Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chicken pot pie

What do you do when you have a whole chicken and lots of peas? Well I was in the mood for chicken pot pie!

When I realized I didn't have any butter at home (from all the baking over the weekend) so I had to run to the store to get some. As soon as I set foot outside I realized "chicken pot pie" was a bad idea. It is one of the hottest days of the summer so far!

The chicken was already roasted the night before (lots of salt and lemon for a flavourful tender chicken) took all the meat off the bones and reserved the liquids from the pan in the same container for the meat to soak it up in the fridge, yum!

With fresh peas I shelled them and blanched for a few moments (as soon as they float) I threw them into an ice bath and then put them in the fridge for the next day.

All the vegetables like carrots, celery, onion, small chunks of potato and a few cloves of garlic got boiled in a stock until tender then it was time to make the roux... butter and flour in the pot and milk added to that, some black pepper and a bit of salt in the end.

Veggies and chicken got layered in the casserole, cream sauce was poured over and the oven was preheating on 375-400.

The pastry was made before hand (as soon as I got home with my butter!)
Chopped butter into small cubes and worked it into the flour then some cold milk brought it all together and the dough was shaped into a disk and refrigerated.

At this point it was ready for use so I rolled it out and draped it over the casserole/pan, poked a few holes in it and did an egg wash over.

Baked until it was bubbly and the crust was flaky and browned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Picking Party

Éclairs and cream Puffs

1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup unsalted butter (or salted and omit salt below)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (measure onto a parchment and set aside)
8 eggs
2 tbsp water (set aside)

Preheat oven to 425 (or 400 if your oven is hotter than average like mine!)

Set the stove to medium heat. In a large heavy bottom saucepan bring the butter, milk, water, salt, sugar to a boil.
Once it boils remove from heat and dump in the flour all at once.

With a wooden spoon begin to mix vigouresly, mix mix mix and it will come together into a big soft doughy lump (like a dumpling!)

Now put the pan back onto the heat and mix for 1 minute moving the dough around and around with a durable silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Get your mixer ready. Remove the pot off the heat and dump the lump of dough into your mixer bowl.

If using hand beaters put it in a big bowl.

I let the mixture cool for 5 mins while I crack all the eggs into another bowl with a spout (for easy pouring one at a time)

Now begin beating your mixture with a paddle or hand beater on medium speed and add the eggs in one at a time and incorporate.

By the last egg your dough should not be sticky but should kind of be slippery and fall off the paddle.

Get some pastry bags ready, I used 2. Set them inside a clean ice cream or plastic yogurt container for easy filling. Dump in the dough.

Prepare your pans with parchment.

* I found that the dough when warm slips right out of the piping bag and then goes flat onto the pan very quickly resulting in flat eclairs/cream puffs so I let the dough sit a bit in the bag and it gets thicker (just a few mins for the first batch)

Cut the tip of your bag or if using a frosting tip then pipe 6" long tubes for eclairs and little blobs for cream puffs.

Don't worry if you get a whip at the top, this is what the water is for. Dip your fingers in the water and just pat that down so they don't burn.

Set your pans in the oven (again my oven is very hot so I had to find it's groove, I set a big heavy pan in the bottom rack so the bottoms of the puffs wouldn't burn so easily)

Bake at the 425 for 10-15 mins (mine worked good at 10 mins)

Now you lower the temp to 375 (in my case 350) and bake for an additional 20-25 mins (23 was good for me)


Once the time is up take them out and let them cool, have two pans ready to go so you dont' disturb these freshly baked ones.

I had lots of dough so several batches using the same technique of baking and this was enough for a large party, if you have leftovers just cool them and freeze on a baking sheet or put in a large zip lock bag and somewhere in the freezer where they won't be squished. Works beautifully!

I did all these the day before so put the ones you will serve at your party in the fridge overnight, they will be fine.
Crisp them up on 200 the day before for a few mins. Just spread them on a baking sheet while you melt your chocolate, whip the heavy cream and chop the desired fruit.

If you made the pastry cream a day or two before hand you'll be all ready to go, I had it ready in a piping bag (set the tip on for easy filling of the eclairs) and set the bag in a bix tupperware container.

Luscious Pastry Cream

Enough to fill all the eclairs baked above, which is half of the recipe.

2 cups milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted corn starch
3 1/2 tbsp butter, chopped in cubes and at room temperature


In a heavy bottom saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat.

Meanwhile in another heavy bottom saucepan whisk your egg yolks, sugar and corn starch together until you get a creamy yellow mixture.

When the milk simmers at the point just before boiling remove from heat, get your whisk ready and pour a bit into your egg mixture whisking to temper it..... now it's safe to add it all and whisk.

Set the pot back onto the heat (medium-medium low) and whisk until it thickens.

Have a bowl and a strainer ready (the strainer just for a smoother finish but mine had no lumps or anything) Once it thickens strain it into the bowl (scraping the strainer to get it all through)

Wait 5 mins then begin stirring in your butter cubes, little at a time until it's all incorporated, luscious, smooth and shiny.

Cover with a cling wrap to avoid a film in the top of your custard and let it cool, then you can set it in the fridge. Or put it in a pastry bag and set it in another container in the fridge to avoid the extra step on your big day.

Chocolate Glaze:

- 4 ounces dark chocolate (chopped)
- 1/2 cup milk

In a bowl over a double boiler.

Assemble your eclairs once they are cool after crisping or baking.

Poke a small hole on the side with a shark knife twisting a bit and then fill with pastry cream.

Dip the top into chocolate and set on the plate to cool.

For cream puffs, cut in half and layer fruit, dollop of whip cream and return the cap on. Alternately poke a small hole in the bottoms and fill with whipped cream (heavy cream, a few tbsp of powder sugar and splash of vanilla whipping by hand or in the mixer until it is smooth and thick)

Now you're all set to go, plate and dust the cream puffs with powder sugar if desired, I forgot to do this but normally I would.


Here are some shots from our strawberry picking party, it was a blast!!
For the Strawberry-Matcha-Chocolate checkerboard favor cookies refer to my earlier posting here for the recipe

Strawberry Lemonade

7 Lemons
Lots of ice
Simple syrup
Strawberry purée (I cooked them with sugar into a concentrated syrup for my cookies and used it here too)

Mix it all, tasting and adjusting and add slices of lemon, chopped strawberries and mint for garnish.

Strawberry Balsamic glazed Meatballs:

1 lb lean beef
- 2 tbsp bread crumbs (homemade or store bought)
- 1 egg
- salt & pepper
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard (1/2 tsp or so)

Set oven on 400. Mix your meat mixture and form small balls on a piece of parchment or in a deep dish (be sure to space them out)
Bake until browned, make sure they don't get overcooked and hard, or brown in a pan and cook through.

Strawberry glaze:

Chopped strawberries
Splash of balsamic vinegar

Add all to a pot and simmer on low for an hour or so until reduced crushing the berries with a fork, you can strain the pulp out or allow it to just cook down disintegrating.

When ready to serve heat the glaze and coat the meatballs in it. Garnish with fresh mint.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Checkerboard cookies (preparation)

Checkerboard cookies:

5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 lb (2 cups or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Concentrated strawberry puree
Matcha green tea powder
Cocoa powder

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed to just combine (you might want to cover the mixer with a towel, some flour might come up.) Finish the mixing either with your hands or a wooden spoon, being sure not to overmix. Divide the dough into 3 balls.

Pink Strawberry: Now mix in the strawberry puree until you achive a nice pink dough.
*** I boiled fresh or frozen strawberries with sugar and a some water and let it simmer on low until it was a nice thick syrup, as thick as you can get it because you don't want to introduce too much liquid into the cookie dough but instead lots of strawberry flavour in a concentrated amount.

Green Matcha: Mix 1/2-1 tbsp matcha into the dough and add a little green colouring if desired, I didn't, the matcha was enough.

Chocolate dough: Add cocoa powder for the Chocolate dough, making sure not to add too much so it's not too chocolately and bitter.

At this point I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refridgerate until I need it.

A nice even rectangular shape will help cut the cookie later.

After two hours or the next day when ready to use, let it thaw on the counter for 15 mins.

I probably could not explain it better than the Baking Obsession blog so refer to the diagram and instructions. My mother always made these cookies on the Eid holidays so I pretty much knew how to put them together but there are different methods and just keep in mind to make them neat and as even as possible :)

There are endless shapes you can do, and I tried to stray from the checkerboard and do some fun things, hopefully I achieved that.

They made beautiful party favors, I wanted them tiny so they fit in a mason jar and tied them all up with pretty ribbon.

When baking the tiny cookies I adjusted the oven temperature a little lower and kept a very close eye on them as they cook much quicker.
The ends make odd cookies, and one made a funny cat looking cookie so I added some eyes and whiskers and it looked pretty neat. Be sure to bake off all the ends and have a little early snack for yourself! They're all super delicious.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Kimchi is truly one of my favourite things.

When I was a teenager a lovely korean family came to live next to us, the lady was really sweet and would come over to bring us korean foods and show us how to cook simple recipes in our kitchen. Sadly they moved to the US but before she left she emptied out her pantry and gave us a lot of stuff, from the delicious red pepper flakes to sesame seeds, her knife set and a container of homemade kimchi which she instructed us to keep in the fridge.

It was absolutely delicious! From that day on I was hooked but I didn't know what it was called.

Wasn't until I was at a Korean BBQ restaurant and they brought out the little plates of condiments that I remembered it. Hooray!

I've purchased some here and there but nothing compared to hers. Also the commercial kinds are quite expensive for the tiny quantities and I found that the flavour of garlic in many brands was a little too overpowering for me (and I LOVE garlic!) ... so I set out to make some myself as soon as I discovered this recipe.

In the recipe it mentions using turkish red pepper flakes, now this brought back memories of that same building and our other neighbours who were turkish! (Turkey is closer to my culture but their peppers are truly unique throughout the region) so, yes, right next to that bag of korean red pepper flakes in our freezer was a bag of TURKISH RED PEPPER FLAKES, both delicious with hints of heat but distinct in their own way.

* Having lived in turkey for a while in my childhood I remembered the abundance of it and how it was a main spice in most of the dishes prepared so I set out to buy some turkish red pepper flakes just for the heck of it from a turkish grocer and now that is also stored away in my freezer*

Perhaps in my next batch of kimchi (if all goes well) I will introduce the turkish red pepper flakes to the korean kimchi and see how that turns out, maybe then some harissa (north african chili paste) may be a nice twist too! What fun will that be.

Ok so back to Korea and kimchi.... it was pretty straight forward and simple.

Follow the recipe link above if you'd like to give it a try, one warning though as I learned through my mistake: When I soaked the cabbage in the salted water I placed a plate (or in my case the lid that fit the casserole pan in upside down) and weighed it down.

For some reason overnight the water had risen and overflowed out of the casserole and onto the counter and down onto the floor creating a puddle of salted water in the middle of my kitchen floor. Still not sure what happened but it would be safer to place your bowl in the sink or into another shallow pan.

Best of luck and I will post the progress very soon!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Delicious Saturday Meal

Here is our delicious saturday meal - following our big feast on friday (10th of June)

My mother put together a yummy salmon casserole which I called "engagement salmon" because later that night we watched Ina Garten prepare her take on the famous "engagement chicken" and it was very similar to this dish only mum used limes in the salmon instead of the lemons in the chicken but it still had lots of onion and it was delicious !

Along with that we made Chef Lidia's pasta with homemade bread crumbs Mum had a loaf in the freezer so to my amazement she began grating it and then sauteeing it in the olive oil and garlic ... then tossing the fresh pasta in it. YumYum!

This truly was one of the yummiest pasta dishes I've had, so simple but so comforting.

We also roasted asparagus (salt & pepper, olive oil drizzle- bake on 400-425 until tender then squeeze lemon juice on) and made salad. It was a really memorable and great day.

Honey our cat gave me a not so pleasant face when I pointed the camera at her but she's a real sweety :)