books, books, books

Here’s a pile of books that my bro gave me for Christmas this year. It’s a mix of novels, manga and, of course, cookbooks. I’ve been on a self-imposed cookbook-buying ban since mid-October so it felt good to get some new food porn.


a christmas feast

This year for Christmas dinner I decided to forgo a whole turkey (mainly because nobody in my fam likes the white meat) and instead roasted the best parts of a turkey—thighs, drumsticks and wings that I scored from Rowe Farms. On the side: sausage-cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes mixed with mashed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus, sautéed corn, gravy and cranberry sauce.


happy holidays

This past week has been spent cooking, baking and eating. We will have a traditional turkey feast tomorrow, but tonight for our Christmas Eve dinner, it was all about Asian eats. Happy holidays indeed! 
Stir-fried noodles with chicken, broccoli and mushrooms.
Korean extra-crispy chicken wings.
The entire menu: rice, noodles, chicken wings and lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly).


momofuku pork buns

Remember when the Momofuku cookbook came out and everybody made the pork buns? Even I did. Twice. The reason being that they are awesome. Making the buns from scratch does take a bit of time (mostly due to the dough having to rise multiple times), but it’s all worth it when you bite into a warm, fluffy bun stuffed with juicy, fatty roasted pork belly. I usually add a smear of sriracha and a few quick-pickled cucumbers (marinate thin rounds in salt and rice vinegar for an hour).
Chang's recipe produces a large batch of the steamed buns, so I  freeze the extras. Just re-steam directly out of the freezer when you need them.
Served with a crunchy Asian salad: shredded cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, sweet peppers, and roasted peanuts tossed with a soy vinaigrette (garlic, soy, rice vinegar, sesame oil, green onions, salt and pepper).
You can find a scaled down version of the recipe here.


indian dinner

On Sunday nights, I usually try to make something sorta special for dinner. Something that would take too long to be made on a regular weeknight. This past Sunday it was homemade butter chicken and naan. I know you can buy jarred butter chicken sauce and even naan practically everywhere these days, but from scratch just always tastes better.
For the butter chicken, I like to add chopped spinach for a bit of greenery. Sorry, no recipe (I winged this one and didn't write down specific measurements).
Making good naan at home without a Tandoor oven isn't impossible. The first time I made this bread, I cooked one side in a pan and the other side directly over the gas flame on my stove. It was pretty messy, but produced the right look and texture.
This time, I cooked one side on a grill pan over the stove, then placed the naan (raw side up) under the broiler. This technique successfully produced those nice charred bubbles from my original attempt, without the mess.

makes 6 naan
3/4 C milk, warmed
1/2 tsp rapid-rise yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 3/4 C bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
melted butter 

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add yeast and sugar to the warm milk. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast "blooms".

2. Add flour and salt to the milk mixture. Let mix on low for about 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and supple. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

3. Divide dough into six pieces. Shape into oblong pieces and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.

4. Heat a cast iron grill pan on high and lightly brush with melted butter. Place dough onto pan and cook for about 3 minutes or until browned. Transfer to broiler (set on high) and broil until slightly charred and bubbles have formed, about 3 minutes. Remove immediately and brush liberally with melted butter.


a victorian christmas

Over the weekend, Seema and I went to Dundurn Castle to see it all decked out for a traditional Victorian Christmas.
The entire castle was decorated just as it would have been when the MacNabs lived there. My favourite part was seeing the tables set and ready for a feast.
Even the servants had a special meal (obviously not as fancy though)during Christmas. That's a pigeon pie on the corner with little talons poking out.
Next, a late lunch at Bread Bar where the focus is on local and seasonal ingredients.
We shared a potato bianca pizza (fontina cheese, fingerling potatoes, bechamel sauce and rosemary)...
...and the toasted tomato, ricotta and basil sandwich along with the loaded fries of the day (poutine-style with curds and mushroom gravy).
We ignored our full stomachs and ordered the mixed berry pie (warm!) and ice cream for dessert. Such a satisfying meal.

*Bread Bar
258 Locke St. S
Hamilton, ON.


o christmas tree

After spending a rainy afternoon scouring the Fiesta Farms garden centre for the perfect tree (who knew there were so many types!), we finally settled on a Fraser Fir (they aren't supposed to shed their needles as much and have a really nice smell). The one we chose ended up being, uh, quite rotund (it's hard knowing how a tree will look once it's unwrapped). Here she is in all her fat glory:
And all dressed up:


green onion pancakes

Here's a step by step look at how to make flaky Chinese-style green onion pancakes. Once formed you can freeze them (with a layer of parchment paper in between each pancake) and fry as needed (no need to defrost).
1. Place 2 cups of flour in a food processor. Drizzle in 3/4 cups of boiling water. If dough looks dry add more boiling water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together. Let dough rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, covered with a damp towel. Divide dough into 4 equal balls.
2. Roll each ball into an 8-inch circle.
3. Brush a very thin layer of vegetable oil over the dough. Sprinkle with salt and chopped green onion.
4. Tightly roll up dough like a jelly roll.
5. Twist and tuck end into the bottom.
6. Flatten with your hand, then roll into a 7-inch pancake. Note: The onions will probably burst out of the roll. It's fine, just push them in. 
7. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and fry over medium heat until blistered and brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes each side).
8. Slice into quarters. I serve mine with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, and sriracha (because I put it on just about everything. It's a serious problem.).


easy as quiche

Whenever I have a bunch of bits and pieces sitting in my fridge, I make quiche. Everything gets mixed up with some eggs and cream and poured into a blind-baked pastry shell. This time I used caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, goat's cheese and bacon.
For the dough, I use this recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

For the filling:

2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
2/3 C heavy cream
1/4 C chopped sundried tomatoes
5 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
1/2 C caramelized onions
1/4 C goat's cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Whisk together the eggs and cream. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste.

2. Pour into a blind-baked tart shell and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the filling is just set.


red pepper jelly

With all that preserving I did over the summer, I totally forgot to replenish my red pepper jelly stock. Luckily, peppers are readily available all year long.
This jelly is sweet, slightly spicy and the perfect addition to any cheese board.

makes 5 half pints 
1 red pepper
5-6 red chili peppers, seeds removed from 2-3 (depending on how spicy you want it)
2 cloves garlic, grated
6 C sugar
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 1/2 C vinegar
1 package Certo liquid pectin

1. Mince all of the peppers using a food processor.

2. Add everything except the Certo in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 5-6 minutes.

3. Take off the heat and stir in Certo. Pour into sterilized mason jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.


kim vietnamese restaurant

What? The Vietnamese have another soup other than pho? That's what I found out during lunch at Kim Restaurant. There they call it Fu Kien noodle soup, but after much online research, I learned that it's also called Hu Tieu. On a Saturday afternoon, almost every table at Kim was filled with patrons chowing down on this tasty pho alternative. 
The Fu Kien special noodle soup came with two types of noodles, beef, seafood and an awesome crispy crepe-like cracker topped with a single dried shrimp. 
The spring roll and grilled pork on vermicelli was totally satisfying with springy thick noodles and lots of roasted peanuts.

Kim Restaurant
546 Dundas St.W 


chocolate cherry toffee cookies

After what feels like a long baking hiatus (it's been a busy couple of months!), I busted out my mixing bowls and measuring cups and got down to business making these cookies filled with plump dried cherries, rich Valrhona dark chocolate and toffee bits.
3/4 C flour
1/4 C + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 C + 2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 C quick-cook oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 C toffee bits
3/4 C dried cherries, chopped
1/2 C butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt

1. Mix flour, baking soda and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream both sugars and butter for 2-3 minutes. Add in egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

3. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Mix in chocolate, cherries, toffee and oats.

4. Form the dough into a log and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for an hour. 

5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough into 1/2-inch rounds and bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes or until edges are barely golden. Let sit on cookie sheet for 1 minute before transferring to cooling rack.


food manga

I've always been a bit of a graphic novel nerd, and lately I've been reading a lot of Japanese food manga. It started with my favourite food manga so far, the Oishinbo series, which I read a couple of years back. Each volume focuses on a category of Japanese food (like rice, sake or sushi). The lead character has a condescending and sarcastic sense of humour which I particularly enjoyed.
I started reading Yakitate!! Ja-pan a couple of months ago. It's about a boy on a mission to create a national bread for Japan. I love how his "gift" is his exceptionally warm "solar hands" that allow the yeast in his bread to ferment faster and rise better when baking. 
Toriko is the most recent addition to my manga collection. It centres around a "gourmet hunter" who specializes in acquiring rare and extravagant ingredients. I've only read one volume, but so far it's action-packed (in a hilarious way).


xmas crafting

This year I am actually going to decorate my apartment for the holidays—tree and all. Problem is that I have absolutely nothing. My mom is kindly giving me a bunch of lights and ornaments, but I also want to add a bit of a personal touch, so Adam and I spent an afternoon crafting.  
I love this pom pom garland! So much so that it'll be hanging in our hallway until we get our Christmas tree.
I rushed through making these pine cone elves (I am not a patient hand-sewer), but I still think they're cute. I'll probably turn these into ornaments and make nicer ones to sit on my shelf.
Adam on the other hand, is a perfectionist. His put mine to shame.
Of course, I made snacks: a retro cheeseball, pigs in a blanket, crispy wontons and onion/herb dip.