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Archive for the ‘fall’ Category

chicken-roast-dijon-comb

There’s something special, to me, about a whole roast chicken.  Well, any bird in the oven, really.  I roasted my first turkey last year for Thanksgiving, in a snug little cottage on a windswept and storm battered peninsula in Newfoundland and it was just wonderful.  I mean, the dinner was lovely and all, but the moment, the coup de grace, was bringing that bird, golden brown and steaming hot, to the table.  It’s hard not to smile in anticipation when the bird is brought to the table.  Whole roast birds say Holiday and Celebration to me in a way a frosted martini never could.  A golden bird on the table tells tales of friends and family gathered together to share a meal and be satisfied.  So, every now and then the ever epicurean Mr P and I throw a bird in the oven, regardless of occasion or lack thereof, and have ourselves a little feast for two.  A chicken, I’ve found, is just about the right size for the two of us to have an impressive dinner and leave enough left over meat for at least two pasta sauces and a chicken mayo sandwich or two.

Also, quite frankly, I love a roast because it’s just so easy and so little fuss.  Great for entertaining, one can prep the bird and veg in advance pop it in the oven at the right time and then not only does your house smell simply divine by the time the guests arrive but you don’t have to spend the evening stirring pots and checking the sauce on the stove while missing out on the juicy chit chat over cocktails with the company.

When buying a bird I always buy organic, free range if possible.  I do the same with my eggs.  I don’t want to go into the politics of industrially reared animals and the inhumane conditions they’re kept in.  Other than it being the socially responsible thing to do, organic free range chickens just taste better.  An animal carries it’s lifestyle in it’s flavour at the end of the day, not to mention it’s nutrition.

I only recently started doing a roast with a thermometer (instead of the juice-runs-clear method) and, for me, there’s no other way to go.  It’s not let me down yet!

chicken-roast-dijon-4

Roast Chicken with Garlic and Dijon
and a Sun Dried Tomato Stuffing

1 large, organic chicken
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each)

10 cloves garlic, just peeled

for the stuffing:
¼ cup bread crumbs
6 – 8 sun dried tomatoes, drained (if in oil) and chopped
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
¼ cup white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
black pepper

– take the bird out of the fridge an hour before cooking it, to let it warm up to room temperature.

– preheat your oven to 400˚ F, with the rack in the middle.

– rinse the bird, inside and out, and pat dry.

– mix all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl.

– whisk together the Dijon, oil and salt and pepper.  They won’t want to mix very well, that’s okay.

– with your fingers, gently separate the skin on the breast from the meat.  I find it quite easy to start at the neck end and carefully work a couple fingers between the skin and meat.

– stuff 3 of the garlic cloves down each breast, between the skin and the meat.

– at the thickest part of the tight, make a deep slice with a sharp knife, cross ways to the length.  Push 2 garlic cloves into each gash.

– now stuff the cavity of the chicken with the sun dried tomato mix.

Tie the chicken up with kitchen string. instructions here if you need them.

– rub the oil/Dijon mix evenly over the skin of the chicken.

– place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan.  I put my potatoes, if we’re having, in with the chicken, but  I usually roast other veg (like carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and parsnips) in a separate dish.

– roast the chicken this way for 10 or 15 minutes, then take it out the oven, turn it breast side up and roast again for about 30 minutes, checking often, until the juices run clear or a thermometer inserted between the body and thigh is at 165˚ F.

– if you notice that the skin is getting too brown before the bird is cooked, put a loose piece of tin foil over the top of the bird to protect it.

– when the bird is done, remove from oven, place a piece of foil and a tea towl on top of it and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.


chicken-roast-dijon

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Okay. I’m sorry for the awful pun. Although, I know that once you taste this scrumptious little mound of deliciousness you’ll forgive me in an instant. I’ve been holding on to this little gem for a while now, not because I didn’t want to share, but because it somehow, as things occasionally do in the manic digital mayhem that can be our lives, got lost in the ether, so to speak. Having finally surfaced from wherever it is that pear puddings go to holiday, I’m finally getting around to sharing it. This pudding seemed to be thwarted at so many points in it’s short life at it’s time in the lime light. Having been originally made to appear as a piece de resistance at the end of one of more decadent dinners the ever fabulous Mr P and I hosted, it was politely refused it’s place of glory when a second dessert appeared, as if by magic, in the hands of one of our guests. Not having been the first time a guest has brought a dessert to the table (and let me tell you, what a dessert it was! A pear pudding knows when to gracefully bow out to superior forces) I was well versed at organising a suitable Sunday Tea for the consumption of said pudding. However, a pear pudding’s prime not being as long as Madonna’s, a new set of Tea Guests were sadly disappointed with a somewhat dry, if tasty, bit of pud. Not to be out done, Pear Pudding was dutifully recreated to it’s original glory and enjoyed by all. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Having the visual idea in my head of what I wanted my pear pudding to look like, but no recipe to follow or adapt, I did the next best thing and combined a couple of different recipe’s. I used the basics from a Women’s Weekly Pear Tart Tatin (from their New French Food cookbook) to caramelise the pears and a basic pudding recipe for the rest (thanks grandma). Best served with clotted cream.

Caramelised Pear Pudding

for the caramel pears
3 large Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
90g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream

for the pudding batter
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon

– slice the pears length ways into 1cm (½”) wide slices, keeping their peary shape. Keep the middle, pear shaped slices whole and chop the remaining bits into cubes. You need about 10 of the pear shaped slices for the sides of the pudding basin.

– heat the butter, sugar and cream slowly in a large, heavy based saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pear slices and chopped bits to the caramel and bring to the boil.

– simmer over a low heat, turning the pears every so often, for about 25 minutes, until the pears are tender. Remove from heat, drain pears from caramel, reserving sauce.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 500ml pudding basin

– for the batter, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

– beat in the eggs, one at a time.

– sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture and mix until just incorporated.

– stir in small, chopped pear pieces

– line your greased pudding bowl with the pear shaped slices, alternating head to toe. Us two slices to line the bottom of the basin. (chop up any remaining pieces and add to pudding batter.)

– coat the pears in half the reserved caramel.

– fill the basin with pudding mixture and top with the rest of the caramel sauce.

– bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes (checking often after 25 mins) until set in the middle.

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Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese

I might have mentioned, in the last few posts, all the culinary disasters that have emanated from my kitchen over the last couple of weeks, while I’ve familiarised myself with new cooking appliances. Well, okay, a bad workman always blames his tools, right? So I suppose I have to take just a wee bit of the blame moi-meme, though I’ll still try to look like the poor blameless victim and blame my flops on mental distraction due to life upheaval and an over abundance of missing kitchen gadgets and unpacked boxes. Anyway, some spiteful, slightly belligerent part of me has insisted on getting it right in one respect: those darn Pumpkin Fritters I made my gracious friends pretend to like at a Sunday tea. Poor dears, they put on brave faces one and all, while covering up the cinders with extra honey spiced cream cheese. “Wow, this cream cheese is great, what ever is in it?”, was a common cry from the infantry on the couch.

One of my Mother’s great food hugs, in my opinion, is the Pumpkin Fritter. Up there with crumpets, these little scrunchions of delight would appear sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, still hot from the pan and drenched in fresh butter and apricot jam. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it that far as my brother and I would hang around the stove grabbing one as it came off the egg flip. I can’t remember, thinking back now, whether they were an Autumn treat or just a general now-and-again treat, seeing as how Every Season is Pumpkin Season where I come from… Oh, I did try to recreate those marvelous morsels for that awful tea…

Not to be defeated, this time I put my war paint on and, wielding my largest (and favouritestest) Henkles 4-star (le sigh) bravely attacked a real, live butternut for the purposes. Forget that canned stuff, which was half the problem with the first lot and probably had my great-grandmother turning in the grave (it just seemed so much easier than the thought of peeling and cooking a pumpkin when the guests were expected any moment now.) Pumpkin Fritters seem to be one of those uniquely South African things. Just ask any obliging South African about Pumpkin Fritters and they usually get that far away look in the eyes. Here in North America (as far as I can tell) a fritter is a doughnut type thing, deep fried and considered bad for you in that McDonalds kind of a way. Not so the humble Pumpkin Fritter. It usually uses real pumpkin, eggs, flour and a bit of sugar. In the traditional waste-not-want-not kind of a way a lot of South African food evolved, pumpkin fritters were usually made from last night’s dinner left over pumpkin. Add some spices and you’re A-for-away. Also, Butternut is slightly sweeter and more, well, buttery than regular boere pampoen (farmer’s pumpkin), which really made for a softer, less floury fritter at the end of the day.

I teamed the end results with another Autumn favourite of mine: quince, poached with ginger and star anise. The ever experimental Mr P does have his faults, one of which is his dislike for all things ginger and I have to say, I had great satisfaction watching him wolf down his dessert knowing that he had no idea he was so thoroughly enjoying a gingered treat. I knew it! He just thinks he doesn’t like ginger! I guess from now on I’ll be making “cinnamon-spice-breadmen” and “molasses-spice-houses” around Christmas time… ha!

Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese 2

Butternut Fritters with Ginger-poached Quince and Honey Spice Cream Cheese

For the poached quince:
1 large quince, cored and cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 star anise (I used 3 for extra flavour)
3 cardamom pods
hot water, enough to almost but not quite cover quince (about 1½ cups)

For the fritters:
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut (I used ¼ of a large butternut)

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugarQuince and Ginger
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
⅓ cup flour
1 – 2 Tbsp milk

For the honey spiced cream cheese
1 tub plain cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp milk

1. Poach the quince
– put all spices and sugar in a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Add quince and more water if necessary. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours until quince is tender. Remove from heat, cool, remove hard spices and reserve.

2. Make the Honey spiced cream cheese
-mix all ingredients together

3. Make the Fritters
– beat the butternut with the egg and sugar

– Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin. Mix then add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

– Heat a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Cook about 3 Tbs worth of batter per fritter, as you would a pancake: 1 minute or so per side.

4. Serve!
– Top 3 or so fritters with quince, cream cheese and some reserved quince juice.

Quince

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Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

We’re having our first snow here in Toronto. Big, fat flakes have been falling all day and the temperatures are just right to allow for picture perfect moments: cold enough that the snow doesn’t instantly turn into boot-eating slush but warm enough to allow a certain amount of frolicking in the streets. A cookie baking kind of day, which is exactly where I tend to go once I’ve finished this post. I’m thinking something spicy-autumny, not quite Christmasy. Too early for that kind of talk. We’ve still some Autumn dishes to get through in my house! Even though one must admit to oneself, even if one thinks one can forestall the moment by buying butternuts and plums at the market, that the Winter is not only on it’s way but parking it’s car in the drive and walking up the path to the front door. And once one has admitted the close proximity of Winter, one can quite gladly take the Canada Goose Coat out of it’s box, fluff it up and actually enjoy the snow outside. The fabulous Mr P and I are so equally and utterly in Smit with our Canada Goose coats, that when we see other “Ducks” on the street we share a little glance of smugness and glee.

And speaking of duck…

Duck still seems like a fairly exotic dish to me. Growing up, poultry consisted of Chicken, Chicken and, um, Chicken. That said, duck isn’t any more difficult to deal with than Ye Olde Chicken and since it’s a readily available thing at the butcher these days I tend to keep a portion or two lying around for sudden inspiration. Like this. Mr P got his hands dirty in on this one, though it was almost a case of Two many cooks spoiled the duck. Do we chop the raw duck first and then fry it, or fry it then chop it. How thick should the slices be? Should we remove the fat before cooking it? After cooking it? At all? In the end, after a small glass of wine and some introspection the following happened.

*note: it’s really worth getting a fresh, egg pasta for this. I’m not patient enough to make my own (yet) but I made sure to get the best I could find. Why waste the duck on industrial spaghetti, is my thinking…

Also, I got the olives from “the olive guy” at the market, but you can really use any olives you prefer.

Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

Duck Breast with Rosemary and Green Olives

2 duck breasts, with fat on
Dried Rosemary, about 1 + ½ tsp
Fleur de sel
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Roasted Green Olives, about
⅓ cup
Good, fresh pasta, enough for 2
2 Tbsp good basil pesto
– Rinse the duck breast and pat dry with paper towel

– with fat side lying up, cut through the fat in gashes about 1 inch apart

-season breast with salt and Rosemary, making sure some rosemary is in the cuts

-fry duck breasts in a non stick, heavy bottomed pan for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side until meat is browned and fat is brown and starting to get crispy. Remove from heat and cool until handle-able. Slice the breast into ½ inch thick slices. They should still be quite raw in the middle.

– put the pasta on to cook

– In the duck fat left in the pan, fry the onion and garlic until caramelised. Add duck breast and olives and cook until meat is cooked, about 5 mins.

– Drain pasta and add to the duck, along with the pesto, mixing well before serving. Add some olive oil if you think it needs it (I found the duck fat more than enough lubrication)

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Butternut and ham soup

If you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere right now, like I am, you may well be in need of a little warming up.  Not too many people I know dislike Autumn, or fall, as it’s appropriately called here (anyone wanting to know Why it’s called Fall in North America, and not Autumn, need only take a long walk in a park or the countryside to find out); the colours, the hearty food, the smell of damp leaves and wood fire.  It’s all good, as they say.  Well, I’m heading to Vancouver for a few days and it’s forecast to be rain rain rain the whole way.  A little fortification is called for, so a butternut and ham soup for lunch is the best answer I can think of.   Soups are delightfully simple to make (on the most part), invigorating in the chill, and healthy too, when prepared with good ingredients.  This soup is lightly spiced with paprika and cumin, and the butternut and diced ham were roasted in a hot oven for 45 mins before being boiled into the soup.  Does this affect the flavour? You got me there, but I’ll tell you this: my house smelled divine for hours after from the doings of the oven.  Curl up on the couch with woolen socks, a cosy blankie and tuck in.

butternut

Bon Voyage, a le prochaine semaine!

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Apple Mulberry Pie

Mmmm.  What more can you say about apple pie?  Well, actually, I can think of a thing or two.  Let’s be honest.  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like apple pie, even if it’s somewhere deep down inside your most private thoughts?  Saying you don’t like apple pie is like saying you don’t like puppies, or the Seychelles, or the Sound of Music.  Ahem.  You know, a friend once told me, long, long ago, in a far away land, that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like the Sound of Music and those who pretend they don’t.

I always have to be strict with myself regarding apple pie: to wait wait wait for the fresh crop of apples in the early autumn to make apple pie.  It’s all about eating seasonally, non? And yet every now and then I will break down and buy apples in April or May, those shipped in from South Africa or last season’s released from months of cold storage and make a big old apple pie.  Yet, that first pie of Autumn, with it’s super crisp, slightly tangy, tart apples is better than the Seychelles, better than it all, and a reminder to us all to be patient next year and just wait a few more months.  This pudding definitely has the proof in it.

*note: the dried white Mulberries where a gift to me from my wonderful friend, Ms A, who has opened my eyes to the culinary wonders of Persian food in all it’s glory.  You should be able to find them at any Iranian or Middle Eastern food store.

Apple Mulberry Pie 2

Apple and White Mulberry Pie

1 x pate brise
– 2 cups flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar
– 2 sticks cold butter
– ¼ – ½ cup ice water

filling:
1 cup dried white mulberries
1 Tbsp Whiskey
Hot water
2 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch salt
2 Tbsp butter

– put the mulberries in a small bowl, cover with hot water and whiskey and allow to sit for a at least an hour to soften.

Make the pastry:
– whisk together flour, salt and sugar.

– chop cold butter into small pieces and then run into the flour mix until it starts to resemble oat meal with pea sized chunks of butter.

– add water and mix with your hands until a dough just starts to form.  Dump the almost-dough onto a piece of cling wrap.  Divide the mix into two, putting the other half onto another piece of cling film.  Shap each piece into a rough disc, cover completely with plastic and pop in the fridge for an hour.

– pre heat the oven to 440˚F

– remove one half of the chilled dough at a time and roll out into a circle, large enough to line the pie tin with a a good 1½ inch flap over.  use one half to line a greased pie tin, in the fridge, and keep the other flat, on a baking sheet in the fridge for the top.  Refrigerate pastry for another 15 – 20 mins while you prepare the filling.

– mix apples with lemon juice, flour, sugar and spices, leave at room temp for 10 mins.  Add mulberries and mix.

– take pie shell out of the fridge. Fill with apple mulberry mix and dot with butter.

– Brush edges of pie crust with water and place top pastry over the filling, pressing down on the edges to seal the pie.  Trim the pastry edge to a 1 inch over hang. Tuck top pastry under bottom along the edges to form a good seal.  Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to reinforce and decorate pie edge.  Cut 4 slits into the pie, starting from about 2 inches short of the top and running to about 4 inches from the edge for steam vents.

– decorate with pastry leaves, if desired, and brush pastry with milk or beaten egg.

– place you oven shelf on the lowest rung available and bake pie for 50 – 60 mins until juices are bubbling out of the slits and the pastry is golden brown.

Apples and Mulberries

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the perfect apple

I received a phone call from a wonderful friend the other day. “I’m so excited,” she quirped, ” I’m outside a fruit stall and I’ve found the most perfect apples. They’re just too beautiful, I’m going to buy you one.” My kind of friend. And she was right. When we met up later at the Farmers Market, which has sort of become a naughty habitude of ours, she plonked her find down on the picnic table we were sitting at, snacking on various freshly bought goodies, and grinned at me. “Don’t you think?” she asked. I did. I thought very much. Just perfect. It’s colour somewhere between ochre and chartreuse, the size of a softball, and firm and crisp in texture. I got home, gave it pride of place in the fruit bowl and spent 2 days looking at it before deciding just what would be the perfect ouvre for this perfect apple. A perfect, early autumn apple. A bread pudding perhaps? Could it be that simple?

So, the problem I’ve always had with bread pudding is that it often felt like some sort of punishment at home. I was known, as a child (and sometimes as an adult), for living with ‘my head in cloud nine’, as my Mum would say. There were plenty occasions growing up where I left my lunch behind on the kitchen counter: peanut butter and jam sandwiches neatly wrapped in wax paper; only to find, later that starving day, that we were having bread pudding for dinner. Peanut butter and jam bread pudding. Needless to say, it’s taken me a bit of time to confront the bread pudding demon from my past and establish that it is, indeed, one of the greatest of comfort puddings known to man. And downright thrifty too, if you don’t mind me saying. In fact, I might go so far as to say that bread pudding is quite possibly the only acceptable way to head into autumn. An army marches on its stomach, after all. Best be prepared, non?

Apple nut bread pudding

Apple and Four Nut Bread Pudding

feeds 4 (or 2 with leftovers for round two the next day)

4 slices whole grain bread
butter, enough for spreading bread, greasing dish and dotting on pudding
6 – 8 Tbsp sweetened Chestnut Spread (creme de Marrons)
1 big (perfect) apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I ate the perfect peel, don’t you worry)
½ cup saltana’s
4 large eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clovesCreme de marrons
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
¼ cup golden brown sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ pistachio’s

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– thinly butter the bread and spread with chestnut spread. Cut slices into quarters, diagonally, to make tirangles

– grease an oven proof dish. Alternate slices of bread and slices of apple to fill the dish.

– scatter saltana’s over top

– beat eggs with spices, salt and sugar, then add milk and beat well but not long enough to froth the eggs.

– pour milk/egg over bread. Scatter nuts over top and let pudding sit for 5 minutes. This lets the bread absorb the liquid.

– bake for about 35 – 40 mins.

– serve with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.

Apple nut bread pudding baked

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