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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mushroom pie + stilton biscuit crust

mushroom pot pie

pot pie is a pretty humble dish, but one i think most people love. meat pies are ubiquitous, but a good veggie pie is not always easy to find.

the recipe is straightforward, but i did dress it up a little bit. stilton pairs so well with mushrooms, so it gets crumbled up in a biscuit crust, and i added some caramel-y onions, white wine, and fresh thyme to the filling. you can do it up in a large pan, or make up some individual ones for a perfect meal for one.

you may be looking at the picture and thinking, wait, that looks like cheddar cheese in those biscuits! you’re right, and i included that option in the recipe, because the truth is, there are some weird people out there who don’t like blue cheese. probably the same people who don’t like kittens, or happiness. i have nothing against some good old cheddar cheese, and it works equally well.

mushroom pot pie

mushroom pot pie with stilton biscuit crust

3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
3 tbsp. vegetable bouillon powder
4 oz (1 stick) butter
3 onions, halved and sliced
4 carrots, cut into 1/2″ dice
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
4 large stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ dice
4 cups small button mushrooms, cut in half
1 cup flour
1 cup white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup 35% cream
2 cups frozen peas

biscuit crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup crumbled stilton or grated extra-old cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk
flour for dusting
egg wash for brushing (1 egg yolk + 2 tbsp milk, cream, or water)

place stock in a small pot and heat to simmering. add the vegetable bouillon and stir to dissolve. keep hot while you prepare the filling.

in a large pot, melt 1/2 the butter over medium high heat. add the onions and cook, stirring, for 7 minutes, or until the edges just start to colour. turn heat to medium-low, and cook onions another 10 minutes, or until they are well-coloured. remove to a bowl and set aside.

increase heat to medium high. add remaining butter and the carrots, potatoes, celery, mushrooms, and thyme sprigs and cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are slightly softened and mushrooms have released most of their liquid. return onions to the pan, along with any juices form the bowl. sprinkle the mixture with the flour and stir briefly. add the wine, and stir to make a thick paste. slowly add the hot stock, stirring well so no lumps form (don’t worry if you get a few small ones). and basil, and season with salt and pepper. reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. remove from heat, fish out the branches from the thyme, and stir in the cream. pour into a 13×9″ baking pan and set aside while you prepare the biscuits.

preheat oven to 375f

in a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. use a pastry blender or 2 knives to cut in the butter until the pieces are smallish, the size of baby peas. add the cheese and toss to coat in the flour. make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk all at once. stir a few times just to combine, then scrape dough out onto a floured surface. lightly dust with flour. it will be very sticky. turn and fold the dough 4 or 5 times, then form into a rough square shape. cut into squares, rounds, or whatever shapes you like, and place on top of the mushroom mixture. re-roll any scraps and cut. the biscuits do not have to cover the filling completely but they can. be as creative as you like!

brush the biscuits with egg wash and bake the pie for 35-40 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown and puffed and the filling is bubbly.

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pomegranate molasses

pomegranate molasses

i like reducing things.

remove the water, concentrate the flavour, take something that’s already pretty good and transform it into something completely different. the word “reduction” sounds chef-fy, but fear not. if you can boil water, you can make a reduction.

pomegranate molasses isn’t truly molasses, but a reduction of pomegranate juice. reducing the juice changes it, thickens it, turns it dark and sultry, and results in a ruby-hued tart/sweet elixir, not unlike an aged balsamic vinegar. it’s complexity from simplicity.

i like to drizzle it over oven-roasted tomatoes in the last few minutes of cooking. it’s perfect for adding balance and depth to salad dressings, and you’ll be amazed (amazed i tell you!) at the way it heightens and brightens the flavour of a simple tomato sauce. it’s also a key ingredient in muhamarra, that sublime syrian red pepper dip that, when made well, leaves you wondering how anything could taste so good.  

you can buy it in bottles at middle eastern stores, but making your own is easy and allows you to control the amount of reduction. you can reduce to a syrupy consistency, or take it further to make it more molasses-y.

the addition of sugar and lemon balances the flavours and helps to retain colour, but i often omit it altogether.

pomegranate molasses

pomegranate molasses

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and reduce for 45 minutes for syrup, and an hour or more for molasses. Store in the refigerator.

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pain rustique

pain rustique

happy monday.

and it is happy, because we’re talking about some good, crusty white bread.

pain rustique is probably the most satisfying bread i make. it’s the perfect bread for squishing into a charred panini full of melted cheese, or to toast and eat for breakfast with butter and a fried egg and the morning paper. it’s real and rustic, the kind that you tear apart and reach across the table to dip in olive oil while laughing with friends. it’s the bread you seek out at 2 am when a storm wakes you up, and smear with nutella. its strong coffee and toast bread. it’s what you want to smell when you come home from school. it’s real and rustic, like life itself.

i also use pain rustique as pizza crust. you can shape it into loaves, or make into squares or rectangles for panini, described here. perfect, easy bread.

Pain Rustique

pain rustique

start the poolish night before, or first thing in the morning to bake bread for supper.

make the poolish (starter): in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 300g flour, 400mls of warm water, and 3g of instant yeast (about a teaspoon). Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. cover bowl with plastic or a towel and allow to ferment overnight, or 8 hours, minimum.

for the dough: to the bowl, add 1 kg of flour, 23g of salt, and 20g yeast. pour in 600mls warm water. place in mixer with the dough hook attachment, and stir on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. remove bowl from mixer and cover with a clean towel. proof in the bowl for 1 hour.

turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a rough square. roll out to 1 1/2″ thick, using a bench scraper or a ruler to shape the sides nice and straight. cut into 5×5 squares and dust with flour. place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and using a sharp knife, score each little pain with a 3″ cut down the middle. allow to rise for 15 minutes.

preheat oven to 450f. bake bread for 5 minutes. rotate pans and reduce heat to 350f and bake for 15 minutes longer. cool on racks.

*for the little loaf pictured, i divided the dough into 4 and shaped it into rounds, a topic which needs its own post.

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chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

chickpea burger

sometimes, what you want is a burger. and burgers can be made from anything, really, so a burger made from chickpeas, is every bit a burger. meat does not hold a monopoly on burgers!

vegetarian burgers come in so many incarnations. this one is not a meat substitute. it’s made with chickpeas, flavoured with garlic and herbs, and is almost like a fritter, so it holds together when you cook it. it’s a bit wet, so use floured hands to shape them.

it’s smeared with a smoky feta and red pepper spread, and piled with greens and avocado on a handmade brioche bun. le yum.

if you have a flat-top or a non-stick pan, use it for this recipe, and you’ll be happy, not swearing.

you can make these up and fry them in advance, up to 2 days, then reheat on a sheet pan. yay! we love do-aheads…

chickpea burger

chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

makes 4

1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and fresh pepper
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 tbsp, mint leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 thai chili, roughly chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil for frying

place the drained chickpeas, a dash of salt and a few grindings of pepper, the garlic, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, green onions, and thai chili. blitz a few times to break up the chickpeas so that some are mashed but some chunks remain. add the egg and butter and pulse a few times to combine. turn out into a bowl. mix together the flour and baking powder and stir into chickpea mixture. chill completely.

divide into 4 portions (you can make them smaller and divide into 6 if you wish). use floured hands to form into balls, and flatten slightly. heat a flat-top griddle or non-stick pan to high. brush with canola oil. place burgers on hot griddle, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden and firm.

serve on split, toasted buns with tomato slices, avocado, and smoky red pepper spread.

smoky red pepper spread

1 red pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, broken up
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp. plain, natural yogurt

char the pepper over a gas flame, on the grill, or under the broiler, until blackened and blistered on all sides. place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely. use a paper towel to rub off the skin. pop the pepper open and remove the seeds. don’t rinse the pepper! place in the bowl of a food processor with the feta and the paprika. process until smooth-ish. add the yogurt, 1 tbsp at a time, until mixture is spreadable. add lemon juice. scrape into a covered container and chill.

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laotian vegan barley bowl

laotian vegan barley bowl

back in the 90’s, i saw an episode of the excellent cooking show, taste, where David Rosengarten made larb, the minced meat salad of laos. ever since, i’ve wanted to create a vegan version of this fresh and flavourful salad, and by george, i think i’ve done it. the combination of clean flavours from the vegetables and herbs, combined with the barley and a zippy dressing, is outstanding. every time i make this and eat it, i’m amazed at how good it is. i just have to share it with you!

i sometimes make this with veggie ground round, and it works great if you a craving something “meaty”. but i don’t want to eat a lot of processed fake meat, so i started making it with barley. it absorbs the flavours so well and makes a satisfying meal of this salad.

check out the hands-off method of cooking barley too.

vegan larb 1

laotian vegan barley bowl

3/4 cup uncooked barley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 thai chili, thinly sliced (or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup each torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
4 cups torn lettuces, greens, kale, or sprouts, or a mixture
1 tbsp toasted rice powder*
2 tbsp toasted cashews or peanuts, chopped

dressing

1 tsp. almond butter
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

place barley in a medium saucepot and cover with 2 inches of water. bring to a full boil. turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour (you can do this the night before too). you should have about 1 1/2 cups barley.

make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. thin with a small amount of warm water so it is drizzle-able.

in a medium pan, heat the canola or peanut oil. add the garlic and chilis and cook for a few seconds. add the barley, sugar, tamari, and lime juice. remove from heat and dump into a large bowl. add the onions and peppers and toss. allow to cool to room temperature, then add the torn herbs. taste and add salt and pepper.

divide the greens among large salad plates. top with barley mixture, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with the toasted rice powder and toasted nuts.

*tip: toasted rice powder is available at asian markets, or you can make your own by toasting 2 tbsp. white rice in a dry pan until golden, then buzzing in a spice grinder

*tip: for a hands-on appetizer, use romaine lettuce cups and fill with filling. use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

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handmade brioche burger buns

DSC_2707.NEF

i think these may be the perfect burger buns. most commercial buns are as far from real bread as you can imagine, and usually full of too much sugar, salt, and preservatives. these are soft and airy and not too large, so you can achieve the perfect burger/bun ratio, and you know exactly what you’re putting in them.

these handmade brioche buns are extremely quick and easy to make. don’t be intimidated! once you’ve made them once, you will be so proud that you did this, you will never buy buns again.

this recipe makes 2 dozen good sized rolls. weigh your ingredients and the rolls themselves for accuracy. today i used poppyseeds, but i often use sesame seeds too. freeze while warm, or use leftovers for bread pudding.

i think the pure white AGA would bake these up beautifully, don’t you? 🙂 sigh…

handmade brioche burger buns

400 ml milk
75 g sugar
7 eggs, lightly beaten
20g yeast
1 kg flour
10g sea salt
250g soft butter

1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. cream or milk
1/2 cup poppy seeds or sesame seeds

line 2 large baking sheets with parchments sheets or silpats.

heat the milk to hand-hot and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. add the sugar and the yeast and mix well. stir in the eggs and then add the flour and the salt. mix on medium speed until a smooth but sticky dough forms. add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated, then mix for 2 minutes.

using a dough scraper, turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured surface. use the scraper to slice off pieces of dough, each measuring 80g (the piece will be a bit larger than a large egg) the dough will be very sticky, you may think too sticky, but don’t panic, it will all work out.

allow the dough balls to sit for a few minutes, then with very lightly floured hands, roll into balls. place 12 to a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds. allow to proof (rise) for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 450f. place buns in the oven gently, so they don’t deflate. bake buns for 5 minutes, then rotate pans, reduce heat to 350f, and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden and puffed. cool on racks.

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