Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Swiss Cheese Fondue

I said in an earlier post that I would give the recipe/instructions for a Swiss fondue. Here it is.

Swiss fondue uses 2 wonderful Swiss cheeses, Gruyere and Emmental.  The classic blend of garlic, wine and cheese is a staple in the Swiss home. In fact they have a saying - "The week is lost without fondue". It sounds better in French -- "Semaine perdue, sans fondue". It is important to have very dry wine.  Also, cheese will separate when melted if you do not put a binding ingredient, such as flour or corn starch. The bread should be very fresh, and plan on about 1/3 to 1/2 loaf per person.

There are other cheeses which make great fondue, but not every cheese is suitable. The best cheeses to use are firm. Cheddar cheese makes a great fondue, but it a totally different experience than the Swiss fondue.

What you need - about 200 grams of cheese per person, it can be a blend of Gruyere and Emmental, or the cheese sold in grocery stores which is labelled Swiss cheese; a bottle (or more) of good, very dry white wine; 2 cloves of garlic; 2 Tbs of flour or cornstarch, 1 Tbs Kisrch, (optional); 1  loaf (or more, depending on how many people you are feeding) of french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes.

Grate all the cheese into a large bowl. Add the flour or cornstarch, and stir to evenly coat all the pieces with the flour. Peel and cut the cloves of garlic in two. Take a heavy saucepan, and rub garlic over all the bottom and sides. Then put garlic through a press. Pour about 1 cup of wine into the prepared pot, and add garlic. Heat over medium high, until wine begins to come to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and, stirring contantly, begin to add cheese in small amounts. Stir until it is completely melted before adding the next amount. Continue adding small amounts until all the cheese is melted. Add extra wine if needed to maintain a good consistancy. If you are serving children, some of the additional wine can be replaced with grape or apple juice, to sweeten the fondue a little. When the fondue looks ready, add the Kirsch, if using.
As an option, you can blanche some broccoli, and cauliflower, and dip those into the cheese.
Set the hot cheese on the tabletop burner, and set it to low heat. Each person dips bread into the melted cheese. This can be served with a green salad, and wine to drink. As always, enjoy.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Scarborough Fair Stew

When I was about 12, I spent a lot of time playing a recorder - as did every kid at HGMS - and Scarborough Fair was one of my favourite songs. I was thinking about the refrain and decided to try using those four herbs in a recipe - and voila! Scarborough Fair Stew was created.

What you need - 500 gr of stew beef, 2 Tbs bacon grease, 1 small onion, 1 rib of celery, 3 carrots, 4 med potatoes, 1 small rutabaga, 1/4 cup pot barley, salt and pepper, 1 tsp each of dried whole leaf herbs - parsley, sage. rosemary and thyme. If you have fresh herbs, all the better - use about 3 Tbs chopped of each.  Optional - 2 cloves of garlic minced.

2 ways to cook this - either in a Dutch oven, or a slow cooker. Method is similar for either way.

In a large skillet, heat bacon grease and brown the meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile peel and mince onion, (garlic, if using), thinly slice celery, and peel and chop root vegetables. Place all these into the Dutch oven or slow cooker, and stir. Add browned meat with pan drippings. Add 2 cups of water, barley, and herbs. If using slowcooker, turn on to low power* and cook 10 -12 hours, stirring occasionally. If you are in more of a hurry (as in OMGoodness, I forgot to start the stew before I left this morning!!!!) - cook on high for 6 hours, or use the Dutch oven. If using Dutch oven, place on lowest heat on  smallest burner and cook for 3 - 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To make this gluten free- omit the barley.   Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Endive Au Gratin

Here is a fairly simple recipe for a vegetable and cheese dish, which I learned in Switzerland.

What you need: 1 batch of white sauce, (recipe follows); 6 Belgian endives; 6 slices of ham; 2 cups of grated cheese, (originally swiss, but any kind you like); 1 package of noodles, cooked according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350F. Make white sauce. Meanwhile, cook endives in a steamer or in boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender.  Drain the endives. Wrap each one in a slice of ham and place in an oven proof baking dish. Pour white sauce over all the wraps. Cover with grated cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, then turn broiler on for 5 minutes to create a lovely golden crust.

To serve, place noodles on a plate, and add 2 or 3 endives and some extra sauce. Goes great with a dry white wine.

This was my dinner tonight. I used a blend of Emmental and Gouda cheese.

White sauce - although usually cooked on the stovetop, I find that my microwave is the best place to make any kind of sauce which needs to be thickened. It cooks evenly, and without lumps.

What you need: 2 Tbs butter or margarine, 2 Tbs of easy blending flour, white pepper and Aromat* to taste, 1 cup  of cream or milk.

In a large glass bowl or measuring cup, (about 4 cup size), melt butter or margarine in microwave for 1 minute on med high heat. Add flour, and whisk together. Whisk in the cream or milk. Add seasonings. Cook on high for 3 minutes, stirring at half time. Cook on medium low for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute, or until sauce is smooth and reaches a thickness like yogurt. Use in recipe, or serve over vegetables.

*Aromat is a flavouring blend made by Knorr. It comes in a little yellow tin. It contains salt, onion and garlic, but also MSG, so if that is a problem for you, Aromat can be replaced by a little salt, onion powder,  and garlic powder. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Elegant Entertaining - Fondue

I could probably write an entire book on fondue. This is one of our favourite ways of entertaining a small to medium group of friends. Everyone can sit there for a couple of hours, exchanging stories, jokes, and opinions, along with wonderful food, in a casual and fun atmosphere. A fondue can be small and intimate or wildly extravagant - a simple family meal, or larger group, because you are only limited by your space and equipment. It is best to get as much prep work done early in the day, then when guests arrive, you can sit down and enjoy the fact that they all have to cook their own meal, while you get all the credit! 

In general no more than 4 people per pot is recommended. Any more than that, and things get too crowded, not to mention that the pot cools off too quickly as items are added to cook. There are many kinds of fondue, including our favourites of meat, fish, and cheese. I know many people love chocolate fondue, but I have never actually done that - interesting for a chocoholic! I have heard of people who have in one fondue party - cheese, then meat, then chocolate, but I choose not to combine, because I think they take away from each other.  

So...... fondue 101 ----- What you need - a heat source (flame, or electric), pot, and fondue forks -(at least one per person, but we use 2 or 3), as well as regular plates, knives and forks for each person.
Over the years we decided that commercially produced fondue burners are not really functional. First - they are difficult to fill with the alcohol, and there is almost always a spill.  Second - they don't burn for very long ( about 20 minutes) before running out of fuel, and they MUST be absolutely cooled before they can be refilled. This means that you need at least two burners for each cooking pot, so one can be ready to go as the first runs out of fuel.  We discovered that small tabletop butane burners work best for us. They are a bit of a luxury, ( about $30 to $35 each - available at any hardware store), but they are so convenient, and we use them 8 to 10 times a year. They also come in handy of you have an electric stove and the power goes off.  In fact Ben just borrowed two, because the power was off and he needed to cook dinner. Of course, some basic safety rules apply, especially if children are part of the group. I tend to keep fondue for kids at least 8 because they have a good awareness of fire dangers. (Teeny people - under 2 are also usually safe because they are very closely supervised, and Mom or Dad cook for them.)
So what kind of fondue do you start with? Your choice , but here are some ideas for the primary types.

Meat Fondue - I don't say beef because at our house fondue is a feast involving several kinds of meat.
Usually, there are several kinds of sauces for people to dip the cooked meat in. I also serve good fresh bread - french loaves and whole wheat, or multigrain; salad or raw vegetables; and sometimes mini roasted potatoes. Of course, good wine is always a part of the meal!

Broth or oil? Again the choice is yours.

 Oil is more well known, but there are some major drawbacks. Hot oil can splash and burn people very easily. It is also very dangerous to carry a pot of hot oil from stove top to table. Yes, I know, a pot of hot broth is also hazardous, but scalds are not quite as bad as oil burns. Aside from that, I think broth is healthier. Oil can also leave an unpleasant odour in the house, not to mention leaving a scum on walls, ceilings, and furniture. I have even heard of people who put both on the table, broth to cook the meat, and oil to deep fry battered vegetables. We usually use broth, and cook vegetables in it too.  If you choose oil, it needs to be an oil which can be heated to high temperatures before it hits it's smoking point - peanut oil is the best choice if you are not allergic, but corn oil and safflower oil are good, too. Never use olive oil, as the ignition point is relatively low, and it tastes very bitter if heated to boiling point.

Broth - I make broth from soup bones and a little meat for flavour. I also add some celery, carrot, and onion. I make the broth early in the day, and let it simmer for five to eight hours.  I have also used store bought broth, especially since January. 

Sauces - We usually have five or six types of sauce made from a mayonnaise and yogurt base. You could also use sour cream instead of yogurt. I mix about one and a half cups of each, then divide the base into small serving bowls with a spoons in them. Some flavours are:
1)  2 Tbs each of finely minced onion and garlic
2)  1 Tbs of whiskey or brandy and 2Tbs ketchup
3)  1 Tbs Dijon mustard
4)  1 - 4 tsp of curry powder - depending on how hot you like it
5)  1 Tbs minced jalapeno pepper and 1/2 tsp cumin
6)  1 Tbs minced onion and 3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Barbecue sauce and peanut sauce are staples on our table. You could also use any commercial sauce that you like, such as ranch dressing, or any kind of chip dip. All the sauces are placed around the table, so people can spoon a little of each sauce onto their plate for dipping. Wil likes peanut sauce best. I tend to favour the onion and garlic, or whiskey sauce.

Meat -  about  two to three hundred grams of meat for each person, and can be beef sirloin or tenderloin, chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or boneless loin chops, lamb shoulder or loin, or bison steaks. Use fresh meat, not thawed. Cut the meat into cubes about one to one and a half inches. Each kind of meat is in it's own dish, and then gets passed around. Sometimes, I have to have two containers of each kind of meat.  I make meat balls from extra lean ground beef, and usually have a spicy blend and an herbal blend. Meat is cooked on a fondue fork in the pot by each guest, then transferred to their plate, where a regular fork is used for eating. Basic food safety must be observed, so raw meat never goes on  people's plates. Likewise, fondue forks never go in people's mouths.
There are a couple of traditions we tell people about fondue - that is if a person loses a piece of meat in the pot, they owe the host a bottle of wine; however, if the host loses a piece of meat in the pot, he owes each person at the table a bottle of wine!

Vegetables - broccoli and cauliflower broken into florets, mini carrots, strips of peppers, and mushrooms. (We always have a pot designated as mushroom free). People drop a vegetable into the pot and fish it out when done to their likeness.

After everyone has eaten as much as they can, the left over meats can be frozen, and the sauces put in the fridge to be used for dips with veggies or served over another meal.   Have fun!

Fish or seafood -  Many people have never heard of a fish fondue. We got this idea from some Chinese friends. Because fish has a very delicate taste and texture, you need some different things than a meat fondue. Fish is cooked in a delicate court boullion (another name for fish stock), or chicken broth. I usually have at least one pot with a broth that is very spicy, and the other an herb blend.
 I use cubes cut from fillets of salmon, cod, halibut, as well as seafood such as shrimp, scallops, and mussels. If you are feeling really rich you can add lobster or crab, just be very cautious about safe handling.  Because fish breaks so easily, it can't be cooked on forks like meat. There are tiny baskets available from Asian grocery stores, which we use instead. The vegetables are a little different: mini bok choy, asparagus tips,  and green onions instead of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.  The sauces are also more delicate, with lemon, chili and dill taking place of the heavier sauces used for meats.
I will post recipes for those sauces on another blog.

Cheese fondue -  I make traditional Swiss cheese fondue, which I learned to make while living in Geneva. It has white wine, garlic, Gruyere and Emmental cheese, and is served with french bread cubes, salad and of course, good wine! I will put a full recipe for this on another blog also.  Aside from that traditional fondue, there are many wonderful cheeses from all over the world, and they can be used instead of the Swiss ones. Try using cheese that you like, experiment, and most of all ------Have fun and enjoy!


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Fabulous Leek and Asparagus Soup

 I have been making leek soup for many years in the same way as this soup, but I created this with some left over asparagus, quite by accident. My family did not really like it*, but the staff at school loved it! Go figure. I think this would be a really great soup course for a formal dinner.

What you need: Use all the leek except the toughest ends of leaves.
4 leeks, washed well, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces; one bunch of asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; about 1 litre of water and several packets of chicken broth crystals, or 1 litre of chicken broth -from a box or home made; 1 medium potato; salt and pepper; 1/2 litre of whipping cream.

In a large soup pot bring broth, leeks  asparagus and potato to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Process the soup in a blender in small batches, until it is all pureed. Add cream and heat until just hot, but do not boil. Serve immediately.

* Ben heard the word asparagus and decided before he tasted it that it would be awful.

Option for simple leek soup omit the asparagus, and use milk instead of the cream.

My Mom's Clam Chowder and Gluten free Clam Chowder

Here are two versions of this traditional Nova Scotia soup. The regular one I learned from my Mom, and the gluten free version I created last year. I once told a friend that baking is science - because you have to balance the acids and bases correctly for your baking to turn out - but that cooking is art. There are many ways to make any recipe your own, by changing one or two things. Experiment and find what you like best.

My Mom's

What you need: 
1 package of bacon - thick cut is best - chopped into pieces about 1 inch long; 4 large potatoes; 1 large onion; 2 Tbs flour ( Robin Hood has an easy blending one which is finer than regular all purpose flour); 4 cans of clams with the juice - or 3 packages of frozen clams and 2 (7oz) bottles of pure clam juice; 1 Tbs dried parsley flakes, or 3 Tbs snipped fresh parsley; 2 cups of milk or light cream; salt and pepper to taste.

In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Meanwhile peel and cut potatoes into bite sized cubes. Peel and chop onion. Drain most of the grease out. Add onion to pot, and allow to cook until just softened, but not browned. Stir in flour to make a roux.  Add potatoes to soup pot with all the clam juices. Add salt and pepper. Bring up to a boil, then add clams, parsley and reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just cooked. Add milk or cream. Heat to serving temperature and serve. DO NOT BOIL. Cream or milk will curdle if boiled.

If you prefer to use a slow cooker, cook the bacon in a skillet then transfer to your slow cooker, and add onion to the skillet and cook as above. Stir flour into onion, then transfer to slow cooker and add  everything except milk or cream.  Allow to cook 4-5 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Half an hour before serving time, add milk or cream to slow cooker, and heat on high power for about twenty minutes.

Goes great with homemade biscuits, and salad.

Gluten free version

What you need: above ingredients except - 1/4 cup gluten free potato flakes or 4 Tbs potato flour;  in place of the wheat flour.

Make as directed except for adding flour. Use potato flakes or potato flour to thicken soup as desired just before adding milk or cream. If using slow cooker, add with clams.

Options - change this to a seafood chowder by reducing clams by half, and adding 2 packages of frozen small shrimp, and 1 package of frozen scallops, as well as 5-6 ounces of crab or lobster if you want really decadent soup.
Some people add 1/2 cup finely chopped celery to the onion, but I like it with only onion and potatoes.

Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Heather reminded me of this recipe in a recent e-mail. We udes to call them Dad's favourite cookies, because my Dad loves them so much. You could substitute raisins for chopped dried fruit, or change to white chocolate chips for variety.

Preheat oven to 350F
What you need:
1/2 cup margarine or butter; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar; 2 Tbs molasses; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla; 1and 1/2 cups rolled oats; 3/4 cup whole wheat flour; 3/4 cup flour; 1 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 cup chocolate chips. optional add 1 cup raisins, and or chopped nuts.

Melt the margarine or butter. Add the sugars and liquids. Mix well. Add dry ingredients in small batches until well mixed. Add chocolate chips, raisins and nuts (if using).  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown and edges are crispy - about 12 minutes.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Easy Microwave Brownies or Blondies

When Wil and I got married, my dad gave us a wonderful microwave oven, and it came with a cookbook, which included a recipe for brownies, which bake in 6 minutes. I have adapted this recipe over the years, and it is still one of our family favourites. Matt used to take the ingredients on band trips when he went with the school and bake brownies for his friends and room mates. A very popular treat with the HTA crowd.

you need 2 large eggs, slightly beaten; 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs melted butter or margarine; 5 Tbs cocoa powder; 3/4 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp vanilla; and 1 cup chocolate chips. You can also add nuts if you like, but the schools are all nut free, ( and I am allergic) so we don't.
Grease a glass pie plate or quiche dish - nothing metal of course.
In a medium bowl mix melted margarine or butter and sugar. Add cocoa, vanilla, and eggs. Add flour and baking powder. Mix well. Add chocolate chips.  Pour batter into the prepared baking dish. Microwave on high power for 6 minutes, turning after 3 minutes if you don't have a turntable. You might need to adjust times for your microwave - this is based on 1100 watts. Top should look wet  but brownies are done if they spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool slightly before cutting. I usually cut into 10 wedges.

you need 2 large eggs, slightly beaten; 1/2 cup melted margarine or butter; 3/4 cup brown sugar; 1/2 cup flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp vanilla; and 1 cup butterscotch chips, or white chocolate chips.

Prepare and bake as above.

To make this as a GF treat,  exchange the regular flour for your favourite gluten free flour blend.

Country Pork Chops

Here is a very hearty winter dish, which is almost dinner in 1 pan.

you need:  4 - 6 pork chops; 3 -4 large potatoes; 2 large carrots; 3 ribs of celery; 1 onion;  1 can of cream of celery soup or cream of mushroom soup ( since I am very allergic to mushrooms, I use celery soup); 1/2 cup milk - (or cream if you prefer); and 2 Tbs of cooking oil, margarine, or bacon fat; and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a large oven proof dish.  Peel potatoes, onion, and carrots, and wash celery ribs. Slice all vegetables very thinly. Layer the slices in the baking dish, and season each layer with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet to medium high and add your favourite cooking fat.  Brown pork chops on each side, and season with salt and pepper. Place browned pork chops on top of layered vegetables. Reduce heat under skillet to medium low, and add can of soup. Stir to pick up pan drippings, and get a good colour. Add milk or cream, and stir well. Pour mixture over pork chops and vegetables. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for one hour.

This can also be put into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Indonesian Chicken

Okay for Cheryl and Kellie and anyone else who loves Indonesian chicken, with or without peanut sauce. You need to have a good source for Indonesian spices, sambal oelek - ( a very hot pepper sauce), and soy sauce - called Ketjap. If you have never used Indonesian soy sauce, it is much thicker than the Chinese version, and can be very sweet or medium sweet. I find the ABC brand the best, but Conimex makes one, too.   In the Calgary area, I buy spices at the Dutch Cash and Carry store in the Ogden area, or at the big Chinese supermarket on 17th just east of Deerfoot Trail. Conimex brand sambal oelek is the very best. There are other brands, but they tend to be too salty, and have more vinegar in them. The spices you need are laos - also called galengal; corriander, called ketoembar -( the ground seeds, not the leaves); ginger, called djahe; lemon grass, called sereh poeder ; and  javanese curry, also called Kerrie Djwa; cumin, turmeric, called koenjit;  garlic; and onion. Once you have these basics you can make a wide variety of Indonesian dishes, and they are very flavourful. You can adjust the heat of the spices by adding more or less sambal oelek.

Indonesian Chicken:  * please note that all measurements are approximate, as I never measure anything when I am cooking, only when I am baking.

1 kg of chicken pieces    1 cup sweet ketjap            2 tbs minced onion     3 cloves garlic, minced
3tbs ketchup   1/4 cup regular soy sauce      2 tbs lemon juice,       1 tbs each  laos and corriander
sambal oelek to taste - between 2 tsp for a little kick to 6 or 7 Tbs for really hot. You can keep adding more heat to your own taste. We like it fairly hot.

In a large plastic container, mix all the marinade ingredients. Stir well. Add chicken pieces, and let marinate in the fridge for 4 - 7 hours, turning pieces every 2 hours.  Preheat oven to 350F, and  put chicken  into a baking pan. Pour the marinade all over the chicken. Bake for 1 hour.    S erve with anything you like. We often have this with Nasi, or Bahmi, which are indonesian stirfried veggie and either rice (Nasi) or noodles (Bahmi).
The oven timer is going off ------ peanut sauce in next post.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Special Stuffed Manicotti

Here is a simple but delicious recipe for a different pasta - Manicotti.

What you need:
300 gr lean ground beef                 2 ribs celery - minced                     1/2 med onion, minced
2-3   cloves garlic - minced           1 small green pepper - diced         1 cup shredded romano cheese
1 can (796 ml) crushed tomatoes    1 can (540 ml) spicy red pepper diced tomatoes - divided
 1 tsp each  oregano and basil        1 package manicotti noodles         salt and pepper to taste.

In a heavy skillet, brown meat until completely cooked. Add onion, garlic, celery, green pepper, and herbs. Cook over  medium heat until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool. At this stage, the mixture can be put in the fridge until the next day.
Open can of spicy red pepper diced tomatoes. Use a slotted spoon to add about 1/2 a cup to the meat mixture. Pour the remaining tomato mix with all the juice into a mixing bowl. Add all the crushed tomatoes, and mix well. You can use a little water to clean out the cans.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook manicotti noodes according to package directions.
When the meat mixture is cooled enough to not melt the cheese, add the shredded romano and mix well. You can add salt and pepper to taste.  
When pasta is cooked, drain and cover with cold water to make it easier to handle.
Prepare a baking pan by greasing or using cooking spray. A good size is 8x10 or 9x13 - I use a ceramic lasagna pan or a corning ware dish, as metal can add an unpleasant taste to tomato based dishes.   Pour about 1 cup of the tomato sauce into  the prepared dish.  Stuff each noodle with the cooled meat mixture, and lay in the dish in a single layer. If some of your noodles broke open, just place a measure of stuffing in the centre of the pasta square, and roll up as for canneloni. Pour remaining tomato sauce over all the stuffed noodles. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake 40 minutes at 350 F. Place under broiler for 3 - 4 minutes at the end of the baking time.
Serve hot with extra cheese, salad and garlic toast.  I hope you enjoy.