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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pressure Cooker Lahmajoun Beef Stew

First of all, I want to make it clear that this is NOT a magic, super fast pressure cooker stew recipe but it is still easier and quicker than doing it on the stove and the flavour is more intense so the extra steps are worth it.

One the issues faced with making beef or pork stews in my Instant Pot is the disparity in cooking time for the meat vs the vegetables. I find that most stews leave me with vegetables that are about to disintegrate by the time the meat is cooked to perfection. To avoid this, many recipes will tell you to keep the vegetables almost whole to avoid this but I also don't want a bowl of stew with giant chunks of carrot and potato either.

 When it doubt, I turn to Serious Eats to see how they deal with the dilemma. I like to call it WWKD (what would Kenji do?)

I adapted his method to my recipe and it works beautifully but if you really insist on making it even easier,  you don't have to brown the cut up vegetables. You can always just throw in the bowl of chopped parsnip, carrot, potato, sweet potato and pearl onion completely raw after the initial cooking period. Browning them first just adds another layer of flavour but it will still only be a tiny bit less delicious if you skip that step.

So, as I always assure you, I only share products with you that I either already use myself or that I try out and love.  I am not here to shill stuff I wouldn't use in my own kitchen and I have already been using Saha Jerk Marinade for the last year. I am very picky about what pre made pastes and marinades that I use and I look for products with little or no chemicals or preservatives as well as great flavour. If that product is also made locally, I am over the moon and Saha is a Toronto company so it's a win, for me, on all levels. When they offered up the chance to try some new products along with different wines to pair each one with and get my thoughts, I gave an enthusiastic YES. They want to encourage the pairing of New World wines with their international, "street food" flavours, which I always find intriguing.

So, this is the first pairing - Lahmajoun with Fleur Du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand.
If I am going to pair the wine with a stew, I am going to throw some IN the stew as well and we were all quite pleased with the results. I am not sure I would have thought to pair a Cabernet with lahmajoun  sauce but it works. The marinade gave my regular stew a nice, new boost with a slightly acidic flavour that I really liked.

Lahmajoun is a Turkish flatbread that's prepared with a highly seasoned tomato sauce, minced meat, some vegetables and baked - kind of like a Turkish pizza. I would normally drink a cold beer with these flavours but the wine was great, much to my surprise.

I have three more bottles of wine and three more sauces that I am going to try out over the next month or so and will report back as I go.

I was not paid for this post but I did receive a gift box of product to try out and, if I liked it, to share with my readers. My opinions are very much my own

Lahmajoun Beef Stew

serves 3-4

2-3 tbls olive oil
600g stewing beef
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Saha Lahmajoun Marinade
2 parsnips ( 1 left whole, one chopped into large, bite sized chunks)
2 carrots ( 1 left whole, one chopped into large, bite sized chunks)
2 celery stalks ( 1 left whole, the other chopped roughly)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
approx 125g of pearl onions, peeled and left whole
1 yukon gold potato, cut in large bite sized pieces
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in large bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup red wine (Fleur Du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon 2014)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

*optional: mix 1 tbls of flour into 2 or 3 tbls of water or chicken stock to make a slurry that you will add after it's done cooking to thicken the stew up if desired.

Hit the "saute" button on your pressure cooker and when it says "hot" add the oil. Hit the beef with a good size pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and start to brown the meat, in batches, removing each batch to a bowl until it's all done. Don't crowd the pot or the meat steams instead of browns.

When all of the meat is seared, toss it with 1/4 cup of Lahmajoun Marinade and set aside.

Add another tbls of oil to the pot and saute the chopped carrot, parsnip, celery and pearl onion until they start to take on a bit of colour, season with a pinch of kosher salt and then remove to a bowl.

Pour the red wine into the pot and scrape up all the fond on the bottom and then let it simmer until it reduces by about a third, about 3 or 4 minutes. Now add in the chicken stock, the whole carrot, parsnip, celery, garlic and the two onion halves, the reserved stewing beef with any juices and the second 1/4 cup of Lahmajoun, lock in the lid and program for 20 minutes at HP or just hit the stew button if you like.

When the time is up, release the pressure, open the lid, remove the whole veg, thyme and bay leaves with tongs and discard. Add in the reserved, chopped vegetables, the potato and sweet potato, lock the lid on and program another 10 minutes at HP.

Give it about 5 minutes NPR, release the rest of the pressure.

*If you want it to be a bit thicker, add in the flour slurry, stir well, put the lid back on and let it sit for another 5 minutes before serving

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pressure Cooker Chicken Congee (Gai Jook) - Winter is Coming

So, what is congee, you might ask? It sounds exotic but it's really just a nice, soupy, savoury rice porridge that is the perfect remedy for frigid winter mornings. Even though we go for dim sum regularly, we don't usually order this because it's really filling and it cuts down on the amount of dumplings I can scarf so it's something I save for home, but, pre Instant Pot, I didn't make this as often as I would have liked. Since my wizard pot truly lets me set it and forget it, I plan to make a batch of this every weekend over the winter. I am NOT a sweet breakfast girl oat porridge, but any porridge with brown sugar and cream doesn't hold any appeal to me but any porridge that lets me garnish it with crispy pork, chilis and other savoury treats is the food of my cold, dark heart.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sous Vide Duck BiBimBap

We all love a tasty rice bowl and I absolutely depend on it as a way to use leftovers without anyone suspecting they are eating leftovers, especially when I'm left with a little bit of this and that. It's the perfect way to stretch one leftover piece of protein,  a few tbls of leftover grilled vegetable or a small bowl of shrimp to that it can feed everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Adventures in Croissant and Brioche Making at Bonnie Gordon College

Can you believe I made those with very own hands??/

I was invited to take a course, free of charge, at the Bonnie Gordon College and if I liked it, to share my experience and since I loved it, I am sharing. When it came time to pick a class, me being me, I immediately chose the one that terrified me the most - Croissants and Brioche

Yes, I was that mom. At least I was not actually in costume

I am an artistic gal and I am relatively sure I could crank out some decent sugar flowers - I was pretty much the reigning queen of over the top birthday theme cakes when The Kid was little. My giant castle cake that I fashioned for his Medieval themed Jousting Tournament party took me three days to finish and I had to leave the room when it was time to let the little heathens dig into it. I pretty much know how to make decent bread and The Kid has taken over the pie making duties so that left me staring the one class that made my stomach roll over.

I set off to find the school on a Saturday morning and found that, on the weekend, there was little traffic and the journey was much shorter than I anticipated. The school is housed in an Industrial area of north Toronto and it houses the actual College, where you can come and get a diploma in either Pastry Arts (39 week program) or Confectionary Arts (16 weeks)  or certificates in Designer Cakes (9weeks) and Bakery Essentials. (20 days). They take International students as well as Canadians but you don't have to make that kind of committment because they also offer weekend classes, like the one I took.

List of Weekend Classes

So, the down and dirty of my experience:
This class costs $225 and it runs from 9:30am to 5pm
You will make croissants, brioche and almond cream and Chef Michael Smith (no, not THAT Michael Smith) will demonstrate how to turn those basic doughs into a variety of pastries and styles of brioche.

 We were paired off and then after we watched him demonstrate the first step of croissant making, we were on our own to follow suite. Chef Smith is really an amazing teacher. He is clear, concise, managed to simplify the process sufficiently so that everyone appeared to be confident and comfortable with something that could be quite a daunting process. He continued to demonstrate every new step and talked us through everything, walking around and ready to jump in and answer questions and help us along the way.

I have to tell you, the process of kneading a pound of soft butter into the brioche starter dough was at once disgusting, amazing and therapeutic. Just when I thought that we were all being punked, the dough started to come together, the butter was truly being incorporated and we were left with a beautiful dough.

At the end of the class, Chef Smith bakes off all of our creations and we are sent home with a lovely box full of our very own pastries to thrill and amaze our family and friends.

Yes, I was given the opportunity to try this class out for free but I will tell you that I would absolutely pay to take it again and I will definitely go back to take some more classes in the future and you can take that to the bank.

Most importantly, I actually left with the confidence to do this again, at home, on my own.
First it was canning, then deep frying, pressure cooking and now, I have made my own pastry.
Go me!

To see what they have to offer in the way of weekend classes and register, go here

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Taste Canada Awards - Hug A Canadian Cookbook Writer

This week I attended the Taste Canada Awards  to witness a parade of Canadian talent in the world of cookbook writing (with a category for best food blog as well now!)