Monday, May 30, 2005

My brother's curry recipe

My brother makes a mean curry. No, I do not mean hot; in our family we do not like hot spices, so the curry is actually mild, but flavoured just so, that makes it unforguettable. Last year, when our mother was so very sick, he and my sister-in-law came from Portugal to stay with us and visit with mom one last time.

While here my brother made several dishes, being this curry one of them. It is the most delicious curry I've ever tasted. It has a thick sauce and a recognizable flavour of coconut.

Being dark meat my favourite, in this recipe I used deboned chicken thighs that I had in the fridge and served the curry with basmati rice and steamed broccoli.

My Brother's Chicken Curry
1 kg. chicken pieces (2 lbs.)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups full-fat milk
2 oz creamed coconut (about 1/3 of a 6oz package)
3 large onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 Knorr chicken buillon

Put a large dutch oven on the stove element, add the olive oil and butter. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over low heat for about 12 minutes or until translucent.

Increase the heat to high, drop the chicken pieces and cook the meat all over. Add the milk, curry powder, and creamed coconut. Lower heat, add the chicken buillon and let simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.

If the sauce is not thick enough, let cook a while longer to reduce the liquid.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fast Food, Portuguese Way

I have been outside in the garden since about 9:00 a.m. and at noon I was both famished and tired. Fortunately I had a baguette of fresh country wheat bread, purchased this morning at Loblaws Supermarket when I went to get some lawn seed. That baguette put me in the mood for a sardine sandwich with a salad of vine-ripened tomatoes which looked like they would not take their stay in the counter for much longer.

This sandwich is the easiest and fastest thing to prepare. All you need is the bread, a can of Portuguese sardines in olive or vegetable oil and that's it. You can add some onion thinly sliced, but I prefer the unaided taste of the sardines and the bread, so I did not add onions to my sandwich.

A can of sardines in olive oil has four sardines, just enough for one sandwich. I let drip some of the oil in one side of the bread and then just put the sardines on the other, just so. Press down.

By the way, the little curve on the bottom left side of the sandwich is my first bite, which I had taken when suddently I realized that people might like to see a picture of the sardines on the bread. Sorry guys. Hope I'm not grossing people out.

For the salad, I just prepared two small tomatoes, sprinkled some oregano and added salt at the table. In my view, any other dressing would detract.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Squirrels 1, nursery 0

These beautiful tulips came out recently in a corner of my garden. I was confused because I knew for sure that I had not planted tulips in that spot. My neighbour told me that this was the work of squirrels, those pesky little creatures (at least that's what I heard gardeners call them).

Well, it looks like they know a thing or two I did not know. I always planted my bulbs, dutifully, as the nursery said in the little pamphlet accompanying the purchase: "you should plant the bulbs 6-inches apart". And my plantings look like ducks in a row and not very appealing unless you have a garden full of them--an expensive proposition in a one-time shot. So my plantings look like so...

And in this way I found out how am I going to plant my bulbs next. Three or four in each hole. Talking to another friend, an accomplished gardener who apparently has been to Squirrel University too, she mentioned that she always plants her bulbs this way. The plants look s much better in the garden!

I have been working hard designing and preparing my front garden. It is coming up slowly, even with my neighbour helping out, but I believe it will be gorgeous. Suffice to say that all work is being done around those tulips.

Soon, I hope to have more pictures and an update of the work.

Friday, May 20, 2005

SHF # 8 Disaster

Pity I don't have a picture of my entry for Sugar High Friday # 8 (hosted by "My Adventures in the Breadbox" a defunct blog). I made it on Wednesday (May 18). The recipe of choice among mom's recipes was an Orange Pudding. The recipe called for boiling the sugar in a bit of water to the pearl stage, then add the beaten eggs and the orange juice. The pudding was then poured into a buttered pan and baked inside a baking sheet with hot-water. The recipe did not say for how long so I left for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, the orange rinds were candied, passed through the meat-grinder back into the sugar syrup to be poured over the unmolded finished pudding. So far so good.

I tested for doneness and the tester came out clean. So I took the pudding out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes. I chose a nice deep dish that would look good in the picture. I put the serving dish over the pan and inverted the lot. I heard the pudding unmold with no problem; I did not even need to tap the pan.

When I uncovered it I could not believe my eyes. The pudding was a gooey mass of cooked eggs in the bottom of the serving dish. It is not that it broke when unmolding. It is that it was cooked in tiny pieces and never took the shape of the pan. Could it be that when I added the beaten eggs the sugar syrup was still too hot and cooked the eggs before going into the oven? Was it too much orange juice? Was this the reason why I don't remember mom ever doing it?

The taste was excellent but the texture is that of very sweet scrambled eggs in a puddle of orange syrup. Well, maybe I can serve it with buttered bread at the next EOMEOTE.

In the meantime, I got the 15 yards of soil dumped in my driveway yesterday evening and I am going to concentrate on gardening.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gnocchi with Red Pepper Sauce

Dreska has called for May to be the pasta month, and so yesterday I made this dish that I saw for the first time in the November 1997 issue of Canadian Living Magazine. I was, at the time, trying to make more vegetarian meals and this recipe caught my attention. We all loved this dish and I still make it regularly.

The original recipe called for fresh gnocchi from the supermarket aisles. It is an easy recipe to make, very fillings and the intense flavour of the red pepper in the sauce is just scrumptious. I was planning to make my own gnocchi but unfortunately time is scarce right now so I opted for using packaged fresh gnocchi.

Gnocchi with Rep Pepper Sauce
3 medium red peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
600 grams fresh pasta
6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Seed and core the red peppers and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat; cook the onions, red peppers, garlic, basil, salt and pepper, stirring often, for about 12 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook until liquid is reduced.

Meanwhile, in large pot of boiled salted water, cook the gnocchi according to package directions, until they float in the surface. Drain. Mix with the sauce and divide into 6 portions.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Cookbook meme

I found out about this meme when getting my daily fix at Delicious: Days, and found out that this meme was started by Anthony of "Spiceblog". Thanks Anthony for a very good idea. So, without further ado, here are my photos and answers.
 1. Rationale behind what we're seeing
I have more cookbooks than this. Several are in boxes in the basement because the top floor is being renovated (while I still live here) and I have very little shelf space. Inside the black magazine folders on the bottom shelf of the photo on the right I have my partial collection of Canadian Living Magazine, which has a large food section. I love buying second hand cookbooks even more than new ones. It always gives me the feeling of getting a treasure that would otherwise be lost.
2. Most recommended
Mmmm! Tough call...Maybe Classic Cooking Step by Step, by Moyra Fraser. All the recipes I've cooked from this book have turned out fantastic. More importantly, the pictures are fabulous. It is the book I pick when I want to dream and drool.
3. Cookbook that made you what you were
Actually a Portuguese cookbook called O Livro de Pantagruel. It was first published in 1948 and my mom used it quite often. I just found out that it is still in print in Portugal and have ordered it. Isn't it wonderful to go back in time...?
4. Porniest cookbook
Difficult to say. I have three or four that fit that description.
5. Sophie's choice cookbook
The Fannie Farmer Boston Cookbook
6. If you were a cookbook what cookbook would you be?
I would say the same as #5.
7. If your cookbook were extremely valuable, so valuable you might hide it with other valuables, where would that place be?
The safety deposit box in the bank? Then I would have to have a photocopy of the whole book to be able to use it. Otherwise it would be useless and therefore not so valuable.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Garden

I apologize for staying away from this blog for all this time but now that the snow is gone and the days are warmer, many of my days will be spent starting my garden. I have not done much until now. The house needed several big repairs including moisture protection to the foundation wall and there's nothing better to wreck gardens that digging around the foundation.

You can see in the picture of my front garden (maybe front earth expanse would be a more apt term) and also the backyard. I am going to take a week off work and order about 22 cubic yards of black earth (a full truck load). It is going to be backbreaking work.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Spaghetti with Turkey, Chorizo, and Vegetables

I had a more elaborate pasta dish in mind for today, to send to Dreska, but with timing constraints in effect, I had to settle for this simple dish created with whatever I could find in the refrigerator. Still, the end result was very tasty, even if the picture was not as eye-catching as the gnocchi with red pepper sauce I was planning to make. Well, the weekend is coming.

The story of this dish started sometime last week when I saw some beautiful turkey drumsticks on sale at the Loeb (now Metro) near my house. The drumsticks were big...must have been a huge bird. I like turkey dark meat. It is drier than chicken dark meat, but it is very inexpensive and lends itself to many excellent dishes.

Monday, I dumped 2 drumsticks in my slow-cooker, with carrots, onions, plenty of garlic, 2 bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, some fresh thyme and rosemary I had in the fridge, covered the whole thing with water and let it slow-cook away while I was at work. When I returned home the whole house smelled divine and I ended up with about 6 cups of excellent stock and about 4 cups of cooked turkey dark meat ready to use. Look at the size of those drumsticks. My slow-cooker is a 6-quart size.

So yesterday after realizing that it was too late to attempt gnocchi, I thought of making a quick dish of pasta and maybe chorizo and vegetables. Looking into the fridge I saw the turkey meat and voilá!

The picture of the finished dish shows little colour contrast because I used whole-wheat pasta (trying to get my roughage here!) Had I used regular paste the dish might look a little more photogenic.

Spaghetti with Turkey, Chorizo and Vegetables

  • whole-wheat spaghetti enough for 2 servings
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey dark meat
  • about 5-inches chorizo, sliced fine and chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Boil the pasta in enough water until "al dente". While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the chopped onions and garlic and fry in low heat for about 12 minutes. Onions will be well wilted and starting to caramelize a little. Add the turkey meat. Save some slices of chorizo for decoration, chop the remaining and add. Cook long enough just to warm the meats. Drain the pasta and mix in.
I served mine with steamed green beans, tomato and endive. The endive was a last minute addition. I was not sure if the flavour would mix well with the others, but it was looking forlorn in my fridge so it ended up in the plate. Would I recommend its use in this dish? Not particularly.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"New" old cookbooks

I saw some old cookbooks on ebay and decided to purchase the whole lot: 5 cookbooks - 25 pounds of hardcovered material. I actually found them while searching for a cookbook I used to have "The How-To Book of Healthy Cooking" from Reader's Digest.

Sometime in the early 90's I borrowed that book from our Public Library. I liked what I saw, tried a couple of recipes and was very happy with the result. The recipes were easy to make, used everyday ingredients that one usually has in the pantry, and the end result was delicious. Actually, what impressed me the most was that my younger son was interested enough to try his hand at cooking. Many recipes have step by step pictures which makes it easy for beginners.

So, after I returned the book to the Library I decided to purchase my own copy. Some four years ago when my younger son left home he took the book with him, saying he considered it an early inheritance.

Every now and then I thought of looking for another copy but never got around to it. Lately though, I found myself thinking about the book and some of the very useful information it contained. My searches through, Chapters and even Readers Digest bore no fruit so I believe it must be out of print. That's when I thought of ebay and hit gold.

Besides the book I was looking for, the person was also selling some others and I decided to purchase them all. They were dirt cheap. So here are my "new" cookbooks:

The Complete Illustrated Step by Step Cookbook, by Judith Ferguson - as the name indicates it has ste-by-step photos for every recipe, one recipe per 2-pages, and focus on the cuisine of 8 countries: France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain, China and Mexico. It has some interesting recipes but not the best of the lot.

The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, by Zoe Coulson, Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute - again it is full of photos and drawings. From page 18 to 77 it has a photo index of if not all the recipes in the book at least a good number of them. This is a nice feature: we can look and drool before we attempt. This is my second book with this feature and I'm looking forward to trying some of its recipes.

The Treasure of Creative Cooking, by the Editors of Consummers Guide. It features award-winnig recipes from entries submitted to contests in country fairs and and produce boards. An interesting book, it is all I can say for now. It is out of print. I could not find it, not even in the second-hand stores that work in tandem with

Featuring 4,400 recipes The Culinary Arts Institute Cookbook, is probably the one I am more in awe of. I don't think I'll have the time to try all the recipes in this huge book.

Stay following shortly.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Away in a workshop

I just returned from a departmental 4-day workshop. It was a lot of work and very interesting. I learned a lot.

Have several things to post but I am busy with a genealogical site that I also maintain and unfortunately the day has only so many hours.

I have some "new" old cookbooks and have already started to try recipes from them, which turned out very good. I hope I will be able to post them soon.