Spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil)

26 Sep

Spaghetti alio e olio

For all its simplicity, spaghetti aglio e olio is easy to mess up.

It’s really important not to overcook the garlic – no more than the faintest shade of gold, or it will taste bitter.

It’s also important to measure the salt. Too little, and the dish is insipid – too much and it’s ruined. Continue reading

Lobio

22 Sep

Lobio

Georgia is a country I would love to visit. A friend traveled there a few years ago, and came back raving about the scenery, the people, and the food and wine.

Until I get the opportunity to visit Georgia myself, my taste buds will have to do the traveling.

There’s a good local Georgian restaurant we visit occasionally in the winter months for their rib-sticking fare like hachapuri (cheese-filled flat bread), hearty soups and casseroles.

(I haven’t tried a Georgian dessert – we’re always too full to consider even sharing one.) Continue reading

Raspberry meringue roulade

18 Sep

Raspberry meringue roulade

I’ve seen recipes for meringue roulades over the years, but assumed they were well beyond my baking abilities. My efforts to produce a passable Swiss roll were hardly confidence building.

But finding myself with a quantity of egg whites that needed using, I decided to give it a go.

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Beet hummus

14 Sep

beetroot hummus

Hummus is a staple food in our house – I whizz up a batch nearly every week. While we never get bored of hummus, adding a roasted beet to the mix now and then makes a change.

I prefer to cook beets by wrapping them individually in tin foil and roasting in a hot oven until tender. Boiled or grated raw beet work fine too. Continue reading

Gypsy soup

10 Sep

gypsy soup

I’ve been making gypsy soup for many years. I have no idea why the Moosewood cookbook calls it “gypsy soup”, or what it means by “a spiced and delectable brew of Spanish and Dickensonian origins”.

Is it a reference to Linda Dickinson, one of the thirty-odd “Moosewood people” credited at the front? Or a  mis-spelling of “Dickensian”? (Though what this soup has to do with Victorian England, social commentary, or sentimentality is anyone’s guess.)

Perhaps it refers to the length of the ingredients list?

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Fruity bites

6 Sep

fruity bites

The girls head back to school this week. As well as uniform shopping, label sewing, and form filling, it also means stocking fridge and pantry with packed-lunch-friendly food.

First up in the biscuit box this autumn… fruity bites.

Healthy (if you overlook the condensed milk), nut-free (coconut is permitted in our school’s “nut-free” zone), and durable enough to withstand a bit of lunch box rough and tumble, fruity bites fit the bill.

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Chicken fajitas

1 Sep

Chicken fajitas
Stir-fry goes Mexican… Chicken fajitas are classic mid-week fare around here.

I usually make them with strips of red pepper and onions, – courgette spears (cooked so that they retain some crispness) are a nice addition.

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Waldorf salad

28 Aug

 

waldorf salad

I first learned of the existence of Waldorf salad from Fawlty Towers. Like Basil, I had no idea what it was:

Customer: “Could you make me a Waldorf salad?”
Basil: “Waldorf salad. I think we’re just out of Waldorfs.”

But by the end of the episode – unlike Basil – I was pretty clear on how to make one:

Customer: “No! No cheese! It’s celery, apples, walnuts, grapes!”
Basil: “Right!”
Customer: “In mayonnaise!”
Basil: “Right!”

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Cheese and mustard palmiers

24 Aug

cheese and mustard palmiers

Savoury palmiers, my penultimate Great British Bake-off challenge…

If I’d gone to the effort of making my own puff pastry like the contestants did, these would have been a challenge. Using store-bought puff pastry, they’re a doddle. Continue reading

Tequila sunrise

20 Aug

Tequila sunrise

There is something irredeemably retro (critics might say naff) about the tequila sunrise.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my photo would look right at home on the pages of Family Circle magazine, circa 1973.

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Mujaddara

16 Aug

Mujaddrah

Mujaddara is filling, tasty and cheap as chips.

It was staple fare in my student years – along with mushroom barley soup (that stuff lasts forever), ratatouille, and the enticingly-named “lentil shit”.

I’d make a big pot of mujaddara one meal, then reheat portions in a frying pan with a splash of water (no microwaves in those days…) Continue reading

Blackberry-apple kuchen

12 Aug

Blackberry-apple kuchen

The blackberries are ripening early this year. I gathered two big bowlfuls this morning, plenty for a delicious blackberry-apple kuchen.

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Potato and egg curry

8 Aug

Potato egg curry

Potatoes and eggs are a winning combination, whether in potato salad, breakfast burritos, Spanish tortilla, or that British classic, egg & chips.

This potato and egg curry is further proof of concept.

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Curtido

4 Aug

Curtido

Curtido is as far as it is possible to get from that innocuous, gloopy, overly sweet coleslaw that turns up uninvited on far too many restaurant plates.

There’s not a lick of mayonnaise for one thing. For another, this simple-looking cabbage and carrot salad really packs a punch. With only five ingredients, there’s little to soften the impact of that chilli powder. Continue reading

Bloody Caesar

31 Jul

Bloody Caesar

If Canada had a national cocktail, it would be the Bloody Caesar.

It was invented in 1969 by a Calgary restaurateur with the conviction that the flavours of clam and tomato could make a great drink. Unlikely as it sounds, he was right…;-) Continue reading

Tomato, olive and feta galette

27 Jul

Tomato, olive and feta galette

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

And when life takes away the cucumber you need to make Greek salad, make tomato, feta and olive galette?”

Not as catchy, but the principle is the same. Plus, it’s how this recipe came about…;-) Continue reading

Zaru soba (cold soba noodles with dipping sauce)

23 Jul

Soba noodles with dipping sauce

Zaru soba – or cold soba noodles with dipping sauce – is one of my favourite hot weather lunches. During the summer, I often make a batch of dipping sauce in advance and have it chilled and ready in the fridge.

I prefer to cook the noodles fresh each time I want to eat them – but as long as you rinse them very well after cooking, they should be fine in the fridge for a day or two. Continue reading

Avocado-tuna boats

19 Jul

Avocado tuna boats

Avocado-tuna boats are a longstanding lunchtime favourite around here.

The tuna filling is entirely flexible, varying with the contents of the fridge and preferences of my lunch companions.

Radish can stand in for celery, fresh tomatoes for sundried, green onion for red, sliced olives for capers…

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Spanakopita

15 Jul

Spanakopita

Food dislikes are often arbitrary. Like many children, I held both spinach and feta cheese in low regard. But folded into a crackling jacket of phyllo pastry as spanakopita? I was all over those puppies. Continue reading

Mum’s potato salad

11 Jul

Mum's potato salad

This is the potato salad I grew up eating. A sunshine-yellow mixture of potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, tangy with mustard and thick enough to spackle a wall.

The kind of potato salad that was served with a scoop and landed with a thud, compromising your precariously loaded paper plate. The potato salad of every barbeque, picnic and potluck dinner I ever attended.  Continue reading

Fruit pizza

27 Jun

fruit pizza

What I knew as fruit pizza growing up I recognise to be a pretty standard fruit tart.

Maybe it’s because the biscuit base was cooked in a pizza pan? The sweetened cream cheese we spread on top? Or the thinly sliced toppings (kiwi, grapes and berries rather than pepperoni, mushrooms and olives)?

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Spinach-pear-lime smoothie

16 Jun

Spinach-pear-lime smoothie

We were relatively late to the Nutribullet party. But once I submitted to pester power and bought one, and we made up for lost time.

Nothing was safe from being blitzed into a drinkable state. Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, juice, avocados, oatmeal, ginger, yogurt, herbs, cold coffee, chickpeas, rice… they’ve all been taken for a spin.

Some combinations were a success; others left us gasping at their horribleness.

Eventually, I hit on a smoothie combination that works for me –  spinach-pear-lime smoothie has become my go-to smoothie. I have it at least twice a week, and I haven’t tired of it yet…

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Vietnamese fried chicken (VFC)

10 Jun

Vietnamese fried chicken (VFC)

I  seldom make fried chicken. Not because I don’t like it (I do), and not for health reasons either. It’s the time it takes, the mess it makes (all that spattering oil)… The end result never seemed to justify the hassle.

But that was before I encountered Vietnamese fried chicken (or VFC as we now call it) at a music festival.

Maybe I was influenced by the band that was playing (Noah and the Whale), or the unexpected blessing of sunshine, or the mellow party atmosphere, but that chicken was just about the best thing I’d ever tasted.

The moist and flavourful meat, the growing kick of chilli heat, the coating that was more crackle than crumb. Fried chicken this good was definitely worth the hassle. Continue reading

Roast cauliflower and chickpea salad

6 Jun

Roast cauliflower and chickpea salad

This salad is a happy marriage of textures and flavours. Both the cauliflower and chickpeas are transformed by their time in the oven – the cauliflower becomes nutty in flavour, and the chickpeas acquire a wonderful crunch.

Then the yogurt-tahini dressing arrives to bless the union – and two distinctive, individual ingredients unite in salad harmony…;-) Continue reading

Gingersnaps

2 Jun

Gingersnaps

As a university student, spent a couple of summers working with a treeplanting crew in northern BC. Back-breaking piecework (we were paid 10 cents a tree), it involved dragging panniers of trees up a recently logged slope, stopping every couple of metres to stick a seedling in the ground.

Up before 6am after a lousy night’s sleep in a freezing tent, a bone-jarring ride in the back of a crummy, ten hours relentless physical labour, another tooth-rattling ride, a shower if you were lucky, dinner, and bed.

Loading up the crummy

Ten – maybe fourteen days straight – before we got a day off to visit the nearest town. Lots of people didn’t last a weekContinue reading

Pork, chicken and cranberry pie

29 May

Pork and chicken pie

In the excitement of last year’s Great British Bake-off,  I rashly committed to baking all of the signature bakes.

Each week, I watched with growing dread to see what overambitious baking project I’d have to tackle next. I was fine with the drizzle cakeiced biscuits and Yorkshire pudding,  and managed to turn out a passable chocolate babka.

But the thought of making Danish pastries from scratch stopped me in my tracks for months.

However, I’m nothing if not an “completer-finisher” (eventually)… Since the show ended, I’ve gone on to make lemon meringue pie and Swiss roll. And at long last… pork, chicken and cranberry pie.

Strictly speaking, I seem to recall the brief was individual meat pies, but it seemed simpler to make one large pie instead.

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Cabbage dill slaw

25 May

 

Cabbage dill slaw

I’ll often throw together a quick cabbage salad to serve with a sandwich or jacket potato. When I have fresh dill on hand, this cabbage dill slaw is one of my favourites.

Cabbage and dill always play together nicely. And the mustard-honey dressing is a change from the sharp vinaigrettes and sweet, watery mayonnaises that spoil cabbage salad for some people.

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Chocolate sugar cookies

21 May

Chocolate sugar cookies

Chocolate sugar cookies aren’t on the decadent, gooey, indulgent end of the chocolate spectrum. They’re simple, satisfying, and slightly old-fashioned.

Chocolate sugar cookies are firm with just a bit of give – the addition of baking powder giving them a subtle cakiness. Adam describes them as “chocolate pudding in a biscuit.”

Because they keep their shape so well, chocolate sugar cookies make excellent filled biscuits – or little ice cream sandwiches. Continue reading

Kolokithopita (courgette pie)

17 May

Kolokithopita (Greek courgette pie)

I haven’t made kolokithopita in years. This satisfying combination of courgettes, feta cheese and phyllo pastry was a regular summer visitor when I used to grow courgettes – along with pasta alle zucchini and chocolate chip zucchini bread.

Last week my younger daughter announced that she was going vegetarian for a month. I’m very happy to support her with this ambition – we eat plenty of vegetarian meals already, and when I do cook meat it is seldom the main event, so it hasn’t made much difference to what I serve her for dinner. Continue reading

Strawberry-lemon sorbet

13 May

Strawberry-lemon sorbet

Eating well is important to me, and I’m happy to make time to cook our meals from scratch. But whatever I make, the final dish has to justify the investment of time and money.

Chocolate babka? Absolutely worth the (not inconsiderable) effort.

A salad I recently made that had me individually grilling a heap of mandolined courgette slices for half an hour while the shrieking smoke alarm provided a sound track that matched my ever-darkening mood? Not so much…

Strawberry-lemon sorbet scores off the charts on the effort to result ratio. Five minutes’ work for a hot-pink, ice-cold, sweet-tart sorbet you’d be happy to eat any day of the year.

And there’s something about blitzing up the whole lemon that is deeply satisfying to me. Continue reading

Cucumber and poppy seed salad

9 May

Cucumber and poppy seed salad

This salad of cucumber and red chilli tossed in a zingy-sweet dressing takes minutes to prepare.

I like to give it a little time in the fridge – half an hour is enough – for the cucumber to get cool and crisp, and the chilli heat to work its way into the dressing. Continue reading

Carrot cake-muffins

5 May

Sometimes it’s hard to know where muffin leaves off and cupcake begins…

Is it the method – a brief stir with a wooden spoon, instead of using a food mixer? The nod towards “healthiness” – wholewheat flour, oil instead of butter, fruit instead of chocolate chips, going au naturel instead of sporting icing?

These carrot cake-muffins don’t do much to resolve the issue. Muffin by method and ingredients, the end result is so delicious it feels disingenuous to consider them a breakfast food.

And that’s before you add a generous spreading of the optional cream cheese icing..;-)

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Moros y Cristianos (black beans and white rice)

1 May

Moros y Cristianos is a Cuban dish of black beans (Moors) and white rice (Christians).

In some versions, the rice and beans are cooked together – resulting in visually unappealing (though tasty) gray rice. I prefer to keep the rice and beans separate until the last moment to maintain the contrast of colours.

I reheat leftover rice and beans separately while I cook the onion and peppers, then stir it all together just before serving. Dressed with a splash of vinegar or lime juice, and a dash of hot sauce it makes a very satisfying lunch. Continue reading

Spaghetti al limone

27 Apr

Simple enough to have on the table in fifteen minutes, fancy enough to serve to guests – spaghetti al limone is a great recipe to have up your sleeve.

Like most dishes with few ingredients, quality makes a difference here  – use the good olive oil, and a nice piece of Parmesan.

Having made spaghetti al limone regularly for twenty years now, my version has evolved somewhat from the original River Café recipe, and uses considerably less olive oil and cheese.

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Kimchi grilled cheese sandwich

23 Apr

Kimchi grilled cheese

Kimchi and cheese probably seems  an odd combination to most people.

Even today, I doubt the average Korean family eats much cheese, and kimchi is hardly a store cupboard staple in Britain (though it certainly is in this British home).

But in this global world, these two unlikely ingredients have met and fallen in love. Kimcheeze anyone? Sorry…

In an attempt to raise the tone, I quote the famous gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin:

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.

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Asian chicken noodle soup

19 Apr

Asian chicken noodle soup is less of a recipe than an idea.

When I find myself with a pot of chicken stock in the fridge (from making chicken tinga tacos, perhaps), one of my favourite things to do with it is to make what we call Asian chicken noodle soup.

Stock simmered with Asian aromatics is ladled over freshly cooked noodles, shredded chicken and thinly sliced vegetables, then garnished with fresh herbs. Continue reading

Hot cross buns

15 Apr

Hot cross buns – once an Easter-time treat – are available in the shops all year round.

I suppose it’s old-fashioned of me, but I prefer foods keep to their allotted place in the culinary calendar. Something special to enjoy at a particular time of the year – I don’t want mince pies in May, or hot cross buns in August.

The supermarket was selling four hot cross buns for less than a pound this week, so why go to the trouble of making them at home?

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Carrot and sunflower seed energy balls

10 Apr

I haven’t really bought into the whole energy ball idea.

For starters, I’m anti-snacking – I’d much rather my family brought a good appetite to their meals.

Secondly, energy balls always seem to contain nuts, which rules them out for school lunches. In any case, they also seem to require storing in the fridge (or what, they melt?)

Thirdly, I’d rather eat the nuts, dates and whatever as they come, without first blitzing them into sticky mush. Continue reading

Double happiness beans

5 Apr

Easy to make, pretty to look at, tasty to eat – this dish could be called triple happiness beans.

I assume the “double” refers to the two types of bean involved – Chinese black beans and fresh green beans.

These are not the same black beans that feature in Mexican recipes like sweet potato and black bean tacos, but soybeans that have been dried and fermented with salt.

Pungent and intensely salty, Chinese black beans should be soaked before use to avoid overpowering the other ingredients.

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Beef goulash

25 Mar

Beef goulash

Beef goulash is one of the first dishes I learned to cook on my own. The original recipe is from Seventeen magazine – that’s how long I have been making this dish…;-)

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