Summer Bucket List 2018

Another summer bucket list. Last time I made one (2016), I accomplished very little. Hoping to strike more off this year!

Swim at Hampstead Heath
Hike Cape Split
MAVILLETTE BEACH (I’ve been saying this for years)
Go kayaking. Somewhere.
Max’s Sandwich Shop
Halifax pub crawl, like the good old days

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May 2018 Favourites

It’s June (how?!) and I haven’t posted a favourites list for a while now. Here’s to a sunny and happy next few months.

10 ways to turn yogurt into dessert.

◌ Am I a Londoner? After many years of resolutely saying I’m not….. I think I kinda am now. And it took (sort of) moving away to realize it.

◌ Reading: Unexpectedly loved Song of Achilles. Janesville was very good. Currently devouring Preparation for the Next Life – a possible contender, so far, for my favourite book of the first half of 2018.

◌ Good read on the (many) downsides of  the gig economy.

◌ Enjoying Bobby Kennedy for President and Doctor Foster in Netflix viewing.

◌ The latest season of the Undisclosed podcast, their first about a woman, Pam Lanier, was extremely well done and definitely worth a listen.

 

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Hampstead Heath on an amazing long weekend in London

Eggplant (Aubergine) Larb

This was so good that H. used an expletive to describe it. Ha. I won’t repeat that here, but this dish was a real winner. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The recipe comes from Meera Sodha, who has a weekly vegan column in the Guardian‘s Saturday Feast supplement. Larb is a Laotian salad. I was intrigued by the combination of flavours and decided to try it.

I would put this in the category of dinner party dish, or weeknight with a lot of time dish. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult or time-consuming, but it has quite a few components — the eggplants themselves, rice, salad, and dressing. If you like big, punchy, varied flavours, this dish is for you. Everything comes together both texture-wise and taste-wise — it’s bright, acidic, nutty, salty, crispy, herby, sweet, and creamy all at the same time.

I had some leftover sauce and salad, so I made an amended version the next day, with the eggplant diced and roasted. I actually preferred it this way — it was easier to eat. The way I have it in the picture admittedly looks much better presentation-wise though.

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Pierogi

It has been a goal of mine for a very long time to make one of my favourite foods, pierogi, from scratch. They are not readily available here in the UK though — unlike in Canada, I have never seen them in grocery stores. I am working my way (slowly) through London’s Polish restaurants, but it’s not quite the same as having them at home. The Wikipedia entry on pierogi even comments on this: “By the 1960s, pierogi were a common supermarket item in the frozen food aisles in many parts of the United States and Canada. Pierogi have maintained their place in grocery stores to this day.”

I used a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, which I was really pleased with. This is a fairly long process and requires some patience. You have to make the dough, make the filling, and then assemble the perogies one by one. It’s not particularly difficult, but it does require time.

Dough: The dough comes together fairly easily. It is tempting to add more water (I did), but my baker husband H. says to avoid temptation to do this as it makes it more difficult to roll out, as the dough is too wet. Make sure to allow enough time for the dough to chill.

Filling: This is the easiest part. I used mashed potato, bacon, and cheddar cheese. Make sure to season it well. (Side note: that combination makes for amazing mashed potatoes).

Assembly: Ottolenghi recommends rolling out to a 1mm thick dough – I honestly found this too thin. The ones that were a bit thicker tasted and looked better. You can see the difference in the picture below – the ones towards the bottom were made with thinner dough, and they look much messier.

I was scared that they would collapse or break apart when boiled, but they didn’t. In fact, they turned out better than I expected. Yes, some are a little rough-looking, but they tasted great, especially with a lot of some sour cream! Very pleased with the outcome. 🙂

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New vegetarian weeknight meals for spring

IT’S MAY! One of my favourite months. 🙂

I have two dishes to share today. I thought I would combine them since they have a lot in common — vegetarian (the first is actually vegan), and with a lot of greens — perfect for this time of year.

Spicy Chickpea Bowl (recipe)
In my view you can never go wrong with a tahini-lemon dressing. I love tahini, and this dish has all of the ingredients of a healthy but satisfying and filling meal — chickpeas and greens. You’ll see that there are potatoes in the recipe, but I decided to leave them out. It looks a little complicated, but this comes together very quickly as you can do several things at once (prepare the chickpeas, make the sauce, and get the greens ready).

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Quinoa & broccoli salad with buttermilk dressing (recipe)
Sometimes you make something and wonder why you haven’t been making it for years. This is one of those dishes. It’s a simple idea, not difficult to make, yet incredibly satisfying and tasty, particularly if you like sharp, creamy acidity like me. I will make this over and over again. You can play around with this one — I used coriander and parsley for herbs, and didn’t put any pistachios in. Versatile and delicious! And healthy.

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New York City

H and I recently got back from a week in New York. I have been wanting to go there for years and the trip did not disappoint. It really is such a magical and vibrant city — we loved it. It was a very special week — we got married while we were there! Surprise! No one knew except our friends A and D, who were our witnesses. After 8 1/2 years together we wanted something low key and a day that would be about us, which is exactly what we got. We’ll be having celebrations with family and friends later this year and next. 🙂

Recommendations
New York is SO overwhelming when it comes to food and drink options. So is London, but at least we have time to try different things. Not all of the places we went to were stellar, but several were. These are the places I would recommend.

Clinton Street Baking Co. (LES) – We had breakfast here on H.’s birthday and it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Delicious.

Joe’s Pizza (Greenwich Village) – The classic NYC pizza! Cheap and tasty.

Root & Bone (East Village) – We ate here for H’s birthday. Oh man. What a treat. Southern cuisine – we had fried chicken, mac & cheese, and a delicious salad. Plus excellent cocktails. So damn good.

Food tour (Greenwich Village) – Our friends A & D wanted to go on a food tour and we chose this one. It was excellent – 5/5 stars! If I go back I’d like to do the Nolita one.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (Chinatown) – If you want both exotic and fairly normal flavours, go here. I had black sesame (so good) and H coconut fudge.

The Cellar (Flatiron) – Wine bar in a cheese factory. Ticks all the boxes. Didn’t actually sample the cheese (error), but this place has a very cozy atmosphere that I think would be perfect in fall and winter especially.

Gran Electrica (DUMBO, Brooklyn) – We only had cocktails here but the food looked good too. Service wasn’t the best.

Beauty & Essex (LES) – This is where we ate the night we got married! The food was excellent. It’s a very unique place — atmosphere is very club-like and there is a champagne bar in the ladies’. Definitely a special occasion place, which this obviously was! 🙂

Marshall Stack (Nolita) – Our friends A & D found this place. Great happy hour and very friendly service.

Joe’s Shanghai (Chinatown) – 2 people recommended this place — more specifically, the pork soup dumplings — to me. It was awesome. We only ordered one order of dumplings and chicken fried rice and it was enough for two meals.

Los Mariscos (Chelsea) – In general we weren’t very impressed with the touristy Chelsea Market, but this place was a hidden gem. Delicious tacos and snacks.

Whiskey Tavern (Civic Center) – Dive bar good for drinks and lunch was okay too.

Mile End (Brooklyn) – My friend A, who I lived with in Montreal, took us here for brunch on our last day in New York. It’s a deli with the tagline “A little bit of Montreal in New York City” – perfect! They use Black Seed bagels which I thought were almost as good as Montreal’s.

Irving Farm Coffee (various) – We didn’t end up drinking coffee out as much as I anticipated, but we really liked this one.

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (Nolita) – The plain was the best! Great little treat.

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Buttermilk biscuit sandwich @ Clinton Street Baking Co
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Los Mariscos
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Fried chicken! At Root & Bone
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Soup dumplings!

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Chocolate & Stout Easter Cupcakes

Happy belated Easter to all of  my readers!

Another holiday, another illness. I mentioned after Christmas that I had done no baking or even cooking over the Christmas break, due to the #virusfromhell that had me in bed for much of the holiday season. Sure enough, midway through my conference last week, I came down with a cold. Seems to be an end-of-term pattern here. It’s lingering. BUT, fortunately, so far at least it hasn’t stopped me much from being in the kitchen. As mentioned previously, I love spending as much time as possible cooking when I am back in London in my own kitchen.

Yesterday morning I got up early and made these cupcakes. H and I usually do a treat hunt/exchange every year but this year neither of us could face paying £10+ for an overpriced and overpackaged grocery store chocolate egg. Instead I made these cupcakes for him and he bought me some of my favourite non-Easter and non-marked up regular chocolate.

I couldn’t find a chocolate stout cupcake recipe in any of my cookbooks so turned to the internet. The recipe I ended up using called for oat flour. I improvised and used half oat flour (I just ground up oats) and half plain. The result is that these have a consistency that are more muffin-like and not the smooth texture of a cupcake — not a problem for me but may be an issue for others who want to make this. I also cut the sugar in half.  I used Guinness due to lack of choice, but there’s a lot of scope to try other more specialized, flavoured stouts.

Since I’m not fond of cream cheese icings, I planned on a mascarpone one; in the end, I couldn’t find any mascarpone in the tiny shop I was in, so settled for regular whipped cream, which in my view worked perfectly fine. These don’t look as polished as a typical cupcake but they hit the spot and were fun to make (the best part was of course putting the Mini Eggs on top!).

 

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March 2018 Favourites

It’s nearly April and to be honest I’m welcoming it. March was a very busy month of work, conference, and family visits. I have a couple of weeks away from work now (some vacation, some working from home) and I am so ready for a bit of a break.

◌ My sister gave me Seven Fallen Feathers for Christmas but I just read it this past month. Wow, just wow: this is a book that every Canadian should read.

◌ Currently reading this and really liking it.

◌ Phoebe Judge, of Criminal fame, has started a new podcast. Drop what you’re doing and listen to episode 2 immediately.

◌ Ingredients for face care that are already in your kitchen.

◌ One of my favourite podcasts, CBC’s Someone Knows Something, recommended Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo, and it’s proving to be heartbreaking and eye-opening. Sidenote: I think CBC is doing some of the best investigative journalism around at the moment.

◌ In shock at Netflix’s The Confession Tapes. Another must-watch.

◌ I’m not even secretly tired of this. Never liked this trend!

 

Wings Part 2: Polenta & Blue Cheese

My second installment of my wings project posts is these, found in one of my favourite cookbooks, Best Recipes Ever from Canadian Living and the CBC (LOL at the title, but it actually is a great collection).

These were better than the first batch but still not the holy grail of wings. The good thing is that they were a lot more flavourful and had better texture than round 1. You’ll see that the original recipe calls for cornmeal. I used a combination of polenta and fine breadcrumbs. The spices and blue cheese definitely made for a deeper, more savoury taste.

The issues were 1) the batter did not perfectly stick to the all of the wings, as you can see from the photo below, and 2) the sauce (buttermilk and blue cheese, to which I added a bit of mayo) really needed to be blended. Simply mixing it up did not spread the cheese around evenly. I’m also not sure that it was the best combination — I love blue cheese sauce but this definitely was missing something.

Verdicts:
H: 7/10
K: 6/10

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Smoked Haddock Soufflé 

Regular readers know that I share the good and the bad and the ugly on this blog. This particular dish falls somewhere between bad and ugly. It wasn’t a total fail — we still ate it, but neither of us really enjoyed it.

I wrote in January that H. & I like to try to cook together at least once on the weekends and that this requires advance planning because of our current living situation. Originally I’d planned a haddock chowder for this particular Saturday. However, when I saw this recipe from Thomasina Miers in the Guardian, I decided to make it instead. Lesson: always go with your gut instincts!

We made an error in cooking this which was part of the reason it went so badly. Instead of placing the dish in a water bath with boiling water, we used cold. This meant that it needed a lot more time in the oven. We ended up eating 45 minutes later than we thought we would. Aside from that, we just didn’t really like this dish. It was my first time making a soufflé and I’m not convinced that the combination of fish, cheese, and egg worked. Though I love haddock I will stick to other forms and will definitely not be making this again.

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