Leeks and chickpeas soup

September 3, 2013

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. read more …

Porchetta with proper cracklings

August 25, 2013

porchetta

Since 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

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

read more …

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

June 16, 2013

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

read more …

Beets in Tagliatelle is a lovely pink!

June 9, 2013

main

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

read more …

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

May 20, 2013

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.

read more …

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