Friday, February 27, 2015

Banana Bailey's Crumble

As the month of February winds down and the weather hasn't quite figured out what it wants to do, the need to make something different stuck and struck hard. What could possibly
strike the fancy of a food seeker? Roaming the resident kitchen library, the decision was made to look through Bootleg Bakery: wickedly boozy treats inspired by the roaring twenties by Kiki Bee. Flipping through the illustrated pages of various treats, one seemed to be an interesting combination of flavors to try out. What could possibly go wrong?

Banana Bailey's Crumble 
3 ripe bananas
100 ml (6 1/2 tablespoons) Bailey's Irish Cream
2 tablespoons clear honey
100 g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, roughly chopped 

For the crumble topping:
150 g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
100 g (6 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
golden caster/natural cane sugar, for sprinkling

6 small ramekin dishes

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F) Gas 5
  2. In a bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a spoon, then add the Bailey's and honey. Give the mixture a couple of good stirs, then divide between the ramekins (the mixture should come about two thirds of the way up the dish). Set aside while you make the crumble topping. 
  3. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub between your fingers until you have a crumbley texture. Cool hands and a cool head are required, so don't overwork the mixture. 
  4. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the Bailey's banana mixture, dividing it equally between the ramekins. Finally, sprinkle a little sugar on top of each crumble. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and pop in the middle of the preheated oven to bake for about 12-15 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden. Serve immediately with a side order of vanilla ice-cream. 

- The Artist - 
     Though I had an enjoyable time making this recipe, there are some issues with the book itself that I would like to address before anyone decides to purchase a copy of their own. First off, as you may have already noticed with this particular food feature, there is a bit of a discrepancy  between ingredients and directions. The list of items has chocolate in it but the directions makes no mention of the ingredient, yet it is obvious in the dish in the photograph. This is not the first of a random set of editing oversights and missed corrections in the book. From mis-labeled oven temperatures to missing ingredients or directions, make sure you have your pencils ready to write in corrections. This particular recipe I didn't use any chocolate in it and it actually took a bit longer then expected for the crumble topping to brown. Flavor wise, on the other hand, was quite tasty and reminded me of perhaps a pudding version of banana bread. So warm and creamy! Even though I could smell the sweetness of the Bailey's, I really couldn't taste it since the flavors mixed so surprisingly well with the banana. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Having decided to look at various quiche recipes, the Artist of the questing duo decides to make this a special project out of this choice. What could she possibly do with a recipe submitted to a website like Well just wait and see! 

Spinach Mushroom Quiche
1 prepared 9 inch single pie crust
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach
1 (8 ounce)  package sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 (4 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded Swiss cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C) 
  2. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish
  3. whisk eggs, milk, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl 
  4. Gently combine spinach, mushrooms, onion, and feta cheese in a separate bowl. Spread spinach-mushroom mixture in the prepared pie dish; top with half the Swiss cheese
  5. Pour egg mixture evenly over the filling, swirling egg mixture in bowl to spread seasonings through the eggs; top the quiche with remaining Swiss cheese. Place quiche on a baking sheet. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven until the quiche is lightly puffed and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the filling should come out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before serving 

~ The Artist ~ 
     Alright folks who may be choosing to make something for themselves or for a loved one this Valentine's Day, I would like share a little bit of advice when cooking. I have found over the years of cooking that it's similar to speaking. There will be times where you know what to say, in this case using a recipe as a script to follow, which comes out the way you expect. Then there are times when that looking at your 'script' that it doesn't seem right. That the predicted ending does not articulate correctly what you instinctively feel. These are the times that you will find yourself using the recipe as a simple guide and then changing things here and there to make the end result come out the way you see fit. Will the appearance of the end result be exactly like it is displayed on that little recipe? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But the presentation shouldn't be the first thing that you should be concerned with. Does it taste good? How is the texture against your tongue? These are the parts of your 'conversation' that are just as important as the pretty little display on your plate. Of course I will probably get a great many professional chefs disagreeing with me on this but oh well. 

     Originally I was debating if I should even share the recipe for this due to the fact that I had change so many things along the way but my other half suggested that it would be best if I did but also mentioned the changes I had done. I had to agree with his logic on this so please bear with me on this one. 

Changes made to recipe: 
-Switched out 'store bought pie crust' with making homemade savory tart crust 
-Omitted parsley 
-Cheeses used include feta, mozzarella, and raw milk gouda 
-Cooked the onions, garlic and half of the mushroom first before putting together the spinach-mushroom mixture

     The end result of the changes that I made to the recipe was that the cheeses worked together in harmony with a balance of creamy, salty and mild sharpness. With the onions having been cooked before hand, the subtle onion flavor enhanced the flavors of the other seasonings and wasn't overpowering as it would have been if left in a raw state when put with the spinach-mushroom mixture. I ended up pairing the quiche with some small turkey sausages and a light salad to round everything off. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Beef Paprikash

February always has such damp weather - frosty snow-laiden wind or rain filled storm clouds. It is difficult to get into the mood of the season when you're shivering. With that in mind, we thought what would be better then sharing some comfort food with someone you care about or even to brighten up your day. So where better to find some ideas then from a recipe book with the title Like Grandma Used to Make: A Treasury of Fondly Remembered Dishes which was originally published by Reader's Digest. 

Beef Paprikash 
Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 medium-size yellow onions, cut into wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika or paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) lower-sodium tomatoes, undrained and cut up 
1 cup lower-sodium beef broth
1 large sweet bell pepper, cut into bite-size strips
1 cup reduce-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  1. Coat a Dutch oven with cooking spray. Heat the Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add the beef, onions, and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or until meat is browned.
  2. Stir in the 1 tablespoon flour, paprika, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, and bell pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and the 2 tablespoons flour; stir into meat mixture. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until thickened (do not boil). Serve over hot cooked noodles.

~ The Artist ~ 
      I thought it would be a great idea to make something that would add a bit of warmth to the season to share with someone or just have while snuggling up into a blanket. Following the instructions, I enjoyed how the aroma of meat and veggies mixing with the sweet and smoky scent of the paprika filled the kitchen as I cooked. Serving it up on a small bed of wheat noodles, I was surprised how good of a combo the sweet tomatoes worked with the savory meat and creamy sauce. I think that the next time I make this, I will try it with egg noodles instead or even with rice just to experiment but it did taste delicious. 

~ The Gamer ~
     This is another dish that ended up well. The meat turned out just right in terms of texture, soft and tender but not to the point where it just fell apart. There was still some rather fatty spots in the portion I received, but that's to be expected with a chuck roast. Although there is sour cream in the sauce, it's not overpowering. You can taste just a hint of tanginess coming from it, but that's about it. Other than that, it was rather similar to a thick beef stew, especially with the peeled tomatoes added into the mix. The recipe book recommends serving this over pasta, which we did, but I also had some on its own, and it's just as delicious with the pasta as it is without. All in all, it's a nice, simple dish that's perfect for a winter evening.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios

February is finally here and we are spanning our search for things beyond the realm of chocolate. This time around, we decided to take a look at Moroccan cuisine. Recently we have added a book to our ever-expanding kitchen library arsenal by the title of Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan. With illustrations of the various dishes along with helpful hints and bits of history going with each recipe, there is plenty to try out. The recipe we decided to highlight has the description of: 

In Arab culture, dates are an age-old source of nutrition and natural sugar; nomads could survive in the desert with dates alone for nourishment. As the fruit is regarded as special, it is often added to festive grain dishes and stews. This slightly sticky date and nut tagine is a favorite at weddings or other family feasts.

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios
2-3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/4 lb lean lamb, from the shoulder, neck or leg, cut into bite-size pieces
8 oz moist, ready-to-eat, pitted dates
1 tablespoon dark honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste) 
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pat of butter
2-3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons  shelled pistachios
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped 

  1. Heat the ghee in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onions and saute until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Toss in the meat, making sure it is coated in the spice mixture. Pour in enough water to almost cover the meat and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for roughly 1 1/2 hours. 
  2. Add the dates and stir in the honey. Cover with a lid again and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil with butter in a small pan. Stir in the almonds and pistachios and cook until they begin to turn golden brown. Scatter the nuts over the lamb and dates and sprinkle with the flatleaf parsley.

~ The Artist ~
     When I first spotted this recipe, I thought it would be perfect for the Valentine in someone's life who enjoys being adventurous with trying new cuisines or even for themselves if they wish to treat their taste buds. The only difficulty that I had with this recipe is that there really isn't any butcher shops in my general location and a rather tiny lamb selection at my local grocery store. The recipe itself was actually quite easy to follow and filled the kitchen with a wonderful aroma of cinnamon. I was surprised by how surprisingly sweet the dish was. The slight saltiness of the nuts actually were delightful sparks of added flavor and texture. The lamb itself was quite tender as well from this cooking process and look forward to trying this again in the future, perhaps with a pot roast.

~ The Gamer ~
I was interested when it was announced that we were going to be having a meal made with lamb. I've come to enjoy it quite a bit in the past years, and this dish certainly didn't disappoint. I had expected it to be more spicy due to the tumeric and cinnamon in it, but there was such small quantities of both that the dates and the honey really ended up coming through, making it much sweeter then what the ingredients might make it sound. The lamb turned out soft, tender and juicy, and blended well with the sweetness. I'm going to assume that when the recipe called for pistachios that the person cooking would use pre-shelled, unsalted pistachios. We ended up using pistachios that were still needed to be shelled and were salted. Dawn thought that the salt from the pistachios was enough to satisfy the optional ingredient of having salt and pepper in the dish, to which I would agree. They added just enough saltiness to counter-act some of the sweetness, but not enough to overpower it. I would suggest this dish to anyone willing to try new things, but if you aren't in to sweet things, this may not be your cup of tea, so to speak, as the dates and the honey do come out a bit strongly.