26 February 2013

Bacon Chutney

Bacon. Does it need an introduction? I mean, everything tastes better with bacon, right? Breakfast without bacon is a sad affair. So is a burger, a salad, an omelet, a baked potato, anything! I mean they even make cupcakes with bacon. Quite an achievement. And lately, I saw a thing called Bacon Jam. I just needed to try this. Bacon you can spread? Oh yeah.





















It is salty, sweet, sticky, peppery and in my case, maply. And I think it should be labelled as more of a chutney then a jam too, but that's just my two cents.

To make a little jar of this goodness, you'll need:

500 g bacon (I used maple smoked bacon, ya know, cuz I'm Canadian and all)
1 chopped big shallot
3 chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons soft brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons brewed coffee
lots of cracked pepper

Cut the bacon in 1 inch little strips and fry up until brown and crisp. Remove the bacon and place on paper towel to drain all the excess fat.

Yummy Bacon Bits




















Keep 1 tablespoon of the fat and use to fry the shallot and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes in the same pan. Then add the vinegar, brown sugar and coffee. Bring to a boil.

Then transfer to a slow cooker, add the bacon, and cook on high for 3 hours. Alternatively, you can leave it to cook down on the stovetop for 1 1/2 hour at the lowest temperature, but it might burn more easily this way so stay close and stir often.




















When it is done cooking, add the pepper, put in a food processor and pulse until you get a consistency you think you'll like.






Serve with some no-fuss bread and some cheese. Spread the bacon love.



































22 February 2013

Blondies

February is the shortest month in the calendar year, but it seems the longest to me. I mean enough with the cold and the snow please! But at least the days are getting longer, I'm hanging on to that!

So I will admit that... I have been cheering myself up with those awesome blondies. There is nothing like sugar to cheer a gal up, no matter how wrong this sounds...




















To cheer yourself up too, you'll need:

225 g melted butter
255 g unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 eggs
320 g soft brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add ins:
90 g of dark or white chocolate chips (I prefer white but I didn't have any sadly)
90 g chopped walnut

Preheat your oven to 175˚C/350˚F and line a 9 inch square tin with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk your eggs together. Add the brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.




















Add the flour, baking powder and salt flakes and stir until just combined. Don't overmix. Add you add-ins of choice.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. You want them to be all squidgy in the middle, yet firm. As my dad puts it best, these are white brownies! So don't over bake them por favor.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool for a little. Then cut into them, pile high and eat to cheer oneself.




















* Sorry for the bad picture quality, I was in a hurry when I baked these... you know... I really wanted to eat them!

20 February 2013

Beer Bread

Cold weather calls for comfort food. Although I am very much looking forward to salads, beer garden and pimms o'clock, in Canada we are in da deep. Snow that is. So we need to embrace comfort food for a little while longer.




















That's why this beer bread is perfect. It's dense and super simple to make. You can prepare and bake it in under an hour and it will be the perfect accompaniment to a soup or hearty stew, or even just on its lonesome with some cheese: it rocks.





































You can also pimp the dough before you bake it with whatever you like: lots of freshly cracked pepper, grated cheese, even fried bacon bits. I mean can I sell this bread even more?

To make this boozy bread you'll need:

3 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 beer bottle (355 ml)
4 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat your oven to 220˚C/425˚F. Put 2 tablespoon of the melted butter in the bottom of a loaf tin and spread it around so the bottom and sides of the tin are all covered.

In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. (If you want to add pepper, cheese or bacon, even olives! now would be the time). Whisk in the beer until just combined.




















You can make this bread using any beer really. I once made it with a Corona because it was all I had in the house and did not want to go out. You don't need to go fancy here with your beer, no one will tell.

Your dough should look a bit rough, not very smooth.




















Place the dough into your prepared tin and put the remaining of the melted butter on top.




















Bake for 10 minutes in the oven, then reduce the heat to 190˚C/375˚F and continue baking for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Take out of the oven. Leave to rest for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn it on a cutting board, slice into it and serve warm.




















My tin was a white pyrex one so the loaf did not get a tanned as if I would have used a metal tin, but it still looked pretty and it tasted yummy all the same. Especially with extra butter smothered on a slice...






18 February 2013

Orange and Almond Cake

I hate marmalade. Can't stand the stuff. It's a shame because it looks so pretty, like little citrusey glistening globules. But it's so bitter! So it's a bit of a surprise that I like this cake, which is actually called a Marmalade Cake. But I decided to re-christened it so not to scare myself off, or anyone that suffers the same condition as me.





















Everyone should try and bake this cake. It is so dense because of the almonds, and it is not too sweet which makes it perfect for an afternoon tea snack, OR with a layer of buttercream on top for a fabulous pudding... divine! The best thing about this cake is that it tastes even better after a couple of days as it stays moist and the orangey flavour develops with time. The Paddington Bear would give this cake a thumbs up.

To make it you'll need:

1 orange (unwaxed)
1 lemon (unwaxed)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
300g caster sugar
125ml sunflower oil
150g ground almonds
150g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

Place the orange and lemon in a little saucepan, cover with water and boil for 30 minutes. Then take them out, let them to cool a little and cut them both in half. Scoop the flesh out of the lemon as it would be too bitter to keep it and remove any pips from the orange.




















Blend the orange and lemon rind into a coarse purée (of finer if you prefer but I quite liked little specks of juicy citruses in the cake).






















Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F. Grease and line a 23 cm spring form tin with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and salt together until airy and frothy. Slowly whisk in the sugar, and then the oil. Then fold in the orange and lemon rind purée, followed by the almonds, flour and baking powder. Don't over mix. Your mixture will be quite bubbly.




















Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.




















Let the cake cool a little and take out of the tin. Dust generously with about a tablespoon of sifted powdered sugar.

Then cut into it and serve yourself a big slice.





17 February 2013

Le Comptoir

There was a blizzard last weekend. It was cold, snowy, windy and icy. They named that blizzard Nemo. It doesn't sound very frosty for a blizzard... more like a tropical kind of blizzard... nevertheless, I braved the cold and went to one of my favourite restaurant in Montreal: Le Comptoir.

This little restaurant serves the freshest produce that have been dressed to the nines. Every item is intricately plated, and there are no starters or mains here, just medium sized plates that are best shared so you can taste more of the amazing menu that changes quite often.

We started with a prawn ceviche and lardon ravioli. Sooo tasty, oh my god, I'm still thinking about how good this was: yum.




















Then we had a lobster tart with buttery onions. De-li-cious.




















Then braised octopus in white wine, with crispy chorizo bits served on baby potatoe slice. I love octopus when it is cooked and prepared properly like this. Not chewy at all, very soft and tender.




















And blood pudding pain perdu with sour apple sauce. Not my favourite, but still quite good.




















We finished with this zesty fresh dessert: pineapple with white chocolate mousse rolled in coconut. Superb ending.




















Le Comptoir has been opened for more than 2 years now, but you still need to book ahead to get a table, which makes it an even more special experience. Bring a friend and go enjoy some amazing grub if you are ever in town.


7 February 2013

Nutella Cookies with Sea Salt

A while back, one of my friend posted a photo of those cookies on Facebook and everyone went loco for them. It was Facebook madness. I probably commented something like "keep me some!" or "I'm coming over now!". So she posted the recipe and I've been baking these bad boys since then.





















This week, I had a craving for them and was having a bit of a dilemma. You see, I am one of those sad people that cannot be near Nutella without eating the whole thing. I even banned my man to keep a jar in the flat. He obliged and accepted my weird habbit. I have tried to control this weakness, but failed. So sometimes, I just cave in, buy a jar, take a spoon and dig in. Then I bake those awesome cookies. And bring them to work the next day to share my Nutella love guilt and to also get rid of any evidence that I owned a jar of Nutella for a brief two days.





















Those cookies are quite thin and kinda half crunchy/half soft. And the sea salt flakes on top transform those humble cookies into something super special, aka people you share them with will think you all fancy schmancy.

This recipe will make about 20 to 22 cookies, and you'll need:

115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
150 g Nutella
115 g caster sugar
100 g brown soft sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g all purpose flour
40 g cocoa powder
handful miniature chocolate chips
sea salt flakes

Preheat your oven to 175°C / 350°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Cream the butter, Nutella, caster sugar and brown soft sugar together with an electric mixer.




















Beat for 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat again.


















Add the flour, cocoa powder and mix again. Add the miniature chocolate chips and mix one last time.




















Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and put them on the preapared baking tray, with about 2 inch space between them.




Bake for 10 minutes, more or less. Take out of the oven and sprinkle a little sea salt flakes on each cookie. Let the cookies rest for a minute or so on the tray, so they firm up a bit and then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.




















































Dunked in milk: Nutella success!

5 February 2013

Veggie Chili

It was Superbowl Sunday. The whole world (well the US and Canada) was going mad. Discussing if Beyonce will lip sync. Anticipating the awesome adds we will be subjected to this year. Looking forward to the new technology that will make the play-backs quality above anything we have ever seen before.

I was obsessing about food. I mean, with all the basement parties going on, food will be served to the hungry football fans, no? But what kind of food? Ribs. Chicken wings. Deep fried cheese sticks. Nachos. All washed down with beer. Humph.

I needed to make sure that the party I was going to was going to have something, well, more delicious, and admittedly not artery clogging, to feed the masses. Don't get me wrong, I love ribs! And I looove cheese. But chances are all those fatty snack will come out of the freezer. Not quite as appealing now.

So I decided to make veggie chili! And crossed my fingers that all da boys in da room wouldn't hate on my meat-free dish...




















It was spicy. It was rich. It was colourful. And it was super tasty. And I think I even converted some meat-lovers to my veggie alternative. (Or so they politely said!)




















To make it you'll need:

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion,
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoon chili powder (I used the mild flavouring)
1 teaspoon Espelette pepper
dried chili flakes - to your liking
2 medium sweet potato, diced
398 ml (13 oz) canned chopped tomatoes
398 ml (13 oz) vegetable broth
540 ml (19 oz) canned mixed beans, drained and rinsed
300 ml canned corn, drained
garnish: coriander, lime wedges, avocados, crème fraiche or sour cream

Fry the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, bell pepper and spices.




















Let cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.




















Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, broth and beans.




















Cook for 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender, but don't fall apart. You don't want them to become all mushy. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes.




















Serve in small bowls, and pimp up your chili with whatever takes your fancy. I especially like to add avocados to mine and some coriander too. My dad like it plain, with some lime wedges to squeeze. My cousins dashed theirs with Tabasco. To each their own!




















2 February 2013

No-fuss bread

I had a friend over for brunch.  One of those friends who only order salads when out at a restaurant.  I only have one friend like that. The always-on-a-diet friend. So it was a BIG challenge for the pancake loving gal that I am to come up with an interesting, yet super healthy brunch idea. No bacon. No waffles. No cream. No sugar. Bit of a nightmare.

I resigned myself on a spinach salad. With poached eggs. And avocado. And a side of homemade bread. Butter optional.




















This bread was warm, with a crunchy crust and lots of airy bubbles in the dough.  Amazing. I slathered my slices with salty buttery goodness.  My friend ate two slices (sans butter - her loss). Carbs for the win.

It also happens to be the easiest bread recipe ever. You only need to prep the dough the night before to let it rise. Oh, and did I mention there is no kneading? Yeah. Easy-peasy bread.

You'll need:

3 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 5/8 cup warm water

In a big mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt.  Slowly pour the water and mix with a rubber spatula until it looks like this:




















Then cover the bowl with cling film and let the gluten do its thang - for 12 to 18 hours.




















The next morning, the dough should have more than doubled and should have lots of little bubbles on top.  Flour your work surface and transfer the dough onto it.  Then fold the dough over itself a few times and form a kind of navel on top.




















Then flour heavily a clean tea-towel and pop the dough (navel down) onto it. Flour the top of the dough and wrap the tea-towel over it. Let sit for roughly 2 hours.




















30 minutes before the dough has finished rising, turn the oven on to 230°C / 450°F and put a cast iron pot (Le Creuset style) with lid, on in the centre oven.

When you are ready to bake your bread, take the pot out of the oven and delicately place the dough in, navel facing upwards. Pop the lid back on and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes. You know the bread is ready when the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it gently.




















The crust will be a nice golden-brown (under the flour! If you've put a tad too much flour like me, use a pastry brush to get some off the loaf).




















Take the loaf out of the pot and let cool for 20 mins or so. Then slice into it and serve right away, still warm and delicious.




































Clearly the bread is the star of this brunch. Move over salad.