavour and aroma of this dish, but I used them in moderation so not to overpower the dish.

Bowl_of_mushrooms

I used fresh lasagna sheets (I try to use fresh pasta as much as I can as it is just so much better than the packaged stuff).

Now don't let the following recipe deter you because of how many steps there are. I know it looks like a lot but this dish doesn't take long to make at all. It is far easier than making a meat-based lasagna which can take me hours to prepare. 

Lasagne_sheet

Continue reading "Winter comfort food: Mushroom Lasagna" »

15 October 2007

Kao Thom: soup for sickies

Soupy_rice_condiments 

Kao Thom with tasty, tender pork meatballs is the perfect 'I'm feeling sorry for myself' food. It is comfort food. And, it is the only thing I eat when I have a bad cold. What's more, it is very easy to make which is what you need when you're not feeling so crash hot. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious. So delicious, that when I eat it, I forget I am sick.

Kao Thom is a Thai breakfast staple that is actually eaten at any time of the day. Another similar breakfast dish is called Johk which has more of a porridge-like consistency like Congee.

The standard condiments that are always served with Kao Thom include slivers of fresh ginger, a handful of Chinese celery leaves (normal celery leaves will do), crispy fried pieces of garlic and red chillies in vinegar sauce, otherwise known as Naam Som.

Condiments

Kao Thom with Pork Meatballs Recipe
(Serves 4)

Soup

5 cups of organic chicken stock
2 cups of cooked white rice
1/4 tsp of Chinese White Pepper
2 tbs of Thai fish sauce
1.5 tbs of light soy sauce (I use Thai Healthy Boy brand)

Pork Meatballs

450gms of lean ground pork
2 tbs of grated ginger
3 cloves of grated garlic
1/2 tbs of fish sauce
1/2 tbs of light soy sauce
A dash of Chinese white pepper

Condiments

6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 tbs of vegetable oil
Slivers of fresh ginger
Chinese celery leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbs of white vinegar
1 red chili, sliced with most of the seeds removed

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat the chicken stock on a medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add fish sauce, soy sauce and white pepper to the stock. Stir well and reduce heat to low and cover.
  3. Now for the meatballs. Mix together all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Once the ingredients are mixed though, roll small meatballs that are about 2cm in diameter. Set aside on a plate.
  5. Time for the condiments. Heat the vegetable oil in a small fry pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic slices and fry until crispy and golden brown but not burnt. Drain the garlic and set aside.
  6. Add the chili and vinegar to a small serving bowl and set aside.
  7. Arrange the the ginger in a small serving bowl. Add the celery leaves to a small serving bowl. Set aside.   
  8. Uncover the soup and turn the heat up to a medium high heat. When the soup starts to simmer, add the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for about 3-4 minutes or until they rise to the top which means they are ready.
  9. The final stage in preparation for this recipe is to spoon about a cup of cooked rice into a soup bowl. Ladle on the soup and meatballs and then garnish with prepared condiments.

31 August 2007

What to do with a kitchen full of Heirlooms

Heirloom_tomatoes

On a recent trip to the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, I stumbled across a man selling the most wonderful tomatoes with exotic names such as 'Purple Russian', 'Striped German' and 'Black Pineapple'. Being from Australia, I had never come across such marvels. Of course, I had heard of Fried Green Tomatoes, but other than that, all the tomatoes in my life to this point had been very red. How could I resist?

After a few days, with a kitchen full of ripening tomatoes, it was time to do something with them. That something involved Little Neck Clams and pasta. The result was superb. The firm, tart flesh of the tomatoes added just the right balance to the rich, sweet clam liquor.

If you want to find out more about Heirloom tomatoes, there is a pretty comprehensive explanation on Wikipedia.

Little_neck_clam_pastac_2

Continue reading "What to do with a kitchen full of Heirlooms" »

25 August 2007

Shiitakes have feelings too

Shitake_asparagus_pastac_3

Shiitake, known as the fragrant mushroom, is no longer an ingredient found in just Asian cuisine. It is being used more and more in Western kitchens around the globe.

The versatile mushroom has been used by the Japanese and Chinese for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. In China, shiitakes or xiānggū were picked wild in the mountains and dried. The Japanese learned how to cultivate the mushrooms by placing them on dead logs.

These days, the rising popularity of the shiitake has meant its increased cultivation in many countries, giving cooks year-round access to its delectable flavour.

When buying fresh shiitakes, ensure that the flesh is firm and dry but not wrinkled. The caps should be fleshy and unblemished, with a distinct yet subtle aroma. Some shiitakes will naturally develop scoring on their caps. Don't be deterred by this as it is a good sign of a maturing mushroom.

When preparing shiitakes, gently remove the stems with a knife and rinse the caps very briefly in water (in and out). Never let the caps become water-logged. Alternatively, you can carefully wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth. A soggy shiitake is something to be avoided.

While doing 'research' on this popular little fungus, I came across a site belonging to the Lost Creek Shiitake Farm in Oklahoma. Their literature described the shiitake as a social and almost sentient being that "dislikes crabby people and negative, emotional people...they're not fond of cigarette smoke and may balk in their fruiting around smokers." Shiitakes also love a good thunder storm and tend to proliferate in a group setting...of other shiitakes that is.

Shiitakes are my kind of people. So to celebrate the shiitake's sociability and versatility, I made a shiitake, smoked bacon and asparagus pasta. The result was delicious, rich and yet pleasingly subtle.

 

Continue reading "Shiitakes have feelings too" »

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