Category Archives: Recipes

Easy Beef Korma

Fork tender beef korma

Verdict: this is the easiest and most approachable curry recipe. The ingredients are readily available, the steps are easy to follow and the curry produces the most tender beef.

This recipe comes from friend’s mom, Mary, mother of four and exceptional cook. Since she lives in England, I’ve yet to meet her in person but over the last two years,  I’ve got gotten to know her through emails and by cooking her wonderful family recipes.

korma ingredients The humble beginnings of the rich and delicious curry.

I always assumed that korma was dull and served as a mild introduction to Indian cuisine. Whenever I went for Indian food in a large group, the unadventurous diners always chose the korma. This perspective shifted when my friend prepared her mom’s recipe: I was surprised about how much flavour and spice was packed this dish.

Classically, a korma is defined as a dish where meat or vegetables are braised with water, stock, and yoghurt or cream. The korma style is similar to all other braising techniques in that the meat is first seared using a high heat and then subjected to long, slow cooking using moist heat and a minimum of added liquid.

onion plus ginger garlic chili paste Garlic-ginger-chili fried with large chunks of onion.

If you’ve never made at curry at home before, this is the recipe for you. The end product is a creamy curry with very tender beef. The cheap cut of stewing beef is unidentifiable because it’s replaced with beef that falls apart with a fork.

To increase the healthiness of the meal, I added peas to the leftovers which were packed for lunch the next day. It was delicious but I kind of prefer the rich, thick curry with chunks of beef and a stray piece of coriander over the healthy peas.

Searing beef in korma Stewing beef browned in all the spices.

As a general rule, curries taste better the next day so you have a week’s worth of leftovers! This curry also freezes beautifully. The beef is coated in the rich yogurt and tends to resist freezer burn. I store the leftovers in glass mason jars, making sure there’s at least two fingers width of space at the top of the jar to leave room for expansion during the freezing process. Once defrosted and heated up, no one can detect that it’s been in the freezer for months.

Adding cilantro into korma Adding the coriander leaves at the very end.

I can’t imagine a better low maintenance meal. You’re only in front of the stove for 30 minutes yet create enough food to feed a hungry crowd or several frozen meals that save you from cooking on the weeknight or weekends.

You can find coriander powder in your spice aisle but try the international aisle as well; the spices come in packages ten times the size but at the same price. This is true if you shop at Superstore, where I get most of my Indian spices.

Easy Beef korma Super easy beef korma.

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Spicy Sausage and Leek Pasta

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Verdict: an incredible, low maintenance pasta sauce with vibrant tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, infused with fennel. One of my favourite recipes of all time.

In the late 90s, the first Western dish to appear on our immigrant table was spaghetti with meat sauce, about ten years after moving to Canada. My mom was the talented cook in the family with a flair for noodle dishes. She made Vietnamese beef noodle soup with the most flavourful and fragrant broth, twenty variations of vermicelli dishes, and the most incredible and awe-inspiring wonton noodle soup. To everyone’s surprise and delight, it was my dad who introduced pasta into our household. His recipe was simple: oil, onions, garlic, ground beef and canned tomato sauce; we kids could never get enough.

IMG_8477Leeks, garlic and carrots cooked in olive oil.

Since then, I’ve learned different recipes and techniques to create a great tomato sauce. First, it was the addition of sugar to decrease the acidity of the tomatoes. Years later, I ditched the canned tomato sauce and started using whole canned tomatoes. Through the internet, I read whispers of another secret ingredient: grated carrots for Mario Batali’s classic tomato sauce. His recipe was great! The grated carrots replaced the need for sugar and yielded an interesting addition to my pasta sauce repertoire.

IMG_3209Italian sausage infused with fennel and chilies.

Around the time I discovered the Batali recipe, I came across Jaime Oliver’s Bloke Pasta,  which uses chilis and fennel seeds to spice up a lemony sausage pasta dish. I decided to combine the two recipes and haven’t looked back. For a simple, delicious, and unique pasta dish, the recipe presented here is perfection. It is the recipe I will use to introduce pasta to my future children.

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There are so many reasons why I keep going back to this wonderful sauce: it is so fresh, hearty and spicy, with the unique combination of tomatoes, sausage, and fennel. This sauce is great on pasta (linguine and rotini are my favourite) or try it over rice for a lighter, gluten free alternative, perfect for summertime dinners.

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Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Fish stew with rice

Verdict: A hearty and delicious stew of tender fish and succulent shrimp which can be made in 30 minutes. The dill and soft licorice flavours make for a refreshing version of a traditional fish stew recipe.

Memories are the unreliable narrators of life; selective, pleasantly fuzzy around the edges, and often showered in a soft, warm glow is how I recall most of the past. Since enjoying food can be such a wonderful experience, I tend to hold on tightly to the memories of sharing great meals with friends and family.

Adding tomoatoes to fish stewTomato broth with a soft licorice flavour from the fennel (or anise seeds).

Last year, on a dark, blistering cold night in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), I first enjoyed the comfort of this fish stew. My roommate, with a newly acquired recipe collection from her mom, decided to make this on a -40 degrees Celsius winter night, the kind of cold that freezes nostril hairs together and eyelashes shut. In my memory, we huddled over a small table lit by a solitary kerosene lamp while the wind whistled a lonely tune across the Arctic landscape. Dressed in knee-length parkas, we handled the hot bowls of stew with seal skin gloves. Outside, the sled dogs howled for their dinner.

In reality, we ate this over an Ikea wooden table, in our well heated but poorly insulated house, its windows always dewy with condensation in the winter time. I can recall with confidence that the soup was delicious, fragrant and oh so comforting. Like the shrimp niçoise pasta, this was another example of the winning combination of seafood, licorice flavour and tomato based broth.

Dill for the fish stewFresh dill, a herb commonly used in North Vietnamese cooking.

The Mediterranean fish stew recipe reminded me of my mom’s take on fish stew: she poached salmon steaks in a simple broth composed of sauteed shallots and tomatoes, and seasoned with tamarind powder for the sweet and sour element. When the salmon was almost cooked through, she would add fresh chopped dill and large lettuce leaves, which would wilt slightly but retain their crunch. The stew was served with your choice of rice or vermicelli and garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Since I was too intimidated to re-create my mom’s fish stew, I followed my friend’s family recipe and threw in some Viet twists along the way, like the fresh dill and serving it with white rice. Try out this wonderful stew and create some new fuzzy and warm food memories of your own, Arctic themed or otherwise.

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

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Guinness Chocolate Stout Cake

Guinness chocolate cake with coffee ganache

Verdict: The use of Guinness in this recipe creates a soft, dense, and surprisingly moist chocolate cake. The smooth and velvety chocolate ganache is the perfect compliment.

This recipe was found in search of an Irish dish to take to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck. The use of Guinness in a cake was sensational enough to catch my eye – it would be a first in our kitchen – but the selfish reason for choosing this recipe was the undeniable delicious leftovers: cold Guinness in the fridge.

Editor’s note: one or two may also have been enjoyed by both your gracious host and tireless editor during the preparation of this cake.

Guinness chocolate cake in angle food cake panGuinness chocolate cake made in an angel food cake pan.

It was a great experience making this cake for two main reasons:
(1) the recipe was simple and came together quickly
(2) it created strong olfactory memories.

I won’t be able to think about this recipe without recalling how the addition of Guinness to the unsalted butter infused the air with the smell of fresh bread baking. As the cake baked, the promise of chocolate indulgence floated from the oven like a warm spring wind. Even the clean up was surprisingly pleasant. When the warm water from the faucet hit the big mixing bowl, the smell of rich chocolate swept through the the kitchen like a mini choclately vacation.

Guinness chocolate cake with ganacheChocolate cake topped with the deceptively complex tasting yet easy to make ganache.

At first, I was a intimidated by the thought of making ganache; it seemed so delicate and easy to mess up. Wrong! Don’t let its perfect smooth texture, powerful chocolate flavour, and glossy finish fool you. The ganache was super easy to make and came together very quickly. The whisper of coffee flavour enhances the chocolate flavours and gives the impression of a gourmet dessert. I can’t wait to make this again.

One thing I’d do differently is to serve it the same day it is baked. Fresh from the oven, a delectably soft cake topped with warm and smooth ganache, it was intoxicating. Although everyone who tried it the next day loved it and asked for the recipe, we secretly knew that it could be even better.

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Buttermilk and Paprika Roast Chicken

Easy and delicious buttermilk roast chicken

Andrew’s Verdict: This dish provides an excellent, quick, and delicious way to cook chicken, perfect for a Sunday family dinner, or as an easy dinner any night. Experienced and inexperienced cooks: give this one a go. It’s fantastic.

A short, telling introduction: once, while attempting to strain pasta, I came very close to burning down our home.  While I do love food (even if I did not, I believe that anyone who spends a significant amount of time around Linh would come away with at least some appreciation for food, even if it were merely peripheral, like wearing a black sweater and leaning against a chalk-covered blackboard written upon by a favorite professor), I do not possess the full passion which Linh does.

Buttermilk and paprika Buttermilk with Spanished smoked paprika marinade.

So, then, it should be clear: cooking is not my forte.  I’ve never had much experience with it, nor have I had a great deal of success on those rare times when I stretched myself and tried to make a more elaborate dish.

Given my past difficulties, when I asked Linh to suggest a meal that I could prepare, the number one criterion was simplicity. After some thinking, she suggested this dish which originates from Smitten Kitchen; it promised to be a simple, delicious way to prepare roast chicken.  The blurb, beginning with a mouth-watering description of chicken done to a golden-tinged exterior perfection with a rich, flavorful, moist interior from the marinade sold me.

Roast for 30 minutes at 350F Chicken roasted to perfection in 30 minutes.

The marinade was very simple and quick to make.  I used a smoked Spanish paprika, and we’ve since prepared it with regular paprika (paprika can be found in many varieties).  Both turned out delicious, it’s just a matter of taste as to whether you’d prefer a less spicy, smokier, woodsy chicken or a something in the spicier spectrum.  I whipped up the marinade, dumped it in the bag with the chicken, and let it soak overnight. Easy. The original recipe noted that a day-long soak makes a remarkable difference, so that’s what I stuck to this time.   We’ve since made this in a time-crunched two-hour soak, and while still yielding a tasty result, the 24 hour sit is definitely preferable.  Roasting the chicken was a simple matter of 30 minutes in the oven at 425 (for legs; 35 to 40 minutes for breasts is suggested).  As per the recipe, I drizzled the legs lightly with extra olive oil, and sprinkled paprika and some sea salt to taste.

Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli.

Due to my lack of culinary experience (as previously noted), I messed up a bit and ended up with some soggy sides – a serving of broccoli that was on the limp side, and some ill-timed quinoa– which, in turn, caused me to leave the chicken in the oven a bit longer than I should have.  As it turns out, the marinade saved the day by helping to attenuate any errors incurred from my poor form.  The chicken came out of the oven moist and delicious.

Tender morsel of chicken Super moist buttermilk marinated chicken.

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