Steak and Mushroom Pie

It’s time to get in the festive mood! It’s the fun month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though I’m already over the cheesy modern Christmas music. Just not the same as the standards. My husband and I had a quiet Thanksgiving as our kids were in South Carolina. My aunt very kindly invited us to her place for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a lovely meal and a lovely time. She is an awesome aunt and she’s very good to us.

Even though the weather can’t decide to be warm or cold this season there has been been opportunity for comfort food. And you can’t go wrong with steak and mushroom pie.

In a small bowl, add about 3 oz of flour and season with sea salt and pepper. Mix well. Take a half pound/8oz of stewing steak and cut it into small cubes. Toss in the flour until well coated.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and start browning the steak.

Coarsely chop a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to the pan.

Cut up enough mushrooms to make half a cup/3-4oz. Sauté in the pan then add about 2 1/2 cups/20oz of vegetable bouillon. Bring to a simmer. For seasoning and flavour I added a half cup of dry sherry and a small handful of fresh oregano, chopped. Slow cook on low for a few hours until the steak is tender and falling apart. To thicken the broth, add either a couple of teaspoons of flour or corn starch(flour) to a couple of tablespoons of water to make a slurry. Add this to the saucepan and bring up to a boil to cook the flour and thicken the broth. Adjust the seasoning as needed as sometimes the flour can dull the flavours.

Split the stew between ramekins. I made enough for two. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush individual layers of phyllo dough to top the ramekins. Broil/grill til the top is nice and golden.

Perfect with a nice deep red wine on a chilly night!

Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

Chili bowl 1 2016

To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

Chili bowl 2 2016

Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

Chili bowl 3 2016

After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

Chili bowl 4 2016

Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

Chili bowl 5 2016

Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

Chili bowl 6 2016

Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

Beef Vindaloo to Welcome my Husband Home

You know, Christmas comes the same time every year.  Yet every year I find myself in full scramble to get it all done.  I swear I will start in September.  Unfortunately good intentions are not a guarantee!

I should finish the gifts I’m making today and get everything wrapped and under the tree.  Then there is the dump run and grocery shopping.  But I should have plenty of time tomorrow to decorate the Christmas cake.

My husband had to do a business trip last week.  Luckily it was only four days rather than the two weeks last December but I still wanted to make a nice home cooked dinner for him.

I was in the mood for curry and thought I’d try beef vindaloo.  Beef you say?  There are areas in West India that have Muslim and Christian communities that eat beef and add in the fabulous flavours you find in India, amazing dishes happen.

Vindaloo has it’s roots in Portugal and was originally based in wine and garlic but gradually evolved to have vinegar instead of wine.  When a lot of people hear vindaloo they think off the charts for spicy food but that isn’t always the case.  I didn’t make this crazy spicy but you can if you add more hot pepper.

Beef vindaloo 1 2015

I adapted a recipe from the Best-Ever Curry cookbook.  I used ground cumin instead of the seeds and I could have sworn we had fenugreek but nope so I had to leave that out.  The recipe did call for a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds.  To be honest I didn’t miss it.

In a spice grinder, grind up 3-4 chili peppers or hot peppers of your choice, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorn, 5 green cardamon pods, and 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds.

In a small bowl add the spice mix, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and 4 tablespoons of white vinegar.

Beef vindaloo 2 2015

Set that aside.  Chop up a large red onion and saute in olive oil until softened.

Beef vindaloo 3 2015

In a food processor add the onions and spice mix.  Process until it is a paste.  In the skillet add a bit more oil and start browning stewing beef.  I used just under a pound.  The recipe called for two pounds.  As it is browning, finely chop a couple of garlic and grate a piece of ginger about 1-2 inches square/3-4 cm square.

Beef vindaloo 4 2015

Cook for a couple of minutes then add the onion spice paste.  In addition to that add a scant tablespoon of ground cumin, 2 teaspoons of ground coriander, and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground tumeric.

Beef vindaloo 5 2015

Stir well then add 300ml/1 1/4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Cook for at least an hour.  You want the sauce reduced and the meat tender.  My husband made naan to dip into this curry.

Beef vindaloo 6 2015

I was a bit worried because there was only enough for about 1/2 a cup a serving for the four of us.  But with the naan we were stuffed.  I love that our kids love the spicy flavours, they really liked this.

Mini Meat Pies

When I was on my own years ago, I really didn’t cook for myself.  It was too much effort.  I’d get my cooking fix by having little parties for my friends.  Needless to say when I moved in with my husband and had the instant family, I loved being able to cook full meals and share food.  Just one of the many reasons I don’t miss the single life.

One dish I would occasionally make for myself would be mini meat pies.  They lend well to leftovers so in one go I would have several meals ready. I haven’t made them for years, forgotten about them to be honest.  These aren’t the traditional English meat pies with the hot water crust, though that is on my list to try soon.  We’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and we’re hooked.

Meat pie 1 2015

I make up pastry equal to a 9 inch pie plate.  Which would be 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, pinch of salt, and cold water.  I’ve started using butter instead of shortening as the flavour is much better.   Cover and set aside while you make up the filling.  If the room is warm put the pastry in the fridge.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start browning about a pound of ground beef.  Chop up half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a couple of mushrooms.  Add those to the skillet.

Meat pie 2 2015

Chop up some fresh oregano and add that along with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup or so of crushed tomatoes.  The trick here is not to let it get watery or too saucy.  Also add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Meat pie 3 2015

Let this simmer while you roll out the pastry and fill a tin with large muffin holes.  I had to free hand this as I didn’t have a cutter or glass with a large enough aperture to give me a neat circle. So we got a bit rustic!  Use a slotted spoon to fill the pastry to prevent it from getting too wet.  Sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Italian cheeses.  Bake at 400F/200C for 20 minutes.

Meat pie 4 2015

I don’t know why it took me years to make this again.  But I won’t wait long to do it again as it is great for lunches as well.  And with tax season starting soon I’ll have to keep my energy up!

Tarragon Beef Stew to Keep You Warm

I think it is time to give up the ghost where the garden is concerned at this point.  With the exception of the hardy root veg and brussels sprouts we’re done and dusted.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to find some tarragon still green in the garden which reminded me of a recipe I had printed out from allrecipes.com a few years ago.  Looking at it again, I realised that I hadn’t followed it completely when I made it before.  For one, it had honey.  And a few other interesting things.  But it does have vermouth which works really well with tarragon.

I love beef stews, particularly with ale, but my husband sometimes finds them too heavy in flavour.  This stew has a lot of flavour without the heaviness.  A more refined rustic soup if that isn’t too much of an oxy moron!  

Terragon beef stew 1 2015

Dredge about a pound of stewing beef in flour and season it with sea salt and pepper.  In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brown the beef.  Chop a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a carrot, and 2-3 mushrooms.  Add the veg to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

Terragon beef stew 2 2015

Cube 2-3 red potatoes depending on the size.  Add it to the saucepan.  Cook for a few minutes then add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Add 1/2 cup of vermouth, 4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, a handful of tarragon, and a small spoonful of mustard.

Terragon beef stew 3 2015

Simmer for a few hours at low temperature until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Terragon beef stew 4 2015

Add some crusty bread and you’ll be warmed to your toes!  🙂

Mexican Stuffed Mushroom and It’s a Freaking Clock

I should preface this post by saying I have friends that are teachers and they are excellent at what they do.  But as in every profession you will have a good number of bad apples.  As anyone who has been out and about this week would have heard, a smart kid got arrested for making a clock.

We live in a culture that celebrates the empty headedness of the Kardashians rather than celebrate and encourage kids to use their brains.  So a 14 year old who is smart and mechanical made a clock.  The teacher decided it was a threat and it escalated from there.  He gets hauled off in handcuffs and while charges were dropped he is still suspended!

What should have happened, instead of the knee jerk reaction the teacher went with, was the 14 year old brings in a homemade clock.  The teacher not understanding should have taken 5 seconds to ask the student what it was.  Why it’s a clock, and I made it.  Oh cool.  End of.  But no, school security is called then the police.  What I find incredibly sad is not once did common sense prevail.  You have several adults involved up to the point he is removed from the school and no one thought anything was wrong with this scenario.  And the school is saying now they did nothing wrong, they even sent home a memo patting themselves on the back, and they claim they can give him a good education.  If this happened to my child they would not go back to this school.

And you wonder why we’re in the state we’re in.  On the flip side it is heartwarming to see MIT, NASA, and even the White House supporting him.  I bet he’ll go far.

The other night I needed a quick meal for my husband and I.  Because of my back and hip, I can’t walk both dogs so I have to wait for my husband to come home.  Which means some nights we are looking at a late dinner.  Therefore I need something that can cook quickly but still be delicious.

We had some ground beef to use up so I bought large portobello caps and planned on doing a stuffed mushroom with Mexican flavours.

Mexican mushroom 1 2015

I am finding with the days getting shorter I’m losing the light!  Natural light is so important for photos but alas unless I make dinner at lunch time I’ll be out of luck.

In a skillet with a bit of olive oil brown the ground beef.

Mexican mushroom 2 2015

Chop up some onion, garlic, sweet pepper, and hot pepper.  Saute to soften the onions.

Mexican mushroom 3 2015

When the meat is halfway cooked start cooking the mushrooms at 350F/175C.  Because the mushrooms are big they can take awhile to cook.  Add a few mushrooms, sliced, to the meat mixture.  Season with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and hot sauce.  The amounts are up to you depending on how hot you want your dish.  Add a splash of lime juice and some cilantro.

Mexican mushroom 4 2015

Spoon the mixture onto the mushroom caps and top with shredded cheese.

Mexican mushroom 5 2015

Bake until everything is heated through and the cheese has melted.  Top with salsa and sour cream to serve.

Mexican mushroom 6 2015

This is very filling without being too heavy.  And I love the spice of this dish.  🙂

Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

Tomato beef curry 2 2015

Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

Tomato beef curry 3 2015

Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

Tomato beef curry 4 2015

Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

Tostadas and That Boy has My Number

It’s Mother’s Day stateside tomorrow.  Luckily we have the kids this week and I suspect I might be spoiled once again with fabulous food and having fun with playing games.  Perfect if you ask me.  🙂

As a parent there is always the worry that your child will resent you for being, well, a parent.  I constantly worry about that being a step-parent.  Yesterday, as my son and I were going a few rounds of I forgot my water bottle at school and I forgot my homework, he showed me what he had to do for writing a short paragraph.  The assignment was to write about what he appreciated.  It was all about how he appreciated his two moms because we help with his homework, we care, we teach him street smarts, and we love him.  You can not stay annoyed with your child when presented with this!  I even missed the words that were misspelled.  Does he know how to play me or what?  LOL  It also means the world to me when I get to read stuff like that.  Being bonus mum to our two kids is such a gift.

This past Monday, in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d make homemade tostadas.  I’ve been playing round with fresh corn tortillas but haven’t really liked them.  Well I should say they worked for soft tacos but I was underwhelmed with the flavour.  I was wondering if I was doing something wrong.  Recently we went to an authentic Latin restaurant that had amazing food and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve been making them correctly!  So I decided to play with adding some ingredients to punch up the flavour first.

Before we get to the tortilla bit the meat has to be prepared first.  I chose to slow cook the steak in the oven like I did with the pulled pork.  Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  I did a quick mixture of 2 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of adobe seasoning.  Rub the steaks and put into the baking dish.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and a couple of tablespoons of fresh lime juice.

Tostadas 1 2015

This needs to cook for about 4 hours.  Like the pulled pork you want the meat to easily be shredded.  This is the most difficult part of the dish.  So you can see this is an easy dinner to make!  I wanted to make twelve tostadas about 4in/10cm in diameter.  In a bowl add 1 1/2 cups of masa, a tablespoon of chili powder, and a pinch of salt.  For the liquid you need a cup.  I added a tablespoon of lime juice and then the rest was water to make up that cup.

Tostadas 2 2015Mix well and then knead until the dough is fully incorporated.

Tostadas 3 2015Divide into 12 equal pieces and form them into balls.  Line both sides of the tortilla press with cling film and place a ball of dough in the middle.

Tostadas 4 2015

Press down to flatten.

Tostadas 5 2015

Heat up a dry skillet on medium high.  Cook the tortillas about 30-45 seconds on each side.  They will puff a little bit and start to brown.

Tostadas 6 2015

Wrap the cooked tortillas in a tea towel until it is time to fry.  This keeps them warm and soft.  Set aside as you prep the rest of the meal. Shred the beef and add chopped pepper and onion to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

Tostadas 7 2015Keep the beef warm while frying the tortillas in vegetable oil.  As you fry them transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen roll.

Tostadas 8 2015

Once done layer all the ingredients.  For mine I layered sour cream, cheese, salsa, tomato, lettuce, and avocado over the beef.

Tostadas 9 2015

This was a fun meal to have.  It is super easy to make and it’s fun for the kids to assemble their own with what they want.  And the lime and chili in the tostadas worked really well.

Warming Ramen Soup

Awhile back my son and I were checking out new food shows and came across “The Mind of a Chef”.  It’s a bit dull but they did an episode about ramen in Japan.  It piqued my son’s interest so I added it to the list of things to try.

The fascinating thing about this soup is how varied it can be from town to town.  So I did a bit of research and came up with my own.  It is fairly easy to make and full of flavour.

Prep the ingredients before you begin cooking.  Do up the soft boiled eggs and set aside to cool a bit before shelling.  Also cook up some frozen corn and set aside.

For this soup I wanted to use the flank steak we had on hand so I seared both sides in peanut oil.  If you like the steak medium rare keep it on the rare side after the sear.  Cover with tin foil and let it rest while you cook the rest of the soup.

Ramen soup 1 2015

I chopped up red onion, carrots, scallions, some mushrooms, and a few cloves of garlic.  The amount depends on how many servings you are doing.  Total for the five veg I had about a cup and a half.  In a saucepan saute the onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms in peanut oil.

Ramen soup 2 2015

Add four cups of veg bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Grate about inch or two of fresh ginger, add about a cup of mung bean sprouts, and add a couple of teaspoons of fresh cilantro.  A few squeezes of fresh lime juice brightens the soup. Meanwhile cook the noodles according the package.  Drain the noodles.

Ramen soup 4 2015

In the bowls add the noodles and layer with the sliced beef.  Add the soup over the noodles.  The broth will cook the beef to medium rare at this point.  Top with half an egg, corn, and the fresh scallions.

Ramen soup 5 2015

Omit the noodles if you need to be gluten free.  It’s a very filling soup without the noodles.  I look forward to trying different flavour profiles with different proteins.  🙂

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

Muslim Curry 1 2015

In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

Muslim Curry 2 2015

In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

Muslim Curry 3 2015

Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

Muslim Curry 4 2015

Pulse until it becomes a paste.

Muslim Curry 5 2015

Add the spices and pulse to blend.

Muslim Curry 6 2015

Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

Muslim Curry 7 2015

Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

Muslim Curry 8 2015

Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  🙂