Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 6 2014

Roasted Duck with a Port Wine Fig Sauce

Usually when we watch cooking competitions I will either get inspiration or be really impressed with what they pulled off.  This weekend we watched an episode of Top Chef from season 10 where they had to cook an omelette as a test.  I was not impressed!  None were fluffy and light, many were browned quite a bit, and to top it off Wolfgang Puck showed them the proper technique and his came out browned and not so fluffy either.

It’s a strange feeling that if I was there, I might have passed the cooking test over the established chefs!  With that in mind I thought it would be a great way to start the day of spoiling my husband for his birthday with delicious food.

Port Fig Sauce and Roasted Duck 1 2014

I started dinner off with charcuterie and cheeses as the first course.  For the main course I wanted to use a recipe I came across on Armchair Sommelier for a Port and Fig Sauce with chicken.  I thought this would work very well with roasted duck.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a baking dish place the duck pieces and season with salt and pepper.  I had duck legs and duck wings in the freezer to use up.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 2 2014

Bake the duck covered for half an hour.  While this is baking chop up about a cup of dried figs.  In a saucepan bring to a boil the figs, 2/3 cups of tawny port, a cup of water, and 2 tsp of lemon zest.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 3 2014

Once it boils lower to a simmer, uncovered.  When the duck is nearly done raise the oven to 400F/205C and uncover the duck.  Remove from the oven when the skin is crispy.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 5 2014

Add a couple of tablespoons of duck fat to the sauce, mix well, and simmer for a few more minutes.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 4 2014

Because I had to divide the duck with four of us I cut all the meat off of the bones that I could to share among us. Top with the sauce.  I also did roasted parsnips and pan roasted brussel sprouts.

Port Fig Sauce with Roasted Duck 6 2014

We all really enjoyed this meal but I think the next time I make this I will add something to offset the sweetness of the sauce with onions to help balance the sweet along with the richness of the duck.

After this we were too full for dessert so last night we had choux pastry with Bird’s custard, raspberries, my salted spiced rum caramel, and whipped cream.  Yum!

 

 

Spicy Crab Salad with Crispy Shallots from Our Growing Paynes

Spicy Crab Salad with Crispy Shallots

When we were in Austin I had the most amazing raw oysters with a spicy cold “broth” that I would love to recreate but I’m not sure how to be honest.  So instead I would use it as inspiration for a crab salad.

We had a get together with friends that we usually do every autumn this weekend. It’s a potluck so we always eat well and there is always too much food!  A good time to try out a new recipe.  :)

Crab Salad 1 2014

I used the claw meat as it was a lot less expensive than the lump meat and it’s still tasty.  In a small mixing bowl add a few spoonfuls of chilli garlic paste, a few squeezes of lime juice, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.

Crab Salad 2 2014

Chill for a few hours in the fridge.  Just before serving thinly slice a shallot and fry in vegetable oil until golden brown.  I chose not to flour the shallots because several of us are doing gluten free or low gluten.  After frying place them on a paper towel to blot the extra grease and season with salt and pepper.

Crab Salad 3 2014

The crab salad can top anything you like.  I used lentil crackers with sea salt.  Funny I really don’t like lentils but these crackers are delicious.

Crab Salad 4 2014

While not quite the raw oysters this was delicious and easy to make.  Which is perfect when you are getting ready to host a party.  :)

Homemade Garlic and Chilli Mustard from Our Growing Paynes

Homemade Mustard with Garlic and Chilli

It’s been a crazy week and today isn’t any different.  We are almost done with the bathroom, I put what I hope to be the last coat of paint on the walls this morning.  I completely spaced on having said yes to making some baked goods for the PTA event tonight so that’s in the oven.  Most of the grocery shopping is done and then it’s an afternoon of getting everyone round to eye appointments.  So this will be a quick post!

Several weeks ago I bought mustard seeds to make homemade mustard.  I finally got round to it this week.  Even though this is incredibly easy you still have to find some time to do it.

I used half brown mustard seed and half yellow mustard seed for this recipe.  I did some research online and found that the basic steps are the same.  Just change up the ingredients to get the flavour you want.

Homemade mustard 1 2014

In a non reactive bowl put in 1/4 cup of brown mustard seeds and 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds.  Cover with 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar.

Homemade mustard 2 2014

Set aside, covered, for two days.  I ended up going 4 days but it didn’t ruin the recipe so that was lucky.

Homemade mustard 3 2014

For this round I wanted to do a garlic one and a garlic chilli one.  I had oven dried some Ring O Fire peppers from our garden.  That is really easy to do as well.  Bake them at 300F/150C until they are dried.

Homemade mustard 4 2014

This garlic clove turned out to be too much garlic so after finely chopping it I saved half for another dish.  Pour the mustard seeds with the vinegar into a blender and add the garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Homemade mustard 5 2014

Blend until you get the consistency you prefer.  I removed half of the mustard and stored it in the fridge.  Then I chopped up the pepper and added it to the blender.

Homemade mustard 6 2014

Again blend until you like the consistency.

Homemade mustard 7 2014

I was really pleased at how these came out.  I definitely want to play around with flavours.  A friend of ours in Scotland suggested using whiskey.  The possibilities are endless.

Lamb curry 4 2014

Lamb and Parsnip Curry

After leaving the warmth of Texas I needed to make a warming dish.  We could see snow this week, hopefully it’s just a dusting.  With a prediction of another harsh winter, it can take its time arriving.  I wish autumn didn’t go by so fast.

A curry would do the trick. Not only did the co-op have some lamb they also had some parsnips which I thought would be a nice pairing.

Lamb curry 1 2014

I chopped up half an onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  I sauteed them in avocado oil for a few minutes to soften then added about a cup of chopped parsnip.  Cook for a few minutes more.

Lamb curry 2 2014

Add diced lamb to brown.  Then add 2 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Be careful how “hard” you simmer because you don’t want to toughen the meat.  It can be a balance depending on how much time you left yourself to cook the dinner.  Reduce the broth by at least a third.

Lamb curry 3 2014

For seasoning I added a few spoonfuls of Red Thai Chilli Paste, 1-2 tsp of ground tumeric, 1 tsp of garam masala, a bit of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add some chopped pepper, mushrooms, and fresh cilantro.  Just as it finishes cooking add a few grape tomatoes that have been halved.  Stir well and serve over basmati rice.

Lamb curry 4 2014

It was warming and delicious, just what we needed with the temps getting lower and lower!

Butternut squash 3 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup

Squash is another group of food I don’t like.  I know, I have a long list!  But a few weeks ago we had a family get together and my sister made a curry squash soup.  I tried  it and liked it!  But she didn’t really have a recipe.  I swear it’s genetic.  We are lucky my Grammy wrote her recipes down because the rest of us have trouble making the same thing twice.  In fact my blog has ended up being a great thing for me.  When my family asks me to make something I’ve made before I bring it up on my iPad and away I go.

I know the soup I made is different from my sister’s because the soup she made was green and mine isn’t.  So I used hers as an inspiration.

Butternut squash soup 1 2014

I thought roasting it would be fabulous so I sliced it in half, drizzled it with olive oil, and seasoned it with sea salt and pepper.

Butternut squash soup 2 2014

Roast in the oven at 350F/175C until it has softened and turned a nice golden colour.

Butternut squash 3 2014

In a saucepan saute finely chopped garlic and scallions in olive oil.  I used about 3 large garlic cloves and a cup or so of the scallion.

Butternut squash soup 3 2014

Once the garlic and scallions have softened scoop out the squash and add it to the saucepan.

Butternut squash soup 4 2014

I added 2 cups of chicken stock.  Add more or less depending on the consistency you prefer.  Add 6-8 ounces of coconut milk. The rest of this recipe completely depends on the taste you want.  Some prefer to have a lot of squash flavour.  Me?  Not so much.  :)  We really enjoy red thai curry flavour so I added several spoonfuls as a start.

Butternut squash soup 6 2014

I continued by adding a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, and a healthy portion of hot curry powder.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.  I wanted to keep this rustic so I didn’t blend the soup.

Butternut squash 7 2014

It was very warming and now I can say I have one squash dish I like!  Question is, am I bold enough to try another?  :)

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 5 2014

Roasted Mushroom and Parsnip Soup

The gluten free experiment is going well.  I’m starting to feel better with a few bumps along the way but I figure that is normal.  I am discovering there are some missed opportunities  when searching out gluten free snacks and the like.  It is not a guarantee that you will get something that tastes good.  I tried a breakfast wrap at a local bagel place and the gluten free wrap could be best described as wet cardboard.  Some of the tortilla chips aren’t much better.  I tried one type of cracker that said right on the box how important taste was.  My husband said I made quite the face trying to eat those!

I have found a couple of things I like and fortunately we’re having success at home.  Otherwise I’d starve or at the very least be very cranky.  And that just won’t do!

With the cooler weather settling in I was in the mood for a quick soup with a lot of flavour.  Roasted mushrooms and parsnips fit the bill.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 1 2014

Slice up mushrooms of your choice and a few parsnips, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in an oven at 350F/175C until parsnips are cooked and golden.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 2 2014

Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 3-5 cloves of garlic chopped and some fresh thyme.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 3 2014

Once the garlic has softened add the mushrooms and parsnips.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip 4 2014

As I was only making this for two I added 2 cups of veg bouillon and 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 5 2014

Of course if you aren’t doing gluten free then cheesy toast would be perfect with this.  :)

 

Swiss chard 4 2014

Swiss Chard and Diet Trends

I’m not one for hopping on the latest bandwagon for the diet fads.  Though I did try the South Beach diet once.  Wasn’t overly exciting and I felt it was limiting.  The latest is the Paleo diet.  I find it interesting and decided to get a cookbook that would explain it in more depth.  I’m not looking to jump in with both feet, we love bread too much, but I was surprised we follow a lot of the guidelines already.

The funny thing about trends is how people can go down the rabbit hole.  With the paleo there are a lot of people who think that it needs to be mostly meat based.  There is an article in the National Geographic that discusses this and they did point out that the hunting portion of the hunter/gathering could be seriously lacking and the women picked up the deficits with the foraging.

I am all for moderation though I have been wondering if I need to cut back even more on the grains as I’ve been struggling with inflammation this year and can’t seem to shake it.  With the exception of bread and occasional pasta there’s not much to cut.  But it wouldn’t hurt to expand the types of food we try to cook.  The substitutions are curious though.  I doubt there was coconut flour or xanthum gum and the like in the original paleo diet.

There was some lovely Swiss chard at the farmer’s market which I bought.  I was pleased the recipe I came up with fell in line with the paleo diet.

I’ve never had Swiss chard nor had I cooked with it before so I needed a quick lesson in what it was or how it compared to other leafy greens.  The farmer said it was similar to spinach in how it is cooked and if you cook the stems they needed to be cooked longer than the leaves.  The general opinion was to not eat it raw.

Swiss chard 1 2014

It’s a gorgeous veg with the rainbow stalks and I was hoping the colour would hold up with cooking.  Not all veg does so my fingers were crossed.  Plus it seems a shame to waste the stalks!

I sliced up 5 rashers of streaky bacon and began rendering it in a skillet.  Meanwhile I chopped up the stalks, a small red onion, and a few cloves of garlic.  Once the bacon was half cooked add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften then add the garlic and chopped stalks.

Swiss chard 2 2014

Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Stir well.  Once the stocks have softened a bit add the chopped leaves of the chard.

Swiss chard 3 2014

Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the leaves soften down.  I liked that the chard didn’t wilt down as much as spinach.  I don’t like it when it gets that wilted and mushy.

Swiss chard 4 2014

I enjoyed this and was happy that we have another veg to add to our toolbox.  I’m limited with veg as a lot come across as bitter to me but I want to branch out and it was success on the first try!  We’ll definitely have this again and I’ll be playing round with the Swiss chard for different dishes.  Plus we’ll try growing it as well.

Lamb gyro 9 2014

Lamb Gyros and a Near Disaster

One of the blogs I follow, Cooking in Sens, was lamenting the lack of taste in lamb here in America because it is grain fed.  Fortunately I can get grass fed lamb in our area.  A local farmer rents pastures from various home owners and he rotates round with his crops and livestock.  It’s a great system and his lamb is always flavourful.

Don’t know why it popped into my head but for some reason I was in the mood to make gyros.  I’ve never made them and I haven’t had one in ages.  But I saw the lamb and thought now was a good as time as any!

The gyro bread is very easy to make and I found this recipe to use.

You will need:

1 cup hot but not boiling water

2 teaspoon of active or instant yeast

2 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

In the mixer add the water and yeast and let it proof for about 5 minutes.

Lamb gyro 1 2014

Add in the rest of the ingredients.

Lamb gyro 2 2014

Once the dough comes together put the mixer to medium speed to knead for about 8 minutes.  I found that the dough wasn’t kneading well enough in the mixer so I finished it by hand.  Knead until the dough comes together in a smooth ball.

Lamb gyro 3 2014

Cover and let the dough rise for an hour until it is doubled in size in a lightly greased bowl.

Lamb gyro 4 2014

Divide into 8 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface.  Cover with cling film while the pan heats to medium high.  Lightly spray with olive oil.

Lamb gyro 5 2014

Roll out the dough.  The recipe I followed said the pieces could be rolled out to 8-9 inches and be 1/4 inch thick.  Not really.  So I went with a compromise and tried to get in the middle of the measurements.  Place the first one into the pan and let cook for 30 seconds then turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Lamb gyro 6 2014

Then flip again and cook for another minute.  These have a tendency to blow up like balloons so gently press the air out as it cooks.  If you want them to be like pita then the air is ok but for this press the air out.  Once cooked keep covered with a tea towel.  Do this for all 8 pieces.

I made up the tzatziki sauce I’ve done before and then did up a marinade for the lamb using olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and salt and pepper.  I also sliced up some onion to grill.

And we come to the near disaster.  I got the onion on the grill with the lamb and put the extra marinade on the lamb.  Some of it dripped down and caught fire.  It was quite something.  As big a fire you can get without actually damaging the grill.  The temp gauge was well past 600F/320C.  The whole bottom of the grill was like the gates of hell.  So we removed the tank, closed the lid and let it burn out.  So I don’t have any pics of the grilling part of the meal.  So tomorrow it is on my list to scrub down the grill and get all the soot off of it.  Fortunately I didn’t ruin the lamb!  So all sorts of disasters were averted.

Once all the excitement had died down and the lamb was rested and sliced I began assembling the gyros.  Spread the tzatziki onto the gyro and layer the lamb.

Lamb gyro 7 2014

I added the onion, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Lamb gyro 8 2014

Wrap it up and enjoy!

Lamb gyro 9 2014

Preferably without any singeing of the eyebrows.  :)

Spicy ketchup 10 2014

Kicking Ketchup

When I was little I was told the corniest joke but it cracked me up and I still remember it.  A mama tomato and a baby tomato were walking along but baby tomato kept lagging behind.  So mama tomato stomped on baby tomato and yelled “Ketchup!”  Told you it was corny.  :)

It was high time I tried making my own ketchup.  Given that we are currently being overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes we had enough to make some.  With the experiment using the Epsom salt for the tomatoes this year I have some results.  We have a crazy amount of tomatoes this year and very little cracking which has been an issue in the previous years.  On the flip side the fruit are ripening in a weird way.  Not sure if it’s because the season is cooler than normal.  They fall off before they are ripe and then they are going off a lot faster so we are struggling to keep up with it.  I will try this again next year to see what is what.

Spicy ketchup 1 2014

I did a bit of research on ketchup recipes and figured I could come up with my own recipe without too much trouble.  I estimate we had about 6-7 pounds of tomatoes which we chopped and added it to a large pot.

Spicy ketchup 2 2014 Spicy ketchup 3 2014

In addition chop 1 large red onion, 1 medium white onion, a jalapeno, 2 Ring O Fire peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

Spicy ketchup 4 2014

Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tsps of sea salt, 1-2 tsps of pepper, and a handful of celery leaves.  Bring to a simmer stirring well.

Spicy ketchup 5 2014

Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third.

Spicy ketchup 6 2014

Let it cool and then use a hand blender to process the ingredients.  Press the sauce through a sieve to remove the remaining solids into a clean pot.

Spicy ketchup 7 2014 Spicy ketchup 8 2014

Bring back up to a simmer.  Add a cup of red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar.  Simmer until the ketchup is reduce by another 1/3 and is the consistency you want.  I like it on the thicker side so it reduced a bit more than a 1/3.  If you want it thicker add a bit more brown sugar.

Spicy ketchup 9 2014

Can in sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes.

Spicy ketchup 10 2014

I am really pleased how this came out.  Certainly makes me want to whip up some burgers and fries!  Maybe some onion rings.  :)  This has a lovely heat finish to it.

Ooh, as I write this I got a little trophy thing saying it’s my two year anniversary!  Woot!  :)

Ale chutney 5 2014

Ale Chutney

One of the things I have on my list when we go home to England is getting a ploughman’s lunch at the Red Lion in Swanage.  It’s a pub that is still an English pub with the old beams, back garden, and amazing ciders on tap.  And they are willing to do their best at making a black velvet for me.  They also do a fabulous ploughman’s with ale chutney.  It’s one of my favourites.

As we’re getting into the season to make chutneys I thought I’d give it a go.  There really isn’t a lot of choice for ale chutney recipes but I figured I could make up my own.  It didn’t come out like the Red Lion’s but it came out really well with a bit more heat to mine.

Ale chutney 1 2014

Chop about 350 grams of onion and 300 grams of apples.  This equals about 3 apples.

Ale chutney 2 2014

Next chop 3 cloves of garlic, 60 g of dates, and 60 g of dried apricots.  In a large pot add the chopped ingredients with a 1/3-1/2 cup of malt vinegar and bring to a simmer.  As it begins to simmer add 1 heaped tbsp of mustard powder, 3 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1-2 tsp of sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Add 350-400g of demerara sugar or brown sugar and stir well.

Ale chutney 3 2014

As it simmers add the zest of one lemon as well as the juice.  For me I found it to be a bit sweet so I added 2 tsp of red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness.

Ale chutney 4 2014

Simmer until the apples have broken down and the chutney starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and add 12 oz of ale or stout.  I used our oatmeal stout.  Bring it back up to a simmer to thicken. I found it wouldn’t thicken as much as I wanted so I added pectin rather than sugar which would make it sweeter.  The next time I make it I’ll back off a bit on the sugar and add more pectin.

Ale chutney 5 2014

The great things about chutneys is you make it your own.  Adjust as needed to your tastes.  Perfect!  Now I just need to make a ploughman’s.  :)

PS, there must have been enough people disgruntled with the new wordpress site when writing posts as they are now giving people a choice to revert.  Excellent!  :)