scotch egg arancini

arancini scotch egg

weirdly, i have never eaten a scotch egg. a proper, classic scotch egg, covered in sausage meat and deep-fried. i had been a vegetarian on and off for years before ceasing all meat consumption several years ago, so any opportunities i had to make them or eat them just never happened.

arancini on the other hand, i eat whenever i get the chance. they are those adorable little balls of leftover risotto, filled with cheese or tomato, covered in crumbs and fried to golden perfection. in france, deep-fried balls of leftover anything are called croquettes, and other cultures have different versions using lentils or potatoes. arancini are a great way to use up leftover risotto.

so in my usual fashion i’ve come up with a vegetarian alternative, and also mashed-up two classics: arancini, and scotch eggs. instead of cloaking a boiled egg in sausage meat, (or worse, fake sausage meat!) i’ve done these up with risotto, and voila, scotch egg arancini.

i get my eggs from a local farm gate, and before that, i raised my own. the yolk colour in the picture says it all, don’t you think? the chickens roam free and happily dine on grass and bugs.

i love to serve these as a first course for a casual dinner party, with some homemade roasted tomato ketchup, or my great-grandmother’s chili sauce. for cocktails, i’ll use teeny quail eggs, also from a local farm. the scotch egg arancini can be fried ahead and reheated just before serving.

here i’ve used a mushroom and white truffle risotto, but any kind will do. if you prefer a softer egg, do not bring the water back to the boil after adding the eggs, but i like them just like this, slightly soft but completely cooked through.

arancini scotch eggs

scotch egg arancini

8 small eggs, at room temperature (from free-ranging chicken, if you can)
4 cups leftover risotto, cooled
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
1 1/2 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
vegetable oil for frying

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. slowly lower the eggs into the water. using rom-temperature eggs helps with cracking, but what i do is use a slotted spoon and raise and lower the eggs a few times into the hot water to warm them before plunging them in completely. when all eggs are in the water, bring back up to the boil for just an instant. remove from heat and allow eggs to stand in the water until cool enough to handle. peel eggs and place on a paper towel. place a sheet of parchment on a small baking sheet.

place the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate dishes. in the biz we call this creating a breading station! add the parsley to the flour and mix to combine. roll an egg into the flour and shake of excess. using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out the risotto and put in your hand. made an indentation in the middle, and place the egg into it. press the rice around the egg to coat completely with the risotto, pressing to cover all of the egg. place on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining eggs. chill 10 minutes. roll each egg in flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. return to the baking sheet and chill until very cold, 1 hour. replace the parchment on your baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

fill a deep pot with 3″ of oil, or use a deep-fryer. heat oil to 350f. if you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, use a cube of bread to test the oil. toss it in and see if it sizzles and browns right away. if not, heat a little more.

fry the arancini a few at a time, until the outside is golden brown and crispy, about 3 1/2 minutes. remove with a slotted spoon to your paper towel lined tray. allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot with a tomato-ey accoutrement, such as marinara sauce, roasted tomato ketchup or chili sauce.

can be made ahead and reheated by baking at 400F for 7-10 minutes.

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tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri is a lovely spicy cheese dip which serves as part of meze. this is a very fine tradition indeed. small plates of flavourful dips and other dishes are served alongside aperitifs at the beginning of a meal, or as a meal itself. my friends and family and i eat in this casual fashion quite often, so i generally have some dips on hand and make tyrokafteri alongside some labneh, hummus, or taratour. we make a big salad, toss some olive-oiled pitas on the grill to blister, and we have dinner.

a nice thing about this spicy feta dip, is that is gets quite firm when chilled, which means it can be moulded and turned out like this terrine. i like how it can be sliced and served on appetizer plates, or if i’m feeling really fancy, prepared in a smaller mould and served with a small salad and bread for each guest at a dinner party.

you may have seen a white version of this, which is essentially cheese and green chilis. this one has a few more ingredients, and a more complex flavour to match it’s warm, summery colour and gentle heat.

tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri terrine

250g good feta cheese
3 tbsp. very thick strained yogurt (labneh) or cream cheese
squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp good quality greek olive oil
1 each roasted red, yellow, and orange peppers
1 tsp. crushed hot red chilis or boukovo (hot greek chilis)
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
extra olive oil, for drizzling

place the feta in a bowl of cold water and allow to stand for 20 minutes to remove excess salt. cut the roasted peppers in half, reserving one half to layer in the terrine. drain the feta and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, the pepper halves, hot chilis, and paprika. process until very smooth and creamy.

chop the reserved pepper halves into a very fine brunoise, or tiny little dice. mix together to distribute the colours. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp of olive oil, and stir in the chives.

line a 2 cup container with plastic wrap, or use 4 small ramekins, and leave an overhang. Place the chopped peppers in the bottom of the mold, or divide evenly among ramekins. Scrape the tyrokofteri into the mould(s) and smooth the top. cover with the overhanging plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours, better still, over night.

turn out terrine onto a plate. remove plastic wrap and smooth the edges with a small palette knife. drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm, grilled or oven-warmed pitas. Serves 4

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ontario maple pecan cake with salted buttercream

ontario maple pecan cake

maple syrup is an absolutely wondrous thing. sweet liquid tapped from a tree is boiled down to make a syrup that is unique in flavour like nothing else i can imagine. it’s one of the many lovely things about living in canada, and in ontario in particular. the season is short, and for that reason the product of maple sugaring is rare and expensive. yet it’s an affordable little luxury, one worth indulging in to enjoy its smoky-sweetness, dripping down a stack of pancakes or fluffy buttermilk waffles on a lazy sunday, or used to make a special dessert.

when we had a special birthday to celebrate, i decided that springtime and maple syrup season should also be celebrated, and so i made this ontario maple pecan cake. the cake itself, studded with pecans, is easy to bake, and at the end, it gets layered with fluffy mounds of the most silky of embellishments, a buff-coloured french meringue buttercream made with pure maple syrup. heaven!

i hope you make this cake at least once. you’ll love the results, and won’t believe how easy the buttercream slides over the cake, or holds a piped peak.

ontario maple pecan cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups ontario syrup
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided.

1 recipe of ontario maple french meringue buttercream
flaked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350º. butter and line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment.Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside. Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat the butter until it has a creamy, mayonnaise-like consistency. (Placing warm hands on the bowl while it beats is helpful) Pour in the maple syrup, and add the eggs, one at a time. the mixture will look broken, not smooth. in a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. add the flour mixture all at once, and pulse to combine. pour in the cream and vanilla, and mix a few more times until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans. divide batter between the two pans, and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate pans and bake 20 minutes more, or until cake tester comes out clean. cool on racks. when completely cool, slice each layer in half horizontally. spread each layer with 1/2 cup of maple buttercream. mask cake with buttercream, and decorate as you wish. we used a naked base and a star tip for the top. sprinkle with remaining nuts and a pinch pf the flaked sea salt.

salted ontario maple french meringue buttercream

i start with unsalted butter because it tastes fresher, then salt to my liking with sea salt.

6 yolks from large eggs
2 cups ontario maple syrup
1 pound of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat egg yolks on high speed until very light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. place the maple syrup in a large pot and bring to a boil. use a candy thermometer and bring the syrup to 240º, or the soft ball stage. this can take 10-15 minutes.
with the electric mixer running, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg-yolk mixture, about 1 1/2 minutes. continue beating until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes. switch to the paddle attachment, and toss in the pieces of butter until it is all incorporated. beat a couple of minutes more, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. add the sea salt to taste. use right away.

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crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

i don’t miss meat, but man do i miss the idea of something crispy and southern-fried! that initial crunch yielding to something tender and juicy inside, hot and crisp with a bit of salt and spice. this crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower recipe came from those dark, evil food-craving places we all have, and my basic desire to make something fried.

cauliflower is the perfect candidate for the southern-fried treatment. it’s got all those little hills and valleys to cradle the crispy batter, it cooks quickly, and it comes out juicy and flavourful. i can also say with certainty, this is perfect with a little ranch dip or spicy-sweet barbecue sauce for dipping. you could also use smaller pieces and make this as a little appetizer (popcorn cauliflower?)

make it this weekend, and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment, or better yet, show me your results on instagram and tag me.

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, broken up into 3-inch rough pieces
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for shallow frying

place buttermilk in a medium bowl. in a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, basil, and cayenne.

line one baking sheet with parchment paper, and another with a double thickness of paper towelling. (a layer of newspaper underneath will keep your tray clean). dip the cauliflower pieces in the buttermilk, then toss in the flour mixture to fully coat. repeat, then place the pieces on the parchment lined tray. in a large skillet with straight sides, heat 1″ of vegetable oil to 350F. without crowding the pan, cook the cauliflower pieces in two to three batches, for 8 minutes, turning a few times during cooking to brown all sides. when evenly browned and crispy, place cauliflower on the paper towel lined sheet to drain for a few minutes, then serve.

to make ahead, fry all cauliflower, and place on a rack over a baking sheet. reheat by baking at 400F for 15 minutes, or until hot and crisp.

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mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

it’s been a weird april here in ontario. cloudy days and snowy, wind-chill factor nights are keeping the flowers at bay and prolonging that sweet anticipation that spring will, eventually, arrive. that’s just how it is here. spring will come, and so will the heat of summer.

it’s also monday.

so how about some chocolate, with a hint of spicy chili, no less?

one of my favourite things to enjoy in hot weather is a cold cup of drinking chocolate. these little desserts combine classic chocolate pots de creme with the flavours of an icy mexican drinking chocolate, flavoured with a whiff of cinnamon and an ever-so-subtle ht of chili spice.

best of all, this takes 10 minutes to prepare.

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

250g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half or 18% cream
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of sea salt
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream
shaved chocolate and cinnamon for dusting

place the chocolate into the bowl of a blender. in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the whole milk, half and half, egg yolks, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until mixture is thick and custard-like, and coats the back of a spoon. scrape into blender bowl. carefully blend until smooth, holding a towel over the opening and allowing steam to vent. pour mixture into dessert dishes. chill until cold.

whip the 1/2 cup of whipping cream and spoon over pots de creme, and garnish with chocolate shavings and cinnamon. makes 6-8 servings.

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good stuff #7- spice blends

spices are the soul of cooking. they are deep and rich and complex, with the ability to infuse the simplest and blandest of ingredients with a deep and authentic taste-of-place. if you’ve never made your own spice blends before, it’s as easy as anything. think of chili powder and curry powder, or herbs de provence. these blends have become so familiar that you can buy them at every grocery store, but do you know what is in them? what if you like your blend a little spicier, or like to go easier on one spice or another? i accept i’m a tad weird but i adore the alchemy of making spice blends. i can taste and smell each component and know exactly what spice is adding a sweet or hot or earthy note.

making your own also guarantees a higher level of freshness, and if you have a mortar and pestle, or a small electric spice grinder, even better: you can keep the blends whole and grind as needed. i guarantee you will notice a big difference in flavour from pre-ground spices.

ras el hanout
1 broken up cinnamon stick  – 1 tsp sesame seeds 1 tbsp ground ginger  15 black peppercorns – 1 tsp. ground nutmeg – 1 tsp. fennel seeds – 1 tsp. coriander seeds – 8 whole cloves – 8 allspice berries – 8 cardamom pods – 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes – pinch of ground mace

 

this is the beautiful and aromatic blend from north africa that gives moroccan tagines their fragrance. the name translates to “top-shelf”, meaning these are the best spices the merchant has to offer. use in the aforementioned tagine, or stirred into couscous or rice. i especially love to make a moroccan-style salad of cucumber, tomato, mint, and ras el hanout.

 

 

berbere
5 tsp. chili flakes – 1 tsp. ground ginger – 4 cardamom pods – 1/4 cinnamon stick, broken up – 1/2 tsp. each fenugreek, ground nutmeg, black peppercorns, coriander seed, allspice berries, ajwain, and whole cloves – 5 cassia buds

similar to ras el hanout, baharat is used in turkish dishes and very often mixed with olive oil as a marinade. i like to rub it on tofu steaks or add a pinch to hummus, and it’s great with any eggplant dish.

 

 

berbere is one of the distinctive spice blends of ethiopian cuisine, a rich, dark-red blend that gives shera wat and other slow-cooked dishes their fire. also try it tossed with fried potatoes alongside your morning eggs, or mix up with olive oil and tumble some cauliflower before roasting.

 

 

baharat
1 tsp cardamom pods – 3 tsp allspice berries – 3 tsp whole cloves – 4 tsp. black peppercorns – 4 tsp. cassia buds – 3 tsp. coriander seeds – 4 tsp. cumin seeds – 3 tsp. ground nutmeg – 6 tsp. ground sweet paprika

 

 

similar to ras el hanout, baharat spice blends are used in turkish dishes and very often mixed with olive oil as a marinade. i like to rub it on tofu steaks or add a pinch to hummus, and it’s great with any eggplant dish.

 

 

 

 

andalusian spices
equal parts smoked paprika – fennel seed  cumin seed – coriander seed – granulated garlic – peppercorns – oregano leaves – crushed bay leaves – and a pinch of saffron threads

 

 

in spain, tapas-sized skewers of meat called pinchos are rubbed with this blend before grilling, but it’s also a wonderful seasoning for short grain rice, or rubbed with olive oil and lemon juice on peppers and tomatoes before roasting or grilling.

 

 

 

chinese 5-spice blend
equal parts cinnamon bark – star anise  sichuan peppercorns – cloves – fennel seed

 

 

it seemed that for a while there, 5-spice had a bit of a bad name. it had been over-used and the powdery blends at the grocery store were truly bad. but freshly made 5-spice is great, perfect for dusting on fried tofu or seasoning rice.

 

 

 

 

shichimi togarashi
equal parts red chili flakes – ground sancho (japanese red pepper) – dried orange peel  black sesame seeds – white sesame seeds  brown sesame seeds – hemp seed – ground ginger – dried nori

 

i use this japanese pepper blend everywhere. it’s used in this recipe for tofu with spicy salt, and i scatter it over rice and noodle bowls, or sprinkle it onto kale leaves massaged with olive oil and baked for kale chips. you can buy it, but it comes in such small little containers, it’s much more worthwhile to make your own.

 

 

 

 

 

panch phoron
equal parts fennel seed – nigella seed – fenugreek – black mustard seed – cumin seed celery seed

this spice blend is found in bangladeshi, bengali, and nepalese cooking. it’s always used in it’s whole form, and a common dish is simmered lentils made with this blend. it’s aromatic and distinct; i love opening the jar and freeing it’s lush aroma! one of my favourite things to do is heat some ghee, toast a teaspoon of these spices and cook until they “pop”, before adding peeled cubed potatoes and some coconut milk, and simmering until done. so good.

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rainbow ratatouille

this pretty version of ratatouille is called confit byaldi, made famous by that chef of beautiful masterpieces, thomas keller. here, my version, maybe a bit less impressive but still quite edible! thinly sliced vegetables are layered in a spiral pattern over super-easy oven-roasted tomato sauce, and slowly baked. i finished mine with chopped garlic and fresh thyme, both sprinkled on top before baking.

the result is meltingly delicious, and despite it’s complicated appearance, the only skill needed is to slice the vegetables thinly. i bought my plastic mandoline for $29.99 at my local asian grocery 8 years ago. It’s still razor sharp. you can also use a sharp knife or the slicing attachment on your food processor.

i made this up in a large, straight-sided stainless steel pan. this way, i could bake it up, then put it over a flame to reduce the juices, which I found a little too thin for my liking at the end. i finished it with a little vinaigrette made with some of the sauce mixed with olive oil and vinegar, which added a nice acidic hit.

ratatouille is essentially a peasant dish, so don’t be too finicky about the presentation (unless you want to be). i would also think it would be delicious to finish the plate with a bit of gremolata or a drizzle of pistou sauce.  Next time.
we ate this up with some sage/garlic buttered baguette, loaded with some good mozzarella and broiled until crispy, and ate it on a cloudy sunday. and despite the fact it wasn’t baked in a lovely aga, it was pretty perfect!

rainbow ratatouille

rainbow ratatouille

1 recipe oven roasted tomato sauce
1 large green zucchini
1 large yellow summer squash
1 large eggplant
3 tomatoes (i used a mixture of green, orange, and red from the garden)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

make up the sauce, or pull a jar you’ve already made. heat oven to 450f. using a mandoline, thinly slice the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and use a sharp knife to thinly slice the tomatoes. spoon sauce into a large, straight sided stovetop and oven-safe pan, and arrange the vegetables in concentric circles, making sure they are tightly fitted, and standing up straight, leaving only about 1/8 inch of each slice exposed. sprinkle chopped garlic and thyme over the vegetables, and drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of olive oil. bake for 20 minutes. reduce oven to 350F, and cover pan. bake 1 hour longer, or until vegetables are tender. uncover and bake for 30 minutes more.transfer pan to stovetop and bring to a boil. reduce liquid until it nicely coats the back of a spoon. remove 2 tbsp of the sauce from the ratatouille and place in a small bowl. whisk in oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. to serve, remove nice stacks of the vegetables and arrange in a pasta bowl. drizzle vinaigrette around plate.

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spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

can anyone ever have too many devilled eggs? i think they are probably one of the greatest inventions in the world of two-bite appetizers. they are special enough for a party but easy enough to make for a weekend brunch or nibbly before dinner. they are tasty, and downright adorable, if you ask me.

something i really enjoy with brunch is an ice-cold caesar cocktail, so i thought, what the heck, let’s do a mash-up of devilled eggs and a spicy, savoury caesar.

i was surprised to find that a caesar seems to be virtually unknown outside of canada. tomato-clam juice is swished with vodka, worcestershire, and hot sauce, and shaken into a celery-salt rimmed glass and garnished with a whole celery stalk and lime. the flavours are so fresh and clean, that one can now find caesars garnished with everything from pickles to strips of bacon and skewers of jumbo shrimp. the same goes for the creamy foil of a devilled egg: it pairs perfectly with the flavours of a caesar.

cutting the eggs in half widthwise gives you perfectly round little cups to rim with celery salt and hold the tabasco-laced filling topped with celery leaves.

spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

8 large eggs
1 tsp. tabasco sauce (or to taste)
a few drops of worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. good, thick mayonnaise
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. celery salt
juice of 1 lemon
leaves from 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
8 grape tomatoes, halved widthwise

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. using a spoon, carefully lower the eggs into the water. bring the water back up to a full boil. cover, remove from heat, and allow to stand until cooled to room temperature.

peel eggs, and with a sharp knife, cut a small sliver off both ends of each eggs. slice each in half widthwise, and pop the yolks out into a bowl. arrange the empty egg whites on a plate and chill. mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and tabasco until smooth, season with the pepper, and chill.

place the celery salt on a small saucer, and the lemon juice in a small bowl or ramekin. dip the cut side of each egg white into the lemon juice, shaking off excess, and then dip into the celery salt to lightly coat. load the chilled yolk mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into the egg white holes. top each egg with a grape tomato half, skin side down, and sprinkle with the celery leaves. chill completely. makes 16.

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chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

i really do have a thing for cake. i should probably start posting some different desserts. more pies and tarts, or maybe a torte or crumble or a custard or even a fool. i’ll put that on my to-do list. today though, it’s all about this rich and decadent chocolate ginger sparkle cake.

i don’t remember where this recipe came from, but i have it written in a recipe notebook i started in 1991, when i really started getting into food. it’s written in point form, which leads me to think i was watching a cooking show and frantically wrote it down. i’ve made this so many times since, for special occasions and catering jobs, and it’s always a hit. the ginger was an addition i made later, because i think ginger and chocolate get along famously and that it makes this cake even more special.

pay attention to the times for beating the eggs, and don’t skimp. this cake contains no chemical leaveners, so it relies on incorporating air into the eggs for volume. fold very carefully too, so you don’t deflate your egg whites. is a dense cake, but it shouldn’t be stodgy. the plus side is that it’s easy to handle the layers, and it comes out very straight.

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

12 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate (the best you can wangle)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
pinch salt
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb + 2 tbsp. very soft butter
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

for the icing:

1/2 lb softened butter
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup half and half cream or milk
4 cups sifted icing sugar

butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment, and set aside. preheat oven to 350F. place the egg whites and the 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. using the wire whip attachment, whip on high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. scrape into a bowl and set aside. switch to the paddle attachment. place the yolks in the mixer bowl with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. add the butter to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until incorporated. reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just blended. remove bowl from mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in half the egg whites until still a bit streaky. add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until incorporated. it may take several passes, as the batter is very dense. gently fold in the grated chocolate and the ginger. divide into the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean of any raw batter (there will be melted chocolate on it)

cool on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

meanwhile, prepare the icing by placing all ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth, scraping the sides down once or twice. scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for 1/2 hour.

to assemble, split each cake round in half lengthwise. spread each layer with about 1/2 cup icing, then coat the whole cake with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat, which seals the cake for further frosting) chill for 15 minutes. at this point you can either slather on the rest or add another smooth layer and pipe the edges.

makes 1 serving. (ok, 12-16)

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good stuff #6: finds from the road to key west

Avocado Toast at the Collins Quarter

happy sunday friends!

returned from vacation and happy to back at ebta. guelph –> nyc –> key west –> savannah was such a wonderful break. we met some lovely people and for some reason, a disproportionate number of lovely dogs!

the combination of 33 degree celsius weather and a bunch of margueritas got me all philosophical. when i travel i do so as frugally as possible, driving, bringing food for the road, and staying with friends. but i’m really grateful for these little getaways, and for my lot in life in general.

working with food you realize that, like moments in a southern getaway, by its very nature its pleasure is fleeting. once it’s made and consumed, it’s gone, and never to be seen again. documenting it on a blog doesn’t count! remembering all the food i’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, i wonder if i have the right to things that are so good, so good for me, filled with warm colours and spice and soul. my wish for today is that everyone, everywhere, gets to taste even a fraction of the bounty i enjoy daily.

a few discoveries from the road

  1. the wednesday market a the pier in st. augustine, florida. i’ve been to the saturday market at the ampitheatre but this one was a surprise we found after a cat-nap on the beach. after driving all night we used the outdoor shower at the beach and wandered down to find fresh strawberries, bluegrass musicians, and the best shrimp and grits for breakfast. i’m a bad blogger for not getting the name of the chef at this booth but i will!

  2. kitchens on the square in savannah, georgia. the cutest little kitchen boutique ever. hard-to-find and vintage kitchen stuff, all in beautiful colours and quirky patterns. picked up some great props and the prettiest tablecloth ever.

  3. speaking of savannah, we had breakfast outside at the collins quarter and it was perfect. breaking news: avocado toast is not dead. again with the shrimp and grits for my special brit friend, but when you’re in the south it’s what you do. awesome food and service all around.

  4. fishs eddy in NYC. i’ve browsed this shop online but for all my time in NYC i’d never been until now. purveyors of every fantastic dish, glass, and platter you can imagine. stocked to the gills with new and old, including old hotel and food service dishes. cutlery from an old prison, anyone?

  5. key west. if you’ve never done the one-lane drive over the ocean from the top of the keys to the bottom, do it! i was driving, so no photos, but at the end of the year we’re heading back and sailing to cuba and the camera is coming. this is where the car’s thermostat hit 33c in march. oh yes.

  6. the paris market in savannah. there’s a cafe, but then attached to it is a collection of new and old, french-inspired bric-a-brac, jewelry, soaps, french market bags, silk shawls, and treasures from the sea. one section sells loops of silk velvet ribbons for $2.75 a yard and bags of vintage costume jewelry for $7.00. my brit friend scored a sweet pair of mis-matched enamel-inlay cufflinks for a few bucks. so much more online too.

  7. and finally, the housing works in NYC. this organization champions for those affected by hiv/aids and homelessness through its many programs and services, including the operation of 13 upscale thrift shops across the city. i love to get behind social justice champions, and they truly have really great stuff. a woman i was chatting with picked up two french country chairs upholstered in pink for $20, and  a few pieces of mismatched rose-patterned noritake china are going to be making some appearances under some of my food very soon.

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