Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

Seared Pork with Creamy Cognac Mushroom Sauce

It feels good to be able to sit up at a computer and actually blog.  Which seems a strange thing to say.  The cold going round here knocks you on your backside.  There was barely enough energy to work the remote.  Forget watching anything with a plot as keeping focused was not on the cards!  Which meant silly stuff like Real Housewives.  Please, nothing real about them!  My brain may never recover.

I did find Design on a Dime.  Which is very lightweight but has inspired several ideas for our porch that I want to try out when the weather gets a bit warmer.  I’m looking forward to creating a comfy area to hang out in.

It also felt good this weekend to get back into the kitchen and work on creating dishes.  I had some pork ribs and some root vegetables to use and I wanted to do something on the French side.  There were a ton of recipes using mushrooms and cream.  A combination that I love.

Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

I prepped the roast veg of potato, parsnip, and carrot first and got those cooking.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, season the pork with sea salt and pepper, then brown all four sides.

Cognac mushroom pork 2 2016

Remove from the skillet and cover with tin foil.  Finely chop a shallot (these can be potent and make you cry!) and add to the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat.  You want the shallots to soften, not brown, then add 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic.

Cognac mushroom pork 3 2016

After another couple of minutes add a few mushrooms that have been sliced.  Then add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, some sea salt, and pepper.

Cognac mushroom pork 4 2016

Once the mushrooms start to brown add 1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  Add about 4 tablespoons of cognac and a couple of tablespoons of stone ground mustard.

Cognac mushroom pork 5 2016

Put the pork back into the skillet and simmer until the pork is cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit.  Then add a 1/3-1/2 cup of cream.  Taste and add more cognac and mustard if needed.  Sometimes the cream can dampen the strong flavours.

Cognac mushroom pork 6 2016

Serve over the roasted veg and top with the sauce.  You might find you have plenty of sauce left over.  I used mine to make a creamy chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.  Too good to let it go to waste!

Chicken pastie 7 2016

Chicken Leek Flaky Pies

This is just crazy.  Every single year that I’ve been doing taxes I get sick or I fall just as the office opens.  I thought not this year!  The office opens tomorrow and I’m sick.  Seriously?  What kind of “rain” dance can I do to break this streak?  So I’m trying to be very good today so it goes away and I’ll be fine for tomorrow.

I love the flavour combination of chicken and leek and I wanted to do a variation on the chicken and leek pies with phyllo dough.  This time I wanted to use a short crust for the pie.

I made the pastry about an hour before making the dinner to allow it to chill in the fridge.  Cut in 3/4 cup of cold butter into 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  When the mixture is crumbly and sticks together add a tablespoon of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together in a ball.  Cover with cling film and chill.

You need to make enough filling to fill the amount of pastry you have.  The above recipe is enough for 2 9″ pie shells.  Which was enough to make four pies.  The ratio of ingredients is equal amounts for everything but the garlic.  That was just 3-4 cloves.  Everything gets chopped up into small pieces.  You don’t want large chunks so everything cooks evenly.

Chicken pastie 1 2016

In a large skillet start rendering the streaky bacon on medium.  You don’t want the skillet too hot because you don’t want the bacon to catch.  After about 5 minutes add the garlic.  Then add the leeks and mushrooms.

Chicken pastie 2 2016

Normally you start the chicken at the beginning but for this the chicken needs to complete cooking in the oven.  You don’t want the chicken dry and tough.   After the leeks and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add about a third of a cup of dry white wine.  Add the chicken and a bit of fresh thyme.

Chicken pastie 4 2016

Roll out the pastry.  I rolled to a thickness of about a 1/4″/6mm.  I used a 6″ plate to cut round.

Chicken pastie 3 2016

Spoon the filling onto one half of the pastry.  I used a slotted spoon because I didn’t want the filling to be too wet.  Grate some jarlesberg over the filling.

Chicken pastie 5 2016

Brush a beaten egg round the edge of the pastry.  Fold the pastry in half and use a fork to crimp round the edge.  Slice the top with three slits.  Brush the pie with the beaten egg.

Chicken pastie 6 2016

Bake in the oven set at 425F/220C for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

Chicken pastie 7 2016

Serve immediately.  The kids loved it and it is a very easy dish to put together.  And a great way to use up some ingredients in the fridge.

 

Christmas crafts 2 2016

Yarn Crafts for Gifts

Now that the holidays have settled down and we’re not crazy busy I wanted to take a moment to share some gifts I made for the kids.  I had fun doing these projects and of course I was down to the wire.  Some day I hope to be much faster with yarn crafts but I’m not holding out much hope on that front!

I first started with my son’s project.  Like most kids his age, he is very into Minecraft.  Do you know some schools have classes on this game?  But it really does stretch the imagination.

Christmas crafts 1 2016

I found the pattern on Ravelry and I was really looking for a knitting pattern because it’s been about 10 years since I’ve crocheted and I forgot how to do it.  And I had never done anything in the round.  Thank goodness for YouTube!  I was able to relearn how to crochet and I enjoy it so I’ll be looking for more projects to try.  I also want to try my hand at granny squares.

Both kids are big fans Dr Who so I had to find something with that theme.  I found a great pattern for socks on Ravelry with the TARDIS.  I’ve never knitted socks.  Back to YouTube I go!

Christmas crafts 2 2016

I did it on the magic loop rather than double pointed needles.  The pattern was pretty good though I had to adjust how the toe was done so it decreased on the sides rather than on the top and bottom.  I was thrilled the lettering was legible.  After Christmas I found a used book that shows me how to knit two socks at a time so I’m looking forward to trying this again.

Though I’m trying to get the Aran jumper I’ve been working on for a few years for my husband.  That is taking forever!  So I need to finish that before I start anymore big projects.  Before we grow old. :)

Mushroom pasta 6 2015

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce and Saying Goodbye to 2015, Finally!

It’s been a long time since I was so looking forward to seeing the backside of a year.  I don’t like rushing time, especially as we get older.  It goes fast enough as it is.  But this year been a long stressful slog.  2016 has to be better!

I am so grateful that I have my husband and kids.  They have been an amazing support system for me.  Since the summer I’ve been struggling with my issues, whether it was physical injuries or the black dog, as Conor from One Man’s Meat so aptly called it, and I feel like I got in a rut.  It was an effort at times to get the day to day stuff done, nevermind finding creativity for blogging and other projects.  My husband never wavers and never complains.  He takes care of me and has the ability to make me laugh every day.  And kids being kids, they keep you on your toes.  They are a joy to have.  Not sure what I did to get so lucky to have them in my life but boy am I glad I did it.

But I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start in terms of putting this year behind me and not letting it be a millstone round my neck.  I have ideas I want to try and plan on keeping on improving with all the issues.  Onwards and upwards!

My sister got me a fabulous book on food photography for Christmas.  My family is so good about supporting my endeavors.  Last year my husband found me a photobox and a photography book which helped me dust off the cobwebs of my photography knowledge.  This book is the next step up from the previous book.  After a year of practicing I am excited to learn new techniques and continuing to improve.  I’m only into the fourth chapter and already I have a list in my head of things I need to set up.

Last night my sister and family were planning on coming so I planned Italian for dinner.  Unfortunately, the New England weather decided it was time for the first winter storm.  But I had found a recipe from the cookery book Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis.  So I stuck with the planned theme.

Mushroom pasta 1 2015

It is the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  This is my adaptation of it.  I didn’t stray too much from the original but I did make it my own.

In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Finely chop up half a red onion and begin saute the onion.  Finely chop up 3-4 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet.

Mushroom pasta 2 2015

While this is cooking slice up a mixture of mushrooms.  I used baby bellas (cremini), shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  You want about 2 cups sliced.  Add these to the skillet to start to brown.

Mushroom pasta 3 2015

Add 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable bouillon and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid by at least a third.

Mushroom pasta 4 2015

During this time make sure you cook the pasta.  I chose brown rice spaghetti.  When the pasta is nearly done add a half cup (4 oz) of mascarpone.

Mushroom pasta 5 2015

When the mascarpone has blended in add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and a handful of chopped chives.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.

Mushroom pasta 6 2015

Garnish with chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese.  My husband made fabulous ciabatta bread.  He used it to make garlic bread.  A serious weakness of mine!

This dish was a hit even with my son who doesn’t like mushrooms.  Fingers crossed his tastes are changing.  The rest of us love mushrooms.

Happy New Year’s everyone!

Beef vindaloo 6 2015

Beef Vindaloo to Welcome my Husband Home

You know, Christmas comes the same time every year.  Yet every year I find myself in full scramble to get it all done.  I swear I will start in September.  Unfortunately good intentions are not a guarantee!

I should finish the gifts I’m making today and get everything wrapped and under the tree.  Then there is the dump run and grocery shopping.  But I should have plenty of time tomorrow to decorate the Christmas cake.

My husband had to do a business trip last week.  Luckily it was only four days rather than the two weeks last December but I still wanted to make a nice home cooked dinner for him.

I was in the mood for curry and thought I’d try beef vindaloo.  Beef you say?  There are areas in West India that have Muslim and Christian communities that eat beef and add in the fabulous flavours you find in India, amazing dishes happen.

Vindaloo has it’s roots in Portugal and was originally based in wine and garlic but gradually evolved to have vinegar instead of wine.  When a lot of people hear vindaloo they think off the charts for spicy food but that isn’t always the case.  I didn’t make this crazy spicy but you can if you add more hot pepper.

Beef vindaloo 1 2015

I adapted a recipe from the Best-Ever Curry cookbook.  I used ground cumin instead of the seeds and I could have sworn we had fenugreek but nope so I had to leave that out.  The recipe did call for a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds.  To be honest I didn’t miss it.

In a spice grinder, grind up 3-4 chili peppers or hot peppers of your choice, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorn, 5 green cardamon pods, and 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds.

In a small bowl add the spice mix, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and 4 tablespoons of white vinegar.

Beef vindaloo 2 2015

Set that aside.  Chop up a large red onion and saute in olive oil until softened.

Beef vindaloo 3 2015

In a food processor add the onions and spice mix.  Process until it is a paste.  In the skillet add a bit more oil and start browning stewing beef.  I used just under a pound.  The recipe called for two pounds.  As it is browning, finely chop a couple of garlic and grate a piece of ginger about 1-2 inches square/3-4 cm square.

Beef vindaloo 4 2015

Cook for a couple of minutes then add the onion spice paste.  In addition to that add a scant tablespoon of ground cumin, 2 teaspoons of ground coriander, and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground tumeric.

Beef vindaloo 5 2015

Stir well then add 300ml/1 1/4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Cook for at least an hour.  You want the sauce reduced and the meat tender.  My husband made naan to dip into this curry.

Beef vindaloo 6 2015

I was a bit worried because there was only enough for about 1/2 a cup a serving for the four of us.  But with the naan we were stuffed.  I love that our kids love the spicy flavours, they really liked this.

Focaccia 10 2015

Focaccia Bread

We are totally hooked on the show The Great British Bake Off.   Completely sucked in.  Not only do you get great tips on baking, history of the baked goods, and great ideas, but it is such a refreshing competition.  Stateside, a lot of the food competitions are high pressure, overly dramatic, and people like Gordon Ramsey pound the table and scream a lot.  This one, every one is friendly.

Of course my husband and I are adding to our list of things we want to try to bake.  Yesterday I tried Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia Bread.  I find people’s approaches to known breads fascinating.  Paul’s approach seems more modern while Dan Leader’s approach is more old world.  Dan Leader’s recipe takes two days vs a few hours with Paul Hollywood’s recipe.

In a mixing bowl add 500 grams flour, two teaspoons salt, 12g yeast, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Now it’s been mentioned on the show that the salt shouldn’t touch the yeast.  Well at least until you mix it all together.  Most recipes don’t mention keeping them separate.  So I’m interested in researching this more.  However, the end result didn’t seem that different from other recipes.  It may be a preference more than anything else.

Focaccia 1 2015

Add 300ml of lukewarm water.

Focaccia 2 2015

Mix well then add, slowly, an additional 100ml of lukewarm water.  This is a very wet and sticky dough.  When this is fully incorporated knead by hand in the bowl for 5 minutes.

Focaccia 3 2015

I found this part hard given my height to the counter and it’s not easy for me to do that with my shoulder issues but do the best you can.  Then you have to stretch the dough and fold it over itself, for another five minutes, turning the bowl as you do this.  One good trick that was given on the show was to oil the surface you will knead on and oil your hands.  Doing this rather than using flour will keep the dough moist.  Turn out the dough onto the oiled surface.

Focaccia 4 2015

Knead for a further 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Focaccia 5 2015

Spray the bowl with oil and place the dough into the bowl.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the bowl.  Prove until the dough doubles in size.  This took about an hour or so.

Focaccia 6 2015

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Divide the dough and press the pieces into rectangles and dimple the surface.  Cover with oiled cling film.  Be careful not to have the cling film pin down the dough.  It needs room to rise.

Focaccia 7 2015

Prove for another hour.  Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas 7.  Once it is ready to bake drizzle the surface with olive oil.  I put a little to much on.  Sprinkle sea salt over it.

Focaccia 8 2015

We usually put in ice cubes in a hot cast iron skillet but we thought we’d try water.  As I had two loaves to bake I did ice with one and water with the other.  Because this only bakes for 20-25 minutes I didn’t notice a huge difference.  We did on my husband’s boule but that bakes for an hour and there was a difference there.  At any rate bake the focaccia until golden brown.

Focaccia 9 2015

Much, much different from the bread you get in restaurants.  Doing research online, I wonder what is actually made in the restaurants, because what I made matched the images rather than the other stuff.

Focaccia 10 2015

It was very crispy on the crust and soft in the middle.  Perfect for dipping in olive oil.  This does make a lot so thank goodness for the freezer!

Now to decide what to bake next!

 

 

 

 

Meat pie 4 2015

Mini Meat Pies

When I was on my own years ago, I really didn’t cook for myself.  It was too much effort.  I’d get my cooking fix by having little parties for my friends.  Needless to say when I moved in with my husband and had the instant family, I loved being able to cook full meals and share food.  Just one of the many reasons I don’t miss the single life.

One dish I would occasionally make for myself would be mini meat pies.  They lend well to leftovers so in one go I would have several meals ready. I haven’t made them for years, forgotten about them to be honest.  These aren’t the traditional English meat pies with the hot water crust, though that is on my list to try soon.  We’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and we’re hooked.

Meat pie 1 2015

I make up pastry equal to a 9 inch pie plate.  Which would be 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, pinch of salt, and cold water.  I’ve started using butter instead of shortening as the flavour is much better.   Cover and set aside while you make up the filling.  If the room is warm put the pastry in the fridge.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start browning about a pound of ground beef.  Chop up half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a couple of mushrooms.  Add those to the skillet.

Meat pie 2 2015

Chop up some fresh oregano and add that along with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup or so of crushed tomatoes.  The trick here is not to let it get watery or too saucy.  Also add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Meat pie 3 2015

Let this simmer while you roll out the pastry and fill a tin with large muffin holes.  I had to free hand this as I didn’t have a cutter or glass with a large enough aperture to give me a neat circle. So we got a bit rustic!  Use a slotted spoon to fill the pastry to prevent it from getting too wet.  Sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Italian cheeses.  Bake at 400F/200C for 20 minutes.

Meat pie 4 2015

I don’t know why it took me years to make this again.  But I won’t wait long to do it again as it is great for lunches as well.  And with tax season starting soon I’ll have to keep my energy up!

Red wine lamb stew 5 2015

Rustic Red Wine Lamb Stew

It was no surprise last week that I got to the point of being really tired of turkey.  Given that it is a large bird, you have to be very creative with leftovers to use it up.  I needed something different!  It was a raw and rainy day so it also had to be comfort food.

Red wine lamb stew 1 2015

I had some stewing lamb to use so I thought a red wine stew would do the trick.  Very often the stewing meat comes in large pieces so I cut them down to smaller pieces.  Makes it easier to eat.  Dredge the meat in flour and season with sea salt and pepper.

Red wine lamb stew 2 2015

In a large saucepan heat up some olive oil and start browning the lamb.  While that is browning, cut up a scallion and a few cloves of garlic.  Finely chop up a small handful of rosemary.  Add it all to the saucepan.

Red wine lamb stew 3 2015

Cook for a few minutes more then add about a cup of good red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add a couple chopped mushrooms.

Red wine lamb stew 4 2015

Add 3 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Keep it on a low simmer for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop and the meat to get nice and tender.  Closer to dinner time add either potatoes or pasta.  I chose pasta for this stew.  I also added some sliced carrots.  I didn’t add them at the beginning because I don’t like mushy carrots, just like I don’t like mushy peas!

Red wine lamb stew 5 2015

Add buttered rustic toast and it was a great bowl to enjoy in comfy pjs and a bit of tele.  I’m not complaining about the raw rainy day though.  This winter has been mild so far, may it continue!  Saves on the heating bills.  :)

Wine chorizo 4 2015

Red Wine Chorizo

The first flurry of the holidays, Thanksgiving, is past and we’re into the flurry of activity getting ready for Christmas.  Our son was all excited once the meal of Thanksgiving was over because that meant the Christmas songs could start playing!  I swear that kid would play those songs year round, crazy kid.  Egg nog is pretty much the only thing that we do Christmas wise before December.  Well, that and the cards.

I normally use Shutterfly for the cards and family photo books.  This is the last year I’ll do that for the cards. Couldn’t use that site for the book because they took away a lot of features I like to use.  So I am trying to learn Blurb.  A big feature I like is to use my photos as a faded background.  Blurb doesn’t do that either but I can fade them using GIMP.  Just a bit of jumping through hoops to get the book done.  So that is getting pushed out to the New Year.  But I hear Blurb is good for creating books like cookery books so I figure now is a good a time as any to learn.  I am curious which software of Blurb to use so I’d be interested in feedback.

The recipe I’m showing here was done for my husband’s birthday to go along with the jerk chicken I made.  It came from a book my family found for me at the annual library sale.  It is called Tapas by Susanna Tee.  I found an easy recipe for chorizo simmered in red wine.  Something easily eaten at a party.

I would recommend finding good quality chorizo.  We found average chorizo and it didn’t absorb the wine during the marinating stage as well as it should have.  No worries, it came out in the end.

Wine chorizo 1 2015

To start, always pick a good wine.  Never use cooking wine or plonk.  If it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to cook with!

In a saucepan, bring to a boil about a cup of the red wine.  Then cover and reduce the heat.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl big enough for the sausages.  Prick the sausages and marinate overnight.

Wine chorizo 2 2015

When you are ready to cook these, slice the chorizo into pieces.  Add them to a skillet.  Warm a couple of tablespoons of brandy then pour into the skillet.  And, this is the fun part, light it up!

Wine chorizo 3 2015

As fun as this is, be careful.  Not all flame is visible and you don’t want to get burned.  You can see in the picture the sausage didn’t really suck in the wine.  I suspect, better chorizo would do that.  Once the brandy has cooked off add the wine you used to marinate the sausages.  Simmer on medium heat until the wine has reduced quite a bit.

To serve, sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the chorizo.

Wine chorizo 4 2015

This is a great dish for a tapas meal, party, or potluck.  And it is very easy to make which is always good.  :)

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Turkey Day and Despite a Tough Year, Still Grateful

Thursday is the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  For those that follow me you know this is my favourite holiday.  With all the materialism built in with a lot of holidays I like we have one where is’t just family and good food.

It’s been a tough year for my family.  We have 12 round the table and we weren’t guaranteed we’d have 12 this time round.  Fortunately my sister’s neck is just about good as new and my dad’s life saving surgery went as well as it should have.  And we are fortunate my cousin in Kenya has made a near complete recovery from his car accident.  Thank goodness the two taxi drivers rushed him to hospital barely alive.  This was while others looted his car.  So you can imagine the amount of gray hair that made light of day in our family this year!

We’re very much looking forward to 2016, as you can imagine!

For this post I wanted to reshare a few of my recipes I’ve made over the years for Thanksgiving.  I figured I’d get them in before the holiday rather than after for once.  :)

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

The Sage Pear Turkey fast became a favourite of mine.  Pear works so well with the sage and stuffing the skin with butter just makes it divine.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

Hopefully this year I won’t forget to serve the cranberry sauce!  I made this last year with port and it was really delicious.  I like to do variations each year for something new.  I’ve done it with orange, ginger, thyme.  Surprisingly cranberry is a good match for many different ingredients.

Stuffing balls 6 2013

Stuffing balls are a fun variation.  These are made with pork.  This year I’ll be separating these out to have sourdough stuffing then pork balls as some can’t have gluten.

I was going to share a blog post of pumpkin pie.  Looks like I haven’t done a post on that!  Guess what will be coming soon?

For those that celebrate this holiday I hope it is a safe and fun one.  And may you not have to travel too far!