Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew

Jamie Oliver Beef Stew ToppingJamie Oliver Beef Stew Le CreusetJamie Oliver Beef Stew

When it’s chilly and damp outside, there’s nothing quite like coming home to already-made beef stew that is seriously high on the flavour and tenderness metre. A bottle of good red wine and some fresh, crusty bread and I’d say you’re good to tuck in for the evening. The beauty of this recipe is how amazingly easy and fast it is for the taste payoff–think boeuf bourguignon with hardly any work. I’m in.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew
(serves 6)

olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, chopped
handful fresh sage leaves
800 grams stewing beef or beef skirt (cut into 5cm pieces)
flour to dust
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, peeled and quartered
1/2 squash, peeled and diced
500 grams small potatoes
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1/2 bottle good red wine
285 ml organic beef or veggie stock
zest of 1 organic lemon
handful rosemary leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced

Add oil and butter to large pot or stove-safe casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add onion and sage leaves and fry until lightly browned, about three to four minutes. Toss the meat cubes in flour well seasoned with salt and pepper. Add to pan will all of the veggies, tomato purée, wine and stock, and mix together. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil over high heat, place lid on top and cook in the oven for three to four hours on 300°F. After three hours, test the meat by mashing it with a fork. If it falls apart easily, it’s ready! Once cooked, you can keep the stew heating at 225°F until ready to serve.
Create the topping by mixing together the rosemary leaves, garlic and zest. Sprinkle on top of each bowl when serving – this part is key! It tastes and smells amazing. Enjoy!

To-Die-For Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnabon Cinnamon Buns

Cinnabon Best Cinnamon Buns Cream Cheese Icing

Full disclosure: I found this recipe late one Friday night while trolling Pinterest. It is the first recipe I’ve ever tried of all the wild and wacky things I’ve found on there, and I have to say, it turned out to be a safe first bet. They definitely taste as good as they look and sound and will not disappoint. Especially now that the weather has officially turned, these rolls would make a super-comforting (read: indulgent) weekend brunch or holiday breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls
(makes a dozen)

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup soft butter
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter

6 tbsp. soft butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup soft cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Start by making the dough by dissolving the yeast in the warm milk. Separately, mix together the sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour. Add the yeast/milk mixture and combine well. Place dough into a large oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until dough has doubled in size. Once risen, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, until approximately 12×16 inches and 1/4 inch thick.

To make the filling, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread evenly with a pastry brush over the entire surface of the rolled out dough. Carefully start to tightly roll the dough from the longest edge. The finished roll should be about 18 inches long. Cut the log into 1 1/2 inch rolls using a very sharp knife, and trying to avoid squeezing down the dough too much as you cut.

Place the rolls snugly into a greased 9×13 inch pan. Cover the pan with a damp towel and let them rise again for about half an hour, until about doubled in size. Once risen, bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until light golden brown.

While baking, beat together the icing ingredients until light and fluffy. Once rolls are baked and cooled, spread evenly over the top. Enjoy!

Plum and Almond Tart

Easy Plum and Almond TartPlum and Almond CrispUnless you want to spend a weekend surviving on a diet that consists solely of plums, it’s nearly impossible to eat up all of the fruit that comes in one of those tempting baskets at the local market, before it goes south. To deal with this, I highly suggest turning those sweet little plums into this crisp-like tart–and it won’t even take you a weekend to eat it all.

Plum and Almond Tart
(serves 8)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, cold and diced
1 egg yolk
8-10 small plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise

Combine the flour, nuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and egg yolk and mix until crumbly. Press 1 1/2 cups of the mix into an even layer on the bottom of a 9.5 inch tart pan.
Arrange the plums skin side down in a circular pattern on top of the crust. Sprinkle the rest of the crumbs over the plums and bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, until lightly browned and fruit is bubbling. Let cool for ten minutes and serve cool or warm…and potentially with vanilla bean ice cream. Enjoy!

Adapted from Ina Garten.


Taking Sides

Crisp Garlic Kale Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Along with this watermelon salad, these dishes have been summer favourites for their simplicity and easy pairing with grilled meats and other barbecued meals. Both are light and healthy but have flavours that will carry well into the Fall, so I have no plans on putting a halt on making either anytime soon!

Crisp Garlic Kale Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts
(serves 2)
1/2 bunch of kale
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts (or slivered almonds)
2 tablespoons of dried cranberries
salt and pepper

After rinsing and drying the kale, strip leaves from each stem. Bunching the leaves together, use kitchen scissors to shred the kale into thin strips.
Place a pan over medium-high heat, and once hot, add the nuts and toast for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch carefully to avoid burning! Remove to a small bowl.
Add oil to the pan, and once hot, add garlic slices and swirl pan around to move around the garlic and flavour the oil. Add kale leaves and use tongs to move them around quickly and coat with oil until lightly crisp, about five minutes. Add nuts and cranberries, toss together, and place pan off heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Shrimp Salad with Cucumber and Fennel

Shrimp Salad with Cucumber and Fennel
(serves 4)
1 lb. shell-on shrimp
1 fennel bulb, sliced crosswise 1/4″ thick, fronds reserved
1 English cucumber, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced into rings
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil or less
1/4 cup small dill sprigs

Cook the shrimp in a large pot of simmering salted water until bright pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel and devein the shrimp and place in a large bowl.
Add fennel, fennel fronds, cucumber, onion, and lemon juice and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Add dill and lemon zest and toss again; season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Top with more pepper just before serving. If making ahead, cover and chill.

Adapted from Epicurious.com.

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis Mimi Thorisson

Cherry Clafoutis A Kitchen in France

Cherry Clafoutis Frozen Cherries

Cherry clafoutis is such a classic French dessert – and really any clafoutis works well this time of year, since it’s so fast and easy and pairs well with any summer fruit you have on hand. I made this to bring to a friend’s house for lunch and admittedly used some frozen cherries I already had stocked instead of fresh. It turned out well, but the extra moisture from the fruit definitely added more of a Dutch Baby-type of consistency to the cake, which I didn’t really mind.

This recipe is from Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France cookbook (when you want French country, you go right to the source!), and she advises to use the cherries pits-in and all! I love the low key nature of it – but you may want to tailor to whoever your guests are.

Mimi Thorisson’s Cherry Clafoutis
(serves 4-6)

3.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1 lb./450 g cherries, stemmed
scant 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
3/4 cup + 1.5 tablespoons milk
4 eggs
1 tablespoon orange flower water
icing sugar for dusting

Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla seeds. Whisking gently, add the milk and then the eggs, one by one. Add the orange flower water and melted butter and mix until you get a smooth batter. Pour the batter over the cherries. (You can arrange the cherries evenly throughout the pan afterwards.)

Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until the clafoutis has puffed up and slightly browned, about an additional 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack and set for at least an hour. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

Fennel and Honey Granola

Fennel and Honey Granola

Fennel and Honey Granola with Peanut Butter and Pine NutsFennel and Honey Sugar Free DIY GranolaFennel and Honey Granola with Fresh Berries

There are a couple of store-bought granolas that I hit up on the regular–they’re sugar-free and I usually just mix them up with some chia seeds, hemp  hearts and raw pumpkin seeds for a go-to breakfast or snack. After I saw this recipe in the popular r.s.v.p. section of Bon Appétit (where they track down recipes for readers from their favourite restaurants and hotels), I decided I had to give it a go. Glad I did – it’s definitely worth the minimal effort and the flavour pay off is huge compared to my usual boxes. Plus, there’s very little sugar involved here– just half a cup of honey for the entire batch and a tablespoon of fresh orange juice. 

Picking up ingredients at a bulk supply store is key for this one, so you’re not left with a lot of random leftovers. I also skipped the dry fruit in lieu of fresh berries or peaches since they’re so easy to get a hold of right now. However, the dried stuff will definitely come in handy when you don’t have any fresh fruit on hand, especially in the cooler months.

Fennel and Honey Granola
(12 servings)

1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Toast pine nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden for about 5-7 minutes at 350°F. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F.
Meanwhile, whisk honey, peanut butter, oil, orange zest and juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Toss nuts and seeds, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Pour honey mixture over and gently mix until oat mixture is completely coated.
Spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring halfway through (edges will take colour before centre does), until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool; granola will crisp as it cools. Break up into pieces and serve with milk or yoghurt and fruit of your choice. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Guacamole Molcajete

Making guacamole in my new molcajete: 2 avocados, half a roma tomato, small onion wedge, lime juice, cilantro and garlic salt. If prepping for guests, keep the pit handy to help keep the avocados from browning too quickly.

Birthday Pink Garden Cabbage Roses

Prepping some birthday roses for a friend – these cabbage roses are a favourite!

Toronto Sugar Beach

Hard to resist the sailboats and pink umbrellas at Sugar Beach come summer.

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

This watermelon feta salad is practically a summer barbecue requirement.

Ultimate Roast Chicken

Ultimate Julia Child Roast Chicken

Of all the recipes I’ve posted here, it blew me away when I realized I had never posted anything in regards to roasting a whole chicken. Maybe because it’s such a standby in my arsenal of favourite recipes, I just never considered it “special” enough to write about. Funnily enough, it was one of the first recipes I ever made when I first got really into cooking about five or six years ago, after my godmother bought me Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child for Christmas. The first time I made her recipe, to the word, was heavenly–the tender dark meat, the gravy, mashed potatoes, roast carrots…to die for.

In the years since, I’ve tinkered with the recipe quite a bit–roast chicken is just one of those things everyone has an opinion on and it’s good to try a little bit of everything. Also, the original recipe was admittedly time-consuming, with instructions, for example, to baste the bird in butter about every ten or fifteen minutes for over an hour (doing this while keeping the oven temperature steady is quite a feat on its own). Now, I often rely on Julia’s more simplified version in her much smaller book Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, as well as some other preferences I’ve learned along the way. The biggest alteration is that I like to keep the oven temperature way up for the whole roasting process, instead of eventually turning it down, for juicier meat and crispier skin.

This particular evening, I had found some treats at the farmer’s market, including celeriac and chive flowers – so I served the chicken with Jamie Oliver’s Celeriac Mash (which I made half and half with cauliflower), and used fresh tarragon and the flowers for garnish.

Ultimate Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken, 3.5 – 4 lbs.
small piece of onion
half a lemon
fresh thyme
butter or coconut oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock

Wash the chicken thoroughly inside and out with hot water and dry completely with paper towels. Rub the skin generously with coconut oil or butter and kosher salt and stuff the cavity with 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper, half a lemon, a small piece of onion and some fresh thyme.

Place the bird on a roasting rack in a walled pan. (The rack helps to elevate the bird so air can circulate and crisp up the skin all-over. If you don’t have one, you can place directly in the pan.) Roast at 400°F for an hour and fifteen minutes. When finished, the skin will be golden and crispy, and juices from the meat will run clear. Remove the chicken to a carving board for fifteen minutes so juices retract back to the meat.

To make the gravy, use a spoon to remove the fat from the pan and add chicken stock. Place the pan over a burner on medium-high heat. Use a whisk to scrape up meat and browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan and continue to whisk over high heat. Once browned and thickened to your liking, whisk in a teaspoon of butter and remove from the heat. Enjoy!

Adapted from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.

Poilâne Brioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey Tea

Poilane Appollonia Brioche Recipe BookBrioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey TeaPoilane Brioche Recipe Book ParisPoilane Brioche Pudding

When I was in Paris earlier this year, I stopped into Poilâne, one of my favourite bakeries, and found that among my favourite shortbread cookies, they were also selling too-cute-to-be-true original edition recipe booklets written by Apollonia Poilâne (who took over her family’s business at 18 when her parents died in a helicopter accident). Complete with flax yarn schoolbook binding (that still needs to be sliced open with a paper cutter), the booklets were available in a few different themes, one of which was Brioche: Ten Ways to Prepare It.

It’s a charming little book to say the least, and it starts with a brioche-themed quote that Apollonia explains in her foreward was mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette:

“Finally I recalled at the last moment, a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who replied: let them eat cake.” -Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions

I’ve always had a soft spot for bread pudding, so this version with dates and Earl Grey tea was first on my list to try from the book. It’s lovely in that it is not too sweet but has a lot of depth of flavour thanks to the smoked tea, so it can easily be served for breakfast or dessert. If it’s the latter, I highly suggest a little crème fraîche on the side and/or a drizzle of honey. Obviously, the quality of both the brioche and the tea will make a huge difference here, so try to source the best you can find!

Brioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey Tea
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 large brioche (you can freeze whatever is leftover)
12 pitted dates, cut into large pieces
250 ml whipping cream
1 teabag + 1 tablespoon of Earl Grey tea
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 eggs

Bring the cream with the tea bag to a boil in a saucepan. Let steep, covered, for ten minutes.
Toast the loose tablespoon of Earl Grey tea in a pan for a few minutes and grind it into powder.
Cut the brioche into about one-inch pieces and place them in a baking dish. Sprinkle with dates and the toasted Earl Grey powder.
In a bowl, combine the cream, sugar and eggs until well blended. Spread the mixture over the brioche. Bake for 25 minutes at 350°F . Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Granola with Strawberries and Bee PollenExperimenting with adding bee pollen to my granola–it tastes similar to honey with a slight floral flavour and is said to be very high in protein and one of the best natural sources of vitamins and amino acids. A teaspoon a day!

Inniskillin Winery Niagara on the Lake

Admiring the beautiful Wisteria growing at Inniskillin while on a wine tour last week. Some of my other favourite spots in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area are here.

Balcony Garden Tomatos and Herbs

First little haul from the balcony garden– comes in handy for daily omelettes…

Best Pasta Carbonara

…and my favourite Pasta Carbonara. Added some of the mini heirloom tomatoes to this recipe.