We seem to be in a continuous cycle of warm temperature to bitter cold temperature and back again. Germs everywhere! Minestrone soup is a great antidote to fighting off all the stuff going round. As remedies go, it’s a delicious comfort food.
My husband had sent me an article from the Guardian about Ultra Processed Food. For those that follow this blog, you know we’re big on cooking from scratch and keeping overly processed food out of our diet. I found it interesting when the article mentioned that it’s a good sign to see a container of sugar in the kitchen. The reason is, it’s a sign that home cooking from fresh ingredients occurs. Which is so much better than buying boxed goods.
Technique for Minestrone Soup
While this is a very easy soup to make on a busy night, I do recommend to make it a day or so ahead for the flavours to really come out.
Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sautè the onions until they soften. Add the garlic, carrots and celery. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the mushrooms and peas. The beauty of this soup is you can add whatever veg you want. I don’t like zucchini/courgettes and the like, especially in soup, so I left those out even though they are more traditional.
For the diced tomatoes I like to use fire roasted for a deeper flavour. Continue to cook for a few minutes before adding the veg bouillon. Bring to a simmer.
Season with the herbs, sea salt and pepper. Add the pasta and bring to a boil until the pasta starts to soften. Turn back down to a simmer.
Years ago, on our honeymoon in Italy, we had taken a cooking lesson and the woman gave us a tip on how to use up the parmesan ends. Throw in the piece into the soup and simmer. It gives a really lovely cheesy balance to the soup.
Serve with fresh bread and butter. Perfect for the whacky winter evenings.
Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sautè the onions until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, celery and carrots to the pan. Cook for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms and peas. After cooking for a few more minutes add the diced tomatoes.
Add the bouillon and the pasta. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the herbs and season with the sea salt and pepper. Toss in the cheese end. Once the pasta is cooked, it is ready to serve.
Before I decided to make this Tofu Burrito, I was trying to make a different dish with eggs. I tried over a few weeks to get it to work based on the directions. Easy it said. Not in the least. So I put that on the back burner to make a different dish so that I could at least get a post done this month. Have you ever run into the proverbial brick wall with a recipe?
Last weekend, my husband and I decided to play hooky from working on the house. It’s a Victorian Queen Anne and while we love old homes, it becomes a drag at times with the constant long list of to-dos. It was a gorgeous autumn day so we went hiking into the woods. Being out in nature does wonders for the mind and makes it easier to take deep breaths.
We found a fabulous cafe in our travels for lunch and my husband ordered their tofu burrito. The only complaint he had was they didn’t use cilantro (coriander leaf). Because our son also loves burritos I decided to recreate this dish for them. My son was shocked I have never eaten a burrito in my life. He looked at me like I had three heads! How have I survived? 😉
Technique for Tofu Burrito
This dish couldn’t be simpler to make. Make the rice while you prepare the filling. White rice or brown rice is fine. I went with white rice as it can cook in half the time and I wanted a quick dish for the week night.
Heat up the olive oil in a skillet. Cook the beans and corn until the corn thaws.
Add the hot pepper, for this dish I used a cayenne pepper from the garden. Also add the scallion (spring onion), garlic and tofu. Sauté until the onion begins to soften. Add the chili powder, cumin and lime juice. Don’t worry about the level of seasoning until after you add the rice.
Add the sweet pepper and cilantro (coriander leaf). I add the sweet pepper last so there is a bit of crunch.
Add the rice and mix well. Check the level of seasoning and adjust as needed. I added a bit more lime juice at this point. Then season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Lay out the burrito wrap. Add the shredded cheese and top with the burrito filling. Wrap tightly.
Serve with salsa and sour cream. My son said this was really good. High praise from a 15 year old and he went back for seconds.
On date night the other week, one of our go to restaurants had a new menu that included Korean BBQ Short Ribs. I’d never had Korean BBQ but it was really good. They did serve it with an aioli, which didn’t seem authentic but worked.
I did research on the recipe for the BBQ and for the most part it’s pretty consistent in terms of ingredients, though some called for vinegar instead of mirin. As mirin is easy to find, I didn’t think substituting was necessary. I did have to use a regular pear as Asian pears are apparently too exotic for my local shops.
There are a few steps to this dish but nothing is complicated and it’s well worth the effort.
Technique for Korean BBQ Short Ribs
First it’s important to prep the ribs. There will be connective tissue that you want to remove as that will make the ribs tough when cooking.
Use a sharp knife to do this so you don’t take off too much meat in the process.
Prep the marinade ingredients. I won’t lie, grating onions is torture on the eyes. I’ve always been curious how the first human decided onion was a good thing because raw is very strong! But for this marinade you don’t want any big pieces, with the exception of the finely chopped garlic, so grating it is.
Mix well and add the beef. Make sure the beef is well coated. Cover and store in the fridge for at least 6 hours. I then sliced some red onion and covered it with apple cider vinegar.
Marinade the onion for a few hours in the fridge. It makes a great contrasting topping to this dish.
When it is time to grill the beef, warm up the grill to medium. For this, you don’t want to have the heat on high in order to keep the meat tender. You will still get a good sear on the meat. Patience, grasshopper is the way to go here.
While the meat is cooking, prep the other ingredients. We have a lot of fresh veg in our garden so we did up a bunch of veg sticks. For dipping sauces I heated up the beef marinade, mixed some sour cream with ginger and lime, then made a traditional dipping sauce. That sauce was equal parts Gochujang and yellow miso ( 2 tablespoons each), 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and a clove of finely chopped garlic. If you find it too thick of a paste add more oil a bit at a time.
Once the meat has rested, slice it and serve with the sauces and veg.
Use the lettuce as the wrap and top the beef with the toppings of your choice.
We all loved this dish with the all the flavours from the marinade. We will definitely be having this again.
Clean the beef by removing the connective tissue and any hard fat.
Mix all the ingredients of the marinade well. Add the beef and make sure it is covered completely. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.
Cooking the meat
Heat the grill to medium. Cook the meat until it is medium rare. The meat should have a nice sear without the sugars in the marinade becoming burnt. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes
Putting it all together
Cut up different veg to accompany the BBQ. Slice the beef and serve with the veg and lettuce leaves. Heat the leftover marinade as a dipping sauce. Chopped green onions and pickled red onions are great toppers.
I find it interesting the so called shortcuts people like to take when cooking. How so much processed food seems to be the go to when they don’t really save time or money. In fact, it’s more expensive for the most part. When I was doing my pinning on Pinterest I came across a recipe for Chicken Flautas that called for canned chicken that came already seasoned. I wouldn’t want to even guess what preservatives and junk would also be in that can. No way, thank you.
I mean, how hard is it to mix a few ingredients together and slow cook chicken? Not very hard! While I cooked the chicken in the oven, you can use a slow cooker and walk away.
Our garden is doing so much better than last year so this is dish was a great way to use what is just outside our door. I was able to use tomatoes, hot peppers and sweet peppers for this meal.
Technique for Chicken Flautas
Pre heat the oven to 300F/150C.
Mix the marinade ingredients and make sure the chicken is coated. I cooked twice as much chicken so I could use some for salads and lunches.
Slow cook for 3-4 hours, until the chicken is tender and shreds easily. Using two forks, tear the chicken apart.
Set aside. Heat up the olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the onions, mushrooms and garlic until the onions begin to soften. Add the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken, seasonings, lime juice and chicken stock. Stir well and simmer. You want to reduce the liquid so the mixtures stays moist but isn’t overly liquid.
Heat up the vegetable oil in a saucepan to about 335F/170C.
Place the filling on flour tortillas. I accidentally bought quinoa flour gluten free tortillas. I was a bit worried that this would end up a failure. Thankfully they fried up well. Roll the tortillas tightly and spear with a toothpick. Fry until they are golden brown and crispy. Drain and place on a piece of kitchen roll to absorb the extra oil.
In an attempt to keep this somewhat healthy, I served it over a bed of lettuce. I chopped up a fresh tomato, a spring onion and cilantro to top along with queso fresco. You can also serve with dollops of sour cream or guacamole.
Slow cooked chicken, seasoned with hot peppers, then wrapped in deep fried goodness.
AuthorOur Growing Paynes
1lbboneless chicken breast
1/2tspfreshly ground black pepper
Chicken Flautas filling
1cupfinely chopped onion
1mushroom, finely chopped
2-3cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1hot pepper, chopped
1cupsweet pepper, finely chopped
2 cupsshredded chicken
2tspfresh cilantro (coriander leaf)
1/2 cup chicken stock
Tomato and Spring Onion
1tomato, coarsly chopped
1small spring onion, chopped
sea salt to taste
Completing Chicken Flautas
1/2deep sauce pan of vegetable oil
12half 8" flour tortillas
1 cupcrumbled queso fresco
Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.
Mix the ingredients together in a baking dish and add the chicken. Make sure the chicken is nearly covered and coated. Bake for 3-4 hours until the chicken is fork tender. Use two forks to shred the chicken. Set aside.
Chicken Flautas filling
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Sautè the onions, garlic and mushrooms until the onions start becoming soft. Add the peppers and the chicken. Mix in the seasonings, lime juice and chicken stock. Simmer until the liquid is nearly reduced to zero. You want the mixture moist but not overly wet.
Tomato and Spring Onion
Add the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Completing the Chicken Flautas
Spoon a couple of tablespoons of filling onto each half tortilla. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick. Heat the vegetable oil to 335F/ 170C. Deep fry the flautas until golden and crispy. Drain and place on kitchen roll to absorb excess oil.
Place the flautas on a bed of lettuce, top with the tomato and spring onion along with the cheese. Serve immediately.
Pork Wellington has been on my list of things to blog for awhile now, waiting for a special time to make it. My husband just had a business trip that was crazy busy and when he comes back from these trips I like to treat him to a special meal. Understandably he gets tired of restaurant food and eating on the run.
The meal had to wait a day as we had tickets to go see Heart. Those two ladies at 65 and 69 years of age can seriously rock. Leaping about and belting out the songs, it was amazing. I would love to have that energy!
This is a time consuming but not difficult meal to make. You can save time by buying puff pastry but making the rough puff pastry is relatively simple and tastes a lot better than store bought pastry.
Technique for Rough Puff Pastry
The main key for a good rough puff pastry is keeping everything cold. Some people will grate frozen butter for this but you can get away with butter from the fridge.
Add the ingredients to a mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour until you have a coarse mixture.
Add a bit of water at a time until the clumps come together in a rough ball. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes. If you find that you add too much water, don’t panic you can fix it when you knead the dough.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. If you made the dough too wet add extra flour while you are kneading the dough. You don’t want to overwork the dough but you want a smooth ball where you see marbling of the butter. Roll out thinly into something close to a rectangle.
Fold into thirds like an envelope.
Rotate 90 degrees and roll out into a thin rectangle.
Fold into thirds again.
Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes and until you are ready to use it.
Technique for Pork Wellington
Melt butter in the skillet. Season the pork with sea salt and pepper. Sear all sides and cook it to about two thirds done. This is probably the trickiest part as you need the pork to be cooked through by the end of baking but you don’t want it dried out. It’s not like the beef wellington where you want it medium rare.
Remove from the skillet and set aside while you cook up the apple mixture.
Finely chop up the apple, mushrooms, garlic and sage. Add additional butter to the skillet and sauté the ingredients for several minutes until the mushrooms start to brown.
Deglaze with the calvados and cook until the liquid reduces to nearly zero. Remove from the heat.
On cling film lay out the prosciutto and spoon the mushroom mixture onto the prosciutto and spread it out. Coat the pork with the mustard and place the pork in the centre.
Tightly wrap the pork and chill for half an hour. After the half hour roll out the dough, remove the cling film and place the pork in the centre of the dough.
Trim the ends and wrap the pork like a burrito. Place seam down on a baking sheet and brush with a beaten egg.
Bake in an oven set at 425F/220C until the pastry is golden and flaky. About 30-35 minutes.
Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. Though if it is really flaky, the darn thing will fall apart as you slice.
I roasted up a bit of parsnip and made up a side salad to keep the meal light.
This Pork Wellington was well worth the effort and the flavours were even better the next day.
Sift the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut up the cold butter and add it to the flour. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the flour until you have a coarse mixture. Add a bit of water at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. It will be coarse and sticky. But you don't want it overly wet. Cover and chill for 20 minutes.
On a floured surface, knead the dough until it is a smooth dough where you can see a marbling of the butter. Don't overwork the dough.
Roll out thinly into a rough rectangle. Fold into thirds in an envelope. Rotate 90 degrees and roll out again into rectangle. Fold again into thirds. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes or until you need it to wrap the pork later.
Heat half the butter in a skillet. Season the pork with sea salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the pork. Cook it about 2/3 thirds of the way. When it's done baking at the end you want the pork to be cooked thoroughly but not dry. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Add more butter to the skillet. Add the mushrooms, apples, sage and garlic. Sauté for several minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Pour in the calvados to deglaze the pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced to nearly zero.
On a piece of cling film lay out the prosciutto. Spoon the mushroom and apple mixture onto the prosciutto and spread it out. Coat the pork with the mustard and place the pork in the centre of the apple and mushroom mixture. Tightly wrap the pork in the prosciutto and seal with the cling film. Chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry thinly. Place the pork into the centre. Trim the sides and wrap the pork like a burrito. Place on a baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.
Brush the pastry with a beaten egg. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
While I don’t like the heat and humidity we get this time of year, I do love that we are starting to be able to benefit from our veg garden. Miraculously, thanks to my lovely husband, we still have a rosemary plant going strong. It’s an annual where we live and he’s managed to get it to grow to a decent size. I would have killed it by now.
To keep it a manageable size, I’ve been using it a lot in various dishes, including my Lemon Rosemary Pork. For a side dish I sautéed some swiss chard we’re growing. The swiss chard is going gang busters this year, it’s rivaling the rhubarb!
Technique for Lemon Rosemary Pork
Get the dry ingredients of the marinade together before adding the olive oil and lemon juice.
Add the pork and marinate for at least a couple of hours in the fridge. When it’s time, start prepping the sauce ingredients while the grill warms up. Heat up the butter in a skillet and add the mushrooms.
Cook for a couple of minutes before adding more garlic and rosemary. Once you add the pork to the grill, add the remaining marinade to the skillet. Bring up to a simmer.
Add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Simmer for a few minutes. Remove about a 1/4 cup of the sauce and set aside.
Once the pork is cooked and resting, sautè the swiss chard in the remaining sauce. Cook the stalk pieces first then add the leafy bits. I like them slightly wilted but not mushy.
Spoon the chard onto the plate, top with the pork and drizzle the reserve sauce over the dish.
I need to come up with more swiss chard dishes as well because they aren’t showing any sign of letting up.
Doing oven baked brisket was just one of the family events from the past several weeks. It’s been an emotional roller coaster what with our daughter’s graduation high school, our son’s birthday and my husband’s parents staying with us for a few weeks. I managed not to embarrass myself with too much crying as our daughter received her diploma but watching her drive off for her summer job of a camp councillor was tough. She is completely ready, us? Not so much. But we’ll adjust.
For our son’s birthday, I thought it would be fun to have a BBQ of grilled corn on the cob, mashed potato and a brisket. My in-laws don’t have much BBQ back home so I wanted to treat them as well. The thing is, it’s hard to keep the grill at a set temperature for 20 minutes, never mind the 10 hours needed to do a brisket on the grill. Plus, I didn’t think the propane would last. So the oven it was.
While it may not be traditional, you can get a very tender and flavourful brisket in the oven. You also don’t have to stand by the grill all day.
Technique for Oven Baked Brisket
As this isn’t Texas, I wasn’t able to find the Texas size brisket but that’s ok as we’re fans of portion control.
The only downsize to a smaller piece of meat is you don’t have a lot of fat on it. Make up the dry rub. Spread stone mustard all over the cut of meat, then rub the dry rub so the meat is well covered. This will help the brisket keep moist.
Cover and keep in the fridge overnight. An hour before you put it into the oven remove it from the fridge to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.
Wrap the brisket well in tin foil, you don’t want any moisture escaping into the oven. Bake until the brisket is fork tender. For the 1 1/2lb of meat I used, it was about 2 1/2 hours.
Spread with BBQ sauce of your choice. I used my Fresh Peach BBQ Sauce for this. Broil on high for a couple of minutes to heat the sauce and crisp up the outside of the brisket.
Allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Slice and serve with your favourite sides.
I got a thumbs up from my son who enjoyed his birthday dinner very much. Success!
I start grilling as soon as the grill can hold its own in the cold weather, usually when the temperatures are hovering round freezing. When the heat and humidity kicks in, the grill goes into overtime. Since it will be a few months before I get tired of salads I made a Honey Ginger Grilled Chicken for dinner and my food bowls.
To be honest, when I do get tired of salads, this would be great with rice noodles and the like. Plus you can make this with pork or fish.
For the dressing, there are many different Asian inspired ones you can choose from but I confess my guilty pleasure is salad cream. We tried to explain it to our stateside friends and they were like is it mayo? No! There were many guesses so I think we’re going to have to share our stash. Luckily, it isn’t hugely price prohibitive to get it delivered. Not like Marmite, where you have to mortgage your house to get it here. Fortunately, my in-laws are coming next week and they are bringing that with them.
Technique for the Honey Ginger Grilled Chicken
The chicken should be marinated for at least a couple of hours. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Before adding the chicken check the flavour of the marinade to make sure the balance of the flavours are as you like them. With the honey, you want to make sure the sweetness comes through but doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. As the marinade sits, the volume of the sweetness increases. So at the start have the honey just making the marinade a bit sweet.
Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise. Aside from lessening the cooking time for the chicken it makes it easier when cooking with honey. When using honey, you need to keep the temperature at medium on the grill. I always find that food photography that shows dishes with honey glazes still honey colored deceptive. Honey will brown when cooked. You do have to be careful as it will catch and burn very easily.
After marinating for at least a couple hours, grill the chicken making sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t catch and burn.
I do seem to be on a mushroom kick, not just the vegetarian kick. Growing up, the only mushroom I was really exposed to was the button mushroom. Not to knock it, because that type is fine, but there really is such a variety to choose from. Different “meatiness” and flavours which can make dishes exciting. We were at the library a few weeks ago and my husband found a cookery book by Yotam Ottolenghi called Ottolenghi Simple. I love his approach to food. His recipe featuring mushroom and feta caught my eye so here is my version. It’s not too different from his though I adjusted the amounts of the ingredients a little here and there. I also added garlic because I love it paired with mushrooms and thyme.
When making this dish, try to find as many different varieties of mushrooms as you can. It should celebrate them. I was unlucky as when I went there wasn’t any variety! So strange as I can usually find about 5 types.
Technique for Mushroom and Feta
Prep the ingredients prior to starting to cook, including the bulger wheat, as it does not take long to cook. The original recipe calls for adding salt and pepper to the bulger before soaking but I decided not to do that. I’m a huge lover of salt but I knew there would be plenty of that flavour from the feta and I seasoned the mushrooms as they cooked.
In a skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and cook the onions for several minutes until they soften and begin to caramelise. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin seeds. Stir and keep an eye on the seeds. You don’t want them to burn but you do want them to brown. Remove the onion and seeds, set aside.
If need be, add a bit more olive oil and then sauté the mushrooms. Once they begin to brown add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes then add another 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seed and the thyme. Again cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar and stir. This will reduce and absorb quite quickly. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the onions, and let warm through, about a minute. Spoon over mixed lettuce and garnish with more fresh dill. Serve immediately.
We really enjoyed this dish and I’m going to add this as a choice for the food bowls we do for lunch. Hopefully I’ll have better choice with the mushrooms.
Mushrooms flavoured with thyme and dill, accompanied by feta over lettuce.
Mushroom and Feta
AuthorOur Growing Paynes
boiling water, enough to cover the bulger wheat
1/2cupfinely sliced red onion
1-1 1/2cupssliced mixed mushrooms
3cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1tbspfresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh chopped dill
1/2cupcrumbled feta cheese
1-2tspred pepper flakes
2cups mixed lettuce
Place the bulger wheat into a bowl and cover with boiling water until the water is an inch over the wheat. The bulger wheat will expand by quite a bit. Keep covered by a tea towel until all the water is absorbed.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat in a skillet and add the onion. Cook until it starts to soften and caramelise. Should take about 7 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seed. Cook, careful not to burn, until they are nicely browned. This will only take a couple of minutes. Remove the mixture from the skillet and set aside.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil. Heat on high and add the mushrooms. Because the olive oil has a low smoke point, keep an eye on it and lower to medium-high if it starts to catch. When the mushrooms start to brown, add the garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the thyme and the rest of the cumin seeds. Stir well and again cook for a few minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar while stirring. This will reduce and absorb quickly. Add all the other ingredients including the onion mixture. Allow it to warm through.
To serve, divide the lettuce between 2 plates, top with the mushroom mixture and garnish with fresh dill.
I’ve been on a bit of a vegetarian kick lately when I’ve been looking for new recipes. I came across a Mushroom Leek Pie with a creamy gravy, though Attachment Mummy’s recipe was vegan. I’ve no problem, obviously, with vegan dishes but I’m not a fan of dairy substitutes so I decided to go just with vegetarian for this dish. And since the hill towns in our area saw snow this week, comfort food is all the range round here!
We did manage to start to get some plants in that won’t do well in frost. I may have been tempting fate but we’ll see. We’re going to have a bed for edible flowers and then a bed for cut flowers. Any suggestions for what to plant would be greatly appreciated. Hopefully, if all goes well this summer there will be some recipes inspired by the edible flower bed.
Technique for Mushroom Leek Pie
Chop up all the ingredients. Melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the garlic and mushrooms.
Depending on how much butter the mushrooms soak up, you may need to add more butter when it comes time to make the roux. They can be quite the sponges!
When the mushrooms start to brown add the oregano and leeks. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the flour and mustard.
I like my gravies in pies to be thick so I added the 1/3 cup of flour. If you don’t like it overly thick go with a 1/4 cup. The mixture will get thick and a bit stiff. Stir while cooking for a few minutes then add the white wine. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the milk and bring to a boil while stirring. You don’t want a roiling boil and keep an eye as it can boil over quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Add the parmesan cheese.
Taste and adjust the flavours as needed. You want to make sure the mustard and oregano come through the milk. Make up the pastry and roll out thinly. Spoon the mushroom and leek mixture into ramekins. Cover with the pastry. Use a knife to pierce the top and brush milk all over.
Bake at 400F/200C until the pastry is flaky and golden brown.
Serve immediately. If you save some of this for another day, go with the 1/4 cup flour as it does get even thicker as leftovers.