Thursday, March 25, 2010

a soup among friends

Sometimes, there is a recipe that gets passed around between friends because it’s easy and delicious.

This is one of those recipes.

My friend Lorelle in Winnipeg gave it to me, and now I’m cooking it in Victoria. Lorelle says her friend gave it to her from a cookbook. (A friendly cookbook, I like to think.*) 

Now, I’d like to pass this along to you, with a couple of changes.

I whipped it up for dinner last night in 45 minutes flat. (I use speed terms like “whip” and “flat” whenever I can make dinner in less than an hour.)

It is full of different veggies, but the lentils and coconut milk bring it all together into one unified soup. My favourite part is the little bursts of green pea.

We ate ours with cheese toast, but don’t be afraid to heat it up all by itself for your lunch tomorrow. It worked for me.

You could also try this with a bit of raita swirled in. Besides being delicious, the cucumbery-yogourt could help calm the soup down if you put in too much curry paste.

Soup’s up!

 Lorelle says the cookbook is called Good Food Fast, edited by Pamela Clark. I'll be checking it out soon. 

A note: I know my amount of curry paste is vague. This, I almost learned the hard way, is because curry pastes differ in intensity and spice. I used about 1 tbsp. of Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste and it was certainly piquant. However, Lorelle uses 3 tbsp. of her local brand of mild curry paste, which is not Thai. Plop in a glob in the beginning, and add more later if you need to.

red lentil coconut curry soup

makes 4-5 bowls

Glob of curry paste
2 tbsp. butter
4 – 5 c. vegetable or chicken stock
14 oz. (400 ml.) can crushed tomatoes
2 large carrots, chopped finely
2 celery sticks, chopped finely
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow-fleshed potato, chopped
3/4 c. red lentils
1/2 c. frozen peas
2/3 c. coconut milk
3 tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped

Prepare your vegetables and set aside.

Heat a big soup pot over medium-low heat. Melt the butter and plop in the curry paste. Cook for one minute or until it’s fragrant.

Add stock, tomatoes, carrots, celery, sweet potato and zucchini. Simmer covered for 5 minutes.

Add potato and lentils to the soup and bring it back to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Add peas and return to a boil. Simmer until peas are just tender.

Remove soup from heat and stir in coconut milk and cilantro.

Share with your friends.

Monday, March 15, 2010

sophisticated marshmallow squares

That is the existential question for the marshmallow square:

Can I be sophisticated?

I would argue yes. Especially when that marshmallow square is made up of dark chocolate, cashew butter, almond butter, and pristine white mini-marshmallows.
(No kiddie pink and green mini-marshmallows here.)

The good thing is, it tastes a lot like the squares you may remember from potlucks in your childhood. Except that this square is grown up and sophisticated, just like you.

Note: You may use any nut butter you please, including peanut. I happen to love almond and cashew.

sophisticated marshmallow squares

makes about 20 squares

8 oz. (250 g.) semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 c. cashew butter
1/4 c. almond butter
1 tbsp. butter
8 oz. (250 g.) white mini-marshmallows

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. (Or in a bowl suspended over boiling water.) Stir in the butter. Remove from heat.

Stir in the nut butters. Let it cool for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper. Cut 1-2 inch diagonal slits in each of the corners to help it sit more snugly.

Pour the marshmallows into a separate bowl. Pour and scrape the melted chocolate mixture on top. Stir it all together with a big spoon until every single little marshmallow is coated.

Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Refrigerate until set – probably just over an hour. Enjoy your grown-up treat.

Monday, March 8, 2010

canadian boterkoek

Boterkoek literally means “butter cake” in Dutch.

Indeed, it is packed with butter, but the main flavour here is almond. If you don’t like almonds, you won’t like boterkoek.

Luckily, I do like almonds. Butter is also one of my main food groups, so this cake makes me very happy.

It’s dense and chewy, with a lovely almond flavour – almost like eating marzipan that has been turned into cake.

This recipe comes from my friend Tara, who is married to a man with Dutch parents. She discovered the happy marriage of boterkoek and icing by a lucky mistake.

One day when she made the cake, she forgot to press almonds on the batter before putting it in the oven.

Once it was baked and she realized her mistake, she made a little icing so the almonds would have something to stick to. She thought it tasted even better with the icing – and I agreed when I was lucky enough to try it – but her husband pronounced: “It’s not Dutch.”

And so I give you this non-traditional boterkoek with icing, which I feel compelled to call “Canadian boterkoek.” After all, we know from the authority: it’s not Dutch.

Note: If you need a gluten-free cake, the options are in the recipe. I’ve substituted ground almonds for part of the wheat flour and they work really well. Even if you can eat wheat flour, I’d recommend subtracting a quarter cup of wheat flour and adding a quarter cup of ground almonds instead.

canadian boterkoek

1 1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. wheat flour (or 1 1/4 c. wheat flour + 1/4 c. ground almonds)
or for gluten-free:
1/3 c. sweet white sorghum flour
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1/3 c. ground almonds
1/2 c. rice flour
2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line an 8 x 8 inch square or 9 inch round pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper with a bit of butter where it will touch the batter.

Mix the sugar and butter together. Stir in the eggs, almond extract and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir the flour(s) and salt together well.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Scrape into the prepared pan.

Bake 25 – 40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.

almond icing

3 tbsp. butter
1 2/3 c. icing or powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. almond extract
(about) 2 tbsp. milk
a few sliced almonds to place on top

Cream the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extract together.

Add the milk teaspoon by teaspoon until you have the consistency you like. (I like it a bit runny – right in between the texture of a glaze and an icing.)

Spread on cooled cake.

Press sliced almonds on top.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

dahl for dinner, dahling

Sometimes during the late winter – OK, early spring in Victoria – I just need a recipe that’s easy, tasty and heats up well in my lunch the next day.

Yellow split pea dahl fits the bill exactly. And if you’d like another positive adjective, it’s also cheap.

My friend Angela in Halifax shared this recipe with me years ago, and it has well earned its spot in my regular winter meal rotation.

I’m not sure how authentic it is, but does that really matter when you like how it tastes? I think not.

I did do a bit of research and found that yellow split peas aren’t used for dahl in India, but are more often used in Indian communities in Guyana and Trinidad.

That’s fine with me. I had great Indian food in Guyana. Serve it up.

yellow split pea dahl

1 c. yellow split peas, rinsed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. gingerroot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 onions, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
3/4 c. canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/8 – 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
3 tbsp. fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
2 – 3 tsp. lemon juice

In a large saucepan, bring the spit peas, salt, turmeric and 2 1/2  cups water to boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat. Cover and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Check every so often to see if it needs an extra bit of water.

If you’d like rice, start cooking it now.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin and fennel and cook for 1 minute.

Add onions and zucchini and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir often.

Add tomatoes, garam masala and cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the split pea mixture. Reduce heat and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a trail. Stir in coriander and lemon juice to taste.

Serve over white or brown rice. My favourites are this one and this one.

Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.