Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ginger Chai Tea Soda - SodaStream

Ginger Chai Refresher (submitted by Jessie A.)

4 Chai teabags
3 Cups boiling water
1 liter Sodastream Ginger Ale (or Diet Ginger Ale)
Cinnamon Sticks (optional)

Brew Chai in a teapot for 10 minutes, using 4 teabags and 3 cups of boiling water 
Cool completely. 
Over ice in an iced tea glass, pour 3/4 of a cup of tea. 
Top with Sodastream Ginger Ale (or Diet Ginger Ale.)
Garnish with a cinnamon stick.


  I Sweetened mine with Honey 

Chocolate Hazelnut Tiramisu (coffee free)

Chocolate Hazelnut Tiramisu (Coffee Free)

Perfect for kids too!

My tub of mascarpone was slowly approaching it's expiry date so it was time to make Tiramisu!

I also had some stale cookies that went completely hard (they're quite soft when fresh) you can use proper lady fingers instead.

Step 1: 
Start by making a custard, here's a basic recipe  Set it in a pan and cool it on the counter and then in the fridge. Perfect if you make ahead.

Step 2:

I mixed cocoa powder with some cold water until all the lumps dissolved them added hot boiling water over top and mixed well, a few drops of vanilla and this is your "coffee"  Now simply dip your cookies in one at a time and arrange them in the tray, the cookies will dissolve quickly so work fast. 

Another option is layering the cookies in one single layer in the pan and spooning over the hot cocoa mixture until each absorbs a bit. Either way is fine.

Step 3:

In a large bowl whip the mascarpone cheese with a whisk until creamy.  Add your cooled custard and whip until creamy.


 Now layer over the cookies, and do another dipped cookies layer and another custard mascarpone layer. As many layers as you like and until your ingredients run out.  If you want to add hazelnuts toast a few in the oven for 15 minutes on 200 F, remove the shells by rubbing between a tea towel and crush using a rolling pin. Sprinkle in between the layers

Set in the fridge until ready to serve!


At this point you can garnish it as you like, a sprinkling of cocoa powder in a fine sieve, a bit of crushed hazelnuts or nutella!

I blended nutella with a bit of cold milk in a bowl, it goes all lumpy but don't dispair! I whisk and whisk until it smooths out, the same thing happens to tahini so I'm used to it.  Adding milk and whisking until I reached the creamy ganache consistency I wanted.

Using a zip lock bag as a piping bag I filled it with the glossy chocolate cream and made easy stripes over the top of my tiramisu.  Now with a knife I made lines opposite the chocolate lines, one starting from the top and one from the bottom  pulling upwards to create an elegant pattern.

This tiramisu was such a hit that I'll be making more this summer with different variations stay tuned :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kabuli Pilau (attempt 1)

My mum and I came across this tutorial video on youtube for one of our favourite dishes. Instantly I was inspired to give it a go.

We all adore this rice dish which comes out of Afghanistan and it's a must whenever we're ordering from an Afghani restaurant.  Mum has always been fascinated with this dish, I guess when she lived in Pakistan she knew Afghanis who used to serve this speciality.

There seem to be several ways to make this pilau but one thing my mother always remembered was that sugar was used to achieve that distinct shade of colour that Kabuli Pilau is known for.

I recall doing a search a few years ago for cooking instructions on youtube with very few results, but today there seem to be so many tutorials!  We combed through them and my mother showed me this one specifically. I decided to half the recipe (we don't have enough people to enjoy 4 cups of rice! :))
Two cups of rice is the norm in our house, so it was easy to just half all the other ingredients.

I wrote it down in my notes which I'm sharing with you all below as well as my step by step photos, and you can also watch the original video for more detailed instructions. The video is made by a nice young lady who explains to us her mother's method for making this dish.

Soak rice 3-5 hours in advance.

I believe you're supposed to use Parboiled basmati rice which can be found in an Afghani grocer, or even a Pakistani one, it goes by the names of "Golden basmati" or "sila basmati"  It looks more beige than your typical white "tilda" style basmati rice.

Kabuli Pilau

1 cup carrots, julienned

1/3 cup red raisins

1/4 tsp cardamom

1/2 cup oil for frying (not olive oil! Use a plain vegetable oil that is suitable for frying)

Heat oil, add shredded carrots and cook until tender, add raisins and continue to cook.  Strain from the oil mixture and add to a foil pouch pocket and close, setting aside for later.

For the rice!

2 cups rice

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil
Add strained soaked rice cook until done half way through (like an al dante pasta?)   Add the strained rice into a large pot and set aside.

Mix ingredients blow in a saucepan, heat:

1/2 cup oil
1/3 cups sugar

takes 5-8 minutes on medium high until sugar is dark and melted, bubbles will begin to rise to the surface.  Remove immediately at this point and pour over strained rice in the pot.  Create a sort of "dome" with the rice in the pot (maybe this helps with steaming?)

******** WARNING: Be VERY careful with the sugar/oil mixture, it can be extremely dangerous.  Keep children and pets out of the kitchen and pour it over the rice away from the stove area as little drops can pop out and onto the stove/elements causing small grease/sugar flareups.

Have your kitchen sink empty and set the empty hot pot in the sink, allow it to cool there safely.  When its cooled you can add hot or warm water and let the extra remaining sugar residue dissolve before you safely wash it with soap.

Add foil (or parchment!) pouch with carrot/raisin mixture over the rice and to the side, just lay it in the pot.


1/3 cups water (for steaming)

Place pot of rice on high heat for less than 5 mins, reduce to medium cook for 20-25 mins.

** There is cumin added in the video recipe but I omitted it and it's not listed in my notes

Results, I'm not sure... it needs to be steamed on a much lower heat as mine nearly burned at the bottom.  I also feel like the rice was a bit chewy (maybe from being coated in the hot oil/sugar)  The ones at the restaurant are more "fluffy"

Perhaps since I halved the recipe I should have used a smaller pot, the big  pot has too much surface area over the heat.

I'm going to work on it with my mother a bit more and see if we can do an attempt 2.  For now if you have success yourself then let me know how it goes, I think I just haven't perfected the steaming process well (ran into the same issue with a Persian recipe two years ago)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The little things in life ..

Sheppard's pie (lamb)

Sheppards Pie

Super basic recipe

- 1 lb ground lamb
- Salt + black pepper
-1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
- 1 tbsp oil

In a large pan or pot add the oil and heat to medium high.  Brown the lamb moving it around constantly with a wooden spoon until it's done.

Add seasoning, salt, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

Use leftover mashed potatoes to top the casserole and broil until the top is golden brown. 

If you're going to make the  potato part of the recipe then peel and roughly chop 8 medium potatoes and add to a large pot of cold salted water.  Cook on medium high, uncovered (or it'll overflow!) until potatoes are tender. Strain water.

Heat about 1/2 cup milk in the microwave.
Add strained potatoes back to the pot and over medium heat begin to mash them using a whisk, potato masher or fork. Move them around to "Dry" up a bit on the heat ... Add the hot milk and 2 tbsp butter.  Mix until creamy.

Now layer over the ground lamb in the casserole dish and broil. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mini Mascarpone Pumpkin Pies

 I've been wanting to make mini pumpkin pies for a while and after  picking up a tub of mascarpone at a great price (that stuff is super expensive!) and looking for inspiration on what to do with it I stumbled upon this recipe which is fantastic.

For the crust I used my trusty recipe, pie pastry is the easiest thing in the world to do, if you're not making your own crust I HIGHLY recommend it.  There is no waiting around for butter to thaw or anything, it's just cold butter right out of the fridge, cut it into small cubes, assemble your ingredients and roll up your sleeves. 

Pie Pastry: 

- 1 cup cold butter cut into small cubes using a knife. 
Put the butter in a large bowl. 

In another bowl mix: 
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking powder (you can leave this out if you want a less "fluffy" pastry) 

Now assemble the wet ingredients: 

- 2 tbsp lemon juice (some people use vinegar too, I haven't tried it) 
- 1/4 cup ice water (or mix half milk in there, or do full cold milk, it yields a more tender crust)

Have another 1/4 cup of liquid on standby because you may need more and only use up to 1/2 cup in full of liquid. 

Add the flour mix to the butter and work with hands until mixture resembles wet sand or butter is incorporated well and no more than a small pie size. 

Add liquid and press dough together with hands and press down in the bowl to form a "dough" .. mold it into a patty and wrap with plastic. 

Set in the fridge until ready to use.  Pastry freezes perfectly too!  Any leftovers just wrap it well in plastic or put it in a zip lock bag and throw it in the freezer for future use. 


This recipe makes enough for 1 large pumpkin pie but I had alot of filling left when making the small pies so maybe half the recipe for the filling, or double the pastry if you want to make 2 muffin pans of mini pies (24) 

1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

Beat pumpkin and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and next 7 ingredients and beat until blended. Add mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is smooth. Transfer filling to prepared crust.

For instructions on filling the cupcake tins with pie crust refer to my older mini cherry pies post here with full photo sequence on how I went about it.

There is no need to cover the pies so just chill the pan with pastry cups for 10 minutes or so in the freezer and then fill with pie filling and bake.  

I baked at 350-375ish until pastry was done, about 30 minutes or so. 

For non pumpkin lovers I threw some little applies pies in between ^_^


Good Eats

Lately it's been so cloudy, as if winter is trying to drag us as far as it can before spring time.  As usual  the lighting is horrible but the good news is that it gets darker much later in the day!

These are a few dishes I've enjoyed making (and eating) in the last week or so.

Grandma's famous meat goulash recipe, my oven fries and fresh squeaky cheese curds come together in this Canadian favourite: Poutine!

Here's another dish that surprised me because it came together in 2 pots almost like a 15 minute meal! 

I started with white jasmine rice, set that on the back burner. 

1 1/2 cup rice

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water
Bring to a boil, set on low, cover and let it cook until fluffy and liquid is absorbed. 

Stir fry: 

-1 lb ground beef, lightly seasoned with salt and rolled into tiny meatballs (do it really quick, even use a spoon or melon baller to scoop off bits)

- 1 container of button or cramini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 bunch of broccoli, stem removed and florets cut very tiny to cook evenly

- 1/3 head of cauliflower, same thing, cut into bite size pieces
- Snow peas or snap peas, a bunch of them

(baby bok choy or shanghai bok choy works great here too, anything you like, as long as it all can cook around the same time frame) 

- Fresh ginger, grated, about 1/2 tsp
- Fresh garlic, grated, about 1/4 tsp


Fire up the pan/pot, I use a large pot so that things don't splash.  Start frying mushrooms in a bit of oil, they like to cook in high heat and very quickly.  Lightly season with salt and remove to set aside. 

Add all the greens, season lightly with salt and add a bit of water to the bottom of the pot, cover and steam. This is done in less than 10 minutes.  Keep your veg a little crunchy for better texture. As soon as you can poke a knife into the stalky area of the broccoli or cauliflower you know it's done. 

Add to mushrooms or set aside separately. 

Make sure your pan is dry and then add a little oil to pan again, about 1 tbsp and fry meatballs until almost done through.  

1 tbsp soy sauce
Fresh ginger, fresh garlic
A splash of rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp brown sugar 
1 tbsp apricot jam (I used a kind of puree in a bottle, mainly used for drinks) 

If you have a korean BBQ sauce on hand, the kind with the pear in it just use that, a couple of tbsps. 

Swirl the pan so that everything bubbles away and coats the meatballs.  

Remove and assemble bowls with rice, stir fry, and some meatballs. 
Garnish with green onion, and for a little spice add a drizzle of Sriracha! 


... and of course Goulash is just great on noodles!