mercredi 1 janvier 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

A friend once asked me what foods I would I want if I was only able to eat three different ones for the rest of my life. My answer "Lobster, Avocado and Chocolate".

Avocado is so good for you and versatile. Chocolate - what can I say - dark and delicious and we need dessert right? Lobster has long been my favourite food. My father loves to tell the story that when I was in Jr. High in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, I would lament that some of my classmates complained that, since their parents were lobster fishermen, they had to eat a lot of lobster. I would love to have had that problem!!!

Recently I tested the lobster goes well with avocado theory and can say that this combination works.

There is nothing better than fresh properly cooked lobster. I have eaten lobster from both sides of the Atlantic (green Nova Scotia and Brittany Blue) and from the Caribbean (spiny rock lobster). I like them all. I prefer the Atlantic lobsters since they have both claw and tail meat. The claw meat is sweeter and the tail is meatier. I like the lobster served with a hot lemon garlic butter. Traditionally the side dishes are coleslaw and potato salad.

What better meal to bring in the new year?

Boiled Lobster

500 to 680 g (1 to 1-1/2 lb) lobster per person
Melted butter
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Crushed garlic clove, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Grab the lobsters just behind the head and drop them head first into the pot. Bring the water back to a boil and start timing - 5 minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound. Lobster will be fully cooked when the shell turns bright red and the antennae can be easily removed. Remove from pot.
Either let each person cut open the lobster using claw crackers and kitchen shears. Or before serving, crack the claws using the back of a large kitchen knife and cut the lobsters in half.

Melt butter in a ramekin; add lemon juice and garlic. Serve with lobster for dipping.

mardi 24 décembre 2013

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Cock-a-Leekie Soup is Scottish peasant food. Nutritious and hearty enough to chase the wet and chilly weather away. Add some bread and you have a meal. Like all peasant food, there are probably as many recipes as there are cooks who make it. This recipe is a simple one using just chicken, leeks and carrots.

Cock-a-leekie Soup
Serves 6-8

1.25 kg (2lb-12oz) fresh, whole chicken
8 medium sized leeks, well washed and chopped into 2 cm (¾") lengths
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and grated
Salt and crushed black pepper

Add chicken to a large soup pot with enough water to more than cover and add ½ of the leeks. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour or until chicken falls off the bone. Remove chicken and set aside.

Strain the stock into a clean pot cover and simmer for 10 minutes Add grated carrots and remaining chopped leeks; continue cooking for 20 minutes or until leeks are tender and intensity of flavour has increased. Add some chopped reserved chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.

lundi 16 décembre 2013

Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad - lost classic or fresh crunchy salad ready to be rediscovered?

The latter I think. I had a craving one day to make this classic and I was converted. This makes an excellent winter salad - no lettuce just a crunchy combination of celery, apples, red onions and walnuts in a light mayonnaise (or if you prefer yoghurt) dressing. Perfection!

Waldorf Salad
Serves 4

225 g (8 oz) mayonnaise
60 mL (4 Tbsp) lemon juice
5 celery stalks, sliced
2 red apples, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
100 g (3.5 oz) roasted walnuts
chopped parsley, to taste

Mix together mayonnaise and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently to coat.  Serve immediately. 

samedi 21 juillet 2012

Kitchenalia - GaniveteriaROCA

If you are as obsessive as I am about kitchenalia, you must visit GanveteriaROCA in Barcelona.  This store has all the sharp objects (and some not so sharp ones) for your kitchen needs.  I bought some beautiful accessories for eating lobsters here but there is so much more to choose from.

The store which has been around since 1911, is like an old-time hardware store where all the stock is held in drawers behind the counter.  However there are many items on display in the windows.  The staff are very friendly and helpful (at least for those of us who have only rudimentary Spanish) and pointing things out from the window displays is a godsend!

GaniveteriaROCA, Placa del Pl,3, 08002 Barcelona

samedi 31 décembre 2011

Happy New Year 2012!

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year 2012!

samedi 29 octobre 2011

Paris Marché

I can only say that I have been very very busy with other activities this year and rather uninspired food-wise with my local fare.  Somehow vegetables packaged in plastic bags do not entice me.  On my recent trip to Paris, I passed by my favourite marché and instead of being able to buy food, I took photographs.  Who would not want to buy this produce and produce something exciting in the kitchen?  It is such a shame that I stayed in a hotel with no cooking facilities!

dimanche 6 mars 2011

Nanaimo Bars

Recently one of my colleagues asked me about a tasty treat he sampled at the Canadian Stand at the Bazar International* in Luxembourg.  He couldn’t remember the name but said that this Canadian specialty was so decadent that you could only eat 1 piece in a sitting and consisted of 3 layers including the chocolate topping.  “Nanaimo Bars” was the first thought that came to my mind and sure enough after a google check he confirmed that was indeed the treat in question.  It seems that these are so rare in Luxembourg that they are only imported for the Bazar and they sell out quickly.  
Legend has it that Nanaimo Bars originated in the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  Other places have also laid claim to this yummy treat and the search for documented proof of origin is on-going.  Whatever the outcome these tasty treats are truly a Canadian speciality.  
In my house we didn’t make Nanaimo Bars but a close and slightly simpler cousin called “Chocolate Squares”.  These are also very decadent but the base layer doesn’t include egg and the middle layer omits the custard powder so the result is a little less rich and creamy.  These days there are other variations of the squares that include mint and coffee flavours.  I have my own ideas now for some more uniquely European spins on the recipe too.
Since this was my first attempt at the official Nanaimo bars, I used the classic recipe from the City of Nanaimo site but modified it to use ingredients that are more readily available here and adapted it to metric measurements.  I replaced the graham cracker crumbs with crushed digestive biscuits, used a vanilla pudding powder and custard powder and chose a lower cocoa content chocolate than what I would normally use.  I think the results were acceptably close to the original.  At least I would hope that it will satisfy Nanaimo Bar cravings until the annual return of the imported “REAL THING” at the Bazar in Luxembourg.

Nanaimo Bars
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
60 mL (1/4 cup) sugar
75 mL (5 Tbsp) cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
300 mL (1-1/4 cups) graham wafer crumbs (or digestive biscuits)
125 mL (1/2 cup) finely chopped almonds
250 mL (1 cup) shredded coconut
Melt butter, sugar and cocoa power in the top of a double boiler.  Add egg; stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients.  Press firmly into an ungreased 20 cm square (8” x 8”) pan.  Refrigerate.
Middle Layer
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
40 mL (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) cream
30 mL (2 Tbsp) vanilla custard power (Bird’s Eye or vanilla pudding powder)
500 mL (2 cups) icing sugar
Cream together butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Spread over base layer.  Refrigerate.
115 g (4 oz) semi-sweet chocolate (+/- 45% cocoa content such as Cote d’Or Noir Puur)
30 mL (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter
Melt together chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler over low heat.  Allow to cool then spread evenly over middle layer.  Chill in refrigerator until set.  
Remove from pan and slice into 16 squares.  
* Bazar International is an annual charity event held at LuxExpo in Luxembourg in late November / early December.

samedi 25 décembre 2010

Merry Christmas!

Europe is experiencing such extreme weather and travel chaos this year.  I hope that all the stranded passengers find a way to enjoy the holiday.  I was fortunate that my travel plans were not disrupted by more than a 1/2 hour delay in reaching my final destination but in the past I have missed flight connections and Christmas parties due to winter conditions.

As a child growing up in Canada, the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" didn't make a lot of  sense to me since we could pretty much always count on having a white Christmas.  I longed for a green Christmas.  I moved to Europe to avoid the snow and extreme cold but annoyingly it seems to have followed me. 

Christmas seemed to approach far more rapidly this year than usual and in spite of my early preparations, the execution of my plans to make (and beautifully decorate, I might add) lots of goodies did not happen.  
Happy Holidays to everyone!

mercredi 13 octobre 2010

Spinach & Pumpkin Curry

Today is October 10th, 2010 or as it is known 10/10/10.  Some are saying that this is a lucky date and since we had a lovely fall day with sunshine and warmth, I am in full agreement.

The grape harvest is in full swing along the Moselle.  The vineyards are buzzing with machinery and people.  I am sure the winemakers too are happy that the weather is cooperating. 

Fall also brings Oktoberfest that mostly happens in September in Germany and isn’t celebrated as much in this wine making area.  Although, I have seen signs for a few beer tents and celebrations while traveling around the region.

Fall also means pumpkins are in season.  In Canada we mostly associate them with pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and Jack o’lanterns at Halloween.  But they are much more versatile food and can be used in muffins, cheesecakes, soups, side dishes and Indian inspired curries.

I tried this intriguing and delicious Spinach and Pumpkin Curry for a change from the usual soup or baked goods.

 Spinach and Pumpkin Curry

1 kg (2 lb) pumpkin, peeled and chopped
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 mL (1 tsp) grated fresh ginger
1-2 small chiles, thinly sliced
5 mL (1 tsp) ground coriander
5 mL (1 tsp) ground cumin
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) turmeric
300 mL (10 oz) coconut cream
250 g (9 oz) spinach leaves
30 mL (2 Tbsp) fresh coriander, chopped

Heat olive oil in large pan; add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly coloured.  Add garlic, ginger, chiles and spices; cook stirring until fragrant.  Add pumpkin and coconut cream.  Simmer until pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes.  Add spinach and fresh coriander.  Simmer until spinach is just wilted. 

dimanche 19 septembre 2010


Thanks to my new Luxembourgish golf friends Hana and Dan, I had large bunches of fresh parsley and mint at my disposal and Tabbouleh immediately sprung to mind.  Tabbouleh is the Lebanese parsley salad made with bulgur or cracked wheat, tomatoes, green (spring) onion, mint, lemon juice and olive oil.

Many Mediterranean countries have their own similar versions of this dish.  The Lebanese version uses more parsley than bulgur in the dish than the other versions.  
The bulgur should be well drained to ensure that the salad is not too watery.  Adjust the amount of dressing to suit the type of bulgur used and the time that it needs to absorb it.  The salad can be served as an accompaniment to other dishes as you would rice or pasta,  or it can be served as a starter or snack on lettuce leaves (romaine works especially well) or with pita bread.    

Serves 6-8
125 mL (1/2 cup) bulgur
250 mL (1 cup) boiling water
125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice
125 mL (1/2 cup) olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1250 - 1500 mL (5 - 6 cups) parsley, finely chopped
250 mL (1 cup) fresh mint, finely chopped
8 green onions, chopped
4 large tomatoes, finely diced
Rinse bulgur under cold running water; cover with boiling water and let soak for 20 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing out excess moisture with hands; place in a large serving bowl.  Stir in lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning.  Set aside.
Combine parsley, mint, green onions and tomatoes; add to bulgur mixture.  Toss and serve.