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I made this

20 Nov

I’m trying to bake off-recipe these days. Taking what I’ve learned over the past however many years and just trying stuff out. I went to a dinner party last week and wanted to bring a dessert. Something comforting (it’s cold here) and warm and seasonal. I didn’t have a lot of time…crumble? Or something a bit special?

I decided to make a crumble…er, tart? It’s base is a mix of toasted pecans and hazelnuts, chestnut flour, melted butter, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I then filled it with a vanilla and mandarin infused custard and layered thin slices of pear and apple on top. Then, to be a fancy pants, I made a rose out of thinly sliced apples and placed it in the middle. And then to be extra fancy pants, I made a salted caramel sauce. And admittedly, I had to make a second batch because I melted the rubber spatula in the first batch. Woops.

Anyways, this is how it worked out:

Apple and Pear Crumble Tart

The verdict was that the tart was a success. It was gobbled up pretty quickly and I’m pretty happy that I can now bake and cook without a recipe and have it turn out, well, pretty damn tasty.

Last week I hosted a small brunch crew and made a pumpkin pie stuffed french toast. I don’t want to brag, but it was pretty EPIC.

Canadian Thanksgiving Feast – The Recipes

19 Oct

So, I recently made a guest-chef appearance at The Kitchen in Amsterdam and I’m pleased to say it was a huge success. It was a sold-out event and quite honestly, it couldn’t have been a better group. Half Canadians and half expats worked together in a fantastic kitchen for 3 hours and produced a phenomenal meal.

Here are the recipes:

A Canadian Thanksgiving Feast

So, as you all know, cooking a big meal like a Thanksgiving dinner is quite a lot of work. The key to avoiding a full-blown meltdown in the kitchen is organisation. Before I cook any big meal, I write out a “game plan” a few days in advance (and a week in advance for Christmas). The “game plan” includes a shopping list (categorized by food type/group so you don’t do circles around the market or grocery store), a prep list for anything that can be made in advance, and a timeline of your cooking day.

–The menu–

Canadian bacon canape
Pumpkin pie martini
Super-juicy turkey and gravy
Herb and onion bread stuffing
Perfect roast potatoes
Roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes
Roasted butternut squash with nutmeg and goat cheese
Brussels sprouts in browned butter, chestnuts and pancetta
Green beans with lemon and almonds
Gran marnier cranberry sauce
Honey and thyme carrots
Pumpkin pie
Double-crust apple pie
Tarte au sucre

This menu is also a perfect Christmas feast.

I expanded the recipes for our purposes, but I will include recipes here that can be made for 4-6 people. The recipes for each dish are below the timeline. I am not indicating a time to prep and serve the canapes and martinis, you can serve them as you like!

A note on salt: I use Maldon’s Sea Salt because I think it is the best. You can now buy boxes of it at Albert Heijn. It elevates the flavour of food more than normal table salt or even normal sea salt.

The morning before you cook:

– Make the brine in a large, clean container and put the turkey (with the string removed) in it so it’s fully immersed. Cover it and keep in a cool place (outside in cold weather works just fine)
– Tear up the bread for the stuffing and spread this out on a cookie sheet so it dries fully
– Prep and roast and shell your chestnuts (if using fresh)
– Fry, drain and crumble your pancetta and keep covered in fridge
– Make your brown butter for the brussel sprouts and put in fridge

The afternoon before you cook:
– Prep all the veggies (except the potatoes) and put them in ziplock bags
– Make the cranberry sauce and keep covered in the fridge
– Make the pies (I wouldn’t make three for 4-6 people, I’d just make one: pumpkin)

The morning of:
11:00 –> Take the turkey out of its bath and leave it to drain over a rack placed over a sink. Let come to room temperature (one hour)
11:15 –> Prep your potatoes (peel the ones for the roasted ones and leave the skin on for the mashed ones…if doing both)
11:30 –> Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius
11:45 –> Melt the butter and maple syrup for the glaze
11:45 –> Quarter 2 large white onions and 4 large carrots and place in a roasting tin, place the turkey on top
12:00 –> Massage the turkey with sea salt and the butter/maple syrup glaze, tent the breasts with foil and put in the oven
12:30 –> Reduce oven temperature to 176 degrees Celcius
13:00 –> Fill a pot with cold water and lots of salt, add your potatoes and bring to the boil (use two pots if you’re doing both potatoes)
13:25–>  Check your potatoes, they should be fork-tender (if not, let cook a bit longer)
13:30 –> Drain your potatoes in a colander
13:30 –> Make the butter/onion/herb dressing for the stuffing, coat the bread, and wrap it all up in an aluminum foil package, squish it all together as tight as you can get, and put in oven
14:00 –> Cut open the foil of the stuffing parcel so the top is exposed and can get a bit crusty
14:00 –> Toast the almond slivers for the beans and set aside
14:10 –> Remove foil from breasts and turn oven back up to 220 to get the skin crispy on the turkey
14:10 –> Remove stuffing from oven
14:30 –> Remove turkey from oven (juice in leg joint should be clear) and let rest, covered with foil, for up to an hour
14:30 –> Get your butternut squash in a roasting pan, dot with butter pieces and grate some fresh nutmeg (lots) over top, and season well, put in oven (reduce to 190)
14:45 –> Toss your carrots in olive oil, honey and thyme and put in oven
15:00 –> Carefully lift the turkey onto a serving tray and put the roasting tin with all the juices on the hob to make the gravy
15:00 –> Boil the water for the brussell sprouts and beans
15:10 –> Put brussell sprouts in water
15:15 –> Take the potatoes for the roasties and bash them around in a pot so they’re “fluffy” on the outside
15:15 –> Heat up the goose fat until sizzling in a cast iron grill pan (be careful, wear sleeves if possible here)
15:18 –> Remove squash from oven, dot with goat cheese, put back in oven
15:18 –> Remove carrots from oven
15:20 –> Put beans in boiling water
15:20 –> Check sprouts, if tender, drain and toss in brown butter, chestnuts and pancetta and put under the grill for 3 minutes
15:20 –> Start frying up your roast potatoes and put on kitchen towel to drain
15:23 –> Remove brussel sprouts from under grill
15:23 –> Take butternut squash out of oven
15;25 –> Drain beans, toss in olive oil, lemon and almonds, season well,
15:25 –> Finish off your mash and put over a low flame to warm through
15:30 –> Plate up your roasties, strain your gravy into a serving dish, carve turkey, voila
15:35 –> EAT


Canadian bacon canape (makes 14)

2 slices Canadian/Peameal bacon, thinly sliced (recipe to cure your own is here)
1 small sweet potato, cut into thin (2-3mm) disks
70g stilton, crumbled
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced into disks same size as potato
Maple syrup, to drizzle
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying


  • In deep pot, heat oil to 190 degrees Celcius and then add the sweet potato disks and fry until brown, turn halfway through, and drain on paper towel
  • Place apple on top of potato, then top with crumbled stilton, bacon strips and drizzle with maple syrup

Pumpkin Pie Martini (makes 4)


8 oz vanilla vodka
12 TB pumpkin puree
250g caster sugar
125ml water
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

  • First, make the pumpkin pie syrup by mixing the sugar and water and half of each of the spices and place in small pot, bring to boil, then simmer until you get a thick-ish syrup, set aside to cool
  • To make the martini, first ice the glasses, then rim each glass with the rest of the spices (put all spices on a plate and dip wet rim in)
  • Place pumpkin, syrup, vodka and ice in a shaker and shake, then strain into glasses

Spiced and Super-Juicy Roast Turkey (from Nigella Lawson)

6 litres of water
250 g sea salt
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (you can find these at the big spice shop on Albert Cuypstraat)
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons allspice berries
6 star anise
2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
200 grams caster sugar
2 large white onions, quartered
1 thumbsized piece of ginger, cut into 6 slices
2 good glugs of maple syrup
4 tablespoons runny honey
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley and stalks, optional
1 orange, quartered
1 4-5kg turkey
75 grams butter, melted (for the glaze)
100ml maple syrup (for the glaze)


  • In a large, clean container, add the water, sugar and salt and stir until somewhat dissolved
  • Add rest of ingredients (except for last two listed ’cause that’s for the basting liquid), give a good stir, then lower in the turkey
  • Cover and put in cool place over night
  • Refer to timeline for rest of instructions

Awesome Gravy


400ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
2-4 TB corn flour/maizena


  • Take the roasting tin from the turkey and place over the hob on low to medium heat
  • Pour the wine into the pan to de-glaze it, using a spatula to pull off all the flavourful bits stuck on the bottom of the pan
  • Once wine has cooked off, carefully pour the content of the pan through a sieve into a medium saucepan
  • If you have time, leave to cool for a bit so you can spoon off fat from the top, if you don’t have time, you can remove a lot of fat when it’s still hot
  • Add as much stock as you need to to get the amount of gravy you need  and reduce over a low flame if you want to intensify the flavour
  • Once the flavour is good (check for seasoning), add a couple tablespoons of corn flour/maizena and whisk until it thickens
  • Serve piping hot

Onion and Herb Bread Stuffing

One loaf of white bread and 1/2 loaf of brown bread (unsliced), torn or cut into 2cm cubes
3 white onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped into 1cm slices
150g unsalted butter
250-400 ml chicken or veggie stock
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried thyme


  • Dry the cubed bread on a cookie sheet for at least 12 hours, or if you forgot, put in oven on low temperature until dried out
  • Melt butter in large pot, add onions, celery and herbs and cook until onions are translucent and then add stock
  • Add bread cubes to pot, add parsley, and then mix until everything is coated
  • Put bread in aluminum foil parcel, squish together
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes at 200 degrees celcius, open top of parcel for last 10 minutes

Perfect Roast Potatoes 

1 kg flour potatoes, peeled (King Edward or Maris Piper are particularly well-suited for this) and chopped into 3 inch chunks
100 g goosefat
Maldon’s sea salt


  • Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water, bring to boil
  • When potatoes are fork tender (apx. 20-25 min), drain and then transfer back to pot and bash around a bit
  • Heat goosefat in large roasting tin or cast-iron grill pan (wear sleeves or your arms will get burned) and using tongs, fry potatoes in fat until golden on all sides
  • Transfer to paper towel and sprinkle with the Maldon’s (or other nice sea salt)

Roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes

1 kg floury potatoes (King Edward or Maris Piper are good), unpeeled, chopped in 3 inch chunks
1 whole head of garlic
80ml cream
70g unsalted butter
2 TB finely chopped rosemary
Truffle oil
Maldon’s sea salt & white pepper


  • Chop top of garlic off (just a bit) and pour some olive oil on top, a bit of Maldon’s and some pepper, wrap in foil and roast until soft (apx. 45 min in hot oven)
  • Place potatoes is salted cold water and bring to boil, cook until fork tender (apx 20-25 min), drain and mash in pot
  • Add cream, butter, rosemary to mash, squeeze soft garlic in, add seasonings and mix well (taste for seasoning)
  • Drizzle with truffle oil before serving

Roasted Butternut Squash with Nutmeg and Goat Cheese

1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed into 1-2 inch chunks
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp grated nutmeg
100g demi-sec goat cheese (somewhat dry and crumbly, not the soft kind)
Maldon’s and pepper


  • Place squash in a roasting tin and dot with all the butter and grate the nutmeg on top, season
  • Roast for apx. 45 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through
  • When soft, remove from oven and crumble over goat cheese, return to oven for 10 more minutes

Brussels sprouts in browned butter, chestnuts and pancetta


450g brussels sprouts
60 g unsalted butter, browned
200-250g vacuum packed chestnuts (or fresh if you can’t find them), roughly chopped
6 slices pancetta
Salt and pepper


  • First, brown your butter by melting it in a small saucepan and then simmering it until you see the colour turning and lots of small brown flecks. It’ll start smelling very, very good. Careful not to burn it!
  • Set the melted butter aside while you prep the brussels sprouts by pulling off the outer leaves, trimming off the bottom of the stalk and crossing a small “x” into the bottom with a paring knife
  • Bring a medium size pot of salted water to a rapid boil and boil sprouts for 4-5 minutes, then put in ice bath/cold water so you retain the colour
  • While sprouts are cooking, fry up pancetta until crispy and drain on kitchen paper
  • Drain the sprouts, and toss in the melted butter, chestnuts, and season with salt and pepper
  • Turn on the grill and place the sprouts underneath for 3-4 minutes until the edges of the sprouts start to brown
  • Remove from under grill, place in serving dish and crumble pancetta over top

Green beans with lemon and almonds

450 g green beans, trimmed (tops and tails removed), cut in half
100 g slivered almonds
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • First, toast your almonds in a frying pan for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.
  • Bring a medium pan of salted water to the boil and cook beans for 2-3 minutes MAX, plunge in cold water to retain colour
  • Drain beans, then toss in a good drizzle of olive oil, the lemon juice and the lemon zest, the almonds and the seasoning

Gran Marnier Cranberry Sauce


1 bag fresh cranberries
200 g caster sugar
80 ml Gran Marnier (or Cointreau)
115 ml water


  • Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until berries start to crack/pop
  • Remove from heat (it will thicken up) and voila, done

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie (by Bobby Flay)

Note: I have made many, many pumpkin pies and although I would never admit this to my Gramma Joan, this pie by American TV celeb-chef Bobby Flay is THE best one I’ve ever made. I urge you to make it! This recipe is good for one 25cm pie (a cm more or less won’t make a huge difference, anything more will).


–Cinnamon Crunch–
63g flour
25g oatmeal
110 light muscavado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, cold and cubed

200g graham crackers (available at Eichholtz expat food shop on Leidsestraat)
70 g unsalted butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
165g dark muscavado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
50g caster sugar
2 TB molasses (available at expat shops)
370g pumpkin puree
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
240ml cream
118ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
25g unsalted butter, melted

–Maple Bourbon cream–
60 ml cream, very cold
1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
2 TB maple syrup
30 ml bourbon (or whisky or amaretto)


–Cinnamon Crunch–

  • Preheat oven to 175
  • Combine oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse a FEW TIMES (*ahem, Rani and Grant*)
  • Add cold butter cubes and pulse a few more times (if you process too much, it’ll be a paste and you don’t want this) until you have a crumble
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and pat mixture into a 12cm x 12cm (roughly) square
  • Bake for 15 minutes, cool, and then chop into small pieces (think: crumble topping)


  • Crush graham crackers in food processor, tip into a bowl and mix with melted butter and cinnamon
  • Push into the pie plate and bake for 12 minutes and let cool


  • Reduce oven to 150
  • Whisk eggs, yolks, sugars and molasses in a large bowl until smooth
  • Mix in pumpkin puree, spices and salt, then whisk in the cream, milk, vanilla
  • Pass mixture through a wire mesh sieve and then whisk in the melted butter
  • Pour over pie crust and bake until the filling is set, but jiggles a little bit in the middle (45-60 min)
  • Let cool for two hours

–Bourbon cream–

  • Whip the cream using a hand-mixer until thick and fluffy
  • Fold through the maple syrup, bourbon and vanilla

To serve, top each piece of pie with a good dollop of the cream and then a generous tablespoon or two of the cinnamon crunch. This pie is also aaaa-mazing for breakfast, straight from the fridge.

Double-crust Apple Pie


–Sour cream pastry–

313g white flour
1/2 tsp salt
114g cold butter, cubed
203g cold Crisco (or vegetable shortening), cubed
60ml ice cold water (apx)
43g cold sour cream


25g caster sugar
16g corn starch (Maizena)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
28g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1.5 kg crisp apples (Santanas work well, avoid Granny Smith and Red/Golden Delicious)



  • In large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter and Crisco until in fine crumbs with a few larger pieces.
  • In large measuring cup or jug, whisk water with sour cream. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing briskly with fork and adding a little more water if necessary, until ragged dough forms.
  • Divide in half; press into 2 discs. Wrap; refrigerate until chilled, 30 minutes
  • After you’ve prepared your filling (below), roll out one disc to 3mm thick and then place in 23cm pie plate
  • Trim to leave 2cm overhang and fold excess over the edge of the pie plate
  • Once apples are in, whisk an egg yolk with a bit of water and brush it over the edge of pie crust
  • Add apples to plate, then roll out second disc to same 3mm thickness and place on top, pressing down along the edges lightly with a fork
  • Puncture the top of the pie a few times with the fork, brush with egg mixture again and sprinkle with sugar


  • Preheat oven to 230
  • Peel and core apples, cut into 5 mm thick slices and place in large bowl
  • In small bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch/Maizena, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  • Add mix to apples and toss to coat
  • Bake in bottom third of oven for 10 minutes
  • Reduce to 180 and bake for another 65 minutes, let cool on rack

Jehane Benoît‘s Tarte au Sucre


102g Crisco
50ml boiling water
206g pastry/cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
330g dark brown sugar
30ml cream
20g butter, softened
50ml maple syrup


  • In a large bowl, beat the Crisco and the boiling water with a hand-mixer until creamy
  • In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt
  • Pour liquid mixture into the flour and mix until a soft ball of dough forms
  • Cover and chill in fridge for at least one hour
  • Roll out dough on a floured surface until 3mm or so thick, place in 20cm pie plate
  • Spread brown sugar over pie crust, then drizzle over maple syrup and the cream
  • Spread little dobs of butter over the top
  • Roll out strips with an excess dough and criss-cross over top of pie
  • Bake at 205 degrees for 35-40 minutes

Canadian Thanksgiving in Amsterdam – Look No Further!

28 Sep

As a Canadian expat in Amsterdam, I’ve never been shocked when non-Canadians are surprised to hear that yes, we too, also celebrate Thanksgiving.

And not only that, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October.

Everything else is pretty much the same, minus the tie-on to a weekend of manic pre-Christmas shopping and the horrific marshmallow-on-sweet-potato side dish (horrific).

For many Thanksgivings and Christmases here in Amsterdam, I’ve been hosting pretty epic dinners. I’ve taken all the Canadian favourites and melded them with my passion of food to create a SUPER THANKSGIVING FEAST. And this year, I’m super-thrilled to be working with The Kitchen as their “guest chef” for a special Canadian Thanksgiving event on Sunday, 9 October.

So, basically, a small group of food-lovers get together and we all cook a special Canadian Thanksgiving in The Kitchen’s AMAZING facility. We cook, we laugh, we learn, and then we drink and eat, and eat, and eat. I’m even curing bacon: peameal/Canadian bacon!

Space is super limited though, so be quick to register:

Celebrating Baby Axel with a Baby Brunch!

5 Apr

Two of our very dear friends and fellow Canadian expats here in Amsterdam recently had a beautiful baby boy. I wanted to host a little brunch for them while her lovely mother was in town, and luckily the weather last weekend cooperated.

On the brunch menu:

The Almighty Canadian Caesar (the ultimate brunch cocktail)
Roasted vegetable tart
Roasted and sugared grapefruit
Nikki’s awesome fruit salad (thanks Nikki!)
Homemade English muffins
Rhubarb and apple compote
Toasted rye with lemon creme fraiche and smoked salmon
Bacon and sausage
Torta Mimosa
Rotolo alle Nocciole

For those Amsterdam-dwelling expats that miss a freshly toasted English muffin slathered with butter, I implore you to make your own. It’s really easy and so satisfying. The recipe I used uses a food processor, but you can do this perfectly well without one. Instead of pulsing the yeast/sugar/water, just mix it and let it rest and just use a good ol’ wooden spoon to do the rest. Everything else stays the same. Check out: 2 Stews: English Muffins recipe

(I stupidly did not take any photos of my beautiful Italian cakes – duh.)

The brunch was really lovely and it was small enough (11 of us) to make for a very relaxed afternoon. Luckily the grey skies cleared and we were able to sit outside and eat. Oh, and did I mention the fantastic onesies we made for baby Axel?

One of us (oh, me) made a onesie dedicated to the greatest fake band on the planet, Surprise! Snow Leopard? Truck Stop.

Grant did a particularly well-crafted onesie:

It was a lovely afternoon, and boy do we love baby Axel!

Congratulations to Axel’s lovely parents, Rochelle and Maarten!

Macarons – Easier than you think!

25 Mar

I was meandering around Paris this past October with one of my dearest friends, and I made sure to pick up a giant box of macarons while we were there. I ate some there (probably more than I should have) and oh, so carefully brought the rest back to Amsterdam to share with my boyfriend. Since then, I’ve been wanting to have a go at making them myself.

But then. The blogs. The horror stories. Book after book on the “best” way, the “true” way, the “authentic” way of creating the perfect macaron. I was intrigued by a post on Foodgawker from BraveTart called “Macaron Mythbusters”.

Motivated by the astute myth-busting and with a renewed sense of confidence, I decided to have a go. Cold egg whites, no resting once piped…and you know what, it worked!

Vanilla macarons with dark chocolate ganache

The shells had a smooth top, with the airy and chewy texture that makes a good macaron melt in your mouth. Not all the macarons came out with the lovely little feet, and they had little hats on top because I didn’t have the correct piping tip, but still, pretty good for a first try!

A pretty plate of heaven

So BraveTart, you were right! Thanks for debunking the anxiety and fear that comes with making macarons. I’m excited to make more!

Happy Paddy’s Day! Seamus O’Shaughnessy Cupcakes!

17 Mar

Happy St. Patrick’s Day or Happy Paddy’s Day – those are the only two acceptable ways of saying or spelling it. Thanks to my jaunty Irish friend, Fergal, for the clarification.

To celebrate, I concocted the mother of Irish-inspired cupcakes. Meet -The Seamus O’Shaughnessy!

Triple threat: Baileys, Jameson and Guinness

The cake is drunk with Baileys. I actually subbed the entire quantity of milk with Baileys. I split the batter and tinted half of it green, and then swirled it together. The frosting is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream – BUT instead of regular butter, I used butter that I had browned and re-chilled. To add another Irish dimension of flavour, I infused the frosting with a Guinness (stout) syrup.

The cupcake is topped with a green fondant pot, filled with buttercream, and topped with bright gold sugar. Finally, the cupcake is drizzled with a Jameson whisky syrup.

three amigos

I was making them to bring to work. Unfortunately I had a bit of a mishap this morning and tripped getting on my bike. Hence, the cupcakes arrived in a slightly disheveled state, but they were wolfed down anyways:

bike fail


Lush Vanilla Panna Cotta with Orange Sauce AND Pine Nut Brittle

6 Feb

To end our vegan feast, I served a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Orange Sauce and Pine Nut Rosemary Brittle.


Also from the fantastic book, The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.

Now, if you want to make this, you’re going to have to do some work in advance. Tal says that to make the cashew cream, you need to soak the cashews overnight. I’ve made cashew cream several times and only soaked the cashews for three hours…you get the same result. So, about midday at the latest, start soaking your cashews. The pannacotta needs to sit in the fridge to set for about three hours.

Thick Cashew Cream (a.k.a. any respectable vegan’s secret weapon)
2 cups raw whole cashews

Thoroughly rinse the cashews in cold water. Then put in an airtight container, cover with water, and set aside for three hours. After three hours, pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits, and you will be left with silky-smooth cashew cream that is SO TASTY.

The Panna Cotta
1.5 tsp agar agar flakes
1/3 cup boiling water
1/5 cups thick cashew cream, thinned out to achieve a whole milk consistency (3/4 cup cashew cream + 3/4 water)
I cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup caster/granulated sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped or 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste


Put the agar agar in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over top. Leave for 5 minutes to thicken.

In a medium saucepan, add cashew cream, almond milk, sugar, salt and soaked agar agar. If using fresh vanilla, add the seeds now and the emptied pod. Whisk constantly over medium-high heat until a foam starts to rise up in the pan. Then reduce to low and simmer for three minutes. If using vanilla bean paste, add it now.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and then into ceramic ramekins. The recipe says it makes six, but I had bigger ones, so it made four.  Let it set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Orange sauce
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp orange zest
3 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
4 Tbsp Earth Balance or vegan butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier

Combine everything but the liquor in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced by half. Remove from heat, stir in the Grand Marnier, and then pour through a fine mesh sieve.

Rosemary pine nut brittle
1 cup caster sugar
2 Tbsp Earth Balance or vegan butter
1 Tbsp Agave syrup
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp finely minced rosemary

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently stir together the sugar and 1/4 water. Add the Earth Balance and the agave syrup and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Do not stir, let the sugar caramelize and when it starts to turn a golden amber colour, bring it off the heat, stir in the rosemary, salt and pine nuts using a heat-proof rubber spatula, and then pour it onto the baking sheet, spreading it out using the spatula. Let rest for an hour and then break into shards.

To serve, run a knife along the inside of the ramekins to loosen the Panna Cotta, and tip upside-down onto a plate. Pour over the warm orange sauce, place some shards of pine nut brittle, and garnish with mint.


an impressive vegan dessert

Vegan Feasting – The Almighty Farinata

6 Feb

I finally was able to have a real go at one of Tal Ronnen’s more involved vegan recipes from his book The Conscious Cook. We had a couple of friends over for dinner, one is a vegan, and one eats like a vegan by proxy. I decided to make a fingerling potato and green bean salad with miso dressing, wild mushroom and roasted tomato farinata with artichoke aioli and vanilla pannacotta with orange sauce. YEP, all vegan!

The salad was lush – I’d definitely make that again. The key was the dressing: brown rice vinegar, yellow miso paste, garlic, shallots, dijon mustard, agave syrup and chives. Tossed over crisp green beans and firm slices of boiled fingerling potatoes – a good start to the night.

The main course – also in the book – was the farinata. Grant and I had this when we were in Northern Italy and totally fell in love. It’s basically a griddle-cooked pancake made with good olive oil, gram flour (chickpea flour), cream, and salt and pepper. If there’s a bakery that serves farinata in Turin, the locals memorize when the next batch comes out of the oven and queue up to get a slice before it’s gone. Seriously good stuff.

This recipe was, of course, a vegan adaptation.

Wild Mushroom Farinata with Artichoke Aioli and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
(Courtesy of Chad Sarno in The Conscious Cook)

Farinata Batter
3/4 – 1 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp sea salt
3 cups warm water
1/5 – 2 cups gram flour (also called besan) – NOTE: I had to use almost double to get the consistency required
2 Tbsp chopped rosemary

To make the batter, add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. You are looking for the consistency of pancake batter, so add more flour if necessary. Set aside

Artichoke Aioli
1 cup whole raw cashews
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup maple syrup (note: makes it quite sweet, I might use a bit less next time)
3 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt
2 Tbsp finely chopped chives
1/5 Tbsp finely minced tarragon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts

To make the aioli, combine the cashews, soy milk, garlic, maple syrup, vinegar and oil and blend until smooth. Season to taste. Transfer to a bowl and add the chives, tarragon, artichoke hearts and capers. Taste it. I found mine too sweet, so I added another 1/4 cup of the vinegar to balance it out. Set aside.

Roasted tomatoes
250 g cherry tomatoes (on the vine if you can)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Crank your oven to it’s highest heat. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper, and 3 sprigs of thyme. Roast on about 250 degrees celcius for 10-15 minutes until skins start to split and blacken. Turn the oven off and keep the tomatoes in to keep warm.

1.5 cups loosely packed wild mushrooms (chantarelles are good, but expensive)
2 Tbsp Earth Balance (or any other vegan butter substitute)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chopped chives

Heat a heavy-bottom frying pan over medium heat and toss in some sea salt and leave for 1 minute to create a non-stick effect. Melt the Earth Balance, toss in the garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms release their juices. Toss in the chives. Season. Set aside.

Make the farinata.
Put a plate in the oven to keep it warm. Heat a frying pan or a crepe pan over medium heat, melt a small amount of Earth Balance, swirling the pan to coat evenly. Grab a soup ladle, and pour one ladle full into the pan. Leave it for about 2 minutes until bubbles start to form in the middle. Flip it over and cook for another minute or so until both sides are nice and golden brown. Transfer to the warm plate in the oven to keep warm and repeat until you’ve got enough farinata.

Golden brown farinata

Now, wipe the pan clean and while it’s still very warm, toss in some pine nuts to toast in the residual heat…this way, they won’t burn (pine nuts are expensive!).

To serve, place a warm farinata on a plate, add some mushrooms, tomatoes, a couple tablespoons of the aioli, some toasted pine nuts, fold over, and then pour some more aioli on the top. Top with chopped parsley.


Your vegan friends will love you

I can’t eat what now?

31 Jan

I went to a Chinese doctor/herbalist/acupuncturist to see if they could help me get rid of the eczema that I developed last summer. It was an interesting experience. The doctor seemed like a sweet lady, but spoke no English, so a translator sat with us.

She asked me a series of questions, and put her finger on my wrists one at a time.

“Are you hands and feet cold often?”

“Yes, all the time”

“Do you have joint pain?”

“Yes, constantly.”

“Is your face warm a lot?”


Funny how she could determine all of that by just looking at my wrists, tongue and face. She prescribed me some herbal concoction to drink twice daily for three weeks and when I come back, she’s going to test my blood.

She said that she thinks I have some auto-immune problems, which makes sense, since my cold allergy was first misdiagnosed as Lupus and I’m allergic to everything.

Anyways, the point of this post…the doctor also gave me a list of things to avoid eating:

– Fish/shellfish (ok, fine)
– Red meat (not a problem, I rarely eat it)
– Alcohol (enh, kinda sucks)
– Spicy food (BRUTAL)
– Sweet stuff, ESPECIALLY CHOCOLATE (she circled it AND starred it)


It’s almost here…

28 Jan

I finally caved and bought a real camera. It’s a Canon EOS 550D. It means that I’ll be able to take better photos of my food and hopefully Foodgawker will end it’s awful habit of rejecting my submissions.

Mind you, I’ve only submitted three so far.

The pain.

The pain.

Now I’m going to need to learn how to work the camera…