Friday, June 28, 2019

Pork Souvlaki with Tangy Homemade Tzatziki

From grilled fish and dolmades to skordalia and spanakopita, Greek cuisine is a divine marriage of bold flavours, simple ingredients and time-honoured traditions. Many dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece and Byzantium, whereas others were influenced by Ottoman cuisine with names that reveal their Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots: moussaka, tzatziki, yuvarlakia, keftethes and boureki. However, among the icons of modern Greek food culture, one of the most popular must be souvlaki. Infused with the intoxicating scents of oregano, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, these Pork Kebabs owe their tenderness to a tangy marinade that helps break down even the toughest cuts of meat. Traditionally served wrapped in pita bread and topped with a variety of condiments such as lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki, Souvlaki are also quite delicious all on their own with a great dollop of tzatziki and a lovely fresh Greek Salad. I have also recently discovered Feta and Spinach Twisters by Krinos, which are baked from frozen and absolutely delicious, especially when served with grilled Pork Souvlaki and my sensational homemade tzatziki. 

Pork Souvlaki  
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb pork shoulder or loin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

In large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the pork and toss to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes. Evenly thread the marinated pork onto 4 skewers and grill on a preheated barbecue, turning halfway through, until just a hint of pink remains inside, about 8 minutes per side. Garnish with sliced lemon and fresh oregano, and bowl of tzatziki.

Homemade Tzatziki
Makes 2 1/2 cups

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated with skin on
1 cup plain strained Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed 
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Grate the remaining cucumber, spread it out over a large tea towel and wrap it tight, leaving it at least 30 minutes until the grated cucumber is quite dry. In the meantime, peel and finely crush the garlic, then combine with the oil in a small bowl and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Combine the cucumber with the garlic mixture, then stir through the yoghurt until evenly distributed along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. 

Spinach and Feta Filo Spirals
Serves 8

1lb/500g frozen spinach
9 oz/250 g feta cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
16 sheets of film pastry

Defrost and drain out all the excess moisture from the spinach and and chop. Crumble the feta using a fork and mix in with the spinach, and season with pepper. Lay the filo pastry on a clean surface and place a damp tea towel overtop to prevent from drying out. Brush each sheet with olive oil, and layer one of top of the other. Spread the spinach and feta mix in a cylindrical shape along one width of the pastry, and then roll into a tube. Brush oil over the pastry tube on all sides and then twirl the tube into a spiral shape. Cover the pastry swirls in cling film or a damp tea towel until ready to bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes or until brown.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Marsala Cream Sauce

Any recipe that features wild mushrooms gets my attention, and especially if they're combined with cream and a little cognac or Marsala, it becomes a rich and powerful flavour combination that can be the foundation for a host of fabulous dishes. Delicious served over any grilled meat or tossed with pasta, a fine Wild Mushroom & Marsala Cream Sauce is an indispensable part of many cooks culinary arsenal. An earthy combination of assorted wild mushrooms makes the sauce richer and more flavourful - varieties like shiitake, morelles, cremini, oyster, chanterelles, enoki, beech and even a dollop of truffle sauce for extra zing.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with Marsala Cream Sauce
Serves 2

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 french shallot, peeled and minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz oyster mushroom, thinly sliced
8 oz beech mushrooms, ends trimmed
2 tbsp Salsa Tartufata (Italian truffle sauce), optional
1/2 cup 10% cream
1/4 cup Marsala, or to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 lb dried pasta, such as linguine, tagliatelle or spaghetti
Maldon salt for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add a glug of marsala and cook for 3-4 minutes allowing the mixture to reduce. Then stir in the heavy cream, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mushroom sauce for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and once bubbling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat with a tablespoon or two of truffle sauce, if desired. Add a handful of Parmigiano to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add some hot pasta water. Serve in warmed dinner bowls and garnish with some sprig of fresh thyme, a grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Gobi Matar: Cauliflower with Peas & Kari Leaves

A classic Punjabi dish, Aloo Gobi, or cauliflower with potatoes and peas, is a simple and delicious southern Indian vegetarian curry, shining through with rich textures, complex flavours and intoxicating aromas. A staple in most Indian restaurants, Aloo Gobi can also be adapted without potatoes for a sensational Gobi Matar, an equally delicious yet low-fat carb-free version of the original. Served with succulent Chicken Tikka, the balance of flavours are a winning combination. 

Gobi Matar | Indian Cauliflower & Peas
Serves 2-4 

1/2 cauliflower 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1/8 tsp asafoetida 
1 tbsp black mustard seeds 
1 tbsp kari leaves 
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen 
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste 
1 tbsp chopped herbs for garnish, optional

Separate the cauliflower into small florets, about 1 to 2-inches. Warm the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida, then a second later, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the kari leaves and stir to combine. Then add the cauliflower, turmeric and some salt to taste. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the cauliflower is well coated with the spices and begins to brown slightly. Add 1/2 cup of water, and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the peas, cover the pan and turn down the heat to med-low. Cook 10-15 minutes more until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Sprinkle with some chives or cilantro leaves and serve. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Oven Roasted Tandoori Chicken Tikka

Tandoori Chicken, or Tandoori Murghi, is a classic Indian dish made with a vibrant and spicy marinade of yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, vegetable oil and a handful of warm fragrant spices including powdered cardamom, chill powder, turmeric, garam masala and my secret ingredient — Tandoori masala — which gives the marinade it's bright orange-red lustre. Combined into a loose paste and liberally coated over pieces of lightly scored bone-in chicken breasts, thighs or legs, the marinade works its magic over a couple of hours or overnight in the refrigerator, allowing the flavours to fully develop. The rich blend of spices gives the Tandoori Chicken its unique flavour, but more importantly, it's the yogurt that helps to penetrate the spices into the meat while tenderizing at the same time. This is also the basic marinade that is often used to cook the chicken before making Butter Chicken. Grilled on an outdoor barbecue over medium-high heat, the thick consistency of the yogurt keeps the seasonings on the meat and seals in the robust flavours, for a tender, moist and succulent dish that's simply the best.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Tikka
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, boneless and cut in half
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tbsp Tandoori masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee, melted

Pat dry the chicken breasts and score the tops with 3 or 4 cuts. In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, ginger, garlic, cardamom, chili powder, garam masala, oil, lemon juice, Tandoori masala, salt and mix well to form a loose paste. Add the chicken breasts to the mixture, tossing thoroughly to ensure they're well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or even overnight, to allow the chicken to marinate.

To grill, place the chicken breasts on a pre-heated outdoor barbecue and cook 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn them over and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is evenly cooked and has nice grill marks. 

To oven roast, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the baking sheet, spacing the pieces evenly, and discard any remaining marinade. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the breasts are just cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven, and baste with the melted ghee. Allow the chicken to cook another 5 minutes, and let the ghee brown the breasts slightly. Serve with Gobi Matar and pappadams for a delicious low fat meal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Linguine with Homemade Basil & Walnut Pesto

Originating in the Ligurian region of northern Italy, Pesto alla Genovese traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fiore Sardo, an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. The name comes from the Italian 'pestare', which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparing pesto with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. Italians also use walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the pesto sauce, and are much more affordable than pine nuts. This foolproof recipe from my dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso quip that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités".

Linguine with Basil & Walnut Pesto
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 lb linguine 
1 1/2 tbsp salt
4 quarts water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade Basil & Walnut pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated imported Parmigiano or Romano cheese

Basil & Walnut Pesto: Makes 2 cups
2 cups fresh basil leaves thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmigiano 
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Romano 
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the bowl of food processor and blitz. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover with a thin film of olive oil on top, until ready to use; freezes well.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and when the water starts to boil again, add the pasta. Use a wooden spoon to stir the pasta until all the strands are under the water. Boil rapidly until done to taste. To test, occasionally  lift and bite a strand. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and the heavy cream into the pesto, then drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately into warm pasta bowls, with a sprig of basil and additional cheese on the side if desired. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Flourless Lemon, Almond & Ricotta Cake

Light and full of flavour, this flourless Lemon, Almond & Ricotta Cake is naturally gluten free and makes a luscious dessert, delicious served with a spoonful of chilled Greek Yogurt and a handful of blueberries.

Flourless Lemon, Almond & Ricotta Cake
Serves 8

4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
7 oz granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 large eggs, separated
9 oz ground almonds
300g /10.6 oz ricotta
flaked almonds for decoration
icing sugar for serving

Heat oven to 350°F and line the base and sides of an 8-inch round cake tin with baking paper and set aside. Place half of the sugar and all of the lemon zest in a food processor and blitz until finely ground. Then beat the butter, vanilla and sugar/zest mix together for about 10 minutes until pale and creamy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat until fully combined. Add the ground almonds and beat to combine. Then fold the ricotta through the almond mixture. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks have formed. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top with a palette knife and sprinkle with the almond flakes. Bake for 40-45 minutes until cooked through and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely in the cake tin before removing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with thick Greek yoghurt and a handful of blueberries, if you like.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Il Postino: Italian-Inspired Cuisine in Historic Unionville

Tucked away in a heritage building on historic Main Street in downtown Unionville, Il Postino captures the essence of Italian warmth and hospitality. Passionate restaurateurs, Melanie and Dominic Sala have been serving fine Italian and Mediterranean cuisine since opening the doors of their family-owned ristorante over ten years ago, still greeting every guest personally and ensuring that they're having a good time. Nestled within a picturesque courtyard setting on the site of the town's original Post Office, Il Postino offers inspired Italian cuisine, artfully presented and bursting with fresh innovative flavours that make the most of local, seasonal and artisanal DOP ingredients, with a sensibility that is distinctly Italian. The menu created by Chef Sala, the talented son of Melanie and Dominic, features savoury pastas, lovely seafood, and gourmet thin crust pizzas, as well as an extensive menu that offers new selections added every day. Celebrating the best of true Italian hospitality with wonderful food, exceptional service in a warm and inviting setting, Il Postino is 'delizioso' anytime of the year, especially enjoying an al fresco lunch in the pretty outdoor garden courtyard.

Il Postino in historic Unionville

Entering the outdoor garden courtyard with menus

Lush hanging baskets line the outdoor garden

Lanterns are scattered throughout the courtyard for nighttime dining

Calamari Fritti, lightly battered with tzatiki and fresh lemon

Beef tenderloin carpaccio with arugula, shaved parmesan and olive oil

Cacio e Pepe with parmesan, pecorino romano and black pepper 

The popular Italian film from 1994 after which the restaurant was named

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Caprese Salad with Mini Bocconcini & Fresh Basil

A colourful combination of red and yellow vine ripened tomatoes and fragrant homegrown basil tossed with olive oil and seasoned with Maldon salt and fresh ground white and black pepper have all of the signs of a classic Caprese, but tossed with a handful of bite size bocconcini, this simple summer salad becomes an easy dish to serve with a larger gathering.  

Vine Ripened Caprese with Bocconcini & Basil
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups mini Bocconcini
12-16 mixed vine ripened red and yellow tomatoes
Fresh basil, julienned for garnish
Olive Oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Toss the bocconcini, tomatoes and some julienned basil in a large bowl and season with olive oil, sea salt and some fresh cracked black and white pepper. Serve in a decorative bowl and garnish with basil tops.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Summer Pudding: The Ultimate Dessert

A triumphal end to many summer lunches and dinners I've hosted over the years, my Summer Pudding is as easy to make as it is outstandingly delicious. One of the quintessential English desserts, Summer Pudding is packed full of fresh summer strawberries, raspberries and blueberries that have been simmered with brown sugar and framboise, then poured into a bread lined bowl and chilled overnight, the pectin in the berries react with the sugar in the bread, and as the pudding chills, it firms up into a fabulous crimson coloured berry laden pudding. Served with a dollop of crème fraîche, 'Summer Pud' is heaven on earth.

Summer Pudding
Serves 12

1 lb strawberries
1 lb raspberries
1 lb blueberries
1 lb blackberries
1 package frozen mixed berries
1 cup light brown sugar
1 loaf white bread
1/2 cup framboise
2 cups crème fraîche and fresh mint, for garnish

Remove the crusts from the bread. Wash and trim all the fresh berries, and add them to a large saucepan with the frozen berries, framboise, brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the berries have released their juices, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then remove 1 cup of the juice and set aside.

Lightly grease a medium sized bowl with some vegetable oil, then line the bowl with the slices of bread, covering the bottom and the sides. Using a large spoon, ladle the berry mixture into the bread lined bowl, then top with the remaining slices of bread. Lay a flat plate on top with a heavy weight to squash the fruit down, and chill 12-24 hours.

When ready to serve, place a large serving plate on top of the bowl and gently invert. Shake gently to release the pudding onto the plate and spoon the reserved juice over the top, garnishing with some sprigs of fresh mint. Serve cut into wedges, with a bowl of thick crème fraîche on the table. Heaven!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Like so many of Italy’s best dishes, bruschetta owes its origins to la cucina povera, a marriage of frugality and ingenuity among Italy’s rural communities who dictated that nothing edible ever be tossed out. The simple act of toasting and topping the bread with quality ingredients such as sun-ripened, organic tomatoes and an impeccable extra virgin olive oil topped with Maldon salt and fresh chopped basil, positively shouts summer.

Basic bruschetta is remarkably simple, comprised of a toasted or grilled slice of bread – preferably a rustic, hardy kind such as Tuscan or Pugliese – rubbed with fresh garlic while still warm, then drizzled with olive oil and dusted with salt and pepper. In many places, the custom is to brush these ingredients on both sides of the toasted bread, making for a marvelously heady flavour experience and gloriously messy fingers.

Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 2

4 large slices of bread, such as rustic
20 baby cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half
4 basil leaves, plus more to garnish
Sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the tomatoes together in a small bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in one layer on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes (45 minutes if using larger Campari tomatoes) until the tomatoes are soft, slightly shrunken and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool. 

Grill or toast the bread slices until golden on both sides. Rub each piece with the cut sides of garlic (or rub both sides for more zing). Spoon the roasted tomato mixture on top of each slice and top with a drizzle of olive oil, to taste. Season with Maldon salt and garnish with sliced fresh basil leaves.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Poached Salmon with Homemade Mayonnaise

One of the most perfect summer dishes and in my mind the most elegant, is a succulent Poached Salmon garnished with sliced lemon, cucumber, fresh dill and served with a heaping bowl of homemade mayonnaise. Ideal for the hot days of summer, the salmon can be poached and decorated first thing in the morning and served later in the day with buttery new potatoes, steamed french green beans and a colourful tomato and basil salad with mini bocconcini. Whether you're entertaining a crowd or making a simple Sunday lunch, there’s nothing more easy, healthy, and delicious than a moist and flaky coral pink Poached Salmon, and enjoyed with a chilled Rosé or Côtes de Provence, this recipe is a gem.

Poached Salmon with Homemade Mayonnaise
Serves 4

2-3 lb organic Salmon filet
1/2 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, quartered
sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 Lebanese or English cucumber, thinly sliced
4-6 sprigs of fresh dill

Homemade Mayonnaise:
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 tsp store-bought Mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and fresh cracked black or white pepper 
Chopped chives, for garnish 

Whisk the mayonnaise and egg yolks in a small mixing bowl until combined. Pour both of the oils together in a cup and very slowly trickle them in a very slow thin stream over the egg yolks, whisking them constantly. Once the mayonnaise begins to thicken, the remaining oils can be added gradually until the mixture thickens and emulsifies. Then add the lemon juice and white wine wine vinegar, and season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use. 

Place the salmon in a fish poacher or large roasting pan. Add enough cold water to cover the fish then add the onion, bay leaves, vinegar, lemon and a good pinch of salt and a little black pepper. Bring the pan to the boil on the stove and once it's boiling, turn off the heat and allow the fish to stand in the water until cool. Carefully remove the salmon and place onto a board. Carefully scrape off the skin and the white fatty albumin layer that often coagulates on the surface, and place on a large flat serving dish. Decorate with sliced lemon, cucumber and dill and serve with a bowl of hollandaise.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Cold Sesame Noodles with Thai Red Curry Sauce

A simple dish with complex flavours, this Thai-inspired Cold Noodles with Spicy Red Curry & Peanut Sauce is the perfect thing for a hot summer evening. Cold noodles are unique to Asian cooking, and the mouth watering combination of peanut butter, red curry paste, rice vinegar, lime juice, cilantro and chopped scallions come together to create a thick and velvety spicy sauce. Topped with sesame seeds and chopped cilantro, these noodles are a flexible dish that can be eaten either warm or cold, and can also be adapted to your favourite noodle, from Japanese buckwheat soba noodles, Thai rice noodles or Chinese egg noodles to even fettuccine, linguine or spaghettini. The sauce is so delicious, it could even be used as a marinade or dipping sauce for grilled chicken, pork, fish or seafood.

Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles with Spicy Thai Red Curry Sauce
Serves 4-6

12 oz fettuccine, Chinese egg noodles, or rice or soba noodles
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp red curry paste
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until chilled. Shake out the excess water and blot dry. Meanwhile, purée the peanut butter, curry paste, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes and water in a food processor or blender until smooth. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the peanut sauce and sliced green onions and mix well, until the noodles are well coated. Season to taste with salt and stir in some of the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta to loosen the sauce, if necessary. Serve the noodles in a decorative bowl or platter, and garnish with sesame seeds and more cilantro.