Compound Butter Recipe

IMG_20140228_013133I love compound butters. A dollop of these flavoured butter goodness can take any dish through the roof. What is compound butter? It may sound fancy but that cannot be further from the truth, it’s basically butter mixed with whatever herbs you have at hand. Garlic butter is an example of a compound butter, and I am sure you know how delicious it is when slathered onto toasts. You can easily make your own flavoured compound butter at home. Store it in the freezer and it freezes well for up to a year and when you want to use it, just open the packaging and cut a few chunks out. In the fridge, depending on what herbs you used, it can last quite a long while too. I just wouldn’t recommend storing your compound butter in the fridge for long periods of time if you used a lot of fresh herbs.

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This is my version of compound butter, made in a food processor. You can also make it by hand, you just need to make sure your butter is soft and your herbs finely chopped. And you should make a lot of compound butter, especially when butter goes on sale. ;)

Compound Butter – Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Basil and Chili

  • 250g of softened salted butter, if using unsalted butter adjust the salt to taste.
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 fresh Thai red chilies, seeded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • Optional: Adding a few slices of anchovies really takes the flavour profile through the charts!

Method:

  1. In a food processor, blitz everything, except the butter, for 20 seconds until it’s finely chopped. Add butter and blitz until well combined.
  2. Scoop butter out onto waxed paper and roll it up. Store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer indefinitely.

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Uses:

Pasta, breads, melted on to blanched or steamed veggies, stir-fries, on top of a hot steamy bowl of rice and fresh egg, make an herby hollandaise sauce, melted and pour over fish ala meuniere, steaks, roast a chicken slathered with compound butter…and anything else your heart desires.

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Black bean brownies

black bean brownies
I was a skeptic when I first read this recipe at the Minimalist Baker. I was wary about because black bean is not a conventional ingredient in baking but the number of reviews raving about these brownies can’t be lying, right? They’re not liars because these black bean brownies are divine! These brownies are chocolatey, fudge-like in the centre and they are gluten-free; and completely vegan. Eating
them makes this Christmas feel, how shall we put this, like a guilt-free indulgence. Oh, don’t forget to lick the batter off the spoon, it’s safe.

The black bean brownie recipe takes 5 minutes to put together, if you have all the ingredients. If not, I suggest you buy the ingredients because they are multipurpose and great for health too. And you will make the batter in a food processor or a blender. My other brownie recipe is pretty awesome too. If you want something traditional and non-vegan, that’s the one you want make.

Gluten-free and Vegan Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 15 oz. can (~ 1 3/4 cups) black beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 large flax eggs (2.5 Tbsp flax seeds  + 6 Tbsp water = grind into a paste)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped and empty pod discarded
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar
  • Optional toppings: crushed almonds, crush walnuts, pecans or semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Muffin pan, greased. Or 8-inch round cake pan, greased.
  2. Combine the flax seed and water into the processor and pulse a few times.
  3. Put everything else, except for the optional toppings if you’re using.
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons worth into muffin tin. Sprinkle with toppings, if used.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes and let it cool completely before taking the black bean brownies out of the muffin pan. It will be crispy around the edges and soft in the centre. It will sink a bit when it cools but that’s okay because that’s where the delicious fudgy part is!

 

 

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How about a Green Sriracha sauce?

IMG_20131102_025541When the Sriracha sauce’s factory was threatened with closure, the foodie world went into a frenzy. Like, there are people out there genuinely concerned about the potential shortage of their beloved red Sriracha sauce. The LA Times even published their solution to the potential shortage by sharing their recipe on a DIY Sriracha sauce. Luckily, the court overturned the ridiculous suit and the world is all well again. For now.

The recipe from LA Times was easy enough with only 5 ingredients and 25 minutes from start to finish. I started to wonder, how about a green Sriracha sauce? “Don’t be silly”, my friend tweeted back.

Well, silliness is what got me 2 x 250 ml of green Sriracha sauce. And it’s pretty dang good! I followed the recipe very closely in a way, the only thing different are the proportions of the ingredients and the chilies I used, of course. I had more than 1 pound of chilies to work with so I taste-tested along the way to come up with the measurements below. You’re welcome. My lips are burning and my nose is leaking like something awesome as I’m writing this. Okay, TMI.

Before you start:
Remember to not rub your eyes with your chili fingers | You don’t have to remove the seeds and stems from the chilies | You will need a food processor/blender | Use non-reactive cookware | This recipe uses serrano and jalapeño but you can use other green chilies as well

Green Sriracha Sauce

makes about 500ml

  • 400 grams jalapeño peppers, washed and tops trimmed
  • 300 grams serrano peppers, washed and tops trimmed
  • 8 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1.5 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 3 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup of rice vinegar

Method:

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Put all the ingredients in your food processor and blitz until the chilies are blended. Or if you’re like me in that you have a small blender, do this in batches. The green Sriracha sauce won’t mind.

Now cook your chili paste on high heat for 5 minutes in a non-reactive pot, so no cast iron pots, guys. It’ll turn brown otherwise.

You now have the beginnings of your green Sriracha sauce. Blend the concoction again until smooth and strain it through a fine mesh over a large bowl. Push the pulp through until all that is left are grainy remnants of the chilies.2013-05-12 09.40.29

Pour your green Sriracha sauce into an old Sriracha bottle or into mason jars. Or pour it directly into your mouth and have a side of burgers, steaks, chicken, fish, sandwiches, soups, rice, chips, whatever.

green sriracha sauce

Do you like my chicken logo? ;)

 

 

 

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Leeks and chickpeas soup

leeks and chickpeas soup
Today was a soup day in Vancouver.  The sky was cloudy and rainy but it wasn’t dull or gray. It was quite pleasant and welcoming to hear the rain pattering against the glass window by the kitchen. All that was missing was a bowl of heartwarming soup.

This leeks and chickpeas soup that fills your heart with wonder because it’s so flavourful. It’s chock full of goodness filled with aromatic vegetables, chickpeas and some potatoes and a bundle of herbs – that’s it! It is a perfect bowl of soup if I should say so for a day like this or for when you need a little dose love, give or take.

I would recommend that you use dried chickpeas that you would have to pre-soak first but tinned chickpeas will do too. Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. And they are delicious to eat. I am sure you’ve had in them in their various incarnations, i.e. hummus, falafel, or chana masala?

For this recipe, you will need two pots; one big soup pot and a smaller pot. If you are using tinned chickpeas, you can make this soup in one pot but if you’re using pre-soaked chickpeas, you’ll need two. You’ll see why in a minute. Continue reading

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Porchetta with proper cracklings

porchetta3Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve had the pleasure of eating Meat and Bread’s porchetta sandwich. I saw the guy at the counter chopping up this big hunk of porchetta and that picture stayed in my mind. That was two months ago.

So yesterday, I hosted a small dinner for my friendly neighbours. It was the perfect opportunity for me to make porchetta because in this household where vegetarianism is more of a norm, I rarely get the opportunity to make roasts for dinners (unless it’s roasted vegetables, which I also love but that’s not the point). This was my chance! Merrily, I went to Big Lou’s Butcher Shop to get myself some pork loin and belly. The guy at Big Lou was like, “Ohh..we might have a cut where the pork belly is still attached to the loin”. That is the cut  Meat and Bread uses for their porchetta! I was elated. Five-point-five pounds of porkage later, I was home and ready to start. I realized that the butcher didn’t exactly cut the pork properly for me. The pork belly end’s width was smaller than the loin end so I cut about 70% of the pork belly section out and rolled it as a separate roast.

I had the taste of the M&B’s porchetta in mind but I needed some guidance on the temperature and method. So I found iamafoodblog.com’s porchetta recipe and boy, did her porchetta looked good. I checked out her method, found out the temperature she used and decided I’m going to adapt the recipe a tad bit but keep the same cooking method. It was similar to my aunt’s roast pork method anyway so it made sense.

This recipe feels like it’s a lot of effort but active time is probably only 30 minutes if you get the butcher to score the meat for you and the rest is refrigeration, waiting and cooking the porchetta. It’s slow cooking goodness :)

Before you start
Please note that you need to start preparing the pork 24 hours before serving for the best results | You will need twines to tie the pork up (ask your butcher for them) | Paper towels to dry the pork skin | Toast all your spices first before pounding them | To maintain a lovely green pesto, blitz the herbs, seasoning and lemon juice first and then stir in the oil | Make sure your porchetta is not fridge cold when it goes into the oven | If you have convection setting in your oven, use it.

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Tagliatelle Two Ways: Tasty Vegetarian Ragu vs. Parmesan, Lemon and Zucchini

beet-tagliatelle-2ways
I am about to share two very tasty recipe for pasta that I think you should try. They are two very polarizing sauces, one is heavy while the other is light and summery. Both are equally good and completely vegetarian. I really don’t miss the meat on these sauces at all because they are that tasty!

A couple of weeks ago, I made pink tagliatelle using beet root and I made these two sauces to go with it. The vegetarian ragu was tomato based so that kind of hid the lovely pink pasta’s colour a little. If I could do it again, I’d make a creamy meat sauce instead for pink pastas but that’s for another time. Regardless, the flavour definitely makes up for the lack of visual forethought! This vegetarian ragu recipe has been perfected by me for my vegetarian husband over the years. He loves it to bits and as a non-vegetarian myself, I think it’s a pretty decent sauce. I’m tooting my own horn here but it’s really delicious *pats self on the back* :)

I think the secret lies in one particular spice called star anise. When onions are cooked with star anise, something magical happens in the chemical reaction neighbourhood. The reaction increases the umami flavour of the dish. The star anise flavour plays a very complementary role, you cannot tell that there’s star anise in there, you just go “MMmmm”!

The other sauce is a light and summery “sauce” that is perfect for a hot summer day. You will see why I put quotation marks on the word sauce in a bit. I had left over pink pasta and the green and white from the zucchini makes it a lovely dish to look at. And the lemon and parmesan lends a very refreshing tone to the dish, which makes it lovely to eat. Best part is it takes minutes to make. Honestly, pasta is the real fast food. Forget McDonalds and all that nonsense, fresh pasta takes 1-2 minutes to cook and and this dish takes about the same time to assemble.

So, let’s begin.

Before you start:
You will need a large pot for the ragu and a pan for the Parmesan, lemon and zucchini sauce | Remember to have a pot of boiling salt water ready to cook the pasta | You can add minced beef, lamb, pork or chicken into the ragu as well | You can grate the Parmesan with a regular vegetable peeler

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Beets in Tagliatelle is a lovely pink!

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You know that lovely pink-coloured pasta you see in fancy grocery stores with really fancy sounding Italian name brands? They sometimes costs more than you’d like to pay for noodles and well, I’m happy to say that it’s actually something that is quite achievable at home. I had a mid-sized, organic red beet sitting in my pantry since my previous grocery shopping spree and it needed to be used because it’s actually taking up too much space! I wasn’t really in the mood for roasting it, much less eating it in a salad but I did like the idea of pureeing it into a smooth paste and converting it into tagliatelle.

This post is a recipe on how to make pink tagliatelle with beets and you can easily use this recipe to create other pasta shapes as well. But the general rule is that the thicker the pasta strands, the heavier your sauce should be. So meat sauces like vegetarian ragu would go really well with tagliatelle. And I make a mean ragu, you won’t even miss the meat! Yes, I said it, meatless ragu. And let’s see how long this post gets. Maybe I should honour my ragu with a post of its own. Let’s see.

Before you start:
Remember to cook your beets, it takes 45 minutes | You will need extra flour handy | Beets stain, so be careful | It will take some kneading to make the dough smooth, so use your bread machine or a food processor if you’d like | Make sure you cook your pasta in boiling, salted water | If you let your pasta dry out a little, it retains its vibrant colour better

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Eating well vs eating green: Stuffed lamb meatballs with garlic aioli

IMG_9267Recently at Whole Foods, I saw some beautiful local lamb chops and mince at the meat counter. Needless to say I bought them. I had plans. One of them was making lamb meatballs stuffed with rosemary and garlic cream cheese. And so I made this last night for my Sunday dinner along with a side of garlic mash potatoes. Once the stuffed lamb meatballs were ready I would bath them in a simple tomato sauce (I always have it handy) with a spoonful of homemade garlic aioli on the side. Pleased and full, I remembered an article my husband showed me a couple of months back. Basically, lamb emits the highest carbon emission and we’re not even talking post-production. So, it doesn’t matter if your lamb comes from New Zealand or Iceland or from Happy Farms down the road. The CO2 from bringing the meat to your table makes up for a small percentage of the entire lamb production’s carbon emission, which is as high as than beef and cheese combined.

I do feel a tad guilty, ashamed even, but I am conflicted. In this day and age, knowing what we know, it’s a challenge because eating well and eating green are sometimes mutually exclusive. Lamb is the world’s oldest domesticated animal used for its meat and dairy. And there is only one way to raise them, and that way hasn’t changed since time in memorial. Sheep must be allowed to graze and run around freely, preferably in green pastures, in order to strive. They cannot be locked up in a farm and herded like cows in cages; or be given hormones to grow because they don’t do so well outside of their natural environment. These animals must live a free-range lifestyle in the truest sense, or very close to, and it’s not a choice if the sheep farmers want to stay profitable. So, this eliminates most of the animals’ need for vaccines, antibiotics and/or hormones, which technically makes lamb the healthiest meat you can eat.

Personally, I think that globalization of foods makes us better and healthier. If we only ate what is 100 miles away, I can’t imagine us being very healthy. Avocados, coconut, mango, goji berries, quinoa, pineapples, nuts, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, oranges, lemons, limes, coffee, cocoa are examples of powerhouse foods with big carbon footprints. Do we just stop eating them? I feel the issue remains in production and management of food, too many irresponsible people in the food industry. I know that sounds like a pretty sweeping statement but doesn’t it all boil down to greed? As a consumer, the best I can do is knowing where my food comes from, how it is treated and weighing the pros and cons before making my purchasing choice. Eating more of what is in season locally, that is also organic, is the most ideal and it’s an idea we can all strive towards. What do you guys think?

I still feel guilty about the carbon emissions from my plate of delicious stuffed lamb meatballs but they were really, really good and simple to make.

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Out of this World Crispy Fig, Nut and Oatmeal Cookies

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I have a cookie recipe that I’ve been unconsciously making a lot of. I am crazy about it. It is a recipe I had found from Ree Drummond, femme fatale of the Pioneer Woman blog and FN show fame. I had too much oatmeal in my pantry and was wondering what I could do with them besides making them into porridge or throw them into muffins. Her recipe for oatmeal cookies changed my life because now I don’t have large bags of oatmeal lying around in my kitchen anymore. And speaking of kitchens, P and I had  just recently moved to Vancouver. Say what?! Yep, west coast, baby!

I love my new kitchen but it’s far from done as we’re still settling in but I can’t help but make these lovely cookies to baptise the workspace . These oatmeal cookies are not just great for energy, they are delicious and crispy too! Originally, Ree’s recipe called for two cups of sugar but I cut a lot of the sugar out and replaced it with other sweeteners; in this case, I used figs and dark chocolate chips. You can add anything you want in this recipe as long as you follow the base but here’s my version. Do enjoy! Continue reading

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Ridiculously good onion bhaji recipe

onion-bhajia-main
I’m a big fan of South Asian cuisine. There was a momentous time when I was growing up in Malaysia where I ate proper Indian food for the very first time. I was captivated by the plate-less experience as a large and green banana leaf takes the place of a plate. All of a sudden, five different vegetable side dishes were generously spooned around the leaf by an Indian guy carrying a large metal container with 5 compartments. Did I tell you that these vegetables were refillable, free of charge too? Another Indian man then swoops in to deliver scoops of steamy hot rice until you say ‘when’ and then with a large ladle delivers your choice of curried gravy: fish, chicken, dhal/sambhar and then he tops it all off with some papadum. Still in awe, a small unpretentious plastic plate arrives and on it, nuggets of crispy, caramelized onion fritters. It was a side of onion bhaji and it came with a sweet and spicy tamarind dipping sauce. It wasn’t an essential component to banana leaf rice, it sure was a decadent addition. I took a bite and it was crispy, sweet and spicy on top of a strong caramelized onion flavour. It was delicious!

I don’t get to eat banana leaf rice in North America. The closest I’ve gotten was a thali meal  served on a metal plate, sometimes with a small square of banana leaf, and you don’t get to refill your vegetable side dishes. But I have eaten my fair share of onion bhajis around town in Montreal. And I have to say, I wasn’t very impressed with them. Most of them were just okay, all of them were over-floured. And so were my quests to make them at home. Then I found an onion bhaji recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation. The episode explored Gujerati cuisine in the UK. The method the Gujeratis use to make their onion bhaji floored me, it was simple and it made sense. The result was a crispy, delicious onion bhaji from my childhood and I have an alternative flour you can use if you cannot find chickpea flour.

This recipe makes approximately 30 ping-pong ball sized onion bhaji. Continue reading

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