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.  🙂

 

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 1 2014

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 3 2014

Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.

 

Aubergine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Steak

I found myself in a bit of a produce pickle the other day.  I went slightly overboard in buying produce forgetting that the kids would be off camping for the weekend.  So I was faced with the task to get rid of the produce in meals so it wouldn’t go bad.

My son loves the zucchini/courgette flans so I thought it would be great to do a zucchini/courgette side as a treat for him.  And I bought an aubergine as the kids requested an Italian meal.

For the zucchini/courgette side I used the spiral cutter again.  So much easier with the softer produce!  Very quick.  🙂

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 1 2014

Set that aside and chop up some aubergine.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 2 2014

In a skillet melt some butter and sear the steak to brown on both sides then finish off in the oven to the desired doneness.  In the skillet add some avocado oil.  Once heated add the aubergine and saute for a few minutes.  Then add some oven roasted tomatoes and a few cloves of chopped garlic.  Add a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 3 2014

While the sauce cooks set up another skillet and heat up some more avocado oil.  Toss in the zucchini/courgette spirals.  Season with sea salt, pepper, and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 4 2014

Slice the steak and stop with the aubergine sauce.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

I even liked the zucchini/courgette which is unheard of!  But I noticed my son wasn’t touching the zucchini/courgette.  Apparently the only way he likes it is in the flan.  Sigh.  Fortunately my daughter couldn’t get enough so it didn’t go to waste. Sometimes it is hard to keep up!

Roasted Beets with Burgers

I know a lot of us who blog have figured out the balance of healthy delicious food with budget.  And I don’t think it is that difficult to do.  But very often in cooking competitions there is invariably a challenge that involves cooking on a budget. Time and again the reaction is it’s impossible to get flavour on a budget.

For example, I am watching season 4 of Top Chef which I believe aired about 6 years ago.  They were given a challenge of cooking a healthy delicious meal with a budget of $10 for a family of four.  You might as well have told them to climb Mount Everest!  I don’t understand the disconnect for a lot of people when it comes to this balance.

Given that our food budget is about $150 a week which includes things like kitchen roll, soap, etc, I need to be creative with the dishes.  We actually do pretty well during the summer because of our veg garden but it gets a little tricky in the winter.  I sometimes skate over the line.  The big budget buster is meat, especially if it is important to buy local, humanely raised meat.  It just goes back to portion control.  I’ll take a breast of chicken and use it for the four of us.  And it’s plenty.

I also try to use an ingredient a few different ways during the week.  This week it’s beets.  I had some bacon fat left over from the chicken avocado dish I made so I thought I would roast them.  I had half a pound of ground beef leftover so it was perfect for two burgers for my husband and I.  To round it of I bought 2 large portabello mushroom caps.  When I was doing research into the Paleo diet I was so overwhelmed by all the books on this subject, it was insane. I saw in one book a suggestion to use the mushroom as the base to a burger. I cannot remember which book it was though. I looked at about 30 of them!

This is an inexpensive easy dish to make even with the grass fed beef.  I kept the burgers simple and used garlic chives and thyme from the garden.

Roasted beet burgers 1 2014

I chopped up the thyme and chives with a couple of cloves of garlic. I mixed them with the beef and a dollop of stone ground mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted beet burgers 2 2014

Set this aside.  Peel and slice the beets about 1/4″ thick.  Beets are so messy!  Getting the stain out of my fingers is such a pain.

Roasted beet burgers 3 2014

Set the oven to 400F/200C and place the baking dish with a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat.  Allow it to melt then add the beets with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast until they are tender.  In the meantime, form the beef into patties.

Roasted beet burgers 4 2014

Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill the burgers and mushrooms.  Be careful not to grill the mushrooms so much that they aren’t firm anymore.  Place the mushrooms on the plate and top with the burger.  Spread goat cheese on the burger then place the beets on the cheese.

Roasted beet burgers 5 2014

I’m not a fan of beets but the bacon fat helps.  🙂  Of course after I did the photos and cut into the dish I thought I should have added some greens on top for presentation.  Too late at that point!

Giving Cornish Pasties a Try…

When we had our family get together a few weeks ago my dad was telling me about someone he knows being confused about how to pronounce Cornish Pasty.  This person would insist on pronouncing it pasty as in paste.  We had a good laugh about that, I asked if dad had explained that pronunciation required dollar bills!

As I did research on recipes for Cornish Pasties I realised that in 2011 it was given a PGI similar to Chianti or Parmesan cheese.  So I went to the official site for a Cornish Pasty to find out how to make these.

I’m not sure how stringent they are in protecting the Cornish Pasty because I have had several in the UK, many variations which include peas or carrots, different ways of doing the beef, etc.  I followed their way as closely as I could.  I’ll show what the actual recipe says and what I did based on the ingredients I had.

For the pastry:

500g strong bread flour (I used our all purpose flour)

120g white shortening

25g cake margarine (I used butter)

5g salt

175g cold water

Cornish pasty 1 2014

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until the water is incorporated.  Tip out onto the counter.  This will be very crumbly.

Cornish pasty 2 2014

Knead the dough together to incorporate the shortening and butter.  This will be a stiff dough.

Cornish pasty 3 2014

Cover and place in the fridge for 3 hours.  I only was able to have it in there for 2 but it came out well.

For the filling:

450g skirt steak (I had about 390g)

450g potato (they said to use waxy potatoes but I used what we had on hand and used our freshly harvested red potatoes.  Also, to keep the ratio of the filling intact I used about 390g of potato)

250g swede (rutabaga)

200g of onion

Cornish pasty 4 2014

Chop the steak onion into 1/2″ cubes.  Chop the swede and potato into 1/4″ cubes.  Season well with salt and pepper.  The recipe says to have a 2:1 ratio of salt and pepper.

Cornish pasty 5 2014

Preheat the oven to 410F/210C

Divide the pastry into four portions.  Roll out thinly and spoon the filling into the centre.  I found that 1 1/2 cup of filling was as much as the pastry could hold.  Add two dollops of butter.

Cornish pasty 6 2014

Fold over the pastry and roll crimp from one side round to the other side.  Put a few slits in the top.

Cornish pasty 7 2014

One step I forgot was to brush milk over the pastry before baking.  Bake for an hour until golden brown.

Cornish pasty 8 2014

I did find a disconnect between the amount of pastry they say to make and the filling.  I had about a third of the filling leftover and it was reduced based on what I had.  When I make this again I will reduce the filling even more.

We all enjoyed it and I loved the simplicity of the recipe.  And I have to get to Cornwall and see what the real thing is because it looks like I haven’t bought real ones yet!