Cooking Classes


How to Make Grenadine

I have 15 cups of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.  See how I did it here.  My first project was pomegranate jelly.  For that I used the clearest juice.  I am reserving the juice that is less clear for granita in a couple of weeks.  The juice will be frozen until I need it.  Today I decided to make grenadine.  Grenadine is pomegranate syrup.  It is a common ingredient in fruity cocktails and often used in barbecue sauces used with pork or chicken.  It can be used with other sauces for pork or chicken.  It would also be nice with pears and apples.

I don't use it very often and have never tasted a homemade grenadine.  This only took 15 minutes to make and I will store it in my refrigerator or freezer until I use it.

You will read in the recipe to reduce the pomegranate juice until half the volume.  This has always been a challenge for me to decide when it has reduced the proper amount.  Today I had a brainwave and measured the depth with a toothpick.  I marked the halfway point and used it to judge my reduction.  It is a very deep ruby red and not as pure red as store bought grenadine but the flavour is amazing.

How to Make Grenadine

1. Bring 2 cups of pomegranate juice to a boil.

2. Lower heat and simmer until it reduces in half. You can let it reduce more that half if you want it to be a bit thicker.

3. Add 1 cup of sugar and let it dissolve and bring back to a boil.

4. Chill.


Making Pomegranate Jelly

After juicing all my pomegranates I am ready to work with the beautiful, deep red, richly flavoured juice.  After the labour of love to extract the juice, I wanted to be sure I had a tried and true recipe and I found it on the Bernardin website.  I was not disappointed.  It is crystal clear, richly flavoured and set very well.  Not one to waste any good food, I used the foam that I skimmed off the boiling jelly in a barbecue sauce for pulled pork.  It added that 'je ne sais quoi' to take it to the next level.  Yummy!

Pomegranates are the highest in antioxidants of any fruit or berry.  Nutrition and flavour in one package.  I know we all think of them as too much work but watch this You Tube video with Martha Stewart.  I tried her method to extract the arils and it works!  No need to go under water any more.

Pomegranate Jelly

Pomegranates are an excellent fruit for making jelly.

Makes about 6 x 250 ml jars.

5 lbs (2.3 kg) pomegranates
1 pkg (57 g) BERNARDIN® Original Fruit Pectin
5 cups (1250 ml) granulated sugar

• Place 6 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat SNAP LID® sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

• Measure sugar; set aside.

• Measure 3-1/2 (875 ml) cups juice into a large deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in BERNARDIN® Original Pectin until dissolved and add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if desired.

• Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat; skim foam if necessary.

• Quickly ladle hot jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner ensuring jars are covered by water. Repeat for remaining jelly.

• When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process – boil filled jars – 10 minutes.

• When processing time is complete, turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

• After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.


Pomegranate Palooza! Lotsa Juice!

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas.  I am not sure where in the world it is observed outside Canada and Great Britain.  It is the biggest shopping day of the year.  It is the Canadian equivalent of Black Friday.

I spent my day juicing pomegranates.  It was a quiet day in my kitchen with 32 pomegranates.  I was prepared for the splatters of red.

Thanks to Deana at lostpastremembered I used a citrus juicer to extract the rich sweet and delicious juice.

It took about an hour and I had 15 cups of fresh pomegranate juice.  I have been letting it settle in the refrigerator.  Some solids settle to the bottom leaving a clear juice on top.  My imagination is running wild right now.  What will I do with all this gorgeous ruby liquid.

I will make jelly with the clear juice.  I will freeze some of the juice to make granita in a few weeks.  And I will luxuriate with fresh juice for breakfast for a few days.

Pear and Roquefort Salad

We made this salad at one of the cooking classes and it was a hit.  Even those who didn't think they liked blue cheese loved this salad.  I made it again yesterday for a Christmas dinner package I delivered.  I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

Pear and Roguefort Salad

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 firm ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears
8 cups spring greens
2 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled

Whisk together mustrd, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.  Add 1/4 cup oil in a slow stream as you whisk to maintain an emulsion.  Add in shallots.

Toast pecans in a dry pan. 

Halve and core pears and coarsely chop.  Toss all and serve immediately.  Garnish with pomegranate seeds.


Confit of Duck with Risotto

When you have confit of duck in the refrigerator it is so easy to make a quick and lovely meal.  I paired it with a simple risotto and garnished with pomegranate seeds.  The pomegranate seeds were not only a garnish but added a wonderful fresh flavour to the dish.

Sear the duck skin side down to render out the fat.  And then gently heat until warmed through.  Place atop risotto.


Christmas Eve Tourtière

Today I am making a big batch of tourtière.  This is a traditional Quebeçois meat pie that is usually served Christmas eve and throughout the Christmas season.

I rarely make pies, sweet or savoury.  It is a meditation to roll the pastry, fit it in the dish, fill the pie, roll the pastry and crimp the edges.  I am making 4 at a time.

I forget little things like not trimming the bottom crust until after the filling is added.  This way it won't shrink down too low.  I also leave the top crust to rest for awhile before trimming.

Eight are in the freezer and it looks like I have enough filling for 3 or 4 more.  Find my recipe by clicking here.


Hot Apple Cider

I had a request at the Market yesterday for a spice mixture for Hot Apple Cider.  Why did I not think of this?  It would have been a hit at the Market!  Next year.

I came up with these little bouquet garni.  Simmer with 8 - 10 cups of apple cider or unrefined apple juice.  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar or maple syrup and serve.

Hot Apple Cider Bouquet Garni

Cut a double thickness of fine cheesecloth into 3 - 4 inch squares.  Use pinking shears if you have them for a nice finish.  Fill each with the following mixture -

1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried orange zest

I broke the cinnamon stick in half and tied one half outside the bag for decoration.  I broke the other half into little pieces and put them inside the bag.  A trick to dry orange zest is to use the microwave oven.  I used finely grated orange zest and microwaved for about 50 seconds.  Do check it often because it can burn easily.


Cream of Mushroom Soup

I had made a mushroom cap appetizer for a cocktail party and was too frugal to throw away the mushroom stems.  I just had to make some mushroom soup.  This recipe was perfect.  The mushroom mixture was pureed so no worry about just using the stems.  This is so earthy and satisfying for a cold winter night. 

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Bon Appétit  | May 2001

    2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
    3 leeks, halved, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
    2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 cup long-grain white rice
    31/4 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
    31/4 cups canned beef broth
    1/2 cup whipping cream
    1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are soft and dry, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in rice. Add 31/4 cups chicken broth and beef broth to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is very tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in cream. Thin with more chicken broth, if desired. (Soup can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)

Ladle soup into 8 bowls. Sprinkle with chives and serve.


Quick Puff Pastry

In my last post I mentioned pissaladière.  A most important part is the puff pastry.  And we are all so afraid to make this delicate pastry.  This recipe is so easy and so reliable.  Just give it a try!

Quick Puff Pastry
adapted from Menus from an Orchard Table by Heidi Noble

3 cups bread flour
1 cup pastry flour
2 cups unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt

See all the lovely layers of dough.  This will make it fluffy upon baking.
Sift the flours and salt into a bowl.  Add the butter and toss to coat.  Pour in the cream and toss to soak up all the liquid.  On a lightly floured surface roll the dough away from you into a rectangle.  Fold the dough into thirds.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out again to a rectangle.  Wrap and refrigerate.

Remove from the refrigerator and repeat the 2 turns and folds.  refrigerate again for one hour.  Remove from the refrigerator for a second time and repeat the 2 turns and folds.  Refrigerate again for one hour.  Roll to the desired thickness and refrigerator or freeze for 1 hour.  Bake at 400F until evenly golden, but the darker the better.


The French Mediterranean

 I have been so so busy with cooking classes and the Farmer's Market that blogging has not even been on my radar.  I took a few pictures of my cooking class 'Exploring the Foods of the French Mediterranean'.  We had a wonderful evening.  I had ten guests with an open mind and adventurous palate.

They arrived to a glass of Blanc de Blanc from France.  The champagne locally available is so expensive and I thought this chardonnay prepared in the champagne style might work.  I really enjoyed it.  And at half the price, it would be my pick for a bubbly this New Year's Eve.

Our first taste was pissaladière.  This is a puff pastry crust with carmelized onion, anchovy, caper and black olive topping.  Serve this warm and it is a nice little bite with the bubbly.

The meal went like this.... Pear and Roguefort Salad alongside the Cassoulet.  I had made confit of duck, cooked flageolet beans and added lamb and mild Italian sausage to this classic country dish.  Two days later it was even better.  Confit of duck is an absolute must to make a wonderful cassoulet.

Dessert was a Walnut Tarte and a Buche de Noel.  I had so much fun. 


Market Day Tomorrow!


The days go by so quickly and I expect it will remain this way until after the New Year.  It is already Market Day again.
This week I have 'Death by Chocolate' Pate with Raspberry Coulis, White Chocolate Bark with Dried Cranberries & Pistachios, and Chocolate 'Salami'.
On the savoury side, I have Ancho Chile Duck & Wild Mushroom Tamales, Chicken B'Stilla, Roasted Garlic Hummus, Sundried Tomato Hummus, Spanakopita and a few types of crackers.
My bread includes Blue Cheese & Walnut, Dried Cranberry & Almond, Pumpernickel, Maritime Brown Bread, Red Fife, Multigrain and Cornbread.
Hope to see you there!


Cheddar Crisps

 I love these tasty morsels!  Thank you Nana at La Table de Nana!  I used your version of the recipe and it is perfect.  We made these in my Crackers and Crisps Cooking Class and now I am making them to sell at the Christmas Market.  Very successful!

Cheddar Cheese Crisps

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup strong cheddar..or parmigiana.. whatever you love
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp of salt
a pinch of cayenne
chopped fresh rosemary to taste or sage.. any herb you enjoy
11/4 cups Rice Krispies

Cream butter and cheese until well blended. Add flour, salt and pepper and cayenne and herbs.. Blend well. Add Rice Krispies. Make logs that are about 2 inches in diameter and chill thoroughly or freeze until you are ready to slice and bake them.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet and press down with fork. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Store in airtight container.


The Christmas Market Opens

On Saturday, November 19, I will return to the market every Saturday until Christmas (except for Dec 3 when I have my French Farmhouse Christmas cooking class).

I will be back with my full array of breads.  Also, in anticipation of all the socializing between now and Christmas, I will be making my healthy dips.  I will also have some savoury cocktail foods such as savoury cheddar shortbread, gougeres, breadsticks, spanakopita, tamales, b'stilla, herbed olives and an array of special preserves.  Everything will be gift packaged.

And for teacher gifts, I have Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin 'Cookies in a Jar' for $12.  I have vintage quart jars with all the rings and lids.  They are really nice and decorated with ribbons and Christmas balls or apples with pine cones.

In addition to the usual breads, I will have bread made with candied fruits and nuts.  I will have some lovely nut tarts, pound cakes, chocolate salami, chocolate pate, bourbon balls (like rum balls) and Crepes Suzette.

The market is open from 9am until 4pm.  I hope to see you there!

And that brings me to baking bread over the winter!  It has been a difficult decision and what I have finally decided is that I will make bread once a week until all the flour I have in stock is used.  I will bake on Friday afternoons/evenings.  The bread can be picked up from my house after 7pm and on Saturday mornings.  As each type of flour is depleted, there will be fewer and fewer choices.  Then I will not bake bread until the market opens again after Easter.   You can call me at 773-2890 to place an order.  This will begin on January 13 and go until my flour runs out.  I expect that I will have multigrain, red fyfe and hard white flour after Christmas.  With the hard white I can make cheese bread, raisin bread or citrus peel & nut bread or just 70% hard white bread.


White Chocolate Bark with Dried Cranberries and Pistachio

This is my first bit of Christmas baking.  Well, it is so easy.  I used couverture white chocolate, melted it gently and folded in chopped dried cranberries and chopped salted pistachio nuts.  You don't have to be too exact on the measurements.  I felt that I had way too many cranberries and nuts so I just added another layer of melted white chocolate.  It takes a long time to set up.  I left it over night.  It looks delicious and also tastes delicious.

I have packaged it for the Christmas Market.


Ballerina Cupcakes

Today was my Ballerina Cupcakes cooking class.  I had three lovely ladies ages 5 and 6 years old.  They are so adoring!  We cooked the vanilla cupcakes first.  And then we sat down to make the tutu toppers. 

I originally planned to make them all pink. When I bought the construction paper for the bodices, it came in a package of 5 colours.  So I went about finding tissue paper, ribbon and sprinkles in the same colours.  Little did I know that the girls would completely mix and match all the colours!  We had pink skirts with yellow bodices.  We had blue front skirts with green back skirts and pink bodices!  It was wild and wonderful.


How I Love Flat Pie

Last year about the same time my neighbour, Verdella, brought me some of her flat pie.  I had never heard of flat pie!  She makes the best pastry and the fresh apples sliced and seasoned to perfection make this a real treat for me.  Don't tell anyone, but I ate the entire piece the minute she walked out the door!

Perhaps it is her beautiful pastry or the fresh apples or simply hot from the oven, but I love this.  Thanks, Verdella!


Making Your Own Crackers and Crisps

We had lots of fun tonight working with dough and making some savoury crackers and crisps.  These are the bread sticks we made with the lavash dough from Peter Reinhart's book "The Bread Bakers Apprentice".

 This will become Spicy Blue Cornmeal Crackers.  Making these takes a bit of practice.  Sometimes they might be too crispy, or too soft, too floury or too thick.  With practice, you develop the 'touch' to make some nice delicate crackers.  But, don't be discouraged.  It does take practice.

I wish I had thought to take more pictures.  We had flour from head to toe!  These will be onion and poppy seed crackers.  They are one of my favourites.  The recipe makes a big batch so you have to be prepared to spend a bit of time.  But the results will be worth it.


True Confessions

I met Meredith after my friend, Scott, moved to Victoria.  They are cousins!  Meredith lives in Sooke in a most magical location.  Their property abuts a lovely stream that ebbs and flows with the seasons.  The salmon spawn, the river wanes and exposes more of the lovely rocks, it rises and has a lovely breeze with the rushing water.  They have lived here for years.

I love Meredith.  She has such a joie de vivre.  It is always a wonderful day in Meredith's life.  It is so refreshing.

But, I have a confession.  It was none of those wonderful qualities of personality or riverside location that originally caught my undivided attention.  It was her bay tree.

The first time I knew that bay trees grew in Canada was on this very first visit to Meredith's.  Scott picked a bunch of leaves and we went back to the city to make a lovely lamb roast laid upon a bed of fresh bay leaves.  I have always since been so envious.  I would love to go out my front door and pick a handful of bay leaves.

Look at these lovely bouquet garni!  Meredith has made these with a labour of love and I am one lucky recipient of this gift.  They are so adorable!  They are so more adorable than the almost identical bouquet garni that I purchased in Paris at La Grande Epicerie.  I now feel a little ridiculous to have saved these 'petit cher bouquet garni' from Paris.  They are dry and, well, lifeless, in comparison to the wonderfully fresh bundles from Meredith.


Candied Miniature Carrots

My garden took second seat to the Farmer's Market this summer.  That almost does not seem right, does it.  I did use herbs from my little garden in the salads and dips I made for the market, but mostly the garden was for my own use.

I planted the carrots and did not thin the planting.  Now that it is fall, it is time to dig up everything.  To my delight I had a lot of these tiny little carrots!  I have always wanted to make candied carrots for decorating carrot cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting.

Each carrot is between 1 and 2 inches long.  I washed and cleaned them and then I painstakingly peeled each little one.  I think I have about 3 dozen.

The first step is to blanch them in salted water.  This is necessary so that the cell structure will change and accept the sugar in replacement for the water in the carrot.  But you don't want to cook them either.  This is truly 'cooking by braille'.  I guessed at a short blanching time and drained them and then shocked them in ice water.

I made a heavy sugar syrup of water and sugar.  I boiled the miniature carrots in this syrup for two or three minutes and turned off the heat.  I let them sit in the sugar syrup for 2 days.  After 2 days, I added another 1/2 cup of sugar and heated them again.  When the new sugar was dissolved and the syrup was bubbling, I turned off the heat and let them sit in the sugar syrup for 3 days.  During this time the water in the carrots is being replaced with sugar through osmosis.

After this, I warmed them so the sugar syrup was thin.  I removed the little carrots and dried them on a cake rack for one day.  Now they are arranged in layers separated by parchment paper in an airtight container.  I will keep them in my cold room until I use them in two weeks for my cupcakes at the market.

Everyone is asking how they taste!  That did not even cross my mind!  I was only thinking of appearances.  So I just ate one.  It tastes faintly of carrot in a jellied candy kind of way.  The green part was just as candied as the orange part.  Very pleasant.