Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gifted Another Trout, wins Ugliest Plate Contest!

Kevin went fishing again and caught another couple of trout, so he gave us a nice 3lb one. I made a point of pressing on the skin with a finger to see if it springs back.  It was firm enough not to dent, that's fresh! I liberally salted and mixed peppered the cavity and exterior.  In the cavity I put a sprig of rosemary, thyme and a bunch of chives.  I sealed it in foil and put it on the BBQ over medium heat for two minutes each side. Then I put it in the centre of the heat to roast for 30 minutes total cooking time. I turned it over one more time half was through.

The rice was basmati cooked with half chicken stock, half water, salt and a little oil. The pepper salad Fern made. Not sure what all is in it but it's good!

Fern takes the meat off the fish carcass so we get mostly boneless fish. He doesn't get the skin off entirely so the plating is haphazard I didn't compose the plate, I just plopped everything down. It shows. 

I put salt on my fish on the plate like it had never been salted.  That made a difference. It brought up the sweetness and toned down the trout flavour.  If I made some tartar sauce I'd have a really nice entre.  I'm feeling more confident now so I'll try to debone the fish myself next time, see if I can make the plate look a little better.

Southwest Chicken with Two Salads

Southwest Chicken with Caesar Salad is now a simple meal for me to prepare. Ryan has joined us for a few months and he doesn't like mayonnaise so instead of leaving his salad undressed, I made a vinaigrette for his salad.

I boned the chicken, made stock frone the bones and fried the skins for the dogs.  Then I pounded the breasts to make them uniform thickness and salted, then seasoned them with:

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

I did the chicken on the BBQ.  Two minutes each side over the heat then move to the centre off the heat to roast for 25-30 minutes total cooking time. I managed to overcook them slightly but they weren't burnt, just dryer than usual.

Caesar Salad Dressing

1 egg yolk
1/3 cup oil 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
few drops Worcestershire Sauce
anchovy fillet (I'm using Chinese Oyster Sauce instead which seems to work fine)
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 cup croutons (dry but not petrified alpine bread makes wonderful croutons)
lemon juice

First, put oil in a pan and toss the croutons with salt and pepper.  Get a nice brown on them then put them aside to cool. 

Emulsify the oil into the yolk then add the other ingredients and whisk.  Toss the salad and croutons together first in the dressing. Then toss the salad with the Parmesan. Serve.


Two teaspoon oil, one teaspoon white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I also added a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Whisk and toss the salad in the vinaigrette. Serve.

Everyone was happy with their meal and I felt better at being able to do something different for one guest without too much trouble.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Roast Pork

A small pork loin roast was on sale and we haven't had pork in a while so I picked it up.  It was late in the day so I didn't have time to brine it.  Instead I liberally salted and peppered it then laid bay leaves, rosemary and thyme sprigs across the top. I inserted the meat thermometer and popped the roast in the oven.  It took close to two hours to cook at 325ºF. It didn't brown as nicely so I'll use 350ºF next time.

Mashed potatoes made in the usual manner with salt, butter and milk.  The carrots and peas were steamed then finished in the pot with extra virgin olive oil. I made a little pan gravy by adding a teaspoon of flour to the roasting pan and cooking the flour taste off. Then I added chicken stock and a splash of milk with some salt and pepper.

The pork is served with Fern's 'ketchup' and really makes the dish.  I overcooked the peas just a touch but it was hardly noticeable. The gravy was a real treat. If I had brined the roast it would have been a tiny bit better, but it was certainly good enough.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fresh Sole with Almonds and Savoury Lemon Sauce

The first time I cooked sole I was quite afraid of it.  I needn't have been.  It's about the easiest fish to cook there is.  The only rule, fresh not frozen. Frozen sole turns to mush when cooked. The bones are too small to take out so just cook them in for a little crunch. Cutting the fillets up into pieces about the size of the spatula makes them easier to turn over. Simply salt and dredge the fillets in flour and lay in hot oil.  It cooks so fast it's best to have everything else ready or almost ready when  the fish hits the oil. When one side gets browned turn it over and do the other side.  It only takes a couple of minutes each side if the pan is hot.

I put slivered almonds in the toaster oven to brown them. They are just sprinkled over the fish and covered in lemon sauce.  The lemon sauce is a roux, butter and flour cooked together then chicken stock added to thin.  Lemon juice was added to taste and a little salt too. If the stock is tasty, the sauce will be savoury lemon heaven. I make fresh chicken stock at least once a week so I always have it on hand.

The vegetables were done in the steamer and again I managed to overcook the broccoli. At least this time I had Berio XV olive oil to finish them with. After draining the vegetables I put them back on the stove over medium low heat with xv olive oil for flavour. 

The mashed potatoes are plain with just a little butter, salt and milk. Ryan stayed for dinner and said it was the best Sole he'd ever had.  Most of his life was spent eating fast food so pretty much anything is going to taste better, but I'll take the compliment anyway.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Outside Round Steak Pressure Cooked

I wanted to try my new pressure cooker so I was looking for something cheap and a bit tough. Round steak was on sale and I got enough for 3 people and 2 dogs for $6.05. I had tomatoes, a few new potatoes, onion, celery, carrot and 3 cloves of garlic. 

I sweated the onion then added the celery, carrot and garlic for a minute before taking all from the pan.  I added more oil and put half the seasoned meat in to brown on medium high heat. When both sides had a good sear I took them out and put the vegetables back in.  Five tomatoes chopped up went in with a little chicken stock to get the sauce going and the meat on top.  I added one tablespoon of Southwest Spice to the pot, the potatoes and put the lid on. Heat on high till the pressure is up then turn down to medium low for 15 minutes. That should cook and soften the tough cut of meat. I also made some rice since there wasn't quite enough potatoes for three.

The meat didn't come out quite as tender as I'd hoped, but it wasn't as tough as it could have been either. The flavour was excellent and the potatoes were cooked through. I think maybe 30 minutes in the pressure cooker would have softened the meat a lot more. It will take more research and more experiment.  

Despite being an experiment, the meal was quite good and we all felt well fed.  The tomato sauce Fern wanted saved for pasta for lunch today.  So it was good enough to have again!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moose Ravioli with Southwest Chicken Breast

We had some moose sausage in the fridge so I decided to use that for the filling of some ravioli. Since I would make only 12 ravioli I felt I needed another meat to make a full portion.  I found the 2 smallest chicken breasts I've ever seen at the store and headed home.

I boned the breasts, put the skins on the fry for the dogs and seasoned the meat with salt and Southwest spice rub.

Southwest Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

I cut off about 2 inches of sausage and chopped it very fine.  I added some fresh ground parmesan but there wasn't enough fat to keep it all together.  So I got some egg white and mixed some with the meat. That worked.  I made 12 small balls.


1 egg
2/3 cup flour

Use a fork to drag the egg through the flour until all the flour is taken up.  Work the dough a add more flour till it is no longer sticky.  Cover and put in the fridge for a while.  Roll out to number 6 of 7 thickness.  Dust the ravioli tray with flour and lay the pasta on it.  Put a meat ball in each pit and wipe the edge of each ravioli with egg white.  Lay the second piece of pasta on top and starting in the centre, push all the air out of the ravioli and seal them.  Roll the top of the ravioli form and peel the ravioli out. I had enough pasta to make some fettuccine so I decided to have more pasta and no salad on the side.  

I took a slice of onion and started sweating it.  I added two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped.  I added a can of tomato paste and enough chicken stock to make a nice sauce of it.  I added enough salt to take the sharp edge off the tomato paste. Just before the pasta was ready I added fresh chopped basil to the tomato sauce.

The chicken breasts were on the BBQ for 2 minutes each side over high heat then set off the heat to roast for a total cooking time of 25-30 minutes. I plated it all called Fern for dinner.

Fern thought the tomato sauce was too intense, tomato paste alone doesn't seem to cut it. The ravioli held together and tasted good. It was too much pasta and not enough vegetable. Next time I'll stick to my original plan and have salad.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Kevin went fishing and  he gave us two lovely trout for dinner.  All I did with it was salt and pepper over all including the cavity. Put thyme, rosemary and chives in the cavity with a pad of butter and seal in foil.  I put the foiled fish on the BBQ for 2 minutes each side on the heat then let them roast off the heat. I left them in about 25-30 minutes.  The fish was perfectly cooked and still moist. Fern pulled the meat off the bones and I served them with new potatoes and carrots. 

Trout tastes a lot like salmon, it was wonderful.  I did notice the trout tasted sweeter with more salt on it so I think that may be part of why we aren't wild about salmon. Not enough salt. It always surprises me how much salt foods actually need.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Frozen Yoghurt

The strawberries have been coming up so fast it's hard to use them all.  I harvested what rhubarb I had and picked all the berries.  First I made frozen yoghurt from my fresh made home made yoghurt. I put a cup or so of berries in a 4 cup measure and covered them with yoghurt.  I added less than a cup of milk to bring the level to 3 cups.  Then I used the immersion blender to break up the strawberries.  I think I put about 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar in the frozen yoghurt. I added a packet of gelatin but it added more water.  All that water frozen into a rock hard lump. I had to leave the yoghurt out of the freezer fro 20 minutes before I could scoop it. I should have cooked the berries a bit first to reduce the water content.

I put about 4 cups of strawberries and rhubarb in a pot on the stove and cooked them to soften a bit. I added enough sugar to get a tart but not sour filling.

Pie Crust

1 cup lard
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vinegar

Cut the lard into the flour and salt until it is the texture of coarse oatmeal. Whip the egg into the liquid and add half liquid to flour.  Use a fork to mix the flour into the egg and add more liquid until all the flour is taken up.  Put the ball of dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill so it will roll easily. Roll the dough out and poke the bottom with a fork then coat the inside with butter.  Add 1/4 cup flour to the strawberry rhubarb mixture.

Pour 3 cups filling into the pie crust, add the top crust and poke holes in it.  Put the pie on a cookie sheet so the filling won't bubble out and get all over the oven.

I would cook strawberries before putting them in frozen yoghurt again. Fresh berries just have too much water.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Veal in White Wine Sauce

Veal was on special at the store today and since I've never seen it there before I decided to try it.  I had new potatoes and carrots and peas to go with it.  I salted both sides and seared it on both sides, then took the meat out of the pan. I added about a cup of white wine, black pepper, salt and let it boil down. When it was reduced by 2/3 I added some milk and boiled that down. Then I put the veal back in and finished it slowly in the sauce.  

The potatoes were boiled, salted and buttered.  They were the sweetest potatoes I've ever had. Good buy Produce Manager!

I sliced up a few carrots and put them in the microwave with frozen peas.  I used chicken stock instead of water which really helped this time. 

The meat was a little firmer than expected, I should have pounded the cutlets. The sauce was fantastic! How that cheap diesel flavoured white wine boiled down into a wonderful fruity sauce I'll never know!

Crab Ravioli in Tomato Garlic Sauce

Alone for dinner so time to experiment some more.  I wanted to try making imitation crab raviolis, I had some cheese grated to use up so I put some cheese with the imitation crab and started the pasta.  I just rolled out half the pasta into a strip on number 5 thickness rollers, laid it on the floured ravioli form.  I filled each depression with meat and put the other half of the pasta on top. I found I had to press the air out of the ravioli before sealing them.

The tomato sauce was super simple, a can of tomato paste and chicken stock to thin it. Salt, black pepper and garlic to season it. That was all I did and it was quite good. I have rather too much cheese on the pasta but you can see one little ravioli there.  It worked great this time. Last time the pasta was too thin and tore too easily.

The crab was completely overpowered by the sauce. I could have been eating anything. The raviolis stayed together and all in all it was fun to make. I don't think I'd make a main course of them.  Too much work.  Better six small ones as an extra course. I'd use spicy meat next time.

Southwest Chicken with Caesar Salad

It used to be chicken almost every other night.  Now we haven't had it for a week and Fern asked for it for a change. It's a super simple meal and the only thing special here is the lettuce from the garden and dressing made from a fresh backyard chicken egg. Fresh from the garden always tastes better.

I salt my meat first then apply the spice rub. 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

I put the breasts over low heat on the BBQ for 2 minutes each side then move them off the heat to roast under the cover in about 400ºF for 25 to 30 minutes.

Caesar Salad Dressing

1 egg yolk
1/3 cup oil 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
few drops Worcestershire Sauce
anchovy fillet (I'm using Chinese Oyster Sauce instead which seems to work fine)
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 cup croutons (dry but not petrified alpine bread makes wonderful croutons)
lemon juice

First, put oil in a pan and toss the croutons with salt and pepper.  Get a nice brown on them then put them aside to cool. 

Caesar dressing is an aioli so it's basically mayonnaise based.  I have started with ready made mayo but the result isn't good. The ingredients require effort from the chef before they'll sing. To emulsify the oil and egg add one teaspoon of oil to the yolk at a time and whisk it in.  One tablespoon at a time would 'break' the emulsion and the oil would separate. If that happens get another egg yolk and slowly emulsify the broken sauce, then the remaining oil. Add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire, anchovy and garlic and enough lemon juice to make a tart but not sour sauce. Toss the lettuce in the dressing then add the croutons and toss. Add the parmesan, toss and serve.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spaghetti Two Ways

It was a spaghetti night and sauce was in the freezer so not much work to make dinner.  Ryan decided to stay but he doesn't like tomato sauce much so I offered to teach him how to make a cheese sauce. He did a pretty good job and he really liked the cheese sauce. We may have dislodged Kraft Dinner from the top of his favourite food list.

I put a teaspoon of flour and two teaspoons of oil in a small sauce pan.  I made a paste and let it bubble a little over medium high heat to cook the flour taste off. Heat to medium low. To that I added 1/4 cup chicken stock and whisked it into a thick sauce.  Quickly followed by half a cup of milk.  Whisk the sauce smooth and add more milk if it's too thick. Add one to two cups grated cheddar cheese and stir as it melts.

This is the first time I've catered to one person's tastes so much but it was an interesting challenge to make a different dish for one person.  The pasta was all cooked in the same pot and the cheese sauce took only one small extra pot so it turned out to be not much trouble at all. Both dishes were garnished with the same parmesan cheese.  Chopped parsley on the cheese sauce would have looked nice too. Next time. Now that I think about it, some crispy cooked parmesan would give a wonderful crunch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Roast Pork with Roasted Potatoes

I picked up a nice roast pork for just over $5 which I soaked in 

Pork Brine

2 cups cold water
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp molasses

Soak several hours, but an hour and a half is enough to make a difference. Roast at 350ºF on a rack with bay leaves and sprigs of thyme and rosemary on top. I use a meat thermometer and cook to 160ºF. The potatoes were diced and tossed in oil with a little paprika and salt then put in the pan with the roast. When the roast came out the potatoes went back in to brown a little more.

The vegetables were steamed and finished with extra virgin olive oil. I'm not happy with the cooked flavour of my olive oil so I'm going to buy Berio for cooking. It has a much nicer cooked flavour. Raw it has a bitter after taste I don't like in salads, mayo, etc.

The meat rested under foil 15 minutes and should have gone 20.  If the meat is hot when its cut it dries immediately. I plated mine with home made ketchup. Another really good meal.

Halibut and Chips

At the grocery store it was Manager's Special on halibut so I decided to try fish and chips again. Halibut turns out to be Ryan's favourite fish so we invited him as well. I scrubbed 2 potatoes each and ran them through the Star Frit fry cutter skins on.  I quick pickled the cucumber slices for an hour and a half.

Quick Pickling Brine

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar because I didn't have enough rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

I thinly sliced the last of an English cucumber, the skin isn't bitter so it can be left on. Fully immerse the sliced cucumber in the brine as long as possible. A few minutes to a few hours. Drain and serve.

I salted the halibut then dusted it with flour. Next I dipped it in batter and held the end in the oil till it started to float, then slowly lowered the fish into the oil. Done correctly, the batter won't get stuck to the basket underneath it. If the fish is dropped directly into the oil it will sink, stick to the basket and come off the fish. Not good technique on such a wonderful fish.

Beer Batter

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
fresh ground pepper
beer - I used de-alcoholised beer. Soda water also works.

Add enough beer to make a thinner batter.

To make all the food in one deep fryer start with the french fries and the oil at 325ºF. Fry one portion of  potato at a time for 3 minutes. Raise the basket and wait for oil temperature to come back up then empty basket and add next portion. Next fry the fish for 3 minutes, turn over and 2 more minutes. When done place the fish on a trivet or rack over paper towel. It will stay crisp and hot till the fries are done. Turn oil up to 375ºF, wait for temperature to come up and add one portion of fries for 3 minutes. As each portion of fries is done put in a bowl over paper towel to absorb the oil. Add salt to each batch as it comes out.

Tartar Sauce

2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp sweet green relish
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
few drops lemon juice.
pinch of salt.

Plate the fish and fries, add a dollop of tartar sauce beside or on the fish. A few drops of cider vinegar over all is nice and of course tomato ketchup for the fries. Plate the cucumber slices separately so they don't make the fish soggy.

Ryan said it was the best fish and chips he's ever had. I don't know why I fear making battered fish, it certainly is easy enough to do.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Five Spice Rubbed Pork Back Ribs

There wasn't much interesting on sale at the meat counter so I settled on some pork back ribs.  I did a quick internet search for a recipe and came across several 5 spice rubs.  That sounded good to me so I rubbed the salt and then 5 spice and pepper. I knew that alone would be boring so I mixed:
1 oz (3 tbsp) tomato ketchup
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp molasses 

and spread the sauce over the meat.  I put a sprig of thyme and rosemary on the sauce and a piece of fat trimmings on each piece of meat. Then I covered the pan with foil and put in a 350ºF oven for one and a half hours. I made mashed potatoes and corn and carrots for the vegetables. The corn and carrots might have been too sweet together. I need to pair corn with something else....not sure what.

I was afraid I'd burnt and dried out the meat but it was moist, tender and delicious.  A little too much 5 spice rub but it was still good, just a little too assertive.  I could taste the other flavours of thyme,  rosemary and the tomato and molasses sauce. It was a good dish, worth making again, but it needs to be better. Less 5 spice more BBQ sauce flavour. Next time I'll put a little water in the pan when it goes in the oven.

The small helping of potato isn't a mistake.  I've found it's much easier to control my weight by cutting down the carbohydrates while taking a little less protein and a little more vegetables, than trying to 'diet'. I suppose that is a diet, but it doesn't feel like one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Turkey Patties on Rice with Pan Gravy

I wanted to try the turkey burgers again so I bought another turkey breast for dinner.  This time it didn't take a minute to get the mixer set up with the grinder attachment. I had the breast sliced up and ground in a couple of minutes and was surprised at how easy it all was. To season I added:

2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp paprika
fresh ground mixed pepper
1 tsp salt

To hold it all together I added an egg and to make it look nice I coated each patty in bread crumbs. Then I fried them in plenty of oil.  I had rice going from the start and I put carrots and broccoli in the steamer.  I finished the vegetables in butter, salt and black pepper. 

When the turkey patties were done I took them out of the pan and added half a teaspoon of flour to the pan.  I cooked the flour taste off then added chicken stock, salt, pepper, a few drops of rice wine vinegar and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. I whisked that into a nice gravy and served it over the patties and rice.

This is my first step in creating a whole plate. This is the first time I planned the meat on top of the rice with a pan gravy to accent the meat and flavour the rice. I don't know if the plating looks better, but the taste is better so the look will probably come along. It will take a little research to figure out how to get carrots and broccoli unified into a whole plate.  This was a tasty start, a little like turkey and stuffing all in one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prawns and Penne Pasta under Tomato Basil Sauce

I had thought earlier in the day that fish would be nice for dinner. When Fern was chatting on the phone with Ryan he asked me what we were having for dinner. "Prawns and Pasta?" I offered.
"Is there enough for Ryan?"
"Ryan's coming."
Somehow I knew this. Maybe I'm becoming "The Psychic Cook!"
Or more likely, Psychotic Cook!

In any case, it was a chance to try another tomato sauce.  My previous post about making sauce from a can of tomato paste and chicken stock resulted in an acceptable sauce but it reminded me of Prego brand sauce. While it certainly has it's place, I would prefer a purer, more intense tomato flavour. So for this meal I tried a can of San Remo brand Organic Diced Tomatoes. It has a nice label, so at least that much is done well.

I started by dicing an onion and getting it sweating.  I peeled, crushed and diced three cloves of garlic and added them to the onion to sweat.  When the onions had a little colour I added the can of diced tomatoes and brought it up to a simmer. I added salt and black pepper to taste. Then I realized I forgot to cook the prawns so I got out a frying pan and  added a tablespoon of butter.  I added half the prawns and salted them. Too many prawns in the pan will create too much water and they will boil instead of fry. When they had colour on one side I turned them over to do the other side.  I don't want them cooked through because they'll finish cooking when they go in the sauce. Take the pan off the heat for now.

I got the pasta going and kept the sauce simmering.  I chopped up the the top leaves of three basil plants  (6-10 leaves) and grated some fresh parmesan cheese.  A minute or two before the pasta was ready I took tomato sauce and put it in the frying pan to scrub the prawn flavour into the sauce. Then put it, prawns and all, in the sauce pan. I added the basil to the sauce and strained the pasta.  

I plated the pasta and covered with sauce and each person got eight large prawns. Fresh grated parmesan on top and serve.  It was delicious. Ryan said it was the best one so far. That's why I invited him!

Corned Beef in only 2 weeks!

Corned Beef takes a while to make but it's worth the wait!  I started with about one kilogram (2 1/2 lbs) of beef brisket.  The only curing salt available in my area is Morton's Tender Quick.  Curing salt has potassium added which gives the meat red colour and protects against botulism. I suppose regular salt could be used but the colour would be grey and unappetizing. 

To make the brine follow the instructions on the salt.  I measured 2 cups of cold water and added 1/2 cup curing salt, bring it to a boil and then cool in sink of cold water.  I use a food vacuum sealer but a zip lock bag works just as well.  Either way, add brine to meat in bag, then add a tablespoon of pickling spice and seal.  I mark the package with the date exactly 2 weeks from today. Every second day the meat should turned over.  On the ready date I remove the brine and either cook or reseal and freeze the cured meat.

To cook, quickly rinse the brine off and cover with cold water in a pot.  Simmer for 3 hours turning over every 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold. I use dijon mustard with corned beef.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wreck of Lamb

I have watched the price of lamb this spring and now that it's on sale I decided to try a rack of lamb. I've never made anything like this so I was totally out of my environment. I've never been served rack of lamb either so I really had nothing to go on. I had to french it which I didn't do quite correctly, I should have taken more white sheath off. To top it off the instructions I used said to roast the rack at 400ºF for 7 minutes then turn the heat down to 350ºF for  a further 7 minutes.

I thought 14 minutes in a hot oven would be plenty so I didn't use a meat thermometer. What a mistake. The lamb was raw. Completely raw.  Whoever wrote that recipe eats raw lamb. There is no other conclusion.  The exterior of the lamb was barely coloured and the inside was cold. I cut three chops off before getting to the middle to find it cold. I stuck it back in the oven to finish. Unfortunately the potatoes and vegetables were ready so they had to sit and get cold or dry out staying warm while the lamb cooked.

Another problem I ran into was the spine. It was extremely difficult to cut through it and I couldn't find the joints. I'll want that answered before I try again. I made new potatoes with butter and chives and peas and carrots with a few of the snow peas grown on the deck. The potatoes weren't harmed by the wait but the vegetables were past their prime by the time we ate.  I made a mint sauce with vinegar and sugar which was quite nice on my nearly raw lamb.

The next evening we went to the Laughing Oyster for dinner and Chef Dave gave me some good pointers so I will try again, probably soon.  But the injury needs to scab over first. On the bright side Dave did accept my offer to help him do catering this summer. He's great to work with, good natured and he provides a steady stream of knowledge as we're working. No telling where this will go except my food should take another step up the complexity ladder.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Angus Rib Steak with Baked Potato and Salad

I had an extra steak left from yesterday so Fern suggested I buy two more and have Ryan for dinner as well. I also picked up tomatoes and an English cucumber for salad.  English cucumbers are the long thin ones with ridges along their length.  The advantage they have is the skin isn't bitter so you don't have to peel them. I've been surprised by how many people don't know that.

The steaks were salted and seasoned with black pepper then done on the BBQ. To get the grill marks put the steaks over High Heat for 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done.

The baked potato I did in the microwave then wrapped in foil with butter, salt and chives and put in the BBQ to finish baking. 

The salad was butter lettuce from the garden along with local tomatoes and cucumber. For dressing I took 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons rice oil, 1 tablespoon walnut oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, fresh ground mixed pepper, thyme, chives and parsley. Whisk the oil into the vinegar and other ingredients to make a vinaigrette. Pour over salad, toss and serve.

It was a really good meal although red fatty meat two days in a row is sitting a little heavy. Looking at the plate today I think it's time I move beyond protein and starch on a plate.  I should start composing an entire entrée so the plate will look unified. I think I'll have to use some cook books to teach me how to go about it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Angus Rib Eye Steak

Steaks were on special and not much else.  I was in a red meat mood so I picked up two steaks for Fern and I.  I salted the steak and seasoned with fresh ground black pepper then put it on the BBQ for 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes rotate, 2 minutes and it's done. Nice grill marks too!

The potato I did in the microwave and topped with home made yoghurt and chives.  Fresh carrots and frozen peas for the vegetable.

It was really good but I'm finding I want more than just a lump of meat for dinner.  I want more flavour and more texture in my meal.  When I started out, just cooking a steak properly was all I thought I needed to learn.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Yoghurt Instant Pudding

Rhubarb pie and home made yoghurt pudding. The pie I made the other day but I didn't get around to making frozen yoghurt today and I felt like more than just pie.  So I decided to make a panna cotta yoghurt dish instead.   

Panna Cotta is supposed be gelled but I only have xanthan gum to thicken it, so it'll be pudding instead.  I measured one cup of yoghurt and added 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup sugar (a bit less would have been better). To thicken it I added 3/4 tsp xanthan gum, which also gives it a slimy texture so I added 1/2 tsp pre-gelled corn starch to give a nice mouth feel. These two ingredients are the same ones used in Instant Puddings. I put a leaf of chocolate mint to garnish the pudding.  It was a surprisingly good dessert.

Xanthan gum is available at most grocery stores.  Pre-gelled corn starch I had to order on line.  Basically it's corn starch flash cooked under pressure and instantly dried to a powder. It doesn't need to be cooked so it's great for a quick cold dessert.

Southwest BBQ Chicken Breast with Caesar Salad

I had to make more chicken stock so the meat was predetermined. We have a bunch of fresh romaine growing in the garden so I harvested a bunch for Caesar Salad. I salted the breast then seasoned it with 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

I put it on the BBQ over the heat for 4 minutes to get the grill marks.  Then I moved it to the middle, off the heat to roast for 20-26 minutes roasting.  When I boned the breasts I fried the skins into crispy treats for the dogs.  The fat that comes from that I basted onto the breasts on the BBQ.  

Caesar Salad is straightforward.  Separate an egg yolk and slowly whisk almost 1/2 cup of oil into it.  Add 2 cloves crushed and chopped garlic. A dash of Worcestershire Sauce, an anchovy or lately I've been using a drop of Chinese Fish Sauce. Add lemon juice to taste, a pinch of salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Pour over the lettuce and toss.  Add the croutons that have been browned and 1/4 cup shredded parmesan.  Toss and serve.

It might be dated, but it's still a good feed!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rhubarb Pie

I had some rhubarb in the fridge so I decided to make a pie. It's disappearing fast enough so I think that speaks to how good it tastes. Fern and Ryan remarked on how sweet it was but I pointed out if it had any less sugar it would be too tart. They agreed. The filling has to be cool going in so I make the filling first and put it in a sink with cold water to cool down faster.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

5 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups+ sugar
pinch of salt
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Add the sugar, salt and flour to the rhubarb in a pot on medium low heat. Mix thoroughly to get the flour evenly coated on the rhubarb.  It should cook down into a thick sauce. This might result in unwanted little dumplings so it might be better to sift and fold the flour in after the sauce is made. Either way I taste it to see if more sugar is needed. It might take 3 or 4 cups depending on how tart the rhubarb is. It will take 3 cups of filling for the pie. When it tastes good put it aside to cool.

Pie Pastry (makes 1 double layer pie)

2 cups flour
1 cup lard - softened
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

Use a pastry cutter or knives to cut the lard into the flour until it is the texture of course oatmeal. The small lumps of lard will flatten out when rolled and cause a layer of pastry to form. The moisture escaping as steam causes the layer to rise.

Whisk the egg, water and vinegar together. Pour a small amount of egg mixture into the dough and use a fork to mix it in. Don't use all the liquid, it's too much. Use only enough to form the dough into a ball.   The dough should stick to itself but not the baker's hands. If the dough has the correct moisture, cover it and chill 30 minutes. If it's too wet, leave uncovered and chill 30 minutes.  If it's still sticky wet more flour might fix it or it could be started again with fresh ingredients. When I screw up really badly I start again if I can.

Cut the chilled dough in half and put the smaller half back in the fridge. Flatten the dough and lay it on plenty of flour.  Sprinkle plenty of flour on the dough and start rolling. Add more flour as it expands and keep the edges floured as the dough rides over it. The pastry needs to be larger than the pie dish to cover the bottom, sides and top edge. A pastry scraper or best of all a long palette knife will make it easier to loosen the pastry from the rolling surface. Lift and roll the pastry onto the rolling pin, then unroll it on the pie plate. Centre the dough in the dish, then use a fork to puncture it all round and on the bottom to prevent over rising pushing the filling out. Brush melted butter over the bottom and sides of the crust so it won't get soggy from the filling.

Roll out the top layer with the second half of the dough as before.  The top can be a little smaller, just wide enough to cover the top edge.  Fill the pie then transfer the top with the rolling pin. Wet a finger and run it lightly around the top edge of the bottom crust. Use a fork to press the top and bottom together all around the pie. Use a sharp knife to cut the excess dough off all around the outside edge of the pie plate.  I rolled this extra dough out and made another small pie with the leftover filling.  Brush whisked egg over the top to increase browning.  Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes and 400ºF for 30 minutes. If the top isn't browned, leave in longer. When it's done put it on a rack to cool completely.  If it's still warm when cut, the filling will run out.

I served it with a scoop of home frozen home made yoghurt. Delicious!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Prawns and Pasta in Tomato Basil Sauce

This meal was by request! I'm actually getting good enough at cooking that people are requesting dishes I've made them previously. Wow, I better not disappoint!

I put 10 prawns each in cold water to defrost. I buy the 41-50/lb bag of raw tail-off prawns. Usually I have to buy tail-on and take the tails off before cooking them.  To remove a prawn tail place the opposite edge of a knife just ahead of the tail and pull the meat away from the tail. I really don't like inedible shells in my food unless it's finger food.

The meal is really simple. Start by putting water on to boil for the pasta. I diced an onion and started sweating it until it started to turn golden. Then I added three smashed and chopped garlic cloves and sweated the garlic odour off them. I removed all from the pan, added more oil, a little butter and the prawns.  I cook the prawns about 3/4 done then take them out of the pan as well. They will finish cooking when they go in the sauce.

Take the pan off the heat, add 1/2 teaspoon of flour and enough oil to make a thick slurry. (I used 1 tsp of flour, which was too much)  Put back on the heat and bubble the flour taste off.  Take the pan off the heat again and start whisking in chicken stock till it thins a bit.  Add a can of tomato paste and as much chicken stock as needed to make a nice thick sauce.  Add the prawns, onion and garlic back in and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add 1-2 tablespoons of finely diced fresh basil and mix thoroughly. Serve on the pasta and top with fresh grated parmesan.

My guests were delighted with their meal. I even managed to sneak the remaining cheap flavourless prawns in with the good ones.  I'll never buy the cheaper frozen prawns again, it's the flavour they leave out to save money. Fortunately the good ones are good enough to impart flavour to the cheap ones so no one noticed. I can't say I actually noticed anything either but I'll KNOW it could be better so I'll always use the better ones.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Super Snapper

Fresh local snapper was on sale for .99/100gm (1 portion) so I bought a large fillet for the two of us to share.  I pulled the bones out with pliers first then sprinkled probably about half a teaspoon of salt over both sides. Then I coated it with:
Snapper Rub

1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)

I had potatoes on boiling away and put the carrots in the steamer getting a head start on the peas. After I laid the snapper in the pan I put the frozen peas in with the carrots.  I laid a sprig of rosemary on each piece of fish. I watched the side of the fillet for the white cooked meat to reach the center. Then I turned it over and put the rosemary back on top.

I finished the vegetables in butter with a little salt and black pepper.  The mashed were plain with butter, salt and milk. I plated the fish with a few drops of lemon juice.  

The fish was amazing! First off, I had enough salt. That is the single biggest problem with my cooking, bland, not enough salt. Salting the meat first, then seasoning worked much better. The rosemary imparted it's characteristic floral sweetness to lift the flavour up to it's peak and wave it around. 

This was my best snapper so far and I'm sure I can do better, eventually.