Archive for February, 2008

A Recipe: Gluten-free biscotti

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The bitterness of winter doesn’t seem to be tiring anytime soon and evenings bundled up on the sofa rather than sprawled out on picnic blankets in the park deem it the perfect excuse to indulge in some slow cooking. Casseroles, seven-hour leg of lamb, rusk cookies, biscotti- (just to name a few of my favourite things), left overnight or all day in the oven providing not only dinner but the best kind of air freshners on the market. There is only one thing better than the smell of baking cookies- and that is the smell of baking cookies all through the night. You can only hope that the entire batch you let pass your lips was only a dream- a nice one though it may be.

Alas, apparently these chilly times have also proven the ideal time for my 1970’s vintage (but not in a cool way) oven to choke out its final batch of biscotti. Perhaps I’ve abused it a little too much this winter, but I find this timing highly unreasonable. There is still, after all another month (at the very least) of cold weather to come and I shall find no comfort in my unpredictable gas hobs. But in respect to my oven, which lacks any distinguishable feature that might reveal to me what company had made it, in its time it had always worked better than the swanky new GE ovens we have at work. If only it were as easy as calling up a landlord and demanding it fixed or replaced but now that we are proud owners of our apartment it will get added to our ever increasing list of vital home improvements. Our shower broke two months ago and that may now be pushed down in the order of priority- because I think we’d all agree that weekend baking is more paramount than personal cleanliness.

Fortunately, for you, dear readers, my months of Saturdays spent in the kitchen rather than out on the town have paid off and I have a small back-log of recipes to tie you over until my oven recovers/is fixed/or replaced. And like a scolded child I will have to finally start attending to my ‘TO DO IMMEDIATELY’ list, immediately- more or less. Now can we all please have a moment of silence for my oven, which can’t be named.

Continue reading ‘A Recipe: Gluten-free biscotti’

Crispy on the Outside

When it comes to baked dishes, and I’m swooning about lasagna, shepherds pie, chicken pie, beef bourguignonne, I’m typically more excited about using my fork to chip off the cripsy burnt bits around the sides of the pan than to use said utensil to eat what’s on my plate. I’ll wait until everyone has served themselves before doing a scoop around the upper sides of pan collecting all the crusty bits (and I’m especially partial to cheesy ones) that most people leave for the washer-upper to battle with. It’s really a rather grotesque habit- and I promise that if you ever come over for dinner I won’t do it, at least not in front of you anyway. Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to settle for something grilled?

The thing is though, I recently came across the Edge Brownie pan and one would think that I, coveter of kitchen gadgets and crispy edges alike would think of this as the greatest creation of the modern culinary world. Alas, I don’t. Now, lasagna baked with all edges would be my idea of perfection- and I’m contemplating buying one just to test it out for this use alone, but who likes the corner part of a brownie? Personally, I always cut the chewy overcooked edges off. Have I been causing offense to others in discarding the edges to the rubbish? Is it just me who thinks that it’s the middle of the brownie batch- the gooey, not quite cooked through section, where the top layer is the most cracked is the best part?

Perhaps it’s the English in me that was bought up eating stodgy sweets- steamed puddings, sticky toffee puddings, Queen of puddings, Bakewell puddings, bread and butter puddings, Christmas puddings. There is, it would seem very good reasoning behind us brits calling desserts: pud? Oh glorious tummy bulging filling puddings baptized in thick, free flowing, pleasantly yellow custard. When I was at school I would wait to see what was on for pudding before deciding whether or not to eat lunch. This was part due to the fact that puddings were the only good thing my school kitchen seemed capable of churning out without an objectionable name and equally objectionable taste and part due to my fondness for stodgy puds. But when sweets are on the table I’ve never had the same inclination to scrape around the sides of the pan. I see no appeal in consuming burnt sugar. When it comes to sweet things I plunge my spoon/knife/fork straight into the middle of the pan- not ignoring the crispy toppings, just the unpalatable corners.

So, as far as I’m concerned these culinary gadget designers need to come up with something edgeless but thanks for the new lasagna pan. And for those who want to sample some great savoury cripsy edges try here or here.

A RECIPE: Squash, chorizo & feta tartlets

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For my sins, I’m cooking, as part of an auctioned prize in support of United Way. My sister always suckers me into doing such events promising that it will be good for my career and I just nod my head greedily eagerly and then go home and get completely strung-out about the possible consequences of my acceptance. It’s not that I’m not charitable- it’s that I can’t say no, even when I’m swimming a little out of my depth.

The event concept is based on the show Iron Chef and there will be canapes and cocktails, which are taught respectively by myself and a mixologist. Teams will then compete to come up with the best canapes/cocktails of the evening. The prize auctioned for $4,000 and will involve an evening of highly-paid and important business executives, which is hence the reason why I feel like I’m drowning off the side of my own boat. Flattered, sure but sensing the need to perform- hell yes.

And so I have been testing out canapes with the following guidelines- they have to be simple so that people can actually do them at home (and so that I’m not up making them all night the night before) but they have to be worth the $4,000 price tag. Now that’s a concept. I’ve come up with one idea (you have to start somewhere), which utilises all of my favourite ingredients without being overly fatty or rich. Wonton wrappers are similar to Phyllo pastry but being precut and a tad thicker they are much easier (and that’s a word we all love) to use. Now for anyone who actually wants to pay me $4,000.00 to teach them three canape, you already know I won’t say no.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Squash, chorizo & feta tartlets’

Not feeling the love

It’s hard to get in the mood for Valentine’s day when the day before it’s rainy cats and dogs outside, your running late for work despite the alarm going off at 4:45 am and the elevator in your apartment building is out of order, oh and when you finally do make it out of the door after a trip back up the seven flights of stairs to get your rain coat,your umbrella does an impressive back flip and jars an elderly lady walking past (which I now know is only funny in films). Frankly, by this point in my day (and it was only 5:43 am) I felt like my guts-on-the-outside-umbrella, only minus the gold medal gymnastics. There was no love in the air. nada, zilch, niente- well you get the idea.

They say things can only get better-but I can categorically say when you start the day like you’ve been thrown in the pool with your clothes on (on a winters day) and there’s no more PG-tips left, there’s very little to feel bright about. So, I did what any right-minded girl in a grump and a sodden jumper would do- I got out a set of scales. If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t yet come across an activity or the person in your life to bring you up when you’re down, then let me suggest you drag your sad little feet into the kitchen. Sweet smells from the oven warm the heart, enliven the senses and really, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves…one more biscuit will make everything better? This isn’t to say that Don, doesn’t live up to his relationship-bound duties but I didn’t want to bring him down the day before Valentine’s Day and make him forget my flowers (Don, you did buy me flowers, right?).

Walking to the subway after work I chucked my useless brolly on a pile of other discarded ones’ by the curb- seems like no matter how much you shell out there is no such thing as a good umbrella. There are however good biscuits. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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