Saturday, February 25, 2012

weeknight curry

I'm a big fan of Luisa's blog, the Wednesday Chef. I love the recipes she features and a couple of weeks ago she posted Nigel Slater's Chicken Curry. I made that almost as written (doubled the amount of chicken, stock and cream but not the curry, added 2 tsps garam masala and omitted the tomato) and we loved it. According to my husband, his co-workers were salivating when he heated up leftovers for lunch. This past week, I made a vegetarian version with cauliflower, potato, mushrooms and peas. It was very good. My only complaint is that the vegetarian version doesn't yield so much extra sauce so I couldn't repeat the curry sauce and rice supper of a couple of weeks ago.

Vegetables in Curry Sauce (adapted from the Wednesday Chef)
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
8-10 large button mushrooms, sliced
5 small red potatoes, scrubbed, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 can navy beans, drained
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 c chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
2 c frozen peas
juice of 1 lemon

Parboil the cauliflower and potato until al dente in boiling water and drain. In a large pan, melt the butter, add the oil and add the drained cauliflower and potato and saute over medium high heat for about 5 minutes until the vegetables brown slightly. Add the mushrooms, garlic, onions and beans and saute for about 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the curry powder, garam masala and cinnamon and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the stock and peas and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the cream and any salt and pepper required to taste. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 1 minute. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

making bread

I’ve been making bread on and off for many years. I think the very first loaf I made was inspired by the bread we ate aboard the Schooner Lewis R French. I thought if they could make bread from scratch aboard a sailing ship and cook it in a wood stove, I should be able to manage it in my own kitchen. And I did. I made dill and cottage cheese bread and kneaded by hand. I alternated with a cheddar cheese loaf and a hearty white and the bread and kneading got me through a tough winter. Kneading bread is very therapeutic and it’s a wonderful outlet for worry and anger and sorrow. That was many years ago and I’ve moved on and for the most part, thankfully, am not so needful of the therapeutic aspects of kneading bread dough. For a few years, I faithfully made bread in a bread machine. Sometimes I would set it to start in the middle of the night and would wake to the smell of fresh baked bread but truthfully, the bread wasn’t amazing and I always found it weird to pull the paddle out of the loaf. And then the machine started baking the loaves so they were too dark and I put the machine away in a cupboard.

I started baking bread again with the advent of my kitchen aid mixer. And I’ve been very happy with the very much tweaked recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that I make week in and week out for our toast and sandwiches.

I love the artisanal loaves I sometimes pick up at bakeries and markets around town and periodically aspire to more adventurous baking. Last summer I picked up a copy of this book from the library and over the course of several weeks baked several loaves with various variations.

black olive version
My husband always thought it tasted like sourdough. For some reason, I haven’t baked those loaves in a while. I keep thinking I need to try the no-bake bread in a dutch oven but feel like a) my oven doesn’t get hot enough (and we are having issues with the heating element in the oven right now) and b) I don’t really have a dutch oven type dish that I feel is up to the task. Maybe I’m just a chicken but that was one of the reasons I liked this book – that wasn’t a requirement. I had the peel and the baking stone so I was good to go.

At the beginning of January, Tea came up with the idea of cooking challenges over at Tea and Cookies. And the first challenge was sourdough bread, made from homemade sourdough starter. So I started a batch of starter. It went all weird on me around the 7th day which was around the instructions 5th day (I did learn that you have to follow what the starter is doing and not just the instructions). I think at some point I had read the instructions incorrectly and got the flour/water additions mixed up and I think the temperature variations in the house proved too much for my baby starter. So I started again. I coddled the second batch and made sure it stayed warm – wrapping it up and having it near a heating pad. I told myself that if pioneer women could manage making starter and sourdough while farmsteading and on the Oregon trail, surely I could manage this in my kitchen. (Although in my darker moments, I thought they all must have used starter handed down from generations of women who had created the starter in warm summer months!) A week later I had starter and I was getting ready to bake my first sourdough loaf. I used the recipe that Tea posted on her site (the first one) and mixed away. And I got 2 funny looking loaves as a result.

They are delicious although not very tangy. But I assume the tanginess will develop as the starter ages. The dough smelt tangier than any of my previous bread recipes which was exciting. So if you are up for a challenge, try making your own starter and then your own sourdough. Or, get someone you know to make their own starter and then get some from them. I’m passing some of my starter to my sister-in-law and we’ll compare bread.
two jars of starter

Monday, February 13, 2012

dreaming of scones

I woke up yesterday thinking about apple scones. I don't know why. But I wondered how to add some apple flavour to my standby scone recipe. Finally I went downstairs and gave it a try. The result was a nice change to our regular scone but not overly appley.

Apple Scones (adapted from Brown Sugar Scones from The Recipes Only Cookbook)
2 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 c organic unbleached spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
grated of fresh nutmeg
13 tbsp butter
3 tbsp applesauce
3/4 c milk
1/4 c apple juice
1 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, diced

Combine the flour, baking powder, spices and sugar in a food processor and whiz until blended. Add the butter and applesauce and mix until the butter is blended evenly in small pieces through the flour. Add the milk, juice and apple and mix until a dough just forms.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle. Cut the dough into 16 triangles and place onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 400 deg for 15-19 minutes until slightly golden brown. You can brush the tops of the scones with milk and add sanding sugar for extra crunch prior to baking.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

sour cream noodle bake

This is a dish in regular rotation at our house. It comes from Ree at Pioneer Woman but I've played around with it quite a bit and made it ours. I use less meat than the original recipe and added vegetables. Also I've swapped out tomato sauce with creamed corn for my husband and his gerd tummy. This is how I made it last night.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake (adapted from Pioneer Woman)
1/2 lb lean ground beef (I also use ground chicken or turkey)
14 oz can creamed corn
1/2 medium onion, chopped
6-8 mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1 c frozen peas
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 package egg noodles
1/2 c sour cream
1 1/4 c ricotta cheese
3 green onions, sliced
 1 c grated cheese
salt and pepper

In a saute pan, over medium high heat, saute the beef until slightly brown. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook until soft and slightly brown. Add the peas, mustard

and the creamed corn. Cook for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile cook the noodles until al dente. Drain the noodles and mix with the sour cream, ricotta cheese and the green onions. Layer half the noodles into a greased casserole dish. Spread half of the meat mixture over the top and add half the cheese. Add the rest of the noodles, the rest of the meat and top with the rest of the cheese.

Bake at 350 deg F for 20 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

around our house this week

It's been grey and rainy a lot lately. By mid-week we were decidedly grumpy and the weather wasn't helping. I was tired of grey, tired of damp and my soul was longing for a bit of sunshine. I have these in the kitchen

and living room, which help with the idea that spring is on it's way. We had a house guest, who wasn't much trouble over the last weekend but who didn't do much.

He ate lots of vegetables and hay and entertained our boy.

We've had some lovely meals - this polenta and artichoke tart from the Wednesday Chef (thanks Luisa)

and this celeriac soup from Dana Treat accompanied by delicious yogurt biscuits from Super Natural Every Day.

And a couple of days ago, the sun came out. Everyone seems happier. We went for a walk yesterday afternoon to a bay full of nostalgia for my husband's family and introduced our boy to it.

Today we have plans, to go skating, build some Lego creations

and play in the park with a friend.