Fried smelts and herb-butter potatoes

 

Smelts are a small, delicious fish that somewhat resemble salmon. They are best when fried and eaten whole if small enough, or when bigger you can fairly easily pull the bones out by pulling along the spine to the tail.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh or de-frosted smelt, cleaned and heads removed if the fish is longer than your thumb
  • 2-3 tbsp. rendered duck fat
  • Lemon quarters
  • Brussels sprouts (optional side)
  • Young potatoes (optional side) with herb butter

Directions:

  1. Turn on a large fan and open the windows when cooking any seafood!
  2. Cook the vegetables in boiling water until tender when pierced with a fork, set aside
  3. Rinse and pat the smelts dry
  4. Pre-heat the duck fat at high heat
  5. Place the smelts in the pan and cook about 3 minutes each side
  6. Put the extras in the oven at 250 degrees if you have a small pan
  7. Serve with lemon and parsley

You can also make them breaded if you prefer, by shaking them in a seal-able bag with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs prior to frying.

Chocolate swirl bread

A delicious, almost cakey bread that smells intoxicatingly of chocolate. The recipe is slightly complex and was translated from a Japanese website where the photos look even nicer. I’m copying it here just in case the original link goes down but it is certainly not my invention.

For the chocolate paste

  • 20gm or 1 oz. cake flour
  • 50gm or 4 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 80gm or 3 oz. milk (warmed)
  • 25gm or 1 oz. cocoa powder
  • 10gm or 1 tsp. butter

For dough

  • 300gm or 1 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 12gm or 2 1/5 tsp. milk powder
  • 5gm or 1 tsp. dry yeast
  • 5gm or 1 tsp. salt
  • 24gm or 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Water (water + egg yolk = 210gm or 7 1/2 oz.)
  • 18gm or 1 1/2 tbsp. butter

What to do
For chocolate paste

  • Mix sugar and cake flour into the egg white until smooth. (no need to beat)
    Add coca powder into warm milk and sitr till powder is incorporated into milk.
  • Add egg white mixture into the warm milk (using a small pot) and stir over low fire till thicken (paste like). Then add in butter and mix till incorporated.
  • Leave paste to cool and then roll into a 14x14cm square (using plastic wrap).
  • Keep in fridge.

For dough

  • Mix all the dough ingredients tog. Knead for 8 mins and add the butter. Knead until you get a smooth dough. Leave to poof at room temperature until 1.5 times size and then place dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Take out dough after 1 hour, roll it out to 25×25 square. Place the 14x14cm rolled out chocolate paste in the middle of the dough. Fold in 4 sides of the dough to cover the chocolate and seal the seams tight.
  • Roll out dough to 45x21cm. Make 3 folds (like folding a letter) and place dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Take dough out from the fridge and repeat the step above (roll out and then 3 folds). Rest it for 10 mins.
  • Finally, roll dough to 14x30cm. Make a cut in the middle (along the 30cm side) but do not cut through, leave about 3cm uncut at top end, then twist and plait the dough.
  • Place plaited dough into the bread mould and let it proof at room temperature until dough expands to 80% of the mould.
  • Bake at 190C or 375 degrees for 35-40mins in a preheated oven. (preheat oven at 200C, 400 degrees)

 

 

Bon appétit!

 

Sweet rice pudding (kheer)

Tonight’s dinner was roast chicken with leftover rice (there’s sort of a trend this week). So dessert took center stage – the ultimate British or Indian comfort food, warm and sweet and milky.

Ours is a variation, not the thick traditional rice pudding that’s like oatmeal. Think more like hot cereal with milk.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. rice
  • 1 qt. milk (may need more if the rice is very absorbent)
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 fresh bay leaf

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
  • Put all ingredients in a casserole dish, uncovered
  • Bake for 2 – 3 hours, depending on the rice

We made ours with purple rice from Thailand, which gave it the natural colour.

Bon appétit!

Pasta with prosciutto, spinach and Romanesco

I am utterly delighted by fruits and vegetables that excite my senses with their newness. New smells, tastes, looks and texture, or a departure from the ordinary. I am also excited by new meats, grains and such, but there’s something lovely about a fruit, vegetable or seed. I can see it entire, instead as of a byproduct.

So it should not be a surprise that I promised an unusual addition for tonight’s dinner… notice that green shape in the background? Romanesco is a gloriously odd shaped cauliflower that has been mixed with broccoli, but which essentially tastes like cauliflower.

Isn’t it lovely?! But I’ll try not to keep waxing poetic about my odd passion. Instead I’ll leave you with the recipe for pasta with prosciutto and spinach, another adaptation from Food and Wine’s Quick Italian from Scratch. The pasta is hearty, with bright spinach and salty warm prosciutto, with the tasty Romanesco on the side.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (I forgot these tonight but they’re delicious)
  • 1/4 lb sliced prosciutto
  • 10 ounces or just some handfuls of spinach
  • 1 lb pasta
  • Grated Parmesan to taste (optional)
  • One head of Romanesco

Directions:

  1. Optionally toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan with a little bit of oil, or in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Boil water and cook the pasta until it is done, then drain most of the water.
  3. Boil water and cook the Romanesco, or steam it if you prefer – treat it like cauliflower.
  4. Add the spinach and prosciutto to the pasta, and stir until warmed through.

Bon appétit!

Italian rice with chicken

If you ever read Serendipity books as a child, you may recall the mouse Tweezle who worked hard to forage and preserve in anticipation of the coming winter. It’s another long, cold day where you notice it getting darker in the evenings, and with it comes a chance to use leftovers and feel virtuous.

Yesterday’s roast chicken (or your favorite vegetarian substitute) are re-purposed in today’s Italian rice. This meal is a lazy version of one in Food and Wine’s Quick Italian from Scratch, which has several dishes I like to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 lb of vegetables such as peas, beets, spinach, asparagus and mushrooms (frozen is fine but takes less cooking time)
  • ~1 lb chicken, either roast leftovers or boneless thighs

Directions:

  • Boil the rice until tender, usually 10 minutes
  • While it boils, fry the chicken in a tablespoon or so of oil if you’re using raw chicken
  • With 2 tablespoons of stock, heat the vegetables in a pot, then add the rice and chicken

Bon appetit!

PS: Tomorrow’s dish should have an exciting and strange addition, stay tuned…

Roast chicken, squash and Spigarello

 

Even though I love the summer heat and swimming, my favorite season is still fall. The weather is cool, dry and often sunny, but more than that, it feels like a season of change and renewal. And with the extra cold nights and mornings, what’s better than a hot meal? I can’t answer that definitively, but tonight roast chicken was a welcome treat. Spigarello is a leafy green heirloom from Italy, with a flavor slightly milder than kale and with a light, almost tangy hint of broccoli.

  • For the squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Cover with tinfoil and cook for 45 minutes at 390 degrees or until soft when poked with a fork. I sometimes get fancy and fill the cavity with onions, red bell pepper and butter, and put the two halves back together.
  • For the chicken, we just salted it and put it in for an hour at 400 degrees. We don’t cover it, and it never fails to result in crisp skin and juicy meat.
  • For the Spigarello, bring a pot of water to a boil with salt and diced garlic, then cook the greens for about 4 minutes. For added flavor, cook in vegetable or meat stock.

 

 

Bon appetit!

Mystery curry

Some days things don’t go as we plan. Imagine my horror when, after taking a bite of freshly seared steak, it tasted like freezer burn. This was no cheap cut, it was pricey and free-range from a local farmer’s market. There must have been an error in their packing, because I’ve never had this problem before.

This happened a few days ago and the cooked meat sat in my fridge, glaring at me defiantly. ‘Go on, throw me away and waste all that money,’ it seemed to sneer. I knew there must be another way, and sure enough, curry sauce came to the rescue!

As an emergency dish, the recipe is a bit slapdash – a bit of this, a pinch of that.

Ingredients:

  • Green rice (here’s my version)
  • Mystery meat (or beans as a vegetarian alternative)
  • Veggies like corn, summer squash, potatoes – anything sturdy enough to stand up to strong flavors and some heating
  • Your favorite jar of curry sauce

Directions:

  • Saute the meat and vegetables in a pan until warm (mine were pre-cooked)
  • Add lavish helpings of curry sauce
  • Heat the rice in a pot or microwave until warm

It turned out quite nice over leftover green rice from yesterday’s meal along with the last drops of the Torii Mor 2010 Pinot Noir from Oregon – bright, tangy and almost flowery, but with a lasting finish. It was probably a little young to drink but it was delicious.

I followed it up with a flaky almond croissant filled with chocolate, mmm!

Bon appetit!

Sauteed scallops and green rice

After a hiatus I promised myself I wouldn’t mention, involving illness, heartache and new friends, seafood seems like a good place to start. A trip to the local market and we have fresh scallops, spinach and parsley from the home garden.

Ingredients:

  • 3 scallops per person, or 4 if you love them
  • Duck fat, frozen or fresh (I get it frozen at the local Asian supermarket), or butter or oil
  • A serving of rice per person (basic recipe)
  • Handfuls of fresh Italian parsley
  • A handful or several fresh beet greens
  • A handful of fresh or frozen spinach
  • 1-2 chopped green onions
  • Handful of pre-cooked chestnuts (optional)

Scallops:

  • Heat the pan to medium-high with duck fat or oil of choice
  • When the pan is sizzling hot, add scallops
  • All recipes say 2 minutes per side but if you didn’t get your pan hot enough, it can take 5 minutes or more
  • Cook until they don’t look translucent, they should get milky in appearance (nervous cooks can cut them in half to double-check)

Green rice:

  • Cook the rice in a pot, or add to pot after cooking
  • Add onions and greens, cook for a few minutes
  • Add parsley and crumbled chestnuts, cook for a few minutes longer or until hot through

Green rice is adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s wonderful book My Father’s Daughter. You can use whatever greens you have on hand, kale is a good option although I recommend cooking it first.

Bon appetit!

5 minute meal: Beef and mac over broccoli

Most five minute meals require upfront preparation and at least one pot. But some days I get home exhausted from work and want something quick while still somewhat healthy. All you need for this ‘recipe’  is a bowl and a microwave.

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen meal of your favorite beef with macaroni
  • 1 head of baby broccoli

Directions:

  1. Microwave frozen meal until there’s 1 minute left
  2. Cut off the broccoli into bite-size chunks and place in a bowl
  3. Add the semi-cooked mac into the bowl and stir, then microwave for 1 minute
  4. Salt to taste

Tada! It’s healthy and yummy.

Rosemary lemonade for summer days

For some reason I don’t like drinking plain water, but during the summer I definitely need more water. At a charity event, I discovered a delicious drink featuring lemonade + gin + rosemary. I adapted this to make a rosemary lemon water, but you can also use mint, other herbs or no herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces of water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1-2 stems of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup (or other syrup)

Directions:

  1. Mix lemon juice and agave syrup together until they are well blended
  2. Add the water and stir, then add the rosemary
  3. Slice the lemon and add a few of the pieces

This is a lemony flavored water, if you want real lemonade then use 3 lemons and 3 tablespoons of syrup.