Sunday, 17 January 2021

Asparagus and Cheese Tart

 

Asparagus on Puff Pastry

 



Makes 8 Tarts


Two sheets of rolled out puff pastry

Slice each one into 4. Fold in the edges to make it into a square

Brush the pastry with egg wash

assemble the pastry and bake in a preheated oven of 400 for 18 minutes until golden brown.

Sprinkle it with crumbled cheese lightly tossed in cream - some of the good choices of cheese are gruyere, cheddar, gouda etc.

Alternately mix ½ lb of Canadian feta + ½ lb ricotta paneer, sprinkle with fresh paremsan cheese season lightly with pepper or paprika or fresh herbs of choice like basil and oregano

Blanch or steam 24 fresh asparagus, pat dry, brush lightly with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and  sprinkle very lightly with sugar. Arrange on top of the pastry.

Add sliced red peppers or olives.

To blanch in a flat skillet boil some water, salt well and allow the asparagus to cook for 30 seconds.

To steam, place the asparagus on a colander for 2 minutes. Run it in cold water or dunk it in ice to keep the fresh green bright. 

 

now assemble the pastry and bake in a preheated oven of 400 for 10 minutes and then reduce to 350 for another 20 + till its almost done.

Serve warm in wedges cutting it cleanly with a pizza cutter.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Asparagus

 Asparagus




Asparagi - Latin for many asparagus spears, is a spring time vegetable that is green, white and purple. It has a subtle flavour - varying on the colour of the vegetable. The white asparagus is generally the thickest and least flavourful if served on its own. The purple coloured asparagus is bolder in flavour than the white and makes an attractive offering on a simple platter served with lemon butter. The green variety is the tastiest. 

Generally they are 6 to 8 inches long and sold in bundles. Pick the best ones - fresh, firm and flawless. Whatever the colour of the vegetable they all have a white collar at the bottom of the stalk. This is generally the woody end which can be fibrous and should be cut and discarded  - or added in your vegetable broth. You can peel them starting from the tip down. The shelf life is short and should be stored with a damp kitchen towel if you plan to save it for more than 3 days. Wild asparagus is green and thin, less fibrous but can have a bitter after taste. Out of season asparagus can be woody and lacks much flavour. 



While Asparagus can be served grilled, steamed, poached or well cooked depending on the recipe it is often cooked for a longer time to break down the fibers when preparing a soup or mousse. When young and tender a crisp asparagus can be cooked for just 5 minutes! Traditionally asparagus was always served rather soft, but like most other vegetables it is no longer necessary to over cook it. 

Healthy and nutritious Asparagus have Vitamins A, C and K. It also considered a food group that helps balance  cholesterol, blood pressure and anti inflammation. 


        White and green fresh asparagus some with green, pink and purple tips

An accompaniment to meats, cheese, seafood it also pairs well with velvety sauces and pastry. Asparagus continues to be popular for making soups, mousse, salads and even savoury cheesecakes. Citrus foods like lemon, orange, pomelo and grapefruit pair particularly well with this delicate vegetable. When serving it soft you could serve it up with cucumbers, radish, carrots to compliment the dish.

This vegetable was once considered a delicacy largely associated with French cuisine - Asparagus tips are still a delicacy in the gourmet club. Over the years as palates change, recipes altered and trends flourish, this vibrant vegetable is pretty much part of world foods. 


Photo courtesy Yashaan Mavalvala

Monday, 11 January 2021

Stuffed Mushrooms

 Stuffed Mushrooms


Mushrooms are versatile. They can be cooked in many ways, grilled in the oven or under the broiler. However preparing stuffed mushrooms is a classic way that the French do best. They are often considered market place foods and also offered by street vendors. 

While the filling can be just about anything you want it to be, the base remains the same. Escargots are the priority if in France, but smoked oysters, clams, mussels, lobster, crab, prawns, shrimps and smoked salmon all make great fillings.

The choice is yours.



Serves 4

8  very firm cremini mushrooms

1 tsp salted butter 

1 tsp olive oil

2 small shallots

2 tsp fresh herbs - dill for smoked salmon

2 slices of smoked salmon

1 finely chopped garlic clove

4 oz  of orange juice


Gremolata topping

4 oz   bread crumbs

2 oz  finely grated hard cheese

1 tsp or more finely chopped herbs

Prepare the mushrooms by removing the stalks and scraping the inside of the mushrooms with a teaspoon. You need to keep the walls of the mushroom whole so be extremely gentle. Chop the stalks and removed scraps and keep aside to use in your filling.

Preheat the oven to 320F 160 C

In a large flat skillet heat a nob of butter and a dash of olive oil. Add the shallots and cook on a gentle heat until soft and translucent. Add the  garlic, mushrooms, herbs, seasoning and gently cook for a few minutes. In the same pan on the side of the shallot mixture, place the mushrooms and fill each mushroom with orange juice. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook it all for about 10 minutes. Empty the juice into the skillet and remove the mushrooms to a cookie sheet ready to fill. Turn the flame up and continue to cook the filling until all the liquid has evaporated. Turn the stove off, add the smoked salmon or seafood of choice and fill the mushroom caps equally. Spoon the gremolata on top and place the cookie sheet into a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Tips

Tarragon pairs beautifully with most seafood. Oregano and mint are other options too. Parsley is also an option and for the familiar corriander works well.

Keeping the mushroom size almost equal will help.

You can grill these on a bbq instead of placing them in the oven,  once the first step has been completed.





Asparagus Mousse

 Asparagus Mousse

An old fashioned asparagus mousse that my aunt Villie was most fond of. This pairs rather well with lobster, crab and prawns. Smoked salmon and crawfish can also be a good choice. 

Its subtle flavours and creamy texture makes it perfect for a crunchy bite of garlic pita chips. The choice is endless.




Makes 4 measuring cups

500gm/1.1 lb Asparagus spears - canned 

8 oz liquid from the can. Water/vegetable stock to top up from the can of asparagus

If you wish to use fresh asparagus and make your own there is a detailed method below.

1 tbsp gelatin powder - one sachet

6 oz whipping cream

200 gm/7 oz cream cheese

salt to taste

tabasco to taste

Optionally 1 tsp of lemon juice


Drain the asparagus. Warm the liquid in a small pan and add the gelatin. Stir over a low flame until all of it is melted and smooth.

In a food processor blend the asparagus add the cream cheese. The gelatin, salt, tabasco and with the processor running add the cream in a slow stream. 

Taste and add lemon juice if you like.  

Pour the smooth mixture into a mold or several small molds.

Chill for 3 hours or overnight. 

Best served as an accompaniment.

Tips

If you do not find a can of asparagus, you can make it at home by

washing and cleaning 500 gm/1.1 b of asparagus spears. Remove the very hard and fibrous ends. Peel any stalky stems. Cook them for 1 hours 30 minutes in 4 cups of water, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and lower the heat to a gentle medium. There must be a cupful of water left behind. You may prepare this in advance. 

This can be set in individual portions or in a well oiled ring mold. 

The mousse is soft silky and creamy, serving it with something crunchy like radish, cucumber, carrots, herby garlic croutons would be perfect. It can also be served up with a prawn or seafood cocktail. Grapefruit, pomelo and orange segments pair well.





Asparagus Soup

 Asparagus Soup


Subtle flavours, creamy and silky smooth. Served with a gremolata of your choice or a light cheese toast - with or without garlic.

A buttermilk cheese biscuit or simply on its own.



Serves 4

1 lb  cleaned fresh asparagus spears

2 1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tsp salted butter

1 cup whole milk


Simmer together the vegetable broth and the asparagus until it is tender and cooked. Bring it to a boil, cover and cook on a gentle flame. Cook for one hour.

Remove from the stove, add the butter and milk and pulverise with an immersion blender or in a food processor.

Taste for seasoning, reheat on a gentle low flame and serve immediately.

Tips

To ensure there are no fibers in the soup you can pass it through a sieve.

A drizzle of cream before serving will make it look pretty.

The flavour of this soup largely depends on the quality of the vegetable broth you choose or prepare. You can use a chicken stock if you prefer. 






Friday, 1 January 2021

Warm Chocolate Pudding

 Warm Chocolate Pudding


Ooey gooey and yummy - I am not a chocoholic. Growing up my mum used to make these delicious pots of goodness on every special occasion she possibly could. Served with a delicious creme anglaise or a superb vanilla bean ice cream this old fashioned warm chocolate pudding from decades ago has become rare on current day menus. 

But chocolate never really goes out of fashion and you can even make it your own!



Makes 6 ramekins

Prepare the ramekins with butter and powdered nut of choice. 

6 to 8 oz ramekins - fill accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F or 200 C


3 oz salted butter

6 oz dark chocolate - use your favourite one. I use Lindt

2 egg yolk 

1 large whole egg

3 tbsp sugar - use white fine or light brown fine

1 1/2 tbsp finely ground hazelnuts

6 tbsp Kalhua or Tia Maria

Melt the  butter and chocolate over a double boiler. Add the liquor into it and gently mix it all in. Do not overbeat. 

Whip the eggs and sugar until its light airy and forms a ribbon.

Gently fold in the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Fold in the nuts.

Divide and pour into the prepared ramekins. 

Bake for 12 minutes. 

Serve immediately.

Tips 

The oven must be preheated. 

If you want to prepare this ahead, refrigerate up to 6 hours. Cook for an extra 3 minutes if you bake from chilled.

The beautiful puff will depend on the perfectly whisked eggs. Using room temperature eggs helps. attain the perfect consistency.

You can use crushed hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts. Its all for texture and taste. It should be finely ground.

You may use a chocolate or coffee Patron, Baileys, Glandula Bottega, Godiva chocolate liquor. Anything creamy that is either chocolate or coffee will be a good alternate. 

Photo courtesy Shamineh Mavalvala




Friday, 27 November 2020

Salad Verde

Salad Verde


I like to call this a Salad Verde since its all shades of  green-  I prepared it for a themed buffet table with a colour scheme. It turned out to be rather delicious - it is definitely healthy as well. It would have been a shame not sharing it. 
It looks good, smells amazing and tastes even better. Try it for yourself and besides there are plenty of options in the tips below.  


This salad is made up of several variety of lettuce, cucumbers, fresh asparagus, green spring onions, avocado and the pita chips


Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

1 head Romaine lettuce
1 head Boston 
250 gm shredded green cabbage
 A handful of fresh coriander or parsley leaves 
6 fresh torn mint leaves
6 green onions sliced 
Zest of 2 green limes
3 small dill cucumbers
2 ripe avocadoes 
plus 
pita chips
vinaigrette


To prepare the crunchy pita chips
Mix together 
125 gm of soft salted butter
½ tsp of crushed garlic
handful of chopped fresh parsley
Split open a pita bread as best as you can and apply a generous spread of the butter mixture, bake this in a preheated oven of 350 degrees for 12 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. 
Remove and keep aside, break into pieces, do not crush it.  This can be made ahead and stored in an airtight box for a week.  

Vinaigrette
In a small glass jar pour in 100 ml of olive oil 
Juice of one lime juice
A few drops of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

A Little Tip…  The crispy garlic pita chips are what actually make this salad delicious. It does take some work but is worth every bite. 
Layer each of the greens tossing it together with the lime zest. 
Sprinkle with the vinaigrette and then just before eating sprinkle the pita chips so they remain crisp. 
Add any of your favourite greens to make it your own, green olives, green apples etc.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Minestrone Soup

 Minestrone

This soup is from Italy but can vary from region to region and by season. Like most tasty soups one starts with simmering the bones of chicken or meat for hours with leftover vegetable. The stock or broth which is the most important ingredient in any soup should be clear and packed with flavour since it is the very base of any soup. This could also be vegetarian made up of just root vegetables and some herbs and spice. 
Regions of the north like Lombardy include a small cooked pasta while the south like Tuscany generally enjoy a cannellini beans to their minestrone. 
Minestrone means a thick vegetable soup - the difference between a vegetable soup and a minestrone is the addition of pasta and beans. A drizzle of pesto  can also be added when serving.

To start off with the Italian use their  Sofrito - three basic vegetables of 2 part onion,  1 part celery and 1 part carrot while the French use the same to make their base which is called the Mirepoix. 






Serves 6

4 tbsp olive oil
2 diced onions
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup diced celery 
1 1/2 cups diced carrot 
1  diced zucchini
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock as needed
3 small fresh tomatoes skinned and diced
Salt, pepper, pinch of sugar and oregano to flavour  
Keep simmering. Just before you serve, add 
1/2 cup cooked mini pasta of choice
1 can beans, cannellini or navy or kidney or white beans 
All these vegetables are going to stay whole so cut them equally and not very tiny.
Parmesan to serve with.


In a soup pot heat 4 tbsp olive oil add and saute`2 diced onions. Continue to add the garlic, celery, carrot and mix well.
Lastly add the zucchini as you don't want it over cooked.
Add the stock of choice bring it all to a boil and add 3 small fresh tomatoes skinned and diced. 
Salt, pepper and oregano to flavour.  
Keep simmering for 20 minutes. 
Just before you serve, add 
1/2 cup cooked mini pasta of choice
1 can beans, cannellini or navy or kidney or white beans  - rinsed under cold water in a sieve

Tips
All these vegetables are going to stay whole so cut them equally and not very tiny.
Rinsing the beans in cold water is important to keep them from becoming a mush.
Grated parmesan  is traditional to serve with. Try garlic cheese toast with it to complete the meal. 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Tuna Patiyo Dip

 

Tuna Patiyo Dip

A concoction of the community in Toronto, this is my version of it to share. It has the typical flavour of Parsi food, the fine balance of spicy, sour and sweet or tikhu-khatu-mithu. Using the canned or bottled Tuna fish works well for this recipe. Generally served as a dip with a variety of crackers, toasts or rustic crisps. Left overs can be turned into a potato and tuna pattice or served as an accompaniment to Dhun dar - lentils and rice. 




700 gm Tuna -flaked

Cans of Albacore White Tuna in water work best.


3 tbsp oil

2 medium sized onions 

6 cloves of crushed garlic

2 tbsp roasted cumin, ground

1 tbsp red chillie flakes

150 ml tomato paste

salt to taste

2 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp jaggery


Drain the Tuna in a sieve.

In a pan heat the oil and cook the onions until they start to turn colour. Add the garlic, cumin, chillie flakes and cook for a few minutes - keep stirring. Add the tomato paste and salt. Cook for a few minutes, lower the flame and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and jaggery. Cover and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes on a simmer. The oil should be released at the very edges - tayl per avay. Taste for tikhu-khatu-mithu spicy, sour and sweet to your desired flavour.

Let it cool and serve with crackers, toast or on its own. 


Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala


Thursday, 22 October 2020

Thai - Chicken in green curry

 Thai Chicken in Green Curry

Gaeng Khio

often called Gaeng Khio Wan- sweet, the colour of this curry is dependent on the green chillies and other greens used to prepare.  A green curry paste is the basis of the curry. Like every good recipe preparing it at home is the best. Thai pastes are generally hand ground for authentic results, not for all of us. Using a mortar and pestle and a strong arm, one can get a beautiful paste. Nothing a good machine cannot process and yet there is a stark difference. 




Serves 6

The Green curry paste is made up of

4 Roots of the corriander leaf - bottom part of the stalk
4 garlic cloves
2 hearts of lemon grass - the white part at the root of the stalk
ginger 1 tsp
Galangal 1 thumb size grated
zest of a lime
4 green chillies
2 to 6 birds eye Thai chillies green or red - the spice level is intense

2 cup of good chicken stock
400 ml coconut milk or cream 

Add this to your taste if you prefer it more pungent, sweeter or sour. 

1 tsp Tamarind
2 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp shrimp paste
4 small crushed shallots 
2 tbsp fish sauce
Optionally a Japanese soya that is flavourful and not as salty 1 tbsp Tamari

1 1/2 kg chicken pieces

To flavour you will need
Kaffir lime leaves
3 sliced green onions
handful of Thai basil leaves
cupful of bamboo shoots
8 Thai baby eggplant, slit or halved 

For the curry
In a pan heat a touch of oil and sizzle the paste adding chicken stock as needed.

Add 2 tsp of corn flour to thicken allowing the mixture to boil and bubble.
Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
Once it is free of lumps add the rest of the chicken stock, coconut milk and flavour the curry with the tamarind palm sugar fish sauce and tamari.

Add the pieces of chicken and vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes after it comes to a boil or until just done.  

Add Kaffir lime leaves, sliced green onions, Thai basil leaves, bamboo shoots,  Thai baby eggplant,