Saturday, 31 December 2011

Armchair Novel Review: Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell

Tigerlily's Orchids
by Ruth Rendell

Trade Paperback, 288 pages
Also available as an eBook and a hardcover

This is my favourite Ruth Rendell book so far. 

There is a mystery, deep in the heart of the book, but more than that it is a fascinating tapestry of people and events and an illustration of how each affect each other. 

The residents of Lichtfield House are all invited to a party at the flat of Stuart Font, a beautiful but clueless young man who has taken a year off to find himself. Instead he has found himself in an affair with a married woman, soon to be replaced with a fascination with the mysterious and entrancing Asian waif across the street. 

Complications arise from the associations between the neighbours, in this complex and humourous web of cause and effect. 

I couldn't put it down.  


Friday, 30 December 2011

Lasagne!

Santa gave me a shiny new red lasagne pan this Christmas. I know what that means. I can take a hint. Actually, Santa can also take a hint as Mrs. Claus had told him where they were on sale for 70% off. We are big on hints in this family. Also big on lasagne.

A traditional meat lasagne with creamy bechamel and homemade noodles is the perfect antidote to turkey. Sure, it takes just as long or possibly longer to make, but then again you are making Italian food and therefore allowed expected to drink wine as you cook. Even if you start at noon. It's good to be Italian.

Lasagne
adapted from Tessa Kiros, Twelve
for I♥CC, Winter Wonderland

You will need:
1 batch ragu (about 1 litre/ 4 cups)
1 batch fresh pasta (about 1 lb, 7 oz)
1 batch bechamel sauce (about 1 litre/ 4 cups)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup mozzarella cheese
1 lasagne pan
Lots of red wine

Preheat oven to 350°F
Spread a little bechamel on the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of noodles down. Follow with a layer of ragu, some more bechamel, a sprinkling of Parmesan, and another layer of noodles. Keep going, making as many layers as you can - at least four.
Top with mozzarella and bake 30 minutes. Broil for a minute to toast cheese on top. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve with Caesar salad and garlic toast. And more wine. Of course. 

Ragu

Big splash olive oil
¼ oz dried mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water and chopped (reserve water)
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
Kosher salt
Hot pepper flakes
500 g (1 lb, 2 oz) ground beef
2 Italian sausages, crumbled, or 4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped fine
1 bunch chard or kale, chopped
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups red wine
Basil, oregano, and thyme - to taste.
1 small bunch parsley, chopped

Heat up the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot on medium/high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add ½ the garlic and continue to stir. Season with a good pinch of kosher salt and a good pinch of hot pepper flakes.
Add in your sausage or bacon and continue to cook, stirring regularly.
Add in your ground beef, breaking it up with your spoon or spatula.
When the meat is cooked through, add in the tomatoes and the wine, as well as the chard or kale,  mushrooms and mushroom water. Add in a big pinch each of basil, oregano, and thyme.
Let come to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Add in the second amount of garlic and the chopped parsley at the end. This gives a fresh taste to the sauce.

Egg Pasta
450g (1 lb) AP flour
1 tsp salt
4-5 eggs

Pulse flour and salt in the food processor. Add 4 eggs and continue to pulse. Add the other if you need it to get the dough to come together. It should be stiff but pliable play-doh. Not dry, but not too soft either. Finish kneading by hand and wrap in plastic. Let rest on the counter for a half hour.
Roll into lasagne sheets using your pasta roller. I use the KitchenAid ones. Go by manufacturer's instructions.

To cook: Set a large pot to boil, salt liberally. Add a splash of olive oil so they don't stick. Add pasta and stir now and then to make sure they are not sticking. Boil about 4 minutes, or until softened.

You can either lay cooked noodles on a cloth or oiled sheet pan.

Bechamel
1 litre (4 cups) whole milk - warmed
100 g (3½ oz) butter
80 g (3 oz) AP flour
salt
pepper
fresh grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan, heat up butter on medium. Add in flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add warm milk in by ladle-full, whisking well with each addition. Season to taste (liberally) with salt, pepper, and fresh ground nutmeg.


IHCC Tessa Kiros Button IHCC

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Armchair Novel Review: 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

77 Shadow Street
A Novel
by Dean Koontz

Hardcover, 464 pages
Also available as an eBook and in large print trade paperback

Warm blanket - check.
Hot cup of tea - check.
Lights on in every room in the house - check.

Okay, it's time for the master of horror and suspense!

Dean Koontz's 77 Shadow Street is just in time to put some post-Christmas icicles in your veins.

I am the One, the all and the only. I live in the Pendleton as surely as I live everywhere. I am the Pendleton's history and its destiny. The building is my place of conception, my monument, my killing ground. . . . 

The Pendleton is a luxury building that stands at 77 Shadow Street. Once the palace of a wealthy business tycoon and his family, it now houses the luxury suites of an assortment of fascinating characters.

Silas Kinsley, widowed and retired, spends his time studying the frightening history of the estate. Madness and murder have plagued the building since the late 1800s, seemingly on a predictable schedule. By his calculations that time is now.

Koontz lets us into the minds of a myriad of characters as we experience the horror of the Pendleton with them. Past, present and future, reality is bent and twisted in one night of horrific terror.

The master of suspense, he winds the tension ever tighter - bouncing from one point of view to the next in a frenzy to the finish.

A most satisfying roller coaster ride to get your heart racing.

Click here for an interactive web experience of 77 Shadow Street. 
Click here for Dean Koontz's website.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sourdough Seed Bread

Seedy isn't always a bad thing. When it comes to bread it can be downright wonderful. Seedy bread goes great with cream cheese. In fact it loves cheeses of all varieties.

As an added bonus - all those seeds are good for you. This makes eating delicious carbs almost guilt-free. Or that's what I tell myself, anyway. You know, when my mouth isn't full.

Sourdough Seed Bread
adapted from Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman
for the Mellow Bakers

The Night Before:

Sourdough starter
4.8 oz Bread flour
6 oz Water
1 oz Active sourdough culture

Mix sourdough starter ingredients together in a bowl, cover and let rest overnight - 12-16 hours.


Soaker
2.2 oz Flaxseeds
6.7 oz Water

Mix soaker ingredients together in a smaller bowl. Cover and let rest overnight - 12-16 hours.

The Next Day:

Dough
1 lb, 8.6 oz Bread flour
2.6 oz Rye flour
3.8 oz Toasted sunflower seeds
1.9 oz Toasted sesame seeds
11.3 oz Water
1.5 Tbsp Salt
1 tsp Instant dry yeast
All of last night's Soaker
All of last night's Sourdough starter

Everyone into the stand mixer! Mix on low with the dough hook for 3 minutes. Scrape down sides if necessary and mix on medium for 3 minutes. Form into a ball and let rest, covered, one hour. Fold in onto itself and let rest another hour. Fold again and let rest 45 minutes.

Divide dough in half and form 2 loaves. I like to go with long, French style loaves.
Let rise until doubled, this may take a few hours.
Preheat oven to 440°F
Score and bake loaves for 30-40 minutes, depending on how you shaped them.
Long, thinner loaves don't take as long to bake.
Make sure instant read thermometer reaches 206°F
Let cool on racks.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

MellowBakers.com

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Armchair Novel Review: The Bomber

The Bomber
Written by Liza Marklund

Translated by Neil Smith
Paperback, 528 pages

Also available as an eBook

Scandinavia continues to send us the most compelling mystery and detective fiction.

The Bomber features a feminine twist on the hard-nosed investigative reporter that we loved so much in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series.

Annika Bengtzon is a crime reporter who juggles family life, workplace misogyny and politics while doggedly pursuing her stories. She is awakened in the middle of the night with news of the bombing of the Olympics Stadium in Stockholm. One person has been killed in the blast. No terror or protest groups have claimed responsibility and few clues are left at the scene. She throws herself into the case, working day and night to unravel the mystery of the bombing, when another bomb goes off. Another body is found and, as Annika gets closer to solving the mystery of The Bomber, she finds her own life is at stake.

The Bomber is an intelligently written procedural mystery novel from a female crime reporter's point of view. It starts off with a bang and races breathlessly to the ultimate climax. Larsson fans will be thrilled to discover the books of Liza Marklund.

Also by Liza Marklund:
Red Wolf
Exposed

By Liza Marklund and James Patterson:
Postcard Killers

www.lizamarklund.com


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Gravlax with Dill Cucumbers

My husband and I are big on holiday "picnics". Both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and quite often my Birthday Eve and Mother's Day Eve, we have a beautiful array of cheeses, breads, olives, pâtés, crunchy fruits or veggies and, on extra special occasions, I will make gravlax.

Have you ever had gravlax? If you like smoked salmon, you will like gravlax. The fish is cured in a seasoned salt/sugar mixture, in your fridge, for 3-4 days - depending on the recipe. It is a little more intense than smoked salmon, but I like that. Plus, you have the joy of knowing you cured it yourself. Huzzah!

Wiki on Gravlax
Gravlax or gravad lax (Swedish), gravad laks (Danish), gravlaks (Norwegian, Danish), graavilohi (Finnish), graavilõhe (Estonian), graflax (Icelandic) is a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Gravlax is usually served as an appetizer, sliced thinly and accompanied by hovmästarsås (also known as gravlaxsås), a dill and mustard sauce, either on bread of some kind, or with boiled potatoes.
History

During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means "grave" or "to dig" (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Estonian), and lax (or laks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax means "buried salmon".

Today fermentation is no longer used in the production process. Instead the salmon is "buried" in a dry marinade of salt, sugar, and dill, and cured for a few days. As the salmon cures, by the action of osmosis, the moisture turns the dry cure into a highly concentrated brine, which can be used in Scandinavian cooking as part of a sauce. This same method of curing can be used for any fatty fish, but salmon is the most common.


Gravlax with Dill Cucumbers
adapted from Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries
for I♥CC Holiday Goodies

Gravlax
½ cup white sugar
2/3 cup coarse salt
2½ cups fresh dill
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 whole fillets salmon (cleaned and deboned, with skin left on)

Dill Cucumbers 
1 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt

Chopped fresh dill, lemons and capers for garnish.


Make the Gravlax:
Combine the sugar, salt, dill and pepper in a bowl. Lay a sheet of wax or parchment paper down and place 1/3 of the mixture down. Pat out about the size of the fillet. Place the fillet, skin side down, on the salt mixture. Place another 1/3 of the mixture on the fillet. Pat to coat evenly. Place the second fillet on top, skin side up. Place the last third of the mixture evenly on top and wrap up in the parchment or wax paper. Place bundle on a sheet of foil and wrap again, firmly Place bundle in a small dish to contain it.
Let sit in the fridge for 4 days, turning every day.
Scrape off mixture (or rinse, for a less salty flavour).
Peel off skin and slice the fish thinly.
Serve with the cucumbers, lemon, and capers. Good mustards are also nice, like this Finnish Mustard that my friend Sue made from the same book.

Make the Cucumbers:
Combine the dressing ingredients and pout over the thinly sliced cukes in a shallow bowl. Let sit at least 2 hours.




IHCC IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

Friday, 23 December 2011

Unquenchable

Unquenchable
A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines
Written by Natalie MacLean

Hardcover, 368 pages
Also available as an eBook

When I was young wine seemed so grown up. It had its own glass and everything. At that point I knew 4 types of wine: red, white, pink and bubbly. I bought cheap wine because.. it was cheap. This is how most of us begin our wine journey.

As I grew up I learned a little more about wine. I have incorporated it into my life like a good friend and while I might not know much if you stand me beside an expert - I have learned a few things along the way.

I have even read a couple of books on wine. Let me tell you - a book on wine can be drier than chalk. I  generally end up reading the same paragraph four times and then falling asleep. (And this is without the addition of an actual glass of wine by my side.)

Until I discovered Natalie MacLean. I read Red, White, and Drunk All Over about five years ago and it both tickled and educated me at the same time. Reading Natalie's books is like having a good friend bring you along on her wine-soaked adventures.

Natalie never forgets one of the most important things about wine - it's fun!

In her new book, Unquenchable, she travels to eight different wine-producing regions to discover what makes them unique. She focuses on a few wineries from each place, tasting their wares from the highest offerings to the bargain bottles. (It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.) By identifying the reliable producers of good table wines, she is able to discover and recommend a fine variety of budget-friendly bottles for your collection. After all, wine should not be the prerogative of the very wealthy, nor should it be so rarefied as to be only consumed on major holidays. 

The chapters include:

A Nose for a Bargain: Opening Thoughts
1. Sunday: The Wine Wizards of Oz
2. Monday: The Unbearable Lightness of German Riesling
3. Tuesday: Helicopters, Hawks, and Hellacious Ladybugs
4. Wednesday: The Cape Crusaders of Africa
5. Thursday: Vino Under the Volcano
6. Friday: A Smouldering Liquid Tango
7. Saturday: A Storm of Pleasure in Every Port
8. Sunday: La Vie en Rosé en Provence 
Drinking My Words: Closing Comments

But I have to say my very favourite thing about Natalie MacLean's books is her inviting manner of weaving intimacy and humour with knowledge. You feel like you have made a friend when you read her books, and in a way you have. 

Her website acts as an interactive companion to her books. At http://www.nataliemaclean.com/ you can find wine and food pairings, wine ratings, insider wine tips, and access to her free newsletter. You'll never feel stuck again! 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Garlicky Herbed Monkey Bread

Why is it called monkey bread? There are many theories. It is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Monkeys pull apart their food like this bread is pulled apart. It is often served to children who are, for all intents and purposes, monkeys...

Mostly I think it is fun to say monkey bread. You could also call it bubble bread or pull-apart bread, but you won't have the same sense of glee in your voice.

Monkey bread is made either sweet, generally with sugar and cinnamon, or savoury. Once you make a couple, you will realize that you can probably flavour it however you want. Like this Bocconcini Stuffed Mediterranean Bacon Pull Aparts that I made last year. I still dream about that bread. The world is your oyster. Or monkey bread.

If you are a fan of garlic and herbs (and really, who isn't?) give this one a try! 

Garlicky Herbed Monkey Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

Dough
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1¼ tsp salt
3 Tbsp white sugar
4 Tbsp butter, room temp
¼ cup dry milk powder
¼ cup potato flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp lukewarm water

Herb oil mix
1 Tbsp each - thyme, oregano, basil
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or finely minced
Pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil


Mix all dough ingredients in your stand mixer with the dough hook. 3 minutes on low to combine and then 3 minutes on medium to knead. Turn out onto a board and knead a couple more minutes, forming the dough into a smooth ball. Place ball into a clean bowl, cover, and let rise one hour.

Butter a bundt pan well. 
Divide dough into 32 equal-sized pieces. Roll into balls.
Cover with a tea towel while you mix herb oil ingredients.
Place 1/3 balls in the buttered pan.
Drizzle or brush 1/3 of the herb oil mix over them.
Repeat 2x more.
Cover and let rise 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Bake for 25-35 minutes.
A darker pan will brown/bake faster.
Turn out onto a plate or board and eat while still warm.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Joy of Giving

Last minute shopper? Me too. Well, I am an early shopper and a last minute shopper. There seems to be a lull in the middle where I don't get much done. Sort of like staring into the headlights, or Christmas lights, as it were.

Here are a few ideas for you, in case you are feeling stuck. Happy shopping!


Let's start big, shall we? For the cook who longs for the very best - the new KitchenAid 13 cup food processor. It has adjustable slicing, as well as the shredding and julienne disks, chopping and mixing blades. It also has variable speed and a three in one wide mouth feed tube. But, most importantly - it is one totally sexy machine!

For Family Cooking - these are my favourite family-style cookbooks of the year.

 John Besh's My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking

Trish Magwood's In My Mother's Kitchen: Three Generations of Simple, Delicious Food.
~
For the exotic cook on your list - how about a tagine and a book on tagine cooking? Bring the flavours of Morocco to someone special.

Wine

Got a wine lover on your list? How about a basket with a lovely bottle of vino, some cheese and grapes and a copy of Natalie MacLean's Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines.

If you're lucky they might share! 

Reading
For the readers on your list - Jann Arden's Falling Backwards is a tender and humourous look at the singer/songwriter's early years.


Give the Gift of Flavia!


Alan Bradley's 11-year old sleuth Flavia de Luce will warm the heart of the mystery-loving reader on your list.Think of Sherlock Holmes as a young girl. A delightful series!


For a darker, more complex mystery series - Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole books are gritty and intense and intelligently written. He is currently my favourite author.


 ~
And, most importantly, give to those who need it most.

There are many charities who would be thrilled to have your generosity shared with them. Don't be overwhelmed with choice, just pick something that means a lot to you and give what you can.

If your favourite Aunt Martha was taken too soon by disease, you might want to fund research in her name.
If cats are near to your heart, you may want to donate to a rescue agency.
There are many lands far away that need a helping hand due to famine and natural disaster, as well as people in your own community. Find what means the most to you and give generously.

Don't have much money? The gift of time is the ultimate in generosity - consider volunteering your time to a shelter, retirement home, or any other organization in need in your community.
There is a reason they call it the season of giving. The best thing - you will feel great!

Monday, 19 December 2011

In My Mother's Kitchen, by Trish Magwood

Heather's Pick at Indigo!
In My Mother's Kitchen
Three Generations of Simple, Delicious Family Food
by Trish Magwood

Hardcover, 256 pages

Trish Magwood, author of the James Beard Award winning Dish Entertains, host and co-creator of Party Dish, believes in the family table. It was there that she learned about food, about love, and the importance of family.

In these rapid times it is difficult to find the time to recreate the kitchen culture of our mothers and grandmothers, but Trish does so by providing simple meals that even the busiest families can share.

Calling on the recipes of her own mother and grandmother, In My Mother's Kitchen offers wholesome, straightforward dishes from three generations of her wonderfully food-centric family.

Everything from breakfast to dessert can be made simply and fairly easily. After all - as an author, chef, and food & lifestyle consultant - Trish knows what it's like to be a working mom.

Filled with inviting family recipes, as well as beautiful full-colour photos - you will be inspired to bring the family table back to your home.

In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we delighted in these homey recipes all week:
Family Granola
To quote my husband, "amazing". Simply the best granola recipe that we have ever had.

You can find a sneak peek of this family granola recipe on Trish Magwood's website.

Skinnier Caesar Salad
All the flavour and no guilt! We served this lightened-up Caesar salad with the Sunday roast for what had to be my son's all-time favourite meal, ever.

Sunday Roast Beef Dinner
Tis the season for standing rib roasts, and we loved this roast beef dinner. Trish uses small potatoes with her roast but I had regular ones on hand so just cut them in half. What a treat!

Stewie's Yorkshire Puddings
My husband is the Yorkshire Pudding king. I made the batter for him and he baked them when the roast came out of the oven. They were perfect!
~
And these ginger cookies are perfect for your holiday table, or simply with a nice pot of tea.
Stewie's Ginger Cookies
Stewie's Ginger Cookies
from In My Mother's Kitchen, by Trish Magwood
reprinted from an article on the book on NBC Today Show: Food

Ingredients

    3/4 cup butter (at room temperature)
    1 cup sugar (plus additional for rolling)
    1 egg
    1/4 cup molasses
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. ground ginger
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in molasses until well combined.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Stir into batter until just mixed.

Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in white sugar to coat. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Do not flatten.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies just start to crack.

Let sit on cookie sheets for several minutes, then transfer to flattened brown paper bags or racks to cool.

Variations: For special ginger cookies, stir in 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger before shaping into balls.

For the chocolate lovers, once cookies are formed on the cookie sheet, gently press a small chunk of good-quality milk chocolate into the top.
Serving Size

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Awesome links:

Trish Magwood on CityLine

and on the NBC Today Show

In My Mother's Kitchen is also available as an iPad app!