The Pie wanted a curry for dinner on Sunday night, so, because I like him and stuff, I made him one. Didn’t have all the ingredients I wanted (like fresh herbs, for one), but it turned out all right. It’s a good curry for cleaning out your fridge. But most curries are, of course.
I chopped up a bunch of vegetables, all nice and thin so they would cook quickly: carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and tiny potatoes.
Cube up as well some chicken breasts. Remember that you can cut meat with more accuracy (like thinner slices or smaller cubes) if the meat is still slightly frozen at the time. Not totally frozen (because that will ruin your knives), but still firm and icy.
Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a pan on high and drop in the chicken to brown.
Add in some spices, to taste. I added in here some garlic, ginger, and yellow curry, then added in extra cumin, corriander, and turmeric. I would have added cardamom as well but I didn’t have any.
When the chicken has browned but not completely cooked through, reduce the heat and add a can of coconut milk.
Bring the milk to a simmer and add in your vegetables, and cook until the veggies are as tender as you like them.
Serve over na’an with a dollop of plain yogurt or raita for cooling purposes.
I am fortunate to have three best friends (and yes, the superlative applies to all of them). You’ve already met Cait and Chel, and now I would like to introduce you to Doodle (she’s not that fond of the nickname but she used to call me Poo so she’ll just have to suffer).
When she was home from Chicago for Christmas, she got her mother, who is Japanese, to teach her how to make gyoza, a crispy-fried dumpling, basically the Japanese version of a pot sticker. With her new-found knowledge she came over to cook dinner for my parents and the Pie and myself. And we were all so very glad she did.
For a very short person and a very tall person, Doodle and the Pie make a good cooking team.
To accompany the gyoza, Doodle decided on a simple green salad and miso soup, with rice on the side.
Start a pot of water boiling, with as much liquid as you will need to feed all your hungry mouths.
Grab yourself some miso. This particular miso was made BY HAND by Doodle’s mother, so it was extra good.
Add the miso bit by bit to the boiling water, until you have achieved the desired consistency and taste.
An important ingredient is dashi, a sort of fish powder. Sorry my picture here is blurry. Add a couple of shakes of that.
And some seaweed. It’s amazing, considering what’s in this particular soup, that the Pie drank his all up in a jiffy.
Cube some tofu and add that in as well.
Doodle informs me that you can keep whatever tofu you don’t use right away in your refrigerator, as long as it’s submerged in clean water, which you will need to replace every day. The more you know.
Keep adding things until it tastes good to you.
When you are ready to serve, pour your soup into bowls that will fit easily into your hand (miso soup is a good drinking soup) and garnish with chopped green onion.
For the salad:
On Doodle’s instructions I gathered equal amounts of broccoli, asparagus, and green beans, and chopped them into pieces manageable by chopstick.
Gently steam your vegetables in a pot of simmering water.
Drain and rinse the vegetables in cold water.
Dress with a mixture of soy sauce (Doodle’s mom prefers the sushi soy sauce for its sweetness), rice vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic powder, to taste.
For the dumplings:
This is Doodle chopping up Asian chives. I’m sure any kind of chive is good.
She then added them to about half a red onion, chopped finely, in a bowl.
Add to that about a cup each of ground pork and lean ground beef.
Maybe a spoonful each of minced garlic and minced ginger.
Doodle then chopped up some green cabbage. Then she mulched the cabbage in a food processor.
Adding the cabbage to the meat and onions, she mixed it well with her hands.
Now comes the fun part.
On your workspace, place the bowl with the meat mixture and a spoon for scooping it up, a plate for the finished dumplings, and a small bowl of warm water.
For these dumplings you need the round dumpling wrappers. Doodle tells me that the square ones don’t work as well, and, also, that the dumplings can be frozen and used later, though they are slightly more sticky when thawed.
Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand.
Take a spoonful of meat mixture and place it in the centre of the wrapper.
Dip a finger from your other hand in the water and use it to draw a line around the edge of half the wrapper.
At the edge of the wrapper, where the wet line meets the dry wrapper, pinch the two sides together, just at the edge. Then pull the rest of the wet side of the wrapper over slightly and pinch it onto the dry side, making a pleat.
Continue until you reach the end, so that one side of your dumpling edge is smooth and the other is pleated. This will make sure that the dumplings stay upright when they are cooked. Make sure to seal the edges well, using more water if you have to, in order to ensure a good seal.
Keep doing this until you either run out of dumpling wrappers or filling material. You can see that expert Doodle has created a plate of perfect dumplings.
This is the plate that the Pie and I made. Not quite so perfect. Of course after they were cooked you couldn’t tell the work of us newbs from that of the professional so it’s all good.
Now take a large non-stick frying pan with a lid that fits. A wok won’t work because you need the bottom to be flat.
Put a few teaspoons of oil in the pan and heat it to medium-high. Place your gyoza into the pan so they are all sitting upright and let them sizzle for a few minutes.
Fill a cup with water and add a teaspoon or two of flour. Mix it well.
Pour the flour water into the bottom of the pan and cover the pan with the lid.
Let the dumplings cook like that until all the water is gone and the flour has formed a sort of crispy net on the bottom of the pan.
Use chopsticks or a spatula to loosen the dumplings from the pan.
Place a plate on top of the dumplings.
Flip the pan so all the dumplings end up on the plate. Some may still end up in the pan. Some may end up on your floor. It’s anyone’s guess.
See how they’re all lovely and crispy brown?
Mix up some soy sauce and rice vinegar.
Pour it into a dipping bowl for your dumplings and serve everything with some rice.
Enjoy it thoroughly.
There was nothing left of this lovely repast, as you can see. I can’t wait to do it again!
Mincemeat is to the winter holidays what chocolate and beer are to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (I’m serious. Cadbury Mini Eggs and a microbrew during the finals is to die for). Originally a combination of dried fruits, spirits, fat, and meat, over the centuries the meat part has all but disappeared from the recipe, and now it’s more of a dessert type of thing. It does still employ three of the age-old methods of preserving, however: fat, sugar, and alcohol.
I have adapted Allora Andiamo’s recipe from Jamie Oliver‘s website and it is incredible. I quadrupled some things, and other things I just chucked in the amount I had, so it’s not particularly faithful to Ms. Andiamo’s original recipe but I give her full credit.
In a very large bowl I chucked the following, by weight:
55g dried blueberries
475g dried cranberries
575g candied orange peel
250g blanched almond slivers
400g finely chopped marzipan
474g (1lb) shredded butter (put the butter in the freezer, then grate it, or break it into chunks and run it through the food processor until you have fine crumbs)
1kg apples, finely chopped (I left the skins on and used a variety of different kinds, whatever I had lying around)
juice and rind of 5 large oranges
juice and rind of 2 large lemons
1kg soft brown sugar
3 teaspoons almond extract
8 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used both, of course)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
6 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
Give that a good stir, cover it, and leave it somewhere to marinate for about 24 hours.
The next day, distribute the mincemeat into casserole dishes (or, if you are clever like me and used a metal bowl, don’t bother), cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225°F for 3 1/2 hours.
I stirred mine halfway through, just to be thorough. And also because I don’t trust anything on its own in an oven for three and a half hours.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. The liquid will thicken as it cools so make sure to stir it occasionally in order for the syrup to coat all the fruit.
Before it completely cools, pour into sterilized jars and seal — can according to your canner’s instructions, or check out our tips to canning here.
Store in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks before using.
Behold the lowly, plebeian turnip. If you were my Scottish great-grandfather you’d call them neeps. The vegetable of the working class. Nubbly root vegetables that overwinter remarkably well. Tasty tubers.
You get the idea.
I’m fond of turnips. Rutabaga as well. They’re a little yellower, bigger, and stronger tasting than a turnip.
Thanksgiving is all about the harvest vegetables, and the turnip is a traditional addition.
I used 4 medium-sized turnips. (And 2 large apples. No picture of those sadly.)
Peel them with a sharp knife and cut them into cubes.
Chuck them in a pot with a pinch or two (or five) of cinnamon and enough water to cover.
Cover and simmer them until very tender, about an hour, maybe more.
Drain and mash with butter and a dash of maple syrup.
You can serve it as is, but this time we felt that the turnips were a little bland.
We peeled and cubed a single large sweet potato and boiled that up as well until it was tender.
Mash that sucker in with the turnip after you’re done your boiling.
Add a spoonful of ginger, as well as some nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
You can also freeze this stuff for thawing and reheating later. It saves time on the big day.
This is a recipe from Pioneer Woman. It’s pretty much the best combination of everything that’s awesome in the world.
The amounts in this are all approximate. Feel free to experiment with the proportions until you come up with a flavour combination that suits you.
Okay, so take a couple heads of broccoli and cut all the florets off. Save them for a nice broccofu/broccomeat later. Cut off the tough bottoms and use a vegetable peeler to get off the thick skin. Then cut it up into tiny little matchsticks.
Julienne up two red peppers and also an onion.
Slice up, as well, about three green onions. You can use fresh cilantro instead of green onions if you like.Take yourself four boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and cut them into small bite-sized cubes.
Get ready as well a dobble or two of minced ginger and red curry paste. You can adjust these accordingly to your own personal preferences.
Now, take the cream off two cans of coconut milk and dump it into a large saucepan.
Turn on the stove to medium-high heat and let that simmer up.
Look how it melts all lovely.
Plop in the curry and the ginger and let that simmer for another minute.
Now drop in your chicken and let it cook all the way through.
Add in four cups or so of chicken broth and the rest of the coconut milk.
Let it start to bubble again and drop in half the green onion.
Heave in the vegetables.
Now comes the tricky part. You want to jam in a package of wide, flat rice noodles. Do some manipulation and get that stuffed in as well as you can. It might take some time to get them softened enough to cram them in all the way.
The noodles should take about five minutes to cook through, but you want to get the sauce boiling until it starts to thicken. Remove it from the heat and let it thicken for another five minutes or so.
We served ours in tiny bowls out of a communal dish, and sopped up the juices with na’an. So filling and so excellent.This serves a whole bunch of people, probably about six, so we chucked the leftovers in some Tupperware and it was great the next day.
Did I mention that we are broke students who live in Newfoundland, a rock in the middle of the north Pacific Atlantic Ocean?
This recipe arose out of necessity, when the only vegetable we could get in the winter that was half decent was broccoli, and the only protein we could afford was a block of tofu or a thin frying steak that cost two dollars.
Fortunately, we take after our respective parents, and do not lack for condiments.
This is a Pie recipe, and until the night he let me photograph it, I never knew the secret. Of course, as he says, improvisation is quintessential, and the recipe is not exactly the same every night. Accordingly, I have provided you with alternative ingredient options: the tofu option (“broccofu”), the steak option (“broccomeat”), the teriyaki version (sweeter), and the black bean version (more sour).
Separate two small heads of broccoli into individual florets, and slice up the tender part of the stem, while you’re at it.
Cube a block of firm tofu — the firmer the better, because it will disintegrate on you. I love cutting tofu. It’s like extra hard Jello.
Alternatively, slice a thin uncooked steak into strips.
In a large pan or wok, heat up two tablespoons of peanut or other frying oil with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger from a jar. If you are doing the teriyaki version, omit the ginger.
When your oil is sizzling with your minced herbs, add your tofu or your steak and allow to brown for a few minutes. While it’s doing its thing, mix together, in a small bowl, a tablespoon of each of the following (2 if you’re feeling saucy):
black bean sauce (it’s more of a paste) / alternatively / teriyaki sauce
garlic black bean sauce (it’s more of a liquid) / alternatively / sweet and sour sauce
hoi sin sauce
garlic chili sauce
I know. Everything seems to have garlic in it. Trust me. It works out. Don’t be afraid to improvise with what you have and experiment to cater to your own tastes. Stir fries are meant to be made up.
Pour the sauce into the pan and stir the tofu/steak until coated. The Pie wishes to point out that the reason he adds the sauce before the broccoli is because he finds that the florets act like sponges and suck all the sauce away unless it has a chance to coat the other ingredients first.
After mixing in the sauce, drop in your broccoli florets and stems, and heat until the broccoli is bright green.
Serves 2 over rice. With the rice, the whole thing costs you less than $4. My cheap brother Kristopf would be proud.
I’ve been craving this particular recipe for a while, but good chicken doesn’t come cheap in this town.
My oldest brother Kristopf lived in Japan for about five years. During that time he was pretty miserly with his money, ate a lot of mayonnaise and rice, and wasn’t too inventive in the kitchen.
One of his staples during this time that did survive his return to North America and subsequent new appreciation for food is something I like to call Man Chicken. I once cornered him into giving me the recipe, which takes up about two lines in my magic book and has no real exact measurements in it, just ‘some’ and ‘a bit’. It’s a recipe after my own heart.
With a sharp knife, slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 4 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs) into 1″ strips and remove excess fat and gristle.
Put the strips in a bowl and add 2-3 teaspoons minced ginger (comes in jar, just like garlic), 4 tablespoons or so rice vinegar, and 4 tablespoons or so soy sauce. Kristopf prefers the Japanese brands of these kind of things, but he’s a bit of a snob. Stir it up, cover it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for a little while.
Toss the contents of your bowl, chicken and marinade, into a pan and sauté until chicken is cooked through.
Serve over rice. We ate it with steamed baby spinach. Blamo kablam.
The Pie and I were married on 22 August 2009. We wanted to do our wedding on the cheap, because we are stone broke, and we also wanted to give our guests a little taste of our personality. With that in mind, we turned down my parents’ repeated offers to make fruitcakes (‘but it’s a traditional Scottish wedding cake’) and decided to make cupcakes instead of buying a tiered and costly confection.
Which flavours were we to pick? The choices were almost endless and we didn’t know where to begin. My mother gave me Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake as a Christmas present, and we decided to start there. With one exception, all the recipes we tried are from there.
I chose a panel of a dozen people at work to help us to test our cupcakes, and every one of them looked forward to Cupcake Friday. By the time I was finished the experiment (which ran from the beginning of March to the end of June 2009), my panel had doubled in size and I was a very popular lady at work.
A crucial piece of machinery without which I would have gone MAD is the Kitchenaid stand mixer. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who does a lot of baking. Also my camera, of course. I took a lot of pictures during this period. You can see the rest of them on my Flickr site here.
#1 Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream
These were extremely tasty but not particularly attractive, texture-wise. Aesthetically they weren’t much to go on either. The icing was also quite runny and very sticky, but also very good. The sour cream mixed with the lemon and the icing sugar made a tangy topping. The Committee thought it would make a good brunch baked good.
One thing to note about these is that I had to re-cup the cupcakes after they were baked, because the bottoms had burned a bit in my antiquated oven and I wanted to hide that. Fun fact: if you re-cup a cupcake, the cupcake will not stick to the paper cup anymore, as you can see in the photograph.
#2 Carrot Cardamom
I really like the word ‘cardamom.’ These ones turned out exactly like the picture in the book, which was gratifying, and they had a much smoother texture than the Apple Cinnamon, which was reassuring.
I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, however; they have a bitter after taste that I am not fond of – I much prefer pecans. The mascarpone icing, however, was incredible and there was an enormous amount of it. If these cupcake experiments taught me anything (and to quote one of the Committee members), ‘there is no such thing as too much icing.’
#3 Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes
These little boogers were a spectacular failure on my part. The recipe involved putting half the batter into the cup, then sprinkling it with grated marzipan, then putting the other half of the dough on top. Silly me, I did all the bottom halves first, then all the marzipan, and by the time I got around to the tops, I had run out of batter.
In addition, I had to deal with runny icing and artificial cherries, and that’s never a good combination. Let us not forget as well that I had to face the inevitable comments at work that these strongly resembled boobs. So much for professionalism.
Overall, they were too sweet, and too much of a pain to make. Vetoed.
… then something magic happened …
… my oven exploded!
I’m totally serious. The Pie was making dinner one night and I heard this loud thrumming noise coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a yell that I should probably get in there. I ran in and saw bright white light coming from the oven window – element was arcing and sending off sparks. It was making the thrumming noise. We turned off the oven and got the hell out of there. Two days later my landlord bought us a new oven. It’s so low tech that it has no interior light and you have to shine a flashlight in to see if your stuff is done, but it works really well, I will give it that.
#4 Creamy Coconut Lime
It was from this new oven that a new generation of cupcake was born. I could now actually follow the recipe when it came to temperature and cooking time. Nothing burned, or exploded. It was inspiring, actually. The first experiment to come out of the new oven, or ‘tailgate special’ as I like to refer to it, was this perfect confection. It was unanimously voted by the Committee as the perfect cupcake for a wedding. Nothing I made after this counted for much in their opinions. I was, however, undaunted, and continued on with my experiments. I couldn’t stop now – things were just getting good.
#5 Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing
In these, I substituted canned mandarin slices for regular orange segments. Other than the fact that I am truly lazy and did not want to segment several oranges, the canned pieces meant that my cupcakes would be uniform and also that the quality of the fruit would be good. Living in Newfoundland, especially during the winter, means that produce quality is always a guessing game.
These cakes were popular with those who liked poppyseeds. I liked them, but the Pie was not a huge fan.
As you can see, I was really getting into my groove here. My photographic cupcake record had turned more artistic now that my appliances were cooperating.
#6 Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal
These little beauties contained fresh Newfoundland blueberries stuck right into the batter, and were made with cornmeal, which made the batter a sunshiny yellow but which created a texture many were not expecting.
I thought they were great but most people were unconvinced. In any case, I had a lot of fun with my new zester, creating and photographing my confections.
Martha Stewart eat your heart out:
#7 Maple and Pecan
I had a lot of fun making these – and burned myself severely in the process. They were one of my favourite cupcakes, taste-wise, but many people found the hard caramelized sugar too sharp or tough to bite into, the Pie included, so they were eventually scrapped.
Playing with melted sugar is a lot of fun. If I ever made these again, however, I would let the sugar cool a bit more before pouring it, to keep the fluid from spreading too much – I think that was my major failing here.
#8 Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes
I ended up renaming these bad beauties Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, because that’s pretty much what they tasted like, and that’s pretty much all the ‘icing’ really was: hot whipping cream poured over dark and bittersweet chocolate and then whipped into a light foam. They are truly divine. The batter itself was a little bland, however, so I thought I could improve somewhat.
You can see at this time that spring was coming, and my seedlings were on the sprout. But spring comes late to Newfoundland, and we had a while yet to wait.
#9 Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing
I can pretty much guarantee that I will never make these again. I have never been so disappointed with myself. I didn’t want to serve them to the Committee, and some Committee members refused to even finish them. They were dry and tasteless and the crystallized ginger on top was too strong. It was supposed to be stem ginger in syrup but this being Newfoundland I couldn’t find any.
I had to redeem myself.
#10 Marble Cupcakes
When these were finished they looked nothing like the photograph but boy were they tasty. Inside was a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake that really wasn’t visible unless there was no icing but which was nice and moist and light.
The icing was cream cheese mixed with cream and icing sugar. You can’t really top that, but of course that would mean leaving out the caramel.
I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping, but had I been thinking I would have used real dulce de leche, because it would have held its shape better and not oozed everywhere. These cupcakes certainly entailed sticky fingers.
#11 Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing
The Pie and I wanted to experiment with a few lower-fat options, and this was one of them, containing no butter at all, and of course using ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for icing.
They turned out really well but weren’t quite what we were looking for.
#12 Chocolate Fireworks
These were meant to be served with lit sparklers in them, but I wasn’t sure how I would get them into the office.
I settled for the little silver balls instead. Did you know they are called ‘dragees’?
The icing was rather unimaginative and runny, but the batter had some orange in it that kept in moist and gave it a nice tart tang.
#13 Raspberry Trifle
Unlucky number 13. We were drawing to the close of our experiment here, with only three more recipes to try, and I was pretty tired of making cupcakes at this time. It seemed every week I was adding someone new to the Cupcake Committee email distribution list.
I made these while watching Detroit lose to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was cheering for the Red Wings (my beloved Senators didn’t even make the post-season) because I hate Crosby, but alas, I was out of luck.
This cake was really good, though, because it was chock-full of raspberries. I thought the custardy topping could have had more flavour, but that might have had something to do with me failing at making custard.
#14 Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
I left the picture of this one small because it’s blurry. It was late, I was tired, and these were such a hassle that I forgot to take a picture until super late at night.
The recipe called for slicing off the top of the cupcake so the cream cheese topping would set, smooth and flat, like a real cheesecake. I cut off the tops, which was a pain, considering I then had to re-cup the cakes, and then topped them. And discovered that the topping wasn’t going to lie smooth and flat anyway.
There was some swearing.
In the end, these were one of my favourites: a fine vanilla cake with vanilla cream-cheesy ‘icing’ and sliced strawberries on top. The fanning of the berry was my idea, as the berries I got weren’t of the quality that they would stand up on their own, like they were in the book.
#15 Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake
Another cheesecake-y recipe that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac, as is one of my former coworkers, and both of them were coming to the wedding. I didn’t want them to feel excluded from the cake part of the festivities, so I experimented with a gluten-free recipe.
It was an all right cupcake, but it wasn’t light or fluffy, the potato flour I used made the texture a little grainy, and, all in all, it was rather bland.
#16 Coconut Cream
This was my final cupcake, and it wasn’t really an experiment.
One of the people in the Cupcake Committee had been talking about the Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut and Cream cupcakes for a while so as a final treat I decided to make them. You can get the recipe from the Food Network here.
The cupcakes were huge, and I knew I wasn’t going to make them for the wedding – they were pretty time-consuming. But everyone on the Committee had been talking about that other coconut recipe for ages, so I thought I would end it with an echo of the earlier recipe.
They were fabulous and if you ate more than one you felt ill. We had wayyy too many leftovers and I think we ate them for three weeks straight. Or at least it felt like that. They were good though. I recommend giving them a shot.
And that’s it. Sixteen cupcakes in seventeen weeks.
Which ones did we eventually choose: Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake, Fireworks (but with the icing from the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse), and the Raspberry Trifle (but with a lemon cream cheese icing instead of the custard. They were a hit.