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Archive for June, 2007

Spicy Mayan Chocolate Mousse

Who doesn’t love a bit of chocolate? I’ve gone, through the years, from gorging myself on sweet, Cadbury’s Milks Chocolate as child at easter, to savouring a small piece of dark, almost black, 88% cocoa under my tongue in a sort of ecstasy. On lazy Sunday afternoons in the Winter, the ever-present Winter sun of the Highveld would stream through our living room windows and we would all sit around, as a family, on the floor or the sofas, reading consecutive bits of the Sunday Paper and nibbling on the 3 or 4 slabs of chocolate my Mom had bought earlier on.  Mint or Topdeck were my nibbles of choice.  I loved to split the white from the dark on the Topdeck to melt each in my mouth separately.

I was really only introduced to the idea of adding chili to chocolate a few years ago in an ice-cream confection in a cosy restaurant in Johannesburg. The idea of adding a spice used traditionally in savoury dishes to a sweet scoop of ice-cream was both foreign and exhilarating to me, and I was hooked straight away. What a combination!

Spicy Mayan Chocolate Mousse

200 g dark chocolate (60 – 70 %)
120 ml heavy cream
4 tsp sugar
6 egg whites
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cayene pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves

– melt chocolate in a large bain marie

– Heat cream with spices until just boiling, remove from heat

– Add cream to chocolate and mix until mixture thickens and is completely smooth

– Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue whipping until stiff, but not dry

– Take about 2 Tbsp egg white and mix into chocolate mix to lighten. Gently fold in the rest of the egg white in 4 batches until incorporated

– Makes 6 – 8 individual portions or one large bowl

– Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating, can be made the day before.

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Apricot and Stilton Pots

These are perfect for a brunch or a tea or just a little snacky thing. The apricot and cumin flavours really work well with the rich flavour of the Stilton. Good apricots are a difficult thing to buy. They’re such a delicate fruit, which bruise so easily when ripe, that the suppliers pick and ship them while green and let them ripen off the tree. When I was growing up we had some fruit trees on the property: peach, plum and apricot, and nothing compares to a hand-picked, quickly eaten apricot, warm from the sun. My gran used to make jam from the fruit, which could never compete with anything bought in a store. Of course, living on the 10th floor of a building in the middle of the city, makes growing your own a little difficult, so I’m making do with what I have and when I find some in good nick, I have no choice but to buy them immediately.Apricot and Stilton Pots

Apricot and Stilton Cups

Makes 12 small cups

Pastry
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp fennel seed, crushed
125 g butter, chilled
¼ to ½ cup chilled water

Filling
¼ cup ground almonds
1 egg
¼ cup sugar
62 g butter (3 Tbsp)
½ tsp Cumin
± 100g English Stilon cheese

6 fresh aprictots, halved and stoned

to make pastry: mix all dry ingredients well. Chop butter into 1cm cubes and blitz in the food processor, or rub with your fingertips until mix resembles breadcrumbs, or oatmeal. Add cold water and mix just until dough comes together. Separate into two even pieces, flatten into discs, cover with cling wrap and refridgerate about 20 mins

– on a floured surface, roll out one disc at a time to about 3 mm in thickness. Using a cookie cutter or a small bowl, but rounds a bit bigger than the diameter of your muffin tins. Grease each tin (or uses muffin papers) line with pastry and refrigerate the whole sheet for 10 mins.

– Blind bake the shells at 350˚ F for 7 – 10 mins. Allow to cool.

to make filling: Mix all ingredients except cheese with a beater until smooth. Crumble cheese into mixture and fold in gently

– fill each shell with about 1½ Tbsp of cheese filling

– top with half an apricot, skin side up

– bake at 420˚F for 20 – 25 mins until golden

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Apple and Onion Chutney with Butterflied Pork

On a beautiful, clear and warm Sunday, what could be lovelier than a ferry trip to the Toronto Islands for a picnic brunch with some friends? I know, we’ve been having an awful lot of picnics lately, but what is one to do when the weather has been treating us so beautifully and we want nothing more than to be outside somewhere green. The Island is the perfect place for some reclining under a tree. You don’t hear any traffic, it being a car free zone (with the exception of the odd City of Toronto vehicle) and the breeze off the lake, along with the rich vegetation, keeps the air smelling sweet and fresh and truly good. It’s a good place to take your bicycle or rollerblades and do some sweating before a yummy picnic. We found a good spot under a shady willow and had a meal of pain au chocolat, bagels and cream cheese, coffee and apricot and Stilton cups I’d baked the night before. I’ll post the recipe for that at a later stage.

After all that nibbling and snacking through the day, added to some running around and plenty of sun, a good, solid meal was called for to end a great Summer weekend. Mr P and I hit the kitchen together and in record time we whipped up a dinner for two of butterflied pork, apple and onion chutney, baby potatoes roasted with baby red onions, lemon, rosemary and olive oil and a fresh garden salad. Mr P is one of those people who doesn’t like the sweetness of a plain apple sauce with his pork, so I thought this chutney, based on the cherry and rhubarb one from the duck a couple of days ago, would add be an interesting compliment with it’s slightly spicy, aromatic sweetness.

Apple and Onion Chutney

1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground sage
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
big pinch salt

1 Tbsp veg oil (I use Canola)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 large cloves garlic

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup

1 large white onion (I used Spanish) chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced into ½ inch pieces

– Combine all spices in a small bowl and mix

– Heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook until they start popping. Allow to pop for a few seconds, then add garlic. Don’t let the garlic brown or it becomes bitter. Remove from heat and cool slightly

– Add sugar, vinegars and syrup and heat gently until sugar dissolves.

– Add apple and onion and increase heat to simmer. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, about 25 – 30 mins.

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En Plein Air

Appledore Cheese

We’re determined to make the most of every moment of freedom the long, hot days of Summer offer us here. Instead of spending an hour in the kitchen, cooking up pots of dinner and then sitting at the table eating a civilised meal, last night Mr P and I packed up some of the deliciousness I’d picked up from the Market earlier in the afternoon and headed off to the park to meet some friends for a wonderful, relaxed evening of food and chat and ball throwing. There’s nothing like a midweek picnic, we’ve discovered, to keep one living each day like a gift.

We tried some new cheeses, a semi-hard, slightly sweet and spicy white cheese called Appeldore (literally Golden Apple) with it’s woody, apple aroma’s and a hint of cinnamon; a super soft, runny cheese from France called Fromage D’Affinois and a Basque sheepsmilk cheese that I’m in love with. Add to that some asparagus spinache quiche, fig tarts, the remaining black cherries and a new crop of strwberries and a baguette and you’ve got a veritable feast. And a great way to use up cold left overs.

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I’m sensing a trend here with individual tarts. There’s something I truly love about individual little servings. I tend to fall in love with an idea, a theme or a genre and then horsewhip it until it’s out of my system for a while.

Our Tuesday picnic dinner was rained out by a thunderstorm, which at least lifted the hot humid conditions to something more suited to a morning game of tennis, but it meant that I had to think of something quickly for dinner in place of the cheese and baguette I’d planned. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe, adapted from one on Frenchfood, ever since I bought some fat, juicy looking Organic Duck breasts from the Healthy Butcher on Queen. It’s also nearing the end of Cherry season here, and I needed to make use of those gorgeous, almost black berries while they are still available. Plus, I still had a bunch of garden rhubarb in the fridge from the Farmer’s market last week.

I’m afraid I didn’t get a picture of the duck, though it was delicious. We just ate it up too quickly! We’re trying to make the most of the long daylight hours and wanted to get out to the park to throw ball before it was too late. Hmmm. It’s lovely being able to spend so much time outside.

Cherry and Rhubarb Chutney

makes enough for 4 – 6 people

1/4 sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
pinch Cayenne pepper, or one small red chili minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups rhubarb, chopped to 1cm pieces
2 cups black cherries, pitted (tart yellow cherries work well too)
1 medium brown onion, halved and sliced

– combine all ingredients except rhubarb, cherries and onion in a heavy based saucepan and heat gently, stirring to melt sugar.

– add fresh ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 mins until rhubarb is soft and mixture is thick. Allow to cool a few mins before eating.

– serve with grilled duck breast. Yum

Fig Tart


French Fig Tarts

makes 6

Pate Brisee (I used the whole wheat one from the Asparagus tart, but added a pinch of sugar and a pinch of cardamon before adding the chilled water)

6 – 8 black Mission figs, cut into 8 wedges each
1/3 cup ground almond
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
60 ml unsalted butter

– Set oven to 425˚F

– line tart tins with pastry, refrigerate 10 mins, bake blind for ± 10 mins, let cool

– beat almond, egg, sugar and butter until smooth. Refrigerate 10 mins until firm

– divide Almond butter between shells

– arrange figs on top of butter

– bake 25 – 30 mins

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Asparagus, spinach and Danish Blue cheese tart

A little something for lunch.

During the Summer, here in Toronto, there’s a Farmer’s Market on a Tuesday afternoons in the Trinity Bellwoods Park. I popped in a week ago and bought all sorts of fresh, seasonal and organically grown produce. Stuff thathasn’t been sitting in a van for a day on it’s way to a store, stuff that hasn’t been packaged in useless, throw-away, environmentally infriendly packaging. Despite the fact that today’s show was rained out by a tremendous, cleansing thunderstorm, I had wanted to make sure I had used up all the remainders before restocking. Voila, a gorgeous, easy little set of quiche-style tarts to eat for lunch, or a starter for a Summer picnic in the park.

Asparagus, Spinache and Danish Blue Quiche

1 Portion of whole wheat savory tart shell pastry

15 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped (about 300g)
1/2 tsp castor sugar
salt and pepper
15 ml plain flour
4 large eggs
3 tbsp crem frais
280 ml low fat milk
100g Danish Blue cheese
60 ml grated Parmesan

-Heat oven to 375˚F

-Make pastry ; blind bake individual tarts ; cool

-Heat oil and butter gently in a skillet and sautè onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 mins. Add spinach and thyme and sugar and cook another 5 mins until soft. Let cool slightly.

-Beat eggs, crem frais and milk in a large bowl

-Fold flour into spinach mix, season to taste ; mix into egg mixture

-stir in aparagus, blue cheese and half parmesan

-fill tart shells with mixture, sprinkle with remaining parmesan and bake ±30 mins until set

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