Monday, January 31, 2011

My Lasagna

So I grew up in Canada and have spent the last handful of years in Ireland - neither culinary strongholds.

Despite that, I make a pretty good lasagna. And it has lotsa veggies in it, so it tastes fantastic and is healthy too. What more could you want? Well a glass of red wine to go with it, but that's up to you. That would be my preference :)

So do you want to know how to make it?

My Lasagna

1 lb sausage
1 lb mince
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic (or less depending on your taste), minced
olive oil
250g cottage cheese
1 package frozen spinach
tomato sauce
lasagna noodles

Brown the sausage and mince with the onion, garlic and olive oil. Once its cooked, add the tomato sauce.
I was a little short on tomato sauce so I added a container or Passata (tomato puree) and a whole bunch of oregano and basil to flavour it up a bit. Let that simmer down for a while. In the meantime, make a loaf of bread, wash the floors, make a cup of coffee and relax. I like to let it simmer for a good while.

Mix together the spinach and cottage cheese and set aside for now.

Once your meat mixture is ready, grab your lasagna dish. Start with a layer of the meat sauce

Add a layer of noodles

Then a layer of the spinach/cottage cheese mixture

Then repeat again (meat - noodles - spinach) before putting a final layer of meat (if you have any left. I froze a bunch to use with spaghetti another time) and topping with cheese.

Then look at the lovely layers you've just assembled

Bake until bubbling and enjoy with a fresh green salad. Yum!!

And its even better the next day :)

Do you like lasagne? Any tips?


Jenn x

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yorkshire Puddings!

Growing up, my grandmother made the biggest Yorkshire puddings I'd ever seen. My mom was baffled for years, trying to re-create them but without luck. She tried a lot of different tricks but could never seem to get them to come out like my grandmother's. It was very sad. I was disappointed. Was I destined to only have lovely Yorkshire puddings a few times a year when we went to visit Calgary? Boo!

My first job was working for a restaurant and catering company. On my first day when I was getting a tour through the kitchen I looked into one of the ovens and saw Yorkshire puddings. Massive. Huge. Crunchy. Gorgeous. Even bigger and better-looking than my grandmothers! I was determined that I would learn how to make some fantastic Yorkshire puddings and that my mother would never make a failed batch again. Or at least I'd be able to make them well so we could have them.

They are super easy, but there are a few little idiosyncrasies to keep in mind. The main one is temperature. Its important that nothing is cold. I put my milk in the microwave for a minute to take the chill off it. If the eggs are straight out of the fridge I put them in a bowl of lukewarm water. The oven has to be hot before you put them in and unless they have risen so much they are touching the upper element (which has happened to me), do not open the oven door before they are done or they will fall. Make sure you leave them in until they are completely brown, otherwise they will fall.

Sound ok?

Here we go.

Its easy to remember the ratio. Think of how many Yorkshire puddings you want to end up with. Divide that number by 2 to get the number of eggs you'll need. Divide the number of eggs you'll need by 4 and you'll get the amount of milk & flour. Make sense?

Maybe it will be clearer after this. Or maybe it won't. I'll show you how to make a half dozen anyway and you can adjust from there.

Yorkshire Puddings 
Makes 6

3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt

So get all your stuff together. Put the eggs in lukewarm water if they are straight out of fridge.

Beat eggs and milk together. Sift in the flour and pinch of salt. Beat like mad.

 Looks like pancake batter

After its very well whipped, pour into well-greased cupcake pan. Fill those puppies right up.

Put the tray into an oven pre-heated to 175F and leave for 35-40 minutes. Take them out when they are well browned.

Enjoy with a delicious roast beef dinner!

Mmmmmm!! Yum!

Do you like Yorkshire puddings?


Jenn x

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A yummy side

Despite living in the land of the spud, I am not a fan of potatoes. I like sleeping in, sunshine and red wine. I should have emigrated to Italy :)

I think maybe my lack of fondness for the famous root comes from living alone for so many years. When cooking for one, they are more of a hassle than rice or cous cous, which now that I think of it, really doesn't make much sense. They are more perishable than other starches, so maybe that's why.

Uh ... what point was I trying to make? Oh yeah - potatoes.

So I'm now buying potatoes in smaller quantities and trying to come up with more creative ways of preparing them. This is one way I've been using lately and I really enjoy it. Its in no way original, but its quick, easy and uses 3 ingredients.

1. Potatoes (you don't have to skin them, just give them a good scrub)
2. Olive oil
3. Seasoning salt. Or any type of flavouring you prefer.

We're making wedges!

So give the spuds a really good scrub. Peel if you prefer, but there is a lot of goodness in those peels so if you can handle it, leave them on. Slice the spuds any way you like, just try to have a consistent thickness so they all cook the same. Put them in a cooking pan or tray.

Drizzle with olive oil and shake on your seasoning.

Couldn't find any Lawry's seasoning salt, so I am using the Schwartz stuff. I have to remember to bring a Costco size back with me next time I'm home :)

Toss to evenly coat all the pieces of potato.

Put in an oven at 200F for 30-40 mins, tossing midway.

Oh these are s.f.g. (so-freaking-good)!!! Take them out sooner if you prefer them a bit softer. I like a good crunch.


So do you like potatoes? How do you prepare them?


Jenn x

Friday, January 28, 2011

I see a pattern develping ...

I got to spend last Christmas in Ireland with A and his parents. I love his parents to bits and was glad to have the opportunity to spend such a special time of year with him and his folks. And his mother loves to cook and play hostess. I mean really loves. As in - for Christmas dinner she prepared a 12lb turkey, a half ham and a side of spiced beef in addition to the quazillion ways she prepared potatoes and the vegetable garden.

And did I mention it was only the 4 of us for dinner?

Needless to say there was plenty of food leftover. She said she was going to just toss out the turkey. And I balked. Turkey is one of my favorites and there are so many great ways to use the leftovers! Hot turkey sandwiches (my brother's go-to), turkey soup, turkey a-la-king, cold turkey sandwiches ... mmm ... My preference is to make turkey pies. So I said to V, 'Gimme the turkey and I'll make you turkey pies! You can stick em in the freezer and have dinners for ages'. She was delighted and handed over the bird. She and A fought over the pies (A's dad isn't a fan, so more for V) and I was really glad they both enjoyed them so much.

As I've mentioned, I spent Christmas in Calgary this year. When I got back, V had the leftover turkey waiting. She wants more pies.

I see a pattern developing ... :)

But I was delighted to oblige. So I made the pastry and set to work on the filling. If you like turkey pies and don't have a recipe, try this one. Its been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember and its super good. You can modify it as you like to suit your tastes. I added a jalapeno to it because I had it to use up and I like giving things a bit of a kick.

Turkey Pies (modified from my Nana's recipe)

1/4 cup each of chopped onion, carrot and celeriac
1 minced jalapeno
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
2 cups of chicken broth
1/3 cup each of cream and milk (or half n half if that's available where you are)
3-4 cups diced turkey
2 tsp worch worcke worces Lea & Perrins (you know what I mean)
1/2 cup frozen peas

So get everything together. I doubled the recipe because I had 9 (!) cups of diced turkey and I like my pies meaty. I've also left out the suggested tsp of salt as I find it can sometimes be too salty and having over-salted turkey pie filling is heart-breaking! You can always add salt at the end and it won't impact the process at all.

Melt the butter in a pot and add the onion, carrots, celeriac and jalapeno. Stir until coated.

I know it doesn't seem like much butter (the original recipe called for 4 tbsp instead of the 1 I used) but its enough to make a roux and it didn't affect the taste.

Cook until the onions are soft, being careful that they don't brown.

Add the flour and pepper and stir well. Gradually add chicken broth, stirring constantly (do this slowly. You don't want it to clump!) Add the cream and milk, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the mixture is thickened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Get your pastry all ready ...

... and fill

Cover em all with a top layer of pastry and either wrap well and freeze or bake at 425 for 10 minutes then turn down to 350 and bake for a further 15-20 mins.

Yummy and a half!! I can't even describe how good these are. A wants me to tell his mom we threw out the turkey by accident so he doesn't have to share! I can't say I blame him ... may need to have turkey dinner before next Christmas just for some more pies :)

So what do you do with leftover turkey?


Jenn x

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Worth the effort

So there's this thing that I've observed here in Ireland that is different from home. Now it doesn't apply to everyone, but there has been more than one household that exhibits this trait. They don't like to use leftovers. Now as the girl who makes a pot of veg soup and has it for lunch for the bones of a week, I think this is madness and a horrible waste of food, money and the time put into its preparation.

This was evidenced last year on Christmas Day when there was ~6 lbs of cooked turkey that was destined for the garbage. Crazy, eh? I think the next day of hot turkey sandwiches or turkey soup is much nicer than the turkey dinner itself. I'm a lefty so I think I do everything backwards :) But I couldn't see all that perfectly delicious turkey go to waste. I'll describe in tomorrow's post what happened, but first I need to tell you about another recipe.

I needed pastry. And I wanted to make a nice, flaky pastry. I didn't have a go-to recipe for that so I started pouring through my books, and I came across a recipe titled Flaky Pastry in this one. It looked fairly labour intensive but I figured I'd give it a go. And man, am I glad I did! Even though I didn't blind bake it, the bottom crust was still nice and crispy and the top did that 'crack' and pieces went flying when it was cut. This recipe is getting written into my little recipe book :)

Flaky Pastry (from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Course)

350g strong white flour
pinch of salt
225g butter
125ml cold water

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Divide the butter into four equal parts. Rub one part of this into the flour and mix to a firm dough with the cold water. Cover with clingfilm and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Roll out into a strip and dot tiny pieces of a second portion of butter on two thirds of the pastry

Fold in three, being careful to align the edges.

Roll out. Fold in three again, cover and leave to rest in fridge for 15-20 minutes. Roll out as before, repeat process with the third quarter of butter. Fold, roll, fold, rest. Repeat with the last portion of butter, fold, roll, fold, cover and leave in fridge until ready to use.

I know it seems like a heck of a lot of butter (ok, doesn't seem to be a lot, it IS a lot) but produces a beautiful dough. Even after the first butter-fold-roll-fold it felt like a beautiful dough. It was very, very easy to work with and was a fantastic finished pastry. I think as its so buttery, you could use if for sweet dishes but adding some icing sugar along with the flour to produce a sweeter dough. Or use as is with a very sweet filling.

So easy to roll out and shape to put into ramekins!

If you don't have a flaky pastry recipe in your repertoire, I recommend trying this one. Its worth the effort. I made a double batch and froze the extra. I'll post about it in future to let you know how it froze.

I'll show you what I did with it tomorrow :)


Jenn x

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Ode ...

My favorite auntie was born on this day a few years ago. Since she is pure magic and one of my all-time favorite people, I thought I'd write her a little poem:

Dear Auntie Kate,
I think you are great.
You're more than an aunt,
You are a best mate.

You are patient and kind,
Have really great hair,
Like to hike and have fun,
And live with such flair.

So on this, the day of your birth,
I wish you a time of laughter and mirth. 
And because you are super-nifty,
Hope you enjoy the last few years, before you hit sixty.

With love from your formerly favorite niece (and her rhyming boyfriend)


Jenn x

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Restaurant Review: Globefish Sushi, Calgary

I love sushi. I mean totally love. As in, if I had one meal left before I popped my clogs it would be hot and sour soup with tempura and a nice variety of sushi, both rolls and sashimi. Ooh just the thought makes my mouth water!

 Mixed tempura appetizer. Um ... I was a little late taking the picture. We'd eaten about half of it :(

When I was in Calgary over Christmas (seriously, I think I've mentioned that enough :) ) I met up with a few friends from my high school graduation class. As I'm not too familiar with Calgary I asked them to suggest a meeting place for lunch. When my friend's wife suggested sushi, I did a little happy dance and crossed my fingers, as I know sushi isn't to everyone's taste. To my delight, the others agreed and off we went.
Now I am in no way an expert when it comes to sushi, I just know what I like and what I don't. And I really, really liked Globefish sushi. It was so good I went back twice more with family members! There's a big secret about sushi restaurants. Want to hear it? Are you ready? Are you sure?


You ok? It is a preconceived idea that puts a lot of people off it and I'm here to let you know that if the idea of raw fish grosses you out, that's ok! The nicest chicken teriyaki I've ever had was at a sushi restaurant in Vancouver. And tempura is just oh-so-good. Miso soup is really nice and seems to warm you from the inside out. Japanese food is filled with such delicate and beautiful flavour combinations. So don't be scared by thinking its all raw fish. But if you can bring yourself to try raw fish, go for it. Its super delish. Start with tuna. Its like candy.

Flames Roll Combo: Spicy tuna, spicy salmon and spicy California rolls $15.95
These rolls were so so good. I loved the tuna roll the most, but I'm a bit partial to the raw tuna. The spicy sauce was a very, very spicy but gave a nice kick to the rolls.

Iginla Sushi Combo: prawn, tuna and salmon sushi with a dynamite roll. $17.95

Ohmygoodness, this was SO good. The dynamite roll had a nice crunch from the tempura prawn and the creamy avocado set it off really nicely. And I totally loved the sushi. So deliciously fresh and soft, it just melted in the mouth ... mmmm!

Crunch & Munch Roll: prawn tempura, cucumber and roe roll topped with avocado and unagi (bbq eel), served with unagi sauce and wasabi creamy sauce $13.95

I ordered this because I wanted to try unagi. Ever since hearing about it on 'Friends', I thought it'd be worth a go. And it served. This roll was really good. My favorite of all the sushi I tried (sorry for the terrible picture. This was taken on my last visit here and I didn't have my camera so had to use the phone).

My Nana is one of the people I had to convince sushi wasn't all raw stuff to get her to come along. She was a great sport and even tried some of my crunch & munch roll! But we didn't make her get stuff that creeped her out. She ordered tempura udon, which was an udon noodle soup with a side of prawn & vegetable tempura

My amazing Nana with her udon noodle soup and tempura $9.95

I had never tried udon noodles before and I really enjoyed the texture. They didn't really seem to have a flavour of their own but absorbed the flavour of the broth. They were really nice and the tempura was ... well ... fantastic.
So it was a bit expensive as far as a lunch out goes, but it was super delicious and well worth the price for an occasional treat. It was also great that my Nana realized the sushi restaurants aren't all about raw fish :)

Do you like sushi? Any favorite haunts?


Jenn x

Monday, January 24, 2011

Undoubtedly... of the ugliest vegetables I've ever seen.

And its terrible to admit, but I've never even picked one up before because the look of it creeped me out so much. Any idea what it is?

 Kinda looks like one of the robots in the Matrix, eh?

Now I know root vegetables don't lend themselves to 'prettiest on the stand' in any way, but come on. A potato or carrot is a whole lot prettier than this thing (it is a celeriac by the way). But I got one, and I hate waste, so I had to get over my heebie-jeebies and touch it. I was expecting something to crawl out of it. I'm still a little grossed out looking at the picture!

So why did I have a celeriac in my possession you ask? Well, I moved recently and in addition to the loss of being around my Irish family, I'm also at the opposite end of the country from the wonderful farmer's market I got all my veggies from. Bummer. So I asked my fella's mom, V, if she could pick me up a few things from her market and I'd look for a market near me in the meantime. So while she was getting my sweet potatoes, carrots and eggs, the farmer said if it was soup I was making I should take this celeriac as well (apparently all the cool chicks who make soup use them). When I looked in the bag this morning my heart sank a little bit. I didn't want to touch it. But in the end I'm glad I did.

I am out of celery at the mo, so I figured I'd try it out in my soup. It has a very delicate scent of celery which piqued my curiosity. It actually smelled really nice. I used it to make sweet potato soup and it was just lovely. I used half of the celeriac (about a pound) with 3 small sweet potatoes, an onion, a couple of carrots and a hit of curry powder. I was worried the celeriac would overpower everything else, but it was really tasty! It is a much nicer flavour than celery in the soup and I think it will be replacing celery in my house.

I wondered how it would fare in other preparations. Tonight we had stuffed chicken breasts and roasted vegetables. I diced half of the remaining celeriac and added it to some potatoes, carrots, courgettes and onions. Tossed with a little olive oil, oregano and garlic, roasted it and crossed my fingers. I didn't need to worry - it was totally delish! We both really enjoyed it (I didn't tell A until after that he'd eaten that really ugly, gnome looking root) and another point for the celeriac.

So all the lessons we learned when we were small apply to vegetables too: don't judge a book by its cover. Or avoid a vegetable because it is scary-looking :)

The yummy mixed roasted veg (including celeriac!) with a glass of wine and a roaring fire. Can't beat it!

Have you ever had celeriac? Or do you have a fruit/vegetable/other food stuff you can't bring yourself to try because its appearance grosses you out?

Jenn x

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fun with cookies!

Ok, so I'm doing it again. That thing where I find myself having conversations, unpacking, cleaning, cooking - and all the while, potential blog entries are going through my mind. But do I put them to computer? Not very often. Not often at all really. *sigh*

Anywho, here I go again :) I have wanted to practice piping for ages now. I think its something that appeals to my type-A (i.e. irritatingly perfectionist) personality. So along with thinking about the macarons I'd attempt while in Calgary for Christmas I figured I'd also like to try to do some sugar cookies. They'd take a heck of a lot of piping work and if we made a lot of batches, there would be even more to play with! So I pulled out an old battered and beaten (well-used-because-its-fabulous) copy of the Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking, picked up the icing recipe and some tips from Bake at 350 and got to work.

I called my little helper and we tucked into it. There were trips to Michaels to pick up extra supplies between batches and we did take over my Nana's table for 3 days because we needed space to let them dry. It was quite a process but was a whole lot of fun! My mom and Nana even picked up icing bags and tucked in. Here's a few pics of it all:

 And it begins ... with the rolling and cutting ... 

 ...then baking ... (the poor rejects on the right didn't get prettied. They got munched)

... then write out a plan for the colours you need (we only had 3 couplers and 2 bottles) ...
 ... then start to outline ...

 ... and flood (and get the co-decorator to pose) ...

 (it looked like more from this angle)

 ... and we had so much fun the next 2 generations got in on it!

... and the finished product.

We made seven batches, which was a good thing as they were given to everyone that called over and a packet was taken whenever my Nana was out visiting (which she does a lot!). They were so cute and it was a lot of fun to play with the different tips. I think we'll do it again, hopefully sooner rather than later! It was actually easy with a bit of practice, so don't be daunted if you think it'd be too difficult.

Have you ever decorated cookies like this? Any tips?


Jenn x

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I can't believe it, but I've been here for 4 weeks already! I know holidays zip by far too quickly and throwing Christmas in there brings it up to warp speed, but it's just unreal how quickly this time has gone. I have a pretty big extended family which is fantastic because if there's something I'd like to do while I'm here, there's usually someone who would like to join me.

When I was getting ready to come over, I decided that while I was here I would try to make macarons. I first read about them on Not Quite Nigella's blog and was intrigued. A lot of work and practice to make what was essentially a sandwich cookie? I figured I'd give 'em a go. But first I had to try them.

If you've read this blog before, you'll know that I love the Avoca Cafe cookbook. Well, Avoca has so, so much more than just cookbooks. There all kinds of neat dishes, gifts, household stuff, books and fancy-schmancy foodstuffs. As in - it's the only place in Ireland where I've seen macarons. They're made by French-trained pastry chef Iseult Janssens ( and are a whopping 8.95 euro for 5 of them! I figured, its all in the name of research so I bought a pack.

From top: lemon, orange, blueberry, grape and raspberry

As the macarons in box I bought were all broken, the cashier very kindly gave me a second box for free! Woo-hoo!! :)
From left: salted caramel, chocolate, cafe mocha, vanilla and pistachio

So I tried em. I found them interesting. The texture and sweetness wasn't what I was expecting but they were quite nice. The salted caramel was my favorite, followed closely by the chocolate.

So I was set. I had a kitchen at my disposal, an eager assistant in the form of my cousin Clare, and time to give 'em a shot. I saw a seasonally-appropriate recipe for gingerbread macarons at Tartlette (who makes some extremely pretty macarons) and she also has a 10 page document with tips (you can find it here) so after reading it and getting everything ready (and after leaving the egg whites out for 2 days) we gave it a go.

Clare piping out the macaron shells

Leaving the shells to rest before baking, to help create hard surface

The finished macarons with the gingerbread buttercream filling!

I think they came out ok for a first try. The feet were there, the tops and bottoms had a crispy shell and a smooth interior. The flavour of them was fantastic and everyone really enjoyed them, but I need to practice the technique a whole lot more. They are pretty finnicky!

Have you ever tried macarons? Any thoughts?

Oh - and a very happy new year to you and yours :)

Jenn x

The angel liked them :)