dimanche 27 décembre 2009

Happiness Cake

Today would have been my mother's 75th birthday. In the late 60's or early 70's she was fond of Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet cooking show and would laugh at his entrance of jumping over a chair with a glass of wine in hand. She would try to write down his recipes - her handwriting started off very neat and tidy but got larger and messier as the show progressed. The pace of the show was too fast to be able to copy down the recipes! Mum did try to introduce us to some new recipes but we kids weren't too keen at the time. It's a different story now but sadly she was not around to see how our cooking and tastes have progressed over the years.

While going through the binder where she kept the handwritten recipes, I found one which is different from all the rest. I don't know where this recipe originated but here is my Mother's copy.

vendredi 25 décembre 2009

Everyone's Favourite Apricot Squares

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone all the best for the holiday season.

I first made Apricot Squares many years ago for Christmas. The recipe is adapted from a Canadian Living recipe magazine - Christmas Edition from the 1980's . I not only make this at Christmas but anytime when I have company visit and everyone loves it. My friend and former housemate, Suzanne, used to excitedly ask "Are you going to make THEM?" whenever I brought home dried apricots. My Aunts worriedly wondered why I was putting the rest in the freezer when they would be visiting for a couple more days. Almost everyone asks for the recipe so here it is!

Everyone's Favourite Apricot Squares

125 mL (1/2 cup) butter, softened
250 mL (1 cup) all-purpose flour
60 mL (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

150 mL (2/3 cup) dried apricots
250 mL (1cup) water
2 egg yolks
175 mL (3/4 cup) packed brown sugar
125 mL (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
2 mL (1/2 tsp) baking powder

425 mL (1-3/4 cups) approx. icing sugar
50 mL (1/4 cup) butter, softened
30 mL (2 Tbsp) lemon juice
7.5 mL (1-1/2 tsp) grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

In bowl, cream butter. Add flour and sugar; mix well. Press into bottom of 2.5 L (9-inch) square cake pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.

While base is baking, chop apricots into small pieces. In small saucepan, combine apricots with water and bring to a boil; simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and apricots are tender. Set aside.
In bowl and using electric mixer, beat egg yolks for 1 minute; add brown sugar and beat for 1 minute. Stir in flour and baking powder; mix well. Blend in apricot mixture; spread over warm base.
Bake in 160ºC (325ºF) for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is golden and springs back when lightly touched. Let cool.

In small bowl, gradually beat icing sugar into butter to a smooth spreadable consistency. Blend in lemon juice and rind. Spread over apricot filling. Cut into small rectangles to serve.

These freeze beautifully so you can make them in advance.

dimanche 20 décembre 2009

Fresh Ginger Cookies

I awakened to a snow covered landscape and -14°C outside. Not much snow but for me any snow is too much and any temperature below +10°C is way too cold. We have more snow on the way but the temperatures should warm up a bit. Some think of a white Christmas as romantic and special. It can be as long as you don’t have to leave the house. After so many years of Canadian winters I know the reality of having to clean the car and the sidewalks of snow and ice, treacherous driving conditions, late flights and missed airline connections, and other such annoyances and hazards.

My idea of a White Christmas in
volves palm trees, white sandy beaches and warm temperatures. Something feels right about Christmas in the tropics.

Since I am not in the tropics and am surrounded by a winter wonderland, I decided to make some Fresh Ginger Cookies. These use freshly grated ginger and molasses to make dark and spicy cookies that are a cross between ginger cookies and gingerbread.

Fresh Ginger Cookies
Makes about 30

500 mL (2¼ cups) flour
5 mL (1 tsp) baking soda
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
30 mL (2 Tbsp) grated fresh ginger
180 mL (12 Tbsp) butter, at room temperature
180 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
60 mL (¼ cup) molasses
1 egg
Additional sugar for rolling

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together ginger, butter and sugar. Beat in molasses and egg. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Chill for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Roll dough into cm (1-1/2”) balls and roll in extra sugar. Place 5cm (2”) apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until edges start to brown (centres will be slightly soft). Let stand on baking sheet for 1 minute then transfer to racks to cool completely.

dimanche 13 décembre 2009

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

Fruitcake is a British specialty. These heavy cakes laden with preserved fruit and nuts are a Christmas tradition. There are two versions – dark and light. Fruitcakes have a mixed review. They are loved by some and hated by others. They can be soaked with rum or brandy.

My preference is for light fruitcake using some mixed peel, dried apricots, the traditional raisins and almonds. My friend Anne and I would get together in Ottawa to prepare the fruitcakes over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. In recent years, I have switched from making fruitcakes to making fruitcake cookies, which seem to be more popular. The best ones are made from freshly prepared candied fruit (from my olive merchant at the marché in Paris or specialty food stores) mixed with dried apricots. The mixed candied fruit from supermarkets tends to all taste the same and should be avoided if possible. When it is not possible, use in combination with other dried fruit.

This recipe uses a combination of mixed candied fruit and peel, dried apricots, raisins and dried cranberries with almonds.

Fruitcake Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

250 mL (1 cup) golden raisins
250 mL (1 cup) candied fruit (Macedonia mix, yellow & green pineapple, candied peel), chopped
125 mL (1/2 cup) dried apricots, chopped
125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh, dried cranberries, coarsely copped
125 mL (1/2 cup) slivered blanched almonds
125 mL (4 Tbsp / 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
250 mL (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
50 mL (1/4 cup) orange juice
425 mL (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Combine raisins, candied fruit and peel, cranberries, apricots and almonds; toss with 50 mL (1/4 cup) flour. Set aside.
In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg and orange juice. Combine remaining flour and baking powder; stir into batter. Add reserved fruit and mix thoroughly.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cookies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 weeks.

dimanche 29 novembre 2009


Tourtière is a traditional French Canadian pork pie usually served on Christmas Eve. When I spent Christmas visiting friends in Ottawa, we would buy a very good one ready made from Sasloves in the Byward Market. It makes for an easy main course after winter days of shopping, visiting, tennis playing or other activities when you don’t have time to cook. Tourtière is traditionally served with chilli sauce but my friend, Anne, serves it with tomato butter, a richer tastier option.

I make this mini-version of tourtière and freeze it in preparation for holiday gatherings.

Mini Tourtières

Makes about 24 tourtières


15 mL (1 Tbsp) butter

500 g (1 lb) ground pork (or a mixture of ground pork and beef)

50 mL (1/4 cup) finely chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

25 mL (2 Tbsp) all-purpose flour

1 mL (1/4 tsp) ground cloves

50 mL (1/4 cup) strong beef stock


375 mL (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

1 mL (1/4 tsp) salt

150 mL (2/3 cup) cold unsalted butter

45 mL (3 Tbsp) approx. cold water


1 egg, beaten

10 mL (2 tsp) water


Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add pork; cook stirring constantly to break up the meat. Stir in parsley, garlic, onion and celery. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in flour, cloves and stock; cook, stirring until mixture thickens. Process pork mixture in a food processor fitted with a metal blade using pulse motion for 3 or 4 seconds or until finely ground. Transfer to bowl, cover and set aside.


In food processor, combine flour, salt and butter. Process with pulse motion for a few seconds. Sprinkle with water and mix until soft dough forms, adding up to 15 mL (1 Tbsp) more water if necessary. (Alternatively, place flour and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with water and mix until soft dough forms.)

On lightly floured board, roll out half the pastry 3 mm (1/8”) thick. Use 7.5 cm (3”) round cookie cutter to cut circles. Place in 5.5 cm (2-1/4”) muffin tins. Fill with pork mixture. Roll out pastry scraps and cut into circles 1 cm (1/2”) in diameter; place on top of pork mixture.


In small bowl, beat together egg and water.

Brush small pastry circles with egg wash and bake in a preheated 220°C (425°F) oven for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and remove from tins.

Freeze tourtières, uncovered, in single layer on baking sheets. Do not thaw before reheating.

To reheat: Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Bake frozen tourtières in a single layer on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until sizzling.

dimanche 22 novembre 2009

Lemon Walnut Tea Loaf

Darkness falls so early at this time of year and my thoughts are starting to turn to Christmas or more specifically Christmas baking. Of course this could also have something to do with being reunited with my KitchenAid mixer after a long while too! Since it is a bit early to start Christmas preparations, I decided to make this simple but delicious lemon walnut tea loaf to use some of the wonderful fresh walnuts from Onsdorf, in the Trier-Saarburg region of Germany, that were thoughtfully given to me by Helga.

Lemon Walnut Tea Loaf
Makes 1 loaf

125 mL (1/2 cup) butter, softened
160 mL (2/3 cup) sugar
2 eggs
500 mL (2 cups) flour
7.5 mL (1-1/2 tsp) baking powder
1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
80 mL (1/3 cup) milk
125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts
30 mL (2 Tbsp) grated lemon zest
Lemon Glaze (see below)

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into batter in thirds, alternating with milk. Stir in walnuts and lemon zest. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake for 55 - 65 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Lemon Glaze. Brush loaf with lemon glaze and leave to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Lemon Glaze
60 mL (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
45 mL (3 Tbsp) sugar

Place lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

dimanche 15 novembre 2009


Truffles are the pungent, rare, mysterious and much coveted mushrooms that grow underground. Truffles are born when the right combination of tree (notably oak, chestnut, hazelnut or willow), mushroom spore and environmental conditions (limestone soil, rain at the optimum time and quantity, favourable temperatures) exist. This does happen in nature but in very limited areas. Traditional truffle hunters in the forests of France and Italy guard their troves with utmost secrecy lest others catch on to where to find these rare delicacies. Truffle cultivation is developing and the theories on the best way to produce viable crops have changed over the last decade. The success rate is improving.

The most renowned and sought after truffles are of the ‘tuber melanosporum’ variety (also known as Périgord truffles). These come from the south of France, and in a limited way in Italy and Spain.

In northern France, in the Bourgogne, Champagne and Lorraine regions, it is the ‘tuber uncinatum’ or Burgundy truffle that adapts to the northern European climatic conditions. Harvesting truffles is relatively simple as they grow near to the surface. Finding them is another matter. For that you need a pig or a specially trained dog. Traditionally it was pigs that found the truffles. They are naturally attracted to the smell of truffles but the challenge is to keep them from eating them before you can get them into the basket. Dogs do not have the natural instinct to eat truffles and can be trained to find them successfully.
This weekend, on my first trip with Slow Food Luxembourg, we went to La truffière de St-Remy-La-Calonne in the Meuse department (Lorraine region) of France. We were met and given the guided tour by the very knowledgeable and welcoming M. Michel Garzandat.

Afterward, we were treated to a delicious lunch of truffle specialities – truffle butter, pâté, scrambled eggs then the main course of chicken with truffle cream sauce and mashed potato with truffle followed by brie with truffle. A truffle lover’s heaven, I can assure you!!

Truffière de Saint-Remy
14bis, rue André Maginot – 55160 Fresnes-en-Woëvre
+33 3 29 87 30 63

The Truffière is located in the Lorraine region of northeastern France - approximately 40 km from Metz, 20 km from Verdun and 100 km from Nancy.

Truffle Butter

250 g (8 oz) butter (unsalted, half-salt or salted)
60 g (2 oz) truffles, finely diced
Salt, to taste

Mix butter, salt and truffles with a fork. Serve over bread, toast, rice or pasta.
The butter will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months.

dimanche 11 octobre 2009

Prosciutto with Manchego and Quince Jelly

Last week I started a new work assignment and one of my new colleagues was kind enough to offer the members of our team some homemade Gelée de coing or Quince Jelly. I had never tried quince before but this jelly is delicious. I am so lucky.

Quince (coing in French) is fruit that resemble apples but are firmer in texture and a vibrant yellow in colour when ripe. They have a stronger flavour than apples and are often added to pies, apple sauce and other apple recipes to enhance the flavour. Quince are usually cooked but can also be eaten raw.

I decided to do a variation of the Spanish tapas which pairs Manchego cheese with 'membrillo' a friut paté made of quince. In this recipe, I added proscuitto ham as the base for the appetizer. I think this is a very good match. I also tried it with some local Luxembourg cured ham and cheese but found their flavours to be too strong for the jelly.

Prosciutto with Manchego and Quince Jelly
Serves 4

4 slices of prosciutto di Parma, cut into 2.5 cm (1”) strips across the width
225 g (1/2 lb) wedge Manchego cheese, chilled
Quince jelly, enough for a small drop on each piece

Fold strips of prosciutto in two to make squares. Heat a non-stick pan and fry the prosciutto until firm and slightly darker in colour (add oil if you don’t have a non-stick pan). Transfer to paper towels to drain. Cut or shave pieces of Manchego cheese to match number and size of pieces of prosciutto. Place cheese on top of prosciutto and top with dollops of quince jelly. Serve warm.

samedi 10 octobre 2009

Tea and Scones

We all know how to make tea, right? Boil the kettle, pop a tea bag into a mug, add boiled water and let steep to preferred strength. Remove teabag, add milk, lemon, sugar or honey, if desired, then sit back and enjoy.
Or we could make a pot of tea using loose leaf tea. Remember to preheat the pot with hot water before adding the tealeaves and perfectly boiled water. Let steep to desired strength and serve in proper teacups.
The debate continues about whether the teapot should be cleaned with soap and water or just rinsed out. My preference is to use soap and water (and occasionally baking soda) to clean my teapots. However you make your tea, these cranberry cream scones will go nicely with it.

Cranberry Cream Scones
Serves 6-8

500 mL (2 cups) all-purpose flour
20 mL (4 tsp) baking powder
5 mL (1 tsp) granulated sugar
1 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
50 mL (1/4 cup) butter, cut in cubes
125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dried cranberries
2 eggs
150 mL (2/3 cup) whipping cream

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cranberries.
In small bowl, lightly whisk eggs with cream; pour into centre of the dry ingredients and blend quickly with fork until mixed.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Roll out to 2 cm (3/4”) thick and cut into 6 cm (2-1/2”) rounds.

Bake in 200°C (400°F) oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

dimanche 27 septembre 2009

Mediterranean Pizza

The Marché Saxe-Breteuil is my favourite marché in Paris. It is in the 7é arrondissement near UNESCO and l’école militaire. On my last trip there I bought tomates confits (sun-blushed tomatoes), artichoke and some of my favourite Kalamata olives. I also bought cheese, Pélardon des Cévennes aux garrigues chèvre fermier (AOC). This is a small soft-ripened goat’s cheese from the Languedoc region in the south of France.
These ingredients gave me the idea to throw together this Mediterranean Pizza.

I sliced the artichoke and sun blushed tomatoes, chopped the olives and scattered them over homemade dough (recipe can be found in Feb 2008 archive). I cut the cheese into small chunks and placed it on top with some fresh basil. Popped it into the preheated 200°C (390°F) oven for about 12 minutes.

dimanche 13 septembre 2009

Gâteau au chocolat

The temperatures over the last week have been crazy, the mornings started out with cool temperatures and by afternoon we were in sweltering ones. It is not easy to dress for days that start out at 11°C and end up at 30°C. Fall is here!!

I had a craving for chocolate cake and decided that since I had all the ingredients including some good quality chocolate, I would make this flourless version. My preference is for Valrhona chocolate but this time I used Côte d’Or Culinaire chocolate (there was a special deal on it at Delhaize recently) and found it to be an acceptable substitute. This cake is intense in chocolate flavour and using a good quality one is very important. The cake is rich and gooey like a fudge brownie. As I was making it, I thought about what possible additions I would make for future versions such as pears, raspberries, mango, star anise or red chile pepper. It is very tasty on its own but I think adding something would really enhance the flavour and make the cake more unique. It can be served with cream (either drizzled over or whipped), ice cream or sorbet.

Gâteau au Chocolat
Serves 6-8

125 g (4-1/2 oz) bittersweet Valrhona chocolate, chopped
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
175 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Line bottom of a 20 cm (8”) round spring-form pan with parchment paper; butter paper and ring of pan.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, stirring, until smooth. Remove top pan of double boiler from heat, whisk in sugar; add eggs and whisk until well incorporated. Add cocoa powder and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes then transfer to a serving plate.
Serve warm or cold.

Completely cooled cake can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.

mercredi 2 septembre 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

When I was on vacation in Ontario, my friends Suzanne and Carol told me about eating oatmeal. Apparently while I had been in Europe breakfasting on croissants or pain au chocolat and café au lait (“le petit dejeuner français”), my friends have been eating oatmeal for breakfast. My Dad used to make us oatmeal for breakfast when we were kids (breakfast was his domain) and he still eats oatmeal. Back then we had instant Quaker Oats in the single serving packages – just add boiling water, stir and in 5 minutes – breakfast was served with a spoonful of sugar added. It seems that my friends have rediscovered oatmeal and are profiting from its many benefits. It keeps you going until lunchtime by giving you that feeling of fullness due to its high soluble fibre content and it prevents the sugar lows. It promotes weight loss. Oatmeal provides the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants we need. The debate seems to be over whether to use rolled oats or steel cut oats. In my search so far in Luxembourg I have only found rolled but I am sure the steel cut can be found somewhere now that I know what it looks like!

Regular rolled oatmeal takes about 15 minutes to cook on the stove and about 3 minutes in the microwave using 125 mL (1/2 cup) of oatmeal and 250 mL (1 cup) water. For variety, add extras like raisins, dried cranberries, brown sugar, honey, fresh fruit and berries.

In France I never found oatmeal in the grocery store, but then I never spent much time looking in the cereal aisle. But a couple of years ago, my lovely and talented young 9-year old friend, Natalie, came over for a visit armed with oatmeal so that we could make her family’s secret Oatmeal Cookie recipe together. Natalie added Smarties to some and white chocolate chunks to others as her own special twist to the family recipe. I would not have thought of that! The cookies were a hit but as they were from a secret recipe, I had to research my own to use for this blog. I hope that Natalie would like these ones just as much.

Dried cranberries can be substituted for the raisins. I added chunks of dark chocolate to half of the batch.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes approximately 2 dozen

125 mL (1/2 cup / 4 ounces) butter, softened

160 mL (2/3 cup) light brown sugar
1 egg

2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) pure vanilla extract

175 mL (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) baking soda

2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon

1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
375 mL (1-1/2 cups) rolled oats

175 mL (3/4 cup) raisins

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar: beat in egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in oats and raisins. Drop batter, 5 cm (2”) apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are golden at the edges but still just done on top. Let stand on the baking sheet for five minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

dimanche 23 août 2009

Tapanade and Tarama

A Martini conjures up images of elegance for me. Not that I have ever sipped one while wearing a ball gown and being surrounded by men in tuxes but it does somehow give off that illusion (perhaps from old movies). The closest I ever got was sipping one at the Hemmingway Bar in The Ritz, Paris. That WAS a sublime Martini - very dry, ice cold with a twist of lemon and servied with an exquisite tray of hors d'oeuvres. The 22€ price tag was worth it for the experience, ambiance and the sense of being in Paris at The Ritz.

This is not to take away from the cottage Martini experience. Sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, Martini in hand getting ready for the sunset with some of my favourite people and hors d'oeuvers - cucumber with tapenade and radish with tarama. Decadence!!!!

Our preference is a Martini made with Tanquaray or Bombay Sapphire gin. You can substitute vodka for the gin if that is your preference. We also prefer a twist of lemon peel (extracted with a tomato peeler to remove as little of the white pith as possible) to the olive.

Classic Gin Martini
Serves 1

75 mL (2-1/2 oz) Gin

15 mL (1/4 oz) Dry Vermouth

1 twist of lemon peel or 1 large green olive
6 ice cubes

Chill bottle of gin and martini glasses in the freezer. Pour gin and vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until combined and very cold. Pour into martini glasses over lemon peel or olive.

dimanche 9 août 2009

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp

This is the perfect time of year to make the Spanish specialty of gazpacho, the refreshing chilled tomato based soup made with raw summer vegetables. There are many variations of gazpacho from smooth to chunky, mild to spicy and using different vegetables. How I would love to have a garden to raid for the tastiest ingredients – tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, green onions and herbs. Failing that, the next best thing would be to shop at a farmers or local market. Fresh ingredients are key to this soup since it is not cooked.

Gazpacho takes a bit of effort and time to prepare due to chopping the vegetables and the couple of hours to properly chill it. If you plan on making the smooth version, the vegetables are rough chopped then processed in a food processor before adding the tomato juice (or in a blender, adding just enough tomato juice to properly blend the ingredients). For a chunky version, chop all vegetables to approximately the same size dice depending on your preference. Or you can process some of the vegetables and blend them with the chopped ones. I prefer the soup to have the finely chopped texture and a little bit of spice.

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp
Serves 4-6

125 mL (½ cup) finely diced red or yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green or yellow pepper, finely diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
5 mL (1 tsp) honey
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 lime
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh basil, chopped
2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground cumin
60 mL (¼ cup) chopped parsley
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper and cayenne, to taste
1 L (4 cups) tomato juice

Combine all gazpacho ingredients in a large bowl or glass pitcher and chill well.

16-18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1 lime
15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
15 mL (1 Tbsp) chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp chile powder

Whisk together limejuice and oil. Mix in cilantro, garlic and chile powder. Thread shrimp on skewers (to facilitate turning during grilling), place on platter; cover with marinade and let sit for at least ½ hour. Grill over medium coals until shrimp are opaque, about one minute per side.

To serve: Ladle gazpacho into individual bowls and top with 3-4 of the grilled shrimp.

mardi 4 août 2009

Cottage Banana Bread

As small kids, my brother and I got to visit a cottage in Pugwash, Nova Scotia for a few weeks in the summer. Our family did not have a cottage but thanks to our Dad, who is very handy at building things and just happened to help his friends, the owners, transform the cottage from a nice little cabin with outhouse, to a more luxurious place with indoor plumbing and a couple more rooms. This was our introduction to the cottage lifestyle, and the place where we learned about fireflies, tides, not stepping on jellyfish, sailing catamarans and salmon casserole made with potato chips instead of pasta.

In high school in Ontario, we learned that the summer tradition is to get out of the city and go to a cottage on a lake. Many families had cottages, small cabins hidden amongst the trees by a lake. In the good old days, mothers would take the kids to the cottage for the entire summer holiday and the fathers would show up on weekends and the couple of weeks for their annual vacation. A cottage is a step above camping as the structure is more permanent but the idea is still to bring in your supplies (food, water, other beverages, bedding and whatever you need to survive a week or month or two). It was still intended to be somewhat of a wilderness sojourn where there were some hardships to endure (outhouses, no running water, no hot water, mosquitoes, to name a few). Cottages were for casual living, a place where you spent every day in bathing suits, shorts, and t-shirts. Towels were thrown over deck railings to dry in preparation for the next swim. A canoe was the means of transportation to visit the neighbours. Meals were cooked on the barbecue and sundowners were served on the deck for the adults while watching the sunset over the lake. Still my family did not have a cottage, but I did have the pleasure of visiting some friends’ cottages.

I spent last week at my friend Anne’s cottage on Pike Lake, near Perth, Ontario. We stocked up on supplies at Foodsmith’sin Perth on our way in. This cottage has running hot and cold water, an indoor toilet, a full kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and now new windows. I enjoyed gourmet cuisine using fresh local ingredients (no grilled hot dogs for us) while enjoying the lovely scenery. Ontario is experiencing the same changeable weather that we are having in Western Europe this summer so I did not get in swimming but I did enjoy the sundowners on the deck served with canapés.

Another tradition of cottage life is baking and Anne made banana bread and fruit muffins for us to enjoy at breakfast.

Here is Anne's Banana Bread recipe:

Canadian Cottage Banana Bread

440 mL (1-3/4 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted
12 mL (2-1/4 tsp) double acting baking powder
2.5 mL (½ tsp) salt
80 mL (1/3 cup) butter
160 mL (2/3 cup) sugar
4 mL (¾ tsp) grated lemon rind
1-2 beaten eggs
250 mL (1 cup) ripe banana pulp
60 mL (¼ cup) sour cream (crème fraiche)
125 mL (½ cup) chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend butter, sugar and lemon rind until creamy. Add sifted ingredients to creamed batter a third at a time and beat until smooth after each addition. Fold in sour cream and nuts. Place batter in a greased 11 cm x 22 cm (8-1/2” x 4-1/2”) loaf tin. Bake for about 1 hour or until done. Cool before slicing.

dimanche 12 juillet 2009

Spicy Calamari Salad

Calamari or kalamari (squid) was one of my favourite dishes from the Greek restaurants on the Danforth in Toronto. Calamari is cut into rings, lightly battered and quickly deep fried then served with tzatziki and lemon wedges. Done properly these are crispy and light - not greasy or rubbery. I rarely deep fry anything so it is a treat to find good fried calamari to eat when I go out.

When I get fresh calamari, I like to make this Spicy Calamari Salad instead. Cleaning the squid is not for the squeamish. It is not difficult to do but it is messy. First the head is separated from the body, the skin layer removed, the insides cleaned out and the spine removed. For this recipe, the squid tubes are cut open which makes the cleaning process a little easier. The tricks to avoid tough calamari are to score the inside of the tubes to break up the membranes and to stir fry quickly in small batches over high heat. I don't mind eating the tentacle part. To prepare it remove the tentacles from the beak just above the eyes and cut off the extra long tentacle.

The star anise adds a nice hint of licorice flavour that works well with the chilli sauce. If you are in México, ask for star anise as "anis estrella" at the pharmacy.

Spicy Calamari Salad
Makes 4-6 servings

500 g (1 lb) medium calamari, cleaned
10 mL (2 tsp) freshly grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5 mL (½ tsp) cayenne pepper
15 mL (1 Tbsp) chopped coriander leaves
2.5 mL (½ tsp) five spice powder
2 star anise, crushed
60 mL (¼ cup) mild sweet chilli sauce
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
500 mL (2 cups) mesclun mix (mixed baby salad leaves)

60 mL (1/4 cup) olive oil
15 mL (1 Tbsp) red wine vinegar
10 mL (2 tsp) sugar
10 mL (2 tsp) lime juice

Cut calamari tubes open, score shallow diagonal slashes in criss-cross pattern on the inside surface; cut into 2 cm x 6 cm (3/4” x 2-1/2”) pieces. Combine ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, coriander, five spice powder, anise and sauce in bowl; add calamari and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

Heat oil in wok or pan, add calamari in batches and stir-fry over high heat about 1 minute or until calamari is opaque and tender.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to mix.
Serve warm calamari over salad leaves drizzled with dressing.

dimanche 5 juillet 2009


The past few days have been so hot here that it makes thinking about cooking and eating difficult. It got me thinking about Vichyssoise. I love the sound of the name. Somehow the name Leek and Potato Soup does not have the same cachet. It is a lovely thick creamy cold soup that seemed perfect for cooling off.

One of my old favourite restaurants near my apartment in Paris (sadly is has been taken over by new management and no longer serves the same food) had it on the menu but for a twist added mussels. I quite liked that idea and tried it with the Vichyssoise I made this weekend.

Vichyssoise can also be served hot.

With mussels

... and without

Serves 4

30 g (2 Tbsp) butter
3 large leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
150 g (5 oz) potatoes, diced
1 L (4 cups) chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste
125 mL (1/2 cup) crème fraîche or sour cream
60 mL (1/4 cup) 35% cream, whipped
15 mL (1 Tbsp) chives, chopped

Melt butter in a large pot; add the leeks, cover with baking paper and cook without colouring, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or just until tender. Add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the soup into a blender or food processor and purée. Pour into a large bowl and mix in the crème fraîche or sour cream. Let cool and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Pour into chilled bowls and serve cold. Garnish the soup with a dollop of whipped cream and the chopped chives.

samedi 27 juin 2009

Roquefort Sauce & CarChick.ca

My friend, Lynda Sydney, a talented freelance copywriter working in Toronto, recently started her CarChick.ca blog to share her love of cars and driving with other like minded women. This is an informative and fun blog that covers driving and car care tips, service secrets, auto reviews, fun facts and more.
I was honoured that Lynda asked me to write an article related to driving in Paris and you can read my guest posting about when I got my little Peugeot here.

This was one of Lynda's favourite sauces to serve over grilled steak when she was in Paris.

Roquefort Sauce
Serves 4

15 mL (1 Tbsp) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) black pepper, crushed
5 mL (1 tsp) fond de veau (veal stock powder)
80 mL (1/3 cup) white wine
60 mL (¼ cup) Roquefort cheese
80 mL (1/3 cup) whipping cream (35%)

Sauté garlic in butter until softened by not coloured. Add veal stock and wine; simmer until sauce is reduced by half. Add whipping cream and warm through. Add Roquefort a little at a time and stir to blend. The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

Pour over grilled steaks and serve with a bottle of Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile Concha.

jeudi 25 juin 2009

Scottish Fish & Chips

I spent the last week in Scotland visiting my family and didn't get much chance to cook but did
get to sample many different Scottish specialties. My family thinks the best fish and chips come from a "chippy" or chip shop that specializes in fish and chips rather than other types of restaurants.

On Tuesday, we went to the Pavillion Cafe* in Troon for our fish supper. The restaurant / chippy was recently renovated and the decor is basic and very clean. The place does a brisk business both inside and for take out so everything is very fresh.

This was one of the best fish & chips that I have tasted. The fish batter was light and crispy and neither the fish nor the chips were greasy. As you can see, I have dressed the chips Canadian style with ketchup rather than with the traditional brown sauce or vinegar.

* Pavillion Cafe
27 Templehill, Troon, Ayrshire KA10 6BQ
Telephone: +44 (0)1292 311766

dimanche 14 juin 2009

Summer Salad

This weekend brought back a return to summer with its sunshine and warm temperatures. Just the sort of weather that makes you think about serving simple salads and eating outside.

By coincidence or design I found that I had everything I needed to make this salad - peaches were plentiful in the store so I picked up a few, mint is overtaking our garden, yellow and red peppers in the fridge and mozzarella was on sale last week too so I had a couple of balls left over.

Summer Salad
Serves 4

500 mL (2 cups) mixed salad greens
2 sprigs mint, chopped
4 ripe peaches, peeled and torn or cut into chunks
2 balls fresh mozzarella, torn into chunks
½ roasted red and yellow peppers, sliced

30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange salad greens and chopped mint on a platter; scatter peaches, mozzarella and roasted peppers on top. Shake together vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle over the salad.

dimanche 7 juin 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

The keys to making Chinese food are to have fresh ingredients and to prepare them (i.e. measuring and chopping) in advance of heating the wok. The stir-fry method of cooking is quick and requires your full attention to stir and to be aware of when each step is complete and ready for the next ingredient to be added.

I bought my 1st wok when I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in the early 1980's and along with it a Chinese cooking class book that served as my "how to" guide on stir frying. I still have the book but it is packed away with my things in Paris. I bought a new smaller wok recently but I prefer my old one and look forward to being able to use it again. The old one is a classic rounded bottom one meant for use over gas stoves and the new one is a smaller flat bottom one for use over electric elements.

This weekend I was craving some kung pao chicken and decided to give it a try. It was spicy and tasty but not quite the same as I remember from years ago.

Kung Pao Shrimp
Serves 4

30 mL (2Tbsp) of chile garlic sauce
30 mL (2Tbsp) of oyster sauce
10 mL (2 tsp) of rice vinegar
2 chicken breasts, cut into 2.5 cm (1”) cubes
1 fresh chile pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
125 mL (½ cup) of cashew nuts, roasted
30 mL (2 Tbsp) of peanut or vegetable oil
2 medium green onions, finely chopped
Sprigs of coriander, chopped, for garnish

Mix chile garlic sauce, oyster sauce and rice vinegar; set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and sauté until light brown (about 3 minutes). Add cashews, chile pepper, red and green peppers and onion. Stir-fry until onion starts to become translucent (about 4 minutes). Add chicken, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add chile garlic sauce mixture, stirring to combine; stir-fry until chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Garnish with green onions and cilantro before serving.

mercredi 27 mai 2009

Petit-déjeuner français 2

As Henri commented on my October 3rd blog posting, tartine is also a part of le petit déjeuner français. Here is a photo of the 'perfect' version I enjoyed in the Paris sunshine.

samedi 16 mai 2009

Oriental Pork Chops

We are getting very close to barbecue season here. Temperatures have been warming up ... now if we can just get it to stop raining we'll be all set!

This is one of my favourite ways to prepare pork chops. The flavour is really best if you can let the chops marinate for a few hours before grilling.

Oriental Pork Chops
Serves 4

8 thin pork chops or 4 rib chops

60 mL (4 Tbsp) soy sauce
30 mL (2 Tbsp) freshly squeezed orange juice
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil or corn oil
30 mL (2 Tbsp) tomato ketchup
30 mL (2 Tbsp) light soft brown sugar
5 mL (1 tsp) ground ginger
Grated zest of 1 orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small bunch spring onions, thinly sliced

Mix all marinade ingredients together; stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Place ½ the pork chops in the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon over ½ the marinade, sprinkle some spring onion slices on each chop. Repeat with a second layer. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, basting occasionally.

Remove chops from marinade and grill under high heat for about 4 minutes (7-8 min. for rib chops) per side. Baste with marinade after turning.

Serve at once on a warmed serving platter.

dimanche 10 mai 2009

Oven Roasted Daurade with Sweet & Sour Vegetables

As a consultant I spend most of my time working at client sites but this week I was between assignments and found myself in our office on the other side of Luxembourg. Luckily it is located very near to a large Delhaize grocery store. What a treat. The store is well designed and carries a great selection of products including enticing produce, fish, seafood and meats. When I saw the daurade royale I knew that I had to make a favourite of mine, Oven Roasted Daurade with Sweet and Sour Vegetables.

Daurade (sea bream) is a fish from the Mediterranean that comes in several different varieties but the ones I have seen most often in France are royale, rose and gris. It first came to my attention at my Paris marché because the daurade rose reminded me of red snapper which I loved at first bite in Cancun many years ago.

Oven Roasted Sea Bream with Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Serves 2

2 – 400 g (14 oz) sea bream or snapper, cleaned and scaled
30 mL (2 Tbsp) fish sauce*
30 mL (2 Tbsp) oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 mL (1/4 tsp) ground ginger
Pinch of ground chile pepper
30 mL (2 Tbsp) brown sugar
30 mL (2 Tbsp) white wine vinegar
30 mL (2 Tbsp) fish sauce
1 yellow pepper, cut lengthwise into strips
4 small carrots, julienned
60 mL (1/2 cup) water

Make 3 or 4 diagonal slits in both sides of the fish and brush with fish sauce. Heat oven to 200°C (400°F).  Heat half of the oil in an ovenproof dish, add fish and roast for 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Fish is done when flesh separates easily from the bones.
Heat remaining oil in a saucepan, add garlic, ginger and chile powder; stirring until fragrant. Add sugar, vinegar and fish sauce; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the vegetables, turn down heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
Serve fish with vegetables.

* Fish sauce goes by the name of nouc mâm in Vietnamese and nam pla in Thai.

samedi 25 avril 2009

Stem Ginger Shortbread

Being Scottish, shortbread has always been a part of my life. My mother always made shortbread in fingers (small rectangles) with the distinctive fork tine imprints. Scots are renowned for having a sweet tooth and shortbread is probably the simplest satisfier of it.

Shortbread is a combination of 3 parts flour to 2 parts butter to 1 part sugar. The key is to have the best ingredients – a flour that is not too soft, butter that is fresh and slightly salted and sugar that is not too fine. Or so it is said. The best shortbread is buttery and crispy/crumbly.

My mother, true to tradition, made shortbread for every New Year’s Eve. She had to adapt her recipe to the flour that was available in Canada but stayed true to the basic recipe. She probably made it at other times too but I remember more the platters with shortbread and mince pies at New Year’s. My Aunt Janet (my mother’s sister) told me that my mother was renowned for her pastry making. So by extension shortbread would have been a snap to make. My Aunt Christine (my father’s sister) is an amazing baker of all Scottish pastries (shortbread, cookies, pies, etc.).

I had to make my own way in the art of baking but would love to have sessions with my Aunts to find out the true techniques. I don’t get much opportunity to bake these days but I decided to give Stem Ginger Shortbread a go. Instead of kneading in the stem ginger, I pulsed it in at the end of the food processor step – this resulted in a mild evenly distributed ginger flavour rather than little hits of ginger in the shortbread. Not bad for a 1st attempt I would say.

Stem Ginger Shortbread
Makes 24 fingers

250 g (9 oz) all-purpose flour
85 g (3 oz) sugar
170 g (6 oz) butter, at room temperature
5 mL (1 tsp) ground ginger
4 pieces preserved stem ginger, chopped into pea-sized pieces
15 mL (1 Tbsp) cassonade (Demerara or other cane sugar)

Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F).

Place flour, sugar, butter and ground ginger in a food processor and process until the mixture is thoroughly combined and forms a ball of dough*. Knead in the chopped stem ginger; press shortbread mixture into a 20 cm x 20 cm (8” x 8”) baking pan; level with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Score top of pressed dough into 24 small rectangles and poke evenly over the surface with a fork. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the shortbread is a pale golden colour. Allow the shortbread to cool in the pan for a few minutes; cut into 24 fingers. Carefully remove from pan when completely cooled to avoid breaking the pieces.

Shortbread can be stored in an airtight tin for about a week.

* This can also be done by hand: Cream together butter and sugar then work in the flour to form a ball of dough.

lundi 13 avril 2009

Easter Mini Meringues with Strawberries

Happy Easter!  Joyeuse Pâques! Frohe Ostern!

Easter has so many symbols – crosses, bunnies, eggs, chocolate, hot cross buns, chicks, lambs, bonnets and lilies.  Easter to me is about colour – not just the yellow and purple traditionally associated with it.  Easter marks the change from the sombre colours of winter to the ever-changing spring colours in hues from pastel to neon bright.  Last Easter we had snow and this Easter weekend brings temperatures of +20°C and sunshine.

 As a little girl, there was the promise of a new outfit complete with lovely new Easter bonnet.  Somehow the weather never cooperated in Nova Scotia to be able to wear such an outfit leading me to wonder just where that tradition originated.

In Germany, there is a tradition of hanging coloured eggs from trees.  The Easter bunny is also thought to have originated in Germany.  As the hare and the rabbit being the most fertile of animals they are therefore the symbol of new life.  In Luxembourg, men are waiting to see if the ‘bretzel’ they gave to their sweethearts a couple of weeks ago will be reciprocated with Easter eggs.  There are pageants and parades to celebrate Easter.

Easter is rather unique in that the date changes from year to year.  In France the school holiday of two weeks can start anywhere from mid-March to end of April.  The statutory holiday varies between Friday and/or Monday.     On Easter Sunday, children hunt for the hidden dyed and chocolate eggs.  We normally buy brown eggs here but this year I spotted some white eggs, which would be more conducive to dying.  The grocery stores version of coloured eggs looked gaudy and streaky to me.  I think we only got to make dyed eggs one year at Easter as kids but after seeing the beautiful robin’s egg blue dyed eggs on Martha Stewart’s web site I wanted to give them a try, but alas it was too late and all the white eggs were gone.

I decided to make a sweet treat with strawberries since they are plentiful even though not in season for tastier local ones.

Mini Meringues with Strawberries
Serves 6

3 egg whites
185 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
5 mL (1 tsp) white vinegar
250 mL (1 cup) whipping cream (35%)
10 mL (2 tsp) icing sugar
6 strawberries, sliced lengthwise

Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, grease and dust with flour, shaking off excess. Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form; gradually beat in sugar until dissolved. Beat in vinegar. Spread into 6 circles placed 4 cm (1-1/2”) apart on baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes or until meringues are dry and firm to the touch. Turn oven off and leave to cool in oven with door slightly open. Beat cream and icing sugar together until stiff; spread over meringues, top with sliced strawberries and drizzle with sauce*.

5-6 strawberries
5 mL (1 tsp) Crèmeux du Vigneron “Violette”** (cassis or other liqueur)

Purée strawberries, strain to remove seeds and mix with the liqueur.

dimanche 5 avril 2009

Tajine of chicken, preserved lemon and olives

Springtime brought back memories of buying large bouquets of 50 tulips in Paris for a small price. Buying bouquets of flowers every week was a treat I gave myself for the first few years that I lived there. Flowers were inexpensive, at least in comparison to Toronto prices, and brightened up the apartment. Somehow it seemed to me to be a very Parisienne thing to do. And the spring arrival of the tulips was extra special. I even bought a large vase on one of my trips to Amsterdam to accommodate these large bouquets.

This bunch of tulips I bought in Luxembourg brought back the memories of the spring tulips in Paris.

Another bonus of this week was that I found preserved lemons. This gave me the chance to try another Moroccan recipe - a tajine of chicken with preserved lemons and black olives.

Preserved lemons are lemons (usually small ones like Myers but any will do), slit lengthwise about 2/3 of the way, then packed in salt, water and lemon juice in a sterilized jar for about a month. The tartness of the lemon is mellowed and the flavour enriched by this process. Preserved lemons are often used in North African cuisine.

Saffron is probably the world’s most expensive spice. These red filaments are the dried stamen of the crocus flower. There are large variations in the quality of saffron. Saffron is used to give dishes a yellow colour and add a subtle flavour. Saffron is common in Mediterranean and North African cuisine. Fortunately a little goes a long way with saffron.

Turmeric is a dark yellow power that also gives a yellow colour to food. It is sometimes referred to poor man's saffron. The taste is different and the two spices are sometimes used in combination.

The black olives that I used for this dish were of the large Greek Kalamata variety. They are probably my favourite black olives.

Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon and Olives
Serves 2-3

15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
500 g (1 lb) boneless chicken breast or thigh, cut into large pieces
1 large onion, sliced
5 mL (1 tsp) finely diced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Pinch of saffron pistils
2 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 preserved lemons, quartered, peel only
2 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2.5 cm (1”) pieces
250 mL (1 cup) water
250 mL (1 cup) black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

125 mL (½ cup) olive oil
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) turmeric
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) mild paprika
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix together marinade ingredients, add chicken pieces and leave to marinate for 4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). Heat olive oil in a large pot or Tajine. Brown marinated chicken pieces and set aside. Cook sliced onions until softened and lightly coloured. Add ginger, garlic, saffron, tomatoes, preserved lemon and carrots; cook for 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot or Tajine and add water; simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add olives just before serving.

samedi 21 mars 2009

Spring in Luxembourg

Happy Spring!

Living in the SaarLorLux region means that I get introduced to many different traditions from France, Germany and Luxembourg. A lot of the traditions in Luxembourg and Germany seem to involve wine or beer and sausages. However this weekend, there is a uniquely Luxembourgish tradition that involves pretzels and not wine, beer or sausages. The 3rd Sunday of Lent is Bretzelsonndeg or Pretzel Sunday. The pretzels involved are not the small salty snack ones that North Americans are familiar with but large sweet pastries. I would not have known about this tradition except for asking one of my friends what the significance was of the stands along the roadside selling pretzels this weekend, thinking that maybe it was some rite of the first weekend of spring.

The Luxembourg tradition is that a young man gives the young lady he fancies a ‘bretzel’ on the 3rd Sunday of Lent and if she is interested she will return the favour by giving him an Easter egg on Easter Sunday. In leap years, the young women are the ones who give the bretzels.

Sadly I did not take a picture of one of the stands or the bretzels nor do I have a recipe for pretzels of any kind either but especially not one for the large sweet type that are the specialty here.

samedi 14 mars 2009

Vegetable Soup

The weather is warming up but it is still a long way off from truly feeling like spring. It is too early yet for the first spring arrivals in the grocery stores. Here there are specials on the large and not very tasty strawberries. I admit that, against my better judgement, I did buy some but they were disappointing. I really should not support buying out of season things but I get a little desperate for something different here.

I decided to make a vegetable soup to increase my intake of vitamins and shake off the late winter blahs.

Vegetable Soup
Serves 2 - 3

15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 small turnips (rutabagas or navets), diced
1 tomato, diced
750 mL (3 cups) water
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) dried thyme
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) harissa powder
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and celery; stir for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and turnips; stir until leeks and celery are softened. Add tomato, water and seasonings; cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked.

samedi 7 mars 2009

Apricot Banana Muffins

This winter seems to have been exceptionally long and severe so it is great to finally see real signs of spring. The first of the spring flowers are appearing along with buds on the trees. The colours of spring are making up for the grey skies and rain.

The taste of bananas changes as they ripen. I like them before they get too ripe - when they are past green and in the early days of yellow before they get speckled with brown. Once they are very ripe they are good for baking. I also had a bag of dried apricots so I thought why not combine the two for a change of pace.

Apricot Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

170 g (6 oz) dried apricots
Boiling water

30 mL (2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
1 egg
300 mL (1 1/4 cup) plain yoghurt
2 ripe bananas, mashed

80 mL (1/3 cup) brown sugar

500 mL (2 cups) all-purpose flour

10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder

2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) baking soda

2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt

1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F).

Cover apricots with boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes; drain and coarsely chop.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; mix in apricots. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg, yoghurt, bananas and sugar: pour over dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins ¾ full and bake for 20-25 minutes.