Cooking School: How to Make Perfect Yorkshire Pudding

Contrary to what many people think, there is no actual ‘pudding’ in true Yorkshire Pudding.

I’m speaking of those delightful, airy baked morsels, know to some as ‘Popovers’, that are traditionally British and served up with a classic roast beef dinner. They originated in Yorkshire, England, but for me, surfaced during my childhood years at the frequent request of my British father.

My mother could never make enough ‘Yorkshire pudd’, as we shortened it to, and now as a mother myself, I’m often in the same dilemma. Roast beef, new potatoes, and vegetable sides all take a back seat when there’s a basket of Yorkshire pudding on the table. Noah can polish off five or six on his own.

Once, at age four, he produced giggles from our guests when he sat stationed with a Yorkshire pudding in each hand, took a bite of their softness and, with a heavenly glance, moaned “Thank you, Lord”.

Sufficiently to say, we’re keeping with British tradition in our house – well those of a puffy nature, anyway. [Read more…]

Chicken Pot Pies with Leek & Lemon

It’s feels natural to jump on the comfort food bandwagon in January. Enough with the holiday finger food, the bowls of nuts, and elaborate dinner parties; what we need now is a one-pot meal to sink our fork into and forget about how cold it is outside.

Although I’ve been making variations on this dish for my family for a while, I might never have posted the recipe if it wasn’t requested by a friend of mine. OK, maybe ‘request’ isn’t the right word, it was more like an order. In fact I believe her exact comment in response to this post was:

“I want your chicken leek pot pie recipe. I don’t like baking, but I like cooking so lets get on with the real food!”

I usually make these in massive batches as they freeze and re-heat wonderfully.

Since we sometimes need ‘heat & serve’ instant meals (little children’s tummies don’t understand waiting), I bake these as I normally would for a dinner, then cool them down, wrap them well and freeze for a later date. I re-heat them in the oven to keep the pastry crisp.

I find blanching my garlic alleviates some of the not-so-fun side effects while maintaining the full flavour that we love around here. However, this is not scientifically proven, just an opinion.

Chicken Pot Pies with Leek & Lemon

This is where comfort food meets gourmet. The addition of leeks, which are perhaps the most underestimated winter vegetable, and fresh lemon zest transforms a ho-hum chicken pot pie into something special that will brighten up a cold winter’s evening.

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and de-germed
3 medium leeks
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried, (thyme is good, too)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup green peas, defrosted if frozen
About 4 cups cooked chicken, shredded

450g puff pastry or 1 pre-made pie crust
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Place garlic in cold water, bring to boil, and boil for a minute or so. Drain and roughly chop. Reserve.

Cut dark green leaves, which are tough, from the leek stalk and discard. Wash leeks well and slice into 1/2-inch (1-cm) sections. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes or until leeks soften. Stir in flour and cook until pale gold, about 4 minutes, adding more butter if needed. Stir in chicken stock, white wine (if using), tarragon, lemon juice and rind.

Bring to boil. Reduce heat, stir in cream and simmer for 5 minutes or until thick and glossy. Stir in green peas and chicken and season well with salt and pepper.

Pour chicken mixture into a 6-cup baking dish or individual ramekins. Roll out pastry 1/4-inch (5-mm) thick to cover top of dish. Place pastry on top of baking dish and press edges to seal. With a sharp knife, pierce pastry once or twice for a steam hole and brush pastry with egg.

Bake pies on middle shelf of oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until pastry is golden and mixture bubbles. I usually set my baking dish or dishes on a cookie sheet as I inevitably get one that overflows.

Cool slightly before serving to avoid burns!

WFD? Lemon & Oregano Roast Chicken with New Potatoes and Asparagus

Spring has been acting a bit like a spoiled brat this year. I can handle the odd outburst or bout of crankiness, but this flat out misbehaving has got to stop. Instead of writing about perfect picnic fare, complete with idyllic photographs of us sprawled on a blanket, dining alfresco by a lake, as I had hoped, I’m posting on that classic winter meal: roast chicken.
It’s June, but the weather has hardly warmed up, and don’t get me started on all the rain and other tantrums thrown by spring. For Pete’s sake, there’s a creek running through my favorite picnic spot from all the rain runoff.

Yeah, so while the rest of you are probably sipping your G&T’s and slurping your gazpacho poolside, I’m roasting a chicken and throwing another log on the fire.

This recipe does hint of spring, though, with it’s roasted asparagus spears, new potatoes, and fresh oregano from the garden. Coating a chicken in lemon and herbs and roasting it is certainly nothing new, but this is basic fare that I find hard to tire of. I use oregano because I have copious amounts of it, but thyme or sage would be just as lovely. Use about half the amount that the recipe calls for if you do switch up the fresh herbs, though.

The potatoes and asparagus are roasted on the side, but do mound them up around the chicken afterward for a beautiful rustic presentation.

Lemon & Oregano Rubbed Roast Chicken
Serves four with leftovers

1 whole organic chicken, patted dry (about 6 lbs)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
two lemons, zested and juiced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a small food processor, combine oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic. Pulse a few times until it looks like pesto. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Using your hands, rub lemon-oregano marinade all over chicken. Lift the skin over the breast and be sure to get plenty of marinade on the breast meat. Refrigerate for 2-8 hours. Remove from fridge about a half an hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken in roasting pan breast side up ( I like to use a clay baker for roasting fowl) and place in oven. Roast about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. At this time, roast your vegetable garnish.

Roasted New Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemon

Enough small new potatoes for four people
a lemon
generous bundle of asparagus
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
sea salt

In a large pot, rinse potatoes and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened, but still raw in the center. Drain and cool.
Snap the ends off of the asparagus and peel the bottom two thirds of the stalk. Slice at a diagonal into two inch lengths.
Crank oven to 450F.
Slice lemon in half lengthwise and each half into six wedges. Toss potatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves and lemon with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and spread out onto a baking sheet. Roast about 12 minutes until nicely colored and potatoes have cooked through. Shake the pan every few minutes during the cooking process to ensure even colouring.
Remove from oven, season with additional salt if necessary, and serve with roast chicken.

In Love With Berries & Cream Pavlova

See? I wasn’t kidding before when I said that I had a parade of desserts coming up. I am trying to make up for those 6 or so pounds that I lost when I was sick. Kidding! I would love if they stayed away–I’ve got to go shopping for a bathing suit soon and am dreading it. Can’t say I’m really trying very hard, though.

All kidding aside, my apologies if this post turns into a sappy love ode to pavlova, but you have to understand just how strongly I feel about this dessert. I hesitated before writing this, because it is probably going to come as close to labeling me as a glutton as I ever want to be; however, you need to know the facts.

This may possibly be the best dessert you’ll ever eat.

What is so great about it? You ask. Well, how does a generous base of crisp sugary meringue with a soft marshmallow interior sound? Oh, no that is not all. It is then mounded–no skimping allowed–with velvety whipped cream, topped with fresh berries and lavishly sauced with a vibrant, tangy red raspberry sauce. It’s magnificent. It’s decadent. It’s impossible to stop eating.

This is the kind of dessert that I could fantasize about climbing in to and rolling around. I wish it came in the size of a swimming pool.
Honestly? Two of us ate this whole thing, and I licked my plate. It was amazing.

I’m realizing I have a thing for fresh berries and I’m convinced it comes from my deprived childhood. Living in the Yukon, a frozen northern Canadian province, it was too cold to grow much in the way of berries, and fruit was ridiculously expensive since it had to get trucked half way up the Alaska Highway. Berries have always been like the ultimate luxury and still are to me. If I can enjoy them bathed in cream and presented on meringue, I’m a really happy girl.

A few notes on the recipe:

  • I don’t sweeten my whipped cream. The meringue is so sweet, it would be overkill, even for a girl with a sweet tooth like me.
  • Really, almost any fruit it good on the pavlova. I slice bananas on top of Noah’s because he doesn’t like strawberries or raspberries (I know, unbelievable. How ironic is it that I longed for fresh berries as a child and he turns up his nose at them.) Nigella dollops passionfruit and lychees on hers.
  • The meringue base can keep for up to two days in an airtight container. Mine stayed nice and crisp, although I’m not sure if I would trust in in hot July weather.
  • Nigella notes that the meringue can be made ahead and frozen for up to one month. It would never last that long in my freezer, but it’s cool to know it works.

Berries & Cream Pavlova
adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Prodigious Pavlova’


4 egg whites

250g sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

500 ml whipping cream (you’ll have leftover for Irish coffees)

about 2 cups of fresh berries or fruit of your choice

Raspberry Coulis:
150 g raspberries (frozen work great)
25 g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and using a 9 inch cake tin and a pencil, trace a circle onto the parchment. Whisk the egg whites until satiny peaks form, then whisk in the sugar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.

Sprinkle the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla over the egg white, and fold in lightly with a metal spoon.

Mound the meringue on to the baking parchment within the circle and, using a spatula, flatten the top and smooth the sides. Put in oven and reduce heat to 325F. Cook for about 50 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely. ( I leave mine for several hours)

Store the meringue in an airtight container until ready to serve. When you are ready to assemble and serve the pavlova, invert the cooled meringue disc onto a large plate or a stand and peel off the baking parchment. Whip the cream until thickened but still soft, and pile onto the meringue, spreading it to the edges in a swirly fashion. Dot the top with fresh berries or prepared fruit.

Puree the raspberries and icing sugar in a blender until smooth, (this can be done ahead of time, too) then drizzle the colorful sauce over the top and sides of the pavlova. Serve immediately.

Relaxing with Lemon Cake

Some people put their feet up in from of the TV when they need to relax, others go for a walk or have a warm bath, but not me, I head for the kitchen.

Last week was a particularly busy one around here and to cap it off, I babysat for a friend on Friday afternoon. I had a four-year-old, a three-year-old, a two-year-old and little Mateo, bouncing around the place and my, it was busy! My nerves were a little shot by the time Danny got home from work and so after dinner he graciously bathed both boys and put them to bed while I headed to the kitchen. I was in need of some baking therapy and I had the perfect recipe to try: Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake from Joy the Baker.

Joy is no stranger to turning to the kitchen after a rough day and she always knows the best remedy for finding your mojo again. I bet she’d make a great girlfriend; she would be the one with a listening ear and a plate of cookies at the end of a long week.

The lemon cake was the ideal way to relax and wrap up the busy week. It is a recipe simple enough to follow with half a brain, as I had that evening, and so fun to put together. My favorite part was rubbing the lemon zest and the sugar together; my hands have never smelled so good!

Danny joined me in the kitchen and did all my dishes. What a sweetie.

Light and tender, tart and moist, you need not ever look for another lemon loaf again.

Lemon Drenched Lemon Cakes

For the Cakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 plump, moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

2/3 cups heavy cream

zest of two lemons, finely grated

1 stick, plus 7 Tablespoons (15 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

juice of two lemons

Making the cakes:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8 1/2-4 1/2-inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Even if the pans are nonstick, it’s a good idea to butter and flour them. Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of lemon. Add the vanilla bean seeds and work them into the sugar. If you are using vanilla extract, add it later, after you have added the eggs.

Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract (if using), then whisk in the cream. Continuing with the whisk, or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

As soon as the cake goes into the oven, make the syrup.
After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color- if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.

Making the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-bladed sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.