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Archive for March, 2009

Prima Vera Luncheon

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A little peak at what I had for lunch today.  Mmmm.  Left over, home made prima vera sauce on a slice of toasted, organic, sun dried tomato bread, sprinkled liberally with fresh basil and Parmesan.  A great way to break the day.

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Toronto, and I’d feel safe saying the rest of Canada, is waiting for the Spring.  We’ve reached that point in the year where we all start looking expectantly at the empty flowerbeds, strewn still with the remains of last autumn’s debris, hoping for that first glimmer of life; that tiny speck of brilliant, fresh green amidst the somber grey-browns.   We’re all needing some colour to freshen our senses and I’m drawn like a mouse to cheese by the buckets of bright, optimistic tulips lining the outsides of corner stores along the high streets.  At this time of year I find my palate also yearning for something fresh and bright and exciting.  All those gorgeous, comfy stews and thick, hearty soups are starting to seem old and overused and while I’ve no doubt I’ve a few left to make before the sweet peas bloom I needed a little something with attitude on the tongue this past weekend.  A vibrant, exotic Red Curry was dished up with plenty of fresh Cilantro, chili and coconut and to finish this little gem, which is cool and creamy and oh, so delicately flavoured with star anise, lime and cardamom.

*note: I served these little yummers with a good dollop of home made Meyer Lemon curd on the side.  Deeeelish.

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Lime and Coconut Creme Brulee

1 cup whipping cream (35% fat)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 whole star anise
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 egg
3 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar

about 2 Tbsp sugar extra

– Preheat the oven to 320˚F. Put a full kettle of water on to boil. Have a deep oven dish ready (a lasagna dish or a roasting tin for example).

– put the cream, coconut milk, lime zest, star anise and cardamom in a saucepan and scald (heat until just before boiling, when little bubbles and a bit of steam come off the surface).  Cover and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

– In a separate bowl beat the egg, yolks and sugar until well mixed but no longer than necessary.

– When the cream mixture has infused, stir in the egg mixture then strain the whole lot to get rid of the spices.

– Pour the custard into 6 small, individual oven proof dishes (ramekins are traditional, but I used oven proof glasses).  Put the dishes in the large oven proof dish and fill the dish with hot water to come half way up the side of the ramekins.

– Bake for 20 – 25 mins until the custard is almost, but not quite, set. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room tempurature

– Refridgerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

-Just before serving, remove from fridge and sprinkle each little creme with about a teaspoon of sugar.  Caramalise the sugar using either a blow torch or by placing the creme’s under a very hot grill for a few seconds.

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Filo Pastry Apple Pie

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I love a bit of pastry, this is true.  There’s not much I’m not willing to either pile on top of, wrap up in or top with a bit of flaky, buttery pastry.  Surprisingly, I haven’t been making pastries all that long.  In fact, up until a few years ago the thought of making my own pastry left me feeling somewhat the way I do when I’m staring at my tax return and trying to do judicial judgement to the hard work my accountant has done filling in the forms by pretending to try and understand what’s what.  My first real encounter with a pastry-maker (person not machine) that I can remember was in the late 90’s here in Canada, at the home of the inspirational Mrs R, who would send us off into the Canadian Summer to pick raspberries, strawberries and the like and then make the most delicious pies from the buckets of sweet, sticky fruit we’d brought home.  She made it all look so simple, the way my accountant makes such simple sense of all those numbers floating on the page in front of him.  And yet, when I finally built up the courage to give it a go myself (the pastry, not the accounts) I was almost horrified to discover that (a) it was easy and (b) it was fun.  Horrified, that is, that I’d spent so many years in shy awe at anyone who claimed to make their own pastry.  Perhaps I’ll find the same one day with my taxes, though I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Most the pastries I’ve made over the years have been of a similar variety: shortcrust.  I’ve not yet managed to confront the lurking monster that is puff pastry and continue to buy mine frozen, knowing full well that I’m compromising somewhat in flavour and quality but not willing to perform what Ms Glaze makes look like fabulous theatre.  However, there is one pastry that I really don’t think I will ever bother to learn the knack of making because, let’s be honest, why would you? Filo pastry is that one pastry that I really think is absolutely essential to buy, freeze and have at hand just in case. In case of what, you might ask?  In case of Apple Pie, that’s what:

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The process for this was really simple, although the slices would have held their shape better if I’d let the pie cool properly before slicing.  But sometimes one is completely overwhelmed by a sheer lack of Pie-Patience and one Must Eat Pie Now.

Start with a box of thawed Filo pastry, unwrapped on a board and covered with a damp tea towel to stop it from drying out.

Peel, core and thinly slice a couple crisp, green apples like granny smith. Put them in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon. Mix this with a couple tablespoons of sugar, a good sprinkle of cinnamon and a pinch of cloves.

Measure out a cup of walnuts, slightly chopped up.

Melt some butter, probably around 50g or so, in a small saucepan.

Grease a small springform pan (I used a 20cm one).

Line the pan with a layer of Filo, brush with butter and repeat with 3 more layers of filo and butter.  Now place a layer of apple, then walnuts then filo and butter again and repeat until the pan is full and the ingredients used up, finishing with a pretty layer of apple and some nuts.

Dot with a bit more butter and bake in at 375 for 30 – 35 mins until the pie is bubbling and browned.  I burned the apple on the top of mine, so keep and eye and if the apples start to get too crisp, put a layer of foil over the top for protection.

Allow the pie to cool for about 10 mins before loosening the tin.  And maybe a good bit longer than I did before slicing.

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winter-trees

Just so you know that I haven’t yet succumbed to martyrdom with my runny nose and blocked sinuses (how is that even possible at the same time?) I thought I’d write a line about breakfast.

Occasionally, far, far too occasionally in my mind, my dearly beloved friend, the sparklingly gorgeous Ms K stays overnight at our house on a visit from her new home town of NYC. While I always love the easy, breezy time we always spend on either side of the couch chatting and sipping tea/hot choc/cocktails as if no time at all has passed since our last gathering, and I especially love the thought of her snuggled up in the big white duvet on the sleeper couch downstairs, I particularly, selfishly even, love the thought of getting to make her breakfast in the morning.  Partly because it’s what I do for those I love, partly because I know that not many of her other friends would do that and partly because, Ms K being one of the slightly fussier eaters I know, I always get to make pancakes for her.  An opportunity to make pancakes for breakfast is an opportunity for a good day, if you ask me.  Have you ever made pancakes for breakfast and gone on to have a bad day?  That, unlike my runny nose/blocked sinuses, just I has to be impossible, non?

La vie, c’est bon.

And while the batter, for reasons I’m going to just go ahead and blame on my cold, simply did not perform but insisted instead on being too runny and made pancakes altogether too squishy and crepe-like to be Real American Pancakes, the whole affair still undertook to hold together and be fabulous.  We managed to wolf an impressive quantity down, complimented by a blueberry and raspberry compote and covered in a caramelised white chocolate crem.

Sorry there aren’t any pictures.  Well.  That I’ll just blame on my cold as well.  Why not?

*cough

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