Cooking Classes


Kitchen Sink Granola

We jokingly call our stews and soups 'Kitchen Sink' because everything goes into them except the kitchen sink. This is exactly how I make my granola.

Granola is a simple formula - butter or other fat, sweetener, rolled oats or other grain and dried fruits and nuts.

Today I cleaned out 8 containers from my cupboard by using up these saved bits and pieces. I added toasted coconut, hazelnut praline, dates, dried mango, honey, vanilla, organic rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios and toasted almonds to my rolled oats.

The benefits of making your own granola are worth the once a month ritual. Fats, sugars and salt is lower resulting in lower calories and sodium per serving. You will have better quality oats and more of the good morsels. And no unknown additives.

Formula for Granola

10 c. old fashioned rolled oats, spelt flakes or any other grain flaked
1/2 c. butter, or any other fat such as coconut oil, canola oil, camelina oil
1/4 c. honey, or any other sweetener such as maple syrup or sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar or homemade jam
2-3 c. combination of chopped dried fruits and nuts
1 tsp. pure vanilla, or any other flavouring such as cinnamon or maple
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add sweetener, vanilla and sea salt.

Mound rolled oats, nuts, seeds and coconut on a 12 x 18 inch baking sheet. There is no need to grease the baking sheet. Pour the butter mixture over it all. Gently mix until everything is coated. Pat the mixture into the pan.

Cook at 325F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir so that browned edges are now in the centre of the pan and the unbrowned bottom layer is stirred up to the top. Pat down again. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until edges are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool, undisturbed.

Meanwhile put all the dried fruits in a large bowl. When the granola is completely cool add it to the dried fruits. Mix so as not to break up any chunks of oatmeal mixture. Store in a tightly sealed container or in freezer bags and in the deep freeze. Will keep for a month in the cupboard or three months in the freezer.


Golden Milk - On the Turmeric Trend for 2017

Turmeric is a spice derived from a rhizome root and is similar in appearance to fresh ginger. It is cultivated in tropical climates, most often southern Asia. Curcumin is the compound in turmeric that gives its bright yellow colour and health benefits.
Turmeric is a highly effective anti-inflammatory and helps with joint pain and arthritis. It aids in digestion and heartburn and is a powerful antioxidant. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Too much turmeric can cause stomach upset. It can also strengthen the effects of blood thinning drugs including aspirin, stomach acid drugs and diabetes medications. Seek medical advice if you are on these drugs before using large quantities of turmeric on a regular basis.
Turmeric is widely used in cooking and gives Indian curry its yellow color. It is also used in mustard and to color butter and cheese.

Golden Milk
1 c. unsweetened non-dairy milk such as coconut milk beverage or almond milk 250 mL
1 c. water 250 mL
1 cinnamon stick
1-inch piece turmeric, unpeeled, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric 2.5 cm/2 mL
1/2-inch piece ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced 1.2 cm
1 tbsp. honey 15 mL
1 tbsp. virgin coconut oil 15 mL
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns 1 mL
ground cinnamon for garnish
Whisk coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until aromatic, about 10 minutes. Strain and pour into mugs. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Golden milk can be made 5 days ahead. Store in an airtight container and chill. Warm before serving.


Curried Meatballs


 Turmeric will be trending this year. I will post tomorrow about all its health benefits and more ways to add it to your diet. But I couldn't wait to share these meatballs. I know, the recipe is more than a couple of ingredients but these are so delicious. And they freeze well so make up a big batch while the kitchen is in a mess.

Curried Meatballs
The amount of spice used will depend upon how fresh your spices are. Fresher spices have more flavour. Vary to suit your taste. Cayenne, chiles, jalapenos and curry powder add the heat. Turmeric does not. Chile de arbol are small red hot chilies. Crushed red chiles can be substituted. For an interesting variation add a can of coconut milk to this curry sauce. This will tone down the heat of the spices, as well.
Resist the temptation to used extra lean ground beef. The lack of fat can make the meatballs dry and hard. If that is all you can find a few tablespoons of butter can be added to the ground beef mixture to improve the texture of the cooked meatballs.

olive oil
6 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces 2.5 cm
2 jalapenos, seeds removed if desired
6 garlic cloves
1-inch piece ginger, peeled, chopped 2.5 cm
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 15 mL
1 tbsp. garam masala 15 mL
1 tsp. ground coriander 5 mL
1/2 tsp. ground cumin 2 mL
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper 2 mL
2 lbs. lean ground beef 1 kg
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork
3 tbsp. plain yogurt 45 mL
2 tsp. kosher salt 10 mL

Curry Sauce
1/4 c. cooking oil 60 mL
4 medium onions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled, chopped 3.7 cm
3 dried chiles de arbol
4 tsp. curry powder 20 mL
4 tsp. ground cumin 20 mL
4 tsp. ground turmeric 20 mL
3 tbsp. ground coriander 45 mL
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns 5 mL
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes 450 mL
2 c. water 500 mL
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. kosher salt 15 mL
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 15 mL
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper 2 mL

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Puree green onions, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, garam masala, coriander, cumin and cayenne in a blender until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add beef, egg, yogurt and salt. Mix with your hands until mixture is homogenous, about 1 minute. Avoid over mixing because it will make the meatballs tough. Roll beef mixture into golf ball size portions and place on baking sheet, spacing 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Makes about 24 meatballs. Drizzle meatballs with more oil and bake until browned on top and cooked through, 20–25 minutes.

Curry Sauce
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent and starting to brown, 8–10 minutes. Stir in chiles, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander and peppercorns. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is very fragrant and spices begin to stick to the pot, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stirring and scraping bottom of pot, and bring to a boil. Add bay leaf, 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt, and 2 cups (500 mL) water. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until aromatic, 25–30 minutes.
Let sauce cool slightly, then transfer to a blender. Blend until very smooth. Transfer curry sauce back to pot. Stir in lemon juice and cayenne. Taste sauce and season with more salt if needed.
Gently nestle cooked meatballs into sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook until meatballs are heated all the way through, 10–15 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro. Makes 8 servings.
Meatballs and sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Gently reheat meatballs in sauce, covered, thinning with water if sauce is too thick. Adapted from Bon Appetit.


Announcing Cooking Classes

I have two upcoming cooking classes. Find the information by clicking on this link.

Cooking Classes


Catalan Stew with the warm flavours of chocolate and cinnamon

A few years ago I spent Christmas in Paris. It was two weeks of bistros, fine dining and petits dejeuners. And Paris is where I saw the movie Julie and Julia! It was a rainy afternoon and cold so rather than walk and see more sights I chose the coziness of a movie theatre.

But I digress. I remember one meal in particular at a small quiet yet classy restaurant on Ile St. Louis which was within walking distance of my hotel. I ordered a simple beef stew however, it was anything but simple. The flavours were complex, well balanced, beef perfectly tender with hints of chocolate and orange. I didn't take notes but I thought it was perhaps a daube, a Provencal beef stew, yet I have not found a daub recipe with chocolate. This Catalan stew comes close to what I remember.

Catalan Stew

8 oz. pancetta or other unsmoked cured pork
1/3 c. quality cooking oil such as olive, camelina or organic canola
4 lb. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
2  medium sized yellow onions, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 c. beef stock
1 c. dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 - 4 inch cinnamon sticks
4 sprigs fresh thyme or dried
3 strips orange peel
3 tbsp. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
fresh Italian parsley, garnish

Turn oven to 350 F.

In an ovenproof pot add a tablespoon of the cooking oil and chopped pancetta. Saute until lightly browned. Remove to a bowl.

In three batches brown the beef in the same pan and adding more cooking oil as necessary. Remove to the same bowl as pancetta.

Deglaze pot with red wine vinegar. Add to beef mixture.

Add another tablespoon or two of cooking oil. On medium low heat saute onions and garlic until tender but not browned. Add meat back to pot. Add the rest of the ingredients except Italian parsley.

With the lid on the pot cook in the oven for about 2 hours or until beef is tender. Cool. Refrigerate overnight. Next day remove any congealed fat before warming to serve. Serve in heated bowls garnished with chopped Italian parsley. Or as I did, top a dollop of mashed potatoes with the stew and garnish with roasted baby carrots. Serves 8.


Preserved Lemons

When I left my home in a city of over a million people and moved to a town with only 16,000 souls I had to give up a lot when it came to ingredients and grocery choices. For this reason and because it is enjoyable I now make some of the things I can't buy in a local food store. Preserved lemons is one of those items.

Preserved lemons are commonly used in Moroccan cooking. I love Moroccan foods with their aromatic cinnamon, cardamom, saffron and rosewater. I often use Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They are sweeter and less acidic.

These preserved lemons will keep in the refrigerator for several months and I almost always have some on hand.

Preserved Lemons

1 jar with a tightly fitting lid
lemons to fill the jar
lemons to make juice to fill the jar
kosher salt

Slice the lemons into quarters without cutting completely through so they still hold in one piece.

Rub the cut edges with coarse salt and stuff into the jar until the jar is filled. Alternate with more coarse salt. End with more salt. Fill the jar with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Seal.

Leave the jar on the countertop for one or two days so the juice is more quickly released from the lemon. Then refrigerate for 2 - 4 weeks before using.


Cassoulet that won't take 3 days to make ...

A fast cassoulet is an oximoron of the greatest degree. There is really no such thing but this is a close facsimile. However, if you are like me, and crave confit of duck leg in it, then it will take a couple of days.

Cassoulet is essentially a French stew and can be made with the meats, beans and lentils on hand. Pork, duck and lamb give it the best flavour but substituting beef for one of these is entirely acceptable.

Unlike a typical stew where everything is thrown into the pot and cooked at the same time a good cassoulet will have the ingredients cooked separately and then mixed together for the final baking.

I am cooking for myself and as a result my recipes often only feed one or two persons. Four at most. I only like to eat leftovers once and I have a decided dislike for most frozen food.

A problem for those who rarely cook with duck or do not live in a large city is the lack of extra duck fat to make the confit. If you are starting with a whole duck it isn't such a problem. The fat from the rest of the duck can be rendered out to use it here. I have a blog post that describes how to render duck fat by clicking on this link How to Render Duck Fat.

Another mild tasting oil can be used in the place of duck fat to make the confit. Canola oil is one option or a mild olive oil.

If making duck confit isn't appealing, then simply sear a duck breast, dice and add to the dish instead.

And if you are not using duck at all, then please use bacon and the rendered fat. Pork belly is delicious. This dish needs some flavourful fat.

And your next question may be, "What do I serve with cassoulet?" Traditionally, nothing is served 'with' cassoulet. You may begin the meal with a crisp salad and of course, a light dessert to finish.

Sarah's Cassoulet
Serves 4.

1 duck breast or confit leg
2 lamb sausages
1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cubed
1/2 c. navy beans
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. French green lentils
1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 c. dry vermouth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. beef, chicken or duck stock
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

To Make the Duck Confit

 kosher salt
1 cloves garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1 sprigs thyme
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 duck legs with thighs
About 1 cups duck fat

Sprinkle salt in the bottom of a dish or plastic container large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots, and thyme in the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the salt mixture, then sprinkle with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots, and thyme and a little pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Melt the duck fat in a small saucepan. Brush the salt and seasonings off the duck. Arrange the duck pieces in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or ovenproof saucepan. Pour the melted fat over the duck. The duck pieces should be covered by fat. Place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit slowly at a very slow simmer — just an occasional bubble — until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2-3 hours. Remove the confit from the oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat. The confit will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Note: The duck fat can be strained and reused.
To Make the Beans

Soak the beans overnight in cold water (soaking is optional, but makes the texture creamier and the cooking time shorter). Drain, rinse again, and put in a large saucepan or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch (more, if you didn’t soak them). Add the onion, thyme, rosemary, savory (if using), bay leaf, chile, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, adjusting the heat as needed to achieve a gentle bubbling. Cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender but still hold their shape. Depending on the variety and freshness of your beans, this could take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, so check frequently, adding more water if the beans get dry. Remove from the heat and let cool in the liquid.

To Put it Together

Begin by adding the cooked navy beans to a baking dish large enough to hold everything else. In this case, I used a baking dish that was about one quart volume.

In a pan over medium high heat place the confit duck leg skin side down. Sear until the skin is crisp and any fat is rendered out. Turn it over and brown the other side, too. Remove to a cutting board. Don't clean the pan. Remove the bones and roughly chop the meat and skin. Add to the baking dish.
Next add the cubed beef. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper before cooking. Don't crowd the pan. Saute until browned and add to the baking dish. Don't clean the pan. And then brown the lamb sausage in the same way. Add to baking dish.

 Saute onions in the same pan. Add to the baking dish. Don't clean the pan.

Deglaze the pan with the dry vermouth. Add tomato paste and the rest of the cooking water from the beans. Add this to the baking dish.

 Stir in French green lentils. Add water to almost cover.

Toss the breadcrumbs with parsley and spread over the top of the food. Put the lid on the baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and let the breadcrumbs become crusty, about 15 minutes.
Stir the crusty breadcrumb mixture into the cassoulet and add water if it is dry. Put it back in the oven and bake until the beef and lentils are tender and once again crusty on top.


Potato Latkes

Today is the last day of Hanukkah and as feasts unfold in homes across the continent one dish is sure to be served. But it isn't the potato that is significant, it is the oil. When the Jerusalem Temple was recaptured and reconsecrated there was only enough oil to last for a day. Miraculously the oil burned and provided light for eight nights.  That was enough time to make more oil.

Potato latkes are best served right out of the pan and onto the plate. Potatoes are traditional but latkes are also made with sweet potatoes. Serve with applesauce and sour cream. Small latkes are perfect for serving with creme fraiche and caviar.

Potato Latkes

2 pounds large russet (baking) potatoes (about 4)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large onion (1 pound)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 250 F with rack in upper third.

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate into a bowl using large teardrop-shaped holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with medium shredding disk. Add lemon juice and toss to coat.

Coarsely grate onion into same bowl. Transfer to a kitchen towel (not terry cloth), then gather up corners to form a sack and twist tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.

Wipe bowl clean, then return potatoes and onion to bowl and stir in flour, eggs, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt until just combined.

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Fill a 1/4-cup measure halfway with latke mixture and carefully spoon it into skillet, then flatten to 3 inches in diameter with a slotted spatula.

Form 5 more latkes in skillet and fry until undersides are deep golden, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. If latkes brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium. Turn over and fry until deep golden on the other side, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then transfer to a metal rack set in a baking pan and keep warm in oven. Make more latkes.

Latkes can be kept warm in oven up to 1 hour.