Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pineapple and Ancho marinade and sauce

This marinade/sauce is part of my summer project - using dried chillies in all sorts of interesting ways. It is adapted from Milk Street's episode on Tcos al Pasteur. Adapted because their recipe uses ancho powder - and I was using whole anchos. The proportions are slightly different too - because I was doint it from memory. It came out really well - I would definitely do it again. And as a by product, any left over sauce can be added to other salsas to give some extra sweetness and earthiness.


4 Ancho chilis
3 Chipotle chilis in adobo with the sauce that clings to them
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
3 tsp whole cumin seads, toasted and then ground
2T Dark brown sugar
2 1/2" thick pineapple rings, cored. If using canned then either use sweetened and omit the sugar or use water based
1/4 cup neutral oil.
Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the tops off the anchos and deseed the peppers. Toast them over medium heat in a dry skiller until they become fragrant. Pressing them against tha bottom of the pan so that as much of the surface as possible gets the heat. Make sure you flip them over to get both sides done.
Remove  the peppers from the heat and add the whole cumin seads to toast them lightly too. Grind the anchos and cumin in a spice grinder (or use a pestle and mortar) until you have a fine powder. 
Put all the ingredients into a blender and pulse several times until you have a smooth paste.

Before use as a marinade, add a teaspoon of lime juice.

For use as a sauce, warm it through and add a tablespoon of limejuice and some chopped cilantro.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

When in Texas Make Salsa

A very good friend invited me over to sample her loquats. I had no clue what they were, but figured that if they were food related, I would be up fo a challenge. So off I went to try them and pick some to take home. They are sweet little juicj fruits with a touch of bitterness at the back. Now I had them, what to do

I have clearly become acclimatised to Texas - my first thought was a salsa - perhaps to go on corn chips. After all we had some pasilla and ancho chili pepeppers lying around. They are both dries peppers, so needed to be toasted and then rehydrated. Some chipotle, cumin, garlic and the loquats and we might be onto something.


3 cups loquats seeded
3 pasilla chili peppers
1 ancho chili  pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 t rice wine vinegar (and will add lime juice when serving)
2T neutral oil
1t toasted chili


Toast the dried chilis in a dry pan, alond with the cumin. When the chilis are fragrant take them out of the pan and cover with water to hydrate. Leave them standing. Meanwhile, grind the cumin, chop the garlic.
Put the garlic, loquats, vinegar, oil, salt and ppepper into a blender. Let the chilis stand in the water for about 15 minutes. Chop then finally and add to the blender along qith 1/4 cup of the water.

Blend on high speed for about 1 minute. You want a smooth texture. You may need to add a little more water.

Chill, spritz with lime huice and serve with tortilla chips.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


Madame doesn't care much for Tofu. There are, however, some dishes that just wouldn't be right without it. Especially miso soup..

We were watching a cooking show and she idly said, what else could we use in this porl/miso soup - instead of the dreaded tofu. Well, we had some edd whites lying around, so I thought put them in icecibe trays and microwave them. So I did, and FauxFu was born.

She loved them.


Whites of 6 eggs (after you have used the yolks for something else)


Mix all the egg whites together until you have a uniform liquid. 1/2 fill each cavity in your ice cube tray with egg white microwave on high for 30 seconds or so - check after 20 seconds to make sure they are not getting cooked too quickly
Using the point of a paring knife, extract the cubes of egg white from the cavities. Use in place of  firm tofu in several recipes

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tomato and Mozz Skewers

At a properly socially distanced driveway party last week a friend had made some delicious skewers with tomatoes, Mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar. They were so good we had to replicate them and have them all to ourselves.


6 Cherry tomatoes, halved
12 Small Mozzarella balls (Bocconcini) halved
12 Basil leaves torn in half
a few lettuce leaves, torn
Balsamic vinegar (not measured - just for drizzling)
High quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (not measured - just for drizzling)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Large crystal sea salt or salt flakes (e.g. Maldon)


On a small wooden cocktail skewer thread (in order) 1/2 of a bocconcini, 1/2 of a basil leaf, half of a cherry tomato, the other half of the same basil leaf, the other half of the bocconcini. Repeat for the other 11 skewers.
On a plate lay out the torn lettuce leaves. Place the skewers artistically over the plate. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, grind pepper over the dish and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sourdough and Buttermilk biscuits.

We have a lot of sourdough starter here at the birdhouse. So we have to find ways to use the "discard" that which is poured off the starter before a feeding. If we didn't pour it off, the starter would grow uncontrollably.
Looking at the discard, it is about the texture of buttermilk. And it has some tanginess to it too. So, why not try a little substitution. We did, and it got the "we can serve this to people: accolade from Madame, so I knew we were onto something here.


2 Cups All Purpose Four, sifted (I sift all flour out of habit)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, straight from the fridge, cut into 12 or so small pieces. (if salted, reduce the salt in the recipe a little)
3/4 cup "discard"
1/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 400F. I am using a fan assist in mine. You *may* need to adjust the temperature up a little if you do not have a fan in yours. Place the rack in the upper middle.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture. It doesn't have to be like fine breadcrumbs, it is OK to have some bigger pieces of butter. It's like making flaky pastry.
Add the buttermilk and discard, and mix by hand to make a stiff dough.. Don't rinse the measurement container - you will use the remains to brush on the biscuits before cooking.
Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Especially if it is warm (like it is here in Texas today).
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Using some kind of cutter (a cup, a circular cutter, etc.) cut out the rounds. Don't twist the cutter as that pinches the edges and prevents that nice craggy rise. Since there will be some left over, you can recombine it (and if you feel the butter is beginning to melt, refrigerate again). These will hold their shape less well, but will still be delicious.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with some of the liquid scraped out of the measurement cup you used earlier.
Bake on a parchment covered sheet pan for 9 minutes, take the pan out of the oven, rotate and bake for a further 6 minutes (even if using a fan) - until they are golden brown. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sourdough Crackers

In the land of sourdough bread baking, we often find ourselves with excess starter. Because as we feed our starters, they increase in bulk. If we kep doing it proportionally we would end up with a starter that would take over the neighborhood. So the vexing question of what to do with the excess came up. This is a baking case where measuring by volume is perfectly OK. So it is really quick and easy to do.


1 Cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt (more or less to taste)
1 Cup Sourdough starter excess (usually called discard in baking circles)
1/2 a stick of cold butter (2 oz)


Combine the flour and salt thoroughly. Cut the butter into the flour as if you were making pie dough (pastry). Pour in all of the starter and mix with your fingers. Initially it will all clump up on your fingers, but as you work it a bit, it will gradually come together and your fingers will be almost clean.

Divide the dough in half and make a small disk out of each half. Wrap the dough disks individually in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes - an hour is better. 

Preheat the oven to 350F. The shelf should be on the upper middle rack. While the oven is preheating, roll a dough disk out on a piece of parchment paper (greaseproof) sized to fit in a 1/2 sheet pan. The disk should reach almost to the edges of the parchment. Transfer the parchment with the dough on it to the sheet pan. Cut the dough sheet into suitably sized (1" square is good) pieces. Dock each square several times with a fork.

Bake for about 15 minutes - until golden brown. You may want to ratate the pan after 9 minutes - depending on how evenly your oven heats.

Allow to cool on the sheet. Transfer to an airtight container - they will keep for about a week (if they last that long before eating them all!).

After the first batch has baked and cooled, I reuse the parchment for the second disk. But do make sure the sheet pan is cool - otherwise the dough becomes unmanageable.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


This is a cocktail that we came up with during the Covid-19 "social distancing" time in 2020. We had some of the delicious Diplomatico Reserva rum at a tasting event a month or so ago, They had made a Negroni like cocktail with it. We ordered a bottle and played around with it. The result was this delicious cocktail. The tart cherry juice cuts through the sweetness brought by the Cointreau.


1 3/4 oz Diplomatico Reserva rum
1 1/4 oz Dolin Rouge Vermouth
3/4 oz Cointreau
1tsp Tart Cherry Juice

Combine all the ingredients over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of Orange peel.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

OTBN 2020

We often participate in the Wall Street Journal "Open That Bottle Night" concept. The primary idea being to dink wine when you feel like it and not save stuff entirely for special occasions. The special occasion is when you want to drink it!

We have a pretty standardized format, although the attendees vary from year to year. Last night there were 11 of us in total. And there were 8 different wines.The lineup can be seen at this link OTBN 2020 Wine Line Up.

Our format is simple. Each "party" - solo or couple brings a wine that is special to them, and a dish to pair with it. We sequence the dishes so that we drink the wines in the right order. We also start with bubbles (this year the cremant de Bourgogne whose bottles are on the ends of the picture. With that we had some cheese straws, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, and goat cheese stuffed piquillos.

Once the event gets under way, we request that guest(s) who brought the next wine in sequence tells us about the wine and the dish. Then we try it, talk about it and generally carry-on. Thus for the 8 wines, there were 7 different dishes (some over achievers brought more than 1 dish.)

First Tasting 

Wine: Simonnet Febvre Grand Cru Chablis 2016
Food: Country pate (pork, duck, chicken liver, pistachio, tart cherry, brandy + aromatics) with a salad of arugula, pink endive, and radish. A little cranberry mustard on the plate and a pecan vinegar/oil dressing.
The wine came from a tasting at a local restaurant (Rapscallion) where I had previously had it paired with Murder Point Gulf oysters. I generally stay away from raw gulf oysters, but the murder points were spectacular.

Second Tasting

Wine: Raventos i Blanc  (2016) A delicate pink sparkling wine - described as being a "refrigerator wine" i.e. left behind by a friend after a very good party.
Food: A simple and delicious tomato pie with a side salad.  Extremely tasty and perfect for the time of the year

Third Tasting

One of the guests was rather over-scheduled. No time to make something. But she did invite a local caterer to make a dish, and it was excellent!
Wine: Stags Leap :Karia" Chardonnay (2017). Chosen because it goes so well with the food
Food: Roasted, stuffed jalapenos with smoked salmon, herbed cheese and a balsamic glaze. Nive because the ribs had been removed from the jalapenos, so not too much heat. But it did make the conversation turn to why some peppers are not spicy and others are, even though they cam from the same bush.

Fourth Tasting

Wine: Domaine du Grand Tinel - Chateau Neuf du Pape (2016)
Food: Some shaved Tete de Moine cheese with Serrano ham

The food comes from The Alps and Spain. The guests chose the CDP because it has enough body to stand up to the cheese. And since the cheese and ham come from such different locations, this wine remained neutral. Neutral geographically. But a terrific expression of CDP wines, 80+% Grenache.

Fifth Tasting

Wine: Vina Bosconia - Rioja 2007
Food: Croquetas and Spanish Tortilla
The Spanish couple brought this beautiful wine from Rioja. They waxed poetic about the wines and beauty of the region. And of course it went perfectly with the croquettas and the tortilla with its tender potato inside layers of egg.

Sixth Tasting

Wine:  Clos du Val Reserve Cabinet Sauvignon 2011
Food: A beef short-rib ragu, with warm spices over a mushroom gnocchi.
This was the wine that got our Oklahoma native friends to become interested in wine. Still lots of tannin and structure. An all round excellent wine and pairing.
Hearing about their wine tasting adventures in general had us all in stitches!

Seventh (and final) Tasting

Wine: Layer Cake 2018 Shiraz
Food: Chocolate mousse cups with raspberries and raspberry coulis
Even though it would be unusual to have a  lighter red wine after the big Cab from Clos du Val, this pairing worked extremely well. The wine cut the sweetness just enough and brought out the quality notes of the chocolate. This was not your Grandma's chocolate mousse!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Tonic water

America's Test Kitchen has an extensive YouTube presence. I was surprised and delighted to find a cocktails section. They had a piece on making your own tonic - so I figured that I would try. The idea is from then, the ratios are my own. Citric acid is often used in canning, so you can find it near the canning jars. Cinchona bark is a specialty item that we ordered from Amazon. It comes in the right sized pieces.


2 oz Cinchona bark
2 Lemon grass stalks, chopped finely
2 Thai lime leaves
Zest of 1 Seville orange
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
32 oz water
small pinch of salt
2 cups of plain white sugar
4 T Citric acid


Combine bark, citrus, Thai lime, salt ina 4 quart saucier. Bring to the boil. Turn heat down, simmer for 40 minutes. Leave to cool for 24 hours. Strain (through cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer) and add the sugar, and citric acid. Dissolve the sugar and citric acid. Allow to cool. Transfer to a refrigerator safe bowl, cover and chill overnight.

This will keep for several weeks as long as you keep it well covered. 

Cheese Straws

A very easy go to appetizer. They hold together nicely, and look quite pretty arranged as a "bouquet".


5 oz grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 oz cold butter
3/4 cup of All Purpose flour + a small amount extra for dusting
1/4 - 1/2 t kosher salt. Depends on whether your butter was salted or not
A few grinds of black pepper
1/4t finely ground Cayenne Pepper (40,000 Scoville Units)
2 T Greek yogurt
1T milk  (I used 2% or semi skimmed)


Heat the oven to 350F. I grated the cheddar using the crater attachment of the food processor. That left the cheese neatly in the bowl. Add the other cheese, cold butter, flour, cayenne and salt. Pulse several times for 5 seconds per pulse. This until the butter is fully incorprtaed and the mixture looks like fine sand.
Add the Greek yogurt and let run checking consistency. If it does not form a ball at this stage, add 1/2 the milk. Repeat until a ball is formed.
Roll the dough on a floured surface to an 8x10 rectangle (it will be about 1/8" or 3mm thick).
Using a pizza cutter, cut into long strips and place in a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for 14-17 minutes - until the straws are medium brown and dry to the touch. You may need to rotate the pan.
Cool the straws on a wire rack. They keep quite well for about 3 days.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The easiest cheese souffle

We had some friends over for lunch today. One of whom is French. I wanted an easy dish that takes 40 minutes to cook because we had other things to do for a while. Also something that was likely to appeal to our French friend. When in doubt always look for something by Jacques Pepin. So we did. This is his mother's cheese souffle recipe - one that is absolutely no fuss. I tinkered with it very slightly (adding nutmeg to make a more classic bechamel sauce) and turning the oven down slightly because of the timing constraints, No matter, with a side salad this turned out to be the perfect light lunch.


6 oz. unsalted butter + 1t for greasing the gratin dish
6T all purpose flour
1 US pint of milk
1/2t freshly grated nutmeg
1/2t kosher salt
1/2t freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs, beaten slightly
6 oz Gruyere, grated
2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, grated finely
3T minced chives.


Pre-heat the oven to 425F
In a large saucier or other sauce pan, melt the butter and keep on the heat until it stops hissing and crackling. This drives off all of the water - making it easier to add the cold milk without lumps forming.
Once the butter has stopped foaming, whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute to drive off all of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk to incorporate. Bring to the boil whisking at 1 minute intervals. Allow to bubble for a few seconds while it thickens up, and then let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile grease the gratin dish with butter, and use half the Parmigiano Reggiano to stick to the bottom/side of the dish.
Incorporate the bechamel sauce gradually into the eggs, whisking after each addition. Go slowly at first - you don't want scrambled eggs. Once the bechamel and eggs are fully mixed, add the chives, salt and pepper. Stir well. Check the seasoning.
Pour the cheese/egg mixture into the prepared gratin dish, and top with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano.
Bake on the middle oven rack for ~40 minutes - until risen, with a dark, crunchy dome has started to form.
Serve immediately with a side salad.
Thank you M. Pepin for all you do.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Blood Orange Cake

We were invited for dinner by some friends who are lactose intolerant. So the trick was to come up with a dessert with no dairy whatsoever. The result was this delicious blood orange cake, inspired by Jamie Oliver.
To further cement the choice, we were at a local business walkabout last Saturday and came across an olive oil store called 1899. It's in Deep Ellum, in Dallas. There they had a blood orange infused olive oil. So all the auguries were in the right place for an experiment. Fortunately these are good friends and experimentation is encouraged.
Madame pronounced that "we can serve this to people", so we know that it was good!


5 Blood oranges (any orange will do, but blood oranges are pretty) - divided use, zest and juice
3/4 cup honey (divided use) - warmed to ensure that it is runny
7 Fluid ounces good quality olive oil (We used blood orange infused oil, unflavored would be fine too)
3 eggs
2/3 cups stone ground cornmeal (medium grind)
2 cups ground almonds

Method - Cake

Prepare an 8" spring form pan by spraying the sides with cooking spray and placing a parchment round in the bottom. Preheat the oven to 325F.
Whisk together the olive oil and 5 oz of the warmed honey until well combined. Whisk in the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Add the zest of 3 oranges. Fold in the almonds, cornmeal and juice of 2 oranges.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for around 40 minutes - until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the cake out of the pan gently - after loosening the sides with an offset spatula or paring knife..

Method - Sauce

Stir the remaining honey and orange juice together in a small saucier. Bring to the boil and reduce to about 1/2 the volume.

Method - Serving

I remembered how good orange juice and bourbon are together. So when I saw that our hosts had some of the excellent Blanton's Original Bourbon, a small glass of that, together with the cake with warmed sauce poured over seemed like the right thing to do.
It was.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Buttermilk pie

A year ago, a very good friend told me that he wanted a buttermilk pie for Thanksgiving. He had always enjoyed them as a child, but hadn't had one in years. So I made one to take to his family in 2018. He said that it reminded him of the buttermilk pies of his youth.

This year, we were with some other friends and again, I took a buttermilk pie, and again it was very well received. So, with thanks to Stella Parks (aka Bravetart) and Debbie Lang-Caldwell here's what I did.

Of course, I made the crust - but I could have bought one. I so like the easy crust that Bravetart has in her book and here. I strongly recommend that you go the serious eats site and follow her recipe and technique.

I also did something a little unconventional - I didn't fully blind bake the crust. I gave it a start, but knowing how long the pie would bake, I didn't want to risk the edges of the crust burning. The filling recipe (below) calls for an unbaked crust, but that did leave a bit of a soggy bottom. And we all know that soggy bottoms are quite undesirable. So I compromised and blind baked the crust for 20 minutes.

And most approaches don't call for browned butter, but I have recently found that browning the butter first adds some extra flavor depth.

Ingredients - Filling

1/2 cup butter (browned)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3T Flour
1t Vanilla
1/4 t nutmeg finely grated


Heat the oven to 400F. Brown the butter carefully over medium heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile in a stand mixer combine the eggs and sugar, and then add the buttermilk and browned butter, mix gently and add the flour, vanilla and nutmeg.

Pour into the 9" shell and bake for 10 minutes at 400F. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for a further 40 or so minutes - until a skewer comes out clean. I recommend checking after around 35 minutes to make sure you don't overbake.

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. 

This will keep for 3 or 4 days (maybe longer, but I have never had one that survived that long)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Trying Eggs in the Circulator

America's Test Kitchen showed a different way of "poaching" eggs recently. They refer to it as Sous Vide (but that is technically incorrect because there is no vacuum involved). The link here (at around 20 minutes in) shows how it is done. I won't go into the details here, but encourage you to look at the video. I had no expectation that the method would work. But I  was wrong. Not only did it work, it was spectacuar.

This dish was intended to show off the technique, and to make the eggs an integral part of a light supper.

Ingredients (For 2 people)

4 Large eggs at refrigerator temperature.
3 oz Soba noodles.
1 lb Asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces.
1T vegetable oil
2 oz dried exotic mushrooms (reconstittued, reserve the liquid), chopped finely
1T sesame oil
4T soy sauce
1t hot sauce (Habanero vodka in our case).
Salt to taste


Start the eggs in the circulator at 167F for 11 minutes. Meanwhile bring a pot of water bring to the boil and cook the soba noodles according to the directions. Drain the noodles  and leave to stay warm in the pot. 

While the noodles are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat until smoking. Cook the asparagus stalks over high heat for 1 minute. Add the asparagus tips and cook for a minute longer. 
Add the mushrooms. Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, and hot sauce together with 2 or 3T of the reserved mushroom liquid. Add the mixed liquids to the skillet and cover to steam for 2 minutes. Toss in the soba noodles and mix thoroughly.

Divide the noodle mixture into 2 bowls. Break the eggs over the dish and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 29, 2019


An easy and impressive bread. There are a few tricks, but overall pretty straightforward. I use a 66% hydration dough for this - and much more yeast than normal (almost double). Mixture of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour, olive oil and sugar (could use honey). Baked on my primo at an insanely high temperature.

Note, there is no reason to use active dry yeast in particular. It's what I use because I use a lot and can buy it by the jar. Of course if you are using active dry yeast, make sure to wake it up in water with a little sugar.

The sugar in this recipe is indepenent of the yeast. It helps browning a bit and brings out the nuttiness in the wholewheat dough.

Ingredients (6 pitas)

400 g AP Flour
100 g whole wheat flour
8 g salt (1.6% - bakers percentage)
12 g white granulated sugar (2.4% - bakers percentage)
333 g warmish water (about 90F) (66.6% - bakers percentage)
5 g active dry yeast (1% - baker's percentage)
30g extra virgin olive oil (6% - baker's percentage).


Mix together the flours and salt in the bowl of the stand mixture. Dissolve the sugar in the water. If using active dry yeast add to the sugar water and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so, If using instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour/salt in the bowl.
When you are ready to make the dough, use the dough hook of the stand mixer, turn the mixer to its lowest setting and add the water mixture in a thin stream. When half the water is added, pour in the olive oil.
Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough has become a stretchy mass. It won't be very sticky (relatively low hydration). Once it is kneaded, turn onto the counter (no need for flour or ooil here), and stretch it a few times before forming a ball.

Place a little oil into a bowl large enough to hold the risen dough. Add the dough ball and roll it around do it is lightly coated in oil.

Cover (I use a shower cap for this purpose) and leave to rise - until doubled. About 60 - 90 minutes depending on temperature.

When risen, put the dough onto the counter and cut into 6 equal pieces. They should weigh between 145g and 150 g. Roll these pieces into tight balls and leave to relax for about 15 minutes, covered with a floured towel.

Light the grill (if using) and get it really hot. My thermometer registered 650F. Or heat the oven to 500F. Make sure you have a baking stone on the grill or in the oven.

Roll each ball into a round - 1/4" thick. I find it handy to use spacers on the rolling pin to make sure that the rolling is even. 

The rolled out dough is sturdy enough to handle, so gently place one or 2 at a time onto the baking stone. If using the grill, close the lid. The individual pieces will take 3 - 5 minutes to bake.

Resist the urge to peek - at least for the first 3 minutes. The individual rounds should puff up - the layers separating. Turn them over when done on the bottom to get some color onto the top.

Cover with a towel and keep warm in a 200F oven. (That's one reason I cook them on the grill!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Killer Brownies - Thanks Bravetart

I have mentioned Stella Parks before. She has an amazing cookbook entitled "Bravetart"where she meticulously describes how to cook amazing desserts. I have made several batches - with some slight variations - of her brownies.  The link to the original is underlined.

Since then I have tweaked a couple of things - I almost can't cook without our "secret ingredient" aka vodka infused with hot peppers. So of course some of that went into the mixture. Because the recipes are so precise, I was worried about the liquid balance. But no need to worry.

The most recent batch was a command performance from Madame. She wanted to reward her amazing students for all of their hard work. We also took a batch to the dentist - perhaps for the dental team to drum up business? And finally I took some into work for an early meeting. Bottom line, all recipients gobbled them up.

Anyhow, to the business end of this recipe.


12 oz unsalted  butter
6 oz chopped 72% Cacao chocolate (I used Guittard)
16 oz granulated sugar
2 1/2 oz light brown sugar
1 1/2 t kosher salt
6 large eggs (cold)
2T Cayenne flavored vodka 
1 1/2 t Espresso powder
4 1/2 oz AP Flour
4 oz Dutch Process Cocoa Powder (I used Hershey's on this occasion, but do make sure it is the Dutch Process kind)


Line an 8x13 aluminum pan with foil, leaving a sling over the long sides. Grease the aluminum foil  using either butter or spray.
Turn the oven on to 350F with a shelf in the middle.
Brown the butter in a stainless saucier. This should be done over low heat. As the butter melts, it will foam and sizzle for a bit. Once the foaming subsides, the butter will start to brown very quickly. Don't take your eyes off it! Once the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and incorporated.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugars, salt eggs, "secret ingredient" and whisk on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy. This will take a while. Usually about 8-10 minutes.
While this is whisking, sift the flour/cocoa powder together in a separate bowl. 
Once the egg/sugar mixture is fluffy, pour in the browned butter/chocolate mixture and mix on low. When the butter is all incorporated, add the flour/cocoa mixture and mix roughly with the whisk.
When mixed, remove the bowl, mix with a spatula ensuring that any flour is pulled up from the bottom into the mixture
When the batter is fully mixed, pour into the prepared pan, put into the oven and bake for around 30 minutes - checking from 25 minutes on. The internal temperature should be at least 205.
Once cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on the counter/wire rack before turning the brownies out. 
Trim to square off the corners of the cake. 
Using a sharp knife cut into 1 1/2" squares. I dip the knife in hot water between each cut to make the process go more smoothly.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Chicken with grapes, garlic, vermouth and tarragon

I have stolen this shamelessly from Jamie Oliver. It is such a good dish that I have now made it 4 or 5 times. It gets better with each showing. Big advantages are:

  • Small number of ingredients
  • 1 pot
  • oven does most of the work so no need to monitor closely

For 4 people I cook 6 chicken pieces. The downside os that you need a very large saute pan or skillet. And the pan must be ovenproof.


2 T Olive oil (divided use)
6 Whole chicken legs (Thigh and drumstick together)
1 garlic bulb, cloves individually split out, squashed but not peeled
1 lb mixed grapes
1 1/2 cups sweet vermouth (red, Italian)
1/4 cup loosely packed tarragon leaves


Preheat the oven to 350F. One shelf upper middle rack

In a large saute pan over medium heat, heat the oil until it is shimmering. Meanwhile lightly oil the chicken pieces all over. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken pieces and rub them in with the oil.

Place the chicken pieces, skin side down, into the skillet. Make sure that the is plenty of separation of the pieces. Turn the heat up a little, and cook the chicken skin side down  until the skin has taken on a golden brown color. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook for a few (3-5) minutes, Add the garlic cloves, making sure that each one is in contact with the bottom of the pan - i.e. between the chicken pieces. This is critical. If you don't the garlic will be raw tasting and bitter at the end.

Cook the garlic and chicken for a minute or 2 longer. Add the grapes to the pan, followed by the vermouth.

Coarsely chop the tarragon leaves.

Place the uncovered saute pan into the preheated oven. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. Being dark meat, they don't dry out quickly, so if they go a little long it doesn't matter. Once it is cooked, sprinkle the coarsely chopped tarragon over the dish, and stir so that it is mostly mixed in. You could add a few drops of sherry vinegar if you wanted some extra acidity.

We served it with salt baked potatoes. The chicken on the plate, crispy skin up, potatoes on the side with sauce poured over the chicken and potatoes. Garnish with the remaining tarragon.

Pinot noir wines are the best choice here.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Tomatoes, mushrooms, charred romaine - oh my!

On a trip around our local "Central Market" grocery store the other day, we had a snack of mushrooms/tomatoes/parmesan, etc. It was delicious. Having just seen this post from Dan Souza  I was intrigued with an approach to cooking mushrooms. So merging the two ideas, I came up with this. Well, not quite. Normally I would serve this on grilled bread - as a bruschetta, but for last night I wanted something lighter, so I served it almost as a dressing for a charred Romaine lettuce heart. It came out really well, I am glad to say.


2T high quality olive oil (divided use)
1 1/2 lbs mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz mixed mushrooms (I used white buttons, and creminis), thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
3 oz grated parmesan
Some hot pepper flavor (I used vodka infused with cayenne), but pepper flakes would work
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine
4T sherry vinegar (divided use)
4t high quality olive oil for plate decoration
salt/pepper to taste
3 hearts of Romaine, cut into 3 inch lengths, using only the trimmed root, halved lengthwise
1T Olive oil 
Coarse sea salt for crunch


Make the topping first:
In a skillet heat 1 T of the olive oil. When shimmering, add the halved tomatoes and let cook for a few minutes - until soft and the juices have run out. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until fragrant. The liquid stops the garlic from burning, but you do want to give it time to cook through and remove the bitterness. Add in the parmesan, stirring to stop it clumping. Then the hot pepper and allow to cook down some more. Finally add the parsley and 1 T of the sherry vinegar. Turn off heat and allow to come to room temp. Check the seasoning and add salt/pepper if needed.
Now for the lettuce:
Heat a lightly oiled griddle (ridged side up if you have that option) until it is just smoking. While the griddle is heating, oil the Romaine halves on the flat sides, season lightly with salt and pepper. When the griddle is hot, sear the romaine hearts, ut side down until well charred and (if using a ridged griddle) with definite markings.
Pu the grilled romaine, flat, charred side up onto a small plate. Top lightly with the tomato miture. Drizzle oil and vinegar over the topping and onto the plate. Grind some black pepper onto the topping and the plate. Finish with coarse sea salt.

We served this with the excellent, "On the White Keys" - the 2011 from Arietta 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Testing creativity

Madame is . just back from Europe and decided to have a creative time at the supermarket. Masses of green beans, red peppers, ginger showed up. So what to do?

Looking in the fridge, I found some pepitas, shallots, sesame oil, soy sauce. And then there was sherry in the wine cellar. So it was off the stove.

Madame pronounced it, "We can serve this to people", so I guess it turned out OK.


1/2 cup of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 lbs green beans, top, tailed and cut into 1" lengths
1 T bacon fat (or olive oil if a vegan option is desired)
1" knob of ginger finely grated
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 red pepper diced into 1/4" dice
3T soy sauce
1T toasted sesame oil
2T dry sherry
Some hot sauce or hot peppers (to taste)


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and sherry, and hot sauce/peppers).

Meanwhile toast the pepitas in a hot skillet (about 5 minutes, tossing frequently). Salt the pepitas and set aside. Wipe the pan and add the fat (or oil). When the water has come to the boil, steam the beans for a few minutes (until they are cooked, but still crunchy). When the fat/oil is hot, add the  ginger, shallots and red peppers. Soften the shallots/ginger/red pepper gently. 

When the beans are cooked, empty the water from the pot, place the beans into the pot. Add the pepitas and immediately toss the beans with the soy/sesame/sherry/pepper mixture.

Serve immediately in a heated bowl with a little crunchy salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring time pea soup - chilled

As with many new recipes, I start with posts from Serious Eats and work onward from there. This soup was a hit at a party. I tweaked it a bit from the original recipe. I used 1/2 stock and 1/2 water because I feared that the home made chicken stock would be overpowering. Also, since we were serving it chilled, I brightened it up with a little sherry vinegar, and added a touch of finishing olive oil.
I had never seen the technique of simmering the lemon peel in water a couple of times to remove some bitterness.
The soup itself was silky smooth and delicious. Yes it did get the "We can serve this to people" accolade. Just as well because we did!


Rind of 1 small lemon, with all the pith removed
1 T butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt - to taste Added at various stages
14 oz frrozen small peas
1 cup chicken stock + 1 cup water
A bunch of mint, chopped
3 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
Pepper - to taste
Coarse sea salt
A couple of T high quality extra virgin olive oil (a finishing oil, not an everyday cooking variety)
A couple of T sherry vinegar 


In a small pan, cover the lemon rind with water, bring to the boil, pour off the water and repeat. Chop the rinds thinly and reserve for later use.
Melt the butter in a large pan/saucier and add the onions and shallots. Add a good pinch of salt and cook slowly until translucent. 5+ minutes.
Add the peas to the pan (If frozen, no need to thaw). Stir for a minute or so to cook them slightly. Add the lemon rinds and stock. Bring to a boil, and immediately remove from the heat. Add the mint.
Add the mixture to your blender. Blend until silky smooth. Add the grated cheese, and blend again, making sure that the cheese is completely incorporated.
Season to taste with kosher salt/pepper. Remember that sea salt will be added at the end, so you may want it slightly under salted.
Chill overnight.


Ladle the soup into chilled bowls. Add some coarse sea salt crystals, and drizzle with the olive oil/vinegar. Crusty bread and a little butter helped it along.We served it with a Condrieu.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Confit tomatoes

I attended a sourdough class at Kuluntu in Dallas over the weekend. As well as it being an absorbing, informative and fun class, Stephanie also served lunch. One of the accompaniments was "confit tomatoes". Why had I never thought of this? Absolutely delicious - almost candy like. Sweet, tart, pungent, .... So, of course I had to give it a go. I used cherry tomatoes and olive oil. And did everything by instinct.


2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 shallot sliced thinly
Enough olive oil (I didn't see any need for extra virgin) to cover the tomatoes. Looked to be about 1 1/2 cups.
Salt, to taste


Put the tomatoes into an acid resistant saucepan (I used a small stainless steel saucier). Add the sliced shallots and mix around with your fingers. Cover the tomatoes and shallots with the olive oil and start to heat slowly. When the temperature of the oil reaches 195, turn it way down and hold the mixture between 190 and 195 for 90 minutes.
Strain the oil off. Salt the tomatoes and transfer to a dish to cool. Refrigerate. They will keep for a few days, but they won't last that long!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

12 minutes 5 ingredients one pot

Well it's not exactly 5 ingredients because one of the ingredients is tapenade (which itself has 5 ingredients - but who doesn't have tapenade on hand?!).

I needed a dish that would cook quickly and easily for a dinner event at home. I wanted something that paired with a very nice Condrieu (the L'Enfer that we bought at Veritas in Dallas).

Condrieu is a Northern Rhone wine made entirely from Viognier. It pairs nicely with fish, but has enough body to stand up to bold flavors too. The recipe is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe that uses firm white fish. We used scallops instead - sourced from the always excellent TJ's Fish Market in Dallas.

Ingredients (US measures)

1 1/2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed in several changes of water until the water runs clear
2 1/4 cups water (I don't count this is an ingredient!)
6 T black olive tapenade (divided use)
4 large scallops, each cut into 6 individual pieces
2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
20 basil leaves, chiffonade (divided use)
Salt/pepper to taste (I don't count these either!). Be careful with the salt - depends on how salty the tapenade is.


Put the rice and water into a large skillet (I used carbon steel) that has a lid. Cover, bring to the boil and cook gently, over low heat for 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 the tapenade. Add the tomatoes, cover again and cook gently for a further 4 minutes. Add the scallops and 1/2 of the basil, stir, cover and cook for a further 3 minutes. Off heat ad the rest of the tapenade, stir gently, top with the remaining basil and serve.

Yeah, it is actually more than 12 minutes end to end. You do have to cut the tomatoes, chiffonade the basil and cut the scallops. But it really isn't much work - and it comes out well too.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Candied bacon

It started innocently enough. We had been at a party on Saturday evening where someone had made this amazing candied bacon. I had never had candied bacon, so became intrigued. Wondering how to make something so delicious.

It didn't take much fiddling to hit upon a tasty recipe. It could have used a bit more heat (it had a little habanero chili vodka in it - it could have used more.  It clearly needed a little acid too, so I used rice wine vinegar, but I suspect that apple cider vinegar might have been nice too.

It was pronounced good by those who tried it, so I must have done something right.


1 1/2 lbs (24 oz) thick cut bacon (streaky for English readers).
1/3 Cup packed dark brown sugar
3T Vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar because it is quite mild)
4T Maple Syrup (any quality)
A few drops of "hot sauce" to taste. We used habanero vodka
Several grinds of black pepper


Set the oven rack to the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 (350 fan assisted).  Meanwhile lay the bacon strips out on a rack over a foil lined sheet pan. At this stage it doesn't matter if the bacon strips overlap a bit since the fat will render and the bacon will shrink.
Once the oven has reached temperature, slide the sheet pan/rack/bacon onto the middle shelf. Leave to render for 10 minutes.
While the bacon is rendering, mix the remaining ingredients, dissolving the sugar into the syrup and vinegar.
After 10 minutes, slide the pan out of the oven, flip the bacon over and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
remove the pan and brush the sugar/syrup mixture lightly over the bacon. You will be repeating this activity 4 times (5 applications in total).
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 7 minutes
Repeat the brushing/baking - again 7 minutes
Remove the pan from the oven, and flip the bacon over. Brush the sugar/syrup lightly over the bacon and return to the oven for 7 minutes.
Repeat t he removal/brushing and again return for 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven, flip the bacon and use the last remaining sugar/syrup to brush onto the bacon. Turn the oven up 25 degrees, and leave the bacon in the oven for a further 7 minutes (or until it seems done to your taste). It will not become crispy until it is overcooked.
Remove from the oven, allowing to cool on the rack. Once cool, place in an air tight container. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Spicy BBQ Sauce

The only reason that this recipe is interesting is because the standard recipe (from that I intended to follow required Worcestershire sauce, and I didn't have any. So I had to improvise. And it came out surprisingly well! Of course, what normal person would have mango chutney, but no Worcestershire sauce?


2T Mango chutney - use mostly the liquid - the fruit is too pulpy
4T Fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
4T Dark soy sauce
1/2 t Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2 t Ghost pepper vodka (can substitute Tabasco or other pepper sauce, US srirarcha, etc. in appropriate quantities)
2 Cups Tomato Ketchup
2T Prepared yellow mustard
1/4 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2T Molasses
1/4 Cup Cider vinegar
1T Smoked Paprika
1/2 T Garlic Powder
1/2 T Onion Powder
1/2 T Black pepper - ground finely
1t Cumin - ground finely


Make up the fake Worcestershire sauce by combing the chutney, fish sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and hot sauce. 
Combine the made up Worcestershire sauce with all the other ingredients in a non reactive pan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring often. Simmer/low boil for 15 minutes to allow to reduce and thicken. Stir almost continuously to prevent the sugars from sticking and burning.
Fish out any pulp from the mango chutney (if some had accidentally found their way into the sauce.
Allow to cool, and refrigerate. According the the Serious Eats web site, this should keep for a long time.
This sauce is very intensely flavored, so if using it on delicate meat (aka a pork loin), be sparing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Potato Rolls

This recipe makes soft rolls that are really good as sandwich bases. As usual, when baking I weigh things, so it may be tough to convert to volume measures. This really is best done using a stand mixer. Working butter into a sticky dough is a chore by hand.


12 oz water
1 oz honey
1 tsp instant yeast - yeah I cheated and didn't weigh this
16 oz bread flour
3 oz semolina
1.5 oz powdered dry milk
1 oz instant mashed potato flakes (easier than baking a potato for the small amount needed)
1/3 oz salt
1 oz unsalted butter at room temperature.


Combine the water, honey, flour, semolina, potato flakes, yeast, dry milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook knead until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Add the salt, and the butter gradually. Knead until the dough is shiny and elastic.
Lightly oil a bowl and turn the dough out into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough proof for at least an hour - until it has doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured board and shape into 12 rolls (~4oz dough per roll(. Lay them out onto a parchment lined sheet pan, sprinkle with a little rice flour, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove the sheet pan from the fridge. Turn the oven to 350 and allow to heat up. Give the oven at least 15 minutes after it has achieved its target temperature.
Uncover the rolls (they will have been out of the refrigerator for about 40 minutes) and bake for about 25 - or until they are well browned.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Beef in a towel (Lomo Al Trapo)

The folks at Serious Eats have done it again. Kenji posted about the method of cooking beef tenderloin in Colombia (where his wife is from). Essentially it is a hunk of tender, lean meat encased in salt, wrapped in cotton, tied up and placed directly on the coals. It really is that easy as it turns out.

There are a couple of wrinkles, however. It is probably best if you cut the tapered end off the tenderloin. It makes the wrapping a bit easier. We left it on, and folded it back on itself. It worked fine. We also used cheesecloth and not a towel. I didn't want any dyes/man made materials in the towel. We used kosher salt (Morton's). But next time I may use something a bit more exotic.


1 whole beef tenderloin, trimmed, chain and silverskin removed. - About 3 lbs
1 box Morton's Kosher Salt (3lbs)
Enough cheesecloth to wrap the meat - ensure that there are four layers of cheesecloth to prevent the salt from falling through.
Butchers twine to tie up the wrapped meat and hold the cloth/salt in place


About 30 minutes before you want to start cooking use a mixture of charcoal and wood to get a fire going in your grill. We used the Primo - the right size and shape. This won't work on gas - it doesn't get hot enough. In our case the thermometer in the lid registered 800F - so directly on the coals it was probably hotter.
Make the parcel of meat by spreading the 4 layers of cheesecloth out and covering with the whole box of Morton's salt. You will want the salt spread so it is nearly at the front edge of the cheesecloth. 
Roll the cheesecloth tightly, tucking in the ends. You need to ensure that the salt covers the whole tenderloin. Introduce a few sprigs of rosemary as well.
Tie the parcel off at 2" intervals using butchers twine and a butcher's/surgeon's knot.
Put the parcel of meat directly on the coals. Nestle it in and leave for 10 minutes or so. After 10 minutes, turn the parcel over and cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes (until the internal temp of the meat is 95 for rare, 105 -110 for medium rare. If those temperatures look low that's because you get a lot of carry over cooking with the salt wrapper. Don't leave a thermometer in all the time - most such thermometers are not capable of handling such intense heat.
Once the meat has reached the desired internal temperature, Take it off the grill and place in a heat proof pan.

As can be seen in the picture above, it looks pretty nasty at this stage. 

After it has rested for at least 30 minutes, cut open the parcel and brush excess salt off the exposed meat.

Transfer to the cutting board, ready for slicing

Brush further salt off, slice into 1 1/2" thick slices and serve.

As can be seen, this is pretty rare. It tasted absolutely amazing, however.

Serve with horseradish cream (prepared horseradish, home made mayonnaise, and a little yogurt). Roasted potatoes were well received too! Here's their recipe.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cinnamon buns - again

My sister has been raving about some cinnamon buns that she had from a bakery in Cornwall. I have posted about these before. But whatever I did, they didn't measure up to her exacting standards. She finally sent me a picture of what she was after. So I figured that I would try to replicate them. Not an easy task as it turns out. But over the weekend I had a cinnamon bun from "The Village Baking Company" here in Texas and I now understand what Alison was going on about. I set to re-recreating the buns. Who in their right mind would attempt to make a laminated dough in the Texas heat? No one that I can think of!

The brioche dough seems to be a bit weird. It is incredibly dry - until the butter is added. Then it comes out beautiful and silky. But I was a bit worried looking at the liquid ratios.

There is lots of butter in use. Butter in the dough, butter in the laminations, butter in the cinnamon....

Sorry about the metric measures, folks. I do all my baking that way.

 Sinful Cinnamon Bun

 Just out of the oven

Ingredients - The Dough

1 Kg Bread Flour
70 g 2% milk
5 g half and half (approximates whole milk - very approximate - I eyeballed the calculation)
4 egg yolks (of course the whites went into macaroons)
6 whole eggs
20 g salt
15 g rapid rise yeast
150 g unsalted butter cut into 12 cubes
A further 375 g unsalted butter for lamination

Method - The Dough

Warm the milk and half cream to about 90F. Add the sugar and the yeast, to allow the yeast to hydrate. Whisk the milk/sugar mixture with the eggs until completely combined.
Whisk together the flour and salt. Stir in the egg/milk mixture to make a shaggy dough. Turn out on to a board and knead gently. It is too stiff for my Kitchenaid mixer at this point. Stretch and fold four times over the next hour until the gluten is well developed.

Place the dough into the bowl of the mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Knead slowly, adding the butter one cube at a time. It will take about 20 minutes to get all the butter mixed in and for the dough to become smooth again.

Leave the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour and then refrigerate overnight.

Method - Lamination

The key to lamination is to make sure that everything stays cold. Hard to do in a Texas kitchen in the summer.

Pound the refrigerated butter flat between 2 sheets of cling wrap - or inside a plastic bag. The butter must not become warmer than about 60F.

Roll the cold dough out into a large rectangle. Place the butter into the rectangle and then fold the rectangle over the butter into thirds. Roll very lightly and immediately wrap the dough and return it to the refrigerator for an hour. 

After an hour, chill the work surface with ice bags/freezer packs. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll into a rectangle again and then rewrap and refrigerate - 1/2 hour should be adequate.

Repeat the chilling, unwrapping and rolling twice more, resulting in a 30" by 10" (75cm x 25 cm) rectangle. Now ready for the filling and baking.

Filling - Ingredients

3T finely ground cinnamon
8T granulated sugar (I used Bravetart's toasted sugar). I didn't want brown sugar's flavors
100g melted butter
pinch of salt


Grease 2 12 muffin pans with non-stick spray. Spread the butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture over the rolled out dough. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into strips about 1 1/4" in width (10" lengths). Roll each strip into a wheel and place into the muffin pan. It should be quite crowded. Cover the tins and refrigerate while heating the oven to 350F. Again keeping the butter from premature melting is key.

Once the oven is heated, place the prepared muffin tins into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes - until the tops of the rolls are browned and the internal temperature is 205F.

Note, if I were to do this again, I would make much more cinnamon/butter/sugar and put some in the bottom of each. These weren't quite as gooey cinnamony as I would have liked. Nut not too bad for a first attempt! 

Ajvar - red pepper and egg plant spread

An article about the Balkan dish called ajvar appeared in the New York Times recently. It looked insanely good, so of course I had to make it. I didn't exactly follow the NYT recipe, but I knew what I was trying to achieve, so went for it with gusto. And I am glad I did. It is amazingly good. Concentrated, smokey - one of those things that would make shoe leather taste good.


10 large red peppers
1 large Italian eggplant
1 garlic bulb
1/2 cup high quality olive oil (cold pressed extra virgin if possible)


Over a very hot grill (charcoal in my case because I was cooking dinner at the same time) roast the peppers and eggplant until their skins are completely black. After the peppers and egg plant have been on for about 10 minutes, put the whole garlic bulb on too. Put the peppers into a bowl and cover to allow them to steam - this helps when it is time to peel them.

Peel the peppers, discarding skin and as many of the seeds as possible. Scoop the flesh out of the eggplant. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the bulb. Place these ingredients into the food processor and pulse until slightly chunky.

Add the oil and salt to taste and process until almost smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and reduce the mixture by driving off some of the water. Do this over low heat to make sure it doesn't burn. When the volume is reduced by about 1/2 (probably 30 minutes), transfer to a heat proof container. Cover, allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight. 

Monday, July 16, 2018


I wanted to make a locally sourced dish for a "slow food" event here in Dallas. Of course I turned to the clever folks at Serious Eats for some pointers. I was less interested in a recipe from them, much more interested in techniques to create something like I have had in Spain. There were several obvious things and a couple of genius ahas. With a twist of my own at the end.

I didn't want this to be liquid salsa, nor did I want cold canned tomato soup. I wanted something special. That meant the ripest tomatoes that I could find (thank you Coppell Farmers' Market and the Fisher Family Farm), and locally grown peppers and onions.

First the Serious Eats genius:

  • Cut up the vegetables and salt them all together. This extracts a lot of juice.
  • Pour that juice over the bread and leave to stand
  • Freeze the remaining vegetable parts. The recipe said 30 minutes, but I needed a full hour. But I was making a larger quantity.
  • Thaw the vegetables and add them to the bread/juice. Keep some juice back
And the personal addition? The reserved juice after thawing is frozen into tomato-y ice cubes to be served with the soup to keep it cold, but not to dilute the flavors..

For serving - because this was a potluck event, I used a wine decanter. And had some olive oil, croutons, sea salt, sherry vinegar to act as final flavorings. It turned out to be a useful way to serve it because it could then be poured into glasses,

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pate a Choux

I can't believe that I didn't have a choux paste recipe lying around somewhere. This is a bit of a departure for me because I measure by volume rather than weight when making this.
A mistake that I have made in the past is not beating the flour mixture enough before adding the eggs. You do need some gluten development to help with the structure. I typically use bread flour to guard against this too. They are so airy that it doesn't hurt.


1 Cup water
1 Stick butter (4 oz)
1/4t Salt
1/2t sugar
1 Cup bread flour
4 large eggs - room temperature


Place the water and butter into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. When the water is boiling, shouut the flour mixture into the water. Stir hard until the flour is well mixed. Then beat using a wooden spoon until a mass has formed and there is some slight covering in the pan.
Turn out into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat for a minute or so, and then add the eggs one at a time. Wait until each egg is well incorporated and the mixture is somewhat glossy before adding the next egg.
When the last egg has been incorporated, use the paste immediately - or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To bake Choux pastry items, the oven needs to be set to 400F. For small puffs allow about 20 minutes. For eclairs around 25. For a large Gougere at least 35 minutes.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Interpreting a recipe

My sister has been waxing lyrical about the cinnamon buns from the Da Bara bakery in Cornwall (SW England). She dug around and found a recipe for them and gave it to me to try. She tried it herself too, Somewhat mixed results.

Here is the recipe copied from her note to me.

Makes 8

For the Buns

300 ml Whole Milk
50 gm Butter 
225 gm Plain Flour
200 gm Bread Flour
7 gm Fast Acting Yeast
60 gm Caster Sugar
1/2 t table salt
1 Egg, Beaten

For the Filling

75 gm Softened Butter
50 gm Light Brown Sugar
2 t Cinnamon
1/2 t salt 

2t Cinnamon
100 gm Caster Sugar

The first thing to notice is that the dough is going to be very sticky. Just the milk alone gives a ~72% hydration. Then add in the egg and the butter and we are up at almost 80%. That is going to be very hard to work by hand.


Bring the milk to room temperature before mixing with the rest of the bun ingredients to form a strong, stretchy dough. Place in a bowl , cover with cling film and leave to prove for an hour

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and roll out to a rectangle of 35x25 cm

Beat the filling ingredients together and spread over the dough.

Preheat the oven to 190C (375 F) and line a muffin tin with baking parchment. Roll the dough tightly into a 35 cm cylinder and cut into 8 pieces. Place the buns into the lined tin and leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Bake the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes until dark golden. Remove to a cooling rack.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Toss each bun into the cinnamon/sugar mixture until coated.

There are so many issues here:
  1. How will mixing develop enough gluten for the buns to gold together. Rich, we doughs typically need quite a long kneading time
  2. An hour may not be enough rising time
  3. Which oven shelf?
  4. Lining a muffin tin? Not sure what this means at all. Could be individual muffins (a pain to line) or a larger baking pan lined with parchment
  5. How might one do these for breakfast?
  6. Are the buns tossed in the cinnamon/sugar while still hot?
So, I revised the method - keeping the ingredients the same.

Revised Method

Bring the milk and egg to room temperature (assuming the eggs have been in the fridge). Add the egg, sugar and yeast to the milk. Whisk gently until the egg is incorporated. Leave to stand for a few minutes while the yeast starts to become active. Note the fast acting yeasts can be added directly to the flour, but I prefer to hydrate them.

  1. Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and, use the paddle. Stirring slowly, add the milk/egg/sugar/yeast mixture until just incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 15 minutes.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them one at a time while the dough hook is kneading the dough. A further 10 or so minutes.
  3. Cover the dough with cling wrap and leave in a room temperature place, undisturbed for 1 couple of hours. Then transfer the dough to the fridge. Note it is much easier to roll out cold dough.
  4. Line a baking tin with parchment paper
  5. Tip the dough onto a floured board and roll out as specified above. 25x35 cm (10x14 inches). Cover with the cinnamon/sugar mixture and roll it up tightly.
  6. Cut the roll across wise into 8 pieces.
  7. Place the pieces into the pan so they are not touching
  8. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight,
  9. When ready to bake, turn the oven on to 375F.
  10. Remove the buns from the fridge and allow to sit uncovered on the counter while the oven hears up (at least 25 minutes)
  11. Bake the nuns on the middle rack until the internal temperature reaches 202F
  12. Remove, toss in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and allow to cool.  
They came out well for a first effort. Maybe a bit lighter/airier than the real thing. But definitely good enough to build on from

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cauliflower and asparagus soup

Cauliflower gets everywhere it seems. This soup wasn't an "oh let's get a cauliflower and use it to make a soup". More like an "Oh dear we have a cauliflower lying around, now what?" We also had 1/2 an onion, about 24 oz asparagus and some other bits and pieces. They all needed to be used up, so off we went. It is pretty simple, and received another, "We can serve this to people" accolade from Madame. It could be made vegan by using water or vegetable stock. We had some home made chicken stock also lying around, so used that.


2T vegetable oil (any vegetable oil will do)
1/2 yellow onion sliced. No need to be precise, the blender is your friend
1 medium cauliflower, florets only.
24 oz asparagus. Cut into 1" lengths. Stalks and heads separated
2 cups stock or water
Hot sauce to taste
Pickled grapes to garnish (idea stolen from Chad Houser at Cafe Momentum)
1t per portion full fat Greek yogurt to garnish
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Coarse sea salt to finish - provides a nice crunch 


In a sauce pot heat 2 T oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat the onions until soft. No browning please. Then add the cauliflower florets, and saute until there is a little color. Add the stock, salt, pepper and hot sauce - it will not cover the florets. Bring to a simmer, cover and turn down the heat. Cook for 12 minutes - until soft. Add the asparagus stalks, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus tips, cover and cook for one further minute.
Blend the soup in batches until perfectly smooth. Strain through a mesh strainer and serve garnishing each bowl with some pickled grapes and Greek yogurt. Sprinkle a little coarse salt over each bowl and serve piping hot.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A tale of too much pork

If there were such a thing as too much pork, this would be it. We had done a pork shoulder on the egg for a work party. And it was pronounced delicious. The trouble is, Costco's pork shoulders come in packets of 2. Each weighing about 5lbs. So one was smoked, shredded, sauced and eaten. The other was sitting in the fridge looking at me, desperately in need of some love and attention. So what to do?

Pork tacos, of course. But sadly when getting that ready, we ended up with too much meat for the dutch oven, so had to step down to yet another dish. Fortunately there was all sorts pf stuff in the fridge - and we have a great Mexican supermarket (Fiesta) nearby.

Ingredients (Paste)

6 ancho chiles stalks removed and seeded
8 chile d'arbol - stalks removed and seeded
Juice of 4 limes
3T sugar

Method (Paste)

Cover the dried chiles with boiling water, weigh them down under a plate and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes. Put all ingredients into a blender with some of the reserved liquid and blend until you have a smooth paste. It will need between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid.

Ingredients (Pork Taco Meat)

3T Vegetable oil
2 Large Onions sliced
6 garlic cloves crushed
2T ground cumin
3T ground coriander
1T ground allspice
2T Mexican Oregano (dried)
3 Bay leaves
12 oz bottle of dark beer
4/5ths of the above paste
4 lbs pork shoulder - cut into 4 1lb pieces

Method (Pork Taco Meat)

Salt the pork and rub with the paste. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven until shimmering and add the onions, garlic and the spices. Soften the onions and garlic - about 5-10 minutes or until the spices are nice and fragrant. Add the beer, bring to a boil and put the pork into the pot. Cover tightly. Put into the oven for 2 1/2 hours (maybe a bit more or a bit less) until the pork is tender.
Strain the liquid and separate the fat. Shred the pork and add the strained liquid back into it. Serve immediately or allow to cool and serve over the following few days.

Ingredients (Pork Stew)

2T vegetable oil
6 Shallots - crushed
3 Garlic cloves - crushed
3 Celery ribs
1 Apple - diced
1/5th of the paste
1 lb pork shoulder - cut into 3/4 inch cubes
8 oz beer (anything but light/low calorie. We used Fireman's 4)
1/4 cup bitter orange marmalade

Method (Pork Stew)

Salt the pork and rub with the paste. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes. In a 4 quart saucepot heat the oil until sizzling. Turn heat to low and add the celery, shallot, apple and garlic. Allow the shallot and celery to soften.
Transfer the celery/shallot/garlic/apple to its own bowl. Add a little more oil and start to brown the coated pork. Do this in batches to avoid simply steaming it.
Add the seared pork to the vegetables. Deglaze the pan with the beer and add the range marmalade. Add the pork and vegetables back into the pan. Stir, put the lid onto the pan and simmer gently on the stove until the pork is tender (about 90 minutes).
When it is cooked, serve over plain white rice, garnished with Mexican Oregano.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Pate a Choux trick

For most of us at home, using a pastry bag, nozzles, etc. is a royal pain.With that in mind, I was making some mini gougeres for a party over the weekend. Sure enough I had a bunch of gooey, cheesy choux pastry and no desire to use a bag. I could have used a pair of spoons, but that's a we bit messy too.

Instead I wrapped the choux pastry in cling wrap and chilled it. When ready to use it, I cut it into strips, and then each strip into cubes. The secret here was to use a meat slicing knife and a glass of hot water. The slicing knife has a granton edge so it is doesn't drag quite as much as my chef's knife. The hot water was to cote the knife so it didn't stick to the pastry.

I was left with 24 choux pastry cubes. I laid them on a baking sheet, allowed them to come to room temperature and then put them in a 425F oven - whose temperature I immediately dropped to 400F.

They came out just as well as they would have done had I extruded them through a pastry bag - less waste and cleanup too.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Bravetart, the dessert cookbook from Stella Parks has some very approachable recipes for the home cook. She explains things clearly an simply. No weird ingredients and excellent results. I have made her coconut cream pie and the no knead English muffins. Both turned out very well (although I didn't regulate the flat top temperature well enough for the muffins).

In making the coconut cream pie, I ended up with left over pastry (I was only making 1 pie), toasted sugar and left over marshmallow meringue. So what to do?

Her "No stress all butter pie-crust" is as advertised a really easy pastry. It bakes up nice and flaky - almost biscuit (English short biscuits) like. That inspired me to try the following:

Ingredients - Biscuits

1/2 Bravetart Pie dough recipe, rolled into an 5x7 incch rectangle.
3 oz thin crystallized ginger pieces
Granulated sugar (or better still toasted sugar) to top


Preheat the oven to 375F. Shingle the crystallized ginger onto the rolled out pastry rectangle. Arrange the shingle parallel with the short side, and only cover 1/2 of the dough.

Fold the uncovered dough over the ginger covered half, and press the edges to seal. Using a pizza wheel cut the packet into strips. Lay the strips onto a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake in the 375 oven for 30 - 40 minutes, until the bars are browned and cooked through.  

Marshmallow Meringue Macaroons

The coconut cream pie recipe calls for 8 egg yolks. That means we have 8 egg whites. Making  the marshmallow meringue is essentially a Swiss meringue technique, but  with the egg/sugar mixture heated to 175F before whisking.

Preheat the oven to 375F. If you have just made the pie or the biscuits, the oven will be at 375.

Once the meringue is made, and spread onto the pie, combine the left over meringue with about 6 oz sweetened shredded coconut. Form into small mounds on a baking sheet.  

Place the baking sheet onto a rack in the middle of the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the oven heat off, but leave the fan running.  After a further 10 minutes, turn the macaroons over to dry out their flat edges and leave in the cooling oven for a further 30 minutes.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cast Iron isn't a good conductor

For all of the great benefits of cast iron for skillets, flat tops, etc. One thing that I overlook is that it doesn't actually conduct heat very well. It has great thermal capacity, but it needs careful treatment if you want even cooking temperatures.

This thought came about when I was making the excellent English Muffin's from Stella Parks' book "Bravetart".  The muffins had all the flavor, but weren't as puffy as I wanted. So I pinged Ms. Parks on twitter. She opined that the griddle was too hot, so the outsides set up before the middle could rise properly. Her recipe was quite specific - heat to 350F. If I had an electric griddle with a temperature control and a thermostat, it would have been easy. But I don't. So I had to guess using my cast iron flat top.

After that less than satisfactory outcome, it was clearly time for a gadget - in this case a surface temperature thermometer. I didn't want to go the full Alton Brown, but I did want to do a little experimentation. Off to AceMart (my local commercial kitchen supply store) where I found this jewel for $39.

Quite a revelation. I turned the burners to medium and started heating the flat top. First mistake! I had them too high. After 5 minutes the surface over the burners was about 375 and the middle was 280.

Turned burners down to their lowest setting. Waited another 10 minutes. Now the ends where the burners are was 410 and the middle was 375. Everithing far too hot for what I needed/wanted.

Moral of the story:

  • Believe the experts when they say heat your cast iron slowly
  • It gets up to temperature unevenly
  • It's really hard to tell when it is at the temperature you want (unless you practice a lot)
  • It's still the best surface for  stove top frying

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Valentine's Day - 2018

When I am home for Valentine's Day, I always try to make something a little extra special for dinner. This year was no exception, but because it is midweek and we are both working I didn't have all day to slave over the stove.
This dish was grilled romaine with roasted beets, diced red pepper, warm Israeli couscous all with a bitter orange dressing. Oh and we had some sous vide chicken thighs left over from a different dish, so added that too.
To make it vegetarian or vegan use oil instead of bacon and omit the chicken.
It did get the "We Can Serve This To People" appellation, so I guess madame liked it!

Ingredients - CousCous 

3 strips bacon cut into small pieces (for vegetarians, use olive oil instead of bacon)
1 small shallot diced finely
1/4 cup Israeli couscous
1/2t smoked paprika
1/2t sumac
1 medium carrot diced into 1/4" cubes. Size matters here for the speed of cooking
1/2 cup boiling water

Ingredients - The Dressing

4T bitter orange orange marmalade - jelly only, no peel strips
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup high quality olive oil (a finishing oil)
salt to taste - remember that in this dish there is bacon that is itself salty

Ingredients - The Rest

1/2 red pepper diced into 1/4" pieces
2 medium roasted beets diced into 1/4" pieces
1 cooked chicken thigh diced (optional - we happened to have one left over)
1 romaine lettuce heart halved lengthwise
Coarse salt

Method - CousCous

Do the couscous first as it takes the longest. 
Gently render the bacon in a large saucier. When the bacon is rendered, add the shallot, couscous and spices. Cook over medium heat, stirring or shaking frequently for about a minute - until the couscous is lightly toasted. Add the carrots and boiling water. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed. This is about 10 minutes. When the couscous is cooked,  turn off the heat and allow to stand until ready to serve (at room temperature)

Method - Dressing

In a large bowl whisk together the ingredients, ad let stand. Whisk again immediately before use.

Method - The Rest (And Final Assembly)

Grill the romaine on a medium/hot griddle - or over a gas/charcoal grill if you prefer. When it is slightly charred, transfer to an individual plate. Place the room temperature couscous on one corener of the plate. Some of the chicken on another corner. Dress the romaine with a teaspoon of dressing. Pile the diced red pepper and beets onto the romaine. Add 2 more teaspoons of dressing. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a nice, crisp white wine.  In our case a South African Sauvignon Blanc.