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Archive for the ‘walnuts’ Category

The Hiatus, so to speak, that I’ve taken over the last four months is hopefully on the wane.  That ever ambitious and itchy-footed Mr P hooked a big fish in a rather different pond last year and I found myself, in the middle of the Christmas festivities, sorting through our life’s material goods; deciding which to keep, which to give away/sell and which would end up in the land fill (very, very little, I assure you) in preparation for a move to a new country.  Then, once the glorious feasting of another fantastic Canadian Christmas and the exuberant celebrating-in of a New Year had fattened us all up enough; the cookies all eaten; the champagne bottles had been recycled and the tree dismantled and put out in the snow it was time to get down to the hard work of packing.

One of the most difficult tasks in the move was saying goodbye to my wonderful, extensive and hard earned pantry.  I spent most of the Summer last year in a frenzy of pickling, jamming and preserving the amazing bounty of the Ontario growing season.  I’d amassed an extraordinary array of beautiful preserves in a tower of glass jars that couldn’t be shipped and had to be parted with.  What heartache!  Not to mention the the eclectic collection of sugars, flours, spices, pastes and seasonings one accretes over time that wouldn’t be allowed over the border.  Eh bien, c’est la vie. Tant pis

In the first week of January four burly men arrived with a large truck and proceeded to wrap, package and cart off everything we owned, destined for a new adventure across the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a horridly emotional time, having to uproot to the life we’d taken such pains to plant, water and nurture to such beautiful fruitfulness.  Our little home in Toronto had been a haven from storms, a cozy bubble of hospitality and love and fabulous cooking.  Oh, Toronto, how you’d gotten under my skin!

It takes time to settle in to a new environment.  It takes time to find the right markets, the right ingredients, the right oven temperature.  It takes time to figure out how to fit mustard, the rice, the pots, the baking tins into a new and smaller kitchen.  It takes time to adjust to a new way of life.

But here we are, the intrepid Mr P and I, four months into our new lives in Londontown, and slowly starting to sink into that glorious, feathered bed called Routine.  I’ve pumped up the tires on Storm, my trusty two-wheeled steed and roamed the streets of this crazy, manic city (getting lost most of the time in the organic warren of highways and byways) searching for goodies and treats.  I’ve traveled the roads on the top of  giant red buses to spy on delicatessen and bakeries from above.  I’ve taken long and hypnotic underground routes in search of the perfect coffee beans, the finest Rose Jam.  And I’ve worn a good layer of rubber off my sneakers trekking my own little neighbourhood from Baker to Butcher to Bonbonerie.  Still, I’ve managed to uncover and wheedle from hiding but a tiny portion of the cornucopia of goodies lying in wait in the nooks and crannies of this fantastical Town.  There is so much here, such dense collage of cultures and cuisines that it is an impossible, inexhaustible territory to map and charter.

Finally, however, I begin again to cook.  Like a bear coming out of hibernation; slow, awkward first steps into a light too bright for such sleepy eyes.  But I’m getting the hang of it again, bit by bit, stretching the cooking muscles; limbering up.

An army marches on it’s stomach and so while I’m pouring over new recipes and dabbling in this and that on the stove, I thought I’d better have a little something to snack on.

Cauliflower has never been my favourite of favourite veggies.  It’s not something I dislike, per se, but usually I can take it or leave it, really.  Cauliflowers, however, are bang on in season here and they looked so amazing sitting all plumped up and voluptuous at the farmers market that I just couldn’t resist.  Now to find something wonderful to do to them; something to bring out their flavour and inspire me to greater things.  I decided to make a spread.  It’s a wonderful, deeply flavoursome, nutty and complex spread that is just perfect spread thickly on a chunky slice of freshly baked loaf.  Mmmm.  Or try mixing a large spoon of it into mashed potatoes; adding it to some veg stock for a good soup; braising it with some good bacon and cabbage for a scrumptious side dish to a roast.

*Note: The garlic I used in the recipe was very special Oak Smoked garlic made by an enthusiastic garlic grower.  The smell and flavour are amazing, but I’m betting you won’t find it in a grocery store very easily, so use regular garlic instead.  The roasting will mellow the flavour sufficiently.

Roasted Cauliflower Paste

Ingredients:
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Baharat
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Salt
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ tsp mustard powder
2 tsp – 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

method:
– pre-heat a small roasting pan in the oven to 400˚F

– mix the oil, baharat, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized bowl

– add the cauliflower and garlic and toss to coat with oil/spice mix

-Place in the hot roasting pan, in the oven, and roast for 20 minutes, stirring and basting every 10 minutes.

– Turn the temperature down to 325˚F and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.

– Remove from oven and allow to cool.

– In a medium sized bowl (or a food processor) blend the cauliflower with the walnuts and mu
stard powder until smooth.

– Add pomegranate molasses bit by bit according to taste.

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Muslie

We humans, for the most part, like a bit of ritual in our lives. Well, I know I do. Setting a certain, predictable rhythm to the day creates a sense of purpose and dependability, little ceremonies that break up the chaos in between our modern lifestyles. I like to read in bed with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the day, and I like having the time to sit on weekdays over my morning’s emails and news with a cup of good, hot coffee and a bowl of muesli. I usually mix my own muesli from jars of grains, nuts and fruits in the cupboard, but in the spirit of the Christmas Clear Out, I took the opportunity to use up  the various stores of dried fruits and nuts left over from the Christmas pudding and fruit cake and mix up an enormous bowl of muesli to keep in jars, ready to go. Just add yoghurt and that cuppa java.

There’s no recipe for this, just use what ever you have on hand. Start with handfuls of chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries , apricots and cherries for zing; papaya and pineapple for that almost candy like sweetness; and pears, figs, apples and dates for texture as well as raisins, currants, mulberries, prunes and oh, I forget what else. Add a few cups, to taste, of various grains: I used both raw, rolled oats and oat bran and a generous helping ground flax, to which I added poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and a variety of nuts (brazil, almond, walnut). Sprinkle with cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a pinch of garam masala and mix it all up. Make it as fruity or as whole-grainy as you like and you’ll never want boxed breakfast again. Promise.

Muslie fruit mix

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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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Beetroot and bluecheese tart

I have a confession: I love beetroot. I steam them whole, peel them and eat them like an apple. I love them raw, grated or chopped into a salad. I love them hot, cold, salted, honeyed, mashed, sliced, boiled, grilled, red, golden, candy striped and even pickled in a summer salad. My Mr P, though, as wonderful as he is, is no big fan of the beet. Thus, in my sneaky, sly way, I have to disguise them as something other than a beet-plucked-from-the-ground if I’m going to get (a) him to eat them and thereby (b) have them for my own dinner too.

We had friends over for dinner last night, an occasion that happens far too infrequently in my opinion, and I found out that one of the guests has a slight aversion to beets as well. Digging deeper I found that the reason for this is because he thinks back on beets as the dish served with coleslaw in dodgy take away restaurants. Now, is that a challenge or what? How could I not try to win over two people with one tart? It’s so much better on the beet side of life. Oh my, well personally I loved this tart. I have no idea if the other oh-my-gosh’s were genuine or subtly faked, but I didn’t really care. The crust was thin and super crisp and the fennel and caraway popped up now and then to mingle with the stronger cheese and beet flavours. The walnuts warmed the whole thing up in the mouth and I think this is one to make again, serve hot, cold or maybe ,because the crust is so light, on a baguette the next day.

The pastry is made with oil, not butter, so has a great, light flavour. I’ve been wanting to make an oil pastry for a while now. They’re all the rage, don’t you know. I’ve yet to try a sweet one.

*the trick with this rather crumbly pastry is to roll it out on one of those thin, flexible, plastic surface protectors (or a well held down piece of parchment) and then put the pie dish upside down on the rolled pastry, flip and voila.

Beetroot and bluecheese tart 2

Beetroot, Bluecheese and Walnut Tart

for the pastry:
⅓ cup quinoa flour
⅔ cup plain white flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
pinch salt
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
½ tsp caraway seeds, also crushed
⅓ cup walnut oil
1 egg white

4 medium beets
1 large red onion
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or veg oil)
80 g blue cheese (I used Bleu d’Auverne)
⅓ cup walnuts, coursely chopped

Make the pastry:
– combine all the dry ingredients and blend well

– add oil and egg white and mix until a dough just forms.

– wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for a half hour

– pre heat oven to 350˚ F ; roll out (on a loose board, see note above recipe) and line a 9″ tart tin

– cover with parchment, fill with beans or rice and blind bake at 350˚ F for 15 mins. Let cool.

Make the filling:
– steam the beets for about 20 mins. When cool enough to handle, remove skins and slice thinly

– peel and thinly slice the onion. Heat oil on a medium to low heat and saute the onion gently until soft and caramelised ; about 20 – 30 mins ; allow to cool a bit

– spread onion over base of tart ; dot with bits of cheese ; arrange beets on top ; add remaining cheese and walnuts

– bake for 20 mins at 350˚F

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Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts

For some reason, I never really discovered tarragon before.  My Mom had a bunch of different herbs growing the in kitchen garden: sage and chives and mint and thyme and rosemary, but never tarragon.  And yet, after doing some reading, it turns out to be a quintessential herb, an old and trusted favourite in many a European and particularly French recipe.  I thought I should give it a go.  After all, there’s French blood in me, isn’t there?

*Note: I had a problem with my oven while cooking the meal, the darn thing decided to go on strike, and so ended up having to have the thing on Grill with a loose sheaf of foil over the meat to protect it from burning.  So I can’t really say for sure just how long you aught to cook this dish, though my gut feeling is for 20 mins at 400˚F and  another 20 – 30 at 350˚F.  Just check it persistantly to make sure you’re not over cooking drying out the flesh.

 

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts 2

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnut Crust
with Baby Beet and Herb Salad

for the Chicken:
2 large chicken breasts on the bone, with skin
½ cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
¼ cup thyme leaves
5 cloves garlic
1 shallot
½ cup shelled walnut halves
Fleur de sel
Olive oil
Peel of half a lemon, ½ cut into strips and ½ zested
2 Potatoes
butter (about 1 Tbsp)

for the salad:
3 or 4 baby beets, peeled and finely grated
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped
⅓ cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped Chives
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Walnut oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

– If you have the time, prepare the chicken a few hours beforehand so the flavours develop well.
run the tarragon, thyme, garlic, shallot and walnuts in a processor until fine.  Add a pinch of Fleur de sel and mix.

– rinse the chicken and pat dry with some paper towel.  With the skin side up, loosen the skin from the flesh: if you break a small hole in the membrane between the two you should  be able to lift the skin to form a pocket.

– take small amounts of the herb and nut mix at a time and push it under the skin, using about half the mixture.  Put a small dollop of butter and a strip of lemon peel under the skin as well and refrigerate, covered, for as long as you can.

– when ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge, rub with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

– slice the potatoes thinly and arrange on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with lemon zest.

– Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the potatoes.  Pack the rest of the herb and nut mix on top.  Bake, see note above*

– For the salad, mix all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a while, while the chicken cooks.

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