Monday, 15 January 2018

Chicken In Goat Cheese, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Sauce

It seems to me a sauce this rich and thick is calling out for noodles or rice to mop it up, but good crusty bread would work well too. Mashed potatoes, maybe.

This is a party-quality dish, but it goes together in week-night time. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Chicken In Goat Cheese, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
2 teaspoons rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
2 to 3 shallots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Grind the rosemary a little if it is in coarse needles, and mix it with all the other seasonings (up to and including the black pepper) in a small bowl.

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and chop the shallots. These will be puréed so they need not be done too beautifully.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until lightly browned; stir frequently. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook for another minute or so. Add the dried tomatoes and immediately add the 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock.

Simmer for 10 minutes. While it simmers, mix the starch into the remaining chicken stock and set aside. Once the mixture has simmered for 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes. Process it in a food processor until fairly smooth. Leave it there until required.

Cook the Chicken & Finish:
150 grams button or other mushrooms
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (600 grams; 1 1/2 scant pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
150 grams soft goat cheese (chevre)
3 to 4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces or smallish fingers.

Heat the butter in the same skillet in which the sauce was cooked, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and sear all over. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have browned and begin to let off some juice.

Scrape the sauce into the pan with the chicken and mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium, and crumble in the cheese. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese has dissolved and the sauce is bubbling, and the chicken is cooked. Stir in some of the Parmesan, reserving a little to sprinkle on top. Mix in the remaining chicken stock and starch, and cook until thickened, just a minute or 2 more. Transfer chicken and sauce to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over it.

Last year at this time I made Cheesy Double-Baked Acorn Squash.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Leek & Carrot Soup

Here is another soup, looking very plain, as soups so often do, but a particularly delicious combination.

This is actually a sauce I made quite early in the history of this blog, thinned into a soup. It is a bit more intensely flavoured as a sauce, but it is very good as a soup as well. I've added a bit more shallot and also some garlic to the soup, and I wonder about adding a little shot of sherry too next time. Maybe not though; we really liked it as it was. The leeks and carrots meld into a combination that is a little hard to pin down as one vegetable or the other, but which is just so tasty.

The proportion of leeks to carrots should be not quite equal; say about 60% leeks once chopped, compared to 40% chopped carrots.

I made this a good few days back, so I hope you can still get Ontario leeks, but they may be hard to find at this point. In theory they are available until February but in practice they seem pretty scarce by now. 

6 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Leek & Carrot Soup

1 large or 2 medium leeks
1 medium carrot
2 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet or hot paprika
salt & pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup sour cream

Wash and trim the leeks, and cut in thin slices. Rinse them again, and drain well. Peel and dice the carrot and the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, and add all the vegetables except the garlic. Cook gently over low heat, stirring regularly until the vegetables are fairly soft but not browned; about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper, and mix in well.

Add half of the chicken stock and simmer for a further 10 or 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor.

At this point you can proceed at once, or keep the soup covered and refrigerate until wanted.

Re-heat the soup and add the sour cream. The soup should be hot through, but do not let it boil.

Last year at this time I made the much heartier Hamburger Soup

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Beef Stuffed Onions in Barbecue Sauce

This is a popular camping dish, brought back indoors. By all means, make them to be wrapped in foil packets and cooked in the campfire during the appropriate season, but they do pretty well baked in the oven and served right now.

You will need something to soak up that sauce - rice, noodles, toast, potatoes... whatever seems right to you.

I have to say, barbecue sauce is pretty much a tour of the back of the fridge door. All that's missing is the mayonnaise, dill pickles and jam. I make no guarantees if you  decide to put those in too.

It took me an onion to get the knack of slicing and emptying them to be shells. The secret is to get the middle out first. Then you can push the layers inwards to get them apart. If you try to pull them outwards, they will want to break. If all else fails, cut the onions in half and "glue" them back together. Of course, then you will need to be very gentle during the turning and basting process. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Beef Stuffed Onions in Barbecue Sauce

Make the Barbecue Sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
chile-garlic sauce to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup beef broth

Mix the ketchup, honey, mustard, paprika, and chile-garlic sauce in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Once they are well combined, stir in the vinegar, and then the beef broth. Set aside.

Make the Stuffed Onions:
1 cup finely crumbled fresh (stale!) bread crumbs
1/4 cup beef broth
500 grams (1 pound) ground beef
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo or other mildly hot chile
4 to 6 large (750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) yellow cooking onions
1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
the innards of 1 or 2 of the onions

Crumb the bread and put it in a larger mixing bowl; moisten it with the broth. Add the ground beef, the egg, and the seasonings.

Cut the top and bottom from one of the onions. Set it upright on the cutting board and cut through to the middle of the onion from top to bottom. Gently remove the middle third of the of the onion without breaking the outer layers. There should be 4 to 6 layers left. Gently separate them into 2 sets of onion shells of 2 or 3 layers each. Repeat with the remaining onions.

Put a pot of water on to boil. 

Take the centres from one or two onions, which are otherwise to be discarded from this recipe, and chop them finely. Heat the oil in a small skillet and cook the chopped onion until softened and translucent. Give them a few minutes to cool, then add them to the bowl of ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Meanwhile, blanch the onion shells for 2 minutes in the boiling water, then transfer them to a bowl of cold water until cool. Drain well. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Take the appropriate amount of meat filling and press it into each hollowed out onion shell. Some will be bigger than others; that's okay. Press the onion shells closed around the meat into their original shape. Place them in a roasting pan, which will hold them snugly in a single layer. Pour the barbecue sauce over them, wetting them all.

Cover the onions and bake for 30 minutes. Gently turn and baste them, then bake for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Gently turn and baste them, then remove the cover and bake for a final 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Creamy Spaghetti with Leeks & Smoked Salmon.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Chickpea & Cabbage Salad with Tahini - Za'atar Dressing

Usually when I make a "bean salad" it's a meal in itself. This one does better as a side salad, but if you wanted to eat it as a main course you can add the chickpeas with a heavier hand, by which I basically mean the whole tin instead of just half. What I would like to see it on-side with is some nice Falafels, but chicken, fish, or even a hamburger would be pretty good too.

The dressing is intense, so apply it carefully, and in the usual spirit that more can be added, but too much is too much. 

Let the dressing sit for 15 minutes before you adjust any seasonings. I put in 1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper, tasted it once and declared it bland. I put in another 1/4 teaspoon and when I went to put it on the salad 20 minutes later it made my hair stand on end. Well not quite, and it was fine once it was diluted by the salad, but keep that in mind.

4 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Chickpea & Cabbage Salad with Tahini - Za'atar Dressing

Make the Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon ground sumac
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted)
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons tahini
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1 large lemon
a little water

Measure the salt, pepper, herbs, Aleppo pepper, and sumac into a small mixing bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Watch them carefully and shake or stir often. Add them to the bowl.

Peel and finely mince the garlic, and add it with the tahini. Grate in the lemon zest and mix well. Slowly stir in the lemon juice to keep a smooth paste. If it is very thick when done, thin it with a tablespoon or so of water - it should be about the texture of mayonnaise.

Make the Salad:
3 cups shredded cabbage, green and/or red
2 cups torn hydroponic lettuce (about 1/2 head)
1 medium-large carrot
1 to 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas

Wash, trim and shred the cabbage. Wash, drain, and chop or tear up the lettuce. Peel and grate the carrot. Mix all these in a salad bowl with the chickpeas.

Toss the salad with some of the dressing - the salad should be thoroughly, evenly, but lightly coated.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Apple Praline Cake

Can you face a cake so soon after Christmas? This is one I have been fiddling around with off and on all fall. I first made it about 20 years ago and thought it was the best apple cake I  had ever had. When I tried it again, I had a lot of trouble with it. No matter how long I baked it, it came out soggy and "under done" in the middle, even when I baked it until the edges were positively dry. As I've posted this recipe, it calls for a lot longer baking time than the original but hopefully not long enough to over-do the edges.

The other thing I did this time was stop trying to use Cortland apples. Every attempt with Cortland apples failed  (which is really too bad because we bought a bushel of them). I'm pretty sure the apples I used that first time were Mutzu, but I have not seen them around lately and Mum suggested I try Royal Gala. I hated to buy more apples when I still have a vegetable drawer full of them, but I did it. This final cake has the Royal Gala apples in it, and I'm happy to report that although the middle had a faint hint of dampness, it was by no means soggy and I'm going to call this a win. However if anyone tries this with Mutzu or other apples I would really like to hear how they work out as this is plainly a recipe where the apples matter. I can say I would not use Macintosh, as they are well known for turning to complete mush when baked. Northern Spy is another one I would be willing to try, or maybe Empire.

8 to 12 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Apple Praline Cake

Make the Cake:
1 3/4 cups soft unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 to 6 medium apples, see notes above

Measure the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt.

Cream the butter and beat in the Sucanat. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract. It will look rather curdled. That's okay.

Line the bottom of an 8" springform pan with parchment paper, and butter the bottom and sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a bowl big enough to hold the apples. Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss them with the cinnamon sugar.

Mix the flour into the butter and eggs. It will form a fairly stiff dough, and pull away from the sides of the bowl into a ball. Scrape it all out into the prepared pan. Wet your hand in cold water and pat it out evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Stick the apple slices into the cake, standing upright. Start around the outer edge and work your way into the middle. It's probably best to leave a little spot in the middle that is apple-free, but in general the apple pieces can be pretty tightly packed. Press them down slightly to be an even height, but about 2/3 of apple will still be above the level of the cake. This too is okay.

Bake the cake for 1 hour. Check that it looks well set in the middle before proceeding; if necessary give it up to 10 minutes more baking.

Make the Praline Topping: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg

About 15 minutes before the cake has baked for 1 hour, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg.

When the cake is baked as described above, take it out of the oven but do not turn the oven off. Drizzle the topping all over the top of the cake. It will want to be in big glops, but even this is okay - it will spread and settle in the heat of the oven. Return the cake to the oven and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes,  until the topping is lightly browned all over.

Let the cake cool on a rack before attempting to remove it from the pan.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Coconut Creamed Cabbage

Here is a rich and creamy dish full of sprightly flavours. As usual with this kind of thing it is probably best with something a little on the plain side to allow it to shine without argument.

If you can't get the makrut lime leaves, leave them out - they are good but not vital to the dish. You may know them better by the term kaffir lime leaves; I do. But the name is quite offensive in many places, so there is a campaign on to change it. Makrut is the name of it in Thailand and seems to be the popular alternative choice.

Speaking of getting rid of offensive terms I do wish we in Ontario could have a campaign against the use of the term Huron (as in, Huron Indians). It's a lot more ingrained and will be harder to get rid of, but it needs to go. I always thought it was a native term until about 15 years ago when I discovered it is in fact French, and means a dirty person. Quite apart from the fact that 17th century Frenchmen had one hell of a nerve calling anyone else dirty, their actual name was the Wendat people. Let's use that.

Digression over - let's have some tasty cabbage! 

30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
4 to 6 servings

Coconut Creamed Cabbage

2 cloves of garlic
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
4 to 6 cups finely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 makrut lime leaves, dry or fresh
200 ml (1/2 tin) coconut milk

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the shallot. Peel and grate the ginger. Set them aside together in a small bowl.

Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot.

 Heat the oil in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the garlic, shallot, and ginger and cook, stirring for just a minute or so. Add the cabbage and carrot and mix in well. Pour over 3 or 4 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring regularly, until it is evaporated. While it is cooking, add the salt, pepper, and makrut lime leaves.

When the water is gone - the cabbage should be done about halfway to your liking at this point - add the coconut milk. Continue to simmer and stir the cabbage for another 6 to 8 minutes until the coconut milk has thickened sufficiently to coat the cabbage.Serve at once.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Squash, Leek & Goat Cheese Galette

There are versions of this all over the place, probably all harking back to this one at Epicurious.  Hmm, I just now see they seasoned it with sage, which I didn't mention as a possibility mostly because most of my eaters are not big fans. (Dad hated it, but I don't have to worry about him any more.) But you could.

I also used my favourite biscuity crust, which may be a bit too crumbly for galette purposes and may explain the difficulties I had in forming it (see instructions). However it's still my favourite and I would rather eat it than a better-behaved one.

I'm also calling for all kinds of variations because this strikes me as extremely flexible, within the framework of squash-allium-cheese. In fact I am wondering about replacing the squash with sweet potato.

Pretty much all the recipes I looked at called for roasting the squash in advance. If you had some already roasted that would probably be ideal, but I had a chunk of raw squash I wanted to use up and I just grated it. It worked quite well so that is definitely a thing you can do. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including roasting the squash,
and you should let it cool a bit before serving

Squash, Leek & Goat Cheese Galette

Make the Pastry:
2 cups soft unbleached flour (I used half whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk

Measure the flour and put it in a mixing bowl; stir in the baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter (or grate it in, if it's cold). Mix in the oil and buttermilk. Mix enough to form a smooth, stiff dough. I find it easiest to dump it out onto a piece of parchment paper and work it a bit. It is pastry though, so the less you can work it the better. As soon as it has come together, wrap it up in the parchment and set it aside as you make the filling.

Make the Filling & Finish:
500 grams (a generous pound) peeled and diced butternut squash, roasted
OR 450 grams (1 pound) peeled and grated butternut squash
1 large leek
OR 2 large onions, OR 6 to 8 shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR mild vegetable  oil
1 teaspoon savory, thyme, OR basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
flour to roll pastry
150 grams chevre (soft goat cheese) OR other cheese to taste

This is a good way to use up chunks of already roasted squash, aka left-overs (or plan-overs). If you are starting with raw squash - which is what I did - peel and grate it.

Wash, trim, and thinly slice the leek or other alliums of your choice. Put the butter in a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Gently cook the leeks (etc) until softened and reduced in volume; if leeks do not let them brown; if onions or shallots they can brown a bit. Season with the herb of your choice and the salt and pepper. Add the leeks(etc) to the squash and mix in.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll the pastry out - on its sheet of parchment - into a neat circle. Dust it with plenty of flour  Place it on a large baking try.

Pile the vegetables in the middle of the pastry, layering them with slices of your cheese. If you opt to use a firmer cheese than the chevre, it may make sense to grate it and mix it with the vegetables, although I would reserve a few slices to put on the top.

At this point, and to make a true galette, you should neatly fold the edges up over the filling, leaving a bit of a gap in the middle. I have not made galette before, because I looked at pictures of other people's beautifully formed pastry, and said "Uh huh."


When it looked like working about as well as I expected (i.e. not) I hastily transferred it, parchment and all, to a 10" pie plate. There I was able to fold up the edges acceptably if not beautifully, and therein I baked the pie galette. I suppose I could have transferred it back the baking tray to let it go properly flat. Whatever.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 350°F. If you use already roasted squash I suspect the lower figure is the one to aim for; raw squash will take the full hour.

Last year at this time I made Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Stewed Chicken with Chorizo, Beans & Leeks

This is a version of a popular Spanish stew, perfect for cold and snowy days. Traditionally it will use chick peas, but I had other beans. In fact, we grew the other beans. Chick peas continue to elude us.  But there is no reason not to use them if you prefer.

The saffron is pretty subtle, and also expensive, so you can leave it out, but I do think it is worthwhile. On the other hand, when I went to try to buy some saffron last time we were in Spain, the proprietor of the small grocery in the small town store we were in stared at us like we were crazy, and offered us yellow (spice based) food colouring because nobody was stupid enough to spend money on real saffron. Well, we were, but we were plainly the exception. Of course, we were in northern Spain and saffron comes from the south.

With or without the saffron, this is delicious and a real rib-sticker. 

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including cooking the beans

Stewed Chicken with Chorizo, Beans & Leeks

Cook the Beans:
1 1/2 cups dried kidney or pinto beans
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 bay leaves

Pick over the beans and put them in a large pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat; soak them for 3 or 4 hours to overnight.

Change the water, and bring them up to a boil again. Add the salt and bay leaves, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, until tender but still whole. This can be done up to a day ahead, and probably should be. At this point the cooking water should be mostly gone; if not, drain much of it off - the beans should have a bit of a puddle but that's about it.

Make the Stew:
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons chicken fat, bacon fat, or sunflower seed oil
4 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
3 large leeks
1 large carrot
1 cup diced celeriac OR 2 stalks celery
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
125 grams (1/4 pound) mild or spicy chorizo
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

 Add the chicken stock and tomatoes to the beans. Heat them over medium to medium-low heat and let simmer.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken thighs on both sides for 5 or 6 minutes, until well browned.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise, then into 1" slices. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and dice the celeriac or chop the celery. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the chorizo into 1/4" slices.

When the chicken pieces are browned, lift them out of the fat with a slotted spoon, and add them to the pot of beans. Keep the pan on the stove; add the carrots and celeriac and cook gently for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the leeks and continue cooking gently and stirring for another 10 minutes, until the leeks are quite softened but not browned. Add the chorizo, the paprika, the thyme or savory, and the garlic, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more, mixing well.

Add the chorizo and vegetables to the pot of beans. Mix the saffron into the vinegar, if using, and mix the vinegar into the pot of beans. Let the pot simmer gently for another 45 minutes or so; stir occasionally.

Serve with some good crusty bread. 

Last year at this time I made Apple & Rutabaga Soup

Friday, 22 December 2017

Clementine, Pomegranate, & Red Cabbage Salad

This is a light and simple salad, but the clementines and pomegranate makes it very festive and seasonal, even if they are the fruits - literally - of other, far-off seasons.

Normally I would put nuts into a salad like this, but the pomegranates are so crunchy they act as fruit and nut both. Also normally I would say this makes 4 to 6 servings, but as a starter to a large and heavy meal it would go further. Maybe. At our family Christmas dinners, the salad always goes, however much there is and however much of other things are left over.

And since I plainly have Christmas dinner on my mind, it is time to take my usual break from blogging. For the first time since we moved here, I am not cooking it! We'll be in Windsor at my brother-in-laws. I expect to be back just before the New Year as usual. Hope everyone reading (and not) has an excellent holiday and happy new year; and hurray! The days are now getting longer!

4 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Clementine, Pomegranate, & Red Cabbage Salad

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1 clementine
3 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Squeeze the juice from the clementine and place it in a small bowl or jam jar. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk or shake together.

Make the Salad:
2 cups torn up hydroponic lettuce
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 large stalk celery OR 1/2 cup peeled and grated celeriac
2 clementines
1 small to medium pomegranate

Wash, dry, and tear up the lettuce, and place it in a salad bowl. Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage and add it. Wash, trim, and slice the celery or peel and grate the celeriac, and add, ditto.

Peel and segment the clementines, being careful to remove any pith that wants to cling to them. Cut each across into 3 sections, and add them to the salad.

Cut the pomegranate in half and pick out all the seeds, discarding the skin and membrane. It's easiest to do this into its own bowl and  pick out any bits of membrane that have survived the process before adding about half of them to the salad. Toss the salad, drizzle over the dressing, then sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds over the top.

Last year at this time I made Beet, Apple, & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Turkish Potato Cake

When we were in Turkey we never saw this dish. I don't know if it wasn't available in restaurants, or if we just didn't notice it, or go to quite the right places. When I started looking at Turkish recipes on line, though, I started seeing it everywhere. It's very quick and simple to put together - basically like making muffins plus a little chopping of vegetables. I would be quite tempted to bake this in muffin pans, in fact, especially if I had rather large ones. I did mine in a 10" pie plate and it worked fine.

Do be sure to dice those potatoes quite finely - as thin as 1/2 cm in at least one dimension, to allow them to cook through.

A number of recipes I saw also called for up to cup of diced cheese to be added, if you would like that. It looks like I have added diced ham, but in fact some of my potatoes were Red Thumb.

This is a cake, but not as we know it. It is not sweet, and it is not even a bread to be eaten as a side dish with other things. It is quite rich even without any cheese and needs only a green salad to make it a complete meal. It's a bit quiche-like but still breadish. Like quiche, I'd eat it as a breakfast or brunch dish too. It will be delightful in any of the cooler months, although fresh herbs will be possible only in the warmer of the cooler months. They are certainly better but dried ones will do.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
     - let cool at least 20 minutes

Turkish Potato Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients: 
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a measuring cup or small bowl; mix 'em.

Mix the Wet Ingredients:
1 cup thick yogurt
3 large eggs
1/3 cup olive or sunflower seed oil

In a bigger mixing bowl, into which everything will ultimately go; mix 'em.

Prepare the Vegetables:
4 medium potatoes (300 grams; 10 ounces; 2 cups diced)
1 medium onion
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dry dillweed OR 1 tablespoon fresh minced
1 teaspoon dry rubbed mint OR 1 tablespoon fresh minced
a spoonful of paprika, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, etc

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour a 10" pie plate or 9" square baking pan.

Wash and peel or trim the potatoes, and cut them into quite fine dice. They are going to have to bake, in a cake, in under an hour. Peel and finely chop the onion.

Wash, dry, and mince the herbs if fresh. Otherwise, with the potatoes and onions, mix them into the yogurt and eggs. Mix in the flour to make a soft dough.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out. If you are so inclined, sprinkle over a little paprika, or sesame or nigella seeds. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until firm and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool to warm or room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Brussels Sprouts "Spanako"pita

I am referring to this as a spanakopita, which means "spinach bread" in Greek. Since it is made with Brussels sprouts instead of spinach I don't even want to tell you what it should actually be called, mostly because I can't. Fortunately the culinary substitution is much easier than the translation.

This is my usual spanakopita recipe, only I've removed a kilo (yes, really!) of spinach and replaced it with about half as much Brussels sprouts. They don't shrink down like spinach does though.

Unless you make this about a month ago - good luck with that - the odds of fresh herbs being around at the same time as Brussels sprouts are not particularly good. Dried ones do well enough, but if you do have some fresh ones, 2 tablespoons of each, well minced, will be about right.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprouts Spanokopita

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 large leek
2 tablespoons olive oil
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
1 to 2 teaspoon dry dill
1 to 2 teaspoon dry mint
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
a few good grates of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 large eggs

8 to 12 sheets of filo pastry
1/4 cup olive oil (about)

Don't forget that frozen filo pastry will need to thaw for 2 or 3 hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.

Wash, trim and chop the Brussels sprouts fairly well. Wash, trim, and chop (slice) the leek reasonably finely also.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the Brussels sprouts. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until wilted and softened. You may wish to add a tablespoon or so of water to help them along. They should be dry though, by the time you are ready to transfer them to a mixing bowl.

Heat a little more oil in the same skillet and add the leek. Again, cook until softened and wilted down, for 5 or 10 minutes, with a little water if necessary. Add them to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Crumble the feta cheese into the vegetables. Add the seasonings and mix well. When the vegetables are cool enough that they will not cook the eggs, break the eggs in and mix very well.

Have your filo unwrapped and standing by. Have the oil in a small bowl. Brush a 9" x 13" lasagne pan lightly with oil, then fold a sheet of filo in half and line the bottom of the pan. Brush it with oil, using a pastry brush. Add 3 or 4 more sheets in the same way, folding and brushing with oil.

Spread the vegetable mixture over the prepared filo pastry. Fold and layer another sheet of filo on top, and brush it with oil. Continue folding, covering and brushing with oil for another 3 or 4 more sheets. Finish the top with a good brush of oil.

Bake the finished dish for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Let set for 20 or 30 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Vegetarian Sausage.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

This is an adaptation of a classic Czech Christmas cookie, originally published in a book of Christmas cookie recipes by Maria Janku-Sandtnerova almost 100 years ago. After I made them it occurred to me to check and see what other versions were out there, and I discovered that Martha Stewart posted a recipe for chocolate pretzels probably adapted from the same original, and that an awful lot of people really hated it, saying it lacked flavour, and was dry, and crumbly, and not sweet enough.

It's true this is not a very sweet cookie. That's one of the things that appealed to me about it. If it is dry, you have over-baked it, (and you should watch them, because they are so thin I expect that's easy to do) although it has to plead guilty to crumbling easily. I found the texture very shortbread-like.

I put mint extract into mine, but I would use vanilla, orange extract, almond extract, or strong coffee flavouring as Martha did. I would think they would also be excellent dipped into a chocolate coating, and maybe next time I will make them a little bigger and do that instead of using the sanding sugar. However I am very happy with how these turned out and expect them to disappear rapidly when introduced to the family. Until then, they are going to have to be hidden.

Oh - one last advantage to these cookies: I made an awful lot of cookies that call for egg whites only, so this was a great opportunity to get rid of a couple of egg yolks.

Makes 24 or 32
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

1 cup soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon flavouring extract
1/4 cup coarse sanding sugar

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and cocoa (sift it into the bowl) in a mixing bowl. Line a couple of large baking pans with parchment paper.

Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives. When it is well worked in, add the egg yolks and the flavouring extract. Stir well - one of the forks will be best until it begins to come together. This is a dry enough dough that I find it needs to be pressed together by hand, a bit like pie pastry.

Once you have it in a good, smooth ball, start working on the pretzels at once. The longer the dough sits, the harder it gets to work. To keep the pretzel sizes even, it is convenient if you have a kitchen scale and can weigh each piece as you divide it. Otherwise you will just have to eye-ball it.  Divide the dough in half, and each half in half again, etc, until you have 32 even pieces. To make 24 slightly larger pretzels, once you have 8 portions, divide each one into 3 even pieces instead of 4.

Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a thin, even rope about 6" or 7" long (or 8" for the larger ones). Take an end and pinch it onto the rope just a little on the far side of the halfway point. At the same time, have the other end crossing over it and pinching into itself at the mirror-image spot to the other one... or to put it another way, form it into a pretzel.

Have the sanding sugar standing by in a shallow dish. Drop your pretzel (gently!) face-down in it and press it in evenly, then lift it out and place it face-up on the prepared baking tray. Congratulations! One down, 31 (or 23) left to go.

This is the time to preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Moving briskly along, make the remaining pretzels. Give the dish of sugar a little shake after each pretzel to level the sugar. If the dough gets crumbly, warm it in your hands for a moment or two before forming the rope, then just pinch it back together if they want to break. After a few you will get the knack of it

Bake the pretzels for 10 to 12 minutes, a minute or two longer if larger, and by larger I mean thicker. If you have just rolled them longer, then no. Let cool and store carefully in a tin in a cool, dark place. Can be frozen if made more than a few days in advance.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Spinach Dip.