Friday, November 25, 2011

Macaroni in Cheese Sauce

I finally got Jacob to try real macaroni and cheese. He still prefers boxed macaroni and cheese :-(

Anyway, I asked Meredith to teach me how to make proper cheese sauce and she did, but I made one mistake. With such a mild sauce, I shouldn't have used whole wheat pasta. It didn't allow the full flavour of the sauce to come out. The next time I make this, I'll use regular pasta.

Macaroni in Cheese Sauce

1 package macaroni, prepared following package directions
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp salted butter
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Whisk together milk and flour in a sauce pan.
  2. Add pepper and butter and begin to whisk on medium heat.
  3. When butter melts and mixture begins to boil, slowly add cheese, constantly whisking until cheese melts.
  4. Pour mixture over pasta and toss before serving.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Chocolate Mint Macaroons

On a Sunday near the end of October, our neighbour dropped by to ask Meredith for some help with baking. She had a bunch of egg-whites left over from a previous dish and Meredith suggested making macaroons.

Not wanting to make something conventional, Meredith brought some mint extract with her. Clearly, there was already some chocolate waiting to be used.

The end result was a tasty batch of chocolate mint macaroons. Lucky me, I managed to steal a sample before they went away.

Chocolate Mint Macaroons

2 egg whites
1/2 tsp mint extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 325-degrees.
  2. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl beat egg whites and mint extract using an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
  4. Gradually add sugar (1 tbsp at a time), beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in chocolate.
  5. Drop mixture by teaspoon 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Mushroom Quesadillas

I know I missed October,  but it's Movember, and it's time for Secret Recipe Club, hosted by Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking.

This month's assignment is A Southern Fairytale, run by Rachel, who, according to her site is a "deep fried southern belle and aspiring domestic darling."

Well, if I was going to be doing something southern, I was happy to try some Tex-Mex. I found a recipe for mushroom quesadillas that looked quite yummy (and tasted great) and went straight to work. Rachel's recipe had you making full-sized quesadillas by using a full tortilla on the top and bottom. I found that very difficult to flip on the grill - I just haven't had enough practice. Next time, I'll only fill half of the tortilla and fold it over. Flipping it will be much easier.

Mushroom Quesadillas

4 tortillas
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded and divided into 2
5 mushrooms, chopped and divided into 2
1/4 red pepper, chopped and divided into 2
1/4 small onion, chopped and divided into 2
salsa or sour cream for serving
  1. Preheat grill on medium.
  2. Place 2 tortillas on grill and sprinkle with half a portion of cheese each.
  3. Sprinkle on a portion of each vegetable and top with the rest of the cheese.
  4. Place remaining two tortillas on top and gently press down.
  5. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side and let cool for two minutes before cutting using a pizza cutter.
  6. Serve with sour cream or salsa.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Mama’s Bollos con Chocolate (Chocolate-filled Orange Blossom Buns)

There is a very long story attached to these buns, but I won't go through the entire heart-string-pulling bit. My grandmother used to make these buns, and they are my favourite dessert.

I hadn't really had them since my grandmother passed away over ten years ago. I have one cousin who has the recipe, but she refused to share it for reasons I won't discuss here.

Well, after getting my hands on a similar recipe from one of my dad's cousins (which I was asked to not share), Meredith made the buns. They didn't turn out as expected, but the flavour was right. That didn't stop us from sharing a sample with my aunt as it was still the closest to my grandmother's buns that I had ever tasted. I just couldn't share the recipe here.

Fast-forward a few more days and we're getting ready for Rosh Hashanah. My aunt decided to go through some papers from my grandmother and found an original copy of her bun recipe - in Spanish. She translated it and gave us a copy when we got together, and asked Meredith to make a batch for the following Saturday - for breaking the fast after Yom Kippour. My aunt also made it clear that my grandmother was all about sharing the joy that food brings, and I was welcome to share this recipe with my readers.

The second attempt, using my grandmother's notes, was a smashing success. I only hope Meredith wasn't discouraged by the amount of work involved, because I'm so incredibly happy with the result.

While making the buns, we consulted with Penny from Sweet Sadie's baking to fill in a few gaps and answer some questions, and we learned a few lessons. I've also included some additional notes:

1. For our particular stand mixer, we should cut the recipe in half. There's just too much dough and we made an incredible mess.
2. Don't experiment with a milk wash instead of an egg wash. It just doesn't turn out the same.
3. You need to buy a lot of chocolate. A lot. I'm not kidding. Around a pound, depending on the size of the pieces (maybe more). It's best if the pieces you use are maybe 1-2 inches x 1/2 inch or it gets too wide rather than long. We had pieces that were more square in shape.
4. You can make these without chocolate and roll the dough into balls as well.

Mama’s Bollos con Chocolate

2 packs yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
8 eggs
1 cup oil
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup orange juice
2 tsp orange blossom water
rind from 1 orange
11 cups flour
several chocolate bars or 1 bag chocolate chips (at least)
2-3 eggs for egg wash
2 tbsp confectioners sugar (optional)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast and lukewarm water and let sit for 10-20 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar, milk, orange juice, orange blossom water and rind. Whisk together.
  3. Slowly add 4 cups flour to liquid mixture and mix using a large standing mixer with a dough hook.
  4. Add the yeast mixture and mix again.
  5. Slowly add the remaining flour until well mixed. Add extra flour if necessary.
  6. Roll dough into a large ball, place in a large bowl and cover with plastic.
  7. Let dough rise for three hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  8. To make the rolls, press a small handful of dough into a 3 x 3 square. place some chocolate at one end and roll it up. Place rolls on a non-stick baking sheet.
  9. Cover rolls with plastic and let stand for a few minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 335-degrees.
  11. Beat eggs for wash and brush onto buns with pastry brush.
  12. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until buns are slightly golden-brown on top.
  13. Sprinkle buns with confectioners sugar when done.
Buns can be frozen for later use.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Hummus with Meat (hummus bi-lahm)

Whenever my brother-in-law comes to town, we frequently end up eating middle-Eastern food, and his most recent trip was no exception.

The very first time I met him, I had just returned from Israel determined to duplicate the amazing felafel I had near the Western wall. It was served wrapped in a huge piece of thin, round flatbread, contained every salad imaginable (eggplant salad, hummus, moroccan carrots, beet salad, etc., etc.) and it had French fries in it. It was unbelievable. Our apartment smelled like felafel for a week after all of the deep-frying.

Me Va Me on UrbanspoonThe next time, we took him to our favourite Israeli-Mediterranean restaurant, Me Va Me, where Meredith and I had one of our first few dates. On that date, Meredith and I shared a large salad plate (with various Mediterranean salads) and had a couple of pints - more than enough for two people. After finishing, Meredith asked me "why doesn't all baba ghannouj taste like that?" to which I answered, "It does. You just haven't been eating baba ghannouj. You've been eating generic grocery store fake baba ghannouj. If it was real, it wouldn't have mayonnaise in it!" She hasn't eaten the fake stuff since.

Me Va Me's Shawarama is also top notch, as is their felafel, an inexpensive add-on to a salad plate if you're not going to indulge in shawarama or their excellent grilled fish.

Anyway, for this most recent visit, it was actually a coincidence that I was making this particular dish, as I didn't know he was coming at the time. We weren't expecting to see him until Thanksgiving. I had just been reading about different ways to serve hummus when I came across a few article that mentioned serving it with meat, and I realized that I could have a complete meal quite quickly.

One of my tricks when working with ground meat is to use a potato masher in the pan to evenly break-apart the meat.

Hummus with Meat (hummus bi-lahm)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground sumac
500g ground chicken, beef, or lamb
salt and pepper, to taste
1 batch of hummus, already prepared
2-3 tbsp raisins
toasted pine nuts (not pictured above)
1 tomato, sliced chopped
  1. Heat oil in pan on medium and saute the onion until translucent.
  2. Add the cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, cumin garam masala and sumac, and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add the ground chicken, using a potato masher to gently break up any large pieces as the meat cooks.
  4. When the chicken is nearly done, but some liquid still remains at the bottom of the pan, stir in the raisins.
  5. Continue to stir until chicken is done and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. To serve, spread the hummus on a broad platter or shallow bowl. Top with the chicken mixture and garnish with sliced tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.
Serve with warm pita.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sababa Lentil Soup

In another case of the chef not telling the entire story, I stumbled upon the lentil soup recipe for a restaurant called Sababa. Sababa is one of the several Israeli places around Bathurst and Steeles that offer shawarama, felafel, grilled fish, middle-Eastern salads, etc.

Sababa does stand out, however. It's the only restaurant that has its own grocery store where you can get Israeli and Eastern European goodies (canned, preserved and otherwise) to take home with you.

One of the dishes that Sababa is known for, is its lentil soup. I've had it and Another friend of mine was going on about it, so I decided that I should give it a try. Especially because the recipe is right on their website.

Well, I knew something was awry when the soup was boiling and it was clearly far too thick, so I added more water. I also toned the salt down exponentially, and used prepared stock instead of powdered. The original Sababa recipe advises to serve the soup with a wedge of lemon, however, we didn't have any on-hand, so we used around a teaspoon of lemon juice per bowl.

I must say that the resulting soup was okay, but certainly not inspiring. There was too much cumin and I made the mistake of pureeing the soup. Meredith thought it was a little pasty in texture. I won't puree it again.

Sababa on Urbanspoon

Sababa Lentil Soup

1 1/4 cups red lentils
1/2 cup white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
5 cups water
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
lemon wedges or lemon juice for garnish
  1. Soak lentils and rice in warm water and set aside.
  2. In a pot, heat the canola oil on medium and add onion. Saute onion until translucent, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add stock and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Drain the soaking lentils and rice and rinse thoroughly. Add to boiling water and bring back to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and let simmer, covered for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add cumin, olive oil and salt, stir and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges.
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