November 18, 2018

Tiger Balls

This was one of our family's favourite snacks when I was a child, and boy did we go through a lot of them! Much like many of today's "energy bites" or protein bars, it's based largely on nuts and seeds, is lightly sweet, and can actually quell a rumbling tummy between meals. It's extremely versatile, so you can feel free to substitute ingredients as you please: sun butter or almond butter for the peanut butter, for example, in addition to the suggested alternative ingredients below. The first ingredient in each case shown was the original we used back in the day.

If you like your treats to be sweeter and more candy-like, double the honey (in which case you will probably need all of the powdered milk as indicated.

Tiger Balls

Adapted from "Tiger's Candy" from Diet for a Small Planet
by Adele Davis

1 cup / 250 mL natural-type peanut butter
1/2 cup / 125 mL fine shredded coconut, plus extra for rolling
2 tablespoons / 30 mL toasted sesame seeds, flax meal, chia meal, or hemp hearts
2 tablespoons / 30 mL rolled oats or chopped sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons / 30 mL honey, agave, or date syrup
1 tablespoon brewers yeast (optional)
6 - 8 tablespoons / 95 - 125 mL non-instant skim milk powder, as needed

In a mixing bowl, layer all of the ingredients except for the skim milk powder, in order shown above. Use a fork to thoroughly combine everything, making sure there are no dry spots in the dough, and then add half the milk powder. Stir that in with a fork, and gradually add enough of the remaining milk powder that you get a stiff dough that you can roll into smooth balls without breaking and falling apart.

Using a cookie-disher or spoon, form small balls, rolling them between your palms until smooth, and then roll them gently in the extra shredded coconut. Place them in a sealable container in the fridge until needed. I note that we never refrigerated these, they just sat in a cookie tin for their (very short) lifespan, as we gobbled them up mighty quickly. These days, I refrigerate them for safety and freshness.

The ones shown here are rather large - a full tablespoon disher was used to portion them, but a half-tablespoon size is a more perfectly sized snack for me (and comes in at around 90 calories). Fortunately, you can also cut them in half later if you make them too large.

September 30, 2018

Plum Cobbler

I originally started recipe blogging to preserve and share my family's recipes, and this one is from my childhood. I've never had another cobbler topping that tasted remotely as good as my mother's. This was always my favourite plum dessert.

You can use any kind of fruit you want...plums, peaches, blackberries, rhubarb...just vary the amount of sugar you use in the fruit mixture accordingly. Mom used rhubarb or plums, mostly, as other fruit tended to have different culinary destinations. For Prunica domestica (aka Italian prune plums or Zwetschge), I needed only 1/2 cup of sugar. You can start with the lower amount and adjust for taste before adding the cobbles.

Old Fashioned Plum Cobbler

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F with a rack in the middle.

Fruit base

500 grams (3 to 4 cups) of cleaned, prepared fruit (for plums, quarter them, removing the pits)
1/2 cup sugar (sweeter fruits) 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (rhubarb), depending on taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or combined spices, such as 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)

Toss the fruit with the sugar and spices and place in a dry, medium skillet (there should be no bare spaces in the bottom of the skillet, however, you can layer the fruit thicker or thinner, as you like. Heat the fruit and sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring gently as needed until the fruit softens slightly and the sugar has melted and formed a thick syrup with the juices. Taste the syrup (carefully! it will be extremely hot, so best to let it cool for half a minute on the spoon, than to burn your tongue). If it is not sweet enough, or wants more spice, adjust accordingly. Turn the heat to the lowest setting while you make the cobbles.

Cobbler topping

60 grams (1/4 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
1 large egg
180 ml (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
8 grams (1 3/4 teaspoons) baking powder
pinch of salt

In a medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring well. Add this mixture all at once to the mixing bowl with the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and stir rapidly with a fork to combine into a thick, sticky, dough-like batter.

Use a tablespoon to drop dollops of batter, with a little space between each one, into "cobblestones" on top of the hot fruit syrup mixture in the skillet. You can use big dollops or little ones, and if you want real uniformity of size, you can use a small disher to portion the batter out. Do not try to smooth the batter lumps in any way, it will take care of itself in the oven - the cobblestones will flatten and connect to each other as they bake. Place the skillet, uncovered, in the oven, and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the cobbles are golden brown and delicious.

Serve warm or cold, plain or with ice cream, whipped cream, or even just a drizzle of thick cream.

September 23, 2018

Quail Scotch Eggs

Okay, here's the thing. Quail Scotch Eggs are really no different than regular scotch eggs, other than the obvious: quail eggs are smaller, so... they're smaller. So, if you already make a killer chicken egg version, here's just the suggestion to try using quail eggs instead. Perfect for parties, picnics, bento, or any other time you want a delicious savoury treat.

Essentially, a scotch egg is an egg-stuffed glorified meatball. Traditionally they are deep fried (as these are), but you can bake them in the oven, too (although the longer cooking time may lead to the meat shrinking away from the egg in places). So again, if you have a favourite meatball flavour profile, you can simply go ahead with what you already know and love. That being said, I do find that chicken, turkey, pork (or a blend) tend to work best with these little quail eggs, because they don't overwhelm the delicate flavour in a way that beef or lamb might. Your mileage may vary.

Quail Scotch Eggs

Makes 12

12 quail eggs

Meat layer
500 grams ground meat (shown: 60% pork/ 40% beef)
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (eg. sea salt or kosher)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of chile flakes if you like

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 (chicken) egg, beaten well and seasoned with a pinch of salt
1 - 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use panko style breadcrumbs)

Oil for deep frying

First you will need to cook the quail eggs. Heat water in a small pot, and when it comes to a simmer, carefully lower half of the eggs into the pot and set the timer for 2 minutes (3 minutes if you want the yolks firm), and then remove them to an ice bath to cool them and stop the cooking process. Repeat with the other half of the eggs. I like to use my skimmer to raise and lower the eggs out the boiling water, because it's broad and I can load six quail eggs onto it at once no problem. A spider might also work. Timing is important here, because if you dither about getting them out, they will probably overcook. Not the end of the world, but the yolks won't be soft, and they might even get those nasty grey rings.

While the eggs are cooling, mix up the meat layer: break up the meat using your finger or a fork, to aerate it and make it easier to introduce the seasonings. Finely chop the shallots and garlic (or press the garlic), and sprinkle the herbs and spices over the meat. Use a fork, or your impeccably clean hands to distribute the seasonings throughout the meat without packing it down too much. Just like you would season meat for making burgers or meatloaf. If your meat is very lean, you can always add a bit of beaten (chicken) egg at this stage, too, but I don't find it necessary. Set the meat aside for the flavours to meld while you peel the eggs.

Very carefully tap/roll the eggs to break the shells, and peel them using a small teaspoon to help ease the shell away from the egg. Place on a clean plate to one side until they are all peeled. This will take a few minutes, so be patient.

Divide the meat mixture into 12 portions

Dip each egg in flour, and shake off any excess; this step is important, because it will help the meat layer adhere to the egg. In the palm of one hand, flatten out a portion of meat into a thin patty. Place a floured egg in the middle, and shape the meat up around the egg, enclosing it completely. Pay extra attention to make sure the seams where the meat comes together are strong. Set aside, and repeat with the other 11 eggs.

Prepare your deep fryer, or in my case, a pot with a couple of inches of oil in it. Heat the oil to 370°F/185°C. While the oil heats, use the time to coat the meatballs. Dip each meatball in the flour, dust/pat off anything but the thinnest of layers, dip briefly in the beaten egg, let drip a moment, and then roll in breadcrumbs to coat. Set aside.

When the oil is ready, fry the scotch eggs in batches until the coating is golden brown and delicious looking. Remember, the centre of the meatball is the already-cooked quail egg, so these babies fry up very quickly, since the heat doesn't need to penetrate the centre. Mine took about four minutes to cook, turning them over from every minute or so. Use a metal slotted spoon or spider to remove them to a clean plate lined with paper towels.

Serve hot, room temperature, or cold...with your choice of dipping sauce. I've used everything from aioli to hot mustard to tonkatsu sauce, depending on the flavours in the meat seasoning. We had three apiece for dinner, with potato salad, and then three apiece for lunch the next day.

September 16, 2018

Hummus Kawarma: Hummus with spiced lamb

Think of Hummus Kawarma as the Middle Eastern answer to Tex Mex's Five Layer Dip: the base is creamy hummus, the next layer is fried spiced lamb, further toppings are whole chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, and lemon parsley sauce. (Oh, did you want seven layer dip? Perhaps you could add finely diced cucumber and tomato, although I prefer those on the side as part of a classic Israeli salad.) What about the tortilla chips, you might ask. Well, oven-toasted pita chips make the perfect stand-in, but you could also simply use fresh pita bread cut or torn into pieces as needed. You can serve this as an appetizer or main course, as a communal shared plate or as individual servings.

The recipe for the spiced lamb topping and the lemon sauce is from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi, and is also available on the Ottolenghi website, although I note that I used ground lamb instead of hand-chopped lamb neck.

So, what am I bringing to you here, since the exciting part of the recipe is elsewhere? Well, aside from cheap analogies to Tex-Mex cuisine, you also get my formula for extremely creamy hummus using an immersion blender. You'll need a kitchen scale to get the exact ratio, but if you don't have one you can still get by.

Immersion Blender Hummus

Makes 400 grams

Serves 4 as part of the above recipe (as a main course)

400 gram (14 oz) can of chickpeas, drained, reserving liquid (about 265 grams /9.3 oz cooked chickpeas))
45 ml (3 tablespoons) tahini (stirred well)
2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped or pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Chickpea cooking liquid OR water to make the total weight of all ingredients 400 grams (14 oz). If you don't have a kitchen scale, start with 60 ml (1/4 cup) liquid and add more as needed. You probably won't need more than 125 ml (half a cup).

You can put all of this into the blender cup and blend until smooth, but I find it's easier on the machine if you first make a puree of everything except the chickpeas and extra liquid. Then add the chickpeas, about a quarter of them at a time, blending until smooth between each addition, and finally adding the extra liquid until you achieve a smooth, creamy texture. Devour immediately, or transfer to a sealable refrigerator container. It keeps nicely for at least three days...I've never had it last longer, so after that you're on your own.

If you're completely obsessed with ultra smooth texture, take the time to pinch each chickpea to remove the skin. It takes a while but it's worth it, although I note that this step lowers the insoluble fibre content somewhat.

September 12, 2018

Calypso Potato Salad

Years ago, there used to be a tiny Trini restaurant called Roti Bistro on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver. It was there I was first introduced to soursop punch and peanut punch, and Caribbean lamb and goat curries. One of the things I particularly enjoyed was that they didn't adjust the food to accommodate the northern palate, so everything that was supposed to be hot was indeed fiery hot. Including, unexpectedly, the potato salad. Now, I have a pretty heat-resistant palate myself, and enjoy habaneros and other hot chiles without reserve, but on this particular day the curry was extremely hot, even for my tastes. No problem, I told myself, I'll just have a bit of this creamy-looking potato salad and OH MY GOD! IT'S HOTTER THAN THE CURRY! Thank goodness for that soursop punch.

The restaurant is long gone, sadly, but I was inspired by their blistering potato salad to make a version of it myself. It's not quite as intense as the original, but I think you'll find it to be very tasty indeed.

The potato salad is named after one of the key ingredients, Matouk's Calypso Sauce (which is made in Trinidad & Tobago), but you can substitute that with a fruity habanero sauce and a touch of curry powder. Please note that this is not a sponsored post. The rest of the seasoning for the salad is loosely based on jerk seasoning.

Calypso Potato Salad

Serves 6

3 pounds red skinned nugget potatoes
1/2 cup (125 ml) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dry mustard
1–2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) fresh chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled, halved
6 cornichons, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 habanero or scotch bonnet chiles, minced (seeds removed)
1/4 cup (60 ml) Matouk’s Calypso Sauce
Black pepper

Cut the potatoes in halves, or into bite-sized chunks if you have larger potatoes, and steam or simmer gently in lightly salted water until just tender. Drain potatoes and allow them to cool slightly in the colander.

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, dry mustard, chopped thyme, allspice, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and Calypso sauce in a medium bowl.

Separately, in a medium bowl, combine celery, cornichons, habaneros, and green onion. Separate the egg yolks and whites. Mash or sieve yolks finely, and mince the egg whites. Add both to the chopped vegetables.

Add the warm-but-not-hot potatoes to the spiced mayonnaise and immediately add the chopped vegetables and egg mixture on top of that. Fold gently with a spatula until the potatoes and vegetables are evenly coated. Garnish liberally with freshly ground black pepper, and extra green onion, if you like. A sprinkle of paprika or cayenne makes a pretty finish.

Allow the salad to rest in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving, to give the flavours a chance to meld.

September 09, 2018

Curried Egg Breakfast Sandwich

When I lived on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, we used to quite enjoy weekend brunch at Fets Whisky Kitchen. My favourite order was the breakfast egg sandwich named the "Woodford Handheld" which consisted of a ciabatta bun, crispy bacon, cheese, and just a hint of curry in the generous amount of scrambled eggs. As to why they called it the Woodford, I can only imagine that there might have been a little bourbon in the mix somewhere, which wouldn't be a shock from a place known for its whisk(e)y and bourbon selection. Over the years their menu has changed, and they have moved on from the Woodford. But I haven't.

Fortunately, it's a really easy thing to make, although it does take a bit of organization. The important thing is to get the amount of curry powder just right. It should be noticeable, but not jarring or interfering with the flavour of the eggs, bacon and cheese. You can opt not to toast the buns, but I think it's much nicer if you do. It's a departure from the original, but hey - why not use garlic butter while you're toasting them?

Curried Egg Breakfast Sandwich

AKA "The Woodford" (more or less)

2 Sandwiches

2 ciabatta-style buns (or equivalent), split
1 tablespoon butter, or garlic butter
4 - 6 strips of bacon, to taste
Monterey Jack, young Gouda, or melting cheese of your choice, enough to cover the bottom half of each bun

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cream
pinch of coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot Indian-style curry powder

Start with the bread. Spread cut sides of the buns with butter (or garlic butter) and place butter-side down in a preheated skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted. Remove buns to serving plates, and lay the slices of cheese on the bottom pieces. The heat will cause the cheese to soften slightly, which is fine.

Wipe out any crumbs and add into the now-empty skillet the strips of bacon. Cook the bacon until slightly crispy, but not too hard, turning as needed. Prepare the eggs by beating them together with the cream, salt, and curry powder. If you plan to use a different skillet to scramble your eggs, get it preheating now.

Remove the bacon from the skillet and distribute between the two cheese-dressed buns.

Scramble the eggs as you please. I use medium high heat with a bit of butter to get it going, and stir frequently to get loose, soft curds. It only takes about a minute. When the eggs are just about to set, take a large serving spoon and serve the eggs on top of the bacon. Close the sandwiches with the toasted bun tops, and devour right away.

It was every bit as delicious as I remembered.

August 26, 2018

Phad Kaphrao: Thai Holy Basil Stir fry

Until really recently, I thought that Thai Holy Basil was the same as the ubiquitous "Thai basil" which one receives in so many Southeast Asian dishes in Vancouver. However, they are indeed quite different. I was buying ingredients for summer rolls from my local Asian grocer, and grabbed a packet labeled Holy Basil without really looking at the leaves. Unsurprisingly, given that the owners of the shop are Thai, it turned out to be the real deal Holy Basil, and that was not what I had been looking for at all. Undaunted, I went online to learn a bit about the plant and how it differs from the Thai basil I was familiar with (which turns out to be a varietal of cinnamon basil).

This is the dish that I decided to make, once I understood what I had got my hands on: Thai Holy Basil & Pork Stir-fry, very lightly adapted from Woks of Life.

Holy Basil Stir fry (ผัดกะเพรา) is a popular dish across Thailand, and can be made with the protein of your choice. Recipes for chicken or pork abound, but I've also seen them for beef and for tofu, so I guess it's really up to you. Serve it over fragrant rice, maybe with a fried egg for the most common traditional presentation.

It is quick, it is easy (provided you can source the Holy Basil of course), and most importantly, it is delicious!

Phad Kaphrao Moo Sab: Holy Basil Stir Fry with Pork

Serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small yellow onion
7 cloves garlic
5 Thai bird chiles, or equivalent hot red chilies
500 grams ground pork
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons mushroom sauce (or oyster sauce)
⅓ cup chicken broth or water
1 bunch Holy Basil leaves (about 1 1/2 cups packed)

This dish comes together fast, so do all of your prep in advance. This is no time for chop-and-drop. Start by preparing the rice, which takes the longest to cook. While the rice cooks, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients, and when there is only about 15 minutes left for the rice, start cooking the stir fry.

Preheat a large skillet over the lowest heat setting.

Slice the onion (pole-to-pole) into moderately thin strips. Slice the garlic thinly. Slice the red chiles finely, first removing seeds if necessary. You can measure the sugar, fish sauce (I use one with added chiles), soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and mushroom (or oyster) sauce into the same prep bowl. Efficient! Measure out the water/broth. Strip the Holy Basil from its stems, but do not chop the leaves, not even the big ones.

Turn up the heat under the large skillet to medium, and give it a few seconds to come up to temperature. Add the canola oil and the sliced onion, garlic, and red chiles, and stir and fry them until the onion starts to turn translucent, about three to five minutes. Add the pork (I used a pork/beef blend, which is common in these parts), and break it up with your spatula/wooden spoon. Stir and fry the meat for a few minutes, but don't stir it quite constantly, so that the meat picks up a bit of golden colour from contact with the hot pan. This will take up to about five minutes, maybe a few minutes more depending how hot "medium" is on your stove. Once the meat has been lightly browned and there are no longer any pink showing, add the sauce mixture and the chicken broth (or water) and stir through. Continue to stir and fry until the liquid is evaporated/absorbed by the meat, and then add all of the Holy Basil leaves at once to the skillet.

Give them a moment to wilt, then stir them through. Stir and fry for about 30 seconds, and then serve with the hot fragrant rice (and a fried egg, if you've planned ahead that far).

August 19, 2018

Poulet Basquaise: Basque Chicken

This recipe takes a bit of time, but it's absolutely worth it, and about half of the total prep time is hands-off cooking.

It is more of an interpretation than a 100% authentic recipe, using the same techniques and ingredients, although it is reimagined into a one-dish meal as opposed to the traditional Basque progression, which has the beans as a separate dish before the main course. It's in fact a fusion between several recipes for Basque style chicken and also a rabbit recipe. Its defining ingredient that I'm hinging the title upon is Piment d'Espelette, a specialty ground red pepper from the town of Espelette. Perhaps it should more correctly be called Poulet à la Piment d'Espelette.

I had fresh tomatoes and peppers to use up, so I went hard-core with roasting and peeling the peppers, and blanching and peeling the tomatoes, but there's no reason you couldn't use tinned tomatoes (small dice, if you can get them, or regular dice but chopped up a bit more), and jarred roasted red peppers that have already been peeled (and possibly seeded, depending on brand). I am using canned butter beans (any large white bean will do), but of course one could cook those separately from scratch, too.

The chicken braises in the flavourful liquid and becomes incredibly tender and luscious, adding its own fat and juices into the sauce as it cooks. Pushing bread into that rich sauce is one of the great joys of this dish.

Poulet Basquaise

Serves 3 - 4

3 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoons piment d'espelette
200 grams chorizo (4 links small tapas-style chorizo)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled, deseeded and chopped
200 grams fresh tomato (eg. 7 Campari tomatoes) peeled, deseeded and chopped (with juices)
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 bay leaves
225 grams butter beans (eg. 400 gram can, drained, 1 1/2 cups)
250ml dry white wine
250ml chicken stock

Heat a large skillet or braising pan (I use one that is 30cm/12"), slowly, over low heat while you prepare your mise en place: Peel, deseed and chop the tomatoes, collecting as much juice as possible in the bowl, OR use about a cup of diced tomatoes with juices. Set aside. Blacken the red bed peppers all over (over a flame, under a broiler, on a grill, or on a rack over a conventional burner), and then peel, remove the seeds, and chop into large dice, OR use two whole jarred large roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, patted dry, deseeded and chopped. Set aside. Finely dice the onion and the celery, and set aside (together is fine). Slice the chorizo. Drain and rinse the beans. Measure the dry white wine and the chicken stock. Press or mince the garlic. Measure out the remaining ingredients. Finally, clean and trim the chicken legs and separate them into thighs and drumsticks. Season the chicken with salt and white pepper.

Preheat the oven to 165°C/325°F with a rack in the middle or upper middle slot, and turn the heat up under your skillet to medium.

When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and tilt the pan so that the oil covers the bottom. Give the oil about 15 seconds to heat, and add the seasoned chicken pieces, skin side down, and let them cook without disturbing for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Flip pieces over (I use tongs) and cook a further 5 minutes. You may need to do this in two batches, if the thighs are particularly large (or if you're using all thighs). After the 5 minutes, remove the chicken pieces to a clean plate. It won't be cooked through yet, so handle according to safe chicken-handling procedures. Add the flour and stir through with a spatula or wooden spoon, dissolving it into the fat and scraping up any dark bits from the chicken-frying stage. Add chorizo and bay leaves to the pan, and sauté lightly for a minute or two until the chorizo colours just slightly, then add the onions, garlic, and celery and sauté lightly for about 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the celery has started to soften. Add the bell peppers and tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes or so, until integrated, then add the beans and stir gently through. Add the wine and the stock and stir again, and then add the chicken pieces on top, arranging them skin-side up in a single layer in the pan. Be sure to include any juices that accumulated on the chicken-holding plate - just pour them in, no need to stir again. Place the fully assembled pan in the oven, and bake uncovered at 165°C/325°F for 1.25 hours.

Spoon a piece of chicken (or two) into a wide, shallow bowl, and serve with plenty of crusty bread, a crisp salad, and the rest of the bottle of wine.

If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it reheats beautifully.

July 30, 2018

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This is from my mother's recipe collection. It's handwritten on a scrap paper, so I have no idea whence the recipe came, but there are quirks and notes that show her particular adaptations. I do remember that we started making this cake when I was about 10 years old, and that we never put walnuts in it, despite their presence as written. Instead, my mother was known to use chocolate chips (including one time, memorably, orange chocolate chips) or just omit the nuts entirely. There may have been an ill-advised attempt to use pumpkin seeds, about which we will speak no more.

As you can see, this is a big cake. It keeps well on the counter, better in the fridge (if you have room), but is delicious enough that it probably won't have to wait around for very long.

A note on grating zucchini: I find that short strands are much easier to work with than long strands, so I recommend slicing the zucchini in half lengthwise almost to the stem, and then holding the two halves together to grate across the cut. This gives very short strands that are easy to use, whether you are making fritters or cakes.

My mother always used soft "golden" brown sugar, but plain white granulated sugar also works fine.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

fills a 10-12 cup Bundt pan/Bundform/Gugelhupfform

125 ml (1/2 cup) canola oil
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
3 large eggs
200 grams (2 cups) grated zucchini
6 grams (1 heaped tablespoon) orange zest
10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
65 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
12.5 ml (2 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
7.5 ml (1 1/2 teaspoons) baking soda
5 ml (1 teaspoon) kosher or coarse sea salt
5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
125 grams (1 cup) chopped walnuts (or chocolate chips) - optional
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk

My mother's ever-cryptic instructions are: Pour into bundt pan, bake at 350° 1 hr. Cool in pan 15 min, then turn out and glaze: mix 2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsps milk, 1 tsp vanilla

For those who didn't grow up with these astonishingly abbreviated instructions, try this:

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F, with a rack in the lower-middle slot. Prepare a 10-12 cup ring-shaped cake pan by spraying with cooking spray, oiling lightly or greasing lightly with butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and sugar and beat with a wooden spoon or whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat again. Add the grated zucchini and the vanilla extract, and stir through.

In a separate, medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder (sifted), baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and optionally walnuts. Add these combined dry ingredients to the wet mixture and start to gently stir together. After a few rounds with the spoon, add the milk, and then continue to gently stir until just combined and there are no more dry streaks in the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick or spaghetti strand poked into the centre comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, before turning out of the pan. Glaze, or let cool completely.

As you can see, the glaze in my mother's instructions is for a standard white glaze, although you could exchange some of the icing sugar for cocoa powder to make a cocoa glaze if you like. You can use pretty much any glaze or frosting/icing you fancy. I've gone a different route here and used a chocolate ganache made from melted down Easter bunnies with added butter and cream. Your mileage may vary.

July 22, 2018

Black Pepper Tofu

There are an awful lot of recipes out there for Black Pepper Tofu, it turns out. So why not one more? This version is adapted from a variety of internet sources, but primarily from Lazy Cat Kitchen. It is intense and delicious, with wonderful textures. Serve over rice or noodles, maybe with a nice bright green on the side (gai lan would be an excellent choice).

Black Pepper Tofu

Serves 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes

For the fried tofu cubes
600 grams firm tofu, diced and pressed
2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
Cornstarch, as needed for dusting
4 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil, divided

Sauce & Assembly
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce, plus extra to make 3 tablespoons (including the leftover from the tofu stage above)
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar (depending how tart you want the sauce)
2 tablespoons honey (brown rice syrup or coconut sugar for vegan)
125 mL (1/2 cup) water
2 level teaspoons cornstarch
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons of minced ginger)
1-2 hot chili peppers, sliced thinly
4 small green onions, sliced thinly
1 rounded tablespoon ground black pepper
Sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)

The following instructions are for frying the tofu cubes, but you can bake them instead if you prefer.

Cut the tofu into large or medium dice – bite sized – and press between paper towels under a weighted cutting board for 15 minutes. Pour off and discard any liquid, and place tofu in a shallow bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons soy sauce over the tofu and very gently stir to coat. Drain the excess soy sauce and set aside to use in the sauce.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil heats, quickly and carefully roll about a quarter of the tofu cubes in cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Place them in the hot oil, well spaced out, and fry gently, turning each piece with tongs as needed to get a crisp golden brown crust on all sides. As each piece is done, (they basically finish in the order they were placed in the pan, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat (in the same oil) with the remaining tofu cubes, in batches, until they are all done. Remove the pan from the heat, pour off any remaining oil, and wipe the pan clean (carefully, because it’s hot) with a paper towel. Put the pan aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

If you are using whole peppercorns, grind them now (grinder or mortar and pestle), because it takes too long to get the amount you need at the point where you need to add it. Put the tablespoon of ground black pepper in a small dish and set aside.

Mix in a separate bowl or 500ml/2 cup measuring cup: soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and 125 mL (½ cup) of cool or room temperature water. Add the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and stir until smooth. Prepare, in separate piles on your cutting board, the garlic, ginger, chilies, spring onions, and black pepper, and have them ready to go.

Return your skillet to medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of oil along with the white parts of the spring onions, the ginger, and sliced chilies. Lower the heat to medium and fry for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and stir through for about 20 seconds.

Carefully stir the sauce bowl, because the cornstarch will drop to the bottom and you want it integrated. Once it is smooth, add the cornstarch slurry to the the vegetables in the skillet, and let it come to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. A flat-bottomed wooden spoon or wok tool is really good for this It will thicken almost immediately. Add the black pepper and then the fried tofu cubes and stir them through until the tofu cubes are coated in the sauce. Add the green parts of the spring onion and stir through quickly to integrate. Serve over rice or noodles, garnishing with sesame seeds if you like.