dimanche 25 février 2007

Dutch Meatloaf

This week’s recipe is a nostalgic one as it one that my mother used to make for us. She served it with boiled potatoes and cabbage. This is comfort food at its best – easy to make, tasty and filling.

Leftover meatloaf makes a great sandwich filling for a baguette or Kaiser bun.

Dutch Meatloaf
Serves 4

680g (1-1/2 lbs) ground beef
225 mL (8 oz) can tomato sauce
225 mL (1 cup) breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
5 mL (1 tsp) dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

30 mL (2 Tbsp) tomato paste
30 mL (2 Tbsp) brown sugar
30 mL (2 Tbsp) vinegar
30 mL (2 Tbsp) mustard
225 mL (1 cup) water

Preheat oven to 160ºC (325ºF).

Mix half of the tomato sauce with the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and water.

Mix together meat, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining tomato sauce. Form into a loaf in a 21cm x 32 cm (8” x 12”) baking dish and bake for 30 min. Degrease, add sauce and continue baking for another hour.

dimanche 18 février 2007


Around this time of year my friends in Canada and northern US are suffering from ‘February Blues’. A syndrome caused by too much winter already and no end in sight. The lucky ones escape to the sunny Caribbean or for a week or two.

We were fortunate in Paris this year that winter was milder and much sunnier than usual. It is sunny and 16°C as I am writing this. No February Blues here! It is the Parisian school holiday and families have left Paris for the Alps or Pyrenees to ski or for a sunny break in Spain or North Africa.

As a compromise, I suggest planning a Greek menu to take you virtually to an exotic location. Think of the white buildings, blue skies and Mediterranean Sea. Make a large Greek Salad of iceberg lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onion and crumbled Feta cheese to serve with souvlakia (lamb or chicken brochettes) or lamb burgers. Serve Tzatziki and pita bread as the accompaniments.

Makes 625 mL (2-1/2 cups)

500 mL (2 cups) plain yogurt
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and finely diced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Spoon yogurt into a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towel; let drain for 2 hours. Place cucumber in large colander and let drain for 10 minutes; gently squeeze out the excess moisture.
Combine yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil and add pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow flavours to blend.

lundi 12 février 2007

Créme Caramel

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we think about flowers and sweet treats. This year why not make your sweetheart a popular French dessert, Crème renversée au caramel, more commonly known as Crème Caramel.

Crème Caramel is a simple to make egg custard baked in a ramekin with caramel in the bottom. The caramel melts during baking turns into syrup over the custard when turned out onto a plate.

Crème Caramel is not be confused with Crème Brûlée which is a richer custard made with cream and is covered with a hard caramel graze.

Crème Caramel
Makes 8 servings

200 mL (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
50 mL (1/4 cup) water

5 large eggs
125 mL (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
750 mL (3 cups) milk (whole or 2%)
3 mL (3/4 tsp) vanilla

Preheat oven to 160ºC (325ºF).

Place sugar in small heavy saucepan and drizzle water evenly over the top. Place the pan on medium heat; gently swirl the liquid to form a clear syrup (remove the pan from heat as necessary to avoid boiling before syrup is formed). Increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil; cover the pan tightly and boil for two minutes. Remove the lid and cook the syrup until it begins to darken. Gently swirling the pan, cook until the syrup until it turns a deep amber colour. Quickly (but very carefully to avoid burning your skin with the hot syrup) pour the caramel into eight ramekins. Using a potholder, immediately tilt the ramekins to spread the caramel over the bottom and halfway up the sides.

Whisk eggs, sugar and salt until just blended. Heat milk until just steaming. Gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl with a pouring lip. Stir in vanilla. Pour into the caramel-lined ramekins.

Bake in a bain-marie (pan filled with water to half way up the sides of the ramekins) until firmly set in the centre about 40 to 60 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Unmold by briefly dipping the ramekins into hot water then running a knife around the edges, and inverting onto individual plates deep enough to catch all the caramel syrup.

dimanche 4 février 2007

Fettuccine with Scallops & Mushrooms

I grew up in Nova Scotia and was introduced to seafood at any early age. My favourites are lobster, shrimp, scallops, oysters and mussels. We were fortunate enough to be able to get fresh shrimp direct from the boats and live lobster dropped off at our home. I love going to Normandy and Brittany to eat fresh plateau de fruits de mer (large platter of mixed seafood) and pick up some fish and seafood at the waterside marchés to bring back to Paris with me (safely tucked inside a cooler in the trunk of my car for the +/-3 hour drive).

My local marchés (Avenue de Saxe and Boulevard de Grenelle) have several poissonnières where I can indulge my cravings a little closer to home when things are in season and not too expensive. Noix de Saint Jacques (large sea scallops) are usually sold in the shell and the fishmongers will shuck them for you but they leave the corail (red roe) on. The roe is edible but I do not particularly care for it and remove it when I do the final cleaning at home. In Paris, the smaller bay scallops tend to be sold already cleaned. In Normandy, they are sold in the shells and you will have to shuck them yourself but this is easy enough to do.

Seafood and pasta dishes make for simple and elegant meals to impress your friends. Fettuccine with Scallops and Mushrooms has been a favourite since I discovered it in the early 1980’s. In this dish I use small bay scallops and champignons de Paris (white mushrooms). I prefer to use larger sea scallops where they can be used whole. To add a colourful twist, use squid ink fettuccine and add a shot of Pernod to give the dish an anise flavour.

Fettuccine with Scallops & Mushrooms
Serves 4

45 mL (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
250g (1/2 lb) mushrooms, sliced (if mushrooms are large, cut in half before slicing)
375 g (3/4 lb) bay scallops (or sea scallops, quartered)
5 mL (1 tsp) lemon zest, finely grated
250 mL (1 cup) whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 mL (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
500 g (1 lb) fettuccine noodles
45 mL (3 Tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet, melt butter, stir in garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant but not coloured. Add mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes or until soft and any liquid in pan has evaporated. Add scallops and cook for 1 minute. Stir in lemon zest and cream and bring to a boil. Season with pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

Cook fettuccini in large pot of boiling water until al dente. Just before pasta is ready, reheat sauce. Drain fettuccine well and place in large pasta bowl or platter. Toss well. Sprinkle with parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings.